Friday, October 21, 2016

Survivors of Boko Haram risk starvation

After being forced to flee their homes, witnessing brutal violence and the destruction of their communities, many in northeastern Nigeria are now facing another pressing risk — severe malnutrition and even starvation.

It's estimated that some 2.6 million people have been made homeless by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram, as they waged their seven-year long insurgency. People forced to flee headed in whichever direction was safe at the time.

Some two million have fled internally within Nigeria, moving to bigger cities in the northeast such as Maiduguri in Borno state or Yola in Adamawa state. Some fled south, or across borders into neighbouring countries.

Most crammed in with family, friends or distant relatives.

About 10 per cent, including the many unaccompanied children who saw their families slaughtered, have sought refuge in official and unofficial camps for the internally displaced.

Warnings have coming for months, with one aid agency after another expressing concern about the scale of this crisis and looming famine.

Millions of people in Nigeria need food assistance, the UN says. In Borno state alone, more than 240,000 children under the age of five are facing severe acute malnutrition.

For 65,000 people in the hard-hit north the risk is even greater — famine-like conditions and the risk of death.

Need 'will only increase'

Ghilda Chrabieh, director of humanitarian programs for Mercy Corps in Nigeria, says the situation could be particularly dire in places yet unreachable due to ongoing fighting and insecurity.

"We are projecting that the numbers of people in need will only increase as we start to access those areas."

President Muhammadu Buhari — who didn't mention the looming famine his country faces in a recent speech for Nigeria's Independence Day celebrations — recently spoke about the scope of the problem that comes with such a massive displacement of people, including many women and children.

"It is weighing heavily on government," Buhari said in a statement, noting that many of the children displaced by conflict and crises don't know their parents or where they come from.

The statement came after a meeting with Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Maurer has described the situation in Nigeria and neighbouring Niger as "a forgotten crisis."

Speaking in an ICRC video released via social media, he said this is "despite the fact that it is one of the largest ICRC operations in the world," adding that "people outside of Niger, outside of the Lake Chad region do not really offer the attention which this conflict deserves."

'Catastrophic' situation for many

The Mercy Corps director says organizations know that "people will need life-saving aid," with food and medical care to deal with malnutrition as a first priority.

"Based on the conditions we've seen as we've gained access, and based on many reports from agencies in locations like Bama, Banki, Konduga and Monguno, we know the situation is catastrophic," Chrabieh says.

Mercy Corps has been working in the town of Damboa, which was repeatedly hit by Boko Haram attacks. In 2014, there were reports that 95 per cent of the town had been destroyed, with burnt bodies left littering the charred remains of the marketplace.

The U.S.-based charity said 97 per cent of people they interviewed in Damboa reported that they were unable to afford to buy any food for the past four weeks.

The Nigerian government continues to tell people who fled the violence that they should return home to liberated towns and villages and rebuild their lives, but Boko Haram is still active in some areas and a feeling of insecurity has kept many away.

And so, hundreds of thousands of displaced people continue to lean on host families, or pour into makeshift camps for the displaced — and resources are being stretched to their limits.

Basic services such as health care, clean water and sanitation are already poor and there are concerns about the spread of disease.

Nigeria had gone two years without any reported polio cases but three have now been confirmed in Borno state and with poor drainage and stagnant water during rainy season deaths from malaria and cholera have risen.

This crisis though is not just affecting northeast Nigeria. Across the borders into Chad, Niger and Cameroon the same scenarios of hunger are being witnessed.

Some aid agencies like UNICEF have already warned that this crisis is now too big for one single government or charity to deal with alone. 

As the country director of Mercy Corps Iveta Ouvry said: "This is not a crisis that will be solved with one silver-bullet solution … Put simply, the world cannot afford to wait another moment to take action."

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Video - Nigerian banks impose restrictions on debit and credit card payments

Nigeria's economy is battling acute dollar crisis. It has prompted banks to suspend the use of Nigerian debit and credit cards in foreign currency transactions. The government has also suspended access to forex at the central bank. Locals use this service to pay tuition fees for Nigerian students in the diaspora.

Video - Buhari vows to redouble efforts to free remaining Chibok girls

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari says Nigeria will double efforts to rescue the rest of the girls still missing two years after they were kidnapped by Boko Haram. Buhari spoke when he visited the 21 Chibok girls rescued this week from the militants.

Uber in Nigeria to offer drivers low-interest used-vehicle loans

Uber Nigeria is now making low-interest, used-vehicle loans available to its top-rated driver-partners. The pioneering move is the result of partnerships entered into between Uber Nigeria and First Bank of Nigeria Limited, as well as smaller financiers. This means that, for the first time, Uber driver-partners in Nigeria will be able to apply for finance for used vehicles based on their driver performance records.

According to Ebi Atawodi, General Manager for Uber in Nigeria, the used vehicle finance offering is the first of its kind to be made available to Uber driver-partners in the country and this is in keeping with Uber’s stated commitment to constantly develop forward-thinking partnerships that benefit its driver-partners.

“We are absolutely committed to making it as easy as possible for our driver-partners to start and maintain their own successful and profitable businesses,” Atawodi explains, “and these used vehicle finance options make it possible for those with a demonstrable performance commitment to build sustainable businesses without incurring the high costs often associated with new vehicle purchases.”

The move is set to create significant business growth opportunities for driver-partners by allowing them to access used-car finance from First Bank of Nigeria Limited at a very competitive interest rate of just 20% per annum over a 24 month repayment period. Alternative offers for used-vehicle finance on the Uber Vehicle Solutions Programme will attract 22% per annum, with a maximum repayment term of 36 months.

According to MD/CEO, First Bank of Nigeria Limited and Subsidiaries, Adesola Adeduntan, the Bank is committed to supporting entrepreneurs to build sustainable businesses which are pivotal in stimulating economic development. “It remains our business to foster the growth and development of small and medium scale businesses in Nigeria as the No1 SME Bank. This is the reason why we have partnered with Uber by empowering operators to own vehicles and build profitable businesses,” he further stated.

In order to qualify for this preferential used-vehicle finance from First Bank of Nigeria Limited, Uber driver-partners will need to be able to demonstrate an average driver performance rating of higher than 4.5 and have earned more than N2,400,000 in the preceding 6 months.

Atawodi is quick to emphasise that Uber’s commitment to helping its driver-partners build their businesses extends far beyond just making innovative vehicle finance available to them. Rather, these offerings come on the back of Uber’s existing range of innovative business-building solutions, including Uber Marketplace, which is a one-stop national vehicle access solution designed to connect driver-partners and investors to suitable vehicles at discounted rates. Uber Nigeria also recently launched its well-received UberMomentum Partner Rewards Programme that delivers localised discounts, preferential deals and rewards exclusively to driver-partners and small business owners.

“The growing suite of vehicle finance, business and lifestyle solutions that Uber Nigeria is making available to driver-partners and other business investors reaffirms our commitment to supporting and partnering with them to ensure their success,” Atawodi explains, “not just in terms of helping them to increase their income and profits, but more importantly by affording them every opportunity to truly transform their lives by establishing and expanding viable and sustainable businesses of their own.”

“By linking these solutions to the performance of our driver-partners, we further increase their chances of long-term business success, while at the same time building a network of transport professionals that Nigerians know they can trust to get them to their destinations safely and comfortably,” she concludes.

South Africa surpasses Nigeria as Africa's biggest economy

A new report from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has projected Nigeria as Africa’s biggest economy, in spite of its current challenges.

Nigeria is placed ahead of South Africa and Egypt which are second and third respectively.

In August, Nigeria was reported to have lost its position as Africa’s biggest economy to South Africa, following the recalculation of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

But the IMF’s World Economic Outlook for October, puts Nigeria’s GDP at 415.08 billion dollars, from 493.83 billion dollars in 2015, while South Africa’s GDP was put at 280.36 billion dollars, from 314.73 billion dollars in 2015.

According to the report, Egypt’s 2016 data is not available, but its 2015 size remained at 330.159 dollars while that of Algeria, one of the largest economies on the continent, is put at 168.318 billion dollars.

The United States, China and Japan maintain their spots as the largest economies in the world, ahead of Germany, United Kingdom and France.

According to a review in September, the current economic recession will outlast 2016, with a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) contraction of 1.7 per cent.

The IMF had predicted that Nigeria’s economy would grow away from a recession in 2017.

The country last witnessed a recession, for less than a year, in 1991, and experienced a prolonged one that started in 1982 and lasted until 1984.

President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has so far disbursed over N700 billion in capital expenditure this year, part of a record N6.06 trillion (30 billion dollars) budget for 2016.