Thursday, September 29, 2016

Video - MTN denies it repatriated $13.92 billion from Nigeria

Telecoms giant MTN has denied accusations of illegaly moving $13.92 B out of Nigeria, saying the claim has no merit. The allegation threatens to raise tensions between Nigeria and MTN, yet again. It's just three months since the company agreed to pay a reduced fine of $ 1 B, for failing to have cancelled millions of unregistered SIM cards. MTN is the largest mobile phone operator in Nigeria, and the country accounts for around one third of MTN's revenues. The company had threatened to pull out of Nigeria during the unregistered SIM card dispute. MTN shares fell by over 3% on Tuesday. So far this year, MTN's JSE-listed share are 10% lower.

Nigeria can't afford to participate in World Cup qualifier

As it stands, Nigeria's 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign may be over before it even begins.

With the country in the midst of a crippling recession triggered by weak oil prices, funding for its men's national football team has suffered to the point that it risks World Cup disqualification.

Although the Super Eagles -- who are led by Chelsea star John Obi Mikel -- have had their bonuses suspended for six months, the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) now says it is so broke that it cannot afford to fly its players to Zambia for next month's third-round qualifier.

Although many of its squad earn lucrative salaries playing for clubs in Europe, the NFF is courting a sponsor to raise $270,000 in order to charter a plane to Ndola, Zambia for the match on October 9, according to Nigeria's Guardian newspaper.

"As we speak, we don't have any kobo (a denomination of Nigeria's naira currency) in our purse," an unnamed member of the NFF told the newspaper, adding that they were appealing to regional telco giant Globacom for aid.

"The charges for the Airline alone is $200,000 for a 140-seater plane, and it will be on ground with the team for two days," the spokesman added. "We need between $6,000 and $10,000 for flight ticket(s) to bring in the players (from Europe)."

The NFF member also noted that players will be due a further $95,0000 each in bonuses, and said the only way forward is to receive stronger backing from the Nigerian government.

"The federal government still has to play its part, because this is the beginning of our campaign for the 2018 World Cup qualifying ticket. If we must get it right, every hand must be on deck," he told The Guardian.

The Nigerian Statehouse did not immediately respond to CNN's request for comment on the matter.

Nigeria has been one of the most successful African countries when it comes to the World Cup, reaching the round of 16 in three out of its five appearances -- most recently in 2014.

The Super Eagles have had even greater success at the Olympics, winning a gold medal at Atlanta in 1996, a silver at the 2008 Beijing Games, and a recent bronze medal at Rio 2016.

Reaching the bronze medal match in Rio de Janeiro prompted one Super Eagles superfan to donate $390,000 as charitable aid.

Learning of the team's financial hardship, Japanese plastic surgeon Katsuya Takasu flew in from Tokyo for Nigeria's bronze medal match against Honduras, which it won 3-2.

"I was so happy and cried for their winning. Japanese are sentimental," Takasu told CNN in August.

Takasu personally delivered the checks to Nigeria's captain, Mikel and coach Samson Siasia after being impressed by the team's resilience when they emerged victorious in the Olympic football group stage despite nearly missing the tournament.

The team were stranded at their Atlanta training base and arrived just seven hours before their opening match against Japan, which they won 5-4, due to a logistical mix up -- the airline hired to charter the team to Brazil, it turned out, had not been paid on time.

Alex Iwobi wished he played for Nigeria in the 2016 Olympics

Alex Iwobi wishes Arsenal would have let him play at the Olympics with Nigeria, but realises that going to Rio may also have hampered his progress with the Gunners.

Iwobi, 20, was blocked from joining the Nigeria squad for the Rio de Janeiro Games in August as it would have ruled him out of the start of the Premier League season, a decision that Iwobi accepted.

"I would like to have played in the Olympics -- doing that would have been a big thing for me," Iwobi told the London Evening Standard. "If I had gone, I would have missed a couple of Arsenal games at least and the boss [Arsene Wenger] didn't want that. I wish I did go but at the end of the day I did what the boss wanted and I am happy to be where I am. If I had gone, I might not be where I am now."

Iwobi started Arsenal's season-opening game against Liverpool only to sustain a thigh injury that ruled him out for three weeks. But he has been an integral part of the team's success since his return to fitness, including in the 3-0 win over Chelsea on Saturday.

After breaking into the first team last spring, he is now a regular first-choice starter for Wenger and seems to still have plenty of room for development.

"I don't even look at how far I've come. I wouldn't say I'm in a daze right now but I'm just enjoying it as it comes and whatever happens, happens," Iwobi said.

The attacking midfielder was born in Lagos but his family moved to London when he was four years old and he joined the Arsenal academy while still in primary school. Despite playing for England's youth teams, Iwobi opted to represent Nigeria internationally after being first called up in 2015.

And his uncle, Nigeria legend Jay-Jay Okocha, still offers him advice on how to deal with his newfound success.

"When I was growing up, he helped me a lot on the pitch," Iwobi said. "He gave me game advice a lot but the older I am getting, he is helping me off the pitch more so I can be professional and focus on the football.

"He's always telling me what could happen, what you are about to face. He always says 'concentrate on the football first -- the rest is just luxury stuff that comes with it."

Militants blow up oil pipeline in Niger Delta

A Nigerian militant group claimed an attack on Thursday on a crude pipeline operated by state oil firm NNPC in the Niger Delta.

Attacks on Nigeria's energy facilities by groups calling for the Delta region to receive a greater share of the OPEC member's oil wealth have cut crude production, which stood at 2.1 million barrels per day at the start of the year, by a third.

The Niger Delta Greenland Justice Mandate said it bombed the Unenurhie-Evwreni delivery line in Ughelli, Delta state, at around 01:00 a.m. (0000 GMT) on Thursday. The line is operated by NPDC, a subsidiary of NNPC.

A military source said dynamite was used to blow up the pipeline. An NNPC spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.

It comes days after Niger Delta Avengers, which has claimed responsibility for most of the attacks on energy facilities in the region since the start of the year, said it carried out its first attack since declaring a break in hostilities in August to pursue talks with the government.

The Avengers said on Saturday there had been no progress in meeting their demands.

The Greenland Justice Mandate, which has never agreed to cease hostilities, said in a statement it had blown up the pipeline "to prove to the wicked and ungrateful multinational oil companies and their Nigerian military allies... that we own our lands".

Monday, September 26, 2016

Video - Nigerian currency trading at 440 Naira to the U.S. dollar

The Nigerian Naira traded much lower on Monday in the unofficial black market at 440 to the green back. This comes as dollar shortages persist in the economy. Despite removing the peg and floating its currency in July, forex shortages continue to be a serious challenge. Deji Badmus looks at what is driving the rapid depreciation of the naira.