Friday, August 23, 2019

Nigeria becomes first country to approve biotech cowpea

Nigeria has made history by becoming the first country in the world to approve biotech cowpea, thereby adding a new biotech crop to the global biotech basket.

This is according to the Global Status of Commercialised Biotech/GM ( Genetically Modified) Crops in 2018 (ISAAA Brief 54), and disclosed in a news release by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications, ISAAA on Thursday.

The release was issued at the Nigeria Science Cafe and launch of Brief 54, a report on Global Status of Commercialised Biotech/GM Crops event in Abuja. The release, signed by Dr Margaret Karembu, Director, ISAAA AfriCentre in Kenya showed that Africa continued to make steady progress in the adoption of biotech crops.

The ISAAA AfriCentre Director praised Nigeria’s progress in biotech crop development and adoption, noting that the country was leading in agricultural technology approvals enabled by an efficient bio safety system.

“The world is in a technological advancement trajectory, the green revolution that had taken the world by storm in the second half of the 20th century is quickly transitioning into gene revolution. “We are now progressing into genome editing, a more precise and accurate technology to effectively develop more productive, highly nutritious and climate resilient crops for our rapidly increasing population,’’ she said.

In the ISAAA Brief 54 report, a total of 70 countries adopted biotech crops through cultivation and importation in 2018, the 23rd year of continuous biotech crop adoption. Also a total of 26 countries with 21 developing and five industrialised countries planted 191.7 million hectares of biotech crops, adding 1.9 million hectares to the record of plantings in 2017.

The Kingdom of Eswanti, former Swaziland, joined South Africa and Sudan in planting biotech crops in Africa, with commercial planting of insect resistant (IR) Bt cotton on an initial launch of 250 hectares. This brought the number of African countries currently growing biotech crops to three. Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kenya and Malawi granted approvals for planting biotech cotton as the proof that Africa is ready for biotech crop adoption. The report further indicated that South Africa alone planted 2.73 million hectares of biotech crops in 2018, sustaining its ranking among the top 19 biotech crop countries in the last two decades.

Most farmers in the country have adopted plant biotechnology with 87 per cent of adoption of biotech maize, 95 per cent biotech soybean and 100 per cent of biotech cotton.

The report further stated that Sudan planted 243,000 hectares of BT cotton, and a total of 3.14 million hectares of biotech crops in Africa. The report highlighted among others, that the top five countries with the largest area of biotech crops planted by U.S., Brazil, Argentina, Canada and India collectively occupied 91 per cent of global biotech crop area.

It showed that biotech soybean reached the highest adoption worldwide, covering 50 per cent of the global biotech crop area. The report indicated that farmers in 10 Latin American countries planted 79.4 million hectares of biotech crops among others. It said that with the continuously increasing adoption of biotech crops worldwide, farmers were at the forefront of reaping numerous benefits.


Video - Displaced women live in fear in Nigeria as incidents of rape rise

One of the world's deadliest conflicts is taking place in Nigeria's central region. Thousands have been killed in decades of fighting between ethnic groups. About 4,000 have been killed in the last two years alone. Now another crisis has added to the troubles of those displaced by this conflict. Al Jazeera's Mohamed Adow reports from Makurdi in Benue state, where women in camps live in fear of their safety.

FBI charges 80 people connected to Nigerian romance scams

In March 2016, a man claiming to be a US Army captain stationed in Syria reached out to a Japanese woman on an international site for digital pen pals.

Within weeks, their relationship grew into an internet romance with the man sending daily emails in English that she translated via Google. The man who called himself Terry Garcia asked for money -- lots of it -- from the woman identified as FK in federal court documents. Over 10 months, she sent him a total of $200,000 that she borrowed from friends, her ex-husband and other relatives to make her love interest happy.

But in reality, Garcia did not exist. It was all an international online scam ran by two Nigerian men in the Los Angeles area with the help of associates in their home country and other nations, federal officials say.

And Thursday, US prosecutors charged 80 people -- mostly Nigerians -- in the widespread conspiracy that defrauded at least $6 million from businesses and vulnerable elderly women.
Of those, 17 people have been arrested in the US so far and federal investigators are trying to track down the rest in Nigeria and other nations.
"We believe this is one of the largest cases of its kind in US history," US Attorney Nick Hanna said.

A plan to smuggle diamonds

The whirlwind online romance between FK and Garcia was all conducted on a Yahoo email address with no phone calls. Garcia told FK he wasn't allowed to use a phone in Syria, according to federal authorities.

Demands for money started after he told her he'd found a bag of diamonds in Syria and needed her help to smuggle it out of the war-torn nation. He said he was injured and could not do it himself -- and introduced her to associates he said would help facilitate the transfer, court documents allege. One said he was a Red Cross diplomat who could get the diamonds shipped to FK, court documents show.

Shortly after, another man who claimed to work for a shipping company asked FK for money to ensure the package was not inspected at customs, the complaint alleges. Requests for additional money kept coming, with the fraudsters citing different reasons each time on why the package was stuck at customs.

"FK estimates that she made 35 to 40 payments over the 10 months that she had a relationship with Garcia. During that time, the fraudster(s) emailed her as many as 10 to 15 times each day, and Garcia was asking her to make the payments, so she kept paying to accounts in Turkey, the UK and the US," the federal criminal complaint says.

The loss of money has left FK angry and depressed, authorities said. "She began crying when discussing the way that these losses have affected her," the criminal complaint says.

17 arrested and dozens on the run 

The scams were not just limited to romance, Hanna said. They included business schemes where fraudsters hack escrow company email systems, impersonate employees and direct payments that funnel money back to themselves.

"In some cases, the victims thought they were communicating with US servicemen stationed overseas, when in fact, they were emailing with con men," Hanna said. "Some of the victims in this case lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in this way."

Of the 80 people charged, federal authorities arrested 14 people mostly in Los Angeles, the local US Attorney's Office said Thursday. At least three other defendants were already in custody. The remaining suspects live in other countries, mainly in Nigeria, and investigators said they'll work with the respective governments to extradite them.

How the scam worked

Investigators detailed an intricate scam traced to two key suspects who oversaw the fraudulent transfer of at least $6 million and the attempted theft of an additional $40 million.

Once co-conspirators based in Nigeria, the United States and other countries persuaded victims to send money under false pretenses, the two Nigerian men who lived in Southern California coordinated the receipt of funds, the indictment says.

The two men provided bank and money-service accounts that received funds obtained from victims and also ran the extensive money-laundering network, the complaint alleges.

The two men were arrested Thursday. All defendants will face charges of conspiracy to commit fraud, conspiracy to launder money, and aggravated identity theft. Some also will face fraud and money laundering charges.

Paul Delacourt of the FBI's Los Angeles warned people to be careful as romance scams escalate nationwide. The Federal Trade Commission has said scams that prey on vulnerable people cost Americans more money than any other fraud reported to the agency last year. More than 21,000 people were conned into sending $143 million in such schemes in 2018 alone, it reported.

"Billions of dollars are lost annually, and we urge citizens to be aware of these sophisticated financial schemes to protect themselves or their businesses from becoming unsuspecting victims," Delacourt said.

By Faith Karimi


Thursday, August 22, 2019

Video - Banker in Nigeria leaves finance sector for farming

One Nigerian farmer is redefining the sector in a bid to get younger and educated women to embrace the trade. In a country where most young people are swirling towards white collar jobs, Amaka Chukwudum left a thriving career in banking to pursue a life time passion in organic farming. Here's CGTN's Deji Badmus with the story of Chukwudum, one of Nigeria's leading advocate for organic farming.

Nigeria is three years polio free

Nigeria has gone three years without a case of polio, putting it on the brink of being declared free of the disease.

This is a dramatic change from 2012 when the country accounted for more than half of all polio cases worldwide, the World Health Organization has said.

The head of the primary health care agency, Dr Faisal Shuaib, said Nigeria had reached a "historic milestone".

But it will be several months before the country can officially be labelled polio-free.

The first criteria, no case for three years, has been achieved.

But now the WHO needs to make sure there is a robust surveillance system in Nigeria to be certain that there are no further cases of the wild polio virus, chairman of Nigeria's polio committee, Dr Tunji Funsho, told BBC Newsday.

Nigeria is the last country in Africa to have witnessed a case of polio - in Borno state, in the north-east. Outside of Nigeria, the last case on the continent was in the Puntland region of Somalia, in 2014.

Insecurity in the north-east of Nigeria had hindered the polio vaccination programme, but success in fighting the Boko Haram militant group has been cited as one of the reasons behind getting polio under control.

In addition, officials have said that political support and an injection of funds have also helped.

In 2018, there was a total of 33 polio cases confined to just two countries: Afghanistan and Pakistan.