Thursday, July 29, 2010

'No insolvency' in Nigerian state oil firm

Nigeria's Oil Minster, Diezani Allison-Madueke, has told the BBC the country's state oil firm is not insolvent.

Related stories: Video report on Nigerian oil tycoon Kase Lawal

Video - 50 years of oil spill in Nigeria 

U.S. vs China for Nigeria's oil

Prophet gunned down in Church

A 54-year-old prophet / founder of Celestial Church of Christ, CCC, Messiah Parish, Meiran, a suburb of Lagos, Prophet Olusola Oluwatuyi, was Tuesday afternoon, shot dead in his church during a meeting with a man, alleged to be a retired Police officer.

According to eye witnesses, the deceased, fondly called, Messiah by his members had informed the church's shepherd Evangelist, Ojelade Oludayo of his meeting with the retired officer and one Mr. Olaifa and warned that he does not want to be disturbed.

It was reported that Olaifa was the first to exit the meeting, leaving the retired Commissioner and the cleric behind.

Not quite long after Olaifa left the said meeting, the sound of a gun shot was heard as the retired officer was seen hurrying out of the premises. But when members rushed to the scene, they found Messiah in a pool of his own blood.

An eye witness, Mrs. Titilayo Awofisayo said she was washing her clothes, in the church premises when she suddenly heard the gun shot.

"Our founder, Mr. Olaifa and a retired ACP held a meeting for two hours. Mr. Olaifa was the first person to leave while our founder and the ACP remained upstairs. Suddenly, I heard a gun shot but I never knew where it came from. As I was wondering about this, the retired Police officer came downstairs with his two hands in his pocket demanding that I should accompany him to a nearby hospital but, I told him I was not properly dressed and I called another member of the church, Jide Oguntola to accompany him. I was restless till they came back and I asked him if there was something wrong and he kept saying, 'Messiah is my son'.

Immediately, I ran upstairs to see what happened but found our founder lying in a pool of his blood with a double barrel riffle and a revolver carefully placed on the table. I also found his two phones, office and car keys in the office.

I asked him what has happened and he responded that Prince (our founder) was fidgeting with the gun when it fired.

Immediatly, I ran outside to alert other people who also rushed to the scene but to my astonishment, the ACP had escaped after he told the sympathisers he was going to invite the Police.

I pursued him and found him by his car as he told me he wanted to go and call the Police . I dragged him to the church so he can explain what transpired between him and Prince (our founder). "

The said retired officer has been arrestd by the police and taken to the Criminal Investigative Division, Panti in Lagos.


Related story: Police gun down 70-year old man who refused to pay bribe

Fuel Tanker explodes, kills 2 in Lagos

Commercial and social activities in and around Apapa, Lagos were abruptly brought to a halt Wednesday after a petrol tanker exploded into flames burning its driver and motor boy to death.

The incident, which happened on top of the decrepit Liverpool bridge at about 2 p.m., caused a traffic jam as pedestrians and motorists were seen trekking long distances to their destinations.

Eyewitnesses said the tanker, which registration number had been burnt beyond recognition before Vanguard arrived, was said to have climbed the bridge at a high speed, skidded, turned over, exploded and burst into flames.

Motorists and pedestrians who were at the spot when the incident occurred reportedly scampered for safety while those behind made a quick U-turn.

The identity of the driver and his motor boy could be ascertained as at press time, but sources said they were Northerners.

When Vanguard visited, a combined team of Policemen led by a Divisional Police Officer, DPO, Mohammed Ali and fire brigade officials, were making frantic efforts to put off the inferno.

Eyewitness account

An onlooker, who would not want his names in print described the accident as avoidable, adding that the driver was the architect of his misfortune.

"I was at the foot of the bridge when the tanker sped passed us and we all wondered if something was chasing him.

"Minutes later we heard a loud bang followed by flames. When we raced up to the spot, we discovered that it was the same tanker that we had earlier talked about.

"The way these tankers move here in Apapa, especially when climbing this bridge, is totally against driving ethics. This is a bridge that is already falling apart and calling for repairs."


Related stories: 70 die in fuel tanker explosion in Anambra 

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

NDLEA intercepts N4b cocaine in Lagos

National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, yesterday, said it had intercepted a container load of substance suspected to be cocaine.
The container, marked CMA CGM, ECM 78299-8, 22 GI, arrived the country via the Tin Can Island Port Apapa, Lagos, weekend, and was reportedly cleared promptly.

Vanguard learnt that the attention of plain clothed NDLEA operatives who were monitoring the clearance was aroused and they promptly trailed it to an undisclosed warehouse in Orile-Iganmu in Apapa where they demanded to know the content.

Apparently realising that the game was up, the agent was said to have called an unnamed Chinese industrialist at Ibadan informing him that men of the Nigerian Customs were demanding for additional N4million and he promptly arrived with the cash.

The Chinese man was reportedly arrested. Not wanting to go down alone, he also called his partner-in-crime in Kano State, informing him that Customs men were still demanding an additional  N1million to release the container.

The partner also flew in with the cash, and into the waiting hands of NDLEA officials.

Vanguard gathered that the two foreign industrialists were, yesterday, still briefing the anti-drug agency about their respective involvement in the illicit trafficking.

Their stash of cocaine was masterly concealed in customized plywood used as floors and packed in the  containers weighed 450.4 kgs; with  its street value put at a whopping N4billion.

Chairman of the anti-drug agency, Alhaji Ahmadu Giade, who was flanked by his Director-General, Otunba Laren Ipinmisho, told newsmen at the Shaw Road, Ikoyi, head office of the agency that the present seizure was the second largest in the annals of the agency.

Security reports

He said that operatives had received security reports about the movement of the vessel which carried the particular container and had patiently kept watch at the port.

It will be recalled that similar quantity weighing 14.2 tons was equally seized at the same port in 2006.

NDLEA chairman said: “We received intelligence report about the consignment which originated from Chile and passed though Peru, Bolivia and Antwerp in Germany to Tin Can Island Port and we kept tab on it. The drug was neatly concealed in customized floor wood in a container.  The container was cleared and taken to a private warehouse in Orile-Ignamu.”

Giade added that the clearing agent and other Nigerians involved in drug deals had been arrested to ascertain their level of involvement.

He said: “The agency and other security agencies which are also on the alert to prevent criminal acts capable of disrupting peace and stability in the country, are determined to send all drug barons out of circulation.”


Related stories: CNN's video report on the Illegal drug trade in Nigeria 

Drug traffickers stuff cocaine in roasted chicken

Pregnant woman arrested with cocaine at airport 

Two Nigerian drug traffickers excrete 160 grams of cocaine while in custody

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Dubai to extradite Ibori to Britain

Former governor of Delta State James Ibori who was arrested in Dubai by Interpol on charges of siphoning millions of dollars of state assets is due to be extradited to Britain, a local newspaper reported yesterday.

Ibori, governor of Delta between 1999 and 2007, who was arrested in May, "will soon be extradited to London," Gulf News quoted a police source as saying.

Dubai police were not immediately available to confirm the report.

Ibori is charged with embezzling $290 million of public funds and money laundering while he was in office. An international arrest warrant was issued against the ex-governor who also faces corruption charges in Britain after the discovery of assets suspected to have been bought with stolen money.

On August 2, 2007, prosecutors made a successful "application of restraint" at Southwark Crown Court in London "in relation to worldwide assets worth 35 million dollars belonging to James Ibori," London police had said upon Ibori's arrest.

Daily Trust

Related stories: Dubai set to extradite Ibori

Ibori's sister convicted in london for money laundering

Video interview with James Ibori about corruption charges

Video report on the EFCC crackdown on corruption in Nigeria

EFCC freezes NFF accounts

Economic and Financial crimes Commission (EFCC) has frozen three bank accounts of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), following new revelations by its investigation into the alleged N1.3 billion fraud in the Glass House.

This is even as the acting President of the federation, Aminu Maigari, has been summoned by the anti-graft commission to explain his role in the alleged fraud.

A senior EFCC source told Daily Independent on Monday that the commission has to freeze the three accounts in three different banks because investigators discovered some funds in those accounts which could not be explained.

The source, who would not disclose the names of the banks where the accounts were frozen, said however that $6 million was traced to one account which he said may not be in NFF's books.

According to him, the two other accounts frozen by the agency have $2 million and N144 million respectively in them.

The source who further disclosed that the acting president of the NFF has been summoned to face investigators working on the case today, explained that the invitation was informed by the fact that he was Chairman, Financial Committee of the NFF board when the former President, Sani Lulu, held sway.

"We have invited the acting President, Maigari, because we believe he has a case to answer. He was chairman of the financial committee of that board under Lulu," he explained.

EFCC Head of Media and Publicity, Femi Babafemi, confirmed the freezing of the NFF's accounts and invitation of Maigari for questioning. He however declined further comment on the matter.

The anti-corruption agency launched its investigation into the alleged fraud in July after Lulu was dismissed as president of football federation.

The commission first invited him for interrogation on July 8 alongside former Technical Committee Chairman, Taiwo Ogunjobi, former Vice President, Uchegbulam Amanze and Bolaji Ojo-Oba, NFF's former general secretary who were also fingered in the scam.

They are being investigated for rushing to book accommodation for players and officials in a non-FIFA approved hotel, Hampshire Hotel, in order to cut cost, causing the country to lose over $125, 000 (N18.7 million) when they had to book a new hotel.

Daily Independent

Related stories:  Video report on the EFCC crackdown on corruption in Nigeria

EFCC arrest 5 from Nigerian Film Corporation over 12 million naira scam

Nigerian Banks

Monday, July 26, 2010

Video - 50 years of oil spill in Nigeria

GPS looks at the continuining oil spills in Nigeria.

Related stories: U.S. vs China for Nigeria's oil

Nigeria's agony dwarfs the Gulf oil spill. The US and Europe ignore it

Oil War

 Video report on Nigerian oil tycoon Kase Lawal

Nigeria's oil reserve to dry up in 2040

President Goodluck Jonathan says government to boost cocoa production

President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday said his administration has concluded arrangements to boost the nation's economy and increase the GDP through cocoa production.

Towards this end, he said a committee on cocoa production and processing has been set up and given six weeks ultimatum to submit its report which he assured would be speedily implemented.

Jonathan, who was represented by Vice President Namadi Sambo, said this at the closing ceremony of the 6th National Cocoa Day celebrations organised for the 14- cocoa producing states in the country held at the Township Square Ilorin, Kwara State.

He said the committee comprises of the ministries of finance and agriculture and rural development; the Centra Bank of Nigeria, and the Nigeria Export Promotion Council, among others .

The president also pledge that facilities that will assist farmers in cocoa production will be provided for them so that they will take it with all the seriousness it deserves and help the Federal Government to fulfill its objectives.

In his address, the minister of agriculture and rural development, Professor Sheik Abdullah, said the theme of the 6th National Cocoa Day, "Quality Cocoa for National Development," is well chosen to reflect the importance Nigeria attaches to cocoa production.

Earlier in his address, the governor of Kwara State, Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki, commended the Federal Government for supporting the programme to be held in Ilorin, noting that with the three-day programme, the glory of cocoa production is being re-kindled for better development of the agricultural sector.

Meanwhile, Cocoa producing states in the country have attributed incessant power outage as the major reason they have not been able to build any cocoa processing factory despite the abundance of cocoa in the country.

They said until the problem of power generation was tackled by the federal government, it would be difficult for any state to contemplate such venture.

Speaking with newsmen in Akure ahead of the Cocoa Day celebrations, Ondo State Deputy Governor Alhaji Ali Olanusi regretted that many of the industries established in the sector were no more in operation, while those operating were doing so at a minimal capacity.


Related stories: Good luck, Jonathan

President Goodluck Jonathan opens facebook account

One year to change Nigeria

Police on alert over Boko Haram mayhem anniversary

Police were on the alert on Saturday searching for weapons, while residents were on edge in Maiduguri and environs in Borno State ahead of the first anniversary of the Boko Haram sect group's deadly uprising with fears of possible strike again.

The group's deputy, Abubakar Shekau, was believed killed as well, but video clips have emerged in recent months in which he threatens to "avenge the killings of our brethren", adding to concerns that the militant group was re-grouping, though local police dismissed the clips as digital mockery and insisted that he is dead.

The sect leader, Mohammed Yusuf, was also killed. Police were accused of killing him after he had been captured alive, but officers said he was shot while trying to escape from custody.

"What happened was only the prelude, the actual show has not started yet," he said in one clip.

Authorities have set up night checkpoints and are searching vehicles in a bid to keep weapons from entering the city of Maiduguri, the centre of the uprising.

A dozen police vans escorted by a siren-blaring armoured car had been regularly rumbling through the city's streets, but the show of force was halted recently because it rattled residents, a police officer said.

"This is part of the security strategy because these troublemakers may want to use the cover of night to bring in arms," said a police sergeant at a checkpoint on Friday night, where about a dozen cars waited.

Last year's uprising began on July 26 and spread to four states, though it was centred in Maiduguri in the country's mainly Muslim north.

It ended four days later with more than 800 dead, most of them sect members. The military and police launched an assault on the sect's headquarters, leaving it in rubble.

While Monday marks the start of the insurrection, Friday may pose a larger risk since it is the date Yusuf was killed.

The scale of the uprising and military assault last year shocked the country, Africa's most populous nation where about half of the 150 million population is Muslim.

The sect, while known as the Nigerian Taliban, is also called Boko Haram, which means, "Western education is sin" in local dialect.

Its ranks had been filled by a range of recruits, including university dropouts, unemployed youths, and those seeking to turn Nigeria into an Islamic state.

"Everybody is apprehensive of what might happen in the next few days," Maiduguri resident Abdulqahhar Idrissa told AFP.

Rumours are all over the city that members of Boko Haram are going to strike during the anniversary and everyone is afraid because we know the agony we went through last year during the fighting."

One police officer at the site said recently that a suspected member of the sect had come to the mosque a couple of weeks earlier to pray for Yusuf.

Daily Independent

Related stories: Tension in Borno over Al-Jazeera Boko Haram video 

Video and transcript of Boko Haram leader Mohammed Yusuf interrogated before his execution

Ten killed in fresh Jos attacks 

Residents worry about their future in Jos, Nigeria

Nollywood slams N250,000 clearance fee on foreign Actors

The recent decision by the authorities of the Ghanaian movie industry to compel Nigerian actors who are plying their trade in Ghana to pay the huge sum of $1000 for every movie role or risk losing the job in that country may have incurred the wrath of their Nigerian counterparts who have risen to the occasion by returning fire-for-fire.

In a direct reaction to that ugly development, heads of Guilds of the Nigerian motion picture industry under the aegis of Coalition of Nollywood Guilds and Association(CONGA) last Tuesday rolled out stringent measures for foreign actors working in Nigeria.

The coalition said, the new guidelines are put in place to protect the Nigerian movie industry as well as regulate the activities of foreign practitioners in the country.

Speaking during the presentation of the guidelines to the movie journalists last Tuesday in Lagos, Mr. Bond Emeruwa, who represented the coalition explained that the new guidelines are not put in place to discourage foreign participation in the Nigerian motion picture industry, rather, the idea is based on the need to regulate the industry.

By these new guidelines, Emeruwa who is the president of the Directors Guild of Nigeria said, any foreign actors or producers wishing to work on a project in the country would be required not only to obtain clearance from the Interpol in his or her country of origin attesting to his or her status, but importantly, he or she must apply as a matter of fact for and obtain a written permission from the Nigerian film corporation.

Also, the coalition expects the prospective practitioner to apply for, and obtain a written approval from the coalition of Nollywood Guilds and Association through the appropriate guild or association that best represents the film practitioners' area of practice.

The coalition argued that given the conducive atmosphere which the industry provides for the foreign practitioners, there is imperative need for them to contribute financially to the growth of the same industry.

"Any foreign actor participating in any of Nollywood productions will be compelled to pay the sum of $2,500, while any producer or director working on a production in the country will pay the sum of $2,500 . Others include screen writer($2,500), production company($10,000), creative designer($2,000), production manager($1,500) and Assistant Director($1,500) amongst others." he listed.

On distribution, according to Emeruwa, "the coalition wants the National Film and Video Censors Board(NFVCB) to ensure that any foreign film seeking to be distributed in the country is censored in addition to having such film registered with the film and video producers as well as the marketing association of Nigeria with the following;

*A none refundable fee of $10,000

*A censorship certificate from the country of origin

*A copyright certificate from the country of origin and from the Nigerian Copyright Commission.

However, noting that the new guidelines were put in place as a further effort to protect and inculcate laudable ethics in the nation's film industry, the coalition remarked that any local film producer who parade one or more foreign artistes in his or her film will be treated as a foreign film at the point of distribution except, a situation where a proof of having satisfied the conditions as stipulated above is demonstrated.

According to the coalition chairman,"it is time to begin to protect the Nigerian film industry with a view to enable it grow bigger and better as well as increase its capacity to assist other emerging film industries all over the world. Having given a voice to the black race and sempowering the struggling film makers of Africa how to express themselves using the tube."

Speaking in the same vein, Paul Obazele, president, Association of Movie Producers (AMP), said the coalition is working in conjunction with the Interpol and security agencies in the country to ensure that the new guidelines are enforced without hindrance.

Meanwhile, reacting to this development, Director-General of the Nigerian Film Corporation, Mr Afolabi Adesanya, when contacted distanced his establishment from the new policy, saying "they are on their own."

However, while the new guidelines are a welcome development to the industry, observed have expressed reservation over a possible clash of interest coupled with disagreement with the regulatory bodies.


Related stories: Piracy in Nollywood

 Interview with the Father of Nollywood

CNN covers the Nollywood industry

Lars Lagerback leaves coaching job

Amuni Maigari, president of the NFF (Nigerian Football Federation), has made it clear that Swedish gaffer Lars Lagerback will not continue as head coach of Nigeria's national side. Lagerback had only started the job a matter of weeks ahead of the 2010 World Cup.

"Lagerback told me he could not continue as the coach of the Super Eagles because he feared that he might not be able to pen a four-year deal that would keep him in Nigeria for that long," said Maigari

"He thanked the NFF for the opportunity given to him to take the Eagles to the World Cup. He said the experience was worth it and that he would always remember Nigeria and her good people."

Maigari added that the NFF are keen to sign Samson Siasia as Lagerback's replacement.

"We have had talks with Siasia. The talks have been fruitful and all things being equal, he will put pen to paper next month subject to negotiations. Siasia is the coach Nigerians want and we shall give him all the support to succeed in this new job."


Related stories: Lars Lagerback takes blame for Super Eagles' Fall

Lagerback finds Greece defeat bitter 

Interview with Super Eagles new coach Lars Lagerback 

Siasia says Eagles cowardice cost Nigeria a place in history

Former U-23 national team coach Samson Siasia is known for his candid comments on football issues. He is one of the few coaches on the local scene who has been able to look straight into the eyes of NFA officials and tell them the truth.

His views often times have seen him on the black books of those who ran the NFA in the past but that has not stopped the ex-international from saying it the way it is.

Siasia, presently on the pay roll of Heartland FC of Owerri as Technical Adviser, described most of the Super Eagles players who represented Nigeria at the World Cup hosted by South Africa as cowards.

According to him, it was obvious there were problems in the team but none came out publicly to say it because they were afraid of being ejected from the team.

"They knew there were problems in the team and they refused to speak out. They could have spoken with members of the NFA or the Presidential Task Force members.

These people would have been able to solve the problem but they simply refused to talk. When they finally decided to open up, it was too late for anyone to do anything about the situation.

That is certainly not the right approach. That is why they do not want some of us in the system, because we will not keep quiet while things go wrong. As a result of that attitude, Nigeria is smarting from what can be said to be her worst outing at the World Cup, while Ghana is enjoying her best outing at the World Cup and taking all the accolades", Siasia said.

As regards the quality of people who should be in the new NFA, the former Flash Flamengoes of Benin striker said he believes we need people who can take football to the next level.

"First, we need some form of a forum where we can put heads together and discuss and appoint people with the interest of the game at heart. I am confident that we have people who can bring Nigerian football out of the woods.

The ex-internationals can also be very useful in the new NFA. Look at what France is doing. It is not possible for everybody to be a national team coach, so we need to use ex-internationals to scout for Nigerians playing in Europe and other parts of the world.

"Every day, some of us get calls from the United States and other countries where our players ply their trade. They do not know how to get in touch with the federation. The ex-internationals can come in handy here.

There are Nigerians in Europe who want to play for the country but do not know who to contact. The ex-players can come in and serve as a link between the players and the NFA", he said.


Related stories: Siasia lands Super Eagles job

 Lars Lagerback takes blame for Super Eagles' Fall

President Goodluck Jonathan reverses Super Eagles suspension

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Artist of the day - ZIRIUMS

Nazir Ahmed Hausawa, a.k.a Ziriums, is the first son of eleven children. Hausa-Fulani by tribe, he was born in the conservative state of Kano in northern Nigeria.  He was inspired by his Dad, an Islamic gospel artist, to enter the world of hip-hop and was later influenced by western rap artists such as Eminem.

Nazir grew up in a society whose elite leaders felt they could do anything they wanted in the name of religion, while everyday people didn't have access to good schools, hospitals, roads, and security.  People who spoke up were often imprisoned. He feels that rap / hip hop culture is the only weapon left to express himself freely and communicate the situation in Nigeria to the world.  Nazir raps in Hausa and Fulfulde and wants to set an example to youth today so that they can wake up and preach against violence and enlighten society.

Nazir’s debut album is set to drop in 2010. He is currently managed by intersection Entertainment [I.E] in Abuja. His first single of the album ‘This is me’ video was directed by Korex of Intersection DMA.

Related stories : Artist of the day - Fluxxx 

Artist of the day - FEMI 

Friday, July 23, 2010

Unending misery of pensioners

The recent death of four Federal Civil Service pensioners while waiting to collect their terminal benefits in Lagos State once again brings to the fore the government's criminal neglect of our senior citizens.

According to the Campaign for Democratic and Workers' Rights (CDWR), the incident brought to 179 the total number of pensioners who have died in similar circumstances in recent years. One of the latest victims, who retired from the Nigerian Postal Service, NIPOST, slumped and died while protesting the non-payment of the retirees' 49-month pension arrears. The three others lost their lives during a verification exercise. What makes it so painful is that the tragedies were clearly avoidable.

Indeed, the tales of woe of most pensioners are heart-rending. And for those still alive among them, there seems to be no light at the end of the long tunnel. Recently, a NIPOST retiree wept openly on television because of his inability to pay the school fees of his children. The kids have since been forced to withdraw from their tertiary institutions. As one retired teacher lamented: "They have made things difficult for us, as if we are not citizens of this nation. I do not know if it is a crime to be old or a retiree. There is no respect for the weak in Nigeria." We share this pensioner's grief on the blatant betrayal of trust suffered by those who have served this nation meritoriously. Another retiree lashed out: "We are yet to see any former state governor or president do verification before his unwarranted and unjustified pension, gratuity or severance package was paid!" A sound, if caustic, point: indeed, herein lies the irony and injustice of it all. Those who received peanuts while in service, who had no access to pillage the national till, are denied their rightful benefits even when they retire and left in the cold.

There is no doubt that the implications of sentencing ex-employees to a retirement of hardship and wretchedness are grave for the nation. Those still in service are inadvertently made to feel that honesty, diligence and hard work do not pay. In this environment, the temptation to engage in sundry sharp practices becomes harder to resist. This has contributed in no small way to the pervasiveness of corrupt practices in today's civil service.

In a bid to avoid this pitfall the Olusegun Obasanjo administration passed the Pensions Act of 2004, with the salutary aim of helping to wipe the tears off the faces of retired workers. The concept was to make both employers and their workers contribute a percentage of the employees' monthly earnings to a Retirement Savings Account, RSA. For this also the Nigerian Pensions Commission (NPC) was established. As at August 2009, about 3.8 million civil servants across the country had signed into the new pension scheme. An estimated N1.2 trillion is said to have accumulated in pension fund accounts since then. Also, 26 pension fund administrators and seven pension fund custodians were put in place to ease the disbursement of their entitlements. But late last year, the Pension Commission raised the alarm that poor contributory culture and corruption were rearing their ugly heads in the implementation of the new scheme. As at mid-2009, only 10 states out of 36 had enacted the pensions fund law. To worsen matters, the Commission alleged that "most employers [were] deducting 7.5 percent pension contribution; yet they fail to remit same to the pension fund" - a criminal act.

Subsequently, there came a serious allegation of fraud made by the Joint Workers Association for Good Governance against a top manager of the Nigerian Social Insurance Trust Fund, NSTIF. He was alleged to have diverted a whopping sum of N1.6 billion of the pension assets, in addition to his alleged refusal to transfer over N200 million to the Trustfund Pensions Plc.

That such allegations of monumental sleaze keep recurring while the supposed beneficiaries of the pension funds are subjected to dehumanizing bureaucratic bottlenecks, such as recurrent 'verification' exercises, leading to the preventable death of many retirees, is unacceptable. It is a cruel society that will persist in treating its elderly citizens so shabbily. We call on the Goodluck Jonathan administration to do a critical review of the implementation of the current pension system, so as to determine what constraints are frustrating its benefits to retirees. The case of pensioners who retired prior to the coming into effect of the new Pensions Act deserves special attention to ensure that old malpractices are not being perpetuated. The anti-graft bodies should take measures to expose and prosecute any criminals, however highly placed, converting the sweat innocent ex-workers into their own private gain. Furthermore, state governments that have not done so should urgently enact and enforce the new pensions law within their own domains. Above all, the process of pension disbursements should be streamlined and simplified to reduce the incidence of pensioners dying while waiting in vain.

Let the Nigerian government borrow a leaf from Chile. There the president, Michele Bachelet, signed a pensions scheme into law in 2008, intended primarily to benefit the poorest of workers. The Pension Basica Solidara covered the 45 per cent of lowest earners in 2008 and has since been reviewed to cover 60 per cent by 2011. In addition, the government paid 60,000 pesos per month to the beneficiaries that same year and upped it to 75,000 pesos per month in 2009. Currently, Chile boasts of five competent private fund managers, with assets worth $100 billion.

In the absence of any form of social security buffer here in Nigeria to cushion the misery of the aged, jobless, disabled or otherwise severely handicapped, let those Nigerians who sacrificed their productive years in service to the nation be paid their retirement benefits as and when due.

Daily Independent

Related story: Government failing to provide pension for the elderly

Olympiacos and West Ham interested in Sani Kaita

Greek giants Olympiacos have joined the hunt to sign Nigeria international midfielder Sani Kaita. There are speculations too that English Premier League side West Ham are another likely suitors seeking the signature of the Kano indigene.

After loan spells in Russia in the past two seasons, Kaita still has a contract with French side Monaco, but he could well be on the move again, either to his preferred destination England, where West Ham have made enquiries; Olympiacos in Greece or Spain, where he has interested Espanyol and Sevilla.

"We're only waiting for a concrete offer from the interested clubs before we really know where he will be playing in the new season," disclosed one of Kaita's representatives, Tijjani Babangida, to

"Kaita's preferred choice is England and he can get a work permit because he has featured in more than 70% of Nigeria's matches in the last two years."

Defensive midfielder Kaita hogged the headlines for the wrong reasons during the 2010 World Cup when he was sent off for a touchline tangle with a Greek player.

There will later be death threats against him after Nigeria lost the match 2-1 to further narrow their chances of making it to the knockout stage of the tournament in South Africa.

This Day

Related stories: Sani Kaita receiving death threats

Leave Sani Kaita alone

Sani Kaita apologizes for red card

Blackout looms as PHCN workers embark on strike

The relative stability in power supply in the country may soon be disrupted as electricity workers under the aegis of the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) have directed their members to embark on indefinite strike action from Monday.

The workers are protesting against the Federal Government's planned privatisation of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) and failure to pay the workers accrued benefits amounting to over N69 billion.

The news of the imminent strike came hours after fire gutted the old Ijora Power Station in Lagos yesterday, destroying electrical equipment worth millions of naira.

The workers are protesting non-payment of arrears of monetisation from 2003 to date, balance of 150 per cent salary increase and casualisation of PHCN workforce.

Vice-President of Lagos/ Ogun Zone of NUEE, Mr. Mbang Obol Ntukube, said the government and PHCN management reneged on the agreement reached in May to address their grievances within four weeks.

Ntukube noted that the workers had since submitted their account details to the management but no payment was made.

On the possibility of negotiating with the government over the weekend to avert the strike, he said the workers are tired of holding talks with the government.

"We are not meeting with them again. What kind of meeting? They keep on wasting PHCN resources in holding meetings. Is it not government that is paying? It is from PHCN resources. You know what it costs to meet at Sheraton. We go there to meet every day at the expense of PHCN. We won't meet again; we want payment," he said.

Ntukube disclosed that Lagos/Ogun Zone was in total support of the actions of the National Secretariat of NUEE against the privatisation of PHCN and warned agents of privatisation to steer clear of PHCN installations, as the workers cannot guarantee their safety.

On the allegation that the workers are not doing enough to improve electricity supply, Zonal Organising Secretary, Mr. Richard Kedee, said without the efforts of the workers, the whole electricity network would have collapsed over long years of neglect. He pointed out that the workers cannibalised old equipment to repair new ones.

Both the NUEE and the Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Companies (SSAEAC) had earlier insisted that there was no going back on the July 25 deadline handed down to the management of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) to address their grievances.

Meanwhile, THISDAY gathered that yesterday's fire incident at the old Ijora Power Station was caused by welders working for an advertising agency, which was mounting a billboard at the top of the gigantic building.

It took the intervention of the men of the Lagos State Fire and Safety Services, Nigeria Ports Authority, Police and the Federal Road Safety Commission to put out the inferno.

At the time of the incident, the power station was not transmitting electricity as it had been abandoned over the years.

This Day

Related stories: Deji Badmus reports on electricity crisis in Nigeria

CNN reports on Nigeria's electricity crisis

10,000 protest on the streets of Lagos for an end to the electricity crisis in Nigeria 

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Nigerian couple give birth to caucasian baby


British Nmachi Ihegboro has amazed genetics experts who say the little girl is not an albino.

Dad Ben, 44, a customer services adviser, admitted: "We both just sat there after the birth staring at her."

Mum Angela, 35, of Woolwich, South London, beamed as she said: "She's beautiful - a miracle baby."

Ben told yesterday how he was so shocked when Nmachi was born, he even joked: "Is she MINE?"

But as the baby's older brother and sister - both black - crowded round the "little miracle" at their home in South London, Ben declared: "Of course she's mine."

Blue-eyed blonde Nmachi, whose name means "Beauty of God" in the Nigerian couple's homeland, has baffled genetics experts because neither Ben nor wife Angela have ANY mixed-race family history.

Pale genes skipping generations before cropping up again could have explained the baby's appearance.

Ben also stressed: "My wife is true to me. Even if she hadn't been, the baby still wouldn't look like that.

"We both just sat there after the birth staring at her for ages - not saying anything."

Doctors at Queen Mary's Hospital in Sidcup - where Angela, from nearby Woolwich, gave birth - have told the parents Nmachi is definitely no albino.

Ben, who came to Britain with his wife five years ago and works for South Eastern Trains, said: "She doesn't look like an albino child anyway - not like the ones I've seen back in Nigeria or in books. She just looks like a healthy white baby."

He went on: "My mum is a black Nigerian although she has a bit fairer skin than mine.

"But we don't know of any white ancestry. We wondered if it was a genetic twist.

"But even then, what is with the long curly blonde hair?"

Professor Bryan Sykes, head of Human Genetics at Oxford University and Britain's leading expert, yesterday called the birth "extraordinary".

He said: "In mixed race humans, the lighter variant of skin tone may come out in a child - and this can sometimes be startlingly different to the skin of the parents.

"This might be the case where there is a lot of genetic mixing, as in Afro-Caribbean populations. But in Nigeria there is little mixing."

Prof Sykes said BOTH parents would have needed "some form of white ancestry" for a pale version of their genes to be passed on.

But he added: "The hair is extremely unusual. Even many blonde children don't have blonde hair like this at birth."

The expert said some unknown mutation was the most likely explanation.

He admitted: "The rules of genetics are complex and we still don't understand what happens in many cases."

The amazing birth comes five years after Kylie Hodgson became mum to twin daughters - one white and the other black - in Nottingham.

Kylie, now 23, and her partner Remi Horder, now 21, are both mixed race.

Even so the odds were estimated at a million to one.

The Sun told in 2002 how a white couple had Asian twins after a sperm mix-up by a fertility clinic.

Yesterday three-day-old Nmachi's churchgoing mum Angela admitted that she was "speechless" at first seeing her baby girl, who was delivered in a caesarean op.

She said: "I thought, 'What is this little doll?'

"She's beautiful and I love her. Her colour doesn't matter. She's a miracle baby.

"But still, what on earth happened here?"

Her husband told how their son Chisom, four, was even more confused than them by his new sister.

Ben said: "Our other daughter Dumebi is only two so she's too young to understand.

"But our boy keeps coming to look at his sister and then sits down looking puzzled.

"We're a black family. Suddenly he has a white sister."

Ben continued: "Of course, we are baffled too and want to know what's happened. But we understand life is very strange.

"All that matters is that she's healthy and that we love her.She's a proud British Nigerian."

Queen Mary's Hospital said: "Congratulations to Angela and her family on the birth of their daughter."

The Sun


South Africa deports 47 citizens

The friendship that existed between Nigeria and South Africa seems to have been thawed as the country which has remained a major trading partner and regional ally deported 47 Nigerians yesterday.

According to Nigeria Immigration Service sources, the deportees made up of 46 males and one female were disembarked at the cargo terminal of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos from a chartered flight from Johannesburg.

After waiting for sometime, the deportees were allowed to leave the airport to their homes or other destinations within Nigeria. Some of the deportees who spoke with newsmen said the South African Authority has become antagonistic to Africans residing in that country and became very hostile with a regime of clampdowns and harassment.

The South Africa Authority they said was more hostile to African immigrants from Nigeria. The deportees noted that this attitude took a more aggressive tone immediately after the World Cup tournament, which was the first to be hosted by any African country.

"South Africans have always been hostile to Africans that live in their country while they fear the white people. It is worse with us Nigerians who they believe take their jobs away, so they have been harassing us for many years now and after the World Cup they started harassing us again and now they have deported us. I left everything I have laboured for years there," one of the deportees who refused to give his name said.

The deportee also said that they were treated like common criminals.

Two weeks ago there was report that a young Nigerian lady that lived and was studying in South Africa and returned to Nigeria to attend a wedding.

As she landed in Johannesburg she was stopped by Immigration at the airport and put on the next plane back to Nigeria.

The lady cried through the six hours flight to Lagos because she was a medical student in one of the universities in South Africa and she was to start her exams in the next two days before she was forced back to Nigeria.

This Day

Related stories: Swiss explain asylum seeker death to Nigeria

Two Nigerian citizens linked to Al-Qaeda deported

 Iloba Family Deported

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Video - Tribal markings under fire

CNN's Christian Purefoy reports on the controversy over tribal markings in Nigeria.

Related story: CNN's Christian Purefoy learns respect...The Naija way

Video - Head wrap artist Segungele in demand

Segungele is a Nigerian man who has made a very promising business shaping head wraps, or gele, for women around the world.

Related stories: Nigeria's fashion industry

Video report on Nigerian oil tycoon Kase Lawal

 BBC reports on Nigeria's free trade zone

Swiss explain asylum seeker death to Nigeria

The Federal Migration Office head has returned from a trip to Nigeria where he explained to officials how a Nigeria died while being deported.

Alard du Bois-Reymond expressed regret to the Nigerian foreign minister over the death and relayed details of an autopsy that found the 29-year-old Nigerian asylum seeker had died of a heart attack while at Zurich airport last year.

The victim was suffering from a serious heart condition that had not been diagnosed. The heart attack was probably brought on by the fact that the man had been on hunger strike and was in a stressed state at the time.

The Nigerian, a convicted drug dealer, had refused to leave the country and had been forcibly restrained while boarding a deportation flight.

Du Bois-Reymond said the meeting, which also included Swiss foreign ministry representatives, had given closure to the affair and re-established “mutual trust” between the two countries.

He also proposed that Nigerian representatives be present on special deportation flights from Switzerland to defuse tensions that may arise. Deportation flights were halted following the death but have since resumed to all countries besides Nigeria. These too are expected to start again this month.

The trip was also a chance for the Swiss to discuss closer cooperation with Nigeria in dealing with the problem of migration. A Nigerian delegation is due to visit Switzerland in October to continue discussions on the issue. 

Swiss Info

Related story: 500 Nigerians in swiss prisons

Ten killed in fresh Jos attacks

The tentative peace recently achieved in Jos, Plateau State, has again been put asunder by violence that erupted yesterday morning in Mazah village, Jos North Local Government Area. The attack left at least 10 people dead and several others injured, the Plateau State Government has said.

"The attack is nothing unusual; it is just another attempt to destroy the peace Plateau people have been enjoying in the past months," the Commissioner for Information and Communication, Mr. Gregory Yenlong said.

He said that those injured were being treated at the Plateau Specialist Hospital.

"It is an embarrassing situation. Just when we thought we had found peace, we suddenly have to cope with another ugly situation," he said.

The Commissioner, who appealed to the people to remain calm, and not to take the law into their hands, called for more vigilance from the military Special Task Force (STF) to prevent a recurrence.

A number of houses were also burnt, while others, including the Church of Christ in Nigeria (COCIN) located in the village were vandalised. But this time, the natives of the village are not the Beroms as in the previous attacks, but the Anagutas.

"We are just coming out of the village; it is a difficult terrain really. There isn't much to say. This incident is just sad," Lt.-Col. Kingsley Umoh, spokesman for the Military Special Task Force (STF) charged with maintaining peace in Jos, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).

Plateau State Police Commissioner Gregory Anyating told Reuters the authorities were trying to find out "the root causes of the violence", but it had not spread to other villages."

The incident, which occurred at about 1:30 am, according to sources, claimed the life of the father of the councilor of the Mazah ward, Hon. Kankani Jaja. The Pastor of the COCIN, Rev. Nuhu Dawat, also lost his wife, two children, and a grandson.

Narrating his experience, Dawat said "It was at about 1:30 am when I heard a knock on my door. I went and opened the door but did not see anybody, so I went back into the house. A few minutes later we started hearing sporadic gun shots. It was then I escaped into the farmland near my house, but my family was not fortunate enough to escape too. My wife, daughter, son and grandson have all been killed".

Another resident of the village, Mr Gaya Suna, who narrated his ordeal said the attackers came with such a bright torchlight that they could locate where their victims hid. He was however able to escape with his wife but his daughter was killed. He said "People were sleeping when we heard some movement. We cannot say exactly why they came to attack us".

The Community leader of Mazah, Mr Abamu Kaiwa, who spoke with THISDAY said "This incident occured between 1 and 2am, they came in with some weapons and attacked some targeted houses. The personal house and family house of the Councilor representing Mazah ward in the Council, Hon. Kankani Jaja, were burnt, his father and son killed".

This Day

Related stories: Residents worry about their future in Jos, Nigeria

Resurgence of religious riots in Nigeria

Video report of Islamist attacks spreading across Nigeria

Police arrest four suspects over journalists' kidnap

Public Relations Officer of the Nigeria Police, Emmanuel Ojukwu, has said that four persons have been arrested in connection with the abduction of four journalists.

The journalists, Wahab Oba, Lagos State Chairman of the NUJ, Zone G Secretary, Adolphous Okoronkwo, Assistant Secretary, Sylva Okonkwo, Shola Oyeyipo and their driver, Azeez Abdulrauf, were abducted at Ukpabiri in Abia on July 11.

They were rescued on July 18 by the police in Obioma Ngwa Local Government in Abia after a week in captivity.

Ojukwu told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Port Harcourt that the police arrested the four suspects in an operation to rescue the kidnapped journalists.

"We have four persons in custody in respect of this offence. We have four arrests made but we are also in hot pursuit of other fleeing members of the gang and we shall catch up with them and bring them to justice," he said.

Ojukwu said that more than 600 persons have been arrested for kidnapping in different parts of the country and that the strike by the courts delayed their prosecution.

He said some of the kidnappers had been charged to court and their cases were ongoing.

"Fighting kidnapping is not solely the responsibility of the Nigerian police. It is our common problem and all of us will have to put our acts together, join hands to fight the menace.

"Kidnappers do not live in police barracks, they are not policemen, they live with the people and people should be able to fish them out and inform the police to arrest them.

"We are doing all we can to make sure that we have the wherewithal to pursue the crime of kidnapping and other violent crimes," he said.

Meanwhile, State Security Service (SSS) in Abuja on Monday paraded four persons suspected to be members of a kidnapping gang operating in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

Director of the FCT Command of SSS, Mike Fubara, who paraded the suspects before newsmen, said the four men were aged from 24 to 26 years.

Fubara said that the SSSe had rescued two men, Maurice Gonga and Abel Aguele, allegedly abducted by the gang along Abuja-Keffi road on July 12 and July 14, respectively.

According to him, leaders of the gang, residing in Port Harcourt, are now at large.

Fubara explained that the kidnappers took their victims to a thick forest in Masaka village in Nasarawa State and demanded N50 million ransom to set them free.

He said that the families of the victims alerted SSS and after negotiations, the kidnappers reduced their demand to N30 million and finally N500,000.

Fubara, however, said the victims were released on July 16 after some members of the gang were arrested during a "sting operation" by SSS.

He said the kidnappers, from Rivers, Lagos and Abia states had pretended to be policemen on duty at different locations in Mararaba and Masaka, some 11kilometres from the FCT.

Daily Independent

Related stories: President Goodluck Jonathan - Kidnapping is a National embarrassment 

Kidnapped Journalists freed 

 Kidnapping culture in Nigeria on the rise

Monday, July 19, 2010

President Goodluck Jonathan - Kidnapping is a National embarrassment

President Goddluck Jonathan has stated that the current spate of kidnapping and abduction of innocent citizens is an embarrassment to Nigerians, and that something drastic is being done about it.

Speaking at a town hall meeting with Akwa Ibom people held at the governor's lodge in Uyo, the president disclosed that the activities of this set of criminals is under surveillance and efforts are being made to bring all the perpetrators to book.

"It is even sad to note that some highly placed people are involved in the this ungodly act by their connivance with the criminals in arranging ransom negotiations and other things, but we will not relent in our collective resolve to ensure the security of lives and property of every citizen in this country is protected," Jonathan stated

According to him, those behind this ungodly act would soon be made to face the law as government is taking the issue very seriously with a view to putting an end to it.

On the issue of deregulation in the down stream sector of the economy and the appropriate pricing of petroleum products, Jonathan said the federal government would soon allow private investors to take over the running of the sector.

Jonathan, who was in Akwa Ibom state on a two-day working visit, said there was nothing like gender inequality in the polity, adding that the current administration in the country has given more opportunity to women, so as to compete favorable with their male folk.


Related stories: Kidnapped Journalists freed 

Gunmen kidnap 3 local journalists 

Middle class in fear as kidnappings rise 

500 Nigerians in swiss prisons

No fewer than 500 Nigerians are currently serving jail terms for various offences in Switzerland. Also, 1,800 others are living and working legitimately in that country while 1,600 seek asylum annually.

Meanwhile, following the outcry that trailed the death of a 29-year-old Nigerian at the Zurich airport while being deported by the government of Switzerland, the Swiss government has announced new measures to deal with deportees and to avert a recurrence of the unfortunate tragedy.

Director of the Swiss Federal Office of Migration, Mr. Alard Du Bois-Reymond, who disclosed these in Abuja after a meeting with the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Martin Uhomoibhi, said as part of the new measures, a medical doctor will be detailed to be on all flights of repatriation while the health status of deportees would be ascertained before every deportation

The Swiss official further revealed that an autopsy carried out on the deceased showed that he had a serious heart condition which was not detected earlier.

He said the Swiss government believed that the issue of migration was very important to the relations between Nigeria and Switzerland and the two countries would explore ways of strengthening the collaboration.

Speaking on monies allegedly kept in Swiss bank accounts by corrupt Nigerian leaders, he assured Nigerians that as soon as the court case involving Abacha was disposed off, what was left of the Abacha loot would be returned to Nigeria.

"There has been some $400 million of the Abacha money that has been returned. The case of Mr. Abacha is almost complete. When the court process is completed, the (remaining) money will be returned," he said.

Earlier, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Martin Uhomoibhi, said Nigeria and the Swiss government were at the verge of signing a Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, on migration issues.

"Our discussions have centred on migration partnership. We are close to reaching a consensus on the MoU on migration. We also talked about the death of the young Nigerian who died in Zurich airport and they assured us that new measures have been put in place to ensure that this does not happen again. The death of one human being is one death too many," the permanent secretary said.


Related stories: 732 Nigerians in Chinese Prisons 

38 Nigerians in Israeli prisons

Britain plans to build £1m Jail in Nigeria for Nigerian criminals serving sentences in Britain 

Kidnapped Journalists freed

Four journalists who were kidnapped by gunmen in Nigeria were freed on Sunday.

The journalists spent seven days in captivity and were reportedly released in a forest in a remote area of Abia state. Although the kidnappers originally demanded a ransom of 250 million naira (1.3 million euros), a police spokesperson said no money was paid.

"Traumatic, confined, frightening," was how Abdulwahab Oba, one of the kidnapped journalists, described the experience.

"We'd almost given up," Oba told RFI. "We had to sleep on the ground without a mat, we were chained on our legs."

The abduction of the reporters created outrage in the country with Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan calling it an "embarrassing situation".

Gunmen had ambushed a convoy of cars carrying the journalists in the southern state of Akwa Ibom on Monday as they travelled to Aba, in neighbouring Abia state.

"I just feel so happy that our brothers are safe and no one succumbed to the threat of the kidnappers who are criminals that go about torturing people emotionally," Nigerian Information Minister Dora Akunyili told the News Agency of Nigeria.

Before the kidnappers released their hostages they took all their personal belongings.


Related stories: Gunmen kidnap 3 local journalists 

Middle class in fear as kidnappings rise 

Plans to introduce the death penalty for Kidnapping underway in Nigeria 

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Siasia lands Super Eagles job

Barring last minute hitches, the new leadership of the Nigeria Football Federation will announce the appointment of a new coach for the senior national team, the Super Eagles and the lucky man is no other person than the former U-23 chief coach, Samson Siasia.

Trustsports gathered exclusively yesterday that the former international was picked ahead of other coaches who showed interest in taking over from Lars Lagerback because he is the man Nigerians want for the job.

According to the NFF technical committee member who spoke on condition of anonymity, the Nigeria Football Federation is not bigger than the whole country and so if it is Siasia that the country wants for Eagles job, then the wish of Nigerians must be obeyed.

He said beside the wishes of Nigerians, the technical committee settled for Siasia because he has demonstrated the requisite ability to identify good players as he showed his stuff when he was in charge of the U-23 and later U20 national teams.

"We have settled for Siasia because he is the one that Nigerians want and since we are not bigger than the whole country, we have decided to do the wish of Nigerians. It is not a hidden fact that Siasia is loved by Nigerian football fans and there is no iota of doubt that he has what is needed to do this job.

"Moreover, we are embarking on a re-building process and the best man for the job is Siasia. He is known for discovering talent and this is the most reason why we have settled for him", he stated.

In addition, the NFF bigwig disclosed that Siasia has been contacted and is pleased with the offer as he has already expressed readiness to accept the offer.

He said: "We have been discussing with Siasia and he has agreed to coach Eagles. This is a rare opportunity and I am sure he will not have any reason to think twice before taking this offer. He is patriotic and this is a national call which he will surely be glad with".

In a related development, he revealed that Austin Eguaveon will be appointed the chief coach of the national U-23 team.

He said the former international has accepted the offer and is certainly pleased with it.

The member of NFF Executive Committee said a meeting will be held today between the technical committee and the two coaches to finalize discussions after which their appointments will be made public.

Daily Trust

Related stories: Lars Lagerback takes blame for Super Eagles' Fall

President Goodluck Jonathan reverses Super Eagles suspension

President Goodluck Jonathan suspends Super Eagles

Monday, July 12, 2010

Nneka on growing up around violence


Nneka Egbuna tells CNN about her childhood and how she grew up surrounded by violence in Nigeria.

Related stories:  Nneka talks about moving across cultures

Nneka talks to the BBC about winning the 2009 Best African Act 

Nneka talks about moving across cultures

Singer Nneka Egbuna tells CNN how moving to Germany from Nigeria has shaped her music.

Related stories: Nneka on growing up around violence

Nneka talks to the BBC about winning the 2009 Best African Act Award

Nigerian artists clean house at the MTV Africa Music Awards

Gunmen kidnap 3 local journalists

Gunmen kidnapped three Nigerian journalists and a driver traveling through the country's oil-rich, but volatile southern delta, a colleague said Monday, the latest troubling sign of insecurity in the West African nation.

The reporters had just left a conference in Akwa Ibom state Sunday when a speeding car filled with gunmen forced their bus to stop, said Mohammed Garba, president of the Nigeria Union of Journalists. The gunmen got on board and commandeered the bus, Garba said.

Garba said one of the journalists called him several hours later at the request of the gunmen. Garba said the kidnappers made a ransom demand of $1.67 million.

"We tried to negotiate," Garba said. "Unfortunately, the abductors have not been so friendly."

Attacks against journalists aren't uncommon in Nigeria, a country of 150 million where corruption pervades government and business. A political reporter and editor for a Nigerian newspaper was killed by gunmen at his home in September and beatings happen during elections and police actions.

But kidnappings of local journalists remain rare as many have low wages and must sell advertisements for their sections. Some rely on cash payments from interview subjects or "brown envelope" bribes slipped into briefing materials at news conferences.

In March, kidnappers seized three sports journalists from a South Africa-based satellite network. Gunmen later released the men.

"It was unbelievable to us. I never thought that journalists could be kidnapped," Garba said. "Journalists in Nigeria are poorly paid. If really these guys are looking for money, they have made the wrong move."

Militants and criminal gangs once targeted only foreign oil workers and contractors for six-figure ransoms in the Niger Delta, a region of swamps, mangrove fields and palm-tree-lined creeks about the size of Portugal. Now, with oil firms keeping their workers hidden behind razor wire and under paramilitary protection, gangs have increasingly targeted middle-class Nigerian families unable to afford that security.

The government offered an amnesty deal that calmed much of the militancy there, but groups have grown impatient with what they describe as a slow response to their demands.

This kidnapping "has further exposed the level of insecurity in that region and Nigeria as a whole," Garba said. "The government has to address this problem."


Related stories: Middle class in fear as kidnappings rise 

Kidnapping culture in Nigeria on the rise

Goodluck Jonathan on a mission to stem the rise of kidnappings

Fifa was warned of Nigeria World Cup match-fixing fears

Fifa was warned before this year's World Cup of fears that Nigeria's team could be vulnerable to match-fixing, the BBC has learned.

An investigator for Uefa raised concerns, including suspicions over betting patterns.

Nigeria went out of the tournament in the first round, losing to Greece.

World governing body Fifa does not deny receiving a warning but say it has "no indication" of match-fixing in any World Cup matches.

BBC Newsnight understands an investigator working with Uefa first became suspicious during qualifying rounds of the World Cup.

It is alleged that certain Nigerian players came forward and said their team was vulnerable to manipulation.

On the morning of Nigeria's first match, he alerted Fifa's new Early Warning System, set up to look for signs of match-rigging, of his concerns.

After Newsnight was aired Fifa responded, saying no information provided by any informant relating to potential match-fixing at the tournament has had any substance.

A statement said: "Fifa and the Early Warning System (EWS) have a network of informants from which we receive information.

"Of course, as you may understand, we will not disclose the identity of the informants. What we can say is that at least until today no information provided by the informants to Fifa in relation to any potential match-fixing activities during the 2010 Fifa World Cup have proved to have any substance.

"Furthermore, we can also say that there is no indication whatsoever until today of any match-fixing situations during any of the matches of the 2010 Fifa World Cup."

German journalist Christian Bergmann also had a call just before the first Nigerian game of the tournament from a Uefa contact who said there were suggestions that "some players from the Nigerian team are actually involved in some form of manipulation".

In their second game of the tournament, Nigeria were strong favourites to beat Greece and took an early 1-0 lead.

But after just 33 minutes Nigeria had a man sent off and Greece subsequently scored their first ever World Cup goals to win 2-1.

After their elimination, Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan was so angry with the poor performances that he suspended the whole team from international competition. He later reversed that decision following a complaint from Fifa.


Related stories: President Goodluck Jonathan facebook fans partly responsible for reversing Super Eagles 2 year ban 

 President Goodluck Jonathan reverses Super Eagles suspension

Lars Lagerback takes blame for Super Eagles' Fall