Monday, April 29, 2013

Boko Haram allegedly got paid N500 million to release French family kept hostage

Boko Haram were paid N500 million ($3.15 million) to free seven French hostages kidnapped in February, a confidential document from the Nigerian government available to Reuters states.

The insurgent group kidnapped the French hostages in Cameroon on February 19 near Wasa National Park in Northern Cameroon, which borders North-Eastern Nigeria.

The hostages, a family of seven including four children, are believed to have been brought into Borno State after the kidnap. They were released two months after the kidnap on April 19.

The document, according to Reuters, did not state who paid the ransom although French and Cameroonian authorities denied that any ransom was paid.

The Negotiations

Apart from the money the insurgents were paid, the document states, Cameroonian authorities also released some Boko Haram suspects in detention as part of the deal.

The sect had threatened, in a video released on YouTube in March, to kill the hostages unless Nigeria and Cameroon release some of its members in custody.

The report also states that Abubakar Shekau, the sect's leader had asked for N1 billion to free the hostages but finally accepted half of the money, after agreeing to the release of his members in Cameroonian jails as part of the deal.

French President, Francois Hollande, denied that any ransom was paid when the hostages were released, same as Cameroonian authorities. No one has, however, said what got the insurgents to release the hostages.

Boko Haram is blamed for killings of several hundreds of people in Northern Nigeria and has claimed responsibility for several attacks.

Efforts to get the federal government to react to the report were unsuccessful. The Minister of Information, Labaran Maku, and his spokesperson, Joseph Mutah, could not be reached as their telephone numbers were not reachable on Friday evening.

The spokespersons to the Nigerian President, Reuben Abati and Doyin Okupe, did not pick or return calls to their phone as at press time.

According to Reuters, the report suggests that the ransom was paid because officials did not want to endanger the lives of the hostages in a rescue attempt; after a rescue attempt last year March to save a Briton and an Italian hostage kidnapped by another Nigerian sect, Ansaru, led to the death of the hostages.

A rich Boko Haram

Apart from waging a war against the Nigerian Government, Christians and Muslims opposed to his terrorist acts, Boko Haram has also delved into kidnapping for ransom, largely to finance its operations. Apart from kidnapping for ransom, the group also robs banks in Northern Nigeria to finance its operations.

PREMIUM TIMES had also exclusively reported how a security report sent to the Nigerian Presidency last year showed that Boko Haram got N40 million from an Algerian terrorist sect as part of a long term international terrorism collaboration.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Traditional medicine hurting fight against malaria in Nigeria

Malaria accounts for 30 percent of childhood deaths in Nigeria. It is one of the highest figures in Africa. Yet despite efforts to tackle the disease, huge challenges remain.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Video - Meth labs cropping up in Nigeria

Authorities in Lagos have discovered the fifth illegal methamphetamine production centre in just one year, deepening fears Nigeria is a narcotics hub and part of a worldwide network.
The anti-drugs agency says the West African country is producing meth on a large scale.
The highly addictive drug is known by several names, including meth, ice and crystal. It is usually injected, but it can also be smoked or inhaled.
Mild doses can increase alertness and concentration, but high doses can cause psychological problems including paranoia and hallucinations.
Nigeria used to be a transit point through which illegal drugs from Mexico passed on their way to Europe.
Mitchell Ofojeyu, a spokesman for the Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency, said: "They have an international network because they're bringing in Bolivians into West Africa to produce Methamphetamine; [it] shows the synergy the drug cells in West Africa have with their counterparts in other regions of the world."

In an exclusive report, Al Jazeera's Mohammed Adow visits the lab where the methods of concealment for the drug dealers are as diverse as the narcotics they traffic.
Reporting from Lagos, Adow said: "While manufacturing drugs is a new phenomenon in Nigeria using it as a trafficking hub is not."

English couple caught smuggling Nigerian baby into the UK

An English couple – Simon and Gladys Heap from Oxford – have been convicted by a UK court for attempting to pass off a Nigerian baby as their biological child in a bid to smuggle it into the UK.

The couple was sentenced to 12 months in prison, suspended for 12 months, and 250 hours of community service after pleading guilty on April 16, 2013.

Gladys aged 52 and her husband, 47, had entered Nigeria in July 2010 and had gone to the British High Commission in Lagos to apply for a British passport for the baby girl claiming Gladys had a baby just a few days after entering the country.
According to the British High Commission in Abuja, the staff at the High Commission were however suspicious.

"...DNA tests later confirmed that neither adult was related to the child. A birth certificate they had presented was also found to be fraudulent. They flew home without the baby," the statement issued in Abuja yesterday said.
Although the statement was silent on how the couple came about the child, it implied that the child may have been purchased.

Following an investigation by a joint Border Force and Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), the couple was arrested and charged with facilitating a breach of immigration law. They were sentenced by the Isleworth Crown Court.

The head of the Border Force at Heathrow, Mr. Marc Owen, described the case as shocking. “Thanks to the close co-operation between Border Force, the Metropolitan Police and staff at the British High Commission they were stopped and we were able to bring them to justice,” he said.

The leader of the investigation team, Detective Inspector Kate Bridger, said the couple tried to circumvent the adoption system and deceive the authorities.

“A child should not be treated as a commodity to be bought and sold," she said, adding that the system is in place to protect children. The child has remained in Nigeria.
Heap, an expert on Nigeria, works with companies trying to forge international trade links. His wife is a nurse.

Heap has a BA in History from Cambridge University, an MA in African Studies from the University of London and a PhD in History from the University of Ibadan in Nigeria. He also studied History at Oxford University.

He has previously worked as a researcher for child rights organisation, Plan International; a fellow at the University of Ibadan and is currently a senior researcher at the development agency Japan International Cooperation Agency.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Video - scores killed in Northern Nigeria

Al Jazeera's Ahmed Idris reports on fighting in northern Nigeria that left nearly 200 people dead.

Nigerian doctor wins World Environment Day Blogging Contest

A 24-year-old doctor and environmentalist from Nigeria has won the 2013 World Environment Day blogging competition after picking up almost half of close to 70,000 votes cast in an online vote organized by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Charles Immanuel Akhimien was one of ten short-listed bloggers whose entries were posted on the World Environment Day website ( where WED followers could choose their favourite entry. After securing first place with over 31,000 votes, Charles will travel to Mongolia in June 2013 to report on World Environment Day (WED) 2013.

"As a doctor, I have found that the state of our environment is directly related to our personal health, so I have decided to champion environmental issues," said Mr. Akhimien

"I look forward to seeing some of the two million trees planted across Mongolia's vast desert regions since 2011, and to observe how Mongolia is using renewable energy by exploiting its huge solar power potential," he added.

Over 100 international bloggers submitted entries to this year's UNEP competition on the theme of food waste. The competition was held in support of the 'Think.Eat.Save. Reduce Your Foodprint! campaign launched by UNEP,the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and other partners earlier this year. Food waste and food loss is also the theme of WED 2013.

For the final phase of the competition, Mr. Akhimien wrote a blog on the role of social media in encouraging sustainable consumption.

His winning entry is available on the WED website:

Previous winners of the WED Blogging Competition have reported from Rwanda, India and Brazil.

World Environment Day - organized by UNEP - is the single biggest day for positive action on the environment worldwide. It is celebrated each year on 5 June. Organizations and individuals across the world are encouraged to carry out an environmental activity in support of WED.

More information is available at:

Updates on WED 2013 are also available on UNEP's Facebook and Twitter pages. Look out for the hashtags #WED2013 and #ThinkEatSave .

6,000 children in Nigerian prisons

Nigeria's notorious jails and detention centres hold an estimated 6,000 children and minors, many of whom were born there and now serve terms with their parents despite a government's order to effect their release, the United States country human rights report on Nigeria says.

Although Nigerian law forbids the imprisonment of children, by the end of 2012, the government has taken no clear step to implement its order to release and rehabilitate the children, the report, quoting an African Union study, says.

"A report by the African Union on the rights and welfare of the Nigerian child found an estimated 6,000 children lived in prisons and detention centers," the report says. "Despite a government order to identify and release such children and their mothers, authorities had not done so by year's end."

Published by the US state department on country-by-country basis, the document catalogues a range of abuses and rights violations the Nigerian government is guilty of; and particularly delivered a stinging indictment of the government's record on corruption, extrajudicial killings, disappearances and impunity in 2012.

"Impunity remained widespread at all levels of government. The government brought few persons to justice for abuses and corruption," the report says.

"Police and security forces generally operated with impunity. Authorities did not investigate the majority of cases of police abuse or punish perpetrators. Authorities generally did not hold police accountable for the use of excessive or deadly force or for the deaths of persons in custody."

For all, the most serious human rights problem for the nation during the year, the U.S. department said, were abuses committed by the militant sect, Boko Haram, which conducted killings, bombings, kidnappings, and other attacks mainly in northern states.

While the extremist group killed and maimed, the nation also witnessed serious rights violations with illegal killings by security forces, including summary executions, torture, rape, and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment of prisoners, detainees, and criminal suspects, the report said.

The U.S. verdict for 2012 is similar to that delivered on Nigeria in 2011. The 2011 report highlighted Boko Haram and Nigeria's security forces involved in a brutal crackdown on the extremists as the gravest human rights abusers. It also noted the rocketing corruption level in the country.

A year later, the report says, the situation only deteriorated. While impunity flourished, and corruption escalated, the government did nothing to check abuses.

Also, for 2012, the report notes the dramatic clampdown on the media, seen in the arrest of several journalists, and censorship of news reports.

With recent escalation of government onslaught on the media, the 2013 report can only be predictably worse.

The document is compiled from news report, researches, publications by independent organizations and direct interviews with government officials as well as citizens.

On prisons, the report notes the brutal conditions of Nigerian prisons, reputed amongst the world's harshest and most crowded.

The report said prison and detention centres' conditions remained "harsh and life threatening" as prisoners, a majority of whom had not been tried, were subject to gross overcrowding, food shortages, inadequate medical treatment, and infrastructure deficiencies that led to wholly inadequate sanitary conditions.

In many of the holding facilities, the report states, female prisoners were held in same units with the males, and those pregnant at the time of incarceration gave birth to, and raised their babies in prison.

The extensive use of unofficial military prisons, including the Giwa military barracks in Maiduguri, Borno State, and the Special-Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) detention centre, also known as the "abattoir," in Abuja, was also mentioned.

As of March, Nigerian prison authorities said total inmates stood at 50,920 with slightly less than two percent of those being females, and one per cent juveniles.

But overcrowding was a problem as shown in prisons such as Owerri federal prison which held 1,784 against a capacity of 548, the report states.

Ogwuashi-Uku prison in Delta State, with a capacity of 64 prisoners, housed 541, while Port Harcourt prison, with a capacity of 804 prisoners, held 2,955. Ijebi-Ode prison in Lagos, with a capacity of 49 prisoners, held 309.

Most of the country's 234 prisons, built 70 to 80 years back, lack basic facilities. Lack of potable water, inadequate sewage facilities, and severe overcrowding have resulted in dangerous and unsanitary conditions in the prisons.

"The government did not make widespread improvements to prisons during the year, but individual prison administrations attempted to collect donations from religious organizations, NGOs, and the National Youth Service Corps to benefit inmates," the report says.

WEAC to cancel results of cheaters

The West African Examinations Council (WAEC) will henceforth cancel the entire results of any candidates who cheat in more than one subject.

In a communiqué it issued at the end of the council's 55th Nigeria Examinations Committee (NEC) meeting, the council said it had become necessary to review its rules on examination malpractice.

The communiqué was signed by the WAEC Deputy Director (Public Affairs), Mr Yusuf Ari, and made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Saturday in Lagos.

The meeting held from April 15 to April 17 in Lagos.

The council said that it observed with concerns the indictment of some candidates for malpractice in more than one subject in the November/December, 2012 West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (WASSCE).

"In order to check the ugly trend, the committee subsequently decided that the sanction in the council's rules and regulations should be reviewed.

"It is clear that there is an urgent need to review the rule on such cases from cancellation of subject result to cancellation of entire results," it said.

It noted that collusion and irregular activities, inside and outside the examination hall, were the most prevalent forms of examination malpractice.

It said that monitoring by members of staff of the council and other stakeholders and recent innovations were exposing examination cheats.

"Members believed that if the principal of a school decides that examination malpractice should not be allowed in his or her school, incidences of malpractice will be very minimal," it said.

WAEC said that the NEC endorsed posting of WASSCE irregularities, special and clemency cases on the council's website.

It said that it had been alerted of the existence of a rogue website where false questions and answers were posted daily to defraud candidates during examinations, adding that it had neutralised the activities of those operators.

Teachers strike in 19 states across Nigeria

Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) has directed teachers in 19 states of the country to commence an indefinite strike following the refusal of the states to implement an agreement on payment of 27.5 percent Teachers Enhanced Allowance.

The National Executive Council (NEC) of the NUT which met in Asaba, Delta State Thursday, lamented that interventions by critical stakeholders have not yielded the needed result.

A communiqué jointly signed by NUT President Comrade Michael Alogba, Secretary General Obong Obong and National Publicity Secretary Suleiman Gambari said the strike would be indefinite until affected states commence payment.

The states affected are Benue, Cross River, Abia, Ebonyi, Enugu, Ekiti, Osun, Ogun, Oyo, Edo, Nasarawa, Zamfara, Plateau, Taraba, Borno, Kogi, Niger and Sokoto.

The communiqué observed with "dismay and increasing frustration, reluctance and foolhardiness of some state governments to pay the 27.5 percent Teachers Enhance Allowance and in some cases refusal to pay the N18,000 minimum wage discriminately against teachers. "The NEC-in-session therefore called on its state wings where state governments have continued to dishonour the union and higher authorities in the country by refusing to pay 27.5 percent Teachers Enhance Allowance and N18,000 minimum wage to the teachers, to commence a stay-at-home strike with effect from the 1st of June 2013. Where such strike is allowed to take place, such state wings are not allowed to suspend the strike until the demands are met or at the instance of the national headquarters of the union."

Friday, April 19, 2013

Nollywood actress Omotola Jolade-Ekeinde is in Forbes 100 most influential people in the world

Nollywood actress, Omotola Jolade-Ekeinde, has been named amongst the 100 most influential people in the world, describing the 34 year old as "Africa's most renowned leading lady." The TIME Magazine made the announcement yesterday.

Jolade-Ekeinde was named in the 2013 icons category of the list alongside young Pakistani activist; Malala Yousafzai, US first lady Michelle Obama, Burmese pro-democracy activist; Aung San Sun Kyi, RnB diva; Beyonce, Justin Timberlake and controversial Italian footballer; Mario Balloteli.

LEADERSHIP Columnist, Fethullah Gulen also made the list under the leaders category.

Others in the category are Duchess of Cambridge; Kate Middleton, Chinese tennis champion; Li Na, three times Oscar award winner; Daniel Day-Lewis.

Writing a profile on the actress who recently launched a reality show about her life on M-NET; TIME's movie critic, Richard Corliss, described Omotola as the "Queen of Nollywood."

Fondly called OmoSexy by her fans, she has made 300 or so movies, from the 1996 Mortal Inheritance to the 2010 super production Ijé, shot partly on location in Los Angeles.

Married to an airline pilot she met on a flight from Lagos to Benin, Jalade-Ekeinde brings a juggler's grace to her roles as actress, singer, reality-show star, mother of four and philanthropist (the Omotola Youth Empowerment Programme)" the profile reads.

Corliss said of Omotola's recent claim in an interview that she will never go to Hollywood, saying that "success hasn't spoiled Africa's most renowned leading lady. Rather than going Hollywood, Omotola wants to stay Nollywood."

According to Collins, Nollywood is the world's most productive English-language film industry not Hollywood. "The world's most productive English-language film industry is not Hollywood but Nollywood. The teeming Nigerian cinema grinds out some 2,500 movies a year, mostly direct-to-DVD quickies mixing melodrama, music and an evangelical Christian spin. (Think Bollywood via Tyler Perry.)" he said.

Jolade-Ekeinde is the only Nigerian on this year's list same way President Goodluck Jonathan solely represented Nigerian face in 2012.

Others on the current list selected under different categories include US president Barrack Obama, newly-stalled Pope Francis I, Somalian president Hassan Sheik Mohamud, US Senator Rand Paul, Malawain president Joyce Banda, Jay-Z, Jennifer Lawrence, Joe Biden, Abdullah Ocalan, Aamir Kan, Tadashi Yanai, among several others.

Kidnapped French family freed in Nigeria

The French family kidnapped in Cameroon in February have been freed in Nigeria, where they had been taken by members of the Boko Haram Islamist sect, Cameroon's President Paul Biya announced on Friday.

The three adults and four children of the Moulin-Fermier family, who were kidnapped near Cameroon's Waza nature reserve on 19 February, were handed over to Cameroonian authorities overnight, Biya said.

They are in good health, according to reports.

The Nigerian and French governments played an important role in the release, officials have said, without giving more details.

France in February said it would not hold direct talks with the kidnappers and President François Hollande later said that no ransoms would be paid for any French hostages now being held.

Nigeria took the same line.

Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, not far from the Nigerian border, some time after it took place.

Seven other French citizens are being held hostage in the Sahel region and Al Qaida has threatened reprisals against France because of its role in the anti-Islamist offensive in Mali.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Film exposing corruption in Nigeria's oil sector banned

The Committee to Project Journalists condemns a recent decision by the Nigerian government to ban the exhibition and distribution of a documentary film on corruption in the state's management of oil wealth, "Fuelling Poverty."

In an April 8 ruling reviewed by CPJ, the federal government-run National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB) called the contents of the 30-minute film by Ishaya Bako, "highly provocative and likely to incite or encourage public disorder and undermine national security." The board, whose members are all appointed by President Goodluck Jonathan, warned Bako that "all relevant national security agencies are on the alert" to ensure that he does not exhibit or distribute the film.

Bako told CPJ that the board's refusal to grant his application, which he said he filed in November 2012, means no Nigerian cinemas or TV stations are allowed to air the film. He said he is contemplating appealing the board's decision. "I am so disappointed because all the information in the film is actually available on the Internet," Bako said.

"Instead of banning the documentary 'Fuelling Poverty,' authorities should look into the important questions it raises about corruption and impunity in the country's oil sector and at the highest levels of government," said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita from New York. "We urge Nigeria's National Film and Video Censors Board to overturn this censorship order."

Neither Patricia Bala, the NFVCB's acting director-general, nor spokesman Tanko Yunusa Abdullahi responded to CPJ's inquiries on how the board made its determination.

Bako, in partnership with the Open Society for West Africa (OSIWA), premiered the documentary in Nigeria in November 2012. It was screened at the 20th New York African Film Festival this month and has been nominated for Best Documentary at the 2013 African Movie Academy Awards to be held April 20.

Since the ban was issued, activists have been assertively sharing the film on social media, according to news reports. As of today it has more than 43,000 views on YouTube.

The film investigates the siphoning of Nigeria's oil wealth in the context of nationwide anti-government protests that swept the country in January 2012 after fuel subsidies were suspended. Its introduction is narrated by Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka.

The National Film and Video Censors Board censored 4,600 films between 1994 and 2005, and outlawed films with themes involving cannibalism, lesbianism, and indecent, obscene, or explicit sexual scenes, according to a joint report on Nigeria submitted last month by CPJ, PEN Nigeria, PEN International, and the International Publishers Association to the United Nations Human Rights Council. Censorship in Nigeria is administered by the National Film and Video Censors Board, the Nigerian Broadcast Commission, and state censorship boards.

Africa's richest man Aliko Dangote plans to build oil refinery in Nigeria

Africa's richest man, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, plans to invest up to $8 billion to build a Nigerian oil refinery with a capacity of around 400,000 barrels a day by late 2016, the tycoon told Reuters on Tuesday, almost doubling Nigeria's refining capacity.

"This will really help not only Nigeria but sub-Saharan Africa. There has not been a new refinery for a long time in sub-Saharan Africa," Dangote said in a telephone interview.

The country currently has the capacity to produce some 445,000 barrels per day among four refineries, but they operate well below that owing to decades of mismanagement and corruption in Africa's leading energy producer.

Nigeria, the continent's second-biggest economy, relies on subsidized imports for 80 percent of its fuel needs. A surge in domestic capacity would be welcomed by investors in Nigeria, but it would cut into profits made by European refiners and oil traders who would lose part of that lucrative market.

Dangote said the country's ability to import fuel would soon be challenged. "In five years, when our population is over 200 million, we won't have the infrastructure to receive the amount of fuel we use. It has to be done," he said.

Past efforts to build refineries have often been delayed or cancelled, but analysts have said Dangote should be able to build a profitable Nigerian refinery, owing to his past successes in industry and his strong government connections.

The Dangote Group's cement manufacturing, basic food processing and other industries have helped lift his personal fortune to $16.1 billion from $2.1 billion in 2010, according to the latest Forbes estimate.

Nigeria has two refineries in its main Port Harcourt oil hub, one in Warri, and one in Kaduna that serve 170 million people. Not one of them functions at full capacity.

Analysts have said previous attempts to get refineries going have been held back by vested interests such as fuel importers profiting from the status quo. Dangote said this concerned him.

"The people who were supposed to invest in refineries, who understand the market, are benefiting from there being no refineries because of the fuel import business," he said. "Some ... are going to try to ... interfere."

Nigeria's government subsidizes fuel imports to keep pump prices well below the market rate at a cost of billions of dollars a year. Fuel subsidies are the single biggest item on the country's budget.

Dangote said making a new refinery run at a profit would work even if the government failed to scrap the subsidized fuel price that has deterred others from investing.

"We've done our numbers and the numbers are okay."

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Video - Spreading the wealth in Nigeria

N's Christiane Amanpour talks to Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala about her country's uphill struggle.

Video - Housing shortage in Nigeria

Millions of Nigerians want to own the homes they live in, but they cannot afford to pay 30% of the asking price up front. They also have to pay as much as 25% interest on the loan they take. In many cases, the money has to be paid back as soon as 5 to 10 years. Cheaper houses are not being built, because banks won't finance them. That means 16 million homes need to be built in Nigeria just to meet demand. But only 50,000 are being constructed each year.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Africa's richest man speaks about the future of Nigeria

He could pass for just any other guest. But he is  unmistakably familiar. Charming but humble! Stupendously wealthy, yet radiates simplicity. Strolling in, unassuming, was Africa’s richest man.  It was his birthday.

Dressed in a black suite with a black shinny cock shoe to match, Aliko Mohammed Dangote kept his appointment for 9am.
Unlike the rambunctious entry of Nigeria’s men of means and power, Dangote walked in with just a few of his executives. After the informal handshake and introduction, he grabbed the microphone to make some opening remarks which turned out not to be mere remarks. He made earth-shaking revelations about his person, the conglomerate he runs (Dangote Group), the Nigerian economy and how things can get better in a very competitive environment of clashing political and socio-economic interests.

At first, the tempo was cool – the usual compliments of not having time to rub minds, examine developments in the country with a view to proffering solutions – and the usual pleasantries, until Dangote explained that the real danger confronting the Nigerian state is the infrastructure deficit in a country where the population growth has choked existing facilities. He made it clear that the problems confronting Nigeria today did not just start – they are a cummulation of many years of misgovernance and lack of vision. Shall we blame President Goodluck Jonathan? No!

On the Economic Management Team of President Jonathan, Dangote explained that the team is working hard to ensure that good policy frameworks are put in place with a view to building a more prosperous nation.  The EMT is as bothered as President Jonathan to bequeath a better economy to Nigerians.

But, at the point when Dangote said the danger posed by infrastructure deficit is far graver than the Boko Haram threat, all heads turned in his direction.
Mind you, his audience was a group of select senior journalists in Nigeria.
“Why should we in Nigeria, blessed with many mineral resources, be where we are”, he asked? “The mineral resources we have can replace and be better than the crude oil. “Some ask where the minerals are but they are there.

“Even in the Economic Management Team, EMT, we ask and look for ways to make it possible to clear goods from the ports within 48 hours.
“But I say it would not be possible and the cost adds to everything. “To clear a container in Lagos it would take about $1000 but in Brazil where they are not even efficient, it costs less than $100 to clear the same container.

“The issue which people seem to forget is that the last port we built in Nigeria, the Tin Can Island Port, was built in 1978 – look at the population of Nigeria at that time, the size of the economy, crude oil was being sold for about $9 and compare with the expansion of the economy and the population and people think we should still manage with the same facility?
“God forbid, some people were expressing fears about Third Mainland Bridge; God forbid I say, should something happen to that bridge, how would people move around in Lagos?  Look at how difficult it is for people to move around now and it is being said that by 2020 Nigeria’s population would be about 200 million”.

Our Investments, Our Vision
“Before we were making money from our other businesses like sugar, salt, flour and putting the money in cement but by 2010 we were able to pay all the banks.
“I don’t have any issue with government raising money, that is, loan, so long as it is spent well.  Beyond the issue of Boko Haram and insecurity, the greatest threat that confronts us is the threat of decaying and decayed infrastructure.  And this is not just in Nigeria but in all of Africa, the greatest threat is infrastructure”.

Decayed Infrastructure, The Greatest Threat
“Somebody was asked how he would operate in government and the person said he would face only two things – infrastructure and education.  And he was asked what about the rest. He said with infrastructure, other things would follow. “This is what I think confronts us as the greatest danger even beyond Boko Haram”.
His audience laughs but he charges back with bluntness:  “No! It is true.
“The biggest problem of anybody is when you taste money; you were once rich and then you become poor.  It is very bad.  Nothing can be worse than that.
“It is when that money goes that you’ll see the true colour of everybody – your wife, your children (a round of raucous laughter)

Alternative To Crude Oil
“If today oil prices collapse, do we have alternatives?
“I tell people that we do. Some of us may be manufacturing in our own little way, but in a very big country like Nigeria with its population, that is simply not enough.
“We are heavily into cement – meanwhile limestone is the cheapest of all the mineral resources we have. There are other minerals that are even more lucrative and more profitable that government is looking to exploring.
“The problem is that even when you begin to explore, how do you move the goods around.
“We’ve also been talking about new ports but there are challenges”.

Scavengers On The Loose
“Look, let me tell you what we have in Nigeria: We have scavengers who hold licenses but wait and do nothing.  People just grab opportunities and wait to see what happens rather than operate with the licenses  “Government has issued 19 licenses for refineries and everybody is holding the licenses and claim that they are waiting for foreign investors.  Mind you, the foreign investors are not fools”.
The Role of Foreign Investors
“Foreign investors did not build South Korea – South Koreans developed their country; the Germans built their economy, an economy that was once in ruins.  The Germans suffered a lot but now they are the best.

“What foreign investments are we getting?
“Meanwhile, Sanusi Lamido has done his best by holding inflation down, holding exchange and interest rates down; because in an economy that does not export much, the best you can do is to have a strong currency so that life would be a bit easy.  Though interest rates may be high but that should not stop a business from operating.

“When we were building Obajana Cement factory, we were paying as high as 42% interest rate at some point in 2004/2005 – some banks charged that much and we didn’t pay dividends for some eight or nine years; but after sorting out our loans we paid the accumulated dividends. “The foreign investor I would prefer is the one that goes to Ekiti for instance and sets up a factory because even if the investor wants to leave Nigeria, he would sell off his investment but the ones investing in our bonds can just wake up one day, re-discount it and just leave because our rates are fine”.

“If you concession, it is not a bad idea because government can not do everything. In Dubai and some other more developed economies, that is what is happening.  I was reading some paper in Dubai during the week and the leader of the country was thanking the transport authority for saving the government $60 billion over a period of five years – meanwhile, the savings was calculated in form of man hours.
“If you look at those who work with us for example, the drivers, they bear so much. Imagine someone who leaves his house by 4 or 4:30 am and does not return home until 10 or 11pm! How would he have time for himself and the children – and these things come round to create an environment that is not overall conducive for upbringing of a child.  “There is hope if we do the right things. “It does not matter who provides the service; the people would be willing to pay”.

The Future Is Brighter
“If you ask me whether the future is brighter than today, I would say yes; but the people must be ready to pay for services and pay their taxes. A simple example!  At Obajana where we are producing at a current capacity of 10 million tonnes per year, which is $1.7 billion, we can continue to produce cement for the next 100years with the same capacity but you do not rest – mind you, limestone is the cheapest mineral resource in Nigeria, so if people look inward they would see the opportunities for greatness”.

An Example From Lula of Brazil
“Look at the example of Lula Da Silva of Brazil, the country used to be heavily indebted.  “By the time he left he cleared the debt.  But the policies he put in place for education and housing engendered serious development.  He said people in government were bringing proposals which were lies to him but he was resolute and he stood his ground.  “By the time he left office, he had built 18 standard universities.  Before he left office, Brazil had $467 billion in reserves. “These things can only be possible when people pay their taxes.

“Nobody is perfect.  “We need to come out and pay our taxes. “Today I’m conscious about the concerns of other shareholders.
“If where there were no shareholders, the people in the office may allow me some leverage because I am the boss and owner but when there are shareholders, those who would have to process the papers that would grant me undue privilege but who are now shareholders would raise questions because that act would not be in line with best practices so the company is quarantined from such indulgences and fraud.  Once the people know that you’re cheating, they too will begin to cheat.  Listed companies are more open to transparency”.

The Negative Paradigm Shift
“There is a world of difference between our parents and this generation. “Our parents were more caring within the capacity they could muster because they cared for the children, the wife, their own parents, their farms and uncles and even neighbours; but this generation is more self-centred and cares only about themselves, the ‘me’.  If people really care about their children they would work to make the future better. “Without good infrastructure, the future is bleak”.

Between Vision And Planning
“You must have a vision and not just a vision but you must have a plan that would make you fulfill that vision.  For us at Dangote, for instance, just conception and planning alone sometimes takes two years.  You must also put in place processes of how to execute the plans. Our vision in the next fives years is to be a company that has about $75billion in market capitalization, be number one in Africa and one of the first 100 in the world”.

The Scourge of Subsidy
On the issue of subsidy and the education that Nigerians really need, Dangote became very passionate. He said as Nigerians, there is need for an understanding of the issues and a proper place for government policies and the commitment of Nigerians too.

At lunch with one African president, “he told me how his country dealt with the issue of subsidy and how people resisted.  When they had subsidy on diesel, some people changed their cars to cars that ran on diesel; that when they removed subsidy on diesel, the bills went down but kerosene which still enjoyed subsidy had its bills going up.  He said it was not easy but he prayed over it and went ahead to do it in a systematic way such that funds which would have gone into subsidy were dedicated for some specific projects.  Now that president even charges 10% on PMS and diesel”.

When President Jonathan tried removing the subsidy on petrol, Nigerians  went wild in anger.
Dangote continues: “Would you believe that in 2011 and 2012, Nigeria paid $30 billion in subsidy, money which would have been used to build at least 20 refineries – that was the finding of a report!  How can we say that people are stealing crude and we are running about, going to night clubs and we are happy as a people?

“The total tax collected in Nigeria is just about $10 billion.  How much is that in a country as big as Nigeria”.
In response to a question on the building of refineries even in a regulated environment like Nigeria, he said “may be we at Dangote now would be referred to as being insane because we are going ahead to build a refinery very soon in Nigeria.”

To this, a question was immediately thrown at him:  “What are you going to do with it”?
“We would sell”, Dangote immediately responded.
“If you build the refinery alone you might not make so much money but you’ll need to build a petro-chemical plant because of the by-products. “The investment is going to be about $8billion. “Meanwhile the fuel they import for us is the worst and we pay them for the best. “When we have our refinery, we would sell to them here and we can even cut the cost – no shipping, no demurrage.  “We cannot continue to behave the way we are behaving now.

“Look, by 2020, Nigeria’s population is expected to hit 200million.  So, how would you handle cargo or shipping of products for 200million people with the existing facilities that we have today?  How would you distribute?

The pipelines are not functioning; the roads are not good.  The ports are not there. We should make up our minds on what we want to do.  Something drastic needs to be done.
“What I think we should do is that we should attain self-sufficiency instead of this 20:2020 thing.
“Government should encourage Nigerians as it is doing to invest in Nigeria but some times we are the architect of our problems.

Part of the problems we had about Benue Cement was that the people said Obasanjo hated them that was why he sold the other cement companies to foreigners and sold BCC to a Nigerian.  When you go to deal with some officials the first thing they ask for is technical partner and we tell them we do not have because we have the technical know how – this is what we do.  “We’ve already commissioned a company to help us build a factory for the production of Urea and Ammonia and it would not only provide employment but in the area of fertilizer production it would serve some purpose.


Related story: Aliko Dangote is now 43rd richest man in the world

Video - Nigeria's mega churches

In Nigeria, faith-healing Pentecostal Churches promising instant miracles are drawing in more worshippers than more traditional institutions. The Redeemed Christian Church of God prides itself on holding what it calls the largest gathering of Christians in the world. And its pastor, Enock Adeboye, has become one of the richest people in Nigeria.

MEND threatens to wage anti-islam attack

MEND, operating from Nigeria's south, says it will attack Muslims to protect Christians in Nigeria.

Starting May 31, Nigeria's oil militant group, Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta said it will target mosques and Islamic institutions, in a new terror campaign, "in defence of Christianity."

Operating from oil rich Niger Delta creeks, MEND is Nigeria's foremost collection of terror gangs united by a struggle to control the region's oil wealth, and criminality.

The group issued its newest threat just a week after it claimed responsibility for the killing of 12 police officers in the southern Bayelsa state.

"The bombings of mosques, haj camps, Islamic institutions, large congregations in Islamic events and assassinations of clerics that propagate doctrines of hate will form the core mission of this crusade," MEND spokesman Jomo Gbomo said in an e-mailed statement on Sunday.

The campaign is codenamed "Operation Barbarossa," Mr Gbomo, thought to be pseudonym, said.

MEND says Barbarossa will not in any way interfere with the ongoing "Hurricane Exodus" - which killed the police officers and "on Saturday, April 13, 2013, at about 01:00 Hrs, swept through the Ewellesuo community, Nembe, Bayelsa State, leaving the destruction of Well 62, belonging to Shell Petroleum in its wake."

Precious Okolobo, a Lagos-based spokesman for Shell's Nigerian unit, told Bloomberg he couldn't confirm the Saturday attack Well 62.

MEND announced early this month it resumed attacks in Nigeria after Henry Okah, its leader, was sentenced last month to 24 years in prison in South Africa. Mr. Okah was found guilty of 13 counts of terrorism, including a bombing claimed by MEND in which 12 people died in Abuja on Oct. 1, 2010.


MEND agrees with Boko Haram's attacks targeted at Nigerian security agents - "including the prisons, for their role in extrajudicial killings, torture, deceit and corruption" - but said Boko Haram's attacks on Christians are not acceptable.

MEND says it will consider abandoning the operation if the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), the Catholic Church and Henry Okah, "one of the few leaders in the Niger Delta region we respect for his integrity", intervenes.

"Also the assurance for a cessation of hostilities targeted at Christians in their places of worship, made privately or publicly by the real Boko Haram leadership will make us call off this crusade," Mr. Gbomo added.

While MEND operates as the major terror gang in Nigeria's south - especially oil rich Niger Delta areas, including Lagos - Boko Haram operates largely in NIgeria's north, targeting security agencies, Christians, opposition Islamic clerics, foreigners and other perceived enemies.

Both groups are Nigeria's largest terror gangs. While MEND - triggered by fight for economic justice - partially accepted amnesty in 2009, the government is currently persuading Boko Haram - a terror gang whose self-professed motive is the islamization of northern Nigeria, to do same.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Nigerian mayor backs North Korea's Kim Jong Un

In a ceremony last week, the mayor of the town in northern Nigeria awarded Supreme Leader Kim honorary citizenship — citing his great wisdom and guiding hand against the imperialist powers.

The state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that the Nigerian mayor said:"H.E. Kim Jong Un, supreme leader of the Korean people, is successfully carrying forward the cause of the preceding leaders and wisely leading the Korean people with his tireless efforts, extraordinary leadership ability and warm humanity.

"He is steering the cause of building a thriving nation to victory with strong pluck and grit despite hostile forces' unprecedented provocations and manifold difficulties."

North Korea has always had a soft spot for spreading its ideology of "Juche" — a tagline that roughly means national purity and self-reliance — to Africa and developing countries.

The isolated state has also been engaged in technical cooperation to win over goodwill on the continent. In Senegal, North Korean artisans helped build the African Renaissance Monument, an edifice taller than the Statue of Liberty and opened in 2010. In the photo to the left, North Korean workers prepared the monument's unveiling in April 2010 in Dakar, Senegal (Seyllou AFP/Getty Images).

(In exchange, North Korea received about $27 million in much-needed foreign currency.)

At home, North Korea even hosts a yearly "World Juche Conference" bringing in students of the Kim dynasty from around the world — including, yes, Africa.

Some African countries are home to small Juche study groups of citizens who wax philosophical over the ideas of the "Great Leader" Kim Il Sung. Their respective governments, however, don't give much thought to North Korean orthodoxy.

The country's affinity for Africa stretches back at least to when Kim Il Sung, the founding father of North Korea, attended a Cold War "non-aligned" conference in Belgrade in 1961. The regime found common ground with those small countries trying to fend off encroachment from the United States, the Soviet Union and China.

Lately, though, things haven't been good for the handful of North Koreans in Nigeria. In early February, Muslim militants beheaded one and slit the throats of two North Korean doctors in their home — not far from the town where the Supreme Leader received the accolades.

The physicians were reportedly visiting the predominantly Muslim north on a humanitarian mission. Was the honorary citizenship perhaps an apology for trouble caused? As with anything related to North Korea, it's hard to tell.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Video - Skin bleaching big business in Nigeria

In Nigeria, a growing number of men and women are using skin whitening creams because they believe a fairer complexion will help them succeed in life. According to the World Health Organisation, more than 70 percent of Nigerian women admit they use such products -- despite the health hazards. That compares with 59 percent in Togo, and 27 in Senegal.

Commander Shema "Oga at the top" Obafaiye Redeployed

About three weeks after his gaffe on a television programme brought him and his organisation to ridicule, Mr. Shema Obafaiye, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) Lagos Commandant, from whose comment the popular joke, 'My Oga At the Top' was coined, has been redeployed from his post.

Obafaye has been replaced by Mr. Adesuyi Clement from the Oyo State Command.

Obafaye became an object of nationwide snide remarks after he committed a gaffe when he featured as a guest on a breakfast show on a Lagos-based private television, Channels Television, a development that embarrassed the NSCDC authorities.

The hint of Obafaye's removal was given, weekend, when the Commandant General of the NSCDC, Dr. Olu Abolurin, while visiting Lagos over the recent killing of two of his men, introduced Clement as the new commandant of the NSCDC in Lagos to journalists.

Although Abolurin did not give reasons for Obafaye's replacement, many readily connected the action to his embarrassing outing on the television programme.

The NSCDC, in the days following Obafaye's gaffe, had denied that it had taken any disciplinary action against him, though reports said he had been suspended.

Obafaye's ordeal began March 12 when he appeared as a guest on the television's flagship morning programme, Sunrise Daily.

During the programme, one of the presenters of Sunrise Daily had asked the commandant for the domain name of the NSCDC's website. There had been reports of a recruitment scam that had to do with some people setting up a fake website of the para-military organisation to con job seekers.

But to the presenters' surprise, Obafaye, appearing confident and exultant, said he could not give the domain name of the website now, and it would turn out, in his words, "My Oga at the top" (his boss) would give a different domain name later.

The presenters prodded the officer further, explaining that they merely wanted the organisation's functional website, so that the public could be wary of falling into the hands of fraudsters, who had set up the fake website.

Obafaye, behaving as though he now understood the question clearly, shocked his interviewers, and viewers alike, even further when he gave the NSCDC's domain name as "ww.nscdc." He paused a few seconds and added, "that's all" without including the ".com" or ".org" or ".ng" url-ending that should have completed the website address.

It was a celebrated show of ignorance, even though many sources close to the operation of the commandant confirmed that he was competent as a field officer. But he was not keeping with the trends. He apparently was not computer or even internet savvy. A defect that shows that a modern-day leader, whether in the military or any such service, must be updated with technological trends and developments in all sectors of the economy.

He merely betrayed the fact that he knew little about information technology. He could have saved the day by politely admitting not readily knowing the domain name.

It is, perhaps his shortcoming on the IT-related discuss, that upped the ante of his folly; otherwise, the expression "my oga at the top", is a running cliché in Nigerian public service, especially in the military and para-military services.

After Obafaye's howler, the footage of the interview instantly went viral on social media, making him an object of several rude jokes, including graphic illustrations on Blackberry Messenger, Facebook , Twitter, T-shirts, and musical mixes by DJs.

It was one gaffe that Nigerian youths, especially feasted on. In no time, special branded 'T' shirts had been produced, just as musical mixes had been waxed with mischievous finishing and imputations in celebration of Obafaye's gaffe.

One of such musicals, which has former President Olusegun Obasanjo in an overcast butterfly dance, was being circulated on the internet.

The 'T' shirts were said to have sold several thousand pieces within and outside Lagos, with several celebrities donning the "My Oga at the Top" outfit. It was a cruel joke that successfully entertained many Nigerians.

What's more, already there is a video film titled "My Oga at the Top" which is also selling swiftly in the market.

Reports were to later indicate that Obafaye was psychologically knocked down by the outcome of his poor showing at the television house, as he was said to have lost sleep and even appetite for days.

His redeployment is thus seen as the organisation's response to the embarrassing outing last month. But sources said Obafaye had been adept in the policing of the many petroleum pipelines in Lagos and its environ. The source noted that the recent frequency of arrest of pipeline vandals and petroleum product thieves is because of Obafaye's vigilance and mastery of his job.

The source asked rhetorically, "Do you know for how many years this crime of petrol theft has been going on in Lagos? Do you think it just started yesterday? It is because oga (Obafaye) is determined to crush the several cartels that we have been reading and hearing of many such arrests. Others had been co-operating with the criminals in the past."

Monday, April 1, 2013

Video - homeless battle in Makoko

Of all the slums in Africa, Makoko in the Nigerian capital Lagos is one of the most unusual - it is built on water.

Last year the state government destroyed hundred of shacks - leaving many people homeless.

Activists say the government wants to develop the site into a waterfront attraction.

Video - NEPA strikes as President Goodluck Jonathan gives Easter speech in Lagos

President Jonathan's first Easter Sunday service and celebration in Lagos, Nigeria's commercial city was marred by an embarrassing power outage at the Our Savour's Church Marina, where the President worshipped. The President speech was as the power outage occurred whilst the President Jonathan was delivering his speech to the congregation. He however vowed that by next year the power in the church will be uninterrupted. Laughing along with the congregation, Dr Jonathan remarked that "with the power outage, officials of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria are telling him not to sleep until the nation's power crisis is fixed.

Pope Francis calls for peace in Nigeria

The Pope, in his Easter message delivered yesterday from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica, passionately called for peace in Nigeria and other troubled spots in the world even as South Africans used the end of the Christian holy week to pray for their former president, Nelson Mandela’s quick recovery.

He took ill on Wednesday and was rushed to the hospital where he spent his Easter Sunday while receiving treatment for a recurrence of pneumonia.

While the Pope was praying for peace in Nigeria, security agents clashed with gunmen, suspected to be Boko Haram members in Kano during which 14 of the suspected terrorists were killed in the duel.

The Pope lamented the continuous terrorist attacks on Nigeria and prayed that peace should return in earnest to the country where about 4,000 people have been killed since 2009 when Boko Haram began its campaign of terror.

The Catholic pontiff said: “May unity and stability be restored in Nigeria, where attacks sadly continue, gravely threatening the lives of many innocent people, and where great number of persons, including children, are held hostage by terrorist groups.”

He also mentioned Mali, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Central African Republic (CAR) as part of troubled spots in Africa.

He also placed special emphasis on Syria saying: “Dear Syria, how much blood has been shed! And how much suffering must there still be before a political solution is found?”

The Pope’s message which began with a simple "Happy Easter!" also emphasised on humility, saying: "Christ has risen! What a joy it is for me to announce this message... I would like it to go out to every house and every family, especially where the suffering is greatest, in hospitals, in prisons.”

Later in his speech, Pope Francis said: “We ask the risen Jesus, who turns death into life, to change hatred into love, vengeance into forgiveness, war into peace.

“Peace for the Middle East, and particularly between Israelis and Palestinians, who struggle to find the road of agreement, that they may willingly and courageously resume negotiations to end a conflict that has lasted all too long.

“Peace in Iraq, that every act of violence may end, and above all for dear Syria, for its people torn by conflict and for the many refugees who await help and comfort.

“Peace in the whole world, still divided by greed looking for easy gain, wounded by the selfishness which threatens human life and the family, selfishness that continues in human trafficking, the most extensive form of slavery in this 21stCentury.”

Jonathan in his remarks at the church service in Lagos said that despite the wave of terror attacks on the country, Nigeria would remain united and stronger, stressing that his administration was working hard so as not to allow terrorism to divide the country.

He said the effects of terrorist attacks on the country could have been more devastating but for the fervent prayers of Nigerians for peace and stability.

He therefore urged Christians to sustain the zeal with which they have been praying for Nigeria, adding that Christ came to the world at a critical time of human existence yet changed the world by preaching peace, unity and love, virtues that he advised Christians to imbibe in honour of Jesus.

The president rekindled hope of an imminent end to power outages in the country, saying that his administration plans to stabilise power supply by 2014.

According to him, the process of the privatisation of the power sector would soon be completed to ensure total reform of the sector in order to guarantee stable power supply.

He said the country would only witness rapid progress and development when the people remain united, focused and determined.
Earlier in his sermon, the Vicar, Igein Isemede, reflected on the death and resurrection of Christ and urged Christians to purge their hearts of any wrongdoing as the death and resurrection of Jesus had atoned for their sins and afflictions.

What could have been another black Easter was averted yesterday in Kano as operatives of the Joint military Task Force (JTF) raided the hideout of suspected terrorists during which they recovered a cache of arms and ammunition as well as a Volkswagen Golf car loaded with primed improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

The security operatives, following a tip-off, had stormed the hideout at Yan’Awaki area of Unguwa Uku quarters in Kano metropolis in the wee hours of the day.

They however, met stiff resistance from the gunmen who engaged them in a duel which claimed the lives of 14 suspected terrorists.
Spokesman of the JTF, Captain Ikedichi Iweha, confirmed to THISDAY that 14 terrorists were killed while 14 AK-47 rifles were recovered in the aftermath of the raid.

He however added that one soldier was killed in the battle, while another one was seriously injured.
He said several ammunition and IEDs were recovered while the hideout of the terrorists was demolished immediately after the gun duel.

He said: “We are working very hard and security agencies will not relent in their efforts to ensure peace and stability in the state.”
There was low turnout of worshippers at many churches in Kano as people stayed at home to pray due to fears of Boko Haram attack.
The churches, despite heavy presence of security personnel deployed to ensure hitch-free service, were attended mostly by women and children.

Thorough searches were conducted on worshippers before they were allowed to enter the premises of the churches.
There was relative peace in Maiduguri and other towns of Borno State, which have been under the siege of the Boko Haram sect during the Easter celebration.

People went about their activities without any attack as the insurgents, who have been under attack from soldiers and other security officials in the last few days, seemed to have gone into hiding as there was no major incident throughout the weekend.

Though security operatives deployed in churches remained on the alert to prevent any terrorist attack, their presence did not lead to any significant improvement in attendance at the churches.

The Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja also witnessed low key Easter celebration as most residents either travelled out of the territory or decided to stay indoors.

THISDAY checks revealed that while there was adequate security, especially at the churches and strategic locations in the Federal Capital City (FCC), there were few people and vehicles on the roads.

Unlike in the last two years, this year’s Easter church service was done under the watch of security agents who were deployed in many of the major churches in the FCT that might be targets for terrorist attacks.

Nigerian women win 2013 L'oreal award for "Women in Science Partnership"

Two Nigerian scientists have bagged the UNESCO L'Oreal "Women in Science Partnership" award for their contributions to the advancement of scientific knowledge in the country.

The awardees were recognized in the Laureates and Fellows categories in Paris.

Francisca Okeke, the first female Head of Department, University of Nigeria Nsukka bagged the 2013 Laureate award for her significant contributions to the study climate change. She was the only recipient in that category from Africa and the Arab nations and the third Nigerian Laureate since the UNESCO-L'Oreal partnership was established in 1998.

The second Nigerian recipient, Eucharia Nwaichi, an environmental biochemist from the University of Port Harcourt joined 15 other young scientists in the International Fellows category. She was recognized for her research on "Scientific Solution to Environmental Pollution."

Four others also got awards in the Laureate category with each representing Europe, Latin America, North America and the Asia Pacific regions.

The international jury which selected the 2013 awardees was led by Nobel Prize winner, Ahmed Zewail.

Ms. Okeke told the Western Europe Correspondent of NAN that she would continue to encourage women to participate in the development of science and technology in the country. She noted that cultural challenges were impeding on women's participation in global innovations, stressing that "even though it is seen as a male dominated field, people like us inspire others."

Mariam Katagum, Nigeria's Permanent Delegate to UNESCO, said candidates who met the criteria were selected by a jury based on their submitted projects.

"Two important elements are respecting the deadline and also making their submission through the Nigerian National Commission for UNESCO because that gives it authenticity," she said. "For us as delegates, as soon as we knew we had possible candidates from Nigeria, we ensured that due process was followed. There is no interference as you can see; an international jury determined the outcome."

According to her, they awardees have become role models for girls. "For us as a country, we need to encourage more girls to go into science. We can only do that by providing the environment, access to quality education and making sure that the facilities that will make them interested in science subjects are in place," she said.