Thursday, July 31, 2014

Nigerian forces find 10-year old girl strapped with bombs

Nigerian forces have arrested two Boko Haram suspects who were travelling with a 10-year-old girl with explosives strapped to her, the government said on Wednesday.

Government spokesman Mike Omeri said the suspects had been intercepted in a Honda CRV car travelling along a road in the north's Katsina state.

"Ten-year old Hadiza was discovered to have been strapped with an explosive belt and, immediately, Iliya and Zainab made attempt to escape with the car, but were later blocked by other concerned Nigerians and subsequently arrested," he said.


Related stories: Female suicide bombers kill 3 in Kano, Nigeria

Video - The state of Nigerian governance and Boko Haram

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Video - Getting people reading in Nigeria

It's no news that the reading culture is dying in Nigeria. People no longer read as they used in the past and the cinema is much now preferred to the library. But one small start-up is embarking on the audacious mission to revive the reading culture in Nigeria by taking the library to people’s homes.

US Senators want Nigeria sanctioned for anti-gay law

Ten senators of the United States (US) are seeking sanctions against Nigeria, over what they described as “a growing trend of laws and proposed legislation targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals in Africa.”

In a letter to President Barack Obama, published by The Cable, the senators were seeking a review of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which allowed for duty-free treatment of certain imports from Nigeria and other sub-Saharan African countries since 2000.

“We, therefore, ask that your administration review Nigeria and Uganda’s eligibility for AGOA’s trade preference and, if it is determined that those countries are not ‘making continual progress’ in meeting the statute’s requirements, that you take steps to revoke AGOA eligibility to Nigeria and Uganda, in accordance with 19 USC 2466a(a)(3),” the senators stated.

The senators believed that the enacted Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act by Nigeria in January and the enforcement of these laws would be a human rights abuse, in violation of the standards set forth in the AGOA.

“These laws, combined with the growing public vitriol by government officials and the media, threaten to usher in an era of widespread oppression of the LGBT community in many African countries.

“We believe that the discriminatory anti-LGBT laws in those countries represent a clear violation of human rights and hope that the interagency process charged with AGOA’s annual review will make this recommendation. We further ask that you not restore eligibility until these beneficiary countries have taken steps to eliminate harsh penalties for LGBT persons,” the senators said.

The senators, according to the letter published in The Cable, are Christopher S. Murphy, Tammy Baldwin, Martin Heinrich, Richard Blumenthal, Barbara Boxer, Al Franken, Kirsten Gillibrand, Edward Markey, Sherrod Brown and Mark E. Udall.


Related stories: Law against homosexuality passes into law today in Nigeria

Wole Soyinka advises anti-gay bill legislators to go back to school

Video - Nigeria's anti-gay law denounced

Female suicide bombers kill 3 in Kano, Nigeria

Two blasts by female suicide bombers have killed three people and injured 13 in Nigeria's Kano city, bringing the number of attacks this week in the area to five and overshadowing festivities marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

A woman detonated low-calibre explosives packed to her torso at a petrol station in the Hotoro area on the outskirts of the city, targeting women who had lined up to buy kerosene, Kano police spokesman Musa Magaji Majia told AFP news agency.
Majia said 10 victims were rushed to the hospital after the blast that went off at roughly 09:30 GMT on Monday and that three had died.

Roughly three hours after the petrol station blast another female bomber approached the Trade Fair Complex in a key commercial district, Kano state police chief Aderele Shinaba said.

She was stopped at the gate and blew herself up, he added. "It was the same modus operandi," Shinaba said. "Six people were injured, including two (police) officers."

Celebrations banned

The violence marred what was supposed to be a festive day in Kano, a city of more than six million people and the largest in Nigeria's mainly Muslim north.

The city of Kano has banned all public worship and celebrations over the holiday marking the end of Ramadan that is currently underway. Other northern Nigerian cities have banned personal vehicles, fearing intensified violence over the holidays.

Kano is outside the region of northern Nigeria that has been under emergency rule for more than a year, but it is a frequent target of Boko Haram attacks.

On Sunday, a 15-year-old girl detonated a bomb near a temporary university site, killing only herself, said Kano State Shinaba said.

Five others were killed in a church bombing the same day, he said, and a third bomb was discovered at a mosque before it exploded, harming no one, Reuters news agency reported.

Three suspected Boko Haram members were arrested immediately after the church bombing, Shinaba said.


Related stories: Video - The state of Nigerian governance and Boko Haram

Bomb blast in a Church in Kano, Nigeria kills 5

Monday, July 28, 2014

Boko Haram kidnaps Cameroon's PM's wife

Nigerian Boko Haram militants kidnapped the wife of Cameroon's vice prime minister and killed at least three people on Sunday in a cross-border attack involving more than 200 assailants in the northern town of Kolofata, Cameroon officials said.

A local religious leader, or lamido, named Seini Boukar Lamine, who is also the town's mayor, and five members of his family were also kidnapped in a separate attack on his home.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Boko Haram, an Islamist group which made international headlines with the abduction of 200 Nigerian schoolgirls in April, has stepped up cross-border attacks into Cameroon in recent weeks. Cameroon has deployed troops to its northern region, joining international efforts to combat the militants.

"I can confirm that the home of Vice Prime Minister Amadou Ali in Kolofata came under a savage attack from Boko Haram militants," government spokesman Issa Tchiroma, who is also communications minister, told Reuters by telephone.

"They unfortunately took away his wife. They also attacked the Lamido's residence and he was also kidnapped," he said, adding that at least three people were killed in the attack.


Tchiroma told a press conference later on Sunday that the Cameroonian army had taken the town of Kolofata back under control after repulsing the militants, who he said had used "brutal and unqualified violence".

"We do not have all the facts in order to give full information on the exact circumstances and the victim toll of this attack," Tchiroma said on state television.

A Cameroon military commander in the region told Reuters security officials had taken the vice prime minister away to a neighboring town. He had been at home to celebrate the Muslim feast of Ramadan with his family when the attack happened.

The Sunday attack is the third Boko Haram attack in Cameroon since Friday. At least four soldiers were killed in the two previous attacks.

On Friday, some 22 suspected Boko Haram militants who had been held in Cameroon's northern hub of Maroua since March were sentenced to prison sentences ranging from 10 to 20 years. It was not immediately clear whether the attacks were related to the sentencing of the militants.

Boko Haram have killed hundreds of people this year, mostly in northeastern Nigeria, although they have bombed places across the country.

The group rejects Western-style education and is trying to carve out a de facto Islamic state in northern Nigeria. On Sunday, a bomb attack on a Catholic church in northern Nigeria's main city of Kano killed five people and wounded eight, a senior police officer said. Christian churches have been a favorite target for the militants.

The attacker threw the bomb at worshippers on their way out of the church, police commissioner Adenrele Shinaba told Reuters. Police cordoned off the scene.

In a separate incident, a female suicide bomber tried to attack police officers on the streets. She killed herself but only wounded two of the officers, Shinaba said.


Related stories: Boko Haram kill over a hundred people in Northern Nigeria

Video - The state of Nigerian governance and Boko Haram 

Bomb blast in a Church in Kano, Nigeria kills 5

A bomb attack on a Catholic church in northern Nigeria's main city of Kano killed five people and wounded eight on Sunday, a senior police officer said.

The bomber threw the bomb at worshippers on their way out of the church, police commissioner Adenrele Shinaba told Reuters.

Police cordoned off the scene.

In a separate attack, a female suicide bomber tried to attack police officers on the streets. She killed herself but only wounded to of them, Shinaba said.


Related stories: Kaduna hit by two deadly explosions

Death toll of civilians killed in Boko Haram attacks in Nigeria this year reach 2,053

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Nigeria racing to contain ebola outbreak after virus kills Liberian in Lagos

Nigeria says it has put all entries into the country on red alert after confirming the death of a Liberian man who was carrying the Ebola virus.

The man died after arriving at Lagos airport on Tuesday, in the first Ebola case in Africa's most populous country.

Surveillance has been stepped up at all "airports, seaports and land borders", says Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu.

Since February, more than 660 people have died of Ebola in West Africa - the world's deadliest outbreak to date.

It began in southern Guinea and spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone.

'Contact avoided'
The Liberian man collapsed on arrival in Lagos last Sunday. He was taken from the airport to hospital, where he was put in quarantine.

Officials have identified the 40-year-old man as an employee of the Liberian government.

r Chukwu confirmed that the other passengers on board the flight had been traced and were being monitored.

The patient had "avoided contact with the general public" between the airport and the hospital, he said.

Health specialists have been deployed at all entry points into the country, he added.

The virus, which kills up to 90% of those infected, spreads through contact with an infected person's bodily fluids.

Patients have a better chance of survival if they receive treatment early.

Symptoms include high fever, bleeding and central nervous system damage

Fatality rate can reach 90%

Incubation period is two to 21 days

There is no vaccine or cure

Supportive care such as rehydrating patients who have diarrhoea and vomiting can help recovery

Fruit bats are considered to be the natural host of the virus

The red alert in Nigeria comes as Sierra Leone launches a hunt for a woman infected with Ebola, who was forcibly removed from hospital by her relatives.

The 32-year-old, who is the first registered Ebola case in the capital Freetown, was described by national radio as a "risk to all".

The Ebola cases in Sierra Leone are centred in the country's eastern districts of Kenema and Kailahun, just over the border from the Guekedou region of Guinea where the outbreak started.

Police said thousands of people joined a street protest in Kenema on Friday over the government's handling of the outbreak.

Earlier this week, it was announced that the doctor leading Sierra Leone's fight against Ebola was being treated for the virus.

On Thursday, the World Health Organization said that 219 people had died of Ebola in Sierra Leone.


Related story: Nigeria possibly has first ebola case

Friday, July 25, 2014

Female weightlifter wins Nigeria's first gold at the Commonwealth Games

India’s Sanjita Chanu won the gold with 173 points.

Team Nigeria on Thursday in Glasgow recorded its first medal at the 2014 Commonwealth Games when Nkechi Opara won bronze in the women’s weightlifting 48 kg event.
Opara scored 70 in snatch; and 92 in clean and jerk for total 162 points.

India’s Sanjita Chanu won the gold with 173 points, while her compatriot, Saikhom Mirabai, won silver with 170 points.
The result placed Nigeria joint sixth with South Africa and New Zealand who also have one bronze medal each.

England was, however, leading on the medals table as at 6 p.m. on Thursday with seven medals, comprising three gold, two silver and two bronze.
They had earlier in the day pushed Australia into second place, with India in third place, and Canada and Scotland joint fourth.

The women’s 48 kg event was one of two in the weightlifting competition, which was one of many on the first day of competition at the games.
In the other weightlifting event, Nigeria’s Rasaq Tanimowo was in line for a gold medal as he was leading the pack in the competition before the final round of lifts.
The 2014 games, which got underway on Wednesday, will end on August 3.

Premium Times

Nigeria looking to keep Stephen Keshi as Super Eagles coach

 The Nigeria Football Federation has revealed it wants discussions with Stephen Keshi in the hope of persuading him to return as Super Eagles coach.

The development is a U-turn from the governing body after it allowed Keshi's contract to expire after the World Cup.
However, Nigeria's sports ministry is understood to feel Keshi has made" outrageous" demands over a new deal.
The 52-year-old led Nigeria to their third African title in 2013 and the last 16 at the World Cup in Brazil.

But his reign as coach was littered with problems over money, as he experienced a number of delays in receiving his salary, and issues around his control of team selection.
He has reportedly sought a new deal that would double his $30,000-a-month salary, ensure monies are paid upfront to avoid delays and also allow him to pick his staff.

Following a meeting of the NFF executive committee, the board "mandated the technical sub-committee to open channels of communication with Stephen Keshi with a view to extending his contract, as the NFF is still interested in working with him".
It added: "The technical sub-committee is to report back to the executive committee within one week."

Meanwhile, Nigeria's sports minister Tammy Danagogo says football officials in the country must put aside their differences for Nigeria to go beyond the round of 16 at the World Cup.
"The only way we can go beyond round of 16 is to ensure that the right things are done," he said.
"If [the round of 16] is a jinx we must break it. And it is by ensuring that the right things happen; by ensuring that NFF does not complain that the minister is disturbing them.

"It is by ensuring that club owners are not complaining against the NFF, it is by ensuring players and coaches are not complaining that NFF or club owners are short-changing them."


Related stories: Nigeria Super Eagles coach Stephen Keshi steps down after 2-0 defeat to France in the 2014 FIFA World Cup

Nigeria Super Eagles refuse to train due to unpaid FIFA World Cup 2014 appearance fees

Nigeria possibly has first ebola case

A Liberian man has been taken to hospital in Nigeria after he developed sysmptoms of the deadly disease Ebola, which has killed hundreds in West Africa in the biggest recorded outbreak.

Nigerian officials said on Thursday that the man was being tested in Lagos, and it was not clear if he was infected with the disease, which has killed 660 people across Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone since an outbreak began in February.

If confirmed, the case would be the first on record in Nigeria, Africa's most populous state with a population of 170 million.

The 40-year-old Monrovia man arrived in Lagos on Sunday and was taken to hospital on Tuesday suffering from severe vomiting and diarrhoea, said Yewande Adesina, the special adviser on health for the Lagos state government.

"Results are still pending. Presently the patient's condition is stable and he is in recovery… The diarrhoea and vomiting have stopped. He is still under isolation."

A third laboratory outside Nigeria must also test the samples before a final determination on Ebola can be reached, Adesina said.

The patient travelled from the Liberian of Monrovia to Lagos via Togo's capital Lome.

The WHO has recorded more than 900 cases of Ebola in the epidemic that has raged across West Africa in recent months. Liberia has recorded 172 cases of the disease, including 105 deaths.


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Kaduna hit by two deadly explosions

Two explosions have ripped through the northern Nigerian city of Kaduna, killing at least 40 people, police say.

The first explosion targeted moderate Islamic cleric Dahiru Bauchi while the second one targeted senior opposition leader Muhammadu Buhari, a BBC reporter in the city says.

Both escaped unhurt.

Militant Islamist group Boko Haram has carried out a wave of bombings and assassinations in Nigeria since it launched a brutal insurgency in 2009.

It often targets Muslim leaders opposed to its militant ideology. Curfew imposed

Body parts and damaged vehicles lay on the busy Alkali Road in the city centre where the bomb targeting Mr Bauchi exploded, reports the BBC's Abdullahi Kaura Abubakar from the scene.

Kaduna police chief Shehu Umar said at least 25 people were killed and 14 wounded in that blast, apparently caused by a suicide bomber.

Another 15 were killed in the second blast, he said, while an emergency worker put the number at 19.

Mr Bauchi had completed a preaching session in the nearby Murtala Muhammed square, and was driving through the area in an open-roofed vehicle, greeting thousands of well-wishers when he was targeted.

Followers of the renowned cleric reacted angrily, throwing stones at the security forces and accusing them of failing to protect Nigerians, our reporter says.

The security forces retaliated by firing tear gas.

About 90 minutes after the first attack, a second explosion ripped through the crowded Kawo area, targeting the motorcade of Gen Buhari, a former military ruler of Nigeria and a senior member of the All Progressive Congress opposition party.

Gunmen rammed a vehicle into his convoy, firing shots at it, our reporter says, adding that two of Gen Buhari's bodyguards were slightly wounded in the attack.

The state government has now imposed a 24-hour curfew in the city and surrounding areas.

"The measure is aimed at forestalling a breakdown of law and order," said government spokesman Ahmed Maiyaki.

In May, the emir of the northern area of Gwoza, Shehu Mustapha Idris Timta, was shot dead in an attack blamed on Boko Haram.

In January 2013, the then-emir of Kano, Al Haji Ado Bayero, survived an assassination attempt.


Related stories: Death toll of civilians killed in Boko Haram attacks in Nigeria this year reach 2,053

PayPal signs "tens of thousands" in first week of launch in Nigeria

PayPal has signed up "tens of thousands" of Nigerians in its first week of operating in Africa's biggest economy, with consumers already purchasing items from Britain, China and the United States via its online platform, a company official said.

E-commerce remains in its infancy in most of Africa but is growing exponentially with the advent of online retailers such as Jumia, partly owned by South African phone operator MTN, and a growing middle class with money to spend.

Citizens of Africa's most populous nation could not buy goods directly from foreign merchants before the launch by PayPal, the payments unit of online auctioneer eBay Inc.

"We have seen great uptake by Nigerians ... in terms of coverage," Malvina Goldfeld, PayPal's head of business development for sub-Saharan Africa, said in Lagos on Tuesday.

PayPal entered Nigeria and 10 other nations last month, providing online payment alternatives for consumers via mobile phones or PCs in markets often blighted by financial fraud. The new markets bring the number of countries PayPal serves to 203.

Goldfeld said that Paypal secured a few deals with electronics suppliers in China and Dubai ahead of its launch and that it had partnered with Nigerian lender First Bank, which has more than 10.5 million customers.


PayPal launched its platform in South Africa four years ago, Kenya last year and now Nigeria, Goldfeld said, giving the company access to shoppers across 40 sub-saharan African countries.

Goldfeld said the biggest interest has been in products from the United States, Britain and China, adding: "People are buying everything ... (but) there's definitely a concentration in electronics and fashion."

Online retailer Jumia told Reuters in April it had 100,000 Nigerian customer accounts and sales were increasing by 15 percent a month

However, worries over internet security and online fraud have held back e-commerce growth in Nigeria, where 63 million people have active internet data subscriptions but only 1 percent of them make online transactions, First Bank said, noting that online purchases are expected to reach $1 billion this year.

Though challenges remain - including abysmal infrastructure, port delays, other supply chain woes and the task of persuading shoppers to trust websites with their bank details - Goldfeld says PayPal's reach will help to speed improvements.

"A lot of the merchants that we work with ... already ship to Nigeria. I think that the growth of e-commerce will push the logistics customers to up their game," she said.


Related stories: PayPal coming to Nigeria

Western Union launches online service in Nigeria

Bitcoin interest grows in Nigeria 

11 parents of some of the kidnapped schoolgirls now dead

In the three months since Islamic extremists kidnapped more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls, 11 of their parents have died, town residents say.
The town where the girls were kidnapped, Chibok, is cut off by militants, who have been attacking villages in the region.

Seven fathers of kidnapped girls were among 51 bodies brought to the Chibok hospital after an attack on the nearby village of Kautakari this month, said a health worker who insisted on anonymity for fear of reprisals by the extremists.

At least four more parents have died of heart failure, high blood pressure and other illnesses that the community blames on trauma due to the mass abduction 100 days ago, said community leader Pogu Bitrus, who provided their names.

"One father of two of the girls kidnapped just went into a kind of coma and kept repeating the names of his daughters, until life left him," said Bitrus.

President Goodluck Jonathan met Tuesday with parents of the 219 kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls and some classmates who managed to escape from Islamic extremists. Jonathan pledged to continue working to see the girls "are brought out alive," said his spokesman of the meeting which press were not permitted to attend. The parents showed no emotion after the meeting, but some shook hands with the president.

Chibok, the town where the girls were kidnapped, is cut off because of frequent attacks on the roads that are studded with burned out vehicles. Commercial flights no longer go into the troubled area and the government has halted charter flights.

Through numerous phone calls to Chibok and the surrounding area, The Associated Press has gathered information about the situation in the town where the students were kidnapped from their school.

More danger is on the horizon.

Boko Haram is closing in on Chibok, attacking villages ever closer to the town. Villagers who survive the assaults are swarming into the town, swelling its population and straining resources. A food crisis looms, along with shortages of money and fuel, said community leader Bitrus.

On the bright side, some of the young women who escaped are recovering, said a health worker, who insisted on anonymity because he feared reprisals from Boko Haram. Girls who had first refused to discuss their experience, now are talking about it and taking part in therapeutic singing and drawing -- a few drew homes, some painted flowers and one young woman drew a picture of a soldier with a gun last week.

Girls who said they would never go back to school now are thinking about how to continue their education, he said. Counselling is being offered to families of those abducted and to some of the 57 students who managed to escape in the first few days, said the health worker. He is among 36 newly trained in grief and rape counselling, under a program funded by USAID.

All the escapees remain deeply concerned about their schoolmates who did not get away.
A presidential committee investigating the kidnappings said 219 girls still are missing. But the community says there are more because some parents refused to give the committee their daughters' names, fearing the stigma involved.

Boko Haram filmed a video in which they threatened to sell the students into slavery and as child brides. It also showed a couple of the girls describing their "conversion" from Christianity to Islam.
At least two have died of snake bites, a mediator who was liaising with Boko Haram told AP two months ago. At that time he said at least 20 of the girls were ill -- not surprising given that they are probably being held in an area infested with malarial mosquitoes, poisonous snakes and spiders, and relying on unclean water from rivers.

Most of the schoolgirls are still believed to be held in the Sambisa Forest -- a wildlife reserve that includes almost impenetrably thick jungle as well as more open savannah. The forest borders on sand dunes marking the edge of the Sahara Desert. Sightings of the girls and their captors have been reported in neighbouring Cameroon and Chad.

In Chibok, the town's population is under stress.

"There are families that are putting up four and five other families," local leader Bitrus said, adding that food stocks are depleted. Livestock has been looted by Boko Haram so villagers are arriving empty handed. Worst of all, no one is planting though it is the rainy season, he said.
"There is a famine looming," he warned. Chibok and nearby villages are targets because they are enclaves of staunch Christians in predominantly Muslim north Nigeria.

The number of soldiers guarding Chibok has increased from 15 to about 200 since the kidnapping but they have done little to increase security in Chibok, said Bitrus. The soldiers often refuse to deploy to villages under attack though there is advance warning 90 per cent of the time, he said.

Last month the extremists took control and raised their black flags over two villages within 30 kilometres of Chibok. Last week they ordered residents of another village just 16 kilometres away to clear out, Bitrus said. Every village in the neighbouring Damboa area has been attacked and sacked, and all the villages bordering Cameroon have been burned and are deserted, Bitrus said, quoting residents who fled.

The attacks continue despite the fact the military placed the area under a state of emergency in May 2013. Residents feel so abandoned that they appealed this month for the United Nations to send troops to protect them. The UN has repeatedly urged Nigeria's government to live up to its international responsibility to protect citizens.

President Goodluck Jonathan insists his government and military are doing everything possible to ensure the girls' release. The Defence Ministry says it knows where they are but fears any military campaign could lead to their deaths.

Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau in a new video released this week repeated his demands that Jonathan release detained extremists in exchange for the girls -- an offer Jonathan has so far refused.
After three months, few Chibok residents believe all the schoolgirls will ever return home.


Related stories: Boko Haram attacks the same town it kidnapped the schoolgirls from

Video - Aljazeera speaks with Nigerian military about kidnapped schoolgirls

Video - The state of Nigerian governance and Boko Haram

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Boko Haram attacks the same town it kidnapped the schoolgirls from

At least eleven of the parents of the more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped 100 days ago have died, as their hometown of Chibok is under siege, residents have reported.

Seven fathers of kidnapped girls were among 51 bodies brought to Chibok hospital after an attack on the nearby village of Kautakari this month, a health worker told AP news agency on Tuesday.

The worker asked for anonymity for fear of reprisals by Boko Haram, an Islamic armed group that claimed responsibility for the mass abduction of the girls.

At least four more parents have died of heart failure, high blood pressure and other illnesses that the community blames on trauma due to the abductions, said community leader Pogu Bitrus.

"One father of two of the girls kidnapped just went into a kind of coma and kept repeating the names of his daughters, until life left him," Bitrus told AP.

Chibok is cut off because of frequent attacks on the roads that are studded with burned out vehicles.

Commercial flights no longer go into the troubled area and the government has halted charter flights.

Boko Haram is closing in on Chibok, attacking villages closer to the town, and villagers who survive the attacks are seeking refuge in the town, heightening food and water shortages.

Some of the young women who escaped are recovering, with girls who at first refused to discuss their experience, now talking about it and others thinking of returning to school.

Counselling is being offered to families of those abducted and to some of the 57 students who managed to get away from the kidnappers in the first few days, said a health worker.

A presidential committee investigating the kidnappings said 219 girls still were missing. But the community says there are more because some parents refused to give the committee their daughters' names, fearing the stigma involved.


Following the mass abduction in April, Boko Haram released a video in which they threatened to sell the students into slavery and as child brides.

It also showed a couple of the girls describing their "conversion" from Christianity to Islam.

Residents and parents have criticised the Nigerian government's efforts to recover the girls, but President Goodluck Jonathan insists his government and military are doing everything possible to ensure their release.

The Defence Ministry says it knows where they are but fears any military campaign could lead to their deaths.

Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau in a new video released this week repeated his demands that Jonathan release detained members in exchange for the girls, an offer Jonathan has so far refused.


Related stories: Video - Aljazeera speaks with Nigerian military about kidnapped schoolgirls

Video - The state of Nigerian governance and Boko Haram

Video - Aljazeera speaks with Nigerian military about kidnapped schoolgirls

Al Jazeera's Rawya Rageh sits down with the spokesman of the Nigerian military to ask about the search and rescue effort for more than 200 abducted school girls who went missing 100 days ago.

Related stories: Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan finally meets with parents of kidnapped schoolgirls

Video - The state of Nigerian governance and Boko Haram   

Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan finally meets with parents of kidnapped schoolgirls

Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan is meeting for the first time parents of the girls abducted by militant Islamists 100 days ago.

He has been under intense pressure to meet the parents after being accused of handing the crisis badly.

Parents pulled out of a meeting with him last week amid accusations they were being used for political reasons.

The parents of 11 of the girls have reportedly died since their abduction by the Boko Haram group.

The abduction of the more than 200 schoolgirls sparked global outrage.

Boko Haram has offered to free the girls in exchange for the release of its fighters and relatives held by the security forces.

The government has rejected this.

The US, UK, France, China and Israel have been helping in operations to secure the release of the girls, who are believed to be held in the Sambisa forest, near Nigeria's border with Cameroon.

The girls were abducted from their boarding school in the north-eastern town of Chibok on 14 April.

Last week, Mr Jonathan agreed to meet 12 parents and five girls who escaped shortly after being seized by the militants, following a request by Pakistani rights campaigner Malala Yousafzai.

The Chibok community called off the meeting at the last minute, saying it had been organised in a hurry, so there was not time to consult with all the parents.

Mr Jonathan accused the #BringBackOurGirls campaign group of playing politics and derailing the meeting.

#BringBackOurGirls was a global campaign launched on social media to secure the release of the girls.

Obiageli Ezekwesili, a former government minister and staunch critic of Mr Jonathan, is a leading member of the group.

Seven parents were killed during a raid by Boko Haram on Kautakari, a village close to Chibok, earlier this month, the Associated Press (AP) quotes a health worker as saying.

Another four parents have died of heart failure, high blood pressure and other illnesses blamed on the trauma caused by the abductions, Chibok community leader Pogu Bitrus told AP.


Related stories: Parents of the kidnapped schoolgirls refuse to meet with President Goodluck Jonathan

Video - The state of Nigerian governance and Boko Haram  

Monday, July 21, 2014

Video - Aljazeera covers Nigeria's steps to improve its poor electricity supply

While most of Africa still plunges into dark at nightfall, we find out how Nigeria plans to switch on.

Related stories: 30 million Nigerians don't have access to electricity

Video - Nigerian economy growing despite epileptic power supply

Africa's richest man Nigerian Aliko Dangote to donate 30 billion naira in 2 years

Africa’s richest person and the continent’s top donor, Aliko Dangote, has doled out about N30billion in humanitarian gesture within two years, a statement issued by the Dangote Group has revealed.
According to the statement, the business mogul would be upping his philanthropic works across Africa, starting from his home country Nigeria.

The group which has made whopping donations across Africa said, “Africa must begin to take responsibilities by shaping the condition of its people.”

The statement quoted Alhaji Dangote as saying, “About this philanthropy, I think from this year, I personally want to take it very seriously. I want to be much more aggressive than what we have had in the past.

“We already have a foundation which will do all these things, but I am trying to see what we can do to encourage not only Nigerians but other Africans.”

He added: “I am not going to give all my money to charity, but I am going to try my best and give part of that money to charity. I am working hard on it.”
The statement said in Benue State alone, the group has been running an annual scholarship scheme worth 10million to indigenes of Gboko communities.

It said that, in Benue State, 15 villages were electrified at the cost of N115million, adding that 14 blocks of classrooms have been constructed for the community around the company at the cost of N84billion.

It added that 19 boreholes were constructed for the communities and that an earth dam valued at N50million was also constructed.

The statement said that apart from the monthly payment of allowances to traditional rulers, a vigilante contract to ensure N2million regular income to the community was also instituted.

“We have also donated N15million to the community’s development foundation, and we are helping through the community empowerment scheme, while our 100-bed hospital has been approved for construction within the community,” it added.

It in addition to N78million compensation paid during the takeover of the company, an additional N60million inconvenience allowance has been paid to families.

This is including the Dangote Academy that is worth about N1billion, through which manpower is developed across various disciplines.

The statement said that, last month, the Dangote Cement, Ibese, through the Dangote Foundation, announced a scholarship for 50 students of various secondary and tertiary institutions in Yewa community. It further disclosed that the foundation donated $500,000 to victims of explosion in the Republic of Congo and contributed a staggering $2million to flood victims in Pakistan and another N120million to cushion the effect of famine in Niger Republic.

It said that, two years ago, the foundation made a staggering donation of N2.5billion to cushion the effect of flooding in Nigeria, the single highest donation by a private body in the history of Nigeria. The Foundation also donated N430million to flood victims, unemployed youths and women in Kogi State in the same year.

It further emphasised that, three years ago, the Foundation gave out about a billion naira for the economic empowerment of women in Kano State, just as it recently donated N540million to vulnerable women as a result of insurgency in the north-east of Nigeria.

The statement maintained that the Foundation has also pumped over N1billion into the rehabilitation of some Nigerian universities, as part of its contribution to the education sector.

“Two months ago, the Dangote Foundation donated 12 trailer-loads of relief items worth N40million to support the government in bringing succour to victims of communal clashes that displaced people,” the statement noted, adding that the group had also donated N100million to victims of Lagos flooding, another N100million to those in Sokoto and N60million to victims of flooding in Oyo State, two years ago.

Daily Times

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Boko Haram kill over a hundred people in Northern Nigeria

It was another black weekend in Borno State, Northeastern Nigeria, as the terrorist group, Boko Haram, continued their reign of attacks on Saturday, this time killing more than 100 people.

They have also taken the audacious step of hoisting their black and white flag over a town that is 85 kilometers from Maiduguri, the state's capital, which was reportedly left unguarded by the military, a civil defence spokesman and a human rights advocate said Saturday.

The attack caused a cascade, as hundreds of villagers in Askira Uba are currently on the run for safety, after receiving letters from the Islamic extremists threatening attacks.

A confirmation of the attack came from Abbas Gava, spokesman of the Civilian Vigilante group.

The latest attack on Borno comes on the heels of an assurance by the Nigeria Police that insurgency in Nigeria is nearing an end. This is, however, with a prize, as the Force Headquarters have also said there are bound to be more terror attacks.

Nigeria Police Spokesman, Frank Mba, who disclosed this in an exclusive interview with Sunday Independent in Abuja, at the weekend said the likely upsurge in attacks from terror groups like Boko Haram is a sign of desperation, which he said is rising from the fact that terrorists are being choked out of their comfort zone by the combined efforts of the military, police and international assistance.

The weekend Borno attack has reportedly sacked nine major villages, as survivors recounted how insurgents fired rocket-propelled grenades and homemade bombs into homes, gunning down people as they tried to escape the fires in the attack on Damboa town launched before dawn Friday.

Also at the weekend, leaders of Damboa town, led a delegation to the Shehu of Borno, with a request for him to intervene to save them from further attacks from the deadly sect that has killed tens of thousands in the area.

The vigilante's spokesman reportedly said that the only defence to the insurgents came from his colleagues, who were armed with clubs and homemade rifles.

Damboa has been under siege for two weeks.

Mba said: "We have stepped up the war against terrorism from all fronts. There is equally a very strong synergy among the security agencies now.

"There is also a global alliance, a global coalition and conscious efforts to mobilise countries around Nigeria and even beyond to join the battle. And so it is obvious that Boko Haram does not have a hiding place now.

"But we expect to see some desperation on their part. It is also our job and that of all Nigerians to put down all forms of desperate actions or activities they may embark on.

"So, we will continue to do what we doing. We will continue to consolidate on our achievements and continue to explore new ways of getting a stronger and upper hand over them and continue to work together with the government, citizens and international community to bring a permanent end to their activities."

Daily Independent

Related stories: Death toll of civilians killed in Boko Haram attacks in Nigeria this year reach 2,053

Video - The state of Nigerian governance and Boko Haram  

Friday, July 18, 2014

FIFA to lift ban on Nigeria participating in international football

FIFA are reportedly set to lift the ban placed on Nigeria after the country's government reinstated the ousted members of the Nigerian Football Federation.

Turmoil has reigned in Nigerian football ever since the Super Eagles returned from their failed 2014 World Cup campaign, with NFF members, including president Aminu Maigari, being removed from their positions by government.

That sparked FIFA into action, where an indefinite ban was placed on all footballing activities in the country, ranging from the men's and women's national teams all the way down to the domestic leagues.

However, Nigerian government have since withdrawn their order to suspend the NFF, resulting in FIFA lifting their own ban on the country.

Paul Bassey, spokesman of the NFF's technical committee, briefly stated that "commonsense has now prevailed".

The BBC, meanwhile, quote a top official as saying: "Aggrieved parties have agreed to put the country before personal interest and this is a bold step in our quest to have the ban lifted.
"This should have been sorted earlier but a judiciary workers' strike led to it being delayed. We are extremely confident now that FIFA will be happy that we got everything resolved before the new deadline."


Related stories: FIFA gives Nigeria new deadline to reinstate NFF board

FIFA suspends Nigeria from all international football

Thursday, July 17, 2014

President Goodluck Jonathan seeking $1 billion loan to fight Boko Haram

Embattled Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan Wednesday sought parliamentary approval to borrow up to $1 billion (730 million euros) in foreign loan to fight an insurgency by Boko Haram militants which has claimed thousands of lives in the past five years.

In separate letters to both houses of the national assembly, Jonathan said there is an "urgent need" to upgrade the equipment, training and logistics of the armed forces and security services help them "confront this serious threat".

Citing the "ongoing and serious security challenges which the nation is facing, as typified by the Boko Haram terrorist threat," Jonathan said he is seeking to borrow up to $1 billion.

No date has been set yet for a debate on the president's request and there is no indication of where Nigeria could borrow from.

Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima said last February that Boko Haram was "better armed and better motivated" than government forces, a statement rejected by the military.

Borno in the northeast has been under a state of emergency, along with neighbouring Yobe and Adamawa states since May last year.

The Islamist rebels seized 276 girls from a secondary school in the Borno town of Chibok more than three months ago, triggering global outrage. Fifty-seven of them escaped while 219 others are still missing.


Related stories: Death toll of civilians killed in Boko Haram attacks in Nigeria this year reach 2,053

Video - The state of Nigerian governance and Boko Haram 

Nigeria FIFA rankings improve to 34th after 2014 World Cup

The Super Eagles have risen up ten places in the latest global rankings released on Thursday following their second round finish in Brazil

Nigeria rose up ten spots to 34th place in the Fifa rankings released on Thursday, courtesy of the Super Eagles' second round finish at the World Cup in Brazil.

The Eagles are now the third-ranked African side behind Algeria and Cote d'Ivoire who finished in the 24th and 25th positions.

World champions Germany (1) climbed to the top of the pile after defeating Argentina (2) in the showpiece final on July 13. The South Americans are now in second place.

The Netherlands who won bronze at the World Cup rose twelve places to finish 3rd on the rankings as Colombia were also rewarded with a 4th position.

Belgium (5) and Uruguay (6) follow but hosts Brazil dropped four places to finish 7th after a disastrous end to their campaign saw them concede 10 times in two matches.

Former world champions Spain fell from first place to 8th spot as they crashed out in the group stage. Switzerland dropped three places to finish 9th while France climbed up seven places to the 10th spot.

England dropped ten places to finish in 20th place after their first round elimination.

In Africa, Ghana dropped one place to finish in 38th place and fifth in Africa with Egypt holding onto the 36th spot and fourth in the region.

Cameroon moved up three places to 53rd depsite losing all three matches at the World Cup. They are now the eighth highest-ranked African side behind Tunisia (42) and Guinea (51) while Burkina Faso (58) and Mali (60) round up the top ten.


Related stories: Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger gives opinion on why Nigeria under achieved in the 2014 FIFA World Cup

FIFA suspends Nigeria from all international football

German kidnapped in Nigeria

Gunmen kidnapped a German national on Wednesday in the northeast Nigerian town of Gombi, German broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported.

Gombi is close to an area that has been plagued by Islamist Boko Haram insurgents for the past year.

The German foreign ministry said it knew about the case but

gave no details. Nigerian police had no comment and

officials at the German embassy in Nigeria could not immediately be reached.

Deutsche Welle, quoting a witness, said the attackers forced the man out of his a car at around 7 a.m., then took him away on one of their motorbikes. He had been teaching at a technical college, the broadcaster reported, without naming him.

The town in the northern part of Adamawa state lies in an area which suffers periodic attacks by the militants, who are based in the Sambisa forest 200 km (125 miles) to the north. Adamawa, along the Cameroon border, has been under a state of emergency since May last year.

Though it was not clear who was behind the abduction, Boko Haram or criminal groups linked to them primarily fund their operations from kidnapping, security officials say, targeting local business people, politicians and sometimes Europeans.

They claimed the kidnapping of a French family in January 2013, and a French priest in November that year. Two Italian Priest and Canadian nun were kidnapped by suspected Boko Haram gunmen in April this year.

Nobody admitted paying any ransoms, although security sources suspect all fetched multi-million dollar prices.

West African nations are increasingly concerned that Boko Haram, which has killed thousands in a fight to carve out an Islamic state in Nigeria, poses a threat to the entire region.

Boko Haram, whose name means 'Western education is sinful' in the Hausa language, stirred an international outcry by kidnapping more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls in northern Nigeria on April 14. The girls remain in captivity.


Related story: Video - Search continues for the 200 kidnapped schoolgirls

FIFA gives Nigeria new deadline to reinstate NFF board

Nigeria have been given a 17 July deadline to reinstate the sacked board of the Nigeria Football Federation after Fifa extended it by two days.

Fifa last week suspended Nigeria from all international football because of alleged government interference.

But the government insists the removal of the NFF board from office was a ruling from a state high court.

It says a new court hearing is required but a judiciary workers' strike this week has led to it being delayed.

As things stand, Nigeria face exclusion from the Under-20 Women's World Cup that starts in August in Canada and there is also a threat to the men's under-17 side's participation in an African Championship qualifier this weekend.

On Monday, BBC Sport learned the inability of a regional court to hear the case against the NFF was stalling efforts to have it withdrawn or quashed.

"It's a frustrating scenario because of the ongoing strike," said a Nigerian official who preferred not to be named.

"There was no court sitting on the original date of hearing [11 July] which has stalled efforts."
The Nigeria sports minister is also waiting for a brief from a delegation headed by ex-Fifa executive committee member Amos Adamu that travelled to Brazil to explain the situation of things in the country's football to Fifa.

"The minister is waiting for feedback from the delegation to Brazil. He needs that before approaching the president who is also waiting for a brief and update," the official added.

The NFF was dissolved last week and replaced by a sole administrator - a move the government said was essential while legal proceedings against the country's football authority were ongoing.

But Fifa, which prohibits government intervention in football, suspended the country and originally set a 15 July deadline for elected officials to be reinstated and for the court case to be quashed.

African champions Nigeria reached the second round of the World Cup in Brazil for only the third time in their history, after they also did so in 1994 and 1998.

The West Africans are expected to defend their African Cup of Nations title when qualifying matches start in September. The tournament kicks off next January in Morocco.


Related story: FIFA suspends Nigeria from all international football

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Death toll of civilians killed in Boko Haram attacks in Nigeria this year reach 2,053

The Nigerian Islamist militant group Boko Haram killed at least 2,053 civilians in the first six months of this year in an increasing number of attacks that may constitute crimes against humanity, Human Rights Watch said.

Boko Haram carried out 95 attacks that included bombings on more than 70 towns and villages in northeastern Nigeria, New York-based Human Rights Watch said today in a statement. The figures were based on analysis of media reports and field investigations, it said.

“Boko Haram is effectively waging war on the people of northeastern Nigeria at a staggering human cost,” Corinne Dufka, West Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said in the statement. “Atrocities committed as part of a widespread attack on civilians are crimes against humanity, for which those responsible need to be held to account.”

Boko Haram has been fighting since 2009 to impose Islamic law on Africa’s biggest oil producer. In April, it kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls in the town of Chibok in the northeastern state of Borno. Boko Haram detonated at least three bombs this year in the capital, Abuja, killing more than 100 people, and claimed responsibility for a June explosion in Lagos, the country’s commercial hub.

“There has been a dramatic increase during 2014 in the numbers of casualties from bomb blasts, including several apparent suicide bombings,” Human Rights Watch said.

Intensifying Attacks

President Goodluck Jonathan imposed emergency rule last year in the three northeastern states where the group is most active.

“The pace of attacks has dramatically intensified in remote villages since May 2013, when the federal government imposed a state of emergency in the northern states of Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe,” Human Rights Watch said. The death toll in Borno state alone reached 1,446 people, it said.

Human Rights Watch did not give a comparative death toll for 2013. In May, Bath, U.K.-based risk analysis company Maplecroft said the number of people who died in “terrorist attacks” in Nigeria almost doubled to 3,058 in the 12 months to May 19 this year, from the previous 12-month period.

Jonathan canceled what was to be his first-ever meeting with parents of girls kidnapped from Chibok and five young women who escaped from the militants, his spokesman, Doyin Okupe, said in an e-mailed statement.

Yesterday he held talks with Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl who survived a Taliban gun attack two years ago to become a global advocate for girls’ education.

Police arrested a man suspected to be a senior member of Boko Haram in Bauchi state on July 12, spokesman Frank Mba said today.


Related stories: Boko Haram claim bomb blast in Lagos, Nigeria

Video - Bomb blast in the capital Abuja, Nigeria - At least 21 confirmed dead

Video - The state of Nigerian governance and Boko Haram  

Parents of the kidnapped schoolgirls refuse to meet with President Goodluck Jonathan

Parents and schoolmates of the 219 schoolgirls held captive by Boko Haram extremists refused at the last minute Tuesday to meet with Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan, who accused activists of "playing politics."

"It now appears that our fight to get the girls of Chibok back is not only a fight against a terrorist insurgency, but also against a political opposition," Jonathan said in a statement.
The mass abduction April 15, exactly three months ago, has been plagued by politics from the start. First lady Patience Jonathan charged the kidnappings never occurred and were being fabricated by her husband's enemies to damage his image.

She also had two leading activists briefly arrested, and relations between the government, security forces and the #BringBackOurGirls movement have been tense ever since.
At one point in May when the activists tried to stage a peaceful march to present their demands to Jonathan, they were blocked by soldiers and police.

On Tuesday, security agents locked the doors to the National Assembly, preventing the campaigners from attending a scheduled meeting with the Senate president, said Rotimi Olawale, a spokeswoman for the campaign.

It seems the campaigners then persuaded the parents and girls not to meet with the president, who has faced international condemnation for his slow response to mount a campaign to rescue the girls.
"My priority is not politics. My priority is the return of these girls," Jonathan's statement said. He accused the Nigerian chapter of the Bring Back Our Girls campaign of "psychological terrorism ... playing politics with the situation and the grief of the parents and the girls. They should be ashamed of their actions."

Jonathan has never met with the parents or the escaped girls, though they have been asking to meet with him for weeks. In May, he cancelled without explanation a trip to Chibok, the remote northeast town where the girls were kidnapped.

Politics probably played a part in that cancellation since Chibok is in the northeastern state of Borno, which is governed by an opposition politician very critical of Jonathan.
On Monday, Nigeria's leader promised Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai that he would meet the parents. Malala said that was the parents' wish, that they wanted the support of their president.

"I want to be clear, this government stands with complete solidarity with the girls and their parents.
We are doing everything in our power to bring back our girls," he said Tuesday after the meeting was cancelled. "As a father of girls, I stand ready to meet with the parents of our abducted children and the truly brave girls that have escaped this nightmare through the grace of God."


Related stories: Malala Yousafzai travels to Nigeria to plea for the release of kidnapped schoolgirls

 Leader of protest of government inaction to rescue kidnapped schoolgirls detained

Suspect arrested in Abuja bombing that killed 71

One of the masterminds of April's Nyanya Motor Park bombing that killed 71 people has been arrested, Nigerian police said.

About 130 people were hurt when a parked vehicle exploded in the bus station that was crowded with early morning commuters.

Aminu Ogwuche was extradited to Nigeria from Sudan, where he had taken refuge, police said.
Boko Haram's leader claimed responsibility for the April 14 bombing.

The Islamist militant group -- whose name means "Western education is sin" in the local Hausa language -- has bombed schools, churches and mosques; kidnapped women and children; and assassinated politicians and religious leaders.


Related story: Video - Bomb blast in Abuja kills 71

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Video - Sahara Reporters founder Omoyele Sowore says President Goodluck Jonathan is the worst Nigerian President

Omoyele Sowore is the publisher of New York-based Sahara Reporters, known for its hard-hitting reporting that is keeping Nigeria's government officials, individuals and corporations on their toes.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger gives opinion on why Nigeria under achieved in the 2014 FIFA World Cup

 Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has said lack of solidarity and poor administration, are the reasons why Nigeria and other African teams performed below par at the 2014 World Cup.

The Super Eagles began their tournament with a drab goalless draw against Iran, before narrowly beating Bosnia-Herzegovina 1-0 in the second. Although they lost 3-2 to Argentina in their final Group F game, the African champions squeezed through to the second round, where they were eliminated by France.

Wenger argued it was never a matter of the quality of the Nigerian players, but off-field problems worked against them.

“I don’t think it’s purely down to quality. I think it comes down to organizational problems before the World Cup and during the World Cup,” Wenger told Daily Mirror.

“I think what hurts football fans both in Cameroon and Nigeria – two big footballing nations – was not that their countries did not reach the quarter-finals, it was the fact that both teams had no solidarity and they had problems that were exposed all over the world before the competition and that’s the main reason,” the Arsenal manager said in probable reference to the bonus crisis that rocked both the Super Eagles and the Indomitable Lions.

“Football is difficult enough when you are united but if you are not united at that stage then you have no chance.”

The Frenchman however singled out the Desert Warriors of Algeria for praise, despite the fact they were eliminated in the second round by eventual winners Germany.

He said: “I would still like to give some credit to Algeria. They played so well and at some points they even made Germany look average, and they were the only country who could do that. I would have liked to have seen more from the African countries.”

Daily Post

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Video - Boko Haram release video mocking plea for kidnapped schoolgirls release

Boko Haram issued a new video Sunday mocking the social media campaign that highlighted the plight of the 223 schoolgirls kidnapped by the Islamists in north-east Nigeria.

In a broadcast apparently marking the girls’ third month in captivity, Abubakar Shekau, the Boko Haram leader, said they would not be freed until the government released the “army” of the group’s fighters held in Nigerian jails.

Shekau also claimed responsibility for three bombings last month and voiced support for Islamic State, the extremists who have seized much of northern Iraq.

The video served as a direct snub to Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl and women’s rights campaigner who arrived in Nigerian capital, Abuja, over the weekend to voice support for the #BringBackOurGirls campaign.

Ms Yousafzai, 17, who moved to Britain after being shot by the Taliban, met parents of the missing girls yesterday and was also expected to hold talks with Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria’s president.

As she did so, serious doubts emerged about the girls’ chances of ever being rescued. In briefings with The Daily Telegraph over the weekend, Western diplomats said that, despite international publicity, the efforts to find the hostages were little further on than they were in May, when Britain, America and France began to help. With neither a prisoner swap or a rescue considered likely, there was little real prospect of any “breakthrough” in the foreseeable future, they said.

One diplomat said: “It is hard to see this being resolved either by a rescue or a prisoner swap deal, although that is also true for a lot of other girls kidnapped by Boko Haram in recent months and years, who are now bush wives. What may happen is that from time to time, some may seize a chance to escape, or a deal may be done with one particular local faction that is holding some of the hostages. Over the course of a few months or years they may begin to reappear.”

The diplomats’ gloomy assessment is likely to dismay the girls’ families, whose hopes of being reunited with them have been sustained largely by the scale of the international response. On Sunday, Malala, described the girls as “sisters” and said she was going to “speak up for them until they are released”.

Diplomats say the reality is that even if the girls could be located – which is hard, given that the area being searched is “twice the size of Belgium” – it would be impossible to mount a rescue without Boko Haram killing a large number first.

National Post

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Malala Yousafzai travels to Nigeria to plea for the release of kidnapped schoolgirls

In an unremarkable conference room in an unremarkable international hotel in Abuja, an extraordinary group of people gathered.

Twelve of them were the parents of girls who were kidnapped three months ago by militant group Boko Haram.

The two others were Malala Yousafzai, a young Pakistani woman just turned 17, and her father Ziauddin.

Malala, thoughtful and self-possessed, explained that she had made the journey to Nigeria from Birmingham in England, where she lives at present, because she regarded the kidnapped girls as her sisters.

"I am going to stand up for them," she said.

Monday has been designated by the United Nations as Malala Day. She has just turned 17, and she decided that she must mark it by coming to Nigeria and appealing for the release of the kidnapped girls and the right of all children here to an education.

'Because we're poor?'
Nigeria, though it recently became the leading economy in Africa, has one of the world's worst records for education. More than 10 million children aged between 6 and 11 - 42% - are not in school. There is a shortage of more than 200,000 primary school teachers.

Malala believes that there is a clear link between poor education and the political violence which the extreme Islamist Boko Haram movement has brought to Nigeria. "If you improve the one, you discourage the other," she has said.

Ziauddin Yousafzai started to explain to the parents how Malala had been shot in the head by a Taliban hitman in Pakistan two years ago, and almost killed. But he couldn't get the words out, and broke down in tears. The 12 Nigerian parents, as they listened to him, wept openly too.

The parents share a powerful feeling that in spite of their loss, they have been shut out and ignored. The government hasn't talked to them at any stage. It hasn't even shown them much sign of sympathy.

Rebecca Samwell, a Christian, said they had heard rumours that some of the girls had been rescued; her missing daughter Sarah is 17, like Malala. "We simply aren't told what the truth is."

One of the fathers, Malla Abu, asked: "Is it because we're poor country people that the government isn't doing anything? Suppose these were the daughters of someone important; would they still be in the forest after 90 days?"

Deadlock and despair
In the hotel grounds, Malala met five girls who were kidnapped with the others in the town of Chibok, but managed to escape by jumping out of the trucks which were taking them to captivity in the Sambisa forest, more than 200 miles (320km) away.

Had any of the five girls been interviewed by the Nigerian army for information they might have about their Boko Haram captors? No, they said.

Government officials deny they have been lackadaisical about investigating the kidnappings, and insist that everything is being done to trace the girls and get them back.

But after 90 days it is hard to see what success the authorities have had.

Mike Omeri, the co-ordinator of the government's anti-terror campaign, insists that they know where the girls are and that they are safe.

But the families are deeply worried by Boko Haram threats to marry the girls off to the movement's fighters, against their will. Some are afraid their daughters have been raped.

There seems to be a total stalemate. Boko Haram says it will free the girls in exchange for the release of Boko Haram prisoners from Nigerian jails.

At different times, various figures in the Nigerian government seem to have considered an exchange, but the army, and perhaps Western governments, are opposed to the idea.

The weakness of the Nigerian army in the country's north-east makes it hard to think that the girls can be rescued.

Faced with this deadlock, the parents are close to despair.

In the hotel in Abuja, Malala's father Ziauddin ended the meeting with the parents by saying a prayer:

"O God, accept our tears, accept the tears of these fathers and mothers. O God, empower us to bring the girls back."

And the parents, Christian and Muslim, joined together in saying "Amen".


Related stories: About 60 of the 200 schoolgirls kidnapped escape from Boko Haram

Nigerian military arrest bussiness man connected to Boko Hram adbuction of over 200 schoolgirls

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Wole Soyinka turns 80 today

Nigeria's literary icon Wole Soyinka turned 80 on Sunday, with friends and foes alike paying tribute to the first African to win the Nobel literature prize.

Dozens of literary and artistic events have been staged across the country over 80 days leading up to the birthday of the poet, novelist, playwright and social activist, whose works often satirised Nigeria's society and harshly criticised corrupt and inept leaders.

But such is Soyinka's popularity and stature that many of the targets of his criticism put aside past differences to honour the man who, with his trademark white afro and matching bushy goatee, is a beloved figure in Africa's most populous nation.

President Goodluck Jonathan praised his ardent critic in a statement on Saturday, hailing Soyinka's "life-long dedication and indefatigable commitment to using his acclaimed genius and talents, not only in the service of the arts, but also for the promotion of democracy, good governance and respect for human rights in Nigeria, Africa and beyond".

Former dictator General Yakubu Gowon, who jailed Soyinka for some two years during Nigeria's 1967-70 civil war, paid respect by attending a lecture in Soyinka's hometown of Abeokuta on Friday.

Soyinka, who looks several decades younger than his age, sprang to his feet and warmly embraced his former jailer as soon as he entered the lecture hall, sparking applause from the audience.

"I have come to Abeokuta for the sake of this particular man, to honour him," said Gowon, who imprisoned the writer on suspicion of support for his rival in the 1967 standoff that eventually led Nigeria to a 30-month civil war in which an estimated one million people died, mostly of disease and starvation.

The birthday events honouring Soyinka are due to culminate on Monday with a visit to his secluded forest residence in Abeokuta, the capital of southwestern Ogun State, and a presentation of one of his plays.

- 'God's gift' -

Born into an Anglican family on July 13, 1934, in Abeokuta, Soyinka cut his literary teeth in the 1950s at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria's premier university, where he studied English literature. He also studied literature at the University of Leeds.

The poet, novelist and playwright has around 30 published works to his name, most of which satirise Nigerian society and which have made him a darling of the critics.

"Soyinka, a literary giant, is God's gift to Nigeria in particular, Africa and the world at large. His style is inimitable," Dare Ademola, a literary critic, told AFP.
Chima Anyadike, head of the English department at the Obafemi Awolowo University where Soyinka last taught in Nigeria, said: "Soyinka is a great writer of his time."

In announcing his Nobel in 1986, the Swedish Academy praised Soyinka for "your versatile writings (in which) you have been able to synthesise a very rich heritage from your own country, ancient myths and old traditions, with literary legacies and traditions of European culture".

It also hailed him for "your own genuine and impressive creativity as an artist, a master of language, and your commitment as a dramatist and writer of poetry and prose to problems of general and deep significance for man, modern or ancient".

A harsh critic of military, corrupt or inept governments, Soyinka fled Nigeria during the regime of General Sani Abacha in the 1990s when the government hounded critics including journalists and academics.

A hunter, connoisseur of wines and notoriously private, Soyinka hasn't let his advanced age dull his social activism. In January 2012, he joined activists in street protests against President Jonathan after the government hiked the pump price of fuel.


Related stories: Video - Nigeria's Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka speaks to Aljazeera about Boko Haram and Nigeria today

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The Canonisation Of Terror

Boko Haram claim bomb blast in Lagos, Nigeria

Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau has claimed responsibility for two explosions on June 25 at a fuel depot in Lagos, Nigeria's commercial hub, AFP reported on Sunday, which, if true, would be the first recorded attack on the city by the militants.

"A bomb went off in Lagos. I ordered (the bomber) who went and detonated it," Shekau said, according to the French news agency, which is usually the first to get hold of Shekau's videos before they are distributed online.

The two blasts minutes apart last month in the country's main port, Apapa, were almost certainly caused by bombs, three senior security sources and the manager of a major container company told Reuters. One was most likely the work of a female suicide bomber, they said.

Authorities said the blasts on Creek road were an accident caused by a gas canister, but the security sources told Reuters that was a coverup meant to avoid panic in the southwestern city of 21 million people. At least two people were killed.

"You said it was a fire incident. Well, if you hide it from people you can't hide it from Allah," Shekau says in the video, which according to AFP shows him next to at least 10 gunmen in front of two armoured personnel carriers and two pickup trucks.

A confirmed attack by Boko Haram would be a cause for concern. Lagos is both an international business hub and a usually peaceful but at times uneasy melting pot of ethnicities from the mostly Christian south and Muslim north that have fought street battles in the past.

The target of the Lagos bombs was a fuel depot. Had it gone up, it could have caused a massive chain explosion and disrupted Nigeria's mostly imported fuel supply.

Security sources say it may have been the work of a group or individual inspired by Boko Haram. Shekau has been known to claim attacks suspected to be the work of another Islamist group or a criminal gang.

Shekau gets the Governor of Lagos State wrong, taunting Adams Oshiomole, who is in fact the Governor the southern Edo State, the agency reported.


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Video - Bomb blast in the capital Abuja, Nigeria - At least 21 confirmed dead

Video - Nigeria's Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka speaks to Aljazeera about Boko Haram and Nigeria today

He is often called Nigeria's national conscience and Africa's most compelling literary force - Wole Soyinka, the Nigerian poet, playwright and activist. He was the first black African to be honoured with the Nobel Prize for literature in 1986.
Soyinka turns 80 this week and continues to express his views as one of the most controversial writers of his generation. Deeply committed to social justice and the arts, Soyinka has been a thorn in the side of many Nigerian dictators - his outspoken activism landing him in jail and eventually forcing him into exile.

Many of Soyinka's writings have been concerned with the tensions between tradition and progress, his disillusionment with African authoritarian leadership and with Nigerian society as a whole.

In a time when Nigeria is facing its toughest security crisis in decades, he discusses the issues surrounding Boko Haram:

"Those who unleashed Boko Haram on the nation are not poverty stricken. They are politicians .... desperate for power, intelligent enough or perceptive enough to recognise that the cocktail of politics and religious fundamentalism can only yield them dividends. They think they have nothing to lose. But the foot soldiers have been indoctrinated for years, from childhood. And they believe that their religion [Islam] is in danger ... But Islam is not in danger. It is the pervert followers who are being used and who use others and proclaim that they are fighting for Islam ....

"Look at the histories of the world: Boko Haram, if not contained and eradicated, will be found in the heart of Lagos before you know it."

Talk to Al Jazeera speaks to Professor Wole Soyinka, one of Nigeria's most prominent voices, about Boko Haram, religion, politics and the state of Nigeria today.


Related stories: Video - Wole Soyinka on CNN discussing state of Nigeria, Boko Haram and the kidnapped school girls

Nigerian Laureate Wole Soyinka says Boko Haram worse than Nigerian's Civil War

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Nigeria police uncover Boko Haram plot to bomb Abuja transport network

Nigerian police have uncovered a plot to bomb the Abuja transport network, they said on Saturday, using suicide bombers and devices concealed in luggage at major bus stations.

Abuja has increasingly been targeted by Islamist group Boko Haram, with three deadly bombings since April, including one in a bus park on its outskirts that killed at least 75 people.

"Credible intelligence ... indicates that terrorists have perfected a plot to carry out attacks on the Abuja transport sector ... intended to cause panic amongst Abuja residents and visitors," police spokesman Frank Mba said in a statement.

Boko Haram militants, fighting for an Islamic state in religiously-mixed Nigeria, have killed thousands of people since 2009 and made world headlines with the abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls in the northeast village of Chibok on April 14.

On the same day, the bus park attack - which took place less than a month before Nigeria was due to host the World Economic Forum - killed 75 in what was the first bomb in Abuja for nearly two years.

There have been two deadly attacks in Abuja since then, including one in the upmarket shopping district of Wuse II.

"The Police High Command has called on the management of motorparks to ... constantly conduct regular and routine scanning of their environments while insisting on carrying out a thorough search on passengers and their bags as well as vehicles," the statement said.

The Islamist insurgency had been largely confined to the north until a suicide bomber attacked Abuja's police headquarters in June 2011, killing several people.

Two months later a suicide truck bomb targeting the U.N. headquarters in Abuja killed 25 people.


Related story: About 60 of the 200 schoolgirls kidnapped escape from Boko Haram

Thursday, July 10, 2014

FIFA suspends Nigeria from all international football

  Nigeria has been suspended from all international football amid allegations of government interference in its football federation.

Fifa announced the ban, which means no Nigerian team - including club sides - can play internationally, on Wednesday evening.

It was the world governing body's response to a court order which compelled the Nigerian Minister of Sports to appoint a senior member of the civil service to take over the running of the Nigeria Football Federation.

A statement from Fifa's emergency committee said: "The Fifa Emergency Committee has decided today, 9 July 2014, to suspend the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) with immediate effect, on account of government interference."

The statement continued: "The decision follows a letter sent by Fifa to the NFF on 4 July 2014, in which it expressed its great concern after the NFF was served with court proceedings and consequently an order preventing the president of the NFF, the NFF Executive Committee members and the NFF Congress from running the affairs of Nigerian football was granted by a High Court of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

"The said court order compelled the Nigerian Minister of Sports to appoint a senior member of the civil service to manage the NFF until the matter was heard in court, without giving any date for such a hearing.

"The authorities then appointed a person who decided to convene an extraordinary general assembly on 5 July 2014. This extraordinary general assembly was convened in violation of the NFF statutes.
"Originally, an elective congress had been planned by the NFF to take place on 26 August 2014.

"The suspension will be lifted once the court actions have been withdrawn and the properly elected NFF Executive Committee, the NFF general assembly and the NFF administration are able to work without any interference in their affairs."

The first impact of Fifa's move will be felt by Nigeria's women, who will be prevented from taking part in the FIFA Under-20 Women's World Cup in Canada next month - should the suspension not be lifted by July 15.

The statement added: "As a result of this decision, no team from Nigeria of any sort (including clubs) can have any international sporting contact (art. 14 par. 3 of the Fifa Statutes).
"During the period of suspension, the NFF may not be represented in any regional, continental or international competitions, including at club level, or in friendly matches.

"In addition, neither the NFF nor any of its members or officials may benefit from any Fifa or CAF development programmes, courses or training during the suspension period."

Nigeria's men reached the second round of the World Cup finals in Brazil after finishing second in Group F behind semi-finalists Argentina, but bowed out after a 2-0 defeat by France in the last 16.

The Telegraph

Related stories: FIFA threaten to sanction Nigeria over sacked NFF board

Monday, July 7, 2014

Half of a Yellow Sun finally approved by Nigerian censors after edits

Nigerian censors on Friday approved the release of the civil war film "Half of a Yellow Sun" after a more than two-month delay during which the producers agreed to edit certain scenes.

The film, based on the best-selling novel of the same name and starring Oscar-nominated British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor, is about the 1967-1970 Biafra War which killed more than a million people, many from starvation.

Already showing in Britain and the United States, the film's Nigeria release had been set for April, but hours before its first scheduled public screening, the National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB) blocked the release citing "regulatory issues".

Writing for the New Yorker magazine's website in May, the novel's author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie said the authorities were concerned about a scene in the film adaptation depicting the massacre of Christians from the Igbo ethnic group by Muslim Hausa tribesman at a northern Nigeria airport.

The southeast, which is dominated by Igbos, cited such massacres as a key reason for their region's unilateral declaration of independence, a move the sparked the civil war.

The NVFCB has never clearly spelt out its opposition to the film, but said in a statement on Friday that "Half of a Yellow Sun" had been approved for release.

Censors board spokesman Caesar Kagho told AFP he could not go into detail about what was removed from the film and why.

Kene Mkparu of Filmhouse Cinemas, which is distributing the film in Nigeria, told AFP changes were made from the version shown in the West, but declined to be specific.

"We didn't have to change the essence of the film, but we complied with what they asked us to do," he said.

Ejiofor, who was nominated for Best Actor at this year's Academy Awards for his role in "12 Years a Slave", which picked up Best Picture, stars opposite British actress Thandie Newton in "Half of a Yellow Sun".

The southeast's attempt to create an independent Igbo-led nation, which they called Biafra, was crushed by British-backed federal forces which had military superiority and used scorched earth tactics, including the blockage of all food imports to the breakaway region.

More than four decades on, the Biafra War remains a highly contentious subject in Nigeria, with some marginal Igbo groups still calling for independence.


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Chiwetel Ejiofor on shooting Half of a Yellow Sun in rural Nigeria