Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Video - Insecurity in Nigeria likely to Impact General Elections

Millions of voters in Nigeria could miss participating in the country's next General Election, unless security is urgently restored in the restive northeastern part of the country. Government forces recently stepped up offensive against Boko Haram militants. But that offensive is yet to restore peace in larger part of the region. 

Related story: Displaced Nigerians from Boko Haram violence might not be able to vote in Presidential elections in 2015

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Video - Nigeria's revised GDP stands at $510 billion

When Nigeria's Statistician general eventually released the rebased GDP figure, it was $510billion, surpassing expectations. But sparking fears the huge size of the economy could stagnate growth in a country that had consistently averaged a growth rate of 6.5 percent.

Related stories: Video - Nigeria's hidden trillion dollar economy 

Video - Nigeria is now Africa's biggest economy

Former General criticizes Nigerian army for sentencing 54 soldiers to death

A retired army general, Ishola Williams, has condemned the Nigerian Army for imposing the death sentence on 54 soldiers accused of mutiny, saying the soldiers were justified in refusing to join operations without being properly equipped.

Mr. Williams said the soldiers were right in disobeying orders that would lead to certain death as a result of the failure of their commanding officers to provide them the necessary equipment.

On December 17, 2014 after a secret trial in Abuja, 54 soldiers of the 111 Special Forces battalion charged with criminal conspiracy to commit mutiny and mutiny were sentenced to death by firing squad by Nigerian Army’s 7 division General Court Martial.

The military said the soldiers disobeyed the order of their commanding officer to take part in an operation to dislodge Boko Haram terrorists from Delwa, a town close to Maiduguri.

Some of the accused soldiers testified that they refused to take part in the operation following the failure of the army to provide them with the necessary support equipment.

The soldiers were later transferred to Lagos where they await either the confirmation of the sentence, an appeal, a pardon or execution.

Military sources and the lawyer representing the soldiers, Femi Falana, told PREMIUM TIMES last week that they troops were held under deplorable conditions, and were denied food and care.

Contributing to a debate on an online group, AfricanWorldForum, about a statement by Governor Rotimi Ameachi of Rivers State, that the condemned soldiers had the right to protest the government’s failure to equip them, Mr. Williams, who resigned from the army as a major general, said the military hierarchy is prosecuting the soldiers to cover its failure.

“Those playing politics with the lives of these soldiers who were being sent to commit suicide in the name of fatherland and they refused, have to be ashamed,” he said. “The army’s top hierarchy is covering up its weaknesses by court-martialling these soldiers. The staff from the HQ (defence headquarters) and the generals are to blame. Period.

Mr. Williams was the Chief of Defence Operations, Planning and Training, at the Defence Headquarters before resigning in 1993.

“Anywhere in the world a soldier/soldiers is /are allowed to disobey orders which will lead to certain death because of poor officership and inadequate logistics,” he said.

According to him, in the military, “there are no bad soldiers but bad officers.”

Mr. Williams, a former honorary Secretary General of Transparency In Nigeria (TIN) and currently the executive secretary of a security research organisation, Pan African Strategic and Policy Research Group (PANAFSTRAG), said while he was in the military the soldiers he knew were not mutinous and a good court would dismiss the death sentence.

“The South African constitution allows soldiers to protest. The Nigerian soldiers that I know and commanded during my career are not mutinous and will not be mutinous.

“You may wish to speak to CJTF(Commander of the JTF) in Maiduguri to be able to indict these soldiers. In a good court of law the death sentence will be not upheld,” he said. “Stop playing Politricks and Polifun with the lives of young men who were put in harm’s way without the method and tools in an environment in which demons are going crazy.

“It is sad and wicked to be unfair to them. Why were the Court-Martial (CM) held in secret? Even the presidency has not made any statement on this issue because it knows the circumstances in which these soldiers were operating. In other climes, before the CM, the Concerned Service Chief and Commanders would have resigned their commissions.”

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Father gives away 13 year old daughter to be suicide bomber for Boko Haram

A 13-year-old says her father gave her to Boko Haram extremists and that she was arrested after refusing to explode a suicide bomb in Kano, Nigeria’s second largest city in the north.

Nigeria has suffered numerous suicide bombings in recent months carried out by girls and young women. That has raised fears that the insurgents are using kidnapped girls.

The girl told a news conference Wednesday night that she saw many people being buried alive at the Boko Haram camp where her father took her in Bauchi state, east of Kano.

She said her captors asked if she wanted to go to paradise and, when she said yes, explained she would have to be a suicide bomber.

“When I was told I would have to die to enter paradise, that I would have to explode a bomb and die, I said I cannot do it,” she said.

When they threatened to kill her, she allowed them to strap her into a vest primed with explosives, saying “I was afraid to be buried alive.”

Two other girls detonated their bombs at Kano’s textile market on Dec. 10. Police said the attack killed four people and wounded seven, including the girl.

The West African nation’s home-grown Boko Haram group attracted international condemnation when its fighters kidnapped 276 schoolgirls from a boarding school in northeast Chibok town in April. Dozens escaped but 219 remain missing.

Thousands of people have been killed and 1.6 million driven from their homes in the 5-year-old uprising to create an Islamic state in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation of 160 million people divided between mainly Muslims in the north and Christians in the south.

Police Superintendent Adenrele Shinaba said the girl was arrested in the hospital with a leg wound. A taxi driver took her to the hospital, and she said she left her suicide vest on the seat. The driver alerted police.

Shinaba said she will remain in custody while investigations continue. He said they had been unable to find her father, who the girl said belongs to Boko Haram.

New York Daily

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Travel ban from Christmas Eve to Sunday imposed in Borno and Yobe

All vehicle movement in Nigeria's north-eastern Borno state has been banned from Christmas eve to Sunday morning to prevent attacks by militant Islamists, the army has said.

The decision has led to thousands of people rushing to get to their destinations, correspondents say.

Neighbouring Yobe has barred vehicles from entering or leaving the state.

Boko Haram militants have targeted churches during previous festive seasons.

The group bombed the St Theresa Catholic Church in Madalla near the capital, Abuja, on Christmas Day 2011, killing at least 43 people.

On Christmas Eve 2010, at least 32 people were killed in bomb blasts targeting churches in central Plateau state, which straddles Nigeria's mainly Muslim north and the Christian south.'Fear of massive attacks'

Boko Haram's insurgency has been most intense in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, the three states where a state of emergency was imposed last year to beat back the militants.

However, the group has stepped up attacks since then, seizing large swathes of territory in Borno and capturing hundreds of people, including women and children, during raids on towns and villages.

Army spokesman Colonel Sani Usman said security reports indicated that Boko Haram planned to launch "massive attacks" during the Christmas period in Borno, especially on the state capital Maiduguri.

In order to guarantee public safety, people would not be able to travel by road in Borno from 18:00 local time (19:00 GMT) on Wednesday to 07:00 on Sunday.

People providing essential services such as medical care would be exempted, Col Usmani said.

BBC Nigeria analyst Ibrahim Shehu Adamu says similar bans were imposed during previous Christian and Muslim festive seasons and most people heeded them by walking to religious services or the homes of relatives.

The move is aimed at preventing Boko Haram from transporting explosives in cars or using motorbikes to carry out hit-and-run raids, he says.

The less restrictive travel ban in Yobe is not surprising, as it has not been as badly affected as Borno by the insurgency, he adds.

Boko Haram launched its insurgency in Nigeria in 2009 to create an Islamic state.

At least 2,000 civilians have been killed by the group this year.

The kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls by Boko Haram in April from the town of Chibok in Borno sparked international outrage.


Monday, December 22, 2014

Bomb explosion in Gombe, Nigeria leaves scores dead

Scores of people are feared killed after an explosion ripped through a crowded motor park in Gombe town, Gombe State, residents have said.

A journalist based in the state, Mallam Tildee, told PREMIUM TIMES that the blast occurred at Dukku Motor Park early Monday.

Mr. Tildee said he was on his way to the scene of the blast and would be able to give casualty figure later.
The spokesperson of the police in the state, Fwaje Atajiri, could not be reached for comments.

A similar blast had occurred in November at the Gombe line motor park, killing scores of commuters, drivers and traders.

Premium Times

Boko Haram video shows the massacre of civilians

A new video from Boko Haram extremists shows gunmen shooting civilians lying face down in a dormitory and a leader saying they are being killed because they are “infidels.” The video, released to journalists late Saturday, comes two days after fleeing villagers reported that the extremists were rounding up older adults and killing them in two schools in Gwoza, in northeast Nigeria. “From now, killing, slaughtering, destructions and bombing will be our religious duty anywhere we invade,” the gunmen’s leader says in the video. “This is not the right time for us to keep prisoners.” The setting appears to be a school, which the leader says is in Bama, a town 40 miles north of Gwoza. Details about the shooting in the video were not available.


Friday, December 19, 2014

54 Nigerian soldiers sentenced to death by firing squad

A human rights lawyer says 54 soldiers have been sentenced to death because they embarrassed Nigeria's military by demanding weapons to fight Islamic extremists, and says they were justified in not going on what would have been a suicidal mission.

Defense attorney Femi Falana said Thursday he will take all legal measures to prevent authorities from carrying out a "genocidal verdict" of death by firing squad delivered Wednesday night by a court-martial.

A statement from Falana describes evidence given during the court-martial that is an indictment of Nigeria's military establishment and, the lawyer said, the reason journalists were barred from the trial.

All the soldiers convicted are aged between 21 and 25 and most joined the army around 2012, he said.

With little or no training, they were deployed against Nigeria's home-grown Islamic extremist group, Boko Haram. The lawyer charged that money for salaries and to purchase arms is often diverted by corrupt officers.

"Instead of bringing such unpatriotic officers to book, the military authorities have engaged in the diversionary tactics of wasting the lives of innocent soldiers by sentencing them to death without any legal justification," Falana charged.

He said Boko Haram on July 9 attacked the soldiers when the battalion of 750 troops was down to just 174. The extremists killed 26 soldiers including three officers and seriously injured 82. The soldiers demanded to be properly armed and were assured this would happen, he said.

Instead, the battalion was ordered Aug. 4 to recapture three towns controlled by Boko Haram. The few soldiers who deployed were ambushed and kidnapped. When some weapons were made available Aug. 8, a second group of soldiers recaptured the towns and liberated their colleagues, Falana said.

"They were commended for their bravery and sacrifice. But for some inexplicable reasons, the army authorities ordered that the soldiers be charged with mutiny for allegedly exposing the armed forces to embarrassment by asking for weapons!" his statement said.

Falana told The Associated Press another 43 soldiers including a few officers remain on trial for mutiny and cowardice for refusing to fight the extremists.


Related stories: 12 Nigerian soldiers sentenced to death for mutiny

Some Nigerian soldiers refuse to fight Boko Haram until given new weapons

Wives of Nigerian soldiers protest the lack of resources troops have to combat Boko Haram

Nigeria fighting to defend currency after global oil price drop

Nigeria's central bank has brought in further measures to support its currency, the naira.

Buyers of foreign currency must use that money within 48 hours or be forced to sell it back at the rate set by the central bank.

The naira hit record lows this week of more than 187 against the dollar.

The prolonged fall in the oil price is causing serious problems for Nigeria, which is heavily dependent on the commodity.

Nigeria, which is Africa's largest oil producer, receives 70% of government revenue and 90% of all foreign exchange earnings from oil.

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) warned it would impose sanctions on anyone who did not follow its new rules. Bet

Speculators are betting on further falls in the naira by buying foreign currency in the hope that they will be able to buy more when they reconvert their money back.

In November, the CBN devalued the naira to 168 against the dollar, but its action has not stopped it falling further.

Earlier this week, Nigeria was forced to revise its budget because of the dramatic fall in the price of oil.

Its finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, said its economy will now grow at 5.5% this year, rather than 6.4%.

In a separate development, Nigerian oil workers agreed to call off a strike that started on Monday.

A spokesman for one of the unions involved, Pengassan, said the government had given assurances that it would address union concerns over refinery maintenance.

This includes a renewed push to get a long-delayed bill passed in parliament, aimed at overhauling the industry and improving maintenance.


Related story: Nigeria cuts oil price benchmark due to falling global oil prices

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Boko Haram kidnap 100 villagers

Militants have stormed a remote village in north-eastern Nigeria, killing at least 33 people and kidnapping at least 100, a survivor has told the BBC.

He said that suspected Boko Haram militants had seized young men, women and children from Gumsuri village.

The attack happened on Sunday but news has only just emerged, after survivors reached the city of Maiduguri.

Meanwhile, Cameroon's army says it has killed 116 Nigerian militants who had attacked one of its bases, AFP reports.

Residents told the BBC the armed militants attacked the border town of Amchide on Wednesday, arriving in two vehicles with many others on foot.

They raided the market area, setting fire to shops and more than 50 houses.

No group has said it carried out either attack but officials have blamed Nigerian-based Boko Haram militants.

More than 2,000 people have been killed in militant violence this year alone, mostly in north-eastern Nigeria, near the border with Cameroon.

The villagers who were kidnapped were from Gumsuri, not Bintiri, as was earlier reported by the BBC.

The survivor of the Gumsuri attack said that afterwards he returned to the village, about 70km (43 miles) south of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, and helped bury 33 bodies.

He said he went from house-to-house to ascertain how many people were missing.

His testimony was confirmed to BBC Hausa by a local official. Neither person wanted their names to be published.

An official told the AFP news agency that a vigilante group that had protected the village from previous attacks was overpowered.

"After killing our youths, the insurgents have taken away our wives and daughters," a resident who fled to Maiduguri told AFP.

In Cameroon, the army said vehicles from its elite battalion had been caught in an ambush on Wednesday.

"At the same time... the Amchide military base was attacked by hundreds of fighters from the sect, but the response from our defence forces was instant and appropriate," AFP quotes it as saying.

One Cameroonian soldier was killed and an officer is missing, it reports. Death penalty

BBC Nigeria correspondent Will Ross says the kidnappings are yet another example of just how vulnerable the communities of north-east Nigeria are and how the military has not been able to offer sufficient protection, despite promises of a massive deployment of soldiers supported by the air force.

The military has had problems of indiscipline amid reports of soldiers being poorly equipped, he says.

On Wednesday a Nigerian court martial handed down death sentences to 54 soldiers who had refused to take part in an operation last August to recapture three town overrun by the militants.

The soldiers, who were found guilty of mutiny, had complained that they did not have the weapons needed to take on the jihadists.

Boko Haram has been waging an insurgency since 2009 and is seeking to create an Islamist state in north-eastern Nigeria.

Attacks have increased since three states - Borno, Adamawa and Yobe - were put under emergency rule more than 18 months ago.

The kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok in Borno state in April sparked international outrage.

Despite military assistance from countries such as China, France, the UK and US, the girls have not yet been rescued.


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

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Adidas to extend kit sponsorship with Nigerian Football Federation

Adidas, has provisionally extended its kit sponsorship deal with the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, pending a contract renewal.

The Chairman of NFF, Amaju Pinnick, told reporters on Tuesday in Abuja that the football house plans to renew the contract, which would expire at the end of December.

According to Mr. Pinnick, the leadership crisis that engulfed the NFF is responsible for the delay in the renewal of the kit sponsorship contract.

"We requested for an extension which has been granted to us and we will see how we can tidy up and get Adidas back because we have a prime commodity in the Super Falcons playing in the World Cup next year.

"We have thirteen national teams not just the Super Falcons; the truth is, if we don't sit down to do things properly, there is no way you are going to achieve any good result.

"If you jump into a problem, it lingers as a problem.

"So we are taking our time sitting down and looking at it to come out with something that you will see and say I am proud to be a Nigerian".

Adidas, which has been kitting Nigerian national teams for about a decade now, entered into the about-to-expire deal with NFA in 2011.

The total value of the deal is worth about 10 million euro, a massive increase from the 200,000 euro deal of the contract which expired in 2010.

Premium Times

Related story: Adidas drops Nigeria Football Federation

$7.92 billion lost by Nigeria in 1 year due to corruption

A total of $7.92billion in illicit capital flowed of out Nigeria in 2012, according to the latest report released by the US-based non-profit research and advisory organisation, Global Financial Integrity (GFI).

For the year 2012, only Nigeria and South Africa are the two African countries ranked in the top 20 countries for illicit financial outflows. Nigeria was ranked 17th behind South Africa, which ranks 9th with cumulative illicit financial outflows of $29.13 in 2012.

According to the report, “Illicit Financial Flows from Developing Countries: 2003-2012,” emerging economies lost a whopping $991.2billion in facilitating crime, corruption and tax evasion.

However, in the 10-year period between 2003 and 2012, Nigeria was ranked 10th with a cumulative of $157.46billion, surpassing South Africa which was ranked 12th with a cumulative $122.14billion. Also, Nigeria and South Africa are the only two African countries that were ranked for illicit financial outflows in the 10-year period between 2003 and 2012.

“The fraudulent mis-invoicing of trade transactions was revealed to be the largest component of illicit financial flows from developing countries, accounting for 77.8 percent of all illicit flows, highlighting that any effort to significantly curtail illicit financial flows must address trade mis-invoicing,” said the report.

Frontline political activist, Chris Nwokobia, said that the report vindicates the position of former CBN governor, Sansui Lamido, that $20billion was missing from the coffers of the federal government.

According to Nwokobia, when Sanusi said that $20billion was not missing, many dismissed him as playing politics and he was harassed out of office.

“This report is only saying that what Sanusi said was correct. Nigeria has always been corrupt but this is the first time that corruption is driving the wheel of state,” Nwokobia said.

The report, authored by GFI’s chief economist Dev Kar, and GFI’s junior economist Joseph Spanjers, reveals that “illicit financial flows hit a historic high of $991.2 billion in 2012 – marking a dramatic increase from 2003, when illicit outflows totalled a mere $297.4 billion.”

It also notes that illicit outflows are “growing at an inflation-adjusted 9.4 percent per year, amounting to double global GDP growth over the same period.”

“As this report demonstrates, illicit financial flows are the most damaging economic problem plaguing the world’s developing and emerging economies,” said GFI president Raymond Baker, a longtime authority on financial crime. “These outflows – already greater than the combined sum of all FDI and ODA flowing into these countries – are sapping roughly a $1trillion per year from the world’s poor and middle-income economies.”

Fuel scarcity: TOTAL is holding Nigerians to ransom – SSS

The Department of State Services (DSS) has blamed the ongoing nationwide strike embarked upon by members of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) on oil giant, TOTAL Nig. Plc., saying that the company reneged on an agreement with the union.

DSS spokesperson Marilyn Ogar, while addressing the media yesterday on the strike, urged Nigerians associated with TOTAL’s management to compel it to end the suffering they had imposed on Nigerians by keeping the said agreement.

Ogar further disclosed that the matter was brought to the DSS office by PENGASSAN officials in November, following which the Service summoned TOTAL’s managing director Elizabeth Proust, saying the oil giant’s recalcitrance triggered the industrial action.

“The issue is the ongoing strike by NUPENG and PENGASSAN which is biting hard on all Nigerians. We want to state that in November, 2014, PENGASSAN had written the Service to make a formal complaint about the transfer of Elo Victor Ogbonda to Lagos from Port Harcourt by TOTAL after she was elected as a zonal executive of the union,” said Ogar.

“Consequently, this Service summoned the managing director of TOTAL, Elizabeth Proust, on November 5, 2014, to resolve the dispute. It was agreed that Ogbonda would be re-instated, posted back to Port Harcourt and granted leave of absence for the period she would serve as an executive of PENGASSAN.”

Ogar said that PENGASSAN later informed the DSS that TOTAL had reneged on its promise to recall Ogbonda.

“Consequently, this Service contacted TOTAL and was informed that the company will not go back on its sack order. All entreaties to the company failed, thus culminating in the current strike and the attendant fuel scarcity,” Ogar said.

Fuel scarcity continues as oil workers shun FG meeting

- Oil workers insists on meeting with President

The ongoing fuel scarcity in the country may continue as the meeting called at the instance of the supervising minister of labour and productivity, Kabiru Turaki, to broker peace and resolve the industrial action by the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) and the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) has been rescheduled for Thursday, December 18, 2014.

The development followed the inability of the aggrieved oil workers’ unions and their officials to turn up for the meeting earlier scheduled for Tuesday, December 16, at the minister’s office.

However, Kabiru Turaki was absent at the meeting, officials from the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, top directors at the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity, including the permanent secretary, Clement Iloh, were all present.

After several hours of waiting for NUPENG and PENGASSAN executives to turn up for the meeting, the permanent secretary then publicly announced the postponement of the meeting to Thursday.

He said, “This meeting was called by this ministry to trash out the issues that must have necessitated this current strike and other problems in the sector. However, this meeting has been postponed to Thursday, December 18 by 11am. We sincerely apologise for this postponement”.

As the strike enters the third day, both unions have hinged the latest strike on federal government’s inconsistent policy in carrying out turnaround maintenance of the nation’s ailing refineries, including effecting reduction in pump prices of petrol in line with the slump in global prices of crude oil.

They also accused the government of not being able to evolve new strategies to combat issues related with pipeline vandalism and crude oil theft, and the delay by the National Assembly to pass the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB).

Others are the non-implementation of the Nigeria Oil and Gas Industry Content Development Act, expected to reflect Nigerians in management positions and expatriate quota law.

Despite federal government’s self-rating of having accomplished so much in road construction, NUPENG and PENGASSAN have expressed sadness at the appalling state of access roads to refineries and oil depots’ facilities, as well as insecurity all over the country that has reportedly led to the death of their members.

NUPENG president, Igwe Achese, however, told reporters that the union shunned the meeting because “it will lead to nothing at the end of the whole exercise.”

Inside sources told our reporter that the oil workers would only attend a meeting which President Goodluck Jonathan will preside.

According to Achese, government has a penchant for organising meetings when industrial issues have gone from bad to worse but has never shown consistency in implementing resolutions that emanate from such meetings.

He said there has been series of meetings between the oil unions and the minister of petroleum resources, Diezani Allison-Madueke, to resolve these issues but such meetings failed to yield any tangible results.

He chided government for abandoning the Turnaround Maintenance (TAM) policy of the refineries, adding that their major grouse was poor supply of crude oil to service the refineries while several oil vessels with fuel products are at the seaport waiting to be discharged for sale in Nigeria.

“We cannot be party to a meeting that will ultimately lead to nothing at the end of the day. What we want to see is a situation where government makes commitment by implementing some of these demands we have raised, not series of meetings.

“It will surprise you to know that in the past eight months, we have been meeting with the minister of petroleum resources and other stakeholders in the petroleum industry, yet these meetings yielded nothing.

“You heard the ministry of petroleum resources bragging that there are over 17 oil vessels at the seaport waiting to discharge fuel, how do you explain the turnaround maintenance initiated by the government itself.

“We want to see regular supply of crude oil to the refineries so as to stop the importation of fuel from other countries which do not even have oil deposits in their soil. What is government doing about the turnaround maintenance it initiated and the Petroleum Industry Bill before the National Assembly?” he queried.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Displaced Nigerians from Boko Haram violence might not be able to vote in Presidential elections in 2015

At least 1.5 million people displaced by the Islamist insurgency in north-east Nigeria may not be able to vote in elections if the law is not changed, an electoral official has told the BBC.

Discrepancies in the law needed to be resolved in "very good time" or people could be disenfranchised, he added.

Ex-military ruler Muhammadu Buhari will challenge President Goodluck Jonathan in the February election.

Boko Haram's insurgency has mainly affected opposition strongholds.

Last year, Mr Jonathan imposed a state of emergency in the north-eastern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe in a bid to curb the insurgency.

However, Boko Haram has stepped up attacks since then and has declared an Islamic state in areas it controls.'Staggered voting'

BBC Nigeria reporter Will Ross says it is not clear whether the elections will take place at all in states under emergency rule.

But the Independent National Electoral Commission (Inec) said it was determined to ensure that the elections took place in all parts of the country.

The vote could be held on a staggered basis and areas could be secured with "proper deployment" of the security forces, Inec spokesman Nick Dazzang told BBC Focus on Africa.

Inec was distributing voter cards to displaced people, many of whom were living in camps, but discrepancies in Nigeria's Electoral Act needed to be "reconciled", he added.

It stated that people could "transfer" their registration to where they were living but it also stated that they needed to vote where they were registered, Mr Dazzang said.

"We are concerned that the way the law is structured now, unless it is amended in very good time, some of them will be disenfranchised," he told BBC Focus on Africa.

Our reporter says the election is expected to be one of the most keenly fought since the end of military rule in 1999 - and that has prompted some warnings of potential violence.


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

Aliko Dangote to invest $2 billion in oil refinery

Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest businessman, is increasing the size of his investment in an oil refinery, petrochemical and fertilizer plant by more than a fifth to $11 billion despite a looming slowdown in Africa’s biggest economy, reported the London-based Financial Times.

The project could eventually revolutionise Nigeria’s energy sector by slashing fuel imports, eliminating costly rackets associated with subsidies and crude oil swaps, and add billions of dollars in value to petroleum exports.

Mismanaged for years, Nigeria’s state-owned refineries work at a fraction of installed capacity. Therefore the country, Africa’s leading oil producer, imports most of its petrol and diesel requirements.

Dangote has deep pockets and a long record as an industrialist, having converted his trading empire into a vast conglomerate, which produces cement, sugar, flour and other basic commodities and is estimated to be worth more than $22 billion.

Speaking to the Financial Times at his headquarters in Lagos, he said the refinery and petrochemicals project should be completed by the end of 2017 and thereafter have a lifespan of decades.

He is planning an additional $2 billion of investment, he said, on top of the $9bn he announced just over a year ago, to double production of polypropylene and to add production of polyethylene, two raw materials used to make plastics.

Nigeria’s economy has diversified over the past 15 years thanks to the rapid growth of services. But it still depends on oil for more than 90 per cent of export earnings, and 70 per cent of state revenues.

The country has been hit hard by the drop in oil prices, with the central bank haemorrhaging foreign reserves before devaluing the official exchange rate for the naira by eight per cent last month.

Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the finance and economy minister, has forecast a percentage point slowdown in growth to below six per cent.

But the economic turmoil in Nigeria has in no way undermined the case for the investment, said Dangote. “Nigeria needs it and Africa needs it.”

He said his company, the Dangote Group, had already begun laying foundations outside Lagos, the commercial capital, and had raised nearly two-thirds of the initial foreign currency requirement needed before the naira began to slide on weaker world oil prices.

“The devaluation will increase our dollar costs. But most people in the oil business have slowed down or suspended projects. So I think we will get very good deals in terms of building. That will compensate,” he said.

He acknowledged that the broader economic impact of the falling oil price was a concern. “But it may also be a blessing in disguise because Nigeria will have to work harder to diversify the economy, especially when it comes to foreign exchange earnings,” he said.

“We as a group had seen this coming,” he said, adding that by the time the plant, which is partly being financed with a loan from the central bank, is up and running, “we won’t require a single dollar from the Central Bank of Nigeria. . . . With our export-orientated goods including cement, fertiliser and petrochemicals, we will be earning as much as $9 billion annually.”

Dangote drew inspiration for the project from India’s Ambani family, whose Reliance Industries faced down sceptics to build the largest refinery in the world at Jamnagar in the late 1990s, giving it a dominant position in the Indian market.

“We won’t make our money back for five to six years. If I deploy that capital in buying blocks to sell oil even with the falling oil price, we could recover the money in three to four years. So the real beneficiary is the government,” Dangote said.

This Day

Related story: Video - Aljazeera speaks with Africa's richest man Aliko Dangote

Monday, December 15, 2014

Former Minister of Education Dr. Oby Ezekwesili suggests Nigerian government no longer commited in rescuing kidnapped schoolgirls

The #BringBackOurGirls group yesterday, lamented the neglect of the Chibok girls by the federal government, even as the whole attention has been moved to the issue of 2015 elections.

Speaking at the daily sit-out of the group yesterday, one of its leaders and the former minister of education, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili said it has become clearer to the people that the government has no plan to bring back the girls after eight months of their abduction.

Ezekwesili further wondered why up until now, nobody has any concrete information as to where the girls are or what is being done to rescue them and other people that have been abducted or stop insurgency.

The BBOG also queried what the Ministry of Youth Development, headed by Boni Haruna is doing to educate the youths of the North against joining insurgency even as they are being neglected, terrorised and even killed by the insurgents.

"For the youths of the Northeast, particularly the Chibok girls, their various rights have been despicably and traumatically violated without adequate relief in sight. The Ministry of Youths has not firmly intervened to ensure that schools there are adquately secured.

"The BBOG is alarmed at the extent to which the state has failed these youths. It is also disheartening to note that the ministry has essentially not been seen to be proactive in the going situation. It has not also offered any worthwhile support for the growing number of displaced youths grappling for survival in displaced persons camps.

"We are extremely concerned too that the ministry whose mandate includes inculcating in the youth human rights values, social justice, equity, fairness and gender equality; has shown no discernable concern about the fate of the abducted 219 Chibok girls, even as the universally recognised season of goodwill approaches," the group explained.

The group also warned that Nigeria is becoming divided into two nations. The people in the Northeast, who are really suffering the insurgency and the other group of Nigerians, who are living their lives and not bothered about what is happening in the Northeast; and that this trend is not good for the country.


Related stories: 11 parents of some of the kidnapped schoolgirls now dead

Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan finally meets with parents of kidnapped schoolgirls

Oil Workers go on Strike in Nigeria

Nigeria's two main oil workers' unions have begun a nationwide strike, threatening to hurt the output of Africa's largest oil producer.

BBC reporters say long queues have formed at many petrol stations.

The unions, Pengassan and Nupeng, said the strike would continue until the government addressed its concerns.

These include the adoption of the delayed Petroleum Industry Bill, aimed at overhauling the sector and maintenance work on oil refineries.

The unions frequently go on strike or threaten to strike.

This time, the two unions were initially demanding the reinstatement of representatives who had been dismissed by oil companies, but now their list of complaints has grown.

They are now protesting that the government has allowed Nigeria's oil refineries to fall into disrepair and that the poor state of the country's roads is hindering the transport of oil.

They are also asking for the price of petrol to be reduced and oil theft to be stopped.

"We've commenced the strike. It will affect oil production, since all operations are on strike," Pengassan chief Babatunde Oke told Reuters.

However, an oil executive said the strike was not expected to affect output, because it would require the co-operation of large numbers of workers at production sites who would be unwilling to go that far.

"It's very difficult to shut them down, and once they do, it would take them a week to get them back up. They never do it. That's the last thing anyone wants," an oil executive told Reuters.

The BBC's Will Ross in Lagos said most of the unions' demands seemed "unrealistic, especially with an election looming".

"The refineries are not suddenly going to be fixed because of this strike. Some oil industry watchers suggest the unions are simply trying to force the government to pay them off and get a hefty Christmas present," he added.

A strike in September had little impact on oil production.

Many Nigerians, whether Christian or Muslim, travel home over the Christmas and New Year holidays and so they are stocking up on fuel now, in case of shortages in the next couple of weeks, analysts say.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Bomb blast in Jos, Nigeria leaves dozens dead

A twin bomb attack has taken place in a busy area of the Nigerian city of Jos, killing at least 30 people, witnesses say.

The two bombs exploded in quick succession, close to the scene of a major bombing in May.

The city of Jos has a mixed population of Muslims and Christians, and in recent years suspected Boko Haram militants have attacked churches there.

The Islamist militant group frequently carries out suicide attacks in Nigeria.

There has been no claim of responsibility for Thursday's explosions in Jos.

The blasts targeted the city's commercial district, near the Terminus bus station.

Witnesses told the Associated Press news agency that the first explosion took place at an outdoor food stand. The second blast hit a marketplace.

Separately, police in Nigeria's second-largest city, Kano, say they have arrested a 13-year-old girl wearing a suicide belt.

On Wednesday, at least four people were reported killed and seven hurt in attacks by two female suicide bombers in Kano.

And last month, more than 100 people died in a gun and bomb attack during prayers at one of the biggest mosques in the city.

Boko Haram militants are suspected of being behind the attacks.

Some 2,000 people have died in violence blamed on the Islamist militants this year.

The group has taken over several towns and villages in the north-east of the country, declaring the area under its control to be a caliphate.

Thousands of people have died and more than a million have been forced from their homes in the group's five-year insurgency.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Bomb explosion near market in Kano, Nigeria

At least one bomb has exploded near a market in the northern Nigerian city of Kano, officials and residents say.

A blast hit a vehicle loading area at the Kantin Kwari textile market. Boko Haram militants are suspected of carrying out the attack.

Eyewitnesses said the market was hit by two blasts. At least seven people died and 30 were hurt, hospital sources say.

Last month more than 100 people died in a gun and bomb attack during prayers at one of the biggest mosques in Kano.

Some 2,000 people have been killed in attacks blamed on Boko Haram Islamist militants so far this year.

Two female suicide bombers were responsible for Wednesday's attack, a senior police official told Reuters news agency.

Police spokesman Musa Magaji Majia told reporters that officers were heading to the scene of the blast.

Trader Nura Sadiq told AFP news agency: "I heard a huge sound coming from the back of my shop along Unity Road. I just closed the shop and tried to leave because it's not safe."

Kantin Kwari is the biggest textile market in Kano, where people from neighbouring states and other parts of the country come for transactions, the BBC's Habiba Adamu reports from the capital Abuja.

The market is always jam-packed with people, our correspondent adds.

On 28 November, more than 100 people were killed in an attack on the Central Mosque in Kano.

No group said it had carried out the attack but officials said it bore the hallmarks of Boko Haram.

The Sunni Islamist group has been waging an insurgency in Nigeria since 2009.


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

6 Nigerians make Forbes list of youngest power women in Africa

Every year since 2011, Forbes has enlisted readers’ help to identify 20 young, extraordinary and inspiring African women, aged 45 and under, who are making the most dramatic impact in individual African countries in the world of politics, business, technology, policy, diplomacy and media for the annual tally of the 20 Youngest Power Women In Africa. Now in its 4th year, the list celebrates 20 influential female leaders, groundbreakers and ceiling crashers who are transforming the continent from their communities.

Here are the Nigerians who made the 20 Youngest Power Women in Africa: the continent’s emerging power brokers, the Amazons to watch, and the custodians of tomorrow.

Ada Osakwe, Nigerian, Adviser to the Minister Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Nigeria

Nigeria’s agricultural sector has attracted more than $4 billion in private sector investment commitments over the last year, and Ada Osakwe is an integral reason why. Osakwe, 34, currently serves as the Senior Investment Adviser to Nigerian Minister of Agriculture, Akinwunmi Adesina. She works directly with the minister, advising him on his policies regarding private sector investments into the food and agriculture sector. Osakwe also interacts with current and prospective agribusiness investors and champions innovative approaches to channel sustainable private sector engagements in the sector. Previously, she served as Vice President of Kuramo Capital, a New York-based investment management firm. She also worked in various capacities at the African Development Bank.

Amy Jadesimi, Nigerian, Managing Director, LADOL

The 39-year-old Nigerian businesswoman is the Managing Director of the Lagos Deep Offshore Logistics Base (LADOL), Nigeria’s only indigenous-owned deep offshore logistics base. Jadesimi earned a BA in physiological sciences at Oxford University, and then went on to work for the investment banking division of Goldman Sachs in London. She subsequently attended Stanford Business School, where she earned her MBA, and returned to Nigeria to set up a financial consultancy outfit before joining LADOL (a company founded by her father) as Managing Director. Since it was founded in 2001, LADOL has turned a former industrial wasteland into a $500 million industrial village and specialised port facility, providing an environment in which high value operations, such as oil and gas drilling and production support, ship building and repairs, specialised manufacturing and engineering can take place 24/7 in a secure Free Zone. The second phase of the LADOL development is currently ongoing and it includes Nigeria’s single largest local content development – a $300 million investment in West Africa’s largest vessel fabrication and integration yards. LADOL Free Zone was created to make Nigeria the hub for West African maritime and oil and gas activities through long-term investment in world class facilities and services. Jadesimi is spearheading this vision.

Rimini Makama, Nigerian, Director, Africa Practice

Rimini Makama, 34, is the Communications Director at Africa Practice, Africa’s foremost strategy and communications consultancy. Over the last half a decade, Makama has successfully introduced some of the largest international institutions on the continent and beyond into the Nigerian market, simultaneously helping to strategically position them as key players in their industry and encouraging foreign investment in the country. Some of her clients include BlackBerry, Union Bank, Renaissance Capital, Bloomberg, Western Union, World Economic Forum Africa, The Africa Union and Paypal. Rimini has a background in law and after obtaining a BL from the Nigerian Law School and an LLM in International Law and World Order. Prior to a career in communications, she joined the Office of Legal Affairs at the International Criminal Police Organisation (INTERPOL) in Lyon, France where she worked as a lawyer primarily reviewing notices and individual requests safeguarding international security and safety across borders. She also drafted cooperation agreements among the 190 member countries.

Afua Osei (Ghanaian and Yasmin Belo-Osagie (Nigerian), Co-Founders, She leads Africa

Yasmin Belo-Osagie and Afua Osei, both 27, are co-founders of She Leads Africa, a platform that provides the most talented female entrepreneurs across the continent with access to the knowledge, networks and financing needed to build and scale strong businesses. Their goal is to jumpstart female entrepreneurs from SMEs to pan-African industry leaders, and they are certainly on the way. Within less than a year, and while juggling full-time positions at McKinsey & Company, Yasmin and Afua successfully launched an entrepreneurship showcase competition which drew close to 400 applications from 27 countries and multiple industries. To date, the two have recruited nearly 1,000 women-led start-ups into their network; their goal is to engage at least 10,000 female entrepreneurs in 2015. She Leads Africa is set to become a staple of the African investment community with VC funds already seeking access to its database of female entrepreneurs. It has the potential to become the 500 Startups of Africa. Its leaders are two young women who are positioned to significantly increase the volume and impact of female entrepreneurs.

Toyosi Akerele-Ogunsiji, Nigerian, Social entrepreneur

Ogunsiji, 31, is the Founder of RISE NETWORKS, a Nigeria-based private and public sector funded youth interest social enterprise with a primary focus on wholesome youth and education development. The organisation focuses on creating intellectual development and capacity building programmes for young Nigerians between 16 and 30 and receives generous support from several state governments and blue-chip companies. Ogunsiji is an alumnus of the United States government’s International Visitor Leadership Program.

Adiat Disu, Nigerian, Founder, African Fashion Week

Adiat Disu, 27, is an international publicist and founder of Adirée, a New York-based communications and brand strategy company. In 2009, Adirée launched the annual Africa Fashion Week in New York, one of the most popular international African-focused fashion events, in an effort to place structure around Africa’s fashion industry and promote international economic partnerships while promoting brands from Africa on a global scale. It has been a resounding success. Disu and Adirée are also working on hosting other international African Fashion Weeks in other fashion capitals of the world including Paris, Milan, London and Tokyo.

Other women from the African continent who made the list are:

•Fatima-Zahra Mansouri, Moroccan, Mayor of Marrakech

•Naisula Lesuuda, Senator, Kenya

•Jamila Abass, Linda Kwamboka, and Susan Oguya, Kenyan, Co-founders, MFarm

•Tabetha Kanengoni Malinga, Zimbabwean, Deputy Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture

•Amira Elmissiry, Zimbabwean, Special Assistant to the President of the African Development Bank

•Phumzile Van Damme, South African, Member Of Parliament

•Tebogo Mashego, South African, Entrepreneur

•Naadiya Moosajee, South African, Co-founder, Women In Engineering

•Irene Koki Mutungi, Kenyan, Pilot

•Yvonne Khamati, Kenyan, Deputy Head of Mission at Kenya Embassy, Somalia

•Kamayirese Germaine, Rwandese, State Minister for Energy and Water, Rwanda


Related stories: Video - More women taking the lead in Nigeria's oil sector

Nigeria petroleum Minister appointed OPEC President

Video - Dependency on oil could be trouble for Nigeria

With its new found status, the country's policies are under severe testing. The economy just lost about 40 billion dollars, thanks to devaluation of the naira, a policy decision that followed severe foreign exchange losses as the country tried to protect its currency from depreciation as a result of falling oil revenue.

Related story: Nigeria cuts oil price benchmark due to falling global oil prices

108 out 275 escaped prisoners recaptured in Nigeria

The Nigerian Prisons Service (NPS) has recaptured 108 inmates out of 275 prisoners that escaped from the Medium Security Prison in Minna, Niger State on last Saturday.

The new Controller-General of Prisons (CGP), Dr. Peter Ekpendu, disclosed this on Monday in a statement signed by the Public Relations Officer (PRO), NPS, Mr. Ope Fatinikun.

According to Ekpendu, the inmates were recaptured through the combined efforts of the military, security and intelligence agencies and cooperation of the surrounding communities.

He said a search party comprising the Nigerian Army, Directorate of State Security (DSS), police and prisons are still conducting investigation and search around the neighbouring states, adding that the incidence is not a terrorist attack but an attempted jailbreak.

The CGP appealed to communities and neighbouring states of Kwara, Kaduna, Kebbi and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to be vigilant and watch out for any suspicious movement around and report such person(s) to the nearest police stations or prisons formations.

Meanwhile, he noted that a total of 166 inmates are still at large.
“The total number of inmates in the prisons custody as at today is 157, which includes 49 inmates that did not escape,” he said.

This Day

Related story: More than 200 prisoners escape in mass prison jailbreak in Nigeria

Monday, December 8, 2014

Boko Haram cameraman arrested

The Nigerian military on Monday said it arrested a terrorist photographer in a community in Adamawa state.

The man, who was arrested alongside other terrorists, specialises in taking photographs and shooting videos of the terrorists’ activities in the North Eastern part of Nigeria.

They were arrested during a patrol, surveillance and raid operations to track fleeing terrorists in Adamawa environs.

The spokesperson for the Defence Headquarters, Chris Olukolade, said four of the terrorists, who tried to escape in an SUV jeep with a digital camera and weapons have been taken into custody.

As the Nigerian troops continue to sustain their offensive against terrorists in North-Eastern Nigeria, more arrests are being made and terrorists are being killed, officials said.

Mr. Olukolade said the arrested terrorists are helping ongoing investigations in one of the military barracks in the country.

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

Former Super Eagle Sunday Oliseh fears for the future of Nigerian football

Former Nigeria captain Sunday Oliseh believes the glory days of the country's national team will not return unless they "get their house in order".

Nigeria have been on a downward spiral in the past year and failed to qualify for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations.

Oliseh told BBC Sport: "We have got technical problems and administrative problems - it is too much for one nation, even if you are Nigeria.

"At the moment it is bleak. We need to face up to the job and get organised."

Oliseh knows what it takes to achieve success, having been part of the Nigeria squad that won the Africa Cup of Nations in 1994 and the Olympic gold medal two years later.

He also played at the World Cup in 1994 and 1998, helping the Super Eagles to the last-16 at both tournaments and in the latter he scored a memorable winner as Nigeria shocked Spain 3-2 in a group match.

Those teams were filled with players referred to as the "golden generation" of Nigerian football; among them were Jay-Jay Okocha, Nwankwo Kanu and Finidi George.

But Oliseh cannot see where the next generation is going to come from.

"During the 1990s a lot of the players were products of the Nigerian league. Those who were playing in Europe had only left two or three years before. Myself, I had moved to Europe only four years before the 1994 World Cup.

"It was not as if it was Europe that made us - the Nigerian league produced us;, it was so competitive then, it was viable and credible.

"The national team does not create players - you select your best players from your clubs to play in the national team.

"But now our attention is more focused on the national team and we have neglected the domestic league, that is the major problem in Nigerian football.

"If we cannot get the league in order we will never have another golden generation."

The former Ajax and Juventus midfielder, who played 63 times for his country, is also concerned about the issues off the field.

Nigeria's Football Federation is in disarray because of in-fighting over the presidency - ongoing battles that have led Fifa to ban the team for governmental interference in football matters.

In decline

And there has been instability in management, with coach Stephen Keshi removed from his position only to be re-appointed following intervention by President Goodluck Jonathan before being released again after his side were eliminated from Nations Cup qualifying.

It was only in 2013 that Keshi led Nigeria to the Nations Cup title in South Africa and he also steered the team to the last-16 at this summer's World Cup in Brazil.

Nigeria's fall since then has been rapid. And Oliseh believes there needs to be consistency as well as clear boundaries over roles.

"To fix it we have to get our house in order," he said. "And it is not too far fetched, the solution to this. For example, if we have a Football Federation president who is doing well, let's leave him in the job.

"It is great that Nigerian are passionate about football, that they have opinions like a coach. But in reality, everybody thinks they know football - not because they play football but because they know football. It doesn't work like that.

"We need to let people who are technicians do the technical work. If you are going to talk about tactics or physical, let that be somebody who has that expertise."


Related story: Nigeria Super Eagles can't land kit sponsors after failure to qualify for AFCON 2015

'Phenomenal' medical staff in Nigeria cut Ebola fatality rate in half

When the World Health Organization declared Nigeria officially Ebola-free in October, most of the fanfare centred on how Africa’s most populous country had managed to keep the virus from spreading.

But there was another, less heralded aspect of Nigeria’s success story that a Canadian doctor and her colleagues wanted to explore in more depth: How had 12 of Nigeria’s 20 Ebola patients beaten the virus?

“The hospitals in Nigeria weren’t maybe to the standards of a Western hospital in terms of equipment, but the staff were phenomenal. They managed to get a very high survival rate,” said Eilish Cleary, a New Brunswick chief medical officer of health who travelled to Nigeria to provide epidemiological support to the World Health Organization during the outbreak. “Case fatality rate for Ebola can be up to 70 to 90 per cent. In Nigeria, it was 40 per cent.”

Dr. Cleary conducted detailed, videotaped interviews with six of the Nigerian patients to learn more about their treatment and recovery. The key to their survival seemed to be guzzling a stunning amount of water with oral rehydration solution [ORS] to fend off the cascade of internal failures typically caused by the virus.

Some of the survivors drank as much as five or six litres of ORS a day, an impressive feat considering Ebola can cause persistent vomiting and leave patients too weak to lift a bottle to their lips.

Only one of the six interviewed patients received intravenous fluids, another intervention that has been shown to increase the odds of survival, but which is not always available at poorly resourced treatment centres in West Africa where patients often arrive too late in the course of the disease for ORS to be effective.

“I was really encouraged to drink,” nurse Tochi Anunobi, one of the survivors, told Dr. Cleary in an interview shared with The Globe and Mail. “I was even drinking if I was sleeping. When I wake up to urinate, I will drink.”

Although the sample size is small, Nigeria’s experience is part of a larger body of treatment evidence that is growing – sadly – because of the sheer volume of cases and starkly varied health-care settings in which patients have been treated during the worst Ebola outbreak in history, which has killed more than 6,200 mostly West Africans, according to the WHO’s most recent official figures.

This outbreak marks the first time Ebola has been tackled outside of poor, remote pockets of Africa, and the results have shown the wider world that Ebola need not be a death sentence.

Of at least 22 Ebola patients cared for in the United States and Europe so far, five have died, a death rate of just 23 per cent. (Some of the surviving patients are, however, still in treatment, including an Italian doctor who was airlifted out of Sierra Leone late last month.)

Some of those patients received experimental therapies, and all received intensive care that is not available on a wide scale in Africa.

But the irony, experts say, is that the Western cases appear to reinforce what veterans of past Ebola outbreaks already knew about what works and what does not in helping patients defeat the virus.

The keys are still intervening as soon as possible after symptoms start, keeping patients hydrated, and keeping electrolytes in balance, all basic treatments that could be delivered in West Africa with adequate staff.

“The feedback I get from them [doctors in the West] is their big intervention is the delivery of IV crystalloid and management of the electrolytes,” said Armand Sprecher, a hemorhaggic fever specialist withMédecins sans frontières (Doctors Without Borders.) “There’s been a little bit of dialysis, a little bit of ventilator therapy … things we’re not able to deliver in the field [in West Africa] right now. None of them have said that that makes a big difference.”

Rob Fowler, a critical care physician at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto who has worked for the WHO in West Africa during the outbreak, echoed that.

“For the most part,” he said, “most patients are able to be adequately treated with IV fluids and commonly available medications. If we can prevent the complications that can often arise because of the inability to treat supportively, then I think most patients would not get critically ill and the survival rate, I think, would be much higher.”

A commentary in The Lancet last week made that point more sharply. “It is often stated that there are no proven therapies for Ebola virus disease but that potential treatments, including blood products, immune therapies, and antiviral drugs, are being evaluated. This view is inaccurate,” the authors wrote, before urging that clinical trials be conducted in the field to better determine what regimen of fluid and electrolyte replacement saves the most lives.

The trick for doctors and relief agencies has been figuring out how best to deliver that supportive care in the field, where conditions are far from ideal.

In a paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine last month, Dr. Sprecher and his colleagues described how difficult it was to deliver basic supportive care at Liberia’s largest treatment centre, which saw more than 700 moderate to severely sick patients between Aug. 23 and Oct. 4.

Responsible for 30 to 50 patients each, physicians confined to personal protective equipment in stifling temperatures could devote just one to two minutes per patient to “evaluate needs and establish a care plan.”

The sick had to be divided into three categories: Patients with organ failure who could not be saved; patients with low blood volume who were not in shock but could no longer care for themselves; and patients with low blood volume who were not in shock and could still care themselves.

The outlook was brightest for the last group, whose members had a good shot at recovery if they took anti-nausea and anti-diarrheal medications and, like the Nigerian patients, drank four to five litres of oral electrolyte solutions per day, ideally beginning the moment fever set in.

Dr. Sprecher said MSF’s treatment centres are already achieving a case fatality rate of roughly 50 per cent; Dr. Fowler said the WHO’s more recent internal figures show the overall case fatality of 70 per cent released earlier in this outbreak is beginning to come down as well.

“Simple, but rigorous supportive measures have a disproportionate impact on disease if you can apply them early enough,” said Simon Mardel, a British relief physician who helped arrange Dr. Cleary’s interviews with the Nigerian survivors.

“When we say drink ORS, I don’t mean, did they have some ORS that day? What quantity did they get down? If they just drank a cupful, a few cups, I’m sorry, that’s not treatment.”

The WHO’s guidelines on this are unsparing. Ebola patients need to drink four to five litres of ORS a day or, by day five of the illness, it will be too late to drink – they’ll require IV support to keep their organs from collapsing.

Drinking so much fluid while stricken with Ebola was extraordinarily difficult, the survivors told Dr. Cleary.

She marvelled at their will to live.

“I was careful to try not to prompt any of the responses and the two things that amazed me [were] the fact that all of them identified for us – they brought it up themselves – the determination to survive,” she said. “They recognized that they could survive and they would … the second thing was the rehydration and how it was hard to take it. But they knew they had to take it.”

The Globe and Mail

More than 200 prisoners escape in mass prison jailbreak in Nigeria

Armed men have freed more than 200 prisoners from a jail in central Nigeria, in the third mass prison break in the country since November, police said.

More than 200 inmates were freed in the attack in Tunga, 250km northwest of the capital Abuja. At least 10 were recaptured by Sunday morning, Deputy Superintendent Ibrahim Gambari told the Associated Press news agency.

Saturday's incident was the third of its kind in the past two months in Nigeria, where jailbreaks are frequent and police only find a fraction of those who escape.

More than 300 inmates broke out of a prison bombed by gunmen in southwest Ekiti state this month and 144 escaped from south-central Kogi state on November 3 when gunmen bombed a prison wall.

Blame for many of the attacks has been levelled at Boko Haram. It is not known how many hundreds of Boko Haram suspects are held in Nigerian jails.

Herman Cohen, former US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, told Al Jazeera it was what unlikely Boko Haram were behind the raid, and since it was outside of the groups geographical area of operations, it was most likely orchestrated by corrupt officials and involved pay-offs.

"It looks like a standard prison break, organised from within," Cohen said.

"Ever since the civilian government came to power in 1999, the military and police have been neglected, with salaries not being paid... there needs to be a re-organisation otherwise the security situation will continue to deteriorate," he added.

Only 18,042 of 56,785 inmates have been convicted of a crime, according to statistics dated June 30 and posted on the website of the Nigeria Prisons Service.

Officials have said how appalled they are about conditions in the jails, where inmates often sleep on cement floors without mattresses or bedding, food is in short supply and most medical services are non-existent.

The vast majority of people held in Nigerian jails are awaiting trial, some of them for many years, even though it is illegal to hold someone for more than 48 hours without bringing charges or presenting them to a magistrate.


Related story: More than 2,000 prisoners have escaped over the past five years in Nigeria

Friday, December 5, 2014

Nigeria cuts oil price benchmark due to falling global oil prices

The Nigerian naira weakened slightly on Thursday, staying below the central bank's new target band, as the government slashed the oil price assumed in its 2015 budget for the second time in a month.

The naira is under pressure as falling global oil prices have depressed Nigeria's foreign reserves and the central bank is struggling to keep the currency in a new target band set last week when it devalued the currency by 8 percent to protect its reserves.

On Thursday, the finance ministry said it had cut its oil price forecast on which its 2015 budget is based by 11 percent to $65 a barrel from $73, in light of lower world oil prices.

The naira closed at 180.10 naira to the dollar, staying outside the new target range of 160-176 naira to the dollar, and weakening slightly from 179.90 at Wednesday's close.

Dealers said trade was calmer on Thursday after the central bank intervened three times on Wednesday to lift the currency nearer to the target band. For the first time since the devaluation on Tuesday last week, the central bank did not intervene on Thursday to support the naira, but dealers said that did not necessarily mean that pressure on the currency was easing.

Nigeria, Africa's top oil producer, counts on oil sales for 95 percent of its foreign reserves, which fell to $36.8 billion by Nov. 28 from $44.6 billion a year earlier, according to latest central bank data.

The cut in the government's oil benchmark was the second in a month, from an original estimate of $78 a barrel. Brent crude continued to fall on world markets, slipping below $69 a barrel on Thursday.

A much lower oil price will make it harder for Nigeria's government to meet its spending plans next year, stretching its already shaky finances.

Other oil exporting countries including Russia and Mexico have also said they expect oil prices to be lower next year than assumed in their budgets, which may be revised.

For Nigeria, fiscal problems risk reigniting inflation, which has been relatively stable at around 8 percent, and are a headache for President Goodluck Jonathan as he seeks a second term in a presidential election in February.

Nigeria depends on oil for around 75-80 percent of government revenues and its finances have been hammered by a more than 30 percent drop in oil prices since June.

Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has said Nigeria still has funds to pay salaries and keep debt obligations, but with crude likely to fall, the government would increase taxes on luxury items and ban non-essential government travel to cut expenditure.

Analysts, however, said Nigeria's new oil price benchmark of $65 a barrel was workable. A Reuters poll forecasts Brent will average $82.50 a barrel in 2015.

"It ($65) is definitely more realistic," said Bismarck Rewane, CEO of Lagos-based consultancy Financial Derivatives, adding that at about $12 lower than the actual "gives them more headroom."

"But the next question is: what are you going to give up, from a long list of expenditure items, especially in the run up to the election? That's where the real trick will be."

The allure of Africa's biggest economy to foreign investors has been growing, especially for buyers of its attractively priced debt, but they worry about its tendency to squander its oil windfall in bloated government spending and patronage.

Nigeria's oil money is distributed between three tiers of government -- local, state and federal. The federal budget usually assumes a conservative benchmark price, so money over and above that is deposited into an oil savings account.

Okonjo-Iweala has sought to keep the benchmark low and accumulate savings, but the Excess Crude Account (ECA) has nonetheless declined by billions of dollars to around $4 billion over the past two years even while oil prices were at record highs, partly because of distributions to powerful governors.


Thursday, December 4, 2014

Nigeria plans to launch its own manufactured satelite by 2018

Nigeria announced yesterday that it would in the year 2018 launch a satellite manufactured in Nigeria into space.

Though details of the project are not yet very clear, Minister of Science, Dr. Abdu Bulama, said at a ministerial briefing in Abuja yesterday that the National Space Research and Development would facilitate the building and launching of the made in Nigeria satellite.

He said: "They (NASRDA) should be able to meet the target of 2018 to produce a Nigerian satellite."

Meanwhile, government said it had N171.85bn in the past five years through the scrutiny of technology transfer agreements entered into between organisations in Nigeria and foreign entities.

The Minister said the feat was recorded through the National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP).

He highlighted how NOTAP had been scrutinising applications for technology acquisition from operators in the Nigerian economy, adding that the exercise had saved the country N171.85bn in the past five years.

His words: "The intervention of NOTAP has led to financial savings for the country, which would have been unremitted due to over invoicing of technology transfer fees.

"Since the inception of NOTAP, it has made a financial savings in billions of naira, due to its intervention in the process of evaluation and registration of technology transfer agreements."

The Minister spoke on how the ministry was now focusing attention on enhancing agricultural raw materials through a number of activities:

"The Raw Material Research and Development Council procured 1.6 and 2.0 tonnes of Samcot, 11 and 13 varieties of cotton respectively from the Institute of Agricultural Research, ABU, Zaria and distributed them to members of the National Cotton Association of Nigeria in six States including Oyo, Ondo, Ekiti, Osun and Edo States," he stressed.

He went on: "This is targeted at increasing cotton yield to feed the textile industry that is almost comatose due to insufficiency of raw materials or reliance on imported cotton resulting in undue competition.

"The Oyo State Sugarcane Farmers Union Limited was provided with 60 tonnes of sugarcane seeds for their sugarcane farm clusters.

"These programmes are projected to create 20,000 jobs along the agricultural and industrial manufacturing value chain over a period of 5 years."

He added that improved oil palm seedlings for one hectare of land expected to have shorter maturity period and increase the oil yield were through RMRDC procured for AICO Projects Limited.

President Goodluck Jonathan had last year launched the National Space Council with a charge to design a made in Nigeria satellite.

Members of the Council include the President as Chairman, the Vice President, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Attorney General/Minister of Justice, Minister of Science & Technology, Minister of Communication Technology, Minister of Defence, Minister of National Planning, Minister of Education, Minister of Interior, National Security Adviser, Director General, NASRDA and Secretary to Council, Prof. V.O.S Olunloyo, Prof. Francisca Okeke and Prof. E.D. Mishelia.

Jonathan had charged the National Space Research and Development Agency to develop the capacity to design a made in Nigeria Satellite and launch the satellite from Nigerian soil in the very near future.

The National Space Council is the highest policy making body for space science and technology development in the country.


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Nigeria Super Eagles can't land kit sponsors after failure to qualify for AFCON 2015

The Super Eagles failure to qualify for the AFCON 2015 tournament in Equatorial Guinea is beginning to take its toll on the country as kits manufacturing companies are no longer interested in doing business with the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF).

Daily Sunsports gathered that the NFF is finding it difficult getting a new kits manufacturing company to take over from Adidas that has since signalled its desire to pull out of her present deal with the soccer federation.

An impeccable source at the Marketing department of the football federation disclosed yesterday that the Super Eagles failure to land in Equatorial Guinea has spoilt the marketing fun of NFF. Our source said the NFF may have no option than to look in the direction of China to get the national teams kitted if any of the reputable sports wear manufacturing outfits fail to play ball. He stressed that the NFF will face what he called “kitting crisis” if no deal is reached before the first quarter of next year.

He berated Super Eagles players and their handlers for not respecting the present deal with Adidas, a situation which he noted was the main reason Adidas opted not to renew the contract. His words: “Adidas has been one of our best kit suppliers but the Super Eagles players and officials treated the contract with impunity during the World Cup. The most annoying aspect of the issue is that the rival company which they used to spite Adidas eventually rejected us now that we have approached them for a new deal.”

“As we speak, the NFF is already in discussion with a Chinese kit company because the rate at which we are going, we may have no option than to go to China to get a life line.”

The Sun

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1.6 million people displaced by Boko Haram in Nigeria

After the Nigerian government soldiers fled and the Islamic insurgents arrived in his village with guns blazing, Peter Fabian ran away along with dozens of other villagers.

"Our homes have been burned, our churches," Fabian said. "Many of our brothers have been killed."

Arriving in a camp here with all his worldly possessions reduced to everything he could carry, Fabian has joined the ranks of 1.6 million other Nigerians who have abandoned their homes amid attacks by Boko Haram. The massive displacement is creating a humanitarian crisis in Africa's most populous nation.

"After Boko Haram pursued the soldiers from our village, they came after us too," Fabian recalled of the attack on Warabe, in the Gwoza mountain area of northeastern Nigeria. He and other villagers trekked across the border to Cameroon, where they stayed about one month. After living on the streets there, they hiked for two days back to Nigeria but did not dare to return to their homes.

Fabian and several other travelers, all carrying their belongings on their heads, walked into the Damare camp as Associated Press journalists were visiting. Thousands of people are staying in fields, construction sites and other improvised settlements in Yola, the capital of Adamawa state in eastern Nigeria.

The army of displaced Nigerians has been left largely to fend for itself to find shelter, food and water, according to the European Union, which last week pledged 5 million euros ($6.2 million) in assistance. The people are flocking to relief centers across the country's northeast, but find overcrowded facilities and a shortage of supplies.

"They are exhausted and vulnerable. We must find ways to help and protect them," said Christos Stylianides, the EU commissioner for humanitarian aid, who put the number of displaced Nigerians at 1.6 million.

He urged national and international organizations to join forces and address "this displacement crisis of a growing magnitude."

Nearly 10,000 people, with gloomy faces, maimed fathers and tired mothers, are now at the Damare camp amid a lack of toilets.

Sylvanus Papka, a top health official, said such a locale is a breeding ground for diseases.

Papka said outbreaks of diarrhea and measles are now under control thanks to a health clinic, but that the lack of sanitation poses a major challenge. The increasing influx of displaced people worsens an already fragile situation.

Some had fled their homes months ago, but it is dangerous to return even if the army wrests control of towns from the Islamic insurgents. Towns like Chibok, where Boko Haram abducted more than 200 schoolgirls in April and struck again in November, aren't safe.

Meanwhile, more refugees are headed to Yola, including from Mubi, a town in Adamawa state that has been on the front lines.

"There are more than 10,000 displaced people from Mubi who are currently trapped in Cameroon republic and we are expecting them at any time in the camp," Papka said.

Huffington Post

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

Video - Muslim leaders condemn Nigerian government

There's been plenty more fall-out from Friday's mosque attack in Nigeria. The country's top Islamic body is calling on Nigerian Muslims to defend themselves. The Jama'atu Nasri Islam is also accusing authorities of failing to protect civilians from Boko Haram. Meanwhile, volunteers have been helping to clean up following the attack that killed more than a hundred worshippers. 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Children victims of Boko Haram

Nigerian officials say some 1.5 million people have been displaced by Boko Haram's violence.In Adamawa, one of the three states most affected, a push by the radical group to seize territory over the past three months.

Nigeria cancels U.S. military training

The animosity between the Nigerian government and its American counterpart has deepened with the Nigerian government cancelling a plan to have the United States military train a battalion of the Nigerian army to confront the extremist Boko Haram sect.

Nigerian officials did not provide reasons for the decision Monday, but the United States government said it regretted the move.

“At the request of the Nigerian government, the United States will discontinue its training of a Nigerian Army battalion,” the U.S. government, through its embassy in Abuja, said in a statement.

Relations between the two countries have been at a record low with Nigeria accusing the United States of not providing sufficient support for its fight against Boko Haram.

After months of informal allegations, the Nigerian Ambassador to the U.S. Ade Adefuye, had in November openly accused the United States of refusing to sell arms and equipment to Nigeria to help defeat Boko Haram.

In its response, the American government said it has supported Nigeria to the extent its law permits, and accused the Nigerian security forces of human rights violations.

The U.S. said its laws disallow sales of arms to countries with such human rights record.

Even so, the American government said it has provided some military equipment to Nigeria.

The two countries are not also relating well economically after the U.S. fully suspended buying Nigerian crude oil in July, a decision that helped plunge Nigeria into one of its most severe financial crises as oil price falls to a seven-year low.

It is not clear whether the latest decision to suspend the military training relates to previous economic and military incidents between the two countries.

Nigeria’s supervising Minister for Information, Nurudeen Mohammed, could not be reached immediately, as well as presidential spokespersons, Reuben Abati and Doyin Okupe,.

But the U.S. government said in its statement that the first two phases of the training were conducted between April and August 2014, and had provided previously untrained civilian personnel with basic soldiering skills.

“Based on mutual assessment of the Nigerian Army and U.S. trainers, a third iteration of training was agreed upon with the intent of developing the battalion into a unit with advanced infantry skills.

“We regret premature termination of this training, as it was to be the first in a larger planned project that would have trained additional units with the goal of helping the Nigerian Army build capacity to counter Boko Haram,” it said.

The statement however said the U.S. government would continue other aspects of its extensive bilateral security relationship, as well as all other assistance programs, with Nigeria.

Premium Times

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Naira falls to record low

Nigeria's naira touched a new record low of 183.05 against the dollar on Monday, driven by concerns over a sustained low oil price and expectations foreign investors would demand more dollars to pull out of local assets, dealers said.

The currency was trading down 2.4 per cent from Friday's closing level.

The central bank has struggled to keep the naira within its preferred band even after devaluing the currency by 8 per cent last Tuesday in a bid to halt a decline in the foreign reserves of Africa's biggest economy. Oil sales provide around 95 per cent of those reserves.

The bank's target band after devaluation is 5 per cent plus or minus 168 to the dollar, but doubts remain about whether it went far enough given the likelihood of continuing low oil prices and the fact that Nigeria's oil savings were being depleted even during a period of record high crude prices.

The coming weeks will test the bank's ability to maintain that level -- the naira is trading well below it and forex reserves are running out.

Pressure on the currency from lower oil prices risks reigniting inflation, which has stabilised in single digits for the past two years, the first time it has been this low.

Nigeria's economic troubles come at a bad time for President Goodluck Jonathan, who will seek re-election in polls scheduled for February 2015.

Barclays on Monday lowered its expected average Brent crude price to $72 (Sh6,480) a barrel for 2015, down from $93 (Sh8,370) a barrel previously, in a sign analysts have become more bearish following last week's OPec meeting, which left supply targets unchanged.

The Star

Related story: Central Bank of Nigeria issues new 100 Naira digital note

Boko Haram attack in Damaturu, Nigeria

Explosions and gunfire have rocked the north Nigerian city of Damaturu, in a suspected Boko Haram attack that targeted police officers.

A local source confirmed to Al Jazeera that gunmen believed to be Boko Haram fighters attacked the Yobe state University in Damaturu and other targets Damaturu early on Monday morning.

The fighters came from the bush and opened fire, according the witnesses.

The military has engaged them and gunshots were being heard by 08:00 GMT around Damaturu, though the gunfire later moved away from the university and into the bush as Nigerian troops chased the fighters.

Some students and university staff fled to the bush and were holed up there. Residents of the city were largely remaining indoors as the gunfire continued while the military deployed around the area.

It was not immediately clear if there were casualties.

"We have left our homes. We are now in the bush. We don't know what's going to happen," local man Umar Sada, who said a police barracks had been destroyed, told the AFP news agency.

In a separate development, at least five people were killed in two explosions at a marketplace in Maidugari, our correspondent Rawya Rageh, reporting from Abuja, said.

Monday's attacks come a day after scores of people were reportedly killed after suspected Boko Haram fighters, who arrived on motorcycles throwing bombs, raided Shani town in Nigeria's northeast Borno state.

Shani is located in Nigeria's Borno state, the heartland of Boko Haram's five-year insurgency, which has displaced more than one million people.

The raid also comes after a suicide bomb and gun attack on the central mosque in the northern city of Kano on Friday which bore all the hallmarks of Boko Haram and left at least 120 people dead.

The armed group is fighting to revive an Islamic caliphate in Nigeria's north. It is suspected to be behind Friday's attack on the central mosque in the second city of Kano, where at least 100 people died.