Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Muhammadu Buhari wins Nigeria's presidential election

Nigerian presidential poll has been won by Muhammadu Buhari, in the country's first election victory by the opposition.

His opponent, Goodluck Jonathan, has conceded defeat and called Gen Buhari to congratulate him on his victory.

Gen Buhari was ahead of Mr Jonathan by at least three million votes.

Observers have generally praised the election but there have been allegations of fraud, which some fear could lead to protests and violence.

This is a hugely significant moment in Nigeria's history - never before has a sitting president lost an election, the BBC's Will Ross reports from Abuja.

For the first time, many Nigerians feel they have the power to vote out a government that is not performing well, our correspondent adds.


Video - Nigerians waiting for presidential election results

Nigerians have been urged to be patient for the past three days. And when the election result finally comes, to accept it - peacefully. Many though are anxious - about what the next few hours may bring.

Muhammadu Buhari taking the lead in Presidential election results

Partial results from Nigeria's election give ex-military ruler Muhammadu Buhari a narrow lead over the incumbent, President Goodluck Jonathan.

With more than half of Nigeria's 36 states declared, Gen Buhari's All Progressives Congress (APC) is ahead by half a million votes.

A victory for Gen Buhari would make President Jonathan the first incumbent to lose an election in Nigeria.

Correspondents say it is likely the loser will allege foul play.

More than 800 people were killed in protests after Mr Jonathan beat Gen Buhari in the previous election.

Gen Buhari's lead was cut from two million votes, after Mr Jonathan gained a landslide in Rivers State, where there have been widespread reports of irregularities and a curfew imposed.

Electoral commission (Inec) chairman, Attahiru Jega, said the fact-finding team sent to the state found there were some voting irregularities with the poll but not enough "to warrant a cancellation of the election".

However, many of the states still to declare are in the north, where Gen Buhari is seen as favourite.

Earlier, the announcement of results was disrupted when an agent of Mr Jonathan's People's Democratic Party (PDP) launched a tirade against Mr Jega in Abuja.

"We have lost confidence in what you're doing, we don't believe in you any more," Elder Orubebe said.

Rejecting the allegation, Mr Jega replied: "Let us be careful about what we say or do and let us not dispute a process that has begun peacefully."

Gen Buhari has won the two biggest states, Lagos in the south and Kano in the north, while Mr Jonathan won a huge majority in his home state of Bayelsa, as well as Rivers.

The candidate with the most votes will only avoid a run-off if they gain at least 25% of the votes in two-thirds of Nigeria's 36 states.


Monday, March 30, 2015

Nigeria awaits presidential election results

Nigeria's election body says it expects to announce the first results of Saturday's keenly contested presidential poll on Tuesday.

Incumbent Goodluck Jonathan is facing a strong challenge from former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari.

The UN has praised the poll despite technical hitches, protests and violence linked to Boko Haram.

Voting spilled into a second day in some parts of Nigeria after problems with new electronic card readers.

Follow live updates here as the results are announced.

President Jonathan was among those whose registration to vote was delayed by the technology, which was introduced to prevent fraud.

His Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which had opposed the card readers, called it a "huge national embarrassment".

Election commission chief Attahiru Jega said only a fraction of the 150,000 card readers being used nationwide had failed.

The presidential and parliamentary elections had been delayed by six weeks because of the insurgency by Boko Haram militants.

The Islamists attacked polling stations in north-eastern states, with a curfew declared in Bauchi State after fighting between the security forces and the group.

The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon praised the "determination and resilience" of Nigerian voters, despite the reports of attacks by Boko Haram and others.

He said in a statement voting had been "largely peaceful and orderly".

His comments have been echoed by the regional bloc Ecowas, which urged Nigerians to accept the result.

But there has been tension in the southern Rivers State, where thousands protested against alleged killings of opposition workers and voting irregularities.

Inec said it was "concerned" by the complaints, adding that one of their offices was set on fire during the unrest.

Results of the voting were expected to arrive overnight but so far there is no official indication of which party is in the lead.

The PDP has dominated Nigerian politics since 1999, but Gen Buhari's All Progressives Congress is viewed as a serious challenge.

Voters are also electing members of the house of representatives and the senate.


Friday, March 27, 2015

Boko Haram Headquarters retaken

The Nigerian army says it has retaken the north-eastern town of Gwoza, believed to be the headquarters of militant Islamist group Boko Haram.

"Several terrorists died while many are captured," a tweet from the defences forces said.

Mopping-up operations are ongoing in and around the town, the military said.

News of the recapture comes a day before presidential elections, which were postponed by six weeks because of the offensive against Boko Haram.

Thousands of people have been killed since 2009, when the group began its insurgency to create an Islamic state.
'Major milestone'

Since a regional force began helping Nigeria take on the insurgents this year, many towns have been retaken.

The most recent military briefing said that only three districts, including Gwoza, remained under Boko Haram's control, down from 14.

After his fighters captured Gwoza in August 2014, the Boko Haram leader declared a caliphate in areas under his control.

"Troops this morning captured Gwoza destroying the Headquarters of the Terrorists self styled Caliphate," a tweet from Nigerian armed forces said.


Thursday, March 26, 2015

Nigeria presidential candidates sign peace deal

Nigeria's two main presidential candidates have signed an agreement to prevent violence in tightly contested elections due on Saturday.

Ex-military ruler Abdulsalami Abubakar brokered the deal in talks between President Goodluck Jonathan and his main challenger Muhammadu Buhari.

The two promised to respect the outcome of a credible poll and urged their supporters to refrain from violence.

Some 800 people were killed after the 2011 contest between the two rivals.

Mr Jonathan is facing a strong challenge from Gen Buhari, with some analysts predicting a photo-finish.

Thursday is the final day of campaigning and the government has closed its land and sea borders to ensure a peaceful election.

'Embrace peace'

The meeting between the two candidates came after Nigeria's National Peace Committee, chaired by Gen Abubakar, warned on Monday that campaigning had been marred by hate speech that could trigger a crisis in the oil-rich state.

The BBC's Tomi Oladipo reports from the capital, Abuja, that both candidates shook hands and hugged.

They called on their supporters to embrace peace, regardless of who won.

But concern remains in Nigeria over whether the electoral commission is ready for the huge logistical exercise in sub-Saharan Africa's most populous state, our correspondent says.

The polls were due on 14 February, but were postponed to 28 March to give the commission more time to prepare for the polls and for regional forces to regain territory from militant Islamist group Boko Haram in the north-east.

Campaign group Human Rights Watch says Boko Haram had killed some 1,000 people this year alone.

On Wednesday, army chief Kenneth Minimah said adequate security arrangements had been made for the polls.

Anyone who caused conflict would meet "organised violence" from the security forces, he added.

Meanwhile, Doha-based al-Jazeera reports that two of its journalists, Ahmed Idris and Ali Mustafa, have been detained by government forces in the city of Maiduguri, the former headquarters of Boko Haram.

It quoted the military as saying the journalists, both Nigerian nationals, were operating without "protection, accreditation or due clearance".

Al-Jazeera said both men had been accredited by the electoral commission to report from anywhere in Nigeria and it demanded their unconditional release.


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Video - 40 percent of children in Nigeria's capital Abuja don't go to school

For many Nigerians, education should be the key issue of this election. A massive revamp of state schooling has been underway in recent years.
But parents, teachers and pupils are desperate for more.Even in cities like the capital Abuja, at least 40% of children don't go to primary school.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Nigeria 2015 Presidential election set to be closest contest

Nigeria is bracing for a turbulent few days ahead. The country is due to vote for a new president next weekend. It'll be Nigeria's fifth election since its return to democracy in 1999 - and it's tipped to be the closest contest so far.

Friday, March 20, 2015

President Goodluck Jonathan hopes all Boko Haram captured territories will be retaken in a month

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has said he hopes that all territory seized by Islamist militant group Boko Haram will be retaken within a month.

"They are getting weaker and weaker by the day," he told the BBC.

But the president - who faces elections in a week - admitted the response to the insurgents' initial advance in north-east Nigeria had been too slow.

The army has claimed recent victories over Boko Haram in a conflict that has killed thousands since 2012.

Backed by neighbouring countries Chad, Niger and Cameroon, Nigeria's military says it has recaptured 11 of the 14 districts which had been under militant control.

On Thursday, however, Boko Haram attacked the town of Ngala, killing 11 people, after the army said it had retaken it.

President Jonathan's government has been heavily criticised for its failure to end the insurgency.

The government has made similar claims in the past about defeating or driving back Boko Haram within a specific period - but these have not been borne out by events.

The Nigerian insurgents this month pledged their allegiance to Islamic State militants, who control large parts of Syria and Iraq.


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Presidential candidate Buhari says missing kidnapped schoolgirls greatest embarrasment for Nigeria

Presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, General Mohammadu Buhari Wednesday tasked the federal government on the over 200 missing girls, saying the ill development was the greatest embarrassment Nigerian has received since independence in 1960.

Buhari also said that his regime in 1983 built refineries that could produce 50,000 to 450,000 barrel of oil per day with money realized from the Nigerian economy without borrowing a dime from external sources.

The candidate who spoke at a town hall meeting on security in Abuja on Wednesday as part of the electioneering campaign said that his party had identified three key areas which had become the core problems starring the country in the face.

His position was a response to questions raised by some participants to the meeting.

According to buhari, the problems were insecurity, destruction of the economy and corruption which he said has become vicious.

He faulted the federal government's approach in fighting the insurgency in the north east in the absence of comprehensive welfare policy or plan for the soldiers in the battle field.

He said that no one should expect any soldier to perform miracles in the battle field when there were no good welfare packages for them and their families.

He said: "I have said that the APC as a party has identified three fundamental problems in this country. You cannot repeat them so often because everybody talk about them. They are insecurity, the destruction of the economy and corruption which has become a vicious.

"The state of insecurity as we said when the election was extended by six weeks is that if the Nigerian government and the military could me not tame Boko Haram for five years, what will they do in six weeks. But I think that some positive moves have been made, but we are still at it.

"The first thing they should have done is to make sure that you have a good plan on the ground to take care of the welfare of the law enforcement agents.

"You can't send someone on an operation for months when his family is living in wants without medical care, no school and no good neighborhood and you want him to serve the country. So, if you get disappointed now that soldiers on road block have started saying "wetin you chop remain" as many of their colleagues were doing many years ago.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Video - Schools re-open in Adamawa, Nigeria

Militant group Boko Haram has killed thousands and kidnapped hundreds during a six-year campaign to carve out an Islamist state in northern Nigeria. The insurgency has been a major blow to education in the north east. In Adamawa state however- a territory retaken by the Nigerian military from the control of the militants, are slowly returning to the classroom.

Canada selling most weapons to Nigeria

A report released on Monday by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) shows a growth in the number of countries supplying arms and weapons to Nigeria and Cameroon to aid their fight against Boko Haram. Canada has been found to be the top seller among those nations.

The report listed Canada as the world’s 13th-biggest arms exporter over the past five years. It was the 14th-biggest weapons exporter in the previous five-year period.

According to the list, Canada facilitated the sale of 40 armoured vehicles to Nigeria in 2013 and 2014. It wasn’t detailed if all came from private companies. Two of those companies were identified as the Streit Group and INKAS.

Founded in Canada in 1992, the Streit Group said it has sold at least 12,000 armoured vehicles worldwide, and just recently, Nigeria bought one of its Spartan armoured vehicles. On the other hand, INKAS, according to Peter Wezeman, a senior researcher at the Stockholm institute, has sold light armoured patrol vehicles to Nigeria. The vehicles were produced from a plant located right in Nigeria.

While Wezeman did not condone Canada’s shipment of arms and weapons to Nigeria, he told The Globe and Mail, the North American country should at least be sensitive on dealings regarding the matter. He said Canada should ensure it “understands the risks involved in arms exports” and should try to help Nigeria to deal with Boko Haram “in a way that involves the minimum amount of violence needed.”

“Just allowing the supply of weapons is not enough,” he said, noting that it comes with a moral responsibility that the arms should not be used by the Nigerian government other than for the purpose it was bought.

Boko Haram is an Islamist terrorist movement based in north-east Nigeria. It is also active in Chad, Niger and northern Cameroon. The group had pledged formal allegiance to the ISIS Daesh in March 2015 and has killed over 5,000 civilians between July 2009 and June 2014, including at least 2,000 in the first half of 2014.


Electricity bills in Nigeria cut by half

Nigerians’ electricity bills will be cut by as much as half after the regulator said on Tuesday it banned distribution companies from charging consumers for losses caused by billing mistakes.

President Goodluck Jonathan, who is standing for re-election in a postponed vote scheduled for March 28, pledged to improve Nigeria’s chronically unreliable power supply in his administration’s current term in office. South Africa, with a third of Nigeria’s population, has eight times more installed capacity.

“Removing the collection losses will lead to lower tariffs for consumers,” Sam Amadi, chairman of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, said in a statement posted on the Abuja-based agency’s website. “The removal of collection losses from customer tariff has reduced tariff by more than 50 percent in some places.”

Peak electricity output in Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy, reaches about 3,800 megawatts, with another 1,500 megawatts unavailable because of gas shortages, the NERC said this month.

“While the move will be welcomed by many, low levels of electrification in Nigeria will limit its economic impact,” John Ashbourne, an Africa economist at Capital Economics in London, said in an e-mailed note on Wednesday. “Fewer than half of Nigerians have access to electricity, and spending on power tariffs makes up a tiny fraction of consumer spending.”

In 2013, Nigeria broke up the state electricity monopoly and sold power utilities to companies including Korea Electric Power Corp., and Siemens AG, in an effort to bring in much-needed investment. In September, authorities set up a $1 billion bailout fund to help generation and distribution companies pay off gas-supply debts. They also raised the price of gas supplied to power stations in order to encourage more gas to flow into the system.

The move to cut electricity bills “will be a boost to both consumers and commercial users, and has been conveniently announced only 10 days before President Goodluck Jonathan faces a close re-election battle,” Ashbourne said.


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Africa's richest man Aliko Dangote's oil refinery to go online in Nigeria by 2017

Outside Boko Haram carnage and pre-election tension and fears, here is at least some good news from Nigeria.

A new $9 billion oil refinery producing 500,000 barrels per day being developed by Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, is expected to come onstream in Nigeria by 2017, a senior Dangote Group official said Tuesday.

The refinery, to be located in Lagos, will cut reliance on international markets for Africa’s largest oil producer, which imports more than 80 percent of its fuel needs.

The lack of sufficient refining capacity is a major handicap in Africa’s biggest economy.

“By the third quarter of 2017, we expect to be looking at commissioning,” Mansur Ahmed, Dangote Industries Ltd’s executive director of stakeholder management and corporate communications, told Reuters at an African refiners conference in Cape Town.

The refinery is being designed to process Nigerian crude mix and produce products conforming to Euro V fuel specifications, as fuel demands across the continent are forecast to rise rapidly with many countries enjoying strong economic growth.

Poor infrastructure, competitive global markets and financial constraints have traditionally held back Africa’s refining capacity, while fuel subsidies in Nigeria are also an issue, said Ahmed, who spoke on behalf of Aliko Dangote.

Ahmed said the refinery, which is being funded by debt and equity, including a $3 billion commitment from Dangote himself, could list in future should additional capital be needed.

“In the past when we have reached a point where we feel we need to increase capital we have listed,” Ahmed said.

“We have listed our cement business, we have listed our sugar business and our salt business… and, if you like, history is the best teacher.”

The Dangote Group has interests ranging from cement to basic food processing to oil and gas.

A boost to its refining capacity would be a blow to European refiners and oil traders, which make huge profits bringing gasoline into the country.

The News

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

Monday, March 16, 2015

Nigerian government denies hiring mercenaries to fight Boko Haram

The Nigerian government has not hired any foreign mercenaries in its battle to defeat the Boko Haram insurgents, an official said on Sunday.

Mike Omeri, the Director General of the National Orientation Agency, NOA, stated this on Sunday when he paid a courtesy call to PREMIUM TIMES head office in Abuja.

The official’s statement comes amidst reports that the Nigerian military hired mercenaries from South Africa and other countries since the renewed offensive against the insurgents began on February 14. Several territories initially captured by the insurgents have since been retaken by Nigerian soldiers working with soldiers from neighbouring West African countries. Mr. Omeri said a lot of Nigerians mistake consultants helping in the deployment and use of newly acquired military hardware as mercenaries.

“When our weapons were acquired recently, we needed training because training component came with the people who supplied these weapons,” he said. “It is therefore easy to see a white man where these things are happening like in Maiduguri and elsewhere and conclude that we have mercenaries.”

“What we have are trainers who came from security companies to help us manage and learn how to use some of the much more modern weapons because there is no time; we are in a war situation and we need the capability to use the weapons immediately.”

Mr. Omeri, who coordinates the National Information Centre, where Nigerians are briefed on the progress made in the fight against Boko Haram, also questioned why some Nigerians appeared more concerned with the presence of mercenaries to the neglect of the insurgency.

“Why are we leaving the issue of fighting insurgency and concentrating on the issue of mercenaries, when the use of mercenaries by governments the world over, including the United States has been on since the 1840s,” he said.

“Mercenaries such as the foreign legion in France, Gurkhas in the UK, and even the US Marines are foreigners. They are mercenaries. It is at the completion of their terms that they are made either citizens through green cards or passports.

“They recruit them give them very hard training and send them to the toughest of battles and they are mostly foreigners.” Mr. Omeri said the Nigerian government has not hired any mercenary, despite having the right to do so.

“If Nigeria wants to recruit mercenaries, there are legitimate ways of doing it and this government knows how to do it and it would have gone that way to do it and to inform citizens appropriately,” he said.

Premium Times

Friday, March 13, 2015

Nigeria is PayPal's second largest market in Africa

PayPal has revealed that Nigeria has become its second biggest market in Africa, less than one year after formally launching its services in the West African country.

Malvina Goldfeld, PayPal’s Head of Business Development, sub-Saharan Africa, recently made the revelation to tech news site IT Web Africa, while expressing satisfaction with PayPal’s overwhelming success in Nigeria since it officially launched in July last year.

“We are very happy to see that PayPal has been widely welcomed by Nigerians since the launch of the service in the country last year,” Goldfeld said.

South Africa is PayPal’s largest market in the continent, with more than one million active accounts; Nigeria and Kenya follow closely.

Goldfeld said PayPal is meeting the needs of Nigerians that purchase goods and services on foreign platforms.

“There are millions of people in Nigeria who are eager to engage in online commerce and our goal is to help them make payments more easily and securely. Currently, we offer Nigerians the opportunity to register for free for a PayPal account to make payments on overseas websites,” she said.

But PayPal’s relationship with Nigerian users is one-sided. Nigerians are only allowed to send payments abroad through the platform. Users are currently unable to receive money, and even though Nigerian internet users have continuously demanded for this service, PayPal and Goldfeld have been elusive as to if and when the service will be accessible to Nigerians.

“Nigeria is a very interesting market and over time we may expand our presence, but for now we are satisfied to help Nigerians register for free for a PayPal account and make payments on overseas websites,” she told ITWeb Africa.

When PayPal opened up its services to Nigerians last year, it signed up tens of thousands of users within its first week as consumers scrabbled to purchase goods from foreign e-commerce sites. Before then, PayPal was inaccessible to Nigerians even though much smaller African countries like Tanzania, Kenya, Chad and Mauritius were included in PayPal’s network. It is generally believed that the online payment processor avoided Nigeria for many years owing to its reputation as a hub for internet-related fraud.

Last year, PayPal made its entry into Nigeria and 9 other countries – Belarus, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Monaco, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Zimbabwe and Paraguay, bringing the total number of countries under the PayPal network to 203.


Related stories: PayPal signs "tens of thousands" in first week of launch in Nigeria

Bitcoin exchange market coming to Nigeria

ISIS accepts Nigeria's Boko Haram pledge

Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants have accepted a pledge of allegiance by the Nigerian-grown Boko Haram extremist group, a spokesman for ISIS said Thursday.

The development comes as both movements, which are among the most ruthless in the world, are under increasing military pressure.

ISIS seized much of northern and western Iraq last summer giving it control of about a third of both Iraq and Syria. But it is now struggling against Iraqi forces seeking to recapture Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, while coming under fire from U.S.-led coalition airstrikes in other parts of the country and in Syria.

Boko Haram, meanwhile, has been weakened by a multinational force that has dislodged it from a score of northeastern Nigerian towns. But its new Twitter account, increasingly slick and more frequent video messages and a new media arm all were considered signs that the group is now being helped by ISIS propagandists.

Then on Saturday, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau posted an audio recording online that pledged allegiance to ISIS. On Thursday, ISIS's media arm Al-Furqan, in an audio recording by spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, said that Boko Haram's pledge of allegiance has been accepted, claiming the caliphate has now expanded to West Africa.

Al-Adnani had urged foreign fighters from around the world to migrate and join Boko Haram.

"We announce our allegiance to the Caliph of the Muslims ... and will hear and obey in times of difficulty and prosperity, in hardship and ease, and to endure being discriminated against, and not to dispute about rule with those in power, except in case of evident infidelity regarding that which there is a proof from Allah," said the message.

J. Peter Pham, director of the Africa Center at the Atlantic Council, a think tank in Washington, noted the Islamic State group's quick acceptance of Boko Haram's allegiance and said that the bond highlights a new risk.

"Militants finding it increasingly harder to get to Syria and Iraq may choose instead to go to northeastern Nigeria and internationalize that conflict," he said.

The Boko Haram pledge of allegiance to ISIS comes as the militants reportedly were massing in the northeastern Nigerian town of Gwoza, considered their headquarters, for a showdown with the Chadian-led multinational force.

Boko Haram killed an estimated 10,000 people last year, and it is blamed for last April's abduction of more than 275 schoolgirls. Thousands of Nigerians have fled to neighbouring Chad.

The group is waging a nearly six-year insurgency to impose Muslim Shariah law in Nigeria. It began launching attacks across the border into Cameroon last year, and this year its fighters struck in Niger and Chad in retaliation to their agreement to form a multinational force to fight the militants.

Boko Haram followed the lead of ISIS in August by declaring an Islamic caliphate in northeast Nigeria that grew to cover an area the size of Belgium. ISIS had declared a caliphate in vast swaths of territory that it controls in Iraq and Syria.

The Nigerian group has also followed ISIS in publishing videos of beheadings. The latest one, published March 2, borrowed certain elements from ISIS productions, such as the sound of a beating heart and heavy breathing immediately before the execution, according to SITE Intelligence Group.

In video messages last year, Boko Haram's leader sent greetings and praise to both ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and leaders of al-Qaeda. But Boko Haram has never been an affiliate of al-Qaeda, some analysts surmise because al-Qaeda considers the Nigerians' indiscriminate slaughter of Muslim civilians as un-Islamic.

Recent offensives have marked a sharp escalation by African nations against Boko Haram. An African Union summit agreed on sending a force of 8,750 troops to fight Boko Haram.

Military operations in Niger's east have killed at least 500 Boko Haram fighters since Feb. 8, Nigerien officials have said.

Members of the UN Security Council proposed Thursday that the international community supply money, equipment, troops and intelligence to a five-nation African force fighting Boko Haram.


Related story: Video - Boko Haram pledge allegiance to ISIS

Thursday, March 12, 2015

President Goodluck Jonathan accuses opponent Muhammmadu Buhari of support of same sex marriage

President Goodluck Jonathan has accused his main challenger in March 28 election, Muhammadu Buhari, of assuring western nations of his preparedness to support same-sex marriage if he wins the forthcoming polls.

Mr. Jonathan, who spoke through his campaign organization, said Mr. Buhari made the pledge to secure the support of the countries to win election.

Femi Fani-Kayode, the Spokesperson of President Jonathan, said four western countries extracted a commitment from Mr. Buhari, who represents the All Progressives Congress, to support a legislation enabling same sex marriage.

Amid a flurry of apparently election-fuelled allegations, the claim by the Jonathan camp Wednesday seemed one of the most serious.

Still, Mr. Fani-Kayode, reputed for making unsubstantiated allegations against political opponents, refused to give the names of the four countries he was referring to.

Mr. Buhari, seen by his supporters as a non-nonsense former military leader, whose brief administration in the 1980s waged campaigns against indiscipline and corruption, has not given any hint suggesting he would condone same-sex relationship, already outlawed in Nigeria.

Nigeria's National Assembly has already passed a bill making gay marriage a criminal offense, and offenders risk spending 14 years in jail if convicted.

But addressing a press conference on Wednesday in Abuja, Mr. Fani-Kayode said the proposition was made to Mr. Buhari by the representatives of a number of western governments when he was in the United Kingdom recently.

Mr. Fani Kayode said Mr. Buhari had appealed to the western leaders for support and to get their endorsement.

"He had talks with the representatives of at least four western countries. The leaders of those countries made an offer to General Muhammadu Buhari and we are reliably informed that he has put the offer under consideration.

"The proposition and offer was that if he was prepared to support legislation in Nigeria to allow same sex marriage and if he was prepared to repeal the anti-gay laws in Nigeria they will, in return, endorse, support and fund him, initially covertly and eventually publicly, at the right time," he said.

He also said that instead of out rightly rejecting these offers and spurning this proposition, Mr. Buhari "apparently refused to rule it out and has put the matter under consideration.

"Instead of him to say NO he assured them that he would consider these two things.

"We believe that this is a matter that ought to be brought to the attention of the Nigerian people as a matter of urgency," he said.

Mr. Fani-Kayode added that the APC are so desperate to ensure that Mr. Buhari becomes the President of Nigeria that they are actually prepared to consider the scrapping of all anti-gay or anti-homosexual legislations and at the same time, endorsing and supporting fresh legislation that would allow same sex marriage in the country.

"They are considering this despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of the Nigerian people find same sex marriage and, indeed, homosexuality repugnant and unacceptable.

"We are using this occasion to challenge General Buhari to come clean and to tell the Nigerian people whether this is true and whether, in the unlikely event of his being elected President, he is seriously considering scrapping the anti-homosexual laws in our country and pushing through new legislation which would allow same sex marriage," Mr. Fani-Kayode said.

Premium Times

Morocco recalls its ambassador to Nigeria

Morocco has recalled its ambassador to Nigeria, in a row over whether the president of Nigeria is trying to use the king of Morocco to win over Muslim voters before Nigeria's elections this month.

Last week, the Moroccan royal palace said the king had declined a request for a telephone conversation with Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan. Nigeria's foreign ministry denied the snub on Monday and said the two leaders had spoken extensively.

Jonathan, a Christian from southern Nigeria, will face former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari, a Muslim northerner, in elections on March 28. The election is expected to be the most closely fought since the end of military rule in 1999.

Nigeria's population is roughly split between Christians and Muslims. Both parties, the ruling People's Democratic Party and the All Progressives Congress, have been using religion to bolster support.

"Morocco confirms, in the clearest and strongest terms, that there has never been a phone conversation between the King Mohammed VI and the president of this country," a statement from the Moroccan foreign ministry said.

The Nigerian foreign ministry said it was "preposterous to suggest that Mr. President's telephone call to the Moroccan monarch was intended to confer any electoral advantage."

A spokesman for the ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the recall.

Morocco cited "the hostile, recurrent and unfriendly positions of the Nigerian government with regard to the Moroccan Sahara issue and the sacred Arab-Muslim causes" as a reason for declining Jonathan's call.

Nigeria is one of the main supporters, along with Algeria and South Africa on the continent, of the independence movement Polisario Front in the disputed Western Sahara.

The territory is a tract of desert the size of Britain that has lucrative phosphate reserves and possibly oil, is the focus of Africa's longest-running territorial dispute, between Morocco and the Polisario guerrillas.


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Video - Nigerian military re-capture more towns from Boko Haram

Nigeria's military said Tuesday it had only one town left to recapture from Boko Haram militants in the north-eastern state of Yobe, a former stronghold of the group. This as Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Benin mobilize forces to help Nigeria defeat the group, after it seized large swathes of territory and staged cross border attacks.

Nigeria ranked 2nd in most affordable internet service in emerging economies

Nigeria has ranked second as the country with the most affordable Internet in emerging nations according to a study conducted by Alliance for Affordable internet (A4AI).

In a presentation by Sonia Jorge, executive director, A4Ai, at the Ericsson and Alliance for Affordable Internet programme at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain recently, Nigeria was buoyed by a strong leadership and regulation of the industry, robust broadband strategy, effective competition in the telecommunications sector, efficient spectrum allocation, universal access to rural and underserved population, and infrastructure sharing, among others.

Jorge said “Nigeria comes second in the Affordability Index’s ranking of developing economies – scoring higher than other African developing economies like Kenya, Morocco and Uganda, and higher even than some emerging economies, including Mexico, South Africa, Thailand and Tunisia.

The backbone infrastructure in Nigeria has improved significantly over the last decade, with multiple players, including Phase 3, Glo 1, Suburban Telecom, Multilink and MTN, building fibre networks that crisscross the country.

Minister of Communications Technology, Dr Omobola Johnson who spoke at the forum said what will grow the internet in Nigeria is local content and not over-reliance on YouTube and other such social media channels.

She said “What will drive the internet is relevant, local content. The most visited sites in Nigeria are the job and the news sites, not social media.”

Johnson informed that the decision of the Nigerian government that ICT was primary leading to creation of the Communication Technology Ministry has positively affected the fortunes of the sector.

She hailed the commitment of the President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration to the development of broadband technology in the country, pointing out that on presentation of the Broadband Report to him in 2013, the president immediately gave the implementation go-ahead.

His action has added impetus to what is happening in the sector.

Nigeria’s regulator, the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC), plans to award seven licenses to regional infrastructure companies to extend broadband infrastructure nationally.

The first two of these were awarded in early 2015 to MainOne and HIS Communications to provide services in Lagos and North Central states, respectively.

The government is also working to improve infrastructure sharing among these operators, who have traditionally built overlapping fibre networks.

The nascent “Smart States” initiative, which sees states committing to reduce the cost of broadband access by reducing taxation and simplifying regulation, is also a positive step.

Nigeria’s mobile broadband penetration rate stands at just 10 per cent despite the fact that close to 40 per cent of Nigerians use the Internet – and the government has put in place policies to increase this penetration level to 30 per cent by 2018.


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Video - Activists pressure Nigerian government to find kidnapped schoolgirls

The abduction of some 270 school girls in northeastern Nigeria highlighted the dangers that women caught up in armed conflict face. The incident sparked global condemnation and a social media campaign to rescue the girls. But today, the hashtag 'Bring-Back-Our-Girls' is only being used by a small group of activists in the capital Abuja. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

Video - Boko Haram pledge allegiance to ISIS

Uber is recording exponential grown in Lagos, Nigeria

 Within six months, said Atawodi, Uber has recorded exponential growth in Nigeria in terms of demand and supply. There has been 10-times growth in the company’s supply within six months, which also means there are 10 times more Uber drivers in Lagos than the company had six months ago. In terms of demand, a hundred-fold growth has been recorded within the same period.

Atawodi said this was due to the company’s strict adherence to top-quality service, safety, innovation and price transparency. She added the company was boosting the Nigerian economy by promoting job creation, creating more opportunities for drivers and making the roads in Lagos less congested.

“Our vision is to have fewer cars on Lagos roads,” Atawodi said. That’s a noble goal. With a population of well over 5-million people, the mega city is a leading contender for the worst traffic in the world.

Prior to the arrival of Uber, the general manager said taxi drivers in Lagos often had to drive along roads in search of passengers, burning costly fuel and wearing out their vehicles.

“What we are now telling them is to sit in their cars and customers will reach them. That way they will save fuel and prolong the lifespan of their vehicles,” she said.

As a global company focused on ensuring top-quality services are provided in all its operating cities, Uber Lagos — according to its general manager — is striving to ensure that services offered in Lagos are similar to those offered in London, New York and elsewhere.

Atawodi said the company was achieving this, as evident in the observation that about 20% of Uber Lagos customers have used Uber services in other parts of the world.

To achieve this, the company is striving to uphold Uber’s global standards of reliability and transparency. Drivers are trained and must qualify before they are added to the system. Furthermore, the oldest car model allowed on Uber Lagos is pegged at 2008, and all cars must be insured.

Atawodi noted that Lagos is one of the world’s most rapidly growing cities, but its landmass is not expanding. She noted that individuals buying more cars would further worsen the city’s traffic situation. A solution, she said, is via asset-sharing.

When Uber rides are shared, more people will be transported per trip than expected and more revenue would accrue to the drivers. Today in Lagos, Uber customers have the option of splitting the transport fare with friends, but this is expected to further expand with the introduction of UberPool.

“UberPool is a car pooling service using our world-class technology. It will maximise car utilisation by seven times and dramatically reduce the number of cars on the road,” Atawodi said.

Within the six months Uber has been operating in Nigeria, Atawodi revealed it’s also been involved in the global Uber on Demand culture, in which unique products and services — including personnel — are delivered via the Uber-backed service. Such services include delivery of kittens, ice cream, and helicopters.

“On Valentine’s Day, we also delivered hampers and cupcakes. I’m looking forward to a time when we can also deliver Gele [a popular type of Nigerian female fashion head gear],” she said.

She also announced that some companies in Nigeria were signing up with Uber for Business, a service that allows officials of an organisation to use Uber service while the registered corporate account takes care of the bill.

Towards the tail end of our interactive session, the issue of customers enjoying rides without having sufficient money in their account to offset the bill was raised. However, Atawodi revealed the incidence of this is very low in Nigeria compared to other parts of the world. She also commended Nigerian banks, which she said were way ahead of those in other emerging markets.

“Lagos is surprising the world, payments are going through in Lagos and Nigerian banks are moved ahead of their counterparts in other emerging markets. They deserve to be commended,” she said.

When the session finally ended, I asked her about the impact Uber Nairobi could have on Uber’s operations in Lagos and other African countries, where more citizens rely on mobile money rather than credit cards. She admitted that there were discussions underway about the possibility of introducing mobile money in African cities but no decision has yet been made.

The general manager and other Uber reps said the company currently has a 10-minute average estimated time of arrival (ETA) in Lagos. Similarly, personal experience revealed Uber Lagos’ ETA varies from one part of the city to another. I requested a ride at Obalende and the driver’s ETA was about 15 minutes, but when I requested a ride from Federal Palace Hotel, the driver arrived around five minutes later.

“We are aiming to have an average ETA of less than three minutes and to achieve this we will be aiming to achieve exponential growth in supply,” Atawodi said.

But signing up more drivers isn’t the only step Uber needs to take to achieve the set goal and to remain successful in Nigeria. It also has to ensure customer experience is similar on all Uber rides — from simple touches, such as opening the door for the customer and inquiring about their choice of music or radio, to more serious issues such as preventing the occurrence of incidents such as the alleged passenger rape in India. Uber still has a long way to go. But it’s good to know the company knows this.


Related story: Bitcoin exchange market coming to Nigeria

kidnapped American missionary released

A Free Methodist missionary from Seattle was released Friday evening, Nigeria time, March 6, after being abducted Feb. 23 and held for ransom.

The ransom for Phyllis Sortor, 71, originally was set at about $300,000 in U.S. funds, but about a week later the amount was dropped to about $150,000.

No information was given as to the terms, if any, of her release, or the name of the group or gang that kidnapped her.

"We are deeply grateful to all who prayed for Phyllis' safe return and praise God the family representative was able to secure her release," said David Kendall in a statement. He is bishop of the 850,000-member worldwide denomination.

Related story: American missionary kidnapped in Kogi, Nigeria

Chad and Niger military forces join Nigeria in tackling Boko Haram

A Chadian general has confirmed that military forces from Chad and Niger have gone into northeast Nigeria to attack Boko Haram.

Gen. Zakaria Ngobongue told The Associated Press in Chad on Monday that the troop movement marks a second front in northeast Nigeria against the extremist Islamic group. Soldiers opened the first front recently.

Adam Boukarna, a resident of Bosso which in Niger across Nigeria’s northeast border, said that vehicles have been crossing since Saturday. He said after they all crossed into Nigeria loud detonations could be heard, signalling fighting against Boko Haram members.

Nigeria’s neighbours are forming a multinational army to confront Boko Haram.

Niger’s government has not publicly confirmed this ground assault.

Cameroon’s minister of defence Edgard Alain Mebe Ngo’o confirmed there was an offensive by Nigeria and Chad but that Cameroon’s military was not present because they’ve been asked to protect Cameroon’s borders from the militants. Boko Haram members have been hiding themselves and supplies in Cameroon, and there are fears that the group may want to escape there when fighting intensifies in Nigeria, he said.

Residents in potential conflict zones in Cameroon have been asked to leave, he said.

Boko Haram’s Islamic uprising has killed about 12,000 people in the nearly 6-year-old Islamic uprising in northeastern Nigeria.


Related story: Video - Nigerian military will continue to take fight to Boko haram during Presidential elections

Friday, March 6, 2015

Video - Nigerian military will continue to take fight to Boko haram during Presidential elections

Nigeria's military has signalled its offensive against Boko Haram will continue through the elections scheduled later this month. The government had given the army six weeks to defeat the Islamist militant group. But the military says it's unlikely to hold to that deadline.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Video - Poverty persists in oil rich Niger Delta in Nigeria

The Niger Delta is where almost all of Nigeria’s oil comes from, but the region remains one of the poorest in Nigeria.President Goodluck Jonathan hails from the region, and when he was elected, many people hoped their lives would improve. However, little has changed.

Related stories:  Shell to pay 55 million pounds for oil spills in Nigeria

Video - Farmers await verdict in historical case against Shell for oil pollution

Bloomberg lists Nigeria as most stressed out country in the world

For the complete list visit: Bloomberg

Woman beaten to death by mob in Nigeria was not suicide bomber

A woman who was beaten to death in northern Nigeria on suspicion of being a suicide bomber was in fact mentally ill and not involved in terrorism, according to police and her family.

Thabita Haruna, 33, was attacked by a mob on Sunday after she refused to be screened at a marketplace in Bauchi.

Police are investigating the attack and have yet to make any arrests.

Boko Haram militants based in northern Nigeria have been using women to carry out suicide bombings.

The militants want to impose a strict version of Islam and have declared a caliphate in the territory under their control.

Ms Haruna was set upon by a mob last Sunday after she refused to be searched by vigilantes at the entrance to a marketplace.

A witness told the AFP news agency that the woman came under suspicion when two bottles were found strapped to her waist.

The mob placed a tyre sprinkled with petrol over the woman's head and set it alight after she was beaten, according to witnesses.

Police say that she was dead by the time they arrived at the scene. Earlier reports had indicated that the woman was a teenager.

The woman's family says she had worked as a market trader until 2007, when she became mentally ill.

"I feel very very sad because she is my blood," Ms Haruna's sister told the BBC this week. "We sleep in the same bed, we eat at the same plate…. That really pains me."

According to the BBC Hausa service's Ishaq Khalid in Bauchi, the people in the town have condemned the attack.

Boko Haram has taken to sending women on suicide missions, fuelling concern that its insurgency has entered a more ruthless phase.

Teenagers have been used to carry explosives into busy markets and bus stations, raising additional fears that some of Boko Haram's hundreds of kidnap victims may have been forced into carrying out bomb attacks.

February's presidential election has been postponed because of the unrest. The vote is now due to take place on 28 March.


Related story: Mob in Nigeria beat to death suspected female suicide bomber

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Video - Short film about business man facilitating desperate Nigerian illegal immigration to North America

Chuks is a businessman who deals in a peculiar business. For a handsome fee, he facilitates the transportation of desperate Nigerian illegal immigrants looking for greener pastures in North America.

2014 official selection at Toronto International Short Film Festival

2015 official selection at Pan African Film Festival - Los Angeles

Video - Aljazeera talks to President Goodluck Jonathan

In an exclusive interview with Al Jazeera, Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan vowed to defeat Boko Haram.

The armed group has killed thousands of people in the country's north east.

Jonathan denied mishandling the Boko Haram crisis, and allegations a recent step up in military operations against the group, was politically motivated. He also expressed fears about violence during the upcoming presidential election which was postponed because of a lack of security.

The President also touched on corruption. And whether the country's elections will be moved again. 

Boko Haram releases beheading video in similar style to ISIL

Nigeria’s militant sect Boko Haram released a video purporting to show it beheading two men, its first online posting using advanced graphics and editing techniques reminiscent of footage from ISIL.

The film, released on Monday, shows militants standing behind the two men who are on their knees, their hands tied behind their backs, with one man standing over them, holding a knife.

One of the men is made to tell the camera that they had been paid by authorities to spy on the militant group, before the film moves to another scene showing their decapitated bodies. It was not possible to confirm the film’s authenticity or date.

The footage will stoke concerns that Boko Haram, which evolved out of a clerical movement focused on northeast Nigeria, is expanding its scope and seeking inspiration from global militant networks.

The militants who have killed thousands and kidnapped hundreds in their bid to carve out an Islamist state in their homeland, have in recent months stepped up cross-border raids into Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan has said Boko Haram is allied to both Al Qaida and its offshoot ISIL, though that has not been confirmed by the group itself.

The Boko Haram film’s use of graphics, the footage of black-clad militants with a black flag, and the editing to show only the aftermath of the beheading, were particularly reminiscent of footage from Daesh, which has seized large parts of Iraq and Syria and killed several hostages.

In the film, one of the men says he comes from Baga in Borno state, and the other says he is from Michika in Adamawa state, both areas where the army says it has recently recaptured territory from Boko Haram.

Past Boko Haram films have been much cruder affairs, often featuring a man identified as leader Abubakar Shekau talking about local gripes. A number of recent releases have included much more gruesome footage of beheadings.

Gulf News

Online tax filing now available in Nigeria

The Federal Inland Revenue Service on Monday announced the take-off of the online tax payers' platform to ease the payment of taxes in the country.

The Service explained that with the new arrangement, anybody who wishes to pay tax can easily do so online by logging into the internet banking platform of any of the commercial banks, choose the FIRS link and follow the prompts.

Acting Chairman of the FIRS, Kabir Mashi, said the new platform is the product of the electronic tax-pay solution, an ease of tax payment initiative of the Service in collaboration with the Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System and Systemspecs Limited.

At the launch and public sensitization of the new platform in Lagos, Mr. Mashi explained that the e-Tax Pay Solution was a self-service FIRS channel available on all commercial banks.'

He said once a taxpayer logs into any bank's Internet banking platform, he can access the FIRS link to pay his taxes and submit necessary documents the same way he may chose to pay other bills.

The Chairman, who was represented at the occasion by an official of the FIRS, Achilis Amahwe, explained that the system is simple and convenient to operate.

"It is that accessible and it is very secure," he said. "Taxpayers do not have to go to any tax office before taxes are paid. Tax payment is just a click away," he said.

According to him, it was the quest for simplification of the tax payment process and ease of access to tax services that led FIRS to roll out the electronic filing service under the Integrated Tax Administration System.

The new system, he said, serves as a means of reducing time and cost of compliance for taxpayers as well as ease interface between taxpayers and authorities.

Besides, he said the system provides additional convenience for taxpayers interested in, from the comfort of their homes and offices, uploading their tax returns on the e-Tax Pay Solution platform.

Mr. Mashi urged taxpayers to cultivate the attitude of using the e-Tax Pay Solution, or e-filing platforms, as those were created for their convenience and ultimately engender a transparent and efficient tax system that optimizes tax revenue collection and voluntary compliance.

He said the FIRS was hoping that taxpayers would respond positively to these innovations and utilize them to a large scale.

The new system would not only ease compliance for the taxpayers, but also enable FIRS to ensure greater transparency in tax operations.

This would give Nigerians full access to their records, which they uploaded as well as payments they make," the Chairman said.

The Coordinating Director, Field Operations Group, who was represented by Director, Medium Tax Department, Peter Olayemi, said the e-Tax Pay Solution would boost tax revenue collection.

The self-service initiatives, he said, were introduced to strengthen the self-assessment regime and improve voluntary tax compliance using the online payment options.

These initiatives would bring in more tax revenues and also provide convenience for both the taxpayers and the tax authorities." Mr. Olayemi said.

Also speaking at the event, the Director, Programme Management Office (Tax), Gbolaga Oshiga, said the platform was so user-friendly and interactive that a first-time user would not find it difficult to complete the process.

The launch and demonstration of the platform attracted stakeholders from various sectors of the Nigerian economy including Dangote Plc, Guiness Nigeria, Chevron, banks and telecommunications operators.

The e-Tax Pay Solution is an initiative put together by the FIRS in collaboration with the Nigeria Inter-bank Settlement System (NIBSS) and System Specs Limited to meet the expectations of taxation stakeholders in the area of service delivery.

Premium Times

Monday, March 2, 2015

Video - Nigerian military making advancements against Boko Haram

Nigeria's military says never again will it suffer a defeat at the hands of Boko Haram like it did at Baga. It is racing against a tight deadline to defeat Boko Haram insurgents ahead of the March 28th presidential elections. But with just four weeks to go, the militants have been resurgent this past week with at least 86 people killed in explosions at bus stations in the north and central regions.

Mob in Nigeria beat to death suspected female suicide bomber

A mob in northeastern Nigeria has beaten a woman to death and burnt her body over suspicion she was planning to carry out a suicide bombing, police and witnesses have said.

Witnesses said the victim and a second woman had refused to be searched at the entrance of the largest market in the city of Bauchi on Sunday morning.Bauchi state police spokesman Haruna Mohammed described the slain woman as the victim of "mob action carried out by an irate crowd".

It seemed doubtful the woman was actually a bomber as she did not detonate any explosives when she was attacked, Mohammed said.

He said police had deployed to the scene to disperse the mob but the woman died before officers could rescue her. None of the attackers were arrested, he said.

However, the second woman who allegedly refused to be searched was arrested, the Associated Press reported. The news agency said both women were teenagers.

Vegetable vendor Mohd Adamu told the AP that when the women refused to be screened, people overpowered one girl and discovered she had two bottles strapped to her body. They clubbed her to death, put a tyre doused in fuel over her head and set it on fire, he said.

A spate of suicide bombings has been blamed on Nigeria's Boko Haram group, which wants to enforce strict Islamic law in the north.

Recently some girls as young as 10 years old have been used to carry explosives that detonated in busy markets and bus stations. It is unclear whether the girls detonated explosives themselves or whether the bombs were controlled remotely.

About 10,000 people died in Nigeria from Boko Haram's violence last year, compared to 2,000 in the first four years of the group's armed campaign, according to the US Council on Foreign Relations. About 1.5 million people have been driven from their homes.