Thursday, April 30, 2015

Video - hundreds of bodies found in Nigeria town recaptured from Boko Haram

As coalition troops continue to fight Boko Haram, a disturbing picture is emerging about the civilian casualties.

There are reports of hundreds of bodies being recovered in the town of Damasak, which was recaptured from Boko Haram a month ago.

Video - Nigeria reacts to Boko Haram leader making TIME's 100 most influential people list

Boko Haram is clearly back in the headlines - and earlier this month the group's leader Abubakr Shekau was named as one of the Time magazine's top 100 most influential people in the world. Nigerians have been reacting to that.

EXO - Nigeria's Super Hero

Roye Okupe grew up in Nigeria with American superheroes – the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Batman, Spiderman – and always had “an itch” to write his own story.

It was not until 2008, when the new wave of superhero movies started breaking worldwide, that he started working on a concept, thinking “If you don’t do it now, you’re never going to do it,” he recalls.

By that point he was working in the US, having left Nigeria in 2002 to study at Georgetown University. He saved up some money, produced a seven-minute teaser and began to shop it around to producers and investors in the US and Nigeria, without much success.

“I had someone say to me ‘no one’s going to watch anything based on African characters.’ I had a producer tell me that point blank,” Okupe says. “I respectfully disagreed. I believe if it’s done right, if it’s done well, people will gravitate to it.

“I grew up watching Superman, not because he was fighting in Metropolis in America, but because I could connect to the story. I was just a kid from Africa. So why can’t the reverse be true? Why can’t I create an African superhero that everyone can connect to.”

African content – and in particular Nigerian content – has been gradually increasing in global prominence over the past few years, as a young, increasingly technology-savvy population clamours for movies, books and games that better reflect their own experiences.

‘Nollywood’, Nigeria’s film industry, which pumps out thousands of movies per year, is now a global industry worth $250m in 2012, and undoubtedly more now. Technology companies, such as Jason Njoku’s IrokoTV, have raised millions and made more in building out networks online to package and distribute content.

The huge expansion of mobile telephony – there are more than 100m mobile phones in Nigeria today, and smartphone use is growing as data services expand – has driven a consequent explosion in mobile gaming. Nigerian games studios, such as Maliyo and Kuluya, have developed relatively simple, but hugely popular titles based on Nigerian stories. The latter is estimated to be worth around $2m, and now has more than a million downloads.

Breakout Nigerian music stars, such as D’Banj, have inspired producers in the US and Europe to seek out talent in West Africa, with Jay-Z the latest big name to start scouting the region.

Frustrated in his attempts to get his product in front of producers, Okupe has changed tack, and is now raising money to turn his idea into a graphic novel, with the aim of building a brand around his concept, his character, Wale Williams, and his setting of ‘Lagoon City’ – to Lagos what Gotham City is to New York.

“I figured if I could build a fanbase, it’ll be easier for me to go back to a TV network or a distributor and say, look, people are waiting for something like this… people want to see an African superhero. We want to see diverse superheroes. People are clamouring for things like this.”

Nigerian – and African – stories could, Okupe hopes, follow the path of Japanese manga and anime, which broke into Western markets in a huge way in the 1980s and 1990s.

“I’m very optimistic,” Okupe says. “It’s going to be a tough road, but I believe it’s going to happen. When it happens, it’s going to be like a tidal wave of movies, comic books, video games.”

Written by Pete Guest


Related story: Nigeria's own Comic-Con celebrates 3 years

More kidnapped women and children rescued from Boko Haram

Nigeria's military says it has rescued at least 160 more women and children who had been abducted by Boko Haram and were being held in the Sambisa Forest, considered to be the armed group's last stronghold.

Colonel Sani Usman, an army spokesperson, said in a statement on Thursday that those rescued include around "60 women of various ages and around 100 children".

"They have been evacuated to a safety zone for further processing," Usman said.

At least one woman and one soldier were reportedly killed in the fighting during the rescue. Eight other women and four soldiers were also injured.

Al Jazeera's Yvonne Ndege, reporting from Abuja, said that the reports from the army could not be independently verified because of restricted access to the area.

However, she added that the military promised to release more evidence of the rescues, including photographs, later on Thursday.

All the former hostages - some of whom are said to be traumatised by the experience - were being screened to determine their identities and from where and when they were abducted.

Their release comes a day after the Nigerian military rescued nearly 300 hostages - 200 girls and 93 women - in Boko Haram's forest stronghold.

Usman said that the girls who were seized from the northeastern town of Chibok in April 2014 were not part of the group. The fighters are believed to have taken the schoolgirls in trucks into the Sambisa Forest. Dozens escaped, but 219 remain missing.

Boko Haram has abducted an unknown number of girls, women and young men to be used as sex slaves and fighters. Many have escaped or been released as Boko Haram fighters have fled a multinational offensive that began at the end of January.

A month ago, the Nigerian military began pounding the Sambisa Forest in air raids, an assault they said earlier they had been avoiding for fear of killing the Chibok schoolgirls, or inciting their captors to kill them.

'Tip of the iceberg'

Earlier this month, rights group Amnesty International published a report saying that the armed group has abducted at least 2,000 women and girls since the start of 2014.

Amnesty's Africa director for research and advocacy, Netsanet Belay, said the rescues were a "cause for celebration" but he warned: "This is just the tip of the iceberg.

"There are thousands more women and girls, and men and boys, who have been abducted by Boko Haram," he said in a statement.


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Indonesia executes four Nigerians for drug trafficking

Indonesian authorities on Tuesday executed eight people, including four Nigerians, convicted for drug offenses.

The death row prisoners, whose pending execution drew condemnations around the world amid pleas for clemency, were killed by firing squad.

The execution of a ninth convict, a woman from the Philippines, was postponed at the last minute.

The Fillipino was spared after a woman accused of tricking her into carrying drug, handed herself to the police in Philippines Tuesday.

The four Nigerians included Martins Anderson, 50, who was charged with possession of heroin, and Okwudili Oyatanze, 41, also charged for smuggling heroin.

Jamiu Abashin, 50, was also executed for smuggling heroin, while Sylvester Nwolise, 42, was also executed for the same offence.

Other convicts who were executed were 34-year-old Australian, Myruan Sukumaran, 31 year-old Australian, Andrew Chan, charged for smuggling heroin, and 41 year-old Brazilian, Rodrigo Gularte, 42, who was convicted for smuggling cocaine.

Also executed was Zainal Abidin, a 50-year-old Indonesian, who was convicted for marijuana possession with intent to distribute.

Premium Times

Audit shows oil firm overpaid Nigerian government

An audit has found that Nigeria's state oil company overpaid the government $750m (£490m), but also found it had not properly accounted for $1.48bn.

The financial report follows allegations in 2013 by then-central bank chief Lamido Sanusi that the firm had failed to account for about $20bn.

It caused a huge uproar in Nigeria, forcing President Goodluck Jonathan to order an independent audit.

His office released the findings as he prepares to step down in a month.

Ex-military ruler Muhammadu Buhari will be inaugurated on 29 May after he defeated Mr Jonathan in elections last month.

He has vowed to tackle corruption in Nigeria, Africa's main oil producer where most people live on less than $2 a day.

'Accounting errors'

The BBC's Chris Ewokor in the capital, Abuja, says the findings suggest that Mr Sanusi's claims were exaggerated.

However, many Nigerians still believe that corruption in the oil sector runs deep, our correspondent adds.

The audit into the accounts of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) was carried out by PwC, one of the world's leading accounting firms.

It stated that it could not vouch for the integrity of the information it was given when it conducted the audit, our reporter says.

PwC said the oil company should be overhauled and pay the government about $1.5bn arising from duplicate claims and accounting errors.

Mr Sanusi, then a respected banker, caused shockwaves in September 2013 when he claimed that the NNPC had failed to account for $20bn of oil sold between January 2012 and July 2013.

He was forced out of office following a heated row with Mr Jonathan and the NNPC over the allegation.

Mr Sanusi, now a powerful Muslim traditional leader in Nigeria, has not commented on PwC's findings.


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Nigerian army rescues hundreds of kidnapped girls from Boko Haram

Nigeria's army has rescued 200 girls and 93 women during a military operation to wrest back the Sambisa Forest from the Boko Haram Islamist militant group, it said on Tuesday.

Boko Haram kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls near the northern village of Chibok in April 2014, causing an international outcry. The six-year insurgency has seen thousands killed and many more abducted.

"Troops this afternoon rescued 200 girls and 93 women from Sambisa Forest. We cannot confirm if the Chibok girls are in this group," army spokesman Major General Chris Olukolade said, adding Nigerian troops had also destroyed three camps run by the militants there.

Diplomats and intelligence officials say they believed at least some of the girls were being held in the forest about 100 km (60 miles) from Chibok, although U.S. reconnaissance drones failed to find them.

The girls and women will be screened on Wednesday to determine whether they had been abducted or if they were married to the militants, one intelligence source told Reuters.

"Now they are excited about their freedom," he said. "Tomorrow there will be screenings to determine whether they are Boko Haram wives, whether they are from Chibok, how long they have been in the camps, and if they have children."

Some of the girls were injured, and some of the militants killed, he said without giving more details.

The group was rescued on Tuesday afternoon from camps, "discovered near or on the way to Sambisa," one army official said.

Nigerian forces backed by warplanes invaded the vast former colonial game reserve late last week as part of a push to win back territory from the group.

The group, notorious for violence against civilians, controlled an area roughly the size of Belgium at the start of the year but has since been beaten back by Nigerian troops, backed by Chad, Niger and Cameroon.

While the Nigerian army maintains the group is now hemmed in Sambisa Forest, militants have managed to launch attacks in the neighbourhood including chasing soldiers out of Marte town and an island on Lake Chad.


Local Bitcoin Remittance service Bitstake launches in Nigeria

Bitstake, a cryptocurrency exchange startup, offers a wide range of solutions to the 178 million people of Nigeria. Unlike most Bitcoin exchanges, which rely on users having access to the Internet in order to serve them, Bitstake has made it possible for its customers to access and use their wallets through SMS.

This gives it a strong proposition in a country where only 38% of the population has access to the Internet, compared to a mobile phone penetration of close to 100%.

Nigeria has the largest population in Africa, as well as the largest economy, with a 2013 GDP of $523 billion. Ironically, Bitcoin-related enterprises have been relatively slow to take hold there. This is why many Bitcoin enthusiasts on the continent will be watching to see how Bitstake performs in the coming months.

Speaking to CoinTelegraph, the company’s CTO Alexander Christian said that Bitstake offers a platform that makes it easy for the local Bitcoin community to exchange between cryptocurrencies and naira, the local fiat currency.

Christian said the startup targets Nigerians who live abroad and frequently send money back home to their families. It gives them a secure and fast remittance service at a cost of 1%, which is much cheaper than the fees that MoneyGram or Western Union charge. He adds:

“By creating a wallet on Bitstake, one can send and receive money from anywhere in the world at the cost of 1% of the value moved. Those who choose to have their funds held on the platform will also earn interest. Furthermore, there are options of trading, lending and getting low-cost loans."
The Challenge

Exchange and remittance, however, are not the only services Bitstake is putting forward. It also offers individuals and businesses an opportunity to acquire loans at very low cost through a peer-to-peer lending platform.

On the other hand, the company promises lenders in this arrangement, as well as those who save on the platform, a higher interest rate than what they would get if they saved their money in a bank account.

The exchange also has a trading section where you can buy and sell Bitcoin, Ripple, Blackcoin, and their native coin Bitstake against the naira to make a profit out of the price movement occasioned by demand-and-supply market forces.

Achieving success in all areas—the exchange and the peer-to-peer lending and trading services, as well as with its own crypto coin—however, might turn out to be the biggest challenge the company will face.

Cashing out into the local currency may also remain a pain point for customers. Unlike in Kenya where exchanges such as Bitpesa and Tagpesa found an infrastructure in Mpesa that made it easy to change between fiat and bitcoin, Bitstake customers will still have to go through a bank to get their money in naira. This is because mobile money service is still alien to Nigeria.

Christian, whose is working toward earning a masters in cyber security at the University of Oxford, says Bitstake has taken every possible measure in terms of security. This includes holding the bulk amount of clients’ funds in cold storage.
Bitstake Is a Proof-of-Stake Coin

Bitstake (XBS) is the native proof-of-stake coin of the platform, which has a total of 1,302,037 units. It can be exchanged for the other crypto coins, as well as the naira.

Christian says that Bitstake is in beta, but they have plans to launch early in May 2015, if all goes according to plan. He adds:

“It is after David could not find a faster and secure way to send money to his family in Nigeria that he invited me and [Roy] Carlos to work on the idea of Bitstake.”

The startup was founded by Christian, Carlos (who is the senior project manager) and David Ajayi, a Nigerian whose challenges in sending money home from England gave birth to the idea.

In order to encourage more signups from Nigerians, Bitstake plans to give out a bonus of 100 naira for every exchange account created and verified once the platform is up and running.

Coin Telegraph

Related story: Bitcoin exchange market coming to Nigeria

President elect Muhammadu Buhari to investigate Nigeria's missing $20 billion in oil revenue

Nigerian presidential-elect Muhammadu Buhari yesterday revealed that he is to investigate an alleged $20bn hole in the finances of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) when he is sworn in next month.

In a meeting with a delegation from the All Progressive’s Congress (APC) party’s Adamawa State chapter at his headquarters in the capital, Abuja, the former military ruler announced that he would investigate the claim of the former governor of the Nigerian Central Bank, Lamido Sanusi - now the emir of the northern city of Kano - that $20bn (£13.13bn) could not be accounted for.

Sanusi was suspended by president Goodluck Jonathan for “financial recklessness and misconduct” last year after he exposed the alleged shortfall in oil revenues in 2012 and 2013. At the time, the NNPC denied that any money was “missing” but Buhari, who will be sworn in on May 29, has now criticised the decision to sack Sanusi instead of investigating his claims.

"This issue is not over yet. Once we assume office, we will order a fresh probe into the matter,” the former oil minister confirmed in his address. “We will not allow people to steal money meant for Nigerians to buy shares and stash away in foreign lands."

"Imagine a situation where the former CBN (Central Bank of Nigeria) governor, who by God's grace, is now the emir of Kano, raised an issue of missing billions of money, not in naira but in dollars, $20 billion,” Buhari continued.

"What happened, instead of investigating whether it was true, they simply found a reason to remove him. So, these are the issues we are talking about,” he added. "I heard that some people have started returning money; I will not believe it until I see it by myself.

At the same time as the announcement, Nigeria’s Petroleum Resources minister Diezani Alison-Madueke announced that an unremitted payment of $1.4bn would be refunded to state coffers on recommendation of an audit carried out by Jonathan, Africa-focused outlet Sahara Reporters reported.

His confirmation of the oil probe comes as little surprise, says Manji Cheto, vice-president of risk consultancy Teneo Intelligence, with the incoming leader looking to assert his authority and build his credibility and he has long spoken of the oil ministry with suspicion.

“It was always quite obvious that he was going to go for the oil sector. It is a low-hanging fruit,” says Cheto. “The oil industry is an industry he understands. He knows exactly where money should be going and how the allocation should be.”

“If they can tackle a major corruption case, it gives them the credibility boost that they need to make bigger structural changes that they need going forward,” she adds. “They need to win public support first of all, they need people to believe from the onset that they are a credible government and that they mean business. It’s clearly a strategy designed to give them a bit of breathing room.”

Last month, Buhari sealed a historic election victory, defeating outgoing president Goodluck Jonathan in what is the country's first ever democratic change of power to an opposition party. A Reuters tally confirmed that his APC party secured 15.4 million votes to People’s Democratic Party (PDP) leader Jonathan’s 13.3 million in the country’s 36 states.

Before this win, Buhari, 72, had failed on three occasions (2003, 2007 and 2011) in his bid to return as Nigerian president since the country moved from a series of military rulers to a democratic system in 1999. He survived a Boko Haram assassination attempt last July when a suicide bomber aligned to the radical Islamist group targeted his car in the northern city of Kaduna.


Related story: Nigeria's $20 billion oil leak

Hundreds of decomposing bodies found in Damasak, Nigeria

Reports of decomposing bodies littering the streets of Damasak came as president Muhammadu Buhari denounced the Islamists as a bogus religious group and vowed a hard line against them when he comes to power at the end of next month.

North-east Nigeria has been relentlessly targeted throughout the jihadists' six-year uprising but there had been a lull in violence in recent weeks.

A coalition of troops from Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria has claimed major victories since February, reportedly flushing the militants out of areas they previously controlled.

The discovery of hundreds of bodies, including women and children, and the latest attacks underlined both the brutality of the conflict and the continuing threat posed by the extremists.

The grim find in Damasak “far outnumbered” that of about 100 bodies found in a mass grave under a bridge after the town was liberated in early March by Chadian forces, said local resident Kaumi Kusur.

“Dead bodies were found in houses, streets and many more in the Damasak River which has dried up,” he said, adding the victims were buried in 20 mass graves at the weekend.

Mohammed Sadiq, another local who helped in the burials on Saturday, put the death toll at more than 400 but the Borno state government did not state a precise figure, giving a toll of “hundreds”.

The victims had been covered by sand from the encroaching desert, with the burial ordered by the state authorities, which are looking at the return of thousands of people displaced by the violence.

Buhari, who takes office on May 29, was elected last month on a pledge of a tougher approach to Boko Haram than the current administration of President Goodluck Jonathan.

The former military ruler said in a statement issued by his All Progressives Congress party: “No religion allows for the killing of children in school dormitories, in markets and places of worship.

“They have nothing to do with religion. They are terrorists and we are going to deal with them as we deal with terrorists.”

Buhari was speaking after Boko Haram fighters stormed the island of Karamga on Lake Chad in motorised canoes before sunrise on Saturday.

Troops from Niger stationed on the island “were caught off guard” and suffered heavy losses, said Umar Yerima, a fisherman who witnessed the raid but escaped by hiding in long grass near the shore.

Niger's military confirmed the attack but did not provide a death toll. A security source in Chad said Niger lost 48 soldiers and another 36 were missing.

Another source, an official from southeastern Niger's Diffa region, said the toll was much higher at 80 dead and some 30 missing.

Yerima told AFP the Islamic State group-allied militants “turned their guns” onto civilians after overpowering the troops, firing at people who had jumped into the water to avoid detection.

Some residents were also burnt alive in their homes, he added.

On Friday, suspected Boko Haram fighters disguised as soldiers intercepted a group of people trying to return to their homes to collect abandoned food supplies in northeastern Yobe state.

“The men, 21 of them, were stopped at Bultaram (village) by gunmen we believe are Boko Haram who shot them dead,” said Baba Nuhu, an official with the Gujba local government.

Like many Gujba residents, Nuhu and Haruna Maram, the brother of one of the victims, have sought refuge from the violence in Yobe's capital Damaturu.

“My brother and 20 others wanted to bring back their grains to augment their lean food supplies,” Maram said. “Unfortunately, they were killed by (the) same Boko Haram we ran away from.”

Gujba is one of a handful of districts in Yobe that Boko Haram captured during its sweeping offensive from mid-2014.

It was also the scene of a gruesome massacre at an agricultural college in 2013 that targeted students sleeping their dormitories.

Community leaders have warned civilians are still at risk, especially those returning to remote areas like Gujba where the military's deployment has typically been thin.

Many experts agree that Boko Haram is likely to transition from capturing and holding territory to reverting to a pattern of hit-and-run attacks.

Analysts say boastings from regional armies should be treated with caution, as the Islamists are far from defeated and can easily regroup, especially if there is a let-up in the military pressure.


Monday, April 27, 2015

Nigeria recalls diplomats from South Africa over xenophobic attacks

Nigeria’s ambassador in Pretoria, and the consul general in Johannesburg, will return to Nigeria for consultations.

A Nigerian government statement noted that some South Africans had organised peace marches and that President Jacob Zuma had condemned the attacks.

Nigerian legislators have called for the South African government to pay damages and a Nigerian rights group has complained to the International Criminal Court.

The South African government, calling the Nigerian government’s action “an unfortunate and regrettable step”, said it and a wide range of civic organisations had been “decisive and unequivocal in condemning and rejecting the attacks on foreign nationals”.

Al Jazeera reported that the statement by South Africa’s Department of International Cooperation and Cooperation went on to deride the Nigerian government over its inability to rein in the Boko Haram insurgency in the north of its country.

It also pointed out that South Africa did not blame the Nigerian government for mishandling the aftermath of the collapse of a church building last year, which left 84 South Africans dead.


Related story: South Africa closes consulate in Lagos, Nigeria after anti-xenophobia protests

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Nigeria summons South African ambassador over xenophobic attacks

Nigeria's foreign ministry has summoned South Africa's high commissioner over anti-immigrant violence in which at least seven people have been killed, it said in a statement on Wednesday.

South Africa deployed soldiers on Tuesday to try to quell the unrest after being criticized by governments including China and Zimbabwe for failing to protect foreigners from armed mobs.

"The essence of the summon was to register Nigeria's protest over the on-going xenophobic attacks against fellow Africans in South Africa," the ministry said, adding that the meeting had happened on Monday.

It also called on the South African authorities to quell the unrest and bring those involved to book.

On Tuesday, four men aged between 18 and 22 were charged with the murder and robbery of a Mozambican man, Emmanuel Sithole, whose death was captured by a newspaper photographer and plastered across the front pages, shocking the nation.

Isolated counter-protests involving a few dozen people have occurred in Nigeria, an economy in which South African firms such as mobile phone giant MTN and supermarket chain Shoprite have large stakes.

Diplomats from several African countries have urged their citizens back home not to seek vengeance.

"We are appealing to our countries not to retaliate," Democratic Republic of the Congo ambassador Bene M'Poko told a news conference in Johannesburg, stressing that South African firms in the rest of the continent were "working peacefully".


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Video - Stephen Keshi appointed Super Eagles coach for the third time

Stephen Keshi has been appointed Nigeria coach for the third time and signed a two-year contract on Tuesday.

In his first spell he won the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations but the deal was not renewed after the 2014 World Cup.

He later returned on a match-by-match deal, which ended in November after failure to reach the 2015 Nations Cup.

"It's a fresh start. We need the support of our fans, media and every Nigerian to return the team to where we truly belong," Keshi told BBC Sport.

"As a coach and former player I was also hurt that we failed to qualify for the last Nations Cup.
Continue reading the main story

"To succeed we all need to come together as one because Nigeria belongs to us - this is not Stephen Keshi's team but our national team."

BBC Sport understands that Keshi has been set several targets and that his contract will be terminated if he does not meet them.

The 53-year-old was also required to sign a code of conduct and is expected to work with the Nigerian Football Federation technical committee.

However, the NFF's technical committee boss Felix Anyansi-Agwu said: "The NFF board is confident Stephen Keshi can take the Super Eagles to new heights.

"We want Nigerians to see this as a new beginning and to support the team and the NFF."

Keshi, who also won the Nations Cup as a player with Nigeria in 1994, declined to comment on the contract details or the exit of his long-term assistant Daniel Amokachi.

Former Nigeria striker Amokachi has left his role with immediate effect and been replaced by Salisu Yusuf.

Yusuf, who led Kano Pillars to the Nigerian title in 2008, has previously worked as assistant to former Nigeria coach Samson Siasia at both senior and U20 levels.

As caretaker coach, Keshi endured a turbulent 2014, in which he was sacked by the NFF and only reinstalled after intervention from Nigeria President Goodluck Jonathan.

His last two home matches in Abuja and Akwa Ibom were marred by a negative reaction from the public and Keshi has pleaded for the home supporters to be positive during the 2017 Nations Cup qualifiers.

The Super Eagles have been drawn in one of the toughest-looking groups, alongside seven-time champions Egypt, Tanzania and Chad.

"I understand we still have some disappointed people out there but our dedicated players deserve our encouragement and support," added Keshi.

"It doesn't matter where they play, these boys always give everything and we need to stand by them and the coaching crew.

"I remain confident that this time around we will see an improvement, change in attitude and positive results."


South Africa closes consulate in Lagos, Nigeria after anti-xenophobia protests

Protests were held outside the consulate and at the South African High Commission in Abuja.

South African consul general in Nigeria, Sam Monaisa, said in an email to the South African business forum in that country that the closure would remain in force until Thursday.

The situation in Durban had calmed down, but he was concerned about the Nigerians that were being repatriated, he wrote.

He said Nigerians were using social media to blow an already tense situation in South Africa out of proportion and stoking emotions.

This was why Nigerians maintained that their compatriots were being killed daily in South Africa, he said.

South Africans becoming targets
He warned the forum’s members to stay alert and not move around unnecessarily. South African businesses and citizens became targets of threats and acts of retaliation whenever xenophobic attacks occurred in South Africa, he cautioned.

Meanwhile, in Zimbabwe 15 people who were part of a first group of Zimbabweans returning home in the wake of xenophobic attacks in Durban have “disappeared” in Musina, state media reported on Tuesday.

The Herald newspaper said in an online update: “Fifteen victims disappeared in Musina where they reportedly claimed feeling safe because there were no xenophobic attacks reported.” There were no further details.

Zimbabwe is repatriating up to 2000 of its citizens who have asked to be evacuated in the wake of the attacks.

The first six buses carrying 407 Zimbabweans left Durban on Sunday.


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Locally brewed gin suspected of causing 18 deaths in Nigeria

Ethanol poisoning from a locally brewed gin may have been responsible for the sudden death of 18 people last week, Nigerian health authorities said Monday.

"We strongly suspect ethanol poisoning and in view of this, we have ordered for another toxicology test for the surviving victims," Ondo state health commissioner Dayo Adeyanju told AFP.

Preliminary investigations ruled out viral or Ebola infection for the outbreak of the mysterious illness in the southwestern town of Ode-Irele on April 15.

"Our investigations revealed that five of the victims took local gin mixed with herbs. Three of them died while the other two have been put under close observation," Adeyanju said.

A total 23 people were affected, and 18 died.

The five others were referred to the Lagos University Teaching Hospital for further tests.

Adeyanju said the disease was not contagious, and that no new cases have been reported in the past four days.

"We will continue to monitor the situation. We are appealing to our people to report any case of sudden illness or death to the health authorities for immediate action," he said.

Experts from the World Health Organization were in Ode-Irele to investigate and contain the disease.

The WHO representative in Nigeria, Dr Rui Gama Vaz, told reporters in Abuja on Monday that his organisation would continue to provide technical support to health authorities to battle the disease.

The global health body had said on Sunday that pesticide poisoning was the likely cause of the mysterious deaths.

The victims, whose symptoms included headache, weight loss, blurred vision and loss of consciousness, all died within a day of falling ill.


Friday, April 17, 2015

Chimamanda Adichie makes Time magazine's 100 must influential people list

Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has been listed by Time magazine as one of the world's 100 most influential people. 

Three other Nigerians - Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau, President-elect Muhammadu Buhari, and #BringBackOurGirls campaigner Obiageli Ezekwesil - also appear on the list.

Ms Adichie, 37, is hailed by the US magazine as a "creator of characters".

The four Nigerians appear with three other Africans on the annual list.

They include Sudanese aid worker Mustafa Hassan, Liberia's Ebola-fighting doctor Jerry Brown and Tunisia's President Beji Caid Essebsi.

Ms Adichie is described in the US magazine as "rare novelist who in the space of a year finds her words sampled by Beyonce, optioned by Lupita Nyong'o and honoured with the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction".

"With her viral TEDxEuston talk, We Should All Be Feminists, she found her voice as cultural critic," wrote Radhika Jones, a deputy managing editor of Time.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

WAEC trains over 400 teachers to curb mass failure rate of Nigerian students

The West African Examination Council has organised a training for over 400 secondary school teachers from public schools in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja.

The training was on how to improve teaching and learning in these schools.

Speaking at the opening of the training​, ​jointly organised by WAEC and the FCT Education Secretariat, the Head of National Office, WAEC, Charles Eguridu, said the council was concerned about the poor performance of candidates in West African Senior School Certificate Examination.

Mr. Eguridu said an in-depth research revealed a number of factors responsible for the worrisome trend.

The Deputy Registrar, Patrick Areghian, who represented Mr. Eguridu said there have been a gap in the interpretation of the curriculum with relation to the examination syllabus.

He explained that an inappropriate implementation of the syllabus was another reason why candidates performed woefully in the council’s examinations.

“Rarely do teachers cover the syllabus,” he said. “Whereas, the WAEC, for example, sets questions on all aspects of the syllabus. This, no doubt, puts candidates at a great disadvantage.”

Mr. Areghian said the training was designed to highlight the evil of examination malpractice. He noted that there was a need to avoid or curb it as well as maintain the validity and reliability of WAEC examinations and up-hold the integrity of certificates awarded.

He said the training was intended to correct the imbalance and enhance the quality of teaching and learning in schools and the performance of candidates.

He added that the council had also identified the gap between teacher-made tests and standardized tests, like WAEC tests. He noted that even when students exceled in the internal examination, they failed woefully in the external examination.

“The reason for this is not farfetched,” he said. “It is because they are not being exposed to the nature of standardized tests.”

He assured that the training would equip teachers with item-writing skills with a view to closing the gap between teacher-made tests and standardized tests.

Premium Times

Video - Aljazeera speaks with the few schoolgirls that escaped from Boko Haram

Nigerians are attending vigils to mark the anniversary of Boko Haram's abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls in the country's northeast.

Alleged drug dealer Buruji Kashamu electected senator in Nigeria

A man indicted in America for allegedly smuggling heroin in a court case that was the basis for the TV hit "The New Orange is Black" has been elected a senator in Nigeria.

Buruji Kashamu was little known before he returned home in 2003 from Britain despite a U.S. extradition order to become a major financier of President Goodluck Jonathan's party.

Election results posted late Wednesday identify Kashamu as a senator-elect in southwest Ogun state. Opponents are challenging his victory in court, saying ballots were rigged.

Kashamu, 56, hung up the phone twice when the AP called for comment on Thursday. Kashamu has said the 1998 indictment by a grand jury in the Northern District of Illinois for conspiracy to import and distribute heroin in the United States is a case of mistaken identity, He has said Chicago prosecutors really want the dead brother he closely resembles. A British court refused a U.S. extradition request in 2003, ruling there was uncertainty about Kashamu's identity.

A dozen people were long ago tried and jailed in the case, including American Piper Kerman, whose memoir about her jail time became the Netflix hit "Orange Is The New Black."

A Nigerian federal court last year ordered Kashamu's extradition, an order upheld by an appeals court. But Nigeria's government has not extradited him.

That failure to act caused Olusegun Obasanjo, a former president, to warn that "drug barons ... will buy candidates, parties and eventually buy power or be in power themselves."

Jonathan's perceived protection of Kashamu was a factor that led Obasanjo to defect before recent elections to the opposition that won most votes in Obasanjo's home state of Ogun. The results included the governorship and eight of 11 seats in the House of Assembly.

Kashamu is suing Obasanjo for libel over statements that Kashamu is a fugitive from U.S. justice. He had won a court order halting publication of Obasanjo's autobiography but a judge this week rescinded it, saying Kashamu had misled the court. Obasanjo's lawyer argued that the truth cannot be libel.

President-elect Muhammadu Buhari, a former military dictator, has promised to wage war on corruption.


Related story: Video - How ex-governor of Delta state James Ibori started as petty thief in London

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Video - Bring back our girls - London March

Similar marches were held in London to commemorate the 1st Anniversary of the Chibok Abduction. Protesters are showing again their concern for the victims of Boko Haram.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Africa's richest man Aliko Dangote transforming Nigeria into an export nation

 The reputation of being the largest economy in Africa is worth almost nothing, if Nigeria perpetually remains a consumer nation, not producing finished goods for export.

For decades, Nigeria was a pathetic case of a mass market providing socio-economic advantage for many foreign nations but none for itself.

Thailand, india and other nations in south-east Asia put millions to work in their countries taking advantage of the mass market provided for their rice in the 170 million strong Nigerian market.

Turkey, China among others also recorded significant industrial growth, exporting cement to Nigeria at a time when the largest nation in Africa held the ignoble reputation of one of the largest importers of cement in the world.

Nigeria suffered a similar fate in the case of furniture importation, despite being a nation with some of the largest rain forests in the world, with wood from trees in abundance. The case was not different for petroleum products importation, wheat, automobile, fish and vegetable oil.

It is therefore exciting news to learn that apart from become self-sufficient in cement production and consumption within Nigeria, the largest local manufacturer of the essential product, Dangote Cement plc, has also begun massive investment in other countries and exportation to foreign nations.

Cement Export to Gambia, Mali

A few weeks ago, Dangote Cement plc opened up the channel of cement exports to Mali, the Gambia and other African nations in that region. This initiative followed massive investment in cement production in many other African nations, after the investment in Nigeria had reached an advanced stage.

Country Head, Dangote Industries, Senegal, Luk Haelterman, who provided the information at the opening of the new $250 million Dangote Cement factory in Senegal, hinted that the initial volume of cement export was pegged at 2 million metric tonnes.

''Because of over capacity in the new plant in Senegal, Dangote Cement exports 2MT to Mali and the Gambia through rail,'' Haelterman said.

According to Haelterman, the plant has taken roughly $250 million so far, while actual production and sales started January 10, 2015.

''In this country, Dangote will not only stop at producing cement, we also have helped beyond cement. Which is the idea of the owner, to become a pan-African enterprise.

''Senegal is a market with over-capacity of cement (only 14m people), because it had two cement factories before now. But today, Dangote has become the biggest and best because we have and produce the 42.5R only, which is better than what we met on ground, which is the 32.5R.''

Sales and Marketing Director, Serigne M. Dieng said: ''Senegal with 14 million people and a GDP of 4 per cent (2013) has cement market of 3MT pa and consumption rate of 230kg.

Haelterman said the market despite being a saturated one has potential for growth both for local consumption and export, with the introduction of the new cement grade in the region.

"The last few years has seen the company overcoming a lot challenges in the country, especially those related to the smear campaign on environmental impact of the factory in the country. It's a saturated market with Dangote being the third entrant in the market after two other cement manufacturers. What has kept us going is the competitive edge that our 42.5 grade of cement has given us in offering consumers fine quality of cement.

"Our corporate social responsibility activities have improved and we believe that the plant would exemplary to community matters", he added.
Also, Chief Operating Officer of the plant, Athanasios Bampos, said the location of the factory was not only rich in limestone but also in clay and laterite, which are the major components needed in cement manufacturing. ''The only component other Dangote cement plants import, gypsium is being sold by a local firm, ICS Chemical Company, which is about 45 kilometres from the factory,'' he said.
Nigerian ambassador to Senegal and Mauritania, Katyen C. Jackden, used the opportunity to thank the Senegalese government and its people for the support and opportunity given to a foreign investor like Aliko Dangote, saying
''Dangote has been able to bring cohesion among African nations with his investments.''

New Development in Cameroun

Following the ban of cement importation in Cameroon, Dangote Cement Plc has expressed optimism of consolidating its Pan-African growth while effectively harnessing export opportunities to other regions.
Already, the company with a capacity utilisation of about 80 per cent in its cement plant in Douala, Cameroon, hopes to deepen its market penetration in the country as well as the Central African region through innovative product offering.
Unveiling the company's plans, General Manager, Dangote Cement, Cameroun, Abdulahi Baba, noted that the plant has a production capacity of 1.5 million metric tonnes per annum with expectations to achieve full capacity utilisation by 2016.

He explained that the plant possessed one of the most recent facilities of ensuring that there are no dust emission during production.

The General Manager stated that the company put strategies in place to achieve 30 per cent market share, noting that there were also plans of achieving 30 per cent export of total production.

He stated: “We are set to achieve stability of operations in 2015 Q1, pursue aggressive market penetration and consolidation through appropriate above-the-line and below-the-line activities. 170 distributors have been selected after the interview process. 85 distributors will start, while the number will gradually increase with increasing production.”

“Mines at Tombel have been opened up and it is under exploitation. The Mines at Batoke would soon become operational. Exploration licence for Foumban deposit has also been secured. Environmental Impact Analysis (EIA) and other activities for securing mining lease are being being processed. About 5,000 MT of pozzolana is stockpiled at the living area," he stated.

Baba noted that the company's ex-factory price is the cheapest in Cameroun when compared to other products in the camerounian market, stressing that Dangote Cement's 42.5 grade is cheaper than the 32.5 grade that is sold in the open market.

A distributor, Fonoggi Serge, noted that the product is of a very high quality but sold at a very affordable rate.

“Consumers and other dealers are already making demand for the commodity. I sell 20 tonnes daily and the acceptability of the product is rapidly increasing and it goes for between 4,000 – 4,500 CFA", he stated.

A block maker, Kamdoum Rodrigue, certified that the product is of very good quality, stressing that it takes a shor period to dry when used for block making.

“Before now, we used to stay for one week waiting for the blocks to dry, but with this new product, we only stay for two to three days and our blocks are ready for supply. Now we meet our customers demand earlier than we used to,” Rodrigue stated.

Expansion to South Africa

Dangote formally increased its stake in Sephaku Cement Limited, which is based in South Africa, from 19.76 per cent to 64 per cent. The transaction, which comprises a R779 million investment into Sephaku Cement by Dangote, is the largest ever foreign direct investment (FDI) by an African company into South Africa.

The dea was concluded at the shareholder general meeting of Sephaku Cement in October 2010 and formally announced to the media and investors later.

President and Chief Executive of Dangote Industries Limited and the new Chairman of Sephaku Cement, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, commended the transaction as taking place “at a crucial moment in the history of cement demand and supply, and at a crucial moment in terms of Dangote’s pan-African ambitions.”

“We are immensely excited about the future prospects of this transaction and look forward to a long and prosperous relationship with Sephaku Cement,” he added. “This investment is an important milestone for Sephaku, for the Dangote Group of Companies and for South Africa, as the first clinker producing project since 1934.”

According to Dangote, the pace of development at Sephaku will increase in view of the project completion timeline set for 2012. He said the Dangote Group will bring its full experience and resources to the project, having completed other large scale cement projects in Nigeria and with similar projects currently underway in Tanzania, Ethiopia, Republic of Congo (Brazzaville), Senegal and Zambia.

“We are strong believers in the future growth of the South African economy and of continued growth across the whole of Africa,” he said. “The level of our investment here and in other markets is testament to that. We have embarked on an investment programme that will create modern cement plants in strategic locations as we seek to leverage both the local production deficit and increasing infrastructure investment.”
He said Africa is growing, as significant investments are being made to improve infrastructure, by both governments and the private sector, stating that the intention of the group is to consolidate its cement assets into one company that will have the scale and resources to compete globally.

“This growth in infrastructure will only increase demand for cement,” he said. “Our development plans are designed to address the current gap between supply and demand and provide additional capacity to ensure that the two remain closely aligned over the coming years.”

Also commenting on the transaction, Sephaku Cement CEO, Mr. Pieter Fourie, said: “Our partnership with Dangote reflects the attractiveness of South Africa to foreign investors and we are firmly committed to bringing a new entrant into the South African cement market for the first time in over 70 years. Construction is underway at both Aganang and Delmas we are on track to enter the market in 2012.”

With this development, Dangote is set to commence construction at its key projects. In terms of the agreement, Dangote has received 217,597,765 ordinary shares at an issue price of R3.58 per share, an agreement which increases the company’s interest in Sephaku Cement from 19.76 percent to 64 per cent, at an average price of R4.47 per share.

This further investment follows an initial R350 million of equity funding concluded in March 2008, making the R1.129 billion total investment the largest ever foreign direct investment into South Africa by an African company. The remaining 36 percent will continue to be held by Sephaku Holdings.

Congo Cement Project
The Republic of Congo and Dangote Group stated that the company’s cement project in the country was making good progress and would commence production soon.

Dangote Group recently extended its Pan-African cement investment to the Republic of Congo in Central Africa, with a $350 million Investment Agreement signed between the group and the Federal Government of Congo.

While President of Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote, signed the agreement on behalf of his company in Brazzaville, the Minister of Planning, Economy, Integration and Coordinator of the Economic Pole Mr. Pierre Moussa, the Minister of Industrial Development and Private Sector Promotion Mr. Rodolphe Adada, and the Minister of Mines and Geology, Mr. Pierre Oba, all endorsed the agreement on behalf of the Government of Congo.

Adada, who spoke on behalf of the government, hailed Dangote’s move to invest in the country and pledged full support of the government for the project. According to him, Dangote is a symbol of the emancipation of the African continent with this significant investment in to Congo.

“The Dangote project is important to our people and our economy as it enables us achieve President Denis Sassou Nguesso’s vision for a robust and diversified economy.

“The project will help the country significantly reduce the imports of cement and even enable us become a net exporter of cement while boosting economic growth, development, job creation and income generation”, he added.

“We are proud to have Dangote in Congo and it is a demonstration of an excellent relationship between the governments of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Republic of Congo,” he said.

Also speaking at the event, Dangote said the intention of the company in its foray into Congo was not just to make profit but also to further empower the people of Congo, create new jobs and wealth.

“We are committed to our business all over the world and Congo will be no exception. We are going to invest $350 million in the construction of a fully integrated cement factory with an installed capacity of 1.5 million metric tonnes per year within the next three years and transform Congo into a net exporter of cement,” Dangote said.

According to him, this investment would serve as a launch pad into other sectors of the Congolese economy.

The factory would be located in the territory of the administrative district of Bouenza in the southern part of the Republic of Congo. As a fully integrated plant the facility would process local limestone and other raw materials.

Dangote assured of a successful delivery of this project, which is one of many other successful projects in 14 other African countries, where the company has invested.

He said he believed that this investment would further strengthen the bilateral ties between both countries.

“This indeed, shows that Africa is gradually taking its destiny in its own hands rather than wait for investors from outside. Investment in the real sector of the economy is the only way that our continent can achieve the much desired accelerated growth and development that we have yearned for,” he said.

“It is obvious that African governments alone cannot hope to meet this demand due to the various competing needs in other aspects of the economy. This is why private companies are needed to complement the government’s efforts. It is in this light that we have decided to invest in Cameroon,” Dangote explained.

“We are motivated to create an African success story because we believe that entrepreneurship, especially our own home-grown African entrepreneurship, holds the key to the future economic growth of the continent. The fact that Africa offers one of the highest returns on investment (ROI) in the world is an additional incentive for any discerning investor, who can take calculated risks,” he added.

“As a company, we have always been conscious of the need to give a little of our profits back to the society as a guarantee for sustainable business success. This has been our guiding business philosophy. In all our host communities where we operate, we have a robust CSR strategy in place, for translating this philosophy into projects and actions that touch positively on the citizens,” Dangote noted.

“With the cooperation of our host communities, we will create employment opportunities and help small businesses to grow in Congo,” he assured.
He hinted that the long term ambition of his company is to develop 50 million metric tonnes of cement production and terminal capacity in Africa by 2015, stressing that they want to become a truly pan-African champion in the sector, capable of competing globally with the largest cement companies in the world.

“We quite understand the dynamics of doing business in Africa because we are Africans. We respect the people and their cultures anywhere we operate in Africa and for us this is an undeniable edge,” he said.

Written by Crusoe Osagie

This Day

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

Nigeria signs deal with Russia to build 4 nuclear power plants

Nigeria is now one step closer to building as many as four nuclear power plants costing some $80bn (£54.7bn, €75.7bn).

The West African nation has signed an agreement with Russia's Rosatom to cooperate on the design, construction, operation and decommissioning of an atomic power facility, according to Franklin Erepamo Osaisai, chairman and CEO of the Nigeria Atomic Energy Commission.

The first nuclear plant will be operational in 2025.

It will be increased to four plants with a total capacity of 4,800 megawatts by 2035, with each facility costing $20bn, according to Osaisai, Bloomberg reported. One megawatt can power 2,000 average European homes or nearly 333 in Japan.

Majority stake

Rosatom will hold a majority stake in Nigeria's nuclear facilities while the rest will be owned by the state, with roles to be defined in contractual agreements, Osaisai said.

The plants will be financed by the vendor, which will then build, own, operate and transfer them to the government, he added. The Nigerian government "will enter a power-purchasing agreement for the nuclear plant".

"A joint coordination committee is in place and negotiations are ongoing for financing and contracting. We are meticulously implementing our plans," Osaisai said at a conference in Kenya's Kwale coastal region.

Nigeria's peak electricity output is about 3,800 megawatts, with another 1,500 megawatts unavailable because of gas shortages.


One year later - Over 200 kidnapped schoolgirls still missing in Nigeria

Ceremonies are to be staged around the world to mark one year since more than 200 girls were abducted by Nigerian militant Islamist group Boko Haram.

A procession is being held in the capital, Abuja, with 219 girls taking part to represent each missing girl.

The abduction of the girls in Chibok in north-eastern Nigeria sparked global outrage, with nations such as the US and China promising to help find them.

There have been sightings of the girls reported, but none has been found.

Boko Haram say the girls have converted to Islam and been married off. One witness told the BBC that she saw more than 50 of them alive three weeks ago in the north-eastern town of Gwoza.

t has been a whole year of agony for the relatives of the missing 219 Chibok girls. There have been a few sightings of some of the abducted students but very little official information from a government that has long promised to rescue them from the clutches of Boko Haram.

One mother told the BBC she sometimes arranges her 19-year-old daughter's clothes in the hope that she is about to return home.

The scale of this conflict is so grim that the Chibok girls represent just a fraction of those seized by the jihadists. Many have escaped partly thanks to a recent military offensive - but not the Chibok girls.

High-profile figures such as Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai and US First Lady Michelle Obama were among those who drew attention to their plight on Twitter last year under the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag.

Since then, the activists who began that campaign have spoken of relatives' anguish at still not knowing what happened to the girls, and have criticised the Nigerian government of outgoing President Goodluck Jonathan for not doing enough to find them.

"Our president has said the girls are alive. Our question is: 'Where are our girls?'" Aisha Yesufu, a spokeswoman for the group, told the BBC.

Mr Jonathan told the BBC's Newsday that political rivalries had hampered the federal government's ability to grasp the scale of the Chibok attack and respond to it, as the government of Borno state, a Boko Haram stronghold, was run by an opposition party.

Nigeria's incoming president, Muhammadu Buhari, said his government would "do everything in its power to bring them home" but said he "cannot promise that we can find them".

The six-year Boko Haram insurgency in the north has left thousands dead.

Amnesty International say the militants have abducted 2,000 girls and women since the start of last year, using them as cooks, sex slaves and fighters.


Monday, April 13, 2015

Video - Nigerian army retakes northern towns from Boko Haram

As Nigeria goes to the polls again, there are still some concerns about the Boko Haram insurgency. While latest reports indicate that the country's military backed by regional troops have ousted Boko Haram fighters from all major towns and forest camps in most of northern Nigeria, there is still evidence that the militants have the power to carry out brutal attacks on civilians.

APC defeats PDP in state polls

 The party of Nigeria's incoming president has won a landslide in elections for powerful state governors, ending the former ruling party's dominance.

The All Progressives Congress (APC) won 19 of the 29 governor posts in Saturday's elections.

It is the biggest defeat for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) since military ruled ended in 1999.

It lost the presidential poll last month for the first time.

APC leader Muhammadu Buhari will be inaugurated on 29 May, after he defeated President Goodluck Jonathan.

The PDP's decline has been reinforced by results from Saturday's elections for governors and state assemblies, reports the BBC's Bashir Saad Abdullahi from the capital, Abuja.

The party lost for the first time key northern states like Kaduna and Katsina. However, it managed to hold on to Rivers State, Nigeria' s oil hub.

The PDP won nine governorships, while the election in Imo state was declared inconclusive, because the number of spoilt ballot papers was larger than the margin of victory.

Elections were not held in seven states.

Nigeria's 36 governors enjoy wide powers and are extremely influential. Some, especially in oil-producing areas, control bigger budgets than those of national governments in some neighbouring West African countries.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (Inec) reported 66 violent incidents at polling stations - higher than in the presidential poll.

Most of the violence took place in Rivers and other southern states, where voting at some polling stations had to be extended.

On Sunday, Inec also announced that the APC had retained power in Lagos state.

It means that when Gen Buhari takes over the presidency it will be the first time that the party of the president has controlled Lagos - the commercial capital - since the advent of multi-party democracy in 1999.

Our correspondent says the PDP will have to go through a period of introspection, and then rebuild itself under a new leader.

The party was in power for 16 years, and voters felt that it was time for change, he says.

It had been hit by the defection of governors and MPs to the APC ahead of the elections.

The PDP also faced widespread allegations of corruption during its rule, and was accused of failing to enough to end an Islamist-led insurgency in the north-east where it suffered huge defeats.


Sunday, April 12, 2015

Video - Vice News covers the fight against Boko Haram

Since 2009, the militant Islamist group known as Boko Haram has wreaked havoc in northern Nigeria. Instilling terror through bombings, abductions, and beheadings, Boko Haram is fighting to create an Islamic state in the most populous country in Africa.

VICE News traveled to Nigeria to embed with the country's army as it ramped up its fight against Boko Haram, whose rise has caused a state of emergency. As the only journalists on the front line in northern Nigeria, we witnessed the beginning of the largest military insurgency to date.

In part one of a three-part series, VICE News correspondent Kaj Larsen visits the site of a recent Boko Haram attack, interviews refugees and victims of the militant group, and heads to the front lines of the ongoing conflict.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Nigeria's FIFA world ranking drops

Nigeria has dropped from the 41st position to 45th in world football ranking, the April FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking released on Thursday has shown.

This plunge is as a result of the country's team performance in two recent friendly matches played against Uganda and South Africa.

The Super Eagles lost 0-1 to Uganda in Uyo and drew 1-1with South Africa in Nelspruit.

Algeria also dropped from 18th to 21st position, while African champions Cote D'Ivoire plunged from 20 to 23, and Ghana dropped two places to 26.

Tunisia dropped five places to 30th position in the ranking.

Other African teams ranked higher than Nigeria are Senegal (36), Cape Verde Islands (37) and Guinea (41).

The top 10 African countries are Algeria, Cote D'Ivoire, Ghana, Tunisia, Senegal, Cape Verde Islands, Guinea, Nigeria, Cameroon and Congo.

In the ranking, Belgium achieved its highest-ever position in FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking.

Belgium is third in world ranking following two wins in qualifying matches for UEFA EURO 2016.

Belgium is now placed third in the ranking, behind the unchanged leading duo of Germany and Argentina.

Brazil moves up from sixth position to fifth and the Netherlands is occupying sixth position from fifth.

Switzerland is up three positions to 9th and Spain is up one position to 10th.

France and Italy are 11th and 13th, down three steps respectively, while Wales is up 15 positions to 22nd, and Belarus 15 positions from 83rd.

Iraq is now 86th, Azerbaijan 115th, Syria 126th, India 147th, Nicaragua 154th, Gambia 156th and the Cayman Islands 191st.

Most of these teams were victorious in one or more qualifying matches in recent weeks.

Bhutan, who beat Sri Lanka twice in the Asian qualifiers for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, is now ranked 163rd in the world.

In addition to Belgium and Bhutan, Wales, the Faroe Islands (102nd, up 3) and Timor-Leste have all achieved their highest-ever position since the ranking was introduced in 1993.

A total of 135 international "A" matches have been taken into account for the latest edition of the ranking, while the total number of matches evaluated is 217.

Of the new matches, 25 were qualifiers for EURO 2016, 26 for 2018 World Cup qualifiers (in CONCACAF and AFC) and 84 were friendlies.


UN launches $174 million appeal for refugees of Boko Haram violence

The United Nations launched an appeal on Thursday for $174 million in what it called "life-saving aid" for almost 200,000 Nigerians who have fled the country due to brutal attacks by Boko Haram jihadists.

The insurgents, who are seeking to create an Islamic state in the country's predominantly Muslim north, have killed up to 15,000 people since 2009, according to the UN.

"Displaced people in north-eastern Nigeria and across borders are in a very dramatic situation," Liz Ahua, west Africa representative for the UNHCR, the organisation's refugee agency, said.

"They continue to fear for their lives, and are at this point unable to return to their homes."

Some 192,000 people have fled over Nigeria's borders into Cameroon, Chad and Niger seeking refuge from relentless violence, according to the UNHCR.

*Displaced children scrambling for food at an IDPs camp in Maiduguri... How safe are they?

A further 1.2 million have been displaced within Nigeria as a direct result of the bloodshed, the agency said at the launch of the Nigeria Inter-Agency Regional Refugee Response Plan.

Staff and volunteers in 23 aid organisations and UN agencies say they are struggling to provide shelter, food, education and sanitation for the refugees.

Robert Piper, the UN's humanitarian coordinator for the Sahel region, said more than 7,300 civilians had been killed since the start of 2014 in the three states of the northeast, including 1,000 already this year.

"Gross violations of human rights, including sexual violence and child trafficking, are frequently reported. Education and health infrastructure has been decimated.

"The majority of victims have found makeshift shelters in schools, with their neighbours and relatives... They have lost everything -- their homes, their livelihoods, their families."

The UNHCR showed a video of refugees in Minawao camp, Cameroon, featuring a boy called Ibrahim, whose village in Nigeria's Borno state was over-run by dozens of heavily-armed Boko Haram fighters.

The 10-year-old recounts watching in terror as the Islamists cut his father's throat before turning on him with a machete and burying him alive.

"When I heard the gunshots I was afraid and my father told me to run. When they saw us, they shot him and he fell down," says Ibrahim.

"They killed my father. I was crying, and they brought out their machetes and cut me on the head."

Assuming he was dead, the insurgents threw Ibrahim into a pit which they filled with sand. He remained buried for two days, petrified but able to breathe, before he was rescued by his 13-year-old sister.

Largely peaceful presidential elections on March 28 saw Goodluck Jonathan lose to challenger Muhammadu Buhari in Nigeria's first ever democratic transfer of power.

But security fears remain high ahead of this weekend's regional elections.

Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon last month launched an unprecedented joint campaign against Boko Haram after the militants widened their offensive with attacks in the neighbouring countries.

Chadian President Idriss Deby vowed on Wednesday to "wipe out" the organisation and called on its commander Abubakar Shekau to give himself up, warning that he knew where the militant leader was hiding.

The UN is in talks to set up a multi-national force with African Union backing to defeat Boko Haram, which is estimated to have around 20,000 fighters.

"It is clearly going to be a mission with a strong anti-terror mandate. It will have an aggressive mandate (and) rules of engagement to combat Boko Haram," Piper told reporters.

He said his office was pressing the Security Council to take "every possible precaution to minimise the impact of its operation on civilians".

He added that he was urging the council to keep the combat force separate from other activities to protect the integrity and impartiality of the humanitarian mission.


Thursday, April 9, 2015

Video - Nigerian gets accepted to all 8 Ivy league Universities he applied to

Nigerian Harold Ekeh in the U.S. has shocked many after he got accepted by all Universities he applied to. The boy got acceptance letters from all thirteen universities of choice which include eight Ivy League schools. 

Fortune magazine lists Okonjo-Iweala in top 50 greatest world leaders

The Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has been named one of the 50 greatest leaders in the world by globally-acclaimed Fortune Magazine.

Occupying the 33rd spot on the list, the minister was recognised alongside the Liberian President, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf; Catholic Pontiac, Pope Francis; Chinese President Xi Jinping; Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi; Bill and Melinda Gates as well as Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerburg and Apple Chief Executive Officer, Tom Cook.

In the latest edition of the magazine, the minister was described as “a fearless promoter of sound economic policies”, and was also singled out for working hard to usher in a decade in which Nigeria’s GDP trippled.

Fortune Magazine’s annual list celebrates men and women who are transforming lives in all spheres, including government, business and philanthropy.

In compiling the 2015 list, the magazine explained that it gathered advice from more than 24 of the world’s best minds. The leaders were judged by their actions within their professional domain, industries or governance.

“To make this roster, it was not enough to be brilliant, admirable or even supremely powerful. We set out to find singular leaders with vision who moved others to act as well, and who brought their followers with them on a shared quest.

“We looked for effectiveness and commitment and for the courage to pioneer,” the magazine said.

Okonjo-Iweala graduated from Harvard in 1976 and holds a Ph.D in Development Economics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) – 1981.

As two-time Finance Minister of Nigeria, she has helped to lay a solid foundation for the Nigerian economy, which is currently the biggest in Africa at $510 billion.

This Day

Related story: Okonjo-Iweala is Africa's finance minister of the year

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

People's Democratic Party promises to cooperate with the president elect Muhammadu Buhari

The People's Democratic Party (PDP) said it would cooperate with the in-coming All Progressives Congress (APC) government for improved development of the country.

The party’s National Publicity Secretary Olisa Metuh disclosed this at a news conference on Tuesday in Abuja.

He said that PDP would be an opposition that would offer alternative programmes and ideas to the new government and would not be involved in abuses.

"We promise that in the course of this, we will work with the President-elect, General Muhammadu Buhari, to move the country forward as a nation.

"We will cooperate with him in terms of promoting the values of our country and progress all indices for national growth and foster national unity and the development of the country and its democracy.

"We will not engage in any activity that will destabilise the nation or the polity or distract the President-elect from offering Nigerians good leadership," Metuh assured.

He said that the party was adopting the position because the interest of Nigeria was more important than that of a political party or any individual.

The PDP spokesman, however, said that being in opposition was not being out of power, adding that the party would return to power in 2019.

He stressed that while in the opposition, PDP would conduct its affairs with all decency, maturity, civility and the forthrightness it could muster.

He said that the PDP would be the ideal opposition it had always wanted the APC to be, stressing that with cooperation, the two parties would salvage the country`s democracy.

He stated that the legacy of the PDP in its 16 years in government was the sustenance of democracy, which, he said the party would do everything to sustain.

According to Metuh, in spite of some irregularities in the March 28 Presidential and National Assembly elections, the PDP will do everything to ensure that the President-elect succeeds in office.

This, he explained, was because of the party’s belief in the sustenance of the country's democracy.

He, however, hinted that the party would not condone any form of intimidation of its key officials and appointees by the APC or any plan to destabilise it.

He disclosed that the party was in the process of rebuilding its fold "on justice, fairness and equity to enable it return to government".

On the impeachment notice served on Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti state, Metuh said that though the PDP was worried by the development, it would not interfere in the matter.

"We will not interfere with the duties of the legislature under the Constitution, but we believe that our governor will respond accordingly once the legislators follow due process," he said.


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Report says that the 200 kidnapped schoolgirs taken by Boko Haram in Northern Nigeria may possibly be dead

An official of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Mr. Raad Zeid al Hussein, believes that the over 200 Chibok schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram a year ago may have had a sad ending.

He premised his verdict on the fact that the girls may have been part of the women who were murdered by the insurgents before they fled from Bama and other towns in Borno State just before the Nigerian military and allied forces from Chad and Niger recovered the territories.

Scores of abducted women who had been forcibly married by Boko Haram fighters were slaughtered last month as the military advanced towards Bama and other towns to recapture the territories.

Eyewitnesses said that the women were killed by the insurgents to prevent them from getting remarried to what they termed “infidels” after their release.

Aligning with the report on the murder of scores of women, Al Hussein said last week that Boko Haram murdered people who were captives, including women and girls who were taken as “wives” in their flight against the advancing forces.

According to the senior official with the UNHCR, various reports which arrived at his department in Geneva showed that the recent recovery of territories in northeastern Nigeria “has brought to light macabre scenes of mass graves and more obvious signs of killings by Boko Haram”.

These reports include the “...murder of the wives of combatants, women and girls actually held in slavery,” he said without elaborating.

The use of children by Boko Haram as “expendable cannon meat” and human bombs could, if confirmed, constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity, the official added.

Al Hussein also said there are “persistent and credible reports” of serious violations by the Nigerian security forces and other countries in their fight against Boko Haram, and called for “complete and fully transparent investigations” by the authorities.

The report by UNHRC may explain the mystery surrounding the whereabouts of the Chibok girls despite the recapture of Gwoza, the de facto headquarters of the terrorists’ caliphate, as well as the disappearance of the sect’s leader Abubakar Shekau.

Military sources, who spoke to THISDAY at the weekend in Maiduguri, said neither the girls nor Shekau had been sighted since the liberation of Gwoza, which was the epicentre of the sect’s operations.

The Nigerian military on the eve of the presidential and National Assembly elections had announced the recapture of the strategic town but was silent on the abducted Chibok girls and seemingly elusive Shekau.

The Director of Defence Information (DDI), Maj-Gen. Chris Olukolade, had in a joint press conference with the spokespersons of the Nigerian Army, Navy and Air Force, confirmed the recapture of the former terrorist stronghold.

Many were however disappointed to find out that contrary to expectations before the liberation of Gwoza, there was no mention of the girls or Shekau who is believed to be on the run.

Military sources, who spoke to THISDAY, said the mystery surrounding the Chibok girls was yet to be unraveled.

However, the strongest lead now is that the girls might have been amongst the unfortunate women who were slaughtered and dumped inside wells in Bama.

“As for Shekau, you are aware that the man suspected to have been killed or fatally wounded two years ago and his double was confirmed killed a year later, and this current impostor is yet to be fully unmasked.

“Unfortunately, on the Chibok girls, there is a strong lead that they might be among the women who were slaughtered by the fleeing terrorists and dumped into those wells in Bama.

“Remember the girls were said to have been forcibly converted to Islam and married off as trophies to those terrorists. We have a strong suspicion that they are part of those women butchered in Bama and other parts of the territories, which were under their captivity.

“Also, some of these terrorists are currently retreating to the border towns and some have successfully mingled into various towns and villages,” the source said.

Another senior military officer also informed THISDAY that while the troops had freed some women from Gwoza and other surrounding towns, they could not however ascertain if any of the Chibok girls were among them.

He said interrogations were ongoing, as there were other women who were released from the towns recaptured from the Boko Haram terrorists other than the Chibok girls.

He also explained that it is proving difficult to ascertain if the women massacred and dumped in the wells were actually the Chibok girls because the bodies were in various states of decomposition by the time they were discovered.

“Even other communities whose women and girls were kidnapped are not comfortable with the attention being given to the Chibok girls, while leaving their cases in the dark,” he said.

Last week, the Nigerian military confirmed the rescue of a large number of vulnerable women and elderly locked up by the retreating Boko Haram terrorists in the liberated town of Gwoza.

Similarly, THISDAY learnt that sustained aerial surveillance of Gwoza and other liberated areas, as well as intensive mop-up operations to clear out the remnants of Boko Haram insurgents was ongoing.

On Sunday, there were several aerial operations in support of the ground troops to consolidate the liberated towns and villages.

In this regard, Sambisa forest which straddles four liberated local government areas of Bama, Mongonu, Konduga and Gwoza, was being bombarded from the air to knock out any terrorist camp and installations.

“What I can tell you is that there is very little presence of the terrorists in those areas but we have intensified the bombardments,” a military source revealed.

Despite the bombardment of Sambisa forest, at least four people were killed Saturday when suspected Boko Haram fighters raided a local market in a village near Maiduguri, security sources said.

Scores of Boko Haram gunmen stormed Kayamla village, 20 kilometres (12.5 miles) from Maiduguri, capital of restive Borno State, and opened fire on a weekly market, killing four traders, a senior security official in Maiduguri told AFP.

“It was obvious they were looking for food to replenish their supplies because they didn't target residents as they normally would,” the official said.

The attack on the village was the sixth in as many months, according to vigilantes in the area.

Troops and vigilantes mobilised from the nearby town of Konduga to the village but the attackers left before the troops arrived, said Abubakar Sani, who was among the vigilantes that accompanied troops to the village.

“When we reached Kayamla the gunmen had left,” Sani said.

“We found four dead traders in the deserted market and we were told by residents that the attackers took away food supplies and livestock,” he said.

This was the first Boko Haram raid in a few days, although an explosion outside a bus station in Gombe State on Thursday that killed 10 people was blamed on the Islamists.

Sweeping offensives against the Islamists by a regional coalition involving troops from Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroun appear to have substantially weakened Boko Haram’s capabilities.

Meanwhile, leaders of Central and West African states will hold a summit on April 8 to try to draw up a joint strategy against the threat posed by Boko Haram, a statement from the organisers said on Sunday.

It will be the first meeting of its kind since Nigeria’s election a week ago which was won by Muhammadu Buhari, a former military leader who has vowed to rid his country of the “terror” of Boko Haram.

The meeting in Malabo, capital of Equatorial Guinea, is being jointly organised by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS).

“In the face of the mounting and increasingly bloody attacks by the fundamentalists against Nigeria, Niger, Cameroun and Chad and the serious consequences for these countries, and the real risk of destabilising Western and Central Africa, the two organisations have decided to take action,” the ECOWAS statement said.

It was not immediately clear if Buhari would be attending, as he will not be sworn in as president to succeed incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan until May 29.

This Day

Boko Haram militants disguised as preachers kill 24 near mosque

Islamist Boko Haram militants disguised as preachers killed at least 24 people and wounded several others in an attack near a mosque in northeast Nigeria's Borno state, a military source and witness said on Monday.

The attackers arrived in cars late on Sunday and gathered people at a mosque in the remote village of Kwajafa, pretending to preach Islam. They then opened fire on them, witness Simeon Buba said.

The group's six-year insurgency, and President Goodluck Jonathan's failure to end it or protect civilians, were factors in the victory of opposition candidate Muhammadu Buhari in last week's election.

The group fighting for an Islamic state has killed thousands and kidnapped hundreds, although a military operation against them by Nigeria and neighbors Chad, Cameroon and Niger in the past two months has wrested back much of the territory it controlled.

"People didn't know the Boko Haram men came for attack because they lied to our people that they came for preaching," said Buba in a telephone conversation.

"They opened fire on them and killed many people," he said, adding that houses were set on fire.

Some people were being treated for gunshot wounds and burns at a hospital in the Borno state town of Biu on Monday, a source there said.


Monday, April 6, 2015

Video - Nigeria's President elect Muhammadu Buhari urged to rescue kidnapped schoolgirls

Campaigners pushing for the rescue of 219 girls kidnapped in Chibok have stepped-up pressure on Nigeria's President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari, to make their safe return a top priority of his new government.

Nigerian gay rights activist loses asylum battle in the U.K.

Prominent United Kingdom-based Nigerian lesbian and gay rights activist, Aderonke Apata, had her lengthy legal tussle to claim asylum in the country thrown out of the highest court of the land, the Royal Courts of Justice, RCJ, on Wednesday.

Justice John Bowers QC (Queen's Counsel, equivalent of the Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN) dismissed her appeal, on the grounds of dishonesty, her criminality and that she is not actually a lesbian, even though she might have engaged in same sex relationship and gone further to produce DVDs of herself engaging in lesbianism with her partner, Happiness.

Apata, twice married and mother of two, was told by the judge that he would have to agree with the March 3 submissions of the State lawyer, Andrew Bird, who argued that the ruling and findings of the First Tier Tribunal (FTT) in 2012, are binding on the RCJ, because FTT is the one charged by Parliament with the jurisdiction to make fact findings and also equipped to do so by means of the facility to hear oral evidence and cross- examination. Bowers took sides with the submission , despite Apata's lawyer arguing to the contrary during the said hearing on March 3.

In handing down Wednesday's ruling, which Apata misled activists not to attend, Bowers made reference to Bird's submission that: "The Secretary of State contends that the Claimant has, for 10 years, played the system by repeated and different applications, dishonesty made and that ' she has ... ..made false asylum claims. She has pursued an appeal claiming that she was in a subsisting relationship with an EEA national, when she was not. She overstayed, worked illegally and studied illegally" as the FTT concluded at paragraph 114."

Even though Apata's lawyer had submitted to the court that she faces the risk of persecution and imprisonment if returned to Nigeria, because of last year's Anti- LGBT (Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transexuals) Law, the judge is of the view that she is not actually a lesbian, and as such, is not covered by the Refugee Convention Article 1A (2). Bowers cited Bird's submission of the FTT ruling, which said, " we have concluded that the (Claimant's) change of image is entirely due to a false claim of lesbian sexuality... ... Despite claiming that she cannot bear to be in a relationship with a man, she has engaged in long-term relationships with Mr. Alima and Mr. Bamidele (both European nationals) and has declared her love and commitment to them openly in letters ... "

Her case on the grounds of Human Rights and fear of persecution were also dismissed, so also was it dismissed on the basis of having a mental illness -- and that she won't get adequate medical treatment in Nigeria, if deported. When The Guardian contacted Apata on Saturday, for her reaction, she didn't reply the correspondence. However, prominent black gay activists, including Davis Mac-Iyalla, have reacted to the ruling after The Guardian contacted them at the weekend.

Mac-Iyalla, an openly gay Nigerian in London, said, "I have always known that asylum is not for everyone, but those who are honest and are at risks should be given protection."

Black Pride's lady Phyl Opoku, also spoke to The Guardian, but was of the view that Apata is, indeed, an activist. Of the ruling, she said, "this is very sad and disappointing," because Apata " has been graceful and very visible in our (LGBT) community.

The Guardian

Related story: Gay Activist confronts Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan on Homophobic Law

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Video - President elect Muhammadu Buhari's profile

It's his fourth attempt, and Muhammadu Buhari has finally made it to the Nigerian presidency - but who is the general? Susan Mwongeli takes a look at Nigeria's incoming president.

Nigeria President elect Muhammadu Buhari to "spare no effort" squashing Boko Haram

A day after becoming the first politician in Nigerian history to succeed a sitting leader by ballot, president-elect Muhammadu Buhari promised on Wednesday to "spare no effort" to defeat Islamist militant group Boko Haram.

The 72-year-old general, who first came to power three decades ago via a military coup and campaigned as a born-again democrat, also promised to tackle graft in Africa's largest economy.

"Boko Haram will soon know the strength of our collective will. We should spare no effort," Buhari said in his first formal speech since winning the election. "In tackling the insurgency, we have a tough and urgent job to do."

The group has killed thousands in its push to carve out a caliphate in northeastern Nigeria.

Despite the killing of more than a dozen voters by Boko Haram gunmen - who had pledged to derail the poll - the election was one of the most orderly in Nigeria's history.

Buhari won the election with 15.4 million votes to outgoing president Goodluck Jonathan's 13.3 million, a margin wide enough to prevent any challenge.

In an unprecedented step, Jonathan phoned Buhari to concede defeat and urged his supporters to accept the result, a signal of deepening democracy that few had expected in Africa's most populous nation.

Buhari congratulated Jonathan for peacefully relinquishing power on Wednesday.

"President Jonathan was a worthy opponent and I extend the hand of fellowship to him," Buhari, wearing a black cap and kaftan, told reporters and supporters to loud applause.

"We have proven to the world that we are people who have embraced democracy. We have put one-party state behind us."

The rules state that Jonathan must officially hand over on May 29.

His People's Democratic Party (PDP) has been in charge since the end of army rule in 1999 but had been losing support due to oil sector corruption scandals and the government's lack of success in combating Boko Haram.

"President Jonathan has placed his country's interests first by conceding the election," U.S. President Barack Obama said.

Nigeria's main stock index soared 8.3 percent, posting its single biggest gain this year, and Nigerian dollar-denominated bonds climbed too on relief at the absence of the violence and fraud that has blighted previous elections.

"The context has changed ... There have been 16 years of democracy, there's a constitution, there are legal safeguards," British High Commissioner Andrew Pocock told BBC radio.

Investors are also cautiously optimistic that any crackdown on corruption by Buhari will stimulate investment and boost flagging growth in the oil-dominated economy.


Cities in the largely Muslim north, where Buhari's core support base lies, erupted in celebration.

Jonathan's appeal to his supporters that "nobody's political ambition is worth blood" meanwhile helped calm their frustrations, reducing the chance of post-election violence that blighted the 2011 poll when Buhari lost to Jonathan.

Buhari took power in a 1983 coup only to be thrown out 18 months later by another general. He subsequently embraced democracy, running in several elections and despite losing always bouncing back.

"I ask that we all be circumspect, respectful and peaceful ... We must begin to heal the wounds," he said.

Nigeria remains a complex ethnic mix of 170 million people, split between Muslims and Christians, with more than 500 languages. Though they mostly live side by side in peace, many harbor disputes that politicians have often used to stoke violence that has worsened over the years.

Buhari must also deal with the fallout from a dive in global oil prices in the last eight months which has hammered state revenues and forced two de facto currency devaluations.

"He's a man with a strong sense of mission and he has clear ideas about what he wants to do with Nigeria, on corruption, on restoring national discipline," Pocock said.

But analysts say cracking down on graft in a country where it is so endemic could take decades.