Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Kidnapped Nigeria school girls forced to join Boko Haram

Some of the Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped in Nigeria have been forced to join Islamist militant group Boko Haram, the BBC has been told.

Witnesses say some are now being used to terrorise other captives, and are even carrying out killings themselves.

The testimony cannot be verified but Amnesty International says other girls kidnapped by Boko Haram have been forced to fight.

Boko Haram has killed some 5,500 civilians in Nigeria since 2014.

Two-hundred-and-nineteen schoolgirls from Chibok, are still missing, more than a year after they were kidnapped from their school in northern Nigeria. Many of those seized are Christians.

Three women who claim they were held in the same camps as some of the Chibok girls have told the BBC's Panorama programme that some of them have been brainwashed and are now carrying out punishments on behalf of the militants.

Seventeen-year-old Miriam (not her real name) fled Boko Haram after being held for six months. She was forced to marry a militant, and is now pregnant with his child.

Recounting her first days in the camp she said: "They told to us get ready, that they were going to marry us off."

She and four others refused.

"They came back with four men, they slit their throats in front of us. They then said that this will happen to any girl that refuses to get married,"

Faced with that choice, she agreed to marry, and was then repeatedly raped.

"There was so much pain," she said. "I was only there in body… I couldn't do anything about it."

While in captivity, Miriam described meeting some of the Chibok schoolgirls. She said they were kept in a separate house to the other captives.

"They told us: 'You women should learn from your husbands because they are giving their blood for the cause. We must also go to war for Allah.'"

She said the girls had been "brainwashed" and that she had witnessed some of them kill several men in her village.

"They were Christian men. They [the Boko Haram fighters] forced the Christians to lie down. Then the girls cut their throats."

It is not possible to independently verify Miriam's claims. But human rights group Amnesty International said their research also shows that some girls abducted by Boko Haram have been trained to fight.

"The abduction and brutalisation of young women and girls seems to be part of the modus operandi of Boko Haram," said Netsanet Belay, Africa director, research and advocacy at Amnesty International.

'They had guns'

The Chibok schoolgirls have not been seen since last May when Boko Haram released a video of around 130 of them gathered together reciting the Koran. They looked terrified.

Amnesty International estimates more than 2,000 girls have been taken since the start of 2014. But it was the attack on the school in Chibok that sparked international outrage.

Michelle Obama made a rousing speech a few weeks after their abduction, demanding the girls' return.

Millions of people showed their support for the #bringbackourgirls campaign. The hashtag was shared more than five million times.

Boko Haram has been trying to establish an Islamic State in the region, but it has recently been pushed back by a military force from Nigeria and its neighbours. Hundreds of women and girls have managed to escape during these raids.

Anna, aged 60, is one of them. She fled a camp in the Sambisa forest in December where she was held for five months. She now sits beneath a tree close to the cathedral in the Adamawa state capital of Yola. Her only possessions are the clothes she ran away in.

She said she saw some of the Chibok schoolgirls just before she fled the forest.

"They had guns," she said.

When pressed on how she could be sure that it is was the Chibok schoolgirls that she'd seen, Anna said: "They [Boko Haram] didn't hide them. They told us: 'These are your teachers from Chibok.'

"They shared the girls out as teachers to teach different groups of women and girls to recite the Koran," Anna recalled.

"Young girls who couldn't recite were being flogged by the Chibok girls."

Like Miriam, Anna also said she had seen some of the Chibok schoolgirls commit murder.

Conversion attempt

"People were tied and laid down and the girls took it from there… The Chibok girls slit their throats," said Anna.

Anna said she felt no malice towards the girls she had seen taking part in the violence, only pity.

"It's not their fault they were forced to do it." she added. "Anyone who sees the Chibok girls has to feel sorry for them."

Exposing women to extreme violence seemed to be a strategy used by Boko Haram to strip them of their identity and humanity, so they could be forced to accept the militants' ideology.

Faith (not her real name) aged 16, who is Christian, described how Boko Haram fighters tried to force her to convert to their version of Islam.

"Every day at dawn they would come and throw water over us and order us to wake up and start praying."

"Then one day they brought in a man wearing uniform. They made us all line up and then said to me: 'Because you are always crying, you will must kill this man.'

"I was given the knife and ordered to cut his neck. I said I couldn't do it.

"They cut his throat in front of me. That's when I passed out."

Faith said she had seen at least one Chibok schoolgirl who had been married off to a Boko Haram militant during her four months in captivity.

"She was just like any of the Boko Haram wives," she explained. "We are more scared of the wives than the husbands."

Long road to recovery

With hundreds of women and children recently rescued from Boko Haram strongholds in the Sambisa forest, the Nigerian government has set up a programme to help escapees.

Many fled captivity, only to discover that some or all of their family members had been killed by Boko Haram. Others have been cast out from their communities, who now consider them "Boko Haram wives".

Dr Fatima Akilu is in charge of Nigeria's counter-violence and extremism programme. She is currently looking after around 300 of the recently rescued women and children.

"We have not seen signs of radicalisation," she told us. "But if it did occur we would not be surprised."

And she added: "In situations where people have been held, there have been lots of stories where they have identified with their captors."

Dr Akilu said beatings, torture, rape, forced marriages and pregnancies were common in Boko Haram camps.

"We have a team of imams… that are trained to look out for radical ideas and ideology.

"Recovery is going to be slow, it's going to be long… It's going to be bumpy."

As the hunt for the Chibok schoolgirls continues, and questions are raised about what state they will be in if they ever return home, those who have managed to escape are beginning the mammoth task of coming to terms with their experiences.

"I can't get the images out of my head," said Anna, breaking down in tears. "I see people being slaughtered. I just pray that the nightmares don't return."

For others, the nightmare is continuing every day. Miriam is expecting her baby any day now.

"I hope that the baby is a girl," she said. "I would love her more than any boy. I'm scared of having a boy."

Miriam's future is bleak. She is terrified her "husband" will find her and kill her for running away. Her community has also rejected her.

"People consider me an outcast," she said.

"They remind me that I have Boko Haram inside me."


Human rights group urges Nigeria to repeal its anti-gay law

Nigeria's draconian law against gays has encouraged mob attacks, police torture, evictions and public whippings, according to a report Monday that urges the country's new president to repeal the legislation.

The Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act is "the constitutionalization of hate and hate crimes against LGBTI individuals," writes Bisi Alimi in the report published by the PEN American Center and the New York-based Leitner Center for International Law and Justice.

It calls for President Muhammadu Buhari to end the legalized discrimination of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans-gender and intersex minorities, charging it denies them freedom of expression, association, assembly and other rights guaranteed by Nigeria's constitution and international covenants signed by Nigeria.

The act became law here 18 months ago and calls for punishment of up to 14 years in jail for gay marriage and up to 10 years for organizing or belonging to a gay group.

The law makes it a crime to not report a homosexual to police, threatening the families and friends of gays.

Nigerian groups documented 105 human rights violations against gays in the first 12 months after the bill's passage in January 2014, including assaults, mob attacks and blackmail.

In one case, a police officer pretending to be gay joined a group being counseled about AIDS, arrested 38 men there, tortured them into naming dozens of other allegedly gay men, sparking a witch hunt in the northeastern city of Bauchi.

Many gay people fled Bauchi. Other gays who can afford it have left Nigeria.

Eventually, a Shariah court sentenced five men to public whippings where bystanders demanded the death sentence.

Nobody has been tried under the anti-gay law, but it "has given people the right to exercise jungle justice," said Nigerian writer and professor Unoma Azuah, adding that gays "can't go anywhere to seek justice."


Related story: Video - Nigeria's anti-gay law denounced

Monday, June 29, 2015

Video - Nigeria parliament fight for vacant leadership positions

Nigeria's lower parliament was thrown into a rowdy session Thursday, after members' disagreements over the selection of principle officers of the House of Representatives.Members of the ruling All Progressives Congress, which is the dominant party in the House exchanged sharp words and some even threw punches, when they could not agree on who should occupy some top leadership positions in the lower parliament.

President Muhammadu Buhari dissolves state oil company board

Nigeria's new President Muhammadu Buhari dissolved the board of the state-owned oil company on Friday as a first step in cleaning up the sector in Africa's biggest crude producer.

Inaugurated on May 29, Buhari came to power on an anti-corruption ticket and a pledge to make the sector that provides 80 percent of government revenues more transparent.

"The president has said he will clean up the oil sector. That is the beginning of the clean up," said the president's spokesman Femi Adesina.

Buhari, who has yet to announce his cabinet, is likely to keep the oil portfolio for himself rather than trust others with the lifeblood of Africa's biggest economy and an industry that has long been mired in corruption scandals.

A presidency source who declined to be named said the management team of the state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) was also likely to go in the coming weeks.

"It is significant," Bismarck Rewane, economist and CEO of Lagos consultancy Financial Derivatives. "The whole structure of the NNPC is completely and utterly dysfunctional."

In 2013, then central bank governor Lamido Sanusi said tens of billions of dollars in oil revenues had failed to make it into state coffers while watchdogs say the government may be losing billions more through opaque contracts in which crude oil is swapped for refined imports such as diesel.

The lower house of parliament decided on Wednesday to investigate whether the government had been short-changed by the state oil company scheme to swap crude for the refined products.

Fuel Subsidy next?

"You can't possibly have the same board in place while the place is being investigated and with the intention to change the way things are being done there," said Adesina.

"It's the country's cash cow. It has a bright future. It's just that transparency and accountability have to be introduced into how it operates and this is the beginning of that process."

The NNPC will report to the presidency until a new board is appointed, said Ohi Alegbe, a spokesman for the oil company.

Nigeria's anti-corruption agency has investigated various oil scandals in the past, including a fuel subsidy fraud costing the government $6.8 billion between 2009-2011.

But due to a lack of political will, only a handful were prosecuted.

The president has been advised to end a fuel subsidy programme by a 19-member transition committee formed from his All Progressives Congress (APC), senior party sources have told Reuters.

"The damage NNPC has done to the system, both culturally and economically is significant so it has to be followed up by the removal of subsidies, and restructuring," said Rewane.

Other recommendations include privatising Nigeria's four refineries, which often run below capacity and mean the country imports nearly all the fuel it needs to keep the economy going.

Africa Report

Kidnapped Argentinian released

An Argentinian who was kidnapped by gunmen near a farm where he was working in Nigeria’s Niger state has been released, a police spokesman said on Monday.

Santiago Lopez Menendez was set free by his abductors on Saturday morning, Bala Elkana, police spokesman in the north central state, told AFP by telephone.

Menendez was seized last Wednesday in the town of Machagu as he travelled on the Mokwa to Kontagora road in the west of the state, where there have been previous abductions by criminals.

“He was released by his abductors early Saturday morning. He was hale and hearty when we saw him after his release. He has since returned to his farm,” said Elkana.

The spokesman said he was not aware if any ransom was paid.

Foreigners working on farms and elsewhere in Niger state are normally given police protection but Menendez was travelling alone when he was snatched, state police commissioner Olusola Amore said.

The South American, an agronomist, worked for Nigerian Flour Mills Plc managing two farms in the Sunti and Kabbugi districts of Niger state.

Kidnapping of foreigners for ransom is common in the oil-rich southern part of Nigeria, with victims usually released unharmed once a ransom is paid.


Related story: Argentinean kidnapped in Lagos, Nigeria

Nigeria and India to sign prisoner exchange deal

Arrangements are on ground for Nigeria and India are to sign Prisoners Transfer Agreement to allow prisoners of the two countries to return to their home countries to serve their jail terms.

The Indian High Commissioner, Amb. Ajjampur Ghanashyam, who said this while featuring on the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) Forum on Sunday in Abuja, said no fewer than 1,100 Nigerians were serving various prison terms in India.

“When I came to Nigeria, there were about 1,800 Nigerians in our prisons and that was shocking for me and now I am told it is about 1,100.

“We are waiting for an agreement to be signed between India and Nigeria on transfer of sentenced persons.

“They need to be brought back and they can also be taken back to India before commencing their jail terms so that they can serve their sentences here.

“At this is at the moment, pending with the Nigerian government. I hope that we will be able to sign it”, he said.

The Indian envoy also said some Indians had been arrested as pirates, adding that the High Commission was engaging the Nigerian authorities to ensure that the innocent ones among them released.

“We still have some problems with piracy. There are ships operators who hire Indians to run the ships.

“The boys are not aware of that the ships are used for bunkering; they are paid to do a job on the ship.

“So they picked up the job and then land on the ship only for the Navy to come and pick them up and take them to jail.

“You must arrest the owner of the ship, maybe you should arrest the Captain of the ship but not these boys who have no knowledge of what the ship was doing,” he told NAN.

Ghanashyam said Indians living in Nigeria were quite happy adding: “I have not come across Indian who complains but occasionally there are some pockets of kidnappings”.

“But ultimately we have not seen any loss of lives to kidnapping and I believe the situation was much worse before.

“This is because I think the infrastructure of law enforcements in the country is now far better than what it was in the past in Nigeria,” he said.

Daily Post

Suicide bomber kills 5 at leprosy hospital in Nigeria

At least five people have been killed and 10 wounded after a suicide bomber blew himself up outside a leprosy hospital on the outskirts of the northeast Nigerian city of Maiduguri, emergency services said Sunday.

The bomber, who tried to gain access to the hospital, detonated his explosives outside the building at around 5:30 pm (1630 GMT) on Saturday.

"Five people were killed and 10 others injured near the Molai leprosy hospital when a male bomber blew himself up," said Mohammed Kanar, regional coordinator for the National Emergency Management Agency.

"The bomber had wanted to gain entry into the hospital but was contemplating how to pass through security checks at the gate when the bomb went off."

He added: "We took the bodies and the injured to the specialist hospital (in Maiduguri)."

Local resident Ibrahim Bulama said the bomber was one of three men who were dropped off near the hospital by a SUV vehicle.

"They looked around for a while, obviously trying to sneak into the hospital," Bulama said, adding that the facility was being guarded by civilian vigilantes who are assisting the military in the fight against Boko Haram Islamist insurgents.

"Suddenly, the explosives on one of them went off. The other two fled in the confusion. Five people were killed and 10 others injured."

- 'The Boko Haram bandits' -

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombing, but Nigeria's Borno state, where the attack took place, has been the hardest hit by the Boko Haram insurgency which has left at least 15,000 people dead.

Boko Haram, which has been fighting to establish a hardline Islamic state in northeast Nigeria since 2009, has intensified its campaign of violence in the last month.

Danlami Ajaokuta, a civilian vigilante fighting Boko Haram, confirmed the hospital explosion and added that there had been a failed suicide attack by two women in Jakarna village, about 40 kilometres (25 miles) from Maiduguri on Saturday afternoon.

"Two female suicide bombers died when the explosives on one of them went off prematurely while they were waiting for a bus along the highway in Jakarna," Ajaokuta said.

"Residents from the village heard a huge explosion and when they arrived at the scene they found one of the bombers in parts while the other lay dead face down.

"Her explosives were still intact."

Ajaokuta added that bus drivers have been refusing to pick up female passengers on the road outside Maiduguri since March, when three female suicide bombers blew themselves up at a bus stop in the area.

More than 250 people have been killed in violence since May 29 when President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office, according to an AFP toll.

Buhari has made the fight against Boko Haram a top priority.

On Sunday he condemned the latest attacks by "the Boko Haram bandits".

Describing the perpetrators as "cowards who lack any moral inhibition and any iota of humanity," he warned that hey would find no safe haven in Nigeria as they would be "hunted down without mercy and compromise."

The armies of Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon have been fighting a joint campaign against Boko Haram for several months, pushing militants out of captured towns and villages.


Friday, June 26, 2015

Video - Nigerians still drinking local gin 'ogogoro' after recent spate in deaths associated with the drink

Countries across Africa have been trying to crack down on the consumption of illicit brew. The vice regularly claims large numbers of lives. In Nigeria, the government is finding the eradication of these brews to be quite difficult.

Related stories: Video - Illegal gin brewing thrives in Nigeria

Home brewed gin kills 70 in Nigeria

Argentinean kidnapped in Lagos, Nigeria

Gunmen have kidnapped an Argentinian national near a farm where he was working in Niger state, north central Nigeria, police said on Thursday.

Santiago Lopez Menendez was seized on Wednesday in the town of Machagu as he travelled on the Mokwa to Kontagora road in the west of the state, said commissioner of police Olusola Amore.

"We normally provide protection for all foreigners working on farms and elsewhere in the state," he told AFP.

"But he [Menendez] chose to travel alone on the bad road without police protection and they kidnapped him."

The South American, an agronomist, worked for Nigerian Flour Mills Plc managing two farms in the Sunti and Kabbugi districts of Niger state.

At least 10 patrol vans and a special anti-kidnapping team have been deployed to rescue him.

Problem of crime

State police spokesman Bala Elkana said the potholed road where the kidnapping took place was usually plied by motorcyclists because it is "hardly motorable".

Abductions have previously occurred on the road, he added.

Security officials were scheduled to meet this week to tackle the problem of crime in the area, he added.

"We are closing in on the abductors and we are very hopeful to rescue the foreigner," said Elkana.

Argentinian press reports on Wednesday quoted Menendez's sister and the government in Buenos Aires as confirming the kidnapping.Kidnapping of foreigners for ransom is common in the oil-rich southern part of Nigeria, with victims usually released unharmed once a ransom is paid.


Kidnapped American missionary in Nigeria becomes first hostage to be freed under US new ransom rule change

A missionary worker has become the first American hostage kidnapped overseas to be saved under an FBI rule change which allows families to make ransom payments.

The family of Reverend Phyllis Sortor, from Seattle, Washington, have revealed they paid to secure her release after she was abducted from a church compound in Emiroro, Nigeria.

They received around-the-clock guidance from federal agents under a newly changed hostage-response policy before she was freed in March.

It comes after President Barack Obama pledged that families would not be prosecuted for paying ransoms to kidnappers.

The 72-year-old Free Methodist missionary was kidnapped in Kogi State in February but released 12 days later on a trail leading to the city of Lokoja - just hours after her ransom was paid.

At the time, it was reported that her captors were demanding $300,000 - but the family said they parted with a lot less for her release.

Obama said Wednesday that U.S. government officials can communicate directly with militants and help families negotiate for the release of hostages.

Sortor's sister and a senior church official said they were shepherded through the hostage-response process, but not the ransom negotiation, by Federal Bureau of Investigation and State Department officials in a process aligned with the new policy.

'At some point they said, "you know you are the first case after a change has been put in place,'' her sister Jo Lewis said in Washington state.

'They said it was either in process or had been changed and we were the first case that was experiencing this new change.'

The new approach was drawn up over six months after complaints by families that their efforts to free relatives had been discouraged and sometimes blocked by officials who threatened legal action if they raised a ransom privately.

It allows 'communication with hostage takers by our government, the families of hostages or third parties who help these families,' Obama said.

The FBI declined to comment. The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Lewis and Indianapolis-based Free Methodist Church-USA Bishop David Kendall, who was actively involved in securing Sortor's release, said FBI agents openly answered questions, role-played to develop ways to humanize Sortor when addressing captors, and shared information about government actions.

They said federal officials monitored the process, but left the ransom wrangling to an outside negotiator, and provided frequent updates.

The officials joined conference calls, one with more than 100 participants and half a dozen federal agents in her living room, Lewis said, adding one agent offered to spend the night.

'They didn't give us monetary support, but they were here in force nearly every day, holding our hands, figuratively, and telling us what we might expect and how to react to different situations,' Lewis said. 'But they did not tell me what to do.'

Lewis and Kendall declined to say how much they paid to secure her sister's release, but said it was much less than the $300,000 initially sought by the captors. Donations came from across the country.

Sortor is currently back working as a missionary in Nigeria, guarded by security, Lewis said.

Lewis said getting access to information made her 'much calmer,' but expressed concern about what the policy shift might mean for the more than 30 Americans the White House says are now being held against their will abroad.

'I have some hesitations because I am afraid that people in other countries will see this as an easy source of money,' Lewis said. 'Perhaps there will be an uptick in kidnappings.'

Daily Mail

Related story: kidnapped American missionary released

American missionary kidnapped in Kogi, Nigeria

Obama to meet Nigeria new president Muhammadu Buhari

President Obama will welcome the recently elected president of Nigeria to the White House on July 20, lending U.S. support to that nation's first-ever transition to democracy.

Obama and President Muhammadu Buhari will discuss "our many shared priorities including US.-Nigeria cooperation to advance a holistic, regional approach to combating Boko Haram, as well as Nigeria's efforts to advance important economic and political reforms," the White House said in a statement.

The visit underscores the long-standing U.S.-Nigerian friendship, the White House said, including the American "commitment to strengthening and expanding our partnership with Nigeria's new government, and our support for the Nigerian people following their historic democratic elections and peaceful transfer of power."

USA Today

9 people sentenced to death in Kano, Nigeria for blasphemy

An Islamic court has sentenced nine people to death for insulting the Prophet Mohammad in the northern Nigerian city of Kano.

The accused, who were all Muslims, had pleaded guilty, the head of Kano's religious police, Aminu Ibrahim Daurawa, told the BBC.

The trial was speedily done in secret after a section of the court was burnt down by angry protesters last month.

It is not known if they will appeal against the sentence.

The alleged offence was committed last month at a religious gathering in honour of Sheikh Ibrahim Niasse, the Senegalese founder of the Tijaniya sect which has a large following across West Africa.

"There has been consensus among Muslims scholars that insulting the prophet carries a death sentence," Mr Daurawa told the BBC Hausa service.

"We quickly put them on trial to avoid bloodshed because people were very angry and trying to take law into their hands," he added.

Kano has a predominately Muslim population and Islamic courts operate alongside secular courts.

There was jubilation in some parts of the city as news of the judgement trickled in.

Several states in predominantly Muslims northern Nigeria have introduced Sharia law after the country returned to civilian rule in 1999.

BBC Nigeria analyst Naziru Mikailu says this is the first time a death sentence has been handed down for blasphemy in northern Nigeria.

The sentence has been delivered for other offences such as adultery but none has been carried out.


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Nigeria overtakes Saudi Arabia as top crude oil supplier to India

Nigeria has replaced Saudi Arabia as the largest crude oil supplier to India after its oil exports to India last month surged by nearly 200 percent, supplying some 745,000 barrels per day. It’s the first time in at least four years that Saudi Arabia, the world’s top crude exporter, has lost the top spot, according to Reuters.

The shift comes as more Indian refiners switch out their long-term contracts with Middle East suppliers in favor of African oil spot purchases. Saudi Arabia also fell behind Russia and Angola last month as the largest crude supplier to China. The petroleum kingpin struggles to maintain market share in Asia as the gap narrows between the Middle East price marker and the international crude oil benchmark Brent, Reuters reported.

India’s African oil imports rose to the highest in more than four years, from 15.5 percent in April to 26 percent in May with tankers mainly from Nigeria and Angola. Meanwhile, the share of Middle Eastern oil to India fell to 54 percent in May from 61 percent in April, with Saudi Arabia supplying some 732,400 barrels per day, according to Reuters.

Oil prices have dropped for Nigeria’s premium over Brent in recent months, which have made the former more attractive to importers. Over the weekend, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation reduced the prices of Nigeria’s crude oil grades to their lowest in over a decade as the West African nation fights for international market share. Nigeria’s exports to the United States have also shrunk from almost one million barrels per day in 2010 to just 30,000 this year, according to Vanguard news in Abuja.

The falling global oil prices have posed tough challenges for oil-dependent Nigeria. Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy and lead oil producer, generating about $70 billion in state revenue each year – more than two-thirds of which comes from exports in gas and oil.

International Business Times

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Video - Textile industry in Nigeria suffering from shaky economy

Nigeria's falling currency is having a major impact across the country. A slide in oil revenues triggered the decline and now the Central Bank is unable to stem the fall. Ahmed Idris reports from a textile market in Kano where many traders are closing their shops.

Nigeria to get its first IMAX theater

IMAX Corp. (NYSE: IMAX) and Filmhouse Cinemas, Nigeria's largest chain of theatres, announced an agreement for an IMAX theatre to be located in a new construction project in Lagos, the nation's biggest city with a population of more than 20 million. The deal, announced at CineEurope, marks the first-ever IMAX agreement in Nigeria and West Africa. Nigeria now ranks as Africa's largest economy. Today's agreement also underscores the Company's continued expansion in Africa, where in the past year IMAX signed its first-ever deal in Angola and added four new theatres to its network in South Africa.

"Our mission is to establish the best movie-going experience in Nigeria. IMAX will help us realize this goal by delivering an immersive and differentiated experience previously unavailable to Nigerian moviegoers," said Kene Mkparu, CEO, Filmhouse Cinemas. "As we continue our aggressive expansion plans, IMAX will serve as an anchor attraction in our multiplex in Lagos, redefining the premium cinema experience in Nigeria. We are proud to be the first to introduce IMAX in the country and look forward to broadening its reach."

"We are delighted to join forces with Filmhouse Cinemas and enter Nigeria, which represents a key strategic move for our expansion in Africa. Recent reports project that Nigeria's entertainment and media revenues will reach an estimated $8.5 billion by 2018 - more than doubling from 2013," said Andrew Cripps, President, IMAX EMEA. "As the biggest economy on the continent and a market that is extremely under-screened, we believe that together with Filmhouse we can seize the mutual growth opportunities that exist in Nigeria and bring the world's most immersive cinematic experience to more audiences across the country."

Street Insider

US and other countries to help retrieve money stolen from Nigerian government

The US and other countries have agreed to help Nigeria recover money stolen from the government, President Muhammadu Buhari has said.

The new president said on Tuesday that the country's treasury was "virtually empty".

He vowed to recover billions of dollars "stolen" under previous administrations.

The president won elections in March on a promise to tackle corruption, seen as one of the country's biggest problems.

Nigeria is Africa's biggest oil producer but much of the revenue is said to be stolen.

"The days of impunity and lack of accountability are over," he told a meeting of state governors on Tuesday.

He said Nigeria would get the "facts and the figures to help us recover our stolen funds in foreign countries,'' over the next three months.

He did not specify which other countries had agreed to help recover the money.

In an earlier briefing with journalists, he said it was a "disgrace" that some government workers had not been paid for months.

Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo estimates that Nigeria's debts stand at about $60bn (£38bn).

However, former Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has rejected the claim, saying the debt was much lower, AFP news agency reports.

Mr Buhari's election victory ending 16 years of rule by the Peoples Democratic Party.

It was the first time an opposition candidate has won a presidential election in Nigeria.


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

President Muhammadu Buhari promises to restore Nigeria's 'financial sanity'

Nigeria's president vowed on Tuesday to recover billions of dollars allegedly stolen by officials and restore financial "sanity", accusing previous governments in Africa's biggest economy of throwing the rulebooks "to the dogs".

Muhammadu Buhari's strong words came after a meeting with the governors of Nigeria's states, in which they said they were 658 billion naira ($3.3 billion) in debt and needed federal government support to offset a funding crisis.

Zamfara state governor Abdulaziz Yari Abubakar said the governors had suggested three ways out: the government could refund money spent on federal projects such as roads, banks could extend existing loans to up to 20 years, or the government could share out oil revenues usually saved in the so-called Excess Crude Account (ECA).

The president, who took office last month after defeating Goodluck Jonathan in Nigeria's first transfer of power through the ballot box, vowed to recover billions allegedly stolen by public officials.

"There are financial and administrative instructions in every government parastatal and agency. But all these were thrown to the dogs," Buhari said in a statement after meeting the governors in the capital Abuja.

"The next three months may be hard but billions of dollars can be recovered, and we will do our best," he said. "We will restore sanity to the system."


Several states borrowed in the domestic bond market and from banks to fund infrastructure projects. But the price of crude, which represents 80 percent of Nigeria's revenue, has since plunged, leaving the government unable to pay bills or salaries.

The naira currency has fallen sharply despite the central bank spending billions of dollars to try and prop it up.

Gross revenues distributable to the three tiers of government - federal, state and local - hit a five-year low in April due to frequent shutdowns of oil and export terminal pipelines and depressed crude prices.

Government revenues distributed for May rose to 409.3 billion naira, up 5.4 percent from the previous month, but the Finance Ministry said oil pipeline shutdowns continued to hamper earnings.

Details of Nigeria's economic and financial position would be published within four weeks, Buhari said.

He said the government would look into whether ECA funds could be used to cover unpaid salaries after saying on Monday that treasury coffers were "virtually empty".

The ECA had $2.078 billion as of June 23, the Finance Ministry said.

Standard Chartered's head of Africa research, Razia Khan, said that the level of state debt was "especially problematic".

"While an early release of the ECA may provide a partial solution, it is not yet known how much Nigeria will have managed to accumulate in its ECA in recent months."


Video - President Muhammadu Buhari delaying appointing new cabinet

It's been about one month now since Muhammadu Buhari was sworn in as President of Nigeria but up till this moment he has not appointed his cabinet. His spokesperson attributes the delay to ongoing restructuring of the countries ministries but in fighting within the President's All Progressives Congress, APC is also becoming a sticking point.

Video - Nigeria hopes new president can bring an end to electricity shortage

When campaigning, candidate Muhammadu Buhari promised to prioritize the reform and expansion of power generation and supply. Now as President, the country's over 160 Million citizens are waiting for him to deliver, and end the losses and frustration caused by daily power blackouts in Africa's biggest oil producer.

Related stories: Video - Electricity shortage threathening Nigeria's economy

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

President Muhammadu Buhari says national treasury virtually empty

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, who took office last month, said his government is facing severe financial strain from a Treasury that’s “virtually empty” and billions of dollars in debts.

The government is under “so much pressure” that it’s unable to even regularly pay some state workers, Buhari told reporters on Monday in the capital, Abuja. “This is the bad management that we find ourselves in.”

Buhari has yet to name a cabinet since being sworn in as president of Africa’s largest economy on May 29 after defeating Goodluck Jonathan in elections. He took over as a plunge in crude prices forced the government to scale back budgeted spending and devalue the naira while foreign-currency reserves fell. The government relies on crude for about 70 percent of its income.

“It’s just saying the obvious,” said Akintola Owolabi, a senior lecturer of accounting and finance at Lagos Business School. “We all know about the reckless abandon with which the last regime carried out its affairs.”

Former military ruler Buhari, 72, swept Jonathan from office in March elections by pledging to end endemic corruption and Boko Haram’s rebellion in the north that has killed thousands in its six-year campaign to impose its version of Shariah law.

The central bank has been using its foreign reserves, which fell to $29 billion as of June 18 from $34.5 billion at the start of 2015, to help defend the local currency. Still, the naira has declined 7.8 percent against the dollar over the same period.

Growth in the economy is forecast by the International Monetary Fund to slow to 4.8 percent this year from 6.3 percent last year.


Suicide bombers kill 30 in North Eastern Nigeria

Two girls blew themselves up on Monday near a crowded mosque in northeast Nigeria's biggest city, killing about 30 people, witnesses said.

It is the fourth suicide bombing this month in Maiduguri, which is the birthplace of the Boko Haram Islamic extremist group.

Fishmonger Idi Idrisa said one teenager exploded as she approached the mosque crowded with people from the nearby Baga Road fish market, performing afternoon prayers during the holy month of Ramadan.

The second teen appeared to run away and blew up further away, killing only herself, he said.

Civilian defense fighter Sama Ila Abu said he counted at least 30 corpses as he helped collect the dead.

Both men said said there were many injured.

Boko Haram has kidnapped hundreds and hundreds of girls and women and the numbers of female suicide bombers has raised fears that it is using the captives in its campaign.

A military bomb disposal expert has told the AP that most bombs carried by girls and women have remote detonation devices, meaning the carrier cannot control the explosion.

Boko Haram has stepped up attacks since Nigeria's new President Muhammadu Buhari announced the military command center is moving from the capital Abuja to Maiduguri in Borno State.

The attacks come as Nigeria and its neighbors are preparing to strengthen a multinational army that this year drove Boko Haram out of towns and villages where it had set up a so-called Islamic caliphate.

But bombings and hit-and-run attacks have continued, along with cross-border raids.

On Thursday, a group of the extremists attacked two towns in neighboring Niger, killing at least 40 people, the government said.

In its first attack on Chad, suicide bombers a week ago attacked two buildings including the national police academy in N'Djamena, killing at least 33 people.


Friday, June 19, 2015

Video - Lack of funding for women's football in Nigeria

Nigeria's Super Falcons have arrived in Canada for the Women's Football World Cup. They'll play former champions, the United States, on Saturday.The Super Falcons are one of only three African teams that qualified to play, but despite the national team's success the women's game in Nigeria struggles to get funding.

Related stories: Nigeria loses to U.S. 1-0 in 2015 Women's World Cup

Asisat Oshoala wins Women's Footballer of the Year award

Nigeria oil refineries to be operational next month

Nigeria's four refineries will resume production next month, a spokesman for the state-run oil group said Thursday, raising hope of an end to perennial petrol shortages that have plagued Africa's largest crude producer.

"The refineries at Warri, Port Harcourt and Kaduna will resume next month after a successful turn-around-maintenance (overhaul) of their facilities," Ohi Alegbe of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) told AFP.

"The turn-around-maintenance has been on for some time. We did not just want to make any noise about it. The refineries will start production as soon as they have delivery of crude oil for refining," he said.

The NNPC has four refineries -- two in Port Harcourt in the south, one in northern Kaduna and another in southern Warri, with a combined installed capacity of 445,000 barrels per day.

A network of pipelines and depots located throughout the country link these refineries.

Nigeria produces a massive two million barrels of crude oil a day, but has to export it due to a lack of working refineries. It then imports fuel back into the country at international market prices -- a situation blamed on corruption and mismanagement.

To cushion the blow on the general population, the government sells fuel on the streets at subsidised prices, and makes up for the higher amounts spent by importers by reimbursing them the difference -- a system seen as rife with false claims and overpayments.

Last month, a crippling fuel shortage almost grounded Nigeria to a halt, as fuel importers and marketers shut their depots to protest some $1 billion (900 million euros) in unpaid reimbursements.

Black market and legitimate petrol vendors did a brisk trade, selling at around 300 naira ($1.5; 1.3 euros) a litre -- well above the officially-set price of 87 naira.

In January 2012, the government tried to end the subsidies, causing petrol prices to more than double. It was ultimately forced to reinstate the payments after tens of thousands of people took to the streets in violent protests that left more than a dozen dead.

Alegbe said the resumption of refinery activity "will significantly improve the supply of petroleum products in the country."


Related story: Video - Fuel shortage in Nigeria

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Video - Nigeria's technology entrepreneurs

A lack of funding and low levels of computer education are underminding the potential for Nigeria's tech industry to create jobs, but an organization called Enspire has plans to improve the sector.

Related stories:  Video - Entrepreneur Adeyoin Oshinbanjo talks about her successful venture Mile 12 Marketonline

Bitcoin interest grows in Nigeria

Jumia gets official Apple istore

Home brewed gin kills 70 in Nigeria

About 70 people have died in Nigeria after drinking home-brewed gin that was found to contain large amounts of methanol, senior health officials have said.

Somiari Harry, permanent secretary of the health ministry in Rivers state, said deaths from consuming the gin – known locally as 'ogogoro' – were recorded in five local government areas in the country's oil-rich south.

He said: 'The death toll so far recorded from the consumption of ogogoro is about 70.'

Ogogoro is a west African alcoholic drink usually brewed locally and popular in Nigeria, where it is made from the juice of raffia palm trees and sold cheaply.

Alcohol content can range from 30 to 60 percent.

The deaths, which first came to light earlier this month, have led to Rivers imposing a total, state-wide ban on the manufacture, sale and distribution of the drink.

Health ministry officials have been deployed to enforce the ruling.

The director of the centre for disease control in Rivers state, Nnanna Onyekwere, confirmed the death toll and said there had been 80 reported cases in the five areas.

The state capital, Port Harcourt, is one of the areas affected.

Onyekwere said: 'We collected samples of ogogoro consumed and sent them for laboratory examination.

'NAFDAC (National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control) found that that the liquor contained large doses of methanol which is injurious to health.'

No new cases have been reported in the past week, he added.

The deaths came after more than 20 people died from drinking local gin in the southwest town of Ode-Irele in April.

Some state governments outlaw the sale and consumption of ogogoro because consumers are easily intoxicated due to its high alcohol content.

Ogogoro is an essential part of religious and social events, including marriages and child-naming ceremonies.

Daily Mail

Related story: Video - Illegal gin brewing thrives in Nigeria

Locally brewed gin suspected of causing 18 deaths in Nigeria

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

63 dead after explosion in abandoned Boko Haram camp

A sack of home-made bombs discovered at an abandoned Boko Haram camp exploded, killing 63 people in northeast Nigeria, civilian self-defence fighters said Wednesday.

Haruna Bukar, a witness to the blast, said the local militia was patrolling the area when they discovered the camp and found the bag of metal objects, which they carried to the nearby town of Monguno.

As residents gathered around to examine the bag, it exploded, said Bukar.

Scores of people have been killed this month in suicide and other bombings carried out by Nigeria's homegrown extremists using these kinds of improvised explosive devices.

Boko Haram took control of a large swath of northeast Nigeria until a multinational force this year forced them out of towns and villages. Nigeria's military says the extremists are now confined to the Sambisa Forest.

Boko Haram denies this and has stepped up bombings and hit-and-run attacks since President Muhammadu Buhari announced at his May 29 inauguration that the command control centre for the war against the insurgents is moving to Maiduguri, the biggest city in northeast Nigeria and the birthplace of Boko Haram.

The 6-year-old Islamic uprising is blamed for the deaths of some 13,000 people. More than 1.5 million have been driven from their homes, some across borders.


Nigeria loses to U.S. 1-0 in 2015 Women's World Cup

Abby Wambach's volley just before the break proved enough for the US, but they could not add to their lead despite Nigeria losing defender Sarah Nnodim to a second yellow card.

They will play one of four third-placed teams to progress from the pool stages.

Australia secured Group D's second spot with a 1-1 draw against Sweden.

The Matildas will play Brazil in the next round in Moncton.

Meanwhile Sweden, ranked fifth in the world, will have to wait to see whether they claim one of four qualifying spots for teams finishing third in their group.

Australia took the lead after just five minutes as captain Lisa De Vanna sprinted onto a long ball forward and coolly slotted home.

But any hopes they had of overhauling the United States at the top of the group were reduced as Sofia Jakobsson levelled 10 minutes late with a low shot inside goalkeeper Lydia Williams' near post.

In Edmonton, the 14th World Cup goal of Wambach's career - an instinctive far post volley from Megan Rapinoe's corner - proved enough for the United States.

But Nigeria coach Edwin Okon was left aggrieved by the referee's decision to issue Nnodim with a second yellow for a challenge on Sydney Leroux that left his side down to 10 players for the final 20 minutes.


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Nigeria plays USA in final group stage match at 2015 Women's World Cup

Abby Wambach will do whatever it takes to win the Women's World Cup, even if that means she's coming off the bench.

Wambach came in as a second-half sub in the United States' scoreless draw against Sweden on Friday night, the team's second group-stage match. The second-ranked U.S. will conclude the stage Tuesday night with a match against Nigeria.

"The World Cup for us, for our sport, is the biggest title you can win as a team," she said. "I've never had the opportunity to win one. I've come close. That's obviously a dream of mine to be able raise that trophy for my country."

Before Sweden, the all-time leading U.S. scorer hadn't come off the bench in a World Cup match since 2003. This is the 35-year-old forward's fourth trip to the tournament.

A win against Nigeria, ranked No. 33 in the world, would give the United States a first-place finish in Group D and send the team to Edmonton, Alberta, to open the knockout round next Monday.

After starting in the 3-1 tournament-opening victory of Australia, Wambach entered against Sweden in the 68th minute. Less than 10 minutes later, she had one of the best U.S. scoring chances of the game, a header that Hedvig Lindahl popped up and over the crossbar.

Wambach believes that if she had been playing on real grass, she would have scored on that header. This is the first World Cup played on artificial turf, which has been a contentious issue among many players, and especially Wambach.

Wambach led the way last year when a group of players filed a claim in Canada saying that putting the Women's World Cup on artificial turf amounted to gender discrimination — because the men's event had never been played on what some disdainfully call a "plastic pitch."

FIFA wouldn't bend on the issue, saying that Canada's bid in 2011 — the only bid in the end for this year's event — stipulated the tournament be played on an artificial surface. The group that filed the claim eventually dropped it so they could focus on preparation for the event.

"For me, I definitely think that the U.S. has more goals if we're playing on grass," she said.

Before the match against No. 5 Sweden, a New York Times profile of Swedish coach Pia Sundhage, the former U.S. coach, quoted her as saying she'd use Wambach as a sub. Sundhage led the U.S. to two Olympic gold medals and to the final of the 2011 World Cup in Germany, where the team lost to Japan on penalty kicks.

Sundhage expanded on her comments in Canada the day before the match.

"You have players starting the game, but you have players that will end the game. And Abby is a player that will make the difference (at the end of games). So I would have that in my back pocket and throw her in and win the game. Now, I don't know the team today, but I saw the game against Australia, and today, playing against Sweden, I would start her because she's that good," Sundhage said.

Wambach doesn't see herself as coming off the bench all the time.

"I think my role for this team, being a longer tournament, might be different from game to game, opponent to opponent," she said. "We have such strong depth, that's one of the biggest strengths of our team, and the ability of our coaching staff to go down our bench to fix problems that are happening and to close out games. ... And hopefully when we get to games four, five and six — and hopefully seven — those decisions will pay off."

Nigeria is coming off a 2-0 loss to Australia on Friday, following a 3-all draw with Sweden in the opener. The Super Falcons' speed and physicality — as well as a spirited group of music-playing supporters — won fans for the team in Canada.

But Nigeria was stung by FIFA's three-game suspension of defender Ugo Njoku, who elbowed forward Samantha Kerr in the face during Friday's match.

Nigeria's only chance to advance to the knockout stage is with a victory over the United States.

Wambach said the United States is wary of Nigeria. While the Americans are the lopsided favorites to win the match, there's already been one big upset: France's surprising 2-0 loss to Colombia on Saturday.

"I think that they're going to play as hard as they can," Wambach said. "They're fighting for their lives in this tournament."


America to fund Nigeria led task-force against Boko Haram

The US says it will give $5m (£3.2m) towards a multi-national task force being set up to fight Nigeria's militant Islamist group Boko Haram.

Boko Haram "was not just a Nigerian problem", US official Linda Thomas-Greenfield said.

The group was blamed for suicide bombings which killed more than 20 people in neighbouring Chad on Monday.

Chad will be the headquarters of the Nigeria-led force of around 7,500 troops from five countries.

The formation of the force has gained momentum since Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari took office last month.

Nigeria's previous administration, led by Goodluck Jonathan, was seen to have dragged its heels over the creation of the force, as it feared it would undermine Nigeria's sovereignty, correspondents say.

The US also turned down a request by Mr Jonathan's administration last year to sell it weapons because of the poor human rights record of its military.

The issue led to a diplomatic row, with Nigeria accusing the US of refusing to help land a "killer punch" against Boko Haram.

G7 'wish list'

Ms Thomas-Greenfield, the US assistant secretary of state for Africa, said the US was in talks with Mr Buhari's government on how it could assist more in the campaign against the militants.

It comes after President Buhari's visit last week to the G7 summit in Germany where he said Nigeria would welcome more international support in the struggle with the jihadists.

The multi-national force is expected to be made up of troops from Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Benin.

Chad, Cameroon and Niger have been helping Nigeria recapture territory from Boko Haram, but their activities have so far been largely uncoordinated.

The African Union (AU) backed the creation of a multi-national force in January, saying Boko Haram required a "collective, effective and decisive response".

Boko Haram's six-year insurgency has left some 13,000 people dead and 1.5 million homeless, rights groups say.

The group has pledged allegiance to Islamic State, which is fighting to establish a global caliphate.


Monday, June 15, 2015

Video - Illegal gin brewing thrives in Nigeria

The sap is first mixed with sugar and left to ferment for seven days in sealed blue barrels. Rusted oil drums are then placed over a hot fire and the fermented alcohol poured in. The alcohol evaporates, passes down small pipes through a vat of cold water where it condenses and then drips out into a bucket as a clear, refined gin -- or "Ogogoro" as it's called locally.

The government agency that regulates alcohol production and sales in Nigeria insists any product processed with chemicals and labeled for sale must be licensed. But local distillers like Gabriel are largely ignored by the authorities.

"This one we produce is done in a local way and nothing will happen to you because we source if from the tree," explains Gabriel. "The one others produce is a chemical one and if you take that one, it will cause harm to your body."

'I make it strong'

In the last few months, there has been a spate of mass deaths from drinking poisoned local gin. In Rivers state, in Nigeria's Niger Delta region, over 38 people are thought to have died after drinking at a local gin joint.

The problem is that often the alcohol is laced with chemicals, like methanol, to increase the longevity and taste.

NAFDAC, Nigeria's Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, has announced a nationwide ban on the consumption of local gin.

"We are also warning members of the public to avoid the consumption of all kinds of locally produced spirits, unregistered bitters and related drinks for now," NAFDAC said in a statement.

But it has had little impact on the streets, where Nigerians often use Ogogoro not only to help them relax, but also believe it has medicinal effects.

At Gabriel's small distillery, with his five friends, he says he can make up to 400 liters of gin a day. And market women still come with their jerry cans to be filled.

"I make it strong, because if you don't make it strong, people won't come to buy," says Gabriel.

The smoke rises in a haze above the distillery, and there is a sweet smell of palm sap in the air. Gabriel and his colleagues sit and play checkers in the humidity.

As one of the buckets fills, Gabriel stands from his checkers game for the final stop -- the taste test. He takes a swig from a small bottle, shakes his head and smiles.


Nigerian player Ugo Njoku gets banned for 3 games at 2015 Women's World Cup

Nigeria's Ugo Njoku has been given a three-match ban for elbowing Australia's Sam Kerr during Friday's Women's World Cup Group D match.

The offence by Njoku, who came on as a substitute, went unpunished during the game, which Nigeria lost 2-0.

However Fifa's disciplinary committee later examined the video footage and handed the 20-year-old the ban.

With Nigeria unlikely to progress, she will miss the final game against the US plus their next two official matches.

Earlier in the tournament France striker Camille Abily escaped punishment for a similar incident with England defender Laura Bassett.

But the referee did not penalise Abily, Fifa did not review the incident and the Football Association did not contest Fifa's decision.


Friday, June 12, 2015

Boko Haram kill 43 in Borno, Nigeria

Boko Haram gunmen killed at least 43 people and burnt down three villages in northeast Nigeria, residents told AFP Thursday, the latest in an upsurge of attacks by the Islamist militants.

Dozens of rebels on motorcycles stormed Matangale, Buraltima and Dirmanti in restive Borno state on Tuesday, opening fire on villagers before looting and burning homes, fleeing residents said.

News of the assault was slow to emerge due to poor communication in the region after Boko Haram destroyed telecoms masts in previous attacks.

"They came around 4:00 pm (1500 GMT) on 20 motorcycles, three gunmen on each, and attacked Matangale before proceeding to Buraltima and Dirmanti,"‎ said resident Dala Tungushe.

"They killed 43 people and burnt all the houses in the three villages after looting food supplies," Tungushe, who fled Matangale to Biu, some 90 kilometres (56 miles) away.

Matangale was worst hit by the attack as the attackers opened fire at an open well outside the village where residents had gathered to fetch drinking water and do their laundry.

"The Boko Haram gunmen opened fire on the crowd at the well where they killed around 16 people," said Bulama Karuye, another resident.

"In all, we lost 43 people in the attacks. All the three villages were completely burnt."

He added the number of casualties could have been much higher had some of the villagers not been away at a weekly market around 40 kilometres away.

Hundreds of residents of the affected villages, particularly women and children, fled to nearby Damboa town where they had sought refuge in a primary school, both Tungushe and Karuye said.

They said the attackers ‎came from nearby Sambisa Forest, a major Boko Haram stronghold from where hundreds of women and children kidnapped by the militants were rescued during recent military operations.

Troops and local hunters from Damboa pursued the fleeing attackers into the bush and a gunfight erupted‎.

"The soldiers and the hunters brought back a pickup truck and some motorcycles they recovered from the Boko Haram attackers... but we don't know how many of the gunmen they killed," Tungushe said.

More than 150 people have been killed by Boko Haram since President Muhammadu Buhari took power on May 29, vowing to crush the militants and end their bloody six-year insurgency.


Thursday, June 11, 2015

15 year old child bride acquitted for murdering 35 year old husband

A teenage girl threatened with the death penalty for murdering her 35-year-old husband in Nigeria, faces an uncertain future after being released from prison.

15 year-old Wasila Tasi’u was accused of killing Umar Sani and three other men with rat poison shortly after they were married. She has spent the last 10 months locked up as her case dragged on, held up by judicial staff strike action and administrative delays.

Speaking to the Guardian, Tasi’u’s lawyer, Hussaina Ibrahim from theInternational Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), said her client has no hope of returning home, such was the publicity garnered by the case.

With Ibrahim’s help, a foundation has taken on Tasi’u’s case and the hard work of returning her to normal life. The Isa Wali Empowerment Initiative which aims to get young girls into education, will support Tasi’u in the months to come. She will live with a foster family, for the foreseeable future.

Maryam Uwais, a lawyer based in Nigeria who has been following the case contacted the Guardian to say she had spoken to Tasi’u shortly after her release, who is “overjoyed” at her new found freedom.

“Apprehension, relief and then gratitude were emotions that were manifest today, upon the release of Wasila,” she said.

“An entirely avoidable tragedy, leaving in its wake four dead men and a thoroughly traumatised little girl. Poison – the only feasible escape to freedom – devised from the wild imagination of a naive, depressed little girl caught up in a painful forced marriage to a much older man. A tough lesson for families, communities and a government that is still ambivalent about sanctioning the perpetrators of child marriage.”

Ibrahim says her client, bubbly and full of life when she met her for the first time, has become more withdrawn, quiet and even depressed during her time in jail. Educational opportunities are limited in the prison in Kano city where she has been held, and to this day Tasi’u can neither read nor write.

Throughout her trial, which was conducted in English meaning the defendant could not understand a word, Tasi’u was threatened with execution. Reporters in court described her struggling to control her emotions during proceedings, frequently breaking down in tears.

In the weeks since Prosecutor Lamido Abba Soron-Dinki asked the high court in Gezawa, Kano state, to “terminate the case” of culpable homicide against Tasi’u in May, her visitation rights have been limited with even her family prevented from seeing her. Ibrahim’s lawyer has been stopped from taking her young teenage daughter to see Tasi’u, depriving the child of one of her few regular interactions with people her own age.

“I think they were worried that she would try to escape,” said Ibrahim, when trying to offer an explanation for the cut in visiting rights, in the weeks after her release was first mooted.

The case has drawn international condemnation from rights groups, who say the decision to pursue the death penalty against a teenager violates international law. Others have characterised Sani and Tasi’u’s relationship as one characterised by “systematic abuse”.

After a presentation was made to the court by Kano’s attorney general on Tuesday, calling for the defendant to be released, Judge Mohammed Yahaya agreed to drop the charges and allow Tasi’u to be free.

In Nigeria, child marriage is common, despite national laws prohibiting it.

The Child Rights Act, introduced in 2003, raised the minimum age of marriage for girls to 18, but the legislation has not been ratified by states in the Muslim-dominated north of the country where child marriage is common, with nearly half of girls married by the age of 15 and 78% by the time they hit 18. In the country as a whole, 7% of girls in the country are married before the age of 15, according to the charity Girls Not Brides.

The Kano state government has agreed to offer compensation to Sani’s family, according to local reports.

The charity Girls Not Brides, which has campaigned extensively on the issue of child marriage in Nigeria and beyond, issued this statement on Tasi’u’ release.

“Wasila’s case reflects some of the impossible situations that child brides face. Wasila is one of 15 million girls a year who are married as children, a practice that is not limited to any one region, culture or religion. Her case demonstrates the importance of not only preventing child marriage but also ensuring that child brides receive the support and services they need.”

Related story: Child bride kills 35 year old groom and three others with poison

The Guardian

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Video - President Muhammadu Buhari promises to be tracked online

While he was running for election, Nigeria's new President, Muhammadu Buhari, made a lot of campaign promises.Now a civil group is using online tools to ensure he delivers on the pre-election promises.

Nigeria re-opens Maiduguri airport

The Federal Government has approved the re-opening of the Maiduguri International Airport for commercial activities following security improvement in recent times, Deputy Governor of Borno State, Alhaji Zannah Mustapha, has revealed.

The airport was closed over 18 months ago following persistent attacks of the state by Boko Haram fighters.

“It is interesting to announce that the Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice Marshal Adesola Amosu, has confirmed to me that the Federal Government had issued a directive for the re-opening of the Maiduguri International Airport for commercial activities," he told newsmen yesterday.

“In fact, the Chief of Air Staff told me that the Nigerian Air Space Management Agency, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, were already directed to work out modalities for the resumption of flight operations in the airport,” he added.

Nigerian Bulletin

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Nigeria moves military Headquarters to Maiduguri

Nigeria's military has begun moving its headquarters to the northern town of Maiduguri, it says, close to the centre of the Boko Haram Islamist insurgency.

The move would "add impetus and renewed vigour" to the fight against terrorism, a military statement said.

A military advance team began work in Maiduguri on Monday, the statement said, as part of plans to move the command and control centre from Abuja.

President Muhammadu Buhari took office last month, vowing to beat Boko Haram.

He announced that the military would move its headquarters to Maiduguri, in the north-eastern state of Borno, in his inaugural speech on 29 May.

The aim is to centralise operations close to the action, cut bureaucracy and speed up decision-making.

The policy and administrative arms of the military have been accused of being detached from the reality of the soldiers on the frontline.

For example, the complaints from troops about their inadequate supplies of equipment and poor welfare were often denied, downplayed or ignored by the authorities. This led to disgruntlement among soldiers, with some refusing to fight and even shooting at their own commanding officer.

However the relocation has not gone down well with some top military men, who have viewed it as merely a symbolic or even populist move, possibly driven by a desire to be distinctively different from the previous administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.

There are also concerns it could further complicate existing operations on the ground.


Nigeria draws with Sweden 3-3 in Women's World Cup

Francisca Ordega scored a late equaliser for Nigeria to earn a 3-3 draw with Sweden in their Group D Women’s World Cup opener on Monday, signalling that Africa will make an impact during the month-long tournament.

A day after Germany crushed the Ivory Coast 10-0, Nigeria restored African pride with an all-out attacking style that won over the fans and shocked the fifth-ranked Swedes.

With Sweden hanging on for the win, Ordega ran onto a perfect pass from Ngozi Okobi and confidently fired the ball past the goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl in the 87th minute.

Nigeria had Sweden on the back foot for much of the match but found themselves 2-0 down at half-time after an own goal by Desire Oparanozie and a tap-in from Nilla Fischer, both scores coming from Sweden corners and the product of sloppy defending.

But the speedy Nigerians continued to press forward in the second half and were rewarded for their enterprise as they scored twice in a three-minute burst from forwards Okobi and Asisat Oshoala, who out-muscled Fischer for the ball at the top of the penalty area and then kept calm to score.

The Swedes were quick to respond, regaining the lead when substitute Linda Sembrant kneed a cross past Nigeria’s goalkeeper Precious Dede before Ordega levelled.

The Guardian

Monday, June 8, 2015

Video - Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari steps up fight against Boko Haram

President Muhammadu Buhari continues his efforts to stamp out Boko Haram militants. He recently concluded a trip to neighbouring Niger and Chad, where he met with the Presidents Idriss Deby and Mohammed Yusuf. But with the group launching fresh attacks, CCTV's Deji Badmus finds out just how much work there's still left to do.

Asia's fastest man Femi Ogunode

Born in the Akoko area of Ondo State, South-West Nigeria, sprint-star, Femi Ogunode, is now celebrated as Asia’s fastest man.

Ogunode on June 4 broke the Asian record of the men’s 100m at the Asian Athletics Championships as he ran a time of 9.91secs to lower his previously held record of 9.93 secs.

Speaking on his latest achievement, Ogunode, who was virtually frustrated out of Nigeria to the Middle East, stated on his Facebook fan page that he has all the reasons to celebrate his rise to fame and stardom.

“When God gives you a reason to celebrate why won’t you……. I celebrate my victory after winning Gold and breaking the Asian record” the 24-year old said on Saturday as he again reflected on his awesome performance.
Interestingly, Ogunode who is now the fastest man in the world’s most populous continent started out as a boxer before switching to football and finally athletics in 2006.

Sadly, while Nigeria’s fortunes in men’s athletic is dwindling by the day on the home front and officials are doling out millions to recruit rejected America-based athletes who have failed to make any meaningful impact , the feat of Ogunode means that Nigerian men now own the record in the 100m’s men event in three top continents’ of the world.
Olusoji Fasuba with a time of 9.85secs remains Africa’s fastest man ever while Portugal’s Francis Obikwelu holds the European record with his time of 9.86secs.

Ogunode in a recent interview with Qatar’s first English sports weekly magazine, DohaStadiumPlus, took the lid off why he dumped Nigeria for Qatar and was equally unequivocal that he is happy he took the calculated risk which has now turned out to be one of his best decisions.

“I wanted to compete in the 2007 All-Africa Games in Algiers, Algeria. I ran in the Mobil Track and Field race, the Nigerian qualification event for it. I made the cut, but they dropped me without any explanation.

“A year later, I qualified for the biennial IAAF World Junior Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland, as the best age-group sprinter in Nigeria. Subsequently, I also made it to the senior side for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

“But due to politics within the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), they dropped me from the squad for Poland, pacifying me by saying I would get my chance in China. I agreed, as I always wanted to compete in the Olympics. But just two weeks prior to the Games, I found out I was out of the team. I felt powerless against the AFN’s internal games.

“It was then that I received an e-mail asking whether I was interested to do trials in Qatar. I wrote back saying I was, but that I didn’t have money to make the trip. They requested a copy of my passport and soon, I was attending trials in Doha. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made in my life,” he concluded.

A peep into Ogunode’s biography reveals that his maiden competition as an athlete was at the Obafemi Awolowo U-18 Championship in Ibadan, Nigeria, where he won gold in 100m and 200m in the same year he started running – 2006.

As stated on his personal website, based on his performance at the U-18 Championship. Ogunode was invited to participate in the 2006 ExxonMobil Track & Field Championship (Nigeria’s test event for the 2007 All African Games held in Algiers, Algeria), where he won the 5th place, although he didn’t qualify to participate at Algiers.

Undaunted by this, he continued with his trainings and his determination to succeed made him to become Nigeria’s no.1 junior athlete in 2008, a position that automatically qualified him for both the World Junior Championship and the Beijing Olympics, both of which he was denied attendance due to politicking within the athletics administration.
Ogunode moved to Qatar in October 2009 and began international competition the following year.

From then it has been an upward swing for Nigeria-born Qatar star. At the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, he took two gold medals, winning over 200m and 400 metres with personal bests of 20.43 seconds and 45.12 seconds, respectively.
This made him only the second athlete in the Games history to have won both events at the same competition. He also became the Asian champion in 200 metres, at Kobe, Japan. He equalled the Championship record – 20.41sec – en route to gold. At the ongoing 2015 Asian championship, Ogunode won three gold medals – 100m, 200m and 4x100m.
Hoping that Nigeria will get it right someday, Yusuf Ali the national record holder in Long Jump and the former Technical Director for the Athletics Federation of Nigeria, told PREMIUM TIMES that the country really needs to invest more in its youth athlete to bring the country back to full reckoning.

“The sad thing is that we are not investing enough in our youth athletes, imagine the Super Eagles can take a chattered flight to go and play a friendly in South Africa and we say we don’t have money to buy tickets for our youth to attend a competition they have worked and trained hard for., It does not speak well of us as a country ” Ali said as he reflected on the incidences that clouded Nigeria’s participation at the last Africa Youth Athletics Championships in Mauritius where the country was forced to present a lean squad which even missed the opening day of events owing to paucity of funds.
Ali said he feared the worse for Nigerian athletics if more concerted effort is not put in place to ‘catch them young’ and also invest in the youth.

“In this country we don’t even have the base, the base for track and field is like 6,000 athletes will start and at the end you will pick like 5 or 6 of them in the end that will be good. But now when you have a base of like 1,000 and you are now not even attending to them as you should then there is no future. I think that is one thing we should address. The base for track and field is very difficult, for football; anybody can just wake up and starting kicking any round object, it is very difficult in track and field, interest has to build very early.”

Premium Times

JPMorgan to eject Nigeria from key bond index

JPMorgan will eject Nigeria from its Government Bond Index (GBI-EM) by the year-end unless it restores liquidity to currency markets in a way that allows foreign investors tracking the benchmark to transact with minimal hurdles.

The bank said late on Friday it had extended the deadline to eject Africa's biggest economy by another six months to take into account the arrival of President Muhammadu Buhari.

Nigeria held closely-fought presidential elections in March, in which opposition leader Buhari defeated incumbent president Goodluck Jonathan, in the country's first transition of power through the ballot box.

JPMorgan, which runs the most commonly used emerging debt indexes, placed Nigeria on a negative index watch in January and then said it would assess its place on the index over a three to five months period.

"Nigeria's status in the GBI-EM series will be finalized in the coming months but no later than year-end," JPMorgan said.

Removal from the index would force funds tracking it to sell Nigerian bonds from their portfolios, potentially resulting in significant capital outflows. This in turn would raise borrowing costs for Africa's largest economy, already suffering from a sharp drop revenue following a plunged in oil prices.

Nigeria's forex and bond markets have come under pressure after the price of oil, Nigeria's main export, plunged. In response, the central bank fixed the exchange rate in February after devaluing the naira last year and tightened trading rules to curb speculation. The naira has lost 8.5 percent this year.

"If we are unable to verify these factors, a review of Nigeria's status within the benchmark for removal will be triggered," it said in report, adding that the factors included a liquid currency market.

Analysts did not expect JPMorgan to remove Nigeria.

JPMorgan added Nigeria to the widely followed index in 2012, when liquidity was improving, making it only the second African country after South Africa to be included. It added Nigeria's 2014, 2019, 2022 and 2024 bonds.

The bank said Nigeria continues to remain eligible for the GBI-EM index, which has around $210 billion in assets under management benchmarked to it, with a weight of 1.8 percent.

The central bank last week made a tiny adjustment to its exchange rate peg to the dollar, which one analyst said may indicate that it is beginning to think about how to loosen its currency regime.


Friday, June 5, 2015

Dozens dead after suspected Boko Haram bombing in Yola Market, Nigeria

Two suicide bombers blew themselves up in the main market in Nigeria's northeastern city of Yola, killing 29 people and themselves, officials said Friday, blaming the extremist Boko Haram group.

Another 38 victims, some with serious injuries, are being treated in the hospitals in this city already swollen with refugees from the conflict, Sa'ad Bello of the National Emergency Management Agency told The Associated Press.

"I can see blood splattered everywhere, including my car, but I can't give any detail because we are all running," bread seller Ayuba Dan Mallam said shortly after Thursday night's blast.

The explosion was timed to go off as merchants were closing shop, others were hurrying to make last-minute purchases and commuters were catching tricycle taxis home.

Deputy Police Superintendent Othman Abubakar blamed the Boko Haram extremist group and said two suicide bombers were among 31 corpses recovered from the scene.

It is the first such attack on Yola, which has had its population doubled by some 300,000 refugees fleeing the insurgent violence in the northeast that has killed some 13,000 people and forced 1.5 million from their homes. Boko Haram has been fighting for nearly six years to impose Shariah law across Nigeria. Half the population of 170 million is Christian.

Two hours earlier, eight soldiers were killed by a suicide car bomb at a checkpoint outside a military barracks in Maiduguri, the biggest city in the northeast some 410 kilometers (255 miles) northeast of Yola.

The Islamic extremists have stepped up attacks after a months-long lull during which a multinational force drove them from the towns where they had declared an Islamic caliphate.

More than 60 people have been killed since the weekend in Maiduguri, the birthplace of Boko Haram. Daily attacks started after President Muhammadu Buhari declared at his inauguration May 29 that he is moving the command center for the war from Abuja, the capital in central Nigeria, to Maiduguri.

Buhari was in neighboring Chad on Thursday, urging more support for the multinational force in which battle-hardened Chadian troops have played a leading role.


Video - SaharaTV's Adeola Fayehun confronts President Mugabe in Nigeria

Adeola Fayehun’s ambush of ageing Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe has catapulted the queen of Nigerian satire, already a star in many countries in Africa, into the international spotlight.

In a clip which has received 270,000 views on YouTube, Fayehun and her colleague Omoyele Sowore question Mugabe as he makes his way to and from new Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari’s inauguration on 29 May.

Sowore initially disarms Mugabe by asking: “Mr Mugabe, how are you?”

Smiling uncomfortably, he replies: “I am well, thanks”.

“Well, you know they also want elections in your country, when is it happening next in your country?” Sowore asks.

“In my country? Well, we had our elections…” He tapers off as an aide comes to his rescue.

After Buhari’s speech, as Mugabe made his way back to the car Fayehun delivers the next barrage of questions.

“Mr President, don’t you think it is time to step down?” “Is there a time limit?” “How’s your health?’ “When will there be change in Zimbabwe?” “Is there democracy in Zimbabwe?”

She ends the clip looking for her next victim, asking: “Is [South African president] Jacob Zuma here?”

While many Africans across the continent have been aware of the refreshing talents of Fayehun, who has presented around 150 episodes of her weekly satirical news show Keeping It Real since it launched on Sahara TV in November 2011, it took the daring ambush of Robert Mugabe for her to be noticed in internationally.

After the incident, The Telegraph’s chief political correspondent Colin Freeman wrote: “compared the BBC’s John Simpson or CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Adeola Fayehun from Nigeria is not exactly a global name in the world of television reporting. This week, though, she made broadcasting history as she did something that few African reporters have ever dared do: ask one their ageing dictators when the hell he is going to quit.”

Nigerian-born Fayehun is based in New York, where she has teamed up with Sowore, who launched the website Sahara Reporters in 2006 to encourage citizen journalists to report on corruption and mismanagement in Nigeria.

Fayehun’s talents helped launch Sahara TV’s hugely popular online comedy programme, the Dr Njakiri Damages Show. When Sowore later asked Fayehun if she was interested in hosting a news programme she jumped at the offer.

And Fayehun’s style has proved popular: pithy, well-researched social commentary and news combined with sharp satire and a dollop of comedy. All the ingredients that have seen hits like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report in the US become the favoured mediums for the delivery of political information and entertainment.


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Video - PDP trying to reinvent itself after loosing presidency

Goodluck Jonathan's PDP party once dominated Nigerian politics. It had control of the presidency, the parliament and most states, but recent elections saw them kicked out of power at almost every level. Is the PDP ready to play its role in opposition?

69 dead in fuel tanker explosion in Nigeria

Sixty-nine people have been killed and 35 people injured after a fuel tanker crashed into a busy bus stop in Southeast Nigeria.

"There is a likelihood that the number will go up," said Umar Abdou Mairiga, Nigeria's Red Cross coordinator.

The state fire service responded to the accident where 12 buses were destroyed but no major buildings were affected in the city of Onitsha.

The accident comes as Nigeria struggles with a nationwide fuel shortage after fuel industry companies claimed the Nigerian government owed them$1 billion in unpaid bills.

Fuel prices have increased with the shortage, and at accidents such as this, often people run forward to try to siphon as much fuel from the spill in buckets as possible. It is unclear if that was the case this time.

In 2012, over 100 people died as they tried to collect fuel from an overturned tanker that caught fire in nearby Rivers state.

The injured have been taken to area hospitals.


Monday, June 1, 2015

Top bankers in Nigeria arrested for $30 million dollar fraud

Nigeria's anti-corruption agency has arrested six senior central bank officials over an alleged $30m (£20m) currency fraud.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) also held 16 private bank workers for the "mega scam".

The suspects stole "tonnes of defaced naira notes", which were meant to be destroyed, it said on its website.

Newly-installed Nigerian President Muhammudu Buhari has pledged to make tackling corruption a priority.

The suspects allegedly filled boxes supposed to contain damaged currency with bits of newspaper cut into the shape of naira notes, before sending them to branches of the Central Bank of Nigeria for destruction, according to the EFCC.

The actual banknotes were held back so that they could be reused, it adds.

The EFCC said the fraud had contributed to the failure of the government's policy of reducing inflation in recent years.


Nigeria hit by bomb attacks after inaugeration of new president Mohammadu Buhari

Bombing attacks killed nearly 30 people in the Nigerian city of Maiduguri over the weekend, according to reports.

At least four people were critically injured -- with one losing an arm -- when an improvised explosive device detonated in the Gamboru Market in Maiduguri on Sunday, according to Nigerian media.

The blast occurred less than 24 hours after a suicide bomber detonated in a mosque at the Monday Market in the same city, killing 26 people and injuring 28.

Militant Islamic group Boko Haram is suspected of the attacks, which follow Friday's inauguration of President Mohammadu Buhari. A former military officer, Buhari won Nigeria's late-March election over former President Goodluck Jonathan and last week said he would move the Nigerian military's command and control center from Abuja to Maiduguri "until Boko Haram is completely subdued."

Buhari condemned the weekend attacks and expressed condolences to the families of the victims.

Reports indicate that barely 12 hours prior to Saturday's mosque explosion, the Nigerian military repelled Boko Haram gunmen from portions of Maiduguri, which is the capital of Borno state in the country's northeast, in a firefight that killed 16 people. The insurgents also reportedly attacked the village of Malari, which is in the same province, with rocket-propelled grenades, car bombs and anti-aircraft weapons, killing 15.

Boko Haram has since 2009 sought an Islamic government in Nigeria, targeting Maiduguri several times, including in a failed assault on the city earlier this year and through multiple suicide bombings, many utilizing young women as perpetrators . Experts have speculated the group might be using abducted children to conduct some of the attacks.