Saturday, January 30, 2016

U-17 World Cup winner Kelechi Nwakali joins Arsenal

Nigeria U17 captain Kelechi Nwakali has completed his move to Premier League Side Arsenal according to reports from Metro.

The Nigeria Under-17 captain has been strongly linked with the Gunners in recent days, amid talk a deal has been agreed.

And now Nigerian outlet Tribune reports that Nwakali is flying to London with his agent to complete a move to the Emirates Stadium.

They managed to grab a word with him before his flew out, and the player says he is happy to be moving to the club.

‘I am going to Arsenal to work and try to be the best I can,’ he said.

‘With God anything is possible, to work hard to justify my claim for first team football.’

Nwakali’s Nigeria team mate Samuel Chukwueze is expected to follow him by moving to Arsenal in the next month or so.


Related story: Nigeria U-17 World Cup winners being scouted by Arsenal and Manchester City

Friday, January 29, 2016

Video - Critics fault Nigerian government for not devaluing the naira

In Nigeria there have been critics of the central bank's decision not to devalue the currency believe that the countrys refusal to devalue may hurt more than benefit its economy. Central bank Governor Godwin Emefiele ruled out any form of devaluation after the Monetary Policy Committee meeting on Tuesday despite a steep depreciation of the local unit. The naira has been under sustained pressure following severe shortages of foreign exchange as a result of the fall in the price of oil. 

Related story: President Muhammadu Buhari rejects calls to devalue the Naira

The Economist calls former Nigeria president Goodluck Jonathan an 'ineffectual buffoon'

The Economist has described former Nigerian president, Goodluck Jonathan, an ineffectual buffoon in an article titled: “Cheap oil is causing a currency crisis in Nigeria. Banning imports is no solution”

In the article which an analysis of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration and policies, The Economist took a dig at Jonathan and how he managed Nigeria.

Read “Cheap oil is causing a currency crisis in Nigeria. Banning imports is no solution” below:

More than 30 years ago, a young general swept to power in the fifth of Nigeria’s military coups since independence in 1960. The country he inherited was a mess: bled dry by pilfering politicians within and hammered by falling oil prices without. Last year that general, Muhammadu Buhari, became president again—this time in a democratic vote. The problems he has inherited are almost identical. So are many of his responses.

In the eight months since Mr Buhari arrived at Aso Rock, the presidential digs, the homicidal jihadists of Boko Haram have been pushed back into the bush along Nigeria’s borders. The government has cracked down on corruption, which had flourished under the previous president, Goodluck Jonathan, an ineffectual buffoon who let politicians and their cronies fill their pockets with impunity. Lai Mohammed, a minister, reckons that just 55 people stole $6.8 billion from the public purse over seven recent years.

Mr Buhari, who—unusually among Nigeria’s political grandees—is said to have just $150,000 and a couple of hundred cattle to his name, abhors such excess. As military ruler he jailed, fired or forced into retirement thousands of bureaucrats whose fingers had been in the till. This time, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has arrested dozens of bigwigs, including a former national security chief accused of diverting $2.2 billion. The EFCC has a poor record of securing convictions; but a single treasury account has been introduced to try to stop civil servants siphoning off cash. And agencies which may not be remitting their fair share to the state are having their books trawled by Kemi Adeosun, the finance minister.

Such measures are doubly important because the economy is swooning along with the oil price. The sticky stuff directly accounts for only 10% of GDP, but for 70% of government revenue and almost all of Nigeria’s foreign earnings.

Oil’s price has fallen by half, to $32 a barrel, in the months since the new government came to power, sending its revenues plummeting. Income for the third quarter of 2015 was almost 30% lower than for the same period the year before, and foreign reserves have dwindled by $9 billion in 18 months. Ordinarily there would be buffers to cushion against such shocks, but Mr Jonathan’s cronies have largely squandered them. Growth was about 3% in 2015, almost half the rate of the year before and barely enough to keep pace with the population. The stockmarket is down by half from its peak in 2014.

Domestic oil producers are feeling the pinch worst. Many borrowed heavily to buy oilfields when crude was worth more than $100 a barrel, and are now struggling to pay the interest on loans, says Kola Karim, the founder of Shoreline Group, a Nigerian conglomerate. This, in turn, threatens to create a banking crisis. About 20% of Nigerian banks’ loans were made to oil and gas producers (along with another 4% to underperforming power companies). Capital cushions are plumper than they were during an earlier banking crisis in 2009; but, even so, bad debts are mounting and banks that are exposed to oil producers may find themselves in trouble. “It wouldn’t surprise me if one or two went down,” says a senior banker in Nigeria.

The government’s response to the crisis has been three-pronged. First, it is trying to stimulate the economy with a mildly expansionary budget. At the same time, it is trying to protect its dwindling hard-currency reserves by blocking imports. Third, it is trying to suppress inflation by keeping the currency, the naira, pegged at 197-199 to the dollar. Only the first of these policies seems likely to work.

The budget, which includes a plan to spend more on badly needed infrastructure, is a step in the right direction. Although government revenues are under pressure from the falling oil price, Mr Buhari hopes to offset that by plugging “leakages” (a polite term for theft) and taxing people and businesses more. That seems reasonable. At 7%, Nigeria’s tax-to-GDP ratio is pitifully low. Every percentage point increase could yield $5 billion of extra cash for the coffers, reckons Kayode Akindele of TIA Capital, an investment firm. Mr Buhari also plans to save some $5 billion-$7 billion a year by ending fuel subsidies—a crucial reform, if he sticks with it. Even so he will be left with a deficit of $15 billion (3% of GDP) that will have to be filled by domestic and foreign borrowing.

Yet his policies on the currency seem likely to stymie that. The central bank has frozen the naira at its current overvalued official rate for almost a year. The various import bans (on everything from soap to ballpoint pens) are supposed to reduce demand for dollars, but have little effect. Businesses that have to import essential supplies to keep their factories running complain that they have been forced into the black market, where the naira currently trades at 300 or more to the dollar. Several local manufacturers have suspended operations. International investors, knowing that the value of their assets could tumble, have slammed on the brakes and some have pulled money out of the country just as their dollars are most needed.

Nigeria is fortunate in having low levels of public debt (less than 20% of GDP), but it is not helped by high interest rates, which mean that 35% of government revenue goes straight out of the door again to service its borrowings. It would not take much to push it into a debt crisis.

Frustratingly, this crunch is one that Nigeria has been through before—under the then youthful Mr Buhari. Then, as now, he refused to let the market set the value of the currency. Instead he shut out imports, causing the legal import trade to fall by almost 50% and killing much of Nigeria’s nascent industry in the process. Between 1980 and 1990, carmaking fell by almost 90%. Today, as in the 1980s, the president is making a bad situation worse.

PM News

Thursday, January 28, 2016

President Muhammadu Buhari rejects calls to devalue the Naira

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari stood firm in rejecting calls to devalue the currency of Africa’s top oil producer, saying that he wouldn’t “kill the naira.”

Letting the currency fall would only result in higher inflation and cause hardship for poor- and middle-class Nigerians, Buhari said, according to an e-mailed statement from his spokesman Garba Shehu on Thursday.

“President Buhari said that proponents of devaluation will have to work much harder to convince him that ordinary Nigerians will gain anything from it,” Shehu said. “The president added that he had no intention of bringing further hardship on the country’s poor who, he said, have suffered enough already.”

The central bank of Africa’s largest economy has pegged the naira at 197-199 per dollar since March to stem its slide amid a rout in oil prices. The policy has led to a shortage of foreign-exchange and been widely criticized by investors and businesses, who blame the restrictions for exacerbating the country’s economic slump. Growth was 3 percent last year, the slowest pace since 1999, according to the International Monetary Fund.

Three-month naira forwards strengthened 3.4 percent to 226.32 per dollar by 3:50 p.m. in Lagos, the highest on a closing basis since Dec. 22. The black market rate has plunged as Nigerians have become desperate for foreign currency, falling to a record low of 306 per dollar this week.

Buhari was speaking at a meeting on Wednesday with Nigerians in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, according to Shehu.

Nigeria’s Monetary Policy Committee resisted pressure to devalue the currency on Tuesday. Central bank Governor Godwin Emefiele gave no hint that curbs on imports and foreign-exchange trading would be lifted.

‘Needs Inflows’

Investors have questioned whether the regulator would weaken the currency without the president’s permission. Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun said in an interview last week that the central bank was “completely independent.”

Buhari “has been influencing the central bank, we see a situation where as commander-in-chief, whatever he wants to be implemented is what is done,” said Mike Nwanolue, a currency analyst at Lagos-based Greenwich Trust Group Ltd. Keeping the naira artificially inflated “is not good for a country that needs inflows and also intends to raise Eurobonds.”

Nigeria’s government plans to sell as much as $1 billion of dollar bonds to help fund a record budget deficit this year.


Rat poison sales sky rocketing in Nigeria due to spread of Lassa Fever

An outbreak of a fever similar to the Ebola virus has Nigeria on edge.

Lassa fever has sickened at least 57 people and killed 34 since it broke out in Nigeria late last year. The disease is transmitted by rats, and in its later stages shares symptoms with Ebola, which killed over 11,000 people in West Africa after it broke out in 2013. Eight people died from Ebola in Nigeria.

Lassa fever, which is named after a town in Nigeria’s northeastern Borno State, sickens people who come into contact with rat excrement. Symptoms in the early stage include headache and fever, while in later stages people can bleed from their mouth and other orifices.

The fever broke out in parts of the country’s north, before spreading south to the commercial capital Lagos and to Edo and Akwa Ibom states in the Niger Delta.

Hassan Garba, a hospital director in the northern city of Bauchi, blamed the transportation of crops for the spread of the disease.

“When you’re moving food material like grains from the north to the south or the east or to the west of the country, you most probably may be moving with rats who can hide among shipments," said Garba.

That’s led to a run on supplies of rat poison in cities across the north. In Kaduna, Adamu Abubakar said he wasn’t taking any chances at home.

“This fever brought by rat, so that is why I’m rushing to the market and I’ll buy… rat medicine in order to kill all the rat that is in my house,” said Abubakar.

Merchant Odundele Benga said his supplies of the poison were exhausted.

“People are rushing the rat poison now. I don’t even have enough to sell,” said Benga.

But the director of the Kaduna state ministry of health Ado Zakari Mohammed warned people to be cautious with the poison, which is deadly to humans.


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

President Muhammadu Buhari visits Kenya and Ethiopia

President Muhammadu Buhari has departed Abuja, Wednesday morning, for Nairobi, Kenya on a three-day visit.

He would equally leave the country on Friday for Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for the summit of African Union leaders.

The president was accompanied to Kenya by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Finance and Industry, Trade and Investment.

Upon his arrival in Nairobi, the President would alongside his host, President Uhuru Kenyatta and other dignitaries participate in the memorial service for Kenyan fallen soldiers who were killed by Al-Shabaab in Somalia on January 15.

At the end of the memorial service in Eldoret, President Buhari would proceed to Nairobi for bilateral talks on Thursday with Kenyan Government officials led by President Kenyatta.

President Buhari with his host would preside over a Kenya-Nigeria Business Forum in Nairobi.

At the end of his visit to Kenya on Friday, President Buhari would travel to Addis Ababa for the 26th Summit of African Union Heads of State and Government.

He is expected to participate in a meeting of the African Union’s Peace and Security Council before returning to Abuja on Sunday.


Nigeria's international sex-trafficking ring

Last year, the BBC's Sam Piranty was given access by the Catalan police, Mossos D'Esquadra, to an investigation into a Nigerian sex-trafficking gang. He spoke to traffickers and women rescued from sexual slavery before filming an early morning raid in November, which led to 23 arrests. He also discovered that the gang is now using London as a gateway into Europe.

It's 08:00 in the Catalan Police Headquarters on the outskirts of Barcelona and Xavi Cortes, head of the anti-trafficking unit, waits patiently for his 22 teams to confirm they are in position. Finally, he gives the order.

Two-hundred-and-fifty officers quietly climb out of their police vans. Single file, each team approaches a residential building watched by a few surprised neighbours.

On reaching the door, one of the masked police officers uses his fingers to count down. Three, two, one. The door is knocked down, the silence shattered, the officers rush inside.

The raid results in the arrest of the leaders of a Nigerian-based group running an international sex-trafficking ring in Barcelona. It's known as the Supreme Eiye Confraternity (SEC), or the Air Lords, and 23 people are now behind bars, with European Arrest Warrants issued for those who have left the country.

This operation was 18 months in the planning and involved monitoring more than a million phone calls, tapping dozens of mobile phones and months of surveillance.

Cortes and his team first came across the group in 2011 during a forgery investigation, but quickly discovered it was a huge network trafficking women and drugs.

He asks me to look at his screen. On it is a map detailing all the locations they have identified where members of the SEC operate. Cities are marked in Europe, North, West and East Africa, North and South America, the Middle East and Asia.

Eiye in Yoruba, the main language of south-western Nigeria means "bird". The group's insignia is an eagle and each city containing members is called a "nest", with the "mother nest" in Ibadan, about 100km (60 miles) north-east of Lagos.

The group was started at the University of Ibadan in the 1970s, and the original intention was to make a positive contribution to society. Over time, however, many members went astray, committing violence in Nigeria and delving into crime abroad.

The group now traffics human beings and narcotics (cocaine and marijuana) and forges passports. It has also facilitated the transport of stolen crude oil into Europe.

"They are able to earn money in many ways, but we are focused on human-trafficking and the victims," says Cortes.

His second-in-command, Alex Escola, then tells me something remarkable.

"You know, one of the tappings showed us that last year, on 7 July, around 400 members of SEC met in Geneva. They had a big meeting, all together."

It was an audacious display of arrogance. In a city where many of the world's global institutions are headquartered, including numerous UN agencies, a global criminal institution held its own parallel international gathering and no-one tried to stop it.

Benin City, Nigeria, is a human-trafficking hub, and a good place to observe how the criminal operation works.

After long negotiations, our team manages to speak to a recruiter, whose job it is to find girls. The recruiter explains that they either approach girls directly or through their families offering fake jobs abroad in a supermarket, or as a cleaner.

However, not everyone is tricked. Many women approach the recruiters themselves, often in full knowledge that they will be working as a prostitute in Europe. Some parents, also aware of this, approach recruiters on behalf of their children.

Destiny, who was 19 when she was trafficked to Spain three years ago, told me she knew sex would be involved but had never imagined she would be turned into a sex slave.

"If you live in Benin, there are many girls who came back from [Spain] with lots of money. They told us they had to have sex sometimes," she says. "We are not stupid but I did not know I would be beaten and raped and have to have sex every night of the week."

NGOs in Benin City say many of the recruiters now look outside the major cities in order to find girls who have not heard their warnings about the reality of life for trafficked women, or the stories of those like Destiny who have returned and are now alerting others to the dangers.

Once recruited, the girls are then taken to Lagos or to northern Nigeria where they are picked up by men known as "coyotes" or "trolleys".

The journey to Europe is perilous. Wire taps reveal how coyotes transporting women were stopped by armed groups in the deserts of Niger or southern Libya demanding thousands of euros for them to pass.

"One phone call from a coyote to SEC showed how a coyote was saying, 'I have a gun on my head and they want money,'" says Cortes.

A woman who was herself trafficked tells me about other horrors.

"The journey took weeks," says Sarah, who arrived in Spain in 2013 at the age of 21. "One of the girls kept asking for water. The men did not like it so they threw her out in the desert in Libya. They left her and we continued the journey. They told the boss on the phone that she was killed by terrorists. We were not human beings. We were animals."

Once girls are trafficked across the desert, they are then taken to "keepers", who often rape them before they cross to Europe.

"When we got to Libya they put us in a house," says Sarah. "This is when I knew we would not be working in a supermarket. One man was taking care of us. He would have sex with us, rape us. Then I became pregnant."

Women who insist they will not work as prostitutes are tied up in a position called "the crocodile". Their hands tied to their feet, they are left for days with no food or water. Some are left to die as an example to others.

Keepers often get the women pregnant prior to making the crossing to Spain. With a child or pregnant, they stand a better chance of not being deported, and the men can use access to the child as a form of blackmail to keep the women under control.

Two years ago, at a time when the coyotes reported Libya had become too dangerous, recorded phone calls show that the girls were taken instead to Greece, via Yemen, Iran and Turkey. And today, as the Mediterranean becomes more difficult to cross - and the authorities try harder to detect traffickers - the SEC has begun to use airports in the UK more frequently.

"This is a more expensive option for the group," Cortes tells me. "They use forged documents and passports from Nigeria to fly into places like Gatwick. The language is also easier for them. These documents are expensive though and need co-operation of people working in the government to get."

One evening in Barcelona, I head out with the undercover surveillance team. At around 10pm, plain-clothes officers in an unmarked car drive me to Badalona on the edge of the city.

We are taken to a top-floor flat where police have spent hundreds of hours watching the house opposite. A light is on in the window and shadows move between the curtains, before someone appears on the balcony - a madame.

Most of the women that make it to Europe live in flats with a few other women and their madame - almost always a trafficked woman, who has managed to pay off her debt. Girls arrive knowing they must earn a sum, which may be from 30,000 to 60,000 euros (£22,000 to £44,000), before they will be free.

There are two ranks of madame. Lower-ranking madames prowl the streets - many on la Rambla, the main tourist strip in the centre of Barcelona - constantly texting and calling their girls to check on their whereabouts. Girls are told to earn about 500 euros (£370) a night to stay in the madame's good books.

But clients, mostly tourists, may pay as little as 20 euros (£15) for sex, so this is often impossible.

After a night's work, girls return home and divide their earnings into three. One part goes to pay for the flat, the second to pay for food and the third goes to the SEC. If they are not earning enough or refuse to work, the madames may beat them.

Higher-ranking madames collect money from their subordinates to pass on to local SEC leaders known as ibakkas. Always men, the ibakkas run the whole operation. They facilitate payment through the hawala system - a form of money transfer based on trust and one that is difficult to trace.

Ibakkas make sure that if any of their girls step out of line, their families back home are threatened. Family members have been known to be abducted and "disappeared" when girls refuse to pay their madames.

One woman, Jessica, who was trafficked to Spain in 2009, says two of her daughters, now in their early 20s, left home in Benin to escape the gang. One is in Dubai, the other in Morocco waiting to cross to Spain.

But in escaping one group of traffickers, they have put themselves in the hands of another.

"In order to pay the debt, they will be prostitutes too," says Jessica.

Tragically, this is not an isolated case.

It's a few days after the raid and Cortes seems content. Back in the office, dressed in full uniform, he details the large quantities of phones, computers, fake passports and documents seized at the time of the arrests.

Despite that, there is a hint of frustration in his smile.

"The size of the network means those arrested will be replaced," he says.

According to recent wire taps, one of the major European co-ordinators of the group is looking to restructure the gang. The ibakka, based in London, was trying to get his 95 other European counterparts together for a meeting.

This kind of organised crime cannot simply be tackled locally. Arresting madames and taking women off the streets merely increases the demand for more women from Nigeria. This is an organised crime group, run by men, operating across the world. This is a network which requires a global police response.


Related stories: Video - Documentary on human trafficking between Nigeria and Italy

Video - Part 2 of documentary on human trafficking between Nigeria and Italy

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Video - Devaluation of the Naira affecting economy in Nigeria

A slump in vital oil revenues has hit public finances in Africa's biggest economy and knocked down the value of the naira by more than 30 percent on the parallel market since last year.

Video - Amnesty appeal in Nigeria for weapons to be handed in

A state in Nigeria has set up an initiative for illegal weapons to be handed in, without their owners being charged.

But victims of crime say the amnesty isn’t enough to solve the crime problem.

Nigeria producing at $5 per barrel due to oil crash

As oil prices continue on the downward slide, Nigerian oil firms may be producing at up to $5/barrel loss, as average production costs for independent and marginal field producers is between $30 and $35/barrel.

Oil prices, yesterday, resumed their free fall, with Brent crude, similar to Nigeria’s sweet crude grade, falling 2.6 per cent to $31.34 a barrel following a 10 per cent rise on Friday, while U.S. oil shed 95 cents to $31.24.

To compound the producers’ woes, a significant proportion of what is produced is lost to oil thieves and pipeline vandals, which they insist are even more dangerous than the bearish run oil prices

Industry chiefs, who spoke exclusively with Vanguard on phone, argued that the turbulence in the international oil market deserves urgent attention.
Specifically, they insisted that the Federal Government needs to be talking with Nigerian producers very fast, if it must save indigenous companies from running aground and plunging the economy into deeper crisis than it is in already.

Impact on producers

Speaking on the impact of the oil crash on the producers, Chairman, Petroleum Technology Association of Nigeria, PETAN, Mr. Emeka Ene, said:

“Current price is below Nigeria’s average of between $30 and $35 per barrel. Most marginal field producers are producing above $30/barrel, and with pipeline vandalism activities, costs will shoot up by another $10/barrel, so oil production now is not sustainable.”

Ene, who spoke against the backdrop of oil crashing to 13-year lows of below $28/barrel last week, noted that the bearish run may soon fizzle out, whether shale or conventional oil is being produced at above $25/barrel. As such, the southward run is not favourable to any producer.

He also revealed that “a lot of Nigerian companies are out of work because they cannot compete with the multinationals, so government needs to have a serious talk with stakeholders in the industry.”

Oil theft, pipeline vandalism

Whether oil prices go bullish soon or not, other stakeholders feel that the benefits of the rise will be lost on Nigeria, if the government does not deal decisively with the twin incidence of pipeline vandalism and oil theft.

The President, Nigerian Association of Petroleum Explorationists, NAPE, Mr. Nosa Omorodion, maintained that “government needs to address the issue of oil theft and pipeline vandalism very fast because, even if price stabilises tomorrow or whenever, we will still not be able to reap the full benefits of that rise.”

He further argued that “oil theft and vandalism remain recurring and very worrisome because these issues are much bigger than oil slide, which is mostly driven by speculation, while these activities affect planning and are more cankerous than price slide. Operators are risking their assets including human resources to produce the oil, only to have it stolen thereafter.”

Against this backdrop, Omorodion, whose association is responsible for finding and producing oil, revealed that NAPE is planning a national seminar this month end to holistically address the issue of oil slide.

He said: “We are going to assess the length and breadth of the oil and gas industry because the price slide is not only affecting petroleum, but also other sectors of the economy.”

Apart from the impact on cost of production, the NAPE boss noted that “The current price is affecting so many things, as nobody is drilling for exploration now, and no one is thinking about fancy technology to boost production. Also, exploration will suffer as no company is exploring for new wells to grow reserves, and many small scale producers, which are mostly Nigerians, will shut down.”

Going forward

Currently, most producers, both OPEC and non-OPEC including the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Russia, Iraq and a host of others are producing at optimal capacities, which indicates that the downward glide may not let up soon. Also, some analysts have predicted that price may glide to below $20 or even $10/per barrel before rebounding.

Furthermore, with Iran’s oil also up in the market and expected to be ramped up systematically, compounded by the melt down in demand being fueled by the crisis in China, crude prices are facing more pressures. But producers recognise that the global economy is in need of some succour but differ on the best ways to go about it.

Noting that Nigerian service companies, who are the hardest hit by the crashing oil prices and provide about 650 value services across the industry, Ene insisted that Nigeria has the weapon in these companies to cushion the market turbulence but has not fully appreciated it.

According to him, “Nigeria has a thriving local oil industry, and if properly supported, can push down cost of production to $10 per barrel. About 10 to 15 years ago, industry cost was below $10 per barrel and nothing much had changed.

On his part, Omorodion believes that now is the time for oil companies to be at the most cost efficient by prioritising between wants and needs, while government becomes more fiscally disciplined and diversifying the economy.

But Ene argued that the solution is not in prescriptivism, like the majors calling for as much as 40 percent cuts in cost of services thereby killing off the companies, adding that government needs to identify and reduce unrealistic economic toll gates.

In his opinion, “The whole system is heated up, and cost of borrowing is very high. So far, conversation has been restricted to major operators and has not included the service companies driving operations in the industry.

“If we must produce oil at $10/barrel, government needs to be talking to Nigerian companies, who have invested in people and technology and are not repatriating their profits.”

Furthermore, he noted that a lot of the systemic costs being borne by indigenous firms contribute to the high cost of production, such as what he described as “Federal Government agents charging unrealistic charges like asking for $10million for permits need to be looked into.”


Monday, January 25, 2016

Video - Rat poison sales surge in Nigeria as Lassa fever spreads

Sales of rat poison have risen in Nigeria following an outbreak of Lassa fever that has killed at least 76 people and sparked fears of contagion across the country.

In the northern city of Kano, the capital of one of 17 states where the haemorrhagic virus has been recorded, there have been “unprecedented” purchases of the pest control product.

The head of the city’s chemicals traders, Shehu Idris Bichi, said sales have increased four-fold since the outbreak was announced this month.

“Traders are doing brisk business because people are making unprecedented purchases of the product to rid their homes of rats that cause the disease,” he said.

Abubakar Ja’afar, who works in Kano’s largest market, said he had never seen sales so high in his 20 years in the trade, with traders in other cities reporting similar increases.

“I used to get between five and 10 clients a day but now I get at least 30 customers … people you don’t expect because of their social status,” he said. “Lassa doesn’t discriminate between the rich and the poor.”

Vendors using megaphones and selling their wares on carts have become commonplace.

“I was making up to 500 naira [£1.75] a day but now I make between 2,000 naira and 4,000 naira every day,” said one, Awwalu Aminu, 40, in Kano.

Nigeria’s health minister, Isaac Adewole, said this week that 212 suspected cases have been recorded since November last year, when the first one was reported; the virus is endemic in rats in west Africa.

Outbreaks are not uncommon and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates there are 100,000-300,000 infections in west Africa every year, with about 5,000 deaths.

In 2012, there were 1,723 cases and 112 deaths in Nigeria. Last year, 12 people died out of 375 infected, according to the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control. The virus is spread through contact with food or household items contaminated with rats’ urine or feces.

Africa’s most populous country was praised for its containment of Ebola in 2014, despite initial fears it could spread rapidly in densely populated urban areas after the first case in Lagos.

But while the government maintains it has the spread of Lassa under control, specialists have voiced concern about under-reporting and Nigeria’s capacity to deal with the outbreak.

The first case dates back to August in the north-western state of Niger but was not detected until late last year. Public awareness campaigns have been mounted and surveillance ramped up of primary and secondary contacts of those with the disease.

The government has criticised a “culture of silence” and vowed sanctions against medical professionals who fail to inform the authorities of suspected cases.

Lawan Bello used to ignore rats in his home, bothering more about the damage the rodents could cause to clothing, furniture and food. But the latest outbreak – and the wider publicity about its spread – has changed his attitude.

“Every few days I buy rat poison and use it in my home to kill rats and I will continue until my house is free of them,” he said. “I’m scared of Lassa and that has made me hate rats the most.”

Killing rats may be one solution to the problem but effective waste disposal has long been a major problem in Nigeria’s big cities.

“Everywhere you turn you see heaps of refuse which provides a breeding ground for rats,” said Idris Musa, a community health worker in Kano. “Rats breed fast and it is very difficult to beat rats’ breeding rate with rodenticide.”

In 2007, Kano was producing 2,000 tonnes of rubbish every day but refuse collectors could only clear 800 tonnes, according to the city’s refuse disposal agency.


Video - Nigerian government struggling to resettle people affected by Boko Haram

The Nigerian Government is busy reconstructing the region after years under the Boko Haram insurgency. Authorities are trying to resettle millions of people displaced by the violence, with refugees trying to build a new community.

iROKO to start financing Nollywood productions after raising $19 million

iROKO, an online entertainment platform that targets audiences in Sub-Saharan African countries, plans to strike more deals in Nigeria’s booming movie industry after securing $19 million in funding from French premium cable company Canal+ and Kinnevik, a returning investor.

That amount is divided into $12 million of capital funding, which will be used to develop iROKO’s business and technology; and $7 million that is not from equity or debt financing and earmarked solely for several years of content development deals with studios. iROKO has now raised $34 million since it launched in September 2011.

Founder Jason Njoku tells TechCrunch that this is likely iROKO’s final fundraise. The company doesn’t make its subscriber numbers public, but it expects to generate positive cash flow by the end of this year.

“We want to stay disciplined in this current funding environment to achieve that, but at the same time not limit how we grow our product engineering teams in New York and Lagos,” says Njoku. The platform, which is accessible through a website or Android app, currently has about 2,500 to 3,000 titles and plans to increase its catalog rapidly over the next month.

Njoku was inspired to create the platform after he moved into his mother’s London home and saw that she had switched from watching British soap operas to Nollywood movies. Nollywood is a nickname for the hundreds of small studios in Nigeria that create thousands of movies a year. According to Fortune, Nollywood was a $3 billion industry in 2014, putting it ahead of Hollywood in terms of volume, and just behind India’s Bollywood.

Despite its massive output and popularity, Nollywood movies and shows were hard to find—in London, Njoku had to hunt down VCDs for his mother in small stores.

“I went to Lagos and realized that this was a cottage industry and saw a big opportunity,” he says. “Our first distribution platform was YouTube and once we were funded it made sense for us to build our own platform.”

Warding Off Netflix

Netflix recently launched in South Africa, so the obvious question is how iROKO will compete against the streaming giant if it continues expanding throughout the continent. Its key difference is focusing on Nollywood movies, but iROKO is also focusing on tailoring its tech platform for the needs of mobile users in Africa.

While the most popular online entertainment platforms in the U.S. and Europe stream digital content, iROKO offers downloads. In fact, iROKO’s Android app—its primary product—got rid of streaming last year and replaced it with subscriptions that allow users to download unlimited films and keep them for up to a year. The company’s decision was based on how slow and expensive data is in many African countries.

“It didn’t work. It was a massive challenge. We don’t have the same engineering capability as Netflix, but the cost of streaming data was unimaginable to our customers, so we are in the process of re-encoding all our files to be between 50 to 100 megabytes,” says Njoku.

Though most movie downloads now take between two to three minutes, iROKO wants to compress them even further because many Android smartphones sold in Nigeria only have about three to four gigabytes of storage.

Furthermore, Nigeria suffers from an unreliable power grid, with blackouts a part of daily life (Njoku claims he’s never had 24 hours of uninterrupted electricity). This makes smartphone owners careful about their battery usage, another problem for iROKO to tackle.

“We are thinking about how to encode files in a way that reduces the amount of battery power used,” says Njoku. “It’s still very much a work in progress and we’re still figuring out the best approach. Dealing with significant Android fragmentation—there are phones from all sorts of Chinese and Southeast Asian OEMs, as well as a big secondary market and jailbroken phones—creates its own degree of complexity, which we are also trying to solve.”

Just as crucial as iROKO’s technology platform is the quality of entertainment. Last year, the company financed and produced about 100 hours of content with Nollywood studios and with its new funding for content deals, plans to collaborate with up to 20 studios, using data from its platform to decide what types of movies and shows (romantic comedies, high drama, and shows with Christian themes tend to do well) to produce.

Njoku wants to give Nollywood movies an organized channel for financing and distribution, since it’s often difficult for studios to secure loans from banks and government initiatives to support the industry haven’t taken off yet.

“Nollywood is incredibly fragmented, with hundreds of mini-studios, some of which have just two to three men working for them,” says Njoku. “We have dealt with a huge array of them over the past few years and our view is to bring some sort of structure to that fragmentation.”

Another of iROKO’s goals is to make Nollywood content accessible to viewers throughout Africa, even if they don’t speak English (the official language of Nigeria is used in most Nollywood films). iROKO was named after a type of tree with many branches that grew next to Njoku’s grandparents’ house in Nigeria.

As it turns out, the tree wasn’t actually an iroko, but it’s called by the same word in many Nigerian languages and symbolic of iROKO’s goal to grow throughout Africa by offering the same content in multiple languages. Njoku notes that dubbing helped Nollywood gain an audience in French-speaking African countries, so iROKO will use voiceovers in addition to subtitles to expand in West Africa. It will take the same approach for Swahili and Zulu.

“Language is the largest barrier to bringing content to people, so we are doing everything we can to localize,” says Njoku.

Tech Crunch

Friday, January 22, 2016

Video - Nigeria has the highest rate of stillbirths in the world

A recent medical report has published some disturbing findings. Nigeria has the highest rate of stillbirths in the world. And most of those deaths are preventable.

Aliko Dangote and Bill Gates pledge $100m to combating malnutrion in Nigeria

Two of the world’s richest men, Bill Gates and Aliko Dangote, have committed $100 million, about N1.97 billion, to fighting malnutrition in Nigeria.

A deal to that effect was signed by the duo on behalf of Bill & Melinda Gates and Dangote Foundation, respectively, in a new partnership aimed at improving the nutrition of children in the country’s North-East and North-West Regions.

The programme will include community-based approaches and proven interventions linked to behavior change, fortification of staple foods with essential micronutrients; the community management of acute malnutrition and investments in local production of nutritious foods.

A key objective will be improving the livelihoods of households by supporting nutrition-sensitive agricultural programmes that can increase family income, improve diets and empower women and youth.

11 million children malnourished- Dangote

Speaking at the partnership, Dangote said that the programme was starting with the North-East and North-West because they had the highest number of acutely malnourished children in the country.

His words: “These two areas we are talking about, when you look at the numbers of malnourished children in Nigeria, they account for over 50 per cent. We therefore want to tackle those areas before we begin to look at other parts of the country.

“Globally, Nigeria has the second highest number of acute malnutrition cases, standing at 37 per cent. Malnourished children become stunted in their growth. They never reach their full potentials and are never able to contribute fully to the development of society. Stunted girls also grow to become stunted adult women who give birth to low weight babies who are at high risk of malnutrition, thus the vicious cycle of malnutrition continues, if not addressed.”


Thursday, January 21, 2016

Video - The expanding gap between the rich and poor in Nigeria

The 2016 Global Wealth Report which examines wealth distribution, opportunities and privileges within society has shown a stark disparity between the worlds rich and poor. Here’s a look at how Nigeria's inequality gap is impacting the nation, and how President Muhammadu Buhari 's change agenda is striving to address the needs of the poor.

Former Super Eagle Daniel Amokachi soon to be coaching Finnish club JS Hercules

Former Super Eagles coach, Daniel Amokachi, has secured a one-year deal to handle Finnish side, JS Hercules, and is to resume immediately with the team.

The Finnish second division side, on their official website on Wednesday, announced the hiring of Amokachi and the other reshuffling in their technical crew.

“Oulu-based football club Hercules has signed an agreement with former Nigeria national team player and Coach Daniel Amokachi.

“The head coach for the previous season Pekka Haaranen will continue as assistant coach. Amokachi’s agreement with Hercules is one year,” the club stated.

Amokachi, who had a short stint as interim manager for the national team, was an assistant coach to Stephen Keshi when Nigeria won Africa Cup of Nations in 2013.

The last coaching job for the former Everton and Besiktas of Turkey player was a short spell with Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) side, FC Ifeanyi Ubah, which ended abruptly barely few weeks after the celebrated move.

Hercules, who are based in Oulu, Finland, were recently promoted to the Finnish second tier and will hope for more upward swing under their new Nigerian manager, Amokachi.

While Dan the Bull as Amokachi is fondly referred to, enjoyed much success as a player, he is yet to hit it big in coaching.

Premium Times

Oba of Ibadan Odulana Odugade passes away at 101

An influential monarch in south-west Nigeria, the Olubadan, or ruler of Ibadan land, has died at the age of 101, his son has confirmed to the BBC.

Oba Samuel Odulana Odugade, who ruled over Nigeria's third largest city Ibadan, died in his sleep on Tuesday evening, Nigeria's Punch newspaper quotes palace sources as saying.

An official announcement of the Yoruba king's death is expected later.

Although largely symbolic, the Olubadan still has strong regional influence.

'Very stern'

Nigeria's many monarchs vary in hierarchy and importance with some ruling over large areas, while others are traditional rulers of a village or town.

The Olubadan is one of the few unelected figures whom the government would consult on major policy issues in the south-west, reports the BBC's Chris Ewokor from the capital, Abuja.

Speaking to the BBC, his son Prince Gbade Lana described the late Olubadan as "a good father, very very stern".

"He preached humility... he taught us that once you are humble you will be able to achieve anything in life."


Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Bill Gates visits Kaduna, Nigeria

Founder of Microsoft and one of the world's richest men Bill Gates is visiting Nigeria to sign a memorandum of understanding on routine immunization with the governors of six Nigerian states.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Nigeria signs deal with UAE to recover stolen funds

Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Tuesday in Abu Dhabi signed six agreements to enhance bilateral relations between them.

The signing of the agreements on trade, finance and judicial matters was witnessed by President Muhammadu Buhari and the Crown Prince of the United Arab Emirates, Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, and the UAE Minister of State for Financial Affairs, Obaid Attayar, signed the Avoidance of Double Taxation Agreement, while the Minister of Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelamah, signed the Agreement on Trade Promotion and Protection with the UAE Minister of State for Financial Affairs.

The Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, and his counterpart in the United Arab Emirates, Bin Saeed Albadi, signed the Judicial Agreements on Extradition, Transfer of Sentenced Persons, Mutual Legal Assistance on Criminal Matters, and Mutual Legal Assistance on Criminal and Commercial Matters, which includes the recovery and repatriation of stolen wealth.

At a reception after the signing of the agreements, President Buhari reiterated his commitment to fighting corruption and restoring Nigeria’s dignity in the comity of nations.

The president also urged all Islamic countries to support the fight against terrorism in Nigeria and denounce the atrocities of Boko Haram as un-Islamic and against the teachings of Prophet Mohammed.

In his remarks, Prince Zayed Al Nahyan said the relationship between Nigeria and the UAE would be strengthened by President Buhari’s visit and the signing of the agreements.

Premium Times

Video - Nigeria fails to cut down oil production

Nigeria will not be cutting down it's oil production despite the persistent fall in crude oil prices. In fact, experts are advising them against it, unless the global oil regulatory body OPEC calls for a production cut for its member states. But experts also say that member countries have to act fast and salvage the situation.

President Buhari sends corrected 2016 Nigeria budget to National Assembly

President Muhammadu Buhari has formally sent amendments to the 2016 budget to the National Assembly.

A letter from the president notifying lawmakers of the “corrections” was read Tuesday by the senate president, Bukola Saraki, during senate plenary.

A document containing the corrections was attached to the letter.

The president in his letter said the “draft bill remains the same and there are no changes in figures”.

The letter reads: ‪“It will be recalled that on Tuesday, 22 December, 2015, I presented my 2016 budget proposals to the joint sitting of the national assembly. I submitted a draft bill accompanied by a schedule of details.

“At the time of submission, we indicated that because the details had just been produced, we would have had to check to ensure that there were no errors in the detailed breakdown contained in the schedule.

“That has since been completed and I understand that the corrections have been submitted.

“The national assembly would therefore have the details as submitted on the 22nd and a copy containing the corrections submitted last week. It appears that this has led to some confusion.

“In this regard, please find attached the corrected version. This is the version the national assembly should work with as my 2016 budget estimates. The draft bill remains the same and there are no changes in any of the figures.”

Mr. Saraki asked the Senate Leader, Ali Ndume, to ensure the copies of the corrected document are circulated today, Tuesday, so that the Senate will start debate on Wednesday.

The 2016 budget generated controversy last week after senators said the documents presented by the president were missing.

The senate on Thursday accused the president’s aide, Ita Enang, of distributing a version of the budget different from what the president submitted.

Premium Times

Video - Nigeria Super Eagles beat Niger 4-1

Second half substitute Chisom Chikatara inspired Nigeria to a crushing 4-1 win over Niger in their African Nations Championships opening match at Kigali's Nyamirambo stadium on Monday.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Video - Africa's richest man Aliko Dangote creating jobs in Nigeria

It's a sector being described as Nigeria's new oil; the tomato industry. Africa's richest man Aliko Dangote is hoping to change tomato production in the country, with a giant factory that will boost domestic output, create jobs, and even, indirectly, fight Boko Haram.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Video - Mobile classrooms set-up in Nigeria to help displaced children

Its estimated that over a million children have been displaced during the past six years of conflict in Nigeria.

Now the government is setting up mobile classrooms, taking education to children who had their schools blown up by Boko Haram fighters.

Video - Lassa Fever death recorded in Abuja, Nigeria

Ebola also claimed victims in Nigeria...and the government there won plaudits for quickly containing the outbreak. Now though another virus is spreading - Lassa fever At least 43 people are dead so far. and it's reached the capital, Abuja. CCTV's Kelechi Emekalam with this update.

Pregnant woman flees Nigeria to Canada to save unborn children from female genital mutilation

A Nigerian woman has fled the country to Winnipeg, Canada, to help her daughters escape Female Genital Mutilation.

According to, the woman’s father-in-law had insisted that the woman’s first daughter must undergo FGM when she was just a few months old. That procedure almost led to the death of the baby.

To avoid the same from happening to her other children, the woman who is currently pregnant with triplets sought refuge outside the shores of the country.

CBC quoted a lawyer, Bashir Khan, who assisted the woman in obtaining a refugee status in Canada as saying, the woman was forced into vehicle and driven to a rural area where she couldn’t bear to stay and watch while her first daughter was forcibly mutilated.

FGM, also known as female circumcision, involves removing all or part of the clitoris as well as, often, the labia to make young girls appear “more virginal.”

In the case of the woman’s first daughter, “they cut off too much of her clitoris, and she nearly died from the infection,” said Khan.

When she became pregnant with triplets – all female – the woman was told she could have the procedure done on the babies when they were born or abort them, Khan added.

Instead, she fled Nigeria, and arrived in Canada in November 2015, when she was 29 weeks pregnant.

“It was pretty hard for her to get refugee status,” said Khan.

She was assigned Khan as a lawyer by legal aid, who assembled the documents for her refugee status claim.

But in January, Khan uncovered a letter alleging the woman was involved in FGM and thereby aggravated assault on her first daughter.

“The minister’s consul – that is the minister of citizenship and immigration here in Winnipeg — wrote a scathing four-page letter calling my client a bad mother and saying my client should not be able to make a refugee claim,” said Khan. “Statistics tell us that ministerial interventions in the last few years have skyrocketed in the past few years.”

Khan said there was no evidence that that had taken place.

“That was something that sat uncomfortably with me, my client and the board member who heard the case,” he said.

Khan called the statements disturbing and traumatising for his client.

“This is a horrible cultural practice. The purpose of FGM is to discourage sexual promiscuity and to promote chastity,” said Khan. “Parents subject their daughters to FGM based on the social belief that a young woman who refuses to undergo this will have difficulty in labour or will be unfaithful to her husband.”

He said she was in a state of shock when he explained to her what was happening.

“She was just horrified,” he said. “It was a disturbing and uncomfortable moment. The room got really cold.”

Since then, the woman was granted refugee status.

According to Khan, the woman is currently doing well in Canada and hopes to raise her three daughters there.


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Video - Nigeria oil refineries become operational

Nigeria's federal government spends nearly 10 million dollars per day in subsidizing imported fuel for domestic consumption- It is a huge cost President Muhammadu Buhari's government is now seeking to cut down by revitalizing domestic refineries. The government has been rehabilitating some of them recently to curb fuel shortage.

Britain deploys troops to Nigeria to help fight Boko Haram

More than 35 British troops are preparing for deployment to Nigeria where they will take part in training exercises to help the Nigerian army tackle Islamist group Boko Haram, which operates in the country’s northern territories.

The deployment comes a month after Defence Secretary Michael Fallon announced a bolstered British effort to combat the extremist group. Boko Haram, usually translated as “Western education is forbidden,” is responsible for a number of terrorist attacks in Nigeria and Cameroon.

On Wednesday the group claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in Cameroon which killed 10.

In March 2015 the group pledged allegiance to Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) and began using its black and white flag as its symbol. It is also thought to have had links with Al-Qaeda.

In a statement on the deployment, Fallon said Britain is “united” with Nigeria in the common goal of defeating terrorism.

“We stand united with Nigeria in its efforts to defeat the murderous Boko Haram extremists.

“Stepping up our training efforts will help support the Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN) for crucial counter-insurgency operations,” he added.

During 2015, around 130 UK military personnel were sent to Nigeria. The latest pledge could see that number double to as many as 300.

Last year the troops were involved in a range of operations, including training in “infantry skills, civil-military affairs, media operations, command and leadership, IED-awareness, and support to Nigerian military training schools and establishments,” the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said.

In December, the MoD also said 1,000 Nigerian troops had received training for counter-insurgency operations in the north east of the country.

“The training uplift announced by Mr Fallon supports work already carried out by the UK’s resident British Military Advisory and Training Team (BMATT). BMATT has also grown in size since the government announced last year that the UK would increase its training and capacity building in Nigeria,” it said in a statement.

It is estimated that the conflict caused by Boko Haram in Nigeria has displaced 2.3 million people, of whom 250,000 are estimated to have left the country. In 2014, the extremist group killed more than 6,600 people.

According to local press reports, the Nigerian army killed three high-profile Boko Haram members in the north eastern Nigerian state of Borno during December as part of its counter-offensive.


Nigeria parliament loses documents for 2016 budget

Hundreds of copies of Nigeria's 2016 budget have gone missing at the country's parliament, an MP who requested anonymity has told the BBC.

The senate was unable to start considering the proposed budget because of the missing documentation, he said.

The delay could worsen the country's economic crisis as it deals with the impact of plunging oil prices.

President Muhammadu Buhari delivered the hard copies of his first budget to both houses at the end of last month.

It detailed his plans to raise spending by 20% by borrowing heavily amid falling global oil prices.

The president, who came to power last May, also pledged to improve tax collection and invest in other industries including mining and agriculture to create more jobs.

Senate President Bukola Saraki held a closed door meeting with Mr Buhari late on Tuesday, but it is not clear if the issue of the missing documents was discussed.

The BBC understands that the copies of the budget for the lower house are not missing and will be distributed on Wednesday.

BBC Nigeria analyst Naziru Mikailu says this is an embarrassing development for the country's parliament and the government in general.

The MPs are already facing criticism for refusing to cut their salaries and allowances at the time the Africa's largest economy is facing its worst economic crisis in recent years.

Some opposition senators have reacted angrily to the news of the missing documents, accusing the government of being behind their disappearance, Nigeria's Premium Times newspaper reports.

But Mr Buhari's spokesman Garba Shehu denied the allegation, saying: "Once the budget is submitted, it ceases to be our property."

Both houses are expected to take about two months to consider the $31bn (£20.8bn) budget.


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Nigeria Broadcasting Commission boss arrested for fraud

In a bid to put an end to the lingering corruption practices in Nigeria, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), on Monday arrested the Director-General of the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Emeka Mba, over an alleged N15 billion fraud.

Media reports indicate that Mba was arrested in Abuja with some key accounts staffs of the commission. He was taken to the EFCC’s headquarters where he is currently being interrogated.

EFCC has been investigating the NBC in the past few months.

Some detectives recently stormed the headwaters of the NBC ransacking computers and files in the Finance and Accounts department.

Some key staff were taken away after the operation. Reports indicate that they made confessional statements to the graft body implicating Mba and some other key officials of the commission.

EFCC Spokesperson, Wilson Uwujaren claimed he has not been briefed on the matter as he was on an official assignment in Lagos.

However, a top official of the anti-graft agency confirmed that Mba is with the agency

“We are investigating massive diversion of public funds and we are making progress. Mba definitely has questions to answer”

The National Broadcasting Commission is an agency of the Federal Government of Nigeria, empowered to regulate the broadcasting industry.

Africa News

Nigeria U-17 World Cup winners being scouted by Arsenal and Manchester City

Arsenal and Manchester City are battling it out to sign two members of the Nigerian squad who won the Under-17 World Cup.

Kelechi Nwakali, 17 and Samuel Chukwueze, 16, who play for Diamond Football Academy in Umuahia, southeastern Nigeria have been scouted by several of Europe’s leading clubs after both scored three goals at the World Cup in Chile in November. The playmaker Nwakali was named as the tournament’s most valuable player, while Everton have been linked with the winger Chukwueze.

Reports have stated Arsenal are the favourites to sign both players for a combined £3m but according to Diamond Football Academy’s general manager, Prince Apugo, they have yet to reach a decision over their futures.

“Samuel is like my son, I am his legal guardian and I have been taking good care of him for many years now. Likewise Kelechi, so naturally I would want the best for them,” Apugo told News24.

“Both players have great potentials and we cannot afford to let money becloud our judgment in choosing a club for them. Our priority is their development and we are determined to ensure this is put into consideration before we accept any offers for them. Already we are deep in discussions and have gone very far with a big club with a rich history of encouraging young players and giving them chances.

“At the fullness of time, when the deal is sealed the whole world will know and agree with us that we made the best choice for the players.”

Bayern Munich and Belgian club Standard Li├Ęge are understood to also be interested in signing the duo, who are represented by Gareth Bale’s agents, the Stellar Group.


Monday, January 11, 2016

Switzerland to return $300m of stolen funds to Nigeria

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, on Monday, assured Nigerians that negotiations are ongoing with a number of countries on modalities for the repatriation of some of the funds that were stolen and stashed abroad.

The minister stated that the Federal Government is in touch with Switzerland, which he said had repatriated $700m, noting that another $300m that was recovered would soon be repatriated to Nigeria.

Speaking in an interview with journalists in Abuja, Onyeama stated that the FG was in discussion with the United Kingdom, the United States, among other foreign governments on how all looted funds could be recovered.

He said, “We are in touch with Switzerland; they have recently recovered quite a significant amount of money and I met last week with Swiss representatives to work out the modality for the repatriation of this fund.

“The Swiss government has already repatriated over $700m from Abacha loot and that agreement has been reached on how the money would be applied.

“They have also now recovered in the same context another $300m of which there is ongoing discussion to have that repatriated as well. There are discussions with other countries; United Kingdom for instance, as you all know where there are ongoing discussions there.”

The minister explained that the goodwill generated by President Muhammadu Buhari’s visits to the US and other countries had helped enormously in getting various countries to cooperate with Nigeria on the fund repatriation issue.


Video - Report on President Buhari's efforts to fight corruption in Nigeria

Associate of President Buhari returns N100million to Economic and Financial Crimes Commission

A former military governor of Kaduna State and chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress, Jafaru Isa, has refunded N100million of the N170 million he allegedly received from embattled ex-NSA, Sambo Dasuki.

Mr. Isa, a retired brigadier-general, was arrested on Wednesday by operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, at his Asokoro residence in Abuja.

Mr. Isa, a political associate of President Muhammadu Buhari, was grilled for several hours in connection with about N170 million he received from Mr. Dasuki.

A reliable source familiar with the matter told PREMIUM TIMES the APC chieftain and member of the 19-man Buhari Transition Committee was released after refunding N100million to the anti-graft commission.

The source said Mr. Isa pledged to return the remaining N70million soon.

“We let him go after returning the sum of N100million. We are expecting him to return the rest soon,” the source said.

According to him, some of the suspected recipients of the slush funds who claimed they had no idea the money sent to them was taken from the public till were handed opportunities to return what they got from the former NSA but refused.

“We offered them the chance of returning the money honorably but they keep deploying tactics to avoid prosecution, while also going away with the loot,” he said.

A close associate of Mr. Isa told PREMIUM TIMES that Mr. Dasuki lodged over N100 million into Mr. Isa’s account in instalments to buy a house, located on Mohammed Mohammed Avenue, Kano, for the former NSA.

PREMIUM TIMES gathered that deposits were in turn made by Mr. Isa to the owner of the house, Ali Tukur, in two instalments.

However, the house purchase deal collapsed as a former Minister of Finance, Yarima Ngama, reportedly offered to pay the sum of N150 million cash when Mr. Dasuki reneged on the payment agreement.

Those familiar with their relationship say Messrs. Isa and Dasuki have been close friends since their cadet days at the Nigerian Defense Academy (NDA) and had spent four years together while on military training in the United States.

The Peoples Democratic Party had on Sunday protested the release of Mr. Isa barely eight hours after his arrest while its own spokesperson, Olisa Metuh, remained detained.

The PDP, in a statement signed by its National Legal Adviser, Victor Kwon, said there could be no clearer indication that the APC-led administration was on a manhunt against PDP leaders, and that it had a personal grudge against Mr. Metuh, ostensibly for his stance as opposition spokesperson, particularly his recent exchange with the government and the APC over their dictatorial activities.

““The release of Jafaru Isa, a known associate of the President and chieftain of the APC eight hours after his arrest while our spokesman remains in detention even when the two are being investigated over the same allegation clearly shows that the President Buhari-led APC government is not fighting corruption but using the much hyped crusade as a cover to persecute PDP leaders and decimate the opposition, a project the EFCC has clearly yielded itself as a willing tool,” the statement said.

Premium Times

Friday, January 8, 2016

Video - Bail for Nigeria defense minister and son set at $3 million

The High Court in Abuja, Nigeria has granted a staggering Three Million US Dollars bail, to the country's former defence Minister and his son facing money laundering charges. Bello Haliru Mohammed and Abba Bello's bail is equivalent to the money they are alleged to have stolen. As CCTV'S Kelechi Emekalam reports, the bail terms may be well beyond the accused means.

Panasonic builds assembling plant in Nigeria

Japan based electronics giant, Panasonic has established an assembly plant in Lagos to complement its manufacturing plant in India. In a statement, Shinichi Wakita, Managing Director of Panasonic, Middle East and Africa, said the company is extending the manufacturing of its air-conditioners and TV sets to the shores of Nigeria.

He disclosed that the company is making this commitment in partnership with SIMS Nigeria Limited, an electronics and home appliances marketing/distribution company in Lagos. “As a contribution towards the society which is based on our basic business philosophy, we are establishing our local manufacturing unit for air-conditioners and TVs in Lagos. We believe this will make a small contribution towards job creation and the economy of Nigeria.

“Africa is one of the fastest growing economies with a rising consumer class; setting up this manufacturing base in Nigeria is our strategy to deal with the business challenges in this market. We will be working closely with the Nigerian population with an aim to provide products which are ‘locally-fit’ and in accordance with their demands,” he said.
Andrew Uwazuruike, an electronic dealer, commended the company for its decision to establish their assembly plant in the country.

“This is a welcome development. A lot of people have been making demands for Panasonic products but we don’t really have it in the market. But now that the company has partnered with SIMS for distribution, we are very happy that we can purchase their products and sell them without stress,” he said.

An Oyo-based dealer, Dayo Fagade, described the return of Panasonic as a huge relief that will enable him provide his customers quality products offered by the company. He revealed that he has always recommended the Japanese products to its customers due to their durability, innovation and quality.

“Panasonic is a big brand that needs no further introduction. We just want to appeal to Panasonic and SIM to make the products available all across the country, especially at the beginning of the year where people buy more electronic items,” he said.

Also, a consumer in Ikeja, Suliat Farouk said she has always loved Panasonic products because of their easy-to-know features. She urged the company to further consolidate their presence in the country and also make the product available in the North where, according to her, ‘there is a big market for electronic products’.


MTN Nigeria acquires Visafone

MTN Nigeria on Thursday said that it had completed the acquisition of Visafone, the only surviving Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) network in Nigeria’s telecommunications industry.

MTN Executive, Amina Oyagbola, made this known in a statement in Lagos.

Ms. Oyagbola said the acquisition of Visafone was in line with a continued commitment by MTN to improve the quality of broadband services for its subscribers.

She said the acquisition, which sought to leverage resources for service enhancement, was also reflective of the company’s concerted efforts to deepen the growth and roll out of broadband services across the country.

According to her, the acquisition of the CDMA network was in support of the National Broadband Plan, for the benefit of Nigerians.

"We are committed to exploring avenues for meeting our customers’ increasing data needs in line with our vision ‘to lead the delivery of a bold new digital world to our customers."

"As we work to maximise our data capabilities towards achieving broadband of international quality, our objective is to ensure that Nigerians experience a boost in the quality of broadband internet services."

"This will translate to the much needed enhanced data speeds and value to enhance personal and business productivity."

"The acquisition of Visafone highlights MTN’s commitment to Nigeria. More capacity will facilitate enhanced product/service offerings and experience in the data space to the delight of our valued customers."

"Voice is still King. However, data is becoming increasingly important in our everyday lives and our energies are focused on enhancing data and internet services to the benefit of our customers and the country at large," she said.

Visafone is one of the leading CDMA/ICT companies in Nigeria, offering a number of services, which include voice, high speed data (3G), internet and other Value Added Services (VAS).

Visafone also provides business solutions to small and medium sized companies and corporate organisations in Nigeria.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that over 2,000 employees of Visafone were disengaged with effect from January 5 and were paid three months salaries as severance package.

The only employees said to been left are those in the personnel and transmission departments.

Premium Times

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Film institute in Jos gets N600 million grant

The managing director of the Nigerian Film Corporation, Danjuma Dadu, on Tuesday said the National Film Institute, Jos, has received a grant of N600 million from the Tertiary Education Trust Fund to equip the institution for better productivity.

The institute’s chief executive officer disclosed this while briefing journalists during the opening ceremony of the Entrepreneurship Film Training Programme for Kogi youth.

The youth were sponsored by a federal lawmaker representing Kogi West, Umar Jibril.

Mr. Dadu said N300 million was first accessed to purchase critical equipment, while an additional N300 million was accessed for the building of classrooms and offices at the institute’s permanent site in Lamingo, Jos.

He said the grant was accessed through the University of Jos, and a part of it had already been used to purchase about 100 of the latest iMac computers with animation software as well as the construction of a sound complex for the institute.

“We are a monotechnic so we cannot access the TETFund. The only way was to go through University of Jos because UniJos supervises our degree programme and the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Haywad Mafuyai gave us his platform so that TETFund can assist the NFI.

“In the first stage, TETFund provided N300 million through the university and there is an additional N300 million now for the building complex at the permanent site.

“The contract has already been awarded; they are only waiting for TETFund to pay them the first tranche,” Mr. Dadu said while conducting journalists round the facilities.

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Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Video - President Buhari wants to recruit half a million teachers

For several years, there has been a major learning crises in Nigerian public schools, rising from a huge deficit in the number and quality of teachers. Nigeria needs about 1.3million teachers to meet the needs of basic education alone. President, Muhammadu Buhari proposes to recruit 500,000, the biggest ever. Development expert Ezenwa Nwagwu believes it's a right step, but so much more needs to be done to elevate the living standard of teachers.

IMF Chief, Christine Lagard has fears for Nigeria's economy

On Tuesday, the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, met President Muhammadu Buhari and other top Nigerian officials.

After her meeting with President Buhari at the presidential villa, she a‎ddressed a brief press conference during which she outlined her organisation’s concern for the Nigerian economy, and the help she is offering.

PREMIUM TIMES’ Sani Tukur was at the session, and below is a full tra‎nscript of the briefing.

"The last time I was in Nigeria was years ago. Since then, many things have changed. That was the topic of our discussion with President Buhari and his team. Massive democratic change has occurred in the country, peacefully. Nigeria has become the largest economy in Africa, certainly the most populated and attractive market."

"But, change has come in a more complicated way, in the sense that the source of revenue for Nigeria, which was predominantly oil, has seen its prices divided by more than half, and the financing cost are beginning to rise, if only the economic situation of the United States has improved and interest rates are beginning to rise."

"Also, emerging markets are decelerating their growths and they are no longer going to contribute to the massive growth that they have been doing over time."

"It’s in that context of a great Nigeria, which a leader in Africa is, that we had this excellent discussion with President Buhari."

"We discussed the challenges ahead, starting from the oil price reduction, the necessity to apply fiscal discipline, and the need to also respond to the population needs by addressing the medium term necessity of improving the competitiveness of Nigeria."

"Also, focusing on the short-term fiscal situation, which requires that revenue sources be identified, in order to compensate the short-fall, resulting from the oil price decline."

"Oil revenue itself is not the major contributor to Nigeria’s gross domestic product, GDP. It is only about 14 per cent, but it’s a big source of revenue for the government."

"We had a good chat with the President and Vice President, along key ministers, including the Ministers of Finance and Budget on how more efficiency, transparency and better accountability could be achieved; enlarging of the revenue base could actually contribute to sound budget going forward."

"I cannot comment on the budget here and now, because we have a procedure in the IMF under which a team of economists would come next week to do what we call the Article 4, which is the review of the budget."

"The group will hold discussion between the IMF on the one hand and the country’s authorities on the other hand. They would look at whether the debt is sustainable, whether the borrowing costs are sensible, and what strategy must be put in place in order to arrest charges going forward."

"What I actually mentioned to President Buhari was that his fight and his determination to fight corruption and bring back transparency and accountability at all levels of the economy were very important agenda items, and a very ambitious goal that need to be deliberated upon. He himself is definitely committed to that as he indicated."

"We would be discussing with the Central Bank about issues of fiscal discipline, financing, monetary policy and the degree of flexibility."

"Nigeria with a vibrant and large economy still has to deal with a lot of poor people with a lot of inequality. Those two components should always be the drivers of reforms. Whether it is looking at subsidy, and how they are structured and how they can be phased out; whether it is monetary policy and the flexibility needed, and how all that impact on the poor. All of those are additions, which we completely recognize and support."

"To those of you who wonder why the Managing Director is visiting Nigeria, it is precisely to have a good discussion with the Nigerian government about these new objectives, these reform agendas that have been identified and also to appreciate the impact that it will have on neighbouring countries, because when you have a very large economy like Nigeria, anything that it decides, any hardship that it faces, would actually have consequences around it. That is certainly what our research and analytical work is demonstrating."

"Nigeria is one of those that actually have impact not just on itself and its people, but also around it and its neighbours."

Q: How much longer do you think Nigeria’s weak current account position can sustain the economy, which is due largely to the dwindling price of crude oil; and were there talk about loans; when people hear of IMF, their heart skip a bit because IMF is coming again with loans and conditionalities. Were there also discussions about the devaluation of the Naira and the deregulation of petroleum pump price?

Lagarde: First of all, let me be very clear. I am not here, nor is my team here to negotiate a loan with conditionalities. Frankly, at this point in time, given the determination and the resilience displayed by the President and his team, I don’t see why an IMF programme would be needed here.

Of course, discipline is going to be needed; implementation is going to be key, but the objectives and the ambition will serve the country well in order for it to be actually sustainable.

On the current account front, we believe that with the very clear ambition to support the poor people of Nigeria, there could be added flexibility of the monetary policy, particularly, if as we think, the price of oil is likely to be low for longer, because clearly, the authorities should not deplete the reserves of the country.

Q: In developing nations, when IMF sneezes, we catch cold, because we believe that the IMF does not represent the interest of the poor. When you come and talk, you sound very well, but when we key into the policies, our nation and our people don’t get the best out of it. What assurances are you going to give us that if we buy into IMF policies, advice and policy thrust, we are not going into a situation where the poor will get poorer, and the very rich boys will smile to the bank?

Lagarde: If I may say, I think you have a slightly outdated view of the IMF. Certainly, in the last four and half years that I have been Managing Director of this institution, this is not the recipe that we have recommended and certainly this is not the feedback that I have received from the countries with which we partner.

I just want to point out one thing, we are essentially in three lines of activity.

The first one, which is the most traditional one, is under which we give policy advice to our members. We have currently 188 countries that are members of this institution.

It is our duty and our accountability to them to review their economy every year, to give them status report independently without pressure. We don’t do what is necessarily going to please them. We say things as we see them.

The second activity, which is the fastest growing one in the institution, is technical assistance and capacity building, and there is plenty of that available to all the countries of the world.

You may be surprised to know that about 150 countries have had the benefit of technical assistance and capacity building.

We have discussed that with the Minister of Finance and her team, and we will be happy to provide technical assistance and capacity building, because you need a strong Tax department; you need a strong debt management; you need strong Customs authorities in order to achieve a strong economy of the country.

The third activity, which is probably the one you are referring to, is the lending that we provide, because we are also prepared to provide lending to countries, whether the balance of payment is in a bad situation and no financing is available.

At that point in time, in order to bail the country out of that difficult position that it is in, then we come in and we lend.

But we do that because it is the requirement of the international community, because it is not my money.

It is the international community’s money and we do so with the right guarantees that the International community wants, which is that economy is going to be improved; that fiscal discipline is going to be brought in; that corruption is going to be punished and so and so forth.

We do that, but we don’t do as much now, as we do four years ago. But like I said earlier on, I am not here to negotiate a programme at all.

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Cleric sentenced to death by hanging for blasphemy in Kano, Nigeria

An Islamic court has sentenced a Nigerian cleric to death by hanging for insulting the Prophet Muhammad in the northern city of Kano.

Abdulazeez Dauda, popularly known as Abdul Inyass, was convicted after a trial held in secret to avoid protests.

Five of his followers were also sentenced to death last year.

These are the first death sentences for blasphemy handed down by a Nigerian Sharia court; those delivered for other offences have not been carried out.

Mr Inyass is a preacher at a local faction of the Tijaniya sect, founded in Senegal by Sheikh Ibrahim Niasse, which has a large following across West Africa.

He was reported to have said that "Niasse was bigger than Prophet Muhammad" during a lecture at an event in May, leading to violent protests in the city.

The BBC's Yusuf Ibrahim Yakasai in Kano says he then fled to the capital, Abuja, and nine of his followers were arrested for their alleged part in organising the event.

When they were arraigned in court, there were further clashes and the courthouse was set on fire, he says.

Four of the followers were acquitted and the five sentenced to death are appealing against their conviction at the state's high court.

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

Mr Inyass, whose five-month trial was held in secret for security reasons, will also be able to appeal against the verdict at a the high court.

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

The Sufi sect of Tijaniya was founded in Algeria in 1784 by Ahmad ibn Muhammad al-Tijani.

It spread all over the world, with large following in North and West Africa. It also has followers in South Africa, Indonesia and other parts of the world.

There are other Sufi sects in Islam but Tijaniya is the largest.

They have three main daily practices: Asking the forgiveness of God; sending prayers to the Prophet Muhammad and affirming the Oneness of Allah.

Senegalese-born Sheikh Ibrahim Niasse was credited with reviving the sect in the 20th Century. People travel from across the continent to visit his shrine.

They have several factions including the Haqiqa (Realist) group, whose members were convicted of blasphemy in Kano.


Robbers shoot and kill Nigeria Football Federation official Ibrahim Abubakar

Nigerian Football Federation official Ibrahim Abubakar was shot dead by at his home in Abuja this morning, according to reports.

The country’s football governing body announced on Twitter that armed robbers had killed the head of protocol.

It was explained that Abubakar’s remains will be taken to Kaduna, in the northwest of the country, for burial.

The NFF’s official Twitter feed read: ‘NFF’s Head of Protocol Ibrahim Abubakar was shot dead by armed robbers in his house in Abuja in the early hours of today.

‘Abubakar’s remains is being taken to Kaduna for burial.’

No more details are yet known about the circumstances surrounding the incident.

Ex-Arsenal and Portmouth forward Nwankwo Kanu offered his condolences via Tiwtter.


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Nigerian comic startup creating its own universe of superheroes

Comic Republic, a Nigerian comics startup based in Lagos, is creating a universe of superheroes for Africans and black readers around the world. The cast of characters—”Africa’s Avengers” according to some fans—ranges from Guardian Prime, a 25-year old Nigerian fashion designer by day who uses his extraordinary strength to fight for a better Nigeria, to Hilda Avonomemi Moses, a woman from a remote village in Edo state who can see spirits, and Marcus Chigozie, a privileged but angry teenager who can move at supersonic speeds.

“I thought about when I was young and what I used to make my decisions on: What would Superman do, what would Batman do? I thought, why not African superheroes?” Chief executive Jide Martin, who founded the company in 2013, told Quartz. Its tagline is, “We can all be heroes.”

The startup may be a sign that comics are having a moment on the continent as well as in a market once said to lack interest in African-inspired characters. The nine-person team has seen downloads of its issues, published online and available for free, grow from a couple hundred in 2013 to 25,000 in its latest release last month as the series has become more popular. Comic Republic plans to make money from sponsorships and advertisers.

So far, companies have asked Comic Republic to create comics for their products and NGOs have asked for help illustrating public health risks like malaria. The head of one of the country’s largest e-commerce outfits, has asked for a portrait of himself rendered as a superhero. The story of one the characters, Aje—Yoruba for “witch”—may be made into a movie by a local filmmaker. Another edition of Guardian Prime’s story is scheduled for this month.

The startup is part of what some say is a renaissance of made-in-Africa music, literature, and art that resonate beyond the continent. Over half of Comic Republic’s downloads are from readers in the United States, the United Kingdom, and a scattering are from other countries like Brazil and the Philippines. About 30% come from Nigeria, according to Martin. Lagos now hosts an annual Comic Con for the comic and entertainment industry. Kenya hosted one for the first time in 2015.

The comic book industry has potential in Africa in part because of the popularity of superhero-themed films, Martin points out. His company launched with Guardian Prime, “a black Superman,” he says, on the same day as the 2013 premiere of Man of Steel.

Other African characters have already emerged. A popular South African comic, Kwezi, or “star” in Xhosa and Zulu, created by designer and artist Loyiso Mkize, follows a teenage superhero in Gold City, a metropolis imagined after Johannesburg. The comic, which features plenty of local slang and cultural references, is a “a coming of age story about finding one’s heritage,” according to Mkize. Nigerian animator Roye Okupe’s graphic novel, E.X.O: The Legend of Wale Williams released in August, is meant to “put Africa on the map when it comes to telling superhero stories,” according to Okupe.

Comic Republic’s universe of heroes differs from its Western peers in other ways. Of the nine characters created by Comic Republic, four are women, which Martin believes is a reflection of the fact that women are active in politics and business circles. “Today’s Nigeria, we’re very indifferent to whether someone is a man or woman. I wouldn’t say there was any strategic decision. It’s just a way of life for us,” he said.

Beyond battling evil and saving the day, the comics are meant to show how individuals can come together to provide for a “better safer Africa,” chief operations officer, Tobe Ezeogu said in November.

That message appears to be getting across to some readers. One fan wrote on Comic Republic’s Facebook wall of its flagship character, Guardian Prime, “My favorite quote [by him]: ‘All it takes for evil to succeed is for good men to stand by and do nothing. I won’t stand by. I am Nigerian.’ I’m not Nigerian, but heroes are going to help the youth and stimulate patriotism.”


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

EXO - Nigeria's Super Hero