Tuesday, May 31, 2016

GoMyWay platform helps Nigerians tackle traffic and fuel shortage

A rideshare service is offering Nigerians some relief from high fuel prices after months of scarcity. GoMyWay is a car-pool platform that connects travellers with drivers going along the same route.

Video - Nigeria's economy strained by decreased crude oil output

Militant problem in West Africa is not new. Delta residents, most of them poor, have long demanded a greater share of oil revenues since most of Nigeria's crude comes from their region. The latest militant group call themselves the Niger Delta Avengers.

Nigeria partners with Russia for nuclear technology

Nigeria yesterday signed Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, with the government of Russian Federation, on cooperation in construction of centre for nuclear science and technology in the country. 

The MOU, which was signed between representatives of the two countries, Mr Sergey Kirienko, Director Russian Rosatom State Corporation and Dr Erepano Osaisai, Chairman/Chief Executive, Nigeria Atomic Energy Commission, was part of the high points of Nigeria’s participation in the ongoing 2016 ATOM Expo, in Moscow, Russia. International Forum, ATOM EXPO is the largest exhibition and business venue for meetings and negotiations of the world leaders in nuclear energy. 

Immediately after signing the MOU, Dr Osaisai said that Nigeria’s intention to acquire nuclear technology followed the realization that nuclear energy contributes quite a chunk of global electricity. 

He noted that Nigeria, with its huge population, could not afford to miss out in the current trend. He also admitted that the project would come with a huge cost but added that the cost of not having clean energy and adequate electricity would be higher for those who failed to join the fray. 

Osaisai said: “Nuclear acquisition has come to stay. It is well known that it contributes quite a chunk of global electricity. ‘’Although Nigeria does have other sources of energy, but this is about a balanced and diversified energy basket. 

Nuclear happens to be the one we considered. “The preference is because it is environmentally friendly and leads to a better conservation of other resources.” 

Recall that Nigeria was first in Africa to establish a research reactor when in 2004, it enabled a Chinese-origin research reactor at Ahmadu Bello University. The country is also reportedly seeking collaboration with the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, to develop plans for up to 4,000 MW of nuclear capacity by 2027.

President Buhari gives go-ahead on flexible Naira

Faced with an economy nearing recession and inflation at the highest in almost six years, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has backed down on his refusal to allow the naira to weaken.

Buhari has given the central bank the go-ahead to introduce a more flexible exchange-rate system even as he remains opposed to devaluation of the naira, said Garba Shehu, his spokesman.

“The president is opposed to devaluing the naira, he has said so repeatedly,” Shebu said in an interview on state-controlled NTA Television on Monday. “He has given them leeway to introduce what he has called ‘flexibility in managing’” the currency’s value, he said, referring to the central bank.

Buhari said at the weekend he supported a stable currency, though he would keep “a close look at how recent measures affect the naira and the economy.” The comments, made four days after the Central Bank of Nigeria said it planned to introduce a more flexible exchange-rate regime, left traders guessing whether he supported those measures.

“We see this as a welcome development as it will help reduce the uncertainties regarding the expected policy framework on foreign-exchange flexibility announced by the CBN governor last week,” analysts at Lagos-based Investment One said in an e-mailed note Tuesday. “We see the move towards a market-determined exchange rate from both fiscal and monetary authorities as a catalyst for increased economic activities.”

Nigeria has held the naira at 197-199 per dollar since March 2015, even as other oil exporters from Russia to Colombia and Malaysia let their currencies drop amid the slump in crude prices since mid-2014. Foreign reserves dwindled as the central bank of Africa’s largest oil producer defended the peg, while foreign investors, fearing a devaluation, sold Nigerian stocks and bonds.

Three-month non-deliverable naira forwards have weakened 35 naira to 285 per dollar since the central bank announced its change of direction, suggesting traders anticipate the currency may trade near that level in the event of a devaluation.

Central bank Governor Godwin Emefiele said on May 24 policy makers were considering a two-tier currency system, with the naira trading nearer a market-related level in the interbank market while the central bank would continue to allocate dollars to strategic industries at a fixed rate. He said the new system would be implemented “in the coming days.”

Mobile data prices finally coming down in Nigeria

Africa’s mobile internet market has grown steadily over the last decade and new forecasts show mobile data revenue, will double over the five years to 2019—topping $22 billion. On the other hand, mobile voice revenue, though still significantly higher ($50 billion in 2014), will only grow by 10% in the same period. It means the continent’s telecoms operators will likely intensify efforts to grab more mobile data market share in coming months.

In Nigeria, the continent’s biggest mobile market, the race for more mobile internet users has already kicked off with a shift in telco marketing strategies away from voice minutes to data package offers. And with this has come a sharp drop in mobile data prices.

Nigeria’s internet usage numbers has grown rapidly in the last few years and is now pegged at 92 million, down by a few million owing to a recent sim card registration exercise that cut off unregistered users due to security concerns.

Over the course of the last month, the country’s leading mobile operators have announced cuts in mobile data prices. The price cuts were primarily made possible by the deregulation of the data prices by the Nigerian Communications Commission last October when the regulator announced a removal of a data floor price, leaving telcos to set prices as low as possible.

Once the regulators removed the artificial floor the Nigerian market was always likely to follow a similar trend seen in the United States and Europe with data eventually becoming a far valuable proposition for mobile operators than voice. But cheaper mobile data is likely to have a far more significant impact in a country with very low fixed line broadband internet penetration.

Once the regulators removed the artificial floor the Nigerian market was always likely to follow a similar trend seen in the United States and Europe with data eventually becoming a far valuable proposition for mobile operators than voice. But cheaper mobile data is likely to have a far more significant impact in a country with very low fixed line broadband internet penetration.

Nigeria is Facebook’s biggest African market and only Egypt registered more tweets than Nigeria in 2015. As a result of the popularity of these apps which offer both messaging and voice services, telcos have created specific plans for various OTT services “as a means to lure customers in and then up-sell them to full plans once they get hooked,” says Sanusi. Some have even offered special packages for Netflix users.

Amid falling prices, the strategy will not be any different. By making mobile data cheaper than it’s ever been, telcos are hoping to gain more users who might later upgrade to more expensive plans.

The hope is that the trend catches on in other African countries as a PwC report shows mobile data prices need to drop significantly as only 43% of the world can afford 500 megabytes per month.

In fact prices in Nigeria need to drop by 97% to become affordable for the majority of the country’s 180 million people. With the price for 500 MB of data in Nigeria falling 50% in the last month alone, it appears Africa’s biggest mobile market could be on its way to meeting that target.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Video - The technology ecosystem in Nigeria

Video - Has President Buhari delivered on his promises

A year of triumph, consolidation, pains and achievements is how Muhammadu Buhari describes his first year in office.In an anniversary speech on Sunday, the Nigerian President promised to boost the economy, eliminate corruption, build roads and bridges and defeat Boko Haram.They are similar to the pledges made in his presidential election campaign.Buhari inherited several problems from the previous government when he took over a year ago.Since then, a new threat has emerged, which is attacking the heart of the economy.The Niger Delta Avengers are an armed group sabotaging pipelines in southern Nigeria, home to most oil and gas fields.The Avengers are demanding more of the national oil revenue to benefit the population of the poor and polluted Delta region.How will he deal with the threat and the many problems Nigerians face?Presenter: Martine DennisGuests:Lai Mohammed, Nigerian Minister of Information.Donu Kogbara, Nigerian journalist and former member of the Presidential Committee on Oil & Gas.Manji Cheto, Nigerian security consultant and political risk analyst.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Video - Nigeria's currency falls to N350 per dollar in parallel market

Earlier this week, Nigeria's Central Bank said it would set up a more "flexible" exchange rate policy, but so far the details of how it will be implemented, are not clear. On Thursday, the Central Bank told currency traders to submit bids for dollars at the current, fixed rate of 197 Naira to the Dollar.

Video - The cake master of Lagos, Nigeria

A young Nigerian is causing quite the stir in the country with his unique cake designs. Kema Abuede is popularly known as the "Cake Priest", and he got into the industry after failing to secure an admission to a polytechnic to study mass communication.

Nigeria Delta Avengers attack oil facility, vows to "shock the world"

Niger Delta Avengers, the new militant group that has launched multiple attacks on oil and gas installations in the Niger Delta region, has struck yet again.

The group announced its latest assault on Friday, saying it blew up a gas and crude trunk line belonging to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, in Warri, Delta State, late Thursday.

The Avengers announced the attack via its Twitter handle.

The group said that the facility was “heavily guarded” by the Nigerian military, in an apparent attempt to mock the Nigerian armed forces’ capacity to check its activities.

“At 11:45pm on Thursday.@NDAvengers blew up other #NNPC Gas and Crude trunkline close to Warri. Pipeline that was heavily guarded by Military,” the group tweeted.

The NNPC is yet to comment on the attack. Its spokesperson, Garbadeen Mohammed, told PREMIUM TIMES he was still collating information on the incident.

The group rejected a meeting recently convened in Abuja by the federal government, warning of its readiness to carry out an attack that will “shock the whole world”.

“The Niger Delta stakeholder’s meeting is an insult to the people of Niger Delta. What we need is a Sovereign State not pipeline Contracts.

“To the IOC’s, Indigenous Oil Companies and Nigeria Military. Watch out something big is about to happen and it will shock the whole world,” the group said.

The new group has launched several attacks on oil and gas infrastructure since February 2016, demanding a sovereign nation of the Niger Delta people.

On Thursday, the group claimed responsibility for another attack on a gas pipeline belonging to Chevron in Delta state.

“We warned Chevron, but they didn’t listen. NDA just blew up the Escravos tank farm main electricity feed pipeline,” it said.

The militants said the oil facilities were sabotaged following attempts by Chevron to carry out repairs of main Escravos crude oil pipeline it blew up earlier.

A spokesperson for the group, Mudoch Agbinibo, had earlier this month warned the Nigerian government of further attacks if their demands were not met.

Last week, Chevron’s Makaraba crude oil line was attacked on the offshore Okan manifold in the region.

The attack followed previous ones on the company’s facilities at Abiteye, Utunana and Makaraba platforms in Warri South-West area of Delta State resulting in the loss of over 40,000 barrels of oil per day.

The Management of Chevron Nigeria Limited declined comments on Wednesday’s attack.

Sola Adebawo, manager communications and government relation at CNL said the oil firm would not immediately comment.

“We are not able to comment at this time,” Mr. Adebawo said in a text message on Thursday.

Residents in the area said that an explosion occurred on Wednesday night.

Eric Omare, Spokesman for Ijaw Youths Council confirmed the incident but did not provide details.

Vincent Enyeama extends contract with Lille

Former Nigeria Captain Vincent Enyeama has extended his contract with French club Lille till 2019, suggesting that the shot-stopper plans to see out the rest of his career at the French club.

Enyeama has made just under 200 appearances for Lille after joining from Israeli club Hapoel Tel Aviv in 2011.

The Nigerian, before now, had been linked with a move away from Lille, but this renewal outs an end to any transfer rumours.

“LOSC is pleased and proud to announce the extension of Vincent Enyeama contract for two more seasons. The Nigerian goalkeeper, 33 years, will continue to defend the post of LOSC until 2019,” Lille OSC announced on their official website on Thursday.

The French club further explained that they have decided to agree a renewal with Enyeama because he is a big influence in their dressing room in terms of “his experience in international games, his leadership, and of course, his immense talent”.

Lille OSC training centre director, Jean-Michel Vandamme, believes that keeping Enyeama at the club is “fantastic” news considering his quality.

“Vincent is an exceptional lad both on the field, and also outside. Continuing to work with a player of his calibre and a man of his quality is something fantastic for the club. He still has a bright future and showed that again this season. He is happy at LOSC and feels like home (for him),” said Vandamme.

Enyeama kept 17 clean sheets this season in the league for Lille, making 93 saves including 53 from inside the box.

United Airlines canceling flights to Nigeria

Chicago-based United Airlines is the latest casualty of Nigeria’s economic slowdown as the company has announced that it will stop flights to the country after June 30th. A United spokesman cited a “downturn in the energy sector” as well as difficulties with repatriation of its dollar profits amid tight foreign currency controls by the Nigerian government.

United, the third largest US carrier by revenue, currently flied from Houston to Lagos everyday.

Since the turn of the year, Nigeria has struggled with dwindling foreign reserves as a result of a drop in the price of oil, its main revenue source. To curtail outflow of foreign exchange, the government put in place strict controls, including limiting repatriation of dollars out of the country. Airlines operating in the country have been badly hit by the policy which has left Nigeria owing airlines, including United, around $575 million according to International Air Transport Association.

The airline’s decision to cut flights in a market where government’s policies, including currency controls, have affected its business is not without precedent. In 2014, United reduced its Venezuelan operations by 43% in similar market conditions. The airline’s withdrawal from Nigeria weakens the countries strength as an aviation hub in Africa as it is now left with only Delta Air as the remaining major international carrier flying direct to Nigeria from the United States.

The news is also likely do more harm to Nigeria’s poor reputation as a conducive business environment. It already ranks 20 places from bottom in the World Bank’s most recent Ease of Doing Business report.

The effect of president Muhammadu Buhari’s economic policies will once again be questioned as he closes in on completing his first year in office this weekend. The president’s firm refusal to devalue the Nigerian naira, despite a steep fall in value against the dollar, plus bans on imports of several items has seen investors grow increasingly cautious about operating in the country. The impact of the policies was particularly felt in the first quarter of 2016, as the economy shrank for the first time in two decades with analysts warning of an impending recession.

How Nigeria has changed under the Buhari regime

President Muhammadu Buhari came to power promising Nigerians "change". Novelist and writer Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani gives five examples of what has changed in Nigeria since 29 May 2015 when he was sworn in.

1. Are we safer?

Those of us who travel regularly in Nigeria's north-east had become used to what should be a 15-minute journey turning into an hour-long ordeal.

You had to stop dozens of times at roadblocks and disembark, while heavily armed soldiers inspected your vehicle for traces of the Islamist militant group, Boko Haram.

Today, the number of checkpoints has fallen significantly - even on the road to Chibok - thanks to enhanced confidence in the security of the entire region.

The army has regained swathes of territory that the Islamist militants had occupied as part of their so-called caliphate.

Boko Haram has been considerably weakened, resigned to attacking soft targets using suicide bombers.

Thousands of women and girls kidnapped by the group have also been rescued, including one of the 219 schoolgirls from Chibok abducted in April 2014.

But while there is progress in the north-east, trouble in the Niger Delta, the country's oil-producing region, is resurfacing.

Recent attacks on oil facilities have caused a drop in production and helped push up the global price of crude oil.

2. Where's my money?

In the months preceding last year's elections, the popular chant on the streets was "Sai Buhari, Sai Buhari", which means "Only Buhari" in Hausa - the most widely-spoken language in the north where the president originates.

"Sai Buhari" became an almost magical greeting, capable of earning you a discount from the sweaty chap pushing a wheelbarrow of tiger nuts or sugar cane.

It could even elicit a smile followed by permission to move along, from the miscellaneous airport officials who usually ensure that your passage through Nigerian customs and immigration is fraught with agonising delays.

A year later, the chant has changed to "Buhariya", which roughly translates to "Buhari's way" or "Buhari's time".

The slogan is now used to explain every unpleasant evidence of Nigeria's troubled economy and a time of austerity.

Q: "A basket of tomatoes has gone up from 3,000 naira ($15) to 18,000 naira?"

A: It's "Buhariya!"

Q: "How come the naira is plummeting against the dollar on the black market?"

A: It's "Buhariya!"

3. Where's our money?

This time last year, friendship with Sambo Dasuki, the former national security adviser, could have altered your economic circumstances forever.

He would have been besieged with invitation cards to be the chief guest at various events.

When he entered a room, almost everyone would stand in respect.

Today, he sits in an Abuja jail, awaiting trial for the alleged mismanagement of billions of dollars meant for the war against Boko Haram - charges he denies.

Several other big men, previous untouchables, such as former service chiefs, top politicians and government officials, are also sitting in jail awaiting corruption trials, or out on bail.

And, if you're looking for a second-hand luxury car to buy, now may be the time.

A number of people formerly linked to the government are desperate for cash and selling off their fleets.

It would seem as though the leaking taps that gushed dollars to be spent carelessly have stopped flowing since President Buhari came to power.

4. Where are the women?

Ensuring women's participation at all levels in political, economic and public life is one of the targets of the UN's sustainable development goals (SDGs).

But oly six out of Mr Buhari's cabinet of 37 are women, a meagre 16% and way down on the previous administration's 31%.

The president's wife, Aisha, is also the most silent first lady Nigeria has had in decades, barely seen or heard - except maybe when she is visiting unkempt children in a refugee camp or donating food items to victims of Boko Haram. She appears as the stereotypical good African wife.

Her invisibility is suspicious when you consider that President Buhari, during his election campaign, said he would abolish the office of the first lady - but then retracted the suggestion when challenged by feminist voters.

5. What are we wearing?

In Abuja the government in power influences the style of dress throughout the administration.

Staff of the government, friends of the government and aspiring friends of the government all aim to dress like the person at the top.

Northerners ruled Nigeria for most of the country's first three decades after independence from the UK in 1960.

Over time, their traditional outfits, babarigas (flowing gowns) and kaftans, became firmly entrenched - even when a non-northerner was elected in 1999.

Olusegun Obasanjo is an ethnic Yoruba from the south but throughout his eight-year presidential tenure, he mostly wore babarigas.

Cartoons depicting a typical Nigerian "big man" will usually feature him dressed in the flowing robes, his potbelly distorting the layers of cloth.

All this changed in 2011, with the election of Goodluck Jonathan.

He was Nigeria's first president from one of the country's smaller ethnic groups, and also the first from the oil-producing Niger Delta, in the south.

Mr Jonathan preferred the long shirt and trouser outfit that is traditional among his Ijaw community.

Suddenly, the babariga was nowhere to be seen.

Government offices and hotel lobbies began to feature an inordinate number of men dressed in the presidential style of the time.

Some even went as far as the fedora hats and walking sticks that go with the outfit.

Eventually, the style gained its own special nickname - "resource control" - in reference to the fact that most people who wore it seemed to be the ones controlling Nigeria's oil resources.

Indeed, it seemed to be the preferred outfit of many of Nigeria's newest millionaires.

Not any more. Within a year of Mr Buhari, "resource control" outfits have almost completely vanished from view. The babariga is back.

Beyond these five areas, there are many more profound changes that Nigerians are expecting from our government, but those will take time.

The structure of corruption and mismanagement which previous governments left behind must first be dismantled before a new foundation of progress can be laid.

And President Buhari is no modern-day Hercules.

Cleaning Nigeria's equivalent of the fantastically filthy Augean stables of Greek myth is certainly not a one-year job.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Video - Nigeria to issue Islamic bond to address gap

Nigeria plans to generate nearly 5 billion dollars to help fund a budget deficit through issuing the country's first sovereign Sukuk or Islamic bonds this year. The budget gap is a result of a slump in oil revenue.

Nigeria owes airlines $575 million in fares

Nigeria owes airlines more than half a billion dollars in outstanding air fares as the oil-price slump depletes reserves of the U.S. currency and prompts the government to limit the amount of money that can be moved abroad.

Some $575 million was due to carriers as of March 31, according to the International Air Transport Association, even after the Central Bank of Nigeria released funds to pay off part of the backlog.

Nigerian Vice President Yemi Osinbajo told IATA Chief Executive Officer Tony Tyler this week that airlines must agree “a realistic and achievable payment schedule,” the trade body said. Carriers could begin severing links if the issue isn’t resolved, damaging Lagos’s standing as an aviation hub, IATA said.

The Nigerian economy contracted for the first time since 2004 in the first quarter as the drop in crude prices eroded the value of oil exports. Foreign-currency reserves have slipped to $26.5 billion, the lowest in more a decade, prompting the limits on dollar repatriation.

Carriers including United Airlines, Delta Air Lines Inc. and American Airlines Group Inc. pulled capacity from Venezuela during a similar dispute in 2014 as a 61 percent inflation rate limited the state’s access to dollars. Airlines had the equivalent of $3.9 billion trapped in Venezuelan bolivars, IATA estimated.

British Airways parent IAG SA and Air France-KLM Group said in March they were unable to access ticket proceeds in Egypt as political instability there eroded foreign exchange reserves, and demand for the Egyptian pound faded.

IATA said Wednesday it’s still “optimistic that a solution will be found.”

Nigeria to sign visa-free pact with 8 African countries

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama, says plans have been concluded to sign visa-free pacts with a bloc of eight African countries to promote economic partnership on the continent. 

Onyeama announced this in Abuja on Tuesday at a news confernce to mark one year of President Mohammadu Buhari’s Administration. 

The minister, who did not disclose the names of the countries making up the bloc, noted with concern that trading among African countries had been very low. 

He, however, said that with the new idea by the President Mohammadu Buhari led administration, “it is expected that there will be upsurge in economic activities.

“ Africa is the centrepiece of our foreign policy but it is a paradox that as a Nigerian, you cannot go to an African country without a visa unlike what is obtainable in Western Europe. 

“To address this as a leader in the continent, the country is at a point of introducing an initiative to promote African trade as part of the country’s foreign policy of Africa as the centrepiece”, he said. 

Onyeama said Nigeria was trying to come up with an initiative, like the one in Western Europe where one could enter any sister country without a visa. According to him, what we are trying to do at the ministry is to promote visa-free, free movement of business people. 

“We want to start with about eight countries or see if they come up as a group of eight countries. At the presidential level, they agreed to that, and signed up to free movement. 

“If we can achieve that within a year, then other countries may want to join and we believe this is a better way to go than institutional ECOWAS etc, as countries take so long to ratify agreements. 

“We believe we can just start off, eight countries and they agree among themselves, then others will come in,” he said. 

Onyeama also added that it would not help if the continent continued to export just raw materials to developed nations. 

He said the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment was working towards enhancing doing business with ease in Nigeria. 

Onyeama said the ministry was working with the immigration to see rise in the number of visa issued to businessmen and investors.

“It is one of the cardinal strategies for the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment to facilitate investors doing business in Nigeria”, he said. Onyeama said the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment had been mandated to ensure that there was reduction in the time it took to register companies.

Spain dragged into Nigeria's tomato crisis

The streets of the eastern Spanish town of Bunol turn red and gooey every year on the last Wednesday of August, as tens of thousands of people gather to celebrate La Tomatina. It's not an event that has caused much of a stir on social media outside the country, but in the past few days Nigerians have been been distracting themselves from their own tomato crop crisis by making good-humoured jabs aimed at the European festival.

The topic of tomatoes - a staple of the Nigerian diet - is currently not a laughing matter outside the digital realm in Nigeria. A state of emergency has been declared in the tomato sector in Kaduna state, in the north of the country and farmers are said to have lost up to 80% of their tomato crop.

The culprit is a moth called Tuta Absoluta. The agriculture commissioner in Kaduna state said the price of a punnet has risen from $1.20USD to more than $40. Some reports said that in three local government areas, about 200 farmers lost 1 billion naira ($5.1 million) worth of their tomatoes.

Nigeria's Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, told local media that his office had commissioned experts to look at the issue as "ordinary pesticides cannot tackle the disease because the tomato moth multiplies so fast."

The situation is so bad that it was dubbed 'Tomato Ebola' and the term trended on Twitter for hours on Wednesday.

But what's all this got to do with Spain and La Tomatina?

Well, if you've not heard of the festival, tens of thousands of people from all over the world gather in Spain to take part in an enormous tomato fight. Some estimates say that more than 100 tonnes of tomatoes are thrown during the event. And this has not been lost on Nigerian social media.

One Nigerian news site even posted an article entitled "Five tomato photos that will make Nigerians cry" which featured shots of revellers mucking about in the red gold at La Tomatina.

But what does Bunol think of this reaction? The town's mayor told BBC Trending that the festival "should not be blamed" for Nigeria's tomato crop crisis and that he is "open to (see) how we can help, but the problem is very big and we are very small."

Rafa Pйrez Gil told us that he was aware that Nigerians had taken to Twitter and Instagram recently to lament (albeit in a very tongue-in-cheek manner) the waste of tomatoes in La Tomatina, but he wanted to assure them that most of the tomatoes used in the August food fight were past their sell-by-date and on the verge of rotting.

"Their problem would exist whether our festival happened or not," the mayor said. He added that he would be open to talking about the issue with Nigerians but was unsure what they as a town could do about it. He conceded that food wastage was an issue that merited a wider discussion. "If you look at the garbage bins in Spain, there is more waste thrown away every day than tomatoes used at La Tomatina."

We are not certain whether this information will comfort Nigerians or make more of them see red.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Video - Nigeria adopts flexible foreign exchange rate

Nigeria has adopted a flexible foreign exchange rate policy signalling a policy U-turn as the country teeters on the brink of a recession. The move is expected to boost exports and attract foreign currency to an economy badly hurting from the low global prices of oil. Central Bank Governor Godwin Emefiele said that details of the new rules would be published in coming days.

Video - Nigeria facing the worst economic hardship of its time

CCTV's Kelechi Emekalam talked with Nigeria's presidential spokesperson to get the president's thinking on the exchange rate and other aspects of the economy.

Nigeria receives largest donation in combating worm disease

Merck, a science and technology company, announced Tuesday that the largest single delivery of praziquantel tablets in the history of the Merck Praziquantel Donation Program recently arrived in Abuja, the Nigerian capital.

The West African country has received around 34 million tablets for mass distribution to school children.

With this, Merck has donated more tablets to a single country than it did to the entire continent in 2012 (27 million).

Today in Geneva, Nigeria’s Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Folorunso Adewole, expressed his country’s thanks to Merck and the World Health Organization (WHO) for their joint efforts in the fight against the neglected tropical disease schistosomiasis.

Stefan Oschmann, Chairman of the Executive Board and CEO of Merck, met the minister on the occasion of the 69th World Health Assembly (WHA), the decision-making body of WHO, in Geneva. The participants included Dr. Kesetebirhan Admasu, Minister of Health of Ethiopia, as well as WHO Assistant Director-General Dr. Ren Minghui.

“We want to eliminate the insidious worm disease and give children the opportunity to participate in the economic development of their home countries. Our donation of 34 million tablets to WHO for Nigeria – enough to treat 13.6 million school children – shows that we are on the right track. However, millions of children still suffer from schistosomiasis. And we know that we alone cannot solve the problem with our tablets,” said Mr. Oschmann.

In Africa, Merck is supporting educational and awareness programs, researching schistosomiasis therapies for very young children and cooperating with partners in the Global Schistosomiasis Alliance, among other things.

“Furthermore, in the future we will collaborate even more closely with our partners to finally eliminate schistosomiasis,” Mr. Oschmann continued.

“With more than 235 million people requiring treatment, schistosomiasis is one of the most prevalent tropical diseases in Africa. The worm disease is widespread in all regions of Nigeria, above all among children. We are therefore grateful for every sustained initiative that supports us in fighting schistosomiasis,” said Mr. Adewole.

Mr. Admasu added, “Merck’s commitment not only helps children who are ill – it also relieves the public healthcare systems of the affected countries.”

In his own comment, WHO Assistant Director-General, Minghui, said, “Medicine donations such as this are essential to the fight against neglected tropical diseases. If we are to meet the ambitious sustainable development goals, we need the strong engagement of the private sector, sectors outside health and all development partners.”

As part of its responsibility for society and within Health, one of its corporate responsibility strategic spheres of activity, Merck is supporting WHO in the fight against the worm disease schistosomiasis in Africa.

Praziquantel is well tolerated and the most effective treatment to date for schistosomiasis. Since 2007, more than 74 million patients, primarily school children, have been treated. To this end, Merck has donated over 340 million tablets to WHO.

According to WHO, Nigeria is the world’s most endemic country for schistosomiasis. It is estimated that around 37% of the overall population (64.1 million people) requires treatment. Nigeria has been participating in the Merck Praziquantel Donation Programme since 2008.

Schistosomiasis, WHO says on its website, is a disease of poverty that leads to chronic ill-health.

“Infection is acquired when people come into contact with fresh water infested with the larval forms (cercariae) of parasitic blood flukes, known as schistosomes,” the world health body said.

“The microscopic adult worms live in the veins draining the urinary tract and intestines. Most of the eggs they lay are trapped in the tissues and the body’s reaction to them can cause massive damage.

“Schistosomiasis affects almost 240 million people worldwide, and more than 700 million people live in endemic areas. The infection is prevalent in tropical and sub-tropical areas, in poor communities without potable water and adequate sanitation.

“Urogenital schistosomiasis is caused by Schistosoma haematobium and intestinal schistosomiasis by any of the organisms S. guineensis, S. intercalatum, S.mansoni, S. japonicum, and S. mekongi.”

To date, through WHO Merck has donated nearly 105 million tablets to Nigeria, making it the main beneficiary country of the donation program. In total, nearly 20 million Nigerian patients have been treated to date, primarily school children.

Nigeria doing everything it can to get a permanent seat in the UN

The Federal Government said on Tuesday in Abuja that it was doing everything possible for Nigeria to get a permanent seat at the UN Security Council. 

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama, stated this while on a familiarization tour of the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR), Abuja. 

Onyeama said that Nigeria had played important roles in peacemaking, peacekeeping and peace enforcement globally, and had contributed and sacrificed human and financial resources. 

“We are doing everything possible to get a permanent seat at the UN Security Council; we are looking at its materialisation. 

“Africa is being prospected to have two permanent seats and we are saying that Nigeria should naturally have one.

“It is part of our foreign policy that West Africa and Africa have peace and we are spending money that we don’t even have to achieve on that mission,” he said. 

Onyeama regretted the various conflicts confronting the country, notably, the Boko Haram insurgency, the renewed Niger Delta militancy and the farmers/herdsmen conflicts. 

According to him, violent conflicts have been a major bane of Africa’s development and no enduring development can be achieved in an atmosphere devoid of peace. 

“Since independence, conflicts have been the bane of our development in Africa and we as a country play very important roles in peacemaking, peacekeeping and peace enforcement on our continent. 

“In various ways, we have contributed; through the ECOMOG, formation of AU Peace and Security Commission, Nigeria is there,” he said. 

He said that Nigeria was the sole Permanent Member of the AU Peace and Conflict Commission, in recognition of the roles the country had played towards a peaceful Africa. 

The minister regretted that the conflicts in the country had persisted till now, and said that IPCR needed to fashion out how to be in proactive mood rather than adopting fire-brigade approach. 

“We need IPCR to be able to provide policy makers with very useful roadmaps to follow and I don’t think we have given enough of attention to the institute to carry out those tasks. 

“You (IPCR) need resources to be a Centre of Excellence; of course, your centre of excellence means peace and security for us in Nigeria,” he said. Earlier, the Director-General of IPCR, Prof Oshita Oshita, said that the institute had the mandate to conduct empirical researches that would lead to peace and conflict resolution in Africa. 

“The first work of IPCR was Strategic Conflict Assessment of Nigeria, which received the UN’s commendation and has been used as a recommendation for other countries,” he said. 

Oshita said that the publication had been updated till 2012, but that paucity of funds stalled subsequent publications, including the launch of the National Peace Architecture, recommended by the UN. 

He said that there was no better time that Nigeria, Africa and the world needed the institute than now, that crises had created unprecedented humanitarian crisis around the world. 

He appealed to Onyeama to intervene in the zero capital budgetary allocation to the institute so that it could attain its status of a Centre of Excellence in Africa.

Nigeria hit with critical tomato shortage

A state of emergency has been declared in the tomato sector in Kaduna state, northern Nigeria, local media report.

A moth called the Tomato Leaf Miner, or Tuta Absoluta, has ravaged 80% of tomato farms, Commissioner of Agriculture Daniel Manzo Maigar said.

He said 200 farmers together lost at least 1bn naira ($5.1m; Ј3.5m) over the past month.

The price of a basket of tomatoes has increased from $1.20 less than three months ago to more than $40 today.

In Nigeria, officials declare a state of emergency to indicate they are taking drastic action to deal with a problem, the BBC's Muhammad Kabir Muhammad says.

In this case the state sent government agricultural officials to Kenya to meet experts on the Tomato Leaf Miner to learn how to deal with the pest.

Kaduna is in the north of the country, where according to the UN most tomato production takes place,

A tomato paste manufacturing business in northern Kano state owned by Africa's richest man, Aliko Dangote, suspended production earlier in the month due to the lack of tomatoes, reports Forbes.

Tomatoes are a basic part of most Nigerians' diets and the word tomato has trended on Twitter as people discuss the rising price.

One of the memes being shared is a tongue-in-cheek look at Nigerian pain over discovering the annual festival in Spain where people throw tomatoes at each other.

Oil marketers set to flood Nigerian market with petrol

The Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) says it is ready to flood the market with fuel as it has gotten credit line from outside investors to access foreign exchange to import petroleum products into the country.

Alhaji Danladi Pasali, IPMAN National Secretary, disclosed this in an interview on Tuesday in Abuja.

He said that IPMAN was willing to continue to work with government to ensure availability of products in the country.

“We have foreign investors that we work with; they gave us a credit line that enables us to get our products and import to the country.

“Right now, we have many cargoes that will enter the country under IPMAN, so we have a good arrangement with our partners,’’ he said.

According to him, in a couple of days, about 10 cargoes will arrive in the port.

He said that government had done well to open up the market and called on others to look for various avenues to get forex to import products.

He said that sourcing forex from the parallel market in Nigeria might not be the best option but what affected that price was where one got the product.

He said that complete deregulation of the sector would go a long way to ensure efficiency and competition in the system.

Meanwhile, the Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association of Nigeria (DPPMAN) had on Friday called on government to assist in making Forex available for importation of petroleum products

The president of the association, Mr Dapo Abiodun, said members were currently having a tough time converting some of the Naira payments made by the government to dollars.

He said their inability to convert the payments from the Federal Government from Naira to dollar was making it difficult for them to meet their obligations to their foreign partners.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Video - Nigeria increases electricity generation to 12,000 megawatts

Nigeria's government says it is looking to increase electricity generation to 12,000 Megawatts in the shortest time possible. Inadequate power is a major stumbling block in the government's attempts to win foreign investors, and though 12,000 Megawatts is far less than what Nigeria needs, the government says it will be the first phase of continued investment towards the improvement of electricity services.

Boko Haram drugged woman for suicide bomb attack

A Nigerian woman has described being kidnapped and drugged by suspected Boko Haram jihadists who planned to use her as a suicide bomber at a market.

Khadija Ibrahim, 30, told reporters she had been waiting for a bus to hospital in the north-eastern city of Maiduguri when she was seized by two men in a car who had offered her a lift.

While drugged, the mother of three was stripped and a suicide belt attached, she is quoted as saying.

She managed to flee her abductors.

Ms Ibrahim said after getting into the car, she fell unconscious when something was placed over her nose.

But she woke up, apparently without her captors realising, to hear one of them whispering to her that she was "going to do God's work".

The kidnappers told her she was being taken to the city of Kano to attack the Kantin Kwari textile market.

But when the car engine overheated, both kidnappers were distracted - one was examining the engine while the other went to look for water.

Ms Ibrahim then managed to flee and a man in the Hotoro neighbourhood of Kano took her to the police.

She was also brought before the Kano state governor, Umar Ganduje, who told the media: "If this woman had not regained consciousness the story would have been different by now."

The woman is now in "safe custody....undergoing post-traumatic rehabilitation," Kano police spokesman Magaji Musa Majiya told the BBC's Hausa service.

Police are trying to track down the vehicle in an attempt to find a second kidnapped girl, thought to be about 15 years old, he added.

The other woman in the car with her may also have been drugged, Ms Ibrahim suggested.

Boko Haram has staged numerous attacks using young women in the past year.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Video - Nigeria's GDP contracts by 0.36% in first quarter of 2016

Nigeria's gross domestic product contracted by 0.36 percent in the first quarter of the year, as the worst crisis to grip Africa's biggest economy in decades continues to deepen. The contraction compares with growth of 2.11 percent in the fourth quarter of 2015 and 3.96 percent in the same period last year, heightening expectations that the central bank will take action when its Monetary Policy Committee meets next week.

Nigeria labour union calls off strike

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the umbrella body for union workers, has suspended its three-day general strike.

The strike was called to protest the 70 percent increase in the price of petrol by the federal government.

Nigeria’s oil dependent economy is facing recession following the drop in oil prices in the international market, which has left little or no choice for President Muhammadu Buhari to raise the price of petrol. 

Nigeria, which is the seventh oil producer in the world, subsidises petrol for its citizens.

When that subsidy was removed, Nigeria's main labour union protested by calling for a nationwide strike, which many people have described as largely ineffective in most parts of the country.

So, after three days of sporadic protest across the country, union leader Ayuba Wabba said they're suspending the industrial action to resume negotiations with government.

“Congress will resume negotiations with government on the twin issues of the hike in electricity tariff and an increase in the pump price of petroleum products,” he said, adding that the union “remains committed to genuine dialogue.”

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC)'s action had little impact nationwide.

A second union, the Trade Union Congress (TUC), had also planned to take part in the strike but abandoned its plans in response to the court ruling.

A wave of strikes the last time Nigeria tried to cut fuel subsidies, in 2012, ensured that authorities eventually reinstated some of the subsidies.

A fall in oil prices has eaten into the foreign reserves of Nigeria, which relies on crude sales for around 70 percent of national income. The central bank has adopted a fixed exchange rate in an attempt to prevent further depletion of its reserves.

Last week, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said President Muhammadu Buhari had been “left with no choice” but to raise petrol prices.

Despite being a major oil producer, Nigeria has to import nearly all of its fuel as its refineries are largely out of action after years of neglect and mismanagement.

At the same time, Nigeria’s President on Friday said he ordered a heightened military presence in the restive Niger Delta region to deal with a resurgence of attacks on oil and gas facilities, a day after yet another pipeline explosion.

British Foreign Minster Philip Hammond warned on Saturday military action would not end a wave of attacks in the southern swamps because it did not address rising anger among residents over poverty despite sitting on much of Nigeria's oil wealth.

The rise in attacks in the Delta in the last few weeks has driven Nigerian oil output to a more than 20-year low, worsening a drain on public finances.

A group calling itself the Niger Delta Avengers has claimed responsibility for several sophisticated attacks.

Unemployment worsens in Nigeria

Nigeria’s employment crisis worsened in the first quarter of 2016, with unemployment rate rising to 12.1 per cent, the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, said on Friday.

The bureau said in its latest Unemployment Watch report that between December 2015 and March 2016, the population of unemployed Nigerians increased by 518,000 to over 1.45 million.

Economically active or working age population, the NBS said, increased from 105.02 million in the fourth quarter of 2015 to 106 million by the end of March 2016.

However, actual population of people willing, able and actively looking for work increased by 1.99 per cent, from 76.9 million in fourth quarter of 2015 to 78.4 million in the first quarter of 2016.

The report said failure of government to meet its target of creating a minimum of 1.5 million jobs required for the period to keep the unemployment rate constant at 10.4 per cent before the end of December 2015 worsened the unemployment situation.

The rate as at June end 2015 was 8.2 per cent and 9.9 per cent by September ending 2015.

The NBS said its computations were based on the International Labour Organization, ILO definition, which described unemployment as the population of persons aged 15–64 who, during the reference period, were available for work, actively seeking for work, but were unable to find work.

Consequently, the NBS said the unemployed Nigerian population were those who were actively looking for work, but could either not find work, absolutely nothing at all for at least 20 hours, or did something but not for up to 20 hours in a week during the reference period.

Indications were that additional 1.53 million economically active persons joined the labour force between January 1 and March 31, 2016.

Equally, the report said the number of Nigerians in the economically active population, who chose not to actively look for work, declined from 28.06 million in December 2015 to 27.5 million by end of March, 2016.

Within the same period, the NBS said total number people in full time employment, or those who were doing any form of work for at least 40 hours, decreased by 528,148 persons or 0.97 per cent.

On the other hand, the report said the number of underemployed, or those compelled by circumstances to do largely menial jobs not commensurate with their qualifications or not fully engaged for at least 20 hours during the period, increased by 607,613 persons.

The report said underemployment rate increased by 18.7 per cent (14.41 million) in the last quarter of 2015 to 19.1 per cent in the first quarter of 2016 (15.02 million persons).

The NBS said women population in the labour force continued to be affected more by the country’s unemployment and underemployment crisis when compared with their men counterparts.

While 14 per cent of women in the labour force age bracket were unemployed in the first quarter of 2016, another 22.2 per cent were underemployed during the same period.

Equally, the report said youth unemployment grew from 14.46 per cent in the last quarter of 2015 to 16.39 per cent in the first quarter of 2016.

N2.23 trillion NNPC fraud discovered in Nigeria

The Nigeria oil and gas as well as the solid minerals sectors Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative NEITI audit report for 2013 has been published.

The Minister of Solid Minerals and Chairman of the NEITI Board, Kayode Fayemi, said the audit, which focused on all aspects of the extractive industries, showed that total revenue flows into the Federation Account from the oil and gas sector in 2013 was about $58.07 billion.

The figure represented about eight per cent decline when compared to the $62.9 billion realised in 2012.

Mr. Fayemi said the decline was attributed to the drop in oil and gas sales following divestment of federation equity in some oil mining leases, OMLs, crude oil losses as a result of destruction of production facilities, pipelines vandalism and crude oil theft.

Details of the report revealed that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC and its sub-units during the year either lost or refused to remit a total of N2.23 trillion, consisting

$9.75 billion and N378.67 billion, to the federation account as earnings from various aspects its operations in 2013.

Friday, May 20, 2016

How second Chibok schoolgirl was rescued from Boko Haram

Hours after Amina Ali, one of the Chibok girls rescued on Wednesday from the insurgents, met with President Muhammadu Buhari, at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, the Nigerian Army announced the rescue of another of the girls on Thursday evening.

Army spokesperson, Usman Sani, a colonel, who confirmed the rescue, gave the name of the rescued girl as Serah Luka, said to be number 157 on the list of abducted school girls.

Mr. Usman later narrated how the abducted girl was rescued.

He said in a statement, “At about 11.00am today, Thursday, 19th May 2016, troops of 231 Battalion, 331 Artillery Regiment (AR), Detachment of Armed Forces Special Forces (AFSF) 2, Explosive Ordinance (EOD) Team and Civilian Vigilante group of Buratai, conducted clearance operations at Shettima Aboh, Hong and Biladdili general area in Damboa Local Government Area of Borno State.

“During the operations, the troops killed 35 Boko Haram terrorists and recovered several arms and ammunitions and other items. In addition, they rescued 97 women and children held captives by the Boko Haram terrorists.

“We are glad to state that among those rescued is a girl believed to be one of the Chibok Government Secondary School girls that were abducted on 14th April 2014 by the Boko Haram terrorists.

“Her name is Miss Serah Luka, who is number 157 on the list of the abducted school girls. She is believed to be the daughter of Pastor Luka. During debriefing, the girl revealed that she was a JSS1 student of the school at the time they were abducted.

She further added that she hails from Madagali, Adamawa State. She averred that she reported at the school barely two months and one week before her unfortunate abduction along with other girls over two years ago.

“She added that there other three girls who fled from Shettima Aboh when the troops invaded the area earlier today which led to their rescue. She is presently receiving medical attention at the medical facility of Abogo Largema Cantonment, Biu, Borno State.”

The first rescued girl, Amina Nkeki, was reportedly rescued Wednesday and was received by President Muhammadu Buhari in a State House ceremony Thursday afternoon, with a four-month-old child she reportedly gave birth to while in captivity.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Another schoolgirl kidnapped by Boko Haram rescued

A second schoolgirl from the more than 200 seized in the Nigerian town of Chibok has been found, the army says.

Spokesman Col Sani Usman said Serah Luka was among 97 women and children rescued by troops in operations in the north-eastern Borno State.

This comes two days after the rescue of the first Chibok girl, Amina Ali Nkeki.

In all, 217 girls remain missing after their abduction by the Boko Haram Islamist group from a secondary school in north-eastern Nigeria in 2014.

In a statement on Thursday, Col Usman said: "We are glad to state that among those rescued is a girl believed to be one of the Chibok Government (Girls) Secondary School girls that were abducted on 14 April 2014 by the Boko Haram terrorists."

"Her name is Miss Serah Luka, who is number 157 on the list of the abducted school girls. She is believed to be the daughter of Pastor Luka.

"During the operations, the troops killed 35 Boko Haram terrorists and recovered several arms and ammunitions and other items. In addition, they rescued 97 women and children held captives by the Boko Haram terrorists."

Col Usman said the army operations were carried out in the Demboa area of Borno.

Earlier on Thursday, the first Chibok girl found, Amina, 19, was flown to the capital Abuja to meet President Muhammadu Buhari.

Mr Buhari said he was delighted she was back and could resume her education.

"But my feelings are tinged with deep sadness at the horrors the young girl has had to go through at such an early stage in her life," he added.

Amina and her four-month-old baby were found by an army-backed vigilante group in the huge Sambisa Forest, close to the border with Cameroon.

She was with a suspected member of the Boko Haram Islamist group.

Video - Rescue of kidnapped schoolgirl revitalizes efforts to find the rest captured by Boko Haram

A schoolgirl in Nigeria confirmed to be one of the 219 Chibok girls met the President on Thursday. The girl identified as Amina Ali Darsha Nkeki was picked up on Wednesday in remote northeast Borno by soldiers working with a civilian vigilante group. She was reportedly found with her four-month old baby and a suspected Boko Haram terrorist who claimed to be her husband. The army says the husband was detained. Amina's rescue should give a boost to Buhari and possibly help locate where the other Chibok girls are. Boko Haram captured 276 girls in their night-time raid on Chibok in April 2014.

Video - Nigeria Labour Congress goes on strike despite court order

A Nigerian union defied a court ban and proceeded with a general strike on Wednesday protesting against hefty hikes in fuel prices. Many businesses and government offices however opened as usual. The government hopes that lifting costly fuel subsidies will help alleviate the worst economic crisis in decades in Africa's biggest economy. The move however sent fuel pump prices up by as much as two thirds. A wave of strikes ensued the last time Nigeria tried to introduce a similar measure in 2012, and authorities eventually reinstated some subsidies.

Onitsha has the worst air quality in Nigeria and the world

As global air pollution levels rise, Nigeria appears to be the country most affected by the phenomenon.

New data from the World Health Organization (WHO) shows four of Nigeria’s cities are among the world’s 20 worst-ranked cities for air quality.

Onitsha, a densely-populated commercial hub in the east of Nigeria had the worst air quality – judged by the annual mean concentrations of particulate matter (PM10).

The commercial hub recorded 30 times more than the WHO’s recommended levels of particulate matter (PM) concentration and was followed by the Pakistani city of Peshawar.

Three other Nigerian cities, Kaduna in the north, Umuahia (south) and Aba (southeast) also featured on the list of the 20 worst-ranked cities.

The top 20 list was dominated by cities in South East Asia and the Middle East with India, Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia each having three cities on the list.

China, well known for its air pollution problems, however had only one city on the list – Shijiazhuang.

According to the WHO data gathered between 2008 and 2013, global urban air pollution levels rose by 8%, despite improvements in some regions.

A press release from the global health body also noted that “more than 80% of people living in urban areas that monitor air pollution are exposed to air quality levels that exceed WHO limits”.

The data however indicated that urban air pollution levels were lowest in high-income countries, with lower levels most prevalent in Europe, the Americas and the Western Pacific region.

On the contrary, urban air pollution levels were high in low and middle-income countries in the WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean and South-East Asia region where annual mean levels exceeding 5-10 times the WHO limits.

In the African region, urban air pollution data is sparse, however, available data revealed that particulate matter levels were above the media.

Assistant Director General of the WHO in charge of Family, Women and Children’s Health, Dr. Flavia Bustreo said “air pollution is a major cause of disease and death” but added that it was “good news that more cities are stepping up to monitor air quality”.

She also pointed that “when dirty air blankets our cities, the most vulnerable urban populations – the youngest, oldest and poorest – are the most impacted”.

Member states of the WHO are expected to discuss a road map for an enhanced global response to the adverse health effects of air pollution when they meet for the World Health Assembly from May 23 – 28 in Geneva, Switzerland.

Video - One Boko Haram kidnapped schoolgirl out of more than 200 found

Nigeria's army has found one of the schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram in the northeast of the country over two years ago.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Video - President Buhari trolls PM Cameron

Related stories: Video - British PM David Cameron calls Nigeria 'fantastically' corrupt

Video - Nigerians stock up essentials in preparations of union strike

Nigeria’s labour court has barred workers unions from striking against soaring fuel prices. Still, citizens are bracing for country-wide protests. Nigerians are rushing to stock up on supplies.

Video - Oil production in Nigeria falls by 40 percent

Nigeria oil production has fallen by almost 40 percent to1.4 million barrels a day due to militants attacks in facilities in the Delta region.

Nigeria withdraws anti-social media bill

Lawmakers in Nigeria have decided to withdraw a ‘Frivolous Petitions Bill’ widely seen as a guise to restrict freedom of expression and gag Nigerians on social media.

Officially named “an act to prohibit frivolous petitions; and other matters connected therewith”, the bill was positioned as an attempt to prevent Nigerians from maliciously discrediting public office holders and also prescribed jail terms and fines of up to $10,000 for offenders. But after a failure to win enough votes on the floor of the Senate, the bill was officially withdrawn.

It is not entirely surprising that the bill failed to become a reality. It had resulted in severe backlash from Nigerians, on and off social media. Bukola Saraki, the senate president, had hinted that the bill would not be passed back in February when he described it as “dead on arrival” at a Social Media Week Lagos event.

In the last few years, social media has become a crucial outlet for a new generation of Nigerians who, unlike generations before them, are keen to demand more accountability and transparency in government through increasing political conversations on Twitter.

Fuel protest strike in Nigeria despite court ban

A Nigerian union defied a court ban to launch a general strike on Wednesday in protest at a planned hefty increase in fuel prices, though many businesses and government offices opened as normal.

The government hopes lifting costly fuel subsidies, causing prices to rise by up to two thirds at the pumps, will help alleviate the worst crisis in decades in Africa's biggest economy.

A wave of strikes ensued the last time Nigeria tried to introduce a similar measure in 2012, and authorities eventually reinstated some subsidies.

This time around the Nigerian Industrial Court blocked industrial action due to the risk of civil disorder, but late on Tuesday the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) said it would go ahead with its planned indefinite strike anyway, starting on Wednesday.

"The government was not ready to accede to our demands, so we walked out of the meeting," Chris Uyot, deputy general secretary of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), told Reuters.

A second union, the Trade Union Congress (TUC), abandoned its strike plans in response to the court ruling.

Reuters witnessed government offices, shops and banks in the capital Abuja mostly opening as normal on Wednesday.

Some 300 union activists gathered there to stage a march, and some 200 protested in the commercial capital Lagos, where some banks and many shops were also doing business.


A fall in oil prices has eaten into the foreign reserves of Nigeria, which relies on crude sales for around 70 percent of national income. The central bank has adopted a fixed exchange rate to protect further depletion of reserves.

On Tuesday, vice president Yemi Osinbajo said President Muhammadu Buhari had been "left with no choice" but to raise petrol prices.

"What can we do if we don't have foreign currency? We have to import fuel," Osinbajo said.

Nigeria needs to import almost all of its fuel as its refineries are largely out of action after years of neglect and mismanagement.

There were some flight delays on Wednesday as airlines struggled to get jet fuel, but airports in Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt in the oil-producing Niger Delta were operational

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Video - Can Boko Haram be defeated?

A summit is underway in the Nigerian capital Abuja to discuss ways to put an end to 7 years of Boko Haram violence.

Video - Nigerian Godwin Benson shortlisted for Innovation Prize for Africa

Recently, the African Innovation Foundation, AIF announced the top 10 nominees for its landmark program, the Innovation Prize for Africa, IPA. Among the nominees are three Nigerians, one of whom is Godwin Benson, a 27 year old whose innovation now enables people who want to learn any skill, whether formal or informal, to connect online with anyone else in proximity who is offering that skill.

Video - Africa's richest man Alike Dangote contributes $10m to victims of Boko Haram

Africa's richest man, Aliko Dangote has pledged 10m dollars to help families affected by the Boko Haram insurgency in Northern Nigeria. It is the biggest donation by a businessman towards easing the humanitarian crisis in the region. But how much will that amount of money do for millions of people displaced by Boko Haram. Kelechi Emekalam visited an IDP camp in the outskirts of capital Abuja and filed the following report.

Nominees for African Movie Academy Awards released

The nominees in the 28 categories of the African Movie Academy Awards, AMAA,the annual pan-African reward system for motion picture practitioners were announced Sunday, May 15, by Mr. Shaibu Husseini, the President of the Jury.

At a media event which took place at the Protea Hotel, GRA Ikeja, Lagos Mr. Husseini who also doubles as the Chairman of the College of Screeners reiterated in his address that AMAA is a jury based award and not a voting awards where nominees embark on voting campaigns to win any of the categories.

The Jury, however, announced nominees into 26 categories as the Board of Jurors is yet to conclude on the remaining two categories according to Mr. Husseini, "The remaining categories are special Jury awards and before the awards ceremony we would have decided on the nominees and eventual winners and by that time we would have the full Jury members on ground."

The Jury President also revealed that quality of movies that came into the competition have improved greatly adding that more young people across the continent are coming into the industry as film makers with over 150 short film entries.

"Our film makers only need to pay attention to details especially in the technical areas. We have the stories already especially film makers producing films in African languages. Truth is we can only compete at the Oscars with our indigenous language films and to do this we must improve on our photography, sound, editing and other technical areas. Our people need to improve on sub-titling of our films. What do as sub-titling are jokes and there is no way our films can travel within the international film festival circuits when the people cant make sense of our films."

Films from Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, Burkina Faso are in hot chase for the AMAA glory in the acting departments and Best Director's Category with such films as Fifty, Dry, The Cursed One, Eye of the Storm, Ayanda, La Pagne, Tell me Sweet Something and Behind Closed Doors.

"We are very happy about the quality of works that came into the competition this year and it gladdens our heart that every year the objectives of the awards are being achieved with film makers in Africa and beyond upping their game," added Mr. Husseini.

The Board of Jurors of AMAA which has members which include academics, film makers, critics and Film Festival curators from Nigeria, Germany, United States, Zimbabwe, Jamaica and Burkina Faso will decide on which film and individual talents that will emerge eventual winners at a glamorous Awards Night which will take place on Saturday, June 11, 2016 at the Garden City, Port Harcourt, Rivers State.



1. Encounter - Nigeria

2. Le Chemin - Cote De Voire

3. Blood Taxi - Nigeria

4. Meet The Parents - Nigeria/Canada

5. Nourah The Holy Light - Burkina Faso

6. Ireti - Nigeria

7. Life of a Nigerian Couple - Nigeria


1. The Pencil - Burkina Faso

2. The Peculiar Life of a Spider - Ghana

3. Funsie Fast Fingers - Nigeria

4. Lazare Sie Pale - Burkina Faso


1. My Fathers Funeral - Cameroon

Canada invests $20m in eradication of polio in Nigeria

Canada will contribute nearly $20 million to help eradicate polio in Nigeria, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie Marie-Claude Bibeau announced today.

The polio eradication drive implemented by the World Health Organization (WHO) will help immunize approximately 6.6 million girls and 6.9 million boys against the crippling and potentially deadly infectious disease in 11 high-risk Nigerian states, Bibeau said.

It will also train approximately 154,000 vaccinators and help protect up to 250,000 children from vaccine-preventable diseases.

“Polio will be eradicated in a few years,” Bibeau said in a statement made on the margins of the Women Deliver conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. “It can happen with a sustained effort aimed at immunizing every child. Our aim is to help reduce the burden of diseases affecting mothers and children, and eradicate polio from Nigeria for good.”

Polio, which can cause lifelong paralysis, has now been stopped nearly everywhere in the world following a 30-year concerted international effort.

In September 2015, the WHO declared that polio is no longer endemic in Nigeria and that there have been no cases reported since July 2014.

“We are grateful for Canada’s leadership and significant support to polio eradication and its commitment to keep Nigeria polio free,” said Dr. Flavia Bustreo, assistant director-general at WHO. “Given the leadership role that women play in polio eradication, it is particularly meaningful that this announcement is being made today at Women Deliver.”

Polio remains endemic in only two countries – Pakistan and Afghanistan. The eradication of polio globally now depends primarily on stopping the disease in these countries. As long as polio exists anywhere, it’s a threat to children everywhere, WHO experts say.

With the refugee crisis in the Eastern Mediterranean and Europe and the continuing transmission of the virus in Pakistan and Afghanistan, there will be an increased risk of exporting polio to regions that are now polio-free, WHO warns.

Nigeria defends fuel-price increase amid strike threat

Nigeria’s Minister of State for Petroleum Emmanuel Kachikwu defended the government’s decision to increase the price of gasoline as averting an even larger fuel shortage and financial crisis, as the country’s main unions threatened indefinite strikes over the increase.

“If we did not do what we are doing now, the queues will be back in very full force, there’ll be complete social disruption,” Kachikwu told lawmakers in the capital, Abuja, on Monday. “Governors will not pay salaries, the federal government in fact will not pay salaries, probably members of this honorable house” will be affected also, he said. “That’s simply the reality.”

Last week Kachikwu increased the cap on the gasoline price last week by 67 percent to 145 naira ($0.73) per liter (0.26 gallon). The move was necessary to attract private importers, who will be able to recover their costs and help end fuel shortages that have persisted for months in the OPEC-member country, he said during the announcement.

Nigeria’s two main union federations have threatened an indefinite strike to shut down offices and businesses by May 18 if previous gasoline prices aren’t restored. The unions accused President Muhammadu Buhari, who won elections last year pledging not to increase the price of fuel, of betraying his promises.

Militant Attacks

When Buhari’s predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, attempted to raise fuel prices and end subsidies in 2012, he was faced with a crippling national strike by the unions and civic groups until he partially reinstated them.

A major oil-exporter, Nigeria relies on fuel imports to meet more than 70 percent of national supply as the four state-owned refineries with a capacity for 445,000 barrels of crude per day produce only a fraction of that because of poor maintenance and mismanagement.

Kachikwu told Parliament the cap only applies to fuel supplied by the National Nigerian Petroleum Corporation, which he also heads, while other retailers can sell fuel for higher.

A resurgence in militant attacks in Nigeria’s oil-producing Niger River delta region has cut output by as much as 600,000 barrels a day to 1.4 million a day, Kachikwu said. The nation’s output hasn’t fallen this low on a monthly-average basis since 1989, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“Our budget is based on 2.2. million barrels a day,” he said. “It’s critical for this government that we get back to these numbers as fast as we can.”

Inflation hits six-year high in Nigeria

Annual inflation in Nigeria quickened to a near six-year high of 13.7 percent in April, in part due to rising petrol and electricity prices, the National Bureau of Statistics said on Monday, stoking expectations of another rate hike.

Nigeria’s worst economic crisis in decades has been driven by a sharp drop in oil prices that has slashed government revenues since the country relies on crude sales for around 70 percent of national income.

Gross domestic product growth was just 2.8 percent last year, its lowest rate since 1999, and speculation of a devaluation of the naira currency is growing. March inflation was 12.8 percent.

The statistics bureau (NBS) said the higher inflation rate in April, the highest level since August 2010, according to Thomson Reuters data, reflected increases across all sectors.

In March, Nigeria’s central bank tightened monetary policy, raising the benchmark interest rate to 12 percent from 11 percent to try to curb the galloping inflation, a surprise reversal that came just four months after rates were cut.

“The focus inevitably shifts to what sort of monetary policy reaction to anticipate,” said Razia Khan, chief economist, Africa at Standard Chartered bank, looking ahead to the monetary policy committee meeting due next Monday and Tuesday.

“With the central bank governor previously stating that a headline inflation rate in excess of the MPR (benchmark interest rate) is undesirable, expectations of tightening are likely to build,” she said.

NBS said petrol prices and electricity tariffs were major factors in the inflation rise.

Last week, the government announced it was scrapping a costly fuel subsidy scheme and increasing petrol prices by up to 67 percent which will affect many of Nigeria's 180 million people who rely on gasoline to power electricity generators as well as transport.

The new prices have yet to feed into the inflation figures, but NBS data suggests fuel was already generally sold at a higher price than the new official ceiling throughout much of April, meaning more inflationary pressure could be building.

Food prices, which account for the bulk of the inflation basket, rose 13.2 percent in April, up 0.4 percentage points from March, the bureau said on its website.

Inflation has also been fuelled by pressure on the naira, which on Monday slipped to its weakest level in months against the dollar in the non-deliverable forward market.

Speculation that the central bank will soon devalue the currency - which the bank denied on Sunday, has swirled since the vice president last week said foreign currency policies needed to be changed to encourage investment.

Monday, May 16, 2016

New FIFA president to visit Nigeria

The Nigeria Football Federation on Sunday announced that President of Federation of International Football Associations, Gianni Infantino, will visit Nigeria in June.

A statement issued in Abuja on Sunday by NFF’s Assistant Director of Communications, Ademola Olajire, said that the visit was a fall-out of NFF President, Amaju Pinnick’s recent meeting with Infantino in Mexico.

The statement said that during the visit, the FIFA president would visit President Muhammadu Buhari and also attend the final of the NFF/ZENITH Bank Future Eagles Championship.

“He will also have an evening with Corporate Nigeria and as well as have an interactive session with a horde of African FA Presidents who will also be in Nigeria to receive him,’’ it said.

It added that Infantino believed that Nigeria was a big country and a massive football-playing nation that should help with the new FIFA leadership’s drive to truly develop the game.

Infantino assumed office as head of world’s football governing body after winning election at an extraordinary general congress in Zurich on Feb. 26, 2016.

Nigerian government arrests Niger Delta Avengers oil militants

The Nigerian army has arrested several suspected members of a militant group called the "Niger Delta Avengers" (NDA), thought to be behind recent attacks on oil pipelines in the south.

The country's oil production has been severely disrupted by the attacks.

US oil giant Chevron shut down an offshore platform this month after an attack claimed by the Avengers group.

Many militants joined an amnesty programme in 2009 after an insurgency in the oil-rich delta region.

Nigeria has long been Africa's largest oil producer, but its economy is currently facing difficulties due to the recent drop in global oil prices and its output is now behind that of Angola.

Most of Nigeria's oil wealth comes from the Niger Delta, an area which remains poor and underdeveloped.

Previous insurgent groups said they were fighting so local people could benefit more from their region's natural resources.

Oil spills have also resulted in environmental devastation over the years.

Video - Leaders attend summit in Nigeria to tackle Boko Haram

French President Francois Hollande has hailed the efforts of his Nigerian counterpart Mohammadu Buhari in tackling the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram.Hollande together with other regional Heads of states are in Abuja for a summit on the issue, having taken part in bilateral meetings. The leaders also highlighted the progress made against the militants, as well as the plight of 2.1 million internally displaced persons in Nigeria. Buhari's initiative to convene Saturday's summit was described as "crucial" by the UN Security Council, whose members have strongly condemned attacks by Boko Haram. Some 20,000 people have died in Boko Haram's nearly seven-year uprising to create an Islamic state. A multinational force made up of troops from Nigeria and neighbouring countries have since made military advances against the extremists.

Video - Nigeria trade unions want 67% hike reversed

Nigeria's trade union federation has refused to accept the 67% rise in fuel prices the government introduced on Wednesday to ease fuel shortages. [TAKE VO] The Nigeria Labour Congress wants the increment reversed. In 2012, the government was forced to back down on a similar price rise after nationwide protests. The subsidy, which has kept the price low, costs the government 2.7 million dollars a day and there is no provision for it in the recently approved budget for this year. Some oil marketers are already selling petrol at prices dictated by the market. Only filling stations owned by the state-run NNPC are selling at the old price until they exhaust their current stock.

Nigeria to put new aviation rules in action by July 1

The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, on Sunday said the new Nigeria Civil Aviation Regulations, Nig.CARs, promulgated in December 2015, would take effect from July 1.

The agency made the disclosure in a statement by its General Manager, Public Relations, Sam Adurogboye, made available by the News Agency of Nigeria.

The statement said the announcement was contained in a Circular Ref: NCAA/DG/AOL/21/16/01 sent to all Airline Operators in April.

According to the statement, while operators are in possession of the copies of the regulations, the interregnum between April and the commencement date is a permissible transitional period.

It said during the time, stakeholders were expected to acquaint themselves with the contents therein for seamless implementation.

“The process of review was set in motion to align Nig.CARs with recent International Civil Aviation Organisations (ICAO) amendments and industry observations received by the authority.

“In other words, the reviewed Nig.CARs is to ensure a completion of the Annexes.

“Provisions have therefore been made for economic and consumer protection regulations that were hitherto not incorporated in the 2009 edition.

“In addition, the NCAA decided on the review to standardise the operational procedures, implementation and enforcement in the industry.

“All these have been done in conformity with the Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) as contained in the Annexes to the Chicago Convention,” the statement said.

It therefore, enjoined airline operators and other stakeholders to ensure total and sustained adherence to the reviewed regulations, adding that any breach would be met with the stipulated sanctions.

The Nig.CARs 2015 has 19 parts comprising General Policies and Definitions, Personnel Licensing, Aviation Training Organisations, Registration and Marketing, Airworthiness and Approved Maintenance Organisations.

It also has Instrument and Equipment, Operation, Air Operator Certification and Administration and Commercial Air Transport by Foreign Air Carrier within Nigeria.

Others are Commercial Aircraft Operations used for Specialised Services (Aerial Works), Aerodrome Regulations; Air Navigation Services, Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Air, Environmental Protection Regulations, Aviation Security and Offences.

Niger Delta Avengers threaten new insurgency in Nigeria

They call themselves the Niger Delta Avengers. Little is known about the new radical group that has claimed a series of pipeline bombings in Nigeria's oil-producing region this year and evaded gunboats and soldiers trawling swamps and villages.

Their attacks have driven Nigerian oil output to near a 22-year low and, if the violence escalates into another insurgency in the restive area, it could cripple production in a country facing a growing economic crisis.

President Muhammadu Buhari has said he will crush the militants, but a wide-scale conflict could stretch security forces already battling a northern rebellion by hardline Sunni Muslim group Boko Haram.

Militancy has been rife over the past decade in the Delta, a southern region which is one of the country's poorest areas despite generating 70 percent of state income.

Violence has increased sharply this year - most of it claimed by the "Avengers" - after Buhari scaled back an amnesty deal with rebel groups, which had ended a 2004-2009 insurgency.

Under the deal, more state cash was channelled to the region for job training and militant groups were handed contracts to protect the pipelines they once bombed. But Buhari cut the budget allocated to the plan by about 70 percent and cancelled the contracts, citing corruption and mismanagement of funds.

The "Avengers" have carried out a string of attacks since February that reduced Nigerian oil output by at least 300,000 barrels a day of output, and shut down two refineries and a major export terminal.

On Thursday the group emailed journalists a statement saying it was fighting for an independent Delta and would step up its attacks unless oil firms left the region within two weeks.

"If at the end of the ultimatum you are still operating, we will blow up all the locations," it said. "It will be bloody. So just shut down your operations and leave."

"To international oil companies, this is just the beginning and you have not seen anything yet. We will make you suffer," it said.

Authorities have no hard facts about the group - such as its size, bases or leadership, Nigeria-based diplomats say.

Diplomats and security experts say it has shown a level of sophistication not seen since the peak of the 2004-2009 insurgency, which halved Nigeria's oil output. They say it must be getting help from sympathetic oil workers in identifying the pipelines to cause maximum damage.

"Its scary. Their demands are impossible to meet so there will be probably more attacks," said a security expert, asking not to be named.


In February the group claimed an attack on an undersea pipeline that forced Shell to shut a 250,000 barrels a day Forcados terminal. Last week, it took credit for blasting a Chevron platform, shutting the Warri and Kaduna refineries. Power outages across Nigeria worsened as gas supplies were also affected.

There have been other smaller attacks and this week another explosion, which bore the hallmarks of the group, closed Shell's Bonny Light export programme.

Reuters, like other media, has been unable to reach the group, which mainly communicates via Twitter, with the location tracker switched off, and on its website.

Its members describe themselves there as "young, well travelled" and mostly educated in eastern Europe.

Given the lack of intelligence about the militants, the army launched a wide-ranging hunt across the Delta this week, sending gunboats into mosquito-infested creeks and searching villages in the middle of the night.

But some residents say such a heavy-handed military approach stokes dissent in the Delta where many complain of poverty despite sitting on much of Nigeria's energy wealth. They say some villagers help militants to hide in the hard-to-access swamps.

"The military came at 12.30 am with two gunboats ... they went from house to house. Many ran into the bush," said Godspower Gbenekemam, chief of the Gbaramatu area.

"The military stayed on until about 5.30 am, during which nobody was able to move out," he said. "We are not part of the people blowing up pipelines. We do not know them so the military should leave our community alone."

Alagoa Morris, an environmental activist based in the Delta, said unless soldiers acted with restraint, more people would join the militants, with a risk of "the Niger Delta returning to another round of full-scale militancy".

Even oil majors, which have long pressed for better pipeline protection, worry the tactics could backfire.

Executives met Vice President Yemi Osinbajo this week and one of them warned the government was being "too direct and blunt" and needed to find some balance, according to a source familiar with the discussions.


The military has not said how many soldiers have been involved in the sweep. The army searched several villages around Gbaramatu because that part of the Delta is home to former militant leader Government Ekpemupolo, better known as Tompolo.

Some officials have linked Tompolo to the "Avengers", pointing to the fact that the attacks began after authorities issued an arrest warrant for Tompolo on graft charges in January.

Tompolo has denied any ties, saying he himself is a victim as the group had asked him to apologise for criticising it.

For Buhari, the campaign against former militants is a part of his election promise to fix a country gripped by graft and mismanagement, but many locals in the Christian south see him, a Muslim northerner, as an oppressor.

Buhari's cutting of the amnesty plan's budget has also caused widespread resentment in the Delta, as it helps fund job training for the unemployed.

Tapping into such anger, the "Avengers" point out that the former military ruler has never visited the Delta, where many roads are pot-holed and some villages are polluted from oil spills.

In a flurry of statements, the militants have published a list of demands, from cleaning up oil spills to keeping the amnesty plan, leading up to Thursday's ultimatum.

Diplomats say some of Tompolo's followers have probably joined the "Avengers" and that the group's ranks could be swelled by an army of unemployed willing to work for anyone.

But, adding to the confusion surrounding the group, some former rebels have denied knowledge of the militants and say they have brought unwanted military attention to the area.

"Niger Delta Avengers are not fighting for the sake of Niger Delta," said Eris Paul, a former leader of the now-defunct Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), which was one of the most powerful militant groups. "We don't know them." (Additional reporting by Anamesere Igboeroteonwu, Ron Bousso and Libbby George; Editing by Pravin Char)