Thursday, June 30, 2016

Chelsea celebrates John Mikel Obi's 10 years at the club

English football giants, Chelsea Football Club have celebrated the 10-years stay of Nigeria’s Super Eagles captain, John Mikel Obi with the club. The club posted a video on its official website to celebrate the 29-year old.

Mikel joined the Stamford Bridge outfit from Lyn Oslo of Norway in the Summer of 2006 after a controversial transfer saga with Manchester United also claiming to have signed him ahead of Chelsea.

The then 19-year-old Mikel made his debut for Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League on 12 September 2006, against Bulgarian club Levski Sofia. Mikel received many positive comments for his performance in the match.

The Nigerian joined during the Mourinho era when Chelsea boasted an African contingent that included Ivorians Didier Drogba and Solomon Kalou and former Ghana international Michael Essien.

Even though he started out as an attacking midfielder, the Portuguese manager was quick to reshape Mikel into a holding midfielder cast in the mould of Chelsea great Claude Makalele. 10 years on, Mikel has served Chelsea in the holding midfield role.

The club’s website on Mikel’s summary page wrote thus, ‘‘Despite the presence in our squad of arguably the greatest holding midfielder of all time, Claude Makelele, Mikel still made over 40 appearances in his first season at Stamford Bridge, and he has maintained a high level of consistency throughout his Chelsea career.’‘

Sometime during the ‘second coming’ of José Mourinho, there were strong reservations about his lifestyle outside of Stamford Bridge, and the club were reportedly considering offloading the player. Deals were announced but never materialized.

In his ten years stay with Chelsea he has won all available domestic club trophies including the Europa League and the prestigious UEFA Champions League. The only continental club trophies to have eluded him are the UEFA Super Cup and FIFA club World Cup.

He has worked with a handful of managers since joining, he played twice under Jose Mourinho, twice under Guus Hiddink as caretaker, Israeli Avram Grant (also as caretaker after Mourinho’s first exit).

He also served under Roberto De Matteo (as cartaker and substantive manager), he was around during Andre Villas Boas’ tenure, during Luis Felipe Scolari and Italian Carlo Anchelloti.

At the national team level, Mikel has played 75 games for the Super Eagles and currently is captain of the team, he has four goals to his credit and was part of the triumphant team that won the AFCON 2004 in South Africa under the late Stephen Keshi.

Kachikwu warns China against fraudulent oil deals in Nigeria

The Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, says the era of discretionary sale of crude oil by the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) is now a thing of history.

Dr Kachikwu warned Chinese businessmen seeking clarifications at the Nigerian Embassy in Beijing about offers for sale of crude oil from Nigeria, that such offers are scam.

The Minister spoke at a reception organized by officials of the Nigerian Embassy in Beijing.

The forum provided an opportunity for officials of the embassy to seek clarification about the sale of crude oil in Nigeria following enquiries from Chinese businessmen who got fraudulent offers from Nigeria

He explained that only 11 companies were approved to lift crude oil from Nigeria following an open bid process and that the next bids will hold in April 2017.

He said that the use of discretion in the sale of crude oil by previous administrations led to corruption in country’s oil industry.

The Minister said that Nigeria is also investigating reported discovery of Nigeria’s stolen oil in China and appealed to Chinese businessmen who buy stolen oil to stop the practice because it encourages vandalism and militancy in Nigeria.

The meeting was one of the activities on the NNPC roadshow in China to seek investment for the repair and expansion of infrastructure in the nation’s oil industry.

Over 50 billion dollars memorandum of understanding for investment in the oil industry has been signed. One of the agreements is with China’s leading oil company, Sinopec

The Minister and his officials also signed an agreement with China’s largest securities and assets management company, Cinda Group

The company specializes in providing financial lifelines for big companies in the country

The roadshow for investment in the oil sector is also scheduled for India and gulf countries.

Former Foreign Affairs Minister Ojo Madueke passes away at age 71

Nigeria’s former Foreign Minister, Ojo Maduekwe is dead. Until his death, he was the Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Board of Trustees (BoT).

Born on May 6, 1945, Madueke also served as Minister of Culture and Tourism and Minister of Transportation under former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

The Chairman of the PDP BoT, Senator Walid Jubrin confirmed this in a statement in Abuja on Thursday.

Jubrin said he was shocked to learn about the death of Maduekwe.

He said that the former Nigerian Ambassador to Canada passed on at a critical time when the party needed him most.

Jubrin said that he was waiting for Maduekwe come back from U.S., where he travelled to, so that they could put heads together to address the party’s leadership problem .

“I learnt with sadness and great shock about the death of this very devoted member of the party, a very dependable member and a very useful member with whom we have worked very closely together.

We have been trying our best to find a solution to this problem and it is so sad that Maduekwe died at a very critical moment.

It is sad that at this critical moment, Maduekwe had to go and we are definitely going to miss him and his ideas.

He meant very well for this party, he meant very well for the BoT.

He had very fantastic ideas on the way out for our party crisis.

Maduekwe has been national secretary of the PDP, he has been a Nigerian ambassador and so, we were utilizing his knowhow in BoT.

He did very well for the few months he was in BoT. I will never forget him.

I have lost a great partner,” Jubrin said.

He prayed to God to give members of the deceased family as well as PDP faithful the fortitude to bear this great loss.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

MTN Nigeria winner of the 2.6GHz spectrum auction

After a transparent and competitive auction process, the Nigerian telecoms regulatory authority, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) , Wednesday formally declared MTN Nigeria as the winner of the 2.6GHz spectrum auction. 

Accordingly, the auction process had afforded both local and foreign operators the opportunity to enjoy equal and unfettered rights of participation in line with the NCC’s desire for transparency and ensuring a level playing field for all. 

It would be recalled that NCC had earlier confirmed that ‎MTN’s bid was in full compliance with the relevant provisions of the Information Memorandum (IM) for the exercise in which MTN emerged as sole approved bidder. 

The NCC has described this spectrum as a significant trigger for a broadband revolution that will unlock benefits such as greater coverage, access, affordability and innovation, with the customer at the centre of these gains. 

Speaking on the new development, MTN Nigeria Chief Executive Officer, Ferdi Moolman said that, “After complying with all the requirements for the 2.6GHz auction and making the licence payment of N18.96 billion to the NCC, MTN has been issued a letter of award. 

With the 2.6 GHz band, we expect to roll out and provide the full range of LTE services to Nigerians, empowering Nigeria with the latest mobile broadband technology.” According to him, “We are very pleased with this development at this time, which is a further step in the right direction for Nigeria. 

Indeed, MTN is fully aligned and supports the NCC’s objective to deliver broadband services to present and future generations of subscribers, in line with the National Broadband Plan of 2013.” The 2.6GHz acquisition, he said has set the stage for the roll-out of 4G LTE broadband internet services across the country, starting in the major cities of Lagos and Abuja. 

He added “This license acquisition further demonstrates MTN’s abiding faith in the future of Nigeria and the resilience of the Nigerian economy. MTN continues to believe in Nigeria and we have expressed this belief in the level of our investment, which currently stands at approximately USD 15 billion and counting. 

We strongly believe that there is need for significant levels of investment in broadband infrastructure and services to truly launch Nigeria into the information age. We are honoured to be the arrowhead. “In addition, we are also delighted that the matter of the fine imposed by the NCC was amicably settled in the interest of all parties. 

I am pleased to announce that the first payment of N30 billion in the terms of settlement has already been disbursed to the NCC. In addition to the earlier payment of N50 billion which we paid in good faith and without prejudice on February 24, this means we have now paid a total of N80 billion. “Our subscribers, especially those in clustered areas such as the major cities, can expect distinct improvements in browsing speed, quality and experience. 

This means that they will have fast access to high definition video streaming, as well as conferencing and calling, lag-free music streaming, and improved data uploads and downloads”. 

As such, MTN’s success in this auction is a big boost to its plan to deliver global mobile broadband and LTE 4G services to over 60 million customers in Nigeria. MTN also plans to use FDD networks in addition to its existing WIMAX over TDD networks, as this provides for greater consistency with existing 2G and 3G deployments. 

Although Nigeria is one of 28 African countries that currently offer 4G/LTE services, the rate of penetration is restricted to a few major cities. Meanwhile, studies by McKinsey have shown that a 10% increase in broadband penetration is associated with a 1.4% increase in GDP growth in developing markets.

Nigerian government introduces scheme to end violence between farmers and herders

A community project in Kano, northeast Nigeria, is under way in a bid to end violence between cattle herders and farmers.

Video - Authorities try to verify if insurgents are among those rescued

Where the authorities in Nigeria are set to question thousands of people the military claims to have freed from Boko Haram. The military is trying to find out how many of them are insurgents. Nigeria's military claims it rescued five thousand captives from Boko Haram this past weekend.

Former ministers in Nigeria charged with laundering 4.9 billion naira

Two former Nigerian ministers have been charged with theft of over 4.9 billion naira (£13 million) of government funds and money laundering, the financial crimes agency said on Tuesday.

Nenadi Usman and Femi Fani-Kayode served as finance and aviation ministers in the People's Democratic Party (PDP) administration led by former president Olusegun Obasanjo, whose tenure ended in 2007.

The defendants, who appeared before a federal high court in the commercial capital, Lagos, pleaded not guilty.

The PDP was in power for 16 years prior to President Muhammadu Buhari taking office last year. Buhari won an election mainly on his vow to crackdown on corruption.

Usman was in charge of the PDP's finances during the election campaign and Kayode was the party's head of publicity.

The EFCC said the pair, along with a company, faced a "17-count charge" in which they were accused of conspiracy, stealing and corruption.

"The accused were alleged to have stolen and illegally disbursed about 4.9 billion naira belonging to the Federal Government of Nigeria for political and personal uses," said EFCC spokesman Wilson Uwujaren.

An EFCC source said the defendants were accused of using defence money, that would have been used in the fight against militant group Boko Haram, to help fund the election campaign of the then president Goodluck Jonathan.

The source, who did not want to be named, also said they were accused of diverting a large part of the money into personal bank accounts.

The offences were allegedly carried out in January last year, two months before the election.

A number of former government officials have faced criminal charges, which they have all denied. The PDP has previously accused Buhari, a 73-year-old former military ruler, of mounting a witch-hunt against its members.

Usman and Fani-Kayode were remanded in custody and the case was adjourned until Friday.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Video - Nigerian air force makes progress against insurgents

Nigeria's air force has been playing a major role in the fight against Boko Haram. A key part of its contribution is tracking targets on the ground. CCTV's Deji Badmus has secured rare access to that mission and filed this report.

Nigerian pastor jailed for 9 years in UK over fraud

A Nigerian, who works as a school accountant in the United Kingdom, was on Friday given a 9-year jail term by a Woolwich Court after he was convicted of stealing about Ј4.1 million of school funds.

Dailymail reports that the vast sum of money was missing from the Haberdashers’ Aske’s Federation Trust in South London.

Identified as Sam Kayode, the 59-year old was also said to be a part-time pastor.

Kayode was said to have spent the money on his late wife, Grace, a “second wife”, Olubunmi Halima, 33, and two other female “partners”, names given as Toyin Lawal, 50 years old and Yetunde Turtak.

The court sentenced Kayode, who gets Ј57,000 a year wage, after he was found guilty of obtaining Ј150,000 by theft and Ј3.95 million by fraud.

He constantly looted the school account for 7 years until he was apprehended in 2012, after a school cleaner came across his paper work and made an anonymous call to the Chief Financial Officer.

He claimed to have moved the money to Nigeria where he has a Ј1 million empire with Halima but the Trust could not recover any asset from Nigeria.

They were, however, able to recover only Ј800,000 from the total money he stole.

Apart from spending money on his real wife Grace’s private health care until her death in 2013, he also signed documents showing he was making investments with Halima, and renting flats in Kent for ‘partners’, Toyin and Yetunde.

During trial, Kayode tried to blame the theft on his late wife Grace and an office junior, saying that they conspired to smear him by transferring the money to his joint account in revenge for his adultery.

He denied having affairs with the other women, and said that he lied about marrying Halima.

However, Toyin also denied they were lovers, saying that as her pastor, he paid for her rent for one month when she was short of cash.

Senate leader Bukola Saraki denies forgery charges

The leader of Nigeria's senate, Bukola Saraki, and his deputy have pleaded not guilty to forgery and criminal conspiracy charges.

Mr Saraki and Ike Ekweremadu are accused of trying to forge the senate rules in order to help them secure their positions.

If found guilty they face up to 14 years in prison.

President Muhammadu Buhari has been at loggerheads with Mr Saraki as his party did not want him as senate leader.

Mr Buhari's preferred candidate was not present when the senate elected its president last year.

Mr Saraki's opponents say that that election was not valid and was conducted under rules which they allege were forged.

The case could have widespread political ramifications, correspondents say.

The accused arrived at court in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, in bus accompanied by senate colleagues, the BBC's Chris Ewokor reports.

Mr Saraki is also involved in another court case in which he is accused of false asset declaration, a charge he denies.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Africa's richest man Aliko Dangote aiming for 50% of Nigeria's crude refined internally by 2021

“Our target is that in the next five years or so from now, we hope and we believe that half of Nigeria’s crude will be refined and exported rather than just exporting crude to go and create jobs elsewhere.”

The words of Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote during a press briefing after touring the construction site of his refinery expected to begin operations in 2019.

He was accompanied on the tour by Nigeria’s vice president Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, and Akinwunmi Ambode, governor of Lagos State, where the refinery is being built and a number of key federal level ministers.

Governor Ambode, said that the Dangote Lekki Refinery, Petrochemical Projects will boost Nigeria’s economy, because it would be a major strategic asset not for Lagos alone but for Nigeria’s wobbly power supply system.

Africa’s richest man disclosed in an interview with Reuters News Agency on Friday (June 24) plans to open Nigeria’s first private oil refinery estimated at a cost of $12 million dollars with the funds to be pooled from multiple sources.

The refinery, which would be complemented by petrochemical, gas & fertilizer projects by Aliko Dangote at Lekki Free Zone (LFZ) in Lagos is expected to be completed in 2018 but start operations the next year.

The Governor of Nigeria’s commercial hub said “Firstly, there is a refinery project that is ongoing, second there is a petrochemical project that is also ongoing. There is pipeline transfer project that brings gas from Bonny down to Olokonla and down to Lekki and then the fourth one is the fertilizer project all in one location.”

The Petrochemical project that is coming on stream by December 2017, whiles the refinery comes on stream by the first quarter of 2019, in between both the Gas project will come on stream by 2018.

The Vice President refinery’s on his part said the Gas Project upon completion has the capacity to produce about three billion cubic feet of gas daily, which would permanently address the two billion cubic feet daily gas required to power the country.

Some of the ministers that were on the trip included Minister for Finance, Kemi Adeosun; Minister for Solid Minerals, Kayode Fayemi; Power, Works and Housing minister, Babatunde Fashola and Industry, Trade and Investment minister Okechukwu Enelamah.

Niger Delta Avengers want Brexit style referendum for Nigeria

Oil militants who have slashed Nigeria's petroleum production with attacks on pipelines called Sunday for a referendum on breaking up the Nigerian federation.

The Niger Delta Avengers group posted a map on social media suggesting that the West African power house could divide into five countries.

Analysts had predicted that the stunning result of the British referendum to leave the EU would encourage separatists in Nigeria. "Separatist groups will feel emboldened," Nigeria's SBM Intelligence warned in an analysis of the fallout from the British vote.

"President (Muhammadu) Buhari should call for a referendum to enable every Nigerian to vote if they want to stay as Nigerians or not, just like what David Cameron of Great Britain did," the Avengers posted on Twitter.

Based in the southern Niger Delta, the Avengers have allied themselves with separatist groups from the southeastern Igbo people, and said they, too, might demand a separate state. Igbo separatist groups have had a resurgence in the past year. Nigeria suffered a civil war from 1965 to 1970 that killed a million people after the Igbo declared an independent state of Biafra. Former colonial power Britain sided with the federal government while France supported the secessionists.

All Nigeria's oil production is in the Niger Delta and offshore of the southern region. Oil militants and non-violent activists have been demanding a greater share of the wealth from oil, an industry that has massively polluted their lands and destroyed the livelihoods of communities that rely on fishing and agriculture.

Oil provides 70 percent of the federal government's revenue. Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun said the Avenger's attacks — on facilities of U.S.-based Chevron, Dutch-British Shell and Italian Agip — cost the government nearly $60 million in May. The attacks have stopped production at two of Nigeria's five oil refineries, disrupted supplies from two export terminals and made buyers cautious of Nigerian oil.

Nigeria also confronts an Islamic extremist uprising in the northeast by a group allied with the Islamic State that has killed more than 20,000 people and an upsurge in deadly confrontations in the Middle Belt between Muslim nomadic cattle herders and Christian farmers.

Video - Foreign nationals kidnapped in Nigeria released

The Commissioner of Police in Cross River, Jimoh Ozi-Obeh, on Sunday confirmed the release of five workers of Macmahon Construction Company abducted on June 22.

Two Australians, one South African and two Nigerians were seized by gunmen at Edundun Bridge in Akpabuyo Local Government Area of Cross River.

The police said their driver was killed during the attack.

Ozi-Obeh told newsmen in Calabar that no ransom was paid to release the workers.

He said the success recorded during the rescue was the result of the combined efforts of the security operatives with the support of the state government.

The Cross River Security Adviser, Jude Ngaji, also confirmed the release of the workers.

"I can confirm that they have been released. I was with them a short while ago.

"It is only the two Nigerians that had injuries while one or two others had some scars," he said.

Ngaji said the workers had been treated and that they had spoken with their family members.

Friday, June 24, 2016

AMCON seizes assets from Nigerian politicians and business men

The Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria is doubling its efforts to recover 14 billion dollars owed by 4-hundred defaulters. Today, the AMCON seized properties owned by Silverbird Group, one of Nigeria's largest multi-media companies. It says the group -- owned by serving senator Ben Murray Bruce -- owes about 38 million dollars. AMCON was set up in 2008 to purchase toxic loans from banks during a crisis in the sector. The corporation also has court orders to repossess assets belonging to wealthy and popular Nigerian businessman, Jimoh Ibrahim. Last month President Buhari approved the establishment of an inter-agency committee to aid AMCON, especially in its dealings with politically connected and business heavyweights.

Nigeria to end fuel importation by 2019 - Kachikwu

Minister of State for Petreleum Resources Dr Ibe Kachikwu yesterday said Nigeria would end fuel importation by 2019.

He said it requires $50billion dollars to fill the infrastructural gap in the industry and get it functioning optimally.

He said by 2019, Nigeria expects to become a net exporter of refined products, adding that an investment drive is ongoing to meet the infrastructure requirement.

Kachukwu was a guest speaker at the 10th Annual Business Law Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association Section on Business Law (NBA-SBL) in Abuja, with the theme: Law reform and economic development.

Speaking on the sub-theme: Future prospects for the oil and gas industry, the minister said the refineries are currently working at about 40-50 per cent capacity.

He said the aim is to get them working at 90 per cent capacity or more and build the needed infrastructure as investors come in.

On why refineries are working at low capacity, he said: “How does a refineries work if the pipelines supplying them are out most of the year and so they can’t supply crude? You can’t refine an empty space.

“How does it work when you don’t do your turnaround maintenance or if when monies are budgeted for them they are diverted? How does it work if your contracting process is so long that you never meet the turnaround days you’re supposed to? How does it work when you send the wrong set of people with the wrong set of skills to what should have been very important portfolios in the establishment?” he said.

The minister said engagements with militants in the Niger Delta has been successful, resulting in a ceaseful and rise in crude production.

He said he visited the creeks and met with the local chiefs with a view to finding a short, medium and long term solution to the crisis.

Kachukwu praised President Muhammadu Buhari for not employing force in solving the problem, adding that when he visited the creeks, the militants “never fired a gun” while he was there.

The minister said oil production has picked up as the Niger Delta crisis is being resolved.

According to him, 1.89million barrels was produced as at Wednesday. He said he expects it to hit 2.3million barrels by next month.

Nigerian Army to investigate coup rumours

The Nigeria Army has said it will investigate and track down those behind the recent speculation that some of its officers had approached the Niger Delta militants for support to carry out a coup against the government. This came as Defence Headquarters yesterday announced that a new commander, Rear Admiral Joseph Okojie, had been appointed for the new joint security outfit for the Niger Delta, following the scrapping of ‘Operation Pulo Shield’ by the Federal Government, which had now been renamed, ‘Operation Delta Safe.’

Denying that it was plotting to topple the democratic government, the Army said it will leave no stone unturned until persons linked to such “dangerous” speculation were fished out and brought to book. Spokesman for the army, Sani Usman, said in a statement yesterday that the Nigerian Army, as a product of democracy, would never contemplate such “anti-democratic misadventure.” 

He said under the command of the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai,, the Army would rather remain focused as a professional institution that would have nothing to do with such “abomination and heinous crime.” He said the army would always remain loyal to the office of the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, while defending the constitution and territorial integrity of the country. 

He said the coup speculation was a calculated attempt to distract the army from its ongoing war against terror in the country. The Army’s statement read in part: “The attention of the Nigerian Army has been drawn to another campaign of calumny and distraction by faceless criminal gang of economic saboteurs that hide under the aegis of Joint Niger Delta Liberation Force, JNDLF, alleging that some officers of the Nigerian Army approached them for support to overthrow our duly elected present democratic government. 

“This is baseless and most unfortunate allegation that existed in the warped minds of the originators of such weighty allegation. The Nigerian Army wishes to state that this is not true and, hereby, distance itself from this weighty allegation.” 

“We also see this speculation as a dangerous distraction to our effort in fighting insurgency and other criminal elements in the country. “The Nigerian Army would like to send a strong and an unequivocal warning to those speculating a coup by the Nigerian Army (NA) against the government to desist forthwith. 

We would like to state in clear terms that we are a product of democracy and a focused professional institution and would have nothing to do with such abomination and heinous crime. “We wish to state further that the NA is the greatest beneficiary of democracy and, therefore, cannot ever contemplate any anti-democratic misadventure, certainly not under the command of the present Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Yusufu Buratai. Rather, we see this type of dangerous speculation as a declaration of war to destabilize  the present government by these unscrupulous elements. 

“The Nigerian Army is investigating those behind the dangerous insinuation in order to unravel the real motive behind it. “We would like to reiterate our unalloyed loyalty to the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and defence of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. 

We would also like to reaffirm our unconditional support and obedience to civil authority. “We wish to further assure Nigerians and, indeed, all peace loving people that the Nigerian Army and, indeed, its personnel will never be involved in such terrible misadventure. 

“We wish to further add that no matter how long it takes, we would track and find out those behind these insinuations and bring them to justice”. Since it became politically independent some 56 years ago, Nigeria has witnessed nine coups and attempted coups. 

Meanwhile, following the scrapping of ‘Operation Pulo Shield’ by the federal government and launching of ‘Operation Delta Safe’, a new Commander has been appointed for the new joint security outfit for the Niger Delta. He is Rear Admiral Joseph Osa Okojie who until his appointment was the Flag Officer Commanding Naval Training Command, Lagos.    His appointment is with immediate effect. This was contained in a statement by Defence spokesman, Brigadier General Rabe Abubakar.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Video - British actress 'Onyinbo Princess' is becoming Nollywood sensation

A British actress has been making waves on the Nollywood scene. Claire Edun speaks fluent pidgin - the unique Nigerian mix of local languages and English. CCTV's Kelechi Emekalam sat down with the actress, and filed this report.

Video - Nigerians look to China for business opportunities

Nigeria’s commercial capital, Lagos is now introducing the Mandarin language into its primary and secondary schools. Nigeria is seeking stronger trade ties with China and has witnessed a surge in Chinese investments over the last couple of years.

200 refugees die of starvation in Nigeria

Nearly 200 refugees, who fled Boko Haram attacks, have died of starvation and dehydration in the northeastern Nigerian city of Bama in the past month, Doctors Without Borders said on Wednesday.

The refugees "speak of children dying of hunger and digging new graves every day," according to a statement from the global medical charity group, also known by its French acronym MSF.

"A catastrophic humanitarian emergency" is unfolding at a makeshift camp on a hospital compound where 24,000 people have taken refuge, it said.

The doctors referred 16 emaciated children at risk of dying to their special feeding centre in Maiduguri. One in five of the 15,000 children are suffering severe acute malnutrition, the group found.

"We see the trauma on the faces of our patients who have witnessed and survived many horrors," said Ghada Hatim, head of the Doctors Without Borders mission in Nigeria.

Her team reached Bama on Tuesday following a military convoy from Maiduguri, the Borno state capital that is the headquarters of Nigeria's military campaign.

Though Bama is just 70km southeast of Maiduguri, ongoing clashes between the rebels and government troops make travel unsafe and farmers have not planted crops for 18 months, Dr Christopher Mampula of MSF explained by telephone from Paris.

Boko Haram fighters routinely burn down homes and destroy wells, leaving few water sources in an area where temperatures often soar above 40 degrees.

The armed group seized Bama in September 2014 and Nigerian troops recaptured it in March 2015.

Nigeria's military has greatly curtailed the seven-year-old armed rebellion that has killed some 20,000 people, but fighters still attack villages and deploy suicide bombers.

Boko Haram has also staged attacks across Nigeria's borders in Chad, Niger and Cameroon.

The refugees in Bama are among 1.8 million Nigerians forced from their homes and living inside the country, with another 155,000 in neighbouring countries, according to the UN.

Australians kidnapped in Nigeria

Gunmen in southern Nigeria have killed a local driver and kidnapped two Nigerians, three Australians, a New Zealander and a South African working for an Australian mining company, officials said.

The abduction happened in the Akpabuyo district near the capital of Cross River state, Calabar, at about 7am on Wednesday, Nigerian police said on Thursday.

Those taken were believed to be workers with Australian mining and engineering giant Macmahon, which was contracted to cement company LafargeHolcim in the state, police commissioner Jimoh Ozi-Obeh told reporters.

The police is currently working with the Nigerian Navy to ensure that the victims are released unharmed," he added.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said they are working with Nigerian authorities to free their citizens.

"We are working with the authorities, local authorities, at the highest levels," Turnbull told reporters in Geelong, Australia.

"We don't know at this stage the identity of the kidnappers and families in Australia are notified, of course.

"It is a very serious kidnapping, a very serious criminal assault, one person was killed and seven people have been kidnapped."

Irene Ugbo, a spokeswoman for Cross River state police, said no ransom demand had been received.

One witness to the abduction, who asked not to be identified, said the kidnappers took the men to a waiting boat.

LafargeHolcim spokeswoman Viola Graham-Douglas said the company was informed of the incident by Macmahon, which was "working with the security agencies to resolve the situation".

Macmahon has an $18m a year contract with the United Cement Company of Nigeria Ltd (UniCem) for quarrying operations at UniCem's cement manufacturing plant at Mfamosing, near Calabar.

UniCem is a joint venture between Franco-Swiss conglomerate LafargeHolcim and Flour Mills of Nigeria, according to the Australian firm's website.

Kidnapping for ransom has been a long-standing problem in southern Nigeria, particularly in the oil-producing delta region, where criminal gangs target wealthy Nigerians and expatriate workers.

Most are usually released after the payment of a ransom.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Video - Nigeria has the highest number of sickle cell disease cases in the world

The World Health Organization estimates Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, has the highest burden of sickle cell disease worldwide. Reports indicate more than 40 million people currently live with the sickle cell gene.

Video - Civil servants in Nigeria shut down Ministry of Finance

It appears that the Nigerian government has a lot more than stabilizing the Naira to deal with. For two days now, Nigeria's finance ministry has been shut down as ministry employees demand payment of allowances.

Former Super Eagles captain Joseph Yobo to play in Nigerian league

Former Super Eagles captain, Joseph Yobo, is set to add glamour to the Nigeria League, following an announcement by the League Management Company, LMC, on Tuesday that the 35-year-old will play the last 12 games of the season in the Nigeria Professional Football League, NPFL.

The LMC, through its official twitter handle, said Yobo had been signed on as League Ambassador and would soon be assigned to one of the four clubs already bidding for his services.

“Joseph Yobo to play last 12 #NPFL games this season as League Ambassador signed on by the LMC,” one of the tweets from the custodians of the Nigeria League read.

The LMC listed four teams; Akwa Utd, FC Ifeanyiubah, Kano Pillars and Wikki Tourists as those bidding to land the former Super Eagles defender.

The LMC assured that Yobo will soon be assigned to a club under the NPFL Elite Players Scheme which Sani Kaita benefited from two seasons ago.

Yobo started his football career on the home front almost two decades ago with Michelin FC in Port Harcourt.

He went on to feature for teams in Belgium, France, England and Turkey.

His stint with Premier League side, Everton, where he was the first signing made by David Moyes, was one of the highpoints of his club career.

The NPFL Elite Players Scheme was introduced by the LMC since 2014 season to inject Nigerian players with specified national team caps as part of strategies to rekindle greater following for the domestic league as well as attract sponsors to the clubs.

Only Enyimba, which signed on ex-Eagles defender, Sani Keita, has so far explored the scheme.

The Naira is sinking after currency float

After the first day of trading following a currency float, the value of Nigeria’s naira dipped by 31%, selling at 288.85 naira as markets closed on Monday (June 20). It was the first day in recent history the naira was traded openly with its value decided by market forces in line with the Central Bank’s new flexible policy. The apex bank also says it has cleared a backlog of foreign exchange demand of around $4 billion.

The naira had previously been officially pegged between 197 and 199 per dollar as the government instituted strict currency controls in a bid to protect its foreign reserves following depleted earnings caused by the falling price of oil, the country’s main resource.

The plunge in the value of the naira in reflection of market realities validates the long-term calls for the devaluation of the currency before the country’s government finally budged last week.

In truth, for most everyday Nigerians and small to medium-sized businesses the naira is only just coming in line with its value on parallel markets, where it has traded between 300 naira to 350 naira per dollar for several months. Nigeria, which depends on oil sales for much of its foreign currency, has seen the naira hit by the global downturn in oil prices. Only a limited number of large banks and traders had access to foreign currency at the 197-199 naira rate. This often created arbitrage opportunities in the banking system.

As has been the case over the past year, the naira still has two different prices. While the interbank value of the currency weakened following the float, its value on the parallel market—which served as a primary source of foreign exchange in the last few months—was quoted up to 10% stronger. Over time, the Central Bank is counting on its new policy and increased availability of foreign exchange to result in a convergence of both values of the naira. Describing the first day of the float as a “robust take-off” of its new policy, the apex bank hopes investor confidence, previously frayed, will return to the country’s economy which shrank in the first quarter of the year.

The bank’s optimistic outlook will likely not be shared by Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote whose fortune fell by $3.7 billion following the take-off of the new currency float.

First lady of Nigeria calls opposition governor a 'mad dog'

The wife of Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has become embroiled in a spat with an opposition governor over corruption allegations.

The spat began after the governor of Nigeria’s Ekiti state, Peter Ayodele Fayose, accused Aisha Buhari of involvement in a bribery scandal involving former U.S. Congressman William J. Jefferson. In 2009, Jefferson was found guilty of 11 counts of corruption and was sentenced to 13 years’ imprisonment. The court found that he took around $500,000 in bribes and an account in the name of Aisha Buhari in Nigeria was cited in the sentencing memorandum as one of the accounts from which transfers to Jefferson were made.

The Nigerian presidency has dismissed Fayose’s allegations, with presidential spokesman Garba Shehu characterizing them as those of a man “childishly obsessed with the desire to grab the headlines and insulting people at will because of his incurably boorish instincts.” Shehu said that the president’s wife had no connection to the Jefferson case and challenged Fayose to provide evidence to the contrary.

The former head of Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Lamorde, told Nigeria’s Premium Times that the Aisha Buhari cited in the memorandum is not the same woman as the current president’s wife. Fayose made the allegations after the EFCC froze one of his personal accounts.

A tweet was sent from Aisha Buhari’s verified Twitter account on Tuesday evening apparently responding to Fayose’s allegations, Nigeria’s Vanguard newspaper reported . “Enough is enough Fayose. A mad dog that isn’t chained. I refuse to keep quiet,” the tweet said. It was subsequently deleted and the Nigerian government has not made any public statement on the affair nor confirmed whether the tweet was sent by the First Lady.

Fayose is a member of the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP), which was ousted from government when Buhari defeated former President Goodluck Jonathan in an election in March 2015. The PDP has accused the Buhari administration of focusing its anti-corruption crackdown on members of the opposition and not dealing with allegations of graft within the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

Aisha Buhari married the now-president in 1989 and the couple have five children. The First Lady oversees the Future Assured initiative, which aims to reduce the country’s maternal and infant mortality rates.

Niger Delta Avengers deny negotiating ceasefire agreement with Nigerian government

The Niger Delta Avengers, a militant group that has claimed responsibility for attacks on oil and gas facilities in Nigeria's southern energy hub, said on Tuesday it never agreed a ceasefire with the government.

Government officials told Reuters a one-month ceasefire had been agreed last week after talks between the oil minister, community groups and state governors in the Niger Delta, the source of most of Nigeria's crude oil.

Militants say they want a greater share of Nigeria's oil wealth to go to the impoverished Delta region. Crude sales make up about 70 percent of national income and the vast majority of that oil comes from the southern swampland.

A petroleum ministry official said the Avengers, who have claimed responsibility for most attacks in the last few weeks that have pushed Nigeria's crude output to 30-year lows, were among those who agreed to a truce.

"It was very difficult getting the Niger Delta Avengers to the negotiating table, but we eventually did through a proxy channel and achieved the truce," said the official, who asked not to be identified. A second government official also said a ceasefire was agreed.

But hours later the Avengers issued a statement on Twitter denying that it had an agreement with the government.

"The NDA High Command never remember having any agreement on ceasefire with the Nigeria government," said the group.

It would be difficult to achieve a ceasefire in the hard to access swamps where militants are divided into small groups that tap widespread anger over poverty and oil spills. Leaders have little sway over unemployed youths willing to work for anyone who pays them.


A Nigeria-based security expert, who did not want to be named, said he did not believe the government had been holding talks with the right people.

Earlier this month, the government said the military campaign in the Delta would be scaled down as part of an attempt to pursue talks with militants, who laid down arms in 2009 in exchange for cash benefits under a government amnesty scheme.

Nigeria, an OPEC member, was Africa's top oil producer until the recent spate of attacks pushed it behind Angola. Oil production has fallen from 2.2 million barrels at the start of the year to around 1.6 million barrels. The impact has helped push up global oil prices.

Speaking after meeting President Muhammadu Buhari and Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, the oil minister, incoming OPEC Secretary-General Mohammed Barkindo said on Tuesday he had been told Nigeria's oil production was "beginning to rise again". He did not provide details.

Barkindo said the government was trying to resolve militancy in the Niger Delta through talks, but did not elaborate.

"Government is negotiating and we are seeing positive results. I remain confident that through this resolution a stable and permanent solution will be found," he said.

Neither the presidency nor the petroleum ministry have issued official statements on a truce. Buhari has said the government wanted to hold talks with Niger Delta leaders to address poverty and oil pollution.

But his administration angered former militants when it cut by two-thirds the budget allocated for the amnesty program set up in 2009. Ex-militants were paid stipends and given employment training from that program.

A number of new militant groups have sprung up in the last few weeks, each with their own set of demands, which has made the insurgency increasingly fractured. It is not yet clear how many groups took part in the talks.

In a sign of apparent discord among groups in the Delta, former militants who were known as the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) have criticized the Avengers and urged them to negotiate with the government.

In a statement on the Avengers' website, dated June 18, the group said of the ex-militants: "If you and your criminals want to resurrect the defunct MEND and negotiate with the government that is your business".

"We, once again, restate that we are not going to be part of any dialogue."

Monday, June 20, 2016

Boko Haram kill at least 18 women at funeral in Adamawa state, Nigeria

Boko Haram militants are said to have rampaged through the village of Kuda in Adamawa state, killing at least 18 women at a funeral. During the attack, which took place Thursday, at about 5pm local time, houses were also set on fire amid the random shooting. Reports say some women, who were present at the funeral are still missing. The numbers of those killed have not been independently confirmed by the authorities. Kuda is close to the Sambisa Forest, which is known to harbor majority of the Boko Haram militants. The same village was last attacked by the militants in February.

Video - Football academy looking to get Nigeria back to its best

Nigeria once enjoyed a comfortable place among the top-rated football nations of the world, but lately its rankings have been in a free-fall. At its best, Nigeria was ranked 5th best football nation in the world...but that was back in 1994. It has since dropped to number 61 in the latest global FIFA ranking. In the following report, CCTV's Kelechi Emekalam takes a look at efforts to revive that past glory by one man who captained the national team in the 1980's.

Does Nigeria have a corrupt culture or a victim of a particular history?

Just before the anti-corruption summit in London, British Prime Minister David Cameron made his now infamous public gaffe in a rather a silly, schoolboyish way.

He boasted to the Queen:

We’ve got some leaders of some fantastically corrupt countries coming to Britain. Nigeria and Afghanistan, possibly the two most corrupt countries in the world.

The rudeness and stupidity of the remark apart, it was also inaccurate. Nigeria justifiably has a reputation for corruption and criminal networks. But it is by no means one of the two most corrupt countries in the world. Somalia and North Korea hold that distinction,according to Transparency International. Nigeria also ranks as less corrupt than Kenya which is ranked 139 out of 167 countries. Nigeria is ranked 136.

Nigeria has long had a reputation for corruption in politics, business and its military establishment. It also has reputation for being heavily involved in the infamous international 419 financial scams, in drug and sex worker trafficking.

Return assets stolen from Nigeria

The reaction of President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria was one of shock – rather a faux shock for the media. After all, Buhari is involved in cranking up an anti-corruption drive that has seen the arrest of major politicians and army officers. An investigation is ongoing into the corrupt diversion of funds that were to have purchased weapons to fight Boko Haram but ended up in the pockets of political, military and business insiders connected with the previous administration of Goodluck Jonathan.

Buhari said he didn’t want an apology from Cameron over the remarks but instead the return of assets stolen from Nigeria and banked in or via Britain. The latter is in reference to off-shore banks in British territories like Guernsey, Jersey and the Cayman Islands. These are the very offshore banking network revealed, to Cameron’s embarrassment, in the Panama Papers. The leaked papers detailed the vast international network of tax avoidance, money laundering and investment of stolen or criminally-obtained assets.

London as a corrupt financial capital

And Buhari has a point. The British are in no position to preach, according to the world famous expert on the mafia and other forms of organised crime, Roberto Saviano. The journalist and author told his audience at the Hay-on-Wye literary festival that British financial institutions enabled what he called “criminal capitalism” to operate through the network of offshore banks, investment funds and other holdings in British territories.

Saviano said his research showed that the City of London operated in a way that made possible the working of financial systems that eluded investigation, let alone taxation, and effectively made Britain the most corrupt country. He was quoted by the Guardian and Telegraph as saying:

If I asked what the most corrupt place on Earth is, you might say it’s Afghanistan, maybe Greece, Nigeria, the south of Italy. I would say it is the UK. It’s not UK bureaucracy, police, or politics, but what is corrupt is the financial capital. Ninety per cent of the owners of capital in London have their headquarters offshore.

The gap between law and reality

It is no coincidence that the late journalist, academic and expert on crime and corruption in West Africa, Professor Stephen Ellis, devoted an important part of his posthumously published book, This Present Darkness, to the role of British, American and Swedish companies among others in bribery, avoidance of the payment of royalties, false accounting and illegal capital flight in Nigeria and in aiding and abetting domestic corruption.

His superbly researched and incisive study details how British bankers saw the end of empire as both a threat and an opportunity and developed existing offshore banking networks. They used the “archaic jurisdictions” of British dependencies in the Channel Islands and the Caribbean to exploit "the disconnection between the physical location of a transaction and the legal space where it is recorded”. This enabled the cunning or corrupt to “exploit the gap between law and reality”.

British and other foreign companies took advantage of this in their looting of resources. They also used this in trading relationships with countries like Nigeria by concealing the real earnings from exports or inflating the costs of imports. So too did wealthy Nigerians, often through deals with foreign companies, who got their corruptly obtained riches out to offshore banks.

A tradition of gift-giving

But corruption in Nigeria is not something that can be blamed solely on multinationals. As Ellis painstakingly explains, it is much, much more complex. One major factor is the tradition of gift-giving to holders of public office. And then also the expectation that holders of office would use their position to distribute largesse to their followers.

These traditional systems of mutual benefit and patronage were not swept away by colonial rule but often distorted and developed by it. New classes of politicians, public servants and businessmen retained the exchange of gifts or distribution of wealth through social and political networks. These include the ubiquitous secret societies in some parts of Nigeria.

Old networks persisted in new contexts, creating informal or hidden patronage-client systems that were still important to the exercise of political power and formal state institutions. The weakness of Nigerian legal and formal political institutions – as evidenced by the repeated coups – meant that these informal networks became more rather than less powerful. This situation was reinforced by the very diverse and fragmented nature of Nigeria and the importance of local power bases for politicians.

The oil industry and sudden influx of substantial royalties also created opportunities for corruption, the expansion of networks of corruption and misuse of state funds or natural resources. Oil fuelled the rise of a new class of local middlemen, who acted as agents for the oil companies. Contracts for state-funded projects connected with the oil industry became a new form of patronage. At first this was through the military – whose officers benefited hugely from the political power that flowed from the barrel of a gun as well as from barrels of oil.

Is Nigeria innately corrupt?

What Ellis’s book amply demonstrates is the extent of corruption in Nigeria. It uncovers the networks of wealth accumulation and patronage that dominate politics, business and the oil industry. It traces the inextricable link with international financial networks used to launder or invest corrupt money. Finally, it exposes the plundering activities of multinational companies that avoid tax, under-report export volumes and inflate contracts.

Nigeria is part of a fantastically corrupt international network. But is Nigeria innately corrupt or has corruption developed and burgeoned there for specific reasons related to its complex past? I concur with Ellis when he concludes: “Nigerian organised crime is not created by culture, but it does arise from a particular history.”

Keith Somerville

Nigerian Boko Haram victim deported from Iceland

As Eze sat in the pews at a church where he goes most mornings to pray, his phone buzzed with a new message. His Icelandic teacher was checking in on him, giving him support.

A calm and composed man, Eze began to cry, the emotion intensifying as he continued to read. His friends in Iceland were standing with him, the message said, they would fight for him.

Eze Okafor, 32, had been living in Iceland for the last four years, working as a cook in a local restaurant, learning the Icelandic language, building a community.

"Iceland is my home now. I have contributed to the society here. Many people know me. My friends have become my family," he told Al Jazeera.

Eze fled Nigera after being targeted by Boko Haram. In 2010, he and his younger brother, Okwy, were attacked in retaliation for not joining the armed group. "They tried to recruit me, but I refused."

Members of Boko Haram stormed their house in Maiduguri, Borno State, in northeastern Nigeria. Eze was stabbed in the head and face. Okwy was killed.

Soon after, Eze fled Nigeria and made a long and dangerous boat journey to Europe, where in 2011 he sought asylum in Sweden. He told his story and showed his still fresh and infected wounds, including the gash over his eye, which he feared would cost him his eyesight. He was denied asylum and made his way to Iceland.

He applied for asylum in Iceland in 2012 but was denied.

He has been working with a lawyer, Katrin Theodorsdottir, who then applied for permission for Eze to stay in Iceland on humanitarian grounds, as his case has slowly made its way through the system. Eze said in October he was given temporary residency and could work.

His case in Iceland has hinged on what time limit is relevant to his asylum request, as defined by Article 19 of the Dublin Regulation, which determines which EU member state is responsible for asylum seekers.

Article 19 lays out a timeframe of six months within which an asylum seeker must be sent back to the country where they were originally asking for asylum, otherwise the current country is responsible for processing their asylum case.

After many rejections, appeals and back and forths between various immigration authorities, Theodorsdottir said there was a "twist". A special immigration committee reviewing Eze's case said the time limit to send Eze back to Sweden might have expired, and advised him to go to the immigration office and have his application for asylum processed.

Eze went to the immigration office as instructed to pick up the paperwork, and was told to wait 45 minutes, which he did. According to Theodorsdottir, unbeknownst to him, the police officer was calling the immigration office. And then another twist.

"The police said I should come to sign and all of a sudden they took me into custody. They arrested me. I spent the night in jail," Eze recalled.

"They next morning they said they were deporting me. I said I should go and get my stuff from my house. They said no. They took me to the airport and manhandled me.

"In Iceland, I have been integrated into society, with so many friends. A lot of people know me. So when the police was beating me, when I was arrested, there was a lot of reaction."

Early on May 26, Eze was put handcuffed onto a plane for deportation. Two members of the rights group No Borders Iceland boarded the plane and stood up in protest, asking other passengers to stand up as well to protest Eze's deportation. After about 10 minutes, they were arrested by Iceland's police.

He was taken to Stockholm. At the airport, he thought the Icelandic authorities would give him back the only ID he had - his Nigerian driver's license. They took it back to Iceland. He was handed papers by the Swedish immigration authorities, which gave him until June 1 to leave Sweden or be deported back to Nigeria.

He was also given a piece of paper saying he had no right to financial assistance. Without money or any identification, he was turned out onto the street where he spent the first night.

Boko Haram is an ongoing threat in Nigeria with members and supporters, Eze said, at all levels of government and the police. Several years ago, members of Boko Haram kidnapped his mother in what Eze said was a bid to force him to return to Nigeria. After brutalising her - including an attack to her face that compromised her eyesight - the kidnappers demanded a ransom.

"What I am facing in Nigeria is that this Islamic group is after my life. My life is in danger."

He said he believes that when he lands at the airport in Nigeria he fears he will be apprehended by the police. "Boko Haram has a network. They have been looking for me since then."

Today, Eze is uncertain about his future. His does know one thing for sure. If he were to return to Nigeria, he believes it would mean death for him.

With his friends, he is working hard to find a lawyer who could take his case in Sweden. His dream is to return to his home in Iceland.

Theodorsdottir said there is something the immigration office could do. She has requested that he be granted permission to live in Iceland on humanitarian grounds, a request that is still pending.

Eze said his mother, Celina, taught him how to cook at an early age and it is his passion. He loved working in the restaurant in Iceland and had a good relationship with his boss. He loves to cook Nigerian food. Maybe, he said, once he is back in Iceland, and his life has found balance again, he could pursue a dream. There is no Nigerian restaurant in Iceland.

"Maybe one day, when I am back in Iceland, I could open a restaurant", Eze said, smiling.

"When I was in handcuffs on my way to Sweden, I was pleading with them," Eze said. "I am not a criminal. I did not commit any crime. I am asking for refuge. They should treat me like a human."

5 ways floatation of the Naira will affect Nigeria

Nigeria is allowing its struggling currency, the naira, to trade freely in a move to tackle the financial crisis in Africa's most populous nation. Financial blogger Feyi Fawehinmi looks at how it will affect people's lives.

1. Petrol prices will remain stable

Refined petrol is Nigeria's single biggest import. The story of how an oil exporting nation has to import almost all of its refined products is well told.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, refined petrol imports in the first three months of 2016 amounted to 226bn naira ($1.1bn, £791m) or 15.6% of the total imports.

Last month, petrol subsidies were removed and a new price band of 130 naira to 145 naira per litre was recommended by the government.

This new price assumed an exchange rate of 285 naira to $1, compared to the official rate of 199 naira to $1.

Remarkably, Nigerians took this price rise with no more than a shrug and the attempt by labour unions to force a price reversal with strikes flopped spectacularly.

In the short term, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is likely to continue to be the main supplier of dollars to the market until foreign investors return.

With one eye on the petrol price, it is likely to kick start the market at a rate that keeps petrol prices stable i.e. somewhere below 285 naira to $1.
2. Still no imported tomatoes, rice - or tooth picks

In June last year, the CBN came up with a now infamous list of 41 items that would no longer be eligible for foreign exchange from official sources.

Items on the list ranged from Indian incense to private jets. Importing those items were not actually banned so since the list came into effect, anyone who wanted to import them had to source foreign exchange from the black market.

The CBN said last week that those 41 items remain ineligible to access forex at the new interbank market.

You can still import toothpicks but you will have to source dollars from the black market to do so.

Based on this, prices of those items are unlikely to be affected. This is a shame because Nigeria could do with some tomato imports right now after the tuta absoluta pest devastated harvests in northern Nigeria.

Allowing rice imports wouldn't be a bad idea either given how rice prices have spiked in recent times.

Rice importation has always worked on a quota system - those with political connections usually getting the right to import it. The current policy restricting the imports is tied to goals of national pride in achieving self-sufficiency. Given this, it is unlikely to be lifted.

Not everyone is unhappy about this list, though.

The Nigerian palm oil producing company, Okomu Oil, posted a 98% increase in profits for 2015. Palm is of course on the list of 41 ineligible items.
3. Inflation should eventually fall

Latest figures from the National Bureau of Statistics show that inflation is rising steadily in Nigeria. Given how Nigeria is dependent on imports for a lot of basic items, a floating currency is likely to further increase prices, at least in the short-term.

In reality, however, the policy of rationing foreign exchange in the last one year meant that those who needed it the most hardly ever got it.

As such, even as the official rate remained stable at 199 naira to $1, prices of imported everyday goods have been reflecting black market exchange rates for a while now.

Nigerians have already endured the equivalent of a gut punch from soaring prices and are unlikely to be in the mood for any more.

Further price increases might just force consumers to eliminate demand for some products altogether. A more stable and open foreign exchange regime should also eliminate a lot of the uncertainty that has been pushing up prices.

Given what has already happened in the last year, a floating naira, somewhat counter-intuitively, can be expected to start bringing down inflation.
4. Bad news for banks and businesses with forex loans

The CBN says that 10.1% of all the loans in Nigeria's banking system have gone bad. A lot of these loans are foreign currency loans extended to local oil and gas companies when crude oil prices were $100 per barrel.

Between 2012 and 2014, an estimated $10bn was lent to local oil companies to purchase assets from foreign oil majors.

Once the naira starts to float, banks will have to adjust the value of these loans on their books. In turn, the increased burden on the borrowers is likely to push more of them into bad loan territory.

A couple of weeks ago, the Nigerian government bizarrely asked banks to stop sacking workers. More bad loans will almost certainly trigger more sackings.

It remains to be seen how the government will react to more sackings if and when they happen. Or perhaps the banks will use it as a bargaining tool to extract another round of bailouts from the government.
5. Foreign airlines will be back in business

Another effect of rationing foreign currency in the past year is that it has allowed a backlog of unmet demand for forex to steadily build up.

The CBN says this backlog is now at $4bn and will take four weeks to clear. Others say the backlog is at least double that amount.

Included in that backlog is the $600m owed to foreign airlines which has caused a number of them to either stop serving Nigeria entirely or put the route under review.

If nothing else, this has been embarrassing for Nigeria and has drawn unflattering comparisons with Venezuela. Once that backlog is cleared, foreign airlines should continue their business as normal.

Of course, trapped funds are not their only worry - the economic situation has done its bit to dampen demand for foreign travel by Nigerians. Still, solving one of two problems is not a bad deal.
The verdict?

Ultimately, Nigerians have reason to hope that the worst of the last year is now over.

With a floating exchange rate, foreign investors can have more confidence in the country and Nigeria should see an uptick in the foreign investments it so desperately needs.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Niger Delta Avengers set tough conditions for negotiation with Nigerian government

Niger Delta Avenger militants have set stringent conditions for tripartite negotiations to begin contrary to claims by government that talks are already underway. Nigeria's crude oil exports are nearing 30 years low, as militants attacked more oil installations in the Niger Delta.

President Buhari returns from medical trip today

President Muhammadu Buhari is expected back to Nigeria today from London.

Buhari had two weeks ago embarked on a 10-day trip for medical treatment.

The Presidency had, in a statement, said the President would during the visit to the United Kingdom, see an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist for a persistent ear infection.

The 10-day holiday ended on Wednesday.

An insider hinted Punch that arrangements had been put in place to receive the President, who is due back in the country on Thursday.

“He is expected back on Thursday (today). We are in touch with him. As of today (Wednesday), we have not been told that there is any change in arrangement,” the source said.

Recall that the presidency had on Monday, released photographs of the visit of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Most Revd, Justin Welby, to Buhari in London.

Minister of Petroleum says Job creation will end pipeline vandalism in Nigeria

The Minister of Petroleum Resources, and Group Managing Director of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, has stated that Nigeria would not totally eradicate pipeline vandalism without creating an enabling environment that will empower militants in the Niger Delta.

Kachikwu, who made this disclosure in Uyon, the Akwa Ibom State capital, noted that with the array of pipeline bombings by the Nigerian Delta Avengers, NDA, it would take nothing less than 15 to 20 years to get infrastructure in the oil sector working.

According to him, “Modular refineries are going to be the answer to our problems in the future. We talk about the militants and their agitations; the reality is that until we begin to put things in place that would have these so called ‘militants’ find opportunities in the sector, the destruction is going to continue.

“I have appealed to those who are breaking oil pipelines for now, the Niger Delta Avengers and everybody else, and as you know, we are engaging in negotiations for us to find peace this week and be able to enter a truce that stops all the destruction.”

Kachikwu noted that Akwa Ibom would have an oil depot, as his ministry developed a document basically on relationship with oil producing states.

He said: “So we can find a direct link between what we do and the oil that we produce. Then the restiveness will go. More than just the depot, I think Akwa Ibom deserves more.”

Nigeria finally gives in and will float the troubled Naira

After months of dithering, Nigeria’s Central Bank will allow the national currency’s value be determined by market forces after removing pegs which tied it to a fixed figure. The new policy will take effect from June 20 and will effectively devalue the naira.

The naira was officially pegged at around 199 naira to $1 but as the economy tanked and foreign reserves dried up, the Central Bank allowed few local businesses or individuals access to dollars at that rate. On the more commonly used parallel markets it traded around 350 naira to $1, which many believe is a fairer reflection of its value. It is a departure from the Central Bank’s former position as the sole dealer and means the naira will now be traded through the Central Bank’s selected primary dealers.

The policy change has been largely welcomed. It follows months of fuel shortages, record inflation and investor withdrawal—occasioned by a stubborn refusal to devalue the currency in the face of dipping revenues as a result of the sharp drop in the price of oil, the country’s main resource. Manji Cheto, senior vice president at London-based Teneo Intelligence says the Central Bank’s change of tack “is a clear admission that its earlier policies had failed.”

The Central Bank’s refusal to devalue the naira reflected the position of Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari. He has said a devaluation was tantamount to ‘killing the naira’. Even though the Central Bank is supposed to operate independently of government the president’s stated position is believed to have influenced the Central Bank. The administration’s refusal to devalue, despite pleas from international and local economists, triggered investor caution in light of the country’s strict monetary policies.

The apex bank says it will periodically intervene in the market, stating conditions under which this could happen in its new guidelines on trading foreign exchange. But Cheto says the possibility of an intervention means the new policy can only be described as a “managed float.”

The Central Bank expects its new policy to close the gap in the current dual exchange rates possibly merging the pegged rate of the naira and its value on the parallel market where it has typically traded around 50% higher for most of the year. “We’re talking about an open, transparent two-way system,” Godwin Emefiele, Central Bank governor said at a press conference. “It’s intended we don’t have speculators and rent-seekers. I don’t expect that any other exchange rate will be recognized.”

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

President Buhari says Nigeria must 'radically' boost exports

Nigeria must “radically” increase its exports to ease shortages of foreign exchange in the oil-dependent West African nation, President Muhammadu Buhari said.

“In a world of lower oil prices and dollar revenues, the only sustainable path is to reduce Nigerians’ over-reliance on imports,” Buhari, 73, who came to power in May 2015, wrote in an opinion piece published in the Wall Street Journal on Monday. “We must rebalance our economy by empowering entrepreneurs and producers, big and small, to create more of what their fellow Nigerians demand.”

The government will help local businesses by encouraging more investment in infrastructure and lowering taxes on small companies, he said. It will also “eliminate bureaucracy to bring the informal economy out of the shadows.” The central bank will introduce a more flexible foreign-exchange policy, Buhari wrote, without giving any details of plans first announced by Governor Godwin Emefiele on May 24.

Africa’s largest economy has been battered by the fall in oil prices since mid-2014 and a drop in production this year to an almost three-decade low as militants bomb crude and gas pipelines. The economy contracted in the first quarter for the first time since 2004 and a recession is imminent, according to the central bank. Inflation accelerated to 15.6 percent in May, the highest rate since early 2010, the national statistics office said on Tuesday.

Nigeria sacks entire cricket team including coaches

In a bizarre, yet not unexpected move, the Nigeria Cricket Federation has sacked the entire men's cricket team and their Indian coach, Shriam Regananthian.

This was after the side failed in the ICC World Cricket League Division Five tournament held last month in UK, finishing bottom of the table.

The team had just one win over Tanzania and lost to Oman, Guernsey, Vanatu and Jersey. The team also lost to Tanzania again to claim the bottom spot. Jersey went on to become champions.

Federation president, Emeka Onyeama added that national chief coach Uthe Ogbimi has also been relieved of his duty with the team. He blamed Ogbimi and the team Captain Kunle Adegbola for the embarrassing campaign. He however refused to blame the Indian level A coach who joined the team on the eve of their departure to UK.

According to him, the team underperformed despite having intensive preparations and increment of their daily allowance to $100 per day from the old regiment of $25- $50 per day.

He declared that the federation would now undertake a rebuilding process where young players from the U-19 team would be upgraded to the national team.

He said a new national coaching crew will be announced in the wake of the proposed North West Africa Tournament and ICC/Africa T-20 tournament scheduled for September.

Niger Delta Avengers threaten more violence

The Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) has warned Nigerian authorities it may “review our earlier stance of not taking lives” if oil companies continue to operate in the country’s oil hub.

The militant group has launched a series of attacks on oil pipelines and facilities in the Niger Delta, where the majority of Nigeria’s oil reserves are concentrated. The NDA has so far rejected offers of dialogue from the Nigerian government and vowed to continue its Operation Red Economy, the purported goal of which is to reduce the West African country’s oil production to zero.

In a statement published on its website on Monday, the NDA said that the oil companies must not carry out any repair works on the affected pipelines and that buying of crude oil from the Niger Delta must be suspended “as we await the right atmosphere that will engender genuine dialogue.”

The NDA has claimed attacks on facilities belonging to several international oil companies, including Royal Dutch Shell, U.S. firm Chevron and Italian oil giant ENI. Some of their attacks have shown a high degree of sophistication and have taken down strategically-important pipelines—the first attack claimed by the group was on an underwater pipeline at Shell’s Forcados terminal and forced the company to temporarily shut down the 250,000 barrels per day (bpd) terminal.

Nigerian oil minister Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu attempted to reach out to the militants earlier in June, saying that the Nigerian military would step back from pursuing the group in order to establish a platform for dialogue. In Monday’s statement, however, the NDA said it would only participate in dialogue with “independent mediators” appointed by the international oil companies working in the region.

Historically, the Niger Delta has been the site of previous uprisings by militant groups, who have claimed that the impoverished region does not benefit sufficiently from its oil wealth. In the mid-2000s, militants led by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) decimated the country’s oil production and kidnapped oil workers, with the insurgency only coming to an end in 2009 with the introduction of an amnesty program for the fighters. MEND has publicly called upon the NDA to engage in dialogue with the government, but the latter group has rejected the former and criticized its leaders for abandoning their cause.

Largely as a result of attacks by the NDA and other militants, Nigeria’s oil production has plummeted from 2.2 million bpd to a 20-year low of between 1.5 million and 1.6 million bpd.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Nigeria wants to close down banks that lay off staff due to bad economy

Nigeria’s government is taking an unconventional approach in a bid to stop its rising unemployment rate from spiraling out of control.

The country’s labour minister ordered financial institutions to stop sacking workers and threatened a possible license withdrawal of banks who flout the order. The order comes after a fortnight which has seen financial institutions in Nigeria lay off workers en masse.

While the banks describe the retrenchment as part of a “renewed drive for optimal performance” and “market re-positioning exercise”, it’s widely believed the layoffs are a stark reaction to unfavorable economic headwinds in Africa’s largest economy. With a high non-performing loan rate in the banking system as well as the institution of a Treasury Single Account which required banks to pay all government cash in their coffers to the Central Bank, local banks reported profit declines in the first quarter of the year.

The layoffs also compounds Nigeria’s unemployment woes, with half a million people said to have lost jobs in the first quarter of the year. The increasing lack of job security has heaped even more pressure on the president Muhammadu Buhari who is faced with fixing a shrinking economy. In reaction, Buhari’s party, the ruling All Progressives Congress described the layoffs by banks as “sabotage” to discredit its government under which unemployment has spiked.

For its part, the government is hoping ease the unemployment crisis by rolling out mass recruitment exercises. Earlier this week, it flagged the hiring of 500,000 unemployed graduates into teaching positions. Similarly, at the start of the year, the government kicked off a recruitment exercise into the police force but the response was likely chilling evidence of the scale of the problem at hand as nearly a million people applied for the recruitment exercise which only listed 10,000 positions.

Video - Media's obsession with Nigeria's rich kids

Nigeria’s ‘super-rich’—or rather, their children—have been a source of intrigue bordering on obsession within the British media for the best part of the last 18 months, as a ‘new’ breed of uber-consumer, jetting in from Lagos to live the high-life in London.

Along the way, they are apparently snapping up upscale property, private education and luxury consumer goods—in between jaunts to the city’s most exclusive nightclubs.

The latest hagiography of these Nigerian transatlantic trust fund babies, is a one-hour TV documentary featured on the UK’s Channel 4 last week (June 7).

“In London’s poshest neighborhoods, Nigeria’s super-rich are moving in,” the narrator breathlessly declares in the opening seconds of Lagos To London: Britain’s New Super-rich.

All against the backdrop of a dark blue Bentley Coupé parked next to a classic Georgian townhouse, a row of the ‘mansion block’ apartments found in many upscale corners of the city and a snippet of a 200-head banquet held at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park hotel, that turned out to be a graduation party and not a wedding.

“Hey, some people have graduation photos – we just happen to have magazines,” pipes up the celebrant Florence ‘Cuppy’ Otedola next. She’s the 23 year-old ‘DJ’ daughter of Nigerian oil magnate and Forbes-lister Femi Otedola, who likens herself to a latter-day Marie Antoinette—only with diamond-encrusted Beats headphones. And the bill for her party? Apparently the equivalent of “two nice cars.”

“We follow a new generation of Nigerian elite as they live, work and party—between Lagos and London,” the show’s narrator goes on to promise.

Except that we largely don’t. What we mostly see is the progeny of high-profile Nigerians working hard at spending easy money at places like Harrods. “I try to make it a point of duty to have a personal shopper in different states,“ Lagos ‘media personality’ Toke Makinwa earnestly informs us. That’s London and New York by the way.

Out of all of the characters featured in the program, only one—British-born Alex Amosu appears to be close to doing anything that resembles ‘work’ and being ‘self-made’ as the world mostly defines it.

Is he the creator of some disruptive technology that aims to change the way we live? Solar power perhaps, that will bring Nigerian industry and society literally into the light? No. He sticks 14-carat diamonds onto mobile phone sets—and sells them on to other wealthy Nigerians.

And then you have the 28 year-old Mbadiwe twins Ozee and OC, about whom it is never really clear what they do—other than bask in the light of their distinguished family name, in between selfies.

The show—and Twitter—provided the perfect sounding board for comment and opinion – a heady mix of admiration, aspiration and outrage – among Nigerians at home and in the diaspora.

But arguably the most cogent online commentary on the program could be found away from the twittersphere.

Fans of Lagos To London will argue that the show and the other media stories like it are sorely needed—as alternative narratives to Boko Haram, the Niger Delta Avengers and endless stories of mind-boggling corruption—precisely what Nigeria needs to counter the country’s long-held stereotypes.

But just how much of an alternative are these narratives? Do they seek to pursue a higher truth for a nation misconstrued? What is clear is that they are utterly at odds with the daily monetary experiences of most Nigerians at the moment.

Nigeria may be Africa’s largest economy, but it’s an economy in a mess.

With more people living in poverty than in any other African country, Nigeria is on the brink of recession, the naira is in freefall against the dollar with imminent devaluation a real possibility, and inflation was at 13.6% in April, a six-year high.

Oil production is at its lowest in 20 years, due to poor infrastructure, spiraling global prices and sabotage from the latest iteration of militants in the Delta.

Nigeria also has acutely low foreign exchange reserves of around $27 million and high unemployment at 12.1% in the first quarter of this year.

Stories in western media of young Nigerian playboys and debutantes spending their inheritance via armies of personal shoppers stationed from London to New York via Dubai are a rather unsavory counterpoint to the life lived by Nigerians at home and their attempts to get a grip on an out-of-control economy.

The irony in last week’s documentary is that it featured the grandchildren of some of Nigeria’s late prominent statesmen—former Lagos State Governor Sir Michael Odetola and Kingsley Ozumba Mbadiwe, a minister of the First Republic. But there was a saddening lack of awareness of their own legacy and what their lives say about a country that could be so much more than it is. None of them had anything to say about their homeland, other than perfunctory references to the ‘family business.’

As obsessed with Instagram as they are with instant gratification, the Lagos-to-London super-rich are akin to a gaggle of Nigerian Neros—fiddling while home burns.

Nigerian elites presenting as shallow, luxury goods-obsessed dilettantes provides no more context to the story of Africa’s most populated country than the ubiquitous tales of economic crises, religious fundamentalism and corruption.