Friday, July 29, 2016

Video - Concerns at the UN over the impact of Boko Haram

Nigeria's Boko Haram insurgency has not only devastated communities, but the economy of the entire Lake Chad region. That's according to the UN Under Secretary for Political Affair, Jeffrey Feltman. He's told the Security Council that economic growth has also dropped sharply due to the decline in oil prices and other commodities .Feltman says it's crucial that development projects run in the region - alongside the military intervention.

Video - Businesses unhappy as Nigeria's central bank hikes interest rate

In an apparent move to keep rising inflation in check, and stabilize its currency, Nigeria's central bank has increased the benchmark interest rate from 12 to 14 percent. However, it's left the cash reserve ratio at 22-point-5 percent and liquidity ratio at 30-percent. Central Bank Governor Godwin Emefiele says the recent rise in inflation is more of a structural issue than a monetary one. But the business community isn't happy.

Nigeria disqualified from Rio Olympics 4x400 relay

Nigeria's medals prospect in the track and field of the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil diminished by one event yesterday following the disqualification of the country's women's 4x400m by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).

ThisDay learned yesterday that a member of the Nigerian 1600 relay quartet, Tosin Adeloye, tested positive to a banned substance at the Confederation of African Athletics (CAA) Super Grand Prix/Warri Relays which took place in Warri, Delta State on July 24, 2015.

The quarter miler was a member of the Nigerian quartet that placed fourth at the IAAF World Championship in Beijing last August.

Adeloye ran the third leg in the semi-finals where the team clocked 3:23.27 seconds, the second fastest time in Nigeria's all-time 1600 relay record. She also ran the third leg in the final.

Other members of that Nigerian team include; Regina George (first leg), Funke Oladoye (second leg) and Patience Okon-George who anchored the team to place fourth.

Going by IAAF rule, all the results she achieved during the period after the test individually and jointly will be annulled. She has been banned for eight years.

While the trio of Okon-George, Margaret Bamgbose and Omolara Omotosho who have been picked by the AFN for the Games may still be in Rio after meeting the qualification standard for the open 400m.

Mikel denies giving cash to Nigeria Olympics teammates

Nigeria captain John Obi Mikel has denied media reports that he donated $30,000 to assist his cash-strapped teammates in the country's Olympics team.

The Nigeria under-23 squad, together with select overage players like Mikel, are training in Atlanta ahead of next month's Olympics in Brazil.

Reports on Thursday claimed that Mikel had pitched in with the money to assist the team, but the Chelsea star told ESPN FC there was no truth to them.

"I was first told of this story by a friend who called me from Nigeria," Mikel said from camp at Hyatt Place. "I thought he was joking until he sent me the link.

"I don't know the source of this story, which to me is all out to divide us as a team. I would have thought that stories that should be coming out in the media are stories that will unite the team instead of dividing us.

"Our target in Rio is to excel, but if they continue like this, then I wonder how we can be united.

"To me, this is just mere distraction that won't help this team going into a major tournament like the Olympics."

Nigeria will face Japan, Sweden and Colombia in the group stage, beginning Aug. 4 in Manaus.

Task force recaptures town in Nigeria

A multinational task force battling Boko Haram said on Thursday it had recaptured the only town in northeast Nigeria's Borno state that was still held by the Islamist militant group.

Boko Haram, which formed in Borno, has waged an insurgency since 2009 to carve out a state based on sharia (Islamic law) in the northeast of Africa's most populous country. More than 15,000 people have been killed and some 2.4 million displaced.

Damasak, captured by Boko Haram in October 2014, was part of an area around the size of Belgium that the jihadist group controlled in northeast Nigeria by the end of 2009.

Its attacks have spread to neighboring Niger, Chad and Cameroon, which prompted those nations to combine troops to form the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF).

MNJTF spokesman Colonel Mohammad Dole said troops cleared militants from Dutse, a village in Niger, before moving to the Nigerian border town Damasak around 10 a.m. (0900 GMT).

"In continuation with clearance operation of towns and villages, troops of Sector 4 in Diffa (Niger) have successfully cleared Dutse village, captured and occupied Damasak town," he said.

"The forces are coordinating to stabilize the immediate environs," he added.

The troops were supported by an air force from MNJTF member states, he said. More than 30 Nigerian soldiers have been killed in previous attempts to recapture Damasak.

Since a push early last year led by the Nigerian army, supported by troops from neighboring states, most of the territory has been seized back from the militants but the group still stages guerrilla attacks in the region.

Unicef suspends Aid to Nigeria

The United Nations Children’s Fund has temporarily suspended humanitarian operations in northern Nigeria, where as many as half a million people need assistance, after gunmen attacked a convoy and wounded two aid workers.

Unknown assailants ambushed the convoy on Thursday as it was traveling from Bama to Maiduguri, the capital of northeastern Borno state, a stronghold of Islamist militant group Boko Haram, Unicef said in a statement posted to its website. A Unicef employee and an International Organization for Migration contractor were injured and are being treated at a local hospital, it said.

“The convoy was in a remote area of northeastern Nigeria, where protracted conflict has caused extreme suffering and has triggered a severe malnutrition crisis,” it said.

Two soldiers were also wounded in the attack by suspected Boko Haram members, Nigerian army spokesman Sani Usman said in an e-mailed statement.

More than 500,000 people are living in “catastrophic conditions” in Borno state, Medecins Sans Frontieres said this week. At least 2.7 million people have been forced from their homes by the violent campaign by Boko Haram since 2009 to impose its version of Islamic law in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country of about 180 million.

Turkey wants Nigeria to close 17 schools in the country due to failed coup

Turkey has turned to Africa’s most populous nation, Nigeria, in its continued crackdown on all elements linked to the failed coup of July 15.

Local media sources in Nigeria report that the Turkish ambassador to the country, Hakan Cakil, has requested the Federal government to close down 17 schools that have links to the alleged mastermind of the failed overthrow, United States based Fetullah Gulen.

“In Nigeria, there are 17 schools, which belong to the Gulen Movement, one in Kano, one in Kaduna, one in Abuja, Lagos etc and they are offering scholarships. We are starting some legal procedures to take the name of Turkey out of the name of the schools. They are not the schools of the Turkish government,’‘ Cakil is reported by Vanguard online portal to have said.

The ambassador made the call when he met with vice chairman of Nigeria’s senate foreign affairs committee, Senator Shehu Sani. The ambassador emphasized that his country had nothing to do with the said schools.

He further disclosed that plans were far advanced at the federal government level to ensure that Turkey’s request is affirmed. “We are requesting the Nigerian Government to close down the schools. I have requested officially, both orally and in writing, the closure of these schools,’‘ he added.

The Erdogan led government meanwhile continues its massive purge in several areas of its society back home in light of the recently failed coup attempt which the government insists was led by Gulen, even though he has repeatedly denied the accusations.

The ‘African purge’ of Turkey’s coup plotters started in Somalia where the government ordered all charities linked to Gulen to leave the country. The Turkish government has said that it would take over operations of all the abandoned charities which include educational institutions and medical facilities.

A day after the failed coup, people in Somalia gathered to protest and strongly condemn the actions of those behind the coup, while celebrating their failure to overthrow Erdogan.

Draped with Somali and Turkish flags and portraits of the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan as well as the Somali leader, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, the protesters marched through the city and gathered near the Turkish embassy, where they declared their support for the embattled Turkish government.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Video - ‘Super highway’ plans raise environmental concerns in Nigeria

Some Nigerians have been protesting a government plan to build a super highway through a rainforest.

The proposed highway will cut through the Ekuri rainforest in the southern Cross River State.

Residents and environmentalists say the highway will damage the environment and lead to the loss of rare and endangered plants and wildlife.

Video - Falling oil prices hit Nigeria’s construction sector

Nigeria is finding it hard to pay for major construction projects due to the fall in oil prices.

With the West African nation’s economy heavily reliant on oil, many projects needed to stimulate an already struggling economy are now on hold.

Video - Nigerian army rescues missing soldiers, civilians in Borno state

In Nigeria, six of the 19 soldiers who went missing in Borno state last week have been found. The military launched a search for the troops, who disappeared after a raid on Boko Haram base. The army says it's also rescued civilians held hostage by the militants.

Video - Doctors Without Borders warns of large-scale humanitarian disaster in Borno state

Close to eight hundred thousand civilians in Borno state in Northeast Nigeria have been cut off from relief supplies, for over a year now. Children are the worst affected by the lack of relief aid, with large numbers dying and many others being severely malnourished. Charity organization, Doctors Without Borders or MSF, estimates that 15 percent of children there are suffering from life-threatening malnutrition.

Video - Nigerian president commissions Abuja's standard gauge railway

Nigeria's President Muhamamadu Buhari has commissioned the Abuja-Kaduna standard rail gauge constructed by the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation. The Abuja-Kaduna railway is aimed at promoting the modernization of the railway network in Nigeria.

Street hawking banned in Lagos, Nigeria

The Lagos state government has began a full roll out of a law banning street trading and activities of street hawkers.

A crackdown on street vendors started early July as authorities enforce a previously widely-flouted law.

Street hawkers and those who buy from them face a fine of more than 300 US dollars or a six month jail term.

The move has however been met with different reactions.

Chinedu Bosah, secretary of the Campaign for Democratic and Workers’ Rights (CDWR) says

“What is going to be the alternative? The alternative will only be crime. And the government keeps spending money for security, reinforcement. It doesn’t pay society.”

Many hawkers have also raised concerns over how they will not be able to support themselves.

“We’re not criminals, we have (qualifications). We’re trained. Most of us are trained in one thing or another. Please, let the government do what is reasonable,” said street hawker Shedrach Ogona.

In spite of Nigeria being Africa’s leading economy, a large number of its citizens still live in poverty. Unemployment among young graduates has been estimated to be nearly 45 percent.

The Naira is floating as Nigeria eases its grip

Following prolonged periods of a fixed exchange rate owing to depleted foreign reserves, last month, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) decided on a change of tack to adopt more flexibility. The new policy, the CBN said, would see the value of Nigeria’s naira currency determined by market forces and after the policy was adopted, the naira predictably fell sharply from around 199 naira per dollar to 282 naira per dollar.

But after the first day of the new floating policy, rather than the expected volatility in accordance with varying market conditions, the naira stabilized and it soon be came clear the naira had simply moved from one fixed peg to a new one. But in the past week, that appears to no longer be the case as the naira’s value has began to show the volatility expected of a floated currency related to market conditions.

Teneo Intelligence analyst Manji Cheto, who previously described the policy change as a”managed float” rather than a full float, says pegging the naira, rather than allowing a free-fall, was to be expected. “It was a little bit naive that the market and investors expected an immediate depreciation of the naira to around 350 after the supposed market driven system came into place.” Cheto says. “It betrayed a lack of understanding of the political reality in Nigeria.”

The perception of politics interfering with Nigeria’s currency policy is mainly due to president Muhammadu Buhari’s public statements. After months of strongly opposing a currency devaluation, when it finally happened Buhari immediately said he remained unconvinced that the float would be beneficial.

In part, the president was right. Even though his focus was on the impact of a devaluation on ordinary Nigerians, the new pegged value of the naira did not result in significant investment inflow due to uncertainty about the currency being traded for its actual value. Now though, it appears the CBN has been forced to enable a full market-driven system. However, even that alone will not fix all of Nigeria’s economic problems as the issue of a shortage of foreign exchange, which fuels investor reticence, still exists.

As Cheto says: “It’s not just about how quickly investors can get their money in, but about how quickly they can get it out.”

Mikel's appointment as captain of Nigeria Super Eagles stirs controversy

The announcement by the Minister of Sports and Youth Development, Barrister Solomon Dalung that John Obi Mikel is captain of Team Nigeria to the Rio Olympics, has raised a lot of dust in Nigerian sports circles.

Immediate past spokesman of the Nigeria Olympic Committee, Tony Nezianya who is a Director at the News Agency of Nigeria expressed concern on the choice of Mikel, saying that the Super Eagles captain is a newcomer to the Olympic family and therefore, not qualified for such a revered position in the team.

"I must tell you that I find Mikel's appointment controversial. He has just come into the team and there is Segun Toriola, a veteran of the Games, who is breaking an African record of having attended the most number of Olympic Games. With Rio Olympics, he will be making his seventh consecutive Olympics. He should have been given that honour with the captaincy of Team Nigeria instead of creating an unnecessary controve-rsy."

Nezianya said the decision to make a footballer captain of Team Nigeria was fundamentally wrong.

"Mikel was brought in as an overage player who happens to be the captain of the national team. They should have let him play his game quietly, not as captain of Team Nigeria."

The former NOC media officer refused to elaborate on whether the minister was right to appoint the team captain or if it was the function of the Nigeria Olympic Committee.

"The NOC and the Ministry of Sports work as partners. Matters like that are discussed behind closed doors before such announcements are made. I am not competent to say anything on this because I do not know whether the minister and the NOC agreed before the announcement."

Another journalist, Ganiyu Oloyede reacted this way, "When I saw the release I thought that he was named the captain of the dream team. Haba minister! A player who refused to play in Beijing Olympics when we needed him most. I don't think he deserves that responsibility."

Basketball coach, Adeka Daudu said, the choice of Mikel underlined the poor judgement of sports administrators in the country. He buttressed his argument with a quote from the Holy Bible: "God said in the Bible, that my people perish for lack of knowledge. May it not be our portion".

Another Nigerian sports enthusiast, Simon Olajide was angry and in his reaction, he called for the immediate removal of the Sports Minister. Said he, "We need to change our minister of sports, the man knows nothing about sports. Let's join hands and change the man."

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Video - University of Lagos' performance put in question

African universities overall have performed poorly in the latest global rankings. No Nigerian university made the top 1000 world universities list, though the country has nearly 80 accreddited institutions of higher learning. CCTV's Deji Badmus spent some time at the University of Lagos to find out more.

Video - FIFA President Gianni Infantino calls for greater focus on development

FIFA President Gianni Infantino says he's unaware of a leadership crisis within Nigerian football. Infantino has ended his visit to the country by urging administrators to focus on developing the game.

Oil militants attack suburb in Lagos, Nigeria

Residents say a boatload of armed oil militants attacked an outlying suburb of Lagos, Nigeria's commercial capital, looting and firing into the air as people fled.

They said police and soldiers responded, using drones to track the attackers while a helicopter hovered overhead. A gunbattle ensued.

The official News Agency of Nigeria quoted police Superintendent Dolapo Badmos as saying gunmen invaded the Igando neighborhood but police "swiftly moved in and foiled the attack."

Residents said at least two police officers were wounded. They spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

It was the second such attack this month in Lagos.

Militants have threatened to attack Lagos and Abuja, Nigeria's capital, to press demands for a greater share of wealth for residents of the oil-producing south suffering oil pollution.

Nigeria's football future is bright - Infantino

FIFA president, Gianni Infantino, has said that Nigeria will become one of the top footballing nations in a few years.

Infantino argued that Nigeria’s current position in FIFA ranking, does not reflect the massive pool of talent in the country. He insisted that the future will be better.

“I have seen that Nigerians’ passion and love for football is high, high up there and with the developmental programme the Nigerian football authorities have in place, I see Nigeria moving up to challenge the best in the world,” the FIFA boss stated.

“As World Cup Under-17 defending champions, Nigeria’s future is very bright if the talents are properly monitored and managed. I see a bright future for the game in Nigeria and I also believe the managing of the game is in good hands with the present leadership of Nigerian football”, he added.

Nigerian diplomats fail to recite National anthem during senate screening

Two longstanding Nigerian diplomats nominated by President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday failed to recite the country's anthem and pledge, leaving lawmakers and journalists at a senate hearing in laughter.

The recitals are taught in primary schools across the country, and are performed daily by students throughout their secondary school study.

The two diplomats, Vivian Okeke and Ibrahim Isah, were nominated by President Buhari alongside 45 others as prospective envoys to different countries, where they would promote Nigeria's culture, ideals and values.

At a dramatic session Tuesday, members of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, vetting the diplomats' qualifications, unexpectedly asked Mrs. Okeke and Mr. Isah to recite the national anthem and pledge.

While Mrs. Okeke mumbled the words of the anthem, Mr. Isah floundered and could not proceed with the pledge after introducing himself.

Mrs. Okeke was later aided by James Manager, a Senate committee member, as she murmured through the second stanza of the anthem.

Both nominees have been in the Nigeria's Foreign Service since 1983 - already raking in 33 years of experience each.

Mrs. Okeke currently serves at the Nigerian embassy in Washington, United States. In 2013, she was the minister (trade and investment) at the mission. She is from Anambra State.

Mr. Isah, who began his career as Third Secretary in the African Affairs Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, currently serves in Ankara, Turkey, as Charge D'Affairs of Nigerian mission in the country.

He had headed the chancery at the Consulate-General of Nigeria in the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, and was also Chief Airport Protocol Officer responsible for seeing off and receiving foreign leaders who visited Nigeria.

Mr. Isah told the screening committee that Nigeria must block foreign goods from entering the country "like China" to come out recession.

It wasn't the first time a would-be envoy would fail the national anthem test.

In March 2011, Ijoma Bristol failed to recite the anthem and could not also name the capital of Jigawa State during her screening before Jubril Aminu-led Foreign Affairs Committee of seventh Senate.

She was however cleared, with then Senate President, David Mark, saying "her case is a case of poor pass".

Nigerian bank denies link to failed Turkey coup

One of Nigeria’s top banks has been named in the failed coup attempt in Turkey on July 15.

A report by Yeni Safak, a Turkish daily, claims funds used to finance the coup, pegged at $2 billion, were kept and routed through United Bank for Africa (UBA), a leading Nigerian bank operating in 19 African countries. The paper names a John F. Campbell, a retired US general, as the supposed “organizer” of the coup, with access to the funds.

“The Nigeria branch of the United Bank of Africa (UBA) was the main base for the last six-months of money transactions for the coup plotters,” the report claims. “Campbell also managed more than $2 billion money transactions via UBA Bank in Nigeria by using CIA links to distribute among the pro-coup military personnel in Turkey,” it added. Both UBA and Campbell have vigorously denied the report’s claims.

In its response, UBA, which is controlled by well-known Nigerian tycoon Tony Elumelu, described the the report as “spurious” and said it had “no involvement with or connection to” the coup. UBA is Nigeria’s third largest bank with assets of some $14 billion on Mar. 31.

Banks in Nigeria have hit a rough patch over the past year with declining profits amid tough economic realities in Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy. But regardless of the current strain, the Central Bank of Nigeria, according to reports, maintains that it is unlikely that UBA was involved in the alleged transactions given regulatory checks in place.

In the aftermath of the failed Turkish coup, authorities have launched a large-scale crackdown. Banks, hospitals and charity organizations have been forced to close while thousands of people have been arrested.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Video - Nigeria gearing up to promote local industry

Nigeria's the government is gearing for campaign to promote domestic market for locally manufactured products. The campaign dubbed buy Nigeria is part of efforts to boost the economy and reduce hard cash expenditure on imports.

Video - Regional offensive struggling to defeat Boko Haram

Thousands of Nigerian refugees live in Niger. They've been waiting to go home but hope's slowly fading for them. The regional force tasked to tackle Boko Haram militants are struggling in their final push against the militants.

Nigeria cancels plans to build 'Kannywood' village

Nigeria's government has cancelled plans to build a "film village" in the northern state of Kano after opposition from Muslim clerics and social media.

More than $10m (Ј7.6m) had been budgeted to provide state-of-the-art facilities for the Hausa language film industry, known as Kannywood.

The government said the project would create thousands of job opportunities and promote cultural activities.

Muslims clerics have said that the project would promote immorality.

People on social media also called on the government to stop the plan.

Locals have said the project is not a priority - they say the government should instead focus on the revival of dams for agricultural development in the area.

A presidential adviser, Abdurrahaman Kawu Sumaila, announced the cancellation of the project saying that the people have had their say, and the government has heeded them.

A leading Kannywood actor and director, Ali Nuhu, told the BBC that he was confounded by the decision.

Ever since its creation more than 20 years ago, Kannywood has attracted a lot of criticism from the conservative society in the mainly Muslim city.

It has been accused of encouraging teenage girls to run away from home in the hope of becoming actresses.

Kannywood films are produced in the Hausa language and distributed in the Muslim-dominated north.

Most Nigerian films are produced in the south but in English and Pidgin-English.

This film industry, known as Nollywood, is the country's biggest cultural export and has made a name for Nigerian artists across Africa.

Stephanie Busari to head CNN’s Multi-Platform Bureau in Nigeria

Stephanie Busari To Head CNN’s Multi-Platform Bureau In Nigeria – CNN is launching a new, multi-platform operation in Lagos, Nigeria, designed to give the network a nimble, broad-based, Digital-first presence in Africa’s most populous country.

Leading the operation will be Stephanie Busari, who takes on the role of Supervising Producer, Africa. Busari will work across CNN’s newsgathering and digital operations, and will be the network’s first responder for all platforms.

Deborah Rayner, SVP, Newsgathering at CNN International, said: “This is a truly integrated role, and one that underlines CNN’s commitment to both Nigeria and Africa as a whole. Stephanie will work across our platforms on both news and feature content. In particular, she will head CNN’s Africa content across digital – responding to breaking news and managing our Africa features projects. She will also be central to CNN International’s coverage of the continent on television.”

Speaking on her new role, Busari observes that “To return to Nigeria at such an important time in the country’s history is a proud and exciting moment for me. This is such a vibrant country, full of possibilities, and as well as my broader remit looking at Africa as a whole this role will be about putting the many sides of Nigeria itself into sharper relief for the world.”

Since joining CNN in 2008, Busari has worked across some of the network’s most important African stories. In particular she was central to CNN’s coverage of the Missing Chibok girls, working alongside Senior International Correspondent Nima Elbagir.

A multi-award winning journalist, Busari began her career at the now-defunct London-based newspaper New Nation, which was aimed at the UK’s black and ethnic minority communities. She then moved to the UK’s Daily Mirror, where among other beats she covered Northern Ireland, reporting on some of the worst affected areas of “The Troubles”. While in Belfast she also launched and edited an award-winning lifestyle column for the paper. A native Yoruba speaker, she also speaks fluent French.

Pastor who chained up son in Church for weeks arrested

Nigerian police have arrested a church pastor, accused of keeping his nine-year-old son chained up for more than a month as a punishment for stealing.

Police say they rescued the boy and arrested Pastor Francis Taiwo after a tip-off in the town of Ota in south-western Ogun State.

Local media are running a photo of the victim, an emaciated young boy in chains, with a padlock around his neck.

State police say that it is one of the worst child abuse cases they have seen.

They say the boy's father admitted keeping him in chains, believing he was "possessed" because of his habit of stealing.

A police statement said that the boy had been held captive "with the help of members" of the local church where the pastor worked.

The case is now being handed over to Nigeria's national anti-trafficking agency (Naptip).

John Mikel Obi joins Nigeria's Olympic team

Chelsea midfielder John Mikel Obi has been named in Nigeria's final 18-man squad for the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

The 29-year-old Nigeria captain is one of the squad's permitted quota of three players over the age limit of 23.

Watford's Odion Ighalo, Kelechi Iheanacho of Manchester City and Arsenal's Alex Iwobi miss out having not been released by their clubs.

The men's tournament - won by Mexico at London 2012 - begins on 3 August, two days before the opening ceremony.

Those selected for the Games would miss much of the English pre-season and potentially the start of the Premier League and this has proved a sticking point between clubs and country.

With many teams not releasing players goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi, who plays in South Africa, is the only other overaged player on the Nigeria list for The Games.

However, Mikel is excited by the prospect of playing in Brazil, posting on his Instagram page: "First part of Chelsea pre-season done. Off to Atlanta to join the Nigeria team for the Olympics 2016."

Nigeria, who have been drawn in Group B of the Rio Games alongside Sweden, Colombia and Japan, boast a strong Olympics record.

They made Olympic football history in 1996 by becoming the first African team to win the gold medal. Nigeria also finished runners-up at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, under coach Samson Siasia, who will again take charge in Brazil.

Meanwhile, Siasia's car was broken into over the weekend in Atlanta, Georgia, where the Nigeria team is training, and items including his credit cards, two mobile phones and the phone of his personal assistant Abu Daniel were stolen.

"It's one of the unfortunate things in life but we are focusing on the Olympics." Siasia told BBC Sport.

Nigeria Olympic squad:

Goalkeepers: Daniel Akpeyi (Chippa FC, South Africa), Emmanuel Daniel (Enugu Rangers)

Defenders: Kingsley Madu (AS Trencin, Slovakia), William Troost-Ekong (Haugesund FC, Norway), Ndifreke Udo (Abia Warriors), Saturday Erimuya (Kayseri Erciyespor, Turkey), Abdullahi Shehu (CF Uniao, Portugal), Muenfuh Sincere (Rhapsody FC), Stanley Amuzie (Olhanense FC, Portugal)

Midfielders: John Mikel Obi (Chelsea, England), Okechukwu Azubuike (Yeni Malatyaspor, Turkey), Usman Muhammed (CF Uniao, Portugal), Oghenekaro Etebo (CD Feirense FC, Portugal), Sodiq Saliu (Seraing FC, Belgium)

Forwards: Aminu Umar (Osmalispor, Turkey), Imoh Ezekiel (Al Arabi, Qatar), Sadiq Umar (AS Roma, Italy), Junior Ajayi (CS Sfaxien, Tunisia)

Monday, July 25, 2016

Video - Conflicting priorities among states stall victory against Boko Haram efforts

Though Boko Haram is said to be losing its foothold in the region, conflicting priorities amongst threaten the efforts by west African forces attempting to eliminate the militant group's hold over parts of Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon.

Video - Some Yorubas in Nigeria holding on to culture of tribal markings

The cultural practice of distinct tribal body marking in Nigeria is becoming less common, but many still find value in this form of art.

Monsanto planning to takeover agriculture in Nigeria

As everyone knows, one American company called Monsanto has been on a determined march to take over agricultural production all over the world and enslave all farmers and countries to their commercial blood sucking logic. They have finally found a bridgehead into Nigeria where a door has been opened to allow them enter and takeover. They have been allowed to initiate so-called experimental farms to produce cotton and maize. Their point of entry has been the irresponsible National Biotechnology Development Agency, which has been compromised by Monsanto to provide an entry point to take over our agriculture.

This week, I write to support the great work currently being carried out by Nnimmo Bassey and his team at the Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) to resist the dangerous takeover of our agriculture by Monsanto. The Foundation has exposed the fact that GMOs have been approved to be grown in Nigeria and that the approval was surreptitious. There is an argument whether the approval was for a two-year trial process or for permanent production and for me, both must be opposed. At no time has the Nigerian Government taken a policy decision to approve GMOs and given the health dangers alone of this technology, it is irresponsible to allow this. We cannot allow the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) to sell our future for some temporary inducement they have received from Monsanto. How was it allowed that Monsanto Agriculture Nigeria Ltd would register in the country and start production without explicit approval the Federal Executive Council and the National Assembly?

Burkina Faso, which took the lead on GMO production in Africa, decided this year to abandoned its GMO cotton citing the inferior lint quality of Monsanto products and the enslavement of buying expensive seeds and chemicals from the company each year for an income that is less than what they were having before introducing it. It would be recalled that for a long time, Burkinabé cotton was renowned for its high quality following a highly successful non-GM breeding programme founded by the French government and spanning 70 years. 

The main goal of the breeding programme was to create cultivars that were well adapted to the growing conditions in West Africa and had the desired quality characteristics, such as a high ginning ratio, which is the percentage of the desired cotton fibre per unit weight of cotton delivered to the factory and long staple length. They foolishly decided to abandon the home grown approach and follow the GMO route of Monsanto and after six years of commercial production, they discovered that the quality and world market price of their cotton had plummeted. Cotton is the second-biggest source of revenue for the impoverished West African country after gold. It is this same GMO cotton that failed in Burkina Faso that is now being introduced to Nigeria.

I therefore call on the Ministers of Agriculture and the Environment to call the National Biosafety Management Agency to order and to withdraw the authorization issued for the production of GMO crops. Given our fragile ecosystems and stressed environment, we must take our biosafety seriously and avoid the path of introducing crops that are dangerous to the health of our people and our environment. Nineteen European countries that care about the health of their people have completely banned genetically modified crops. 

Even the Russian State Duma last month passed a bill banning all import and production of genetically modified organisms in the country. We must not allow Nigeria to be turned into a dumping ground for what sensible countries have rejected. Sincere scientists have shown evidence that Monsanto’s crops are genetically enhanced to tolerate the use of the herbicide glyphosate which was declared as a possible carcinogen by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). The current Monsanto project to grow glyphosate infused maize in Nigeria is a direct threat to our health. Recent studies have linked glyphosate to health effects such as degeneration of the liver and kidney, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. It is unfortunate that Bill Gates with his America First mentality is sponsoring Monsanto’s Water Efficient Maize for Africa, a five-year development project led by the Kenyan-based African Agricultural Technology Foundation, which aims to develop a variety of drought-tolerant maize seeds. Why will he not invest in the Institute of Agricultural Research project in Ahmadu Bello University that is developing draught resistant maize that does not have the dangers of what Monsanto is doing?

I have just read Chief Audu Ogbe’s Agriculture Promotion Policy 2016-2020 which outlines an excellent strategic approach to addressing the two key gaps in our agriculture today: an inability to meet domestic food requirements, and an inability to export at quality levels required for market success. The former problem is a productivity challenge driven by an input system and farming model that is largely inefficient. As a result, an aging population of farmers who do not have enough seeds, fertilizers, irrigation, crop protection and related support to be successful. The latter challenge is driven by an equally inefficient system for setting and enforcing food quality standards, as well as poor knowledge of target markets. Insufficient food testing facilities, a weak inspectorate system in the Ministry, and poor coordination among relevant federal agencies serve to compound early stage problems such as poor knowledge of permissible contaminant levels. 

The strategy he proposes is to address the challenges of food insecurity and the economic costs of importing $3 to $5 billion worth of food annually, especially wheat, rice, fish and sundry items, including fresh fruits by looking inward. The Ministry of Agriculture is proposing that agricultural research in the country should receive massive support. Our governments would engage its research institutions and bodies at different locations in the country, to conduct research for increased agricultural productivity and to make the research results available to farmers and other actors in the agricultural development of the states. That is the way to go. Was it not just a couple of weeks ago that the Institute of Agricultural Research of Ahmadu Bello University found a cure for the terrible blight of the tomato Ebola disease that wiped out fresh stew from our homes recently. Let’s empower our research institutes for our own good.

Pastor in Ogun state, Nigeria chains up his son in church for weeks

A nine-year-old boy was rescued from a church by police in the Nigerian state of Ogun after the child had been chained up for weeks as punishment for allegedly stealing, police said.

Police and members of the Nigeria Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) found the boy at the Celestial Church of Christ in Ajibawo after receiving a tip-off from a concerned neighbor.

The child had been chained by the neck to a large log of wood in a room for weeks, police told the Premium Times.

Muyiwa Adejobi, spokesperson for the Ogun State Police Command, said the boy’s father, a pastor in the church, was responsible for chaining up his son and is now on the run.

The child’s stepmother, who had reportedly accused the boy of stealing and reported him to his father, was arrested.

Kareem Olanrewaju of the NSCDC said the boy was punished for repeatedly stealing soup prepared for the family and was chained up for two weeks.

The agency also released images showing the efforts to release the child from chains so that he could be administered medical treatment.

“She [his stepmother] reported to the father who took [this] step by chaining his hands and legs,” Olanrewaju said in a statement. “This situation was on like that until a good samaritan informed NSCDC officials.”

He added that church members led by the boy’s stepmother had tried to stop officials from rescuing the boy.

“The boy was tired and pale, he was not able to talk when he was initially rescued,” Olanrewaju added.

The child was taken away by officials and was given food and medical treatment at a hospital and is responding well to treatment, according to the Daily Post.

New FIFA President Infantino arrives Nigeria

President of world football –governing body, Mr. Gianni Infantino and the Secretary General, Ms Fatma Samoura arrived in Nigeria’s capital city, Abuja, on Sunday. They were accompanied by executive assistants Mattias Grafstrom and Veron Mosengo-Omba.

The world football governors were received on arrival at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport by NFF President Amaju Pinnick and General Secretary Mohammed Sanusi, vice presidents Seyi Akinwunmi and Shehu Dikko, and other members of the NFF Executive Committee and Management.

A 10 –year old girl handed the 46 –year old multi –lingual Infantino a bouquet of flowers as the train emerged from the arrival hall, and a cultural troupe entertained in the foreground as Infantino and Samoura walked on the red carpet to waiting cars.

At the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Pinnick accompanied Infantino to the presidential suite, and meetings between the FIFA President and the NFF Board and with the visiting FA presidents from other African countries, as well as a cocktail dinner were on the programme for the night.

A total of 17 FA presidents from other African countries arrived in Nigeria on Saturday to join the NFF in receiving Infantino. These are Kwesi Nyantakyi (Ghana), Lamin Kaba Bajo (The Gambia), Isha Johansen (Sierra Leone), Musa Bility (Liberia), Juneidi Basha Tilmo (Ethiopia), Nicholas Kithuku (Kenya), Andrew Chamanga (Zambia), Philip Chiyangwa (Zimbabwe), Frans Mbidi (Namibia), Chabur Goc Alei (South Sudan), Walter Nyamilandu (Malawi), Abdiqani Said Arab (Somalia), Vincent Nzamwita (Rwanda), Moses Magogo (Uganda), Jamal Malinzi (Tanzania), Augustin Senghor (Senegal) and Souleman Waberi (Djibouti).

On Monday, Infantino and Samoura, alongside Sports Minister Solomon Dalung, NFF President Pinnick, chairmen of the Senate and House sports committees, NFF General Secretary and other NFF Board members, and the visiting FA presidents from other African countries, will pay a courtesy call on His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa. Also on the programme for Monday is an U13 exhibition football match at the National Stadium, visit to the new NFF headquarters and a business dinner with Nigeria’s political heavyweights and captains of industry.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Video - Abuja choking on its own garbage

Nigeria is not only hurting from a rapidly weakening currency. Its capital, Abuja, is a mere shadow of what it was intended to be. Founded in the 1970s during Nigeria's oil boom, planners had a dream of a model city for Africa. But as Nigeria faces a reversal of fortunes with falling oil prices, Abuja is struggling to keep the city clean and stick to its original design.

Video - Naira falls to an all time low

The Nigerian local currency has fallen to an all-time low against the U.S. Dollar. The Naira has passed the 300 mark for the first time. Last month, the central bank lifted its peg on the currency to allow it to trade freely on the interbank market. Nevertheless, the Naira fell 5.4 percent against the greenback to hit a record low of 309 in early trade on Thursday, following dollar supply shortages.

Video - Financial crunch cripples Nigeria's Olympic preparations

Nigeria's Olympic teams have been dogged by controversy with allegations of mismanagement and a lack of finances. As a result, training only got under way a few months ago.

Muslims in Nigeria applaud lifting ban on hijab in Lagos schools

A leading Muslim group in Nigeria has welcomed a court ruling lifting the ban on girls wearing the headscarf in government schools in Lagos state.

The Muslim Rights Concern (MRC) said the Lagos Court of Appeal's ruling was a victory for the rule of law.

The judges said the ban violated the religious rights of Muslim girls, overturning a lower court's ruling.

Girls had been barred from wearing the headscarf, or hijab, because it was not part of school uniforms.

The state government has not yet commented on whether it intends to challenge the ruling at the Supreme Court.

Nigeria's population is roughly divided between Muslims and Christians, with both groups being staunch believers.

The majority of Muslims live in the north and Christians primarily are in the south - though the southern state of Lagos has a more religious mix.

In June, the High Court in the southern state of Osun also lifted the ban on Muslims girls wearing the headscarf.

It caused religious tension in the state, with some Christian boys insisting on wearing church robes to school.

Two Muslim girls challenged the ban in Lagos state, taking their case to its Court of Appeal after the High Court ruled against them in 2013.

"The fact that the judgment was unanimous and only two of the five judges are Muslims leaves a firm stamp of authority on the legality of the use of hijab not only by female Muslim students but also by all Muslim women in the country," it added.

Reasons Niger Delta Avengers are crippling Nigeria's oil sector

The vast wetlands of the Niger Delta region are home to Nigeria's vast oil resources, but are once again at the centre of a security crisis.

The militants or the "boys" are back in the creeks, destroying pipelines, attacking oil installations, and kidnapping workers.

The violence has slashed Nigeria's oil production by a third.

As we snake our way through the mangrove swamps in a speedboat we are entering a world where outsiders are no longer welcome.

With pipelines and a huge oil export terminal on the horizon, every so often we flash by a fishing community with its wooden huts clustered close to rickety, wooden pier.

The chaos here is dealing a serious blow to the Nigerian government who are dependent upon oil sales for most of its revenues. It has also helped push up the global oil price to almost $50 (Ј38) a barrel.

The renewed militancy was triggered late last year by the cash-strapped government's decision to cancel lucrative security contracts and reduce the budget to pay former militants by 70% .

The payments were part of an amnesty programme agreed upon in 2009 that largely ended the previous bout of militancy, which had crippled the oil industry a decade ago.

As part of the agreement, tens of thousands of militants gave up their arms in return for a monthly stipend worth around $400 at the time and the opportunity to retrain as divers, welders and boat builders at colleges overseas.

Critics regarded the deal as little more than a "bribe for peace".

Now with the payments drying up, many fighters with a grievance and a gun feel they have little to lose.

'Taken for granted'

A group called the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) says it is behind a series of attacks including one attack on a pipeline that shut down one of Nigeria's main oil export terminals.

One militant leader, who says he fights alongside the NDA, agreed to meet us.

Commander Johnson Biboye, his pseudonym, told me his group were responsible for several recent attacks. He refused to give more details citing operational security.

He said his men had little choice but to return to militancy.

"You cannot sleep in the creeks and have the mosquitoes sucking your blood and say you're happy," he told me.

"But the government needs to know we've been taken for granted for several years, enough is enough."

Mr Biboye says he has 300 fighters under his command. He denies he is holding the government "hostage" or that he leads a "terrorist" organisation.

"We've are demanding our rights," he said.

"We have been slaves for many years. We are doing this so our communities get developed. We want to control the oil resources".

He called on the government to negotiate sincerely with the militant groups and warned that if they did not the situation would only get "worse".

'Broken promises'

Oil was first discovered in the Niger Delta in the 1950s. It should have been a blessing but many locals see it as a curse.

Thousands of oil spills have ruined fishing grounds, contaminated water supplies, and destroyed croplands.

There have been widespread allegations of corruption, with accusations that politicians and local leaders siphon off cash that should be spent on building schools, hospitals and providing electricity.

Locals also complain that the jobs in the oil industry are frequently given to outsiders.

It is hard to ignore the painful irony that communities lying on top of some of the world's richest oil deposits are mostly living in abject poverty.

"The Niger Delta is the goose that lays the golden egg but never benefits from it," Chief Dan Ekpebide told me as we wandered through the village of Kurutie.

We were there to see the temporary site of the Nigerian Maritime University - the first of its kind in the area.

There were a dozen buildings including a large lecture hall, student dormitories, and an enormous 12m diving tank to be used to train divers how to weld under water.

It was designed to give young people an opportunity and an alternative to a life of militancy.

But there are no staff or students and for Mr Ekpebide it is a symbol of broken government promises.

"We feel seriously neglected. It speaks volumes about how the federal government thinks about the people in Delta," he said.

Like many in this part of the country he expresses anger towards the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.

Palace in ruins

The largely Christian south of Nigeria warned there could be trouble if President Buhari who is from the predominantly Muslim north of the country, beat Goodluck Jonathan during last year's presidential elections.

The former President was from the Niger Delta and spread his largesse around the region.

The university campus was built by Government Ekpemupolo, a prominent former militant leader turned businessman.

But now Mr Ekpemupolo also known by the alias "Tompolo" is on the run from the authorities accused of massive corruption.

Some Nigerians believe Tompolo is the mastermind behind the recent spate of attacks in the Delta. His supporters deny the accusation.

A short boat ride up the creek, Mr Ekpebide took me to the seat of the traditional Gbaramatu Kingdom, a prominent Ijaw group in the region.

The palace was bombarded during deadly clashes between the army and militants in 2009.

It now lies in ruins: The roofs were ripped off, windows smashed and statues toppled.

Shortly afterwards the amnesty was signed that has largely held until this year.

But Mr Ekpebide told me the palace will not be repaired.

"It is a reminder of what the government did to the people," he said.

Few here are willing to forget the past and the anger felt in the Niger Delta will only divide the country further.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Nigeria Launches $100 Million Oil Fund

Nigeria’s government has launched a special fund worth US$100 million to take care of securing the credit that the oil industry of the country needs. Called a Nigerian Content Intervention Fund, the vehicle will be managed by the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board and the Bank of Industry.

Until now, Nigerian oil service companies could benefit from a 50 percent interest rebate on loans from commercial banks plus partial security. These were provided by the Nigeria Content Development Fund, which was launched in 2012.

The Acting Executive Secretary of the NCDMB said the new fund was set up in response to difficulties cited by local oil industry players in obtaining borrowed funds for their operations. Patrick Obah added that the board and the Bank of Industry were dedicated to providing assistance to oil services companies that wanted to create more jobs locally, retain their revenues in-country and add value to the economy.

Nigeria’s oil sector has been deeply troubled by falling oil prices, and more recently, by a long string of attacks on oil production and transport infrastructure. Some of these attacks, though not targeting people, have ended with human casualties. The groups taking responsibility for the attacks have stated that their aim is to redirect a bigger portion of state oil revenues from the capital Lagos to the impoverished region of the Niger Delta, where the country’s oil industry is concentrated.

Just the other day, senior government officials from the two southern provinces of Nigeria urged the central government to revise the oil well ownership regulations in such a way as to give Niger Delta communities a bigger share of the profits. “The people of the Niger Delta region should possess at least 65 percent of the oil wells contrary to the present ownership structure where less than 10 percent of the oil blocks belong to our people,” the legislators said.

Nigerian military claim to have rescued 80 women and children from Boko Haram

Nigeria's missing Chibok schoolgirls are the most well-known among the captives of the Boko Haram militant group, but the Nigerian Islamist insurgency has kidnapped thousands during its seven-year-long reign of terror.

Today, Nigeria's military claimed a success in its effort to reduce that number, after it reportedly freed 80 women and children from a far-flung village in the country's northeast.

The 42 women and 38 children were rescued on Tuesday after soldiers infiltrated a Boko Haram meeting in Gangere village, Army spokesman Col. Sani Kukasheka Usman told the Associated Press. More than 40 militants were killed in the operation.

Thursday's operation is just the latest military effort to root out the radical Muslim group entrenched in northern Nigeria, forcing more than 2 million people to flee their homes. In the last two years, a ramped-up military campaign has succeeded in pushing Boko Haram from its strongholds, but fighters remain active in Borno state, as well as neighboring countries like Cameroon.

So far this year, the militants have carried out a string of suicide attacks, including at refugee camps, and deadly village raids. Nigeria has claimed to have saved thousands of captives from the group, but often these figures are impossible to verify and critics have accused the military of exaggerating its successes.

More than two years after Boko Haram abducted 200 girls from Chibok school in Borno state in 2014, the military managed to rescue two of the teenage students this spring. The government also secured video footage of the abducted girls, showing proof of life for the first time since they were captured.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Video - UN warns 49,000 children at risk of death due to malnutrition in Nigeria

The United Nations Children's Fund has warned a quarter of a million children in north-eastern Nigeria, face severe malnourishment as the humanitarian crisis caused by the Boko Haram deepens. The agency added that an estimated 49,000 children will die if they are not receiving immediate treatment. This is a result of its increase engagement in new areas that requires greater resources.

Oil pipeline bombings causing massive spills in Nigeria

Militants bombed a state-run oil pipeline in southern Nigeria on Monday causing massive spills, in the latest attack on the country's oil infrastructure, said an industry official.

"The pipeline is operated by the Pipelines and Products Marketing Company (PPMC) at Batan near Warri. It was blown up early yesterday (Monday)," a senior official of a major oil firm told AFP Tuesday.

PPMC is a subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, which runs a joint venture with firms such as Anglo-Dutch giant Shell, US firms Chevron and Exxon, Italy's Eni and France's Total.

The official, who asked not to be identified, said the pipeline was repaired only recently after it was bombed last month.

The latest attack had caused "massive spills of crude in the area", said the official who called on the authorities to launch a clean-up.

The NNPC were not immediately available for comment when contacted by AFP.

No group has claimed responsibility but the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) has claimed a wave of bombings of oil and gas facilities since the beginning of the year.

The attacks have reduced output at a time when Nigeria is struggling with low global crude prices which have hammered government revenues, weakening the country's naira currency and pushing up inflation to near 11-year highs.

The militants want oil majors to leave the Niger delta, blaming them for contributing to widespread poverty and under-development of the region.

The group also wants self-determination for the oil-producing states in the delta region and political autonomy.

Video - Paul Le Guen turns down Super Eagles coach because he doesn't want to live in Nigeria

The Nigeria Football Federation says former Paris Saint-Germain manager Paul Le Guen has turned down a contract to become the new national team coach.

The NFF had announced the Frenchman's appointment on Monday pending the finalization of his contract. On Tuesday, however, the NFF confirmed that Le Guen objected to having targets written into the deal and did not want to live in Nigeria.

In a statement, NFF official Suleiman Yahaya-Kwande said: "There is absolutely no issue with Le Guen saying he is not coming. Several highly-qualified persons would be happy to be named manager of the senior national team of Nigeria."

Nigeria has been looking for a new coach since Sunday Oliseh quit in February.

Le Guen has coached Oman and Cameroon since ending a two-year spell at PSG in 2009.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Video - Nigeria issues $10 million grant to boost film industry

Nigeria's government is giving the local film industry, Nollywood, a shot in the arm. Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun says the 10-million-dollar grant is to help local producers fight piracy and streamline the distribution of Nollywood movies.

Uber testing UberEats in Nigeria

Uber riders in Nairobi, Mombasa and Nigeria were part of a global campaign were riders in 69 countries and 400 cities will be able to request an ice cream at a push of button.

In Kenya, Uber partnered with Delia’s All Natural Ice Cream to deliver Uber’s uniquely labelled dessert called “Bits and Atoms”. At the tab of a button, riders in Nairobi and Mombasa will be able to request 2 Servings of Delia’s Natural Ice Cream right to their doorstep

“UberIceCream is a global promotion that celebrates what we have in common, and gives us an opportunity to come together. We are thrilled to bring our riders this exciting experience and we hope riders will take a moment and indulge together” said Alon Lits General Manager for Uber Sub Saharan Africa.

UberEats is a food delivery service by Uber set to be launched across its markets. By testing UberIceCream, the firm is nearing the official launch of UberEats across its various markets.

The UberIceCream promotion works simply.

Naira Forwards, Volatility Surge as Nigeria Removes Spread Limit

Naira forwards rose to record highs and volatility surged after the Central Bank of Nigeria removed a limit on bid-offer spreads in the foreign-exchange market, raising expectations the currency is set to extend declines as it trades more freely.

Three-month non-deliverable forward contracts jumped 4.1 percent to a record 329 per dollar by 4:41 p.m. in Lagos, while contracts maturing in a year rose 3.3 percent to 363, also the highest level on a closing basis. One-week historical volatility increased to 27 percent, compared to an average of 8.6 percent over the past year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

While the naira weakened 3.5 percent to a record 294.5 versus the dollar in the spot market, having swung between 280.22 and 294.84, little trading took place, according to David Willacy, a currency trader at INTL FCStone Ltd.

On Friday, the central bank ended a rule capping the difference, or spread, between bids and offers in the foreign-exchange interbank market at 50 kobo, according to Kunle Ezun, an analyst at Ecobank Transnational Inc.

“That’s why you are seeing that volatility,” Ezun said by phone from Lagos. “The spread used to make prices move within a defined range, which is not good. The expectation is that central bank will allow the market to trade freely by removing the spread and letting liquidity determine the rate.”

The naira depreciated 29 percent against the dollar last month after the Abuja-based regulator ended a 16-month peg of 197-199 per dollar. That and the capital controls used to defend it led bond and stock investors to flee the country and exacerbated an economic crash caused by the fall in oil prices from mid-2014. The economy contracted in the first quarter and is likely to shrink over the whole of 2016, the International Monetary Fund said on July 8.

Black Market

Few investors have returned to Nigeria’s markets since the devaluation and many think the exchange rate needs to weaken further. Importers of items such as glass, textiles and rice are still banned from using the interbank market to buy hard currency and are forced on to the black market, where the naira trades at about 365 per dollar.

Central bank Governor Godwin Emefiele and Deputy Governor Sarah Alade met investors in the U.S. and London last week to entice them to buy naira assets. Emefiele dismissed suggestions that there was too little foreign-exchange liquidity and said the black market was too small for them to use as a gauge of the naira’s true value, according to two people with attended the private talks and asked not to be identified.

“The market looks to be overvalued as investors are still unwilling to sell dollars into Nigeria,” Willacy at INTL FCStone said by phone from London. “We can imply this by the low trading volumes on the interbank market.”

Monday, July 18, 2016

Video - Nigeria military denies reports of looming famine in North-east

Nigeria's military is denying reports of an unfolding humanitarian crisis in Northeastern Nigeria. Aid agency Doctors Without Borders (MSF)has warned of a deteriorating situation that some observers believe may require intervention from the United Nations.

Video - Top Five Nigeria National Team Goalscorers

As Nigeria get ready to pick a new national team coach, here's a look at some of the men who have made the Super Eagles one of the best football teams on the continent in the past. This week on the Matchpoint Top Five segment, we're counting down Nigeria's Top Five Goalscorers for the National team.

Pokemon Go craze hits Nigeria

The new smartphone game “Pokemon Go” by Nintendo, which has had tongues wagging all over the world has hit Nigeria’s capital, Lagos by storm.

The new game which is not officially available in Africa but is said to be only available in very few countries like United States, Australia, Japan and New Zealand, has found its way to the West African country.

It is unclear at this stage how users where able to download the app, however, they’ve succesfully bypassed the ‘legal’ way of getting the game and are taking full advantage.

People are going crazy over Pokémon Go, which allows players to join one of three global teams, search for Pokémon monsters using real world elements and battle for territory using GPS.

Nintendo’s shares hit a six year high after the launch of the game. The Japanese game company’s stock climbed 86 per cent since last Thursday on the back of game’s popularity.

Football Legend Pele set to visit Nigeria in August

Football’s greatest legend, Brazilian World Cup winner Pele is expected in Nigeria for a historic visit in August as part of events planned by the Winihin Jemide Series and Youth Experience Days Africa.

Born Edson Arantes do Nascimento, the three-time World Cup winner will headline a youth football tournament that will take place at the Astro-Turf in Ikoyi as well as a leadership meeting with Corporate Nigeria.

Famous for scoring 1,281 goals during his career, Pele won the first of his three World Cups as a 17-year-old at Sweden ’58 before adding two more titles at Chile ’62 and Mexico ’70.

The WJS/YEDA Legend Edition 2016 is a 2-day event (11th -12th August, 2016) focused on youth development and empowerment through a once-in-a-lifetime inspiring experience with Pele.

The event will involve football loving teenagers and parents, key figures from various state governments, the corporate sector and the Nigeria Football Federation. The event will include a sports clinic (Legend tournament), a Gala Night with Pele and other African football legends.

It will also include an auction of Pele memorabilia at the Gala night with proceeds from the auction expected to be donated to an eligible local youth football academy.

Pele has received an honorary knighthood from Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and was named "Athlete of the Century” and "Player of the Century” by the International Olympic Committee and Fifa respectively, amongst many other accolades.

This will be Pele’s second visit to Nigeria; the first in 1967, was occasioned by a 2-day cease fire during the Nigerian Civil War which allowed the warring sides to watch the Pele & Santos FC team play an exhibition match in Lagos.

Fans can register for the visit via the official website.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Video - Brexit and Nigeria

It's close to three weeks now since Britain voted to leave the EU and the impact of that decision is still evident worldwide. In Nigeria, investors and market analysts are still dissecting how the referendum could affect its economy -- and how to deal with any possible negative fallout. Here is CCTV's Deji's Badmus with more on that.

CNN to build multi-platform bureau in Lagos, Nigeria

The Cable News Network (CNN), an American basic cable and satellite television channel has announced the launch of a new, multi-platform operation in Lagos, Nigeria, designed to give the network a nimble, broad-based, Digital-first presence in Africa’s most populous country.

Leading the operation will be Stephanie Busari, who takes on the role of Supervising Producer, Africa. Busari will work across CNN’s newsgathering and digital operations, and will be the network’s first responder for all platforms.

Deborah Rayner, SVP, Newsgathering at CNN International, said: “This is a truly integrated role, and one that underlines CNN’s commitment to both Nigeria and Africa as a whole. Stephanie will work across our platforms on both news and feature content. In particular, she will head CNN’s Africa content across digital – responding to breaking news and managing our Africa features projects. She will also be central to the CNN International’s coverage of the continent on television.”

Speaking on her new role, Busari observes that “To return to Nigeria at such an important time in the country’s history is a proud and exciting moment for me. This is such a vibrant country, full of possibilities, and as well as my broader remit, looking at Africa as a whole this role will be about putting the many sides of Nigeria itself into sharper relief for the world.”

Since joining CNN in 2008, Busari has worked across some of the network’s most important African stories. In particular ,she was central to CNN’s coverage of the Missing Chibok girls, working alongside Senior International Correspondent Nima Elbagir.

A multi-award winning journalist, Busari began her career at the now-defunct London-based newspaper New Nation, which was aimed at the UK’s black and ethnic minority communities. She then moved to the UK’s Daily Mirror, where, among other beats she covered Northern Ireland, reporting on some of the worst affected areas of “The Troubles”.

While in Belfast she also launched and edited an award-winning lifestyle column for the paper. A native Yoruba speaker, she also speaks fluent French.

Nigeria FIFA rankings fall yet again

Mixed reactions have trailed the latest world football governing body, FIFA’s rating of countries announced yesterday.

The Assistant Technical Director of Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Coach Shiju Lagunju who spoke with Daily Trust said though FIFA uses verifiable indices to rate countries, the rating is of no effect on the performance of the teams.

“I don’t believe in it [the ranking], it doesn’t show the quality of our game,” he said.

“Does it really matter that Belgium, ranked 2nd was beaten by Wales? Does it really matter that Spain, ranked 8th was defeated by Italy or Brazil who are in the top ten, unable to make the knock out stage of COPA America?”

He insisted that one can only ascertain the strength of a team when the chips are down, expressing optimism that Nigeria will bounce back as the rebuilding process will soon start yielding results.

On his part, Head coach of the Nigeria Professional Football League side, Warri Wolves Mansur Abdullahi said Nigeria’s ranking was unfortunate, nothing that “It shows that Eagles are not improving.”

Also, the Chairman of the FCT chapter of Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN), Kayode Adeniyi who expressed dismay over the ranking, said it was being anticipated since the team did not play any match in recent times.

“What the stakeholders have been doing is to fight among themselves. Until we get our act together, we will continue to go down in subsequent rankings,” he submitted.

Similarly, a sports analyst Karlos Aondoaver Tsokar blamed the country’s current position on the inconsistency of the team.

“We have been very inconsistent in our performance in all international competitions. Without a coach for a while and those that we have managed to place in acting positions have not been able to properly assemble a team that would play with the passion, strength and agility our Super Eagles were known for.

“At a point, we were the most entertaining team in Africa, such that even if the results were abysmal as it is now, we were still rated well. But now it is different,” he lamented.

Another sports pundit, Modupe Oyewale expressed optimism that the team will bounce back, stressing that “We can only hope that things get better and that the Super Eagles bounce back to winning ways so that our ranking position can improve.”

Nigeria, yesterday dropped nine places in the latest world football governing body (FIFA)’s rating.

The Super Eagles were ranked 61st in June’s rating but have now dropped to be ranked 16th best team in Africa and 70th in the world.

Algeria, one of Nigeria’s 2018 World Cup qualifiers opponents with 781 points, are the highest ranked team on the continent and 32nd in the world.

Cote d’Ivoire (35), Ghana (36), Senegal (41) and Egypt (43) completes the top five teams in Africa in that order.

Others in the top ten are: Tunisia (45), Cameroon (53), Morocco (54), Congo DR (59) and Mali (61) who occupied the 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th positions respectively.

On the global stage, Euro 2016 surprise package Iceland rise to their highest ranking after reaching the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, moving up 12 places to 22nd.

The top five teams remained the same, with Argentina ranked first ahead of Belgium, Colombia, Germany and Chile.

Euro 2016 winners Portugal and defeated finalists France moved up two and 10 places respectively to sit sixth and seventh, with Spain, Brazil and Italy rounding off the top 10.

Militants blow up gas pipeline in southwest Nigeria

A gas pipeline operated by Nigeria's state energy company in southwestern Ogun state has been attacked by men disguised as maintenance staff, local police said on Thursday.

Attacks by militants on oil and gas facilities in the Niger Delta region - in the south and southeast - over the last few months briefly pushed crude production in the OPEC member to 30-year lows in the spring.

But facilities in the southwest region, which is not part of the Delta area, have so far not been targeted. Militant groups have called for a greater share of Nigeria's oil and gas wealth to go to the Delta, which is the country's main energy hub.

Muyiwa Adejobi, a spokesman for Ogun state police said the attack took place on Tuesday night in the town of Ogijo.

"We were told that some guys came in two vehicles dressed as officials in charge of repairs and maintenance of the gas pipelines and then used dynamite to blow up the gas line belonging to a subsidiary of (state energy firm) NNPC," he said.

"Unfortunately one of the lines was damaged. There are other lines that were not affected," he added.

The pipeline supplies the commercial capital Lagos, which is around 80km (50 miles) from Ogun state, and other parts of the southwest.

Adejobi said there were "insinuations that militants could be responsible" but added that police "are not jumping to conclusions yet as to which group was responsible". Nobody has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Corruption taints defence contracts in Nigeria

A presidential committee found that defence contracts were awarded to companies "who lacked the necessary technical competence", the seven-page statement said.

There were also outstanding contracts for "armoured vehicles, ballistic vests, night vision binoculars and three unmanned aerial vehicles".

Other armoured vehicles delivered in 2007 for peace-keeping operations in Sudan "scandalously broke down."

"Many of the contracts were characterised by lack of due process, in breach of extant procurement regulations and tainted by corrupt practices," said the statement, describing the findings of the interim report which audited procurement contracts from 2007 until 2015.

The presidential report is designed to guide Nigeria's anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), in their criminal investigations into corruption in Nigeria.

During the raging Boko Haram insurgency, Nigerian troops reported that they were under-equipped to fight the insurgents, who had captured a chunk of the country's northeast in their quest to create a hardline Islamic state.

Buhari said in December last year that the Islamists were "technically" defeated, though sporadic attacks still happen in Nigeria.

The EFCC is investigating and has charged some military bigwigs -- almost exclusively belonging to the opposition party -- with corruption, causing critics to say Buhari is using the corruption war as a way to silence dissent.

But Buhari has maintained his anti-graft war shows no bias.

"Whoever deter us from fighting corruption will suffer the consequences," Buhari warned earlier in July.


Thursday, July 14, 2016

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Government and oil workers reach agreement to end strike

The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) and the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) have called off their one-week strike and therefore directed members to resume work at their various stations.

It was learnt that the unions decided to call off the strike after the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting yesterday.

The meeting ended after the stakeholders reached an agreement on issues concerning job security, causalisation of workers and improved welfare.

PENGASSAN said the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, assured the oil workers that the restructuring exercise had been done in the mentioned agencies and no jobs were lost.

At the meeting presided over by the Minster of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, some international oil companies which had axed workers without due process were directed to revert to the status quo.

A statement issued at the end of the meeting and signed by the President of PENGASSAN, F.O. Johnson, President of NUPENG, Igwe Achese, and their secretaries stated that based on the understanding at the parley, and in view of the on-going social dialogue, the meeting urged PENGASSAN that in order to make for an unfettered execution of most of the resolutions reached, the national strike by its members which started on Thursday July 7, 2016 be suspended.

"Most of the IOCs and Indigenous Oil Companies that have laid-off workers without passing through the due process of the law all agreed to comply, and in such cases where the workers had gone on strike or been locked out by employers, the meeting directed them to unlock such premises while the actions of employers have also been put on hold to make for a free and unfettered atmosphere during the negotiations.

"This will help the International Oil companies to stem the tide of redundancies being declared in the industry and help address job losses of oil workers that would otherwise be put into the unemployment market.

"The meeting noted with satisfaction the report of the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources that almost all the IOCs have signed into these proposals," the statement said.

UN accused of failing north-east Nigeria due to looming famine

The UN has been accused of failing to act quickly enough to save hundreds of thousands of lives in northern Nigeria where a food crisis already killing hundreds of people a day is poised to become the most devastating in decades.

Nigerian authorities, who maintain tight control over humanitarian and media access to the region, have also been accused of deliberate negligence and attempting to conceal the scale of the crisis.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has categorised 4.4 million people in the Lake Chad region as “severely food insecure” – meaning they are in need of urgent food aid.

Toby Lanzer, UN assistant secretary general and OCHA’s regional humanitarian coordinator for the Sahel, said: “This is about as bad as it gets. There’s only one step worse and I’ve not come across that situation in 20 years of doing this work and that’s a famine.”

“We have to step in and quickly or we are going to have hundreds of thousands at risk of dying in the north-east of Nigeria.”

Boko Haram’s seven-year insurgency has left Borno’s farmland – which previously fed Nigeria – devastated and abandoned. This will be the region’s third year without a harvest.

The hunger crisis is claiming lives even in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state and the hub of humanitarian and security forces in the region. The city has doubled in size in two years and now hosts 2.4 million displaced people. Food prices are soaring in the markets, where it now costs $100 (£75) to buy a large bag of rice.

Lanzer said UN agencies have not had the resources necessary to tackle the crisis and has called on international donors to prevent a greater catastrophe. Of the $279m (£210m) required, only $75m has so far been secured.

Isabelle Mouniaman, head of Médecins Sans Frontières operations in Nigeria, said MSF has been raising the alarm in northern Nigeria for two years and UN organisations have failed to respond.

“We’ve been calling to the UN, to the headquarters of Unicef, WFP [World Food Programme], OCHA and their response has been ‘Yes, we’re doing this and that’… But you cannot just be satisfied to say you built X number of latrines, delivered X bags of food when people are dying. It’s not enough,” Mouniaman said.

“The Red Cross is doing their job, MSF is doing their job, but the vast majority of humanitarian organisations are failing in their responsibility towards the crisis in Borno.”

International aid agencies have focused on Maiduguri’s overstretched camps, but more than 80% of displaced people in the city, around 1.9 million people, are living among the community, the vast majority without access to food aid or medical support.

The most desperate crisis is unfolding outside Maiduguri, where aid agencies fear hundreds of thousands of people are trapped, cut off by Boko Haram and the military operation against them. As the Nigerian army clears more of these areas, the true scale of the crisis is only just becoming clear; those who have escaped tell of watching children die from hunger and being prevented from calling for help.

Mouniaman said: “We’re talking about areas in which 39% of children have severe acute malnutrition. This is a really, really dramatic situation. In my whole MSF career – since 1999 – I’ve never seen anything like it.”

In June, a humanitarian convoy reached Bama, Borno state’s second largest city. It was recaptured by the Nigerian army in March 2015, but the 37-mile journey (60km) from Maiduguri is still considered too dangerous to make without military escort because of Boko Haram attacks and landmines.

They found Bama destroyed and a camp of about 30,000 people, mostly women and children. Many were starving. MSF found the graves of 1,233 who had died in the camp, 480 of whom were children. More than 3,000 severely malnourished people were evacuated by the state governor to Maiduguri for emergency treatment. Several died en route.

The Guardian was refused entry to Bama by the Nigerian military on security grounds. But Maj Gen Leo Irabor, who leads the military operation against Boko Haram in the region, said hunger in the Bama camp was “relative”.

“Very largely I think their needs are being met,” Irabor said.

Several people evacuated to Maiduguri agreed to speak to the Guardian on condition of anonymity. One man, a civil servant, said he had seen people die every day in the camp as a result of hunger and poor sanitation.

Food rations were delivered once a day by civilian militia and distributed by local community heads. This was often raw rice, which there was no means to cook. Complaints about hunger and deaths were ignored.

“How many times we cried out or we complained … But when we were in Banki, the army confiscated all our mobile phones. If the army saw you making a telephone call, wow would they give you a beating,” he said.

Humanitarian agencies are still struggling to get an idea of the scale of need in tens of towns they have not been able to reach. In Mondugo last week, MSF estimated 100,000 displaced people were in need of assistance; this week, their revised estimate was 200,000. There is even less information about large communities in Dikwa, Konduga, Gwoza and Kale/Balge, where the situation is thought to be even worse than in Bama.

Grema Terab, chairman of the State Emergency Management Agency (Sema) in Borno – the body leading the state’s humanitarian response – until early March 2015, believes the crisis is the result of “total neglect and carelessness on the part of the government”. He said the government was aware of the extent of the hunger, but failed to deliver a plan to tackle it and attempted to prevent media coverage of the issue for fear of embarrassment.

“The government chose to conceal the issue of IDPs [internally displaced people] because they were afraid of indictment. There has been a lot of long-term neglect and a refusal to act upon the plight of the IDPs and this is why starvation is occurring in most of the camps,” he said.

“The IDPs are kept under lock and key because they don’t want them to communicate with the outside world.”

The current Sema chairman, Satomi Saleh, told the Guardian these allegations were “blackened lies and political connivances”. He said Sema, alongside the National Emergency Management Agency, has reached 150,000 people in the camps in Maiduguri with food assistance, but admitted the crisis has now exceeded Nigeria’s ability to respond alone.

A nutritional emergency has been declared in Borno state, where the governor, Kashim Shettima, is now working closely with UN agencies. The WFP was invited into Nigeria by the government in March to assist the relief effort. They are rapidly scaling up their operation and now hope to reach more than 700,000 with food aid by December.

“I don’t think anyone was quick enough to understand how serious the situation was. We can criticise each other, but the main point is … what are we going to do to make sure this situation doesn’t deteriorate,” Lanzer told the Guardian.

“We can make every plan on earth ... [but] if we do not get resources from the donor community very little of that will actually happen.”