Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg visits Nigeria

Video - Niger Delta Avengers claim they have halted hostilities, and are ready for talks

The Niger Delta Avengers say they've halted hostilities in southern Nigeria.The group's statement comes just over a week after militants announced that they were ready for a ceasefire and agreed to talks with the Nigerian government. The region -- which produces most of the oil that makes up 70% of government revenue -- has been hit by pipeline attacks since January. Output has dropped by 700,000 barrels a day to 1.56 M bpd. Nigeria's military has recently launched a fresh offensive against militants in the Delta to crack down on criminal activities.

Militant group attack pipeline in Nigeria's Delta as Niger Delta Avengers suspend attacks

A militant group said on Tuesday it attacked a pipeline operated by a subsidiary of Nigeria's state oil company in the country's southern Delta region, just a day after the most prolific rebel group in the restive energy hub said it had halted hostilities.

OPEC member Nigeria has seen its oil output fall by around 700,000 barrels a day to 1.56 million bpd due to attacks on oil pipelines in the southern energy hub, home to much of the country's oil and gas wealth, since the start of the year.

The Niger Delta Greenland Justice Mandate said it attacked the Ogor-Oteri pipeline in Delta state, operated by Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) and Nigerian energy company Shoreline, at around 03:00 a.m. (0200 GMT) on Tuesday.

Niger Delta Avengers, the group that claimed responsibility for most attacks in the impoverished region where militants want a greater share of the country's oil wealth, said on Monday it had halted hostilities.

"The Niger Delta Greenland Justice Mandate remains underailed on its mission to getting justice for the people," said the group, previously unknown before an attack on Aug. 11.

The group also criticized other militants for participating in talks with the government. It said others had merely sought to "harass the Nigerian state and the oil multinationals into parting with money".

Community leader Lucky Sorue, chairman of the Urhobo committee on oil and gas, said locals heard an explosion and he visited the blast site early on Tuesday.

"When we visited the scene we saw that the pipeline was badly damaged and blown open with explosives," he said.

Garba Deen Muhammad, a spokesman for the state oil company NNPC, said the attack was being investigated.

Video - Nigerian economy is officially in recession

Nigeria has slipped into recession, with the latest growth figures showing the economy contracted by 2.06% between April and June.

The country has now seen two consecutive quarters of declining growth, the usual definition of recession.

Its vital oil industry has been hit by weaker global prices, according to the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

Crude oil sales account for 70% of government income.

The price of oil has fallen from highs of about $112 a barrel in 2014 to below $50 at the moment.

Outside the oil industry, the figures show the fall in the Nigerian currency, the naira, has hurt the economy. It was allowed to float freely in June to help kick-start the economy, but critics argued it should have been done earlier.

Nigeria, which vies with South Africa for the mantle of Africa's biggest economy, is also battling an inflation rate at an 11-year high of 17.1% in July.

"A lot of Nigeria's current predicament could have been avoided," said Kevin Daly from Aberdeen Asset Management.

"The country is so reliant on oil precisely because its leaders haven't diversified the economy.

"More recently, they have tried, and failed, to prop up the naira, which has had a ruinous effect on the country's foreign exchange reserves and any reputation it might have had of being fiscally responsible."

This economic recession comes as no surprise to millions of Nigerians. Many say they've never known it so tough.

The slump in global oil prices has hit Nigeria hard. The government depends on oil sales for about 70% of its revenues.

But critics say government policies made a bad situation even worse. The decision to delay devaluing Nigeria's currency meant many businesses struggled to get foreign currency to pay for imports, which had a cooling effect on the entire economy.

Following enormous pressure, the government changed tack this summer, allowing the naira to float.

That's led to a spike in inflation, but the hope is that it will attract foreign investors. The government also says the country needs to import less: it wants to see more products made in Nigeria.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Korean entertainment making it big in Nigeria

Over the years, there has been increased patronage of South Korean Movies and Muisc around the world and Nigeria is not left out. ANTHONY ADA ABRAHAM writes on the newly found love of Nigerians.

Call it epic or the social movies; South Korea is one country that takes priority in the export of its culture to the world. And they do that with support from the government and the people. Some of the biggest entertainment companies like SM (Town) Entertainment sponsors lots of educational movies which are exported all over the world and Nigeria in particular.

A visit to South Korea shows how lovely and creative the nation is and how they place priority to youth development, especially in the area of entertainment. Lots of Korean youths are crazy about entertainment, just like their Nigerian counterparts. That was why during the last K-Pop dance competition held in Abuja, the South Korean Ambassador to Nigeria, Noh Kyu-Duk stated that Nigeria and Korea have similar culture specifically pointing to the youths who he said are the strength of both nations. He also emphasized that the love for entertainment is what has contributed in spreading the growth of its nation.

Also In an exclusive interview with a top Korean movie director, Kim Hak-soon, in Seoul, South Korea, whose movie, Northern Limit, debuted at No.1 in the South Korean Box Office, he revealed that Korean movie industry cannot be compared to when he started off.

According to him, he started developing interest in the movie industry back in 1985 and since then, there has been lots of growth and development in the industry. He explained that young talents in the industry just try to establish new system. Since then, they have continued to witness dramatic and astonishing changes; changes that have seen Korean movies being awarded in the international film festivals.

"We are having the Korean blockbuster which means we have like more than 10 million audiences which is a great number compared to the total population of our country. Prior to then, not everybody loved Korean movies, but after these kinds of changes, more people try to watch the Korean movies because they found them interesting and very funny. These days, more than 50 per cent of our viewers try to choose Korean movies because they are getting to love the scripts. Behind these changes, there have been huge investments because between the 1980-1990s, we didn't know how many people were watching the movies, so the Korean Movie promotional committee did a computing system which helped to show how many people were watching a particular movie and based on that number, the investment companies started making huge investment to see how the movies could be successful and at the same time, profitable." He explained while adding that "I think all these things culminated into a huge stepping stone for the success of the movie industry. So the investment from the large companies has played a key role. Back then, there was just a movie theatre standing alone but now, we have adopted multiplex system, which means a cinema has different screens so people could choose whatever they like. These two things have changed the scene of the entire Korean movie industry. I told you that the Korean people started loving the movies because the script had changed, the story is no more in clichés, the stories and scenarios about a movie are very attractive and also the movie shooting technology has developed a lot. Very speedy and sophisticated technologies just like the one Hollywood are adapting are now being used and these things have played a great role." He pointed out.

Movies like Jewel In The Palace, Hi! School: Love, Empress Ki, Dung Yi, Jumong, The Admiral,vHow To Steal A Dog, Cyrano Dating Agency, A Case Of Itaewon Homicide, Meet The Inlwas, Big Bang, Narrow Ultimate Weapon, The Tabloid Truth, Diffractive K: Secret Of The Lost Island, Flower In Prison, Royal Gambler, Jewel In The Palace and many others has caught the attention of many fans in Nigeria.

Olalekan Kadir is an ardent fan of Korean entertainment. In an interview with him during one of the movie screening in Abuja, he said his love for the Korean entertainment dated back when he started watching Korean series like Jumong. 'I am always keen on watching these movies because the scripts are well written. I'm watching one now titled Empress Ki and I am always glued to it because it is very interesting and the suspense is amazing,' he said.

Some of the top entertainment companies in Korea responsible for churning out these great actors and movies.

SM Entertainment: operates as a record label, talent agency, travel agency, film Production Company, music Production Company, event management and concert production firm as well as a music publishing house. They are the #1 K-Pop Entertainment Company in Korea based on sales as well as talent.

YG Entertainment: operates as a record label, talent agency, fashion clothing line, cosmetics firm, event management and concert production company, music production company, and music publishing house. As far as running a business, YG is considered the best in the business.

JYP Entertainment: Operates as a record label, talent agency, music Production Company, event management and concert Production Company as well as a music publishing house. They have offices in outside of Korea, for example they have headquarters in New York and Beijing. In 2009 they launched Wonder Girls who became international sensations.

FNC Entertainment: Started off as just a company that managed musicians. However in 2012 they have broadened their business field and currently they operate as a record label, music production company, talent agency, and music distribution company. They also manage actors and actresses for film and television. They manage the most famous variety show comedian named Yoo Jae Suk.

Starship Entertainment: Operates as a record music label. The label was founded in 2013 and is by far the youngest Entertainment in Korea which goes to show how successful they have become in such a short time.

By Anthony Ada Abraham


Video - U2 frontman Bono visits displaced people of Nigeria with Aliko Dangote

Bono and Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, visited a camp of 2.3 million displaced people in Borno State, in Nigeria’s northeast region over the weekend.

The governor of Borno state, Kashim Shettima, accompanied Dangote and the Irish rock star on the trip.

On Monday, Bono and Dangote met with Nigeria’s Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo at the Presidential Villa to explore the possibilities of a global partnership to address the humanitarian crisis in North-eastern part of the country through international advocacy.

In the past, Dangote has made a number of donations to refugee camps in Borno, which is the state that has been hardest hit by the Boko Haram insurgency. In May, he announced a $10 million donation to the IDPs. He also sent more than 100 trucks of food items that were distributed to the camps during the Ramadan festivities.

Humanitarian agencies have repeatedly called on the Nigerian government to address the plight of the victims of the Boko Haram attacks.

Niger Delta Avengers suspend attacks

A militant group in the Niger Delta has said it has ceased operations and is ready to open a dialogue with the government, despite the Nigerian military reportedly launching an offensive in the region over the weekend.

The Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), which began its attacks in February, has cut Nigeria’s oil production by hundreds of thousands of barrels per day (bpd) in 2016. In a statement issued on Monday, the group called on Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari to listen to the concerns of the people of the Niger Delta.

“We have listened carefully and halted hostilities in the Niger Delta; we expect a genuine and positive attitude to restructuring and self-determination for every component unit of Nigeria,” said the statement.

During a visit to Kenya over the weekend, President Buhari said that the federal government was open to discussions helping resolve the issue of militancy in the Niger Delta, which accounts for the majority of Nigeria’s oil production. But Buhari said he was doubtful that the militants had announced a ceasefire, according to his spokesman Garba Shehu, who stated. “We are trying to understand them more, who are their leaders and which areas do they operate [in] and other relevant issues.”

The Nigerian president is also reported to have threatened militant groups in the Delta that they will be dealt with in the same manner as Boko Haram if they refuse a dialogue with the government, according to Nigeria’s Premium Times. Nigeria and neighboring countries in West Africa have conducted an extensive military operation against the Islamist militant group, which has seen Boko Haram lose much of its territory inside Nigeria.

Nigeria’s military said on Saturday that it had launched a fresh operation in the region, killing five militants and arresting 23. The operation was aimed at “getting rid of all forms of criminal activities,” according to Nigerian Army spokesman Sani Usman, Reuters reported. There was no immediate response from the militant groups.

The Niger Delta has seen several uprisings— including in the mid-2000s by a group called the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND)—by groups demanding a greater share of Nigeria’s oil wealth for the impoverished region. MEND has said previously that it is assisting the government in negotiating an end to the current crisis.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Video - Cultural festivities return to Nigeria

Music and dance are making a comeback in the northern Nigerian state of Borno.

Last year, Boko Haram was in control of several areas of Borno and had banned all types of celebrations, among many other things.

But with the gradual return of peace in parts of the state, traditional and local authorities are pushing for a cultural revival.

Video - Nigeria seeks growth in non-oil sectors for economic sustainability

Africa's top economies will be closely watching the G20 summit. Nigeria has embarked on an economic diversification programme designed to raise revenue from non-oil sectors. The latest figures from the country's Economic Policy and Research Centre show growth has slowed from 7 percent to 4 percent this year.

Video - Nigeria Olympic coach Samson Siasia quits

The Olympic -bronze winning Nigerian football coach Samson Siasia, has resigned his post, just a week after leading Nigeria to the Rio Olympics third place. The celebrated coach, also a winner with Nigeria's under 23 side, says he has left his position over what he describe as a disrespectful system. Siasia claims he has not been paid for five months by the Nigeria Football Federation. The veteran coach also led Nigeria to a silver medal in 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Video - Nigerian activists demand action from government

Protesters from the Bring Back Our Girls campaign are increasing pressure on the Nigerian government to rescue the girls. Campaigners in Abuja have marched to the Presidential villa in the capital. They're demanding the government do more, accusing authorities of being lax in their efforts to rescue the girls from Boko Haram. More than two hundred young women were kidnapped from their school in Chibok more than two years ago. Earlier this month, Boko Haram released a video supposedly showing some of the girls. Some protesters say the government should have at least issued a statement in response to the video.

Video - UNICEF warns hundreds of thousands of children at risk in Nigeria

UNICEF has warned almost 50-thousand children are likely to die in Nigeria this year from malnutrition. The shocking new figures also show that half a million children are at risk in the drought- and militant-impacted north-east of the country.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Video - U.S. pledges more military aid to help fight Boko Haram

The fight against Boko Haram has topped the agenda in talks between Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari and US Secretary of State John Kerry. They met on Tuesday at Buhari's residence in Abuja.

Video - Nigeria's Ogun state turns to industrialization and agriculture

Falling global crude oil prices and a depreciating currency have devastated the Nigerian economy. It recently slipped into a recession and economists predict that it could get worse in the coming months. It's prompted the government to look into diversifying the economy.

Nigeria's first light rail ready for inauguration

The multi-billion Naira Calabar Light rail project, the first in Nigeria, would soon be inaugurated by President Muhammadu Buhari.

The 12-car monorail system, when fully operational, would use an Intamin P8 electric powered passenger shuttle train to convey passengers from Tinapa Resort, across Lake Tinapa to Calabar International Conference Centre (CICC).

The monorail would also allow access to Studio Tinapa, Tinapa Shopping Centre and Tinapa waterpark as well as provide a quick alternative access to Summit Hills.

Each car is primed for seven to eight passengers all seated, while the train’s length, width and height are approximately 38, 1.95 and 2.2 metres, respectively.

Gov. Ben Ayade had recently told journalists in Calabar that Buhari would inaugurate the train to mark his first year in office.

Mr Mba Mba, the station’s Electrical Engineer, said the light rail project was completed in December last year.

“Right now, the Calabar Monorail is ready for use pending inauguration by appropriate authorities.

“We have test-run the system and confirmed its readiness. Gov. Ben Ayade was here with his team to see for himself what is on ground.

“Tourists troop here on daily basis to take a ride. But they were disappointed as they were turned back.

The light rail project has three stations, Tinapa, Tinapa Lakeside Hotel and the Calabar International Conference Centre.

Nigerian banks are being barred from forex trading

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has suspended nine banks in the country from the inter-bank foreign exchange market due to a failure to remit government income to the government’s coffers, according to reports. The affected banks collectively failed to remit a total of $2.3 billion in deposits belonging to the national oil and gas firms.

Over the past year, under president Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, Nigeria’s apex bank has taken a tougher stance on having banks remit government revenue, imposing strict deadlines and a new remitting system. While government agencies and ministries previously maintained multiple accounts at local banks, president Buhari instituted a Treasury Single Account (TSA) to ensure that all government funds were pooled. This was to instill more accountability in monitoring government revenue and to eliminate opacity in government.

In addition to the ban, the affected banks may also be fined. But the banks have blamed the inability to remit the funds on the scarcity of dollars in Nigeria for most of the past year. That scarcity has remained despite a recent full currency float. In a bid to avoid a sharp currency slide following the drop in oil prices and its revenues, the government chose to adopt a fixed exchange rate but with the problem of the supply of foreign exchange unsolved, increased demand drove up the the value of the currency on the parallel market. Despite calls for devaluation, the central bank, towing the official position of the presidency, maintained the policy. Rather than result in growth, as promised, the policy scared off investors, resulted in major fuel shortages and adversely impacted the economy. The full float has not assuaged the situation either as it is yet to result in tangible growth and inflow of investment.

Given the situation, Mike Omeife, spokesman of Diamond Bank, one of those affected, told Bloomberg “banks expected the CBN would have allowed them to pay in naira instead of dollars”. The ban is expected to be lifted after the government’s funds are remitted but until then, the banks will not be able to operate the inter-bank market. Late on Wednesday CBN said United Bank of Africa had refunded money owed to the treasury account and would be readmitted to the forex trading market the next day (Aug. 25).

95% of medical laboratories in Nigeria operated by quacks

The Medical Laboratory Science Council of Nigeria, MLSCN, has said that about 95 per cent of the medical laboratories in some hospitals in Nigeria, as well as private medical laboratories that are scattered throughout Nigeria are manned by quacks and unqualified medical laboratory scientists.

This was disclosed by the Acting Registrar and Chief Executive Officer, CEO, of Medical Laboratory Science Council of Nigeria, Mr. Tosan Erhabor at the 18th Annual Conference and Annual General Meeting, AGM, of the Guild of Medical Laboratory Directors of Nigeria, GMLDN, held at Emmaus House, Awka, Anambra State ,yesterday. He said: “MLSCN was determined to engender confidence in laboratory results, and is therefore, seeking the co-operation of GMLDN in its efforts to rid the medical laboratory science profession of quackery and illegal practice. 

Advocacy meetings had been mounted across the country. “The Council EQA programme first set of samples from participatory laboratories has been received and analyzed, medical laboratories that were yet to key into the scheme to do so. 

The management and stakeholders have completed the protocol for assessment of laboratories as a way of objective assessment geared towards global best practices”. He described the theme of the conference “Medical Laboratory Automation in a Challenging Economy”, as apt given the “technical recession” the nation’s economy is experiencing presently, adding that medical laboratory automation is the use of clinical laboratory instruments to assay large numbers of samples with minimal human intervention”. 

He said that the major obstacle to the implementation of automation in medical laboratories had been its high cost which has prevented laboratory scientists in a challenged economy like ours to adopt, but nevertheless, advocated the use of simple and low cost automated devices like robotic arms or 3D printers which he said can also perform tasks done by large automations, adding that “in a challenging economy like ours, bench top automation is recommended”. “It consists of machines of reduced size compared to large automation units found in resource –rich laboratories. 

Bench top automation is often flexible and can deal with many different tasks. It is an attractive solution for many laboratories bearing in mind that majority of laboratories in a challenging economy do not need employment of full scale automation”, he said. National President of GMLDN Dr Fabian Chukwuezi in his speech said “GMLDN was faced by many challenges that were borne by principal officers with their own personal resources leading to some leaving the stage, but the present National Executive Committee has been consistent and have continued to contribute to series of achievements, especially to the call by the National assembly for public opinion on various challenging health issues”. 

Chairman Anambra State, branch of GMLDN, Dr. Uche Ngenegbo said the state government has now moved to ensure that all the laboratories in the states hospitals are certified.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Video - Plans underway to ramp up power generation in Nigeria

Nigeria's Electricity Transmission Company says it is planning to invest up to 7.5 billion dollars to revamp its ailing power sector. The five year plan aims at increasing Nigeria's power generation capacity to 11,500 megawatts from 5,500 megawatts.

Video - Nigerian army claims it has killed hundreds of militants

The army's claiming massive gains against Boko Haram militants. It says airstrikes killed hundreds of militants, and that Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau has likely been wounded. That's according to the airforce chief of staff. The strikes took place in Sambisa forest, where Boko Haram has been holed up. The army has in the past claimed its killed Shekau, but he's known for his videos refuting those claims.

Nigerian Roye Okupe creating an African comic-book universe

Roye Okupe didn’t read comic books growing up in Lagos, Nigeria. Comic book shops weren’t around. Instead, Okupe was introduced to superheroes through Saturday morning cartoons such as “Transformers” and “X-Men.”

So when he set out to create his own Nigerian superhero, he thought animation was the way to go. That idea led Okupe on a journey that culminated in him debuting a new universe of African superheroes. Just not in the way he originally planned.

Okupe, now 31, arrived in the United States in 2002, attending George Washington University and earning a bachelors and master’s degree in computer science in 2007 and 2009. In between those degrees he took a class in animation at the Art Institute of Washington. After college, while working as a web developer for International Software Systems in Greenbelt, Maryland, Okupe was able to put together an eight-minute animated trailer featuring his first superhero creation, Wale Williams, a young, 20-something Nigerian who suits up in high tech armor to become the African superhero E.X.O. (Endogenic Xoskeletal Ordinance).

Okupe shopped his trailer to distributors, television networks and investors for a year and got nowhere. One movie producer even told him that E.X.O. looked interesting, but he should think about changing the race of the character.

“That was a down period for me. I really had to dig into believing in myself that I could actually get this done,” Okupe told The Washington Post’s Comic Riffs. “Hearing that from someone who was in the [entertainment] industry, I almost took it for the gospel. But if you have a dream, it’s your responsibility to make it happen and then people will join the bandwagon once you start to get some recognition.”

Okupe decided to take inspiration from another superhero medium: live-action movies. He was impressed with Marvel’s ability to satisfy both hardcore fans and the general public alike with its movies. But Okupe concentrated on the format so many movie superheroes originally came from: comic books.

Comics were much more affordable to produce. Okupe had never written a comic before, so he ruled out trying to take his ideas to mainstream comic companies. And when he didn’t hear back from “lower-tier” publishers, he decided to produce E.X.O. independently.

So in the summer of 2014, he cashed out his 401k, resigned from his job and founded YouNeek Studios, the company which he would use to debut his first comic book, “E.X.O. The Legend of Wale Williams.”

“It’s a very big change and a particularly scary one,” Okupe said of the moment he quit his job. “But I knew that to make the impact that I want to make in the comic book industry, I couldn’t do it with a nine to five.

“I was working as web developer and making good money. But this has always been a dream of mine and I always tell people if you have a dream, no one’s going to make it happen for you.”

Okupe recruited four artists in Nigeria to help him produce his first E.X.O. comic. Ayodele Elegba would edit his writing. Sunkanmi Akinboye would be his interior pages artist. Raphael Kazeem worked on coloring and Godwin Akpan did cover art. Not counting the two times a year he returns home to Nigeria, Okupe does all his communicating with his art team from his apartment in Rockville, Maryland. It was important for him to have a team that could capture the cultural essence of his homeland, as E.X.O.’s fictional city of Lagoon City takes inspiration from Lagos.

“[The artists] are there on a day to day basis. They can feel the vibe,” Okupe said. “I wanted people that were close to home but I also really wanted to prove that Nigerian/African artists as a whole can do stuff that’s comparable to what you would see in Marvel or DC and I think I’ve been able to accomplish that.”

Marvel of course, is home to perhaps the most famous African superhero of all, The Black Panther, who is a king ruling over a fictional African paradise (Wakanda). Okupe’s tales are also fictional but he aims for a more authentic African feel. The book’s characters use Nigerian colloquialisms (translated in captions), traditional clothing and the country’s monuments.

“The country of Nigeria and the continent as a whole, you always see war, famine, terrorism — we touch on those points,” Okupe said. “But I try to pump up as much positivity as I can, because I feel that’s lacking when it comes to Nigeria and Africa as a whole in the mainstream.”

The first E.X.O. comic debuted on Aug. 31, 2015, and a second will arrive Wednesday. Instead of publishing monthly like many comics, YouNeek Studios produces chapters as graphic novels, a format Okupe hopes gives potential new readers an easy jumping-on point without having to worry about catching up on back issues. In the future, Okupe hopes YouNeek Studios will publish two graphic novels a year.

Okupe worked with printing company Print Ninja to get his comics printed and into select comic book shops, but they can also be purchased digitally via the YouNeek Studios website, ComiXology, Amazon and Apple Books.

Okupe used personal savings and family support to fund YouNeek Studios. Two successful kickstarter campaigns, which Okupe promoted via blogs and social media, helped cover the cost of printing. He puts “every dime” he makes from the comics back into YouNeek Studios and supports himself via freelance web design work.

“I haven’t been kicked out of my apartment yet,” Okupe joked. “So I guess I’m doing something right.”

Okupe is now ready to focus on expanding his YouNeek universe with new characters, including Fury, a female character introduced in the E.X.O. books, Malika, a warrior queen based in pre-colonial Africa, and Windmaker, a hero who the ability to control the wind.

Creating superheroes is a thrill, but Okupe is most proud of the self-built, diverse fanbase that he hopes will stick around for more adventures.

“I’m having people in South America buy my books. People in Europe and Asia buy my books,” Okupe said. “So it’s not just African or African-Americans, it’s pretty much anybody who is interested in a great story.”

Japanese surgeon says Nigeria olympic football team would have received $390K reward even if they lost

The Japanese surgeon who gifted the Nigerian Olympic football team nearly $400,000 said they would have received the money even if they didn't win a medal.

Katsuya Takasu said he was so taken with the spirit of the Nigerian side that he planned to give each player $10,000 even if they failed to win a medal in Rio.

He told CNN: "I didn't tell anybody. I didn't want to diminish the morale and I told them you have to win."

Takasu said he wept after Nigeria won the bronze match against Honduras in Mineirão on Saturday.

"Although it was a close game all the way till the end. I was so happy and cried for their winning. Japanese are sentimental," he told CNN with a laugh.

The plastic surgeon said he was impressed by their resilience after they emerged victorious in the Olympic football group stage, despite being stranded at the airport in Atlanta due to inadequate transport preparations.

They arrived in Rio just seven hours before their opening match against Japan-- which they won 5-4.

After the players received their medals last week, Takasu presented two checks amounting to $390,000 to their coach and captain, Samson Siasia and Mikel John Obi.

"I've always wanted to help people who are bravely trying their best without any support," Takasu said.

Takasu took to Twitter to promise he would reward the team after hearing about their payment woes. Nigeria's coach Siaisia was owed five months salary and the players threatened not take part in the quarterfinals after wrangles over allowances payments.

He declared his support for the team and promised to give them $200,000 plus an additional $30,000 bonus to each player if they won gold.

The surgeon who has been president of Japan Society of liposuction surgery since 1987 is known for his philanthropic acts.

In 1995 when Japan experienced the Great Hanshin earthquake, which killed more than 6,000 people and injured thousands more, Takasu created a volunteer group of surgeons to carry out plastic and reconstructive treatment to the earthquake victims for free.

But the payment has not been without controversy, some players accused the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) of hijacking the money awarding process and demanded that the money should go directly to team members.

The NFF president Amaju Pinnick took to Twitter to deny the allegations saying the money had to go through "integrity checks" before it could be released.

He said: "Nigeria is a sovereign nation and such a donation must go through a process. If we get the go-ahead, it will go directly to the team, to say NFF has 'hijacked' the money is outright mischief.

"The checks must be concluded and we are given go-ahead to collect by government. Nobody has collected any money.

"We have duly informed the Minister and integrity checks are on presently," he added.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Video - U.S. Secretary of State to hold talks with President Buhari

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to arrive in Nigeria today on the second leg of his African trip. Kerry has already met with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and several regional foreign ministers in Nairobi. They've discussed the instability in South Sudan and al-Qaeda-led terrorism in East Africa.

Air strike kills Boko Haram commanders

Nigeria's army says it has killed several commanders of the Islamist group Boko Haram in an air strike and seriously wounded its disputed leader.

An army spokesman told the BBC's Hausa service that Abubakar Shekau's shoulder was badly injured in the strike on Friday in north-eastern Borno state.

There has been no independent confirmation of the strike.

Claims by the army that it has killed Shekau have turned out to be false on at least five previous occasions.

The reports should therefore be treated with caution, says the BBC's Africa Security correspondent Tomi Oladipo.

Boko Haram is fighting to overthrow Nigeria's government and establish an Islamic State in the north.

An army spokesman said warplanes struck as the militants met for Friday prayers last week at a village deep within the Sambisa forest in Borno State.

The army's announcement coincided with the arrival of US Secretary of State John Kerry in Nigeria on a two-day visit.

Speaking in the northern city of Sokoto, Mr Kerry urged Nigeria to address the root causes of the Boko Haram insurgency.

"Building public trust in government also requires cooperation from the military and law enforcement. Extremism can't be defeated through repression or fear," Reuters news agency quotes him as saying.

The Sambisa forest, which covers a vast area, is thought to be one of the places where the more than 200 abducted Chibok schoolgirls are being held by the group.

A split in Boko Haram emerged earlier this month, when the Islamic State group, to which Shekau had pledged allegiance in 2015, said he had been replaced as leader by Abu Musab al-Barnawi.

Al-Barnawi is reported to be the son of the group's founding leader, Mohammed Yusuf, who was killed in police custody in 2009.

In the last 18 months Boko Haram has lost most of the territory it had controlled after being pushed back in an offensive by the forces of Nigeria and its neighbours.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Video - Boko Haram militants kill at least 10, abduct 13 near Chibok

In Nigeria, Boko Haram militants have reportedly killed at least 10 people and abducted 13 others in a raid on a village near the north-eastern town of Chibok. Locals say armed men on motorcycles invaded Kubrrivu at dawn on Saturday, attacking residents as they were sleeping. They looted food supplies and set several homes alight before fleeing with 13 women and children. A community elder in Chibok, some 20 kilometres away, confirmed the attack. It's the second time Boko Haram has raided Kubrrivu in the past two years.

Video - Former militant group calls for Avengers to be denounced

Nigeria's Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta --or MEND -- has spoken out against the resolution reached by Niger Delta stakeholders. Efforts are under way to end militants' vandalism of the oil infrastructure in the region. Militant groups, including the Niger Delta Avengers, are calling for a more equal share of the oil wealth among local communities. MEND is angry as the Niger Delta stakeholders have failed to denounce the Avengers' activities. The group is preparing to tour the region to solicit support for President Muhammadu Buhari's administration.

Niger Delta Avengers announce ceasefire

The Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), known for its attacks on Nigeria’s oil installations, has announced a ceasefire, saying it will support the notion of holding talks with the government in Abuja.

The group said in a message on its website late Saturday that it would support efforts to negotiate with “the federal government of Nigeria, representatives from the home countries of all multinational oil corporations and neutral international mediators.”

It said NDA would “observe a cessation of hostilities” and will honor its pledge “unless the ruling political APC (All Progressives Congress party) continues ... to arrest, intimidate, invade and harass innocent citizens and invade especially Ijaw communities.”

The Ijaw ethnic people are the dominant militant group in the southern Niger Delta region. They have vowed to resume fighting if the current window for talks expires and the government fails to address their demands.

“We promise to fight more for the Niger Delta, if this opportunity fails,” the NDA said in its message.

Attacks on Nigeria’s oil pipeline and facilities have left a devastating impact on the African country’s economy. Reports say Abuja has lost a third of its oil income as a result of the militancy affecting its oil facilities.

The government blamed two such attacks on Friday on the DNA while a second group, identifying itself as the Niger Delta Greenland Justice Mandate (NDGJM), carried out another attack on the state-owned pipeline on the same day.

The DNA has yet to comment on reports that it has been holding talks with government representatives in Abuja over the past weeks. The group has also refused to publicly support efforts by community figures from the Niger Delta region to resolve the conflict. 

Sun International to exit Nigeria

Sun International Ltd. plans to exit Nigeria after the South African casino and hotel operator’s earnings in the country plunged amid a weakening economy and a dispute involving the company’s local partners.

Sun International bought 49 percent of the Nigerian Stock Exchange-listed Tourist Company of Nigeria 10 years ago, giving it part-ownership of the Federal Palace hotel in Lagos, one of the main hotels used by businessmen traveling to the commercial capital. Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization at the Nigerian operations fell 58 percent in the 12 months through June, Sun said in a statement on Monday. Occupancy rates at the property fell to 42 percent.

“The Federal Palace continues to operate in a difficult environment with the Nigerian economy facing a number of crises including the low oil price,” the Johannesburg-based company said in the statement. The Islamist insurgency led by the Boko Haram group and a weakening naira also hurt trading, while an “ongoing shareholder dispute has frustrated all attempts to develop and improve the property,” the company said.

Other South African companies to have left Nigeria include retailers Woolworths Holdings Ltd. and Truworths International Ltd., citing tough regulation and rising costs. Johannesburg-based MTN Group Ltd., Africa’s biggest mobile-phone provider, agreed to pay a 330 billion naira ($957 million) regulatory fine in the country earlier this year, leading to its first-ever half-year loss.

Sun has been drawn into a “long-standing family dispute” between fellow shareholders in Nigeria, the company said earlier this year, after workers, including South African expatriates, were detained without charges by Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crime Commission. The employees have still not had their passports returned to them, while no charges have been laid against them or the company, Sun said on Monday.

The process of exiting Nigeria is likely to be “protracted,” as Sun seeks to ensure it receives fair value for the investment, the company said. The hotelier said in May it plans to sell minority interests in properties in countries including Zambia, Botswana and Namibia for 394 million rand ($29 million) to reduce debt.

The shares were 0.4 percent lower at 91.76 rand as of 2:02 p.m. in Johannesburg, valuing the company at 10 billion rand.

Sun, owner of the Sun City resort northwest of Johannesburg, said full-year diluted adjusted earnings per share excluding one-time items fell 20 percent to 6.28 rand, while sales gained 15 percent to 12.2 billion rand. The final dividend was cut to 1.35 rand a share from 1.75 rand the previous year.

Japanese plastic surgeon gives Nigeria’s Olympics football team $390,000 for coming third

After defeating Honduras in the third place match at the Olympics soccer event on Saturday (Aug. 20), Nigeria’s players ended up with bronze medals on their necks and thousands of dollars in their pockets—thanks to Katsuya Takasu, a Japanese plastic surgeon.

The grinning Takasu flew into Rio to rewarded the team with $390,000 for their bronze medal win at the Rio Games after being impressed by the team’s resilience despite the haphazard planning and poor conditions before and during the Games.

After the Nigerian team was left stranded in Atlanta, USA, ahead of the Games because their flights had not been paid for, their plight made headlines. Eventually, the team landed in Rio just seven hours ahead of their first game, against Japan. But despite the less than ideal circumstances, the team served up an impressive performance to beat the Japan and eventually finished top of their group. But the money troubles didn’t end there. Hours before the quarterfinal match against Denmark, Nigeria’s players threatened to boycott the game in protest over unpaid allowances. After reading the team’s financial struggles, Takasu said he “felt the need to make a big contribution.

Takasu donated $200,000 to the team to “cover bonuses and allowances” and also donated $10,000 to all members of the 18-man team as well as the team manager for winning bronze. Takasu flew to Rio to personally deliver cheques to the team.

“I had traveled from Tokyo prepared to reward them anyway, and to watch them win the bronze inside the stadium was very fulfilling,” he told BBC.

“This team showed resilience and fought the hardest to achieve success despite all their problems. Some people would have given up but they didn’t,” Takasu is reported to have said.

Takasu’s donation was briefly the subject of corruption allegations as officials of the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) were forced to deny reports that they planned to make Takasu give the money to the federation rather than to the players. “To say NFF has ‘hijacked’ the money is outright mischief,” Amaju Pinnick, NFF president, said. “Nigeria is a sovereign nation and such a donation must go through a process. If we get a go-ahead, it will go directly to the team.” Reports had suggested the NFF planned to use the donation to offset salaries of members of the coaching staff who have not been paid for the last five months.

Takasu’s gesture was a positive turn in an otherwise poor Olympics outing for Nigeria. Despite lofty targets set by the country’s sports minister, the bronze medal won by the soccer team was the only medal recorded by the entire Olympics contingent.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Video - Nigeria Quadri is first African to reach table tennis quarters

African athletes are making their mark at these Games, especially on the track. There have already been newly-minted world records thanks to Ethiopia's Almaz Ayana and South Africa's Wayde van Niekerk. But not all performances are about gold medals or world records. Some athletes like Aruna Quadri are making history by breaking new ground.

Militant group Niger Delta Avengers want to break up Nigeria

The Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) have again threatened to withdraw the oil-producing region from Nigeria.

The militant group, which has been blowing up oil pipelines since February, said that it hoped Nigeria would strike oil in the north of the country “so they can let the Niger Delta go,” accusing President Muhammadu Buhari of dividing the country.

“The Buhari-led government has failed Nigerians with their misdirected policies that have divided the country, as such [that] nobody wants to be part of that failed state, not even the Niger Delta,” said the NDA in a statement on Thursday.

The majority of Nigeria’s oil is concentrated in the Niger Delta, a region of southern swamplands. Militant groups including the NDA have periodically risen up and demanded a fairer share of the country’s oil wealth for impoverished communities in the Delta. The oil sector accounts for more than 90 percent of the value of Nigeria’s exports and 70 percent of government revenue.

Attacks by the NDA and other groups have slashed Nigeria’s oil production by several hundred thousand barrels per day (bpd) in 2016, and the Nigerian government has said it is negotiating a settlement with the militants. But the NDA have denied entering any negotiations and threatened secession from Nigeria.

“The October 1 declaration of independence is still sacrosanct. If the Nigerian government fails to retrace its steps by restructuring this country,” said the NDA. October 1 marks the anniversary of Nigeria’s independence from colonial Britain, which was achieved in 1960.

Elsewhere, ex-Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan has again denied any links with militant groups in the Niger Delta. Nigeria’s Premium Times reported on Thursday that the Nigerian Presidency had ordered a probe into alleged links between Jonathan and his wife Patience with the groups, including the NDA. A similar allegation had been made by a little-known militant group calling itself the Reformed Niger Delta Avengers earlier in August.

In a statement issued by his spokesman, Jonathan’s camp denied the report and said such allegations were the work of people with grievances against the former president. “There is no doubt that there exist such people who may have scores to settle with the former president,” said the statement, reported by Nigeria’s Pulse news site.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Video - Efforts ongoing to diversify economy in Nigeria

Nigeria's Vice President Yemi Osibanjo says his administration wants to encourage budget lawmakers to ramp up revenue through diversifying to non- oil sectors. The Naira has depreciated in recent months, deepening a black market in currency trading.

Freed Chibok schoolgirl misses Boko Haram militant

The first Nigerian schoolgirl from Chibok to be rescued from Boko Haram says she misses the father of her baby, a suspected Islamist militant.

In her first interview since being found with her baby in May, Amina Ali Nkeki told Reuters she also wanted to go home to Chibok, a town in the north.

She and her child are being held in the capital, Abuja, for what the government calls a restoration process.

More than 200 girls were kidnapped from a school in Chibok in April 2014.

The abduction led to the #BringBackOurGirls campaign, that was supported by US First Lady Michelle Obama and Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai.

The Boko Haram group has waged a violent insurgency for several years in north-eastern Nigeria in its quest for Islamic rule.

The 21-year-old said she was unhappy about being separated from Mr Hayatu, who was arrested after they were found.

"I want him to know that I am still thinking about him," she told Reuters. "Just because we got separated, that does not mean that I don't think about him."

During the interview she only lifted her gaze from the floor once to breastfeed her daughter when the baby was brought into the room, Reuters reports.

"I just want to go home - I don't know about school," she said. "I will decide about school when I get back."

Her mother, Binta Ali, told the BBC Hausa service earlier this week that her daughter wanted the government to give her a sewing machine so she could become a seamstress.

She said the man claiming to be her daughter's husband had said he was a mechanic from the town of Mubi before he was captured by Boko Haram - and that he had organised their escape.

Earlier her brother had told the BBC that because of an increase in air strikes Mr Hayatu was no longer willing to continue fighting and they had planned to leave together.

Ms Nkeki said she had not watched the video, released by Boko Haram on Sunday, which apparently shows recent footage of some the other missing Chibok girls.

"I think about them a lot - I would tell them to be hopeful and prayerful," she said. "In the same way God rescued me, he will also rescue them."

Germany defeats Nigeria to advance to olympic football final

In the second semifinal of the Olympic men’s soccer tournament, Germany bested Nigeria 2-0.

To start the match, Germany had the better run of play and found a goal early on to take the lead.

In the 8th minute, Maximilian Meyer sent in a cross that beat Nigerian goalkeeper Emmanuel Daniel and found Lukas Klostermann for a tap-in goal to put Germany up 1-0.

Germany nearly gave up its lead four minutes later as German goalkeeper Timo Horn mishit the ball, giving Nigeria’s Sadiq Umar a great look at the goal. However, Horn came up with a save.

In the 20th minute, Nigeria’s Daniel made a huge stop on a Lars Bender shot from point blank range to keep his side’s deficit at one.

It looked like Nigeria captain John Obi Mikel was going to equalize in the 31st minute as he made two defenders miss in the box, but his shot was blocked at the last minute by Matthais Ginter.

The teams went into halftime with Germany leading 1-0.

In the second half, there was little separating Germany and Nigeria.

In the 89th minute, Germany’s Davie Selke sent the ball toward the far post that Nils Petersen deflected into the back of the net to double his team’s lead. With the goal, Petersen ties teammate Serge Gnabry for the tournament lead in goals with six.

Germany maintained its lead through stoppage time as it earned a 2-0 victory.

Germany recorded 12 total shots, five on goal compared to Nigeria’s 12 total shots, two on goal.

Germany advances to the Gold Medal Match where it will face Brazil on Saturday, Aug. 20 at 4:30 p.m. ET. Nigeria will play Honduras in the Bronze Medal Match on Saturday, Aug. 20 at 12:00 p.m. ET.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Video - Chevron closes its doors in Nigeria as protests continue

US oil company Chevron has been forced to shutdown operations in Nigeria's oil rich niger delta region after protestors cut off Access to its storage facility. The protests have been going on for the last week at Chevron's Escravos oil storage tank farm.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Chibok parents identify their daughters in new Boko Haram video

The parents of two abducted Chibok girls have identified their daughter in a new video released by Boko Haram. While the footage shows the alleged bodies of some of the girls - these young women are shown alive. Its revived hopes that more of the kidnapped girls may still come home -- more than two years after they were snatched.

Brazil knocks Nigeria out of Olympic basketball

Nigeria’s D’Tigers on Monday crashed out of the ongoing Rio Olympics men basketball event, losing 69-86 to hosts Brazil.

The team showed some signs of exploit in the early minutes of the game but succumbed and never regained its focus from the second quarter of the game.

Alade Aminu, Ike Diogu, Uzoh Ben, Chamberlin Oguchi were all at their best as Nigeria dominated proceedings in the first quarter, having led 16-15.

The tide turned around in the second quarter when D’Tigers were forced to commit some fouls, leading to free throws which the Brazilians converted.

Brazilian point guard Raulzinho Neto, kept D’Tigers on check as the hosts made 18 turnovers against Nigeria’s 11 to rally to a 42-31 lead at the end of the second quarter.

D’Tigers came close to stealing the show in the third quarter but the combination of Chicago Bulls Felicio Cristiano and Houston Rockets forward Nene, ensured the Nigerians did not get more opportunities to shoot from the centre.

The third quarter, however, ended 59-52 in favour of the hosts.

The Brazilians continued their dominance and produced 10 steals against Nigeria’s three to end the last quarter 86-69.

The defeat ensured D’Tigers had no chance of progressing in the Olympics after raising the hopes of Nigerians with a stunning 90-76 win against Croatia.

The defeat of Croatia was Nigeria’s first win of the Olympics basketball event after a string of disappointing defeats to Argentina, Lithuania and Spain in their first, second and third games.

Parents of kidnapped Chibok girls react to new Boko Haram video showing their children

Esther Yakubu gazes longingly at the familiar grainy photograph of her daughter and sings a favorite tune as she thinks of her.

But two long years after Maida and more than 200 of her classmates were kidnapped by Boko Haram, another image is now foremost in her mind: that of the teenager at gunpoint, pleading for her freedom.

"Seeing my baby standing with a terror[ist] with ... ammunition around his neck is not easy for a mother," says Esther. "But I also give thanks to God almighty. They say most of the girls are dead but mine is alive."

Maida's captors used her as an unwilling spokeswoman in a new video showing some 50 of the Chibok girls -- alongside graphic, grisly video scenes showing the lifeless bodies of young women, taken in the aftermath of what the terror group says was a Nigerian airstrike.

Wearing a faded black abaya and patterned headscarf, the 18-year-old looks down as a camouflage-clad militant armed with a gun instructs her to speak.

In contrast to the screensaver on Esther's phone, which shows Maida as a bright 16-year-old in her Sunday best, her life stretching out before her, in the new footage there is no happy grin, and Maida's future is decidedly uncertain.

The parents say the girl in the Boko Haram video is their daughter.

Hesitantly, she explains who she is, and where she is from, before issuing a scripted plea for freedom.

Behind her, fellow hostages in floor-length robes watch, stone-faced, as she urges their parents to press the Nigerian government to free terrorist fighters in exchange for their release.

For Esther and her husband Yakubu Kabu the clip, released by Boko Haram on Sunday, is the first proof that Maida is alive since she was taken from her school in April 2014.

"When I saw that video, I am very sad because this is my baby standing there with someone holding a gun," says Yakubu. "All of us we start crying.

"I give God the glory that she's alive. This video gives us hope that our daughter can be rescued."

Maida, named after her aunt, grew up as one of five children (two boys and three girls) born to the couple, a driver and a local government worker.

A hardworking student, she was known as Dorcas at school (like many Nigerians, the family has both native and English names), and had been looking forward to her graduation; the photo on her mother's phone was taken for a calendar planned to mark the occasion.

Her family says she was keen to continue her education, and hoped to become a lecturer.

"I promised her that I will try my utmost best to say that she makes first and second degree," says Esther. "Unfortunately ... she has not graduated from secondary school. Not only that she's nowhere to be found."

A proud member of the choir in Chibok, she loved to sing, even while cooking, Esther says, breaking out into her daughter's favorite tune.

"I used to hear her sing [it] always," she says. "Anytime I want to recall her to my soul, I sing that song."

Esther Yakubu is furious at what she sees as a lack of action by successive Nigerian governments to secure the release of her daughter and the rest of the girls.

"The government has not done anything," she says. "When they attacked Chibok, the girls that escaped managed to escape themselves, by dropping ... down from the truck -- some girls even broke their legs.

"[They got] no aid from the government, no counseling. Nothing at all. Amina Ali that escaped [in May 2016], she managed to escape herself. It's unfair."

The Nigerian government has said it is still "in touch" with Boko Haram and "working for the girls' release," the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture said on its official Facebook page.

Esther Yabuku says the ongoing trauma of Maida's kidnap has had a lasting impact on her health: "My blood pressure has risen and it's not coming down."

At least 16 of the Chibok girls' parents have died while their daughters have been in captivity.

But the family says its unwavering Christian belief has kept it going through the darkest times.

They pray together every morning and every midnight that their daughter will make it home safely. The video, though disturbing, has given them fresh hope that Maida will soon be freed.

"I'm very, very happy," says Yakubu, having seen the video. "Because as long as she's alive, we will see her one day."

23 prison officers sacked after a number of jailbreaks

The board of Nigeria's Prisons Service is dismissing 23 officers from two prisons for allegedly colluding in jailbreaks.

Prisons Service spokesman Francis Enobore says the board also is suspending 11 officers while it investigates escapes from a third prison.

Jailbreaks are common in Nigeria, where prison guards are easily bribed. A new controller-general of prisons has promised to halt that.

Enobore said those dismissed include three senior officers at Kuje medium-security prison in Lagos, which houses many high-profile suspects in corruption cases being pursued by President Muhammadu Buhari's government. The jailbreak in June involved two men accused of kidnapping, raping and killing a woman.

In July, 13 inmates escaped from Koton Karfe prison in central Kogi state. Six have been hunted down and returned to prison.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Video - Nigeria’s new militant group threatens to blow up more pipelines

The Niger Delta Greenland Justice Mandate group has vowed to blow up more oil installations, if the government does not meet its demand for inclusion in negotiations with other militant groups. The new group has claimed responsibility for the latest attack on an oil pipeline in the region. It wants to be included in talks with the government.

Video - Nigeria advances in Basketball and Football at Olympics

Nigeria earned their first win at the 2016 Olympic Basketball Tournament by pulling off the biggest upset to date in the competition with a 90-76 defeat of Croatia. Nigeria trailed by seven after the first quarter, but led by14 after the third quarter and held on for the win in its fourth of five preliminary round games as the African champions improved to 1-3 to keep alive their hopes of advancing to the Quarter-Finals.

Sports ministry refunds Mikel $4,600

The Ministry of Youth and Sports has refunded to Captain John Obi Mikel the $4,600 he paid for the team in São Paulo on their way to Salvador, a press statement from Nigeria Football Federation media officer, Ademola Olajire, said.

Mikel was said to have spent the money on the welfare of the football team.

Excited about the qualification of the Nigeria U23 team for the semifinals of the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament Rio 2016, the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports has again assured players and officials of the team that they will be given all that is due to them.

Addressing the players and officials after the 2-0 defeat of Denmark in Saturday’s quarter final match in Salvador, the Sports Minister, Solomon Dalung, represented by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Chinyeaka Ohaa, said they are happy for the result.

I am happy to be a Nigerian, because in spite of all the challenges, you have taken the world by storm; you have by your performance given happiness to more than 160 million Nigerians. Football is the biggest unifying factor in Nigeria today. From Mr. President to the average Nigerian you have made everyone proud today.

"I am humbled by your efforts, your commitment, your patriotism. I want to assure you that your sacrifices will not be in vain. Aside whatever the NFF have for you, we will as much as possible make you happy, if only you will be patient with us. Today, with your performance, I am convinced that you will get that gold.”

Responding, Captain Mikel Obi said: "We want to thank you for your fatherly support. In truth, there have been a lot of challenges, but every time we go onto the field, we forget about everything and make sure our fatherland comes first. We have done that so far and we will continue to do that, but we need more motivation."

News24 reported that President Muhammadu Buhari on Saturday night praised the indomitable spirit of the Nigerian soccer team to the ongoing Rio Olympics, which saw them flying over Denmark 2-0 to qualify for the semi-finals.

Video - New video shows schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram

The mother of one of the Chibok girls kidnapped more than two years ago by Nigeria's Islamic extremists on Sunday saw the first proof her daughter is alive - a video of her begging Nigeria's government to exchange detained militants for the girls' freedom.

Chibok community leader Pogu Bitrus to The Associated Press the video was being watched at the weekly rally of the Bring Back Our Girls campaign at Unity Fountain in Abuja, the capital.

Some of the abducted Chibok schoolgirls have been killed by Nigerian military airstrikes, according to a new video from Boko Haram, which shows one kidnap victim pleading for authorities to bow to the extremists' demands that they release detained militants in return for the girls.

It's not clear how many schoolgirls have died among the 218 who remain missing.

The video posted Sunday on Twitter shows a young woman, covered in a hijab with just her face showing, who was one of the students abducted from a remote school in northeastern Nigeria in April 2014. She claims that some of her kidnapped classmates died in aerial bombardments by the Nigerian Air Force. She also said that 40 have been "married" to fighters.

The video shows a militant warning in the Hausa language that if President Muhammadu Buhari's government battles Boko Haram with firepower, the girls won't be seen again.

"Presently, some of the girls are crippled, some are terribly sick and some of them, as I had said, died during bombardment by the Nigerian military," the fighter says, appearing before a group of more than 40 young women in hijabs, some holding babies.

"If our members in detention are not freed, let the government and parents of the Chibok girls know that they will never find these girls again," he said.

The video, cited by the SITE Intelligence Group, was posted by Ahmad Salkida, a Nigerian journalist known to have good contacts in Boko Haram. Salkida says he was given the video by associates of Abubakar Shekau, who is in a leadership battle with a lieutenant named by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) as the new leader of what it calls its West Africa Province.

The mass abduction brought Boko Haram to the world's attention and even got the participation of U.S. first lady Michelle Obama in the #BringBackOurGirls social media campaign, promising her husband would do all in his power to help liberate them.

The government came under increased pressure from parents and Bring Back Our Girls campaigners after the May escape of one young woman, a proof of life that they said should encourage the military and government to redouble rescue efforts. The escapee said some of the girls had died but scores remained in captivity under heavy guard.

Sunday's video is another proof of life.

"The girl in the video spoke in the Chibok language and identified her mother by name. Her mother has now seen the video and identified her daughter," Chibok leader Pogu Bitrus told the AP.

The young woman in the video, probably speaking under duress, begs for help.

"Oh you, my people and our parents, you just have to please come to our rescue: We are suffering here, the aircraft have come to bombard us and killed many of us. Some are wounded. Every day we are in pains and suffering, so are our babies ... No one cares for us.

"Please go and beg the government of Nigeria to release the members of our abductors so that they too can free us to let us come home."

The video goes on to show bodies from an alleged air raid, including that of a girl whose eyes flicker open briefly.

Nigeria's Air Force has reported near-daily bombardments of Boko Haram camps and the military of increased ground assaults in which they have freed thousands of captives, though none of the Chibok girls.

Boko Haram has been forced out of most towns and has turned to assaulting remote villages and using suicide bombers to attack soft targets such as mosques and marketplaces.

More than 20,000 people have been killed in the 7-year-old Islamic uprising that has spread from Nigeria to neighboring countries and driven 2.2 million people from their homes.

Aid workers say there is a catastrophic humanitarian crisis in newly freed but still dangerous areas where half a million people are starving and babies dying daily. There has also been a resurgence of polio in areas that had been under Boko Haram's control.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Video - Controversy looms as Nigerian army mulls recruiting civilians

A plan to integrate members of a Civilian Joint Task Force into the Nigerian army has drawn sharp criticism from rights groups. Around 250 young people, primarily from the country's north-eastern Borno state, are being considered for recruitment in the battle against Boko Haram. However, critics say the move violates the Constitution.

Video - Militants reportedly blow up another oil pipeline in Nigeria

More woes for Nigeria's oil industry. Militants have reportedly blown up another crude pipeline in the Niger Delta. And protesters are still blocking the entrance to a Chevron oil depot in the southern region. The Niger Delta Avengers have claimed responsibility for the bulk of the attacks on pipelines. But on Wednesday a new group emerged -- the Delta Greenland Justice Mandate. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has come under increased pressure from militants in recent months. They're calling for the country's oil wealth to be shared more equally, to benefit communities in the Niger Delta.

South Africa overthrows Nigeria as Africa's biggest economy

South Africa has regained the title of Africa's largest economy, two years after Nigeria rebased its GDP to claim the spot, according to IMF data.

A recalculation using current exchange rates put South Africa on top because the rand has strengthened against the dollar.

Nigeria's currency has fallen sharply since a peg to the dollar was dropped.

But BBC Africa Business Report editor Matthew Davies says both economies could be on the brink of recession.

Nigeria rebased its economy in 2014 to include previously uncounted industries like telecoms, information technology, music, online sales, airlines, and film production.

Most countries do rebasing, updating the measure of the size of the economy, at least every three years or so, but Nigeria had not updated the components in its GDP base year since 1990.

On the basis of these numbers, there's not a lot between the two. South Africa's economy is worth around $301bn (Ј232bn) and Nigeria comes in at $296bn.

The exercise in calculating the numbers using last year's IMF figures and this year's currency exchange numbers, technically puts South Africa back on top.

But look behind the league table and the light-hearted jostling about who has the largest economy in Africa and things, economically speaking, are a little bleaker.

Both economies contracted in the first quarter. Another contraction and they'll both be in recession.

Nigeria is almost entirely dependent on its oil exports. And as the price of oil slumps so does the flow of petrodollars coming into the country's coffers. South Africa's economy is more diverse.

Indeed, after Nigeria knocked it off the top spot two years ago, we started describing it as "Africa's most industrialised economy", rather than Africa second-largest economy.

But economic growth is unlikely to make it above 1% in South Africa this year and many, including the country's Reserve Bank, are forecasting it at zero.

Unemployment remains stubbornly high and a credit rating review is looming at the end of the year.

If the whole "largest economy in Africa" competition was a horse race, the two leading contenders would be virtually neck and neck.

But they wouldn't be galloping, they'd be trotting at best. And looking increasingly tired and in need of sustenance.

2 cases of polio reported in Nigeria

Nigeria has reported the first two cases of polio after more than two years, in an area newly liberated from Islamic extremists who attacked polio vaccinators in the past, the government and the World Health Organization said Thursday.

Nigeria's removal from WHO's list of polio-endemic countries in October had meant the entire African continent was free of the crippling disease.

Two children have been paralyzed by polio in northeastern Borno state in two different local government areas that had been cut off by Boko Haram's Islamic extremist uprising, Health Minister Isaac Adewole said in a statement Thursday night.

"Our overriding priority right now is to rapidly boost immunity in the affected areas to ensure that no more children are affected by this terrible disease," he said.

He ordered the deployment of a national emergency response team. WHO said it was working with the government to urgently prevent more children from being paralyzed, with large-scale immunizations and other measures.

It was unclear how accessible the two areas are. The United Nations last month suspended aid to newly liberated but still dangerous areas of Borno after Boko Haram ambushed a humanitarian convoy, wounding three civilians including a UNICEF worker. That came even as aid groups declared half a million people are starving in those areas and children are dying daily of starvation.

Because of the Islamic uprising in the northeast, health workers have been testing sewage and stool samples of refugees from areas too dangerous to access.

Nigeria's fight against polio has been dramatic. Two decades ago, it was recording 1,000 polio cases a year, the highest in the world.

The Islamic extremists opposed the anti-polio campaign. Boko Haram gunmen killed nine women vaccinators in northern Kano state in February 2013, but the vaccinations continued.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Video - Nigeria Central Bank allows commercial lenders to write off bad loans

The Nigeria central bank will allow commercial banks to write off bad loans this year to help the industry clean up its balance sheet. Pressure has been building on the country's banks, whose loan books have been hard hit by Nigeria's shrinking economy and low crude oil prices. Non-performing loans are expected to jump to 12.5% of total loans this year, up from the central bank's target of 5% at the end of last year. Permission to write off the bad loans is a once-off offer that will only apply until the end of this year.

Popular Nigerian blogger released by EFCC

A prominent news blogger in Nigeria has been freed on bail following his arrest on Monday for "offences bordering on cyber-stalking".

Abubakar Sidiq Usman's arrest by the anti-corruption agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), was widely condemned in Nigeria.

His supporters launched a #FreeAbusidiq campaign on Twitter.

Last week, Mr Usman published allegations that EFCC acting chairman Ibrahim Magu was bullying his staff.

Mr Magu has not yet commented on the allegation.

An EFCC spokesman confirmed to the BBC that Mr Usman had been released on bail.

Mr Usman was grateful to Nigerians for speaking out against his detention of more than 36 hours, his lawyer Michael Bello told the local Premium Times newspaper.

His bail conditions required him to "make himself available to the EFCC whenever he received an invitation".

Mr Usman is an extremely popular blogger and a strong backer of President Muhammadu Buhari.

He is also a founding member of the youth wing of the governing All Progressives Congress (APC).

In a statement posted on its Facebook account after he was detained, the APC youth wing said he was being held on "spurious charges".

The EFCC was formed to investigate financial crimes and had overstepped its jurisdiction by detaining him, it said.

Mr Usman is the third blogger to be arrested in Nigeria since the Cyber Crime Act came into force in 2015, the Premium Times reported.

UK launches 24-hour visa application service in Nigeria

The UK has launched Super Priority Visa Service in Nigeria to allow customers to process their applications within 24 hours.

The British High Commission, on its website, said the new service was to particularly meet the needs of those who required urgent service to travel.

The High Commission quoted the British High Commissioner, Paul Arkwright, as welcoming the introduction of the Super Priority Visa service in Nigeria.

"I am pleased to see the Super Priority Visa service being launched in Nigeria.

"This comes with an additional cost but is designed to give greater flexibility to our customers and underlines our strong commitment to make improvements to the visa services we offer.

"We expect this new service to be particularly useful for business. We understand that business opportunities and urgent requirements can arise at very short notice.

"We recognise this and want to facilitate such travel to the UK with this new super-fast service", Arkwright said.

The High Commission said the introduction of the service allowed customers greater flexibility to choose from a number of visa products to meet their needs.

"It is offered alongside our current Priority Visa (front of queue processing five to seven-day) and standard (15-day) services.

"The UK is the only European country to offer a visa decision in 24 hours.

"The Super Priority Visa service is aimed largely at key business customers and those needing to travel urgently by providing a visa decision for collection at the Visa Application Centre the working day following submission."

It said the service costs 750 Pounds in addition to the visa fee and would be available to eligible customers applying in the Abuja and Lagos Visa Application Centres.

The High Commission said those applying in the "Visitors" or "Points Based System Tier 4" are eligible to use the Super Priority Service.

It said appointments are available from Mondays to Thursday from 8.30 a.m. to 10 a.m. and Fridays from 8.30 a.m. to 9 a.m. at the Abuja and Lagos centres only.

"Extending the Super Priority Visa service to Nigeria is another example of how the UK is leading the world in the provision of premium visa services for those coming to the UK to visit, do business or study."

Columbia beat Nigeria 2-0 in Olympic men's football

Nigeria and Colombia were the first and second place teams respectively going into their match on Match Day 3 of the Olympic men’s soccer tournament.

Following Colombia's 2-0 win, that did not change as both teams advanced to the quarterfinals.

Colombia got out to an early lead as Teofilo Guitierrez opened the scoring for his team in the fourth minute.

Harold Preciado nearly doubled Colombia’s lead in the 19th minute, but Nigeria goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi made a reflex diving save to keep his side in it.

Nigeria had its best chance of the first half when Oghenekaro Etebo received the ball at the top of the box, but he dragged his shot wide of the goal.

In the 63rd minute Colombia’s Dorlan Pabon converted a penalty kick to double his team’s lead.

Colombia maintained its 2-0 lead for the rest of the second half to earn three points.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Video - CBN Says No Bias In Favour Of Worshippers

Video - Nigeria's currency traded at 350 to the dollar

The Naira lurched to an all-time low of 350 to the dollar in a single interbank market trade of 100,000 US dollars. A total of 3.1 million dollars had been traded by 1230 GMT. The currency has been in free fall since late June when the central bank decided to float it, ending a long untenable peg of 197 to the dollar.

Nigeria to offer free digital TV service

Nigeria will be the first African country to switch from analogue to free digital television – and it is looking to a small British company to roll it out.

Although several other African countries – including Rwanda and Tanzania – have migrated to digital and switched off their analogue signals, they work on a subscription model, so consumers have to pay.

The Nigerian government, though, is following the Freeview model pioneered in Britain, and is aiming to get 30 channels into 20m homes via subsidised digital set-top boxes that cost $7.50 (£5.70) each. Viewers will only have to pay for the boxes and a licence fee of $5 a year.

Because about 16 digital channels can fit in the space of an old analogue one, this will mean that a spectrum worth about $1bn is freed up. The government plans to sell it to mobile phone companies to feed Nigerians’ growing appetite for 3G and 4G.

The cost of subsidising the boxes and installing transmitters across the country is about $500m, which leaves another $500m profit. Nigeria needs this money to plug the holes in its budget caused by low oil prices and production, the latter caused by armed groups blowing up its pipelines.

“It’s a well-costed model, and the Nigerian government knows it works because they’ve already sold off some spectrum to MTN [a South Africa-based mobile telecoms firm] for $170m,” said Nick Markham, the chairman of Inview Technology, the British company launching FreeTV in Nigeria. “So basically there’s a payback, and this is what we’re telling all the different African governments.”

Inview is close to persuading Ghana, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ivory Coast to follow suit. There should be a domino effect, as digital signals in countries that make the switch interfere with their neighbours’ analogue signals.

The main competition, StarTimes, is Chinese, but it works differently. It offers African governments cheap loans in return for control of the television service under a pay-TV model.

FreeTV did its first launch in Jos, a city in central Nigeria, in May, and in November the analogue signal will be switched off.

There should be a knock-on effect on the local film industry – Markham estimated that Nollywood studios, which at the moment struggle with piracy, would get an extra $250m a year.

Some Nigerians have questioned whether the country will really be able to meet its target of switching off the analogue signal by next year, pointing out that the government has already missed targets in 2012 and 2015.

But others say it could be “the new telecoms” industry, as its 30m households means Nigeria is a bigger market than any of the countries that currently have free digital television. They welcome the potential jobs in manufacturing the boxes, advertising and TV production.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Pele cancels trip to Nigeria

Football legend Edson Arantes do Nascimento popularly known as Pele will not visit Nigeria this month as earlier announced because of ill-health.

Pele had also withdrawn from the opening ceremony of the 2016 Rio Olympics citing health reasons.

In a statement, the three-time Fifa World Cup winner said: "I'm not physically able to attend the opening of the Olympics."

"Only God is more important than my health. In my life, I've had fractures, surgeries, pain, hospital stays, victories and defeats. And I've always respected those who admire me."

He said it was "my own decision, as a Brazilian. I ask God to bless all who participate in this event."

That statement has also had an effect on his appearance in Nigeria scheduled for this week.

Organisers of the trip, the Winihin Jemide Series and the Youth Experience Days Africa apologised for the inconvenience in a statement and revealed future dates will be announced as soon as Pele is fit to make the trip to Nigeria.

“The Winihin Jemide Series & Youth Experience Days Africa have both chosen to postpone the 2016 WJS/YEDA LEGEND EDITION with Pelé due to reports of his ill health on Friday 5th, 2016,” the statement read.

“We are sorry that we have to disappoint the many Pelé fans and Legend Edition supporters at this time, who were looking forward to this event. As we pray for his speedy and full recovery, we believe that it would be inconsiderate for us to put his health at risk.

“Our ticketing platforms will be offering a full refund on all tickets purchased and new dates for the event will be announced over the course of the next few weeks. We hope the new dates are suitable for everyone.

“The decision to postpone the event did not come easily and we want to express gratitude to sponsors and stakeholders.”

Pele, who recently got married to his long-time girlfriend has scored over 1000 goals in his playing career and won the World Cup with Brazil in 1954, 1962 and 1970.

Nigeria arrests popular blogger

Nigerians on Monday night resorted to using social media platform, Twitter, to call for the release of a ‘controversial’ blogger, Abubakar Sidiq Usman, who was arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on charges of ‘cyber stalking.’

The anti-corruption watchdog issued a statement on Monday on its official Facebook page confirming the arrest of Usman following repeated calls for his release after news of his arrest went around.

‘‘The suspect who is the publisher of was picked up at his Kubwa, Abuja home in the early hours of Monday August 8, 2016 by operatives of the EFCC and is currently being questioned over the alleged offence which contravenes sections of the Cyber Crime Act,’‘ the EFCC confirmed.

The hashtag #FreeAbuSidiq has been vibrant on Nigeria’s twitter space since his detention. With some questioning whether it was within the remit of the EFCC to deal with ‘cyber stalking.’

Tweets with the hashtag expressed worry at the seeming undertone of gagging the media. Others chose to look at the lighter side of the situation given that Usman is seen as a pro-Buhari advocate. The leading opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) also weighed in on the issue calling for his release.

Even though he had been granted administrative bail, some local media reported that he had failed to meet the conditions and was set to spend Monday night in custody of the EFCC.