Friday, September 30, 2016

Video - Niger Delta Greenland Justice Mandate claims responsibility

Nigerian militant group the Niger Delta Greenland Justice Mandate has claimed responsibility for the latest attack on a pipeline in the oil-producing region. The Niger Delta has been plagued by vandalism, which has seen the country's oil production plummet. Together with other economic factors, it's plunged Nigeria into a recession.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Video - MTN denies it repatriated $13.92 billion from Nigeria

Telecoms giant MTN has denied accusations of illegaly moving $13.92 B out of Nigeria, saying the claim has no merit. The allegation threatens to raise tensions between Nigeria and MTN, yet again. It's just three months since the company agreed to pay a reduced fine of $ 1 B, for failing to have cancelled millions of unregistered SIM cards. MTN is the largest mobile phone operator in Nigeria, and the country accounts for around one third of MTN's revenues. The company had threatened to pull out of Nigeria during the unregistered SIM card dispute. MTN shares fell by over 3% on Tuesday. So far this year, MTN's JSE-listed share are 10% lower.

Nigeria can't afford to participate in World Cup qualifier

As it stands, Nigeria's 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign may be over before it even begins.

With the country in the midst of a crippling recession triggered by weak oil prices, funding for its men's national football team has suffered to the point that it risks World Cup disqualification.

Although the Super Eagles -- who are led by Chelsea star John Obi Mikel -- have had their bonuses suspended for six months, the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) now says it is so broke that it cannot afford to fly its players to Zambia for next month's third-round qualifier.

Although many of its squad earn lucrative salaries playing for clubs in Europe, the NFF is courting a sponsor to raise $270,000 in order to charter a plane to Ndola, Zambia for the match on October 9, according to Nigeria's Guardian newspaper.

"As we speak, we don't have any kobo (a denomination of Nigeria's naira currency) in our purse," an unnamed member of the NFF told the newspaper, adding that they were appealing to regional telco giant Globacom for aid.

"The charges for the Airline alone is $200,000 for a 140-seater plane, and it will be on ground with the team for two days," the spokesman added. "We need between $6,000 and $10,000 for flight ticket(s) to bring in the players (from Europe)."

The NFF member also noted that players will be due a further $95,0000 each in bonuses, and said the only way forward is to receive stronger backing from the Nigerian government.

"The federal government still has to play its part, because this is the beginning of our campaign for the 2018 World Cup qualifying ticket. If we must get it right, every hand must be on deck," he told The Guardian.

The Nigerian Statehouse did not immediately respond to CNN's request for comment on the matter.

Nigeria has been one of the most successful African countries when it comes to the World Cup, reaching the round of 16 in three out of its five appearances -- most recently in 2014.

The Super Eagles have had even greater success at the Olympics, winning a gold medal at Atlanta in 1996, a silver at the 2008 Beijing Games, and a recent bronze medal at Rio 2016.

Reaching the bronze medal match in Rio de Janeiro prompted one Super Eagles superfan to donate $390,000 as charitable aid.

Learning of the team's financial hardship, Japanese plastic surgeon Katsuya Takasu flew in from Tokyo for Nigeria's bronze medal match against Honduras, which it won 3-2.

"I was so happy and cried for their winning. Japanese are sentimental," Takasu told CNN in August.

Takasu personally delivered the checks to Nigeria's captain, Mikel and coach Samson Siasia after being impressed by the team's resilience when they emerged victorious in the Olympic football group stage despite nearly missing the tournament.

The team were stranded at their Atlanta training base and arrived just seven hours before their opening match against Japan, which they won 5-4, due to a logistical mix up -- the airline hired to charter the team to Brazil, it turned out, had not been paid on time.

Alex Iwobi wished he played for Nigeria in the 2016 Olympics

Alex Iwobi wishes Arsenal would have let him play at the Olympics with Nigeria, but realises that going to Rio may also have hampered his progress with the Gunners.

Iwobi, 20, was blocked from joining the Nigeria squad for the Rio de Janeiro Games in August as it would have ruled him out of the start of the Premier League season, a decision that Iwobi accepted.

"I would like to have played in the Olympics -- doing that would have been a big thing for me," Iwobi told the London Evening Standard. "If I had gone, I would have missed a couple of Arsenal games at least and the boss [Arsene Wenger] didn't want that. I wish I did go but at the end of the day I did what the boss wanted and I am happy to be where I am. If I had gone, I might not be where I am now."

Iwobi started Arsenal's season-opening game against Liverpool only to sustain a thigh injury that ruled him out for three weeks. But he has been an integral part of the team's success since his return to fitness, including in the 3-0 win over Chelsea on Saturday.

After breaking into the first team last spring, he is now a regular first-choice starter for Wenger and seems to still have plenty of room for development.

"I don't even look at how far I've come. I wouldn't say I'm in a daze right now but I'm just enjoying it as it comes and whatever happens, happens," Iwobi said.

The attacking midfielder was born in Lagos but his family moved to London when he was four years old and he joined the Arsenal academy while still in primary school. Despite playing for England's youth teams, Iwobi opted to represent Nigeria internationally after being first called up in 2015.

And his uncle, Nigeria legend Jay-Jay Okocha, still offers him advice on how to deal with his newfound success.

"When I was growing up, he helped me a lot on the pitch," Iwobi said. "He gave me game advice a lot but the older I am getting, he is helping me off the pitch more so I can be professional and focus on the football.

"He's always telling me what could happen, what you are about to face. He always says 'concentrate on the football first -- the rest is just luxury stuff that comes with it."

Militants blow up oil pipeline in Niger Delta

A Nigerian militant group claimed an attack on Thursday on a crude pipeline operated by state oil firm NNPC in the Niger Delta.

Attacks on Nigeria's energy facilities by groups calling for the Delta region to receive a greater share of the OPEC member's oil wealth have cut crude production, which stood at 2.1 million barrels per day at the start of the year, by a third.

The Niger Delta Greenland Justice Mandate said it bombed the Unenurhie-Evwreni delivery line in Ughelli, Delta state, at around 01:00 a.m. (0000 GMT) on Thursday. The line is operated by NPDC, a subsidiary of NNPC.

A military source said dynamite was used to blow up the pipeline. An NNPC spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.

It comes days after Niger Delta Avengers, which has claimed responsibility for most of the attacks on energy facilities in the region since the start of the year, said it carried out its first attack since declaring a break in hostilities in August to pursue talks with the government.

The Avengers said on Saturday there had been no progress in meeting their demands.

The Greenland Justice Mandate, which has never agreed to cease hostilities, said in a statement it had blown up the pipeline "to prove to the wicked and ungrateful multinational oil companies and their Nigerian military allies... that we own our lands".

Monday, September 26, 2016

Video - Nigerian currency trading at 440 Naira to the U.S. dollar

The Nigerian Naira traded much lower on Monday in the unofficial black market at 440 to the green back. This comes as dollar shortages persist in the economy. Despite removing the peg and floating its currency in July, forex shortages continue to be a serious challenge. Deji Badmus looks at what is driving the rapid depreciation of the naira.

Believed to be dead again Boko Haram leader resurfaces in new video

Nigeria's most wanted man is making the headlines again. Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau surfaced in a video over the weekend - at least the fifth time he's disproved official claims that he's dead. The military now says Shekau is mentally unstable.

Nigeria urges US to lift ban on crude oil

THE Federal Government has pleaded with the United States to lift its ban on the importation of Nigeria’s crude, describing the action as antithetical to the flourish of trade and economic cooperation upon which  Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, AGOA, was founded.

The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Nigige, who made the plea, also told the American government to demonstrate stronger commitment to improve economic ties with African nations through balanced trade relations. 
Senator Ngige made the plea at a Ministerial Roundtable meeting on Africa Growth and Opportunity Act at the Department of Labour Building, Washington D.C, United States. He said the stoppage of Nigeria’s crude importation had led to low foreign exchange receipts and consequent technical recession in some African countries. 

Ngige, who led Nigeria’s delegation at the meeting to the round table, titled Trade and Worker Rights: Inclusive Economic Growth in Africa Through Trade on the Day One of the Roundtable, said the capacity of Nigeria to tackle anti-labour practices, such as child labour, cheap labour and human trafficking, was being hampered by dwindling resources, which the stoppage of the import of the Nigerian crude by the US had accentuated. He said poverty at the low income levels made the fight against anti-labour practices at the base difficult. 

He urged the US to assist African countries in the entire agricultural value food chain of production, processing and preservation as well as give increase educational assistance to farmers. He said:  “The founding ideal of AGOA is to foster a symbiotic economic cooperation between Africa and the United States. However, the capacity of the Africa nations such as Nigeria to effectively tap into the full potentials of the body is being checkmated by limited resources. 

“There is need therefore for America to rethink initiatives that once made AGOA attractive to African countries. ‘’Rescinding her decision on Nigerian crude is one of such steps that could be taken to buoy up our economy and regain enough capacity to protect workers rights and promote decent work in an inclusive economic growth. 

“The US must do more to assist junior partners by extending some labour projects and technical aide being executed in some African countries such as Madagascar, Zambia and Kenya to Nigeria.” 

Speaking further on Nigeria’s initiatives for improving internationally recognized workers right, the Minister said Nigeria had ratified and domesticated eight core conventions of the International Labour Organization, ILO, dealing with child rights and fair labour practices, drawing the attention of the international community to the strong backing for fundamental freedoms and labour rights enshrined in the constitution, especially in section 40. Earlier in his address of welcome, the US Secretary of Labour, Tom Perez, pledged the commitment of the United States to the growth of AGOA and urged African countries to strive towards the recognition of workers rights as an essential element of inclusive economic growth.

Leader of Boko Haram Abubakar Shekau mocks Nigeria army

Boko Haram's embattled leader, Abubakar Shekau, appears in a new video to deny reports of his death and to taunt the parents of the nearly 300 school girls the group kidnapped from their boarding school in 2014.

"To the despot Nigerian government: Die with envy. I'm not dead," Shekau says in the video.

An ISIS flag is visible in the background. That terrorist organization has said it is supporting Shekau's rival, Abu Musab al-Barnawi, as the legitimate leader of the Nigerian ISIS-affiliated terrorist movement.

The video was a response to the Nigerian army's claim that it "fatally wounded" Shekau in a raid August 19. The army dismissed the video Sunday as evidence of Shekau's desperation.

"The video has shown beyond all reasonable doubt the earlier suspicion that the purported factional terrorists' group leader is mentally sick and unstable," the army statement said.

CNN cannot independently confirm when the video was shot, or confirm its claims.

The attack that brought Boko Haram international notoriety was when Shekau's forces captured approximately 300 girls -- between the ages of 16 and 18 -- from a boarding school in the town of Chibok in Borno state in April 2014.

Boko Haram, which opposes western education, wants to set up an Islamic caliphate in Nigeria.

In the video, Shekau teases parents of the Chibok schoolgirls about whether their daughters will be released and insists detained Boko Haram fighters must be released for the return of the schoolgirls.

The kidnapping sparked global outrage and prompted global figures, including activist Malala Yousafzai and US first lady Michelle Obama, to support the campaign to #BringBackOurGirls.

For a year after they were taken, the abducted girls were kept together, Amina Ali, an escaped schoolgirl told CNN in August. Then some of the teenagers -- including her -- were "given" to the terrorists as wives.

Shekau, however, is still shrouded in mystery. A Boko Haram insider told CNN in August the group had split after new leader al-Barnawi broke with Shekau and left with some followers, a move which the insider said left Shekau with most of the fighters in the Sambisa forest and also in control of the schoolgirls, a powerful bargaining chip for the group.

The army contends Boko Haram is significantly weakened and has been "irrational and unreliable" in negotiations over the schoolgirls.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Video - Nigerian military still engaged in the battle for Mallam Fatori

Fighting is still underway to drive Boko Haram from a town near the Nigerian border with Chad. Troops from the region's multinational force are engaged in the battle for Mallam Fatori. Both sides claim to have inflicted heavy casualties.

Suicides in Nigeria on the rise due to bad economy

In the past few months, there have been six reported cases of Nigerians committing suicide, and two attempts. This trend is troubling many in a country where suicide rates are usually low.

Some Nigerians seem to have resigned themselves to fate, believing there was no option to hold on to, to keep afloat. A member of a family living in Akwa Ibom State killed himself recently. His body was found hanging from a rope tied to the ceiling of his bedroom.

When the man's younger brother, David (shown above), hadn't seen him for a while, he became very worried.

When I didn't see him for three days, I sent a small boy to look around for him. The boy found his door locked and saw him through the door hanging," he said.

Relatives and friends of the victim believe that it is the poor economic situation in the country that drove him to suicide.

Many asking 'why?'

There are disagreements in the local community as to whether the man left a suicide note. One camp argued that he wrote about economic challenges caused by President Muhammadu Buhari's administration as reasons for his suicide. Another camp said that there was, in fact, no suicide note at all.

"Two people broke the door and didn't find any note. Now you hear wrong stories everywhere, saying that man left a note, saying he killed himself because of the bad situation in this country," said Oturu Odaibo, a local youth leader.

Before he ended his life, the man sold local wine and cigarettes in his community. A local chief, Edet Asoquor Iyang, said that he knew why the man decided to kill himself.

"He hanged himself and broke his neck because things are difficult in Nigeria today. No job, no money, nothing. Nigeria has turned upside down and everybody is a beggar," he said.

Whether the man committed suicide to escape his difficulties is still unclear. What is clear, however, is the increasing number of suicide deaths in the country. In the past month alone, there are reports of five people who have committed suicide due to economic hardship.

According to a 2012 report from the World Health Organization, an estimated 6.5 people kill themselves each year in Nigeria per 100,000 people compared to 9.1 in Germany, 12.1 in the US and 19.5 in Uganda.

Everyday hardship

The current economic crisis in Nigeria has forced businesses to close. Many blame the government's policy to ration foreign currencies for the recession. This crisis has now trickled down to the ordinary man and woman. Many are now living below the poverty line which leads to anxiety, depression and frustration.

Emmabong Eme Effiong, a local farmer in Akwa Ibom State, said she hasn't experienced this level of difficulties in her entire life.

"I am a farmer and I if I do not farm, I won't eat. I want the government to help us live because this is too difficult for us. Just two cups of rice costs over 100 naira (29 dollar cents or 32 euro cents). I want the government to make the price of rice go down," said Effiong.

Maru Godwin Worlu, an economist and lecturer at the Port Harcourt Polytechnic in Rivers State said the difficulties are being felt in every corner of the country.

"For you to really understand if the government is doing well or not, just look at the ordinary people on the street," said Worlu.

He went on to recount the story of a woman with three children who was forced to beg for money to feed them. One day she had had enough and went and bought sleeping pills and gave them to the children.

"All three children died in their sleep. They just died," he said.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Video - Nigeria and U.S. Presidents vow to end Boko Haram insurgency

U.S. President Barack Obama and his Nigerian counterpart Mohammadu Buhari have met and discussed ways of countering the Boko Haram militant group. The two leaders held a bilateral meeting on the side lines of the 71st edition of the UN General Assembly. While thanking America for help rendered in the area of security President Buhari said the country was open to support in combating the humanitarian crisis currently ravaging the region. President Obama then went on to commend Buhari on his achievements in combatting Boko Haram, promising to help him end their insurgency.

Video - Nigeria holds exhibition held to popularize local health care

Nigeria’s health service providers have joined hands to showcase their capabilities and discourage the massive departure of patients seeking specialized care abroad. The providers held a healthcare exhibition in the capital Abuja and CCTV's Kelechi Emekalam was there.

Nigeria looking to ease recession by taxing internet use

Making phone calls, surfing the web and watching TV in Nigeria could be about to become more expensive.

With national revenues shrinking due to the global crash in oil prices over the last couple of years, Nigeria has been forced to consider how to diversify its revenue sources. In a search for a new pot of gold, the government appears to have settled on squeezing its communications industry as lawmakers are discussing a bill to tax communications services, including phone calls, texts, internet data and cable television. Nigeria’s telecoms sector alone is responsible around 8% of GDP.

It’s not the first time the Nigerian government has been accused of leaning on its vibrant telecoms industry for new revenue. Late last year it fined Africa’s largest mobile operator, MTN, $5.1 billion for SIM card irregularities. Both sides settled in June for $1.7 billion.

Making phone calls, surfing the web and watching TV in Nigeria could be about to become more expensive.

With national revenues shrinking due to the global crash in oil prices over the last couple of years, Nigeria has been forced to consider how to diversify its revenue sources. In a search for a new pot of gold, the government appears to have settled on squeezing its communications industry as lawmakers are discussing a bill to tax communications services, including phone calls, texts, internet data and cable television. Nigeria’s telecoms sector alone is responsible around 8% of GDP.

It’s not the first time the Nigerian government has been accused of leaning on its vibrant telecoms industry for new revenue. Late last year it fined Africa’s largest mobile operator, MTN, $5.1 billion for SIM card irregularities. Both sides settled in June for $1.7 billion.

But amid Nigeria’s first recession in decades, low-income Nigerians are likely to be most affected. Ojobo Atuluku, country director of advocacy group, ActionAid says if passed, the bill and increased strain on low income Nigerians will be “akin to punishing the poor for the sins of the rich.

Nigeria willing to get help from U.N. in negotiating kidnapped Chibok girls release

Nigeria's president said on Thursday he would be open to U.N. bodies coming in to act as intermediaries in any talks with Boko Haram Islamist militants on the release of about 200 kidnapped schoolgirls.

Muhammadu Buhari has vowed to free the girls, whose abduction almost two and a half years ago from the northeastern village of Chibok triggered international campaigns and piled pressure on his predecessor Goodluck Jonathan.

Nigeria would "welcome intermediaries such as U.N. outfits, to step in", Buhari told U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on sidelines of the annual U.N. General Assembly in New York, a statement issued by the president's office said.

Buhari last year said for the first time his government was ready to negotiate over the girls. In August said he would let the Islamist militant group choose a non-profit organization as an intermediary but the group has not commented on the proposal.

Any negotiations would be the first publicly known talks between the government and Boko Haram, whose seven-year insurgency to create an Islamic state in the northeast has killed 15,000 people and displaced more than two million.

"The challenge is in getting credible and bona fide leadership of Boko Haram to discuss with," said Buhari.

Boko Haram pledged allegiance to Islamic State last year but signs of a rift emerged after IS announced a new leader for what it described as its West African operations. Boko Haram's hitherto leader Abubakar Shekau appeared to contradict the appointment in a later video message.

"The split in the insurgent group is not helping matters. Government had reached out, ready to negotiate, but it became difficult to identify credible leaders," said the president.

Nigeria's failure to find the kidnapped children prompted an outcry at home and abroad. Critics of Buhari's predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, said his government was too slow to act.

Boko Haram published a video in August which apparently showed recent footage of dozens of the girls and stated that some had been killed in air strikes.

Authorities said in May that one of the missing girls had been found and the president vowed to rescue the others.

Nigeria is battling the jihadist group on the ground and with air strikes. A multi-national joint task force - comprising troops from Nigeria and neighboring Niger, Cameroon, Chad and Benin - is also fighting the militants.

Children in Nigeria dying of hunger as no one notices

It's a crisis the world has largely ignored, despite some 20,000 deaths and an estimated 2.6 million people forced from their homes.

Northeast Nigeria is facing famine, the collateral damage from seven years of Boko Haram's deadly insurgency and a problem aid agencies have long been warning about.

Children are starving. Whole villages and towns in desperate need of assistance are out of reach because of insecurity and fighting, despite military gains in recapturing territory lost to the Islamists.

Aid agencies talk of a looming humanitarian catastrophe. Those on the ground say it's already happening.

This week, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will make a renewed appeal for funding to stave off the crisis.

Some $559 million is needed between now and the end of the year to provide food, shelter and vital health care for those in need, not just in Nigeria but also in neighbouring Cameroon, Chad and Niger, where the violence has spread.

"It's devastating," said Doune Porter, from the UN children's fund UNICEF, speaking to CBC News from Nigeria's capital, Abuja.

"It's really bad…. For the immediate crisis, just in Borno state alone there's 244,000 children who will suffer this year from severe acute malnutrition. Children are basically just clinging to life."

Three months ago, UNICEF said one in five of those 244,000 — nearly 50,000 children under five — could die if nothing was done.

Estimates are of a possible 130 deaths every day. But money is needed, and with Nigeria's economy officially in recession, the funding is going to have to come from elsewhere.

"This is too big for the Nigerian government to handle, too big for UNICEF to handle on its own, too massive a crisis — and the world needs to mobilize," said Porter.

But with so many other humanitarian crises dominating the headlines, such as Syria and migrants in Europe, there's no guarantee the world will sit up and take notice.

Nearly three years ago, Nigeria became Africa's leading economy after it rebased (updated the way it measures) its GDP.

But then global oil prices crashed, leaving the continent's most populous nation, which depends on crude export sales for 70 per cent of government revenue, desperately short of cash.

State sector salaries have gone unpaid, much-needed infrastructure projects shelved and the country's currency, the naira, has plummeted in value. Inflation has soared to above 17 per cent. Everything from fuel to food is more expensive.

After years of inaction and inept reaction from the previous government, President Muhammadu Buhari, who came to power in May 2015, has at least achieved successes in curbing Boko Haram's almost daily bloodshed.

But the years of conflict have taken their toll: rural northeast Nigeria — already desperately poor even before the insurgency — has been devastated: farmers have been killed or have fled; land for crops has not been sown or harvested for years.

The resulting food shortages have driven up prices in local markets, while the influx of the displaced to cities such as Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, has heaped pressure on local authorities, leaving them struggling to cope.

Some 1.5 million people have sought safe haven in Maiduguri, more than doubling its population. Most have been taken in by friends and family or forced into overcrowded and unsanitary camps for the displaced.

The state and federal government response has been patchy: food such as rice and maize has reportedly been stolen and resold by corrupt officials; often it has not materialized at all.

There have been deaths in the camps from measles outbreaks and other preventable diseases because of low vaccination rates. During the current rainy season, typhoid, malaria and cholera are constant threats.

Host communities and volunteers have done what they can, even as the international aid effort has scaled up.

The American University of Nigeria, based in Yola, Adamawa state, has run feeding programs for the displaced for several years. In August it said it fed 75,000.

But AUN president Margee Ensign said the money to do so has now dried up — and those who previously returned to their homes in the countryside are coming back to the city in an even more desperate state.

"The problems related to famine, out-of-school children, lack of infrastructure are now far bigger," she told CBC News.

"We are seeing people come back to Yola malnourished and dying. There is a rapid increase in children on the streets."

A woman weak with hunger asked one AUN staff member to raise her one-week-old child. She later died. The employee took in the child, Ensign said.

The last time the world paid attention to Nigeria was after more than 200 schoolgirls were kidnapped from the remote town of Chibok, in Borno state, in April 2014.

The abduction sparked a huge online campaign — #BringBackOurGirls — featuring U.S. first lady Michelle Obama and Hollywood celebrities. But more than two years on, 217 of the 219 are still in captivity. UNICEF says some 7,000 children have been abducted.

Now, the images of Boko Haram are its child victims, those born into the conflict, starved to the brink of death by its consequences, leaving them little more than skin and bone or swollen by protein deficiency through lack of food.

Money is required — and fast — not just a hashtag.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Video - Nigeria's Central bank retains benchmark interest rate at 14%

Nigeria's central bank kept its benchmark interest rate at 14 percent on Tuesday, resisting the finance minister's call to lower borrowing costs. Policymakers urged the government to spend more to drag Africa's top economy out of recession. The West African nation is going through its first recession in more than 20 years, brought on by low oil prices, and inflation accelerated to an 11-year high of 17.6 percent in August. The naira has traded at a record low of 425 to the dollar on the parallel market since last week.Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun said on Monday that the central bank should lower interest rates so that the government can borrow domestically to boost the economy.

Video - Fulani herdsmen and farmers in Nigeria fighting over resources

Decades of fierce competition for natural resources has left thousands dead, property damaged and villages desolate in Nigeria's Benue state. Fulani herdsmen are fighting with farmers in another row over scarce resources. Both sides have repeatedly fought over farmland, access to grazing areas and water.

Video - Nigeria drops from fourth to seventh largest cocoa producer

Nigeria's Cocoa Association has confirmed that the country has dropped to the world's seventh top producer of the crop. This is after its projected output for the 2015-2016 season was lowered to 190,000 metric tons. The International Cocoa Organization had previously ranked Nigeria as the world's fourth biggest cocoa producer. The downgrade was attributed to the exchange rate policy, the lack of reliable data and low synergy between the public and private sectors. The ICCO had initially projected Nigeria would produce 270,000 metric tons of cocoa in the current season.

Nigeria must consider selling oil assets - Saraki

Nigeria must consider selling stakes in joint ventures with oil majors and other assets as talks to borrow abroad have not succeeded yet and would in any case not generate enough funds to stimulate economic recovery, the leader of the Senate said.

Senate President Bukola Saraki, the third most powerful official in Africa's biggest economy, also said the oil producer might struggle with recession for up to nine months or even longer unless it got serious about attracting investors.

The government said this month it had approved loans from China, the World Bank, Japan and the African Development Bank, but Saraki, whose relations with the president have cooled since last year, said such talks were still ongoing with no deals yet.

"There is a big hole now in the fiscal deficit because that funding is not coming through. So we've got to look for alternative ways to fund that," Saraki said in a joint interview with the Financial Times on Monday when asked about the loans.

The government has said it plans to borrow as much as $10 billion, with half of that coming from foreign sources, including a planned $1 billion Eurobond issue, to fund a budget deficit of 2.2 trillion naira ($7.21 billion) and boost an economy hammered by low oil prices and hard currency shortages.

Saraki said that even if the loan talks succeeded, the amount raised would not be enough to plug the hole in public finances. "My take is that even if it does come through, it's money too little, too late," he said, referring to the loan talks.

He said Nigeria needed to sell stakes in oil and gas joint ventures, oil exploration contracts and refineries to raise funds. "In my view, I really can't see any other pathway to recovery. We need investors, we need to raise capital."

Such an asset sale would be necessary even if global crude prices recovered to $70 a barrel and Nigeria managed to restore oil production to 2 million barrels per day (bpd) with an end to militant attacks in the Niger Delta oil hub, Saraki said. Officials say the attacks have reduced output by 700,000 bpd.

Saraki said Nigeria could overcome recession in six to nine months if swift action was taken -- a more downcast view than that of the government, which has forecast a quick recovery.

Central bank governor Godwin Emefiele was due to hold a news conference at around 1315 GMT (09:15 a.m. EDT) after a meeting of the rate-setting Monetary Policy Committee. The finance minister said on Monday the central bank should lower interest rates so that the government can borrow domestically to boost the economy.

Economists polled by Reuters last week predicted that the central bank would keep its key interest rate at 14 percent and reiterate its focus on resuscitating growth.

The government has said it is considering asset sales, but has given no details.

"If we do things right, the confidence will come in," Saraki said. "If we carry on waiting for government revenues to go up, if we don't do anything seen as thinking out of the box" the recession could drag on longer.

Nigeria's 2016 budget was the largest in the nation's history, but the oil price drop and Delta attacks have left the government scrambling for funds.

Saraki is from the same ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) as President Muhammadu Buhari, who was elected in March 2015 on a promise to end graft and mismanagement in the West African nation.

But relations between the two have been strained since Saraki ran unopposed for the position of Senate president last year, mainly with the backing of the opposition. He was not the APC's preferred candidate.

(1 = 305.0000 naira)

Boko Haram claimed to have killed 40 troops in Nigeria

Nigeria's army claimed victory Wednesday in "a fierce battle" in a remote desert trading post where Islamic extremists said they killed 40 troops from a multinational force.

Army spokesman Col. Sani Kukasheka Usman said troops recaptured Malam Fatori town on Tuesday and killed several extremists, but the insurgents regrouped at the nearby border with Niger.

The Islamic State's West Africa Province, one faction of the Boko Haram extremist group, hours earlier claimed it had annihilated "a convoy of the African Coalition Crusader forces" at Malam Fatori, killing more than 40 soldiers and wounding dozens, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors extremist communiques.

There was no way to independently verify either side's claim.

Tuesday's battle was the first Nigeria attack claimed by the Islamic State group since August, when it named a new caliph in Nigeria, provoking a leadership struggle. Leader Abubakar Shekau pledged Boko Haram's allegiance to IS in 2015, giving the Islamic State its first sub-Saharan franchise. But IS last month announced it had replaced Shekau in a dispute around his indiscriminate killings of Muslims.

The town of Malam Fatori has changed hands many times in the seven-year Boko Haram uprising that has killed more than 20,000. Many residents fled to Niger in 2014 after soldiers in a punitive raid burned down hundreds of huts because a wounded extremist was given refuge there.

Tuesday's was the fourth insurgent attack in northeast Nigeria in three days.

Eighteen people were killed Sunday and Monday when extremists gunned down Christians leaving a church service, beheaded a village head and his son and ambushed a convoy within miles of Maiduguri, the biggest city in the northeast.

No one has claimed responsibility for those attacks.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Video - Nigeria's state-owned oil company accused of evading payments

Nigeria’s state-owned oil company, NNPC and 22 other petroleum firms, reportedly owe the government 86.4 billion naira. The government agency tasked with fighting corruption says the debt is the result of years of collusion between NNPC officials and private oil companies.

Nigerian makes Miss Transsexual final

Miss SaHHara was born in the wrong country, and in the wrong body. Repression in her native Nigeria almost drove her to suicide, but this weekend she was cruising down the runway in a cream dress – one of several finalists at the Miss Trans Star International beauty pageant in Barcelona, Europe’s main such event. Set up in 2010 in the Spanish Mediterranean seaside city, the fifth edition of the contest this weekend crowned Brazil’s Rafaela Manfrini as this year’s transsexual queen, although winning was secondary for participants who have often experienced discrimination and repression.

“Here all of us are winners already, we won our life,” said runner-up Tallen Abu Hanna from Israel. Persecuted by their governments, victims of discrimination or rejected by their own families, many of the 25 candidates went through hell and high water before summoning up the courage to strut their stuff in swimsuits or evening gowns. “This is an attempt to engage society,” said Thara Wells, the contest founder. “We want to go beyond beauty and tell the life story of each girl.”

Escape or death 

Among the candidates were transsexuals from Japan, South Africa, Colombia, Turkey, and Nigeria, whose activist chat stood out. Sporting a cream dress with a plunging neckline, Miss SaHHara glided down the runway without a hint of shyness, drawing in the 300-strong audience with her light-green eyes. Nothing much remained from the young 19-year-old man who fled Nigeria for London more than a decade ago. “I had severe disphoria. 

My breasts weren’t growing, I didn’t have a vagina, I looked at myself in the mirror and I did not feel comfortable with my body,” she told AFP before the gala final Saturday. Miss SaHHara, as she is known, always knew she was a woman. She would put on make-up and wear her mother’s high heels. But in Nigeria, where homosexuality and transsexuality are illegal and punishable by 14 years in jail, her situation was tough. “In the street, they were always attacking me, harassing me,” she said. “I came back home and my family would harass me, they said ‘you’re wrong, you need to change, act like a man’.” 

She twice attempted suicide and says she was imprisoned in Nigeria for wearing women’s attire before escaping to London, first as an illegal migrant, then as a refugee. “There was no way I could have survived in Nigeria, this is why I had to leave,” she said. In Britain, she underwent surgery to become a woman with long, curly blond hair, big breasts and full lips. 

She works as a model and singer, and also manages her own NGO to help transsexuals. “London gave me the opportunity to pursue my dreams and be my true self,” she said. “I’m hoping that by speaking out and coming to Miss Star, I will try to influence people or perhaps influence my government to revoke 14 years imprisonment for LGBT inNigeria.” 

2,000 murders since 2006

In recent years, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people have scored small victories around the world. Nepal, Argentina, Bolivia and Ireland are just some of the countries to have approved laws recognising transgender people and the United States is considering allowing them into the army. But there is still a lot to do. LGBT people are still persecuted in some 80 countries, and more than 2,000 transsexuals have been murdered since 2006, according to the Trans Murder Monitoring Project, part of the Berlin-based Transgender Europe NGO. “We have very few opportunities in life, very few,” said contest founder Wells. Israel’s Tallen Abu Hanna concurred, saying transsexuals have huge difficulties in finding jobs. “In the end, lots of them have to have sex for money.” 

She has been lucky though

A Christian Arab Israeli, she has become a celebrity since winning a transsexual beauty pageant in her country, and wants to take advantage of this fame to inspire Arab people, who like she once did may feel trapped “inside a cage.” “I became a woman and I found peace between my body and my soul.”

Militants attack crude oil pipeline in Nigeria

A militant group on Monday claimed an attack on a crude oil pipeline in Delta state, southern Nigeria, in the second attack on the same line in less than a week.

In an emailed statement, Niger Delta Greenland Justice Mandate (NDGJM) spokesperson Aldo Agbalaja said "Opudo strike force, at about 23:30 on Sunday, September 18, 2016, struck the Afiesere-Ekiugbo delivery line in Ughelli, operated by NPDC/Shoreline."

The rebel group hit the same pipeline last Tuesday and vowed to "ground" the Nigerian economy, which is already in recession, in part due to plummeting oil exports as a result of sabotage.

Ratings agency Standard & Poor's cut Nigeria's credit rating last week, saying the "marked contraction" in oil production from an average of 2.1 million barrels per day to 1.7 was hurting its economic prospects.

The NDGJM has stepped up its attacks after rival group the Niger Delta Avengers declared a ceasefire in August and entered talks with the Nigerian government.

"All agrarian products in the area surrounding the scene of the incident have been damaged as a result of the blast," a resident of the nearby Ekuigbo community, Efemena Akposire, told AFP.

A military officer added: "Unlike previous attacks carried out by the group where they hack-sawed the pipelines, dynamite was used in this case."

Poor living conditions

Nigeria's military has boosted its presence in the oil-producing southern swamplands in response to the attacks, raiding suspected militant camps and clamping down on illegal oil refineries.

Various rebel groups have complained about poor living conditions in the area, where despite massive oil wealth most people live in poverty without access to basic services such as education and health care.

Distrust in the Nigerian security forces is widespread in the region. Last week the NDGJM complained of intimidation and vowed to "match force with the oppressor's brutality".

Rebel attacks are not the only crimes plaguing the region: kidnappings for ransom are also common.

Nigerian police said Monday it had rescued 14 local oil workers and their driver after a shoot-out with their kidnappers near the oil hub of Port Harcourt, capital of Rivers state.

The employees of Nestoil Plc, an oil and gas service firm, were seized on September 2 by a gang of men who hijacked their vehicle and fired shots into the air to frighten away bystanders.

Rivers police spokesman Nnamdi Omoni said none of the oil workers was injured and no ransom was paid. Efforts were being made to track down the kidnappers, he added.

Nigeria stands out at Toronto film festival

Nigerian filmmakers, producers and actors are hoping a spotlight on Lagos at this year's Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) will open Nollywood up to the world.

But equally important, the filmmakers say, is maintaining the originality and fresh storytelling that has made the well-established Nigerian film industry such a national and regional success over the past two decades.

"Our stories are original. That's what makes us stand out," said Omoni Oboli, the filmmaker, producer and actress, whose movie Okafor's Law had its world premiere at the festival this year.

"I feel like the audiences are bored. Hollywood is churning out the same thing over and over again … We have fresh stories. It's original," Oboli said at a press conference in Toronto. "If they're bored, they should look to us - look to Nollywood."

Oboli's film is among eight Nigerian features being screened as part of the festival's annual City-to-City programme, which shines a light on filmmaking in cities around the world. In previous years, this section has shone a light on Seoul, London, Athens, Mumbai, and Istanbul, among other places.

Cameron Bailey, the film festival's artistic director, told Al Jazeera that he took "a leap of faith" when he made the decision to focus on Lagos this year, but he said he believed the timing was right.

"In addition to the very commercial films that have been coming out of Lagos for many years, there's a new generation that has a new Nollywood cinema that is working at higher budget levels, taking more time with their productions, greater technical quality and also just greater artistic ambition," Bailey said.

"We're beginning to see new kinds of films come out that I think can work very well on the festival circuit and in the rest of the film industry, so that's why I wanted to do it now."

The eight Nigerian films at the festival explore an array of storylines and genres, from the comedic capers of a Lagos cabbie in Daniel Emeke Oriahi's Oko Ashewo (Taxi Driver), to a drama about Lagos' successful battle against an outbreak of Ebola in 93 Days, directed by Steve Gukas.

In 76, Izu Ojukwu looks at the impact of a failed coup attempt in Nigeria in 1976, while director Uduak-Obong Patrick has made a youthful crime-comedy with a Lagos backdrop in Just Not Married.

The Wedding Party, meanwhile, invites audiences in to experience the joy and traditions of a Nigerian wedding - complete with all the drama and complications that may arise.

"What makes a Nigerian wedding party so different? You have to experience it first hand to be able to understand it. It's nothing like you've ever seen before: the colours, the attire, the people … It's a remarkable experience," said director Kemi Adetiba about the film, her first feature.

"The stories I think will resonate with all audiences," Bailey said, "but what you get to learn about, is how the storytellers shape their films in a very distinct way."

$3.3bn industry

The Nigerian film industry is second only to India's Bollywood in terms of the number of films produced, which is estimated at around 200 a month, according to an entertainment and media report by PricewaterhouseCoopers for 2014-2018 (PDF).

In 2014, the Nigerian government estimated that Nollywood was a $3.3bn industry, with 1,844 movies produced in 2013, Fortune magazine reported. The industry brings in $600m to the Nigerian economy annually, according to 2014 figures put out by the US International Trade Commission.

To date, Nigerian films have been cheap to produce and shoots generally last less than a month. "This enables a quick financial turnaround: A movie can be profitable within two to three weeks of release," the PwC report stated.

But most Nigerian films are watched on DVD and pirating is widespread: Nine pirated copies of a film are sold for every legitimate one, according to the World Bank (PDF).

According to Nigerian actress Genevieve Nnaji, who starred in 2013's Half of a Yellow Sun, the higher production values of recent Nigerian films demonstrate that Nollywood is ready for greater international collaborations.

"We need to invite more audience. We need to be more open with even our storylines and with collaborations. Right now, that's kind of the focus, which is why we're glad we're here," she told Al Jazeera at the festival.

Tapping into where the cinemas are is also important to build an audience, the actress said.

Despite having a population of more than 180 million people, Nigeria lacks cinemas: The filmmakers and producers at TIFF put the number of cinemas across Nigeria at 29, meaning the country has a total of only about 100 screens.

Building a global audience

Many in the industry wonder if Nigerian filmmakers should really be focused on appealing to an international audience, rather than making better films to satisfy their already expansive fan base.

According to Niyi Akinmolayan, director of The Arbitration, it is less about seeking validation from the United States or Hollywood, and more so wanting "to make films good enough for anyone anywhere to watch our movies".

"And, hopefully, we'll get some recognition," he said.

The Arbitration is largely set in a meeting room in Lagos, where a woman has accused a Nigerian IT company's chief executive - her former lover and boss - of rape. Though the film is partly a peak into the growing Nigerian hi-tech industry, its main themes - sexual harassment, power dynamics, and gender roles - are universal.

"I felt this is a perfect opportunity to polarise the audience and make them ask important questions. And in this case, we're defining sexual harassment, we're defining rape, we're defining the place of a woman in society … I always feel there's a lot of beauty and truth when you get people to ask questions," Akinmolayan said.

According to film festival's artistic director, Bailey, a desire to reach global audiences while also maintaining the distinctive style that appeals to people at home is something that has been witnessed in the film industries of South Korea, China, India and even France in recent years.

"I think Nigeria can do both," Bailey said. "Not everybody working in Nollywood is going to want, for instance, to try to set up a co-production with an American company or a European company, but some will. And I think the ones that will, will do well with it."

'Storytellers by nature'

David Oyelowo, the Nigerian-British actor who has starred in Hollywood films Selma and Five Nights in Maine, said the TIFF spotlight "is the start of something absolutely fantastic" for Nigerian talent.

"We've been doing this for a long time - telling stories traditionally, filmically, poetically. We are storytellers by nature," Oyelowo said in Toronto, where he is promoting his latest film, Queen of Katwe.

And it is those stories - uniquely Nigerian, but open to the world - that will propel Nollywood forward into its third decade, says young Nigerian director Abba Makama.

Makama was in Toronto to screen Green White Green, a coming-of-age story about three soon-to-be university students who set out to make a film and in the process learn who they are personally and within the mosaic of Nigerian cultures.

Bailey described the film as reminiscent of an early Spike Lee Joint, or even of American director Richard Linklater's work.

"The whole idea came about when I was studying in New York, and I would get the most ignorant questions about where I came from," Makama says. "I said, 'I need to go back home, and I'm going to show them where I'm from, what I'm doing, what I'm all about.'"

"It's my own way to say how much I love film, but I also wanted to give the western audience a crash course on what it means to be Nigerian. There isn't one archetype. There are facets. There are layers."

Monday, September 19, 2016

Video - Nigeria's Paralympians success attributed to fighting spirit

Nigeria could only manage a bronze medal at the Rio Olympic Games this year. But it's an altogether different story for the country at the ongoing Paralympic Games. CCTV's Deji Badmus has more about this impressive performance.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Video - Nigerian businessman provides shelter to thousands fleeing from Boko Haram

A businessman in northern Nigeria has opened his home to people forced on the streets because of the fight against Boko Haram.

The plight of thousands of displaced people who live outside government-run camps doesn’t receive much attention. 

AL Jazeera's Ahmed Idris reports from Maiduguri on those who've found refuge at the businessman's property.

Aide to fomer president faces $15m fraud charge

An aide to Nigeria's former President Goodluck Jonathan has been charged with $15 million fraud.

Warpamo Dudafa, the former special assistant for domestic affairs, appeared before a High Court in Lagos on Thursday to answer to a six-count charge filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

Six other accomplices are facing 15 counts related to conspiracy and fraud.

They are Amajuoyi Briggs, Adedamola Bolodeoku and four companies, Pluto Properties and Investment, Seagate Property Development, Trans Ocean Property and Investment and Avalon Global Property Ltd.

The first, second and third accused pleaded not guilty after the charges were read.

Meanwhile, the four individuals representing the companies listed in the charge each pleaded guilty to the offences.

Prosecutors asked the court to allow time for a review of the facts.

Justice Babs Kuewumi, however, declined and adjourned the case to September 27.

He also ordered the accused to be remanded in custody.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Video - Nigeria’s real estate sector suffers as luxury houses stand vacant

Nigeria's real estate sector is going through a tough time as the country grapples with a recession, and a sharply devalued currency. If there's one city that's taken a direct hit, it's Lagos, the commercial capital. The number of vacant houses, especially at the higher end of the market, has risen sharply over the past year, as Deji Badmus, reports.

How Nollywood got ready for its close-up on the global film festival stage

At times it feels like Nollywood has been around forever, such has been the Nigerian movie business’ impact on pan-African pop cultures and awareness around the world—and in Nigeria itself.

In truth, the modern version of Nigeria’s famed movie industry is less than 25 years old, making it a relative youngster by film industry standards. That might be why this week’s showcase of eight Nollywood movies at the influential Toronto Film Festival (TIFF) feels like a coming out ball for Nollywood to the global movie industry.

For years, the industry has attracted interest globally with an exciting but mixed reputation. Its low-budget, high-volume production levels helped it grow rapidly to become the world’s second biggest movie industry by volume, behind only India’s Bollywood. Then, there’s its well-documented problems with piracy with which the industry continues to struggle. But in Toronto the world’s leading movie makers and marketers will be taking a close look at Nollywood for the right reason: the much improved quality of its films.

Toronto Film Festival is probably best renown for identifying early Oscar contenders but it’s also an important venue to meet a variety of North American distributors from cable TV to movie theaters. Nigerian movie makers will be keen to be seen with a new slate of higher quality movies compared with the early days of the industry.

There’s been a growing shift from movie quantity to quality in recent years. In the past, Nollywood filmmakers had a reputation for breaking up feature films into unnecessary stretched out sequels in a bid to eke out as much revenue as possible by selling more home movies on DVD. But now, rather than put out multiple films annually, filmmakers are beginning to spend more time and resources to making fewer but better movies with the aim of being on the big screen in movie theaters.

This is largely down to increased investment in creating content. Africa Magic, a television channel owned by digital satellite giants, Multichoice, has been at the forefront of content creation, commissioning the development of Nollywood dramas and sitcoms. Multichoice is a division of Africa’s largest company, the South African media giant, Naspers.

The movies selected for the festival have small budgets by Hollywood standards, but huge in the context of Nollywood. For example ’76’, a historical fiction drama, cost $3 million to make and is supported by Africa Magic. EbonyLife TV, a Nigerian entertainment network, helped produce ‘Wedding Party’, which has had a high profile at the festival.

In addition to the selected movies, Lagos, Nigeria’s bustling commercial capital, will also be in focus having been selected as part of the City to City programme for the film festival. For many in the industry, the recognition by the Toronto film festival is seen as a nod to Nollywood’s rapid growth and evolution over the years.

With deeper pockets, investors are starting to bankroll the production of better quality movies, thus raising standards across the board.

“Standards have financial implications—you can’t expect certain standards on low-budget production,” says Chris Ihidero, the Lagos-based producer of popular TV sitcom, Fuji House of Commotion and drama series, Hush. He says better quality is inevitable with increased investment. “Filmmakers have always been skilled but have lacked finance. What we’re seeing now is a result of investors putting money on the table.”

Pirates of Lagos Lagoon

In the past, the motivating factor for putting out multiple movies was down to the lack of revenue structure in the industry. Movies were typically released straight to DVD or Video CD (VCD) as producers sold distribution rights to promoters for small profits. More often than not, promoters then facilitated the piracy of the films to recover their costs.

When Nigerians didn’t buy pirated movies, they rented them for a small token from home video rental shops which were popular in the 1990s and early 2000s. Crucially though, the revenues generated from the hundreds of rental stores hardly made it back to the producers. But that has changed over the past decade as the local cinema infrastructure, and consequently movie culture, has evolved and grown.

There are now some 25 cinemas across the country, most opened in the last 10 years. This is a tiny number for a country of 180 million people, even if they were just focused on its burgeoning middle class—23% of its population. The good news is that the growth of local movie theaters means filmmakers now have their movies screened before going on to DVD, bringing Nollywood more in line with the traditional Hollywood model.

One of the big successes of this model is ’30 days of Atlanta’, a 2014 romantic comedy which went on to gross $434,000—reportedly the highest for a local movie in Nigerian cinema history. But Ihidero says the cinemas are not anywhere near enough yet. “We need about 1,000 cinemas,” he says. At current pace, Ihidero estimates Nollywood films average $15,000 at the box office screening for two weeks in local cinemas. “You cannot grow an industry with revenue like that,” he says.

To plug the gap, Nollywood can turn to video on-demand platforms like iROKOtv, the largest online distributor of African online video (and also a producer of movies through ROK Studios). Since launch, iROKOtv has been popular among Nollywood’s key diaspora market. But as the price of mobile data drops locally, Nigerians are beginning to consume more content on mobile than ever before.

While the cinema culture is crucial to helping local films generate revenues, piracy problems still persist. DVD sales still only contribute a tiny fraction of revenue for filmmakers. Instead, pirates bootleg films, often publicly, cutting into the filmmaker’s earnings. According to World Bank estimates, for each legitimate sale, nine others are pirated. Kunle Afolayan, a leading filmmaker and Quartz Africa Innovators 2015 honoree, has felt the brunt firsthand. Afolayan’s movie, October 1, ended up being pirated before its planned DVD release last year severely reducing Afolayan’s chances of recouping his $2 million investment in the film.

Telling our story
Regardless of the problems that persist, the spotlight on Nollywood in Toronto brings with it a chance for Nigerian filmmakers to take the lead in telling the country’s many stories. For decades, there has been dissatisfaction with how Western media has represented Nigeria and the rest of the continent. Hollywood films and music videos have also been complicit. Movies depicting war and famine as a pervasive and generic reality as well as music videos lacking nuance, like Taylor Swift’s ‘Wildest Dreams’, have come in for criticism.

Lonzo Nzekwe, a Toronto-based Nigerian filmmaker, says the growing popularity of Nollywood films and stories outside the country could help fix that. “When Hollywood goes to Africa, they’ll show you the jungles and the dirty part of the continent,” Nzekwe told Toronto Metro. “But through Nollywood films you see the excellence of Africa. You see the beauty and the positive aspects of it. That’s the good thing about what TIFF is doing now.”

As British-Nigerian Hollywood star David Oyelowo reminded the audience in Toronto, “We are storytellers.”

Oil sink to worsen as Nigeria and Libya fields restart

Amid the most enduring global oil glut in decades, two OPEC crude producers whose supplies have been crushed by domestic conflicts are preparing to add hundreds of thousands of barrels to world markets within weeks.

Libya’s state oil company on Wednesday lifted curbs on crude sales from the ports of Ras Lanuf, Es Sider and Zueitina, potentially unlocking 300,000 barrels a day of supply. In Nigeria, Exxon Mobil Corp. was said to be ready to resume shipments of Qua Iboe crude, the country’s biggest export grade, which averaged about 340,000 barrels a day in shipments last year, according to Bloomberg estimates. On top of that, a second Nigerian grade operated by Royal Dutch Shell Plc is scheduled to restart about 200,000 barrels a day of flow within days.

While there are reasons to be cautious about whether the barrels will actually flow as anticipated, a resumption of those supplies -- more than 800,000 barrels a day in all -- could more than triple the global surplus that has kept prices at less than half their levels in 2014. It would also come just as members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and Russia are set to meet in Algiers later this month to discuss a possible output freeze to steady world oil markets.

“If you have some restart of Nigeria and some restart of Libya, then the rebalancing gets pushed even further out,” Olivier Jakob, managing director at Petromatrix GmbH in Zug, Switzerland, said by phone. “It complicates matters a lot before the meeting in Algeria.”

Libya Shipments

With a few exceptions, crude in New York and London has been stuck below $50 a barrel for months. The current global oil oversupply is about 370,000 barrels a day, according to data from the Paris-based International Energy Agency.

The resumption of shipments from the three Libyan ports would allow Libya to double crude output to 600,000 barrels a day within four weeks, National Oil Corp. Chairman Mustafa Sanalla said Tuesday in a statement on the company’s website.

The exports are possible after a substantial improvement in the security situation there, he said Wednesday in a separate statement. The Tripoli-based NOC lifted a measure called force majeure, which gives the company the right not to meet supply commitments.

Libya has made at least half a dozen failed pledges to restart shipments. What may be different this time is that the NOC has struck a deal with Khalifa Haftar, commander of forces who took control of Es Sider and Ras Lanuf. He also has control of the oil fields and pipelines that feed them.

Qua Iboe

Meanwhile Exxon has filled storage facilities at its Qua Iboe export terminal in Nigeria and is awaiting government clearance to resume shipments, a person familiar with the matter said Wednesday. Exxon declined to provide a timeline for a restart and said that a force majeure, in place since July, still stands.

In Nigeria, militant groups have repeatedly attacked oil infrastructure this year, making any resumption of flow reliant on pipeline and export terminals being secure from further incidents. Qua Iboe has been under force majeure since a “third-party impact” on a pipeline in July, according to Exxon.

“If it’s true, it’s another downward pressure for the markets because that would be a large amount to return to the market,” Thomas Pugh, commodities economist at Capital Economics, said by phone, adding that he doubts the resumptions will materialize given the situations in both countries.

West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark, was 0.3 percent higher at $43.70 a barrel at 12:56 p.m. in Hong Kong. Brent gained 0.5 percent to $46.09 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Video - Foreign airlines flying into Nigeria start refuelling abroad

Foreign airlines flying to Nigeria have started to refuel abroad to counter a growing scarcity of hard currency and jet fuel. This is the second blow for airlines operating there, since the central bank has made it almost impossible to repatriate profits from ticket sales. The crash in the naira since its floating in June has compelled firms like Total, Sahara and ConocoPhillips, to double the retail price of fuel. Some carriers have had aircraft stranded, or were forced to cancel planned trips. Dubai-based Emirates has started a detour to Accra, Ghana, to refuel, Germany's Lufthansa is loading more fuel in Frankfurt, while British Airways, KLM and Turkish Airlines have resorted to smaller aircraft.

David Oyelowo talks about the rise of Nigerian 'Nollywood' films

David Oyelowo feels the lure of Nollywood.

The two-time Golden Globe-nominated British star, who spent part of his childhood in Nigeria, says he may return there one day to join its booming movie industry, which is a hot topic at this year's Toronto International Film Festival.

"I can tell by the profile that they are gaining that it's not going to be long before I -- to be perfectly frank, as someone who has established their career in Western filmmaking -- am going to be desirous to go back and make a film that would be deemed a Nollywood movie," Oyelowo said in an interview at the Toronto film fest.

"Because for me, excellence is key and I want to work with the best filmmakers in the world, whoever they are, wherever they are. And of course there's going to be a very particular desire to do that if that is happening in Nigeria."

The Toronto film festival's City to City program is showcasing eight titles from Lagos, Nigeria, a prolific centre for cinema.

"Nollywood, it oscillates between being the second- and third-biggest film industry in the world," said Oyelowo, who stars in two films at the fest: the Ugandan chess-champion drama "Queen of Katwe" and the interracial couple story "A United Kingdom."

"Living there myself, being of Nigerian parentage, we love a good story, we love a good yarn. It's very much embedded in the culture and that's why we have this prolific production of movies."

Each year, Nollywood produces about 1,000 low-budget features that generate about $1 billion in ticket sales, according to TIFF.

That's giving rise to a new generation of filmmakers, as well as bigger movie budgets.

"Up until recently, the production value of the films has been fairly low and that has also been impacted by piracy, which means that it's a very hard industry within to make the commensurate amount of remuneration you should for making movies," said Oyelowo.

"So that's also why the production values have remained low, because by and large, about a week or so into having made your movie, it's going to be so pirated that you stop making money for it. So you've got to make all of your money very, very quickly and then move onto the next one."

But new streaming avenues cropping up in Africa are reducing piracy and increasing the quality of the films, added Oyelowo.

He also noted that Nigerians who had emigrated to the U.S. began to return home after the 2008 economic crisis.

"Now they are emerging as entrepreneurs, as filmmakers who have taken what they learned, whether in American or in Europe, back and employing those methods to Nigerian storytelling and the quality is being driven up," he said.

"So I believe it won't be long before movies coming out of Nigeria are going to be at a world-class level."

Nollywood actress wins gold medal at 2016 Paralympics

When Lauritta Onye threw a shot put 8.40m she not only won gold but broke a word record.
The Nigerian Paralympic gold medallist is also known as…. Laury White.
Under that name she starred in the Nollywood film Lords of Money in 2015.

Her performance skills were put to good use on Sunday night when she celebrated her victory in acrobatic style in front of the cameras.

Nigeria's Paralympians already have six golds, two silvers and one bronze medal.

That's compared to Nigeria's Olympic team which only took home one bronze for football last month.

At the half-way point Nigeria's Paralympic team is 10th in the medal table and top among African countries, whereas the Olympians were joint 78th by the end.

At London 2012 the country won 13 medals at the Paralympic Games and not one single medal in the Olympics. And again they came home with more medals in 2008, 2004, 2000 and 1996.

Before this Games, the former director of the National Sports Commission went as far as to say that he hoped the Paralympians would "erase the shame of the dismal showing at the Olympic Games".

Weightlifter Lucy Ejike broke a world record on Sunday to win gold with a lift of 142kg in the women's under-61kg event.

It is the third time she has broken a world record - in Beijing in 2008 she broke two during the under-48kg event. The 38-year-old wheelchair user has won three gold medals since she started competing in 2000.

Only one of Nigeria's nine medals is not in powerlifting - so far it has five Paralympic powerlifting golds, two silvers and one bronze.

That's added to 15 other powerlifting gold medals since Nigeria started competing in 1992.

But then the numbers are against the other Paralympians - 14 of the 23 Nigerian competitors are powerlifters. This doesn't appear to be by accident.

After the powerlifters came back from the 2012 Paralympics with 12 medals the then Sports Minister Bolaji Abdullahi told the UK's Guardian paper that Nigeria would just put money into a few sports where they have a comparative advantage.

Air Force has done Nigeria proud fighting Boko Haram - Abubakar

The Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, has told Air Force personnel involved in the fight against Boko Haram insurgents in the North East that President Muhammadu Buhari is very happy and appreciates their efforts.

Abubakar made the statement on Tuesday during an Eid-el-Kabir celebration lunch with Air Force troops at Yola Air Force Base.

The CAS was represented by Chief of Policy and Plans, NAF headquarters, AVM James Abubakar. Abubakar said Buhari was full of appreciation for the troops and urged them to sustain the efforts toward bringing peace to the Northeast and Nigeria.

“The good work you are doing is appreciated by the commander-in-chief; he is sending his greetings to you at this festive time.

“He commends your efforts and urges you to sustain your commitment for peace in the Northeast and Nigeria as a whole. “We also want to use this opportunity to thank the commander-in-chief for his support to the Nigerian Air Force,’’ Abubakar said.

He said that NAF was also happy with the troops’ performance and would continue to ensure their welfare and those of their families.

Earlier in an address of welcome, the Air Officer Commanding Tactical Air Command, AVM Muhammed Mohammadu, thanked the CAS for his commitment to their welfare and for always identifying with them to boost their morale.

“We want to pledge our support and loyalty to Nigerian Air Force and the nation,” Muhammadu said.

Nigeria has to fight Polio again

Last year, the World Health Organization declared the country to be "polio-free." That milestone meant the disease was gone from the entire continent of Africa, a major triumph in the multibillion-dollar global effort to eradicate the disease.

But that declaration of "polio-free" turned out to be premature.

Three new cases of polio have been confirmed in areas liberated from Boko Haram militants, prompting health officials to launch a massive campaign to vaccinate millions of children across four countries in West and Central Africa

Before the cases were found, the world appeared extremely close to making polio the second human disease after smallpox to be eradicated. There had been fewer than two-dozen polio cases in 2016, clustered in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Then health officials in Nigeria found three paralyzed kids inside parts of Borno state that had been held by the Islamic militant group Boko Haram.

Dr. Chima Ohuabunwo, an epidemiologist who's been working with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Nigeria for the past five years, says Boko Haram has cut off parts of Borno state, in Nigeria's northeast, from the rest of the world.

"There's been no direct in and out movement of persons, or access to health care, for the past two to three years," Ohuabunwo says.

Earlier this year, he says, half of Borno state was a no-go zone. Government health care workers and international relief groups, including polio vaccination teams, could be attacked or killed if they tried to enter those areas. At the same time, Boko Haram was pillaging farms and destroying health clinics.

"Of about 38 secondary health care facilities in the entire state, 16 were totally burnt down by these insurgents," Ohuabunwo says.

It's only after recent military offensives by the Nigerian army into Boko Haram territory that health officials were able to find the three kids who'd been paralyzed by polio. One was a 4-year-old girl in a family that had escaped and made it to a displaced persons camp.

The immediate concern is to make sure all children in Borno state are vaccinated, but parts of the state remain under the militants' control. So polio immunizers have set up vaccination posts on the roads just outside the Boko Haram-controlled areas.

"We only get access to the children when there's some incursion by the military and they [the children] come out," Ohuabunwo says. "We have prepared health teams called border post teams who sit and wait. As soon as the children come out, we get them, assess them, administer vaccines."

In addition to these roadside vaccinators, Nigeria is conducting three mass polio immunization campaigns across accessible parts of Borno state. The goal is to vaccinate every child they can find under age 5. One mass campaign was held in August. Another starts next week, and a third launches in October.

"One of the problems with polio is that the infections that lead to paralysis are just the tip of the iceberg," says Dr. Walt Orenstein, a professor of medicine at Emory University who has worked for years on polio eradication efforts.

"Generally less than one in 200 infections actually leads to paralysis."

This means there is probably a lot more polio virus floating around in the Boko Haram-controlled parts of northeastern Nigeria than has been detected. The World Health Organization is concerned about the virus spilling over into Cameroon, Chad and Niger, so WHO is planning additional emergency polio vaccination campaigns in those neighboring countries.

The security situation makes it nearly impossible to eradicate polio in militant-controlled parts of West Africa. But Orenstein points out that it has been done elsewhere, in lots of other complicated conflicts, and he's confident that eventually polio will be defeated in northern Nigeria too.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Video - Hundreds displaced by Boko Haram return home

Hundreds of Nigerian refugees are returning to their homes after fleeing Boko Haram. The devastation is widespread - homes and farmlands destroyed by the Islamic militants. Many people returning home have to start from scratch. Kelechi Emekalam speaks to one family.

Video - Lagos state government tightens grip on mile-to-mile system

Nigeria's Lagos state government has reiterated its commitment to regulate the mile-to-mile taxi system. This is in a bid to ensure safety and security for passengers. A franchise system has already been developed to ensure control and regulation within the sector. The terms of taxi operations are contained in the Road Traffic Law of 2012 and subsequent regulation approved and released in January 2016. But the new rules are facing resistance from some groups who want to pull out of the franchise. The Lagos state government insists that groups hold a franchise and by implication a licence.

Nigeria leading in Africa's medal wins at 2016 Paralympics

Team Nigeria yesterday toppled Tunisia on Africa’s medal haul at the ongoing Rio 2016 Paralympic Games in Brazil after Lauritta Onye and Ndidi Nwosu claimed gold medals.

Prior to Monday’s feat by Onye and Nwosu, Tunisia was leading the continent’s medal haul with four gold medals but Nigeria overtook the North Africa with Onye setting a new world record in the women’s shot put F40 of athletic event.

It was Onye fourth throw of 8.40 metre that set a new world record for her ahead of Tunisia’s Rima Abdelli (7.37m) and Netherlands’ Lara Baars (7.12m) that both claimed silver and bronze medals respectively. Onye first throw of 7.83m had erased her own world record of 7.72m set at the 2015 IPC world athletics championships in Doha but the Nigerian went further to set the best record in the history of the event.

Also, Nwosu claimed the fifth gold medal for Nigeria when she lifted 140kg in the women’s -73kg of the Powerlifting event.

The first bronze medal for Nigeria was won by Nnamdi Innocent in the men’s -72kg of Powerlifting.

Apart from the medal won in athletics by Onye, all the medals won by Team Nigeria came from Powerlifting with hope for more medals in the event.

So far, Team Nigeria is placing nine on the medal table with five gold, two silver and one bronze medals, while China is topping with 40gold, 31silver and 24 bronze medals.

Nokia Blocked From Doing Business In Nigeria

Nokia Corp. (NOK) may be committed to the Nigerian market, but its operations in the country have been blocked by the Nigerian Communications Commission. The commission in Nigeria said Nokia’s operations were halted, because the company doesn’t have a license to operate there.

“‘They need a sales and installations license,” Tony Ojobo, spokesman of the regulator, told Bloomberg News. “They had started the process about three weeks ago but stopped somewhere.” Ojobo did say Nokia and the commission are in talks about how to resolve the matter. Nokia is required to pay $6,354 for the license, according to the report. In an emailed statement to Bloomberg, Nokia said the administrative office in Lagos is temporarily closed and that Nokia is working to rectify the situation.

For years Nokia had been a big supplier of mobile phones in Nigeria, which is Africa’s most populated country. The company lost its prominence a few years ago as other smartphone makers, namely Apple and Samsung Electronics, rose in popularity. Now it is attempting to become a big player in Nigeria again. The country is an attractive market to telecom companies, because Nigerians are buying more smartphones than ever before, which is prompting a build out of mobile networks that are faster. According to Statista, in 2016 the number of smartphone users in Nigeria is expected to hit 15.5 million and grow to 23.3 million by 2019.

The situation in Nigeria is just the latest blow to Nokia in recent weeks as the once dominate mobile phone maker tries to regain some of its luster. Recently, the company has lost two top executives in its technology division, which is charged with bringing Nokia handsets into the market (See, also: Nokia’s Tech Unit Sees Another Top Executive Leave.); has made acquisitions to increase its presence in the Internet of Things market; it acquired Alcatel-Lucent, adopting a huge patent of different technologies and has inked partnerships to get back into the handset market. Its acquisition of Withings, which it announced in April, is also a play in the Internet of Things.

Flights to Nigeria forced to refuel elsewhere

Foreign airlines flying to Nigeria have started to refuel abroad to bypass pricey, and increasingly scarce, jet fuel as the oil producer battles a hard currency shortage that has made fuel available only at a very high price.

It is the second blow for airlines operating in Africa's recession-hit biggest economy in a year that first saw the central bank make it almost impossible to repatriate profits from ticket sales as it tried to prevent a currency collapse.

The crash in the naira since a devaluation in June has led firms who market jet fuel locally, such as Total, Sahara and ConocoPhillips, to double the price to 220 naira a litre in August, and to as much as 400 naira this month, an airline executive said.

Even at the higher costs, marketers' lack of dollars has made fuel scarce. Some carriers have had aircraft stuck, or were forced to cancel planned journeys, after frantic last-minute calls from ground staff warned there was no fuel available.

"The economy is crying out for investment, and now it is going to be even harder for anyone to visit," said John Ashbourne, economist with Capital Economics. "Who is going to want to park a billion dollars in a country that you can't even easily fly to? It sends the worst possible signal."

A spokesman for state oil company NNPC did not answer calls for comment.

The central bank hoped floating the naira would attract dollar inflows, but the naira sunk by 50 percent, forcing oil firms to charge airlines, stuck with piles of naira, in dollars for jet fuel.

"It's an impossible situation. The oil marketers don't want to sign long-term agreements anymore so we have to accept whatever prices they demand," one airline executive said. "We sell tickets in naira and now they want us to come with dollars."

Spain's Iberia and United Airlines cancelled their Nigeria services earlier this year, and two local carriers also halted operations. Other international airlines responded by boosting ticket prices within Nigeria, charging its globe-trotting elite as much as $2,000 for an economy class ticket to Europe to cut losses - more than double the cost of a Lagos ticket bought abroad.


Dubai-based Emirates has started a detour to Accra, Ghana, to refuel its daily Abuja-bound flight, a spokesman said. The airline already cut its twice-daily flights to Lagos and Abuja to just one.

The move was aided by a substantial drop in Ghana's jet prices amid tax reform last month, according to the Ghana Chamber of Bulk Oil Distributors.

Air France-KLM said it had refueled abroad in "very exceptional cases" by juggling suppliers and stomaching extra costs.

Germany's Lufthansa is loading more fuel in Frankfurt for its Lagos flight, where the ground staff doubt their ability to refuel for the final destination of Malabo, the capital of Equatorial Guinea, an executive said. The airline did not respond to official requests for comment.

The scarcity has even pitted airlines against local consumers; a surge in demand for cooking and heating kerosene during the rainy season, when households cannot easily burn wood or charcoal, means if the airlines do not pay up, marketers will sell to locals.

Airlines met with transport ministry officials last week in Abuja to press for fuel at lower prices, industry sources said.

Nigeria used to be one of the most profitable markets for foreign airlines, landing planes with plenty of first and business class to cater to executives and officials jetting around under former President Goodluck Jonathan.

President Muhammadu Buhari cut air travel allowances for officials in a bid to tackle graft; others simply have less spending power with consumer inflation running at an 11-year high of 17 percent.

British Airways, a popular choice for well-heeled Nigerians, said it is using smaller aircraft on its Lagos-London route, as did Air France-KLM.

Turkish Airlines' use of smaller planes has added another inconvenience: passengers complained there is not always space for luggage on the smaller aircraft, delaying it for days. The airline did not respond to requests for comment.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Video - Nigerian refugees in Niger struggle amid scarce resources

People in parts of Nigeria are struggling to get help after being displaced by Boko Haram.

Two years of violence by the armed group has forced 2.5 million people from their homes.

Video - Nigeria government accuses NGOs of using rescued Chibok girls to get donations

Only 5 out of 15 Chibok girls who escaped from captivity last year are currently being sponsored in school in the US. The Nigerian Government and parents of the children are accusing NGOs of using the girls to get donations there.

Nigeria Ebola movie gets resounding applause at TIFF

Apart from telling a global story from a Nigerian perspective, many were enthralled that 93 Days, the Ebola virus drama by Steve Gukas, was as gripping as the true account of the happenstances that held Lagos and other Nigerian cities by the jugular in 2014.

Incidentally, it is one of the films that celebrate Lagos State for its conquest of the virus within 93 days, despite a precarious compact population.

During the curtain call, Gukas shed more light on the essence of the film, which he said is a celebration of Lagos for its proactiveness in containing the virus as well as to immortalize the legendary doctors and nurses who put their lives in the line.

He said: “In this film, we did two things: challenging the perception about Nigeria and presenting it to outsiders to see. The other one is to ask very challenging questions about government. Because the truth of the matter is that government did a lot at that time but the health defense infrastructure in Nigeria is still very weak, to the extent that if this were to happen again, we would be struggling again. We have six different regions in Nigeria that are the key to how Nigeria is structured, and Lagos was the most prepared to be able to take care of this, so we were lucky it happened in Lagos. Had it happed somewhere in the North, somewhere in the East, or somewhere farther in the North East, the story we would be telling will be different. So the question we are asking our government is how prepared are we for next time?”

Responding, Lagos State Commissioner of Information and Strategy, Steve Ayorinde noted that the state was indeed prepared for Ebola having invested hugely in health services and infrastructure. He said there was the need to archive reality; hence he was glad a film like ’93 Days’ was produced to tell the story. What is government doing? He asked rhetorically. “There are quite a lot. Lagos is a state of 21 million people, and that calls for pro-activeness. Our government in particular is investing in emergency health services and all I can say is that we deal with issues as they come and Lagos is ever prepared for any emergencies.”

After its successful screening at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the world premiere of 93 Days took place on Friday, 9th September 2016 at the Isabel Bader Theatre.

The event which started with the arrival of the cast, producers and director had the movie introduced by Cameron Bailey, Creative Director of TIFF.

The premiere was attended by some members of the cast, including Danny Glover, Bimbo Akinkola, Keppy Ekpenyong, Somkele Iyamah-Idlahama, Sola Oyebode, Associate Producer of 93 Days, Kemi DaSilva-Ibru as well as the Producers/Executive Producers; Bolanle Austen-Peters, Dotun Olakunri and Steve Gukas.

Also speaking during the Q&A, Glover emphasized how he was so proud to be a part of the film.

“It was important for me to be in this film because of the message. Nigeria is a dynamic great country; it’s a country where the people are challenging themselves. This is an example of how they challenged themselves and succeeded. I’m so proud to be a part of it.”

Scheduled for another premiere in Lagos on September 13 at The Rock Cathedral, Lekki, the movie will be showing in cinemas nationwide from September 16.