Friday, October 28, 2016

Video - Nigerian labour unions protest sacking of oil workers by foreign operators

Labor union officials in Nigeria are calling on the government to file a protest with foreign oil operators who they say have sacked about 3,000 oil workers. President of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Igwe Achese says the government has 21-days to order multinationals to stop the exercise. The unions are threatening to down tools unless the matter is resolved within the period.

Nigeria to spend $10bn in ending conflict in Nigeria Delta

Nigeria will invest $10bn (Ј8bn) in its oil-rich south to end an insurgency by militants, the oil minister has said.

The money would be used to build infrastructure, including roads and railways, Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu said.

Militant attacks have severely disrupted oil production, fuelling a recession in the West African state.

The militants have been demanding that the government spend more of its oil wealth on tackling widespread poverty in a region, known as the Niger Delta.

They also accuse multinational firms of polluting the environment, destroying the livelihoods of farming and fishing communities.

Mr Kachikwu said that President Muhammadu Buhari would meet the militants and community leaders next week.

"Our target is to ensure zero militancy in the area," he said.

"This planned meeting shows the level of interest the president has to ensure peace in the area."

The $10bn would "not necessarily" come from the federal government, but from "oil companies, investors, individuals", he is quoted by Reuters news agency as saying.

A new militant group, the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), emerged after President Buhari, a northerner, took office last year after winning elections.

It has carried out a spate of attacks on oil plants and pipelines, causing a sharp fall in oil production and worsening the financial crisis in Africa's most populous state.

Mr Buhari's predecessor Goodluck Jonathan came from the Niger Delta, and managed to broker a peace deal with militants in the region.

The militants accuse Mr Buhari of reneging on the deal, an allegation he denies.

Oil is the Nigerian government's main source of income.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Video - Nigeria is adopting policy interventions to address maternal and child health

Nigeria - Africa's most populous nations, with nearly 180 million people -- is adopting policy interventions to address maternal, new-born and child health.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Video - Warning sounded over fate of Nigeria's Hausa language

Language experts in Nigeria warn that one of Africa's leading languages is losing its creativity.

Every week, dozens of books are published in Hausa but many Nigerians complain that they are not well researched and that it is difficult to find classical writing.

Video - Young Nigerian advocates for the 'Buy Made in Nigeria' campaign

A young Nigerian is taking the fashion industry in that country by storm. Adebayo Bankole Thomas only started out in the fashion business just three years ago after earning a degree in Economics. Today, his Bankole Thomas brand is one of the positive stories propelling the Buy Made in Nigeria campaign, aimed at getting Nigerians patronize locally made products more.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Video - Kingdom of Benin crowns new monarch in age-old ceremony

In Nigeria, around 100,000 people have gathered to celebrate one of Africa's oldest and most prestigious realms. The Kingdom of Benin dates back to the 13th century and is famous for its vast wealth, sophisticated urban design and intricate bronzes. And this week the kingdom crowned its new Oba, or king, Ewuare the second.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Video - Nigerian government extends anti-piracy operation by 3 months

Piracy is a problem off West Africa's coast too. Nigeria has extended its anti-piracy operations there by there months. Authorities say they're determined to end attacks in its waters.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Survivors of Boko Haram risk starvation

After being forced to flee their homes, witnessing brutal violence and the destruction of their communities, many in northeastern Nigeria are now facing another pressing risk — severe malnutrition and even starvation.

It's estimated that some 2.6 million people have been made homeless by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram, as they waged their seven-year long insurgency. People forced to flee headed in whichever direction was safe at the time.

Some two million have fled internally within Nigeria, moving to bigger cities in the northeast such as Maiduguri in Borno state or Yola in Adamawa state. Some fled south, or across borders into neighbouring countries.

Most crammed in with family, friends or distant relatives.

About 10 per cent, including the many unaccompanied children who saw their families slaughtered, have sought refuge in official and unofficial camps for the internally displaced.

Warnings have coming for months, with one aid agency after another expressing concern about the scale of this crisis and looming famine.

Millions of people in Nigeria need food assistance, the UN says. In Borno state alone, more than 240,000 children under the age of five are facing severe acute malnutrition.

For 65,000 people in the hard-hit north the risk is even greater — famine-like conditions and the risk of death.

Need 'will only increase'

Ghilda Chrabieh, director of humanitarian programs for Mercy Corps in Nigeria, says the situation could be particularly dire in places yet unreachable due to ongoing fighting and insecurity.

"We are projecting that the numbers of people in need will only increase as we start to access those areas."

President Muhammadu Buhari — who didn't mention the looming famine his country faces in a recent speech for Nigeria's Independence Day celebrations — recently spoke about the scope of the problem that comes with such a massive displacement of people, including many women and children.

"It is weighing heavily on government," Buhari said in a statement, noting that many of the children displaced by conflict and crises don't know their parents or where they come from.

The statement came after a meeting with Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Maurer has described the situation in Nigeria and neighbouring Niger as "a forgotten crisis."

Speaking in an ICRC video released via social media, he said this is "despite the fact that it is one of the largest ICRC operations in the world," adding that "people outside of Niger, outside of the Lake Chad region do not really offer the attention which this conflict deserves."

'Catastrophic' situation for many

The Mercy Corps director says organizations know that "people will need life-saving aid," with food and medical care to deal with malnutrition as a first priority.

"Based on the conditions we've seen as we've gained access, and based on many reports from agencies in locations like Bama, Banki, Konduga and Monguno, we know the situation is catastrophic," Chrabieh says.

Mercy Corps has been working in the town of Damboa, which was repeatedly hit by Boko Haram attacks. In 2014, there were reports that 95 per cent of the town had been destroyed, with burnt bodies left littering the charred remains of the marketplace.

The U.S.-based charity said 97 per cent of people they interviewed in Damboa reported that they were unable to afford to buy any food for the past four weeks.

The Nigerian government continues to tell people who fled the violence that they should return home to liberated towns and villages and rebuild their lives, but Boko Haram is still active in some areas and a feeling of insecurity has kept many away.

And so, hundreds of thousands of displaced people continue to lean on host families, or pour into makeshift camps for the displaced — and resources are being stretched to their limits.

Basic services such as health care, clean water and sanitation are already poor and there are concerns about the spread of disease.

Nigeria had gone two years without any reported polio cases but three have now been confirmed in Borno state and with poor drainage and stagnant water during rainy season deaths from malaria and cholera have risen.

This crisis though is not just affecting northeast Nigeria. Across the borders into Chad, Niger and Cameroon the same scenarios of hunger are being witnessed.

Some aid agencies like UNICEF have already warned that this crisis is now too big for one single government or charity to deal with alone. 

As the country director of Mercy Corps Iveta Ouvry said: "This is not a crisis that will be solved with one silver-bullet solution … Put simply, the world cannot afford to wait another moment to take action."

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Video - Nigerian banks impose restrictions on debit and credit card payments

Nigeria's economy is battling acute dollar crisis. It has prompted banks to suspend the use of Nigerian debit and credit cards in foreign currency transactions. The government has also suspended access to forex at the central bank. Locals use this service to pay tuition fees for Nigerian students in the diaspora.

Video - Buhari vows to redouble efforts to free remaining Chibok girls

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari says Nigeria will double efforts to rescue the rest of the girls still missing two years after they were kidnapped by Boko Haram. Buhari spoke when he visited the 21 Chibok girls rescued this week from the militants.

Uber in Nigeria to offer drivers low-interest used-vehicle loans

Uber Nigeria is now making low-interest, used-vehicle loans available to its top-rated driver-partners. The pioneering move is the result of partnerships entered into between Uber Nigeria and First Bank of Nigeria Limited, as well as smaller financiers. This means that, for the first time, Uber driver-partners in Nigeria will be able to apply for finance for used vehicles based on their driver performance records.

According to Ebi Atawodi, General Manager for Uber in Nigeria, the used vehicle finance offering is the first of its kind to be made available to Uber driver-partners in the country and this is in keeping with Uber’s stated commitment to constantly develop forward-thinking partnerships that benefit its driver-partners.

“We are absolutely committed to making it as easy as possible for our driver-partners to start and maintain their own successful and profitable businesses,” Atawodi explains, “and these used vehicle finance options make it possible for those with a demonstrable performance commitment to build sustainable businesses without incurring the high costs often associated with new vehicle purchases.”

The move is set to create significant business growth opportunities for driver-partners by allowing them to access used-car finance from First Bank of Nigeria Limited at a very competitive interest rate of just 20% per annum over a 24 month repayment period. Alternative offers for used-vehicle finance on the Uber Vehicle Solutions Programme will attract 22% per annum, with a maximum repayment term of 36 months.

According to MD/CEO, First Bank of Nigeria Limited and Subsidiaries, Adesola Adeduntan, the Bank is committed to supporting entrepreneurs to build sustainable businesses which are pivotal in stimulating economic development. “It remains our business to foster the growth and development of small and medium scale businesses in Nigeria as the No1 SME Bank. This is the reason why we have partnered with Uber by empowering operators to own vehicles and build profitable businesses,” he further stated.

In order to qualify for this preferential used-vehicle finance from First Bank of Nigeria Limited, Uber driver-partners will need to be able to demonstrate an average driver performance rating of higher than 4.5 and have earned more than N2,400,000 in the preceding 6 months.

Atawodi is quick to emphasise that Uber’s commitment to helping its driver-partners build their businesses extends far beyond just making innovative vehicle finance available to them. Rather, these offerings come on the back of Uber’s existing range of innovative business-building solutions, including Uber Marketplace, which is a one-stop national vehicle access solution designed to connect driver-partners and investors to suitable vehicles at discounted rates. Uber Nigeria also recently launched its well-received UberMomentum Partner Rewards Programme that delivers localised discounts, preferential deals and rewards exclusively to driver-partners and small business owners.

“The growing suite of vehicle finance, business and lifestyle solutions that Uber Nigeria is making available to driver-partners and other business investors reaffirms our commitment to supporting and partnering with them to ensure their success,” Atawodi explains, “not just in terms of helping them to increase their income and profits, but more importantly by affording them every opportunity to truly transform their lives by establishing and expanding viable and sustainable businesses of their own.”

“By linking these solutions to the performance of our driver-partners, we further increase their chances of long-term business success, while at the same time building a network of transport professionals that Nigerians know they can trust to get them to their destinations safely and comfortably,” she concludes.

South Africa surpasses Nigeria as Africa's biggest economy

A new report from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has projected Nigeria as Africa’s biggest economy, in spite of its current challenges.

Nigeria is placed ahead of South Africa and Egypt which are second and third respectively.

In August, Nigeria was reported to have lost its position as Africa’s biggest economy to South Africa, following the recalculation of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

But the IMF’s World Economic Outlook for October, puts Nigeria’s GDP at 415.08 billion dollars, from 493.83 billion dollars in 2015, while South Africa’s GDP was put at 280.36 billion dollars, from 314.73 billion dollars in 2015.

According to the report, Egypt’s 2016 data is not available, but its 2015 size remained at 330.159 dollars while that of Algeria, one of the largest economies on the continent, is put at 168.318 billion dollars.

The United States, China and Japan maintain their spots as the largest economies in the world, ahead of Germany, United Kingdom and France.

According to a review in September, the current economic recession will outlast 2016, with a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) contraction of 1.7 per cent.

The IMF had predicted that Nigeria’s economy would grow away from a recession in 2017.

The country last witnessed a recession, for less than a year, in 1991, and experienced a prolonged one that started in 1982 and lasted until 1984.

President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has so far disbursed over N700 billion in capital expenditure this year, part of a record N6.06 trillion (30 billion dollars) budget for 2016.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Video - Nigerian government expects oil production to rise by 22% by end of the year

Nigeria expects its oil production rate to jump by 22% by the end of the year to 2.2 M barrels per day. Apart from the impact of low oil prices, whose sales account for 70% of the Nigerian government's revenue, the country's energy facilities have been crippled by attacks from militants calling for a greater share of the oil wealth. Qua Iboe, Nigeria's largest export stream, and Forcados remain under force majeure. Nigeria's petroleum minister Ibe Kachikwu anticipates that oil prices will rise from current levels by December. He is meeting his Indian counterpart Dharmendra Pradhan to discuss expanding energy ties between the two countries.

Monopoly U-17 tournament in Nigeria reflects reality of the housing market

The clock was running out at the Lagos Under-17 Monopoly Championship, and the pace of play was becoming so frantic it was hard to decipher the true holder of Banana Island, Tiamiyu Savage Street and other properties on the board.

“I am the owner of this house!” shouted Ibrahim Mubarak, 14, a student from Isale Eko Junior Grammar School, his finger jabbing the property on the board.

But just after Ibrahim collected his rent, time was up: The largest Monopoly tournament in Africa’s biggest city was finished.

Crumpled and weathered Monopoly money lay scattered across 153 wobbly tables in the stuffy gymnasium, where more than 1,200 students had huddled for an hour around game boards based on Lagos. A champion was declared, only to be usurped moments later by organizers who had made a mistake and overlooked another competitor.

“The key to winning is just to have determination,” said Elizabeth Braimoh, 13, the official winner and a student at Topfield College.

Nigerians have a fondness for board games. Chess and ayo, a game similar to mancala, are popular here. And the nation’s prowess at Scrabble went global this year when a Nigerian player, Wellington Jighere, captured the world championship.

But playing Monopoly is appealing for another reason: It mimics the chaos of the real estate market in Lagos. Buying property is a tangled affair, plagued by bribery, scams and even machete-wielding gangsters.

“It’s a true reflection of what is on the ground in Lagos,” said Tarba Fatai Oladele, a physical education teacher at Ipakodo Senior Grammar School.

Monopoly began to take off about four years ago here, when Lagos got its own version of the game. The new board replaced staples of the American game, like Park Place and Boardwalk, with local properties like Bourdillon Road, a street in the Ikoyi neighborhood lined by luxury apartments, and Agege, an area near the main airport that is home to a government affordable housing project.

In August, the Lagos State Sports Commission named Monopoly an officially recognized sport. Officials quickly organized the late-September tournament, hoping to break a world record for the number of competitors simultaneously playing the game — 605 people at Universal Studios in Singapore in March, according to Guinness World Records. The Lagos event has been submitted to Guinness for verification.

The commission hopes to host more tournaments, with the added aim of teaching children strategies for saving money and making good investments.

“Real estate is an asset class that everyone should aspire to have,” said Nimi Akinkugbe, chief executive of Bestman Games, which distributes the Lagos version of Monopoly and helped organize the tournament.

Yet outside the gymnasium, on the streets of sprawling and hectic Lagos, the actual real estate market rivals the chaos of 1,200 raucous teenagers rocking tables and screaming, “Pay, pay, pay!”

“It’s a big mess,” said Megan Chapman, a founder of the Justice & Empowerment Initiatives, a Nigerian nonprofit that monitors land rights issues.

Nigerians, like many people around the world, dream of owning property. In a country that has one of the biggest economies on the continent and brags of a nascent middle class, the staple of owning real estate should seem within reach.

But the country is struggling through a recession. Inflation is at levels not seen in 11 years. Interest rates are so high that most home loans are unaffordable for average buyers.

The real estate market operates on a buyer-beware system starkly visible across the metropolis, where spray-painted signs on numerous homes shout warnings: “This house is not for sale.” The messages try to thwart a longtime con game in which scammers sell homes they don’t actually own to unsuspecting buyers.

Buyers must also navigate corruption even at official levels. Government workers have long demanded bribes in order to obtain official documents needed for buying property.

Even once a deal is done, problems emerge. Armed with machetes, criminal gangs so well established they have a name, omo onile, roam Lagos building sites looking to extort money before allowing construction to begin.

Also, the government makes liberal use of eminent domain, regularly seizing property, sometimes with extreme consequences. This month, nearly 33,000 people were evicted from a seaside community in the Lekki suburb of Lagos.

Officials razed part of a slum near the city’s main port in 2013, forcing 9,000 people from their homes. The year before, the state cleared part of Makoko, a waterside slum, which appears on the Lagos version of the Monopoly board as the cheapest property.

The Nigerian judicial system offers little relief from scams and property takeovers; dockets are so clogged that land disputes take years to resolve. Petitioners’ homes in Lagos are sometimes flattened before judgments can be handed down.

Matthew Ottah, a top property rights lawyer in Lagos who specializes in detecting land scams, estimated that this year alone he investigated more than 200 deals for clients hoping to buy property and found less than a quarter of them to be legitimate.

“There’s one story or the other that makes it impossible for us to approve it,” said Mr. Ottah, adding that he sometimes gets calls from omo onile gang members who threaten his life.

Mr. Ottah himself was once a victim of a land scam, losing the equivalent of about $25,000 after handing over cash for a piece of property from a seller who turned out to be a fraudster.

During the Monopoly tournament, the haphazard nature of real-life real-estate transactions was lost on the students who focused on the top prize, which amounted to about $2,000. Playing the board game was chaotic enough.

Players had only an hour to snap up as much property as they could. The game grew more pitched as the minutes ticked by, with students rolling the dice so fast that the teachers and state officials who were acting as volunteer bankers had trouble keeping track.

The student landlords shook their hands in opponents’ faces and demanded payment while harried bankers tried to keep up with the cries for cash.

“Fast, fast, give me two naira,” one student demanded of another who had landed on his property. (Naira is the local currency.)

For most students, a strategy emerged: hoarding.

“On this table,” complained Adeleke Olayinka Bello, a student at St. Jude, a private school, “no one wanted to sell their property.”

The organizers appealed to the students to negotiate with one another, a staple ability in Nigeria’s haggling-centric economy.

The champion, 13-year-old Elizabeth, bargained her way to control of the yellow properties: Silverbird Cinemas, 35 Marina and Falomo Shopping Center.

With two houses on each property and seven other players orbiting the board, Elizabeth sat back and watched her fortune grow to more than 17,000 naira.

“Using that,” she said, “I can win the game.”

Ken Saro-Wiwa's son has passed away

The son of renowned Nigerian environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, who was executed more than 20 years ago, has died in London.

Ken Saro-Wiwa Jr, 47, passed away after suffering a stroke, his family say.

He was a journalist who became an adviser to three presidents.

The 1995 execution of his father by a military government for leading protests against environmental degradation caused by the oil industry sparked global outrage.

Saro-Wiwa Sr led the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (Mosop), which accused oil multinational Shell of destroying the environment in his home region of Ogoniland in south-eastern Nigeria.

His execution after a secret trial under Gen Sani Abacha led to Nigeria being suspended from the Commonwealth.

Noo Saro-Wiwa, sister of the late journalist, told the BBC: "It is with great sadness that we announce that Ken Saro-Wiwa Jr passed away suddenly. His family are devastated and request privacy at this difficult time."

Funeral arrangements are yet to be worked out, the family says.

Ken Saro-Wiwa was first appointed in 2006 as a special adviser on peace and conflict resolution by former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo.

He later served Mr Obasanjo's successor, President Umaru Yar'Adua, as an adviser on international affairs and stayed on under President Goodluck Jonathan until he lost last year's election.

His willingness to work with the federal government marked him out as less militant than his father.

But like his father, he was committed to the cause of the Ogoni people.

In a 2015 opinion piece for the UK's Guardian newspaper, he wrote that the effects of the oil pollution on Ogoniland had still not been cleared up.

"If my father were alive today he would be dismayed that Ogoniland still looks like the devastated region that spurred him to action.

"There is little evidence to show that it sits on one of the world's richest deposits of oil and gas."

A 2011 UN report said Nigeria's Ogoniland region could take 30 years to recover fully from the damage caused by years of oil spills. The study said complete restoration could entail the world's "most wide-ranging and long-term oil clean-up".

It added that communities faced a severe health risk, with some families drinking water with high levels of carcinogens.

Shell has accepted liability for two spills and said all oil spills were bad for Nigeria and the company.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Video - Nigerian student runs taxi service outside school hours for income

A young man in Nigeria who was frustrated with the lack of job opportunities, has taken his future into his own hands. Research by the United Nations Population Fund shows that the rapid growth of Nigeria's cities has led to a scarcity of jobs. It's prompted many young people to start their own businesses.

Video - Nigeria's Shooting Stars defender Izu Joseph killed in shooting

Nigerian footballer Joseph Izu has been killed in the Niger Delta, after being caught up in the crossfire between the Nigerian army and oil militants.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Video - Nigeria's government aims to privatise stadium management

Nigeria's government says it will move to privatise management of its national sports stadiums. Sports minister Solomon Dalung says the federal government can no longer afford the maintenance costs of the stadiums spread across the vast west African country.

Nigerian football player Izu Joseph shot dead

Nigerian footballer Izu Joseph has been killed after being shot in the south of the country.

Joseph, a central defender with Premier League club Shooting Stars (3SC), was hit by a stray bullet when gunmen attacked a market in his hometown of Okaki in Bayelsa State.

"Today is a very sad day for us," Rasheed Balogu, 3SC's general manager, told ESPN FC: "This was a young boy with a lot of promise and we are devastated.

"We are still getting confusing reports about what happened exactly but we have been told that the stray bullet came from the JTF [Nigerian Joint Task Force]."

The club's official account tweeted on Monday: "A Shooting STAR is gone! Izu Joseph is gone! Flamboyant defender is gone! RIP, brother. What a life! May God strengthen his family #Tragedy."

Jubril Arowolo, media officer for the club, told "The news came as a shock to us around 11:00 p.m. on Sunday that Izu Joseph was shot by gunmen, though we are yet to get details from the family, hopefully we will make an official statement once we get across to his family later in the day,"

The player, who was home on holiday after the end of the Nigerian football league season, was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital.

Video - Released Chibok girls reunite with their families

Some of the 21 Nigerian schoolgirls abducted by the armed group Boko Haram have reunited with their families, following their release after 30 months in captivity.

Cries of joy filled the room as the freed girls, who had been kidnapped along with more than 200 other pupils in the town of Chibok in April 2014, met their relatives in Abuja on Sunday.

The girls were freed on Thursday, but it took days for most of the families to reach the capital for the reunion.

At the meeting, the parents of one of the girls spoke of their excitement at seeing their daughter.

"When we heard they found some of the girls, and that our daughter was among them, we slept as if the day is not going to break," Muta Abana, a father of one of the Chibok girls, told The Associated Press news agency.

"We wanted the day to break quickly, to see if the government is going to call us, to come and see that our daughter was among them."

Hawa Abana, the mother, said that Boko Haram abducted her daughter and hundreds of other schoolgirls, because "they did not want them to succeed in life".

"By God's grace she is back," she said. "She will go back to school. Boko Haram has no power again."

Eleanor Nwadinobi, women and girls manager at the Nigeria Stability and Recognition Programme, said the girls will now undergo treatment which must be tailored to individual needs, including trauma counselling and health and nutritional requirements.

"It is important that they are not attended to in isolation," she told Al Jazeera.

"They will need individual attention as the needs of one girl will differ from the other."

Also on Sunday, a presidential spokesman said a splinter branch of Boko Haram is now willing to negotiate the release of 83 more of the girls.

"The faction said it is ready to negotiate if the government is willing to sit down with them," Garba Shehu, spokesman for President Muhammadu Buhari, told Reuters news agency.

Brokered deal

Boko Haram seized 276 pupils from the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok in northeastern Borno state on April 14, 2014. Fifty-seven managed to escape in the immediate aftermath of the abduction, but nearly 200 other girls are still missing.

The deal for the release of the girls was brokered by the Swiss government and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Following their release, they were then taken from the northeastern city of Maiduguri and flown to Abuja to meet state officials.

On Thursday, Lai Mohammed, Nigeria's information minister, denied reports that the state had swapped captured Boko Haram fighters for the release of the girls.

He also said that he was not aware of any ransom being paid.

Mohammed said that a Nigerian army operation against Boko Haram would continue.

In recent days, the Nigerian army has been carrying out an offensive in the Sambisa forest, a stronghold of Boko Haram.

The armed group controlled a swath of land around the size of Belgium at the start of 2015, but Nigeria's army has recaptured most of the territory.

The group still stages suicide bombings in the northeast, as well as in neighbouring Niger and Cameroon.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Boko Haram release 21 kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls

Nigerian officials say 21 Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram extremists more than two years ago have been freed.

Presidential spokesman Mallam Garba Shehu tweeted Thursday that the girls are in the custody of Nigeria's Department of State Services.

He said the release is a result of negotiations between the government and Boko Haram, brokered by the Swiss government and the International Red Cross. He said negotiations will continue.

The abduction of 276 schoolgirls in April 2014 brought international condemnation of Boko Haram, Nigeria's home-grown Islamic extremist group. Dozens of the girls escaped, but most remain missing.

Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau has said the girls would only be released if the government swaps them for detained extremist leaders.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Nigeria set to enjoy zero interest on all IMF loans

Nigeria will now enjoy zero interest on all concessional facilities of the International Monetary Fund until 2018. The IMF's Managing Director, Christine Lagarde, disclosed this yesterday at the ongoing IMF/ World Bank 2016 General Meeting in Washington D.C. Nigeria's Finance Minister, Kemi Adeosun, has been negotiating to borrow from multilateral institutions to fund capital projects in the country. The cheap loans will be used to bridge the nation's infrastructure deficit in critical sectors.

Nigeria Super Eagles escape gunfire at airport

Four Premier League stars reportedly escaped a shooting after an armed man claiming to be a police officer opened fire on their group in Nigeria.

The Nigerian football team, including Chelsea’s John Obi Mikel and Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi, were on international duty with Nigeria on Monday morning when two men saying they were police officers reportedly confronted their party.

The men are said to have told the group they were under instructions to arrest Shehu Dikko, the Nigeria Football Federation's second vice president.

But after team officials demanded to see a warrant and identification, one of the men is alleged to have become angry and fired shots into the air.

A witness told the Sun: “One of the detectives pulled out his gun and threatened to shoot anyone interfering with his job.

“With tempers flaring, he repeatedly fired shots into the sky.”

The team, which also included Manchester City striker Kelechi Iheanacho and Leicester forward Ahmed Musa, were quickly scrambled into a bus outside Abuja airport, which raced away from the scene.

No-one is thought to have been injured in the incident.

The alleged shooting followed Nigeria's world cup qualifier win in Zambia, with Iwobi and Iheanacho scoring in their 2-1 victory.

Baby trafficking on the rise in Nigeria

As 16-year-old Maria strained under the anguish of labour in southeastern Nigeria, a midwife repeatedly slapped her across the face - but the real ordeal began minutes after birth.

"The nurse took my child away to be washed. She never brought her back," the teenager said, gazing down at her feet.

Maria said she learned her newborn daughter had been given up for adoption for which she received 20,000 naira ($65.79) - the same price as a 50 kilogram bag of rice.

And Maria is far from alone.

A Thomson Reuters Foundation investigative team spoke to more than 10 Nigerian women duped into giving up their newborns to strangers in houses known as "baby factories" in the past two years or offered babies whose origins were unknown.

Five women did not want to be interviewed, despite the guarantee of anonymity, fearing for their own safety with criminal gangs involved in the baby trade, while two men spoke of being paid to act as "studs" to get women pregnant.

Although statistics are hard to come by, campaigners say the sale of newborns is widespread - and they fear the illegal trade is becoming more prevalent with Nigeria heading into recession this year amid ongoing political turbulence.

"The government is too overstretched by other issues to focus on baby trafficking," said Arinze Orakwue, head of public enlightenment at the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP).

Record numbers of baby factories were raided or closed down in the southeastern states of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo this year, NAPTIP said.

A total of 14 were discovered in the first nine months of 2016, up from six in 2015 and 10 in 2014, the data showed.

But despite the growing number of raids, the scam exploiting couples desperate for a baby and young, pregnant, single women continues with newborns sold for up to $5,000 in Africa's most populous nation where most people live on less than $2 a day.

Cultural barriers are also a factor in the West African nation, with teenage girls fearing they will be publicly shamed by strict fathers or partners over unwanted pregnancies if they do not give up their children, experts say.

"In southeastern Nigeria a woman is deemed a failure if she fails to conceive. But it is also taboo for a teenager to fall pregnant out of wedlock," said Orakwue.

Maria said in the home in Imo state where she gave birth pregnant teenagers were welcomed by a maternal nurse who liked to be called "mama" but went on to sell the babies they delivered.

"(After I gave birth) somebody told me that mama collected big money from people before giving them other people's babies," Maria told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in the grounds of a school compound in her village.

"I do not know where my baby is now," said Maria, using a false name for her own protection.

A lot of the trade is carried out in Nigeria but authorities suspect babies are also sold to people from Europe and the United States because many foreigners continue to seek infants there despite the controversy around Nigerian adoptions.


The U.S. Department of State alerted prospective adoptive parents to the issue of child buying from Nigeria in June 2014 after Nigerian media warned that people were posing as owners of orphanages or homes for unwed mothers to make money.

"The State Department is aware of a growing number of adoption scams," an alert on its website read.

Over 1,600 children have been adopted from Nigeria by U.S. citizens since 1999, according to the State Department website, about a third of them aged between one and two years old.

The U.S. State Department did not respond to requests for information on whether any scams affected U.S. adoptive parents.

In Britain a couple was found by the High Court to have "fallen under the spell" of an elaborate fraud after paying 4,500 pounds ($5,600) for herbal treatment in Nigeria that caused the woman's stomach to swell, media reported in 2014.

The couple only realised they had been duped nine months later when presented with a baby in Nigeria that actually was not theirs, the Daily Mail newspaper reported.

Babies, whose biological parents or backgrounds are unknown, are offered to women who have not been able to conceive naturally, according to NAPTIP and interviews with three women.

The British government said it was committed to stamping out what it calls the "miracle babies" phenomenon.

"Specially-trained teams are working at the UK border to identify and safeguard babies and children who may be at risk of trafficking," said a spokesman for the Home Office (UK interior ministry) in a statement.

Denmark suspended adoptions from Nigeria in 2014 citing concerns over forgery, corruption and lack of control by the authorities.

Apart from the illicit trade in babies, Nigeria also faces the problem of domestic and international trafficking in women and children.

Human trafficking, including selling children, is illegal in Nigeria, but almost 10 years ago a UNESCO report identified the industry as the country's third most common crime after financial fraud and drug trafficking - and the situation appears to be getting worse, according to campaigners.

The Nigerian government has not ratified an internationally recognised set of rules known as the Hague Adoption Convention which meant the laws governing adoptions remain murky and complicated, campaigners said.

"There is corruption in the adoption process and that is the individual (Nigerian) states' responsibility," said NAPTIP's Orakwue in a phone interview

"But central government should step up its funding to NAPTIP so we can increase support to victims," Orakwue said.


Sophie, who was not able to conceive, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation she started to develop the symptoms of pregnancy after visiting a herbalist in Enugu state in 2014.

However the traditional doctor told Sophie her swollen stomach contained gas resulting from the herbal treatment rather than a foetus - but she could arrange to buy a baby.

"(The herbalist) said that she would bring me a newborn baby, girl or boy, depending on which one I wanted," she said in the grimy sitting room of her apartment in southeastern Nigeria.

The woman said a girl would cost 380,000 naira ($1,250) while a boy would cost 500,000 naira ($1,645), said Sophie who opted for a girl.

But a sense of obligation to the woman who brought her a child prevented her from reporting the crime, she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"I considered everything and thought to myself 'why should I report (the herbalist) to the police?' She had helped me," she said.

NAPTIP does not have data on the number of domestic adoptions that have taken place, a figure it says is not held by central government.

"In the southeastern states, the sale of babies is unarguably very prevalent as recorded by the agency," said Cordelia Ebiringa, NAPTIP's commander in Enugu state.


Men are also involved in the process of illicit baby trafficking, with sperm donors impregnating surrogate mothers who then sell their babies, according to two Nigerian men.

Surrogacy is illegal in Nigeria.

Jonathan, 33, said he was paid 25,000 naira ($82) by his boss or "madam" every time he conceived a child.

"I don't see it as somebody exploiting me. The madams pay me for my work," said Jonathan, who withheld his full name.

Jonathan said he did not know whether the women gave their babies away or went on to sell them although he was concerned what he was doing could be illegal.

"I often think 'what if the police catch me?'"

Nigeria's anti-human trafficking agency said it did not have data or information on the role of sperm donors, but many women they spoke to did not want to reveal how they fell pregnant.

"NAPTIP has no records of studs that impregnate the women at the baby factories as most of the pregnant women rescued and interviewed in such cases claimed unplanned pregnancies," said Ebiringa.

Little information was made available by the Nigerian police or authorities in southeastern states about the number or identity of the people who run the "baby factories".

No data was provided on the number of arrests by police in southern states of Enugu and Abia on baby trafficking offences despite repeated requests by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

But the dangers involved, both from the law and from trafficking gangs, are palpable, according to Jonathan, who estimates he has fathered about 15 children as a "stud".

"These (baby traffickers) can be dangerous," said Jonathan, who was once threatened by a group of thugs who found out what he was doing. "They are ready to kill anybody if you stand in their way."

Car bomb kills 8 in Maiduguri, Nigeria

About eight people were killed and 15 wounded when a car laden with explosives hit a taxi in northeastern Borno state's capital of Maiduguri, birthplace of a seven-year-old Islamist insurgency, military and medical sources said.

Five people were inside the taxi in a convoy to Gamboru, a town near the Cameroon border, police said in a statement. Cars in Borno state often travel in convoys organized by the military to minimize the risk of Boko Haram ambushes in rural areas.

The army has retaken much of the territory initially lost to the militants but Boko Haram still stages suicide bombing attacks and plants roadside bombs.

"We evacuated eight dead bodies and about 20 other injured persons," said a rescue worker. A hospital official put the number of wounded at ten.

Boko Haram, which has pledged alliance to Islamic State, has killed about 15,000 people and displaced more than 2 million in its attempt to create a state adhering to strict Islamic laws.

It controlled a swathe of land in northeast Nigeria about the size of Belgium at the end of 2014 but was pushed out early last year by Nigerian troops, supported by soldiers from neighboring countries: Niger, Cameroon and Chad.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Video - Thousands in Nigeria affected by insurgency in need of psychosocial support

In Nigeria, millions of people displaced or affected by the Boko Haram insurgency are in dire need of support. And this doesn't only mean food, shelter or medical care. As Kathryn Omwandho discovers, some of the survivors are in desperate need of psycho-social support.

Judges arrested in Nigeria for corruption charges released

Senior Nigerian judges arrested as part of a corruption investigation have been released, the head of the country's bar association and a security agency official said on Tuesday.

The Department of State Services (DSS), the country's security agency, on Saturday said it seized $800,000 in cash found during raids targeting judges from the supreme, appeal and high courts.

Abubakar Mahmoud, who heads the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), on Tuesday said all of the judges held had been released, although he did not confirm the number or when they were freed.

A DSS official, who did not want to be named, said seven judges were released on bail on Sunday and reported to the security agency on Monday.

"I cannot say when they will be arraigned in court but as soon as we are done with investigations, we will send the files to the attorney general's office which will advise accordingly and act," said the official.

The judiciary has been the subject of longstanding corruption allegations but the nature of the raids has been criticized as being unconstitutional, with the NBA accusing the DSS of a "Gestapo-style operation".

President Muhammadu Buhari, a former military ruler, has pledged to crack down on corruption since taking office last year but critics say he is conducting a witch-hunt against his political opponents.

His spokesman said the raids were part of an anti-corruption drive and were not an attack on the judiciary.

Banks in Nigeria in credit crisis

Seven Nigerian banks may be under-capitalised and in deficit The Nigeria’s banking industry is said to be experiencing a “full-blown financial crisis” as failed fiscal and monetary policies lead to a credit crunch, according to Arqaam Capital. According to the Bloomberg report Monday, two banks are close to being insolvent, while lenders anthor two “will need a dilutive capital hike,” Jaap Meijer and Tarek Sleiman, analysts at the Dubai-based investment bank and brokerage, said in an e-mailed note on Monday.

Capital ratios are set to worsen because of currency depreciation and souring loans, they said Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN in July replaced the management of Skye Bank after the lender breached liquidity thresholds, spurring concerns about the health of small- and medium-sized lenders, and reviving memories of bank rescues by the government after the financial crisis in 2009. 

Nigerian banks are grappling with a devaluation of the naira, rising bad loans and an oil-dependent economy that’s set to record its first annual contraction in more than two decades. “Our acid test reveals seven under-capitalized banks” with a deficit of as much as 1 trillion naira ($3.2 billion) in the financial system, Meijer and Sleiman said. 

A stress test identified one of the banks as the most under capitalized lender with Unity, Diamond Bank Plc, Skye, FCMB Group Plc, Sterling and Fidelity Bank Plc also showing deficits if they were to fully provide for non-performing loans, according to Arqaam. “Our bank is strong,” Ikechukwu Mike Omeife, a spokesman for Diamond Bank, said by phone from Lagos. “Our capital-adequacy ratio and non-performing loans are within the statutory requirements.” 

Common Challenges 

Moody’s Investors Service said on Monday that Nigeria’s five biggest banks share common credit challenges related to the economic slowdown. Moody’s expects non-performing loans to increase to about 12 percent over the next 12 months. 

The ratio of non-performing loans to total credit rose to 11.7 percent at the end of June from 5.3 percent at the end of 2015, the Abuja-based Central Bank of Nigeria, which requires banks keep the measure below 5 percent, said in a report on its web site The five largest lenders, which together hold 57 percent of the country’s banking assets, “are able to absorb all losses under our severe stress scenario,” Moody’s said. Guaranty Trust Bank Plc showed “the greatest resilience” and the other four banks were Zenith Bank Plc, Access Bank Plc, United Bank for Africa Plc and First Bank of Nigeria Ltd., the ratings company said. 

To create a capital buffer, Sterling Bank is planning to issue a 27 billion-naira bond and “if the interest rate looks better, we will do it this year,” Abubakar Suleiman, the lender’s chief financial officer, said on phone. “We will do it if the rate goes down to around 15 percent or 16 percent. We don’t want to raise it at a very high rate. If we do it, it will take our capital adequacy ratio to over 15 percent.” 

Buy and sell rating: 

Arqaam rates FBN, Skye, Sterling, Stanbic IBTC Holdings Plc, Unity and Ecobank Transnational Inc. as sell, according to the analysts’ report. Zenith, Access and United Bank are rated buy. CBN’s spokesman Isaac Okorafor didn’t immediately answer his phone or respond to text messages. Diamond, Unity and Fidelity didn’t answer calls. Moses Obajemu, a Lagos-based spokesman for Skye, didn’t immediately reply to questions sent to him by text message, as per his request. Meanwhile, Diamond Bank , Fidelity Bank , Wema Bank Plc, FCMB Group Plc, United Bank and Skye recorded declines in their shares traded on the Nigerian Stock Exchange, NSE, with Zenith ranking as the most traded stock among the 171 securities on the exchange. 

Diamond Bank fell 5.5 percent, Fidelity dropped 4.3 percent, Skye Bank slid 4.6 percent and Unity Bank slipped 4.1 percent. Union Bank Nigeria Plc, which is part owned by London-based Atlas Mara Ltd., was the second-biggest gainer.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Nigeria selling two presidential jets

President Muhammadu Buhari, after months of being questioned about its size, is finally pruning Nigeria’s presidential air fleet which includes several jets and helicopters. While it is unclear how many aircraft the fleet currently holds (reports suggest there are 10), the president has put two of the jets—a Dassault Falcon 7x executive jet and a Beechcraft Hawker 4000—up for sale.

The presidency is branding the sale as part of efforts to “cut waste” in government spending but, given Nigeria’s difficult times (its first recession in decades, a spiraling currency and falling oil exports), Nigerians will likely see the move more as a desperate attempt to raise foreign exchange (interested buyers will be quoted in dollars) amid a biting shortage.

BudgIT, an advocate for transparency in Nigerian government, has suggested that the government currently spends more on maintaining the presidential fleet than is allocated to any of the federal universities.

It could be argued the president’s office has enough planes to start a national carrier which would be ironic given reports president Buhari has asked the ministry of aviation look into restarting a national carrier.

Typically, cost-cutting moves by government are lauded in Nigeria but this has been met with a lukewarm reception as many see the move as being several months late. Buhari’s presidential campaign, hinged on a strong anti-corruption message and championing his austere lifestyle, led many Nigerians to hope that the government’s excesses would be quickly reduced under his administration. But much of that enthusiasm has slowly sipped away. Nigeria’s senate, the poster-child of the high cost of government in Nigeria, has so far refused to cut its annual $364 million budget despite ranking among the world’s best paid lawmakers.

Under Buhari, the cost of running the presidential state house has also gone up, with millions budgeted for line items repeated from last year, such as the “installation of electrical lighting and fittings.”

UAE stops issuing visas to Nigerians

Indications have emerged that the authorities of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have stopped issuing visas to Nigerians, following the stabbing of a police officer by a group of six boys.

The incident which took place in Deira, the hub of business in Dubai, resulted in the massive arrest of blacks irrespective of their nationalities.

The officer was said to have died immediately from the injuries he sustained from the incident. A source who in the region during the incident, warned Nigerians to careful in order to avoid arrest. "Those of you have relatives in Dubai should be warned. The atmosphere is so hot especially for those without permit," he said.

Video - Nigeria beat Zambia 2-1 in World Cup Qualifier

Nigeria seizes $800,000 in cash from judges

Nigeria's security agency says it has seized $800,000 (Ј645,200) in cash in raids targeting senior judges suspected of corruption.

The DSS agency says the raids were carried out in recent days and several judges were arrested.

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) accused the authorities of carrying out a "Gestapo-style" operation, demanding the release of those arrested.

President Muhammadu Buhari has pledged to tackle widespread corruption.

In a statement, the DSS said: "The searches have uncovered huge raw cash of various denominations, local and foreign currencies, with real estate worth several millions of naira and documents affirming unholy acts by these judges.

"We have been monitoring the expensive and luxurious lifestyle of some of the judges as well as complaints from the concerned public over judgment obtained fraudulently and on the basis (of) amounts of money paid."

The statement said the judges were from the supreme, appeal and high courts.

The names of the suspects have not been released.

Reacting to the raids, the NBA called on President Buhari to "immediately caution all the state security agencies and to respect the rule of law".

NBA head Abubakar Mahmoud told reporters: "We are not under military rule and we cannot accept this unholy event and Gestapo-style operation."

Since taking office last year, Mr Buhari has vowed to tackle the rampant official corruption, which has stunted economic growth across the country, the BBC's Martin Patience in Nigeria says.

As part of that campaign a number of former senior officials have been charged. But their cases have largely stalled in the courts.

Widespread corruption within the legal system makes it extremely difficult to convict powerful individuals, our correspondent adds.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Video - Nigeria's tertiary education fees vary according to type of institution

In Nigeria, tertiary education is not free. However the amount students pay depends on whether they are studying at a university owned by the federal government a state government or a private institution.

Nigeria projected to get out of recession by 2017

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has projected that Nigeria’s economy will be out of recession in 2017, growing by 0.6 percent that year.

According to the IMF World Economic Outlook (WEO) released on Tuesday in Washington, the fund projects that the current economic recession will outlast 2016, with a gross domestic product (GDP) contraction of 1.7 percent.

“Sub-Saharan Africa’s largest economies continue to struggle with lower commodity revenues, weighing on growth in the region,” IMF said.

“Nigeria’s economy is forecast to shrink 1.7 percent in 2016, and South Africa’s will barely expand. By contrast, several of the region’s non resource exporters, including Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Senegal, are expected to continue to grow at a robust pace of more than 5 percent this year.”

IMF also forecasted a GDP contraction and subsequent recession for Russia and Brazil throughout 2016.

The fund added: “Growth in emerging Asia and especially India continues to be resilient. India’s gross domestic product is projected to expand 7.6 percent this year and next, the fastest pace among the world’s major economies.”

Maurice Obstfeld, IMF chief economist and economic counsellor, who spoke on the outlook, said global economic growth would remain subdued in 2016, following a slowdown in the United States and Britain’s vote to leave the European Union.

Obstfeld also stated that the fund forecasted a slight pickup in 2017 and beyond, driven mainly by emerging market strength.

“Taken as a whole, the world economy has moved sideways,” he said. “We have slightly marked down 2016 growth prospects for advanced economies while marking up those in the rest of the world.”

Nigeria’s economy was earlier projected to contract by 1.8 percent in 2016, but the October version of the WEO has seen that reviewed positively to a contraction of only 1.7 percent.

The country has recorded a 0.36 and 2.06 percent contraction in the first and second quarter of 2016 respectively, plunging into its worst recession in 29 years.

Nigeria selling two presidential jets 'to cut waste'

Nigeria is selling two of its 10 presidential jets in a bid to "cut down on waste", President Muhammadu Buhari's spokesman has said.

Adverts for the Falcon 7X executive jet and Hawker 4000 are to appear in newspapers, Garba Shehu said.

Some of the other presidential aircraft are be handed to the Nigerian air force to boost its operations, he said.

The country is one of Africa's leading economies but it is now suffering from its worst economic crisis in years.

In a Facebook post, Mr Shehu said the downsizing of the president fleet had been a campaign promise made by Mr Buhari before his election last year.

The president had requested a compact and reliable aircraft for transporting government officials on special missions, he said.

"This exercise is by no means complete," the spokesman added.

BBC Abuja bureau editor Naziru Mikailu says the advert for the jets will ask potential buyers to bid in US dollars, not the local naira currency.

Nigeria's economy slipped into recession in August.

The government depends on oil sales for about 70% of its revenues - and the slump in global oil prices has hit the West African nation hard.

A planned luxury 4bn rand (Ј185m) aircraft for South Africa's Jacob Zuma was widely criticised last year as were plans by Swaziland's King Mswati to acquire a second private plane. By contrast, former Malawian President Joyce Banda was widely praised when she auctioned her official jet in 2013 and vowed to hitch rides with other leaders.

The need for a US presidential jet, nicknamed Air Force One, is rarely questioned.

But not every country has a private jet for their leader.

The first jet for a British prime minister was inaugurated in July. The UK had been the only country in the G20 group of the world's major economies not to have one.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Video - Made in Nigeria festival kicks off in the country

Nigeria has launched a week-long Made in Nigeria festival. It's promoting the idea that the country could look inward to lift itself out of recession. The campaign encourages Nigerians to buy locally produced items. It's also aimed at urging producers to export items made in Nigeria, reducing pressure on the country's foreign exchange reserves.

Militants in Nigeria are getting ready to strike again

If the Nigerian government wants to fight militants blowing up oil pipelines, it should send troops into the creeks and mangrove swamps of the Niger River delta. Not the city.

That’s the suggestion of Babalola Olarewaju, a taxi driver who plies the airport route in Port Harcourt, the largest city in the restive oil-rich region.

“We’re talking about people who blow up pipelines in the night and then disappear,” said Olarewaju, 41, as he perched on the hood of his rickety cab outside the Le Meridien Hotel in the city center, referring to three T-72 tanks, Nigeria’s main battle tank, parked about a mile away. “What has a tank got to do here in the city?”

Dozens of tanks and 3,000 more troops have joined existing forces in and around Port Harcourt in the past month, a sign the government is pulling out the stops to quell a new wave of violence in Africa’s second-largest oil producer. So worrisome are the attacks that OPEC allowed Nigeria to be exempt from production curbs the cartel agreed on last week, the oil ministry said.

A six-week-old cease-fire show signs of weakening: The Niger Delta Avengers, responsible for more than 90 percent of all attacks this year, on Sept. 23 claimed responsibility for an attack, its first since July 24, on a key supply pipeline to Royal Dutch Shell Plc’s Bonny export terminal, a few miles outside Port Harcourt, in a statement on its website. The authenticity of the website, which has proved reliable before, couldn’t be verified.

There’s a lot at stake. Exxon Mobil Corp. is planning to resume some shipments at its Qua Iboe terminal, the country’s largest, at the end of September and expects repairs on the 400,000 barrel-a-day main export line will be completed in December. Shell also expects its Forcados terminal, out since February, to come back on line any time now. The company earlier this month lifted a delivery halt on its Bonny terminal shipments it had imposed in August after saboteurs breached its main supply pipeline.

The crucial challenge for the government is to appease a plethora of militant groups, some of whom never signed on to the cease-fire, such as the Niger Delta Greenland Justice Mandate. President Muhammadu Buhari, elected last year, is loathe to negotiate with the militants and is skeptical they are adhering to the truce. While Oil Minister Emmanuel Kachikwu, who helped broker the truce and also hails from the delta region, favors peace talks, the country’s security chiefs are averse to negotiation. Army chief Lieutenant-General Tukur Burutai would rather deploy more troops to put down the conflict. At least an additional 10,000 will be sent out in 2017, he said Sept. 9.

More Troops

“I do not see a willingness to engage,” said Ledum Mitee, a lawyer and Niger delta minority rights activist who’s part of the peace talks. “The response of the government is to send more troops to the region. There is a growing frustration within various groups that the government is not ready for negotiations and this may lead them back to attacking pipelines.”

In all, output is now estimated to average about 1.5 million barrels a day “at best,” Kachikwu said on Aug. 12. That’s potentially 23 percent lower than last year.

The resurgence of armed conflict in the delta mirrors a 2006 to 2009 campaign by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, or MEND. Attempts by then-president Umaru Yar’Adua to quell the militancy using troops escalated the violence. Attacks were curbed only after a state pardon and monthly stipend was granted to fighters willing to disarm. Violence resurfaced after Buhari stopped the payments and ended pipeline security contracts worth millions of dollars that former President Goodluck Jonathan negotiated with the militants.

Pipeline Knowledge

This has come to haunt the government. The militants today are more sophisticated and their attacks more precise. Led by the Niger Delta Avengers, the groups, now familiar with the layout of oil pipeline networks from their security operations, have in six months struck companies including Shell, Exxon Mobil, Chevron Corp. and Eni SpA where it hurt most: hard-to-fix export pipelines and oil-gathering hubs. So far this year, Forcados, Qua Iboe, Brass River and Bonny oil terminals have made declarations of force majeure -- a legal term that allows companies to miss export commitments -- after attacks on crude supply pipelines.

“A resumption of hostilities in the Niger delta would be disastrous for the government,” said Malte Liewerscheidt, senior Africa analyst at U.K. security consultants Verisk Maplecrost. “Sending the military is no solution.”

The conflict, combined with lower oil prices, has blighted the economy, sending it into a recession for the first time since 1991. Output contracted by 2.1 percent in the second quarter compared with 2.35 percent growth a year earlier. The oil industry shrank by 17.5 percent as production fell to 1.69 million barrels a day from 2.05 million barrels in the period. Nigeria depends on oil receipts for two-thirds of government revenue and more than 90 percent of foreign-currency income.

Brent, the benchmark for half the world’s crude trading, has lost about 45 percent in the past two years. Prices were down 0.3 percent at $50.75 a barrel as of 12:43 p.m. Singapore time on Tuesday.

Buhari, a former military ruler who came into office on an anti-corruption platform, pledged to boost security across Africa’s second-largest economy and most populous nation. He’s vowed to “deal” with the militants “as we dealt with Boko Haram,” a reference to a military offensive against a seven-year Islamist insurgency in the country’s northeast.

Security operations in the delta “are aimed at getting rid of all forms of criminal activities” in the region, according to army spokesman Sani Kukasheka Usman.

Shell will continue to monitor the security situation and take all necessary precautions, said Precious Okolobo, a Lagos-based spokesman. “The safety of our staff and contractors in Nigeria remains our highest priority.” Ogechukwu Udeagha, an Exxon Mobil spokesman, said “all inquiries on security be referred to government security agencies.” Chevron Corp., Total SA and Eni SpA didn’t immediately respond to inquiries seeking comments.

With troops already thinly stretched fighting the Boko Haram insurgency in the northeast and violent clashes between nomadic herders and farmers across the country’s central region in recent months, the government risks dragging the army into another protracted campaign, said Pabina Yinkere, energy analyst and head of research at Lagos-based Vetiva Capital Management Ltd., as the militants are on home turf with better knowledge of the delta terrain.

Nigeria military spokesman Brigadier-General Rabe Abubakar didn’t respond to calls and text message.

“The government needs to come up with a concrete plan to develop the Niger delta and create economic opportunities for the people,” Yinkere said. “The security situation is still fluid and if the government does not approach this tactfully, it risks further escalating the tension.”

GE to invest $150 million in Nigeria

U.S. industrial firm General Electric (GE.N) plans to invest around $150 million in Nigeria by 2017, a senior executive said on Monday.

"There are development projects where we are investing," Jay Ireland, chief executive of General Electric in Africa told the FT Africa Summit in London. GE would also invest in oil and gas industry projects.

Growth in Nigeria - an OPEC member whose economy, the largest in Africa, is in recession for the first time in more than 20 years due to low oil prices - has been stunted for decades by a lack of investment in its road and rail network.

Ireland said the Nigeria investment was part of a plan to spend $2 billion in Africa in coming years.

But the $150 million Nigerian investment falls short of the sum Nigeria's government has said GE would invest.

President Muhammadu Buhari, on Saturday in a speech marking Nigeria's independence day, said GE was "investing $2.2 billion in a concession to revamp, provide rolling stock, and manage" some of the country's railway lines.

Nigerian actress banned after on-screen hug

A leading Nigerian actress has been banned from the Hausa-language film industry because of her "immoral" behaviour, the main industry body says.

Rahama Sadau caused offence by "hugging and cuddling" pop star Classiq in a video, it added.

The industry, commonly known as Kannywood, has been under fire from conservative Muslim clerics who accuse it of corrupting people's values.

They regard it as taboo for men and women to hold hands or kiss in public.

Ms Sadau, who is said to be on a holiday in India, has not yet commented on the ban imposed by Motion Pictures Practitioners Association of Nigeria (Moppan).

Its chairman, Muhammadu Kabiru Maikaba, told the BBC Hausa service that the ban was "total".

"This is not the first time that she has been doing these wayward things. We have been warning her, but she still went ahead to dent our image," he said.

The Kannywood star appeared in the video with Classiq, in a song entitled I Love You.

In it, the Nigerian pop star is smitten with a vegetable seller in a market, acted by Ms Sadau.

Initially, she rejects his advances, batting him away with a bunch of vegetables, but he eventually wins her over.

They hold hands and engage in a bit of cuddling that would be considered demure in a Western film.

In a statement, Moppan said it hoped Ms Sadau's expulsion would serve as a deterrent for other actors.

Its code of conduct requires actors to avoid doing anything which violates Islamic and Hausa culture, reports the BBC's Isa Sanusi from the capital, Abuja.

Many people in northern Nigeria felt she had gone too far with Classiq in the music video, he adds.

Classiq cannot be banned because he is not a member of Moppan.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Video - Nigeria marks 56 years of independence

Africa's most Populous Nation, Nigeria, rolled out drums to celebrate its 56th Independence Anniversary. However, it was a Low keyed Ceremony held at the Presidential Villa.