Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Video - Nigerian women turn to smart agriculture to put food on the table

For decades, farming in Nigeria has been considered a vocation for rural communities that attracted meagre profits. But this perception is changing. More urban-based, professional women are taking up farming as a business, using modern technology to make it more lucrative.

Freed Chibok girls start rehabilitation in Abuja, Nigeria

Nigerian officials say the 82 young women released by Boko Haram extremists this month are now joining those already freed in a special rehabilitation program.

Aisha Alhassan, minister of women's affairs and social development, said Tuesday that the women will attend months of remedial studies. They will have doctors and nurses available to help them heal from the trauma of three years in captivity.

Some have criticized how the freed women have remained in Nigeria's capital instead of rejoining their families. But Alhassan says they are in Abuja "with their full consent."

The young women will not be returning to rural Chibok, where they were abducted from school in 2014. Officials say they will be placed in other schools in September.

Nearly 300 schoolgirls were seized in the mass abduction.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Video - Kids and Play program helping groom top track athletics prospects in Nigeria

A sports program in Nigeria supporting rural youth is producing top track athletic prospects in the country. And as CGTN's Sophia Adengo reports, it is also showcasing their talent on the national stage.

Norway plans to digitize literature from Nigeria

The National Library of Norway said Monday it would digitise literature from Nigeria following a seemingly unprecedented agreement which organisers hope will lead to an “African digital library”.

In the northern Norwegian town of Mo i Rana, at the rim of the Arctic Circle, the National Library of Norway plans to digitise part of its Nigerian counterpart’s collection.

The library’s public division is located in the capital Oslo. “Our goal is for this project to serve as a model for other countries, and that we can help create a fully-fledged African digital library,” the Norwegian library’s director Aslak Sira Myhre said in a statement. 

The agreement, which is to be signed on June 10 in Abuja, will initially cover works written in the Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba languages, the library said. The costs will be shared, with the library in Nigeria responsible for collecting the works and the Norwegian one for carrying out the digitisation, with the transport covered by the Norwegian embassy in Nigeria. 

“The project has not been launched because the National Library wants to provide foreign development aid but because it enables us to enlarge our foreign language library, so this becomes a win-win project for us and Nigeria,” a spokeswoman for the Norwegian library, Nina Braein, told AFP. The National Library of Norway made headlines in 2014 when it announced it was putting virtually all Norwegian literature published before 2001 online and available free of charge, thanks to a pioneering agreement with rightsholders on the thorny issue of royalties. The digitisation of Norwegian works is expected to be completed this year.

The Biafra secessionist movement in Nigeria

Nnamdi Kanu waves his hand and puffs in frustration: "Nothing seems to be working in Nigeria. There is pain and hardship everywhere. What we're fighting [for] is not self-determination for the sake of it. It's because Nigeria is not functioning and can never function."

The leader of a group demanding the secession of southeastern Nigeria is speaking exclusively to Al Jazeera in the parlour of his father's home in the southeastern city of Umuahia.

It's the first time he has spoken to an international media outlet since he was granted bail on health grounds last month. His bail conditions prohibit him from being in a crowd of more than 10 people, leaving the country and giving media interviews.

But when asked if he is worried that he will get in trouble with the Nigerian authorities for speaking to Al Jazeera he scoffs, "I don't care," and rolls his eyes.

"I can't go outside to call for a press conference. I can't go on Biafra Radio to broadcast. I can't allow large [groups of] people to basically congregate outside to see me … it's like asking me not to breathe," he says.

On the other side of the parlour door, dozens of people are waiting to see Kanu. A throng of young men dressed in black guard the compound. They refer to Kanu as, "our supreme leader" or "his royal highness".

Kanu left Nigeria to study economics and politics at the London Metropolitan University and started Radio Biafra, an obscure, niche, London-based radio station in 2009.

In one broadcast, Kanu said: "We have one thing in common, all of us that believe in Biafra, one thing we have in common, a pathological hatred for Nigeria. I cannot begin to put into words how much I hate Nigeria."

Over the past two years, Kanu's status has risen.

Today, he's a highly visible activist and leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) organisation, and after being imprisoned in the Nigerian capital of Abuja for nearly two years on treasonable felony charges, he has now returned home.

"Kanu is my saviour," says Sopuru Amah, a senior student at one of Nigeria's oldest universities, the University of Nigeria in the southeastern city of Nsukka.

"Just like Jesus was sent to save the world, Kanu was sent by God himself to save the Igbo people."

Nigeria's ethnic politics

With an estimated population of more than 180 million, Nigeria is often called the "giant of Africa". The complexity of Nigeria's population is compounded by its ethnic diversity. Around 250 ethnic groups, each with their own languages, reside in Nigeria. With a myriad of ethnicities dotted across the landscape, three major groups tend to emerge in national dialogue due to their sheer numbers: the Yoruba, from the southwest; the Hausa-Fulani in the north and the Igbo from the southeast.

Pro-Biafrans say the federal Nigerian government is discriminating and marginalising them, the Igbo people.

"I'm not allowed to contest for the presidency of Nigeria because I'm Igbo. I'm not allowed to aspire to become the inspector general of police because I'm Igbo. I'm not allowed to become chief of army staff because I'm Igbo. What sort of stupid country is that?" Kanu asks. "Why would any idiot want me to be in that sort of country?"

In Kanu's mind, Umuahia does not exist in Nigeria. It is in Biafra and he is waiting for the world to acknowledge it.

Since the 1964 appointment of the first indigenous Nigerian as the head of the Nigerian Police Force, known as the inspector general, more than a dozen officers have held the post. Two of them have been Igbo. In a lineup of almost two-dozen chiefs of army staff, the highest-ranking military officer in the Nigerian army, two have come from southeastern Nigeria.

Perceptions of marginalisation

"The southeast feels it has been politically marginalised. There is a point to that. It has been shrunken from being one of the three major regions of the country to now being virtually a minority with the smallest number of states of the six zones in the federation," explains Nnamdi Obasi, a senior analyst at the International Crisis Group.

He says that there has only been one Igbo president and one Igbo vice president since Nigeria declared independence from the UK in 1960.

Pro-Biafrans also complain that the federal government is not funding enough infrastructure development in the region, despite a recent announcement by the federal Minister of Power, Works and Housing that road construction will be completed in the southeast.

The southeastern region of Nigeria has five states, while other regions have more.

"They certainly are at a disadvantaged position now," Obasi says. "The political configuration of the country ensures that less federal allocation gets to the southeast."

Nigeria's national economics is closely tied to its politics. Nigeria is a highly centralised federalism that relies on revenue from oil sales. Money trickles down from the central government and more money flows towards regions that have more state and local governments.

A recent poll conducted by SBM Intelligence, a local research group, found that the pro-Biafra movement is gaining popularity in the southeast and that this growth could be a reaction to the perception that the region is marginalised and economically deprived.

"So the Nigerian government has to be seen clearly as carrying the region along," Cheta Nwanze, a lead researcher at SBM Intelligence, says.

But pro-Biafrans like Amah have written off the Nigerian federal government and, in particular, the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.

"Buhari hates the southeast because we didn't vote for him," says Chukwudi Diru, a taxi driver with a mini Biafran flag taped to the dashboard of his 2003 car.

In his landmark 2015 election victory, Buhari garnered the least amount of votes in the southernmost and southeastern region.

Buhari commented on this during a visit to the United States shortly after his win. During an address at the United States Institute of Peace, Buhari responded to a participant in the audience who asked how he would bring development to the oil-rich Niger Delta region in the south, which has suffered decades of environmental degradation due to oil spills and oil bunkering.

"I hope you have a copy of the election results," Buhari responded to the woman. "Naturally, the constituencies that gave me 97 percent cannot, in all honesty, be treated [in the same way] on some issues with constituencies that gave me five percent. I think this is a political reality."

Buhari's soundbite has been tagged and re-posted across Nigeria's social media spaces.

"To be honest, things like the president's 97 percent and five percent comment only helped add further fuel to the fire that the southeast is being marginalised," Nwanze says.

And that fire is already burning in the southeast. On storefronts along the streets of Umuahia, photos of Nnamdi Kanu and Odumegwu Chukwuemeka Ojukwu, the leader of the short-lived Republic of Biafra (1967-1970) are pasted on wooden doorframes.

At the campus of Amah's university, more students are reading pro-Biafran books and followers of Kanu hold "evangelism" meetings to preach the gospel of pro-Biafra.

At crowded bus stations in town, Kanu's voice booms from loudspeakers. Many people here mark May 30 as Biafra Remembrance Day.

A bloody past

Kanu and leaders of other pro-Biafra groups have called for supporters to stay at home on May 30 to remember those who died during the 1967-1970 Nigerian-Biafran War.

This May 30 will mark 50 years since the 1967 declaration of the Republic of Biafra, by the late Ojukwu.

The declaration of the establishment of the Biafra nation, carved out of southeastern Nigeria, came after failed attempts by the Nigerian government to address the grievances expressed by southeastern Nigerians. In 1966, thousands (PDF) of Igbo civilians were killed, mainly in northern Nigeria.

The 1966 killings began after a group of young army officers - some of whom were Igbo Christians -overthrew Nigeria's democratic government and assassinated several people, including the prime minister and other Muslim northern leaders.

"They came with every dangerous thing, some with arrow, some with gun, some with cutlasses, some with iron. So anything they could handle, they handled it and began to kill Igbo people," says Lawrence Akpu, recalling the day in 1966 when he was in a market in a town in northern Nigeria where he lived with fellow Igbos. "Everybody started running up and down and from there, we left everything we had."

Akpu joined the mass exodus of Igbo people from northern Nigeria to their ancestral homeland in the southeast.

When the war started, he joined a Biafran brigade to fight Nigerian soldiers. He says he fought wearing rubber sandals and t-shirts with holes in them. During a heavy wave of shelling, a piece of shrapnel cut into his spinal cord. Today, he's in a wheelchair.

Three years of war left southeastern Nigeria in ruins. Estimates of the death toll range from one million to six million. After the Nigerian federal military government - supported by the UK - imposed blockades that made it difficult for aid groups to deliver food and relief supplies to Biafra, many children died of kwashiorkor, a severe form of malnutrition characterised by a distended abdomen.

Igwe Christopher Ejiofor, aide-de-camp to Ojukwu throughout the war, remembers carrying nearly dead children as he helped to manage relief services.

"I can't count the number of people I picked [up] who were at the point of starvation and death," he says. "And every time I took them to the hospital, they died and I [would go] back the next day [with more children]." Igwe Ejiofor is the traditional ruler of his community in the southeastern state of Enugu.

When images of Biafran children flooded Western media, the world began to pay attention. Beatles singer-songwriter John Lennon returned his MBE order in protest at the UK's involvement in the Nigerian-Biafran War. Writer Kurt Vonnegut travelled to Biafra and wrote about the war. Steve Jobs, according to Walter Isaacson's 2011 biography of the Apple co-founder, began to question his beliefs about God after he saw a picture of two skeletal Biafran children on the infamous July 12, 1968 cover of Life magazine. In the wake of what unfolded in Biafra, doctors and journalists formed Doctors Without Borders, known by its French initials MSF.

Biafra today

The war ended in January 1970 with the surrender of the Republic of Biafra, which dissolved and was reincorporated into Nigeria. The federal government' s "no victor, no vanquished policy" was promoted to foster national unity.

But today, the pro-Biafra movement is back and louder than ever.

Dozens of pro-Biafra activists were arrested last week in cities across southeastern Nigeria.

Last year's May 30 Biafra Remembrance Day ended in what Amnesty International described as part of a "chilling crackdown" that left at least 60 peaceful pro-Biafran activists dead at the hands of Nigerian security forces. An investigation by the organisation revealed that more than 150 pro-Biafrans were killed from August 2015 to August 2016.

"The night before the rally, the security forces raided homes and a church where IPOB members were sleeping," the report reads.

Amnesty International has released a statement recommending that the Nigerian security forces not repress today's Biafra Remembrance Day activities.

Nigerian federal government officials say the country must remain united.

"They say that secession is the answer to the charges of marginalisation," said Acting President Yemi Osinbajo during a Biafra civil forum last week in Abuja. "Brothers and sisters, permit me to differ and to suggest that we're greater together than apart."

But people like Amah and Kanu no longer identify as Nigerians. They say Nigeria has failed them. They are Biafrans.

And with that Kanu stands up and goes outside to meet the people who have waited hours to see him.

Written by Chika Oduah

Monday, May 29, 2017

President Buhari marks two years in office

In 2015, when Nigerians went to the polls, hopes were high in the country that Buhari would improve on the security situation especially in the northeast of the country, end rampant corruption and revamp the economy. Buhari had inherited a broken system from his predecessor Goodluck Jonathan, whose party the People's Democratic Party, (PDP), had run the country for the last sixteen years but virtually failed to embrace good governance principles.

Two years down the road, despite his bad health, Buhari has been able to improve on the security situation in northern Nigeria that had been run down by Boko Haram Islamists. Nigeria's minister of information and government spokesperson, Lai Mohammed, is full of praise for President Buhari.

"When the President was sworn in May 2015 at the Eagle Square, about 20 local governments out of 27 in Borno state were under the control of Boko Haram. Four local governments in Adamawa and three in Yobe state respectively. As we speak today there is no single territory under the control or command of Boko Haram and that is not a mean feat," Lai Mohammed told DW.

"Again, the president promised that he will do everything possible to ensure that the abducted Chibok girls were released."

"In less than two years we were able to secure the release of over 100 of these girls. When you look at the phenomenon of insurgency and hostage taking all over the world you see that this is a very remarkable achievement," he stressed.

Beyond the issue of restoring peace in north eastern Nigeria, the current government also boasts of fighting corruption in the country, with several corruption cases being heard in various courts within the country.

Not all is a bed of roses

The plethora of achievements as articulated by the information minister, however, seem not to impress some Nigerians who say that the government needs to buckle up and improve on their livelihood.

"People cannot pay house rent and are struggling to pay school fees. We cannot properly feed our families," Juliana Obolonye said.

Chesa Chesa, a resident of Abuja, also told DW that inflation was high in the country, and because of the economic recession, prices of food stuffs were on the rise. But he also reserved some praise for Buhari.

"On the security front he has considerably performed well except for the frequent attacks between herdsmen and farmers in the plateau region. So security-wise, I can say kudos," Chesa said.

Buhari's record in fighting corruption is what endeared Peter Inalegwu to his government. "We had no idea how corruption had wrecked our country until when he decided to clampdown on corruption," Inalegwu said.

Despite the achievements that have been attributed to President Buhari, he has been away for most of the time in London seeking medical treatment. In his absence his deputy Yemi Osinbajo won himself admirers as the true hero behind these achievements.

Dr. Garba Umar Kari, a political analyst and lecturer at the University of Abuja, thinks the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo did a commendable job in the abscence of his boss, Muhammadu Buhari.

"He has been able to ensure that government programmes run smoothly, and to a large extent they [programmes] have not been adversely affected, "Umar Kari said.

For now, Nigerians will have to wait for another two more years to decide whether or not Buhari carries on the mantle of leadership albeit health concerns.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Video - Nigeria's military spokesperson denies coup plot rumours

In Nigeria, the military has dismissed a rumour about a possible coup. A spokesperson insists the armed forces remain loyal to President Muhammadu Buhari.

Nigeria working on prisoner transfer agreement with China

The Federal Government is working out a prisoners’ transfer agreement with China, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama, announced in Abuja on Thursday.

Onyeama made the announcement at a news conference on the achievements of the current administration since it came into power in the past two years.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that thousands of Nigerians are being held behind bars in China for various offences, including those attracting death sentence.

Human rights groups in Nigeria have, however, been drawing the attention of the Federal Government to the plights of the Nigerian prisoners.

A group, the Black African Re-orientation and Development Organisation, recently told the government to secure the release of no fewer than 6,000 Nigerians in Chinese prisons.

Onyeama said the release of the prisoners could not be facilitated because there was no existing agreement between Nigeria and China on the transfer of prisoners.

“The issue of Nigerians in prisons in China is something we are dealing with and the prisoner transfer agreement is something we have to have an agreement on with China.

“We are working to have one in place. We have taken that on board and we are trying to get our prisoners to serve the rest of their terms here.”

The minister disclosed that government had stepped in to plead for commutation of prisoners on death row in the Asian nation.

“The Federal Government has on several occasions reiterated that it would be impossible to get Nigerians on death row in different countries repatriated.

“This is because they do not fall within the prisoner transfer or exchange agreements.’’

Six children kidnapped from their school in Lagos, Nigeria

Nigerian police are searching for six children abducted from their school on the outskirts of the main city, Lagos.

The abductors freed four other children after "profiling" their parents, police said, apparently referring to the fact that they were not regarded as wealthy.

The men came through a swampy forest bordering the state-run Model College school, and cut a hole in the fence to enter, police said.

Schools in Lagos have been hit by several kidnappings for ransom.

Four children were abducted from the same school in October 2016, and three from another school in Lagos in March this year. They were later freed.

Lagos police spokesman Olarinde Famous-Cole condemned the abductions as "dastardly" and said an operation was under way to rescue the girls and apprehend the kidnappers.

May 29 to become public holiday in Nigeria to celebrate Democracy Day

The Federal Government has declared Monday, May 29, as Public Holiday to celebrate the 2017 Democracy Day.

The Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau, made the ‎ declaration in a statement on Thursday in Abuja.

The minister‎ congratulated Nigerians for witnessing yet another Democracy Day, marking the second year anniversary of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government.

‎Mr. Dambazau assured Nigerians of the government’s continued efforts at achieving its three main targets of guaranteeing security, revitalising the economy and tackling corruption.

“While a lot has been achieved in the areas of security, particularly in the North-East, and in tackling corruption, recent statistics released by the National Bureau of Statistics have shown tremendous improvement of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

“‎No doubt, the nation is closer to getting out of recession, particularly with the recently inaugurated Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), which seeks to revitalise the nation’s economy soonest.

“Following the recently signed Executive Orders on Ease of Doing Business, we have opened our doors wider for both domestic and foreign investors,’’ said Mr. Dambazau. ‎

He wished all Nigerians a happy Democracy Day celebration and enjoined them to join hands with the government in building a peaceful and enduring democratic legacy.

Nigeria to shut down five emabassies

The Federal Government has approved the closure of five foreign missions and embassies, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama said.

Mr. Onyeama told journalists in Abuja on Thursday that the process for closure was underway and was also subject to the approval of the president.

He did not name the affected embassies or missions.

“We do not want to indicate the embassies that will be closed yet because we are in the process of submitting the proposals, the cost analysis and also the political analysis we did to the president.

“When he sees that, he may or may not want to close some, so we have not yet reached the stage of closing some,” he said.

The minister said closing missions abroad was “extremely expensive”.

“The expense, costs of closing embassies is so high and prohibitive but in the long run it will more economical.”

The minister, on April 10, told NAN the closure of Nigerian missions abroad is inevitable.

Mr. Onyeama said the reduction of Nigeria’s foreign missions remains on the agenda of the Muhammadu Buhari administration.

Mr. Buhari had said at the inception of his administration that the Federal Government would reduce the number of missions to save cost.

Nigeria currently has 119 foreign missions.

Mr. Onyeama said: “The government is following up on that and we have sort of pre­pared the roadmap; we have started the implementation of that and made also recom­mendations in that context.

“Paradoxically, closing missions is extremely expensive. At first sight it seems ob­vious that you close it you are saving cost but you will actually find that the cost of closing is almost prohibitive.

“But in the long run it will be cheaper, but in the imme­diate and short term it is ex­pensive but we have started the process,” he said.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Video - Nigerian troupe wins world record for longest theatre performance

A group of Nigerian performers have staged the longest marathon theatre performance on record. To break the record it took five days of open air non-stop performances.

Video - Oil production in Nigeria could reach 2.2 mln barrels per day by end of June

The worst disruptions in Nigeria's oil-producing Delta region are over, and production could reach 2.2 million barrels per day by the end of June. According to authorities the long-closed Forcados oilfield could be back to capacity by the end of June, enabling a return to nearly full production from what is typically Africa's largest oil exporter. Attacks in the Niger Delta had pushed production to just over 1 million bpd at certain points last year, which were the lowest in decades, but attacks have abated since the start of the year. The first Foracdos cargo from the main Trans Forcados export line loaded last week, though operator Royal Dutch Shell has said force majeure remains in place.

Rumors of a coup brewing in Nigeria

A mystery container of weapons suddenly appeared this week at the Tin Can Island port in Lagos, Nigeria. Upon opening, the Nigerian Customs Service found it loaded with 440 arms and ammunition of various sizes and designs.

This was the second time in four months that a shipment with weapons was intercepted at one of Lagos’ ports. In January, the container had 661 weapons, and suspects were arrested. While covered by Nigeria’s newspapers as an ordinary daily event, the timing of the weapon finds is particularly unnerving. Nigeria’s political and military circles have been swirling with rumors that that some unknown people are discussing a military coup. How do we know? Because the military has come out to refute such allegations.

The chief of Army staff Tukur Buratai on May 16 issued a statementsaying the Army had “received information that some individuals have been approaching some officers and soldiers for undisclosed political reasons.” He warned “such persons to desist from these acts.” Soon after various key politicians, union leaders and pretty much everyonewho was anyone queued up to denounce the idea of a coup or supporting any such thing.

Coup talk has revived because president Muhammadu Buhari is again on an extended medical leave for an undisclosed length of time while his vice president Yemi Osinbajo acts in his place. It’s the second time Buhari has been absent this year; last time, the president was away for 50 days.

African countries have a long history of military coups taking place while the president is away. But many of those coups took place in an Africa that is different from today and certainly Nigeria is a different place from 1993, the last time a coup occurred. Most Nigerians hadn’t yet been born—the country’s median age is under 21.

Many can’t fathom, much less support, the idea of a coup. Nigeria’s current political uncertainty has more to do with whether: a) Buhari is healthy enough to continue in office; b) If not, should Osinbajo stay on as president till 2019 when the next elections are due; and, most crucially of all, c) Whether Osinbajo, who hails from Ogun state in Nigeria’s southwest, would be allowed to run for president in 2019 given the unwritten political agreement not to have a southerner running then. Based on the unofficial power-sharing pact, the presidency is meant to rotate between the north and south at eight-year intervals. With the uncertainty over the health of northerner Buhari, the north likely fears losing their “tenure” to a southerner.

To make things even more complicated there are several other delicately balanced and significant political issues. Perhaps the best known outside the country is the Boko Haram insurgency which has devastated parts of Nigeria’s northeast over the past eight years. While Buhari’s government has made progress to contain the deadly terrorist insurgency—recovering swathes of territory and rescuing abductees—it has struggled handling the aftermath and now is dealing with a humanitarian crisis in the region. More than five million face acute food shortages in the northeast.

Meanwhile, the Niger Delta region, where most of Nigeria’s oil production is located, is calm for now, but requires constant government input to soothe unrest. Farther east, talk that a “republic of Biafra” will once again try to break away continues as secessionist groups call for a referendum. Many think the government’s brutal crackdown on pro-Biafra protests and its detention of the leader of a major pro-Biafra group is only making matters worse.

The biggest issue of all is the economy, which has suffered five straight quarters of recession. Though tiny shoots of recovery have emerged, the downturn has gone on long enough that key businesses and sectors are loudly complaining that the government hasn’t moved quickly enough to diversify the economy beyond oil production.

The drop in oil prices has kept Nigeria’s economy from rebounding. The Buhari government came into office just as oil began its great decline from the peak in 2014. “The Nigerian economy is not set for a dramatic turnaround anytime soon,” says Teneo Intelligence’s Manji Cheto.

The government has talked up the idea of diversifying the economy away from oil and gas exports, but while the ‘D’ word is a mantra from the lips of every government minister, especially when trying to convince investors to bet on Nigeria, oil still largely drives the economy.

“The key driver [of the economy] was the contraction in the oil sector, and we see this improving in the coming quarters,” says Razia Khan, chief Africa economist for Standard Chartered. Non-oil sectors are growing, notes Khan. Reforms to boost other exports have been put in place. Crucially, Central Bank policies boosting the supply of dollars to keep Nigeria’s currency stable has proven somewhat effective over the last few months.

The central bank’s solution may be temporary, says Nonso Obikili, a Lagos-based economist, given the continued demand for dollars on the black market. “The forex policy is still not ideal with multiple prices and multiple windows. It is not clear that an economy can grow under such market structure,” he says. “The structure is not equipped to deal with shocks, any of which could tip it back into chaos.”

Fears of a backlash should inflation spike due to the forex issue as well as increased politicking given current uncertainties could “militate against any serious reforms,” says Cheto.

Long-term, for Nigerians to see any notable impact, Obikili says the economy will require significant growth. “My fear is that we will remain in a low-growth scenario for a while—and for Nigeria, anything below 3% growth really means we are moving backwards given that population growth is estimated to be about 2.9%.”

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Video - Nigerian central bank keeps benchmark interest rate at 14%

Nigeria's central bank has kept its benchmark interest rate at 14 percent, after the statistics office said Africa's biggest economy contracted in the first quarter. Governor Godwin Emefiele says the bank's Monetary Policy Committee had voted to retain the headline rate. The statistics office has published data showing that Africa's biggest economy, in its second year of a recession caused by low oil prices, contracted in the first quarter by 0.52 percent.

Nigeria has been in recession for five quarters

Nigeria’s economic worries are not yet over. Statistically, at least.

With negative growth recorded for the fifth consecutive quarter,Nigeria’s economy remains mired in recession, according to newly published data by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). But, however slightly, the economy appears to be inching towards growth as even though the economy shrank by 0.52% in the first quarter of 2017, it represents an improvement compared to previous quarters.

Analysts suggest the slight improvement in GDP growth could mean the worst could be over for Nigeria’s economy. “The positive which can be taken from the figure is that the hemorrhaging has stopped, thus clearing the path to growth,” analysts at SBM Intelligence, a Lagos-based firm, commented in a note.

The negative growth rate since the start of last year has been mainly attributed to a drop in Nigeria’s foreign revenues, following the fall in price of oil—Nigeria’s main export. But just as critical, a brief resumption in militancy in the Niger Delta, the country’s oil-rich south last year saw oil production levels tank to 20-year lows, making a bad situation much worse. However, with a peace pact agreed with Niger Delta agitators, NBS data shows an uptick in average oil production levels which have now reached 1.8 million barrels per day (mbpd)—the highest point since the first quarter of 2016—but still some way off desired levels of around 2.2 mbpd.

Getting back to peak production levels is vital, not just for earnings but also to cushion the impact of a possible deal by OPEC to cut production. While OPEC agreed its first deal to cut production last November, Nigeria was exempt having suffered damage to its oil installations during militant attacks earlier in the year. But, with that deal set to be extended, that concession may no longer be available to Nigeria.

Just as importantly, the Nigerian government has also sought to stimulate growth by making it easier to do business in a country where excessive red-tape and corruption has often made things difficult. Last week, Nigeria’s presidency ordered reforms at local ports in a bid to boost exports and diversify its revenue sources and back in February, Nigeria’s Immigration Service relaxed its entry visa rules for tourists and investors.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Video - 5 days power outage to occur in Lagos, Nigeria

Electricity supply will be disrupted in many parts of Lagos this week as Eko Electricity Distribution Company announced a five day power outage in the city. EKEDC spokesman, Godwin Idemudia, said in a statement that the outage would affect Ikoyi, Victoria Island and parts of Lagos Island from Wednesday to Sunday. Mr. Idemudia said the outage was to enable maintenance crew from the Transmission Company of Nigeria -TCN- to address technical and maintenance issues at Alagbon transmission station. The EKEDC spokesman said the company regretted any inconveniences caused by the five-day outage. He promised that supply would be restored to the affected areas as soon as the maintenance was successfully completed.

Nigerian Minister of State for Petrol says he will resign if Nigeria continues to import oil by 2019

Nigeria’s Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu, on Monday vowed to resign if Nigeria continues to import fuel by 2019.

Mr. Kachikwu stated this during an interview on BBC World Service programme, HardTalk, anchored by Stephen Sackur.

In the interview, which lasted 23 minutes, Mr. Kachikwu promised to deliver on the completion of the refineries, noting that he was committed to delivering a future for oil in Nigeria.

On Nigeria’s over-reliance on oil, the minister said the government plans to diversify into agriculture and other sources of revenue.

He said, “Oh, yes, clearly over- reliant , but whether that is dangerous… I look at the positive side of oil also in terms of what it’s done to a country over the years . But when the price slumps, it’s dangerous.

“But we will love to see a lot more diversification, a lot more efforts going into agriculture, emphasis on tourism…”

When asked when the country was going to be self-sufficient in terms of refining petroleum, Mr. Kachikwu declared that 2019 had been set as the target.

“2019 is the target time… I target 2019 . If I don’ t achieve it, I will walk…I put the date and I will achieve it,” the minister said.

He, however, did not clarify if he meant early 2019 or the end of 2019 with the current administration’s tenure set to lapse in May 2019 unless re-elected.

When probed about President Muhammadu Buhari ’s health, the minister noted that he didn’t know the details of the president’s medical treatment.

“He is in London; he’s undergoing hospital treatment. I don’ t know the details of that. I obviously wouldn’t know. But…he’s back in London, he ’s continued some levels of meetings.

“He has a very efficient vice president who is sitting in for him in his absence,” he added.

Commenting further, Mr. Kachikwu explained that he had delivered on all his promises, stating that he made the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, a profit-making organisation.

“I have delivered on all that I have promised when I came into office,” he said.

“First, I took Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and made it a profit- making organisation.

“This is the first time such is happening. I reshaped the organisation. I removed cash call deficits of over $ 6 billion and renegotiated it. I will deliver on the refineries and I’m committed to it. I will deliver a future for oil that makes sense for Nigeria.

“I can ’t pretend that we’re going to solve in one day all the problems that happened in Nigeria in the past,” he added.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Video - Nigerian football stakeholders concerned by decline in U20 national team's performance

The Under-20 FIFA World cup kicked-off in South Korea on Saturday, with African teams registering mixed results. However, in absent was one of Africa's most successful football nations, Nigeria. The West African Nation is seven-times champion of the Africa Under-20 Championships and their declining performance is becoming a cause for concern back home as CGTN's Kelechi Emekalam now reports.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Escaped chibok girl not one of the 276 kidnapped

A schoolgirl who escaped Nigeria's militant Islamists is not one of the 276 Chibok girls abducted in 2014, contrary to earlier reports, a presidential aide has told the BBC.

Although this girl went to the same school in Chibok, she was abducted in a separate incident, Femi Adesina said.

The 15-year-old girl was found by government troops while she was escaping.

Boko Haram has captured thousands of people in north-eastern Nigeria.

The abduction of the 276 Chibok girls is the most high-profile case but many others have never had any media attention or support, aid organisations say.

Three years since the abduction, 113 Chibok girls remain in captivity.

A total of 103 of the girls have been released so far, including 82 earlier this month in a prisoner swap.

The 82 girls, who met Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on 7 May, are expected to be reunited with their families later this week.

They are believed to have been swapped for five Boko Haram commanders.

Last month, President Buhari said the government remained "in constant touch through negotiations, through local intelligence, to secure the release of the remaining girls and other abducted persons unharmed".

Aside from the Chibok girls, Boko Haram has kidnapped thousands of other people during its eight-year insurgency, which is aimed at creating an Islamic caliphate in north-eastern Nigeria.

The government says more than 30,000 people have been killed, and hundreds of thousands forced to flee their homes.

Aid agencies are warning of a famine in the area, as people have not been able to farm for several years.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Video - Nigerian woman designs clean energy stove

Traditional three-stone ovens are common in rural communities across Africa. However, they pose serious health risks as a result of their high carbon emissions. And that's over and above their environmental impact due to deforestation. One Nigerian woman has designed a safer, greener stove that could change millions of lives in rural communities across the country.

Nigerian video producer arrested for poisoning pregnant girlfriend

A Nigerian video director and CEO of Hg2filmworks, Olaolu Akorede, has been remanded in Ikoyi prison, Lagos, for allegedly poisoning his pregnant girlfriend and killing their unborn child.

He was arrested by police on Tuesday and arraigned before an Igbosere magistrate court on a four-count charge of obtaining N2.5 million under false pretense, procuring unknown herbal liquid to terminate pregnancy, maliciously administering poison which caused the death of an unborn baby.

Police prosecutor, Okete Ejima, told the court that the accused intentionally procured the harmful liquid for the complainant to kill her and the unborn child.

The accused, however, denied the allegations in the open court and the magistrate, O. O. Otitoju, admitted him on bail in the sum of N200, 000 with two sureties in like sum.

Mrs. Otitoju also adjourned the case till May 22 for mention, while the defendant was taken to Ikoyi prison, Lagos pending when he would be able to fulfill his bail conditions.

Olaolu, however, denied almost all the allegations, but admitted that he procured an herbal liquid to treat his estranged lover’s diabetic condition.

The 28-year-old director is alleged to have procured a harmful herbal liquid for his lover, Halimat, to drink for the treatment of diabetes, which later allegedly terminated her pregnancy and damaged her fallopian tube.

His arrest followed a petition by Halimat through her counsel in the Chamber of Bislaw Legal Practitioners.

Her petition read, “I met the suspect in New York, U.S, in November, 2016 while both of us were on vacation and began a relationship. When I came back to Nigeria, I noticed that I was pregnant and I told him about the development and he was very happy on the phone. And he begged me to keep the pregnancy until he returns to Nigeria for us to wed.

“He requested for a return ticket to come back to Nigeria and I spent N400,000 to purchase a return ticket for him. When he came back to Nigeria, he also collected the sum of N2.5 million from me to prepare for our wedding. But instead, he went to Abeokuta, Ogun State, to meet a native doctor who prepared a herbal liquid for him which he claimed was for treatment of diabetics.”

She added, “He convinced me to drink it and because I did not suspect anything, I drank from it. Unknown to me, it was to abort my pregnancy or to kill me. After drinking it, I began stooling blood and ended up in the hospital. Doctors later performed surgery on me and discovered that the herbal liquid had affected my unborn baby and damaged my Fallopian tube.”

Chibok girl escapes Boko Haram

A schoolgirl believed to have been abducted by Boko Haram three years ago has been rescued by government troops while "escaping from captivity", Nigerian officials said on Wednesday.

Femi Adesina, a presidential spokesman, said the girl was found less than two weeks after 82 others were released by their abductors in exchanged for five Boko Haram commanders.

"The details are yet to fully unravel. But in terms of is it true? Yes, it is true. I learnt she is already being brought to [the capital] Abuja but I have not seen her," Adesina told reporters.

He added that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who is acting president while President Muhammadu Buhari is on sick leave, informed senior ministers of the rescue at the weekly cabinet meeting.

Presidential aide Bashir Ahmad also confirmed the rescue on Twitter, saying the girl was "found by Nigerian troops while she was escaping from captivity".

The schoolgirl is believed to have been among the 276 pupils seized by Boko Haram from a government school in the town of Chibok in April 2014.

Fifty-seven escaped in the immediate aftermath. Of the 219 who did not manage to flee, 106 have either been released or found, leaving 112 still missing.

The government has said that talks for the release of the remaining schoolgirls still missing are under way.

The abduction drew international attention to the armed group, while the Nigerian government's failure to act quickly to free the girls spurred a global Bring Back Our Girls movement.

About 2,000 girls and boys have been abducted by Boko Haram since 2014, with many used as sex slaves, fighters and even suicide bombers, according to Amnesty International.

Some 20,000 people have been killed and about 2.3 million displaced since Boko Haram started its armed campaign in 2009.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Suicide bombers kill two in northeast Nigeria

Three female suicide bombers killed two people and injured six others in an attack on a village in northeast Nigeria's Borno state, a police spokesman said on Tuesday.

Nobody has claimed responsibility for the attack but it bears the hallmarks of Islamist militant group Boko Haram, whose heartland is Borno and which often uses women for suicide attacks.

Borno state police spokesman Victor Isuku said the bombers detonated their explosives on Monday night in Mandarari Ward, Konduga Local Government Area, some 36 km (22 miles) from state capital Maiduguri, at about 9:30 p.m. (2030 GMT).

Although Nigeria's army has pushed out Boko Haram from most of a swathe of land in the north that it controlled at the start of 2015, suicide attacks and gun raids in some parts of Borno have increased since the end of the rainy season late last year.

The military says the start of the rainy season in a few weeks' time will probably reduce the militants' movement and activity.

Boko Haram has killed more than 20,000 people and forced more than 2 million to flee their homes since 2009 in an insurgency aimed at creating an Islamic caliphate in the northeast of Africa's most populous nation.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Video - UNICEF children's trauma project yields positive results

Nigeria has made massive gains against Boko Haram in the country's north-east. But the aftermath of the insurgency has forced millions of children out of school and left hundreds of thousands orphaned. Aid agencies like UNICEF are looking at creative ways of helping young people cope with their trauma. Here's Kelechi Emekalam again with one forum that's producing amazing results.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Victor Moses gets new endorsement deal

The good times are rolling fast and thick for the Nigerian and Chelsea star, Victor Moses, who last Friday won his first Premier League title with the Blues.

While Moses who has had an amazing season is making it count on the pitch, he is also making a fortune for himself off the pitch as he has just sealed an endorsement with Opera Mini, which has named the Chelsea star as an ambassador.

It is understood that Moses will be featured in the new Opera Mini TV commercial as well as a range of collaborative projects extending throughout 2018.

“Football is one of the most popular types of content consumed by Opera Mini users throughout Africa,” says Jørgen Arnesen, Global Head of Marketing and Distribution at Opera. “Victor Moses is a perfect match for Opera, being not only a high performer but also a great role model and natural ambassador of his home country Nigeria.”

Speaking of his choice as a brand ambassador for Opera Mini, Victor Moses states, “I am proud to be in partnership with Opera and am looking forward to working together. The Opera team have taken me through their plans and vision for the brand in the Nigerian market and it’s made me incredibly excited about the future. I’m delighted to be a part of such a groundbreaking campaign.”

Opera recently launched its first nationwide TV and radio commercials to announce a faster and more affordable internet experience with the Opera Mini browser.

Already airing in South Africa and Kenya, there will be a special version for Nigeria. Victor Moses will literally be challenging his on-field speed against Opera Mini’s.

It is not clear how much the deal is worth.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Video - Nigeria to boost budget by 21%

Nigeria’s lawmakers approved to boost spending by 21 percent this year to help the West African economy recover from its worst slump in 25 years.

The Senate, led by its President Bukola Saraki, agreed on Thursday in the capital, Abuja, to increase spending this year to 7.4 trillion naira ($23 billion). That compares to a budget of 7.3 trillion naira that President Muhammadu Buhari proposed on Dec. 14. The House of Representatives, the National Assembly’s lower chamber, approved it earlier Thursday.

Nigeria’s economy, which vies with South Africa’s to be the largest on the continent, shrunk by 1.5 percent last year, the first contraction since 1991, after revenue from oil, its biggest export, fell by almost half. About 30 percent of the budget will be spent on roads, rail, ports and power to help stimulate business activity.

The government should implement the budget quickly “to boost the economy and take it out of recession,” Michael Famoroti, an economist at Lagos-based Vetiva Capital Management, said by phone. Spending on capital projects to promote exports and in the oil-producing Niger delta region, is expected in the second half of the year, he said.

The spending plans assume daily production of 2.2 million barrels of crude oil sold at $42.5 per barrel, and an exchange rate of 305 naira per dollar, according to budget documents. This was unchanged from Buhari’s proposal, the chairman of the Senate’s Committee on Appropriations, Danjuma Goje, told lawmakers.

The government’s oil-production target may be reached in the second half of the year as “oil revenue is expected to be strong,” according to Famoroti. If non-oil revenue doesn’t increase, Nigeria might face “another under-performance of the budget.”

Foreign-currency shortages in the country forced the central bank to introduce multiple exchange rates, with the main rate at 315 naira per dollar, more than 20 percent cheaper than the street price.

The two chambers of Parliament debate and approve spending plans separately before harmonizing their proposals into a single document sent to the president to sign into law. Buhari’s deputy, now acting President Yemi Osinbajo, might sign the bill in the absence of his boss, who flew to London on May 8 for treatment of an undisclosed ailment. The 74 year-old leader’s ill health has fueled concern about his ability to rule Africa’s most-populous nation of 180 million people.

Like last year, Nigeria delayed approving the budget by more than four months.

The budget’s passage paves the way for the government to borrow 2.3 trillion naira, 46 percent of which will be from abroad, to help plug this year’s fiscal deficit at 2.18 percent of gross domestic product. Buhari asked lawmakers on April 27 to approve the borrowing of $7 billion from China and the World Bank to build railroads and help recovery of northeastern Nigeria. The region has been adversely affected by Jihadist group Boko Haram’s insurgency.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Video - Can Nigeria's Chibok girls ever be truly free?

Eighty-two of Nigeria’s Chibok schoolgirls are free thanks to a prisoner swap between the Nigerian government and Boko Haram. The release is the biggest since the armed group swarmed a school in northern Nigeria in April 2014, kidnapping 276 girls. News of the deal has brought both happiness and anxiety as families wait to hear if their relatives are among those freed.

Aisha Yesufu, of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign, told Al Jazeera that counseling and rehabilitation must now be a priority.

"At the end of the day, we want to have world leaders out of every one of them so that they can be what the terrorists did not want them to be," Yesufu said.

But critics of the campaign say the girls have become too famous to ever truly be free. Writing in the New York Times, Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani said: "The campaign made them famous and, as a result, precious to the jihadists. The military says it can't guarantee their safety if they go home, so they remain essentially prisoners of the state."

Peter Joseph, a family member of one of 21 girls released by Boko Haram in October 2016, agrees. Those girls are in a government rehabilitation camp where they rarely see their families.

"I think it’s another kind of imprisonment," Joseph told The Stream.

So when it comes to rehabilitation, what is the best way forward? And can the Chibok girls ever really be free?

Video - Nigerian entrepreneur finds muse in hand-pressed coconut oil

A Nigerian entrepreneur has found her muse in hand-pressed coconut oil. The former banker and actor is so comfortable in her new skin, she is confident of exploring markets beyond Nigeria.

Video - Nigerian government struggles to harmonize forex rates

Nigeria's Central Bank is facing the difficult task of harmonising the multiple foreign exchange rates in the country, some of which it ironically created. There are at least six exchange rates for various market segments in the country and the apex bank has been opening more windows in an attempt to bridge the gap between the official rate and that of the black market.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Video - China donates $5 million for emergency food aid to Nigeria

China has provided Nigeria with 5 million dollars in emergency humanitarian aid to support relief efforts in the north-east. The contribution is to help purchase food and support for hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons in Borno and Yobe States. The World Food Programme says the aid comes at a crucial time. The governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima, has thanked the Chinese government for its invaluable support to Nigeria.

BBC apologizes to Emir of Kano for false report

The British Broadcasting Corporation has apologised to the Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II, over claims that he was under probe by anti-graft officials for alleged mismanagement of Kano Emirate fund.

Jamie Angus, editorial director at BBC, informed Mr. Sanusi that an April 24 story that said the traditional ruler was amongst those being investigated in connection to alleged misappropriation of about N6 billion Emirate Council fund was "not correct."

Mr. Angus explained that the station's editorial staff in Abuja had inaccurately translated an April 24 interview with Muhyi Magaji, the Chairman of Kano State Public Complaints and Anti-Corruption Commission, who allegedly stated that Mr. Sanusi was under investigation.

"The recording of the interview was passed to another colleague in Abuja office, summarised in a despatch and then sent to London where the online report was written and published.

"It is now clear from our investigations that the reports did not accurately reflect what we were told by Mr. Magaji, who had, in fact, made clear to our reporter that you had not been invited in for questioning and indeed that it was unlikely that there would be a need to invite you for question.

"Accordingly, the report we published suggested that you were under personal investigation was not correct and for that I offer my sincere apologies," Mr. Angus said.

In the apology letter, dated April 28, 2017, Mr. Angus said the BBC removed the inaccurate interview from its website on April 26, but PREMIUM TIMES' check revealed that Hausa version of the report was still live as at 9:06 p.m. Tuesday.

Mr. Magaji said his commission was investigating the Kano Emirate Council as a body over alleged misappropriation of up to N6 billion, but not Mr. Sanusi as an individual.

But the Emirate Council denied allegations of fraud and said the amount involved was only N4.3 billion.

Freed Chibok girls reunite with family in Nigeria

The uncle of one of the 82 Chibok schoolgirls released this week described his “amazing joy” after being reunited with his niece, who has been held captive by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram for three years.

“Today is a wonderful day,” said Yakubu Nkeki on Monday night. “I saw the girls and Maimuna. When she saw me, she ran and grabbed me and started crying. I was so overwhelmed.”

Nkeki, the chairman for the Chibok parents’ group and a primary school teacher who taught many of the schoolgirls, spent three hours with his niece Maimuna Usman, 20, and the other 81 former Boko Haram captives in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, where they have been kept since their unexpected release on Sunday.

“I was so happy to see her and so relieved that she looked fine, no scars or wounds on her body. She looked well kept. I can’t describe it.”

But his joy was tempered by concerns over when other parents would be allowed to see their daughters and for the wellbeing of the women and girls.

Nkeki met the minister of women’s affairs on Tuesday to discuss when the families can meet their daughters.

The women and girls, who were among the 276 mostly Christian schoolgirls seized from their dormitories in April 2014, causing an international outcry, were released last Sunday in exchange for five militant leaders, following months of negotiation by participants across two continents.

The families said their release gave them hope that others would soon be freed.

The girls will spend five to seven days undergoing medical and psychological tests. Nkeki said only he had been able to see the girls, although some parents had spoken to their daughters by phone. He said that when some of the schoolgirls were released in October 2016, “I shared the joy with other parents but with faith that we would get her too. Now as I celebrate with other parents I can see that my own niece is here.”

He said the parents of the other 81 girls were hoping they would be able to see them soon. “They want them to receive all the care from the medical staff but they also want to be reunited with them as soon as they can. We’re waiting on the government to let us know when this will be possible.”

He was happy the government had helped the girls, he said, but added that many of the relatives had “gone through hell in the last few years” and needed support.

Presidential spokesman Garba Shehu said the government was working to verify the identities of the girls, in order to reunite them with their families as soon as possible. A list of names was published last Sunday and photographs of them have been sent to the remote town of Chibok for cross-checking.

“When we had the first 21, because of similarities in names, more than two, three sets of parents came to Abuja. So, we don’t want to create that confusion,” Shehu told Agence France-Presse. “When they get the pictures, they see them and verify, then they come on board to Abuja to see their daughters.”

Shehu said he hoped the verification process would be concluded soon, and promised: “The government will not stop any parents from immediately establishing contact with their daughters.”

He also told the local TV station that one of the schoolgirls among a group of 83 that Boko Haram had agreed to release had refused to return because she had married a militant fighter.

The Nigerian government has been criticised previously for the length of time it has taken for former hostages to be reunited with their families.

Twenty-one of the girls’ classmates were freed in October. They are being kept in Abuja, ostensibly for schooling. In December, the parents of those girls were told by the government that they could not take their children back to Chibok, 500 miles (800km) away, because of the security situation. But the families said this had improved, and the young women were expected to return home.

Another parent, whose daughter was not on the list, told the Guardian the release had brought him hope that his own child would soon be free.

He said: “I rejoice with the parents because I understand what they are going through. It has been hard to go for three years without seeing or hearing from your child. Seeing other people’s joy makes me more hopeful that soon the government will rescue her too.”

The release deal was negotiated by Mustapha Zanna, once the lawyer of Mohammed Yusuf, the founder of Boko Haram. The girls were picked up in Red Cross vehicles and taken to Abuja in military helicopters, where they were met by Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari.

More than 100 of the girls remain in Boko Haram’s hands along with hundreds of other women and children, some of whom have been forced by the militants to carry bombs to busy areas and to kill themselves and civilians. The Chibok girls reached international attention when the hashtag #bringbackourgirls was promoted by Michelle Obama and other celebrities.

Manasseh Allen, a campaigner for the Bring Back Our Girls group, said: “Reaching the parents has been hard because they live in remote areas, so sometimes we have to call someone who then finds some of the parents in person. The government and the parents also want to leave space for the girls to have a debrief, which they’re having now and then medical tests and assessments.”

A spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, which acted as a neutral intermediary and organised the transportation of the girls and young women to freedom, said their privacy should be respected and they should be given support.

“For their own wellbeing, we are advocating the girls should be given privacy. They are going to need a lot of support for them to reintegrate into the community.”

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Video - Over 80 Chibok girls released by Boko Haram arrive in Abuja

The latest group of abducted Chibok girls to be released by Boko Haram militants, has arrived in the Nigerian capital, Abuja. The more than 80 girls, in captivity since in 2014, were expected to be officially received by the Nigerian president. A Nigerian government official has been quoted saying five Boko Haram commanders were released to secure the release of these Chibok girls.

Femi Kuti breaks saxophone world record

Femi Kuti has broken the World record for the longest single note held on a saxophone at the New Africa Shrine.

He attained the feat on Sunday at the New Africa Shrine as shared by his sister, Yeni Anikulapo-Kuti on her Instagram page @yenikuti.

“This evening 7th May at the New Africa Shrine, Femi Kuti broke the world record for the longest single note on a saxophone note set in 1997 by Kenny G.

The record stood at 45mins 37 seconds….Femi did 46mins 38seconds!! Give it up, we have a world champ. This was witnessed by a large audience that included Sen. Ben Murray-Bruce, the deputy high commissioners of Netherlands and The United Kingdom.“ The record was previously first set in December, 1997 by legendary saxophonist Kenny G when he held an E-Flat for over 45 minutes. 

Kenny G was reported to have used a technique called Circular Breathing, which keeps a steady stream of air flowing through the saxophone even as the player breathes. For Femi Kuti, it is unclear yet what technique he used or even, the member of the sax family he used to achieve the massive feat. 

He started playing the sax when he was 15 and joined his father’s band “The Egypt 80.” He later formed his own band, “Positive Force’’ in the late 80s. Femi, four-time Grammy award nominee, is skilled on other musical instruments including the trumpet and the piano.

According to media reports, Femi awaits an official recognition by the Guinness World Record. 

Dozens on trial in Nigeria over gay wedding

Fifty four people went on trial in northern Nigeria on Monday on charges connected to allegations that they were celebrating a gay wedding, which are outlawed in the country.

The court began hearing the case against the defendants -- most of whom were not present in court -- who have been charged with criminal conspiracy and holding an illegal gathering.

Former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan signed a bill in 2014 that criminalized same-sex relationships, despite pressure from Western governments to preserve the rights of gay and lesbian people.

The bill contains penalties of up to 14 years in prison and bans gay marriage, same-sex "amorous relationships" and membership of gay rights groups.

Defense lawyer Kimi Appah said the gathering had been a birthday party held in April to honor a man who appeared in court.

"Police got wind of it, arrested them and made trumped up charges that they are trying to celebrate a gay marriage," he told the court in Zaria, a city in the northern state of Kaduna.

The man appeared in court with three other people. They were charged with criminal conspiracy and illegal gathering, to which they all pleaded not guilty. The other accused were not present in court.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Video - President Buhari left for medical tests in London Sunday night

President Buhari left Nigeria on Sunday night to seek treatment in London. According to his office, Buhari will be going for follow up medical tests. Buhari returned to Nigeria two months ago after receiving medical treatment in Britain. Officials have refused to disclose details of his medical condition. Buhari's health has been a major cause of concern in a country where there are fears that a power vacuum could affect its recovery from recession.

President Buhari meets with freed Chibok girls

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari expressed joy Sunday night at meeting with the 82 Chibok schoolgirls newly freed from Boko Haram extremists — then jolted the country by announcing he was leaving for London immediately for medical checkups as fears for his health continue.

“We’ve always made it clear that we will do everything in our power to ensure the freedom & safe return of our daughters” and all captives of Boko Haram, Buhari said on his Twitter account.

Minutes later, the 74-year-old president startled Africa’s most populous nation with the news of his departure. Buhari, who has missed three straight weekly Cabinet meetings, spent a month and a half in London on medical leave earlier this year and said he’d never been as sick in his life. The exact nature of his illness remained unclear.

“There is no cause for worry” about this latest medical leave, a statement from his office said, adding that the length of Buhari’s stay in London will be determined by his doctors.

Photos released by the government showed the rail-thin president standing and addressing the Chibok schoolgirls at his official residence Sunday evening, a day after their release.

“The president was delighted to receive them and he promised that all that is needed to be done to reintegrate them into the society will be done,” adviser Femi Adesina said. “He promised that the presidency will personally supervise their rehabilitation.”

The young women have been handed over to government officials who will supervise their re-entry into society, Adesina said. The International Committee of the Red Cross, which helped negotiate the girls’ release along with the Swiss government, said they would be reunited with their families soon.

Five Boko Haram commanders were released in exchange for the girls’ freedom, a Nigerian government official said Sunday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to reporters on the matter. Neither Nigeria’s government nor Boko Haram, which has links to the Islamic State group, gave details about the exchange.

Parents of the schoolgirls were waiting for a government list of names of those who had been freed.

Some parents of the kidnapped girls gathered in the capital, Abuja, to celebrate the release, while others expressed anxiety over the fate of the 113 girls who remain missing after the mass abduction from a Chibok boarding school in 2014.

The Rev. Enoch Mark, whose two daughters have been among the missing, was still awaiting word if they were among those freed. He emphasized that he considered all 82 of the girls to be his daughters “because most of them worship in my church.”

Some parents did not live long enough to see their daughters released, underscoring the tragedy of the three-year saga. And the recovery process is expected to be a long one for the girls, many of whom endured sexual assault during their captivity.

“They will face a long and difficult process to rebuild their lives after the indescribable horror and trauma they have suffered at the hands of Boko Haram,” said Pernille Ironside, acting representative of UNICEF Nigeria.

Boko Haram seized a total of 276 girls in the 2014 abduction. Girls who escaped early on said some of their classmates had died from illness. Others did not want to come home because they’d been radicalized by their captors, they said.

Human rights advocates also fear some of the girls have been used by Boko Haram to carry out suicide bombings.

Last year, a first group of 21 Chibok girls was freed in October, and they have been in government care for medical attention, trauma counseling and rehabilitation. Human rights groups have criticized the decision to keep the girls in custody in Abuja, nearly 900 kilometers (560 miles) from Chibok.

It was not immediately clear whether the newly freed girls would join them.

They should be quickly released to their families and not be subjected to lengthy government detention, Amnesty International’s Nigeria office said, adding that the girls don’t deserve to be put through a “publicity stunt” and deserve privacy.

Though Boko Haram has abducted thousands of people during its eight-year insurgency that has spilled across Nigeria’s borders, the Chibok mass kidnapping horrified the world and brought the extremist group international attention.

The failure of Nigeria’s former government to act quickly to free the girls sparked a global Bring Back Our Girls movement; U.S. first lady Michelle Obama posted a photo with its logo on social media.

The Bring Back Our Girls campaign said Sunday it was happy that Nigeria’s government had committed to rescuing the 113 remaining schoolgirls, and it urged the president to “earnestly pursue” the release of everyone held by Boko Haram.

Buhari late last year announced Boko Haram had been “crushed,” but the group continues to carry out attacks in northern Nigeria and neighboring countries. Its insurgency has killed more than 20,000 people and driven 2.6 million from their homes, with millions facing starvation.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Two Nigerian officials jailed for selling food aid

Two Nigerian officials have been jailed for selling food aid meant for people fleeing militant attacks and food shortages in the country's north-east.

The two sold 180 bags of rice donated by an international aid agency, the court in Maiduguri, Borno State, heard.

They were jailed for two years and fined 1m naira ($3,200; £2,500) each.

More than two million people have been displaced in north-eastern Nigeria where security forces are battling Islamist militant group Boko Haram.

The prosecution of the two officials was brought by Nigeria's anti-corruption agency, the EFCC.

Umar Ibrahim, a local councillor, and Bulama Ali Zangebe, a member of a camp feeding committee, are said to be the first convicted for corruption in relation to food aid in Nigeria since the insurgency began in 2009.

The rice had been donated by the Danish Refugee Council for victims of insurgency in the town of Mafa, and had been marked as not for sale.

The two admitted the charges against them but told the court that the rice was about to expire.

President Muhammadu Buhari took office in 2015 with a pledge to root out corruption in government.

Last month his office ordered an investigation after the head of the national intelligence agency was suspended over corruption allegations.

He acted after anti-corruption officers found more than $43m (£34m) in a flat in the main city, Lagos.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Video - Abubakar Shekau 'injured' in an air strike in northeast Nigeria

Nigerian militant group Boko Haram's leader has reportedly been injured and one of his deputies killed in an air strike. According to sources, who spoke to AFP news agency, Abubakar Shekau was wounded last week, during bombings carried out by two Nigerian Air force jets in northeast Nigeria. The Air Force jets had attacked the insurgents, who had gathered for prayers in a village 40 kilometres from Damboa, on the edge of the Sambisa Forest. The sources say Shekau was just leaving a house nearby for the mosque, when the first jet struck. He is believed to be receiving treatment around Kolofata area. The air force says assessment conducted after the strike has shown that several leaders of the Boko Haram terrorist organisation and their followers have been killed during the attacks. Nigerian authorities have claimed to have killed Shekau on at least three occasions. Boko Haram has killed over 20,000 people and displaced more than 2 million from their homes.

President Buhari misses third straight cabinet meeting

Nigeria's president hasn't been seen in public for more than a week and he's missed his third straight cabinet meeting. That's got Nigerians wondering what's going on with his health.

Muhammadu Buhari is under increasing pressure to "disclose the nature of his illness to the nation," NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reports. She says some prominent Nigerians are demanding that he take medical leave amid questions about his fitness to govern.

The president's wife, Aisha Buhari, took to Twitter to try to calm the growing health concerns. "I wish to inform everyone that his health is not as bad as it's being perceived," she wrote, adding that her husband "continues to carry out his responsibilities."

He missed his third straight cabinet meeting this morning. A tweet from the presidency's verified Twitter account indicated that the vice president led the meeting.

After Buhari returned from medical leave in March, he told reporters that he had never been so sick, according to the BBC. And while he hasn't revealed his condition, he mentioned receiving blood transfusions, The Associated Press reports.

"The 74-year-old returned to work in mid-March but often works from home, according to aides," according to the AP. "The uncertainty over Buhari's health has raised fears of instability in Africa's most populous nation and one of its top oil producers."


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Video - Nigerians reflects on Anthony Joshua's heavyweight success

As Anthony Joshua slugged it out in the ring with Wladimir Klitschko last Saturday for boxing's world heavy champion, it was not only the British who were rooting passionately for him, millions of Nigerians too were because of his Nigerian heritage. Both of Joshua's parents are Nigerians and there was a huge euphoria in the country when he beat Klitschko to become the heavy weight champion of the world.

Video - 40% increase in cement prices slows growth in real estate sector in Nigeria

Nigeria manufactures nearly 90% of its cement locally, but a recent 40% price hike has significantly slowed growth in the country's real-estate sector.

President Buhari misses third cabinet meeting

Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari has missed his third cabinet meeting in a row amid ongoing questions about the state of his health.

He has not been seen in public for more than a week.

His wife Aisha Buhari had tweeted on Tuesday that her husband was not as sick as is being perceived.

In March, Mr Buhari returned from seven weeks of medical leave in the UK where he was treated for an undisclosed illness.

When he returned home he said he had never been so ill in his life.

In her tweets, Mrs Buhari that he was continuing to "carry out his responsibilities" and has been meeting with ministers. She also thanked Nigerians.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who was the acting president while Mr Buhari was away in the UK, is chairing the cabinet meeting in the capital, Abuja.

Earlier this week, a group of prominent Nigerians has called on Mr Buhari to take medical leave as concerns about his health grow.

He uncharacteristically failed to show up at last Friday's prayers at the mosque on state house grounds.

Information Minister Lai Mohammed told the BBC that the president's health was "a personal matter" and that Nigerians have been kept aware of his condition.

Thirteen influential civil society figures, said in a statement on Monday that the president's absence from the cabinet meetings, as well as the weekly Friday Muslim prayers, "has fuelled further speculation and rumours" about his medical condition.

The 13 said they felt "compelled" to ask Mr Buhari "to heed the advice of his personal physicians by taking a rest to attend to his health without any further delay".

Mr Buhari's personal assistant Bashir Ahmed said the president had met Justice Minister Abubakar Malami and other officials at the presidential villa on Tuesday as part of his official duties.

Last week, presidential spokesman Garba Shehu said Mr Buhari was "taking things slowly, as he fully recovers from the long period of treatment" in the UK.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Video - Liquefied Natural Gas Company: Proposed act will have detrimental effects on Nigeria

Nigeria's liquefied natural gas company, the NLNG, is on a collision course with the country's parliament after it criticized plans by lawmakers to introduce a law to compel the gas firm to pay a levy, which is about three percent of its annual budget. The NLNG warns that if the bill is enacted, it could have a detrimental effect on new investments in the country's oil and gas industry.

New heavy weight world champion Anthony Joshua to be honoured in Nigeria

After defeating Ukrainian Wladimir Klitschko, Anthony Joshua is set to be honoured by the Ogun State government, the state where his parents hail from in Nigeria.

Majority leader of the State House of Assembly Yinka Mafe says he will move a motion in the state legislature to have the Sagamu International Stadium renamed Anthony Joshua Stadium, and the popular Cinema Street in Sagamu renamed Anthony Joshua Street.

Of the two, the street is the most significant, as his family owns almost half the land and property on one side of the street.

The cinema, from which the road takes its name, was built by his great grandfather Omo-Oba Daniel Adebambo Joshua in the 50s, and is one of the oldest of such facilities in the country.

Mafe joined hundreds of Sagamu youth to watch the fight in an open air viewing event organised by the Sagamu Youth Congress, and was thrilled by both the turnout and the outcome.

"We are proud of what he has achieved as a son of Sagamu, and we will be happy to do our own little bit to show our appreciation and support for him," Mafe said.

President Buhari urged to take medical leave

A group of prominent Nigerians has called on President Muhammadu Buhari, 74, to take medical leave, amid growing concern about his health.

There was an "apparent deterioration" in his health following his failure to attend the last two cabinet meetings, the group said.

Mr Buhari took about seven weeks of medical leave in January, and flew to the UK for treatment.

When he returned home in March, he said he had never been so ill in his life.

Mr Buhari has not disclosed his illness, but hinted that he had had a blood transfusion.

The president had not been seen in public for the last week, and his absence from the cabinet meetings, as well as the weekly Friday Muslim prayers, "has fuelled further speculation and rumours" about his medical condition, the group of 13 Nigerians said in a statement.

The group included some of the Nigeria's most influential civil society figures, including lawyer Femi Falana, political analyst Jibrin Ibrahim, and Transparency International Nigeria head Anwal Musa Rafsanjani.

The 13 said they felt "compelled" to ask Mr Buhari "to heed the advice of his personal physicians by taking a rest to attend to his health without any further delay".

Mr Buhari's aides have not yet commented on the statement.

Last week presidential spokesman Garba Shehu said Mr Buhari was "taking things slowly, as he fully recovers from the long period of treatment" in the UK.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Nigerian reject Anthony Joshua becomes World Champion

The new IBF and WBA heavyweight champion of the world, Anthony Oluwafemi Joshua, could have fought Vladimir Klitschko, as world boxing champion, under the green white green banner of Nigeria rather than the British Union Jack.

But for one small and now ultimately significant rejection by Nigerian boxing officials in 2008, when he wanted to represent the country of his parents at the Olympic Games, was to alter the course of history, ESPN reported on Sunday.

Maybe his career would have taken an entirely different fork at the crossroads if he had been flying the green and white colours nearly a decade ago.

Joshua makes no secret of his Nigerian heritage. If anything, he embraces it. His middle name, Femi (short for Oluwafemi), is as Nigerian as they come. On numerous occasions he has not been shy to speak about his Nigerian roots.
Joshua was born in Watford to a Nigerian mother and a British father of Nigerian and Irish descent. He made his professional debut in 2013.
In a post-fight interview muck-around with Nigerian reporter Oma Akatugba, he even attempted to speak some of his native Yoruba language, and the map tattooed on his shoulder tells its own cultural tale.
It is a reflection of how connected he has tried to remain to his African roots.
Indeed, some of 27-year-old Joshua’s early years were spent in Ijebu-Ode Nigeria before he returned to the UK halfway through Year Seven to join Kings Langley Secondary School.
Growing up on the Meriden Estate in Garston, Hertfordshire, Joshua was called ‘Femi’ by his friends and former teachers. He excelled at football and athletics and broke the Year Nine 100m record with a time of 11.6 seconds.

At 11, he joined his Nigerian mother Yeta in the most populous black nation on earth for six months and attended a boarding school within that period.
Joshua told MailOnline that he felt he went to Nigeria on holiday. “I thought I was going there (Nigeria) on holiday,” he said.

“I wasn’t prepared for it. It was a boarding school as well. It was a change and I thought I was going to go for the full course: 5.30am in the morning, up fetch your water, put like an iron in your water to warm it up. Your clothes had to be washed and ironed.

“It wasn’t an issue but I wasn’t prepared. It was good discipline. We got beaten. That’s my culture: beating. The (British) government raises your kids now; parents aren’t allowed to raise their kids, because there is so much control (here) about what you do or what you say.

“In the (Nigerian) culture it’s family, outside support; everyone has a role in raising the kids.”
At the end of six months, which he believed taught him discipline, Joshua and his family returned to the UK, and he resumed the path that led to him being discovered as a promising amateur fighter.

It was that connection that drove him to try and represent Nigeria at the 2008 Olympic Games, only to be turned down by the country’s boxing coaches.
Obisia Nwankpa, former Commonwealth champion, world title contender and chief coach of the 
Nigerian boxing team, tells the story: “He reached out to us, asking to be part of our Olympic team, so we invited him to come down and take part in the trials.

“Unfortunately, he did not appear when we asked him to and came down only when we had finished our trials, finalised our team and were about to travel for a training tour. Maybe other coaches would have accepted it, but I could not.

“It’s a pity he did not get his chance at that time, but the two boxers we selected then, Durodola Olanrewaju and Onorede Ohwarieme, were outstanding and experienced and there was no way I was going to drop them for somebody I had not even seen.”

Both Olanrewaju and Ohwarieme failed to go beyond their first bouts at the Beijing Olympics. Olanrewaju lost to Cuba’s Osmay Acosta, who went on to win bronze, while Ohwarieme was beaten by Lithuania’s Jaroslavas Jaksto. But Nwankpa remains convinced that Joshua would not have fared any better at the time.

“Those two were great boxers and the reason they did not do so well was partly because our preparations were not really so good, and partly because there is also some politics in the way they judge these fights at amateur level.”

However, Jeremiah Okorodudu who represented Nigeria at the 1984 Olympic Games, has another take on why Joshua was rejected. His relationship with Nwankpa is frosty at best and they do not often agree.

Okorodudu claimed that some stinging words were said to the young boxer.
“When they turned him back, they told him that if he was that good he should have fought for Britain,” Okorodudu alleged.

That snub, it seems, provided additional motivation which spurred the young boxer to fight his way into the British Olympic team. Four years later, Nigeria’s rejected nugget had become Great Britain’s cornerstone Olympic gold medalist. So is it possible that Joshua dodged a bullet by that rejection?
Nwankpa grudgingly agreed: “Well, maybe if he had represented Nigeria at that time he would not have won gold at the Olympics. And possibly, even if he had won, he may not have achieved what he is achieving now.
“Being born in England gives him a certain amount of preference and because he is representing them, he also gets a lot of support from them; good management, and world class preparation.

“Here, it would have been difficult for him to get the kind of support that he has now. And if he doesn’t have that support, he won’t have fights and if he doesn’t have fights, he cannot be champion,” Nwankpa argued.

Okorodudu again holds opposite views to Nwankpa: “I believe he could still have achieved all that if he had fought for Nigeria. We have had boxers who have done well fighting for Nigeria. Peter Konyegwachie won silver in 1984. David Izonritei also won silver and I trained Samuel Peter for three years before he went to the Olympic Games and later became a world champion.
“So if Joshua had been given a chance here, I believe he could still have won gold and still be a world champion.”

On further reflection, however, Okorodudu admitted it would have been a harder journey for the young champion.

“Lack of fights is a big problem for our boxers. They turn professional and there is no promotion. Joshua is where he is because he is getting good promotion, so maybe it would have been tougher for him.

“But because he was born in England, he could still have moved abroad, like Peter did, and that would have worked for him,” Okorodudu added.
Nwankpa, who was close to being a world champion himself until he lost the WBC title fight to Saoul Mamby, however, maintained that he has no regrets about his decision to cold-shoulder Joshua.
“I would do it again because we must always do things the right way. Simply because somebody was born abroad does not mean he can just walk into our team without taking part in our trials.

“That would be unfair to those who sweated to take part and qualified. So no, I have no regrets at all. But I am happy for him,” Nwakpa told ESPN before Saturday’s fight.
Choices: we are the sum total of the choices we make. For Joshua, he is the sum of choices stemming from one made by Nwankpa.
Hard not to think that in his moments of quiet introspection, he will find himself thankful for the little mercy of having suffered that rejection early in his career.

Meanwhile, after winning the historic fight in front of 90,000 people at Wembley and with millions watching all over the world, Joshua challenged another heavyweight great, Tyson Fury, to a match.
Fury beat Klitschko in 2015, but was stripped of his titles shortly afterwards and has not fought since.
Taking up the challenge, Fury responded to Joshua calling him out immediately after his victory over Klitschko by saying “challenge accepted”.
“Tyson Fury, where (are) you at baby?” asked Joshua.
“Come on, is that what you want to see? I enjoy fighting. I love fighting. Tyson Fury I know he has been talking a lot and wants to come back and compete.

“I want to give 90,000 people another chance to come back and watch some boxing here,” shouted out Joshua who is now a three-belt champion as he also holds the IBO title.
Tyson Fury accepted the challenge – some have called this next bout to be one of the biggest in 500 years of boxing history.

Fury last year surrendered the world heavyweight titles he won by beating Klitschko in an effort to focus on his mental health problems.
The 28-year-old has won all 25 of his professional fights so far, 18 by knockout.
Joshua now boasts a perfect 19-0 record following his win over Klitschko, with all of the 27-year-old’s victories coming inside the distance.