Friday, September 22, 2017

Life expectancy increases by 8 years in Nigeria

The life expectancy in Nigeria has increased considerably even though people in many other sub-Sahara African countries still live longer and healthier lives, the Annual Global Burden of Disease Study, published last week in the international medical journal, The Lancet, has revealed.

The study shows that a Nigerian man born in 2016 can expect to live 63.7 years, an increase in life expectancy of seven years over the past decade, while a woman has a life expectancy of 66.4 years, up 8.1 years from 2006.

But the study was quick to stress that illnesses and injuries can take away years of healthy life, adding that a Nigerian male born in 2016 will live approximately 55.5 years in good health, while a female will live a healthy life of approximately 57.2 years.

Nigeria has a higher life expectancy than South Africa , Niger , and Cameroon , but lags behind Kenya , Rwanda , and Ethiopia .

According to the Director, Centre for Healthy Start Initiative, Jacob Olusanya, while lending his voice to the study, said: "Life expectancy in Nigeria is growing, but people in many other sub-Sahara African countries are living longer, healthier lives. Communicable diseases like malaria, diarrhea, lower respiratory diseases, and HIV are still taking the lives of far too many Nigerians. Infants and children are at particular risk from these diseases, and neonatal ailments like sepsis and encephalopathy kill thousands of infants. We have much more work to do," he said.

He said, the top five causes of premature deaths in Nigeria are malaria, diarrheal diseases, HIV, neonatal encephalopathy, and lower respiratory infection, noting that the ailments that cause illnesses can be very different, with iron-deficiency anemia, back pain, and migraines topping the causes of years that people live with disability in Nigeria .

"Deaths of children under five are a persistent health challenge. For every 1,000 live births, 46.6 Nigerian children under the age of five die. That far exceeds the global figure of 38.4, and the regional average of countries in western sub-Sahara Africa , which is 40.7. Only a few countries in the region - such as Niger , Mali , and Chad - have higher rates of under-five mortality.

"Moreover, in 2016, for the first time in modern history, fewer than five million children under age five died in one year, as compared to 1990 when 11 million died," he added.

The study, which is the world's largest scientific collaboration on population health, also shows that globally, countries have saved more lives over the past decade, especially among children under five, but persistent health problems, such as obesity, conflict, and mental illness, comprise a 'triad of troubles,' and prevent people from living long, healthy lives.

Researchers attribute the global health landmark to improvements in increased educational levels of mothers, rising per capita incomes, declining levels of fertility, increased vaccination programmes, mass distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets, improved water and sanitation, and a wide array of other health programmes funded by development funding for health.

"Death is a powerful motivator, both for individuals and for countries, to address diseases that have been killing us at high rates," said the Director, Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), University of Washington , Dr. Christopher Murray.

"But, we are being much less motivated to address issues leading to illnesses. A 'triad of troubles' - obesity, conflict, and mental illness, including substance use disorders - poses a stubborn and persistent barrier to active and vigorous lifestyle," he added.

He said the study also shows that one of the most alarming risks in the Global Burden of Diseases (GBD) is excess body weight, adding that the rate of illness related to people being too heavy is rising quickly, and the disease burden can be found in all socio demographic levels. "High body mass index (BMI) is the fourth largest contributor to the loss of healthy life, after high blood pressure, smoking, and high blood sugar.

"Deaths over the past decade due to conflict and terrorism more than doubled. Recent conflicts, such as those in Nigeria , Syria , Yemen , South Sudan, and Libya , are major public health threats, both in regard to casualties and because they lead to long-term physical and mental consequences.

"Mental illness and substance use disorders continued to contribute substantially to the loss of healthy life in 2016, affecting all countries regardless of their socioeconomic status. Treatment rates for mental and substance use disorders remain low. Even in high-income countries where treatment coverage has increased, the prevalence of the most common disorders has not changed."

Murray said the GBD is the largest and most comprehensive epidemiological effort to quantify health loss across places and over time, noting that it draws on the work of over 2,500 collaborators from more than 130 countries and territories.

"IHME coordinates the study. This year, more than 13 billion data points are included; the papers comprise a complete edition of The Lancet. This year's GBD improves upon the previous annual update through new data, improvements in methodology, and a measure for tracking completeness of vital registration information," he said.

Other findings of the study shows that poor diet is associated with one in five deaths globally; non-communicable diseases were responsible for 72 per cent of all deaths worldwide in 2016, in contrast to 58 per cent in 1990. It also shows that within the past decade, diabetes rose in rank order from 17th to 9th leading cause of death in low-middle income countries.

Continuing, the findings show that tobacco is linked to 7.1 million deaths, and in more than 100 countries, smoking was among the leading risk factors for loss of healthy life.

"The leading causes of premature death globally included: ischemic heart disease, stroke, lower respiratory infections, diarrhea-related diseases, and road injuries. Ischemic heart disease was the leading cause of premature death for men in 113 countries and for women in 97 countries.

Only four of the leading 20 causes of disability in 2016 - stroke, COPD, diabetes, and falls -were also leading causes of death," the GBD study shows.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Video - President Buhari urges conflict resolution at UN general assembly



African leaders are also taking part at the UN General assembly. Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari's on his first foreign trip since returning home to Nigeria. Before, he'd been in the UK for medical treatment. The Nigerian leader likened the crisis in Myanmar to what happened during the Rwandan genocide in 1994. He also spoke about democratic processes in Africa, and how it's improving.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Video - Sukur Kingdom of Nigeria fights to preserve UNESCO status



A kingdom in northern Nigeria is trying to recover three years after a devastating attack by Boko Haram. The people of Sukur Kingdom fear they may lose their UNESCO World Heritage status after fighters destroyed 500-year-old buildings and artefacts.

Video - Abuja's Zuma Rock a big attraction to local and foreign visitors



In Nigeria, we discover a popular tourist attraction in the country's capital, Abuja - The Zuma Rock. This is a natural statue that stands 2,500 feet tall. Locals consider it as an emblem of Abuja, and also as a sacred ground. And to many tourists, it is a big attraction. As CGTN's Sophia Adengo reports, this is one of the charms that Nigeria is looking on, to boost its tourism sector.

Video - Indigenous People of Biafra group declared a terrorist organisation



The Nigerian army has declared a secessionist group as a terrorist organisation. The Indigenous People of Biafra group or IPOB is based in south-eastern Nigeria, and wants the region to be independent from the federal government. CGTN's Deji Badmus has the latest on the military operations against the group.

Suicide attacks kill 15 in Nigeria

At least 15 people were killed on Monday when two female suicide bombers attacked an aid distribution point in northeastern Nigeria.

A rescue worker said the first blast happened at 11:10am local time (10:10 GMT) in Mashalari village of the Konduga area, about 40km from Borno state capital Maiduguri.

"[It] killed 15 people and left 43 others injured," he told AFP news agency. "It happened during aid distribution by an NGO, when people had gathered to receive donations."

"Twelve minutes later, another bomber struck, but luckily only she died," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The rescue worker said both bombers were women but did not specify which NGO was distributing aid.

Babakura Kolo, from the Civilian Joint Task Force, a militia assisting the military with security, confirmed the rescue worker's account.

"We have dispatched out a team to the scene," he said.

Bello Dambatta, head of rescue operations for Borno state's Emergency Management Agency, said women were the majority of those killed in the morning attack and the death toll was likely to rise.

No immediate claim of responsibility came for the attack, but the Boko Haram armed group has carried out similar bombings in the past in the region.

Northeastern Nigeria is in the grip of a humanitarian crisis caused by Boko Haram violence, which has left at least 20,000 people dead and displaced more than 2.6 million since 2009.

The violence has devastated farming, leading to chronic food shortages and leaving hundreds of thousands of people on the brink of starvation and dependent on aid agencies for help.

Nigeria's military and government maintain that Boko Haram is a spent force as a result of a sustained counterinsurgency campaign over the last two years.

But continued attacks, particularly in hard-to-reach rural areas of Borno, suggest claims of outright victory are premature.

On Saturday, at least 28 people were killed and more than 80 wounded when three female suicide bombers detonated their explosives outside a camp for displaced people in Konduga.

This month, Boko Haram fighters fired a rocket-propelled grenade into a camp for internally displaced persons near the border with Cameroon, killing seven.

Amnesty International says Boko Haram attacks since April have killed nearly 400 people in Nigeria and Cameroon - double the figure of the previous five months.

The UN children's fund said last month 83 children had been used as suicide bombers this year, four times as many as in all of 2016.

Amina Yuguda from Nigeria wins BBC World News Komla Dumor award

A journalist from north-eastern Nigeria has won the third BBC World News Komla Dumor Award.

Amina Yuguda is a news presenter on local network Gotel Television, where she has reported on high-profile news stories, including the Boko Haram insurgency.

She will start a three-month placement at the BBC in London in September.

The award was created to honour Komla Dumor, a presenter for BBC World News, who died suddenly aged 41 in 2014.

Ms Yuguda said her win was a "huge honour".

"I was overwhelmed with joy. Storytellers have always had an important role in Africa... this is what defines us. Today journalists are taking on that responsibility."

She impressed the panel with her story-telling and her ability to convey complex ideas in a way that resonates with a wide audience.

She is excited to work at the BBC, given her understanding of the corporation's impact among pastoralists in her hometown, saying in her application:

"With little or no formal education, my countrymen can hold their own in a variety of topics, including the Trump presidency in America, North Korea's defiance, Russia's foreign relations under Putin, and more."

BBC World Service Group Director Francesca Unsworth said Ms Yuguda was a worthy winner:

"To find someone who possesses many of Komla's qualities is something for us to celebrate, and we are very excited about working with Amina."

Previous winners of the Komla Dumor Award were Ugandan news anchor Nancy Kacungira and Nigerian business journalist Didi Akinyelure.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Video - Nigerian Teacher who helped Boko Haram schoolgirls’ release wins UN award




The founder of a school for orphaned children in Nigeria has won a top United Nations award. The UNHCR’s Nansen Refugee Award honours people who dedicate their lives to helping victims of war. 

Zannah Mustapha has helped children whose parents were killed by the armed group Boko Haram. He also helped secure the deal to release schoolgirls held by the armed group. Al Jazeera's Catherine Soi reports from Maiduguri in northeastern Nigeria.

Video - Hope for release of more Chibok girls



In Nigeria, there's renewed hope that the remaining Chibok girls may be released by Boko Haram militants. They were taken more than three years ago. Now, Nigeria's Minister For Women's Affairs says major progress has been made in ongoing talks.

Nigeria gets first DNA laboratory in Lagos

The Lagos State Government on Sunday said it had completed the construction of the first ever high-powered DNA Forensic Laboratory in Nigeria.

Adeniji Kazeem, the State’s Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, who disclosed this in a statement said skeletal work had already commenced in the lab known as the Lagos State DNA Forensics Centre (LSDFC), and that it would be formally commissioned in coming weeks.

The State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, had last year approved the construction of the DNA forensic lab as part of the criminal justice sector reforms designed to solve crime through technology and fulfil an unmet need for DNA profiling in the country.

Speaking at a press briefing in Lagos to announce activities lined up by the state government to commemorate the 2017 United Nations International Day of Peace, Mr. Kazeem said DNA laboratory “just opened this month.”

The state’s Attorney General, who was represented at the briefing by Funlola Odunlami, the State’s Solicitor General and Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice, said the lab, among other initiatives of the state government, was part of efforts geared toward enhancing peace in the State.

“We are yet to commission it but it has been opened and it is a DNA crime forensic lab and at the same time, it is going to deal with other DNA matters like paternity issue,” said Mr. Kazeem.

He recalled that since 2007, the state government through the Citizens’ Mediation Centre (CMC), an agency under the Ministry of Justice, commenced collaborations with the United Nations Information Office to mark the International Day of Peace as an annual event to propagate the ethos of peaceful co-existence among residents in the State, thereby educating and sensitizing the public on the need for peaceful co-existence and respect for human dignity to engender socio-economic growth.

Mr. Kazeem said the laboratory is one of the mechanisms put in place by the government to promote investment and economic activities in the state.

Speaking on activities to mark the 2017 edition of the day tagged “Together For Peace: Respect, Safety and Dignity For All,” Mr. Kazeem said on September 18, there would be a Walk for Peace/Legal Clinic on Ikorodu Road precisely from Funsho Williams Avenue through Ojuelegba to Yaba, while on September 19, a second Walk for Peace/Legal Clinic will hold at Jubilee Under-bridge in Ajah through Ibeju Lekki Expressway and back to the bridge.

On the same day, Mr. Kazeem said the CMC would hold a Legal Clinic at both venues where free legal services and mediation services will be rendered to residents of the state, while on September 21, the 18th Stakeholders’ Conference and Book Launch would hold at the Adeyemi Bero Auditorium in Alausa to mark the day.

Every year, September 21 is observed as the International Day of Peace as declared by the General Assembly of United Nations as a day devoted to strengthening ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples.

Nigerian wins top UN award




A teacher who takes in orphans of both Islamist fighters and Nigerian army soldiers has won this year's UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award.

"They are the best of friends," Zannah Mustapha says of his pupils. "This should be a template for world peace."

Mr Mustapha is the founder of one of the few remaining primary schools in Nigeria's troubled city of Maiduguri.

He also negotiated the release of 82 so-called Chibok girls, kidnapped by Boko Haram.

A former barrister, Mr Mustapha played a crucial role mediating between the Nigerian government and the Islamists for the release of the abducted schoolgirls.

More than 100 of the 276 girls kidnapped from their school in Chibok in 2014 are still unaccounted for, and are presumed to still be in the custody of Boko Haram.

At Future Prowess Islamic Foundation School, the volunteer teacher provides the students with a free education, as well as free meals, uniforms and healthcare.

The UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award honours those who give "extraordinary service to the forcibly displaced".

Previous winners include Gra├ža Machel, Luciano Pavarotti and Eleanor Roosevelt.

"Education is one of the most powerful tools for helping refugee children overcome the horrors of violence and forced displacement," said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.

"The work [Mr] Mustapha and his team are doing is of the utmost importance."

Mr Mustapha will be presented with his award at ceremony in the Swiss city of Geneva on 2 October.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Video - eCommerce in Nigeria



When it comes to eCommerce on the continent, Nigeria is arguably ahead of the pack in several respects. Last year, what's now known as the Jumia Group raised over $300 million in funding, getting a $1 billion valuation in the process. Tencent, and other firms invested $1.3 million last December in the payments processing firm, Paystack. Earlier this year, the Cars45, raised $5 million in funding. Clearly, on cash alone there's a lot more equity flowing into West Africa, than the Silicon Savannah in the East. 

Ahead of the WCA Summit in October, CGTN's Ramah Nyang spoke to the CEO of Cars45, Etop Ikpe, to find out what makes Nigeria's eCommerce sector tick.

Video - Nigeria's Power Woes: Interview with CEO and Chairman of Genesis Energy Holdings



Why does a country with the ninth largest proven gas reserves on the planet have a crippling electricity deficit? On September 10, 560 MW of gas generation capacity was offline, and the country's sector regulator estimated losses attributable to that lack of power, at $3.5 million. 

That figure doesn't take into account the enormous amount of gas wasted through gas flaring. Earlier, CGTN's Ramah Nyang debated this subject with Akinwole Omoboriowo II, CEO and Chairman of oil, gas, and power firm, Genesis Energy Holdings.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Former Nigerian president Obasanjo launches book on Africa in Tunisia



A new book launch recently took place in Tunis called "Making Africa Work". It's author is none other than former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo. The book deals with his insights into Africa's challenges and solutions.

Video - Nigeria to roll out bicycles to help decongest traffic



The Nigerian government is set to introduce bicycles as a major mode of transport - to decongest traffic. Nigeria's capital city, Abuja will be a model city for the project.

Nigeria Super Eagles drop to 44th in FIFA rankings

The Super Eagles of Nigeria dropped six spots from 38th to 44th in the latest FIFA world rankings published on Thursday.

But the Eagles moved up two spots on the continent, going from sixth to fourth.

Egypt, who remain first in Africa, dropped from 25th position to 30th in the world. The North African country remains the highest ranked African team.

Cameroon, whom Super Eagles defeated 4-0 in the World Cup qualifier in Uyo, dropped 10 spots from 35th to 45th.

Germany displaced Brazil as the number one in the world.

The top 10 ranked teams in the world rankings are as follows: Germany (1), Brazil (2nd), Portugal (3rd) Argentina (4th) Belgium (5th) Poland (6th) Switzerland (7th) France (8th) Chile (9th) and Colombia (10th).

Wikipedia to boost Nigerian women visibility

Wikipedia, the world largest encyclopedia says it will increase Nigerian women visibility on the internet through its affiliate, Wikimedia Nigeria. Mr Olaniyan Olushola, the President of Wikimedia User Group Nigeria (WUGN), said this in a statement on Wednesday in Lagos.

Olushola said that the group had partnered with the Radio WFM 91.7 to give visibility to Nigerian women. He said that WFM 91.7 was Nigeria’s only radio station for women and their families therefore it would be used to boost the needed visibility of women. 

He said that as part of the partnership, a project tagged: ”Wiki Loves Women”, which was conceptualised in 2015 to give visibility to African women on Wikipedia would be aired on the station. According to him, being a Pan African initiative ”Wiki Loves Women” started in four African countries – Nigeria, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire and Cameroon. 

"The project seeks to encourage the contribution of quality information on African women to be published and made widely available via Wikipedia."

This will correct gender inequalities on Wikipedia, the world largest encylopedia as statistics show only 16 per cent of African women biographies are available in contrast to their female counterparts globally. ”We plan to engage female students in our various tertiary institutions across the country to create contents on Wikipedia to increase our local contents and to create awareness for Wikipedia in Nigeria. 

"The core objectives of the project is to give visibility to Nigerian women using Wikipedia through Wiki Loves Women programmes and create awareness about Wikimedia and related projects,” he said. Olushola said that the objectives would be achieved with a 30 minutes per week of 13 weeks phone-in live broadcast with focus on Nigerian women on Wikipedia. He said that the radio programme was also to identify women that were supposed to have articles on Wikipedia but not yet there. According to him, suggestion will be collated from callers on the radio programme about who they think should be on Wikipedia but not yet there. 

"It will also serve as providing answers to series of questions from readers and contributors on Wikipedia in Nigeria.”

There will be monthly Edit-a-thorn with participation from female students in tertiary institutions across the nation and each month will focus on a unique theme. ”Most reports about women in Nigeria focus mainly on works of such individuals but not on their personalities. We tend to use this medium to change this attitude,” he said.

$5.8 billion hydropower deal announced in Nigeria

The government of Nigeria has announced the award of a $5.8 billion contract to build what will be the largest power plant in the country.

The 3,050-megawatt Mambila hydroelectric power project in the state of Taraba will be delivered by a consortium of Chinese state-owned construction firms.

The megaproject will feature four dams between 50 and 150 meters tall, and take six years to complete, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, told reporters in Abuja.

The Chinese Export-Import Bank will finance 85% of the development, with the Nigerian government contributing 15%.

Minister Fashola claimed the project will deliver far-reaching benefits.
"(Mambila) will have a transformational effect on all of Nigeria's socio-economic development," he said through a government spokesman, "It will have considerable positive impact on electricity supply nationwide, productivity, employment, tourism, technology transfer, rural development, irrigation, agriculture and food production."

False starts


The Mambila hydropower plant has been in development for over 30 years, but previous administrations have made little progress.

In 2007, the Nigerian government awarded a $1.4 billion contract to two Chinese construction firms for a 2,600-megawatt plant, but the agreement broke down soon after.

Attempts were made to revive the deal without success. But the deadlock was broken by conversations between the presidents of China and Nigeria in 2016, according to the spokesman of Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari.

"The major breakthrough in the execution of this project was achieved when President Muhammadu Buhari initiated discussions at the level of the President of the Peoples Republic of China in the course of his State Visit (in 2016)," wrote government official Garba Shehu.

The meeting resulted in the creation of a consortium of Chinese companies to deliver the project, according to Shehu, and an agreement that the Chinese government would commit finance to it.

Power shortage

Despite being one of the largest economies in Africa, over 40% of Nigerians live without access to electricity, according to World Bank figures.

Hydropower, one of the cleanest and cheapest forms of power, is a key target for development as Nigeria is currently exploiting just a fraction of its potential resources.
The country is also seeking to shift away from oil dependency, after plummeting oil prices triggered a recession.

The clear need for the Mambila project could make it more likely to succeed, some analysts believe.

"The prospects of project implementation starting are perhaps stronger than in previous decades," says Elizabeth Donnelly, deputy head of the Africa Programme at UK think tank Chatham House. "Nigeria continues, albeit slowly, with its complex power sector reform and badly needs to generate - and more importantly distribute - more power for its 180 million people."

"Hydroelectricity is an important part of this mix, particularly for rural electrification."

Risk factors

The location of the development could lead to complications.

"There is strong competition for land in Taraba state, which regularly sees outbreaks of ethno-religious violence," says Donnelly. "Such a project, with its need to resettle people, could considerably worsen the conflict dynamics and humanitarian situation in the state."

Environmental groups have also raised concerns about the potential impact.

"If the Mambila dam project does continue, it could mean disastrous environmental and social impacts for those already living in poverty along the banks of the Benue River," warned NGO International Rivers,

The Nigerian government says that 100,000 people will be displaced by the development, and has pledged to resettle and compensate them.

Taraba state Governor, Darius Dickson Ishaku, has welcomed the project for its potential to boost tourism and agriculture.

Chinese interests

The power plant is one of several major Chinese investments in Nigeria, including multiple railway projects.

In January, Chinese Foreign Affairs Minister Wang Yi announced plans to invest a further $40 billion in Nigeria.

"Nigeria is seen as an important power that China wants good relations with," says Yun Sun, a scholar of Chinese foreign policy at US think tank, The Stimson Center.

Sun adds that the primary motivation is financial. Investments such as the Mambila power plant make good business sense.

"Nigeria is using Chinese banks to hire Chinese companies for the project, which will create profits and jobs," she says. "China also wants to identify large projects that make it look good and (Mambila) falls into this category."

But while China is likely to gain from the deal, Sun sees higher risk on the Nigerian side.
"I am less optimistic about the financial impact on the Nigerian economy as the project is very large and there is a question about how Nigeria will repay the 85% finance from the Export-Import Bank," she says. "There could be implications for the national debt."

Millions of Nigerians at risk of famine

The United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock is to address the UN General Assembly in New York next week urging world leaders to maintain their financial and political support for the Lake Chad Basin crisis so that millions of people facing starvation in north-east Nigeria are saved.

“At next week's General Assembly in New York, I will urge world leaders to maintain their financial and political support for the Lake Chad Basin crisis,” said Lowcock, who is also the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, in a UN press release.

Lowcock explained that there had been a significant improvement in the situation, with the international system rapidly scaled up, thereby saving millions of lives, reaching two million people with food assistance every month, as well as providing life-saving nutritional support to hundreds of thousands of children.

However, he warned that millions of people still faced famine in the north-east and that their lives would be at risk should the international community cease providing support in conjunction and coordination with the Nigerian authorities.

The UN humanitarian official also explained that the security situation in the vicinity remained precarious due to the ongoing conflict with the militant Boko Haram group.

Since the beginning of the conflict, more than 20 000 people have been killed, thousands of women and children abducted, many forced into displacement, and subjected to violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.

In north-east Nigeria, at least 8.5 million people are dependent on humanitarian assistance.

Lowcock said that though many towns in the region are relatively safe, more needed to be done to bring safety to the rural areas.

Lowcock travelled to Niger and Nigeria from September 9 to 12, shortly after beginning his roles as the top UN relief official on September 1.

While in the two countries, he also held meetings with senior government officials, UN humanitarian agencies, international non-governmental organisations and the diplomatic community.

Meanwhile, ahead of its planned nationwide strike expected to commence on Friday, the United Labour Congress of Nigeria (ULC) has urged Nigerians to stockpile foodstuff and other basic necessities that could last them during the duration of the strike as critical sectors of the economy will be affected by the action.

The reasons for the industrial action is to create a nation that is better governed for the benefits of Nigerian workers and the country's masses.

Firms in Canada part of arms deal to Nigeria

When the Nigerian air force killed at least 112 people and injured another 150 in an attack on a refugee camp this year, it reinforced the human-rights concerns that have halted many arms exports to the Nigerian military in recent years.

But now, under the administration of President Donald Trump, a major U.S. weapons export is going ahead – with Canadian components in the deal.

Human-rights groups and U.S. politicians are questioning the sale of warplanes and ammunition, worried that the Nigerian military is continuing to kill and abuse civilians in its operations against the radical Islamist militia known as Boko Haram.

The U.S. deal is the second substantial military sale to Nigeria that includes hardware from Canadian sources this year, but neither will be subject to a review by the Canadian government or Parliament because of loopholes in federal regulations. The other deal involves the sale of 177 armoured vehicles to the Nigerian armed forces from a Canadian-owned company.

The Nigeria deals were revealed at a time when Canada is under growing scrutiny for its decision to authorize the sale of weaponized armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia, which has a record of human-rights abuses. The Globe and Mail reported in July that the Saudi military appears to be using Canadian-made combat vehicles against Saudi citizens.

The federal government promised last year that it would sign the Arms Trade Treaty, a global agreement to regulate arms exports. At a conference on the arms treaty in Geneva this week, a federal official insisted that Canada already conforms to the "spirit" of the treaty, despite the Saudi deals, according to an observer from Project Ploughshares, a Canadian disarmament group, who is at the conference.

The U.S. sale of $593-million (U.S.) in warplanes and ammunition to Nigeria was finalized last month. It includes a dozen A-29 Super Tucano warplanes, equipped with engines manufactured by Pratt & Whitney Canada, which is based in Longueuil, Que. The export also includes thousands of bombs and rockets, plus 20,000 rounds of machine gun ammunition.

As part of the deal, the United States promises "special training" of the Nigerian military to "minimize civilian harm" – an implicit acknowledgment of the human-rights concerns.

The other export deal was announced in June by Streit Group, owned by Canadian businessman Guerman Goutorov. It began with a shipment of 25 armoured personnel carriers, the first batch in an agreed sale of 177 armoured vehicles to the Nigerian military, the company says.

Neither deal required a Canadian government approval because the products are not being exported directly from Canada to Nigeria, analysts say. The Pratt & Whitney engines are supplied to a Colorado-based company, Sierra Nevada Corp., which is the prime contractor for the Super Tucano sale to Nigeria. The Streit armoured personnel carriers for Nigeria are manufactured at a Streit-owned production facility in the United Arab Emirates, according to Nigerian media reports.

Neither company was willing to comment on the Nigeria sales. Streit's policy is "non-engagement with the media," according to a communications firm that has worked for Streit in the past.

On its website, Streit said its export to Nigeria includes Spartan armoured vehicles, which have applications "ranging from a battlefield ambulance up to a fully armed direct-fire vehicle." It also includes Typhoon mine-resistant vehicles, which are used primarily as a mounted infantry troop carrier.

Marc Duchesne, a spokesman for Pratt & Whitney Canada, declined to comment on the Nigeria deal. "We will not comment on this story; the U.S. government cleared the Tucano sale to Nigeria," he said.

Ken Epps, a policy adviser at Project Ploughshares, said his group is concerned about the loopholes that allow Canadian equipment to be sold in U.S. arms exports without federal authorization.

"We are concerned that the transfer of aircraft powered by Canadian-built engines will proceed without any required review or reporting by the Canadian government," he said.

The U.S. Super Tucano warplanes will support Nigerian counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations against Boko Haram and will also counter illicit trafficking, according to the U.S. Defence Security Co-operation Agency, which gave details of the deal.

It said the export deal will include "special training on the law of armed conflict and human rights, and air-to-ground integration to minimize civilian harm in air operations."

Even before the refugee-camp bombing in January, the Obama administration had frozen arms sales to the Nigerian military for the past several years because of frequent reports of military abuses.

But less than a month after the refugee-camp bombing, Mr. Trump spoke by telephone to Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and promised to "cut a new deal" on weapons sales, a Nigerian government statement said.

Several human-rights groups, including Amnesty International, have expressed alarm at the aircraft sale. "Without strong human rights structures in place, the transfer of the Tucano attack aircraft armed with heavy machine guns could exacerbate the conflict, or fuel new ones," the groups said in a letter to U.S. Congressional committees in May.

Two U.S. senators, Cory Booker and Rand Paul, have also protested against the aircraft sale, accusing the Nigerian military of "flouting the laws of war" and massacring hundreds of Nigerians.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Video - Nigerian president Buhari to push for UN reforms at UNGA



Nigerian foreign minister has confirmed President Muhammadu Buhari will lead the Nigerian delegation at the UN General Assembly. Buhari will reportedly renew its call for international support for the release of the Chibok girls. The Nigerian president will also reportedly be pushing for comprehensive UN reform, specifically with regard to the Security Council. The foreign ministry say Buhari will be engaging robustly with the international community. The Nigerian president has spent months away from the country recently due to an undisclosed illness. He's cancelled two cabinet meetings with no reason given.

Nigerian military denies siege of Biafra separatists home

A group campaigning for the secession of a part of southeastern Nigeria, formerly known as Biafra, on Tuesday accused the army of laying siege to their leader’s home, a charge the armed forces denied.

Rising tensions prompted the governor of Abia state, where the leader’s residence is located, to impose a curfew.

Members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) group said soldiers had surrounded the home of leader Nnamdi Kanu. Groups have stepped up calls for secession since Kanu was released on bail in April after being detained for nearly two years on charges of criminal conspiracy and belonging to an illegal society.

“There was no surrounding of Nnamdi Kanu’s residence. It is not true,” said army spokesman Sani Usman.

Secessionist sentiment has simmered in the region since the Biafra separatist rebellion tipped Africa’s most populous country into a civil war in 1967-70 that killed an estimated one million people.

The military presence in southeastern Nigeria has increased in the last few weeks to crack down on crime.

The IPOB also said that soldiers stormed Kanu’s family compound on Sunday, which the army also denied.

Politicians waded into the dispute on Tuesday.

Abia state governor Okezie Ikpeazu said in a statement that people were advised to observe a curfew from 6 p.m. (1700 GMT) to 6 a.m. (0500 GMT) from Sept. 12 to Sept. 14.

A caucus of southeastern lawmakers in the Senate, the upper chamber of parliament, said in a statement through its chairman Enyinnaya Abaribe that the military had sent a “strong signal that the region is under siege, which should not be so in a democracy”.

Renewed calls for Biafran secession prompted President Muhammadu Buhari to use his first speech after returning from three months of medical leave in Britain, in August, to say Nigeria’s unity was “not negotiable”.

Amnesty International in 2016 accused Nigeria’s security forces of killing at least 150 Biafra separatists at peaceful rallies. The military and police denied the allegations.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Video - Dangote Cement among bidders for S. Africa's largest cement firm PPC



Investors are lining up for South Africa's largest cement maker - PPC. The company has fallen on hard times over the last decade after being unbundled from diversified industrial and logistics group Barloworld. Merger talks with local rival Afrisam are said to have hit a brick wall, reportedly sparking a flurry of interest from other bidders. Sumitra Nydoo with the story.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Video - Security boosted in Plateau State Nigeria following Friday's clashes



Authorities are investigating Friday's deadly reprisal killings in the central Plateau State. At least 19 people are dead when Fulani herdsmen launched the attack. Security has been boosted in the region.

Video - Nigeria community leaders try to quell farmer-herder conflict



Leaders of rival communities in Nigeria are trying to stop the war between Christian farmers and Muslim cattle herders. Their disputes over grazing land have killed at least 200 people in the past year in Kaduna State.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Video - Nigerian army denies militant killings have risen sharply since April



Nigeria's military is disputing the latest Amnesty International report that claims a sharp rise in Boko Haram killings over the past five months. The report released this week claims close to 4-hundred civilians have been killed in Nigeria and Cameroon since since April.

Sanction on Nigerian players for attacking referees

Nine players and two officials have been handed 12-match and 19-match bans respectively for attacking match officials in a Nigerian league game.

The club in question, FC Ifeanyi Ubah, became an official partner of West Ham last year.

During August's game three players attacked referee Nakura Auwal after winger King Osanga was sent off.

Six more joined in the ensuing melee, while officials Chidi Nwogu and Adrika Obiefuna also assaulted the referees.

Two of the players punished by the Nigerian Premier League, Stephen Eze and Adeleye Olamilekan, have played for Nigeria in the African Nations Championship team for locally-based stars.

The club was also fined $4,900 for the incident and ordered to pay $700 to each of the officials involved and any certified medical bills.

The move by the LMC is the latest attempt to try and crack down on referee's assault and crowd trouble in the country's premier division.

Back in December 2012, the LMC inherited a league system punctuated by crowd violence, lack of funds, poor player welfare and the challenge of creating a well-organised league that will bring back the fans to deserted stands.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Video - Young Nigerians step up, start shoemaking business




In Nigeria, a group of unemployed young people has joined forces to start a shoemaking business in the northern city of Yola. The entrepreneurs say they're inspired by the government's drive to promote locally made goods as a way of growing the economy. Leslie Mirungu has more.

Food prices drop in Nigeria

The harvest of food crops in the South-west has made appreciable positive impact on the prices of foodstuff, a survey by the News Agency of Nigeria has revealed. Some farmers and stakeholders, who spoke with NAN correspondents across some states in the zone on Wednesday, attributed the positive development to the sustained focus on agricultural development by the federal government.

They expressed optimism that the effort at revamping the country’s ailing economy would materialise, if the renewed focus on agriculture persisted. They also cited government’s efforts at strengthening the naira by encouraging locally produced goods. These actions, they concluded, had boosted food production, resulting to good harvest that had led to a drop in the price of foodstuff. 

In Oyo State, a maize seller, Azeez Zubair, told NAN in Ibadan that a measure (mudu) of maize, which cost N420 before the current harvest period, now goes for N200 while a bag of maize, which was sold for N18,000 previously now cost N10,000. He said that the price could have been further reduced if more youth had ventured into agriculture and therefore, advised youngsters to go back to farming in order to permanently tackle food insecurity in the country. 

Also speaking, Romoke Fashola, a yam seller, said that six tubers of yam that previously cost 3,000, now sells for N1, 200 while the price of 60 tubers of yam had dropped to N18,000 from N30,000. Mrs. Fashola said that the price of yam would still drop as the harvest period lasted. She, however, observed that exportation of yams, would limit the drop in the price of yam this harvest season. In his own contribution, Alao Adetayo, a farmer, identified one of the factors inducing price spikes as the high cost of farm inputs and transportation occasioned by bad roads. 

He urged the federal government to rehabilitate rural roads to ease farmers’ stress in the transportation of farm produce to urban centres. Reacting to the development, Oyewole Oyewumi, the Oyo Commissioner for Agriculture, Natural Resources and Human Development, said the state government had embarked on various measures to boost food production. Oyewumi said that the government had begun to recruit many unemployed youth into agriculture through the inauguration of the Oyo State Agricultural Initiatives (OYSAI) tagged ‘OYO AGRIC’. 

He said that this effort had contributed to increased food production and the resultant affordable prices of farm produce this harvest period. The commissioner added that the government had also embarked on the repair and expansion of rural roads to ease the transportation of farm produce from rural communities to urban areas. In Osun, a similar trend was observed in different parts of the state, especially at major markets in Osogbo and Ile-Ife. A yam seller at Itakogun market, Ile-Ife, Christiana Alani, said that five big tubers of yam, previously sold for N4,000 now cost N2,500. Mrs. Alani added that five small tubers which cost N1,200 before harvest, now sell for N800. 

She observed that a small bag and a measure of maize, which sold for N24,000 and N350, now cost N21,000 and N300 respectively. Similarly, in Alekuwodo market in Osogbo, five big tubers of yam now cost N,3000 as against N4,500 before the harvest while a bag of maize sells for N22,000 against N24,000 previously. 

Tawa Ahmed, a food seller at the market, attributed the fall in the prices of foodstuffs to the ongoing harvest of farm produce. “Usually, prices of foodstuffs come down at this period of harvest but by the end of October, there may be slight changes in the prices when harvest of crops draw to a close,” Mrs. Ahmed said. On the contrary, however, Taye Babatunde, a foodstuff distributor at Oja Tuntun, noted that the price of beans had remained high in the last few months as a bag of white beans sells for N40,000 while a plastic measure costs N650. 

Mrs. Babatunde said that a bag of sweet beans, which was formerly sold for N25,000 and a plastic measure for N700, now costs N30,000 and N750 respectively. At Igbonna market in Osogbo, a bag of brown beans attracts N33,000, as against the initial price of N29,000 while a plastic measure, which formerly cost N600 now costs N700. Meanwhile, Moses Oladipupo, the Vice President of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) in Osun, said that the newly-harvested crops had triggered 50 per cent drop in the prices of foodstuff generally in markets in the state. Mr. Oladipupo noted that most of the food crops being harvested were planted between March and June. 

He expressed optimism that the prices of foodstuff would further drop in the course of the harvest period. Also commenting, Ganiyu Awojobi, the AFAN Chairman in Ife East Local Government, concurred that the prices of foodstuff would further decline as the harvest progressed. He, however, argued that it was normal that when certain food crops were being harvested and made available in the market, their prices would drop in line with the law of demand and supply. 

In Ekiti, respondents said they were excited over the evident fall in the prices of foodstuff and their availability in the market. A farmer, Jide Ogunyemi, in Ikere Ekiti, said that farmers were actually relieved of the hardship associated with the ailing economy, saying that they would not relent in their efforts to sustain the trend. Mr. Ogunyemi, however, said that the state government needed to do more in the area of providing the enabling environment as well as incentives for farmers to further encourage them. 

He told NAN that many farmers in the state still lacked access to agricultural inputs and cash support to enable them to expand and maintain their farms. The peasant farmer noted that most of them would want to be equipped with agricultural skills, equipment and facilities, including storage, marketing and distribution of farm produce. In Kwara, the newly harvested crops also made some positive impact on the prices of foodstuff, as revealed in the NAN survey. 

For instance, in Baruten Local Government Area of the state, a measure of maize, which sold for N6,000 before, now costs N4,000 while six big tubers of yam now cost N2,000 as against N5 000 before the harvest period. However, the price of Guinea corn remained high as the crop was not yet due for harvest hence, one basin of Guinea corn sells for N6,000 as against N5,000 in May. A pepper seller who identified herself as ‘Iya Ramota Alata’, said that pepper had also witnessed price reduction as a bag of long pepper sells for between N6,500 and N7,000 as against N8,000 sold in May. 

She also said that the price of onion had also dropped with the arrival of the newly harvested commodity. According to her, a bag of white onion now sells for between N18,000 and N20,000 while the red onion sells for N15,000 to N18,000. Kayode Ehindero, the Chairman, Agriculture and Allied Employees Union (AAEU) in Kwara, attributed the drop in commodity prices to good harvest.

President Buhari says he's not running for re-election in 2019

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari told members of his party before he was first elected that he would only seek one term, implying he did not intend at that time to run in 2019, the minister of women’s affairs told Reuters on Wednesday.

The comments by Aisha Alhassan could heighten uncertainty over whether Buhari plans to contest the next election. Buhari took power in 2015 but has been absent for much of this year due to illness. He is yet to say if he will seek a second term.

“In 2014/2015 he said he was going to run for only one time to clean up the mess that the (previous) PDP government did in Nigeria. And I took him for his word that he is not contesting in 2019,” Minister of Women Affairs Alhassan said. 

Alhassan said in the interview she would resign if Buhari seeks re-election and would support former vice president Atiku Abubakar if he decides to run. Alhassan’s portfolio ranks relatively low down in Nigeria’s cabinet.

Abubakar was vice president from 1999 to 2007 as part of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). He joined the All Progressives Congress (APC), Buhari’s party, in 2014. She said Buhari made the comments in 2015 to APC members but gave no further details.

The president’s two spokesmen declined to comment on the minister’s remarks.

Buhari, 74, returned on Aug. 19 from three months of medical leave in Britain for an unspecified ailment. It was his second stint of sick leave this year following a break between January and March.

Many people say they doubt whether Buhari is well enough to serve another term in Nigeria, which is Africa’s most populous country and has the continent’s biggest economy.

“If today Mr. President says he is running in 2019 I will go to him respectfully and thank him for giving me an opportunity to serve and then tell him that I have to resign because my political father may be running,” said Alhassan.

Nigeria out of recession

Amid government celebration of Tuesday’s announcement by the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, that Nigeria’s economy had officially exited recession, a civil society group has called for restraint and efforts geared towards a more sustainable growth.

The Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udo Udoma, said on Wednesday that the NBS’ report on the recovery of the country’s economy from recession was an indication that government’s various economic policies under the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, ERGP, to reflate the economy was yielding fruits.

The latest NBS’ National Gross Domestic Product, GDP, Report for the Second Quarter of 2017 released on Tuesday showed the GDP grew by 0.55 per cent (year-on-year) in real terms, an indication the country’s economy was gradually pulling out of recession after five consecutive quarters of contraction since the first quarter of 2016.

The statistics agency said the GDP growth was about 2.04 per cent higher than the rate recorded in the corresponding quarter of 2016 (–1.49 per cent) and higher by 1.46 per cent from the rate in the preceding quarter (revised to –0.91 per cent from –0.52 per cent).

On a quarterly basis, the NBS said real GDP grew by 3.23 per cent, with aggregate GDP for the period at N26.99 trillion in nominal terms, compared to N23.55 trillion in the second quarter of 2016, resulting in a Nominal GDP growth of 14.6 per cent.

“That Nigeria has exited recession is a testimony to the fact that government is moving in the right direction economically. This is a confirmation that confidence is returning to the country’s economy,” Mr. Udoma said.

Regardless, the Centre for Social Justice, CENSOJ, said there was nothing celebrate, as the reported growth was not significant enough to justify any celebration.

“In view of the less than one percent GDP growth, stating that Nigeria has come out of recession is more or less like holding onto any available straw of hope,” the group said in a review by its lead director, Eze Onyekpere.

With a population growth rate of 2.7 per cent per annum, Mr. Onyekpere said, the reported GDP growth was not significant, particularly since the country’s economy had been growing consistently by about six percent in the years before the recession.

Rather than roll out the drums for celebration, the group said the report called for a “rolling up of our sleeves for more work.”

CENSOJ said the government should focus more attention on providing increased incentives for improved production and service delivery in all sectors of the economy, while fast-tracking the ease of doing business initiatives and interventions, to boost more investment in critical sectors of the economy.

According to the group, other areas the government must pay attention include mainstreaming the local content policy at all tiers of government; rejigging the Executive Council of the Federation, FEC; and getting more experts and practical men and women to run key sectors of the economy.

Also, the group said the government should take steps to stop the ongoing industrial actions in the education and health sectors of the economy as well as ensure that the 2018 federal budget is structured to grow the economy and develop human capacity and approved as soon as possible.

In his reaction, a former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, said Nigeria cannot be said to be out of recession until all Nigerians can have three square meals a day.

In a series of tweets, through his Twitter handle @atiku, Mr. Abubakar said, “As a Nigerian, investor and employer of labour, the news of Nigeria’s official emergence from the recession is most welcome.

“The news is surely a boost for Nigeria – it tells investors, local and foreign, that our economy is worth investing in. While we rejoice, it is also important to recognize that economic weakness at the bottom of the pyramid remains. Inflation is still high. We must continue working hard to expand economic opportunity for all Nigerians. When all Nigerians can eat three square meals, that’s when the real recession ends. We have work to do,” he said.

A former Minister of Education and lead of the ‘Bring Back our Girls Movement’, Oby Ezekwesili, in her reaction to the news expressed excitement at the report, but urged the managers of the economy to ensure the growth rate was returned to the level it fell from a few years ago.

“It is critical that our economy is officially out of recession,” Mrs. Ezekwesili said in one her tweets through her Twitter handle, @obyezeks. “Great! Next is to get growth back up to above population growth rate of 3.3%. Waste no time in trending growth rate back up to where it fell from, 5-6 per cent per annum.”

In his reaction, the Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Ahmed Makarfi, also dismissed the celebration by the government on the NBS report.

He described the exit “as a mere statistic that does not reflect the reality as it affects ordinary Nigerians.”

“For any economic recovery to be meaningful, it must positively impact on the lives of the people at the lower level,” he said.

The Ekiti state governor, Ayo Fayose, through his media aide, Lere Olayinka had also toed the line yesterday when he said that the exit would only be meaningful when Nigerians can afford to eat comfortably especially when the prices of food items drop significantly.

Meanwhile, the Chief Executive Officer of the NBS, Yemi Kale, has said that the effect of Nigeria coming out of recession will not be immediately felt by the people.

Mr. Kale, the Statistician-General of the Federation, made the statement in Abuja on Wednesday at a news conference.

“There is a different stage Nigeria must go through before the masses will feel the effects of going out of recession.

“Out of recession is the first step which is very important then the country can talk of economic recovery which is going back to where Nigeria was before the recession,” he said.

The Bureau on September 5 announced that Nigeria was out of economic recession.

An economy is said to be in recession after contracting for two consecutive quarters.

The economy slipped into recession in the second quarter of 2016.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Death toll of Boko Haram attacks since April at 400

A surge in attacks by Boko Haram fighters has claimed nearly 400 lives since April in Nigeria and Cameroon, double the figure of the previous five months, according to a rights group.

The increasing use of suicide bombers - often young women and girls forced to carry and detonate explosives in crowded areas - has killed at least 381 civilians in the two countries, Amnesty International group said in a statement on Tuesday.

"Boko Haram is once again committing war crimes on a huge scale, exemplified by the depravity of forcing young girls to carry explosives with the sole intention of killing as many people as they possibly can," said Alioune Tine, Amnesty International's director for West and Central Africa.

"This wave of shocking Boko Haram violence, propelled by a sharp rise in suicide bombings, highlights the urgent need for protection and assistance for millions of civilians ... Governments in Nigeria, Cameroon and beyond must take swift action to protect them from this campaign of terror."

Amnesty said at least 223 civilians died in Nigeria since April, underscoring that the real toll could be far higher.

"Between May and August, seven times more civilians were killed than in the preceding four months, while 100 civilians were killed in August alone," it said.

In neighbouring Cameroon, Amnesty said since April at least 158 civilians died in Boko Haram attacks, a figure four times higher than the preceding five months.

"The recent spike in casualties has been driven by increased suicide attacks, with 30 - more than one per week - carried out since the beginning of April," it said.

The deadliest attack took place in the town of Waza on July 12 when 16 civilians were killed and at least 34 injured after a young girl was forced to carry and detonate a bomb in a crowded video game centre.

The group initially claimed to be fighting for the creation of an Islamic state in the north, but a range of demands by different people have since been issued.

At least 20,000 people have been killed in violence since 2009 and more than 2.6 million people have been left homeless.

More than five million people are starving as the fighting has devastated farmland, leaving farmers unable to sow or cultivate crops for several years.

In its statement last month, UNICEF said that because of the attacks, children who escape or are released by Boko Haram come to be viewed with suspicion and rejected by their communities.

The violence and security situation in the region has also forced thousands of parents not to send their children to schools.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Video - Former NBA player Oyedeji helping to groom new talent in Nigeria



One of Nigeria's basketball greats and long time former captain of the country's national basketball team, Olumide Oyedeji has just concluded his annual basketball camp for young and aspiring basketball players. Over 150 young boys and girls, as well as several coaches took part in the training camp.

Vigilantes fighting Boko Haram in Nigeria

They helped tackle Boko Haram but could vigilantes turn into Nigeria's next security threat?

With his homemade rifle resting on the sandbags of the checkpoint, Mustapha Musa scans the red-mud road and the lush green fields surrounding his small village of Molai Kiliyari on the outskirts of the north-eastern city of Maiduguri.

For now, the only sound is bird-song. But Mr Musa, 24, and three other vigilantes on duty are tense - they know danger is just down the road.

This is a place where strangers are treated with suspicion for good reason.

A few weeks ago, in the dead of night, several suicide bombers blew up their explosives bringing carnage to the village. Eight vigilantes were killed.

"We don't know when they'll come and whether they'll come with guns or bombs," says Mr Musa, his trigger-finger resting on the wooden barrel of his rifle.

"But I'm not scared of anything. There are soldiers nearby if we needed reinforcements.

The only problem we face is that the enemy is well-armed - and my gun only fires one round."

The young men are among the estimated 26,000 members of vigilante groups defending their communities from attacks by militants from the Boko Haram Islamist group.

The eight-year insurgency has devastated north-eastern Nigeria and spilled over into neighbouring Chad, Niger and Cameroon.

The vigilantes first came to prominence in Maiduguri in 2013. With the Nigerian army in disarray, there were fears that the city would fall.

"Initially, the youth in Maiduguri were caught up between the brutality of Boko Haram and the harsh reprisals of the Nigerian military," says Nnamdi Obasi, one of the authors of a recent International Crisis Group report on vigilante groups in the region.

"They formed vigilante groups so they could isolate and eliminate Boko Haram members and also demonstrate they were not complicit in the group's attacks and atrocities."

The overstretched Nigerian military quickly realised the value of extra manpower and the local knowledge the vigilantes possessed.

It joined up with them in order to flush out the insurgents.

Unofficially, the vigilantes are now called the Civilian Joint Task Force (JTF), working alongside and liaising with the military.

More than 650 have been killed in the violence.

'Like hunting'

Most are volunteers - petty traders, civil servants, and unemployed youth - and are not paid for their work. But around 2,000 vigilantes received some military training and are now on the government's payroll.

Often they man checkpoints, spotting potential suicide bombers. But they also operate alongside the army in the bush where Boko Haram militants take shelter.

"It's like rich people that go hunting," one vigilante told me. "When the army says there's an operation we all want to go."

The vigilantes are normally armed only with wooden clubs, machetes and homemade weapons.

The authorities are cautious given that heavy-duty weapons could fall into the wrong hands or be turned against them.

While many Nigerians view the vigilantes as heroes in the fight against Boko Haram, they have been accused of human rights abuses from rape to extortion - and extra-judicial killings of suspected militants.

Now, after years of fighting, there is a growing concern that battle-hardened vigilantes could turn into a militia that the authorities are not able to control.

"There is a strong sense of entitlement among the vigilantes," says Mr Obasi.

"They believe they not only saved Maiduguri but have fought an insurgency on behalf of the Nigerian government.

He says that most wish to be formally absorbed into the military and security forces or at least be recognised, and paid, by the government, while others expect scholarships, skills training or grants to set up small businesses.

"The fear is that unless these expectations are addressed, the authorities could have a big problem on their hands."

At an abandoned office building used by the vigilantes as a make-shift headquarters, scrawled on the wall in chalk is the message: "Forgiving a terrorist is left to god. But fixing their appointment with god is our responsibility."
No jobs, no peace

It is here that I meet Lawan Jaafar, 39, the chairman of the Civilian JTF.

He still works as a leather merchant and cattle trader when not leading the organisation.

He's a man of quiet intensity and purpose - he commands the respect of the thousands of vigilantes he heads.

Earlier this year, he was detained by the Nigerian security forces on suspicion of selling cattle to Boko Haram militants. He was later released without being charged.

But it shows how Mr Jaafar is now a powerful player in this part of the country - and some other actors want to clip his wings.

He carefully weighs his words: "I'm appealing to the government to provide jobs to the vigilantes and to take care of the poor families of those who lost their lives for the cause."

He has this warning if nothing happens:

"We're going to have problems with armed robbery and kidnapping - because if a man has no job, he will do anything to survive."

No-one in north-east Nigeria doubts the bravery of the vigilantes. They have helped immensely in putting Boko Haram on the back foot.

But unless their sacrifices are recognised, they could end up presenting a new security threat.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Video - One woman's mission to deradicalise Nigeria



One woman in Nigeria has made it her mission to de-radicalise former Boko Haram members. Dr Fatima Akilu travels around rural areas of north-eastern Nigeria, providing counselling to communities. Thuli Tshabalala has her story.

Video - Britain halves aid to Nigeria, urges more efforts against militancy




The British government has halved the amount given to Nigeria for the fight against Boko Haram. This comes in the wake of a joint visit to the country by Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, and the International Development Secretary, Priti Patel. The two were in Nigeria where they witnessed how the British military has been training their Nigerian counterparts in the battle against Boko Haram. On Wednesday, the British government announced a $257 million aid to Nigeria for a four year period- which would run from 2018 to 2022. This amounts to a $64million per year drop from last grant. At the same time, Patel as called for more efforts from NIgeria, in the battle against jihadists.

More than 100,000 displaced by floods in Nigeria

More than 100,000 people have fled their homes because of major flooding in the southeastern state of Benue in Nigeria, according to President Muhammadu Buhari.

"I have received with great concern reports of the flooding in Benue state, displacing, from early estimates, more than 100,000 people," Buhari wrote on Twitter late on Thursday.

He said his government "will make available all assistance" to those affected.

"We will surmount this disaster, and, working with the State Govt, bring succour and relief to all affected persons and communities."

Helen Teghtegh, head of local NGO Community Links and Human Empowerment Initiative, said the region had been battered by heavy rains over the past two weeks with the level of the Benue river steadily rising.

Many residents in the state capital Makurdi have fled their homes since Wednesday, she added, launching an appeal for donations.

"We are still trying to get accurate data, we don't know the number of casualties, but we are having a meeting tomorrow with local groups and emergency services, so we should know better," said Teghtegh.

Photographs of inundated Makurdi began spreading on social media on Thursday, showing cars and thousands of homes completely submerged. Others showed men and women carrying mattresses, bags, and other belongings as they fled on foot.

Buhari and his government have faced criticism in the media and online over what many called the inaction of authorities to tackle the flooding.

On Thursday, Buhari said he called for the National Emergency Management Agency to step in.

Two camps have been set up in Makurdi to accommodate those made homeless, but they will not open before the weekend.

Benue state, which is heavily reliant on its agricultural sector, has suffered repeated floods in recent years, caused by heavy rains and the opening of dams in neighbouring Cameroon.

In 2012, Nigeria suffered disastrous floods across 30 of its 36 states. Hundreds of people died, and some two million people were left homeless.