Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Video - Nigeria's growing film industry

Nollywood, Nigeria's celebrated film industry, is booming. Allow actor Ramsey Nouah and filmmaker Don Omope to talk you through its success.

Video - Lack of infrastructure affects ginger industry in Nigeria

Kaduna State in north-western Nigeria is home to the country's ginger farms. The state produces the bulk of the spice, which is consumed internally and exported. But Kaduna has no functional ginger processing plant and it's seriously affecting the profitability of the industry.

Russia to build nuclear power plant for Nigeria

Russia has signed agreements with Nigeria to build and operate a nuclear power plant in the oil-rich West African nation that has a deficit of reliable power and faces security challenges by Islamist militants in the far northeast.

Feasibility studies for the plant and a research center construction will include site screening, capacity, financing, and time frames of the projects, state-owned Russian nuclear company Rosatom said in an emailed statement. Representatives from the firm and the Nigeria Atomic Energy Commission signed the deal.

The nations in 2009 signed an intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in the field of the peaceful usage of nuclear technologies. Nigeria in 2015 was in talks with Rosatom to build as many as four nuclear power plants costing about $20 billion, the Nigeria Atomic Energy Commission said at the time.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, distributes an average of 4,500 megawatts of electricity. Half the output of the Egbin power plant, the nation’s biggest, is lost because of inadequate transmission infrastructure, its chief officer said last month.

Rosatom is seeking to build nuclear power plants in other countries on the continent including South Africa.

Nigerian government to pay victims of civil war $288 million

A court on Monday ordered Nigeria to pay 88 billion naira ($288 million) in damages to victims of the 1967 civil war for failure to fully de-mine and clear the land of other weaponry after the end of hostilities.

The ruling calls on the government to pay 50 billion naira directly to war victims in 11 states and put 38 billion naira toward de-mining and the construction of schools, courts, churches and mosques in the affected areas.

A judge for the Economic Community of West African States Court of Justice ruled that there remain “large quantities” of live bombs deprived communities of farmland since the civil war ended in 1970.

Sovereign states do not have to respect the court’s rulings and there is no framework for making them binding. The office of President Muhammadu Buhari did not immediately comment on the ruling.

A million people died in the 1967-70 civil war over the short-lived Republic of Biafra.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Video - Nigerians call for government to take tougher stance on corruption

Nigeria where a civil movement's call to curb corruption has been gaining momentum. Transparency International ranks the country as one of the most corrupt in the world -- but analysts say it can get better.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Video - Nigeria targets pensions, gratuities, terminal benefits for taxation

The Nigerian government may be headed for a collision course with labour unions over plans to tax pensions, gratuities and terminal benefits of workers. Nigeria is seeking to expand its revenue beyond oil and one area it is targeting is taxes. Here is Deji Badmus with more on that story.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Video - Nigerian army says rescued about 85 people

The Nigerian army says it's rescued around 85 people captured by Boko Haram militants. During the mission, around 11 militants have been killed. The operation took place in the country's North-eastern Borno State. The army says it's also destroyed a bomb-making facility operated by Boko Haram. Troops found several improvised explosive devices there as well as suicide vests. Nigeria has recently been making gains against the group, but Boko Haram remains a potent threat to the region.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Nigerian army apologizes for beating motorcyclist to death

The Nigerian Army on Tuesday apologised to the family of Abubakar Alhaji, a commercial motorcyclist who was beaten to death by a sergeant, Taiwo Owoeye, a soldier in Lagos.

PREMIUM TIMES reported how the victim’s brother who witnessed the incident narrated it to the presidential panel investigating rights abuses by the military.

“The Nigerian Army has detained Sgt. Owoeye for murder, we find the matter reprehensible and condemnable,” the Nigerian Army’s counsel, Bola Oyebanji, said on Tuesday.

“However, this is a single act which showed that the sergeant was on his own.

“We apologise and sympathise with the family of the deceased,” Mr. Oyebanji said as reported by the News Agency of Nigeria.

The panel, currently sitting in the South-west, is to sit in the six geo-political zones and the Federal Capital Territory from September 11 to November 3.

The head of the panel, Justice Biobel Goodwill also, giving his condolences, told the brother of the deceased “apologies to you and your family for the death of your brother”.

Mr. Goodwill after tendering the apology, told Lucas Koyejo, a counsel from the National Human Rights Commission to follow up with the military trial of Mr. Owoeye to ensure that justice is done and to liaise with the victim’s family.

Earlier, Mr. Alhaji’s brother, Salihu Mojahid, in his testimony before the panel, shed light on the series of events leading to his brother’s death.

Mr. Mojahid said: “On February 27, my brother called Abubakar Alhaji, a commercial motorcyclist, took a passenger to Maroko Roundabout beside Myhoung Barracks, Yaba, Lagos.

“He parked at the back of a vehicle and unknown to him someone was in the vehicle, the person in the vehicle reversed and bystanders shouted that a commercial motorcyclist is behind him.

“My brother knocked on the car to alert the owner that he parked behind him, the owner of the car came out and he was Sgt. Taiwo Owoeye.

“Owoeye who was in full military uniform, slapped my brother twice and after he fell down, and he started kicking my brother several times in his stomach while he was on the ground.

“Bystanders tried apologising to him but he refused to listen to them till my brother fell unconscious.

“When my brother became unconscious, he wanted to leave and the bystanders said ‘do you not see the state of the person you have beaten up?

“Sgt. Owoeye told them ‘let him die, even if he dies, nothing will happen’.

“Fellow commercial motorcyclists and military men took him to a hospital in the barracks , he was vomiting blood till the next day.

“My brother died on February 28 and the Commandant ordered the arrest of Sergeant Owoeye.”

Mr. Mojahid claimed that his brother’s corpse was not released to the family until May 25 which was four months after the incident.

“Anytime we asked the military for his corpse, they said that they needed to do an autopsy, till now we have not received an autopsy result.”

The panel had during its proceedings dismissed a petition by Mohammed Okorie who was accused of treason, unlawful possession of firearms and conspiring to blow up a presidential aircraft with some accomplices in 2004.

“I was wrongfully accused of being a missile importer. 76 military officers were arrested when I was also arrested.

“A military plane was sent from Nigeria to Ghana, Lome and even Ivory Coast in connection with the charges,” Mr. Okorie claimed.

Mr. Okorie through his lawyer, Charles Nzeagbuna, challenged his incarceration by the military, stating that he was subjected to inhumane treatment and torture during the four years he was in custody.

However, the Army, disputed Mr. Okorie’s claims noting that he was arrested on the orders of the State Security Service and not the military and an investigation of his case was conducted by a special panel created by the federal government.

Dismissing the petition, Justice Georgewill said Mr. Okorie’s petition did not fall within the terms of reference of the panel.

“The situation weaved around this panel does not apply to the charges of treason and felony.

“This situation in reality does not fall within the five terms of reference which is restricted to conflict and insurgency scenarios.

“Arrests in regards to a felony does not fall under the jurisdiction of this panel; this panel lacks the jurisdiction to entertain this case,” he ruled.

The panel also dismissed the petition of Anthony Azuibike on the grounds that his petition did not also fall within its terms of reference.

Mr. Azuibike in his petition against the Nigerian Military claimed that they unlawfully evicted him from a land he had bought from an army Commandant.

The piece of land on which he had built his home was located at Peace Estate, Command Road, Ipaja, Lagos.

He claimed that the military infringed on his rights by evicting him from the property, rendering him homeless and subjecting him to torture.

Mr. Azuibike had demanded N200 million damages from the military.

Nigerian passport ranks as one of the worst passports to have in the world

Nigeria has one of the least powerful passports in the world, a new ranking showed on Wednesday.

The Passport Index, done by Canada-based global consultancy Arton Capital, showed Nigerians can travel to 44 countries either without a visa at all or can have one issued on arrival.

According to the Index, Djibouti and Congo with visa-free to 45 countries; Algeria (46); Liberia, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, and Burundi and Cameroon (47) are African countries with a stronger passport than Nigeria.

Others are Central Africa Republic (48); Guinea-Bissau, Chad, Egypt (50); Comoros, Gabon, Mali, Madagascar (52); Togo, Niger, Mozambique (53); Rwanda (54); Senegal, Mauritania, Burkina Faso (55); Guinea, Ivory Coast (56); Sao Tome, Benin, Morocco (58); and Ghana, Sierra Leone (60).

Uganda and Zimbabwe rank higher with 61 and 62 visa-free countries respectively, while Cape Verde, Tunisia and Zambia are on 63; followed by Tanzania (65); Gambia (66); Namibia (67); and Kenya, Malawi (68).

Tiny Singapore now has the world’s most powerful passport, according to a new ranking, with its citizens able to travel to the greatest number of countries visa-free.

Passport Index, which keeps track of how usable such documents are, said the city-state grabbed the top spot after Paraguay removed restrictions for Singaporeans.

That means the approximately 3.4 million holders of Singaporean passports can now travel to 159 countries either without a visa at all, or can have one issued on arrival.

Germany came in second place, with its citizens able to visit 158 countries without a visa, while Sweden and South Korea tied for third.

The US passport was in sixth place, alongside Malaysia, Ireland and Canada.

Afghanistan came bottom of the list with visa-free access to just 22 countries.

Passport Index said the US passport’s usefulness has fallen since President Donald Trump took office, with Turkey and the Central African Republic becoming the most recent countries to revoke their visa-free entry for holders.

Passport Index ranks passports worldwide based on the cross-border access a holder has. It was developed by Canada-based global consultancy Arton Capital.

“For the first time ever, an Asian country has the most powerful passport in the world,” Philippe May, managing director of Arton Capital’s Singapore office, said in a statement.

“It is a testament of Singapore’s inclusive diplomatic relations and effective foreign policy.”

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Video - Nigeria remembers Fela Kuti 20 years after death

Authorities in the Nigerian commercial capital of Lagos and family members of Afrobeat legend, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. Have been marking his 79th posthumous birthday and the 20th anniversary of his death. Governor of Lagos Akinwunmi Ambode last week unveiled a statue in Fela's memory. Fela died in August 1997 at the age of 58. But 20 years on, his legacy remains ever strong.

Security fears in Nigeria after 14 killed in bombing

Fourteen people have died in the latest suicide bomb attack in northeast Nigeria, an official said Monday in an updated toll, calling for greater protection for those made homeless by Boko Haram.

Three bombers, all of them women, detonated their explosives near the sprawling Muna Garage camp on the outskirts of the Borno state capital, Maiduguri, on Sunday evening.

The blasts came after warnings of a build-up of jihadist fighters outside the strategic city, the epicentre in the eight years of Islamist violence. Ahmed Satomi, from the Borno state emergency management agency, told AFP the death toll had risen since Sunday evening. “So far, we have 14 people killed and 18 injured in the triple suicide bombings last night,” he said. 

He said the Muna Garage site, which in the last 18 months has developed from an informal settlement into a vast camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs), was “vulnerable”. “So far this year we have recorded 13 suicide attacks in the area, including that of yesterday. I think we need to revise the security situation in the area,” he added. 

“We need to employ modern surveillance strategies which will enable us to identify potential attackers before they strike”. The Boko Haram conflict, which began in 2009, has so far killed at least 20,000 people and displaced more than 2.6 million. There are currently about 1.7 million IDPs in Borno and the neighbouring states of Adamawa and Yobe staying in camps or with distant relatives or friends, according to UN figures. 

– ‘Major concern’ – 

Unlike most of the formal IDP camps, Muna Garage is not enclosed within walls, with access strictly controlled by civilian militia forces or soldiers. Instead, it lies on either side of the main road to Ngala, on the border with Cameroon, and near a bus station that attracts large crowds. Access is possible from the road or the fields beyond the city limits. Boko Haram, which has lost control of towns and villages that it occupied in 2014 and 2015, has increasingly used suicide bombers, particularly against civilian “soft” targets. 

The last attack in and around Muna Garage was on September 8, when two women blew themselves up at a checkpoint. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs last Friday said such attacks against IDPs in camps “continue to be a major concern”. On September 20, nine IDPs from the Rann camp, in northern Borno near the shores of Lake Chad, were killed as they tended their fields. On September 8, at least seven people were killed when Boko Haram fighters fired a rocket-propelled grenade into the IDP camp in Ngala, which houses some 80,000 people.

 A week earlier, 11 people had died when militants stormed a camp in Banki, on the border with Cameroon, to steal food. Conditions in the camps, which have been hit by a cholera outbreak, led to a protest in Maiduguri last month that saw 10 arrested on breach of the peace and rioting charges. The 10 defendants were released on bail when they appeared in court on Monday. The case was adjourned until November 24.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Video - Initiative helps reduce illiteracy levels among Nigerian adults

Nigeria is estimated to have an illiteracy rate of around 65 million.Of that number, around 3 million live in the country's commercial capital of Lagos. A young Nigerian has taken up the task to help reduce the illiteracy figure. With his Back2School Adult Literacy Programme, which he started in 2016, Erezi Edoreh, has been making remarkable progress.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Video - Former president of Nigeria Goodluck Jonathan hails Chinese model of development an inspiration to Africa

Former Nigerian president Jonathan Goodluck has hailed the Chinese model of development to be copied by African countries. Speaking to CGTN, Goodluck said China's model for development especially for small and medium companies is key to the development of nations.

Chief of Football in Nigeria Amaju Pinnick confident country can win 2018 World Cup

Nigeria's Football Association chief Amaju Pinnick was confident that the West African country will win the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia in the light of the preparations the football administrators are putting in place.

Pinnick said Thursday the country, which occupies the 41st position in current FIFA ranking, was well positioned after it had surmounted the challenges that plagued the nation's football.

"With the kind of preparations we are putting in place, I think we can win the World Cup," he told reporters in central Nigeria's city of Jos.

He said the Nigerian government was giving the right support to the local soccer governing body to achieve its aim.

Nigeria was the first African country to qualify for the FIFA 2018 World Cup barely two weeks ago.

No African country has won the FIFA World Cup since its inception in 1930.

1000 Nigerians in jail in Thailand

Nigeria Ambassador to Thailand, Nuhu Bamali, says close to 1000 Nigerians are in prison in the Asian country of Thailand.

Bamali disclosed the shocking revelation on Thursday at the Africa Gems and Jewelry Exhibition and Seminar, in Abuja.

The Ambassador, who did not give details of their offences, also advised Nigerians travelling outside the country to always follow the proper channels.

“One area that was left out by the Honourable Minister was the consular issues. I am very delighted that all the key stakeholders are here in this forum.

“It’s a very serious issue for Nigeria because in Thailand alone, we have close to 1000 people in jail, which is very embarrassing to our country.

“So, I am craving the indulgence of the organisers of this event to counsel genuine investors, so that at least whenever they are traveling outside Nigeria they should go through the proper channel,” the Envoy said.

Bamali, however, assured facilitation of partnership between genuine Nigerian investors and Thais, whom he described as advanced in gems and jewelleries.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Video - Nigeria confirms at least three cases of Monkey pox

Nigeria has confirmed at least three cases of the viral infection monkey pox, with at least 30 more suspected cases across eight states
while more samples are sent to the World Health Organization WHO laboratory in Dakar Senegal for tests.

Health officials from the Center for Disease control says efforts are being made to trace persons who may have come in contact with the infected population.

Four British missionaries kidnapped in Nigeria

Four Britons have been kidnapped in the southern Delta state in Nigeria, according to the police.

The authorities are attempting to rescue the four people, who were taken by unidentified gunmen on 13 October, said Andrew Aniamaka, a spokesman for Delta state police.

Kidnapping for ransom is common in parts of Nigeria. In the past few years, a number of foreigners have been kidnapped in the Niger Delta region, which holds most of the country’s crude oil – Nigeria’s economic mainstay.

“The abductors have not made any contact but we are doing our investigations to know the motive and have them rescued without jeopardising their lives,” said Aniamaka.

“Information available to us shows they are missionaries giving free medical services,” he said, adding that the British nationals had been working in a very rural area.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Video - Nwanko Kanu backs more countries to qualify in future

Retired Nigerian footballer Nwanko Kanu believes any African country can qualify for the world cup. The Nigerian legend believes future finalists must begin early preparations.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Video - Survivor of Chibok girls kidnapping by Boko Haram narrates horrific ordeal

Joy Bishara, a survivor of the April 2014 Chibok girls’ kidnapping by jihadist group Boko Haram on Friday got an opportunity to narrate her ordeal at the United Nations Security Council. She described the happenings of that night, telling of her daring escape from a moving truck.

Video - UN expresses worry over trial of Boko Haram suspects in Nigeria

In West Africa, Nigeria's mass trial of suspected Boko Haram insurgents, has drawn condemnation from the United Nations Human Rights Agency. There's concern the suspects might not get a fair trial, given the secrecy of the trial.

South Africa president Jacob Zuma honoured with statue in Nigeria

President Jacob Zuma has been honoured with yet another statue, this time in Nigeria.

On Saturday, the Imo State unveiled the giant statue and even named a street after the visiting president during his recent trip to the country.

In addition the state governor, Owelle Okorocha, conferred on Zuma the Imo Merit Award, the highest award in the state conferred on those who have made a difference in the development of their communities.

Zuma was on a working visit to Zambia, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo to strengthen socio-economic relations and other co-operations.

Both Nigerians and South Africans were quick to take to social media to comment about the decision.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Video - Farmer pioneering sack farming in Nigeria

A young Nigerian is making waves in the north with his sack farming initiative. Popularly known as the sack farmer, Abdullahi Yakub went into sack farming when he couldn't find a white-collar job after graduating from the University. Today he is making a success out of a farming initiative that is still very new in Nigeria.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Nigerian painter Njideka Akunyili-Crosby wins $625,000 MacArthur Fellowship “Genius Grant”

Njideka Akunyili-Crosby, a painter and daughter of the late Nigerian minister, Dora Akunyili, has been awarded the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship.

Ms. Akunyili-Crosby was described by the foundation as “a figurative painter whose large-scale works express the hybridity characteristic of transnational experience through choices of subject matter, materials, and techniques.”

The fellowship, which is also referred to as the Genius Grant, awards $625,000 to artists, writers, teachers, scientists, entrepreneurs, and people from all works of life, that have shown exceptional creativity.

The grant is doled out in quarterly installments, made over a period of five years. Amongst past recipients is writer Chimamanda Adichie who received the grant in 2008.

The 24 recipients of the 2017 MacArthur Fellowship are:

• Njideka Akunyili Crowsby – Painter

• Sunil Amrith – Historian

• Greg Asbed – Human Rights Strategist

• Annie Baker – Playwright

• Regina Barzilay – Computer Scientist

• Dawoud Bey – Photographer and Educator

• Emmanuel Candes – Mathematician and Statistician

• Jason De Leon -Anthropologist

• Rhiannon Giddens – Singer, Instrumentalist & Songwriter

• Nikole Hannah-Jones – Journalist

• Cristina Jimenez Moreta – Social Justice Organizer

• Taylor Mac – Theater Artist

• Ramir Nashashibi – Community Leader

• Viet Thanh Nguyen – Fiction Writer & Culture Critic

• Kate Orff – Landscape Architect

• Trevor Paglen – Artist and Geographer

• Betsy Levy Paluck – Psychologist

• Derek Paterson – Historian

• Damon Rich – Designer & Urban Planner

• Stefan Savage – Computer Scientist

• Yuval Sharon – Opera Director & Producer

• Tyshawn Sorey – Composer & Musician

• Gabriel Victora – Immunologist

• Jesmyn Ward – Fiction Writer

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Video - Nigeria to begin trial for 2300 suspected Boko Haram insurgents

Nigeria's government could soon start a mass trial of Boko Haram suspects it has been holding in custody since the start of Boko Haram insurgency. About 2,300 suspected militants are expected stand trial for crimes committed through out the 8 years of Boko Haram insurgency. More than 20,000 are estimated to have been killed and millions displaced in the northeast by Boko Haram.

About 40 Boko Haram militants willing to surrender

The Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, in Borno says about 40 Boko Haram insurgents have indicated willingness to surrender to the Corps in the state.

The Commandant of the corps in the state, Ibrahim Abdullahi, disclosed this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on Wednesday in Maiduguri.

Mr. Abdullahi said that the insurgents had indicated their intention to renounce membership of the terrorist group but through an intermediary.

He said that negotiations between the command and the insurgents were conducted through a firewood vendor.

He also said that six insurgents had earlier surrendered to the Corps in the last one month in the state.

The commandant stated that the extremists surrendered voluntarily under the Federal Government’s Safe Corridor Initiative (SCI).

“About 40 of the insurgents have come forward to surrender. They indicated that many of them are willing to lay down their arms,” Abdullahi said.

According to him, the command has also conducted town hall meetings with communities and religious leaders to enhance security in the state.

NAN report that hundreds of the insurgents had surrendered to the Nigerian Army under the SCI in the past three months.

The surrendered insurgents are currently undergoing de-radicalisation process at the Military Rehabilitation Centre, Gombe, to facilitate their reintegration into the society.

Teachers in Kaduna, Nigeria fail pupils' exam

Thousands of primary school teachers in Nigeria's northern Kaduna state are to be sacked after failing the exams they set for their six-year-old pupils.

State governor Nasir El-Rufai said 21,780 teachers, two-thirds of the total, had failed to score 75% or higher on assessments given to pupils.

He said 25,000 new teachers would be recruited to replace them.

Mr El-Rufai made the comments at a meeting with World Bank representatives in the state capital, Kaduna.

"The hiring of teachers in the past was politicised and we intend to change that by bringing in young and qualified primary school teachers to restore the dignity of education in the state," he was quoted as saying by Nigeria's Daily Trust newspaper.

Mr El-Rufai said problems with pupil-teacher ratios across the state would also be addressed.

He said some areas currently had one teacher for every nine pupils while in other areas the ratio was one to 100.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Video - Operations at Nigeria's main sea port almost grounded to a halt

For over two months now operations at Nigeria's main sea port in Lagos have almost grounded to a halt. The roads leading to the port are in bad shape and reconstruction work has been slow. Lines of trucks and tankers trying to access the port now stretch back to over 10 kilometers, making it virtually impossible to drive around the port area. The situation is now taking a serious toll on exporters of agriculture products.

Ban on open drugs markets in Nigeria to take effect in 2019

Open drug markets will be outlawed in Nigeria and shut down by the end of next year, the federal government has said.

The Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, made this known on Monday in Lagos at a workshop organised by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) in collaboration with the World Health Organisation on “The prevention, Detection and Response of Substandard and Falsified medical Products.”

According to a report of the event by Thisday newspaper, the minister said the government would introduce coordinated wholesale centres nationwide for distribution of drugs, to check the menace of fake medical products in Nigeria.

Mr. Adewole said the new measure would ensure that drugs are sourced directly from importers or manufacturers and distributed down to the end users instead of having Nigerians continuing buying drugs from the open drug markets.

He said the ministry had developed a National Drug Distribution Guidelines (NDDG) in 2012 to address Nigeria’s chaotic drug distribution system.

Mr. Adewole said the “Coordinated Wholesale Centres”, which will accommodate open market medicines sellers, had been approved and are being developed in Lagos, Onitsha, Aba and Kano and will commence operation by January 1, 2019.

He said: “Medicine is an important component of healthcare delivery service and without the infusion of medicines; the health care service delivery system of a nation is sterile.

“A good-quality medicine supply system is essential for healthcare delivery. There is a special need to prevent therapeutic drug falsification in order to safeguard against health and maintain trust in healthcare system. The overall scale of trading in medicine and the resultant harm done to global health has not been adequately accessed,” he said.

In his remarks at the workshop, the acting Director General of NAFDAC, Ademola Mogbojuri, noted that the public health implications of substandard and falsified medical products include treatment failure, high treatment cost, development of resistance, loss of confidence in the healthcare providers and healthcare system and may ultimately, result in fatality and death.

Mr. Mogbojuri who noted that the problem has become a serious threat to global public health, said the fight against the menace requires a sustained action by both governmental and non-governmental bodies. 

While noting that single and isolated interventions cannot address the issue of substandard falsified medical products, he called for coordinated actions with international organisations to reduce the practice to the barest minimum.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Video - Children in Nigeria's northeast miss on education due to insecurity

As the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria's northeast drags into its ninth year, children in the region continue to miss out on an education. Many schools remain closed due to insecurity.

Nigeria to begin closed door trials of Boko Haram suspects

Nigeria is set to begin a legal marathon: More than 1,600 suspected Boko Haram members will be going on trial starting Monday. But many observers doubt the trials can be carried out successfully.

Mohammed Tola was surprised when relatives of a number of accused Boko Haram fighters began calling his office a few months ago to ask him to defend the accused in court. Tola's legal offices, situated in the center of Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, is specialized in criminal law. But he and his colleagues have had little experience with terrorism trials to date.

Boko Haram is one of the deadliest terror organizations in Africa. Over the last few years more than 50,000 Nigerians have died in their government's conflict with the Islamist militia. Nevertheless, the lawyer was immediately prepared to take on the task. He says that everyone, even suspected terrorists, have the right to a fair trial. "If public opinion was the only thing that mattered, we would never have fair trials," says Tola.

Overburdened judges

This Monday, some 1,600 suspected Boko Haram members are to go on trial — and each one is to be tried individually. The trials are to take place in the detention center where the accused have been held since their arrests. However, the criminal proceedings have faced criticism before even getting underway. Even Nigerian Minister for Justice Abubakar Malami in a statement made several weeks ago voiced concern about the utter lack of evidence against many of the accused, adding that there is "hardly any qualified personnel available to work through the complex cases before the court."

Nigerian legal expert Mainasara Umar sees three major problems that he says are cause for skepticism. "Four judges have been appointed to hear cases. That is far too few. Furthermore, plaintiffs and witnesses must be afforded better protection. But the most important thing is that cooperation between investigators and prosecutors must function perfectly."

Lawyer Tola fears another problem altogether: The lack of evidence means that investigators will largely have to rely upon defendants' confessions. He knows from experience that violence is often employed in such instances in order to get the accused to talk. "I have had cases in which there were blood stains on signed confessions. Torture was clearly used to get people to sign." He assumes that violent methods are used in about 80 percent of all confessions in Nigeria. And he says that can quickly lead to the wrongful conviction of innocent people — especially when pressure from public opinion mounts.

Calls for a special court

The dimensions of this pending legal marathon against suspected terrorists have no precedent in Nigeria. So far, just 13 trials against Boko Haram members have been completed, only nine of which ended in convictions. Add to that 33 cases that are still ongoing — some for years now. Attorney Tola is preparing for lengthy trial. "I just spoke with a colleague who represents clients accused of having carried out a terror attack in the capital." He says the trial has been dragging on for three years due to the poor body of evidence that has been gathered against the defendants. "And there is no end in sight."

Legal expert Umar is convinced that the Nigerian government must better prepare the courts involved if it is to avoid a legal disaster in the forthcoming 1,600 trials. "I think it would be better if the government appointed a special court to handle the matter." The court, he says, would have to be given sufficient personnel and funding, and be tasked with hearing all terrorism cases — from armed rebellion to kidnapping. Umar says that is the only way to guarantee that trials can be completed in a timely fashion. As he puts it, "Ultimately, justice delayed is justice denied."

Friday, October 6, 2017

Nigerian army ordered to pay N85.8 million for killing civilian

The Nigerian Army has been ordered by the Federal High Court in Lagos to pay N85.5 million for the assault and killing of one Olajide Enilari, a flour merchant.

The verdict came eight years after the deceased died from a brutal assault by soldiers in 2009.

A human rights campaign organization, Access to Justice, dragged the army before the court on behalf of the deceased.

Details of a court judgement dated September 26, revealed that the judge, I. N. Buba, ruled that the assault which led to the death of Enilari was wrong and unlawful.

The Chief of Army Staff, the Chief of Naval Staff, the Attorney General of the Federation and 3 others were named as defendants.

Details made available in the court said that Enilari was brutally assaulted by officers of the Nigerian Army on January 27, 2009 along Airways junction in Apapa, Lagos.

He died due to head injuries sustained during the assault on January 29, 2009, in Lagos.

After careful consideration of the evidence (oral and documentary) of the parties in the suit, the court found no merit in the defence.

The court ruled that the assault, which resulted in the death of the deceased was unlawful, wrong and a gross violation of Olajide’s right to life.

The court ordered the defendants to pay N50 million as aggravated damages, jointly and severally.

It also ordered the payment of N295,000 as special damages to cover for the deceased burial expenses.

It further granted the plaintiffs N35 million for loss and pain caused them by the brutal assault on the deceased which led to his death; and the cost of N250,000 in favour of the plaintiffs.

The total payable amount pegged was N85,545 000.

Reacting to the judgment, a Senior Programme Officer at Access to Justice, Chinelo Chinweze, said, “This climate of impunity feeds the recklessness and unlawfulness of the actions of security forces and law enforcement agencies in varied contexts.

“We see it in Mr. Enilari’s case but it is also seen in the conduct of counter-terrorism warfare in the North-east; in the brutal crackdown against members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, (i.e. Shiites) and of IPOB members.

“For many victims of human rights abuses, this time standard is just enough to discourage them from pursuing redress and justice for acts of impunity.

“We need to reform our judicial procedures to reduce the time taken to meet basic justice needs and deliver needed services.”

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Video - Anxiety rises in Nigeria over Biafra leader Nnamdi Kanu's disappearance

To separatist matters in Africa now, and anxiety is building up in Nigeria, after the apparent disappearance of Indigenous People of Biafra leader Nnamdi Kanu. Kanu has been missing for two weeks now. The family alleges that the army raided his home and took him away, although Nigerian military denies this. Kanu has been leading agitations for secession of the Biafra region from Nigeria.

Boat capsize in Nigeria leaves at least 17 dead

At least 17 people drowned when a boat ferrying around 60 passengers capsized in northwest Nigeria, the National Emergency Management (NEMA) said on Wednesday.

The boat smashed into a tree trunk in the rain-swollen River Niger on Tuesday.

"So far 17 bodies have been removed from the water, 12 yesterday (Tuesday) and another five this morning", NEMA coordinator Suleiman Karim told AFP.

Another 17 passengers were rescued by emergency workers and local divers, Karim said.

"We are still searching for at least 26 people because the 60-passenger boat was full at the time of the accident", he said.

The number on board may have been higher as ferries in the riverine region are usually overloaded, Karim said.

The boat had left Jilbabo village in Kebbi state and was heading to Tetebo village in neighbouring Niger state in central Nigeria when the accident happened.

Capsizes are a frequent occurence in Nigeria, where overcrowding is common and unscrupulous operators flout health and safety norms.

The accident rate typically rises in the May-September rainy season when rivers swell.

Last month 74 people were killed in three separate boat capsizes in northern Nigeria, according to emergency services.

In one instance 56 people drowned when an overloaded boat sank carrying 150 passengers in Kebbi state.

The boat was ferrying local traders from neighbouring Niger Republic to a market in Nigeria.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Video - Brewers showcase drinks at beer festival in Lagos, Nigeria

Nigeria has held its first beer festival in Lagos. The event is aimed at promoting the country's top brews. More than 20 beer brands were showcased during the festival, which attracted thousands of people. Nigeria is Africa's second-biggest beer consumer, behind South Africa.

Video - Nigerian volleyball team chases continental glory

It has been week of intensive training for men's national volleyball teams ahead of the 2017 African championships in Egypt. 5th ranked Nigeria hopes to end their trophy drought this year and has boosted the team with new talent.

P2P Bitcoin exchange in Nigeria offers services to all African countries

The Nigerian person-to-person (P2P) bitcoin exchange, Bitkoin.Africa, launched on October 1st. The exchange currently only provides Nigerian users with full functionality, but claims to allow customers from “all other countries” to buy bitcoins.

Nigeria has become host to a P2P bitcoin exchange seeking to facilitate greater access to bitcoin throughout the African region. Bitkoin.Africa has been launched by a team of Nigerian developers including Timi Ajiboye.

The platform currently only allows Nigerian users to post listings to sell bitcoins, however, offers listings to buy to customers from “all other countries.” The exchange provides wallet and escrow services, and facilitates a range of payment methods via Paystack. According to Techmoran, Ajiboye stated that “each Bitkoin Africa account comes with a bitcoin wallet that enables users store, receive and send bitcoin. Bitkoin Africa transactions are carried out online and are facilitated by users’ Nigerian bank accounts or Naira debit cards.”

Timi Ajiboye announced the launch of Bitkoin.Africa via twitter, posting that he and his team had “been working hard on something for the past four months; a bitcoin exchange for Africa.” Ajiboye garnered international attention in 2016 for his and his partner’s involvement in the development of Muslimcondemn – a website which hosts “a collection of all the cases where Muslims have condemned wrongdoings done falsely in the name of Islam” in an attempt to provide a greater public platform for the sentiments of Islamic moderates.

Bitkoin.Africa enters a relatively crowded market of companies providing exchange services to the Nigerian bitcoin community, with Luno, Remitano, and NairaEX already competing for the loyalty of local cryptocurrency users. Shopnow.ng, an e-commerce website claiming to be the first of its kind in Nigeria to solely accept bitcoin as a means of payment, opened its doors in recent months – suggesting that cryptocurrency demand and adoption is growing locally.

Shopnow is reported to have stated that “bitcoin is becoming more popular in Nigeria and today the country has the highest volume of Bitcoin transactions in Africa and according to google trends, Nigeria is the country that searches the word “Bitcoin” the most on google.com in the whole world.” P2P bitcoin trading on localbitcoins has shown a steady rise in volume since November 2016. Weekly trading volume has oscillated between the 900,000,000 – 1,100,000,000 Nigerian Naira area in recent weeks, excluding the sudden spike that established the current all-time high of approximately 1,866,600,000 during the week of the fifth of August.

The increased entrance of Nigerian investors into the cryptocurrency markets has not gone unnoticed by the country’s Central Bank. Last month, the Deputy Director of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Musa Jimoh, stated that the apex bank “cannot stop the tide of waves generated by the blockchain technology and its derivatives”, during a recent conference in Lagos. Speaking at the same conference, David Isiawe, President of the Information Security Society of Nigeria, stated “the reality… is that the distributed ledger technology, blockchain and cryptocurrency are facts that we must face, whether we like it or not. We cannot wish this reality away.”

Nigeria former first lady accuses the government of witch-hunt

Nigeria's ex-First Lady Patience Jonathan has accused the government 's anti-corruption agency of conducting an "unjustified witch-hunt" against her.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was following a "sinister script to embarrass and browbeat" her, she said in a statement.

Last year, the EFCC froze $15m (£11.4m), which the ex-first lady said was to settle medical bills abroad.

Her husband, Goodluck Jonathan, stepped down in 2015 after losing elections.

He was widely praised for being the first incumbent to give up power voluntarily in Nigeria since its independence in 1961.

His successor, Muhammadu Buhari, vowed to tackle corruption in the government.

Mrs Jonathan said that unlike other former first ladies with pet projects seeking to help the less privileged, her NGOs were "being subjected to indefinite probe and microscopic scrutiny by the Buhari administration".

EFCC head Ibrahim Magu had linked her to all sort of "fake possession and properties around the country", it added.

The EFCC has not yet commented on her statement.

Systematically persecuted

Mrs Jonathan's vehicles had been attacked on the road four times since 2015 and the couple's house in Abuja "was vandalised allegedly by security agents sent by government to secure it, and the items stolen are yet to be recovered", said a statement issued by her media aide and published in full by Nigeria's privately owned Vanguard newspaper.

The statement urged President Buhari to order that the harassment should stop.

"We believe that she is being systematically persecuted and punished because of her unflinching support for her husband during the 2015 elections," it said.

In September, the Committee on Public Petitions in the lower parliamentary chamber, the House of Representatives, asked six banks to unfreeze her accounts, saying it had been done without a court order, local media reported at the time.

The EFCC had ordered that the accounts be frozen as it investigated corruption allegations against her.

Mrs Jonathan denies any wrongdoing.

Central bank of Nigeria printing money to keep government afloat

For a while now, economists and finance types who follow the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) have been sounding a low intensity alarm about the CBN’s direct funding of the Nigerian government.

Between December 2013 and April 2017 for instance, the CBN’s “claims on the federal government” went from 678 billion naira to 6.5 trillion naira ($1.8 billion to $17.3 billion)—an almost 10-fold rise. These “claims” are made up of overdrafts, treasury bills, converted bonds and other such lending. For the most part, the issue has remained an obscure one that receives hardly any attention from local media.

But then, a couple of weeks ago, the CBN finally published the personal statements of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) members from the July meeting [PDF] and suddenly the alarm bells started ringing. The personal statement of Dr. Doyin Salami, a well-regarded member of the MPC noted for his straight talking, said the CBN was providing a “piggy-bank” service to the federal government. Specifically, he said [page 38]:

Perhaps the most challenging of the present characteristics of the economy in Nigeria is the adoption of a quantitative easing stance by the management of the Central Bank. Monetary data shows a sharp rise in the extent of CBN financing of the government deficit.

He quoted statistics that showed much of the rise in the CBN’s financing of the federal government have come since last December with its purchases of government bonds being the worst culprit with a 20-fold rise in 2017 alone. In effect, the CBN has been printing money to fund the government’s spending. The reason for this is, of course, clear—Nigeria’s government has not been able to recover in any meaningful way from the collapse in oil prices that has now entered its fourth year.

Salami goes on to explain a second order effect of increased government lending. To keep a lid on inflation, the CBN has to balance out the increased government lending with a tightening of the amount of cash banks could lend. It does this by raising the cash reserve ratio (CRR) of banks—effectively taking money out of circulation. Thus, the private sector is “crowded out” for the sake of the government.

That is, the government itself is making it practically impossible for the private sector to pay it the taxes it desperately needs by starving it of the credit it needs to grow. Completing the vicious cycle, the government must then borrow more to fund its spending. A few days ago, it announced plans to raise another $5.5 billion in Eurobondswhich will inevitably raise its debt servicing costs.

A bigger problem with all of this is that it could very well be illegal. The CBN Act of 2007 in section 38(2) says [pdf]:

The total amount of such advances outstanding shall not at any time exceed five per cent of the previous year’s actual revenue of the Federal Government.

One can thus do a quick check to see if the CBN’s lending has broken the law. In the prospectus to the government’s $300 million Diaspora Bond sold in June, it disclosed to the London Stock Exchange that its revenues for 2016 were 5.3 trillion naira [pdf, page 158]. In other words, the CBN could only have legally advanced the government 265 billion naira. The CBN’s figures clearly show it has blown through this limit multiples times over.

But this last week, the CBN governor Godwin Emefiele felt obliged to respond to the controversy, stating “categorically” that the central bank has not over-funded Nigeria’s government. “The government had, on its own, decided that all its funds in banks, both local and foreign currencies, should be moved into the TSA at the CBN,” he said.

Emefiele added: “If a customer of a bank has fixed deposits in an account and needs some spontaneous financing to meet his obligations, his commercial bank can allow him overdraw his account temporarily. That is what is happening.”

Effectively, according to the governor, CBN was lending against the federal government’s deposits in its Treasury Single Account (TSA) with the CBN which currently stand at 5.2 trillion naira. The TSA is a mechanism whereby all cash resources of government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) are consolidated in a single account with the CBN. The policy had been half-heartedly implemented for several years but president Buhari finally expanded it to cover the entire government in 2015.

While it will be hard to legally question the CBN Governor’s explanation, it is worth understanding how the TSA works in practice using a personal example.

I recently had to donate to a government owned school in Nigeria for the purchase of some equipment for the students. I asked the school head to send me the school’s bank account details and they replied with a bank account that was clearly the personal bank account of the school’s head. I thought this was a red flag but they then explained why it had to be done that way.

Given that I wanted to make a charitable donation and the school desperately needed the funds, the school head explained that paying it into the school’s official bank account would mean the money was swept by the TSA mechanism to the CBN. The school would then need to go through the considerable bureaucracy of getting the funds back with no guarantee of success. Thus, to avoid this “problem”, they asked that I trust them with the funds by paying it into a private bank account.

This story illustrates the problem with the CBN Governor’s explanation—not all the funds in the TSA belong to the federal government but the CBN has effectively lent against all of it. If I had sent the donation to the school’s official bank account, it would have been counted as part of the balance of funds in the TSA and perhaps the CBN would have increased its funding to the government by a corresponding amount. But the money was only there till the school would have gotten it back for the original purpose for which it was donated.

This is not a distinction that is trivial–many government departments receive foreign funding to carry out projects, for example. The money is swept up into the TSA once received and then drawn down as costs are incurred often several months later. The large TSA balance is thus often subject to sizeable timing differences.

The TSA’s very survival is also threatened by political wrangling every other day. One of the demands by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) before calling off their recent strike was for Universities to be excluded from the TSA regime. It was also the main reason they went on a warning strike last year. ASUU are by no means the only ones who are sworn enemies of the TSA. So far, the government has admirably stood its ground and refused to trade away TSA compliance. But as elections approach and various groups begin to make louder demands from a desperate government, it is not inconceivable that the TSA will be the sacrificial lamb that buys the government favors from one of its numerous clients.

These illustrate just how precarious Nigeria’s finances have become. The CBN is lending the federal government huge sums of money based on a suspicious interpretation of its banking mandate all constructed on ephemeral deposits.

Unlike Quantitative Easing by Federal Reserve and Bank of England that came with built-in mechanisms for their eventual unwinding, there is no clear-cut mechanism by which the CBN can roll back the expansion of its balance sheet.

Nigeria’s economy is by no means out of the woods. The government has just not been able to come to terms with the adjustments it needs to make in the face of stubbornly low oil prices. It has tried to soldier on, perhaps hoping that oil prices will rebound soon.

With growth in government revenues that can match the scale of the gap the CBN is currently funding all but impossible, it is time to end this CBN financing of the federal government before it drags the whole economy down with it.

Minister of State for Petroleum accuses NNPC boss of insubordination

Minister of State for Petroleum Dr. Ibe Kachikwu has accused the Group Managing Director of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Dr. Maikanti Baru of "insubordination and humiliating conducts" in a letter to President Muhammadu Buhari.

The letter, dated August 30, 2017, was circulated widely in the social media yesterday.

The NNPC had announced major appointments and redeployments on August 29, 2017.

The minister, who chairs the NNPC Board, complained in the letter that the NNPC Board, which by NNPC statutes was meant to review appointments and postings, was never briefed about the appointment or redeployment.

"Members of the board learnt of these appointments from the pages of social media and the press release of NNPC," he said in the letter.

"Like the previous reorganizations and repostings done since Dr.Baru resumed as GMD, I was never given the opportunity before the announcements to discuss these appointments. This is so despite being Minister of State Petroleum and Chairman NNPC Board.

"The Board of NNPC which you appointed and, which has met every month since its inauguration and, which by the statutes of NNPC is meant to review these planned appointments and postings, was never briefed. Members of the Board learnt of these appointments from the pages of social media and the Press Release of NNPC,"Kachikwu said.

The minister said he had decided to bring to the attention of the president after one year of tolerating "these disrespectful and humiliating conducts" from Mr.Baru.

Minister wants NNPC reorganisation suspended

He consequently appealed to the president to approve that the recently announced reorganization in NNPC be suspended.

"My prayers most humbly and respectfully are that you save the office of the minister state from further humiliation and disrespect by compelling all parastatals to submit to oversight regulatory mandate and proper supervision," the letter read.

Mr.Kachikwu said he was constrained to write to President Buhari after failing to secure appointment to see the president "despite very many attempts."

The minister also pleaded with the president to save NNPC and the oil industry from collapse arising from the non-transparent practices of the GMD.

It is a normal correspondence - Ministry

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Petroleum Resources yesterday said the letter was "a normal procedural correspondence by the Minister to the President relating to developments in parastatals under his supervision."

"It is most distressing to the ministry of petroleum resources that a confidential communication to the President on the performance of one of its parastatals can be made public," spokesman for the ministry Idang Alibi said.

"The focus of the communication was on improving efficiency and deepening transparency in the oil and gas sector for continued investor confidence.

"It is noteworthy that the President has been fully supportive of the efforts of the Ministry to entrench good governance and accountability in the oil and gas sector," he added.

Alibi said the ministry remained focused on achieving measurable progress in the implementation of the ongoing oil sector reforms in line with the mandate of the President.

I haven't seen letter - NNPC spokesman

when contacted about the letter yesterday, the Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division of the NNPC,NduUghamadu, simply said: "I have not sighted the letter in question neither have I read it... "

He said he wouldn't comment "Until I see such letter."

Between Kachikwu and Baru

There have been little or no clues of a frosty working relationship between the minister and the GMD.

Buhari had in August 2015 appointed Kachikwuas NNPC boss, and named him as Minister in November 2016.

While Kachikwu held sway as NNPC GMD, Baru's name always popped up as his possible replacement.

But in a restructuring exercise at NNPC in March 2016,Mr.Baru was redeployed by Kachikwu from his position then as NNPC's Group Executive Director (Exploration and Production) to the petroleum ministry as Technical Adviser Upstream to the minister.

Baru was however appointed as NNPC GMD on July 4, 2016, while Kachikwu was named as the chairman of the NNPC board.Kachikwu had earlier doubled as minister and NNPC boss.

One of our sources said "Restructuring the NNPC was actually started by Kachikwu when he was the GMD. When Baru came in, he continued with the restructuring but in his own way. The consultants brought in by Kachikwufor the reorganisation exercise were disengaged. I think that was the beginning of the problem between the minister and the GMD."

'They should resolve problem quickly'

A board member of the NNPC, who spoke in confidence, said he was deeply pained that an issue which should have been resolved in camera was thrown to the public galore; thereby subjecting the NNPC to ridicule.

"You cannot rule out scheming in the board of any agency or parastatals and that's exactly what is happening in NNPC. But the most important thing is how the intrigues are managed. It was a serious embarrassment when we read the petition in the social media.

"Of course, all of us in the board are disappointed with the apparent misunderstanding between the minister and the GMD. Yes, there are issues relating to poor communication and consultation.

"But then, these are issues that ought to have been resolved. Remember, we have very prominent people on board, all of them in their own right, including the Chief of Staff to the president.

"Sadly, and for some obvious reasons, the minister ran out of patience and for the fact that he has his ways to the president, he took advantage of that and ensured that his petition was heard.

"We normally meet as at when due; we never missed any of our meetings and even when he was unable to attend for two times because of his tight schedule, the chief of staff had sent his memos.

"This altercation might possibly erode the successes in the oil sector. Remember the crisis we went through when the oil price crashed; but Nigeria was able to find its way at OPEC. At present, fuel price is gradually coming down. I hope this problem would be resolved quickly," he said.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Video - Three million children out of school in Borno state, Nigeria

Close to three million children are in need of an education in Northeast Nigeria- according to UNICEF. The persistent threat from armed group Boko Haram has forced more than half of the schools in Borno State to shut down. In addition to the violence, there is an outbreak of cholera and already most children are suffering from malnutrition. Humanitarian organisations are concerned that the dangers are creating a lost generation of children and the country's future is under threat.

Video - Nigeria turns 57 - President Buhari's full independence speech