Friday, November 17, 2017

Video - Nigeria's Mr. Arsenal

Kelechi Anyikude. Proud Nigerian, dedicated football fan. But for Arsenal’s no.1 African supporter, it’s about being so much more.

Video - At least 18 killed, dozens hurt in suicide blast near Maiduguri, Nigeria

In north-eastern Nigeria, at least 18 people have been killed and scores wounded in a suspected Boko Haram suicide attack. Several bombs went off on the outskirts of Maiduguri -- the capital of Borno state -- on Wednesday. It's the deadliest suicide attack in Nigeria in months.

Nigeria to have bobsled team at the winter olympics for the first time ever

Nigeria's women's bobsled team has qualified for the 2018 Winter Olympics.

The three-member team — which was only formed in 2016 — is the first to represent Nigeria at the winter event, to be held in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in February next year.

Driver Seun Adigun, brakemen Ngozi Onwumere and Akuoma Omega, qualified for the event over five races held in Utah, Whistler and Calgary.

In 2012, Adigun competed in the women's 100 metre hurdles at the summer Olympics.

She told ESPN that the qualification is a "huge milestone for sports in Nigeria".

Adigun hopes that the bobsled team will help create opportunities for winter sports to take place in Nigeria.

Adigun started a Go Fund Me campaign late last year to raise $US75,000 to fund their Olympic bid, which they achieved in 11 months.

President of the Bobsled and Skeleton Federation of Nigeria, Solomon Ogba, said in a statement he hopes Nigerians can appreciate the effort the team has put in, "the work, the discipline, and the personal sacrifices."

Mr Ogba he was proud the team was representing their country in "a very technical and high risk sport".

Another Nigerian competitor, Simidele Adeagbo, is just two races away from qualifying for the Skeleton competition.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Suicide bombers kill 18 in Maiduguri, Nigeria

At least 18 people have been killed and 29 others wounded in northeast Nigeria after four suicide bombers carried out separate attacks, state police said.

The first explosion on Wednesday evening took place at a prayer ground in the Muna Gari suburb of the regional capital, Maiduguri.

Other attacks followed in the same neighbourhood.

"At about 6:13pm local time (17:13 GMT), four suicide bombers - two males and two females - infiltrated Muna Gari community and detonated IED strapped to their bodies at different locations," Victor Isuku, Borno State Police Command spokesman, said in a statement.

"A total of eighteen persons including the four suicide bombers, died in the multiple explosions," he confirmed.

Isuku said those injured were rushed to the University of Maiduguri teaching hospital and the State Specialist Hospital for medical attention.

According to the statement, police patrol and bomb disposal teams promptly mobilised to the scene to sanitise and render the area safe.

The statement also said that order had been restored to the community.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

17 year old girl killed for body parts to use for rituals in Nigeria

A 17-year-old girl in Nigeria has been murdered for body parts to be used in suspected rituals believed to bring wealth, police have told the BBC.

Three people have been arrested, including a man who allegedly confessed to killing her and selling some body parts to a witch doctor for $25 (£18).

He then threw the girl's decapitated body into a well in Idosemo village in Ogun state, a police spokesman said.

Belief in witchcraft or "juju" is widespread in Nigeria.

Traditional witchcraft practitioners are widely consulted for cures for various ailments and because they are believed to have magical powers to protect their clients from a wide range of misfortunes and to bring good luck.

The witch doctor, who is also in detention, has admitted to receiving human body parts, but said he did not contract the killing, police spokesman Abimbola Opeyemi said.

The girl had been selling street snacks when she was attacked, he said.

Her father had reported her missing to local police.

Collaborative work between the police and a local vigilante group led to the arrest of the witch doctor who "confessed under police interrogation" and led police to the well where her body was dumped, Mr Opeyemi said.

The suspects are yet to be charged in court.

It is the latest in a spate of such murders in the south-west of the country.

Nigeria army considered not allowing women to participate in combat training

Nigeria has looked into stopping the admission of female combatants into the military training program after a recommendation by the country’s Armed Forces council, according The Punch Newspaper.

Quartz’s email inquiries to the army about the reasons for the decisions were not replied before publication. But Premium Times later reported that Nigeria’s defense headquarters refuted the suggestion it would stop admitted female cadets altogether.

Female cadets were first admitted in 2011 and if such a policy was adopted, it would have meant female soldiers never being able to rise high enough to head any of Nigeria’s armed forces.

Given Nigeria’s largely conservative disposition, much of the rhetoric to explain the possible policy reversal has focused on religion. “The northern Muslim leaders want to prevent a situation where one day, a woman will lead the army and give orders to men,” an unnamed army general told The Punch.

Any considerations for such a decision could not have been blamed on female cadets performing poorly. According to The Punch, female cadets excelled—and won awards—since they started getting admitted to the training program in 2011.

Other African countries have looked to lead the way with female combatants. In 2014, Algeria became the Arab country with the most high-ranking female army commanders after appointing three female army generals. The move was part of the country’s efforts to improve gender equality in its law enforcement agents.

In the Horn of Africa, women have long played prominent roles in Eritrea and Ethiopia. During the war for Eritrea’s independence, female combat soldiers accounted for 30% of Eritrea’s military.

Ethiopia’s female soldiers also continue to play a role in the country’s peacekeeping missions on the continent. In 2000, a UN resolution pushed for women’s involvement in its peacekeeping mission to reach 20% by 2020 but Ethiopia had reached the 16% mark at the time. Beyond the continent, the United States opened up all combat military jobs to women last year.

There had already been some push back for the army council’s recommendation by civil society groups and a petition to halt the policy reversal has garnered almost 1,000 signatures since being published.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Video - Nigeria beat Argentina 2-4

Uber drivers in Lagos, Nigeria using fake GPS app to inflate fares

Some Uber drivers in Lagos have been using a fake GPS itinerary app to illicitly bump up fares for local riders.

Initially created for developers to “test geofencing-based apps,” Lockito, an Android app that lets your phone follow a fake GPS itinerary, is being used by Uber drivers in Lagos to inflate the cost of their trips.

In some cases, inflated trips can cost riders more than double the rate they should be paying. “It’s more like a parasite,” says Mohammed, a driver for both Uber and Taxify in Lagos. “It sets the false GPS movement while allowing the phone also to keep track of its actual movement. The Uber app can’t tell the difference between both so it just calculates both.”

When a driver uses Lockito for an Uber trip he or she can have the fake GPS running (and calculating a fake fare) from the pickup point to the drop off location, before the passenger has even got into the car. When the real trip starts, the real GPS starts running and calculating the actual fare. But at the end of the journey the fares from both trips (real and fake) are tallied up as one fare which the unsuspecting rider pays.

Uber Nigeria is aware of the abuse of Lockito by certain drivers. Spokeswoman Francesca Uriri, said it is in violation of Uber’s guidelines and the company is “constantly on the lookout for fraud by drivers and riders who are gaming our systems.”

The drivers Quartz spoke with said Lockito or “Locki”, is simply a reaction to Uber’s 40% slash of its base fare implemented in May. Many drivers were unhappy about the price drop and there were a series of protests which had little impact.

Williams*, an Uber driver who asked his real name not to be used, says he heard about Lockito a while ago but initially had no interest in using it. “Uber was sweet, until they slashed the price,” he says. “They did not bring back their price up, so the work started getting tough and tougher.”

“When the thing was just getting tougher, I had no choice but to go on Lockito.”

He claims he uses the app four to five times a week, but has specific targets and does not use it on just anyone.

Williams says the main reason he uses the app is to ensure he can meet his weekly payments to his Uber partner [the owner of the car], a situation he says many other drivers are in. Most ridesharing drivers in Nigeria do not own their cars, instead they partner with car owners and pay them a weekly fee, which according to Williams has become harder to meet as a result of the base fare slash.

Despite coming out of recession in September, the economic situation is still tough in Nigeria, which is still struggling to bounce back from the global drop in oil prices. A recent report from the World Poverty Clock predicts that by February 2018 Nigeria will overtake India and become the country with the most people living in extreme poverty. Food prices are still high although inflation has dropped and many Nigerians still lack access to basic amenities. Unemployment and underemployment are rife, leading some Nigerians to cut corners to make things work.

In recent weeks, two Uber drivers representing other drivers on the platform have started a class action suit in Nigeria’s economic hub arguing that they should receive employee benefits from Uber.

“There are a lot of drivers on Locki, every driver on Uber is on Locki,” Williams says. “The only ones that are different is the new drivers…and they’re still coming to us to teach them Locki.”

Some drivers use Lockito to inflate fares by adding 1000 naira to 2000 naira extra (roughly $3 to $6) but some drivers are believed to inflate fares to exorbitant levels.

A trip from Lekki, a neighbourhood in Lagos, to Murtala Muhammad International airport is roughly 32 kilometers and would normally cost just under 3,000 naira ($8). Williams says he recently heard of a Lockito trip that cost more than 5 times that amount.

Williams’ highest Lockito ride so far is 10,000 naira, (the trip normally would have cost the rider N3,000), and although he has expressed guilt over using the app he remains adamant that an increase of the base fare is the only way to stop it being used, a sentiment shared by other drivers.

“If you block that same Lockito today, another one will come out,” says Uchenna*, a partner and driver on Uber who claims not to use Lockito. “If that base fare is normal [and] everybody’s receiving their incentive on a normal level, that thing [Lockito] will go off. They want to get the normal, accurate price that Uber were before.”

“Lockito or no Lockito,” adds another driver who asked not to be named, “if Uber want the Lockito not to exist, that means they have to come back to the base fare.”

Perhaps most surprisingly, drivers accuse Uber of not only knowing about app, but purposely not doing anything about it because they still want to maximize their profits.

“If you’re using Lockito [with] Uber [it] will tell you “fake location detected”…they will tell you [the driver],” says Williams. “Sometimes when I run it [Lockito], Uber will tell me, “your map of your location…is fake,” you’ll now click OK…and still yet, I take my money…”

Uber denies these allegations. “Uber has automated rules in place that warns and permanently deactivates any account or accounts associated with fraudulent activity,” Uriri says. “Uber encourages both riders and driver-partners to rate their journey at the end of the trip. Honest feedback helps ensure that everyone is accountable for their behavior.”

Uber says all riders that report fraudulent activity will be refunded. But Uriri adds that the use of the Lockito will not impact Uber’s pricing policy.

Taxify, one of Uber’s biggest rivals in Nigeria, has been blocking drivers that try to use Lockito.

“You can’t do that anymore on Taxify, they were doing it before on Taxify but then Taxify made drivers update the app, once you update your app, you can’t use Lockito anymore,” says Williams.

Despite issues with the base fare, Uber’s brand stays strong in Nigeria and drivers want the company to remain, but only if the system changes. This is important as competition increases from newcomers including local e-hailing apps like Motionplus and Alpha One, some of which are offering to pay fuel for drivers.

“I pray Uber should learn from now,” says Williams. “This is Nigeria, not abroad, the more things are getting worse, the more drivers are planning things.”

20,000 teachers in Nigeria face getting sacked after failing test meant for 10-year-olds

More than 20,000 teachers in Nigeria are facing the sack after failing competency tests designed for children aged ten. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has backed the plan in the northern Kaduna state and branded the situation ‘tragic’.

He said: ‘It is a very very serious situation when teachers cannot pass the exam they are supposed to teach the children to pass. Is a very tragic situation we are in.’ Kaduna Governor Mallam Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai tweeted the test results of the primary teachers last week. He asked the public: ‘Would you allow someone like this to each your child.’

The Governor said teachers who were marked below 75% will be sacked but they can re-apply if they can improve their grades. The BBC reported least 19,000 applications had already been received to replace the teachers who will be sacked. Labour unions opposed the plans to sack the teachers and branded the move ‘propaganda’.

UN children’s agency Unicef found Nigeria has the highest number of out-of-school children in the world. Around ten million children have no access to basic education in Nigeria and Unicef described the education system as beset by poor teachers with a lack of proper facilities.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Video - Italy opens investigation on the death of 26 Nigerian girls

Italy has opened investigations into the death of 26 African girls whose bodies have been found in the Mediterranean Sea this week. A Libyan and an Egyptian were arrested on suspicions of involvement of what Italian official believe could be a murder case.

Nigerian soldier kills captain then commits suicide

A Nigerian Army captain who led an emergency response team was killed in Adamawa State on Sunday, gunned down by a fellow soldier who subsequently took his own life, PREMIUM TIMES has learnt.

The Army said the tragic incident happened in Chibok, Borno State.

Our sources said a report of the incident has been filed by the Nigerian Army 28 Brigade Headquaters in Mubi, Adamawa State, to the 7 Division Headquarters in Maiduguri, Borno State.

Those familiar with the incident said Army captain, T. Mani, was on Sunday morning patrol with other officers when they responded to a distress call that Silas Ninyo, a staff sergeant, was beating civilians at a nearby location.

Upon arrival, Mr. Mani and his team members prevailed on Mr. Ninyo and rescued the civilians from him; but the situation quickly turned fatal when the service men tried to disarm their raging colleague.

Mr. Ninyo opened fire, killing Mr. Mani, authorities said.

The incident occurred at about 12:50 p.m. and the remains of the two soldiers were later deposited at Brigade Medical Centre in Yola, the state capital.

All officers around the brigade have been warned to be on the alert as whole-scale investigation of the incident continued.

The tragedy appears to be the deadliest episode of soldier-on-soldier violence amongst Nigerian troops in recent months, although security analysts believe mutinous attacks are not uncommon.

“Unfortunately, conflict between armed service members is not an unusual occurrence,” said security analyst Mukhtar Dan’Iyan. “Hopefully, escalation to this extent won’t happen again anytime soon as it diminishes professionalism and erodes esprit de corps.”

The incident report said the motives for Mr. Ninyo’s attack on the civilians and the deadly assault on his senior colleague were not immediately clear.

Nigerian Army spokesperson, Sani Usman, did not initially respond to requests for comments.

He however later issued a statement saying the army has raised a board of inquiry to probe the incident.

The statement reads, “The Headquarters of 28 Task Force Brigade, Nigerian Army, has instituted a Board of Inquiry (BOI) to unravel the circumstances surrounding the shooting incident that resulted in the death of an Officer and a Senior Non-Commission Officer (SNCO), deployed on duty at Chibok, Borno State earlier today Sunday, 12th November 2017.

“At about 12.50pm today, the unit received a report that a Staff was seen to be drunk and misbehaving to civilians. An officer was despatched to the scene with a view to bring him back to base. The officer did his best but the SNCO refused several entreaties to calm him and be disarmed by the superior officer. Unfortunately, the Staff Sergeant shot the officer dead and then killed himself.

“Their remains have since been evacuated to a military facility. The BOI is expected investigate the incident and promptly turn in its report and findings in one week.

“The Nigerian Army is a disciplined and professional force with zero tolerance for any acts of indiscipline and misdemeanor.

“The death of the officer and the Staff Sergeant is painful and a great loss to the unit and the Nigerian Army.”

Adamawa State has witnessed renewed Boko Haram attacks in recent weeks, with Boko Haram killing scores in successive attacks on Madagali Local Government Area amidst fears that the insurgents might have returned to areas that were amongst the earliest to be liberated during the 2014 and 2015 military offensive.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Drivers in Lagos, Nigeria suing uber for employee status

Uber is facing an old problem but in a new place.

The ride-hailing company has faced lawsuits from drivers who argue they are employees rather than independent contractors in several cities where it operates and it can now add one more city to the list: Lagos.

Two drivers representing other drivers on the platform have started a class action suit in Nigeria’s economic hub arguing that they should receive employee benefits from Uber. The suit poses that “by virtue of the nature of the defendant’s control over the claimants and members of their class, they are not meant to be classified as independent contractors.” The suit also wants Uber to be mandated to provide its drivers with health insurance and pension benefits. Uber launched in Lagos in August 2014.

Uber’s classification of drivers as independent contractors is fundamental to how it operates as it allows the company avoid paying any employee benefits, a guaranteed minimum wage or be liable for any extra expenses incurred by the drivers. Employing all its drivers as staff will prove expensive even for a company possibly valued at over $100 billion.

Uber’s company’s relationship with its drivers has long been subject to lots of scrutiny—and lawsuits—with mixed results. In one of the most prominent cases, back in April 2016, Uber reached a prominent $100 million settlement in a class-action suit which included nearly 400,000 drivers in Massachusetts and California which let it to continue classifying them as independent contractors. (The settlement was later rejected as being unfair by a US district judge). Elsewhere, in June, New York’s state labor department ruled that three former Uber drivers were eligible to receive unemployment benefits.

Across Africa where it has now operated for four years, Uber’s challenges have often come more in form of protests than lawsuits. Local taxi drivers have claimed that ride-hailing company and its driver have an unfair advantage as they don’t have to pay taxi union levies and fees. In South Africa, the face-off has spurned violent protests and, to better protect drivers, Uber launched in-vehicle SOS buttons. In Nigeria, the company has also faced strike actions from its drivers who claim fares are too low.

Nigerians warned about investing in bitcoins

Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) ​has​ warned ​Nigerians ​against ​investing in digital currencies, especially Bitcoins​.

It stated that such currencies were yet to be approved by Nigerian regulators.

Chief Executive Officer, NDIC, Alhaji Umaru Ibrahim ​spoke on Thursday at the ongoing Lagos International Trade Fair.

Represented by the Director, Claims Resolution, Mr. A.S Bello, ​the CEO said: “The protection of the depositor remains our top priority.​

“​That is why we continue to stress the need for depositors to patronise only financial institutions that are licensed by the CBN and which display the NDIC Sticker with the words ‘insured by NDIC’ in their banking halls or entrances.

“It is for this reason that I must sound a word of warning against patronising dubious fund managers, otherwise known as “Wonder Banks”. They persuade their unsuspecting victims to part with their hard earned money with promises of interest rates that are unrealistically high as the returns on their investments.

“The result is the loss of vital savings and sometimes disastrous consequences to the lives of the victims.

​”​Also, the emerging trend of investing in digital currencies popularly known as Bitcoins is equally dangerous because just like the “Wonder Banks’, the digital currencies are not licensed by the CBN and are therefore not insured by the NDIC.”

​Ibrahim ​disclosed that the corporation had paid over N100 billion to depositors of liquidated banks​, adding that the payments​ were announced​ ​via newspapers, radio and television​.

“We implore those depositors who have not responded to our calls to come forward to collect their insured deposits and liquidation dividends already declared for uninsured deposits,”
​he​ added.

$43.5m discovered in flat in Lagos, Nigeria linked sacked Director General

A Nigerian judge has ordered the seizure of a flat linked to the former head of the country’s National Intelligence Agency after more than $43m in cash was found during an anti-corruption raid.

Judge Saliu Seidu, sitting at the federal high court in Lagos, said the apartment in the upmarket Ikoyi area of the city should be temporarily forfeited to the government, pending any challenge within 14 days.

Acting on a tip-off, agents from Economic and Financial Crimes Commission raided the property on 12 April this year and discovered just under $43.5m (£33.1m).

They also found £27,800 as well as 23.2m naira (£49,600), the court was told.

Documents established the flat was bought in 2015 by Folashade Oke, the wife of Ayodele Oke, who at the time was director general of the NIA.

It was alleged she bought the property using $1.66m from government funds to which her husband had access.

President Muhammadu Buhari was elected in 2015 on a promise to cut endemic corruption in government and has vowed to recover what he said were “mind-boggling” sums of stolen public money.

Oke, who had been suspended for keeping an unauthorised stash of cash in a private home, was sacked last week along with the country’s most senior civil servant, Babachir Lawal.

Lawal was accused of awarding deals for reconstruction in areas of north-east Nigeria hit by Boko Haram’s Islamist insurgency to companies in which he had a personal interest.

Buhari’s handling of the two cases has been seen as a litmus test for the extent of his anti-corruption drive, given that most of those arrested and charged so far have been high-profile members of the main opposition.

The Oke case was adjourned until 30 November.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Video - Nigeria partners with China to start business exchange program

Nigeria has partnered with China in opening a way for small and medium sized businesses to interact through an exchange program. According the country's statistics bureau, there are more Chinese construction companies operating in Nigeria, than anywhere else in Africa. And expansion is expected in other sectors too. But some experts argue Africa's most populous country must do more to protect its local industries.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

70% percent of medication in circulation in Nigeria is fake

At least 70 per cent of pharmaceutical products circulating in Nigeria are fake, says Andrew Nevin, the Financial Services Advisory Leader and Chief Economist, Project Blue PWc Nigeria.

Mr. Nevin said this in his keynote address at the opening of the 90th Annual National Conference of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) in Umuahia, the Abia capital.

According to him, Africa records at least 100,000 deaths, arising from fake drug-related ailments, annually.

He, therefore, underscored the need for the federal government, National Agency for Foods and Drugs Administration and Control, NAFDAC, and other relevant agencies to intensify the war agianst fake and counterfeit drugs in the country.

“This will go a long way in reducing the harmful effects of the menace on the citizenry and the nation’s economy.”

Mr. Nevin expressed delight that Nigeria had achieved “significant progress” in reducing sexually transmitted diseases and infant mortality.

He, however, expressed concern that Nigeria’s population had been on a steady rise while its Gross Domestic Product is on the downward trend.

In his speech to declare the week-long event open, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu also tasked NAFDAC to check the perceived abuse in the certification of traditional medicines.

Mr. Ikpeazu called on the agency to withdraw “its stamp of authority from all producers herbal medicines that it cannot vouch for their efficacy.

“I am worried at the use of herbal drugs. NAFDAC has not helped matters also.

“It is amazing to see different concoctions with label from NAFDAC and to an average Nigerian, once you see NAFDAC number on a product, it means a seal of authority.”

He appealed to the federal government to regulate the importation of drugs as a means of encouraging indigenous pharmaceutical firms.

He also urged drug manufacturers in the country to take steps to make their products affordable to the ordinary Nigerian.

In an address of welcome, the National President of PSN, Ahmed Yakasai, said that the association had embarked on an advocacy for the local manufacturing of pharmaceuticals.

Mr. Yakasai, however, underscored the need for governments at all levels to create the enabling environment for the pharmaceutical sector in Nigeria to thrive, stressing that “PSN believes in Nigeria-made medicines.”

He mentioned the donation of drugs worth over N50 million to Internally Displaced Persons in the North-east, among others, as some of the key achievements of the association under his watch.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that major highlights of the conference were the conferment of awards to some eminent Nigerians, including Ikpeazu, the unveiling of new products and products exhibition.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Video - Nigerian banks head to court over plan to forfeit unclaimed funds

Commercial banks are lobbying the Attorney General's office to back down on the government's plan to seize money from accounts with no Bank Verification Numbers. A high court in Abuja has ordered the forfeiture of all funds in accounts owned by corporates, government agencies and individuals without B-V-Ns. The order is, however, not final yet. Clients affected have 14 days to claim ownership and show cause why the amounts in their accounts should not be forfeited to the government.

26 Nigerian women among the dead found on boat headed to Italy

Italian prosecutors have commenced investigations into the deaths of 26 Nigerian women whose bodies were recovered at sea, BBC reported on Monday.

The victims, who are mostly teenagers, aged 14-18, are believed to have been sexually abused and murdered as they attempted to cross the Mediterranean.

Following several rescues, their bodies were discovered in a Spanish warship, Cantabria, carrying 375 migrants and the dead women; 23 of whom women had been on a rubber boat with 64 other people.

Italian media reported that the women’s bodies were being kept in a refrigerated section of the warship. Most of the 375 survivors brought to Salerno were sub-Saharan Africans from Nigeria, Senegal, Ghana, The Gambia and Sudan.

Among the 375 survivors were 90 women, eight of them pregnant, 52 children and some Libyan men and women on board.

People-smuggling gangs charge each migrant about $6,000 (£4,578) to get to Italy, $4,000 of which is for the trans-Saharan journey to Libya and many migrants have reported violence, including torture and sexual abuse, by the gangs.

Five migrants are being questioned in the southern port of Salerno.

Thousands of Nigerians travel through the desert to Libya from where they try to cross the Mediterranean to Italy seeking better life.

Hundreds of such Nigerians, who could not make the crossing, end up getting trapped in Libya with many of them eventually returning to Nigeria with the help of the International Organisation for Migration.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Video - A conversation with Wole Soyinka

For Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka its been a journey of many years, living and telling the African story: Its richness, complexity and its gradual evolution from a traditional to a modern society.

A towering figure in African literature, Soyinka who was born in Abeokuta in western Nigeria was jailed for his criticism of the Nigerian government in the 1960's; famously composing protest poems on toilet paper from his cell in solitary confinement. In 1986, he would become the first African to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature.

He made headlines again last year when he destroyed his green card following the election of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency. Soyinka shares his perspectives on contemporary society, this week on Talk Africa!

Oil spills in Nigeria could potentially kill 16,000 babies a year

Nigeria, one of the world’s most oil-rich countries, has a history of catastrophic oil spills that have wreaked havoc on the environment and local communities.

But a new study says that oil spills may have also claimed the lives of thousands of babies born to mothers who live in areas contaminated by such incidents.

The study, published as a working paper by the CESifo group, found that if an oil spill occurred within 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) of the residence of a mother before she fell pregnant, the mother’s baby would be twice as likely to die. Oil spills that occurred while the mother was actually pregnant did not have an impact on child or neonatal mortality, according to the study.

Researchers found that even if the oil spill occurred five years before the mother conceived, it still resulted in the neonatal mortality rate doubling from 38 deaths per year to 76 deaths per year for every 1,000 live births.

Given that there were almost 5.3 million live births in Nigeria in 2012 and that around 8.05 percent of these births took place within 10 kilometers of an oil spill, the authors estimated that oil spills could have killed around 16,000 infants within their first month of life in 2012.

Roland Hodler, the study’s lead author, told the Guardian that the results constituted a “tragedy.”

“Even four to five years prior to conception, an oil spill still matters. I think this should be seen as a first-world problem for something to be done,” said Hodler.

Oil spills are a fairly common occurrence in the Niger Delta region, a huge area of swamplands in southern Nigeria. The Nigerian Oil Spill Monitor has recorded more than 11,500 since 2006—when a government agency was set up to detect and investigate oil spills—though a few hundred of these were mistaken reports.

The spills have led to accusations from Nigerians that international oil companies are exploiting the country’s natural resources. Royal Dutch Shell paid out £55 million ($83.5 million) to some 15,600 farmers and fishermen from the Bodo community in 2015 after two massives oil spills in 2008.

Spills have also been a factor in periods of militancy in the region, most recently led by the Niger Delta Avengers.

The CESifo study, which was published as a working paper, looked at the effect of oil spills on mortality rates for infants born in the nine oil-producing states of the Niger Delta—Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Imo, Ondo and Rivers—to infants born elsewhere.

It paired data from the Nigerian Oil Spill Monitor with results from a 2013 national demographic and health survey and, overall, included data of around 5,000 children born to 2,700 mothers in 130 clusters that were all located within 10 kilometers of an oil spill.

The study compared mortality rates and health of siblings born before and after nearby oil spills. It found that the closer a child was born to the site of an oil spill, the higher the rate of neonatal mortality, and that oil spills prior to conception also resulted in increased wasting—i.e. low weight or stunted growth—among children.

The study also cited other research that showed the health impacts of oil-related pollution on unborn and newborn infants. For example, newborn infants have not yet developed the blood-brain barrier—a selective membrane that separates blood circulating in the brain from other fluid circulating around the body—which protects the brain from toxic chemicals.

Hodler told the Guardian he was unsure why oil spills did not have a pronounced effect on neonatal mortality if the spill occurred during the course of pregnancy. “Why we don’t find a stronger effect during the pregnancy is not entirely clear—maybe it is due to the cumulative contamination of crude oil in the water and soil, which increases over time. But that doesn’t explain the entire effect,” said Hodler.

In 2016, the Nigerian government launched a $1 billion cleanup operation in Ogoniland, an area of the Niger Delta that has been stricken by widespread oil pollution in recent years. Shell only began a cleanup operation following the 2008 and 2009 spills in the Bodo community earlier in 2017.

Nigeria has traditionally been Africa’s biggest oil producer, but the industry dipped below that of Angola in 2016 after a sustained period of militancy saw many oil pipelines attacked. The Niger Delta Avengers had agreed a ceasefire with the government in August 2016, but announced on Friday that it planned to resume attacks and warned that “every oil installation in our region will feel warmth of the wrath of the Niger Delta Avengers.”

Aliko Dangote pledges $100 million to fight malnutrition in Nigeria

Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man, has pledged to invest $100 million over 5 years to tackle malnutrition in Nigeria’s worst affected regions.

The Managing Director and CEO of the Dangote Foundation, Zouera Youssoufou, disclosed this at the just concluded Global Nutrition Summit held in Milan, Italy.

The event, which was attended by leading global corporations, civil society organizations, government officials, foundations, and international agencies, aims to accelerate the global response to malnutrition, an underlying cause of nearly half of all global child deaths.

“Nigeria’s high malnutrition rate is undermining progress towards improving child health and survival and putting the brakes on economic development. By investing in nutrition, we aim to directly improve the lives of Nigerian families and to empower our citizens to reach their full potential,” Youssoufou said in a press release.

The Dangote Foundation, which Aliko Dangote founded in 1993, makes social investments in health, education, economic empowerment and disaster relief. By making this $100 million commitment, the Aliko Dangote Foundation plans to reduce the prevalence of under nutrition by 60% in the most needy areas of Nigeria, specifically the North-East and North-West.

Aliko Dangote is currently worth $13.7 billion.

Nigerian government wants to meet with militants after ceasefire cancelled

The minister for Nigeria’s oil-producing Delta region said on Monday the government was ready to meet militants days after they called off a year-long ceasefire.

Usani Uguru Usani asked the Niger Delta Avengers to be patient and said the government was pushing through development schemes in the southern territory where rights groups have long complained about poverty and pollution.

The Avengers - whose attacks on energy facilities in the Niger Delta last year helped push Africa’s biggest economy into recession - called off the ceasefire on Friday.

The announcement threatened to push one of Nigeria’s economic heartlands further into turmoil and disrupt the country’s fragile recovery.

It also piled pressure onto President Muhammadu Buhari who is already facing the jihadist Boko Haram insurgency in the northeast and rising calls for secession in the southeast.

“If the Avengers wants to meet with us, we are ready to meet with them ... We are at all times ready to engage them and other groups and stakeholders,” Usani told reporters at the presidential villa in Abuja.

“My message to the Avengers is that they should be patient with the government. We have been doing what we can to ensure the development of the region. Everything has a phase of planning and a phase of execution so I will advise all stakeholders to remain calm,” he added.

The government has been in talks for more than a year to address grievances over poverty and oil pollution but local groups have complained that no progress has been made, despite Buhari receiving a list of demands at a meeting last November.

Attacks in 2016 cut oil production from a peak of 2.2 million barrels per day (mbpd) to near 1 mbpd, the lowest level in Africa’s top oil producer for at least 30 years.

The attacks, combined with low oil prices, caused the OPEC member’s first recession in 25 years. Crude sales make up two-thirds of government revenue and most of its foreign exchange.

Nigeria came out of recession in the second quarter of this year as prices strengthened, attacks ended and oil production rose.

British hostage killed in Nigeria, three others freed

A British national kidnapped in Nigeria’s southern Delta state was killed and three others released, the BBC reported, citing the U.K.’s Foreign Office.

The four were reportedly abducted on October 13, according to the BBC. The state is part of the country’s oil-producing Niger River region, where armed militants have kidnapped foreigners and Nigerians in the past, demanding ransoms for their release.

The British High Commission and Nigerian authorities negotiated the release of the three hostages who survived and the kidnapping is being investigated, a spokesperson for the British Foreign Office, whose name was not given, was quoted as saying.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Militant group Niger Delta Avengers to end ceasefire in Nigeria

Nigerian militant group Niger Delta Avengers said on Friday its ceasefire on attacks in the country’s southern oil-rich region was at an end.

“We can assure you that every oil installation in our region will feel the warmth of the wrath of the Niger Delta Avengers,” the group said in a statement on its website.

Attacks on oil facilities in the Niger Delta in 2016 cut Nigeria’s oil production to its lowest level in at least 30 years. 

Nigerians in Chinese prisons request transfer to Nigerian prisons

Many prisoners have inundated Nigeria, asking to be transferred from Chinese prisons, but such transfers are impossible for now.

Transfer of prisoners from China to Nigeria can only be possible if there is a signed treaty to the effect by the two countries.

There is no treaty between the countries for prisoners’ transfer, when that exists the transfer of prisoners would be possible, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa, has said.

Dabiri-Erewa said at the seminar on Nigeria-China relations in Abuja on Thursday that, “We get a lot of appeals and some prisoners say they want to move from one prison there to another, it is not going to happen”.

“We have been talking to them but their law is their law. My appeal to Nigerians is to obey the laws of that country because it is getting tougher; they have sanctions and they follow through.”

She also said that Nigerian businesses were thriving in China.

Dabiri-Erewa urged Nigerian citizens in China to abide by the laws of that country.

She said that there were about 500 Nigerians in Chinese prisons for various offences.

She also refuted claims that there were thousands of Nigerians detained in Chinese prisons.

“You hear 2000 but that is exaggerated. I think we have less than 500 Nigerians in Chinese prisons.

She urged Nigerians to learn from the Chinese culture of discipline and persistence in promoting national development.

“Discipline and leadership are what we should learn from China; they have a plan for the next 20 years, even the young ones in schools are being groomed for that plan.

“They also have we can do spirit, it is working for them.

She also called for continuous support for the current administration’s effort in the fight against corruption.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Video - Nigeria child mortality due to pollution-related illnesses rises

The deaths of children in Nigeria from pollution-related illnesses are on the increasing.

And oil operations in the Niger Delta region are being blamed.

Researchers say 16,000 infants died in 2012 - but that figure continues to grow with greater contamination of food, air and water.

Grazing ban put in place to stop cattle wars in Nigeria

Nigeria has implemented a controversial ban on cattle grazing they say will bring peace to the area, but opponents have decried as a recipe for anarchy.

The ban, in the south-eastern Benue state, follows years violent and often deadly clashes between nomadic Fulani herdsman and local farmers.

The herders accuse farmers of killing their cattle while the farmers say the animals are destroying their crops.

The new law would require everyone to keep their livestock on ranches.

Those breaking the law face the possibility of a five year jail sentence.

The Fulani herdsman say it unfairly targets their nomadic way of life, but the Benue state government says its aim is to restore peace, reports the BBC's Chris Ewokor from the capital, Abuja.

Destruction of communities

The herders have been forced from their more traditional grazing lands in the north by the Boko Haram insurgency, and the encroaching desert.

It has put them in direct conflict with local farmers, resulting in death and the destruction of entire communities.

The Global Terrorism Index says Fulani militants were responsible for almost 1,800 deaths during 2014 and 2015, leading to the government ordering a crackdown on the herders.

It considers the herders' raids as the second-biggest threat to peace in the country after the Islamist Boko Haram militants.

However, the Fulani insist they are only trying to defend themselves and preserve their way of life.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Video - Nigerian charity aims to end stigma through education

A charity in Nigeria is calling on the government for more assistance in the care of nearly a million children living with disabilities. Aid workers say the problem extends beyond young people with physical impairments. Many children face discrimination at home and in their communities -- driven by mis-information.

Video - Nigerians celebrate Anthony Joshua after another win

We begin with boxing news, and Nigerians have been celebrating British boxer Joshua Anthony as one of their own. Born in Nigeria, Anthony at the weekend retained all his world titles agains Carlos Takan. And Nigerians made sure they didn't miss a second of the action.

Video - Court orders Nigeria to pay $244 million to victims of Biafran war

An ECOWAS regional court sitting in Abuja has ordered the Nigerian government to pay 244 million dollars in compensation to those affected by the Biafran war. The court has found the Nigerian government guilty of failing to de-mine and remove unexploded devices from the 11 states where the civil war was fought between 1967 and 1970.

EFCC charges 9 suspects for using ghost workers

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC on Wednesday arraigned nine suspects for allegedly being responsible for several ghost workers on the payroll of the federal government.

The suspects include Usman Dayo, Osuntope Opeyemi, Johnson Adedokun, Ojeido Sylvanus, Oyebode Ayodeji, Florence Dada, Olaolu Dada, Blessing Ejeh and Aderibigbe Taiwo.

Many of the suspects are civil servants from government agencies like the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources; Environment Ministry and the Federal Civil Service Commission, FCSC.

The federal government has repeatedly said it lost billions of naira to ghost workers and has removed thousands of them from its payroll.

The suspects were charged for allegedly creating and inserting fictitious names in the payroll of the federal government for salaries and allowances without official consent, thereby causing the loss of several millions of Naira.

The offence is said be in contravention of Section 289 of the Criminal Act.

They were arraigned before Justice U. P. Kekemeke of Court 14, Federal High Court, Apo, Abuja.

When the charges against them were read out, all the nine suspects pleaded not guilty.

The court subsequently adjourned their trial to November 8.

Investigators from the anti-graft agency said in the course of investigations, one of the suspects was found to own and operate about 200 personal accounts with different banks in Abuja.

Another reportedly used the particulars of his family members to operate several accounts in various banks.

Another suspect was said to own more than 50 houses in various locations in Abuja and its environs.

The EFCC prosecution counsel, Mukhtar Mohammed, asked the court to remand the suspects in prison custody pending the commencement of their trial, after they pleaded not guilty to the charges against them.

Granting the request of the prosecution, Justice Peter Kekemeke adjourned till November 8 to hear applications by counsel to three of the suspects for plea bargaining.

The three suspects had applied through their lawyers to forfeit some property and cash in lieu of their conviction for the crimes.

The female suspects were remanded in Suleja Prisons in Niger State, while their male counterparts will stay at Kuje Prisons.

The alleged fraud by the suspects were uncovered by the Presidential Initiative on Continuous Auditing, PICA, constituted by President Muhammadu Buhari in March 2016 to strengthen the controls over government personnel and pension costs.

PICA was set up to ensure that all federal government revenue receipts and payments were subjected financial rules and regulations

It is the first time government would be arraigning civil servants for allegedly inserting names of ghost workers into government payroll despite years of reports of losses of billions of naira through such practices at federal ministries, departments and agencies.

Despite government’s claim of recovering huge sums in recent times, no official of any of the agencies had been brought to face trial.