Monday, September 24, 2018

Pirates kidnap 12 swiss crew members from commercial ship

Twelve crew members of a Swiss commercial ship have been taken hostage by pirates who attacked the vessel as it sailed off the coast of Nigeria.

Massoel Shipping said in a statement Sunday that the ship MV Glarus, with 19 crew on board, was attacked as it was carrying wheat from the Nigerian commercial capital Lagos to Port Harcourt.

Reuters news agency reported late Sunday the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) had identified the nationalities of the kidnapped crew. It said seven crew members were from the Philippines and others were from Slovenia, Ukraine, Romania, Croatia and Bosnia.

Nigerian officials said the 12 were still unaccounted for.

Massoel Shipping said the vessel was attacked around 45 nautical miles southwest of Bonny Island early Saturday.

"It is understood the pirate gang boarded the Glarus by means of long ladders and cut the razor wire on deck to gain access to the vessel and eventually the bridge," the company said. "Having destroyed much of the vessel's communications equipment, the criminal gang departed, taking 12 of the 19 crew complement as hostage."

Piracy has been rising in the southern Niger Delta region in the past few years, along with the number sailors kidnapped for ransom.

According to a study published by the EOS Risk Group in July, the number of kidnappings in the region rose from 52 in 2016 to 75 last year. In the first half of this year, pirated kidnapped 35 sailors, it said.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Video - Nigeria's ruling and opposition parties accused of favoring rich aspirants

In Nigeria criticism is mounting against two of the country's main political parties, the ruling APC and the opposition PDP, allegedly for skewing political contest in favour of the rich. APC and PDP are set to hold party primaries in the coming weeks but they are being accused of limiting the participation of the majority-poor by charging steep fees for fresh entrants.

Relaunch of Nigerian airline suspended

Nigeria is suspending the relaunch of its national airline just over two months after it announced the new venture, the country's aviation minister has said.

The government had planned to launch the prestige project in December to make good on a promise by Muhammadu Buhari when he ran for president in 2015. He will seek re-election in February.

"I regret to announce that the Federal Executive Council has taken the tough decision to suspend the national carrier project in the interim," Hadi Sirika, junior aviation minister, said on Wednesday on Twitter after the weekly cabinet meeting.

"All commitments due will be honoured," he said. No reason was given for the decision.

In a separate statement, Sirika said: "The suspension was strategic and had nothing to do with politics."

The airline relaunch was announced in July as part of a plan to improve the country's infrastructure, which has suffered due to decades of neglect and underinvestment. The government maintains that improvement will require private investment.

A private operator was sought to manage the airline, according to a document seen by Reuters news agency.

The operator would enter a public-private partnership with the government, which would own no more than five percent.

The chief executive of Ethiopian Airlines said in August the airline was a frontrunner to set up and manage the carrier.

Nigeria Airways, the original national airline, operated for 45 years until 2003. Air Nigeria, its successor, ran from 2005 to 2012.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Video - Nigeria may declare national disaster as flood death toll rises to 100

Authorities in Nigeria say more than 100 people have been killed in the floods across the country in the past two weeks. Heavy rains have caused the country's two major rivers -- the Niger and Benue -- to overflow. Dozens of communities have been completely submerged, thousands of people displaced and vast swathes of farmlands destroyed. Rural areas are the worst hit. The government is urging residents living along waterways to relocate to higher places. It's also considering declaring a state of emergency to free up funding and ensure a more effective response. Nigeria is battered by floods almost every year. Analysts blame it on a lack of proper town planning, blocked waterways and poor drainage.

Video - Nigeria floods displaces more than 30,000 people

Nigeria's Emergency Management Agency estimates more than 100 people have been killed, and 30 thousand displaced by flooding in the past two weeks alone.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The battle to dispel black magic behind sex slavery in Nigeria

BENIN CITY, Nigeria, Sept 18 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - When Florence broke out in lesions on her face, she was convinced it was because she had crossed a black magic curse cast on her as she left Nigeria to work in Russia's sex trade.

Florence is one of a rising number of women lured in recent years from impoverished lives in southern Nigeria to Europe with the promise of lucrative work, many ending up selling sex.

Although some of the women knowingly entered into contracts for sex work, few realised they would be trapped like slaves for years, with their traffickers colluding with madams to ensure black magic curses, or juju, stopped them escaping.

For belief in juju to kill or maim is deeply rooted in Edo state, the home of about nine in every 10 Nigerian women trafficked to Europe, according to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC), with a battle now waging to end witchcraft's hold over trafficking victims.

Florence, 24, said she had not known she was headed for sex work six years ago when she agreed to a loan to fund a trip to work in Russia in a deal brokered by a pastor from her church.

Before leaving her home in Benin, the capital city of Edo, she was taken to a juju priest who used her hair and clothing to make a spell to bind her to her traffickers then she was taken to Lagos where she was raped before being sent to Russia.

"They took my pants. They took my bra. They took my hair from my armpits and also from my private parts," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"(The madam) used those items she took from me to take as vengeance against me."

She was convinced that juju was to blame for facial lesions that erupted in 2016 after she refused to give her captors any more money after paying them 45,000 euro ($53,000) and fled back to Nigeria.


Florence's fear of black magic if she disobeyed her traffickers, went to the police or failed to pay her debt is typical for many women trafficked from Nigeria, experts say.

Many end up enslaved after signing a contract to finance their move, leaving them with debts that spiral into thousands of dollars and take years to pay off.

Between 2014 and 2016, there was an almost 10-fold increase in the number of Nigerian women arriving in Italy by boat - about 11,000 - with at least four in five becoming prostitutes, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

But law enforcement officials and campaigners are hoping the intervention this year by Oba Ewuare II, leader of the historic kingdom of Benin, could end this burgeoning trade.

In March, the Oba summoned the kingdom's juju priests to a ceremony at his palace and dismissed the curses they had placed on trafficking victims - and cast a fresh curse on anyone who went against his order.

Since then, anecdotal evidence from people involved in the trade suggests the trafficking has slowed although it is too soon for firm data to be collated.

Patience, 42, who has supplemented her income as a hairdresser by selling girls into overseas sex work for about 16 years, said the leader's ceremony had stopped the trafficking.

"I didn't hear directly from his mouth but, through the radio and television. The Oba has stopped everything," Patience told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in her home in Benin, where she lives with her husband and four children.

"Whenever I go out, I meet girls who beg me to take them to Europe but I refuse because I don't want to die. Everybody is afraid."

David Edebiri, the second highest ranking chief in Benin, said he believes the Oba's involvement, inspired by repeated bad press in the international media, has reduced trafficking and could help bring more traffickers to justice as many women involved were previously too afraid of juju rituals to testify.

"It has been very, very effective and that if even anything is going on now, it must be a very minute dimension. Not as it was before (when) it was becoming everybody's game," he said.


But with unemployment in Edo at 20 percent, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, women especially are hard pressed to find work. Living standards are low with large families to feed and few outlets to earn.

Nigeria has the most extreme poor people in the world, according to The World Poverty Clock, with almost half of its 180 million population living on less than $2 a day.

So many women, like Betty, say the crackdown on traffickers taking girls for sex work in other countries - often with the knowledge of their families - is unlikely to stop the industry.

When Betty touched down in Nigeria from Belgium two years ago, she knelt on the tarmac, raised her hands, and thanked God she was home after five years of being trapped in sex work repaying debts.

Now Betty, 29 and single, can't wait to get back to Europe.

She has not found work since returning to Benin. She avoids her mother, a fish seller, who is distraught about her daughter's fall from grace.

"When I was in Europe, I was like a celebrity ... I did a lot of things for my family," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, recalling life before she was deported from Belgium.

"I was their hope, their joy. I was giving my parents feeding money. My elder brother's children, the four of them, I was also paying their school fees," said Betty from the one-bedroom home she shares with her brother's seven-strong family.

She said it was now difficult to stay in Nigeria,

"If I have my way, I will definitely go back," said Betty, who paid about 50,000 euros ($58,000) to a Nigerian madam in Europe over five years to work in the sex business.

Betty, who did not want to reveal her surname, said she earned thousands of euros in Europe, selling her body several times a day from street corners and a rented flat.


It came with its risks.

She injured her back after jumping out of a speeding car to escape one punter. Her flatmate disappeared after going to meet a client.

Florence also spoke of the dangers involved, recalling arriving to meet a client and finding 15 men waiting and always checking out which doors and windows could be escape routes.

But some women and their families remain willing to take the risks for the money that can support whole families in Nigeria.

Victor Irorere has two daughters, aged 18 and 21, who have both lived in Europe for at least four years and he knows work "with their bodies" but he relies on their earnings.

"They help me ... They often send money," said Irorere, 47, a bricklayer and father of 11, as he waited outside a juju priest's shrine in Benin, a live chicken struggling in his hand, to pay for a good luck spell for his daughters.

Kokunre Eghafona, a professor of sociology at the University of Benin who researches human trafficking, said the Oba's curse was not stopping but just changing patterns in the sex trafficking trade.

With traffickers and juju priests terrified of the misfortunes that might befall them as a result of the Oba's curse, girls and young women are instead raising their own funds to finance their journeys to Europe and beyond.

The United Nations this year recorded a sharp fall in the number of migrants reaching Europe by sea, with the biggest change in the once-busy channel between North Africa and Italy.

But experts said this was because traffickers have found a new market.

Middle Eastern countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE and Oman, are now the new destinations of choice for Nigerians selling sex, according to Nduka Nwanwenne, Benin zonal commander of Nigeria's anti-trafficking agency (NAPTIP).

He said many of the girls are tricked into believing that they will be going to work as house maids and nurses, only to be forced into sex work, while others are going willingly.

"But you know when it comes to willingness, a victim is still a victim. There are some that don't know the extent of what they are going to do there. They don't know the extent of exploitation," Nwanwenne told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

($1 = 0.8556 euros)

Video - Nigerian women trafficked to Europe for prostitution at 'crisis level'

Kidnapped International Red Cross aid worker murdered in Nigeria

A female aid worker abducted in Nigeria's troubled northeast region has been killed, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said Monday.

Saifura Hussaini Ahmed Khorsa, 25, was kidnapped by suspected Boko Haram militants in March this year alongside two other ICRC aid workers during an attack on a military facility. 

At least three Nigerian aid workers were killed and three others were injured in the attack.
The ICRC condemned the killing and said it was "devastated" by the news.

"We are devastated by the murder of our colleague Saifura," said Eloi Fillion, head of ICRC delegation in Abuja.

"Saifura moved to Rann to selflessly help those in need. Our thoughts are with her family and other loved ones at this incredibly difficult time," he added.

The ICRC said it will not comment on the "motives or the details" surrounding the nurse's death, and called for the immediate release of the two aid workers still held by the group. 

"We urge those still holding our colleague Hauwa and Alice: release these women. Like Saifura, they are not part of the fight. They are a midwife and a nurse. They are daughters, a wife, and a mother -- women with families that depend on them," said Fillion.

"Their families and friends miss them dearly and will not give up the hope of seeing them again soon. There is no ideology or religious law that could justify doing any harm to them," he added.

Khorsa was working in the UNICEF clinic in Rann with internally displaced people in a remote town outside Maiduguri, in Nigeria's troubled north east region. 

Her death comes as a local publication reported it had obtained a video that showed the aid worker being shot by the militants.

In the video, the insurgents alleged the Nigerian government ignored messages and audios it had sent showing that the aid workers were still alive, according to the report.

The report also stated that the kidnappers threatened to kill the two remaining health workers and kidnapped schoolgirl Leah Sharibu, who remains in Boko Haram camp because she reportedly refused to denounce her Christian faith.

Around 3,000 aid workers, most of them Nigerian nationals, work in Nigeria's northeast.
Boko Haram fighters who have waged a decade-long war in the region regularly attack such camps with gunmen and suicide bombers.

Using an app to tackle food waste in Nigeria

"Going without food for any person, for any child - it's destabilising, it shakes you to your core. I remember being a child and going without food and being able to have just one good meal in a day."

Oscar Ekponimo's drive comes from a childhood fuelled by hunger. When his father got sick and couldn't work, the whole family went hungry.

But now this tech entrepreneur in Nigeria's capital Abuja thinks he has the answer to the problem of food inequality.

He's the inventor of an app called Chowberry which connects people to supermarket food that would ordinarily end up in the bin.

It has already been taken up by 35 retailers, NGOs (non-government organisations) and other organisations in the country.

At a supermarket in Abuja, a sales assistant unloads shelves filled with semolina, a type of milled flour, into shopping trolleys. He's preparing the products for collection by Thrifty Slayer - a charity that has bought these discounted items via Chowberry.

Discount products

As we stand in one of the aisles, Oscar takes out a tablet to show me how the technology works. "We have a system on this app that allows retailers to put information about products that are about to expire.

"These products are deeply discounted because the products are reaching the end of their shelf life.

"The food would ordinarily be thrown away by the retailers, but with our system they have a way of saving their losses," he adds.

"At the same time NGOs are able to take this food at a very reasonable price and acquire more food for distribution."

Currently anyone can order food at a discount online, although there are 15 charities with priority access who are able to to order larger quantities.

Chowberry has a list of their preferences and sends them updates when it receives the type of food the charities need for their food distribution programmes.

The supermarket that Oscar is showing me round was an early adopter of Chowberry when it launched two years ago.

"Some of the shops we work with have said they've managed to save 80% of what they used to throw away," he tells me.

A study commissioned by the United Nations indicates that globally, one-third of food produced for consumption is lost or wasted.

This amounts to 1.3 billion tonnes a year. UN figures also suggest that one in nine of us across the globe go to bed on an empty stomach - despite there being enough food in the world.

Oscar's ability to relate to the problem is at the heart of his mission to reach those living on extremely low incomes, right at the bottom of the pyramid.

"They don't have access to smartphones, so the connecting entity is the NGOs," says Oscar.

Thrifty Slayer is one of the many charities and NGOs that buys discounted products for its food distribution programmes through the Chowberry app.

Its programmes are funded by selling donated second-hand clothing online but Ijeoma Nwizu, Thrifty Slayer's founder, says Chowberry helps the charity's funds go much further.

"We started feeding about 40 people, but then the community kept growing. Now we feed them and neighbouring communities - about 200 people every Sunday," she says.

"As the numbers of people we feed increased we started to look for ways to keep our costs low. The good thing about partnering with Chowberry is the availability of food in the quantities we need them."

UN figures show over 14 million people in Nigeria are classified as undernourished.

Hunger is a major problem according to Amara Nwankpa, director of public policy at the Shehu Musa Yar'Adua Foundation, an organisation campaigning for food security.

"I think the challenges we face with food supply and access represents an opportunity for innovators. We have no choice but to innovate our way out of this situation," says Amara.

"Most times I get emotional about it. I get a sense of fulfilment that a simple idea can reach people in a real way. But the feelings are mixed," says Oscar during a visit to Pyakasa, a small dusty town surrounded by mountains on the outskirts of Abuja where a feeding programme is under way.

On the days we are there, around 50 people, mainly women and children, were queuing for lunch. We were told that for most of them, this would have been their biggest meal all week.

"The challenge is to scale up, that's where our work is cut out for the next few years," says Oscar. "I'm in it for the long haul, as long as there's the value chain of food there will always be food floating around."

Food waste is a huge problem and this entrepreneur has global aspirations for his simple solution.

He hopes that once it makes inroads in Nigeria and across Africa, it will go on to transform the lives of people around the world.

Nigeria's undercover atheists

Denouncing God can be a dangerous thing in Nigeria, where religion is the rhythm of life.

Atheism, considered blasphemy by many, is a largely underground movement that's hard to quantify but increasingly reported among millennials.

Atheists come together in private on WhatsApp groups and use pseudonyms on social media sites to share ideas.

The Nigerian population of nearly 200 million is split almost evenly between Muslims and Christians with sizeable followers of traditional spirituality.

"As a clergyman, this makes me sad that today we have people in Nigeria going in for atheism," Gideon Obasogie, a Roman Catholic cleric tells A Jazeera. "The effect of this will be terrible. For one who says there is no God, he can do all kinds of horrible things … I feel this will lead to anarchy and chaos. The rise of atheism in Nigeria is not wonderful news."

In recent months, Nigerian atheists have registered three pro-secular organisations: Atheist Society of Nigeria, the Northern Nigerian Humanist Association and the Nigerian Secular Society.

"We need these organisations as a space for people to come out," says Mubarak Bala, who helped to register the groups.

Bala attracted media attention in 2014 after being admitted to a psychiatric hospital in Kano by his parents when they found out he was atheist.

He says his father and uncles held him down for 30 minutes and forced him to take medications given by the psychiatrist, who told him "everyone needs God".

"People began secretly contacting me, telling me that they too, don't believe in Allah. Even Christians told me they don't think Jesus is God and they just have questions about the whole religion thing," Bala said.

Most keep their beliefs secret.

Bala is the only atheist who allowed Al Jazeera to use his real name.

Al Jazeera travelled to three cities - Kano, Kaduna and Abuja - to meet some "undercover" atheists in their twenties and thirties.

Kenneth: 'My family told me I am possessed'

"I grew up a rebel. I grew up a black sheep in the family. If I go to church, I go because I am forced to go to church.

I've never believed anything, so at a point, the pastor of the church I was attending with my family told me that I am possessed with an evil spirit because I was always questioning God and the Bible.

As an atheist in Nigeria, you will be ostracised.

Up to today, I have many people who keep their distance from me simply because I ask a lot of critical questions about religion. Many of them don't even know I'm now an atheist."

Jiddah: 'I realised Islam didn't have my interest as a woman'

"I've always had questions, unanswered questions right from childhood.

It's not like I was the ideal Muslim girl, because I did a lot of things that Islam did not permit me to do such as wearing men's clothing - meaning trousers - going clubbing, having premarital sex.

Basically, I realised Islam didn't really have my interest as a woman. As a child at the Islamic school, I would always ask, 'Where is God? Why can't we see him or her?'

What I got was a beating, serious flogging because you shouldn't ask such questions.

The breakthrough came I guess when I met Mubarak [Bala]. I found him on Facebook and I sent him a friend request.

(Note: Before receiving death threats, Jiddah said she would use the site to criticise Islam and had 8,000 followers. She has now closed her account.)

Then, we began to talk about religion. Mubarak would say, 'It's just like me telling you there's a cat right here and you can't see it. Why would you believe anything like that?'

So gradually, I just rid myself of that belief in God and it's been liberating.

But it's heartbreaking because you really want to talk to your friends about these things and explain to them because you want them to feel what you feel. But you just can't."

Shehu: 'A scholar can declare you an apostate'

"In Islam, I used to see stuff that didn't correspond with reality. I tried to study Islam but I kept seeing more and more things that I just couldn't believe I was reading.

I went to school in Malaysia and learned about intellectualism and what I learned blew my mind. I was learning about science that broke down the myths of religion. Things just became clear.

I came out and told my father, thinking he would understand. It backfired.

We come from an Islamic royal family in northern Nigeria.

My dad, he went to the NGO I was working at. He was a board member and told them to fire me. So they did.

Then he brought a woman for me to marry so I could just conform and be normal.

My dad prevents me from telling anyone about my beliefs. Here in Nigeria, a Mallam - a respected Islamic scholar - can declare you an apostate as an atheist and order you to be killed, just like that. So I'm undercover."

Peter: 'Why is it that Christianity had to come through conquest?'

"My mother was quite religious. Every Sunday, we'd go to a Catholic church.

The religion, Christianity itself, came in through several tools. Slavery, colonialism and of course, the subtle colonialism, which is missionary style.

So my question has always been, why is it that something that I need had to come through in such an inhumane way? Why is it that it had to come through conquest?

Some people were put to the sword and they had to take it whether they liked it or not.

For my safety … if folks find out I'm an atheist, I could lose out on work opportunities (Peter is an IT professional). If people here in Nigeria find out I'm atheist, I think that would be the death of my reputation. Religion is a scam."

Freeman: 'The killings here over religion do not help'

"The killings that happen so much here in Nigeria over religion do not help.

I came back home one day from school and I learned that a lot of houses had been brought down by our people, Muslims, just thinking that they did that for God.

I watched somebody being burned to death on the road. I was coming back from school. I actually had friends, my Muslim friends, who went out to kill Christians and they asked me to join them and they actually believe they were doing it for God.

They said it's God's wish. They said that's what God wants them to do and that it's also what the Quran says. It really makes me upset."

Nasir: 'My father said I should leave or he'll kill me'

"I am against Islam entirely. Not just the way it's practised, but against it fully.

My parents, they know I don't believe in God.

My father is an Islamic scholar and one day he called me and my mum, and he asked if it was true, [if] what he was hearing about me being an atheist is true. I said yes.

So, he brought out a knife. He wanted to kill me. I was telling him, 'Wait let me explain to you.'

He said, 'How can you explain to me?'

I was scared actually and we were struggling, me and him. Then my mother seized the knife. My father said I should leave the house or he'll kill me at night. So I left the house and started living at my workplace.

My father sent me away and then a relative talked to him and told him I changed my mind and told him that I'm no longer an atheist. But my father knows that's not true.

Some of my relatives keep me away from their children because they say I will corrupt them."

Ayuba: 'It would break my mother's heart if she knew'

"My mother will call me and say, 'Have you been giving your tithes to the church?'

Like, if you don't pay, then you're stealing from God and God will punish you for that. So, it's like a way of indoctrinating people, trying to put fear in people.

I grew up in ECWA (Evangelical Church Winning All, formerly known as Evangelical Church of West Africa).

The whole story of the Bible and creation, I don't know. My mother, it would break her heart if she knew I am atheist."
"I told my father that I don't believe in prayers any more. He was grooming me to become a mallam, an Islamic scholar, like him.

He never encouraged me to go to Western schools. Even when I went to university, I just did it on my own.

He started preaching against me a few years ago.

He's an Islamic scholar so people listen to him. Him preaching against me, you know, someone could take action to harm me.

In his sermons, he would say, 'Just imagine, my son went to Western school so now he believes there is no creator. He thinks he is smarter than all of us and he gets his notions from a computer,' because he used to see me on the computer.

I see my father and other religious people as victims of their beliefs. I had to stop going to my family house."

These interviews were edited for clarity and length. 
All of the interviewees' names, aside from those in the introduction, have been changed to protect their safety. They also requested their ages were not published, out of fear of being identified.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Video - Nigeria's finance minister resigns over forged certificate

Nigeria's finance minister, Kemi Adeosun, has reportedly resigned following allegations that she forged her National Youth Service certificate. Adeosun has been under immense pressure to resign. A court hearing over the matter has been scheduled for early next month.

Video - Nigerian women, children clean Lagos beach for World Clean Up Day

Nigerian women and children have also come together to pick up plastic waste from a beach in Lagos. The initiative was organized by Kids beach Garden Club - an initiative under a local non-profit organization. Organisers say the event was meant to impart conservation and environmental values in the young minds.

Flooding in Nigeria leaves at least 100 dead

More than 100 people have died in floods after Nigeria's two major rivers burst their banks, authorities say.

The National Emergency Management Agency (Nema) says heavy rains caused the Niger River and Benue River to overflow.

It has resulted in a series of floods across the country over two weeks, with rural areas most vulnerable.

The government is urging residents along waterways to relocate to safe places.

Thousands of people have been displaced and vast swathes of farmlands have been destroyed by the floods in central and southern Nigeria, says the BBC's Is'haq Khalid in the capital, Abuja.

Worst hit is Niger State, where more than 40 people have died, Nema director Mustapha Yunusa Maihaja told the BBC.

Eleven other states have been affected - they are Kwara, Benue, Kogi, Adamawa, Taraba, Kebbi, Bayelsa, Edo, Anambra, Rivers and Delta.

Nigerian authorities are considering declaring a state of emergency, saying more floods could hit in the coming days and weeks as heavy rains continue.

Nigeria faces flooding almost every year.

Analysts blame recurring flood disasters on lack of proper town planning, blocked waterways and poor drainage systems.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Nigeria's Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun resigns

Nigeria’s Finance Minister, Kemi Adeosun, has resigned sources close to her told Daily Trust.

It is not clear when she submitted her resignation letter.

According to our source, the resignation followed the allegation of not serving the compulsory National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, and obtaining a certificate that the NYSC have disowned.

The minister felt that her position is becoming untenable and is hurting the President in the run up to the 2019 election.

Nigeria appoints new head of intelligence

Nigeria has appointed a new head of the country's intelligence agency, after his predecessor was sacked when security operatives blockaded parliament.

The presidency said on Thursday evening that Yusuf Magaji Bichi has taken over from Lawal Musa Daura as director-general of the Department of State Services.

Daura -- a key ally of President Muhammadu Buhari -- was dismissed after ordering what the government called the "unauthorised takeover" of the National Assembly in early August.

Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo said at the time the actions, which prevented lawmakers from entering parliament, were "a gross violation of constitutional order" and the rule of law.

The DSS under Daura was often accused of high-handedness and abuses against perceived political opponents of the Buhari administration.

The blockade came after the leader of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, defected to the main opposition from the ruling party.

Saraki, who has been at loggerheads with the executive since he took up the post in 2015, has since declared his intention to stand for president next year.

Buhari's office said the new spy chief was a "core secret service operative" who began his career with the Nigerian Security Organisation (NSO), the forerunner of the DSS.

Nigeria is facing multiple security threats, including from Boko Haram, where there is mounting concern about its IS-backed faction after a string of recent attacks on the military.

Security services are also stretched by a flare-up of violence in the long-running resources conflict between farmers and herders in central states.

There remain lingering threats to oil and gas infrastructure from militants in the southern Niger Delta region.

Gunmen in Nigeria kill 11 people in a cinema

Gunmen have attacked a cinema in Nigeria's north-western Zamfara State, killing 11 people and injuring more than 20, witnesses and hospital sources told the BBC.

The suspected armed bandits opened fire at a village hall, where residents gather at night to watch films.

The cinema-goers panicked, many escaped with multiple gunshot wounds or broken bones, according to witnesses.

Amnesty International has warned about the escalating violence in the area.

It is not clear why the cinema was targeted, but villages in Zamfara State have come under heavy attack from armed bandits in recent months.

Witnesses say the attackers arrived in the village of Badarawa on foot on 12 September before heading to the hall, known as a viewing centre.

Hospital sources says some of the victims' injuries are life-threatening, while the dead have already been buried.

The police say security personnel have been deployed to track down the assailants.

Nearly 400 people have been killed in the state this year amid an increase in robbery, killings, and kidnappings for ransom, according to the rights group Amnesty.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Nigeria has best economy in Africa according to Forbes

A major research firm, Forbes Africa has rated Nigeria as the 2018 best economy in Africa.

According to Forbes, Nigeria came top with $172 billion, which was followed by South Africa with $166.735 billion. Also on the list was Egypt as third with $78 billion, Algeria with $66, Libya :$65, Botswana: $22.675, Ghana :$20.458 Morocco :$18, Ivory Coast :$11 and Madagascar with $6.766 billion.

Nigeria’s West-African neighbours, Ghana, is seventh with $20.458, Morocco is eighth with $18 billion, Ivory Coast is ninth with $11 billion while Madagascar is tenth with $6.766 billion.


Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Video - Nigeria's external debt hits a record $11.7 billion

Nigeria's debt to international creditors has increased to a record 11-point 7-billion dollars in three years, according to the country's Debt Management Office. Despite this, the country still struggles to provide decent roads, running water and uninterrupted electricity to its growing population. CGTN's Phil Ihaza takes a look at some of the reasons why.

Video - Nigerian authorities call for ban on gas sales in crowded areas

To Nigeria now, where state authorities are pushing for a ban on the sale of gas in crowded areas. It follows Monday's deadly explosion at a filling station in the central town of Lafia. At least 35 people have been killed and more than a hundred badly burned.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Video - Nigerian entrepreneur introduces ready-made headwrap

The Gele is a traditional Nigerian Headwrap. It is worn during special occasions.The head accessory is usually made out of heavy or stiff fabric that can be wrapped and moulded into a specific shape. Nigerian Designer Toyosi Ande is producing ready- made headwraps--revolutionizing the popular style for fashion conscious women everywhere.

Video - Many feared dead after filling station blast in Nigeria's Lafia town

An unknown number of people are believed to have been killed in an explosion at a filling station in the central Nigerian town of Lafia. Scores are reportedly badly burned. It's not clear yet what caused the explosion. Local media reports suggest there was a leak in a pipe from a tanker offloading liquefied natural gas. Others claim a spark at the fuel station caused the blast. There are conflicting reports of the death toll. The injured are being treated at hospitals in Lafia. Emergency services have been praised for their rapid response to the explosion.

Video - Nigeria gets first Netflix Original starring Genevieve Nnaji

International TV streaming service, Netflix, is making its headway to Africa gradually. The company recently entered the Nigerian market by acquiring the world rights to Genevieve Nnaji’s Lion Heart film.

The movie will be showing on Netflix international platforms. The movie is Genevieve Nnaji’s first movie to direct. Lion Heart also premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in Canada where Kenya’s Rafiki movie will also be screening.

Netflix already has several South African shows on its platform. Kenya might be next to this growing company.

35 dead in gas tanker explosion in Nigeria

At least 35 people were killed on Monday and hundreds were injured when a gas tanker exploded in the northern Nigerian state of Nasarawa, an emergency services official said.

The accident happened as the truck was unloading at a gas station along the Lafia-Makurdi road linking the capital city, Abuja, with northern and southern Nigeria, said Usman Ahmed, acting director of the State Emergency Management Agency.

The agency was investigating the explosion, he said.

“We have confirmed 35 dead and over a hundred injured,” Mr. Ahmed said. “Most of those that died rushed to the accident spot to see what was happening.”

In June, at least nine people were killed in Nigeria’s commercial capital, Lagos, when a gasoline tanker caught fire and burned 53 other vehicles.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Amateur rugby players in Nigeria train hoping to qualify for World Cup

A former Nigerian rugby player has returned home from overseas to help develop the sport in the country with an eye on international competitions. Unlike football, Rugby is yet to make its mark in Nigeria.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Video - Nigerian FA bans coach Salisu Yussuf over bribery scandal

We begin with a developing story from Nigeria. The country's Football Association has banned Salisu Yussuf, the Chief Coach of the country's senior national team the Super Eagles, after he was caught on camera accepting a thousand-dollar bribe.

Video - MTN woes over massive fine imposed by Nigeria

In 2015 MTN was slapped with a $5.2b fine for failing to register SIM cards on time in Nigeria. MTN eventually paid a reduced $1.7b to Nigerian authorities in late 2017. But the Nigeria Central Bank is now demanding a further $8b; this time for dividends it claims shouldn't have been taken out of the country.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Nigeria slams MTN with $2bn tax bill

Nigeria has asked mobile phone operator MTN to pay a $2bn (£1.6bn) tax bill, the company says.

MTN challenged the figure, saying it related to activities over the past decade. It said it had settled the bill with a $700m payment.

The tax demand is the latest in a series of disputes between MTN and Nigeria, the company's largest market.

In 2016 it agreed to pay Nigeria $1.7bn over failing to disconnect unregistered Sim cards.

Last week, Nigeria's Central Bank ordered the company to repatriate $8bn it said had been taken out of the country illegally.

MTN, Africa's largest mobile phone company, said the tax bill had emerged from an investigation by Nigeria's attorney general and related to "the importation of foreign equipment and payments to foreign suppliers over the last 10 years".

But, it added, "MTN Nigeria believes it has fully settled all amounts owing under the taxes in question".

Shares in the company on the Johannesburg stock exchange fell sharply on Tuesday's news, reaching a low of almost 10 years.

NFF bans assistant coach for accepting bribe

The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) has banned coach Salisu Yusuf for a year and fined him US$5000.

The sanctions were imposed on Yusuf, 56, following an NFF investigation into bribery allegations.

He was caught on camera taking cash from men posing as football agents, who requested that two players be selected for a continental championship.

The names of the players were not disclosed and Yusuf has denied any wrongdoing.

He appeared before an NFF ethics committee in the capital Abuja on Thursday.

The probe was prompted by footage captured by Ghanaian investigative journalist Anas Aremayaw Anas and handed to the BBC's Africa Eye investigation programme.

The committee said the ban was from "all football-related activities at both national and international level" adding that "an appeal against the decision can be made to the NFF Appeals Committee".

An NFF said in a statement "found as a fact from the documentary and video evidence before it, that he accepted the cash gift of $1,000.

"[He] Offered by Tigers Player's Agency, an undercover reporter, purportedly interested in acting on behalf of Players Osas Okoro and Rabiu Ali, for their inclusion in the list of players for 2018 CHAN Competition in Morocco."

He insisted at the time that the money was a gift and that the players were selected on merit and he is yet to say whether he will appeal the sanctions.

"There is nothing in the allegation pointing to a demand for the money from the agents of the two principals. Rather, the agent only handed the money to me after expressing 'hope' that the principals would play in the Championship," he said in a right of reply.

"Be that as it may, I did accept cash handed to me by one of the said football agents, which I later discovered, upon checking, to be $750 and not $1000."

Yusuf was assistant to Gernot Rohr at the recent World Cup in Russia and led the Nigeria to the final of this year's Championship of African Nations (CHAN) in Morocco.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Video - Nigeria's move to ease business

Francis Okolie had been operating his interior decoration firm without any formal registration for two years. He says the business was struggling until he decided to make the company official.

Boko Haram attack Nigeria base - 48 dead

The number of military personnel killed in a Boko Haram attack on an army post in Nigeria's northeast has risen to 48, according to sources.

The attack took place late on Thursday when scores of fighters in trucks stormed the base at Zari village in Borno state and briefly captured it after intense fighting.

"The casualty toll now stands at 48 with the recovery of 17 more bodies of soldiers in surrounding bushes in Zari by search and rescue teams," a Nigerian military source told AFP news agency.

More bodies are likely to be recovered as search and rescue missions continue.

Boko Haram took weapons and military equipment before they were pushed out of the base by soldiers with aerial support.

Increased attacks on military

More than 20,000 people have been killed since Boko Haram launched an armed campaign in northeast Nigeria nearly a decade ago. Over two million others have been forced from their homes.

In recent months, the armed group has intensified attacks on military targets.

On July 14, Boko Haram fighters overran a military base in Jilli village, in Yobe state, when dozens of troops were said to be been killed, wounded or missing.

Soldiers and civilians have also been targeted in separate attacks in neighbouring Chadand Niger.

The assaults appear to undermine repeated claims by the Nigerian military that Boko Haram had been defeated.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Video - Germany, Nigeria vow to combat illegal migration

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari have affirmed their commitment to fighting illegal migration. The German Chancellor met with President Buhari on Friday, in the last leg of her trip to three African countries. Speaking at a joint news conference in Abuja---Merkel emphasised the need to create economic opportunities for young Nigerians to reduce their motivation for leaving their home country. There are currently around 8,600 Nigerians in Germany, who have been denied asylum. Germany wants those who are rejected to return to Nigeria.

Video - Nigeria hosts beauty pageant advocating for girls education

In Nigeria, education activists are using a beauty contest to advocate for the welfare of the girl child. The Polo international beauty contest premiered this week in the Nigerian capital, Abuja.

Video - Nigeria looking to broaden its relations with China

Nigeria is looking to broaden its relations with China to rip maximum benefits.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Video -Theresa May to discuss trade, human trafficking with Buhari

British Prime Minister is continuing her tour of Africa in Nigeria. Aside from discussions on trade, May is set to tackle the issue of human trafficking with President Muhammadu Buhari. She will also meet with survivors of slavery in Lagos. May is due to announce a new joint project with France to strengthen Niger and Nigeria's borders. She has already pledged 5 billion dollars towards African economies.

Video - UK PM Theresa May discusses trade, security with President Buhari

UK Prime Minister Theresa May continues her tour of Africa. She's in Nigeria at the moment on the second stop of a three-country visit. The prime minister landed in Abuja earlier on Wednesday. She and President Muhammadu Buhari ave been discussing trade, security, and human trafficking. May is on what some are calling a charm offensive to seek more investment partners for the UK after it breaks away from the European Union. May is also meeting with victims of modern slavery in Nigeria's commercial capital, Lagos, before she heads to Nairobi on Thursday for talks with President Uhuru Kenyatta.

British Prime Minister Theresa May signs security partnership with President Buhari

Theresa May has signed a security pact with Nigeria’s president aimed at helping the country combat the militant group Boko Haram through better military training and anti-terrorist propaganda techniques developed in the UK.

The British prime minister’s agreement with Muhammadu Buhari was announced at a summit between the pair in Abuja and billed by the UK as an example of May’s ambition to promote a greater British presence in Africa and support states under pressure from terrorist threats.

“We are determined to work side by side with Nigeria to help them fight terrorism, reduce conflict and lay the foundations for the future stability and prosperity that will benefit us all,” she said.

Billed as the UK’s first security and defence partnership with Nigeria, the pact was the centrepiece of the second day of May’s three-day trip to Africa, in which she will visit Kenya on Thursday having been to South Africa on Tuesday.

The UK will provide training to the Nigerian military to help it contend with improvised explosive devices used by Boko Haram, and has offered to help train full army units, as opposed to individual soldiers, before they are deployed in the country’s north-east, where the Islamist militant group has its base.

It also hopes to cut the flow of new recruits by working with local communities “to push out counter-narratives” to Boko Haram, drawing on the UK’s experience of “countering terrorist propaganda at home”, according to the pact announcement. An additional £13m will be spent on an education programme for the 100,000 children living in the conflict zone.

May told Buhari the UK wanted to support Nigeria’s stability and said it was important their joint work on security was undertaken in line with international standards on human rights. The prime minister added that she endorsed the country’s efforts to combat illegal migration and modern slavery.

The British prime minister then travelled to Lagos, where she was greeted with several outdoor hoardings bearing her name. May switched tack to promote Britain’s expertise in financial services while seeking to emphasise future trade possibilities, in a week when she had called for the UK to become the leading G7 investor in Africa by 2020.

She met Aliko Dangote, one of the country’s wealthiest men, who has already agreed to list his $10bn (£7.7bn) cement business on the London Stock Exchange.

Thursday’s trip to Kenya will see May announce that the UK will build a cybercrime centre in Nairobi to help bring prosecutions against paedophiles in the east African nation.

The day-long visit will include a meeting with the country’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta, and a press conference.

Kenyan authorities are not able to receive reports of child sexual abuse material from US technology companies because they say the country does not have the secure channels of communication needed. The UK’s National Crime Agency has already worked with Kenya’s anti-human trafficking and child protection unit in several investigations, securing prosecutions in 2015 and 2018 of British men who had sexually abused Kenyan children.

Video - Digital innovation in Nigeria offering new learning opportunities

Here's a look at digital innovation that could offer an alternative learning opportunity away from the conventional education system.

British Prime Minister Theresa May visits Nigeria

Theresa May is visiting Nigeria on the second day of her trade mission to boost ties with Africa after Brexit.

Mrs May will discuss security, trade and people trafficking with President Muhammadu Buhari before meeting victims of modern slavery in Lagos.

The prime minister already announced £4bn of extra British support for African economies during the first leg of her trip on Tuesday.

She also insisted her "sensible" Brexit plans will deliver a "good" deal.

Mrs May is travelling to Abuja, the capital of Nigeria - Britain's second largest trading partner in Africa - for talks with President Buhari.

She is expected to announce a new UK and French project to help Nigeria and Niger strengthen their borders to crack down on trafficking.

The prime minister will also pledge to support victims of modern slavery who have suffered "enormous trauma".

Speaking ahead of her visit, she said the UK was a "world leader" in trying to end modern slavery.

Labour's Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott said Mrs May's "warm words" rang hollow as her government had cut Border Force staff and police officers, who were "the frontline in the fight against modern slavery".

Mrs May's three-day trip to Africa is aimed at deepen economic and trade ties with growing African economies ahead of Britain leaving the EU in 2019.

Arriving in South Africa on Tuesday, Mrs May - who is accompanied by a team of business delegates - said she wanted the UK to overtake the US to become the G7's biggest investor in Africa by 2022.

She struck Britain's first post-Brexit trade pact with Mozambique and the Southern African Customs Union, made up of six African nations. The EU currently has an economic partnership with this union, and the UK will now continue working with it after Brexit.

And Mrs May also pledged a "fundamental shift" in aid spending to focus on long-term economic and security challenges rather than short-term poverty reduction.

On Thursday, she will finish her tour in Kenya, where she will hold talks with President Uhuru Kenyatta and attend a state dinner, visit a business school and meet British troops.

While in South Africa, the prime minster also faced questions from journalists on Brexit.

She told the BBC's Ben Wright that the UK is "still operating to the timetable" as it is originally set out in the Brexit negotiations.

It comes after the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier indicated last week that a deal may be pushed back to early November.

She played down warnings from Chancellor Philip Hammond - who said last week that a no-deal Brexit could damage the economy.

She said the comments were based on analysis first released in January that were, at the time, a "work in progress".

Mrs May then cited comments by the head of the World Trade Organisation, who said Brexit "won't be a walk in the park, but won't be end of the world either".

"We are working for a good deal, we have put forward our proposal for a good deal," she said. "I believe that deal is to the benefit, not only of the UK, but the EU.

"What the government is doing is putting in place the preparations to make sure we can make a success whatever our future relationship is with the EU and whatever the outcome of the negotiations."

Talking to journalists on board RAF Voyager on Tuesday morning, Mrs May reiterated that she believed a no-deal Brexit was still better than a bad deal.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Video - Nigeria expresses keen interest in One Belt One Road initiative

Nigeria's government has expressed great interest in the "Belt and Road Initiative" and hopes to be included into the infrastructure development project. Speaking ahead of the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation next week, the Chinese ambassador to Nigeria Zhou Pingjian said his government attaches great importance to the summit. Ambassador Zhou pointed out that China-Nigeria relations, have been steady. The "One Belt, One Road" initiative will top the agenda during the upcoming Beijing Summit. The initiative proposed by China is consistent with the development aspirations and development strategy of Nigeria.

UK seize £70m from Nigerian

The United Kingdom says it had returned the sum of £70million recovered from a Nigerian.

The country said the individual was convicted of fraud in an Italian court.

British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr Paul Arkwright, made the disclosure in a chat with journalists in Abuja on Monday.

He said, “There was an Italian court case with a particular person involved.

“A portion of the fund has been in the UK and that was the portion that was returned recently from the UK to Nigeria.

“So, it’s in that context that the 70 million (pounds) was returned.”

Arkwright, who, refused to disclose the identity of the Nigerian, said more funds would be repatriated.

“The British government has no intention of keeping one kobo of Nigerian funds in the UK,” said the diplomat, adding “It all must come back to Nigeria.”

“Just as in Nigeria, the UK feels that the judicial process is important, and we have to go through those processes before the money can be returned.”

Arkwright also confirmed that British Prime Minister Theresa May will visit Nigeria on Wednesday as part of her visit to Africa.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Third Mainland Bridge in Nigeria shut down for maintenance

Nigeria has shut down its busiest bridge for maintenance. The Third Mainland Bridge links Lagos Island to the shores of the capital, a city of nearly 20 million people. Al Jazeera's Ahmed Idris looks at the ageing bridge and the disruption that will follow the shutdown.

Nigerian coastal communities may be submerged in a few years

Coastal communities in Lagos are facing the grim prospect of being wiped out as a result of Ocean surge and erosion. The city's long stretch of shoreline is fast eroding with some coastal communities badly affected. Environmentalists are blaming the situation on climate change and human activities and are warning that if attitudes don't change and something done, Coastal communities in Lagos could be completely submerged in a few years time.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Video - Nigerian hailed a hero for helping internally displaced people

Nigeria is battling with a lack of resources in camps for internally displaced people. Many families have fled their homes during the ongoing Boko Haram insurgency. Often aid agencies are overwhelmed by the sheer number of people in need of assistance. One man has become a local hero in Abuja, by helping those living in temporary shelters in Nigeria's capital.

Video - Nigeria to hand out $500m in collateral free loans

Nigeria's government says it will hand out more than half a million dollars collateral free loans to small and medium scale businesses. Vice president Yemi Osinbajo says the scheme will boost the role of small businesses in the growth of the country's economy.

Nigerian village where men and women speak different languages

In Ubang, a farming community in southern Nigeria, men and women say they speak different languages. They view this unique difference as "a blessing from God", but as more young people leave for greener pastures and the English language becomes more popular, there are concerns it won't survive, reports the BBC's Yemisi Adegoke.

Dressed in a brightly coloured traditional outfit, a red chief's cap and holding a staff, Chief Oliver Ibang calls over his two young children, eager to demonstrate the different languages.

He holds up a yam and asks his daughter what it is called.

"It's 'irui'," she says, without hesitating.

But in Ubang's "male language" the word for yam, one of Nigeria's staple foods, is "itong".

And there are many other examples, such as the word for clothing, which is "nki" for men and "ariga" for women.

It is not clear exactly what proportion of words are different in the two languages and there is no pattern, such as whether the words are commonly used, related or linked to traditional roles for men or women.

"It's almost like two different lexicons," says anthropologist Chi Chi Undie, who has studied the community.

"There are a lot of words that men and women share in common, then there are others which are totally different depending on your sex. They don't sound alike, they don't have the same letters, they are completely different words."

'Sign of maturity'

She says the differences are far greater than, for example, British and American versions of English.

However, both men and women are able to understand each other perfectly - or as well as anywhere else in the world.

This might be partly because boys grow up speaking the female language, as they spend most of their childhoods with their mothers and other women, as Chief Ibang explains.

By the age of 10, boys are expected to speak the "male language", he says.

"There is a stage the male will reach and he discovers he is not using his rightful language. Nobody will tell him he should change to the male language."

"When he starts speaking the men language, you know the maturity is coming into him."

If a child does not switch to the correct language by a certain age, they are considered "abnormal", he says.

Ubang people are immensely proud of their language difference and see it as a sign of their uniqueness.

But there are different theories about how it happened. Most of the community offer a Biblical explanation.

"God created Adam and Eve and they were Ubang people," says the chief.

God's plan was to give each ethnic group two languages, but after creating the two languages for the Ubang, he realised there were not enough languages to go around, he explains.

"So he stopped. That's why Ubang has the benefit of two languages - we are different from other people in the world."

'Dual-sex culture'

Ms Undie has an anthropological theory.

"This is a dual-sex culture," she says.

"Men and women operate in almost two separate spheres. It's like they're in separate worlds, but sometimes those worlds come together and you see that pattern in the language as well."

She notes that her theory does not have all the answers.

"I call it a theory but it's weak," she admits. "Because in Nigeria there are lots of dual-sex systems and yet we don't have this kind of language culture."

There are concerns about the survival of the different languages.

Neither the male nor female language is written down so their futures depend on the younger generation passing them down. But these days, few young people speak either fluently.

"I see it with young people," says secondary school teacher Steven Ochui.

"They hardly speak pure Ubang languages without mixing an English word."

'Mother tongues demonised'

This mirrors what is happening across Nigeria.

In 2016 the Linguistic Association of Nigeria said that 50 of the nation's 500 languages could disappear in the next few years if drastic measures were not taken.

Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa are Nigeria's major languages, as well as English - used to foster unity in a country with numerous ethnic groups.

The three major languages are taught in schools as part of the country's National Policy on Education, which speaks of the importance of preserving culture.

It also states that "every child shall learn the language of the immediate environment".

But this is not being enforced in Ubang, where children are discouraged from, and even punished for, speaking their language in school.

Mr Ochui says he is worried about the consequences of "demonising" the mother tongue in an attempt to encourage students to speak English instead.

"In my school here we punish students - beat them, at times they pay fines - for speaking their mother tongue," he says.

"If you beat a child for speaking his or her language, it will not survive."

'Text books needed'

Mr Ochui says more needs to be done to preserve Ubang's languages.

"We need text books in Ubang languages - novels, art, films - and they should allow us to teach the languages in schools," he says.

Stella Odobi, a student in Ubang, agrees more need to be done to stop the languages dying.

"Parents take their children to study in different communities and don't bother to teach [them] their mother tongues," she says.

But she says she is among many young people within the community who plan to pass the languages down to their children even if they leave Ubang.

Chief Ibang has dreams that one day a language centre will be set up in Ubang, showcasing the uniqueness of the community's two languages.

And he is confident that the languages will survive.

"If the languages die, then the Ubang people will exist no more."

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Video - FIFA withdraws threat to suspend Nigeria from world football

FIFA has withdrawn its threat to ban Nigeria from international competition. It brings to an end a football crisis that began four years ago. FIFA says it has assurances that the legitimate leadership of Nigeria's football federation has been restored and is in full control of its offices.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Nigeria escape FIFA ban

Nigeria has narrowly escaped an international football ban after its government responded to a FIFA ultimatum shortly before a suspension took effect on Monday.
FIFA had issued a statement saying it would suspend Nigeria at 11 am GMT Monday because of a power struggle over the leadership of the Nigeria National Federation, known as the NFF. 

Amaju Pinnick was elected head of the NFF in 2014. However, while he was at the World Cup with Nigeria's Super Eagles team, another faction took over the federation's headquarters.

The faction was led by sports administrator Chris Giwa who says he is the rightful leader because of a court ruling in his favor earlier this year.

Nigeria's Sport Minister Solomon Dalung, acting on the court ruling ordered Pinnick and his board to comply with the court and leave the NFF, according to local media reports. 

However, faced with a FIFA ban for government interference, Nigeria on Monday rejected Giwa's claim to leadership and backed Pinnick instead. 

The vice president's media aide, Laolu Akande earlier tweeted: "The FG has already conveyed to FIFA its firm position recognizing Amaju Pinnick-led NFF as the current and only NFF Exco,"
FIFA later released a statement saying: "FIFA received confirmations that the legitimate leadership of the NFF under President Amaju Melvin Pinnick and General Secretary Mohammed Sanusi has been given back effective control of the NFF and its offices." 

It is not the first time that Nigeria has faced a FIFA ban over government interference. 

FIFA suspended the country when a high court ordered the NFF to hand over the reins of the national team to a government civil servant after the country's exit from the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Football is a much-beloved sport in the country, but poor showings at international tournaments by the Super Eagles team have often inspired calls for change and prompted successive governments to interfere in the administration of the sport, a clear breach of FIFA rules, which does not accept government interference in football. 

The footballing ruling body says it will continue to monitor the situation in Nigeria to make sure "FIFA rules and regulations are fully adhered to."

Monday, August 20, 2018

Video - Nigerian fans mourn fallen Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin

The death of America's soul queen, Aretha Franklin, came as a shock to music lovers all around the world. She ruled the airwaves for decades and won the heart of millions with her dynamic voice. Tributes have been pouring in especially from her fans in Nigeria.

Video - Nigeria remains defiant as FIFA ban looms

Monday is deadline day for Nigeria to sort out the running of its Football Federation. Otherwise, the country shall be banned by FIFA. Soccer's governing body has taken issue with how much the state has allegedly interfered in the running of the Nigerian Football Federation. Amaju Pinnick, who is recognized by FIFA, and his team were kicked out of the NFF and a rival faction, led by Chris Giwa has taken control. Giwa is under a five-year ban by FIFA for breaches of the NFF statutes and the FIFA code of ethics handed in February last year. But he appears to have the backing of the Nigerian government.

Video - 19 killed, hundreds displaced in latest militant attack in Borno State

At least 19 people have been killed and hundreds displaced in an Islamist militant attack on a village in northeast Nigeria. A survivor, Abatcha Umar, says the militants attacked the village of Mailari in the Guzamala region of Borno state at around 2am on Sunday. Survivors have fled to a camp for displaced people in nearby Monguno. The Islamist militants had been spotted around the village three days before the attack. This strike is the latest blow to Nigeria's efforts to defeat insurgencies by the Islamist Boko Haram group and Islamic State in West Africa. Locals say they had warned Nigerian troops stationed in the nearby town of Gudumbali, but no action was taken.

700 Nigerians attempting illegal migration drown in Mediterranean sea

A group, on the platform of Migration Enlightenment Project Nigeria, MEPN, has raised the alarm that over 700 Nigerians died in the Mediterranean Sea while migrating illegally in the last six months.

The Director MEPN, Femi Awoniyi, who made this known while addressing newsmen in Abuja, weekend, said the figure is low, compared to those who died while trying to cross the Sahara Desert. 

While disclosing that Nigerians constitute the highest number of illegal migrants from Africa, he lamented that Nigerians have the highest rate of rejection among sub-Sahara asylum applicants in the European Union, EU. 

According to him, MEPN was poised to raising awareness on the risks and dangers of irregular migration, and dispelling the misconception that they were better job opportunities outside the shores of Nigeria. According to him, “this year alone, more than 1,500 migrants have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea, many of them Nigerians. 

“This is not even counting those who have died travelling through the Sahara Desert, or in the transit countries. “Everybody knows that more than half of Saharan migrants in Africa are Nigerians. We cannot count the number of people who die in the Sahara Desert. 

Experts say more people die in the Sahara Desert than the Mediterranean. “For those who are lucky to reach Europe, a difficult struggle to obtain legal residency begins. More than 30,000 Nigerians are currently awaiting deportation in Germany alone. “Their asylum claims have been rejected since Nigeria is not considered by the European Union as a country where there is political persecution.”

Cattle thieves carrying daily killings and kidnappings in North East Nigeria

Besides Boko Haram attacks in northeastern Nigeria and the pastoralist crisis across the central region's lush vegetation belt, a lesser-known conflict is brewing in the northwest, and casualties are rising.

Cattle thieves are carrying out daily killings and kidnappings in Zamfara state.

Hundreds have died this year alone.

In early August, 22-year-old Zuleiya Kura braved a two-day trek in the bush with her four children - including 40-day-old twins - to escape the violence.

The young family fled their village of Kanya to Zurmi town, both in Zamfara state, after cattle rustlers on motorcycles stormed her hometown with AK47s.

Her husband, the family's breadwinner, is missing. He had stayed behind with other men to defend Kanya and no one knows if they were killed or managed to escape.

"We all deserted the town after we heard that the bandits have come," says Kura, from the safety of a government-owned Arabic school housing more than 6,000 displaced people from across the state - all of whom were impacted by the same violence. "They were chanting Allahu Akbar."

Zamfara state is home to 4.1 million people and more than 90 percent are Muslim. It was the first Nigerian state to adopt Islamic law, in 2000.

Cattle rustling, which has long afflicted northern Nigeria, has assumed a dangerous dimension in recent years, say residents and analysts.

The many forests in the area, especially the twin forests of Mashema in Zamfara's north bordering nearby Niger Republic and Birnin Gwari to the south leading to the neighbouring, equally insecure state of Kaduna, have served as bases for criminals who stockpile sophisticated weapons.

According to an estimate from Amnesty International, at least 371 people have been killed in Zamfara state alone since January.

In July this year, young people incensed by the frequent killings burned down a police station in the town of Zurmi after policemen refused to release three suspected bandits to them for vigilante justice.

"The situation in Zamfara is nothing new and has been building for years since the state adopted [Islamic] law as a placebo to respond to economic challenges," explains Cheta Nwanze, head of research at Lagos-based SBM Intelligence.

"Zamfara is one of Nigeria's poorest states, and there is circumstantial evidence that some of the perpetrators of violence may have been part of the enforcement brigade of that law almost two decades ago. Having said that, the seeming escalation is indicative of the wider issue in Nigeria where there is less money to go round and a larger population struggling for dwindling resources."

Nigeria's law enforcement agencies are understaffed and with its army stretched thin by other conflicts, the cattle-rustler crisis has continued unabated mostly in Zamfara but also Kaduna, Katsina, Niger and, recently, Sokoto states.

Kidnappings and vigilantism

Two military exercises codenamed Operations Sharan Daji (Hausa for Sweep the Forest) and Harbin Kunama (Hausa for Scorpion Sting) set up in previous years, have proved unable to curb the attacks.

A dusk to dawn curfew, imposed again after being lifted in 2016, is not fully enforced either.

Encouraged by the failure to stem the violence, the perpetrators have also taken to indiscriminate kidnapping-for-ransom schemes across major highways, killing locals in communities after stealing their cows and abducting women and forcing them into sex slavery. There have also been a few cases of artisanal gold miners being robbed of their gold and then killed.

The attackers tend to arrive on Honda motorcycles, says Sokoto-based taxi driver Abdullahi Abubakar.

"They park across the road and look inside vehicles they stop for those with fine skin or well-dressed [people] that look like they have money. Then they kidnap you and ask you to call your people to pay millions. Recently, they took one expatriate engineer working on a project in [Zamfara] and kept him for 12 days, feeding him well until a ransom of N30 million ($83,100) was paid."

Young people in several affected communities have formed local vigilante groups, arming themselves with sticks, Dane guns and crude weapons available for self-defence in case of reprisal attacks by ethnic militia.

The bandits are mostly Fulani mercenaries attacking predominantly Hausa settlements, with some criminal elements among the ethnic militia also instigating their own attacks in similar patterns, says the state government.

"After our ban of Yan Banga (vigilante) and allowances stopped, some transformed into Yan Sakai (volunteer forces) to revenge on Fulani people and some of them became criminals," said Ibrahim Dosara, a government spokesperson. "When we discovered that they were now part of the problem, the government banned them again."

'Our equivalent of black-on-black crime'

The crisis has largely gone under the radar as both media and the government focus on rumblings elsewhere in northern Nigeria.

Some analysts also believe the conflict is considered less pressing because it is an example of "Muslim-on-Muslim" violence.

"In Nigeria, we like our binary fixtures - Muslim versus Christian, Igbo versus Hausa, Fulani versus Yoruba," said Nwanze, the researcher. "Most of us can't process anything outside of those binaries, and since Zamfara doesn't fit any of those binaries, and is our equivalent of black-on-black crime, it is largely ignored. However, Zamfara is our laboratory for conflict resolution. How we resolve it, if we can resolve it, will determine whether we can resolve future conflicts."

In June, apparently frustrated by the situation, Zamfara governor Abdulazeez Yari told reporters that he was powerless in his role as chief security officer of the state.

"We have been facing serious security challenges over the years, but in spite of being governor and Chief Security Officer of the state, I cannot direct security officers on what to do nor sanction them when they err," he said.

Yari, who has been criticised for weak leadership and living outside his state on a regular basis, has no control over the internal security infrastructure because, in accordance with Nigeria's constitution, law enforcement apparatus is controlled wholly by the federal government.

Dosara, the government spokesperson, says in 2016, the state government convened a series of reconciliatory meetings with two main suspected leaders of the attacks, Dogo Gide and Buharin Daji. Both are Fulani.

"We initiated a disarmament and reconciliation process which succeeded in recovering over 3,000 different types of arms comprising machine guns, AK47s, locally made pistols, revolvers and other ammunition … and they took payments. Just about four months ago, they [the weapons] were destroyed before international organisations."

Not long after the suspected leaders surrendered their weapons and were paid off an undeclared sum, Daji broke the brief ceasefire.

Nicknamed General Buharin to mimic the title of Muhammadu Buhari, the retired general and Nigeria's president, Dajin went rogue.

One of the communities he attacked and stole cows from was a small village in the Dansadau area of the state, the hometown of Gide's wife.

Gide, exasperated by Daji's refusal to return his booty, pretended to extend an olive branch to his former ally - and killed him.

A few weeks ago, the army shot dead Daji's teenage heir after a run-in between his gang and security officials.

Still, the kidnappings, killings and general instability are yet to end.

Buhari's belated response

Calls for communal policing have resurfaced as the government at state and federal levels deliberate on how to ease the crisis.

"It is both a case for communal policing since the locals know many of the perpetrators, and a cautionary tale about communal policing without proper training and funding. Eventually, these people will turn those weapons against the very people they are meant to protect," warns Nwanze.

In a belated response in July, President Buhari - who came to power in 2015 vowing to tackle insecurity - deployed a 1,000-man strong military contingent from the army and air force to embark on yet another military exercise, Operation Diran Mikiya (Hausa for Eagle Fighting).

"Buharin Daji is the main rustling and kidnapping guy in-country and he's supposedly a Nigerian," says Beegeagles, a popular anonymous military intelligence blogger.

"In northern Zamfara, there are far more menacing guys coming in from Niger [Republic] … most of whom go unchallenged, given the negligible security. Everything that spells cash - gold, cattle, kidnapping - feeds into the conflict."

Friday, August 17, 2018

Video - Nigerian painter with innate sensibility for capturing the human spirit

Solomon Omogboye is a contemporary impressionist painter from Lagos. He's a prolific artist and has taught art in secondary schools in Lagos. His paintings are a reflection of his thoughts and inspiration. Omogboye is currently based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Video - Nigerians call out government on stalled projects via Twitter

A group of ordinary Nigerians is tracking the government's performance by monitoring public projects funded by taxpayers' money and providing feedback to the people. Tracka, which primarily operates on Twitter, encourages citizens to share photographs and videos of incomplete projects.

Video - Nigeria to recapitalize Federal Mortgage Bank to spur sector

In Nigeria, the government plans to recapitalize the Federal Mortgage Bank with 1.4 billion dollars as commercial bank lending to property developers shrinks. Total bank lending rate for real estate development in the west African country contracted by 11 percent between 2015-2017-spreading fear of a worsening housing deficit.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Video - Nigerian government launches campaign to eliminate viral hepatitis

Nigeria has pledged to eliminate hepatitis by 2021. The West African nation is among 11 countries that carry 50-percent of the global burden of viral hepatitis -- yet access to testing and treatment remains low. Hepatitis affects the liver, leading to cirrhosis and liver cancer, which is usually fatal.

Video - Victor Moses shocks fans with sudden exit announcement

Nigerian football fans are in shock at the retirement of one of their star players, Victor Moses. The 27-year-old Chelsea winger has released a statement to confirm his departure from the Nigerian national team.

Victor Moses of Nigeria retires from international football at 27

Nigeria's Victor Moses has announced his retirement from international football at the age of 27.

The Chelsea winger played 37 times for his country, scoring 12 times since making his debut in 2012.

He had previously represented England up to Under-21 level, while coming through the ranks at Crystal palace.

"I have experienced some of the best moments of my life wearing the Super Eagles shirt and have memories with me that will last a lifetime," he said.

"However, I feel that now is the right time to step away in order to be able to focus fully on my club career and young family, as well as to allow the next generation the opportunity to step up and to flourish.

"Thank you for the memories and good luck to the team for the future."

Moses won the Africa Cup of Nations with Nigeria in 2013, and represented the nation at two World Cups, in 2014 and 2018.

Nigeria were knocked out at the group stage in Russia this summer, having beaten Iceland but suffered defeats by Croatia and Argentina.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Video - Nigeria Coffee Art

To Nigeria now, where we meet an artist who's found a new purpose for coffee. Ekene Ngige is an avid coffee drinker, and has been using it in staining techniques in his art too.

Monthly uber passengers in Nigeria reaches 267,000

Transportation network company, Uber Nigeria, currently has 9,000 active driver-partners and no fewer than 267,000 monthly riders, an official has said. Francesca Uriri, the company’s Head of Communications in West Africa, made the disclosure in an interview in Lagos on Wednesday.

Uriri said that the drivers and riders were based in Abuja and Lagos, where Uber currently focused. She claimed that the growing number of the riders was due to safety and services provided by the company. “Uber works together with regulators to ensure the safety of its platform and that of those who use it,’’ Uriri said. 

The official also said that Uber maintained a high level of privacy. “Uber has taken steps to protect its sensitive external data repositories. “In Nigeria Uber is currently available in Lagos and Abuja and is focused on enabling driver-partners by providing business and economic opportunities. 

“The steadily growing number of Uber driver-partners in Nigeria is a testament to the appeal of the Uber business model. “That is because it creates real opportunities for local entrepreneurs to create and enjoy flexibility and enhance earning potential,’’ she said. 

According to Uriri, each city in Nigeria is unique and offers unique opportunities. “We have found Nigeria to be defined by agility, creativity and adaptability; we are committed to growth, and excited about the potential. “ When Uber commenced operations in Lagos four years ago, it (Lagos) was the fourth city in sub-Saharan Africa,’’ she said. She said that Uber was already present in over 140 cities in 40 countries before then. 

“ Today, Uber is available in 13 cities in Sub-Saharan Africa, and is available globally in over 600 cities in over 75 countries spanning six continents,’’ she said. Uriri said that Uber was constantly looking for ways to help driver-partners to get more value through many partnerships. “In Nigeria, we have partnered with companies such as FirstBank and Germaine Autos to ease the barriers of car ownership for driver-partners and to provide valuable car maintenance and servicing plans.’’ 

Uriri listed mapping and traffic congestion as some of Uber’s challenges in Nigeria but said that the company was working hard daily to overcome challenges to ensure seamless experience. Uber is a technology platform. 

The Uber app connects driver-partners and riders. Driver-partners use their own vehicles to pick up riders and drive them to their destinations and are paid for each completed trip. Uber was founded in March 2009 in San Francisco, California.

Uber testing UberEats in Nigeria

Nigerian government hands out cash to battle extreme poverty

The Nigerian government has just launched a collateral-free loan scheme which will see two million petty traders receive $28 repayable in six months.

It’s the latest social intervention program under Nigeria’s president Muhammadu Buhari. The government also offers free meals in public primary schools and plans to distribute $300 million in looted funds recovered from Swiss authorities to its poorest people. Around 300,000 households in 19 of Nigeria’s 36 states are expected to receive $14 per month.

There’s one simple reason Nigeria is doubling down on cash transfers to its poorest people: 86.9 million Nigerians—nearly 50% of its estimated 180 million population—live in extreme poverty.

So, does handing out cash to poor people actually work?

Yes, according to data.

A 2016 study by Overseas Development Institute (ODI) showed links between cash transfers and an improvement in school attendance, use of health services and dietary diversity in households that receive them. As Quartz has reported, when given to women, cash transfers have a positive impact on reducing domestic and sexual violence in poor households as well as reducing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

Research has also dispelled the notion that poor people could abuse cash transfers with non-essential purchases. Several countries are wise to the potential of cash transfers as a development policy. Around a billion people currently receive cash transfers across 130 countries, according to the World Bank (pdf) with most of the transfers coming from governments.

But there’s a catch.

Studies also show that while giving money to poor people outright can have a positive impact on reducing poverty, the effects don’t last after the cash transfers stop. For many recipients, the cash transfers are essentially a means to better living on a day-to-day basis rather than a permanent transformative fix. The short-lived effects clearly give governments a hint: cash transfers are not substitutes for good governance or delivering a better life to citizens in the long-term.

Ephemeral effects aside, local nuance means cash transfers in Nigeria will unlikely be straightforward business. For starters, Africa’s largest economy notoriously lacks national records through which it will properly identify its poorest people. More so, with the poorest people likely unbanked, it’s unclear how the cash will reach them in a manner that’s transparent. In a country where corruption is rampant, that’s a red flag.

And then there’s the question of timing. With general elections due early next year, some will regard the interventions as a play for votes. There is already ample reason to be cynical. Recent state level elections have been marred by brazen vote-buying by agents of major political parties.

Cheta Nwanze, researcher with SBM Intelligence, a Lagos-based intelligence consulting firm, says the loan scheme “will likely end up as a largesse which will not make a dent” and for which “return rates will be very poor.” Recent history backs up some of that sentiment. After launching a $126 million loan scheme for farmers in 2015, the government has struggled to recover the loans. As of December 2017, less than 50 of the 5,540 rice and wheat farmers who received loans had repaid them.