Thursday, February 22, 2018

Video - Pupils, teachers escape militant attack on school in Nigeria's Yobe State

Boko Haram insurgents have made unsuccessful attempt to kidnap school girls at a rural secondary school in Yobe state. The group that gained international notoriety for kidnapping hundreds of school girls from Chibok raided the school on Monday evening.

Video - Nigeria's electoral commission aims to register 80 million voters

Nigeria has started preparing for next year's elections. The country is due to go to the polls in February 2019. And the Independent National Electoral Commission has already started registering voters.

Some missing girls rescued after Boko Haram attack on school

Some of the schoolgirls missing after a militant attack on a boarding school in northern Nigeria have been rescued by the military, officials say.

About 100 children were believed to be missing after pupils and teachers fled into bush outside the town of Dapchi during the attack.

Parents told the BBC they had seen girls being taken away in trucks.

The attack comes four years after Boko Haram kidnapped more than 270 girls from a school in the town of Chibok.

In a statement, the Yobe state government said an unspecified number of girls had been rescued from the "terrorists who abducted them" and were now with the army.

Reuters news agency quoted parents and a government official as saying that 76 girls had been rescued and at least 13 were still missing

Two girls had been found dead, Reuters said, without specifying how they had died.

Yobe state officials had previously said there was no information to suggest any of the girls had been kidnapped.

Dapchi is about 275km (170 miles) north-west of Chibok.

The jihadists entered the town firing guns and letting off explosives, causing students and teachers to flee into the surrounding bush.

Residents say that Nigeria's security forces - backed by military jets - later repelled the attack.

Locals living near the school told the BBC that many of the girls who had fled had been found after hiding in surrounding villages - some up to 30km away.

Yobe's police minister said that 815 of the school's 926 students had later returned to the school.

The minister was speaking before news that more girls had been rescued by the military.

What has happened to the Chibok girls?

Last September, a group of more than 100 of the Chibok girls were reunited with their families at a party in Abuja.

Most of the group were released in May as part of a controversial prisoner swap deal with the Nigerian government that saw five Boko Haram commanders released.

But more than 100 schoolgirls are still being held by Boko Haram, and their whereabouts are unknown.

Boko Haram militants have been fighting a long insurgency in their quest for an Islamic state in northern Nigeria. The conflict is estimated to have killed tens of thousands of people.

The Chibok girls represent a fraction of the women captured by the militant group, which has kidnapped thousands during its eight-year insurgency in northern Nigeria.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Video - Nigeria women's bobsleigh team makes Olympic history

Nigeria’s women Bobsleigh team is making history by becoming the first ever African bobsled team to qualify for the Olympics.

205 Boko Haram suspects convicted in Nigeria

A Nigerian high court convicted 205 Boko Haram suspects for their involvement with the insurgent group, according to a Justice Ministry statement on Monday.

The suspects were sentenced to jail terms ranging from three to 60 years, the ministry said.
"Most of them were convicted for professing to belong to the terrorist group, concealing information about the group which they knew or believe to be of material assistance that could lead to the arrest, prosecution or conviction of Boko Haram members," the justice ministry statement said.

Since last week, hundreds of suspected Boko Haram members have appeared before a court at the Kainji military base in Niger, a central Nigerian state.

It also freed 526 suspects, including minors, for lack of evidence and ordered they be sent to their state governments for "proper rehabilitation." 

Seventy-three cases were adjourned for another hearing.

Among those released was a young girl from Nigeria's Borno State with a 3-month-old baby. She was arrested in 2014 while escaping Sambisa forest, a Boko Haram enclave.

The court on Friday imposed a second 15-year sentence on Haruna Yahaya, who was involved in the kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls from Chibok in 2014.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Video - Nigeria's military claim Boko Haram is defeated

Nigeria's military has spent the past two years claiming Boko Haram is defeated.The claims were repeated even as the army is constantly battling Boko Haram. And the insurgents staged numerous suicide attacks on civilian targets.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Video - Armed men have killed 18 people over cattle dispute in Nigeria

In Nigeria, authorities are still tracking the situation in the North-west of the country. Recent clashes between local hunters and cattle rustlers saw at least 18 people killed in Zamfara State.

Nigerian military ordered to capture Boka Haram leader "dead or alive"

Nigeria's army chief Tukur Buratai has ordered troops to capture the leader of terror group Boko Haram, alive or dead.

Buratai said on Sunday it has come to the end of the military operation aimed at clearing remnants of Boko Haram from their stronghold in the northeast region, except the capturing of Abubakar Shekau, who is both the spiritual head and supreme commander of the terror group.

"We must move across to wherever this criminal, Shekau, is and catch him red-handed. I want you to get him," the army chief charged the troops in Camp Zairo, previously the largest camp of Boko Haram in the northern state of Borno.

Last year, Buratai gave troops a 40-day ultimatum to capture Shekau but they failed in the bid.

Last Thursday, the army offered a bounty of 8,310 U.S. dollars on Shekau's head.

The military said it had chased the terrorist leader out of Camp Zairo since December 2016.

The Nigerian army said it has "reliable information" that Shekau now disguises as a woman in his attempt to escape from the theater of operation by troops.

Boko Haram has been trying since 2009 to establish an Islamic state in northeastern Nigeria, killing some 20,000 people and forcing displacement of millions of others.

Amokachi wants his twin sons to play for Nigeria

Former Super Eagles striker, Daniel Amokachi who declared himself Super Eagles number one fan still has that patriotic zeal running in his veins like in the days he played for Nigeria.

The USA ’94, France ’98 and Korea-Japan 2002 World Cup star has said he would want to see his twin sons follow the path he has threaded, by playing for Nigeria, instead of Tunisia, the country of their mother. Amokachi, fondly called Da Bull in his active days said, “Definitely, that would be my dream, their mother’s dream, even their dream because their heart is with Nigeria.”

He informed that the boys had turned down the opportunity to be capped by Tunisia, but remains hopeful that call will come up for them to play for Nigeria. “They are doing pretty well in Besiktas, they are with the U23 team, we are trying to see if they can play the professional angle of it because, in Turkey, they leave the foreign slot for professionals. 

Right now, however, they are working very hard and we hope that soon, they will get the opportunity to play in a place where they can give a good account of themselves,” Amokachi said. He prayed that Super Eagles players who are World Cup bound should remain injury free in order to find themselves in good form before the tournament. 

“Qualifying for the World Cup is one thing but the World Cup proper is a different ball game. The most important thing is that our players should be healthy and have enough playing time in their respective clubs because that will definitely tell when it comes to the World Cup. “I have confidence that this team can take us to the next level, like the quarter-final or even win the World Cup”.

BBC launches services in Igbo and Yoruba

Two new language services have been launched by the BBC World Service for Igbo and Yoruba speakers in Nigeria and West and Central Africa.

Their digital content is mainly aimed at audiences who use mobile phones.

Igbo is primarily spoken in south-east Nigeria and Yoruba in the south-west, as well as in Benin and Togo.

The new services are part of the World Service's biggest expansion since the 1940s, following a government-funding boost announced in 2016.

In total, 12 services are being launched by the BBC in Africa and Asia.

Igbo - seven things

. Best-known Igbo speaker was Chinua Achebe, regarded as the founding father of African literature
. Estimated to have more than 30 million speakers, mainly in south-eastern Nigeria
. A word with the same spelling can have different meanings, for example "akwa" is bed, egg, cloth or burial rights - depending on its tone
. An Igbo secessionist movement sparked a brutal civil war in 1967
. The caffeine-rich kola nut is all important in Igbo culture - always offered to welcome guests
. A famous proverb: "Onye wetara ọjị, wetara ndụ" meaning: "He who brings kola, brings life" is also on Facebook and Instagram

The BBC's expansion in Nigeria - Africa's most populous country where more than 200 languages are spoken - began last year with BBC Pidgin, which targets those who use the regional English-based lingua franca.

It is primarily an oral language, without a standard agreed written form.

The BBC Igbo and Yoruba teams have also faced challenges to standardise their written languages for modern audiences - and have sought advice from academics.

"Yoruba can be very confusing for younger readers because it has so many inflections, so we using a less complex system to appeal to them," says Yoruba service editor Temidayo Olofinsawo.

Yoruba - seven things

. Best-known Yoruba speaker is Wole Soyinka, Nobel Prize-winning playwright and poet
. More than 40 million speakers, mainly in south-western Nigeria
. A word with the same spelling can have different meanings, for example "owo" is money, honour, hand or broom - depending on the tone
. More people practise the traditional Yoruba religion in South America and the Caribbean than in 

. Nigeria - as a result of the Transatlantic Slave Trade
. A thriving Yoruba film and music industry powers Nollywood
. A famous proverb: "Ile laawo k'a to s'ọmọ lorukọ" meaning: "You should name your child to reflect your family background". is also on Facebook and Instagram

There are very few news publications in Igbo and Yoruba in Nigeria, so it is hoped the new BBC services will be popular with Nigerians at home - and in the diaspora.

"This is the first time the Igbo language will be written and broadcast for international consumption," says Adline Okere, editor of the Igbo service.

"Igbos are known for their entrepreneurial spirit - and they are spread all over the world," she says.
What is on offer?

The teams will produce a twice daily bulletin of BBC Minute - an audio round-up of stories as well as news, analysis, explainers and features on the web and social media.

The BBC's head of West Africa, Oluwatoyosi Ogunseye, says the focus will be on original journalism.

"Delivering content and engaging with the Igbo and Yoruba audiences in their mother tongues is authentic, exciting and refreshing," she says.

"We have had BBC Hausa [mainly spoken in northern Nigeria] for decades and we've seen the impact it had with its audience.

"When we look at Nigeria we have a multicultural society and the BBC felt that it was very important to give all the cultures a platform to communicate, a platform to interact."

Nigerian court frees 475 Boko Haram suspects

When mechanics Taye and Kehinde Hamza agreed to service a vehicle at their workshop in Nigeria's Bauchi State in 2010, they could never have imagined the years of hell which would follow.

The car, it turned out, belonged to a Boko Haram fighter, and the job was enough to get the twins arrested.

It would be another eight years until they were free again, cleared along with 473 others of terrorism charges.

Theirs is one tale among many emerging from a mass trial currently under way.

Four judges have been hearing cases since last Monday in the town of Kainji, in the central Niger State. So far, those released for lack of evidence far outweigh those convicted of being members of Islamist militant group Boko Haram.

Married to a militant at 11

Among those cleared of all charges last week were children and the elderly. Some, like the Hamza twins, had been detained since 2010.

Mariam Mohammed, a Shua Arab from Borno State, was caught by soldiers as she tried to flee the Sambisa Forest - Boko Haram's base - back in 2014.

She had been lured into the forest and married off to a fighter at the age of 11, an official statement from the Nigerian Justice Ministry said.

Last week, she turned up in court cradling a three-month-old baby.

The long term impact of their imprisonment is not yet known. According to the Justice Ministry, some are suffering from mental illnesses - although whether the conditions existed before their arrests was unclear.

At a previous mass trial, held in October, more than 400 suspects were released, with just 45 jailed for their roles in the Boko Haram insurgency which has killed more than 20,000 people and displaced millions of others.

Chibok 'mastermind'

Justice Minister Abubakar Malami told the BBC that the released suspects would be rehabilitated before being allowed to return to their families.

But while these judges are making headway into the backlog of people awaiting trial, there are still another 5,000 people are still waiting for their own dates to be set.

The judges have found 205 people guilty of terror-related offences - including the "mastermind" behind the abduction of the Chibok girls.

Judges had originally found Haruna Yahaya, 35, guilty of taking part in the 2014 kidnapping - despite his arguments he was an unwilling participant. On Friday, they handed him an additional sentence for planning the mass kidnapping.

In total, he was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

But while convictions like this offer the hope of justice for Boko Haram's many victims, campaign group Amnesty International has questioned the method of the trial.

"Mass trials of this nature provide insufficient guarantees for fair trial and risk failing to realize justice," Amnesty's Nigeria's director, Osai Ojigho, said.

"This is particularly so in this case, given that Amnesty International has previously documented how the security forces routinely rounded up and detained hundreds of young men as 'Boko Haram suspects' with no evidence."

The Nigerian authorities always insist that the suspects are being given fair hearing at the trials with lawyers provided to defend them through the Nigeria Legal Aid Council, according to the Justice Ministry.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Video - Man involved in 2014 Chibok kidnappings in Nigeria jailed for 15 years

A senior member of Boko Haram has been convicted in connection with the abduction of hundreds of girls from Chibok. The young women were kidnapped back in 2014 and many are still missing.

Video - Nigerians closely watching political events in South Africa

People around the world but especially in Africa are watching the political developments in South Africa closely. One of the country's biggest allies is Nigeria. And the two economies are the strongest in Africa.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Video - Nigerian visual artist wins international acclaim

Nigerian artist, Laolu Senbanjo, has won international acclaim by turning the human body into a canvas. Just a few years ago, he was working as a lawyer but he can now add music star Beyoncé to a list of people who have commissioned his work. Now he's set to open his first major exhibition in New York.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Video - Nigeria's US$1 billion Ogoniland clean-up project grinds to a halt

More than a year after the Nigerian government launched a billion-dollar Ogoniland clean-up project, the region remains severely polluted. It turns out the initial clean-up activities didn't last long, reportedly due to a lack of funds.

Mass trial of hundreds of Boko Haram suspects resumes

Hundreds of people suspected of links to Boko Haram stood trial in a detention center in central Nigeria on Monday in a resumption of the country’s biggest legal investigation of the militant Islamist insurgency, authorities said.

More than 20,000 people have been killed and two million forced to flee their homes in northeastern Nigeria since Boko Haram began an insurgency in 2009 aimed at creating an Islamic state.

The justice ministry said the suspects appeared in open court, after rights groups criticized earlier hearings in which more than 1,000 people stood trial in secret.

On Monday four judges presided over the trial of another several hundred people accused of links to the group, the justice ministry said.

“Unlike the first phase which was restricted, this phase is opened with some civil society groups, including human rights organizations and journalists invited to witness the proceedings,” the ministry added in a statement.

There were no immediate reports from journalists or rights activists said by the ministry to have been invited to attend.

Kainji detention facility is about eight hours’ drive from Minna, the main town in Nigeria’s Niger state, itself about three hours’ drive from the capital Abuja, along roads often plagued by kidnapping gangs.

In October, the ministry of justice said 45 suspects suspected of Boko Haram links had been convicted and jailed. A further 468 suspects were discharged and 28 suspects were remanded for trial in Abuja or Minna.

The other trials were adjourned.

Chibok schoolgirl kidnapper jailed in Nigeria

A Nigerian court has jailed a Boko Haram militant involved in the 2014 kidnapping of the Chibok girls.

Haruna Yahaya, 35, is the first member of the group to be sentenced for playing a part in the mass abduction.

The former trader, who confessed to his role in taking the 276 schoolgirls, argued he was made to act under duress.

But judges sitting at a military court in Kanji, who are hearing the cases of more than 1,000 suspected Boko Haram militants, dismissed his excuse.

They were also unmoved by his pleas for leniency on the grounds of his disability, which has left him with a paralysed arm and deformed leg, BBC News' Ishaq Khalid reports.

Justice ministry spokesman Salihu Isah confirmed to news agency AFP that Yahaya was given a 15-year jail sentence.

Yahaya, who came from Potiskum, in Yobe state, north-east Nigeria, was captured by a vigilante group called Civilian JTF in 2015 - a year after the girls were snatched from Government Girls Secondary School in Borno state.

Of the 276 girls taken in April 2014, 112 are still in captivity.

This week, some 700 of the suspected militants are due to appear before the judges in Kanji, according to sources at the court.

On Monday, 20 were found guilty of crimes associated with Boko Haram, while two were discharged for lack of evidence.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Video - U.N. seeks $1 billion for humanitarian aid in Nigeria in 2018

The United Nations says it requires more than a billion dollars to help Nigerians affected by the Boko Haram insurgency. While launching the world body's 2018 Humanitarian Response Plan, the U.N. country representative - Edward Kallon - says the initiative identifies more than 6.1 million people in need of assistance.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Video - Nigerian army celebrates victory as militants vow revenge

Nigerian government officials have told residents in the north-east of the country it's time to celebrate. They say the military has taken control of the last Boko Haram stronghold in the country -- Sambisa Forest. However, the militant group has released a video, refuting the claims and threatening more attacks.

Air plane door of Nigerian airline Dana Air falls off on runway

A Nigerian airline has blamed a passenger after one of its aircraft doors fell off shortly after landing.

The flight from Lagos to Abuja was taxiing on the runway when the emergency exit door came away.

Dana Air denied that it was caused by a mechanical fault, and said the door could not fall off "without a conscious effort by a passenger to open it".

But one passenger told the BBC that everyone on board had denied tampering with the door.

Dapo Sanwo, from Lagos, said: "The flight was noisy with vibrations from the floor panel. I noticed the emergency door latch was loose and dangling."

"When we landed and the plane was taxiing back to the park point, we heard a poof-like explosion, followed by a surge of breeze and noise. It was terrible."

"The cabin crew tried to say a passenger pulled the hatch which everyone denied. They also tried to get us to stop taking videos or pictures."

Ola Brown, who was also travelling on the flight, said on Twitter: "Did you hear [the door] rattling the whole flight? Was so unsettling. I just thought it was a screw loose, Didn't think it would actually just fall off."

In a statement, Dana Air denied there were issues with the door during the flight.

"The emergency exit door of our aircraft are plug-type backed by pressure, which ordinarily cannot fall off without tampering or a conscious effort to open by a crew member or passenger," the company said.

"When an aircraft is airborne, it is fully pressurised and there was no way the seat or door could have been shaking as insinuated."

The airline went on to say it had been inspected by engineers alongside a Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority team and "no issue was reported".

"The [return] flight was only delayed for eight minutes as we needed to demonstrate to the regulators that the safety and comfort of our guests is at the centre of our operations," the statement added.

In 2012, a Dana Air flight crashed in a busy Lagos suburb killing all 153 people on board.

Nigeria has historically had a poor air safety record. Last year, Abuja's airport airport was closed for six weeks while major repairs were carried out on its runway.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Activists embark on anti-littering awareness campaign in Abuja, Nigeria

A group of activists in Nigeria has pledged to clean up the country by encouraging people not to throw their rubbish onto the streets. The campaigners say that without proper intervention, a large population such as Nigeria's may soon not be able to cope with the build-up of trash.

Nigeria ranked in the top three global online search

A recent research conducted by Google has showed a rapid increase in online search among Nigerians. The research study which ranked Nigeria among the top three countries of the world that spend quality time online in search of various goods and services, disclosed that Nigerians' passion to go online is highest among Africa countries, surpassing South Africa and Kenya, and among top three countries globally.

Country Manager for Google Kenya, Mr. Charles Murito, who made the disclosure in South Africa, while presenting a paper on the evolution of digital advertising and the rise of online presence among African countries, said that South Africa has grown its online presence through mobile search from 61 per cent in 2014 to 67 per cent in 2017, Kenya grew its online presence through mobile search from 74 per cent in 2014 to 81 per cent in 2017, while Nigeria, which tops the African list for online presence through mobile search, grew from 76 per cent in 2014 to 86 per cent in 2017. He equally puts the growth of YouTube watch time in the past 12 months in Nigeria at 120 per cent, Kenya 110 per cent and South Africa 90 per cent.

He attributed the growth in online presence among African countries to the availability and affordability of mobile devices, occasioned by the fact that Africans are majorly mobile dependent people.

However, he said that the number could grow faster than that if the cost of mobile broadband data is drastically reduced. He said South Africa still have the highest rate of mobile broadband data in Africa, which is put at $7.6 per gigabyte, followed by Kenya at $4.9 per gigabyte and Nigeria at $3.1 gigabyte. He said Tanzania and Ghana operate at $2.3 per gigabyte each, while Egypt has the lowest rate of mobile broadband data at $1.2 per gigabyte.

Nigeria Super Eagles World Cup kit revealed

Sports manufacturers Nike have revealed the new Nigeria kits ahead of the Super Eagles' World Cup campaign.

Nike Football shared a video on their official YouTube channel which reveals several of the national team's key men catching a first glimpse of the team's new attire.

In the 1 minute 20 second clip, Wilfred Ndidi, John Obi Mikel, Alex Iwobi and Kelechi Iheanacho are shown giving their verdict on what is a dazzling offering from Nike.

"I can see the players going crazy over this one," Mikel said when he was shown the national side's home shirt, in Nigeria's famous dark green with an eye-catching neon logo.

The away kit, a neon and white retro design on the body, and dark green chevrons on a white background on the arms, received a more muted response.

"This is different, you know," Iwobi added, somewhat diplomatically, while Ndidi was a little more enthusiastic, claiming he just "couldn't wait" to get the kit on in Russia this summer.

Despite the mixed reaction, the kit's similarity to the iconic shirts worn by the nation's Golden Generation in their maiden World Cup campaign in the United States in 1994 should earn it major points for nostalgia among Super Eagles supporters.

"A constant in Nigeria is an endearing love of football," NFF President Amaju Pinnick, told Nike's official website. "When football is on, everything stops. The new Nike kit designs honour our federation's rich traditions. Moreover, they celebrate everything we relish about our culture."

"With Nigeria, we wanted to tap into the attitude of the nation," added Dan Farron, Nike Football Design Director. "We built this kit and collection based on the players' full identities.

"We started to see trends in attitude and energy connecting the athletes to music, fashion and more. They are part of a resoundingly cool culture."

According to the New Telegraph Online, Nike presented the kits to the Nigeria Football Federation at a ceremony in London on Wednesday.

Nigeria are using Nike as their kit manufacturer after having been fitted by Adidas for their last two World Cup campaigns - in 2010 and 2014.

They will wear the shirts for the first time on March 23 when they face Poland in a friendly in Warsaw.

Nigeria have been pitted against Croatia, Iceland and Argentina in World Cup Group D.

The 'cattle colony' problem in Nigeria

Since the New Year, more than 80 people have been killed in clashes between nomadic herdsmen and farmers in Nigeria's central Benue, Taraba and Nasarawa states. Herders, mostly from the Fulani ethnic group, and farmers often clash over the use of fertile land.

For a very long time, the Nigerian government did not offer a concrete plan to solve the problem, doing little more than giving cliche political sermons, condemning the killings and issuing palliatives.

But after the latest killing spree in early January, the government announced that they have finally found a solution that would end these clashes once and for all: "cattle colonies".

"We have to deal with an urgent problem, cattle rearing and the conflicts between farmers and herdsmen, and actually bring it to a halt … Let us do our own duty by eliminating the conflict by creating cattle colonies," the government's Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh said.

The Nigerian public's initial reaction to the announcement was one of disinterest and confusion, as no one seemed to understand what a "cattle colony" was. Eventually, many communities realised that implementing this policy could lead to a disaster and outright rejected it. While to the government it might make sense to allocate land for pastures to cattle herders, to many Nigerians it doesn't.

In their rejection of the policy, some Nigerians resorted to sarcasm. "What is cattle colony? We have been colonised by the colonial masters, and now we will be colonised by cows?" quipped Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice of Taraba state Yusufu Akirikwen.

So what is the "cattle colony" policy and why are many Nigerians rejecting it?

Why is there a conflict between farmers and herders?

Competition for land is fierce in Nigeria, and originally this had nothing to do with farmers or herders. In Nigeria's south, land ownership is a sign of wealth, prosperity and power. A man's possession of land can also be a measure of his authority. This perception is strong in rural communities, and so, fights and aggression over land acquisition have become common.

Now, cattle herders have introduced a new dimension to the issue. Over the past few decades, three parallel processes have put a huge strain on Nigeria's fertile land.

First, the population of Nigeria has doubled in the past decade and a half and will double again by the year 2050; this has increased the demand for agricultural products.

Second, the expansion of urban centres to accommodate internal migration and population growth has taken up huge swaths of arable land from farmers.

Third, gradual desertification in the north, due to climate change and other factors, has rendered massive tracts of land unusable for agriculture or cattle herding; currently, 11 out of 19 states in the north are severely threatened by soil erosion.

All this has not only shrunk the amount of land available for farming and pastures but has also pushed cattle herders further south.

In the past, farmers and herders were able to manage disputes, primarily through the community justice system that employs dialogue and small peace talks in village squares.

But that inter-community conflict resolution process no longer works because grievances have increased in number and dimension. Individual resentment transformed over timeinto large-scale violence. The issue eventually assumed an ethnic dimension and has been presented as a problem between the north and the south.

It is important here to point out that land disputes happen all over the country and are not necessarily always related to cattle-herding. For instance, in July 2017, clashes between two communities over land in River state - Nigeria's oil-producing delta - left close to 150 people dead and thousands displaced.

What is the 'cattle colony' policy?

According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the "cattle colony" policy is going to solve the ongoing problems between herdsmen and farmers by designating vast tracts of lands in each state as herding grounds.

Herdsmen will use these designated herding grounds, or "cattle colonies" to feed their livestock, and as a result will not feel the need to disturb the fertile agricultural lands that belong to farming communities.

Of course, the situation is not as simple as the government presents it to be. First of all, the government's proposal does not explain how it will prevent herdsmen from encroaching on farmlands as they move between "cattle colonies". Also, according to the proposal, every state retains the discretion to decline the federal government's call for land donation. In other words, local governments can simply refuse to host a "cattle colony" within their borders.

The government responded to these criticisms by saying that 16 of Nigeria's 36 states had already agreed to host cattle colonies. Yet, in Nigeria, local authorities only have limited control over farmland and indigenous populations, and in the end, local groups can simply refuse to comply with decisions taken by state governments.
Why will the 'cattle colony' policy not work?

Beyond these obvious reasons that are driving the rebellion against the policy, there is also another grievous problem with this policy.

In most communities in Nigeria, the land is fundamentally managed by families and communities, although the government has enacted laws to try to weaken the grip of tradition on land-related issues.

For many, land is sacred and no single person, in most customs, can sell, transfer or use lands without violating societal norms in the process. This spiritual dimension to land in Nigeria sometimes even warrants that certain rituals be involved in land transfer or acquisition. So, ceding land to any person other than a community kinsman, especially in rural communities, requires a careful, long, and relatively sacred process.

The Land Use Act of 1978 that regulates land acquisition, ownership and transfer in Nigeria has not truly replaced these customs because - like most government policies - it failed to reach rural communities in any meaningful way. Sadly, federal law in Nigeria is mostly seen as a collection of "elitist" texts that have little influence on the status-quo on the ground.

Local community leaders from some states that seemingly subscribed to this policy have already warned the state governments to "stay clear of their land". In Kogi state, a community leader, Chief Alhassan Ejike, said the governor "cannot allocate a land that doesn't belong to [him] to foreigners."

In a separate petition, Igala Project - an association of one of Nigeria's largest tribes - warned, "our people, who are largely farmers, are not prepared to host herdsmen or cattle colony masters in our land."
What should the government do?

The government can explore alternatives other than the "cattle colony" policy, including cattle ranching. Northern states could build ranches for herders, facilitate acquisition of cattle fodder and implement land reclamation projects for desert areas.

This would alleviate migration to the south and limit clashes. Besides, it makes more economic sense with potential job creation and other incentives for middlemen and farmers. It would also calm ethnic tensions and disputes between the south and north.

In the end, whether the government opts for cattle ranching or another solution, it should give up the "cattle colonies" idea. Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari pleading "I ask you in the name of God to accommodate your country men" will not convince the Nigerian people.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Cryptocurrency craze unfazed in Nigeria despite bitcoin plung

While bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have suffered precipitous falls in recent weeks, the units remain popular in Nigeria where they make it easier to do business.

On the surface, digital coins may not seem like a good idea in a country where corruption is rampant and stacks of hard cash are often smuggled overseas.

Yet West Africa's biggest economy has the world's third-largest bitcoin holdings as a percentage of gross domestic (GDP), behind Russia and New Zealand, according to Citigroup.

That may be because blockchain technology -- public, online ledgers that underpin cryptocurrencies -- is liberating Nigerians sidelined by the global financial system as it dramatically improves the ease of doing business.

Olaoluwa Samuel-Biyi, a slight 27-year-old entrepreneur, looks the part of an aspiring corporate disrupter, dressed in skinny jeans with dishevelled hair.

He first considered using cryptocurrency when credit card firms and other established payment providers refused to partner with his global remittance company, deeming the venture too risky.

"They said the markets were too high risk and that people could finance terrorism," he told AFP, laughing. "It's ridiculous."

He realised that the only way he could solve the problem was to use cryptocurrency.

"It's so hard to send money from Nigeria to Zimbabwe, or from the United States to Sudan," he explained. Banks were "very tedious" and payment companies "generally exploitative", he said.

"There's heavy discrimination, definitely. We have to go all around them to succeed."

- 'Financial inclusion' -

Samuel-Biyi's company, SureRemit, developed its own virtual token -- a kind of custom cryptocurrency like bitcoin or one of the many alternatives such as ether.

The tokens are used to buy vouchers, which may be used to purchase goods and pay bills at participating merchants anywhere in the world, cutting out cumbersome middlemen and eliminating fees.

In January, SureRemit held its "initial coin offering" (ICO), a form of online crowdfunding where people purchase the tokens to be put in circulation for use in eight countries, mostly in Africa and the Middle East.

The 500 million tokens, each worth two US cents, sold out in just two days and were snapped up by major cryptocurrency players, including South Korea's Hashed, raising $7 million for the company.

"We were expecting scam allegations," said Samuel-Biyi, referring to Nigeria's unenviable reputation for online financial fraud. "But the world really accepted it."

If the token system works, SureRemit stands to take a chunk of the world's remittance market, which was worth $429 billion in 2016, according to the World Bank.

It's hardly surprising that SureRemit was conceived in Nigeria: remittance flows that year were worth $19 billion -- more than four percent of GDP.

Sub-Saharan Africa has some of the highest remittance costs in the world, with the most expensive fees seen within the continent.

To send money from France to Mali incurs a five percent fee, a quarter of how much it costs to send from Nigeria to Mali.

Such high fees have for years forced Nigerians to find alternative, sometimes risky, ways to transfer money.

"I remember back in 2004, e-gold (a defunct digital currency) was the only option anyone in Nigeria had to make online payments," said Tim Akinbo, the founder of Tanjalo, a Nigerian exchange where people can buy bitcoin with the local naira currency.

"There are still African countries cut off from international commerce online. Bitcoin is technology that allows financial inclusion."

- Naira volatility -

The depreciation of the naira, which has sunk to 305 against the US dollar from 169 in 2015, has made cryptocurrencies even more attractive -- and the authorities are paying attention.

Nigeria's central bank governor Godwin Emefiele warned recently that "cryptocurrency or bitcoin is like a gamble", though the Senate has launched an investigation into "the viability of bitcoin as a form of investment".

Stern warnings haven't made an impact on trading, said Owenizi Odia, Nigeria spokesman for Luno, another cryptocurrency exchange operating in the country.

"I think there's an acknowledgement that this technology is the future, going beyond bricks and mortar to improve cost efficiency," added Muyiwa Oni, an analyst at Stanbic IBTC Holdings in Lagos.

"For now we're still trying to distinguish who the main players will be."

Samuel-Biyi hopes to be one of them.

"Whether or not the authorities call it gambling, Nigerians are just looking for any opportunity to get ahead of the curve," he said. "It's part of the hustle."

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Video - Nigerian community leader fears more attacks in Macerata, Italy

A Nigerian community leader in Macerata says he fears further violence against Africans in the Italian city - despite migrants' integration into the local community.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Nigeria defeated in CHAN Final

Ayoub el Kaabi scored his ninth goal of the2018 African Nations Championship (CHAN) asMorocco became the first hosts to triumph by thrashing 10-man Nigeria 4-0 Sunday in a Casablanca downpour.

With Nigeria in disarray and the final long over as a contest, the previously little known striker completed his record-extending goal haul by firing into the net from close range.

Zakaria Hadraf put the home team ahead at Stade Mohammed V on the stroke of half-time and added the match-clinching third goal midway through the second half.

In between the first goals of the tournament for Hadraf, fellow midfielder Mohamed el Karti netted soon after Nigerian attacker Eneji Moses was red-carded following a second caution.

Before the biennial tournament kicked off last month, Achraf Bencharki from 2017 CAF Champions League winners Wydad Casablanca was the centre of attention.

His five goals were instrumental in the success of Wydad and he was expected to spearhead the Moroccan CHAN challenge.

But Bencharki was a shock absentee from the line-up for the tournament opener while lone striker El Kaabi bagged a brace in a 4-0 mauling of Mauritania.

He followed up with a hat-trick -- only the third in the history of the tournament -- against Guinea, put one past Namibia and scored twice in the semi-final victory over Libya.

His nine goals comfortably surpassed the previous record of five from Zambian Given Singuluma in the first CHAN finals nine years ago.

El Kaabi helped Racing Casablanca win promotion to the Moroccan top flight last season, then joined Renaissance Berkane, a relatively successful but low-profile elite division outfit.

After his CHAN exploits, national coach Herve Renard is likely to give the 24-year-old a chance as Morocco prepare to face Iran, Portugal and Spain at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

The destruction of Nigeria created a record winning margin for a CHAN final, bettering the three-goal victories of Tunisia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Morocco pocketed a record $1.25 million (about one million euros) having justified their pre-tournament role as favourites to win the fifth CHAN.

Sudan performed best of the four previous host nations, finishing third. Rwanda reached the quarter-finals and the Ivory Coast and South Africa exited after the first round.

Morocco also became the first champions to win five of the six matches -- defeating Mauritania, Guinea, Namibia and Libya before overwhelming Nigeria.

The only blemish was partly self-inflicted as they fielded a virtual reserve side in a goalless draw with Sudan after both nations had secured last-eight places.

El Kaabi had a goal disallowed and struck the woodwork before Hadraf sidefooted a cut-back between the legs of goalkeeper Oladele Ajiboye for a 45th-minute lead.

After Moses had been sent off, Morocco took control and Nigeria fell apart with some comical defending contributing to their downfall.

El Karti made it 2-0 just past the hour, Hadraf completed his brace three minutes later and player-of-the-tournament El Kaabi completed the rout with 73 minutes gone.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Suicide bomb attack kills 6 in Nigeria

Six people were killed and 39 others injured in a suicide attack Wednesday night in northeastern Nigeria.

A female suicide bomber infiltrated the Dalori Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp in the city of Maiduguri and detonated an explosive device, killing herself and five other people, Satomi Ahmad, head of the State Emergency Management Agency told reporters late on Wednesday.

Minutes after the first attack, a second bomber launched another suicide attack, which caused no casualties or any fatalities when she blew herself up into pieces, according to Satomi Ahmad.

The Boko Haram militant group has stepped up its campaign of suicide bombing using girls, usually veiled, to blow up targets in Nigeria's northeast.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari recently said Boko Haram's wicked methods of using innocent children for suicide bomb attacks on soft targets are "the last kicks of a dying horse."

Buhari reiterated that Boko Haram had been degraded. But attacks have continued regardless of the country's military efforts.

The group has been trying since 2009 to establish an Islamic state in northeastern Nigeria. More than 15,000 people have been killed and millions displaced.

Nigeria beat Sudan to advance to CHAN 2018 Final

Nigeria survived a sending-off to edge past Sudan 1-0 in the semi-finals of the African Nations Championship and set up a final against hosts Morocco.

They also lost first-choice goalkeeper, captain Ikechukwu Ezenwa, to injury after just 11 minutes.

They played the last half hour with only 10 men, after Ifeanyi Ifeanyi was dismissed following a nasty challenge.

Okechukwu Gabriel got the only goal of the game.

But Nigeria had to rely on some excellent saves from replacement keeper Oladele Ajiboye and some poor finishing from Sudan, who also had a man sent off late on.

Just five minutes after Ezenwa, who has also been first-choice keeper for the full national team, was forced off, Kalu Okugbue launched a long ball forward that was headed on by Anthony Okpotu into the path of Gabriel, who guided his shot home.

One of Ajiboye's first impressive saves came on the stroke of half-time as he dived to push a header on to the post, with the Sudanese claiming the ball had crossed the line. Replays showed it had not.

Thirteen minutes after the break Nigeria were reduced to 10 men as Ifeanyi slid in with both feet on his opposite number Mohamed Hashim Idris to get his second yellow card, which means he will miss Sunday's final.

Sudan created numerous chances to score an equaliser but poor finishing let them down as Ajiboye made good saves to deny Abdelrahman Maaz and Abdellatif Boya among others.

Sudan also ended the match with 10 players as Bakri Bashir was shown a straight red card as the referee adjudged he pulled Dayo Ojo just outside the area to deny him a clear goalscoring opportunity.

The Sudanese were then denied twice in injury time as Ajiboye made another good save, then he and a defender managed to scramble the ball off the line.

Awaiting Nigeria in Sunday's final are the hosts Morocco, who earlier needed extra time to beat Libya 3-1.

The last action at the tournament for Sudan will be the third-placed play-off against Libya on Saturday in Marrakech.