Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Video - Islamic Movement of Nigeria continue protests despite Monday's killings

Shi'ite Muslims continued their demonstration in Abuja on Tuesday. Members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria are calling for the release of their leader, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky. On Monday, the military opened fire on a procession of I-M-N members heading to the Abuja demonstration. El-Zakzaky has been in prison since a security crackdown in 2015. His Islamic Movement of Nigeria has about 3-million followers. The group claims the soldiers killed at least 10 protesters on Monday. However, the army disputes this, saying only three people were killed as they marched on a military checkpoint. Thousands of demonstrators were allegedly blocking roads and throwing rocks when security forces opened fire.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Video - Nigerian army uses live rounds against Shiite protesters - 10 dead

At least 10 people were killed after the Nigerian army fired live bullets and teargas to disperse a group of Shiite protesters on the second day of demonstration by the group in the capital city of Abuja on Monday, a Shiite cleric told CNN.

Violence broke out after hundreds of Shiite protesters threw stones at the soldiers and commuters at a checkpoint, as they marched into the city, eyewitnesses told CNN.

"We fled from our vehicle into the bush where we hid for three hours. From there, we could hear gunshots and see Shiite protesters taking their members who were shot away. There were also bodies lying on the roads," Khalifa Bello said.

Another resident, Jude Faing, said vehicles were turned back amid the chaos as Shiite protesters dressed in symbolic black marched into the city causing traffic.

"People were shouting to everyone to go back, and as there was shootings between soldiers and Shiite members at the army checkpoint, so I ran back home," Faing told CNN.

CNN has asked the Nigerian military for comment on the shooting claim but has not received a response.

The unrest comes after the military said three members of the Islamic group and two soldiers were injured following a clash with Shiite protesters on Saturday.

Army spokesman James Myam, in a statement Sunday, said the troops only shot at the protesters on Saturday to "extricate" themselves from the area after the clashes turned violent.

Myam alleged that members of the group attacked a military convoy traveling with ammunition and weapons on the outskirts of the city, forcing the soldiers to engage them.

Islamic Movement of Nigeria spokesman Ibrahim Musa told CNN at least 10 of its members were killed on Monday when they encountered a roadblock from the soldiers who opened fire at them.

"Our members were marching peacefully for three hours while observing the Arbaeen March as will be done by all Shiite members in Karbala in Iraq and other countries," Musa said.

Shiite protesters are also demanding their leader's freedom, he added.

Ibrahim Zakzaky has been in the military detention since his arrest in 2015, following a crackdown by the country's security forces on members of the sect.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Video - Nigeria declares a national disaster due to heavy floods

A national disaster has been declared in several provinces in Nigeria due to widespread flooding. The Red Cross says the crisis has been neglected and grossly underestimated. It's warned that the impact could be far-reaching if aid intervention isn't stepped up - and soon. The state-run National Emergency Management Agency has confirmed the Red Cross's assessment, but has declined to comment further.

Swiss ship crew freed from kidnappers in Nigeria

Twelve crew members of a Swiss ship seized off Nigeria last month have been freed, Swiss judicial officials said on Sunday.

Negotiations between the owner Massoel Shipping and the kidnappers led to the release of seven Filipinos, a Bosnian, a Croatian, a Romanian, a Slovenian and a Ukrainian, all of whom were then flown to Switzerland, ATS news agency and the Basel prosecutor's office said.

The ship, MV Glarus, and its cargo of wheat are still in the hands of pirates who attacked on September 22nd and destroyed most of its communications equipment.

It was not known whether a ransom was paid for the crew's release.

The ship had been transporting wheat from Lagos to Port Harcourt, in southern Nigeria, when it was hijacked off Nigeria's Bonny Island.

German-language newspaper Blick reported that the pirates belonged to the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), which says it wants the region's population to receive a bigger share of the country's oil and gas revenues.

The Gulf of Guinea has become the world's piracy hot spot, meanwhile.

The International Maritime Bureau said in late July that there were six kidnappings of crews around the world in the first half of 2018. All were in the Gulf of Guinea .

Of 16 incidents in which ships came under gunfire in 2017, seven were in the waters which stretch 5,700 kilometres (3,541 miles) from Senegal to Angola.

Pirates that prowl off the coasts of Benin, Nigeria, and Togo are well armed and generally hold ships long enough to loot their cargoes after cowing crews with violence.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Video - Nigeria imports Norwegian seafood worth $125 million yearly

Let's head to Nigeria now, where the country shares a rather fishy relationship with Norway... Despite having its own coastline, the West African nation imports around 125 million dollars' worth of Norwegian seafood every year.

Video - Nigeria launches awareness campaign to eradicate polio by 2019

According to the World Health Organisation, Nigeria is one of only three countries in the world classified as a polio endemic nation. The other two are Afghanistan and Pakistan. Nigeria is now looking to earn a polio free certification in 2019 after years of efforts to tackle the disease. Phil Ihaza has more on the story.

Super Eagles captain Mikel Obi to financially support Nigeria Amputee team

Nigeria captain John Mikel Obi has pledged financial and moral support to the country's cash-strapped amputee football team, but the Special Eagles face a race against time to make it to the World Cup in Mexico.

The team, who have missed the last three World Cups due to a lack of finances, took to crowd-funding early this month to help them travel to compete in the 2018 tournament.

Both the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) president, Amaju Pinnick, and the Super Eagles squad have made significant financial contributions, but captain John Mikel Obi has now stepped in to assist.

"We've spoken to a representative of John Mikel Obi who has offered to help the team," co-ordinator of fund-raising, Fred Edoreh, told BBC Sport.

"His support will come as a big boost, but right now the dilemma is to find the flights to get the squad to Mexico.

"Time is running out on us and with ticket costs increasing by the day towards our opening game against our budget, we are taking the hard decisions of sending the first team as first batch.

"This is to avoid heavier cost and also get the boys to settle down before the game against Brazil on Sunday.

"The first batch (eight players and coach) should have left today (Tuesday) but there were not enough seats on the last lap of the journey, from Mexico City to Guadalajara.

"Our travel agents are working hard to secure space for them by tomorrow, Wednesday. So they are expected to depart Lagos by 12 noon with Ethiopia Airlines."

"This will help us to secure our presence and avoid a global sanction. Hoping with additional funds, the reserve team can depart on Thursday or Friday," Edoreh said.

BBC sports understands that former Chelsea midfielder Mikel Obi hopes to support the team with money and kits.

Angola, Kenya and Ghana represented Africa at the 2014 World Cup in Culiacán, Mexico.

The Angolans finished as runners-up after losing 3-1 to Russia in the final.


Cryptocurrency could help light up Nigeria

Imagine being able to purchase clean energy cheaply and through cryptocurrency. Sounds futuristic? But it's a possibility that OneWattSolar, a startup based in Lagos wants to achieve.

The clean energy outfit has come up with a way of allowing thousands of Africans to pay for solar energy using blockchain tokens without having to pay for the solar system infrastructure, which is funded through financial backers. 

It was a concept Victor Alagbe, the company's vice president of operations and blockchain strategy, had been thinking on when reading about Elon Musk. 

"I did some writing on Tesla and so I thought it is sunny most of the time here, especially in the northern parts where it is quite arid," recalled Alagbe who is a former business writer.

"So why don't we use this to power our own electricity... many Nigerians cannot really afford to set up their own solar systems. 

"They can't afford the start up cost so most people would rather go for generators which is not economical when you think of maintenance costs," Alagbe said.

The idea behind blockchain payments

The aim is for customers to purchase tokens in the local naira currency using the platforms of third party tech finance companies. 

"It provides transparency, you can see the utilization of funds, how many systems we have purchased and how many are being used."

The tokens used have been built on the blockchain platform, Ethereum. 

On a traditional service using fossil fuels, energy usage is around 70 Nigerian naira ($0.19) per kilowatt. "But the blockchain system is 50 percent cheaper than diesel," claims Alagbe because the expensive maintenance costs of generators is mitigated.

Instead OneWattSolar's systems will include solar panels and a fitted internet enabled router that will automatically collect data on energy usage that is charged monthly on a pay as you go basis.

"This will ensure that customers are billed for exactly what they use," said Alagbe.

It is also hoped it will alert OneWattSolar to any potential problems with the systems in real-time.
Although the startup has only been eight months in the making, it's part of GoSolar Africa, a renewable energy company that's been operating in Africa since 2010. The plan is to launch in January 2019 with an initial 1,000 systems that are fully operational the company said. 

Around 41 percent of Nigerians have no access to electricity, according to the World Bank and it is these potential customers the startup is looking to connect. 

"So far there are 6,400 homes who have signed up to be put on our waiting list," said Alagbe.
According to him, the long term goal is to connect one million homes across Sub-Saharan Africa without electricity with solar energy through blockchain. It's hoping to achieve this by 2025.

Africa's renewable energy industry

The young tech company is part of a boom in the renewable energy industry across Africa.
A joint venture between Abuja based Motir Services Nigeria and US based DuSable Capital Management will power 180, 000 homes in Nigeria in a 100MW solar project worth $175m. 

In Morocco - the world's largest concentrated solar power plant called the Noor-Ouarzazate complex - will power more than one million homes when complete later this year. 

It is hoped the complex will decrease Morocco's dependence on oil by about 2.5 million tons per year and reduce carbon emissions by 760,000 tons per year in the country, according to the World Bank who has financed the project's construction.

Ghana is also gearing up its renewable energy capabilities. 

Earlier this year, the West African nation announced a goal of increasing renewable energy consumption from currently one percent to 10 percent of energy usage by 2030. 

While in October, Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia also announced that all government institutions would run on solar power to reduce energy consumption costs.

As African nations move towards cleaner and reliable energy, startups like OneWattSolar could prove profitable.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Video - Boko Haram launches two deadly attacks in Borno State Nigeria

Barely hours after jihadists in Nigeria killed a dozen farmers in Kalla, Borno state, the militants have launched another attack, this time killing three people and injuring several others. Locals say the jihadists arrived in trucks to attack the neighbouring villages, 6 kilometres outside Maiduguri. Over the weekend, the militant group hacked to death around 12 farmers. Their bodies were found in their fields. The villages were raided and burnt to the ground. This comes barely a week after a Boko Haram faction executed a kidnapped aid worker.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Video - At least 12 farmers killed in Boko Haram attack in Borno state

At least 12 farmers have been killed in a suspected Boko Haram attack in the volatile Borno state in Nigeria. Scores of others were injured. According to the leader of a local militia, the militants attacked farmers harvesting crop in the remote village of Kalle. He says they used machetes instead of guns so as not to attract the attention of troops nearby. It was not clear which of the two Boko Haram factions was behind the attack.

Nigerian woman on a mission to save Lagos beaches and turtles from plastic

Doyinsola Ogunye, along with around 20 volunteer children, vigorously combs a sandy shore in the Nigerian coastal city of Lagos, unearthing deeply embedded litter and plastic that can prove deadly to sea turtles.

The tide is low and the layer of scattered debris across a seemingly endless stretch of golden sand emerges as the waves recede into the ocean.

Every type of man-made waste imaginable, from polystyrene, broken ceramic, assorted flip-flops and building materials, is visible. I can even spot a syringe.

This is Elegushi beach - and nothing can beat the beauty this strip of Atlantic coastline, but the sheer scale of litter hits you right away.

"Sometimes it gets very overwhelming," says Ms Ogunye, an environmental activist who has set up a programme to rid the beach of rubbish.

'A bath for the beach'

Every week she and her volunteer crew collect about 50 large sacks of litter.

It's a mammoth task, but the 30-year-old has put herself on the frontline, battling the destruction caused by pollution.

As well as cleaning the public beach, she plants trees and rescues endangered sea turtles.

"I always have to look at it from a positive light. Every morning when I wake up, I have my bath. Every morning when I wake up, I try to clean the beach. It's basically a bath for the beach."

Ms Ogunye founded the Kids' Beach Garden, a space stretching over seven hectares (17 acres) of land along the coast, where children come to learn about the environment.

As I watch the playful way Ms Ogunye interacts with the children, teaching them about marine life and recycling using sport, games, chants and songs, it's obvious why the children keep coming back.

Ms Ogunye believes change starts with the young. She credits a childhood spent outdoors in Lagos for her love of nature.

Although Ms Ogunye trained as a lawyer, she realised that she wanted to pass on her passion for the environment to the next generation.

She decided to set up a charity for that purpose seven years ago while she was studying. The Kids' Beach Garden grew out of that initial venture.

"Every time I wanted to have fresh air from studying, I would come to the beach and relax.

"I realised that the beach was very dirty. There was no way I would even be comfortable in a place like that."

Ms Ogunye decided to take action. She used her database from previous charity projects to sign up volunteers to clean the beach and sort the recyclable waste on a regular basis.

'Turtles eat more plastic than food'

But it was not long before she realised that beach-cleaning and rescuing sea turtles would have to go hand in hand.

She found many of the reptiles washed up on the shore.

"Most of the time the turtles are disoriented, especially when they're caught in the garbage or caught in grass," Ms Ogunye explains.

"We tend to keep them in a very dark place and later on we release them."

Many of the baby sea turtles that hatch on the shore die because of the conditions of the beaches.

"Right now the sea turtles are eating more plastic than even food," Ms Ogunye says.

"That's basically what's been killing sea turtles."

She says it is essential that people living in coastal communities are educated about the need to conserve the creatures.

According to the activist, fostering relationships with people in these neighbourhoods and involving them in the process plays a central role in the education process.

She says it is crucial to explain to communities, who mainly depend on fishing, what they stand to lose if sea turtles are wiped out.

Ms Ogunye explains that a sea turtle's diet consists of jellyfish, seaweed and sea grass.

"Jellyfish are toxic. If [we] have [too] much jellyfish in the ocean, we're going to have a reduced amount of fish and that will cause food shortages."

Before I leave her, she promises to call when she next releases a rescued turtle.

'Meat in the sea'

A few weeks later I get an urgent call from her asking me to meet her at the beach garden.

She has bought a sea turtle from a fisherman who, she had heard through social media, was attempting to sell it in a village for food.

Of course Ms Ogunye has other ideas, wanting to release it back into the ocean.

When I arrive I find her digging a ditch in the sand with the help of a few volunteers and the fisherman who sold her the turtle.

The turtle, which had been bleeding from the mouth earlier, is floundering in the sand in distress.

Ms Ogunye is trying to contact a marine biologist for advice, but the turtle dies later that evening.

The marine biologist explains the cause of death was internal bleeding and there was little they could have done to save it.

It is illegal to catch and sell sea turtles and if anyone is caught they will be fined and possibly jailed.

Despite this, selling the creatures can prove too much of a temptation for fishermen.

The fisherman in this instance boasts that he can make more than $200 (£126) for one turtle and refers to them as "meat in the sea".

Changing these attitudes can make her work feel like an uphill struggle, but Ms Ogunye says she will never give up.

"I call it a burden because it's all I think about sometimes," she says.

When I wake up in the morning, when I'm having my bath, I'm wondering how we can take care of the environment. It's so precious and so important to me.

"I want in my lifetime to see Nigerians and Africans taking care of the environment."

Curfew declared in Kaduna after violent clash leaves 55 people dead

Nigerian authorities declared a 24-hour curfew Sunday in Kaduna after clashes between young Christians and Muslims left at least 55 people dead.

Governor Nasir El-Rufai posted a statement on Facebook from his spokesman stating: "The state government has declared a curfew in Kaduna metropolis and its environs to manage the situation."

"The governor appealed to all residents to do their best to uphold peace," the statement added.

Kaduna was plunged into communal violence this week after fighting broke out between Hausa Muslim and Adara Christian youths in the town of Kasuwan Magani's market following a dispute among wheelbarrow porters.


Two people were said to have been killed in the initial market fracas on Thursday. The violence then dramatically escalated when Adara youths later attacked Hausa residents, burning homes, and killing dozens.

"Most of the killings were done in the second attack which took the Hausa community off guard," Muhammadu Bala, a Kasuwar Magani resident who lost his home, told AFP over the weekend.

Kaduna state police commissioner Ahmad Abdur-Rahman told reporters on Friday 22 people had been arrested in connection with the violence.

Kaduna state is where Nigeria's predominantly Muslim north meets the predominantly Christian south, and has seen previous bouts of sectarian violence.

In February clashes left at least 10 people dead and hundreds of homes and businesses burnt. Major bouts of sectarian rioting in 2000 and 2002 killed thousands.

The latest outbreak prompted President Muhammadu Buhari to express concern that Nigerians were too frequently resorting to violence over misunderstandings that could be resolved peacefully.

"No culture and religion supports the disregard for the sanctity of life," he said, adding that "peaceful coexistence is necessary for the progress of any society and its wellbeing".​

Separatist leader Nnamdi Kanu resurfaces in Israel

Missing Nigerian separatist leader Nnamdi Kanu has resurfaced in Israel more than a year after soldiers stormed his home. 

"I'm in Israel," Mr Kanu said on Sunday in a broadcast on his outlawed pirate radio station - Radio Biafra.

A video of the Indigenous People Of Biafra (Ipob) leader praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem has also been shared online.

Mr Kanu holds both Nigerian and British nationality and says he is Jewish.

His wife, Uchechi Kanu, told the BBC in February that she believed the government knew where her husband was being held after his home was raided by soldiers.

Mr Kanu has been campaigning for an independent state called Biafra in south-eastern Nigeria.

In 2015, Mr Kanu was charged with "criminal conspiracy, intimidation and membership of an illegal organisation" - charges that could amount to treason.

He was released on bail last year after spending more than 19 months without trial on treason charges.

He then renewed his campaign for independence, before his house in the south-eastern Abia state was raided by the military.

Who is Nnamdi Kanu?

He was a relatively obscure figure until 2009 when he started Radio Biafra, a station that called for an independent state for the Igbo people and is broadcast to Nigeria from London.

Though he grew up in Nigeria's south-east and went to the University of Nsukka, Mr Kanu moved to the UK before graduating.

Soon after setting up Ipob in 2014, he spoke to gatherings of the large Igbo diaspora, calling for Biafran independence. In some of his comments, he urged Biafrans to take up arms against the Nigerian state.

"We need guns and we need bullets," he said in one such address. This comment is what brought him to the attention of Nigeria's security services.

What is Biafra?

The plan for a Biafra state is not new.

In 1967 Igbo leaders declared a Biafran state, but after a brutal civil war, which led to the deaths of up to a million people, the secessionist rebellion was defeated.

Mr Kanu is the latest in a line of ethnic Igbo activists taking up the cause of pushing for an independent state, saying the Igbos have been marginalised by successive Nigerian governments.

. First republic of Biafra was declared by Nigerian military officer Odumegwu-Ojukwu in 1967
. He led his mainly ethnic Igbo forces into a deadly three-year civil war that ended in 1970
. More than one million people lost their lives, mostly because of hunger
. Decades after Biafra uprising was quelled by the military, secessionist groups have attracted the support of many young people
. They feel Nigeria's central government is not investing in the region
. But the government says their complaints are not particular to the south-east

The Israel connection

Mr Kanu said in Sunday's broadcast that he was still pushing for a referendum to create a breakaway state in the south-east.

He urged his followers to boycott next year's elections in Nigeria unless the government agrees to the push for a referendum.

"Ipob will liberate Biafra and we will not take part in any elections until we get a referendum, it is not negotiable, we will do it by any means," he said.

"I will be back soon in the land of Biafra and I will bring hell with me," he said.

"I owe my survival to the state of Israel," he added, saying that he had been aided by Mossad, country's spy agency, without elaborating how he was assisted.

The BBC has contacted Mossad for its comments.

It is, however, unclear how Mr Kanu was able to get to Israel, as he had to surrender his Nigerian and British passports after his arrest.

The Ipob leader says he is an Igbo Jew, part of a group who believe they are descendants of the lost tribe of Israel who settled in West Africa. According to Jewish tradition, the tribes were scattered after the conquest of the Kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians in the 8th Century BC.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Video - Modern methods increase production Nigeria fabric dye industry

In central Nigeria, a fabric-dyeing culture has endured for more than 5-hundred years. To keep their businesses going, many have come up with more modern methods to dye fabric, while remaining true to the original process.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Video - Family mourns the death of kidnapped Nigerian aidworker

The family and colleagues of a Nigerian aid worker who was killed by her kidnappers mourned her death on Tuesday as the Red Cross said it had refused to pay a ransom for her release. The International Committee of the Red Cross identified the health worker as 24-year-old midwife Hauwa Mohammed Liman, who worked in a hospital supported by the Geneva-based aid agency.

Video - Nigeria new initiatives helps farmers bypass banks to go directly to investors

A new initiative is helping farmers in Nigeria increase crop yields and connect with investors through a technology that combines peer-to-peer lending with a stream of videos and photographs of the type typically seen in crowdfunding campaigns.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Video - Kidnapped aid worker killed by islamic militants

A kidnapped Red Cross health worker has been killed in Nigeria. Hauwa Liman was among 3 aid workers who were kidnapped by an Islamic state affiliated group a few months ago. She is the second aid worker in the group to be murdered. The clock is now ticking on the fate of the other worker. The trio were kidnapped following an attack in the Nigerian town of Rann. The group also still has the remaining Dapchi schoolgirl in their custody, and have vowed to keep her as a slave for life.

Video - Nigeria's techprenuers aim to create a talent pool to dominate the global scene

A tech revolution is brewing across Africa. Young software developers are making a name for themselves, breaking new ground. In Nigeria, one start-up is creating a pool of talent, aiming to take over the global tech space.

Voice of America sacks 15 workers in Nigeria involved in bribes

US government-funded broadcaster, Voice of America has terminated or proposed to terminate 15 employees from its Hausa language international radio service in Washington, D.C. following allegations of improper conduct, including the acceptance of improper payments from an official in their coverage area.

The employees were reported in Nigerian newspapers to have accepted improper payments in January of around $5,000 from a Nigerian state governor from the country’s northwest on a visit to VOA’s DC offices. The improper payment was said to have to come to light after a whistleblower reported to management. VOA declined to comment on further details of its ongoing investigation in the affair. It is unconfirmed if all the employees involved were journalists.

In an email to staff on Oct. 4, VOA director Amanda Bennett said the agency’s leadership was notified of the allegations “in recent months” and had launched several investigations, including requesting a review by the Office of the Inspector General.

“While privacy laws prevent us from disclosing any specifics, it is following the completion of these investigations that these terminations and proposed terminations are occurring,” she said.

VOA is a US government-funded international broadcast service. Its Hausa service broadcasts to 20 million people weekly, primarily in Nigeria, but also in Niger, Ghana, Chad and Cameroon.

As US federal employees, the VOA Hausa staffers, if true, would have violated a series of federal laws and regulations, particularly those prohibiting government employees from receiving improper gifts, which may be implicated by the alleged conduct in this matter. These include criminal penalties for bribery of public officials, the prohibition on acceptance of gifts given because of an employee’s official position, and the statutory requirement that all federal employees place loyalty to their legal and ethical responsibilities over private gain.

Accepting payments or “brown envelopes,” as it’s known in Nigerian journalism circles, is a common practice in the country. Journalists, operating in a competitive and crowded media landscape, accept the bribes to supplement paltry or unpaid salaries. Nigerian politicians, particularly around elections, often exploit the situation, paying journalists to buy their allegiance and control narratives.

Radio listenership of international broadcasters such as VOA, BBC Hausa, Radio France Hausa and Deutsche Welle are high in Nigeria’s northern regions, ironically in part because they are often seen to be neutral players who are above manipulation by local politicians or governments.

To safeguard its reputation and integrity, VOA has launched a separate investigation to determine if any coverage was improperly influenced. “If any such influence is discovered, we will deal with it promptly and transparently,” Bennett said.

She added: “If any other instances of improper payments are discovered in any service anywhere in VOA, we are committed to investigating them thoroughly and dealing with them promptly as well.”

The incident leaves the service with only 11 permanent government employees and contractors to produce 16 hours of radio and 30 minutes of television every week. Africa division director Negussie Mengesha said assistance from the agency’s extensive network of part-time contributors in Africa will help them maintain their current programming. One of 15 dismissed includes the chief of the Hausa service; VOA’s former Hausa Service chief, Fred Cooper, will serve as acting chief until a permanent one is selected.

VOA declined requests to speak to Amanda Bennett and Negussie Mengesha.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Boko Haram execute second aid worker

An aid worker with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been killed in Nigeria by Islamist militants who kidnapped her last March.

Hauwa Liman, a midwife, was killed days after kidnappers set a deadline.

The ICRC said it was devastated by the news. The Nigerian government called the murder "inhuman and ungodly".

Ms Liman was taken with two others in the northern Nigerian town of Rann. Fellow midwife Saifura Ahmed Khorsa was killed last month.

A 15-year-old schoolgirl is being held by the same militant group, Islamic State West Africa Province (Iswap), which is affiliated to the Islamic State group and is a faction of the Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram.

The girl is one of 110 who were kidnapped in the northern town of Dapchi last February. Most of the other students were freed but the girl, who reportedly refused to convert to Islam, remains in captivity.

What more do we know about the kidnappings?

Ms Liman, 24, a midwife and university health education student, was working with internally displaced people in Rann in Borno State, the epicentre of militant activity, when she was abducted in March 2018.

She was taken along with Ms Khorsa and Alice Loksha, a nurse, during an attack on a military base by Iswap fighters in which three other humanitarian workers and eight members of the security forces were killed.

Last month, the ICRC received a video showing the killing of Ms Khorsa.

Exactly a month later, on Monday, another video appeared showing the killing of Ms Liman. A local reporter, who said he had seen it, reported that Ms Liman was shot at close range.
What did the militants want?

The militants did not make their demands public. The excuse they gave for killing Ms Khorsa in September was that they had put forward their demands to the government but they were ignored. The government has not disclosed what the jihadists were demanding.

It is unclear why the ICRC would be targeted when it acted as an intermediary between the government and Boko Haram for the release of the Chibok girls in 2017.

In a short statement after the killing of Ms Liman, Iswap said the Muslims midwives were killed because they had "abandoned their Islam the moment they chose to work with the Red Cross". It shows how brutal and intolerant the militants are.
What has been the reaction to the killing?

Patricia Danzi, the ICRC's regional director, said there was no justification for the "execution of innocent young healthcare workers" and she feared for its implication on their work in the region.

"It is actually bad news for all of us, for the family, for the humanitarian communities, for the health personnel and for all the women, daughters and mothers of Northern Nigeria and far beyond," she told the BBC.

Nigerian Information and Culture Minister Alhaji Lai Mohammed said the government was "deeply pained" by news of the killing, but added it would "keep the negotiations open" and continue to work to free Ms Loksha and the schoolgirl.

Iswap has reportedly said it plans to keep the schoolgirl and the nurse, both Christians, as slaves.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Video - Nigeria puts money launders and tax evaders on notice

Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari has issued an executive order targeting money laundering and tax evasion. As part of his fight against corruption, President Buhari has warned that there is no hiding place for those who try to conceal their offshore wealth.

Video - Boko Haram threatens to execute kidnapped aid workers

An International aid organisation is pleading for the rescue of two of its workers who have been threatened with execution by terrorist group Boko Haram in the northeastern part of the country.

Video - Nigerian government, unions in stalemate over workers minimum wage

The Nigerian government is currently stuck in a wage dispute with Labour unions in the country. Earlier this month, the Unions embarked on a nationwide strike to force the government to resume negotiation with them over the issue. The talks have since resumed but there is no agreement yet.

British doctor forgives kidnappers that held him captive in Nigeria

A doctor said he has forgiven the kidnappers who captured him and his wife in Nigeria and killed their friend.

Dr David Donovan and his wife Shirley were working as Christian missionaries to improve healthcare in Africa when they were seized by militants.

Optician Ian Squire was shot dead, before the rest of the group were safely released after 22 days.

Dr Donovan said he and his wife were thankful for their "second chance".

They were running four healthcare clinics set up by their charity New Foundations in the Delta area of Nigeria when they were captured on 13 October 2017.

Dr Donovan, 58, said the group had been due to leave their compound when the kidnappers struck.

He said the armed gang cut power to the compound before launching the kidnap attempt, which he called a "nightmare scenario".

Intimidating and unpredictable

Dr Donovan, who used to work as a GP at the Riverside Practice in March, Cambridgeshire, said: "They took us by boat towards the Atlantic into quite a flooded area of the jungle.

"At that time of the year it is the rainy season so there isn't any land at all, so it is completely off the map."

Dr Donovan and his wife have moved to Coldstream, Scotland, since their release and written a book about their ordeal, which is due to be released next year.
The GP said they had learned to forgive their captors, and even held Bible classes with three of them.
He said: "Initially [they were] very intimidating, extremely unpredictable due to drugs and alcohol, very adrenaline fuelled, extremely violent, extremely intimidatory.
"They were broken men, absolutely broken, and it is not my position to judge them."
The Donovans gave a talk at St Wendreda's Church in March to thank people who had prayed for their safe return.
Dr Donovan said he and his wife are "seizing the day".

Former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria dissects Nigeria in new book

Former United States Ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell, has recommended reformation of Nigeria’s military and other security agencies as solution to the country’s problem of insurgency and for her development.

Campbell made the recommendation recently when the United States Consulate General Lagos launched in his honor, a book titled: Nigeria: What Everyone Needs to Know which he co-authored with Matthew T. Page. Addressing the media at the Ikoyi residence of the Consul, Campbell said based on his observations, people he has talked to and NGOs’ submissions, the consensus is that Nigeria’s security service abuses is a driver of recruitment by Boko Haram. 

Other recommendations made by the former envoy include infrastructure development and combating of corruption. Campbell also decried the electoral system and processes in Nigeria saying while the people of Nigeria spend long hours on queues in the hot sun trying to cast their votes in elections, voting is done in 10-15 minutes in the United States of America. Nigeria: 

What Everyone Needs to Know, in part, deals with what everyone needs to know about Islam and Cuba. John Campbell said his new book asks 72 questions and provides 72 answers dealing with what everyone needs to know.

“The book consists of 72 questions and answers. We were guided by questions we were asked – and by questions we wished we were asked. Some examples of the questions we came up with: 

How did the slave trade impact on Nigeria’s development? 

What will Nigeria’s economy look like in fifteen years? 

What makes Nigerian Christianity unique? 

What is a day in the life of a politician like? 

Why has communal conflicts killed so many Nigerians? 

Where is the Nigerian diaspora, and why is it so influential? 

Will Nigeria’s oil run out, and if it does, what happens? 

“Matthew and I each drafted the answer to 36 questions – and then we swapped drafts, questioning and editing each other’s work. Then we sent selected questions and answers to experts for feedback. We then put the book together. The questions are arranged chronologically – the book opens with questions related to Nigeria’s history – like the slave trade – and closes with questions related to Nigeria’s future. “But, our hope is that readers will use the table of contents to find the questions they are interested in at any particular moment. For example, under the question, How does Nigeria contribute to world culture? There is discussion of the domestic film industry – Nollywood -and also music,” Campbell said.

Regretting the state of perennial electric power failure in the country, Campbell queried where all the money spent on electricity in Nigeria since 1999 has gone to. “Corruption – private gain at the expense of the public – is widespread. Fourteen billion dollars has been spent on electricity since 1999 -where are the results?” The former envoy regretted that Americans do not pay sufficient attention to Nigeria. 

Paying attention to Nigeria is important, said Campbell, because “what happens here (in Nigeria) directly impacts on the United States. Yet, I get frustrated that Americans do not pay sufficient attention to Africa in general or Nigeria specifically. The visit by the First lady, Melania Trump, is positive because many Americans will focus on Africa. 

I do regret that she is not visiting Nigeria or South Africa, the continent’s countries of greatest strategic importance to the United States. For outsiders, Nigeria is a complicated place.” Narrating his itinerary and career in Nigeria, Campbell said: “I first went in 1988 from my post in Geneva. I set out to try to understand how Nigeria works. I have lived there more than seven years.

I was Political Counselor at the U.S. embassy, then in Lagos, from January 1988 to July 1990. I was responsible for political reporting during those years of military government. I returned to Nigeria as American ambassador in 2004. My tour ended in 2007. 

During those two periods, I visited 35 of the 36 states. I was able to talk to everybody – from presidents to cardinals to chiefs to rag-pickers. I retired from the U.S. Department of State when my tour in Nigeria ended, in 2007. I was briefly recalled in 2008-09 by the Office of the Inspector-General to inspect our missions in Mexico and Iraq. Since then, I have had no formal ties to the U.S Government. 

“I have also been able to look at Nigeria from an academic perspective: I was a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University during the 1990-91 academic year and later a visiting professor at the University of Wisconsin, 2007-2008. I have been at the Council on Foreign Relations since 2009, working mostly on Nigeria and South Africa. 

“I was asked by Oxford to do a book on Nigeria for its What everyone needs to know series. The series’ audience is primarily American, British, and other educated non-specialists around the world. The book might also be of particular interest to Nigerians, if for no other reason than how two foreign friends see the country. 

The series avoids jargon and political science language. Academic apparatus – footnotes, etc. – are kept to a minimum. The former U.S ambassador then narrowed his discussion to the content of his new book. “I invited Matthew Page to be a co-author. He has had a long and distinguished career as an Africanist in various agencies of the U.S. Federal Government. His knowledge of Nigeria is exhaustive. “The book is divided into seven sections: History, Economics of Oil, Religion, Politics, Security Challenges, Nigeria and the World, and Nigeria of the Future. 

“For each section, we developed questions. That meant trying to decide what “everyone needs to know.” What is the bottom line?” 

What does everyone need to know? 

First, the Challenges: Chinua Achebe said: “Whenever two Nigerians meet, their conversation will sooner or later slide into a litany of our national deficiencies. 

The trouble with Nigeria has become the subject of our small talk in much the way the weather is for the English.” From our perspective, the general socio-economic challenges include the following: 

There is over-reliance on subsistence agriculture and petty trading; the percentage of those living in poverty is increasing; climate change is having a serious impact on Nigeria: the Sahara is moving south, sea levels in the Gulf of Guinea are rising. 

There is also a population explosion: In Zamfara, the statistically average woman has 8.1 births; in Rivers State, 3.8. Nigeria’s is a flawed democracy bedeviled by multiple insurgencies: Boko Haram. There is conflict in the Middle Belt over land and water use, often in an ethnic and religious context, and with criminal elements, i.e., cattle rustling. 

Nigerians widely criticize their government for mismanagement; corruption is structural. The bottom line is this – most Nigerians must fend for themselves. 

Specific challenges 

There is lack of infrastructure, and basic social services are inadequate, said Campbell. “Examples are in the fields of health/medicine, generation of electricity (the country generates about the same amount of electricity as Edinburgh). 

Education, especially primary, does not prepare adequately a modern workforce. Lack of clean water promotes disease. Infant mortality rates are slightly better than Somalia (a war zone), worse than South Sudan.” In spite of all these, authors contend that Nigerians are survivors: “They survived boom and bust cycles mostly associated with international oil prices; they survived three decades of military rule; Nigerians survived catastrophic Civil War that left more than two million dead. 

Nigeria’s promise 

“Nigerians show resolve, industriousness, and optimism about the future. 

There is great capacity for peaceful co-existence and informal conflict resolution. A sense of national identity may have started to develop, and there is a popular commitment to democracy. This is clearly seen in the efforts Nigerians make to vote. “Press and media are largely free, and there is an entrepreneurial culture. 

“Throughout our book, Matthew and I emphasize the optimism we have about Nigeria’s future by highlighting ways in which the country can unlock its great potential, whether by focusing on infrastructure development, combating corruption, reforming its military and opening up more opportunities for women to participate in politics, or in a host of other ways.

“In 1960 at independence, Nigerians expected that theirs would soon become a great power, giving Africans a seat at the highest international table. Maybe it is just going to take longer than they expected. Ambassador Campbell, the Ralph Bunche Senior Fellow for Africa policy studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, and Matthew T. Page, Associate Fellow in Chatham House’s Africa Program, in the book, provide a rich contemporary overview of Nigeria, delving into the country’s recent history, politics, culture, corruption, war against terrorism, and human rights issues. Chief Tat Osman of U.S. Consulate’s Political Section hosted the event celebrating the release of the new book.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Nigeria to be the world's poverty capital for a generation

Nigeria is making little progress in eliminating poverty.

New reports by global development institutions show that human capital spending in Nigeria—the poverty capital of the world after recently overtaking India—is among the worst in the world.

In the second ever Commitment to Reducing Inequality (CRI) index compiled by Development Finance International (DFI) and Oxfam, Nigeria placed bottom in a ranking of 157 nations. The CRI Index ranks the commitment of national governments to reducing the gap between rich and poor citizens by measuring three factors considered “critical” to reducing the gap: social spending, tax policies and labor rights. Nigeria ranked bottom of the index for the second consecutive year.

The report says Nigeria’ social spending (mainly on health, education and social protection) is “shamefully low.” And those meager levels are reflected in reality as Nigeria is home to the highest number of out-of-school children. Nigeria also scores poorly on labour rights (133 out of 157) but recent progressive tax policies—such as a tax amnesty scheme—were noted and expected to reflect in the next index.

While the CRI index measures current realities, the World Bank’s first ever Human Capital Index (HCI) predicts future expectations but it is just as grim: ranks Nigeria 152nd out of the 157 countries.

The index measures “the amount of human capital that a child born today can expect to attain by age 18.” That prediction is based on five indicators: chances of a child reaching age five, healthy growth, expected years of schooling, quality of learning available and the adult survival rate.

Nigeria’s HCI value of 0.34 (countries are scored between zero and one) is lower than the global average (pdf) of 0.57. It’s also lower than the regional average and the average for nations in Nigeria’s income bracket. As such, the report predicts that “a child born in Nigeria today will be 34% as productive when she grows up as she could be if she enjoyed complete education and full health.”

Reducing inequality and developing human capital is crucial to any efforts to eliminate poverty in Nigeria but data shows it is an area where successive governments have been lagging: the number of Nigerians living in extreme poverty increased by 35 million between 1990 and 2013 alone.

For its part, Nigeria’s government under president Buhari has launched social intervention programs, including cash transfers to its poorest people, in a bid to reverse its extreme poverty problem. Nigeria’s efforts at reducing poverty will have to yield immediate and long-term results given it’s ballooning population: the country is set to become the world’s third largest by 2050.

Nigeria’s petro-economy, which has typically been buoyed by rising oil prices has remained in the doldrums even after exiting a five-quarter recession last year. But the longer-term dire outlook of both reports reflect the poor planning and mismanagement by successive governments over many years.

MultiChoice opens film school in Nigeria

MultiChoice Talent Factory Academy, West Africa, officially opened on Monday in Lagos, with the objective of providing Africa’s next generation of film and television storytellers after a 12-month training programme. Speaking at the launch of the Academy, Lagos State Commissioner for Tourism, Arts and Culture, Mr. Steve Ayorinde, commended MultiChoice Nigeria for giving youths selected from across the country an opportunity to understand the film production.

Ayorinde said: “What MultiChoice did deserves huge commendation and these 20 students need to acknowledge the fact that stakeholders in the entertainment industry in Nigeria and across the continent expect a lot from them.”

Also speaking at the launch, Ghanaian Deputy Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Dr. Ziblim Iddi, congratulated the 20 students selected for the inaugural edition of the Academy and charged them to be committed. On his part, Managing Director, MultiChoice Nigeria, John Ugbe, said: “The film and television industry is the pioneer of creative industries in Africa and is particularly relevant as a tool for shaping the African narrative. “We have been telling authentic and well-produced stories that only Africans themselves can tell. But there is a lot of raw talent that need to be nurtured and polished. “The Academy will give such talent the opportunity to hone their skills, thereby increasing the pool of world-class talent. It is also about teaching the business of film and television.

“We are fortunate to have the calibre of broadcast partners that we do in M-Net and Africa Magic, who believe in this project and have been on it with us from the very beginning.”

Boko Haram releases 833 children

A militia group fighting against the Islamist militant group Boko Haram in northeast Nigeria has released 833 children from its own ranks, some as young as 11, the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF said on Friday.

UNICEF spokesman Christophe Boulierac said the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) was formed in 2013 by vigilante groups in Borno state to fight Boko Haram which itself gained international notoriety for kidnapping schoolgirls in the town of Chibok.

The CJTF signed an action plan in September 2017 to end child recruitment, and the release of the children, 40 percent of whom were 15 or younger, was its first formal release.

“This is a significant milestone in ending the recruitment and use of children, but many more children remain in the ranks of other armed groups in either combat or support roles,” UNICEF Nigeria Deputy Representative Pernille Ironside said in a statement.

The released children were among 1,175 boys and 294 girls who had been identified as being associated with the CJTF in the city of Maiduguri, UNICEF said, although the total has yet to be verified and could include another 2,200 or more children.

It said that it had supported the social and economic reintegration of more than 8,700 children released from armed groups since 2017, helping trace their families, returning them to their communities and offering them psycho-social support, education, vocational training and informal apprenticeships.

Boulierac said that the CJTF included children who were “pursuing military objectives” but also lots in support roles, so their reintegration into society might be easier than those released from an armed group like Boko Haram.

That Islamist group has kidnapped thousands since it began an insurgency in 2009 aimed at creating an Islamic state in the northeast.

Nigeria’s government has said since December 2015 that Boko Haram has been “technically defeated”, 20 months after the kidnap of the 270 Chibok girls.

Yet attacks continue in the northeast, while Islamic State West Africa, which splintered off from Boko Haram in 2016, holds territory around Lake Chad.

Video - Floods in Nigeria ruin crops for 100,000 farmers

Nigeria’s agriculture minister is warning there could be a shortage of rice, the country’s staple food.

The warning came after devastating floods hit large parts of the country, destroying crops just as farmers were getting ready for harvest.

Al Jazeera's Ahmed Idris reports from some of the affected areas.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Former VP Abubakar to run against Buhari in presidential election

Nigeria's main opposition has chosen former Vice President Atiku Abubakar as its candidate for the 2019 elections as it seeks to remove President Muhammadu Buhari.

The nomination of Abubakar, 71, by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), sets the stage for what is expected to be a fiercely contested poll in Africa's largest economy.

Abubakar hopes to replicate Buhari’s 2015 feat, when the latter became the first opposition candidate in Nigerian history to defeat a sitting president.

Abubakar, who had been the country’s vice president between 1999 and 2007, left the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) party in November and re-joined the PDP.

Buhari, 75, has already been selected by the ruling party as its candidate.

Next year's presidential race appears to have tightened in recent months, with the APC hit by a wave of defections over Buhari's leadership style.

Abubakar comes from the Muslim-majority north and his nomination follows an unwritten rule in Nigeria that the presidency should alternate every two terms between a candidate from the north and south.
Fall in popularity

In 2015, Buhari's victory over former President Goodluck Jonathan was marked by a wave of optimism, which seems to be in decline now.

In May, his approval rating plummeted to 41 percent from a peak of 80 percent in October 2015, according to NOIPolls, a Nigerian polling service.

There have also been concerns about his fragile health, his economic policies, the extent of his claims about better security, as well as the targets of his campaign against corruption.

However, Niyi Akinsiju, coordinator of Buhari Media Organisation, told Al Jazeera that Buhari's chances of re-election are "very high".

"He has developed a trusting relationship with the people who have confidence in his fidelity and integrity in the exercise of power," he said.

The PDP is hoping Abubakar will be able to leverage Buhari’s dwindling fortunes.

"Atiku Abubakar is seen by a majority of Nigerians as the candidate with the magic solution to the crisis plaguing our nation," PDP spokesman Kola Ologbodiyan told Al Jazeera.

"He has a respectable pedigree within the political class across party leanings," he said.

The country's electoral commission has cleared 19 candidates to challenge Buhari in the February election.

Oby Ezekwesili, 55, a two-time minister and former vice president for Africa at the World Bank, is among other standout candidates.

She is the cofounder of the #BringBackOurGirls group to raise awareness about more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by armed group Boko Haram in 2014.

"Governance keeps worsening. So we the citizens have decided to get into the political arena to make things right," Ezekwesili said.

Kingsley Moghalu, former UN official and deputy governor of Nigeria's central bank, is also in the race.

An optimistic Moghalu even points to recent history for an "upset victory" for a non-mainstream candidate. "It happened with Trump. It happened with Macron," he said.

Hamza al-Mustapha, controversial security chief of the country's former military ruler, Sani Abacha, is also in the race. He has never held any political position.

In July, 39 registered political fronts, including the PDP and a splinter group from within the ruling party, signed an agreement to form the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP).

The splinter group of disaffected APC members led by Buhari's former ally, Buba Galadima, criticised the president's tenure as "a monumental disaster".

Ahead of his election in 2015, Buhari promised to tackle Boko Haram as well as fight corruption, revive the economy and provide jobs.

"He has stabilised the economy, reduced the Boko Haram insurgency from an invading army to opportunistic terrorists. His fight against corruption has reduced acts of brazen corruption and bureaucratic impunity," Akinsiju said.

Nigeria, Africa's top oil producer and the continent’s biggest economy, entered its first recession in 25 years in 2016, mainly caused by lower oil prices and attacks in the Niger Delta crude production region.

It emerged from recession in early 2017, but economists say growth remains sluggish and inflation has remained high.

Buhari’s supporters claim he has stabilised the economy.

"The economy has witnessed an unprecedented, consistent decline in inflation rate over an 18-month period reducing from a high of 18.7 percent in January 2017 to 11.14 percent in July 2018," Akinsiju said.

But the opposition is confident the economic situation will dent Buhari’s popularity.

"Atiku understands this nation and its economy. He is a personality that can take charge of his environment and comes up with decisions that affect the people positively," Ologbodiyan said.

Oldest prisoner in Nigeria on death-row seeking pardon

Death-row inmate Celestine Egbunuche has been dubbed Nigeria's "oldest prisoner" amid a campaign calling for his release.

He is 100 years old and has spent 18 years in jail after being found guilty of organising a murder.

Small and slightly hunched over, he looks wistfully into space as he sits on a tightly packed bench inside a stuffy prison visitor's room.

Dressed in a white T-shirt, shorts and flip-flops, he lifts his head slowly - his way of acknowledging our presence.

But otherwise he remains quiet during our visit - in stark contrast to the rest of the room that is filled with loud chatter at Enugu Maximum Security Prison in south-east Nigeria.

His son Paul Egbunuche, 41, sits protectively close to him - and does the talking. He is in jail on the same murder charge.

They were both accused of hiring people to kidnap and kill a man over an alleged land dispute in Imo state.

Paul maintains their innocence. They were detained in June 2000 and eventually convicted and sentenced to death in 2014.

It has not been possible to contact the family of the man who was killed - even the Nigeria prison service has been unable to find them.

'Confused and childlike'

As prison officials look on, he tells me that his father isn't really able to talk much any more and is no longer aware of his surroundings.

"When you ask him something, he says something else. The doctor told me that it is his age, he has become like a little pikin [child].

"There are some times when he will ask me: 'These people here [inmates], what are they doing here?'"

Paul says he rarely leaves his father's side now; he has been his primary carer since his health began to deteriorate in prison.

These health problems include diabetes and failing eyesight - and Paul uses what he can to manage them.

"The only thing I'm using to manage him is food, unripe plantain, and they [officials] give him some drugs."
Birthday photo

Father and son share a cell with other death-row prisoners, who are separated from the general population.

"When I wake up in the morning, I will boil water and bath him," Paul says. "I'll change his clothes then prepare food for him. If they open up [the cell] I'll take him out so the sun will touch him.

"I'm always close to him, discussing with him and playing with him."

Paul says the other inmates sometimes help him care for his father and that many of them want his father to be released.

It was after his father's 100th birthday on 4 August that events were set in motion that may lead to his release.

A photo of Paul and a frail looking Egbunuche went viral in August after a local paper did a story about him turning 100 in jail. It sparked a debate about the length of time Nigerians spend on death row and the place of capital punishment altogether.

The latest figures from the Nigerian Prisons Service show that more than 2,000 people are on death row in Nigeria, many of whom spend years waiting to be executed.

The death sentence is not commonly carried out in Nigeria. Between 2007 and 2017, there were seven executions - the last one taking place in 2016, Amnesty International reports.
Poverty and punishment

However, the death penalty is still meted out by judges for offences like treason, kidnapping and armed robbery.

"You have people who have spent 30 years on death row, it's common," says Pamela Okoroigwe, a lawyer for the Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP).

"Governors are reluctant to sign [death warrants] and they're not willing to grant pardons - that's why we have a high number of death-row inmates."

Ms Okoroigwe says death row is a "punishment for the poor" and one that a growing number of Nigerians want abolished.

"Have you ever seen a rich man on death row?" she asks.

"How many people can afford to get a lawyer to represent them in court? A rich man who ended up in court can afford to get the best and he'll be free."

This sentiment is shared by Franklin Ezeona, president of the Global Society for Anti-Corruption (GSAC), the non-governmental organisation that brought Egbunuche's case to the public and has been petitioning for his pardon.

"If the man was the father of a governor or a minister, I don't think he would still be in prison," Mr Ezeona says.

"Poverty in most of African countries hinders justice."

He says it is unreasonable to keep people waiting for years on death row as "the trauma and the torture is too much".
'Everyone deserves a second chance'

Mr Ezeona says that he hopes that Egbunuche's case will prompt the government to review other cases and shine a light on the justice system as a whole.

"It will be good for the correctional system. It will show that with good behaviour, the government can give you a second chance."

"Everyone deserves a second chance."

And Egbunuche may get a second chance as he has been recommended for a pardon by Imo state's attorney general, Miletus Nlemedim.

It is now awaiting approval from Governor Rochas Okorocha.

Mr Nlemedim says numerous factors are taken into consideration when an inmate is recommended for pardon - age, time served and the approval of the prison staff.

The family of the victim has not been consulted about a possible release.

"What we do as a government is to try to remove ourselves from sentiment," he says.

According to Mr Nlemedim, the state's Ministry of Happiness offers the chance for reconciliation after a prisoner is released.

In this case Mr Ezeona says it may be unlikely to happen given the length of time that has passed and poor record-keeping.

Nonetheless, he is still confident Celestine Egbunuche will be pardoned.

"If we can't pardon a centenarian, who can we pardon?" he says.

Paul too is confident that his father will be pardoned - and is hopeful that he too will get a reprieve so he can care for him.

"It's good for him to be released. So he will die peacefully in his house rather than in prison," he says.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Africa's richest man Aliko Dangote is building the world's largest refinery in Nigeria

On any given weekday, commuters in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, are snarled in traffic for hours.

Container trucks and tankers take up several lanes of traffic on the major thoroughfares close to the city’s ports. Often these trucks have been parked on the highways overnight.

Cars and minivans snake along the remaining single lane, sharing it with pedestrians fighting off early-morning road rage as they slowly make their way from one end of the city to another. There is a palpable fear of accidents, or a spill. Much of Lagos is an environmental disaster waiting to happen.

It is here in this vibrant metropolis of 21 million people that Africa’s richest person, Aliko Dangote, is undertaking his most audacious gamble yet. Mr. Dangote is building a $12 billion oil refinery on 6,180 acres of swampland that, if successful,— could transform Nigeria’s corrupt and underperforming petroleum industry. It is an entrenched system that some say has contributed to millions languishing in poverty and bled the “giant of Africa’’ for decades.

Planned as the world’s largest refinery, Mr. Dangote’s project is set in a free-trade zone between the Atlantic Ocean and the Lekki Lagoon, an hour outside the city center. The site employs thousands, and upon completion — Mr. Dangote says in 2020; some analysts suggest more likely in 2022 — should process 650,000 barrels of crude oil daily.

That’s enough oil to supply gasoline and kerosene to all 190 million Nigerians and still have plenty to export. By the end of this year, the facility is expected to churn out three million tons of fertilizer. The production of diesel, aviation fuel and plastics will then follow.

“The construction site is already a huge beehive of activities, with workers, local and foreign, hard at work. It is going to be the largest manufacturing plant of any sort in Lagos,” said Kayode Ogunbunmi, the publisher of City Voice, a Lagos daily newspaper and lifelong Lagos resident.

Indeed, some 7,000 employees are working around the clock on the site, many arriving by private ferry from the city center. Another 900 Nigerian engineers and technicians are being trained abroad for jobs at the refinery. Mr. Dangote, whose net worth is estimated at $11.2 billion, has had to build a port, jetty and roads to accommodate this project, along with new energy plants to power it all.

Nigeria’s government, despite being a longtime crude oil exporter, has four underperforming and frequently broken down refineries with a combined capacity of 445,000 barrels daily. Those refineries — two in the oil hub of Port Harcourt, one in Warri in the Niger Delta, and the other in the northern city of Kaduna — are all operating at less than 50 percent of capacity.

Which means that even though Nigeria is Africa’s largest oil producer, petroleum for everyday use must be imported. This has spawned fuel importers and diesel traders who have grown extremely wealthy. Nigeria’s government subsidizes fuel imports to keep pump prices low, and this has contributed to Nigeria’s well-documented culture of petroleum industry corruption.

“The failure to produce refined products over the last 25 years has created a huge architecture of graft and corruption around everything,” said Antony Goldman, the co-founder of the London-based Nigeria specialists ProMedia Consulting.

Mr. Goldman does political risk analysis in West Africa and has been working in and out of Nigeria for two decades. Corruption, he explained, stems from illegal refineries and the local criminal network that helps transport illegal crude out of the country. Both elements, he said, have not been sufficiently challenged by the government or law enforcement agencies, which has further contributed to Nigeria’s entrenched oil industry corruption.

“A refinery that actually works and can meet Nigeria’s refined product requirement? It’s a game changer,” Mr. Goldman added. But change, no matter how positive, is potentially destabilizing. “These are not people who relinquish things without a fight,” Mr. Goldman said of Nigeria’s fuel import merchants.

When Mr. Dangote initially unveiled his refinery plans in 2016, he said its aim was to challenge the status quo, which had seen the government spend about $5.8 billion to import petroleum products over the past year.

“This refinery is attacking the entire system,” he said. “You export jobs and create poverty here, so that’s what we are stopping,” he told reporters at the time.

Despite creating thousands of jobs, Mr. Dangote’s refinery hasn’t been universally applauded in Nigeria. The biggest issue is its Lagos location: The refinery is being built hundreds of miles from the impoverished Niger Delta, where the bulk of Nigeria’s oil is extracted.

Two undersea pipelines are under construction in the Delta and will carry petroleum about 340 miles to the refinery in Lagos.

The pipelines will be costly; but also far harder to sabotage than conventional aboveground systems. And security is key in the Delta region, where local rebel groups like the Delta Avengers have kidnapped foreign oil workers and blown up pipelines to protest regional pollution and poverty.

Amid Nigeria’s complex regional tensions, Mr. Dangote — a northerner by birth and Lagosian by decades of residence — is the one person, industry experts say, who could achieve a measure of détente in the region.

Yet critics — and Mr. Dangote has many — worry that his new refinery will allow him to essentially take over the Nigeria’s oil and gas industry. Why would a nation leave an entire industry in the hands of one company? they ask.

The “monopoly” question has swirled around Mr. Dangote for decades. Twice divorced and currently (and vocally) looking for a third wife, Mr. Dangote made his initial fortune operating near-monopolies in cement, flour and commodities across Nigeria, where regulatory oversight is relatively lax. Mr. Dangote’s companies, including pasta producers and property management, are found across Africa.

A decade ago, Mr. Dangote and other private investors tried and failed to buy the government-owned refineries. He was unavailable for comment, but previously told Reuters he does not apologize for his expansionist desires. “If you don’t have ambition,” he said, “you shouldn’t be alive.”

And for some in a tough business environment like Nigeria, a well-run monopoly is better than the current situation, where getting fuel remains an uncertainty. Indeed, despite oligarchy concerns, Mr. Goldman says he believes that Mr. Dangote’s past success actually bodes well for the refinery and Nigeria. “He has a record of success and delivery, and he doesn’t make mistakes on things like this,” Mr. Goldman said.

And Nigerians are tired of power cuts and overpriced gasoline.

“Most Nigerians see Aliko as a doer,” Mr. Ogunbunmi, the publisher, said. “Many quietly hope the refinery will help reduce uncertainties. Gasoline will be available, and possibly power.”

Beyond solidifying his own legacy, Mr. Dangote hopes his refinery will help diversify Nigeria’s economy while reducing its dependence on imported oil.

“We have other opportunities,” he said at the plant’s unveiling. “Agriculture is there. Petrochemicals are there, Nigeria has more arable land than China. If we finish our gas pipeline, it can generate 12,000 megahertz of power. That’s huge. That’s more than what we are looking for in Nigeria and we can supply the rest of West Africa.”

As his refinery nears completion, Mr. Dangote says he will soon focus on his next dream, owning Britain’s Arsenal football team. “Once I have finished with that headache, I will take on football,” he said. “I love Arsenal, and I will definitely go for it.”

Monday, October 8, 2018

Video - Nigeria's amputee football team gearing up for World Cup in Mexico

Nigeria's National Amputee Football team is in a race against time to raise funds to enable its players take part in the Amputee World Cup slated for October 24 to November 5 in Mexico. The team missed three previous editions of the World Cup owing to lack of funds, but it's determined to make it this time around and the payers are training hard for the tournament.

Video - President, governors meet after party primaries fall-out in Nigeria

In Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari has been meeting several aggrieved governors from the ruling APC party to stem fall out. The country is expected to head to the polls in February next year. But claims of unfair party primaries is exerting a strain on cohesion in the ruling party.

Forgotten Nigerian martial art 'Dambe' is growing online

From Nollywood actresses to afrobeat superstars, August Udoh, has captured them all.

He's lauded as Nigeria's most talented celebrity photographer but it is the stories of those on the very margins of society that are important to him.

The fighters captured in series "Dambe" are ordinary working men. "They have normal jobs. Some are truck drivers, others mechanics," Udoh told CNN. But with one exception - their downtime is spent competing in martial arts sport dambe.

It's a traditional form of boxing where competitors fight with a single bounded hand for three rounds. As Udoh's series title suggests, this martial arts club is underground, its presence spread only through word-of-mouth.

"I had a security guard from the north who was talking about it and he showed me a video posted online," says Udoh. "I thought this is actually true - there is an underground fighting club that a lot of people in Nigeria don't know about."

One armed 'kill'

Dambe's history stems from the Hausa people in northern Nigeria and is thought to date back centuries. It was local butchers by trade who competed. The stronger punching hand known as the spear is traditionally tied with cotton and rope, while the other hand shields against opponent's punches.

Contestants can also kick - the fight ends when an opponent falls to the ground - referred to as a "kill".

Traditionally the cloth bound hand was dipped in resin and covered in shards of glass - this has been banned. Boxing gloves were introduced in some areas to make the sport safer. But many still consider it a brutal sport due to the injuries inflicted.

Viral videos

Long forgotten, the sport is gaining popularity thanks to dedicated YouTube channels such as Dambe Warriors, which launched last year and has garnered more than 57,000 subscribers and 15 million views.

While Udoh's images present the raw, unfettered energy of the art's young competitors, dambe is a poor man's sport. Fighters are almost certainly low income earners.

For them it's a chance to make money explains Udoh. Tickets for fights are often sold at around 500 Naira ($1.38) per person. "Usually the fight organizers make 50,000 Naira ($137) a day."

Victorious competitors can earn anywhere from $20 up to $500, which they can use to feed and take care of their families.

"As a fighter - champions earn a lot," Udoh said. "If you've won a lot of fights then you get paid more. There is a hierarchy thing where you attract high fees because you bring in the crowd."

Gifts are also given by fans. "People send money back to their parents, one fighter was given a house."

Nigeria's wealth gap

Udoh spent a week traveling around Niger and Ogun states talking to the boxers who compete. The photographs raise questions on the widening regional inequalities within the country - which has been widely criticized by humanitarian groups.

Those living in often wealthier states in the south have no concept of how their northern neighbors live explains Udoh. "I have friends who have not been out of Lagos since they were born - so they don't know."

"People don't realize every other state is not like Lagos," he adds.

The photographs are about shedding light upon such regional disparities Udoh explains. In 2012, he spent a month traveling around Kogi to capture the country's flood victims.

Kogi, a northern state was the worst affected by the 2012 floods. Some 623,900 people were said to have been displaced as a result and 152,575 hectares of farmland destroyed. Many of the victims homes and infrastructure have not yet been rebuilt says Udoh. The towns today remain virtually unchanged since the floods.

"I slept in [my] car for a month to take their pictures, there was nowhere to sleep" says Udoh. "I really felt their pain but there was nothing I could do."

Nigeria's recent September floods has killed nearly 200 people in the country and displaced around 176,000, according to Nigeria's Emergency Management Agency.

Udoh notes the power of his images stem from the stories behind them. He adds: "I want to convince people to look outside of Lagos by telling these stories with my pictures."

Female candidates reject feminism in Nigeria

When one of Africa's biggest pop stars, Tiwa Savage said she doesn't think men and women are equal during an interview on a Nigerian radio station, it generated fierce debate, one that mostly played out on the country's social media feeds.

"...I don't think that's how God created us, especially in the household anyway. So I think as females when we realize that...we can be strong in our career and stuff, but when we are home we have to realize that the man is the head of the house," Savage said in the interview.
Savage isn't the only Nigerian female celebrity polarizing audiences with her opinions on gender roles and feminism.
Nigeria's DJ Cuppy said in an interview with CNN in July: "I think it's amazing, young females doing what we've been told we can't do and I really feel like women are very powerful."

Feminists 'doing crazy things'

In the same interview, DJ Cuppy acknowledged the difficulties women in Nigeria face, saying "I had to leave Nigeria to realize my power because a lot of times as a woman you are constricted to what you can do and what you can achieve," she said.

To many Nigerian feminists, Cuppy's comments appeared in-line with feminist ideals. But a month later in an interview with a local radio station, she declared that she doesn't consider herself a feminist anymore.

"I don't like people who are hypocrites. People are out there speaking about women rights, but behind closed doors are doing crazy things," she said. 

"I would never come out as a feminist because I'm in a male dominated industry so I have certain scenarios where... I deal with men on a day to day basis and I realize they are always going to think they are better than women," she added.

DJ Cuppy went on to imply that constantly fighting for women's rights wouldn't necessarily lead to a desired change. 

"If I literally sat down all day and spoke about how hard it is being a woman I wouldn't have time to be here...because I would be somewhere in Alade market talking about how women need better rights," she said. 

This spurred many comments by Twitter users on topics of gender equality, class privilege and what some consider a fear of the word feminism itself.

The personal is political
But while these celebrities' views are no doubt powerful, they do not impact government policies that affect women. However, the views of women who aspire to be in political positions could have a policy impact on the fight for women's rights. 

So when Eunice Atuejide, a female presidential candidate in Nigeria's 2019 elections, proclaimed that she was "not a feminist," an even fiercer debate ensued. 

Atuejide said last week on a local radio station that Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the Nigerian author of "Half of a Yellow Sun," is "an extremist." Adichie's book format essay, "We Should All Be Feminists," was given to every 16-year-old in Sweden. 

But Atuejide said: "I hope some of our women do not necessarily take on too much of the things she is saying because some of them could actually turn around and bite them in the bum."

Nigeria's 2019 election comes at a time where gender equality is a global goal the country is still struggling to achieve. The World Economic Forum 2017 Global Gender Gap report ranked Nigeria 122nd out of 144 countries listed. As of 2018, Nigeria still hasn't passed the 2011 Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill -- and has faced criticism for that failure.

In a number of Atuejide's tweets, the presidential candidate aired what some branded a myopic view of feminism by reducing the fight for gender equality to cooking. In one tweet, Atuejide asked "And who is a feminist? My friend who won't cook for her husband & kids cos of equality?"

Ayisha Osori, the Nigerian author of "Love Does Not Win Elections", responded with some damning statistics on the absence of women in Nigerian politics. "There are some states in Nigeria like Jigawa, Kebbi and Sokoto that, since 1999, haven't elected a woman for any positions. Federal, state, local -- no woman has been elected," Osori told CNN. 

"Only five female ministers and deputy governors in the country. We have no female governor, female president or [vice president]," she added.

Given these numbers, Atuejide's views on the importance of feminism are even more puzzling, according to Osori, who believes that Atuejide's decision to run is, in fact, a feminist one.

"Any woman who runs for any leadership role in a very patriarchal system like Nigeria, a country where the representation of women in politics is extremely low," Osori said.

"You are a feminist. Not even just by labels, but by what you are trying to achieve -- because you are basically saying, my voice counts, I count as a human being and I have the right to be in this position," she added.

Africa's feminist history

Presidential aspirant Atuejide, in another tweet expressed her "hate" for being called a feminist "because that word means too many things, many of which I don't like."

Some who question the meaning of feminism in Africa see it as irrelevant in African culture, viewing it as a western import.

Minna Salami, a social critic and founder of the pan-African feminist blog, MsAfropolitan, told CNN: "There is a history of feminist movements in Africa and one notable chapter in Nigeria was the Aba Women's Riots of 1929."

This particular movement was led by women in southeastern Nigeria as a revolt against policies imposed by British colonialists. 

Some who question the meaning of feminism in Africa see it as irrelevant in African culture, viewing it as a western import.

Atuejide, 40, a lawyer, is one of six women running for the highest office in Nigeria's 2019 elections.
Other female candidates are Olufunmilayo Adesanya-Davis, Elishama Ideh, Adeline Iwuagwu-Emihe, Princess Oyenike Roberts and Remi Sonaiya -- who also contested the 2015 presidential race and was the first Nigerian woman to run for president. Explaining why she took that unprecedented step, Sonaiya told CNN: "Just the state of the nation. The deplorable state of our public affairs, the inept running of government."

"It just struck me that we needed to have good people, people with integrity to get involved in governance. We were wrong to have left our affairs in the hands of people who really had no good intentions for the general populace." Sonaiya added.

While Sonaiya feels she got support from both male and female citizens, she also received some disapproval as a woman running for office.

"I remember once being on a radio program and one man called in and said 'come and just go back to your kitchen'. But then you remember that our President himself had said that his wife belonged to the kitchen and to 'the other room'. But this did not affect me one way or the other.
"I was focused on my running and I expected that there would be different opinions about what I was doing," said Sonaiya.

Sonaiya is referencing President Muhammadu Buhari's comments from 2016, when he said his wife belonged "to my kitchen and my living room and the other room."
This was as a response to her criticism of his leadership, where she suggested she might not vote for him in the next election. "He is yet to tell me but I have decided, as his wife, that if things continue like this up to 2019, I will not go out and campaign again and ask any woman to vote like I did before. I will never do it again," said Aisha Buhari.

Women's race for president

Three years after Sonaiya's run for president, more Nigerian women are following her lead. Although just not under the banner of feminism, or even gender. 

Atuejide campaign slogan is "A Nigeria For All" and she claims she has a plan to promote equality: "by allowing people to compete in the same conditions, " she said. 

"If there are more women than men that are able to do the job then more women than men will be employed and vice versa. And if there is a 50-50 situation that is what we get. But it won't be because of gender."

Some Nigerians online are wondering who Atuejide is hoping to appeal to during the elections. One Twitter user asked her: "Well, anti-feminists won't vote you because men are the head and women are the neck/tail. And feminists won't vote a woman who hates the word Feminism. So where does this leave you?" 

Atuejide does acknowledge that she faces challenges. "We have to deal with our religious ways of seeing things," she said. 

"We have to start making the men, women, children, the imams, the pastors and priests etc... understand that men and women are equal in the eyes of God. That is a challenge that I will have to deal with -- in terms of getting the average Nigerian to cast their vote for me."

Given the divided social media responses to these women's views on feminism, it is clear that feminism is still considered a controversial subject in Nigeria that will continue to be a hot topic for discussion.