Thursday, November 29, 2018

Boko Haram overrun army base in Nigeria - 3 soldiers dead

Boko Haram jihadists have killed three soldiers in an attack on a military base in northeast Nigeria’s Borno state near Lake Chad, military and civilian sources said.

Fighters from Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) driving in several trucks attacked the base in Cross-Kauwa village on Tuesday and engaged troops in an hours-long gunfight, the sources told AFP late Wednesday.

“We lost three soldiers in the fight,” said a military officer who asked not to be named. “The soldiers fought the terrorists but were overpowered and had to withdraw from the base,” he added. A Cross-Kauwa resident said the Islamists stormed the village in trucks fitted with anti-aircraft guns around 8:00 pm (1900 GMT). 

“The insurgents fought the soldiers for three hours and forced them to abandon the base,” said the resident who wanted to be identified only by his first name, Bukar, for fear of reprisals. Buba said troops withdrew to the garrison town of Monguno, 18 kilometres (11 miles) away while others stopped at another base in nearby Kekeno which Boko Haram has made several failed attempts to overrun in recent weeks. 

The news of the attack was slow to emerge due to a lack of communications in the region following destruction of telecom facilities by the jihadists. Boko Haram has in recent months intensified attacks on military targets in Borno and Yobe states in the northeast. Since July, AFP has tracked 17 attacks on military bases, most of which were claimed by ISWAP. 

In the most audacious attack on November 18, ISWAP fighters killed at least 43 soldiers when they overran a base in Metele village near the border with Niger, although soldiers who survived the raid said more than 100 of their colleagues were killed. On Wednesday, President Muhammadu Buhari visited troops in Maiduguri, the epicentre of the insurgency and urged the military to show more commitment in fighting the jihadists. 

The Nigerian leader was due in N’Djamena, the capital of Chad, on Thursday for talks with his regional counterparts in a fighting force against the jihadists. Buhari who came to power in 2015 on the promise to end the violence has come under pressure following the recent surge in Boko Haram attacks as he seeks re-election in February polls.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

President Buhari approves pay rise for Nigerian police

Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari has approved a hike in salary and allowances for police officers. Nigerian police are rated among the most corrupt on the African continent which many say is due to low wages and poor working conditions.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Museum in Britain to return Benin bronzes to Nigeria

More than a century after British soldiers looted a collection of priceless artifacts from the Kingdom of Benin, some of the Benin bronzes are heading back to Nigeria - with strings attached.

A deal was struck last month by the Benin Dialogue Group (BDG) that would see "some of the most iconic pieces" in the historic collection returned on a temporary basis to form an exhibition at the new Benin Royal Museum in Edo State within three years. 

More than 1,000 of the bronzes are held at museums across Europe, with the most valuable collection at the British Museum in London. 

Nigerian governments have sought their return since the country gained independence in 1960.

Temporary solution 

The agreement represents a breakthrough for the BDG, which was formed in 2007 to address restitution claims. 

The group comprises of representatives of several European museums, the Royal Court of Benin, Edo State Government, and Nigeria's National Commission for Museums and Monuments.

The returns are contingent on the timely completion of a new Royal Museum, adjacent to the Royal Palace that once housed many of the bronzes. Nigerian officials presented plans for the Museum at a BDG meeting in October. A spokesman for the Governor of Edo said that designs are being finalized in collaboration with the Royal Court of Benin. 

A spokesman for the British Museum said European museums would play an active role in developing an elite institution suitable for housing exhibits that are considered to be among the greatest ever African artworks.

"The key agenda item (at the October meeting) was how partners can work together to establish a museum in Benin City with a rotation of Benin works of art from a consortium of European museums," the spokesman said. 

"The museums in attendance have all agreed to lend artifacts to the Benin Royal Museum on a rotating basis, to provide advice as requested on building and exhibition design, and to cooperate with the Nigerian partners in developing training, funding, and a legal framework for the display in a new planned museum."

Details about which pieces will be returned and how many are yet to be established. Dialogue is ongoing between the parties of the BDG, and the group is scheduled to meet again in Benin City next year. The present agreement notes that Nigerian partners have not ceded claims for permanent restitution, and officials remain determined to secure the bronzes on a permanent basis. 

"We are grateful these steps are being taken but we hope they are only the first steps," Crusoe Osagie, spokesman for the Governor of Edo, told CNN. "If you have stolen property, you have to give it back."

Osagie called for greater pressure on European governments to return the bronzes.

Breaking the deadlock

Nigerian claims received a boost with the release of a new report commissioned by the French government that calls for wholesale restitution of artifacts seized during the colonial era.

The report from academics Felwine Sarr and Benedicte Savoy, prompted by President Emmanuel Macron's 2017 commitment to return African heritage, recommended that items taken without consent should be liable to restitution claims. 

Many of the estimated 90,000 artifacts of sub-Saharan African origin held at French institutions could be contested under the report's criteria.

Sarr and Savoy further recommended that key, symbolic pieces long sought by claimant nations should be immediately returned - including several French-held Benin bronzes.

The report also proposed a series of bilateral agreements between the French government and African states to bypass French laws barring museums from releasing their collections, which have proved a longstanding barrier to restitution. Such agreements would allow for permanent restitution rather than loans. 

The French government has responded to the report by announcing an initial 26 artworks will be returned to the state of Benin, with further restitution to follow.

Pressure building 

France's example will increase the pressure on museums across Europe, which has been building on several fronts. 

Grassroots campaign groups within European countries are demanding restitution, such as in Germany, where 40 organizations recently signed an open letter calling for the return of historical artifacts.

The letter prompted German institutions to conduct inventories of their collections to determine which items were acquired illicitly. 

There is also growing recognition of the validity of restitution claims from a new generation of political leaders. Leader of the UK Labour party Jeremy Corbyn has said that if elected, his government would be willing to discuss the return of "anything stolen or taken from occupied or colonial possession."

Several influential private collectors have also taken the side of African claimants, such as British citizen Mark Walker, who voluntarily returned a set of Benin bronzes captured by his grandfather.

Museums are also facing a raft of increasingly determined claims from the governments of dispossessed nations across the world, from sub-Saharan Africa to Greece's claims for the Elgin Marbles, to Chile's appeal for Easter Island statues. 

Few longstanding observers of a saga that has been taking place since the end of the colonial era expect these matters to be resolved quickly. President Macron's initial commitment to return just 26 pieces suggests a long term process.

Museums and national governments are likely to resist wholesale restitution, and national laws preventing museums from disbursing their collections will continue to present a formidable barrier.
But if the wheels are turning slowly, they do at least appear to be shifting.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Video - Nigerian authorities move to tackle corruption at seaports

Nigeria has been trying to grab a larger share of the traffic in West African waters. However, despite some improvements, its ports are still considered some of the worst in the world because of delays, corruption and a lack of infrastructure. And that means it's losing about $2.8bn every year to competitors.

Video - Craftsmen showcase wares in Abuja, Nigeria

The 11th edition of the International Arts and Craft Exhibition in Nigeria's capital Abuja is drawing visitors from all over the country and beyond. This year's expo aims to promote the indigenous cultural industry as a way to generate more revenue for the economy.

Video - Boko Haram kidnap 50 loggers in Nigeria

In Nigeria, Boko Haram jihadists have kidnapped around 50 loggers in the northeastern part of the country, close to the border with Cameroon. The abduction took place at Bulakesa village in Borno state. The incident comes hours after the country's army conceding they lost hundreds of their own to insurgency just a week ago.

Islamic State kill scores of soldiers in military base attack in Nigeria

Islamic militants in Nigeria may have killed as many as 100 soldiers in an attack on a military base, according to media reports and security officials.

The reported death toll is among the highest since President Muhammadu Buhari came to power in 2015 and comes as the country prepares for elections in three months.

The worst losses came when militants overran a military base in the village of Metele in the north-eastern state of Borno on Sunday.

The area is the centre of an insurgency waged by Boko Haram, which was founded nine years ago to bring strict Islamic law to swaths of Nigeria, and a second newer group linked to Islamic State.

Nigeria’s military and government have repeatedly said they are on the point of defeating the militants. However, raids on military bases have continued over recent months, inflicting significant casualties. One assault on an army post on the border with Niger in September left 48 people dead.

An officer among the troops attacked at Metele told Reuters: “The insurgents took us unawares. We lost about 100 soldiers. It is a huge loss.

“We all [ran away] because we didn’t know where the bullets were coming from. They killed some of us who went to evacuate the bodies of the killed soldiers. We left our armour, tanks and weapons … The village is still under their control.”

Islamic State said on Monday it was responsible for the Metele attack and claimed to have killed at least 40 Nigerian soldiers.

On Thursday, the senate, which is controlled by the opposition People’s Democratic party, suspended its session in honour of the soldiers who died at Metele, and put the death toll at 44.

A soldier who survived the assault, told the Vanguard newspaper that at least 70 soldiers were killed, blaming a lack of “adequate weapons” and ammunition.

Reuters said four security sources had put the total at about 100.

The increase in violence in north-east Nigeria follows a power struggle among militant leaders.

In the first major rift, the Isis-linked group split from the one led by Boko Haram’s veteran leader, Abubakar Shekau, after arguments over his indiscriminate targeting of civilians in raids and suicide bombings.

Analysts believe this breakaway faction, known as the Islamic State in West Africa, has a new hardline leadership after a further internal struggle and is responsible for the recent kidnapping and killing of aid workers.

A study by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, a US-based thinktank, estimated there were between 3,500 and 6,900 Islamist fighters in Nigeria.

The study concluded there were at least three times as many armed jihadis today than before the 9/11 attacks of 2001.

The Nigerian army has been hit by a series of mutinies as soldiers refuse deployments to the frontline in the north-east, saying they lack basic equipment and supplies, including adequate weapons and ammunition.

A spokesman for the presidency on Thursday said the military would issue a statement, while the military did not respond to requests for comment. The government and military often decline to acknowledge the scale of losses in the north-east.

The re-inventors of banking in Nigeria

Key contributors to the growth of the Nigerian economy, they have redefined banking by leveraging technology and connecting people to market. From just £100 in his bank account, Pascal Dozie has built a business empire his son Uzoma is taking to the future.

It’s always a difficult proposition, handing over the reins of a business you have painstakingly built ground-up. But for Pascal Dozie, Nigeria’s self-made investment and finance guru, there could not be a better successor than his eldest son, Uzoma Dozie, Group Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Diamond Bank. But Uzoma has learned from the best.

The rise of Pascal Dozie can outrival any rags-to-riches Dickensian tale. He gained a fortune through tenacity, hard work and wit, on a long and difficult road from Owerri in Imo State where he was born in 1939. His entrepreneurial journey began against the backdrop of a Nigeria marred by the bloody Biafran war waged between 1967 and 1970 that saw over 30,000 Igbo lives lost. Pascal, at the time, was finishing his degree at The London School of Economics where he shared a class and rubbed shoulders with The Rolling Stones lead singer Mick Jagger, who dropped out to form the English rock band.

The war back home meant he had to find alternative means of making a living. Learning to be independent since the loss of his father when he was only 15, Pascal’s major influence was his mother who owned a bakery.
As a young man, he found himself on the streets of Uganda cutting his teeth in the exchange business until the Idi Amin coup truncated his work.

“When Amin took over, we were no longer wanted, so we had to come back to Nigeria but there was no money to come back home with.”

Pascal and his wife were unemployed and as a result, the couple planned to relocate to the United States (US) in search of greener pastures. But they changed their plans in the last minute due to his mother’s ill-health and her wish to be closer to her first grandson, Uzoma.

Pascal had to quickly find another way to make ends meet. He decided to start a consulting firm, the African Development Consulting Group, where he worked for multinationals like Nestle and Pfizer.

“My first objective was survival and of course I had an ambition. You set up a company, you want that company to grow; you want it to be robust and profitable. Being in consulting was a tricky affair because you have a lot of receivables. It was a hustle job. A hustle to get payment and a hustle to do the job all the time.”

Then there was the issue of rudimentary communication systems to contend with.

“There were no phones. At one point in time, I had to meet someone in Sokoto, and I boarded a flight to go there. Lo and behold, in the queue boarding that plane was the man I was going to see, catching a flight to another destination. So he apologized because there was no way for him to tell me not to come. So he asked me if it was possible to wait for two days. We had no choice and we found a hotel and waited for the man to come back. If there was any delay, there was nothing we could do but keep waiting until he showed up,” says Pascal.

Slowly but surely, his business began to prosper, but Pascal had even bigger aspirations. During the days of his consulting business, he conducted a feasibility study of banks and unearthed a hidden opportunity. But that was the easy part. At the time, Nigerian law stipulated that to set up a bank, no one single person could have more than 5% shareholding in the bank and the firm’s shareholders must be representative of Nigerians from all over the country.

“Now the problem was how do you find them? That was a major challenge. Once they are found, you are now dealing with so many different people from different backgrounds, which means a lot of time; there were a lot of quarrels. We traveled around all of Nigeria to find people who will invest in the bank.”

Secondly, Pascal had noticed traders from the remote villages in the east of the country, where he grew up, faced the problem of carrying huge bundles of cash when they traveled to Lagos on business, making them prone to robberies. To make matters worse, there were a number of shortcomings in the banking system. For example, to deposit money in a bank, one would have to wait long, sometimes queuing up for almost four hours before a single transaction.

“And to cash a cheque was also difficult. You could go to the bank and they will give you a number in the queue. You could then leave the bank, go to the shop and do so many errands that by the time you come back, your number would still not have been called. There was that gap in service,” says Pascal.

With a passion for economic development, he believed that without a strong financial sector, the Nigerian economy was not going to develop.

“You need a robust financial system to get the economy working, so I said ok, ‘why don’t we try looking at this and provide a solution’. I said ‘if we could get a bank to mitigate against all the things we are lacking, then we can create value for businesses and also contribute to the economic development of Nigeria’,” says Pascal, who was featured on the cover of FORBES AFRICA in October 2012.

Meanwhile, Uzoma, the eldest of his five sons, was contemplating which career he was going to pursue. The choices boiled down to engineering, medicine or law. He had witnessed the tough early days of his father’s entrepreneurial journey.

“I think my parents were hustling when I was born. We were five boys and I remember we lived at 27 Commercial Avenue, which was also my father’s office. It was a three-bedroom flat and I remember two of the rooms were offices and one was the bedroom for all of us. My dad was a consultant, so he didn’t have a fixed job then and I think my mother had a more stable job than him. Because they were hustling, life was very practical,” says Uzoma.

Where his father is assertive and confident, with each word measured and delivered as though he was giving a keynote address, Uzoma’s youthful exuberance is infectious. But there are similarities too. Pascal is a gentleman in every sense of the word, who loves Mozart and Bach, while Uzoma also has a calm down-to-earth demeanor.

Watching both father and son speak is like looking at two old friends catch up over drinks. Affectionately calling his father ‘PD’, there is an air of reverence and respect for the man who has orchestrated the Dozie legacy and built a multi-million dollar empire from a modest consulting firm, today spanning banking, private equity and telecommunications. Pascal commands his investment and finance empire through the family-owned investment company Kunoch, which pours money into everything, from power generation to gas processing, oil exploration, real estate and banking.

However, for Uzoma, banking was not his first calling. After some initial soul-searching, he opted to be a doctor and that journey led him to the United Kingdom (UK).

After studying Chemistry at the University of Reading, he pursued a masters in Chemical Research at University College London (UCL) before completing an MBA at Imperial College London.

A serendipitous recession in the UK meant Uzoma was unable to find a job, and decided to relocate to Nigeria to enrol into the mandatory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme set up by the government.

It involves Nigerian graduates in nation-building and the development of the country. Pascal, through his contacts, secured a role for Uzoma at Guaranty Trust Bank, which was the start of the latter’s love affair with banking.

“When I left university in the UK, I had a lot of credit from banks. I had a credit card, I had a debit card, I had a cheque guarantee card, I was using ATM and when I came back to Nigeria, it was like going back into time. None of those services existed. You had a chequebook, which may be, only one of the new generation banks offered, and one of the motivations or aspirations for me with Diamond Bank was trying to deliver in the Nigerian market those services which I was used to in the UK,” says Uzoma.

Both father and son fervently believe in the power of technology to drive efficiency in the financial sector. The first thing Pascal did to solve the issue of carrying cash over long distances was to set up the Diamond Integrated Banking System (DIBS).

This meant that you could carry a chequebook instead of cash and when you came into the bank, you received your cash. It may sound pretty easy and standard now but at the time in Nigeria’s history, it was revolutionary.

“Nigeria has come a long way. The area that we have not had much success is on our political front. There has been a lot of progress on the economic side; [but] individually, almost everybody is working in silos. But until we have that political will to get the economy to where it ought to be, we are just paying lip service.”

He sold the consulting business to raise the capital to start Diamond Bank. Soon, another opportunity presented itself to Pascal, this time in the telecoms industry. A South African company was looking to set up shop in Africa’s largest economy and Pascal saw in this an opportunity too good to pass up.

“So many companies were interested in the MTN project. The Nigerians didn’t know much about what it was about. All they knew was that there was this new way of communicating, which was by mobile telephones, and nobody knew what that was all about. It was one of the first few transparent projects the government ever conducted. The government practically vetted all the shareholders of the company,” says Pascal.

The South Africans wanted to pump millions into a 60% stake in MTN Nigeria, with Nigerians owning 40%. Pascal managed to raise a 20% stake in the new company. But before the deal could close, he says his name was published in the newspapers for unethical trading.

“The MTN people came to me to say ‘we do not want anything to do with you again’. Some mischievous people accused me of playing both sides and the main fact that I was double dipping would have cost us the project. So they wrote a letter to me and I didn’t reply. So they didn’t want to see me, I was more or less like an outcast. So I was not even there the last day of the bidding,” says Pascal.

“It was later on that the chairman of MTN was going back to South Africa and he met that company I was supposed to be involved in and they asked about me and the man said he didn’t know who I was. Then they realized that somebody was trying to be mischievous and they came back to me and apologized,” says Pascal, and the rest as they say is history. Today, the company is one of the most successful in Nigeria and Pascal maintains his position as chairman.

The apple did not fall far from the tree. Uzoma religiously preserves the organizational culture, using new technology to democratize the dissemination of financial services to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). Pascal had always put employees in the saddle, empowering them to take decisions. That philosophy has worked well for the organization. Furthermore, his decision to realign the structure of the organization and create accessibility for tech-savvy millennials has helped the bank maintain its position as one of the leading financial services institutions in the country.

Uzoma has had varied roles within the organization, starting as an assistant manager and head of the bank’s oil and gas group, where he expanded the oil and gas businesses. One of the things Uzoma also pioneered was leveraging the power of mobile apps to make transactions easier for customers. “We used mobile apps to stop people from coming to the branches and put everything you wanted to do in the bank, apart from withdrawing cash at the bank, on the mobile app. Now, it’s a platform where it’s beyond banking and one of the new things we are doing is to provide a relationship officer and democratize banking so that even the guy at the bottom of the pyramid will get premium banking services and we can only do that through technology,” says Uzoma.

Next, the bank began automating the customer transaction experience by enabling customers to do self-service. Robots were introduced to reduce the workload and allow humans to concentrate on the things they are good at such as creativity and innovation.

“We have eight million people who use their mobile phones to do banking and we have a partnership with MTN. I see Diamond Bank as a platform to help people connect to market. When you talk to people we helped open a bank account into the market place, the first thing they will tell you is that ‘I can now save to take my children to school, I can now save to improve my business’. Diamond Bank is a platform for transformation by connecting people and their market,” says Uzoma.

The way the company has managed to achieve this is by leveraging technology and redefining the business model, which goes beyond banking and coming up with a sharing and collaborating approach as well.

“If I want to lend to a customer, I need to know much more than his financial record, I need to know about his non-financial records so it gives me a better understanding. We use other platforms to connect and engage with our audience like Diamond TV and we also get feedback from what our people want and what the trends are,” adds Uzoma.

Under his leadership, the bank has become one of the most-successful middle-market banks. According to Uzoma, this was as a result of understanding customer cash flows which made it easier to lend to them.

“I don’t know when was the last time I went into a banking hall to do a transaction. Young people have a good opportunity in the tech sector. I would like to see Nigerians developing software and looking at it from our own perspective and being original. One of the things I found in our financial system is the banking system is not technologically advanced like some of the banks we have in Europe,” says Pascal.

“We can use technology to solve a lot of problems in agriculture and a lot of problems in banking. Even deploying technology in a social and economic area. For example, our population, VAT registration, national identity and so many applications. People are working in various silos, why can’t we get all these systems to be coordinated? If you go to Dubai and you enter a taxi and you lose something, you can retrieve it. Once you enter a taxi, it is entered in a central location and everything is harmonized.”

They are a team that work well together. Uzoma is a tech visionary who believes in the power of technology to provide opportunities to leapfrog as a people, and he is relentless in pursuing that goal.

For Nigeria to harness that power, however, there has to be effective leadership to create impact and transformation. According to Uzoma: “We have everything we require in Nigeria to really leverage technology, but we haven’t been able to do that. We need the leadership to put the policy, regulation and legislation in place to help us achieve this. One of the things I am passionate about is educating investors to invest in Nigerian businesses. People are going outside to get investors from venture capital from the US and in 10 years’ time, we are going to find that we have a few Nigerian companies that are very successful globally but they will be owned by foreign companies because Nigerian investors who had the capacity did not understand what they are letting go,” says Uzoma.

Pascal echoes his sentiments. “You will not find any company owned by Nigerians being managed by the third generation or fourth generation as such but you will find that among Indians in Nigeria, and the Lebanese in Nigeria. But ours [Nigerians] have been short-term because the first generation sets up the business, then the next generation tries to develop it and the third generation squanders it.” These days, that has been Pascal’s real focus. He believes in order for Nigeria to effectively compete globally, there has to be a focus on succession-planning. At 79, he is full of life and bursting with ideas. His goal is to create an awareness of building generational wealth through family offices. This dynamic father-son duo is here to stay and set a sterling example for African business.

From modest beginnings – just £100 in his bank account in Lagos when he started – Pascal has built an empire his son is determined to take to Africa’s glorious future.

Nigeria might lose $6bn due to corrupt oil deal

A court in Milan is considering charges of corruption against Eni and Shell in a controversial oil deal that led to Nigeria losing an estimated $6bn.

The campaign group Global Witness has calculated the OPL 245 deal in 2011 deprived Nigeria of double its annual education and healthcare budget.

Eni and Shell are accused of knowing the money they paid to Nigeria would be used for bribes.

The Italian and Anglo-Dutch energy giants deny any wrongdoing.

This unfolding scandal, which is being played out in an Italian court, has involved former MI6 officers, the FBI, a former President of Nigeria, as well as current and former senior executives at the two oil companies.

The former Nigerian oil minister, Dan Etete, was found guilty by a court in France of money laundering and it emerged he used illicit funds to buy a speed boat and a chateau. It is also claimed he had so much cash in $100 bills that it weighed five tonnes.

Global Witness has spent years investigating the deal which gave Shell and Eni the rights to explore OPL 245, an offshore oil field in the Niger Delta.

It has commissioned new analysis of the way the contract was altered in favour of the energy companies and concluded Nigeria's losses over the lifetime of the project could amount to $5.86bn, compared to terms in place before 2011.

The analysis was carried out by Resources for Development Consulting on behalf of Global Witness, as well as the NGOs HEDA, RE:Common and The Corner. The estimated losses were calculated using an oil price of $70 a barrel as a basis.

Eni has criticised the way it was calculated because it ignores the possibility that Nigeria had the right to revise the deal to claim a 50% share of the production revenues.

Deal or no deal

Campaigners say the deal should be cancelled.

"We discovered that Shell had constructed a deal that cut Nigeria out of their share of profit oil from the block," Ava Lee, a campaigner at Global Witness told the BBC's World Business Report.

"This amount of money would be enough to educate six million teachers in Nigeria. It really can't be underestimated just how big a deal this could be for a country that right now has the highest rates of extreme poverty in the world."

Nigeria is the richest economy in Africa, but despite having large resources of oil and gas millions of people are poor.

Lucrative OPL 245

It is understandable why Eni and Shell wanted to acquire the rights to develop OPL 245, because it is estimated to contain nine billion barrels of oil.

But the process of how they secured the contract is dogged by claims of corruption.

The court in Milan is weighing evidence of how a former Nigerian oil minister, Dan Etete, awarded ownership of OPL 245 to Malabu, a company he secretly controlled.

He is accused of paying bribes to others in the government, such as former President Goodluck Jonathan, to ensure that process went smoothly.

Shell and Eni are accused of knowing the $1.1bn they paid to Nigeria would be used for bribes, claims based on the content of emails which have since emerged.

"Looking at the emails it seems that Shell knew that the deal they were constructing was misleading but they went ahead with it anyway even though a number of Nigerian officials raised concerns about this scandalous, scandalous deal," says Ava Lee from Global Witness.

No wrongdoing

The Anglo-Dutch and Italian energy giants insist they have done nothing wrong, because they paid the money to secure the exploration rights directly to the Nigerian government.

Shell issued a statement to BBC World Business Report saying: "Since this matter is before the Tribunal of Milan it would not be appropriate for us to comment in detail. Issues that are under consideration as part of a trial process should be adjudicated in court and we do not wish to interfere with this process.

"We maintain that the settlement was a fully legal transaction and we believe the trial judges in Italy will conclude that there is no case against Shell or its former employees."

Eni has also denied any wrongdoing and told the BBC that it questions the competence of the experts commissioned by Global Witness and its "partners", as well as raising the possibility that the report by the campaign group is defamatory.

The Italian oil and gas company said "as this matter is currently before the Tribunal of Milan, we are unable to comment in detail".

In a statement it noted: "Global Witness together with its partners Corner House, HEDA Resource Centre and Re: Common had requested twice to be admitted as aggrieved parties in the Milan proceedings. On both occasions, the request was firmly denied by the Tribunal of Milan."

Eni also said it "continues to reject any allegation of impropriety or irregularity in connection with this transaction".

Biggest ever corruption case

Campaigners believe this is a landmark case and the outcome of the trial in Milan will cause an earthquake to reverberate through the oil and gas industry.

Nick Hildyard of the Corner House wonders if investors are comfortable. "Fund managers should be alarmed at this brazen dishonesty," he said.

Nigeria's leader is being encouraged to intervene by Olanrewaju Suraju, from HEDA. "President Buhari should reject any deal," he said.

The contrast between the way Italy deals with migrants and the actions of one of the nation's biggest companies has been raised by Antonio Tricarico of Re;Common.

"The Italian government is discouraging Nigerian migrants trying to reach Italy by claiming that it will help them at home, but Italy's biggest multi-national, part owned by the state, is accused of scamming billions from the Nigerian people."

The outcome of the unprecedented court case in Milan could force the oil industry to change how it conducts its business, especially in countries where corruption is rife, because more transparency about contracts and payments made would discourage fraud.

The despair of Nigeria's poor

Emita Dida, a widowed mother of six, has been living in "Monkey Village" for more than a decade.

She is one of thousands of Nigerians to be calling this informal settlement in Lagos' Ikeja neighbourhood home, sheltering in small shacks jammed together and constructed of rusted zinc.

"Life is difficult," says Dida, who runs a street-food stall.

After the death of her husband, Dida has been been finding hard to sustain her children on a meagre income. Unable to pay for their school fees, she relies on support from aid organisations to cover the cost of education.

"The little money I make is never enough," she says. "I have to feed my family from the food I sell, I can't afford to buy them other food."

Dida is among the millions of Nigerians struggling to make a living in the country's commercial capital - and beyond.

According to a report in June by the Brookings Institution, a Washington, DC-based think-tank, Nigeria has overtaken India as the world's poverty capital.

The study estimated that 87 million people in a country of nearly 200 million were living in extreme poverty, compared with 73 million people in India.

The report also projected an increase in extreme poverty in Nigeria - Africa's leading oil producer and most populous nation - until at least 2022.

Government officials have said the report does not reflect the true state of the country. Analysts, however, blame weak governance for the increasing poverty rate and say the heavy dependence on oil and gas is leaving the economy exposed to external risks while complicating development efforts.

"The Nigerian economy is an economy that depends on oil and earns what is called 'economic rent' - the income that comes from things that are not from our direct productive effort," says Professor Olufemi Saibu, an economist at the University of Lagos, urging the government to step up efforts to alleviate poverty.

Shrinking middle class

A crash in oil prices in 2014 hit Nigeria hard, sparking a financial and currency crisis and plunging the country's economy into recession two years later - the first in a quarter of a century.

Nigeria is now slowly exiting the downturn but growth remains sluggish, at about two percent, and inflation stubbornly high, an estimated 16.2 percent in 2017.

The unemployment rate, meanwhile, has soared in recent years, while the gap between the rich and the poor continues to widen.

"There is a high level of unemployment and less engagement of the people [in the job market]," says Saibu.

"And when people are not engaged, they earn so little which in turn makes them fall below the poverty line," he adds.

According to a 2018 African Development Bank report, "nearly 80 percent of Nigeria's 190 million people live on less than $2 a day".

February elections

With Nigeria now stepping up preparations to hold a crucial presidential election, scheduled to be held in February 2019, the issue of the economy is expected to dominate public debate in the months leading up to the vote.

The race will see a record 79 candidates vying for the country's top seat, with incumbent Muhammadu Buhari, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and ex-World Bank Vice President Oby Ezekwesili seen as the main contenders.

"The most germane issue is the capacity of any candidate to ameliorate the economic situation," says Uche Ezechukwu, a Nigerian political analyst.

Another major concern for voters is corruption, an issue that has long plagued Nigeria due to public officials feasting on funds generated from crude oil exports.

Last year, Nigeria ranked 148th out of 180 countries on Transparency International's corruption index.

The country produces more than two million oil barrels per day and holds one of the world's largest gas reserves, but can barely produce electricity to power many of its households and factories.

The shortage is also pushing the price of goods up, as they are mostly produced by manufacturing firms running on costly diesel-powered generators.

"My salary is never enough for me," says Esan Monday, a 25 year-old who has lived in the "Monkey village" slum for 22 years.

He has no formal education and currently works in a bakery.

"I work so hard and am paid very little money, which I try to save up a bit to be able to buy some personal belongings," Monday told Al Jazeera.

After decades of high-level corruption and a lack of basic services, Monday says he expects little to change following the upcoming elections.

"The politicians have failed us," he says.

"I feel like all those elected into office only care about themselves. They only want our votes and don't provide us with the basic needs we demand for."

Friday, November 23, 2018

Video - TIZETI a solution for Nigeria's internet problem

Necessity, it's said, is the mother of invention. For tech entrepreneur Kendall Ananyi, this couldn't be more accurate. He and a friend set out to establish a video curating company, to become the Netflix of Nigeria. But they lacked fast and affordable Internet services to run their business. Realising the magnitude of the challenge, the two abandoned their initial plan and decided to solve the Internet problem instead.

50 staff members sacked at Nigeria High Commision in London

Over 50 Staff of the Nigerian High Commision London were dismissed and asked to accept a letter dated 22nd of November, 2018, Meanwhile, the Commission claims the dismissal took effect from 1st of January 2018.

The staff of the commission have been working all year (2018) with months of no pay. The letter of termination came due to continual outcry from staff members of the commission demanding their salary arrears.

In the letter signed by Helen Nzeako on behalf of the Nigerian High Commission UK, the termination of employment is as a result of restructuring of the organization and due to budgetary constraints. The staff members of the Commission have received this news in dismay and disappointment as most have served the Federal Government of Nigeria meritoriously. A source alleged that the exercise is a plot by the management to disengage every staff to so as to pave way for them to employ their friends & family members into these positions. The letter of termination or disengagement instructed staff to reapply for the same job if they so wish.

“We want the World to see how we are been ill-treated just because we asked for our salaries. This is so unfair and an injustice to democratic rule”. As quoted by a displaced staff of the commission. However the aggrieved staff are calling on President Muhammadu Buhari, the Federal Government of Nigeria to look into the matter.

Bring Back our Girls activist runs for top office and vows to disrupt 'Nigeria's politics of failure'

Bring Back our Girls activist and former Nigerian minister Oby Ezekwesili has thrown her hat into the election ring for Nigeria's upcoming 2019 elections and says her candidacy will "disrupt the politics of failure" in Africa's most populous nation.
Ezekwesili in an interview with Christiane Amanpour said bad governance had become endemic in Nigeria and citizens no longer hold leaders accountable for corruption or corrupt acts.
"It [Nigerian politics] produced dismal results such that today Nigeria is the world's capital of extreme poverty," she said.

"It's totally unacceptable. What I intend to do is to disrupt this and build a nation that is based on prosperity, stability, cohesion, and equality of opportunities for our people."

Around 87 million Nigerians are living in extreme poverty, according to the 2018 World Poverty Clock, despite the country's vast oil wealth and human capital.

Incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari, who is also running for a second term, vowed to tackle corruption in his first term, a promise many Nigerians say he has not fulfilled.

Ezekwesili, who announced she was running for Nigeria's top office in October, is towing the same path, with a campaign promise to weed out corruption, which she calls a "malignant and cancerous action."

"We know that corruption is a tax on the poor. And we already know there are ways to tackle corruption. You prevent opportunities for corruption; you reduce corruption.

"What my agenda is to deregulate the economy in the kind of way that public officials don't have too much presence in the economy to be able to utilize it for personal gain," she said in the interview.

Anti-corruption campaigner

Ezekwesili is one of the co-founders of Transparency International, a global watchdog fighting corruption. She has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

She leads the Bring Back Our Girls group calling for the safe return of kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by terror group Boko Haram since 2014.

Ezekwesili faces an uphill task as a female presidential candidate, but most significantly, she will be running against incumbent President Buhari and Nigeria's former vice-president Atiku Abubakar in February next year. 

The activist said the candidates' popularity does not faze her and her ambitions to lead the West African nation. Ezekwesili believes she stands out from other candidates.  According to her, leadership is "gender neutral" and she brings "character, competence, and capacity" to the race, she said.  

"I am a better candidate than the men that are in this race, and even they will tell you that. I'm simply going to keep on with the issues that I want to solve and be a problem solver," Ezekwesili told CNN.
Her record of fighting corruption and plugging financial leaks in Nigeria's public sector, when she served as a minister proves she will deliver on her campaign promises, she said.

"I believe I am the candidate of the Nigerian people as I am not running alone. We are all running together. All of us that want a new direction for our country are running together," Ezekwesili said.
"This is a contest between the established class of politicians who have not delivered anything meaningful in governance and the rest of us. I'm simply a candidate who is providing a direction for the rest of society to take on these folks."

Ezekwesili served as Nigeria's minister of education in 2006 where she championed educational reforms to get more girls to attend school, especially in northern Nigeria.

50 loggers kidnapped by Boko Haram in Nigeria

Boko Haram militants have been kidnapped 50 loggers in north-eastern Nigeria close to the border with Cameroon, the Daily Nation reported on Friday.

The abduction took place at Bulakesa village, 25 kilometres from Gamboru in Borno state.

Gunmen loyal to factional leader, Abubakar Shekau, carried out the abduction of the loggers, who were in a camp for people displaced by jihadist violence, last weekend according to a local militia.

The news took a while to reach the media due to limited communications with residents in the area. Two of the loggers, however, succeeded in escaping and fled home warning others of the kidnapping.

Thousands of people have lost their lives and more than two million have been displaced since Boko Haram’s 2009 uprising. In 2014 Boko Haram gunmen seized 276 girls aged 12 to 17 from a secondary school in the remote town of Chibok, also in Borno state.

Following repeated attacks on loggers, the Nigerian military managed to rid the nearby town of Wulgo and surrounding areas of the militants in 2017.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Video - Nigerian businessmen on benefits from Chinese Expo

African nations continue to reap benefits following the conclusion of the first China International Import Expo. Many products and services from Africa made their debut in the Chinese market. These have attracted a lot of attention. Exhibitors from Nigeria say the Expo opened a channel for African companies and products looking to enter the Chinese market.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Video - President Buhari, 78 others in the fray for Nigerian polls

Campaigning has begun for what is expected to be Nigeria's most expensive presidential election. A record 79 candidates are in the race, including the incumbent President, Muhammadu Buhari. But his hopes of re-election are threatened by criticism of his handling of the economy and the war against Boko Haram. The Nigerian presidential election will be held in February 2019.

Video - Nigeria's Buhari launches campaign for second term

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has launched his re-election bid. Buhari was the sole candidate of his ruling party and hopes his anti-corruption agenda can win him a second term in next year's election. He will face former vice president Atiku Abubakar who is also expected to unveil his policy plans.

Doctors are leaving Nigeria in droves

Each week, at least 12 Nigerian doctors are employed in the United Kingdom. More than 4,000 are already practicing in the United States, while Canada continues to attract medical professionals from Africa’s most populous nation.

But there are no full-time specialists at most Nigerian public hospitals. They are largely staffed by retired nurses, community health officers, and new doctors with little clinical experience. More than half of the doctors remaining in Nigeria work in a handful of major cities.

Doctors are leaving Nigeria — and the government seems to be making little effort to convince them to stay. In a recent viral video widely ridiculed on social media, health minister Isaac Adewole suggested that doctors who couldn’t find work should turn to alternative careers.

“It might sound selfish, but we can't all be specialists,” Adewole said. “Some [doctors] will be specialists, some will be GPs [general practitioners], and some will be farmers.”

A similar approach was taken by President Muhammadu Buhari last month. “You don’t have to be in [a doctor’s] uniform to be loyal,” he said. “Others who feel they have another country [to go to] may choose to go. We will stay here and salvage it together.” Online, citizens drily pointed to the president’s habit of going abroad for medical treatment.

But while officials play down the impact of Nigeria’s medical brain drain, advocates are increasingly concerned about the crisis, which they say has both human and economic costs.

Aside from leading to a severe shortage of medical staff in Nigeria and disrupting health care services, a report released in August by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation estimated that African countries have footed a bill of $4.6 billion in training doctors who were then recruited by the U.K., U.S., Canada, and Australia.

Following Adewole’s video, Nigerians took to social media to decry the minister’s claims. They blamed the government for the poor structuring of the medical residency program in Nigeria, which has left many doctors without placements, and for a difficult working environment that has recently seen the health sector plagued by incessant strikes.

It is not known exactly how many doctors have left the country. In 2017, a Nigerian Medical Association official, Olumuyiwa Odusote, told local media that 40,000 Nigerian doctors were practicing outside the country — around half of all doctors Nigeria has trained since the 1960s.

NMA President Dr. Mike Ogirima has put the number much lower, at about 15,000. Neither the NMA nor the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria could provide Devex with an official figure.

However, the Association of Nigerian Physicians in the Americas has more than 4,000 members; data from the U.K. shows that more than 5,000 Nigerian doctors are working there; and the Canadian Medical Association Masterfile has recorded a quadrupling of Nigerian doctors practicing in the country over a decade, from 176 in 2008 to 568 in 2018. Other top destinations include Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates.

And there is no end in sight. A 2017 poll showed that 9 out of 10 doctors in Nigeria wanted to leave the country due to poor working conditions and low remuneration. Another survey showed that high numbers have registered to take foreign medical exams allowing them to practice abroad.

Organizing online

In WhatsApp and Telegram groups, Nigerian health care professionals are sharing information on how to migrate to higher income countries. Bimpe Folarin, a 32-year old nurse, moderates one such group. Bimpe works as a wedding makeup artist on the weekends for additional income, and says she has not received any salary from the government for three months. Most of her colleagues have at least one “side hustle” ranging from small-scale trading to photography, she told Devex.

“Those that don’t have a second job either have rich spouses or are cheating the system. It is a depressing mood at work and I just want to leave,” she said.

Bimpe wanted to move to the U.S. but, fearing recent stigma around her Muslim faith, the mother of two is now thinking of Canada. She is saving 40 percent of her monthly salary for the trip, and believes she can reach her target of 2 million Nigerian nairas ($5,500) whenever the government pays her outstanding salary. “I should be in Canada by early 2019,” she said.

In the group she moderates, hopeful emigrants refer to the paucity of job opportunities, low pay, insecurity, a bleak future for their children, and poor social infrastructure as reasons for wanting to leave Nigeria.

Hospitals owned by Nigeria’s central government, which are more competitive for placements, pay young doctors up to 200,000 nairas ($550) monthly. Some state hospitals and private facilities pay just a quarter of that. If they go to the U.S., doctors earn an average of $25,000 monthly.

“My husband used to be a die-hard, never-leave-the-country guy,” another medical doctor, Dr. Damilola Odewole, told Devex. “But we couldn't pay our rent and our daughters need to [go to] school and eat, plus they weren't giving us residency [placements at a hospital],” she said. They even increased the price for the medical exams, she added. The family is now looking to leave Nigeria.

Uneven distribution

In spite of the surge in doctors travelling abroad, the health minister argued the country has a better doctor-patient ratio — 1 to every 4,088 residents — than many countries in the region.

Instead, what Nigeria is struggling with is an uneven distribution of health care professionals, he suggested, explaining that about 50 percent of doctors work in the metropolitan hubs of Lagos and Abuja, while many facilities in the north and in rural areas are left without doctors.

A health ministry official also admitted that better salaries would discourage health workers from travelling abroad, but said the Nigerian government simply cannot match what the U.K., U.S., Canada, and Saudi Arabia are paying.

For doctors who spoke to Devex, however, the decision to leave is about more than just pay, including poor working conditions, delays in salary payments, and lack of employment.

And as hospitals across Nigeria lose their doctors, patient care is limited and health professionals who are left behind are overworked. Health indices show that Nigeria continues to be a major concern for global efforts to control diseases including HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria. Only a third of births are handled by skilled health personnel, while the country has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world.

At Adeoyo Hospital in Ibadan, southwest Nigeria, all surgeries had to be cancelled or rescheduled when the hospital’s only anesthesiologist left in June. That situation is not unique.

“There was a time that all the resident doctors in our O&G [obstetrics and gynecology] unit moved to U.K. and Canada within two months,” said Folarin. “The house officers had to be the ones on call performing cesarean sections until the hospital could employ another resident doctor, who also left after a month because of the workload and a better job offer in London.”

Presidential candidate Abubakar launches 'Get working again' campaign

Nigeria's main opposition leader Atiku Abubakar has vowed to get the country "working again" by reviving its economy as he launched his 2019 presidential elections campaign.

In a Facebook Live address on Monday, the former vice president promised to create millions of jobs to tackle rising inequality and insecurity in Africa's top oil-producing country.

"The sad fact today, as you know, is that too many of our people are not working and are living in poverty and insecurity," Abubakar said.

"Almost all indices on socioeconomic and political development have plummeted, throwing over 70 percent of Nigerians into unprecedented poverty," the 71-year-old added.

"The most important question in this election is: are you better off than you were four years ago, are you richer or poorer? That is why our primary focus is to get Nigeria working again."

Abubakar's comments came a day after the official start of campaigning for the elections, which are scheduled to be held on February 16, 2019.

Incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari has promised to step up the fight against corruption as he bids for a second term.

"Corruption is an existential threat to Nigeria. Despite the gains we made in closing the gaps, we know that there is still much ground to cover to stop the systemic corruption," Buhari said on Sunday in the capital, Abuja.

"We are committed to deepening the work we started this first term," added Buhari, who in 2015 became the first opposition candidate to defeat a sitting president.

Record candidates

Nigeria's election commission has cleared a record 79 candidates in the race for the nation's top job, including Buhari, who belongs to the All Progressives Congress party.

Abubakar, seen as his closest rival, is from the People's Democratic Party (PDP).

Another prominent challenger is Oby Ezekwesili, a former minister and World Bank vice president, who is hoping to end the "duopoly" of the two leaders.

Ezekwesili, the cofounder of a group that raises awareness about the nearly 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by the Boko Haram armed group, was nominated for the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize.

Sluggish economy

Unveiling his plan to ramp up growth in his policy document, Abubakar targeted a gross domestic product of $900bn by 2025 - more than double the current amount - and vowed to lift "at least 50 million people out of extreme poverty".

"It only takes a man with a vision and a mission to properly articulate a document that touches on every critical areas to fix Nigeria," Jackson Ude, member of the opposition People's Democratic Party (PDP), told Al Jazeera.

But Kayode Ogundamisi, a Buhari supporter, dismissed Abubakar's policy document as "flowery".

"The Atiku document did not disappoint those of us who have always told Nigerians that the former vice president does not have anything different to offer," Ogundamisi told Al Jazeera.

For its part, the PDP has denounced Buhari's presidency as a failure, highlighting his inability to fix the nation's economy and tackle insecurity.

Last year, Nigeria emerged from its first recession in 25 years, but growth remains sluggish and inflation has remained high. The unemployment rate, meanwhile, has more than doubled since 2015.

Uche Ezechukwu, a political analyst, told Al Jazeera that the economy will play a crucial role in the upcoming polls.

"The most germane issue is the capacity of any candidate to ameliorate the economic situation," he said.

Security issues

Buhari, 75, a former military general, came to power in 2015 pledging to end Boko Haram attacks - but has struggled to fulfil the promise.

The armed group might have been pushed out of the Nigerian territories it held but continues to ambush security forces, launch attacks and stage kidnappings.

Despite the government insisting that Boko Haram is near defeat, northern Nigeria is still beleaguered by heavy fighting.

More than 20,000 people have been killed since the group's campaign to establish a breakaway Islamic state in northeast Nigeria began in 2009, while over two million others have been to flee their homes.

Meanwhile, concerns have been raised about the transparency of the impending vote following allegations of irregularities, rigging and vote-buying in recent local elections.

Buhari has repeatedly said the vote will be "free and fair" but civil society groups and opposition parties have accused the country's electoral body of bias.

"Most Nigerians distrust the capacity of the government to deliver a free and fair election," Ezechukwu, the analyst, said.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Video - South Africa 1-1 Nigeria - Highlights

Nigeria beaten by South Africa in Women's Nations Cup

South Africa surprised holders Nigeria with a 1-0 victory in the first game of Group B at the Women's Africa Cup of Nations in Ghana.

Nigeria, who have won eight out of the ten editions of the championship, were beaten by an impressive individual strike from Thembi Kgatlana five minutes from time in Cape Coast.

Desire Oparanozie had come close for the defending champions in the first half who suffered only their second defeat to Banyana Banyana in more than two decades.

Nigeria's head coach, Thomas Dennerby told the Confederation of African Football's official tournament website that he was "very disappointed" and that "it would have been fair if the game had ended in a draw."

Dennerby's South Africa counterpart, Desiree Ellis, described Kgatlana's goal as "a moment of brilliance" and said "the victory is not only for us but for the people back home."

In the day's second Group B match, Zambia were emphatic 5-0 winners over former champions Equatorial Guinea.

Grance Banda and Ireen Lungu had put Shepolopolo 2-0 up before half-time, with Mary Mwakapila and two goals from Rachael Kundanaji giving Zambia a big victory.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Video - Nigeria seeks extradition of former Oil Minister

Nigeria's Anti-graft agency, the EFCC says it is starting a process to extradite former Petroleum minister Diezani Alison Madueke from the UK. Madueke is accused of money laundering and stealing huge sums of petroleum money while in office.

2019 Forbes Under 30 list includes eight Nigerians

Eight Nigerians have been listed, among other global influencers, in the 2019 Forbes 30 under 30 list.

News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Forbes 30 under 30 is a set of lists issued annually by Forbes magazine and some of its regional editions to recognise business and industry figures.

This year, the list featured 300 trailblazers from 20 industries with average age of 26.8.

Over 55 per cent of them are founders or co-founders.

Also, 19 per cent of them include immigrants from 57 countries, and 38 of them identify as first generation Americans.

Nigerians who made the list include Taofeek Abijako, Kayode Ojo, Obi Omile Jr, Adegoke Olubusi, Tito Ovia, Dimeji Sofowora, Olaoluwa Osuntokun and Emmanuel Acho.

Taofeek Abijako is a 20-year-old designer who started his men's streetwear brand when he was a high school teenager.

Kayode Ojo is a 28-year-old photographer who has had solo shows in Paris, Berlin, New York and Dallas.

Communication expert, Obi Omile Jr. is the co-founder of the Cut, a technology platform that allows users and barbers to schedule and manage appointments.

Meanwhile, Adegoke Olubusi, 25, Tito Ovia, 25, and Dimeji Sofowora, 26 are founders of Helium Health a platform used by 5,000 doctors, with data from 500,000 patients across West Africa.

Olaoluwa Osuntokun, 25, is the co-founder of Lighting Labs which has raised $2.5 million to turn bitcoin into a more viable form of payment by making smaller transactions more cost-effective.

Also, Emmanuel Acho, 28, serves as the youngest national football analyst for ESPN and runs a charity that has built a hospital in Nigeria.

NAN reports that the list also features Ghanaian, Shadrack Frimpong, who founded Cocoa360, a 'farm-for-impact' model that uses revenues from community cocoa farms to fund educational and healthcare services.

International musicians Post Malone, 23, 21 Savage, 26, photographer Tyler Mitchell, 23 who photographed Beyonce for her Vogue September 2018 cover, and actor Storm Reid, 15 made the list.

NAN also reports that the 2019 class have raised over one billion dollars in funding and work an average of 67 hours per week.

Seventy-seven per cent of honorees consider being under the age of 30 an advantage in their career, 89 per cent are optimistic about the U.S. economy for startups,

Thirty-one per cent decided what they wanted to do for a career during university, 22 per cent decided as a child, and 10 per cent are still deciding.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Video - Nigerian workers set to benefit from minimum wage increase

The lowest-paid Nigerian worker could benefit from a 66 percent pay rise should lawmakers approve the controversial tripartite committee report on the minimum wage. CGTN's Kelechi Emekalam takes a look at what a higher salary means to a minimum-wage earner, as well as the overall impact of the policy on the economy.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Video - China offers Nigeria's internally displaced persons relief items

The Chinese Government has donated relief items worth sixteen thousand dollars to internally displaced persons in Jos, Plateau State, North Central Nigeria. The Chinese Embassy, in collaboration with the Civil-Military Relief Initiative and the Nigeria Army, is providing the items worth sixteen thousand dollars to an IDP camp in Plateau. Violent conflicts between nomadic herders and farmers in North Central Nigeria has displaced about forty thousand people between June and October. Most of the displaced persons are living in deplorable conditions drawing the attention of the Chinese embassy in Nigeria.

Monday, November 12, 2018

President Buhari declares state of emergency in water sector

In Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari has declared the country's water supply crisis a state of emergency. He made the declaration at the launch of an action plan to revitalize water supplies, sanitation and hygiene.

Video - Baseball in Nigeria

A local baseball academy based in Nigeria's capital Abuja, is working hard to take the sport to greater heights. Despite a lack of facilities for the sport in the country, the academy is raising young players between the ages of 6 and 18 years in the hope that they will become future talents for Nigeria.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Video - Prince Charles speaks Pidgin English during speech in Nigeria

Prince Charles broke into Pidgin while delivering a speech in Lagos, Nigeria, on Wednesday. The Prince of Wales said it was particularly special to be in Lagos after nearly 30 years, saying the only words to describe it were '"God don butter my bread", a term in Pidgin meaning "God has blessed me.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Video - Nigeria labour unions call off nationwide industrial action

Nigeria's organized labour unions have called off the nationwide industrial action meant to press home workers' demand for a new national minimum wage. The National Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress says all parties have agreed on an $83 minimum wage deal.

Nigeria will benefit from Google Artificial Intelligence lab in Ghana

By Prince Osuagwu (Hi-tech Editor) reporting from Netherlands Amsterdam—Head Google AI, Ghana, Moustapha Cisse, yesterday revealed that there are ongoing plans to see that Artificial Intelligence, AI, helps in managing Nigerian and other African economies, particularly in the areas of flood, disaster management, technological inn ovations, and health among others.

The Senegalese born Research Scientist, made the revelation at the Google Making AI event in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

According to him, a lot of collaborations between Google and some higher institutions of learning, Research centres and some professors in Nigeria are ongoing and will help drive down the benefits of AI and other new technologies to the country. 

He said although Google is building an AI lab in Ghana, Nigeria was also in pole position to benefit because science and technology do not create barriers. 

He advised African countries to design a common collaborative template so that the continent doesn’t play catch up with the wave of technogical innovations sweeping across the globe. 

He said: “There are a lot of Google tech initiatives in Africa, from Nigeria to Ghana and the rest, partnerships and collaborations are needed to exploit potentials” Reacting to the development, National Coordinator, Office for ICT Innovation and Entrepreneurship, National Information Technology Development Agency, NITDA, Dr Amina Sambo- Magaji who also participated at the forum, said government was ready to absorb the outcome of the collaborations and use same for common good of Nigerians. She said: “The National Information Technology Development agency is developing technology hubs in collaboration with the NSIO, where over 80 digital job creation centres are annually deployed across the country. 

“NITDA has empowered its two subsidiaries, Office for the Nigerian Content (ONC) and Office for ICT Innovation and Entrepreneurship (OIIE) to ensure the enforcement of the local content policy and create an enabling environment for the Nigerian Technology Entrepreneurship ecosystem respectively.”

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

The 'Mona Lisa' of Nigeria returns back home

The Nigerian Mona Lisa, a painting lost for more than 40 years and found in a London flat in February, is being exhibited in Nigeria for the first time since it disappeared.

"Tutu", an art work by Nigeria's best-known modern artist, Ben Enwonwu, was painted in 1974. It appeared at an art show in Lagos the following year, but its whereabouts after that were unknown, until it re-surfaced in north London.

The owners - who wished to remain anonymous - had called in Giles Peppiatt, an expert in modern and contemporary African art at the London auction house Bonhams, to identify their painting. He recognized Enwonwu's portrait.

"It was discovered by myself on a pretty routine valuation call to look at a work by Ben Enwonwu," said Giles Peppiatt, director of contemporary African art at Bonhams. "I didn't know what I was going to see. I turned up, and it was this amazing painting. We'd had no inkling 'Tutu' was there."

How it got there remains a bit of a mystery, Peppiatt said.

"All the family that owned it know is that it was owned by their father, who had business interests in Nigeria. He traveled and picked it up in the late or mid-70s."

The family put the portrait up for sale, and it was auctioned for 1.2 million pounds ($1.57 million) in February to an anonymous buyer. The sale made it the highest-valued work of Nigerian modern art sold at auction.

"Tutu" was loaned to the Art X Lagos fair, held from Friday to Sunday, by Access Bank, the organizers said in a statement. Peppiatt said Access arranged the loan but is not the painting's owner.

"'Tutu' is referred to as the African 'Mona Lisa' by virtue of this disappearance and re-emergence, and it is the first work of a modern Nigerian artist to sell for over a million pounds," said Tokini Peterside, the art fair's founder.

The original Mona Lisa, Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece, was stolen from the Louvre in 1911. The thief, Vincenzo Peruggia, eventually took it to Italy, where it was recovered and in 1914 returned to the Louvre.

The Nigerian painting is a portrait of Adetutu Ademiluyi, a grand-daughter of a traditional ruler from the Yoruba ethnic group. It holds special significance in Nigeria as a symbol of national reconciliation after the 1967-70 Biafran War.

Enwonwu belonged to the Igbo ethnic group, the largest in the southeastern region of Nigeria, which had tried to secede under the name of Biafra. The Yoruba, whose homeland is in the southwest, were mostly on the opposing side in the war.

Enwonwu painted three versions of the portrait. One is in a private collection in Lagos, while Peppiatt is hunting the third in Washington D.C., the expert said. Prints first made in the 1970s have been in circulation ever since and the images are familiar to many Nigerians. Enwonwu died in 1994. ($1 = 0.7649 pounds)

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Nigeria reaches agreement with Labor union's 66% minimum wage demand

Nigeria’s biggest labor union reached an agreement with the government to increase the minimum wage by 66 percent, adding to inflationary pressures and reducing state funds for infrastructure.

The Nigeria Labour Congress called off its threat to hold a nationwide strike from Tuesday in the wake of the accord, spokesman Benson Upah said by phone from Abuja, the capital. A report on the agreement will be presented to President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday afternoon.

The accord comes before Buhari seeks a second term in presidential elections scheduled for February.
Raising the minimum wage to 30,000 naira ($83) a month adds to inflation pressures at a time when the government is being urged to stop capping the cost of gasoline and curb spending on subsidies. Price-growth, which has been above the authorities target of 6 percent to 9 percent for more than three years, has led the central bank to keep the benchmark interest rate at a record high of 14 percent since July 2016.

Buhari has already set aside 160 billion naira to provide for wage increases next year. That will weigh on the state’s ability to sustain its pledge of increasing investment in roads, ports and power that’s needed to spur growth, according to analysts including Cheta Nwanze, head of research at Lagos-based risk advisory SBM Intelligence.

“An increase in the minimum wage may provide a temporary lift to spending, but as we saw in 2011, it rarely brings about a sustained improvement in the economy,” said Razia Khan, head of macroeconomic research at Standard Chartered Bank Plc. “If anything, the risk is that it will serve as an additional drag on public finances.”

Monday, November 5, 2018

Video - UN condemns recent violence on Borno communities in Nigeria

The United Nations has condemned an attack on villagers in Northern Nigeria by Boko Haram militants. The spokesperson for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Jens Laerke appealed to the authorities to ensure the safety of vulnerable communities. On Wednesday, Boko Haram attacked several villages in Maiduguri, killing at least 15 people.

Video - Nigerian labour unions threaten strike reject $62 minimum wage offer

Nigerian labour unions have rejected the 62-dollar minimum wage offer by a forum of governors and have threatened to launch an indefinite strike next week. The current minimum wage is 18-dollars a month. Governors are worried about the impact a higher offer could have on the budget.

Trump's words used to defend killing of protesters by military in Nigeria

The Nigerian army appears to have used the words of President Trump to justify the killing of Islamic protesters.

On Friday (Nov. 2), the Nigerian army's official Twitter account tweeted a snippet of Trump's Thursday (Nov. 1) speech on immigration where he stated that the U.S. military should consider migrants throwing rocks as they would a rifle. The Nigerian army then went on to explain that they released the video to say "if President Trump can say rocks are as good as a rifle, who is Amnesty International?"

This came in response to growing scrutiny from human rights organizations, like Amnesty International, who've criticized the Nigerian government for its "horrific use of excessive force" when dealing with Muslim protestors. Days prior to the tweet, the Nigerian army fired bullets and tear gas into a crowd of Shai Muslims killing six protestors. This is not the first time conflicts between demonstrators — who routinely take to the streets to protest the imprisonment of Islamic Movement of Nigeria leader, Ibrahim Zakzaky — and armed forces have turned deadly.

"This violent crackdown on IMN protesters is unjustified and unacceptable," Amnesty International Nigerian Country Director, Osai Ojigho, said of the attacks. "They were perfectly within their rights to hold a religious procession and protest and there was no evidence they posed an imminent threat to life."

However, Trump is popular in Nigeria's Christian population for his talks against Islamic extremism. Using his controversial speech to justify their persecution of the IMN may help further sway the Nigerian popular opinion and invalidate the authority of Amnesty International.

The White House has yet to issue a response to the use of the president's comments.

Nigeria arrests 400 Shia Muslims after deadly clashes

Using technology to tackle corruption in Nigeria

In 2012, Nigeria witnessed the worst flood in nearly five decades. Two million people were displaced and around 363 killed. Crops, homes, and entire communities were destroyed.

The central government swung into action and disbursed around $110m to affected states in October that year. Additional funding flowed from a public-private relief fund and the international community, including Canada, the European Commission, Japan, Norway and Sweden.

Back in Lagos, the team at BudgIT, a civil society organisation founded in 2011, watched closely. In September 2013, it sent a small research team to tour 12 affected states for a period of five months to find out whether the funds released were put to good use.

"We discovered that these funds went into the wrong hands and people never benefited," says Uadamen Ilevbaoje, who was part of the team.

Several decades of corruption have slowed progress in Nigeria, which is the largest oil producer in Africa. Public funds allocated for projects and services often go unaccounted for; mismanagement and corruption have fuelled inequality and poverty.

By the end of May, Nigeria became host to the world's largest population of people in extreme poverty with some 87 million in crisis, overtaking India's 73 million.

Across the country, but especially in remote areas, abandoned projects dot the landscape.

Citizens live without basic amenities like roads, housing, schools, potable water, hospitals and sanitation facilities.

In Maito village, in central Nigeria's Niger state, residents continue to use a dilapidated health centre with a roof covered by bats, despite the National Primary Health Care Development Agency having approved 22 million nairas ($60,600) for a better facility.

In the rural village of Akere, in the southwestern state of Ogun, schoolchildren learn under the shade of a tree and sit on bare floors in overcrowded classrooms, despite funding of $82,000 provided for refurbishment.

According to a UN report, roughly $4.6bn is spent on bribes in Nigeria each year.

The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission reported that 60 percent of corruption cases in the country take place in procurement.

Poor transparency and accountability have allowed corruption to flourish, and a few civil society groups are trying to change the opaque environment.

Pressuring the government

In June 2014, BudgIT started the Tracka initiative to follow public projects and help communities ask serious questions that would enhance efficiency.

Tracka staff extract capital projects from the budget and design a pamphlet containing the project title, amount and phone number of public officials for each of the 22 states where it operates.

Armed with these details, tracking officers who have been recruited and trained visit the communities, hold town hall meetings with communities and help them ask government agencies and legislatures to complete projects which have either been abandoned or yet to start.

Tracking officers also take photos and upload them on Twitter and Facebook, adding pressure on government ministries to act transparently.

Through its work, Tracka was able to speed up the construction of a school in Iwoye Ilogbo in Ogun state, a primary healthcare centre in Delta state and boreholes in Edo and Anambra states.

In addition to Tracka, there is the Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC), which is working to promote citizen participation in governance.

It uses radio and social media to monitor public procurement processes and push for greater access to information on public projects following the passage of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act in 2011.

"As soon as the FOI Act was passed, we jumped on it and began to use the provisions of the law to advocate and litigate for improved disclosure of public information," said Nkem Ilo, head of PPDC.

"With more use of the FOI, we began to receive more responses to our requests, which meant the availability of datasets."

In 2015, using data acquired from procuring entities over the years, PPDC worked with the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism and the School of Media and Communication at the Lagos-based Pan-Atlantic University to develop a web-based platform known as Budeshi, which means "open it" in the Hausa language.

Budeshi links budget and procurement data to public projects in a structured format, opening up publicly funded services for scrutiny.

Citizens can now look up public services by searching for the procuring entity - usually government ministries and agencies - as well as the project title, the state where the initiative is being implemented, or the year, and even pick from a list of contractors.

So far, Budeshi has data on 6,571 contracts in Nigeria from more than 100 public institutions. Budeshi is now fully deployed in Uganda and plans to start the platform in Kenya and Malawi are under way.

Every year, on the International Right to Know Day, September 28,- PPDC ranks government ministries, departments and agencies based on their responses to freedom of information requests mostly on public expenditure; the corporate affairs commission is currently first.

Much of the funding for these organisations comes from institutional and private donors, including the UK Department for International Development, the MacArthur Foundation, Omidyar network, Indigo Trust and National Endowment for Democracy.

Hamza Lawal, a tech-savvy activist, started the Follow the Money campaign in June 2012, following the deaths of hundreds of children from lead poisoning in the northern Nigerian state of Zamfara.

Though several villages had been cleaned up by late 2012, one - Bagega - caught Lawal's attention because, by January 2013, money released still hadn't reached the victims.

Using the hashtag #SaveBagega, the campaign was able to get clean-up operations started in the village, helping hundreds of children to receive care.

In December 2013, Lawal started a full-fledged movement known as Connected Development (CODE) with Follow the Money. With a team of nearly 40 people and community reporters in Nigeria 36 states, CODE's campaigns are driven by hashtags connecting the name of community and the project that needs to be tracked.

"The idea of using hashtags is to be able to document projects and track them on social media," said 31-year-old Lawal, now the CEO of CODE, "and this repository would be online so that other young people can learn from it."

Follow the Money now has over 2,000 members and this year expanded to Kenya and The Gambia. Last year, it won the One Africa award which came with $100,000 to support their work.

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP, meanwhile, which is concerned with promoting transparency and accountability in government, including public expenditure.

Using the Freedom of Information Act, SERAP requests information on contracts awards and has even sued ministries and agencies that refuse to release information.

Through a partnership with BudgIT, it was able to get the public procurement agency in Lagos to make available the Lagos State Procurement Journal from 2012 to date.

SERAP has been published several reports on health, education, electricity and water sectors.

It has also partnered with CODE and the Paradigm Leadership Support Initiative, which was started in 2016 to help citizens track and report development projects in their communities.

Some citizens are happy that things are changing, albeit slowly.

"Tracka, Udeme and Budeshi are checking public expenditure which over the years have been full of excesses, misappropriation and greed by inflation of contracts," says Olajide Oluwaseun, an architect in Lagos.

"These initiatives are the future for a good governance drive and I appreciate they all do in this risky political space. We need and must build an alliance, not a political party, an alliance of voices that want and need to be heard."

But some challenges remain.

Access to information on public expenditure is not always available upon request. Some ministries, agencies and departments either do not respond to freedom of information requests or completely ignore them.

In addition, despite the presence of a procurement law passed in 2007 to ensure contractors follow due process, public procurement has been dogged by contract splitting; the use of fake documents by bidders, some of whom have multiple companies; government ministries and agencies collaborating with contractors to siphon money; and, importantly, delays in investigating and prosecuting cases of misappropriation or graft.

"We don't have a culture of punishing offenders," says Ike Fayomi-Awodele of the public administration department at Obafemi Awolowo University in Osun state.

To solve this, Uadamen Ilevbaoje, now the project lead of Tracka, believes more awareness is needed.

"We need more and more sensitisation and awareness. If there is awareness, citizens would ask more questions and politicians would be forced to do the right thing."

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Video - Nigeria's Shi'ite Protests - death toll rises to 24

Cleric Ibrahim Zakzaky, leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria remains in jail as his supporters continue to face security forces in protests for his release. Protestors claim that 24 people have been killed in the latest confrontation but the army has refuted this saying only three people died. Hundreds of Shia Muslims were stopped from marching into the city centre where most government offices and the presidency is located.

Video - Nigeria's missing General

The Nigerian army says it has found the body of one of its retired senior officers. Army General Idris Alkali, has been missing for almost two months, which sparked a search operation around his last known whereabouts.A number of arrests have been made as the army tries to uncover the cause of death.

Boko Haram insurgents kill 15 in Nigeria

Suspected members of the Islamist Boko Haram insurgency have killed at least 15 people in an attack on a group of villages in northeast Nigeria, residents have told Reuters.

The villages lie on the outskirts of the militarised city of Maiduguri, the heart of government in the northeast and the headquarters of efforts to defeat Boko Haram and the related Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA) insurgency.

The conflict has lasted almost a decade.

Despite the Nigerian government's statements since late 2015 that Boko Haram has been largely defeated, the militancy is still able to attack in and around Maiduguri and throughout much of the northeast.

In the village of Kofa, a Reuters reporter on Wednesday counted five bodies burned inside the remains of their house.

A village chief in nearby Dalori said one person in the camp for displaced people had been killed, while two residents of Bulabrin said nine people had died there.

Nigeria's military said in a statement one civilian was found dead, after Boko Haram had ransacked Dalori's market, setting buildings ablaze and fleeing when soldiers approached.

Nigeria arrests 400 Shia Muslims after deadly clashes

Nigerian police have arrested 400 members of a Shia Muslim sect after days of deadly protests in the capital.

The pro-Iran Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) protesters demanded the release of their leader Ibraheem Zakzaky, in custody for 34 months.

The army admits that three people were killed in clashes in Abuja on Monday, but the IMN says that dozens died.

In 2016, a judicial inquiry found that the army had killed more than 300 Shia Muslims during clashes in the north.

It accused the army of using "excessive force" when trying to head off an alleged attempt to kill army chief Gen Tukur Buratai in Zaria, Kaduna state, in December 2015.

IMN leader Sheikh Zakzaky was arrested in the aftermath and held without charge until April 2018 when he accused in court of inciting violence.

No soldiers have been arrested, despite the judicial inquiry advising prosecutions.
'Dangerous weapons'

The army, which fired live rounds on Monday at the protesters, said the deaths came after the demonstrators tried to overrun a checkpoint.

The security forces also accuse the Shia protesters, who took to the streets of the capital for three days, of having 31 petrol bombs as well as other dangerous weapons.

. Shias are minority in Nigeria but their numbers are increasing
. The IMN, formed in the 1980s, is the main Shia group led by Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky
. They operate their own schools and hospitals in some northern states
. They have a history of clashes with the security forces
. The IMN is backed by Shia-dominated Iran and its members often go there to study
. Sunni jihadist group Boko Haram condemns Shias as heretics who should be killed.