Friday, June 14, 2019

Nigeria planning on investing $500 million in palm oil production

Nigeria plans to increase its palm oil production 700% over the next eight years to help improve its foreign-exchange earnings that are largely dependent on crude oil exports.

The new policy will boost local production to about five million tons from 600,000 tons a year by investing as much as 180 billion naira ($500 million) beginning this year, the trade and investment ministry said in a report.

“Our policy objectives over an eight-year period (between 2019 and 2027) will see that we locally produce 100% of local crude palm oil demand by 2027, increase revenue from importation via duties and deliver 225,000 full time jobs and at least 450,000 seasonal jobs,” it said.

The new policy also seeks to remove the 75% duty rebate granted on refined palm oil imports and extend a current three-year tax holiday for all producing and processing companies to five years. It will introduce a five-year restriction of crude and refined palm oil importation to large-scale refineries and crushing-plant owners.

Farmers will be given access to loans at 9% per year through a central bank-administered lending to expand cultivation by at least three million hectares.

Presco Plc, the country’s largest producer of palm oil, is driving an expansion plan that expects a 500-ton capacity refinery to begin operating in first quarter of 2020, with an additional increase of its milling capacity from 60 tons an hour to 90 tons an hour by next January, Chief Executive Officer Felix Nwabuko said in a conference call with investors on Thursday.

By 2022, the company expects to push capacity to 210 tons an hour, with an additional 60 tons per hour in milling facilities, he said.

The West African nation’s palm oil imports rose from 302,000 tons in 2017 to 600,000 tons by end of 2018, costing the country as much as $500 million, despite placing the commodity on a forex-exclusion list, central bank figures indicate.

While Nigeria wants to grow quickly in palm oil, it’s still likely to be a small part of a market dominated by Indonesia and Malaysia. The country currently ranks as the world’s fifth-biggest producer in palm oil, accounting for less than 2% of global production, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

By Ruth Olurounbi 

Bloomberg

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Plastic bottles paying for education in Nigeria

A school in Nigeria is accepting plastic bottles in lieu of school fees from parents. African Clean Up Initiative and WeCyclers are two organisations working with Morit International School in Ajegunle, Lagos, for the project, reports BBC. The Recycle Pay project allows parents to use plastic waste as currency to pay their children's school fees. The twofold positive impact of this scheme? Families save money while reducing plastic pollution and cleaning up the city in the process.

The process for the Recycle Pay project is simple: Parents can bring a bag of plastic waste to a facility where it is weighed. The weight is then converted into a monetary value, which can be deducted from the amount owed as fees to the school. The collected waste is taken away by a recycling company twice a month.

"I struggle to pay for school fees, sometimes I pay half the price and later pay the remaining balance," parent Sherifat Okunowo explained in an interview to BBC. "But with the introduction of this project, the plastic has made it easy for me to pay school fees."

"This project that is going on right now, I think is very, very good," another parent, Jane Enyinnaya, confirms. "It has really reduced the burden on parents."

The school's principal echoes this sentiment. "It has really reduced the burden on parents," he says. "We now collect fees faster-the school wins, the children win, the parents win, everybody wins."

According to My Modern Met, the Ajegunle district in Lagos has three million residents, making it one of the most densely populated slums in the county. The Recycle Pay project has not only helped clean up the area, it has also made access to education easier.

NDTV

Nigeria beat S.Korea 2-0 in Women's World Cup

Nigeria took their chances against the run of play on Wednesday to beat South Korea, 2-0, for rare success at the Women’s World Cup, setting themselves up to advance to the next stage of the tournament in France.

A first half own-goal at the Stade des Alps and a breakaway attack, brilliantly finished by Asisat Oshoala, ensured the Africa champions only their fourth win in eight World Cup finals appearances. It also gives Nigeria a chance to go to the second round for just the second time.

The Koreans, beaten 4-0 by France in the tournament opener last Friday, are all but out of contention after a surprise setback in their second Group A game.

After weathering Korea’s early attacks, Nigeria went ahead just before the half-hour mark when defender Kim Do-yeon miscued an effort to try to clear a long ball through the middle and steered it past her goalkeeper Kim Min-jung, who had come rushing out of her goal and was stranded.

There was a lengthy Video Assistant Referee review to see whether Nigeria’s captain Desire Oparanozie might have brushed the ball with her hand as she headed to the goal but there was no conclusive evidence to rule out the goal.

Korea were pulled back for offside when they found the net in the 58th minute before a Nigerian counter attack saw Oshoala, a three-time African women’s Footballer of the Year, ran half the length of the field, brushed past a defender, rounded the goalkeeper and squeezed the ball home from an almost improbable angle.

She might have scored in similar fashion just two minutes after the 75th minute goal but a heavy first touch saw the opportunity slip away.

Nigeria lost their opening game by 3-0 to Norway in Reims on Saturday.

New York Times

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Video - Are Nigerians benefiting from democracy



It's 20 years since the end of military rule and return to a civilian presidency. The last few years have been particularly challenging for Africa's most populous country of 200 million. 45 percent of people in Nigeria live in extreme poverty. Economic growth has slowed, unemployment is high and government forces are battling armed groups such as Boko Haram. So what, if any, has been the democratic dividend for Nigerians?

Slum dwellers in Nigeria fight evections with maps and music

When bulldozers entered the Nigerian slum of Njemanze and started tearing down hundreds of waterfront homes, Michael Uwemedimo was there to document the scene with his camera.

The residents soon began directing him, he said, making sure he did not miss any of the destruction in August 2009.

“Film this, film that,” he recalled them saying.

And when the British-Nigerian documentary maker was arrested by security forces, the residents of the slum in the city of Port Harcourt hid his camera and kept it safe until he was released later that day.

“They recognized the camera as an instrument they could use to literally frame what is important to them, to tell their story, to give their perspective,” said Uwemedimo.

According to housing advocates, half of Port Harcourt’s more than 1 million residents live in slums.

Many of those residents live in waterfront areas, on land with prime real-estate value, and have no official housing documentation, noted Isa Sanusi, spokesman for Amnesty International Nigeria.

That makes them especially vulnerable to evictions, he said.

“Generally, Nigerian authorities use forced eviction in the course of urban renewal ... with the land they formerly occupied being developed into luxury real estate,” he explained - although the cleared area in Njemanze remains undeveloped.

Uwemedimo said his experience in Njemanze showed him how desperate the residents were to draw attention to what was happening to them, and he wanted to help.

In 2010, with former journalist Ana Bonaldo, he co-founded the Collaborative Media Advocacy Platform (CMAP), a collective of filmmakers, urban planners, researchers and Port Harcourt residents who use art, music and data collection to mobilize the people impacted by forced evictions.

The group has since grown to more than 40 volunteers.

One of the first things Uwemedimo did with it was take a giant, inflatable mobile cinema on a tour of low-income communities in the city to show them films about forced evictions around the world and in their own neighborhood.

“We found cinema was a good way of gathering people, of animating people, of creating debate,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation from his living room, with a computer blasting out songs about evictions.

A spokeswoman for the ministry of urban planning would not comment on specific eviction cases, but said the government had an obligation to take down unsafe or unauthorized buildings.

“The state carries out demolitions when buildings do not follow the approved building plan, or are built illegally or in unauthorized areas,” she said.

“For example where you have high tension cables, building on top of waterways or in unapproved areas - all that can lead to demolitions.”

STORYTELLING

The collective gives residents the chance to share the impact of those evictions through its Human City Project, which is made up of a collection of art and media ventures owned and run by members of the Port Harcourt community.

On one of the city’s waterfronts, in a solar-powered building called The Media Shed, a team of volunteers run Chicoco Studios, producing and performing songs about the evictions and other issues that affect people living in slums.

Like the other parts of the project - which is mainly funded by grants from organizations and charities - the studio gets its name from the black mud that Port Harcourt residents pull from the swamps to reclaim the land on which they build their homes.

Dickson Abibo, a musician and producer, regularly tours the area with other musicians to put on shows for residents.

They also hold “Sessions in the Shed”, inviting young locals to the studio to collaborate on songs.

“We come together to build our own original, unique sounds that reflect the daily experiences of slum dwellers,” said Abibo.

Nearby, Chicoco Radio broadcasts the tracks that come out of the Shed sessions and produces a weekly drama series in which the characters face the same challenges Port Harcourt residents deal with every day - from poor infrastructure to crime.

“It shows how we live in waterfront communities, our problems, our good and bad sides,” explained Sotonye Sekibo, a local radio actor and reporter.

ARMED WITH INFORMATION

While the project gives residents a platform to tell their stories, it also helps them have a say in what happens to them next, said Uwemedimo, who is currently a visiting fellow at King’s College London.

The Chicoco Maps program collects geographic information about Port Harcourt that residents can use to take part in decision-making about the area.

Volunteers regularly go out into the communities to index every building and conduct household surveys, gathering details on factors such as population, topography, land use, employment, and health.

The results are fed into a database which residents can refer to when dealing with authorities, security forces and non-profits who want to bring new initiatives or development projects to their neighborhoods.

As an example, Uwemedimo pointed to a recent community survey in one neighborhood where responses from residents showed that together they were spending 18 million naira (about $59,000) on water annually.

So, they started pooling their money to buy a shared solar-powered borehole, which they hope will reduce their energy bills.

Community mapping has also been vital in the fight against the forced evictions that sparked the Human City Project in the first place, Uwemedimo said.

With every building cataloged, demolitions are easy to track and residents can use that information to support their demands for compensation, he noted.

“Now ordinary people are able to speak up and stand up to powerful forces like the government,” said Sekibo, the radio actor.

Sekibo and other Port Harcourt residents said the project has made it easier for them to protect their homes.

Since the project launched, they noted, forced evictions are not as common as they used to be.

“This project has changed our lives and shaped how we look at things and issues around us,” said Prince Nosa, a slum dweller who trained for four years under the project and is now a sound engineer.

“We now know and understand our rights and we are always ready to support any slum community if demolition is ever mentioned again.”

By Linus Unah

Reuters

Millions remain in poverty in Nigeria as country celebrates democracy

On Monday, Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari officially made June 12 a public holiday. The day celebrates 20 years of democracy in a country that was under military rule for decades after winning its independence from Britain in 1960. However, as the West African nation celebrates, worries about its fragile economy persist.

While Nigeria's economy has recovered since falling into a recession in 2016, that growth has been slower than expected.

"Unfortunately, growth in the country has remained relatively stagnant following their recovery out of recession in 2017," Christopher Dielmann, director of macroeconomic and sovereign research with Tellimer, told Al Jazeera."Estimates by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank suggests that Nigeria's growth in 2019 and 2020 will register at 2.1 percent and 2.2 percent, respectively. I think GDP (gross domestic product) should be growing at least double the population growth rate in order for the country to lift its people from poverty."

Today, Nigeria's oil-driven economy is less susceptible to any outside shocks such as falling oil prices, but disruption in domestic oil output remains a risk for Africa's largest economy.

Oil production risks

According to OPEC, Nigeria's oil and gas sector accounts for 65 percent of its government income.

"Oil production [in Nigeria] is on a long-term downwards trajectory," said Ed Hobey-Hamsher, a senior Africa analyst with global risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft. He explained that without the passage of the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill, which is meant to improve transparency and attract investment in Nigeria's oil and gas sector, its oil output would suffer. "Oil production is projected to peak next year before steadily declining throughout the 2020s."

Hobey-Hamsher says that lower oil output will translate into less government revenue for Nigeria, meaning less money for the government to pay its bills.

This will delay spending on government projects that are needed to grow the economy.

Those projects are "required to address the most significant bottlenecks to sustained and sustainable economic growth, namely the infrastructure deficit and unemployment," he said.

Not enough jobs

Unemployment remains high. According to Nigeria's National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), in the working-age group (15-64 years of age) unemployment has hit 23.1 percent. This is a five percent increase from 2017, when it was at 18.1 percent.

According to Dielmann, the biggest risk facing Nigeria is the lack of economic growth, rapid population increases, and increasing levels of unemployment.

This month, World Poverty Clock, a project of the World Data Lab which tracks income levels for individuals around the world, showed that more than 90 million Nigerians are now living in poverty. This is the second year in a row Nigeria has landed in the top spot of the World Poverty Clock. In May 2018 the country overtook India with the most people living in poverty.

World Poverty Clock defines poverty as living on less than $1.90 per day.

"Ultimately, the combination of these factors place a tremendous amount of social strain on the country's population that are not sustainable in the long term," Dielmann said.

"I think the GDP should be growing at least double the population growth rate in order for the country to lift its people out of poverty," Ayodele Akinwunmi, head of research with FSDH Merchant Bank Limited in Nigeria said. "So I expect a GDP growth rate range of 5-6 percent. This growth rate is achievable if the country can fix the identified constraints. Nigeria has achieved higher growth rates before."

By Dawn Kissi

Al Jazeera

The fast and furious motorcycle taxis in Nigeria

 It is a few minutes after noon, and Abimbola Thomas needs to get to work. He is only 10km (6.213 miles) away from his office. At any other time of the day, this would have been a 10-minute journey, but not during Lagos lunch-hour traffic. If Thomas gets in a car, this trip could take him up to 120 minutes. To save time, Thomas hops on the back seat of one of the dozens of motorcycle taxis that are waiting for customers at stalls and shops downtown. He puts his arms around the driver's waist, and the pair speed off.

While the Lagos State government does not officially promote motorbike taxis, growing demand for ways to reduce maddeningly long commute times is making an increasing number of people jump on the backs of two-wheeled taxis in Nigeria.

Tech companies are now trying to make it easier for riders like Thomas to link up with motorcycle taxis no matter where these urban passengers may be. Last year, several ride-hailing applications designed to connect riders with motorcycle taxis were launched. One is called the Gokada app.

'Okadas': controversy on Lagos' roads

Residents in Lagos call these two-wheeled taxis "okadas", because they are so much faster than cars. Okada is the name of Nigeria's first private commercial airline, Okada Air.

Motorcycle taxis first showed up in the country's commercial capital in the late 1990s.

During those early years, okadas got a bad reputation because of reckless operators and gruesome accidents. Back then, the number of broken bones and bloody limbs grew so fast that local media nicknamed a section of the National Orthopaedic Hospital Igbobi the "okada ward".

Today, riding okadas is a little safer because Lagos State restricts them to certain inner streets.

Ride-hailing in Africa

Uber debuted in West Africa five years ago. Since then, there have been several less-than-remarkable local efforts to duplicate the company's success in the United States. The standout appears to be ride-hailing apps for motorcycles because they are responding to Nigeria's unique market needs: They can zip through stalled traffic.

Users download an app and request rides on their smartphones, and branded motorcycles show up on demand. As an added feature, users can also hail branded bikes on the street. Since Gokada launched, three other motorcycle-hailing startups have debuted in Nigeria: Max, SafeBoda, and Oride.

Gokada boasts over 1,000 riders. Max, founded by two alumni of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US, says it has over 1,000 motorcyclists.

Anticipating billion-dollar market growth, investors have thrown millions of dollars at these startups. Rise Capital and a consortium of local funders invested $5.3m in Gokada. The company plans to use the money, in part, to open a state-of-the-art driver-training school to verify up to 500 operators at a time, thereby increasing daily rides tenfold.

Operating in a grey area

Fahim Saleh, the cofounder and co-CEO of Gokada, admits his company exists in a grey area legally.

He says his team has exploited a Nigerian stipulation that says bikes with an engine capacity of greater than 200 cubic centimetres can travel on all major roads and highways. Some of Gokada's bikes have been seized by government officials for other infractions, but the service continues to grow. "They said if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere," Saleh smiles, dismissing life in Manhattan. "I've lived in New York. If you can make it in Nigeria, you can [really] make it anywhere!"

"A futuristic tech-enabled Lagos can have motorcycle taxis," he explains, citing examples in East Asia such as Go-Jek in Indonesia and Grab in Thailand. "Gokada is not only making incremental improvements, [but] we are going leaps and bounds to ensure our drivers are safe including weekly training, adequate safety gear, tech-enabled driver-behaviour tracking, intensive pre-screening, rapid-response in-house medics, and more. We really do care about our drivers and our customers."

Salleh's concern is warranted; 747 motorcycles were involved in road accidents during the fourth quarter of 2018, according to Nigeria's Bureau of Statistics. That's more than one out of every five accidents.

The cost of going slow

People in Lagos call traffic bottlenecks go-slows. Most residents spend more than two hours in traffic every workday. The cost of going slow is massive. According to one former Lagos State governor, every year, go-slows rob the city's economy of 42 billon naira ($11.6m) of economic output.

To understand why, consider the geography of Lagos. With a landmass of about 3,600 square kilometres, it is Nigeria's smallest state. However, more than 18 million people live in the city of Lagos. Five million registered vehicles - 200 vehicles per kilometre - cram onto the city's 9,100 roads and expressways each day.

Just get me to work

On his part, Abimbola Thomas, our harried commuter, was now used to the adrenaline rush of motorcycle taxi rides. He tapped an app on his smartphone and hailed a two-wheeler. It arrived within minutes and took him to his office on time. "Bikes are much more convenient as a form of transportation in Lagos," he called out as he sped off.

By Kayode Ogunbunmi

Al Jazeera

Monday, June 10, 2019

Kelechi Iheanacho dropped by Nigeria

Nigeria have cut Leicester City striker Kelechi Iheanacho from their final 23-man squad for the Africa Cup of Nations, which starts in Egypt next week.

Iheanacho was the only major omission by coach Gernot Rohr, who retained 15 players from the squad that went to the World Cup in Russia last year. Back-up goalkeeper Ikechukwu Ezenwa from Katsina United is the only home-based player in the squad.

Nigeria have been drawn to play in Group B against Guinea, Madagascar and Burundi, who they play first in Alexandria on June 22.

Squad:
Goalkeepers: Daniel Akpeyi (Kaizer Chiefs), Ikechukwu Ezenwa (Katsina United), Francis Uzoho (Anorthosis Famagusta)

Defenders: Olaoluwa Aina (Torino), Chidozie Awaziem(Rizespor), Leon Balogun (Brighton and Hove Albion), Jamilu Collins (Paderborn), William Troost Ekong (Udinese), Kenneth Omeruo (Leganes), Abdullahi Shehu (Bursaspor)

Midfielders: Oghenekaro Etebo (Stoke City), John Obi Mikel (Middlesbrough), Ahmed Musa (Al Nassr), Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City), John Ogu (Hapoel Be'er Sheva)

Forwards: Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal), Odion Ighalo (Shanghai Shenhua), Alex Iwobi (Arsenal), Samuel Kalu (Girondins Bordeaux), Paul Onuachu (Midtjylland), Henry Onyekuru (Galatasaray), Victor Osimhen (Charleroi), Moses Simon (Levante).

By Mark Gleeson

CNA

Gangs kill dozens in attacks in Nigeria

Gunmen have killed dozens of people in a wave of attacks in northern Nigeria, the latest violence by criminal gangs raiding villages and stealing livestock.

The series of attacks, carried out overnight Saturday to Sunday in northwestern Sokoto state, left at least 43 dead.

"They opened fire on the village indiscriminately," Abdullahi Dantani, from the village of Satiru where 18 people were murdered, told AFP news agency.

In Sokoto state's Rabah district, gunmen rode into four villages - Rukunni, Tsage, Giire and Kalfu - killing 25 people.

"Several domestic animals were rustled by the attackers," Ibrahim Kaoje, Sokoto state's top police officer, told AFP.

Four people were arrested in connection to those attacks, Kaoje said.

In separate attacks in Satiru village, in Sokoto's Isa district, the raiders shot 18 people, and then stole animals.

"We lost 18 people in the raid by the gunmen, who came into the village on motorcycles," said Satiru village resident Umeh Na-Ta'ala.
'Uptick in banditry'

The gangs have long been a scourge of rural communities in northern Nigeria, raiding villages, stealing cattle, burning homes, looting food and kidnapping for ransom.

The communities have taken up arms to defend themselves, although the vigilantes are often accused of extrajudicial killings of suspected bandits.

President Muhammadu Buhari condemned the killings, expressing "deep shock and sadness" in a statement issued late on Sunday.

"Perpetrators and sponsors of such dastardly acts (will) be held accountable," Buhari said.

Human Rights Watch on Monday warned of a "dramatic uptick in banditry, kidnapping and killings" in the northwestern states of Kaduna, Katsina and Zamfara, which border Sokoto state.

"Security forces have failed to respond effectively to threats to people's lives and security," the rights group said.

The gangs are one of several security challenges facing Nigeria, including attacks by fighters from Boko Haram in northeastern regions, as well as battles between livestock herders and settled farmers.

These have left the military overstretched and seen Buhari criticised for failing to protect lives and property.

Buhari, who was sworn in last month for a second four-year presidential term, has promised to boost security.

Al Jazeera

Friday, June 7, 2019

Nigeria shuts down privately owned TV and radio stations

Nigeria's broadcasting authority shut down private radio and television stations owned by a key opposition figure who hours earlier said his media operations were being targeted in a crackdown.

The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) said on Thursday it suspended the license of Daar Communications Plc, owner of the African Independent Television (AIT) and RayPower FM for breach of broadcast codes.

NBC said in a statement it summoned the management of the stations to address alleged bias in their broadcasts and for failing to meet financial obligations to the regulatory authority.

The statement alleged the media organisations had "embarked on use of inflammatory, divisive, inciting broadcasts and media propaganda against the government and the NBC for performing its statutory functions of regulating the broadcast industry in Nigeria".

'Until further notice'

NBC said it made the license suspensions of AIT and RayPower FM "for failure to abide by the commission's directives and the provisions of the law".

"The shut down order is until further notice," the statement said.

The two broadcast stations are owned by business tycoon Raymond Dokpesi, who is also a key member of opposition People's Democratic Party (PDP).

Dokpesi earlier on Thursday accused NBC of intimidating his media empire on the instruction of the Nigerian presidency.

"We are on a road previously travelled. A media and press clampdown is in the offing," Dokpesi said hours before the suspension of his licence at a news conference.

Dokpesi established RayPower FM as a pioneering private radio in 1994 and AIT in 1998.

Reporters Without Borders places Nigeria 119th out of 180 on its World Press Freedom Index.

The media watchdog said journalists are often threatened, subjected to physical violence, or denied access to information by government officials, police, and sometimes the public itself.

Al Jazeera

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Video - Lead poisoning from gold mines putting children at risk in Nigeria



Lead used in northwest Nigeria's gold mines is threatening the lives of thousands of children there, according to health officials. Hundreds died since the first case was reported nearly a decade ago. And a rise in violent attacks by armed gangs and kidnappers is hampering efforts to help them.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Video - Children used to fight Boko Haram struggle with trauma



The United Nations and human rights activists have accused both Boko Haram and groups fighting it, of putting children in harm's way. But now, hundreds of former child vigilantes, who had been fighting against the armed group in northeastern Nigeria, are learning skills to help them reintegrate into their communities. Many have returned to school or are learning employment skills. Kaumi Kolo is one of them.

Nigerian Tijjani Muhammad-Bande elected president of United Nations General Assembly

Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, Nigeria’s permanent ambassador to the United Nations, UN, has been elected president of the United Nations General Assembly, UNGA.

He was elected in an unopposed vote on Tuesday (June 4) to serve the one-year role. The election of the President of the 74th session of the General Assembly took place in the General Assembly Hall at the United Nations Headquarters, in New York.

He becomes the 74th holder of the position taking over from Ecuardorian María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés whose tenure ended with Muhammad-Bande’s election.

Going by established principle of geographical rotation and relevant UN resolutions, the Presidency of the 74th session had reached the trun of Africa, hence Mohammad-Bande’s election was widely expected.

The immediate past president – the fourth woman to be elected to the post in the history of the world body – took office on 5 June 2018. She was also the first since woman 2006.

Having been formally nominated by the Nigerian government for the position, the then nominee went through informal interactive dialogues with the view to increasing the transparency and inclusivity of the process. The dialogue took place on 13 May 2019, at UNHQ, New York.

The last time Africa held the presidency was in 2014/2015 when Uganda’s Sam Kahamba Kutesa led the 69th session. Aside the normal sessions, the UNGA also calls for special and emergency special sessions that usually have different presidents.

About the Ordinary Sessions and its president

The General Assembly meets annually in regular session, intensively from September to December, and resumes in January until all issues on the agenda are addressed – which often is just before the next session starts.

Since the 60th session in 2005, the President-elect of the General Assembly suggests a theme of global concern for the upcoming general debate, based on informal discussions with Member States, the President of the current session of the General Assembly, and the Secretary-General.

Shortly after his/her election, the President-elect sends a letter to all Member States announcing the theme for the upcoming general debate and inviting them to focus their speeches on the proposed theme.

About the UNGA

The General Assembly is one of the six main organs of the United Nations, the only one in which all Member States have equal representation: one nation, one vote.

All 193 Member States of the United Nations are represented in this unique forum to discuss and work together on a wide array of international issues covered by the UN Charter, such as development, peace and security, international law, etc.

In September, all the Members meet in the General Assembly Hall in New York for the annual General Assembly session.

Africa News

Sani Abacha's £210m of loot seized in American account

More than $267m (£210m) belonging to a former Nigerian dictator has been seized from a Jersey bank account.

The money was "derived through corruption" during the presidency of Sani Abacha in the 1990s, according to Jersey's Civil Asset Recovery Fund.

A shell company called Doraville held the funds, which were frozen in 2014.

After a five-year legal wrangle, the money has now been recovered and will be split between Jersey, the United States and Nigeria.

Jersey's attorney general, Robert McRae QC, said the seizure "demonstrated [Jersey's] commitment to tackling international financial crime and money laundering".

Mr Abacha was in power from 1993 until his death in 1998.

It is not yet clear how much money will be kept by each government.

Jersey's Law Officers Department declined to comment on the final distribution of the funds because it could "prejudice ongoing discussions".

Jersey's government said it had approached the US in 2007 to request legal proceedings begin in US courts over the laundered funds.

The US Department of Justice itself has forfeited millions of dollars of money back to Nigeria, ruling Mr Abacha and associates laundered funds through the US banking industry.

Following an "extensive" collection of evidence in a variety of international jurisdictions, the funds were frozen by the Royal Court in 2014 and finally paid into the Civil Asset Recovery Fund on 31 May.

The money is just a fraction of the billions of dollars that were allegedly stolen and laundered during the presidency of Mr Abacha.

Swiss authorities last year returned $300m (£228m) to the Nigerian government, after it was found to have been stolen from public funds.

That money is being paid back to 300,000 Nigerian households over the next six years.

A spokesman for Jersey's Law Officers Department said it had faced "challenges and appeals" all the way to Jersey's highest court, as well as "separate proceedings" by a third party in US court.

BBC

Oil thieves in Nigeria roar back

Just as Nigeria gets to grips with militants who brought the nation’s oil industry to its knees a few years ago, another group of longstanding foes are slowly making a comeback: thieves.

Saboteurs including thieves caused an 80% increase in the number of spills in 2018, Royal Dutch Shell Plc, the largest international producer in the West African country, said in a report last month. By contrast, there have been no militant-related halts to operations since 2016.

The disruptions underscore how hard it will be for Nigeria to fully rid itself of security challenges that have plagued the nation for decades. Overseas crude shipments represented by far the nation’s largest source of export income, with about $43.6 billion of sales last year, according to ITC Trade Map, a venture between the WTO and the UN.

“Oil theft is a severe drain on Nigeria’s revenue,” said Cheta Nwanze, the head of research at SBM Intelligence, a Lagos-based consultant. “The losses to theft could easily fund Nigeria’s budget deficit.”

Eight Times

On one level, theft is probably a more palatable option for Nigeria and the companies operating there than attacks by militants. About 100,000 barrels a day are being taken out of pipelines, whereas militancy halted at least eight times times that amount at one stage three years ago.

The increase reflects a belief among local communities that multinationals don’t really own the barrels in the first place, according to Ledum Mitee, a lawyer and minority rights activist.

“They believe the oil is theirs and the government is the thief,” he said. “People now realize that instead of just cutting pipelines to spite the government, they can make money out of it.”

Big Employer

It’s also akin to an industry. Theft employs at least 500,000 people in the country, according to Mitee, former head of the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.

Much of the stolen crude is processed in tiny, makeshift refineries comprising hundreds of cauldrons, each of which can hold as much as 150 barrels of oil, according to Nwanze. The world’s biggest refineries handle more than 1.2 million barrels each day.

Unlike politically-driven militancy, where fighters say they represent impoverished people in the Niger Delta region, stealing crude is considered a less risky option for those involved.

Multiple incidents of force majeure, a legal measure that allows companies to forgo their contractual supply obligations, have happened this year in Nigeria -- even if the precise causes often remain unclear.

Nembe Creek

Aiteo Group, operator of the Nembe Creek Trunk Line to Shell’s Bonny export terminal, has been one of the hardest hit this year, halting flows through the link at least three times since January.

And the challenges doesn’t appear to be getting easier. Shell lost an average of 11,000 barrels a day to theft in 2018, it said. That’s up from losses of 9,000 barrels of crude a day in 2017.

Chevron Corp. has also reported problems with third-party interference on its production facilities.

The rogue refineries, essentially scaled up versions of widespread gin distilleries in the region, typically employ about 100 people working in shifts. Yields from a single cauldron will include 7,500 liters of diesel, 2,000 liters of gasoline and 500 liters of kerosene a day. It costs about 4 million naira ($11,100) to construct a boiling pot.

Crude Operators

Oil producers often take their own security measures, deploying daily helicopter surveillance with infrared cameras while simultaneously pushing state authorities to do more. But large-scale theft persists.

Addressing the challenge requires a “holistic approach,” Nigeria’s Oil Minister Emmanuel Kachikwu said after attending a cabinet meeting in Abuja last month.

“Oil theft is rife because there is an economic gain to be made from it,” Kachikwu said. “So we want to shut those illegal gains by creating positive and legal economic opportunities.”

By Elisha Bala-Gbogbo


Bloomberg

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Students from Nigeria return home to heroic welcome after China contest



A team of 6 Nigerian students who emerged 3rd at the recently concluded Huawei Global ICT Competition in Shenzhen, China, have returned home to heroic welcome. At least 49 teams from 30 countries took part in this years contest.

Child viglantes in Nigeria return to school



Nearly 2,000 former child vigilantes who fought against Boko Haram have returned to their homes in northeast Nigeria. The United Nations says some of the children took up arms to help the army fight the armed group, allegation officials deny. Hundreds of the former fighters have since returned to school.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Video - Nigeria's 'mega schools' for Boko Haram victims



So-called "mega schools" have been opened in northeast Nigeria to take in around 50,000 orphans of war. Boko Haram fighters have destroyed classrooms, killed teachers and kidnapped students in 10 years of fighting. As the public school system is rebuilt in Borno State, experts say children need other help too.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Football boss of Nigeria Amaju Pinnick ordered to appear in court

Five top officials of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) have been ordered to appear in court over alleged misappropriation of funds.

The quintet, including NFF president Amaju Pinnick, are due to appear in court in the capital Abuja on 1 July, according to Justice Ifeoma Ojukwu.

Prosecution lawyer Celsius Ukpong, from the Special Presidential Investigation Panel (SPIP) for the recovery of public property says they will face a number of charges.

As well as Pinnick, NFF vice presidents Seyi Akinwunmi and Shehu Dikko along with general secretary Mohammed Sanusi and executive committee member Ahmed Yusuf have all been ordered to appear.

The charges include failure to declare their assets, the alleged disappearance of US$8.4 million paid by Fifa to Nigeria for participation in the 2014 World Cup and arranging international friendly matches that do not take place.

"We are expecting the accused persons, the defendants, to come to court and take their plea," Ukpong insisted.

However, all five men have always denied all the charges levelled against them, with the football authority calling the accusations "frivolous and baseless" early this month.

With the hearing set to resume in the middle of this year's Africa Cup of Nations, the NFF has played down speculation it could affect the team.

"Our lawyer is handling the matter and the NFF will only make a statement at the appropriate time," NFF director of communications Ademola Olajire told BBC Sport.

"The NFF is focused on important football matters and the priority is to ensure all our teams succeed."

It is not the first time officials of the NFF will be involved in corruption allegations.

Back in 2010, four former officials were arrested amid accusations that some $8m went missing during the World Cup finals in South Africa.

It took eight years for the quartet to be acquitted by the anti-graft agency.

By Oluwashina Okeleji

BBC

Middle-Class Emigration affecting skill shortage in Nigeria

A new wave of emigration among Nigeria’s middle class is robbing the oil-rich West African nation of skills and putting local recruitment under pressure.

An anemic economy that contracted for the first time in two decades in 2016, poor health facilities and schools, a worsening insecurity marked by a decade-old Islamist insurgency in the northeast, kidnapping and herdsmen attacks in other parts of the country are driving the exodus. It comes at a time when Nigeria has become the nation with the largest number of poor people.

Per capital income dipped by 37% since its 2014 peak and is projected to continue declining in the next four years, according to the International Monetary Fund. The exodus in the nation of almost 200 million people is hitting the IT, finance, consumer and health industries particularly hard.

“Those who emigrate can time-travel,” said Charles Robertson, chief economist at Renaissance Capital. “They jump forward decades of economic development to work in countries which are usually more stable, wealthier, with better education for their children and better health care.”

President Muhammadu Buhari, 76, who was sworn in Wednesday for a second term, has promised to tackle insecurity and boost economic growth in the continent’s biggest oil-producing country. His spokesman, Garba Shehu, declined a request to comment.

Canada’s liberal immigration policy is a strong pull for Nigeria’s top talent that faces rising living costs and stagnant incomes. Inflation has been at double digits since 2015, while the unemployment rate has hit its highest level since 2010.

Applications for permanent residency in Canada have risen threefold since 2015, data from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada show, while those for temporary residency has almost doubled over the same period.

The number of Nigerians suspected overstaying in the U.S. with visitor visas has more than quadrupled from 2015 to last year, according to data from the U.S. department of Homeland Security. The overstay rate of Nigerian students studying in the U.S soared to 22% last year from 4% in 2015.

Of about 155 countries that have citizens overstaying in the U.S. as non-immigrants with business and pleasure visas, Nigeria ranks among the top 10 sharing places with countries such as Djibouti, Eritrea, Yemen, South Sudan, Syria, Chad and Burundi.

The health-care industry is one of the most affected by the exit of professionals. About 9 out of 10 medical doctors in practice are exploring work opportunities abroad, a 2017 survey by polling company NOI Polls shows.

In Britain there are currently 6,312 medical doctors of Nigerian origin, according to data on the U.K. General Medical Council website, a 44% increase on 2015 figures. That’s worsened health care in a country that has one doctor to serve 5,000 people, according to the Nigeria Medical Association.

“All professional firms and major corporations in Nigeria are affected by the brain drain,” said Andrew S. Nevin, advisory partner and chief economist at PwC Nigeria. “The Nigerian government needs to create an economic and social environment sufficiently attractive to keep our educated young people.”

By Tope Alake

Bloomberg

Video - President Buhari sworn in for second term as president



Muhammadu Buhari has been sworn in for a second term as Nigeria's president, following a campaign that focused on tackling security threats and rooting out corruption.

The 76-year-old leader was sworn in on Wednesday amid tight security in the Nigerian capital Abuja. He did not make a speech during the low-profile event attended by members of the diplomatic community.

Buhari, a former military ruler, won 56 percent of the votes to defeat his main challenger, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples' Democratic Party (PDP) in the February election, which had been beset by a host of security and logistic issues that delayed the vote by a week.

Following the announcement of the election results, Abubakar filed a petition against the outcome, a process that is ongoing in Nigeria's appellate court.

Buhari will face a number of challenges during his second term as he tries to fulfil his election promises, including dealing with security threats and managing a sluggish economy and a high unemployment rate.

Security challenges

Security remains a major challenge for Buhari after a first term marked by kidnappings, bandit attacks, cattle rustling and communal conflicts.

Babatunde Fashola, a former government minister, told Al Jazeera that Buhari has been entrusted with resolving the issues.

"[Insecurity] was a campaign issue on which the president has been re-elected, which shows the people's trust in his ability to solve the problem," Fashola said.

Buhari's home state of Katsina witnessed an escalation in violence, with several villages raided by armed bandits, while the Boko Haram armed group continues to operate in the northeast of the country.

Persisting tensions in the northeast could escalate into more violence, according to Nnamdi Obasi, Nigeria researcher at the International Crisis Group.

"Boko Haram, now split into two factions, will continue its decade-long campaign to establish an Islamic state in the northeast, even as the herder-farmer violence has ebbed since the second half of 2018," Obasi said.

In Nigeria's fertile central region, herders and farmers continue to fight over land and water resources, the clashes between them claiming hundreds of lives and displacing thousands more.

Communities in the oil-producing Niger Delta - which accounts for most of the country’s foreign exchange reserves - have long complained of government neglect, leading to unrest in the region.

Armed groups have attacked oil installations in the past, halting production and kidnapping expatriate workers. Many of those fighters were brought under a government amnesty which entitles them to monthly stipends and education programmes.

In addition to the security situation, areas polluted by oil drilling activities have yet to be cleaned up, as a project to tackle that issue is yet to begin.

"In the Niger Delta, the continuing delay in addressing environmental grievances and diverse regional demands, coupled with possible termination of the decade-long amnesty programme, could lend room for opportunistic groups to resume sabotage of the petroleum industry," Obasi said.

"Countrywide, massive youth employment, feeble policing and the deepening atmosphere of impunity, all suggest that kidnapping and other public safety situation could deteriorate further," he added.

Economic challenges

Nigeria's unemployment rate has more than doubled to 23 percent since Buhari assumed office in 2015, while 90 million Nigerians are living in extreme poverty, more than than any other country, according to findings based on a projection by the World Poverty Clock and compiled by the Brookings Institution.

Nigeria is Africa's largest economy and economic analysts say the next four years offer another opportunity to fix the problems.

"On the monetary policy side, they need to abandon their fixation on the exchange rate. The Central Bank of Nigeria is not ready to deal with any economic shocks at the moment because they have boxed themselves into a tight corner while trying to manage the exchange rate," Nonso Obikili, an Abuja-based economist, told Al Jazeera.

"I think the economy will continue to grow around two percent over the next one or two years. That, of course, is very bad given our population growth, poverty, and jobs crisis," Obikili said.

Buhari also faces the task of weeding out corruption, which has hurt the economy and the ease of doing business in the country.

According to Transparency International's 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index, Nigeria failed to improve its ranking of 144th out of 180 countries from the previous year, despite "a number of positive steps" taken by the Buhari government.

However, the opposition has criticised Buhari's record in the fight against corruption, a promise he ran on in his initial 2015 campaign.

"The fight against corruption has been an abysmal failure, to put it mildly. It turned from prosecution to persecution of perceived political foes," Anthony Ehilebo, Head of Digital Media for the PDP's presidential campaign team, told Al Jazeera.

Al Jazeera

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Video - President Muhammadu Buhari begins second term



Rising ethnic violence in Nigeria will be among the challenges facing President Muhammadu Buhari. Buhari will be inaugurated for a second term on Wednesday. The 75-year-old former army general won a closely fought election in February. Buhari will also have to deal with an economic slowdown.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Nigeria finally fulfills it's promise to coach Clemens Westerhof after 25 years

Former Nigeria coach Clemens Westerhof has been rewarded with the house he was promised 25 years ago for winning the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations.

The Dutchman was in charge for five years from 1989 and as well as the Nations Cup victory he led them to their first World Cup in the same year.

Then Nigerian military ruler Sani Abacha promised a house to reward each of the squad members and officials, but only a handful received theirs.

"It's taken a long go-slow, but I feel happy that my second country has fulfilled its promise to me," the 79-year-old said.

"I always say Nigeria gave me everything as a man and in football. You can see that I wasn't wrong. I thank everyone involved in making this happen."

Nigeria's Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola, made the document presentation on behalf of the presidency.

Fashola also asked the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) to provide him with the names of those who are yet to receive their houses.

"We've asked the NFF for their names to enable us process it so they can all be rewarded," Fashola said.

Five of those who won the 1994 Nations Cup have died - captain Stephen Keshi, Uche Okafor, Thompson Oliha, Rashidi Yekini and Wilfred Agbonavbare.

Westerhof, who is also the longest-serving manager in the history of Nigerian football, has also coached in the Netherlands, South Africa, Egypt and Zimbabwe.

In his spell in charge of Nigeria the outspoken Dutchman led the country to fifth place in the Fifa world ranking in 1994 - the continent's ever highest - and also completed the haul of African football success with the West African nation.

He led the country to a runners-up finish at the 1990 Africa Cup of Nations, third place in the 1992 edition before conquering the continent in 1994.

He is still revered in Nigeria where he is credited for masterminding the Super Eagles' success in the 1990's and he made an attempt to return in 2016.

It is the second time Nigeria president Muhammadu Buhari has made good on a promise to reward the country's football success.

In February 2016, Buhari fulfilled a pledge to reward the Nigeria squad that won the first Under-16 World championship after a 30-year wait.


BBC

Thousands fleeing Nigeria to Niger due to violent attacks

Recent spike in violence in north-western parts of Nigeria has forced an estimated 20,000 people to seek safety and security in Niger since April.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is concerned about deteriorating security inside Nigeria, and is working closely with authorities in Niger to provide basic assistance and register the new arrivals. More than 18,000 people have already gone through the initial registration process so far.

The latest upsurge in violence is not linked to Boko Haram. People are reportedly fleeing due to multiple reasons, including clashes between farmers and herders of different ethnic groups, vigilantism, as well as kidnappings for ransom in Nigeria’s Sokoto and Zamfara States.

People leaving Nigeria, and arriving in Niger’s Maradi Region, speak of witnessing extreme violence unleashed against civilians, including machete attacks, kidnappings and sexual violence. The majority of the new arrivals are women and children.

The ongoing Boko Haram insurgency has already spilled over into Niger, where it has affected its Diffa region since 2015. The region currently hosts almost 250,000 displaced people – including refugees from Nigeria and locals being displaced inside their own country.

Niger continues to be a leading regional example in providing safety to refugees fleeing conflict and persecution in many countries. It has kept its borders open for refugees despite the ongoing violence in several regions bordering Nigeria, Mali and recently Burkina Faso.

Many of the newly arrived are located very close to the Nigerian border, where there remains a high risk of armed incursions. UNHCR with sister UN agencies and partners is discussing with the government the possibility of relocating them into local towns and villages further in land.

As well as providing aid to Nigerian new arrivals, UNHCR also plans to support host families, who despite lack of adequate resources and access to basic services, have always shown solidarity towards the displaced and welcomed people into their homes.

Since the beginning of 2018, violence within the Diffa region perpetrated by elements of Boko Haram has also significantly escalated with a record number of civilian casualties and unprecedented secondary movements within the region.

Niger is currently hosting over 380,000 refugees and asylum seekers from Mali and Nigeria as well as its own internally displaced population. The country has also provided refuge to some 2,782 asylum seekers airlifted from insecurity in Libya, while awaiting durable solutions.

UNHCR

Monday, May 27, 2019

Nigerian spared death sentence in Singapore

A Nigerian man facing the gallows for importing drugs into Singapore eight years ago was spared death on Monday (May 27) after the Court of Appeal acquitted him of his capital charge.

Three judges found that the prosecution had failed to establish that Adili Chibuike Ejike knew that there were drugs in his suitcase when he entered Singapore on Nov 13, 2011.

Adili was 28 when he was caught with two packets wrapped in tape in his suitcase at Changi Airport Terminal 3. He had arrived in Singapore from Lagos, Nigeria via Doha, Qatar.

The two packets were identified after his suitcase was placed through an X-ray machine. During the scan, an image of darker density was seen on one side of the case.

A physical search yielded nothing incriminating, but the case was taken to the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority Baggage Office where the packets were found hidden under the inner lining of the suitcase.

The contents of the packets were found to be methamphetamine, also known as Ice. Adili was arrested and in June 2016 convicted of importing 1.961kg of meth under the Misuse of Drugs Act.

He was sentenced to death about a year later by trial judge Kan Ting Chiu, but appealed against his conviction and sentence.

According to court documents, Adili had been jobless in Nigeria after his business failed. He approached an acquaintance in Nigeria for help and that person agreed to give Adili a sum of money if he delivered a suitcase to an unspecified person in Singapore.

Adili then applied for his first passport in 2011 and travelled to Singapore with the suitcase, which was handed to him by a childhood friend who had been working with the acquaintance.

During the trial, Adili had maintained that he did not know that the meth bundles were in his suitcase. In one of his statements, he had said: "Somebody gave those substance [sic] to me. I did not know what it was. If I knew what they were, I would not have accepted to carry those things."

However, the trial judge had rejected his evidence, finding Adili to be an unreliable witness as there were several inconsistencies between his oral testimony and investigation statements.

COURT OF APPEAL LAYS OUT THREE REQUIRED ELEMENTS

Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, along with Appeal Judges Andrew Phang and Judith Prakash, said in their decision that three elements had to be proven for the offence of importation.

First, Adili must have been in possession of the drugs. Second, he must have had knowledge of the nature of the drugs, and third, the drugs must have been brought intentionally into Singapore without prior authorisation.

The central issue was whether Adili was in possession of the meth, said the court. The element of possession required not just proof of physical possession, but also an element of knowledge.

A person who is not aware that an item - which turns out to be a controlled drug - is in his possession cannot be said, in a legal sense, to be in possession of that item, the court found.

The court found that Adili had not been wilfully blind to the existence of the drugs in his suitcase. This was because it would not have been possible for Adili to have discovered the drug bundles, which were discovered only after the inner lining of the suitcase was cut open.

He also could not have found out about the drugs by asking the people who had handed him the suitcase in Nigeria, since they were intent on keeping the truth from him, and would not have told him about the hidden drug bundles even if he had asked, said the judges.

Adili, who was represented by lawyer Mohamed Muzzamil Mohamed, cried in court after he was acquitted.

Chief Justice Menon said the appeal highlights "how important it is that the prosecution and the defence (and, indeed, the courts) remain alert to the precise effect and implications of conceding particular facts as to what the accused person did or did not know".

"We appreciate that this is by no means an easy and straightforward matter, and, in fairness to the judge, he was not helped in the discharge of this difficult task by the fact that the defence misunderstood the requirements of the element of possession and therefore wrongly conceded the fact of possession; while the prosecution proceeded on the basis that the appellant did not actually know of the existence of the drugs, before then seeking to have that very fact presumed to be true," he said.

"Had the parties properly set out their respective cases at the trial below, it would have been clear that what was in issue was the fact of possession, and that given the prosecution’s concession that the appellant did not actually know of that fact, that fact could only be established by proof beyond reasonable doubt that the appellant had been wilfully blind to the existence of the drugs."

By Lydia Lam

CNA

Ten Things President Buhari Will Have to Deal With in Second Term

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari officially begins his second and final term on Wednesday following his re-election in February.

Despite his large winning margin, the next four years won’t be easy for the 76-year-old former general. Here are some of the key issues he’ll face while at the helm of Africa’s biggest oil producer and most-populous nation.

Growth and Inflation

Nigeria’s economic growth has slumped since the 2014 crash in crude prices and Buhari is struggling to revive it. The International Monetary Fund forecasts that gross domestic product will expand 2.1% this year, which would make Nigeria one of Africa’s slowest-growing economies and mean that growth is negative in per capita terms. Inflation is at 11.4% and has been above the central bank’s target of 6% to 9% for almost four years.

Revenue and Debt

Since so few Nigerians and companies pay tax, the nation has one of the lowest revenue-to-GDP ratios in the world at about 7%. That leaves the government with little money to spend on schools, hospitals and infrastructure. Officials are also concerned about how much of the budget is soaked up by interest payments. In March, the Debt Management Office told Bloomberg it will avoid Eurobonds and instead prioritize concessional loans from the likes of the World Bank to lower its finance costs.

The Naira

Foreign investors’ biggest gripe over the past four years was how Nigeria handled the naira in the wake of the oil crisis. Central bank Governor Godwin Emefiele, who Buhari just re-appointed for a second term, ramped up capital controls in a bid to stop the currency depreciating. There’s a system of multiple exchange rates in place that critics, including the IMF, say is opaque and deters investment. Many also say that central bank meddling has left the naira overvalued: Renaissance Capital estimates it should be about 20% weaker against the dollar.

Foreign Investment

A slump in foreign direct investment since the early part of the decade has accelerated under Buhari, whose administration has come into conflict with companies including MTN Group Ltd. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. Last year, FDI flows into Nigeria totaled just $2.2 billion, less than a third of the amounts South Africa and Egypt attracted.

Fuel Prices

Buhari is an advocate of low gasoline prices, believing they’re one of the few benefits that Nigerians get from the state. They’re capped at 145 naira a liter ($0.40, or $1.51 a gallon), which makes Nigeria the sixth cheapest country in which to fill up your tank, according to GlobalPetrolPrices.com. That cost almost $2 billion in subsidies last year, according to IMF, which has urged the government to raise prices.

Oil and NNPC

One reason for optimism about the economy is rising crude production. It climbed to 1.9 million barrels a day in April, the highest level in more than three years, as Total SA’s massive Egina offshore field came on-stream. Investors will hope that Buhari encourages more deepwater developments while also cleaning up Nigerian National Petroleum Corp., the state-owned energy company that opposition politicians say is blighted by graft and mismanagement.

Blackouts and Gridlocked Ports

Nigeria has long suffered from dire infrastructure, not least its power network and ports. Buhari has struggled to fulfill his pledge to end constant electricity outages and chaos at the country’s main ports, both of which weigh on economic growth.

Islamic State and Boko Haram

While Buhari managed to win back territory in the northeast held by Boko Haram when he first came to power, a breakaway faction allied to Islamic State is gaining strength and regularly attacks army bases and convoys. That’s one of a string of security problems that have escalated in recent years. In other parts of the country, clashes between farmers and herders over grazing land led to around 2,000 deaths in 2018, according to Amnesty International.

Corruption

Buhari’s popularity with voters is largely because of his promises to fight corruption. While he says his administration has done much to cut graft in the public sector, critics complain that he lacks a clear strategy and that he’s used his anti-corruption campaign to go after political opponents.

Booming Population

One of the biggest long-term issues facing Nigeria is its rapidly-growing population -- the United Nations expects it to double to 410 million by 2050, overtaking every country bar India and China. While some investors see that as a reason to move into Nigeria, others say it threatens social and political stability in a country whose government already struggles to provide basic services and which has more extremely poor people than any other.

By Paul Wallace


Bloomberg

Friday, May 24, 2019

Nigerian ride-hailing start-up Gokada raises $5.3M in investement

In many large cities across Africa, motorcycle taxies are as common as yellow-cabs in New York.

That includes Lagos, Nigeria, where ride-hail startup Gokada has raised a $5.3 million Series A round to grow its two-wheel transit business.

Gokada has trained and on-boarded over 1000 motorcycles and their pilots on its app that connects commuters to moto-taxis and the company’s signature green, DOT approved helmets.

The startup has completed nearly 1 million rides since it was co-founded in 2018 by Fahim Saleh—a Bangladeshi entrepreneur who previously founded and exited Pathao, a motorcycle, bicycle, and car transportation company.

For Gokada’s Series A, Rise Capital led the investment joined by Adventure Capital, IC Global Partners, and Illinois based First MidWest Group. Coinciding with the round, Nigerian investor and Jobberman founder Ayodeji Adewunmi will join Gokada as co-CEO.

Gokada will use the financing to increase its fleet and ride volume, while developing a network to offer goods and services to its drivers. “We’re going to start a Gokada club in each of the cities with a restaurant where drivers can relax, and we’ll experiment with a Gokada Shop, where drivers can get things they need on a regular basis, such as plantains, yams, and rice,” Saleh told TechCrunch.

The startup differs from other ride-hail ventures in that it doesn’t split fare revenue with drivers. Gokada charges drivers a flat-fee of 3000 Nigerian Naira a day (around $8) to work on their platform. The company is looking to generate a larger share of its revenue from building a commercial network around its rider community.

“We don’t do anything with the fares. We want to create an Amazon prime type membership…and ecosystem around the driver where we’re going to provide them more and more services, such as motorcycle insurance, maintenance, personal life-insurance, micro-finance loans,” Saleh said.

“We’re trying to provide a network of great services for our drivers that makes them stick with us, and not necessarily see a reason to switch to other platforms,” said Saleh.

Competition among those platforms is heating up, as global players enter Africa’s motorcycle taxi market and local startups raise VC and expand to new countries.

Uber began offering a two-wheel transit option in East Africa in 2018, around the same time Bolt (previously Taxify) started motorcycle taxi service in Kenya.

Rwanda has motorbike taxi startups SafeMotos and Yegomoto. Uganda based motorcycle ride-hail company Safeboda expanded into Kenya in 2018 and this month raised a Series B round of an undisclosed amount co-led by the venture arms of Germany’s Allianz and Indonesia’s GoJek.

Safeboda will use the round to further expand in East Africa and Nigeria in the near future, the startup’s CEO Maxime Diedonne confirmed to TechCrunch.

In Nigeria, Gokada faces a competitor in local startup MAX.ng, which offers mobile based passenger and logistics delivery services.

Overall, Africa’s motorcycle taxi market is becoming a significant sub-sector in the continent’s e-transport startup landscape. Two-wheel transit startups are vying to digitize a share of Africa’s boda boda and okada markets (the name for motorcycle taxis in East and West Africa)—representing a collective revenue pool of $4 billion and expected to double to $9 billion by 2021, according to a TechSci study.

“There is a formalization of an informal sector play here…to make it safer and higher quality,” Gokada investor Nazar Yasin of Rise Capital told TechCrunch.

The appeal to passengers is the lower cost of motorbike transit compared to buses or cabs ($1.85 is Gokada’s average fare) and the ability of two-wheelers to cut through the heavy congestion in cities such as Lagos and Nairobi.

A notable facet of motorcycle ride-hail companies in Africa is better organizing a space with a reputation for being somewhat chaotic and downright dangerous (see Nigeria’s past bans on the sector entirely due to safety).

For Gokada that includes training courses and certification of riders, the ability to track trips and safety stats from the app, and quality control for motorcycles—something that’s been lacking in East and West Africa’s non-digital moto-taxi space.

The company’s rider program offers a way for drivers to buy, own, and maintain their motorcycles as they earn. Gokada has entered into partnership with Indian motorcycle maker TVS Motors to create a custom version of the company’s TVS Apache motorcycles for Gokada drivers.

Gokada is also experimenting with adding sensors to its fleet to better track safety standards. “We’re looking at seat sensors and another GPS sensor to track things like ‘did this driver add more than one passenger on the bike’ and all that data will feed back into our servers,” Saleh said.

The company won’t enter any new countries in Africa in the near future. “We plan to expand all over Nigeria. We think its a large enough market for now,” said Gokada CEO Fahim Saleh. Nigeria is Africa’s most populous nation (190 million) and largest economy.

By Jake Bright

Techcrunch

Thursday, May 23, 2019

18 killed by armed gang in Nigeria

An armed gang killed at least 18 people in the northwest Nigerian state of Katsina, police and residents said on Wednesday, as unrest spreads across the region and into the president’s home state.

Hundreds of people have died in Nigeria’s northwest since the beginning of the year, in attacks the government attributes to bandits, a loose term for gangs of outlaws carrying out robberies and kidnappings.

Despite military and police operations to quell the conflict, the death toll continues to rise, along with incidents of kidnapping and robbery.

Security experts say Nigeria can ill-afford more instability, with the country already struggling to contain Islamist insurgencies in the northeast, brutal pastoral conflict in the central states and militant groups in the Niger Delta to the southeast.

In the latest incident, bandits attacked farmers at the village of Yar Gamji, near Nigeria’s border with Niger, on Tuesday morning killing 18 of them, police said.

The attackers escaped into a nearby forest, police said in a statement.

Residents said that while 18 bodies had been found, many more people were feared dead.


“Right now we are at the Emir’s palace for the mass burial of our relatives, but more than 18 people were killed in this attack,” said Hassan Ibrahim, whose brother was killed.

“There is no peace in Katsina,” he said. “Almost every day they carry out attacks on villagers, killing innocent people.”

Reuters

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Boko Haram adopting Isil stragedy

When a motorbike convoy of Boko Haram fighters invaded Baga in north-east Nigeria last December, residents feared the very worst. Watching the gunmen roll in, they recalled Boko Haram's last seizure of the town in 2015, when hundreds of their men were slaughtered and their women kidnapped as “bush wives”.

This time, though, the Hells Angels' style motorcade did not bring the usual orgy of rape, murder and pillage. "They didn't beat anyone, they just said that we should stay where we were," said Mansour Yusuf, 44, a father of nine. "But they also said we were free to leave if we wanted to."

Mr Yusuf took no chances, fleeing along with thousands of other Baga residents to the better-defended town of Monguno, where Nigerian troops have dug a protective trench around the town.

That he is alive to tell the tale, however, does not speak of any new tender-heartedness on Boko Haram's part. Instead, the "hearts and minds" strategy is all part of the long-term game being played by the new Isil-allied faction of Boko Haram.

Known officially as Islamic State's West Africa Province, or ISWAP, the group has gained a firm foothold in the past year, confounding claims by President Muhammadu Buhari that the insurgency is facing defeat.

Focusing on military rather than civilian targets, they have mounted devastating, well-organised attacks on isolated army bases, including one last November in which up to 100 soldiers died.

The group declared fealty to Isil in 2015, splintering from the rival Boko Haram faction led by Abubakr Shekau, the man notorious for the Chibok schoolgirl kidnapping in 2014.

While Shekau revelled in indiscriminate brutality – he boasted of slaughtering people "like chickens" – ISWAP has tried to build turf by courting rather than cowing the civilian population.

Massacres of entire villages have been avoided, as has the use of women and children as suicide bombers. To sweeten the pill of its religious dogma, it tries to present itself as a force for equality and social justice.

"When they came into Baga, they promised that they would take the food stocks from all the influential men in the community and share it with us," said Abdullahi Mohammed, 42, another fisherman who fled to Monguno. "They said: 'the government does nothing for you, we are here to relieve your suffering'."

There are limits to the group’s charm offensive, however. Captured soldiers and civilians suspected of spying can still expect torture and execution. Last year, the group also kidnapped and murdered two Nigerian Muslims working as nurses for the Red Cross, describing them as "apostates".

One man in Monguno showed the Telegraph an ISWAP propaganda video, showing two relatives who had been kidnapped by the group during the attack on Baga. “They were working for the civilian joint task force (an anti-Boko Haram vigilante group,” he said. “They’ll probably be killed now.”

Just how close ISWAP’s links are to Isil’s core leadership in the Middle East is unclear: most experts doubt it gets much logistical help. But with Isil now in disarray in both Iraq and Syria, Nigerian army commanders claim that foreign jihadists are already swelling its ranks.

"We have battle encounters where some of the corpses we have seen on the ISWAP side have been either white or North African - I've seen a couple myself," one senior Nigerian army officer told The Telegraph. "There seems to have been influx of non-locals into this sect, and we think it may account for some of the ambitious attacks they have carried out."

Mr Mohammed and Mr Yusuf now live in tents in a vast aid camp in Monguno, along with nearly 150,000 other people made homeless by the crisis. Many have fled towns that the Nigerian army had previously declared safe.

Edward Kallon, United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Nigeria, said more landed was needed to build shelters and sanitation facilities. "This is crucial ahead of the upcoming rainy season, as many people are without shelter or living in overcrowded conditions that could lead to serious disease outbreaks like cholera.”

Although Monguno itself is guarded by a Nigerian army garrison, the empty desert that surrounds it is no-man's-land. For aid workers, the town is only accessible via a UN helicopter service.

The six-foot-deep trench that runs round Monguno's perimeter does not stop Boko Haram trying to attack. The night before The Telegraph visited, two local boys were reported to have been abducted.

"If you go across that trench and walk for just half an hour, you will start to meet Boko Haram fighters," Mr Yusuf added.

According to US government estimates, ISWAP now has around 3,500 fighters, mostly around the Lake Chad basin, compared to around 1,500 for Shekau's faction, which are based in the Sambisa Forest.

The strength of the two groups shows just how deadlocked the conflict has become, after a decade in which an estimated 27,000 people have been killed and two million forced to flee their homes.

The crisis is a sore point for Mr Buhari, who was re-elected in February despite criticism of his record against Boko Haram. Frontline Nigerian troops complain that vast amount of the money allocated to the war budget is siphoned off by corrupt officers, leaving them undermanned and outgunned.

On a visit to Nigeria earlier this month, the Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, warned that Nigeria was being "massively destabilised" by the conflict, and that Isil would be "looking to make their presence felt now they have lost their territory."

He hinted that Britain would offer extra military help if the Nigerian army could improve its human rights record - a view that is unlikely to have gone down well with his hosts.

Amnesty International has repeatedly accused troops of brutality and arbitrary detentions - much to the irritation of the government, which claimed last year that the rights group seemed to care more about Boko Haram than its victims. That frustration is shared by those manning the frontlines up at Monguno.

"These people who criticise us aren't up here doing the fighting, losing their lives or seeing how brutal Boko Haram are to civilians," said the Nigerian army officer. “This is a vicious war, and it isn’t fair to say that we are as bad as the militants."

By Colin Freeman

The Telegraph

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Kidnapping in Nigeria on the rise

Frequent acts of violent crime have grown to form a major threat to Nigeria’s national security. These include instances of militancy, insurgency and banditry. Banditry includes cattle rustling, armed robbery and kidnapping for ransom.

Kidnapping has remained the most virulent form of banditry in Nigeria. It has become the most pervasive and intractable violent crime in the country.

Kidnapping can be targeted at individuals or at groups. School children have been kidnapped in groups in various parts of Nigeria. Usually, the prime targets of kidnapping for ransom are those considered to be wealthy enough to pay a fee in exchange for being freed.

Kidnapping is the unlawful detention of a person through the use of force, threats, fraud or enticement. The purpose is an illicit gain, economic or material, in exchange for liberation. It may also be used to pressure someone into doing something—or not doing something.

Nigeria has one of the world’s highest rates of kidnap-for-ransom cases. Other countries high up on the list included Venezuela, Mexico, Yemen, Syria, the Philippines, Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia.


Thousands of Nigerians have been kidnapped for ransom and other purposes over the years. Kidnapping has prevailed in spite of measures put in place by the government. The Nigerian police’s anti-kidnapping squad, introduced in the 2000s, has endeavored to stem the menace. But this been to no avail, mainly due to a lack of manpower and poor logistics.

In my view these efforts have also failed because of weak sanctioning and deterrence mechanisms. Kidnapping thrives in an environment that condones crime; where criminal opportunism and impunity prevail over and above deterrence.

This obviously calls for an urgent review of Nigeria’s current anti-kidnapping approach to make it more effective.

Opportunistic and organized bandits

Even prior to the advent of colonialism there were recorded cases of kidnap for rape, ritual or for other purposes in various parts of Nigeria. But kidnapping today is done primarily for ransom – either money or its material equivalent to be paid for someone’s release. The underlying logic of the kidnapping enterprise is that the victim is worth a ransom value and they or their proxy have the capacity to pay.

Each victim has a so-called “kidnap ransom value” which makes them an attractive target. This value is determined by a number of factors. These include the victim’s socio-economic or political status, family or corporate premium on the victim, the type of kidnappers involved, as well as the dynamics of ransom negotiation.

The kidnapping business in Nigeria has been mostly perpetrated by criminal gangs and violent groups pursuing political agendas. Bandits have often taken to kidnapping for ransom to make money. The escapades of the famous kidnap kingpin, Evans, speak volumes of this pattern of kidnapping. Evans was a multimillionaire kidnapper who was arrested in Lagos a few years ago. He is currently is detention awaiting trial.

Organized violent groups such as militants and insurgents have also been involved in kidnap for ransom in Nigeria. Current trends have been linked back to the example set by Niger Delta militants who resorted to solo and group abductions as a means of generating funds both for private use and for the cause of a particular group.

Similarly, Boko Haram insurgents have used the proceeds of kidnapping to keep their insurgency afloat. The insurgents engage in single or group kidnapping as a means of generating money to fund their activities. Huge sums are often paid as ransom by the victims’ families and associates to secure their release.

In addition to militants and insurgents, organized local and transnational criminal syndicates have been involved. This is happening to apocalyptic proportions in North West Nigeria where rural bandits engage regularly in kidnapping in the states of Zamfara, Kaduna, Katsina, Kebbi and Sokoto.

The cost

Kidnapping has led to the loss of tens of thousands of lives and huge sums of money in Nigeria. Many of the victims of the crime have been killed in the course of their abduction, custody or release. Many more have been injured. This is in addition to huge amounts of money lost to ransom takers.

For the victims and their families and friends, the consequences are even more frightful.

Nigeria should never have got here. Kidnappers persist because the benefits of their crimes exceed the costs. So the obvious solution is to raise the costs by imposing harsher, surer penalties. The present penalty for kidnapping ranges from one to 20 years in prison, with the possibility of life imprisonment for extreme cases involving, for instance, murder.

Stricter measures, such as life imprisonment or the death penalty, may not be completely out of place in dealing with the kidnapping menace. After all, the crime of kidnapping is a maximum threat that requires an equally maximum deterrence.

Quartz

Monday, May 20, 2019

Nigerian UN soldier killed in Mali

A United Nations soldier has been killed and several injured in two attacks on the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, officials said on Sunday.

Gunmen attacked the UN troops in Timbuktu, where several armed groups are active, according to Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

The peacekeeper who was killed was Nigerian, as were three of those injured.

A further three UN soldiers from Chad were injured in Tessalit in the northern Kidal region near the border with Algeria when their vehicle drove over an explosive device.

Condemning the violence and expressing his condolences to the family of the killed soldier, Guterres said such attacks on UN soldiers could be considered war crimes under international law.

Mali has experienced sporadic attacks by armed groups since a 2012 coup that helped separatist rebels and groups associated with al-Qaeda gain a foothold in the country's restive north.

A UN peacekeeping mission has been active in Mali since 2013.

A peace agreement signed in 2015 by the Bamako government and armed groups was aimed at restoring stability. But the accord has failed to stop the violence.

Since their deployment in 2013, more than 190 peacekeepers have died in Mali, including nearly 120 killed by hostile action - making Mali the UN's deadliest peacekeeping operation, accounting for more than half of blue helmets killed globally in the past five years.

There have been repeated attacks on the mission in the north of the country by armed groups, while ethnic conflicts in the centre flare up regularly.

Al Jazeera

Friday, May 17, 2019

Video - Nearly 900 children released by pro-government militia in Nigeria



Nearly 900 children held by a pro-government militia in Nigeria have been freed. Among them -- more than a hundred girls.They're part of the Civilian Joint Task Force or C-J-T-F, which has been battling the extremist group Boko Haram. It's not clear how many children the group is still holding.

Nigerians warned against trending ponzi scheme called Loom Money Nigeria

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has warned Nigerians against fraudsters currently running an online investment scheme tagged “Loom Money Nigeria’’. Acting Director-General of the commission, Ms Mary Uduk gave the warning at a news conference on Thursday in Abuja.

A statement by SEC’s Head of Media, Mrs Efe Ebelo, said that Uduk, who was represented by acting Executive Commissioner, Operations of SEC, Mr Isyaku Tilde, said Loom Money Nigeria had taken over the social media. She said that the scheme targeted young people, luring them to participate in a pyramid model of the Ponzi.

The director-general disclosed that the fraudsters carried out their illegitimate activities via social media platforms like Facebook and whatsapp. She added that they lured young Nigerians to invest as low as N1000 and N13, 000 and to get as much as eight times the value of the investment in 48 hours. Uduk said that the venture was a Ponzi scheme, where returns would be paid from other people invested funds, adding that it had no tangible business model.

“We are aware of the activities of an online investment scheme tagged ‘Loom Money Nigeria’. “The platform has embarked on an aggressive online media campaign on Facebook and whatsapp.

“They lure the investing public to participate by joining various Loom whatsapp groups to invest as low as N1, 000 and N13, 000 and get as much as eight times the value of the investment in 48 hours".

“Unlike MMM that had a website and the promoter known, the people promoting Loom are not yet known and this pyramid scheme operates through closed groups mainly on Facebook and Whatsapp".

“If it were a local Ponzi scheme with known offices, it would be very easy for the Commission to seal their offices and freeze their accounts".

“We therefore wish to notify the investing public that the operation of this investment scheme has no tangible business model hence it’s a Ponzi scheme, where returns are paid from other people’s invested sum".

“Also, its operation is not registered by the Commission,” she said.

Uduk, therefore, advised the public to distance themselves from the scheme, adding that anyone that subscribed to the illegal activity did so at his own risk.

She assured that an inter-agency committee, Financial Services Regulation Coordinating Committee (FSRCC), was working on the issue, and that the commission was also collaborating with security agencies to track them down.

A Ponzi scheme is an investment fraud that involves the payment of purported returns to existing investors from funds contributed by new investors.

Loom Pyramid Scheme is not new to the world. Last month, Daily Mail UK reported that the scheme has resurfaced online all over the world, with different names such as ‘loom circle’, ‘fractal mandala’ and ‘blessing loom’.

In Nigeria, its central name is Loom Money Nigeria with individuals creating their own WhatsApp groups such as Jack Loom, Catherine Loom, among others.

Vanguard

MTN listed on Nigerian Stock Exchange

Three years after it was first mooted as part of the $1.6 billion settlement in a sim card authentication dispute with the Nigerian government, the listing of Africa’s largest telecoms company on the Nigerian Stock Exchange is finally complete.

Following a “listing by introduction”, MTN Nigeria, which trades with “MTNN” as its ticker, has listed 20 billion ordinary shares at $0.25 each. Unlike with an initial public offering (IPO), MTN Nigeria will not raise new funding as it has only listed already existing shares.

The choice for a listing by introduction rather than an IPO, like in Ghana, is linked to MTN’s long-running billion-dollar regulatory disputes in Nigeria. Revising its initial plans for an IPO, the company claimed it would be “challenging to get a fair valuation” amid ongoing disputes with authorities, including allegations that it owes $2 billion in taxes.

But IPO or not, MTN Nigeria’s listing is a timely boon for the local stock market which has seen a steady decline in its all share index over the past year. “We need more listings like this [because] the Nigerian market isn’t deep enough,” says Onome Akpifo, a Lagos-based stock market analyst. The stock market is yet to fully recover from a major crash in 2008 which fueled a lack of trust among investors.

Already, MTN Nigeria’s $5 billion listing makes its the second largest company on the Nigeria’s stock exchange, right behind only the $8.3 billion market cap of Dangote Cement, owned by Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man. The listing also comes on the heels of the MTN’s recent positive financial results in Nigeria, its largest market.

“What this [the listing] does is to open the market up to the general public, giving them a piece of the pie,” says Tunji Andrews, a Lagos-based economist. In reality, Andrews acknowledges it’s unlikely there’s enough of that pie to go round given significant interest from institutional investors who either already own shares or will buy to hold. “Especially because no new shares are being issued, it means that it will turn into a scramble for whatever is available, from people who would like to sell—if any,” Andrews tells Quartz.

This proved correct a few hours later. As Nigerian markets closed 2.30 pm local time, MTN Nigeria’s stock was traded for just 16 minutes yet it was enough time to capture demand as it surged 10%, valuing the company at $5.6 billion. That surge also reversed the stock market’s trend of eight consecutive days of losses.

While the listing fulfills a government condition, it could also serve to temper unfavorable public sentiment which largely sees the South Africa-owned telecoms giant discussed as a foreign company which extracts profits. That sentiment of exclusion from the company’s success holds strong despite MTN’s impact on the local economy through jobs and taxes as well as its vast spend on telecommunications infrastructure which see it dominate the Nigerian market. Those views were further fostered by claims last year by the Nigerian government that MTN illegally repatriated $8.1 billion in profits. (The dispute was settled for $53 million in December).

By Yomi Kazeem

Quartz