Monday, October 14, 2019

Video - Nigerian shoe manufacturers compete to put industry on the map



If you are familiar with Nigeria, you may have heard of the city of Aba in Abia State, in the country's southeast. It one of Nigeria's industrial clusters and the biggest shoe market in the West African sub-region. But a new set of shoe manufacturers are competing to put another Southeast Nigerian State on the map.

Video - Brazil 1-1 Nigeria - Highlights


Nigerian saved from football scam

 A Nigerian footballer has arrived back home from Mongolia following an ordeal that saw him scammed by a shady agent who promised him a glittering sports career that never materialised.

Moshood Afolabi, 24, arrived at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos on Saturday having left Ulaanbaatar, the Mongolia capital, a day earlier.

He had been trapped in Mongolia for 16 months and was overstaying a tourist visa, a situation which made it impossible to secure work, get his travel documents in order or afford a flight home.

"I'm very happy to have gained freedom leaving Mongolia," he told Al Jazeera. "I didn't believe I'd be in Nigeria on Saturday. I didn't believe it. Now, I'm experiencing so many things in Nigeria. Fresh air, fresh food. I'm really happy."

Al Jazeera reported on his plight in August and the challenges faced by many other aspiring African footballers who are stranded in several countries, having been duped by people posing as agents and tricking them into paying significant sums to travel and play for foreign clubs.

In Afolabi's case, a Nigerian man who lived close to his home spun him a tale, took his savings and sent him to play for local Mongolian club Western Khovd FC, but the job did not last beyond his tourist visa and he quickly fell into serious financial and personal problems.

Christopher Hannah, a Scottish businessman who had lived in Mongolia for six months, read and empathised with Afolabi's story and volunteered to help him.

"I had come across Moshood two weeks before I contacted him. I saw the article on Al Jazeera and at the time I was in Scotland," Hannah told Al Jazeera.

"I flew back to Mongolia and I saw it posted again on a forum and I remember someone was asking, 'Why doesn't someone help this guy?'"

Hannah, who was working on setting up a cashmere business in the East Asian country, had previous experience in the football industry and a passion for the sport.

He was previously an image rights agent for several European football clubs and footballers.

"Football is one of the best ways to break communication or culture barriers. This was the main reason Moshood and I could come together," he said.

After the Nigerian footballer spent a week in detention in late September at the Mongolian immigration service, Hannah booked and paid for Afolabi's $900 flight home, while Afolabi's friend Wael, an Egyptian immigrant, gave him the $750 he needed to pay to Mongolia for overstaying his visa.

"I felt sad because I hadn't experienced it in my life to be in a detention room for seven days," said Afolabi. "For the first three days in detention, I was drinking water, fasting and praying to Almighty Allah to save me."

Hannah claimed that his life in Mongolia took a turn for the worse after he helped Afolabi, saying he was treated with hostility by locals and was eventually denied a business visa extension.

He has now returned to his native Scotland and is in the process of opening a new football agency focusing on regions such as Africa.
Up to thousands of scammed African footballers

It is not clear exactly how many hopeful African players are stranded across the world but according to some estimates, the number is in the thousands.

In 2017, there was an influx of more than 100 African talents to Nepal, a south Asian country known least for football.

British media reported that an estimated 15,000 players are trafficked to Europe annually.

In Russia, there are dozens of cases.

Beverley Agbakoba Onyejianya, a Nigerian sports lawyer, said being deported can seriously impact a person's state of mind.

"Being deported may leave a footballer being stigmatised and even anxious about their future opportunities and ability to earn a good income," she said. "The player's career may or may not be affected depending on how they work to find new opportunities."

Back at home and reflecting on his journey, Afolabi says he will continue to play his beloved sport.

"Football is my passion," he said. "I want to use football to help my family and other people that do not have the means. I believe I'll make it in football and I want to continue."

By Tolu Olasoji

Al Jazeera

Friday, October 11, 2019

Video - Chinese app Vskit gaining huge traction in Nigeria



Chinese applications such as TikTok have been gaining massive traction across the African continent. Now joining the league is V-skit, an app used for the creation and sharing of short interesting funny videos. CGTN's Kelechi Emekalam explores how the entertainment platform is slowly becoming a fun-favorite amongst Nigerian youths.

Journalist Omoyele Sowore still remains in detention in Nigeria

 The founder of African investigative digital media site Sahara Reporters Omoyele Sowore remains detained in Nigeria on charges including treason, his wife Opeyemi Sowore told TechCrunch.

Her husband founded Sahara Reporters to create and aggregate news content, social media tips, and self-digital reporting toward exposing corruption in Africa and his home country of Nigeria.

After being jailed and beaten several times for his journalistic work in Nigeria, Sowore re-located to New York City and formed Sahara Reporters in Manhattan in 2006 to report under U.S. legal protections.

Several outlets, including Reuters, reported his arrest in August 2019. According to Opeyemi Sowore — who lives in New Jersey — her husband was detained in Lagos on August 4th while at a protest. He was then transferred to Nigeria’s capital, Abuja.

Per social media and press reporting, Omoyele Sowore (who goes by Sowore), was participating in #RevolutionNow movement of peaceful demonstration against bad governance in Nigeria.

After several hearings, he is still being held in Abuja, his wife said.

According to a copy of his court charging document obtained by TechCrunch, Sowore is charged with two counts of conspiring to stage a revolution and to remove Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, from office “otherwise than by constitutional means.”

Sowore is also charged with cybercrimes for “knowingly send[ing] messages by means of a press interview granted on Arise Television…for the purpose of causing insult…and ill-will on the…President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria” and for money laundering based on a transfer of $19,975 from a Nigerian bank account to a Sahara Reporters held account in New York.

Sowore pleaded not guilty to the charges and rejected an offer of bail for roughly $800,000, according to press reports and his wife.

As for the veracity of the charges, Sowore’s wife Opeyemi believes they are a cover to go after her husband for his activism and work with Sahara Reporters.

Sowore has never been an advocate of violence or insurrection, according to his wife.

“If you look at his history he is the most peaceful person. He does what he does so Nigeria can work for all Nigerians…be inclusive of all ethnic groups, all socio-economic backgrounds, and religions,” Opeyemi Sowore said.

“I think the charges are about silencing a critical voice that’s shining light on corruption,” she added.

Not everyone is a fan of Sowore and Sahara Reporters’ work, particularly in Nigeria. The country has has made strides in improving infrastructure and governance and has one of Africa’s strongest economies and tech scenes.

But Nigeria is still plagued by corruption, particularly around its oil-resources, and has a steady-stream of multi-billion dollar scandals — yes billions — in state related funds being stolen or simply going missing.

Sahara Reporters has made a practice of reporting on such corruption. The site, which has a tips line and small TV station, has exposed improprieties of many public officials and forced a number of resignations in Nigeria’s government.

In the previous administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, Sahara Reporters played a role in exposing the theft of an estimated $20 billion in public funds by Petroleum Minister, Diezani Allison-Madueke, who was forced to resign and eventually arrested.

The internet, mobile, and digital media play a central role in the work of Sahara Reporters. In an interview in 2014, Sowore explained to me how these mediums often do much of the investigative work.

“In many cases, there’s less investigation to breaking these stories than you’d think. The corruption and who’s perpetrating it is generally well-known and the evidence easy to distribute through social media and devices. We just need a safe place to report it from, and the rest often takes care of itself,” Sowore said.

Ironically, Sowre’s own thesis of using digital and social media for advocacy may be tested on his getting out of jail.

Sowore’s wife is working on a campaign of global supporters — including Amnesty International — to shine a light on her husband’s charges, innocence, and press for his release.

Away from the activism and politics, “I want Yele to come home safely. I’m worried about his safety and we have two small children and they miss their father dearly,” Opeyemi Sowore said.

The trial for her husband Omoyele Sowore is scheduled for early November.

Tech Crunch

Related stories: Activist Sowore pleads not guilty to treason charges in Nigeria

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Video - Nigeria clinic provides free healthcare services to women



It is estimated that one in 13 women in Nigeria die during childbirth, mainly because they cannot afford quality healthcare services. To tackle this, a humanitarian organization in Abuja is providing free healthcare services to women across the country CGTN's Deji Badmus has that story.

Nigeria has a mental health problem

On the outside, the Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital Yaba seems tranquil.

But on the inside of this century-old facility - one of only a half-dozen psychiatric centres in Lagos, and the only one run by the federal government of Nigeria - tensions are running high.

At the outpatient clinic, the crowd of people waiting to consult with doctors is so thick that it spills into the hallway.

The workload is so overwhelming that Dr Dapo Adebajum, a psychiatrist rushing to attend to an agitated patient, has slept in the hospital for the past two nights.

In the emergency ward, a patient named Jide languishes in a queue where he has been waiting since 7am.

It is not yet noon at Yaba hospital, but this is business as usual. The hospital saw a 22 percent increase in the number of new patients with different types of mental illnesses in 2018 - along with a 50 percent increase in the number of patients struggling with substance abuse.

One in four Nigerians - some 50 million people - are suffering from some sort of mental illness, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Today - World Mental Health Day - finds the country nowhere near equipped to tackle the problem.

There are only eight neuropsychiatric hospitals in Nigeria. With dire budget and staffing shortfalls prompting doctors to go on strike, leave the country, or quit the medical profession altogether, the prognosis looks as grim for psychiatric care at Yaba hospital as it does for Nigeria's healthcare system as a whole.

Mental health crisis

The seventh-largest country in the world, Nigeria has Africa's highest rate of depression, and ranks fifth in the world in the frequency of suicide, according to WHO. There are less than 150 psychiatrists in this country of 200 million, and WHO estimates that fewer than 10 percent of mentally ill Nigerians have access to the care they need.

The stark difference between Nigeria's need for better psychiatric care - and the resources available - is illustrated by the healthcare gaps at Yaba psychiatric hospital, which had a 2018 budget of 133 million naira ($372,000) - but only 13 million naira ($36,000) or less than 10 percent of that amount released by the federal government.

As a result of financial deficits and other challenges, Yaba hospital lost 25 - roughly half of its resident psychiatrists over the past four years. Some left to find work in other countries. Some went to private hospitals. Others simply quit. The facility now has 33 resident doctors and 22 consultants scrambling to address the needs of the more than 5,000 patients that they treat every year.

Each doctor now tends to 50 to 80 patients per day - including the 535 who fill the inpatient beds, and the 100 or more emergency cases who are rushed to the hospital each week.

Yaba's psychiatric clinic, once open from 9am to 1:30pm, is now open until 5pm so its doctors can try to catch up on their backlog of patients.

Critics say Yaba's shortfalls are not only affecting the quality of its services, but the bottom lines of its patients and their families, too.

A father sitting next to his teenage daughter in the queue of patients tells Al Jazeera that he has spent 1,440 naira ($4, or half the average daily pay in Nigeria) to bring the girl in for that day's treatment. Because the journey - and the more-than-four-hour wait to see a doctor - are both so time-consuming, the exhausted-looking father has taken a full day off work - putting his family at financial risk - to give his daughter the psychiatric care that she needs.

Despite the long wait, the girl - who comes to Yaba about twice a month - will have only a short time to consult with her psychiatrist.

"A patient ought to spend between 25 and 30 minutes with the doctor, but ends up spending between four and five minutes," Yaba psychiatrist Dr. Afeez Enifni tells Al Jazeera.

The father says he is determined to make the most of what the hospital can offer his daughter.

"Health," he insists, "is more important than anything else."

'Bearing the burden'

This past summer, Yaba hospital's Association of Resident Doctors (ARD) held a four-week strike to protest the conditions facing the facility's practitioners and patients.

"We could not continue bearing the moral burden of rendering below-par mental health services to our teeming patient population," ARD said in a statement it issued at the start of the strike.

ARD president Dr Enifni told Al Jazeera that a main goal of the strike - which halted the admission of new patients for a month, required that emergency cases be turned away, and ended in promises to hospital employees that the facility has yet to fulfill - was to spur the hospital to hire more doctors.

Between 2014 and 2018, 40 doctors completed their six-year training at Yaba hospital - then sought employment elsewhere. Some may have left for financial reasons: Yaba doctors can face two-to-three month delays in being paid their wages. And due to a no-work, no-pay policy implemented by the Nigerian government, those who went on strike this summer may not receive the salaries they would have earned during the month that they were protesting.

Enifeni says the workload has become "unbearable" for the 33 psychiatrists and resident doctors who are still working at the hospital - one of a growing number of healthcare facilities in Nigeria where workers are going on strike.

Yaba spokeswoman Philomena Omoike said that though the hospital wrote to the Ministry of Health in June and requested 15 more doctors, that request had yet to be filled.

"The constant leaving of the doctors," she said, "makes recruitment harder."

Physician exodus

Roughly nine out of every ten doctors in Nigeria are seeking to leave the country and find work elsewhere, according to a 2017 poll by the nonprofit organisation Nigeria Health Watch.

The desire for better opportunities - improved pay, facilities, work environments, professional satisfaction, tax breaks and career progression - were among the reasons that psychiatrists and other doctors surveyed said they were hoping to emigrate.

Every week, reports the General Medical Council of the United Kingdom, at least 12 doctors leave Nigeria to seek employment in the UK, where they can earn twice as much as they do at home - and where the number of practicing doctors from Nigeria has more than doubled in the past 13 years.

As Demola Alalade - a doctor who won a psychiatric residency slot in Nigeria but chose to emigrate to the UK - told Al Jazeera: "It's better to be a medical officer in a system that works than a psychiatrist in a system that doesn't."
'No funding from the government'

In part due to the migration of doctors to other countries, Nigeria has an estimated physician-patient ratio of one doctor to every 4,000 to 5,000 patients - six times smaller than the physician-patient ratio (one physician to every 600 doctors) that is recommended by WHO.

Nigeria Health Watch projects that with Nigeria's population on the rise (it is slated to double by 2050, according to the United Nations), the country will need to stop losing doctors and instead start bringing more in - at a rate of 10,605 per year - to keep pace with overall patient demand.

Nigeria's former Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, said in April that the country had "more than enough" doctors.

But practitioners at Yaba - and their patients - disagree.

They say Nigeria needs to start spending the money it has pledged to devote to psychiatry services and other forms of healthcare, too.

Along with 20 other member nations of the African Union, Nigeria signed the 2001 Abuja Declaration that promised to earmark 15 percent of its federal budgets for healthcare.

A 2011 WHO report found Nigeria had made "insufficient progress" towards that target. And by 2018, the country had allocated just 3.95 percent of its budget to funding its Ministry of Health.

In Nigeria's recently proposed 2020 budget, President Muhammadu Buhari allocated just 4.3 percent of the total budget for health.

For the physicians, residents, and patients of Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital Yaba, the money and support for which they have been long been waiting cannot come too soon.

"There has been an increase in patients," says Omoike, "but no funding from the government."

By Socrates Mbamalu

Al Jazeera

Related stories: The new mental illness approach in Nigeria

Video - Nigerian woman tackles mental health stigma

Entrepreneur Emeka Offor wants to combat mental health crisis in Nigeria

Nigeria seeks anti-sexual harassment law after #SexForGrades film

The Nigerian senate has introduced a bill that aims to prevent the sexual harassment of university students.

The proposed legislation follows a BBC investigation that uncovered alleged sexual misconduct by lecturers in Nigeria and Ghana.

The senate's deputy president said he hoped the BBC's investigation would help energise support for the bill.

Senator Ovie Omo-Agege said that he regarded sexual harassment in universities as unacceptable.

If the bill were to become law it would be illegal for lecturers to make any sexual advances towards students.

And under the proposed law, which was read in the senate on Wednesday, teaching staff could face up to 14 years in jail for having sexual relationships with their students.

The anti-sexual harassment bill was originally introduced in 2016 but didn't pass both houses of parliament.

Critics rejected the bill because it did not cover sexual harassment in the workplace and included a defence for consent. The defence for consent has been removed from the latest bill.

Footage of alleged sexual misconduct by academics at the University of Lagos and the University of Ghana was broadcast on Monday in Sex for Grades - a documentary by the BBC's Africa Eye investigative unit.

The documentary prompted outrage over harassment in Nigeria and Ghana and led to the suspension of four lecturers featured in the film. The suspended lecturers have denied the allegations.

What did the film show?

Four lecturers were secretly filmed allegedly propositioning or sexually harassing the BBC's undercover reporters.

Dr Boniface Igbeneghu, a lecturer at the University of Lagos and local pastor, was filmed making inappropriate remarks and requests toward an undercover journalist, who was posing as a prospective student aged 17, and later physically harassing her and asking to kiss her inside his locked office

Dr Igbeneghu then appeared to threaten to tell her mother if she was "disobedient" towards him.

The full hour-long documentary also featured interactions with two lecturers at the University of Ghana.

Both of the men, Professor Ransford Gyampo and Dr Paul Kwame Butakor, have been suspended but denied they were offering "sex for grades" in the undercover exchanges.


BBC

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Video - Blogger/Photojournalist defies odds by chasing his dreams with one arm



About 19 million Nigerians live with some form of disability - majority of them having very significant difficulties in carrying on with their daily lives. But Blogger and Photojournalist Masara Kim has gone against all odds to be one of the best in his field.

Video - Parents in Nigeria adopt innovative options to discipline their children



The question of whether spanking a child translates to discipline or abuse has been dominating conversations around Africa. Nigeria is no exception. In this next report, CGTN's Kelechi Emakalam examines how Nigerian parents are devising other means of disciplining their children without using the cane.

Pirate activites drop in Nigeria

Recent records had shown drop in maritime crime and piracy in Nigeria and the Gulf of Guinea, head of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) said here Tuesday.

Addressing the ongoing Global Maritime Security Conference holding in Abuja, Nigeria's capital, Dakuku Peterside, NIMASA's director-general, said there have been improvement through different initiatives to tackle maritime insecurity.

According to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), 73 percent of all sea kidnapping and 92 percent of hostage-takings occur in the Gulf of Guinea off Nigeria, Guinea, Togo, Benin and Cameroon.

Recently, the organization has noted "a welcome and marked decrease" in attacks in the region due to an increase in Nigerian Navy patrols.

Twenty-one incidents have been recorded around Nigeria as at July this year, compared to 31 in the same period of 2018, said Peterside.

The Nigerian official however reiterated the need for more partnership and collaboration between relevant stakeholders to tackle the maritime insecurity menace in the region.

Peterside told his audience that safe and secured waterways will boost maritime transportation in Nigeria and in the continent.

He said member states in the region had agreed to deal with the issue of insecurity of waterways from its roots and had developed initiatives to ensure this.

Xinhua 

Related stories: Nigeria loses $1.5bn monthly to sea pirates and fuel fraud

Video - Nigerian government extends anti-piracy operation by 3 months

Video - Piracy in Nigeria

Nigeria's $875 million case against JPMorgan alllowed to proceed

An $875 million Nigerian government lawsuit against U.S. bank JPMorgan is clear to move forward after a London-based appeals court on Tuesday rejected the bank’s bid to have the case dismissed.

The bank had asked the court to quash the Nigerian government’s case, arguing that it had no prospect of success. All three justices at the Court of Appeal in London rejected JPMorgan’s argument in a ruling.

“I have formed no view as to the overall merits of the (government’s) claim but there is nothing in the terms of the depository agreement which entitles (JP) Morgan Chase to bring the proceedings to an end at this stage,” Lady Justice Rose wrote in the decision.

Tuesday’s decision upheld a February ruling from a lower court.

Nigeria is suing JPMorgan for more than $875 million, accusing it of negligence in transferring funds from a disputed 2011 oilfield deal to a company controlled by the country’s former oil minister.

The bank declined to comment on Tuesday's ruling. It has said it considers the allegations against it "unsubstantiated and without merit", and that it would fight the case in court.

A spokesman for Nigeria’s attorney general did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The case is one of several revolving around a $1.3 billion payment from oil companies Shell (RDSa.L) and Eni (ENI.MI) to secure offshore oilfield OPL 245.

The main trial related to OPL 245 is being held in Milan.

JPMorgan, acting under the instruction of previous Nigerian government officials, transferred money from those payments from an escrow account into accounts controlled by the previous operator of the block, Malabu Oil and Gas, itself controlled by former oil minister Dan Etete.

JPMorgan argued in its effort to dismiss the case that the approvals from those government officials was sufficient but the Nigerian government alleges that the bank’s transfers violated the duty of care owed to the government as a client.

Nigeria has also filed a $1.1 billion lawsuit in London against Shell and Eni over the deal.

Shell, Eni and their executives, have denied any wrongdoing. Etete, who was convicted of money laundering in France in 2007, has also denied charges against him.

The oilfield’s original license was awarded to Malabu in 1998, and is estimated to hold more than 9 billion barrels of oil, but has yet to enter production.

Reuters

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Video - Solar energy gradually replacing diesel generators in Nigeria



With poor electricity supply from the national grid in Nigeria, most businesses and households in the country rely on generators for power. But as people tire of the noise and pollution, many are now turning to solar energy - an alternative that is cleaner, quieter and cheaper in the long run.

Related story: Nigeria runs on generators and nine hours of power a day

Monday, October 7, 2019



Cross-cultural romantic relationships are occasionally marked by moments of misunderstanding, apprehension and soul searching. But they are leavened by commitment, love and, crucially, humour. Those experiences form the bedrock of Bob Hearts Abishola, a new US comedy series airing on CBS that portrays a blossoming romance between an American man and a Nigerian immigrant woman. To observers, Bob (Billy Gardell) has it good – he has a prosperous business in Detroit manufacturing compression socks, owns his home and drives a great car. But his loneliness and the stress of running a company takes a toll and lands him in hospital with a heart scare. He is drawn to Abishola (Folake Olowofoyeku), a nurse and single mother who helps him get back to full health. He sets out to convince Abishola to give him a chance. But they soon find the path of courtship is long and winding as they face questions and well-meaning interference from family and friends. On Monday’s show we’ll meet three cast members and hear what they learned from making a sitcom that places the immigrant experience at the heart of the story.

Video - A teenager's struggle for survival in tough northern Nigeria



CGTN's Kelechi Emekalam highlights the life of a young Nigerian teenager who is defying the odds and pushing hard to make headway in life. Northern Nigeria, is considered the toughest place to survive in the west African nation.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Former Nigeria striker Isaac Promise dies aged 31

His club, American side Austin Bold, said that he passed away on Wednesday night but offered no explanation as to the cause.

Promise was captain of the Nigeria side that won a silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

He spent much of his career in Turkey, with Trabzonspor among his former clubs, and also had a brief spell in Saudi Arabia with Al-Ahli.

Former West Ham defender Anton Ferdinand was among those to pay tribute.

"I'm in shock," he wrote on Instagram. "You were my room mate at Antalyaspor. RIP Isaac Promise. Rest well bro my prayers are with your family and friends at this time."

BBC

Facebook removes face accounts from Nigeria

Facebook has removed several pages, groups and accounts on its platforms from the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia, citing "coordinated inauthentic behaviour" aimed at misleading social media users.

A total of 443 Facebook accounts, 200 pages and 76 groups, as well as 125 Instagram accounts, were removed, the social media platform said on Thursday.

They were traced to three separate and "unconnected" operations, one of which was operating in three countries, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Nigeria; and two others in Indonesia and Egypt, to spread misleading posts and news articles.

Facebook, which owns one-time rivals Instagram and WhatsApp, said the accounts were engaged in spreading content on topics like UAE's activity in Yemen, the Iran nuclear deal and criticism of Qatar, Turkey and Iran.

Those operations created "networks of accounts to mislead others about who they were, and what they were doing," Nathaniel Gleicher, head of cybersecurity policy said in the statement.

In all, the accounts on Facebook and Instagram commanded an estimated 7.5 million followers.

The company added that it is taking down the accounts "based on their behaviour, not the content they posted".

"In each of these cases, the people behind this activity coordinated with one another and used fake accounts to misrepresent themselves."

Facebook defines coordinated inauthentic behaviour as "when groups of pages or people work together to mislead others about who they are or what they are doing."

One account called USA Thoughts posted false information about Qatar developing a "Hate App".

In Indonesia, accounts involved in "domestic-focused" issues were accused of spreading news about the deadly protests in the West Papua region.

"Although the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities, our investigation found links to an Indonesia media firm InsightID."

As much as $300,000 was reportedly spent on Facebook ads paid in the Indonesian currency, rupiah.

Al Jazeera was not immediately able to contact InsightID.

During the April 2019 national elections, President Joko Widodo, who was seeking re-election, was also targeted with disinformation on social media, with some accusing him of being a communist and an underground Christian.

Sluggish response

The social media giant has recently cracked down on such accounts after its founder Mark Zuckerberg came under fire in the last few years for sluggishness in developing tools to combat "extremist" content and propaganda operations.

"We are making progress rooting out this abuse, but as we’ve said before, it’s an ongoing challenge," the statement on Thursday said.

Earlier this year, Facebook removed accounts from Iraq, Ukraine, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Thailand, Honduras and Israel.

Facebook is also making attempts to prevent online abuses and spread of misinformation, including in political election campaigns.

In March, it removed 200 pages, groups and accounts linked to the former social media manager of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte for misleading people.

The accounts and posts in question posted about local news, elections and alleged misconduct by political candidates opposed to the Duterte administration.

Facebook said the accounts administrators tried to hide their identity but were linked to a network organised by Duterte's 2016 campaign operative.

The spread of fake news and propaganda, however, is not limited to individuals and private companies.

According to a study conducted by the University of Oxford and published in late September, a "handful of sophisticated state actors" are using social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to influence a global audience.

It listed China, India, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela for using Facebook and Twitter for "foreign influence operations".

The report said that most recently, China has been "aggressively using" Facebook, Twitter and YouTube in a "global disinformation" campaign related to the ongoing protests in Hong Kong.

Al Jazeera

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Six school girls kidnapped in Nigeria

Gunmen have abducted six girls and two staff members from a boarding school in northern Nigeria, according to a police spokesman.

Yakubu Sabo said armed men gained entry on Thursday into the Engravers College, a mixed boarding school in a remote area south of the city of Kaduna.

They "took away two staff of the college and six female students to an unknown destination", Sabo said.

It was not immediately clear who had taken them.

"The Kaduna state police command has mobilised and dispatched some operatives with a view to trail the perpetrators of this crime and rescue the victims and apprehend the criminals. The operation is still ongoing," he told Al Jazeera by phone.

An official at the school confirmed the kidnapping to the AFP news agency.

"Unknown gunmen broke into the school around 12:10 am (23:10 GMT) and took away six female students and two staff who live inside the school," Elvis Allah-Yaro said.

Abductions for ransom are common in Nigeria and the highway from the capital Abuja to the city of Kaduna has seen a surge in attacks by armed criminals, but raids on schools are rare.

In 2014, the armed group Boko Haram abducted 276 schoolgirls from the remote northeastern town of Chibok in the Borno state.

About 100 of those schoolgirls remain missing.

Last week, police in the city of Kaduna freed hundreds of men and boys from a purported religious school where they had been beaten and abused.

Al Jazeera

Nigeria fines banks $1.3 billion penalty

Nigeria’s central bank plans to charge 12 banks a total of more than 400 billion naira ($1.3 billion) for failing to meet its minimum loan-to-deposit ratio requirement by a September deadline, three banking sources told Reuters on Thursday.

The central bank has been seeking to boost credit to businesses and consumers after a recent recession in Africa’s biggest economy, but lending has yet to pick up. With growth slow, banks prefer to park cash in risk-free government securities rather than lend to companies and consumers.

Nigeria’s economy is expected to pick up in 2019 with gross domestic product expanding close to 3%, up from 1.9% last year, according to the central bank.

In July, the central bank asked lenders to maintain a ratio of lending out at least 60% of deposits by September as part of measures aimed at getting credit flowing.

Bank chief executives plan to meet with the banking regulator in Abuja on Thursday to discuss the charges, the sources said.

The local units of Citibank and Standard Chartered Bank are among those affected, the sources said.

Other include top tier Nigerian lenders Zenith Bank, Guaranty Trust Bank, First Bank and United Bank for Africa.

The central bank did not respond to a request for immediate comment. The banks declined to comment.

Lenders have done little to expand borrowing in Nigeria, blaming a weak economy after a 2014 oil price crash and a currency crisis that made loans go sour. Analysts fear growing credit quickly could weaken asset quality and capital buffers.

The central bank has said loans rose 5.3% in the three months to the end of September to 16.40 trillion naira, due the new minimum requirement and increased the lending ratio target in what it said was a move to sustain the momentum.

In the last few months, the regulator has also capped interest-bearing deposits at the central bank and barred banks from buying treasury bills for their own accounts at an open market auction, to boost lending.

Reuters

Nigeria and South Africa to set-up warning system on xenophobic attacks

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has met his South African counterpart Cyril Ramaphosa, weeks after xenophobic attacks in Johannesburg triggered tensions between Africa's leading economies.

Nigerians were among those targeted during the wave of violence which resulted in the death of 12 people and led to an extraordinary airlift of hundreds of people last month.

On Thursday, amid warm smiles and a joint commitment to strengthen bilateral relations, Buhari said the attacks were "unacceptable" and called for preventive measures.

"We call for the strengthening and implementation of all the necessary measures to prevent the reoccurrence of such actions," he said.

Ramaphosa condemned the violence, saying: "Early warning mechanisms will be set up so that when we see there is restiveness in both of our people ... we will be able to inform one another."

He added: "We are equally committed to upholding the rule of law and ensuring that all those involved in criminal activities, regardless of their nationality, are prosecuted."

It is Buhari's first visit to South Africa since Ramaphosa's new administration was established earlier this year. The three-day visit is also the first to the country by a Nigerian leader since 2013.

Buhari and his ministers were welcomed with cannon shots and a guard of honour under a bright spring sun. At the welcome ceremony in Pretoria's Union Buildings, Ramaphosa and Buhari referred to each other as "brothers".

Economic ties

Buhari and Ramaphosa, accompanied by key ministers, discussed various issues, including strengthening economic relations.

The Nigerian leader's visit marks the 20th anniversary of a Bi-National Commission (BNC) established between the two countries in 1999. Since then, dozens of trade agreements have been signed between them.

In 2018, the total value of trade between them amounted to $3.35bn, making Nigeria South Africa's largest trade partner in West Africa.

A joint business forum between South Africa and Nigeria was held on Thursday afternoon.

"We want to create an enabling environment for doing business in our respective countries," said Ramaphosa, pointing out road, mining and infrastructure as key areas.

The South African leader also acknowledged Nigeria's support in the struggle against apartheid.

Buhari said his government is committed to fighting unemployment and poverty in his country. He also promised more opportunities for investors in Nigeria.

Formal relations between the two countries were established after the first democratic elections in South Africa in 1994.

Al Jazeera

Related stories: South Africa President to host Nigeria President after xenophobic violence

Video - Nigerians repatriated from South Africa after attacks

Unregulated reform schools in Nigeria paint a picture of torture and abuse

Horrific revelations of torture and abuse at a compound billing itself as a Koranic reform school in northern Nigeria have shone a spotlight on Islamic institutes unregulated by the authorities.

Last week police in the city of Kaduna raided a building to find hundreds of men and boys—some reportedly aged as young as 5 — held in atrocious conditions at a facility proprietors described as a religious school and rehabilitation centre.

Inmates were discovered chained to metal railings and with their hands and feet shackled together. Some bore scars from alleged beatings while other recounted being sexually abused.

"If they caught you if you want to run away from this place, they would hang you, they would chain you," one of the victims Abdallah Hamza said.

The shocking revelations made headlines but activists insisted they were symptomatic of abuses that have long-riddled a system beyond official control. Private Islamic schools — known locally as Almajiri schools — are widespread across mainly Muslim northern Nigeria, where poverty levels are high and government services often lacking.

The authorities have estimated that there are more than nine million students enrolled at the institutions.

"The latest example from Kaduna represented the worst of the system and very inhumane conditions," Mohammed Sabo Keana, team lead at the Abuja-based Almajiri Child Rights Initiative NGO, told AFP.

"But they are a clear manifestation of what a lot of children go through —including being made to beg on the streets, subjected to violence, sleeping in the worst conditions imaginable and living with terrible sanitation levels."

"A place of human slavery"

Activists have long pushed the government to reform or end the Almajiri system, arguing that it fails to provide children with the basics of an education. In June Nigeria's presidency said that it wanted ultimately to ban the schools, but insisted it would not be doing so anytime soon for fear of creating "panic or a backlash."

Now calls for change look likely to grow in the wake of the latest scandal. In a statement on the case the office of President Muhammadu Buhari — himself a Muslim from northern Nigeria — denounced the facility "as a house of torture and a place of human slavery."

"We are glad that Muslim authorities have dismissed the notion of the embarrassing and horrifying spectacle as (an) Islamic School," the statement said.

But it steered clear of mentioning any move to prohibit the schools and insisted that enforcing free compulsory education was a "panacea."

"To stop unwanted cultural practices that amount to the abuse of children, our religious and traditional authorities must work with the federal, state and local governments to expose and stop all types of abuse that are widely known but ignored for many years by our communities," it said.

"Stay in line"

Defenders of the Almajiri system argue that it can offer poor families services the Nigerian state woefully fails to provide. Millions of children in the country go without any education despite primary school nominally being free.

Retired civil servant Yusuf Hassan runs the Almajiri Foundation in the northern city of Kano that has looked to improve the system. He insisted that most schools are not like the one uncovered in Kaduna and instead blamed so-called "rehabilitation centers" where families send relatives considered delinquent or drug addicts.

"Some parents who have children that are difficult to manage at home take them to such rehabilitation centers," he said. "Some of the centres end up chaining the kids because they know they will run away."

Hassan blamed a lack of any government medical or psychiatric care to help tackle widespread drug addiction in northern Nigeria and said a first step should be to separate rehab centres from schools.

But even some of those who have lived through the brutal treatment meted out in such institutions have argued they can be a force for good. Mohammed Usman was chained up in one when his family took him there to get over a drug addiction in his twenties.

"Of course students were flogged when they misbehave which made us to mind our manners and stay in line," Usman, now 45 and a high school teacher, told AFP.

He said he was taught about religion, morality and "respect" and eventually managed to get clean.

"I was there for nine months and when the teachers were satisfied with my rehabilitation I was released and returned home. Ever since, I have never used drugs."


CBS

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Activist Sowore pleads not guilty to treason charges in Nigeria

Nigerian activist and former presidential candidate Omoyele Sowore pleaded not guilty at a court in Abuja on Monday to charges of treason, money laundering and harassing the president.

State Security Service agents arrested Sowore in early August after he called for a revolution after a February election which he said was not credible. He ran for president in that election, in which former military ruler President Muhammadu Buhari secured a second term in office.

Buhari has faced criticism for his administration’s human rights record, particularly a deadly crackdown on members of a now-banned Shi’ite group that a United Nations special rapporteur said involved the excessive use of lethal force. The government has rejected criticisms of its human rights record.

Sowore, who also founded Nigerian online news organization Sahara Reporters, faces seven charges including treason, money laundering and “cyberstalking” for allegedly sharing false information about Buhari that insulted him and incited hated against him.

A court last week denied a request by state security to keep Sowore in detention pending the charges, but did not release him as ordered.

Last week, another federal court in Abuja threatened the head of the State Security Service with prison for contempt of court for the failure to release him. Sowore remained in detention despite the threat.

The judge, Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu, adjourned the case until Oct. 4.

Reuters

South Africa President to host Nigeria President after xenophobic violence

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa will host Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari for talks, weeks after xenophobic violence strained economic ties between the two nations.

Nigeria recalled its high commissioner and evacuated some of its citizens last month after a spate of attacks in South Africa left at least 12 people dead, two of them foreigners. Protests in Nigeria over the violence targeted South African companies including mobile-phone giant MTN Group Ltd. and grocer Shoprite Holdings.

Ramaphosa and Buhari will meet Oct. 3 in Pretoria, the capital, the presidency said in a statement Tuesday. They’ll discuss ways “to strengthen political, economic, social and cultural relations,” it said.

Nigeria is South Africa’s biggest trade partner in Africa, with flows estimated at $4.5 billion last year compared with $2.9 billion a decade ago, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.South Africa has seen sporadic attacks on migrants, including Nigerians and Sudanese, the worst of which occurred in 2008 when about 60 people were killed and more than 50,000 forced from their homes. Another seven people died in similar attacks in 2015.
 
Bloomberg

Related story: Video - Nigerians repatriated from South Africa after attacks
 

Police harassing tech industry in Nigeria

 It seems in the eyes of Nigeria’s police, any young man with a laptop, smartphone and an internet connection is likely a fraudster.

Such profiling has no bearing in reality, of course. It’s simply a crude extortion tactic that has fueled a long-running racket. Here’s how it often goes: the young person is stopped on suspicion, then arrested and detained followed up being hit with bogus accusations of being an internet fraudster. In those circumstances, the options are usually paying bribes to regain freedom or facing an uncertain future decided by Nigeria’s broken criminal justice system which has left 72% of prison inmates serving time without a sentence.

Given the nature of their work, Nigerian techies are frequent targets of this scam by the police’s anti-robbery squad (SARS), a special unit which is has garnered a reputation for arbitrary arrests, torture and extra-judicial killings. But, following the recent harrowing experience of a local software engineer who arrested by SARS and asked to pay a $1,300 bribe, leaders in Nigeria’s tech industry are crowdfunding a legal effort against the unit. His story which has been retweeted over 11,000 times and infuriated the local tech industry which has long protested harassment of its workers.

Startup founders and employees across the country have contributed $30,000 to the campaign within a day of its launch. Flutterwave, a Nigerian fintech giant, has provided a payments solution for the campaign with Olugbenga Agboola, Flutterwave CEO says the company is waiving regular charges on the payments link. Other notable tech founders leading the camapign include Jason Njoku, founder of iROKOtv, Tayo Oviosu, founder of Paga and SIM Shagaya, founder of Konga

The raised funds will go to financing lawsuits as well as supporting existing initiatives against police brutality. The campaign will work with civil society groups and activists with a track record of fighting police brutality and extortion.

Bosun Tijani, co-founder of Co-Creation Hub, Nigeria’s leading tech hub, is among those leading the campaign and says harassment by SARS officers will result in increased talent drain with several local developers already opting for careers and lives abroad, away from Nigeria’s dysfunction. Tijani says despite its prevailing rhetoric of supporting the budding tech industry, the government “continues to turn a blind eye to the robbery and psychological intimidation of young tech talent.”

In truth, the profiling of young laptop-carrying Nigerians as fraudsters by the police stems from the country’s much maligned history with internet fraudsters who continue to evolve while carrying out million-dollar scams. However, in targeting young techies, the police are inadvertently hitting at a group of Nigerians who are perhaps doing the most to correct the narrative of online fraud.

So far, much of the tech industry’s efforts have been rewarded: Nigeria’s ecosystem has morphed into one of Africa’s most valuableover the past decade with tech companies founded, led and staffed by young people offering innovative solutions to several of the country’s problems across financial inclusion, agriculture and healthcare.

It’s not the first time SARS has been subject of a widespread campaign against its excesses. A 2017 #EndSARS campaign led by young Nigerians on social media resulted in the announcement of a revamp of the unit. However, as stories of sustained harassment show, very little has changed. Any sustainable reforms to Nigeria’s police will likely be slow-growing given its entrenched problems: a survey by Nigeria’s statistics bureau showed police officers were the most likely of all civil servants to solicit and collect bribes while a 2016 security index ranked Nigeria’s police force ranks as the worst globally.

By Yomi Kazeem 

Quartz

10 things Nigeria does better than anywhere else

From email scams to oil spills and charlatan Pentecostal preachers, it's clear that Nigeria has something of an image problem.

While the outside world's perception of Africa's most populous country hasn't always been overwhelmingly positive, there's plenty more to this nation than its unsavory associations.

With its vibrant culture, sense of humor and adaptability, Nigeria has become the "Giant of Africa" in more ways than just population size.

In honor of Nigeria's Independence Day on October 1, here are 10 of the many reasons why the destination one in five Africans call home stands out from the rest. You may be inspired to add
Nigeria to your travel list:

Traditional weddings

In Nigeria, if you've reached your 30th birthday and are still unhitched, the elders will harass you down the aisle, which is why barely a week goes by without someone staging a traditional wedding ceremony somewhere.

Weddings are a sacred part of cultural life, but also an excuse to show off cuisine, fabulous clothing, music and dance moves in one life-affirming, chromatic bonanza.

With 250-odd ethnic groups, the ceremonies come in a variety of styles, depending on your region.
In the southwest, the groom and his friends might prostrate themselves at the start.
However, in the southeast you'll see them dancing their way into the ceremony, wearing bowler hats and clutching walking canes.

In other regions, the bride and groom's families send each other letters of proposal and acceptance before getting down to dowry negotiations.

Once the serious stuff is done, it's back to music and dancing and, best of all, the tossing of banknotes in the air to make money literally rain down on the newlyweds.

If you haven't experienced a traditional Nigerian wedding, you haven't experienced Nigeria.

Jollof rice

This mouth-watering tomato-based rice dish is a party staple.
There are many ways to cook it, involving endless permutations of meat, spices, chilli, onions and vegetables.
While it's widely accepted that Senegal invented this dish, the concept spread to West African countries.
The most notable are Ghana and Nigeria -- two nations that have vied with one another for supremacy in a never-ending battle known as the jollof wars.
Nigerians are the indisputable champions, of course, serving up "advanced level" jollof that our Ghanaian rivals can only watch and admire.
Oya, come chop!

Eating chicken to the bone


While we're still on the subject of food, Nigerians are champions at eating chicken to the bone and beyond.
It's not enough to simply eat the flesh. We break the bone, suck out the marrow and pulverize the remainder until there's almost nothing left.
If your chicken thigh is still forensically identifiable at the end of the meal then you haven't done it right. Abeg, finish am!

Nollywood films

Only Hollywood and India's Bollywood make more movies than Nigeria.
Known as Nollywood, our film industry is big business -- so big it contributes 5% to national GDP.
With average flicks churned out in under a two weeks, Nollywood films are famous for their poor (albeit improving) production values.

But what they lack in sophistication they make up for in story lines that are an entertaining window on Nigerian moral values and byzantine social dynamics.

Narratives exploring servant-master relationships, the supernatural, corruption and infidelity are delivered with lashings of shouty, eye-bulging overacting.

The movies draw a big audience in the rest of Africa, where viewers from more reserved societies can revel vicariously in Nigeria's outlandishness and even pick up some of our slang.
Nigerian soft power has never been greater.

Durbar royal horse parade

The annual Durbar festival is the cultural highlight of Nigeria's Islamic north.
This visual extravaganza is celebrated by thousands of peoples, mainly from the Hausa-Fulani ethnic groups, in multiple cities at the end of Ramadan.

Followed by a parade that takes place in the city of Kano at the Emir's Palace, it's become a longstanding tourist attraction.

The Emir's sons, noblemen and regiments show their loyalty by trooping past on horses, accompanied by musicians.

Each royal household has its own unique costume, made up of billowing robes and turbans that glitter in every color under the sun.

Wearing black leather gloves, the princes raise a "power" fist as they bounce past the Emir.
Being polygamous, the Emirs have literally dozens of sons and every one of them takes part, from the middle-aged to the toddlers. Counting them all is part of the fun.

Optimism

For all its political and economic troubles, Nigerians are somehow still among the most optimistic and happy people on the planet.

Opportunity doesn't come knocking -- we chase it, with the help of God, who we all know is on our side.

The Lord may have rested on the seventh day of Earth's creation, but that's the last day off he's enjoyed ever since.

Nigerians call upon Him 24/7, praying and pumping fists and demanding His favors.
Evidence of our optimistic spirit lies everywhere: It's in the billboards that promise "a divine upgrade", or our hustling entrepreneurial spirit, or the crumbling roadside shacks grandly named "Victory Plaza." There's no room for despair when we see ourselves as "temporarily embarrassed millionaires" (to quote Steinbeck) on the expressway to heaven.

So next time a Nigerian tells you "I will become the greatest by force!" understand that they're not bragging -- they're just speaking their dreams into existence.

Proverbial sense

Nigerians love a good proverb and we never stop inventing new ones.

Some aphorisms are blunt and to-the-point. Others can be a little cryptic, so you sometimes need a high level of "proverbial sense" to understand what they're getting at:

"Monkey no fine but im mama no like am [The monkey might be ugly but his mother loves him]."

"If you can't dance well, you'd better not get up."

"The man being carried does not realize how far away the town really is."

"The quarrel that doesn't concern you is pleasant to hear about."

"The whip hits at the legs, not the guilt."

"Until lions have their historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunters."

"The one-eyed man does not thank God until he sees a blind man."

"Rat wey get only one hole, they quick die [A rat with just one hole will soon die]."

"After God, fear woman."

"No license for nonsense [behave yourself]."

"No business, no wife."

"Keke [motorized tricycle] today, private jet tomorrow!"

Masquerades

Masquerades are a huge aspect of Nigerian culture.

These masked costumed figures are considered to embody the spirits, and serve as a fundamental part of Nigerian pre-colonial religious tradition.

Nowadays they double up as entertainment and appear during weddings and festivals, particularly at Christmas time.

Nigeria has over 250 ethnic groups, each with its own masquerade. The masks and costumes are visually striking.

They can be made from a variety of materials such as grass, animal horns and teeth, and the young men who wear them sometimes cover their limbs in black palm oil to mesmerizing and scary effect.

The masquerades travel through the villages, performing dances, acrobatics and reciting incantations.
Chasing terrified villagers with bows and arrows or whips is also part of the tradition, so get ready to move your feet.

Bronze sculptures

The famous Benin Bronzes are a collection of plaques and sculptures that once decorated the royal palace of the Kingdom of Benin.

Dating back to the 13th century, these exquisite artworks include bas-relief images of dignitaries or warriors.

They were influenced by the Ife civilization nearby, which produced life-sized bronze heads of the Ooni (king) and his queens.

When Europeans first saw the Hellenic-style realism of the Ife sculptures they were "shocked" that Africans could produce such beauty and sophistication.

The British liked the Benin bronzes so much they stole them during punitive raids in 1897 and have kept hold of them to this day.

Some of the best specimens are displayed at the British Museum in London, the Louvre in Paris and Berlin's Ethnological Museum.

Making the best of 'go slows' (traffic jams)

Traffic jams -- known as go slows -- are a daily part of life on Nigeria's roads, but although they may delay your journey they needn't stop you from completing your day's shopping from the comfort of your vehicle. Need some socks? Street vendors can sort you out.

They'll also sell handkerchiefs, belts, books, newspapers, fruit, vegetables, chocolates, electrical appliances and even oil paintings -- if that's what you're after.

Simply roll down your window and call for their attention.

By Noo Saro-Wiwa

CNN

Monday, September 30, 2019

Former Super Eagle coach Samson Siasia's mother finally freed from kidnappers

Mother of Samson Siasia, former national coach of Nigeria's football team, on Sunday regained freedom from gunmen who had held her captive in the southern part of the country since July, local police said.

The 76-year-old victim Beauty Ogere Siasia was "released in the early hours of Sunday," Asinim Butswat, the police spokesman in the southern state of Bayelsa, told Xinhua via telephone.

Local police and family sources declined to give details of the victim's release. Whether or not any ransom was paid is not known.

She was held captive for over 10 weeks, after the gunmen stormed her home in Odoni town of Sagbama local government area of Bayelsa on July 15.

It was the second time the septuagenarian had been abducted in four years. In November 2015, she was abducted by gunmen who released her after 12 days in captivity.

Siasia, her son and former Nigerian coach, said his family was relieved by the development. Throughout last week, he had pleaded for help from Nigerian authorities for the release of his mother.

"It's been really tough but I'm pretty relieved that she's finally released on Sunday morning," he told reporters.

He added that his mother had been in poor health since her return.

Siasia was the coach of the team which won the silver medal of the football event at the 2008 Beijing Olympics held in China.

He was also the coach of the country's main football team from 2010 to October 2011. He was reappointed in 2016.

Xinhua

Related story: Ex-coach Samson Siasia mother still missing in Nigeria 2 months after kidnap

Survivor recounts torture house experience in Nigeria

A survivor of the Nigerian "torture house" raided by police has described being there as "living in hellfire".

"If you are praying they will beat you. If you are studying they will beat you," Isa Ibrahim, 29, told the BBC.

Nearly 500 men and boys were rescued from the building in Kaduna, which was being used as an Islamic school and correctional facility.

The police said it was a place of human slavery, with many detainees found in chains.

Some of the victims had been tortured and sexually abused, the authorities say.

The BBC's Ishaq Khalid, who visited the building in northern Nigeria, says there are concerns that similar abuse may be occurring in other such institutions.

Many families in this mainly Muslim part of the country can't afford to send their children to school and those that can often enrol them in poorly regulated institutions like this one, he says.

A sign on the front of the building describes it as the Ahmad bin Hambal Centre for Islamic teachings but it was also used by some as a place to reform young men with behavioural problems.

Kaduna state police spokesman Yakubu Sabo said the "dehumanised treatment" they discovered made it impossible to consider it an Islamic school, Reuters news agency reports. It was not registered as either a school, or a correctional facility, although it did charge fees to parents.

Seven people, including some staff, have been arrested. The government says it will investigate other institutions which purport to provide Koranic studies.

There have been numerous reports of abuse at Koranic schools across northern Nigeria, with students sometimes forced to spend their days begging on the streets.

Isa Ibrahim's ordeal

Mr Ibrahim said he was sent to the centre two weeks ago by his family, apparently to "correct his behaviour".

He said he had tried to escape the day before the police arrived.

He described being chained up to an old generator and also being subjected to a particularly cruel punishment, known as "Tarkila", where his hands were tied up and he was left hanging from the ceiling.

"I have many injuries. Almost all parts of my body have injuries," he said. "Even if you are sleeping - they'll use [a] cane to wake you up."

He said he had been starved and was only given plain rice to eat. People kept at the centre "lose all of our energy", he added.

Children as young as five were among those rescued from the institution, which is believed to have been operating for several years. Most of the inmates were from northern Nigeria but two were reportedly from Burkina Faso.
Abandoned chains at a 'house of torture'

Ishaq Khalid, BBC News, Kaduna

The pink two-storey building is a prison-like structure surrounded by high walls and barbed wire. It has an imposing gate, with more than a dozen rooms, with small windows for ventilation.

When I visited, the compound was littered with abandoned household items like mattresses, buckets, clothes and books - apparently left in the wake of the police raid.

Kaduna state police spokesperson Yakubu Sabo told me most of the captives had been rescued with their shackles still on but I could still see some abandoned chains, as well as car wheels and petrol-powered generators to which the victims had allegedly been attached.

People living nearby have been left bewildered - some told me they couldn't believe the shocking discovery.

The "students" did not go to out to beg on the streets as is the usual practice with traditional Koranic schools in this region. Nor had they been forced to do hard labour - some said they had not seen the outside world for years.

Torture was used as a form of discipline - to correct perceived bad behaviour.

Relatives are being reunited with their children at a camp in Kaduna where the victims were taken after being rescued.

Some said they had been prevented from seeing their children at the school.

"If we had known that this thing was happening in the school, we wouldn't have sent our children. We sent them to be people but they ended up being maltreated," said a parent named Ibrahim, who had identified his son.

The Kaduna state government says it will now carry out checks on all Koranic schools across the state.

"This is an eye-opener for us," said Hafsat Baba, Kaduna State Commissioner of Human Services and Social Development. She added that if this scale of abuse was happening in the main city, she didn't know what might be going on in rural areas.

"We have to map all the schools. And we have to make sure that if they violate the government orders then they have to be closed down completely," she told the BBC.

"If we find any facility that is torturing children or is harbouring these kind of horrific situations that we have just seen, they are going to be prosecuted."

President Muhammadu Buhari has condemned reports of shocking abuse at the institution.

He also urged religious and traditional leaders to work with the authorities to "expose and stop all types of abuse that are widely known but ignored for many years by our communities".

BBC

Related story: Hundreds freed from torture house in Nigeria

Baby Factory raided by police in Nigeria

Nigerian police have freed 19 pregnant women from properties in Lagos, which they describe as "baby factories".

Most of the women had been abducted "for the purpose of getting them pregnant and selling the babies", a police statement said.

Two women who operated as untrained nurses have been arrested but the main suspect is on the run.

Police said that male babies would be sold for $1,400 (£1,100) and the females for $830.

They added that the children were to be trafficked, but it is not clear who or where the potential buyers were.

Stories of these so-called "baby factories" are not uncommon in Nigeria. There have been several raids in the past including one last year when 160 children were rescued.

This time four children were rescued.
What happened to the women?

The rescued women, aged between 15 and 28, had been lured to Lagos, Nigeria's largest city, from different parts of the country with the promise of employment.

But they were then held in the properties and raped.

"[A] woman came to pick me at the [bus] park and brought me here," one of those rescued told the Vanguard newspaper.

"The next day, I was summoned by our madam, who told me that I would not leave the premises until next year," she is quoted as saying.

"So far, I have slept with seven different men before I discovered I was pregnant. I was told that after delivery, I would be paid handsomely."

The women and children have now been rehoused and are being rehabilitated, the police said.

BBC

Related story: Pregnant girls rescued from baby making factory in Nigeria


Friday, September 27, 2019

Video - Nigeria to scale up capacity for China-assisted Kaduna railway line



Speaking of China-Africa cooperation, Nigeria is set to increase capacity of its China- Assisted railway service along the 186.5 KM Abuja - Kaduna Rail line. 16 additional coaches and 10 locomotives are expected in by the end of the year -- to add to the existing ones.This is spurred by rising demand in the service. As Kelechi Emekalam reports, Many more passengers are opting for rail transportation for reasons of safety and comfort.

Boko Haram camp destroyed in Nigeria by airstrikes

Airstrikes by the Nigerian military have destroyed a logistics base of terror group Boko Haram during a raid in the northeast region, defense authorities said on Thursday.

The logistics base also served as a training camp for the terrorists at a community called Kusuma on the fringes of Lake Chad.

The airstrikes on Wednesday were executed after credible intelligence reports had established that a section of the settlement was serving as a training camp for the terrorists, Ibikunle Daramola, the spokesman for the air force, said in a statement made available to Xinhua.

"Some buildings within the camp were being used to store their fuel, arms, and ammunition as well as other logistics supplies," Daramola said.

During pre-attack surveillance, the air force spokesman said, scores of Boko Haram fighters were seen attempting to flee the location upon hearing the sound of the attack aircraft.

"They were engaged by the attack aircraft in successive passes, neutralizing many of them," he said.

According to him, the terrorists' logistics supply store, which was also hit, was seen engulfed in flames due to the raid.

The air force said while operating in concert with surface forces, it would sustain its efforts to completely destroy all remnants of the terrorists in the troubled northeast region.

Boko Haram has been blamed for the death of more than 20,000 people and displacing of 2.3 million others in Nigeria since 2009.

Xinhua

UK judge grants Nigeria appeal of $9bn asset forfeiture ruling

A British judge on Thursday gave Nigeria permission to seek to overturn a ruling that would have allowed a private firm to try to seize more than $9bn in assets from the West African country.

Process & Industrial Developments (P&ID), a firm set up to carry out a gas project with Nigeria, won a $6.6bn arbitration award after the deal collapsed. The award has been accruing interest since 2013 and is now worth more than $9bn.

P&ID, established by two Irish nationals with little experience in the oil and gas sector, said on Thursday that interest was accruing at a rate of $1.2m a day.

The judge also granted Nigeria's request for a stay on any asset seizures while its legal challenge is pending, but ordered it to pay $200m to the court within 60 days to ensure the stay. It also must pay some court costs to P&ID within 14 days.

The original August 16 decision converted an arbitration award held by P&ID to a legal judgment, which would allow the British Virgin Islands-based firm to try to seize international assets.

Nigeria's appeal of this decision, called a "set aside", would need to prove there was an error in that ruling.

During Thursday's proceedings, lawyers representing Nigeria said the judgment was flawed primarily due to its acceptance that England was the proper seat of the arbitration.

Harry Matovu argued on behalf of Nigeria that the courts, not the arbitration tribunal, should determine this and that the award itself was "manifestly excessive".

"We look forward to challenging the UK Commercial Court's recognition of the tribunal's decision in the UK Court of Appeal, uncovering P&ID's outrageous approach for what it is: a sham based on fraudulent and criminal activity developed to profit from a developing country," Nigerian attorney general Abubakar Malami said.

P&ID welcomed the requirement that Nigeria place $200m on hold pending the appeal, which it said will force the nation "to put its money where its mouth is if it wants to avoid immediate seizure of assets". It also called fraud allegations a "red herring".

"The Nigerian government knows there was no fraud and the allegations are merely political theatre designed to deflect attention from its own shortcomings," it said in a statement.

The judge's order said that if Nigeria does not put the $200m into a court account within 60 days - the minimum amount of time that Matovu said it would take Nigeria to raise the funds by tapping capital markets or seeking internal sources - the stay on seizures would be lifted.

The case has electrified Nigeria and drawn condemnation at every level of government. In a speech at the United Nations this week, President Muhammadu Buhari said he would fight "the P&ID scam attempting to cheat Nigeria of billions of dollars".

At the court on Thursday, a dozen senior government officials huddled during a break, discussing how much money Nigeria could place in court accounts to secure a hold on asset seizures.

Last week, Nigeria's anti-graft agency charged one former petroleum ministry official with accepting bribes and failing to follow protocol related to the contract, while two Nigerian men linked to P&ID pleaded guilty to charges of fraud and tax evasion on behalf of the company.

P&ID has called the investigation in Nigeria a "sham" that denied its subjects due process.

Al Jazeera 

Related story: Nigeria defends currency reserves inspite $9bn UK court ruling

Hundreds freed from torture house in Nigeria

Nigerian police say they have rescued nearly 500 people from a building in the northern city of Kaduna where they were detained and allegedly tortured.

Those held were all men and boys - some were found chained up.

Kaduna state's police chief Ali Janga told the BBC the large house was raided following a tip-off about suspicious activity.

He said it was a "house of torture" and described it as a case involving human slavery.

The detainees, not all Nigerian, said they had been tortured, sexually abused, starved and prevented from leaving - in some cases for several years.

It is not clear how they got there. Some of the children told the police that their relatives had taken them there believing the building to be a Koranic school.

But the police say there is no concrete evidence to suggest that the building was ever a school.

Eight suspects have been arrested.

The police chief said the detainees - some with injuries and starved of food - were overjoyed to be freed.

They were taken to a stadium in Kaduna overnight to be cared for while arrangements are made to find their families.

Nigerian authorities say the nearly 500 freed captives will be given medical and psychological examinations.

BBC

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Man confesses to serial murders of 15 women in Nigeria

A suspect has confessed to murdering 15 women after luring them into budget hotel rooms in Nigeria, potentially ending a killing spree that has terrorised the country’s oil capital, Port Harcourt.

Gracious David-West, believed to be 39 and unemployed, said that “an irresistible urge to kill” had repeatedly driven him onto the streets in search of female victims over the past two months.

“I take a girl into a hotel, we eat, make love and sleep,” he told a press conference in Port Harcourt, where he was arrested last week. “Later I wake up in the middle of the night and put a kitchen knife to her neck ordering her not to shout.”

After turning up the volume on the television, Mr David-West said he would tie his victims up with strips torn from the pillow-case on his bed before strangling them.

“I don’t know what comes over me to kill,” he added. “After I have killed I feel remorse and cry but after that the irresistible urge to kill comes over me again.”

At least nine of the victims were killed in Port Harcourt, including three murdered over a single weekend earlier this month.

The killings prompted widespread anger in the city, which mounted after the regional police chief, Mustapha Dandaura, suggested that the women were partly responsible for their deaths, saying, “I don’t know why people will be sleeping with people they don’t know.”

He also suggested that some of the victims were prostitutes.

Women’s groups marched through the city holding banners reading, “Respect women, don’t kill them.”

The regional government apologised for appearing to blame the dead women.

“A lot of the victims might have been careless, but it would be wrong to address them as prostitutes,” it said in a statement.

Police will hope Mr David-West’s confession will bring an end to the killings. However, it is unclear if he acted alone after he admitted to being an affiliate of one of Nigeria’s most notorious university fraternities.

The suspect said he used to be a member of Deebham, the street-wing of the Klansmen Konfraternity at the University of Calabar.

University fraternities in Nigeria have long been linked to voodoo, violent crime and even murder. Some created street gangs in order to compete for territory outside campuses.

Deebham, whose members are not generally students, has been linked to the kidnapping of expatriate oil workers and rich Nigerians.

It has no record, however, of killing and raping women and Mr David-West insisted that he had not acted on behalf of the group.

"I kill alone," he said.

The Telegraph

Kidnapped aid worker killed by ISIL affiliate in Nigeria

An armed group aligned with Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant killed one of six aid workers it abducted in northeast Nigeria.

The Nigerian aid workers, a woman and five men, were captured in July by Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) during an ambush on their convoy close to the border with Niger.

"The armed group holding captive an employee of Action Against Hunger, two drivers and three health ministry personnel, have executed a hostage," the Paris-based charity said in a statement on Wednesday, without giving details of the identity of the victim.

"Action Against Hunger condemns in the strongest terms this assassination and urgently calls for the release of the hostages."

The charity said it was "extremely concerned and is fully mobilised to ensure that the remaining hostages can be quickly and safely reunited with their families".

ISWAP released a video following the abduction, showing a female charity member pleading for the release of the hostages, with her five male colleagues behind her.

The kidnapping was the latest to target aid workers in the conflict-hit region after the abduction and the killing of two women working for the International Committee of the Red Cross last year.

ISWAP is a splinter faction of Boko Haram that swore allegiance in 2016 to ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. It has repeatedly attacked military bases and targeted aid workers in northeast Nigeria.
Aid group suspends operations

International aid agency Mercy Corps said on Wednesday it suspended operations in two northeast Nigerian states worst-hit by the armed groups after the Nigerian army closed four of its offices in the region.

"Mercy Corps is suspending operations in Borno and Yobe states following the closure of four of our field offices by the Nigerian military," Amy Fairbairn, its head of media and communications, said in a statement.

"We have not yet received an official reason from the Nigerian authorities for the closure and we are seeking to work with them to resolve this as soon as possible," said Fairbairn, adding Mercy Corps' work in other parts of Nigeria would continue.

The Nigerian army has accused humanitarian organisations of working with armed groups.

In December 2018, it suspended UNICEF from operating in the northeast over claims it was training "spies" who were supporting Boko Haram - only to lift the ban later the same day after a meeting with the aid agency.

Northeast Nigeria has been ravaged by a decade-long civil war led by the armed group Boko Haram that has killed 30,000 people and forced two million to flee their homes.

The United Nations says 7.1 million people in the region need assistance in one of the world's worst humanitarian crises.

Al Jazeera

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Nigeria going after privacy app Truecaller

Nigerian regulators are going after Truecaller, the Sweden-based phone number identification app, for “potential breach of privacy rights of Nigerians.”

Nigeria’s National Information Technology Development Agency claims Truecaller’s privacy policy contains “illegitimate provisions” that contravene Nigeria’s Data Protection Regulation (NDPR). It also alleges Truecaller “collects far more information than it needs to provide its primary service” and has urged Nigerians to delist themselves from the service.

NITDA’s investigation into Truecaller follows several years of the app’s activity in Africa’s largest mobile market amid growing usage. The app’s caller ID service, which helps users identify names of callers with unsaved numbers, has garnered 2.9 million active users in Nigeria.

With Truecaller users granting it access to their contacts list among a range of other permissions, the Stockholm-headquartered has aggregated a database of contact details from millions of users raising questions about its methods. As such, when a Truecaller user receives a call from an unsaved number, the app can match that number with a name from its vast database. In exchange for free use, the app leverages its vast user base for mobile advertising.

Truecaller has grown rapidly in markets like India and now has over 150 million daily active users worldwide and a million premium users who pay for additional features. In India, the app has been popularly adopted for spotting and managing users’ high spate of spam callswhile in Nigeria a common use case sees Truecaller used to detect prospective fraudsters amid the country’s low-trust environment. Nigeria’s spam culture has also seen attempts by regulatory bodies to stop unsolicited promotional spam texts and calls from telecoms operators face hiccups.

Truecaller remains subject of controversy especially given the ethical question on how it pulls in the contact details of non-Truecaller users to its database. There are now guides online on how users can delist from Truecaller’s database.

Bigger questions

But NITDA’s investigation of Truecaller also raises troubling questions about Nigeria’s own nascent data privacy laws. While NITDA is a government agency established by law to implement and regulate information technology, the NDPR data protection regulations have not been passed as a bill through Nigeria’s national assembly.

“The regulation is secondary in that they didn’t do the real work of passing a bill through the National Assembly so that Nigeria can get a real data protection law with coordinated data protection mechanisms,” says Gbenga Sesan, a prominent digital rights advocate. “It’s tough to enforce secondary legislation because agencies, or even companies, will challenge it in court. For example, best practice expects that data protection laws or regulation be managed by a data protection agency which NITDA is not.”

As it turns out, a data protection bill which has been passed by Nigeria’s senate and submitted for presidential assent since May remains unsigned. It’s a reflection of wider realities across African countries many of which remain in need of stronger bills of data rights.

Perhaps as an indication of its limitations, Sesan says the application of NDPR as a stop-gap measure is not broad enough. “If serious, they should start with the Central Bank, the Independent National Electoral Commission, Nigerian Communications Commission, Nigerian Immigration Service and all other government agencies that collect and have lost or abused data,” Sesan says.

For its part, Truecaller says it’s reviewing NITDA’s comments and will prepare a response but ultimately, Sesan expects NITDA’s investigation to fizzle out. ”This is probably another press posturing that will go nowhere,” Sesan says. “The best this dog can do is bark, it has zero bite.”

By Yomi Kazeem

Quartz