Thursday, December 12, 2019

President Buhari promises Africans visas on arrival

Nigeria says it will give all African travellers visas on arrival from January, dropping the requirement that they apply in advance.

President Muhammadu Buhari said it showed Nigeria's commitment to "free movement of Africans within Africa".

The announcement comes five months after Nigeria signed a deal aimed at promoting free trade on the continent.

But Mr Buhari's critics accuse him of being a protectionist, undermining the vision of pan-African unity.

He has kept Nigeria's land borders with all its neighbours closed since August, making it impossible for businesses to do cross-border trade by road.

Mr Buhari has rejected pressure to lift the blockade, saying it was aimed at ending the smuggling of goods into Nigeria and to make the nation self-sufficient, especially in the production of food.

The borders were shut despite the fact that Nigeria is part of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), a 15-nation regional bloc which allows visa-free travel among its estimated 350 million citizens.

Mr Buhari gave no indication of when the blockade will be lifted when he announced the government's latest policy on visas for African passport-holders.

Nigeria is seen as an African superpower, with the biggest economy and population.

So what will change?

Currently, applicants for visa to Nigeria often need to make a request in their country of origin, and it will be issued when they arrive in the West African state, BBC Nigeria correspondent Mayeni Jones says.

This would change in the New Year, when citizens of all African states would be able to board a plane to Nigeria and get a visa on arrival, she adds.

What are other African countries doing?

Research released by the African Development Bank (ADB) last month shows that Africans need visas to travel to just under half (49%) of other African countries. They could get visas on arrival in just over a quarter (26%) of states and did not need visas in a quarter (25%) of countries.

This is a slight improvement from 2018, when the figures stood at 51%, 24% and 25% respectively.

Out of Africa's 54 countries, the five with the best "visa openness" policies were Seychelles, Benin, Senegal, Rwanda and Ghana.

The five worst countries in 2019 were Equatorial Guinea, Libya, Sudan, Eritrea and South Sudan.

Ethiopia was also listed as one of the worst performers in 2018, but it has since announced a visa-on-arrival policy for Africans, dropping the requirement that they get one in advance.

Nigeria was ranked at number 30, one down from 2018. It fared better than Africa's other economic powerhouse, South Africa, which received a score of 36 in 2019, compared with 34 in the previous year.

Kenya - the biggest economy in East Africa - was ranked at number 13, down from the nine ranking it got in 2018.

The African Union (AU) is pushing for a single passport for all African nationals so that they can travel across the continent without requiring visas.

It unveiled an AU passport in 2016, issuing it to heads of state and diplomats. However, no country has as yet given it to ordinary citizens.

Is there pressure to make travel easier?

Yes. Last year, Africa's richest man, Aliko Dangote, complained that he needed 38 visas to travel within the continent on his Nigerian passport.

Many European nationals, meanwhile, can enter most Africans countries visa-free.

In fact, African nations agreed at a meeting of the AU in 2013 to scrap visa requirements for all African citizens by 2018.

The fact that this has not yet happened signals the extent to which African states are affected by political and economic rivalries - or the fear that their countries would attract many migrants who would take jobs from locals.

South Africa, for instance, plans to create a new Border Management Authority in 2020 in a bid to curb the entry of undocumented migrants - a pledge the governing African National Congress (ANC) made to voters in the general election earlier this year, amid a spate of attacks on nationals of other African countries.

And the Rwanda-Uganda border has been shut since March after Rwanda's President Paul Kagame accused his Ugandan counterpart Yoweri Museveni of trying to destabilise his government.

Mr Museveni denied the allegation and various diplomatic efforts to reo-open the border have failed, just as efforts to get Nigeria to reopen its border with its neighbours have not succeeded.

This is despite the fact that all the countries are signatories to the African Continental Free Trade Area, an AU plan adopted in 2018 to turn Africa into the world's largest free trade area.


Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Anthony Joshua considering Nigeria as future bout venue

Anthony Joshua has expressed his desire to defend his heavyweight titles in Nigeria after reclaiming his world champion status in his rematch against Andy Ruiz Jr.

Since his victory over Ruiz, offers have flooded in for the Briton to stage future fights in numerous locations across the globe. Africa is amongst those to show interest in hosting Joshua, and the 30-year-old is keen to connect with his roots in Nigeria.

A fight in his parents’ home country would be the first world championship heavyweight fight outside of South Africa since Muhammad Ali and George Foreman participated in the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ in Zaire.

“People were telling me I should go back [to Nigeria] for ages,” Joshua told reporters. “It was crazy because they don’t have 24-hour electricity but they still know me and support me.”

AJ told Pulse FM earlier in the year that he is “massively into Nigerian culture” which showed as he opted for the song ‘Water Get No Enemy’ by Nigerian legend Fela Kuti during his ring-walk on Saturday.

The comments should come with a pinch of salt, however. A day after his latest win Joshua was singing the praises of London and its fanbase, with Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium mooted as a potential destination.

A return to London will likely be the next location for a match, but a visit to Nigeria to defend his titles is a firm ambition for Joshua.

“I went to the ghettos of the ghettos where it’s not all about egos and beef, it’s about people who are hungry to survive,” he reflected on his visit across the Mediterranean. “It was one of the best things I’ve done. Africa’s rooting for me for sure, so I would definitely love to fight out there.”

Joshua has two upcoming boxing commitments for 2020 – an International Boxing Federation (IBF) clash against Kubrat Pulev and a later World Boxing Organisation (WBO) fight which is likely to be against Oleksandr Usyk.

After working hard to snatch his titles back from Mexican underdog Ruiz, Joshua will need to defend his status from the Bulgarian and Ukrainian heavyweights.

“The plan is to maintain the belts, so we will have to have conversations this week with the IBF and the WBO to see who goes first,” AJ’s promoter Eddie Hearn told The Telegraph.

“It’s our understanding that the IBF mandatory comes first, which is Pulev, so realistically it is Pulev and then Usyk in that order, with Dereck Chisora fighting Usyk in February or March and then AJ fighting the winner.”

Joshua added: “I can’t get too caught up in the moment and have to stay focused on the task at hand, which is not staying undefeated any more, but staying champion for as long as possible.”

Yahoo Sports

Nigerian students wrongly deported to Bosnia plead to be sent home

 Two Nigerian student table tennis players are begging authorities in Sarajevo to return them to their home country after they were wrongly deported to Bosnia by Croatian police, who mistook them for undocumented migrants.

In an interview with the Guardian, Abia Uchenna Alexandro and Eboh Kenneth Chinedu said they were victims of injustice and that the only reason they were forcibly taken to Bosnia is that they are black.

“We hold the truth and we have evidence of it,” said Chinedu via telephone from an immigration centre in east Sarajevo where the pair are detained. Uchenna and Chinedu, students at the Federal University of Technology Owerri in Nigeria, arrived in Croatia with a regular visa on 12 November, on their way to participate in the fifth World InterUniversities Championships, held this year in Pula.

The pair, both 18, left Pula for the Croatian capital, Zagreb, after the tournament and were supposed to fly to Lagos on 18 November. “The night before our departure, on the 17th, we checked out from the hostel and went for a walk in Zagreb,” said Chinedu. “Suddenly … we were stopped by the police who asked us for our identification documents. We tried to explain that our passports were in the hostel and that we had a regular visa, but they paid no attention to what we were saying.”

The officers allegedly mistook them for undocumented immigrants, put them in a van and transferred them to the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina where, that day, Croatian authorities had gathered together a group of migrants who were intercepted as they were attempting to cross the country.

“There were men from Pakistan at the border,” said Chinedu. “They had been caught by the Croatians while attempting to cross the border from Bosnia. Police eventually ordered us to move through the woods. I refused and begged them one more time to check our status, but they wouldn’t listen. They kicked me in the back and told me they would shoot me if I didn’t move.”

Uchenna and Chinedu were eventually deported to Bosnia and ended up in a camp in Velika Kladuša, where thousands of migrants live in cramped tents without water or heating, and with temperatures as low as -2C.

The plight of the two students has made the news around the world and sparked a row between Croatia and Bosnia. Last weekend they were transferred to an immigration centre in east Sarajevo.

“Those people are victims of illegal acts on the Croatian side,” Dragan Mektić, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s minister of security, told al-Jazeera. “It is obvious that Croatian police forcibly displaced them.”

Police in Croatia denied any wrongdoing and raised doubts over the table tennis players’ intentions, suggesting they were lying. According to the police, another Nigerian who participated in the championship had attempted to cross the border with Slovenia from Croatia a few days before.

“Police officers have already witnessed cases of individuals who make an attempt, even abusing their participation in sports competitions in Croatia, to remain in the country or continue their journey illegally to other European countries,” Croatian police said.

“This is not true,” said Chinedu. “We were legal in Croatia. And our visa was valid until the 3 December. If we wanted to seek asylum, we could have asked for it because we had visas.”

The interior ministry in Zagreb said the men were stopped by police on 18 November, the day they were due to depart, and not the day before as the Nigerians claimed. However, the police’s version of events does not explain why the officers sent the students to Bosnia, knowing they had entered the country on a flight to Zagreb and not from Bosnia and knowing that they had a valid visa until 3 December.

In the meantime, authorities in Sarajevo are working on the case. The presence of the Nigerians in Bosnia – even if instigated by Croatian police – is technically illegal, given that their visa was valid only in Croatia, and which has now has expired.

“The case of two students from Nigeria is being handled by the ministry of security of Bosnia and Herzegovina as it is an internal issue involving illegal entrance to Bosnia and Herzegovina,” the minister counsellor for the foreign affairs of Bosnia wrote in an email to the Guardian.

Dragan Mektić said: “Respecting legal procedures, we now have to take them back to Croatia. It is obvious that they have Croatian visas, that they are in Bosnia-Herzegovina illegally.”

The Nigerians said they were willing to go back to Croatia, but only on one condition: “If they take us back to Croatia, we want to have UN escorts with us. We will not go to Croatia without a UN representative. We are scared of the Croatian police after what they did to us.”

“We want to go back to Nigeria,” said Chinedu. “Please, help us, send us home immediately.”

The Guardian

Related story: Croatia 'wrongly deports' two Nigerian table tennis players to Bosnia

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Video - Nigerian mothers juggle caring for kids with full time jobs

Nursing mothers in Nigeria are having a hard time caring for their kids and running their full time jobs. While some have a good family support system to help them with childcare, others oftentimes have to rely on daycare centres. CGTN's Kelechi Emekalam brings us a report on the daily struggles of nursing mothers in the West African nation.

Nigeria plans to contract Russian firm in reviving steel company

The Nigerian government is expected to sign a Memorandum of Understanding(MoU) with a Russian firm for the resuscitation of the multi-billion U.S. dollars Ajaokuta Steel Rolling Mill in Kogi State in January 2020.

Olamilekan Adegbite, Nigeria's Minister of Mines and Steel, who disclosed this on Monday, said the government meant to bring back on stream the steel rolling mill which was down since the late Nigerian President Shehu Shagari regime.

The minister spoke during his facility tour of the National Steel Raw Material Exploration Agency on Monday in Kaduna State.

While addressing the management staff of the agency, the minister said once the Russian contractors to handle the resuscitation of the Ajaokuta Steel Rolling Mill were identified, the MoU would be signed and work would commence earnestly.

Adegbite said funds for the resuscitation of the steel mill is already in place, adding that a committee has been set up to kick-start the project.

The minister, however, directed the head of the National Steel Raw Material Agency, Umar Hassan to nominate two persons to be part of the committee, saying that the agency was critical to the Ajaokuta project.

Hassan said the agency saddled with the responsibility of mining and exploration in the country, was constrained by inadequate skills, inadequate project vehicles, modeling software as well as dilapidated offices.


Nigeria is forging on with crypto despite regulatory hurdles

 Nigeria’s cryptocurrency industry has been on an uphill trend in the past few years, and it’s showing no sign of regression. This is despite the country’s central bank issuing constant warnings to the citizens, asking them to steer clear of cryptos. The latest industry reports indicate that this trend is set to continue in 2020.

Africa’s biggest economy, Nigeria, has been a leader in the crypto industry in Africa for years now. Its vibrant crypto industry has also seen it claim the top spot for Bitcoin searches on Google globally, ahead of established crypto hubs such as the U.S. and Japan.

In its annual market report, the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN) noted the continued rise of cryptos, stating, “The CBN has also declared that digital currencies are not legal tender with naira as the sole legal tender. There are concerns on the use of other digital currency which is currently changing the global payment ecosystem.”

For Nigerians, cryptos offer hope of a better, more accessible and efficient financial system. Despite being the largest economy in Africa, the country has over 60 million citizens with no access to formal banking services. And while other African countries have sought to go around this through the use of mobile money, Nigeria hasn’t had much success with this either. According to the World Bank, only 6% of Nigerians use mobile money. This makes Nigeria a perfect market for crypto.

While the Nigerian Central Bank has discouraged its citizens from using cryptos, the country’s Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) intends on integrating cryptos into its capital market. The SEC has set up a committee that will work on a regulatory framework for cryptos. It will look into issues such as investor protection, maintaining the integrity of the financial market and ensuring financial stability.

Crypto trading platforms in Nigeria have continued to see increased activity, with Paxful being one of the leaders. The exchange, which hit 3 million wallets recently, revealed that Nigeria continues to be one of its leading markets.

Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey recognized the great potential the West African country has as a crypto hub. In his recent visit to Nigeria, he attended crypto meetups, later stating that he believes Africa will determine the future of crypto.

By Steve Kaaru


Friday, December 6, 2019

Video - Health tech startup in Nigeria seek to bridge service access gap

Imagine being a healthcare professional without your own healthcare facility. Well, in Nigeria, a health care startup is providing consultation and treatment facilities for rent. Doctoora, as it is called, provides a platform for people to find and book private healthcare professionals, bridging the gap between medical practitioners and patients.

Video - Abuja hospitality industry boosting youth football development

Nigeria's hospitality industry in the capital, Abuja, is now promoting grassroots football. Night clubs and Lounges are collaborating with key players to provide a platform for young football talents to display their skills in a tournament. The players are keenly watched by scouts, out to select some of the best, for international trials.

Nigerian activist Sowore re-arrested hours after he was freed

A Nigerian activist and former presidential candidate whose detention has prompted protests by rights groups was re-arrested on Friday at a court hearing hours after he was freed on bail, his lawyer told Reuters.

Omoyele Sowore, who ran against President Muhammadu Buhari in February’s election, was first arrested in August and has pleaded not guilty to charges of treason, money laundering and harassing the president.

He was released on bail on Thursday ahead of a court hearing on Friday. However, his lawyer, Femi Falana, said the activist was re-arrested by state security officials on Friday after the hearing, screaming and shouting as he was dragged away.

Falana said the state security had filed new charges against Sowore, without elaborating.

Sowore’s continued detention despite being granted bail has led to criticism of Buhari’s administration and allegations that human rights have been flouted in this case and those of other high-profile figures.

Prior to Thursday’s release, the Department for State Security said Sowore’s bail conditions had not been met and detained him for several weeks. But a court in Abuja said on Thursday he must be released within 24 hours.

“Having complied with the order of court ... what is therefore required is for the state security service to allow our clients enjoy their limited freedom,” Falana told Reuters after Sowore was re-arrested on Friday.

Sahara Reporters, the online Nigerian news organization Sowore founded, said he has been taken to the state security headquarters after his latest arrest.


Nigeria's parliament passes record budget for 2020

Nigeria's parliament passed a record 10.59 trillion naira ($35bn) budget for 2020 on Thursday, paving the way for the country's likely return to the international debt market next year as it struggles to shake off the impact of a recession.

The budget passed by lawmakers assumes a deficit of 1.52 percent of the estimated gross domestic product - representing around 2.18 trillion naira ($7.2bn) - to be financed through foreign and domestic borrowing.

In 2019, the debt office said it did not tap the international debt market because of time constraints before the end of its budget cycle. The West African country held its last Eurobond sale in 2018, its sixth outing, where it raised $2.86bn.

Nigeria emerged from a 2016 recession in 2017, but has struggled to boost growth. Ratings agency Moody's downgraded the country's outlook to negative from stable on Wednesday, citing an increased risk to government revenue.

Nigeria's Senate, parliament's upper house, passed the plan. It was also approved by the lower house a few hours later.

The budget assumes crude production of 2.18 million barrels a day and an oil price of $57 per barrel. Nigeria is Africa's top oil producer.

The spending plan includes a value-added tax increase from five percent to 7.5 percent. The budget is also up from the 8.83 trillion-naira budget for 2019 and tops the previous record spending plan, the 9.12 trillion-naira budget for 2018.

President Muhammadu Buhari last week asked parliament to approve a request for $23bn in foreign borrowings for infrastructure projects. It was not immediately clear if that sum was included in the budget passed by lawmakers on Thursday.

A central goal of Buhari's tenure has been to increase non-oil revenues to reduce Nigeria's dependence on crude oil sales.

In the president's first term, he was embroiled in a power struggle with the legislature, leading to months of delays in the implementation of spending plans.

But loyalists in his ruling party now occupy key parliamentary roles, which has sped up the passage of legislation.

"I hope we continue to work together as colleagues to ensure the 2020 budget is fully implemented," said Senate President Ahmed Lawan after passing the budget.

Lawmakers increased the budget from the 10.33 trillion-naira ($31.3bn) spending plan that Buhari presented to them in October. The president must agree to the revised plan before signing it into law.

Al Jazeera

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Nigeria's Leon Balogun says fight against racism is a collective responsibility

Nigeria international Leon Balogun believes tackling racism is a collective responsibility and that more 'extreme punishments' are needed.

The 31-year-old Brighton defender also supports players walking off the pitch, but admitted it is only part of what needs to be done.

Balogun wants those not being targeted on the pitch to fully support their team-mates who feel that leaving the pitch is their only option, so that not too much pressure is put on the individuals.

"It's like they are afraid because the manager might say 'if you don't want to play, even though you might be an important player to us, we can replace you' and so that's something you will think about at least twice," Balogun told BBC Africa.

"That is what a team is supposed to be. We are a family. We are walking off [together], this would empower so many players who are racially abused because that way they then wouldn't feel alone."

Balogun says in order to get the message across, fans who do not take part in the abuse must also get involved in the battle against racism.

"You really take away what they love so much so that they understand we need to rethink here for a minute," he explained.

"So it will also affect people who are not involved in the racial abuse of the players.

"People who just happen to be in the stadium and they will be like 'wait a minute', those ones, let's call them idiots are taking away what we love, what we are passionate about."

Harsher punishments needed

A recent rise in incidents of racism across Europe has been met with financial penalties and partial stadium closures.

He is also adamant that the kind of sanctions being handed down are simply not having the necessary affect.

"At the point it's at right now I think you have to be extreme, even banning a team or like deducting points," he added.

"You need to shock people the same way racism shocks players.

"You probably have to go to a place they never expect, where you can actually hurt [punish] those involved in racist behaviour."

The Germany-born player has experienced racism first hand and points to one incident in 2018 when playing for Mainz and he was subjected to monkey chants from Hannover fans.

Balogun says authorities also have to make an example of the clubs when their supporters become involved in the racial abuse.

"When they are punished, clubs that are affected by the actions of their fans will have to do something about it," he added.

"They will have to find a solution. 'We are fighting for the championship here or we are fighting for relegation'. We need every point. So they can't allow or afford to lose points over something which is as stupid as racism."

By Mimi Fawaz 


Nigeria launches updated security plan to tackle emerging threats

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday inaugurated an updated security plan to tackle emerging threats in the most populous African nation.

The National Security Strategy, a document revised every five years, covers details on how to enhance the capacity of Nigeria's military and other security agencies.

Speaking at the inauguration of the document in Abuja, Buhari said the government remains committed to enhancing the social security of Nigerians as a means of improving physical security.

He said the numerous security challenges facing the country made it necessary to come up with a comprehensive and coordinated response involving all segments of the society.

"As we continue to work towards completely ending insurgency in the northeast and laying the foundation of sustainable peace and development in the region, we are also addressing conflicts between farmers and herders, banditry and various forms of security challenges," Buhari said.

He said security is about bottom-to-top operation, and failure at any level will lead to a serious lapse in overall security.

"The task that now lies before us is the execution of the strategy and the achievement of a safer and more secure nation," Buhari said. "It is a task to which this administration remains fully and unreservedly committed."

Speaking earlier, Babagana Monguno, Nigeria's national security adviser, noted both internal and external security threats globally are attributable to organized crimes across borders.

"As we consolidate on the successes of peace-building in the northeast and the Niger Delta, the clear lesson for all of us here is that the key to sustainable peace and development is to guarantee security both in terms of economy and social status for everybody," he said.


Cardi B to perform in Nigeria for the first time

Grammy award-winning rapper and social media sensation, Cardi B is on her way to Africa to perform for the first time on the continent in Nigeria and Ghana.

The star shared a post on her Instagram page of her dancing in excitement in a private jet as she set off for the concert.

"1:03am drop my KK in NY on my way to Afrriiiiicaaaaaaaaaa baybeeeee!!!!!!," she wrote in the post.

Last month she announced that she would be performing at the Livespot X Festival in Lagos, Nigeria and Accra, Ghana.

"Africa. I'm coming! Nigeria and Ghana," she wrote at the time.

Cardi B (real name Belcalis Almanzar), broke into the music scene in 2017 with her hit single 'Bodak Yellow.'

She will be performing at the two-day festival alongside top African artists from both countries.
Organized by Livespot 360, a digital agency based in Lagos, the festival will feature Tiwa Savage, Burna Boy, Shatta Wale, R2bees among others.

Immense popularity

Darey Art Alade, a Nigerian singer and creative director of Livespot 360 says Cardi B was picked to headline the festival because of her immense popularity.

"She is one of the biggest artists in the world... It's really about her uniqueness, her star power. She has got great music and she is the girl next door character that everybody loves," he told CNN.

Cardi B has won multiple awards including a Grammy Award, seven Billboard Music Awards, and four BET Awards.

Alade, who will also perform at the festival, says bringing Cardi B to Africa has been in the works since 2018.

According to him, his team has been in conversation with her for months to make her trip to the continent smooth. "Getting Cardi B to come is a lot because there are many moving parts. She is specific about everything," he said.

The festival has organized the lighting, stage, and design of the venues in Accra and Lagos to suit the rapper's preferences.

Social media excitement

Meanwhile, social media is buzzing as fans share their excitement ahead of Cardi B's first Africa performance.

Darey Art Alade says he is hoping for a "hitch-free" concert. In the past, Alade has hosted celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Kelly Rowland in Lagos, Nigeria's commercial center.

"I am hoping people are looking forward to having a good time with Cardi B. We are looking forward to a hitch-free festival, no incidents," he said.

"We are looking forward to this further cementing us on the world map in terms of our tourism potential."

Ghana's 'Year of Return'

The artist's visit to the continent comes at a time where Ghana is pushing for a more united Africa.
In 2018, the West African country declared and formally launched the "Year of Return, Ghana 2019," marking 400 years since the first enslaved Africans arrived in North America.

The campaign encourages people of African descent, whose ancestors were victims of slave trade, to return to Ghana and invest in the continent.

Alade, says part of extending the Livespot X Festival to Accra, Ghana's capital city is to spread love across the continent through music.

"We want to spread the love, we have Nigerians performing in Ghana and we have Ghanians performing in Lagos as well. It's a bit of a symbiotic relationship about love and unity," he said.

It also creates an environment for international artists like Cardi B to share the stage with some of Africa's favorite music stars, Alade said.

Africa to the world

Cardi B's visit to Africa is one of many from A-list music artists. Over the past years, stars like Beyonce, Jay Z, Skepta, Kelly Rowland, and Toni Braxton have performed in different countries on the continent.

There has also been a rise in international collaborations with African artists. Drake and Nigerian musician, Wizkid teamed up on 2016 hit "One Dance" making Wizkid the first Nigerian artist to top the US Billboard Hot 100.

In July, Beyonce teamed up with multiple African acts including Ghana's Shatta Wale, Cameroon's Salatiel and South Africa's Busiswa and Moonchild Sanelly on her 'The Lion King: The Gift' album.

Toye Sokunbi, a Nigerian music analyst says the internet and social media are part of why more people are paying attention to the continent's music scene.

According to him, it is faster to access and share African music compared to many years ago.
"The internet, for example, has made the world smaller. This also means the synergy between African diaspora and Africans in Africa is strengthening," he told CNN.

"So, the communication between those two arms means there is a more unified African consciousness which expands the possibilities of music," he added.

Sokunbi, who is also the Editor-at-large for a Nigerian pop culture magazine, says the attention on the music scene can also be associated with an ongoing trend for African creativity and culture.

Over the past years, there have been movies, food, and fashion collaborations from outside the continent.

In August, Swedish retail giant, H&M, partnered with South African brand Mantsho in its first-ever collaboration with an African designer.

By Aisha Salaudeen 


Croatia 'wrongly deports' two Nigerian table tennis players to Bosnia

Croatian police have deported two Nigerian table-tennis players to Bosnia and Herzegovina, claiming they were in the country illegally, despite the pair having arrived in Croatia with valid visas.

Abie Uchenna Alexandra and Kenneth Chinedu, students from Owerri Technical University in Nigeria, arrived in Zagreb on November 12 to participate in the sport's World University Championships in Pula, according to Hina, the government-owned national news agency.

Following the table tennis tournament, they headed from Pula to Zagreb, scheduled to fly back to Nigeria via Istanbul on November 18.

The pair settled into a hostel on November 16 and the following day went to explore the city, reported the Sarajevo-based Zurnal. They were stopped by police as they got off a tram, and arrested as they were not carrying their documents with them.

"They took us to the police station. We tried to explain who we were and that we had left our documents in the hostel. They didn't pay attention to what we were saying," said Chinedu.

He said police officers then put them in a van and said they were "taking them to Bosnia". They drove the pair to the border, along with several others, and dumped them on the Bosnian side, near a forested area.

"I refused to go into the woods," said Chinedu. "The officer told me he would shoot me if I didn't move."

After being chased, they reached the Miral Camp near Velika Kladusa in Bosnia.

That was two weeks ago.

Legal stay in Croatia

Chinedu said they immediately contacted one of their fellow students who had stayed back in Zagreb, and asked him to send them their passports. However, they now faced a new problem: they were stuck in a camp and their Croatian visas were due to expire when they were due to get their flight home.

The students complained to representatives of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which runs the Miral Camp, where it was confirmed that the students had been staying in Croatia legally.

Dean Sinkovic from the Faculty of Economics and Tourism in Pula confirmed to Al Jazeera that the students were competing in the table tennis tournament, that they had visas and an invitation letter from the university.

Emir Prcanovic, director of the Your Rights Organization, which is currently providing legal aid to the Nigerian students, told Al Jazeera that the documentation from the Croatian consulate proves the students' legal status.

Alberto Tanghetti, a representative of the Inter-University Sports Committee and the organiser of the competition in Pula, said there were a total of five participants from Nigeria - four students and a professor - and confirmed they all had valid visas.

"The two students were participating in the competition, they had a Croatian visa, return plane tickets from Zagreb to Istanbul and from Istanbul to Lagos," Tanghetti said.

Opposition outrage
Hina, meanwhile, announced "the Ministry of Interior does not know how these students ended up in Bosnia", adding "their legal departure from Croatia has not been recorded".

Ranko Ostojic, an opposition leader who chairs the Committee on Internal Policy and National Security, demanded the police explain themselves.

The students were on Wednesday, December 12 transferred to a field office of the Bosnian Foreign Service in Bihac, reported Al Jazeera's Boris Gagic. After five hours, they were released, accompanied by police officers, and made no statements to the media.

It is understood they are being returned to the Miral camp in Velika Kladusa, where they are currently accommodated with refugees and migrants.

"Those people are victims of illegal acts of the Croatian side," said Dragan Mektic, Bosnia and Herzegovina's minister of security. "Respecting legal procedures, we now have to take them back to Croatia … It is obvious that they have Croatian visas, that they are in B&H illegally. From their statements, it is obvious that Croatian police forcibly displaced them and we have to bring them back there."

Al Jazeera

Video - Nigeria's multi-billion dollar adult film industry

Despite the conservative nature of the Nigerian society, the adult film industry continues to boom with porn stars racking multi-million dollar every year. Though not yet regulated in Nigeria, there's a potential revenue stream for the government if the industry is backed with some legal frameworks.

In the United States, the porn industry is estimated to generate up to $10 billion, according to the National Research Council Report, 2002. No official record for Nigeria.
Edet Mareme, an adult entertainer, tells Business Insider SSA that pornstars make up to $10,000/month depending on the role.

“In a month, porn star can make from $3,000 to $10,000 and more. “Girls are paid more than their male counterparts in the industry," Mareme says.

Against societal narratives, Mareme said porn acting porn doesn't stop a woman from having a happy life and home. “A woman can decide to go into porn acting and stop after a while and go and marry. Nobody can stop you.”

Nigerian societal settings stigmatise against porn actors and women are castigated from society for engaging in porn or its related industries.

Changing the narrative about the porn industry

Mareme said people are mistaking the porn industry for commercial sex or prostitution, claiming they are quite different.

“People mistake me for a sex worker, I am a porn actress. Because you watched my video from an x-rated website doesn't mean I have sex with everybody I meet,” she explains.

She added that in the porn industry, so many protocols are followed before an actor or actress can participate, including conducting tests.

How the porn industry make money

The Nigerian porn actress said videos are posted on x-rated websites to generate views and per-click cost. She said videos are also sold to other x-rated websites. All these complement the amount paid for acting in a porn scene.

She called for a professional porn industry in Nigeria that would be able to compete with the international industry.

By Aderemi Ojekunle


Pirates kidnap 19 crew members from Supertanker off Nigeria

Pirates boarded a fully loaded supertanker off the coast of Nigeria, an act that is sure to ring alarm bells for insurers about the risk of collecting oil from Africa’s biggest producer.

Nineteen crew were kidnapped and remain missing, a spokeswoman for Navios, the ship’s owner said by phone Wednesday. The incident happened late Tuesday about 77 nautical miles from Bonny Island, a key loading point for Nigerian crude. The vessel had only recently collected its cargo.

The waters of the Gulf of Guinea have suffered from sporadic incidents of piracy for a few years, but an attack on a supertanker is a rare event. Nigeria suffered a spate of militancy that crippled its oil industry in 2016, but it rarely strayed into shipping.

Out of 95 attacks worldwide where hijackers boarded the vessel in the first nine months of 2019, 17 took place in Nigerian waters, according to data from the International Maritime Bureau, a piracy watchdog. As a region, the Gulf of Guinea accounts for for almost 82% of the crew kidnappings globally.

The crew that didn’t get kidnapped were able to sail the vessel to a safe location, the Navios spokeswoman said, adding that the company’s priority is the safe return of those who are missing.

The vessel, the Nave Constellation, can carry 2 million barrels of oil. It was full when it was hijacked and there was no damage.

By Olivia Konotey-Ahulu


Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Nigeria says on course to win fight against polio

Nigeria's National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) on Tuesday said the country is on course to win the fight against polio in the shortest possible time.

At a summit in Abuja to review the routine immunization against polio in Nigeria, the agency said three years and counting without the wild poliovirus in the most populous African country was nothing short of a milestone.

"The toward a polio-free Nigeria has begun. However, there's a need for health workers to access insecure areas in Borno and some parts of the northeast region," said Faisal Shuaib, head of the NPHCDA.

Experts attending the two-day summit in Abuja are expected to review Nigeria's efforts toward polio eradication and identify gaps.

According to Shuaib, progress has been recorded on reaching inaccessible children, sustaining communication and social mobilization, strengthening routine immunization and vaccine management and accountability.

"Together, we can finish the job of flushing polio out of the country," the official said, further expressing the optimism that Nigeria will soon obtain a polio eradication certificate.

He said health officials in the country had worked tirelessly with a very strong surveillance system.

As recently as 2012, Nigeria had accounted for more than half of all polio cases worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.

Nigeria's last polio case was recorded in August 2016, making it the last country in Africa to record wild polio virus infections.


Monday, December 2, 2019

Video - Nigeria's Oshoala gunning for record-equalling 4th player award

FC Barcelona women's striker Asistat Oshoala leads Super Falcons teammates Chia-maka Nna-dozie and Uchenna Kanu in the shortlist for the 2019 African Women's Player of the Year award. The 25 year-old is aiming to win the prize for a record-equalling fourth time.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Nigeria unveils plan for digital economy

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday directed ministries, departments, and agencies to comply with the ongoing transition of all government operations to digital platforms that will enhance efficiency and effectiveness in service delivery under the new digital dispensation.

Buhari said the transition to the digital economy was no longer optional, but "an absolute necessity" while launching the e-government masterplan expected to guide and drive the digital dispensation, at the opening ceremony of the e-Nigeria 2019 conference in Abuja.

"Our recent introduction of the Nigerian E-government Masterplan will further consolidate our successes to date and increase interoperability among the different ministries, departments, and agencies of government.

"A key requirement of the e-government master plan is for all government institutions to create a digital transformation technical working group that will work with the ministry of communications and digital economy to ensure seamless and coordinated implementation of projects, programs, and policies," the Nigerian leader said.

According to him, the digitization of key operations in public service such as the use of the Bank Verification Number, Treasury Single Account and the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System had enabled the government to save cost and fight corruption.


Thursday, November 28, 2019

Video - Nigerians push for freedom of expression against new bill

Nigerian citizens are strongly pushing against a bill capable of limiting freedom of expression amongst social media users. It's called the "Protection From Internet Falsehood and Manipulation Bill." It would essentially allow the government to block access to internet whenever it deems fit.

47 Nigerian men plead not guilty to homosexuality charge

Forty-seven Nigerian men pleaded innocent on Wednesday to a charge of public displays of affection with members of the same sex, an offence that carries a 10-year jail term.

Homosexuality is outlawed in many socially conservative African societies where some religious groups brand it a corrupting Western import.

The Nigerian men, who appeared at a court in the commercial capital Lagos, were among 57 arrested in a police raid on a hotel in the impoverished Egbeda district of the city in 2018.

Police said they were being “initiated” into a gay club, but the accused said they were attending a birthday party.

The trial is a test case for a law banning gay marriage, punishable by a 14-year jail term, and same-sex “amorous relationships”. It caused international outcry when it came into force under former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan in 2014.

Nobody has yet been convicted under the law, prosecution and defence lawyers in the case told Reuters. But Human Rights Watch and other activists say it has been used to extort bribes from suspects in exchange for not pursuing charges.

“Police officers will stop you and then get you arrested, extort money from you and begin to call you names,” Smart Joel, one of the defendants, told Reuters before the hearing. “I just wish the case will be quickly dismissed as soon as possible,” added Joel, 25, who runs a laundry and dry cleaning business.

Spokesmen for Nigeria’s police and ministry of justice did not respond to text messages and phone calls seeking comment on the extortion allegations.

Activists working to protect rights of sexual minorities in Nigeria said they were tired of harassment.

“The vagueness of the law makes it impossible to get a conviction,” Xeenarh Mohammed, executive director of the Lagos-based Initiative for Equal Rights (TIERS), told Reuters. “What does ‘amorous showing of same-sex affection’ mean?” she added.

The case was adjourned until Dec. 11.

The judge granted each of the men bail, provided they can post 500,000 naira ($1,634.52) and provide a surety who is either a civil servant or resides in Lagos state and has a “reasonable” income.


Related stories: Bill banning gay marriage approved in Nigeria

Hunting down gays in Nigeria

Video - Nigeria's anti-gay law denounced

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Head of jail security arrested after inmate $1m fraud heist

The head of a maximum-security jail and a prison doctor have been arrested in Nigeria, following allegations that they enabled a prisoner to conduct internet scams.

Hope Olusegun Aroke carried out a million-dollar fraud while serving a 24-year jail sentence - for fraud.

He had access to a mobile phone and the internet.

He was originally arrested in 2012 and convicted of obtaining money under false pretences and forgery.

The country's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said the two prison staff were arrested for falsifying medical reports that enabled Aroke to get treatment outside prison in a police hospital.

"The first suspect, [Emmanuel] Oluwaniyi, who is the Controller, Kirikiri Maximum Prison, as well as the second suspect, [Hemeson Edson] Edwin, who is in charge of the medical facility, were arrested on Monday, November 25, 2019, by operatives of the commission," the EFCC said in a statement.

Aroke was one of two Malaysia-based Nigerian undergraduate fraudsters arrested by the EFCC towards the end of 2012 in Lagos, following a tip-off, the commission added.

He had claimed to be a student of computer science at Malaysia's Kuala Lumpur Metropolitan University, but was in fact the "arrow head of an intricate web of internet fraud schemes that traverse two continents", it said.

He used a network of accomplices to commit the fraud, it added.

After getting himself admitted to a police hospital, authorities say Aroke moved to a hotel, receiving guests and attending parties.

He had used the fictitious name Akinwunmi Sorinmade to open two bank accounts and bought a luxury car and homes during his time in prison.


Related story: Nigerian scammer 'pulls off $1m heist' from prison

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Video - Para-athlete tells of tough times for players in Nigeria

Amputee football is a neglected sport in Nigeria. The country's team has struggled to get government funding and attract sponsorship. Players are facing tough times despite making it to the Amputee Football World Cup in Mexico last year and finishing runners-up during the 2019 African Cup of Nations in Angola last month.

Nigeria vows to end HIV scourge by 2030

Nigeria is determined to end the HIV epidemic by 2030, in line with the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS vision, the country's Health Minister Osagie Ehanire said Monday.

The minister restated Nigeria's commitment to achieving viral suppression through what he called "detection, treatment and suppression" at the launch of a campaign to fight HIV/AIDS by the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) in Abuja.

Ehanire highlighted Nigeria's achievements in HIV treatment interventions, started in 1986 when the epidemic was first reported in the country.

Gambo Aliyu, head of NACA, expressed his satisfaction with Nigeria's achievements in tackling HIV/AIDS as official indicator showed the country's HIV prevalence fell from 4.4 percent in 2005 to 1.4 percent in 2018.

He ascribed the success to efforts by communities in partnership with the government and foreign assistance in the last 15 years.


Nigerians spending half a billion dollars to school in America

The rot in Nigeria’s educational system is costing the country hundreds of millions of dollars.

Over the past academic year, the economic impact of spending by Nigerian students studying in the United States reached $514 million, data from the Institute of International Education shows. The figure outstrips the economic impact of students from France, Germany and the United Kingdom in the US.

Keeping in trend with a long-standing preference for seeking education abroad, Nigeria was the only African country ranked among the top 25 origin countries for international students in the US over the past year.

The entire budgetary allocation for education in Nigeria for 2019 came in at $1.7 billion (620.5 billion naira), which critics pointed out was 15% to 20% below the minimum level recommended for developing countries by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

Nigerian students studying in the US crossed the 13,000 mark in the last academic year—double the number at the start of the decade. In comparison, there have never been more than 50 US students studying in Nigeria each year in the last decade.

The choice of seeking education in the US is largely driven by local problems. Perennial under-funding of education in Nigeria has resulted in significant decline in both the quality of teachers and infrastructure in schools. At the tertiary level, the problems are compounded by recurring strike actions by public university lecturers amid protests of low wages and benefits.

These problems have fueled a rise in expensive private universities which offer the promise of fixed calendars without strike action and better facilities as viable alternatives for middle and high-income families seeking higher standards. But there’s still a capacity problem as Nigeria’s university system, which holds over 150 schools, remains mostly over-populated. As such, only one in four Nigerians applying to university will get a spot. Between 2010 and 2015, only 26% of the 10 million applicants that sought entry into Nigerian tertiary institutions gained admission, according to Nigeria’s statistics agency.

The appeal of foreign universities also goes beyond the availability of better facilities as parents typically seek to unlock a higher level of opportunities for their children. It’s a sentiment that’s currently driving migration of middle-class Nigerians to Canada and Europe.

In cases where the students return home, their expensive, foreign degrees also provide an edge in Nigeria’s very competitive labor market. In comparison, about half of graduates from Nigerian universities annually are estimated to remain unemployed.

By Yomi Kazeem


Monday, November 25, 2019

First sex offender register launches in Nigeria

Campaigners have hailed the launch of Nigeria’s first sex offender register as a vital step towards tackling reported cases of sexual abuse, which are rising across the country.

The publicly accessible onlineregister of people prosecuted for sexual violence since 2015 will allow public bodies and police authorities to conduct background checks and identify repeat offenders.

Oluwaseun Osowobi, the director of Stand To End Rape, a Nigerian non-government organisation that supports survivors of sexual violence, said: “If a case is reported anywhere in the country, the case is now on the register. It means that offenders have nowhere to hide.”

Nigeria’s National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, along with 15 non-governmental organisations, supported by the British Council, will monitor reported cases of sexual abuse, providing monthly updates to the online register.

“This is the first of its kind in Nigeria”, said Beatrice Jedy-Agba, the executive secretary of the agency. “It enables bodies such as schools, hospitals to conduct background checks and it will deter sex offenders because they will know their names will be published, affecting their employment and role in society.”

Data on the number of reported cases is scarce in Nigeria, where patriarchal traditions stigmatise people who come forward. According to Unicef, one in four girls in the country have experienced sexual violence by the age of 18 and hardly any receive any form of support.

In Lagos, one of only two of Nigeria’s 36 states to document sexual offenders before now, the most frequently assaulted group are children, many of whom are abused by relatives or family friends known to them, according to police authorities.

Police and suppor groups say the number of reported cases in Africa’s most populous country has risen rapidly in recent years.

As the number of cases has risen, failings in the criminal justice system have let down victims, many of whom report stigmatisation by authorities, exposure to their alleged abusers, and a low likelihood of prosecution.

Under the new system, sexual referral centres run by NGOs will be able to feed in data they collect on recorded incidents into the register, strengthening cases during prosecution.

Osowobi said: “We have cases where victims are being questioned in front of the perpetrators or in open spaces and criticised by officers for not remembering details like the road where the rape occurred.”

According to Stand To End Rape, which supports people who report sexual abuse and provides counselling services, the majority of sexual abuse cases are not prosecuted in Nigeria.

“Cases of sexual abuse are not prosecuted for flimsy reasons,” Osowobi said. “How police collect data is unprofessional and archaic. Police regularly misplace case-files or evidence. Eventually victims become exhausted by the system and give up.”

The Guardian

Friday, November 22, 2019

Video - Nigerian woman seeks to raise awareness on genetic condition

There are over 5 million people living with Down Syndrome worldwide. And in developing countries like Nigeria, people still battle with understanding the condition and accepting it. But one woman in Lagos has taken up the challenge to advocate for the rights of chldren living with Down Syndrome after she had a child with the condition.

Video - Nigeria still lags behind in modern contraceptive uptake

More than 6-point-5 million women in Nigeria use modern methods of contraceptives - The highest figure in the country's history. But the nation still lags behind in the Family Planning 2020 goals for modern contraceptive growth - compared to countries like Kenya, Chad, Cameroon and Ghana.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Video - Indoor farming in Nigeria improves self-sufficiency in food production

Nigeria is experiencing some kind of revolution in agriculture, thanks in part to the government's diversification policy. More young people are taking to agriculture and new methods of farming are springing up as the country aims to achieve self-sufficiency in food production. One young farmer is now driving a method of agriculture new to Nigeria.

Video - Nigeria plans to end open defecation by 2025

It's estimated that close to 50 million Nigerians have no access to toilet facilities and defecate in the open. And UNICEF estimates that each year, more than 100-thousand children under the age of five die due to diarrhea. 90 per cent of the deaths are directly attributed to unsafe water and sanitation. The Nigerian government says it plans to end open defecation by 2025 but that is not seeming likely.

Related stories: Nigeria failing to end open defecation

Nigeria second in the world in open defecation

Former attorney general of Nigeria arrested in Dubai

Nigeria's former attorney general, Mohammed Adoke, was arrested in Dubai, his lawyer said. Adoke was taken into custody seven months after Nigeria's anti-graft agency issued a warrant for his arrest as part of an investigation into one of the oil industry's biggest suspected corruption scandals.

Adoke's lawyer, Mike Ozekhome, said Adoke was arrested by Interpol on Monday, November 11, 2019, after travelling to Dubai for a medical appointment.

The investigation by Nigeria's anti-graft agency relates to the $1.3bn sale of a Nigerian offshore oilfield known as OPL 245 by Malabu Oil and Gas in 2011.

The agency obtained arrest warrants in April for Adoke, former petroleum minister Dan Etete, and an Eni manager.

Eni and Shell jointly acquired the field from Malabu, which was owned by Etete.

The oilfield sale has spawned legal cases across several countries, involving Nigerian government officials and senior executives from ENI and Royal Dutch Shell. Shell and Eni, and their executives have denied any wrongdoing.

Etete has also denied wrongdoing.

In an Italian case, prosecutors accuse former and current executives of Eni and Shell of paying bribes to secure the licence, and allege roughly $1.1bn of the total was siphoned to agents and middlemen.

"We have written to Dubai authorities, the EFCC (anti-graft agency), and the Nigerian authorities to free Adoke to allow him to go on with his medical treatment in Dubai," Ozekhome said.

He added that the arrest warrant had, in fact, expired after being nullified by a court in October, because Adoke was not served with the charges before the warrant was issued.

A government communication office in Dubai did not respond to an email seeking comment. Nigeria's EFCC and Interpol were not immediately available for comment.

Ozekhome said Adoke has appeared in court in Nigeria in the past over the OPL 245 case and was exonerated.

Al Jazeera

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Women football team to get equal pay with men's football team in Nigeria

The Edo State government in southern Nigeria has announced it will pay its women's team Edo Queens the same as its men's side, Bendel Insurance.

The state own both teams with the men's side playing in the Nigerian second tier and the women's in the Women's Premier League.

"We believe that there should be no discrimination between the male and female teams," deputy governor Philip Shaibu said.

"Bendel Insurance standard and that of Edo Queens are going to be the same. There will be no gender discrimination among them in terms of welfare, in terms of salary.

"The plan is to make Edo Queens the highest paid female team in Nigeria. That is what we want to achieve."

Bendel Insurance, one of Nigeria's leading league teams in the 1970's and early 80's, were winners of the now defunct Caf Cup in 1994.

It also produced former international stars like Kadiri Ikhana, Thompson Oliha, Friday Elahor, Julius Aghahowa and Peter Odemwingie.

Despite two Nigerian titles in 1973 and 1979 and three FA Cup crowns (in 1972, 1978, 1980 ) the club's slump from the heights of the past has been an embarrassing one.

"Imagine Edo Queens have never been relegated but we know about the men's. We are putting both teams on the same scale," added Shaibu.

"The male team have not been able to get to the semi-final of the FA Cup for over 12 years, but Edo Queens have been in the semi-final for the past four years.

"Why do we now pay Bendel Insurance more than them. Is it because they are women?

"So we decided that we have to upgrade them to the same level."

Only a handful of clubs in the cash-strapped women's league are self-sufficient under private owners, while 18 of the 20 teams in the men's top division are under government management.

Back in July, Super Falcons captain Desire Oparanozie demanded that Nigeria's women's team are paid the same as their male counterparts.

The Super Falcons are the continent's most successful national side with nine titles and remain the only African team to have played at all eight Women's World Cup finals.

Yet the women can expect US$3,000 for a win and $1,500 for a draw at major tournaments, while the men's team receive $10,000 and $5,000 respectively.

By Oluwashina Okeleji


Nigerian scammer 'pulls off $1m heist' from prison

 A convicted internet fraudster has been placed under investigation in Nigeria for allegedly masterminding a "mega scam" from a maximum-security prison worth at least $1m (£773,000).

Anti-corruption officials said Hope Olusegun Aroke used a "network of accomplices" for the fraud.

He was arrested in 2012 and has been serving a 24-year sentence at the Kirikiri Maximum Security Prison.

But a preliminary investigation found he still had access to the internet.

In a statement on Tuesday, Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said it had received intelligence about Aroke's scam and was faced with the "riddle" of how he was able to "continue to ply his ignoble trade" from inside the Lagos prison.

Following his arrest in 2012, the EFCC said the then Malaysia-based student was the "arrow head of an intricate web of internet fraud schemes that traverse two continents".

The EFCC this week said its preliminary investigation had revealed that, "against standard practice", Aroke had been given access to the internet and his phone. He had also been admitted to the Nigeria Police Hospital in Lagos for an "undisclosed ailment" and had been able to leave the facility to stay in hotels, meet with his wife and children, and attend social functions.

He had used the fictitious name Akinwunmi Sorinmade to open two bank accounts and bought a luxury car and homes during his time in prison, the EFCC added. He had also been "in possession of his wife's bank account token in prison, which he used to freely transfer funds."

Anti-corruption officials are investigating why he was admitted to hospital and how he was able to travel to hotels and other places.

The Kirikiri Maximum Security Prison is managed by the Nigerian Correctional Service, which has not yet commented on the case.

Case prompts suspicion over corrupt officials

By Nduka Orjinmo, BBC News, Lagos

This is a case that has shocked many Nigerians: how a convict serving time at the country's foremost maximum security prison was allegedly able to operate freely.

Many believe that Aroke could have pulled off his alleged exploits only with the help of corrupt prison officials.

Illicit proceeds make internet fraudsters in Nigeria wealthy and they could easily bribe vulnerable prison officials who are poorly paid.

So far, no-one has been suspended even though it is a major breach of security.

The anti-corruption agency, which put Aroke behind bars, has called it a "riddle" and has promised a thorough investigation.

It is not clear if the agency has managed to change his prison guards, as it is outside its jurisdiction.

And the other question many Nigerians are asking is: Of the many wealthy prisoners - politicians and internet fraudsters - in jail, who else has "bribed" his way out, enjoying a lifestyle fit for royalty?


Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Food prices push Nigeria inflation to 17-month high due to border closures

Higher food prices pushed up annual inflation in Nigeria last month after borders with neighboring countries were closed in a crackdown on smuggling.

Nigeria closed parts of its borders in August to fight smuggling of rice and other goods. The head of customs confirmed last month that all trade in goods via land borders had been halted indefinitely.

Annual inflation was 11.61% in October, up from 11.24% in September, the National Bureau of Statistics said on Monday — the highest rate since May 2018. Consumer inflation had dropped to it lowest in almost four years in August.

A separate food price index showed inflation at 14.09% in October, compared with 13.51% a month earlier.

“This rise in the food index was caused by increases in prices of meat, oils and fats, bread and cereals, potatoes, ham and other tubers, fish and vegetables,” the statistics office said in its report.

“The rise in food inflation does suggest that border closures may have played a part in temporarily pressuring prices higher,” said Razia Khan, chief economist for Africa and the Middle East at Standard Chartered.

Shoppers at a market in the capital, Abuja, told Reuters the price of many food items, particularly rice, had risen in the last few weeks.

“Food items are very expensive in the market. When you go to a store they will tell you that is because the border is closed,” said housewife Naomi Nguher, who said she was given this reason for high rice prices at four different shops.

Sherifat Ajala, a rice wholesaler in the commercial capital Lagos, said Nigeria’s bad roads were delaying the transportation of the grain, further preventing the supply from meeting high demand.

“Trucks will spend almost two or three weeks on the road before they bring the rice,” he said.

Last week the West African country, along with neighboring Benin and Niger, agreed to set up a joint border patrol force to tackle smuggling between the nations after a meeting between their foreign ministers.

The central bank is due to set its benchmark interest rate next Tuesday. The bank, which has targeted single-digit inflation, held its main interest rate at 13.5% at its last meeting, in September.

“Given the increase in inflation, we now expect that policymakers will leave their key rate on hold,” John Ashbourne, senior emerging markets economist at London-based Capital Economics, said in a note on Monday.


Lion removed from house near school in Lagos, Nigeria

A lion which was reportedly being used to guard a house in Lagos, Nigeria, has been removed by authorities.

The two-year-old lion was reportedly discovered at a property opposite a school by a task force team on Friday.

It was tranquilised on Monday and transferred to Bogije Omu zoo in Lekki, head of the task force team Yinka Egbeyemi told the BBC.

The owner of the animal has been told to report himself to police before the end of Monday or face arrest.

A team from the Lagos State Environmental Sanitation and Special Offences Unit located the animal after residents filed a petition to the state's ministry of environment.

A crèche and elementary school stand opposite the house, according to the BBC's Damilola Oduolowu in Lagos.

The school's management said it had been conscious of the children's safety.

It is thought the lion was brought into the building two months ago.


Startups in Nigeria are beating the odds to succeed

Entrepreneurs in Nigeria have an oft-repeated saying that is borrowed from New York: “If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.”

The phrase captures the daily challenges that come with running a business in Africa’s largest economy. And since tech startups exist within the ecosystem, they face their share of difficulties too. A new survey of Nigerian tech firms offers a glimpse into the tough realities of running a tech startup in the country.

The survey was conducted by two Washington-headquartered organizations—ONE Campaign, an international non-profit seeking to fight extreme poverty, especially in Africa, and the Washington think tank Center for Global Development.

More than half the respondents identified the lack of a reliable electricity supply as a severe constraint. A majority of the startups reported 30 or more power outages every month. It’s likely that many startups keep the lights on by investing in generators that cost a lot to run.

That’s money the startups could have put to other uses, as 60% of them reported access to credit as a major obstacle. Nigeria annually features among the top destinations in Africa for startup investment, but much of the funding goes to established ventures with high-profile or foreign-trained founders. For many others, the reality is much more stark given local banks’ reluctance to provide loans to startups, and the high interest rates they charge when they do.

Meanwhile, wealthy Nigerians who might fund home-grown startups still seem reluctant to do so. Entrepreneurs also reported the following obstacles: Political instability, corruption, multiple government taxes and levies. And then there are stories of harassment by the police.

For its part, the Nigerian government points to its improved rank on the World Bank’s Doing Business 2019 report—it went from 146 last year to 131—as proof of its efforts to improve the business climate. But, as the World Bank’s report measures progress more by changes to policy rather than its implementation, it could be argued that it’s getting easier to do business in Nigeria only on paper.

But the workarounds to some of the problems that plague Nigeria’s business environment may come from the tech ecosystem itself. From off-grid energy companies trying to drive up electrification, to fintech ventures looking to boost financial inclusion and access to credit—startups are struggling against the odds. And sometimes beating them too.

By Yomi Kazeem


Monday, November 18, 2019

Video - Lesotho 2-4 Nigeria - Highlights

Nigerian army rescues 8 hostages in NE region

Eight hostages held by Boko Haram insurgents in Gwoza area of Borno state in the restive northeast Nigeria have been rescued, the army spokesman Aminu Iliyasu said Sunday.

In a statement reaching Xinhua in Lagos, Nigeria's economic hub, Iliyasu said troops subdued Boko Haram terrorists in an encounter and rescued eight villagers including four children held captives by the insurgents.

The coordinating army spokesperson said the rescued victims were evacuated while the children among them were equally administered with Polio vaccination by a Nigerian army medical team.

He added that no causality was recorded by the army troops during the commando operations.

According to him, many of the Boko Haram criminal elements fled in disarray toward the summit of Mandara Mountains with gunshot wounds.

"The troops' resilience and doggedness are unwavering as further exploitation to complete the annihilation of the insurgents is being sustained in the mountainous environment," he said.

Iliyasu said the army continued to sustain the tempo of the counter-insurgency operations in the northeast with a view to decimating and destroying the remnant of "Boko Haram/Islamic State West Africa (ISWAP) criminals".


Nigerian entrepreneur Temie Giwa-Tubosun wins Jack Ma's African business hero award

A Nigerian entrepreneur has taken home the top prize at the Jack Ma Foundation's first annual prize for African businesses.

Temie Giwa-Tubosun walked away with the top $250,000 cash prize from the $1 million available from the Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative (ANPI), started by Chinese investor Jack Ma.

The organization says it will award a $1m grant to 10 African entrepreneurs every year for the next 10 years.

Giwa-Tubosun is the founder and CEO of LifeBank, a Lagos-based blood and oxygen delivery company that connects registered blood banks to hospitals and patients in need of urgent blood supplies.

She said: "The Africa Netpreneur Prize will give me the resources to grow LifeBank and expand our presence in Nigeria and throughout the rest of Africa. I look forward to continuing my journey to solve problems and make a significant impact on the future of Africa."

Drone delivery of blood
Giwa-Tubosun also announced at the 'African Business Heroes' event held in Accra,Ghana on Saturday that LifeBank will start delivering blood through Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), known as drones.
She said the decision to add drones to their mobility fleet was to get blood to patients in places that are hard to reach.
At the event, Giwa-Tubosun spoke about LifeBank's findings while researching the best situations to use drones for blood delivery.
"After running our operations for three years we knew that there were some patients we could not reach on time. Like areas where there are bandits on the road so we need to fly," she told CNN.
According to her, the drones will only supply blood in emergency situations where patients are hard to reach.

An Ethiopian partnership
In October, in partnership with the Information Network Security Agency (INSA), the Ethiopian government agency tasked with exploring technology, the LifeBank team successfully did a test run of drone delivery in Ethiopia.
"What we did in Ethiopia... was like a research project to show that we can deliver these critical supplies [blood]. We did that for a couple of weeks and it was successful," Giwa-Tubosun said.
The drones are programmed to automatically pick up samples from blood banks and deliver to laboratories or hospitals without any form of human control.
Giwa-Tubosun says beyond Ethiopia, LifeBank's drone delivery services will be tested and launched in other regions including Nigeria.
"We have the results of the success, and we're going to do the same in another country, perhaps Nigeria," she said.

Nigeria's blood deficit
Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, needs up to 1.8 million units of blood every year, but the National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS) collects only about 66,000 units per year, leaving a deficit of more than 1.7million pints of blood, according to the country's health ministry.
Through their real-time delivery of blood using motorcycles and boats, LifeBank is trying to improve the numbers in the West African country.
Their dispatch riders pick up specified units of blood from blood banks, storing it in their motorbike's cold chain transport box and delivering to the required hospitals quickly, a challenge in gridlocked Lagos.

10,000 applications
Around 10,000 applicants from 50 African countries were whittled down to just 10 for the "Africa's Business Heroes," finale event, held Saturday in Accra, Ghana.

The final 10 pitched their businesses to four judges, including Ma, Zimbabwean businessman Strive Masiyiwa, Joe Tsai, Vice Chairman Alibaba Group and banking boss Ibukun Awosika.
In second and third place were Egyptian Omar Sakr, founder and CEO, Nawah-Scientific and Christelle Kwizera, founder, Water Access Rwanda who were awarded $150,000 and $100,000 each.
The remaining finalists each walked away with $65,000 for their businesses.

By Aisha Salaudeen and Stephanie Busari


Video - Nigeria's Oscar disqualification sees push for films in native languages

Nigeria's Oscar Committee is urging Nigerian filmmakers to use more native languages in their productions. This, after the U.S. Academy Awards disqualified a Nigerian entry in the International Feature Film category because the movie used too much English. While some in Nigeria’s Hollywood – known as Nollywood -- support the idea of more native languages in films, others argue that non-English films limit their audience reach. Timothy Obiezu reports from Abuja.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Video - Nigerian artist creatively stitches to create images

Thread Painting originated in the 19th century. The artist relies on a combination of stitches and colors to produce a work that leaves an impressionistic feel. Although it's not a popular art form, Nigeria's Emmanuel Eweje has made a career out of it. With over a decade of experience, he is making waves both as an exhibitor and a trainer.

Former Nigeria football player guilty of match-fixing in Sweden

Former Nigeria international Dickson Etuhu has been found guilty of attempted match-fixing by a Swedish appeals court.

The Court of Appeal in Stockholm said in a release on Wednesday that it was clear that Etuhu and an unnamed former player tried to influence AIK keeper Kyriakos "Kenny" Stamatopoulos to fix a match in Sweden's top division in 2017.

Etuhu, who played for several English clubs including Manchester City, Sunderland, Preston, Blackburn and Fulham, escaped a jail sentence but was instead fined and sentenced to serve probation, without further details being made public.

The 37-year-old, who left AIK Solna in 2016, says he will be appealing against the ruling at the Supreme Court.

The court said that "the content of what the men submitted to the player (Stamatopoulos) was so clear that it should be considered a criminal offer of bribe."

Etuhu had intially been acquitted by a court last year but that was appealed by prosecutor Johan Lindmark, who told local Swedish newspaper Expressen that he was satisfied with Wednesday's outcome.

"It was with satisfaction that I received the verdict today," Lindmark said.

"I had appealed on the grounds that I thought the court of law would change and was not surprised when I saw the verdict."

Etuhu played 20 times for the Super Eagles including twice at the Africa Cup of Nations in 2008 and 2010 as well as the World Cup in South Africa.

By Simon Reeves


Nigeria security agency denies shooting supporters of detained activist

Nigeria's state security agency on Wednesday denied that its officers opened fire on campaigners calling for the release of a Nigerian activist and former presidential candidate who remains in detention despite having been granted bail.

Omoyele Sowore, who ran for president as a minor candidate in the February election in which former military ruler President Muhammadu Buhari secured a second term in office, was arrested in August for calling for a revolution.

In September Sowore pleaded not guilty to charges of treason, money laundering and harassing the president. He was granted bail on Oct. 4 but he has not been released because the Department for State Security (DSS) says the conditions have not been met.

Supporters of Sowore, who founded Nigerian online news organization Sahara Reporters, staged a protest at DSS headquarters in the capital, Abuja, on Wednesday during which they said the security agency's officers opened fire on them.

But the claims were denied by the DSS.

"Despite serial and unwarranted provocations, the Service, as a professional and responsible Organization, did not shoot at the so-called protesters," the DSS said in a statement.

Sowore's continued detention has prompted some to criticize Buhari over his administration's record on human rights, particularly a lethal crackdown on followers of a Shi'ite leader who has been detained by the government since 2015 without a trial.

Nigerian campaign groups, including Concerned Nigerians Group and the Coalition in Defence of Nigerians Democracy & Constitution, issued a statement in which they said "violent attacks" on protesters at DSS headquarters show that Buhari "is running a dictatorship again".

Buhari was Nigeria's head of state between December 1983 and August 1985, after taking power in a military coup. He was also replaced by the military.

Sowore was granted bail so long as a number of conditions were met including the provision of 100 million naira ($277,777) with two sureties.

The DSS, in its statement, said it reiterated its "avowed readiness to release Sowore" once the people who provided surety for him had presented themselves.

Femi Falana, a lawyer representing Sowore, on Wednesday called on the DSS to release his client from "illegal custody".

He accused the DSS of "aggravating the felony of contempt of court by asking sureties who had been verified by the trial court to report in its office for an illegal verification".

(Reporting by Camillus Eboh; Additional reporting by Abraham Achirga; Writing by Alexis Akwagyiram; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)


Wednesday, November 13, 2019

PalmPay launches in Nigeria

Africa focused payment startup PalmPay has launched in Nigeria after raising a $40 million seed-round led by Chinese mobile-phone maker Transsion.

The investment came via Transsion’s Tecno subsidiary, with participation from China’s NetEase and wireless comms hardware firm Mediatek — a Transsion spokesperson confirmed to TechCrunch.

PalmPay had piloted its mobile fintech offering in Nigeria since July, before going live today at a launch in Lagos.

The startup aims to become Africa’s largest financial services platform, according to a statement.

As part of the investment, PalmPay enters a strategic partnership with mobile brands Tecno, Infinix, and Itel that includes pre-installation of the startup’s app on 20 million phones in 2020.

The UK headquartered venture — that was also founded with Chinese seed investment — offers a package of mobile based financial services, including no fee payment options, bill pay, rewards programs, and discounted airtime.

In Nigeria, PalmPay will offer 10% cashback on airtime purchases and bank transfer rates as low as 10 Naira ($.02).

In addition to Nigeria, PalmPay will use the $40 million seed funding to grow its financial services business in Ghana. The payments startup has plans to expand to additional countries in 2020, PalmPay CEO Greg Reeve told TechCrunch on a call.

PalmPay received its approval from the Nigerian Central Bank as a licensed mobile money operator in July. During its pilot phase, the payments venture registered 100,000 users and processed 1 million transactions, according to a company spokesperson.

With its payments focus, the startup enters Africa’s most promising digital sector, but also one that has become notably competitive and crowded — particularly in the continent’s largest economy and most populous nation of Nigeria.

By a number of estimates, Africa’s 1.2 billion people represent the largest share of the world’s unbanked and underbanked population.

An improving smartphone and mobile-connectivity profile for Africa (see GSMA) turns this scenario into an opportunity for mobile-based financial products.

That’s why hundreds of startups are descending on Africa’s fintech space, looking to offer scalable solutions for the continent’s financial needs. By stats offered WeeTracker, fintech now receives the bulk of VC capital and deal-flow to African startups.

Nigeria has multiple new digital-payments entrants — see Chippercash — and several firmly rooted later stage fintech players, such as Paga and recently confirmed unicorn Interswitch.

PalmPay CEO Greg Reeves believes the company can compete in Nigeria and across Africa based on several strategic advantages. A big one is the startup’s support from Transsion and partnership with Tecno.

“On channel and access, we’re going to be pre-installed on all Tecno phones. Your’e gonna find us in the Tecno stores and outlets. So we get an immediate channel and leg up in any market we operate in,” said Reeve.

Tecno’s owner and PalmPay’s lead investor, Transsion, is the largest seller of smartphones in Africa and maintains a manufacturing facility in Ethiopia. The company raised nearly $400 million in a Shanghai IPO in September and plans to spend roughly $300 million of that on new R&D and manufacturing capabilities in Africa and globally.

In addition to Transsion’s support and network, Reeves names PalmPay’s partnership with Visa . “We signed a strategic alliance with Visa so now I can deliver Visa products on top of my wallet, link my wallet to Visa products and give access to someone who’s completely unbanked to the whole of the Visa network,” he said.

Another strategic advantage PalmPay may have as a newcomer in Africa’s fintech space is Reeve’s leadership experience. He comes to the CEO position after serving as Vodaphone’s global head of M-Pesa — one of the world’s most recognized mobile-money products. Reeve was also a GM for Millicom‘s fintech products across Africa and Latin America.

“I’ve had my fingers in mobile financial services for the last 10 years,” he said.

Reeve confirmed that PalmPay has local teams (and is hiring) in Nigeria and Ghana.

With the company’s launch and $40 million raise — which is potentially the largest seed-round for an Africa focused startup in 2019 — PalmPay’s bid to gain digital payment market share is on.

The Transsion led investment also serves as a big bold marker for China’s pivot to African tech in 2019. It follows several big moves by Chinese actors in the continent’s digital space.

These include Opera’s $50 million investment in multiple online verticals in Nigeria and a major investment by Chinese investors in trucking logistics startup Lori Systems this week.

By Jake Bright


Related story: Digital payment firm of Nigeria Interswitch gets $1b valuation after Visa investment