Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Video - Abuja-Kaduna railway: 1000 days in operation

The Abuja-Kaduna railway line has just marked its one thousandth day in operation. Commencing in 2016, the train service has transported over 1.5 million passengers. It's part of China's Belt and Road Initiative in Nigeria to boost economic and social development.

157 children rescued from slavery by Interpol in Nigeria

Up to 216 human trafficking victims have been rescued from forced labour and prostitution in a major operation in Benin and Nigeria, Interpol said on Wednesday.

Operation Epervier II involved 100 police officers across the two countries who rescued 157 child slaves, said the global police organisation, which coordinated the raids in early April.

Many of the children were working in markets peddling goods, carrying heavy loads or fetching water, while others worked as housemaids or were forced into prostitution, Interpol said. Of the minors rescued, 36 were boys and 121 were girls.

“This is about organised crime groups who are motivated by money,” Stanfield told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“It is challenging (to stop them) in the region because of lack of resources,” he said, adding that countries are nonetheless becoming better equipped and more prepared.

Child slaves

The children rescued were between the ages of 11 and 16 and came from Benin, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria and Togo.

The youngest was a boy forced to smuggle heavy goods such as bags of rice across the Benin-Nigeria border, Interpol said.

Most were subject to beatings and abuse, including death threats and warnings they would never see their parents again. They are now in the care of national agencies or charities, and in some cases returned to their parents.

Dealing with perpetrators

Investigations are underway to dismantle the crime networks active in Benin and Nigeria, which are source, transit and destination countries for human trafficking, said Paul Stanfield, Interpol’s director of organised and emerging crime.

Police arrested 47 suspected traffickers and seized vehicles, cash, phones and computers in the operation, which targeted markets in the countries’ capitals as well as airports, seaports and border areas, said Interpol.

About 1.4 million people, or 0.8 percent of the population, are estimated to live as slaves in Nigeria, according to the 2018 Global Slavery Index published by human rights group Walk Free Foundation. Benin has an estimated 58,000 slaves out of a population of 11 million.

“These crimes can only be tackled collectively and through interagency cooperation,” said Dominic Asogwa, Comptroller of Nigeria’s Immigration Service in the Seme border region, in a statement.

Interpol will continue working to identify hot spots for modern slavery in West Africa with a focus on mobilizing countries to address the issue themselves, Stanfield said.

“I think we’ll be here for the long-term, but we don’t want to be in charge of leading it,” he said.


Tuesday, April 23, 2019

British aid worker killed in Nigeria by kidnappers

A British aid worker and a Nigerian man were shot dead after being kidnapped with three other people in an attack at a resort in Nigeria on Friday, officials said.

The British High Commission said in a statement Sunday that Faye Mooney, 29, was killed when gunmen attacked the Kajuru Castle holiday resort in Kaduna state, located in the north-central part of Nigeria.

Mooney worked as a communications specialist for the aid group Mercy Corps, and was one of 12 tourists traveling to Kaduna from Lagos, according to Kaduna state police spokesman Yakubu Sabo.

The 29-year-old, who has lived in Nigeria for nearly two years, was attending a party before the incident, Sky News reported.

Mercy Corps said in a statement it was "utterly heartbroken" by the killing.

"Faye was a dedicated and passionate communications and learning specialist who had worked with Mercy Corps for almost two years, devoting her time to making a difference in Nigeria, supporting our teams and the communities we work with to tell their stories of impact, and leading efforts to counter hate speech and violence," the group said.

Sabo told reporters the gunmen kidnapped three other people but officials did not release details of their nationalities. Officers have not yet named the other person killed in the incident.

No individuals or groups have claimed responsibility for the killings, and police have yet to identify the kidnappers.

Northern Nigeria has been dealing with violence from Islamic militants affiliated with Boko Haram and ISIS, in addition to clashes between farmers and herders, in which hundreds have died.

The region has seen a spate of kidnappings by armed men in recent months, according to Sky News.

Earlier this month, an American tourist and her safari guide were kidnapped by gunmen in Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park. Kimberly Sue Endicott and her guide, Jean-Paul Mirenge Ramezo, were eventually found alive in Congo, where their kidnappers had taken them after abducting them.

The kidnappers had demanded a $500,000 ransom after abducting the two at gunpoint. Ugandan officials say no ransom was paid, but a tourism operator said that money was paid to secure Endicott's release.

Fox News

Monday, April 22, 2019

Video - Trade volume increase between Nigeria and China

Trade volume between Nigeria and China has expanded by 10% in the last year-yielding more than 15 billion dollars in value. Nigeria is among China's important trading partners in Africa. Both countries are forecasting a significant rise in trade volumes in coming years as various trade deals get concluded.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Questions after deadly collapse in Nigeria

A building collapse in Nigeria last month that killed as many as 20 children is raising questions about construction safety standards. Many are now asking questions about safety standards and what can be done to prevent similar incidents.

Chief justice in Nigeria banned from holding public office

Nigeria's top judge has been sacked by a tribunal that found him guilty of falsely declaring his assets.

Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen was banned from office for 10 years on Thursday and ordered to forfeit any assets he could not account for to the state.

Onnoghen's suspension in January by Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, just weeks before a presidential election, prompted allegations of interference in judicial matters.

The chief justice holds a key role in determining the outcome of Nigerian elections if the results are appealed by a candidate and a tribunal is formed.

A request to remove the chief justice usually requires the approval of two-thirds of the Senate, but Buhari did not follow that process.

Onnoghen was tried for failing to divulge cash in five foreign bank accounts in contravention of rules governing the declaration of assets by public officials.

"The defendant has clearly contravened the code of conduct for public officers, and he is hereby convicted," said Danladi Umar, chairman of the country's ethics court.

Umar ordered that any cash found in Onnoghen's foreign bank accounts be taken by the treasury.

"The money in the five accounts, which the defendant has failed to declare and disclose its source, is hereby confiscated, seized and forfeited to the federal government," Umar said.

After the ruling, Onnoghen's lawyer, Okon Efut, said the process had not been fair.

He decried what he called the "unconstitutional" suspension of the judge in January, claiming it was the first step in what he said was a "premeditated" decision.

"Judgment had been passed before today," Efut said.

As head of the Supreme Court, Onnoghen could have ruled on any disputes relating to the election, which saw Buhari, of the All Progressives Congress, win a second term of office.

Atiku Abubakar of the main opposition group, Peoples Democratic Party, who lost to Buhari has launched a legal challenge to the result, after calling the election a "sham".

Al Jazeera

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Video - Online house cleaning service in Nigeria

An online house cleaning service is promising to create millions of jobs for Nigerians. Kureen is an online service that pairs house cleaners with home owners in need of cleaning services in three major Nigerian cities.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Video - Nigeria to diversify economy away from oil

Nigeria is Africa's largest oil producer but more than half of its population lives in extreme poverty. In his recent election campaign, President Muhammadu Buhari promised to diversify the economy away from oil. But Nigeria is even struggling to grow its own food.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Video - Nigeria's Chibok schoolgirls: Five years on, 112 still missing

It has been five years since hundreds of schoolgirls were abducted in north-eastern Nigeria by Boko Haram fighters. While a total of 164 girls have been found or released as part of a deal between the Nigerian government and the armed group, 112 are still missing. In Nigeria's capital, there are renewed calls for the search to continue. The international outcry sparked the Bring Back Our Girls movement, which continues to this day. Despite the pain, one mother still hopes she will once again see her daughter alive.

President Buhari still promises to bring back Chibok students five years after kidnapping

Some of the young women are thriving at a new school. Some have returned home to their family farms. But the fates of more than 100 other students who were kidnapped from a school in northeastern Nigeria are unknown, five years after militants from Boko Haram abducted them.

On Sunday, the fifth anniversary of the kidnappings from the village of Chibok, President Muhammadu Buhari reiterated a pledge he had made years ago to bring back all of the students.

“We will not rest until all the remaining girls are back and reunited with their families,” he said on his official Twitter account. “I made this promise when I became President, and I will keep it.”

In 2014, Boko Haram militants stormed a girls’ school in Chibok and made off with over 200 girls who were boarding there to take exams the next day — an act that gained widespread attention across the world with the social media hashtag #BringBackOurGirls advocating their release.

Mr. Buhari’s message came after months of silence on the topic, which barely registered in campaign discourse during a heated presidential election this year. The kidnappings, which riveted a global audience at the time, seem all but forgotten by the outside world.

Protesters who once marched daily at Unity Fountain in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, have been quiet. Activists both locally and globally who had held signs and tweeted have mostly gone silent.

Yet the missing students remain constantly on the minds of their parents, who gathered Sunday at the site of the school in Chibok to offer prayers for their return.

“They are losing hope,” said Allen Manasa, a spokesman for the village, adding that in five years the government had yet to brief the parents about their missing daughters.

He said the community urged “mounting pressure on the Nigerian government to explore all available means to rescue these girls.”

Mr. Buhari’s message on Sunday sought to reassure Nigerians that he hadn’t forgotten.

“We will never give up on our missing daughters,” Mr. Buhari wrote on Twitter, also citing other hostages taken by Boko Haram. “In the last four years our security agencies have successfully rescued thousands of captives, and they will not relent until every captive is free.”

Yet critics say it defies belief that the students remain missing.

“It is a global failure of monumental proportion that the whereabouts of hundreds of girls who went to school remain unknown in an age of intrusive technology,” said Oby Ezekwesili, a former education minister who has been a leading advocate for the students’ release.

For the past decade, Nigeria’s northeast has been ravaged by a war with Islamist militants from Boko Haram who have made kidnapping innocent villagers one hallmark of their brutality.

A video that the militants released in 2014 of the sad-looking girls from Chibok, dressed in dark hijabs and sitting on the ground at a militants’ hide-out, caught the attention of celebrities and Michelle Obama, who was photographed holding a #BringBackOurGirls placard.

When Mr. Buhari assumed the presidency in 2015, he made progress in the fight against militants, chasing them from forest hide-outs and killing scores of fighters. But in past months the militants have regrouped, and simultaneously fractured while boasting about ties to the Islamic State, which they pledged loyalty to several years ago.

Boko Haram fighters have carried out suicide bombings and stepped up attacks across the border in Niger and Chad. One faction circulated a video of a violent attack on a military installation in Nigeria.

Last week, amid threats of an attack in the countryside, Nigerian soldiers rounded up community members in the middle of the night and herded them into a camp for displaced people, prompting outrage from residents who unexpectedly had to leave their homes.

Last year, the fighters carried out kidnappings eerily similar to the one in Chibok, taking dozens of girls in the community of Dapchi before returning most of them several days later. At least one student, Leah Sharibu, is still being held, reportedly because she is a Christian and refused to convert to Islam.

Mr. Buhari has negotiated for the release of about half of the students from Chibok, who are now in their late teens or early 20s. Many of them are studying at the American University of Nigeria in Yola, where a special program was designed to catch them up with their studies and advance them to university work if they choose. The government is picking up the tab.

On Sunday, the local news outlet This Day published an editorial calling for the remaining students to be rescued and saying that their continued absence “represent a blur on our collective humanity.”

“Until all the abducted girls can be accounted for,” the editorial said, “the promise of the constitution, that the welfare of Nigerians shall be the primary purpose of government, will continue to ring hollow.”

The New York Times

Friday, April 12, 2019

Entire town in Nigeria evacuated to screen out Boko Haram militants

Up to 10,000 civilians have been forcibly relocated because of a military operation against Boko Haramin northeast Nigeria, the United Nations said on Thursday, calling for better protection.

At least 2,000 people were initially said to have been moved the 40km from Jakana to the Borno state capital, Maiduguri, on Tuesday. But the UN said five times as many were forced to flee.

"The military ordered the immediate departure and forced the relocation of up to 10,000 civilians in the middle of the night, without prior warning," it said in a statement.

"The entire town of Jakana was emptied, and people were forced to move to Maiduguri with very little time to collect personal belongings," added UN Humanitarian Coordinator Edward Kallon. "Some people said they arrived in Maiduguri with nothing, not even with shoes on their feet."

The northeast is the battleground in Nigeria's decade-long fight against the armed group of the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) and Boko Haram.

A surge in attacks in December in which towns and military bases were overrun saw tens of thousands of civilians fleeing into Maiduguri and swelling the population of existing camps.

Humanitarian concerns

The armed groups have in the last few weeks been hit by intensive air and ground offensives from coalition forces involving Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon in the Lake Chad region, according to military sources and armed fighters.

But there are fresh concerns about the effects of the conflict on civilians after nearly 10 years of fighting, more than 27,000 deaths and 1.8 million made homeless.

Previous mass displacements of civilians have forced them into already overcrowded camps for the internally displaced in Maiduguri, putting pressure on the authorities.

"The United Nations is urging the government to urgently provide safety, shelter, food, water and medical care to the displaced civilians, in addition to information about when they will be allowed to return home," said Kallon.

Jakana lies on a known crossing route for ISWAP fighters moving between their camps in the Benisheikh forest area of Borno and their hideouts in the Buni Yadi area of Yobe.

In January, ISWAP sent letters to Jakana and Mainok residents telling them to vacate their homes for an impending raid on the military.

Al Jazeera

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Pirate attacks in Nigeria fall by 36%

Piracy attacks off Nigeria’s coast fell to 14 in the first quarter from 22 a year ago after the navy improved its response to incidents, the International Maritime Bureau said.

“These results confirm the Nigerian navy’s increased efforts to actively respond to reported incidents by dispatching patrol boats,” the London-based body that tracks attacks on sea vessels said. “Despite these efforts, Nigerian waters remain risky for vessels, especially the port of Lagos where four incidents have been reported.”

The Gulf of Guinea retained its notoriety for piracy with 22 incidents reported during the period. The region accounted for all the crew kidnappings reported globally in the three months, after 21 of them were taken in five separate attacks, the IMB said. Incidents were reported off the coast of Benin, Cameroon, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Nigeria and Togo in the first quarter, it said.


Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Video - More than 11,000 youths complete government skills training in Nigeria

In Nigeria, more than 11,000 young people have received start-up Kits. This is after completing Government-sponsored Skills Development Training. Nigeria has a record 26 million unemployed people -- and the government is exploring ways to change this.

The town in Nigeria known for multiple twin births

In a dusty school playground in southwest Nigeria, the rows of children lined up to return to their classrooms are dotted with the faces of identical twins.

Sights like this can be seen everywhere in Igbo Ora, where a banner welcomes visitors to the “twins capital of the world”.

Twins are common in the Yoruba ethnic group that dominates this part of Nigeria. A 1970s study by a British gynecologist found that around 50 sets of twins were born out of every 1,000 births in the southwest - one of the highest rates of twin births in the world.

In Yoruba culture twins are so common that they are traditionally given specific names. They are called either Taiwo or Kehinde depending on whether they were born first or second.

But even for Yoruba people, Igbo Ora is considered to be exceptional. Among the nearly 100 secondary school children assembled at the end of their break there were nine sets of twins.

“There are so many twins because of the okra leaf that we eat,” said 15-year-old Kehinde Oyedepo, one of the twins, repeating a view commonly held in the town.

The leaves are used to make a stew that is popular in Igbo Ora.

Others have pointed to the popularity of Amala - a local dish made from yams and cassava flour. One theory is that yams prompt the production of gonadotropins, a chemical agent that stimulates the production of eggs.

Ekujumi Olarenwaju, an obstetrician gynecologist based in Lagos, around 100 miles (160 km) away, believes the causes of the phenomenon lie elsewhere because the same kind of yam is eaten elsewhere in the world without the same result.

“Thus far scientifically, no one can say this is the reason,” said Olarenwaju. “One of the plausible reasons is the hereditary aspect of it because maybe over the years they inter-marry, they now have that gene being pooled and concentrated in that environment,” he said.

But the women who sell piles of okra leaves at a town market are quick to disagree.

They said local traditions over how the leaves are consumed were crucial. For example, a stew made from the leaves should be eaten immediately and never stored.

Oyenike Bamimore, who sells the bread, said she was living proof that the diet was the cause. “Because I eat okra leaves a lot, I gave birth to eight sets of twins,” she said.


Parliament in Nigeria proposes tax rise on luxury goods

Nigeria’s parliament has asked the government to consider increasing taxes on luxury goods to boost revenues, it said on Tuesday.

An expenditure plan approved by the Senate on Tuesday showed Nigeria is expected to generate 172.47 billion naira ($564 mln) from privatisation proceeds this year.

The budget deficit for 2019 is estimated at 1.86 trillion naira ($6.1 bln), according to the plan. Lawmakers said the deficit would covered via borrowing, privatisation proceeds and loans secured for specific projects.


Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Video - Nigeria suspends mining in Zamfara state plagued by gang violence

Nigeria has suspended mining activities in Zamfara and has ordered foreigners engaged in the work to leave the northern state within 48 hours. The move comes after a surge in crime in the state. The military, police and the state security forces have been deployed in recent weeks to tackle criminal gangs behind a spate of killings and kidnappings. The government says the suspension begins with immediate effect. Any operators who defy the order will have their licences revoked. Al Jazeera's Ahmed Idris has more from the capital, Abuja.

Video - Will Nigeria crackdown on crime in Zamfara state work?

Nigeria has suspended mining in one of its northern states and ordered all foreigners engaged in mining activities to leave. The move comes after a surge in crimes, including kidnappings and killings, in Zamfara state. Ahmed Idris has more from the capital, Abuja.

Crypto currency traders in Nigeria accuse Paxful of fraud

Cryptocurrency exchange Paxful is in hot water in Nigeria after crypto traders in the country claimed the firm has been closing down their accounts illegally, causing them to lost tens of millions of dollars.

The traders have filed the petition with Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), accusing Paxful of robbery, fraud, and breaching its terms and conditions. The EFCC is the country’s financial services law enforcement agency. According to a report by local outlet Punch Nigeria, the traders were joined on the petition by United Global Resolve for Peace, a non-governmental organization.

The petition claims that Paxful falsely accused Nigerian traders of being involved in fraudulent activities. It then allegedly used this excuse to close down thousands of accounts belonging to Nigerian traders. Traders who owned cryptos when their accounts were closed lost those cryptos.

Part of the petition stated:

“A few days ago, our organization was approached by some Nigerians who complained bitterly that Paxful Incorporated, the company that owns the online cryptocurrency trading and exchange platform, ‘’ has been ripping them of their life investment in cryptocurrency by suspending their accounts, deactivating their wallets and refusing to return the value in their accounts to them even after investigation and finding that they were not involved in any fraudulent activities.”

The petition also gave some background on the immense success that the Estonia-based Paxful has had with Nigerian users. In 2018, the exchange made $20 million in profits from its operations worldwide. But it was Nigeria that contributed the bulk of this profit, making up over 40% of the total.

The petition further revealed how Paxful has used the opportunity to rob Nigerian traders. It stated:

“The respondent has, through willful disregard for contract and rules of commercial transaction, done a lot to rob Nigerians of their hard-earned money by its unrestrained activities of blocking their accounts and stating that investigation will be conducted. At the end of the investigation, the respondent always comes out to say the vendor has done nothing wrong and thereafter release their accounts without the funds in it.”

The report by Punch Nigeria also quoted some of the traders whose accounts have been drained under the guise of investigations. One of them is Samuel Olanrewaju, a trader who lost over 21 million Nigerian naira ($60,000) to the scam. Olanrewaju alleges that Paxful confiscated his Bitcoin Core (BTC) stash in November 2018. Paxful accused him of having a false online profile, a charge he still insists he is innocent of. Olanrewaju claimed Paxful is stereotyping all Nigerians as scammers. He told the news outlet, “We have about three million Nigerians trading on Paxful platform and they accounted for 40 per cent of its revenue. Despite this, the leadership of the firm was always referring to Nigerians as scammers.”

Paxful responded to the accusations in an email, denying any wrongdoing. According to the company, only accounts found to be engaging in fraud were suspended. Part of the statement said, “All accounts that have been shut down have a reason for it. We will not shut down any account unless they violate our TOS (Terms of Service).”

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (SegWit) chain are referenced as BTC coins; tokens on the Bitcoin Cash ABC chain are referenced as BCH, BCH-ABC or BAB coins.

Bitcoin Satoshi Vision (BSV) is today the only Bitcoin project that follows the original Satoshi Nakamoto whitepaper, and that follows the original Satoshi protocol and design. BSV is the only public blockchain that maintains the original vision for Bitcoin and will massively scale to become the world’s new money and enterprise blockchain.


Monday, April 8, 2019

Video - Nigeria experiencing extended hot temperatures

Nigeria has been experiencing very harsh weather since March. Temperature have gone as high as 40 degrees celcius. The weather has had a huge impact on the lives of ordinary Nigerians, and experts have warned that the weather pattern will continue for some time.

Nigeria suffering from medical brain drain

In March, hundreds of Nigerian doctors gathered at a hotel in Abuja, the capital, and another in Lagos, the country's commercial centre, to take a test conducted by the Saudi Arabian health ministry.

In a symbol of the Nigerian medical "brain drain", those yet to migrate must complete foreign exams in order to get work placements abroad.

Weeks before the attempt by Saudi Arabia to lure Nigeria's greatest medical talents, dozens had sat the regular Professional Linguistic Assessments Board (PLAB) exams at the British Council. Once they pass, it will enable them to work in the UK.

According to some estimates, about 2,000 doctors have left Nigeria over the past few years.

Doctors have blamed the mass exit on poor working conditions - only four percent of Nigeria's budget is allocated to health.

While the annual healthcare threshold per person in the US is $10,000, in Nigeria it is just $6.

"More than half of those seeking visas to [India] are going for medical care that is not available here in Nigeria. Indigent Nigerians would be at the mercy of the dilapidated health infrastructure," Onwufor Uche, consultant and director of the Gynae Care Research and Cancer Foundation in Abuja, told Al Jazeera.

"It has become worse; a doctor [in Nigeria] earns N200,000 monthly ($560), necessitating moving to countries where they can be better paid for their services … This ultimately means that eight of 10 Nigerians are presently receiving substandard or no medical care at all."

Middle-class and wealthy Nigerians often travel for healthcare. Even the septuagenarian Nigerian president, Muhammadu Buhari, seeks medical care in London.

British, American, South African, Emirati and Saudi Arabian agencies operate in Nigeria to recruit the best doctors.

Nigeria's polling agency, NOI Polls, in partnership with Nigerian Health Watch in 2017, found that most doctors seek work abroad.

"The trend of doctors emigrating to other countries is at an all-time high," Chike Nwangwu, head of NOIPolls, told Al Jazeera in Abuja. "Our survey … showed that 88 percent of doctors are considering work opportunities abroad."

Reasons for emigrating include better facilities and work environment, higher salaries, career progression and an improved quality of life.

One doctor in 5,000

Medical schools and residencies are subsidised by government funds, an investment that is now benefiting other countries.

With an estimated population of over 180 million, there is one doctor per 5,000 people in Nigeria, according to Isaac Folorunso Adewole, the health minister, compared with the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation of one per 600 people.

There are 72,000 doctors registered with the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN); over half practise outside the country.

"Nine in every 10 doctors are considering work opportunities outside Nigeria. And it is projected to keep rising as doctors continue to face systemic challenges," said NOIPolls' Nwangwu. "I actually think [Nigeria] is already at the state of emergency with the availability of medical doctors."

The country's worsening health sector also grapples with strikes by health workers.

The government is often in conflict with the Nigerian Medical Association, an umbrella union of doctors, over working conditions. The union argues that government officials fail to stick to agreements, leading to industrial action.

When asked last year why Nigerian doctors had to wait a long time to get residency training, Adewole appeared to make light of the issue, saying: "It might sound selfish, but we can't all be specialists; we can't. Some will be farmers; some will be politicians … The man who sews my gown is a doctor. He makes the best gown. And some will be specialists, some will be GPs, some will be farmers."

As well as angering some doctors, the apparent failure to act seriously also affects patients.

"The government needs to urgently start addressing the issues and concerns of the medical workers and especially the doctors. The truth is, most of these doctors leave for better working conditions and you can't blame them," said Mariam Abdullahi, a 38-year-old patient at a hospital in Abuja.

"I am being referred to strange faces and different doctors almost at each of my bi-monthly visits and I'm always told the last doctor left the country. As a patient I feel heartbroken anytime my doctors leave, but what can I do when the system treats them poorly?"

By Mercy Abang

Al Jazeera

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Call to shut down contreversial police unit in Nigeria after deadly shooting of a man

The fatal police shooting of a Nigerian man has sparked outrage and reignited a public call for the shutdown of a controversial police unit in the country.

Kolade Johnson was shot by officers with Nigeria's anti-cultism police unit during a raid in Lagos on Sunday, according to a statement from the Nigerian Police Force. Members of the unit were searching for a suspect and at one point fired into the air, Johnson's family and lawyer told CNN.

The 36-year-old father and a friend were leaving a soccer viewing center in the area, where they had gone to watch a Premiership league match, when a stray bullet hit and killed Johnson, his family and lawyer said.

Johnson died at the hospital while waiting for treatment, according to his sister Toluwani Lukman.
Lukman said her brother was dedicated to his family and had just returned from South Africa, where he had lived for five years to focus on his music career.

"He had saved up some money while working in South Africa and he returned to Nigeria to start his own music label. He was just getting back on his feet. I can't believe he is gone," Lukman told CNN.
Johnson's killing provoked widespread anger among Nigerians, who said the police unit had gone rogue and should be disbanded immediately.

High-profile Nigerians including Nollywood actors, politicians and celebrities took to social media, calling for justice.

Police in Lagos said the officers who fled the scene after the shooting were identified with the help of eyewitnesses.

"Members of the team suspected to be involved in the shooting have since been arrested and are currently in police custody undergoing interrogation," Lagos police spokesman Bala Elkana.

Nigeria's Presidency sent its condolences to the family in a post on Twitter and said the Nigerian police have assured the government that the members of the unit involved in the shooting were under arrest and were facing disciplinary measures.

Lagos State Commissioner Zubairu Muazu also paid a condolence visit to the family Tuesday and assured them their would be justice.

Nigeria's police force also shared photos of two police officers wanted in connection to the shooting.
But this has not stopped the growing calls by citizens and rights groups for a shutdown of the police unit.

In August 2018, Nigerian Vice President Yemi Osinbajo ordered an overhaul of the country's Anti-Robbery Police Squad (SARS), which was accused of torture, extortion, widespread brutality and even murder.

Osinbajo, who is also a law professor, promised a total reform of the controversial police unit and vowed to prosecute those found guilty after investigations.

Amnesty International Nigeria, which has long campaigned for the disbandment of the SARS police unit, said Monday the vice president's reforms have been "ineffective."

The rights group alleged that the police unit was still torturing many citizens and restructuring was not enough to stop their atrocities.

"Police torture is a stain on Nigerian society that must be addressed with clear orders to law enforcement officers not to inflict torture or other ill-treatment on detainees under any circumstances," Amnesty International Nigeria said.

A spokesman for Osinbajo, Laolu Akande, said it was hasty to describe the ongoing police reforms as ineffective.

"We are firmly committed to ensuring these reforms are fruitful. In the particular instance, we will ensure that justice is served," Akande told CNN.


Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Video - Lagos-based firm opens design hub & innovation center in Kigali

African cities like Nairobi, Cape Town and Lagos could be ahead of the game when it comes to digital innovations. Kigali is catching up. Recently, a Lagos-based tech hub opened a design and innovation center in the Rwandan capital. CGTN's Hlonela Lupuwana caught up with the company's Project Manager Tomi Jaiyeola. Here are excerpts from their conversation.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Nigerian journalist arrested at gunpoint

Unidentified armed men have taken away a Nigerian journalist in the southern Bayelsa state, according to witnesses and watchdog groups, just months after his release from a two-year stint in state custody.

Jones Abiri, editor and publisher of the Weekly Source newspaper, was accosted by armed men as he was meeting six colleagues at the Bayelsa Federated Newspaper Publishers Association on Saturday, witnesses said.

Eric Eweke, secretary-general of the publishers' association, told AFP news agency on Sunday that the men arrived in vehicles belonging to Nigeria's intelligence agency, Department of State Security (DSS).

"Two DSS vehicles ... stormed the office" of the publishers' association in Yenagoa, the capital of Bayelsa, around lunchtime, Eweke said.

"They threatened that if [he] tries to run, they would shoot at him," he said.

Abiri's whereabouts were not known on Sunday.

Peter Afunanya, DSS spokesman, told local media he did not have any information on the incident.

Austin Bodo, another witness, told Nigeria News Agency that the men who accosted Abiri were "carrying the type of guns used by DSS operatives".

Sahara Reporters, a US-based independent news website that covers Nigerian affairs, quoted an unnamed witness as saying: "The men jumped out of the vehicles in a gestapo fashion while he [Abiri] was chatting with his friends and shouted at him that he was under arrest.

"While he was demanding to know his offence, he was forcefully pushed into a waiting vehicle at gunpoint."

Abiri was previously held by the DSS for two years without trial, over alleged links to rebels in the Niger Delta in the country's southeast. He was also accused of threatening oil companies.

He had no access to a lawyer or his family during this time, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Abiri was freed in August last year following a campaign by rights organisations.

Angela Quintal, CPJ Africa programme coordinator, said the press freedom group was "deeply worried" about Abiri's arrest.

"We call on federal and state authorities in Nigeria to disclose where Abiri is being detained and the reasons for his arrest, and urge that they ensure that his rights are not violated yet again and that due process is respected."

Amnesty International also expressed concern over the arrest "by armed men suspected to be DSS operatives". It added in a Twitter post: "The humiliating manner of his arrest is unacceptable."

Nigeria is ranked 119th out of 180 countries on Reporters Without Borders' World Press Freedom Index.

The global press freedom group says journalists in Nigeria "are often threatened, subjected to physical violence, or denied access to information by government officials, police, and sometimes the public itself."

Al Jazeera

Friday, March 29, 2019

Video - Physically challenged tricyclist finds ways to overcome challenges in Nigeria

It's estimated that there are over 27 million people with physical challenges in Nigeria. While many can be seen begging for alms on the streets of Lagos, there is one of them who has decided to stand out. Deji Badmus has his story.

Video - Nigerian-American teen feted for her girls' education campaign

Nigerian-American teen activist Zuriel Oduwole has been honoured by the Nelson Mandela Foundation for her work on girls' education in Africa. Before the age of 10, Oduwole started campaigning to keep girls in school. CGTN's Julie Scheier caught up with Oduwole, while she was in Johannesburg.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Nigerian genome team contained Lassa fever outbreak with international assistance

Lassa fever first flared across Nigeria in February 2018, 1081 cases reported in just six weeks, according to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control; 57 people, including four healthcare workers, died. As Lassa cases continued to spike throughout the year, it sparked fears of a new form of the virus or path of transmission.

The fear for scientists and health professionals at the time was that the virus had mutated into a deadlier strain, perhaps one that can be passed through the air, like the flu. Such a change could be catastrophic.

Genetic sequencing of Lassa virus genomes taken from patients revealed the virus was neither a dangerous new strain nor being passed from person to person through the air; the multifarious results, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, pointed to a diverse range of Lassa viruses which had previously been seen in Nigeria, ruling out a new form, and it was determined that the increase had not been caused by a mutation or new route in transmission.

The cases continue to spike this year; from Jan. 1 to Feb. 10. The World Health Organization reported 324 confirmed cases and 72 deaths across Nigeria, the majority of them in Edo and Ondo states in Nigeria’s south. Fatalities are hovering around 20%, which is high for Lassa, and while the virus is not a mutant—the worst-case scenario—the reason for the dramatic rise remains a mystery. On Jan. 22, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control declared the outbreak an emergency.

Lassa fever is a viral hemorrhagic fever similar to Ebola, but less lethal. Mortality rates for confirmed cases between Jan. 1 and Mar. 17 this year is 23%. The virus is zoonotic, meaning it jumps from an animal reservoir to a human being; the most common reservoir of Lassa is the multimammate rat.

Humans usually become infected through contact with the rat’s urine or feces. In non-fatal cases, the virus usually causes mild symptoms—including fever, headache, and weakness—and often goes undiagnosed. While Lassa is a viral hemorrhagic fever, the bleeding famously associated with a small percentage of Ebola cases is extremely rare.

Scientists use genetic sequencing to determine the order of the four chemical building blocks which make up DNA. This order tells them what kind of information is coded into that DNA, as well as what type of virus it is. While the assays used to test the virus’ genomic sequence were not new, the speed with which the information was analyzed and put to action—and where it was performed—was new.

Years of partnership and preparation between the African Center of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Disease (ACEGID), the Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital in southern Nigeria, and the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Broad Institute ensured the samples were rapidly sequenced in Nigeria by local labs.

This response, marked by cooperation and in-country capability, may be the model for the years ahead, as scientists from both Broad in the US and Nigeria believe the chances are high of emerging virus outbreaks occurring more frequently.

The test results identified the subtypes of Lassa fever causing the infections, and where in the country they were. That information was quickly made available to health officials at the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control for use in determining the best course of action for handling the outbreak with a speed that would not have been possible if it had to have been tested overseas.

“That is very important, because that has immediate implications in terms of countermeasures to block it,” says Christian Happi, centre director and principal investigator at ACEGID.

Genomic analysis has often been reactive, completed long after an outbreak had run its course.

“With the improvement of technique and also greater collaboration between partners we’re able to have these results in real-time to influence the actual control of the outbreak that we are managing,” says Chikwe Ihekweazu, director general of the NCDC.

Analysis from end to end was done on the ground in Nigeria, according to Happi. Scientists at Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital sent confirmed samples to ACEGID, at Redeemer’s University, Ede, Osun state, Nigeria. ACEGID teams extracted the virus’ RNA, converted it to DNA, then broke it into component parts, reassembling a complete genome of the virus that could be compared to sequenced viruses from previous cases. The process took about three to four days per sample.

Results from the ACEGID sequencing were sent to the NCDC when they were considered actionable. The results were cross-checked at Broad, while both institutions then continued to test the samples to provide a larger data set, replicating sets of each other’s samples for consistency, Siddle says.

“As we got the result, we shared the report with the NCDC, and they swung into action,” says Happi. Putting the people, infrastructure, and capability required for rapid analysis on firm footing took roughly five years. The collaboration between the labs of Broad Institute member Pardis Sabeti, Happi’s lab at Redeemer’s University, and scientists at Irrua laid the groundwork for the 2018 Lassa response.

“They’ve worked together for a number of years to understand various different aspects of Lassa virus,” explains Katherine Siddle, a postdoctoral fellow at Broad and Harvard. “Through that, they kind of really built up a vision for doing infectious disease genomics in West Africa.”

The Lassa fever outbreak provided a first chance to demonstrate that vision.

Scientists and health officials believe outbreaks of emerging viruses like Lassa, Ebola, Marburg and Nipah are likely going to increase in the future. As human expansion and climate change shifts the boundaries between people and animals, forcing them closer together than ever before, the chance for zoonotic viruses to jump species increases.

Nations where these viruses are endemic or where completely novel ones are likely to emerge can take cues from Nigeria’s model. The ability to handle an outbreak within their own borders may prove the difference that prevents a pandemic.

The in-country model makes sense from both scientific and practical standpoints, says Siddle. Building the infrastructure required to control an outbreak in the midst of one is challenging in and of itself; when outbreaks occur in regions destabilized by violence—as Ebola currently is in the Democratic Republic of Congo—even more so. The speed with which information can be analyzed and provided to health officials, much faster when handled in-country, is crucial; the virus is not awaiting samples from overseas.

“To answer the big public health problems of our time, collaboration will be critical,” says Ihekweazu. “No single group of scientists is going to come up with some magic bullet to save the world.”

Those big public health problems will increasingly lay in places like West Africa, where a booming population and rapidly developing economy make for perfect conditions for a virus to spread. “These are our problems,” Ihekweazu notes. “We need to be able to be at least part of the solution.”

Improvements in one country’s capabilities may have an impact far beyond their borders. A nation which can contain outbreaks quickly, accurately, and in-country is better positioned to curtail a pandemic.

By B. David Zarley 


Nigeria beat Egypt 1-0 with fastest international goal

Nigeria beat Egypt 1-0 in a friendly thanks to a goal scored inside 10 seconds in Asaba on Tuesday.

Paul Onuachu's strike is Nigeria's fastest ever international goal.

According to Uefa the fastest ever competitive international goal was scored by Belgium's Christian Benteke just after 8.1 seconds against Gibraltar in October 2016.

Elsewhere, Senegal needed Sadio Mane to come off the bench and help them to a win over Mali.

Also on Tuesday Algeria beat Tunisia, Ivory Coast beat Liberia, Ghana won at home to Mauritania and Morocco were beaten by Argentina.

With the Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt fast approaching, it was an important round of matches for coaches and players.

Nigeria's Denmark-based Onuachu, who was making his full international debut, seized his opportunity to make an impact.

The ball was chipped forward for him to run on to, he took it round the defender with one touch and then scored with his second to stun Egypt and delight the still settling crowd.

It was the only goal in a game which pitted two of the major contenders for the Nations Cup crown together, and Egypt - with the rested Mohamed Salah absent - tested the Super Eagles as well.

Herve Renard's Morocco were beaten, going down 1-0 to Argentina, who were without Lionel Messi, thanks to an 83rd minute goal from Angel Correa.

Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni admitted his side had been tested by the Atlas Lions.

"It was a tough game, Morocco has good players and were supported well by their fans," he said.

"We're happy to win the game despite the difficult conditions, especially the strong wind (in Tangier) and had a negative impact on the players and the quality of the overall game.

"We were looking for victory to satisfy our fans and make them confident in our team following the last defeat (3-1 to Venezuela)."

Morocco coach Herve Renard was not impressed by the standard of the football.

"I was bored... this is the first time in my career that I went into a locker room at half-time and I had nothing to say to my players - we did everything except playing football," he said.

"It was not a football game - but a fight. The plans (choice of opponents) for the Nations Cup will depend on the draw."

Salah may have been absent but his Liverpool teammate Sadio Mane came off the bench for Senegal to rescue a win for them against Mali.

They were a goal down with three minutes remaining when Mane skipped past several defenders into the box and scored with a low shot to level it at 1-1.

And well into stoppage time Mane had yet more influence on the game as he set up Senegal's winner from Moussa Kounate.

The other matches also featured many of the serious contenders for Egypt 2019 later this year.

Ghana's Black Stars also took an early lead - inside two minutes - against Nations Cup debutants Mauritania in Accra, and they won the game 3-1.

In the North African derby between Algeria and Tunisia, Algeria kept up their stellar record of not losing a game at home in Blida since 2002, with a 1-0 win.

And Ivory Coast left it late, but earned a 1-0 win over Liberia thanks to a 90th minute penalty from Aston Villa's Jonathan Kodjia in Abidjan.


New inquiry on oil spills in Nigeria launched

A major new inquiry into oil companies operating in the Niger Delta has been launched by the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu. The probe will investigate "environmental and human damage" in Nigeria's vast oil fields.

"This Commission will investigate the human and environmental impact of multinational oil company activity and is crucial to the prosperous future of the people of Bayelsa and their environment, Nigeria and hopefully to other oil-producing nations," he said.

Nigeria is Africa's largest oil producer. The country's crude oil production -- estimated at over 300 million liters per day -- makes up 70 percent of the Nigerian government's revenue.
This new commission, convened by Bayelsa Governor Seriake Dickson, says that it wants to make oil companies in the region more accountable.

"The world has looked on for too long without taking the necessary collective action to put a stop to the damage being done by oil companies in Bayelsa. We must put the environment and the health and wellbeing of our communities first," Dickson said in a statement Wednesday.

Big oil spills are common in the Niger Delta where over40 million liters of crude oil is spilled annually, resulting in human deaths and damage to the local ecosystem.
A 2018 study by the Journal of Health and Pollution found that more than 12,000 oil spill incidents have occurred in the oil-rich region between 1976 and 2014.

Pipeline corrosion and tanker accidents caused more than 50 percent of them. Other incidents can be attributed to operational error, mechanical failure, and sabotage mostly from militant groups, the study said.

Contaminated lands, water

The Niger Delta is a diverse region with rich mangroves and fish-rich waterways. Many residents try to make their livelihoods from fishing and farming.

Yamaabana Legborsi lives in Gokana in Ogoni, the most affected community, where residents have stopped oil companies from pumping oil from their lands.

The 32-year-old told CNN growing up the community posed both mental and economic challenges to him as a child.

"We could not play in the sand like other children else you are covered in black crude. My mother was especially worried it was not safe, so were other parents.

"We could not also eat the fishes that washed away from the river, you would see crude all around the water," Legborsi said.

The situation has not changed, Legborsi says, despite promises from oil companies clean things up.
"I cannot drink water from my borehole. You can perceive crude oil and kerosene. Many of the residents here drink well water, that is contaminated too," he added.

Experts from the United Nations Environment Programme, (UNEP) in the first scientific survey of the area found that people in Ogoniland had "lived with chronic oil pollution throughout their lives."
UNEP researchers in the 2011 report said it would take 30 years to clean the oil mess left behind.
Oil companies expected to clean up spills within 24 hours under Nigerian law have also been accused of falling short of this obligation.

In a 2018 report, Amnesty International accused Shell and Eni, the two major operators in the Niger Delta, of negligence in their response to oil spills in the area.

The campaign group said the companies' "irresponsible approach" to oil spills had worsened the environmental crisis in the Niger Delta, an allegation both companies have since denied.

Shell in an emailed statement to CNN last year said the report failed to acknowledge the complex environment in which the company operates in the region.

"Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria, in collaboration with government regulators, responds to spill incidents as quickly as it can and cleans up spills from its facilities regardless of the cause. We regularly test our emergency spill response procedures and capability to ensure staff and contractors can respond rapidly to an incident," Shell said at the time.

The response time to an oil spill depends on the security situation and the company's ability to access affected areas in the swampy region, the company said.


Related stories:  Video - Niger Delta Greenland Justice Mandate claims responsibility

Oil thieves make away with $250m worth of oil from pipeline in Lagos, Nigeria

Friday, March 22, 2019

Video - Nigeria grapples with water shortage

It's estimated that about 69 million people in Nigeria lack access to clean water. That's according to the country's National Bureau of Statistics. Worst affected are said to be the rural communities in northern Nigeria.

#ThisIsMyHustle trending in Nigeria

A hashtag called #ThisIsMyHustle started trending in Nigeria in mid-March after Sadiq Abubakar, 30, a small-business owner from Abuja, organized a Twitter chat for his entrepreneur friends.

"I said, 'Let's do a hashtag and let the world know what we do,' " he says. "Young Nigerians are very determined to succeed. What we hear about young Nigerian people is that we are lazy. But we are hardworking. We want to make it."

He was just expecting a couple of dozen people in his network to tweet — but within an hour, he says, the hashtag went viral in Nigeria, prompting thousands of responses.People started sharing posts that promoted not just their side hustles but also their main gigs, from coding to baking to making art.

The hashtag has garnered the praise of Bashir Ahmad, the personal assistant of President Muhammadu Buhari, who wrote on Twitter: "Spent over an hour reading every tweet under #ThisIsMyHustle hashtag, every single tweet made me happy genuinely ... I am super proud of you all."

Jobs are hard to come by in Nigeria, says Abubakar, so many people have to "hustle" to earn money — starting their own businesses or finding side jobs to supplement their main income. According to Nigeria's National Bureau of Statistics, the unemployment rate in the country was at 23 percent as of the third quarter of 2018.

"Young people finish school and then are not able to find a job," he says. "So they start selling anything they can to make an income. They don't want to burden their parents."

Abubakar knows what that's like. He graduated from the University of Leeds in the U.K. in 2013 with an MBA but says he has not been able to find a white-collar job in his homeland.

So he decided to start his own company. In 2014, he launched Beta Business Forum, which helps small-business owners with marketing and sales. He's also earning money as a real estate agent and a farmer. And he plants cash crops like sorghum and corn.

"This hashtag actually opened my eyes. I had no idea that there were this many Nigerians hustling out there," he adds.

A number of the tweets are about agriculture, which has been hard to sell to youth in sub-Saharan Africa as a viable career.

"Young people [in Africa] face particular barriers that often lead to skepticism about farming as a viable future," wrote Kanayo F. Nwanze, former president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, in 2018. "Youth and other marginalized groups do not see farming as a business, as an economic enterprise."

Sadiq Muhammed Kabir, 24, runs his own import-export business selling ginger root in Kaduna. He was proud to share photos of his work on #ThisIsMyHustle. "Most young people in my country don't really see [farming] as something good," he says. "They forget that farming is very, very lucrative."

Abubakar says he has received a lot of positive feedback over the last few days from business owners who have been tweeting on the hashtag. "They're telling me that they have been getting more clients," he says.

Kabir says that his post has brought in some business too. After he posted his tweet, he says, "my life has never been the same. I got buyers around the world, like Canada, Dubai, even North America."

As with many other hashtag campaigns, some people on Twitter had hilarious responses to the tweets.


Thursday, March 21, 2019

Video - Nigeria election outcome puts hopes for democracy in doubt

Nigeria's general election may have ended weeks ago but the outcome has left many wondering if the country's democracy is growing at all. More than half of the newly elected members of parliament have no previous legislative experience. That has left many Nigerians worried about their performance.

Bill Clinton praises 8-year old Nigerian chess prodigy seeking refugee status in the U.S.

Tani, an eight-year-old Nigerian chess champion in New York, may be living in the United States as an immigrant but he could be meeting a former American president soon.

When the story of his witty exploits was shared on Twitter, the 42nd US president Bill Clinton reacted to the fact Tani had defied all odds to win his category at the New York State chess championship.

Here is a youngster who was introduced to the game a little over a year ago. “Refugees enrich our nation and talent is universal, even if opportunity is not,” the president wrote.

“This story made me smile. Tanitoluwa, you exemplify a winning spirit – in chess and in life. And kudos to your hardworking parents. You all should stop by my office in Harlem; I’d love to meet you,” he added.

Incidentally, Tani’s three-hour weekly chess practice is in Harlem whiles he practices more often on his father’s laptop.

Full name, Tanitoluwa Adewumi, the chess whiz kid, has been widely covered by international media and local portals back home. His story was first broken by a New York Times, NYT, columnist, Nicolas Kristof.

Tani, his brother and mother currently live in a New York City homeless shelter as immigrants awaiting refugee status. Their next hearing is slated for later this year.

The Adewumis – whose name denote they hail from Nigeria’s southwest according to reports arrived in the United States in 2017 having escaped Boko Haram insurgency – meaning, they must have been living in the northeast, be it Borno, Adamawa or Yobe states.

Mr Adewumi, works as a licensed real estate salesman and doubles as an Uber driver as his wife and sons await asylum request hearing scheduled for August.

The NYT piece that set Tani’s story on a media blitz was achieved after an interview with the family at their shelter in Manhattan. “I want to be the young grandmaster,” Tani told Kristof.

Whiles his biggest achievement yet is as New York State Primary Chess Champion (Top Players K – 3rd Grade), he has won a handful of trophies playing the game.

His mother Oluwatoyin Adewumi was a pillar in his love for chess having backed him in the early stages when he expressed interest in a game that was entirely new to him. Her appeal to Tani’s programme patron had his fees waived.

His patron and tutor spoke highly about Tani’s abilities and grasp of the game. Shawn Martinez his tutor said, “He is so driven. He does 10 times more chess puzzles than the average kid. He just wants to be better.”

A GoFundMetext page set up by NYT readers has far exceeded the target set. As at midday March 20 (GMT), 3,588 contributors had raised $188,253 despite the initial goal being $50,000.

Africa News

Nigeria selling stakes in joint oil assets in order to boost coffers

Nigeria plans to cut its stake in joint oil ventures with multinational oil companies to 40 percent this year, its budget minister said, as the country seeks to boost revenue to grow an economy recovering from recession.

Oil companies including Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron and ExxonMobil, operate in Nigeria through joint ventures with the state-owned NNPC.

NNPC owns 55 percent stake in its joint venture with Shell and 60 percent stakes with others.

The government has considered reducing its majority stakes in these joint ventures for more than a decade but was under little pressure as higher oil prices boosted state coffers.

Budgets under Muhammadu Buhari, who starts a second term in May, have been Nigeria’s largest ever and the government has been seeking to boost revenue after it emerged from a 2016 recession two years ago.

Budget Minister, Udoma Udo Udoma, said the government will intensify efforts to improve its finances including the “immediate commencement of the restructuring of the joint venture oil assets so as to reduce government shareholding to 40 percent,” he said in a statement.

He added during a presentation to lawmakers that Buhari wanted the oil restructuring completed this year.

Buhari won re-election last month for another four years, defeating his pro-business rival Atiku Abubakar, who had touted selling the state-owned NNPC as one of his key reform policy.

In 2017, the debt office said the government wanted to raise 710 billion naira ($2.32 billion) via restructuring its equity in joint venture oil assets and that it had captured the proposals in the 2018 budget.

In the past, Nigeria has held talks with oil companies regarding financing agreements for joint ventures after it struggled to fund its portion of such partnerships through cash calls which have often been delayed in parliament.

The government has asked the petroleum regulator to collect past-due oil license charges and royalties, within three months.

The country has also ordered oil majors to pay nearly $20 billion in taxes it says are owed to local states.

Buhari has presented an 8.83 trillion naira budget for 2019, laying out plans to drive growth. He has directed NNPC to take measures to achieve the targeted oil production of 2.3 million barrels per day this year, the minister said. ($1 = 306.3000 naira) (Writing by Chijioke Ohuocha and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)


Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Lagos among one of the world's cheapest cities

Nigeria’s commercial city, Lagos is one of the 10 cheapest cities in the world, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s bi-annual survey.

Lagos was ranked 127 in the survey that compares the cost of more than 150 items such as cars, food, rent, transport and clothing in 133 cities.

The results are a far cry from two years when Lagos was named by estate agent, Savills as the most expensive African city to stay and work in.

The survey is aimed at helping companies calculate compensation packages and allowances for expatriate staff and business travellers.

It also tracks whether prices have gone up or down by comparing them with the cost of living in New York, which is used as a benchmark.

World’s 10 cheapest cities

1. Caracas (Venezuela)

2. Damascus (Syria)

3. Tashkent (Uzbekistan)

4. Almaty (Kazakhstan)

5. Bangalore (India)

6. Karachi (Pakistan)

7. Lagos (Nigeria)

8. Buenos Aires (Argentina)

9. Chennai (India)

10. New Delhi (India)

On the other end of the spectrum, Paris and Hong Kong were tied with Singapore as the world’s most expensive cities to live in.

It was the first time in more than 30 years that three cities shared the top spot, a sign that pricey global cities are growing more alike, said the report’s author, Roxana Slavcheva.

“Converging costs in traditionally more expensive cities … is a testament to globalization and the similarity of tastes and shopping patterns,” she said in a statement.

“Even in locations where shopping for groceries may be relatively cheaper, utilities or transportation prices drive up overall cost of living,” she said.

The top ten list was dominated by Asian and European cities, with Osaka and Seoul in joint fifth and joint seventh places respectively. Zurich (4th), Geneva (joint 5th) and Copenhagen (joint 7th) also in the elite club.

Africa News

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Atiku Abubakar challenges Nigeria election result

The defeated main opposition candidate in Nigeria’s presidential elections filed a legal challenge on Monday to last month’s vote.

Atiku Abubakar’s petition said that he, the candidate for the People’s Democratic Party, had beaten the All Progressives Congress’s Muhammadu Buhari, who was elected to a second term on Feb. 23.

“We asked that our candidate who won the election massively across the country be declared the winner,” said Emmanuel Enoidem, a legal advisor to Atiku.

The petition asks that the electoral commission overturns the result “on the grounds of irregularities,” Enoidem said.

Buhari’s campaign has rejected Atiku’s allegations, saying the vote was free and fair.

Buhari, the 76-year-old former military ruler, took 56 percent of the vote against 41 percent for Atiku, a businessman and former vice president.


Monday, March 18, 2019

Video - Nine killed in attack in Kaduna, Nigeria

At least nine people have been killed in Nigeria's Northeastern state of Southern Kaduna. The attack happened on Saturday in a small farming community. No group has claimed responsibility for this latest attack in the area; and neither has any arrest been made yet. Southern Kaduna State has seen a resurgence of violence in recent months, leading to the death of over 150 people.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Search called off in school collapse in Nigeria

Search efforts were called off at the site of a school building that collapsed in the Nigerian city of Lagos, as rescuers were trying to find a register of children to work out how many have died.

Workers have reached the foundation of the collapsed three-storey building and don't expect to see any more bodies, IbrahimFarinloye, a National Emergency Management Agency official, told The Associated Press on Thursday.

He declined to give an updated toll of the dead and the rescued.

Officials said late Wednesday that eight people had died and 37 had been pulled out alive. An unknown number remain missing.

Residents said some 100 children had attended the nursery and primary school, and people were searching through the tangle of rubble and metal on Thursday to find any belongings of their loved ones.

A few hundred people watched from nearby as an excavator dug through the remains of the debris.

At the site of the collapse, people searched through the tangle of rubble and metal Thursday to find any belongings of their loved ones. By the afternoon, most of the debris had been cleared away.

"We have been able to pull down the remaining part of the building," said Adebayo Kayende, spokesperson for the Lagos state emergency agency.

"We have moved the debris from the ground to have a clear picture to make sure there are no people under the building."

Kayende said the Lagos state ministry of health was checking with hospitals, and once they had finished counting those dead the details would be made public.

Full investigation

Adesina Tiamiyu, general manager of the Lagos state emergency agency, said the number of children involved was still in question and authorities were trying to find a register of the pupils.

Lagos Gov. Akinwuni Ambode, who visited the site hours after the building collapsed, said the building, which had been marked for demolition, was classified as residential and the school was operating illegally on the top two floors. There will be a full investigation into the incident, he said.

Officials moved through the neighbourhood on Thursday, marking other derelict buildings for demolition.

Obiora Manafa with the Standards Organization of Nigeria told reporters that they would analyze samples of the collapsed building's concrete and steel bars "to ascertain the quality ... and know whether they complied with the national building code."

"It touches one to lose precious lives in any kind of mishap, particularly those so young and tender," Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said.


Thursday, March 14, 2019

Video - At least 8 killed in Nigeria school building collapse

Rescue and recovery efforts are going on through the night in the Nigerian city of Lagos, where a three-storey building collapsed on Wednesday. It contained apartments, shops, and a primary school.

Related story: Building collapse in Lagos, Nigeria kills 30

Prophet T.B. Joshua under fire for building collapse in Lagos, Nigeria

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Oil region crisis in Nigeria threatens Buhari's economic plans

Fresh from his comfortable re-election, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari faces a huge hurdle to keep his vow to end the economy’s addiction to oil: win a lasting peace in the crude-rich Niger River delta.

The 76-year-old former military ruler will have to score a breakthrough that’s eluded previous governments in an area where armed groups and thieves pose a constant threat to the flow of crude. To carry out his plans to develop a backbone of stable power, roads and rail lines for agricultural expansion and industrialization in Africa’s most-populous nation, Buhari needs all the money he can get from oil, the source of two-thirds of government revenue.

“Oil revenue is still what dictates government spending and they will need to keep production going,” said Jubril Kareem, a Lagos-based analyst at Ecobank Energy Research. “Buhari has to be very smart in handling the situation because any disruptions will impact government revenue.”

While armed assaults in the region have eased, sabotage, protests and crude theft for local refining and sale to rogue vessels offshore are undermining Africa’s biggest oil industry.

Exports still haven’t recovered from militant attacks in 2016 that at one point slashed by as much as half the West African nation’s exports and combined with lower oil prices to push the economy into its first contraction in 25 years.

‘Rogue Economy’

Improving oil flows will require dismantling what Ledum Mitee, a minority rights activist in the delta, calls a “rogue economy” in the area. And Buhari is operating in hostile political terrain. In the presidential elections, he lost in the region to Atiku Abubakar, who’d promised to relinquish some federal control over oil resources if elected.

“While the militancy went down, there was an increase in artisanal refining and crude theft,” Mitee said. “At last count, that industry was employing about half a million youths in the Niger delta.”

Today Royal Dutch Shell Plc’s Nigerian unit and other operators of onshore pipelines face frequent breaches, with the key terminals of Bonny and Forcados often unable to meet export commitments.

The government has failed to meet its revenue targets in the past three years mainly due to lower-than-expected crude volumes, with only about 52 percent of expected income for 2018 realized by August, according to Finance Minister Zainab Ahmed.

Budget Pressure

In response, the Buhari administration has increased borrowing in local and international markets to pay the bills. The petroleum industry provides 90 percent of Nigeria’s foreign income.

If things don’t improve, the government will have to cut spending and will struggle to service its existing debts, Ahmed said in October. Oil production averaged 1.7 million barrels a day in the first nine months of 2018, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, 600,000 barrels short of the 2.3 million barrels per day on which the budget was based.

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. operates joint ventures with Shell, Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp., Total SA and Eni SpA that pump most of the nation’s oil.

Successive governments have failed for decades to deal with the Niger delta problem since ethnic minorities in the area began protesting against environmental damage and its impact on their fishing and farming livelihoods. The domination of the main ethnic groups -- Hausas of the north, the Yorubas of the southwest and the Igbos of the southeast -- and their grip on the oil riches, has fueled the resentment.

After the military government in 1995 executed nine Ogoni activists, including the writer Ken Saro-Wiwa, regional unrest spiraled into full-blown armed militancy in the past 15 years.

Amnesty Program

With Nigeria’s oil exports close to being crippled in 2008 by militant attacks, the then government of President Umaru Yar’adua cut a deal: stop the raids in return for amnesty and a rehabilitation plan for fighters, and a commitment to address the region’s demands for more local control of oil.

More than 20,000 former fighters signed on, receiving skills training and monthly stipends, while several former militant commanders received pipeline-protection contracts. Relative peace returned and oil output increased, reaching 2.2 million barrels a day by the time Buhari was elected in 2015.

When Buhari started to cancel the deals, attacks resumed and oil production plunged.

Buhari’s Choice

While he eventually resumed the payments, nothing has been done to address a 16-point set of demands for more local control of oil resources and investment in infrastructure to achieve peace presented to Buhari by the Pan-Niger Delta Elders Forum in December 2016.

More than two years later, the discussions haven’t advanced, according to Edwin Clark, the 93-year-old leader of the forum.

Buhari now faces the choice of resolving the delta problem or kicking the can down the road as most of his predecessors did, according to Mitee, the rights activist who led the government panel that initiated the amnesty plan in 2008.

“If the government wants to just play along and do some appeasement during the four years and carry over the fundamental problems, then it will just be business as usual,” he said. “In this case, we are transferring the doomsday to the future.”

By Dulue Mbachu and Elisha Bala-Gbogbo


Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Video - Nigerian human trafficking survivor seeks justice in Mali

The government of Nigeria says itis starting the repatriation process of up to 20,000 girls who’ve been trafficked to Mali. In January, the national agency fighting human trafficking said many of these girls, who’ve been tricked with promises of getting jobs in Europe, ended up working as sex slaves in mining camps of Mali.

Precious is one of several thousand Nigerian girls and young women trafficked and sexually exploited in Mali. In two years she suffered countless indignities and almost lost her life. She is staying back to seek justice and compensation from the woman who trafficked her.

Related stories: Video - Nigeria struggles to rescue 20,000 girls from Mali sex trade

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Parliament votes strenghten Buhari's leadership

Wins in Nigeria’s parliamentary vote look set to strengthen the position of President Muhammadu Buhari after his re-election last month, as he bids to boost a listless economy and defeat Islamic State fighters during his second and final term.

The former general’s party, the All Progressives Congress, has won more than 60 of the 109 Senate seats and is heading for a majority in the lower House of Representatives, according to partial results announced by the election commission.

The APC controlled the upper chamber during most of Buhari’s first term. But he regularly sparred with senior members, not least Senate President Bukola Saraki, which hindered his economic reforms and delayed the passing of budgets for months. Saraki’s loss of his seat in the Feb. 23 general elections and Buhari’s emphatic victory -- he won by a margin of 56 percent to 41 percent over opposition leader Atiku Abubakar -- mean the 76-year-old leader may have an easier ride from the legislature this time.

“The elections have strengthened Buhari’s parliamentary majority,” said Amaka Anku, the head of New York-based Eurasia Group’s Africa practice. “The upcoming battle for parliamentary leadership presents an opportunity for Buhari to forge a better relationship with the legislature and improve executive-legislative coordination. That could quicken the pace of routine governance tasks, like budget passage and confirmation of ministers.”

Buhari will need the help of lawmakers if he’s to make headway tackling Nigeria’s most pressing problems. While the constitution gives plenty of power to the president, many decisions -- including appointments of ministers and senior positions at the central bank -- have to be approved by the National Assembly.

“He is looking forward to a mutual and effective working relationship with the National Assembly toward improving the budgetary process and restoring the country to the January-December fiscal cycle,” the presidency said in a statement Monday. “The delay in the passage of budgets hindered timely execution of projects across the country.”

The economy, which is yet to fully recover from a 2014 crash in oil prices, and jobs will be a priority for Buhari. Growth accelerated to 1.9 percent last year, but it’s still far below the average of 7.4 percent during the first 15 years of this century. Unemployment almost tripled to 23 percent during Buhari’s first four years in power.

Islamic State

He’s also facing security threats, including an insurgency in the northeastern state of Borno being waged by Boko Haram and Islamic State and clashes between farmers and herders over grazing land that killed 2,000 people last year, according to Amnesty International.

“Buhari’s second term in office is unlikely to yield many surprises,” said Malte Liewerscheidt, an analyst at Teneo Intelligence in London. “Rather, Buhari 2.0 can be expected to double down on his well-known social intervention programs alongside a focus on infrastructure investment and protectionist policies. Moreover, major changes to the monetary and foreign-exchange policy seem unlikely, barring sustained shocks to global oil prices or domestic crude production.”

The central bank operates a system of multiple exchange rates and tightly manages the value of the naira, which the International Monetary Fund has said deters investors. Abubakar, Buhari’s main rival in the elections, pledged to float the currency if he won.

Nigerians also voted for governors in 29 of the country’s 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory last weekend, and results are still coming in. The APC won Lagos, the commercial capital. The European Union said there were “systemic failings” and condemned security agencies for barring citizens from counting centers in oil-rich Rivers state, which is held by Abubakar’s People’s Democratic Party.

Even if Buhari gets a strong majority in parliament, there’s no guarantee he’ll make decisions quicker, according to Eurasia. Critics say he’s responded slowly to crises since coming to power in 2015. And lawmakers, including those in his own party, may continue to defy him.“It should not be taken for granted that just because they belong to the same party they would take the same position on issues,” said Kemi Okenyodo, executive director of Partners West Africa-Nigeria, an organization that lobbies for good government.

By Paul Wallace


Monday, March 11, 2019

Video - Nigerian sex traffickers used fan-ids to exploit women and girls

According to reports Russia's World Cup was used by Nigerian sex traffickers to entrap unsuspecting women. Traffickers used fan IDs allowing visa free-entry into Russia to ferry women and girls into the country.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Women in Nigeria brace for local election upsets

Nigerian women are hoping to use Saturday's local elections to change the country's political dynamics by triggering an upset in the polls.

Women's groups have been mobilising support for female candidates seeking office, appealing to women voters to utilise their numerical strength to support their own during the governorship and state house of assembly elections.

"Women have to rise up and now that some of us are here to challenge the status quo, it should be an encouragement," Adebisi Ogunsanya, who is running for the first time, told Al Jazeera.

"I encourage them to vote for me because I understand what their problems are," Ogunsanya said on Thursday as campaigning ended.

She is seen as a dark horse in the race to become the governor of Lagos state because of her minimal political experience. She's also contesting under a new political platform, the Young Progressive Party (YPP), in the commercial capital, Lagos.

Ogunsanya will be up against 38 male and six other female candidates.

A total of 80 female candidates will be vying for state governorship positions across 29 states. They will face a total of 987 male candidates, many of whom are well-funded and grounded in political history.

However, what female candidates lack in financial muscle is compensated by their voting power as they constitute 47 percent - 39.6 million out of 84 million eligible voters registered by the electoral commission.

Breaking barriers

Women's groups such as the Nigerian Women Trust Fund (NWTF) are providing support to ease the burden of female candidates as part of its commitment to growing the pool of women in the political space.

"We are providing technical support to our women seeking elective positions. We encourage our women to vote women and we also encourage the women to pay attention to the manifestos of the various candidates," NWTF spokesperson Mufilat Fijabi told Al Jazeera.

The group, established in 2011, aims to address "growing concerns about gender imbalance in elective and appointive positions", according to a statement on its website.

'All-boys club'

Some political analysts, however, are not convinced women can pull off any major upsets in Saturday's elections.

"The top of the tickets for the major parties is basically an all-boys club. There will be a couple of female deputy governors but that won't be an upset," Stanley Azuakola, founder of vote-watchdog Civic Monitor, told Al Jazeera.

"Frankly, women are yet to collectively see the lack of female voices at the table as a serious issue," says Azuakola.

February's presidential and legislative elections were marred by allegations of violence, vote-rigging, and voter suppression.

This resulted in low voter turnout across the country with voters and electoral commission officials killed and injured.

The scale of the election violence, especially in Lagos, has left Ogunsanya and other candidates worried about security for Saturday's vote.

But she's confident women will turn out despite the risks to support female candidates.

"Barring any threats and violence, I expect the women to vote for me," said Ogunsanya.

By Mercy Abang

Al Jazeera

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Video - Nigeria struggles to rescue 20,000 girls from Mali sex trade

Nigeria is struggling to bring home an estimated 20,000 girls trapped in Mali. The victims of the sex trade are kept in appalling conditions. Officials say collusion between law enforcement agents and traffickers is hampering the rescue efforts.

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Women from Nigeria forced to become sex workers during 2018 World Cup in Russia

Blessing Obuson thought Russia's soccer World Cup would be an opportunity to find a job, so the 19-year-old flew into Moscow from Nigeria last June.

She arrived in the country on a fan ID, which allowed visa-free entry to World Cup spectators with match tickets but did not permit them to work.

Despite that, Ms Obuson said she had hoped to work as a shop assistant to provide for her two-year-old daughter and younger siblings back in Nigeria.

However, she said, she was locked in a flat on the outskirts of Moscow and forced into sex work along with 11 other Nigerian women.

They were supervised by a madam, also from Nigeria.

She said the madam confiscated her passport and told her she'd only get it back once she worked off a fictional debt of $50,000.

Ms Obuson told her story to a rare English-speaking client, who then informed anti-slavery activists, who later rescued her.

According to her lawyer, and statements from prosecutors, two Nigerians were arrested and charged with human trafficking after a sting operation in which they agreed to sell Ms Obuson for two million roubles (about $43,000) to a police officer posing as a client.
'They spit in your face'

Ms Obuson's case is not isolated. Reuters met with eight Nigerian women aged between 16 and 22 who said they were brought into Russia on fan IDs and forced into sex work.

All said they had endured violence.

"They don't give you food for days, they slap you, they beat you, they spit in your face … It's like a cage," said a 21-year old woman, who declined to be named.

In September, a Nigerian woman was killed by a man who refused to pay for sex, Russian police said.

The Nigerian embassy later identified her as 22-year-old Alifat Momoh, who had come to Russia from Nigeria with a fan ID.

Russian police said 1,863 Nigerians who entered the country with fan IDs had not left by January 1, the date when the IDs expired.

Kenny Kehindo, who works with several Moscow NGOs to help sex trafficking victims, estimated that more than 2,000 Nigerian women were brought in on fan IDs.

Neither Russian police nor the Nigerian embassy in Moscow replied to requests for comment. A Nigerian Foreign Ministry spokesman also did not respond to text messages and phone calls requesting comment.

"Many are still in slavery," said Mr Kehindo.

He said he had helped about 40 women return to Nigeria.

He called for more cooperation between the authorities and anti-trafficking NGOs during major sporting events — including at the 2022 Qatar World, where a fan ID system was also being considered.

Anti-slavery group Alternativa said its helpline had fielded calls from Nigerian women held in St Petersburg and other World Cup host cities.

While a prosecution has been launched in Ms Obuson's case, police have been unable to act against suspected traffickers in other cases due to a lack of evidence.

"A lot of girls are still out there," said Ms Obuson.


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Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Mother of Nigeria footballer Samuel Kalu released by kidnappers

The mother of Nigeria international Samuel Kalu has been released after being kidnapped by gunmen six days ago, according to Nigerian police.

Ozuruonye Juliet Kalu was abducted on 27 February as she travelled home in the south-eastern city of Abia.

It is unclear whether a reported ransom was paid, but authorities confirmed her release around 2300 GMT on Monday.

"It is true that she was released to her family," Godfrey Ogbonna, of Abia State police, told BBC Sport.

"I can also confirm that investigations are ongoing to arrest those responsible.

"We will make a public statement as soon as more details emerge but for now, she is safe and reunited with her family at home."

Despite the kidnapping, Kalu has been included in Bordeaux's squad for their rescheduled French Ligue 1 fixture against Montpellier on Tuesday.

The 21-year-old, who was named in Nigeria's squad on Monday for the Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against the Seychelles and a friendly versus Egypt, has scored once in five appearances for the Super Eagles since his debut last year.

Kidnappings - more often of oil workers, the rich and famous - are a regular occurrence in Nigeria, but footballers and their families are increasingly being targeted.

Current Nigeria captain John Mikel Obi's father was kidnapped for the second time in seven years in June, before being released after a ransom of 10 million naira (about $27,500) was paid.

In 2008, the brother of former Everton defender Joseph Yobo was kidnapped before being released two weeks later.

Kalu joined Bordeaux from Belgian club KAA Gent in August 2018.

By Oluwashina Okeleji