Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Video - Nigerian ethnic violence amplifed by religous divide

For decades, people in northern Nigeria have endured near-constant conflict. In Kaduna state, fighting has pitted the majority Muslim population against minority Christians . Al Jazeera's Mohammed Adow reports from Kaduna, Nigeria, on efforts to reconcile the communities.

Building collapse kills 5 in Nigeria

Five persons were confirmed killed after two residential buildings collapsed in two different locations in Nigeria's northern state of Jigawa on Monday, said a local official.

The two incidents in Kirikasamma area of the state occurred following days of torrential rainfalls, said Salisu Garba-Kubayo, head of the local government.

Garba-Kubayo said three persons from one family died after their house suddenly collapsed in the village of Kuraduge, while two others, a man and his wife, died after their house collapsed in Madachi village in the same area.

The local official told reporters that following the persistent rainfall, over 30 villages in Kirikasamma had been taken over by flood.

At least 330 houses were destroyed by the floods, he added.

On Aug. 7, the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency, which is responsible for issuing flood alert, issued an alert over possible flooding due to the high intensity of rainfall across the country.

The hydrological body said the flooding incidents are due to high rainfall intensity of long duration, rainstorms, blockage of drainage systems and poor urban planning resulting from the erection of structures within the floodplains and waterways.

This year, Nigeria's 36 states and the federal capital territory, Abuja, would witness different levels of flooding, the hydrological body predicted.


Nigeria defends currency reserves inspite $9bn UK court ruling

The central bank of Nigeria will strive to protect the country's currency reserves after a court ruling in the United Kingdom granted a small natural gas firm the right to try to seize $9bn in assets from the Nigerian government, the bank's head said on Monday.

Such a sum would be one of the largest financial liabilities imposed on Nigeria in its history, representing 20 percent of the currency reserves of Africa's largest economy and top oil producer.

Central bank chief Godwin Emefiele said that Nigeria has sufficient grounds to appeal the ruling, which concerns an aborted gas project in the southern Nigerian city of Calabar and was made on Friday in favour of Process and Industrial Developments Ltd.

"We know that the implication of that judgment has some impact on monetary policy," Emefiele told reporters in the capital, Abuja. "That is why the central bank is going to step forward and ... defend the reserves."

Pressure has been building on the naira, Nigeria's currency, as oil prices drop.

Also, foreign investors have been locking in their profits on local bonds as yields have fallen from as high as 18 percent a year ago. As yields have fallen - with bond prices moving up - foreign inflows have slowed. This in turn, has led to a shortage of dollars and depressed the naira.

In a further sign of pressure on the currency, President Muhammadu Buhari last week told the central bank to stop providing funding for food imports, his spokesman said.

'Fuel to the fire'

Emefiele did not specify what other measures the central bank might take to defend the country's currency or its foreign exchange reserves.

"FX [foreign exchange] pressures have intensified," said Cobus de Hart, senior economist at South Africa's NKC African Economics.

He said that "the UK judgment could add further fuel to the fire".

"Worryingly, the central bank is employing unconventional tools more regularly to try and keep the naira stable and safeguard reserves," de Hart added, suggesting that ongoing risks could result in "slower growth and higher inflation".

On Monday, traders were seeking higher rates for one-year treasury bills as the naira weakened.

The naira has been quoted at 364 per dollar for foreign investors since last week, weakening from 363.50 as liquidity dries up on the foreign exchange market.

Nigeria operates a multiple exchange rate regime that it has used to manage pressure on the currency.

Last week, Emefiele met fund managers in London in a roadshow as the central bank told dealers to lure foreign investors by raising rates.

Emefiele sought to reassure investors - who seemed focused on lower oil prices and debt woes - by saying that Nigeria's currency would continue to be stable.

Al Jazeera

Monday, August 19, 2019

Video - Nigerian wood sculptor continues to carry rich tradition in wood sculpting

Art, such as sculpture, has played an integral part in Traditional African communities. Centuries later, it's still being practiced in Nigeria but with a contemporary touch. CGTN's Deji Badmus takes us into the world of a man who has mastered the art of wood sculpture.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Video - Woman arrested in Nigeria after video shows her beating and locking boy in dog cage

A woman who was videotaped beating a 10-year-old boy before locking him in a dog cage has been arrested in Lagos, a police spokesman told CNN Thursday.

The 24-year-old woman, who has not been publicly named by authorities, was taken into custody Wednesday after police analyzed the video and traced her to a specific neighborhood. She was later found there with the boy, whom she identified as her relative, Lagos state police spokesman Bala Elkana said.

The footage, which has sparked social media outrage in Nigeria, shows the woman flogging a half-dressed boy with a belt and then dragging him into a cage, which she locks.

Two dogs were inside kennels beside the cage where the boy was kept.

"She actually confessed that she was the one in the video and that he is a cousin who came to live with her after he lost his parents," Elkana told CNN.

CNN has not been able to reach the woman to determine if she has a lawyer.

Police said the incident took place August 3 and that the woman claimed the boy provoked her after he became drunk and damaged her car.

"She told us that she got angry after the boy took some dry gin and broke the side mirror of her car. Then she locked him in the dog house for some hours. For this we are going to push to charge her with child abuse," Elkana told CNN.

The suspect will remain in custody until she is taken to court Friday, police said, adding that the boy has been handed over to a government shelter in the city.

By Bukola Adebayo


Thursday, August 15, 2019

Treasury auction held in Nigeria after President Buhari stops funding for food imports

The Nigerian central bank held a treasury auction on Wednesday to try to lure foreign investors, traders said, hours after it was announced that the president told the bank to ban access to dollars for food imports to curb demand.

Pressure has been building on the naira currency as oil prices drop and foreign investors book profits on local bonds in response to falling yields. Crude sales account for 90% of foreign exchange earnings and two-thirds of government revenues in Nigeria, Africa’s top oil producer.

Banking stocks fell 1.26% on Wednesday, to help drag the main share index to a more than two-year low as negative sentiment persisted on the stock market.

Traders said the central bank asked them to increase their rates at a bills auction on Wednesday compared with rates that the bank paid at the last sale in July.

The move led to a spike in yields on the one-year treasury bill which rose to 12% on Wednesday from around 10% on Friday after the bank told dealers to bid higher rates at its auction, traders said.

Traders said the central bank wanted to offer bills at higher rates to attract foreign investors to boost liquidity on the currency market, which would help support the naira.

On Friday, the naira eased to 364 per dollar, from a quote of 363.50 as falling oil prices tightened liquidity on the currency market.

A dollar shortage was initially caused by a slowdown of foreign inflows after local debt market yields declined.


“As the naira came under increasing pressure ... stepping up demand management policies in the foreign exchange market furthermore suggests that the central bank faces increasing problems propping up the currency through open market operations,” said Malte Liewerscheidt, vice president of Teneo Intelligence.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday told the central bank to stop providing funding for food imports, his spokesman said, in a further sign of pressure on the currency.

A spokesman for the central bank, which is an independent body, has not responded to text messages and phone calls seeking a comment on whether or not the request will be heeded.

Traders said the market was waiting for more information on how such a ban would be implemented, especially for importers with existing lines of credit.

“This adds to the level of uncertainty in the market. How the central bank would implement this remains unclear,” one trader said. “Some of the items may already be included in the earlier ban.”

The central bank in 2015 banned access to foreign exchange for 43 items in a bid to curb dollar demand, though it continued to sell dollars to offshore investors to boost confidence.

Nigeria, which has Africa’s biggest economy, operates a multiple exchange rate regime, which it has used to manage pressure on the currency.

The official rate of 306.90 is supported by the central bank but the traded rate of 364 is widely quoted by foreign investors and exporters.

By Chijioke Ohuocha


Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Nigeria failing to end open defecation

 Attention to the issue of open defecation has often focused on India, which is home to by far the largest population of people who practice it. In October 2014, the country embarked on an ambitious five-year mission to eliminate open defecation nationwide, building millions of toilets and aiming to change the habits of hundreds of millions of its citizens.

But as India approaches its target deadline for eliminating the practice, attention is turning to the country next in line — Nigeria.

One in four Nigerians — about 47 million people — practice open defecation, according to the World Health Organization and UNICEF’s joint monitoring report, particularly in the north of the country where there is less access to good toilets. Fewer than half of households in Nigeria have their own toilet.

The practice brings with it significant health risks, linked to deaths from diarrhoea, cholera, and typhoid. It is also a risk factor for violence against women and girls who, for example, may need to leave home in the dark to find somewhere to defecate.

In 2016, Nigeria launched an action plan of its own, aiming to end open defecation by 2025. The plan involves providing equitable access to water, sanitation, and hygiene services and strengthening tailored community approaches to total sanitation.

But with the government yet to release funding for the initiative, advocates say progress is happening at a snail’s pace. In November 2018, as parts of the country struggled with high levels of water-borne diseases, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari declared a state of emergency in the water, sanitation, and hygiene sector.

In the meantime, NGOs are working where they can to get the ball rolling on ending open defecation in Nigeria.

Financing woes

Nigeria needs an estimated 959 billion Nigerian naira ($2.7 billion) to end open defecation by 2025. Of that, the government is expected to provide around 25%, or NGN234 billion — justified on the grounds that the country loses NGN455 billion annually to poor sanitation.

The other 75% of the cost will be incurred by households. “The majority of the costs to households will be spent on constructing toilets for those that don’t have [them], while funds from the government will be spent on public projects including ensuring access to toilet facilities at public places,” explained Zaid Jurji, head of WASH at UNICEF Nigeria.

With so much money expected to be pumped into the challenge, the government is encouraging the emergence of a toilet business ecosystem, which includes innovative toilet designers, financiers to provide loans and other financial tools to households, community organizations, and more.

“Several toilet financing options are available to help households,” explained Jurji, ranging from local bartering arrangements — one woman traded a goat for a pour flush toilet, for example — to government-provided revolving loans for communities.

But advocates say a wide gap exists between ambition and action. To meet the 2025 target, Nigeria needs to build 2 million toilets every year from 2019 to 2025. Bioye Ogunjobi, a WASH specialist for UNICEF, said the country is currently delivering about 100,000 toilets annually.

“The current effort is like a drop in the ocean,” Ogunjobi said.

Just like India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Buhari has directed government at all levels to redouble its efforts.

In a speech at the time of the emergency declaration in November, he said the 2030 global goals on WASH “cannot be achieved if we continue with ‘a business as usual’ approach. Henceforth, federal government support to state governments will be based on their commitment to implement the National WASH Action Plan in their respective states and to end open defecation by 2025.”[a]

But nine months later, advocates say little has changed — not least because the federal government is yet to release its share of funding for the initiative. Some state governments have also not yet provided funding, which officials attributed to the country’s recent elections, meaning new budgets will not be passed until next year.

Nonetheless, Chizoma Opara, acting coordinator of “Clean Nigeria” — the government’s behavior change campaign on ending open defecation, which is supported by UNICEF, the World Bank, and the African Development Bank, among others — told Devex the government is fully committed to the project.

She said she and other stakeholders had visited India to study their strategies and were aiming to localize and replicate them in Nigeria, describing the campaign as having the potential to be a “transformational” social movement.

Communities take charge

As they wait for the full roll-out of the initiative, UNICEF and its partners are already working with some states, local governments, and interest groups to make what progress they can.

So far, 11 of Nigeria’s 774 local government areas have been certified as free from open defecation — a process that involves the establishment of a local committee and random checks by government officials.

But both WASH advocates and government officials acknowledged that more needs to be happening if the country is to have a chance of meeting its 2025 target.

Development commentator Kevwe Oghide said she would like to see laws prohibiting open defecation — which has already happened in some states — and urged companies to take on sanitation in their corporate social responsibility work.

“[We need] mobile toilets, [to] repair broken facilities, [better] water supply,” she said. But she added: “It is not enough to provide clean and safe toilets … There is also a need to change behaviors as a means to bridge the gap between building latrines and their proper use.”

Jurji told Devex that successful efforts are happening in some areas — from legislation to toilet construction to the participation of state authorities. “Everyone is working, but this needs to be happening across the country to achieve desired results,” he said.

By Paul Adepoju

Related stories: Nigeria second in the world in open defecation

Shia leader travels from Nigeria to India for medical treatment

Detained Nigerian Shia leader Ibrahim el-Zakzaky and his wife have flown out of the country to get medical treatment in India, according to supporters and lawyers.

Held since 2015, el-Zakzaky, the leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), was last week granted bail by a court in Kaduna state in order to seek treatment abroad.

He and his wife departed on Monday from Abuja's international airport for New Delhi on an Emirates flight, according to Harun Magashi, a member of the pair's legal team.

"They boarded the plane at 5:50pm," he told Al Jazeera.

In recent weeks, IMN members had launched a series of demonstrations in the Nigerian capital to demand the release of their couple's from prison to receive medical treatment.

Several people were killed and more than 50 IMN members were arrested in clashes with police that also saw the killing of a journalist and a police officer, as well as the closure of the National Assembly building in Abuja.

"The health of Sheikh Zakzaky and his wife, Malama Zeenatudeen, is deteriorating. They are suffering from various health complications with gun injuries on their bodies since 2015," Mahdi Garba, a member of the Shia movement, told Al Jazeera.

El-Zakzaky and his wife had been held in a detention facility since December 2015, when security forces killed more than 300 of IMN members in a three-day operation in Zaria, according to human rights groups.

A court in 2016 said el-Zakzaky should be released but authorities refused and have since filed charges against him including homicide, unlawful assembly, disruption of public peace and other offences. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Abdulhamid Bello, an IMN leader, told Al Jazeera on Tuesday afternoon that the movement's members were "overwhelmingly excited" about the trip to India.

"They're heading to New Delhi. Returning back to detention is a condition by the court but let us wait and see," Bello added.

After the Kaduna court last week ruled that the IMN leader be allowed to seek medical help, the Nigerian State Security Services immediately pledged to obey the ruling.

"Conformity with the order is in line with the Service's avowed commitment to the Rule of Law inherent in a democracy," spokesman Peter Afunanya said in a statement.

"Consequently, the service is liaising with relevant stakeholders to ensure compliance."

By Mercy Abang

Al Jazeera 

Related story: Shi'ite Muslim leader allowed to seak medical treatment abroad

Video - Why has Nigeria banned Shia Muslim group

Friday, August 9, 2019

Revolution Now organizer to be detained for 45 days

A court in Nigeria has granted the state spy agency a request to hold a publisher and politician detained last weekend over a banned protest known as “Revolution Now.”

Omoyele Sowore, who is publisher of the Sahara Reporters news portal, is to be held in detention by the Department of State Services, DSS; for a period of 45 days. DSS had asked the court for 90 day detention.

Reports indicate that he is set to be charged with terrorism, a charge that a leading legal expert in Nigeria, Femi Falana, has insisted will fall flat when trial opens.

Local media reported that his arrest was linked to plans to mobilise people in Lagos and other parts of the country for a revolution protest tagged ‘Days of Rage’ to demand a better Nigeria.

The arrest elicited a wide range of condemnation on social media with people accusing the government of seeking to stifle dissent and the right to peaceful protest.

The State Security Service said the calls for revolution were unlawful. “He’s with us,” said a spokesman, confirming the arrest.

“He has crossed the line, he has threatened public safety… Nothing will happen, there won’t be any revolution. The government, which has been elected democratically, will be in place.”

A presidency spokesman last Sunday said there is “a difference between peaceful call to protest and incitement for a revolution.”

The statement did not refer to the arrest, but said “the ballot box is the only constitutional means of changing government and a president in Nigeria.”

By Abdur Rahman Alfa Shaban 

Africa News

Africa's largest oil refinery delayed until 2020

Africa’s largest oil refinery will not be finished until the end of 2020 due to problems importing steel and other equipment, executives at Dangote, which is building the facility in the Nigerian commercial hub of Lagos, told Reuters.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, imports virtually all its fuel due to sclerotic and underutilised refineries, and even the state oil company is looking to the 650,000 barrel per day (bpd) Dangote refinery to help address this.

Price caps force NNPC to import nearly all its gasoline at a significant cost and periodic fuel shortages are common.

Despite the delays at the congested Apapa and Tin Can Island ports in Lagos, a Dangote executive said the company could start using the refinery’s tank farms as a depot to warm up operations.

“We will be able to complete the (refinery) project by the end of next year - mechanical completion,” said Dangote Group Executive Director Devakumar Edwin, who oversees the project.

The company expects fuel production within two months of completion of the refinery, which could transform Africa’s biggest crude producer from a fuel importer into a net exporter, upending global trade patterns.

Billionaire Aliko Dangote, who built his fortune on cement, first announced a smaller refinery in 2013, to be finished in 2016. Dangote then moved the site to Lekki, in Lagos, upgraded the size and said production would start in early 2020.

Industry sources told Reuters last year that fuel output was unlikely before 2022.

Edwin also said during an interview at his office in Lagos that Dangote is setting up its own trading desk, with a senior team of three people and a staff of roughly 30 who will monitor international commodity prices.

“We are setting up a complete trading desk here with us. In the next three months the full desk will be set up,” he said.

Giuseppe Surace, the refinery’s chief operations officer, said the refinery’s tank farms will be finished this year and could be used as a warm-up for operations.

The tanks will be connected to five “single point mooring buoys” (SPMs), which will allow the refinery complex to pump crude straight into tanks from large ships at sea and pump products back out onto boats of any size.

The SPMs will be the primary method of supplying oil products from the refinery, Surace said, adding that the team were considering using the tanks as training or as a depot before the refinery’s production starts.

“We might do that. We will be ready to do that,” he said, though he added that no decision had been taken yet.

The team is in talks with NNPC, two other international oil companies and two large oil traders, all of whom are interested in supplying crude and buying products, Edwin said.

Edwin said the crude unit for the refinery, which set sail from China last month, would arrive by the end of October.

The trains at a fertilizer plant on the same site will start up by the end of this year, the executives said.

By Alexis Akwagyiram


Related story: Dangote Refinery has World's largest atmospheric tower built by China for Nigeria

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Nigeria second in the world in open defecation

Nigeria has been ranked second among countries practicing open defecation globally, says the United Nations Children Fund.

Dr Geoffrey Njoku, Communication Specialist, UNICEF made this known at a Two-Day Media Dialogue in Calabar State on Wednesday.

The theme of the dialogue “Clean Nigeria: Use the Toilet” is aimed at creating awareness to end the habit by 2025.

According to him, findings from the 2018 Water sanitation and Hygiene National Outcome Routine Mapping survey reveals that 24 per cent of the population, about 47 million people, practise open defecation.

“This campaign is trying to see what we can do not to be in the number one category of open category.

“There is need to create awareness about Clean Nigeria, Use the Toilet campaign and mobilise resources to sustain the national movement.”

Njoku, however, called for behavioural change and policy reform through community dialogue, advocacy and engagement with policymakers.

He added that it was also important to drive cross-sector collaborations, especially with the private sector to improve investment in the sanitation sector.

Meanwhile, the Chief of Field Office, UNICEF, Enugu, Mr Ibrahim Conteh said that by 2030, Nigeria should be able to achieve adequate sanitation hygiene while also paying adequate attention to the needs of women and girls.

Conteh said stakeholders must, however, join forces towards improving adequate sanitation facilities in the country.

” The Federal Government has declared an emergency on the sector in 2018 and have taken steps to achieve this.

” This partnership will yield tremendous result in achieving this goal.”

News Agency of Nigeria reports that the Nigeria government in 2018 launched a national campaign to jump-start the country toward becoming Open Defecation Free.

Nigeria is however second to India in open defecation, a situation that needed urgent attention to reverse.


Related stories: Nigerian government plans to end open defecation in Nigeria by 2025

Highest rate of Nigerians defecating in public is in Ekiti State

Boko Haram attempted to stop Nigeria from eradicating polio.

Nigeria is on the verge of eliminating polio, but Boko Haram is standing in the way.

Using violence and misinformation, the ISIS-linked militant group has hampered efforts to get every child in the country vaccinated against polio, leaving nearly 66,000 children in remote villages in northern Nigeria without the vaccine, according to UNICEF estimates.

But public health officials are pushing back, teaming up with the military and volunteers who have put their lives on the line to get vaccines to everyone.

Boko Haram has controlled territory in northern Nigeria since around 2003, when they implemented Sharia, or Islamic law, in the region. As part of an effort to dispel Western views, the group —whose name roughly translates to “Western education is sinful” —spread vaccine misinformation, claiming that the vaccine could lead to infertility and bone injuries.

The group has also used violence to deter vaccinators. In 2013, at least nine vaccination team members in the state of Kano were murdered, and witnesses pointed to Boko Haram as the culprit.

The group's efforts worked: In 2016, after nearly three years without an outbreak, polio resurfaced in the country — a sobering reminder that public health efforts, even when backed by strong leadership, millions of dollars in funding and years of planning, can be quickly undone.

“In 2016, we almost disrupted the transmission of polio, but our efforts were derailed by insurgency groups in the northeast,” said Dr. Ngozi Nwosu, the national coordinator for the polio transition planning committee of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency. “We don't want that to happen again.”

That means public health officials need to get the vaccine to kids in remote villages in Boko Haram-controlled territory.

“Now, health care workers are accompanied by the military and vigilantes to keep them and the vaccines they carry safe,” Nwosu said. “We also use satellite imagery to see where these hard-to-reach communities are located so we know exactly where to go.”

The vigilantes, also called community informants, sometimes go where health care workers cannot, because of threats of violence. They are young men who have been trained by the military on how to de-escalate potentially dangerous situations as well as how to properly administer vaccines. Armed with this knowledge, they go family to family in remote camps, dispelling anti-vaccine myths for parents and providing vaccines to the children.

Their vaccination efforts have been invaluable in helping to achieve Nigeria’s 30-year goal of eliminating polio, said Pernille Ironside, UNICEF's deputy representative for Nigeria.

“We are fortunate to have informants within largely inaccessible areas of Borno,” Ironside told NBC News. “Boko Haram has made it so we can’t reach 66,000 children.”

The vigilantes provide health care workers with on-the-ground information, including whether any children show symptoms of polio. But without access to the areas, it's difficult to know exactly what's going on.

“We're not quite sure of the full polio picture in these areas, if any children are experiencing paralytic symptoms, or how many kids remain unvaccinated,” Ironside said. “The inaccessibility to these children is a far bigger issue than even the misinformation campaigns that exist.”

One community informant, who asked to remain anonymous due to safety concerns, told NBC News that the number of children they've reached is hard to quantify, but added that thousands of children have likely been vaccinated, thereby conferring some level of herd immunity to those who are unvaccinated. Herd immunity means that enough people are vaccinated against an infectious disease to protect others in the community who are not.

The vigilantes also help educate the people living in these remote areas on proper hygiene and sanitation practices when they can, Ironside said.

“Polio is spread in the feces, and Nigeria will soon overtake India as the No. 1 country in public defecation. That's not a distinction you want to have,” she added.

Nwosu stressed that while global public health efforts and strong leadership by the Nigerian government have stemmed the anti-vaccine tide, it's not time to let up.

“We have to remain vigilant in our vaccination and surveillance campaigns,” Nwosu said. And polio isn't the only safety concern in the area: Kidnappings, armed robberies and poor sanitation are also worsening the conditions in which people live, she said.

Ironside, who is also a human rights attorney, applauded Nigeria as a global public health success story and said that she is excited that this chapter in the fight against polio is coming to an end. Still, she acknowledged that a conversation with Boko Haram leadership may be necessary to keep events, such as the resurgence of polio in 2016, from happening again.

“We know that Nigeria is doing everything in its power to check their influence,” Ironside said of Boko Haram, “but it is prudent to listen to their message and find new ways to address them.”


Tekno questioned by Nigeria police for pole dancing women in traffic

Nigerian star Tekno has been questioned by police after travelling through Lagos in a van with semi-naked women.

A video, which appears to be filmed from another car in a traffic jam, shows a man sitting in a glass-sided lorry throwing money at women dancing around a pole in their underwear.

The singer has denied accusations that it was an advert for a strip club.

Instead he insists that he was in the glass box on a truck travelling between locations while shooting a music video.

The police started an investigation after there was "outcry on social media" about the video, police spokesman Bala Elkana told the BBC.

It was originally reported that the singer was arrested, but Mr Elkana says he was invited for questioning and voluntarily visited the police station in Lagos on Tuesday to make a statement.

Tekno features in Beyonce's Lion King album and his songs include the hit Pana which has had over 100 million views on YouTube.

The video, whose origin is unclear, shows the women dancing while the vehicle stopped in a traffic jam:

The star, whose real name is Augustine Kelechi, apologised on Instagram for any offence he had caused.

He said they had been "having fun" shooting a music video and then, at midnight, had to travel between locations:

"We were shooting a music video and we had a shortage of vehicles to convey people to the next location, because some of the cars broke down in between the shoot," he said on Instagram.

He didn't explain why, on the journey, he was throwing money at the women.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Video - Nollywood tackles discrimination and stigma

More than ever before, movie makers in Nigeria's film industry, Nollywood, are beginning to tell unheard stories of the marginalized and under-represented in society. And they're doing this hand in hand with highly talented persons with disability and other health conditions. In an industry focused on glitz and glamour, an albino actor from Nigeria has dared to prove that they have been ignored for far too long.

Shi'ite Muslim leader allowed to seak medical treatment abroad

A Nigerian judge ruled on Monday that the detained leader of a banned Nigerian Shi’ite Muslim group could seek medical treatment abroad, after a series of protests calling for his release turned violent last month.

Nigeria banned the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) in July after a week of protests in which the group said at least 20 of its members were killed in police crackdowns. Police gave no death toll.

The group’s leader, Ibrahim Zakzaky, has been held since 2015 when government forces killed around 350 people in a storming of its compound and a nearby mosque. He has not been released despite a court order to that effect, and the IMN said his detention is illegal.

The judge in a court in the northwestern city of Kaduna granted Zakzaky and his wife leave to seek medical treatment in India under supervision of state officials.

Zakzaky’s lawyers have said that while in detention, Zakzaky lost an eye to advanced glaucoma and risks losing the other, while shrapnel lodged in his body since the 2015 storming of the IMN compound was causing lead poisoning.

The government says IMN incites violence, and a court has given the authorities permission to label it a terrorist organization. IMN denies it is violent, and says Zakzaky should be released in line with a December 2016 court order.

IMN is the largest Shi’ite organization in a country where around half of the population is Muslim, overwhelmingly Sunni.

Nigeria considers some Islamist movements to be a security threat after a decade combating the insurgency by Sunni Muslim militant group Boko Haram in which 30,000 people have been killed. The death of Boko Haram’s leader in custody was one of the events that set that group on a violent path. (Reporting by Garba Muhammad; Writing by Chijioke Ohuocha; Editing by Alexis Akwagyiram and Raissa Kasolowsky)

National Post

Related story: Video - Why has Nigeria banned Shia Muslim group

Friday, August 2, 2019

Clash between army and jihadists leaves dozens dead

Fierce clashes between a regional force and IS-affiliated fighters in northeast Nigeria left 25 soldiers and at least 40 jihadists dead, two military sources and a militia leader said Thursday.

Fighters from the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) group launched a dawn attack on Monday against a base near the town of Baga on Lake Chad, setting off fierce gun battles that killed 20 Nigerian and five Chadian troops, the sources said.

"The terrorists killed 20 Nigerian troops and five Chadian soldiers in the intense fight in which soldiers killed 47 of the terrorists," a military officer told AFP.

The head of a local anti-jihadist militia confirmed the military death toll and put ISWAP losses at "more than 40".

In a statement on Monday, the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) said 10 jihadists and a soldier were killed at the base while five troops were injured.

The MNJTF is a five-nation anti-military force headquartered in the Chadian capital N'djamena, comprising troops from Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Benin set up to fight jihadists in the Lake Chad region.

The military is known to downplay its losses in the fight against the jihadists.

The sources said that the jihadist raid on the base was repelled and the fleeing fighters were then met by a convoy of special forces bringing supplies from the regional capital Maiduguri.

"They ran into special forces who had been alerted by the troops in the base and more of the terrorists were killed in a brief encounter," a second military officer said.

ISWAP on Wednesday claimed that it had killed 15 soldiers in clashes near Baga.

The MNJTF base located four miles from Baga has been repeatedly attacked since 2014.

In December last year, ISWAP seized Baga and the base in an offensive that left several soldiers and militia fighters dead.

Although the MNJTF base was reclaimed weeks later, Baga and a separate naval base on Lake Chad remain under ISWAP control, according to locals and security sources.

The decade-long jihadist campaign of violence has killed some 27,000 people, displaced more than two million, and spilt into neighbouring countries.

ISWAP broke away from the main Boko Haram jihadist group in 2016 due to ideological differences.


Thursday, August 1, 2019

Video - Nigerians seizing opportunity of waste recycling to cash in

With a population exceeding 180 million, Nigeria is one of the largest producers of solid waste in Africa, generating more than 32 million tons annually. To fix this, some Nigerian are now challenging this narrative by using recycling as means of survival. They are cashing in by exchanging trash for money.

Fuel tanker explosion in Nigeria kills 1

One person was confirmed killed following an early Wednesday explosion from a fuel tanker in Nigeria's northeastern state of Gombe, according to a Red Cross official.

The explosion, which occurred on a highway linking Gombe to the neighboring northeastern state of Bauchi, also razed at least five lockup shops.

Abass Mohammed, an official of the Nigerian Red Cross Society in Gombe, said the tanker which erupted in fire near the village of Tumfure, had a head-on collision with a truck.

Mohammed said the tanker was trying to avoid a stationary vehicle ahead when it ran into a truck coming in the opposite direction.

The severity of the fire had caused serious damage to the nearby shops. The victim, a motorcycle rider, burned beyond recognition, he added.


Polio on the brink of elimination in Nigeria thanks to the effort of mothers

Amina Anas wanted more information before getting her baby boy vaccinated against polio.

Anas, who lives in a village in northern Nigeria, spoke to other women in the community about her concerns. Ultimately, Aisha Shuaibu Mohammad, a UNICEF-trained volunteer, was able to convince her.

Mohammad is one of hundreds of Nigerian women who have spearheaded the country’s fight against polio by becoming vaccinators.

The women are close to being able to declare victory: Aug. 21 will mark three years since Nigeria's last case of polio, said Dr. Anis Siddique, UNICEF's chief of communication for development who led the polio team. In the northern state of Kano, where Anas lives, there hasn't been a case in five years, Siddique said.

Siddique is cautiously optimistic that the country will receive World Health Organization certification for polio eradication in October — a country must go three years without a case, and the WHO routinely waits two months after the three-year mark to make an official declaration, he said.

This won't be the first time Nigeria has been declared polio-free. In 2015, the WHO declared that polio had been eliminated, but a 2016 outbreak wiped out the designation.

Efforts on the ground

To eliminate polio, women — mostly young mothers — have gone door-to-door, slipping drops of polio vaccine under the tongues of as many as 30 million Nigerian children. The volunteers work with UNICEF and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and have received clinical training to properly administer the vaccine.

In Nigeria, the vast majority of vaccinators are women. That’s crucial to ensuring that vaccines reach every child, because men — with the exception of husbands and close male family members — are prevented from entering households. This rule is strictly enforced in the northern and middle belt regions of Nigeria, where Islam predominates.

Mohammad, the UNICEF-trained volunteer, admitted that it's impossible to convince every woman to vaccinate her children, but said that she sees successful cases every day.

“Once we talk to the women like Amina, they usually open up. We not only give vaccines ... we discuss their fears about the medicine, proper hygiene and sanitation, and even prenatal care,” Mohammad told NBC News.

She said that with the help of volunteer community members, "we send reminders every Monday to all new mothers in the community that there will be a vaccine clinic the following day. We are here every Tuesday.”

As in the United States, there’s some skepticism surrounding vaccines in Nigeria. But the similarities end there: Some anti-vaccination myths in Nigeria are put forth by the violent militant group Boko Haram, and volunteers may be the target of violence. In 2013, two Kano vaccination teams were murdered.

But Michael Galway, deputy director of the Polio Foundation at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said that opposition to vaccines is no longer as a big a challenge as it once was. Now, only 1 percent of people are not getting vaccinated because they refuse the vaccination, Galway said.

More challenging is simply reaching people. Large nomadic populations live along Nigeria's borders. Last year, the WHO renewed efforts to vaccinate children regularly crossing into and out of the country by supporting the government in an initiative to improve vaccination efforts in the northwest region of the country.

Preventing polio

Alasan Isa, the village head of a small rural community in Minjibir, Nigeria, said that seeing the devastating effects of polio has led him to encourage women to become volunteers and vaccinators.

“I have seen how even one case of polio can devastate a community. I don't ever want to see polio again ... a child with paralytic polio cannot move and often they cannot work in the future. It's not a way to live,” Isa said.

In many parts of Nigeria, the polio vaccine is given orally, as drops under the tongue. This form of the vaccine is easy to administer — unlike an injection, it can be given by anyone. However, because the oral vaccine uses a live version of the virus, it carries the very small risk that the virus can mutate and cause disease, the WHO says. These cases only occur in areas where overall vaccination rates are very low, leaving people susceptible to the virus.

Siddique, of UNICEF, stressed that the benefits of getting vaccinated far outweigh the small risk.

When outbreaks of so-called vaccine-derived polio do occur, they are kept under control and generally do not cause paralysis, Galway noted. What's more, these cases should not take away from the milestone that may soon be reached.

“Providing these vaccines is part of our long-standing commitment to child survival,” Galway said. “It takes meticulous state level programs to interrupt transmission. In 2017, we almost reached a polio-free level in Nigeria, but we fell short. This time, I hope we can declare that Africa is certified as free of polio.”

By Shamard Charles, M.D.


MTN to start to provide financial services in Nigeria

The fledgling mobile money market in Nigeria is about to get a major shake-up.

MTN Nigeria, the country’s largest telecoms operator, has been granted a “super agent” license which allows it set up an agent network through which it can provide financial services. It’s the first step in MTN’s plans to finally roll out mobile money services in Africa’s largest economy as the company says it has also applied for a payment service bank license, which will allow it “offer a broader and deeper range of financial services.”

The license comes after reforms by Nigeria’s central bank last October permitting telecoms operators to get mobile money and banking licenses in a bid to boost financial inclusion and facilitate the long-held ambition for a cashless society.

As already seen in several African countries, the real-life application of mobile money among unbanked populations ranges from quick, seamless fund transfers to facilitating payments and boosting small businesses. In Ghana, the service has been adopted for investing as well with MTN’s selling shares for its landmark IPO mainly through mobile money. The West African country has recently become the fastest-growing mobile money market in Africa, with registered accounts increasing six-fold between 2012 and 2017.

The Nigerian reforms now allow telecoms operators like MTN attempt to tap into the promise of mobile money to offer similar services locally. As Africa’s most populous nation as well being home to a vast population of unbanked adults, Nigeria remains an attractive prospect given the success of mobile money services in other parts of the continent.

At the end of last year, there were nearly 400 million registered mobile money accounts—nearly half of the global total—across sub-Saharan Africa with nearly 90% of users in East and West Africa. In Ghana, Kenya and Zimbabwe, over 60% of adults have mobile money accounts.

Compared to standalone startups who have to build marketing and distribution infrastructure through a network of agents from scratch, mobile money services owned by telecoms companies have the in-built advantage of offering their services to an existing user base of millions of subscribers. Indeed, the continent’s biggest mobile money players are all owned by telecoms operators.

In MTN’s case, its longstanding status as Nigeria’s most dominant telecoms operator means it will have a pool of 67 million users to offer its services. And there’s room for significant upside in the near future too with Nigeria predicted to add 31 million mobile subscribers by 2025.

The license is part of South African-owned MTN’s delicate balancing act in Nigeria. It has a tumultuous history of billion-dollar fines and lawsuits in its largest market. Most recently, the company faced allegations of illegally repatriating $8.1 billion in profits and owing $2 billion in taxes. In 2016, it reached a $1.7 billion settlement with Nigeria’s government after a protracted SIM card dispute and an initial $5.2 billion fine.

By Yomi Kazeem 


Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Video - Why has Nigeria banned Shia Muslim group

Government labels Islamic Movement of Nigeria a 'terrorist' organisation. Nigeria's main Shia Muslim group has had a tumultuous few days. The Islamic Movement of Nigeria has been banned and labelled a terrorist organisation. Its leader, Ibrahim Zakzaky, as been in jail since 2015, when 350 of his followers were killed in confrontations with security forces. More supporters were killed in protests last week demanding his release. Observers say the government is handling the group in a similar way to Boko Haram, which turned violent a decade ago when its leader died in police custody. Could this latest crackdown provoke a new conflict?

Related story: Shia group in Nigeria banned after deadly clashes

Nigerian dies during deportation process from Canada

Calgary police say Canada Border Services Agency officers are not to blame for the death of a Nigerian man during his deportation last year.

The passenger on a Calgary-Amsterdam flight had an altercation with two CBSA officers before takeoff on Aug. 7.

The plane returned to the gate and police responded to find Bolanle Alo in medical distress.

The 49-year-old was taken to hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Police say an investigation found the death was not caused by the border service officers, who were acting in a reasonable and appropriate manner.

The chief medical examiner also determined Alo died of natural causes.

Alo’s relatives have demanded information in the case.

Their lawyer, Elias Munshya, has said they want to know what happened when Alo was detained, what happened in detention and what happened on the airplane before he died.

Documents from the Immigration and Refugee Board said Alo, whose first name is listed as Bolante, came to Canada in 2005 and made a refugee claim on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

He was, however, denied at every stage and ordered removed from Canada in February 2018.

The documents said he had been co-operative with the CBSA but didn’t want to return to Nigeria.

“Mr. Alo is adamant that he will face harm if he is returned to Nigeria and has consistently told officers that he will not return to Nigeria on his own and that he would only return if he is forced to,” stated the documents.

Once he was ordered removed, Nigerian High Commission officers interviewed Alo and raised concerns that he could become violent.

By Lauren Krugel

City News

Dangote Refinery has World's largest atmospheric tower built by China for Nigeria

 China’s leading energy and chemical company, Sinopec, on Monday, said that it had built the world’s largest atmospheric tower for Nigeria’s Dangote Refinery. On its verified Twitter handle, the company shared photos of the tower and revealed that it (tower) had already left its port in China and was traveling to Nigeria.

It tweeted: “On July 29, the world’s largest atmospheric tower built by Sinopec slowly left a wharf in Ningbo. Following the Maritime #SilkRoad, it will travel to #Nigeria and be installed at the world’s biggest single-train facility – Nigeria’s Dangote Refinery.”

The piece of equipment is designed to process crude oil for Dangote refinery.

Citac analyst, Jeremy Parker, told Reuters on Monday that for the type of refinery the company is building, the atmospheric tower is the primary unit processing crude oil into fuels. The company expects the refinery to start producing fuels in 2023.

It will likely take at least a month for the shipment to reach Lagos, it was gathered.

The 650,000 barrel per day (bpd) refinery is set to be Africa’s largest, with potential to transform the country from an importer of fuel to a net exporter. The refinery is situated on a 6,180 acres (2,500 hectares) site at the Lekki Free Zone, Lagos.

In 2018, Aliko Dangote disclosed that he planned to complete the $12-14 billion refinery project in 2019, with additional plans to start production in early 2020. Analysts have however suggested that the project would take longer in order to begin pumping out fuels such as diesel and gasoline.

Reuters reported last year that the refinery was unlikely to start production until at least 2022, two years later than the target date. “This is a major milestone, but there is still much work to be done, both in terms of sourcing the other units and in terms of interconnection at the site,” Mr. Parker said of the atmospheric tower shipment.


Task Force set up in Nigeria to recover $15 billion Amcon Debt

Nigeria has set up a task force to recover about 5.5 trillion naira ($15 billion) of bad loans taken over during a banking crisis more than a decade ago.

The loans are owed to the Asset Management Corp. of Nigeria, known as Amcon, which bought them over during the 2009 banking crisis, the Abuja-based presidency said on its Twitter account Tuesday. The group includes the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, it said.

The amount owed is almost 80% of the West African nation’s revenue target for 2019 and 62% of planned spending by President Muhammadu Buhari, amounting to 8.9 trillion naira.

Nigeria’s central bank will bear the loss if the loans are not paid back by debtors as it provided the cash Amcon used to repay holders of bonds that were issued to acquire the bad debts from banks.

About 67% of the outstanding debt is owed by 20 individuals or entities, the presidency said, citing Amcon Chairman Muiz Banire.

Modeled on organizations including Ireland’s National Asset Management Agency Ltd. and Korea Asset Management Corp., Amcon used bonds to bail out 10 lenders and buy more than 12,000 loans from industries including aviation, gasoline marketing and manufacturing after the 2008-09 oil price crash. It’s so far recovered 1 trillion naira, Amcon Chief Executive Officer Ahmed Kuru said last week.

By Anthony Osae-Brown


Super Falcon's captain demands equal pay for Nigeria's women's team

Super Falcons captain Desire Oparanozie has 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.

Her side 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.

"We are the most successful female team in Africa, yet we have the largest disparities between men's and women's pay," Oparanozie said at the 2019 Ladies In Sports (LIS) Conference in Lagos.

"I think we deserve equal pay. This big gap tells a different story and a proper rethink of this mode of payment could also help the women's game."

Oparanozie, who plays professionally in France with En Avant Guingamp, believes the women's team are on the right track in their quest for treatment that reflects their achievements and contributions to the sport.

"We have done the nation proud and I think the results over the years are there for all to see," she added.

"With positive results and more success, I believe we will get there, it's one step at a time."

The team's impressive run at the 2019 Fifa Women's World Cup in France was marred by a sit-in protest at their hotel over unpaid bonuses and allowances following a last-16 defeat by Germany.

It was not the first time Nigeria have protested over unpaid bonuses - after winning the Africa Cup of Nations in 2016, the squad staged a public demonstration in Abuja, while in 2004, they sat for three days in their hotel after winning the Africa title until allowances were paid.

Her demands reflect those of the USA women's team who began legal action against the US Soccer Federation over equal pay in March, four months before retaining the World Cup.

Norway's Ada Hegerberg, the reigning BBC Women's Footballer of the Year and the first women's Ballon d'Or in December, walked away from her national team in 2017 after growing increasingly frustrated with its set-up and what she called a "lack of respect" for female players.

By Oluwashina Okeleji


Google voice and Maps services in Nigeria has Nigerian accent

 Over the course of the past month, the voice on Google’s Maps service in Nigeria has sounded more, well, “Nigerian.”

Directions and local street names, previously mispronounced by a default American or British accent, were now offered in a familiar accent with a new “Nigerian English” option.

Novel as it is though, the response on social media has been decidedly mixed. But that’s not a surprise for Kola Tubosun, linguist and 2016 Quartz Africa Innovator honoree who led the Nigerian team that developed the voice for Google. “I knew it would be useful but I also knew that some people would complain when it came out,” Tubosun says.

One thing most users agree on however is that Google’s Nigerian voice is far more representative of how locals speak. And that’s fitting as the first step for Tubosun, once in the role, was to attempt to determine what a standard version of Nigerian English, or even a Nigerian accent, sounds like.

Given the popularity of Nollywood movie characters and Afrobeats pop stars around Africa—and increasingly the world—the idea of a Nigerian accent might feel very familiar. But for the average Nigerian there’s no such thing as a “Nigerian accent.” That’s because the country’s 180 million people speak over 200 different local languages and twice as many dialects. These languages with their different tones and vocal tics all produce very differing accents when locals speak English—the country’s official language. A local accent is often as closely tied to a Nigerian’s regional or local identity nearly as much as their name.

Achieving the goal of figuring out a standard Nigerian accent first meant setting up a team with a “diversity of people who had spoken English in Nigeria and had different language backgrounds to be able to give perspectives when needed,” Tubosun says. Even further, the team was tasked with settling on an accent that would be considered acceptable by most users. To that end, Tubosun notes the importance of first recognizing the multiplicity of local accents based on region or ethnicity.

“If you watch a movie and you hear someone speak with a New York accent, you say that’s an American accent—you won’t say it’s a New York accent,” he says. In a similar vein, foreigners likely recognize accents from various parts of Nigeria as simply Nigerian, he says.

For the purpose of the project however, having a voice that’s widely understood without being seen as “biased” to a particular region was necessary. As such, the team settled on phonetic parameters that commonly apply to Nigerian English as part of guidelines for the project. “There are peculiarities that I can point out in standard Nigerian English and there are peculiarities that apply to regions, what we tried to do was stick with the standard as much as possible,” Tubosun says.

Once settled on the guidelines and local pronunciations, especially of streets with local names, an unnamed voice talent was brought in to record text. The next step saw machine learning employed as Google’s engineering team created synthesis based on the team’s guidelines which had been translated into code as well as the voice that had been recorded. As a result, going forward, unlimited amounts of speech can now be created by computing as Google continues to update the app with local addresses and locations.

Google’s use of the Nigerian English option also extends beyond Maps: at its annual flagship Google In Nigeria event last week, the internet giant confirmed the Nigerian voice option is also available on other products including Google Go, Google Lens—a tool that can translate text to speech, and Bolo, a new educational reading app for children.

The “English (Nigeria)” option is available under Google Maps settings alongside English for Ghana, India, Kenya, South Africa and Tanzania.

In broader terms, the Nigerian English option is also part of Google’s efforts to create hyper-local products for users in Nigeria, which is home to Africa’s largest internet market. Google Maps has also added an “informal directions” interface adapted for public transport travel in Lagos and a motorcycle navigation mode as two-wheeler transport services increasingly become formalized. The motorcycle mode has now been made available in six African countries in the last 10 months.

The obvious play by Google is to offer more services customized to local needs to attract more users in the world’s fastest growing region for mobile subscriptions. For its part, Google also aims to boost online connectivity for these users with plans for an underwater internet cable.

As it eyes more customization, Tubosun, whose work as a linguist with Google remains ongoing, predicts indigenous Nigerian languages may also be adopted on the company’s products. In the meantime, he regards the digital Nigerian English option as “one small step in a larger direction” given possible application beyond Google’s products, including in English proficiency exams taken annually by thousands of Nigerians as part applications to foreign schools and for emigration purposes.

“Many Nigerians fail because the speaking and listening components of the exams are set in a British or American accent and that’s terrible,” he says.

By Yomi Kazeem


Monday, July 29, 2019

Shia group in Nigeria banned after deadly clashes

The Nigerian government has banned a Shia group after a spate of deadly clashes at protests in the capital Abuja, and following a court decision allowing authorities to call it a "terrorist" organisation.

The office of President Muhammadu Buhari said in a statement on Sunday that the government "had to act" against the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), before the situation got out of control.

Tensions have risen between the authorities and IMN as demonstrations in Abuja to free pro-Iranian leader Ibrahim Zakzaky have descended into violence.

On Monday, a court in Kaduna State will decide on Zakzaky's application for bail to seek medical treatment abroad.

Punch newspaper reported on Saturday the government had secured a court order allowing it to prohibit the group's activities as "terrorism and illegality".

"Proscription of Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) has nothing to do with banning the larger numbers of peaceful and law-abiding Shia in the country from practising their religion, instead it was to discourage wanton violence, murder and willful destruction of public and private property," the presidency said in a statement.

"The banned organisation was taken over by extremists who didn't believe in peaceful protests and instead employed violence and arson, driving fear and undermining the rights of others and constituted authority."

The authorities still need to publish the court order in the state gazette and two newspapers for it to come into force, Punch said.

Last week, at least six protesters, a trainee journalist and a senior police officer were killed during the latest clashes.

The IMN, which emerged as a student movement in the late 1970s was inspired by the Islamic revolution in Iran, and has close ties in the Islamic republic.

The sect is often treated with hostility in Nigeria, especially in the predominantly Sunni Muslim north of the country, where religious elites are allied with Saudi Arabia.

Zakzaky was detained in December 2015 after violence during a religious procession. Rights groups say some 350 mostly unarmed Shia marchers were killed by the Nigerian army.

Concerns on Zakzaky's health

In recent months there have been almost daily marches by the IMN in the capital as concerns rise over Zakzaky's health.

The IMN on Sunday condemned the move to ban it as a "dangerous development" and insisted it would push on with protests until its leader was freed.

"You can never stop an ideology, you can never stop an idea, you can never stop our religion," senior member Yahiya Dahiru told a press conference in Abuja.

The Nigerian police this week vowed to crack down on "violent protests" by the group, with a heavy security presence visible across the capital city.

Zakzaky and his wife Zeenah Ibrahim have been in custody despite the federal high court ordering his release in 2016.

The government refused and filed fresh criminal charges, including homicide that is punishable by death.

Al Jazeera

Video - Boko Haram attack on funeral death toll rises to 65

At least 65 people have been killed and 10 injured in a suspected Boko Haram attack on a funeral in Nigeria. It happened near the northeastern city of Maiduguri in Borno state. Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has condemned the attack and ordered a military operation to hunt down those responsible.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Video - Femi Kuti still composing 'fiery' music similar to his late father's

Fifteen years after his first visit to Kenya, Nigerian musician, Femi Kuti, played an energetic set to an enthusiastic audience in Nairobi. The musician, son of the legendary Fela Kuti, practices for at least six hours everyday and continues to reinvent his sound. But the messages rebuking problems in society still remain.

Friday, July 5, 2019

A senator in Nigeria asks for forgivness after caught slapping a shop assistant on video

Nigerian Sen. Elisha Abbo has apologized after video of him slapping a female shop assistant in the capital city of Abuja emerged on the internet.

In a video shared on his party's Twitter account on Wednesday, Abbo said he had learned from the incident and pleaded for forgiveness from the Senate, his family and citizens who might have been offended by his actions.

"It is therefore with deep sense of remorse and responsibility that, I, Sen. Elisha Abbo, profoundly apologize to all Nigerians, the Senate, the People's Democratic Party, my friends as well as our mothers, the Nigerian women," he said in the video.

"I personally apologize to (the victim) and her family for my actions. No matter what you did to me, you don't deserve such treatment, I am sorry," Abbo added.

CNN made several attempts to speak to Abbo but did not receive a response. CNN also reached out to the woman, who authorities have not publicly named.

In a phone interview with a local TV station, the 41-year-old senator had previously said that portions of the video were cut out or compressed and promised to issue a statement. Later, in a video, he read out an apology: "I am not here to narrate my side of the story," Abbo said. "I am here to apologize to Nigerians for insulting their sensibilities."

Angry Nigerians and rights groups, including Amnesty International Nigeria, had called for the senator's arrest and prosecution after the footage was posted by an online publication on Tuesday.

The incident, according to the report, took place in May before Abbo was sworn in as a senator.
Police on Wednesday said in a statement they would conduct a forensic analysis of the video and ensure justice "irrespective of whose ox is gored," adding that they were in touch with the woman in the video.

The Senate said it had set up a committee to investigate the incident. Abbo's party, the People's Democratic Party said in a statement it was "shocked that the harmless victim of the unprovoked assault is said to be a nursing mother, who ought to be protected."

The statement also said the party had summoned the lawmaker and will conduct its own investigation.


Thursday, July 4, 2019

Bodies recovered from capsized boat in Lagos, Nigeria

One more body has been recovered from the area where a boat capsized in Lagos on Sunday night. This brings the total number bodies recovered so far to eight. Three were rescued alive but others are still unaccounted for.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Fuel tanker explosion in Nigeria kills dozens

Dozens of people are feared dead after a fuel tanker flipped and exploded in Benue State in northern Nigeria on Monday.

The driver of the tanker lost control of the vehicle after trying to dodge a pothole, eyewitnesses said.

An 18-seater bus collided with the burning tanker and also caught fire.

At least 10 bodies have been recovered while more than 50 people have been taken to hospitals, Benue State officials said.

The petrol tanker did not explode immediately after it flipped, eyewitness said, and security personnel in the area warned residents to stay away from the vehicle.

But the warnings fell on deaf ears and some local residents even hit the tanker in attempts to scoop fuel from it, the witnesses said.

Unconfirmed reports from an emergency official put the death toll at 40, with 50 more were injured, while the local authority said 50 died and 70 were injured. The injured were receiving treatment in four local hospitals.


Gunmen kill 4 police offers in Nigeria

Gunmen attacked a police station in Nigeria’s southern oil region, leaving four officers dead and two injured, a spokesman said.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack the police said was launched just before dawn on Monday on a station in the southern city of Yenagoa, the capital of Bayelsa state in the oil-rich Niger River delta. Members of the public should “avail the police with credible information that will help the law enforcement agencies toward apprehending the criminals,” the police spokesman Frank Mba said in an emailed statement.

Various armed groups, including criminal gangs and militants, are active in the southern delta region that is home to Nigeria’s oil industry, with attacks sometimes disrupting crude exports from Africa’s biggest producer.


Turkish club Trabzonspor sign John Mikel Obi on two-year deal

 Turkish Super Lig club Trabzonspor have signed Nigeria captain John Mikel Obi on a two-year deal with the option of an additional 12 months.

The 32-year-old, who won the Champions League with Chelsea in 2012, was a free agent after leaving Championship side Middlesbrough in May.

Mikel, who has made two appearances for his country at the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt, has previously played in Norway and China, but achieved success in England with Chelsea.

"A two-year and an additional year agreement was signed with the free captain of the Nigerian national team," the Turkish club announced on their website.
Nigeria players' strike averted after payment.

The midfielder made 249 Premier League appearances for Chelsea in an 11-year spell, which ended when he left Stamford Bridge two years ago.

He also won two league titles, three FA Cups and the Europa League in 2013.

The Black Sea Storm already have compatriots Ogenyi Onazi and Anthony Nwakaeme in their squad and will compete in next season's Europa League after finishing fourth in 2018-19 season.

Mikel has won a total of 89 caps for Nigeria, playing for them in the past two World Cups and helping the Super Eagles win the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations.

He was also one of Nigeria's three over-age players as the African side won a bronze medal at the 2016 Olympics in Rio.


Nigerian officials state trafficked women can return “wealthy from prostitution”

Home Office officials have provoked outrage by stating that trafficked women from Nigeria can return to the country “wealthy from prostitution” and “held in high regard”.

The comments are found in an official policy and information note on the trafficking of women from Nigeria, which is used by Home Office decision-makers handling protection and human rights claims.

The guidance has been updated to include a paragraph on the prospects of trafficked women if they return to Nigeria, citing EU and Australian reports that make similar observations, which was not in the last version published in November 2016.

The paragraph reads: “Trafficked women who return from Europe, wealthy from prostitution, enjoy high social-economic status and in general are not subject to negative social attitudes on return. They are often held in high regard because they have improved income prospects.”

Dr Charlotte Proudman, a human rights barrister who represents women and girls in cases of gender-based violence, particularly female genital mutilation, said: “The Home Office’s deplorable policy on the trafficking of women in Nigeria shows the hostility that women victims face in claiming asylum in the UK. Suggesting that trafficked women are wealthy and enjoy a [high] socioeconomic status is fundamentally wrong.

“The women that I represent in immigration courts often suffer from PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] and are always destitute. They have usually been raped repeatedly and beaten and their family have disowned them. Some even face the risk of violent reprisals on return home. The abuse they experience is akin to slavery.

“The picture painted by the Home Office is far from reality and serves only to further myths about prostitution and sex trafficking. The policy will no doubt encourage decision-makers on behalf of the home secretary to refuse even more asylum claims.

“The Home Office needs to issue an apology and immediately amend the policy.”

Kate Osamor, the Labour MP and chair of the all-party parliamentary group on Nigeria, which has looked at the impact of trafficking, said among all the stories of trafficking they heard “there was no happy ending”.

“It’s very concerning,” she said. “It shows the Home Office doesn’t trust people who go through these experiences. You’d expect authorities to take them in, listen and unpack their experience and not treat trafficking like it’s a job.

“This is advice to civil servants who don’t even meet the people, it’s all done by form. They should be told if they say they’ve been trafficked, they should meet them in person and unpack the experience.”

She added: “[According to] the reality and the data, and the people we met, no one ‘makes it’. They get caught up in trafficking and spiral. People are sold on the internet. Those people get caught up in prostitution and should be looked after. They’ve been beaten, their mental health is poor, they’ve been raped.”

Kate Garbers, managing director at Unseen, the modern slavery and trafficking charity, said the updated guidance underlined the contradictory nature of the government’s response to protection of slavery and trafficking, adding it “potentially shows that a hostile environment is still alive and well within the Home Office”.

She said: “We find it astounding that the Home Office has felt the need to include such a statement in its country guidance for Nigeria, especially as the reference points for this claim are unclear.

“We must be mindful to not conflate issues of prostitution as an economic migration activity and trafficking into the sex industry whereby all control has been taken away from an individual.

“The guidance notes that treatment upon return to Nigeria for those who have been trafficked is limited, and accepts they may face discrimination and marginalisation as well as persecution.

“Including the statements that trafficked women from Nigeria can return to the country “wealthy from prostitution” and “held in high regard” is likely to put doubt into a decision-maker’s mind and has the potential to justify poor decision-making about the risks faced upon return rather than focusing on assessing and understanding the individual for whom they are making a decision.”

The Home Office assessment states that a woman who has been trafficked for sexual exploitation and returns to Nigeria is unlikely to be at risk of reprisal or being re-trafficked from her original traffickers, but acknowledges they may be at risk of abuse or being re-trafficked depending on their particular vulnerability.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Sadly, modern slavery, forced labour and human trafficking are not evils of the past. Through the Modern Slavery Act, the government is committed to ensuring victims get the support they need and perpetrators are brought to justice.”

The Guardian

Related stories: Video - Nigerian women trafficked to Europe for prostitution at 'crisis level'

The illegal sex trafficking trail between Nigeria and Europe

Pastor in Nigeria Biodun Fatoyinbo steps down after rape allegations

A flamboyant pastor in Nigeria has stepped aside from his church after a celebrity photographer accused him of raping her twice before she turned 18.

Biodun Fatoyinbo denied the allegation by Busola Dakolo, who is married to popular musician Timi Dakolo.

He said he was taking "leave of absence from the pulpit" because it was the "right thing to do".

Ms Dakolo's allegation went viral on social media, with some saying it had triggered Nigeria's #MeToo moment.

The social media campaign has led to thousands of people sharing their stories of sexual abuse and harassment since 2017.

But women in socially conservative Nigeria have so far avoided speaking out, fearing a backlash or stigmatisation.

Nigeria has a huge Pentecostal Christian population and Pastor Fatoyinbo is the head pastor of the popular Commonwealth of Zion Assembly church in the capital, Abuja.

His church is one of the biggest and fastest growing in the country, especially among young people, says the BBC's Joshua Ajayi in Lagos.

In a video circulating on social media since last week, Ms Dakolo said she was raped by the pastor at her father's house early one morning, and the second time on a secluded road.

Her allegation led to protests on Sunday at different branches of Pastor Fatoyinbo's church. Protesters held placards saying: "Thou shall not rape."

The pastor said he was "absolutely innocent", but had decided to step down from the church after seeking "spiritual counsel" from Christian leaders around the world.

"This step enables me to submit to the concerns of my spiritual mentors as they consider all the issues that have been raised against me," he added in an Instagram post.

The development has caused shock and anger amongst followers of the pastor and supporters of Mrs Dakolo, our reporter says.


Video - Invasive foreign plant species choking rivers and dams in Nigeria

The water hyacinth is a foreign weed introduced in the early 1990s to Nigeria, Since then it has spread rapidly to two-thirds of the country's rivers. It has caused immense damage to boatmen’s and fishermen’s livelihoods as it blocks waterways and sunlight to aquatic life. But despite its bad reputation, some scientists have discovered other ways it can be put to good use.

Monday, July 1, 2019

West Africa bloc come together to adopt 'ECO' shared currency

Leaders of a 15-nation West African bloc have called for greater structural reforms as they step up efforts for the introduction of a shared currency, aimed to be launched in 2020.

In a statement issued late on Saturday at the end of an Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) summit in Nigeria's capital, Abuja, the leaders said they had adopted ECO as the name of the planned currency.

The bloc, which represents an estimated population of about 385 million people, said it acknowledged a 2018 report which underlined "the worsening of the macroeconomic convergence" and urged member states to do "more to improve on their performance" as the deadline for the establishment of a monetary union approached.

The 2018 report called, among others, for the promotion and liberalisation of regional trade, the consolidation of the customs union and the creation of a free trade area - all of which are yet to be met.

Mahamadou Issoufou, ECOWAS chairman and Niger's president, said there was "a real firm political will" to increase efforts ahead of the January 2020 deadline.

"We are of the view that countries that are ready will launch the single currency and countries that are not ready will join the programme as they comply with all six convergence criteria," Issoufou said.

Analysts sceptical

Leaders in the bloc have for decades held discussions and meetings on issuing a common currency amid efforts to boost regional trade and investment, without, however, making significant progress.

Currently, eight ECOWAS countries - Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo - use the CFA Franc, while the other seven - Cape Verde, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone - have their own currencies.

Adewunmi Emoruwa, a policy analyst with Gatefield, a public strategy and media group, said he was not convinced that the introduction of a single currency would solve the region's economic problems.

"The common currency on its own will not necessarily make doing business any easier than it is now. If policymakers see the single currency as the magic wand for boosting intraregional trade, they will be disappointed," Emoruwa told Al Jazeera.

"The ECOWAS bloc is particularly volatile, both politically and economically. It means countries might need to create unique responses to shocks which would be limited by the common monetary policy control.
Moreover, it's uncertain that regional economies are strong enough to back bailouts in the event of a crisis among participating member states," he said.

According to the African Development Bank, regional inflation has stood at double digits since 2015, way above the five percent target outlined as one of the convergence criteria for ECO's implementation. Meanwhile, Nigeria, which controls two-thirds of the regional economy, has struggled to meet its growth projections

Security challenges

Separately, in his address welcoming the leaders to the summit, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari expressed concerns about increasing violence and attacks in the region.

"Despite the overall appreciable progress we have made, particularly in the field of political governance, our sub-region continues to face considerable security challenges," Buhari said.

"We are all witnesses to the recurring incidents of intercommunal clashes, herder-farmer conflicts, banditry and terrorist attacks in all our countries," he added. "The need for the adoption of a common strategy at the national and regional level to combat them [Insecurity], has become imperative".

In recent years, several countries in the region have been dealing with both internal and external security threats.

Ethnic clashes in Mali have left hundreds dead and thousands displaced, while armed groups operating across the Sahel have been attacking targets in Niger and Burkina Faso.

Nigeria has long tried to effectively deal with threats from the Boko Haram armed group, while clashes between herders and farmers have also increased insecurity concerns in the country.

Violence between the groups over access to grazing land and water, which is becoming scarce in the face of rapid population and drought, has left thousands dead.

"In Nigeria, there is an underlying dishonesty in tackling the issue, and that dishonesty has fuelled mistrust, which worsens the problem, and makes it to metastasise," Cheta Nwanze, security analyst with SBM Intelligence, told Al Jazeera.

"In most other West African states, their problem is a straight up lack of resources to tackle the issue, but they are more honest about it than Nigeria, hence the problem will probably not go away," Nwanze added.

Al Jazeera

Friday, June 28, 2019

Uber plans to launch boat taxisin Nigeria

Uber Technology Inc. is planning to launch its boat business in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital and biggest city, to beat traffic congestion.

The ride-hailing service company is in talks with the Lagos state government and regulatory authorities to start Uber Boats services on its waterways, Uber’s Chief Business Officer Brooks Entwistle said Thursday in an interview.

“We know the traffic is a priority and we think we can help there,” Entwistle said. “We are having fruitful good discussions with the regulators right now, it is what we are doing this week, we are meeting with partners.” The executive did not give a time line on when the service will begin

Lagos, sub-Saharan Africa biggest city with an estimated population of 22 million, is known for its traffic congestion leaving commuters spending hours in their cars. Public transport services are scarce and unreliable. Its vast waterways provide good transport options but they are hardly used.

Uber, which faces competition from Estonian-ride hailing firm Bolt, said it would seek partnership with local players for the service. It currently has 1.3 million active riders and 36,000 drivers in Sub-Saharan Africa. The U.S-based company said its franchise in Africa is still at early stages.

“Our strategy is in every country we going into we want to find local partners to help us with our business,” Entwistle said. “Partnership is core to our business.”

San Francisco-based Uber launched a boat service in Egypt in 2017, with taxis zipping up the Nile River that dissects Cairo to bypass clogged streets. The company has expanded the service to cities including Mumbai and along the Croatian coast. It is also looking to partner with Lagos Bus company to provide ride services through its platform according to the CBO.

The transport company is in talks with regulators to start operations in Francophone Dakar and Abidjan, Entwistle said.


Thursday, June 27, 2019

Court in Nigeria adjourns $2bn tax case against MTN

The next legal battle between the attorney general of Nigeria and the West African nation's largest cellular service provider is set for October 29, 2019. The case, which centres around a $2bn unpaid tax bill, was supposed to open Wednesday. Lawyers for the attorney general's office requested more time to prepare their case and file a response.

The attorney general's office says MTN Nigeria failed to pay $2bn in taxes and penalties. MTN counters that the attorney general's office does not have the power to determine unpaid taxes and therefore it should neither have to pay the tax bill nor related fines. The cellular service provider is asking the court to rule on the legitimacy of the case.

"MTN Nigeria maintains its stand that we are in full compliance with all extant tax and regulatory obligation," the company said in a written statement released Wednesday. "We reiterate our commitment to obeying all Nigerian laws, rules, and regulations that govern and guide our business practices."

MTN is demanding three billion naira ($8.3m) in general and exemplary damages, as well as legal costs to the company.

The case is being closely watched by local and international investors. It is one of several legal and administrative challenges that the South-African-owned firm has faced over the last four years in Nigeria. MTN Nigeria has also faced past tax demands and a fine over unregistered SIM cards.

MTN Group is a South African company. Its Nigerian division has more than 55 million cellular subscribers. According to an official statement, MTN Nigeria's operations directly or indirectly provide jobs for more than half a million people in Nigeria.

MTN Nigeria used to be MTN Group's most lucrative division, accounting for up to one-third of the group's total revenue.
Beginning of legal trouble

MTN Nigeria's trouble started in May 2018, when Justice Abubakar Malami - then serving as Nigeria's Minister of Justice and Attorney General - asked the company to conduct a self-assessment of its tax obligations over the last 18 years and to report it to the ministry.

MTN Nigeria protested the request, claiming that the attorney general has no statutory powers over tax matters, and that even if it did, Nigeria's statute of limitations only provides a seven-year window for new investigations.

Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) - the agency responsible for assessing and collecting taxes - is not involving itself in the case and is not officially offering an opinion on the matter.

MTN is refusing to pay a $1.3bn fine that would go into the attorney general's Fund Recovery Account. It went to court to challenge this and won an earlier decision. The judge struck down a preliminary objection raised by the attorney general against the lawsuit.

Further complicating the situation, Nigeria does not presently have an attorney general, as Justice Malami stepped down in May. The federal cabinet was dissolved on May 28, and President Muhammadu Buhari still has not made a new appointment.

Al Jazeera