Thursday, January 31, 2019

Presidential candidate Atiku promises $25 billion infrastructure fund

 Nigeria’s main opposition leader, Atiku Abubakar, said he would create a $25 billion fund to support private sector investments in infrastructure if he wins a presidential election on Feb. 16.

Abubakar pledged to use some of the money for reforming the power sector, according to an emailed copy of a speech he made in Lagos, the commercial capital, on Wednesday. The 72-year-old businessman and former vice president also said he would increase the infrastructure stock to 50 percent of gross domestic product by 2025.

Abubakar is the main challenger to President Muhammadu Buhari, 76, who is seeking a second four-year term.


Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Lawyers in Nigeria to strike due to suspension of judge

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has decided to embark on a two-day warning boycott of all courts in Nigeria over the suspension of the country's top judge Walter Onnoghen.

The association made the decision at its emergency national executive committee (NEC) meeting in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, on Monday, The Cable news in Nigeria reported.

Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari suspended Onnoghen on Friday and replaced him with acting chief justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammed weeks before an election in which the judiciary could play an important role.

The chief justice was due to face trial on charges of allegedly failing to declare his assets, which Onnoghen has argued is without merit. But it was adjourned indefinitely on Monday, the chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) said.

On Friday, the main opposition candidate, Atiku Abubakar, called the president's decision "an act of dictatorship".

The NBA and local civil society associations held protests in Abuja and southeast Enugu state to reject Onnoghen's suspension, calling it an "attempted coup against the Nigerian judiciary".

Onnoghen has helped resolve electoral disputes in past elections, some of which have been marred by violence and vote-rigging. The chief justice could preside over a disputed election result.
Buhari 'has done no wrong'

Critics say the suspension is an effort by Buhari to weaken Nigeria's judiciary and pave the way for his election to a second term in the February 16 vote.

Amid growing criticism, Nigeria's information minister denied the suspension was related to the elections.

Minister Mohammed Alhaji Lai said it had "nothing to do with the forthcoming elections" and did not "signify the onset of dictatorship or tyranny as some have insinuated".

The chief justice plays a key role in any legal challenge to what could be a disputed vote.

The United States, Britain and the European Union said Buhari acted "without the support of the legislative branch". The US warned this suspension could "cast a pall" over the election.

On Monday, the presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, said Buhari broke no laws in the suspension and "has done no wrong".

With tensions before the vote, observers warned against election-related violence.

Oil-rich Nigeria struggles against multiple security challenges, including the decade-old Boko Haram rebellion, and Buhari's 2015 election was a rare peaceful transfer of power. Diplomats have urged the top candidates to sign a peace pledge.

Al Jazeera

Gang charged with sex trafficking girls from Nigeria arrested in Italy

Sicilian authorities have made a series of arrests after a suspected sex trafficking ring was believed to have forced at least 15 Nigerian girls into prostitution in Italy.

Among those arrested were two Nigerian women, Rita Ihama, 38, and Monica Onaigfohe, aged 20, who police believe organised the trafficking of the women from Libya to Italy. An Italian national, Giovanni Buscemi, was also arrested on suspicion of helping facilitate the trafficking and exploitation of the girls.

Prosecutors believe the group of young women were lured from Nigeria with the promise of work in Italy. They say before they left their homes they were made to undergo traditional oath-taking ceremonies involving complicated and frightening rituals. The use of “juju” ceremonies in the trafficking of women from Nigeria to Europe are widespread and have been found to have a profound psychological impact on victims.

“On arrival in Italy, the women [say they] were forced into prostitution and told they must pay back the cost of their travel to Italy,” said Giovannella Scaminaci, deputy chief prosecutor in Messina, who led the operation. She said that sex trafficking operations between Nigeria, Libya and Italy are highly organised and continue despite recent attempts to stem the flow of migration from north Africa to Europe.

“There is an industry in the exploitation of girls from the age of 14 who have all become terrorised and controlled through the use of these juju ceremonies,” she says.

Yesterday, Sicilian prosecutors in Catania also arrested 19 Nigerians suspected of belonging to the Supreme Vikings Confraternity, an organised crime group operational across Sicily. The men are accused of drug smuggling and the rape and sexual assault of Nigerian women in Cara di Mineo, one of Italy’s largest reception centres for refugees. Prosecutors told the Guardian that they were considering the possibility that the men arrested were raping women at the centre “with the aim of subjugating them and preparing them for prostitution’’.

About 16,000 Nigerian women arrived in Italy from Libya between 2016-2017. According to the UN’s International Office for Migration (IOM) more than 80% of them were victims of trafficking, destined for a life of forced prostitution on street corners and in brothels across Italy and Europe.

In recent weeks hundreds of people have been removed from reception centres across Italy as part of the populist government’s hardline immigration measures.

The moves come as a part of a concerted push to implement the “Salvini decree” – named after Italy’s interior minister Matteo Salvini. It abolishes humanitarian protection for those not eligible for refugee status, and was passed by the Italian government last year.

As a result hundreds of asylum seekers are now at risk of homelessness. NGOs and aid agencies, including the Red Cross, have warned that victims of sex trafficking are among those evicted.

“If this is true then the decree has been misinterpreted by local authorities,” says Scaminaci. “Nigerian women victims of sex trafficking must always be granted a humanitarian permit or a refugee status because of the consequences they could face if deported back in Nigeria.”

Last December, Blessing, a 31-year-old Nigerian woman who was trafficked into prostitution in Italy, said she had been removed from a reception centre in Isola di Capo Rizzuto, in Calabria.

“When the police came to tell us that we couldn’t stay there any more, I couldn’t believe my ears,” she said. “They took all of our belongings and escorted us out. There was a young girl in our group. This is outrageous. I have a legal permit to stay. And soon I may not have a roof over my head. I’m really frightened.”

Father Enzo Volpe, a Salesian priest in Palermo who has been providing assistance to Nigerian women for seven years, says that the clearing of reception centres is likely to increase the risk of further trafficking and exploitation.

“Leaving these girls in the street, victims of sex trafficking, is not only inhumane, it also means facilitating the work of criminal organisations,” he said. “With no protection, these girls risk becoming easy prey.”

The Guardian

Related stories: 20,000 Nigerian girls trafficked to Mali for prostitution

The illegal sex trafficking trail between Nigeria and Europe

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

Monday, January 28, 2019

Nigerians worried about internet shutdown during elections

You can tell fears of an internet shutdown are running high in a country when citizens are looking into methods of staying online in case of a blockage.

This past weekend, Quartz Africa‘s guide to staying online during internet or social media blockages was our most read story, driven entirely by traffic from Nigeria. Scores of people shared concerns on social media at the possibility Nigeria might follow other African countries that have taken to blocking social media or shut down the internet altogether under the guise of security concerns.

While there is little evidence authorities are planning a shutdown, fears have been triggered by the potential of a constitutional crisis after Nigeria’s president Muhammadu Buhari suddenly suspended the country’s chief justice over corruption allegations last Friday. The move, which has been variously described as unconstitutional and political, comes with Nigeria’s elections due in just under three weeks. The newly appointed acting chief justice Tanko Mohammed, will now likely have the final say if there are court challenges on the election result outcome next month.

The crisis will dominate the news agenda in coming days as Nigeria’s Senate has called an emergency session on Tuesday (Jan. 29) to deliberate the suspension while the country’s legal community has called it an “attempted coup” against the judiciary. The European Union has also expressed concern over the “process and timing” of the suspension while the United States notes the move “undermines the independence” of the judiciary.

If protests break out amid the crisis, many fear the government will resort to cutting off internet access or specifically blocking access to platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook, and Twitter. Those concerns are even more pertinent given president Buhari’s past as a military head of state in the early 1980s when his administration repressed the media. An internet shutdown ordered by Buhari will be ironic given how much his campaign for the presidency in 2015 relied on social media to both transform his image as a dictator and connect with Nigeria’s youth population.

If there was an internet shutdown in Nigeria it would be the latest in a long list of similar disruptions across Africa over the past five years, especially during elections or amid protests. Governments have typically defended the action as a means to avoid the spread of misinformation or, as in the recent case of Zimbabwe, to “restore calm.”

But with younger Africans increasingly more vocal and critical of leaders especially through social media, the shutdowns can also be viewed as modern day censorship. Digital rights activists have consistently argued that disruptions to internet access are repressive while studies also show the shutdowns take a heavy toll on African economies.

Regardless, this month alone, Sudan, Zimbabwe, and DR Congo all blocked internet access amid elections and anti-government protests. The shutdowns are also getting longer: Chad Republic has now kept social media shut for over 300 days and counting.


Opposition leader says Buhari is breaching constitution of Nigeria

Nigeria’s main opposition candidate in next month’s elections, Atiku Abubakar, said President Muhammadu Buhari breached the constitution by suspending the nation’s top judge last week.

“I want to note the universal condemnation of this unlawful act by all Nigerians, as well as the international community,” Abubakar, 72, said at a press conference Monday in Abuja, the capital. “How we react to this challenge in the following days will determine the fate of our democracy, which has been brought to great peril by this needless crisis engineered by a government that is unwilling to subject its conducts to the requirements of our constitution.”

Buhari’s announcement on Friday that he had appointed the Supreme Court’s second-ranking judge, Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, in an acting capacity to replace Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen -- who is accused of falsely declaring his assets -- was roundly criticized by the Senate president and the Nigerian Bar Association. Abubakar’s People’s Democratic Party said it was “an act of dictatorship.”

The U.S. and European Union said the move could undermine the Feb. 16 presidential vote.


Friday, January 25, 2019

UK and US to deny visas to violent instigators in Nigeria during elections

Those who take part in election violence and rigging in the upcoming Nigerian elections will be denied visas, the United Kingdom and the United States have said in a joint statement.

The UK government said its observers would monitor polling stations and social media during the February 16 vote and those found inciting violence may also face prosecution.

"We would like to remind all Nigerians that where the UK is aware of such attempts, this may have consequences for individuals. These could include their eligibility to travel to the UK, their ability to access UK based funds or lead to prosecution under international law," the government said in the statement released on Thursday.

Travel restrictions may also extend to family members, the US government said, adding that the peaceful conduct of the 2019 elections was not only crucial to Nigeria but also the continent.

"We, and other democratic nations will be paying close attention to actions of individuals who interfere in the democratic process or instigate violence against the civilian population before, during, or after the elections," the US government said in the statement.

"We will not hesitate to consider consequences - including visa restrictions - for those found to be responsible for election-related violence or undermining the democratic process."

The two countries said they remained committed to Nigeria's democracy, and Nigerians should be allowed to choose their leaders at the polls.

Citizens in Africa's most populous nation will vote in a general election next month, and political parties have begun nationwide campaigns to persuade voters.

Allegations of vote buying and violence from party members across the board was rife during previous elections.

Last September US observers monitored a gubernatorial election in Osun, southwest Nigeria and said they witnessed incidents of voter intimidation and interference in the electoral process.

Early this month, at least three people were stabbed, and dozens were injured after fighting broke out at Nigeria's ruling party, All Progressive Alliance campaign rally in Lagos sparking fears of further violence in the upcoming elections.

Political party leaders and presidential candidates signed a peace agreement in December pledging their support for transparency in the electoral process.


Thursday, January 24, 2019

Students uncertain of graduation due to strike in Nigerian universities

The futures of more than a million Nigerian university students are on hold as a lecturers' strike drags on less than a month before a presidential election, as Yemisi Adegoke reports from Lagos.

Olamide Tejuoso had been looking forward to the start of 2019.

She was expecting to be a fresh graduate beginning her career with a paid internship at a media company. The first step in realising her dream of becoming a writer after four years of studying at the University of Ibadan.

But instead of excitement, the communications student feels frustrated because of the ongoing strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).

Students at Nigeria's state-funded universities have not resumed their studies due to an indefinite nationwide strike by academic staff that began in November.

The union has accused the government of failing to honour past agreements over the redevelopment of tertiary education.

They are also protesting about poor facilities, poor funding and an alleged plan to increase tuition fees.

There have been talks between the union and the government but negotiations are dragging on.

'Can't make plans'

Meanwhile, the future of Nigeria's 1.2 million federal university students is in limbo.

"It's depressing," says Ms Tejuoso. "As a final year student, you have all these plans, but you're not seeing the reality."

"I should have graduated last December, but because of this strike I'm limited. I can't do any major travel, I can't take any major job because I don't know when we're going to resume."

She now keeps herself occupied by writing and trying to work on her final project.

Ms Tejuoso has also enrolled in a sewing class, but she is anxious and desperate to get back to university.

"We've had more than two months [of the strike] already and it's making the future look so bleak," she says.

"We don't know what's going to happen. Because of the elections, [resuming in] February is in doubt. We don't even know what the future holds for us."

ASUU president Biodun Ogunyemi, who himself has two children at public universities, says the strike is to secure the future of tertiary education, and ultimately the students' future.

'Restore dignity'

"We have always told our students and their parents what we're doing is in their own interests," Prof Ogunyemi says.

"We don't want them to earn certificates that will be worthless, we don't want them to get an education they can't be proud of, we want the restoration of the integrity of their certificates."

One of the major demands of the union is the implementation of past agreements and the spending of $2.7bn (£2.1bn) in total to revamp universities.

Annually, the government currently allocates about $1.8bn (£1.4bn) to the education sector overall, which accounts for 7% of federal government spending. Federal universities get nearly $750m of that.

But the lecturers say that it is not enough.

In a move to reassure striking workers, Employment Minister Chris Ngige said that the president was determined to "reposition our universities [and] will do everything possible to remove the present challenges".

This is the second strike since President Muhammadu Buhari came to power in 2015, but the tradition of the ASUU taking industrial action stretches back further than that.

Its members have been on strike almost every year since since the country's return to democracy in 1999.

Prof Ogunyemi, who became ASUU president in 2014, says this is because the education sector has been sidelined by successive governments.

"What is missing is how to get political leadership that will appreciate the role of education in the development of individuals and the country," he says.

With a presidential election less than a month away, both candidates of the major parties have talked about their commitments to education, promising to increase funding.

But despite the frequency of the strikes in the university sector, neither has raised the issue of labour relations in the tertiary sector in their party manifestos.

"This is election period. If one wants to campaign fully this is a place you should work on," says Lydia Agu Uka, a biochemistry student at the Federal University of Technology Owerri.

"But they ignore this crucial part, they focus on trivial matters, things that don't really count at all."

Since the strike began she has started selling second-hand items through a website. Earning money online has become a common way for Nigerian students to earn extra cash.

One of the country's most popular and successful employment websites, Jobberman, was started by three students during the 2009 ASUU strike.

Although Ms Agu Uka enjoys running her business she is worried about how the time off is affecting her studies.

"At a point you start to lose focus, which is not right," she says. "I don't know when last I actually opened a biochemistry textbook."

Despite this Ms Agu Uka and many other students support the aims of the strike.

But not all of her peers agree. The Nigerian Association of Students has accused lecturers of holding the strike for their own personal interests and have threatened mass protests.

While students like Ms Tejuoso are hopeful the outcome of negotiations will be successful there are concerns that if real action is not taken strikes will continue to be a constant feature of student life.

"Public universities are really, really suffering," she says. "It's a bad reality. We need the government to start focusing on our education."


Police officer warns gays to leave Nigeria

A high-ranking Nigerian policewoman has warned gay people living in the country to leave or risk criminal prosecution.

Dolapo Badmos, a Chief Superintendent and spokeswoman for the Lagos State Police Command, made the comments on her personal Instagram account, which is set to private and has 125,000 followers.

"If you're homosexually inclined, Nigeria is not a place for you," Badmos wrote last week.
"There is a law (Same-sex Prohibition Act) here that criminalizes homosexual clubs, associations, and organizations with penalties of up to 14yeats (sic) in jail.

"So if you are homosexual in nature, leave the country or face prosecution," wrote Badmos, who has attained celebrity status in the country due to her frequent social media posts.

Former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan signed the controversial Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act (SSMPA) into law, despite widespread international objection.

Those found guilty of being in a same-sex relationship face up to 14 years in jail.

The law was widely condemned by human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch at the time, as well as the then United States Secretary of State, John Kerry.

Badmos' comments are the latest reminder of the challenges facing members of the LGBT community in a country where the anti-gay law enjoys broad support among its citizens.
According to a survey of 2,000 individuals conducted by The Initiative for Equal Rights (TIERs), a Nigeria-based human rights organization, about 90% of Nigerians support the continued enforcement of the SSMPA.

Following her post, Badmos received scores of comments, with most of them expressing support for the proposed prosecution of gay people living in Nigeria. "It is illegal and ungodly," one user wrote.

Another user said, "we must say no to lesbianism and homosexuality it's evil."

Badmos did not respond to CNN's requests for clarification on her comments.

A spokesman for Lagos State police declined to comment and referred the inquiry back to Badmos.
Olumide Makanjuola, executive director at TIERs, told CNN the Instagram post is tantamount to inciting violence against LGBTQ people in Nigeria, calling her comments "unacceptable."

"Police should be wary with their statement and if they incite violence. What she said is out of line," Makanjuola said.

Homophobia is widespread in many African countries.

More than half of the countries on the continent have enacted laws that make it illegal to be gay and in several, including Somalia and South Sudan, homosexuality is punishable by death.

A 2013 Pew Research survey found that 98% of people in Nigeria believe LGBTQ people should not be accepted by society.

However, a 2017 survey by NOI Polls commissioned by TIERs showed a seven percent increase in the acceptance rates of LGBTQ people in Nigeria when compared to a similar survey from two years earlier.

Many of the people who commented under Badmos' post also singled out an openly transgender individual, who is prominent on social media, and called for their arrest.


Related stories: Being gay in Nigeria

Video - Nigeria's anti-gay law denounced

Oby Ezekwesili quits Nigeria presidential race

The main female candidate in Nigeria's upcoming presidential election has said she is withdrawing her candidacy to help build a coalition to defeat the ruling All Progressive Congress.

Oby Ezekwesili of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN) announced her decision on Thursday morning in a series of posts on Twitter.

"I have decided to step down from the presidential race and focus on helping to build a Coalition for a viable alternative to the #APCPDP in the 2019 general elections," she said.

"This coalition for a viable alternative has now more than ever before become an urgent mission for and on behalf of the citizenry," she added.

"Over the past three months, I have been in private extended talks with other candidates to make a coalition possible that would allow Nigerians to exercise choice without feeling helplessly saddled with the #APCPDP."

The main female candidate in Nigeria's upcoming presidential election has said she is withdrawing her candidacy to help build a coalition to defeat the ruling All Progressive Congress.

Oby Ezekwesili of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN) announced her decision on Thursday morning in a series of posts on Twitter.

"I have decided to step down from the presidential race and focus on helping to build a Coalition for a viable alternative to the #APCPDP in the 2019 general elections," she said.

"This coalition for a viable alternative has now more than ever before become an urgent mission for and on behalf of the citizenry," she added.

"Over the past three months, I have been in private extended talks with other candidates to make a coalition possible that would allow Nigerians to exercise choice without feeling helplessly saddled with the #APCPDP."

Al Jazeera

Related story: Bring Back our Girls activist runs for top office and vows to disrupt 'Nigeria's politics of failure'

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Video - Unrest forces farmers off their land in Nigeria

Conflict between farmers and herders are affecting Nigeria's rising levels of poverty. Analysts say the violence is forcing millions of people, mostly poor farmers, from their lands.

20,000 Nigerian girls trafficked to Mali for prostitution

Nigeria's anti-trafficking agency says it has received concrete intelligence that around 20,000 Nigerian girls have been forced into prostitution in Mali.

Many of the girls are working in hotels and nightclubs after being sold to prostitution rings by human traffickers, according to a fact-finding mission carried out by the agency in collaboration with Malian authorities in December.

NAPTIP's Arinze Osakwe told CNN most of the girls said they were lured by human traffickers who promised them employment in Malaysia.

"The new trend is that they told them they were taking them to Malaysia and they found themselves in Mali. They told them they would be working in five-star restaurants where they would be paid $700 per month," Osakwe, who was part of an earlier NAPTIP rescue mission, said.

Some of the girls had been sold as sex slaves in gold mining camps in northern parts of Mali, he said.
Officials from the agency under Operation Timbuktu rescued 104 Nigerian girls from three brothels in Bamako, Mali's capital in 2011.

They were forced to become sex workers in mining communities in northern Mali.

"We brought back 104 girls just from three ramshackle brothels, and those were the ones that were even willing to come. They were mostly between the age of 13 and 25, and they had been trapped in the country for many years," Osakwe said.

"Since then, we have been working with local authorities and receiving reports from the Nigerian embassy in Bamako that the number of Nigerian girls trafficked to Mali has spiked tremendously," he said.

The agency said it is working with Malian authorities, the International Organization for Migration and National Emergency Management Agency to send the girls back to Nigeria.
Every year, tens of thousands of Nigerians are trafficked illegally to destinations abroad especially Europe.

Around 97 percent of victims are women, and 77 percent have been sexually exploited by their traffickers, according to IOM estimates.


Related stories: The illegal sex trafficking trail between Nigeria and Europe

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

Outbreak of Lassa fever in Nigeria

Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, yesterday, declared an outbreak of Lassa fever in the country, following an upsurge in the number of confirmed cases recorded across states since 1st January.

Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, Director-General of NCDC, announced this in Abuja. He said: “There has been an increase in the number of Lassa fever cases reported from several states across the country since the beginning of the year. “As at January 13, 60 confirmed cases have been reported in eight states. “Given this increase in reported cases, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, has declared this an outbreak.” He also said an Emergency Operations Centre, EOC, has been activated to coordinate the nationwide response to the outbreak, noting that the EOC includes World Health Organisation, WHO; mini-stries of Agriculture and Rural Development, Environment, US Centres for Disease Control, among others.


Thursday, January 10, 2019

Video - Nigerian woman tackles mental health stigma

A Nigerian woman is leading the fight against stigma associated with mental health. Hauwa Ojeifo was diagnosed with Bipolar and post-traumatic stress in 2015. She has not allowed it to bring her down. Instead, she is using her experience to raise awareness on mental illness -- in a country where 30 percent of the population is affected.

3 stabbed in All Progressive Congress party rally in Nigeria

At least three people were stabbed Tuesday after violence flared at a campaign rally in Lagos, southwestern Nigeria, police said.

Lagos state Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode addressed thousands of supporters at the event, organized by Nigeria's ruling All Progressives Congress party.

Violence broke out after members of a transport union stormed the campaign venue, said Lagos police spokesman Chike Oti.

The violence was directed at supporters of a top transport union official, MC Oluomo (real name Musiliu Akinsanya), who was among those stabbed at the rally, according to police. Police said the union official and others were discharged following treatment at a hospital.
Video from the rally posted online shows men brandishing machetes as people cower and run for safety. Gunshots can be heard.

Three journalists covering the event were injured, a Lagos-based journalists' union said in a statement on Wednesday.

It called for a media boycott of political rallies by parties who cannot provide "minimum security" for journalists covering their campaigns.

Police said 16 people were arrested following an investigation. Tuesday's incident has sparked fears of election-related violence as Nigeria begins a heated campaign season leading up to a general election in February.


Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Video - Nigeria 'failing' to implement increased minimum wage

People in Nigeria are protesting, demanding a better minimum wage. The federal government had agreed to nearly double the minimum wage - but some states claimed they could not afford to pay it. Nigerian workers have taken to the streets, threatening to launch a crippling strike if the new minimum wage is not implemented.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Nigeria lost $2.8 billion of revenue in 2018 due to oil related crimes

The United Nations say Nigeria lost an estimated 2.8 billion dollars in revenues in 2018, mainly due to oil-related crimes.

This is according to a new ‘Report by the Secretary-General on the activities of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS)’ on Monday in New York.

The report, which covered from July 1, 2018 to Dec. 31, 2018, said “Maritime crime and piracy off the coast of West Africa continued to pose a threat to peace, security and development in the region.

“Oil-related crimes resulted in the loss of nearly 2.8 billion dollars in revenues last year in Nigeria, according to government figures. “Between January 1 and November 23, there were 82 reported incidents of maritime crime and piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.’’ The report also noted that compared to the situation reflected in the previous report, there was an increase in drug trafficking throughout West Africa and the Sahel. “In Benin, the Gambia and Nigeria, more than 50 kilogrammes of cocaine were seized between July and October by joint airport interdiction task forces.

“During the same period, joint airport interdiction task forces seized more than six kilogrammes of methamphetamines, eight kilogramme of heroin (double the amount in the first half of 2018) and 2.6 tonnes of cannabis. “Drug production across the region was also reportedly on the rise, with more than 100 kilogrammes of ephedrine and phenacetin seized by competent authorities,’’ the report said. During the reporting period, it said that conflicts between farmers and herders resulted in loss of lives, destruction of livelihoods and property, population displacements and human rights violations and abuses. The report said outbreaks of violence were recorded in many states across Nigeria, although with more frequency in the Middle Belt region, as well as Adamawa and Taraba. It said the spike in conflict between farmers and herders was closely linked with demographic pressures, desertification and the attendant loss of grazing reserves and transhumance routes, which had been exacerbated by climate change.

Others were challenges in the implementation of effective land management and climate change adaptation policies, and limited enforcement of existing pastoral laws. Political and economic interests, the erosion of traditional conflict resolution mechanisms, and weapons proliferation, were other factors attributed to the increased cases of herders-farmers conflict.


Monday, January 7, 2019

Video - Nigeria's Asisat Oshoala chasing fourth CAF women's award

Two Nigerians are up for the women's prize at the CAF Awards in Dakar this week. One of them is no stranger to the top spot in the women's game, having taken home the prize three times before. CGTN's Deji Badmus has been talking to Asisat Oshoala about her incredible record and asked her about their expectations now that the Super Falcons are going to the World Cup.

Nigeria Military raids Daily Trust Newspaper publication offices

The Nigerian military stormed the headquarters and three satellite offices of one of the nation’s largest newspapers on Sunday, detaining at least two journalists and seizing computers, phones and other equipment.

The military released a statement calling its actions an “invitation” to talk to staff about a lead article on Sunday in the newspaper, Daily Trust, about a planned military operation in the town of Baga, that it said had divulged classified information, “thus undermining national security.”

The Sunday edition also included an editorial criticizing the military for its lack of progress fighting Boko Haram, the Islamist terrorist group that has unleashed violence in the northeast of the country for nearly a decade.

The military raid came less than two months before scheduled presidential elections in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, and after a series of stinging losses in the war with Boko Haram.

Soldiers arrived Sunday afternoon at the Daily Trust office in Maiduguri, where Boko Haram was founded, and rounded up two journalists working there, Uthman Abubakar, a regional editor, and Ibrahim Sawab, a reporter who has worked in the past for The New York Times. The men were detained in a military barracks.

Mr. Sawab was released several hours later, but Mr. Abubakar remained in custody on Monday, colleagues said.

Later Sunday afternoon, armed soldiers in five vehicles stormed the paper’s main office in the capital, Abuja, and ordered journalists working inside to evacuate. They occupied the building for four hours, according to Mannir Dan-Ali, the paper’s editor in chief, ransacking the newsroom and carting away dozens of computers. Soldiers also entered the newspaper’s offices in Lagos and Kaduna.

Their actions “strangulated the production of the Monday edition of the paper,” Mr. Dan-Ali said.

President Muhammadu Buhari, who is running for re-election next month, made big gains against Boko Haram when he first took office in 2015, but some of that success has slipped away in recent months, as the group has carried out a series of successful attacks against the military. Boko Haram fighters have killed dozens of soldiers, even posting online a gruesome video of one attack, and rumors have circulated that they once again control some territory in the country’s northeast.

Soldiers have complained about long tours of duty that have left them with no days off for months, worn-out equipment and low rations, according to local news reports. The military has disputed all such claims.

Late Sunday, Mr. Buhari ordered soldiers out of Daily Trust offices, saying issues between the military and newspaper “will be resolved through dialogue.”

In its statement, the military said, “The Nigerian Army has no intention of muzzling the press or jeopardizing press freedom.” It added that the military would “not tolerate a situation where a publication would consistently side with terrorists and undermine our national institutions.”

The action was criticized by the Committee to Protect Journalists and by Amnesty International, which has also faced criticism by the military after releasing reports of human rights abuses by soldiers.

Soldiers shot and killed dozens of unarmed protesters from a minority Muslim religious group, and the military lashed out at Unicef, briefly ordering the group out of the country before relenting. Soldiers were angry about a training program by the aid group that aimed to teach people to spot and report military abuses.

The raids on Sunday seemed to be an escalation of the military’s lashing out at critics.

Abubakar Ibrahim, features editor at the Daily Trust, was on the third floor of the newsroom in Abuja on Sunday when soldiers wearing bulletproof vests and carrying guns rushed inside and ordered everyone to shut down their computers and place them on a table.

“They collected the computers and our laptops then ordered everyone to the reception under escort,” he said. “Soldiers were pointing guns at journalists.”

Mr. Ibrahim said soldiers also raided a printing press building, effectively shutting it down.

“We’ve seen the military’s attitude to the population and how they can behave. That was playing in my mind,” he said. “Amongst us there was bafflement that something like this could happen in this age, supposedly in democratic society.”

The New York Times

Video - Nigerians in London in support for Brexit

British Prime Minister Theresa May has warned her critics are putting democracy at risk if they can't unite behind her Brexit deal. MPs are due to vote on May's divorce agreement next week. But while Westminster remains divided, there's an unexpected surge of support from one of London's multicultural neighbourhoods.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Video - Calabar carnival in Nigeria defies financial woes

The annual Calabar Carnival in southern Nigeria used to be a month-long event, featuring mountain races, cultural displays and even beauty pageants. However, the ongoing economic turmoil has forced the organisers to make adjustments over the years. But it remains one of the biggest attractions on the African continent.

Netflix involvement in Nollywood

Global streaming service Netflix set its eyes a few years ago on Nigeria’s film industry, better known as Nollywood. Distribution of Nigerian movies on Netflix started around 2015. At the time the American giant bought the rights of blockbusters such as Kunle Afolayan’s October 1st, Biyi Bandele’s Fifty and several others, after they had already been distributed in Nigerian cinemas.

During the Toronto International Film Festival 2018, Netflix announced the acquisition of worldwide exclusive distribution rights for Nollywood star Genevieve Nnaji’s debut film as director, the comedy Lionheart. The film marked the first Netflix original film from Nigeria. Many saw this as the beginning of a new era in the relationship between one of the world largest streaming platforms and Africa’s most prolific film industry.

But, is this actually true? Is Netflix going to transform Nollywood? And how significant will its impact on the Nigerian film industry be?

Difficult questions

These are not easy questions to answer. Nollywood’s economy and modes of production are unlike those of most other film industries. Over the past 20 years Nigerian films have circulated mostly on videotapes and Video Compact Discs (VCDs).

This distribution system made the industry widely popular across Africa and its diaspora. But it prevented Nollywood from consolidating its economy and raising the quality of film production. Piracy dramatically eroded distribution revenues and producers had trouble monetising the distribution of their films. Nollywood prioritised straight-to-video distribution because cinema theatres had almost disappeared in the country (as in most other parts of Africa) as a result of the catastrophic economic crisis that affected Nigeria in the 1980s.

New multiplexes have emerged since the beginning of the 2000s. However, today there are only about 150 widescreens for a population of almost two hundred million people. The cinemas that exist are often too expensive for most of the population that used to buy and watch Nollywood films when they were distributed on tapes.

Within this context, many in the industry thought that streaming could be the best solution to the industry’s problems with distribution. However, a closer look to the history of what has been labelled the “Nigerian Netflix” (, the leading streaming platform for Nigerian contents) shows that the reality is more complicated.

When the company decided to move its headquarters from Manhattan to Lagos it encountered countless difficulties. They were mainly connected to the costs of infrastructure development in Nigeria and to the hostility of local distributors who controlled Nollywood’s economy since its creation.

Weak internet

Internet connection in Nigeria is still too weak and expensive to guarantee easy access to streaming platforms. As a result, Nollywood content distributed by and Netflix circulates mostly in the diaspora. Netflix is aware of this problem and is investing in infrastructures to secure a better connection for its Nigerian audiences.

But larger investments seem to be necessary to produce a significant impact on audiences’ behaviour. Accessing Nollywood films via piracy or local screening venues will continue to be, at least in my view, the key strategy adopted by the largest percentage of Nigerian viewers.

Netflix could have better chances in penetrating the country’s elite market, as richer people in Nigeria and across Africa have easier access to reliable power supply and internet.

This might be the reason why MultiChoice, the South African telecommunication giant controlling much of Nollywood distribution across Africa through its Africa Magic channels, has reacted nervously to Netflix’s increased interest in African markets. MultiChoice wants Netflix to be more closely regulated.

These two aren’t the only telecommunication “superpowers” in the field. France’s Canal Plus and the Chinese StarTimes have also made a few investments in Nollywood over the past few years. The competition among all these actors will probably have a positive impact for viewers across Nigeria and the continent. It could bring lower subscription fees for streaming and TV content packages.

There are also likely to be new investments in content production and infrastructures. And there’s larger continental and global exposure for Nollywood films in the offing.

Foreign investments

It remains to be seen how good these developments will be for Nollywood producers. Until now, foreign investments in Nollywood have mostly translated into “more of the same” content. Working conditions for crews and actors have remained the same – basically, low budgets and quick shooting schedules.

In fact, big investors seem to be mainly interested in Nollywood’s already established popularity with African audiences. Making Nollywood more palatable for international audiences doesn’t seem to feature.

This means that in most cases they are not ready to invest bigger money in production budgets. Rather, they invest in better structuring distribution networks to extract as much profit as possible from the Nigerian industry.

And most African audiences are indeed happy with how Nollywood is, even if they tend to complain regularly about the low quality and the repetition of film contents and aesthetics. The fact that Nollywood as it is keeps on attracting audiences makes investors reluctant to change the scale of their production budgets.

There are a few bigger productions, with higher production standards, that have emerged over the past few years in Nollywood. But they have hardly been the result of investments made by foreign firms like Netflix, Canal Plus or MultiChoice.

Nigerian producers are those who are mostly concerned about raising the quality of Nollywood films. They want to give better content to their audiences and reach global screens. In most cases, the people investing money in these kinds of projects have been independent producers or groups of investors related to the new business of multiplexes in Nigeria.

In my view, the question is: will these people benefit from Netflix, so as to continue investing in higher quality content? Or will Netflix and other international companies end up taking over the industry to make it only a bit more of the same?

Mail & Guardian

Air force helicopter crashes during combat with Boko Haram in Nigeria

A Nigerian Air Force helicopter crashed in combat, as fighting raged against Boko Haram extremists for control of the strategic town of Baga in northeastern Nigeria, according to the military.

The helicopter crash occurred Wednesday, according to a tweet by air force spokesman, Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola.

The fighting was at Damasak in Northern Borno state, he said, without giving details of the fate of the helicopter crew.

The military is fighting to regain control of Baga, which Boko Haram seized last week. The town is a key base for a multinational force fighting the extremists. Many Baga residents have fled to the larger city of Maiduguri.

The fighting for Baga is intense, the chief of army training and operations, Maj. Gen. Lamidi Adeosun, told reporters.

“It’s a ding-dong situation but we are engaging them,” he said last week. “We are not in total control but Boko Haram have not taken control of Baga, either.”

Baga, close to the border with Chad, has weapons, ammunition and other equipment are a key target for the extremists. Insurgents also overran the base in 2015.

The Islamic State West Africa Province, the largest IS-linked extremist group in Africa, claimed to kill or wound “dozens” of soldiers in the latest attack, according to the SITE Intelligence Group that monitors extremist communiques.

Nigeria’s military rarely announces death tolls in such attacks, but the government in November acknowledged dozens of soldier deaths in what it called an extremist resurgence.

In addition to the fighting for Baga and the helicopter crash, 53 police are missing after a Boko Haram raid last week.

It is not known if the missing police are dead, captured or escaped alive, according to a senior police officer in Maiduguri, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the press. Among the missing are 40 marine police who were patrolling Lake Chad, he said.

Nigeria’s Defence Minister Mannir Dan-Ali reiterated the military’s commitment to ending Boko Haram’s insurgency in the country. He was speaking to the press Wednesday while on his way to neighboring Chad to discuss Boko Haram activity in areas along the border between the two countries.

Dan -Ali was responding to recent attacks by Boko Haram on Nigerian military in the northern parts of Borno State, including Baga and others towns. He met with Nigerian military commanders for about an hour.

The government also last month confirmed the insurgents had begun using drones, calling it a “critical factor” in the rise in attacks. Buhari at the time held an urgent meeting with member countries to “enhance the capacity” of the multinational force.

The nearly decade-old Boko Haram insurgency has been blamed for some 20,000 deaths and thousands of abductions. The unrest and displacement of millions of hungry people have turned northeastern Nigeria into one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.