Thursday, May 30, 2019

Football boss of Nigeria Amaju Pinnick ordered to appear in court

Five top officials of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) have been ordered to appear in court over alleged misappropriation of funds.

The quintet, including NFF president Amaju Pinnick, are due to appear in court in the capital Abuja on 1 July, according to Justice Ifeoma Ojukwu.

Prosecution lawyer Celsius Ukpong, from the Special Presidential Investigation Panel (SPIP) for the recovery of public property says they will face a number of charges.

As well as Pinnick, NFF vice presidents Seyi Akinwunmi and Shehu Dikko along with general secretary Mohammed Sanusi and executive committee member Ahmed Yusuf have all been ordered to appear.

The charges include failure to declare their assets, the alleged disappearance of US$8.4 million paid by Fifa to Nigeria for participation in the 2014 World Cup and arranging international friendly matches that do not take place.

"We are expecting the accused persons, the defendants, to come to court and take their plea," Ukpong insisted.

However, all five men have always denied all the charges levelled against them, with the football authority calling the accusations "frivolous and baseless" early this month.

With the hearing set to resume in the middle of this year's Africa Cup of Nations, the NFF has played down speculation it could affect the team.

"Our lawyer is handling the matter and the NFF will only make a statement at the appropriate time," NFF director of communications Ademola Olajire told BBC Sport.

"The NFF is focused on important football matters and the priority is to ensure all our teams succeed."

It is not the first time officials of the NFF will be involved in corruption allegations.

Back in 2010, four former officials were arrested amid accusations that some $8m went missing during the World Cup finals in South Africa.

It took eight years for the quartet to be acquitted by the anti-graft agency.

By Oluwashina Okeleji


Middle-Class Emigration affecting skill shortage in Nigeria

A new wave of emigration among Nigeria’s middle class is robbing the oil-rich West African nation of skills and putting local recruitment under pressure.

An anemic economy that contracted for the first time in two decades in 2016, poor health facilities and schools, a worsening insecurity marked by a decade-old Islamist insurgency in the northeast, kidnapping and herdsmen attacks in other parts of the country are driving the exodus. It comes at a time when Nigeria has become the nation with the largest number of poor people.

Per capital income dipped by 37% since its 2014 peak and is projected to continue declining in the next four years, according to the International Monetary Fund. The exodus in the nation of almost 200 million people is hitting the IT, finance, consumer and health industries particularly hard.

“Those who emigrate can time-travel,” said Charles Robertson, chief economist at Renaissance Capital. “They jump forward decades of economic development to work in countries which are usually more stable, wealthier, with better education for their children and better health care.”

President Muhammadu Buhari, 76, who was sworn in Wednesday for a second term, has promised to tackle insecurity and boost economic growth in the continent’s biggest oil-producing country. His spokesman, Garba Shehu, declined a request to comment.

Canada’s liberal immigration policy is a strong pull for Nigeria’s top talent that faces rising living costs and stagnant incomes. Inflation has been at double digits since 2015, while the unemployment rate has hit its highest level since 2010.

Applications for permanent residency in Canada have risen threefold since 2015, data from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada show, while those for temporary residency has almost doubled over the same period.

The number of Nigerians suspected overstaying in the U.S. with visitor visas has more than quadrupled from 2015 to last year, according to data from the U.S. department of Homeland Security. The overstay rate of Nigerian students studying in the U.S soared to 22% last year from 4% in 2015.

Of about 155 countries that have citizens overstaying in the U.S. as non-immigrants with business and pleasure visas, Nigeria ranks among the top 10 sharing places with countries such as Djibouti, Eritrea, Yemen, South Sudan, Syria, Chad and Burundi.

The health-care industry is one of the most affected by the exit of professionals. About 9 out of 10 medical doctors in practice are exploring work opportunities abroad, a 2017 survey by polling company NOI Polls shows.

In Britain there are currently 6,312 medical doctors of Nigerian origin, according to data on the U.K. General Medical Council website, a 44% increase on 2015 figures. That’s worsened health care in a country that has one doctor to serve 5,000 people, according to the Nigeria Medical Association.

“All professional firms and major corporations in Nigeria are affected by the brain drain,” said Andrew S. Nevin, advisory partner and chief economist at PwC Nigeria. “The Nigerian government needs to create an economic and social environment sufficiently attractive to keep our educated young people.”

By Tope Alake


Video - President Buhari sworn in for second term as president

Muhammadu Buhari has been sworn in for a second term as Nigeria's president, following a campaign that focused on tackling security threats and rooting out corruption.

The 76-year-old leader was sworn in on Wednesday amid tight security in the Nigerian capital Abuja. He did not make a speech during the low-profile event attended by members of the diplomatic community.

Buhari, a former military ruler, won 56 percent of the votes to defeat his main challenger, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples' Democratic Party (PDP) in the February election, which had been beset by a host of security and logistic issues that delayed the vote by a week.

Following the announcement of the election results, Abubakar filed a petition against the outcome, a process that is ongoing in Nigeria's appellate court.

Buhari will face a number of challenges during his second term as he tries to fulfil his election promises, including dealing with security threats and managing a sluggish economy and a high unemployment rate.

Security challenges

Security remains a major challenge for Buhari after a first term marked by kidnappings, bandit attacks, cattle rustling and communal conflicts.

Babatunde Fashola, a former government minister, told Al Jazeera that Buhari has been entrusted with resolving the issues.

"[Insecurity] was a campaign issue on which the president has been re-elected, which shows the people's trust in his ability to solve the problem," Fashola said.

Buhari's home state of Katsina witnessed an escalation in violence, with several villages raided by armed bandits, while the Boko Haram armed group continues to operate in the northeast of the country.

Persisting tensions in the northeast could escalate into more violence, according to Nnamdi Obasi, Nigeria researcher at the International Crisis Group.

"Boko Haram, now split into two factions, will continue its decade-long campaign to establish an Islamic state in the northeast, even as the herder-farmer violence has ebbed since the second half of 2018," Obasi said.

In Nigeria's fertile central region, herders and farmers continue to fight over land and water resources, the clashes between them claiming hundreds of lives and displacing thousands more.

Communities in the oil-producing Niger Delta - which accounts for most of the country’s foreign exchange reserves - have long complained of government neglect, leading to unrest in the region.

Armed groups have attacked oil installations in the past, halting production and kidnapping expatriate workers. Many of those fighters were brought under a government amnesty which entitles them to monthly stipends and education programmes.

In addition to the security situation, areas polluted by oil drilling activities have yet to be cleaned up, as a project to tackle that issue is yet to begin.

"In the Niger Delta, the continuing delay in addressing environmental grievances and diverse regional demands, coupled with possible termination of the decade-long amnesty programme, could lend room for opportunistic groups to resume sabotage of the petroleum industry," Obasi said.

"Countrywide, massive youth employment, feeble policing and the deepening atmosphere of impunity, all suggest that kidnapping and other public safety situation could deteriorate further," he added.

Economic challenges

Nigeria's unemployment rate has more than doubled to 23 percent since Buhari assumed office in 2015, while 90 million Nigerians are living in extreme poverty, more than than any other country, according to findings based on a projection by the World Poverty Clock and compiled by the Brookings Institution.

Nigeria is Africa's largest economy and economic analysts say the next four years offer another opportunity to fix the problems.

"On the monetary policy side, they need to abandon their fixation on the exchange rate. The Central Bank of Nigeria is not ready to deal with any economic shocks at the moment because they have boxed themselves into a tight corner while trying to manage the exchange rate," Nonso Obikili, an Abuja-based economist, told Al Jazeera.

"I think the economy will continue to grow around two percent over the next one or two years. That, of course, is very bad given our population growth, poverty, and jobs crisis," Obikili said.

Buhari also faces the task of weeding out corruption, which has hurt the economy and the ease of doing business in the country.

According to Transparency International's 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index, Nigeria failed to improve its ranking of 144th out of 180 countries from the previous year, despite "a number of positive steps" taken by the Buhari government.

However, the opposition has criticised Buhari's record in the fight against corruption, a promise he ran on in his initial 2015 campaign.

"The fight against corruption has been an abysmal failure, to put it mildly. It turned from prosecution to persecution of perceived political foes," Anthony Ehilebo, Head of Digital Media for the PDP's presidential campaign team, told Al Jazeera.

Al Jazeera

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Video - President Muhammadu Buhari begins second term

Rising ethnic violence in Nigeria will be among the challenges facing President Muhammadu Buhari. Buhari will be inaugurated for a second term on Wednesday. The 75-year-old former army general won a closely fought election in February. Buhari will also have to deal with an economic slowdown.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Nigeria finally fulfills it's promise to coach Clemens Westerhof after 25 years

Former Nigeria coach Clemens Westerhof has been rewarded with the house he was promised 25 years ago for winning the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations.

The Dutchman was in charge for five years from 1989 and as well as the Nations Cup victory he led them to their first World Cup in the same year.

Then Nigerian military ruler Sani Abacha promised a house to reward each of the squad members and officials, but only a handful received theirs.

"It's taken a long go-slow, but I feel happy that my second country has fulfilled its promise to me," the 79-year-old said.

"I always say Nigeria gave me everything as a man and in football. You can see that I wasn't wrong. I thank everyone involved in making this happen."

Nigeria's Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola, made the document presentation on behalf of the presidency.

Fashola also asked the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) to provide him with the names of those who are yet to receive their houses.

"We've asked the NFF for their names to enable us process it so they can all be rewarded," Fashola said.

Five of those who won the 1994 Nations Cup have died - captain Stephen Keshi, Uche Okafor, Thompson Oliha, Rashidi Yekini and Wilfred Agbonavbare.

Westerhof, who is also the longest-serving manager in the history of Nigerian football, has also coached in the Netherlands, South Africa, Egypt and Zimbabwe.

In his spell in charge of Nigeria the outspoken Dutchman led the country to fifth place in the Fifa world ranking in 1994 - the continent's ever highest - and also completed the haul of African football success with the West African nation.

He led the country to a runners-up finish at the 1990 Africa Cup of Nations, third place in the 1992 edition before conquering the continent in 1994.

He is still revered in Nigeria where he is credited for masterminding the Super Eagles' success in the 1990's and he made an attempt to return in 2016.

It is the second time Nigeria president Muhammadu Buhari has made good on a promise to reward the country's football success.

In February 2016, Buhari fulfilled a pledge to reward the Nigeria squad that won the first Under-16 World championship after a 30-year wait.


Thousands fleeing Nigeria to Niger due to violent attacks

Recent spike in violence in north-western parts of Nigeria has forced an estimated 20,000 people to seek safety and security in Niger since April.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is concerned about deteriorating security inside Nigeria, and is working closely with authorities in Niger to provide basic assistance and register the new arrivals. More than 18,000 people have already gone through the initial registration process so far.

The latest upsurge in violence is not linked to Boko Haram. People are reportedly fleeing due to multiple reasons, including clashes between farmers and herders of different ethnic groups, vigilantism, as well as kidnappings for ransom in Nigeria’s Sokoto and Zamfara States.

People leaving Nigeria, and arriving in Niger’s Maradi Region, speak of witnessing extreme violence unleashed against civilians, including machete attacks, kidnappings and sexual violence. The majority of the new arrivals are women and children.

The ongoing Boko Haram insurgency has already spilled over into Niger, where it has affected its Diffa region since 2015. The region currently hosts almost 250,000 displaced people – including refugees from Nigeria and locals being displaced inside their own country.

Niger continues to be a leading regional example in providing safety to refugees fleeing conflict and persecution in many countries. It has kept its borders open for refugees despite the ongoing violence in several regions bordering Nigeria, Mali and recently Burkina Faso.

Many of the newly arrived are located very close to the Nigerian border, where there remains a high risk of armed incursions. UNHCR with sister UN agencies and partners is discussing with the government the possibility of relocating them into local towns and villages further in land.

As well as providing aid to Nigerian new arrivals, UNHCR also plans to support host families, who despite lack of adequate resources and access to basic services, have always shown solidarity towards the displaced and welcomed people into their homes.

Since the beginning of 2018, violence within the Diffa region perpetrated by elements of Boko Haram has also significantly escalated with a record number of civilian casualties and unprecedented secondary movements within the region.

Niger is currently hosting over 380,000 refugees and asylum seekers from Mali and Nigeria as well as its own internally displaced population. The country has also provided refuge to some 2,782 asylum seekers airlifted from insecurity in Libya, while awaiting durable solutions.


Monday, May 27, 2019

Nigerian spared death sentence in Singapore

A Nigerian man facing the gallows for importing drugs into Singapore eight years ago was spared death on Monday (May 27) after the Court of Appeal acquitted him of his capital charge.

Three judges found that the prosecution had failed to establish that Adili Chibuike Ejike knew that there were drugs in his suitcase when he entered Singapore on Nov 13, 2011.

Adili was 28 when he was caught with two packets wrapped in tape in his suitcase at Changi Airport Terminal 3. He had arrived in Singapore from Lagos, Nigeria via Doha, Qatar.

The two packets were identified after his suitcase was placed through an X-ray machine. During the scan, an image of darker density was seen on one side of the case.

A physical search yielded nothing incriminating, but the case was taken to the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority Baggage Office where the packets were found hidden under the inner lining of the suitcase.

The contents of the packets were found to be methamphetamine, also known as Ice. Adili was arrested and in June 2016 convicted of importing 1.961kg of meth under the Misuse of Drugs Act.

He was sentenced to death about a year later by trial judge Kan Ting Chiu, but appealed against his conviction and sentence.

According to court documents, Adili had been jobless in Nigeria after his business failed. He approached an acquaintance in Nigeria for help and that person agreed to give Adili a sum of money if he delivered a suitcase to an unspecified person in Singapore.

Adili then applied for his first passport in 2011 and travelled to Singapore with the suitcase, which was handed to him by a childhood friend who had been working with the acquaintance.

During the trial, Adili had maintained that he did not know that the meth bundles were in his suitcase. In one of his statements, he had said: "Somebody gave those substance [sic] to me. I did not know what it was. If I knew what they were, I would not have accepted to carry those things."

However, the trial judge had rejected his evidence, finding Adili to be an unreliable witness as there were several inconsistencies between his oral testimony and investigation statements.


Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, along with Appeal Judges Andrew Phang and Judith Prakash, said in their decision that three elements had to be proven for the offence of importation.

First, Adili must have been in possession of the drugs. Second, he must have had knowledge of the nature of the drugs, and third, the drugs must have been brought intentionally into Singapore without prior authorisation.

The central issue was whether Adili was in possession of the meth, said the court. The element of possession required not just proof of physical possession, but also an element of knowledge.

A person who is not aware that an item - which turns out to be a controlled drug - is in his possession cannot be said, in a legal sense, to be in possession of that item, the court found.

The court found that Adili had not been wilfully blind to the existence of the drugs in his suitcase. This was because it would not have been possible for Adili to have discovered the drug bundles, which were discovered only after the inner lining of the suitcase was cut open.

He also could not have found out about the drugs by asking the people who had handed him the suitcase in Nigeria, since they were intent on keeping the truth from him, and would not have told him about the hidden drug bundles even if he had asked, said the judges.

Adili, who was represented by lawyer Mohamed Muzzamil Mohamed, cried in court after he was acquitted.

Chief Justice Menon said the appeal highlights "how important it is that the prosecution and the defence (and, indeed, the courts) remain alert to the precise effect and implications of conceding particular facts as to what the accused person did or did not know".

"We appreciate that this is by no means an easy and straightforward matter, and, in fairness to the judge, he was not helped in the discharge of this difficult task by the fact that the defence misunderstood the requirements of the element of possession and therefore wrongly conceded the fact of possession; while the prosecution proceeded on the basis that the appellant did not actually know of the existence of the drugs, before then seeking to have that very fact presumed to be true," he said.

"Had the parties properly set out their respective cases at the trial below, it would have been clear that what was in issue was the fact of possession, and that given the prosecution’s concession that the appellant did not actually know of that fact, that fact could only be established by proof beyond reasonable doubt that the appellant had been wilfully blind to the existence of the drugs."

By Lydia Lam


Ten Things President Buhari Will Have to Deal With in Second Term

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari officially begins his second and final term on Wednesday following his re-election in February.

Despite his large winning margin, the next four years won’t be easy for the 76-year-old former general. Here are some of the key issues he’ll face while at the helm of Africa’s biggest oil producer and most-populous nation.

Growth and Inflation

Nigeria’s economic growth has slumped since the 2014 crash in crude prices and Buhari is struggling to revive it. The International Monetary Fund forecasts that gross domestic product will expand 2.1% this year, which would make Nigeria one of Africa’s slowest-growing economies and mean that growth is negative in per capita terms. Inflation is at 11.4% and has been above the central bank’s target of 6% to 9% for almost four years.

Revenue and Debt

Since so few Nigerians and companies pay tax, the nation has one of the lowest revenue-to-GDP ratios in the world at about 7%. That leaves the government with little money to spend on schools, hospitals and infrastructure. Officials are also concerned about how much of the budget is soaked up by interest payments. In March, the Debt Management Office told Bloomberg it will avoid Eurobonds and instead prioritize concessional loans from the likes of the World Bank to lower its finance costs.

The Naira

Foreign investors’ biggest gripe over the past four years was how Nigeria handled the naira in the wake of the oil crisis. Central bank Governor Godwin Emefiele, who Buhari just re-appointed for a second term, ramped up capital controls in a bid to stop the currency depreciating. There’s a system of multiple exchange rates in place that critics, including the IMF, say is opaque and deters investment. Many also say that central bank meddling has left the naira overvalued: Renaissance Capital estimates it should be about 20% weaker against the dollar.

Foreign Investment

A slump in foreign direct investment since the early part of the decade has accelerated under Buhari, whose administration has come into conflict with companies including MTN Group Ltd. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. Last year, FDI flows into Nigeria totaled just $2.2 billion, less than a third of the amounts South Africa and Egypt attracted.

Fuel Prices

Buhari is an advocate of low gasoline prices, believing they’re one of the few benefits that Nigerians get from the state. They’re capped at 145 naira a liter ($0.40, or $1.51 a gallon), which makes Nigeria the sixth cheapest country in which to fill up your tank, according to That cost almost $2 billion in subsidies last year, according to IMF, which has urged the government to raise prices.

Oil and NNPC

One reason for optimism about the economy is rising crude production. It climbed to 1.9 million barrels a day in April, the highest level in more than three years, as Total SA’s massive Egina offshore field came on-stream. Investors will hope that Buhari encourages more deepwater developments while also cleaning up Nigerian National Petroleum Corp., the state-owned energy company that opposition politicians say is blighted by graft and mismanagement.

Blackouts and Gridlocked Ports

Nigeria has long suffered from dire infrastructure, not least its power network and ports. Buhari has struggled to fulfill his pledge to end constant electricity outages and chaos at the country’s main ports, both of which weigh on economic growth.

Islamic State and Boko Haram

While Buhari managed to win back territory in the northeast held by Boko Haram when he first came to power, a breakaway faction allied to Islamic State is gaining strength and regularly attacks army bases and convoys. That’s one of a string of security problems that have escalated in recent years. In other parts of the country, clashes between farmers and herders over grazing land led to around 2,000 deaths in 2018, according to Amnesty International.


Buhari’s popularity with voters is largely because of his promises to fight corruption. While he says his administration has done much to cut graft in the public sector, critics complain that he lacks a clear strategy and that he’s used his anti-corruption campaign to go after political opponents.

Booming Population

One of the biggest long-term issues facing Nigeria is its rapidly-growing population -- the United Nations expects it to double to 410 million by 2050, overtaking every country bar India and China. While some investors see that as a reason to move into Nigeria, others say it threatens social and political stability in a country whose government already struggles to provide basic services and which has more extremely poor people than any other.

By Paul Wallace


Friday, May 24, 2019

Nigerian ride-hailing start-up Gokada raises $5.3M in investement

In many large cities across Africa, motorcycle taxies are as common as yellow-cabs in New York.

That includes Lagos, Nigeria, where ride-hail startup Gokada has raised a $5.3 million Series A round to grow its two-wheel transit business.

Gokada has trained and on-boarded over 1000 motorcycles and their pilots on its app that connects commuters to moto-taxis and the company’s signature green, DOT approved helmets.

The startup has completed nearly 1 million rides since it was co-founded in 2018 by Fahim Saleh—a Bangladeshi entrepreneur who previously founded and exited Pathao, a motorcycle, bicycle, and car transportation company.

For Gokada’s Series A, Rise Capital led the investment joined by Adventure Capital, IC Global Partners, and Illinois based First MidWest Group. Coinciding with the round, Nigerian investor and Jobberman founder Ayodeji Adewunmi will join Gokada as co-CEO.

Gokada will use the financing to increase its fleet and ride volume, while developing a network to offer goods and services to its drivers. “We’re going to start a Gokada club in each of the cities with a restaurant where drivers can relax, and we’ll experiment with a Gokada Shop, where drivers can get things they need on a regular basis, such as plantains, yams, and rice,” Saleh told TechCrunch.

The startup differs from other ride-hail ventures in that it doesn’t split fare revenue with drivers. Gokada charges drivers a flat-fee of 3000 Nigerian Naira a day (around $8) to work on their platform. The company is looking to generate a larger share of its revenue from building a commercial network around its rider community.

“We don’t do anything with the fares. We want to create an Amazon prime type membership…and ecosystem around the driver where we’re going to provide them more and more services, such as motorcycle insurance, maintenance, personal life-insurance, micro-finance loans,” Saleh said.

“We’re trying to provide a network of great services for our drivers that makes them stick with us, and not necessarily see a reason to switch to other platforms,” said Saleh.

Competition among those platforms is heating up, as global players enter Africa’s motorcycle taxi market and local startups raise VC and expand to new countries.

Uber began offering a two-wheel transit option in East Africa in 2018, around the same time Bolt (previously Taxify) started motorcycle taxi service in Kenya.

Rwanda has motorbike taxi startups SafeMotos and Yegomoto. Uganda based motorcycle ride-hail company Safeboda expanded into Kenya in 2018 and this month raised a Series B round of an undisclosed amount co-led by the venture arms of Germany’s Allianz and Indonesia’s GoJek.

Safeboda will use the round to further expand in East Africa and Nigeria in the near future, the startup’s CEO Maxime Diedonne confirmed to TechCrunch.

In Nigeria, Gokada faces a competitor in local startup, which offers mobile based passenger and logistics delivery services.

Overall, Africa’s motorcycle taxi market is becoming a significant sub-sector in the continent’s e-transport startup landscape. Two-wheel transit startups are vying to digitize a share of Africa’s boda boda and okada markets (the name for motorcycle taxis in East and West Africa)—representing a collective revenue pool of $4 billion and expected to double to $9 billion by 2021, according to a TechSci study.

“There is a formalization of an informal sector play here…to make it safer and higher quality,” Gokada investor Nazar Yasin of Rise Capital told TechCrunch.

The appeal to passengers is the lower cost of motorbike transit compared to buses or cabs ($1.85 is Gokada’s average fare) and the ability of two-wheelers to cut through the heavy congestion in cities such as Lagos and Nairobi.

A notable facet of motorcycle ride-hail companies in Africa is better organizing a space with a reputation for being somewhat chaotic and downright dangerous (see Nigeria’s past bans on the sector entirely due to safety).

For Gokada that includes training courses and certification of riders, the ability to track trips and safety stats from the app, and quality control for motorcycles—something that’s been lacking in East and West Africa’s non-digital moto-taxi space.

The company’s rider program offers a way for drivers to buy, own, and maintain their motorcycles as they earn. Gokada has entered into partnership with Indian motorcycle maker TVS Motors to create a custom version of the company’s TVS Apache motorcycles for Gokada drivers.

Gokada is also experimenting with adding sensors to its fleet to better track safety standards. “We’re looking at seat sensors and another GPS sensor to track things like ‘did this driver add more than one passenger on the bike’ and all that data will feed back into our servers,” Saleh said.

The company won’t enter any new countries in Africa in the near future. “We plan to expand all over Nigeria. We think its a large enough market for now,” said Gokada CEO Fahim Saleh. Nigeria is Africa’s most populous nation (190 million) and largest economy.

By Jake Bright


Thursday, May 23, 2019

18 killed by armed gang in Nigeria

An armed gang killed at least 18 people in the northwest Nigerian state of Katsina, police and residents said on Wednesday, as unrest spreads across the region and into the president’s home state.

Hundreds of people have died in Nigeria’s northwest since the beginning of the year, in attacks the government attributes to bandits, a loose term for gangs of outlaws carrying out robberies and kidnappings.

Despite military and police operations to quell the conflict, the death toll continues to rise, along with incidents of kidnapping and robbery.

Security experts say Nigeria can ill-afford more instability, with the country already struggling to contain Islamist insurgencies in the northeast, brutal pastoral conflict in the central states and militant groups in the Niger Delta to the southeast.

In the latest incident, bandits attacked farmers at the village of Yar Gamji, near Nigeria’s border with Niger, on Tuesday morning killing 18 of them, police said.

The attackers escaped into a nearby forest, police said in a statement.

Residents said that while 18 bodies had been found, many more people were feared dead.

“Right now we are at the Emir’s palace for the mass burial of our relatives, but more than 18 people were killed in this attack,” said Hassan Ibrahim, whose brother was killed.

“There is no peace in Katsina,” he said. “Almost every day they carry out attacks on villagers, killing innocent people.”


Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Boko Haram adopting Isil stragedy

When a motorbike convoy of Boko Haram fighters invaded Baga in north-east Nigeria last December, residents feared the very worst. Watching the gunmen roll in, they recalled Boko Haram's last seizure of the town in 2015, when hundreds of their men were slaughtered and their women kidnapped as “bush wives”.

This time, though, the Hells Angels' style motorcade did not bring the usual orgy of rape, murder and pillage. "They didn't beat anyone, they just said that we should stay where we were," said Mansour Yusuf, 44, a father of nine. "But they also said we were free to leave if we wanted to."

Mr Yusuf took no chances, fleeing along with thousands of other Baga residents to the better-defended town of Monguno, where Nigerian troops have dug a protective trench around the town.

That he is alive to tell the tale, however, does not speak of any new tender-heartedness on Boko Haram's part. Instead, the "hearts and minds" strategy is all part of the long-term game being played by the new Isil-allied faction of Boko Haram.

Known officially as Islamic State's West Africa Province, or ISWAP, the group has gained a firm foothold in the past year, confounding claims by President Muhammadu Buhari that the insurgency is facing defeat.

Focusing on military rather than civilian targets, they have mounted devastating, well-organised attacks on isolated army bases, including one last November in which up to 100 soldiers died.

The group declared fealty to Isil in 2015, splintering from the rival Boko Haram faction led by Abubakr Shekau, the man notorious for the Chibok schoolgirl kidnapping in 2014.

While Shekau revelled in indiscriminate brutality – he boasted of slaughtering people "like chickens" – ISWAP has tried to build turf by courting rather than cowing the civilian population.

Massacres of entire villages have been avoided, as has the use of women and children as suicide bombers. To sweeten the pill of its religious dogma, it tries to present itself as a force for equality and social justice.

"When they came into Baga, they promised that they would take the food stocks from all the influential men in the community and share it with us," said Abdullahi Mohammed, 42, another fisherman who fled to Monguno. "They said: 'the government does nothing for you, we are here to relieve your suffering'."

There are limits to the group’s charm offensive, however. Captured soldiers and civilians suspected of spying can still expect torture and execution. Last year, the group also kidnapped and murdered two Nigerian Muslims working as nurses for the Red Cross, describing them as "apostates".

One man in Monguno showed the Telegraph an ISWAP propaganda video, showing two relatives who had been kidnapped by the group during the attack on Baga. “They were working for the civilian joint task force (an anti-Boko Haram vigilante group,” he said. “They’ll probably be killed now.”

Just how close ISWAP’s links are to Isil’s core leadership in the Middle East is unclear: most experts doubt it gets much logistical help. But with Isil now in disarray in both Iraq and Syria, Nigerian army commanders claim that foreign jihadists are already swelling its ranks.

"We have battle encounters where some of the corpses we have seen on the ISWAP side have been either white or North African - I've seen a couple myself," one senior Nigerian army officer told The Telegraph. "There seems to have been influx of non-locals into this sect, and we think it may account for some of the ambitious attacks they have carried out."

Mr Mohammed and Mr Yusuf now live in tents in a vast aid camp in Monguno, along with nearly 150,000 other people made homeless by the crisis. Many have fled towns that the Nigerian army had previously declared safe.

Edward Kallon, United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Nigeria, said more landed was needed to build shelters and sanitation facilities. "This is crucial ahead of the upcoming rainy season, as many people are without shelter or living in overcrowded conditions that could lead to serious disease outbreaks like cholera.”

Although Monguno itself is guarded by a Nigerian army garrison, the empty desert that surrounds it is no-man's-land. For aid workers, the town is only accessible via a UN helicopter service.

The six-foot-deep trench that runs round Monguno's perimeter does not stop Boko Haram trying to attack. The night before The Telegraph visited, two local boys were reported to have been abducted.

"If you go across that trench and walk for just half an hour, you will start to meet Boko Haram fighters," Mr Yusuf added.

According to US government estimates, ISWAP now has around 3,500 fighters, mostly around the Lake Chad basin, compared to around 1,500 for Shekau's faction, which are based in the Sambisa Forest.

The strength of the two groups shows just how deadlocked the conflict has become, after a decade in which an estimated 27,000 people have been killed and two million forced to flee their homes.

The crisis is a sore point for Mr Buhari, who was re-elected in February despite criticism of his record against Boko Haram. Frontline Nigerian troops complain that vast amount of the money allocated to the war budget is siphoned off by corrupt officers, leaving them undermanned and outgunned.

On a visit to Nigeria earlier this month, the Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, warned that Nigeria was being "massively destabilised" by the conflict, and that Isil would be "looking to make their presence felt now they have lost their territory."

He hinted that Britain would offer extra military help if the Nigerian army could improve its human rights record - a view that is unlikely to have gone down well with his hosts.

Amnesty International has repeatedly accused troops of brutality and arbitrary detentions - much to the irritation of the government, which claimed last year that the rights group seemed to care more about Boko Haram than its victims. That frustration is shared by those manning the frontlines up at Monguno.

"These people who criticise us aren't up here doing the fighting, losing their lives or seeing how brutal Boko Haram are to civilians," said the Nigerian army officer. “This is a vicious war, and it isn’t fair to say that we are as bad as the militants."

By Colin Freeman

The Telegraph

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Kidnapping in Nigeria on the rise

Frequent acts of violent crime have grown to form a major threat to Nigeria’s national security. These include instances of militancy, insurgency and banditry. Banditry includes cattle rustling, armed robbery and kidnapping for ransom.

Kidnapping has remained the most virulent form of banditry in Nigeria. It has become the most pervasive and intractable violent crime in the country.

Kidnapping can be targeted at individuals or at groups. School children have been kidnapped in groups in various parts of Nigeria. Usually, the prime targets of kidnapping for ransom are those considered to be wealthy enough to pay a fee in exchange for being freed.

Kidnapping is the unlawful detention of a person through the use of force, threats, fraud or enticement. The purpose is an illicit gain, economic or material, in exchange for liberation. It may also be used to pressure someone into doing something—or not doing something.

Nigeria has one of the world’s highest rates of kidnap-for-ransom cases. Other countries high up on the list included Venezuela, Mexico, Yemen, Syria, the Philippines, Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia.

Thousands of Nigerians have been kidnapped for ransom and other purposes over the years. Kidnapping has prevailed in spite of measures put in place by the government. The Nigerian police’s anti-kidnapping squad, introduced in the 2000s, has endeavored to stem the menace. But this been to no avail, mainly due to a lack of manpower and poor logistics.

In my view these efforts have also failed because of weak sanctioning and deterrence mechanisms. Kidnapping thrives in an environment that condones crime; where criminal opportunism and impunity prevail over and above deterrence.

This obviously calls for an urgent review of Nigeria’s current anti-kidnapping approach to make it more effective.

Opportunistic and organized bandits

Even prior to the advent of colonialism there were recorded cases of kidnap for rape, ritual or for other purposes in various parts of Nigeria. But kidnapping today is done primarily for ransom – either money or its material equivalent to be paid for someone’s release. The underlying logic of the kidnapping enterprise is that the victim is worth a ransom value and they or their proxy have the capacity to pay.

Each victim has a so-called “kidnap ransom value” which makes them an attractive target. This value is determined by a number of factors. These include the victim’s socio-economic or political status, family or corporate premium on the victim, the type of kidnappers involved, as well as the dynamics of ransom negotiation.

The kidnapping business in Nigeria has been mostly perpetrated by criminal gangs and violent groups pursuing political agendas. Bandits have often taken to kidnapping for ransom to make money. The escapades of the famous kidnap kingpin, Evans, speak volumes of this pattern of kidnapping. Evans was a multimillionaire kidnapper who was arrested in Lagos a few years ago. He is currently is detention awaiting trial.

Organized violent groups such as militants and insurgents have also been involved in kidnap for ransom in Nigeria. Current trends have been linked back to the example set by Niger Delta militants who resorted to solo and group abductions as a means of generating funds both for private use and for the cause of a particular group.

Similarly, Boko Haram insurgents have used the proceeds of kidnapping to keep their insurgency afloat. The insurgents engage in single or group kidnapping as a means of generating money to fund their activities. Huge sums are often paid as ransom by the victims’ families and associates to secure their release.

In addition to militants and insurgents, organized local and transnational criminal syndicates have been involved. This is happening to apocalyptic proportions in North West Nigeria where rural bandits engage regularly in kidnapping in the states of Zamfara, Kaduna, Katsina, Kebbi and Sokoto.

The cost

Kidnapping has led to the loss of tens of thousands of lives and huge sums of money in Nigeria. Many of the victims of the crime have been killed in the course of their abduction, custody or release. Many more have been injured. This is in addition to huge amounts of money lost to ransom takers.

For the victims and their families and friends, the consequences are even more frightful.

Nigeria should never have got here. Kidnappers persist because the benefits of their crimes exceed the costs. So the obvious solution is to raise the costs by imposing harsher, surer penalties. The present penalty for kidnapping ranges from one to 20 years in prison, with the possibility of life imprisonment for extreme cases involving, for instance, murder.

Stricter measures, such as life imprisonment or the death penalty, may not be completely out of place in dealing with the kidnapping menace. After all, the crime of kidnapping is a maximum threat that requires an equally maximum deterrence.


Monday, May 20, 2019

Nigerian UN soldier killed in Mali

A United Nations soldier has been killed and several injured in two attacks on the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, officials said on Sunday.

Gunmen attacked the UN troops in Timbuktu, where several armed groups are active, according to Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

The peacekeeper who was killed was Nigerian, as were three of those injured.

A further three UN soldiers from Chad were injured in Tessalit in the northern Kidal region near the border with Algeria when their vehicle drove over an explosive device.

Condemning the violence and expressing his condolences to the family of the killed soldier, Guterres said such attacks on UN soldiers could be considered war crimes under international law.

Mali has experienced sporadic attacks by armed groups since a 2012 coup that helped separatist rebels and groups associated with al-Qaeda gain a foothold in the country's restive north.

A UN peacekeeping mission has been active in Mali since 2013.

A peace agreement signed in 2015 by the Bamako government and armed groups was aimed at restoring stability. But the accord has failed to stop the violence.

Since their deployment in 2013, more than 190 peacekeepers have died in Mali, including nearly 120 killed by hostile action - making Mali the UN's deadliest peacekeeping operation, accounting for more than half of blue helmets killed globally in the past five years.

There have been repeated attacks on the mission in the north of the country by armed groups, while ethnic conflicts in the centre flare up regularly.

Al Jazeera

Friday, May 17, 2019

Video - Nearly 900 children released by pro-government militia in Nigeria

Nearly 900 children held by a pro-government militia in Nigeria have been freed. Among them -- more than a hundred girls.They're part of the Civilian Joint Task Force or C-J-T-F, which has been battling the extremist group Boko Haram. It's not clear how many children the group is still holding.

Nigerians warned against trending ponzi scheme called Loom Money Nigeria

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has warned Nigerians against fraudsters currently running an online investment scheme tagged “Loom Money Nigeria’’. Acting Director-General of the commission, Ms Mary Uduk gave the warning at a news conference on Thursday in Abuja.

A statement by SEC’s Head of Media, Mrs Efe Ebelo, said that Uduk, who was represented by acting Executive Commissioner, Operations of SEC, Mr Isyaku Tilde, said Loom Money Nigeria had taken over the social media. She said that the scheme targeted young people, luring them to participate in a pyramid model of the Ponzi.

The director-general disclosed that the fraudsters carried out their illegitimate activities via social media platforms like Facebook and whatsapp. She added that they lured young Nigerians to invest as low as N1000 and N13, 000 and to get as much as eight times the value of the investment in 48 hours. Uduk said that the venture was a Ponzi scheme, where returns would be paid from other people invested funds, adding that it had no tangible business model.

“We are aware of the activities of an online investment scheme tagged ‘Loom Money Nigeria’. “The platform has embarked on an aggressive online media campaign on Facebook and whatsapp.

“They lure the investing public to participate by joining various Loom whatsapp groups to invest as low as N1, 000 and N13, 000 and get as much as eight times the value of the investment in 48 hours".

“Unlike MMM that had a website and the promoter known, the people promoting Loom are not yet known and this pyramid scheme operates through closed groups mainly on Facebook and Whatsapp".

“If it were a local Ponzi scheme with known offices, it would be very easy for the Commission to seal their offices and freeze their accounts".

“We therefore wish to notify the investing public that the operation of this investment scheme has no tangible business model hence it’s a Ponzi scheme, where returns are paid from other people’s invested sum".

“Also, its operation is not registered by the Commission,” she said.

Uduk, therefore, advised the public to distance themselves from the scheme, adding that anyone that subscribed to the illegal activity did so at his own risk.

She assured that an inter-agency committee, Financial Services Regulation Coordinating Committee (FSRCC), was working on the issue, and that the commission was also collaborating with security agencies to track them down.

A Ponzi scheme is an investment fraud that involves the payment of purported returns to existing investors from funds contributed by new investors.

Loom Pyramid Scheme is not new to the world. Last month, Daily Mail UK reported that the scheme has resurfaced online all over the world, with different names such as ‘loom circle’, ‘fractal mandala’ and ‘blessing loom’.

In Nigeria, its central name is Loom Money Nigeria with individuals creating their own WhatsApp groups such as Jack Loom, Catherine Loom, among others.


MTN listed on Nigerian Stock Exchange

Three years after it was first mooted as part of the $1.6 billion settlement in a sim card authentication dispute with the Nigerian government, the listing of Africa’s largest telecoms company on the Nigerian Stock Exchange is finally complete.

Following a “listing by introduction”, MTN Nigeria, which trades with “MTNN” as its ticker, has listed 20 billion ordinary shares at $0.25 each. Unlike with an initial public offering (IPO), MTN Nigeria will not raise new funding as it has only listed already existing shares.

The choice for a listing by introduction rather than an IPO, like in Ghana, is linked to MTN’s long-running billion-dollar regulatory disputes in Nigeria. Revising its initial plans for an IPO, the company claimed it would be “challenging to get a fair valuation” amid ongoing disputes with authorities, including allegations that it owes $2 billion in taxes.

But IPO or not, MTN Nigeria’s listing is a timely boon for the local stock market which has seen a steady decline in its all share index over the past year. “We need more listings like this [because] the Nigerian market isn’t deep enough,” says Onome Akpifo, a Lagos-based stock market analyst. The stock market is yet to fully recover from a major crash in 2008 which fueled a lack of trust among investors.

Already, MTN Nigeria’s $5 billion listing makes its the second largest company on the Nigeria’s stock exchange, right behind only the $8.3 billion market cap of Dangote Cement, owned by Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man. The listing also comes on the heels of the MTN’s recent positive financial results in Nigeria, its largest market.

“What this [the listing] does is to open the market up to the general public, giving them a piece of the pie,” says Tunji Andrews, a Lagos-based economist. In reality, Andrews acknowledges it’s unlikely there’s enough of that pie to go round given significant interest from institutional investors who either already own shares or will buy to hold. “Especially because no new shares are being issued, it means that it will turn into a scramble for whatever is available, from people who would like to sell—if any,” Andrews tells Quartz.

This proved correct a few hours later. As Nigerian markets closed 2.30 pm local time, MTN Nigeria’s stock was traded for just 16 minutes yet it was enough time to capture demand as it surged 10%, valuing the company at $5.6 billion. That surge also reversed the stock market’s trend of eight consecutive days of losses.

While the listing fulfills a government condition, it could also serve to temper unfavorable public sentiment which largely sees the South Africa-owned telecoms giant discussed as a foreign company which extracts profits. That sentiment of exclusion from the company’s success holds strong despite MTN’s impact on the local economy through jobs and taxes as well as its vast spend on telecommunications infrastructure which see it dominate the Nigerian market. Those views were further fostered by claims last year by the Nigerian government that MTN illegally repatriated $8.1 billion in profits. (The dispute was settled for $53 million in December).

By Yomi Kazeem


Wednesday, May 15, 2019

US makes new rules for visa applications for Nigeria

Nigeria accounted for over 25% of non-immigrant visas issued to Africans in 2018 alone—but that may be set to change.

The United States embassy has announced an immediate indefinite suspension of interview waivers for visa renewals for applicants in Nigeria. Known as “drop-box,” the interview waiver process allowed Nigerian applicants who met certain eligibility criteria to renew their visas by submitting their passports and supporting documents for review without going through a new in-person interview each time.

The process mainly targeted regular visitors to the US who have a history of applying for and receiving visas. One of the requirements for the interview waiver was for an applicant to have previously received a two-year visa.

With the new waiver suspension, all applicants—first time and recurring—will now be required to appear for in-person interviews at US embassies in Nigeria.

A likely consequence could be a drop-off in the number of non-immigrant visas issued to Nigerians. Compared to the drop-box process which resulted in a high rate of visa renewals for regular visitors, in-person interviews will likely result in increased scrutiny, a much longer process and, by extension, fewer visas issued.

There have already been local reports of visa drop-box submissions taking much longer to process over the past year, hinting at increasing scrutiny. Increasingly, drop-box applications have also been returned unapproved with requests for in-person interviews.

The possibility of a tougher outlook for applicants is noted in the US embassy’s statement as it says one of the reasons it has suspended the interview waiver is to “promote legitimate travel.” It’s rhetoric that is consistent with the Trump administration’s stance on immigration.

The suspension also comes one month after news that Trump administration has been considering new immigration measures to impose visa restrictions on countries whose citizens have a track record of overstaying beyond the validity of their short-term US visas. Nigeria accounted for the third highest number of US visa overstays last year.

The proposed measures included reducing visa validity periods, making it tougher for citizens from countries like Nigeria to receive visas at all and the long-term possibility of outright bans.


Tuesday, May 14, 2019

50 women freed from Boko Haram by Nigerian army

The Nigerian army says it has rescued 54 women and children held captive by the extremist group Boko Haram.

A statement issued Monday by military spokesperson Sagir Musa says troops rescued the captives during a clearance operation over the weekend in Borno State.

The military spokesperson said the rescued persons consist of 29 women and 25 children.

Sagir said Boko Haram fighters had fled the villages before troops arrived.

Boko Haram frequently abducts women and children. The jihadist group began its insurgency in northeastern Nigeria and now has expanded its reach to the neighbouring countries of Chad, Cameroon and Niger.

In April 2014, 276 girls were abducted from the Government Secondary School in Chibok. Many have been freed, but more than 100 of them are still missing five years later.

More than 100 schoolgirls were kidnapped in February 2018 after Boko Haram attacked a village in the northeastern state of Yobe.

Last Friday, UNICEF reported that a regional militia allied with Nigerian government forces freed almost 900 children the militia had used in the war against Islamist Boko Haram insurgents.

Non-state armed groups embroiled in the decade-long conflict against Boko Haram recruited more than 3,500 children between 2013 and 2017 in Nigeria's northeast, according to UNICEF.

"[This] is a step in the right direction for the protection of children's rights and must be recognized and encouraged," UNICEF Nigeria chief Mohamed Fall said in the statement, referring to Friday's release by the militia group, which works closely with the military to fight Boko Haram.


65 women arrested in raid in Nigeria. Some of the arrested said police raped them

In a sparsely decorated room in Nigeria's capital city of Abuja, seven women are seated in a row, their backs turned to the assembled media to remain anonymous.

One after the other, the women recount horrific physical and sexual abuse they say they were subjected to following their arrests on April 27 by officers of a special task force that raided hotels and nightclubs in Abuja.

"They forced us, they raped us," one of the women shouted into the microphone at the media conference, which was recorded on video and seen by CNN.

The 65 women who were arrested say they were beaten and harassed by officers, who forced them into their vans and drove them to the police station, their lawyers and NGOs told CNN. The seven women in the video say they were sexually assaulted as well.

They said the officers, part of a task force targeting prostitution, demanded bribes in return for some of the women's release. Those who couldn't pay were forced to have sex with the officers, the women said during the media conference.
"'Where is your money?' they asked, and if you say you don't have, then it is your turn to have sex with them," one of the women said in the video of the news conference. The event was organized by activists calling for the officers involved in the raid to be arrested.

Police investigating allegations

Abuja police spokesman Gajere Tanimu said in a statement that the department is taking the rape allegations against the task force seriously and investigations are under way.

"The command wishes to assure members of the public of its zero tolerance for unprofessional disregard to human rights and stiff punishments will be meted out to erring officers," the statement read.

"A high-powered team was constituted to investigate the veracity of the allegation" against police, he wrote. "In this regard invitations were sent out to relevant individuals that may assist in getting to the root of the matter."

In all, 65 women were arrested by a task force comprising officers from the city's environment and social development agency and local police, Tanimu told CNN.

Twenty-seven of them were arraigned and charged with prostitution, said their lawyer, Jennifer Ogbogu.

The women said they were coerced into confessing and had no legal counsel at the time to contest the allegations against them, their lawyer said.

"They threatened they would be sentenced to six months in jail and they won't have access to their family. They were scared and they had no lawyer at the time," she told CNN.
Those who pleaded guilty were sentenced to a month in jail and given an option to pay a fine of 3,000 naria (less than $10) for an immediate release, said their lawyer. An NGO paid the fines to secure the women's release, Ogbogu said.

Women say arrests are arbitrary

The FCT (Federal Capital Territory) Joint Task Force frequently conducts raids on institutions or establishments suspected of violating city laws, including prostitution. They regularly clear beggars from streets.

But Nollywood actress Ada Akunne said she was in her car to go out with friends to celebrate a cousin's graduation from medical school when police officers accosted them on the night of the raid.
Akunne, 44, said the officers threatened to seize their phones and accused them of being inappropriately dressed.

"They said we dressed provocatively and since there was no man in the car we must be prostitutes looking for clients. They called their colleagues to come and arrest us," she told CNN.

She was not arrested. She said the police officers only released them after passersby gathered around.
Some women arrested in the raids said that they were randomly selected in nightclubs and detained at the Utako police station, where police sexually assaulted them, according to a coalition of over 70 activist groups and individuals protesting the arrests.

Tanimu, the police spokesman, said, "We know some of the women were arrested and released by the task force even before they got to the police station. Some were also charged to court, we are investigating all these allegations and questioning all those who went on the raids."

Groups want the raids to stop

The allegations of rape and extortion at the hands of law enforcement officers have provoked widespread anger, with many calling for a shutdown of the task force.

Hundreds of women and rights groups organized two demonstrations in the capital in the space of a week calling for the shutdown of the task force.

Rights group Amnesty International said the raids were "unconstitutional" and also called for an end to the continued harassment of women in the city.

Osai Ojigho, Amnesty International's Nigeria director, said the raid violated the women's rights of free movement and expression.

"This adds another layer to the insecurity women already face," Ojigho said. "A woman now fears to go out in the evening because she can be picked up and labeled a prostitute while shopping or jogging."

Nigerian actress Dorothy Njemanze knows only too well the consequences of being falsely arrested and labeled a prostitute in conservative and highly religious Nigeria, where some people believe that "decent" women do not walk on the streets after midnight.

"We need to address this preconceived notion that any woman out at night and wearing what the police thinks is not decent is a prostitute. We are saying we have had enough," Njemanze told CNN.

In 2012, she was arrested by officers of the task force and accused of prostitution alongside three other women. She was never formally charged and she challenged the arrest in a lawsuit against the Nigerian government.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) ruled in 2017 that the arrest was unlawful and violated her right to freedom of liberty.

Njemanze was awarded 6 million naira in damages (approximately $16,000).
"Seeing this happening all over after again, after all I have gone through and lost is very traumatizing," Njemanze told CNN.


Friday, May 10, 2019

Widespread attacks by armed gangs in Nigeria

There is a growing concern in northern Nigeria where violence has increased significantly. More than 100 people have been killed in the past month by armed gangs. What began as a conflict between farmers and cattle herders a decade ago has now turned into regular killings and kidnappings.

Tracking movie box office earnings to become easier in Nigeria

The latest boost local movie industries in Africa are getting is data.

Comscore, the US-based media analytics company known for providing box office measurement data, is expanding operations to nine African countries where it will “capture more than 95% of all revenue and admissions.” The company’s operations on the continent will focus on West and southern African countries including Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Namibia, South Africa, eSwatini, Zambia Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

As expected, Nollywood, Nigeria’s high-profile movie sector, has proven a big draw. With investment in cinema outlets spiking over the past decade (and with more on the way), movie earnings have grown steadily in tandem. And this growth has not been limited to Hollywood blockbusters as Nollywood hits are also earning big box office returns with an increased focus on quality rather than quantity.

But the rising box office earnings have also created the need for more accurate data on movie earnings in an industry that’s long had a culture of opacity. A long-running piracy problem has usually meant that it’s unclear how much profit, if any, filmmakers and producers earn. But with cinemas now opening up an important revenue stream in comparison to other existing earning models like DVD and VCD releases, the need for industry data is even more apparent.

While local bodies like the Cinema Exhibitors’ Association of Nigeria currently track box office earnings, they lack the credibility of a global independent player like Comscore. There has also been some skepticism from industry insiders who suggest that earnings by local Nollywood movies may be inflated especially as earnings are typically declared by filmmakers and production companies rather than independent box office data sources. Indeed, last December, Genevieve Nnaji, veteran actress and director of Lionheart, Netflix’s first original Nollywood film, accused local cinema chains of manipulating numbers to maintain a “false imagery of making box-office hits.”

While Comscore is currently focused only on West and Southern Africa, there’s a chance it might look farther across the continent as more investors make plays to build cinema infrastructure. For instance, Orange, the dominant telecoms player in the region has partnered with CanalOlympia, the cinema network owned by French media giants Vivendi, to open a chain of twenty 300-seater cinemas.

By Yomi Kazeem


Nigeria police publish guidelines on how to survive their checkpoints

Smile, be polite, and avoid fighting an officer. These are some of the tips to improve drivers' experience during a police roadblock in Nigeria, according to the force's Twitter account.

It is not clear what prompted them to share the 16 guidelines, but a recent embarrassing viral video of an officer hassling a driver at a checkpoint for a bribe might be behind it.

In it, an officer is captured asking for a bribe of 4,000 naira ($10; £7) because the initial offer was, according to him, not enough.

Such incidents have reportedly ended in motorists being shot dead after drivers refused to oblige.

The police do not address the issue of bribe solicitation in their "tips for safe and cordial relationship at checkpoints".

So, just in case you're wondering how to comply with the guidelines, here's what a motorist should do:

Slow down as you approach the checkpoint, ensure the car's interior lights are on, if it's at night, and keep your hands visible to avoid spooking police officers. Lowering the volume of the car radio would be greatly appreciated. The police also felt it was necessary to warn about the potentially fatal consequences of fighting an armed police officer.

Most Nigerians don't trust the police because they see them as unprofessional and corrupt, according to BBC Nigeria editor Aliyu Tanko.

They often complain about the ubiquitous checkpoints, which many feel have been set up purely to extort bribes.

Nigerian police are among the worst paid and ill equipped in the world, our reporter says.

The police, however, see bad interactions with the public as being a result of misunderstandings.

The guidelines are being seen as part of efforts by the police service to burnish its image. It comes after the police held a public engagement event on social media.

The reaction on Twitter to the police checkpoint guidelines has been mixed:

"As you've given us these tips. Also educate your officers on how to behave. Not when one follow these tips and at the end your officers start saying 'leave those talk', pay me and go'. Let's be guided and play our respective parts." @Shilorine

"The only thing missing here is what citizens should expect of policemen they meet on the roads. Do we not have any rights, or expectations of courteous service from people who are supposed to be providing service. It is all one way." @rotilaw

"Sir I am I highly impressed with this information and as you are informing and guiding us also try to inform your boys too". @_Tee90papi

"All the policemen along Abakpa to Nsukka road know me and can recognise my vehicle from miles away. Why? Whenever I see a check point, I slow down, hail the officer on duty, ask him how his day is going and tell him well done. I've never had an incident. They're human beings too" @crayziggy


Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Candidates to head Central Bank of Nigeria

Nigeria’s central bank governor for the next five years will have to balance fighting inflation and propping up the currency against pressure to boost an economy that’s expanding slower than emerging-market peers.

Godwin Emefiele’s first five-year term ends in June and he could be reappointed. But with less than a month to go, the top post has also been linked to the regulator’s most senior female official and other potential candidates at institutional and development banks.

Below are some of the possible candidates to oversee monetary policy in Africa’s most-populous nation and largest oil producer. That is, unless President Muhammadu Buhari elects a governor that markets didn’t expect, as his predecessor did five years ago in Emefiele.
Godwin Emefiele

Since being appointed, Emefiele raised the key interest rate to a record high to contain price growth and bolster the naira, despite sluggish growth. His decisions to implement currency controls by restricting importers of around 40 items from buying foreign exchange, and his defiance of calls to devalue the naira, may be viewed favorably by Buhari, who’s keen to boost local production and wants a strong currency. The 57-year-old banker would want a second term if he is offered, a person close to the matter has said.

While Emefiele has forged a good working relationship with Buhari, no central bank governor has served more than one term since the end of Nigerian military rule in 1999.

Emefiele’s decision to float the naira and his reluctance until March to reduce interest rates while the Buhari government was pushing for looser policy to support its borrowing plans and stimulate the economy may count against him, Michael Famoroti, an economist and partner at Stears Business, said by phone from Lagos.

Aishah Ahmad
Ahmad was appointed by Buhari as deputy governor in March 2018 and oversees financial-systems stability. Her banking experience, at the former Diamond Bank Plc, Zenith Bank Plc and Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc, may be welcomed by business. At the January Monetary Policy Committee meeting she called for increased lending to small- and medium-sized enterprises. If picked for the post, Ahmad would be the first permanent female governor.

Ahmed Kuru

Kuru heads the Asset Management Corp. of Nigeria which was set up by the West African nation to buy bad debt following a banking crisis in 2009. AMCON’s books expanded rapidly during Kuru’s tenure as non-performing loans spiked after the economy contracted in 2016. If appointed, Kuru could boost the central bank’s focus on banking reforms and strengthening the financial sector.

Mansur Muhtar

Muhtar is a former Nigerian finance minister and was director-general of the nation’s Debt Management Office from 2003 until 2007. Currently a vice president at the Saudi Arabia-based Islamic Development Bank, he’s also served as executive director on the board of the World Bank, as co-chairman of the United Nations Inter-Governmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Finance, and executive director at the African Development Bank.

By Solape Renner with assistance of PaulWallace


Monday, May 6, 2019

Video - Nigerian fashion a source of national pride

Nigerian attires have come to be loved worldwide. They are not only fashionable, but also easy to spot anywhere. But the different Nigerian attires serve different purposes.

Video - Slum youth in Nigeria take on music scene after talent show success

Two young artists who grew up in a shanty town are Nigeria's latest singing sensations. After being discovered on a local talent show, they are working to establish their music careers. Their success has even inspired the launch of a record label that taps into emerging talent from disadvantaged communities.

Video - Calling on Nigerian government to help boost ceramics trade

For centuries, women in Nigeria have led the way in the local production of ceramics. But now the ancient craft is almost becoming extinct as it struggles to adapt to the modern world. Experts are calling on the government to help boost trade and earnings in the ceramics industry as well as preserve the traditional culture.

Video - Nigerian radio host combats Boko Haram ideology on air

A radio station host is defying high odds to battle Boko Haram's extremist ideology. With programming in the local Ka-nuri and Hausa languages, Dandal Kura radio station seeks to inform communities around the Lake Chad basin, in spite of possible dire consequences.

Video - Tiwa Savage signs global music deal

Nigerian singer-songwriter Tiwa Savage recently landed a global deal with Universal Music Group. She becomes the first African artist to sign the major deal. As one of the world's leading Afrobeats artists, Tiwa says the recording agreement will propel African music further.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Widows of executed activists in Nigeria win case against Shell

The widows of nine Nigerian activists executed in 1995 got a major boost on Wednesday when a Dutch court ruled that it had jurisdiction to determine whether Royal Dutch Shell was complicit in the Nigerian government’s execution of their husbands.* The men who came to be known as the Ogoni Nine, were environmental activists who fought against widespread pollution in the Niger Delta.

The four widows accuse Shell of instigating a deadly crackdown by the military government of the time against peaceful protesters in Ogoniland, in the Niger Delta, the most valuable oil-producing region in Nigeria.

Shell denies any responsibility.

Africa News

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Two Agusta helicopters for Air force part of Nigeria military upgrade

Nigeria's air force has received two new military grade helicopters -- during celebrations to mark the country's 55th independence anniversary in the capital, Abuja. The Agusta helicopters are part of air power upgrades, which Nigeria has put in place to combat widespread security threats.

UK considering boosting military support to help Nigeria defeat Boko Haram

Britain is considering stepping up its military efforts to help the Nigerian government defeat Boko Haram, following a rise in terrorist activity in the country’s north-east in the past year, Jeremy Hunt has said after a visit to the region.

The UK foreign secretary said on Wednesday that he will be discussing what more the British government can do in terms of aid and military support to combat the terrorist group, warning the crisis had the potential to trigger a humanitarian catastrophe on the scale of that in Yemen.

Britain provides £240m in aid to Nigeria, of which £100m goes to the north-east, making it the second-largest donor after the US, and giving the UK a sizeable stake in what happens in the region.

Boko Haram and Islamic State in west Africa have terrorised the region for several years, but their activities came to the world’s attention when hundreds of Nigerian schoolgirls were kidnapped in 2014.

British military personnel in Abuja and the wider region are giving strategic advice to Nigerian forces on how to run counterinsurgency operations, with their advice focused on combining humanitarian and military activities.

The Nigerian military has been repeatedly criticised by humanitarian groups for running brutal campaigns that make little effort to win over hearts and minds.

The 120,000-strong army is structured on very traditional lines but sends troops to highly hostile areas for as long as four years. Operating on a small budget, soldiers are often underpaid and morale is low.

Speaking on a visit to Maiduguri as part of a week-long trip to Africa, Hunt said: “It has got all the hallmarks of something that if you do not nip in the bud, it will get a lot worse. Conversely, it feels like a situation that it is something that could be dealt with if there was appropriate action by the government of Nigeria with international support.”

He said the crisis had spread to Niger, Chad and Cameroon. “There is a potential solution here … Nigeria is huge country and it is very stretched,” Hunt added.

Asked if he supported an increase in military action in the region, the UK foreign secretary said: “I think the crucial deciding factor is the willingness and enthusiasm of the Nigerian government and the Nigerian army to work closely with us – we would like to support and help them, but they are a sovereign nation and they have got to want our help.”

He said Britain wanted to bring holistic solutions, suggesting by implication that the Nigerian army has focused too heavily on militaristic solutions. “I think our approach is potentially a very significant one, because we could bring not just the British army but also DfID [the Department for International Development] and our experience in holistic solutions to these kind of situations,” Hunt added.

“This is a region of Africa that is being massively destabilised by conflict. These things can escalate quite quickly and get out of control. We know from Sri Lanka that Daesh [Isis] are looking to make their presence felt now they have lost their territory. We have to be vigilant.”

He said Sri Lanka was not on anyone’s radar, and showed how threats can escalate. Nigeria was “an area where all the warning signs are there”, he said, adding that not all the conflict was driven by religion.

“The feedback I got from NGOs on the ground is that lack of trust between the authorities and local people is one of the things that is fuelling the problem at the moment. The Nigerian army strategy is largely about herding people into towns and saying if you are not in a secure area, we are going to assume you are Boko Haram and/or Islamic State west Africa,” he said.

“Such an approach was understandable in the short term, but the long-term risk is that you are depriving people of their livelihoods and their farms. There are 2 million people displaced living there at the moment in pretty horrific circumstances.

“Both NGOs and military analysts fear the recent increase in violence reflects changes in the terrorist leadership, and a failure by the Nigerian military to establish humanitarian plans to follow the military clearances of areas. The brutal methods only lead to a loss of support for the military.”

The Guardian

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Two shell oil workers kidnapped in Nigeria rescued

Two Royal Dutch Shell oil workers who were kidnapped in Nigeria’s southern Niger Delta region last week have been rescued, a police spokesman and Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited (SPDC) said on Tuesday.

Kidnappings for ransom occur in much of Nigeria, Africa’s biggest oil producer, but are particularly prevalent in the Niger Delta which produces the majority of the country’s crude oil.

The pair were attacked in southern Rivers state last week while returning from an official trip to Bayelsa state.

“The tactical team of the command rescued the victims in the early hours of Tuesday,” said Nnamdi Omoni a spokesman for Rivers state police force.

A spokesman for SPDC also said the pair were free. “They are well and being supported after their ordeal,” said SPDC spokesman Michael Adande.


Student from Nigeria arrested for drug trafficking in Saudi Arabia freed

A Nigerian student who was arrested last year for alleged drug trafficking in Saudi Arabia has been freed, the Nigerian government says.

Zainab Aliyu was accused of smuggling 2,000 packs of a strong pain killer.

The Nigerian authorities later found that the drugs had been planted in her luggage by a criminal gang.

Drug trafficking is a capital offence in Saudi Arabia, which practices conservative Islam. Those found guilty are executed.

This was the fate earlier this month of a Nigerian woman, who was beheaded in the city of Mecca, along with two Pakistani men and a Yemeni man.

Ms Aliyu's detention sparked protests and with supporters in Nigeria using the hashtag #FreeZeinab to call for her release.

Her freedom comes as hundreds of her fellow students gathered at Maitama Sule University in the northern city of Kano on Tuesday to demand her release.

On Monday, President Muhammadu Buhari ordered the attorney general to intervene in the matter.

His aide tweeted the news of Ms Aliyu's release using the popular hashtag #FreeZeinab.

Ms Aliyu was arrested at her hotel in Medina by Saudi police last December, shortly after arriving for the lesser hajj with her family - and remained in detention until Tuesday.

The Saudi authorities had accused her of trafficking 2,000 packs of Tramadol in a bag tagged with her name that had been left at the airport.

Recently, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency of Nigeria (NDLEA) said it had uncovered a criminal gang that had been planting illicit drugs in travellers' luggage.

An investigation was launched after Ms Aliyu's father reported the case to the police and it led to the arrest of six officials at Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport.

They have been accused at a federal high court of framing Ms Aliyu and have not commented on the charges.