Friday, June 28, 2019

Uber plans to launch boat taxisin Nigeria

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, June 27, 2019

Court in Nigeria adjourns $2bn tax case against MTN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Al Jazeera

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

British tax haven returning $270 million of Abacha loot

A trio of secretive British tax havens beloved of kleptocrats and money-launderers are facing unprecedented pressure to open their books.

Two influential backbench MPs, Labour’s Margaret Hodge and the Conservatives’ Andrew Mitchell, have been pushing an amendment that would force Jersey, Guernsey, and the Isle of Man to publish a public register revealing who actually owns the roughly 80,000 companies registered on them.

Anti-corruption activists allege that the three jurisdictions dotted around Britain’s coastline, known as the Crown Dependencies, are hotbeds for financial crime and tax evasion. They point to the family of Azerbaijan’s dictator Ilham Aliyev allegedly owning a $25 million house through an Isle of Man shell company, and the notorious wife of a jailed Azeri state banker holding a $28 million golf course through a Guernsey firm.

Last month, after a five-year court saga Jersey announced it was putting $268 million, which had been stashed in a Deutsche Bank account on the island by former Nigerian military dictator Sani Abacha, into an asset recovery fund that will eventually return the cash to Nigeria. The island’s solicitor general said the move showed “Jersey’s determination to deal with international financial crime more generally.”

The announcement was one of several actions taken by various actors seemingly in response to international scrutiny over the Crown Dependencies and other tax havens. The Abacha case dates back to US enforcement efforts under the Obama administration, but the Crown Dependencies only need look at Britain’s Caribbean tax havens—known as the Overseas Territories—to understand the threat posed by Hodge and Mitchell. Last year, the two former government ministers pushed through an amendment forcing the territories, which include the British Virgin Islands and Cayman Islands, to set up a public register by 2020.

Last week (June 19), all three Crown Dependencies promised of their own accord to set up corporate ownership registries. While transparency advocates say the islands aren’t moving as fast or comprehensively as they should, the move in itself is a win for Hodge and Mitchell. “This is [the Crown Dependencies] acting before Margaret Hodge attempted to do anything before Parliament,” says Ben Cowdock, a senior research officer at anti-corruption NGO Transparency International UK. “Rather than face some constant battle with the UK Parliament, they’ve decided to go of their own accord with this announcement.”

Banks have also stepped up their monitoring of accounts in the Crown Dependencies and other European tax havens. At the end of 2018, Lloyds Bank shuttered 8,000 accounts in Jersey, after their owners spent three years ignoring the bank’s questions about their identity, the Financial Times reported yesterday (paywall). HSBC, Barclays, and Royal Bank of Scotland have also tightened their questioning of customers on the island, according to the FT. Deutsche, which banked Abacha’s money, has warned (paywall) 1,000 of its customers that they may also lose their accounts.

By Max de Haldevang


Nigeria Football players owed bonuses and allowances

Nigeria's players are in dispute with the country's football federation in the build-up to their Africa Cup of Nations match against Guinea.

None of the Super Eagles players has received allowances or a $10,000 bonus.

The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) is hoping to prevent a strike before the match in Egypt on Wednesday.

"My player [Ahmed Musa] couldn't attend the press conference today because they have a very important meeting," said coach Gernot Rohr.

"I just hope the situation can be resolved so we can focus on what we have in front of us."

The squad was an hour late for training on Tuesday and have not ruled out taking further action.

The financially stricken NFF, which receives its funding from the government, has denied it was responsible for the delay in paying the players' bonuses.

The BBC understands that the team, which has been together since early June, had received verbal assurances that they would be paid before the tournament kicked off this month.

Pay rows have often surrounded Nigerian teams, while players have boycotted training during important qualifiers or at major tournaments over unpaid fees.

Their 2014 World Cup campaign was affected by a bonus row, with players boycotting training before the last-16 fixture against France as they demanded their bonuses and appearance fees.

Nigeria's women's team - the Super Falcons - has twice been involved in sit-in protests at hotels in South Africa and in Abuja, Nigeria, to demand money owed to them, with their latest protest coming at the Women's World Cup in France.

By Oluwashina Okeleji


Tuesday, June 25, 2019

77 year old widow opens her doors to refugees

 When the insecurity in Cameroon’s restive western region forced Susan Agbo to leave her home, she did not know what lay ahead. All she knew was that she needed to get her eight grandchildren to a safer place. She found that safer place in Nigeria.

“When I came to Nigeria, I had no place to stay,” says Susan, who fled Cameroon nearly two years ago.

She struggled with homelessness for months, relying on the goodwill of the local Nigerian community for shelter.

“I was staying with people for a few weeks here and there and then I would leave and stay somewhere else for a month,” explains Susan, who is in her 60s.

Escalating violence in Cameroon has displaced hundreds of thousands of people within the country’s borders and forced about 37,000 more like Susan to seek safety in Nigeria.

The constant movement from one place to another, with her grandchildren in tow, was exhausting for the sickly grandmother who longed for a lasting solution to her situation.

Lucia Ikuru, who lives near Agbokim Waterfalls on the border with Cameroon, sympathized with Susan’s predicament and offered her shelter without a second thought.

“I saw she had run away and had no place to stay,” says the 77-year-old Nigerian widow. “I gave her a house and told her to stay there.”

Lucia’s large compound has several rooms that she has turned into shelters for other Cameroonian refugees including Susan.

“I try to help them, and whatever little I have, I give them,” adds Lucia.

Susan is grateful for the shelter, solace and friendship that she has found here and is especially grateful for the food that Lucia provides her grandchildren.

“When she cooks, she feeds my grandchildren and they eat. I am happy,” says Susan, adding that she has no means of supporting them herself.

She explains that due to the conflict, their parents’ whereabouts is unknown – a constant source of worry for her.

“I don’t know where they are since they ran away so now the children are here with me,” she says.

To keep her worries at bay, she talks to Lucia often, sitting with her in the courtyard and carving wooden sticks into toothbrushes and toothpicks to sell at the local market.

“I’m happy that I have her staying here with me,” says Lucia. “If something happened to her, I wouldn’t feel happy.”

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has launched an urgent appeal to increase support for displaced Cameroonians who have survived nearly two years of ongoing violence. But of the US$184 million required for UNHCR’s operations in Cameroon and Nigeria – including US$35.4 million needed urgently for critical life-saving assistance to newly displaced Cameroonians – just four per cent has been raised.

The majority of the refugees - over 50 per cent of the population - live in host communities in over 47 villages along the border. The support they receive from kind Nigerians like Lucia is crucial and reflective of the sense of solidarity that most refugees experience from their Nigerian hosts.

Susan hopes that the situation back home will improve so that she can return. But for now, she continues to adjust to life here and is grateful for Lucia’s kindness and that of the Nigerian people.

“I don’t know where I would have been,” she says. “I am happy because we are like friends.”

UNHCR continues to seek funding to provide basic assistance to refugees and carry out projects that empower the host communities, also in need.


Monday, June 24, 2019

Nigeria Women's World Cup squad protest due to unpaid wages

The World Cup journey for Nigeria is only partially over after being eliminated from the tournament by Germany in the round of 16 on Saturday.

Nigeria’s athletes had refused to leave their hotel and head home until all players have been paid their outstanding wages — including daily allowances while competing in France as well as bonuses owed from two years ago. According to ESPN, the members of the Nigerian team had previously only been paid half of the nearly $5,600, or two million Nigerian naira, owed from matches that took place in 2016 and 2017.

A deal was finally brokered between the Nigeria Football Federation and the women’s team that brought the sit-in to an end, however a complete resolution is still pending.

“They paid us 1 million [naira] and said that is all. We want them to pay the balance,” one player told ESPN before the team agreed to leave the hotel. “Part of that money is from two years ago, the other is from three years ago. And they are also owing us five days' daily allowance here in France.”

The Nigeria Football Federation previously disputed the claims, saying the players have been paid “everything they are being owed”, per president Amaju Pinnick, with the exception of the World Cup participation fee, which the tournament organizers are scheduled to pay out in September.

To end the protest, the team agreed to begin heading home as long as they received their bonuses on Monday.

Nigeria’s women’s team has protested over unpaid wages and bonuses on multiple occasions in the last two decades. In 2016, the team held a public rally in the Nigerian capital of Abuja due to unpaid allowances, while in 2004 the team held a similar sit-in at their hotel in South Africa until their allowances were paid. Both protests came after the team won the Africa Women Cup of Nations.

The athletes attempted to avoid another conflict on the world stage before traveling to France, telling ESPN they asked for a meeting with the federation to discuss bonuses as the men’s team did in 2018, however their letter was “ignored”.

This tournament marked the eighth World Cup appearance for the Nigerian women, with their best finish coming as a quarter finalist in 1999.

By Blake Schuster


Thursday, June 20, 2019

Former minister's son freed from kidnappers in Nigeria

Authorities in Nigeria on Thursday confirmed the release of Dayo Adewole, the son of a former minister of health Isaac Adewale, who was kidnapped on Tuesday by unknown gunmen in Nigeria's southwest Oyo State.

Oyo police chief Shina Olukolu, who disclosed this to Xinhua, declined to give a detailed account of the release but simply said the abducted former minister's son was freed "unhurt" by his abductors had been reunited with his family.

It is still unclear if any ransom was paid to secure the release of the kidnapped victim.

Dayo was kidnapped at about 6 p.m., local time at gunpoint on his farm in Iroko town of Akinyele area of the state.

The police chief added that the only suspects arrested so far in connection with the incident were three of the victim's farm workers.


President Buhari appoints new head of NNPC

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari appointed a new head of the country's under-performing oil company on Thursday, amid plans to resume searching for oil in Lake Chad, an area wracked by the Boko Haram insurgency.

Mele Kolo Kyari, a geologist from the volatile northeastern Borno state, will take over as group managing director of the state-run Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) from Maikanti Baru, who was appointed in 2016, the company said in a statement.

Seven other senior officials were also appointed to head NNPC's subsidiaries.

Until his new appointment Kyari, 54, was group general manager of the NNPC's crude oil marketing division and has represented Nigeria in the OPEC oil cartel since May 2018.

Buhari, who was re-elected for another four year-term in February, has vowed to reform the NNPC, which has for years been beset by inefficiency and corruption.

Proposed legislation to overhaul the company has been stuck in parliament since 2012 because of disagreements with some of its provisions by stakeholders.

Kyari's appointment comes the country looks to revive its search for oil in the conflict-riven Lake Chad region, which comprises Nigeria's northeast, Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

"We will go back there as soon as we receive security clearance," outgoing NNPC chief Baru was quoted in the local media on Thursday as saying.

"There seems to be some prospects there because Niger Republic drilled over 600 wells and now they are producing while we have only drilled 23," he said.

Nigeria is Africa's largest crude producer, accounting for a daily output of two million barrels -- much of which lies in the southern Niger delta and offshore.

The country halted its oil search in the Lake Chad area in July 2017 following a Boko Haram attack on an NNPC exploration team in which at least 69 people were killed.

Four oil exploration workers were abducted, one of whom was among the dead.

Boko Haram, which seeks to impose a hardline Islamic law in Nigeria's mainly-Muslim north, has killed 27,000 people and forced some two million others to flee their homes since 2009.


Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Villagers in Nigeria lament government failures to protect them from suicide bombers

Mohammed Bomboi is in shock and mourning as he sits in a raffia hut less than a metre from where his friend was killed by one of three suicide bombers.

Local officials say 20 people died in this small fishing and farming village, though emergency workers in Borno state put the death toll at 30. Villagers say between 21-25 died.

"We were resting on that mat in this tent Sunday night when I heard a loud sound outside," Bomboi said, pointing to the sandy floor where he had slept.

"It was Boko Haram again. I saw many bodies outside as they were scattered on the road."

One target was a thatched hut in the centre of the village, where people gather after work to watch movies or gossip. On Sunday, a Women's World Cup football match had attracted a crowd.

"People usually come to watch matches in the viewing centre. One match was playing in the TV. We didn't know Boko Haram was watching us. My friend went to join them and he died," Bomboi said.

Boko Haram not far

There were three suicide bombers: an adult male and two young girls who blew themselves up among those watching football and enjoying tea at a shop along Sambisa street, named for the Sambisa Forest - the notorious stronghold of Boko Haram less than 100 kilometres away.

Villagers say the bombers mingled with them earlier in the evening before rushing into the crowd and detonating the explosives strapped to their bodies.

"Twenty persons were killed in all - one of them died in the hospital while the other 19 died here in the village. Thirty-eight persons were injured and are receiving treatment in the hospital," said Sadiq Usmobik, a police spokesman of Borno state.

The casualty figures could potentially have been higher but one of the bombers, a girl, tripped while running towards a crowd and her bomb went off early.

Usman Kachalla, head of operations at the State Emergency Management Agency, put the death toll at 30.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but it has been strongly linked to Boko Haram insurgents, who are known to use children in suicide bomb attacks targeting civilians in churches, mosques, markets, schools and other small gatherings.

The UN children's agency, UNICEF, did not single out Boko Haram on Monday.

"UNICEF condemns the use of children as human bombs and in any combat or non-combat roles in the conflict in northeast Nigeria," it said in a statement.

"This incident brings the number of children who have been reported as having been used as human bombs to five since January 2019. In 2018, 48 children - including 38 girls - were used in suicide attacks."

Assaults by Boko Haram since 2009 have killed more than 27,000 people and forced two million to leave their homes.

'It was too late'

Such carnage in places such as Mandarari is not just a reflection of the ruthlessness of fighters, but also underlines the failures of the state.

Villagers say fewer people would have died if emergency services arrived more quickly, or if there were better health facilities available in the area, just 40km from Maiduguri, the state capital.

"At first his injuries were not that bad. But with time they got worse," said Awolo Abubakar, whose 30-year-old son was caught in the attack.

"So when help came, it was too late. That's why my young son, without any children of his own, is in a grave today."

Over the years, Boko Haram has evolved; moving into far-to-reach communities and dominating the lives of millions. The Nigerian military has been unable to establish order in the vast expanse of the country's northeast.

The attacks have forced many to leave their homes. Along the short trip between Mandarari and Maiduguri, vacated farm land and empty villages show the extent of the exodus.

"The current approach has failed. It's not enough to fight this war through the military alone. Good governance, economic policies and mass education are all part of the war the government has refused to fight. That's why Boko Haram is not ending soon," security analyst Nnamdi Anekwe-Chive told Al Jazeera.

"The people are disappointed in their leaders. The leaders in northern Nigeria have failed the people. It's the underdevelopment they created in the north that is helping all these crises thrive," he said.

'Can't fight back'

Another deadly crisis has also emerged in Nigeria's northwest, with more than 300 people killed this year by bandits and kidnappers.

In Mandarari, Bomboi stands over a pile of victims' shoes partially buried in the dust. The various sizes and colours reflect the diversity of those who last wore them - children, women and men.

"Boko Haram is near here" said Bomboi, "and they have continued to kill this way. They keep using some to bomb us. They keep attacking our villages and we can't fight back. It has happened many times."

The mood in the village is not just mournful, it also anticipates the future with fear.

Survivors know by living so close to Boko Haram-controlled territory it is likely attackers will again make their way into the community, along with hundreds of others in Konduga, Bama and Gwoza - all in restive Borno state.

By Orji Sunday

Al Jazeera

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

France beats Nigeria 0-1 in Women's World Cup

It took a remarkable six-minute period in the second half for what had been a largely uneventful Women's World Cup

 match to come to life in Rennes as France beat Nigeria 1-0 in dramatic fashion.

The task facing Nigeria's Super Falcons before a partisan 28,267 crowd at Roazhon Park had always been deemed a formidable one.

France had won 15 of its last 16 games coming into its final group match -- conceding only six times in the process -- but the Super Falcons seemed up to the task until the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) came into play in the 73rd minute and created a period of theater.

Nigeria defender Ngozi Ebere had brought Viviane Asseyi down inside the box, leaving the referee with little option but to award the spot kick once Melissa Borjas had opted for a VAR check.

Ebere was subsequently shown a red card for a second bookable offense, while France defender Wendi Renard went on to hit the post from the spot -- only for VAR to give France a lifeline by penalizing Nigeria goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie for stepping away from her line before the ball was hit.

Renard retook the penalty and this time dispatched her effort with aplomb to give the hosts what proved to be the match-winning goal.

In 18-year-old Nnadozie -- who became the youngest goalkeeper to keep a clean sheet at a World Cup in Nigeria's victory over South Korea -- Nigeria had a player who had stood up to whatever came her way, until the teenager suffered a harsh lesson on the biggest stage of all.

"If I give you my honest feelings, they'll probably send me home so it's better I don't say anything," Nigeria coach Thomas Dennerby told reporters after the match.

"My players are heroes. Of course I'm disappointed by the result, France is a really good team and don't need support from anybody to win games. The girls were fighting so well, they followed the match plan and it's getting destroyed by people that we're not so happy with."

Nigeria, which did not muster a shot on target against France, must now wait to learn if it has done enough to reach the last 16, while France -- winning all three group matches for the first time in its history -- will play its last-16 match in Le Havre after topping Group A.

By George Ramsay and Aimee Lewis


Monday, June 17, 2019

Triple suicide attacks leave 30 dead in Nigeria

Thirty people were killed late on Sunday in a triple suicide bombing in northeast Nigeria, emergency services reported.

Three bombers detonated their explosives outside a hall in Konduga, 38km from the Borno state capital Maiduguri, where football fans were watching a match on TV.

"The death toll from the attack has so far increased to 30. We have over 40 people injured," Usman Kachalla, head of operations at the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), said on Monday.

An earlier toll from the blasts, the bloodiest in months, gave 17 dead and 17 wounded.

The attack happened around 9:00pm (18:00 GMT), Ali Hassan, the leader of a self-defence group in the town, said.

The owner of hall prevented one of the bombers from entering the packed venue.

"There was a heated argument between the operator and the bomber who blew himself up," Hassan said by phone.

Two other bombers who had mingled among the crowd at a tea stall nearby also detonated their suicide vests.

Hassan said most of the victims were from outside the football viewing centre.

"Nine people died on the spot, including the operator, and 48 were injured," Hassan said.

Kachala said the high number of fatalities was because emergency responders had been unable to reach the site of the blast quickly. Nor were they equipped to deal with large numbers of wounded.

"Lack of an appropriate health facility to handle such huge emergency situation and the delay in obtaining security clearance to enable us deploy from Maiduguri in good time led to the high death toll," he said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the attack bore the imprint of Boko Haram, which has led a decade-long campaign to establish an Muslim state in northeast Nigeria.

The last suicide attack was in April this year when two female suicide bombers blew themselves up outside the garrison town of Monguno, killing a soldier and a vigilante and injuring another soldier.

Konduga has been repeatedly targeted by suicide bombers from a Boko Haram faction loyal to longtime leader Abubakar Shekau.

The faction typically carries out suicide attacks against soft civilian targets such as mosques, markets and bus stations, often using young women and girls as bombers.

The fighters are believed to sneak into the town from the group's haven in nearby Sambisa forest.

Eight worshippers were killed when a suicide bomber attacked a mosque in the town last July.

Boko Haram's campaign has claimed 27,000 lives and forced some two million to flee their homes.

The violence has spilled into neighbouring Niger, Chad and Cameroon, prompting the formation of a regional military coalition to battle the group.

Al Jazeera

Friday, June 14, 2019

Nigeria planning on investing $500 million in palm oil production

Nigeria plans to increase its palm oil production 700% over the next eight years to help improve its foreign-exchange earnings that are largely dependent on crude oil exports.

The new policy will boost local production to about five million tons from 600,000 tons a year by investing as much as 180 billion naira ($500 million) beginning this year, the trade and investment ministry said in a report.

“Our policy objectives over an eight-year period (between 2019 and 2027) will see that we locally produce 100% of local crude palm oil demand by 2027, increase revenue from importation via duties and deliver 225,000 full time jobs and at least 450,000 seasonal jobs,” it said.

The new policy also seeks to remove the 75% duty rebate granted on refined palm oil imports and extend a current three-year tax holiday for all producing and processing companies to five years. It will introduce a five-year restriction of crude and refined palm oil importation to large-scale refineries and crushing-plant owners.

Farmers will be given access to loans at 9% per year through a central bank-administered lending to expand cultivation by at least three million hectares.

Presco Plc, the country’s largest producer of palm oil, is driving an expansion plan that expects a 500-ton capacity refinery to begin operating in first quarter of 2020, with an additional increase of its milling capacity from 60 tons an hour to 90 tons an hour by next January, Chief Executive Officer Felix Nwabuko said in a conference call with investors on Thursday.

By 2022, the company expects to push capacity to 210 tons an hour, with an additional 60 tons per hour in milling facilities, he said.

The West African nation’s palm oil imports rose from 302,000 tons in 2017 to 600,000 tons by end of 2018, costing the country as much as $500 million, despite placing the commodity on a forex-exclusion list, central bank figures indicate.

While Nigeria wants to grow quickly in palm oil, it’s still likely to be a small part of a market dominated by Indonesia and Malaysia. The country currently ranks as the world’s fifth-biggest producer in palm oil, accounting for less than 2% of global production, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

By Ruth Olurounbi 


Thursday, June 13, 2019

Plastic bottles paying for education in Nigeria

A school in Nigeria is accepting plastic bottles in lieu of school fees from parents. African Clean Up Initiative and WeCyclers are two organisations working with Morit International School in Ajegunle, Lagos, for the project, reports BBC. The Recycle Pay project allows parents to use plastic waste as currency to pay their children's school fees. The twofold positive impact of this scheme? Families save money while reducing plastic pollution and cleaning up the city in the process.

The process for the Recycle Pay project is simple: Parents can bring a bag of plastic waste to a facility where it is weighed. The weight is then converted into a monetary value, which can be deducted from the amount owed as fees to the school. The collected waste is taken away by a recycling company twice a month.

"I struggle to pay for school fees, sometimes I pay half the price and later pay the remaining balance," parent Sherifat Okunowo explained in an interview to BBC. "But with the introduction of this project, the plastic has made it easy for me to pay school fees."

"This project that is going on right now, I think is very, very good," another parent, Jane Enyinnaya, confirms. "It has really reduced the burden on parents."

The school's principal echoes this sentiment. "It has really reduced the burden on parents," he says. "We now collect fees faster-the school wins, the children win, the parents win, everybody wins."

According to My Modern Met, the Ajegunle district in Lagos has three million residents, making it one of the most densely populated slums in the county. The Recycle Pay project has not only helped clean up the area, it has also made access to education easier.


Nigeria beat S.Korea 2-0 in Women's World Cup

Nigeria took their chances against the run of play on Wednesday to beat South Korea, 2-0, for rare success at the Women’s World Cup, setting themselves up to advance to the next stage of the tournament in France.

A first half own-goal at the Stade des Alps and a breakaway attack, brilliantly finished by Asisat Oshoala, ensured the Africa champions only their fourth win in eight World Cup finals appearances. It also gives Nigeria a chance to go to the second round for just the second time.

The Koreans, beaten 4-0 by France in the tournament opener last Friday, are all but out of contention after a surprise setback in their second Group A game.

After weathering Korea’s early attacks, Nigeria went ahead just before the half-hour mark when defender Kim Do-yeon miscued an effort to try to clear a long ball through the middle and steered it past her goalkeeper Kim Min-jung, who had come rushing out of her goal and was stranded.

There was a lengthy Video Assistant Referee review to see whether Nigeria’s captain Desire Oparanozie might have brushed the ball with her hand as she headed to the goal but there was no conclusive evidence to rule out the goal.

Korea were pulled back for offside when they found the net in the 58th minute before a Nigerian counter attack saw Oshoala, a three-time African women’s Footballer of the Year, ran half the length of the field, brushed past a defender, rounded the goalkeeper and squeezed the ball home from an almost improbable angle.

She might have scored in similar fashion just two minutes after the 75th minute goal but a heavy first touch saw the opportunity slip away.

Nigeria lost their opening game by 3-0 to Norway in Reims on Saturday.

New York Times

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Video - Are Nigerians benefiting from democracy

It's 20 years since the end of military rule and return to a civilian presidency. The last few years have been particularly challenging for Africa's most populous country of 200 million. 45 percent of people in Nigeria live in extreme poverty. Economic growth has slowed, unemployment is high and government forces are battling armed groups such as Boko Haram. So what, if any, has been the democratic dividend for Nigerians?

Slum dwellers in Nigeria fight evections with maps and music

When bulldozers entered the Nigerian slum of Njemanze and started tearing down hundreds of waterfront homes, Michael Uwemedimo was there to document the scene with his camera.

The residents soon began directing him, he said, making sure he did not miss any of the destruction in August 2009.

“Film this, film that,” he recalled them saying.

And when the British-Nigerian documentary maker was arrested by security forces, the residents of the slum in the city of Port Harcourt hid his camera and kept it safe until he was released later that day.

“They recognized the camera as an instrument they could use to literally frame what is important to them, to tell their story, to give their perspective,” said Uwemedimo.

According to housing advocates, half of Port Harcourt’s more than 1 million residents live in slums.

Many of those residents live in waterfront areas, on land with prime real-estate value, and have no official housing documentation, noted Isa Sanusi, spokesman for Amnesty International Nigeria.

That makes them especially vulnerable to evictions, he said.

“Generally, Nigerian authorities use forced eviction in the course of urban renewal ... with the land they formerly occupied being developed into luxury real estate,” he explained - although the cleared area in Njemanze remains undeveloped.

Uwemedimo said his experience in Njemanze showed him how desperate the residents were to draw attention to what was happening to them, and he wanted to help.

In 2010, with former journalist Ana Bonaldo, he co-founded the Collaborative Media Advocacy Platform (CMAP), a collective of filmmakers, urban planners, researchers and Port Harcourt residents who use art, music and data collection to mobilize the people impacted by forced evictions.

The group has since grown to more than 40 volunteers.

One of the first things Uwemedimo did with it was take a giant, inflatable mobile cinema on a tour of low-income communities in the city to show them films about forced evictions around the world and in their own neighborhood.

“We found cinema was a good way of gathering people, of animating people, of creating debate,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation from his living room, with a computer blasting out songs about evictions.

A spokeswoman for the ministry of urban planning would not comment on specific eviction cases, but said the government had an obligation to take down unsafe or unauthorized buildings.

“The state carries out demolitions when buildings do not follow the approved building plan, or are built illegally or in unauthorized areas,” she said.

“For example where you have high tension cables, building on top of waterways or in unapproved areas - all that can lead to demolitions.”


The collective gives residents the chance to share the impact of those evictions through its Human City Project, which is made up of a collection of art and media ventures owned and run by members of the Port Harcourt community.

On one of the city’s waterfronts, in a solar-powered building called The Media Shed, a team of volunteers run Chicoco Studios, producing and performing songs about the evictions and other issues that affect people living in slums.

Like the other parts of the project - which is mainly funded by grants from organizations and charities - the studio gets its name from the black mud that Port Harcourt residents pull from the swamps to reclaim the land on which they build their homes.

Dickson Abibo, a musician and producer, regularly tours the area with other musicians to put on shows for residents.

They also hold “Sessions in the Shed”, inviting young locals to the studio to collaborate on songs.

“We come together to build our own original, unique sounds that reflect the daily experiences of slum dwellers,” said Abibo.

Nearby, Chicoco Radio broadcasts the tracks that come out of the Shed sessions and produces a weekly drama series in which the characters face the same challenges Port Harcourt residents deal with every day - from poor infrastructure to crime.

“It shows how we live in waterfront communities, our problems, our good and bad sides,” explained Sotonye Sekibo, a local radio actor and reporter.


While the project gives residents a platform to tell their stories, it also helps them have a say in what happens to them next, said Uwemedimo, who is currently a visiting fellow at King’s College London.

The Chicoco Maps program collects geographic information about Port Harcourt that residents can use to take part in decision-making about the area.

Volunteers regularly go out into the communities to index every building and conduct household surveys, gathering details on factors such as population, topography, land use, employment, and health.

The results are fed into a database which residents can refer to when dealing with authorities, security forces and non-profits who want to bring new initiatives or development projects to their neighborhoods.

As an example, Uwemedimo pointed to a recent community survey in one neighborhood where responses from residents showed that together they were spending 18 million naira (about $59,000) on water annually.

So, they started pooling their money to buy a shared solar-powered borehole, which they hope will reduce their energy bills.

Community mapping has also been vital in the fight against the forced evictions that sparked the Human City Project in the first place, Uwemedimo said.

With every building cataloged, demolitions are easy to track and residents can use that information to support their demands for compensation, he noted.

“Now ordinary people are able to speak up and stand up to powerful forces like the government,” said Sekibo, the radio actor.

Sekibo and other Port Harcourt residents said the project has made it easier for them to protect their homes.

Since the project launched, they noted, forced evictions are not as common as they used to be.

“This project has changed our lives and shaped how we look at things and issues around us,” said Prince Nosa, a slum dweller who trained for four years under the project and is now a sound engineer.

“We now know and understand our rights and we are always ready to support any slum community if demolition is ever mentioned again.”

By Linus Unah


Millions remain in poverty in Nigeria as country celebrates democracy

On Monday, Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari officially made June 12 a public holiday. The day celebrates 20 years of democracy in a country that was under military rule for decades after winning its independence from Britain in 1960. However, as the West African nation celebrates, worries about its fragile economy persist.

While Nigeria's economy has recovered since falling into a recession in 2016, that growth has been slower than expected.

"Unfortunately, growth in the country has remained relatively stagnant following their recovery out of recession in 2017," Christopher Dielmann, director of macroeconomic and sovereign research with Tellimer, told Al Jazeera."Estimates by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank suggests that Nigeria's growth in 2019 and 2020 will register at 2.1 percent and 2.2 percent, respectively. I think GDP (gross domestic product) should be growing at least double the population growth rate in order for the country to lift its people from poverty."

Today, Nigeria's oil-driven economy is less susceptible to any outside shocks such as falling oil prices, but disruption in domestic oil output remains a risk for Africa's largest economy.

Oil production risks

According to OPEC, Nigeria's oil and gas sector accounts for 65 percent of its government income.

"Oil production [in Nigeria] is on a long-term downwards trajectory," said Ed Hobey-Hamsher, a senior Africa analyst with global risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft. He explained that without the passage of the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill, which is meant to improve transparency and attract investment in Nigeria's oil and gas sector, its oil output would suffer. "Oil production is projected to peak next year before steadily declining throughout the 2020s."

Hobey-Hamsher says that lower oil output will translate into less government revenue for Nigeria, meaning less money for the government to pay its bills.

This will delay spending on government projects that are needed to grow the economy.

Those projects are "required to address the most significant bottlenecks to sustained and sustainable economic growth, namely the infrastructure deficit and unemployment," he said.

Not enough jobs

Unemployment remains high. According to Nigeria's National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), in the working-age group (15-64 years of age) unemployment has hit 23.1 percent. This is a five percent increase from 2017, when it was at 18.1 percent.

According to Dielmann, the biggest risk facing Nigeria is the lack of economic growth, rapid population increases, and increasing levels of unemployment.

This month, World Poverty Clock, a project of the World Data Lab which tracks income levels for individuals around the world, showed that more than 90 million Nigerians are now living in poverty. This is the second year in a row Nigeria has landed in the top spot of the World Poverty Clock. In May 2018 the country overtook India with the most people living in poverty.

World Poverty Clock defines poverty as living on less than $1.90 per day.

"Ultimately, the combination of these factors place a tremendous amount of social strain on the country's population that are not sustainable in the long term," Dielmann said.

"I think the GDP should be growing at least double the population growth rate in order for the country to lift its people out of poverty," Ayodele Akinwunmi, head of research with FSDH Merchant Bank Limited in Nigeria said. "So I expect a GDP growth rate range of 5-6 percent. This growth rate is achievable if the country can fix the identified constraints. Nigeria has achieved higher growth rates before."

By Dawn Kissi

Al Jazeera

The fast and furious motorcycle taxis in Nigeria

 It is a few minutes after noon, and Abimbola Thomas needs to get to work. He is only 10km (6.213 miles) away from his office. At any other time of the day, this would have been a 10-minute journey, but not during Lagos lunch-hour traffic. If Thomas gets in a car, this trip could take him up to 120 minutes. To save time, Thomas hops on the back seat of one of the dozens of motorcycle taxis that are waiting for customers at stalls and shops downtown. He puts his arms around the driver's waist, and the pair speed off.

While the Lagos State government does not officially promote motorbike taxis, growing demand for ways to reduce maddeningly long commute times is making an increasing number of people jump on the backs of two-wheeled taxis in Nigeria.

Tech companies are now trying to make it easier for riders like Thomas to link up with motorcycle taxis no matter where these urban passengers may be. Last year, several ride-hailing applications designed to connect riders with motorcycle taxis were launched. One is called the Gokada app.

'Okadas': controversy on Lagos' roads

Residents in Lagos call these two-wheeled taxis "okadas", because they are so much faster than cars. Okada is the name of Nigeria's first private commercial airline, Okada Air.

Motorcycle taxis first showed up in the country's commercial capital in the late 1990s.

During those early years, okadas got a bad reputation because of reckless operators and gruesome accidents. Back then, the number of broken bones and bloody limbs grew so fast that local media nicknamed a section of the National Orthopaedic Hospital Igbobi the "okada ward".

Today, riding okadas is a little safer because Lagos State restricts them to certain inner streets.

Ride-hailing in Africa

Uber debuted in West Africa five years ago. Since then, there have been several less-than-remarkable local efforts to duplicate the company's success in the United States. The standout appears to be ride-hailing apps for motorcycles because they are responding to Nigeria's unique market needs: They can zip through stalled traffic.

Users download an app and request rides on their smartphones, and branded motorcycles show up on demand. As an added feature, users can also hail branded bikes on the street. Since Gokada launched, three other motorcycle-hailing startups have debuted in Nigeria: Max, SafeBoda, and Oride.

Gokada boasts over 1,000 riders. Max, founded by two alumni of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US, says it has over 1,000 motorcyclists.

Anticipating billion-dollar market growth, investors have thrown millions of dollars at these startups. Rise Capital and a consortium of local funders invested $5.3m in Gokada. The company plans to use the money, in part, to open a state-of-the-art driver-training school to verify up to 500 operators at a time, thereby increasing daily rides tenfold.

Operating in a grey area

Fahim Saleh, the cofounder and co-CEO of Gokada, admits his company exists in a grey area legally.

He says his team has exploited a Nigerian stipulation that says bikes with an engine capacity of greater than 200 cubic centimetres can travel on all major roads and highways. Some of Gokada's bikes have been seized by government officials for other infractions, but the service continues to grow. "They said if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere," Saleh smiles, dismissing life in Manhattan. "I've lived in New York. If you can make it in Nigeria, you can [really] make it anywhere!"

"A futuristic tech-enabled Lagos can have motorcycle taxis," he explains, citing examples in East Asia such as Go-Jek in Indonesia and Grab in Thailand. "Gokada is not only making incremental improvements, [but] we are going leaps and bounds to ensure our drivers are safe including weekly training, adequate safety gear, tech-enabled driver-behaviour tracking, intensive pre-screening, rapid-response in-house medics, and more. We really do care about our drivers and our customers."

Salleh's concern is warranted; 747 motorcycles were involved in road accidents during the fourth quarter of 2018, according to Nigeria's Bureau of Statistics. That's more than one out of every five accidents.

The cost of going slow

People in Lagos call traffic bottlenecks go-slows. Most residents spend more than two hours in traffic every workday. The cost of going slow is massive. According to one former Lagos State governor, every year, go-slows rob the city's economy of 42 billon naira ($11.6m) of economic output.

To understand why, consider the geography of Lagos. With a landmass of about 3,600 square kilometres, it is Nigeria's smallest state. However, more than 18 million people live in the city of Lagos. Five million registered vehicles - 200 vehicles per kilometre - cram onto the city's 9,100 roads and expressways each day.

Just get me to work

On his part, Abimbola Thomas, our harried commuter, was now used to the adrenaline rush of motorcycle taxi rides. He tapped an app on his smartphone and hailed a two-wheeler. It arrived within minutes and took him to his office on time. "Bikes are much more convenient as a form of transportation in Lagos," he called out as he sped off.

By Kayode Ogunbunmi

Al Jazeera

Monday, June 10, 2019

Kelechi Iheanacho dropped by Nigeria

Nigeria have cut Leicester City striker Kelechi Iheanacho from their final 23-man squad for the Africa Cup of Nations, which starts in Egypt next week.

Iheanacho was the only major omission by coach Gernot Rohr, who retained 15 players from the squad that went to the World Cup in Russia last year. Back-up goalkeeper Ikechukwu Ezenwa from Katsina United is the only home-based player in the squad.

Nigeria have been drawn to play in Group B against Guinea, Madagascar and Burundi, who they play first in Alexandria on June 22.

Goalkeepers: Daniel Akpeyi (Kaizer Chiefs), Ikechukwu Ezenwa (Katsina United), Francis Uzoho (Anorthosis Famagusta)

Defenders: Olaoluwa Aina (Torino), Chidozie Awaziem(Rizespor), Leon Balogun (Brighton and Hove Albion), Jamilu Collins (Paderborn), William Troost Ekong (Udinese), Kenneth Omeruo (Leganes), Abdullahi Shehu (Bursaspor)

Midfielders: Oghenekaro Etebo (Stoke City), John Obi Mikel (Middlesbrough), Ahmed Musa (Al Nassr), Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City), John Ogu (Hapoel Be'er Sheva)

Forwards: Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal), Odion Ighalo (Shanghai Shenhua), Alex Iwobi (Arsenal), Samuel Kalu (Girondins Bordeaux), Paul Onuachu (Midtjylland), Henry Onyekuru (Galatasaray), Victor Osimhen (Charleroi), Moses Simon (Levante).

By Mark Gleeson


Gangs kill dozens in attacks in Nigeria

Gunmen have killed dozens of people in a wave of attacks in northern Nigeria, the latest violence by criminal gangs raiding villages and stealing livestock.

The series of attacks, carried out overnight Saturday to Sunday in northwestern Sokoto state, left at least 43 dead.

"They opened fire on the village indiscriminately," Abdullahi Dantani, from the village of Satiru where 18 people were murdered, told AFP news agency.

In Sokoto state's Rabah district, gunmen rode into four villages - Rukunni, Tsage, Giire and Kalfu - killing 25 people.

"Several domestic animals were rustled by the attackers," Ibrahim Kaoje, Sokoto state's top police officer, told AFP.

Four people were arrested in connection to those attacks, Kaoje said.

In separate attacks in Satiru village, in Sokoto's Isa district, the raiders shot 18 people, and then stole animals.

"We lost 18 people in the raid by the gunmen, who came into the village on motorcycles," said Satiru village resident Umeh Na-Ta'ala.
'Uptick in banditry'

The gangs have long been a scourge of rural communities in northern Nigeria, raiding villages, stealing cattle, burning homes, looting food and kidnapping for ransom.

The communities have taken up arms to defend themselves, although the vigilantes are often accused of extrajudicial killings of suspected bandits.

President Muhammadu Buhari condemned the killings, expressing "deep shock and sadness" in a statement issued late on Sunday.

"Perpetrators and sponsors of such dastardly acts (will) be held accountable," Buhari said.

Human Rights Watch on Monday warned of a "dramatic uptick in banditry, kidnapping and killings" in the northwestern states of Kaduna, Katsina and Zamfara, which border Sokoto state.

"Security forces have failed to respond effectively to threats to people's lives and security," the rights group said.

The gangs are one of several security challenges facing Nigeria, including attacks by fighters from Boko Haram in northeastern regions, as well as battles between livestock herders and settled farmers.

These have left the military overstretched and seen Buhari criticised for failing to protect lives and property.

Buhari, who was sworn in last month for a second four-year presidential term, has promised to boost security.

Al Jazeera

Friday, June 7, 2019

Nigeria shuts down privately owned TV and radio stations

Nigeria's broadcasting authority shut down private radio and television stations owned by a key opposition figure who hours earlier said his media operations were being targeted in a crackdown.

The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) said on Thursday it suspended the license of Daar Communications Plc, owner of the African Independent Television (AIT) and RayPower FM for breach of broadcast codes.

NBC said in a statement it summoned the management of the stations to address alleged bias in their broadcasts and for failing to meet financial obligations to the regulatory authority.

The statement alleged the media organisations had "embarked on use of inflammatory, divisive, inciting broadcasts and media propaganda against the government and the NBC for performing its statutory functions of regulating the broadcast industry in Nigeria".

'Until further notice'

NBC said it made the license suspensions of AIT and RayPower FM "for failure to abide by the commission's directives and the provisions of the law".

"The shut down order is until further notice," the statement said.

The two broadcast stations are owned by business tycoon Raymond Dokpesi, who is also a key member of opposition People's Democratic Party (PDP).

Dokpesi earlier on Thursday accused NBC of intimidating his media empire on the instruction of the Nigerian presidency.

"We are on a road previously travelled. A media and press clampdown is in the offing," Dokpesi said hours before the suspension of his licence at a news conference.

Dokpesi established RayPower FM as a pioneering private radio in 1994 and AIT in 1998.

Reporters Without Borders places Nigeria 119th out of 180 on its World Press Freedom Index.

The media watchdog said journalists are often threatened, subjected to physical violence, or denied access to information by government officials, police, and sometimes the public itself.

Al Jazeera

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Video - Lead poisoning from gold mines putting children at risk in Nigeria

Lead used in northwest Nigeria's gold mines is threatening the lives of thousands of children there, according to health officials. Hundreds died since the first case was reported nearly a decade ago. And a rise in violent attacks by armed gangs and kidnappers is hampering efforts to help them.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Video - Children used to fight Boko Haram struggle with trauma

The United Nations and human rights activists have accused both Boko Haram and groups fighting it, of putting children in harm's way. But now, hundreds of former child vigilantes, who had been fighting against the armed group in northeastern Nigeria, are learning skills to help them reintegrate into their communities. Many have returned to school or are learning employment skills. Kaumi Kolo is one of them.

Nigerian Tijjani Muhammad-Bande elected president of United Nations General Assembly

Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, Nigeria’s permanent ambassador to the United Nations, UN, has been elected president of the United Nations General Assembly, UNGA.

He was elected in an unopposed vote on Tuesday (June 4) to serve the one-year role. The election of the President of the 74th session of the General Assembly took place in the General Assembly Hall at the United Nations Headquarters, in New York.

He becomes the 74th holder of the position taking over from Ecuardorian María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés whose tenure ended with Muhammad-Bande’s election.

Going by established principle of geographical rotation and relevant UN resolutions, the Presidency of the 74th session had reached the trun of Africa, hence Mohammad-Bande’s election was widely expected.

The immediate past president – the fourth woman to be elected to the post in the history of the world body – took office on 5 June 2018. She was also the first since woman 2006.

Having been formally nominated by the Nigerian government for the position, the then nominee went through informal interactive dialogues with the view to increasing the transparency and inclusivity of the process. The dialogue took place on 13 May 2019, at UNHQ, New York.

The last time Africa held the presidency was in 2014/2015 when Uganda’s Sam Kahamba Kutesa led the 69th session. Aside the normal sessions, the UNGA also calls for special and emergency special sessions that usually have different presidents.

About the Ordinary Sessions and its president

The General Assembly meets annually in regular session, intensively from September to December, and resumes in January until all issues on the agenda are addressed – which often is just before the next session starts.

Since the 60th session in 2005, the President-elect of the General Assembly suggests a theme of global concern for the upcoming general debate, based on informal discussions with Member States, the President of the current session of the General Assembly, and the Secretary-General.

Shortly after his/her election, the President-elect sends a letter to all Member States announcing the theme for the upcoming general debate and inviting them to focus their speeches on the proposed theme.

About the UNGA

The General Assembly is one of the six main organs of the United Nations, the only one in which all Member States have equal representation: one nation, one vote.

All 193 Member States of the United Nations are represented in this unique forum to discuss and work together on a wide array of international issues covered by the UN Charter, such as development, peace and security, international law, etc.

In September, all the Members meet in the General Assembly Hall in New York for the annual General Assembly session.

Africa News

Sani Abacha's £210m of loot seized in American account

More than $267m (£210m) belonging to a former Nigerian dictator has been seized from a Jersey bank account.

The money was "derived through corruption" during the presidency of Sani Abacha in the 1990s, according to Jersey's Civil Asset Recovery Fund.

A shell company called Doraville held the funds, which were frozen in 2014.

After a five-year legal wrangle, the money has now been recovered and will be split between Jersey, the United States and Nigeria.

Jersey's attorney general, Robert McRae QC, said the seizure "demonstrated [Jersey's] commitment to tackling international financial crime and money laundering".

Mr Abacha was in power from 1993 until his death in 1998.

It is not yet clear how much money will be kept by each government.

Jersey's Law Officers Department declined to comment on the final distribution of the funds because it could "prejudice ongoing discussions".

Jersey's government said it had approached the US in 2007 to request legal proceedings begin in US courts over the laundered funds.

The US Department of Justice itself has forfeited millions of dollars of money back to Nigeria, ruling Mr Abacha and associates laundered funds through the US banking industry.

Following an "extensive" collection of evidence in a variety of international jurisdictions, the funds were frozen by the Royal Court in 2014 and finally paid into the Civil Asset Recovery Fund on 31 May.

The money is just a fraction of the billions of dollars that were allegedly stolen and laundered during the presidency of Mr Abacha.

Swiss authorities last year returned $300m (£228m) to the Nigerian government, after it was found to have been stolen from public funds.

That money is being paid back to 300,000 Nigerian households over the next six years.

A spokesman for Jersey's Law Officers Department said it had faced "challenges and appeals" all the way to Jersey's highest court, as well as "separate proceedings" by a third party in US court.


Oil thieves in Nigeria roar back

Just as Nigeria gets to grips with militants who brought the nation’s oil industry to its knees a few years ago, another group of longstanding foes are slowly making a comeback: thieves.

Saboteurs including thieves caused an 80% increase in the number of spills in 2018, Royal Dutch Shell Plc, the largest international producer in the West African country, said in a report last month. By contrast, there have been no militant-related halts to operations since 2016.

The disruptions underscore how hard it will be for Nigeria to fully rid itself of security challenges that have plagued the nation for decades. Overseas crude shipments represented by far the nation’s largest source of export income, with about $43.6 billion of sales last year, according to ITC Trade Map, a venture between the WTO and the UN.

“Oil theft is a severe drain on Nigeria’s revenue,” said Cheta Nwanze, the head of research at SBM Intelligence, a Lagos-based consultant. “The losses to theft could easily fund Nigeria’s budget deficit.”

Eight Times

On one level, theft is probably a more palatable option for Nigeria and the companies operating there than attacks by militants. About 100,000 barrels a day are being taken out of pipelines, whereas militancy halted at least eight times times that amount at one stage three years ago.

The increase reflects a belief among local communities that multinationals don’t really own the barrels in the first place, according to Ledum Mitee, a lawyer and minority rights activist.

“They believe the oil is theirs and the government is the thief,” he said. “People now realize that instead of just cutting pipelines to spite the government, they can make money out of it.”

Big Employer

It’s also akin to an industry. Theft employs at least 500,000 people in the country, according to Mitee, former head of the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.

Much of the stolen crude is processed in tiny, makeshift refineries comprising hundreds of cauldrons, each of which can hold as much as 150 barrels of oil, according to Nwanze. The world’s biggest refineries handle more than 1.2 million barrels each day.

Unlike politically-driven militancy, where fighters say they represent impoverished people in the Niger Delta region, stealing crude is considered a less risky option for those involved.

Multiple incidents of force majeure, a legal measure that allows companies to forgo their contractual supply obligations, have happened this year in Nigeria -- even if the precise causes often remain unclear.

Nembe Creek

Aiteo Group, operator of the Nembe Creek Trunk Line to Shell’s Bonny export terminal, has been one of the hardest hit this year, halting flows through the link at least three times since January.

And the challenges doesn’t appear to be getting easier. Shell lost an average of 11,000 barrels a day to theft in 2018, it said. That’s up from losses of 9,000 barrels of crude a day in 2017.

Chevron Corp. has also reported problems with third-party interference on its production facilities.

The rogue refineries, essentially scaled up versions of widespread gin distilleries in the region, typically employ about 100 people working in shifts. Yields from a single cauldron will include 7,500 liters of diesel, 2,000 liters of gasoline and 500 liters of kerosene a day. It costs about 4 million naira ($11,100) to construct a boiling pot.

Crude Operators

Oil producers often take their own security measures, deploying daily helicopter surveillance with infrared cameras while simultaneously pushing state authorities to do more. But large-scale theft persists.

Addressing the challenge requires a “holistic approach,” Nigeria’s Oil Minister Emmanuel Kachikwu said after attending a cabinet meeting in Abuja last month.

“Oil theft is rife because there is an economic gain to be made from it,” Kachikwu said. “So we want to shut those illegal gains by creating positive and legal economic opportunities.”

By Elisha Bala-Gbogbo


Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Students from Nigeria return home to heroic welcome after China contest

A team of 6 Nigerian students who emerged 3rd at the recently concluded Huawei Global ICT Competition in Shenzhen, China, have returned home to heroic welcome. At least 49 teams from 30 countries took part in this years contest.

Child viglantes in Nigeria return to school

Nearly 2,000 former child vigilantes who fought against Boko Haram have returned to their homes in northeast Nigeria. The United Nations says some of the children took up arms to help the army fight the armed group, allegation officials deny. Hundreds of the former fighters have since returned to school.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Video - Nigeria's 'mega schools' for Boko Haram victims

So-called "mega schools" have been opened in northeast Nigeria to take in around 50,000 orphans of war. Boko Haram fighters have destroyed classrooms, killed teachers and kidnapped students in 10 years of fighting. As the public school system is rebuilt in Borno State, experts say children need other help too.