Friday, August 30, 2019

Nigeria lowers visa fees for Americans after US visa hike

It’s taken just a day for the Nigerian government to respond to the Trump administration’s latest visa clampdown measure on Nigerians.

It has reduced visa fees for Americans traveling to Nigeria from $180 to $150 in response to the US embassy’s introduction of a “reciprocity fee” for Nigerians. The US embassy claims the new reciprocity fee, ranging from $80 to $303 and only to be paid for approved visas, has been introduced to “eliminate that cost difference” between visa application fees for both countries.

The move was in line with a Trump executive order in 2017 for the US secretary of State to, among other things, adjust fee schedules “to match the treatment of United States nationals” by other countries. The US embassy claimed it has been in talks with Nigerian authorities for 18 months to align visa fees.

For its part, Nigeria’s government says the decision to lower visa fees for American applicants was taken months ago but was not implemented given the transition in government. (Nigeria’s president Buhari only inaugurated a new cabinet last week after winning reelection for a second term in February).

It’s unclear if the new visa fee reduction for American applicants to Nigeria will also see the US Embassy revise its reciprocity fee structure for Nigerians.

Some international business people and tourists from countries including the United States have long complained about the high expense of Nigerian visas and the difficulty of obtaining them. The Buhari government has targeted improving this with programs including visa-on-arrival for business people and potential investors. Yet, Nigerians also face challenges with the US visa application process, which is renown for its intensive paperwork (even for short stay visas) and involves daunting consular interview sessions that often end in vague reasons for application rejections.

The quick reaction from Nigerian authorities is a change of tack from earlier measures by the Trump administration to clamp on Nigerian visa applications. In May, the US suspended a visa waiver program for Nigerian applicants and has reportedly considered issuing visas for shorter validity periods in response to the high rates of Nigerian nationals overstaying visas.

By Yomi Kazeem


Thursday, August 29, 2019

MTN Nigeria starts mobile money transfer service

Nigeria’s biggest telecoms firm MTN has launched a mobile money transfer service, targeting those without bank accounts, and said on Thursday it plans to become a payment services bank once it obtains approval from the central bank.

The success in east Africa of M-Pesa, the mobile money unit of Kenya’s Safaricom, has convinced investors and the industry that financial services are the next growth area for the telecoms sector, where prices for basic services are falling.

Nigeria said last year it would allow telecom companies to provide banking services, aiming to give millions of Nigerians without bank accounts access to mobile money services.

MTN Nigeria was awarded a licence by Nigeria’s central bank in July to provide financial services.

Majority owned by South Africa’s MTN Group, the company runs Nigeria’s biggest mobile phone network serving around 56 million people.

MTN Nigeria’s CEO Ferdi Moolman said its Yello Digital Financial Services Limited (YDFS) unit would extend access to simple money transfer services and other financial services.

More than half of Nigeria’s population of 180 million do not have a bank account.

Shares in MTN Nigeria, which was listed on the local bourse in May, fell 1.49% to 144.50 naira on Thursday, valuing the telecoms firm at 2.95 trillion naira ($9.64 billion).

MTN Group appointed Rob Shuter as chief executive in 2016 to oversee the formulation of a new strategic growth plan and look for new revenue streams as competition and regulation hit profit margins.

Shuter, who has previous banking experience, has been revamping Africa’s biggest telecoms group, seeking returns in everything from financial services to music and video games.

By Chijioke Ohuocha


Nigeria want England-born striker Josh Maja to join Super Eagles

 Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr says he is keen on having England-born striker Josh Maja play for the Super Eagles next month.

Maja, born in London to Nigerian parents, scored 16 goals in 30 appearances for Sunderland last season before switching to French club Bordeaux in January.

Uncapped by England at any level, Maja has scored twice in 10 appearances in Ligue 1 for Bordeaux.

"I ate with Samuel Kalu and Josh Maja, who is a second Nigerian in Bordeaux and is eligible for Nigeria. I already started talking with him about the national team," Rohr told Le Point G in France.

"He can easily play in the friendly matches (for Nigeria), but he can only do it because he has not played for the under-20's."

Rohr was referring to the fact that Nigeria will not have to apply to Fifa for a change of allegiance for Maja, as the youngster has not played for another nation at youth level.

The 20-year-old's performances in France have caught the eye of Rohr, who played played at Bordeaux then coached them when they lost to Bayern Munich in the 1996 Uefa Cup final.

Rohr has already named a 23-man squad for the friendly against Ukraine next month, but the German is hoping to persuade Maja to play in the game which serves as a build-up to the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying which starts in November.

"We have a game in Ukraine, and I've been informed that it might be too late to get visas for players who do not have a European passport," said Rohr.

"But he [Maja] does not have this issue because he is English, so he could eventually join us. It is very possible that I pick him to go to Ukraine.

"For Maja, it would be easier to have him. I have a lot of attackers, but it's not impossible that I select him."

Nigeria have previously succeeded in convincing former England-born players like Sone Aluko and Ola Aina to represent the West African nation.

They have also snapped up London-born Joe Aribo, who plays for Scottish giants Rangers, with the midfielder set to make his debut against Ukraine in Dnipro.

His teammate and Liverpool's loanee Sheyi Ojo also told the BBC that he would love to represent Nigeria if they approach him.

By Oluwashina Okeleji


China invests $16 billion in oil sector in Nigeria

Chinese investment in Nigeria's oil and gas industry has reached $16 billion, according to Nigeria's state-run oil company. While Nigeria's oil industry welcomes China's interest, analysts worry about a lack of transparency in the sector and slow development of the country's renewable energy market.

When a top official with China's third-largest national oil company paid a visit to Abuja, Nigeria this month, he was recommended by a top official of Nigeria's state-run oil company to increase investment in Nigeria's petroleum industry.

Mele Kyari, the managing director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, or NNPC, thanked the China National Offshore Oil Corp., or CNOOC, for its continued support of Nigeria's oil and gas sector. Chinese investments in the sector have reached $16 billion. Kyari added that Nigeria needs partners like China.

The two countries need each other to reach their oil production targets. Africa's largest oil producing nation pumps 2 million barrels a day and has a goal of producing 3 million barrels a day by 2023. China's domestic oil production has been on a steady decline because of natural depletion and other geological challenges. So experts predict that up to 80 percent of China's crude oil supply will be imported by 2030.

In comes Nigeria

CNOOC started doing business in Nigeria in 2005 and is the largest Chinese entity investor in Nigeria. With a focus on overseas investment, it's also China's largest offshore oil and natural gas developer.

The company's executive vice president, Lu Yan Ji, said during the meeting that Nigeria is one of the company's largest investment destinations. He also said that CNOOC is producing 800,000 barrels per day, but it wants to reach 1.2 million. Ji hopes Nigeria can help with that.

But there's skepticism

Nigeria has had a hard time reaching its production targets. There's sporadic militancy in the oil-producing region, as young people often take violent action to demand more access to the country's oil wealth. There's theft happening right at the pipelines. Fires often burn at rusted pipes, and oil operations in Nigeria are disrupted several times a year.

Also there's a serious lack of transparency. The NNPC has a long history of scandals, with ongoing accusations of corruption.

Crude oil is Nigeria's most lucrative export, and the NNPC has not been able to account for billions of dollars in revenue. President Muhammadu Buhari has not appointed anyone as the oil minister. He handles that highly sought after portfolio himself in his second term as president, just as he did in his first.

Corruption is also why some Nigerians aren't applauding China for pouring money into Nigeria's murky oil industry.

A host on Nigeria's popular Wazobia TV network, Uvbi Ehigiamusoe, put it this way.

She says the Chinese oil company will not monitor how Nigeria will use $16 billion in investments. And it is known how it goes in Nigeria, she says.

Some say it's high time Nigeria moves away from its dependence on oil. Revenue from the oil industry accounts for almost 75 percent of the federal budget, according to the Nigerian financial watchdog group BudgIT.

Dr. Nwoke Okala, an energy specialist at the Center for Research and Development at the University of Nigeria Nsukka, says Nigeria should follow the global trend of exploring renewable energy sources as oil becomes less attractive.

But for now, Nigeria will continue to set its ambitions on oil. Nigerian business mogul and the richest man in Africa, Aliko Dangote, is building what will be Africa's largest oil refinery in the Nigerian commercial city of Lagos.

With an expected annual refining capacity of 10.4 million tons of gasoline, the new refinery will double Nigeria's refining capacity and help in meeting the increasing domestic demand for fuel.

The $9 billion mega-complex is expected to be complete at the end of 2020 and could take Nigeria from a fuel importer to a fuel exporter.

By Chika Oduah


Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Video - Nigeria locking up survivors of human trafficking

Despite attempts by the Nigerian government to combat human trafficking and provide support for those that survived being trafficked, care for victims is still severely lacking, a new report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) says.

According to the report, the Nigerian government is illegally detaining survivors of human trafficking, prohibiting the often traumatised women from recovering from the experiences they went through.

"The Nigerian authorities are actually detaining trafficking survivors in shelters, not allowing them to leave at will, in violation of Nigeria’s international legal obligations," the New York-based rights body said.

"The detentions overwhelmingly affect women and girls, and put their recovery and well-being at risk."

The report is based on interviews with 76 survivors, 20 of them girls between the ages 8 and 17, who either were trafficked out of Nigeria and later returned, or were trafficked into Nigeria.

They were often promised well-paying jobs as domestic workers, hairdressers, or hotel staff but were then tricked and trapped in exploitation and forced to pay back a huge "debt" for their travel.

Often, the people who trafficked them were people they knew personally.

"My aunt brought me here. She said she will help me. When I got here, she said I had to work before the apprenticeship," one of the survivors told HRW.

"She took me somewhere to work as a house girl…. I was mistreated. She did not give me food; I washed cars, cleaned the house and the compound," the 14-year-old, who is one of several victims quoted in the report, said.

"My aunt used to collect the money. Their kids were too hostile to me. I decided to leave."

'Closed shelters'

Over the last couple of years, the Nigerian government has introduced several anti-trafficking laws and started the the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), which runs shelters for trafficking survivors.

However, those shelters are severely lacking, HRW said.

"Some survivors in the NAPTIP shelters complained about not being able to receive visitors or contact their families, not having clear information about when they would reunite with their families, monotonous daily schedules, or boredom from doing nothing," the report states.

"Those referred by NAPTIP to private shelters were unhappy about poor conditions and services, including inadequate food, lack of soap or body lotion, lack of medical and psychosocial care, and lack of job training," it added.

The women often suffer from depression, anxiety, insomnia, flashbacks, aches and pains, and other physical ailments as a result of their ordeal.

Despite attempts by the Nigerian government to help them reintegrate, the so-called "closed shelters" do not provide enough support for the women to reintegrate into Nigerian society, HRW said.

"Women and girls trafficked in and outside Nigeria have suffered unspeakable abuses at the hands of traffickers, but have received inadequate medical, counseling, and financial support to reintegrate into society" senior women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch Agnes Odhiambo said.

"We were shocked to find traumatised survivors locked behind gates, unable to communicate with their families, for months on end, in government-run facilities." 

HRW has called on Nigeria to better listen to the experiences of survivors and offer more room for community services, health workers and other organisations to play in a role in the recovery of the women.

"Nigerian authorities are struggling with a crisis of trafficking, and working under challenging circumstances, but they can do a better job by listening to what survivors have to say about their own needs," Odhiambo said.

"To end trafficking and break cycles of exploitation and suffering, survivors need the government to help them heal from the trauma of trafficking and earn a decent living in Nigeria."

Al Jazeera

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

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

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

Monday, August 26, 2019

Video - Nigeria battles a growing kidnapping crisis

Nigeria is in the grip of a kidnapping crisis. Thousands of Nigerians have fallen victims to a rise in the crime and are having to pay millions of dollars in ransom.

Video - Nigeria close to attaining polio-free status

Nigeria is close to attaining a polio-free status after marking three years since its last reported case of wild polio virus. Health experts say it's a significant milestone that could lead to the entire continent been declared polio-free. Before now, Nigeria had held the unenviable record of being one of three countries in the world where the polio disease is still endemic.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Nigeria becomes first country to approve biotech cowpea

Nigeria has made history by becoming the first country in the world to approve biotech cowpea, thereby adding a new biotech crop to the global biotech basket.

This is according to the Global Status of Commercialised Biotech/GM ( Genetically Modified) Crops in 2018 (ISAAA Brief 54), and disclosed in a news release by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications, ISAAA on Thursday.

The release was issued at the Nigeria Science Cafe and launch of Brief 54, a report on Global Status of Commercialised Biotech/GM Crops event in Abuja. The release, signed by Dr Margaret Karembu, Director, ISAAA AfriCentre in Kenya showed that Africa continued to make steady progress in the adoption of biotech crops.

The ISAAA AfriCentre Director praised Nigeria’s progress in biotech crop development and adoption, noting that the country was leading in agricultural technology approvals enabled by an efficient bio safety system.

“The world is in a technological advancement trajectory, the green revolution that had taken the world by storm in the second half of the 20th century is quickly transitioning into gene revolution. “We are now progressing into genome editing, a more precise and accurate technology to effectively develop more productive, highly nutritious and climate resilient crops for our rapidly increasing population,’’ she said.

In the ISAAA Brief 54 report, a total of 70 countries adopted biotech crops through cultivation and importation in 2018, the 23rd year of continuous biotech crop adoption. Also a total of 26 countries with 21 developing and five industrialised countries planted 191.7 million hectares of biotech crops, adding 1.9 million hectares to the record of plantings in 2017.

The Kingdom of Eswanti, former Swaziland, joined South Africa and Sudan in planting biotech crops in Africa, with commercial planting of insect resistant (IR) Bt cotton on an initial launch of 250 hectares. This brought the number of African countries currently growing biotech crops to three. Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kenya and Malawi granted approvals for planting biotech cotton as the proof that Africa is ready for biotech crop adoption. The report further indicated that South Africa alone planted 2.73 million hectares of biotech crops in 2018, sustaining its ranking among the top 19 biotech crop countries in the last two decades.

Most farmers in the country have adopted plant biotechnology with 87 per cent of adoption of biotech maize, 95 per cent biotech soybean and 100 per cent of biotech cotton.

The report further stated that Sudan planted 243,000 hectares of BT cotton, and a total of 3.14 million hectares of biotech crops in Africa. The report highlighted among others, that the top five countries with the largest area of biotech crops planted by U.S., Brazil, Argentina, Canada and India collectively occupied 91 per cent of global biotech crop area.

It showed that biotech soybean reached the highest adoption worldwide, covering 50 per cent of the global biotech crop area. The report indicated that farmers in 10 Latin American countries planted 79.4 million hectares of biotech crops among others. It said that with the continuously increasing adoption of biotech crops worldwide, farmers were at the forefront of reaping numerous benefits.


Video - Displaced women live in fear in Nigeria as incidents of rape rise

One of the world's deadliest conflicts is taking place in Nigeria's central region. Thousands have been killed in decades of fighting between ethnic groups. About 4,000 have been killed in the last two years alone. Now another crisis has added to the troubles of those displaced by this conflict. Al Jazeera's Mohamed Adow reports from Makurdi in Benue state, where women in camps live in fear of their safety.

FBI charges 80 people connected to Nigerian romance scams

In March 2016, a man claiming to be a US Army captain stationed in Syria reached out to a Japanese woman on an international site for digital pen pals.

Within weeks, their relationship grew into an internet romance with the man sending daily emails in English that she translated via Google. The man who called himself Terry Garcia asked for money -- lots of it -- from the woman identified as FK in federal court documents. Over 10 months, she sent him a total of $200,000 that she borrowed from friends, her ex-husband and other relatives to make her love interest happy.

But in reality, Garcia did not exist. It was all an international online scam ran by two Nigerian men in the Los Angeles area with the help of associates in their home country and other nations, federal officials say.

And Thursday, US prosecutors charged 80 people -- mostly Nigerians -- in the widespread conspiracy that defrauded at least $6 million from businesses and vulnerable elderly women.
Of those, 17 people have been arrested in the US so far and federal investigators are trying to track down the rest in Nigeria and other nations.
"We believe this is one of the largest cases of its kind in US history," US Attorney Nick Hanna said.

A plan to smuggle diamonds

The whirlwind online romance between FK and Garcia was all conducted on a Yahoo email address with no phone calls. Garcia told FK he wasn't allowed to use a phone in Syria, according to federal authorities.

Demands for money started after he told her he'd found a bag of diamonds in Syria and needed her help to smuggle it out of the war-torn nation. He said he was injured and could not do it himself -- and introduced her to associates he said would help facilitate the transfer, court documents allege. One said he was a Red Cross diplomat who could get the diamonds shipped to FK, court documents show.

Shortly after, another man who claimed to work for a shipping company asked FK for money to ensure the package was not inspected at customs, the complaint alleges. Requests for additional money kept coming, with the fraudsters citing different reasons each time on why the package was stuck at customs.

"FK estimates that she made 35 to 40 payments over the 10 months that she had a relationship with Garcia. During that time, the fraudster(s) emailed her as many as 10 to 15 times each day, and Garcia was asking her to make the payments, so she kept paying to accounts in Turkey, the UK and the US," the federal criminal complaint says.

The loss of money has left FK angry and depressed, authorities said. "She began crying when discussing the way that these losses have affected her," the criminal complaint says.

17 arrested and dozens on the run 

The scams were not just limited to romance, Hanna said. They included business schemes where fraudsters hack escrow company email systems, impersonate employees and direct payments that funnel money back to themselves.

"In some cases, the victims thought they were communicating with US servicemen stationed overseas, when in fact, they were emailing with con men," Hanna said. "Some of the victims in this case lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in this way."

Of the 80 people charged, federal authorities arrested 14 people mostly in Los Angeles, the local US Attorney's Office said Thursday. At least three other defendants were already in custody. The remaining suspects live in other countries, mainly in Nigeria, and investigators said they'll work with the respective governments to extradite them.

How the scam worked

Investigators detailed an intricate scam traced to two key suspects who oversaw the fraudulent transfer of at least $6 million and the attempted theft of an additional $40 million.

Once co-conspirators based in Nigeria, the United States and other countries persuaded victims to send money under false pretenses, the two Nigerian men who lived in Southern California coordinated the receipt of funds, the indictment says.

The two men provided bank and money-service accounts that received funds obtained from victims and also ran the extensive money-laundering network, the complaint alleges.

The two men were arrested Thursday. All defendants will face charges of conspiracy to commit fraud, conspiracy to launder money, and aggravated identity theft. Some also will face fraud and money laundering charges.

Paul Delacourt of the FBI's Los Angeles warned people to be careful as romance scams escalate nationwide. The Federal Trade Commission has said scams that prey on vulnerable people cost Americans more money than any other fraud reported to the agency last year. More than 21,000 people were conned into sending $143 million in such schemes in 2018 alone, it reported.

"Billions of dollars are lost annually, and we urge citizens to be aware of these sophisticated financial schemes to protect themselves or their businesses from becoming unsuspecting victims," Delacourt said.

By Faith Karimi


Thursday, August 22, 2019

Video - Banker in Nigeria leaves finance sector for farming

One Nigerian farmer is redefining the sector in a bid to get younger and educated women to embrace the trade. In a country where most young people are swirling towards white collar jobs, Amaka Chukwudum left a thriving career in banking to pursue a life time passion in organic farming. Here's CGTN's Deji Badmus with the story of Chukwudum, one of Nigeria's leading advocate for organic farming.

Nigeria is three years polio free

Nigeria has gone three years without a case of polio, putting it on the brink of being declared free of the disease.

This is a dramatic change from 2012 when the country accounted for more than half of all polio cases worldwide, the World Health Organization has said.

The head of the primary health care agency, Dr Faisal Shuaib, said Nigeria had reached a "historic milestone".

But it will be several months before the country can officially be labelled polio-free.

The first criteria, no case for three years, has been achieved.

But now the WHO needs to make sure there is a robust surveillance system in Nigeria to be certain that there are no further cases of the wild polio virus, chairman of Nigeria's polio committee, Dr Tunji Funsho, told BBC Newsday.

Nigeria is the last country in Africa to have witnessed a case of polio - in Borno state, in the north-east. Outside of Nigeria, the last case on the continent was in the Puntland region of Somalia, in 2014.

Insecurity in the north-east of Nigeria had hindered the polio vaccination programme, but success in fighting the Boko Haram militant group has been cited as one of the reasons behind getting polio under control.

In addition, officials have said that political support and an injection of funds have also helped.

In 2018, there was a total of 33 polio cases confined to just two countries: Afghanistan and Pakistan.


President Buhari assigns new ministers

President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday (Aug 21) handed out jobs to his new cabinet, insisting the government was able to meet Nigeria's challenges despite criticism that his line-up favoured ageing loyalists.

The former military ruler faces a raft of problems for his second term in office.

They range from curbing a grinding Islamist insurgency and spreading insecurity to fighting rampant corruption and bolstering a fragile economic recovery.

The 43-member cabinet was inaugurated at a ceremony in the presidential villa in Abuja almost three months after Buhari was sworn in for his final four years in power.

"Our nation continues to face tough challenges and we are prepared to meet them," he told ministers at the televised swearing-in event.

Buhari maintained key ministers in departments including finance, foreign affairs, transport and education and opted to keep the crucial petroleum portfolio under his control.

Critics blasted him for packing his new cabinet with veterans from his ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) party instead of opting for more technocrats, youth or women.

There are only seven women in the new government, and the two youngest ministers are aged in their mid-40s.

Finance Minister Zainab Ahmed, who held onto her position, told AFP that bolstering much-needed income would be a key focus.

"The whole of government will be geared towards improving our revenue," she said.

Among other key players to stay in place were former Lagos governor Babatunde Fashola on the works and housing briefs, Rotimi Amaechi at transport and Geoffrey Onyeama as foreign minister.

Timipre Sylva, former governor of oil-rich Bayelsa state, became the junior petroleum minister under the supervision of Buhari as the president followed his predecessors over the past two decades and kept control of the vital sector.

Rauf Aregbesola, a new appointee, was named interior minister and Bashir Magashi took over at defence.


Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Aruna Quadri wins 2019 International Table Tennis title for Nigeria

Africa's top top-ranked table tennis player Aruna Quadri has bounced back from his shock semifinal exit at the Africa Cup to capture the 2019 International Table Tennis Challenge Nigeria Open title. The tournament attracted over 170 players from around the world. CGTN's Kelechi Emekalam has more.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Video - Nigerian ethnic violence amplifed by religous divide

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

Building collapse kills 5 in Nigeria

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Nigeria defends currency reserves inspite $9bn UK court ruling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'Fuel to the fire'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Al Jazeera

Monday, August 19, 2019

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

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

Friday, August 16, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Bukola Adebayo


Thursday, August 15, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Chijioke Ohuocha


Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Nigeria failing to end open defecation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Financing woes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Communities take charge

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Paul Adepoju

Related stories: Nigeria second in the world in open defecation

Shia leader travels from Nigeria to India for medical treatment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Mercy Abang

Al Jazeera 

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

Video - Why has Nigeria banned Shia Muslim group

Friday, August 9, 2019

Revolution Now organizer to be detained for 45 days

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Abdur Rahman Alfa Shaban 

Africa News

Africa's largest oil refinery delayed until 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Alexis Akwagyiram


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

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Nigeria second in the world in open defecation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Highest rate of Nigerians defecating in public is in Ekiti State

Boko Haram attempted to stop Nigeria from eradicating polio.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tekno questioned by Nigeria police for pole dancing women in traffic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 5, 2019

Video - Nollywood tackles discrimination and stigma

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

Shi'ite Muslim leader allowed to seak medical treatment abroad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

National Post

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

Friday, August 2, 2019

Clash between army and jihadists leaves dozens dead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, August 1, 2019

Video - Nigerians seizing opportunity of waste recycling to cash in

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

Fuel tanker explosion in Nigeria kills 1

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Efforts on the ground

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Preventing polio

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Shamard Charles, M.D.


MTN to start to provide financial services in Nigeria

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Yomi Kazeem