Monday, September 30, 2019

Former Super Eagle coach Samson Siasia's mother finally freed from kidnappers

Mother of Samson Siasia, former national coach of Nigeria's football team, on Sunday regained freedom from gunmen who had held her captive in the southern part of the country since July, local police said.

The 76-year-old victim Beauty Ogere Siasia was "released in the early hours of Sunday," Asinim Butswat, the police spokesman in the southern state of Bayelsa, told Xinhua via telephone.

Local police and family sources declined to give details of the victim's release. Whether or not any ransom was paid is not known.

She was held captive for over 10 weeks, after the gunmen stormed her home in Odoni town of Sagbama local government area of Bayelsa on July 15.

It was the second time the septuagenarian had been abducted in four years. In November 2015, she was abducted by gunmen who released her after 12 days in captivity.

Siasia, her son and former Nigerian coach, said his family was relieved by the development. Throughout last week, he had pleaded for help from Nigerian authorities for the release of his mother.

"It's been really tough but I'm pretty relieved that she's finally released on Sunday morning," he told reporters.

He added that his mother had been in poor health since her return.

Siasia was the coach of the team which won the silver medal of the football event at the 2008 Beijing Olympics held in China.

He was also the coach of the country's main football team from 2010 to October 2011. He was reappointed in 2016.


Related story: Ex-coach Samson Siasia mother still missing in Nigeria 2 months after kidnap

Survivor recounts torture house experience in Nigeria

A survivor of the Nigerian "torture house" raided by police has described being there as "living in hellfire".

"If you are praying they will beat you. If you are studying they will beat you," Isa Ibrahim, 29, told the BBC.

Nearly 500 men and boys were rescued from the building in Kaduna, which was being used as an Islamic school and correctional facility.

The police said it was a place of human slavery, with many detainees found in chains.

Some of the victims had been tortured and sexually abused, the authorities say.

The BBC's Ishaq Khalid, who visited the building in northern Nigeria, says there are concerns that similar abuse may be occurring in other such institutions.

Many families in this mainly Muslim part of the country can't afford to send their children to school and those that can often enrol them in poorly regulated institutions like this one, he says.

A sign on the front of the building describes it as the Ahmad bin Hambal Centre for Islamic teachings but it was also used by some as a place to reform young men with behavioural problems.

Kaduna state police spokesman Yakubu Sabo said the "dehumanised treatment" they discovered made it impossible to consider it an Islamic school, Reuters news agency reports. It was not registered as either a school, or a correctional facility, although it did charge fees to parents.

Seven people, including some staff, have been arrested. The government says it will investigate other institutions which purport to provide Koranic studies.

There have been numerous reports of abuse at Koranic schools across northern Nigeria, with students sometimes forced to spend their days begging on the streets.

Isa Ibrahim's ordeal

Mr Ibrahim said he was sent to the centre two weeks ago by his family, apparently to "correct his behaviour".

He said he had tried to escape the day before the police arrived.

He described being chained up to an old generator and also being subjected to a particularly cruel punishment, known as "Tarkila", where his hands were tied up and he was left hanging from the ceiling.

"I have many injuries. Almost all parts of my body have injuries," he said. "Even if you are sleeping - they'll use [a] cane to wake you up."

He said he had been starved and was only given plain rice to eat. People kept at the centre "lose all of our energy", he added.

Children as young as five were among those rescued from the institution, which is believed to have been operating for several years. Most of the inmates were from northern Nigeria but two were reportedly from Burkina Faso.
Abandoned chains at a 'house of torture'

Ishaq Khalid, BBC News, Kaduna

The pink two-storey building is a prison-like structure surrounded by high walls and barbed wire. It has an imposing gate, with more than a dozen rooms, with small windows for ventilation.

When I visited, the compound was littered with abandoned household items like mattresses, buckets, clothes and books - apparently left in the wake of the police raid.

Kaduna state police spokesperson Yakubu Sabo told me most of the captives had been rescued with their shackles still on but I could still see some abandoned chains, as well as car wheels and petrol-powered generators to which the victims had allegedly been attached.

People living nearby have been left bewildered - some told me they couldn't believe the shocking discovery.

The "students" did not go to out to beg on the streets as is the usual practice with traditional Koranic schools in this region. Nor had they been forced to do hard labour - some said they had not seen the outside world for years.

Torture was used as a form of discipline - to correct perceived bad behaviour.

Relatives are being reunited with their children at a camp in Kaduna where the victims were taken after being rescued.

Some said they had been prevented from seeing their children at the school.

"If we had known that this thing was happening in the school, we wouldn't have sent our children. We sent them to be people but they ended up being maltreated," said a parent named Ibrahim, who had identified his son.

The Kaduna state government says it will now carry out checks on all Koranic schools across the state.

"This is an eye-opener for us," said Hafsat Baba, Kaduna State Commissioner of Human Services and Social Development. She added that if this scale of abuse was happening in the main city, she didn't know what might be going on in rural areas.

"We have to map all the schools. And we have to make sure that if they violate the government orders then they have to be closed down completely," she told the BBC.

"If we find any facility that is torturing children or is harbouring these kind of horrific situations that we have just seen, they are going to be prosecuted."

President Muhammadu Buhari has condemned reports of shocking abuse at the institution.

He also urged religious and traditional leaders to work with the authorities to "expose and stop all types of abuse that are widely known but ignored for many years by our communities".


Related story: Hundreds freed from torture house in Nigeria

Baby Factory raided by police in Nigeria

Nigerian police have freed 19 pregnant women from properties in Lagos, which they describe as "baby factories".

Most of the women had been abducted "for the purpose of getting them pregnant and selling the babies", a police statement said.

Two women who operated as untrained nurses have been arrested but the main suspect is on the run.

Police said that male babies would be sold for $1,400 (£1,100) and the females for $830.

They added that the children were to be trafficked, but it is not clear who or where the potential buyers were.

Stories of these so-called "baby factories" are not uncommon in Nigeria. There have been several raids in the past including one last year when 160 children were rescued.

This time four children were rescued.
What happened to the women?

The rescued women, aged between 15 and 28, had been lured to Lagos, Nigeria's largest city, from different parts of the country with the promise of employment.

But they were then held in the properties and raped.

"[A] woman came to pick me at the [bus] park and brought me here," one of those rescued told the Vanguard newspaper.

"The next day, I was summoned by our madam, who told me that I would not leave the premises until next year," she is quoted as saying.

"So far, I have slept with seven different men before I discovered I was pregnant. I was told that after delivery, I would be paid handsomely."

The women and children have now been rehoused and are being rehabilitated, the police said.


Related story: Pregnant girls rescued from baby making factory in Nigeria

Friday, September 27, 2019

Video - Nigeria to scale up capacity for China-assisted Kaduna railway line

Speaking of China-Africa cooperation, Nigeria is set to increase capacity of its China- Assisted railway service along the 186.5 KM Abuja - Kaduna Rail line. 16 additional coaches and 10 locomotives are expected in by the end of the year -- to add to the existing ones.This is spurred by rising demand in the service. As Kelechi Emekalam reports, Many more passengers are opting for rail transportation for reasons of safety and comfort.

Boko Haram camp destroyed in Nigeria by airstrikes

Airstrikes by the Nigerian military have destroyed a logistics base of terror group Boko Haram during a raid in the northeast region, defense authorities said on Thursday.

The logistics base also served as a training camp for the terrorists at a community called Kusuma on the fringes of Lake Chad.

The airstrikes on Wednesday were executed after credible intelligence reports had established that a section of the settlement was serving as a training camp for the terrorists, Ibikunle Daramola, the spokesman for the air force, said in a statement made available to Xinhua.

"Some buildings within the camp were being used to store their fuel, arms, and ammunition as well as other logistics supplies," Daramola said.

During pre-attack surveillance, the air force spokesman said, scores of Boko Haram fighters were seen attempting to flee the location upon hearing the sound of the attack aircraft.

"They were engaged by the attack aircraft in successive passes, neutralizing many of them," he said.

According to him, the terrorists' logistics supply store, which was also hit, was seen engulfed in flames due to the raid.

The air force said while operating in concert with surface forces, it would sustain its efforts to completely destroy all remnants of the terrorists in the troubled northeast region.

Boko Haram has been blamed for the death of more than 20,000 people and displacing of 2.3 million others in Nigeria since 2009.


UK judge grants Nigeria appeal of $9bn asset forfeiture ruling

A British judge on Thursday gave Nigeria permission to seek to overturn a ruling that would have allowed a private firm to try to seize more than $9bn in assets from the West African country.

Process & Industrial Developments (P&ID), a firm set up to carry out a gas project with Nigeria, won a $6.6bn arbitration award after the deal collapsed. The award has been accruing interest since 2013 and is now worth more than $9bn.

P&ID, established by two Irish nationals with little experience in the oil and gas sector, said on Thursday that interest was accruing at a rate of $1.2m a day.

The judge also granted Nigeria's request for a stay on any asset seizures while its legal challenge is pending, but ordered it to pay $200m to the court within 60 days to ensure the stay. It also must pay some court costs to P&ID within 14 days.

The original August 16 decision converted an arbitration award held by P&ID to a legal judgment, which would allow the British Virgin Islands-based firm to try to seize international assets.

Nigeria's appeal of this decision, called a "set aside", would need to prove there was an error in that ruling.

During Thursday's proceedings, lawyers representing Nigeria said the judgment was flawed primarily due to its acceptance that England was the proper seat of the arbitration.

Harry Matovu argued on behalf of Nigeria that the courts, not the arbitration tribunal, should determine this and that the award itself was "manifestly excessive".

"We look forward to challenging the UK Commercial Court's recognition of the tribunal's decision in the UK Court of Appeal, uncovering P&ID's outrageous approach for what it is: a sham based on fraudulent and criminal activity developed to profit from a developing country," Nigerian attorney general Abubakar Malami said.

P&ID welcomed the requirement that Nigeria place $200m on hold pending the appeal, which it said will force the nation "to put its money where its mouth is if it wants to avoid immediate seizure of assets". It also called fraud allegations a "red herring".

"The Nigerian government knows there was no fraud and the allegations are merely political theatre designed to deflect attention from its own shortcomings," it said in a statement.

The judge's order said that if Nigeria does not put the $200m into a court account within 60 days - the minimum amount of time that Matovu said it would take Nigeria to raise the funds by tapping capital markets or seeking internal sources - the stay on seizures would be lifted.

The case has electrified Nigeria and drawn condemnation at every level of government. In a speech at the United Nations this week, President Muhammadu Buhari said he would fight "the P&ID scam attempting to cheat Nigeria of billions of dollars".

At the court on Thursday, a dozen senior government officials huddled during a break, discussing how much money Nigeria could place in court accounts to secure a hold on asset seizures.

Last week, Nigeria's anti-graft agency charged one former petroleum ministry official with accepting bribes and failing to follow protocol related to the contract, while two Nigerian men linked to P&ID pleaded guilty to charges of fraud and tax evasion on behalf of the company.

P&ID has called the investigation in Nigeria a "sham" that denied its subjects due process.

Al Jazeera 

Related story: Nigeria defends currency reserves inspite $9bn UK court ruling

Hundreds freed from torture house in Nigeria

Nigerian police say they have rescued nearly 500 people from a building in the northern city of Kaduna where they were detained and allegedly tortured.

Those held were all men and boys - some were found chained up.

Kaduna state's police chief Ali Janga told the BBC the large house was raided following a tip-off about suspicious activity.

He said it was a "house of torture" and described it as a case involving human slavery.

The detainees, not all Nigerian, said they had been tortured, sexually abused, starved and prevented from leaving - in some cases for several years.

It is not clear how they got there. Some of the children told the police that their relatives had taken them there believing the building to be a Koranic school.

But the police say there is no concrete evidence to suggest that the building was ever a school.

Eight suspects have been arrested.

The police chief said the detainees - some with injuries and starved of food - were overjoyed to be freed.

They were taken to a stadium in Kaduna overnight to be cared for while arrangements are made to find their families.

Nigerian authorities say the nearly 500 freed captives will be given medical and psychological examinations.


Thursday, September 26, 2019

Man confesses to serial murders of 15 women in Nigeria

A suspect has confessed to murdering 15 women after luring them into budget hotel rooms in Nigeria, potentially ending a killing spree that has terrorised the country’s oil capital, Port Harcourt.

Gracious David-West, believed to be 39 and unemployed, said that “an irresistible urge to kill” had repeatedly driven him onto the streets in search of female victims over the past two months.

“I take a girl into a hotel, we eat, make love and sleep,” he told a press conference in Port Harcourt, where he was arrested last week. “Later I wake up in the middle of the night and put a kitchen knife to her neck ordering her not to shout.”

After turning up the volume on the television, Mr David-West said he would tie his victims up with strips torn from the pillow-case on his bed before strangling them.

“I don’t know what comes over me to kill,” he added. “After I have killed I feel remorse and cry but after that the irresistible urge to kill comes over me again.”

At least nine of the victims were killed in Port Harcourt, including three murdered over a single weekend earlier this month.

The killings prompted widespread anger in the city, which mounted after the regional police chief, Mustapha Dandaura, suggested that the women were partly responsible for their deaths, saying, “I don’t know why people will be sleeping with people they don’t know.”

He also suggested that some of the victims were prostitutes.

Women’s groups marched through the city holding banners reading, “Respect women, don’t kill them.”

The regional government apologised for appearing to blame the dead women.

“A lot of the victims might have been careless, but it would be wrong to address them as prostitutes,” it said in a statement.

Police will hope Mr David-West’s confession will bring an end to the killings. However, it is unclear if he acted alone after he admitted to being an affiliate of one of Nigeria’s most notorious university fraternities.

The suspect said he used to be a member of Deebham, the street-wing of the Klansmen Konfraternity at the University of Calabar.

University fraternities in Nigeria have long been linked to voodoo, violent crime and even murder. Some created street gangs in order to compete for territory outside campuses.

Deebham, whose members are not generally students, has been linked to the kidnapping of expatriate oil workers and rich Nigerians.

It has no record, however, of killing and raping women and Mr David-West insisted that he had not acted on behalf of the group.

"I kill alone," he said.

The Telegraph

Kidnapped aid worker killed by ISIL affiliate in Nigeria

An armed group aligned with Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant killed one of six aid workers it abducted in northeast Nigeria.

The Nigerian aid workers, a woman and five men, were captured in July by Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) during an ambush on their convoy close to the border with Niger.

"The armed group holding captive an employee of Action Against Hunger, two drivers and three health ministry personnel, have executed a hostage," the Paris-based charity said in a statement on Wednesday, without giving details of the identity of the victim.

"Action Against Hunger condemns in the strongest terms this assassination and urgently calls for the release of the hostages."

The charity said it was "extremely concerned and is fully mobilised to ensure that the remaining hostages can be quickly and safely reunited with their families".

ISWAP released a video following the abduction, showing a female charity member pleading for the release of the hostages, with her five male colleagues behind her.

The kidnapping was the latest to target aid workers in the conflict-hit region after the abduction and the killing of two women working for the International Committee of the Red Cross last year.

ISWAP is a splinter faction of Boko Haram that swore allegiance in 2016 to ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. It has repeatedly attacked military bases and targeted aid workers in northeast Nigeria.
Aid group suspends operations

International aid agency Mercy Corps said on Wednesday it suspended operations in two northeast Nigerian states worst-hit by the armed groups after the Nigerian army closed four of its offices in the region.

"Mercy Corps is suspending operations in Borno and Yobe states following the closure of four of our field offices by the Nigerian military," Amy Fairbairn, its head of media and communications, said in a statement.

"We have not yet received an official reason from the Nigerian authorities for the closure and we are seeking to work with them to resolve this as soon as possible," said Fairbairn, adding Mercy Corps' work in other parts of Nigeria would continue.

The Nigerian army has accused humanitarian organisations of working with armed groups.

In December 2018, it suspended UNICEF from operating in the northeast over claims it was training "spies" who were supporting Boko Haram - only to lift the ban later the same day after a meeting with the aid agency.

Northeast Nigeria has been ravaged by a decade-long civil war led by the armed group Boko Haram that has killed 30,000 people and forced two million to flee their homes.

The United Nations says 7.1 million people in the region need assistance in one of the world's worst humanitarian crises.

Al Jazeera

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Nigeria going after privacy app Truecaller

Nigerian regulators are going after Truecaller, the Sweden-based phone number identification app, for “potential breach of privacy rights of Nigerians.”

Nigeria’s National Information Technology Development Agency claims Truecaller’s privacy policy contains “illegitimate provisions” that contravene Nigeria’s Data Protection Regulation (NDPR). It also alleges Truecaller “collects far more information than it needs to provide its primary service” and has urged Nigerians to delist themselves from the service.

NITDA’s investigation into Truecaller follows several years of the app’s activity in Africa’s largest mobile market amid growing usage. The app’s caller ID service, which helps users identify names of callers with unsaved numbers, has garnered 2.9 million active users in Nigeria.

With Truecaller users granting it access to their contacts list among a range of other permissions, the Stockholm-headquartered has aggregated a database of contact details from millions of users raising questions about its methods. As such, when a Truecaller user receives a call from an unsaved number, the app can match that number with a name from its vast database. In exchange for free use, the app leverages its vast user base for mobile advertising.

Truecaller has grown rapidly in markets like India and now has over 150 million daily active users worldwide and a million premium users who pay for additional features. In India, the app has been popularly adopted for spotting and managing users’ high spate of spam callswhile in Nigeria a common use case sees Truecaller used to detect prospective fraudsters amid the country’s low-trust environment. Nigeria’s spam culture has also seen attempts by regulatory bodies to stop unsolicited promotional spam texts and calls from telecoms operators face hiccups.

Truecaller remains subject of controversy especially given the ethical question on how it pulls in the contact details of non-Truecaller users to its database. There are now guides online on how users can delist from Truecaller’s database.

Bigger questions

But NITDA’s investigation of Truecaller also raises troubling questions about Nigeria’s own nascent data privacy laws. While NITDA is a government agency established by law to implement and regulate information technology, the NDPR data protection regulations have not been passed as a bill through Nigeria’s national assembly.

“The regulation is secondary in that they didn’t do the real work of passing a bill through the National Assembly so that Nigeria can get a real data protection law with coordinated data protection mechanisms,” says Gbenga Sesan, a prominent digital rights advocate. “It’s tough to enforce secondary legislation because agencies, or even companies, will challenge it in court. For example, best practice expects that data protection laws or regulation be managed by a data protection agency which NITDA is not.”

As it turns out, a data protection bill which has been passed by Nigeria’s senate and submitted for presidential assent since May remains unsigned. It’s a reflection of wider realities across African countries many of which remain in need of stronger bills of data rights.

Perhaps as an indication of its limitations, Sesan says the application of NDPR as a stop-gap measure is not broad enough. “If serious, they should start with the Central Bank, the Independent National Electoral Commission, Nigerian Communications Commission, Nigerian Immigration Service and all other government agencies that collect and have lost or abused data,” Sesan says.

For its part, Truecaller says it’s reviewing NITDA’s comments and will prepare a response but ultimately, Sesan expects NITDA’s investigation to fizzle out. ”This is probably another press posturing that will go nowhere,” Sesan says. “The best this dog can do is bark, it has zero bite.”

By Yomi Kazeem


The new mental illness approach in Nigeria

It was a most unusual consultation. Dr Ayo Ajeigbe received the patient at his private practice in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, in his customary welcoming manner.

But there was, it turned out, nothing wrong with the man. And when Ajeigbe asked why he was there, he simply replied: “I just wanted to see what a psychologist looked like.”

Perhaps he shouldn’t have been surprised. Mental health professionals are rare in Nigeria, as they are in many other developing nations. In Africa’s most populous nation – a country of more than 200 million people – there are an estimated 150 practising psychologists.

If mental health treatments are patchy, inadequate and underfunded in most western nations, they are practically nonexistent in the majority of lower- and middle-income countries – more than 100 countries worldwide. Here mental health provisions are the poorly resourced afterthought of health budgets that are in any case likely to be meagre.

So what is to be done? Ajeigbe decided that a partial answer lay in the voluntary sector. A year ago, he agreed to head up the Abuja section of Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative (Mani), a burgeoning user-led organisation fast emerging as a multi-pronged solution to Nigeria’s mental health crisis.

Mani was launched in 2016 by Victor Ugo, a then medical student from Lagos who had suffered from depression, as a response to the lack of mental health support in Nigeria, where an estimated 7 million people have the same condition.

Ugo’s vision was to drive change by raising awareness and dispelling stigmas that exist around mental health issues in Nigeria. And on Wednesday, he will appear at the annual Goalkeepers event on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, to make the case for more funding and fairer treatment for mental health.

“If you have depression,” says Latifah Yusuf Ojomo, the deputy head of Mani’s Lagos team, “people can cast you as mad, which means that the majority of people who have mental health issues in Nigeria do not understand, or want to accept what they are feeling.”

From the outset, Ugo decided that if Mani was to have any significant impact it would need to focus attention on the country’s most populous demographic. “Young people [in Nigeria] are much more open to learning new things,” explains Ugo, “they are much more focused on ways to change.”

Mani needed a “cool factor”, something Ugo says was sorely lacking in the mental health sector: “Symposiums, that was all that was happening with mental health in Nigeria, just more and more symposiums, people would give a lecture saying we need to increase awareness, but nothing was happening.”

Ugo and a small band of medical students took to social media, sharing stories and launching online campaigns. Then in October 2017 they hosted their first event, not a symposium as Ugo is keen to point out, but a food fair: “We just said come and you can taste different delicacies, play games and talk about mental health in a cool way.”

The event was a huge success, and evolved into a series of monthly workshops focused on topics such as depression and anxiety. As Mani continued to grow in numbers, these meet-ups became known as “conversation cafes”, held in restaurants, parks and cafes, and eventually spreading to cities all over Nigeria, including Abuja and Ibadan.

Each month, a different topic is selected – childhood trauma, the benefits of mindfulness, relationship strains, the reactionary attitudes of the “village” – a case study is presented and discussion groups form.

Two years later, Mani is now a leading voice on mental health issues in the country, with more than 1,500 volunteers and active in 13 of Nigeria’s 36 states. Ugo is still taken aback by what the project has achieved. “We didn’t know we were going to end up here; in fact, I feel like we have been a hundred times more successful than we expected at the start.”

Despite the initial success, Ugo knew that still more needed to be done. “We thought if we don’t balance this with some kind of help, we will cause more harm than good.” So, in 2017, Mani launched a 24-hour mental health support service to run alongside its awareness campaigns. The service allowed people to reach out over WhatsApp or Twitter for emergency help in the form of advice, counselling and supportive listening. An emergency response team was also created via a network of volunteer counsellors. Mani also launched a confidential 24-hour suicide hotline. Attempted suicide is a criminal offence in Nigeria, punishable by up to one year in prison.

Currently, only 3.3% of Nigeria’s total health budget goes towards mental health, which leaves the public system chronically understaffed. It also leaves Mani with a limited pool of professionals to recruit. As a solution to this, Mani launched a “train the trainer” system in which mental health professionals educate volunteers in subjects such as active assistance and safe talk (a programme that teaches participants to recognise and engage individuals who may be a suicide risk). Ajeigbe explains: “What we do is train people in fundamental mental health skills, so if I train 10 people, they can in turn reach 100 people.”

Mani’s volunteers come from a diverse range of backgrounds. Alle Ayodele, the head of the organisation’s Oyo state chapter, was studying microbiology when he decided to volunteer for Mani after coming across its support team on Twitter. He had been impressed by its speed and professionalism in responding to a series of suicide notes that were trending: “Mani took them really seriously, as soon as someone posted a note they stepped in.”

Ekene Okeke, from Lagos, has a background in sociology and criminology. After suffering from depression and connecting with Mani on Twitter, she decided to volunteer for it. Okeke was recently called out on an emergency where a woman had high levels of anxiety and had been alone for several days. “I dropped what I was doing, and spent hours talking with her, I even went and bought her ice-cream.” It’s moments like this, Okeke says, that make volunteering so rewarding: “In the end, the woman was able to calm down and has since reached out for help.”

Informal mental health support networks like this are becoming more prevalent around the world, as people realise that health systems cannot cope with mental illness, and that society will have to come up with other strategies. Examples include park bench psychotherapy in Zimbabwe, a peer-support initiative in Kenya, community-based self-help in Pakistan and the Phola organisation in South Africa.

In Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city, Mani has launched a training programme for schools. The programme will include a series of “mental health clubs” where students are taught about coping mechanisms, the effects of bullying and consent workshops. Mani also trains teachers and parents on children’s mental health, the latter a group that Ugo identifies as especially crucial. “Culturally, young people are not allowed to speak up,” explains Ugo, “you have to listen; respect is really crucial. If I need help, I ask my parents and they decide if I need help.”

When Mani’s WhatsApp service began in 2017 it immediately identified an issue. “Many more females seek help than men,” Ajeigbe explains, “this is because according to societal norms men are supposed to be emotionally strong.” About 85% of the initial calls were from women, so Ugo and his team researched how their service could appeal more to men. “We read that men are much better at using test-based services,” says Ugo, who immediately incorporated a test into the programme. This resulted in a 40% increase in men reaching out.

Recruitment of volunteers is one area where Mani does not need to worry – it currently has 500 applications waiting to be processed. “The good thing is that many people who talk to us end up volunteering for us,” says Ugo. More than 10,000 people have now spoken with Mani using its WhatsApp service.

The success of Mani may have exceeded Ugo’s initial expectations, but he is not one for complacency. He has now set his sights on persuading the government to change the national policy on mental health. He is also seeking a broader funding base, as 90% of the costs of the organisation are borne by the founders.

“At the moment we are still very much self-funded, Ugo says. “This is a big challenge, considering how much more impact we believe we can make, and the speed with which we are growing our network across Nigeria.”

Mani can be contacted at and on +234 805 1493163

In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or email or In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international suicide helplines can be found at

The Guardian

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Nigerian court orders release of journalist charged with treason

A court in Nigeria’s capital Abuja on Tuesday ordered the State Security Service to release activist and former presidential candidate Omoyele Sowore while charges of treason against him are pending.

Security agents arrested Sowore in early August after he called for a revolution. He said it was needed because an election held in February, in which President Muhammadu Buhari won a second term, was not credible.

Buhari, a former military ruler, faces criticism for his administration’s record on human rights, particularly a deadly crackdown on members of a now-banned Shi’ite group that a United Nations special rapporteur said involved the excessive use of lethal force.

In his call for a revolution, Sowore - who ran in February’s election and is the founder of the news site Sahara Reporters - listed other issues ranging from alleged corruption to ineptitude.

The government last week outlined charges against him including treason, money laundering and “cyberstalking” for allegedly sharing false information about Buhari that insulted him and incited hated against him.

Sowore has yet to be arraigned, and the judge on Tuesday rejected a request by the State Security Service to extend his detention while the charges are pending.

“The liberty of all Nigerians, high or low, poor or rich, is guaranteed by the constitution. It’s for this end that I’m of the view that the defendant ought to be released forthwith,” Justice Taiwo Taiwo said.

In the charges filed last week, the government accused Sowore of money laundering related to four transfers to a Sahara Reporters account in New York that it alleged were done to hide the “illicit origin” of the cash.

It was unclear when Sowore would be released, and once he is arraigned, he could be taken into custody again. The court ordered him to surrender all his travel documents within 48 hours, and said his lawyer should be prepared to bring him to the court at any point.

By Camillus Eboh

Related stories: Revolution Now organizer to be detained for 45 days

Video - Sahara Reporters founder Omoyele Sowore says President Goodluck Jonathan is the worst Nigerian President

Journalist in Nigeria charged with treason granted bail but still being held

A detained Nigerian journalist and former presidential candidate charged with treason has been granted bail but remains in custody, one of his lawyers told CNN on Tuesday.

Nigeria's secret police have been holding, Omoyele Sowore, founder of a New York-based news site since his arrest August 3.

He was initially detained by the Department of State Services (DSS) for calling a nationwide demonstration against President Muhammadu Buhari's government, but formal charges against Sowore, including treasonable felony, cyberstalking and money laundering, were made public only last week.

A court in Abuja ordered the journalist to be immediately released pending his arraignment, according to court documents seen by CNN.

His lawyer, Femi Falana, said the journalist is being held illegally and accused the government of bringing up trumped-up charges against him."We are saying the machinery of the state cannot be used to harass political opponents," Falana told CNN.

DSS spokesman Peter Afunnaya told CNN the case was before the court and declined to make further comment. Afunnaya said he would "get back" with more information about the journalist's whereabouts.

Sowore ran against Buhari in Nigeria's February elections and has joined campaigns decrying corruption and poor governance in previous governments in the West African nation.

"Simple elections can no longer save Nigeria or improve Nigeria's democracy," the former presidential hopeful told Arise News in July.

"Nigerians must take their destiny in their hands, and we deserve or must have a revolution in this country, particularly if we don't want war."

Sowore was detained two days before the demonstration August 5. Police fired tear gas to disperse supporters who gathered at various venues in three cities to protest.

His arrest has sparked protests and criticism of Buhari's government, which is accused of intimidating critics. The journalist's wife, Ope Sowore, who is based in the United States, led protesters Tuesday to United Nations Plaza in New York, where Buhari is attending the 74th UN General Assembly, to mount pressure for her husband's freedom.

"It is very sad to see the cause of action this has taken in the past one and a half months, especially for someone that was calling for a change for the better in Nigeria," she said.

Sowore told CNN she has been allowed only two phone conversations with her husband since his arrest last month. The journalist was supposed to be in Nigeria for two weeks in July and their two children miss their father, she said.

"It's been almost two months since he walked out the door. Children are resilient in times like this, but they miss their father and are really hoping for his safe return," Sowore said.

By Bukola Adebayo


Related stories: Video - Sahara Reporters founder Omoyele Sowore says President Goodluck Jonathan is the worst Nigerian President

Revolution Now organizer to be detained for 45 days

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Video - Nigeria bans foreign milk to support local farmers

In Nigeria, the government has banned the sale of foreign milk to support struggling local farmers. But the move could backfire, with concerns it will lead to dairy shortages and price increases.

Video - New comedy show on American TV 'Bob Hearts Abishola' highlights Nigerian culture

Immigrants and Coloradans with Nigerian heritage are excited for the new CBS comedy ‘Bob Hearts Abishola.’ The show premiers Monday night and will highlight Nigerian culture and community to a national American audience.

“This is going to break away stereotypes, any point of views people may have had about the African family,” Jessica Compaore said. “This is going to show you what the African family is really like.”

A Colorado native, Compaore’s grandfather came to the U.S. from Nigeria. She learned later in life about her heritage to the African nation but has helped to showcase it in the Denver Metro Area since then. The new comedy has caught the attention of this community in Colorado. It tells the story of a businessman in Detroit falling for a nurse he encounters at a hospital, who is an immigrant from Nigeria.

“It’s about promoting where I am from, who I am, I am embrace where I am from,” Samuel Ogah said. “It’s a big deal, it’s showing our culture and greatness.”

Ogah is the CEO of Best Music Entertainment promoting events in Colorado not only for his Nigerian community but other African groups living in the state. He said the thousands of Nigerians who have come to the state are eager to be a part of the economy and build a family here.

“They’re all working toward how we can create a better Colorado,” he said. “We’re proud of where we come from and you can get to know more about us.”

Billy Gardell plays “Bob” and Folake Olowofoyeku stars as “Abishola” on the show. Both actors spoke to CBS4 ahead of the premiere and the significance of having a series on primetime television not only about immigrants but a family from Africa.

“It feels like a full circle moment and I’m glad I had the opportunity,” Olowofoyeku said.

Ogah said it will be a meaningful example of representation not just for those connected to one country but instead a way to unite those from all over one continent.

“That story really relates to all immigrants, not just Nigerians,” he said. “I think it’s going to give more Africans to be able to relate.”

He hopes his events throughout the year, including one for the celebration of Nigeria’s independence, can have a similar impact by inviting others to learn about their community. He works to create opportunities online and in person for various African immigrants to come together and connect. Not only social gatherings and a chance to celebrate their heritage but also to introduce their businesses and network.

“You can only know about me and my culture when you relate and talk to me,” he said.

Colorado has become home to many in the Nigerian community because of the comfortable weather and the opportunity for growth. Families keep moving here because they find a place for them to live a better life. Since 2013, they have come together for Nigerian Day, which will take place this year in Lowry Park on Saturday, Oct. 5 in Aurora.

“They have this energy, they have this richness, they have this this brightness to see what it means to be successful within themselves,” Compaore said. “They are folks just like you and me.”

By Shawn Chitnis


Monday, September 23, 2019

Video - Too late to replant damaged crops caused by flood in Nigeria

Food supplies are threatened in northwest Nigeria where floods have destroyed crops. Dozens of people have been killed recently and thousands of homes washed away. Al Jazeera's Ahmed Idris reports from Auyo in Jigawa state, where the local government is struggling to help.

Nigeria runs on generators and nine hours of power a day

Kabir Sabo’s sewing machine hums busily as he hems a “babariga,” a popular dress in northern Nigeria, in his small corner shop on the outskirts of Abuja. It can hardly be heard over the sound of Nigeria’s worst problem.

Sabo’s noisy electricity generator costs him an average of 3,000 naira ($8.30) a day in fuel, he says. That’s the bulk of the roughly 4,000 naira he makes daily.

“When you are a small business owner in a country where there is no power, it really is depressing,” he said. “I have on multiple occasions shut down to take up a monthly paying job. It’s difficult to run the business when most of your earnings go on paying bills, buying fuel and all sorts of things.”

In Africa’s most populous country, almost everyone depends on generators, including President Muhammadu Buhari. His office will spend 46 million naira fueling generators this year. In the country’s 2019 budget, there are 1,358 generator-related expenses.

The shortage of power is one of the biggest issues Buhari faces as he tries to reform a $400 billion economy that is too dependent on oil exports, has too many inefficient state-owned enterprises and is still struggling to recover from a slump in 2016.

“Lack of access to electricity and unreliable electricity supply are key constraints to doing business in Nigeria,” the International Monetary Fund said in its latest economic report on the country. It estimated the annual economic loss at about $29 billion. In a 2014 World Bank survey, 27% of Nigerian firms identified electricity as the main obstacle to doing business.

Households with access to on-grid electricity had an average power supply of only 9.2 hours a day in the first half of 2019, according to a survey by the country’s leading polling agency, NOI Polls. Electricity production per capita is less than 15% of the average of emerging-market economies and less than 25% of the sub-Saharan Africa average, according to the IMF.

To keep out the darkness, households own and operate an estimated 22 million small gasoline generators, whose combined generating capacity is eight times higher than on-grid supply, according to a June 2019 presentation by Dalberg, a global policy and advisory firm. Businesses and individuals spend about $12 billion a year, twice the country’s annual infrastructure budget, fueling these generators.

Nigeria, which also has the continent’s largest gas reserves and ranks ninth globally, consumed an average 3,713 megawatts of electricity from the grid in 2018, data published by the country’s central bank shows. That’s about a 10th of what Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. made available in South Africa, a country with less than a third of the population and which itself is subject to rolling blackouts.

Nigeria is only able to send about a quarter of its total power capacity to homes and businesses due to a poor and dilapidated power infrastructure, much of it installed in the 1980s. The country’s transmission lines can “theoretically” carry about 7,500 megawatts, according to the country’s electricity regulatory authority.

The irony is that Nigeria took the right steps in 2013 by disbanding its state-owned power company and breaking it into three different businesses; generation, transmission and distribution. The state sold the generation and distribution arms to 23 different owners and held on to the transmission lines.

This is similar to the solution now being proposed for Eskom. But Nigeria also shows how not to reform the power industry.

The government retained the right to determine tariffs through a regulatory agency, which raised power prices in 2015 -- and quickly reversed it as elections approached. Since then electricity tariffs have remained largely unchanged even as inflation has remained above the central bank’s upper target of 9% since 2015 and the naira is 50% weaker against the dollar.

Tariffs should go up by a minimum of 50%, according to the IMF, but maintaining prices at current levels has become a fiscal burden. Since 2015, the government has provided three bailouts via the central bank for the electricity sector, amounting to 1.5 trillion naira to plug revenue shortfalls.

It doesn’t help that power customers are often unwilling to pay for the electricity they consume. Distribution companies collected payments for only 64.1% of electricity supplied in the first three months of 2019, according to a report by Nigeria’s power regulatory agency. The distribution firms in turn paid for only 28% of power they received from generation companies and the transmission network.

Buhari’s 2017 recovery plan for the industry hasn’t made much progress, and now the government is proposing a staggered tariff increase from January. The proposal will rates by an average 27% for some users.

Increasing tariffs could lead to new investments, said Cheta Nwanze, an analyst at Lagos-based business advisory service SBM Intelligence.

“The problem is, transmission will still be in the hands of the government, which is inefficient and unable to make the required investment,” Nwanze said.

In Sabo’s small shop, he frequently deals with impatient customers whose clothing orders have been delayed because of long blackouts.

“I am willing to pay more if it means I will not have to rely on the generator to run my business,” he said. “Should I have that choice, I’d pay maybe two naira more.”

By Anthony Osae-Brown, Ruth Olurounbi, and Gordon Bell


Related story: Stable electricity supply foreseeable in Nigeria's future

Friday, September 20, 2019

Video - Nigerian girl using art of the spoken word to preach peace

A Nigerian girl is using the art of spoken word to preach peace and prosperity. She says she's on a mission to encourage her fellow citizens to join hands in building a better country despite the numerous challenges facing Africa's most populous nation.

Video - Dambe: martial art form from Nigeria

Originally practiced by Hausa butchers in Nigeria, this form of martial arts known as Dambe is growing in popularity across the West African country. Anthony Okeleke and Chidi Anyina have now created Dambe Warriors, to organize fights, produce them and share them online. With over 100,000 subscribers and interest across the world, their work of taking the sport global seems to be well on its way.

Video - Nigerian returns bitcoins worth $80,000

A Nigerian man who found $80,000 worth of bitcoin had been mistakenly transferred to him, returned them to the owner. Keith Mali Chung woke up to find 7.8 bitcoins in his account.

That is the equivalent of $80,000 or €72,302. He immediately began trying to track down the owner of the bitcoins. Bitcoin is the original digital currency that is exchanged between users online. "I trade in bitcoin, but never such a high amount," Mali Chung explains on the phone from the Nigerian capital, Abuja and continues, "I knew it had to be a mistake so I posted an announcement via some WhatsApp groups to track down the owner."

Three days passed and no-one responded, so Mali Chung took to Twitter. That prompted a response from someone who had the correct encryption code for the transaction.

The owner of the bitcoins mistakenly transferred to Mali Chung is a Nigerian politician who has asked to remain anonymous. Nigeria is plagued by political cronyism, and consistently ranks among the lowest 20 percent on Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index. In June, the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force announced that cryptocurrency firms will be subjected to rules to prevent the abuse of digital coins such as bitcoin for money laundering.

The move by FATF, which groups countries from the United States to China and bodies such as the European Commission, reflects growing concern among international law enforcement agencies that cryptocurrencies are being used to launder the proceeds of crime.

Potential of bitcoin 

Crypto currencies are becoming increasingly popular in Nigeria where bank charges are high. On Tuesday 17 September, the Central Bank of Nigeria introduced a 2 percent charge on cash deposits over 500,000 Naira (€1250) in several states, and 3 percent on withdrawals of the same amount.

Although these charges are aimed making Nigeria a cashless society, they are also pushing people to find other ways to transfer money digitally. Mali Chung travels around Nigeria giving free workshops about the potential of bitcoin and other crypto currencies.

"People are especially interested in learning about international transfers to avoid bank fees," Mali Chung has observed. "People in the Diaspora use it to send money home, and people here also transfer bitcoin to relatives abroad."

The Central Bank of Nigeria has yet to regulate crypto currency transactions. Mali Chung's benevolent act has sparked a debate about the potentially positive and the negative use of crypto currencies in a country with an ominous reputation for online fraud and political corruption.

By Rosie Collyer 


Nigeria shuts down Action Against Hunger aid group for feeding Boko Haram

Nigeria's army has stopped the work of international NGO Action Against Hunger accusing it of supplying a militant Islamist group with food and drugs.

The army said it had warned the NGO against "aiding and abetting" Boko Haram in north-east Nigeria.

Action Against Hunger, which denies the accusations, says its "life-saving assistance" to vulnerable people has now been put "into jeopardy".

Boko Haram's 10-year campaign of terror has left more than 30,000 people dead.

More than two million people have also been displaced.

A network of NGOs is assisting the government in helping those who have been forced from their homes.

In 2018, the military accused the UN's children's agency, Unicef, of spying for the militants. It banned the organisation, which denied the allegations, but hours later lifted the ban.

In a statement, Action Against Hunger said it "delivers neutral, impartial and independent humanitarian aid to millions of people in Borno state by providing basic services to the most vulnerable people, especially women and children".

It said it had been told by soldiers without any notice to close its office in the capital of Borno state, Maiduguri.

In July, the Paris-based charity said six of its aid workers had been kidnapped in Nigeria.

The six abductees appeared on a video, with one of them calling on the Nigerian government and international community to intervene. Their whereabouts are still unknown.

No group has said it was behind the kidnapping.

In 2015, Boko Haram seized control of much of Borno state, and spread its activities to neighbouring countries.

A counter-insurgency by the army led to much of that territory being recaptured. But the militants have come to rely more on suicide bombings and kidnappings in recent years.

One of its most notorious attacks was on a school in Chibok, north-east Nigeria, when 276 schoolgirls were kidnapped. Many of them have been freed, but the whereabouts of more than 100 are still unknown.

Since 2013, Boko Haram are thought to have kidnapped more than 1,000 people.


Nigeria orders firm that won $9bn to forfeit assets

A company that was awarded more than nine billion dollars in an arbitration case against Nigeria has been ordered by a court in the capital city of Abuja to forfeit its local assets to the government.

The order comes after two men linked to the company, Process & Industrial Developments (P&ID), pleaded guilty to charges of fraud and tax evasion on its behalf, the court said on Thursday.

The impact on the British Virgin Islands-based firm and its international arbitration award, now worth some 20 percent of Nigeria's foreign reserves, was not immediately clear.

Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) brought 11 individual charges against P&ID and its local subsidiary. The two men, Muhammad Kuchazi and Adamu Usman, plead guilty to all the charges on behalf of the company.

The men, both Nigerians, were not personally charged and freely left the court.

In a statement, P&ID said the EFCC investigation had not afforded basic human rights to those involved and called on the government to "accept its responsibilities under the law."

"None of the individuals involved are current employees or representatives of P&ID," the spokesman said. "P&ID itself has received no communication from any Nigerian authority about the investigation or today's hearing. There has been no evidence produced, no defence allowed, no charges laid, no due process followed," it said.

The EFCC described Kuchazi as commercial director and Usman as director of the company's local subsidiary.

The men could not immediately be reached for comment.

P&ID was set up to execute a 2010 deal with the Nigerian government to build and operate a gas-processing plant in the southeastern port city of Calabar. When the deal collapsed, P&ID took the government to arbitration, eventually winning a $6.6bn award that has been accruing interest since 2013.

Last month, a judge in London said he would grant P&ID the right to convert the award to a judgment, which would allow it to seek to seize assets from the Nigerian government to collect the award.

The government has said the deal was designed to fail and called the award "an assault on every Nigerian and unfair."

The ruling in Abuja would not necessarily affect P&ID's efforts to seize assets. A Lagos court ordered in 2016 that the entire arbitration be set aside, but the arbitration tribunal rejected the court's jurisdiction to rule on the matter - a decision affirmed by last month's London ruling.

With interest payments, the arbitration award now tops nine billion dollars.

Al Jazeera

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Video - The effect of Saudi oil refinery crisis on Nigeria

As unfortunate as the attacks on Saudi Arabia's oil facilities might be, for some oil producing countries, it's an opportunity to ramp up production and take advantage of the current global spike in price of oil. It's especially so for oil producers in Africa, whose national budgets have been threatened by low oil prices.

Video - Nigeria-South Africa ties date way back to the 60's

Nigeria and South Africa's relations date way back to the 1960's during the Apartheid era. Nigeria reportedly contributed Millions of Dollars as relief funds for victims and to help fight against Apartheid in South Africa until its liberation in 1994. Perhaps it is this historical reason that makes the Nigerian anger especially strong.

Video of Nigerian solidiers roasting suspect goes viral

Some Nigerians have expressed anger at a clip showing three soldiers torturing a man suspected to have committed an offence. While the date of the video could not be ascertained as of the time of this report, the military men could be heard speaking a mix of Hausa and pidgin English.

What the suspect did was not stated in the 30-second clip. The video, posted on Twitter, shows the soldiers hitting the suspect, as one of them strike him with the butt of his gun. The men tie the suspect up and hang him on an iron bar, as he dangles under a burning fire.

He has heavy logs of wood on his head, back and leg to steady him on the flame. “You must feel it now now now,” one of the soldiers said. “Leave am like this…” “Don’t hit him o…” another said, as his colleague hit him with the butt of the gun. “Make I kill am?”

The poster of the video said she could not tell the suspect’s offence. However, Nigerians, who watched the video, called the attention of the Nigerian military to it, demanding immediate investigation. One Daniel, @ayoadaniel, said, “Has the Nigerian military seen this video and please, there should be no denial that these aren’t our soldiers.

Even in war times, rules of engagement aren’t just thrown out of the window like that; this is wrong on so many levels.” Another Twitter user, Dat Fulani Boi, said the soldiers were on their own. “For your information, the Nigerian army does not in any way teach this kind of inhuman punishment to the soldiers. They just do it on their own free will.

And I urge the Nigerian army to look into this. He may be a criminal, but he can be punished secretly and privately,” he wrote.

Some of the people who commented said the suspect might be a Boko Haram terrorist, adding that the torture was justified going by the pains they had caused many families.

A Twitter user, @BonnylifeUche, however, described the act as inhumane, saying there could be no justification for it.

“We’re all against terrorists and terrorism, but this inhumane torture of a captured terrorist by Nigerian military is unacceptable and stand condemned,” he wrote.

The acting Director, Army Public Relations, Sagir Musa, said he was not aware of the video.


Nigeria becomes staging ground for illegal pangolin trade

In a rubble-strewn storage lot in the sprawling Nigerian port city of Lagos, customs agents crack open a shipping container crammed with scales from pangolins, a shy mammal prized in Asia for its use in medicines.

The scales being stored with elephant tusks in the fetid container are part of a growing haul of pangolin cargos seized in Nigeria, a country that is now the main hub for gangs sending African pangolins to Asia, according to law enforcement officials, non-governmental organisations and wildlife experts.

They say porous borders, lax law enforcement, corruption and one of the continent’s biggest ports have helped criminal networks in Nigeria corner most of the African trade in pangolins, considered to be the world’s most trafficked mammal.

Ranging in size from a small rabbit to a large dog depending on the species, pangolins are the only mammals with scales. The nocturnal tree-climbers that feed on ants and termites are more closely related to bears than the anteaters they resemble.

This year alone, Hong Kong and Singapore have intercepted three huge shipments of pangolin scales weighing a combined 33.9 tonnes and worth more than $100 million, based on estimates of their value in Singapore.

Each shipment was bigger than any that had come from Africa before this year - and they all came from Nigeria.

According to wildlife trade watchdog TRAFFIC, less than a quarter of major pangolin seizures from Africa came via Nigeria in 2016. By 2018, that had jumped to almost two-thirds and three-quarters of the total weight seized was linked to Nigeria.

“Traffickers like Nigeria more than anywhere else ... they prefer to go there because it makes it easier for them to export,” said Eric Kaba Tah, deputy director of wildlife law enforcement group The Last Great Ape Organization in Cameroon.

“The situation for pangolins is becoming more and more serious and even more dangerous,” said Tah, who has helped crack down on the trade in Cameroon, one of the other main pangolin trafficking routes to Asia.

Other African countries known for pangolin trafficking such as Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda all say they have clamped down on the illicit trade as well - pushing pangolin traffickers towards Nigeria instead.


Pangolin meat is considered a delicacy in some Asian markets and the pangolin’s hard keratin scales - the stuff of human fingernails and rhino horns - are dried, ground into powder, and used in medicines in China to treat ailments such as poor lactation, sores and rheumatism.

Demand for African pangolins in countries such as China and Vietnam has been growing as the number of Asian pangolins has dwindled over the years, to the point where two of the four Asian species are now on the critically endangered list.

The other two are endangered and all four African species of pangolin were classed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature when all commercial trade in pangolins, also known as scaly anteaters, was banned in 2016.

“At the rate at which pangolins are being traded and poached, it could take two decades for the mammal to be extinct,” said Ray Jansen, chairman of the African Pangolin Working Group in Pretoria.

Nigerian customs officials disagree with the idea their country has become a pangolin trading hub. Assistant Comptroller Mutalib Sule argues that pangolin trafficking through the West African country is on the decline.

“There is tight effort at the borders to ensure that such things do not come in again,” he said, adding that no country had been able to stamp out smuggling altogether.

According to customs officials in Nigeria, agents seized 927 kg of pangolin goods in 2016, 402 kg in 2017, and then seizures rocketed to 12.3 tonnes in 2018.

“Sometimes Nigeria is just a point of convergence,” said Sule.

Oliver Stolpe, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) representative for Nigeria, said the problem was that pangolin trafficking was just one in a long list of criminal activities facing the authorities in the West African country.

“Nigeria is fighting crime on so many fronts,” Stolpe said. “It’s simply too many fronts.”


Experts say it’s hard to draw definitive conclusions from data about seizures. A surge in interceptions could just mean law enforcement agencies were doing their job better, rather than there being a major increase in trafficking.

But TRAFFIC’s Sone Nnoke said the sheer number of seizures of pangolin products that have come via Nigeria points to the country now being the main hub for the illegal trade.

“Because of porous borders it’s very easy to take those products to Nigeria,” said Nnoke.

Jansen at the African Pangolin Working Group said seizures very likely only represent about 10% of the actual trade in pangolin scales so the surge in intercepted cargos from Africa was a worrying trend.

According to TRAFFIC, which tracks seizures of more than half a tonne, 67.6 tonnes of pangolin scales from Africa have been seized throughout the world this year, already almost double the amount in 2018.

The Tikki Hywood Foundation, which rescues pangolins in Zimbabwe and Cameroon, estimates 1,666 of smaller white-bellied pangolins need to be killed for one tonne of scales. When it comes to the giant pangolin, that drops to 277 animals.

So the 67.6 tonnes of scales from Africa seized this year and tracked by TRAFFIC would have needed anywhere from 18,725 to 112,620 pangolins to be killed, depending on the species.


The economic motivation for smugglers is strong. In Nigeria, a whole pangolin can sell for as little as $7. But once in China or Vietnam, the scales from one animal alone can fetch $250, according to UNODC.

Yet Nigeria is not just a staging ground where pangolin parts from around Africa are amassed before being shipped to Asia. The country has its own population of the furtive creatures, living mainly in the thick forests of the southwest.

Here, generations of families have hunted, traded and made medicine from “akika”, the Yoruba name for pangolins.

Many of the traders, particularly those dealing in animals hunted in the surrounding forests, said foreigners they believed to be Chinese were buying pangolins or their parts in ever greater quantities.

“They pay huge amounts of money,” said Agbetuya Babatope Samuel, a traditional healer and trader in the town of Akure in Ondo state. “When I get their money I laugh to the bank,” he said. “I wish it would continue for a long time.”

The high demand is taking its toll.

When the sun has set, Sule Ayinla stalks the dark, thick forests of Ondo Akoko in southwest Nigeria for pangolins, a torch fixed to his head. Hearing a rustle, he fires his long-barrelled gun at a tree, to no avail.

“We used to hunt pangolin here,” Ayinla said, lowering his weapon. Taught to hunt by his father, he said the trade was getting tougher and it was becoming rare to find pangolins hiding in the trees where they typically find cover.

“There used to be lots of animals in this forest but they are scarce now.”

By Paul Carsten


Three suspects arrested in serial killings of women in Nigeria

Three suspects, linked to a spate of killings targeting women in Nigeria's oil-rich Rivers State have been arrested, police said on Wednesday.

A woman was rescued by police who arrested a man in the city on Wednesday after he attempted to strangle her while she slept in a hotel room they shared, police spokesman Nnamdi Omoni told CNN.

"The young woman escaped because she was able to raise the alarm at about 2am. She was sleeping when she suddenly woke up and saw the man who brought her to the hotel charging at her,"Omoni said.

"She was almost dying when the man tried to strangle her," he added.

Hallmarks of cultism

Women in the city have been found murdered in different hotel rooms since August, often strangled with a piece of white clothing tied either around their neck or waist, police commissioner Mustapha Dandaura said at a briefing Tuesday.

The killings in Port Harcourt bore all the hallmarks of "cultism," police said.

"The same modus operandi is used by the killers. They drug the ladies before strangling them to death. They use a white cloth to tie either on their neck or their waist. There is an element of cultism," Dandaura, said. He added that all the women's body parts were found intact.

Hotels shutdown

All the women killed were involved in prostitution in the city, according to the police.
The police commissioner said a man has confessed to one of the murders and is cooperating with detectives investigating the murders.

Another man was arrested Monday night after a woman alerted officers that the suspect tried to lure her to a hotel room against her will, police said.
"He has also confessed and gave useful clues in our investigation," Dandaura said.


Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Video - Tijane Bande of Nigeria gives maiden address as General Assembly President of UN

Tensions between the United States and Iran as well as climate change will be at top of the agenda in the world's biggest annual diplomatic gathering. The 74th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) has officially opened in New York, one week before world leaders arrive.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Nigeria to play Brazil in football friendly

Brazil have confirmed they will face Senegal on 10 October and Nigeria three days later at the National Stadium in Singapore.

It will be first ever meeting between Brazil and Senegal, who lost the Africa Cup of Nations final to Algeria and are the continent's top-ranked African side.

Nigeria, who won Bronze in Egypt, will be meeting Brazil for the second time at senior level following a 3-0 defeat in a friendly in June 2003 in Abuja.

"We chose two of the best African teams because they are high level opponents," Brazil Football Confederation official Juninho Paulista said on the website.

"It was a wish of the technical commission. So we went after these opponents."

The friendlies are in line with Brazil's wishes to play top 50 ranked teams whenever possible.

Brazil's only other Africa opponent under coach Tite was a 1-0 win over Cameroon in November last year, in a match played in England.

It will be Brazil's second game in Singapore following a Neymar-inspired victory over Japan in October 2014.


South Africa apologizes to Nigeria for xenophobic attacks

A South African envoy to President Cyril Ramaphosa apologised "profusely" to the Nigerian government after a spate of deadly xenophobic attacks that rocked Johannesburg and Pretoria.

Jeff Radebe was in Nigeria's capital, Abuja, to attend a meeting on Monday to convey "sincerest apologies about the incident that has recently transpired in South Africa".

"The incident does not represent what we stand for," Radebe said, adding South African police would "leave no stone unturned, that those involved must be brought to book".

The Nigerian government said in a statement following the meeting: "President [Muhammadu] Buhari responded to profuse apologies from the South African president, pledging that relationship between the two countries will be solidified."

Foreign workers in South Africa - the continent's second-largest economy after Nigeria - are often victims of anti-immigrant sentiment in a nation where almost one-third of people are unemployed.

At least 12 people were killed in recent weeks after 1,000 foreign-owned business were targeted.

The violence prompted reprisal attacks against South African firms in Nigeria and the temporary closure of South Africa's diplomatic missions in Lagos and Abuja.

The violence sparked an international outcry and calls for a boycott of South Africa.

Following the violence, Nigeria announced it would repatriate more than 600 nationals to protect them from future violence.

Besides the hundreds of Nigerians returning to their home country, more than 700 people from other countries, including Malawi and Zimbabwe, sought refuge in South African community centres.

Many left their homes with little more than a few bags when the attacks began.

In 2008, at least 62 people, including South Africans, were killed in violence and looting targeting foreign-owned stores.

Al Jazeera

Monday, September 16, 2019

Nigerian author Chimamanda Adichie wins the Kassel Citizens' " Prism of Reason" Award

Prolific Nigerian-born writer, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has been honoured with the Kassel Citizens' " Prism of Reason" Award for "her vision of humanistic diversity".

At the award ceremony which held in Germany on Sunday, coincides with the 42nd Birth Anniversary of the multiple award winning writer.

$9.6bn fine: Count me out of your dubious scheme to defraud Nigeria - Malami replies P&ID(Opens in a new browser tab)

According to a statement issued by the organisers of the event, the prize is awarded to 'persons or institutions whose work serves the ideals of the Enlightenment by overcoming ideological barriers and promoting reason and tolerance towards dissenters'.

"The Board of Directors and the Board of Trustees of the Society of Friends and Sponsors of the Kassel Citizens' Prize have selected Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie as the 2019 winner of the "Prism of Reason". This makes her the first Nigerian to receive this remarkable prize.

The award ceremony which takes place at the State Theater of Kassel in Germany is also in recognition of Adichie's undeniable literary prowess, but also for her equality and justice advocacy.

The "Prism of Reason" award was founded in 1990 by citizens of the city of Kassel and the region. So far, the prize has been awarded 28 times. The 2019 award is the 29th in the series.

The first prize-winner (in 1991) was the then German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher; he was honoured for his services to the opening of the Iron Curtain.

Other awardees include Chinese dissident and artist Ai Weiwei; Indian scientist and documenta 13 participant, Vandana Shiva; Somali-born Dutch-American activist, Ayaan Hirsi Ali; Israeli diplomat, peace activist and publicist Avi Primor; and Peruvian farmer Saúl Luciano Lliuya.

A statement made by the Kassel Board president Bernd Leifeld said "Combative but not fanatical, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie... points out ways to overcome outdated patterns which are deeply anchored in education and society.

"Kassel citizens honour her with their Prize 'The Prism of Reason 2019' because she believes in the social, political and economic equality of all people," he said.

The prize consists of a certificate, a sculpture designed by the Kassel art professor and documenta artist Karl Oskar Blase with a prism (symbolising the analytical glass of the Enlightenment).

In a related development, its been a good weekend for Adichie as she celebrates her 42nd birthday.

First was the announcement on Friday that HBO Max, a division of WarnerMedia Entertainment, is creating a straight-to-series order for the television adaptation of Adichie's most recent novel 'Americanah'.

The 10-episode series will star Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong'o, with the pilot being written by screenwriter and actor Danai Gurira (who starred in the movie "Black Panther")- and will be co-produced by Lupita Nyong'o and Brad Pitt's production company Plan B.

Adichie has also been trending non-stop on social media since Friday when a Twitter group of fans of the writer @Chimamanda_Army went viral to announce a competition to celebrate her birthday.

The competition tagged #10ThingsAboutChimamanda, encourages participants to list 10 things about Adichie to stand the chance of winning fan-donated prizes.

The prizes include: 10 collections of Chimamanda's books, 10 pairs of movie tickets to watch a film of their choice at any Filmhouse cinema location; and 10 Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8 Tablets.

According to the fans, the competition kicked off fully at 12am midnight Nigerian time/GMT (the start of her birthday, Sunday September 15th) and will run until 5pm Nigerian time/GMT of the same day.


Tammy Abraham say 'never say never' on playing for Nigeria

Chelsea striker Tammy Abraham has refused to rule out the possibility of playing for Nigeria despite earning two international caps for England.

Abraham, 21, has represented England at two Under-21 European Championships and featured in two friendlies for the senior squad against Germany and Brazil.

The Chelsea man is eligible to play for Nigeria through his paternal lineage and said he is not ruling out a switch at international level.

"I have not really been focused on that yet," he said. "I think when the time comes, the times comes. We never know.

"You can never say never, whatever comes first really. I just have to keep my full focus on Chelsea."

Abraham faces competition from Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford, Raheem Sterling and Jadon Sancho for a regular spot in Gareth Southgate's team.

Nigeria Football Federation president Amaju Pinnick said: "I told Tammy that he had a better chance of playing regularly for Nigeria than with England, which has a galaxy of strikers."

The striker has enjoyed a great start to the new campaign, scoring seven goals in the Premier League including a hat trick against Wolves on Saturday.


Nigerian military forces retreat to super camps as Islamic State storm northeast Nigeria

Nigerian soldiers had left the town earlier that month under a new strategy of withdrawing to “super camps” that can be more easily defended against insurgents the army has been struggling to contain for a decade.

Unchallenged, the Islamist militants torched a clinic in Magumeri, ransacked government buildings and looted shops before returning to another town they had raided that night called Gubio, residents said.

The new military strategy announced by President Muhammadu Buhari in July to concentrate soldiers in big bases is designed to give troops a secure platform from which they can respond quickly to threats in the region and raid militant camps.

People familiar with the military’s thinking and security officials, however, say the new tactic for fighting Islamic State’s West Africa branch and Boko Haram is mainly an attempt to stem casualties.

The military did not respond to requests for more details about its strategy or the impact it will have on the region.

“We strongly believe the days of BH (Boko Haram) moving freely and passing in between static defensive locations are over,” Major General Olusegun Adeniyi, who commands the anti-insurgency operation, told reporters last month.

Boko Haram launched an insurgency in 2009 to overthrow the government and establish an Islamic caliphate. The group, whose unofficial name means “Western education is forbidden”, held territory the size of Belgium in 2014 but a multinational offensive recaptured much of it the following year.

The group split in 2016 and the faction that has been the greater threat ever since won the recognition of Islamic State.

The decade of war has killed more than 30,000 civilians and spawned what the United Nations calls one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, which foreign nations are trying to contain with billions of dollars of aid.

But the crisis shows no sign of abating.


The army’s withdrawal into large bases has coincided with a string of insurgent raids on newly unprotected towns and has left the militants free to set up checkpoints on roads as they roam more freely across the countryside, according to three briefing notes from an international aid and development organization, two security officials and residents.

That has left thousands of civilians without access to aid, according to the briefing notes seen by Reuters.

Soldiers are no longer protecting some key roads, cutting off access for humanitarians workers as more of the region falls under the sway of the insurgents, aid and security sources said.

“It’s a mess, militarily, and a disaster for humanitarian actors,” one foreign security official said.

The population of towns being abandoned by the military is a combined 223,000 people, according to one of the aid agency briefing notes.

The military departures so far have cut off more than 100,000 people from aid and if more soldiers go, as many as 121,000 other civilians could flee their towns, one aid agency briefing note said.

“The impact will be one of continued skirmishes - soldiers under constant strain to deal with the insurgency where Islamic State and Boko Haram dictate the momentum,” said Jasmine Opperman, a terrorism expert based in South Africa.

It’s not yet clear how many “super camps” the army plans to set up, where they will be nor how many soldiers each will hold.


The new strategy follows a series of setbacks for the army which has failed to keep a tight grip on territory it has clawed back since 2015. Last year, insurgents repeatedly overran smaller bases and sent soldiers and tens of thousands of people fleeing from larger towns.

Security experts put the military death toll since June 2018 at anywhere from hundreds of soldiers to in excess of 1,000.

The military has not released casualty figures but denies that many soldiers have been killed.

One security adviser at an international aid organization said a major goal of the new large bases was damage control, rather than going on the offensive.

“It is to consolidate all of the strength in one place to prevent them being overrun every week,” the adviser said.

He said the areas vacated were being filled by insurgents and that would make it harder for the military to re-enter, leaving civilians vulnerable.

Those concerns were echoed by the governor of Borno - the birthplace of Boko Haram and the state worst hit by the insurgency. Governor Babagana Umara Zulum told reporters last month that recent attacks were the result of a “serious vacuum” following the withdrawal of soldiers.

Islamic State is also using its newfound freedom to woo locals. Drained by the decade-long conflict, some are open to moving into areas controlled by the insurgents where life can be more stable, residents said.

Before hitting Magumeri last month, the militants had passed through the town of Gubio, some 40 km (25 miles) to the north.

There, an Islamic State fighter led evening prayers followed by a sermon, according to six residents.

“We are here to protect you, not to harm any one of you,” the IS fighter told residents. “Those with uniforms are your enemies, and we are here to deal with them and their supporters. You should feel free.”

Rather than flee to a government-controlled city such as Borno state’s capital Maiduguri, many Gubio residents stayed.


Friday, September 13, 2019

Video - Nigerians repatriated from South Africa after attacks

Nigeria began repatriating more than 600 of its citizens from South Africa following a wave of deadly xenophobic attacks that frayed relations among neighbouring nations. Private Nigerian airline Air Peace volunteered to fly people for free back to the commercial capital Lagos on Wednesday. It was not immediately clear how many people boarded the flight, but Nigeria's government said it estimated 313 people were on their way home. A second flight departs on Thursday or Friday with 640 Nigerians in total fleeing the country. The repatriation came after riots in Pretoria and Johannesburg killed at least 12 people as 1,000 foreign-owned businesses were targeted. The nationalities of those killed have not been announced but Nigerians, Ethiopians, Congolese, and Zimbabweans were attacked, according to local media.

Related stories: Video - Hundreds of Nigerians sign up for voluntary evacuation from South Africa

Nigeria to repatriate 600 Nigerians from South Africa due to xenophobic violence

Video - Thousands of Nigerian businesses attend event in Lagos

About a hundred Chinese Manufacturers and suppliers are in Nigeria's commercial capital, Lagos for the China Trade Week. It's everything construction under one roof. The Big 5 as it's called, is attracting thousands of Nigerian businesses from across the country.

Ex-coach Samson Siasia mother still missing in Nigeria 2 months after kidnap

The mother of Nigeria’s former national coach Samson Siasia is still missing two months after her abduction.

Beauty Ogere Siasia,80, was abducted in her house on July 15 in Odoni in Sagbama area in oil rich Bayelsa State, southern Nigeria.

Now having spent more than seven weeks in captivity, family members are now worried about her health.

Siasia’s younger brother, Dennis Siasia, said the abduction had brought distress to the family as they are unable to raise the $230,000 ransom demanded by the kidnappers.

Mrs Ogere had initially been kidnapped in November 2015 but was released 12 days after a ransom was paid.

Last month, the world's football governing body slapped Siasia with a life ban and a 50,000 Swiss Francs ($50,000, 46,000 euros) fine after finding him guilty of taking bribes to fix matches.

By Mohammed Momoh

The East African