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 apoligizes 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

22,000 Nigerians missing since Boko Haram crisis began

At least 22,000 people are missing in Nigeria due to the decade-long conflict with the Boko Haram group, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has said.

In a statement, ICRC President Peter Maurer said nearly 60 percent of those missing were children and that it was the highest number of missing persons registered with the organisation in any country.

"They were minors when they went missing, meaning thousands of parents don't know where their children are and if they are alive or dead," he said on Thursday at the end of his five-day trip to Nigeria.

"Every parent's worst nightmare is not knowing where their child is. This is the tragic reality for thousands of Nigerian parents."

Nigeria is faced with multiple conflicts, including attacks by the Boko Haram and the frequent clashes between the nomadic herders and the farmers.

Boko Haram - whose name roughly translates to "Western education is forbidden" - wants to establish an Islamic state based on a strict interpretation of the Islamic law.

The United Nations estimates that more than 27,000 people have been killed and an estimated two million others displaced in Nigeria's northeast because of the violence by the Boko Haram.

Meanwhile, in Nigeria's central states, clashes between farmers and nomadic herders over dwindling arable land have also killed thousands and displaced tens of thousands.
'We have no hope'

In 2015, the Nigerian military launched "Operation Lafiya Dole" to force the Boko Haram out of the country's northeast.

But it is the families of those missing, mainly in the urban centres of Borno state in Nigeria's northeast, who are forced to deal with the trauma.

"My father is traumatised. He goes out looking for my brother from time to time, hoping he will be found," 43-year-old Noami Abwaku told Al Jazeera about her brother Yerima Abwaku, a civil servant who disappeared on October 30, 2015.

She said her 53-year-old brother worked in a government school in Maiduguri, the epicentre of Boko Haram attacks.

"At this point, we have no hope because many like Yerima went missing around that time and they've not been found," Noami Abwaku said. "Three of my colleagues in office also went in the same period."

Boko Haram still occupies large expanses of the Nigerian countryside, mainly in the northeast and has a stronghold around the Lake Chad region bordering Cameroon and Niger.

Analyst Cheta Nwanze told Al Jazeera that the number of missing persons is not surprising and blamed it on a "notoriously lax" administration.

"It is a logical consequence of the fact that we consistently report not the names of the people missing, but just the numbers. To solve this, we must improve the accountability system," he said.

By Mercy Abang

Al Jazeera

Thursday, September 12, 2019

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

Nigeria will begin repatriating its citizens from the country on Wednesday. Two planes belonging to Nigerian carrier Air Peace will take the first group of returnees to Nigeria Officials say 600 Nigerians in South Africa have registered to return home following xenophobic violence.

Tribunal in Nigeria reject bid to overturn Buhari's election

A Nigerian election tribunal rejected a bid by the main opposition candidate to overturn the result of February's presidential election, which saw Muhammadu Buhari returned to office.

Defeated contender Atiku Abubakar, a businessman and former vice president, was the candidate of the main opposition People's Democratic Party (PDP).

"This petition is hereby dismissed in its entirety," Justice Mohammed Lawal Garba said in announcing the ruling on Wednesday. All five judges who presided over the tribunal rejected Atiku's claims.

The defeat for Atiku was widely anticipated. Buhari, a 76-year-old former military ruler, was re-elected after first taking office as an elected leader in 2015.

The tribunal rejected all three of Atiku's claims: that the election was marred by irregularities, that he received more votes than Buhari, and the president did not have a secondary school certificate, a basic requirement to contest the election.

The PDP said it would mount an appeal against the ruling at the country's Supreme Court.

Buhari took 56 percent of the vote against 41 percent for Atiku, the electoral commission said in February, but with a turnout of just 35.6 percent compared with 44 percent in 2015.

Atiku rejected the result hours after Buhari was declared the victor and said he would mount a legal challenge.

"It is time for the country to move forward as one cohesive body, putting behind us all bickering and potential distractions over an election in which Nigerians spoke clearly and resoundingly," said Buhari in a statement on Wednesday following the tribunal's ruling.

The PDP said in a tweet it "completely rejects the judgment", which it described as a "direct assault on the integrity of our nation's justice system".

Every election result has been contested unsuccessfully since Nigeria returned to democracy in 1999, with the exception of the 2015 poll in which Goodluck Jonathan conceded defeat to Buhari.

Al Jazeera

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Online-only bank startup in Nigeria raises $1.6m

Nigerian fintech startup Kuda — a digital-only retail bank — has raised $1.6 million in pre-seed funding.

The Lagos and London-based company recently launched the beta version of its online mobile finance platform. Kuda also received its banking license from the Nigerian Central Bank, giving it a distinction compared to other fintech startups.

“Kuda is the first digital-only bank in Nigeria with a standalone license. We’re not a mobile wallet or simply a mobile app piggybacking on an existing bank,” Kuda bank founder Babs Ogundeyi told TechCrunch.

“We have built our own full-stack banking software from scratch. We can also take deposits and connect directly to the switch,” Ogundeyi added, referring to the Nigeria’s Central Switch — a SWIFT-like system that facilitates bank communication and settlements.

A representative for the Central Bank of Nigeria (speaking on background) confirmed Kuda’s banking license and status, telling TechCrunch, “As far as I’m aware there is no other digital bank [in Nigeria] that has a micro-finance license.”

Kuda offers checking accounts with no monthly-fees, a free debit card, and plans to offer consumer savings and P2P payments options on its platform in coming months.

“You can open a bank account within five minutes, do all the KYC in the app, and you get issued a new bank account number,” according to Ogundeyi.

Ogundeyi — a repeat founder who exited classifieds site and worked in a finance advisory role to the Nigerian government — co-founded Kuda in 2018 with former Stanbic Bank software developer Musty Mustapha.

The two convinced investor Haresh Aswani to lead the $1.6 million pre-seed funding, along with Ragnar Meitern and other angel investors. Aswani confirmed his investment to TechCrunch and that he will take a position on Kuda’s board.

Kuda plans to use its seed funds to go from beta to live launch in Nigeria by fourth-quarter 2019. The startup will also build out the tech of its banking platform, including support for its developer team located in Lagos and Cape Town, according to Ogundeyi.

Kuda also intends to expand in the near future. “It’s Nigeria for right now, but the plan is build a Pan-African digital-only bank,” he said.

As of 2014, Nigeria has held the dual distinction as Africa’s largest economy and most populous country (with 190 million people).

To scale there, and add some physical infrastructure to its online model, Kuda has correspondent relationships with three of Nigeria’s largest financial institutions: GTBank, Access Bank and Zenith Bank.

He clarified the banks are partners and not investors. Kuda customers can use these banks’ branches and ATMs to put money into bank accounts or withdraw funds without a fee.

“Even though we don’t own a single branch, we actually have the largest branch network in the country,” Ogundeyi claimed.

Kuda’s plans to generate revenues focus largely around leveraging its bank balances. “We plan to match different liability classes to the different asset classes that we create. That’s how we make money, that’s how we get efficiency in terms of income,” Ogundeyi said.

In Nigeria, Kuda enters a potentially revenue-rich market, but its one that already hosts a crowded fintech field — as the country becomes ground zero for payments startups and tech investment in Africa.

In both raw and per capita numbers, Nigeria has been slower to convert to digital payments than leading African countries, such as Kenya, according to joint McKinsey Company and Gates Foundation analysis done several years ago. The same study estimated there could be nearly $1.3 billion in revenue up for grabs if Nigeria could reach the same digital-payments penetration as Kenya.

A number of startups — established and new — are going after that prize in the West African country — several with a strategy to scale in Nigeria first before expanding outward on the continent and globally.

San Francisco-based, no-fee payment venture Chipper Cash entered Nigeria this month.

Series B-stage Nigerian payments company Paga raised $10 million in 2018 to further grow its customer base (that now tallies 13 million) and expand to Asia and Latin America.

Kuda CEO Babs Ogundeyi believes the startup can scale and compete in Nigeria on a number of factors, one being financial safety. He names the company’s official bank status and the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation security that brings as something that can attract cash-comfortable bank clients to digital finance.

Ogundeyi also points to offerings and price.”We look to be the next generation bank where you can do everything— savings, payments and transfers — and also the one that’s least expensive,” he said.

By Jake Bright 

Tech Crunch

Banned Shia group in Nigeria allege police killed 12 marchers

A Nigerian Shia group banned by the government said police killed 12 of members and wounded 10 others during marches in the north of country to mark the religious commemoration known as Ashoura.

Spokesman Ibrahim Musa said the Shia marchers were killed in the northern states of Kaduna, Bauchi, Gombe, Sokoto, and Katsina on Tuesday.

"The Islamic Movement in Nigeria has confirmed the killing of at least a dozen Ashoura mourners across the nation during the peaceful Ashoura mourning procession today," said Musa.

The group, the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), was banned in July after a series of deadly clashes with police. IMN said the police were responsible for the deaths of at least 20 people in July but the police gave no death toll.

Police in the northern city of Kaduna, where IMN said three were killed and 10 injured on Tuesday, disputed the account and said it dispersed marchers "professionally".

A national police spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The group was marching to mark Ashoura, the day in Islamic tradition when the Prophet Mohammed's grandson, Imam Hussein, died in battle in 1680.

Police had warned IMN members not to march, saying any gathering or procession by group members is "ultimately illegal and will be treated as a gathering in the advancement of terrorism".

Leader imprisoned

IMN said police attacked its marchers on Tuesday and, in Katsina, opened fire on them. It said members were killed in Bauchi, Gombe and Sokoto states, all in northern Nigeria, but marches in the capital, Abuja, and other northern states ended without incident.

Clashes with police in the last few weeks followed calls by the group for its leader to be released from police detention.

Their leader, Ibrahim el-Zakzaky, has been held since 2015 when government forces killed about 350 people after storming an IMN compound and a nearby mosque.

While roughly half of the nearly 200 million Nigerians are Muslim, mostly concentrated in the north of the country, Shia are a minority.

Last week the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions said she had not been presented with any evidence to suggest IMN was weaponised and posed a threat to Nigeria.

Al Jazeera

Nigeria commences repatriation of Nigerians from South Africa

Nigeria has started the process of repatriating more than 600 of its citizens from South Africa following a wave of deadly xenophobic attacks that has frayed relations between the two countries.

Private Nigerian airline Air Peace, has volunteered to fly people for free back to Lagos. At least 320 Nigerians are expected to be flown out on Wednesday, while a second flight will depart on Thursday. At least 640 Nigerians have signed up for the flights.

Al Jazeera's Fahmida Miller, reporting from the airport in Johannesburg, said on Wednesday that "of the more [than] 600 people who [were] expected to leave, at least half of them" were already there, while a "small group of people were turned back, due to incorrect documentation."

The repatriation came after deadly riots in Pretoria and Johannesburg killed at least 12 people, including two foreigners, and targeted 1,000 foreign-owned businesses.

The violence sparked international outcry and calls for a boycott.

Reprisal attacks in Nigeria forced South African business to shut down while the South African embassy in Lagos temporarily closed its doors over safety fears.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Pastor Ugo Ofoegbu, who was at the airport to board the flight, said that "some [people] had an expired passport."

"They will have to go to the Nigerian consulate to get the [right] documentation that will allow them to travel," the added.

Ayanda Dlodlo, South Africa's minister of state security, told reporters in Cape Town on Monday that those leaving will have to go through immigration processes.
Police on high alert

This is not the first time that foreigners have been attacked in South Africa. In 2008, at least 62 people, including South Africans, were killed, while deadly violence and looting targeting foreign-owned stores left seven dead in 2015.

"I am so worried about the safety of my family, because these [xenophobic] attacks keep happening, so if I don't save my family now, I don't know when [this will] start again," Ofoegbu said

"It happened in 2008, and then in 2015, now it is repeating, so nobody knows when will it happen again," he added.

The root causes of the latest wave of violence are still unclear but reports suggest it is related to high unemployment, criminality and poverty in the country.

Around 700 people are believed to be housed at temporary shelters in Johannesburg, while Mozambique and Zimbabwe were also considering some sort of repatriation of their nationals.

However, South African officials were hesitant to describe the wave of violence as xenophobic attacks, and instead said this was an issue of criminality that the government was trying to deal with.

"While there has been a significant decline in the number of incidents, police forces remain on high alert and are closely monitoring hotspots to ensure further violence does not erupt," Minister of Defence Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said.

Police have arrested at least 653 people, mostly South Africans but some foreigners as well, in connection with the attacks, Minister of Police Bheki Cele said on Tuesday.

Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari is expected to visit South Africa next month to discuss the attacks and seek a solution.

Al Jazeera

Related stories:  Nigeria to repatriate 600 Nigerians from South Africa due to xenophobic violence

Nigeria withdraws from summit in South Africa after deadly riots

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Video - Children held in 'horrific conditions over Boko Haram ties in Nigeria

Thousands of children have been held in recent years by Nigeria's military in "degrading and inhuman conditions" for alleged association with the Boko Haram armed group, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said, calling for their "immediate" release. The HRW says children have been forced to stay in squalid conditions and not allowed to see family members. The military denies the accusations.

Video - Opioid crisis in Nigeria

West Africa - and particularly its most populous nation, Nigeria - is battling an opioid abuse crisis. Medicines such as tramadol, legally and legitimately prescribed by doctors for pain relief, are also being taken in life-threatening doses by millions in search of a fix or a release from poverty, unemployment and lack of opportunity. People & Power sent filmmakers Naashon Zalk and Antony Loewenstein to Nigeria to investigate how the drug is smuggled, traded and abused, as well as the widespread corruption that follows this illicit trafficking, and the appalling health consequences for those in its grip.

Related story: Growing meth market in Nigeria

Video - Nigerian entrepreneur creates jobs to drive economic empowerment

A multiple award-winning Nigerian professional Chef is turning her passion for food into an enterprise that is creating opportunities for young aspiring chefs. Fatima Haruna has trained over 80,000 people on various culinary skills and her classes are usually packed. She says her dream is to train as many young Nigerians as possible, so that they too- can become economically empowered.

Video - Nigeria leads continent in Air Pollution-related deaths

Pollution in Nigeria is getting worse. According to a 2019 State of Global Air report, the West African nation has the highest air pollution-related deaths in the continent. In addition, burning wood and coal in Nigeria's vast rural areas is increasingly intensifying the suffering of many.

Growing meth market in Nigeria

Nigeria has emerged over the past decade as a significant producer of methamphetamine (meth), a highly addictive and illegal synthetic psychostimulant drug. Since the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency’s (NDLEA) first discovery in Lagos in 2011 of a clandestine meth laboratory, 17 more have been dismantled elsewhere in the country. The quantity of meth seized has skyrocketed, rising from 177kg in 2012 to 1.3 tons in 2017.

In late 2018, following the dismantling of a lab in Obinugwu village in south-east Nigeria, NDLEA Special Enforcement Team commander Sunday Zirangey reportedly said that meth was a serious threat and that Nigeria risked turning into a narco state.

Despite the acute health risks associated with its consumption – such as high blood pressure and cardiovascular-related illness – a growing number of young people in Nigeria reportedly take the drug. A 2018 United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report estimated that 89 000 Nigerians were using meth. Abimbola Adebakin, a leading Lagos-based pharmacist, told Enact that “the youth may be using drugs increasingly to cope with a depressed economic reality for them”.

“Furthermore, due to our weak pharmaceutical drug distribution system, the youth have a porous drug supply situation that lends itself to support such abuse and misuse, she said.

In 2016, the illicit market for meth took a new turn in Nigeria. Drug syndicates brought Latin American drug experts to Nigeria to help them set up large-scale meth labs, with similar characteristics to those found in Mexico. One industrial super lab was said to have the capacity to produce 4,000 kg of meth per week.

When the NDLEA raided the site in March 2016, they arrested four Mexicans and five Nigerians. The Mexicans were reportedly from Sinaloa State. Their arrest provided further evidence of a formal and successful alliance between Nigerian and Latin American cartels.

The growth of the illicit meth market in Nigeria has also been fuelled by the accessibility of precursor chemicals such as ephedrine, which is theoretically a controlled substance but is widely available in Nigeria.

In March 2019, the NDLEA seized 309 kg of ephedrine from members of a criminal network in Trans Ekulu Estate in Enugu and Festac Town in Lagos. According to a 2017 report by the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna, Nigerian criminal networks bring ephedrine in from countries in West Africa that import more than they need.

According to the UNODC’s Cheikh Touré, the “use and diversion of pre-precursors and other non-controlled chemicals signifies complex challenges in addressing clandestine meth manufacturing in Nigeria and West Africa”. Touré is the UNODC programme co-ordinator for the Economic Community of West African States Regional Action Plan to address the growing problem of illicit drug trafficking, organised crime and drug abuse in West Africa.

While a portion of the meth produced in Nigeria is consumed locally, most is reportedly exported to South Africa where 1kg of meth sells for up to €10 000 (R163,000). It is also trafficked to South-East Asia, in particular Japan, where 1kg can reportedly fetch €130,000.

As in Mexico where syndicates use violence to control the drug market, confrontations between drug gangs in Nigeria have increased. In August 2017, gunmen attacked a church in Ozubulu in Anambra State while looking for a rival drug gang leader, killing 13 people. An investigation revealed that the fighting was between two gangs operating from South Africa.

According to Touré: “Nigeria has built up expertise in relation to the detection and dismantling of clandestine methamphetamine laboratories.” He said stricter control by the national authorities on precursor chemicals and other psychotropic substances was being implemented.

However, despite the great efforts the Nigerian authorities are making to contain illicit meth production, the illicit market of the drug is yet to be eradicated. The government should focus on effective regulation of the import of controlled precursors.

By Mouhamadou Kane

Daily Maverick

Film industry in Nigeria draws global entertainment brands

“Oya!” shouts the director in Nigerian Pidgin English. Actors take their marks. Lighting blinks on. The film crew snaps into action after the order to hurry up.

It’s another day in Nollywood, the affectionate nickname for Nigeria’s film industry - the world’s second most prolific after India’s Bollywood, producing hundreds of films and TV episodes each month.

For decades it was a factory churning out visual pulp fiction destined for the market stalls of DVD pirates. But Nollywood is increasingly grabbing the attention - and financing - of global entertainment brands.

Some, like French group Vivendi’s Canal+, seek to harness Nigerian hustle and know-how to extend the lifespan of the traditional pay-TV model, which is bleeding customers in developed markets but still has a future in Africa.

Others, including South Africa’s MultiChoice, are using Nigeria as a testing ground for introducing streaming platforms in African markets with poor communications infrastructure and low income levels.

In both cases, it’s local production that’s benefiting.

“Ten years ago Nollywood was very different,” Mary Njoku, whose ROK studios was acquired by Canal+ in July, told Reuters as the film crew worked in an abandoned hotel in Nigeria’s megacity Lagos. “Today we shoot with better cameras... We do things differently.”

A room on the hotel’s top floor was standing in for a college dorm on “What Are Friends For?”, an ROK comedy series that will be among new shows aired by Canal+ in coming months.

The company first dipped its toe into Africa’s most populous country six years ago, buying up local films, dubbing them and airing them on a dedicated channel, Nollywood TV, to viewers in French-speaking Africa.

That success led to the creation of a second channel.

The deal with ROK secures a steady supply of new films and series as the firm eyes a further expansion of African content, said Fabrice Faux, Canal+ International’s chief content officer.

Since it was founded six years ago, ROK has produced more than 540 films and 25 series. Under the Canal+ deal, Njoku says it aims to increase production from next year to around 300 films and 20 series annually.

Canal+’s pivot to Africa - a golden opportunity for ROK - is a business necessity for the French company.

“It is one of the very rare pay-TV markets that is growing and is growing very fast,” Faux told Reuters. “When I joined Canal+ International back in 2014, we had half a million (African subscribers) and now we have 4 million.”

Compare that to mainland France where, as of last year, it had lost some 1.3 million individual subscribers since 2013.

Much of that decline arose from losing broadcasting rights to popular sporting events. But it also reflected stiff competition from streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon. However, Faux believes such rivals pose no threat in Africa due to a widespread lack of 4G coverage or fixed broadband internet on the continent.

To properly develop African markets, however, Canal+ must cater to their diverse audiences, Faux said.

Francophone Africa has no Nollywood equivalent. Producing shows there has been slow and expensive, as Canal+ has been forced to bring in film crews from Europe to shoot on location, Faux said. He now hopes Canal+ can use ROK to clone the Nollywood model.

“The best knowledge and expertise is there in Nigeria. So it is our intention to try to bring some producers, technicians, directors to French-speaking Africa, for us to try to develop new production methods,” Faux said.


If Canal+ sees little threat from streaming services in Africa, MultiChoice - the first major entertainment group to realize Nollywood’s potential - is out to prove it wrong.

In its infancy in the 1990s, Nollywood churned out cheap films ranging from bawdy comedies to morality tales about witchcraft and infidelity.

Low on production quality but high on entertainment value, these movies quickly garnered a fanatical following across Africa and its diaspora. And in 2003, MultiChoice launched Africa Magic - a Nollywood channel that would grow into a subscription package on its DStv satellite network.

In July, Showmax, MultiChoice’s fledgling video-streaming service, launched in Nigeria.

“The Nollywood phenomenon makes it quite interesting from a content development point of view. You have a huge base of very loyal fans,” said Niclas Ekdahl, CEO of MultiChoice’s connected video division.

Showmax - also available in South Africa and Kenya - is not alone in Nigeria’s video-on-demand market.

U.S. streaming giant Netflix released “Lionheart”, its first original film produced in Nigeria, in January. It is also negotiating licence deals for Nigerian films such as “Chief Daddy”, a comedy that debuted on the platform in March.

But bringing streaming to African audiences won’t be easy. Expensive mobile data and low incomes make regular streaming unaffordable for many on the continent.

One gigabyte of data, enough to watch about three films, costs the equivalent of around $2.80 in Nigeria, while most people live on less than $2 a day.

The experience of Malaysian streaming platform iflix is a cautionary tale.

It launched in Nigeria in 2017, then expanded to Kenya, Ghana and Zimbabwe following a tie-up with Kwese TV, a subsidiary of Zimbabwe’s Econet Media Limited.

However, data discounts and a pay-as-you-go option were not enough to sustain the business. In December, iflix sold its Africa business to the Econet group, which shut down the streaming service last month.

Showmax’s Ekdahl remains undaunted, passing the challenges off as “temporary glitches”. The potential payoff - a largely untapped audience of 1 billion - is worth the effort of tailoring a business to African markets, he believes.

Showmax partnered with mobile phone operators Vodacom, MTN and Telkom in South Africa and Safaricom in Kenya to offer reduced data and subscription fees. It aims to do the same in Nigeria.

It is also experimenting with installing wireless internet in public transport, so viewers can download content during their daily commutes without incurring data costs.

The boom in interest in Nigeria’s film industry can only be a good thing, says Joshua Richard, a barrel-chested actor who plays a fanatically religious student on “What Are Friends For?”

Foreign investment will, he hopes, help Nollywood shake off a reputation for shoddy camerawork and muffled sound, while also leading to greater artistic recognition overseas.

“It exposes African actors to a bigger audience,” he said. “We have lots of good content in Nollywood, but it doesn’t get the credit it deserves.”

By Alexis Akwagyiram


Related stories: Nollywood: most prolific movie machine

Monday, September 9, 2019

Video - Nigeria works to end violence in 'Wild West'

After years of military action in north-west Nigeria, the government is choosing dialogue to end killings and kidnapping mainly by nomadic cattle herders. Government officials say they want to tackle the injustices that fueled the crisis in the first place.

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

Nigeria will repatriate about 600 citizens from South Africa this week following a wave of xenophobic violence that caused tensions between the countries, a Nigerian diplomat said Monday.

South Africa's financial capital Johannesburg and surrounding areas were rocked by a surge of deadly attacks against foreigners this week, many directed against Nigerian-owned businesses and properties.

"They are about 600 now" due to be flown back, Godwin Adamu, Nigerian Consul General in Johannesburg, told AFP.

Nigerian airline "Air Peace is beginning the airlift by Wednesday, the first flight with 320 Nigerians," he said. "We will have another one immediately after that."

At least 12 people were killed in the violence and hundreds of shops destroyed.

Foreign workers are often victims of anti-immigrant sentiment in South Africa -- the continent's second biggest economy after Nigeria -- where they compete against locals for jobs, particularly in low-skilled industries.


Friday, September 6, 2019

Video - Joe Rogan and Zuby talk about scammers from Nigeria

Joe Rogan and Zuby talk about scammers from Nigeria.

Related stories: Global reputation of Nigeria dented by FBI fraud bust

Video - Hacker attempts to help victim of Nigerian 419 scam recover $400,000

FBI charges 80 people connected to Nigerian romance scams

Medical doctor turned hacker says hacking into Nigerian banks is very easy

Nigerians beating bitcoin scams

Video - Nigeria struggling to diversify beyond dependence on crude oil

The continent's largest economy, Nigeria is still struggling to diversify beyond a dependence on crude oil earnings. In the textile industry for instance, the country relies heavily on imported fabrics, since the local supply is insufficient.

Video - Nigeria Police battle angry rioters in Abuja demonstrating against violence

Police in Nigeria's capital - Abuja are battling angry youths - protesting against Xenophobic attacks in South Africa. The youths tried to gain access into South African owned mall - Shoprite during the fracas. This comes as South African Ambassador to Nigeria - Bobby Monroe initiated peace talks with the nations' student and youth Groups.

Video - South Africa closes embassy in Nigeria due to recent xenophobic violence

South Africa has temporarily closed its diplomatic missions in Nigeria following reprisal attacks by Nigerians triggered by xenophobic violence in South Africa.

Between Sunday and Wednesday, mobs looted and destroyed shops, many of them foreign-owned, in South Africa's commercial hub, Johannesburg.

Nigeria's government has been outspoken in its condemnation of the violence.

Police say the unrest has subsided and more than 420 arrests have been made.

South Africa's Foreign Minister, Naledi Pandor, called the violence an embarrassment for her country.

"Our government regrets all violence against foreign-owned stores or Africans from other countries who are resident in South Africa," she was quoted as saying by national broadcaster SABC.

She ordered the closure of the country's high commission in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, and its mission in Lagos, following threats made to the diplomatic staff.

Have any Nigerians been killed?

Videos and images that have been shared on social media purporting to show Nigerians being attacked and killed have inflamed tensions.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, South African-owned businesses were targeted by protesters in several Nigerian cities, and the looters said the attacks were reprisals for the killing of Nigerians in South Africa. South African telecoms giant MTN closed its shops as a precaution.

In response to the violence in Johannesburg, two of Nigeria's top musicians, Burna Boy And Tiwa Savage, announced they were boycotting South Africa.

At least 10 people have been killed in the trouble in South Africa, including two foreign nationals, the South African government says, but none of the victims have been identified as Nigerian.

On Wednesday, Nigerian Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama told journalists: "There are a lot of stories going around of Nigerians being killed, jumping off buildings and being burnt. This is not the case."

While the government believes Nigerian businesses have been targeted in South Africa, he added, it has no evidence that Nigerians have died.

Mr Onyeama also urged people to stop attacking South African businesses in Nigeria, saying that President Muhammadu Buhari was "particularly distraught at the acts of vandalism".

Why has the Nigerian government been so outspoken?

Despite disputing the accounts of Nigerians dying in South Africa, the Nigerian government has been forceful in its condemnation of events there.

On Wednesday, it announced it was boycotting the World Economic Forum on Africa that is currently taking place in Cape Town in protest at the violence.

"The government believes that we have to take the moral high ground on this matter," Mr Onyeama said.

The president has also sent an envoy to South Africa to "express Nigeria's displeasure over the treatment of her citizens".

Nigerians often criticise the authorities for being slow to respond to domestic crises and the government is keen to be seen to be taking action over attacks in South Africa, said the BBC's Nigeria correspondent, Mayeni Jones.

What about reaction elsewhere in Africa?

On Thursday, demonstrators in the Democratic Republic of Congo's second city, Lubumbashi, broke the windows of South Africa's consulate, AFP news agency reports.

There was also a small demonstration outside the South African embassy in the capital, Kinshasa.

Air Tanzania, the country's national carrier, has suspended flights to Johannesburg because of the violence, Transport Minister Isack Kamwelwe said.

Madagascar's football federation has announced that it will not be sending a team to play South Africa in a friendly on Saturday because of security concerns.

The fixture against Madagascar was announced after Zambia pulled out of the match earlier this week over the xenophobic violence.

On Wednesday, students in the Zambian capital, Lusaka, forced the closure of several South African-owned shopping malls.

A group also marched on the South African high commission in the city and defaced the sign outside the compound.

"We are tired of being beaten every day. We're all Africa. Why must we be afraid to go to South Africa?... We want the ambassador to address us," one protester told Reuters news agency.

On Tuesday, the African Union (AU) issued a statement condemning the "despicable acts" of violence in South Africa "in the strongest terms".

What sparked the looting in South Africa?

The attacks on foreign-owned shops began after South African lorry drivers started a nationwide strike to protest against the employment of foreign drivers. They blocked roads and torched foreign-driven vehicles mainly in the coastal KwaZulu-Natal province.

It comes at a time of high unemployment and some South Africans blame foreigners for taking their jobs.

The unemployment rate in South Africa is nearly 28%, the highest since the labour force survey was introduced 11 years ago.

The government minister responsible for small business development told BBC Newsday the rioters "feel there are other Africans coming into the country and they feel these Africans are taking our jobs".

Lindiwe Zulu said the problems were caused by the movement of people across Africa.

"We are facing a challenge that is beyond South Africa as a country. This is an African problem," she said.

Some foreigners are also accused of being involved in pushing illegal drugs.

A taxi driver was allegedly shot dead in Pretoria last week when he confronted foreign nationals thought to be selling drugs to young people, reports South Africa's News 24.


Thursday, September 5, 2019

Video - Real Estate event in Lagos focuses on bridging investment gaps in the market

An estimated 2000 delegates from across Africa gathered in Nigeria's commercial capital Lagos for the 2nd edition of The African Real Estate Conference. The forum aims to bridge investment gaps and uphold standards in Africa's Real Estate market.

Video - Obasanjo commends China's achievements

With the upcoming 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China, CGTN interviewed Olusegun Obasanjo, a former president of Nigeria. During his time in office, Obasanjo actively promoted cooperation between China and Nigeria. He visited China for the first time in the late 1980s. He said that what he saw left a deep impression.

Women from Nigeria exploited in Ghana by Smugglers

Jennifer* has spent the last few weeks on the pavements of Vienna City, a hub in Kumasi, Ghana's second-largest city, which has a bustling nightlife.

She arrived in Ghana in May, having left a crowded hostel room in Lagos, Nigeria, hoping to secure work in sales or as a waitress and send her income to her mother in central Nigeria's Ondo State.

But after a one-day bus trip from Lagos to Accra, her dreams crumbled as she reached the green hills of Kumasi.

"Please, get me out of here, this life is devastating," she said.

"They put me immediately on the street, forcing me to prostitute from 8pm till morning, every day,'' she said in a bar on Harper Road, where Rihanna's songs crackled through an old sound system as other Nigerian women outside dressed in revealing clothes waited for clients.

"Each night, I receive up to eight clients, and end up having $20 to $25 in my hands,'' she said.

Most of her money goes back into the "system" - to a "madam", a Nigerian woman, and middlemen such as hotel managers.

Women and girls like Jennifer, with some as young as 14, are victims of a trafficking network that benefits several people from Nigeria to Ghana.

The old district of Dichemso, the heart of the business, lies on the opposite side of Kumasi's city centre.

"Dichemso is where Kumasi's sex industry is flourishing, thanks to different guesthouses and hotels, such as the Plaza," said Bright Owusu, an independent researcher who has spent the last three years meeting Nigerian women forced into prostitution in the city.

Twenty Nigerian women live at one of these guesthouses, which is controlled by a few men at the entrance.

Locked in her room, 26-year-old Blessing* shared her experience.

"I am the oldest of five sisters and brothers: when our parents died, I knew I had to take care of them,'' she said.

Local middlemen convinced her to leave Lokoja, in central Nigeria, to Ghana.

In Kumasi, "they introduced me to a woman, who brought me to a fetish priest and told me I owed her 8,000 cedis [about $1,500] for my transportation: I had to prostitute to pay that sum back".

In some African countries, a "fetish priest" serves as a mediator between the spirit and the living.

Blessing refused, and ran away.

Soon after, she received death threats in messages to her phone. "The madam said the priest would throw a curse against me, but I didn't want any debt,'' she said.

After working for four months at a local market, for barely $30 a month, Blessing ultimately turned to prostitution as the only way to pay college fees for her younger sisters.

"I don't like it here, but I have to resist,'' she said.

In one year in Dichemso, she said she has met dozens of women with similar experiences.

"Every day, Nigerian girls enter Ghana, undergo voodoo rituals and are put into prostitution, and nobody seems to care," she said.

"Through rituals, madams make sure that you'll pay back a debt," said Blessing.

Debts vary between $1,000 and $2,000, while prices "are as low as 5 cedis [$1] for a short [sexual encounter] - less than 10 minutes with the client - and up to 30 cedis for half an hour or more", she added.

Owusu, the researcher, explained: "Some of these women know they'll be coming for prostitution, but they don't know that once here, they'll lose control over their life."

Voodoo rituals play a central role.

"They are the most powerful bond, one that has a strong psychological impact," he said.

Victoria Klimova, a project coordinator at the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Ghana, said that national authorities do not have complete information on sex trafficking.

However, according to Al Jazeera's interviews and research, it is estimated that there are at least hundreds of Nigerian women working as prostitutes in Ghana.

Late last year, IOM launched a programme aimed at creating comprehensive data on sex trafficking and labour exploitation in Ghana, and to support the government's 2017 strategy to combat the problem.

According to the US Department of State, a trafficking investigation which opened last year has seen just three people convicted.

Out of 49 women identified as potential victims of sex trafficking, 46 were Nigerian, and 22 were underage.

The Ghana Immigration Service (GIS), a state agency, in part supported this investigation.

Alberta Ampofo leads its anti-smuggling operation, which is propped up with European Union funds.

She said some "rescued women" are living at Ghana's first shelter for trafficking victims, which opened in February.

"They should cooperate in investigations, before being returned to their families," she said.

"Victims of sex trafficking are in all corners of Ghana and much has yet to be done, but there's more awareness among the population and authorities, and that's a good start."

But Ampofo said that GIS is not prosecuting fetish priests.

"How can a priest know that a Nigerian lady is a victim of trafficking, if the madam simply presents her as an employee?"

However, this is not the case of Nana Badu, a renowned prophetess in Kumasi.

In a small room in her house, there are wooden statues of oracles, bowls and bottles.

Her oracles, she said, "can give strength, bring children, make business flourish or protect from enemies".

She added that madams "come for protection so that the police won't stop their girls at the border, since I have a medicine that prevents police from seeing you".

To "help" trafficked women pay back their debts, she claimed that she is able to foster "bonds" between sex workers and employers.

"If a woman tries to escape, the oracle will put the police on her back, to arrest her,'' said Badu.

Finally, when the debt is repaid, the madam returns with the sex worker and Badu reverses a ritual to release the victim.

None of the five women Al Jazeera interviewed in Kumasi, who hailed from different Nigerian states, was aware of a 2018 edict that dissolved all these oaths, led by the influential Oba, or traditional chief, of Benin City - one of the main origins of Nigerian women trafficked to Europe.

"Traditional priests feel they are somehow untouchable here, even by authorities,'' said Owusu.

Still, their services appear to play a key role in a system that exposes Nigerian women in Ghana to daily risks, as tragically confirmed in May with the murder of a 25-year-old woman known as Nina.

"I remember her receiving a call from a client and smiling," said Blessing, who knew Nina well.

Days later, the woman's body was found outside of Kumasi. Two men were arrested for the murder.

"We collected money for the burial and called her parents back in Nigeria," said Blessing. "They had no idea of what their daughter was going through here."

By Giacomo Zandonini

Al Jazeera

Related story: Video - Nigeria locking up survivors of human trafficking

Global reputation of Nigeria dented by FBI fraud bust

The FBI's dramatic arrest and indictment of 80 mostly Nigerian cybercriminals in California last week made headlines globally. Closer to home, it has prompted concerns among Nigerians who are worried about the impact the busts will have on how the world views them and their country.
Previously, Nigerian criminality existed in the popular imagination somewhere between mildly serious and an internet joke.

Now, with the FBI's takedown of an intercontinental Nigerian criminal network responsible for millions of dollars in annual losses, some think that the country and its citizens risk facing an unprecedented international backlash.

A new era of travel restrictions? 

Unsurprisingly, ease of travel is at the top of the list of concerns raised.

Nigeria is one of the world's most prolific exporters of skilled migrant labor with one of the world's least powerful passports, giving holders ready access to just 52 countries. Fresh visa restrictions are the last thing educated Nigerians need.

At 35%, Nigeria already has the world's highest UK visa refusal rate. It also ranks highly in US visa refusals with a 57% refusal rate.

After indefinitely suspending interview waivers for visa renewals earlier this year, the US Embassy in Nigeria no longer gives visa interview appointments according to local reports. The embassy's Public Affairs section has denied blocking interview appointments but has provided no further comment on the issue.

Many believe that the headlines and pictures showing the arrest of several hitherto shadowy Nigerian cybercriminals will significantly worsen the situation.

They fear that the indictment and prosecution of an organized Nigerian-American crime syndicate will give President Donald Trump scarcely-needed motivation to impose a Yemen-style US travel restriction on Nigerian citizens.

It will be recalled that shortly after taking office, Trump imposed total visa bans on seven countries in Africa and the Middle East including Yemen, Sudan, Syria, and Somalia. Some Nigerians who are American residents even fear becoming collateral damage within a new narrative of "Nigerian crime gangs."

This fear is driven in part by the experience of some innocent Hispanic teenagers who found themselves embroiled in deportation proceedings after being wrongly accused of being members of the fearsome international gang MS-13.

A sophisticated operation
Some also believe that the indictments present a risk that existing negative Nigerian stereotypes may now transcend education and income barriers.

The FBI has opened a wider window on Nigeria's internet crime problem to the world, depicting a sophisticated operation involving people with professional web development experience and organizational process knowledge.

These are not the crude "Nigerian Princes" of the popular imagination, sitting inside crowded Lagos cybercafes sending out poorly written emails. They are highly educated and well-traveled individuals, one of whom has appeared on a Forbes 30-Under-30 list.

When the implication of this sinks in, the rest of the world may well stop segmenting Nigerians and simply lose trust in them collectively.

Outside of Nigeria, the "Nigerian" identity risks becoming subsumed by the "criminal country" single narrative that once prevented Italian immigrants in the US from moving up the social ladder.

Unlike the early 20th century Italians, Nigerians have very little with which to counterbalance negative global narratives.

Italy was a global hub for art, tourism, history, religion, and food. Nigeria is a barely functional African state that struggles to fund its budget and police its borders. Adding a mafia-lite dimension to Nigeria's already poor global image risks turning Nigerians into international pariahs, which is bad news for a country that is highly dependent on remittances.

In 2018, Nigeria received over $25 billion in remittances, a figure which exceeded the country's federal budget of $23.7 billion for that year. In the context of Nigeria's dwindling oil receipts and 70% debt service-to-revenue ratio, the picture becomes even bleaker.

A full fledged-pariah state? 

As the world tackles the threat of a terrifying new Nigerian bogeyman, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) will come under pressure to demonstrate enforcement of Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Know Your Customer (KYC) regulations.

Predictably, the remittance sector will come under even stricter international scrutiny than at present, even though Nigeria's internet fraudsters mostly moved on years ago.

The indicted cybercriminals typically moved the stolen funds through the Nigerian banking system, instead of parallel systems like bitcoin and gift cards (which are themselves popular with other Nigerian internet scammers). This will likely attract the attention of the US Department of Justice.

At risk of removal from the SWIFT network, which connects banks across borders and effectively underpins international trade, Nigerian authorities will almost certainly do whatever they can to restore some semblance of global confidence in their KYC and AML enforcement.

On the whole, individual Nigerian citizens and organizations may well suffer localized backlash due to last week's indictments, but the Nigerian state itself is unlikely to suffer much. This is because unlike the North Korean regime, Nigeria's government neither plays an active role in cybercrime nor is it openly hostile to the international community.

The EFCC has already started collaborating with the FBI to arrest indicted suspects in Abuja with extradition to the US in view.

Going forward, the Nigerian government is best served playing a compliant and competent role in the prosecution of this case. Ultimately, that could be the difference between becoming a full-fledged pariah state and merely remaining a poorly-regarded one.

The state will always be fine, but the citizens? Not so much.

By David Hundeyin


Related story: FBI charges 80 people connected to Nigerian romance scams

Nigeria withdraws from summit in South Africa after deadly riots

Nigeria has pulled out of an African economic summit in South Africa, intensifying a diplomatic row after a series of deadly attacks on foreigners, including Nigerians, in South African cities.

The withdrawal of Nigerian Vice President Yemi Osinbajo from the World Economic Forum (WEF) gathering in Cape Town cast a cloud over initiatives to boost intra-African trade. He was scheduled to address a panel on universal energy access on Thursday.

The rioting has killed at least five people in Johannesburg and Pretoria in recent days.

On Wednesday, South African companies MTN and Shoprite closed stores in Nigeria after retaliatory attacks on their businesses.

"I lost millions of naira," said Jadesola, a boutique owner at Surulere mall that also houses a Shoprite outlet in the commercial capital, Lagos. "Everything I have is invested there. All my sweat."

With tears in her eyes, she asked Al Jazeera to only publish her first name for security reasons.

The political repercussions of the violence also continued to unfold.

"Clearly with this climate, he [Osinbajo] and Mr President have agreed that he should not go [to WEF]," Nigerian Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama told a news briefing.

Summit organisers confirmed Osinbajo would not attend the three-day summit, which started on Wednesday.

Nigeria also recalled its high commissioner to South Africa, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reported, citing a presidential source.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, on a charm offensive to attract $100bn of new investment, tried to limit fallout from the violence, which has rekindled memories of previous deadly attacks on foreigners that also led to reprisals on South African businesses abroad.

Ramaphosa said on Wednesday that South Africans should never take justice into their own hands against people from other countries.

"We need to quell those incidents of unrest," Ramaphosa said. "South Africa must be a country where everyone feels safe," he said, also condemning the recent incidents in which women had been killed.

Meanwhile, Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Malawi's Peter Mutharika also pulled out of the Cape Town conference, but their governments did not give an official reason for their no-show.

WEF spokesman Oliver Cann said Kagame and Mutharika had informed conference organisers by Saturday - before the attacks had started - that they could not attend.

South Africa's Department of International Relations and Cooperation, commenting before Nigeria announced Osinbajo's withdrawal, said the attendance was "satisfactory".
'Cyclical tension'

Police in South Africa have yet to pinpoint what triggered the violence, which began on Sunday when protesters armed with makeshift weapons roamed the streets of Pretoria's business district, pelting shops with rocks and petrol bombs, and running off with goods.

Police have made almost 300 arrests, while people across the continent have protested and voiced their anger on social media.

Al Jazeera's Haru Mutasa, reporting from downtown Johannesburg, said: "Some shops and businesses haven't opened for days. The owners are afraid there could be more violence and looting."

Somadoda Fikeni, a policy and political analyst at the University of South Africa, said the unrest had multiple causes.

"The issue of foreign nationals, blaming them for many things which are not going well in the country and also the law enforcement and the economic conditions in the country, all of these combined, if not managed well, then create this cyclical tension between foreign nationals and locals, especially those who are in the margins because the middle class and those who are in the upper class, you hardly ever hear of such tension getting into this level," he told Al Jazeera from Pretoria.
Retaliatory attacks

In Nigeria, police said security had been strengthened around South African businesses after apparent reprisal attacks in several cities against stores operated by the supermarket chain Shoprite, MTN and other firms.

The Nigerian division of South African telecom operator MTN said on Wednesday it would shut all stores and service centres in the country until further notice after its facilities in three cities were attacked.

"The safety and security of our customers, staff and partners is our primary concern," MTN Nigeria said in a statement. "MTN condemns any acts of violence, prejudice and xenophobia."

Nigeria is MTN's biggest market, with 58 million users in 2018, and accounts for a third of the South African group's core profit.

At a Shoprite supermarket on the outskirts of the Nigerian capital, Abuja, hundreds of protesters tried to break into the premises, throwing stones, setting fire to tyres and nearly overwhelming police protecting the site.

Retaliatory attacks also took in the university town of Ibadan and the city of Uyo on Tuesday evening, Nigeria's government said in a statement.

Nigerian Foreign Minister Onyeama on Wednesday implored people to stop attacking these businesses.

"These businesses, Shoprite, MTN and others, yes, they are South African," he said at a press briefing.

"But these are subsidiaries in Nigeria owned by Nigerians. So, as attacks are made against Shoprite and other such institutions, it is actually the property owned by Nigerians within Nigeria and the people working there are Nigerians."

In recent years, attacks against foreign-owned businesses in South Africa have become a regular occurrence as frustration has increased over mounting unemployment, currently at a decade-high of around 29 percent.

Some 60 people were killed in attacks directed at foreigners in 2008 and at least seven more in 2015.

Meanwhile, tensions have also wafted into the entertainment industry as some of the top celebrities in the two countries exchanged angry patriotic tirades.

Nigeria's Tiwa Savage, one of the continent's best-known superstars, pulled out of performing at the DSTV Delicious Festival later this month in South Africa, while calling for peace and describing the attacks as "the barbaric butchering of my people".

South African rapper Casper Nyovest also called for peace in the country saying he was "embarrassed" by what was now a "recurring issue".

Al Jazeera

Related stories: MTN Nigeria shuts stores due to Anti-South African attacks

South African businesses targeted in Nigeria in retaliation

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

MTN Nigeria shuts stores due to Anti-South African attacks

The Nigerian division of South African telecom operator MTN said on Wednesday it will shut all stores and service centres in the country until further notice after its facilities in three cities were attacked.

The facilities were attacked in retaliation after days of riots in South Africa chiefly targeting foreign-owned, including Nigerian, businesses.

“The safety and security of our customers, staff and partners is our primary concern,” MTN Nigeria said in a statement.

“MTN condemns any acts of violence, prejudice and xenophobia.”

The latest wave of unrest in South Africa has raised fears of a recurrence of violence in 2015 aimed at foreigners and in which at least seven people were killed. Before that, some 60 people were killed in a wave of unrest around the country in 2008.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said on Tuesday he was urgently sending a special envoy to meet with President Cyril Ramaphosa to secure the “safety of (Nigerian citizens’) lives and property”.

Police have yet to pinpoint what triggered the violence, which began on Sunday when protesters armed with makeshift weapons roamed the streets of Pretoria’s business district, pelting shops with rocks and petrol bombs and running off with goods.

Nigeria is MTN’s biggest market, with 58 million users in 2018 and accounts for a third of the South African group’s core profit.


Related stories: South African businesses targeted in Nigeria in retaliation

President Buhari sends envoy to South Africa over violence against Nigerians

Economic growth in Nigeria slows down in second quarter

Year-on-year growth in Nigeria’s economy slowed to 1.94% in the three months to the end of June, the second quarter in a row of decline as the country struggles to shake off the effects of a recession it escaped two years ago.

Nigeria’s economy grew by 2.10% in the first quarter compared to the previous year, according to the statistics office on Tuesday.

Africa’s biggest economy has been held back by sluggish performance in the non-oil sector despite government efforts to boost those industries and wean Nigeria off the crude oil on which it depends. The central bank has forecast growth of 3% for 2019.

In the second quarter the non-oil sector grew 1.64% while the oil sector increased 5.15%, according to the statistics office.

Crude production dipped slightly to 1.98 million barrels per day from 1.99 million in the previous quarter.


Trucking app reshapes haulage business in Nigeria

An Uber-like app for trucks is making it easier and cheaper for firms to move goods in Africa’s most populous nation.

Freight logistics startup Kobo360 is using technology to connect cargo and truck owners with drivers and customers. Logistic managers can now schedule and monitor trips from the comfort of their offices, Kobo360 CEO Obi Ozor said in a Lagos interview.

The ports in the Apapa district of Lagos account for 70% of all imports into the country and is famed for its traffic gridlock caused by long lines of empty trucks waiting to enter or leave the ports. The collapse of rail infrastructure in Nigeria means that more than 90% of cargo has to be transported by road.

“Before, they had to go to Apapa and look for trucks parked on the roadside,” Ozor said. “Now if you place an order for trucks, you can be matched within 24 to 48 hours.”

The country loses an estimated $19 billion annually from traffic jams, illegal charges and insecurity at its ports, according to the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Nigeria ranks 182 out of 189 countries, below South Sudan and Iraq in the World Bank’s Trading Across Borders survey, which measures the time and expense involved with importing and exporting goods.

The 2-year-old firm that has TLcom Capital, Y Combinator and the International Financial Corporation as investors raised $20 million in August in a funding round led by Goldman Sachs and an additional $10 million in local-currency working capital from Nigerian banks.

The Lagos-based logistics firm will use the capital to expand into 10 more countries in addition to Nigeria, Kenya, Togo and Ghana, where it already operates. It will also add 25,000 drivers to its platform in coming months to more than triple the number it currently has.

Kobo360 has moved $2.1 billion worth of goods since 2017 and has a network of 10,800 truck drivers, larger than any fleet in the country, according to Ozor. It charges an average of 385,000 naira ($1,063) for a trip. Transporters who use the platform typically have one to five trucks.

“The market in Nigeria is highly inefficient and the customer is willing to pay for faster delivery, which we offer,” he said. The company takes 15% commission on each trip processed through the Kobo360 app.

Drivers on its platform do an average of 40% more trips in a month compared with other truck drivers. Haulage is 27% cheaper than existing transporters, and have 92% on-time delivery, said the CEO.

“We achieve transparency for cargo owners through the tracker that we put on the trucks on our app. We are able to guide drivers on best routes based on feedback from them.”

The tech firm also plans to track all moving trucks in Nigeria. This will allow cargo owners to follow the movement of their goods in real time on the kobo platform.

Kobo360 has made pricing more transparent for both truck owners and businesses through the two-way quote system on its platform.

Taking out the opacity around pricing will help firms have some certainty around their logistic costs and boost investments in the sector, said Ozor.

Transport Topics

UN envoy says insecurity and violence turning Nigeria into a pressure cooker

“The overall situation that I encountered in Nigeria gives rise to extreme concern”, with issues like poverty and climate change adding to the crisis, said Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard after presenting a preliminary statement at the end of her 12-day mission.

She pointed out that if ignored, the ripple effects of unaccountability on such a large scale, had the potential to destabilize the sub-region if not the whole continent.

“Nigeria is confronting nationwide, regional and global pressures, such as population explosion, an increased number of people living in absolute poverty, climate change and desertification, and increasing proliferation of weapons”, she elaborated. “These are re-enforcing localized systems and country-wide patterns of violence, many of which are seemingly spinning out of control”.

Ms. Callamard highlighted many areas of concern, including armed conflict against the Boko Haram terrorist group in the northeast; insecurity and violence in the northwest; the conflict in the central area known as the Middle Belt and parts of the northwest and south, between nomadic Fulani herdsmen and indigenous farming communities.

She also noted the prevalence of organized gangs or cults in Nigeria’s south; general repression of minority and indigenous groups; killings during evictions in slum areas; and widespread police brutality.

Some signs of improvement

The UN expert said there were some positive signs, including progress against the extremist Boko Haram group and affiliates, as well as a decline in allegations of arbitrary killings and deaths in custody at the hands of the military over the last two years.

However, she noted little progress in terms of accountability and reparations for grave human rights violations in the past.

“I particularly urge the Nigerian Government, and the international community, to prioritize as a matter of urgency, accountability and access to justice for all victims and addressing the conflicts between nomadic cattle breeding and farming communities, fueled by toxic narratives and the large availability of weapons”, she underscored.

While some high-profile cases of killings by police have resulted in the arrest and prosecution of the officers responsible and others involving clashes between Fulani herdsmen and indigenous farming communities have been investigated in Benue State, she flagged that “such examples of accountability remain the exception”.

“In almost all of the cases that were brought to my attention during the visit none of the perpetrators had been brought to justice”, lamented the Special Rapporteur.

“The loss of trust and confidence in public institutions prompts Nigerians to take matters of protection into their own hands, which is leading to a proliferation of self-protecting armed militia and cases of ‘jungle justice’”, she said.

Ms. Callamard called on the Nigerian authorities “to look carefully into my findings”, saying that she remains “available for further cooperation”.

During her mission, the UN envoy met Government officials, local authorities and civil society as well as family members whose relatives had been brutally killed and people forced from their homes. Among the cities on her itinerary were Abuja, Maiduguri, Makurdi, Jos, Port Harcourt and Lagos.

Special Rapporteurs are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on the situation, which Ms. Callamard will do in June 2020.

The positions are honorary and receive no pay for their work.

UN News

South African businesses targeted in Nigeria in retaliation

Nigerian protesters have taken to the streets of Lagos after violence against foreign nationals in South Africa.

Protesters targeted South African franchises such as Shoprite but were unable to gain access to the building.

One body was seen lying on the ground during the attack.

The violence comes after five deaths in Johannesburg, where foreign-owned shops were targeted during riots.

South African companies in Nigeria including MTN and Multichoice have expressed concern over the situation.

Nigeria's government is sending a special envoy to meet President Cyril Ramaphosa to discuss the matter.


President Buhari sends envoy to South Africa over violence against Nigerians

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari sent a special envoy to South African President Cyril Ramaphosa following reported attacks on Nigerian citizens and property in Johannesburg.

Buhari also summoned the South African High Commissioner to seek assurances of the safety of Nigerians, his special adviser, Femi Adesina, said in an emailed statement Tuesday.

South Africa has been hit by an outbreak of attacks on migrants from other African countries as the nation prepared to host a meeting of political and business leaders from across the continent this week. That’s due to be attended by Nigerian Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who also condemned the violence.

“It is sad and very unfortunate that the lives and livelihoods of Nigerians living in South Africa are once again being destroyed with such wantonness carelessness and recklessness,” he tweeted.

The attacks also come ahead of a planned state visit by Buhari to the country next month.

By Elisha Bala-Gbogbo


Monday, September 2, 2019

Journalist in Nigeria charged with treason for criticizing governor

Agba Jalingo, the publisher of CrossRiverWatch, an online newspaper, was arrested in his residence in Lagos, Nigeria, at around 2 p.m. local time by the Federal Special Anti Robbery Squad (FSARS) of the Nigerian police on August 22.

CrossRiverWatch reported that FSARS invaded the Lagos bakery of Violet, wife of Jalingo, where they “seized the phones of all staff present and ordered them to show to them Jalingo’s residence”.

On August 23, police transferred Jalingo to Calabar, the capital of Cross River State in Nigeria's Niger Delta region, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Jalingo's transfer to Calabar was allegedly on the request of Ben Ayade, governor of Cross River State.

Abuja-based online daily Premium Times stated that Jalingo was, on August 30, charged with treason, terrorism, cultism and public disturbance in a Federal High Court in Abuja, for “working with the #RevolutionNow movement”—founded by detained human rights activist Omoyele Sowore to protest bad governance in Nigeria— to ”undemocratically’ force the government of Ayade to end through violent means.”

If convicted, Jalingo risks life imprisonment, fine or both.

Politics meet journalism

Cross River State Governor Benedict [Ben] Ayade, is an opposition politician with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Ayade's greatest headache has been from the African Action Congress (AAC), a political party founded by the #RevolutionNow movement protest leader Omoyele Sowore.

Jalingo, who also doubles as the state chairman of the AAC, has regularly criticized Ayade's governance of Cross Rivers State. Ayade had allegedly threatened that Jalingo will “face prosecution for misinformation.”

Ayade was re-elected as for a second term of four years in the February 2019 elections, where he beat his closest rivals from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and Social Democratic Party (SDP).

It is not certain if the AAC fielded a candidate during the governorship elections. The breakdown of the 2019 governorship elections results by the BBC only showed three parties: Ayade's PDP, the APC and SDP.

Corruption allegations

On July 17, Jalingo wrote a critical story about an alleged diversion of 500 million naira (about $1.4 million United States dollars) meant for the establishment of Cross River state Micro-Finance Bank. Jalingo stated that “eight months after the opening of the bank,” Ayade had failed to to release the money meant for the start-up of the state-owned bank:

"Governor Ayade will do Cross Riverians a whole lot of good by coming public to tell the people of Cross River State, where the 500 million [Naira] he released for the Cross River State Micro-Finance bank is, because the money is certainly not in that bank."

Governor Ayade will do Cross Riverians a whole lot of good by coming public to tell the people of Cross River State, where the 500 million [Naira] he released for the Cross River State Micro-Finance bank is, because the money is certainly not in that bank.

On August 14, the Cross River State Command of the Nigerian Police invited Jalingo for questioning on the allegation of “conspiracy to cause unrest and conduct likely to cause a breach of peace”:

"This office is investigating a case of conspiracy to cause a breach of peace, reported by Cross River Microfinance Bank, Calabar, in which your name is mentioned. To facilitate our investigation, you are kindly requested to interview the Deputy Commissioner of Police, State Criminal Investigation Department, Calabar, on Monday, 19 August 2019, at [7:00 p.m.] 1400hrs, to state your side of the case."

However, Jalingo was arrested in Lagos on August 22, four days before the scheduled date to honour the police invitation.

Global Voices