Thursday, October 31, 2019

Video - Nigeria working to eradicate polio

Nigeria is the only polio endemic country in Africa and one of only three remaining countries in the world where the virus remains a public health concern. That's according to the World Health Organization which goes on to report that it's been three years since the last polio case was reported, and the country is on its way to being certified polio-free by the W.H.O. Phil Ihaza reports from Nigeria's capital Abuja.

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

Video - Giant of Africa featuring Nigerian NBA champion Masai Ujiri

Real Sports travels with Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri as he returns home to Nigeria with the NBA trophy.

Nigeria coach unhappy with Super Eagle's fixture schedule

Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr says November's 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers fixture schedule facing his side is "not ideal and proper" as he announced a 23-man squad.

The Super Eagles open their Group L campaign against neighbours Benin at home on 13 November before travelling to face Lesotho four days later.

"Our players from Europe will only get to us a day or two before the first game, so there is no time for adaptation to the African conditions," Rohr said.

"After that game on Thursday we travel to Lesotho away on Friday to play on an artificial surface on Sunday. This is not ideal and proper for any team.

"We've spoken to Caf about this but nothing has been done."

Experienced defender Kenneth Omeruo, Italy-based Ola Aina and Samuel Kalu all return after having to withdraw from the recent friendly against Brazil because of injury.

Kaizer Chiefs goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi, who was left out of the last two friendly matches, returns along with fit-again captain Ahmed Musa, who has been absent since the Nations Cup finals in Egypt.

European-based trio Victor Osimhen, Samuel Chukwueze and Alex Iwobi have also been included in the 23-man squad.

However there is no place for Kelechi Iheanacho, who has seen little game time in the Premier League this season at Leicester City, but was on the scoresheet as they beat third-tier Burton Albion in the League Cup.

Nigeria squad:

Goalkeepers: Daniel Akpeyi (Kaizer Chiefs, South Africa); Ikechukwu Ezenwa (Heartland); Maduka Okoye (Fortuna Dusseldorf, Germany)

Defenders: Kenneth Omeruo and Chidozie Awaziem (Leganes, Spain); Abdullahi Shehu (Bursaspor, Turkey); William Troost-Ekong (Udinese, Italy); Olaoluwa Aina (Torino, Italy); Jamilu Collins (SC Padeborn 07, Germany); Oluwasemilogo Ajayi (West Bromwich Albion, England); Bryan Idowu (Lokomotiv Moscow, Russia)

Midfielders: Alexander Iwobi (Everton, England); Mikel Agu (Vitoria Guimaraes, Portugal); Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City, England); Joseph Ayodele-Aribo (Glasgow Rangers, Scotland); Ramon Azeez (Granada, Spain)

Forwards: Ahmed Musa (Al Nassr, Saudi Arabia); Victor Osimhen (Lille, France); Moses Simon (Nantes, France); Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal, Spain); Paul Onuachu (Genk, Belgium); Emmanuel Dennis (Club Brugge, Belgium); Samuel Kalu (Bordeaux, France)

Standby: Leon Balogun (Brighton & Hove Albion, England); Peter Olayinka (SK Slavia Prague, Czech Republic); Oghenekaro Etebo (Stoke City, England)


Border crisis in Nigeria fueled by rice

Nigeria, one of Africa's superpowers, closed all its land borders two months ago to tackle smuggling - but the unprecedented move is affecting trade across the region.

Bustling borders have come to a standstill, with goods rotting and queues of lorries waiting at checkpoints in the hope the crossings will reopen.

The closures were imposed without warning on 21 August - and Nigeria's neighbours are angry.

What prompted the move?

Mainly rice. It seems Nigeria was fed up about the flouting of its ban on the importation of rice over its land borders.

Smugglers bringing in rice from Benin appeared to be making a killing.

The biggest contraband route was between Cotonou, Benin's biggest city, and Nigeria's commercial hub Lagos, which is just a few hours' drive away.

According to the World Bank, Benin's economy is heavily reliant on the informal re-export and transit trade with Nigeria, which accounts for about 20% of its GDP, or national income.

And about 80% of imports into Benin are destined for Nigeria, the bank says.

Nigeria banned the importation of rice from Benin in 2004 and from all its neighbours in 2016, but that has not stopped the trade.

Why is rice so lucrative?

Nigeria is only allowing in foreign rice through its ports - where since 2013 it has imposed a tax of 70%.

The move is intended not only to raise revenue but also to encourage the local production of rice.

But smugglers have been taking advantage of the fact that it is cheaper to import rice to Nigeria's neighbours.

According to the Nigerian maritime site Ships and Ports, in 2014 Benin lowered its tariffs on rice imports from 35% to 7% while Cameroon erased it completely from 10%.

Neighbouring Benin then recorded an astronomical rise in imports from Thailand, the world's second-largest producer.

At its height, each of Benin's 11.5 million citizens would have had to consume at least 150kg (330lb) of rice from Thailand alone.

So it seems pretty clear that the rice was making its way into Nigeria to meet the shortfall in local production for a country of almost 200 million people.

And Nigerians' appetite for rice is almost insatiable in a country where the grain is a staple.

There was a time was when it was considered an elitist meal consumed only on Sundays. But now its affordability - plus the love for jollof rice - has made it a national dish.

Is it just about rice?

No. Benin is also a major corridor for second-hand cars to Nigeria, where there is a ban on importing cars that are more than 15 years old.

Official figures are difficult to come by, but Luxembourg-based shipping company BIM e-solutions says an average of 10,000 cars arrive at the Cotonou port from Europe monthly.

According to the Nigeria Customs Service, many are smuggled across the border.

The authorities also want to tackle smugglers going the other way. Many sell cheap subsidised Nigerian petrol in neighbouring countries.

In July, the head of Nigeria's national petroleum company, Maikanti Baru, said petrol smugglers were taking about 10 million litres (two million gallons) out of the country each day.

How has West Africa been affected?

Many goods come in through the port of Lagos and are transported by road throughout the region by hundreds of thousands of lorries.

Nigeria's immediate neighbours Benin, Niger, Chad and Cameroon - as well as Ghana and Togo have been hit by the crisis.

Ghana's Foreign Minister Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey said the country's traders had incurred huge losses because their goods had been detained for weeks at the Nigeria-Benin border.

She advised the Nigerian government to "find ways of isolating the issues and the countries that it has problems with, so that Ghana's exports can enter Nigeria's market without being lumped up with all these issues that have emerged".

In Benin, photographer Yanick Folly posted images of baskets of tomatoes, lined up and decaying near the border.

Benin's Agriculture Minister Gaston Dossouhoui described it as "a distressing sight" when he visited markets in the town of Grand Popo.

"It's very difficult for our producers. It's a disaster," he was quoted by the AFP news agency as saying.

In an effort to mollify its powerful neighbour, Niger has since imposed its own ban on the exportation of rice to Nigeria.

But it is the border communities, where traders often criss-cross for market days, that are suffering.

BBC Hausa reporter Tchima Illa Issoufou in Niger said traders in two border towns she visited were unable to do business as most were not able to cross the border.

And a long line of lorries, most heavy with goods, stands at Maradi close to the border with Nigeria.

Is the move illegal?

The border closure goes against an agreement that guarantees free movement between the 15 members of the West African regional bloc Ecowas.

However it is legal for an Ecowas member state to restrict the importation of certain food and agricultural products - and in 2004 Benin and Nigeria agreed to ban 29 foreign products from being imported into Nigeria.

Yet Nigeria's actions have many questioning its commitment to the historic AfCFTA free-trade agreement, which it signed up to in July that lays the foundation for the creation of the world's largest free trade area and is intended to boost trade between African countries.

There are those who describe Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari's protectionist attitude as "Trumpian".

But Kalu Aja, a financial analyst in Lagos, says the very fact that Mr Buhari signed AfCTA is proof that he is different from his US counterpart Donald Trump.

"Buhari is not being protectionist but seeking to protect the gains made in local agriculture, in rice especially," he told the BBC.

"Keep in mind the sea borders are still open, tariffs have not gone up. Trump cut taxes, then cut regulations then imposed tariffs on China, Canada etc."

How has Nigeria been affected?

In the southern state of Rivers, some traders at the rice depot section of the Mile 1 market in Port Harcourt have packed up and gone home.

They say the dramatic closure of the borders gave them no time to stock up.

And prices have gone up too. Foreign rice now sells for 60% more, while locally produced rice has increased by almost 100%.

But there has been the up side.

Nigeria customs chief Hameed Ali recently told MPs that tax revenues had gone up as cargo destined for Benin was now arriving at Nigerian ports.

One day in September, a record 9.2bn naira ($25m, £20m) was collected, which had "never happened before", he said.

"After the closure of the border and since then, we have maintained an average of about 4.7bn naira to 5.8bn naira on a daily basis, which is far more than we used to collect."

What happens next?

No-one knows. Nigeria has not said how long it will keep the borders shut to commercial traffic.

In August, Benin's President Patrice Talon pleaded with Mr Buhari, on the sidelines of a summit in Japan, for the reopening saying: "Our people are suffering."

But Nigeria's customs boss has been quoted as saying the borders will remain closed, blaming neighbouring countries for not doing more to stamp out smuggling.

Some point to corruption at border points as the main culprit behind the smuggling, which implicates Nigerian officials as much as those of its neighbours.

However, as its crude oil exports are not being affected, Nigeria's borders might remain closed for a while.

By Nduka Orjinmo


Related story: Smuggling booms despite Nigeria border closure

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

$2 billion tax dispute case between MTN and Nigeria set for January 2020

A federal judge in Lagos has set Jan. 30 and 31 for the hearing of a $2 billion tax dispute between South Africa’s MTN Group and the Nigerian government.

The attorney general has demanded the telecoms firm pay the tax bill relating to the import of equipment and payments to foreign suppliers from 2007 to 2017, but MTN argues the claim is without merit and that the attorney general exceeded his powers in making the request.

On Tuesday, lawyers for the government submitted their case against MTN, insisting the attorney general has the power to levy the charge and requesting a court date in late January to continue the proceedings.

Government lawyers had in June asked that the case be adjourned until October to give time to prepare their case, the latest dispute between MTN and the Nigerian government.

Nigeria is the South African firm’s biggest market, with roughly 58 million users accounting for a third of its core profit.

In December, MTN agreed to make a $53 million payment to resolve a separate dispute with Nigeria’s central bank, which said the company improperly removed $8.1 billion from the country between 2007 and 2008.

MTN also this year was set to pay off another 330 billion naira ($1 billion) fine imposed for not disconnecting unregistered SIM cards.

In May, the company’s local unit, MTN Nigeria, listed in Lagos in a 2 trillion naira flotation that made it the second-largest stock on the bourse by market value.

It has said that it would sell more shares to the public and increase local ownership once the tax row is resolved.


Heavy rains causes scores of inmates to break ouf of prison in Nigeria

Nearly 100 inmates remain at large after torrential rains in central Nigeria allowed scores of protesters to escape, according to authorities.

The "perimeter fence" of the facility in Kogi state was destroyed by rains and cells flooded, forcing inmates "to break out of custody for safety", Francis Enobore, of the Nigerian Correctional Service, said in a statement on Tuesday.

"A torrential downpour on Monday 28th October, 2019, caused a surging flood that overran the centre at about 02:00 hours (GMT) pulling down a section of the perimeter fence," Enobore said, adding that "122 of them took the opportunity to escape, 105 remained on the spot".

"Twenty-five of the escapees have been recaptured, leaving 97 still at large."

Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, has been particularly affected by heavy rains that have continued to fall, after the end of the rainy season.

The agrarian central states of Niger, Benue, Kogi and Taraba have been affected by flooding in recent months.

The rains have destroyed crops in the country's key agricultural belt, and forced tens of thousands of people to leave their homes, according to the National Emergency Management Agency.

In the northeastern state of Adamawa, more than 40 villages have also been totally destroyed by the downpour in recent days local news reports said.

Al Jazeera

Monday, October 28, 2019

Video - UN reopens office in Abuja 8 years after a bomb attack

United Nations has reopened its building in the capital Abuja, eight years after a bomb attack.The August 2011 bombing left 23 dead and several others wounded. The UN was forced to continue its operations from donated buildings to allow renovation works. Looking to the future, the 75th UN assembly is set to redouble its efforts and commitment to multilateralism.

Torture houses masquerading as koranic schools in Nigeria

The private Islamic boarding school in Daura, northern Nigeria, was not somewhere you would want a child to stay for more than a few minutes, let alone months or years.

The Koranic and Rehabilitation Centre was one of series of institutions raided over the past month where parents have been sending troublesome children and young men who may be addicted to drugs or have committed petty crimes. But the raids have revealed them to be more akin to "torture houses", officials say.

The centre in Daura, President Muhammadu Buhari's hometown, was made up of two main buildings, one clean and well-built where children were taught the Koran.

Across the road was the centre's accommodation - a run-down single-storey compound, made up of five or six dark cells with barred windows and doors around a courtyard.

The air was stuffy and nauseating. Former students told us that up to 40 people were kept in chains in each 7-sq-m (75-sq-ft) cell.

Filthy clothes and bedding littered the floor. Those who lived there were often forced to urinate and defecate with their chains on - in the same place they ate and slept.

They would be regularly taken out for beatings or to be raped by the staff.

"It was hell on earth," said Rabiu Umar, a former detainee at the centre.

Sixty-seven boys and men were freed from the facility. Police said there were 300 people on the school register, but many of them had escaped following a riot the previous weekend.

Over the past month about 600 people have been found to be living in such horrifying conditions: chained, starved and abused.

The first discovery was in late September in the Rigasa neighbourhood of Kaduna city in the north-west. Following a tip-off from a relative, the police found nearly 500 people, including children, detained in appalling conditions.

Videos showed rescued students looking dazed, their legs shackled and their bodies covered in blisters.

Some of them were pictured dangling from the ceiling. Others had their hands or feet chained to car wheel rims.

Hafsat Baba, Kaduna state's commissioner of human services and social development, told the BBC at the time the authorities planned to identify all facilities of this type and close them down.

She added that they would prosecute the owners of centres "found to be torturing children or holding people in these kind of horrific situations".

Ten days ago, for the first time women were also amongst those rescued - from another institution in Kaduna.

This is unusual, according to Ms Baba, who added that these institutions seldom admit both sexes.

As the raids continue and more details emerge, they have been met with public outrage, but these institutions were no secret.

Jaafar Jaafar, from online media platform the Daily Nigerian, says people who live there have always known.

'Spiritual healing'

"I don't think there is any person who grows up in the north who can claim that they aren't aware of these schools - we all know they abuse children there."

He adds that growing up in Kano in the 1980s and 1990s he was aware of a number of schools like these.

"People believe that these schools have the spiritual power to heal. They don't mind how much the children are dehumanised, or how they're treated, as long as their child receives a Koranic education and is rehabilitated."

However, some parents have denied knowing their children were abused.

Following the raid in Kaduna in September, Ibrahim Adamu, the father of one of the students, told Reuters news agency: "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.''

According to Sanusi Buba, the Katsina police commissioner, parents are not able to speak to their children while they are at the centres. And even if they visit they do not have unsupervised access to them.

This wave of discoveries has raised awareness outside of northern Nigeria of the problem of abuse in these rehabilitation centres.

Mr Buba said the tradition of people in the north taking their troublesome children to religious rehabilitation centres "has been an age-long situation but [the behaviour] can worsen as a result of abuse".

Nevertheless he is adamant that "the law of this country does not allow someone to create a rehabilitation centre and collect money".

Drug addiction

Part of the problem may be to do with the lack of state-funded facilities in the north.

According to the UN, there were three million drug users in north-west Nigeria in 2017. Nearly half a million of them were in Katsina state, which only runs two rehabilitation centres - one for men and another for women.

With a lack of publicly-funded options, private rehabilitation centres in the form of these schools have become a final resort for parents who have run out of options.

Even those who manage to access a public facility find conditions are not much better.

Last year a BBC investigation exposed horrifying conditions in a state centre in Kano, where patients with mental health issues were chained to the ground.

Katsina Governor Aminu Bello Masari said his centres were well-equipped to provide the rehabilitation needed for drug abuse or mental disorders.

But with parents still turning to centres that say they rehabilitate people in the name of Islam, it is not clear that the government has the capacity to deal with the problem.

And with no concrete alternatives, desperate families will keep turning to religious centres for solutions.

By Mayeni Jones


Related stories: Survivor recounts torture house experience in Nigeria

Hundreds freed from torture house in Nigeria

Friday, October 25, 2019

Nigeria improves in World Bank ease of doing business

Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, improved its ranking on the latest World Bank ease of doing business index, but some analysts say that doesn't necessarily mean an improved economy -- and that the country still has anti-business policies.

The country now ranks 131 on the World Bank's Doing Business 2020 index, released Wednesday. The west African nation moved up 15 places from its 2019 spot and has been tagged as one of the most improved economies in the world for running a business.

The index is a yearly ranking that assesses the business environment in 190 countries using various indicators including paying taxes, trading across borders, starting a business and protecting minority investors.

Tunde Leye, a Nigeria-based business analyst with SBM Intelligence, said the new rank is a major improvement from last year but there are existing counterproductive policies that make running businesses hard.

"The ease of doing business may be better, but the actual process of running a business has been stifled," he told CNN.

In 2016, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, set up a government organization -- the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) -- with the aim of minimizing the constraints that come with running businesses in the country.

The organization put together reforms geared toward making it more convenient for business owners to thrive.
Some of them include cutting down the time it takes to register a business, new grid connections for electricity and upgrading election systems for imports and exports.

But according to Leye, these policies may have the opposite of the desired effect as a lot of traders and business owners are losing revenue and goods, referencing the recent closure of the Nigerian land borders.
In August, Buhari closed Nigeria's land frontiers to goods traded with Chad, Niger, Cameroon and Benin, citing the need to protect the country's economy from frequent smuggling.
"This closure has erased millions' worth of trade. It is counterproductive in making business easy. We should not tamper with trade and monetary policy in that manner," Leye said.

Business transformation

Ola Brown, founder of Flying Doctors Nigeria, a medical emergency services company, said some of the reforms have helped transform her business.
"I run an air ambulance business and visa on arrival, a simple policy change, has changed my business. We can now bring patients to Nigeria without having to get a visa in advance," she told CNN.

In 2017, as part of a plan to improve the country's business climate, the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) reviewed the requirements for Nigerian visas to make them more customer-friendly.

Brown admits that despite the change she has experienced, every business will be hit differently by the reforms. "Depending on what your business is or what you do, everyone will have a different opinion about how the current reforms are working for them," she said.

"For me, visa on arrival has helped increase my revenue and improve my business," she added.
In a statement Thursday, the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council said it has more plans to deliver sustainable economic growth and improvement of businesses across the country.

"We are committed to more engagement between reform-implementing organs of government and the private sector players and we are happy to see that this has resulted in a more favorable validation of the reforms by the private sector," council secretary Jumoke Oduwole said in the statement.

"The council is focused on delivering even more substantive reforms for the improvement of the general business climate," Oduwole said.

There is progress with government efforts to create a stable business environment, but there should also be consideration for better education and training for entrepreneurs on how to run businesses, Brown said.

According to her, investing in teaching business owners ways to improve and grow their business will have a positive effect on the country's business climate.

"It's not just in the big skills. Small systematic things, like how to negotiate better with foreign partners, will help the ease of doing business," she said.

By Aisha Salaudeen


Thursday, October 24, 2019

Video - Farming: Adewale Akinnuoye-Abaje directorial debut with emotive film

Nigerian-British actor Adewale Akinnuoye-Abaje has launched his directorial debut – Farming – in Lagos, Nigeria, just days after it was released in the UK. "It is an important part of British history as well as Nigerian culture... I'm hoping that it (the #film) would create a dialogue and a collective therapy for those that are still suffering," the actor said during the launch on 19 October. The movie will premiere in the US on 25 October.

Related story: Black skinhead film directed by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje hopes to "heal" pain

18 dead due to floods in central Nigeria

Death toll has risen to 18 due to the floods caused by persistent rainfall in central Nigeria, said a local official on Wednesday.

Confirming the figure to reporters, Ibrahim Inga, head of the Niger State Emergency Management Agency in Nigeria's central region, said eight more deaths were recorded recently.

On October 16, Inga had earlier confirmed 10 deaths recorded over the past two months as the floods wreaked havoc in the state.

So far, 41,959 people have been displaced due to the disaster, the official said.

The floods, as a result of a localized high-intensity rainfall accompanied by torrential winds since August, also triggered massive run-off activities in streams and rivers in the state.

"The combined effect of the micro-climate trend and severe rainfall regime upstream of rivers Niger and Kaduna increased inflow in the basin, which resulted in the spillage of the water from the three hydropower dams," Inga told reporters.

He said 2,714 houses have been destroyed so far by the disaster. The flood swept through 20 local government areas, with 152 communities submerged.

The floods also badly damaged, roads, bridges, culverts and other buildings, the official said.

Inga said the excess waters had inundated several hectares of farmlands and displaced some dwellers in hinterland communities.

The Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency, which is responsible for issuing flood alerts here, had since early August issued an alert over possible flooding due to the high intensity of rainfall across the country.

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

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


Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Video - Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri brings NBA trophy to Nigeria

Real Sports travels with Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri as he returns home to Nigeria with the NBA trophy. Real Sports is all-new Tuesday, October 22 at 10PM on HBO.

Related story: The remarkable story of British Nigerian football start Ola Aina

Whatsapp is the app of choice for spreading face news in Nigeria

Amid fears of a possible Ebola outbreak in Nigeria during the devastating epidemic that plagued West Africa in 2014, a WhatsApp broadcast made the rounds:

“Please ensure that you and your family and all your neighbors bathe with hot water and salt before daybreak today because of Ebola virus which is spreading through the air,“ it read.

Even though there was no medical basis for it, the “prescription” went viral enough for the government to officially debunk it. But that ultimately proved futile, as at least two people died and several others were hospitalized over excessive salt consumption.

The incident offered a snapshot of how misinformation spreads unchecked on social media platforms, especially WhatsApp. Crucially, older Nigerians served as key conduits for that WhatsApp broadcast as several recipients—even beyond Nigeria—say they got the broadcast from parents, grandparents, and older relatives. Given the potent mix of fear (the outbreak killed over 11,000 people across West Africa) and uncertain information about the virus and the disease, older Nigerians were particularly quick to spread the bogus prevention technique in a bid to “save” family and friends.

But that Ebola broadcast was not a one-off. With family WhatsApp groups so popular, a common complaint among younger Nigerians revolves around the barrage of forwarded messages which range from improbable to ludicrous that are shared by parents and grandparents.

But there’s an explanation for this. In some ways, WhatsApp is theinternet for older users.

Unlike other social platforms which require creating and managing online profiles as well fast-moving interactions older users may be unable to keep up with, WhatsApp condenses the experience of having personal and group conversations, sharing photos and videos, receiving and sharing news into a one-stop shop platform that mirrors regular text messaging in its ease of use. “WhatsApp is the closest to SMS, which is the simplest of the lot. I don’t have to try remembering your handle or go to a platform to message you. That is appealing for everyone, not just the 60-plus age group,” says Gbenga Sesan, founder of Paradigm Initiative, a digital rights-focused social enterprise.

WhatsApp can also be thought of as a “walled garden” for a generation that’s too old to keep up with the vastness, complexity, and fast-moving pace of the wider internet. As such, just as WhatsApp is both an entry point for social media and internet use, it can also a bubble.

Part of the problem lies in how WhatsApp is structured and how it works as its biggest strength—end-to-end encryption on messages—is also its key weakness. The platform has admitted to struggling with finding ways to detect and manage the flow and impact of misinformation. WhatsApp’s potential as a tool for misinformation is further amplified by its sheer popularity: it’s the most popularmessaging app across several African countries, including Nigeria. Local telecoms operators have also created WhatsApp-only data bundles for users.

New tech, old ways

Despite the modernity of WhatsApp and the technology that powers it, the driving force of the spread of misinformation, especially among older users, is linked to an old concept: social trust.

In a recent report by the Center for Democracy and Development and the University of Birmingham on WhatsApp’s role during Nigeria’s February elections, some respondents cited parents and grandparents as the “biggest sharers” of misinformation. “It was something we heard quite a lot,” says Jamie Hitchen, one of the report’s authors. “While younger people have more critical thinking with sharing when it comes to digital platforms, older people were reported to be far more willing.” The report attributes that tendency to share as being down to a lack of digital literacy and a reliance on trusted social networks.

“It’s the same way wealth is created among trusting friends: you get, you share,” Sesan says. “At 60, you’ve probably grown to get information in a world where trust existed, where verification and media were synonymous. Unfortunately, digital tools don’t follow old school traditional verification and trust ethos.”

For his part, Olurotimi Alade, a 60-year old university teacher and father of three, says his trust in “the integrity” of the sender of information “plays a huge role” in his decision to forward messages. And while he tries to fact-check information before forwarding as much as possible, he says “some alarming information appear to be of such immediate concern that forwarding them without probably verifying would most likely to be the prudent thing to do.”

For parents and older relatives, those sort of messages revolve around the safety of loved ones, however improbable the information appears to be. Sherifat, a 54-year old retired bank director, who also forwarded the salt-water Ebola cure to her daughter eight years ago, says she did so out of fear. “Even if I didn’t believe it, it was better to be careful,” she says.

In search of solutions

WhatsApp understands the scale of its fake news problem. Earlier this year, it pegged its message forwarding limit to five people to “help keep WhatsApp focused on private messaging” with close contacts. “The change has reduced messaging behavior by around 25% globally,” a WhatsApp spokesperson told Quartz.

But with its groups feature largely unaffected, the flow of misinformation remains prominent: “one random person can share into a trusted network and that gets shared on,” Sesan says. CDD’s report also noted that 73% of respondents said the average size of the groups they were in was 50 or more people. WhatsApp groups can hold up to 256 members.

As added measures, WhatsApp now labels forwarded messages and has also recently introduced a “frequently forwarded” label to alert users when they received messages that “were previously forwarded several times.” It is also introducing more controls for group admins to allow them determine members that can send messages.

WhatsApp has also relied on mass media to solve its fake news problem. “In the run-up to the Nigeria national election, WhatsApp made significant product changes to limit the spread of viral content, banned accounts engaging in automated or bulk messaging, and sponsored a broad education campaign on broadcast platforms in Nigeria including on the radio, print, and online,” the WhatsApp spokesperson says.

Some solutions have also come from third-party groups. During Nigeria’s general elections, a coalition of journalists set up a WhatsApp business channel for crowd-sourcing questionable claimsfrom the public which were then fact-checked with users encouraged to spread accurate fact-checked reports just as widely as the initial claims.

But none of these solutions focus primarily on older users.

One possible fix could come in the form of younger members of family groups on WhatsApp challenging and correcting their parents when questionable claims are shared. That’s unlikely though, given Nigeria’s conservative family culture, which often places obeisance above perceived dissent. Yet those who are brave enough to try are hardly guaranteed success either: Akinlabi, a 24-year old Lagos-based filmmaker, still gets broadcasts with questionable claims from mum despite several conversations about mindless forwarding.

And so the big question: is it too late to improve the levels of awareness of fake news among older users of WhatsApp in Nigeria?

Sesan says “the short answer is yes.” And Hitchen largely agrees: “It’s difficult to think of a short term solution to solve the problem. It’s got to be long term thinking on how to improve digital literacy but it will be more difficult among older people with less understanding of these things work.”

By Yomi Kazeem


The remarkable story of British Nigerian football start Ola Aina

At the Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt earlier this year, 23-year-old Ola Aina played in his first major international tournament, helping the Nigerian national team to a third-place finish.

In doing so, he completed a remarkable personal journey.

Born in Southwark, South London to Nigerian parents, Ola has risen to the ranks of professional football - playing for Chelsea, Torino and the Nigerian national team, despite growing up with few privileges.

His journey began when he competed in a tournament in Bognor Regis on the English coast with his youth side. He was voted "most valuable player" among over 600 others, spotted by scouts and attracted attention from 15 clubs, including Premier League sides Tottenham and Chelsea - he later went on to play for the "Blues" as an under-11.

His father Olufemi Aina, a central figure in Ola's story, always believed his son had the making of a gifted athlete. Ola as a child, Olufemi told Al Jazeera, was so physically impressive that he carried his birth certificate around to prove he was the right age.

"He was meant to sign for Tottenham," his father said. "They had him over for about three weeks, then on the day he was supposed to sign, they kept acting funny. As a big Spurs fan, it was heartbreaking. Luckily, Chelsea officials were still calling us daily, so we decided, 'Why not go where you are wanted?'"

But the celebrations were short-lived, as the family desperately rallied around to try and make Ola's dream possible.

His parents often worked several jobs. At one time, his mother Esther had four just to put food on the table for her four sons - Michael, Ola - the second born, Jordan and Benjamin.

When Ola started playing with Chelsea, they would pick him up in their shabby car from training after their work shifts, getting back home just before midnight.

Ola would be up for school again the next morning.

The situation got worse when Olufemi, unable to hold onto jobs because of his commitments to his son's training, lost their house.

"A bleak time for the whole family, and for me," said Ola. "That was a life lesson."

Although Esther is, in Ola's words, his "number one fan", she needed a bit more convincing every now and then.

As a young player, the budding footballer spent four days trying to persuade her to move the family from Essex to Surrey, to be closer to Chelsea. She eventually gave in.

But that was the least of it. About six years ago, his father was driving him to Chelsea when the car broke down.

"The car just stopped in the middle of Vauxhall (in central London), and we were just stranded.

"He sold the car on the spot and then he put me on the train. He came on the train with me because I hadn't really used trains like that before, so it wasn't really too familiar.

"He came with me all the way to Chelsea training ground, made sure I got into my changing room, and then went all the way back home again … All those sacrifices they [made] is fuel for me to strive and to do well and repay them in ways that they can't imagine."

Remembering that day, Olufemi said: "It was not always smooth sailing, but you need to give the child support. In football, some will not make it, but the child deserves a chance."

One of the ways Ola has "repaid" his parents is by taking Esther to a dealership and buying her a brand new car, which prompted her to fast for three days to thank God.

"My heart was full with thanks to God. I never thought that in my lifetime that my child would get me a car," she told Al Jazeera.

In August 2016, Ola made his senior professional debut for Chelsea in the League Cup. Over the course of that season, he made a handful of appearances.

But the next season was spent out on loan to Hull City in the English Championship.

When he returned to London in 2018, there was interest from Torino.

"This was an opportunity to be in a top league, and to get some good experience," he said.

The Italian team made his loan deal permanent earlier this year.

Playing for Nigeria

In 2017, Ola chose to represent the Nigeria national football team, also known as the Super Eagles, at the international level, despite having played for England in the youth ranks.

At the Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt, his spectacular back-heeled assist against Burundi was among the many moments celebrated by fans and countrymen.

His performance in North Africa earned him rave reviews in the local press and also impressed the notoriously judgemental Super Eagles fans on social media.

Thousands of miles away, he was being cheered in Nigeria.

"It was all over the news, [Ola] gave our folks something to be proud of back home," said his uncle Abayomi Aina.

"I was overjoyed and the fact that it's my nephew, the name Aina being mentioned by commentators.

"In a country of about 200 million people, his name was on the lips of millions from Lagos to Ijebu Ikenne (the family's ancestral hometown) and it was indeed a proud moment for us."

In Nigeria, the chances of a footballer ascending to the highest levels of the sport are slim.

"Nigeria is a conveyor belt of talent, with its sheer weight of numbers allied to the popularity of football," said Lagos-based sports journalist Solace Chukwu.

"However, there are simply no structures in place to develop and harness all that talent: among many other issues, there is a massive infrastructure deficit as a result of a non-existent sports policy, and the nation's football administration lacks the vision and integrity to get around that deficit.

"In those circumstances, real success stories are fewer than they should be, and are often a result of sheer determination and perseverance."

Reflecting on his performance in Egypt, Ola said: "It was completing a circle in my life having played for England at youth level. To then play for Nigeria at a major tournament - the buzz after that assist was amazing.

"To play five matches in seven at that tournament and to win a third-place medal is the stuff of dreams."

By Oluwashina Okeleji

Al Jazeera

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Video - Nigeria's Lost Generation Pt. 2

In Part two of this documentary the story of courage and persistence continues. Fatima Adam, one of the chibok girls abductees soldiers on past the trauma she under went at the hands of the boko haram. Bukky Shonibare fights on to have the rest of the chibok girls released. A story of courage and resilience.

Related story:  Video - Nigeria's lost Generation

Black skinhead film directed by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje hopes to "heal" pain

Now an award-winning actor, he has brought his story to cinemas in his country of origin - Nigeria. He hopes his directorial debut will be part of a “healing” process for people who sought foster care to give their children a better life.

Farming, the film’s title, takes its name from a term used to describe the practice of Nigerian immigrants fostering their children to white families in Britain so they could work, study and save money. It refers to the idea that the children were “farmed” out.

The aim of the practise, mainly prevalent from the 1960s to 1980s, was for the immigrants to eventually return to Nigeria.

“Perhaps this can provide a healing in some sense but ultimately a re-evaluation of our child-rearing processes,” Akinnuoye-Agbaje told Reuters at the film’s Nigerian premiere on Saturday in the country’s commercial capital, Lagos, after first being screened in London last month.

“I’m hoping that it will create a dialogue and a collective therapy for those that are still suffering, and a healing because many of the Nigerian farmers don’t actually go back for the children that were fostered,” he said.

As a six-week-old baby in 1967, Akinnuoye-Agbaje was left in the care of a white family in Tilbury, a southeast England town around 20 miles east of central London. And, as a youth, he joined a gang of skinheads - a far-right subculture often associated with racist violence in Britain.

Membership in a gang that previously tormented him ended when his biological father, who had relocated to Nigeria where he worked as a barrister, paid for him to attend a private school in the affluent English county of Surrey.

That step was taken after he was contacted by Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s foster mother.

“It is an important part of British history as well as Nigerian culture, so to be able to bring a story that I have harboured for so long home to the Nigerian audience is... a wonderful sense of accomplishment,” said Akinnuoye-Agbaje.

The film - which cost 3 million pounds ($3.89 million) to make and stars British actor Kate Beckinsale as the foster mother - was greeted with cheers and applause in a packed cinema hall in the upmarket Lagos district of Lekki.

Thousands of Nigerians leave the west African country each year in search of a better life abroad - often in Europe and the United States. Some of those who attended the screening said it was interesting to see a depiction of life overseas that differed from their expectations.

“When it comes to racism... we normally focus on America but it was nice to see what actually happened in the UK (United Kingdom),” said broadcaster Simi Drey.

Similarly, a cinematographer who goes by the name T-Cent said he was surprised by the portrayal of people typically seen as having benefited from life in a nation richer than Nigeria, where most people live on less than $2 a day.

“We look at these people and we say they are very, very privileged, but then everyone has their
 internal struggles,” he said.

By Nneka Chile


Nigeria on the brink of finally ending fuel imports

Africa’s biggest oil producer is trying to get its refineries working in an attempt to wean itself off imported fuel. Yet again.

Over the past 12 years, Nigeria tried and failed four times to crank up its ageing and unprofitable crude-processing plants. Now the state-run energy company is giving it another shot — a move that, if successful, could end the nation’s reliance on fuel imports. However, the country’s recent track record means there is scepticism about the latest effort.

“For our refineries that have not been properly maintained for years, it might be easier to build a new one,” said Cheta Nwanze, head of research at SBM Intelligence, a Lagos-based risk advisory.

The West African country of 200-million people imports more than 90% of products such as petrol and diesel, swapping its prized export — crude — for petroleum products that people need.

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) operates four refineries that have long run at a fraction of their capacity. The newest is almost four decades old. By successfully making its own fuels, Nigeria would stop being reliant on traders bringing supplies on tankers from thousands of miles away, with all the extra costs that entails.

Truly committed

Mele Kyari, the newly appointed group MD of NNPC, says this time will be different.

He has made fixing the plants a main part of his agenda since taking the helm of the company in July, and says President Muhammadu Buhari is the country’s first leader in years to be committed to the revamp. Kyari has revived a target to upgrade the plants and end fuel imports by 2023, after the company missed a previous goal for the end of 2019.

Timipre Sylva, the minister of state for petroleum resources, said the overhaul should be successful this time because Nigeria is asking the owners of the refinery technology to get more involved in the work. Once the plants are operational, they will be run by external people, which will also help, he said.

The work is scheduled to begin in January, first on the Port Harcourt complex, a two-refinery facility with the capacity to process 210,000 barrels of crude a day. Repairs will then move to the smaller refineries.

Dangote boost

Some of Nigeria’s challenges to become more self-sufficient in fuel may soon be alleviated for another reason. In the next few years, a new, privately owned 650,000 barrel-a-day refinery is due to come online. In theory, it could meet all of the country’s fuel needs and have enough left over for exports.

The plant, being built by Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, is not owned by the Nigerian state. That means that the country would have to pay market prices — similar to those charged by traders — for the fuel the refinery churns out. There would be little reason for Dangote to subsidise Nigeria’s domestic fuel prices if it were more profitable for the refinery to sell elsewhere.

The scepticism that state-run plants can return to full operation stems from NNPC’s previous attempts. Efforts to overhaul its refining industry — in 2007, 2010, 2012 and 2016 — all failed to work out. The state energy company has to compete with other domestic demands for funding, such as health care, education and other social services.

Three years ago, Nigeria sought external financing for its refineries after a plunge in crude prices, oil theft and attacks on its pipelines by militants and other saboteurs. That effort crumbled after it failed to convince investors of the viability of the venture.

NNPC is talking to the African Export-Import Bank and other financial institutions to fund the revamp.

“The money to comprehensively fix the refineries is simply not there,” said Ayodele Oni, chair of the energy and natural resources practice at Bloomfield Law in Lagos. “It is a difficult task to attract any significant funding required for their repairs in their present state.”

Business Day

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Smuggling booms despite Nigeria border closure

Francis Sardauna in Katsina and Eromosele Abiodun in Lagos

Despite the closure of Nigerian land borders by the federal government in the last three months, smuggling still persists at the border between Nigeria and Niger Republic, THISDAY’s investigation has revealed.

THISDAY gathered that at the border between Jibia in Katsina State and Niger Republic, smugglers have resorted to the use of illegal routes to ferry in bags of foreign rice, bales of second-hand clothing and other contrabands.

However, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has dismissed the observation, calling for either a photograph or video evidence to prove the allegation. NCS also said it would be impossible for smugglers to operate at any of the country’s borders.

Investigation revealed that while strict compliance appears to reign at the main border post between the two countries, illegal businesses still thrived at some bush paths and sundry illegal entry points where unscrupulous security operatives, work hand-in-glove with smugglers to smuggle contraband goods into the country.
President Muhammadu Buhari had on August 20, 2019 ordered a joint border security aimed at securing the country’s land and maritime borders.

But when THISDAY visited the border town of Jibia at the weekend, it was observed that there were some illegal routes that commercial drivers and motorcyclists were using to transport goods and passengers into the country.
It was gathered that rice smugglers were also taking advantage of the lax security to bring their wares into the country but at much higher price than before.

Some of the illegal routes the smugglers used to ferry in the contrabands from Niger Republic to Jibia Local Government Area of Katsina State include Sabon Gari, Dan-Harau, Alele, Makada and Maidabaro roads despite heavy security at the borders.
The smugglers, it was learnt, go through the laborious route of offloading the contrabands few meters away from the official border security post and use J-5 buses, Gulf 4 and 5 vehicles and motorcycles to ferry the items from their hideouts into Jibia for onward transportation to their warehouses in Katsina, Kano, Kaduna, Zamfara, Jigawa States and some other parts of the country.

Residents of the border town told THISDAY that the smugglers were being aided by security personnel, including soldiers, policemen, Customs and immigration officials, who allegedly collected money from the smugglers to allow them a free passage at the 13 checkpoints between Jibia and Katsina metropolis.

A motorcyclist involved in smuggling, who pleaded anonymity, told THISDAY that those of them engaged in the business understood the risks and dangers involved but affirmed that they would not encounter any problem unless they refused to cooperate with security operatives at the checkpoints.

“Unless one refused to pay the bribe for each category of items or when it is time for the officials to sacrifice you to prove that they are working – that is when they will arrest you in the name of smuggling,” he explained.
A commercial driver simply identified as Sule, who specialised in smuggling, said business had been booming for them because they do convey a bag of rice from Maradi (Niger Republic) to Katsina at the cost of N3,000 each.

“We used to charge rice merchants N3,000 for each bag of rice carried from Maradi to Katsina State. Although, we do follow bush paths and sometimes custom officers do arrest us. But once we give them some monies they allow us to pass even though some of them are very stubborn,” he stated.
He, however, lamented that the border closure has contributed negatively to the socio-economic imbalance of the state and the country in general.

When contacted, the NCS Commander in charge of Sector 4 Command of the National Border Drill Operation, Bashir Abubakar, said about 50 suspected smugglers had so far been apprehended and 14 trucks of contrabands intercepted.
He lamented that Jibia border has always been one of their major flashpoints since the commencement of the operation two months ago because of the “mental behaviour” of the inhabitants of the area.
“We have seen that people of that area are not in good terms with government security agencies and it has been a history,” he added.

On the allegation that his officers were extorting money from smugglers, Abubakar said: “I will not say yes, it is true but at the same time I will not deny because we are all human beings and there is no Nigerian that changes name in terms of issues of integrity and character.

“Think of anywhere in the world, there are bag eggs and good eggs. The same thing applies to various agencies in Nigeria – both government and private agencies but anyone found wanting will be punished.”
He added that lack of adequate operational vehicles and banditry has affected their ability to carry out the operation in all the villages in the state.

The Sector 4 Command of the National Border Drill Operation covers Jigawa, Kano, Katsina, Sokoto, Kebbi and Zamfara States.
Officers on the joint exercise were drawn from the Nigeria Customs Service, Nigeria Army, Nigeria Immigration Service, DSS and Nigerian Air Force.

We Need Video Evidence, Says Customs

When contacted, the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the Nigeria Customs Service, Joseph Attah said it would be impossible for smugglers to move around easily in any Nigerian border because of the security presence at the borders.
He said officers manning the borders were drawn from security services, which include the police, air force, army, Customs and the Department of State Services (DSS).

“This information is important to me. If you have evidence kindly make it available so I can challenge the Sector 4 Commander. This is something that nationwide, whoever gives that information should give us photographs or video evidence.
“The NCS is very interested in this information. What I can tell you is that this joint border exercise is coordinated by the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) and there are joint forces, not only Customs officers and they are in all the borders, divided into four sectors. If I have an evidence to back up this information, I will quickly take it up with the Sector Commander and report the matter to the Office of the National Security Adviser.

“This is not Customs alone; the police are there, air force and the army are there; so, if somebody goes to Jibia and is saying that is what is happening in Idi-Iroko is not happening at Jibia, then, I will be interested. This is not Customs affair; it is all security agencies that are there. Your reporter should tell me where he is there so I can connect him with the people on ground to help.

When asked if there is possibility smuggling is still going on in Jibia, he said, “I can tell you that whatever you see happening in Seme, Idi-Iroko and other land borders around the country is what is happening in Jibia, Umfun, Cross Rivers, and Migatiri in Sokoto State.”

This Day

Monday, October 21, 2019

Video - Nigeria ranked as the poverty capital of the world

A new report shows that 94 million people live in extreme poverty, with the country ranked as the poverty capital of the world. The latest data comes from the World Poverty Clock which tracks poverty levels in real time. CGTN's Samson Omale tells us how Nigerians are reacting to the news and their falling standards of living.

Video - Experts in Nigeria urge government to keep the internet safe

According to a United Nations report, around one-in-three young people across 30 countries have been bullied online, while one-in-five have skipped school because of it. With a rapid growth of internet population in Nigeria, experts are now calling on the government to put measures in place to tackle the issue of cyber bullying.

Gunmen kidnap police officer in Nigeria

Nigerian police confirmed on Sunday the abduction of a senior police officer in the northern state of Kaduna on Saturday.

Musa Rambo, an assistant commissioner of police in charge of central north city of Suleja, was kidnapped on a highway road in the state by gunmen suspected to kidnappers, state police spokesman Yabuku Sabo told Xinhua.

Sabo did not reveal the detail of the kidnap, only saying contact had been established with the kidnappers requesting for a ransom which he failed to mentioned.

A security source told Xinhua that the kidnappers requested a ransom of 50 million naira (about 140,000 U.S. dollars) for the police officer to regain his freedom.


Nigeria shocked by Togo in CHAN qualifiers as holders Morocco go through

Nigeria were shock 2020 African Nations Championship (CHAN) qualifying casualties on Saturday despite a 2-0 home victory over Togo in the second leg of their regional tie.

Sikiru Alimi scored twice in Lagos for the Super Eagles B team, but it was not enough as Togo qualified for the finals 4-3 on aggregate.

It will be the first appearance by the Togolese in this national team competition, which is restricted to footballers who play in their country of birth.

Nigeria, runners-up to hosts Morocco in the 2018 final, had been seeking a fourth consecutive appearance at the biennial 16-nation championship.

Morocco, Namibia, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia also qualified this weekend, leaving a further eight places to be filled on Sunday.

Cameroon qualify automatically as 2020 hosts, but the tournament dates and venues have not been announced.

Needing to score at least three goals after a shock 4-1 first leg loss in Lome last month, Nigeria made a promising start with Alimi netting on eight minutes.

He could have had a hat-trick by half-time, but failed to score when one-on-one with goalkeeper Mubarak Aigba while another shot was cleared off the line.

Alimi did score again 19 minutes from time, but Nigeria failed to find a third unanswered goal that would have given them victory on away goals.

Morocco served notice that they will be strong contenders to become the first nation to successfully defend the title when they beat Algeria 3-0.

After a goal-less first leg, the holders broke the deadlock on 27 minutes when Badr Benoun converted a penalty and Hamid Ahadad and Mohamed Nahiri also netted before half-time.

Benoun captained the 2018 Nations Championship-winning team that included Nahiri, who scores remarkably regularly for a full-back at club and national team levels.

None of the Algeria 2019 Africa Cup of Nations-winning squad were available as all 23 play abroad.

The qualification of Tanzania for the first time since the inaugural tournament hosted by the Ivory Coast in 2009 was a surprise given they fell 1-0 at home to Sudan in the first leg.

Sudan doubled the advantage through Amir Kamal in Omdurman before second half goals from Erasto Nyoni and Ditram Nchimbi earned Tanzania a 2-1 win and overall success on away goals.

Uganda defeated Burundi 3-0 in Kampala to go through 6-0 on aggregate and Rwanda narrowly got past Ethiopia 2-1 overall to qualify after a 1-1 draw in Kigali.

In the southern zone, eSwatini held Zambia to a 2-2 drawn in Lusaka but it was not enough as Zambia won 3-2 on aggregate.

In Windhoek Namibia were 2-0 winners over Madagascar to qualify 2-1 overall.


Friday, October 18, 2019

Fuel tanker explosion kills 2 in Nigeria

Nigerian presidency confirmed on Thursday two people were killed in a fuel tanker explosion which wreaked havoc in the southern state of Anambra on Wednesday.

A woman and her child were confirmed killed as the tanker fell and spilled its content on a busy road in Onitsha, a commercial city of Anambra, according to a statement from the presidency.

"I am profoundly touched by the sight of the charred remains of an innocent mother and her child who are victims of this tragedy," Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said in the statement issued in Abuja.

"I also extend my sympathies to other victims of the explosion whose houses, shops and other property were destroyed in the mishap," he said.

Over 40 buildings and scores of shops were lost to the fire, according to local media.

Buhari called for urgent action on the part of those concerned to stem these frequent fatal disasters on public roads.

The president directed relevant government ministries and departments, as well as local stakeholders, to urgently address the issue of safety standards in the country, with a view to "stemming the embarrassing frequency of these tragedies".

Andrew Kumapayi, head of the state's Federal Road Safety Commission, told Xinhua the tanker lost control and fell into a gutter after experiencing break failure, spilling its content and causing fire.

Kumapayi said the fire service officials got to the scene promptly but could not put out the fire as their water pump developed fault.

Acording to him, the fire spread through the gutter and affected houses and shops along the road.

In July, a similar explosion in the central Nigerian state of Benue had claimed at least 45 lives.


Town in Nigeria celebrate being 'twins capital' of the world

The sign greeting visitors at the entrance of Igbo-Ora in southwest Nigeria welcomes people to "TWINS CAPITAL OF THE WORLD".

The sleepy-looking town boasts of having the highest concentration of multiple births of any place on the globe.

To celebrate its self-proclaimed title the town hosts an annual festival, now in its second year, that draws hundreds of sets of twins from around the country.

Donning different traditional clothes and costumes, the twins -- male and female, old, young and even newborns -- sang and danced at the latest edition this weekend to the appreciation of an admiring audience.

"We feel elated that we are being honoured today," Kehinde Durowoju, a 40-year-old twin, told AFP as he hugged his identical brother Taiwo.

"With this event, the whole world will better appreciate the importance of Ibeji (twins) as special children and gifts from God."

Around them, twins moved in procession to show off their colourful outfits as magic displays and masquerades also entertained the crowds.

- 'Twins tourism' -

Population experts say the Yoruba-speaking southwest has one of the highest twinning rates in Nigeria.

Statistics are difficult to come by, but a study by British gynaecologist Patrick Nylander, between 1972 and 1982, recorded an average of 45 to 50 sets of twins per 1,000 live births in the region.

That compares to a twin birth rate of 33 per every 1,000 births in the United States, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

Igbo-Ora is the epicentre of the phenomenon in the West African country.

Residents in the town, some 100 kilometres (60 miles) north of Nigeria's biggest city Lagos, say that almost every family has some twins.

Traditional leader Jimoh Olajide Titiloye knows all about this special quirk.

"I am a twin, my wife is a twin and I have twins as children," he told AFP.

"There is hardly any household in this town which does not have at least a set of twins."

He said the festival on Saturday was aimed at promoting Igbo-Ora as "the foremost twins tourism destination in the world" and that efforts were underway to get the town listed in the Guinness Book of Records.

Prominent Yoruba ruler, the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, said the festival "is a celebration of culture and recognition of Ibeji as special children in Yorubaland".

He said the birth of twins usually "heralds peace, progress, prosperity and good luck to their parents," adding that parents should always take good care of them.

But while twins are seen as a blessing by many today, that has not always the case in parts of southern Nigeria.

In pre-colonial times twins were often regarded as evil and were either banished to the "evil forest" or killed.

Scottish missionary Mary Slessor is widely credited with helping to curb the practice in the late 19th century.

- Food or genes? -

Scientists have not said definitively why Igbo-Ora has such a high number of twins.

Local residents have a theory that it is down to the diet of women in the town.

"Our people eat okra leaf or Ilasa soup with yam and amala (cassava flour)," community leader Samuel Adewuyi Adeleye told AFP.

Yams are believed to contain gonadotropins, a chemical substance that helps women to produce multiple eggs.

"The water we drink also contributes to the phenomenon," Adeleye added.

Fertility experts are sceptical -- and point to another explanation.

They say there is no proven link between diet and the high birth rate, with the same food being consumed across the region.

"It's a genetic thing," said Emmanuel Akinyemi, the medical director of Lagos-based Estate Clinic.


Related stories: The town in Nigeria known for multiple twin births

Video - Advocacy group in Nigeria fights to end traditional practice of killing twins

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Nigerian painting sells for $1.4 million

When a man found the almost forgotten portrait of his mother in their family house in Texas, he had no idea just how life-changing his discovery would be.

The portrait, Christine, was by one of the most revered African artists of the 20th century, Ben Enwonwu. The captivating sitter was Christine Elizabeth Davis, an American hair stylist of West Indian descent. The painting was completed in under a week as Christine was able to hold her pose for as long as needed. Christine, who was in her mid-30s at the time, passed away in Texas thereafter. But the painting remained in the family.

Just three months ago it was valued by Sothebys at around $200,000, but on Tuesday the portrait sold in London for over seven times the estimated price at $1.4 million.

And it’s not the first remarkable story of a Ben Enwonwu find. His best known portrait, Tutu, is a depiction of Nigerian royal princess Adetutu Ademiluyi (Tutu), often dubbed the “Nigerian Mona Lisa.” Prints of Tutu adorned the walls of living rooms across Nigeria. The 2017 discovery of Tutu was equally fascinating. The long-lost painting was found in a modest London flat and the owners had no idea of its importance or value. It sold at a record $1.6 million in 2018. It was originally estimated at a quarter of that price.

Enwonwu, who died aged 77 in 1994, was a Nigerian artist whose career spanned 60 years seeing the journey of Nigeria from a British colony to an independent nation. His story is unique in that not only did he become famous in his own country, but also in the UK where he studied.

While African art only accounted for 0.1% of global sales in 2016, these recent interesting discoveries and the impressively high prices they are garnering at auctions is cause for optimism. They are also proof that the international market for African art is indeed growing.

By Ciku Kimeria


Related stories: Britain open to loan Nigeria stolen art

The 'Mona Lisa' of Nigeria returns back home

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

President Buhari to crackdown on abusive Islamic schools

Nigeria's president on Tuesday ordered a crackdown on abuse at Islamic schools, after a second police raid in less than a month revealed men and boys subjected to beatings, abuse and squalid conditions.

Nearly 300 had been held captive at a school in the Daura area of Katsina, the home town of President Muhammadu Buhari, where police said they discovered "inhuman and degrading treatment" following a raid on Monday to free the remaining students.

Late last month, police freed hundreds from similarly degrading conditions in neighbouring Kaduna state.

"Mr President has directed the police to disband all such centres and all the inmates be handed over to their parents," said a presidential spokesman.

"The government cannot allow centres where people, male and female, are maltreated in the name of religion," he said.

Prior to this week's raid, hundreds of captives had escaped the centre, police said on Tuesday.

The 67 inmates who were freed by Katsina police were shackled, and many were taken to hospital for treatment, Police Superintendent Isah Gambo told Reuters.

"I tell you they were in very bad condition when we met them," Gambo said.

A freed captive told Reuters on Monday that the instructors beat, raped and even killed some of the men and boys held at the facility, who ranged from seven to 40 years of age. It was not immediately possible to verify his account.

While the institution told parents it was an Islamic teaching centre that would help straighten out wayward family members, the instructors instead brutally abused them and took away any food or money sent by relatives.

Police said they had arrested the owner of the facility and two teachers, and were tracking other suspects.

The more than 200 captives who escaped were still missing, Gambo said. Police were working to reunite the others with family members.

"The inmates are actually from different parts of the country - Kano, Taraba, Adamawa and Plateau States," he said.

"Some of them are not even Nigerians. They come from Niger, Chad and even Burkina Faso and other countries."

Islamic schools, called almajiris, are common in the mostly Muslim north of Nigeria.

Muslim Rights Concern, a local organisation, estimates about 10 million children attend them.

Buhari said the government planned to ban the schools eventually, but he has not yet commented on the Katsina school.

Al Jazeera

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Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Video - Nigeria's lost Generation

In April 2014 close to 250 girls were abducted by the Boko Haram from a secondary school in Maiduguri, Borno State in north eastern Nigeria. Bukky Shonibare a "Bring our girls back home" campaigner shares her hopes on the Chibok girls rescue and return four years after their abduction. Fatima Adam, one of the Chibok abductees narrates how she survived a suicide bomb planted on her by the insurgents.

Police in Nigeria rescue another 67 males from "inhuman" conditions

Police in northern Nigeria rescued nearly 70 men and boys from a second purported Islamic school where they were shackled and subjected to "inhuman and degrading treatments."

The raid in Katsina, the northwestern home state of President Muhammadu Buhari, came less a month after about 300 men and boys were freed from another supposed Islamic school in neighbouring Kaduna state where they were allegedly tortured and sexually abused.

"In the course of investigation, sixty-seven persons from the ages of 7 to 40 years were found shackled with chains," Katsina police spokesman Sanusi Buba said in a statement. "Victims were also found to have been subjected to various inhuman and degrading treatments."

The raid occurred on October 12 in Sabon Garin in the Daura local government area of Katsina state. Police issued a statement on Monday and said they were working to reunite the victims with their families.

Police arrested one man, 78-year-old Mallam Bello Abdullahi Umar, for running what they called an "illegal detention/remand home."

Lawai Musa, a trader who lived near the centre, told Reuters by phone that families sent unruly men and boys there believing it was an Islamic teaching facility that would straighten them out and teach them Islamic beliefs.

"The way he is treating the children is un-Islamic" he said. "We are not happy, they were treated illegally."

Islamic schools, known as Almajiris, are common across the mostly Muslim north of Nigeria. Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), a local organisation, estimates about 10 million children attend them.

In June, President Buhari, himself a Muslim, said the government planned to ban the schools, but would not do so immediately. After the incident in Kaduna, the president issued a statement calling on traditional authorities to work with government to expose "unwanted cultural practices that amount to the abuse of children."

Buhari's office declined to immediately comment on the Katsina raid, saying it would issue a statement after a full briefing from police.

"The command enjoins parents to desist from taking their children/wards to illegal, unauthorized or unapproved remand/rehabilitation centres," the police statement said. (Reporting By Ahmed Kingimi, additional reporting by Felix Onuah in Abuja Writing by Libby George Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)


Related stories: Hundreds freed from torture house in Nigeria

Survivor recounts torture house experience in Nigeria

Monday, October 14, 2019

Video - Nigerian shoe manufacturers compete to put industry on the map

If you are familiar with Nigeria, you may have heard of the city of Aba in Abia State, in the country's southeast. It one of Nigeria's industrial clusters and the biggest shoe market in the West African sub-region. But a new set of shoe manufacturers are competing to put another Southeast Nigerian State on the map.

Video - Brazil 1-1 Nigeria - Highlights

Nigerian saved from football scam

 A Nigerian footballer has arrived back home from Mongolia following an ordeal that saw him scammed by a shady agent who promised him a glittering sports career that never materialised.

Moshood Afolabi, 24, arrived at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos on Saturday having left Ulaanbaatar, the Mongolia capital, a day earlier.

He had been trapped in Mongolia for 16 months and was overstaying a tourist visa, a situation which made it impossible to secure work, get his travel documents in order or afford a flight home.

"I'm very happy to have gained freedom leaving Mongolia," he told Al Jazeera. "I didn't believe I'd be in Nigeria on Saturday. I didn't believe it. Now, I'm experiencing so many things in Nigeria. Fresh air, fresh food. I'm really happy."

Al Jazeera reported on his plight in August and the challenges faced by many other aspiring African footballers who are stranded in several countries, having been duped by people posing as agents and tricking them into paying significant sums to travel and play for foreign clubs.

In Afolabi's case, a Nigerian man who lived close to his home spun him a tale, took his savings and sent him to play for local Mongolian club Western Khovd FC, but the job did not last beyond his tourist visa and he quickly fell into serious financial and personal problems.

Christopher Hannah, a Scottish businessman who had lived in Mongolia for six months, read and empathised with Afolabi's story and volunteered to help him.

"I had come across Moshood two weeks before I contacted him. I saw the article on Al Jazeera and at the time I was in Scotland," Hannah told Al Jazeera.

"I flew back to Mongolia and I saw it posted again on a forum and I remember someone was asking, 'Why doesn't someone help this guy?'"

Hannah, who was working on setting up a cashmere business in the East Asian country, had previous experience in the football industry and a passion for the sport.

He was previously an image rights agent for several European football clubs and footballers.

"Football is one of the best ways to break communication or culture barriers. This was the main reason Moshood and I could come together," he said.

After the Nigerian footballer spent a week in detention in late September at the Mongolian immigration service, Hannah booked and paid for Afolabi's $900 flight home, while Afolabi's friend Wael, an Egyptian immigrant, gave him the $750 he needed to pay to Mongolia for overstaying his visa.

"I felt sad because I hadn't experienced it in my life to be in a detention room for seven days," said Afolabi. "For the first three days in detention, I was drinking water, fasting and praying to Almighty Allah to save me."

Hannah claimed that his life in Mongolia took a turn for the worse after he helped Afolabi, saying he was treated with hostility by locals and was eventually denied a business visa extension.

He has now returned to his native Scotland and is in the process of opening a new football agency focusing on regions such as Africa.
Up to thousands of scammed African footballers

It is not clear exactly how many hopeful African players are stranded across the world but according to some estimates, the number is in the thousands.

In 2017, there was an influx of more than 100 African talents to Nepal, a south Asian country known least for football.

British media reported that an estimated 15,000 players are trafficked to Europe annually.

In Russia, there are dozens of cases.

Beverley Agbakoba Onyejianya, a Nigerian sports lawyer, said being deported can seriously impact a person's state of mind.

"Being deported may leave a footballer being stigmatised and even anxious about their future opportunities and ability to earn a good income," she said. "The player's career may or may not be affected depending on how they work to find new opportunities."

Back at home and reflecting on his journey, Afolabi says he will continue to play his beloved sport.

"Football is my passion," he said. "I want to use football to help my family and other people that do not have the means. I believe I'll make it in football and I want to continue."

By Tolu Olasoji

Al Jazeera

Friday, October 11, 2019

Video - Chinese app Vskit gaining huge traction in Nigeria

Chinese applications such as TikTok have been gaining massive traction across the African continent. Now joining the league is V-skit, an app used for the creation and sharing of short interesting funny videos. CGTN's Kelechi Emekalam explores how the entertainment platform is slowly becoming a fun-favorite amongst Nigerian youths.

Journalist Omoyele Sowore still remains in detention in Nigeria

 The founder of African investigative digital media site Sahara Reporters Omoyele Sowore remains detained in Nigeria on charges including treason, his wife Opeyemi Sowore told TechCrunch.

Her husband founded Sahara Reporters to create and aggregate news content, social media tips, and self-digital reporting toward exposing corruption in Africa and his home country of Nigeria.

After being jailed and beaten several times for his journalistic work in Nigeria, Sowore re-located to New York City and formed Sahara Reporters in Manhattan in 2006 to report under U.S. legal protections.

Several outlets, including Reuters, reported his arrest in August 2019. According to Opeyemi Sowore — who lives in New Jersey — her husband was detained in Lagos on August 4th while at a protest. He was then transferred to Nigeria’s capital, Abuja.

Per social media and press reporting, Omoyele Sowore (who goes by Sowore), was participating in #RevolutionNow movement of peaceful demonstration against bad governance in Nigeria.

After several hearings, he is still being held in Abuja, his wife said.

According to a copy of his court charging document obtained by TechCrunch, Sowore is charged with two counts of conspiring to stage a revolution and to remove Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, from office “otherwise than by constitutional means.”

Sowore is also charged with cybercrimes for “knowingly send[ing] messages by means of a press interview granted on Arise Television…for the purpose of causing insult…and ill-will on the…President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria” and for money laundering based on a transfer of $19,975 from a Nigerian bank account to a Sahara Reporters held account in New York.

Sowore pleaded not guilty to the charges and rejected an offer of bail for roughly $800,000, according to press reports and his wife.

As for the veracity of the charges, Sowore’s wife Opeyemi believes they are a cover to go after her husband for his activism and work with Sahara Reporters.

Sowore has never been an advocate of violence or insurrection, according to his wife.

“If you look at his history he is the most peaceful person. He does what he does so Nigeria can work for all Nigerians…be inclusive of all ethnic groups, all socio-economic backgrounds, and religions,” Opeyemi Sowore said.

“I think the charges are about silencing a critical voice that’s shining light on corruption,” she added.

Not everyone is a fan of Sowore and Sahara Reporters’ work, particularly in Nigeria. The country has has made strides in improving infrastructure and governance and has one of Africa’s strongest economies and tech scenes.

But Nigeria is still plagued by corruption, particularly around its oil-resources, and has a steady-stream of multi-billion dollar scandals — yes billions — in state related funds being stolen or simply going missing.

Sahara Reporters has made a practice of reporting on such corruption. The site, which has a tips line and small TV station, has exposed improprieties of many public officials and forced a number of resignations in Nigeria’s government.

In the previous administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, Sahara Reporters played a role in exposing the theft of an estimated $20 billion in public funds by Petroleum Minister, Diezani Allison-Madueke, who was forced to resign and eventually arrested.

The internet, mobile, and digital media play a central role in the work of Sahara Reporters. In an interview in 2014, Sowore explained to me how these mediums often do much of the investigative work.

“In many cases, there’s less investigation to breaking these stories than you’d think. The corruption and who’s perpetrating it is generally well-known and the evidence easy to distribute through social media and devices. We just need a safe place to report it from, and the rest often takes care of itself,” Sowore said.

Ironically, Sowre’s own thesis of using digital and social media for advocacy may be tested on his getting out of jail.

Sowore’s wife is working on a campaign of global supporters — including Amnesty International — to shine a light on her husband’s charges, innocence, and press for his release.

Away from the activism and politics, “I want Yele to come home safely. I’m worried about his safety and we have two small children and they miss their father dearly,” Opeyemi Sowore said.

The trial for her husband Omoyele Sowore is scheduled for early November.

Tech Crunch

Related stories: Activist Sowore pleads not guilty to treason charges in Nigeria