Friday, November 29, 2019

Nigeria unveils plan for digital economy

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday directed ministries, departments, and agencies to comply with the ongoing transition of all government operations to digital platforms that will enhance efficiency and effectiveness in service delivery under the new digital dispensation.

Buhari said the transition to the digital economy was no longer optional, but "an absolute necessity" while launching the e-government masterplan expected to guide and drive the digital dispensation, at the opening ceremony of the e-Nigeria 2019 conference in Abuja.

"Our recent introduction of the Nigerian E-government Masterplan will further consolidate our successes to date and increase interoperability among the different ministries, departments, and agencies of government.

"A key requirement of the e-government master plan is for all government institutions to create a digital transformation technical working group that will work with the ministry of communications and digital economy to ensure seamless and coordinated implementation of projects, programs, and policies," the Nigerian leader said.

According to him, the digitization of key operations in public service such as the use of the Bank Verification Number, Treasury Single Account and the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System had enabled the government to save cost and fight corruption.


Thursday, November 28, 2019

Video - Nigerians push for freedom of expression against new bill

Nigerian citizens are strongly pushing against a bill capable of limiting freedom of expression amongst social media users. It's called the "Protection From Internet Falsehood and Manipulation Bill." It would essentially allow the government to block access to internet whenever it deems fit.

47 Nigerian men plead not guilty to homosexuality charge

Forty-seven Nigerian men pleaded innocent on Wednesday to a charge of public displays of affection with members of the same sex, an offence that carries a 10-year jail term.

Homosexuality is outlawed in many socially conservative African societies where some religious groups brand it a corrupting Western import.

The Nigerian men, who appeared at a court in the commercial capital Lagos, were among 57 arrested in a police raid on a hotel in the impoverished Egbeda district of the city in 2018.

Police said they were being “initiated” into a gay club, but the accused said they were attending a birthday party.

The trial is a test case for a law banning gay marriage, punishable by a 14-year jail term, and same-sex “amorous relationships”. It caused international outcry when it came into force under former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan in 2014.

Nobody has yet been convicted under the law, prosecution and defence lawyers in the case told Reuters. But Human Rights Watch and other activists say it has been used to extort bribes from suspects in exchange for not pursuing charges.

“Police officers will stop you and then get you arrested, extort money from you and begin to call you names,” Smart Joel, one of the defendants, told Reuters before the hearing. “I just wish the case will be quickly dismissed as soon as possible,” added Joel, 25, who runs a laundry and dry cleaning business.

Spokesmen for Nigeria’s police and ministry of justice did not respond to text messages and phone calls seeking comment on the extortion allegations.

Activists working to protect rights of sexual minorities in Nigeria said they were tired of harassment.

“The vagueness of the law makes it impossible to get a conviction,” Xeenarh Mohammed, executive director of the Lagos-based Initiative for Equal Rights (TIERS), told Reuters. “What does ‘amorous showing of same-sex affection’ mean?” she added.

The case was adjourned until Dec. 11.

The judge granted each of the men bail, provided they can post 500,000 naira ($1,634.52) and provide a surety who is either a civil servant or resides in Lagos state and has a “reasonable” income.


Related stories: Bill banning gay marriage approved in Nigeria

Hunting down gays in Nigeria

Video - Nigeria's anti-gay law denounced

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Head of jail security arrested after inmate $1m fraud heist

The head of a maximum-security jail and a prison doctor have been arrested in Nigeria, following allegations that they enabled a prisoner to conduct internet scams.

Hope Olusegun Aroke carried out a million-dollar fraud while serving a 24-year jail sentence - for fraud.

He had access to a mobile phone and the internet.

He was originally arrested in 2012 and convicted of obtaining money under false pretences and forgery.

The country's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said the two prison staff were arrested for falsifying medical reports that enabled Aroke to get treatment outside prison in a police hospital.

"The first suspect, [Emmanuel] Oluwaniyi, who is the Controller, Kirikiri Maximum Prison, as well as the second suspect, [Hemeson Edson] Edwin, who is in charge of the medical facility, were arrested on Monday, November 25, 2019, by operatives of the commission," the EFCC said in a statement.

Aroke was one of two Malaysia-based Nigerian undergraduate fraudsters arrested by the EFCC towards the end of 2012 in Lagos, following a tip-off, the commission added.

He had claimed to be a student of computer science at Malaysia's Kuala Lumpur Metropolitan University, but was in fact the "arrow head of an intricate web of internet fraud schemes that traverse two continents", it said.

He used a network of accomplices to commit the fraud, it added.

After getting himself admitted to a police hospital, authorities say Aroke moved to a hotel, receiving guests and attending parties.

He had used the fictitious name Akinwunmi Sorinmade to open two bank accounts and bought a luxury car and homes during his time in prison.


Related story: Nigerian scammer 'pulls off $1m heist' from prison

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Video - Para-athlete tells of tough times for players in Nigeria

Amputee football is a neglected sport in Nigeria. The country's team has struggled to get government funding and attract sponsorship. Players are facing tough times despite making it to the Amputee Football World Cup in Mexico last year and finishing runners-up during the 2019 African Cup of Nations in Angola last month.

Nigeria vows to end HIV scourge by 2030

Nigeria is determined to end the HIV epidemic by 2030, in line with the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS vision, the country's Health Minister Osagie Ehanire said Monday.

The minister restated Nigeria's commitment to achieving viral suppression through what he called "detection, treatment and suppression" at the launch of a campaign to fight HIV/AIDS by the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) in Abuja.

Ehanire highlighted Nigeria's achievements in HIV treatment interventions, started in 1986 when the epidemic was first reported in the country.

Gambo Aliyu, head of NACA, expressed his satisfaction with Nigeria's achievements in tackling HIV/AIDS as official indicator showed the country's HIV prevalence fell from 4.4 percent in 2005 to 1.4 percent in 2018.

He ascribed the success to efforts by communities in partnership with the government and foreign assistance in the last 15 years.


Nigerians spending half a billion dollars to school in America

The rot in Nigeria’s educational system is costing the country hundreds of millions of dollars.

Over the past academic year, the economic impact of spending by Nigerian students studying in the United States reached $514 million, data from the Institute of International Education shows. The figure outstrips the economic impact of students from France, Germany and the United Kingdom in the US.

Keeping in trend with a long-standing preference for seeking education abroad, Nigeria was the only African country ranked among the top 25 origin countries for international students in the US over the past year.

The entire budgetary allocation for education in Nigeria for 2019 came in at $1.7 billion (620.5 billion naira), which critics pointed out was 15% to 20% below the minimum level recommended for developing countries by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

Nigerian students studying in the US crossed the 13,000 mark in the last academic year—double the number at the start of the decade. In comparison, there have never been more than 50 US students studying in Nigeria each year in the last decade.

The choice of seeking education in the US is largely driven by local problems. Perennial under-funding of education in Nigeria has resulted in significant decline in both the quality of teachers and infrastructure in schools. At the tertiary level, the problems are compounded by recurring strike actions by public university lecturers amid protests of low wages and benefits.

These problems have fueled a rise in expensive private universities which offer the promise of fixed calendars without strike action and better facilities as viable alternatives for middle and high-income families seeking higher standards. But there’s still a capacity problem as Nigeria’s university system, which holds over 150 schools, remains mostly over-populated. As such, only one in four Nigerians applying to university will get a spot. Between 2010 and 2015, only 26% of the 10 million applicants that sought entry into Nigerian tertiary institutions gained admission, according to Nigeria’s statistics agency.

The appeal of foreign universities also goes beyond the availability of better facilities as parents typically seek to unlock a higher level of opportunities for their children. It’s a sentiment that’s currently driving migration of middle-class Nigerians to Canada and Europe.

In cases where the students return home, their expensive, foreign degrees also provide an edge in Nigeria’s very competitive labor market. In comparison, about half of graduates from Nigerian universities annually are estimated to remain unemployed.

By Yomi Kazeem


Monday, November 25, 2019

First sex offender register launches in Nigeria

Campaigners have hailed the launch of Nigeria’s first sex offender register as a vital step towards tackling reported cases of sexual abuse, which are rising across the country.

The publicly accessible onlineregister of people prosecuted for sexual violence since 2015 will allow public bodies and police authorities to conduct background checks and identify repeat offenders.

Oluwaseun Osowobi, the director of Stand To End Rape, a Nigerian non-government organisation that supports survivors of sexual violence, said: “If a case is reported anywhere in the country, the case is now on the register. It means that offenders have nowhere to hide.”

Nigeria’s National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, along with 15 non-governmental organisations, supported by the British Council, will monitor reported cases of sexual abuse, providing monthly updates to the online register.

“This is the first of its kind in Nigeria”, said Beatrice Jedy-Agba, the executive secretary of the agency. “It enables bodies such as schools, hospitals to conduct background checks and it will deter sex offenders because they will know their names will be published, affecting their employment and role in society.”

Data on the number of reported cases is scarce in Nigeria, where patriarchal traditions stigmatise people who come forward. According to Unicef, one in four girls in the country have experienced sexual violence by the age of 18 and hardly any receive any form of support.

In Lagos, one of only two of Nigeria’s 36 states to document sexual offenders before now, the most frequently assaulted group are children, many of whom are abused by relatives or family friends known to them, according to police authorities.

Police and suppor groups say the number of reported cases in Africa’s most populous country has risen rapidly in recent years.

As the number of cases has risen, failings in the criminal justice system have let down victims, many of whom report stigmatisation by authorities, exposure to their alleged abusers, and a low likelihood of prosecution.

Under the new system, sexual referral centres run by NGOs will be able to feed in data they collect on recorded incidents into the register, strengthening cases during prosecution.

Osowobi said: “We have cases where victims are being questioned in front of the perpetrators or in open spaces and criticised by officers for not remembering details like the road where the rape occurred.”

According to Stand To End Rape, which supports people who report sexual abuse and provides counselling services, the majority of sexual abuse cases are not prosecuted in Nigeria.

“Cases of sexual abuse are not prosecuted for flimsy reasons,” Osowobi said. “How police collect data is unprofessional and archaic. Police regularly misplace case-files or evidence. Eventually victims become exhausted by the system and give up.”

The Guardian

Friday, November 22, 2019

Video - Nigerian woman seeks to raise awareness on genetic condition

There are over 5 million people living with Down Syndrome worldwide. And in developing countries like Nigeria, people still battle with understanding the condition and accepting it. But one woman in Lagos has taken up the challenge to advocate for the rights of chldren living with Down Syndrome after she had a child with the condition.

Video - Nigeria still lags behind in modern contraceptive uptake

More than 6-point-5 million women in Nigeria use modern methods of contraceptives - The highest figure in the country's history. But the nation still lags behind in the Family Planning 2020 goals for modern contraceptive growth - compared to countries like Kenya, Chad, Cameroon and Ghana.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Video - Indoor farming in Nigeria improves self-sufficiency in food production

Nigeria is experiencing some kind of revolution in agriculture, thanks in part to the government's diversification policy. More young people are taking to agriculture and new methods of farming are springing up as the country aims to achieve self-sufficiency in food production. One young farmer is now driving a method of agriculture new to Nigeria.

Video - Nigeria plans to end open defecation by 2025

It's estimated that close to 50 million Nigerians have no access to toilet facilities and defecate in the open. And UNICEF estimates that each year, more than 100-thousand children under the age of five die due to diarrhea. 90 per cent of the deaths are directly attributed to unsafe water and sanitation. The Nigerian government says it plans to end open defecation by 2025 but that is not seeming likely.

Related stories: Nigeria failing to end open defecation

Nigeria second in the world in open defecation

Former attorney general of Nigeria arrested in Dubai

Nigeria's former attorney general, Mohammed Adoke, was arrested in Dubai, his lawyer said. Adoke was taken into custody seven months after Nigeria's anti-graft agency issued a warrant for his arrest as part of an investigation into one of the oil industry's biggest suspected corruption scandals.

Adoke's lawyer, Mike Ozekhome, said Adoke was arrested by Interpol on Monday, November 11, 2019, after travelling to Dubai for a medical appointment.

The investigation by Nigeria's anti-graft agency relates to the $1.3bn sale of a Nigerian offshore oilfield known as OPL 245 by Malabu Oil and Gas in 2011.

The agency obtained arrest warrants in April for Adoke, former petroleum minister Dan Etete, and an Eni manager.

Eni and Shell jointly acquired the field from Malabu, which was owned by Etete.

The oilfield sale has spawned legal cases across several countries, involving Nigerian government officials and senior executives from ENI and Royal Dutch Shell. Shell and Eni, and their executives have denied any wrongdoing.

Etete has also denied wrongdoing.

In an Italian case, prosecutors accuse former and current executives of Eni and Shell of paying bribes to secure the licence, and allege roughly $1.1bn of the total was siphoned to agents and middlemen.

"We have written to Dubai authorities, the EFCC (anti-graft agency), and the Nigerian authorities to free Adoke to allow him to go on with his medical treatment in Dubai," Ozekhome said.

He added that the arrest warrant had, in fact, expired after being nullified by a court in October, because Adoke was not served with the charges before the warrant was issued.

A government communication office in Dubai did not respond to an email seeking comment. Nigeria's EFCC and Interpol were not immediately available for comment.

Ozekhome said Adoke has appeared in court in Nigeria in the past over the OPL 245 case and was exonerated.

Al Jazeera

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Women football team to get equal pay with men's football team in Nigeria

The Edo State government in southern Nigeria has announced it will pay its women's team Edo Queens the same as its men's side, Bendel Insurance.

The state own both teams with the men's side playing in the Nigerian second tier and the women's in the Women's Premier League.

"We believe that there should be no discrimination between the male and female teams," deputy governor Philip Shaibu said.

"Bendel Insurance standard and that of Edo Queens are going to be the same. There will be no gender discrimination among them in terms of welfare, in terms of salary.

"The plan is to make Edo Queens the highest paid female team in Nigeria. That is what we want to achieve."

Bendel Insurance, one of Nigeria's leading league teams in the 1970's and early 80's, were winners of the now defunct Caf Cup in 1994.

It also produced former international stars like Kadiri Ikhana, Thompson Oliha, Friday Elahor, Julius Aghahowa and Peter Odemwingie.

Despite two Nigerian titles in 1973 and 1979 and three FA Cup crowns (in 1972, 1978, 1980 ) the club's slump from the heights of the past has been an embarrassing one.

"Imagine Edo Queens have never been relegated but we know about the men's. We are putting both teams on the same scale," added Shaibu.

"The male team have not been able to get to the semi-final of the FA Cup for over 12 years, but Edo Queens have been in the semi-final for the past four years.

"Why do we now pay Bendel Insurance more than them. Is it because they are women?

"So we decided that we have to upgrade them to the same level."

Only a handful of clubs in the cash-strapped women's league are self-sufficient under private owners, while 18 of the 20 teams in the men's top division are under government management.

Back in July, Super Falcons captain Desire Oparanozie demanded that Nigeria's women's team are paid the same as their male counterparts.

The Super Falcons are the continent's most successful national side with nine titles and remain the only African team to have played at all eight Women's World Cup finals.

Yet the women can expect US$3,000 for a win and $1,500 for a draw at major tournaments, while the men's team receive $10,000 and $5,000 respectively.

By Oluwashina Okeleji


Nigerian scammer 'pulls off $1m heist' from prison

 A convicted internet fraudster has been placed under investigation in Nigeria for allegedly masterminding a "mega scam" from a maximum-security prison worth at least $1m (£773,000).

Anti-corruption officials said Hope Olusegun Aroke used a "network of accomplices" for the fraud.

He was arrested in 2012 and has been serving a 24-year sentence at the Kirikiri Maximum Security Prison.

But a preliminary investigation found he still had access to the internet.

In a statement on Tuesday, Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said it had received intelligence about Aroke's scam and was faced with the "riddle" of how he was able to "continue to ply his ignoble trade" from inside the Lagos prison.

Following his arrest in 2012, the EFCC said the then Malaysia-based student was the "arrow head of an intricate web of internet fraud schemes that traverse two continents".

The EFCC this week said its preliminary investigation had revealed that, "against standard practice", Aroke had been given access to the internet and his phone. He had also been admitted to the Nigeria Police Hospital in Lagos for an "undisclosed ailment" and had been able to leave the facility to stay in hotels, meet with his wife and children, and attend social functions.

He had used the fictitious name Akinwunmi Sorinmade to open two bank accounts and bought a luxury car and homes during his time in prison, the EFCC added. He had also been "in possession of his wife's bank account token in prison, which he used to freely transfer funds."

Anti-corruption officials are investigating why he was admitted to hospital and how he was able to travel to hotels and other places.

The Kirikiri Maximum Security Prison is managed by the Nigerian Correctional Service, which has not yet commented on the case.

Case prompts suspicion over corrupt officials

By Nduka Orjinmo, BBC News, Lagos

This is a case that has shocked many Nigerians: how a convict serving time at the country's foremost maximum security prison was allegedly able to operate freely.

Many believe that Aroke could have pulled off his alleged exploits only with the help of corrupt prison officials.

Illicit proceeds make internet fraudsters in Nigeria wealthy and they could easily bribe vulnerable prison officials who are poorly paid.

So far, no-one has been suspended even though it is a major breach of security.

The anti-corruption agency, which put Aroke behind bars, has called it a "riddle" and has promised a thorough investigation.

It is not clear if the agency has managed to change his prison guards, as it is outside its jurisdiction.

And the other question many Nigerians are asking is: Of the many wealthy prisoners - politicians and internet fraudsters - in jail, who else has "bribed" his way out, enjoying a lifestyle fit for royalty?


Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Food prices push Nigeria inflation to 17-month high due to border closures

Higher food prices pushed up annual inflation in Nigeria last month after borders with neighboring countries were closed in a crackdown on smuggling.

Nigeria closed parts of its borders in August to fight smuggling of rice and other goods. The head of customs confirmed last month that all trade in goods via land borders had been halted indefinitely.

Annual inflation was 11.61% in October, up from 11.24% in September, the National Bureau of Statistics said on Monday — the highest rate since May 2018. Consumer inflation had dropped to it lowest in almost four years in August.

A separate food price index showed inflation at 14.09% in October, compared with 13.51% a month earlier.

“This rise in the food index was caused by increases in prices of meat, oils and fats, bread and cereals, potatoes, ham and other tubers, fish and vegetables,” the statistics office said in its report.

“The rise in food inflation does suggest that border closures may have played a part in temporarily pressuring prices higher,” said Razia Khan, chief economist for Africa and the Middle East at Standard Chartered.

Shoppers at a market in the capital, Abuja, told Reuters the price of many food items, particularly rice, had risen in the last few weeks.

“Food items are very expensive in the market. When you go to a store they will tell you that is because the border is closed,” said housewife Naomi Nguher, who said she was given this reason for high rice prices at four different shops.

Sherifat Ajala, a rice wholesaler in the commercial capital Lagos, said Nigeria’s bad roads were delaying the transportation of the grain, further preventing the supply from meeting high demand.

“Trucks will spend almost two or three weeks on the road before they bring the rice,” he said.

Last week the West African country, along with neighboring Benin and Niger, agreed to set up a joint border patrol force to tackle smuggling between the nations after a meeting between their foreign ministers.

The central bank is due to set its benchmark interest rate next Tuesday. The bank, which has targeted single-digit inflation, held its main interest rate at 13.5% at its last meeting, in September.

“Given the increase in inflation, we now expect that policymakers will leave their key rate on hold,” John Ashbourne, senior emerging markets economist at London-based Capital Economics, said in a note on Monday.


Lion removed from house near school in Lagos, Nigeria

A lion which was reportedly being used to guard a house in Lagos, Nigeria, has been removed by authorities.

The two-year-old lion was reportedly discovered at a property opposite a school by a task force team on Friday.

It was tranquilised on Monday and transferred to Bogije Omu zoo in Lekki, head of the task force team Yinka Egbeyemi told the BBC.

The owner of the animal has been told to report himself to police before the end of Monday or face arrest.

A team from the Lagos State Environmental Sanitation and Special Offences Unit located the animal after residents filed a petition to the state's ministry of environment.

A crèche and elementary school stand opposite the house, according to the BBC's Damilola Oduolowu in Lagos.

The school's management said it had been conscious of the children's safety.

It is thought the lion was brought into the building two months ago.


Startups in Nigeria are beating the odds to succeed

Entrepreneurs in Nigeria have an oft-repeated saying that is borrowed from New York: “If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.”

The phrase captures the daily challenges that come with running a business in Africa’s largest economy. And since tech startups exist within the ecosystem, they face their share of difficulties too. A new survey of Nigerian tech firms offers a glimpse into the tough realities of running a tech startup in the country.

The survey was conducted by two Washington-headquartered organizations—ONE Campaign, an international non-profit seeking to fight extreme poverty, especially in Africa, and the Washington think tank Center for Global Development.

More than half the respondents identified the lack of a reliable electricity supply as a severe constraint. A majority of the startups reported 30 or more power outages every month. It’s likely that many startups keep the lights on by investing in generators that cost a lot to run.

That’s money the startups could have put to other uses, as 60% of them reported access to credit as a major obstacle. Nigeria annually features among the top destinations in Africa for startup investment, but much of the funding goes to established ventures with high-profile or foreign-trained founders. For many others, the reality is much more stark given local banks’ reluctance to provide loans to startups, and the high interest rates they charge when they do.

Meanwhile, wealthy Nigerians who might fund home-grown startups still seem reluctant to do so. Entrepreneurs also reported the following obstacles: Political instability, corruption, multiple government taxes and levies. And then there are stories of harassment by the police.

For its part, the Nigerian government points to its improved rank on the World Bank’s Doing Business 2019 report—it went from 146 last year to 131—as proof of its efforts to improve the business climate. But, as the World Bank’s report measures progress more by changes to policy rather than its implementation, it could be argued that it’s getting easier to do business in Nigeria only on paper.

But the workarounds to some of the problems that plague Nigeria’s business environment may come from the tech ecosystem itself. From off-grid energy companies trying to drive up electrification, to fintech ventures looking to boost financial inclusion and access to credit—startups are struggling against the odds. And sometimes beating them too.

By Yomi Kazeem


Monday, November 18, 2019

Video - Lesotho 2-4 Nigeria - Highlights

Nigerian army rescues 8 hostages in NE region

Eight hostages held by Boko Haram insurgents in Gwoza area of Borno state in the restive northeast Nigeria have been rescued, the army spokesman Aminu Iliyasu said Sunday.

In a statement reaching Xinhua in Lagos, Nigeria's economic hub, Iliyasu said troops subdued Boko Haram terrorists in an encounter and rescued eight villagers including four children held captives by the insurgents.

The coordinating army spokesperson said the rescued victims were evacuated while the children among them were equally administered with Polio vaccination by a Nigerian army medical team.

He added that no causality was recorded by the army troops during the commando operations.

According to him, many of the Boko Haram criminal elements fled in disarray toward the summit of Mandara Mountains with gunshot wounds.

"The troops' resilience and doggedness are unwavering as further exploitation to complete the annihilation of the insurgents is being sustained in the mountainous environment," he said.

Iliyasu said the army continued to sustain the tempo of the counter-insurgency operations in the northeast with a view to decimating and destroying the remnant of "Boko Haram/Islamic State West Africa (ISWAP) criminals".


Nigerian entrepreneur Temie Giwa-Tubosun wins Jack Ma's African business hero award

A Nigerian entrepreneur has taken home the top prize at the Jack Ma Foundation's first annual prize for African businesses.

Temie Giwa-Tubosun walked away with the top $250,000 cash prize from the $1 million available from the Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative (ANPI), started by Chinese investor Jack Ma.

The organization says it will award a $1m grant to 10 African entrepreneurs every year for the next 10 years.

Giwa-Tubosun is the founder and CEO of LifeBank, a Lagos-based blood and oxygen delivery company that connects registered blood banks to hospitals and patients in need of urgent blood supplies.

She said: "The Africa Netpreneur Prize will give me the resources to grow LifeBank and expand our presence in Nigeria and throughout the rest of Africa. I look forward to continuing my journey to solve problems and make a significant impact on the future of Africa."

Drone delivery of blood
Giwa-Tubosun also announced at the 'African Business Heroes' event held in Accra,Ghana on Saturday that LifeBank will start delivering blood through Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), known as drones.
She said the decision to add drones to their mobility fleet was to get blood to patients in places that are hard to reach.
At the event, Giwa-Tubosun spoke about LifeBank's findings while researching the best situations to use drones for blood delivery.
"After running our operations for three years we knew that there were some patients we could not reach on time. Like areas where there are bandits on the road so we need to fly," she told CNN.
According to her, the drones will only supply blood in emergency situations where patients are hard to reach.

An Ethiopian partnership
In October, in partnership with the Information Network Security Agency (INSA), the Ethiopian government agency tasked with exploring technology, the LifeBank team successfully did a test run of drone delivery in Ethiopia.
"What we did in Ethiopia... was like a research project to show that we can deliver these critical supplies [blood]. We did that for a couple of weeks and it was successful," Giwa-Tubosun said.
The drones are programmed to automatically pick up samples from blood banks and deliver to laboratories or hospitals without any form of human control.
Giwa-Tubosun says beyond Ethiopia, LifeBank's drone delivery services will be tested and launched in other regions including Nigeria.
"We have the results of the success, and we're going to do the same in another country, perhaps Nigeria," she said.

Nigeria's blood deficit
Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, needs up to 1.8 million units of blood every year, but the National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS) collects only about 66,000 units per year, leaving a deficit of more than 1.7million pints of blood, according to the country's health ministry.
Through their real-time delivery of blood using motorcycles and boats, LifeBank is trying to improve the numbers in the West African country.
Their dispatch riders pick up specified units of blood from blood banks, storing it in their motorbike's cold chain transport box and delivering to the required hospitals quickly, a challenge in gridlocked Lagos.

10,000 applications
Around 10,000 applicants from 50 African countries were whittled down to just 10 for the "Africa's Business Heroes," finale event, held Saturday in Accra, Ghana.

The final 10 pitched their businesses to four judges, including Ma, Zimbabwean businessman Strive Masiyiwa, Joe Tsai, Vice Chairman Alibaba Group and banking boss Ibukun Awosika.
In second and third place were Egyptian Omar Sakr, founder and CEO, Nawah-Scientific and Christelle Kwizera, founder, Water Access Rwanda who were awarded $150,000 and $100,000 each.
The remaining finalists each walked away with $65,000 for their businesses.

By Aisha Salaudeen and Stephanie Busari


Video - Nigeria's Oscar disqualification sees push for films in native languages

Nigeria's Oscar Committee is urging Nigerian filmmakers to use more native languages in their productions. This, after the U.S. Academy Awards disqualified a Nigerian entry in the International Feature Film category because the movie used too much English. While some in Nigeria’s Hollywood – known as Nollywood -- support the idea of more native languages in films, others argue that non-English films limit their audience reach. Timothy Obiezu reports from Abuja.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Video - Nigerian artist creatively stitches to create images

Thread Painting originated in the 19th century. The artist relies on a combination of stitches and colors to produce a work that leaves an impressionistic feel. Although it's not a popular art form, Nigeria's Emmanuel Eweje has made a career out of it. With over a decade of experience, he is making waves both as an exhibitor and a trainer.

Former Nigeria football player guilty of match-fixing in Sweden

Former Nigeria international Dickson Etuhu has been found guilty of attempted match-fixing by a Swedish appeals court.

The Court of Appeal in Stockholm said in a release on Wednesday that it was clear that Etuhu and an unnamed former player tried to influence AIK keeper Kyriakos "Kenny" Stamatopoulos to fix a match in Sweden's top division in 2017.

Etuhu, who played for several English clubs including Manchester City, Sunderland, Preston, Blackburn and Fulham, escaped a jail sentence but was instead fined and sentenced to serve probation, without further details being made public.

The 37-year-old, who left AIK Solna in 2016, says he will be appealing against the ruling at the Supreme Court.

The court said that "the content of what the men submitted to the player (Stamatopoulos) was so clear that it should be considered a criminal offer of bribe."

Etuhu had intially been acquitted by a court last year but that was appealed by prosecutor Johan Lindmark, who told local Swedish newspaper Expressen that he was satisfied with Wednesday's outcome.

"It was with satisfaction that I received the verdict today," Lindmark said.

"I had appealed on the grounds that I thought the court of law would change and was not surprised when I saw the verdict."

Etuhu played 20 times for the Super Eagles including twice at the Africa Cup of Nations in 2008 and 2010 as well as the World Cup in South Africa.

By Simon Reeves


Nigeria security agency denies shooting supporters of detained activist

Nigeria's state security agency on Wednesday denied that its officers opened fire on campaigners calling for the release of a Nigerian activist and former presidential candidate who remains in detention despite having been granted bail.

Omoyele Sowore, who ran for president as a minor candidate in the February election in which former military ruler President Muhammadu Buhari secured a second term in office, was arrested in August for calling for a revolution.

In September Sowore pleaded not guilty to charges of treason, money laundering and harassing the president. He was granted bail on Oct. 4 but he has not been released because the Department for State Security (DSS) says the conditions have not been met.

Supporters of Sowore, who founded Nigerian online news organization Sahara Reporters, staged a protest at DSS headquarters in the capital, Abuja, on Wednesday during which they said the security agency's officers opened fire on them.

But the claims were denied by the DSS.

"Despite serial and unwarranted provocations, the Service, as a professional and responsible Organization, did not shoot at the so-called protesters," the DSS said in a statement.

Sowore's continued detention has prompted some to criticize Buhari over his administration's record on human rights, particularly a lethal crackdown on followers of a Shi'ite leader who has been detained by the government since 2015 without a trial.

Nigerian campaign groups, including Concerned Nigerians Group and the Coalition in Defence of Nigerians Democracy & Constitution, issued a statement in which they said "violent attacks" on protesters at DSS headquarters show that Buhari "is running a dictatorship again".

Buhari was Nigeria's head of state between December 1983 and August 1985, after taking power in a military coup. He was also replaced by the military.

Sowore was granted bail so long as a number of conditions were met including the provision of 100 million naira ($277,777) with two sureties.

The DSS, in its statement, said it reiterated its "avowed readiness to release Sowore" once the people who provided surety for him had presented themselves.

Femi Falana, a lawyer representing Sowore, on Wednesday called on the DSS to release his client from "illegal custody".

He accused the DSS of "aggravating the felony of contempt of court by asking sureties who had been verified by the trial court to report in its office for an illegal verification".

(Reporting by Camillus Eboh; Additional reporting by Abraham Achirga; Writing by Alexis Akwagyiram; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)


Wednesday, November 13, 2019

PalmPay launches in Nigeria

Africa focused payment startup PalmPay has launched in Nigeria after raising a $40 million seed-round led by Chinese mobile-phone maker Transsion.

The investment came via Transsion’s Tecno subsidiary, with participation from China’s NetEase and wireless comms hardware firm Mediatek — a Transsion spokesperson confirmed to TechCrunch.

PalmPay had piloted its mobile fintech offering in Nigeria since July, before going live today at a launch in Lagos.

The startup aims to become Africa’s largest financial services platform, according to a statement.

As part of the investment, PalmPay enters a strategic partnership with mobile brands Tecno, Infinix, and Itel that includes pre-installation of the startup’s app on 20 million phones in 2020.

The UK headquartered venture — that was also founded with Chinese seed investment — offers a package of mobile based financial services, including no fee payment options, bill pay, rewards programs, and discounted airtime.

In Nigeria, PalmPay will offer 10% cashback on airtime purchases and bank transfer rates as low as 10 Naira ($.02).

In addition to Nigeria, PalmPay will use the $40 million seed funding to grow its financial services business in Ghana. The payments startup has plans to expand to additional countries in 2020, PalmPay CEO Greg Reeve told TechCrunch on a call.

PalmPay received its approval from the Nigerian Central Bank as a licensed mobile money operator in July. During its pilot phase, the payments venture registered 100,000 users and processed 1 million transactions, according to a company spokesperson.

With its payments focus, the startup enters Africa’s most promising digital sector, but also one that has become notably competitive and crowded — particularly in the continent’s largest economy and most populous nation of Nigeria.

By a number of estimates, Africa’s 1.2 billion people represent the largest share of the world’s unbanked and underbanked population.

An improving smartphone and mobile-connectivity profile for Africa (see GSMA) turns this scenario into an opportunity for mobile-based financial products.

That’s why hundreds of startups are descending on Africa’s fintech space, looking to offer scalable solutions for the continent’s financial needs. By stats offered WeeTracker, fintech now receives the bulk of VC capital and deal-flow to African startups.

Nigeria has multiple new digital-payments entrants — see Chippercash — and several firmly rooted later stage fintech players, such as Paga and recently confirmed unicorn Interswitch.

PalmPay CEO Greg Reeves believes the company can compete in Nigeria and across Africa based on several strategic advantages. A big one is the startup’s support from Transsion and partnership with Tecno.

“On channel and access, we’re going to be pre-installed on all Tecno phones. Your’e gonna find us in the Tecno stores and outlets. So we get an immediate channel and leg up in any market we operate in,” said Reeve.

Tecno’s owner and PalmPay’s lead investor, Transsion, is the largest seller of smartphones in Africa and maintains a manufacturing facility in Ethiopia. The company raised nearly $400 million in a Shanghai IPO in September and plans to spend roughly $300 million of that on new R&D and manufacturing capabilities in Africa and globally.

In addition to Transsion’s support and network, Reeves names PalmPay’s partnership with Visa . “We signed a strategic alliance with Visa so now I can deliver Visa products on top of my wallet, link my wallet to Visa products and give access to someone who’s completely unbanked to the whole of the Visa network,” he said.

Another strategic advantage PalmPay may have as a newcomer in Africa’s fintech space is Reeve’s leadership experience. He comes to the CEO position after serving as Vodaphone’s global head of M-Pesa — one of the world’s most recognized mobile-money products. Reeve was also a GM for Millicom‘s fintech products across Africa and Latin America.

“I’ve had my fingers in mobile financial services for the last 10 years,” he said.

Reeve confirmed that PalmPay has local teams (and is hiring) in Nigeria and Ghana.

With the company’s launch and $40 million raise — which is potentially the largest seed-round for an Africa focused startup in 2019 — PalmPay’s bid to gain digital payment market share is on.

The Transsion led investment also serves as a big bold marker for China’s pivot to African tech in 2019. It follows several big moves by Chinese actors in the continent’s digital space.

These include Opera’s $50 million investment in multiple online verticals in Nigeria and a major investment by Chinese investors in trucking logistics startup Lori Systems this week.

By Jake Bright


Related story: Digital payment firm of Nigeria Interswitch gets $1b valuation after Visa investment

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Digital payment firm of Nigeria Interswitch gets $1b valuation after Visa investment

Nigerian digital payments firm Interswitch confirmed today it has reached unicorn status after Visa acquired a minority equity stake in the firm.

“The investment makes Interswitch one of the most valuable African fintech businesses with a valuation of $1 billion,” Interswitch said in a release to TechCrunch.

The Visa investment could create the first of two market distinctions for Interswitch — as it shouldn’t change the Lagos based company’s plans to go public.

“An IPO is still very much in the cards; likely sometime in the first half of 2020,” a source with knowledge of the situation told TechCrunch on background.

Interswitch did not reveal the amount of Visa’s investment and would not confirm Sky News reporting Monday that pegged it at $200 million for 20%.

Whatever the exact number, Interswitch’s confirmation of a $1 billion valuation marks another milestone in African tech.

Only one VC backed startup, turned later-stage company on the continent — e-commerce venture Jumia — has generated enough revenue and capital to achieve a ten-figure valuation.

For the near to medium-term, Interswitch could stand as Africa’s sole tech-unicorn, since Jumia’s volatile share-price and declining market-cap since an April IPO have dropped the company’s worth below $1 billion (for now).

Founded in 2002 by Mitchell Elegbe, Interswitch pioneered the infrastructure to digitize Nigeria’s then predominantly paper-ledger and cash-based economy.

The company now provides much of rails for Nigeria’s online banking system that serves Africa’s largest economy and population. Interswitch offers a number of personal and business finance products, including its Verve payment cards and Quickteller payment app.

From its home-base of Nigeria Interswitch has expanded its physical presence to Uganda, Gambia and Kenya .

Interswitch also sells its products in 23 African countries and launched a partnership in August for its Verve cardholders to make payments on Discover’s global network.

Visa and Interswitch are touting the equity investment as a strategic collaboration between the two companies, without a lot of detail on what that will mean.

“The partnership will create an instant acceptance network across Africa to benefit consumers and merchants,” was the characterization offered in a press release.

Interswitch’s imminent IPO has been delayed for several years. CEO and founder Mitchell Elegbe told TechCrunch, “a dual-listing on the London and Lagos stock exchange is an option on the table,” in a January 2016 call.

In subsequent years, Elegbe and other Interswitch executives named Nigeria’s recession as a reason for the delay.

A number stories have surfaced, including Bloomberg News reporting in July, that the company was poised to go public on the LSE.

TechCrunch’s source close to the matter offered the latest indication that Interswitch will list on a major exchange by mid-2020.

With possible exits for backers Helios Investment Partners, TA Investments and IFC, Interswitch’s unicorn status and pending IPO could create more momentum for startup investment in Africa. VC to the continent has grown significantly over the last 5 years, but stands at just over $1 billion annually, per Partech numbers.

Interswitch could also be in a stronger position to offer more capital directly to the continent’s fintech startups by reviving its ePayment Growth Fund. The venture arm made two investments in 2015, but then went largely quiet.

By Jake Bright


Monday, November 11, 2019

Nigerian billionaire Femi Otedola donates $14 million to Save The Children Fund

Femi Otedola, one of Nigeria’s richest men, has donated NGN 5 billion (approximately $14 million) to the Save the Children Fund through his daughter, DJ Cuppy’s Foundation, to support various intervention programmes for destitute children in Nigeria’s north-east region.

It is believed to be the single largest individual donation to charity in Nigeria’s history.

Otedola made the donation on Sunday, November 10, 2019, at a ceremony organized by the Cuppy Foundation in Abuja to raise funds for Save the Children. Cuppy Foundation is a non-profit organisation established by Otedola’s daughter, Florence Otedola (aka DJ Cuppy). The charity works to improve the welfare of Nigeria’s vulnerable and marginalized children, focusing on early childhood education and healthcare among numerous other programmes.

Otedola, who announced the donation through his eldest daughter, Tolani Otedola, noted that the persistent crisis in Nigeria’s northeast region which is the result of armed conflict between state actors and non-state armed groups, has produced widespread unrest for many civilians and rendered millions of children in need of humanitarian assistance. He called on other wealthy Nigerians to emulate his actions.

“God has been so kind to me in life and I feel highly privileged. The only way I can show my gratitude to Him is to use my resources to support those who are underprivileged. This I intend to do for the rest of my life,” he said.

Responding to Otedola’s donation, Kevin Watkins, the CEO of Save The Children, pledged that every penny out of it would be spent improving the lives of the children affected by insurgency in the northeast. Otedola’s donation will be managed by the Save The Children Fund and will be used to finance various intervention programmes for children in Borno, Adamawa and Katsina.

Nigerian Vice President Yemi Osibanjo who was the guest of honor at the ceremony commended Otedola’s generosity and told the guests at the event that Nigeria’s richest people must refocus their minds on caring for Nigeria’s poor.

According to the Vice President, in 2015, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari established one of Africa’s largest social investment programmes in Africa with about N500 billion annually.

He added, “Yet we are far from where we ought to be. It is obvious that government cannot do it alone. So, we don’t need to be billionaires to do our part. It is time for every one of us to decide that we can make a difference to ensure that the poor and vulnerable are given a decent life.”

Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man, also graced the occasion and donated N100 million ($275,000), to the Save The Children Fund. He also acknowledged Otedola’s philanthropy and noted that

“People find it very difficult in Nigeria to give money away but the more you give the more God blesses you. Femi, you are no more a rich man. You have joined the league of wealthy men. I have said I will give more of my money when I pass away,” Dangote said.

Otedola’s daughter, Ifeoluwa Otedola, popularly known by her moniker ‘DJ Cuppy’, is an ambassador of the Save the Children UK. She launched the foundation in August 2018 after making a trip to Maiduguri, Borno State, in Nigeria’s northeast region.

Speaking at the event, Miss Otedola said she started the foundation as a way of giving back to the less fortunate.

“Becoming an ambassador for Save the Children has exposed me to so many children around the world. I was able to visit Save the Children in Maiduguri with the help of my godfather Alhaji Aliko Dangote.”

The Save the Children Fund, commonly known as Save the Children was established in the United Kingdom in 1919 to improve the lives of children through better education, health care, and economic opportunities, as well as providing emergency aid in natural disasters, war, and other conflicts.

Energy tycoon Femi Otedola, 57, is one of Nigeria’s most revered philanthropists. Last December, he donated $6 million to construct a multi-storey building at the Augustine University in Epe, Lagos. Otedola, 56, made his fortunes in gas stations and shipping. He is now the owner and chairman of Geregu Power PLC, one of Nigeria’s largest utility companies.

By Mfonobong Nsehe


Nigeria urged to ban chaining the mentally ill

An international rights group has called the Nigerian government to ban chaining as it condemned the "terrible" abuse faced by thousands of people with mental health conditions across the country.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a reportpublished on Monday that detention, chaining and violent treatment of mental health patients was pervasive in the country "in many settings, including state hospitals, rehabilitation centres, traditional healing centres, and both Christian and Islamic faith-based facilities".

"People with mental health conditions should be supported and provided with effective services in their communities, not chained and abused," said Emina Cerimovic, senior disability rights researcher at HRW.

"People with mental health conditions find themselves in chains in various places in Nigeria, subject to years of unimaginable hardship and abuse," she said.

Home to some 200 million people, Nigeria is the seventh most populous country in the world. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one in four Nigerians - some 50 million people - are suffering from some sort of mental illness.

WHO says Nigeria has Africa's highest rate of depression, and ranks fifth in the world in the frequency of suicide. There are less than 150 psychiatrists in the county and WHO estimates that fewer than 10 percent of mentally ill Nigerians have access to the care they need.

Abuse victims

The HRW report came days after Nigerian police rescued nearly 259 young people from an Islamic rehabilitation centre in the southwestern city of Ibadan.

Many captives have said they were physically and sexually abused and chained up to prevent them from escaping.

It brought the total number of people released from abusive institutions in the country since September to nearly 1,500.

At the time, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said in a statement that "no responsible democratic government would tolerate the existence of the torture chambers and physical abuses of inmates in the name of rehabilitation of the victims".

But HRW criticised the government for failing to acknowledge that this abuse was rife in government-run facilities too.

The rights group said it visited 28 facilities providing mental healthcare in eight Nigerian states and the federal capital territory between August 2018 and September 2019.

It found that people with actual or perceived mental health conditions, including children, were placed in facilities without their consent, usually by relatives.

HRW said in some cases, police arrest people with actual or perceived mental health conditions and send them to state-run rehabilitation centres.

"Once there, many are shackled with iron chains, around one or both ankles, to heavy objects or to other detainees, in some cases for months or years," the report said.

"They cannot leave, are often confined in overcrowded, unhygienic conditions, and are sometimes forced to sleep, eat, and defecate within the same confined place," it said. "Many are physically and emotionally abused as well as forced to take treatments."

Deep wounds

According to HRW, adults and children in some Islamic rehabilitation centres reported being whipped, causing deep wounds.

People in Christian healing centres and churches described being denied food for up to three days at a time, which staff characterised as "fasting" for "treatment" purposes, the group said.

In many of the traditional and religious rehabilitation centres visited by HRW, staff forced people with mental health conditions, including children, to eat or drink herbs, in some cases with staff pinning people down to make them swallow.

The report said in psychiatric hospitals and state-run rehabilitation centres, staff forcibly administered medication, while some staff admitted to administering electroconvulsive therapy to patients without their consent.

The rights group called on the Nigerian government to "urgently investigate" the facilities and "prioritise the development of quality, accessible, and affordable community-based mental health services".

Al Jazeera

Related stories:  The new mental illness approach in Nigeria

Video - Nigerian woman tackles mental health stigma

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Nigerian 'sex slavery' ring goes on trial in France

Twenty-four suspected members of a sex trafficking ring accused of forcing Nigerian women into prostitution in France go on trial Wednesday (Nov 6), the latest case to highlight the growing use of Nigerian migrants as sex slaves in Europe.

Nigeria was the main country of origin of the migrants arriving across the Mediterranean to Italy in 2016 and 2017, though their numbers have since dropped.

Many of the arrivals were women and girls lured to Europe with false promises of jobs as hairdressers or seamstresses, only to find themselves selling sex on arrival to repay their debts.

Nigerians now outnumber Chinese or Eastern European sex workers on the streets of France and some other European countries.

Last year, 15 members of a Paris-based female-led pimping ring known as the "Authentic Sisters" were sentenced to up to 11 years in prison for forcing girls into sex slavery in France.

Many were themselves former trafficking victims-turned-perpetrators.

Similar gangs have also been dismantled in Italy and Britain.

The investigation in Lyon, where police estimate half the city's sex workers are Nigerian, began after authorities received a tip about a Nigerian pastor accused of exploiting several sex workers who lived in apartments he owned.

The pastor, Stanley Omoregie, has denied the charges, which include aggravated pimping and slavery.

But in the transcript of a conversation submitted to the court, he is heard saying he wanted "those with beautiful bodies, who can be controlled, not those that cause problems".

The prosecution has presented him as the kingpin of a family-based syndicate made up of 10 women and 14 men, including one of Europe's most wanted women, Jessica Edosomwan, accused of recruiting destitute women in Nigeria for the sex trade in Lyon, Nimes and Montpellier.

Edosomwan, who is believed to be on the run in the Benelux countries, Italy or Germany, will be tried in absentia.


The UN has estimated that 80 percent of young Nigerian women arriving in Italy - their first port of call in Europe - are already in the clutches of prostitution networks, or quickly fall under their control.

The accused in Lyon cover the entire gamut of sex trafficking activities, from iron-fisted "madams" and violent pimps as well as drivers of the vans in which the women perform sexual acts, and those tasked with laundering the proceeds of the trafficking.

Prosecutors estimate that 17 alleged victims, aged 17 to 38, made up to 150,000 euros (US$166,000) a month for the syndicate, selling sex for as little as 10 euros.

Most of the women come from Benin City, capital of Nigeria's southern Edo State, a human trafficking hotbed with a long history of dispatching women and men to Europe to earn money to send back home.

Many told investigators they had taken part in "juju" or black magic rituals before leaving Nigeria, during which they promised to repay the money they owed for their passage to Europe.

Many of the woman took the perilous migrant trail across the Sahara Desert to Libya and then across the Mediterranean to Italy before winding up in Lyon.

Among the accused is a 28-year-old former prostitute who was herself released from sex slavery after paying off her debts and who in turn brought over another young woman from Nigeria.

Months of police wiretaps and surveillance led to the arrest of the suspects between September 2017 and January 2018.

They risk 10 years in jail if convicted.


Related stories: Gang charged with sex trafficking girls from Nigeria arrested in Italy

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

259 released from illegal detention in Nigerian mosque

Nigerian police have rescued 259 captives from an illegal detention centre in a mosque in Ibadan, in the south-western state of Oyo.

The owner of the facility and eight others have been arrested, according to local media.

Conditions at the mosque were inhumane, Mr Shina Olukolu, state commissioner of police, told the Punch newspaper.

In the past month, more than 1,000 people have been rescued from similar institutions in Nigeria.

Local police raided the centre on Monday evening after a tip-off from a 17-year-old who had escaped from a similar centre in the area.

Some of the victims reportedly told police they had been held there for years.

This is the latest raid in Nigeria's crackdown on "rehabilitation schools" for drug addicts, troublesome children and people who have committed petty crimes.

Officials have likened the facilities to torture centres, and have vowed to close them down.

People rescued from similar institutions over the past month have reported physical and sexual abuse.

Lawal Ahmed was rescued from a rehabilitation centre earlier in October. He told the BBC that beatings and abuse were commonplace.

He said: "They make a cover story and say they are teaching us. They are not teaching us for the sake of God. Everything we are doing is by force and punishment.

"Whoever tells you they are performing prayers here for the sake of God, they are lying."


Related stories: Police in Nigeria rescue another 67 males from "inhuman" conditions

Hundreds freed from torture house in Nigeria

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Video - Fire breaks out in lagos market

Nigerian firefighters battled a large fire that broke out of a five-story building surrounding a popular market in Central Lagos on Tuesday. Thick black smoke filled the air as residents threw what belongings they could from the building, while some stood on the rooftops using small buckets of water in an attempt to stop the spread. The fire started in the morning and became a major blaze by midday. Officials have not yet said if any people were injured in the fire or commented on the cause of the blaze.

Nollywood movie Lionheart disqualified from Oscars

 The organisers of the Oscars have disqualified Nigeria's first-ever entry for consideration in the International Feature Film category because it has too much dialogue in English, according to reports.

The disqualification of Lionheart - directed by and starring Genevieve Nnaji, one of the biggest stars in the Nigerian film industry widely known as Nollywood - was conveyed in an email to voters for the category, The Wrap reported on Monday.

According to the rules by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, "an international film is defined as a feature-length motion picture (defined as over 40 minutes) produced outside the United States of America with a predominantly non-English dialogue track."

Lionheart has just under 12 minutes of dialogue that is in the Igbo language, while the rest of the 95-minute feature is in English, according to Hollywood Reporter.

The movie was scheduled to be screened to voters for the category, formerly known as best foreign language film, on Wednesday.
'Proudly Nigerian'

Lionheart, in which Nnaji plays Adaeze, a woman who tries to keep her family's transportation business afloat after her father suffers a heart attack, is currently streaming on Netflix.

Nnaji took to Twitter to express her disapproval of the Academy's decision.

Filmmaker Ava Durnay also criticised the Academy in a Twitter post.

"You disqualified Nigeria's first-ever submission for Best International Feature because its in English. But English is the official language of Nigeria. Are you barring this country from ever competing for an Oscar in its official language?"

Many others also took to social media to comment on the Academy's move.

Al Jazeera

Related stories: Video - Nigeria gets first Netflix Original starring Genevieve Nnaji

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

Monday, November 4, 2019

Video - Mega city dream turning into a nighmare for Lagos residents

Lagos is not just Nigeria's commercial capital, it is the country's most populous city. It's estimated that nearly 6,000 people come into the commercial hub every day with no plans to leave. CGTN's Deji badmus explores how the mega-city dream is now turning into a nightmare for many in Lagos.

Video - Africa's biggest poetry festival kicks off in Nigeria

One of Africa's biggest poetry festivals is underway in Lagos, Nigeria. The Lagos International Poetry Festival, which runs for four days, features poets and writers from across Africa and Europe.

Nigeria border closure extended to end of January 2020

Nigeria will keep its land borders closed to trade until at least January 31, 2020, the customs spokesman told Reuters on Sunday.

Nigeria launched a partial border closure in August to tackle smuggling of rice and other goods. Last month the head of customs confirmed that all trade via land borders was halted indefinitely.

Joseph Attah, spokesman for the Nigerian customs service said the “present phase” of the closure would end on January 31, 2020, and that would not be the end of the closure.

“The operation is in phases, it will continue until the set objective is attained,” Attah told Reuters by phone.

A private memo sent by the customs service comptroller for enforcement, Victor Dimka, to colleagues called the closure operation an “overwhelming success”, but said there were some strategic objectives yet to be achieved.

The memo did not outline which objectives these were.


Related stories: Border crisis in Nigeria fueled by rice

Smuggling booms despite Nigeria border closure