Thursday, June 4, 2020

Nigerian Reggae Star Majek Fashek Dies at 57

Beloved Nigerian reggae star Majek Fashek has died at age 57.

The singer's manager, Omenka Uzoma, told the BBC that Fashek (born Majekodunmi Fasheke), died in his sleep in New York. In an Instagram video, Uzoma reconfirmed the news, praising Fashek for all he did for Nigeria.

Singer/songwriter Fashek was born in the Edo state of Benin in 1963 and rose to prominence in 1988 when he released his solo debut, Prisoner of Conscience (his backing band was known as the Prisoners of Conscience), which included the award-winning single "Send Down the Rain."

With a high, quivering voice that drew comparisons to reggae great Bob Marley, and a conscious vibe in keeping with Marley's push to uplift, Fashek quickly gained a reputation as a voice of righteousness.

He furthered that image with the dancehall-spiked anti-apartheid song "Free Africa, Free Mandela," from his 1989 album I&I Experience. He achieved a rare cross-over success in the United States in 1991, when he signed with Interscope Records and released the Little Steven Van Zandt-produced breakthrough Spirit of Love. That effort included his biggest international hit, "So Long Too Long," an uplifting anthem that opened with the exhortation, "Arise from your sleep Africa/ Arise from your sleep America/ There's work to be done Africa."

The song, which Fashek performed on tour while opening for Tracy Chapman and on The Late Show with David Letterman, directly paid homage to Marley's legacy of activist lyricism with lines such as, "Remember, remember, Marcus Garvey/ Who had a dream for you Africa/ Remember, remember, Martin Luther King/ Who had a dream for you America/ They say you are black, they say you are brown/ They say dem white, they say you are brown/ But only the Angels of God is white now/ Only the Angels of God is white."

In 2016, Fashek wrote the song "We Are Not Afraid," which was the soundtrack to an all-star fundraiser video for victims of religious and political violence around the world directed by photographer Bob Gruen that featured more than 200 artists, including Keith Richards, Robert Plant, Bruce Springsteen, Yoko Ono, Robert DeNiro, Sting, Patti Smith, Dr. Jane Goodall, Iggy Pop, Peter Gabriel, Jackson Browne, Chuck D,Joe Walsh, Bonnie Raitt, Darlene Love, Debbie Harry, Dion, Elvis Costello, Grandmaster Flash, Jeff Tweedy and Susan Sarandon, among others.

At press time the cause of Fashek's death was not released.

Nigerian singer Burna Boy paid tribute to one of his biggest influences, writing, "The lyrics to his song 'So Long, Too Long' remain true as a wake up call to Africans still today."

By Gil Kaufman


Nigeria’s Insurers Given Another Year to Find Fresh Capital

Nigeria’s National Insurance Commission gave underwriters an additional year to recapitalize as companies deal with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

The industry recapitalization program scheduled to end in 2020 must now be completed by September 2021, the agency said in emailed statement.

“The incidences of Covid-19 pandemic have made it difficult to proceed with the Dec. 31, 2020 recapitalization deadline,” it said. Following the extension , underwriters are expected to meet at least half of the capital requirements by year-end, the regulator said.

Nigerian authorities last year asked insurers wanting to combine life and property and casualty businesses to raise their capital to 18 billion naira ($46 million) from 5 billion naira, with the minimum for property and casualty businesses increased to 10 billion naira from 3 billion naira. The requirement for life insurance is 8 billion naira, versus 2 billion naira, and that for reinsurance is 20 billion naira, compared with 10 billion naira.

By Emele Onu


Nigeria's Nollywood gets creative in response to Covid-19

As coronavirus closed businesses around the world and forced billions to stay home, Nigerian director Obi Emelonye came up with an innovative way to keep filming.

Inspired by his wife's teleconferencing calls from their isolation in Britain, he wrote and put together a short feature about a couple separated between London and Lagos.

There was just one day for rehearsals and two for filming, and relatives shot the actors on mobile phones in their homes on two continents.

"I said to myself, 'What if I shoot a film remotely? I can direct my actors and produce it from home, and the cost is zero," the well-known 53-year-old director told AFP.

"I wanted to show young people that despite the countless difficulties of our profession, despite the coronavirus, you can make a film without funding, without even a real camera."

Inventiveness has always been a hallmark of Nigeria's Nollywood -- the second most prolific film industry on the planet -- as it has risen from shaky homemade movies to slickly-produced blockbusters.

But now, in the face of the coronavirus crisis that has seen social distancing rules shut down shoots and cinemas closed, the sector has needed that spirit more than ever.

"We are an endangered species, we have to be innovative and to push the boundaries," said Emelonye, whose short "Heart 2 Heart" was released for free on YouTube last month.

"Things are very bad? You can make them better!"

'Difficult times'

The Nigerian film industry is riddled with contradictions.

On the surface are the red carpets, glitz and glamorous stars with millions of Instagram followers.

But underneath, much of the sector is poorly-funded, salaries are miserly and rampant piracy robs it of crucial revenues.

The arrival of the virus has dealt a major blow just as producers try to focus on higher-quality movies, cinema audiences grow and giants like Netflix push to tap into the country of 200 million, the most populous in Africa.

Moses Babatope watched in dismay as a government order to close saw income evaporate over the past three months at the Filmhouse, a cinema chain he co-founded in 2012.

"We've been through other difficult times, but this crisis is even worse," he told AFP.

Babatope estimated loses for the sector had reached over $9 million (eight million euros) so far due to the virus.

Dozens of film shoots have been put on hold or scrapped and the legion of workers in the industry -- from make-up artists to technicians to ushers -- are going unpaid.

Netflix has suspended the filming of its first original series made in Nigeria and French media giant Vivendi has delayed the opening of its first cinema in the capital Abuja.

Distributors reckon some 50,000 jobs are under threat since the sector juddered to a halt.

"It's going to take a while before it really starts up again," Babatope said.

'New experiences'

To navigate the current troubles the industry has begun pushing its boundaries.

Producer Charles Okpaleke teamed up with two local cinema chains Genesis and Silverbird to launch open-air "Drive-in" facilities.

A first screening in Abuja in late May saw all tickets sell out in just a few hours as viewers flocked to watched his film "Living in Bondage" from the comfort of their own cars.

"COVID forces us to rethink our habits, but it is also an opportunity to try new experiences," Okpaleke told AFP.

Producers and directors are also looking increasingly to the release their films on online streaming services like Netflix and its local competitor Iroko TV.

And even up-and-coming industry hopefuls were given the opportunity to keep on honing their skills despite the disruptions.

French start-up LAFAAC has partnered with cinema school Femis and Nigerian television channel Wazobia to offer online training to would-be scriptwriters via a mobile app.

"Nowadays there is a huge demand for series from Subsaharan Africa despite a relative lack of training," said LAFAAC co-founder Francois Catala.

"I believe that online releases are the future of Nollywood."

France 24

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Nigeria’s epileptic electricity grid collapses again

Nigeria’s national electricity grid, operated from Osogbo in Osun State, again collapsed Tuesday afternoon, leaving the entire country in darkness.

Managed by the Transmission Company of Nigeria, sources at the company confirmed the development to The Guardian as some distribution companies already notified consumers of total blackout.

The grid collapsed in May due to industrial unrest, after it had earlier collapse in April which heightened poor power supply.

Though TCN is yet to clarify the reason for the latest collapse, the grid recorded over eleven system collapse last year.

Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors (ANED), the umbrella body of the distribution companies had last year decried the repeated system collapse, stating that TCN’s analogue system caused over 100 electricity grid collapses since the privatisation of the power sector in 2013.

The Guardian

Nigerians go online to demand 'justice' for abuses against women

Large numbers of Nigerians are taking to social media to demand "justice" after a series of high-profile cases of violence against women sparked outrage in the country.

The rallying cries #JusticeForUwa, #JusticeForTina and #JusticeForJennifer have reverberated among internet users in the country, with celebrities also joining virtual campaigns inspired by the Black Lives Matter protests sweeping the United States.

The latest outpouring of anger has been unleashed by the cases of three women and girls who were killed or raped in incidents activists say showcase the widespread sexual violence and police brutality in Nigeria.

In April, an 18-year-old known only as Jennifer was allegedly attacked and raped by a gang of five men in Kaduna, a city in northern Nigeria.

The case only gained attention after her relatives - scared the accused would escape justice - released a video online of family comforting the traumatised teen that was shared tens of thousands of times.

Now, local police say two men have been arrested for rape and three other suspects are being sought.

Two other cases that happened last week prompted more people to express their anger.

A 16-year-old high school student called Tina Ezekwe was shot and killed after police opened fire at a bus stop in Lagos, the country's biggest city. during a nighttime coronavirus curfew.

After an outcry online, the police force said two officers had been arrested and were facing disciplinary action and possible prosecution.

Meanwhile, in southern Edo state, 22-year-old university student Vera Uwaila Omozuma, known as Uwa, was found beaten to death in a church after reportedly being raped.

A female blogger from the area drew the attention of hundreds of thousands of internet users with the hashtag #JusticeForUwa.

Under pressure, the regional governor and police pledged an investigation to track down those responsible for the killing of the microbiology student.

For many in Nigeria, the internet is a key outlet for protests in a country where taking to the streets can often draw a punishing response by security forces.

"Social media is a tool to bring light on police, or institutions," Segun Awosanya, the head of Social Intervention Advocacy Foundation that campaigns against abuses by law enforcement, told AFP news agency.

"Once the light is on them, they have to go back to the cases and dig them up. They can't keep quiet anymore."

Now, the protests rocking cities across the US in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, a Black man, at the hands of white officers, coupled with the power of the online campaigns there against police brutality and racial inequality, appear to be pushing more Nigerians to demand action.

"We see the crowds in America, and its an opportunity to share our pain and our displeasure," Awosanya, who has more than 500,000 followers on Twitter, said.

While the online protests were sparked by violence against women, they have quickly begun tapping into broader anger about the state of the country.

Now, some of Nigeria's biggest stars have ditched their usual reticence to get involved in politics and are speaking out.

"#WeAreTired of senseless killings, lorries falling on road and killing passengers, ACs catching fire and burning houses, young girls getting raped, young boys killed," tweeted Afropop diva Tiwa Sawage to her four million followers.

"Please add your own frustration because my list is long."

Savage has been joined by other celebrities like music producer Don Jazzy, who has 4.6 million followers, and singers Mr Eazi and Rema who railed against rape in the country and police violence.

"The police kills black Americans and the Nigerian police kill Nigerians," Wizkid, a popular singer, wrote in Pidgin to his 6.5 million followers, taking direct aim at President Muhammadu Buhari.

"Buhari/Trump are the same person - only difference is that one knows how to use Twitter."

Al Jazeera

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Nigeria to relax coronavirus curbs on places of worship

Nigeria will relax coronavirus restrictions on places of worship from Tuesday, the chairman of the presidential task force for COVID-19 said.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country where Christianity and Islam are widely practised, has recorded 10,162 confirmed cases and 287 deaths.

Boss Mustapha, the country’s most senior civil servant, also said a lockdown in the northern city of Kano would be eased, one of a number of changes over four weeks from Tuesday.

“Nigeria has not reached the peak of confirmed cases,” Mustapha told reporters.

Another official said the aviation industry had been asked to prepare for the possible resumption of domestic flights from June 21. He added that a national curfew would be shortened to 10 p.m.-4 a.m. from Tuesday, from the current 8 p.m.-6 a.m. order.

Nigeria’s financial sector will also be able to resume normal working hours, said Sani Aliyu, the national coordinator of the task force.

Other curbs remain in place, such as a ban on interstate travel, with a few exceptions, such as for essential workers. And face masks must still be worn in public.

By Felix Onuah


Nigeria to resume film production under coronavirus guidelines

Nigeria's movie industry is set to resume film production which has been banned during lockdown amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to a producers association.

The Theater Arts and Motion Pictures Producers Association of Nigeria (TAMPAN) announced relaxed restriction on movie production, saying it was in line with the Lagos state government's relaxation order which took effect from June 1.

In a statement reaching Xinhua in Lagos on Tuesday, Bolaji Amusan, TAMPAN's national president, thanked members for abiding by the earlier proclamations of the association to stop shooting of films and other related productions during the pandemic.

He however urged the artists to take the necessary precautionary measures that would protect them from contacting the virus in the course of their work, as the pandemic had not been completely defeated.

He said part of the measures to put in place subsequently on movie locations was that producers must provide soap and running water for constant washing of hands by both the cast and crew members.

"Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness, coughing or sneezing repeatedly, and quickly report such cases to the production managers for necessary actions," Amusan said.

Nigeria's movie industry, also known as Nollywood, is one of the largest film industries in the world in terms of quantity of films produced every year. Nigeria's films and TV series have enjoyed popularity in Africa and even made a hit on international theaters, such as "Lionheart", "Up North", and "Chief Daddy".


Monday, June 1, 2020

Video - Lagos has few bed space for COVID-19 patients

Lagos, which is the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria, is facing a new challenge. It is running out of bed space for patients of the disease. The government of the city now says it would adopt a strategy of home care treatment for mild cases. But experts are warning that could be dangerous. CGTN's Deji Badmus has that report.

Video - Football action set to resume on June 1 in Nigeria

In Nigeria, the country is on course to resume its top-flight professional football league from Monday. Matches were suspended following the coronavirus pandemic and the return of action will be guided by detailed medical protocols and rules. CGTN's Kelechi Emekalam reports.

Nigerian resident doctors issue ultimatum for strike amid COVID-19 fight

Resident doctors in Nigeria have issued an ultimatum to embark on an indefinite strike if the government failed to address their demands within 14 days, as the country continues to battle the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) on Sunday told the media that the agreement to embark on the indefinite strike action was reached on Saturday.

Sokomba Aliyu, the association's national president, said issues affecting the Nigerian healthcare system and welfare of health workers remained their core concerns.

Part of the demands of the NARD from the government included the provision of adequate personnel protective equipment, such as N95 respirators, gloves, and others to all health workers during this pandemic, Aliyu said.

The resident doctors also demanded the prompt payment of their salaries, as well as the immediate recall of their sacked colleagues in central Nigeria. According to the association, 26 resident doctors at the Jos University Teaching Hospital in Nigeria's central Plateau State were illegally disengaged without recourse to the law governing residency training.

The doctors also called on security agencies especially in Lagos, Delta, and Abuja to stop the harassment and assault of doctors while carrying out their legitimate activities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The NARD president noted the shortage of medical staff, especially resident doctors in most health institutions across the country, and called on the government to quickly address the problem.


#JusticeForUwa trends in Nigeria after student murdered in church

There is outrage in Nigeria following the murder of a 22-year-old student, Uwavera Omozuwa in a church.

The hashtag #JusticeForUwa is trending in Nigeria, with her family appealing for help to track down her killers.

Uwavera had been studying in a "quiet" church near her home in Benin City when she was killed, her sister, Judith, told BBC Pidgin.

The student, who had wanted to become a nurse, died in hospital on Saturday, three days after the attack.

Judith Omozuwa said her sister had also been raped.

Her family said they received a call from a woman at the Redeemed Christian Church of God on Wednesday evening.

Uwavera was taken to hospital after a security guard found her, her skirt torn and her shirt covered in blood, Judith Omozuwa said.

'Failure to curb gender-based violence'

However, a police spokesperson in southern Edo State, whose capital is Benin City, told BBC Pidgin that they were treating the incident as a murder, not a rape, case.

The student died following a fight at the church, the spokesperson added, without giving more details.

Uwavera had only just been admitted to the University of Benin to study microbiology when she was killed.

She often went to sit and "read" at the church near her house as it was quiet, her sister added.

Unconfirmed reports in local media said a group of men had entered the church, raping Uwavera and hitting her with a fire extinguisher.

On Tuesday, many Nigerians were angered after a policeman allegedly shot dead a 16-year-old girl, Tina Ezekwe, in the commercial capital, Lagos.

The officer was arrested, police said.

On Twitter, many Nigerians expressed concern about the government's failure to tackle gender-based violence, and questioned whether parents were bringing up boys properly.


Friday, May 29, 2020

Rohr: 'Nigeria are not number one in Africa'

Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr, who has signed a new contract with the Super Eagles, has said the Super Eagles are "not number one in Africa" - despite his new deal expecting him to deliver the 2021 Afcon.

The German told BBC Sport Africa he is "happy to continue" with Nigeria and that the new deal was "good for all of us."

The contract quagmire between the Nigeria Football Federation and their coach, which lasted for over two months, finally came to an end with the announcement by the President of the Federation on Wednesday.But the NFF statement also highlighted a major expectation - that Rohr is to deliver the Afcon 2021 title to Nigeria, something the manager thinks will be difficult, though not impossible.

"When you go to a tournament it is to win it," Rohr said.

"We finished third in the last one, and everybody wants to progress. But we know also that it is very difficult to win this tournament because we are not number one in Africa.

"But it is good to have these milestones and ambition."

Rohr, whose new two-and-a-half year contract runs until the 2022 World Cup, also highlighted that he understands the risks of his contract and knows he has to qualify for Qatar.

"My contract all the time is a risk because it is finished when we are eliminated from a competition - whether the Afcon or World Cup," he explained.

"I took the risk already when I arrived, and it is still the same. But I am very optimistic, because now we have a team which is playing good football and I have confidence in my players."


At least 60 killed in attacks in Nigeria’s northwest

At least 60 people were killed in a string of attacks by armed gangs in the restive northwest region of Nigeria, AFP reports quoting medical and local sources.

The attacks were carried out by dozens of gunmen who stormed five villages in Sabon Birni district in Sokoto state late Wednesday.

“We received a total of 60 dead bodies and several people with gunshot injuries from the villages attacked by the bandits last night,” AFP quotes a nurse at the general hospital in Sabon Birni.

A local resident corroborated the reports, noting that the gunmen opened fire on homes as residents were gathered around.

“We lost 60 people in the attacks. The bandits killed 16 in Garki, 13 in Dan Aduwa, 22 in Kuzari, seven in Katuma and two in Masawa,” AFP quotes the local resident.

There was no official comment on the attacks by security authorities at the time of publishing, but the police are expected to hold a press conference later.

Sabon Birni district, 175 kilometres (110 miles) from the state capital Sokoto, has in recent times been repeatedly attacked by armed gangs.

On Monday 18 people were killed when gunmen raided five other villages in Sabon Birni district, local officials said.

Authorities have previously launched repeated military operations and local peace talks to try to end the violence.


Thursday, May 28, 2020

Nigeria pays $11 million as ransom to kidnappers in four years

The security architecture in Nigeria has once again come under the spotlight after a new report said the Nigerian Government and citizens have handed over N4 billion ($11 million) to kidnappers for ransom in the last four years.

“Between June 2011 and end of March 2020, What we have found shows that between June 2011 and the end of March 2020, at least $18.34 million has been paid to kidnappers as ransom,” a report by SBM Intelligence – Kidnap Problem: The Economics of the Kidnap Industry in Nigeria said.

“Even more frightening is that the larger proportion of that figure (just below $11 million), was paid out between January 2016 and March 2020, indicating that kidnapping is becoming more lucrative.”

The report which featured all 36 Nigerian states and the capital – Abuja said 18 of the states – Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Borno, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Ekiti, Kano, Kwara, Lagos, Nasarawa, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Plateau, Rivers, Taraba and Yobe State have fewer deaths per kidnap attempt.

Rivers State, according to the report has 120 kidnap cases between 2016 and 2020, followed by Kaduna with 117. Delta is third with 96 cases of kidnap, Bayelsa is fourth with 85 and Borno fifth with 82 cases.

Other states in the top ten are Kogi with 59 cases of kidnap, followed by Edo State with 55, Ondo 54, Katsina 52 and Taraba with 47.

The report said ongoing violence from other sources could have contributed immensely to the fatality rates from kidnapping in the states.

“Our conclusion is that where existing violence and/or historic violent norms have devalued human lives, crimes such as kidnapping tend to result in more fatalities,” the report said.

Bayelsa, a south-south state, the report said is the only state that had a decline in kidnap related incidents in comparison to 2011-2015 when it had a spike. Kaduna, Rivers, Katsina, Zamfara and Taraba, have witnessed a rise in kidnap cases according to the report.

The report explained that a significant history of violence in Kaduna State, especially along its connecting road to Abuja could have contributed to it being ranked as the state with the second-highest number of kidnapping incident in Nigeria.

Although Nigeria’s capital city – Abuja was not listed in the top ten states with cases of kidnapping in Nigeria, the report stated that “there is anecdotal evidence” which suggests “that some of the perpetrators responsible for Kaduna’s high rate of kidnap attempts have extended their operations” there.

“While kidnapping may be frequent, the selection of victims is more targeted and the kidnappers see it more as a business transaction, trying hard to extract money from their criminal activities,” the report said.

The Guardian

In Nigeria, Masks Are New Glamour Accessory

Some Nigerian tailors and designers have taken their creativity to making fashionable face masks, adding glamour and style to health and safety. When authorities eased lockdowns in the country earlier this month, it made the use of face masks in public places mandatory. Timothy Obiezu examines how some Nigerians are choosing to wear face masks with flair.


Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Nigeria: children brutally targeted in military-Boko Haram conflict becoming 'lost generation'

Amnesty International has documented torture, unlawful detention and sexual abuse of children escaping Boko Haram in the Northeast

At least 10,000 people, including many children, have died in military detention during the conflict

UK funding a flawed ‘rehabilitation’ centre – full investigation needed into deaths at the site

‘This must serve as an urgent warning to the UK Government currently supporting a military abusing the very people it’s meant to be protecting’ – Kate Allen

Nigeria must urgently address its failure to protect and provide education to an entire generation of children in the Northeast, a region devastated by years of Boko Haram atrocities and gross violations by the military, Amnesty International warned today in a chilling new report.

The 91-page report, ‘We dried our tears’: Addressing the toll on children of Northeast Nigeria’s conflict, examines how the military’s widespread unlawful detention and torture have compounded the suffering of children from Borno and Adamawa states who faced war crimes and crimes against humanity at the hands of Boko Haram.

It also reveals how international donors including the UK have bankrolled a flawed programme that claims to reintegrate former alleged fighters, but which overwhelmingly amounts to unlawful detention of children and adults.

Joanne Mariner, Acting Director of Crisis Response at Amnesty International, said:

“The past decade of bitter conflict between Nigeria’s military and Boko Haram has been an assault on childhood itself in Northeast Nigeria. The Nigerian authorities risk creating a lost generation unless they urgently address how the war has targeted and traumatised thousands of children.

“Boko Haram has repeatedly attacked schools and abducted large numbers of children as soldiers or ‘wives’, among other atrocities.

“The Nigerian military’s treatment of those who escape such brutality has also been appalling. From mass, unlawful detention in inhumane conditions, to meting out beatings and torture and allowing sexual abuse by adult inmates – it defies belief that children anywhere would be so grievously harmed by the very authorities charged with their protection.”

Between November 2019 and April 2020, Amnesty interviewed more than 230 people affected by the conflict, including 119 who were children when they suffered serious crimes at the hands of Boko Haram, the Nigerian military, or both. This included 48 children held in military detention for months or years, as well as 22 adults who had been detained with children.

Boko Haram’s brutality

Children have been among those most impacted by Boko Haram’s string of atrocities carried out over large swathes of Northeast Nigeria for nearly a decade. The armed group’s classic tactics have included attacks on schools, widespread abductions, recruitment and use of child soldiers, and forced marriage of girls and young women, which all constitute crimes under international law.

The scale of abductions has often been underestimated and appears to run into the thousands. Boko Haram continues to force parents to hand over boys and girls, under threat of death. It continues to forcibly “marry” girls and young women. And it continues to murder people who try to escape.

Children in areas under Boko Haram control have been subjected to torture, including floggings and other beatings, as well as forced to watch public executions and other brutal punishments.

A 17-year-old girl who escaped Boko Haram after being abducted and held in captivity for four years described life in the Sambisa forest: “[My] wicked ‘husband’ always beat me… My daily activities included praying, cooking if there was food, [and] going for Quranic lessons. No movement was allowed, and no visiting friends. It was a terrible experience, and I witnessed different punishments, from shooting to stoning to lashing.”

She, and most other former child “wives” interviewed — including some who returned with children born during captivity — had received little or no assistance in returning to school, starting livelihoods, or accessing psychosocial support.

Thousands, including children, held in military detention

Children who escape Boko Haram territory face a raft of violations by the Nigerian authorities, including crimes under international law. At best, they end up displaced, struggling for survival and with little or no access to education. At worst, they are arbitrarily detained for years in military barracks, in conditions amounting to torture or other ill-treatment.

The UN told Amnesty it has verified the release of 2,879 children from military detention since 2015, although it previously cited a higher figure of children detained between 2013 and 2019. These statistics are likely to be a vast underestimate, and the UN has said its access to military detention is restricted so it cannot provide the actual number of children detained in the context of the conflict.

Most of these detentions are unlawful; children are never charged or prosecuted for any crime and are denied the rights to access a lawyer, appear before a judge, or communicate with their families. The widespread unlawful detentions may amount to a crime against humanity.

Almost everyone fleeing Boko Haram territory, including children, is “screened” by the military and Civilian Joint Task Force – a process that, for many, involves torture until the person “confesses” to affiliation with Boko Haram. Alleged Boko Haram members and supporters are transferred and held - often for months or years - in squalid conditions in detention centres including Giwa Barracks in Maiduguri and the Kainji military base in Niger State.

Conditions so severe they amount to torture

Every former detainee interviewed offered consistent descriptions of the conditions: extreme overcrowding; a lack of ventilation amid stifling heat; parasites everywhere; and urine and faeces on the floor, because of the lack of toilets. Although there have been some improvements in recent years, many former detainees, including children, also faced grossly inadequate access to water, food, and health care.

Tens of thousands of detainees have been held in these conditions, which are so extreme that they constitute the war crime of torture. Many children continue to be held in such conditions, even after mass releases in late 2019 and early 2020. Amnesty estimates that at least 10,000 people, including many children, have died in detention during the conflict.

A 14-year-old boy whom Boko Haram abducted as a young child before he fled and was placed in detention by the Nigerian military, said: “The conditions in Giwa are horrible. They could make you die. There’s no place to lie down… It’s hot, all your clothes were wet, like they put you in a river… Up to now, nobody has told me why I was taken there, what I did, why I was in detention. I wonder, why did I run from [Boko Haram]?”

UK support to the Nigerian military and unsafe detention centres

The UK Government is supporting the Nigerian armed forces to counter the threat from Boko Haram through British military training and by providing operational guidance and advice.

As part of this support, the UK is one the international donors (including the USA and EU), providing millions of dollars to Operation Safe Corridor – a military-run detention centre set up in 2016 with the aim of ‘de-radicalising and rehabilitating’ alleged Boko Haram fighters or supporters.

Whilst conditions are better at the Safe Corridor site than elsewhere in military detention, and former detainees spoke positively about the psychosocial support and adult education there, Amnesty has documented a number of human rights violations at the site, including:

Most of the men and boys there have not been informed of any legal basis for their detention and still lack access to lawyers or courts to contest it. Their promised six-month stay has in some cases extended to 19 months, during which time they are deprived of liberty and under constant armed guard.

Former detainees there told Amnesty that medical care was sorely lacking. At least seven detainees have died, many, if not all, after receiving inadequate medical care. The Nigerian authorities did not even notify their families – they were informed by released detainees instead.

A vocational training programme that is part of Safe Corridor may amount to forced labour, since most detainees, if not all, have never been convicted of any crime and make everything from shoes to soap to furniture for no pay.

The programme also subjects some detainees to unsafe work conditions. Some detainees suffered serious injuries to their hands after being made to work with caustic soda, a highly corrosive substance, without protective equipment. “The caustic soda is dangerous. If it touches your body, it will remove the flesh,” said a 61-year old former detainee.

Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty UK, said:

“Amnesty’s investigations show the brutal and inhumane treatment of many children by the Nigerian military.

“This must serve as an urgent warning to the UK Government and the British forces currently supporting a military abusing the very people it’s meant to be protecting.

“The UK’s support of a military-run detention centre that is unlawfully imprisoning people, including children, and subjecting them to unsafe conditions is particularly worrying – continued support for the programme must be conditioned on the Nigerian authorities undertaking a full investigation into deaths in the facility and taking steps to ensure the military respects children’s rights.

“The priority must be supporting victims of Boko Haram. The UK Government must work with the Nigerian authorities to ensure that the military is protecting the population, and that absolutely no UK support is contributing to the vile abuses taking place in the context of the conflict.”

Amnesty International UK

Trafficked Nigerian women rescued from Lebanon

Fifty trafficked Nigerian women have been rescued from Lebanon and returned home, Nigeria's foreign minister says.

They have all been placed in quarantine following their arrival on Sunday as a precaution against coronavirus.

The country's anti-trafficking agency will interview them about their experiences after their isolation ends.

Last month, a Nigerian woman working as a maid in Lebanon was rescued after being put up for sale on Facebook for $1,000 (£807).

The UN says thousands of women and girls from Nigeria and other African countries are trafficked every year.

They are often lured away with promises of jobs in Europe or Asia, but usually end up being exploited as domestic maids or forced into prostitution.

Last year, an undercover BBC News Arabic investigation in Kuwait found that domestic workers were being illegally bought and sold online in a booming black market.

Nigeria's Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, tweeted his thanks to the Lebanese authorities for their financial and logistical support in making Sunday's evacuation possible.

A further 19 Nigerians, stranded in Lebanon because of Covid-19 lockdowns, were also repatriated.

Julie Okah-Donli, the head of Nigeria's National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (Naptip), said the hotel where the women were being quarantined was under guard to ensure their protection.

They would be offered ways to rebuild their lives after investigations into their cases, she said.

According to Naptip, at least 20,000 Nigerian girls were trafficked to Mali and forced into prostitution last year.

Ms Okah-Donli said the agency was working with the foreign ministry to repatriate citizens who had been trafficked.


Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Video - Eid in Nigeria: Outbreak dampens festivities

The Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr at the end of Ramadan is usually a time of celebration in Nigeria. This year, however, many children will not be getting new clothes and gifts. The pandemic has devastated the economy, leaving millions struggling to get by. Al Jazeera's Ahmed Idris reports from Abuja, the capital of Nigeria.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Nigeria’s Economy Boosted by Higher Oil Production

Nigerian economic growth beat estimates in the first quarter as oil production rose to the highest in at least four years.

Gross domestic product expanded 1.87% in the three months through March from a year earlier, compared with growth of 2.55% in the previous quarter, the Abuja-based National Bureau of Statistics said on its website on Monday. The slowdown reflects “the earliest effects of the disruption, particularly on the non-oil economy,” the statistics office said. The median estimate of three economists in a Bloomberg survey was for 0.8% expansion. GDP contracted by 14.27% from the fourth quarter.

While crude prices started dropping in the first quarter due to the tension between some of the world’s biggest producers and the coronavirus outbreak, Nigeria ramped up production to compensate for the fall in income. Oil output rose to 2.07 million barrels a day, compared with 2 million in the fourth quarter and 1.99 million barrels in the first quarter of last year. That’s the highest level since at least the start of 2016.

The oil sector grew by 5.06% from year earlier and the non-oil growth rate dropped to 1.55%, compared with 2.47% a year earlier. Still, the plunge in crude prices will weigh on Africa’s largest economy this year and gross domestic product could contract 3.4% in 2020, the most in at least four decades, according to the International Monetary Fund.

Budget Plans

Oil contributes less than 10% to GDP, but it accounts for half of the government’s income and about 90% of Nigeria’s foreign-exchange earnings. Africa’s biggest crude producer has more than halved the benchmark price in its budget to $25 per barrel for 2020 while keeping spending targets mostly intact, a step which would mean more borrowing to finance the fiscal plans.

Nigeria’s oil revenues declined by 125.5 billion naira ($326 million) in the first quarter, an indication of the headwinds the economy is facing from the coronavirus pandemic and low crude prices, Finance Minister Zainab Ahmed said last week. Without stimulus, the economy could contract by 8.9%, she said.

BNN Bloomberg

Friday, May 22, 2020

COVID-19 cases in Nigeria exceed 7,000

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) on Thursday recorded 339 new cases of COVID-19 in the country, bringing the total number of infections in the country to 7,016.

The NCDC disclosed this on its twitter handle on Thursday night. “339 new cases of #COVID19; 139-Lagos 28-Kano 28-Oyo 25-Edo 22-Katsina 18-Kaduna 14-Jigawa 13-Yobe 13-Plateau 11-FCT 8-Gombe 5-Ogun 4-Bauchi 4-Nasarawa 3-Delta 2-Ondo 1-Rivers 1-Adamawa. “7016 total cases of #COVID19 in Nigeria “Discharged: 1907 “Deaths: 211” NCDC also announced that to limit transmission of the virus, the centre is training healthcare workers to practise standard care precautions at all times. The health agency had on Wednesday said that sometimes, COVID-19 test results take longer than 96 hours due to sample transport and other logistics.

“While we work hard to reduce time between sample collection and result notification, please take preventive measures. “Self-isolation is important,” it stated. According to NCDC, the health agency does not own quarantine or treatment centres which are the responsibility of the state governments or relevant teaching hospital. The NCDC said that it only provides guidance on set-up of standard isolation centres, national case management guidelines and training to health workers.

The agency on Wednesday said that since COVID-19 onset, it had proactively provided Nigerians with reliable information on what they know; also through its website- It called on the need for credible scientists in the country to support in dispelling rumours just like the early days of HIV. Meanwhile, the Lagos State Government on Thursday, disclosed that it has spent at least N800 million in conducting 16,000 COVID-19 tests in the state. The state’s Commissioner for Health, Professor. Akin Abayomi stated this, while briefing newsmen on COVID-19 weekly situation report, held in Press Centre, Alausa Secretariat, Ikeja.

Abayomi, while responding to questions from the newsmen, said each COVID-19 test cost between N40,000 to N50,000, while 16,000 tests have been conducted so far fully all expenses paid by the state government. According to him, “We have so far performed 16,000 COVID-19 tests in Lagos, which is much higher than anywhere else in Nigeria. “We are planning to test up to about 1,000 people per day very soon in the next month or two we are going to be ramping up our capacity to test.

“For now the government is providing testing free of charge and the government pays about N40,000 to N50,000 per test. “But as we ramp up our testing we are going to try and use some means of subsidy for the test, either through insurance or through some contributions from donors or from development partners to help us to subsidize the test. “For now the state government is providing COVID-19 testing free of charge and all citizens who need to be tested for COVID-19 either because they are not feeling well or had a close contact can get it done free of charge at any of our COVID-19 testing sites on the four laboratories,” the commissioner said.


Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Nigerians stranded at airport to return home soon

Three Nigerian travellers stuck at Suvarnabhumi airport for nearly three months due to country lockdowns brought about by Covid-19 are expected to return home in about two weeks.

"They will fly back to their country as soon as the aviation ban is lifted," Immigration Bureau chief Sompong Chingduang said on Tuesday.

They have been in the departure area, receiving food and drink from airport security officers and airline staff, since late March.

Immigration cannot allow them entry because they do not have visas, Pol Lt Gen Sompong said.

They were waiting for connecting flights to Myanmar and Laos when the governments of both countries suddenly imposed travel restrictions to contain the spread of Covid-19, he said.

The airlines they travelled with -- Emirates and Etihad -- also halted services, preventing them from returning home, he said.

But while Covid-19 affected many air passengers and millions of people worldwide, "the three have not caught the disease," Pol Lt Gen Sompong said after they tested negative for the virus.

Though they want to continue their journeys -- two to Laos and the other to Myanmar, officials, who have contacted the Nigerian embassy in Bangkok for help, agree it would be better to send them home.

They are scheduled to fly on Emirates on June 4 when the United Arab Emirates resumes international flights, Suvarnabhumi Airport's public relations department said.

Their ordeal caught the interest of the social media community when a Thai Airways International employee posted on her Facebook how she and her friends helped the three.

They have no problems eating as they have been given meal boxes everyday.

"But when I asked whether they needed more help, they said just wanted a shower and a change of clothes," wrote Praphaporn Puengphak.

Bangkok Post

Nigerian religious leaders demand lifting of COVID-19 lockdown

Among religious leaders there is a small but vocal minority who reject Nigeria's coronavirus lockdown.

Some reacted angrily to Monday's announcement by the Nigerian government prolonging a ban on religious services, among other measures, especially in hard-hit regions, such as Kano — a predominantly Muslim city in the north of the country.

The hotspot for new coronavirus infections has seen its rate spike to 852 cases and 36 fatalities. Nigeria has almost 6,000 infections and 182 deaths from the disease.

Several imams have been suspended for violating state-imposed measures to slow down the spread of COVID-19 in a country whose health system risks being overwhelmed by the pandemic.

Regulation resistance

With a threat of this magnitude hanging over Nigeria, why is there so much resistance against rules that seem reasonable?

"First of all it has to do with the nature of traditional society," said northern Nigerian analyst Aliyu Tilde. "People have a strong attachment to religion."

Muslims also feel threatened by perceived attempts by secular powers to regulate their religion.

"Some even think that this is a conspiracy to prevent Muslims from praying," and that there is no such thing as a coronavirus, Tilde explained, tying this attitude to the high illiteracy and poverty rates prevalent in the regions.

Rejection from all denominations

Many Muslims, however, including journalist Baballe Mukhtari, agree with the confinement rules, even if they have deeply affected their lives.

"I am happy, because I am now with my family. I don't go out, I don't attend mosque," Mukhtari told DW. "I pray at home. I do it for the sake of my health and my family."

Nigeria's Christian community, mainly localized in the south, has its share of fierce opponents of the lockdown.

Church leaders, such as bishop David Oyedepo in Lagos, are agitating for the reopening of churches. Oyedepo is the founder of the Living Faith Church, one of the largest evangelical megachurches in Nigeria.

Bishop Oyedepo uses his services and prayer sessions, which are now run online, mostly to voice demands for the reopening of churches.

In his habitual colorful style, Oyedepo calls the shutdown an attempt to cripple Christianity.

"The church is God's banquet hall where we are fed with spiritual food to keep us alive and strong. So whatever stops the church from fellowshipping [sic] is out to destroy what God is building," he said.

"There must be a devil behind it. It is not virus, it is demon, there is a demon at work behind the scene, I told you in the morning I can smell a rat."

Why should markets open and churches not?

Among Nigerian Christians, the resistance against government measures stems mainly from Pentecostal Churches.

Some faithful would agree with Mayowa Adebola, who says that he cannot understand why the government would close down churches, while allowing crowded markets to remain open.

"I went to Mile 12 market. Without exaggerating, I probably had body contact with 500 people," he told DW, saying that prayer houses are much more organized and safe. "So there is no genuine reason for locking up churches in Nigeria."

This is an argument often heared in Nigeria, said analyst Tilde, where the differences between prayer house and markets is easily forgotten. "Markets are usually open-air places, while mosques are enclosed. The togetherness in markets is not as intense and chaotic as in the mosque, where you congregate body to body and you shake hands," he told DW.

Tilde warned the central government against giving in to the demands of Muslims that the ulemas be reopened: "A lot of the teachers here are about 50. The children will survive, but the teachers will die."

More testing needed

Pastor Tunde Bakare, head of the Latter Rain Assembly Church, agrees. Bakare chides religious leaders who are calling for a reopening of prayer houses, especially in the case of organizations with large facilities.

"Instead of criticizing the government, they should collaborate with them," Bakare said. "They must be prepared to offer some of their halls for the government to use as isolation centers."

Authorities announced on Monday that they would start implementing precision lockdowns in all areas where there is a "rapidly increasing number of cases," the head of the country's coronavirus task force, Boss Mustapha, said.

As he announced a nighttime curfew and the mandatory use of masks, he complained that noncompliance with social distancing measures "was rampant."

Testing for coronavirus symptoms has been another key problem across Nigeria.

Only 35,345 samples have so far been screened in Africa's most populous nation of 200 million people. This worries Tilde.

"[The] government must improve testing," he said. "It is a shame that Nigeria has only about 10 laboratories for testing or so. Testing must be intensified."


Tuesday, May 19, 2020

UK regulator sanctions Nigerian Christian channel over 5G conspiracy theory claims

British media regulator Ofcom has imposed sanctions against a channel founded by Nigerian megachurch preacher Chris Oyakhilome for airing "unsubstantiated claims" linking 5G to the coronavirus pandemic.

The regulator said while it does not oppose broadcasts airing controversial views or those challenging health authorities, the claims in a sermon aired by Christian channel Loveworld News calling the pandemic a "global cover-up" posed serious health consequences to viewers.

The sermon questioned the need for lockdown measures to prevent the spread of the virus without providing context, according to the Ofcom investigation.

Loveworld was ordered by the agency to air findings from its investigation given the "serious failings" by the channel to protect its viewers during the program.

CNN contacted Loveworld News UK for a comment but has yet to receive one.

Nigeria's information agency also debunked the popular pastor's claim that the government imposed movement restrictions in its two cities to allow the installation of the new generation wireless technology, according to a local report. 

Oyakhilome presides over one of the largest Christian congregations in Africa and the church boasts of having branches in countries and university campuses across five continents.

Ofcom said another report during the broadcast touted hydroxychloroquine as a cure for coronavirus leaving out doubts about the efficacy of the drug and potentially harmful side effects.

"However, given the unsubstantiated claims in both these programmes were not sufficiently put into context, they risked undermining viewers' trust in official health advice, with potentially serious consequences for public health," Ofcom said.

By Bukola Adebayo


Nigeria to impose precision lockdown in coronavirus hotspots

Nigeria announced on Monday it would impose precisely targeted lockdown measures in areas that report rapid increases in cases of the coronavirus, while the phased reopening of the economy as a whole would go ahead more slowly than planned.

The government extended a full lockdown in Kano state, the northern economic hub where authorities are investigating a spate of mysterious deaths. Kano has the second highest number of confirmed cases in the country after Lagos.

The government said its phased reopening of strict lockdowns in Lagos, Abuja and Ogun states would go more slowly than initially planned, and the current phase of gradual reopening would last a further two weeks.

Nigeria had planned to completely ease coronavirus lockdowns in those states over a six-week period from May 4.

“Nigeria is not yet ready for full opening of the economy and tough decisions have to be taken for the good of the greater majority,” said Boss Mustapha, chairman of Nigeria’s presidential task force for COVID-19. “Any relaxation will only portend grave danger for our populace.”

Over the past 24 hours, Nigeria has confirmed 338 new cases, its highest daily tally, Health Minister Osagie Ehanire said. Lagos state accounted for 177, with the remainder spread across 17 other states.

Mustapha said the government had identified nine densely populated “high burden” local government areas which could be candidates for “precision” lockdown measures. He did not say where they were located.

Nigeria has imposed a nationwide curfew from 8.00 p.m. to 6.00 p.m., ordered people to wear face masks in public and banned travel between states. Mustapha said the country would step up enforcement of these measures.

As of Monday, Nigeria had 5,959 confirmed coronavirus cases and 182 deaths.


Thursday, May 14, 2020

Video - Chinese built health facility ready to aid Nigeria's COVID-19 fight

In Nigeria, the Dome Treatment Center, that was built with the help of a Chinese company - has been handed over to the Federal government. The facility will help Nigeria to expand the treatment of COVID-19 patients and improve the country's ability to respond to the epidemic.

Nigeria will be the first African country from where India will start repatriation: Envoy Abhay Thakur

Nigeria will be the first African country from where India will start its repatriation with the first flight set to operate next week.

Speaking exclusively to our Principal Diplomatic Correspondent Sidhant Sibal from Abuja, India's high commissioner to Nigeria Abhay Thakur said 20 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in the Indian community in the country, out of which 16 have recovered or are stable.

He also elaborated on how India has sent HCQ to Nigeria and Chad to deal with COVID-19 crisis and trained nine Nigerians under the eITEC COVID-19 Management programme. It is interesting to know, a number of Indian/Indian-origin companies, including Airtel, Bajaj, Mahindra, TVS, Godrej, Indorama, African Industries, Stallion Group, Skipper and others have donated to local relief efforts in Nigeria.

WION: How is the Indian mission reaching to stranded Indians in the country or other countries to which the mission is accredited - Benin and Chad?

Abhay Thakur: The resident Indian community in Nigeria is estimated to be nearly 50,000. In addition, thousands of workers are engaged in several ongoing, large projects. Our community is spread widely across Nigeria, including Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Port Harcourt and other cities.

Our Mission in Abuja and our Office in Lagos are in direct touch with the heads of nearly 50 Indian community organizations/groups, as also with a number of prominent individuals. We have reached out to each and every Indian national through social media, particularly our Twitter handle.

It is easily accessible and we have used it effectively for disseminating authentic information and updates from India and local authorities, for our registration exercise for repatriation, and for attending to those in distress.

I personally wrote to all members of the Indian community and participated in four separate interactions over electronic platforms, in which several hundred Indian community members participated. Our Honorary Consulates in Benin and Chad, as well as the Indian Association Benin, which has 1,500 members with mandatory membership for every Indian, have helped our outreach.

We have managed to extend requisite help to stranded and distressed Indians, by helping them access approved medical facilities for testing and hospitalization, providing visa-related assurances, and facilitating locally arranged supply of medicines and food to patients.

We worked closely with commercial establishments such as M/s Dangote Refineries to put in place improved healthcare and welfare support to Indian employees and workers.

WION: Any Indian COVID-19 positive cases in the country, and any plans of repatriation?

Abhay Thakur: There are challenges in the healthcare sector in Nigeria, though the country has handled the Ebola and AIDS crises in the past relatively successfully. The spread of COVID-19 has been comparatively limited (4,787 cases and 158 deaths as on May 12), and Nigerian authorities have taken a number of timely measures including full border closure and partial internal lockdown.

Yet, there is a degree of concern in the country, including among its citizens and foreign residents. In the Indian community, we have had about 20 cases among the Indian community, of which 16 have recovered or are stable. We have extended the necessary assistance and support in all cases.

From facilitating hospitalization in Lagos, supplying Indian food in Benin City of Edo State, assisting in medical supplies and ensuring overstay visa-waivers, our efforts have had a positive impact.

Now, in view of genuine concerns of a number of Indian nationals, who are either stranded or need advanced medical care, Nigeria has been selected as the first country in Africa from where repatriation of Indians has been planned. The first repatriation flight will be operated next week, in Phase II of the "Vande Bharat" Mission.

Then subject to easing of lockdown and inter-state travel in India, as also genuine needs, more relief/repatriation flights can be organized. I would also like to emphasise that a large majority of Indian nationals are permanent residents and are not anxious to travel to India at this juncture, as they believe they are safer where they are, at their homes.

WION: How are India and Nigeria cooperating on the COVID-19 pandemic? EAM spoke to Nigeria's FM?

Abhay Thakur: India and Nigeria share long-standing ties based on goodwill and mutual trust. Our strategic and multifaceted ties encompass close cooperation in defence and security, trade and investment, capacity building, and people-to-people linkages including education, culture and medical tourism.

As large developing countries, we have similar approaches and support each other at multilateral fora. On the COVID-19 pandemic, we shared extensive information of India’s experience with the Nigerian authorities, which has been appreciated and widely reported. In his address to the nation on April 13, President Muhammadu Buhari, announcing his decision to extend the lockdown for another two weeks, referred specifically to India’s approach.

As the most populous country and the largest economy of Africa, Nigeria has often looked to India as a country that has successfully overcome similar socio-economic developmental challenges and has sought to learn from India's expertise and experience.

As the leading pharmaceutical supplier to Nigeria, with annual exports of nearly $400 million with at least seven Indian/Indian-origin pharmaceutical companies have invested in Nigeria, as also a leading medical destination for Nigerians, we have played an important role in meeting healthcare needs of Nigeria including at this time.

We are also supplying HCQS to Nigeria and Chad. With nine participants, Nigeria was a leading beneficiary of the e-ITEC Course on “Managing the COVID-19 Pandemic”, conducted by PGI Chandigarh in April-May 2020.

A number of Indian/Indian-origin companies, including Airtel, Bajaj, Mahindra, TVS, Godrej, Indorama, African Industries, Stallion Group, Skipper and others have donated meaningfully to local relief efforts. Indian associations across the country have distributed food and essential items to needy Nigerians.

India's external affairs minister spoke with the Nigerian foreign minister Geoffrey Onyeama on April 24. They had a good conversation on cooperation to combat COVID-19.

EAM conveyed our commitment to provide key medicines. Both ministers expressed support for welfare of their respective communities in each other’s country. They also expressed support for each other at multilateral fora.

Overall, even though both our economies are adversely impacted by COVID-19, with the steep decline in oil-prices forcing a budgetary review in Nigeria, I feel that it is also a potential opportunity for both countries to engage even more closely together.

We are Nigeria’s largest trading partner globally, and Nigeria is India's large trading partner in Africa, with our trade reaching nearly $14 billion in FY 2018-19, and our exports continuing to grow until January 2020.

Nearly 10 per cent of our energy needs are met by Nigeria. Indian and Indian-origin investments in Nigeria exceed $15 billion.

Given Nigeria’s price-sensitive and large market of 200 million people, desire to diversify its supply lines and boost domestic industry, positive image of Indian products and machinery, and abiding mutual goodwill, the post-COVID-19 situation holds immense promise and potential for both sides to further strengthen, prioritize and intensify their mutually beneficial bilateral cooperation.

WION: How has the ground situation in Nigeria changed? How have Indian diplomats been faring?

Abhay Thakur: The lockdown in Nigeria was partial, limited to Abuja, Lagos and Ogun States, and now extended to Kano. Though rising prices and infrastructure constraints have affected ordinary citizens, longer-term deterioration in socio-economic or security situation appears to have been avoided.

Nigerians are working towards containing the further spread of COVID-19 whilst continuing economic activity and foresee economic growth in 2021.

The Mission in Abuja and Office in Lagos have continued to function while taking necessary precautions. Wherever possible, bilateral exchanges and interactions are taking place digitally.


Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Nigeria violence drives 23,000 into neighbouring Niger: UNHCR

Violence in northwest Nigeria has forced about 23,000 refugees to flee to Niger since April and raised concerns about the deteriorating security situation, the United Nations has said.

The numbers fleeing to neighbouring Niger have almost tripled from last year when the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported the first influx of 20,000 people following a rebellion and banditry in northern Nigeria, which killed hundreds and displaced thousands.

The latest influx of mostly women and children came after attacks by gunmen in Nigeria's Katsina, Sokoto and Zamfara states during April.

The deadliest attack killed 47 people in Katsina State, the UN refugee agency said, prompting air attacks by the Nigerian security forces already stretched tackling a 10-year-long rebellion by the Boko Haram in the northeast.

"We are working closely with authorities in Niger to relocate at least 7,000 refugees to safety ... where water, food, shelter, access to health and other essential assistance can be provided," UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch told a media briefing on Tuesday.

"Discussions are also ongoing with the authorities to recognise on a prima facie basis the refugees fleeing Nigeria and arriving in the region," he said.

Nigeria closed all land borders in March to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 4,600 people in the country with 150 deaths.

It first shut parts of its borders last year to fight smuggling, but people could still cross both ways.

The agency said refugees from Nigeria are being allowed to seek protection in Niger despite border closures with people in need of food, shelter and basic services including healthcare.

Overall, Niger hosts more than half a million refugees from Mali, Burkina Faso and Nigeria, according to a recent UN report.

Baloch said approximately 19,000 Niger nationals have been displaced in their own country as they fled, fearing insecurity in border areas. The refugees are found in Niger's southern Maradi region, the agency said.

Many have also been caught up in clashes blamed on farmers and herders over dwindling land in Nigeria which have killed more people than the Boko Haram conflict.

Al Jazeera

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Universal Music Group strikes partnership with Nigeria-based Aristokrat group

Universal Music Group’s presence in Africa has steadily grown in recent years, with highlights including its expansion into Nigeria in 2018, plus its acquisition of a majority stake in Kenyan label AI Records.

Today (May 11) brought a new headline in this story: Universal Music France (UMF) has struck a strategic partnership with Lagos, Nigeria-based The Aristokrat Group, which is best known for discovering and developing breakout African talent Burna Boy.

The partnership consists of both a label deal, as well as a publishing deal through Universal Music Publishing Group (UMPG).

Founded in 2009, The Aristokrat Group currently houses a record label, touring and event production company, film and television production company, music publishing company, and digital media company.

Aristokrat Group and Universal Music Group say they will work closely together to “discover and develop exciting new African talent, giving artists and songwriters the opportunity to reach global audiences with support from Universal Music Group companies around the world”.

All Aristokrat Records artists will be signed and distributed in partnership with Caroline France, a Universal Music France label.

The first recording artists signed to the label are Kel P, Jujuboy Star and Tneeya.

Kel P is a respected Nigerian producer, who worked with Burna Boy on his Grammy-nominated album African Giant, and recently worked with Wizkid on his Starboy, The Soundman Vol 1 EP.

Jujuboy Star is a Nigerian singer, songwriter and producer, while T’neeya is a Cameroonian singer and songwriter.

The first publishing signings to the partnership are Kel P, Jujuboy Star and Saszy Afroshii, a fast-rising female producer from Lagos.

Olivier Nusse, CEO, Universal Music France, said, “I am very proud that Aristokrat Group has chosen Universal Music France as its strategic partner to reach a global audience. We are convinced that Aristokrat represents the sound of New Africa and we look forward to working with our UMG labels globally to ensure that people around the world, can discover and dance to this sound!”

Bertil David, MD, Universal Music Publishing France, said, “Aristokrat is one of the most important voices in Africa right now. The quality of their A&R, their artistic and creative vision and entrepreneurship is both unique and progressive. We are very proud at UMPG to be able to partner with Aristokrat to help them achieve the global presence they deserve.”

Piriye Isokrari, Founder and CEO, The Aristokrat Group, said, “This is an exciting time for African musicians, producers and companies such as ours.

“Over the last decade, we’ve been at the forefront of cultivating this sound and building sustainable structures locally and we are happy to be able to bring our music and culture to the global market through this partnership with the Universal Music Group.”

Pictured L-R:Jean-Charles MARIANI, Chief Digital Officer, Universal Music France / Bertil DAVID, MD, Universal Music Publishing France / Eneibimo APULU, Chief Operating Officer, The Aristokrat Group / Tinu ADESUGBA, EVP Content & Communications, The Aristokrat Group / Piriye ISOKRARI, CEO, The Aristokrat Group / KEL-P, Producer / Olivier NUSSE, CEO, Universal Music France / Steve JERVIER, A&R Consultant, The Aristokrat Group]

By Tim Ingham


Monday, May 11, 2020

68-year-old Nigerian woman gives birth 46 years into marriage

After 46 years of marriage, a 68-year-old woman has finally given birth to twins in Nigeria’s Lagos state, an act that has brought her immense joy. Margaret Adenuga and her 77-year-old husband, Noah Adenuga,.

Nigeria records 248 new coronavirus cases

Nigeria Centre for Disease Control on Sunday confirmed 248 new COVID-19 cases bringing the total confirmed cases to 4,399.

With Sunday’s update, Nigeria fatalities increased from 128 to 143, while recoveries increased from 745 to 778 persons.

Lagos had the highest with 81 new cases while Kigawa recorded 5 new cases of the virus. Borna also confirmed 26 new cases.

In Kano, NCDC said 26 were recorded and 20 new cases were confirmed in Bauchi while Abuja got 13 new cases.

NCDC also confirmed 12 new cases in Edo, Sokoto had 10 new cases and Zamfara recorded seven new cases of the virus.

Kwara and Kebbi recorded four new cases each and Gombe, Taraba, Ekiti and Ogun confirmed two new cases each.

Osun and Bayelsa had one case each.

A five-week lockdown declared by the Nigerian Government in Lagos, Ogun and the FCT was relaxed on May 4, 2020.

While the NCDC has mulled the lockdown might be reenacted, Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu on Saturday said if residents refused to adhere to the guidelines issued for preventing the spread of the virus, there would be another lockdown.

“As a Government elected to uphold security of its citizens, which include health security, we will not hesitate to review the terms of the easing of lockdown if we do not see an improvement in adherence to our public health guidelines in the next couple of days,” Sanwo-olu said.

“We will be forced to take a painful decision of bringing the entire system under lockdown if we continue to see evidence that Lagosians are determined to flout the rules.”

The Guardian

Friday, May 8, 2020

Medic who discovered Nigeria's first confirmed Covid-19 case: 'It was scary'

As Dr. Amarachukwu Allison examined the Italian patient who walked into her consulting room in Ogun state, southwest Nigeria, complaining of fever, headache and fatigue, she suspected instantly what his ailment was.

It was February and the world was just waking up to the realities of Covid-19 as the highly contagious disease ravaged nations and locked down economies.

"I had been following the news trends at the time so when he walked into my consulting room with his complaints, he had a fever, it was high grade, headache, muscle pain and fatigue. I took his medical history and he said he had just come from Italy ... so I knew it was likely Covid-19," she told CNN in an Instagram live interview.

The unnamed Italian man had arrived in the country from Milan just 48 hours before he visited the private medical center where Allison worked.

Trying not to panic about the risk of contracting the disease herself, Allison said she counseled the man and gave him a face mask.
"I told him I would need to isolate him and he was very cooperative," she said.

'A scary experience'

She didn't know it at the time but Allison, 32, had just detected Nigeria's first confirmed case of coronavirus and her quick thinking has attracted praise from many Nigerians who hailed her a hero for helping to contain the spread of the virus in Africa's most populous nation.

The Ogun state government recently celebrated Allison and hailed her "singular brilliance."
"The Ogun State Government appreciates the young female doctor who suspected the index case in Nigeria in our State, Dr. Amarachukwu Karen Allison of Lafarge Nigeria. Her singular brilliance led to the early diagnosis and rapid containment of the first Covid-19 infection," the statement read.

The man was later transferred to an isolation center in the neighboring city of Lagos and Allison was promptly placed in quarantine.

"It was a really scary experience and I am so thankful that I tested negative," recalled Allison, who said it was her third experience of being quarantined.

"Strangely it was my third time going into quarantine because during the Ebola period, I had secondary contact and was quarantined and then I was exposed to viral hemorrhagic fever in November and was also quarantined.

"When I had to go at this time, I thought to myself, 'What is happening?' and I had to call my parents. My organization brought a psychologist to call in every day to support us and I cried a lot," she told CNN.

A sharp rise in cases

Despite her best efforts, Nigeria's cases have risen sharply from one case in February to 3526 confirmed cases as of May 8, with 601 recovered cases and 107 deaths, according to data from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

Many fear the official numbers don't present the true picture of cases in the country as the NCDC says that just over 22,000 samples have been tested, which is less than 1% of the estimated 200 million population.

"The pandemic is a really difficult time for any government and anybody anywhere," Allison said.
"Everybody is trying to do the best that they can and as much as they can to handle things. ... We are not only dealing with the pandemic but also the poverty crisis, and getting information across to people is somewhat of a problem," she said, highlighting the challenges the country faces in the pandemic.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari ordered a lockdown in key states in March, including Ogun state where she works, but five weeks later, that lockdown has now been eased to get Nigeria's economy going again.

"I think that as the lockdown is being eased, we the people need to play a role in stopping the spread by wearing our face masks, washing our hands with the right technique under running water with soap, respiratory etiquette covering your cough, sneezing and social distancing," she said.

A newfound 'hero' status

Allison has drawn comparisons to another Nigerian female doctor, Stella Adadevoh, who detected Nigeria's first case of Ebola in July 2014 and consequently saved Africa's most populous nation from a mass outbreak of Ebola.

Adadevoh suspected Liberian national Patrick Sawyer had Ebola when he arrived at her hospital in Lagos, and successfully kept him there despite resistance from him and pressure from government officials to release him from the hospital.

Adadevoh succumbed to the Ebola virus while in quarantine and died August 19, 2014.
"It makes me feel humbled and honored. I am thankful to her for what she did," said Allison when asked about the comparisons to Adadevoh.

"It's been overwhelming and it makes me happy when my fellow human beings appreciate me. I feel loved," she said.


Nigeria Eases Lockdown Measures Despite Increases in Coronavirus Cases

ABUJA, NIGERIA - Computer specialist Michael Kundun left for work early Monday, as Nigeria's coronavirus lockdown eased at 6 a.m.

Kundun had not been to his shop in Abuja’s Nyanya Market since late March, when authorities announced the lockdown. When he opened, he had to clean and dust to get ready for business.

"It is going to be gradual," he said. "It's not going to be as it was from the beginning, but by the grace of God it will pick up. Business will pick up with time."

Nigeria relaxed its 35-day lockdown in Abuja, Lagos and Ogun states following President Muhammadu Buhari's order, given last week during his national address.

Harm to economy

Buhari concedes the lockdown has hurt the Nigerian economy, especially in non-essential sectors that depend on daily income for survival.

Much like Kundun’s business.

"The lockdown affected my business drastically," he said. "In fact, I found it difficult to work. I found it difficult to meet my customers."

But the decision to relax the lockdown came as Nigeria's number of coronavirus cases has been increasing.

Daily figures publicly reported by Nigeria's Center for Disease Control doubled in the last week, reaching more than 2,500 on Monday. By Thursday, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University in the U.S., the total had climbed past 3,100.

This is why critics like Abuja resident Abubakar Ahutu have challenged the president’s position.

"I'm not happy about the planned relaxation of the lockdown," Ahutu said. "If the federal government or the president in particular is having good advisers, I think it is very bad for them at this point in time to start thinking about reopening the lockdown."

Before easing lockdowns for certain areas, authorities issued new regulations, including an overnight curfew, the mandatory use of face masks in public and strict social distancing restrictions.

But thousands across Abuja city on Monday flooded marketplaces and banks, thereby violating the physical distancing orders.

Look at Ghana

Economic analyst Audu Siyaka had this warning:

“Ghana tried to ease their lockdowns, and what happened was not palatable." They had to reverse their initial decision. I'm not saying that may happen to Nigeria, but it's a likelihood, because of our population."

Only 17,000 people have so far been tested for the coronavirus in Nigeria — an exceptionally small number when compared with figures in other African nations. But Buhari has promised aggressive testing and contact tracing in the coming weeks.

Critics will hold him by his words.

By Timothy Obiezu


Thursday, May 7, 2020

Nigeria extends flight ban amid pandemic

Airports in Nigeria will remain closed for an additional four weeks as part of the measures to control the spread of the novel coronavirus, the government said on Wednesday.

The extension is the second since March 23 when the Nigerian government suspended all of its commercial flights.

Boss Mustapha, secretary to the government of the federation, said the federal government decided to extend the flight ban after due consultation.

"We have assessed the situation in the aviation industry and have come to the conclusion that given the facts available to us and based on the advice of experts, the ban on all flights will be extended for an additional four weeks," Mustapha said.

The Nigeria Center for Disease Control announced on Wednesday that the country has recorded 3,145 case of COVID-19 with 103 deaths.


Coronavirus: Nigeria's death penalty by Zoom 'inhumane'

The sentencing to death of a Nigerian driver via Zoom is "inherently cruel and inhumane", Human Rights Watch has said.

It comes after Nigeria issued a death penalty ruling using the video chat app because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Lagos judge Mojisola Dada sentenced Olalekan Hameed to death by hanging for the murder of his employer's mother.

The hearing lasted almost three hours and was virtually attended by lawyers, including the attorney general.

They all participated in Monday's session from different locations as part of efforts to stop the spread of Covid-19.

It was the first day of the easing of lockdown restrictions in Lagos, allowing people to go back to work - although all but urgent court sittings have been suspended.

The judge was in the Lagos High Court in Ikeja, Hameed was at Kirikiri Maximum Security Prison, and the lawyers joined from elsewhere.

Hameed had pleaded not guilty to killing 76-year-old Jolasun Okunsanya in December 2018.

"The sentence of this court upon you, Olalekan Hameed, is that you be hanged by the neck until you be pronounced dead and may the Lord have mercy upon your soul. This is the virtual judgment of the court," Justice Dada is quoted as saying.

It is not clear if Hameed will appeal against the sentence.

'Archaic punishment'

The BBC's Celestina Olulode says under Nigerian law, state governors must approve death sentences before they can be carried out.

The death penalty is not commonly carried out in Nigeria - although courts continue to impose the sentence.

According to Amnesty International, there are still more than 2,000 people on death row and the last three executions took place in 2016.

Human Rights Watch told the BBC the creation of the virtual court during the coronavirus outbreak showed a commitment to accessing justice.

However, the judiciary was moving in the wrong direction by sentencing a person to death by hanging, it said.

"The irreversible punishment is archaic, inherently cruel and inhuman, it should be abolished," Human Rights Watch said.

Nigeria has recorded just under 3,000 coronavirus cases and nearly 100 deaths.


Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Jersey £241m seizure returned to Nigeria

 More than £241m ($300m) seized from Nigeria's former dictator has been returned to the country from Jersey, the Reuters news agency reports.

The money was stolen by Sani Abacha in the 1990s, before it was laundered through the US and hidden in a Jersey bank account.

The sum was recovered in June 2019 from the account of shell company Doraville.

It was returned by the US following a tripartite agreement between the three nations in February.

The money is part of an estimated $5 billion stolen by the military ruler during his presidency between 1993 and his death in 1998.

As part of the repatriation Jersey will retain $5m (£3.8m) and the US is eligible for the same, the US Department of Justice said.

Jersey's Attorney General Mark Temple QC confirmed the island had transferred $314,305,568.54 to the US on 2 March.

Infrastructure projects

The Justice Minister for Nigeria, Abubakar Malami, said the money had been moved to a recovery account held by the Central Bank of Nigeria and would be paid to the National Sovereign Investment Authority within 14 days.

The money is to be spent on infrastructure projects in the country, including the building of roads and bridges.

Mr Malami said the recovered funds "further consolidates" the government's record on repatriating stolen money.

Swiss authorities have already returned $300m (£230m) to Nigeria as part of the seizures.

A further $30m (£23m) from Britain and $144m (£111m) from France is expected to be recovered, according to the US Department of Justice.


'I had no choice': the desperate Nigerian women who sell their babies

Two months after 17-year-old Ebere fell pregnant last year, she considered having an abortion. But she was told by a doctor that such a process – eight weeks into her pregnancy – could lead to complications.

Going home to her parents after visiting the doctor wasn’t an option for Ebere, who feared her strict father would beat her and shame her in their neighbourhood. The father of the baby had denied all responsibility and threatened to kill her if she ever tried to contact him again.

A nurse, who saw the troubled young girl sitting in the hospital, approached her to find out what was wrong. Ebere explained her situation and the nurse showed her a Facebook page of a man she said was a social worker who helped pregnant women in her position. She told her to call the phone number.

“When I called and explained my situation, he asked me to meet him at a popular restaurant in town,” says Ebere, speaking to the Guardian in her home city of Enugu, in south-eastern Nigeria. “When we met, he offered to take me to his home and care for me until I gave birth, but only if I was willing to sell the baby to him.”

With no other options, Ebere accepted his offer. She moved in with the man without telling her family. For her, it was the best way to escape the trouble she’d have faced had she returned home, and she could make some money at the same time.

“I didn’t even ask him what he wanted to do with my baby,” Ebere says. “All I wanted was to get rid of the baby and take my money.”

After Ebere gave birth to a boy, the man she’d been living with sold the baby to a married couple. He gave the young girl 70,000 naira (about £140). Ebere returned to her family, telling them she had been kidnapped by traffickers who took her to a remote village and forced her to work as a domestic slave before freeing her.

“Everyone felt sorry for me,” says Ebere. “My parents wanted to inform the police but I convinced them not to do so by giving them the impression I didn’t want to be reminded about the trauma of my captivity.”

Ebere is one of many young girls in south-eastern Nigeria that the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (Naptip) says have been drawn into a lucrative trade in baby trafficking. According to the agency, girls involved in the trade are known as “social mothers”. Impoverished young women with nowhere else to turn and who have no access to abortion or antenatal care are being targeted.

Traffickers pose as social workers, offering help to pregnant women who need support. In reality, Naptip says they are frontmen and women in the business of selling babies to couples or to middlemen. They typically charge $1,500 (£1,200) for a baby girl and $2,000 (£1,600) for a boy.

“Many young girls are being impregnated by their boyfriends but because they don’t want their families to know about their pregnancy, they meet baby sellers who hide them until they give birth,” says Comfort Agboko, head of Naptip’s south-east office. “Their babies are then sold by these baby sellers who only give them a token of maybe 50,000 naira (about £100).”

Stories of baby trading are not uncommon in Nigeria, where at least 10 children are reportedly sold across the country every day. Each year several children – including nearly two dozen freed in February – are rescued by security forces from traffickers, most of whom operate in the south of the country. The majority of those trafficked are children of young women held captive until their babies are born and then released, their babies sold on. Naptip says cases involving social mothers are increasing in the region.

“Baby sellers see the business as a normal trade and that is why they act as if they are selling any other goods,” says Agboko. “In some cases, the child passes through up to five buyers.”

Authorities have struggled to deal with human trafficking due to inadequate funding and a lack of cooperation between the police and Naptip. When cases do reach court, a sluggish judicial system allows trials to drag on for years, denying timely justice for victims.

“We are being frustrated by court processes,” complains Agboko, who says Naptip has apprehended a number of baby traffickers in recent months. “Many times we go to court, we are told that the judges are in tribunal [for local election petitions] or have gone for one assignment or the other.”

While those challenges remain, traffickers continue to use every available avenue to trade babies, including contacting expectant mothers via social media.

“About half a dozen single mothers we have supported financially in the south-east have said they had been in touch with baby traffickers in a bid to market their infants,” says Abang Robert, public relations head of Caprecon Development And Peace Initiative, an NGO providing support for victims of human trafficking and single mothers. “In most cases, the deal fell through because the traffickers offered so little.”

For mothers such as Ebere who have sold their babies using traffickers, there is no way back.

“My father would have killed me if he saw that I was pregnant with a man I wasn’t married to,” says Ebere. “I had no choice but to let the baby go.”

The Guardian

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