Friday, January 31, 2020

Video - Coronavirus may affect economic exchange between China and Nigeria

The coronavirus outbreak is posing a huge economic threat. Not just in China, but in Africa as well. In Nigeria, several traders travel to China to buy goods, while thousands of Chinese citizens live and work in the country. Economic exchange between the countries accounts for over $85 billion in trade volume. And as Kelechi Emekalam reports, that may change as the coronavirus continues to spread.

'Me Too' Nigeria style: women opt for martial arts over marches

Frustrated by one of the world’s highest rates of sexual assault, poor law enforcement and tribal taboos that keep people quiet about gender violence, some Nigerian women are breaking with tradition to take self-defense classes.

A local rights group and boxing coach have joined to offer free training that is tearing the lid off the largely unspoken problem of everyday violence against women in a country already well known for atrocities against girls by jihadist fighters.

New student Adeola Olamide says she was filled with fear and shame when first assaulted. When the attacks continued, the petite 35-year-old mother-of-three decided to learn techniques needed to fight off a bigger, stronger opponent.

“For us, the idea of a woman learning to defend herself is revolutionary,” said Olamide, who described having been choked and beaten several times in assaults.

“As a woman in Nigeria, you’re not supposed to have a voice. Every tribe has this in common.”

She spoke minutes before stepping into her first class run by rights group Women Impacting Nigeria and coach Rehia Giwa-Osagie, head of local gym Elitebox.

Their hands wrapped and stuffed into boxing gloves, the students soon filled the gym with hissing sounds as they practiced jabs and uppercuts against heavy bags.

Boxing and karate instructors taught Olamide and about 20 other students basic blocking, striking and escape techniques in the two-hour class, which is offered monthly to any women willing to step out of their cultural comfort zone.

Nigerian media are awash with horrifying stories of women and girls kidnapped and trafficked for sexual and labor exploitation. And the abduction of 276 schoolgirls in 2014 by Boko Haram jihadists sparked global outcry.

But everyday assaults have stayed under the radar.


Anietie Ewang, Nigeria researcher for Human Rights Watch, said law enforcement was inadequate. “When this is coupled with the negative perceptions that reinforce injustices against women, it culminates in a pretty hostile environment.”


Coach Rehia said the classes were in a nascent stage but should help combat an “enormous” problem in Nigeria. Official national data on violence against women was not available, but an official at the Women’s Affairs Ministry said the government was making a strong effort to combat the issue.

After her first session, Olamide’s confidence grew.

“There’s something about doing this with other women, reclaiming our dignity outside of a traditional therapeutic process,” said the mother-of-three, still sweating. “It’s different from sitting in a circle and telling our stories.”

Nigeria is the ninth most dangerous country in the world for women, according to a 2018 report from the Thomson Reuters Foundation. The most dangerous was India.

“I had never heard of a women’s self-defense workshop in Nigeria. It’s just not done. But the #Me Too movement we’ve seen around the world has prompted people to ask how we can prevent violence,” said Tope Imasekha, head of the rights group.

#Me Too was ignited by revelations in 2017 of assaults against women in Hollywood and became a global movement.

“Traditionally, we believe that we should be defended by men: our fathers, husbands and brothers. But with more women working and walking around independently, we need to defend ourselves,” said Olamide’s classmate Motunrayo Naiwo, 39.

Naiwo said she had been groped on the streets of Lagos, and seen other women accosted while men stand by watching.

“Now, with this training, even I might be able to help another woman if she’s in trouble,” she said.


Thursday, January 30, 2020

Video - Nigerian Artist turns passion for drawing into a career

Nigerian artist,Emmanuel Fisayo has turned his passion for drawing into full-fledged career. As a child Fisayo replicated drawings from texts books. Now his pencil drawings are tractiving art lovers in galleries.

Nigeria shuts Chinese supermarket due to coronavirus

A supermarket operated by Chinese nationals has been shut down in Nigeria’s capital city Abuja.

The Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission closed Panda Supermarket because of its alleged discriminatory practices against non-Asians and as a cautionary step following the outbreak of coronavirus in China.

FCCPC said it confirmed the allegations against supermarket located in Jabi area of Abuja.

Apart from confirming the allegations, FCCPC said “seafood and animals imported illegally from China” were discovered.

“Products with expired and irregular shelf life were also discovered,” FCCPC said on Wednesday.

“Regulatory activities to remove all offensive products from the Supermarket continues.”

FCCPC discovered some products on sale with expiry dates set for 2019, 2073 and 2089.

The Guardian

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Video - Nigerian Central bank raises cash reserve ratio amid inflation fears

The fear of a further spike in inflation has compelled the Monetary Policy Committee of the Central Bank of Nigeria to adopt a tightening stance, by raising the cash reserve ratio for banks in the country from 22.5 per cent to a new level of 27.5 per cent. Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiel, says the move will mop up excess liquidity in the Nigerian economy and check rising inflation which has been on an upward trajectory since August last year. Here is CGTN's Deji Badmus with more on that story.

Lagos to ban motorbike taxis

Nigeria’s biggest city has partially banned the use of motorcycle taxis following an escalating number of fatal accidents, dealing a blow to Softbank Group Corp.-backed OPay and a potential boost to Uber Technologies Inc.

The Lagos State Government cracked down on the popular way to dodge traffic congestion in the commercial capital of Africa’s most populous country, calling the bikes and their three-wheel equivalents a “menace” that are responsible for “scary figures” regarding loss of lives. Drivers ignore traffic laws and allow criminals to use the ride-hailing services as getaway vehicles, Gbenga Omotoso, commissioner for information and strategy, said in an emailed statement.

Between 2016 and 2019, “the total number of deaths from reported cases is over 600,” Omotoso said. “The only motorcycles allowed are the ones used for the delivery of mail services,” he added by phone.

The ruling is a setback for OPay, which is based in Oslo and has shareholders including Softbank and China’s Meituan Dianping. The mobile-payments company started its ORide service in Lagos in June, before raising $120 million later in the year to expand its various online services in countries such as Ghana, South Africa and Kenya. Meanwhile Uber -- which has operated in Nigeria for more than five years -- may lose a fierce rival.

A spokesman for OPay declined to comment., a rival motorbike-taxi operator backed by investors including Yamaha Motor Co. Ltd. of Japan, said the company would contact the state government about how the ban will work.

“The concern for us is how this will be implemented, because we don’t want people getting hurt,” Co-Founder Chinedu Azodoh said by phone. “We are engaging with the government.”

Lagos has one of the highest car densities in the world, with about 200 per kilometer, leading to notorious traffic problems. Its vast and underutilized waterways are seen as a viable alternative to relieve pressure on the roads, and Uber started to experiment with boats last year.


Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Video - Nigerian Para-athletes eye qualification marks for Olympics

Paralympic athletes in Nigeria have begun their trials to secure a spot and represent the country at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. The Athletics Federation of Nigeria is conducting the selection process to meet world standards in the various categories. CGTN's Kelechi Emekalam has more.
U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he would add more countries to his travel ban list. While he gave no details, a source familiar with the proposal said the tentative list included seven nations - Nigeria, Belarus, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Sudan and Tanzania. [nL1N29R224]

An announcement was imminent, said Mohammed, adding that while Abuja had reached out to the U.S. administration since learning about the plan, his government did not get any warning and had not been told any possible reason.

“We are doing everything we can,” Mohammed told Reuters in an interview. “A travel ban is going to send the wrong signal to investors, it is going to stifle the good of the country and vulnerable people who need medication and schools will be the most affected.”

Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy and most populous country, is a U.S. anti-terrorism partner and has a large diaspora residing in the United States.

It is not clear what sort of restrictions Nigeria might face if added to the list and the U.S. administration has so far not commented. Under the current version of the U.S. travel ban on foreign countries, citizens of Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, and some Venezuelan officials and their relatives are blocked from obtaining a large range of U.S. immigrant and non-immigrant visas.

“Nigeria has done very well in the area of fighting terrorism,” Mohammed said, adding that Washington help drive militant groups such as Islamic State out of Nigeria.

Asked about Nigeria’s move to close its land borders last August with neighbours such as Benin and Niger to fight smuggling, Mohammed said the move had been a success and boosted food production inside the country.

“Every attempt in the last 16 years to persuade our neighbours, especially Niger, to adhere to the ECOWAS protocol of transit has fallen on deaf ears,” he said, referring to the trade protocol governing the exchange of goods between the Economic Community of West African States to which Nigeria belongs. “No country can allow that it can become a dumping ground for goods from elsewhere.”

In 2015, the central bank banned the use of its foreign exchange to pay for rice imports and has backed loans of at least 40 billion naira ($131 million) to help smallholders boost output, before moving to a full border closure last summer.

Mohammed said his government was happy with how the move had spurred local production. Yet the border closure also worsened price pressures, with inflation at 11.98% in December, rising for the fourth straight month and well outside the central bank’s band of 6%-9%.

“We see this only as temporary,” he said, adding he expected inflation to fall into the single digits by 2023.


Monday, January 27, 2020

Lassa fever outbreak kills dozens in Nigeria

Nigerian authorities have announced increased emergency measures to contain the latest outbreak of Lassa fever in the West African country, following the death of 29 people this month from the viral disease.

"As at 24th of January 2020, 195 confirmed cases and 29 deaths had been reported in 11 states," the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said in a statement on Saturday.

A national emergency operations centre had been activated to coordinate the response "to the increasing number of Lassa fever cases" across the country.

What is Lassa fever?

Lassa fever is a viral haemorrhagic fever. It belongs to the same family as the Ebola and Marburg viruses but is much less deadly.

The disease is endemic to the West African country and its name comes from the town of Lassa in northern Nigeria where it was first identified in 1969.

Previously, cases of the disease have been reported in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Togo and Benin - where it killed at least 9 people in 2016.

How is it spread?

The virus is transmitted to humans from contact with food or household items contaminated with rodent faeces or urine. The disease is endemic in the rodent population in parts of West Africa.

The virus, which has an incubation period of between six to 21 days, can also be transmitted through contact with an infected person via bodily fluids and excretions: blood, urine, saliva, sperm, vomit, faeces.

Symptoms and treatment

Lassa fever is asymptomatic in 80 percent of cases but for some, it can cause fever, physical fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, headaches, abdominal pains or sore throat. Swelling of the neck or face can sometimes be observed.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the antiviral drug ribavirin appears to be an effective treatment for Lassa fever "if given early on in the course of the clinical illness".

Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation with some 200 million people, has five laboratories with the capability to diagnose Lassa fever.

Previous outbreaks

The number of Lassa fever infections across West Africa every year is between 100,000 to 300,000, with about 5,000 deaths, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Last year, the disease claimed more than 160 lives in Nigeria.

In some areas of Sierra Leone and Liberia, 10 to 16 percent of the people admitted to hospitals annually have Lassa fever, according to the US CDC, demonstrating the serious impact the disease has on the region.

The number of cases usually climbs in January due to weather conditions during the dry season.

Al Jazeera

Friday, January 24, 2020

Nigeria charges ex-attorney general in court over $1.3 billion oil deal

Nigeria’s financial crime watchdog charged former attorney general Mohammed Adoke in court on Thursday for allegedly receiving bribes to facilitate a $1.3 billion oil deal, the agency said in a statement.

It is the latest development in one of the oil industry’s biggest corruption scandals, over the 2011 sale of the offshore oilfield known as OPL 245 by Malabu Oil and Gas.

A resulting investigation has entangled two of the sectors biggest players, Shell and Eni, as well as an array of powerful figures from the previous Nigerian government.

“Adoke is accused of using public office for gratification,” said the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission statement, adding there were 42 charges against the former official.

Adoke was charged with receiving the U.S. dollar equivalent of 300 million naira ($980,550) in 2013 to facilitate the OPL 245 deal and help waive taxes for Shell and Eni, according to a charge sheet filed in an Abuja high court last week.

The former attorney general pleaded not guilty to all charges, according to the commission’s statement. Reuters was unable to reach Adoke or his lawyer for immediate comment.

The next hearing, for bail applications, will be Jan. 27, the statement said.

Shell’s and Eni’s local subsidiaries have also been charged with illegally assisting Adoke in waiving the taxes, according to last week’s charge sheet.

Malabu was owned by former petroleum minister Dan Etete.

Shell and Eni, and their executives, have denied any wrongdoing. Etete has also denied wrongdoing.


Thursday, January 23, 2020

Video - Nigeria's Odunayo Adekuoroye eyes wrestling medal in Japan

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics flame is burning within African sportsmen and women as they spend hours getting ready for the action. Nigeria's wrestling champion Odunayo Adeku-oroye is one of those determined to make it to Japan. CGTN's Kelechi Emekalam now reports on the former sprinter's Olympics mission.

Kanu Nwankwo loses daughter

Former Super Eagles player, Kanu Nwankwo Wednesday announced the death of one of the first beneficiaries of his heart foundation turned daughter, Enitan.

“Why why why one of Kanu heart foundation gone,” Kanu said on Twitter.

“My daughter gone gone gone I can’t believe this R I P Eniton God knows all.”

Kanu’s wife Amara Kanu on Instagram said the 21-year-old died of complications from malaria.

Enitan who was 2-year-old when she benefitted from the former Arsenal player’s foundation just completed her university education before moving to Nigeria.

Amara said she moved back to Lagos to work for the Kanuprior to her death.

“Enitan was just 2 years old when she had her open surgery done in London courtesy of the Kanu Heart Foundation,” Amara said on Instagram on Wednesday.

“She then became part of my family and 19 years later after completing her university studies, she came back to work with us in our Lagos office until she passed yesterday from some complications with malaria.”

Kanu started the Heart Foundation in 2000 after he survived a heart condition.

The foundation has “successfully helped 538 children” get open-heart surgeries in hospitals across the world and spent about $4.2 million.

The Guardian

Related story: Kanu to build cardiovascular hospital in Nigeria

Airports in Nigeria brace for coronavirus

International airports yesterday went on red alert as they intensified the screening of inbound passengers, following an outbreak of the deadly coronavirus in China.

The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) advised passengers and other airport users to comply with all quarantine procedures at airports nationwide to prevent the importation of the virus.

Airports worldwide also increased health screenings and the implementation of new quarantine procedures as officials hurried to slow the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus, a new SARS-like illness that first appeared in Hubei province, China.

The General Manager (Corporate Affairs) at FAAN, Henrietta Yakubu, said all the equipment and personnel used in combating the deadly Ebola virus in 2014 were still much in place at the airports and were being deployed accordingly.
She said FAAN had always had thermal scanners at its airports to monitor the temperature of passengers and capture their pictures. “When passengers walk pass the scanner, it registers their temperature. And if it’s too high, they are pulled aside for observation. FAAN, in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Health, has confirmed the adequacy of the facilities at the nation’s airports, to prevent the importation of the virus through the airports. Passengers are therefore advised to submit themselves for routine quarantine checks whenever they are asked to,” Yakubu said.

With the coronavirus (nCoV) reportedly infecting over ‘10,000’ persons and killing nine, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) disclosed that it had set up a multi-sectoral technical group to handle the threat. It advised Nigerians to remain calm, while travellers from Nigeria to Wuhan, China, have been asked to avoid contact with sick people, animals (alive or dead), and animal markets.

Coronaviruses are zoonotic, which implies that they are normally transmitted between animals and people. But a novel coronavirus is a new strain of the virus that has not been previously identified in humans. Some coronaviruses can be transmitted from person to person, usually after close contact with an infected patient, in a household or health care setting. Several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have not yet infected humans, until now.

To reduce the risk of spreading the virus, NCDC advised members of the public to adhere to the following measures: wash your hands regularly with soap under running water; cover your mouth and nose properly with handkerchief or tissue paper when sneezing and/or coughing; you may also cough into your elbow if a handkerchief is not available; avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing; avoid self-medication; and report to the nearest health facility when you experience any of the above-mentioned symptoms.

In a statement by its Director General, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, in Abuja yesterday, NCDC said the Port Health Services unit of the Federal Ministry of Health in Nigeria had been placed on alert and had heightened screening measures at the points of entry. It also said that in China, exit screening measures had been enhanced for travellers from Wuhan city at the Points of Entry (PoE) -airports and ground transport stations- since the January 14, 2020, and this includes temperature checks, combined with provision of information and masks to passengers with fever, as well as directing symptomatic passengers to health facilities for follow up.

Asked if Nigeria is ready to diagnose, treat and prevent the spread of any case of coronavirus, Ihekweazu told The Guardian: “As this is a new strain of the coronavirus, a standardised diagnostic test is still being developed. We are working closely with the World Health Organisation (WHO) to access reagents molecular diagnosis in the NCDC National Reference Laboratory. As the situation evolves, we will know more.”

According to the Director General of the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), Prof. Babatunde Lawal Salako, the institute in collaboration with NCDC is capable of diagnosing and containing possible cases of coronavirus in the country.

He explained: “Last year, we sent three of our researchers to China for three months to learn the art and skills and research of pathogen identification especially viruses. So, this knowledge is with them. We also have about two of them who went for another two weeks course. Two people also went to Institute Pasteur in Senegal, a World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional lab, which is where Nigeria often sends samples to during outbreaks and they spent about two weeks. All of these are to prepare the capacity of the institute to assist public health institutions in making detection of pathogens during outbreak.”

The Guardian

Slum dwellers in Nigeria left homeless after mass eviction

Authorities in Nigeria evicted thousands of impoverished residents from a Lagos slum, leaving many homeless, residents and eyewitnesses told CNN.

Residents described scenes of panic and confusion Tuesday as hundreds of navy personnel pushed into Tarkwa Bay and neighboring island communities on the Lagos Lagoon, ordering them to leave within an hour.

Navy Cmdr. Thomas Otuji, a spokesman for the operation launched in December, said the planned demolition of buildings aims to tackle oil theft along pipelines that run through the coastal city.
Mohammed Zanna, a resident and paralegal, told CNN that the forces shot sporadically in the air as residents, who said they had no prior notice, scrambled to find their families and pack their belongings.

"Everyone was panicking and packing everything they could carry. The men were shooting in the air and shouting that people should leave," Zanna told CNN.

Many residents queued at the harbor till nightfall, trying to secure boats to transport their families from the island to the city, said Megan Chapman, co-director of the Justice & Empowerment Initiatives, a nonprofit that assists poor communities. She visited neighborhoods while the evictions were ongoing, Chapman said.

"We saw dozens of boats filled with belongings and families trying to see how they were going to leave the island. Most of them did not know," Chapman said.

A consortium of advocacy groups, including JEI and the Nigeria Slum/Informal Settlement Federation, put the number of displaced persons in the thousands.

The navy's Otuji said he did not have an exact figure of those impacted by the eviction, but residents in affected communities had been told to leave before the exercise began.
Residents were still packing their belongings out of the waterfront settlement on Wednesday, according to Zanna.

Tarkwa Bay, home to at least 4,500 people, is among dozens of communities with structures that have been marked for demolition by the navy. All are accessible only by water.
In some communities, bulldozers have already done their work.

Otuji said residents had been advised to leave in December after authorities found that the majority of homes on the islands were built along pipelines. They also discovered that some structures in the slum were being used as a disguise for crude oil theft operations, he said.

"We found at least 300 illegal spots and dug out pits where oil products were being tapped and sold illegally, even to neighboring countries," Otuji said.

"They have been there doing all sorts of illegalities. This is dangerous for people to be living in these areas with oil pipelines. What else can we do but to make sure that we salvage the situation?" he said.

Chapman said authorities should have targeted those involved, instead of evicting innocent families in the community, mostly inhabited by fishermen and artisans.

"The law does not allow for collective punishment and summary demolition as a security measure. If there are individuals involved in these activities, what the law requires is for the individuals to be arrested and prosecuted for any crime they might have committed," Chapman told CNN.

People living in waterfront communities in Lagos, a city of 21 million people, have been forcefully evicted in recent years by authorities citing safety concerns.

In 2016, more than 30,000 families were sent packing from Otodo Gbame, a fishing community, after state security agents allegedly destroyed their homes.

Many of them are still homeless despite a court ruling that the Lagos state government should resettle those affected by the demolition.


Related stories: 200 homeless after demolition of Makoko slum in Lagos

Video - Makoko floating school collapses

Makoko's floating school struggles to stay afloat

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Popular Nigerian words added to Oxford English Dictionary

My English-speaking is rooted in a Nigerian experience and not in a British or American or Australian one. I have taken ownership of English.

This is how acclaimed Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie describes her relationship with English, the language which she uses in her writing, and which millions of her fellow Nigerians use in their daily communication. By taking ownership of English and using it as their own medium of expression, Nigerians have made, and are continuing to make, a unique and distinctive contribution to English as a global language. We highlight their contributions in this month’s update of the Oxford English Dictionary, as a number of Nigerian English words make it into the dictionary for the first time.

The majority of these new additions are either borrowings from Nigerian languages or unique Nigerian coinages that have only begun to be used in English in the second half of the twentieth century, mostly in the 1970s and 1980s.

One particularly interesting set of such loanwords and coinages has to do with Nigerian street food. The word buka, borrowed from Hausa and Yoruba and first attested in 1972, refers to a roadside restaurant or street stall that sells local fare at low prices. Another term for such eating places first evidenced in 1980 is bukateria, which adds to buka the –teria ending from the word cafeteria. An even more creative synonym is mama put, from 1979, which comes from the way that customers usually order food in a buka: they say ‘Mama, put…’ to the woman running the stall, and indicate the dish they want. The word later became a generic name for the female food vendors themselves—Nobel Prize-winning Nigerian playwright Wole Soyinka notably includes a Mama Put character in one of his works.

The informal transport systems that emerged in Nigeria’s huge, densely populated cities have also necessitated lexical invention. Danfo, a borrowing from Yoruba whose earliest use in written English is dated 1973, denotes those yellow minibuses whizzing paying passengers through the busy streets of Lagos, the country’s largest city. Okada, on the other hand, is first attested twenty years later, and is the term for a motorcycle that passengers can use as a taxi service. It is a reference to Okada Air, an airline that operated in Nigeria from 1983 to 1997, and its reputation as a fast yet potentially dangerous form of transport, just like the motorcycle taxi.

A few of the Nigerian words in this update were created by shortening existing English words. One example is the adjective guber (earliest quotation dated 1989), which is short for ‘gubernatorial’—so Nigerians, for instance, would call a person running for governor a ‘guber candidate’. Another frequently used clipping with a longer history in English is agric. It was originally used in American English around 1812 as a graphic abbreviation for the adjective agricultural, but is now used chiefly in this sense in West Africa. In the early 1990s, agric began to be used in Nigeria to designate improved or genetically modified varieties of crops or breeds of livestock, especially a type of commercially reared chicken that is frequently contrasted with ‘native’ (i.e. traditionally reared) chicken. Two decades later, Nigerian students also started to use the word as a noun meaning agricultural science as an academic subject or course.

Also originating in the 19th century is K-leg, first attested in 1842 in British English, but now used mostly in Nigerian English. It is another term for the condition of knock knees, as well as a depreciative name for a person affected with this condition, whose inward-turning knees often resemble the shape of the letter K. It is of such widespread use in Nigeria that by the early 1980s, it had acquired a figurative meaning—a K-leg can now also be any sort of problem, flaw, setback, or obstacle.

The term ember months was first used in an American publication in 1898 to signify the final four months of the calendar year. Almost a century later, this expression was taken up again in Nigeria, where the months from September to December are usually considered together as a period of heightened or intense activity.

The oldest of our new additions that are originally from Nigeria is next tomorrow, which is the Nigerian way of saying ‘the day after tomorrow’. It was first used in written English as a noun in 1953, and as an adverb in 1964. The youngest of the words in this batch is Kannywood, first used in 2002, which is the name for the Hausa-language film industry based in the city of Kano. It is a play on Hollywood, following the model of Nollywood, the more general term for the Nigerian film industry that was added to the OED in 2018.

Nigerian Pidgin is another rich source of new words for Nigerian English. Sef, first evidenced in Nigerian author Ben Okri’s novel Flowers and Shadows, published in 1980, is an adverb borrowed from Pidgin, which itself could have been an adverbial use of either the English adjective safe or the pronoun self. It is an emphatic marker added to the end of statements or rhetorical questions, often to express irritation or impatience, as in this quotation from Adichie’s 2013 novel Americanah:

‘He could have given you reduced rent in one of his properties, even a free flat sef.’

Also coming from pidgin contexts is the verb chop, which is a common colloquial word in Ghana and Nigeria meaning ‘to eat’. However, beginning in the 1970s, chop also developed the sense of acquiring money quickly and easily, and often dishonestly. The negative sense of misappropriating, extorting, or embezzling funds is also in the earlier reduplicative noun chop-chop (earliest quotation dated 1966), which refers to bribery and corruption in public life. This likening of stealing money to actually devouring it is also reflected in the even earlier synonymous phrase to eat money (1960), as in the following quotation from Nigeria’s News Chronicle in 2016:

‘Our roads were not done. By the end of this year, you will know who ate the money of these roads.’

A few other expressions in this update would require some explanation for non-Nigerians: a barbing salon (earliest quotation dated 1979) is a barber’s shop; a gist (1990) is a rumour, and to gist (1992) is to gossip; when a woman is said to have put to bed (1973), it means that she has given birth; something described as qualitative (1976) is excellent or of high quality.

By focusing on contemporary language in this update, and adding words and phrases that form part of the everyday vocabulary of today’s Nigerians, we hope to give a flavour of English-speaking which, as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie put it, is rooted in a Nigerian experience.

Here you can find a list of the new Nigerian words and senses added to the OED in this update:

agric, adj. & n.
barbing salon, n.
buka, n.
bukateria, n.
chop, v./6
chop-chop, n./2
danfo, n.
to eat money, in eat, v.
ember months, n.
flag-off, n.
to flag off in flag, v.
gist, n./3
gist, v./2
guber, adj.
Kannywood, n.
K-leg, n.
mama put, n.
next tomorrow, n. & adv.
non-indigene, adj. & n.
okada, n.
to put to bed, in put, v.
qualitative, adj.
to rub minds (together) in rub, v./1
sef, adv.
send-forth, n.
severally, adv.
tokunbo, adj.
zone, v.
zoning, n.


Gold miners face dangerous life in Nigeria's 'bandit' country

From dawn, before the sun starts to sear the earth, Biltamnu Sani is already hard at work, pounding away at the dusty soil in his perilous quest for gold.

The mineral-rich earth of Zamfara State, northwest Nigeria, has provided generations of families with the means to make ends meet.

Never easy, it is a work that today is fraught with danger, from the armed groups that rove the region and from the toxic lead that lurks in its soil.

"I've been doing this since I was 12 years old," Sani, now 26, told AFP.

"It's very challenging work, but this is our livelihood."

The mines lie within the reach of heavily-armed groups -- "bandits" in the lexicon of the local authorities -- that have been terrorising this remote region.

Gangs of mainly Fulani herders started cattle rustling and small-scale criminality decades back.

Lately, they have exploited a security vacuum to become essentially an insurgent army of thousands.

As the struggle with farmers over land expanded, other communities took up arms in a spiral of bloodshed that has seen an alarming proliferation of weapons.

The violence claimed more than a thousand lives in 2019, the regional government estimates.

In the scramble for resources, the fighters have increasingly exerted control over artisanal mining -- one of the few reliable sources of income in this impoverished region.

Miners have been forced to share profits and carry out the bidding of the armed groups in order to continue their trade.

Many locals suspect the gunmen are paid by outside interests to secure mineral-rich areas for private gain.

"The challenges in past years have been tough," Sani says.

- 'Just shoot you' -

Nigeria's central government in April announced a ban on mining in the region in a bid to curb the armed groups.

But while some companies closed down operations, local miners have carried on working by themselves.

The local authorities brokered a controversial peace deal around five months back between bandits and vigilantes that has seen some of the gangs disarm.

But the situation at the mines remains perilous.

"You enter some places and people will just shoot you," Ayuba Muhammed, the secretary of a large mining union in the state, told AFP.

The remoteness of the mines and the absence of police outside of Zamfara's capital Gusau have left all trade here brutally exposed to insecurity.

"Some of the mines you see, they have an arrangement with the bandits so that they can stay. In some other areas they cannot even try to go there," Muhammed said.

As he spoke an elderly man in his office poured out small sacks of lilac stones onto a weighing scale.

Extracting minerals from tons of solid rock typically yields only small amounts of cash, but it is still vital income for people in a part of Nigeria where 70 percent of the population are estimated to live in extreme poverty.

The mining industry in the country remains largely artisanal, beset by corruption and poorly regulated.

Successive governments have pledged -- and failed -- to bolster this lucrative sector as an alternative to the oil resources that account for the biggest chunk of Nigeria's income.

- Lead poisoning -

Compounding the insecurity are serious health risks from lead.

The highly poisonous element occurs naturally and in high abundance in Zamfara's gold-rich areas, escaping into the air when the dusty rock is pounded to extract the precious specks.

"People are doing these processes in their homes. Then their children play around in the same areas -- it is extremely dangerous," Simba Tirima, a doctor working at a clinic run by aid group Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in the town of Anka, told AFP.

In the past decade more than 500 children have died from lead poisoning, and many others have suffered long-term ill-health.

Aliyu Usman, four, began to have violent seizures two years ago as his parents often refined gold in their compound.

"He's deaf, you can see he can look around but his gaze is blank," Tirima said, examining the boy at his rudimentary clinic.

"His mother brought him in two years ago and said 'he's not the same anymore, it's like he's not there'."

In 2010, an outbreak of lead poisoning in Zamfara prompted scientists from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to survey 122 villages.

They looked in detail at 56 of these villages, three-quarters of whom were involved in the gold trade.

Of nearly 400 children who provided blood samples, the average amount of lead in the blood was 8.5 microgrammes per litre -- previous research found that lead can damage health at levels as low as five microgrammes per litre.

The surge of deaths in 2010 led to increased awareness and improvements in the way miners worked.

But cases keep coming despite a reduction in the overall numbers.

"There are still pockets of lead exposure," Tirima said. "More needs to be done to bring mining practices into better organised and regulated spaces."


Chinese app is facing claims of predatory consumer lending in Nigeria

OKash and OPesa, the Africa-focused consumer lending apps of Opera, the Chinese-owned internet browsing giant, appear to be flouting Google’s Play Store policies. In a report this week, equity research house Hindenburg Research suggested that Opera’s Android-based lending apps in Nigeria, Kenya and India typically require loan repayments within a 30 day period—less than Google’s stipulation of 60 days with steep interest rate payments.

Hindenburg Research also highlighted discrepancies in information contained in the apps’ description online and their actual practices. While they require payments in a shorter time-span, the apps list repayment periods that fall within Google’s stipulation online, seemingly to feign compliance. The report also claims the apps charge interest rates much higher than advertised.

The report appears to have already had one effect as OPesa, one of Opera’s lending apps, is no longer listed on Google’s app store. A similar delisting of its other apps will likely hobble distribution for Opera as Google’s Android operating system dominates market share across several African countries.

As several digital lending apps operate on the continent by offering collateral-free loans, they have quickly gained traction among middle-class and lower income users who typically face access to credit barriers. Unlike traditional banks which require a paperwork-intensive process and collateral, digital lending apps dispense quick loans, often within minutes, and determine creditworthiness by scouring smartphone data including SMS, call logs, bank balance messages and bill payment receipts.

Amid growing evidence that access to quick, digital loans is leading to a spike in personal debt among African users, there have been increased attempts to regulate how digital lending apps operate to curb predatory short-term lending practices. In a key move last August, Google announced that lending apps that require loan repayment in two months or less will be barred from its apps store—the major distribution point for most apps.

For its part, Opera claimed Hindenburg Research’s report contains “numerous errors, unsubstantiated statements, and misleading conclusions and interpretations.” However, its brief statement does not share any information to clarify the conflict between how its apps operate and how they are advertised to users. Opera had not responded to Quartz’s follow-up email queries ahead of publication.

Opera has made a deep play for African markets over the past year amid ambitions to build a super-app after originally starting out a simple mobile phone internet browser on Android phones. In Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy and most populous country, Opera’s OPay app first launched on the basis of providing payments and financial services to users but has since kicked off operations across various verticals including motorcycle and car hailing as well as food delivery. It also has the Opera news service.

The African market watchers have been paying rapt attention to Opera since last year when it raised an unprecedented $170 million over two funding rounds from a raft of Chinese investors to boost its plans to expand in various verticals and out to other African countries.

By Yomi Kazeem 


ISIS child soldier executes Nigerian christian prisoner on video

 A video has emerged purportedly showing the execution of a Nigerian Christian by a young boy from an ISIS-affiliated terror group.

The horrific footage, released by ISIS's Amaq 'news agency', shows a child of around eight years old carrying out the execution in an unidentified outdoor area of Borno, Nigeria.

The child in the video warns other Christians: 'We won't stop until we take revenge for all the blood that was spilled.'

An image taken from the distressing footage has been shared online by SITE Intelligence Group, an organisation which tracks the activity of jihadist groups.

Director of SITE Intelligence Group, Rita Katz, said of the video: 'There is no end to ISIS's immorality.'

According to Katz, the video was taken in Borno in north-eastern Nigeria and the boy is from the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) terror organisation.

While ISIS has ramped up its attacks on Christians in recent years, Katz added that the video was also a 'throwback' to the terror group's days of children conducting gruesome executions.

ISIS has routinely used young children, dubbed 'cubs of the Caliphate', to carry out the killings of prisoners in propaganda videos.

The Islamic State's West Africa branch was formed after a faction broke away from Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram in 2016.

Last month, eleven Christian hostages were reportedly killed by ISWAP terrorists in Borno on Christmas Day.

A video released last month showed 13 hostages, 10 believed to be Christian and three Muslim. ISWAP claimed they spared the lives of two of the Muslims

The terror group said they killed the captives to avenge for the killing of their leaders Abu bakr al-Baghdadi and Abul-Hasan Al-Muhajir in Iraq and Syria.

President Muhammadu Buhari condemned the killings, and urged Nigerians not to allow themselves to be divided by religion. 'We should, under no circumstance, let the terrorists divide us by turning Christians against Muslims because these barbaric killers don't represent Islam and millions of other law-abiding Muslims around the world,' he said in a statement at the time.

Jihadis Boko Haram and its IS-affiliated Islamic State West Africa Province faction have recently stepped up attacks on military and civilian targets in Nigeria.

Boko Haram killed seven people on Christmas Eve in a raid on a Christian village near the town of Chibok in northeast Nigeria's Borno state.

Daily Mail

Trump administration plans to put Nigeria on travel ban list

The Trump administration is planning to add seven countries - Belarus, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Nigeria, Sudan and Tanzania - to its travel ban list, U.S. media reports said on Tuesday.

Some countries will face bans only on some visa categories, the Wall Street Journal reported. The list of countries was not final and could yet change, website Politico said.

U.S. President Donald Trump said in an interview with the Journal that he was considering adding countries to the travel ban, but declined to state which ones. Politico said an announcement was expected as early as Monday.

The move is likely to sour ties between the United States and the countries affected under the expanded ban.

Nigeria, for example, Africa’s largest economy and most populous country, is a U.S. anti-terrorism partner and has a large diaspora residing in the United States.

A senior Trump administration official said that countries that failed to comply with security requirements, including biometrics, information-sharing and counter-terrorism measures, faced the risk of limitations on U.S. immigration.

The Department of Homeland Security did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The State Department declined to comment.

Under the current version of the ban, citizens of Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, as well as some Venezuelan officials and their relatives are blocked from obtaining a large range of U.S. immigrant and non-immigrant visas.

Chad was previously covered under the ban but was removed in April 2018.

Citizens of the countries can apply for waivers to the ban, but they are exceedingly rare.

By Sophie Tanno


Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Humanitarian hub attacked in Nigeria

Non-State armed groups targeted the humanitarian hub in Ngala, Borno state, on Saturday evening, burning an entire section of the facility as well as a vehicle used in aid deliveries.

Five UN staff were staying there at the time but escaped unharmed due to security measures in place.

Edward Kallon, UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, expressed outrage over the incident.

“I am shocked by the violence and intensity of this attack, which is the latest of too many incidents directly targeting humanitarian actors and the assistance we provide,” he said on Monday.

“I am relieved all staff is now safe and secure. Aid workers, humanitarian facilities and assets cannot be a target and must be protected and respected at all times.”

Northern Nigeria has been in the grip of a Boko Haram insurgency for about a decade, which has led to widespread displacement.

Last year, more than 10,000 people arrived in Ngala, searching for security and basic services, the UN humanitarian affairs office, OCHA, reported.

‘Disastrous effect’ on vulnerable

Mr. Kallon said attacks against humanitarians have a “disastrous effect” on the vulnerable people they support.

“Many of them had already fled violence in their area of origin and were hoping to find safety and assistance in Ngala. This also jeopardizes the ability for aid workers to stay and deliver assistance to the people most in need in remote areas in Borno State,” he said.

Overall, the UN and partners are bringing vital assistance to more than seven million people in three states affected by the crisis. Besides Borno, they also are operational in neighbouring Adamawa and Yobe states.

OCHA said aid workers in Nigeria are increasingly being targeted in attacks. Twelve were killed last year, which is double the number killed in 2018.

Meanwhile, the UN and its humanitarian partners continue to call for the safe release of two aid workers who remain in the hands of non-State armed groups after being abducted in separate incidents in Borno state.

Grace Taku, a staff member with Action Against Hunger, was abducted alongside five male colleagues near Damasak in July 2019. The men were all killed, according to media reports.

The other aid worker, Alice Loksha, a nurse and mother, was kidnapped during an attack in Rann in March 2018.

UN News

Monday, January 20, 2020

Pipeline Fire Kills Three in Lagos

A fire on a pipeline owned by Nigeria's state oil company in the commercial capital Lagos killed three people on Sunday, a Reuters witness said.

The blaze broke out in the Abule-Egba district of the southwestern megacity. Residents said it started shortly before 8 p.m. (1900 GMT).

A Reuters television camera operator counted three dead bodies at the scene. The fire burned nearby houses and vehicles.

Another witness, resident Ayo Adewale, said there were "many dead people". Reuters was unable to verify the claim.

Many fires on pipelines in Nigeria, Africa's biggest crude oil producer, are caused by theft and sabotage. The methods used to steal oil often result in accidents that cause fires.

"People were running and I was asking where was this happening, then I got near here and they said pipeline vandals did this," said Adewale, who was in the area when the fire took hold.

Oluwafemi Damilola, director general of Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), said he and his team were told "some undesirable elements vandalised the pipeline".

It was not immediately clear what, if any, impact the pipeline fire would have on the operations of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

NNPC spokesman Samson Makoji late on Sunday the state oil company was assessing the situation.

(Reporting by Seun Sanni; Additional reporting by Camillus Eboh in Abuja; Writing by Alexis Akwagyiram; Editing by Kim Coghill)


Friday, January 17, 2020

Video - Nigeria celebrates selfless efforts of it's armed forces

Nigeria has marked its 50th armed forces anniversary in the capital Abuja. The ceremony celebrated the selfless efforts of its servicemen and women. Tributes were paid especially to those killed in the line of duty. CGTN's Kelechi Emekalam reports.

Fifty years on, Nigeria struggles with memory of Biafra civil war

Diekoye Oyeyinka, 33, has been billed as one of the most promising Nigerian writers of his generation.

He went to some of the finest schools in his West African homeland but says that, like the majority of his classmates, he “didn’t know about Biafra until I was 14.”

When he did begin to find out about the brutal civil war that nearly tore Nigeria apart, it was not in the classroom. Instead it was a schoolmate in his dormitory who showed him a separatist leaflet demanding Nigeria’s southeast break away from the rest of the country.

Before then, Oyeyinka had known nothing about how leaders from the Igbo ethnic group declared the independent state of Biafra in 1967.

He knew nothing of the conflict that resulted and the 30 months of fighting and famine that are estimated to have cost over a million lives before the secessionists surrendered 50 years ago in January 1970.

“We’ve had a very brutal history, the older generation went through a lot of trauma,” Oyeyinka said. “We just sweep it under the carpet, pretending nothing happened. But without knowing our history, we will repeat the same mistakes. Our history is a succession of deja vu.”

It was to try to break this cycle of ignorance that Oyeyinka wrote the novel “Stillborn” — a historic epic about Nigeria from the days of British colonial rule in 1950 to 2010. In it the civil war is the pivotal event.

Unlike other famed Nigerian writers such as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, with her novel “Half Of A Yellow Sun,” or Chinua Achebe’s memoir “There Was A Country,” Oyeyinka is one of the few non-Igbo writers to have dwelt on the conflict.

“An Igbo friend got angry at me and said ‘You can’t write about us, it’s our conflict,'” he recounted.

But Oyeyinka insists that all Nigerians need to be made aware of what happened.

“We need to address these traumas ourselves, as a country, otherwise we are a tinder box ready to explode.”

While in the rest of Africa’s most populous nation many know little about the history of Biafra, in the former capital of the self-proclaimed state at Enugu the memory of those years lives on.

Biafran flags — an iconic red, black and green with a rising golden sun — make appearances on the front of buildings and hard-line separatists still demand independence.

The security forces — deployed heavily in the region — are quick to stamp out any clamor for a new Biafra.

At the end of the war in 1970, Nigerian leader Yukubu Gowon famously declared there would be “no victor, no vanquished” as he sought to reunite his shattered country.

The leader of the breakaway Republic of Biafra, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, went into exile for 13 years before being pardoned. He returned to Nigerian politics but was detained for 10 months in prison.

Leading Nigerian intellectual Pat Utomi says that many Igbos — the country’s third-biggest ethnic group, after the Hausa and the Yoruba — still feel marginalized.

One key event was when current President Muhammadu Buhari — then a military chief — seized power in 1983, and stopped the only Igbo to get close to leading Nigeria since the war from becoming head of state.

“In the early 1980s, people had forgotten about the war, but this succession of poor leadership brought bitterness among the new generations,” Utomi said.

Nowadays any incident — from the closure of the only airport in the southeast last year to the sacking of Igbo shops by customs officials in economic hub Lagos — can cause grievances to flare.

“It’s important to deal with history, to write it down. In Nigeria, we try to cover it up,” Utomi said. “We are more divided today than we’ve ever been before the civil war. We learnt nothing from it.”

In order to try to heal the rifts, Utomi helped organize the Never Again conference aiming to bring together key cultural and political figures to discuss the lessons of the Biafra war half a century after it ended.

He is also a patron of the Center for Memories in Enugu, a combination of a museum and library where visitors can come and “dig into history.”

History itself has been absent from Nigerian schools.

The current government reintroduced it only from last term as an obligatory subject for pupils from ages 10 to 13, after more than a decade off the curriculum.

“Teaching history is essential to build our identity as a country, and defend our patriotic values,” said Sonny Echono, permanent secretary at the education ministry.

But schools still remain woefully short of qualified history teachers, and there is no unified narrative about the civil war that does not figure in the lessons.

“We need to teach the war in our schools,” said Egodi Uchendu, a history professor at University of Nsukka, in the former Biafra territory. “Eastern Nigeria is completely different from how it was experienced in other parts of the country. We need to bring in the different angles to it.”

Chika Oduah, a Nigerian American journalist, has crossed the country to collect hundreds of testimonies of the victims and combatants of the Biafra conflict, which she publishes on her website Biafran War Memories.

She says that for many of those she interviewed it was the first time they had retold the horrors of the period.

“A seventy-something former soldier … broke down crying, when he told me how he lost his brother during the war,” she said.

She herself only learned at the age of 17 that her mother as a child spent two years in a camp for displaced people.

“Our parents wanted to move on, not look at the past,” Oduah insisted.

“But we need to talk about it, otherwise we won’t heal.”

By Sophie Bouillon

The Japan Times

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Video - Nigerian government to financially support families of fallen soldiers

The Nigerian government says it will make budgetary allocations to support families of the country's fallen soldiers. Hundreds of troops have been killed and their families left destitute during the country's decade-long fight against Islamist militant groups Boko Haram and ISWAP. But the country is now remembering the sacrifices of these men and women as CGTN's Kelechi Emekalam now reports.

Armed group frees kidnapped hostages in Nigeria

An armed group has released three aid workers and other civilians who had been held hostage in northeast Nigeria since late December, according to a United Nations official.

The people were kidnapped on December 22 by fighters posing as soldiers who stopped a convoy of commercial vehicles travelling towards the city of Maiduguri, state capital of the northeast state of Borno.

Armed groups have waged an uprising in northeast Nigeria that has killed at least 35,000 people since 2009 and left 7.1 million in need of humanitarian assistance.

Boko Haram, a group seeking a separate state in northeast Nigeria adhering to a strict interpretation of Islamic laws, began the unrest.

"I am deeply relieved that some civilians, including three aid workers, who were abducted by non-state armed groups along the Monguno - Maiduguri road on 22 December 2019 have been released yesterday and are now safe," Edward Kallon, the UN humanitarian coordinator in Nigeria, said in a statement on Thursday.

Kallon said he was concerned about the "increasingly insecure environment that humanitarians are working in". He said a total of 12 aid workers lost their lives in 2019, more than twice the 2018 total, making it one of the most dangerous years for humanitarian actors in Nigeria.

According to AFP news agency, citing security sources and one of the freed hostages, a total of five aid workers were released on Wednesday, after they were seized in two separate incidents in December.

Asabe Musa, a hygiene specialist with ALIMA (Alliance for International Medical Action), a French NGO, was among those freed.

Musa told AFP news agency that those captured were another colleague from ALIMA, a Red Cross worker, a member of NGO Solidarity and one person from the International Office for Migration.

The UN did not state whether those behind the abduction were associated with Boko Haram or a faction that broke away in 2016 and pledged allegiance to the ISIL (ISIS) group.

The group - Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) - has been the dominant armed group in Nigeria in the last two years.

ISWAP in December said it executed 11 Christian captives it had previously kidnapped in Borno State.

A security source told AFP that the fighters who released the hostages were from ISWAP.

In his statement on Thursday Kallon also expressed concern for aid worker Grace Taku and nurse Alice Loksha, who were abducted in July 2019 and March 2018 respectively and are still being held.

Al Jazeera

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Video - Conflict between herdsmen and farmers remains deadly in Nigeria

Villages in Nigeria continue to bear the brunt of clashes between Fulani herdsmen and farmers. Attacks carried out by Fulani militants killed more people in 2018 than Boko Haram. CGTN's Phil Ihaza has more on the growing security concern.

Video - Nigerian government to financially support families of fallen soldiers

The Nigerian government says it will make budgetary allocations to support families of the country's fallen soldiers. Hundreds of troops have been killed and their families left destitute during the country's decade-long fight against Islamist militant groups Boko Haram and ISWAP. But the country is now remembering the sacrifices of these men and women as CGTN's Kelechi Emekalam now reports.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Video - Nigerian veterinarian provides shelter to wild animals

In Lagos, Nigeria one man has made it his life's mission to save endangered animals. Doctor Mark Ofua, a vet, rehabilitates animals, such as snakes, before releasing them into the wild. CGTN's Deji Badmus has the story.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Video - Nigeria government move met with massive rejection & public outcry

Nigeria's President Buhari recently approved an allocation of over a 100 million U.S. dollars for the renovation of the national assembly complex. The move has been met with massive rejection and public outcry. Groups have headed to courts to prevent the federal government from disbursing funds for the project. CGTN's Kelechi Emekalam has more on this story.

Scrabble remains Nigeria’s most successful sports in 2019

The Nigeria Scrabble Federation (NSF) has disclosed that Scrabble remains the only sport, which has brought glory to the country at the world stage in 2019.

The federation stated that the successful completion of selection process of 160 games to pick players that represented the country at last year’s World English Scrabble Players Association Championship, Wespac in Goa, India from October 15 to 20 and also winning the Wespac Country trophy as the defending champions was a great feat for the country in 2019.

The body, however, stated that Scrabble, which has put Nigeria at the world map, as the number one best Scrabble nation in the world, deserves to be encouraged and given more priority in 2020.

NSF also thanked their sponsors, NLNG RA Club, Total/Shell Clubs, Edo State Sports Commission, Lekki Scrabble Club, Shell Petroleum Development Company Limited, Port Harcourt, Loense Int’l Limited and the Federal Ministry of Youths and Sports for assisting to ensure Scrabble excel in Nigeria.

Speaking with The Guardian, the Nigeria Scrabble National team coach, Prince Tony Ikolo, stated that the Scrabble team set goal was to come out victorious in the African Scrabble championship holding in Zambia this year.

“Our outlook this year is to remain on top in Scrabble by bringing the best players across the country together for selection process for Alchemist Cup holding from January to March 2020. Three different Scrabble clubs in Nigeria will host the screening process.

“We will also conduct Africa Scrabble Championship players screening. Winning the Africa Scrabble Championship and Alchemist Cup Scrabble tournament will assist Team Nigeria to continue to dominate Scrabble in the world, he said, adding that they will not rest on their oars to retain the top position.

“We will not rest on our oars to remain on top. Base on the scrabble team achievement, NSF is calling on sponsors to assist the team to attend both the Alchemist Cup and Africa Scrabble Championship holding in Zambia this year. Scrabble team needs assistance from the federal, state, corporate bodies and well-meaning Nigerians to survive,” he stated.

The Guardian

Friday, January 10, 2020

Video - Akiddie is an innovative educational app for children

Online learning has become so important and popular.Two young Nigerians have combined the power of technology with storytelling by developing an innovative e-learning app that tells African children's stories in their native language. CGTN's Deji Badmus has that story.

Video - Military successfully repels attack from suspected Boko Haram rebels

The Nigerian military says it has successfully repelled an attack by suspected Boko Haram terrorists, on one of its facilities located in Borno state, the northeastern part of the country. The government also says it has intensified efforts to rescue all abducted victims held by the insurgent group. Here is CGTN's correspondent Phil Ihaza with more from Abuja.

Video - Nigeria young couples to embrace co-habitatation

In Nigeria, traditional weddings can be a costly and exhausting affair. And it's pushing young couples to embrace less conventional unions, including co-habitatation without being married. CGTN's Kelechi Emekalam takes a look at the trend, popularly known as a "come we stay" relationship.

Mark Essien: Entrepreneur transforming the travel industry in Nigeria

Much can be said about the budding tech scene in Africa, with many startups founded within the last decade making big wins in the industry. However, in the midst of the hype, there is a distinct lack of local talent that is being nurtured and brought into the businesses, with many founders opting to import expensive expatriates. This strategy is not just inefficient for startups in the longer term, but also for the African economics. One serial entrepreneur who has established a number of successful businesses (including Africa’s biggest hotel booking platform whilst training up the next generation of African tech leaders is Mark Essien.

Early Beginnings

Essien was born in Nigeria to business-minded parents who owned a number of schools and was a high school student during the tumultuous military coup in the late nineties. He went on to graduate and accepted an offer at a German university. Unsurprising, with Germany being one of the world’s most innovative countries, he quickly recognised the rise in demand for digital products during the ‘dot com’ era. He became fascinated and, although he did not own a computer at the time, his older sister, who was also based in Germany, allowed him to use her own, along with her dial-up internet.

Essien was soon hooked on everything internet-related and invested all of his spare time into trying to understand it. After mastering the basics, he purchased some visual basic software and learned how to develop software. His first idea was a file sharing service (similar to Napster) called Gnumm, a platform that would go a step beyond peer-to-peer sharing by allowing individuals to share data via multiple networks. The app soon had many downloads. The app garnered attention and eventually an acquisition proposal from Snoopstar, an augmented reality platform which was part of the Bertelmann group. After the acquisition, he postponed his studies and started working for Bertelmann as part of the software development team.

After a few years at Bertelsmann and having experienced a taste of entrepreneurship with Gnumm, Essien now focused on computer programming. He tried his hand at a number of different projects, writing the code himself from his university dorm. At this time, he had returned to Beuth University of Applied Science to complete his degree. He created a platform named Standard MPEG, which was one of the first MPEG encoder software available for the DirectShow platform. Essien sold his software to a number of notable clients, including Disney and the US military. The income from his endeavours meant he was able to support himself financially through his studies, whilst also developing his entrepreneurial flair.

Although Essien has become an expert in building software for PCs, the age of the smartphone had begun and the popularity of the devices had skyrocketed. Smartphones transformed the way we use technology and so, Essien adapted accordingly. Over the next few years, he developed apps for the Apple’s App Store with mixed success. The market for apps in Western countries became saturated and so Essien saw an opportunity to take the technology to Africa. He had researched the start-up climate in the continent and saw that things in South Africa had started to take off. However, the industry in wider Africa was nascent, so he shifted his focus to consumer facing startups. The travel industry in Africa was active but many providers lacked an effective consumer experience, particularly the travel booking process. Essien identified an opportunity to develop an efficient technology solution.

Establishing Hotels.NG

Essien moved back to Nigeria to build his hotel booking platform. Although Lagos is the commercial capital of Nigeria, he set his sights on the city of Calabar, a popular holiday destination for natives and other Africans. The dense population of hotels in the city provided a large number of potential clients. He divided his time between developing the website and visiting hotels in order to share his platform with their management. The sign-up responses were positive as the platform was mutually beneficial, given that each hotel could advertise its products and gain new customers. Ultimately, “no hotel wants fewer guests,” Essien states.

After signing up the majority of the hotels in the Calabar market, it was time to expand. However, larger cities do not benefit from the same density of hotels and the higher levels of traffic make transportation challenging. Seeking investment, Essien met with a well-known African entrepreneur, Jason Njoku, founder of iROKO Partners Limited, who, at the time, had started his own investment fund. Njoku offered him USD 75,000 in seed funding. Given the lean business model and Essien’s ability to develop the website himself, the funding was mainly used for recruiting sales agents, who would sign hotels up to the platform. As the business grew, the number of agents increased to 300, many of whom were contacted and hired via Facebook.

Today, Hotels.NG has a team of 150 people, serving hotels and customers across Nigeria, with plans to expand across Africa and to eventually offer the full end-to-end travel experience. The journey has been tough but rewarding for Essien. When asked about the biggest challenges that he has faced so far, he mentions recruitment, as the tech industry in Africa in still in its early stages therefore finding trained talent proved to be difficult. The problem is compounded by international companies and startups who outsource or hire expatriates to fill their technical roles. Essein was reluctant to adopt this strategy as he is passionate about seeing the African technology ecosystem and economy grow and thrive. With this in mind, he established an initiative to train local developers, some of whom have become some of Hotels.NG strongest employees.

Creating The HNG Internship

HNG Internship is an initiative which came about when Essien needed to hire three local developers. The search was challenging, however he eventually found three talented individuals who were also keen to develop their technical skills. The next year, he decided to advertise the programme and 170 people applied. Rather than filtering through CVs, he gave the applicants a technical task and each day he eliminated the weakest 10. Eventually, he was left with 10 candidates who proved to be exceptional interns. He repeated the process in the following year and received 800 applications. Neither Essien or his team has the capacity to mentor the interns personally, so he brought in the previous 10 winners to filter through these applicants using the same recruitment process. The most recent cohort of the internship had 13,000 applicants and 40 mentors. Essien feels proud that, although he is not able to hire all of the applicants, local developers are being exposed to practical programming experience, which can be difficult to obtain in the region. Essien is considering launching the initiative out of Hotels.NG, so he can reach even more talent across Africa.

After reading about many of the challenges faced by high-profile startups in Africa over the last year, it’s exciting and encouraging to learn about Essien’s his entrepreneurial journey. His genuine passion to see Africa thrive will continue to be key to his success.


Militant attack leaves 25 soliders killed in Nigeria

Twenty-five soldiers were killed and nearly 1,000 people left homeless in a militant attack on a town in northeastern Nigeria, the government said in a statement. Six other soldiers were also wounded.

The militants entered Monguno in Borno state posing as a convoy of soldiers on Tuesday evening, the sources said. They then attacked troops inside the town, destroying at least 750 homes in the process.

Resident Gumati Sadu said people fled into the bush for safety during the fighting and that three civilians were killed by stray bullets.

A military spokesperson declined to comment.

Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) claimed responsibility for the attack on its Amaq news agency.

It said that one of its militants detonated a car bomb in the town, killing at least eight soldiers and destroying three armoured vehicles.

The group also said it had seized a vehicle, weapons and ammunition before leaving the town.

The attack comes after Chadian troops who are part of the Multinational Joint Task Force withdrew from Borno some days ago. There are worries that more attacks will be carried out against key targets in the state.

On Saturday, six soldiers were killed in an attack by Boko Haram near Jakana, a town 45 kilometres away from Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, according to Maj. Gen. Olusegun Adeniyi. He called for the evacuation of Jakana and another village, Mainok.

Nigeria's President Muhammad Buhari had on Tuesday told citizens not to panic over the withdrawal of the Chadian troops.

The military has not yet officially commented on the soldiers' deaths in the latest attack on Monguno.

ISWAP split from Islamist group Boko Haram in 2016 and has since staged its own frequent attacks in the region.

Boko Haram's decade-long insurgency campaign has killed thousands and displaced millions in northeastern Nigeria.

Thousands in Monguno had already been displaced from their homes elsewhere in Borno state by militants. Aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres warned last year that many thousands in Monguno lacked proper shelter, water, sanitation and food.


Thursday, January 9, 2020

Conjoined twins successfully separated by 78-member team in Nigeria

Two sisters, who were joined in the chest and abdomen, have been successfully separated in a surgery by a 78-member team in Nigeria's capital, Abuja.

Mercy and Goodness Ede are now well enough to go home six weeks after surgery, according to pediatric surgeon Emmanuel Ameh, who led the team that performed the operation at the National Hospital.

The surgery to separate the twins happened in November last year but details have only just been released by the hospital, because they wanted to ensure there were no post surgery complications.

The girls are the first to be successfully separated at the government-run specialist center, National Hospital spokesman Dr. Tayo Haastrup told CNN.

It took around 13 hours for the team working from two operating theaters at the hospital to separate the twins, according to the hospital.

"We are just happy and proud that the team that worked on this surgery were all Nigerians. It was done in Nigeria and the parents didn't have to go outside the country," Haastrup said.

Haastrup said the surgery, which runs into thousands of dollars, was done free of charge to the parents, who work in menial jobs and would not have been able to afford the surgery.

A dangerous procedure 
The twins were born on August 13 last year but Ameh said the surgery was delayed until November because of some complications.

Separating conjoined twins is a complicated and dangerous procedure, and not all twins -- because of shared organs or other complications -- can be separated.

Aside from being joined at the chest, the Martins twins were born with a condition known as omphalocele, a birth defect that left a section of their intestine sticking outside their navel, Ameh told CNN.

Ameh said the girls underwent surgery to repair the area that had been torn open at the navel and doctors had to wait for many weeks for them to recover from the procedure.

They also had to manage a number of complications in the months leading up to the separation in November.

Ameh said plastic surgeons on the team were worried that a large section of the girls' chest would be open and at risk of being infected once they were separated and they had to create artificial skin large enough to cover the area, which took several weeks.

"We needed to determine if they could live independently when they are separated. We found out that they were sharing a diaphragm and one liver was serving both of them, but all other organs were separate," Ameh told CNN.

"We also had to get some medical equipment that were not available," he added.

According to a 2017 paper in the journal of Clinical Anatomy, conjoined twins are extremely rare, with an incidence of 1 in 50,000 births.

However, because around 60% of those cases are stillborn, the actual incidence rate is closer to 1 in 200,000 births, according to the study. About 70% of them are female.


Cardi B pledges to get Nigerian citizenship

 Cardi B's announcement that she wants to seek Nigerian citizenship has set off a Twitter feud between her West African fans in friendly rivals Nigeria and Ghana.

The Grammy-winning rapper visited both countries last month on her African tour.

Her announcement in a tweet on Friday criticized the U.S. airstrike in Iraq that killed Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani and sent Middle East tensions soaring.

"Its sad this man is putting Americans live in danger. Dumbest move Trump did till date ... I'm filing for my Nigerian citizenship," she tweeted.

Many in West Africa saw her tweet as proof that she preferred Nigeria.

Ghanaians were quick to point out the pitfalls of living in Africa's most populous nation, where traffic jams and power cuts are more visible than opulent nightclubs and luxury hotels.

"Hope you have a generator to power your house (because) they don't have light but we do," one user tweeted, adding an emoticon of a Ghana flag.

Some fans in Ghana expressed concern for her safety, warning about the Nigeria-based Islamic extremist group Boko Haram.

Confusion, pride

But most Nigerian fans were quick to offer up a passport exchange, underscoring the mix of pride and confusion that the 27-year-old star would prefer Nigeria to America.

This week she asked fans to weigh in on whether her Nigerian name should be CHIOMA B or Cadijat.

Cardi B, who was born Belcalis Almanzar, is of Afro-Caribbean descent, tracing her roots to Trinidad and the Dominican Republic.

It was not immediately clear how the rapper might acquire citizenship in Nigeria, though a number of celebrities have recently been given honorary citizenship in other African countries.

British actor Idris Elba now has a passport from Sierra Leone, his late father's birthplace. And fellow rapper Ludacris recently acquired citizenship in Gabon after marrying a woman from the Central African nation.


Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Video - Nigerian Oil and the Disappearing Money

Nigeria has the biggest oil reserves in Africa but who’s cashing in? Nigeria is Africa’s top oil producer and has its biggest economy. But it’s also coping with crushing levels of poverty. So where does all that oil money go?

Video - 10-year-old amazes Nigeria with exceptional saxophone skill

A child prodigy in Nigeria is taking the country by the storm, with her exceptional skills in playing the saxophone. CGTN's Deji Badmus visited her home in Lagos, Nigeria and now brings us the story.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Police in Nigeria on heightened alert after Soleimani's assassination by U.S.A

Nigerian police have been placed on a heightened state of alert after the U.S. killing of a top Iranian military commander in Iraq sparked fears of public disturbances in the West African country, the police said on Sunday.

Qassem Soleimani was killed on Friday in a U.S. drone strike on his convoy at Baghdad airport. The attack has prompted concern of ramping tensions between the U.S. and Iran.

Nigeria is split roughly evenly between Christians and Muslims, the latter of which are mostly Sunni. The government last year banned the country’s largest Shi’ite Muslim group, the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), after violent clashes between its members and police.

IMN was heavily influenced by the Iranian revolution of 1979 which saw Ayatollah Khomeini take power.

“The Inspector General of Police, IGP Mohammed Adamu, has placed police commands and formations nationwide on red alert,” the Nigeria Police Force said in a statement on Sunday.

“This proactive measure follows intelligence report that sequel to the recent killing of an Iranian general; some domestic interests are planning to embark on massive public disturbances and sabotage,” it said.

It said senior police officials had been “directed to ensure maximum surveillance and security of lives and property across the nation.”

The statement did not name any specific groups or give further details. A police spokesman did not immediately respond to phone calls requesting comment.

Reuters was unable to independently verify claims that public events were planned.

Nigeria banned IMN and outlawed its demonstrations which its members held to call for the release of their leader, Ibrahim Zakzaky, who has been held since 2015 when government forces killed around 350 people in a storming of the group’s compound.

The group last year said more than 30 of its members were killed in police crackdowns on its protests. Police gave no death toll.

Global News

Friday, January 3, 2020

Video - Music group in Nigeria seeks to empower under privileged kids

A dance group known as Dream Catchers is changing the music scene. The group is made up of children from under-privileged backgrounds -- and they hope to empower others like them. CGTN's Deji Badmus has more.

Nigeria had the biggest drop in visitors to the US last year due to Trump visa policies

The travel measures taken against Nigeria by the United States last year are starting to have a clear and, potentially, long-term effect.

Data from the US travel and tourism office shows Nigeria recorded the largest global drop-off in visitors to the US. As of October 2019, 34,000 fewer Nigerians traveled to the US compared to the previous year—a 21% drop. After a sustained period of growth between 2011 and 2015, the number of Nigerian visitors to the US started to plateau in 2016 until the big drop-off last year.

The second largest drop was for visitors from Venezuela (17.7%). The South American country is in the midst of an economic and political crisis which has seen more than four million people flee the country and the US is restricting entry to Venezuelan migrants.

The dip in Nigerian visitors to the US followed a string of visa clampdown measures by the Trump administration targeting Africa’s largest economy.

After indefinitely suspending its visa interview waiver for Nigerian applicants (the waiver allowed frequent travelers renew their visa without going through in-person interviews each time), the Trump administration also raised visa application fees for Nigerians by including additional “reciprocity fees” ranging from $80 to $303 depending on the class of visa. And even though the Nigerian government immediately slashed visa application fees for American applicants in a bid to get the US to reverse its price increase, the reciprocity fees remain in place.

The measures followed reports that the Trump administration was looking to impose visa restrictions on countries whose citizens have a track record of overstaying beyond the validity of their short-term US visas. As it turns out, Nigerians were the highest ranked African country for US visa overstays in 2018.

Even though official data confirms the effects of the measures, there were already warning signs the administration’s policies were having an adverse impact on potential travelers. The policies also spawned fear-fueled rumors among locals as well: mid-last year, the United States embassy in Nigeria was forced to deny a widespread rumor that it had placed a ban on issuing student visas to Nigerians.

The tougher overall visa stance by the Trump administration comes at an inopportune time for middle class Nigerians who are increasingly emigrating amid fears of economic uncertainty back home. Nigeria’s once promising economy remains mired in sluggish growth since a 2016 recession while unemployment continues to climb. With many middle class professionals searching for alternatives, the number of Nigerians seeking legal immigration pathways to the US, UK and, increasingly, Canada, has risen sharply over the past half-decade.

But despite the Trump administration’s policies, the US remains a popular destination for Nigerian students seeking foreign degrees as the economic impact of spending by Nigerian students studying in the United States reached $514 million over the past academic year.