Thursday, April 30, 2020

Anthony Joshua shows his class by sending necessities to Nigeria and pays tribute to NHS heroes fighting coronavirus

 ANTHONY JOSHUA has yet again shown his class by sending much-needed basics to Nigeria - while also paying tribute to the NHS heroes fighting coronavirus.

The world heavyweight boxing champion, 30, has sent boxes of much-needed supplies to Nigeria having been prevented from visiting in person, as planned, due to coronavirus.Joshua has also teamed-up with Under Armour to send 2,000 products to NHS workers at Watford General Hospital

And he has also sent Under Armour clothing to Watford General, where he was born, to help hospital workers through this tough time.

In a clip posted on social media, Joshua could be heard narrating over a video of people in Nigeria collecting their "free gift" packages from the British boxing star.

Joshua said: "It's 2019 and I'm visiting Nigeria. I was planning on teaming up with some of the local community leaders to contribute to some of their events.

"But due to the global pandemic these plans have come to a halt.

"During this crisis, we thought it would be best to put some basic necessities together for some of the people who may need it.

"So here's to Nigeria. One love, people. And I'll see you soon."

In the clip, the locals piled praise on Joshua - who recently revealed how his time in Nigeria changed him for the better - for his selfless deed.


And Joshua has also revealed he has teamed up with sporting goods giants Under Armour to send 2,000 of their products to Watford General, the hospital in which he was born.

Items include HeatGear T-shirts which feel cool, dry and light, as well as its Recovery sleepwear and tracksuits to help make staff feel more comfortable after working long shifts.

In a video on Instagram, Joshua said: "I was born in Watford General and those that know me, know that Watford will forever run through my veins.

"I saw that Under Armour have been doing some great things globally supporting key workers during this pandemic.

"So I teamed up with Under Armour to support something near and dear to my heart.

By Dave Fraser

The Sun

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Video - Nigeria to gradually ease lockdown restrictions

Nigeria’s president said the country will begin a gradual easing of lockdown restrictions to curtail the spread of the coronavirus in the capital, Lagos, Abuja and Ogun States May 4. In a national broadcast late Monday, Muhammadu Buhari said he made the decision after reviewing the more than a four-week lockdown to allow the country's economy to operate and still keep a steady response in containing the virus.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

What is behind Nigeria's unexplained deaths in Kano?

The Nigerian president has expressed deep concern over a high number of unexplained deaths in the northern state of Kano, amid fears they could be caused by Covid-19.

President Muhammadu Buhari said a lockdown would be imposed in Kano for an additional two weeks, and that he was sending a government team to investigate.

Nigeria's Health Minister Dr Osagie Ehanire says the situation is being "monitored closely".

But following preliminary investigations the state authorities have dismissed a connection with coronavirus.

Hundreds of people are rumoured to have died in the community but no official death records are kept.

Grave diggers initially raised concerns that they were burying a higher than usual number of bodies.

Ali, a grave digger at the Abattoir Graveyard, told the BBC: "We have never seen this, since the major cholera outbreak that our parents tell us about. That was about 60 years ago."

This week, the state governor issued a statement saying the "mysterious deaths" were unrelated to coronavirus.

But after ordering a "thorough investigation into the immediate and remote causes of the deaths", announced that their preliminary findings "indicated that the deaths are not connected to the Covid-19 pandemic".

The state government said "reports from the state ministry of health has shown that most of the deaths were caused by complications arising from hypertension, diabetes, meningitis and acute malaria".

"Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje is earnestly waiting for the final report from the state ministry of health so as to take the necessary action."

The commercial and industrial centre of the north, Kano has become the epicentre of coronavirus in northern Nigeria. Its highly dense population is still in lockdown in an effort to contain the spread of the virus.

Don't tests show the cause of death?

State officials started testing for Covid-19 two weeks ago and one lab has had to close due to contamination. Samples are being sent to the capital, Abuja, which authorities say is causing a delay in announcing how many positive cases have been detected in the state.

Dr Sani Aliyu, who is the national co-ordinator for the presidential task force on Covid-19, says a team of five medical experts were deployed to Kano to facilitate in reopening the testing centre this week after it was fumigated.

Officials also plan to open a second lab, at Bayero University, for testing for Covid-19 from next week.

How many people have died?

It is unclear how many people have died, as the deaths causing concern are happening in the community. Deaths in many parts of Nigeria are not registered, and so for those who died outside of hospital, no records are kept.

This makes it difficult to understand how many people have died in recent weeks.

Sabitu Shaibu, the deputy head of the state task force on Covid-19, is hoping to release preliminary findings of the investigation by next week but believes that most of the rumoured 640 deaths are from natural causes and says the figure is below the average death rate for Kano.

Hospital records which provide the only death register available are thought to provide lower numbers than the real picture across the state.

Those on the investigating taskforce say they will conduct "verbal autopsies" with family members to help establish why people are dying.

If not coronavirus, what else could be going on?

Private hospitals which provide for a significant part of health provision in the region have been closed due to coronavirus fears. This could mean a lack of support for those with existing conditions who may have died as a result.

Dr Nagoma Sadiq who works at the Aminu Kano Hospital, thinks this could be behind the additional deaths, but he is also not ruling out coronavirus.

"It's shocking to most of us that the count of the dead is alarming. But it's likely due to the reduction in the number of health institutions available in the state.

"Because there are a lot of hypertensive patients, diabetic patients, asthmatic patients, cancer patients, and they don't have much access to the hospitals. The lockdown is affecting everybody.

"Our poor majority don't even have a vehicle to take them to the hospitals."

Grave digger Ali agrees, adding "some say the current situation is due to the epidemic, others say it's difficulties of life. People have so many problems in their lives and a lack of peace of mind."

However Covid-19 is known to be more dangerous for those with underlying health conditions, so it could be that the deaths are related to coronavirus. The only way to know for sure is to test for coronavirus.

Dr Sadiq also said that there was still a concern about an ongoing Lassa fever infection amongst communities. The state has had five confirmed cases and one death, according to the most recent report from the Nigerian Centre For Disease Control.

Kano currently has 77 positive cases of coronavirus with three deaths.

Authorities are urging the public not to panic.

By Chi Chi Izundu


Nigeria to ease Abuja and Lagos lockdowns on May 4th

Nigeria will begin a "gradual easing" of coronavirus-related lockdowns for millions of people in its largest city Lagos and the capital, Abuja.

President Muhammadu Buhari said the lockdowns, which had been due to end on Monday, needed to continue until 4 May.

He also ordered new nationwide measures against Covid-19, including a night-time curfew and mandatory face masks.

The moves would ensure the economy functioned "while still maintaining our aggressive response", Mr Buhari said.

The easing will apply to Abuja, Lagos and neighbouring Ogun state, where collectively more than 25 million people have been under lockdown since 30 March. Other states have introduced their own measures.

Before the announcement, workers at a construction site in Lagos rioted in protest at the lockdown.

A police spokesman said the workers at the Lekki Free Trade zone - including those at the oil refinery of billionaire Aliko Dangote - injured several officers in the area. Fifty-one people were arrested, he added.

There are reports that the protesters were angry that some foreign nationals were allowed to go to work at the site.

Nigeria, Africa's most-populous nation and largest economy, has reported 1,273 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 40 deaths.

In a televised address on Monday night, Mr Buhari acknowledged that the lockdowns in Abuja, Lagos and Ogun had "come at a very heavy economic cost" since they began on 30 March.

"Many of our citizens have lost their means of livelihood. Many businesses have shut down," he said.

He added: "No country can afford the full impact of a sustained lockdown while awaiting the development of vaccines."

The president said there would therefore be a "phased and gradual easing" of these lockdowns next Monday to allow some economic activities to resume.

But to limit the spread of Covid-19, he announced that the government would impose a curfew across the country between 20:00 and 06:00, require everyone to wear face masks in public, and stop "non-essential inter-state passenger travel".

Bans on social and religious gatherings will also remain in place.

Mr Buhari also expressed deep concern over the unexplained deaths of a number of people in the northern state of Kano.

He said a lockdown would be imposed there for two weeks with immediate effect and that he was sending a government team to investigate.


Monday, April 27, 2020

Nigeria's Okraraises $1M from TLcom connecting bank accounts to apps

A new Nigerian fintech venture, Okra, has racked up a unique mix of accomplishments in less than a year.

The Lagos based API developer created a product that generates revenues from both payment startups and established financial institutions.

Okra has raised $1 million in pre-seed funding from TLcom Capital — a $71 million Africa focused VC firm that rarely invests in early-stage companies or fintech.

The startup is also poised to enter new markets and it’s hiring.

Founded in June 2019 by Nigerians Fara Ashiru Jituboh and David Peterside, Okra casts itself as a motherboard for the continent’s 21st century financial system.

“We’re building a super-connector API that…allows individuals to connect their bank accounts directly to third party applications. And that’s their African bank accounts starting in the largest market in Africa, Nigeria,” said Ashiru Jituboh.

As a sector, fintech has become the continent’s highest funded tech space, receiving the bulk of an estimated $2 billion in VC that went to African startups in 2019. Those ventures, and a number of the continent’s established banks, are in a race to build market share through financial inclusion.

By several estimates — including The Global Findex Database — the continent is home to the largest percentage of the world’s unbanked population, with a sizable number of underbanked consumers and SMEs.

With 54 countries, 1.2 billion people and thousands of relatively young startups, there are a lot of moving parts in Africa’s fintech space. Similar to U.S. company Plaid, Okra is shaping a platform that connects accounts and financial data to banking apps into a revenue generating product.

With Africa’s largest population of 200 million people, Nigeria serves as a major financial hub — but there’s still a disconnect between fintech apps and banks, according to Okra’s Ashiru Jituboh.

“Here in this market there’s no way to directly connect your bank account through an API or directly to an application,” she said.

Okra offers several paid packages for those types of integrations and opens up the code to its five product categories — authorization, balance, transactions, identity and accounts — to developers.

Okra has already created a diverse client list that includes mobile payments startup PalmPay, insurer Axa Mansard and Nigerian digital lender Renmoney.

The startup generates revenues through product fees and earns each time a user connects a bank account to a customer, according to Ashiru Jituboh.

On how the Okra differs from other well-funded fintech companies in Nigeria, such as Flutterwave or Interswitch, “The answer is we’re not doing payments, but what we’re doing is making processes with [payment providers] even smoother,” she said.

Ashiru Jituboh comes to her CEO position with a software engineering background and a strong connection to the U.S. Born in Nigeria, she grew up in and studied computer science in North Carolina.

She did stints in finance — JP Morgan Chase and Fidelity Investments — and then in tech companies before making the leap to founder. “I went to work in startups, but I was always employee number two or three,” said Ashiru Jituboh.

She decided to go all in on Okra after returning to Nigeria and noting the need for linking together the country’s emerging digital financial infrastructure.

“When we knew that it was a big addressable market is when we realized that all these fintech CEOs and CTOs were struggling with this use case,” she said.

Shortly after its launch, Okra attracted the attention of TLcom Capital in second quarter 2019, according to VC Andreata Muforo.

With offices in London, Lagos, and Nairobi, the group closed its $71 million Tide Africa fund this year. TLcom has focused primarily on Series A and later investments, including backing Kenyan agtech startup Twiga Foods and Nigerian trucking logistics company Kobo360.

In an interview last year, the fund’s managing partner, Maurizio Caio, explained that TLcom was steering more toward investments in infrastructure oriented tech companies and away from Africa’s more commoditized payments and lending startups.

The VC firm was attracted to Okra for its ability to serve the continent’s broader financial sector. “It’s a service that other fintechs can plug into and utilize, so it’s accelerating the growth of fintech across the continent…That to us was a big hook,” TLcom’s Andreata Muforo told TechCrunch on a call.

Founder Fara Ashiru Jituboh was also a factor in the fund making a $1 million pre-seed investment in Okra. “We found her to be very strong and also liked the fact that she’s a technical founder,” said Muforo. As part of the investments, she and TLcom Capital partner Ido Sum will join Okra’s board.

In addition to hiring fresh engineering talent, the startup aims to take its product offerings that connect bank accounts to apps to new African countries — though it would not disclose where or when.

“We’re looking at three target markets that our clients are already in,” said Ashiru Jituboh. Okra investor Andreata Muforo named Kenya — with one of the highest mobile money penetration rates in the world — as a likely candidate for the startup’s product services.

By Jake Bright


Related stories: Video - Nigerian returns bitcoins worth $80,000

Bitcoin used in Nigeria to hedge against national currency

Friday, April 24, 2020

Lebanon arrests suspect for putting Nigerian worker up 'for sale'

Lebanese security forces have arrested a man suspected of putting a Nigerian domestic worker up "for sale" on a popular Facebook page used to trade everyday items such as furniture, food and shoes.

"Domestic worker of African citizenship (Nigerian) for sale with a new residency and full legal papers," an account under the name Wael Jerro posted on the page, named Buy and Sell in Lebanon. The exact date of the post remains unclear.

The suspect was arrested on Thursday by Lebanon's General Security agency, the country's leading intelligence agency, which also controls entry and exit from the small Mediterranean nation. General Security said an investigation was under way in the case, and warned that advertising people online violated the country's human trafficking laws, subjecting perpetrators to prosecution.

The arrest came after Justice Minister Marie-Claude Najem on Wednesday ordered the judiciary to follow up on the case, citing Lebanon's anti-human trafficking law. Lebanon's Ministry of Labour also released a statement saying anyone who advertises domestic workers online would be prosecuted.

Najem said in a statement that the case represented a "blatant violation of human dignity".

The case has sparked fury in Nigeria, where officials requested the Lebanese authorities to investigate the incident.

"The government is very angry," said Julie Okah-Donli, director-general of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP). "The Lebanese government should prosecute him and rescue other girls that have been sold or [are] about to be sold into slavery."

Many Nigerians also took to social media to express their outrage.

'Modern-day slavery'

Some 250,000 migrant domestic workers - most from sub-Saharan African countries such as Ethiopia and Ghana, and southeast Asian countries including Nepal and the Philippines - reside in Lebanon.

Domestic workers in Lebanon are legally bound to their employers through the country's notorious kafala system, which only allows them to end their contracts with the consent of employers.

The system has led to widespread abuse, ranging from the withholding of wages, to physical and sexual assault. Camille Abousleiman, Lebanon's former labour minister, has called it "modern-day slavery".

While Lebanon's Ministry of Labour says it is working to improve protection for domestic workers by amending the contract between them and their employers, experts say the abuse will continue until the kafala system is entirely abolished.

"Adopting a revised contract which addresses shortcomings is undoubtedly a step forward, but it's not enough," Diala Haidar, a Lebanon campaigner at Amnesty International, told Al Jazeera.

"The Lebanese labour law explicitly excludes domestic workers from labour protections enjoyed by other workers such as minimum wage, overtime pay, compensation for unfair dismissal, and social security. The labour law needs to be amended to recognise domestic workers as workers and grant them full labour protections," she said.

General Security had said in 2017 that two domestic workers die every week in Lebanon. Videos often circulate of domestic workers trying to escape the homes of their employers by climbing down high buildings. Frequently, they are found dead.

Last month, the body of 23-year-old Ghanaian domestic worker Faustina Tay was found in a parking lot under the fourth-storey apartment of her employers. In the days leading up to her death, Tay had alleged repeated abuse by her employer and the agent who brought her to Lebanon and said she feared her life was in danger.

The employer has since been blacklisted, meaning he cannot hire any more domestic workers, while a criminal investigation is ongoing. The high-profile case, first reported by Al Jazeera, shed light on the conditions migrant workers face in Lebanon.

Despite the fact that most domestic workers arrive in Lebanon by legal means, the Facebook post has renewed calls in Nigeria for tougher measures to curb the activities of those involved in human trafficking - a big problem faced by a number of African countries.

"As long as traffickers are working about freely, making money, trafficking will not stop," Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Chairman, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, told Al Jazeera.

Last year, the Nigerian government began the repatriation of up to 20,000 girls who were trafficked to Mali.

The national agency fighting human trafficking said many of these girls ended up working as sex slaves in mining camps in Mali after they were tricked with promises of getting jobs in Europe.

In 2018, the government removed some 5,500 Nigerians from Libya following reports of abuse, slavery and torture.

"We shall, after COVID-19, engage countries where human trafficking is endemic with a view to rescuing and repatriating victims of trafficking as we did in Libya a few years ago," Okah-Donli said, referring to the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

"Human trafficking is a global problem and huge all over the world because of the large profit. It's an organised criminal network that cuts across local and international boundaries. more of it is for sexual and labour exploitation and of course organ harvesting," she added.

Al Jazeera

Related stories: Lebanese puts up Nigerian for sale on Facebook

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

Nigeria Defends Slow Pace of Virus Testing

Nigeria defended the slow pace of testing for the coronavirus amid a lockdown that’s paralyzed economic activity in its two main cities as concern over the government response to the outbreak grows.

The lockdown has kept more than 40 million people at home since March 30 and discontent is mounting in the country, which late February became the first in sub-Saharan Africa to identify a person with the virus. Health authorities have tested only 10,000 people out of a population of more than 200 million. Almost 900 infections have been reported, and 28 deaths.

Authorities have adopted a strategy of “managed acceleration” and won’t pool samples to multiply testing capacity as is currently being done in Ghana, which has rolled out one of the largest testing programs in the region, said Chikwe Ihekweazu, director general for the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.

“I would rather go a little bit slower and get it right than speed into a situation that we will end up regretting,” he said during a briefing by the World Health Organization on Thursday.

There are signs that Nigeria’s weak health system won’t be able to cope with a larger outbreak. At least four private hospitals in the commercial hub Lagos closed temporarily or ‘until further notice’ because they had to be decontaminated. A laboratory in the northern city of Kano, Nigeria’s third-largest, shut after two workers tested positive. And reports that 150 people died in the state with the same name this week have added to fears that the government response is inadequate.

“Our performance has been a show of shame,” said Cheta Nwanze, lead partner with Lagos-based risk consultancy SBM Intelligence. “It’s been completely uncoordinated, with different state governments doing different things at different times. We have essentially wasted four weeks of lockdown.”

The national pandemic response is based on a mix of the CDC’s guidelines and an existing influenza outbreak preparedness plan that will be turned into a single document, according to Sani Aliyu, chairman of Nigeria’s presidential task force on Covid-19. Nigeria had about 350 ventilators before the coronavirus outbreak, not all of them functional, and obtained at least 100 more in recent weeks, he said.

Still, the government is struggling to import the kits needed to enable existing tuberculosis and HIV centers to test for the coronavirus due to a global supply crisis, said Ihekweazu of the NCDC.

“Once we have these in, we will be able to quickly scale up testing across the country,” he said, without saying when they will arrive.

By Tope Alake


Thursday, April 23, 2020

Nigerian woman, 68, gives birth to twins after four IVF attempts

A Nigerian woman has given birth to twins, a boy, and a girl at the age of 68.

Margaret Adenuga went through three previous IVF procedures before finally having twins.

Her husband Noah Adenuga, 77 told CNN the couple, who married in 1974 had long desired to have a child of their own.

Adenuga said they never gave up even after the failed attempts.

The retired stock auditor told CNN, "I am a dreamer, and I was convinced this particular dream of ours will come to pass."

The babies were delivered via caesarian section at 37 weeks last Tuesday at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) but the hospital only recently made the news public to give the first-time mother time to recuperate, it said.

Dr. Adeyemi Okunowo, who delivered the babies, told CNN a specialist team was assembled at the hospital to monitor the pregnancy because of her age.

"As an elderly woman and a first-time mother, it was a high-risk pregnancy and also because she was going to have twins but we were able to manage her pregnancy to term," Okunowo told CNN.

Last year, a 73-year-old Indian woman was safely delivered of twin girls after she conceived through IVF and is reported to be the oldest person to give birth at that age.

Okunowo said even though older women are able to conceive through IVF, doctors must lay bare the medical risks associated with being pregnant at that age.

"There are age-related medical complications that come with being pregnant at that age such as the baby being born preterm. She's lucky but many may succumb to other complications during or after having a baby," he told CNN.


Why some Nigerians are gloating about Covid-19

In our series of letters from African writers, Nigerian novelist Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani reflects on the different attitudes of the rich and poor towards coronavirus.

Many Nigerians gloat that Covid-19 is mainly targeting the country's elite, particularly politicians, despite warnings that the life-threatening respiratory illness could hit the poor as well.

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control has recorded more than 600 cases since the end of February - most of them people who had been abroad, and those they had interacted with after their return to Africa's most-populous state, which has a population of about 200 million.

So far, Nigeria's list of people who got or have died from Covid-19 includes President Muhammadu Buhari's chief of staff, politicians, heads of government agencies, former ambassadors and their aides or relatives.

These are the kind of people who normally jet off to the UK, Germany, or the US at the slightest headache because Nigeria's state hospitals are poorly funded, run-down, and lack adequate equipment.

The 2020 government budget allocates only about 4.5% of spending for health, less than the 15% target the African Union had set for governments in 2001.

Doctors frequently embark on strikes over salaries not paid for months.

Mocking politicians

Many of them seize any opportunity to work abroad - nearly 2,000 of the doctors in the UK's state-run National Health Service qualified in Nigeria, according to a report presented to the UK's parliament last year.

Nigerians spent more than $1bn ($800m) on treatment in overseas hospitals in 2013.

President Buhari promised to end "medical tourism" when he took power in 2015, but he himself spent more than four months in London in 2017 getting treatment for an undisclosed illness and subsequently returning to the UK capital for additional care.

But with borders closed and each country haunted by its own Covid-19 nightmare, Nigeria's big men and women are now forced to use their country's hospitals, prompting a stream of taunts and jokes.

"This is your punishment for not investing in your country's health system," some say.

"I thought our hospitals were not good enough for you," others say.

Some Nigerians also hoped that the "selectiveness" of the virus might be God's way of bringing about changes in their government.

They latched on to rumours that Mr Buhari, 72, had been infected by his chief of staff, and was gravely ill on a ventilator.

The less malicious folk shrouded their great hope in a prayer: "Let God's will be done."

'God pulled a fast one'

Indignant at the expressions of ill will towards his boss, presidential spokesman Femi Adesina said: "Why do some people conjure nothing but evil? In 2017, while President Buhari had his medical challenge, they were on an orgy of negative wishes, misinformation, and disinformation.

"But God pulled a fast one on them. He brought the president back, as right as rain. Haven't they learned their lessons?"

The rumours finally ended after Mr Buhari - looking well - was videoed in a meeting with senior health officials.

A day later, on 29 March, Mr Buhari appeared on TV and ordered a 14-day lockdown of Nigeria's commercial hub Lagos, neighbouring Ogun state, and the capital city Abuja, giving their 30 million residents just 24 hours to prepare to stay at home.

Mr Buhari subsequently extended the lockdown by two weeks, deepening fears about how the poor will survive in their overcrowded neighbourhoods, without water, electricity, and little food.

But all the gloating could come to a swift end.

Covid-19 could spread more rapidly beyond the elites, who could pass it on to their retinue of "servants" - drivers, cooks, nannies and security guards, among others - who in turn could infect their families and neighbours in slums found in every major city.

'Not for the rich alone'

Social-distancing and self-isolation in a typical Nigerian slum is impossible.

About 30 families often cram into a building, sharing the same bathroom and toilet. The potential disaster is unimaginable.

As Ogun governor Dapo Abiodun said at the 30 March launch of a Covid-19 isolation centre in his state: "Contrary to the erroneous belief, this virus is not for the rich or elite alone. Everyone is at risk."

So while the lockdown causes much inconvenience and hardship for all Nigerians, especially the poor, it helps to maintain the vast gulf that exists in society, thus preventing those at the top from transmitting the virus to those at the bottom.

Nigeria's gross inequality has often been criticised, and rightly so, but the spread of Covid-19 is definitely one area where the nation cannot afford to have equality.


Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Lebanese puts up Nigerian for sale on Facebook

A Lebanese identified as Wael Jerro has claimed on Facebook that he has a Nigerian woman for sale at $1000.

The director-general of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons Dame Julie Okah-Donli told The Guardian on Tuesday that NAPTIP investigators were already working on the case.

Renee Abisaad, who first shared the news on her Instagram page, told The Guardian that Lebanese authorities were already involved in the matter.

Information of the biodata page of the international passport Jerro shared identified the Nigerian as Peace Ufuoma, born on May 19, 1988.

The passport was issued in Ibadan May 23, 2018, and will expire on May 22, 2023.

Although Wael Jerro’s account could not be found, the Facebook marketplace Jerro tagged in his post – Buy & Sell In Lebanon (Original) الأصلي – still appears on the social media platform.

Calls to the phone number listed on the Facebook page were not returned. But the operators of the page said it is only to facilitate buying and selling between interested parties and are not responsible for what is posted on the page.

“We are not legally responsible for an opinion, subject or comment, or for the direct broadcast, photos or publication published on our page from any subscriber,” information on the About section of the page said. The information was translated into English from Arabic.

The operators of the page also claimed that they are not responsible for the opinions, pictures and comments posted on the personal page of any of its subscriber and do “not check the subscriber or the personal subscriber page when agreeing to the request to join our page.”

Abisaad suggested Jerro may have deactivated his own page following a barrage of backlashes from Nigerians on Facebook.

“The whole nation went for him,” Abisaad, who was the second runner up in the 2013 edition of Miss Africa Lebanon said.

Lebanon again!

Two Nigerian women were rescued from Lebanon’s capital city Beirut last month.

One of the victims, an indigene of Oyo State, was trafficked to Beirut in September 2019. The other is an Ebonyi indigene was a salesgirl in Lagos before being trafficked to the Middle East country, also in September 2019.

“Both victims travelled by air as their visas and other travelling documents were procured by the suspect,” the Lagos Zonal Commander of the Agency, Mr Daniel Atokolo said.

Atokolo said a suspected trafficker was arrested and another mastermind, known as David, who was believed to have played a major role in the recruitment of the victims was at large.

Before the March rescue of the women, another Nigerian lady was freed from forced labour in the same country.

The story of 23-year-old Omolola Ajayi caught national attention after she posted a video on social media, detailing how she was deceived with a promise of a teaching job in Lebanon.

Another Nigerian woman Kikelomo Olayide, a mother of two, was rescued in February. She was rescued after her husband petitioned NAPTIP

The commander said the victim was allegedly trafficked by a 54–year-old Lebanese in October 2019.

Atokolo said that the suspect trafficked Olayide to Lebanon under the pretence of employing her as a caregiver to his aged mother in Lebanon.

“However, upon the victim’s arrival at Lebanon, she was received by an agent, who also handed her over to a family, where she was exploited as a domestic servant.

“The victim also reported that she was sexually harassed while working for the said family,” the NAPTIP Lagos Commander said.

According to Atokolo, when Olayide’s husband approached the suspect to return his wife, he was threatened.

“The suspect demanded that the victim would only be returned if the victim’s family provides another person to replace her. This is so sad,” the state commander said.

By Timileyin Omilana

The Guardian

Nigeria reports biggest single-day increase in COVID-19 cases

Nigeria confirmed Tuesday night 117 new cases of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, the biggest single-day increase since the most populous African country reported the first case on Feb. 27.

As of 11:25 p.m. Tuesday local time (2225 GMT), Nigeria has reported a total of 782 cases, the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) said, adding that it has seen 197 cases discharged from hospitals and 25 deaths across the country.

So far the pandemic has spread to the capital city of Abuja and 24 states.

Lagos, the country's economic hub, also the worst-hit state by COVID-19, recorded 59 news cases on Tuesday, bringing its total to 430. The Federal Capital Territory, where the capital Abuja is located, came second with 29 new cases on Tuesday and a total number of 118 cases.

The disease could make its way to every state in Nigeria, NCDC Director-General Chikwe Ihekweazu has warned in a programme on local broadcast Channels TV.

Since the outbreak in Nigeria, the government has stopped international and domestic passenger flights, closed all educational institutions and introduced a lockdown in Abuja, Lagos and Ogun states, among other measures, to curb the virus's spread.

On April 13, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari announce the decision to extend the lockdown in the three states for two weeks, when several other states also adopted lockdown measures on their own.

All airports will remain closed for two more weeks from Thursday as a result of the extension on lockdown, Nigerian Aviation Minister Hadi Sirika said Monday.

Health authorities in Lagos have deployed sampling units for COVID-19 across the local government areas, where samples would be collected from civilians who meet the designated testing criteria.

The strategy aims to expand COVID-19 testing at the community level, said Lagos State Commissioner for Health Akin Abayomi in a statement on Monday.


President Buhari asks Nigeria's chief judge to free prisoners due to COVID-19

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has asked the chief judge to free prison inmates who have been awaiting trial for six years or more to ease overcrowding as the novel coronavirus continues to spread, a spokesman said on Tuesday.

A statement quoted Buhari as saying 42 percent of Nigeria's 74,000 or so prisoners were awaiting trial. He urged Chief Judge Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad to reduce that number "since physical distancing and self-isolation in such conditions are practically impossible".

Buhari said inmates with no confirmed criminal cases against them, elderly prisoners and those who are terminally ill could be discharged.

"Most of these custodial centres are presently housing inmates beyond their capacities and the overcrowded facilities pose a potent threat to the health of the inmates and the public in general in view of the present circumstances, hence the need for urgent steps to bring the situation under control," he said.

Two weeks ago, Buhari pardoned 2,600 prisoners who were either 60 or older, terminally ill, or had less than six months left to serve of sentences of three years or more.

Nigeria is Africa's most populous country, with some 200 million people. As of Wednesday morning, the West African country has 782 confirmed cases and reported 25 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

The country has introduced measures to stop the spread of the virus including closing its borders and locking down the capital Abuja, the commercial hub, Lagos, and the adjacent state, Ogun.

Al Jazeera

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Nigerian immigration to Canada is booming

In 2019, Nigeria became the fourth-leading source country of new immigrants to Canada, behind India, China, and the Philippines.

A total of 12,600 Nigerians gained permanent residence last year, which represents a tripling of Nigerian immigration to Canada since 2015.

The vast majority of Nigerians came to Canada as economic class immigrants. The main way that Canada manages economic class immigration applications is through Express Entry, and 65 per cent of Nigerian immigrants gained Canadian permanent resident status through Express Entry in 2019.

Nigeria was actually the third-leading source country of those who received an invitations to apply (ITA) for permanent residence under Express Entry last year.

Why Nigerian immigration to Canada is booming

Several factors explain the rise in Nigerian immigration to Canada.

The oil-rich nation has seen its economic growth slow since the decline in global oil prices in 2014. Nigeria’s economy was growing by around 5 per cent per year leading up to 2014, but growth has since weakened to around 2 per cent annually.

As a result, more Nigerian professionals have sought to come to countries such as Canada in pursuit of economic opportunity.

Canada is an attractive destination for Nigerians because it offers economic opportunities in sectors which are appealing to Nigerian professionals, such as oil and gas, ICT, health care, and other STEM-related fields.

Nigerian professionals may also fare well under Express Entry’s Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS). Factors such as English-language proficiency, having a high level of education, and possessing professional work experience are all taken into consideration when immigration candidates submit Express Entry profiles, factors which the Nigerian professionals who immigrate to Canada possess.

Given that English is their mother tongue, Nigerians have a significant advantage under Express Entry compared with most other nationalities since English-language proficiency comprises a major component of the CRS.

Post-coronavirus: Canada set to welcome more Nigerian immigrants

Once the coronavirus has been contained and we return to a sense of normalcy, we should continue to expect higher levels of Nigerian immigration to Canada.

Global oil prices have plummeted once again, which will create economic challenges for oil-rich countries around the world.

Canada’s rising immigration levels over the coming years will open up more economic class immigration spots, including through Express Entry.

Canada’s openness to immigrants also runs in stark contrast to other countries which have historically welcomed high levels of Nigerian immigrants, such as the United States and Great Britain. The recent U.S. decision to expand its travel ban to include Nigeria may result in more prospective Nigerian immigrants looking to Canada.

More Nigerians are also studying in Canada. There are currently around 12,000 Nigerian students in Canada, and these students will be well-placed to transition to permanent resident status due to their youth, English language fluency, Canadian education, and Canadian work experience.

When you add these factors together, it is reasonable to expect further increases in the number of Nigerian immigrants welcomed by Canada.

CIC News

Nigeria Extends Closure of Airports by 2 Weeks to Contain Virus

Nigeria extended the closing of the West African nation’s airports for two weeks as it continues a lockdown to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

The decision is subject to review when appropriate, Aviation Minister Hadi Sirika said in an emailed statement.

Nigeria closed its international airports for one month on March 23, a week before President Muhammadu Buhari ordered a two-week lockdown of the capital, Abuja, the commercial hub, Lagos and neighboring Ogun state. The stay-at-home directive was also extended to the end of April.

By Emele Onu 


Monday, April 20, 2020

Armed bandits kill at least 47 in Nigeria's Katsina state

Armed bandits have killed at least 47 people in attacks on several villages in the northwestern Nigerian state of Katsina.

The attacks took place in the early hours of Saturday, between 12:30am (23:30 GMT Friday) and around 3am (02:00GMT), Katsina police said in its statement on Sunday.

"Detachments of Police, Nigerian Army, Nigeria Airforce, Civil Defence and DSS (Department of State Services) have been drafted to the area," the statement added.

Police spokesman Gambo Isah told the dpa news agency that the attacks were carried out by more than 300 armed men.

"We are combing the forest to arrest those behind the attack," added Isah.

The bandits reportedly demanded food items and other relief materials delivered to the villagers as part of government's efforts to help locals during the coronavirus lockdown, the local Channels TV reported.

Hundreds of people have been killed in the last year by criminal gangs carrying out robberies and kidnappings in northwest Nigeria.

Such attacks have added to security challenges in Africa’s most populous country, which is already struggling to contain Boko Haram attacks in the northeast and communal violence over grazing rights in central states.

Al Jazeera

Friday, April 17, 2020

Nigerian tailors are hand-making PPE to help fight coronavirus

As the world experiences a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, tailors in Nigeria are responding by hand-making equipment like overalls and face masks.

Rising demand, panic buying, hoarding, and misuse have disrupted the global supply of PPE, according to the World Health Organization, putting lives at risk.
Now, tailors in Abia state, in the southeast of the country, are using local fabrics, cotton, and polypropylene to sew PPE for people looking to protect themselves.

With cases of Covid-19 rising in Nigeria, the Abia state government released a 12 million naira (about $31,000) grant to support tailors to make the protective gear.

The grant was disbursed to 100 selected tailors at the start of April to help them buy additional equipment, source materials and employ more people, according to Sam Hart, the director-general of the Abia State Marketing and Quality Management Agency.

Hart explained that the initial face mask samples were examined by a team of medical experts and that the gear is intended for citizens looking for protection, rather than for health workers.

Local solution

So far, tailors in Aba, the state's commercial nerve center, have produced 200,000 face masks and 3,000 overalls, the agency said.
One of the tailors, Queen Duruibe, told CNN that the overalls she makes are waterproof and puncture-resistant, and are made from a polyamide fabric coated with protective materials.
Her face masks are made with cotton and polypropylene and are hypoallergenic, she said. She also produces decorative face masks made from a colorful print fabric, which aren't intended to protect from coronavirus.

Duruibe had been producing face masks since January but says she has now taken on more staff and converted her fashion store to make up to 10,000 masks per day.
"I sew different types of clothes here in Aba and I usually buy my materials from China," she said. "But when coronavirus happened, they (her suppliers) started telling me how bad things are, that there are no materials and face masks are scarce.

"So I thought to myself that if things are so scarce, I can actually start producing them myself."

Finding buyers

The equipment produced by the tailors is sold for around 200 naira (roughly 50 cents), according to Hart, and it is finding a range of buyers.

"We had a pharmacist who bought 10,000 pieces to stock in his pharmacy for sale," he said. "The PPE overalls and face masks have been made available to the public -- anybody can order. We even have some Nigerians in the diaspora who have made bulk orders for their communities and villages here in Abia."

The state government has also ordered masks, which it will distribute to the most vulnerable citizens, according to John Okiyi, the state commissioner for communications.

"65,000 of these facemasks have already been distributed in some local governments through churches and mosques," he told CNN. "The government has also ordered the production of an additional 150,000 face masks for further distribution."

He added that the state government has distributed N95 face masks to health workers, because those are more suited to medical professionals.

Beating coronavirus

Abia currently has no confirmed cases of coronavirus, but there have been more than 400 cases in Nigeria. The country has put in place travel restrictions to control the spread of the virus, and all international airports and land borders have been closed.

Three of Nigeria's 36 states -- Lagos, Ogun, and Abuja -- have imposed an extended lockdown that began on March 30. Abia state is also on a self-imposed lockdown.

Duruibe, like many of the other tailors, says she is happy to help control the spread of Covid-19. "For me, I am doing my part in any way I can to aid those fighting the coronavirus pandemic," she said.

By Aisha Salaudeen


Thursday, April 16, 2020

Video - Coronavirus fallout: IMF says Nigeria economy to shrink by 3.4 %

The International Monetary Fund says Nigeria's economy is expected to shrink by 3.4 percent this year and Africa's largest economy could face a recession lasting until 2021. Oil-rich Nigeria has been hit by the plunge in the demand for energy set off by the global lockdown against COVID-19. And the country's jobless rate, already at 23 percent, is expected to climb even higher. . Al Jazeera's Ahmed Idris reports from Abuja.

Video - Nigerian Foreign Minister denies allegations Africans are being mistreated in China

The Nigerian Foreign Minister has denied allegations Africans are being mistreated in southern China's Guangzhou. Geoffrey Onyeama says the city's control measures are not targeting Nigerians.

At least 19 killed in ethnic fighting in Nigeria

At least 19 people have been killed in fighting between members of ethnic groups in central Nigeria's Taraba state over ownership of a fishing lake, police said.

The violence broke out on Monday between the Shomo and Jole ethnic groups in Lau district.

"Nineteen people were confirmed dead," state police spokesman David Misal told AFP news agency on Wednesday.

"Around 100 houses were burned and several people were also injured."

Misal said long-standing animosity between the neighbouring communities over the lake's ownership had already cost dozens of lives.

He said the government had banned fishing around the lake after unsuccessful attempts at reconciliation by state authorities and the police. "However some miscreants flouted the ban ... leading to the clashes," Misal said.

President Muhammadu Buhari condemned the clashes in a statement late on Tuesday, expressing sadness at "the resort to violence over disagreements that could be resolved through dialogue".

"These frequent incidents of ethnic and communal violence is a failure of community leadership and the refusal to embrace dialogue as a means of conflict resolution," Buhari said

Communal clashes over land and water rights are common in parts of Nigeria, especially between nomadic herders and farmers in the centre of the country.

Al Jazeera

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

'Unacceptable' - Nigeria condemns treatment of citizens in China

Nigeria has condemned the "extremely distressing" and "unacceptable" footage appearing to show its citizens in China maltreated because of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a meeting with Chinese Ambassador Zhou Pingjian in his office in Abuja on Tuesday, Nigeria's Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama said: "There were videos circulating on social media of very disturbing scenes and incidents involving Nigerians in the city of Guangzhou."

Onyeama said it appeared that Nigerians were being discriminated against at hotels and restaurants and being stigmatised as supposed carriers of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

"We saw images of Nigerians in the streets with their possessions and this was, of course, extremely distressing for us at home," he said.

He said the situation was "unacceptable" to the Nigerian government and its people, and needed "immediate action" from the Chinese authorities.

The Chinese ambassador said Beijing was taking the issues the minister raised "very seriously" and said China would continue to foster cordial ties with Nigeria.

The conversation followed accusations of discrimination in the southern city of Guangzhou linked to the coronavirus pandemic.

Having brought under control the original outbreak centred on the city of Wuhan, Beijing is now concerned about imported cases and is stepping up scrutiny of foreigners coming into the country and tightening border controls.

And while Beijing has denied discrimination, Africans in China say they have become targets of suspicion and subjected to forced evictions, arbitrary quarantines and mass coronavirus testing.

Earlier on Tuesday, US fast-food chain McDonald's apologised for a sign in one of its restaurants in Guangzhou telling black people they were banned from entering.

On Saturday, the African Union expressed "extreme concern" about the situation in Guangzhou and called on the Chinese government to take immediate corrective measures.

Al Jazeera

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Video -Nigeria football supporters hopeful postponements can end soon

It's a tough time for football fans in Nigeria, where the game is the most popular among every other sports. With all sporting activities across the world suspended as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, both fans and players of football in Nigeria say they miss the game a lot. CGTN's Deji Badmus has more.

Nigeria extends coronavirus lockdown in key cities for two weeks

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has announced a 14-day extension to a lockdown in Lagos, Abuja and Ogun states to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

In a televised address on Monday, Buhari said "it has become necessary to extend the current restriction of movement" that was set to expire later in the day.

Initial 14-day lockdowns in the three areas began on March 30.

There are currently 323 confirmed cases of the virus in Nigeria, with 71 percent of them registered in Lagos and the capital territory of Abuja. Ten people have died so far.

"It is a matter of life and death," Buhari said of the nation's response. "The repercussions of any premature end to the lockdown action are unimaginable."
Economic hardship

Nigeria, with 200 million people, is Africa's most populous nation. Some 20 million reside in the megacity of Lagos.

Health experts have raised alarms over the impact of a major coronavirus outbreak, warning that the country's unprepared and underfunded healthcare system could quickly become overwhelmed.

The extension of the lockdown is expected to add to the hardship of millions of Nigerians living hand-to-mouth, often on less than one dollar a day.

Buhari said he was "fully aware of the great difficulties experienced especially by those who earn a daily wage".

"But despite these realities, we must not change the restrictions," he added.

The government has pledged a series of support measures to ease the financial pain for the most vulnerable, but there have been widespread complaints that not enough is being done for those facing hunger.

"The vast majority of Nigerians depend on daily wages, they have to go out to get money and buy food to put it on the table for their families," Al Jazeera's Ahmed Idris, reporting from the capital, Abuja, said.

"For the next two weeks, they are going to stay at home with no work and no chance of getting money."

Meanwhile, police said on Monday that they were bolstering forces in Lagos and Ogun after almost 200 suspects were arrested amid fears of a spike in crime during the lockdown.

Buhari said compliance with the stay-at-home order and other restrictions introduced by state governors across the country had been "generally good".

But he cautioned that "a large proportion of new infections are now occurring in our communities".

Al Jazeera

Friday, April 10, 2020

Nigerians struggle as virus lockdown hits supply chains

At a market on the outskirts of Nigeria’s megacity Lagos, yam trader Olatunji Okesanya is scrambling for produce as measures to halt the coronavirus cut him off from suppliers.

“The restriction in the movement has disrupted supply — the farmers are finding it difficult to get their produce to Lagos,” he told AFP.

“The few who are able are bribing the security agents and this is making the price to rise.”

Authorities in Africa’s most populous nation are battling to stop the spread of a virus that has led to 288 confirmed infections and seven deaths.

Lagos, an economic hub of 20 million, is deep into the second week of a lockdown that has left it a shadow of its usually frenetic self.

The capital Abuja is also shut down and other states around the country have imposed their own restrictions.

Officials insist that the measures are needed to contain a disease that threatens to wreak havoc on the weak health system.

But farmers, sellers, and consumers complain the fight against the virus has turned Nigeria into a patchwork of roadblocks and regulations that have ruptured business links.

‘Losses are piling up’ 

Wale Oni has seen the lockdown in Lagos and neighbouring Ogun state hit his fish farm hard.

Travel restrictions have prevented him from feeding his stock properly and blocked customers from picking up their orders.

“Profits are being wiped off and losses are piling up,” he lamented.

“Feed prices and transportation costs have gone up.”

In a sign of how desperate the situation is getting many of the fish have started eating each other.

The coronavirus crisis has already battered Nigeria’s finances.

Africa’s biggest oil producer has seen government revenues gutted by a collapse in crude prices.

The authorities have frozen loan repayments for farmers and small businesses in a bid to ease the pain but many are demanding more action.

Analysts warn there could still be much tougher times ahead as the lockdowns push up costs and upset supply chains.

“As the pandemic looks set to be around for at least the next few months, we believe that consumers should prepare for even more price increases,” said Nigeria’s SBM Intelligence in a note.

“This development would have important implications for the health of the economy and largely determine whether the country’s present anaemic growth track turns into a full downturn.”

Bribes and banks 

In theory food supplies should be exempt from most of the restrictions in place against the coronavirus and free to be transported.

But in a country eaten away by corruption, officers at checkpoints have often manipulated the situation to rake in money from bribes.

Other vital supplies like fertilisers fall into a grey zone and there could be a serious knock-on impact if these do not get through for the upcoming planting season.

“Our members have been arrested in some states while trying to deliver their products to farmers,” Kabiru Fara of the Nigerian Agro-Inputs Dealers Association told AFP.

Importers are also facing major hurdles that have seen the volumes of goods coming into Lagos through its clogged port dwindle.

“The banks are in fact closed and though theoretically it is possible to pay customs duties online, not all importers are able to do so,” said one employee at a major importer.

“As a result volume of deliveries of cargo are probably down 50 percent.”

‘We are getting hungry’ 

Securing their supplies is just one of the headaches for vendors.

In the ramshackle Obalende market on Lagos Island stallholders said that just as their costs were rising so customer numbers were falling.

The lockdown means that millions of poor in the city are struggling to make ends meet and do not have spare cash to spend.

“The price of transport has increased, so everything increases,” said Basseg Kate, sitting in front of her stores of rice, tomato paste and eggs.

“But we are making small prices for customers because they don’t have money.”

The authorities have restricted markets to working every other day, meaning produce can spoil.

“Everything is rotting,” said Ma Victor, waving flies away from her wares.

“Yesterday I wasn’t allowed to sell, now all my tomatoes are spoilt.”

Ernest Crusoe, a civil servant, was out looking for food — but he barely had any money left to buy it.

“We eat once a day now, the rest of the time we go and rest,” he said, showing the few small banknotes he had to spend.

“This thing is affecting us. We are getting hungry.”

The Guardian

Nigeria Ending Fuel Subsidies With Oil at Record-Low Prices

Nigeria is ending decades of subsidies paid to ensure uniform gasoline prices in Africa’s biggest oil producer with crude prices at historical lows, the state-owned energy company said.

Official gasoline prices have been cut twice in as many weeks, a move the Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. said was intended to bring them in line with the current market situation. Nigeria relies on fuel imports to meet its domestic needs with four ill-maintained state refineries barely functional.

“What we are putting in place today is a situation where market forces will take control of prices and eliminate subsidy,” Mele Kyari, group managing director of the company also known as NNPC said in a Twitter post. Savings from the measure would be spent to build infrastructure, boost health care and education, he said.

Crude prices are down about 40% from the budget peg of $57 per barrel as the collapse of demand due to the coronavirus pandemic and a price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia pushed crude prices to record lows. Brent crude, which compares with Nigerian export grades, traded at $33.65 per barrel as of 17:05 p.m, in London, after trading under $30 in the previous two weeks.

By Elisha Bala-Gbogbo


How the basic Nigerian email scam evolved into sophisticated malware attacks on corporates

Nigerian internet fraudsters, best known for romance scams and infamous business propositions from “Nigerian princes,” are now operating with a lot more sophistication.

Last August, a major bust by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) offered some insight into the growing scale and capabilities of Nigerian online fraudsters. Federal agents arrested 14 fraudsters operating within the US as part of a prolific network of scammers and named 66 others in a 252-count federal grand jury indictment. The fraudsters had defrauded victims of up to $10 million in one of the “largest cases of its kind in US history.” In total, the ring had attempted to steal $40 million from victims in 10 countries as well as the US.

A new report by Palo Alto Networks, a California-based cyber-security company which says it has researched Nigerian cyber-crime for five years, tries to show how these fraudsters have become a lot more proficient at scams over the past five years, employing more sophisticated tactics and tools to carry out Business Email Compromise (BEC) scams. It’s a long way from the classic “Yahoo Yahoo boys” scams 15 odd years ago.

While Nigerian actors were previously classed as “emerging” with regard to malware attacks, recent evidence suggests they “have evolved to a point where they are demonstrating signs of maturity consistent with established threat groups in their delivery techniques, malware packaging, and technical abilities,” Palo Alto Networks’ report notes. Last year, the firm’s malware tracking service identified around 27,000 samples of malware associated with Nigerian actors.

The researchers note the “dominant proportionality and sheer enormity” of BEC scam attempts from Nigerian actors. Last year, BEC scam attempts from these fraudsters resulted in an average of 92,739 attacks per month—172% increase from 2018.

Here’s how BEC scams work: fraudsters use hacked email accounts to convince businesses or individuals to make payments that are either bogus or similar to actual payments owed to legitimate companies. As part of the scam, fraudsters also learn about key personnel in companies who are responsible for those payments as well as the protocols necessary to perform wire transfers in various companies. They then target businesses and individuals that regularly perform such wire transfer payments.

Around $1.7 billion in losses were attributed to BEC attacks last year, more than losses to romance scams, phishing, identity theft, credit card fraud and ransomware, according to the annual report of the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.

The antics of these fraudsters have come at a wider cost for most Nigerians, as students, business people and tourists are often subject to extra scrutiny from international payment platforms, potential business partners and embassies for visa applications. While successive Nigerian governments have made significant efforts to curb international online fraud from the source at home by awarding notable powers to its anti-fraud agency, the state of the country’s weak economy and large swathes of educated, unemployed young college graduates means fraud is still seen by some as being worth the risk.

However, while growing sophisticated in their methods, Nigerian online fraudsters still “remain indiscriminate in their targeting” with attacks attempted on small and large businesses, healthcare companies as well US government institutions. However, high-tech companies bore the largest brunt of these efforts recording around 313,000 attacks last year—more than double the number in 2018.

And yet, the digital persona linked with young Nigerians has started to change markedly in recent years given several success stories in the country’s fledgling tech ecosystem over the last decade. Nigerian tech startups, innovating to solve many of the country’s systemic problems—from digital payments to online education—have attracted the most funding across Africa last year from major investors.

Nigerian software developers have also become widely sought afterbeyond the country’s shores, partly prompting a $100 million dollar bet on African development talent by software giant, Microsoft.

But even in Nigeria, local police have often “profiled” young men with laptops as online fraudsters as an excuse for harassment and extortion. This has led to significant protests and crowdfunding legal aid by the burgeoning tech community.

By Yomi Kazeem


Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Nollywood star arraigned for breaching coronavirus rules

A popular Nigerian actress has been arraigned in court for throwing a birthday party during a lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus in the country's commercial capital, Lagos.

Funke Akindele, a Nollywood film star popularly known as Jenifa, and her husband pleaded guilty in court and were each fined 100,000 naira ($260).

The court also sentenced them to 14 days of community service.

It ruled that the couple "shall visit 10 important public places within Lagos State to educate the public on the consequences of non-compliance with the restriction order."

They were accused of hosting guests at Saturday's bash for her husband in their upscale residence in Lekki.

Other alleged guests at the party, including well-known singer Naira Marley, have been told to report to the police criminal investigation department for questioning, Lagos state police spokesman Bala Elkana said on Monday.

Akindele's actions sparked angry reaction online from her fans after she earlier appeared in advertisements calling on Nigerians to observe social-distancing measures.

The actress issued an apology on her Instagram page on Sunday.

"I am sorry if I have misled you. I appreciate your concerns and I promise to always practice what I preach," she said. "I promise to always support the government in creating more awareness to eradicate this pandemic."

Al Jazeera

Nigeria's mega churches adjust to empty auditoriums

The auditoriums of Nigeria's mega churches are empty and their gates are shut as they are forced to observe a government ban on large gatherings to halt the spread of coronavirus.

But it took not only threats, but force and arrests for the message to get across.

In some cases those in charge of making the churches bolt their doors turned to the scriptures.

"May I use the words of [Prophet] Mordechai: 'For such as time as this we do what is appropriate,'" said the leader of an enforcing team in the capital, Abuja, as he arrested a pastor in front of his congregation.

Dressed all in black, had he had a collar he would have passed for a preacher with his baritone voice and gesticulations.

The pastor he led out of the church, donned in a burgundy-coloured suit, shiny black shoes and with hair that glowed in the sun, looked like many of those who now lead huge congregations in the West African nation.

These preachers have changed the face of Christianity in Nigeria - with their evangelical sermons, prophecies and promises of miracles.

Conspiracy theories

One of the most famous of these is TB Joshua, who last month claimed to be divinely inspired, predicting that the coronavirus pandemic would be over by 27 March, several days before a lockdown was imposed on the states of Lagos, Ogun and the capital, Abuja.

"By the end of this month, whether we like it or not, no matter the medicine they might have produced to cure whatever, it will go the way it came," he said to applause from his congregation.

When 27 March passed the TV evangelist found himself mocked for his "false prophesy".

But he defended himself - once again to cheers from worshippers - by saying: "What I meant was that the virus would be halted where it began, and in Wuhan it has stopped."

Other pastors have been accused of flying in the face of the authorities and spreading fake news, impeding efforts to stop the spread of coronavirus.

The biggest controversy has been caused by Christ Embassy pastor Chris Oyakhilome, who in a video post that went viral, linked the virus to 5G networks and alleged that it was part of a plot to create a "new world order".

Such views have been widely condemned by scientists, who say the idea of a connection between Covid-19 and 5G is "complete rubbish" and biologically impossible.

Online prayer services

For some Christians, especially those who belong to the dwindling pews of the Anglican and Catholic churches, more needs to be done to weaken the influence of the mega pastors who exploit vulnerable people.

"Those that sell us the miracle waters, the holy oils and all that, this is the time to prove it," said Blessing Ugonna, a woman I met in Lagos.

But many of the mega churches, which run multi-million dollar business empires, have adapted to the changes brought about by the virus.

They are streaming prayer services online, and some families are trying to create an atmosphere at home by dressing up in their Sunday outfits with the head of the household even collecting "offerings" - or money - from the rest of the family to give to their church.

The churches are also making donations to the government and financially stricken worshippers in a move that is likely to see them retain popularity.

Pastor Enoch Adeboye - the head of Redeemed Christian Church of God that has a branch in almost every street in mainly Christian cities and towns in southern Nigeria - has donated 200,000 hand gloves, 8,000 hand sanitisers, 8,000 surgical face masks to the Lagos state government..

And the Mountain of Holy Ghost Intervention Church - whose self-styled prophet Chukwuemeka Odumeje once caused a stir on social media for wrestling a congregant he claimed to be possessed by a demon - has earned some praise on Twitter for giving food to people who risk hunger during the two-week lockdown.

Empty streets on Holy week

Nevertheless, many Christians still yearn to go to church - and last Sunday was particularly difficult for them as it was Palm Sunday.

Usually, the streets of Lagos are packed on the day, with processions being held as the faithful wave palm leaves and re-enact Jesus' arrival in Jerusalem days before his crucifixion.

The streets were empty this year - just as they are likely to be over the Easter weekend.

But I did bump into a group of four - three women and a man - returning from a small service held in someone's home.

When I asked them why they had ignored advice to pray alone in their own homes, one of them replied: "Even the Bible said that where two or three are gathered, He is there in their midst. The Bible did not say one person."

'Prayer warriors'

I then went to the headquarters of the Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries, known for its intense prayer sessions, in Ogun state.

The security guards told me there was no service.

"Not even an online service?" I asked.

"Not even online," one of them, dressed in a lemon-coloured vest, replied.

"So how are people keeping the faith?" I inquired.

He dug into his bag and put a booklet into my hands.

"That's what they are reading while the lockdown lasts," he said, before walking away and shutting the gate with more force than was required.

The 60-page booklet was called Thirty Days Prayer Retreat - with recitations from the books of the Bible.

It will not be surprising if the "prayer warriors", as the church calls some of its worshippers, complete it during the 14-day lockdown, rather than in a month.

By Nduka Orjinmo


Nigeria visa firm owned by man on fraud charges

The owner of the Nigerian government-appointed company which produces visas for people wishing to travel to Nigeria from around the world is facing charges of fraud and money laundering in Nigeria in relation to a different company, the BBC has learnt in a joint investigation with the Premium Times.

There is no suggestion of wrongdoing by the visa-processing company and the allegations have no relation to the management of the visa business.

Mahmood Ahmadu, together with his former company Drexel Tech, was charged by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), on two counts of fraud and three counts of money laundering.

Three others, including former Interior Minister Abba Moro, face charges of fraud and breach of public procurement laws.

All those charged, including Mr Moro and Mr Ahmadu, deny any wrongdoing.

Mr Ahmadu has been highly regarded in Nigeria and was given the Order Of The Niger, a prestigious national award, by President Goodluck Jonathan in 2014.

His lawyers say at no time did the EFCC or any other authority in Nigeria or elsewhere declare him "wanted". They say he is not standing trial. He maintains his innocence and his lawyers deny that he is facing charges.

Stadium stampede

But the EFCC charge sheet alleges that Mr Ahmadu, together with other defendants, was involved in organising a recruitment exercise that led to the deaths of Nigerians.

Mr Ahmadu's former company, Drexel Tech, was engaged in 2013 to organise a recruitment drive supposedly for 4,000 vacancies in the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS).

However the NIS later said there were no vacancies. In total, 676,675 Nigerians applied for the jobs, paying 1,000 naira (£2; $2.30) each to register.

When dates for a recruitment exercise were set, several people died during a stampede as thousands of jobseekers scrambled into the Abuja National Stadium to take part in the exercise allegedly organised by the Interior Ministry.

"I was surprised about the recruitment exercise because I was not aware of it," then NIS Controller General, David Paradang, later told the Federal High Court in Abuja.

'Hiding in Europe'

The EFCC has said that Mr Ahmadu, who the charge sheet describes as "at large", and the co-accused, made a total of 677m naira (£1.4m; $1.6m) from the recruitment exercise.

The charge sheet alleges that Mr Ahmadu and Drexel Tech Nigeria Ltd spent part of the money to purchase property in Abuja while just over 100 million naira, it is claimed, was converted to dollars for the personal use of Mr Ahmadu and the company.

While all the other co-accused, including Mr Moro, presented themselves for questioning and are currently standing trial, the EFCC says that Mr Ahmadu did not come forward to talk about his alleged role in the recruitment exercise.

Back in 2016, then spokesperson of the EFCC, Wilson Uwujiaren, told the Nation newspaper: "We may enlist Interpol and relevant agencies in the UK to track down Mahmood Ahmadu. He used to have companies in the UK and with his biometrics, there is no hiding place for him. We have already watch-listed him."

Last week, the EFCC's current spokesperson, Tony Orilade, told the BBC that there is still a case against Mr Ahmadu.

"The charge sheet reads that he is at large. The position of the EFCC is clear: the proceeds of the recruitment remains illegal...

"The EFCC is aware he is hiding in Europe. He has not been seen since arraignment."

By Sam Piranty


Tuesday, April 7, 2020

'The Fastest Shedder,' the reality show fighting obesity in Nigeria

Fitness trainer and healthy lifestyle enthusiast, Seyi Olusore is helping people keep fit and lose weight through his show -- the 'Fastest Shedder.'

The show, which started in 2015, is Nigeria's first weight-loss reality show and is modeled on the 'Biggest Loser' in the United States.

"I believe in working out anywhere with anything if you can afford it, some can't afford a personal trainer or you can't afford to go to all the way to the gym, you could just work out in the comfort of your home, office, anywhere. So, I just use my creativity to bring up routines," Olusore told CNN.

Rigorous training  
Olusore says he was inspired to create the show as a way to enlighten Nigerians about the benefits of practicing healthy eating habits and keeping fit.

It is a 90-day weight-loss reality show for women that incorporates physical training and healthy eating habits.

"I've realized that a lot of women, a lot of plus size women, they face body shaming. They are quick to...look down on themselves in terms of self-esteem," he said.

About two-thirds of Nigerian adults are either obese or overweight, according to a study by BMC public health,

Olusore wants to reduce these numbers.

The fastest shedder gathers 10 plus-sized women interested in losing weight and puts them through rigorous training on TV.

The winner is usually the contestant with the highest weight loss percentage after 90 days.
The show has different trainers who handle different activities that help the contestants lose weight like Zumba, aqua aerobics, cardio, yoga, and kickboxing.

After 21 days, contestants who record the lowest weight loss gains are put up for eviction. Their continued stay in the house is decided by their housemates and viewers who are able to vote online.
Past winners have won a car and a trip to Dubai.

The show, which is currently in its third season, sees the contestants take part in a 21-day detox diet and they are expected to drink at least three liters of water per day.

Like all great reality shows, it is the contestants journies that keeps the viewers coming back. Those like Yetunde Sarah who told CNN she is trying to learn to love her body after years of emotional turmoil.

"After all that I have been through in my life... emotionally, psychologically, mentally, everything. I just decided one day, and I said this is the time for me to love myself more," she told CNN.

Passion over profit

The show is something of a labor of love for Olusore, who has to sometimes dig into personal funds and rely on family and friends to bail him out to keep it running.

"We're giving them [the contestants] clothes; we're giving them the best of the best trainers... imagine having to rely on my funds that, you know, I'm supposed to take care of myself and my family, but I'm now spending, sacrificing it on the Fastest Shedder," he said.

Despite the challenges, Olusore says more than anything else, he is more passionate about helping people keep fit and eat healthily.

"It's something I just love doing, it's passion over profit. When I see persons, who couldn't fit into some clothes, fit into it... that alone gives me more joy... So it's fulfillment for me," he said.


Nigeria COVID-19 survivor: 'An experience I don't wish on anyone'

For Oluwaseun Osowobi, the symptoms began shortly after she returned from a trip to London.

The 29-year-old Nigerian activist was in the United Kingdom capital to attend on March 9 the Commonwealth Day Service, where she was the official flag bearer.

But after arriving in Nigeria's commercial capital, Lagos, she fell ill and decided to get tested for COVID-19, the highly infectious respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus.

The test came back positive and Osowobi was taken to a specialised facility to receive medical care. She remained at an isolation ward until last week, when she was discharged following her recovery from COVID-19.

Osowobi, who runs the Stand to End Rape Initiative, a group advocating against sexual violence, spoke to Al Jazeera about contracting the new coronavirus, her experience at the isolation centre and what she plans to do now. The interview below has slightly been edited for brevity and clarity.

Al Jazeera: How does it feel having recovered from the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19)?

Osowobi: It feels great to have survived COVID-19. If you see the data of people who have passed away due to the virus, they are alarming. I'm really grateful to be alive but also grateful for the experience as I am able to share with people that COVID-19 is not a hoax like many people may believe in Nigeria.

Al Jazeera: What symptoms did you have when you fell ill? How did it feel?

Osowobi: I had high fever, was coughing heavily and had loss of appetite. I had a lot of symptoms on the COVID-19 list so I knew I had to get tested just to be sure of what the situation was because I was feeling really sick and wasn't getting better.

The virus kicked my system. It made me very weak. I was dizzy every second, I was throwing up. I lost my sense of taste but my sense of smell heightened so I could smell everything like water, food, even soaps. Everything was just disgusting to me. It was a very tough period, a very tough moment for me but I am happy I beat it.

It was an experience I don't wish anyone to have.

Al Jazeera: What was running through your mind when you found out that your test was positive?

Osowobi: The first thing that came to my mind was, "Am I going to die?" I feared that am I going to be one of the people to be counted as dead. I was asking myself, "Is Nigeria ready to handle the situation? Is Lagos state capable to handle the situation as of now?"

I was just very scared.

Al Jazeera: What was the experience with the doctors and nurses at the treatment centre?

Osowobi: It was good. Despite a very shaky start, we were able to build a relationship as things went by. I was also able to see how much they were trying their best to provide top-notch service to everyone at the centre, including myself. I had one doctor's number, so I would text him to tell him of my symptoms or call him if I was feeling a certain way.

When I was still vomiting, I would text him to say, "Help me, I don't want to die." Some of the nurses would come in and encourage me, say a word of prayer with me.

Al Jazeera: What kind of treatment were you given?

Osowobi: I was given a couple of medications to handle COVID-19 and also to handle the side effects of the medications. There was even a time the medication for my vomiting wasn't working, so I had to be given injections to suppress the desire to vomit. I had to make a conscious decision not to vomit because I needed to retain the medicine inside my system. But the virus was throwing everything out. It was a battle I won at the end.

Al Jazeera: When did the things change?

Osowobi: I re-examined my survival chances when I started getting better by the day. The vomiting had stopped, the stooling had stopped, the dizziness was gradually getting less effective - so it was an indication I was getting well. I was really excited. It renewed my hope of surviving this. They were checking my temperature in the morning, afternoon and at night - and it was getting better. My blood pressure was getting better. My pulse was getting better. I got my sense of taste back. So, I began to re-evaluate my chances of survival that yes, I could beat this.

Al Jazeera: What was running through your mind when you found out that your test was positive?

Osowobi: The first thing that came to my mind was, "Am I going to die?" I feared that am I going to be one of the people to be counted as dead. I was asking myself, "Is Nigeria ready to handle the situation? Is Lagos state capable to handle the situation as of now?"

I was just very scared.

Al Jazeera: What was the experience with the doctors and nurses at the treatment centre?

Osowobi: It was good. Despite a very shaky start, we were able to build a relationship as things went by. I was also able to see how much they were trying their best to provide top-notch service to everyone at the centre, including myself. I had one doctor's number, so I would text him to tell him of my symptoms or call him if I was feeling a certain way.

When I was still vomiting, I would text him to say, "Help me, I don't want to die." Some of the nurses would come in and encourage me, say a word of prayer with me.

Al Jazeera: What kind of treatment were you given?

Osowobi: I was given a couple of medications to handle COVID-19 and also to handle the side effects of the medications. There was even a time the medication for my vomiting wasn't working, so I had to be given injections to suppress the desire to vomit. I had to make a conscious decision not to vomit because I needed to retain the medicine inside my system. But the virus was throwing everything out. It was a battle I won at the end.

Al Jazeera: When did the things change?

Osowobi: I re-examined my survival chances when I started getting better by the day. The vomiting had stopped, the stooling had stopped, the dizziness was gradually getting less effective - so it was an indication I was getting well. I was really excited. It renewed my hope of surviving this. They were checking my temperature in the morning, afternoon and at night - and it was getting better. My blood pressure was getting better. My pulse was getting better. I got my sense of taste back. So, I began to re-evaluate my chances of survival that yes, I could beat this.

Al Jazeera

Nigeria seeks $6.9bn from lenders to fund coronavirus fight

Nigeria is requesting $6.9bn from multilateral lenders to combat the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on Africa's biggest economy, the finance minister said on Monday.

Nigeria, whose revenues have tumbled with the fall in oil prices, has asked for $3.4bn from the International Monetary Fund, $2.5bn from the World Bank and $1bn from the African Development Bank, said Minister of Finance, Budget, and National Planning Zainab Ahmed.

Nigeria is the African continent's biggest oil producer and is still recovering from a recession caused by the last period of weak oil prices. As of Sunday, it had 232 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus and five deaths.

A two-week lockdown was imposed last week on Lagos State, home to the nation's sprawling commercial hub, as well as neighbouring Ogun State and the capital territory of Abuja, to prevent the virus spreading across the country.

The minister told a news conference in Abuja that Nigeria was one of several African states seeking the suspension of debt-servicing obligations for 2020 and 2021 from multilateral lenders.

The requests are part of a broader debate over debt relief. But analysts say securing such relief will be a challenge as it requires winning approval from a disparate array of creditors.

The IMF, which has received requests for help from about 80 nations, including 20 African countries, is making about $50bn available from its emergency financing facilities to help countries cope with the crisis. The World Bank has approved a $14bn response package.

Nigeria's finance minister said IMF support would not be tied to a formal programme and the funds would not have conditions attached.

Cutting spending

"It is important to clarify that Nigeria does not intend to negotiate or enter into a formal programme with the International Monetary Fund, at this time, or in the foreseeable future," Ahmed added.

The government said last month that spending in the $34.6bn budget for 2020 would have to be cut by around $4.9bn due to low oil prices and the impact of the pandemic, which has driven down global demand for fuel.

The minister said the budget would assume an oil price of $30 a barrel, down from $57, and production of 1.7 million barrels per day (bpd) rather than 2.1 million bpd.

"The emerging health and economic risks resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and decline in international oil prices pose existential threats to Nigeria's economy, healthcare system, national security, as well as the lives of our citizens," said Ahmed.

Nigeria, where economic growth had been about two percent, is still struggling to shake off a 2016 recession caused by a previous slide in oil prices to below $30 a barrel. In the latest crisis, oil prices plunged to a nearly two-decade low of close to $20 per barrel.

Fitch Ratings on Monday pushed Nigeria's debt rating deeper into "junk" territory, rating it a "B" and saying it expected the virus pandemic to drive the economy back into recession. It forecast the economy would contract one percent in 2020.

Ahmed said the government had provided 102.5 billion naira ($270m) to support the healthcare sector, of which 6.5 billion naira ($16m) had already been made available as critical expenditure for the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.

Lagos State, where most confirmed cases of the virus in the country have been identified, had received 10 billion naira ($26m) in emergency funding, the minister said.

On Saturday, the government said it planned to create a coronavirus fund to strengthen its healthcare infrastructure.

On Monday, Ahmed said the president approved the fund and said backing from lawmakers was being sought to borrow the money from special accounts.

Al Jazeera