Friday, May 29, 2020

Rohr: 'Nigeria are not number one in Africa'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


At least 60 killed in attacks in Nigeria’s northwest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, May 28, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Guardian

In Nigeria, Masks Are New Glamour Accessory

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


Wednesday, May 27, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boko Haram’s brutality

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

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

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

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

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

Thousands, including children, held in military detention

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

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

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

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

Conditions so severe they amount to torture

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

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

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

UK support to the Nigerian military and unsafe detention centres

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty UK, said:

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

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

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

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

Amnesty International UK

Trafficked Nigerian women rescued from Lebanon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Video - Eid in Nigeria: Outbreak dampens festivities

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

Monday, May 25, 2020

Nigeria’s Economy Boosted by Higher Oil Production

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

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

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

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

Budget Plans

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

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

BNN Bloomberg

Friday, May 22, 2020

COVID-19 cases in Nigeria exceed 7,000

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Nigerians stranded at airport to return home soon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bangkok Post

Nigerian religious leaders demand lifting of COVID-19 lockdown

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

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

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

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

Regulation resistance

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

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

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

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

Rejection from all denominations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why should markets open and churches not?

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

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

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

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

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

More testing needed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tuesday, May 19, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Bukola Adebayo


Nigeria to impose precision lockdown in coronavirus hotspots

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, May 14, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Nigeria violence drives 23,000 into neighbouring Niger: UNHCR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Al Jazeera

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Universal Music Group strikes partnership with Nigeria-based Aristokrat group

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Tim Ingham


Monday, May 11, 2020

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

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

Nigeria records 248 new coronavirus cases

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

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

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

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

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

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

Osun and Bayelsa had one case each.

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

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

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

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

The Guardian

Friday, May 8, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

'A scary experience'

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

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

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

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

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

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

A sharp rise in cases

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

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

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

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

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

A newfound 'hero' status

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

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

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

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


Nigeria Eases Lockdown Measures Despite Increases in Coronavirus Cases

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

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

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

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

Harm to economy

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

Much like Kundun’s business.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Look at Ghana

Economic analyst Audu Siyaka had this warning:

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

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

Critics will hold him by his words.

By Timothy Obiezu


Thursday, May 7, 2020

Nigeria extends flight ban amid pandemic

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'Archaic punishment'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Jersey £241m seizure returned to Nigeria

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Infrastructure projects

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Guardian

Related stories: Survivors of Nigeria's 'baby factories' share their stories

Baby factory raided in Lagos, Nigeria

Denmark bans adopting babies from Nigeria

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Video - Businesses reopen as Nigeria eases coronavirus lockdown

Nigeria has joined a host of countries easing coronavirus restrictions following a five-week lockdown. But medical workers still fighting against the virus say the large crowds now returning to the streets could lead to a spike in cases in the country. Ahmed Idris reports from Abuja, Nigeria.

Nigeria to evacuate 270 citizens from US

Nigerian government has said it will begin the evacuation of about 270 Nigerians willing to return to the country from the United States.

This is coming amidst the coronavirus pandemic that has caused many countries to shut down airports. Nigeria has seen shut its airport sin late March to curb the spread of the ravaging virus.

The Consulate General of Nigeria in New York in a statement said a one-way flight has been arranged for the evacuation of stranded Nigerians in the US and would take off on Sunday night.

The statement added that evacuation would on travellers’ expense while they all fly on economy class.

The flight, Ethiopian Airlines with a 270-passenger capacity, will depart for Abuja from Newark (EWR) Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, United States, and is expected to arrive at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport bank on Monday next week.

It said over 700 citizens have registered with the Nigerian Missions in the US but only 270 people could be accommodated, adding that applications to be evacuated would be considered on a ‘first-come, first-served basis.

It said those who have proofs of short-stay visas, the elderly, families with children, and returning students would also be given special attention.

By Timileyin Omilana

The Guardian

Nigeria’s President Buhari Calls for Debt Forgiveness

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari urged international financial institutions to cancel the debt obligations of member states to help them withstand the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a meeting with other heads of state from the Non-Aligned Movement, Buhari urged official lenders to help cushion the pandemic fallout with “outright debt cancellation,” according to a statement sent by his office.

Nearly half of Nigeria’s outstanding external debt is with multilateral lenders, led by the World Bank Group with $10.1 billion. Beijing-based Export-Import Bank of China is the second-biggest creditor with loans totaling $3.2 billion, while Eurobonds account for $10.86 billion or 39% of external debt.

In April, Finance Minister Zainab Ahmed said the government is seeking a temporary suspension from multilateral and bilateral creditors to unlock funds to battle the illness that is spreading fast in Africa’s most populous country.

The West African country received $3.4 billion in emergency financing from the International Monetary Fund last week, but currently holds no outstanding debt with the global lender.


Forty percent of Nigerians live below the poverty line

Forty percent of people in Nigeria live in poverty, figures published by the statistics office on Monday showed, highlighting the low levels of wealth in a country that has Africa's biggest economy.

The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), in a report about poverty and inequality from September 2018 to October 2019, said 40 percent of people in the continent's most populous country lived below its poverty line of 137,430 naira ($381.75) a year. It said that represents 82.9 million people.

Nigeria is the top oil exporter in Africa, which has helped to create wealth related to crude sales that account for more than half of government revenue. But a failure to diversify the economy and build much-needed transport and power infrastructure has stymied growth and the spread of wealth beyond a rich elite.

Rapid population growth outstrips economic growth, which stands at about 2 percent. The United Nations estimates that Nigeria will have a population of 400 million by 2050.

Nigeria was already struggling to shake off the effect of a 2016 recession before the new coronavirus pandemic hit economies worldwide.

"In Nigeria, 40.1 percent of total population were classified as poor. In other words, on average four out of 10 individuals in Nigeria has real per capita expenditures below 137,430 naira ($352) per year," it said.

The statistics office said it did not include Borno, the state worst hit by the decade-long Boko Haram armed uprising, because many areas there were not safe to reach.

A total of nearly eight million people need humanitarian assistance across Borno and two neighbouring states affected by the attacks, according to the UN.

The statistics office said 52 percent of people in rural areas live in poverty, compared with 18 percent in urban parts of the country.

It said the highest poverty levels were in the northwest state of Sokoto, where 87.7 percent of people live under the poverty line compared with 4.5 percent in commercial hub Lagos state, which had the lowest rate.

Al Jazeera

Nigeria reports record infections hours after lockdown was eased

Nigeria has recorded its highest single-day infection rate of COVID-19, the day Africa's biggest economy began a six-week phase-out period of the emergency lockdown measures.

A total of 245 new cases were confirmed on Monday by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), 73 of them in the country's commercial capital Lagos.

The total number of infections in the country stood at 2,802 on Tuesday, including 93 deaths and 417 recoveries.

The update came just hours after the government relaxed restrictions in Abuja, Ogun and Lagos states, after more than four weeks of lockdowns imposed to contain the new coronavirus.

These densely populated regions will come into line with the rest of the country in which slightly looser restrictions introduced last week by President Muhammadu Buhari included an overnight curfew, mandatory face masks in public and a ban on non-essential interstate travel.

On Monday, the usually frenetic streets of the coastal megacity Lagos, largely empty during the lockdown, were busy again with cars, buses and tricycle taxis.

Despite rules banning groups of more than 20 people and stipulating that individuals remain two metres (6.6 feet) apart, large groups of people often gathered by the road waiting for public transport.

Social distancing rules were largely ignored.

Distinctive yellow minivans used as buses were full, with some passengers struggling to find space to enter vehicles.

However, in a crucial difference to pre-lockdown life, most people on the streets of Lagos wore face masks.

In the capital Abuja, in central Nigeria, many businesses were still closed.

Businesses have been allowed to reopen provided they have decontaminated their offices, can enable social distancing and offer hand sanitiser and hand washing.

The decision to begin a phased lifting of the lockdown despite the recent sharp rise in cases was criticised by some medical experts, including the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA).

The NMA president, Francis Faduyile, said on Friday the move was "very premature" and risked driving up the rate of infections, which he called a "frightening scenario".

Chike Ihekweazu, the head of NCDC, warned that crowded scenes seen on Monday would result in more infections.

Al Jazeera

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Survivors of Nigeria's 'baby factories' share their stories

As 16-year-old Miriam* stepped out of her tent to fetch water near the Madinatu Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp in Nigeria's northeastern Borno state in January last year, a middle-aged woman she knew as "Aunty Kiki" approached her.

She asked Miriam if she was interested in moving to the city of Enugu to work as a housemaid for a monthly salary.

Miriam, who is now 17, wasted no time in accepting the offer and began to prepare for her trip to the east the following day.

She told her 17-year-old cousin, Roda*, about it and advised her to approach Aunty Kiki.

When Roda, who is now 18, met Aunty Kiki the next morning, she asked if there was a job for her, too. The woman quickly agreed, so Roda packed her bags.

"We were both very excited to travel to Enugu," Miriam says. "We had suffered so much for four years and were happy to go somewhere new to start a new life."

The promise

Both girls, who used to live in the same compound in Bama, fled the northeastern Nigerian town in 2017 when Boko Haram stormed the area, burning down houses and kidnapping women and children.

Miriam and Roda fled, leaving other members of their family behind. They do not know what happened to them.

The two girls trekked for several days to reach Madinatu, where they remained for nearly two years before their trip to Enugu in southeastern Nigeria.

In Madinatu, Miriam and Roda lived together in a small bamboo tent inside the camp that houses more than 5,000 people who, like them, had fled Boko Haram.

Life was tough in the camp. Food was in short supply and IDPs had to beg on the streets of the nearby town to be able to get enough to eat.

So the girls jumped at the chance of paid jobs in Enugu.

They did not have time to tell anyone they were going.

The journey

First, they travelled with Aunty Kiki to Maiduguri.

Then a 12-hour journey to Abuja followed. They spent the night there in the home of a woman who knew Aunty Kiki.

The next day, after a nine-hour journey, they reached Enugu.

Aunty Kiki took them to a compound where she handed them over to an elderly woman she called "Mma" and told the girls to do whatever the woman asked of them.

"The compound had two flats of three bedrooms each, filled with young girls, some of them pregnant," says Miriam. "Aunty Kiki said it was where we'd be working."

At first, the girls thought their jobs were to clean the compound and do household chores as Aunty Kiki had led them to believe. Their new employers, however, had other ideas.

A daily torture

"Mma asked that we stay alone in separate rooms for that first night," Miriam explains. "We were surprised because the other girls in the compound were sharing rooms, some of which had four people in them."

Late that night, according to Miriam, a man walked into her room, ordered her to take off her clothes, held her hands tightly, and raped her.

The same thing happened to Roda, but her rapist was much more brutal.

"When I tried to scream, he covered my mouth and gave me a dirty slap," Roda says. "If he saw tears in my eyes, he slapped me even more."

The next day, the girls were moved to shared rooms with others, only being sent to single rooms when they were required to "work".

Both girls say they were raped almost daily by several different men.

They believe that Mma and Aunty Kiki work together in the same trafficking cartel and that Mma is the leader of the group.

All they could make out for sure, however, was that the two women communicated with each other and the men in Igbo, the language spoken in southeastern Nigeria.

Giving birth

Within a month, they were both pregnant. But still, they were raped.

"It doesn't matter whether you are six weeks or six months pregnant," says Roda. "If any of the men wants you, you can't say no."

It was pointless trying to escape, they explain, because the compound was guarded by men with guns.

Around a dozen girls were living in the compound when Miriam and Roda first arrived. But the number would change as the girls gave birth and were sent away, before new girls were brought in to produce more children for the cartel.

Miriam gave birth to a baby boy in the compound, with the assistance of a midwife who was called in from outside. But her son was taken from her.

Three days later, she was blindfolded and taken to a bus station where her traffickers made sure she boarded a vehicle back to the north.

"They didn't want me to know the way to the compound, that's why they covered my face," she explains. "I was given 20,000 naira (about $55) to assist in my transportation to my destination."

She first went to Abuja where she spent a night on the street before boarding a commercial vehicle back to Maiduguri.

'Boys are more expensive'

Miriam does not know how much her baby was sold for.

"Some traffickers let their victims leave after giving birth because they believe if girls stay for too long, they could develop a plan to expose the trade," explains Abang Robert, public relations head of Caprecon Development and Peace Initiative, an NGO focused on rehabilitating victims of human trafficking in Nigeria. "They are scared of sabotage."

Baby factories are more common in the southeastern part of Nigeria, where security operatives have carried out several raids, including an operation last year when 19 pregnant girls and four children were rescued.

Women and girls are held captive to deliver babies who are then sold illegally to adoptive parents, forced into child labour, trafficked into prostitution or, as several reportssuggest, ritually killed.

"Boys are more expensive than girls in the baby sale business," says Comfort Agboko, head of the southeastern arm of Nigeria's anti-trafficking agency, the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), at her office in Enugu.

"Male children are often sold for between 700,000 naira (about $2,000) to one million naira (about $2,700) while female babies are sold for between 500,000 naira (about $1,350) and 700,000 naira."

The majority of the buyers are couples who have been unable to conceive.

Although anyone caught buying, selling or otherwise dealing in the procurement of children can be prosecuted, the baby trade remains prevalent in Enugu.

In recent years, security officials have carried out several undercover operations targeting suspected baby trafficking cartels whose operations the Enugu state government said are aided by some security agencies and unscrupulous state officials.

To avoid suspicion in the local community, baby factories are often presented as orphanages, experts explain.

"Baby factory operators hide under the 'canopy' of orphanages," says Agboko. She believes people receiving babies from them either do not know or do not care that they are not really orphans.

NAPTIP has arrested and prosecuted a number of people involved in the sale of babies in the southeast in recent years, Agboko explains. There are currently around half a dozen cases going through the court system.

"We are now working in collaboration with the association of orphanage homes operators in the entire southeast to identify, arrest and prosecute such people," she adds.

There is no official data to show how many babies are bought and sold each year in Nigeria, nor the number of girls exploited by human traffickers. The United Nations estimates, however, that "about 750,000 to one million persons are trafficked annually in Nigeria and that over 75 percent of those trafficked are trafficked across the states, 23 percent are trafficked within states, while 2 percent are trafficked outside the country."

Human trafficking 'widespread'

Like Miriam, Roda was also discarded after she gave birth to a boy.

The cousins were reunited in Madinatu, where they are now living together in a small mud house, not far from the camp they were trafficked from.

"Luckily, we got to Madinatu on the same day," says Miriam, who spent weeks on the streets of Abuja, before she was able to make her way back to the northeast.

"We thought it was no longer safe to stay in the camp, so talked to the man who owns this place to let us stay here."

To earn money, the girls now make and sell groundnut cakes at a mini kiosk just outside their compound.

They were not the first to be trafficked from the Madinatu camp. There have been many reports of girls being trafficked from the camp to cities in Nigeria and to countries including Italy, Libya, Niger and Saudi Arabia. The victims are often promised good jobs only to end up being exploited or enslaved.

Although widespread in Madinatu, the problem of human trafficking is not peculiar to this area alone. It is common across the entire northeast region.

The 2019 United States Department of State Trafficking in Persons report revealed that: "Sexual exploitation, including sex trafficking of IDPs (internationally displaced persons) in camps, settlements, and host communities around Maiduguri remained a pervasive problem." The report also notes that some security officials are complicit in these activities.

NAPTIP says it is aware of high numbers of cases of human trafficking in Madinatu and is increasing efforts to address the issue in the IDP camp in particular.

"The office has now increased surveillance in the IDP camp," Mikita Ali, head of the NAPTIP office covering the northeast region, says. "We are working with camp managers and camp officials to whom we've given our toll-free numbers and told to call us if they suspect any case of human trafficking."

'Easy to exploit'

Inside the Madinatu camp, however, residents remain worried about the number of cases. Community leaders say the lack of adequate amenities like potable water facilities and cooking stoves means that people have to walk long distances in search of water and firewood, making them vulnerable to the human traffickers who prey on them.

"If we had easy access to water and firewood, there'd be little talk of human trafficking," says Mohammed Lawan Tuba, a community leader in Madinatu. "Criminals take advantage of our children when they go out to find what they need to keep them and their families alive."

Human rights campaigners are running "sensitisation campaigns" which aim to educate displaced persons about the dangers of human trafficking and how to spot the signs of it inside the IDP camp.

But Yusuf Chiroma, head of the Borno Community Coalition, a group of aid workers assisting survivors of the Boko Haram insurgency through skills acquisition programmes, says: "Displaced persons in Madinatu are really struggling to survive, as they are not getting enough food supply from the government and that is why it is easy for traffickers to exploit those who are desperate for jobs."

"Sensitisation programmes have to be matched with adequate security and availability of food and social services by the state government to effectively tackle human trafficking."

*Names have been changed

By Philip Obaji Jr.

Al Jazeera

Friday, May 1, 2020

President Buhari appoints dead man to run government agency

NIGERIA'S president was left red-faced after he appointed a man who died more than two months ago to a top job.

Muhammadu Buhari, 77, has previously appointed at least five other dead people to the boards of government agencies - meaning its the sixth time he's made such an error.

President Buhari - who is nicknamed "Baba Go Slow" - appointed Tobias Chukwuemeka Okwuru to Nigerian agency the Federal Character Commission.

He appointed the man despite his funeral taking place in February.

Applications for the job were reopened when journalists pointed out the error, with Mr Okwuru dying aged 59.

The president's aides have hit back and claimed the embarrassing mistake was actually down to the long screening process for the role.

It comes after he had previously handed out at least five top jobs to the dead back in 2017.

Among those promoted was Francis Okpozo, who had been dead for almost a year when he was named chairman of the board of the Nigerian Press Council.

President Buhari earned his nickname due to that fact he took six months to name his first cabinet in 2015.

And back in 2018 he was forced to deny rumours of his own death and that he had been replaced with a body double named Jubril.

He was previously Nigeria's military ruler for two years between 1983 an 1985 after leading a coup, and has blamed democracy for slowing him down.

Previously, the president said: "It’s not Baba that is slow but it is the system, so I am going by this system and I hope we will make it."

The late Mr Okwuru's name was part of a list of 37 new appointees which was read aloud to the senate.

President Buhari's media aide Lauretta Onochie defended the move - saying he wasn't dead when the recruitment process started.

She said: "He even came to update his CV in readiness for the appointment after the senate screening.

"When he sadly passed away while waiting for the screening by the senate, that information was not communicated."

Friends of the deceased politician slammed the government for the mistake.

Dr Chike Onwe said: "Please, in God’s name, leave us alone to mourn our dead. Keep your belated appointment."

Kitzito Nwankwo added: “We all waited for it, and it came only when you had gone, deepening the hole in our hearts, reminding us the vacuum your departure created."

President Buhari was first elected in 2015, and was re-elected last year in a landslide by more than 3million votes.

He came under critcism back in September, 2016, after he was found to have copied Barack Obama's inauguration speech.

The leader later blamed "overzealous staff" - and his team were given anti-plagiarism software to make sure it didn't happen again.

President Buhari also denied his own death in December, 2018, amid claims he had been replaced by a Sudanese man named Jubril.

Addressing the nation he said "it is the real me I assure you" and assured he was not a "clone" after he came back from a number of health problems.

Meanwhile, a 70-year-old man was arrested in Nigeria for "insulting" President Buhari.

In a statement, cops said: "Any person found taking undue advantage of the social media to insult others will face the wrath of the law."

The Sun