Friday, July 31, 2020

Dubai Crown Prince pays hospital bills of Nigerian mother stranded with quadruplets following CNN report

Dubai's Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum has paid the hospital expenses of a Nigerian mother and her quadruplets stranded in the city with mounting medical bills, according to the hospital.

Suliyat Adulkareem, 29, gave birth to the babies, two boys, and two girls, at the Latifa Hospital for Women and Children on July 1.

They were born prematurely at nearly 31 weeks through an emergency C-section and placed on ventilators at the neonatal intensive care unit, the hospital said in a statement.

However, the family had no medical insurance and racked up more than AED 400,000 (about $108,000) in medical expenses since the quadruplets were born, their father Tijani Abdulkareem told CNN.

The Nigerian community and other nationals in Dubai rallied around them to help raise AED 42,000 (around $11,500) to pay part of the bills.
The Crown Prince stepped in to pay the bills after he came across the initial CNN report highlighting the family's story.
He was moved by their plight and informed his office to assist the family, the hospital said.

'A huge favor'
Abdulkareem told CNN he was shocked by the ruler's generosity, and the couple have decided to name two of their babies after him.

One of the girls will also be called Latifa after the hospital, he said.

"It's just a huge favor, and we are still in shock because we didn't even know how to get the money. I had been sleepless wondering how to pay the bill," Abdulkareem said.

Abdulkareem, a chef at a restaurant in the city, said he was distressed when he discovered his wife was going to have quadruplets.

Latifa hospital CEO Muna Tahlak said the hospital staff are "overwhelmed" that the country's ruler has pledged to cover the full medical bills of the quadruplets who are still being cared for at the health facility.

The babies, two boys and two girls, have gradually been taken off ventilators and two of them now weigh 1.8 kilograms. Doctors expect they will soon be strong enough to go home.

'Unbelievable support'
The couple, who live in Dubai, had planned to have the babies in Nigeria because they could not afford medical insurance but were unable to travel because of the coronavirus air restrictions that prevented commercial flights between the two countries.

Abdulkareem said his wife gave birth nearly two months earlier than her delivery date.

The elated father said the family has received "unbelievable" support from the Nigerian community, and various nationalities which has helped them pay for two months rent for a bigger place to accommodate the quadruplets.

"We have been getting calls from Portuguese and Brazilian nationals in Dubai. People have been trying to reach us. The Nigerian community has been following us every step of the way," Abdulkareem said.

This report has been updated to correct that Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum will pay the couple's medical bills.

By Bukola Adebayo


Thursday, July 30, 2020

Nigeria Approves Siemens Loan to Revamp Power Infrastructure

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari approved counterpart funding for a deal that will see Siemens AG upgrade the nation’s dilapidated power infrastructure. Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, last year contracted the German engineering company to rehabilitate and expand its electricity grid. Only about two-thirds of Nigerians have access to power and that’s plagued by constant blackouts.

Buhari, 76, granted “anticipatory approval” for 18.94 million euros ($22.2 million), or 15% of the cost, as counterpart funding for the project, Finance Minister Zainab Ahmed said. The balance will be provided by Euler Hermes Group SAS, backed by the German government, on concessionary terms with a three-year moratorium, a 12-year repayment period at “an interest rate of Libor-plus 1% to Libor-plus 1% to Libor-plus 1.2%.”

The project will be implemented in three phases to be completed by 2025, when Nigeria estimates its on-grid transmission capacity will reach 25,000 megawatts. The West African nation has an installed capacity of 13,000 megawatts, of which a daily average of only 4,500 megawatts is dispatched to consumers due to a poor transmission and distribution network.

In the first phase the system’s operation capacity will be increased to 7,000 megawatts while reducing the sector’s commercial and collection losses, Siemens said in a statement.

In June, lawmakers halted a hike in electricity tariffs meant to help state-owned traders repay power producers, who had threatened to halt operations. Originally planned for April, the hike was delayed by the electricity regulator over disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The World Bank in June approved a $750 million loan for the government to overhaul its power sector. Electricity shortages have an economic cost of around $28 billion, or the equivalent of 2% of Nigeria’s gross economic product, according to the lender.


Canada and Nigeria working to combat migrant smuggling, human trafficking and irregular migration

The Honourable Marco E. L. Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, today reaffirmed Canada's commitment to fighting human trafficking, migrant smuggling, and irregular migration as a series of initiatives were unveiled in Nigeria.

On the eve of the World Day against Trafficking in Persons, Canadian officials joined representatives from the governments of Nigeria and Switzerland as well as international and civil society organizations to launch a series of initiatives to assist the Nigerian government in their efforts to disrupt human trafficking and smuggling operations, as well as irregular migration.

Minister Mendicino noted that Canada is pleased to be partnering with Nigeria on 3 new initiatives to improve migration and border management, supported by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), and ARK, an international communications company. Each organization will participate in various initiatives being undertaken in Nigeria.

The IOM will continue to roll out the entry and exit border control system, known as the Migration Information and Data Analysis System, at the Abuja and Lagos international airports. This will support Nigeria's ability to protect its borders by managing the flow of travellers into and through its country, while helping it to identify criminal travellers and possible human trafficking and migrant smuggling cases.

UNODC will work with Nigeria to counter human trafficking and migrant smuggling operations by identifying and responding to these criminal activities, through improved data gathering and data analysis techniques.

ARK will use its communication expertise to support Nigeria to enhance its human trafficking and irregular migration deterrence campaigns, through integrating and applying data analysis into its targeted messaging.

This is part of the Government of Canada's commitment to combating human trafficking around the world, which includes investing $4 million over the next 2 years in the initiatives in Nigeria.


"The partnerships we are announcing today will disrupt human trafficking and migrant smuggling rings, and help to stop those who would prey on some of the world's most vulnerable for their own gain. Canada will continue to work alongside our partners and world leaders in fighting trafficking and smuggling operations to support safe migration, and strengthening data analysis and increasing awareness is a critical component of that."

– The Honourable Marco E. L. Mendicino, P.C., M.P., Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship


Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Nigeria reopens 14 airports as Covid-19 cases rise

Nigeria has re-opened 14 airports months after recording more than 40,000 Covid-19 cases and 858 deaths.

Since the index case on February 27, the country has witnessed a steady rise in infections despite efforts to curtail the spread of the virus, including closure of all airports and a general lockdown.

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) confirmed an additional 555 cases and two deaths on June 26, lifting total infections to 40,532 and fatalities to 858 from Friday’s figures of 39,977 and 856.

People in the country now averaging more than 500 cases a day have been crossing into and out of states without adhering to protocols.

Aviation minister Hadi Sirika said the airports are open for full domestic operations, hence ministerial approval into and out of them is not required.

“This includes private and charter operations. We will keep you informed on the remaining airports in due course,” he said.

Mr Sirika added that the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos and Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja were approved for domestic operations on July 8.

The other airports are located in Kano, Port Harcourt, Owerri, Maiduguri, Uyo, Kaduna, Yola, Calabar, Sokoto, Birnin Kebbi, Jos and Benin.


Meanwhile the spiritual head of Nigerian Muslims and the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar, directed all worshippers to observe prayers in Juma’at mosques instead of prayer grounds on July 31, 2020 to mark the festival of Eid-al-Kabir.

In a statement, Mr Abubakar called on Muslims to pray for peace, progress and development in the country.

The Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) had declared Friday the 10th day of Zulhijja 1441 AH and the day of Eid –el–Kabir for the year.

By Mohammed Momoh

The East African

Top Nigerian banker Akinwumi Adesina cleared after corruption probe

The president of the African Development Bank (AfDB) has been cleared of corruption charges after a review by an independent panel.

The US, one of the bank's biggest shareholders, insisted on a new inquiry in April after an internal review cleared Akinwumi Adesina.

Whistleblowers had accused the Nigerian of giving contracts to friends and appointing relatives at the bank.

Mr Adesina is set to be re-elected for another five-year term in August.
Why the US is targeting a flamboyant Nigerian banker

The 60-year-old banker, a former minister of agriculture in Nigeria, will be the sole candidate in the election.

A charismatic speaker, who is known for his elegant suits and bow ties, he has led the bank since 2015.

He had denied accusations against him, saying they were "attempts by some to tarnish" his reputation.

The panel of three experts was made up of Ireland's ex-President Mary Robinson, Gambian Chief Justice Hassan Jallow and Leonard McCarthy, formerly the World Bank's integrity vice-president.

They backed the findings of the bank's ethnic's committee, which cleared Mr Adesina of all charges alleged by the whistleblowers in January.

"The panel concurs with the committee in its findings in respect of all the allegations against the president and finds that they were properly considered and dismissed by the committee," their report concluded.

The report is a rebuff to US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, whose rejection of the committee's original review led to their inquiry, the Bloomberg news agency reports.

Besides the core 54 African countries, the US is one of the 27 non-regional members of the AfDB and its second largest shareholder.

The bank finances projects in agriculture, health, energy, education, transport and other development sectors in Africa.


Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Wife of detained Nigerian humanist pleads for 'proof of life'

The wife of a prominent Nigerian humanist accused of blasphemy has pleaded for information about his wellbeing on the eve of the three-month anniversary of his detention.

Mubarak Bala, the president of the Humanist Association of Nigeria, was arrested at his home in Kaduna state on 28 April and taken to neighbouring Kano. In the weeks before, he had posted comments critical of Islam on Facebook that caused outrage in the deeply religious and conservative part of the country.

Since being taken to Kano, Bala’s whereabouts and his health are unknown. According to figures close to him, he has been denied contact with his family and lawyers.

“I don’t know whether he’s dead or alive, in prison or not,” his wife, Amina Mubarak, said. “At this point, I’m not even begging for his release, I just want his proof of life.”

Ms Mubarak, who had given birth to a boy six weeks before her husband was taken, said she had desperately pleaded with officers at the police headquarters in the capital, Abuja, to allow her contact with her husband. She also asked for proof of his wellbeing, but was denied on both counts.

“It is unbearable, going through this psychological and emotional trauma right now. I’ve tried all I can,” she said.

A lawyer for Bala in Kano said the 36-year-old was being treated especially severely.

“I’m concerned that someone is being held incommunicado when it is not as if he has committed terrorism or murder,” said the lawyer, who spoke anonymously because of sensitivities around the case. “It should confirm to everybody that the system is supporting injustice.”

Kano has a dual sharia and state legal system and Bala has been charged under state law with violating a religious offence law and with cybercrime. Religious figures in Kano have pushed for Bala to be punished, prompting fears he would be tried under sharia law, but for now this does not appear to have happened.

On Friday, United Nations rights experts said there had been a “a serious lack of due process” in Bala’s treatment.

“The arrest and detention of Mr Bala amounts to persecution of non-believers in Nigeria,” a statement said. “We are also gravely concerned about Mr Bala’s safety, while in detention, in light of the death threats against him, and further fear that he may be subjected to torture … or punishment due to his atheistic beliefs.”

The experts also noted that “the small community of non-religious people or non-believers in Nigeria constantly face harassment, discrimination, persecution and prohibitive social taboos”.

Bala’s outspoken criticism of religion and Islam in Nigeria touched a nerve in the predominantly Muslim north, where open, religious dissent is uncommon. The son of a widely regarded Islamic scholar, he renounced Islam in 2014 and was forcibly committed to a psychiatric facility by his family in Kano for 18 days before being discharged.

Leo Igwe, a fellow Nigerian humanist and rights activist, said Bala had fostered a community for thousands of Nigerian atheists, and that his arrest threatened their freedoms. “It is clear that they want to disappear him as a way of silencing these beliefs,” he said.

The Guardian

Monday, July 27, 2020

80,000 Nigerians held as sex slaves abroad

Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Diaspora Affairs, Tolu Akande-Sadipe, has disclosed that about 80,000 Nigerian victims of trafficking were currently held as sex slaves and in forced labour across the world.

According to her, the practice is rife in Lebanon, Mali and across the Middle East. Akande-Sadipe, who blamed the Ministries of Foreign Affairs as well as Labour and Employment for the situation, said young Nigerian girls were subjected to modern-day slavery, sexual exploitation and organ harvesting, among others.

She also noted that the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on the pretext of diplomacy, was working towards the release of a Lebanese trafficker apprehended by the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, NAPTIP, who was complicit in the trafficking of 16 girls to Lebanon.

Her words: “Records show that the Lebanese was complicit in the trafficking of 16 girls, 10 of whom have been repatriated back to Nigeria, while the others remain stranded in Lebanon.

“He is currently in custody in Ilorin, Kwara State, awaiting trial for trafficking, but it appears that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, under the guise of diplomacy, is working for the release of the said trafficker without any regard for our citizens’ losses, their repatriation back home and compensation.”

Besides, Sadipe lamented increasing cases of abuse and dehumanisation of Nigerians abroad, especially in nations with a long history of cordial relationship with Nigeria. She also disclosed that there were some Nigerian students in Turkey, who wanted to return home but could not afford the cost of the flight, stressing that they were currently stuck in Turkey, experiencing untold hardship.

By Tordue Salem


Related stories: Trafficked Nigerian women rescued from Lebanon

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Children in Nigeria and surrounding countries, continuing to endure ‘horrendous violations’

Girls and boys in northeast Nigeria are continuing to endure brutal abuse at the hands of Boko Haram, and are also being deeply affected by military operations taking place to counter the terrorist group, despite noteworthy efforts, according the UN chief’s latest report on children and armed conflict.

“The children of Nigeria and neighboring countries continued to endure horrendous violations by Boko Haram”, said Virginia Gamba, the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, in a statement on Thursday, adding that the group’s expansion across the Lake Chad Basin region is “a serious concern” for Secretary-General António Guterres.

Overflowing cruelties
Between January 2017 and December 2019, the report described 5,741 grave violations against children in Nigeria.

Moreover, incidents in neighboring Cameroon, Chad and Niger were also reflected in the spillover of Boko Haram’s activities beyond Nigeria’s borders.

In September 2017, the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) group, that supports Nigerian forces locally against Boko Haram, signed an Action Plan with the UN to end and prevent violations. Prior to that, the group had recruited more than 2,000 children.

Children’s involvement

Meanwhile, children detained for their association with Boko Haram remain a grave concern – although actual numbers have proved difficult to assess because the UN was not granted access to facilities that housed the minors, says the report.

“Children formerly associated should not be further penalized through detention and I call on the Government of Nigeria to expedite the release of children from detention and prioritize their reintegration into society”, asserted Ms. Gamba.

“I also urge the Government to review and adopt the protocol for the handover of children associated with armed groups to civilian child protection actors”, she said.

Needing help

The vast majority of the 1,433 UN-verified child casualties were attributed to Boko Haram, with suicide attacks the leading cause, according to the report.

And while over 200 children were affected by incidents of sexual violence, fear of stigma, retaliation, lack of accountability for perpetrators and lack of resources for survivors, have rendered those crimes vastly underreported.

At the same time, denying humanitarian access to children has affected the delivery of aid to thousands of minors.

The report also detailed that some of the most atrocious incidents by Boko Haram involved the abduction and execution of humanitarian workers.

A signed deal

The 2017 Action plan marked a turning point in the CJTF’s treatment of children.

“Progress has been consistent, and no new cases of recruitment and use have been verified” since the signing, according to the UN official, who urged the group to fully implement the plan and to “facilitate the disassociation of any remaining children”.

Ms. Gamba also stressed the need to provide a regional African response to the situation.


Friday, July 24, 2020

Boko Haram militants kill five hostages kidnapped in Nigeria's northeast, UN says

Boko Haram militants have killed five hostages, including four aid workers, who were abducted last month in northeastern Nigeria, a UN spokeswoman told CNN on Thursday.

The aid workers belonged to different humanitarian agencies, and a security personnel member working with the team was among the hostages, said Eve Sabbagh, spokeswoman for the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance.

The UN said it had been trying to secure the release of the workers since June -- when they were abducted at a roadblock while traveling between Monguno town and Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state.

Edward Kallon, UN agency coordinator in Nigeria, said that aid workers were increasingly becoming the target of armed groups in the region's violent attacks.

"I strongly condemn all violence targeting aid workers and the civilians they are assisting. I am also troubled by the number of illegal vehicular checkpoints set up by non-state armed groups along main supply routes," Kallon said in the statement.

'Barbaric act'

The International Rescue Committee said it was deeply saddened by the news, and that one of its staff was among those killed.

"We condemn this barbaric act," the agency said, calling on the killers to return the worker's remains to his family.

President Muhammadu Buhari has also sent his sympathies to the workers' families and the agencies, his media aide Garba Shehu said in a statement.

Buhari said the workers were killed by Boko Haram members and promised that his administration was working to "wipe out" the militants from the country's northeastern region.

"He assures them that security agencies in the state will work closely with their organizations to implement measures to ensure that no such kidnapping of staff occurs again," Shehu said.
Boko Haram militants and jihadist groups operating in northeastern Nigeria have killed and abducted aid workers during more than a decade of violence.

According to international NGO Action Against Hunger, an armed group claimed they had executed five humanitarian workers held captive by militants for many months in 2019.

In 2018, two nurses with the International Committee of the Red Cross were executed by Boko militants after failed negotiations with the Nigerian government for their release.


Thursday, July 23, 2020

Pandemic travel restrictions leave Nigerian mother stranded in Dubai with newborn quadruplets

A Nigerian mother and her quadruplets remain in Dubai because of coronavirus travel restrictions that have prevented them from traveling home, her husband told CNN.
Tijani Abdulkareem, 32, said his wife, Suliyah, 29, gave birth to the babies -- two boys and two girls -- on July 1.
The couple, who live in Dubai, began making plans to relocate his wife to Nigeria to give birth when they found she was having quadruplets in January.
They share a hostel accommodation with others, and it would have been difficult to rent a bigger place with their combined income, according to Abdulkareem, who works as a cook at a restaurant in the city.

But the government banned all commercial international flights when the pandemic struck in Nigeria in March, shortly after it recorded its first case.

Only diplomatic and essential flights are currently permitted into Nigeria's airspace and Abdulkareem says the travel restrictions, had frustrated their plans.

Although repatriation flights to Nigeria from Dubai are taking place, they are few and far between.
Abdulkareem said the couple hoped that the travel restrictions would ease ahead of her planned departure to Nigeria in May, a few months before her August delivery date.

"We thought the travel situation would improve ... but the lockdown made it difficult to get flights," he said.

Mounting medical bills

While they were still making arrangements for her travel to Nigeria, Abdulkareem said his wife went into premature labor and had the babies via an emergency C-section at the Latifah Women and Children hospital in Dubai.

The babies' early arrival has also unsettled the couple's finances.
Abdulkareem said his wife stopped work as a hospital cleaner some months ago and their meager income was not enough to get health insurance.

The family has incurred thousands of dollars in medical debt since the babies were born and the bill is mounting as doctors say the quadruplets may remain for another six weeks at the hospital before they can go home, Abdulkareem said.

The couple owe around $120,000 and are incurring daily charges of $5000 to keep the babies in separate incubators.
The father told CNN they have been relying on the goodwill of the hospital and the generosity of the Nigerian community in Dubai. "The hospital has really helped us.
They discharged my wife and are doing all they can to ensure that the babies are doing well. The Nigerian community has also been like a family to us," Abdulkareem said.

'It is still a miracle'

The community, with contributions from some UAE residents and other nationals who read the news on local media, have been able to raise (AED) 30,000 (around $8000) to pay part of the family medical bills, Abdul-Hakeem Anifowoshe, a member of the diaspora community in Dubai told CNN.

They have also secured rent for two months at a bigger apartment for the couple for when the babies are discharged from the clinic, Anifowoshe said.

"We're keen on ensuring the family gets ongoing support towards the welfare of the mother and the quadruplets even when they get back to Nigeria," Anifowoshe said.

Chairwoman of the Nigerians in the Diaspora Commission Abike Dabiri-Erewa, whose agency has been evacuating citizens stuck abroad, said the country's embassy in Dubai had contacted the family.
"The mission is on top of the matter and is in constant touch with the family," Dabiri-Erewa said.

The new father says he's anxious to resettle his family back in Nigeria where he believes there will be more family members to help out with caring for the babies. However, they may have to wait a little longer.

Nigeria's airspace remains closed indefinitely to international travel, and authorities have not announced when commercial flights will resume.

For now, the family is reveling in the joy of the new arrivals.

"I never expected to have quadruplets. It is still a miracle," Abdulkareem said. "And I believe that can happen again to get my family to Nigeria," he added.


Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Video - Nigeria's hospitality industry reels from COVID-19 impact

The hospitality industry in Nigeria has been left on life-support as a result of the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hotels, night clubs and lounges have all been hit hard with millions losing their jobs and worsening an already grim unemployment situation in the country. Here is CGTN’s Deji Badmus with more on that story.

Nigeria Targets Processed Cocoa Exports With $10 Million Plant

Nigeria’s southeastern Cross River state is setting up a 4-billion naira ($10-million) cocoa-processing plant to start operations in August and target the export market, an official said.

Cross River, which accounts for about 30% of Nigeria’s output, has negotiated with chocolate companies based in Italy to receive supplies from the grinder, Peter Egba, the commissioner for industry, said in a phone interview from Calabar, the state capital.

The factory will receive raw material from local growers as well as farmers in neighboring Cameroon, across the nearby border, Egba said. The government also plans to distribute 10 million seedlings of a cocoa variety that matures in three years to farmers to increase output.

Nigeria is the world’s fifth-biggest producer of the chocolate ingredient, with the Cocoa Association of Nigeria expecting the 2020 main harvest between October and December to yield 148,750 tons. There’s a smaller harvest between April and June. The investment comes at a time Nigeria is seeking to diversify its economy away from oil by boosting agricultural production and processing.

By Emele Onu


Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Nigerian Official Collapses During Televised Niger Delta Corruption Hearing

A Nigerian official collapsed on Monday during a televised parliamentary hearing held as part of an investigation into allegations of mismanagement at an organisation with a remit to foster economic development in the oil-rich Niger Delta region.

Daniel Pondei, acting managing director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), was taken to hospital after slumping forward in his chair during the session, in which he gave evidence to the panel.

Lawmakers in the House of Representatives, the lower chamber of parliament, are investigating alleged corruption around procurement at the NDDC, a government body, over 20 years. The probe was ordered by President Muhammadu Buhari in October.

Nigeria's oil-producing Niger Delta heartland remains impoverished despite providing most of the oil produced in Africa's biggest crude exporter. Oil is Nigeria's main export and the mainstay of its economy, the continent's largest.

Earlier, Pondei told the panel: "There is no money missing in NDDC since I took over in February this year. Everything we have done are in accordance with the laid-down procedures."

After he fainted, people around Pondei rushed to sit him upright, using handkerchiefs as fans and forcing his mouth open in an apparent attempt to ensure he was not choking.

"I have asked my doctor to follow, go to the hospital where he is and report back," House of Representatives Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila later told the panel.

Giving evidence to the panel for the first time, Minister for Niger Delta affairs Godswill Akpabio said Nigeria's Bureau for Public Procurement (BPP) had given its approval for an audit by international firm Ernst & Young.

(Reporting by Camillus Eboh in Abuja and Alexis Akwagyiram in Lagos; Writing by Alexis Akwagyiram; Editing by Catherine Evans)

The New York Times

Monday, July 20, 2020

Nigeria’s foreign minister tests positive for coronavirus

Nigerian Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama said on Sunday he had tested positive for COVID-19, and became the first member of President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet to contract the new coronavirus.

Onyeama, 64, said on Twitter he had taken a COVID-19 test because of a throat irritation.

“Did my fourth COVID-19 test yesterday at the first sign of a throat irritation and unfortunately this time it came back positive,” he tweeted. “Heading for isolation in a health facility and praying for the best.”

Buhari’s cabinet has been conducting executive council meetings virtually as part of measures to keep the government working while abiding by social distancing rules.

The government started a phased easing of lockdowns in May after implementing measures to slow the spread of the virus, which has killed 778 people in Nigeria and infected more than 36,000.

Onyeama has played a role in repatriating Nigerians stranded because of travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Buhari’s former chief of staff, Abba Kyari, died in April from the novel coronavirus, making him the most high profile person in the country to die from the virus.


'Bandits' kill 23 Nigerian soldiers in northwest

At least 23 Nigerian troops were killed when they were ambushed by a gang of so-called "bandits" in a remote village in the northwest of the country, security sources said on Sunday.

The gang opened fire on the soldiers as they walked through a forested part of the Jibia district in Katsina State, the sources told AFP news agency, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"The bodies of 23 soldiers have been accounted for while some are still missing," a military source said.

In the past, the armed gangs, known locally as "bandits", have been involved in cattle rustling and kidnappings, but a number of experts have recently warned that they could be forging ties with hardline groups in the region.

One militia member said the toll could be "higher than 23", as a search for missing soldiers was under way.

Also on Saturday in the same area, five children were killed and six others injured when a bomb accidentally exploded, a spokesman for Katsina State police said.

It was not clear whether the explosive had been left by the bandits, the statement said.

Katsina State, where President Muhammadu Buhari originates from and where the vast majority of the population lives in extreme poverty, has become increasingly volatile in recent years.

The Nigerian army regularly raids the forests where the armed groups hide, but the number of soldiers is insufficient and villagers organise themselves into civilian militia.

In May, the International Crisis Group, an NGO, warned that the armed gangs could be developing links with groups such as Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP).

The "bandits" have killed about 8,000 people since 2011 and forced more than 200,000 to flee their homes, according to an estimate by Brussels-based Crisis Group.

Al Jazeera

Monday, July 13, 2020

Police rescues American lady locked in Lagos hotel after fake marriage, arrests Nigerian

Nigeria Police operatives have rescued an American lady confined in a Lagos hotel where she was held against her wish for over a year.

Force spokesman, Frank Mba, made this known in a statement on Sunday.

The victim, from Washington DC, is a retired civil servant in the United States.

She arrived Nigeria on 13th February, 2019 on a visit to a Nigerian, Chukwuebuka Kasi Obiaku.

The 34-year-old is a native of Ikeduru LGA of Imo State. The duo met on Facebook.

The victim was freed by agents attached to the Intelligence Response Team (IRT), Ogun State annex.

The operation followed information received from a Nigerian in the Meiran area of Lagos State.

The Police described Obiaku, a graduate of Business Administration and Management, as an internet fraudster who has defrauded many both locally and internationally.

He lured the American to Nigeria under the pretext of love and deceitfully married her on 15th May, 2019.

The suspect subsequently held her captive in a hotel and extorted a total of $48,000.

Obiaku also forcefully took control of her credit and debit cards and operated her bank accounts, including the receipt of her monthly retirement benefits and allowances.

This went on for a period of fifteen months.

Obiaku also used the victim as a front to defraud her associates and other foreign personalities and companies.

He will be charged to court upon conclusion of investigation and prosecuted in line with the Cybercrime Prevention/Prohibition Act, 2015.

By Wale Odunsi
Daily Post

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Seven killed in Nigeria oil facility blast

Seven people have been killed in an explosion at the Gbetiokun oilfield in southern Nigeria's Niger Delta region during the installation of a ladder on a platform, the state oil company said on Wednesday.

"Detailed investigation of the cause of the explosion has commenced, while the Department of Petroleum Resources has been duly notified," the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation said in a statement about the incident which happened on Tuesday.

It added that "all personnel on board the platform" had been accounted for.

Although Tuesday's incident was due to an operational factor, pipeline and tanker truck explosions are common in Nigeria, the biggest oil producer on the continent, with about two million barrels per day.

Pipelines in the region are exposed and often unguarded, making them easy targets for anyone with access to explosives.

International oil companies have increasingly focused on offshore projects in Nigeria, partly to offset the risk to onshore operations in the Niger Delta.

The latest accident occurred at OML 40, operated by a subsidiary of state-owned oil firm NPDC and the Elcrest joint venture. NPDC did not say whether production was affected.

Nigeria is battling the effect of lower crude oil prices on government revenues and its currency after the coronavirus pandemic crashed demand for supply.

Al Jazeera

Nigerian Senate passes sexual harassment bill

Nigeria's Senate has passed a bill aimed at combating sexual harassment as part of a broader move to uphold ethics in the nation's universities, legislators said.

University lecturers found guilty of sexually harassment or teachers who make sexual overtures towards students could be jailed for two years under the proposed law.

It also prescribes fines or jail terms for university administrators who fail to probe allegations of sexual misconduct brought against staff members.

Senate President Ahmad Lawan described the proposal as "landmark legislation."

"We have to protect our daughters from predators," Lawan said. "We want our tertiary institutions to be a very safe environment for everyone, and this is a legislation that will ensure that wish," he said in a statement issued by his office Tuesday.

Students found guilty of falsely accusing lecturers of sexual misconduct could also be suspended.

The Senate in a statement on Wednesday said the bill had been sent to Nigeria's lower house for deliberation. Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari would also have to consent to the bill for it to become a law. A draft of the legislation was first introduced in the Senate in 2016.

Lawmakers revisited the bill and passed a motion to investigate the growing cases of sexual harassment in 2018 after master's degree student Monica Osagie, who alleged her professor asked her for sex to upgrade her marks, granted CNN an exclusive interview about the allegations.

The lecturer, Richard Akindele, was fired from the Obafemi Awolowo University after the interview, which drew public discourse to the case.

Akindele was jailed for two years for demanding sexual benefits from the student in December 2018.


Video - Nigerian domestic flights resume amid pandemic

Domestic flights in Nigeria have resumed after three months of COVID-19 restrictions. Airports in the capital, Abuja, and the commercial hub, Lagos, have reopened. Other airports are due to resume flights over the next week. The number of coronavirus cases in Nigeria has surpassed 30,000 with more than 680 deaths. Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris reports from Abuja.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Rare gorillas in Nigeria captured on camera with babies

Conservationists have captured the first images of a group of rare Cross River gorillas with multiple babies in Nigeria's Mbe Mountains, proof that the subspecies once feared to be extinct is reproducing amid protection efforts.

Only around 300 Cross River gorillas were known to be alive at one point in the isolated mountainous region in Nigeria and Cameroon, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society, which captured the camera trap images in May. More colour images were recovered last month.

John Oates, professor emeritus at the City University of New York and a primatologist who helped establish conservation efforts for the gorillas more than two decades ago, was excited about the new images.

"It was great to see ... evidence that these gorillas in these mountains are reproducing successfully because there have been so few images in the past," he told The Associated Press. "We know very little about what is going on with reproduction with this subspecies, so to see many young animals is a positive sign."

Cameras set up in 2012

Experts don't know how many Cross River gorillas remain in the mountain cluster and have been trying to track the subspecies for some time.

About 50 cameras were set up in 2012 and multiple images have been captured in Cameroon's Kagwene Gorilla Sanctuary and in Nigeria's Mbe Mountains community forest and Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary. But Cross River gorillas are notoriously difficult to capture together on camera and no images had captured multiple infants.

An alliance of nine local communities, the Conservation Association of the Mbe Mountains, has been working with the Wildlife Conservation Society since the mid-1990s to help protect the Cross River gorillas. Since that time, there have been no recorded deaths in Nigeria, the society said.

The gorillas at one point had been thought to be extinct, according to the society's Nigeria country director, Andrew Dunn.

"It's a big success story that shows communities can protect their wildlife," he told the AP.

Cross River gorillas have been threatened for decades primarily by hunting but also by loss of habitat as residents cut down forests to make way for agriculture. The subspecies was "rediscovered" in the late 1980s.

About 100 Cross River gorillas have since been recorded in Nigeria's Cross River State and about 200 in Cameroon in a trans-border region of about 12,000 square kilometres. The Mbe Mountains forest is home to about a third of the Nigeria population.

The gorillas are extremely shy of humans and their presence is detected mostly by their nests, dung and feeding trails, experts say.

A team of about 16 eco-guards have been recruited from surrounding communities to patrol and protect the gorillas and other wildlife, Dunn said.

Inaoyom Imong, director of WCS Nigeria's Cross River Landscape project, said that seeing a few young gorillas in a group is promising.

Hunting was main threat

The new photos were taken in a community forest without any formal protection status, Imong said, "an indication we can have strong community support in conservation."

Hunting was always the main threat, he said, but "we do believe that hunting has reduced drastically." The conservation groups also are working to reduce illegal cutting of forests, he said.

But other dangers remain.

"Although hunters no longer target gorillas, snares set for other game pose a threat to the gorillas as infants can be caught in them and potentially die from injuries," Imong said. Disease is also a potential threat, along with conflict and insecurity in Cameroon.

"Refugees from the ongoing insecurity in Cameroon are also moving into the area, and they will likely increase hunting pressure and the need for more farmland," Dunn said.

For now, they must rely on the work of Nigerian communities.

"I feel honoured to be part of the efforts that are producing these results," said Chief Damian Aria, the head of the village of Wula.

He told the AP his community and others have worked hard to help preserve the natural habitat for the gorillas, and they are proud of their efforts.

"We are so happy they are reproducing," he said. While the gorillas' livelihood is important for nature, Aria also hopes that mountain communities in due time will benefit from the tourism they might bring.


Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Nigeria to continue to promote good relationship with China: minister

The Nigerian government on Monday pledged to continue to ensure the sustainability of the already well-built relationship with China.

Zubairu Dada, Nigeria's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, made the remarks when he received the outgoing Chinese ambassador to Nigeria, Zhou Pingjian in his office in Abuja, the nation's capital.

The Nigerian minister, who congratulated the outgoing envoy for a successful tour of duty in Nigeria, described the over three year's stay of the diplomat in the country as very fruitful ones.

He said the dedication and commitment of Zhou throughout his stay in Nigeria had led to the tremendous improvement of the relationship between Nigeria and China.

He pledged to continue to promote the good relationship between the two countries.

The Hushpuppis And Nigeria’s Image

The arrests of Ramoni Igbadole Abbas, commonly known as Hushpuppi; Jacob Ponle, known as Woodberry; and ten others last month by the expert combination of the FBI, INTERPOL, and the Dubai police in the United Arab Emirates has reopened the unpleasant conversation about international cybercrimes. It has equally re-centered the issue of Nigeria’s image vis-à-vis crime and the most populous African nation’s citizens.

According to official news sources, at the time of the 38-year-old’s arrest, Hushpuppi had victimised over 1.9 million people, 21 laptop computers, 15 memory storage devices, 5 hard drives, 47 smartphones, and 15 flash drives. Investigators announced that he, alongside his aids, defrauded people up to the tune of $435,611,200 (N169.01 billion) based on documents recovered to indicate fraudulence “on a global scale.” Did I mention that he was the owner of 13 luxury cars worth up to $6,806,425 (N2.640 billion) too?

It is erroneous to assume that Hushpuppi’s case is isolated. The pattern and frequency prove otherwise; they show that the menace is not only endemic, but extensive. Last year, much-celebrated Forbes Africa’s 30 Under 30 2016 honoree and chairman of Invictus Group, Obinwanne Okeke was arrested and recently pleaded guilty to FBI charges for $11 million (N4.2 billion) internet fraud facing up to 20 years imprisonment sentence; in August 2019, the FBI released a list of 80 wanted Nigerian cybercriminals for an alleged $6 million cybercrime noting that “the overall conspiracy was responsible for the attempted theft of at least $40 million,” while arresting two co-conspirators: Valentine Iro and Chukwudi Christogunus Igbokwe; 6 Nigerian nationals—Richard Izuchukwu Uzuh; Alex Afolabi Ogunshakin; Felix Osilama Okpoh; Abiola Ayorinde Kayode; Nnamdi Orson Benson; and Michael Olorunyomi—are currently on the FBI’s “Cyber’s Most Wanted” list for defrauding “over 70 different businesses in the US with a combined loss of over $6,000,000” according to its official twitter account.

Underlying all these cases is a certain measure of self-indulgence which seeks to exploit the efforts of innocent victims, capitalising on codified methods of cybercriminality frowned upon by international laws, and counterproductive to the image-building goals of Nigeria. Acts such as phishing, engaging in Business Email Compromise (BEC), ransomware, banking malware and other widely recognised cyberthreats have been at the forefront of their activities.

Following Hushpuppi’s arrest, social media platforms began witnessing a sense of distancing. But unlike the social distancing globally induced by the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19), we became accustomed to social media distancing initiated by those who had once dined with the overtly brash Hushpuppi. More importantly though, the often-repeated lines of denunciation by Nigerian public officials greeted our airwaves as expected. The central message was the same as always: ALL Nigerians should not be lumped into the soiled perception of fraudulence, uncharacteristically championed by most recently arrested infamous nationals like Hushpuppi, Obinwanne, Mompha and their ilk.

“This is really denting to our image as a people, but like I always say, fraud does not represent who we are as Nigerians. Hardworking. dedicated. committed,” the Chairman/CEO, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa retweeted to a tweet detailing Hushpuppi’s fraudulent acts on June 25, 2020. Public relations messages like the one by Hon. Dabiri-Erewa are, perhaps, important in the fight to redeem Nigeria’s already battered image—somewhat reminiscent of the late Information Minister, Prof. Dora Akunyili’s campaign: “Nigeria: Good People, Great Nation.” However, they reek of gross unexamined self-reflection in many forms. And I will highlight some.

First, at face value, these cybercrimes committed by Nigerian nationals portray a certain get-rich-quick syndrome which has become a deified, noticeable trend mostly exhibited—to varying degrees—across social media platforms. Exotic cars are flaunted, designer wears rocked, glittering accessories are customary looks across verified pages and profiles, as if to separate those that have “made it” from those trying to stay as legitimate and clean as the strength of their manhood and the integrity of their professional crafts entail. That these self-acclaimed “made men” have millions of followers on their social media accounts portrays the alternate universe we live in, where the disenfranchised see them as role models to aspire to become. Yet, there is a profound truth to be gleaned from this aforementioned syndrome.

On deeper observation, it epitomises the present spirit of Nigeria’s younger generation. In terms of age structure according to the 2019 CIA World Factbook, Nigeria’s “early working age” and “mature working age” boast a population pyramid combination of 15-24 years (19.81%) and 25-54 years (30.44%). That equals a combined 50.25%. To put it differently, a 2020 pew research notes that only 5% of Nigeria’s population is 60 or older with a median age of just 18. In other words, 95% (or 195,700.000) of Nigeria’s 206 million population is under the age of 60—a rather astronomical figure that has been failed by the Nigerian experiment with no hope in sight.

The loss of hope in a nonexistent socioeconomic structure is a direct indictment of Nigeria. As Chinua Achebe aptly quips, it is a reiteration of “a failure of leadership.” Admittedly, this does not cloak the blame due these few fraudulent Nigerian nationals. Integrity is an intrinsic, conscious value to be continually upheld as a self-guide by every individual regardless of external forces of failure. To blame the vices of evil without highlighting the deepening failures of governance across all dynamics though, is to be selective about the realities of our normative socioeconomic and political truth.

Secondly, that the indictments of these cyber-criminals have been executed by such international law enforcement bodies like the FBI, INTERPOL, and the Dubai Police Force, reiterates our perceived views about the interests and mandates of the anti-graft commission. It exposes the failures of Nigeria’s national anti-crime agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), again, making a mockery of the nation’s image as one only interested in selectively fighting against crime.

Since the Commission’s creation in 2004 to “prevent, investigate, prosecute and penalise economic and financial crimes and is charged with the responsibility of enforcing the provisions of other laws and regulations relating to economic and financial crimes,” its results have been, to put it bluntly, abysmal. In May 2018, the EFCC’s Head, Media and Publicity, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren claimed that the Commission had, within three years of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, secured 603 convictions: 103, 195, and 189 for 2015, 2016, and 2017, respectively. He also claimed that the Commission had recovered about 500 billion naira in Nigeria’s embezzled commonwealth. Fast-forward to this year’s Democracy Day, June 11, while speaking at a press conference, the Acting Chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu noted thus: “Our scorecard in the area of conviction is 2,240 in the last five years and we recovered assets in excess of N980 billion, with quite a large array of non-monetary assets.”

As at the time of writing this piece, Ibrahim Magu has been arrested by the Department of State Services (DSS).

Juxtaposing these “recovered” stolen funds with the 2018 Brooking Institution report that every minute, six people in Nigeria fall into extreme poverty—defined by the United Nations to mean those who earn $1.90 (a meagre N760) or less daily—is a tough task. In the same year, Nigeria would become the “poverty capital of the world” overtaking India—a nation with more than six times its population size—and is set to remain so for the next generation. That we have reportedly recovered N980 billion ($2,529,977,800.00) under the present administration by the EFCC alone, even as Nigerian fall into extreme poverty, is almost unimaginable. There have also been allegations of Magu “relooting the loots”—a codified notion that the recovered funds have been used for personal gains instead of being reimbursed into the coffers of Nigeria’s commonwealth.

Supposing we even ignore these random convictions and focus on the assumed big fishes as my curiosity suggested during the writing of this piece, my inquiry into the most sensitive cases betrayed hope as well. Of all 43 cases termed “high profile cases being prosecuted by the EFCC” as shown here with the earliest dated 2007, only four (a measly 9.30%) of the cases have been “dismissed.” A massive 39 of the cases (90.7%) are still “ongoing” or have “commenced” including those on “interlocutory appeal at the Supreme Court.” The perception is thus that Nigeria’s anti-crime agencies are mere watchdogs for political witch-hunting, readily available and only potent against targeted individuals and organisations.

This endemic betrayal of trust in the Nigerian system and the astronomical surge in cybercrimes by its nationals, have come at a grave cost to Nigeria’s international image. 419—the section of the Nigerian Criminal Code—is now an emblem of our economic and financial realities. Cybercrime is now an automatic indictment of both the average Nigerian and Nigeria’s character, just as our comatose international image lies critically at the selective mercy of western propaganda. It has equally fostered an unconscious guilt we have to bear across all international institutions as Nigerians. And its implications have been even more damaging: our emails are rejected; our notices for denial are stamped with imperialist prejudice; our visa applications—whether for tourism, work, or studies—are denied with reckless abandon; our green international passports are treated with utter disdain. We are judged based on our perceived unscrupulousness than on the merits of our individual characters. And even when meritorious acts are associated with the Nigerian nationality, there is the preconceived idea that an ill must have contributed to the outcome. Through it all, no iota of success or failure of the Nigerian is without the asterisk of potential criminality.

Thankfully, international anti-crime agencies have been successful in fishing out these hoodlums and charging them appropriately. However, what does not fall under the jurisdiction of INTERPOL, FBI, or any other anti-crime agency is the urgent need to redeem Nigeria’s image. To do this, is to reexamine the erroneous one-way-street perception of criminal acts, which is to call out the failures of both the leaders and the led. To do this, is to admit the failed Nigerian socio-economic and political systems, and to rebuild them on the foundations of integrity, transparency, truth, and justice. Until we do so, the Hushpuppis and Obinwannes of our existence will continue to dent our collective image with their cybercriminal acts. Until we do so, others will continue to look up to these criminals as role models and answers to the questions Nigeria fails to address.

Eleanya Ndukwe Jr. is a sociopolitical critic and graduate student of Political Science at California State University, Los Angeles majoring in Global Politics. He writes from Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @The_New_Mind

Global reputation of Nigeria dented by FBI fraud bust

Nigerians beating bitcoin scams

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Nigeria to restart domestic flights July 8 in easing of coronavirus curbs

Nigeria will resume domestic flights from July 8, the government said on Wednesday, as Africa’s most populous country relaxes novel coronavirus restrictions despite mounting cases and deaths.

The airports for the capital Abuja and Lagos will open on July 8, while a handful of others are set to open July 11 and the rest on July 15, the government said on its official Twitter account.

No date was given for the resumption of international flights.

Nigeria had confirmed more than 25,000 coronavirus cases and almost 600 deaths as of Wednesday, with little sign of the outbreak slowing.

Officials have expressed their concern that the outbreak in the West African country might become much worse.

Yet the government is keenly aware of the economic toll of the virus, which has crushed the price of oil, on which Nigeria depends. Officials have steadily eased measures aimed at curbing the outbreak, believing the economic damage of a stringent lockdown could be worse than the harm done by the pandemic.