Thursday, September 24, 2020

Nigeria fuel tanker crash kills 23 people

At least 23 people were killed after a petrol tanker overturned and caught fire on a busy road in Nigeria’s central state of Kogi.

The tanker lost control and rammed into five cars, three tricycles and two motorcycles on the Lokoja-Abuja highway on Wednesday.

It reportedly fell on one of the five cars carrying a family, crushing them to death before bursting into flames, local media reported.

Kogi State Sector Commander of the Federal Road Safety Corp Idris Fika Ali confirmed that 23 people were killed in the explosion while one child survived with injuries.

He went on to say that the occupants of the 10 vehicles involved have been killed.

“The death of 23 people as confirmed by the Federal Road Safety Commission, represents another disturbing and saddening incident in the litany of tragedies that have befallen our country,” President Muhammadu Buhari said in a statement.

“I am seriously worried about the frequency of these unfortunate and large scale tragedies in the country which cause needless deaths,” he added.

Bisi Kazeem, a spokesman for the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), said nine children were involved in the accident, which happened opposite a petrol station along the highway.

Traffic accidents are common in Nigeria, where roads are ill-maintained and safety standards poor.

Al Jazeera

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Facebook to open Africa office in Lagos, Nigeria

 Facebook announced plans for a new office in Lagos, Nigeria in the coming year.

The Lagos division will host teams specialised in engineering, sales, politics and communications. The Lagos office will also be Facebook’ssecond office on the African continent after its Johannesburg bureau in South Africa

Facebook hopes to develop products made by Africans, for Africans and the rest of the world.

In 2016, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg went on his first business in Africa, meeting Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and local businessmen in Legos, where he now plans to further implement his company.

Facebook’s expansion on the African continent will certainly be watched by western African countries.

According to a study commissioned by the Social Media company, Facebook’s investments in infrastructures and connectivity in Sub saharian africa coul generate over 57 billion dollars for african economies over the next 5 years.


 Related stories: Video - Zuckerberg's visit to Nigeria giving startups a boost

The one million secret member Facebook group for Nigerian women

Why Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg is excited about Nigeria


Netflix Unveils Nigerian Original Series, Three Films

Netflix on Monday unveiled a new Nigerian original series and three new films from the African country.

"The new series and films, which are at different stages of production while others are ready to premiere, will join the growing slate of Nigerian content on the service and debut to 193 million members in 190 countries around the world," the streaming giant said.

The new original series is an untitled young adult drama series created and produced by Inkblot Productions. It follows the story of Ishaya, "a charismatic teenager and talented artist from a poor family, whose dreams suddenly appear within reach when a prestigious scholarship to the most exclusive school in the country catapults him into the luxurious world of Nigeria's 1% – all while a huge secret threatens his newfound status and, ultimately, his family's safety."

Created by Chinaza Onuzo and Dami Elebe who serve as executive producer and head writer, respectively, the six-episode series will be directed by Onuzo, Tope Oshin and Niyi Akinmolayan. Funke Akindele is confirmed as playing one of the lead characters with more casting details to follow. Zulumoke Oyibo and Damola Ademola will serve as executive producers.

"Netflix is proud to continue to invest in more original content from Nigeria," said Dorothy Ghettuba, the lead for African originals at Netflix. "We’re also thrilled to grow our existing creative partnerships while forming new ones with Chinaza and the amazing Inkblot team who will now join the growing list of Nigerian partners."

Said Onuzo: "We’re thrilled to be partnering with the Netflix team to tell the story of Nigerian youth on a global scale. We cannot wait to share with the world what it feels like to grow up in one of the most dynamic countries on the planet."

Netflix also unveiled deals for three Nigerian films from filmmakers Mo Abudu, Kunle Afolayan and Kemi Adetiba that will premiere on the streaming service. They are Òlòtūré, Citation and King of Boys II.

The first is the story of a young female journalist who goes undercover as a prostitute to expose a human trafficking syndicate. The film is part of Netflix’s partnership with Mo Abudu and her production company Ebonylife. The movie will launch globally on Oct. 2. Directed by Kenneth Gyang, its cast includes Sharon Ooja, Omowunmi Dada, Omoni Oboli, Blossom Chukwujekwu and Wofai Fada.

Citation, from director Kunle Afolayan and produced by Golden Effects Pictures, will hit Netflix globally on Nov. 6. It is the coming-of-age story of Moremi, a bright university student who forms a bond with her charismatic and well-connected professor who ends up sexually harassing her. The film follows Moremi’s quest for justice and stars Jimmy Jean Louis, Gabriel Afolayan, Ini Edo, Joke Silva, Adjetey Anang and newcomer Temi Otedola.

King of Boys II is the sequel to director Kemi Adetiba's 2018 crime thriller, in which a businesswoman and crime boss is drawn into a power struggle that threatens all she holds dear. Set to launch globally in the first half of 2021, the movie begins with Eniola Salami's triumphant return, after a five-year exile, to Lagos City. "Not content with the prospect of a fresh start," she this time aims even higher than before. The movies features returning stars Sola Sobowale, Remilekun "Reminisce" Safaru, Tobechukwu "iLLBliss" Ejiofor, and Toni Tones, as well as new talent in Richard Mofe-Damijo, Nse Ikpe-Etim, and Efa Iwara.

"These Netflix original films demonstrate how we’re building a home for the best-in-class Nigerian content for our members in Nigeria and beyond," said Ben Amadasun, Netflix’s director of licensing and co-productions in Africa. "It’s amazing to see how Nigerian films and series resonate with audiences around the world. By making it easy for people to watch films and shows from other countries, we can help them build empathy and develop a shared understanding of the world."

By Georg Szalai

Hollywood Reporter

Related stories: Netflix involvement in Nollywood

Video - Nigerian short film Chuks premieres at Toronto International short Film Festival 

Video - Nigerian boarding school movie ZR-7 now available on DVD and VOD

Monday, September 21, 2020

UAE may reverse visa restriction on Nigerians today amid airline’s ban

Barring any last-minute hitches, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), will today, review the visa restriction placed on Nigerian travellers, following the ban of Emirates Airlines from the most populous black nation.

Sources at the company’s office in Lagos confirmed that the issue was being reviewed, and the “right” diplomatic approach taken.

This came as aviation stakeholders commended the Federal Government for going “tough and playing tit-for-tat with countries that would not accept Nigerian travellers into their domains.”

The Federal Government, following pressure from some quarters, banned Emirates Airlines from Lagos and Abuja airports, effective today, over refusal to grant fresh visa applications submitted by Nigerians.

The government earlier banned European carriers, with the exception of British Airways, over travel restrictions.

Emirates officials said: “We have met with the Nigerian government on this issue, and we assured them that we will resolve it. We are presently working on it.”

“I hope this issue will be resolved before Monday. One thing I will assure you is that the issue will be resolved earlier than expected,” a manager said.

The Chief Executive Officer of Finchglow Travels, Bankole Bernard, said assurances had been given on the matter.

He noted that Nigeria was third-biggest market to Emirates, adding that the UAE would do everything to sustain their operations.

“UAE should have resolved this matter long ago. The ban means that they will lose the market, and they know the implication. A market lost is never easily regained. Right now, we are certain that the ban will only affect Monday flights, and hoping that things will be normal by Tuesday,” he added.

The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, at the weekend, via his twitter handle, announced the suspension of Emirates Airlines from Nigeria, saying the ban would take effect from today.

“Emirates Airlines’ situation was reviewed, and they are consequently included in the list of those not approved, with effect from Monday, September 21, 2020,” he said.

The President Muhammadu Buhari administration had in August warned that Nigeria would activate the principle of reciprocity in granting permission to airlines to resume operations in the country as it reopens its airspace.

It said the decision was informed by the embargoing on flights from Nigeria by some nations.

Air France, KLM, Lufthansa, Etihad Airways, Angolan TAG, Air Namibia and Royal Air Maroc were not approved to operate flights into the country.

Aviation stakeholder, Julius Akintunde, said the measures were in the best interest of the economy.

Also speaking, Secretary-General of the Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ASRTI), Group Capt. John Ojikutu (rtd), urged that the reciprocity should be done with caution in order for the Nigerian market not to be undermined by neighbours.

The Guardian

Friday, September 18, 2020

Nigerian state says rapists will face surgical castration

The governor of Nigeria's Kaduna state has signed a law saying men convicted of rape will face surgical castration, and anyone raping a child under age 14 will face the death penalty.

Gov. Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai said the "drastic penalties are required to help further protect children from a serious crime."

Reported cases of rape in Nigeria have risen dramatically during the months of coronavirus restrictions. Women's groups have called for tougher action against rapists, including the death penalty.

Kaduna state's new law is the strictest against rape in Nigeria, Africa's most populous country.

The state's newly amended penal code also says a person convicted of raping someone over age 14 will face life imprisonment.

The previous law carried a maximum penalty of 21 years imprisonment for the rape of an adult and life imprisonment for the rape of a child.

A woman convicted of rape of a child under 14 faces the removal of her fallopian tubes.

By Sam Olukoya


Related stories: 15 year old child bride acquitted for murdering 35 year old husband

Calls for law against female genital mutilation to be introduced in Nigeria 

2 year old boy abandoned by family for superstitious beliefs rescued by foreign aid worker



Thursday, September 17, 2020

Jihadists kill 11 villagers in northeast Nigeria

Jihadists aligned to the Islamic State have killed 11 villagers in two separate attacks in Nigeria’s northeast Borno state, militia leaders said Wednesday.

Fighters from the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) in several pickup trucks opened fire on Wasaram, 90 kilometres (55 miles) from regional capital Maiduguri on Tuesday, killing eight villagers and injuring 20, they said.

Three villagers were also killed in a separate attack in Auno earlier that day.

“We recovered 11 bodies from the two attacks which occurred yesterday in Kaga district,” militia leader Ibrahim Liman told AFP.

The insurgents had accused the villagers of alerting troops about their movement on their way to rob traders in the nearby town of Ngamdu, he said.

Soldiers intercepted the jihadists and engaged them in a gun battle, forcing them to retreat, said militiaman Umar Ari, who gave the same death toll.

“They (ISWAP) attacked the village on their way back, accusing residents of informing soldiers about their movement to rob local traders at the weekly market”, Ari told AFP.

Earlier on Tuesday, ISWAP fighters slaughtered three farmers that they seized as they worked on their fields outside Auno village, 65 kilometres away, the militia leaders added.

ISWAP, which split from Boko Haram in 2016 and initially focused on attacking the military, has increasingly been targeting civilians, in particular abducting and killing motorists at bogus checkpoints on highways.

Meanwhile, eight people were injured late Tuesday when gunmen from a rival Boko Haram faction ambushed a civilian convoy under military escort outside the town of Banki near the border with Cameroon, security sources told AFP.

“Four of the victims were taken to a hospital in Mora on the Cameroonian side because of the severity of their injuries,” said a security source, who asked not to be identified.

The decade-old jihadist insurgency in mainly-Muslim northern Nigeria has claimed 36,000 lives and forced two million others to flee their homes.

The conflict has spilled over to Cameroon, Chad and Niger, prompting a regional military force to be formed to fight off the insurgents.


Unicef condemns jailing of 13 year old for 10 years Nigeria for 'blasphemy'

The UN children's agency Unicef has called on the Nigerian authorities to urgently review an Islamic court's decision to sentence a 13-year-old boy to 10 years in prison for blasphemy.
The boy was convicted in August of making uncomplimentary remarks about God during an argument with a friend in northern Kano state.
Kano is one of 12 Nigerian states practising the Sharia legal system alongside the country's secular laws.
Muslims form the majority in the north.

The 13-year-old's sentencing "negates all core underlying principles of child rights and child justice that Nigeria - and by implication, Kano state - has signed on to", said Peter Hawkins, Unicef's representative in the West African state.
On 9 September, the boy's lawyer, Kola Alapinni, said he had filed an appeal against the judgement.
"This is a violation of the African Charter of the Rights And Welfare of a Child. A violation of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria," he added.
He told the BBC that no date had been set for the appeal to be heard in court. 


Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Video - Challenging conditions hamper Nigerian medal hopefuls

Nigeria para-athletes have put the disappointment of the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics behind them and are now focused on showcasing their talent in Japan next year if everything goes according to plan. However, they are preparing for the Games under challenging conditions as CGTN's Deji Badmus reports.

Nigeria's petrol and power price rises upset business owners

Daniel Oyelesi, who runs a laundry business in Nigeria’s capital Abuja, is reeling from the double whammy of price rises for petrol and electricity imposed in recent weeks that he says will harm his two-year-old business.

Earlier this month Nigeria’s president said the increases, announced days apart in early September, were needed to bolster Africa’s biggest economy, which for years has been urged by multilateral lenders to remove costly fuel subsidies and change electricity tariffs, both of which held prices artificially low.

Before electricity price rises were implemented, Oyelesi - who works out of a cramped kiosk filled with piles of clothes, a washing machine, tumble dryer and ironing board - spent 20,000 naira ($52.63) on power each month. He said that sum was now likely to last two weeks.

“I won’t say I’m coping... it has not been easy for us,” said Oyelesi. He added that he feared losing customers if he raised his prices.

Ochuko Kosefe, a barber, also lamented price hikes that made him feel “sick”.

Sat behind a cash desk where he watches one of his two hairdressers cut the hair of a young boy, Kosefe said higher fuel costs meant he rationed the use of his diesel powered generator which, like many businesses in Nigeria, is used to make up for the patchy power supply provided by the national grid.

Nigeria’s economy contracted by 6.1% in the second quarter due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and low oil prices. Africa’s top oil exporter relies on crude sales for 90% of foreign exchange earnings.

Last month sources said a much-needed $1.5 billion World Bank loan was held up due to concerns over the implementation of reforms such as the fuel and electricity price changes.

But galloping inflation, which the central bank expects to rise to 14.15% by the end of the year, is increasing costs for businesses and their customers.

Oyelesi, whose words float above the constant hum of a washing machine and the din from the busy Abuja street outside, believes the future is bleak.

“If the government does not do something, we might be forced to quit the business,” he said.

($1 = 380.0000 naira)

By Abraham Achirga


Nigerian porn star arrested 'for filming' at sacred Osun Osogbo ground

 A filmmaker has been arrested for allegedly recording a pornographic movie at the Osun Osogbo sacred grove in western Nigeria, police say.
The sacred forest, home to Osun, the Yoruba goddess of fertility, is a UN-designated World Heritage Site.

Police said the man, Tobiloba Jolaosho, popularly known as King Tblak HOC, was arrested for allegedly recording a "sex movie" in the forest.
Neither he nor his lawyer have commented.
Osun Osogbo is on the outskirts of the city of Osogbo, the Osun state capital.

Mr Jolaosho is a popular porn movie producer with a huge following, and snippets of the video, which allegedly showed him dressed in the white robe of adherents of the Osun deity, were posted on his website and social media accounts.

'Breached public peace'
It is not clear when the recording was done or how he entered the forest, which can be easily accessed from many routes.
Police spokesman Opalola Yemisi told BBC Yoruba that the movie producer will appear in court following an investigation as his conduct "could have breached public peace".

A follower of the deity, Yemi Elebuibon, said Mr Jolaosho had desecrated the grove, which was a sacred land where worshippers from Nigeria and elsewhere offer prayers and sacrifices to the Osun goddess.

"The traditional worshippers in charge of the grove will decide on what punishment to mete out to him, after the police concludes its investigation," Mr Elebuibon told the BBC's Busayo James-Olufade.

Declared it a World Heritage Site in 2003, the UN's cultural organisation, Unesco, described the Osun Osogbo sacred grove, as "one of the last remnants of primary high forest in southern Nigeria" and "as the abode of the goddess of fertility Osun, one of the pantheon of Yoruba gods".

The Osun goddess, according to Yoruba mythology, was one of the many wives of Sango, a powerful deity in Yoruba folklore.

Famous all over the world

Every year, thousands of people attend the Osun Osogbo festival, a traditional celebration that is thought to be 600 years old.

The two-week festival is considered to be the biggest annual traditional religious event of the Yoruba people and attracts thousands of worshippers and spectators from both Nigeria and the rest of the world.

Devotees believe that the sacred grove forest is one of the last remaining places that the spirits, or "Orishas" reveal themselves to bless them.

The festival is marked with daily performances of people dancing, singing, playing the drums and showing off elaborate costumes to appease the goddess Osun,.

The Nigerian filmmakers risking jail with lesbian movie Ife

Two Nigerian filmmakers face the prospect of imprisonment if they ignore the stern warning of the authorities and proceed with the release of a movie about a lesbian relationship.
The dramatic face-off with the regulators - the Nigerian Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB) - is worthy of a film itself.

Producer Pamela Adie and director Uyaiedu Ikpe-Etim are determined that Ife (meaning "love" in the Yoruba language) reaches a Nigerian audience, but the NFVCB says it will not be approved as it violates the country's strict laws on homosexuality.

International premiere

To get around this, the filmmakers are planning a surprise online release to catch the regulators off-guard. The NFVCB, however, is diligently monitoring all digital platforms to prevent the movie from getting out.

According to NFVCB boss Adebayo Thomas, Adie and Ikpe-Etim could be jailed for promoting homosexuality in a country where same-sex relationships are forbidden and can carry a 14-year sentence.

They are organising a private screening in the commercial capital, Lagos, at the end of the month, for which they believe they do not need to get permission.
Ife will also get an international premiere in Canada in October.

Adie said the aim of the film was to show an accurate picture of lesbian and bisexual women in Nigerian movies.

If a lesbian woman does appear in a standard Nollywood movie they are often portrayed as being possessed, influenced by bad friends or forced into homosexuality and always needing "saving", she told the BBC.

"You rarely see stories about LGBT people, especially about queer women that speak to the realities of our lives.

"Ife was made to bridge the gap and to get the conversation going in Nigeria."

Coming out to a Nigerian mother

Ife is a story about two women falling in love as they spend three days together. They "then have their love tested by the realities of being in a same-sex relationship in a country like Nigeria", according to the publicity for the film.

If July's trailer, where sex is hinted at but not actually shown, is anything to go by, then Ife certainly pushes the boundaries of telling the LGBT story by Nigerian movie standards.

In one shot, the two protagonists, Ife and Adaora are in bed talking about love and the challenges faced by LGBT people especially within their families.

Their conversation forms the spine of the teaser for the film.

"I told my mum first, took her about a week to come to terms with it," Ife, played by Uzoamaka Aniunoh, says talking about revealing that she was a lesbian.

"Which is short for a Nigerian mother," interjects Adaora, played by Cindy Amadi.
"Is it too soon to say I might be in love with you?" asks Adaora as they cuddle.
"We are lesbians, this is the perfect time," answers Ife.

'It has to be censored'

Homosexuality is an extremely contentious issue in many parts of Africa and Nigeria is no different.
It is a highly religious and traditional society and its influential Christian and Muslim organisations oppose homosexuality.

As a consequence, Nigeria is one of 30 countries on the continent where it is criminalised.
The legislation outlawing same-sex relationships was passed in 2014 and built on the colonial-era prohibition of sodomy. Police in Nigeria have cracked down on people suspected of homosexuality, forcing most into hiding.

The feeling of being sidelined and the need to challenge beliefs that homosexuality is immoral is what inspired director Ikpe-Etim to take on the project.

"Before now, we have been told one-sided stories. What we are doing with this film is normalising the queer experience, we are normalising the LGBT romance.

"It will begin to erase that shame that LBQ [lesbian, bisexual and queer] women face," she told the BBC.

The lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community in Africa is becoming increasingly vocal and visible, thanks to the internet providing a space for films, talk shows and websites.

But that has not stopped filmmakers from getting into trouble with authorities.
The head of the NFVCB said there was no space for Ife or other homosexual movies in Nigeria, citing the law.

"There's a standing law that prohibits homosexuality, either in practice or in a movie or even in a theatre or on stage. If it's content from Nigeria, it has to be censored," Mr Thomas told the BBC.
He said that whatever the platform was, "as long as it's Nigerian content and it's telling a Nigerian story, then we have a right to it".

But there is no plan for large-scale screenings of Ife in Nigerian cinemas or selling the DVD, as the producers want to make it available online as pay-on-demand.
But even that will get them into trouble with the regulators.

Increasing acceptance of LGBTQ people

"If it did not pass through NFVCB and it is released, the filmmakers will be prosecuted according to the law," Mr Thomas said.

"As long as it's Nigerian content, we will pull it down because we have collaborations with Google, YouTube and other key players."

But that has not deterred the producers and Adie says her team will continue as planned, as they believe they have done nothing wrong and do not plan to seek permission for an online release.
This is not the first time an LGBTQ-themed movie has fallen foul of regulators on the continent.
Stories of Our Lives, a collection of five short films based on stories of LGBTQ life in Kenya was banned in 2014 for being "contrary to national norms".

This was also the fate of Rafiki, Kenya's first film about a lesbian relationship, which went on to be the East African nation's first film to premiere at the Cannes film festival and also receive an Oscar nomination.

Inxeba/The Wound, a South African film about a relationship between two men in the context of the Xhosa initiation ritual was also banned from mainstream South African cinemas in 2018.
Despite the set-backs, some in the LGBTQ community in Africa say they are gradually gaining confidence and acceptance and link it to the increased visibility in films and literature which are encouraging greater tolerance among younger generations.

A 2019 survey of attitudes in Nigeria showed an increase in acceptance of LGBTQ people - though the balance was still tilted against them.

Some 60% of Nigerians surveyed said they would not accept a family member who was LGBTQ, but this was significantly lower than the 83% who put themselves in that category in 2017.
The need for further change is why people like Ikpe-Etim want to keep telling the stories of the LGBTQ community.

"As a member of an under-represented group, you are constantly at the mercy of people who don't understand what it means to be queer.
"I knew if I wanted the society to view LGBTQ people in a different light, I had to tell the full story," she said.

By Azeezat Olaoluwa


Related stories: Producer of Nigeria’s new history-making lesbian film has a cunning plan to beat homophobic censors

Video - Nigeria's anti-gay law denounced

Floods, food shortages threaten to push Nigeria into food crisis

Mal Shehu Ladan took a boat across what was, until this month, a growing rice paddy. Now, like thousands of hectares of rice in Nigeria's Kebbi state, it is under water.

"Almost all my farm has been flooded. I didn't harvest any rice," Ladan told Reuters News Agency. "It's going to be devastating."

Floods early this month across northwest Nigeria destroyed 90 percent of the two million tonnes that Kebbi state officials expected to harvest this autumn, the head of the state branch of the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria told Reuters. The loss amounts to some 20 percent of the rice Nigeria grew last year, and the waters are still rising.

Further south, outside Nigeria's capital, Abuja, chicken farmer Hippolite Adigwe is also worried. A shortage of maize forced him to sell most of his flock of more than 1,000 birds, and the 300 he has left are hungry. Chicken feed prices have more than doubled, and he is not sure how long he can cope.

Twin crises, floods and maize shortages, come just after movement restrictions and financing difficulties caused by COVID-19 containment measures complicated spring planting.

Some farmers and economists said it could push Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, into a food crisis. Rice is the country's staple grain, and chicken is a core protein.

"There is a real fear of having food shortages," Arc Kabir Ibrahim, president of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria told Reuters. "The effect on the food system is going to be colossal."

Nigeria took roughly 4,000 tonnes of millet and sorghum from the regional economic bloc's (ECOWAS) strategic stocks last month and released 30,000 tonnes of its own maize. It also gave four companies special permission to import maize.

The prominent Nigerian Economic Summit Group has called for "a complete overhaul" of agriculture policy.

Problems accessing foreign exchange to import food are adding to shortages. In July, the central bank added maize to a list of items for which importers are banned from using its dollars. Rice and fertiliser were already on the list, along with other items that Nigeria wants to be made locally.

Last week, even as food prices spiked, President Muhammadu Buhari promised that not one cent of central bank dollars would go to food or fertiliser imports, as Nigeria would continue encouraging local farmers over imports.

Importers can use dollars from pricier parallel markets. But these are tough to find due to an oil price crash that has cut Nigeria's core source of foreign exchange.

Switching grains

Rice prices had already risen substantially due to a land border closure last year that aimed to stamp out smuggling and boost local production.

Peter Clubb of the International Grains Council said the spike drove consumers to eat maize instead. This, along with a disappointing crop late last year and the foreign exchange issues, boosted maize prices to 180,000 naira ($470) per tonne from approximately 70,000 naira ($183) in March.

Farmers sid that consumers grappling with inflation, as well as the first rise in fuel prices since 2016 and a power price spike, can only pay so much more for food.

Ayodeji Balogun, chief executive at commodities exchange Afex, said the central bank's lending scheme for farmers has significantly expanded output, and can work long term.

But the coming months will be tough. Fertiliser prices hit a record after a COVID-19 outbreak shut down country's sole urea plant for two weeks, meaning more farmers will skip fertilisers, limiting crop yields.

"The worst is yet to happen," Balogun said. "It is a problem across grains."

Buhari has pledged more support, and Agriculture Minister Muhammed Sabo Nanono visited the northwest area this weekend and promised to provide farmers with high-quality seeds and to set up a special committee to ensure they have all they need to plant new crops as soon as possible.

Adigwe, the chicken farmer, said he thinks barring foreign food in order to help farmers is not a bad idea, but "there are some factors that were not considered."

"Can local production sustain the population of Nigeria?"

Al Jazeera

Friday, September 11, 2020

Nigerian doctors suspend strike to allow government time to meet demands

Nigerian resident doctors on Thursday suspended a strike to allow the government time to meet its demands over pay and working conditions amid the spread of the coronavirus, the head of the doctors’ union said.

The National Association of Resident Doctors resolved to suspend the strike “to give government time to address our demands,” said Aliyu Sokomba, president of the union, in a WhatsApp message to Reuters.

The strike began on Monday, and included 16,000 resident doctors out of a total of 42,000 doctors in the country, including those who worked in COVID-19 treatment centres, he had said earlier this week.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, has more than 55,000 confirmed coronavirus infections and more than 1,000 deaths.

Resident doctors are medical school graduates training as specialists. They are pivotal to frontline healthcare in Nigeria as they dominate the emergency wards in its hospitals.

The union last went on strike in June, demanding better benefits and more protective equipment for battling coronavirus. They are still demanding, among other things, life insurance and hazard allowances.

A labour ministry statement earlier this week said the government had spent 20 billion naira ($52.53 million) on hazard allowances for healthcare workers in April, May and June, and had met the bulk of the doctors’ demands.


Thursday, September 10, 2020

Video - What’s being done to keep learning going in northern Nigeria?

In observance of the first-ever ‘International Day to Protect Education from Attack’ on 9 September, The Stream is partnering with Witness to discuss a new documentary on the subject. Ahmad the Architect follows Ahmad Buba, a man on a mission to help his native Nigeria undo the harm caused by Boko Haram, an armed group that doesn’t believe in Western education, and for more than a decade has bombed schools, killed teachers and kidnapped students. The film focuses on Ahmad’s efforts to build twenty four boarding schools for orphans of the violence and fourteen mosques. According to UNICEF, the attendance rate in Northern Nigeria is roughly 53 percent. While Boko Haram is largely to blame for the lack of education, various other factors play into the abandonment of learning including lower value on the education of girls, joblessness and drug use. In this episode of The Stream, we discuss the efforts to fix Nigeria’s debilitated education system and efforts to revive the schools.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Nigerian men arrested over German PPE 'scam

 Two Nigerian men have been arrested for allegedly scamming a German state that tried to buy 2.3m euros (£2m) of personal protective equipment (PPE).

Nigerian police say they cloned the website of a Dutch company to obtain an order from the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

When the PPE didn't show up, a state government representative visited the company's offices in the Netherlands.

The company then informed him that they had never done business with him.

The representative notified the Dutch police and investigations led to Nigeria where the two suspects were arrested in the commercial capital, Lagos. They are due to appear in court soon.

The suspects, Babatunde Adesanya and Akinpelu Hassan Abass, were members of a "sophisticated transnational criminal network", Nigerian police said in a statement.

The pair allegedly cloned the corporate website of ILBN Holdings BV in order to carry out the scam on Freiherr Fredrick Von Hahn, who represented North Rhine-Westphalia. The PPE was needed for the battle against coronavirus.

Two more arrests have also been made in the Netherlands.

According to Nigerian police, Mr Von Hahn was "disturbed" when the PPE did not arrive, only to find out that "the company never did business with him and that the transaction was a scam".


Mathematics teacher in Nigeria uses social media to ‘teach the whole world’

For many 12th graders, the closure of Nigeria’s public schools to combat the spread of COVID-19 presents a particular problem: How to prepare for crucial, final exams?

Basirat Olamide Ajayi, a math teacher in Lagos, Nigeria’s biggest city, came up with a solution. She began offering free mathematics classes online via Twitter, WhatsApp and Instagram. And now, after almost six months, more than 1,800 students at various levels are taking her classes -- across Nigeria and even internationally.

Students watch her short math videos -- no more than 5 minutes long -- and respond to her questions. She will send them homework, and occasional assignments. And she grades them.

“Sometimes, I stay awake till 2 a.m. going through their assignments!” she said.

“COVID is here with both negative and positive impacts. The positive impact is that we can use technology to teach our students, which I am very, very happy about,” she said.

When Ajayi, 36, started her online classes, she solved math problems on camera on white sheets of paper. Then a parent saw how she was conducting the class and donated a whiteboard.

Her free classes are attracting students from all over Nigeria, and now students abroad are joining. A recent request came from Canada.

Ajayi says she is beginning to see herself as a global teacher.

“The online teaching has made me feel that I can actually teach the whole world mathematics,” she said. “On Twitter people see me all over the world, not only in Lagos, not only in Nigeria. They see me all over the world and that is enough to give me innermost joy.”

But not all students in Nigeria have easy access to her lessons.

“Some of them don’t even have data to access the class, and that is not giving me joy at all, as a teacher that wants students to be online,” she said. Ajayi said she pays for data for some of the students from her own pocket to allow them to be online.

Some students don’t even have phones; Ajayi encourages parents to share their phones.

Fortune Declan, 17, said Ajayi has made it easier for him to grasp mathematics.

“Originally when I started learning differentiation on my own it was kind of twitchy,” he said. “But when I joined the online maths platform, I started slow at first, but with the way my maths teacher was teaching, holding the sessions, I started learning differentiation rapidly.”

Her dedication is noteworthy, said Adedoyin Adesina, chairman of the Lagos arm of the Nigerian Union of Teachers.

“Teaching students virtually was a new experience to everybody,” he said. “There is the problem of slow internet, the cost of data and the uncooperative attitude of parents who were not familiar with what teachers are doing.”

Faced with the new challenges, Ajayi has shown real dedication, he said, especially as “she was not provided with money, data or any teaching material.”

Although she misses being in the classroom, Ahayi said she is gratified to be helping so many students: “The more I give, the more society will benefit from me and people can say ‘Mrs. Ajayi has done this to the whole world.’”

Hindustan Times

Friday, September 4, 2020

Nigerian healthtech startup to create prestigious genomics facility in Nigeria

Nigeria-based healthtech startup, 54gene has partnered with Illumina, a US-based genomics company to create a first-class genomics facility in Nigeria.

The partnership will support the establishment of a new genetics facility in Lagos, Nigeria, equipped with a suite of Illumina’s cutting-edge sequencing and high-density microarray technology platforms, which will generate genetic information for health research and drug development.

Dr. Abasi Ene-Obong, founder and CEO of 54gene explains that the new partnership will open doors for new scientific discovery and expand genomics research.

“The addition of Illumina’s cutting-edge technology to our research and diagnostic capabilities is a critical step for 54gene in fulfilling our mission of equalizing precision medicine. This is part of our wider commitment to building capacity and infrastructure in Africa which will allow us to significantly expand genomics research, while also improving health outcomes on the continent. Alongside our many partners in the African medical and scientific community, we want to make advanced molecular diagnostics more accessible to the region, while creating hundreds of skilled jobs in molecular biology and bioinformatics.”

In addition, the new collaboration will expand 54gene’s sequencing-based research and molecular diagnostics capabilities with a focus on improving health outcomes through precision medicine.

According to 54gene, Africa contains more genetic diversity than any other continent because the African genome is the oldest human genome.

Yet it is estimated that fewer than 3% of the genomes analyzed come from Africans, making it a potentially rich source of new genetic information for health and drug discovery research.

Founded in 2019, 54gene is a health technology company whose mission is to advance precision medicine capabilities in Africa through research, advanced molecular diagnostics, and clinical programs.

54gene intends to leverage off this as a global research resource while ensuring Africans benefit from cutting edge medical innovations.

Through the partnership, African samples stored in 54gene’s de-identified biobank will be genotyped, sequenced, and analyzed without the need to send samples overseas. The creation of local infrastructure will reduce costs and turnaround for critical test results. Illumina will provide training to support the use of its sequencing and microarray equipment and ensure ongoing support for 54gene’s growing team of molecular scientists.

Paula Dowdy, SVP, General Manager EMEA, Illumina comments on the importance of, “It’s incredibly important to ensure equitable access to genomic sequencing technology across the world so that genomes can be interpreted in the context of global diversity. Through partnerships such as this with 54gene, we aim to remove barriers of access to sequencing and expand the benefits of genomics to as many people as possible.”


Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Lagos rolls out affordable health insurance

Nigeria’s commercial hub, Lagos, launched a health insurance plan to make access to care affordable for its more than 20 million residents, the second state to do so since July.

Under the plan, residents will have access to care in any hospital of their choice for 8,500 naira ($22) per year, while a family of six will pay 40,000 naira, the Lagos State government said in a statement on Twitter. Benefits include treatment for common diseases such as malaria, diarrhea, diabetes and hypertension, and access to family planning services, laboratory tests and ultrasounds.

The state government will ensure that treatments and other services “will be of high quality,” Emmanuella Zamba, general manager of the Lagos State Health Management Agency, said in Tuesday’s statement. Lagos residents can enroll immediately, she said.

The southwestern state of Ekiti rolled out a similar plan in July.


Nigeria doctors on strike over coronavirus allowance

Doctors in Nigeria's capital Abuja have started an "indefinite strike" due to non-payment of a special coronavirus allowance, local media reported on Tuesday.

The Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) announced the decision following a meeting on Saturday, according to the Premium Times news website.

"The association would embark on a strike action with effect from 8 am 1st September 2020 until the payment of the COVID-19 hazard and inducement allowance is received," their statement said.

Hazard pay or inducement allowance is paid to employees to encourage them to work on a particular project, especially under dangerous conditions. Health care workers are constantly at risk of exposure to the novel virus.

Roland Aigbovo, head of the group's Abuja chapter, said: "We have not received any hazard allowance since April and that is one of the major reasons we are embarking on a strike."

Their members have been suffering financial distress, he said, adding that despite repeated ultimatum and warnings, authorities have done nothing to help them.

In June, doctors called off a week-long strike over welfare and inadequate protective equipment.

The group said that the decision, after assurance from officials, was to give them time to fulfill the outstanding demands.

Strikes by medics are common in the country – Africa’s most populous – where the health sector has been underfunded for years.

Since March, Nigerian health authorities have confirmed 54,008 COVID-19 infections, including 1,013 virus-linked deaths.

Anadolu Agency

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Nigeria's 'Kannywood' films soar online thanks to virus

At a time when the coronavirus is wreaking havoc on businesses around the world, the film industry in Nigeria's mainly Muslim north is going from strength to strength.

The region's movie machine -- dubbed Kannywood after its largest city Kano -- has become the dominant source of entertainment for West Africa's 80 million Hausa speakers.

Since springing up in 1992 with just seven production companies, the industry has grown to include 502 production outfits and 97 editing studios.

It now employs more than 30,000 people, according to the Kano chapter of the Motion Pictures Practitioners Association of Nigeria.

While Kannywood films have the same themes of love, revenge and betrayal as those churned out by the prolific Nollywood film industry in the predominantly Christian south, the content must adhere to strict Islamic rules.

Northflix, Kannywood's fledgling online streaming platform, has seen its client base soar since authorities imposed lockdowns to contain the coronavirus pandemic in March.

Its subscriber base of 40,000 has nearly doubled, while revenue has tripled, CEO and co-founder Jamil Abdussalam told AFP.

"Coronavirus has been a blessing to us business-wise, despite the disruptions it has caused to the global economy," he said.

"It was not by chance, but a result of a conscious and concerted business strategy".

Kabiru Sufi, a Kano-based economist who follows trends in Kannywood, attributed the success of streaming platforms to their astute business sense and technology.

Abdussalam said Northflix formerly used the pay-per-view system but quickly switched to flat-rate subscriptions after the virus emerged in Asia and Europe, knowing that it "would reach all corners of the world".

The fee is just 1,500 naira ($4) a month in addition to subscribers' smartphone and internet costs.

The lockdown, which saw cinemas, hotels, bars and other recreational outlets shut down, was a boon for Northflix as idle Nigerians turned to their mobile phones to stream their favourite movies.

That opportunity also came as producers were desperately seeking an alternative market for their films with cinemas and DVD stores shuttered.

- 'A lifesaver' -

Northflix was the answer.

"It was a lifesaver for film producers who would not have had the avenue of making money from their movies," said Kano-based filmmaker Abdulkarim Mohammed.

And subscribers have stuck to the platform despite the easing of the lockdown, according to Abdussalam, because of the convenience it offers as well as the fact that pirated copies can no longer be found on the streets.

The new business environment has challenges both old and new.

Nigerian telecom services are notoriously poor, with frequent signal disruptions, coupled with exorbitant data costs which affect online-based firms.

But Northflix has been coping, the owners say.

"With a single (reception signal) bar, you can watch a movie without disruption, it doesn't freeze and our network is capable of buffering the video," Abdussalam said.

Other issues include censorship, criticism on religious grounds and piracy.

Muslim clerics and government officials say the platform promotes foreign values by mimicking Hollywood and Bollywood productions at the expense of the regional Hausa culture.

The industry has also come under state-imposed restrictions and scrutiny which filmmakers say are killing creativity.

Under the law, every film must be cleared by the censorship board which requires strict adherence to Islamic injunctions, including a ban on touching between men and women.

Defaulters are usually sanctioned.

But Northflix's location in the capital Abuja puts it beyond the jurisdiction of the Kano censoring agency.

"It has helped us bypass the restrictions... and fight piracy," said Sani Danja, a leading Kannywood actor and producer.