Friday, September 17, 2021

Nigeria is seeing one of its worst cholera outbreaks in years, with more than 2,300 people dying from suspected cases as Africa’s most populous country struggles to deal with multiple disease outbreaks.

Nigeria’s air force admits to strike in area where civilians were reported killed

Nigeria’s air force confirmed that there was an airstrike targeting a branch of the Islamist group Boko Haram in the northeast part of the country where civilians were reported to have been killed, a spokesman said Thursday.

The incident comes amid debate about the Nigerian government’s counterterrorism tactics, which critics say too often claim the lives of innocent people. Separatists in Nigeria recently sued two top Biden administration officials for clearing the sale of warplanes to the country in a deal initially greenlighted by the Trump administration.

Edward Gabkwet, the air force spokesman, said in a brief interview that he had received many reports that civilians were killed but could not say definitively.

“We are investigating,” he said. “We have to be sure. That environment is highly infested with terrorists.”

Mohammed Goje, a doctor who is the executive secretary of the Yobe State Emergency Management Agency, said that nine civilians, including three children, were killed in the strike on a rural community near the border with Niger. He said the dead were in their homes when the strike occurred and came from multiple families.

Those killed and the 23 people injured were farmers or children, he said. The injured were taken to hospitals and are in stable condition, Goje said.

“For us as an emergency management agency, the life of civilians is a priority,” he said. “They were children, they were farmers, they are people, and we must give them the treatment they deserve free.”

The governor of Yobe instructed hospitals to provide free care to the injured and said his office would work with the military to determine what had gone wrong.

“Government will work closely with the security forces especially the Nigeria Air Force to establish what actually happened,” Gov. Mai Mala Buni said in a statement.

Gabkwet initially denied that the air force was involved. But on Thursday, after Buni called for an investigation, the spokesman released a statement saying one of the air force pilots fired shots after observing “suspicious movement consistent with Boko Haram terrorists behavior.”

“Unfortunately reports reaching Nigerian Air Force (NAF) Headquarters alleged that some civilians were erroneously killed while others were injured,” he said in the statement.

The Nigerian government has used airstrikes in the northeast to target Boko Haram and an offshoot loyal to the Islamic State. The two groups have killed more than 30,000 people in 12 years. In 2017, a Nigerian air force fighter jet mistakenly bombed a town crowded with people who had fled Islamist militants, killing more than 50 and injuring more than 100.

Matthew Page, an associate fellow with the Africa Program at Chatham House, said civilian casualties in the fight against Boko Haram are common but rarely acknowledged by the government. The combat aircraft that Nigeria and Niger are using to fight the group, Page said, are “not effective counterinsurgency tools.”

“You’re using a meat cleaver rather than a surgeon’s scalpel,” he said.

The Nigerian air force has said it will use A-29 Super Tucano planes from the United States to conduct some of those airstrikes. Six of the planes arrived in Nigeria in July, after the Trump administration’s controversial decision to clear the nearly $600 million Super Tucano deal, ending an Obama-era ban on selling weapons to Nigeria.

Asked Thursday whether Super Tucano planes were involved in this airstrike, Gabkwet said he did not believe so but added, “All of these things will come out when the investigation is done.”

By Rachel Chason and Ismail Alfa

The Washington Post

Related story: Officers killed in attack on Nigeria’s elite military academy

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Nigeria Recaptures 108 Inmates After Prison Outbreak

At least 108 out of 240 inmates who escaped from a prison in central Nigeria have been recaptured, a prison official said Tuesday.

Heavily armed gunmen stormed the Security Custodial Centre in Kabba, in Kogi State, late on Sunday, freeing scores of inmates.

It was unclear who the gunmen were but criminal gangs have terrorized central and northwest Nigeria for years.

“We have a total of 108 inmates rearrested,” Nigeria’s correctional service spokesman Francis Enobore told AFP by phone.

“But as the day progresses, the figure will definitely increase,” he added, saying “several processes have been activated to ensure all inmates are rearrested.”

At about 2245 GMT on Sunday, the spokesman had said earlier in a statement, numerous attackers “engaged the armed guards in a fierce gun battle.”

The gunmen invaded the prison, which had 294 prisoners in custody at the time, including 224 pre-trial detainees.

A soldier and a police officer lost their lives in the attack, Enobore later added.

Large prison outbreaks are not uncommon in Nigeria.

On April 5, gunmen raided Owerri police headquarters, in Nigeria’s southern Imo state, freeing more than 1,800 inmates.

In addition to fighting criminal gangs who also kidnap people for ransom and rustle cattle, Nigeria’s security forces are facing a violent jihadist insurgency in the northeast and separatist agitation in the southeast.

The Defense Post 

Related story: Militant group storm prison in Kogi and free 118 inmates

Nigeria faces one of its worst cholera outbreaks in years

Nigeria is seeing one of its worst cholera outbreaks in years, with more than 2,300 people dying from suspected cases as Africa's most populous country struggles to deal with multiple disease outbreaks.

This year's cholera outbreak, with a higher case fatality rate than the previous four years, is worsened by what many consider to be a bigger priority for state governments: the COVID-19 pandemic. Nigeria faces a resurgence of cases driven by the Delta variant, and less than 1% of the population has been fully vaccinated.

At least 69,925 suspected cholera cases were recorded as of Sept. 5 in 25 of Nigeria's 36 states and in the capital, Abuja, according to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control. Children between 5 and 14 are the most affected age group and the overall case fatality rate is 3.3%, more than double that of COVID-19's 1.3% case fatality rate in Nigeria.

At least 2,323 people have died from suspected cholera this year, but there are concerns that might be an undercount given that many affected communities are in hard to reach areas.

States in Nigeria's north where flooding and poor sanitation increase the risk of transmission are the hardest hit. The 19 states in the north account for 98% of the suspected cases.

Cholera is endemic and seasonal in Nigeria, where only 14% of the population of more than 200 million have access to safely managed drinking water supply services, according to government data from 2020, which also shows that open defecation is still practiced by at least 30% of residents in 14 states

Nigeria also continues to see regular outbreaks of yellow fever, Lassa fever, measles and other infectious diseases.

"We must remain conscious that these multiple outbreaks can further strain our health system," outgoing Nigeria CDC director-general Chikwe Ihekweazu told The Associated Press.

But he and other officials say the experience from those health crises has helped Nigeria prepare for the worst. "Prior investment in diagnostic capacity, case management, electronic surveillance systems, event-based surveillance, risk communication, logistic management systems and national/subnational workforce development have paid off significantly during COVID-19 pandemic," he said.

That has not contained cholera, however, and in some states, authorities have said COVID-19 has taken center stage.

In Kogi State, which has Nigeria's second-highest cholera case fatality rate at 24.5%, top health official Saka Haruna told the AP the rate is high because of the difficulty in accessing care in hard-to-reach areas.

Even in the capital, finding care has been challenging. Ese Umukoro said she had a "very difficult" experience when her brother, Samson, had cholera and was rejected at three hospitals before being admitted at the fourth. She asked the government to "try their best to at least give us good water to avoid that kind of sickness."

Sokoto State has Nigeria's fourth-highest count of suspected cholera cases, and its health commissioner told the AP that 22 of the 23 Local Government Areas have been hit by the outbreak.

"What is driving the infections is lack of good sanitary conditions in our villages and open defecation, aggravated by heavy rainfall," said Ali Inname.

It's a common problem. Government data from a study supported by UNICEF found access to safely managed sanitation services at just 21% nationwide.

Engineer Michael Oludare, an Oyo-based water scientist, said it is "very important" for authorities to provide basic water and sanitation. He said the poor, women, children and internally displaced people are among "those that will have problems when it comes to cholera."

Moreover, Nigeria still grapples with the challenge of inadequate vaccines and trained manpower to cover all Local Government Areas where the cholera outbreak has been recorded.

By Chinedu Asadu


Monday, September 13, 2021

Video - Boko Haram victim recounts time in captivity

The Boko Haram insurgency has lasted for over a decade. The group began launching attacks in northern Nigeria. Beyond carrying out the devastating attacks, the group also kidnapped hundreds of girls and students. We talked to one of their victims, Fatima Buba Saleh. She spent years in captivity, before she was able to escape with her child.

Video - Top Nigerian squash player combines business and sports

Combining competitive sports with active business is no mean feat at all and can be mentally challenging. But Nigeria's top female squash player, Yemisi Ola-tunji, is managing to do just that. Here is CGTN's Deji Bademosi with her story.

Friday, September 10, 2021

Phone and internet shutdown in Nigerian state enters sixth day as security forces target kidnappers

Most residents in Nigeria's north western Zamfara State have welcomed a government directive ordering a shutdown of internet and phone communications now in its sixth day designed to combat a spate of banditry and ransom-seeking kidnappings plaguing the region.

Last Friday, mobile network providers were directed by Nigeria's telecom regulator to shut down communications in Zamfara for two weeks "to enable relevant security agencies to carry out required activities towards addressing the security challenge in the state," the Nigeria Communications Commission said in a letter to a telecom firm.

The directive came two days after at least 73 students were abducted from a state-run high school in Zamfara's Maradun district. Military authorities are undertaking targeted raids on the hideouts of kidnappers and other criminal gangs in the state, who are known locally as 'bandits.'

Zailani Bappa, a media adviser to the Zamfara State governor told CNN Wednesday from neighbouring Kaduna State that the suspension of phone services "gives security forces the upper hand against the bandits."

Some Zamfara residents told CNN they endorsed the government's decision to shut down communications in the state even though it came at a cost.

"I left Zamfara for Kaduna yesterday (Tuesday) because of the ban on mobile networks," a resident, Hamdan Shinkafi, told CNN. "I sell phones online. Since there is no network, there is no way I can sell my gadgets, but I'm not bothered about that because it's for the best," he added.

Shinkafi said many locals were in support of the phone blackout which runs simultaneously with the ongoing military operations in Zamfara.

"I'm in full support of the ban. Many people in Zamfara also support it," Shinkafi said. "Before I left, soldiers were combing through forests in search of bandits... Before now, everyone has been living in fear because of the bandits."

Another resident, Ahmad Maishanu, told CNN many locals were "trooping into neighbouring states where they can make phone calls."

"I'm in Abuja. I won't return to Zamfara until the phone blackout is lifted," he stated, adding "some residents were not initially happy with the network disruption, but they are now jubilating following the military operations going on in the state."

Zamfara and other neighboring north western states have been hit with several mass kidnappings by ransom-seeking gangs this year.

Prominent among the string of kidnappings in Zamfara was the abduction of over 200 schoolgirls in the town of Jangebe in February.

The students have since been freed, with authorities insisting no ransom was paid to secure their release.

The phone blackout is one of many measures enforced by authorities in Zamfara to curb banditry and recurring abductions in the state. Last week, Zamfara's Information Commissioner, Ibrahim Dosara, told CNN schools in the state had been closed down to avoid further attacks by gunmen. Dosara added that vehicular movements had also been restricted across the state.

The Zamfara government had earlier suspended the transportation of livestock beyond the state's borders while ordering the closure of weekly markets. 

By Nimi Princewill


Related story: Video - Is Nigeria's kidnapping crisis out of control?

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

The Duchess of Cornwall has become patron of Nigeria's first sexual assault referral center

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, has been named patron of Nigeria's first sexual assault referral center in Lagos, the country's largest city.

The Duchess, 74, has long campaigned against domestic abuse and sexual violence and said she is "delighted to become Patron of the Mirabel Center in Lagos," which was founded in 2013 to support survivors of sexual assault.

"It is a truly trailblazing organization, supporting survivors of rape and sexual assault as they seek healing and justice," she added. "Their vital work means that women need no longer suffer in silence and I am deeply grateful to all Mirabel's wonderful staff and volunteers."

The Duchess will be working with Nigerian and British Nigerian women to find ways to help the Mirabel Centre over the coming months, Clarence House said.

The center's founder, Itoro Eze-Anaba, told CNN Tuesday the Mirabel Center provides free medical and psychosocial support services to survivors of sexual violence and has assisted over 6,000 people since it started eight years ago.

She said the youngest survivor they have helped was a 3-month-old baby and the oldest, an 80-year-old woman.

Eze-Anaba added that having the duchess as patron will, among other things, enable the organization to boost the work it does for survivors of sexual violence, who are often too afraid to speak out.

"It will raise awareness about the center, and the issue of rape in Nigeria. When we started in 2013, we were seeing between 20 to 30 clients in a month. Now we see at least 70, sometimes more than 100 clients in a month. This means that more people are having the confidence to speak out," she said.

The Duchess of Cornwall became patron of the UK domestic abuse charity SafeLives last year.
"Sexual violence in Nigeria is rampant but shrouded in secrecy because of the stigma that is associated with it," Eze-Anaba said.

A report by UN Women found that 30 percent of women and girls aged between 15 and 49 have experienced sexual abuse in Nigeria.

The report also found that gender-based violence had worsened during the Covid crisis.
Last month, the Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team (DSVRT) said at least 1,617 cases of sexual assault were recorded in the state between January and June this year.

The DSVRT further stated that more than 10,000 cases involving men, women, and children had been handled by the agency in the last two years.

"The current COVID-19 pandemic has further revealed the endemic nature of sexual violence. We have seen a huge number of children and women coming forward to report cases of sexual assault and rape," Eze-Anaba said. 


Friday, September 3, 2021

Video - Is Nigeria's kidnapping crisis out of control?

Nigeria’s government is struggling to tackle criminal gangs who have stepped up concerted attacks against village communities, schools, and colleges in northern states over the last eight months. Gang members popularly characterised as ‘bandits’ have kidnapped more than 1,000 students alone since they began abducting civilians for ransom payments in greater numbers in December. 

While some children and young adults have been freed through mediation, in many cases families and school administrators have paid the attackers to secure their release. With the central government of President Muhammadu Buhari and some state governors refusing to pay the gangs and many families unable to meet the ransom demands themselves, hundreds of people remain hostage. 

The gangs have launched increasingly bold attacks as central and state authorities try to tackle them. In an unexpected raid on an elite military academy in Kaduna on August 24, suspected gang members killed two officers and kidnapped another. In this episode of The Stream, we will look at how people in northern Nigeria are coping amid the advance of the gangs and what can be done to improve security and safety.

Schools in Nigerian state shut after mass kidnapping of students by gunmen

Schools in Nigeria's northwestern Zamfara State have been ordered closed after scores of students were kidnapped by gunmen on Wednesday.

At least 73 students were abducted from a state-run high school in Zamfara's Maradun district, local police said in a statement, adding that the high school was targeted by "armed bandits."
"The abduction followed the invasion of the school by a large number of armed bandits," according to Zamfara State Police Command.

"A search and rescue team has been deployed to work with the military to locate and rescue the abducted children... Security has also been beefed up at Kaya Village and environ to forestall further attacks on the communities," the statement added.

Zamfara's Information Commissioner, Ibrahim Dosara, told CNN on Thursday that schools in the state have been closed down to avoid further attacks.

"We have closed primary and secondary schools in the state," Dosara said, adding "but schools currently writing examinations are asked to stay behind until they finish their examinations... Heavy security presence will be provided to protect those writing exams."

The latest kidnapping comes days after 91 schoolchildren earlier abducted in north-central Niger State were released by their captors after thousands of dollars were paid by their families as ransom.
Peter Hawkins, UNICEF's representative in Nigeria told CNN the Zamfara kidnapping "highlights the fragility of education and security" in the state.

"The bandits have reached a stage now where all schools in Zamfara state have been closed down through their actions. The impact this will have on children who want to learn will be profound — not only on those 73 children whose lives are at stake for purposes of extortion, but for all children in Zamfara who are prevented from being able to go to school and learn," said Hawkins, who added that an estimated 1.3 million Nigerian children have been affected by frequent raids on schools by gunmen.
Kidnapping for ransom has become one of the major security challenges in Nigeria, with Zamfara and other neighbouring northwestern states being hit with several mass kidnappings this year.

Prominent among the string of kidnappings in Zamfara was the abduction of over 200 schoolgirls in the town of Jangebe in February. The students have since been freed, with authorities insisting no ransom was paid to secure their release.

Between June 2011 and the end of March 2020, an estimated $18.34 million was paid in ransoms, Lagos-based SBM Intelligence said in a report last year titled "The economics of the kidnap industry in Nigeria."

Amnesty International has described this latest incident in Zamfara as "disturbing," saying in a tweet that "attacks on schools and abductions of children are war crimes."

"The children abducted are in serious risk of being harmed. Nigerian authorities must take all measures to return them to safety," Amnesty added. 

By Nimi Princewill and Sarah Dean 


Related stories: Gunmen release some students in northern Nigeria months after kidnapping

Bandits release 15 students after parents pay ransom

Kidnapped Nigeria Chibok girl free after seven years

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation is considering an initial public offer of its shares after declaring profit for the first time in its 44 years of operation in the 2020 financial year. This comes after President Muhammadu Buhari, signed into law the Petroleum Industry Act, which enables the state-owned oil giant to offer its shares to the public. Listing of NNPC's shares will draw on the experience of the Saudi Arabian oil giant, Aramco, which listed its shares in 2019. The news of the proposed sales of NNPC shares to the public and its subsequent listing on the Nigerian exchange limited is expected to help improve transparency and accountability at the oil firm which had been bedeviled with large scale corruption.

Nigeria and Russia Sign Military Cooperation Agreement

The Nigerian Embassy in Moscow announced last week the signing of a legal framework agreement that would provide for Russia to supply Nigeria with military equipment and training. The Agreement on Military-Technical Cooperation also provides for “after-sales services, training of personnel in respective educational establishments, and technology transfer.” Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari reportedly raised the possibility of such an agreement with Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2019.

Media sees the agreement as related to U.S. congressional hesitancy to authorize the sale to Nigeria of certain military equipment because of human rights concerns. Indeed, ​Nigerian desire to buy such materiel—and American reluctance to sell, often on human rights grounds—is a perennial irritant to the bilateral relationship. Nigeria already uses military equipment from Russia and other military suppliers as well as the United States.

The just-signed agreement is a legal framework only; Nigeria has not entered into a new agreement actually to make new purchases. With respect to Nigeria, Russia is likely to be “transactional”—can its companies make money? Any accompanying increase in political influence Moscow will regard as a secondary dividend. 

By John Campbell 


Monday, August 30, 2021

Video - Nigerian Medics Seek Greener Pastures In Saudi Arabia

Nigerian medics are moving to the Middle East in search of greener pastures amid resident doctors' strike.

Tiger Brands becomes latest SA company to exit Nigeria

South African company Tiger Brands, owner of brands like All Gold, Black Cat and Koo, agreed to sell its 49% minority shareholding in UAC Foods to parent UAC of Nigeria.

The purchase is expected to be completed in September, UAC of Nigeria said in a filing published on the website of the Nigerian Exchange Group. UAC of Nigeria currently owns 51% of UAC Food's shares.

Tiger Brands acquired a minority state in UAC Foods in 2011, following a joint venture agreement with the Nigerian firm to manufacture and distribute some sausage, ice cream and water brands. It is exiting Nigeria about two months after another South African firm, Shoprite Holdings, sold its operations in the West African country to local investors.

Also, Tiger Brands in 2015 sold its shareholding in Dangote Flour to Nigerian parent Dangote Industries, three years after buying it.

By Emele Onu


Friday, August 27, 2021

Video - Gunmen kill 36 villagers in Nigeria's divided Plateau state

Attackers shot dead at least 36 people and destroyed buildings in a night raid on a village near the central Nigerian city of Jos, officials said, in an area hit by repeated ethnic clashes.

The gunmen went house to house killing residents in Yelwa Zangam late on Tuesday, a military spokesman said. Troops struggled to get to the area as a bridge had been destroyed, he added.
Jos is the capital of Plateau State - part of Nigeria's so-called Middle Belt which has seen regular fighting between the Hausa-Fulani group, who dominate the whole of northern Nigeria, and a number of much smaller local ethnic groups.

Plateau State Governor Simon Lalong described the attack as a "barbaric act", and said security forces had arrested 10 suspects and were pursuing others.
He said he was reinstating a 24-hour curfew on the surrounding area to prevent further loss of life and property. Authorities had only recently relaxed a curfew imposed after attackers killed 22 commuters in the same area on Aug 14.

One local resident said the attackers were Fulanis from a nearby area involved in a feud with the Yelwa Zangam community. Reuters could not independently verify this.
A registrar at a hospital in Jos told Reuters that 36 bodies had been brought in from the village.

Upsurge of violence

The whole of Nigeria has been experiencing an upsurge of violence this year, with abductions for ransom and armed robberies commonplace in several states.

The underlying cause of much of the tension is poverty which intensifies competition for resources and jobs and, in the Middle Belt, exacerbates a complex inter-section of ethnic and religious rivalries.
The Hausa-Fulani, who number tens of millions across Nigeria and are mostly Muslim, are seen as a threat by some of the smaller Middle Belt groups, who are predominantly Christian. 


Gunmen release some students in northern Nigeria months after kidnapping

Gunmen have released some of the children kidnapped from a school in northern Nigeria back in May, some of whom were as young as five years old, the school's head teacher said late Thursday.

Abubakar Garba Alhassan told The Associated Press that the freed students were on their way to the state capital, Minna, but added he could not confirm the exact number freed.

Authorities have said that 136 children were abducted along with several teachers when gunmen on motorcycles attacked the Salihu Tanko Islamic School in Niger state. Other preschoolers were left behind as they could not keep pace when the gunmen hurriedly moved those abducted into the forest.

Alhassan did not provide details of their release, but parents of the students have over the past weeks struggled to raise ransoms demanded by their abductors. There was no immediate comment from police of the Niger governor's office.

The release, though, came a day after local media quoted one parent as saying six of the children had died in captivity.

More than 1,000 students have been forcibly taken from their schools during those attacks, according to an Associated Press tally of figures previously confirmed by the police. Although most of those kidnapped have been released, at least 200 are still held by their abductors.

The government has been unable to halt the spate of abductions for ransom. As a result, many schools have been forced to close due to the concerns about the kidnapping risk.

After one abduction at a university in Kaduna state earlier this year, gunmen demanded hundreds of thousands of dollars in ransom. They killed five other students to compel the students' parents to raise the money, and later released 14 others.


Related story: Bandits release 15 students after parents pay ransom

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Nigeria approves Sinopharm COVID vaccine, expects 7.7 mln doses

Nigeria has recently approved China's Sinopharm (1099.HK) vaccine against COVID-19, the head of the country's primary healthcare agency said on Tuesday.

Nigeria has been allocated 7.7 million doses of the vaccine through the COVAX scheme aimed at providing vaccines to developing countries.

Dr. Faisal Shuaib, head of Nigeria's National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, did not say when the Sinopharm doses would arrive or be administered.

Cases are rising in Nigeria with daily new infections increasing 10 fold from levels seen in July, according to a Reuters tally.

Nigeria, Africa's most populous country with some 200 million people, has vaccinated only a small fraction of them, largely due to lack of supply. So far, some 2 million people, or 1% of the population, have received one dose of vaccine while fewer than 1 million have received two.

The rollout of vaccines, which had been halted on July 9 because supplies had run out after a first phase, resumed on Aug. 16. read more

During the first phase, Nigeria used doses of AstraZeneca's (AZN.L) vaccine received through COVAX. It has since received supplies of Moderna's (MRNA.O) vaccine donated by the United States, which are being used for the second phase.

Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) shots purchased by Nigeria via an African Union scheme are also expected to be used.

Nigeria has recorded 187,588 cases of COVID-19 and 2,276 deaths since the start of the pandemic, according to official data, although the figures could be much higher given that only 2.7 million samples have been tested. 


Related story: Unpaid doctors strike in Nigeria amid new COVID-19 surge

Officers killed in attack on Nigeria’s elite military academy

Gunmen have attacked Nigeria’s elite military academy, killing two officers and kidnapping another in a brazen assault on a symbol of the armed forces.

The raid on Tuesday on the Nigerian Defence Academy, the country’s main officer training school, is a major blow for a military already struggling with an armed uprising and heavily armed criminal gangs.

“The security architecture of the Nigerian Defence Academy was compromised early this morning by unknown gunmen,” said Major Bashir Muhammad Jajira, spokesman for the academy in the northwestern state of Kaduna.

“We lost two personnel and one was abducted.”

Various army units and security agencies were pursuing the attackers and trying to rescue the kidnap victim, Jajira said.

The high-security base, located just outside the state capital Kaduna, trains Nigerian officers and also cadets from other African militaries.

No group claimed responsibility, but Nigeria is facing a threat from rebels and large criminal gangs that raid villages, steal cattle and carry out mass kidnappings for ransom.

Attacks and kidnappings have surged in recent months, especially in north-central and northwest Nigeria, partly driven by economic hardship linked to disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and by the impunity enjoyed by most perpetrators.

Kaduna state, located north of the federal capital Abuja, has been the scene of mass abductions at schools and other acts of violence against communities, along with other states such as Niger, Zamfara and Katsina.

The Nigerian government has said it is winning the battle against the criminals it describes as bandits.

However, many Nigerians have stopped travelling through rural areas for fear of being abducted, many pupils have dropped out of school, and many parents are driven to desperate measures to raise ransoms to have their kidnapped children freed.

Al Jazeera

Related stories: Kidnapped Nigeria Chibok girl free after seven years

Monday, August 23, 2021

Video - Nigeria looking to dominate the 2021 FIBA AFROBASKET

In just three day's time, Africa's premier basketball tournament, the Afrobasket- will kick off in the Rwandan capital, Kigali. 16 top nations from around Africa will take part in the two-week competition. Olympic Games finalists and the tournament's top team, D'Tigers from Nigeria, head to Kigali with one mission- to claim the title and assert themselves as the number one ranked men's basketball team on the continent. Here's CGTN's Deji Badmus with more.

Bandits release 15 students after parents pay ransom

Bandits have released 15 more students kidnapped last month from a Baptist school in northwest Nigeria, officials said.

School administrator Reverend John Hayab told Reuters news agency on Sunday that parents had raised and paid an undisclosed ransom to free the students, who were among more than 100 taken on July 5 from the Bethel Baptist High School.

“The students are already being released and would be handed over to their parents any moment from now,” Hayab said.

Hayab had previously said the abductors were seeking 1 million naira ($2,430) per student.

So far, 56 of the kidnapped Bethel students have been released or escaped from their abductors.

“We still have 65 more of our students with the bandits and we are working to see they can be freed,” Hayab told the AFP news agency on Sunday.

Kaduna state’s commissioner for internal security, Samuel Aruwan, confirmed the release but did not immediately comment on the ransom payment.

The Bethel abduction was part of a string of kidnappings by armed gangs known locally as bandits who have long terrorised northwest and central Nigeria, looting, stealing cattle and kidnapping for ransom.

About 1,000 students have been kidnapped since December after gangs started to target schools and colleges. Most have been released after negotiations.

But many hostages remain captive, including more than 136 children abducted in June from an Islamic seminary in Tegina in central Niger State, four of whom have died in captivity.

On Friday, the gangs asked the seminary to send clothing for the schoolchildren who have been in the same clothes for months, according to one of the parents.

“They phoned the head of the school and told him to ask parents to send the children new clothes as the ones they have been wearing are in shreds,” Maryam Mohammed, whose seven children are among the hostages, told AFP.

Last week, nine pupils of an Islamic seminary were also seized by motorcycle-riding attackers in Katsina State, the second such incident in as many months.

President Muhammadu Buhari in February called on state governments to stop paying bandits, and Kaduna Governor Nasir el-Rufai publicly refuses to pay.

But desperate parents and communities often raise and pay ransoms themselves.

Al Jazeera

Related story: Kidnapped Nigeria Chibok girl free after seven years

Friday, August 20, 2021

Video - President Buhari signs historic oil overhaul into law


President Muhammadu Buhari has signed into law long-awaited legislation to overhaul the oil and gas industry in Africa's biggest crude producer. A harmonised version of the Petroleum Industry Bill completed its passage through both houses of parliament on 16 July, nearly two decades after it was first introduced. The law aims to provide a clearer framework, and simplify taxes and royalties for oil companies working in Africa's top oil producer. For a more detailed look into this, CGTN's Ramah Nyang' had a chat with Dauda Garuba, a Natural Resource Governance Expert.

Nigeria Near Agreement to Resume Twitter Service

Twitter Inc. agreed to most of the conditions set by the Nigerian government to resume operations in the West African country, Information Minister Lai Mohammed said.

The social media giant “has met almost 70% of the government’s terms and conditions, many of them quite fundamental and important,” Mohammed said in an interview Wednesday with Bloomberg Television. “We are working on a few more.”

A spokesman for the San Francisco-based company declined to comment.

President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration blocked access to Twitter’s services in Africa’s most populous country on June 5, after the company deleted one of his tweets for violating its rules. The dispute added to other controversies Twitter has faced with government leaders, including its decision in January to ban former U.S. President Donald Trump and a clash with Indian authorities over posts on its app.

Buhari, who was briefly a military dictator during the 1980s, ran afoul of Twitter’s rules when he issued a threat to crack down on separatists he accuses of waging a rebellion in the southeast of the country.

The Nigerian government didn’t shutter Twitter because of the removal of Buhari’s tweet, Mohammed said. Rather, it was because of the use of the U.S. microblogging site by the Indigenous People of Biafra, he said.

Buhari’s government has proscribed IPOB, which wants to establish an independent nation in southeastern Nigeria, as a terrorist organization and blames the group for a series of deadly attacks this year on security forces. The group’s leader, Nnamdi Kanu, was captured in June and returned to Nigeria to continue a treason trial he fled in 2017.

“Twitter became the platform of choice for a group that was targeting policemen, killing policemen, killing the military and promoting the interest of one ethnic group against another,” Mohammed said. “For national security, we suspended the operations.”

IPOB maintains that it’s a self-determination movement committed to creating its own state for the Igbo ethnic group through non-violent means. It accuses the government of “abducting” Kanu abroad in violation of international law.

Twitter officials last met with representatives of the Nigerian government “about a week ago,” according to Mohammed. “It’s been quite encouraging.

By Annmarie Hordern and William Clowes


Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Video - 22 people killed in ambush in Nigeria's Plateau state

In Nigeria, security officials are reporting that 22 people have been killed in an armed attack in the nation's Plateau state. 14 others were injured when a convoy of five buses ferrying Muslim followers was ambushed along Rukuba road in Jos. The victims were heading to Ikare town in Ondo state after attending prayers in Bauchi state. Authorities say they have arrested six suspects in connection with the attack. CGTN spoke to Phil Ihaza in Abuja for more details on this story.

Netflix first original series from Nigeria drops highly anticipated trailer

It is one of the most anticipated Nollywood films of all time and the trailer for King Of Boys: The Return Of The King was released Monday amid frenzy from fans of the crime and political thriller, who call themselves the KOB Army.

The seven-part project is Netflix's first Original Series from Nigeria and a sequel to the highly acclaimed 2018 King of Boys movie directed by leading director Kemi Adetiba.

Fans can now take a peek at what to expect, as formidable businesswoman Eniola Salami, played by Nollywood veteran Sola Sobowale, returns to Nigeria after a five-year exile eager to mete out blood-curdling punishments to her adversaries.

Following the success of the first installation, which made over N450 million ($1M) at the box office, Adetiba announced a sequel was in the works.

After a two-year wait, she revealed that the sequel initially intended to be a movie will be a Netflix Original limited series.

The KOB Army

The KOB Army has shown immense support for the franchise since the first movie, with fans making plans for viewing parties and special outfits when it premieres on August 27 on Netflix.

As the release day for the sequel draws nearer, the anticipation runs high as many wait with bated breath to see The Return Of The King. But fans are not the only ones eager; Adetiba describes the weight of the expectation as "awaiting a report card for the last year and a half of my life."

"My anxiety these days ranges from numb to I too am on tenterhooks, she says. "But I'm mostly absolutely thrilled by the love and support of the KOB ARMY. It's been so overwhelming. The massive anticipation simply shows us how well-loved KOB 1 is."

The King of Boys has been a stand-out movie for modern Nollywood. It was the sophomore film by Adetiba, whose directorial debut, The Wedding Party, was the unopposed Nollywood movie of the year 2016, being the highest-grossing film until January 2021 and spotlighting Adetiba, who already made her mark in the music and television industry, as a filmmaker of note.

The new installment will see old characters from the original, including actor Toni Tones, who reprises her role as a young Eniola Salami and musician Reminisce as Makanaki.

It also introduces new characters who have a bone to pick with Salami. Among them are seasoned actors Nse Ikpe-Etim and Nollywood heartthrob Richard Mofe Damijo.

King of Boys is a departure from the cheery, bright romcom of The Wedding Party into the dark crime-filled world of Eniola Salami, whose quest for power leaves a trail of dead bodies in her wake.
It was a wager which paid off in an industry known of late for primarily producing comedies to meet the audience's demand. Of the top 10 highest-grossing Nollywood movies, King of Boys is the sole thriller on the list.

Trusting the audience

Adetiba says the successful outing taught her not to cage her audience.

"I remember once in film school, an instructor said, 'If you treat your audience as if they were intelligent, they'll love you for it,'" she says.

"Yes, I was told that the audience wasn't ready for a film like KOB." Still, Adetiba and her brother, Remi Adetiba, who co-produces the franchise, persisted in bringing the project to light.

"Running on blind faith, we were all, "Go Big Or Go Home." It was our very own 'Do It Afraid' moment, but we jumped in the deep end, and our amazing audience, aka KOB ARMY, thanked us with their massive support. Just as my instructor said."

Not only was the genre a deviation from the norm in modern Nollywood, but her lead figure was complex in a way that is rarely done in the industry, where characters are usually portrayed as either good or evil.

Adetiba says it was vital for her to highlight this complexity because it mirrors real life.
"I love my characters to be relatable...There are many facets to you and I. Understanding this then creating a character that is one-dimensional is an injustice."

"So when I'm creating a character like Eniola Salami ... I'm interested in who s(he) is to all those different people. In Eniola's life, we have her family, those she encounters in everyday life, her legit business customers, then her interactions... in the 'underworld.'"

Adetiba says the production has been a real labor of love and promises a great time.
"We threw everything into this production... including the kitchen sink. We gave everything we had, so it's a product of REAL love, blood, sweat and tears. Most important of all, it's a great story."

By Anita Patrick


Related stories: Netflix involvement in Nollywood

Netflix Unveils Nigerian Original Series, Three Films

3 Nigerians selected for Netflix Development Lab to engender more local African content

Nigeria's Buhari signs historic oil overhaul bill into law

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari signed into law an oil overhaul bill that has been in the works for nearly two decades, a presidential spokesman said on Monday.

The package overhauls nearly every aspect of the country's oil and gas production. The legislature cleared it for his signature last month.

The bill has been in the works since the early 2000s, but the sensitivity of potential changes affecting Nigeria's key source of revenue and foreign exchange has undermined all previous attempts at an overhaul.

Major fuel marketers and other observers had been alarmed by a provision that they said could give Africa's richest man, Aliko Dangote, an effective monopoly on fuel sales in Nigeria while the communities where oil and gas is produced had pressed for a larger share of oil money.

Analysts say the bill's approval this year was essential to attracting a shrinking pool of capital for fossil fuel development.

Amendments to the package allowed a series of concessions for oil companies to lure investment.

Reporting by Libby George, Tife Owolabi and Felix Onuah Editing by David Goodman


Gunmen kill seven at Shell gas project site in Nigeria

Gunmen killed a police officer and six employees of a Nigerian oil and gas services contractor during an attack on buses transporting workers to a Shell project site in the southeastern state of Imo, police said on Tuesday.

Attacks on oil and gas facilities have long been a problem in Nigeria, where the multi-billion dollar industry sits alongside impoverished communities that have seen little benefit from it. In this case, the motive was unclear.

The Nigerian arm of Shell, SPDC, confirmed that unknown gunmen had attacked a convoy of buses taking staff of its contractor, Lee Engineering, to its Assa North Gas development project site in the Ohaji area of Imo State on Monday morning.

"We have since shut down the project site while the incident has been reported to the police for investigation. SPDC is working with the contractor and supporting the police through a thorough investigation of the incident and to prevent a recurrence," it said in a statement.

Imo State police spokesman Michael Abattam said efforts were ongoing to arrest the perpetrators.

"The command has put in measures to guard the workers in the area since it is prone to attack," he said.

Lee Engineering could not be reached for comment.

The company is involved in the installation and construction of a gas primary treatment facility and the supply of a gas turbine generators and a waste heat recovery system, according to its website.

Nigeria is struggling with a rise in different types of violence. Kidnappings for ransom and armed robberies are rife, as is armed conflict between herders and farmers and between certain communities. In the northeast, 12 years of war between Islamist insurgents and government forces have killed 350,000 people, according to a U.N. estimate.

The oil and gas industry, located in the Niger Delta in the south of the country and offshore in the Gulf of Guinea, has been a focal point for violence for several decades. The region has a history of kidnappings, inter-communal conflicts, armed insurgency, piracy and oil smuggling.

Reporting by Tife Owolabi and Libby George, writing by Estelle Shirbon, editing by Giles Elgood


Nigeria Says Taliban Victory Puts Africa in Terror Spotlight

With the Taliban's swift takeover in Afghanistan, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari this week warned that the "war on terror" is not over but is shifting to Africa. Writing in the Financial Times newspaper, Buhari said Africa needs more than U.S. military assistance to defeat terrorism – it needs investment.

The Nigerian president warned in his opinion piece that the U.S. departure from Afghanistan did not mean the so-called war on terror was winding down. He said said the threat is merely shifting to a new frontline - in Africa.

He cited the rising threat of terrorist groups in Africa, from Boko Haram in Nigeria and the Sahel region to al-Shabab in Somalia and a rising insurgency in Mozambique.

But Buhari lamented that Western allies, “bruised by their Middle East and Afghan experiences,” were not prioritizing Africa.

The president's spokespeople could not be immediately reached for comment.

But expert Kabiru Adamu of Beacon Security agrees with the president's opinion.

"It is very likely that the developments in Afghanistan could definitely spur terrorist groups within Africa. It will embolden them, it will make them look at the bigger picture, which is the fact that resilience and a continuation of their efforts could lead to victory," Adamu said.

But while Buhari praised U.S. airstrikes in July against al-Shabab in Somalia, he emphasized that U.S. military forces on the ground in Africa is not what is needed.

He said what Africa needs most is U.S. investment in infrastructure to help provide jobs and economic opportunities for the rapidly growing population.

The Nigerian president said that Africa’s population has nearly doubled since 2001, the start of the U.S.-led war on terror.
And he conceded that Nigeria’s own home-grown terror group, Boko Haram, was first agitated by lack of opportunities.

Buhari also noted the recent attacks in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado region are centered around a profitable natural gas project that provided few jobs for locals.

But founder of the Global Sentinel security magazine, Senator Iroegbu, says that Africa’s terrorist groups are not driven by economics alone.

"You know, there's a subtle competition among these jihadist groups to outdo each other. Since Taliban has recorded this success, other like the al-Qaida, ISIS, may try to also show their own hands," Iroegbu said.

In his opinion piece, Buhari wrote if Afghanistan taught us a lesson, it was that although sheer force can blunt terror, removal of that force can cause the threat to return.

Nigeria has been fighting Boko Haram since 2009, with the conflict spilling into neighboring Cameroon, Chad, and Niger.
More than 30,000 people are estimated to have been killed and millions displaced in the conflict.

African nations have been working together more to fight insurgents, from the G-5 Sahel to the Southern African Development Community’s troops sent, for the first time in July, to Mozambique.

But ultimately, wrote Buhari, Africans need not swords but plowshares to defeat terror.

The boots they need on the ground, he said, are those of constructors, not the military. 

By Timothy Obiezu 


Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Anger as Nigerian diplomat manhandled in Indonesia

The Nigerian government is demanding punishment for Indonesian immigration officials who were filmed assaulting a Nigerian diplomat.

Footage circulating on social media showed Abdulrahman Ibrahim, a consular officer based in Jakarta, being held down in a vehicle by several men.

Nigeria called it "an egregious act of international delinquency by the Indonesian state".

It vowed to review bilateral relations with the south-east Asian nation.

The video showed one of the officials putting his hand on the diplomat's head and pushing it back against a seat.

Between yells of protest, Mr Ibrahim repeated: "I can't breathe."

Later in the one-minute-and-30-second clip Mr Ibrahim was heard saying: "My neck, my neck."

Mr Ibrahim had been detained on a street in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta.

The incident has caused anger in Nigeria, with many saying it shows the disdain that other countries hold for Nigerians. Some are calling for a full explanation from the Indonesian government.

Nigeria's foreign ministry had previously sent a letter of protest to the Indonesian government saying the mistreatment Mr Ibrahim endured was "against international law and the Vienna Conventions governing diplomatic and consular relations between states".

Indonesia's envoy to Nigeria was also summoned on Monday over the incident and apologised on behalf of his government, the foreign ministry said.

Immigration officials had also apologised to Nigeria's ambassador to Indonesia, it added.

Meanwhile Nigeria's ambassador in Jakarta has been called home to give a full report to the government, and the foreign ministry says consultations will continue.

By Chris Ewokor


Unpaid doctors strike in Nigeria amid new COVID-19 surge

Dr. Olaniyi Olaoye and the other resident doctors at the Ekiti State University Teaching Hospital in Nigeria haven't been paid at all for five months.

Since the pandemic began, there have been many months when they've only received 60% of their salaries, bringing at least six of them to resign.

Now Olaoye and some 19,000 other doctors across Africa's most populous nation are on strike for the fourth time since the pandemic began, leaving government-run hospitals and COVID-19 treatment centers short-staffed.

The latest work stoppage comes as Nigeria confronts an avalanche of new COVID-19 cases blamed on the delta variant first detected here in early July.

Doctors who are lucky have wives who work and are depending on their income, he said. "Life is difficult for those who are not," he said.

Already Nigerian media outlets are reporting that patients — some with COVID-19 symptoms — are being turned away at short-staffed hospitals. Other patients have been discharged into the streets or left to languish in hospital beds without being diagnosed or receiving treatment.

At the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, The Associated Press witnessed two patients turned away shortly after they arrived at the emergency room last week.

“We cannot admit — resident doctors are on strike," a doctor on duty was overheard telling one of the patients. "When they call off the strike, you come back.”

Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi, president of the National Association of Resident Doctors, said the federal health ministry has sent him a letter warning that the country's 19,000 medical residents don't have the right to strike.

“Imagine a doctor not paid for 16 months in some states,” Okhuaihesuyi told The Associated Press. "How does he even provide food for his family?”

Nigerian Health Minister Dr. Osagie Ehanire and the Federal Ministry of Health both declined to comment and said a briefing would be held at a later date.

The strike is the fourth work stoppage by medical residents since the pandemic began, the longest of which lasted 10 days.

While the current work stoppage does not affect specialist doctors or nurses, medical residents make up the bulk of health care workers at government hospitals throughout Nigeria, and they also staff most of the government-run treatment facilities for COVID-19.

The striking doctors worry about their patients but place the blame on the federal government, saying it failed to honor an earlier agreement reached after the last strike in April.

“We don’t get paid enough for what we do; we have a diminished workforce, a lot of people are overworked," said Egbekun Ethel, a resident doctor at the Lagos Orthopedic hospital where patients were discharged into the streets to wait for the strike's end. “And it is not only the resident doctors who are disgruntled — the entire health sector is.”

For her, it has been a “vicious cycle" of always returning to work with “little or no rest" and a meager salary.

Some resident doctors say they have not started to receive the reviewed monthly minimum wage of N30,000 ($73) for doctors, according to the association that represents them.

Nigeria's health minister has said that he is "committed' to getting the resident doctors back to work, though he has said that most of their demands are issues to be solved by state governments, not his ministry.

Nigeria's public health sector has not been sufficiently funded for years despite the country having one of Africa's biggest economies, budget documents show.

In 2021, funding for the Federal Ministry of Health was only 4% of the entire budget, or 549.8 billion naira ($1.34 billion). An additional 70.2 billion naira ($171.6 million) was provided because of the pandemic but that allocation remains a fraction of the African Union's recommendation that governments spend an additional 15% for healthcare during the pandemic.

Critics, meanwhile, point to the vast disparity between the government hospitals treating most Nigerians and the medical care abroad that is available to the country's elite. Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has had at least 200 days of medical care in the United Kingdom since he was elected president in 2015.

“You cannot go to any hospital in the country that has all the basic infrastructure and adequate manpower to treat patients,” said Okhuaihesuyi. “That is why most people that are in government that have money do not want to receive treatment in Nigeria.”

Dr. Agwu Nnanna at the Federal Medical Center in Nigeria's Kogi state said his colleagues are trapped in “a very unfortunate situation.”

“A doctor needs to take care of himself adequately to be able to cater to his patients as well,” he said.

By Chinedu Asadu


Monday, August 9, 2021

Video - Customs in Nigeria seize haul of rare pangolin scales, ivory

The Nigeria Customs Service has seized a huge haul of rare pangolin scales and ivory that were to be smuggled out of the country. The seizure was made in the Nigerian commercial capital of Lagos last month but the Customs Service has only just revealed it.

Kidnapped Nigeria Chibok girl free after seven years

One of the Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram militants more than seven years ago is free and has been reunited with her family, a state governor's office said on Saturday.

Nearly 300 schoolgirls, most aged between 12 and 17, were abducted by Boko Haram in April 2014 from Chibok in northeast Nigeria, sparking an international outcry and the #BringBackOurGirls campaign for their release.

Over the years, many of the girls were released or found by the military, but more than 100 are still missing, Amnesty International said in April to mark the seven year anniversary of the abduction.

Borno State Governor Babagana Umara Zulum said in a statement that Ruth Ngladar Pogu surrendered to the military last month along with a person she said she had married.

"I am extremely excited both as Borno's Governor and father of all sons and daughters of the state, and also as a father to daughters," the statement said.

"I know the feeling of families of those still under captivity but we have to remain hopeful especially with today's development."

The governor's office said she had surrendered to the military on July 28. But officials had not announced the development earlier to give them time to contact her parents and other Chibok families.

Nigeria's armed forces are still fighting to end the 12-year jihadist insurgency in the country's northeast, a conflict that has left 40,000 people dead and displaced more than two million others.

Mass kidnappings in Nigeria have again made international headlines this year as heavily armed criminal gangs have targeted schools and colleges to abduct students for ransom.

Nearly 1,000 pupils have been snatched in mass abductions since December, mostly in the country's northwestern and central states.

Most have been released but some are still being held after months in captivity.

Africa News

Related stories: Kidnapped Nigeria school girls forced to join Boko Haram

Global media's Nigeria abductions coverage 'wrong'

Friday, August 6, 2021

Home-brewers thrive in northern Nigeria despite trouble with religious police

In Nigeria's northern Kano state, Janet Peter stirs a thick and frothy brown liquid inside a large cast iron pot, worrying all the while that religious police will come and chase her from the restaurant where she operates.

Peter is among many local people carrying on the tradition of brewing "burukutu", a popular homemade beer with a vinegar-like flavour made with sorghum.

Brewers like her are a target for the Hisbah, the religious police who enforce Islamic sharia law that is in place in 12 northern states.

But Peter, and those who consume burukutu, say it is healthy, natural and part of local tradition. Thick and heavy, burukutu is widely consumed as food in rural parts of the north.

"I grew up watching my mother and members of my family do the formulation back in my village," Peter told Reuters in the Hausa language. "I moved to town and could not find a job and I decided to start making this."

A four-litre bucket costs 500 naira ($1.22) - far cheaper than commercially brewed beer - and the 48-year-old mother of two sells between 40 to 80 litres a day.

Brewing - from sorting the sorghum to washing, fermenting, blending and cooking - takes five days. Burukutu typically has an alcohol content of 3% to 6%.

"We are pleading to the government to leave us to continue with this business," Peter said. "People love it and enjoy it."

Religious police chased her from her last brewing site and she now works from a restaurant that provides cover from the Hisbah, for now.

Sulaiman Ali, a security guard, said burukutu is filling and free of the chemicals he said are found in bottled beer and ogogoro, a local gin.

"This one is a natural thing, cooked and it is okay," he said as he sipped from a wooden bowl.

$1 = 411 Naira 

Writing by MacDonald Dzirutwe, Editing by Libby George and Angus MacSwan


U.S. Arrest Warrant Exposes Police Scandal in Nigeria

The charismatic head of the Intelligence Response team of the Nigeria Police Service, Abba Kyari, has been suspended pending the investigation of allegations by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that he was in cahoots with Ramon Abbas, better known as “Hushpuppi“ a Nigerian “Yahoo boy,” a popular Nigerian term for cyber criminals, involved in money laundering and fraud.

Abbas was arrested in Dubai last year, and after being expelled from the United Arab Emirates (UAE)—not extradited—he arrived in the United States to face trial. After pleading guilty as part of a plea bargain, Abbas was sentenced by a Los Angeles court to a maximum of twenty years in prison for “conspiracy to engage in money laundering.” Abbas allegedly paid Kyari N8 million (about $20,000) to arrest and jail a rogue member of Abbas’ criminal group; those allegations are currently being investigated by the Nigerian police. A U.S. district court issued a warrant for Kyari’s arrest, but American authorities have not requested his extradition, though much of the Nigerian media expects that they will do so.

Like many of his U.S. mafia forerunners, Abbas advertised a flamboyant lifestyle, featuring photographs of him lounging about a fleet of Rolls Royce cars and a private plane. He became something of a folk hero among the poor, with some 2.5 million Instagram followers. Operating over the internet, his victims—he is known to have targeted a U.S. law firm, a foreign bank, an English Premier League soccer club, and a Qatari school—would appear to have been mostly non-Nigerian.

Perhaps because of Hushpuppi’s flamboyance and Abba Kyari’s charisma and reputation for rectitude, the episode has become a media sensation and is seen as further damaging Nigeria’s international reputation. Some commentators, however, see a silver lining: a senior police official is being investigated and has been suspended, rather than the usual official cover-up.

Whatever Nigeria’s reputation, that of the police is poor, both at home and abroad. Among Nigerians, the police are a byword for corruption—grand and petty—and harassment, especially of the poor. Anti-police sentiment boiled over late last year in protests against the notoriously brutal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS)—for which Kyari formerly served as the officer-in-charge—collectively known as #EndSARS. The Buhari administration has promised police reform, of which there has been little evidence. However, the investigation of Abba Kyari could be a hopeful sign.

It should be noted that Abba Kyari of the National Police is not to be confused with Abba Kyari, chief of staff to President Buhari until his death last year from COVID-19.


Related stories: Nigeria suspends 'Hushpuppi-linked' police officer Abba Kyari

The Hushpuppis And Nigeria’s Image 

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

UAE to resume flight from Nigeria, five other countries Aug. 5

The United Arab Emirates will on Thursday lift a ban on transit flights including from Nigeria, Uganda and India India, the National Emergency and Crisis Management Authority (NCEMA) said on Tuesday.

The transit ban had also included Nepal, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

NCEMA said on Twitter that passengers travelling from countries where flights had been banned would be able to transit through its airports from August 5 as long as they present a negative PCR coronavirus test taken 72 hours prior to departure.

However, the tests must be taken in approved laboratories and carry a QR code. Countries will also be required to allocate special lounges at the airport for transit passengers while taking all precautionary and preventive measures,” the statement said.

Dubai state carrier Emirates welcomed the government’s decision to allow travel to resume from the affected countries.

There was no immediate comment from other UAE airlines on the announcement, which also eased an entry ban on residents returning from countries where flights had been suspended.

NCEMA said a ban on entry to the UAE for passengers from these countries would also be lifted for those with valid residencies and who are certified by Emirati authorities as fully vaccinated.

However, they would need to apply for online entry permits prior to travelling and would need to present a negative PCR test taken 48 hours prior to departure.

Those working in the medical, educational or government sectors in the Gulf Arab states as well as those studying or completing medical treatment in the UAE would be exempted from the vaccination requirement as would humanitarian cases.

Flights between Nigeria and the UAE remain suspended since March 17 over dispute relating to Covid-19 testing.

While the UAE imposed antigens rapid test on travellers from 58 countries; the Nigerian government insisted there was no basis for the test as it was devoid of any scientific backing.


Kidnappers in Nigeria Demand Ransom to Release 80 Schoolchildren

KADUNA, Nigeria (Reuters) - Kidnappers are demanding a ransom of one million naira each to release around 80 children snatched from a boarding school in northern Nigeria last month, according to a pastor involved in the negotiations for their release.

The attack on the Bethel Baptist High School in the state of Kaduna was the 10th mass school kidnapping since December in northwest Nigeria, which authorities have attributed to criminal gangs seeking ransom payments.

"(Bandits) are asking for one million naira on each of the 80 students remaining with them," Reverend Ite Joseph Hayab told Reuters by telephone.

Kidnappers released 28 children last month after a first batch of 28 was released two days after the raid. But another 81 remain in captivity.

Hayab said three students escaped before the 28 were released last month but they were kidnapped again by an unidentified person in the forest who demanded a ransom and was paid over one million naira by parents.

Nigerian authorities have attributed the kidnappings to what they call armed bandits seeking ransom payments.

Schools have become targets for mass kidnappings for ransom in northern Nigeria by armed groups. Such kidnappings in Nigeria were first carried out by jihadist group Boko Haram, and later its offshoot Islamic State West Africa Province, but the tactic has now been adopted by other criminal gangs.

($1 = 411.00 naira)


Monday, August 2, 2021

Nigeria suspends 'Hushpuppi-linked' police officer Abba Kyari


Nigeria has suspended one of its most highly respected police officers after he was indicted in the US on money laundering charges.

Deputy commissioner Abba Kyari is accused of taking bribes from Nigerian Instagram celebrity Ray Hushpuppi, who has pleaded guilty to money laundering in the US.

Mr Kyari has denied the allegations.

The allegations shocked many Nigerians as he was known as a "super cop" who went after criminals.

Court documents filed in California said the 37-year-old Hushpuppi's crimes cost victims almost $24m (£17m).

Hushpuppi, whose real name is Ramon Abbas, posed as real estate developer in Dubai and posted photos of his lavish lifestyle on Instagram, where he had 2.5m followers.

He was charged in the US following his extradition from Dubai last year.

Kristi Johnson, acting director of the FBI's Los Angeles office, said Hushpuppi was one of the "most high-profile money launderers in the world".

His "celebrity status and ability to make connections seeped into legitimate organisations and led to several spin-off schemes in the US and abroad", she said.

In a statement last week, US officials said that Hushpuppi had alleged in an affidavit that he got Mr Kyari to arrest a syndicate member with whom he had fallen out.

Mr Kyari allegedly sent Hushpuppi details of a bank account in which he could deposit payment for the arrest, the statement said.

Nigeria's Police Service Commission - which is in charge of disciplining officers - said Mr Kyari would remain suspended pending the outcome of investigations.

Mr Kyari described the allegations as ''false'' and said his "hands are clean''.

The allegations against Mr Kyari has caused huge controversy in Nigeria - some people believe them while others say he has been set up.

It is unclear whether he will be extradited to the US to stand trial.

Hushpuppi could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison.

In one scheme, he attempted to steal more than $1.1m from someone who wanted to fund a new children's school in Qatar, the documents said.

Court records unsealed last week said he pleaded guilty to this charge on 20 April.

By Ishaq Khalid 


Related story: The Hushpuppis And Nigeria’s Image

Nigerian athletes disqualified from Olympics due to inadequate drug testing

10 out of Nigeria’s 23 track and field athletes have been forced to withdraw from the Tokyo Olympic Games because they did not meet the minimum testing requirements under Rule 15 of the Anti-Doping Rules. In other words, the athletes did not receive the minimum amount of out-of-competition testing leading up to the Games in order to compete.

According to Nigerian news outlet,, the athletes are blaming their disqualification on negligence by their country’s sport administrators, and have taken to the streets in Tokyo to protest the decision to disqualify them from competition. The Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) has taken responsibility for the lapses, but it will not be enough to have the affected athletes reinstated.

The disqualified athletes are now protesting with signs that read “why should we suffer because of someone else’s negligence?” and “all we wanted to do was compete.” Eight athletes from other countries were also disqualified for the same reason. To clarify, none of the athletes involved were taken out of competition because of doping violations or missed tests, but rather because their country’s governing body responsible for testing athletes failed to test them enough times before the Games.

Prior to the Olympics, the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU), the independent body created by World Athletics to manages all integrity issues, identified Nigeria’s federation as “Category A” after a continued period of weak domestic testing levels. Other category A countries include Belarus, Bahrain, Ethiopia, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria and Ukraine. One Nigerian athlete, sprinter and long jumper Blessing Okagbare, has been disqualified for failing a drug test on Saturday. 

By Brittany Hambleton 

Canadian Running

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Video - Boko Haram exploiting social vulnerabilities

For over a decade, Boko Haram has launched attacks in the Sahel region. The group launched its first series of attacks in Nigeria's Borno state. A report by the Tony Blair Institute says Boko Haram established power by exploiting social vulnerabilities. Chief among those is the low-level of education in Nigeria's northeast. UNESCO puts the literacy rate for Borno state at 14 point 5 percent. The report urges authorities to prioritise soft-power policy programmes to combat the threat posed by Boko Haram.

Nigerian Police Ordered to Free 5 Anti-Buhari Activists

 A Nigerian court has ordered the secret police to release five suspects detained for wearing T-shirts criticizing President Muhammadu Buhari, their lawyer said Tuesday.

The men were arrested early this month by the Department of State Service (DSS) during a church service led by a well-known evangelical pastor in the Nigerian capital Abuja.

They had been wearing T-shirts with the slogan "Buhari Must Go!" inside the church when they were arrested and detained.

The church was accused of aiding the arrests, but it denied the allegation.

On Monday, the federal high court Abuja ordered the DSS to release the suspects, lawyer Allen Sowore told AFP.

"The judge ordered their release forthwith without any condition. But we have not got a certified true copy of that order," he said.

He said his clients were yet to be freed.

"Unfortunately, the judge has not signed the order. So, we just came here [to the DSS office] thinking that they will act on the order of the court, but they have not acted."

Buhari, a former army commander, has come under fire after his government recently banned Twitter, a move Western allies and critics warned undermined freedom of expression.

Officials announced the ban after Twitter removed a remark from Buhari's personal account for violating its policies.

The Nigerian leader is also under pressure to tackle the country's insecurity.

The security forces are battling an Islamist insurgency in the northeast, a surge in mass kidnappings by criminal gangs in central and northwestern states, and separatist tension in parts of the south.


Monday, July 26, 2021

Video - Kidnappers in Nigeria release 28 schoolchildren

Emotional scenes in Nigeria’s Kaduna state as 28 schoolchildren were reunited with their parents after being abducted by armed men. Other families were left in tears, with 87 students still missing.

Nigeria school kidnappers abduct man delivering ransom

Kidnappers in Nigeria have seized a man who was sent to deliver a ransom payment to secure the release of dozens of abducted school children.

The elderly man was sent by the children's parents after they managed to raise 30m naira ($73,000; £53,000) by selling land and other possessions.

But they have been left feeling hopeless following his kidnapping.

The north of the country is in the midst of a wave of school abductions carried out by criminals for profit.

Ransoms are frequently paid, but this is a rare case where the person carrying the cash has been taken.

The kidnappers called up the school's headteacher to say that the money delivered was not the agreed sum.

The 136 students were taken from an Islamic school in Tegina, Niger state, in late May.

Gunmen riding on motorcycles stormed the town and opened fire indiscriminately killing one person and injuring another.

As people fled, the attackers went to the school and seized the children.

The parents and school administrators negotiated with the criminals and agreed to pay the ransom. They sold part of the school's land as well as other possessions.

Headteacher Malam Abubakar Alhassan told the BBC that six people were sent with the correct amount to meet the kidnappers near the forest where the children were being held.

When they arrived, the gunmen demanded that one of the group, an elderly man, follow them into the forest so that the cash could be counted.

But they later called to say the money was not sufficient.

"Parents are now resigned to fate. They say they can't raise any more money. They are now relying on God," Mr Alhassan told the BBC.

More than 1,000 students have been abducted from schools across northern Nigeria since December last year.

Hundreds of them are still in captivity, but 28 of the 121 children taken from the Bethel Baptist High School in Kaduna state earlier this month were freed on Saturday night.

The authorities are being severely criticised for their failure to tackle the country's widespread insecurity including the deepening kidnapping crisis.

By Ishaq Khalid


Related stories: Nigeria gunmen kidnap 'nurses and infants' from hospital

Three students dead after Nigeria school kidnapping, says principal

Nigerian outrage at brazen bandit attacks

Nigerians refer to them as bandits - a word that does not quite do justice to what are in fact networks of sophisticated criminals who operate across large swathes of northern-western and central Nigeria.

Gangs on motorbikes terrorise the region, stealing animals, kidnapping for ransom, killing anyone who dares confront them and taxing farmers - it's a huge money-making operation.

Over the last four years the security forces have not been able to get a handle on the situation, which millions of Nigerians feel is out of control.

Last week President Muhammadu Buhari inaugurated the Dutsinma-to-Tsaskiya road in his home state of Katsina but few people dare travel on it after countless attacks.

Most top government officials, including security chiefs, take the train linking the capital, Abuja, to Kaduna because of frequent abductions on the road between the two cities.

A serving army general was recently killed on the main road from Abuja to central Kogi state and his sister, who had been travelling with him, was kidnapped.

This week, 13 military police were killed in an ambush in Zamfara state when at the same time at least 150 villagers were abducted.

At the moment at least 300 students are being held by kidnappers who seized them from their schools in Kaduna, Niger and Kebbi states at different times over the last two months - many taken in broad daylight.

Some are Islamic primary school students as young as five and most of them, if the kidnappers are to be believed, have fallen sick.

In all these cases, the gangs are asking for huge amounts of money to release the children - ransoms the parents cannot afford, while the authorities insist that they will neither pay ransoms nor negotiate with criminals.

The kidnappers, whose hideouts are in vast camps in forests, are brazen.

As they hold out for payment, they hassle parents with demands for bags of rice, beans and cooking oil to feed their captives.

Dozens of schools spread across at least five northern states have been closed by the authorities as they are unable to protect them.


Food prices spiral

This has not stopped the gangs, who have recently turned to targeting more high-profile figures such as a local emir and his family.

Hundreds of villages have been deserted after some of the most brutal and deadly attacks.

In some areas, the gangs dictate what the locals can do and levy taxes.

Such insecurity in one of the country's rich agricultural belts is clear for all to see.

This year has already seen unprecedented rises in the prices of staple foods like maize, rice and beans that are grown there.

Now in the middle of the farming season huge tracts of farmland are inaccessible.


'Sophisticated know-how'

The one clear advantage - air power - that the authorities seemed to have over the criminals is now under threat.

Reports that a military jet had been shot down on Sunday by one of the gangs were at first flatly denied.

But when villagers in the area told reporters they had helped the pilot to escape to safety, the military issued a statement with a more positive spin - commending the "gallant pilot" who had come under "intense enemy fire" after a "successful" mission.

The authorities may have tried to downplay the incident but it shocked security analysts.

"We know the bandits have all those bazookas, rocket launchers… We didn't believe they have the technical know-how and capacity to use them," retired security official Mike Ejiofor told the Vanguard newspaper.

Some of the gang members have been boasting of their alliance with Islamist Boko Haram militants, who have waged a decade-long insurgency in north-eastern Nigeria and some of whom are now linked to the Islamic State group. Such allegations have not been independently verified.

However one bandit leader holding about 90 schoolchildren has told their parents that he will marry off the girls to his fighters and indoctrinate the boys to join his group - tactics used by Boko Haram to expand.

For one columnist, Boko Haram specialist Bulama Bukarti, these outrages take the issue to another level.

"It is time for Buhari to declare these beasts as the terrorists that they are and deploy all available resources to fight them. There can be no ifs, no buts, no equivocation."

Mr Ejiofor echoed this, saying: "The military should go all out for them and carry out sustained bombing of their enclaves."

The communities affected are at their wits' end over the growing boldness of the criminal gangs.

But with more calls for more military intervention, some may be looking nervously at the three states left devastated by Boko Haram - where millions are still living in overcrowded camps far from their old homes and livelihoods.


Related stories: 100 kidnapped villagers freed after 42-day captivity

Video - Nigeria kidnappings: Parents of abducted students of Kaduna plead for help

Friday, July 23, 2021

Video - Cholera outbreak kills 30 in Nigeria's northern state of Jigawa


An outbreak of cholera has killed 30 people in Nigeria's northern state of Jigawa since May, according to an official. More than 2,000 people have been hospitalized in the state in the last two months, said Salisu Mu'azu, an official of the state ministry of health, who confirmed the outbreak to reporters in Dutse, the state capital, Monday.

Video - Industrial Chemist develops pigment to reduce waste in Nigeria

An industrial Chemist has developed pigment to reduce food wastage in the West African nation of Nigeria. CGTN's Tesem Akende with a detailed report.

Eyimofe: Twin Directors’ Stunning Feature Debut Takes Nigerian Cinema To New Heights

Financed entirely in Nigeria and made with a predominantly Nigerian cast and crew, Arie and Chuko Esiri are capturing international attention with their feature in new movie “Eyimofe”.

“Eyimofe” (“This Is My Desire”), the debut feature from co-directors (and twin brothers) Arie and Chuko Esiri, is a heartrending and hopeful portrait of everyday human endurance in Nigeria, West Africa. The film traces the journeys of two distantly connected strangers at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder.

Shot on richly textured 16mm, the film is a vivid snapshot of life in contemporary, colorful, chaotic Lagos, the largest city in the country, whose social fabric is captured in all its vibrancy and complexity. It’s also a tale that was inspired by the filmmakers’ own journey.

“In a romantic way, we wanted to insert the film in the catalog and annals of the great city films that had been shot on celluloid,” said Chuko in a recent interview with News men. “We’ve seen Rome on film, we’ve seen Paris and London, but everything that we’d seen of Nigeria on film is archival footage, it’s ethnographic footage, it’s documentary. It’s not cinema, and cinema is a completely different beast.”

Documentary filmmakers might beg to differ, but the brothers are steadfast in their thinking. Still, the immortalization of the city on celluloid is a noble feat, especially when shooting in a country without any stable cinema infrastructure, a notoriously unreliable electrical grid and nightmarish traffic.

“Shooting on the streets of Lagos is notoriously difficult, because it’s a dense city and has what are called ‘area boys,’ or street guys,” Chuko said. “The idea of shutting down a street for a film production — I mean, if the president of the country can’t do that when he visits, then we weren’t going to be able to do it for our movie.”

Born 30 minutes apart in Warri, Nigeria, they grew up in Lagos, but at the age of eight, their parents shipped them off to boarding school in England to complete their formal education. At the time, there were no cinemas in Nigeria, so movies weren’t a part of their childhood. “At the time, the country was experiencing successive military regimes, and each regime had bright ideas about what was good for the culture, and these ideas were almost never good,” Chuko said. “So we didn’t grow up going to movies.”

Twenty years later, they both enrolled in film schools: Arie graduated from Columbia University and Chuko from New York University. During their time in New York City, they collaborated on a pair of short films: “Goose,” presented at the LA Film Festival in 2017, and “Besida,” which premiered at the Berlinale in 2018.

They returned to Nigeria as adults and found a Lagos that has somehow felt foreign. “Eyimofe” was born out of that experience — the idea of leaving and returning much later to whatever “home” is.

“It came from my returning to Nigeria for my stint in the National Youth Service,” he said. “From the age of eight to 22, I had only spent time in Nigeria on holiday, so now I was spending substantial time in a place to which I belonged but where I was also something of an alien — until then I hadn’t really faced all that it meant to be in Nigeria. I wanted to return to where it felt more familiar and where I would feel more comfortable in a national film industry. Even though Nigeria has a robust industry, Nollywood is a massive machine but I didn’t want to make the kind of films people make in it.”

While the Esiri brothers spent much of their lives overseas, “Eyimofe” was financed entirely in Nigeria and made with a predominantly Nigerian cast and crew. The film is now drawing a new level of international attention to Nigerian cinema and screening at several festivals, including Berlin and New Directors/New Films. However, as Nigerian movies get more notice outside the country, it’s also raising the issue of exactly what a “Nigerian film” is supposed to be.

Akeju, a US-based director at Aflik TV while making comment on the new movie, added: ” The movie details much of African migrants experiences in the Diaspora. The production is very different and professional. Kudos to the directors and all the team behind it”

The Janus Films will release “Eyimofe” across various theaters on Friday, July 23, 2021 and will be hoping it inspires as much audiences as possible.

The Guardian

Related stories: HBO explores Nigerian human rights in “The Legend of the Underground”

Bollywood and Nollywood collide in a tale of a big fat Indian-Nigerian wedding

David Oyelowo talks about the rise of Nigerian 'Nollywood' films

3 Nigerians selected for Netflix Development Lab to engender more local African content