Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Niger Delta militants vow to bomb Lagos, Abuja in Nigeria

Niger Delta militants have threatened to attack Lagos and Abuja in Nigeria, about four years after they ceased fire.

As reported by NewsOnline Nigeria, in a viral video, the Supreme Egbesu Liberation Fighters accused the federal government of marginalizing the region and failing to deliver on the amnesty program.

A masked member of the group said: “After accepting the amnesty pact, till date, there are no schools, no potable water, no light, no hospital and access roads for our people to enjoy”.

He also complained that “Over the years, the Niger Delta people have made frantic efforts to create an enabling environment… but to our great dismay, the Nigerian government over the years has decided to handle the issues of the Niger Delta with kid gloves. They have betrayed the struggle and have left the people to their fate.

“Rather, what is visible is the presence of military gunboat and the numerous military personnel dispersed to the Niger Delta who are killing, raping, and maiming the innocent people of the region.”

The masked member, therefore, said, “As a group determined to give total liberation of her people, we will destroy all the oil facilities both onshore and offshore, in no distance time, we will cripple the Nigerian economy……we are coming to destroy all your infrastructure in Lagos and Abuja.”

By Grace Kuria

CGTN

In Nigeria, One Bitcoin Can Cost $68,000. Here’s Why

Bitcoin has already passed the $68,000 mark in Nigeria, but that’s if you use the official exchange rate.

Awosika Ayodeji, a Nigerian blockchain project designer, isn’t complaining. He is happy to wake up and see bitcoin prices quoted using unofficial U.S. dollar exchange rates because it means he’d be getting more naira per dollar when he converts his crypto earnings to his local currency.

At the same time, however, “buying [bitcoin] becomes more expensive, too,” Ayodeji noted.

On Friday, Nigeria’s official exchange rate for the U.S. dollar was around 380 naira per dollar. Using this rate, a bitcoin listing on peer-to-peer platform LocalBitcoins in Nigeria of around 26,000,000 naira converted to $68,246. On the surface, this looks like a hefty 24% premium, which in this context refers to bitcoin’s price being much higher in specific locations than it is on average worldwide.

In Nigeria, these premiums aren’t consistent. On peer-to-peer platform Paxful, the listed bitcoin prices were based on $1 trading for around 475 naira. This rate converted to $54,736, a price much closer to the average bitcoin trading price of the day. In fact, the informal market dollar exchange rate in Nigeria on Friday was around 478 naira, reflecting the rate seen on Paxful and the bitcoin prices listed on LocalBitcoins.

In emerging markets that are facing a currency crisis, bitcoin prices can actually shed light on the informal market for U.S. dollars. In Argentina, Latin American crypto exchange Bitso listed the bitcoin price at 8,700,993 Argentinian pesos on Friday, which converted to a whopping $98,000 using the official exchange rate, which was around 89 Argentine pesos per dollar. But bitcoin listings on exchanges like Bitso indicated the dollar was worth around 150 pesos, reflecting the informal going rate for the dollar.

Yele Bademosi, chief executive officer at social payments app Bundle Africa said exchanges are most likely using informal dollar rates, thus inflating bitcoin’s price in local currency. According to Andrés Ondarra, country manager for Argentina at Bitso, the market exchange rate for the dollar is usually higher than the official exchange rate in Argentina as well.

“This is mainly reflecting the difference between the informal U.S. dollar rate and the official one. The gap between the official and the informal dollar in Argentina is around 70%,” Emiliano Limia, press officer at Argentine crypto exchange Buenbittold CoinDesk via an email.

Exchanges using informal rates instead of official ones indicate the local bitcoin markets exist outside of government rules, and that bitcoin trading might reveal the real value of the local currency against the dollar.

According to Gina Pieters, a professor of economics and the University of Chicago who published a paper on how bitcoin can detect exchange rate manipulation and capital controls, bitcoin premiums can occur for a number of reasons.

“It seems unlikely that the price should be that much higher unless there is the manipulation of the nominal exchange rate channel,” Pieters said in an email to CoinDesk, referring to the price of one currency in terms of another.

In fact, the thesis of Pieters’ 2016 paper was that bitcoin trading can be used to approximate unofficial exchange rates, “which, in turn, can be used to detect both the existence and the magnitude of the distortion caused by capital controls and exchange rate manipulations.”
 

Informal exchange rates

Due to the falling purchasing power of the naira, on any given day, Nigeria has multiple exchange rates for the dollar. The informal exchange rates are typically much weaker, with Nigerians having to dish out more naira per dollar, indicating the local currency may be worth less than what the government says.

According to a chapter in economist Koji Kubo’s book about Myanmar’s foreign exchange market, multiple exchange rates emerge within the unofficial market when governments implement “exhaustive exchange restrictions” or limitations on the amount of foreign currency that could be bought or sold.

In 2020, Argentina’s government imposed strict controls on the purchase of U.S. dollars, restricting the amount of dollars citizens could buy and hold to $200, in an attempt to stop capital from flowing out of the country. The dollar black market flourished as a result, with people scrambling to buy more dollars to protect their wealth, and even paying more pesos per dollar. This quickly spilled over to crypto as Argentines tried to ditch the peso for stronger currencies: demand for bitcoin soared in 2020.

Meanwhile, Nigeria’s facing a U.S. dollar shortage: in 2020, local media reportedNigerian banks were limiting the amount of dollars Nigerians can spend abroad to as low as $500. Thanks to the scarcity of dollars that could not meet local demand, the value of the naira fell in local informal markets as people showed willingness to pay more naira per dollar.

“The general market is now setting the price to $480 as that seems to be the present value generally accepted between buyers and sellers,” Ayodeji said.

The lower informal exchange rate can mean sending money to family in Nigeria or Argentina in bitcoin can be beneficial as one bitcoin can get you more of the local currency, but this also means that the purchasing power of the local currency is weakening. Sending money out of the country can be problematic, as your wealth converts to less dollars.

It’s typically difficult to estimate local informal dollar rates: Ayodeji said black market currency merchants might ask for even more naira per dollar. But bitcoin conversions can calculate a decent estimate, Ayodeji said.
Inflation

Still, premiums can exist even after you factor in the difference in exchange rates. One possible reason is, in countries with high inflation, people may be willing to pay more for bitcoin.

“In the euro area the prices are pretty much the same as spot prices in big centralized exchanges,” Jukka Blomberg, chief marketing officer at LocalBitcoins, said in an email. But “in countries such as Venezuela, there can even be quite big premiums.”

Blomberg explained this is because Venezuelans who are willing to sell their bitcoin in exchange for their local currency typically want a higher premium due to the risk they have to take by accepting a highly inflationary currency such as the bolivar. In Venezuela, where the inflation rate hit a staggering 10 million% in 2019, and the value of the bolivar was dropping almost daily against the U.S. dollar, people began turning to bitcoin. In fact, the local demand for bitcoin drove crypto adoption in Venezuela ahead of other hyperinflationary countries like Argentina.

Nigeria is also an inflationary country, and citizens have been turning to bitcoin to weather value drops in naira. Demand for bitcoin was so high that the central bank of Nigeria first ordered banks to shut down all accounts associated with crypto trading, and released a five-page explainer that said the measure was taken to protect the country’s financial system.

According to Ayodeji, the naira exchange rate on crypto platforms changed drastically the days after the ban was announced, perhaps driven by the panic that followed, and the demand for bitcoin dropping slightly: the unofficial exchange hit between 410 and 420 naira per dollar, Ayodeji said.

“But the market circled back,” he said. 

By Sandali Handagama

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Monday, February 22, 2021

Nigerian air force passenger plane crash kills seven people

A small Nigerian air force passenger plane crashed just outside Abuja airport after reporting engine failure on Sunday, killing all seven people on board, the air force said.

The plane, a Beechcraft King Air 350i, was on its way to the city of Minna, 110 kilometers (68 miles) northwest of the capital, air force spokesman Ibikunle Daramole said in a statement.

The aircraft "crashed while returning to the Abuja Airport after reporting engine failure," said Daramole. "First responders are at the scene. Sadly, all seven personnel on board died in the crash."

The chief of the air force has ordered an investigation into the accident, Daramole said.

President Muhammadu Buhari in a statement sent his condolences to the air force and families of the victims, saying he was "deeply saddened by the fatal crash."

In scrubland just outside the airport perimeter, dozens of military and airport officials picked through the charred remnants of the fuselage as fire engines and ambulances stood by.

The smell of burning chemicals lingered in the air but no fire or smoke were visible. Onlookers watched the rescue efforts from behind a cordon.

"As he (the plane's pilot) was going down, he struggled to go back to the airport, at the end he just crashed," said Alaba Lawal, who said she witnessed the accident.

"I just saw the whole thing explode, fire and smoke together ... When I got there I saw dead bodies on the ground."

The air force did not provide the identities of those killed in the crash.

The Beechcraft King Air 350i is a twin-propeller aircraft made by Textron Aviation, a unit of the U.S.-based Textron Inc conglomerate. The model was first released around 2009.

The company said in a statement that it had been notified of the accident, which it said is being investigated by Nigeria's Aircraft Investigation Bureau and the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board.

"As a party to the investigation, the company is prohibited by NTSB regulation from divulging any information about the accident or investigation," the company said.

 CTV News

Kidnappers free 53 people seized on bus

Kidnappers released 53 people, including women and children, seized on a bus in Nigeria while dozens of others taken from a school in a separate attack are still missing.

Criminal gangs in northwestern and central Nigeria have scaled up attacks in recent years, kidnapping, raping and pillaging.

A gang last week seized 53 people, including 20 women and nine children, who were travelling on a state-owned bus in Kundu village in Niger State.

“I was delighted to receive the 53 … bus passengers who were abducted by armed bandits a week ago,” the governor of Niger State, Abubakar Sani Bello, said in a tweet late on Sunday.

It is unknown if a ransom was paid but state representatives have previously said they would not pay any.

“We went through one week of dialogue, consultations, hard work and sleepless nights because we had to secure their release within the shortest possible time,” the governor’s spokeswoman, Mary Noel-Berje, said in a statement.

The freed bus passengers received medical check-ups before being reunited with their families, she added.

In a separate incident, 42 people, including 27 schoolboys, were abducted from a school last week and are still missing.

“The Students of the Government Science College Kagara are still in the hands of their captives but everything is being done to ensure their release,” Noel-Berje said.
 

Attacks on a ‘daily basis’

Gunmen last week killed 10 people and abducted at least 23 others in two separate attacks in the state.

“We are witnessing these attacks now, almost, on daily basis and it is worrisome,” Noel-Berje said at the time.

The attackers are known to hide in camps in the Rugu forest, which straddles Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna and Niger states. Despite the deployment of troops, deadly attacks persist.

The gangs are largely driven by financial motives and have no known ideological leanings.

But there is growing concern they are being infiltrated by armed groups from the northeast that are waging a decade-old rebellion to establish a so-called “Islamic state”.

The latest mass abduction came just two months after 300 students were kidnapped from a school in Kankara in nearby Katsina, President Muhammadu Buhari’s home state, while the president was visiting the region.

The boys were later released after negotiations with government officials, but the incident triggered outrage and memories of the kidnappings of Nigerian schoolgirls by armed fighters in Dapchi and Chibok that shocked the world.

Out of some 276 girls who were kidnapped by the Boko Haram group from Chibok, at least 100 are still unaccounted for.

Al Jazeera

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Friday, February 19, 2021

Video - Why are school children increasingly being kidnapped in Nigeria?



Schools stormed and children held captive. For months now, that's become common in Northern Nigeria. Gunmen kidnapped dozens and possibly hundreds of schoolchildren in the latest assault on Wednesday. One student was killed in the attack on in the town of Kagara. The government has released the names of some who were abducted and a rescue operation is ongoing. Many of the previous attacks have been blamed on so-called bandits who ask for ransom. But the armed groups are not the only security challenge facing Nigerian forces. They've been fighting Boko Haram, that carries out similar attacks in the northeast.

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Gunmen kill one student and kidnap dozens more in Nigeria school raid

At least 42 people, including students, were kidnapped in an armed raid at a state-run school in Niger state, in Nigeria's Middle Belt region Wednesday.

The group includes 27 students, three teachers and nine family members, the state government said in a statement which names them all.

A student who died during the attack was named as Benjamin Habila.

This latest incident has raised questions about the safety of schools in parts of northern Nigeria as it comes two months after after more than 300 students were kidnapped in a similar invasion at Government Science Secondary School Kankara, in Katsina, President Buhari's home state. They were later released soon after their abduction.

Niger state's Governor Abubakar Sani Bello has closed all boarding schools in the area and dispatched the military to rescue those kidnapped from the school, according to his chief press secretary Mary Noel Barje.

President Buhari has condemned the abduction of the school children.

"The President has directed the Armed Forces and Police, to ensure immediate and safe return of all the captives," Buhari's spokesperson, Garba Shehu, said in a statement on Wednesday.
Students pack their bags to leave the school after the abduction.

"The President has also dispatched to Minna, Niger State a team of security chiefs to coordinate the rescue operation and meet with state officials, community leaders, as well as parents and staff of the college."

A former Nigerian senator, Shehu Sani, told CNN that the school has no perimeter fence and would have afforded easy access to militants.

Sani, who was also a student at the school, told CNN: "The town is at the epicenter of the insurgency in Niger State. Fulani bandits operate within the axis and there are thousands of people displaced in this area. The bandits of the northwest of Nigeria are becoming more lethal and destructive than Boko Haram."

Buhari recently retired all the heads of Nigeria's security forces and appointed new ones, amid rising insecurity and kidnappings in the country.

"The security situation in Nigeria is "overwhelming and threatens the peace of the country," Sani told CNN. "It is unfortunate the service chiefs were allowed to stay for so long," he added.

By Stephanie Busari and Isaac Abrak

CNN

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Monday, February 15, 2021

Video - "Namaste Wahala" movie celebrates cross-cultural love

 

Actors from Bollywood in India and Nollywood in Nigeria have been collaborating on a film to celebrate cross-cultural love. The movie, Namaste Wahala will debut on Netflix on Valentine's Day. CGTN's Joy Kiruki Juma with the details.

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Bitcoin: Nigeria bites back against cryptocurrency trading

Bitcoin. The currency of choice for drug dealers, terrorists, investors, spaceship enthusiasts — and ordinary people, including many of us who just want to get paid for an honest day’s work.


Bitcoin. Because of its decentralised nature, it’s almost impossible to control how it moves. Like any cryptocurrency, that’s a huge part of its appeal. And that’s also what makes it a threat.

Bitcoin. Not available in Nigeria. Try again later.
 

Get paid, pal

A few weeks ago, I was notified that payment for work I’d done had been made to a PayPal address I had provided. It wasn’t the first time — I’ve been working with this company for most of 2020.


It’s not easy to get your own Paypal account in Nigeria, so I had an arrangement with a friend who did have one: whenever I was paid she would transfer the funds to my Nigerian bank account, using a remittance service.

In this case, it was Transferwise, one of the international money transfer operators (IMTOs) many here on the continent and in the diaspora are already quite familiar with. Others include World Remit, Mukuru, Western Union and the like.

Most of these companies allow for cash pick-ups, or mobile-money deposits linked to your cellphone — or they can even deposit money straight into your bank account. They certainly could here in Nigeria … until two months ago.
 

No money, no problems

On 4 December, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) announced a new policy that made it nearly impossible to make direct payments to Nigerian bank accounts using these remittance services.

The central bank’s announcement — widely thought to be in response to #EndSARS protests — instructed banks to limit all diaspora remittances to “domiciliary” accounts in the name of the beneficiary. This is a type of foreign currency account that allows the receiver to receive payments in non-Nigerian currency and exchange it to naira. But to get one of these accounts you need multiple references, as well as a $100 minimum deposit to set it up.

Without a domiciliary account, the bank could still pay you in foreign currency, but then you need to fill out forms and pick it up over the counter. And then it’s up to you to exchange it for naira: either at the bank, or on the black market if that’s your thing — with all the extra fees and criminal liability that entails.

The hassle really starts to outweigh the hustle, in other words. Which, I guess, was the point.

The central bank had other points to make: it also instructed banks to close all naira accounts opened specifically to receive inflow from IMTOs. In effect: no more remittance payments. This development has greatly troubled Nigerians in the diaspora trying to send money to their families, as well as those living in the country and earning in non-Nigerian currencies. Like freelance journalists writing for The Continent, for example.

Now, when you open Transferwise and attempt to make a transfer in naira you get the message, “sorry, we’ve closed all transfers to NGN due to new regulations from the Central Bank of Nigeria.”

Some other IMTOs have workarounds, like cash pickup, but it’s messy. Too messy, if you’re trying to run a legitimate business.

And, so, I was stuck. The work was done, the payment had been made — but I couldn’t access the funds. Eventually, however, I asked for help on Twitter, and so it was that bitcoin appeared on my radar.
 

Welcome to the global economy

Several people suggested I try SendCash Africa, which is owned by BuyCoins, a Nigerian app that helps Nigerians to buy and sell bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies with their Nigerian debit card.

According to Ire Aderinokun, a developer at BuyCoins, the company wants to put Nigerians on an equal footing with the rest of the world. ‘‘The core goal is to enable Nigerians and Africans to participate in the global economy,” he said. ‘‘For no one to be limited by their local currency.”

This is good news for ordinary people trying to make a living! For central banks responsible for managing local currencies? Not so much. Their job is to manage the economy, after all. And sometimes the responsibility to manage gives way to the urge to control.

During the #EndSARS movement, international donations were made to Nigerians who were at the front line or organising protests in their states, as well as to Feminist Coalition. At first, these donations were made using the IMTOs or remittance services.

But when the central bank began to “manage” the accounts of known #EndSARS activists, and issued its December limits on remittance mechanisms, Feminist Coalition created a bitcoin wallet, and bitcoin became the preferred way to donate to the protests, outside the central bank’s influence. This arguably made it possible for the #EndSARS movement to hold out for as long as it did.

So Feminist Coalition was receiving donations, and, thanks to a relatively straightforward sign-up process, I, too, was able to get paid at last.

Until last Friday. On 5 February, the central bank “banned” bitcoin, too.
 

Nigeria puts the ‘ban’ in ‘bank’

In a circular cautioning the public on the risks of transacting in crypto, the central bank informed banks that dealing in cryptocurrency was prohibited, and asked them to please send over a list of any individuals dealing in cryptocurrency — and close their accounts while they were about it.

The letter essentially banned crypto-dealing in Nigeria with immediate effect. I contacted the Central Bank of Nigeria to ask about its reasons for doing this, and how this might affect business, but no one got back to me.

However, according to Abubakar Idris, a financial journalist at Stears Business, the central bank is sticking to its story that blocking the trading of cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin is part of its strategy to prevent financial fraud and the financing of terrorist operations.

“These are legitimate concerns,” Idris told me. “Nigeria does have an infamous international status for scams and online fraud; and has been fighting the Boko Haram terrorist group for more than 10 years now.”

Nevertheless, he believes there are other motivations at play.

“The most crucial of all is CBN’s focus on stabilising the exchange rate. Cryptocurrency gave everybody — businesses and individuals — a way around currency issues, getting better exchange rates and rendering central control measures ineffective,” he said. “By making it harder for people to carry out cryptocurrency transactions, the CBN wants to take back control of the country’s international payment system.”

It worked. At the moment, the only way to transfer money to a Nigerian bank account requires the person receiving it to go to a bank to cash it. This method is easily controlled by the government — as was demonstrated during #EndSARS.

But cryptocurrencies have an irritating habit of bouncing back.
 

Here comes the bounce

In 2020, BuyCoins, the parent company of SendCash, processed crypto transactions worth more than $140-million, according to stats published by its chief executive, Timi Ajiboye. After the December crackdown, SendCash became a primary go-to for Nigerians abroad trying to send money home, and for remote workers and freelancers (including the odd journalist) to get paid.

However, with the new directive of 5 February, the company’s entire business model appears to have been dismantled, leaving many without an easy way to move money. And they’ve gone quiet. BuyCoin and other crypto companies have declined to speak to the press since the directive, so it isn’t yet clear what their next move will be. Crypto is nothing if not cryptic.

But many in the tech sector expect that they will innovate around it somehow.

‘‘Startups themselves are developing workarounds against the CBN’s policy,’’ Idris said. ‘‘In the next couple of weeks, things may feel weird and people may have to learn new ways to deposit money into their crypto wallets. But things will pick up after that. I don’t expect cryptocurrency trading to decline. I actually believe the CBN’s policy has made crypto more popular.”

By Vincent Desmond

Mail&Guardian

 

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Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Bitcoin ‘Can’t Be Stopped’: Nigerians Look to P2P Exchanges After Crypto Ban

“There’s no stopping crypto, [it’s] the future and we won’t let some old fools take our future from us,” one Nigerian bitcoin user who wished to remain anonymous told CoinDesk. “We’re Nigerians. Using the crypto is a way out of poverty for the youth.”


Last week, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) ordered banks to close down accounts associated with cryptocurrencies. But this will not be enough to shut down Nigeria’s cryptocurrency market.

CBN clarified on Sunday that this is not a new order, but a reminder of a directive published in 2017. However, whether old or new, it’s having an impact. In response, banks quickly cut ties with cryptocurrency companies, such as the Binanceexchange and social payments app Bundle, which in turn stopped accepting deposits.

Nigeria has become a hot spot for cryptocurrency as an alternative to the naira, a national currency prone to depreciation. Nigerians have found various use cases for decentralized digital currencies, from trading bitcoin to make a living to using it to dodge trade restrictions with China. During protests against police corruption in the country last October the Feminist Coalition was one activist non-profit accepting donations going toward the protests. When the group’s bank accounts were frozen and it couldn’t accept funds, it switched to bitcoin donations because the payment method could not be frozen.

Some Nigerian cryptocurrency users aren’t happy about the directive and have said they plan to continue using cryptocurrencies by using methods that are harder to detect and stop.
 

Moving to ‘peer-to-peer’

Some users think they can get around them by not using centralized exchanges.

“Bitcoin is peer-to-peer, meaning that it can be transacted without intermediaries. Your bank may be able to shut down your account but no one can shut down your bitcoin wallet. This development, while concerning, will not be the end of bitcoin in Nigeria,” said Nigerian Bitcoin Core contributor Tim Akinbo on Twitter.

Exchanges such as Binance have been affected because payment partners that store the naira are no longer willing to deal with them due to the directive, putting an indefinite pause on naira deposits to exchanges.

But there’s an alternative: peer-to-peer transactions, where two users connect directly to each other to trade cryptocurrency. In return for bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies, a user might make a bank transfer directly to the other user, or pay that person with cash. Platforms such as Paxful and a Binance’s peer-to-peer platform help connect users to other users so they can coordinate these transactions.

“As we all know, [peer-to-peer] can’t be stopped,” one trader in Nigeria, Lucky, told CoinDesk.

Despite CBN’s directive, several sources in Nigeria told CoinDesk they plan to continue trading bitcoin via peer-to-peer exchanges, and more aired similar conclusions on social media.

“Most people will return to [peer-to-peer] transactions, some will leverage several alternatives that connect crypto to legacy financial systems, like reloadable Visa or Mastercard. Most will simply use crypto as a choice reserve asset. […] A lot of activities will also go clandestine, or underground,” said developer and cryptocurrency educator Chimezie Chuta.

He added he plans to use “alternative channels” to remain a part of the cryptocurrency community.

Crypto exchange Bundle made a similar comment in a statement to its customers about moving to “alternative channels” to ensure they can still buy and sell cryptocurrency. The email stated the exchange will provide more information about how this will work in the coming days.

CBN did not respond to an inquiry from CoinDesk by press time about whether these alternatives are lawful.
 

A mistake?

The CBN order for banks to close accounts associated with cryptocurrency is supposed to curb criminal activity and risky investments. In its clarification, it also listed several reasons why it considers cryptocurrencies dangerous and noted that other central banks and international financial institutions have warned against their use.

“They have all made similar pronouncements based of the significant risks that transacting in cryptocurrencies portend – risk of loss of investments, money laundering, terrorism financing, illicit fund flows and criminal activities,” the letter reads.

Sources in Nigeria disagree, arguing the regulations are a mistake.

“The fact that the CBN sent out this controversial memo to banks and other financial institutions without giving the industry participants and stakeholders an opportunity of dialogue shows how little they know about the Nigeria blockchain and cryptocurrency ecosystem,” Chuta said.

He argued that Nigerians should have a choice over what assets they invest in, especially because the value of the naira depreciates over time and users might want to use bitcoin as a hedge against this continuous inflation. He said many Nigerians are using crypto trading to put themselves through school, thousands of new businesses and jobs are being created by crypto innovation.

“The fact is that this directive was ill-advised, archaic, retrogressive, insensitive, and [smacks] of primitive superstition,” he added.

Some users are waiting to see if CBN issues any more rules or clarifications.

“Decentralized systems are hard to ban. But as for me, I’m waiting for more directives and then I can pick my positions,” crypto enthusiast Bayo Adebayo told CoinDesk, adding: “But putting a ban in the first place is very bad. I don’t like Nigeria. If it is to be banned totally, I will find a way to leave this Nigeria.”

By Alyssa Hertig

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Monday, February 8, 2021

Gunmen raid villages in northwest Nigeria, killing 19

At least 19 people were killed when armed men raided two villages in northwest Nigeria’s Kaduna state, the government said.

Late on Saturday, bandits riding on motorcycles killed 14 people and injured others when they invaded Kutemeshi where they looted shops, Internal Affairs Commissioner Samuel Aruwan said in a statement.

On the same day, motorbike-riding gunmen also stormed Kujeni where they killed five people and burned “several” houses, warehouses and a church, according to the statement.

Gunmen from kidnapping and cattle-rustling gangs – called bandits by locals – often raid villages in northwest Nigeria, stealing cattle, kidnapping for ransom and burning homes after looting them.

“Kaduna State Government has received reports from security agencies of the killing of 19 citizens by armed bandits at Kutemeshi village in Birnin Gwari and Kujeni village in Kajuru, where several others were left with bullet wounds,” Aruwan said.

But residents said 19 people were killed just in the raid in Kutemeshi.

“We lost 19 people in the attack. We buried them yesterday [Sunday],” said Kutemeshi resident Ayuba Abdullahi.

Last month, bandits killed 12 people and kidnapped 30 others in attacks on three villages in Birnin Gwari district and neighbouring Katsina state.

The gangs maintain camps in the Rugu forest straddling Kaduna, Katsina, Zamfara and Niger states.

The gangs have no ideological leanings, but there are concerns that they may be gradually infiltrated by armed groups from the northeast.

Violence across the northwest has killed 8,000 people since 2011 and displaced more than 200,000, some into neighbouring Niger, according to a report last year by the International Crisis Group (ICG). 

Al Jazeera

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Nigerian FM says Nigeria emulating China to grow economy

Nigeria is learning from China on its economic development success and becoming less dependent on imports, said Geoffrey Onyeama, the country’s minister of Foreign Affairs, Sunday.

While reflecting on the 50 years of bilateral relations between both countries, Onyeama told the official News Agency of Nigeria that Nigeria is on the right track as President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has prioritized all it takes to boost the economy, especially with agriculture.

“We will like to replicate what China has done,” he added. According to him, one of such preconditions is the ability of a country to be able to feed its population. This, he said, was why President Buhari has prioritized agriculture for food security.

Another precondition identified was that a country needed the financial capital to generate wealth, he noted.

The bilateral relations between the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the People’s Republic of China were formally established on Feb. 10, 1971.

CGTN

Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala poised to be first woman and first African Director General of the WTO after U.S. too decides to back her

Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former two-time finance minister and former managing director of the World Bank, is poised to become the next Director General (DG) of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The 164 nations comprising the Geneva-based body cleared the last hurdle to arrive at a consensus on its next leader, the first woman and first African in its 26-year history, when the U.S. decided on January 5 to back Okonjo-Iweala. The WTO’s General Council is expected to formalise her position for a four-year term.


Earlier, South Korea’s Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee, whose nomination the Donald Trump administration had supported, withdrew from the race, ending the long tussle that had narrowed down to the two women after six other candidates had been eliminated by September. A doctorate in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Okonjo-Iweala’s candidacy was backed in October by the 27 European Union (E.U.) states and African and Caribbean nations, but was opposed by the Trump administration.

Okonjo-Iweala, who was until recently chairperson of the board of Gavi, the U.N.-backed public-private alliance to develop vaccines for low-income countries, had faced a stiff contest from within the African region. Besides an Egyptian nominee whom the African Union had initially backed, Kenya’s

former Trade Minister who has served as chair of the WTO’s general council, was also in the running. The global body has been engaged in a search for leadership since the premature departure in August of Brazil’s Roberto Azevedo. The U.S. suggestion for an interim head in Alan wolff, one of the four Deputy Directors General, was vetoed by China.

While Okonjo-Iweala is likely to commence her stint under relatively favourable circumstances in view of Washington’s renewed commitment to multilateral institutions, the organisation is confronted by many unprecedented challenges in its history. Arguably the most urgent priority for the incoming DG would be to fill vacancies to the panel of judges to the appellate body that adjudicates disputes among nations. The process has stalled since 2019 on account of systematic U.S. opposition under Donald Trump to approve fresh nominations on the grounds that most of the rulings handed by the WTO had gone against Washington.

Undoing the damage to global trade flows owing to the U.S-China bilateral disputes from the Trump era is another extremely contentious and delicate area. Washington had reacted strongly to the potential erosion of its global dominance — invoking national security provisions to slap punitive tariffs on steel and aluminium imports — to buttress Donald Trump’s nationalist “America first” agenda. Two decades after the country’s entry into the WTO, China’s quest to be accorded the status of a market economy is a subject of litigation as successive U.S. administrations and the E.U. states dispute a provision in Beijing’s treaty of accession to the world body. The upgrade would allow Chinese exports to be compared to its domestic prices rather than with higher third country rates when anti-dumping cases are brought against Beijing.

Western allies have also alleged that Chinese state-subsidies to domestic manufacturers and stringent terms on technology transfer for western firms seeking market access create unfair competition and distort global commerce. Beijing, which has emerged as the world’s second largest economic power, on the other hand, makes no secret of its quest for global economic, military and technological supremacy.

These sensitive issues could reverberate in multilateral negotiations on reforms to the WTO structure and further expansion of the global trade agenda. Okonjo-Iweala would have to exert her diplomatic skills to enable the principal players — the U.S., China, the E.U. and countries from the global south — to harmonise their positions. While uncertainty lingers over the WTO’s trajectory, it is hard to over-estimate its relevance today to counter economic protectionism around the world, as populism and narrow nationalism hold sway. The complexities of shaping a global response to the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change underscore the imperative need for concerted efforts to reshape humanity’s common priorities.

By Garimella Subramaniam

Frontline

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Friday, February 5, 2021

Nigeria strengthens efforts to ensure school safety

The Nigerian Police has launched the Safer School Initiative campaign to strengthen school safety across the country, a police officer said Thursday.

The campaign is initiated under the nation’s public security framework to build a safe, peaceful and secure society, Ebere Amaraizu, the national coordinator of Police Campaign Against Cultism and Other Vices (POCACOV), told reporters in the southeast Nigerian city of Enugu.

The center has printed information booklets for students nationwide, Amaraizu said, adding that the move will “help them not yield to pressures of manipulation of minds by their peers and any other person.”

Additionally, “POCACOV fan clubs” will be built in all schools nationwide to improve education on school safety, he said.

CGTN

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Nigerian separatist Nnamdi Kanu's Facebook account removed for hate speech

Facebook says it removed the page of Nigerian separatist leader Nnamdi Kanu for violating its rules on harm and hate speech.


Mr Kanu's page was removed for repeated violation of its community rules, the social networking site told the BBC.

He had posted a video of a militia group attacking and killing cattle in a herders' settlement.

He also used the live broadcast to accuse herders of destroying farmlands in eastern Nigeria.

The conflict between herders and other groups is currently one of Nigeria's hottest political issues.

Mr Kanu leads the Indigenous People of Biafra (Ipob), which campaigns for independence for Nigeria's south-eastern region, where the ethnic Igbo people form the majority.

The herders are mostly from the northern Fulani community.

Mr Kanu, who also has British nationality, used his Facebook page as a key platform to communicate with his followers around the world.

The account was blocked on Tuesday.


'Suppressing the truth'

The militia carrying out the attack in the video he posted are suspected to be from the Eastern Security Network, which Mr Kanu set up.


A Facebook spokesperson told BBC Igbo: "In line with our rules, we removed Nnamdi Kanu's page for repeatedly posting content that break those Community Standards, including content that violated our rules on coordinating harm and hate speech."

Ipob says it will appeal against the ban, describing the action of Facebook "as not only baffling but too petty".

"We wonder why a global social media giant like Facebook would allow itself to be used by agents of oppression in Nigeria to suppress the truth," head of media Emma Powerful said.

Ipob is proscribed in Nigeria, which labelled it a terrorist organisation in 2017.

Nnamdi Kanu came to fame in 2009 when he started Radio Biafra and broadcast to Nigeria from London, using the platform to call for Biafran independence and urging his followers to take up arms against the Nigerian state.

Who are Ipob?

. Founded by Nnamdi Kanu in 2014


. Proscribed as a terrorist group by Nigeria in 2017


. The group wants states in south-east Nigeria, made up mainly of people from the Igbo ethnic group, to break away and form the independent nation of Biafra


. Mr Kanu was arrested in 2015 in Nigeria and spent more than a year-and-a-half in jail without trial on treason charges


. At least 150 Ipob members were killed by Nigerian security forces between August 2015 and August 2016, according to Amnesty International


. Mr Kanu, a British citizen, jumped bail and fled the country in 2017

BBC

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The Biafra secessionist movement in Nigeria

Korean Ends WTO Bid, Clearing Path for Nigeria’s Okonjo-Iweala

South Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee withdrew her bid to lead the World Trade Organization, leaving former Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the only remaining candidate for the job and setting up a key decision by WTO members to approve her appointment.


Yoo decided after discussions with the U.S. and other major nations, and took various issues into account including the need to revitalize the multilateral organization, according to a statement from Korea’s trade ministry on Friday.

“There was no consensus,” Yoo said. “So we needed enough time for in-depth consultations with important members, including the U.S.”

The withdrawal comes after dozens of former U.S. government officials urged President Joe Biden to endorse Okonjo-Iweala after the Trump administration blocked her selection in 2020, making the U.S. and Korea the only holdouts favoring Yoo. That opposition was enough to halt the selection process because WTO decisions are made on the basis of a consensus of its members.

By quitting the race, Yoo would appear to be clearing Okonjo-Iweala’s path to secure the leadership of the Geneva-based institution. But as the Biden administration forms its trade team, few clues have emerged publicly about whether it will lift U.S. opposition to Okonjo-Iweala’s candidacy. The U.S. mission at WTO headquarters didn’t immediately respond to Bloomberg’s request for comment.
 

First Woman

The 66-year-old Nigerian economist, who is also a U.S. citizen, emerged as the front-runner for the WTO director-general post last year. If the U.S., Korea and the WTO’s other 162 members join a consensus to appoint Okonjo-Iweala, the WTO can announce a meeting to confirm her appointment within a matter of days.

If confirmed, Okonjo-Iweala would be the first woman and the first African to lead the organization in its 25-year history.

The WTO has been leaderless since September, when the organization’s former Director-General Roberto Azevedo stepped down a year before his term was set to expire. Since then the WTO has been overseen by four unelected deputy directors general.

The appointment of a new WTO director-general will help the organization confront an array of internal crises that have ground its work to a near halt.

The trade forum is largely dysfunctional and all three pillars of its work are under threat. The WTO has struggled to produce meaningful multilateral trade agreements, its trade monitoring function consistently underperforms and former President Donald Trump neutralized its appellate body in 2019, which effectively sidelined the organization’s role as the global arbiter of international commerce.

Though the power of the WTO leader is limited by the directives of its members, the director-general can convene meetings, and offer suggestions and strategies for addressing conflicts in the global trading system.

Okonjo-Iweala has pledged to take a more active role as director-general and to act as a sounding board to try to find common ground among the trade body’s disparate membership. 

By Sam Kim and Bryce Baschuk

Bloomberg

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Judge issues arrest warrant for ExxonMobil Nigeria chief

A federal court in Abuja has signed off on a warrant to arrest the head of oil major ExxonMobil in Nigeria to compel him to appear before anti-graft investigators, a statement for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said on Wednesday.

The EFCC said it sought the warrant after Richard Laing, managing director of ExxonMobil Nigeria, rebuffed three invitations to appear before investigators probing alleged procurement fraud involving a pipelines project.

Justice Okon Abang granted the EFCC’s bench warrant application on January 29, the EFCC said. It has not charged Exxon or others with wrongdoing, and its investigation is ongoing.

EFCC spokesman Wilson Uwujaren told Reuters news agency that the investigation is into the company, and not Laing personally.

“EFCC invited them in the course of the investigation but they have refused to honour the invitation, that is why we went to court to compel his appearance for investigation,” Uwujaren said.

A spokesman for Exxon declined to comment. Laing did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The EFCC said the investigation related to the alleged fraudulent creation of procurement orders worth more than $213m as part of a pipelines project.

Last year, Nigeria suspended EFCC head Ibrahim Magu after the attorney general accused the agency of diverting funds that had been recovered during investigations into corruption.

Al Jazeera

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Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Video - Nigeria spent $4.65 billion on food importation in 2020

 

Nigeria's government spent 4.65 billion dollars on food importation between January and September 2020. That's a 62 percent rise compared to the previous year. CGTN's Kelechi Emekalam reports that the increase in food costs was despite the West African nation imposing a land border closure aimed at boosting local production.

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Nearly 7 years later, Nigerian army still rescuing Chibok schoolgirls from Boko Haram

Nearly seven years since Islamist militants kidnapped two of his daughters from their school in northeastern Nigeria, a hurried phone call let Ali Maiyanga know that his family's ordeal might soon be over.

The call on Thursday evening was from Maiyanga's daughter Halima, who - along with her sister Maryam - was among more than 200 schoolgirls snatched by Boko Haram insurgents in Chibok in April 2014, sparking a global #BringBackOurGirls campaign.

"I was crying, she was crying," said Maiyanga, who was preparing to get married to his fourth wife when he heard Halima's voice down the line.

"We couldn't talk long because I was surrounded by so many people and the place was noisy. Everybody started jumping up and down when I told them," said Maiyanga, father of 18 children, who was reunited with his other kidnapped daughter in 2016.

Halima, 23, told him she had been rescued by the Nigerian army, but Maiyanga said he did not know her exact whereabouts or if she was alone or with more of her kidnapped former classmates.

An army spokesman said on Monday it did not have any Chibok kidnap victims in its custody and the government has not issued a statement about any of the missing women being found in recent days.

About half of the students who were abducted have escaped or been released so far.

Dozens have appeared in propaganda videos by the militants - showing them pleading for their rescue or pledging allegiance to the group - and some have died from illness, in childbirth or military air strikes, according to freed captives.

Reports by Boko Haram's victims of religious indoctrination and forced marriages have fueled concerns about the remaining women as attacks by Islamist militants gather pace in the northeast of the country.

Maryam, 24, said she and Halima - who were among the few Muslims kidnapped along with their mostly Christian classmates - were held captive together at first before they both married insurgents in 2014 and moved into different parts of the forest.

Maryam's husband decided to help his wife escape because he did not want their son to grow up in the forest, and she was found with their 10-month-old baby by troops in the Gwoza district of Borno State in November 2016.

"I always believed I would see my sister again one day," Maryam told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "When I heard the news, I was jumping up and down. I was very happy. I can't wait to see her."

'I WAS AFRAID'


After the two sisters got married, they saw each other regularly. Halima used to visit Maryam every month, helping her to care for the baby. Maryam said she used to spend a lot of time consoling her sister after she had a stillbirth.

But when her escape was planned, Maryam did not tell her sister.

"I was afraid. I didn't see her before I left," said Maryam, who does not know the whereabouts of her husband since he was arrested by the military at the time of her escape. He had accompanied her out of the forest.

Since then, Maryam and the other freed Chibok girls were enrolled by the government in a special remedial course at the American University of Nigeria in Yola.

After years of mounting criticism about the spread of Islamist violence and attacks by armed gangs, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari appointed a new military high command last week.

Hopes were high after army successes against Boko Haram in 2015 and 2016, but with the rise of Islamic State's West African branch, formerly part of Boko Haram, parts of the northeast have been experiencing more frequent attacks.

While Thursday's phone call put an end to the family's agonizing wait for news, Maiyanga said he still did not know when they would be able to see Halima.

"I'm hoping to hear more news from the military," he said.

By Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani

Reuters

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Monday, February 1, 2021

'They were unjust to me,' says teenager freed after blasphemy sentence quashed in Nigeria

Omar Farouq had an argument last year with a colleague that would change his life.
Insults were exchanged in the heat of the moment, he admits, but Farouq, a teenager, thought nothing of the exchange until he was summoned to the police station and charged with blasphemy against God.
When word got out about the nature of his arrest, an angry mob descended on Farouq's family home forcing his mother to flee to a neighboring village, his lawyer said.


Farouq, who was then 16, was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison with hard labor by a Sharia court, in Kano, northern Nigeria.


However, his conviction was overturned on appeal by the Kano State High Court on January 22 because Farouq did not have legal representation at his first trial, his counsel Kola Alapinni told CNN.
"I'm delighted, I'm in a joyous mood. And I'm grateful to all those who helped and lent support for this outcome with the grace of Allah," Farouq, now 17, told CNN in his first interview following his release.
Alapinni was instrumental in Farouq's release from prison. 


His Foundation for Religious Freedom discovered and got involved in Farouq's case while working on an appeal for Yahaya Sharif-Aminu, who was sentenced to death for blasphemy at the Kano Upper Sharia Court.

 
"We found out they were convicted on the same day, by the same judge, in the same court, for blasphemy and we found out no one was talking about Omar, so we had to move quickly to file an appeal for him," he said.


"Blasphemy is not recognized by Nigerian law. It is inconsistent with the constitution of Nigeria."
Kano's High Court stated that Farouq's conviction as a minor "was done in error and ... is hereby set aside and the Defendant is hereby discharged and acquitted."

An 'unjust' punishment


Farouq says he feels aggrieved as that the Sharia court was "unjust" to him.
Officials for the Sharia court have not commented on Farouq's case, and efforts to reach them have been unsuccessful. CNN also contacted Kano state government for comment but has yet to receive a response.


In all, Farouq spent more than five months locked up without access to family or lawyers.
His family said they were not informed about the details of his case and did not even know what date his court hearing was held.


"They were not fair to us," his uncle Umar Aliyu told CNN. "When they took this boy to court, they didn't tell us the court they took him to... and they refused to tell us the date slated for the judgment. They kept chasing us away. I went to the Hisbah office pleading with the interrogator, but he told me to leave his office. I left hurt and close to tears, extremely sad."


The family also found out from media reports that Farouq had been convicted and sentenced, Aliyu said. 


Aliyu recalls being "enveloped with sadness," every time he thought about his nephew locked up with no contact with his family. 


"Everyone... was disturbed very much, we were really sad. We just had to console each other, counseling some to take it as something ordained by Allah... telling them to be patient. This provided some emotional relief.


"For the period he was in prison every time I thought about him, I became worried. Every time I thought about him sadness would envelop me."

'His life is in danger'

 
Now that Farouq has been freed, he says he is determined to finish his education and has ambitions to enter politics to fight against the kind of injustice he faced. 


"I pray Allah will bless me to become governor or President to reform the Sharia and to end the injustice on my fellow citizens and myself since in some court cases the offense doesn't warrant the harsh judgment handed down. This is deprivation of your right, oppression, and abuse," he said.


Although his conviction was overturned, Farouq's life remains in danger from some fanatics who see his release as an affront, according to his lawyer. 


Alapinni told CNN how terrified Farouq was when he turned up to meet him outside the prison when he was released.


"He himself knows he is in danger because when we tried to pick him from prison...you could see the fear in his face, he didn't even want to follow us...everybody had told him that if he steps out of the prison walls he will be killed," Alapinni said.


"We now need to arrange safe passage for him. His life is in danger in Kano -- it will never be the same," he said. 

By Stephanie Busari 

CNN 

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Video - Nigeria begins modernising oil refineries

For much of the last 30 years, Nigeria, Africa’s biggest oil producer, has imported refined petroleum products because its old refineries are unable to produce enough to satisfy local demand. Added to that has been decades of mismanagement and corruption, which left its four plants operating well below capacity and, and times, shut down for months. Now the government has begun a process of modernising three of its refineries. Al Jazeera's Ahmed Idris reports from Abuja, Nigeria.

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For more than half a century, the practice of gas flaring - the burning of gas produced as a by-product of oil extraction - has affected the lives of thousands of people in Nigeria. Now the government wants to pass a bill to tackle the issue and raise new revenue from the wasted natural gas.

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