Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Police rescue eight kidnapped victims in NW Nigeria

Nigerian police rescued eight kidnapped victims in the northwestern state of Kaduna, an official said on Tuesday.

The kidnapped victims were rescued on Monday by police operatives in the Giwa area of the state, said Muhammad Jalige, a police spokesperson in Kaduna in a statement reaching Xinhua.

Jalige said the eight persons were passengers abducted on Zaria-Kaduna expressway aboard a luxurious bus en route to Delta, a state in the southern part of Nigeria on February 29.

He said the victims were currently receiving medical attention in preparation for a reunion with their respective families.

According to the spokesman, the police had organized “a manhunt to apprehend and bring the bandits to book”.

The northern region of Nigeria has witnessed a series of attacks by armed groups in recent months. There have also been recurring incidents of livestock rustling and armed banditry in the region.


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Friday, March 26, 2021

Nigeria’s crackdown on Bitcoin echoes global crypto conundrum

Lagos, Nigeria – When the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) issued a circular in early February warning banks and financial institutions that “facilitating payments for cryptocurrency exchanges is prohibited” and that they needed to identify and close accounts associated with them, it set the country’s crypto community alight.

“I was in a danfo [a yellow public transport bus that operates in Lagos] heading home when my phone started buzzing with WhatsApp notifications regarding the CBN ban on cryptocurrency transactions,” said David Akinwale, a 25-year-old financial analyst who trades in cryptocurrency. “It was really disappointing and sad. While other countries are embracing the use of Bitcoin and cryptocurrency, Nigeria is doing the reverse.”

This week, a representative for Nigeria’s central bank chief Godwin Emefiele reportedly sought to clarify the February 5 directive, telling reporters that it was not aimed at discouraging people from trading in cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, but served to enforce orders in place since 2017 banning crypto transactions in the country’s banking sector.

But the 2017 directive did not prohibit crypto exchanges from using banking and payment channels. It simply required banks and financial institutions to ensure that their crypto-exchange customers have effective anti-money laundering and “anti-terrorism” financing controls in place.

The backlash and confusion echo a crypto-drama unfolding around the world as virtual currencies like Bitcoin grow in popularity and scale new heights during a time of unprecedented financial uncertainty stemming from the coronavirus pandemic, as well as uniquely domestic challenges.

In the United States this week, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell raised concerns about the role cryptocurrencies play in facilitating criminal activity, as well as their infamous volatility, calling Bitcoin “more of an asset for speculation” than a substitute for the US dollar.

In Iran, officials recently targeted crypto exchanges and even pinned blamed for high levels of air pollution on Bitcoin mining.

The developments illustrate the regulatory conundrum governments face with crypto assets that by design are intended to be decentralised and beyond their reach, but which are part of a rapidly evolving sector of global finance that pivots on innovation.

Africa’s biggest Bitcoin market

Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy, its most populous country, and home to one of the youngest populations in the world. Throw in a burgeoning tech sector and it’s easy to see how Nigeria has become the continent’s largest Bitcoin market by trading volume, according to, which gathers data from crypto exchanges Paxful and LocalBitcoins.

That ascent to Bitcoin prominence is rooted in a sharp fall in remittances during the pandemic, as well as the country’s state coffers and local currency, the naira, being ravaged by the twin blows of COVID-19 restrictions and plummeting crude prices.

In an effort to keep increasingly scarce US dollars from leaving the country last year, some Nigerian banks reportedly placed curbs on offshore debit card transactions and limited cash withdrawals.

Against this backdrop, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies soared in popularity last year, as both a hedge against the eroding purchasing power of the naira, as well as a way to move money around more easily.

‘With Bitcoin, I could bypass the $100 limit on my naira debit card and do all my transactions seamlessly,” Bola Williams, a 33-year old software developer, told Al Jazeera. “But the ban on crypto has now made it even more stressful.”

But it does not appear to have curbed appetites for crypto. Bitcoin trading volumes on Paxful and LocalBitcoins topped $9m in the seven days ending March 8, according to, compared to roughly $7.55m in the seven days ending February 8.

The data suggest that despite the CBN directive, Nigerians are determined to leverage cryptocurrencies to increase their earnings, especially with rising inflation and limited access to foreign exchange liquidity.

“The ban was never going to stop a ship that is far gone on sail,” Eric Annan, co-founder of cryptocurrency trading platform KuBitX, told Al Jazeera.

Annan said if anything, the CBN directive only served to amplify the popularity of Bitcoin and pique the curiosity of crypto sceptics.

“No single government can stop an idea whose time has come to a generation who have added to the GDP [gross domestic product] of the internet,” he said.

Political pushback

The CBN directive also met pushback from some Nigerian politicians.

After the order was released, the Nigerian Senate summoned CBN chief Emefiele to explain the opportunities and threats cryptocurrencies pose to the nation’s economy and security.

During the February 23 briefing before the Senate Committee on Banking, Emefiele highlighted the role cryptocurrencies play in money laundering, “terrorism” financing, illicit arms purchases, and tax evasion.

“Cryptocurrency is not legitimate money because it is not created or backed by any Central Bank,” Emefiele said. “It has no place in our monetary system at this time and cryptocurrency transactions should not be carried out through the Nigerian banking system.”

That assessment drew criticism from crypto proponents.

“Whatever reason that necessitated the move for the current restriction of banking services to crypto traders and exchanges by the CBN could have been resolved through dialogue and collaboration,” Chimezie Chuta, the founder/ coordinator of the Blockchain Nigeria User Group, told Al Jazeera.

“In saying that ‘cryptocurrencies are not legitimate money’ he obviously has forgotten the origin, what money is, and its purpose,” he added, noting that “cryptocurrency is a property or commodity and thus not an illegal asset class.”

Nigeria’s Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has also called for a less heavy-handed official approach – one that would vigorously regulate cryptocurrency transactions to address serious concerns “without necessarily killing the goose that might lay the golden eggs”.

“We’ve seen in many other sectors disruption makes room for efficiency and progress,” he said.

Al Jazeera

Related stories: Nigeria is forging on with crypto despite regulatory hurdles

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Nigeria is Bitcoin Leader in Africa, Says Paxful

The growing phenomenon of Christian insurgents in the Southern Nigeria

While Boko Haram monopolises the attention of politicians and specialists in northern Nigeria, in the south, Christian insurgents are becoming increasingly inspired by the terrorist group’s methods.

Nigeria is often portrayed as a country on the “frontline” between a predominantly Muslim north and a predominantly Christian south. From this perspective, observers concerned about religiously motivated violence are mostly preoccupied with Boko Haram’s bloody episodes in the Lake Chad region.

They are so preoccupied with the issue of terrorism in Africa that they pay little attention to the insurgents in southern Nigeria who also claim to be God’s followers when they take up arms.

Like the Jews led by Moses

Those nostalgic for the Republic of Biafra often use religious arguments to justify their rebellion. They have taken up the legacy of the secessionists who, between 1967 and 1970, posed as victims (essentially Catholics) of a genocide committed by Muslims, even though the head of the Nigerian state at the time was Christian.

Surrounded by an enemy with a much larger and superior army, who was also being supplied with arms by Arab countries, the Ibo of the Biafra region had set their sights not only on Rome, but also on the Holy Land. Since then, some of them have presented themselves as belonging to one of the lost tribes of Israel.

For example, Nnamdi Kanu – one of the leaders of the Biafran protest who was detained by President Muhammadu Buhari’s government in 2015 – says he converted to Judaism while in prison. Others have founded a Biafran Zionist Movement.

Generally speaking, protestors of all stripes denouncing the misdeeds of the ruling Muslims in northern Nigeria have found some resonance within the Ibo diaspora overseas. In fact, they have a global audience on social media and on ‘Voice of Biafra’, Kanu’s pirate radio station, which broadcasts from the UK.

Further south, along Nigeria’s Atlantic coast, the insurgents fighting the government in the oil-producing areas of the Niger Delta were not left out either. Like the Ibo, some Ijaw in the region have, for example, compared themselves to the Jews who, by following Moses, freed themselves from the chains of “slavery” – from the yoke of the Muslims in the north, in their case.

The Niger Delta Avengers – which emerged in 2016 – has, among other things, denounced the “tyranny” of Abuja and called President Buhari an “Egyptian pharaoh”, rhetoric not unlike that of jihadist Salafists, who have criticised ruling dictators in the Arab world.

On a more peaceful note, the Ogoni of the Delta have also anchored their struggle around religious rhetoric. Before being hanged in 1995 by a junta then led by a Muslim from the north, writer Ken Saro-Wiwa led the first protest marches of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (Mosop), organising masses, prayer vigils and nightly Bible readings.

In direct reference to Judaism, he evoked the prophet Jeremiah’s ‘Book of Lamentations’ to equate the repression of the military regime, as well as the pollution caused by the oil companies, to the destruction of Jerusalem and the persecution of the Jews.

Caliphate and greed

The difference, one might say, is that the protesters in southern Nigeria are not seeking to impose a Christian state, unlike the Boko Haram jihadists who dream of establishing a caliphate.

However, there are several indications that the political is strongly influenced by the religious. The celestial cities that developed in enclaves on the edge of the large cities of the south ended up having the characteristics of proto-states within a state. In 1990, mutineers financed by evangelical churches in the Delta attempted a putsch to “cleanse” Nigeria by expelling the predominantly Muslim northern states from the federation.

Today, even drug traffickers and gangster syndicates called ‘cultists’ imitate jihadist practices. In Ibo country, for example, rival groups lay the severed heads of their enemies in front of churches to send a message to the population.

Their criminal motives certainly distance them from any religious agenda. This is not very surprising as many Boko Haram fighters are also driven by greed, much more than by Islamic ideals.

The rebels and mafiosi in the south use religion to disguise petty materialistic concerns. But it is very easy to lose oneself in it. Asari Dokubo, founder of one of the main armed groups in the delta in the early 2000s, has just proclaimed himself head of a virtual Biafra government, even though he converted to Islam in the 1990s.

By Marc-Antoine PĂ©rouse de Montclos

The Africa Report 

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

The Biafra secessionist movement in Nigeria

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Nigeria develops two coronavirus vaccines

Nigerian scientists have developed two vaccines against COVID-19, the government secretary announced Tuesday.

Boss Mustapha, who is also chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, said clinical trials for the new vaccines are underway.

“The vaccines will be used after completing clinical trials and obtaining certification,” said Mustapha.

“This is a welcome development that will open a new vista in scientific breakthrough and will boost the morale and image of the medical industry in the country.”

He called on all relevant agencies to provide the required support and enabling environment for the smooth conduct of the remaining protocols for the certification of the vaccines, with a view to encouraging and motivating other researchers.

At least 162,000 virus-related cases have been observed in the country and 2,031 people have died from the virus, while over 148,500 people have recovered from the disease.


Boko Haram brutality against women and girls needs urgent response

Boko Haram fighters targeted women and girls with rape and other sexual violence, amounting to war crimes, during recent raids in northeast Nigeria, new research by Amnesty International has revealed.

In February and March 2021, Amnesty International interviewed 22 people in a cluster of villages in northern Borno State that Boko Haram has repeatedly attacked since late 2019.

During violent raids, Boko Haram fighters killed people trying to flee and looted livestock, money, and other valuables.

“As Boko Haram continue their relentless cycle of killings, abductions and looting, they are also subjecting women and girls to rape and other sexual violence during their attacks. These atrocities are war crimes,” said Osai Ojigho, Director of Amnesty International Nigeria.

“The targeted communities have been abandoned by the forces that are supposed to protect them, and are struggling to gain any recognition or response to the horrors they’ve suffered. The Nigerian authorities must urgently address this issue.

“The International Criminal Court must immediately open a full investigation into the atrocities committed by all sides, and ensure those responsible are held accountable, including for crimes against women and girls.”

After repeated displacement, the affected communities have mostly moved to military-controlled areas, but many have yet to receive any humanitarian assistance.

Rape and other sexual violence

Survivors and witnesses described attacks involving sexual violence in at least five villages in the Magumeri local government area of Borno State. During raids, usually at night, Boko Haram fighters raped women and girls who were caught at home or trying to flee.

One woman was physically assaulted by Boko Haram fighters as she fled from an attack in late 2020. She crawled to a home and hid there with her children, and saw fighters return and enter a nearby home.

She said: “In the next house, I started hearing some women were shouting and screaming and crying. I was very afraid. After some minutes, maybe 30 minutes, I saw the men come out of the house. There were five or six of them with their guns. Then afterwards, the women were confused. Their dresses were not normal.”

Amnesty International interviewed three other witnesses who similarly described the same attack, including hearing women’s screams and seeing them extremely distressed after Boko Haram left. A traditional healer said she cared for several women following the attack who had been raped.

The same healer had previously treated two other survivors, including one who was under 18 years old, after a Boko Haram attack on another village. She said: “I could see the pain on their faces. [The first survivor] told me what happened. I saw her private parts. They were very swollen. So I understood it was more than one or two people who had raped her. She was suffering.”

Another woman told Amnesty International that during the same attack fighters shot people who were running away, then came to her house and sexually assaulted her. She said: “The men entered my room. I asked what they wanted. They took my jewellery and belongings. Then they fell on me.”

Some witnesses also described Boko Haram abducting women during several attacks, taking them away on motorbikes. The women were returned to their village days later, showing clear signs of trauma.

Rape and other forms of sexual violence constitute war crimes in the context of the conflict, as defined under the Rome Statute.

No survivors Amnesty International interviewed appear to have accessed formal health services. Stigma and fear of repercussions mean such incidents are significantly underreported, even within affected communities. At least one of the survivors continues to suffer health complications some months later.

Access to abortion is illegal in Nigeria, except when life is at risk, which means survivors of rape do not have access to safe and legal abortion.

Killings and looting

During raids, Boko Haram fighters stole almost everything they could find. Witnesses consistently described fighters arriving on motorbikes and on foot, before firing into the air. In several attacks, Boko Haram targeted and murdered civilians as they fled; in one attack, several older people who were unable to flee were killed inside their homes.

Fighters often went house-to-house, rounding up livestock and stealing valuables including money, mobile phones, jewellery, and clothes. Witnesses described fighters loading the looted property onto their motorbikes, or on donkeys from the village. To steal livestock, fighters often forced young men to herd the animals into the forest.

A 40-year-old man whose village was raided told Amnesty International: “Before, if you came to our house, you’d see we had cows and goats. I didn’t have many, just a few, but with that I was content. Now, we have nothing… They took everything from us.”

Some fighters wore Nigerian military uniforms, while others wore traditional dress of the region. Witnesses said they knew the perpetrators belonged to Boko Haram, and not the Nigerian military, for several reasons. They could hear the fighters speaking languages common among Boko Haram members; the fighters came on motorbikes, not military vehicles; and the fighters dressed in a combination of attire. Even those fighters wearing stolen Nigerian military uniforms often wore sandals or had bare feet, instead of military boots.

Many witnesses also reported that some children, aged between 15 and 17, were among the attackers, along with men in their 20s.

Urgent response needed

After repeated attacks in recent months, communities from this cluster of villages fled to areas within the Nigerian military’s established perimeters. Many people settled less than a kilometre from an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp outside Maiduguri. Some tried to move into the camp, but were told it was full.

Officials from the nearby IDP camp visited and took people’s names, reportedly around two months ago, but no-one had returned since, according to everyone displaced to that location whom Amnesty International interviewed. Many women remain frustrated that no-one from the government or the humanitarian community has spoken with them to understand the targeting of women during attacks, and what support is needed now. Many added they wished the government would acknowledge and apologize for what happened, and bring the perpetrators to justice.

Months after settling near the IDP camp, the communities have still not received any assistance, including food, shelter, or health care. In early March, a young child died, and her family told Amnesty International she was malnourished and that they believed that factor contributed to her death. Everyone displaced near the camp described widespread hunger.

One woman told Amnesty International: “We need food assistance. All around us are malnourished children. Some of the women go to the camp, [but they’re] told to go away. Some are begging. Some [of us] are selling our things.”

“This is a humanitarian crisis that is getting worse day-by-day. The Nigerian authorities and partners must act now to support those most in need, and ensure this horrendous situation doesn’t continue to deteriorate,” said Osai Ojigho.


The conflict in northeast Nigeria has created a humanitarian crisis, with more than 2,000,000 people now displaced. Boko Haram has also frequently targeted aid workers trying to respond to the crisis.

Amnesty International has repeatedly documented crimes under international law and other serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in northeast Nigeria.

The Nigerian authorities have not taken any genuine steps towards investigating and prosecuting crimes by Boko Haram or the Nigerian security forces, including crimes of sexual violence. Last December, the chief prosecutor of the ICC announced that her office had concluded a decade-long preliminary examination into the situation in Nigeria, saying that it had found sufficient evidence of crimes to open a full investigation. No formal investigation has yet been opened.

The conflict continues to have a dire impact on civilians, as documented in Amnesty International reports on the experience of women, children and older people.

Amnesty International

Related story: Video - Older people often an invisible casualty in conflict with Boko Haram in Nigeria

Nigeria’s booming kidnap-for-ransom enterprise threatens security

Lagos, Nigeria – It was early in the morning when Aliyu Kagada received the distressing news.

An armed gang, known locally as bandits, had just stormed a dormitory at the Government Science College in Kagara, a town in Nigeria’s Niger state, kidnapping his 18-year-old son, Nurudeen.

Twenty-six other students, as well as three staff members and 12 of their relatives, were also snatched in the raid, while one boy was killed.

The days that followed were agonising for Kagada, a father of 12. “I felt really sad,” he said. “I couldn’t sleep well … I couldn’t eat well; we only prayed.”

After days of tense negotiations with the bandits, the authorities announced on February 27 that all 42 abductees had been released from their 10-day captivity.

‘Economic survival’

Since December 2020, gangs of bandits seeking lucrative ransom have kidnapped a total of 769 students from their boarding schools and other educational facilities across northern Nigeria in at least five separate incidents.

The region has long been afflicted by violence fuelled by disputes over access to land and resources, among other factors. Criminal gangs have taken advantage of the lack of effective policing to launch attacks, pillaging villages, stealing cattle and spreading fear.

But with climate change affecting livestock in the arid north and herdsmen migrating down south in search of pasture and water, these groups – believed to largely be comprised of Fulani pastoralists who collaborate with other nomadic tribes – have recently turned to mass abductions for financial gains.

In the Kagara case, authorities did not disclose if a ransom was paid for the abductees’ release. However, experts agree that the growing instances of mass abductions of boys and girls in the region are an offshoot of a booming kidnapping-for-ransom criminal enterprise that has become one of Nigeria’s main security challenges.

At least $18.34m was paid to kidnappers as ransom – mostly by families and the government – between June 2011 and March 2020, according to a report by SB Morgen (SBM) Intelligence, a Lagos-based political risk analysis firm.

“The motivation of these groups appears to be purely economic,” Ikemesit Effiong, head of research at SBM, told Al Jazeera. “They don’t seem political. The high rate of poverty in this country has led many to resort to such criminal activities for economic survival.”

‘Schools are soft targets’

Kidnapping for ransom in Nigeria can be traced to the country’s oil-rich Niger Delta region in the early 2000s, mainly targeting expatriates. It then spread across Nigeria, where 40 percent of people in Africa’s most populous country live below the poverty line.

Abductors have historically targeted the country’s middle- and upper-class, demanding ransoms between $1,000 and $150,000, depending on their victims’ net worth and capacity to pay, according to police.

In other cases, however, the sums are much larger.

In 2017, authorities announced the arrest of Chukwudi Onuamadike, popularly known as Evans and often referred to as Nigeria’s “richest and most notorious kidnapper”. Police said ransom money was paid to him in “millions of dollars”, with some victims being kept for up to seven months “until the last penny is paid”.

High-profile Nigerians have long been a target. In 2018, John Obi Mikel, the captain of Nigeria men’s national football team, received the news of his father’s abduction just a few hours before a crucial World Cup match against Argentina. Police later rescued his father following a shoot-out with the abductors in a forest in southeastern Nigeria.

In 2015, the family of James Adichie – a renowned professor of statistics and father of award-winning novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – paid an undisclosed amount of ransom for his release following his kidnapping on a highway, also in southeastern Nigeria.

Such main roads, especially the notorious Kaduna-Abuja highway, have long been a hunting ground for kidnappers. But in recent times, as the industry took hold in northern Nigeria and the number of casualties associated with it grew, the bandits have turned their attention elsewhere: learning institutions located outside of cities and town where security is often lacking.

“Schools are soft targets,” said Ikemesit. “They target school children as well as women because the incentives behind securing their release are much higher. Also, men are always considered to be in much more position to possess the finances to secure the release of their wives and children.”

Thirty-nine college students are still being held hostage by bandits after being taken from hostels in a March 11 raid outside the northwest city of Kaduna.

The latest bout of kidnappings began in December with the seizure of more than 300 boys from their boarding school in the town of Kankara, in northwestern Katsina state.

The incident evoked memories of Boko Haram’s 2014 abduction of 276 schoolgirls in the northeastern town of Chibok that garnered global outrage. More than 100 of the girls seized by the armed group – whose name means “Western education is forbidden” are still missing. Boko Haram said it was behind the December 11 abduction in Kankara, but that claim later proved to be wrong. The boys were released after six days but the government denied any ransom was paid.

While there is no known link forming between the groups, the growing threat of abductions has terrified parents and forced authorities to briefly shut down schools.

“These [abductions] will affect school enrollment in the coming months,” said Henry Anumudu, founder of Sharing Life Africa, a nonprofit that supports quality education and women empowerment in low-income communities, calling school kidnappings an attack on the fragile education system in the country’s north.

Some 10.5 million children in Nigeria are not in school – one in every five of the world’s out-of-school children. The majority of them are in northern Nigeria, according to the United Nations.

“If we can’t solve the problem of insecurity and safety, ensuring that children will go to school and get back home there’s going to be a big problem,” Anumudu told Al Jazeera. “Security is the basic thing right now.”

‘Criminality must be eliminated’

In the past, the government has launched military operations involving the bombing of suspected hideouts to tackle banditry and rescue victims of kidnappers.

But since the kidnappings spiked in December, there have been no arrests or prosecution. This lack of accountability, combined with the authorities’ failure to step up security and intelligence operations, contributes to a deep-rooted sense of mistrust among vulnerable citizens that puts them at odds with the government, analysts say.

Many have also criticised certain state authorities such as in Katsina and Zamfara for negotiating with bandits and introducing amnesty schemes, saying they should instead focus on protecting citizens in the first place. Negotiations and impunity, critics say, end up encouraging criminal activity as perpetrators know they will be able to at least negotiate conditions for safety or even get paid huge ransoms.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, who took office in 2015 on the back of promises to tackle insecurity, has also blamed local and state authorities for the increase in mass abductions. In a Twitter post last month, he said they must improve security around schools and warned the policy of “rewarding bandits with money and vehicles” could “backfire with disastrous consequences”.

But his federal government has also come under fire. Experts say the members of the country’s security agencies are overstretched, poorly paid and underequipped, while the police forces are largely centralised and unable to handle internal security challenges. Others have also criticised the government after it commended “repentant bandits” for playing a role in the recent release of Kankara schoolboys.

“Criminality must be eliminated, not mitigated,” said Dickson Osajie, an international security expert. “Sadly, the government does not have the political will power in Nigeria to achieve that,” he told Al Jazeera.

“Bargaining with the enemy [the bandits] is a sign of weakness,” Osajie added. “Even if you want to bargain, do it from the side of strength by carrying out a risk analysis of what is happening, then you prioritise the risk by attending to each security threats as it comes.”

Anumudu agreed. “We just have to invest in the security of schoolchildren by setting up checkpoints and deploying military personnel across the affected regions,” he said.

By Festus Iyorah

Al Jazeera

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In Nigeria, an agonising wait for parents of 300 abducted girls

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Video - Freed schoolboys arrive in Nigeria’s Katsina week after abduction

Monday, March 22, 2021

Boko Haram kills two Cameroonian soldiers in Nigeria

Two Cameroonian soldiers deployed to Nigeria were killed late Saturday in a Boko Haram attack in northeastern Borno state, two Nigerian military sources said Sunday.

The insurgents, on foot and in several trucks fitted with machine guns, attacked Nigerian soldiers outside the town of Wulgo. Cameroonian soldiers were then also attacked after deploying from across the border to assist.

“Two CDF (Cameroonian Defence Force) soldiers were killed in the 40-minute gunfight with the Boko Haram terrorists,” a Nigerian military source said.

“Another three CDF soldiers and a Nigerian soldier were injured in the fight,” said the military officer, in an account confirmed by a second Nigerian military source.

An armoured vehicle belonging to the Nigerian army and two Boko Haram trucks were destroyed in the fight while “several” jihadists were “neutralized”, the second military officer said.

The jihadists launched the attack from the nearby Wulgo forest, a known Boko Haram hideout.

The jihadist insurgency in northeast Nigeria has killed 36,000 people and displaced around two million from their homes since 2009, according to the United Nations.

The violence associated with Boko Haram and its splinter group ISWAP, the Islamic State West Africa Province, has spread to neighbouring Chad, Cameroon and Niger.

Earlier this month, ISWAP claimed in a statement that it used two vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, killing and wounding 30 soldiers near Wulgo, a claim that AFP could not independently verify.

In 2015, a regional military coalition, the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) was tasked with fighting the insurgents.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari replaced the country’s top military commanders in January in a sudden overhaul after months of pressure over deteriorating security.


Related story: Video - Older people often an invisible casualty in conflict with Boko Haram in Nigeria

Nigeria's Burna Boy says Grammy win marks 'big moment' for African music

Modern African music is altering perceptions of the continent as part of a global cultural shift that marks a “big moment”, Nigerian music artist Burna Boy told Reuters after hailing his first Grammy award.

Burna Boy was awarded a Grammy for the Best Global Music Album this month for ‘Twice As Tall’ which was released last year.

He is part of a generation of Nigerian music artists, which include Wizkid and Davido, that has enjoyed global success in recent years as proponents of the Afrobeats sound. The African genre is now almost as likely to be heard in London or Los Angeles as it is in Lagos.

“It’s a big moment and a big time for African music and Africans in general,” said Burna Boy, during an interview at his home in Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos.

The artist, whose real name is Damini Ogulu, said his award was part of a “domino effect” that gives Africans more control over the way they are perceived through technology, as streaming services take the continent’s arts to a global audience.

“I didn’t even want to be African when I was little,” he said. “I wanted to be anything but who I was, because who we are wasn’t really the cool thing to be,” said the artist, who grew up in southern Nigeria and moved to London as a child before returning to the west African country.

He said his win showed that African music was attracting worldwide respect.

Those sentiments were shared by many at Edge Music Academy, in the Jakande district of Lagos, where students compose music in a studio decked out with microphones, laptops and a keyboard.

“The future is bright,” said student Obi Prince. “The way Afrobeats is represented in the world right now can only be a start for Nigerian artists. We just have to do our thing and bring out ourselves more globally,” he said.

The academy’s chief executive officer, Michael Tijani, said Burna Boy’s win was a “huge deal” for Nigerian music.

“People coming into the industry now have a more concrete belief that you can actually get as far as anybody else in the world can go,” he said.

Reclining in a chair in his home studio, Burna Boy reflected on his success.

“You can’t mention the top five musicians in the world without throwing me or an African in there,” he said, smiling. “Now we’re eye to eye with the people we used to look up to.”

By Alexis Akwagyiram, Angela Ukomadu


Friday, March 19, 2021

Nigeria approves funding to overhaul Port Harcourt oil refinery

The Nigerian Government has reportedly approved $1.5bn in funding to repair the Port Harcourt refinery, which was closed two years ago.

Petroleum Minister Timipre Sylva was cited by Agence France-Presse (AFP) as saying that Italian firm Maire Tecnimont has already been selected by the government to undertake the repair work at the Port Harcourt refinery, which has a refining capacity of about 210,000bpd.

Due to the lack of domestic refining capacity, the country relies on imported petroleum products despite being Africa’s top oil producer, reported AFP.

Sylva told reporters: “We are happy to announce that the rehabilitation of productivity refinery will commence in three phases.”

The first phase of the refinery overhaul project is scheduled to complete in 18 months. It aims to bring the refinery’s production to 90% of its nameplate capacity.

The second phase and third phases are expected to be over in 24 months and 44 months, respectively.

Quoting Sylva, Premium Times said that the funding of the refinery repair work will come from sources including the Nigerian National Petroleum (NNPC), Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), budgetary provisions, and Afreximbank.

Sylva noted that the country would implement rehabilitation work on the Kaduna and Warri refineries on or before May 2023.

The Port Harcourt Refinery Complex is owned by Port Harcourt Refinery Company (PHRC), a unit of NNPC.

The Port Harcourt Refining Company operates two refineries. The old refinery with a nameplate capacity of 60,000 barrels per stream day (bpsd) and new refinery with an installed capacity of 150,000 bpsd.

The two refineries bring the Port Harcourt Refinery’s combined crude processing capacity to 210,000bpsd.

Hydrocarbons Technology

Related story: Nigeria Looks To Ramp Up Its Oil Refining Capacity

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Inflation hits four-year peak in Nigeria as food prices soar

Nigerian inflation hit a four-year peak in February as food prices jumped more than 20 percent, heaping financial pressure on households already faced with a shrinking labour market and a stagnant economy at a time of mounting insecurity.

Inflation, in double digits since 2016, reached 17.33 percent, driven by the impact of a coronavirus epidemic that has also induced a drop in the price of oil, Nigeria’s main export, and weakened the naira currency.

Tuesday’s inflation reading was the highest since the 17.78 percent touched in February 2017. The economy was in a slump then and is teetering on the brink of recession now, having expanded just 0.11 percent in the fourth quarter.

Food prices, which make up the bulk of the inflation basket, rose 21.79 percent in February, a jump of 1.22 percentage point in January, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said.

In a country plagued by insecurity following a wave of kidnappings of schoolchildren in its increasingly lawless north, there are concerns that the “stagflation” combination of rising unemployment and prices and low growth could trigger significant social unrest.

“Straining households will be compounded by increasing reports of insecurity in some regions, fuelling the risk of broader social discontent,” said Jacques Nel, head of macroeconomic research at NKC African Economics in South Africa.

Staples including bread, cereals, potatoes, fruits and oil drove the increase in the food price index, the NBS said in its report.

Inflation pressures would probably remain high in coming months, Nel predicted, adding that just 30.6 million Nigerians in a population of around 210 million were considered fully employed.

Bismarck Rewane, managing director at Lagos-based Financial Derivatives, said the “stagflation crisis” would take a long time to resolve, with inflation eating up economic gains to the point where any government stimulus might be too weak to generate jobs.

Monetary policy dilemma

President Muhammadu Buhari has made investment in rail and road a focus of his administration’s drive to kick-start growth, but falls in public revenue linked to the lower oil price have checked his ambitions.

Given the low-growth and high-inflation backdrop, few analysts expect the central bank to either raise or lower its base rate of 11.5 percent next Tuesday, when it holds a policy meeting.

“They should be thinking of tightening to encourage savings and investment which could help employment but I think we may have reached the limit of [what can be achieved with changes to] monetary policy,” Rewane said.

Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund, which said in February that the bank might need to tighten policy if inflation got out of control, has urged it to phase out financing of the government deficit to help check price pressures, and to allow the naira to float more freely.

The central bank has tried to manage pressure on the currency by restricting access to dollars for certain imports to boost local production, and set up multiple currency rates.

Such “subsidised credit” had clearly failed to prevent a rise in near-term inflation, said Razia Khan, chief economist for Africa and the Middle East at Standard Chartered.

Al Jazeera

Nigeria's Plentywaka gets backing from Techstars, plans expansion to Canada

Plentywaka, a Nigerian bus-booking platform, today announced that it has been acceptedinto the Techstars Toronto accelerator program.

It will join nine other startups in the class of 2021 and secure funding from the accelerator as it sets its sights on global expansion.

The Lagos-based company, founded by Onyeka Akumah, Johnny Ena, John Shaibu and Afolabi Oluseyi, operates an 'Uber-for-buses' model connecting commuters with buses via an app.

Plentywaka launched in September 2019, and in the first two months, moved an average of six people daily, according to CEO Akumah. By its sixth month, this number increased to about 1,500 daily, and the company completed more than 100,000 rides within that timeframe.

Then in March 2020, the pandemic-induced lockdown hit businesses across Lagos and other states within Nigeria. Due to the nature of its business, Plentywaka had to make a slight pivot and began transporting essential services across Lagos, especially food items. It also opened a logistics service.

As the lockdown eased across the city and commuting resumed, the company moved 60% capacity while the operational cost remained the same. Although growth was steady and picking up, the company started seeking external investment. It received $300,000 pre-seed from its parent company, EMFATO and other early-stage investors like Microtractionand Niche Capital in August.

Backed with the new funding, Plentywaka has since doubled down on its core offering -- transporting people via buses. The logistics arm that it launched, as well as a car service, have since been shuttered.

Akumah says the focus on a primary offering has paid a dividend. The company has expanded its intrastate services into two other cities in Nigeria including the country's capital city, Abuja and has moved about 300,000 people. Following this announcement though, there are immediate plans to launch an interstate service across different cities in Nigeria.

This service will see Plentywaka partner with some major bus travel companies, which collectively have more than 2000 buses and ply over 100 routes in the country. Plentywaka acts as an aggregator, and commuters can see options of various transport companies, compare fares, and book on its platform.

"Plentywaka is getting to a point where we're now becoming more like an aggregator as we onboard transportation companies on our platform. Interstate travel in Nigeria is data insufficient, and we want to be the first company to solve this." Ena, co-founder and president of Plentywaka, said to TechCrunch.

In addition to this and the new capital from Techstars, Plentywaka is looking to scale its platform across Africa and North America. Akumah says this global expansion plan will start with a city in Canada, most likely Toronto, on or before Q4 2021.

Sunil Sharma, the managing director of Techstars Toronto, confirmed this to TechCrunch. According to Sharma, Techstars is backing the Nigerian mobility startup because it's solving a massive problem in Nigeria that can be likened to urban transportation challenges in other populated cities worldwide.

"We know that Western cities have legacy transportation systems. However, there are many transportation challenges, even in a city like Toronto," he said. "And we think that Plentywaka's technology and approach in improving the lives of citizens and their daily commute needs can be brought over to cities in the West just as they are in Africa."

Plentywaka plans to launch its intracity service first after engaging the country's necessary stakeholders before introducing the intercity model. Sharma thinks that most cities in Canada aren't well serviced by buses, leading to a broken intercity transit infrastructure. Plentywaka's presence will bring the much-needed option the city deserves, he says.

"Cities and towns here should have bus connectivity, but they quite simply don't have it, and my view is that the arrival of Plentywaka will be an immediate option to the status quo. It will also resonate with people as a way to supplement existing transportation options," he said.

Techstars' relationship with Akumah also proved crucial in Plentywaka's acceptance into the accelerator. A second-time Techstars-backed founder, Akumah co-founded Farmcrowdy, a Nigerian digital agriculture platform in 2016. Having gone through the accelerator's Atlanta program four years ago with the agritech startup, Akumah is doing the same with Plentywaka. He doubles as CEO at both companies.

The serial founder said the relationship with Techstars is one reason the company is expanding to Canada instead of neighbouring African countries.

"If the opportunity we have in Toronto right now to expand was similar to what we had in Ghana or South Africa, of course we'll be having those conversations already. But when we have the support system from Techstars, Sunil, and regulators in Toronto without even putting feet on the ground, I mean that makes it exciting for us to expand to Canada," the CEO remarked.

Nigerian or African startups, in general, rarely make their way into Canada. Plentywaka is on the verge of doing so, and it will be looking to close a seed round from investors to carry out these expansion plans and further improve its technology.

By Tage Kene-Okafor


Related story: Trucking app reshapes haulage business in Nigeria

Monday, March 15, 2021

Nigerian president vows to safeguard school system nationwide

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on Saturday issued a stern warning to "terrorists and bandits" targeting schools, saying the country will not allow the destruction of the school system.

The president gave the warning in a statement released by his spokesperson Garba Shehu in Abuja, reacting to the gunmen attack on the Federal College of Forestry Mechanization in the Afaka area of the northwest state of Kaduna on Thursday night.

The president commended the efforts of the Kaduna state government and the early response of the military which led to the rescue of 180 persons, including 172 students and eight staff members.

He urged that the others declared missing be found and returned safely to their families.

The president also commended efforts and contributions of local intelligence in significantly thwarting the kidnappers, saying a country that has an efficient local intelligence network is a safer country.

"Our military may be efficient and well-armed, but it needs good efforts for the nation's defense and the local population must rise to this challenge of the moment," he said.

A series of gunmen attacks has recently happened in the northern part of the most populous African country, including attacks on schools and kidnapping of students.


Related stories: Video - 279 kidnapped Zamfara schoolgirls released

In Nigeria, an agonising wait for parents of 300 abducted girls

Video - More than 300 schoolgirls abducted in Northwest Nigeria

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

Video - Freed schoolboys arrive in Nigeria’s Katsina week after abduction

Attempt to abduct hundreds of schoolboys foiled by security forces in Nigeria

Security forces have foiled an attempt to kidnap hundreds of schoolboys in northwestern Nigeria, a state official said on Sunday, days after dozens of students were seized in the latest mass abduction.

The kidnapping of 39 students on Thursday was the most recent in a string of abductions complicating the security challenges facing President Muhammadu Buhari’s security forces, who are also battling a more than decade-long Islamist insurgency in the northeast.

“Between the late hours of Saturday night and the early hours of today, suspected bandits stormed the Government Science Secondary School, Ikara … in an attempt to kidnap students,” Samuel Aruwan, state home affairs commissioner said of the foiled attack in a statement.

“Fortunately, the students used the security warning system in place, and were thus able to alert security forces in the area”, he said.

He said a joint security force, comprising soldiers, policemen and vigilantes, deployed to the school and “engaged the bandits, forcing them to flee”.

The military managed to rescue 180 students, including eight staff members, after a fierce battle with the gunmen.

Heavily armed gangs in northwest and central Nigeria have stepped up attacks in recent years.

They have recently turned their focus to schools, where they kidnap students or schoolchildren for ransom – Thursday’s abduction was at least the fourth such attack since December.

Aruwan said all 307 students in the school targeted on Saturday had been accounted for after a headcount.

“The attempted kidnap was foiled completely and no student was taken from the school.”

On Saturday, local media published video of some of the 39 students who were kidnapped on Thursday from the outskirts of Kaduna city appealing to the government to rescue them without violence.

The recording was purportedly sent through a Facebook account of one of the hostages.

They appeared to be in a forest, surrounded by gunmen in military uniform. The video could not be independently verified.

Aruwan said the government was committed to freeing the hostages.

“As a government, our focus is on getting back our missing students and preventing further episodes of school abductions,” he said.


Related stories: Video - 279 kidnapped Zamfara schoolgirls released

In Nigeria, an agonising wait for parents of 300 abducted girls

Video - More than 300 schoolgirls abducted in Northwest Nigeria

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

Video - Freed schoolboys arrive in Nigeria’s Katsina week after abduction

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

UK to return $5.8m to Nigeria from politician’s stolen assets

The United Kingdom and Nigeria have signed a deal to return to the latter 4.2 million pounds ($5.84m) recovered from a former state governor who was jailed in London for money laundering.

James Ibori, who was the governor of southern Nigeria’s oil-producing Delta state from 1999 to 2007, pleaded guilty at London’s Southwark Crown Court in 2012 to 10 counts of fraud and money-laundering.

He received a 13-year jail sentence and spent four years behind bars for using public funds to buy luxury homes, top-of-the-range cars and a private jet.

“This is the first time that money recovered from criminals will be returned to Nigeria [from the UK] since an agreement was signed in 2016 to recover and return the proceeds of bribery or corruption in a responsible and transparent way,” the UK’s home and foreign office said in a statement.

Abubakar Malami, Nigeria’s attorney general, said the funds will be used to help complete a number of infrastructure projects, including a road connecting the capital, Abuja, and the northern commercial hub Kano.

“I am confident that both the Nigerian and British governments remain committed to all affirmative actions to combat corruption … [and] illicit financial flows,” Malami said at a ceremony at which officials from the two countries signed an agreement on the return of the funds.

The UK’s Home Office Minister Baroness Williams described the deal as “a significant moment”, saying it sent a clear message “to criminals that we will relentlessly pursue them, their assets and their money”, while Minister for Africa James Duddridge said the two countries “will continue to work together to tackle crime and corruption”.

Ibori was at some point one of Nigeria’s richest and most powerful men.

Anti-corruption campaigners had hailed the case as a milestone for Nigeria, where no one of his stature had been successfully prosecuted, and for its former colonial ruler Britain, long seen as too complacent about the proceeds of Nigerian corruption being laundered in the UK.

Al Jazeera

Related story: James Ibori denied appeal for jail term reduction

Monday, March 8, 2021

Video - Nigeria’s basketball team D'Tigers face the dilemma of aging players

The top-ranked men's basketball team in Africa, D'Tigers of Nigeria, qualified unbeaten at the recent AfroBasket qualifiers in Monastir, Tunisia. But while D'Tigers have been the dominant force in Africa, there is one big concern...the squad is aging. CGTN's Deji Badmus finds out whether this could spell an end to their reign.

Friday, March 5, 2021

Why Bitcoin has been so successful in Nigeria

Back in 2017, the idea of Bitcoin in Nigeria was an interesting one that generally got the attention of two main categories of people: the early adopters with an interest in emerging technologies and the “hustlers” that are always on the lookout for new ways to make money. The latter category consisted of the same people that turned to the Mavrodi Mundial Movement (MMM), one of the world’s largest Ponzi scheme, when it became popular in 2016.

Unfortunately, the average Nigerian has struggled greatly in the country’s current economy, and many have been forced to seek out alternatives that offered tangible opportunities to make money. When cryptocurrency exchanges started to show up in Nigeria, they made buying and selling bitcoin more convenient for these categories of people, because the alternative was to buy bitcoin from a stranger with no assurance of getting what you paid for. And, as a result, the country’s cryptocurrency community began to grow.


The booming cryptocurrency market in Nigeria today has come a long way from those early days as the adoption rate in Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, keeps growing year after year. A major reason for the exponential growth of the Nigerian cryptocurrency community can be linked to the country’s predominantly young population — it is significantly more tech-savvy than its parents, and it has taken to the internet in hopes of finding jobs and income that often prove fleeting at home.

Understandably, the young population went digital in its pursuit of a better life. Many younger Nigerians became freelancers in their chosen fields and started offering their services to the international community where their work is valued. But, once again, the challenge of getting paid for their work because of their location was difficult. In the same vein, Nigerians in the diaspora also experienced a similar challenge when sending money back home, as exorbitant charges from foreign banks and money transfer companies discouraged many from doing so.

Meanwhile, things kept getting worse for the average Nigerian, with the naira experiencing incessant inflation, making the country’s fiat a poor store of value; traditional banks charging ridiculous fees for simple transactions; and a rise in the unemployment rate. In the midst of all of these issues, the gospel of Bitcoin kept spreading as the foremost cryptocurrency’s major features made it look like it was specifically designed to save Nigerians.


Bitcoin’s decentralized features, its ability to furnish cheaper and faster transactions and its rising value ultimately turned the attention of many Nigerians to it, so that in a 2020 COVID-19 halted world, Bitcoin had finally found a home in Nigeria. And this reflected in the numbers, as our cryptocurrency exchange, Yellow Card, processed over $200 million in cryptocurrency volume in 2020, with most of that volume coming from Nigeria. also reported that there was an increase from Nigeria in the number of new Bitcoin wallets created on its platform.

Bitcoin offered the glimmer of hope that many Nigerians desperately needed as they could finally see the chance of attaining financial freedom to be more likely than ever. And, in the following ways, Bitcoin has become successful in Nigeria:

1. As a store of value: The naira’s continuous inflation has made many lose confidence in keeping their hard-earned money in fiat. Bitcoin offers a better alternative as its adoption across the world increases, thus driving up its demand and, consequently, its price.
2. As a better investment alternative: Many Nigerians have turned to trading and investing in bitcoin as a form of passive income and, despite the cryptocurrency’s volatile nature, the returns over time have seen many become millionaires.
3. As an enabler of easy transactions: The sending and receiving of money across the border for the payment of goods and services, or to loved ones, has never been easier with bitcoin, thanks to its cheaper network rate and faster transfer time than traditional remittance systems.

While a recent directive from the nation’s apex bank reiterating that regulated financial institutions are not authorized to offer services to cryptocurrency exchanges, the interest in Bitcoin has only continued to grow in the country as, coincidentally, institutional investments have propelled the price of bitcoin past $57,000, as of the third week of February.

It is, therefore, no longer a matter of if Bitcoin will continue to bloom in Nigeria, but a matter of how long before it reaches everyone in the country. The Central Bank of Nigeria’s directive may take some exchanges in the country offline for the time being, but peer-to-peer transactions, which have always been an extremely popular and active trading method in Nigeria, will only grow more quickly.

By Joel Ogunjimi and Chris Maurice

Bitcoin Magazine

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Deadly violence mars reunion between schoolgirls and parents in Nigeria, witnesses say

At least one person has been shot dead and two others injured as hundreds of kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls who had been released were reunited with their parents, eyewitnesses told CNN.

The girls were abducted on Friday by armed men who raided their state-run school in Nigeria's northwest Zamfara State, police said. A spokesman for the area's regional governor Bello Matawalle said Tuesday that all 279 girls had been safely returned and accounted for.

But violence broke out as the schoolgirls were reunited with their parents in Jangebe on Wednesday, eyewitnesses told CNN. 

Witnesses said parents who wanted to take their children home grew impatient with government officials who were making speeches. The officials also told parents they planned to keep the girls at the school overnight before sending them home, observers said.

Video obtained by journalists on the ground showed the relatives yelling and storming into the hall where the girls and officials were. Youths who came in with the adults started throwing rocks at government officials, parents said. Soldiers then opened fire, which led to further chaos with parents scrambling to grab their daughters.

One parent, Safiyanu Jangebe, told CNN: "We got tired of waiting. The government officials were talking and talking while we were just waiting to take our kids. They started saying that they would hand over the girls to us tomorrow (Thursday). We couldn't take that ... some angry youths started throwing stones at the soldiers. They started firing and shot three kids. One is dead. Why is the government treating us without human feelings?" 

Abubakar Shittu's son was one of the teenagers shot. Video provided to CNN from journalists at the hospital showed the boy laying in a bed with a bloody leg. 

"After they abducted our daughters look how soldiers came and shot our kids. Now which of these pains are we going to deal [with]," Abubakar said in the video, as he is standing over his unconscious son, who is lying on a hospital bed. 

Zamfara Police Commissioner, Abutu Yaro, denied that his men shot at parents and children, calling the reports "fake news." 

"I think the parents hurriedly carried their children because they think they come from very far villages, that was what happened," he said. "As for the shooting that is a fake report, I do not have that report on my table."

Immediately after the incident, the local government imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew on Jangebe, it announced in a statement on Wednesday. "This is to prevent any further breach of peace," read the statement, which did not refer to the shooting. 

The girls' abduction is the latest in a string of kidnapping cases. At least 42 people were abducted from a state-run school last month and later released, and more than 300 schoolboys were taken and later freed in December.

Kidnapping for ransom is rife in parts of Nigeria and has become a major security challenge. State governors regularly pay ransoms to secure the safety of victims but rarely admit to doing so. 

By Isaac Abrak 


Related stories: Video - 279 kidnapped Zamfara schoolgirls released

In Nigeria, an agonising wait for parents of 300 abducted girls

Video - More than 300 schoolgirls abducted in Northwest Nigeria

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

Video - Freed schoolboys arrive in Nigeria’s Katsina week after abduction

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Video - 279 kidnapped Zamfara schoolgirls released

The government says 279 schoolgirls kidnapped in northwest Zamfara state have been released. Gunmen took them from a state run school on Friday. It is the latest of a series of abductions in the region. Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris joins us live, from Gusau in Nigeria’s Zamfara State, for the latest updates.


Related stories: In Nigeria, an agonising wait for parents of 300 abducted girls

Video - More than 300 schoolgirls abducted in Northwest Nigeria

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

Video - Freed schoolboys arrive in Nigeria’s Katsina week after abduction

Monday, March 1, 2021

Nigeria to take delivery of 3.92 mln doses of COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday

Nigeria expects to take delivery of 3.92 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday, the third West African country to benefit from the COVAX facility after Ghana and Ivory Coast, the government’s coronavirus task force said on Sunday.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country with some 200 million people, has reported fewer than 1,900 COVID-19 deaths so far, much better than had been widely predicted early in the pandemic.

Last week, Nigerian drug regulator approved the Astrazeneca/Oxford COVID-19 vaccine use in Nigeria.

The dispatch is part of an overall 16 million doses planned to be delivered to Nigeria in batches over the next months by the COVAX facility, the task force said in a tweet.

The COVAX facility for poor and middle-income countries is co-led by Gavi, the vaccine alliance, and the World Health Organization, with UNICEF as an implementing partner.

Nigeria plans to inoculate 40% of the population this year and 30% more in 2022. The country expects to receive vaccine donations that will cover one-fifth of its population and then procure an additional 50% of its requirement to achieve herd immunity, the budget head has said.

Finance Minister Zainab Ahmed said Nigeria will draw up a supplementary budget in March to cover the cost of COVID-19 vaccinations, for which no provision was made in the 2021 finance bill adopted in December. (Reporting by Felix Onuah and Alexis Akwagyiram in Lagos; writing by Chijioke Ohuocha; editing by Philippa Fletcher)


In Nigeria, an agonising wait for parents of 300 abducted girls

Families in northwest Nigeria’s Zamfara state are desperately waiting for news of their kidnapped daughters after more than 300 schoolgirls were taken by gunmen from a government school on Friday, the latest in a series of mass school abductions to hit the country.

Some parents and other relatives on Sunday gathered at the all-girls boarding school in the Jangebe village amid speculation that the children had regained their freedom after being held in a forest.

“There have been rumours flying around that the girls have been found; the government denied them but these rumours refuse to go away,” Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris, reporting from the school, said.

With police coordinating a joint rescue operation with the military and helicopters combing the forest, Idris said a number of government ministers had arrived in Zamfara to meet local officials. “Senior officials confirmed to Al Jazeera that some progress has been made and [expressed hope] in the next 24 hours the girls will be back home,” Idris added.

Locals say more than 100 gunmen in military uniforms invaded the village early on Friday morning before heading to the school’s hostel for the sleeping students.

Humaira Mustapha’s two daughters – Hafsa and Aisha, 14 and 13 respectively – were among the 317 schoolgirls abducted.

“Whenever I think about my daughters I’m filled with indescribable grief,” Mustapha told AFP news agency, making no effort to wipe away the tears rolling down her cheeks.

“Whenever I serve food to their younger sister, tears keep flowing from my eyes because I keep thinking about the hunger and thirst they are going through,” said the 30-year-old mother of three.

“I’m appealing to the governor to do everything to rescue our daughters who are facing real danger to their lives,” Mustapha added. “As a mother, my anguish is crushing me.”
‘Scared of going back to school’

Aliyu Ladan Jangebe said his five daughters aged between 12 and 16 were at the school when the kidnappers stormed in. Four were taken away but one escaped by hiding in a bathroom with three other girls, he told The Associated Press news agency.

“We are not in [a] good mood because when you have five children and you are able to secure (just) one. We only thank God … But we are not happy,” said Jangebe.

“We cannot imagine their situation,” he said of his missing daughters. Residents of a nearby village said the kidnappers had herded the girls through the town like animals, he said.

Masauda Umar was among the schoolgirls who managed to escape. “I was coming out from the door and I met somebody but ran back and hid under my bed,” she said. “I’m scared of going back to school because of what happened, but I will go back if the government makes it safe.”

One resident at the village said the gunmen also attacked a nearby military camp and checkpoint, preventing soldiers from responding to the mass abduction.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said the government’s priority is to get all the hostages returned safe and unharmed.

The girls’ abduction has caused international outrage, with the United Nations chief calling for the girls’ “immediate and unconditional release” and safe return to their families.

Nigeria has seen several such attacks and kidnappings in recent years. On Saturday, 24 students, six staff and eight relatives were released after being abducted on February 17 from the Government Science College Kagara in Niger state.

In December, more than 300 schoolboys from a secondary school in Kankara, in northwestern Nigeria, were taken and later released. The government has said no ransom was paid for the students’ release.

The most notorious kidnapping was in April 2014, when 276 girls were abducted by the Boko Haram armed group from the secondary school in Chibok in Borno state. More than 100 of those girls are still missing.

Boko Haram is opposed to Western education and its fighters often target schools. Other organised armed groups, locally called bandits, often abduct students for money. The government says large groups of armed men in Zamfara state are known to kidnap for money and to press for the release of their members held in jail.

Nigeria’s criminal networks may plot more such abductions if this round of kidnappings go unpunished, say analysts.

“While improving community policing and security, in general, remains a mid-to-long-term challenge, in the short term authorities must punish those responsible to send a strong message that there will be zero tolerance toward such acts,” said Rida Lyammouri, senior fellow at the Policy Center for the New South, a Moroccan-based think-tank.

Al Jazeera

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Boko Haram claims responsibility for kidnapping hundreds of boys in Nigeria

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