Friday, October 29, 2021

Nigeria’s eNaira digital currency had an embarrassing first week

It is not time for adieu yet, but Nigeria’s central bank digital currency—the first such attempt in Africa—has not gotten off to a great start.

The eNaira, as the digital currency is called, was initially scheduled to launch on Oct. 1 this year. That was postponed with the excuse that the launch clashed with independence day celebrations. Nigerians became suspicious of their central bank’s readiness for a digital currency rollout; after all, independence day is a fixed event every year and so authorities should have planned better.

Shrugging off sceptics, president Muhammadu Buhari unveiled the eNaira wallet at an indoor, socially-distanced ceremony in Abuja three weeks later (on Oct. 25,) where only three media houses were invited and no questions were taken, according to Reuters. Buhari said the innovation could grow Nigeria’s economy by $29 billion in the coming decade, and further financial inclusion goals.

But on just the fourth day, the eNaira was looking dead on arrival.

eNaira app hasn’t worked well

In designing the eNaira, Nigeria hoped to follow the emerging blueprint for central bank digital currencies, especially China’s.

The eNaira is supposed to live within a mobile wallet (pdf), have the same value and be interchangeable with the physical naira for everyday transactions. Nigerians believe the eNaira, which is governed by a centralized blockchain, is part of the central bank’s drive to discourage cryptocurrencies’ popularity among Nigeria’s youth, just like China’s effort with the digital yuan.

And so this week, Nigeria’s central bank made two types of eNaira wallets available on Google and Apple stores: one for individuals, and another for merchants. But some users say parts of the wallet for individuals have not worked properly.

Fisayo Fosudo, a Nigerian YouTuber who reviews gadgets and apps, said he and three friends initially got error messages that the eNaira app could not match their emails to their bank verification numbers. He would later register successfully but found broken links that did not lead to helpful support pages on the central bank’s website. “Was really looking forward to reviewing the eNaira app but it’s been hard to get it to work seamlessly. We wait,” Fosudo said.

After many users left poor reviews for the Android version of the eNaira app for individuals, it was taken down. It had been downloaded 100,000 times before that. The Apple Store version remained available at press time.

Nigeria’s central bank is pre-empting eNaira scams

Central bank digital currencies are not immune to scams. Last October, Chinese authorities started seeing fake digital yuan wallets, especially because the government had chosen to give away $6.2 million worth of digital yuan for free to citizens to encourage adoption.

Nigeria’s eNaira may be struggling to take off but the central bank is already warning of potential scams. In a press release on Oct. 27, the bank clarified that it did not have a dedicated eNaira account, and that it was not distributing 50 billion naira in eNaira.

What of the other CBDC plan in Africa?

South Africa is the other large economy in Africa contemplating a central bank digital currency, but it’s not quite through the same process as Nigeria’s.

Instead of a rollout to citizens for intra-country transactions, South Africa’s CBDC trial is part of a project by the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) which includes the central banks of Australia, Singapore, and Malaysia. They are teaming up to test the use of CBDCs for international settlements.

Project Dunbar, as it is called, will use CBDCs to create platforms for financial institutions to transact directly with each other using digital currencies issued by the central banks. The hope is to make transactions faster, cheaper, and without a need for intermediaries.

By Alexander Onukwue 


Related story: Video - Nigeria becomes first African nation to roll out digital currency

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Video - Nigeria becomes first African nation to roll out digital currency


Nigeria has launched a digital currency. Called eNaira, it is hoped to foster economic growth. But there are challenges in its use. Al Jazeera's Ahmed Idris reports from Nigeria’s capital city of Abuja.

Related stories: The NFT Craze Is Helping Nigerian Artists Go Global

Digital art thrives among crypto-curious Nigerian artists

Nigerians Are Using Bitcoin to Bypass Trade Hurdles With China


Monday, October 25, 2021

Will #EndSARS protesters in Nigeria see justice?


A year on from the social media-driven #EndSARS protests in Nigeria that brought the disbandment of a hated police unit, activists are still demanding wider police reform while also seeking justice for demonstrators who say they came under fire from security forces. 

Hundreds of people joined rallies in Lagos and other cities on October 20 to mark a year since peaceful protesters were fired on by security forces at the Lekki toll gate, according to multiple witnesses. At least 12 people were killed in the attack. Nigeria’s information minister insists no such shooting occurred. 

Amnesty International says dozens more people were killed by police in other protests in Nigerian cities in October 2020 calling for the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) to be dissolved. 

The demonstrations were sparked by news that SARS officers in Ughelli had shot a young man before taking his car. At the height of the protests the government led by President Muhammadu Buhari demobilised SARS, whose officers had been accused of abuses ranging from arbitrary arrest and extortion to torture and extrajudicial killings. 

Activists remained on the streets for days afterwards, demanding that lawless officers be prosecuted while also calling for wider improvements to the police and other security agencies. In this episode of The Stream we’ll hear from activists still pushing for justice and police reform a year on from the landmark #EndSARS protests.

Video - Nigerian authorities hunt down escaped prisoners


Authorities in Nigeria are stepping up efforts to recapture prisoners who were aided to escape after an attack by gunmen. The gunmen attacked a jail in Nigeria's Oyo State late on Friday. Prison officials say the attackers gained entry to the prison yard by blasting the walls with dynamite.After an exchange of gunfire with prison officers, they freed over 800 inmates by force.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Video - Nigeria's Super Eagles bounce back after shock defeat

Nigeria's Super Eagles defeated the Wild Beasts of Central African Republic by two goals to nil in their reverse fixture of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers, which took place in Douala, Cameroon. First-half goals from defender Leon Balogun and striker Victor Osimhen were enough to avenge Nigeria's shock loss to the C-A-R in the first leg. CGTN's Deji Bademosi has more.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Gunmen kill at least 43 in northern Nigeria

Gunmen killed at least 43 people in an attack in northern Nigeria's Sokoto state, the governor's office said on Monday.

The assault began at a weekly market in Goronyo on Sunday and continued into Monday morning, Sokoto Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal said in a statement.

Gunmen across northwestern Nigeria have killed scores of people and kidnapped hundreds more for ransom over the past year in a security crisis that the government is trying to tackle via communications blackouts, military operations and stepped up policing.

Iliyasu Abba, a local resident and trader, told Reuters that there were 60 bodies at Goronyo General Hospital mortuary and that others sustained injuries while escaping.

"The gunmen stormed the market as it was crowded with shoppers and traders," he said.

The men were "shooting sporadically on us after they surrounded the market firing at every direction killing people."

Abba said the gunmen had at least initially overpowered police who tried to intervene. A police spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The government ordered shut all telephone and internet services in the whole of Zamfara state in early September, a blackout later extended to parts of Katsina, Sokoto and Kaduna states as military operations intensified.

Nigeria's top general said last week the telecoms blackout would be maintained because it was helping the armed forces crack down on the bandits. But the closure has made it hard to know what is happening in the affected areas, and has disrupted daily life and business for millions.

Tambuwal requested more security forces in Sokoto and the deployment of more resources. 


Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Video - Nigeria launches sweeping measures to contain violence


Nigeria’s government has announced sweeping measures it hopes will help contain worsening attacks by armed groups in the north. Markets and the transportation of certain goods have been banned and communication services cut. But as days run into weeks, some citizens are getting desperate. Al Jazeera's Ahmed Idris reports from Kaduna.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Video - Nigerian states arm locals against rise in attacks by armed groups


At least 20 people have been killed in Nigeria's Sokoto state when gunmen attacked a market. Armed groups still disrupt life for millions in the country's northwest, but Nigeria is also facing growing insecurity across regions. The military and police are stretched dealing with Boko Haram in the northeast, so-called bandits in the northwest, and criminal gangs in the south. And as Al Jazeera's Ahmed Idris reports from Kaduna, Nigeria, state governors are arming local people to fight back.

Friday, October 8, 2021

Nigeria rescues 187 people from kidnappers

Nigerian security agents on Thursday rescued 187 people who had been abducted by armed gangs in the northwestern state of Zamfara, police said, after authorities launched a sweeping security operation against the kidnappers.

Since December last year, Zamfara has been at the centre of often violent kidnappings by heavily armed bandits who have targeted schools, villages and people travelling on highways for ransom.

The government last month shut telecommunication services in Zamfara and other states to disrupt coordination among the gangs.

Mohammed Shehu, the police spokesman for Zamfara, said in a statement that the 187 people, including women and children, had been seized by kidnappers from four local government areas in the state some weeks ago.

"The police and other security agencies have been carrying out assaults on identified bandits locations in different parts of the state with a view to ridding the state of all activities of recalcitrant bandits and other criminal elements," said Shehu.

Pictures and video circulated by police to the media showed some of the people with torn clothes and struggling to sit as they waited to be transported back to their homes.

Armed gangs have grown bolder over time, attacking army outposts, breaking prisoners out of a jail and shooting down an air force jet in July.

Authorities in neighbouring states have complained that bandits driven out of Zamfara have poured into their territories and were causing havoc.

Reporting by Maiduguri newsroom, writing by MacDonald Dzirutwe, editing by Richard Pullin


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

Nigeria cranks up spending to record $39.8 bln in 2022 budget

Nigeria's president unveiled a record 16.39 trillion naira ($39.8 billion) budget for 2022 on Thursday, with a projected 25% year-on-year rise in government spending as the economy struggles with the impact of the pandemic.

The deficit will rise to 6.26 trillion naira, or 3.39% of GDP to be funded by new borrowing, proceeds from privatisations and drawdowns on loans secured for specific projects, Muhammadu Buhari told a joint sitting of the Senate and the House of Representatives.

The plan for Africa's top oil exporter assumes crude output of 1.88 million barrels a day and an oil price of $57 per barrel, said Buhari.

"Some have expressed concern over our resort to borrowing to finance our fiscal gaps. They are right to be concerned. However, we believe that the debt level of the Federal Government is still within sustainable limits," he said.

Economic analysts said Nigeria's budget signaled the government was not about to make any major policy shift as spending would remain elevated to deal with a deteriorating security situation in many parts of the country.

The armed forces have been struggling to contain Islamist insurgencies in the northeast, a spate of mass abductions and deadly bandit attacks in the northwest, conflicts between farmers and herders in many areas and a general surge in crime.

"In the meantime, Nigeria is likely to be stuck with large budget deficits. If borrowing conditions prove to be unfavourable, the government may increasingly lean on the central bank to finance budget shortfalls," said Virag Forizs, emerging markets economist at Capital Economics.

The World Bank has said that rising insecurity, along with high food inflation and stalled reforms, was a drag on growth and a factor in rising poverty.

The economy is projected to grow by up to 3% this year after it expanded by 5% in the second quarter. It contracted in 2020 due to the pandemic, though it managed to exit recession in the fourth quarter, but growth is fragile.


Buhari confirmed a previously published 2022 GDP growth forecast of 4.2% and an inflation projection of 13%.

"Our target over the medium term is to grow our revenue-to-GDP ratio from about 8 percent currently to 15 percent by 2025," Buhari said. This would be achieved by enhancing tax and excise revenues through reforms and administration measures, he added.

Nigeria has passed a string of record budgets since Buhari took office in 2015, but the country has struggled to fund the spending plans due to low revenues. The pandemic has added to the revenue problems.

According to IMF data, Nigeria has among the lowest revenues globally, with general government revenue between 2015 and 2019 at 7.9% of GDP, compared with a Sub-Saharan African average of 12.7% and a global average of 29.8%.

Buhari said a fuel subsidy which successive governments have tried unsuccessfully to scrap, continued to erode revenues. Attempts to remove it have triggered protests and strikes.

By Felix Onuah and Chijioke Ohuocha 


Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Video - Why nothing will stop Yemi Alade

Nigerian pop superstar Yemi Alade is a force to be reckoned with. In her own words, a "Woman of Steel". Alade's accomplishments in music are many. Her song "Johnny" was one of the biggest hits on the African continent in 2014. In 2015 and 2016 she won Best Female performer at the MTV Africa Music Awards and was nominated for Best International Act at the BET Awards. In less than a decade, she has released five studio albums and has collaborated with artists such as Rick Ross, Duncan Mighty, Angelique Kidjo and Funke Akindele. But perhaps her biggest collaboration to date has been with Beyonce, contributing to the Black is King Album with The Gift and Don’t Jealous Me. Alade boasts more than 450 million YouTube streams, has close to 15 million Instagram followers, and is about to begin a second season as a judge on Nigeria’s The Voice. As if all of that wasn't enough, Alade has now become a UNDP Goodwill Ambassador, working to highlight COVID-19 vaccine inequality. The daughter of a police officer, she was also part of Nigeria's huge End Sars campaign against police brutality and is passionate about women's rights. In this episode of The Stream, Yemi Alade us in-studio for a conversation about her music, women’s empowerment, her activism on COVID and for an exclusive live performance.

Video - Plans to rehabilitate former Boko Haram faces opposition


The surrender of hundreds of Boko Haram fighters in Nigeria’s northeast is causing anxiety in Borno state. The government says it will rehabilitate and reintegrate the former fighters into society. But the plan has divided people who have suffered unimaginable atrocities during the 12-year conflict. In the last two months, about 6,000 fighters and their families surrendered due to renewed ground and aerial offensive by Nigerian troops. Hundreds of thousands have already been returned to their towns and villages to homes being rebuilt by the government. For now, officials seem determined to speed up the process of rebuilding trust - hoping it could break Boko Haram’s fighting spirit and bring lasting peace. Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris reports from Maiduguri, Nigeria.

Friday, October 1, 2021

Doctors in Nigeria struggle to cope as acute malnutrition soars


Clinics and hospitals in northern Nigeria are struggling to cope with high numbers of severely malnourished children. Food shortages have worsened as violence by armed groups intensifies. Al Jazeera's Ahmed Idris reports from Maiduguri, Nigeria.

Dozens killed and abducted in Nigeria’s north

At least 32 people have been killed in Nigeria’s north after armed groups attacked remote communities in 2 states, authorities said, the latest incident in a spiraling cycle of violence in Africa’s most populous country.

Local officials and residents told The Associated Press that the killings and the abduction of 24 persons in Niger and Sokoto states were carried out by the marauding gunmen operating across the northwest and central parts of Nigeria who are notorious for abducting hundreds of school children and travelers for ransom.

The attacks happened barely 48 hours after about 40 persons were killed in the northern region in what residents said could be a part of a prolonged religious conflict between Muslim and Christian communities in Kaduna state.

In the north central Niger state, assailants attacked Muya local government area on Tuesday morning, killing 14 people and abducting seven women, according to Garba Mohammed, the chairman of Munya LGA. The police spokesperson confirmed the incident to the AP but said he had no further details.

“These bandits invaded one of the communities around 2 a.m. yesterday, set the houses ablaze, burnt the people in their rooms while some of them (the attackers) were standing outside; those trying to escape were caught and slaughtered,” said Mohammed.

After the raid in Kachiwe, the assailants went to two more communities nearby, killing 2 persons they saw on their way before killing 16 more residents, the official added.

Mohammed said the gunmen took advantage of the blockade of telecommunications access. Authorities imposed the block to stem the exchange of information between gunmen and local residents who were acting as informants.

During a similar attack in the northwest Sokoto state, 17 persons were abducted from their homes in Sabon Birni local government area, according to Amina Al-Mustapha, the state lawmaker from the affected area.

The bandits attacked the Gatawa community in the neighboring country Niger on Tuesday, less than a week after earlier attacking the area and killing 22 persons mostly security operatives,

“We are under bandits now; We are suffering now,” the lawmaker said, adding that “at least 60%” of about 500,000 residents in Sabon Birni have fled the community, some taking refuge in Niger Republic which is just about 100 miles (160 kilometers) away.

Violent attacks by the assailants known locally as bandits are common across the northwest and central parts of Nigeria, especially in remote communities where there is no adequate security presence.

Authorities have said that special military operations targeted at restoring peace in the troubled states have been yielding results with dozens of the assailants often killed when their hideouts in abandoned forest reserves are bombarded.

But Nigeria’s security operatives, especially those operating in violence hotspots, are still outnumbered by the gunmen who often raid communities in their hundreds. The assailants are made up of various groups and security analysts have said they are mostly young men from the Fulani ethnic group who had traditionally worked as nomadic cattle herders and are caught up in a decades-long conflict with Hausa farming communities over access to water and grazing land.

In Sokoto state, lawmaker Al-Mustapha told AP that the Sabon Birni area had five military bases as of last year, but “now, we have only one in the entire with security operatives present,” with the others abandoned after suffering attacks.

By Chinedu Asadu