Monday, May 23, 2022

Video - Nigeria’s medical brain drain

Nigerian doctors are leaving Nigeria in droves to seek better working conditions abroad. Health workers say decades of neglect by the government has led to mass exodus. While the doctor-patient ratio recommended by the World Health Organization is one for every 400, but in Nigeria, its one for 2,500. Nigeria’s nurses’ union says 11,000 members have left the country in the first three months of 2022, to work in hospitals abroad. Senior consultants say while the immediate future is bleak, the government can reverse the trend. Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris reports from Kano, Nigeria.

Passport Issuance: Nigeria immigration introduces tracking system

The Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) said it has introduced a tracking system for the monitoring of statuses of passport applications by applicants.

The acting comptroller general of NIS, Isah Idris, who disclosed this during a brief media interaction on Saturday evening, said the initiative is part of the agency’s efforts toward sustaining transparency and accountability in the passport issuance process.

Mr Idris said since the launch of the online appointment system by the agency, the allegations of corruption and harassment against his personnel have significantly reduced. This is even as he appealed to Nigerians to always stick to the rules and “stop inducing our officers.”

He said: “Like parcels sent through logistic companies or visa applications, we have introduced a tracking system so that people can stay in the comfort of their rooms and know the status of their passport applications.

“You don’t need to offer anyone any kobo. All that you need to do is to log into our website on, upload the required details and see an immediate response on the status of your passports.”

Significance of the initiative

According to Mr Idris, the new initiative is part of the efforts to phase out human interactions, saying the rowdiness and delay in the passport issuance would soon be a thing of the past.

He said the best method to address the inadequacies identified with the production process is the deployment of technology and pleaded with Nigerians to always apply for their passport before its expiration or “only when they need it.”

He added that other measures are being put in place to resolve all the challenges identified with passport application in Nigeria, saying the challenges currently being experienced are results of combined problems of the coronavirus disease, foreign exchange scarcity, national identity number validation, among others.

Other measures

The acting comptroller general said apart from the tracking system, the agency will also in the next four weeks introduce self-validation of applicants’ NIN available on its portal and that only when such is done will the applicant proceed to pay and book an appointment for capturing.

He said: “We must also note that passports confer on holders the integrity of a nation, therefore the integrity of producing such documents should also not be compromised. So we must verify the authenticity of applicants’ claims before we proceed for production.

“Also, most times, delays are usually caused by the NIN validation problems and what we want to do now will allow individual applicants to, first of all, verify and validate their NIN and only upload validated NIN before they can pay for passports. By doing that, we would have successfully tackled the issue of a delay from other partners which we don’t have control over.”

Alert system introduction

Meanwhile, Mr Idris also explained that the Service is working on the introduction of an alert system “so that holders of passports can be reminded when it is six months to the expiration of their passports.”

“Like the driver licences, NIS is planning to introduce an alert system as soon as passports have about six months to expire. This is how much we are trying to leverage on technology to ease the stress currently being experienced,” the acting CGI said.

Production domestication

He also spoke on the plan to domesticate the production of passports, saying efforts have reached an advanced stage towards achieving that.

Mr Idris said President Muhammadu Buhari has since issued a directive towards achieving that, and that the ongoing process will only continue pending the completion of the domestication project.

He thanked the minister of interior, Rauf Aregbesola, for his efforts towards achieving the target, and pledged his administration’s commitment to “the dream.”

“If we eventually do that, we would have opened more job opportunities for Nigerians, improve the national economy by stopping the capital flight, and also enhance the sanctity of our nation. But there is more to it than just the production. The integrity of the system matters a lot and we cannot afford to have a passport that would lose its integrity,” he added.

By Mojeed Alabi

Premium Times

Severed head of missing Nigerian lawmaker found in park -police

Police in Nigeria have discovered the severed head of a state legislator who went missing last week in the southeastern state of Anambra, where the government accuses separatists of carrying out a spate of killings and kidnappings, police said on Sunday.

The southeast, homeland of the Igbo ethnic group, is agitating to secede from the rest of Nigeria and the banned Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) group has been leading those calls.

Okechukwu Okoye, a legislator in the Anambra state assembly and his aide went missing on May 15. His head was found on Saturday night in a park in the Nnewi south local government area, Anambra state police spokesman Tochukwu Ikenga said.

"The lawmaker was killed. His head was found along Nnobi road. There is no suspect in custody yet," Ikenga said.

The Anambra state governor has put up a 10 million naira ($24,000) reward for information on the killers.
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Early this month, gunmen killed and beheaded two soldiers in neighbouring Imo state. The government accused IPOB, which denied the charge.

The violence in the southeast is another layer of insecurity in Nigeria, where kidnappings for ransom are common in the northwest and an Islamist insurgency has been going on for more than a decade in the northeast of the country.

Amnesty International said last August that Nigerian security forces had killed at least 115 people in the southeast in the first eight months of 2021 and arbitrarily arrested or tortured scores of others. The government did not comment.


Friday, May 20, 2022

Kidnappers Of Nigerian College Students Arrested One Year Later

The Nigerian police have arrested two men suspected of being behind the high-profile kidnapping of two dozen students in April 2021 in northwestern Nigeria, and the murder of five of them.

"They have both confessed to the abduction of the students from the University of Greenfield, Kaduna State, and the murder of five students before the payment of ransom and the release of the other students," police spokesman Olumuyiwa Adejobi said in a statement on Wednesday evening.

The two suspects, Aminu Lawal known as "Kano" and Murtala Dawu known as "Mugala", who was involved in several kidnapping cases, will be brought to justice at the end of the investigation, Adejobi said.

In April 2021, gunmen stormed Greenfield University in Kaduna, abducting about 20 students and killing a staff member.

A few days after the attack, the kidnappers executed five hostages to force the families and the authorities to pay a ransom, which was later obtained.

The remaining 14 students were released after 40 days in captivity.

Heavily armed criminal gangs, known as "bandits", have been increasing their attacks in north-western and central Nigeria, looting, kidnapping and killing many villagers.

Last year, the "bandits" particularly targeted schools and universities to kidnap students en masse for ransom from their parents and the authorities.

In all, about 1,500 students were abducted in 2021 by armed men, according to Unicef. While most of the young hostages have since been released for ransom, some still remain in captivity in the forests, where armed groups hide

By Africanews

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

Relatives of Nigeria Train Attack Victims Oppose Resumption of Railway Service

Families of people kidnapped from a train in Nigeria's Kaduna state two months ago are protesting a decision by authorities to resume service on the railway next week.

Officials of the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) said trains would begin running between the capital, Abuja, and Kaduna city again on Monday.

Relatives of kidnapped victims met Thursday morning to protest the planned resumption of train service on the Kaduna-Abuja line.

Authorities suspended service indefinitely on March 28, the day armed men blew up tracks in Kaduna and attacked a train. Nine people were killed during the attack and scores are still missing.

During Thursday's protest, the spokesperson of the group, Abdulfatai Jimoh, said at least 61 people were believed to be held captive, including Jimoh’s wife.

He said the government has been insensitive to the families’ plight.

"Our relatives kidnapped are still in captivity and we want them to be freed first before they can start thinking of that," he said. "We want the NRC management and the Ministry of Transportation to put adequate security measures in place to guarantee the safety of passengers before train services can resume. These are the minimum conditions we require from them."

Idahat Yusuf's two sisters, both in their 50s, are also among the abducted passengers. She does not understand why the NRC would restart train service.

"It's a national pain, it's not only the families' pain, so why would they choose to move on like that?” she asked.

The NRC said the decision to resume operations was not a sign of insensitivity to the situation and said efforts to have the captives released were continuing.

Security experts said negotiations have been deadlocked since the kidnappers demanded that authorities release members of their gang in exchange for the abductees.

Jimoh said the families have been given few details about the talks.

"We have information from government sources that discussions are ongoing with the abductors," he said. "We just don't know the extent or how far they have gone in these negotiations.”

The kidnappers have freed only three abductees, including a pregnant woman who told local news organizations that she was freed out of pity.

Northern Nigeria has seen a wave of kidnappings for ransom over the past 18 months.

This week, police arrested 31 people on charges of abducting students from a school in Kaduna state last year. Authorities also recovered 61 firearms, 376 rounds of ammunition, 22 cartridges and $5,000 cash.

By Timothy Obiezu


Related story: Video - Rail staff killed in ‘unprecedented’ attack on train in Nigeria

Nnamdi Kanu: Nigerian separatist allowed to watch Liverpool games on TV

 A Nigerian separatist in detention on treason charges has been allowed by a judge to watch the matches of his favourite team, Liverpool, on TV.

Nnamdi Kanu, who denies the charges, leads the banned Indigenous People of Biafra (Ipob) group.

In detention since last year, his privileges have not extended to watching whole football matches live.

But thanks to the judge, a fellow Liverpool fan, Mr Kanu can now view the climax to a possibly historic season.

Having already bagged the Carabao Cup and the FA Cup, Liverpool are just two matches away from winning the English Premier League title and the European Champions League.

Bizarrely, the change in fortunes for Mr Kanu did not come at his request and resulted from the discovery that Mr Kanu, his lawyer and the judge were all Liverpool fans.

He was in court on Wednesday for a hearing on a bail application following his arrest last year for campaigning for the independence of south-east Nigeria, which he refers to as Biafra.

The bail application was refused but during the discussions about whether he should be granted bail, Justice Binta Nyako complained that Mr Kanu had disobeyed a previous order that he stop appearing in court wearing clothes from the Italian luxury brand Fendi, when he had other options.

She may have been referring to a tweet in which Mr Kanu was seen in an Atletico Madrid tracksuit during a visit by Charles Soludo, the Anambra state governor.

The judge, then joked that she was a Liverpool supporter and asked Mr Kanu's lawyer, Mike Ozekhome if he was also a fan of the football club. The lawyer said: "Yes."

Mrs Nyako then turned to Mr Kanu in the dock. "What is your team?" she asked.

"My team is Liverpool even from age of seven," Mr Kanu, standing upright in the dock, responded.

The judge then ordered the prison representative to allow Mr Kanu to watch next week's Champions League final between Real Madrid and Liverpool and any other match of his favourite football club.

"You must allow the defendant to watch the matches any day they are playing," she said, adding that she was going to make an order to that effect.

Mr Kanu may now be able to sit down and watch Liverpool's last Premier League match on Sunday, but whether that will be an enjoyable experience is another matter.

Manchester City are currently one point ahead of Liverpool in the title race and are favourites to retain the trophy.


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

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Video - Nigerians turn to charcoal as cooking gas prices soar


Fuel prices have tripled in less than a year, forcing many people to use firewood to cook their meals. Officials hoping to increase the use of cooking gas say expanding liquefied petroleum gas would save millions of trees and the environment. But the rising prices threaten that objective. Nigeria’s state oil company blames the rising costs on global price increases. But with the country still importing most of its gas, users are bracing for more price hikes. Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris reports from Kano, Nigeria.

Nigeria Becoming Destination for Africa’s Promising Tech Startups

In February, the Nigerian technology startup CrowdForce announced a big break: It had received $3.6 million from investors to expand its financial services operations to many more underserved communities.

Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Tomi Ayorinde said new funding will boost its mobile agent network from 7,000 to 21,000 this year.

"We were looking to scale faster and really gain market share," Ayorinde said. "And what we're doing is also very impact-related because we're creating jobs, avenues for people to make extra income in their communities. So, it was also very interesting for impact investors to be part of what we're trying to do."

When Ayorinde helped launch CrowdForce seven years ago, he intended it to be a data collection company. But after about two years, the company overhauled its business model when Ayorinde realized it could fill a need for bank accounts.

"When we collected data of 4.5 million traders what we saw was, a lot of them didn't have bank accounts and the ones that have bank accounts had a very tough time accessing the cash that was sent to them," said Ayorinde."That's when we kind of realized that there's a bigger problem to solve here.”

Experts say about 60% of Africa's 1.2 billion people lack access to banks or financial services. Technology startups in Africa are trying to fix that, said the African Private Equity and Venture Capital Association known as AVCA.

In a recent report, the industry group said African startups attracted $5.2 billion in venture capital last year, and that West Africa – led by Nigeria – accounted for the largest share of investments.

AVCA research manager Alexia Alexandropoulou said investors are looking to tap into Africa's huge population of young people.

"Africa is the world's most youthful population, so as the proportion of skilled labor increases, then the result will be more human capital in order to power African businesses and also the industrial development within the continent," said Alexandropoulou.

AVCA's report also cites increased internet penetration in Africa and more favorable government policies as contributing to increased investments in financial technology services knwoFintech.

But Fintech Digital Marketing Expert Louis Dike said there are obstacles to overcome, such as weak currencies and policies.

"Africa is not a perfect place because it's still made up of virgin markets," said Dike. "The standard of living is quite low, our regulations are not consistent, today the government will say this and tomorrow they will change the law and restrict some startup activities."

But with new talents emerging in technology, more startups with big dreams are emerging in Nigeria and elsewhere in Africa.

Timothy Obiezu 


Nine dead after explosion in Kano

Nine people were killed after a gas cylinder explosion led to the collapse of a building close to a popular market in Nigeria’s northern state of Kano, the national emergency service and witnesses said.

The incident happened on Tuesday in the Sabon Gari area of the city, mostly populated by people who moved to Kano from elsewhere.

Mustapha Habib Ahmed, head of the National Emergency Management Agency, said a gas cylinder in a welding shop exploded, killing nine people. Emergency responders pulled bodies from the rubble during a search and rescue operation.

At a nearby school, parents rushed to pick up their children after hearing news of the blast, witnesses said. There were no reported injuries among the school children.

Kano, renowned for centuries as a centre for Islamic scholarship and a commercial hotspot in trans-Saharan trade, is the capital of the eponymous Nigerian state in the northwest region of the country.

Al Jazeera

Nigeria’s treasury chief arrested over multimillion-dollar fraud

The head of Nigeria’s treasury has been arrested for alleged involvement in fraud and money laundering worth 80 billion naira ($190m), the country’s anti-graft agency said.

Ahmed Idris, Nigeria’s accountant-general, was arrested on Monday “after failing to honour invitations” to respond to the allegations, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said.

The EFCC said Idris “raked off the funds through bogus consultancies and other illegal activities using proxies, family members and close associates”.

The proceeds were invested by Idris in real estate in the capital Abuja and in his home state of Kano in northern Nigeria, it said in a statement issued late Monday.

Idris has not commented on the accusations.

President Muhammadu Buhari came to power in 2015 on a pledge to end endemic graft, but has barely made a dent in corruption on a national scale.

Under his watch, the EFCC has secured a string of high-profile convictions, including ministers, state governors, senior public servants and prominent political figures.

But last week, the president announced a pardon for two ex-governors jailed for corruption, despite public outcry.

Last year, the agency said it had recovered 714 million euros ($750m) that had been plundered from the nation’s coffers.

The government has been accused of targeting the opposition in its anti-corruption drive, an allegation it denies.

Al Jazeera

Monday, May 16, 2022

Video - Court stops Central Bank of Nigeria Governor's bid to run for a political seat


The court in Nigeria has dismissed the Central Bank of Nigeria Governor's bid to run for political ambitions.

Nigeria, others witness lunar eclipse today

Center for Basic Space Science and Astronomy (CBSSA), Nsukka, Enugu State, says the first total lunar eclipse for 2022 will happen globally in the early hours of today, May 16.

Centre Director, Dr. Bonaventure Okere, stated that the lunar eclipse would be visible from across the nooks and crannies of Nigeria, as well as in several other countries of Africa, North and South America, Europe and parts of Asia.

He added that the lunar eclipse has remained one of the most interesting astronomical events/phenomena for sky-watchers globally over the years.

The natural phenomenon, according to him, occurs “when the Earth blocks the Sun’s light, which otherwise would have struck and reflect off the moon’s surface. In other words, the moon passes into the umbra/deep shadow of the Earth.

“When this happens, the short-wavelength light from our planet is scattered/absorbed while the light of longer wavelength (red colour) is refracted around the edges of the atmosphere while falling upon the moon’s surface, thereby turning the moon reddish in colour (the Blood Moon).”

By Lawrence Njoku

The Guardian

Friday, May 13, 2022

Video - Nigeria Food Festival: fans enjoy roasted plantain in Abuja

Nigeria is a culturally diverse country known for various delicacies, this has seen food lovers converge for the Bole Food Festival, where there was some roasted plantain on cards.

Nigeria withdraws from international basketball over NBBF crisis

Following the leadership crisis that has dogged Nigerian basketball for more than eight years, the Federal Government, yesterday, withdrew the country from international competitions for a period of two years.

Citing the “unending crises that have plagued and nearly crippled basketball development in the country,” the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development said President Muhammadu Buhari approved the action for the period to enable the country tackle the issues.

Speaking in his office yesterday, Youth and Sports Development Minister, Sunday Dare, said the move would also provide government opportunity to revamp the sport from the grassroots, as well as revive the domestic leagues, which have become moribund.

Represented by the ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Alhaji Ismaila Abubakar, Dare said the withdrawal will also allow for the setting up of an Interim Management Committee (IMC) to oversee the management and development of domestic basketball leagues and further address other related issues around the advancement of the game in the country.

He added: “Government intends to utilise this period of break to address all contentious issues among stakeholders. The Terms of Reference (TOR) and membership of the Interim Management Committee will be announced in due course.”

Dare also reiterated “government’s interest and commitment to the development of basketball in Nigeria, as well as huge talents of our youth domestically in an atmosphere that is free of rancour and squabbles.”

He called on players, officials, fans, and other stakeholders of the sport to remain calm “as government embarks on far-reaching initiatives to reposition, sustain and stabilize the game of Basketball for growth and success in the long term interest of the country.”

Recall that some basketball players had on Tuesday converged on the minister’s office to register their displeasure with government over its seeming unwillingness to resolve the post election crisis rocking the Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF).

Two separate NBBF elections were held on January 31, 2022 in Abuja and Benin with winners of the polls claiming to be the authentic leaders of the body.

The Abuja NBBF faction election produced Igoche Mark as the body’s president, while the polls in Benin returned Musa Kida as the federation’s boss.

The angry players, led by Players Representative on the Abuja factional board, Stanley Gumut, told journalists that the procession to the minister’s office was part of resolutions reached at their meeting held last week.

Gumut said players were not happy that the ministry appeared indifferent, while the leadership tussle was taking a toll on their careers, adding that the situation is hampering the growth of the domestic component of the game.

By Alex Monye

The Guardian

Nigeria: Kidnapped priest dies in captivity

“It is with a heavy heart, but with total submission to the will of God that we announce the death of Rev. Fr. Joseph Aketeh Bako, which sad event took place in the hands of his abductors between 18 – 20 April 2022.”

These words, in a statement released on Wednesday by Fr. Christian Okewu Emmanuel, the Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Kaduna, announced the death of the 48-year-old Nigerian priest.

Abducted in March

Fr. Bako had been kidnapped on 8 March by gunmen from his residence in St. John Catholic Church, Kudenda, where he had been serving as parish priest.

Vatican News had reported the news of the priest’s abduction in March and noted that according to reports, the security guard of the Church was killed during the attack by the gunmen.

In the statement, the chancellor explained that the communication of Fr. Bako’s death was only coming at this time as “the fact of the circumstances leading to his death and the date of the incident have been carefully verified.”

Prayers invited for the peaceful repose of Fr. Bako

The Bishop of the Archdiocese of Kaduna, Most Rev. Matthew Man-Oso Ndagoso has extended his deepest sympathies to the family and the Catholic community of St. John Kudenda, the statement noted.

Christians are also invited to pray for the peaceful repose of the soul of Fr. Bako and for the consolation of the Christians in the Archdiocese of Kaduna.

Details of Fr. Bako’s funeral arrangements will be announced as soon as they are ready, the statement said.

Vatican News

Related story: Gunmen kidnap Nigerian Bishop in Owerri

Mob kills student over ‘blasphemy’ in northern Nigerian college

A college in the northwestern Nigerian state of Sokoto has been indefinitely shut after a female student in the school was killed over alleged blasphemy.

The yet-to-be-identified student was accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad, which led to a mobbing that resulted in her death on Thursday, according to reports from local media. Her body was also allegedly burned afterwards within the school premises.

Sokoto state’s Governor Aminu Tambuwal ordered the closure of the school and directed the Ministry of Higher Education and relevant security agencies to investigate the incident. This came after outrage on social media against the killing, the state’s Commissioner of Information Isa Bajini Galadanchi told reporters.

“The governor has called on the people of the state to remain calm and maintain peace as the government would take appropriate actions on the investigation findings,” Bajini said.

The school’s management described the incident as an “early morning students rampage” in a circular dated May 12 and directed all students to “vacate the college campus immediately”.

Nigerians are using Twitter to protest the killing, calling on the government to ensure that justice was served.

“Murderers of Christian woman in Sokoto must be arrested & punished!” Farooq Kperogi, a journalism professor at Kennesaw State University, said in a tweet.

“Sadly, this sort of consequence-free murder of people in the name of avenging “blasphemy” has been going on for far too long in the North. This must stop! The monsters in that video are easily identifiable. The Sokoto State government must immediately apprehend them and make an example of them. If that doesn’t happen, this kind of murderous barbarism will continue,” he added.

Popular human rights activist Aisha Yesufu, herself a Muslim, also condemned the act saying “no one has the right in anyway whatsoever to kill another”.

Cases of mob attacks against alleged blasphemy happen intermittently in Nigeria, as “many Shariah laws in northern Nigeria continue to criminalise blasphemy and result in harsh punishments for blasphemers,” according to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.

The north of Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, is majority Muslim while the south is predominantly Christian.

The country’s Criminal Code prohibits any act that publicly insults any religion and stipulates a prison sentence of up to two years, while there are Islamic laws against blasphemy by sharia courts in 12 northern states.

The latter are “exclusively concerned with actions considered insulting to Muslims, the punishment for which can be as severe as execution”, according to the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs at Georgetown University.

“Most blasphemy accusations are made by Muslims against Christians and frequently trigger mob violence before any official actions like police arrests and judicial trials can be taken. Blasphemy is thus primarily a driver of sectarian violence rather than legal proceedings in the Nigerian context,” the Berkley Center said.

In April, a Nigerian court sentenced an atheist to 24 years in prison for making social media posts considered blasphemous against Islam. Mubarak Bala, a former Muslim, was sentenced after pleading guilty following a lengthy trial during which he spent nearly two years in prison.

In 2020, a sharia court sentenced Yahaya Sharif-Aminu, a 22-year-old Muslim gospel musician, to death for committing blasphemy in a series of private WhatsApp messages. 

Al Jazeera

Related stories: Outspoken Atheist, Arrested in Nigeria for Blasphemy, Hasn’t Been Seen Since 

Nigerian singer sentenced to death for blasphemy in Kano state

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Video - Nigerian palm oil farmers seek government input to maximize output

Nigeria is one of the largest producers of palm oil globally with small-scale farmers being essential to the country's annual output of more than one million metric tons. However, the farmers and industry players are struggling to realize their full potential due to various reasons. CGTN Africa spoke to stakeholders in the Nigerian capital Abuja to find out the reasons behind their struggles and what can be done to improve it.

Nigeria’s ‘Incredible Kids’ Gain Popularity on Internet

A Nigerian dance group with a disabled member has suddenly gained popularity after posting their videos to social media.

One video has tens of thousands of views. The dancers are children as young as five years old. They are called “The Incredible Kids.”

Their videos have been posted to the video sharing service Instagram. The children dance quickly to popular Nigerian songs. And they are busy performing in cities like Abuja and Lagos, Nigeria.

One dancer is 15-year-old Joshua Anum. Joshua has a disability. He lost his arm after an accident at the age of five. Joshua’s father left him and his 8 brothers and sisters. They did not have much to eat when growing up. But that has not stopped Joshua from dancing, and it has changed his life.

"Before I came here I used to go to parties, I used to fight anywhere I went and I was not going to school," said Joshua. "Since coming here I have started school and I read and dance.

Vera Anum is Joshua’s mother. She said that she was very sad when the doctors removed his arm. But now she is happy and proud of him.

"Everybody thought...he will not be useful in life. Our people at home said he is finished because somebody whose hand has been amputated from childhood, what can he do?” Vera said.

She said, “See him today, at least the whole world is seeing him, watching him how he is performing."

Maliki Emmanuel is the dance group’s creator. Emmanuel said that many of the dancers do not have a good family life, so he has offered them support and a home.

The students often gather around Emmanuel in his chair at his home and watch music videos together so they can get new ideas for the dance moves and performances.

Emmanuel hopes to expand his group with more children who need a home and love to dance. "I can teach them then we will bring them to the crew,” Emmanuel said.

Money from the dancers’ performances helps pay the cost of the children’s education.

By Faith Pirlo

Abraham Achirga reported this story for Reuters. Faith Pirlo adapted it for VOA Learning English.


Ex-Nigerian President Jonathan dissociates self from 2023 bid

Former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan will not seek the governing party ticket to contest presidential elections next year, his spokesman has said, ending months of speculation of a planned return to national politics.

A group of supporters from northern Nigeria had bought nomination forms for Jonathan to take part in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) party’s primary elections scheduled for later this month.

But in a statement late on Monday, his spokesman Ikechukwu Eze said the former president did not authorise the purchase of the nomination forms, a requirement for candidates to take part in primary elections.

Jonathan was president between 2010 and 2015, under the People’s Democratic Party, now in opposition.

“While we appreciate the overwhelming request by a cross-section of Nigerians, for Dr Jonathan to make himself available for the 2023 presidential election, we wish to state that he has not in any way, committed himself to this request,” Eze said.

“We wish to categorically state that Dr Jonathan was not aware of this bid and did not authorise it.”

It is common for Nigerian politicians to switch sides during elections, but it would have been a surprising about-turn if the APC had decided to embrace a candidate it once derided as incompetent when he was president.

With President Muhammadu Buhari due to step down next year after serving two full terms, the race to succeed him is wide open with more than 20 governing party candidates registering to contest the primary vote.

Registration will end on Tuesday and a party committee will screen the candidates, who include Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, former Lagos state governor and party heavyweight Bola Tinubu, Minister of Petroleum Timipre Sylva and several ministers and state governors. Central bank governor, Godwin Emefiele, is also making an unprecedented presidential run.

But the field is expected to narrow once political horse-trading starts, which will lead to some candidates dropping out.

Al Jazeera

Monday, May 9, 2022

‘Bandits’ kill 48 in northwest Nigeria attacks: Local officials

Gunmen have killed at least 48 people in attacks on three villages in northwest Nigeria’s Zamfara state, a local official and residents said.

Dozens of gunmen on motorcycles entered the three villages in coordinated attacks, shooting people as they tried to flee, Aminu Suleiman, administrative head of Bakura district where the villages are located, said on Sunday.

“A total of 48 people were killed by the bandits in the three villages [Damri, Kalahe and Sabon Garin] attacked Friday afternoon,” Suleiman said.

The worst hit was Damri, where the gunmen killed 32 people, Suleiman told AFP. The victims included patients at a hospital.

“They burned a police patrol vehicle, killing two security personnel.”

Since 2010, gangs of bandits have run riot in vast swaths of northern Nigeria, but only in the last few years has the crisis ballooned into national prominence in Africa’s most populous country.

The term “bandits” is a catchall for the criminal gangs masterminding frequent bouts of abduction, maiming, sexual violence and killings of citizens across northern parts of the country.

Data from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project shows that bandits were responsible for more than 2,600 civilian deaths in 2021 – many more than those attributed to rebel groups Boko Haram and the Islamic State West Africa Province in the same year – and almost three times the number of victims in 2020.

Troops deployed in the three villagers raided on Friday by bandits engaged the attackers in a gun battle, forcing them to withdraw, Suleiman said.

Abubakar Maigoro, a Damri resident, said the gunmen who attacked his village went on a shooting spree before looting livestock and food supplies.

“We buried 48 people killed in the attacks,” Maigoro said.

Nigerian police did not respond to requests for comment.

The criminals have recently stepped up their assaults despite military operations against their hideouts.

The so-called bandits maintain camps in a vast forest, straddling Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna and Niger states.

In the past two months, they have attacked a train travelling between the capital Abuja and Kaduna city, kidnapping dozens of passengers; massacred more than 100 villagers; and killed a dozen members of vigilante groups.

In early January, gunmen killed more than 200 people in Zamfara state.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, a former army commander, has been under intense pressure to end bandit violence before he leaves office next year at the end of his two terms in power.

Buhari called on security forces to “do all that can be done to bring an immediate end to the horrific killings”.

“The rural folk in Zamfara and elsewhere must be allowed to have peace,” he said in a statement on Sunday.

Officials in Zamfara say more than 700,000 people have been displaced by the violence, prompting the opening of eight camps to accommodate them.

The escalating violence has also forced thousands to flee to neighbouring Niger, with over 11,000 seeking refuge in November, according to the United Nations.


Thursday, May 5, 2022

Video - UN chief asks for safe return conditions for Nigeria’s displaced

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for the safe and “dignified” return of people displaced by conflict in northeast Nigeria, as local authorities close camps and urge people to go back to their communities. More than 40,000 people have been killed and some 2.2 million people displaced by more than a decade of fighting in the region between the military and Boko Haram and its offshoot Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP). During a Tuesday visit to a camp for displaced people in Borno state capital Maiduguri, the birthplace of Boko Haram, Guterres praised the local governor’s development efforts.

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Video - Nigerian invents smart bra to tackle breast cancer


A Nigerian woman is leveraging technology to add more impetus in the fight against breast cancer. Kemisola Bolarinwa, a robotics engineer, has invented a wearable smart bra that can help detect breast cancer early. This could be a public health breakthrough as breast cancer is common in Nigeria and it's one of the leading causes of death in women.

Nigerian president says train attackers using hostages as shields

Armed gangs who kidnapped dozens of passengers in an attack on a train in northern Nigeria are using civilians as human shields, making it difficult for the military to carry out a rescue mission, President Muhammadu Buhari said.

More than 150 people are still missing after the March 28 attack, according to the Nigerian Railway Corporation. Families of the abducted say there is no evidence of rescue efforts from the government.

In a statement on Monday, Buhari said the government, which has been criticised for not doing enough to rescue the passengers, was trying to avoid a “tragic outcome” in any rescue operation.

“They [the kidnappers] are using civilians as human shields, thereby making it difficult to confront them directly,” he said.

“It’s a delicate situation … Any rescue operation that results in the death of any hostage cannot be deemed a success.”

Abductions have become a near-daily occurrence in northwest Nigeria, where armed gangs, locally known as bandits, abduct people for ransom.

The brutal nature of the attacks has increased insecurity fears in a country also grappling with the armed group Boko Haram and its factions in the northeast and rising criminality around the country.

Al Jazeera

Related stories: More than 160 passengers still missing from train attacked in Nigeria

Video - Rail staff killed in ‘unprecedented’ attack on train in Nigeria

Monday, May 2, 2022

Building in Nigeria's commercial hub collapses; 5 dead

A three-story residential building has collapsed in Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city, killing at least five people with many feared trapped, emergency response services said Monday.

“Twenty-three people have been rescued alive including seven children and 16 adults,” said Ibrahim Farinloye of Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency. “Nine of those rescued alive have been treated and discharged.”

Among the dead are a mother and her son, said Farinloye.

The residential apartment building collapsed late Sunday night in the Oyingbo area of Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial center and most populated city with more than 14 million people.

Residents and passersby gathered before dawn as they joined a team of emergency and aid workers who searched through the rubble in search of survivors. It is not clear how many occupants were in the apartment building located in a densely populated area of the city.

Building collapses in the West African nation are frequent, including in Lagos which recorded five such incidents last year, including in November when more than 40 people died when a high rise still being constructed crumbled on workers.

Authorities face accusations that they have failed to enforce building regulations to make sure that structures are safe.

By Chinedu Asadu


Related stories: Search called off in school collapse in Nigeria 

Woman buried alive for four days rescued from collapsed building in Lagos, Nigeria

Prophet T.B. Joshua under fire for building collapse in Lagos, Nigeria

The radio show championing justice for abuse victims in Nigeria

 In 2017, Precious’s* husband was killed in a road accident. Four months later, his brother stopped by to visit Precious at her home in north-central Nigeria’s Plateau state.

It was around 2pm and Precious was doing laundry outside in the compound of the house she had shared with her husband and their three children. At first, she thought it was an ordinary visit to pay condolences.

But her brother-in-law was behaving strangely. He demanded food and sat in the living room watching television. As evening approached, Precious asked him when he was planning to leave.

“Why should I leave?” he replied. “Don’t you know I have come to sleep with you as is custom? I have come to claim [my] inheritance.”

Precious was shocked. “Inheritance of what?” she asked him. “Table, chair, rug?”

They argued and when he still refused to leave, Precious sought the help of her neighbours. But as her brother-in-law was forced to leave, he warned that he would make her pay.

Soon after, it became clear how. “I was summoned to the [in-law’s] village and the judgement was that all the money they spent at my husband’s burial, I should return it,” Precious says. They banished her from her husband’s land and seized the property.

Her staunch refusal to be “inherited” by her brother-in-law – a custom in some communities in northern Nigeria – set her on a collision course with her husband’s family and an ingrained centuries-old tradition.

Distrustful of the police and unsure of how to navigate the justice system, Precious did not know where to turn for help. But then, last year, she heard a radio programme where women called in to report abuses against them.

Silent Voices

Silent Voices is a radio show on Jay FM, a station based in the business district of Jos, the capital of Plateau state, that reaches tens of thousands of listeners across Plateau, Bauchi and Kaduna states.

Since October 2020, the show’s host, Nanji Nandang, has used the weekly programme to help women and minors who are victims of violence and abuse seek justice.

Before launching the show, 31-year-old Nandang helped pioneer Pidgin News at Jay FM after encountering some local women traders who said they could not listen to the news because they did not understand what the newscasters were saying. So Nandang set about incorporating Pidgin English – a medley of English syntax and local linguistic varieties, which is more accessible to a wider variety of listeners – into the station’s broadcasting.

Silent Voices broadcasts in both English and Pidgin English. And each month, between seven to 10 victims like Precious reach out to the station in search of Nandang’s help.

But exposing perpetrators and helping get justice for victims is no small feat.

When Nandang started the programme, the COVID-19 pandemic was creating a “shadow pandemic” of sexual and gender-based violence. A United Nations Women report revealed that at least 48 percent of Nigerian women have been victims of violence since the pandemic began.

Nandang knew she needed to partner with someone who could help take up the victims’ cases so she reached out to the Plateau chapter of the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), a non-profit women lawyers’ association helping women access justice pro-bono.

Together with FIDA, Nandang has taken up several cases and helped get justice for women and children who might otherwise have remained unheard.

‘Success stories’

At Silent Voices, a case usually begins with someone reaching out to the show. Nandang and FIDA then investigate the case and find a way to solve it. At the end of the process – which can include legal mediation or even court proceedings – the person who submitted the original report is brought back onto the show to recount their journey for listeners.

Primarily, what Nandang airs are the “success stories” – where survivors of violence have already been helped. The stories of these “solved” cases are aired weekly, while lawyers, crime experts and psychologists are brought in to discuss topics including preservation of evidence and how to navigate trauma.

Nandang’s aim in sharing their experiences is to galvanise other women and child victims to seek her out, so they can get help too.

But the challenges can be daunting.

While Nigeria’s constitution guarantees that “every citizen shall have equality of rights, obligations and opportunities before the law”, in practice it is not always the case, and women are often on the receiving end of entrenched traditional practices that do not always protect their rights.

Last year, the Nigerian parliament rejected a bill seeking to enforce gender equality for the third time and in February this year, the legislative members overwhelmingly rejected a series of five bills that addressed some areas of gender disparity.

Lawyers say Nigeria’s constitution prohibits discrimination against widows like Precious, even in the case of customary marriages that are not formalised in court.

“A widow being prevented from inheriting her husband’s property is not only morally wrong but also wrong legally,” says Lagos-based human rights lawyer, Ridwan Oke. But not all women are accustomed to navigating this legal route. “The freedom some of these customs enjoy is because people don’t approach the court to enforce their rights,” he explained.

There is also distrust of the police and other authorities, especially regarding family issues where women are the victims. Many women say that even reported cases of domestic violence are often brushed aside as a “family matter”.

‘That story shook me’

Shy and introspective, Nandang may not seem like an obvious choice to vocally champion women’s and children’s rights. As a child, she wanted to be an actress, but her love for children pushed her towards social justice.

She is also a Sunday school teacher in her local church and says she has become familiar with the struggles of poorer families through some of the children she teaches.

“Children are innocent,” she says, solemnly, as she sits in a small meeting room at the radio station. “When I see things happen to them, I feel they don’t deserve it. Even if I cannot give them justice, if I can give them comfort, maybe they will see the world in a different light.”

It was Nandang’s teaching work that inadvertently led her to the sort of stories she would later champion on Silent Voices. One day, a colleague approached her about one of her students. The seven-year-old boy refused to sit down in class and always came to the school with a lot of cash.

The school authorities suspected the boy was stealing, but he denied it. Nandang’s colleague, however, felt the school’s focus should be on why he was unable to sit in class. After speaking to the boy, she convinced him to allow them to examine him. When they removed his school shorts to search for possible injuries, they found bruises and scabs on his backside. The pupil then revealed that his mother always took him to a man who raped him, in exchange for cash.

“That story shook me,” Nandang explains as she scrunches up her face to stop a tear rolling down her cheek. She felt she needed to do something since such stories are common but only discussed in hushed tones.

Months later, she started Silent Voices.

Two weeks after the first episode aired in October 2020, Nandang had her first case. A 28-year-old woman came to the station with her fiancé – she was covered in scars that had been inflicted on her by her fiancé’s family, who objected to their relationship. They used twisted wire cables to beat her, seized her phone and threw her out of the house. Like Precious and most of the others whose stories appear on the show, the woman did not report the assault to the police.

“They had no right to do that,” Nandang says of the family. After hearing the account, she aired the victim’s story and took the couple to FIDA for assistance.

‘I was a slave’

When Titi*, a mother of three who works at an abattoir in Jos, finally decided to leave her 14-year marriage after years of physical violence, her husband refused to accept her decision.

During the course of their marriage, her husband had emptied her piggy bank where she kept the money she was saving for her children’s school fees and replaced it with a wad of papers, took her ATM card without her permission to withdraw a business loan she had applied for and left home for long periods, pretending that he was looking for work in a different city, although people told her they had seen him in Jos.

But the final straw came when he beat her in public last April. Until then, she had kept his abuse hidden.

“He used to beat me seriously and I kept quiet because I did not want anybody to know,” she says, speaking softly and quietly, cautious that nobody should overhear her even though there is no one else around.

When she left her husband, Titi says he sent people to follow her. “It was frightening, I had to call my family [to say] that I could be kidnapped,” she says.

But it was not Titi who reached out to the radio station; it was her husband.

“The husband had called the station himself to report his wife abandoning him,” Nandang explains, describing how they tracked Titi down in order to investigate the case. When they did, they discovered that the situation was “completely different” from what her husband had described.

“It was a very pathetic case because the husband manipulated us,” Nandang says.

FIDA brought the couple to a mediation panel but Titi insisted on a divorce.

“I was a slave and I did not want to go back to slavery,” she explains. “There is just one life. If it is over, it is over. I don’t want a marriage to end it.”

Like many lower income and rural women, Titi’s marriage was customary and, although recognised by Nigerian law, it was not legalised in a court. This means she, herself, could not pursue legal means for separation. But because FIDA and Silent Voices agreed to represent her, her marriage was successfully dissolved.

“These perpetrators, if they see that you are the only one, they see that you are vulnerable, they will take advantage,” Nandang reflects. “But once they see that you have someone from a legal side, they are scared.”

‘The police are not supportive’

Cases are not always as straightforward as Titi’s. Several have got stuck in the court system or allegedly been bungled by the police. Although the police force inaugurated a “gender-friendly SGBV unit” to tackle sexual and gender-based violence in 2016, many believe the force still has a lack of interest in prosecuting gender-related cases.

Nandang sees the police as an obstacle to accessing justice.

“The police are not supportive,” she says. “They encourage the survivors to back down and settle it out of court. The police have a [lot to] gain because they collect money from the perpetrator.”

Gabriel Ubah, the spokesperson for the Plateau police, denied these allegations. “It is not true [that we encourage survivors to back down]. Any case with regard to sexual violence is a heinous crime and [the] police do not settle heinous crimes just like that,” he told Al Jazeera.

However, the police are not the only obstacle Nandang and FIDA encounter. There is also the bureaucracy of the judicial system and cultural expectations.

Mary Izam, a magistrate and, until recently, the chairperson of FIDA’s Plateau state chapter, says they “very often have to abandon cases”.

“The [judicial] system is thriving,” she adds, “but the gender-based violence cases are overwhelming, so the judges are overwhelmed, considering the fact that there are no designated courts for these cases. They are all being handled in the normal courts and then you find out that some of the cases are too much for a particular judge and we are faced with a lot of adjournments and delays. It takes a while to get justice.”

She believes only a specialist court created to handle sexual abuse cases – like those in Botswana and Kenya – will help ease the backlog.

The delay in getting justice frustrates the victims who, already under pressure from society and often facing stigma, often eventually give up on their cases.

Izam says the cultural obstacles can be greater in the largely Muslim north of the country.

“Religion and tradition [in the north] have more influence on the people, more than the laws,” she explains.

“Cultural practices are a huge hindrance to what we do because it has to do with mindset. You can imagine that a man’s child is being raped and all that the man is thinking of is his family name, wanting to protect his family’s name and not thinking about the perpetrator being brought to book and [that] the victim should be cared for?”

Going the extra mile

For Nandang, her work does not end when she leaves the radio station.

“I don’t want to end it on radio. I want to start street awareness and campaigns in these communities and educate young girls and their parents,” she says, describing a case where she got a tip about a girl being trafficked but her parents did not want Nandang to expose the case or the perpetrators because of social stigma.

“Confidentiality is my first responsibility, so I don’t expose anybody – even the perpetrators. I don’t shame anybody on the show,” says Nandang, who also does not discuss cases while they are in the court system.

When a victim’s family does not want a case to proceed because they fear the stigma that might result, Nandang finds a way to maintain their privacy while helping FIDA’s lawyers make anonymous reports to the police so that justice can still take its course.

“I don’t allow perpetrators to go scot-free,” she says.

Nandang goes the extra mile in other ways, too, when someone requires help.

She recounts a case where a minor was allegedly raped by a 54-year-old man. The child’s parents reported the case to the police and the alleged rapist was arrested. But when a local chief showed up at the police station, the police reportedly released the man to the chief who judged that he should pay a fine of 10,000 naira ($24) and five goats to the victim’s parents.

Nandang went on air the following week to report on the case, without using the victim’s or the alleged perpetrator’s name but mentioning the police station and the local chief. The resulting public pressure led to the State Criminal Investigation Department, a more senior authority to the police, rearresting the alleged rapist the following day. The case is now under investigation, but the courts in that state are on strike, which has led to delays.

Nandang hopes this case will show women and children that they will be supported if they speak out.

Meanwhile, Precious is waiting for the outcome of her case and says she is cautiously hopeful because of the support she has received from Silent Voices and FIDA.

*Names have been changed to protect the victims’ identities.

By Ope Adetayo

Al Jazeera

Friday, April 29, 2022

Video - Nigerian artist turns waste into creative pieces

Nigerian artist Blessing Ibiye uses scrap metals and disposed of tyres to make creative pieces that earn him a living.

More accolades as Burna Boy becomes first Nigerian singer to headline MSG

 Grammy award-winning superstar, Burna Boy is still soaring higher. The Afro-fusion pioneer has officially become, not just the first Nigerian music star to headline at the Madison Square Garden, MSG, New York, but also, the first to sell it out when he live-streams his wildly anticipated “One Night In Space” show at New York’s iconic Madison Square Garden yesterday on YouTube.

This massive win for Burna Boy and the entire African continent goes to buttress his point in the lyrics of ‘Way too Big’ when he sang “Because I’m way too big”. It’s clear he wasn’t joking. Featured as a guest on the American Talk show “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah”, Burna Boy left everyone including Trevor himself, in stitches with his naturalness and authenticity, a teaser of what to expect at the MSG.

The self-acclaimed ‘African Giant’,who has also revealed that an exclusive limited line of merch will be made available to commemorate this historic event as the first Nigerian musician to ever headline the world-renowned venue, however, promised a classic fusion of elements and themes combined with his explosive energy and the true spirit of New York City, which will culminate into an unforgettable night in New York City.

This ‘One Night In Space’ showcase follows Burna Boy’s recently sold out debut at LA’s The Hollywood Bowl, electrifying performances at 2021 Global Citizen Festival and The Governor’s Ball, as well as sold out international shows at London’s O2 Arena, Paris’ Accor Arena, Amsterdam’s Ziggo Dome and more venues around the globe, as part of his 2021 Space Drift tour which echoes the sounds from his groundbreaking fifth studio album ‘Twice As Tall’, an immediate sensation, earning more than 5 million worldwide streams within its first hour of release. 


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

The Criminals Undercutting Nigeria’s Oil Industry

Earlier this month 100 people died because of an explosion at an illegal refinery in Nigeria, a tragic event that highlighted a major problem facing the country’s government.

Illegal oil bunkering has long been a problem in Nigeria, with estimates suggesting roughly 10 percent of the country’s daily oil output is lost due to vandalism and theft.

While the government has moved to shut down as many illegal refineries as they can, critics claim that they need to focus on providing alternatives for those people who have been pushed to steal oil.

Illegal refineries have been plaguing Nigeria for years. The government has repeatedly tried to curb clandestine refining activities and has reduced the number of operations substantially in recent years. But several clandestine refineries still exist, presenting a clear danger to those working informally in the oil industry.

Nigeria drew global attention this month as 100 people died because of an explosion at an illegal refinery in the Abaezi forest in the southeast of the country. In addition, many of the vehicles waiting to purchase the fuel were burnt. This is just the most recent of incidents. In October, around 25 people were killed at a different illegal refinery in the region.

Due to high unemployment and poverty rates across the Niger Delta, illegal refining activities have become commonplace. Locals tap the crude oil from pipelines of oil majors running through the region to refine and sell. This has had the twofold impact of causing many deaths, due to the dangerous nature of the activities, and polluting the environment across the region. The crude is highly flammable, meaning the slightest spark can cause a huge explosion and widespread devastation.

The scale of the issue is clear, with Nigeria losing approximately 200,000 bpd, or 10 percent of its daily output, due to vandalism and the tapping of oil pipelines. In 2019, it is estimated that Nigeria lost around 40 million barrels of crude, equivalent to around $2.77 billion.

In addition to the structural problems in the country, many locals are simply fed up with international companies coming in and taking national resources, while they see little of the profits being reinvested in the region. Many believe that if Big Oil comes in and pollutes the land, then they should be able to do the same, earning revenue from Nigeria’s natural resources.

Illegal ‘oil bunkering’, as it is known, is viewed as Nigeria’s most profitable private business. The crude being siphoned from pipelines can earn locals $15 to $20 per barrel. In addition, there are few costs involved as the government and oil majors have already invested in largescale oil infrastructure across the Niger Delta.

Nigeria’s oil industry has existed for over 60 years, with international energy firms investing heavily in developing the sector over that time. It currently has 18 operational pipelines and is the world’s 11th biggest producer. The petroleum industry contributes around 9 percent of Nigeria’s GDP. With an industry this big, it’s no wonder that communities living in poverty are dissatisfied with the reinvestment seen in the country over the last decades, leading them to take the situation into their own hands. The Nigerian government has been working hard to curb this major criminal industry. Earlier this year, the government attempted to curb the trend of illegal refining, particularly as the impact of the activities on air pollution is worsening across the Rivers state region. The government succeeded in halting operations at 128 of 142 illegal refining locations identified by destroying the sites. The next month, reports suggested that the military had deactivated 30 more sites across the Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta and Abia States.

It's clear the government is cracking down on illegal operations, but it doesn’t seem to be enough to put a stop to these types of activities. With such widespread poverty, many simply move from one illegal refinery to the next, well aware that they can make a decent living from tapping oil pipelines despite the high risk involved.

Some environmental groups are now pressuring the government to open small-scale refineries to create jobs and encourage locals to find formal work in the oil industry. They believe that simply destroying illegal refineries will not put an end to illegal operations without replacing them with better working opportunities.

At the beginning of the year, Governor Nyesom Wike provided around $1.1 million in funding to support 23 local governments in fighting ‘oil bunkering’. He suggested that destroying the sites was the only way to stop operations. But little effort has been made to create new opportunities across the oil regions.

While Nigeria presents perhaps the worst case of oil bunkering, similar issues are faced by several governments around the world. In Mexico, for example, oil theft has been on the rise as oil prices have increased. Oil theft or huachicoleo supports violent crime in Mexico as it is often driven by criminal gangs due to the lucrative nature of the activities. The situation led President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to make curbing huachicoleo a core pledge of his 2018 election campaign. Meanwhile, oil theft in Colombia increased last year as supplies of Venezuelan gasoline were halted.

Nigeria has the most widespread activities of illegal oil refining worldwide, causing the government to lose billions of dollars every year as well as wreaking havoc on the environment. While the government attempts to tackle the crime, the failure to reinvest oil revenues into the Niger Delta region or offer formal job opportunities continues to encourage locals to seek informal work in illegal refining, no matter the cost.

By Felicity Bradstock

Related stories: Explosion at Nigerian illegal oil refinery kills more than 100

Nigeria number 1 in crude oil theft

The Nigerian entrepreneur who runs ‘an Amazon for blood’

Temie Giwa-Tubosun had an epiphany 13 years ago when she met an expectant mother who was about to lose her baby. Giwa-Tubosun was working as a 22-year-old intern with a health services organisation in northern Nigeria, doing surveys of rural people seeking care. The family of the mother-to-be thought she would die in a complicated labour because the baby was upside down in a twisted breech position. This wasn’t an unrealistic fear, in a country where one in 22 women perish in pregnancy, during birth, while undergoing abortions, or afterwards.

As it turned out, the woman got surgery and survived. But her baby didn’t, and that death shook Giwa-Tubosun deeply. She didn’t leave her hotel room for four days and barely ate. “I thought it was so unjust that women could die in childbirth,” she recalls. “That got me hooked on maternal healthcare.”

That incident, as well as the difficult birth of her own son later on, got her thinking about blood. Giwa-Tubosun had been contemplating a career that was health related in some way, and she knew that postpartum haemorrhaging was the leading cause of maternal mortality in Nigeria, which records nearly eight times the global number of 211 deaths per 100,000 live births. That is partly because decent healthcare in Nigeria is elusive to all but the rich; the World Health Organization (WHO) consistently ranks it among the worst globally.

In 2010, Giwa-Tubosun won a fellowship at the WHO in Geneva. She went on to work on various health projects, including in Uganda and in Minnesota in the United States. In 2012, she made the leap and founded an NGO known as the One Percent Project, whose raison d’etre was to educate Nigerians on blood donations and distribute them better throughout the country. This led to the creation four years later of LifeBank, a distribution business that uses data and technology to get urgent blood supplies to hospitals. It serves as a bridge between donors and clinics.

Giwa-Tubosun’s work has earned her praise across the globe including from the World Economic Forum, and she has spoken on influential platforms – such as the TedxEustonSalon – about her vision for tackling blood shortage on the African continent. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said after meeting her in 2016 that “If she actually pulls it off, then she’d show a model that will impact not just Lagos, not just Nigeria, but countries all around the world.” Giwa-Tubosun is pulling it off rather well. Working with over 150 accredited blood banks and 142 employees, LifeBank serves over 600 hospitals across Nigeria and has recently expanded into Kenya, according to Giwa-Tubosun. She says she has distributed enough blood to save more than 100,000 lives.

This social entrepreneurship is all the more significant considering that female executives are few and far between in Nigeria – to which Giwa-Tubosun simply says, “We get to save lives and we get to rescue people.”
Bikes, trikes and drones

Even over Zoom, Giwa-Tubosun exudes power. Al Jazeera catches her at the end of a very long day before she’s had dinner. Yet her energy is high. Even without makeup and in a casual African print dress, she gives off the sort of authority that’s kept her successful in a sector where very few women are visible.

Based in Lagos, the nation’s economic capital, the 35-year-old speaks from the guest room of her house. The walls behind her sport framed pictures of her husband, Kola Tubosun, a linguist and writer, as well as a painting of their son, Enaife, by the prominent essayist and artist Yemisi Aribisala. Not that Giwa-Tubosun spends that much time at home; she works six days a week.

Giwa-Tubosun began LifeBank as a startup with two employees to facilitate moving blood from labs across Nigeria to patients and doctors in hospitals. It began with her personal funds. The company was simply an app then. In 2016, a pre-seed investment of $25,000 enabled the company to move to the premises of a business incubator, CcHUB, in a suburb of Lagos.

She initially envisaged a distribution system for blood from labs to hospitals, focused on mothers. LifeBank’s innovation was to leverage technology to collect inventory data from blood banks and supply blood that had already been screened by the labs to hospitals based on request. Hospitals call LifeBank to place orders 24-7. Initially, LifeBank relied on dispatch riders. The company has evolved into a digital medical distribution company that delivers other critical medical supplies apart from blood, such as oxygen, plasma, and vaccines, to hospitals in every region where they are present.

Giwa-Tubosun is intentional about the areas where the company spreads. “We look for large markets with disorganised health-supply chain systems where our innovation could drive significant impact,” she says. She plans to expand to Ethiopia soon. LifeBank offers a round-the-clock service for the over 500 hospitals in its network and aims to provide access to safe blood in under 45 minutes using bikes, boats, adult tricycles and drones.

Being a 24-7 operation across nine states in Nigeria presents security challenges such as abductions and killings in places like Maiduguri in the north of the country, where Boko Haram is active. Giwa-Tubosun says the company has managed to solve these issues by seeking the protection of local communities. During the street protests in Lagos, in 2020, LifeBank motorbikes ferrying blood were blocked by what some claimed were hoodlums and others the police. After outrage on Twitter, the road cleared for them to drop the supplies at hospitals treating people hurt in the protest.

Security issues aside, Nigeria suffers from a deficit of blood. According to the National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS), the country collects about 500,000 pints of blood annually, leaving a deficit of over 73 percent. LifeBank organises blood drives and runs advocacy campaigns to dismantle prevalent myths about blood donation. In addition to this, on a continent where some roads are inaccessible and, in many cities, traffic jams are legendary, the ability to use alternative means of transportation to get to hospitals is critical. “I think of us as the Amazon of healthcare except we work only with hospitals,” Giwa-Tubosun says with her rich laugh. “We bring global standard procurements to African hospitals right on their platform.” The simplicity of the model compared to the impact has surprised her.

And she thinks on her feet. In 2018, a critically ill doctor working at a hospital in Nigeria died because the hospital didn’t have oxygen. When she heard of this, Giwa-Tubosun began thinking of adding medical oxygen to her “store”. A year later, at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, LifeBank launched testing centres and delivered medical oxygen to COVID-19 patients in isolation centres in Lagos for free.

Social impact or not, Giwa-Tubosun finds fundraising difficult for a variety of reasons. For a self-confessed introvert, whose natural inclination is to “sit and observe”, the networking required to get financial backers can be painful. Add to that the gender bias that faces female entrepreneurs. Women are generally not taken as seriously as men in this patriarchal society, she says. To make matters worse, healthcare is a particularly difficult sector to raise capital for, because it’s seen as highly regulated, which could make it harder for investors to rake in huge profits. The demand for capital outweighs the supply. “It’s easier to raise for fintech,” Giwa-Tubosun says, frustration evident in her voice. “You’d think COVID would make a difference, but it hasn’t.”

Those who do receive the services in LifeBank’s network are grateful, however, including Kanne Nzeribe. He works in the medical lab at the Zenith Medical and Kidney Center, a clinic in Abuja. “LifeBank is making a huge difference in blood banking, its accessibility and also its affordability,” he enthuses. “They are always available when needed and they’ve helped out our patients a lot and also in saving lives.”
Breaking down barriers

Giwa-Tubosun’s demeanour brightens again when she talks about the culture she’s enabled at work. Her employees call her by her first name, Temie, an unusual move in a society with a hierarchical structure. Elders, bosses and anyone in authority are generally not addressed as such, but, she explains, “I was intentional in breaking down the barriers that would make it difficult for my workers to talk to me.” According to her personal assistant, Aisha Abiola, the boss runs an open-door policy. “She’s accessible to us, especially on issues that affect our lives and work,” Abiola says.

Giwa-Tubosun counts on another fan – her husband, whom she met in 2009 through a mutual friend. “She’s always had a clarity of vision and I find that really endearing,” Kola Tubosun, 40, says when asked about their relationship. “I am inspired by her drive, optimism and ambition.” Unequal in height – he looms more than a foot over her 5-foot 4-inch (1.6m) frame – they share parenting like equal partners, which helps her work the long hours needed to run her company. Giwa-Tubosun wakes up at 4:45am, exercises three times a week for an hour with a personal trainer, takes their son to school and is at work by 7:35am. A hands-on father, Kola does the afternoon shift. He picks up their son from school, supervises his homework, “provides him with blank papers so he can pretend to be a writer”, and plays with him.

Sunday is her one rest day when she makes dinner, which is often a lavish affair involving many intricate dishes from foreign cuisines (she rediscovered her passion for cooking during the pandemic). “I have binders full of recipes,” she says. Recently she “went to India” and made murgh makhani (butter chicken), garlic coriander chapatis, basmati rice, and a strawberry salad. The following week’s exploration involved Szechuan chicken (extra hot), cilantro rice, and a salad of Asian vegetables.

Giwa-Tubosun says she’s always been serious and earnest. “I wasn’t a very social child,” she recalls. She would line up her shoes and pretend they were her students. Instead of playing with her dolls, she organised them. “And I had a strong sense of justice. I was that child that kept pointing out that something was unfair to her parents.” Her biggest role model was the Nigerian human rights lawyer Gani Fawehinmi, who was popular with the masses and less so with the authorities who detained and beat him.

Giwa-Tubosun’s parents, who were educators, moved to the US with her older siblings when she was 10 years old. She and her two younger siblings joined them in Minnesota five years later. Her parents pushed her to do well at school and work hard. Her adopted country gave her superhero movies, which in turn infused a sense of invincibility. “Everyone in America thinks they are a superhero in waiting,” she says.

That industriousness instilled in her childhood has served her well. It has earned her accolades and several awards. In 2019, she won the Jack Ma Foundation’s African Business Hero Award. In 2020, she was presented with a Global Citizen Prize for LifeBank’s novel approach to blood shortages and response to the global pandemic. And this year, at the Cartier Impact Awards ceremony in Dubai, she won the first place honour in the “Improving Lives” category. However, she is keen to point out that while the honours might carry her name, they belong to the LifeBank team. “The people are working 24 hours saving lives,” she says. “I simply built a system to help them do that.” Even more fulfilling than the awards, she says, are the messages of gratitude she gets from patients and their families, sometimes on Twitter where both she and LifeBank are active.

Never content to sit still, Giwa-Tubosun hopes to list the business on the stock exchange in New York. She has set as targets some key milestones: be valued at $1bn, earn $100m in revenue the year before the listing, have free cash flow, and be Pan-African. That’s an ambitious plan for a company that made $1m in revenue last year. She thinks it will take her seven years to get there. “That will require a lot of work, a lot of hard work and figuring out how to fundraise effectively,” she says, her accent straddling two worlds: the Nigeria of her birth and the US of her youth. She also hopes to raise the number of hospitals served to about 14,000. She believes she’s on her way. LifeBank has received funding from pharma companies like Johnson & Johnson, and partnered with Merck on clinical trials. The company picked up its ninth state government partnership, a contract to supply hospitals in Yobe with critical health supplies such as blood and oxygen. “We got this partnership because the government knows that we can solve a problem that they have,” Giwa-Tubosun says. “We got this on merit.” In a country where cronyism is rife, she is particularly proud of this fact.

At a time when many Nigerians are leaving the country – running or “japa-ing”, in local parlance – Giwa-Tubosun has no intention of doing so. At times she’s tempted, but she’s going to stay put. She believes in her mission and wants to see LifeBank reach more villages and cities across the continent. “Africa is a tough place to tie your future,” she says, “but it’s also a place of opportunity.” 

By Chika Unigwe 

Al Jazeera

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Video - 10 killed by suspected Boko Haram insurgents in Geidam


At least ten people have been killed by suspected Islamist insurgents, Boko Haram in Nigeria.

Nigerians react to Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover

As Elon Musk’s $44bn takeover of Twitter sends users and media outlets into a frenzy, there have been mixed reactions from citizens of Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country.

For its estimated three million Nigerian users, Twitter has come to be an important civic space to hold the government accountable and mobilise for political and social causes.

Last year, Twitter, under its past CEO and founder, Jack Dorsey, came under fire from the Nigerian government, which banned the platform from operating in the country for seven months.

The standoff was a result of the platform’s decision to delete a tweet from President Muhhamdu Buhari that it tagged as “genocidal” and in contravention of the platform’s policies.

A section of Nigerians believe that the company’s new leadership under South African-born Musk, noted for his “free speech” rhetoric and less politically progressive stance than Dorsey, will not stand with them in their time of need.

“Essentially, as a Nigerian, Twitter is a very important platform for us,’’ Uloma Nwoke, a 26-year-old digital strategist told Al Jazeera, “And Jack stepping down and the company being taken over by a person who has not shown that he really cares [about political movements] is very disturbing.”

From #BringBackOurGirls, a rescue campaign for more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by the armed group Boko Haram to #EndSARS, a movement against police brutality and extrajudicial killings in Nigeria, Twitter has emerged as a major rallying tool for the youth.

“Twitter was very crucial during the ENDSARS protests,” Nwoke said. “And it is not because it was Twitter, we know that it was Jack that did that and I don’t see how someone like Elon will key into the political struggle of oppressed people in their countries.”

Others said Musk’s entrance into the scene is a triumph for freedom of speech and information.

The Twitter ban mirrored a growing international trend – other countries like India, North Korea, Iran and China also censured the network, as users pushed its mobilisation capacity to the limits.

In Nigeria, the ban was only lifted in January after an undisclosed agreement was reached with the government. During the ban, information minister Lai Mohammed cited China as a reference for the government’s actions.

“For example, in China, social media is being regulated and such a thing is not in Nigeria, and we have all those agencies that are capable of the regulation in the country,’’ he said at a news conference last year.

With the Nigerian government looking to regulate social media platforms, it is still unclear how Musk’s emergence might help the government’s censure plans.

Tomiwa Ilori, a doctoral researcher on internet freedom at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria told Al Jazeera that the position of the Nigerian government and Musk’s philosophy are at odds.

“This is because the Nigerian government claims it wants to rid social media platforms, including Twitter, of online harms – even though this is not the case – while Musk cares little about such harms and would rather allow all kinds of speech,” he said. “This could provide the Nigerian government with the excuse of clamping on social media platforms because all kinds of speech are allowed.”

Ilori added that Musk’s stance as “a free speech absolutist” is a luxury many Western countries can afford, but not Africa.

“There are complex political, historical and cultural contexts that influence speech in many non-Western systems such that there has to be some level of limitation on expression, especially under international human rights law”, he said.”

“For example … online hate speech has been allowed to fester on social media platforms in Ethiopia. Countries like Russia also nest troll farms in countries like Ghana to manipulate online information and derail elections in African countries. Actors like Twitter cannot afford to be a free speech absolutist in such instances.”

By Ope Adetayo 

Al Jazeera

Video - A student-built robot in Nigeria


When COVID-19 hit, an enterprising group of pupils in Abuja, Nigeria, used their robotics class to design and build a simple robot to cut down on interpersonal contact in hospitals. Using only scraps they found around the classroom, they each contributed to the ideas, concept, mechanics and AI elements of their robot "Mairabot" - which earned praise from health officials and their teachers alike. Mairabot, by filmmaker Philip Okpokoro, introduces us to Nabila Abbas and her fellow students in this short, inspiring film. Philip Okpokoro is a Nigerian director and cinematographer with an impressive record in both documentary and live TV directing. He has directed a wide array of film projects from high-end live TV to intimate documentaries for global broadcasters, and has been awarded for best director of photography.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Explosion at Nigerian illegal oil refinery kills more than 100

More than 100 people were killed overnight in an explosion at an illegal oil refining depot in Nigeria’s Rivers state, a local government official and an environmental group said.

“The fire outbreak occurred at an illegal bunkering site and it affected more than 100 people who were burned beyond recognition,” the state commissioner for petroleum resources, Goodluck Opiah, said on Saturday.

Unemployment and poverty in the oil-producing Niger Delta have made illegal crude refining an attractive business but with deadly consequences. Crude oil is tapped from a web of pipelines owned by major oil companies and refined into products in makeshift tanks.

The hazardous process has led to many fatal accidents and has polluted a region already blighted by oil spills in farmland, creeks and lagoons.

The Youths and Environmental Advocacy Centre said several vehicles that were in a queue to buy illegal fuel were burned in the explosion.

Al Jazeera’s Fidelis Mbah said that there are dozens of illegal oil businesses scattered around southern Nigeria.

“The unemployed youth are trying to produce oil on their own in order to sell to survive,” he said, speaking from Abuja. “The youths know that this is dangerous but because of the poverty levels, they have taken to [working in] illegal refineries.”

“The government said the owner of the illegal refinery is presently on the run and they have declared him wanted,” Mbah added. “They’re hoping that if he’s apprehended, they will find out exactly what happened.”

At least 25 people, including some children, were killed in an explosion and fire at another illegal refinery in Rivers state in October.

In February, local authorities said they had started a crackdown to try to put a stop to the refining of stolen crude, but with little apparent success.

Government officials estimate that Nigeria, Africa’s biggest oil producer and exporter, loses an average of 200,000 barrels per day of oil – more than 10 percent of production – to those tapping or vandalising pipelines.

That has forced oil companies to regularly declare force majeure on oil and gas exports.

Al Jazeera

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