Friday, September 23, 2022

Gunmen kill 14 villagers in northcentral Nigeria

Gunmen attacked two communities in Nigeria’s north-central region, killing 14 people and injuring many others, authorities said Thursday.

The attackers stormed the communities in Logo council area of Benue state Wednesday night, opening “unprovoked” fire on residents, said Paul Hemba, the state’s top security official.

Police in Benue confirmed the attack. The assailants shot 12 people to death in one community then moved on to another where they killed two more villagers, Hemba said. He said 15 people were “seriously injured.”

He identified the attackers as “Fulani herdsmen,” a group of mostly young pastoralists from the Fulani tribe caught up in Nigeria’s conflict between host communities and herdsmen over limited access to water and land.

In Nigeria’s middle belt and central regions, deadly clashes between local communities and herdsmen continue in a cycle of violence that has defied government measures, although security forces have recently announced some arrests and seizure of arms.

A similar attack in another part of Benue targeted a convoy of soldiers of the Nigerian army, but they were able to repel the assailants, Hemba said.

Many of the attacks in rural areas are similar. Motorcycle-riding gunmen often arrive in the hundreds in areas where Nigeria’s security forces are outnumbered and outgunned.

Authorities have in the past admitted that the inadequate number of security personnel in many of the affected areas is one of the major reasons the attacks have continued.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, who came into office in 2015 on a wave of goodwill after promising to end the nation’s protracted security crisis, leaves office in 2023. Those security challenges are back on the front burner as political campaigns for next year’s election begin.

By Chinedu Asadu

Toronto Star

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

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Nigeria's military warns residents of bombings targeting bandits

Nigeria's military is urging people in three northwestern states to leave forested areas ahead of a bombing campaign targeting bandits and terrorists, according to local broadcast stations and a military official.

An advertisement running on local television and radio stations warned people in Zamfara, Katsina and the Birnin Gwari area of Kaduna state to leave the forests in advance of a "heavy bombardment."

Murtala Alhasan Umaru, general manager at Zamfara state TV and radio, showed the advertisement to Reuters and said the military asked them to play it. There are versions in local pidgin English, Hausa, Kanuri and Fulani.

A military official reached by phone confirmed the advertisement's authenticity but declined to share his name or any further information.

Armed gangs of men, known locally as bandits, have killed and kidnapped hundreds across northwest Nigeria over the past two years, typically operating from remote forests. The country's thinly stretched armed forces have struggled to secure the large, remote regions.

The advertisement said the bombardment would "protect the life and property of Nigerians."

One man in Zamfara state, Abdullahi Abubakar, said he had heard the broadcast on the radio and had seen military fighter jets flying overhead.

Two other residents in Zamfara, one in Gumi and the other in Shinkafi, said there had been daily bombings since Saturday morning. The two asked Reuters not to identify them by name.

By Hamza Ibrahim 


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

Nigeria’s Buhari promises fairness in anticipated election

Nigeria’s president said Wednesday that the 18 candidates vying to become his successor will run in a “free and fair” election next year.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari told the U.N. General Assembly that his goal before leaving office is to entrench “a process of free, fair and transparent and credible elections through which Nigerians elect leaders of their choice.”

“Ours is a vast country strengthened by its diversity and its common values of hard work, enduring faith and a sense of community. We have invested heavily to strengthen our framework for free and fair elections,” Buhari said.

Only one woman is among the 18 presidential candidates listed by Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission, or INEC, on Tuesday. Nigeria’s political world remains male-dominated, and women rarely make it into top positions.

Analysts had predicted the February 2023 election would be a two-man race between Bola Tinubu, 70, a former governor of Lagos from Buhari’s All Progressives Congress, and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, 75, who placed second in the 2019 presidential election.

However, the growing popularity of Peter Obi, a former governor of southeast Nigeria’s Anambra state, has put him ahead of the other candidates, according to a recent poll.

The electoral commission projected that 95 million voters would participate in the February election. Security and economic crises have caused hardship for many of the more than 200 million citizens of Africa’s most populous country.

Despite being one of the continent’s top oil producers, Nigeria is grappling with a 33% unemployment rate and a 40% poverty rate, according to the latest government statistics. The country has also battled an insurgency by Islamic extremist rebels in the northeast, as well as armed violence now spreading across parts of the northwest and southeast regions.

Such challenges make the presidential election a “battle for the soul of the country,” Idayat Hassan, who leads the West Africa-focused Center for Democracy and Development, said. 

By Chinedu Asadu


Bankers Are Fleeing Nigeria’s Stagnating Economy as “Japa” Beckons

Francis Eze spent nearly a decade at one of Nigeria’s biggest banks working for a salary far lower than the one he’d negotiated in his interview. As a bachelor and then as a newlywed, he found a way to manage on a tighter budget.

His wife, a nurse, had long told him about colleagues at her hospital who had been recruited to move abroad but Eze wasn’t interested. Then with private school fees for two children coming due this year, the pair joined the flood of skilled Nigerians leaving the country amid a plummeting naira and a stagnating economy.

“I realised how insufficient the money was to take care of a family of four,” Eze, 38, said by phone from Toronto, where his family relocated in January. “I told my wife we should do as others were doing.”

The widespread brain drain from Africa’s most populous country -- popularly known as “japa”, which means “to run swiftly out of a bad situation” in the Yoruba language -- is having a devastating effect on the financial sector. Banks, already suffering from rising interest rates, higher operating expenses and threats of a spike in non-performing loans, are being forced to increase spending on training and recruiting, and in many cases lower their standards for new hires.

“It is a reality and we are just ensuring that we are recruiting more than are leaving,” Roosevelt Ogbonna, chief executive officer of Access Bank Plc, Nigeria’s biggest bank by assets, said by phone, without saying how many employees had left.

Better schools, higher salaries and more fringe benefits abroad, combined with a lack of local job security, is pushing mid- and early-career employees abroad, according to a report released this month by the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria.

Struggling Economy

Africa’s biggest economy has suffered through two recessions in the last six years. Soaring inflation, which hit a 17-year high of 20.5% in August, has eroded household purchasing power and shrunk local currency salaries. So skilled workers are turning to big western economies, where other Nigerians have built successful lives, particularly Canada, the US and the UK.

The number of Nigerians who received UK work visas rose to 15,772 for the year through June, from 3,918 in the year through December 2019, the last full year prior to the pandemic, according to a report by the UK Home Office released last month.

Last week, Moody’s warned that higher inflation and interest rates could see non-performing loan rates at Nigerian lenders spike. But for the banks, the concern over asset quality is currently being overshadowed by employee flight.

In a bid to fill the gaps, bankers are spending more time “training the existing workforce and equipping new graduates,” which may entail lowering the entry standards at some point, said Abubakar Suleiman, chief executive at mid-size lender Sterling Bank Plc. “The opportunity is to hire smarter, train better and make banking more responsive to fill the vacancies.”

The bankers’ union recommended offering remote work and modeling “the work patterns and the work conditions of their staff against global practices.” Ogbonna said Access Bank is looking beyond salary to create an environment that is “inclusive and conducive” to retain its workers, without elaborating.

Eze, who works for a food company in Canada, said ultimately it will come down to money.

“Unless you have good work conditions, including salary that can cover your cost and you also make some savings, even if a little, you’ll be thinking of where to run to,” he said. 

By Emele Onu


Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Hundreds of Schools Are Shut Down in Nigeria Due to Insecurity

The new school year started in Nigeria this month, but more than 600 schools are still closed due to a surge of kidnappings for ransom by armed gangs, according to authorities. Nigeria already has one of the world’s highest rates of out-of-school children and the U.N. says the problem has gotten worse. Timothy Obiezu reports from Kaduna State, Nigeria.


Related story: Nigeria shuts schools in Abuja over fears of attack

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


Mother loses appeal in custody case, Ontario court sends her three children to Nigeria

An Ontario appeal court has sent three children back to Nigeria and the custody of their father, rejecting their mother’s arguments that she could not get a fair shake in that country because of patriarchal attitudes and anti-gay prejudice.

The case of Olubukola Ajayi and Eyitope Ajayi is one of a growing number of disputes in Canada that set concerns about international child abduction against arguments about unfairness and discrimination in foreign jurisdictions.

Ms. Ajayi argued in court that she was justified in bringing their three young children to Canada without the father’s consent last November, because of discrimination, abuse (which Mr. Ajayi denies committing), patriarchal attitudes and the influence of her ex-husband’s family in Nigeria.

She asked the Ontario Superior Court to assume jurisdiction for the couple’s parenting issues and grant her sole decision-making authority over the children.

On the same day, Mr. Ajayi asked a Nigerian court to dissolve the marriage.

In Nigeria, homosexual acts may be punished with jail sentences. Mr. Ajayi made reference in a court document filed in Nigeria to Ms. Ajayi being linked to the LGBTQ community. That forced Ontario judges, in an initial ruling and an appeal, to grapple with how Nigeria’s legal system operates, and determine whether its courts would put the children first.

“I ran here just for a fair shot at protecting my rights as their mom,” Ms. Ajayi, who trained as a lawyer in Nigeria, said in an interview. Both she and her ex-husband are dual citizens of Canada and Nigeria, as are the children; Ms. Ajayi travelled to Canada to give birth to the children here.

But the courts here, she said, “did not understand how being a man in Nigeria gives all this extra privilege and power. I had never planned to alienate my children from their father and his family. But I knew that that’s what they wanted to do to me in Nigeria.”

Paul Riley, a lawyer for the father, said the decision showed that Ontario courts will stand up to child abduction.

“I think what the decision shows this week is that Canada is not going to embrace those who involve themselves in child abduction. You are not going to leave your country and then wrap yourselves in the warm embrace of the Ontario judicial system.”

Canada is a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which sets out the legal rules for returning children to their home jurisdiction. But Nigeria is not a member of the convention, and Ontario law provides that the province’s courts may take jurisdiction in such a case where it is satisfied that the foreign country does not put children’s best interests first.

A two-woman, one-male panel of Ontario’s Divisional Court released a written ruling this week explaining why they had upheld Family Court Justice Tracy Engelking’s decision to reject jurisdiction in the case. Having taken the children without consent, Ms. Ajayi needed to show they would suffer serious harm if returned to Nigeria, Justice Elizabeth Sheard, Justice Katherine Swinton and Justice David Aston said.

The judges said they accepted Justice Engelking’s ruling from May that Ms. Ajayi had failed to do so. Justice Engelking found that Ms. Ajayi had only ever said she might be asexual, and that Mr. Ajayi himself had testified in Ontario that he supports gay rights. An expert in Nigerian law testified that none of this would be a factor in determining the children’s best interests in a Nigerian court.

Justice Engelking also ruled the children were not at risk of harm with their father, noting that Ms. Ajayi had left the two older children in their father’s care for an extended period when she came to Canada to give birth. As for the father’s family’s influence, Justice Engelking pointed out that Ms. Ajayi’s mother is a superior court judge in Nigeria.

The children are now back in Nigeria. Ms. Ajayi said she will not return to Nigeria but her lawyers will fight in that country for primary custody for her, “and to have them returned back to me.” If they do not succeed, they will ask for video call access and holidays with Ms. Ajayi in Ottawa.

Nicholas Bala, a professor specializing in family law at Queen’s University, said that more mobile societies have produced growing numbers of international family law disputes.

“In the absence of persuasive evidence of abuse or discrimination, it’s appropriate to send these cases back to the country of origin – which also has the effect of telling people that Canada is not going to become a haven for child abduction,” he said.

He said it is also a “question of balance.” In some countries, politics may wrongly enter family-law disputes. “I think the court was satisfied that Nigeria in 2022 is not one of those countries.”

Ms. Ajayi’s lawyer Valerie Akujobi said it’s a challenge when Canadian courts have to make determinations based in part on attitudes and sentiments in a foreign jurisdiction.

“The court does try to strike the right balance; in this case, we just felt that certain aspects had been perhaps lost in translation.”

By Sean Fine

The Globe and Mail

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Nigeria to ban consumption of cow skin ‘ponmo’ for lacking nutritional value

Nigeria is proposing a ban on the consumption of cow skin known as ‘Ponmo’ for lacking nutritional value.

“To the best of my knowledge, Nigerians are the only people in the world that overvalue skin as food, after all, Ponmo has no nutritional value,” Muhammad Yakubu who heads the Nigerian Institute of Leather and Science Technology (NILEST), Zaria, Kaduna State said.

NILEST is the government agency responsible for the promotion of leather production in the Agricultural Research Institute Act of 1975. It conducts research on leather products and the use of local tanning materials in Nigeria.

Yakubu, who spoke in Abuja, said that cow skin consumption was contributing to the downward slide of production in Nigeria’s leather industry.

Ponmo is a popular supplement in soups prepared in many Nigerian homes especially in the Southwestern part of the country where families of different class use it as an alternative or together with beef meat and chicken.

Yakubu said prohibiting the consumption of Ponmo will be necessary to revive the comatose leather industry in Nigeria. He is not the first to threaten the consumption of Ponmo in Nigerian households.

In July 2019, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) warned Nigerians to be careful when buying Ponmo.

NAFDAC DG Moji Adeyeye said their investigations revealed that “unscrupulous businessmen and traders are now diverting animal hides meant for industrial use into the food chain for consumption”.

Adeyeye said that investigations further revealed that some of the companies illegally imported hides from countries such as Lebanon and Turkey.

Consequently, NILEST DG Yakubu is calling on the Nigerian Senate and the House of Representatives for legislative backing to ban the consumption of Ponmo.

Yakubu argued that the consumption of cow skin is partly responsible for the present comatose state of tanneries in Nigeria.

He also said the current National Leather Policy had addressed some fundamental problems of the sector.

“If we get our tanneries, our footwear, and leather production working well in Nigeria, people will hardly get pomo to buy and eat,” Yakubu said.

“When implemented fully, it would turn around most of the comatose tanneries and ginger greater output in production.”

The Guardian

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Nigeria battling floods ‘beyond control’ as warning given of dams overflowing

Nigeria is battling its worst floods in a decade with more than 300 people killed in 2022 including at least 20 this week, as authorities said the situation is “beyond our control.”

The floods in 27 of Nigeria’s 36 states and capital city have affected half a million people, including 100,000 displaced and more than 500 injured, Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency said.

The disaster has also destroyed thousands of hectares of farmland, worsening fears of a disruption of food supply in Africa’s most populous country.

Since 2012, “this [the flood-related deaths] is the highest we ever had,” said Manzo Ezekiel, a spokesperson for the disaster management agency.

Nigeria sees flooding every year, often as a result of non-implementation of environmental guidelines and inadequate infrastructure. Authorities are blaming the floods this year on water overflowing from local rivers, unusual rainfalls and the release of excess water from Lagdo dam in neighbouring Cameroon’s northern region.

The Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency predicted more floods in 2022 than last year due to “excessive rainfalls and contributions from external flows” such as the dam in Cameroon.

On Monday, Nigeria’s disaster management agency alerted more than a dozen states of “serious consequences” in the coming weeks as two of the country’s dams started to overflow.

“I want to advise all the governments of the frontline states to move away communities at risk of inundation, identify safe higher grounds for evacuation of persons and prepare adequate stockpiles of food and non-food items,” said the head of Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency, Mustapha Habib Ahmed.

In the north-west Jigawa state, floods killed more than 20 people in the last week, Yusuf Sani Babura, head of the Jigawa State Emergency Management Agency, told the AP. The state has recorded 91 deaths from flooding this year – more than any state in the country.

“We are facing devastating floods beyond our control,” said Babura. “We have tried our best and we couldn’t stop it.”

The floods have also destroyed crops, mostly in Nigeria’s northern region, which produces much of what the country eats, raising concerns that they could further affect food supplies already disrupted by armed conflict in the country’s north-west and central regions.

In the Benue state, Aondongu Kwagh-bee said he visited his rice farm recently and discovered that a heavy downpour had “wiped away everything.”

“Right now, there is nothing there. Just sand filled up and the rice has been washed away,” the 30-year-old said.

Akintunde Babatunde, an Abuja-based climate analyst, said the main cause of Nigeria’s annual flooding problem was the poor infrastructure of roads, drainage and waste disposal.

“Unusual rainfall is evidence of the changing climate,” he said.


Monday, September 19, 2022

Video - Nigeria’s Naira struggle against the U.S. dollar persists

Nigeria is struggling to stabilize its currency the Naira amid pressure from dwindling forex inflows. Despite several attempts by the Central Bank to stabilize the local currency, its value continues to depreciate in 2022. Its value has almost declined by 49 percent against the U.S. dollar since January 2020.

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Peter Obi, a former governor of Anambra, is running in Nigeria's presidential race. He discusses his objectives for the country with CNN's Zain Asher.

Friday, September 16, 2022

Video - Nigeria’s entertainment sector contracts

Nigeria’s entertainment sector has contracted for the first time since 2019. Data from the Country’s Statistics Agency says the entertainment sector's GDP shrunk by nearly 6 percent despite overall growth in a nation that is home to Africa’s largest economy. Kelechi Emekalam has more. 

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Pastoralist attack survivors unsettled in Nigeria

One sunny afternoon in April, Rahmata Adeagbo, was seated on a bed in her brother’s house where she now lives, staring blankly at the visitors.

“Ade-lo-wo … Ade-a-gbo,” the 50-year-old muttered after a long silence, painfully stringing the syllables of her late husband’s name.

On June 5, 2021, he had stepped out after receiving calls that nomadic herdsmen had laid siege to their town, Igangan, some 176km (109 miles) away from Lagos. The next time she saw him, his body was ridden with bullets, one of 11 deaths during the attack.

Before that episode, Igangan and six neighbouring towns – all in Oyo state – had experienced a number of clashes stemming from disagreements between Indigenous Yoruba farmers and nomadic Fulani herdsmen.

At the root of the crisis is cattle grazing on farmlands across Nigeria but the battle for resources has been exacerbated by climate change across the Sahel, worsening economic conditions and in some cases, ethnicity and religion; the nomads are mostly Muslim and the farmers are predominantly Christians.

Entire villages have been displaced and schools closed for successive sessions. Interstate food supply chains are disrupted as cattle markets have been razed and farmers have been unable to tend to their crops or have seen them destroyed.

In central Nigeria, the hotspot, as many as 13 million people are at risk of hunger, the World Food Programme said earlier this year.

Between 2016 and 2018, there were 3,641 deaths nationwide due to the conflict, according to Amnesty International. The majority of the reported victims were Indigenes and herdsmen were reported as the aggressors, launching deadly raids frequently.

But even in the southwest, where interfaith households are common and religious tolerance is deemed the highest nationwide, these clashes have become rife. In recent years, it has morphed into more dangerous dimensions involving kidnappings, rape, highway robberies, and coordinated destruction of farmlands.

In 2019, an anti-open grazing law addressing what many experts have identified as the root cause of the disagreements – resource sharing – was passed into law in Oyo. But it has not yet been implemented.

Two years later, as attacks in Igangan continued without perpetrators being apprehended, non-state actors led by a Yoruba ethnic rights activist, Sunday Adeyemo Igboho, demolished property belonging to Fulani residents.

Residents told Al Jazeera that this eviction and the controversies that followed likely spurred the June 5 attack.

Growing distrust

According to a report [PDF] by the International Crisis Group, factors that have allowed Nigeria’s pastoralist crisis to fester range from impunity and eroding confidence in the country’s security forces to the government’s poor response to early warnings.

For years, the national security architecture has been overstretched by armed groups running riot in northeast, northwest and central Nigeria.

In January 2020, as cases of insecurity spiked in southwest Nigeria, the six state governors in the region agreed to create a regional security network. It was codenamed Amotekun (Yoruba for leopard). The federal government kicked against the move citing constitutional concerns so the governors redesigned it into a state-based security vigilante to support the police, which is controlled by Abuja.

In Oyo State, the outfit launched in November 2020.

Even though the June 2021 attack remains the last full-scale one coordinated by herdsmen on residents of any of the seven neighbouring towns, residents told Al Jazeera that neither the recent reduction in attacks nor the government’s efforts had eased their fears.

Matthew Page, an associate fellow at the UK-based think-tank Chatham House, says their decision not to trust the authorities’ promise of safety is justified, explaining that “security agencies are ineffective because authorities have tolerated endemic corruption and turned a blind eye to their operational failures”.

Idayat Hassan, director of Abuja-based CDD, agreed, saying it is difficult for residents to trust the state because it has lost the monopoly of violence.

“The inability of the state to respond even when furnished with information ahead of attacks also makes citizens believe they are either complicit or abetting,” she said. “This further eroded the thin trust existing between citizens and governments.”

Peace and unease

Before her husband’s death, Adeagbo was a housewife who occasionally engaged in farmwork but her mental health has begun to suffer since and she can no longer work.

“When her husband died, she suffered a serious emotional issue,” her brother, Akeem Rasheed, told Al Jazeera. “Her husband’s death and the unavailability of resources to cater for her kids pushed her to the brink.”

Initially, he took her to the closest neuropsychiatric hospital, 77km [48 miles] from the town, for treatment. After two months, he had to take her back home because he could no longer afford her hospital bills.

“They allowed me to take her away only because I promised to keep bringing her for regular check-ups, something I have not done because I don’t have money again,” Rasheed said.

As her mental state declines, her family is clinging to the hope that she will get better and that the town will not be attacked again.

But despite no attacks in recent months, residents of other communities in the region are choosing pragmatism over hope.

Across villages in Ogun state, next door to Lagos, residents are relocating to the neighbouring Benin Republic. One of them is Clement Oyebanjo, a teacher in Agbon village who moved there briefly last February after an attack in his village killed four people.

“We are not at ease and sleep with our eyes half open because we know as long as open-grazing is not banned, these Fulani herders will come back,” says Oyebanjo who is prepared to return to Benin if another attack happens.

‘Violence entrepreneurs’

After Igangan was attacked in June, its residents created a new vigilante group. One of its members was Emmanuel Oguntoyinbo whose younger brother was shot dead on his motorcycle by the attackers while returning from a party.

“We, the youths of the town, that decided that we needed to do that because initially, the community employed some vigilantes from outside, but when the government refused to pay, they left,” the 35-year-old told Al Jazeera.

Every night, armed with Dane guns and charms, they take positions across the town while others patrol strategic places in groups. The community’s youth leader, Olayiwola Olusegun, told Al Jazeera that every household contributes money every month to provide ammunition.

In Agbon, the local vigilante group continues to recruit new members. In neighbouring Ibeku, residents are now wary of visitors and report unknown faces immediately to the town’s traditional ruler.

In Ondo State, dozens of elder residents of communities like Okeluse and Molege, have fled too, while youths who stayed behind have picked up arms to protect themselves.

Meanwhile, Wasiu Olatunbosun, Oyo State commissioner for information, told Al Jazeera the government had put in place the machinery to secure towns like Igangan. He insisted that residents who claim to stay up at night because of their fear of another attack must be opposition members.

For experts like Page, the outcome of these dynamics could be an “expansion of violence entrepreneurs” and more instability even if residents embracing self-defence is justified.

The only difference, he said, between “a vigilante, political thug, insurgent, or bandit is for whom or what cause he fights”.

By Adebayo Abdulrahman

Al Jazeera

Related stories: Civilians are stepping in to keep the peace in the deadly feud between herders and farmers

Video - Conflict between herdsmen and farmers remains deadly in Nigeria

Nigeria Drops to Africa's 4th Largest Oil Producer

Nigeria is facing a record reduction in oil production, oil cartel OPEC reports, dropping from the first largest producer in Africa to the fourth, behind Angola, Algeria and Libya.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries monthly oil market report for August showed that Nigeria's production stood at 980,000 barrels a day, a decline of more than 100,000 barrels per day compared to July.

The figure was about 50% of OPEC's target for the west African nation in August.

For decades, Nigeria has been Africa's largest oil producer. But in recent years, theft and sabotage at production sites have hampered output. Petroleum authorities say more than 200,000 barrels are lost daily as a result, and that the trend is costing the country millions of dollars in revenue.

Oil was once Nigeria's biggest earner and contributor to national GDP, but the latest data shows information and communications technology and trade contributed more during the second quarter this year.

Abuja-based oil and gas expert, Emmanuel Afimia, said he's worried about Nigeria's current situation.

"At this particular point in time when the oil prices are rising, Nigeria is supposed to sit back and be enjoying revenue and inflows of forex [foreign exchange trading] through the sales and export of crude oil. But the reverse is the case, so it's really a negative thing for the country falling from that position of being the biggest producer, Nigeria will slowly be losing its influence in the global oil market," Afimia said.

Nigerian authorities also are raising concerns. Last Friday, President Muhammadu Buhari said the situation was putting the economy in a precarious situation.

And earlier this week, Nigerian lawmakers sent a delegation to oil-rich Rivers State to investigate the problem and report back their findings to the Senate.

But oil and gas expert Faith Nwadishi said authorities must share the blame, too.

"It's a question of pointing one finger when four fingers are pointing back at you," Nwadishi said. "If government was doing enough, I don't think that we'll close our eyes and see our major source of revenue being stolen up to 90 percent. I want to see a situation where government is taking more action than crying out."

Petroleum authorities and security operatives have been working to halt the oil theft.

Raids in late August led to the arrest of more than 100 oil thieves and the recovery of millions of liters of crude oil and diesel.

Mele Kyari, head of the National Nigeria Petroleum Company, said the clampdown is making progress.

"What is most difficult to manage today and daring for us to live with is the issue of crude oil theft, [but] we're not helpless and our efforts are paying off," Kyari said.

Authorities in August awarded a pipeline surveillance contract to a former militant who once stole oil and vandalized pipelines. The move was criticized by citizens, but officials say the former militant's expertise will help prevent theft.

By Timothy Obiezu


Nigeria, Morocco begin 5,600km gas pipeline project

The Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited and the Office National des Hydrocarbures et des Mines of Morocco, on Thursday, signed the Memorandum of Understanding for the commencement of construction of the 5,600km Nigeria-Morocco gas pipeline.

NNPC said the much-awaited Nigeria-Morocco Gas Pipeline project officially commenced following the signing of the MoU between the two countries and the Economic Community of West African States in Rabat, Morocco.

It said the two countries and ECOWAS executed the MoU agreement on the project, which was a significant step in fulfilling the Federal Government’s drive towards harnessing Nigeria’s abundant gas resources.

The NMGP is a 5,600km gas pipeline project, traversing 13 African countries, which, when completed will provide gas from Nigeria to the West African countries up to the Kingdom of Morocco and subsequently to Europe.

Once completed, the project will supply about three billion standard cubic feet of gas per day along the West African coast from Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana, Cote d’’ Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Gambia, Senegal and Mauritania to Morocco.

Signing the agreement on behalf of Nigeria was the Group Chief Executive Officer of NNPC Ltd, Mele Kyari; while Director-General of Morocco’s National Office for Hydrocarbons and Mines, Dr. Amina Benkhadra, signed on behalf of her country.

The ECOWAS Commissioner for Infrastructure, Energy and Digitalisation, Mr. Sediko Douka, signed on behalf of the sub-regional organisation.

In his remarks at the MoU signing ceremony, Kyari described the development as a very important milestone in the NMGP project in which all the key stakeholders in the project had come together to reaffirm their commitments to deliver on the project.

While expressing his appreciation to President Muhammadu Buhari and His Royal Majesty, King Mohammed VI of Morocco, who both entrusted NNPC Ltd and ONHYM with the strategic project, Kyari stated that from inception of the project to this stage, concerted efforts had been made by the governments of both countries, which led to the achievements recorded so far.

He said the Federal Government and the Kingdom of Morocco would benefit immeasurably from the execution of the project, as this would extend beyond the supply of gas to energise the countries along the route.

Conceived during the visit of King Mohammed VI of Morocco to Nigeria in December 2016, the NMGP project is an initiative of the Federal Government and the Kingdom of Morocco.

It is aimed at monetising Nigeria’s abundant natural gas resources, thereby generating additional revenue for the country, diversifying Nigeria’s gas export routes and eliminating gas flaring across the country.

The pipeline will originate from Brass Island (Nigeria) and terminates at North of Morocco, where it will be connected to the existing Maghreb European Pipeline that originates from Algeria (via Morocco), all the way to Spain.

By Okechukwu Nnodim 


Thursday, September 15, 2022

Church security guard killed, pastor kidnapped by radicals in Nigeria

Suspected Fulani herdsmen on Sunday killed a Christian security guard as they abducted a pastor in central Nigeria and wounded the church leader’s wife, sources said.

James Ngyang, a member of the church led by Pastor Bung Fon Dong of the Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN), was killed in the attack at the residence of Pastor Dong on church premises in Ganawuri, Riyom County, Plateau state, said area resident Danjen Bagu Gang.

“Armed gunmen we believe are Fulani terrorists attacked Ganawuri and abducted the Rev. Bung Fon Dong alongside James Mann, who later escaped from the hands of the kidnappers,” Gang told Morning Star News in a text message.

“The gunmen stormed the RCC [Regional Church Council] chairman’s residence, at about 10 p.m., shot and wounded the pastor’s wife, and killed one James Ngyang, a member of the church and security church worker, before they forcefully took away the pastor at gunpoint.”

On Monday, the gunmen contacted the pastor’s family and demanded 20 million naira ($46,650) for his release, Gang said, adding that Ngyang’s body was buried on that day.

Police confirmed the kidnapping of Pastor Dong. Alfred Alabo, deputy superintendent of police of the Plateau State Police Command, said in a press statement that the attack happened Sunday night, and that Mann is the principal of the Government Secondary School in Ganawuri.

“We have deployed operatives to track down the criminals and rescue the hostage,” Alabo said.

In Ruku village, Gashish District in Plateau state’s Barkin Ladi County, suspected Fulani herdsmen on Sept. 7 attacked the predominantly Christian community, shooting and wounding three Christian women who were working at a tin mining site, said Dalyop Solomon Mwantiri, director of the Emancipation Centre for Crisis Victims in Nigeria.

Saying the three women were receiving treatment at Barkin Ladi General Hospital after being shot at about 10:45 p.m. by “armed men suspected to be Fulani militias,” Mwantiri identified the victims as Rose Bitrus, 41; Polina Mathew, 43; and Grace Pam, 42.

Pastor’s son kidnapped

In the Abaji area of Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory, gunmen on Sept. 4 kidnapped dozens of people, including the son of Evangelical Church Winning All Pastor Bala Akpeni, in an attack on predominantly Christian Kutaru village, according to the ECWA’s Evangelical Missionary Society (EMS).

“On the night of Sunday, Sept. 4, many Christians were kidnapped from one of our mission fields,” EMS Coordinator James Saleh said in a request for prayer. “Among those kidnapped is Steven Bala, the son of Pastor Bala Akpeni, the missionary taking care of the prayer house there. Please pray for God’s intervention.”

An ECWA pastor and two members of his church taken into captivity by terrorists for two months have been released and are now recovering from the trauma, Saleh said.

“Praise God for the release of our missionary, the Rev. Ahmadu Maikudi, and two members of his prayer house after over two months of captivity in the den of terrorists and a lengthy negotiation process for their release,” Saleh said. “We appreciate all those who contributed in one way or the other to facilitate their release. We pray that God will heal them from the trauma of that harrowing experience and give them peace in their hearts.”

Area community leader Alhassan Isah said in a Sept. 5 statement that incessant invasions of the area by terrorists and bandits have come at alarming rates and called on security authorities to act.

“It’s no longer rumors but a fact that there is a serious state of insecurity in many parts and village areas of the nation’s capital (Federal Capital Territory-Abuja), with Abaji Area Council not being an exception,” Isah said. “Leaders of these communities have reported on the siege and rampaging killings and abductions of residents on daily basis by terrorists, kidnappers and bandits, thereby displacing thousands among the people and forcing them to flee out of their communities.”

Recent killings and abductions of Kutara residents Rafin Daji, Paikon Bassa, Guridi and Adagba villages in Abaji Area Council are “worrisome and condemnable,” he said.

“As matter of urgency and importance, there’s the need for security agencies to take more proactive measures before the acts of terrorism, kidnapping and banditry completely take over Abaji Area Council,” Isah said.

Nigeria led the world in Christians killed for their faith last year (Oct. 1, 2020 to Sept. 30, 2021) at 4,650, up from 3,530 the previous year, according to Open Doors’ 2022 World Watch List report. The number of kidnapped Christians was also highest in Nigeria, at more than 2,500, up from 990 the previous year, according to the WWL report.

Nigeria trailed only China in the number of churches attacked, with 470 cases, according to the report.

In the 2022 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, Nigeria jumped to seventh place, its highest ranking ever, from No. 9 the previous year.

Morning Star News

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Flutterwave adds Nigeria's eNaira as payment option for merchants

Africa-focused fintech firm Flutterwave said on Wednesday it has added Nigeria's eNaira as a payment option for merchants, a move that could help boost adoption of the digital currency.

Nigeria, the first African nation to launch a digital currency, is targeting 8 million users for the app launched in October. But adoption has been slow as lenders worry the app would compete with their online platforms and reduce fee revenue.

Flutterwave said that over 1 million merchants now accept eNaira payments from their customers.

"We... are confident that this number will grow further as we continue to innovate and expand," Flutterwave said in a statement.

Nigeria aims to expand usage of its eNaira digital currency by attracting users without bank accounts after a first phase adoption saw 850,000 downloads by bank customers.

The west African country is battling to stabilise its weakening currency, curb rising inflation and boost growth after economic disruption from the COVID-19 pandemic.

By Chijioke Ohuocha


Nigeria’s first Technology Reality Show opens in Lagos

Unveiling the show, known as Scinovate, the Lagos State Commissioner for Science and Technology, Mr Hakeem Fahm, said the show would boost innovation in the state, especially among the younger segment of the population.

Farm said that the state government was open to innovative ideas provided by individuals and corporate bodies to accelerate development in the state.

“Technology will strength our drive to bring Nigeria to the forefront and make the nation to depend less on oil,’’ he said, lauding the organisers of the show for bringing up ideas to foster change.

The Convener of the show, Mr Emmanuel Rotimi, said that the show was an idea to bring people with scientific knowledge in Nigeria to find ways to foster development and nation building.

“The show will try to stimulate the consciousness of Nigerians on innovation and what science and technology can do in the lives of people,’’ Rotimi stated.

According to him, the show is a pan-Nigeria contest, where 30 contestants with tech ideas will be brought together in a house for 30 days.

‘’At the end of the 30 days, there will be 10 finalists — five winners with three winning prizes.’’

The convener said that to participate in the show, the contestant must be Nigerian, male or female, with knowledge of technology and in the age range of between 18 to 40 years.

In a speech, Dr Lekan Adelakun, the Team Lead of Q’Impact Medicare, said that science was crucial in the developmental of any country, noting however, that overnment should support the development of technology.

He said that the science and technology reality show should be packaged to be attractive, noting that the nation would be better for the show.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) learnt the show is estimated to cost about N200m with winners, expected to go home with monetary prizes.

The Sun

Nigeria to produce vaccines locally with Serum Institute of India

Nigeria will partner with Serum Institute of India to start local manufacturing of vaccines used in the country's immunisation programmes, health minister Osagie Ehanire said on Wednesday.

Africa's most populous country imports all of its vaccines, including those used to prevent polio, measles and tuberculosis, but has been seeking foreign partners to produce them at home.

"We hope to start manufacturing some of the vaccines (that) Serum Institute India manufactures and transfer the technology and skills to our people," Ehanire said after Nigeria's cabinet approved the deal with Serum Institute, the world's largest producer of vaccines.

"We are talking first of all the routine vaccines, the ones (for) the standard programme on immunisation, not COVID-19 vaccine."

Ehanire said the venture between Bio Vaccine Nigeria and Serum Institute would start by producing 15% of vaccines used in local immunisation. The government owns a 49% stake in Bio Vaccine and private investors control the rest.

By Felix Onuah


Monday, September 12, 2022

Nigeria generates over N730b from gaming yearly

National Commissioner/CEO of the Nigeria Data Protection Bureau (NDPB), Dr. Vincent Olatunji, has said that Nigeria generates over N730 billion from the gaming industry yearly.

He said this at the maiden National Symposium for the Nigeria Gaming Industry organised by Velex Advisory in partnership with the National Lottery Regulatory Commission (NLRC) and NDPB, held in Lagos on Thursday.

Olatunji said the gaming industry was becoming a major driver of the country’s economy, providing jobs to thousands of citizens. Quoting research findings, he said the global industry reached nearly $465 billion in 2020, having grown at a compound yearly growth rate of 2.1 per cent since 2015.

According to him, the market is expected to hit $674 billion in 2025 at a compound growth rate of 7.7 per cent. The figure could reach $895 billion in 2030.

He said over 60 million Nigerians, aged between 18 and 40, are involved in sport betting, with the operators paying taxes to the government and engaging young people who would have been jobless.

“The growth is driven by passion. People who play games or bet do so out of the passion they have for the sport, football in particular,” he said.

While delivering a paper titled, ‘Gaming and Data Protection Compliance – Implication for Regulators, Operators and Stakers: the Future of Cyber Security, the expert said the quality of data on the gaming industry has increased tremendously in recent years.

He, however, warned operators that data protection and privacy are key in safeguarding their businesses.

Velex Advisory executives said that Nigeria has the most attractive gambling industry with favourable regulations, huge gambling population and an increase in Internet penetration.

“We establish and sustain a good relationship with the regulators providing an advisory role to promote compliance and ensure the growth of existing gaming business in the industry,” the executive noted.

The Director General of the National Lottery Regulatory Commission, Lanre Gbajabiamila, noted: “The gaming market in Nigeria is experiencing progressive evolution; punters can conveniently place their bets on different platforms using various media access available.

“Also, Nigerian punters can access a variety of regulated digital games like sports betting, lotteries, slots, table games like poker and blackjack through both domestic and international commercial gaming operators.”

Gbajabiamila said one out of every 23 digital gaming transactions is fraudulent, with attack rates for account creation and payment transactions estimated at 5.6 per cent and 4.6 per cent respectively.

Suppliers must, therefore, implement robust cybersecurity measures to lessen the risk of fraud and network security vulnerability, he said.

On his part, the Chief Technology Officer, Infoprive Limited, Gbolabo Awelewa, said it is important to know the actual number of people that are involved in gaming, which is the reason data management is key.

By Michael Akinadewo

The Guardian

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Nigeria To Fine Airlines That Don't Sell Tickets In Local Currency

The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has announced airlines selling plane tickets in a currency different from the local one, the Naira, will be fined. Let's look closely at why the country has made such a dramatic decision.

Nigeria's shortage of foreign currency

Hadi Sirika, Nigeria's Minister of Aviation, announced that foreign carriers can no longer sell plane tickets in a currency different from the Naira.

The decision stems from a shortage of foreign currency Nigeria is currently facing. Although the country's primary source of export is oil, Nigeria has not managed to take advantage of the product's current high price efficiently. The Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) linked the country's inability to exploit its natural resource to low production rates, pipeline thefts, and acts of vandalism.

Consequently, Nigeria is implementing harsh measures to prevent foreign currencies from pouring out of the country. For example, foreign currency funds of several airlines, for instance, deriving from selling tickets in US Dollars or Euros, have been frozen. Upon this decision, many carriers have canceled flights to Nigeria, including Emirates.

The international response

In front of Nigeria's measures to prevent foreign currencies from flowing out of the country, the international response has been just as harsh.

Indeed, Nigeria was forced to unblock $265 million the country owed to foreign airlines. This sum represents 57% of the $464 million Nigeria withheld in July 2022. As a consequence, foreign carriers have progressively resumed flights to Nigeria. From their side, airlines must now commit themselves to selling tickets in Naira. Commenting on those airlines that refuse to do so, Nigeria's Minister for Aviation stated:

This is a violation of our local laws and will not be tolerated. Those airlines that will not abide by this measure will be punished.


The Nigerian Aviation market

According to Minister Sirika, in 2016, $600 million of the total $1.1 billion generated by airlines in Nigeria belonged to foreign carriers.

Given the relevance of the Nigerian aviation market, the Minister underlined how important it is for the country to have a national carrier, which is expected to start operations in 2023. According to the Official Airline Guide (OAG), the airline operating the most frequencies to Nigeria in 2019 was Air Peace, based in the country's capital, Lagos. Air Peace also ranked first in terms of capacity, with 2 billion seats offered to/from Nigeria in 2019, and the scenario is the same for 2022. Among the Gulf carriers, Qatar is particularly strong in Nigeria, ranking 6th in 2022 in terms of capacity, with 659,236 seats offered to/from the country. Regarding Europe, Lufthansa is the 9th carrier for capacity deployed to/from Nigeria, while Turkish Airlines places 10th.

In terms of traffic, the Nigerian market is predominantly domestic, with almost 3 million passengers estimated in 2022 and a market share of 74%. The busiest international origin is the UK, representing a market share of 4% and an estimated number of passengers of 146,628. The busiest connecting airport for Nigerian Origin&Destination (O&D) traffic is Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (ABV), serving the Nigerian city of Abuja, whereas Doha Hamad International Airport (DOH) is the busiest international connecting airport for traffic bound for Nigeria. 

By Giacomo Amati

Simple Flying

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Friday, September 9, 2022

Armed Men Release Dozens of Worshippers Kidnapped in Northwest Nigeria

Nigerian police said 43 people who were abducted from a mosque in northwestern Zamfara state have been released, while one died in captivity after being tortured. Police say they are still searching for armed men responsible, who disguised themselves as fellow worshippers when they invaded the mosque last week during Friday prayers.

Zamfara State Police spokesperson Mohammed Shehu confirmed to VOA in a phone call Thursday the release of the abductees.

He said police authorities have deployed officers around the state to prevent more attacks from taking place. Shehu did not comment, though, on whether a ransom was paid to secure their release of the abductees.

"They were released,” Shehu said. “We have deployed our operatives everywhere, and they're working tirelessly to ensure that we contain the activity of armed banditry and kidnapping."

The worshippers were kidnapped on September 2 as they gathered for the weekly juma'at prayer in the village of Zugu.

Gunmen disguised as fellow worshippers invaded the mosque, shot sporadically and herded them into the bush.

Relatives and local residents of the Zugu village said they jointly raised and paid the kidnappers the equivalent of $12,000, and they also gave them many gallons of petrol before the captives were released.

Saidu Umar, a relative of one of the released abductees, said that initially the abductors asked for about $82,000, or 35 million naira.

But, Umar said, residents bargained and gave the abductors 5 million naira, and the worshippers were then released. Umar said some of the captives were wounded and unable to walk, so the residents went to the mosque with motorbikes to carry them away.

Nigerian authorities have been trying to stem violence and kidnapping in the country’s northwestern and central states for years and strongly oppose making ransom payments.

Deployment of troops in the affected regions has stretched security forces thin. But the government said it is making some progress. In March, authorities said air bombardments that lasted three days killed more than 200 bandits in Niger State.

Last month, the Nigerian Air Force said another 55 bandits were killed across central and northwestern states.

However, Patrick Agbambu, founder of Security Watch Africa Initiatives, said authorities cannot rest on previous victories.

"Crime business is a dynamic business. It changes forms at any given time,” Agbambu said. “While you're recording some success, the criminals are trying to devise other means to outwit you, so as we celebrate these successes it also calls for more vigilance from the security agencies."

Agbambu also said citizens must take caution against paying ransom to kidnappers.

"Nobody wants to experience such,” he said. “I understand the desperation of the relatives of these victims in wanting to pay ransom, but the more ransoms are paid, the more kidnapping or abduction will continue because it becomes a lucrative business."

For now, the released abductees will try to recover from their experience, while the village and authorities remain more vigilant.

By Timothy Obiezu 


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

Nigeria seizes donkey penises to be smuggled to Hong Kong

Nigerian officials have seized thousands of donkey penises that were about to be exported to Hong Kong, an official said on Thursday.

Sacks of the donkey male genitals were seized at the international airport in Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city, Sambo Dangaladima, the Nigeria Customs Service area commander, told reporters.

The consignment was “falsely declared … as cow male genitals (but) after due examination, my export officers discovered they were donkey male genitals,” said Dangaladima. A total of 16 sacks of the genitals were seized, he said.

An investigation has been launched to find out more information about the seized items, the customs service said.

Although the seizure of donkey genitals meant for export from Nigeria is rare, donkey skins are known to be frequently exported or smuggled out of the country. In July, the Nigerian customs seized $116,000 worth of donkey skins being smuggled into the country from neighboring Niger.

Nigeria is trying to curb the export of donkey skins which has drastically diminished the country’s population of the work animals, particularly in the north. Nigerian senators in 2021 proposed to ban the killing of donkeys and the export of their skins.

The lawmakers said such a ban on killing donkeys would further curb the export of donkey skins and genitals — which Nigeria prohibits — to countries like China where the skins are used in popular traditional medicines. That proposed legislation has not yet been passed into law.

“The major beneficiary in this trade is the donkey (skin) merchants in China,” Muhammad Datti, one of the federal lawmakers supporting the proposed ban, has said. “This animal is facing extinction (in Nigeria) and it is an animal you cannot breed in large numbers because of the very low rate of fertility.”

By Chinedu Asadu


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Thursday, September 8, 2022

Video - Will Nigeria's ban on foreign models help bolster local talent?

Nigeria has become the first country in the world to announce a ban on foreign models and voiceover actors in advertisements. The move, which takes effect on October 1st, is intended to bolster homegrown talent and the local economy, according to the country's advertising regulatory council. Foreign faces are a common sight in Nigerian advertisements, and voiceovers often feature British accents. But proponents of the ban say there has been a cultural shift among young Nigerians who want to see more representation on-screen and on-air. Steve Babaeko, the president of the Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria, explained: "People will tell you, 'There are about 200 million of us. Are you telling me you could not find indigenous models for this commercial?'" Reactions remain mixed. Many Nigerians support the idea of seeing more of their countrymen and women on the air. But some worry that the ban will inspire other countries to enact similar protectionist measures. In this episode of The Stream, we'll talk to industry experts about the ban and its intentions, why a change is needed and if the strategy will work.

Al Jazeera

Poland signs with Nigeria to replace Russian gas

Poland’s President Andrzej Duda has become the first leader in the Eastern European country’s history to ever visit Nigeria since the two nations established diplomatic ties some 60 years ago. It was no mere courtesy visit.

In the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and western sanctions that followed, the rouble went into a free fall. In a bid to save its currency, Russia, Europe’s largest gas supplier, insisted that all purchases must be made in rouble, a demand that Poland has rejected.

Poland eventually terminated its contract with Russia. With Europe now facing an energy crisis due to Moscow’s decision to slash oil and natural gas exports, energy prices have gone through the roof and sent the cost of living soaring across Europe.

Poland, consequently, has turned to Nigeria, already one of its gas suppliers, to increase its LNG shipments.

Speaking through an interpreter during a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja, President Duda noted that Nigeria, being rich in gas, will ensure a steady increase of LNG supply to Poland and to the EU.

“The Russian aggression against Ukraine, which is totally unjustified, has sparked off a very serious food crisis and a very serious energy crisis,” he says.

“Nigeria is indeed very wealthy. And I want to add that the first supplies of the LNG gas to our LNG gas terminal from Nigeria had already happened, just like the import of crude oil performed by our oil company Latos.

“Those shipments did happen in recent years. And that means well for the future, because we do want to further develop this cooperation. We want to increase the supplies from Nigeria to Poland. And in this way, we also want to contribute to the development of economic relations between both our countries,” he adds.

EU lobbies Nigeria

President Duda’s overtures were not a one-off. Back in May, the Deputy Director-General of the EU’s Energy Department, Matthew Baldwin, said the 27-country bloc needed additional gas supplies from Nigeria amid cuts from Russia, which before the war provided around 40% of Europe’s gas needs.

“The EU imports 14 percent of its total LNG supplies from Nigeria and there is potential to more than double this,” Baldwin told Reuters. “If we can get up to beyond 80 percent, at that point, there might be additional LNG that could be available for spot cargoes to come to Europe.”

Can Nigeria deliver?

It remains to be seen whether Nigeria, whose economy is badly battered, would be able to meet the demand with a violence-hit energy sector, plagued with unprecedented crude oil thefts by militants in the Niger Delta.

But Nigeria’s Oil Minister Timipre Sylva has high hopes that his country could turn into one of the major gas suppliers of Europe, urging the EU to increase investments in the Nigerian oil sector.

“We are positioning ourselves to be an alternative supplier to Europe,” he says. “We are already working with Algeria to build the Trans-Sahara Gas Pipeline that is going to take our gas all the way to Europe.

“We are also having a partnership with Morocco to extend the West Africa Gas Pipeline to Morocco and across the Mediterranean to Europe. We believe that Europe needs this gas and it is a win-win for all of us and it is in their interest to reduce these discriminatory investments that their banks are doing.”

Investment banker and economist Adetilewa Adebajo believes that Nigeria could indeed meet some of the vast European demand if there is the political will.

Speaking to The Africa Report, the managing director of the Lagos-based Corporate Finance Group highlights that Nigeria had recorded some successes in the oil and gas sector, particularly LNG which recorded an additional $8bn investment for the expansion of the seventh train.

“Investments of this nature could be replicated across the gas sector in Nigeria, in particular to drive power generation,” he says.

By Eniola Akinkuotu

The Africa Report

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Nigeria dominates as Google supports 60 African startups

Speaking at the event, the Head of Startup Ecosystem, Sub-Saharan Africa, Folarin Aiyegbusi, said “Africa is a diverse continent with massive opportunity but the continent is faced with the challenge of limited diversity in venture capital funding flow. We hope that the Black Founders Fund program will be able to bridge the gap of disproportionate funding between expat startups over local and black-led companies.”

Google has said that 60 African startups have been selected for the second cohort of the Google for Startups Black Founders Fund for Africa with $4m funding.

The global firm said this on Tuesday during the Google for Startups Black Founders Fund 2022 winner announcement in Abuja.

It was disclosed that Nigeria dominates the selection list, which features 23 Nigerian startups.

Other countries benefitting from this funding programme include Kenya with 12 grantees, Rwanda with six grantees, South Africa with five grantees, Uganda with four grantees, among others.

It was disclosed that each of the selected startups will get support in the form of a six-month training programme that includes access to a network of mentors to assist in tackling unique challenges.

In addition to being a part of tailored workshops, support networks and community building sessions, the 60 grantees will also get non-dilutive awards of $50,000 and $100,000 and up to $200,000 in Google Cloud credit.

It was disclosed that fund will be distributed through Google’s implementation partner, CcHUB.

Speaking at the event, the Head of Startup Ecosystem, Sub-Saharan Africa, Folarin Aiyegbusi, said “Africa is a diverse continent with massive opportunity but the continent is faced with the challenge of limited diversity in venture capital funding flow. We hope that the Black Founders Fund program will be able to bridge the gap of disproportionate funding between expat startups over local and black-led companies.”

Also speaking at the event was the Director General, National Information Technology Development Agency, Kashifu Inuwa, who said that the recently passed Nigeria Startup Bill by the National Assembly will help to institutionalise legal frameworks that will enhance startup growth in Nigeria.

Opinion Nigeria

Nigeria To Establish Special Economic Zone for Bitcoin

Nigeria is seeking to create the first economic free zone for bitcoin and cryptocurrency in West Africa through the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA), per a press release.

NEPZA is in discussions with Binance, one of the leading cryptocurrency exchanges, as well as Talent City which specializes in building special economic zones.

Our goal is to engender a flourishing virtual free zones to take advantage of a near trillion dollar virtual economy in blockchains and digital economy," said Adesoji Adesugba, NEPZA's managing director.

Furthermore, NEPZA explained that if a partnership is reached, the final product would mirror that of the Dubai Virtual Free Zone.

In fact, this past December, Binance entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Dubai World Trade Center. The memorandum intends to make Dubai a hub for bitcoin and cryptocurrency related products and services by creating a “new international virtual asset ecosystem.”

In February of last year, the Central Bank of Nigeria issued a letter banning regulated institutions from “dealing” with bitcoin or cryptocurrencies. Following the ban, Nigeria saw an uptick of 27% in peer-to-peer (P2P) bitcoin transactions across the country.

Indeed, just last year Africa as a whole became the largest country in P2P transactions in the world by volume. Around the same time, Chainalysis reported a global adoption index which showed Nigeria in the top 10 countries worldwide for its adoption of bitcoin.

Moreover, as Dubai and Nigeria look to establish special economic zones to benefit bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, we can take a look at existing economic zones. For instance, the free city of Próspera is an example of a customizable economic framework. 

By Shawn Amick

Bitcoin Magazine

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Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Nigeria, others battle state-sponsored cyber threats

With escalating geopolitical and geo-economic tensions, Nigeria and other countries with weak cyber security profiles are threatened by a barrage of state-sponsored malicious cyber activities.

These could pose an enormous risk even when they occur at low-level intensity, experts have warned. The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has issued at least six cyber-attack warnings since the beginning of the year. The warnings came on the back of a rising incidence of cyber-attacks, both globally and locally.

From software supply chain compromises to alleged attempted theft of sensitive COVID-19 vaccine research to power-supply cutoffs, state-sponsored cyber incidents have compromised the security of critical infrastructure in countries around the world.

In response, governments and businesses around the world should be developing new cybersecurity strategies and initiatives. These were made known at the ongoing Cybersecurity Virtual Reporting Tour scheduled for August 29 to September 16. Organised by Foreign Press Centres of the United States, the event is themed, “A Shared Responsibility: Prioritising Public-Private Partnerships in Cybersecurity.”

It was revealed that in 2021, the United States set a record for the highest data breaches and other cyber incidents affecting companies, governments and individuals.

According to the latest data breach report by IBM and the Ponemon Institute, a research centre dedicated to privacy, data protection, and ethical research standards, the cost of data breaches in 2021 stood at $4.24 million, which was a 10 per cent increase from the average cost recorded in 2019.

In the first quarter of 2022 alone, the number of reported breach incidents increased by 14 per cent compared to the same period in 2021, the report said.

With reference made to Cybersecurity Ventures, it was disclosed that the global average cost of cybercrime peaked at $6 trillion in 2021, driven mostly by ransomware attacks. This could hit $10.5 trillion by 2025.

While speaking on the topic: ‘Overview of Cybersecurity and its impact’, National Cyber Director and Advisor to the President of the United States Joe Biden on cybersecurity, Chris Inglis, said there is a need to understand who is responsible for what in cyberspace.

“If we get the roles and responsibilities right in cyberspace, if we get the people skills right in cyberspace, if we get the technology right in cyberspace, we will have dealt with all three of the really important pieces of the noun of cyberspace. Cyberspace is technology and people and roles and responsibilities,” he said.

Inglis said cyber is important because of what it does for the people, stressing that cyber is more than technology that it’s people and doctrine, and requires that people deliver what is expected of it.

According to him, three things are essential; “one, we need to make sure that we make the investments required to make sure that it’s resilient and robust by design, in the same way to my earlier point we do that for cars and airplanes and therapeutics. We invest in those to make sure that we can have confidence in the functions that they perform before the events occur. We try to avoid bad experiences as opposed to simply responding to things that happen to us or around us.

“Also, we will – if we make the investments necessary – create a resilient system, a defensible system, but it will never be a perfectly secure system, meaning that these systems do not defend themselves. We must actively participate in their defense, and that defense needs to be a collective defense, one where each of us makes contributions to the defence of all of us.”

This must be an international effort where we have a social contract amongst nations that determine: how we collectively make the investments necessary to create resilience in this space; how we collectively make contributions to defend what then results in this space as a series of critical functions upon which our societies depend?

From her perspective, Principal Deputy National Cyber Director, Kemba Walden, said cyberspace activities are high, stressing that ransomware is an activity that requires an all-hands-on-deck approach.

Walden said all countries and communities need to be a part of the solution. Speaking on how it is related to cryptocurrency, she said ransomware is not necessarily new, adding that it wasn’t born out of the development of cryptocurrency or even blockchain technology in the olden days, stressing that people use prepaid cards to be able to execute ransom.

According to her, the costs of doing business as a ransomware actor are far too low, stressing that there is a need to raise the costs of doing the business and raise the entry of doing business as a ransomware actor such that it becomes less profitable and more difficult to do, which impact activities of criminals.

By Adeyemi Adepetun

The Guardian

Ex-Militant Tapped to Protect Nigerian Pipelines He Once Blew Up

Nigeria’s government has turned once again to a man it previously hunted as a thief and enemy of the state, recruiting him to curb rampant theft on the oil pipelines he used to blow up.

Oil production in Nigeria has plummeted over the past two years, hitting the lowest level in about half a century. The government blames rampant crude theft, pipeline sabotage and illegal refining, which it says siphons off as much as a fifth of output every day. To stem the losses, the state-owned energy company has hired security companies linked to one of the most feared of the Niger Delta’s onetime warlords: Government Ekpemupolo.

“We are going to move into serious action where we will stop all the illegal activities in the Niger Delta region,” Ekpemupolo, 51, more commonly known as Tompolo, told reporters on Sept. 2 in the town of Oporoza in Delta state.

Few people know more about wreaking havoc on the Nigerian oil industry than Tompolo, who -- as a leader in a loose coalition of heavily armed rebels -- waged a campaign from the mid-2000s for greater local control over the delta’s hydrocarbon wealth. Their attacks slashed nearly a third from peak production of 2.5 million barrels a day, before he and his peers accepted a government amnesty that granted them lucrative pipeline surveillance contracts and put an end to the violence.

That truce soured after President Muhammadu Buhari came to power seven years ago, terminating the contracts and renewing hostilities with Tompolo in particular -- as of this week he is still listed as a wanted man by the country’s anti-corruption agency.

But daily production is currently nearly 800,000 barrels lower than it was at the militants’ peak, while the Nigerian government is spending billions of dollars subsidizing gasoline and earning less than its debt-service bill.

At a media briefing last week, Mele Kyari, chief executive officer of the Nigerian National Petroleum Co., defended the decision to hire, among others, two companies connected to Tompolo as part of a plan to use private security to protect the vulnerable pipelines that crisscross the delta in the south of Africa’s largest crude producer.

“Contractors were selected through a tender process for people who can do it,” he said on Aug. 30. “Not everyone can do it.”

Tompolo has stakes in two of the companies contracted by the NNPC -- Tantita Security Services Nigeria Ltd. and Matton International Services Ltd. -- according to his spokesman, Paul Bebenimibo.

“We don’t want to be second-class citizens in this country because we produce the oil that feeds everybody in this nation,” Tompolo said in the Sept. 2 television interview. His argument echoed those made by militants in the late-2000s to justify attacks on pipelines.

Average daily crude production in Nigeria fell to about 1.2 million barrels in July from about 1.9 million barrels as the Covid-19 pandemic struck in the first quarter of 2020, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The unfolding collapse has left the country unable to meet its OPEC+ quota or to benefit from high oil prices.

Top military officials have disputed the levels of theft advanced by the NNPC and other oil companies, pointing to the firms’ inability to maintain aging facilities or good relations with local communities. But Kyari said Nigeria could be producing up to 700,000 barrels a day more if not for criminals stealing crude and oil companies holding back for fear of theft.

“There is no company that will produce oil and then lose 80% of that and continue to produce the oil,” he said.

Companies injecting into onshore pipelines in the eastern Niger Delta are facing the most trouble. The Shell Plc-operated plant at Bonny, Nigeria’s largest export terminal, received an average of only 42,000 barrels a day in May, less than a fifth of 2020 input, according to government data. Sixty miles away, the Eni SpA-owned Brass terminal has experienced a similar deterioration.

Since June, the 180,000-barrel-a-day Trans Niger Pipeline, one of two that feed Bonny, has ceased transporting oil altogether due to theft. The pilfered haul is either turned into black market fuel at illegal refineries in the delta or barged out to sea for sale overseas.

Now the government is betting on one of the men responsible for a previous production crisis to resolve an even larger dip, despite accusing him in 2015 of being behind a new wave of attacks and seeking his arrest in early 2016 for an alleged 46 billion-naira ($106 million) fraud.

Tompolo told reporters last week that he planned to spread the benefits of the new pipeline security contracts widely in the delta.

“I have been in this struggle for all these years and I know that greed is the cause of all the problems in the country,” he said.

By William Clowes


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Monday, September 5, 2022

14-Year-Old Stowaway Found At Lagos Airport Was Tired Of Nigeria

A 14-year-old stowaway who was found unconscious inside one of the airlines of United Nigeria at the domestic wing of the Lagos airport was tired of Nigeria and wanted to travel out, the operators of the MMA2 terminal, Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited, has said.

A statement by Head of Media of the company, Oluwatosin Onalaja, on Sunday, identified the stowaway (name withheld) as an orphan from Kwara State but based in the Badagry area of Lagos.

“At around 6:10a.m. on Sunday 4th September 2022, United Nigeria (the Airline) informed Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Ltd (BASL) of a 14-year-old stowaway boy found unconscious inside one of their aircraft,” Onalaja said in the statement.

The spokesman for the company said the boy told investigators that he gained access into the airside through an opening at Ile- Zik, the perimeter fence along Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway.

He said the orphan passed through General Aviation Terminal, Air Force hanger and walked down to MMA2 where he hid himself at the Apron. “He saw staff on duty at GAT and Air Force hanger but dodged them and passed through the bush,” the statement noted.

“The incident boy was brought out of the aircraft and taken to the MMA2 clinic for first aid medical attention. He was later transferred for further treatment to the FAAN clinic where he regained consciousness at about 10:20a.m.

“We are an active part of the ongoing investigation to ascertain exactly what happened and to aid the prevention of any such occurrence in the future,” Onalaja said.

According to the statement, the boy has been discharged from the hospital and taken to the FAAN Crime Office at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport along with United Nigeria Security Guard for further questioning.

By Kayode Oyero 


Friday, September 2, 2022

Video - Low wages, and lack of infrastructure leading to a "brain drain" in Nigeria's IT sector

Nigerians with sought-after skills, especially in information technology, are leaving the country in high numbers. Kelechi Emekalam reports Nigeria's best and brightest are being lured away by the promise of better salaries and modern infrastructure in other countries.

More children out of school in Nigeria than in war-torn Ethiopia, Congo

A report by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), has put the number of out of school children in Nigeria under President Muhammadu Buhari at a whopping 20.2 million.

The report published on Thursday on the website of the United Nations agency, noted that out of an estimated 244 million out-of-school children around the world, Nigeria alone accounts for over 20 million of the total, which is above 10 percent of the entire figure.

According to the figure, Nigeria has more out-of-school children than war-torn African countries like Ethiopia with 10.5 million out-of-school children, Congo with 5.9 million and drought-ravaged Kenya which has only 1.8 million out-of-school children.

An accompanying statement by UNESCO’s Director-General, Audrey Azoulay, noted that sub-Saharan Africa remains the region with the most children and youths out of school, with a total of 98 million children with Nigeria churning up about 47 percent of the figure.

“It is also the only region where this number is increasing: out-of-school rates are falling more slowly than the rate at which the school-age population is growing.

“Important data gaps have been filled in countries that have large out of school numbers but where no administrative data of good quality has been available for over a decade, such as Nigeria which has an estimated 20.2 million children and youth out of school, Ethiopia (10.5 million), the Democratic Republic of Congo (5.9 million) and Kenya (1.8 million),” the UNESCO chief said.

“In view of these results, the objective of quality education for all by 2030, set by the United Nations, risks not being achieved. We need a global mobilization to place education at the top of the international agenda,” Azoulay added.

By Isaac Dachen

Ripples Nigeria

Thursday, September 1, 2022

Video - Security beefed up in public spaces amid terror threats in Nigeria

The Nigerian government says it's deploying more security personnel to protect schools, hospitals, and infrastructure across the country. This follows a recent threat by terrorists to attack national assets and infrastructure. But experts want the government to go beyond increased deployment of troops and use other means to address the threat of terror.

Dubai's Emirates to resume Lagos flights after Nigeria releases funds

Emirates will resume some flights to Nigeria this month after the Central Bank of Nigeria released a portion funds the Dubai airline had earned in the country but had not been able to repatriate.

An airline spokesperson said flights to Lagos will resume from Sept. 11, though it is not possible to resume flights to Abuja in September because resources had already been stood down.

"We continue to engage with the Nigerian authorities to ensure the repatriation of our outstanding and future funds may continue without hindrance," the spokesperson said, welcoming what it said was the central bank's move to release a portion of its blocked funds.

The airline did not say how much money had been released or how much remained blocked.

The state-owned carrier last month announced it was suspending all flights to Nigeria from Sept. 1 after it said it had made no progress with local authorities to access its funds.

Nigeria's Central Bank later said it had released $265 million to airlines to settle outstanding ticket sales.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), the largest airline group, had said that by July Nigeria was blocking airlines from repatriating $464 million in revenue.

By Alexander Cornwell


Related story: Emirates suspends Nigeria passenger flights until further notice

Nigeria displaces South Africa as Korea’s biggest African trade partner

Nigeria has displaced South Africa as the major trading partner of the Republic of Korea on the African continent, Director, Korea-Africa Foundation, Lyeo Woon-ki has said.

Lyeo, who disclosed this in Abuja at a media parley, explained that trade between Nigeria and Korea was two billion dollars in 2021 but that the present figures indicate that the trade volume for 2022 has reached over $1.5 billion as of June this year which surpasses the trade volume between Korea and South Africa.

“The trade volume between Nigeria and Korea is bigger than between Korea and South Africa. In 2021, the figure was around $2 billion and by the half of this year, the figure has gone beyond $1.5 billion. All of these happened despite the COVID-19 pandemic and limited trading. We are sure it will be about two billion dollars by the end of the current year. The balance of trade between both countries is almost equal,” he stated. He added that the Korea-Africa Foundation was established to foster business and cultural cooperation between Korea and the continent.

Lyeo lamented that while Koreans are eager to come to Nigeria for business and cultural activities, the news about the country that is available to the Korean public is unpalatable.

He said: “Unfortunately, the news out there about Nigeria portrays the country as a dangerous place to live. However, my experience is completely different from what I read before coming. I have met a lot of Nigerians these last few days since I came into the country and I can say they are warm and receptive people. Nigeria needs to do a lot more to portray the image of Nigeria abroad.”

Lyeo disclosed that the Foundation will collaborate with the Nigeria Chamber of Commerce and Industry with a view to deepening trade cooperation between the two countries. On his part, the Ambassador of Korea to Nigeria, Kim Young-Chae, described Nigerian youths as vibrant and technology savvy.

“Last year, the embassy here in Abuja sponsored some children to Lagos to interact with Korean companies such as LG and Samsung to see first-hand what they do. We want Nigerian youths to understand our culture while their counterparts also understand the culture of Nigeria. This will foster understanding and cooperation between the people of both countries. We are going to replace that this year as part of efforts to showcase what the embassy of Korea is doing here in Nigeria,” he said.

Young-chae revealed that Nigeria and the Korean Republic are working on signing a military pact to boost the security of Nigeria. He said: “Korea has emerged as one of the strongest military formations in the world. The feat was achieved basically as a survival strategy because of the nature of our existence. I think it will be good if Nigeria and the Korean Republic strike an agreement on military cooperation. Indeed, the Nigerian Minister of Defence had paid a visit to Seoul recently in that regard. I hope this is done very soon as Nigeria continues to battle Boko Haram and banditry.”

By Collins Olayinka

The Guardian