Wednesday, March 30, 2022

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


Gunmen have attacked a train travelling from the Nigerian capital, Abuja, to the city of Kaduna, in an “unprecedented” act of violence that will heighten concerns about a breakdown of security in the country’s troubled northern region.

The death toll is unclear but a local security official told Reuters two train staff and five security personnel had been killed. A senator in Kaduna state separately said three cleaning staff on the train had died. Many others were injured and there were fears that an unknown number had been abducted.

Authorities could not immediately confirm the number of passengers on the train but local media reported that nearly 1,000 people were onboard.

The attackers used explosives to blow up the rail track before opening fire, according to Fidet Okhiria, the chief executive of the state-owned Nigerian Railway Corporation. “There were casualties but we have not been able to confirm the number,” Okhiria told Associated Press, describing the nature of the attack as unprecedented.

The attack occurred in Katari in Kaduna state, 55 miles from Abuja, on Monday evening. Many Nigerians use the railway as a safer alternative to the road route between Abuja and Kaduna, which for years has been one of the most dangerous in Nigeria because of kidnappings and armed bandits.

No group has claimed responsibility for Monday night’s attack but suspicion will fall on bandit groups.A Kaduna government official said passengers trapped on the train and others who had escaped to nearby forests were evacuated on Tuesday morning.

The attack is the most significant on the railway line from the capital since it began operating in 2016. It came two days after gunmen attacked Kaduna airport, killing a security guard before soldiers intervened.

Details of the latest incident emerged on Monday night, when passengers posted on social media that they were being shot at. One passenger who posted on Twitter during the attack that she had been shot later died, her colleagues said.

Some passengers complained that the attack continued for at least an hour before soldiers arrived to rescue them.

Video footage broadcast by local media showed passengers with bullet wounds and damaged carriages.

It has not been possible to establish a precise death toll. A senator in Kaduna, Shehu Sani, said passengers and police reported multiple deaths.

“Police officers confirmed that three train cleaners were killed. My friend’s wife, who was on the train, also said many people in her carriage were killed and injured and many kidnapped and taken away into the bush,” he said. “I got distress calls from some of the passengers. Even from the call you can hear the gunshots.”

The security situation in Kaduna had been gradually deteriorating, Sani said. “We used to travel by road, and the bandits blocked the road. Then we resorted to using the trains. Now this incident.”

Samuel Aruwan, a commissioner for defence at the Kaduna state government, said injured passengers had been taken to hospitals and that the government would cover the cost of their treatment. Relatives of the injured have made public appeals for people in Kaduna to donate blood.

Federal authorities have yet to release a statement.

Much of north-west and central Nigeria has been in the grip of attacks by so-called bandit groups, proscribed terrorists in Nigeria, who have carried out mass killings mainly in villages, rural towns and motorways. The groups – mostly ethnic Fulanis – have kidnapped thousands of people for ransom as well as killing, stealing and committing acts of sexual violence.

They emerged from a historical conflict that has worsened dramatically, between largely Fulani pastoralists and farmers of varying ethnic groups, over access to water and land and the boundaries between private farmland and grazing areas.

In recent years, the groups have overwhelmed communities and been more heavily armed than local police forces and vigilante groups. Kidnaps for ransom, targeting schoolchildren, ordinary civilians, prominent figures and their relatives have boomed in recent years.

The groups have in effect occupied many communities in north-west and central Nigeria, punishing communities that cooperate with authorities and demanding levies.

Jihadist groups have also become increasingly active in north-west Nigeria, exploiting the lack of security and in some cases working with bandits to carry out kidnaps.

Airstrikes have been launched on the hideouts of armed groups in a forested expanse stretching from northern Nigeria into Niger but the attacks have continued.

The Guardian

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Friday, March 25, 2022

Video - Black Snow: Nigeria’s Oil Catastrophe


Oil theft known as “bunkering” and the refining that comes with it are sickening and killing Nigerians living amid the pollution. It’s also creating one of the world's most severe ecological disasters.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Nigerian billionaire Dangote launches $2.5 billion fertilizer plant as prices soar

Nigerian billionaire Aliko Dangote opened a 3-million-tonne fertilizer plant at a cost of $2.5 billion on Tuesday to target African and foreign markets even as the war in Ukraine has driven up prices for natural gas, a key ingredient for making urea.

Dangote said exports from the plant will go to Brazil, which relies heavily on Russia for imports of fertilizer. Shipments will also go to the United States, India and Mexico, he said at the launch.

Fertilizer prices have been rising at a time when planting usually picks up around the world, especially after Russia, the world's biggest exporter of fertilizer, invaded Ukraine last month. The war has also disrupted shipping.

The plant, commissioned by President Muhammadu Buhari and located at the Lekki Free Zone in Lagos State, is designed to produce 3 million tonnes of urea per year and supply all the major markets in sub-Saharan Africa.

Many in Nigeria hope the Dangote plant will help alleviate chronically low crop yields in Africa's most populous country, partly due to insufficient access to fertilizer.

Agriculture accounts for 20% of Nigeria's gross domestic product, with crop production contribution the highest with the farming subsector.

However, low fertilizer production and the high cost of importing fertilisers has reined in seed production. Fertilizer consumption in Nigeria ranks below its African peers.

According to the World Bank, Nigeria consumed around 20 kg of fertiliser per hectare of arable land in 2018, compared with 73 kg in South Africa and 393 kg in China.

The Central Bank of Nigeria has barred the use of its foreign exchange for fertiliser imports as part of a raft of controls aimed at boosting domestic production.

Other producers in Nigeria include Notore (NOTORE.LG), which has the capacity to produce 500,000 metric tonnes per annum of urea, and Singapore-owned Indorama Eleme Petrochemicals Ltd, which plans to double its annual output of urea fertilizer to 2.8 million tonnes.


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Video - Aljazeera speaks with Africa's richest man Aliko Dangote





Friday, March 18, 2022

Video - Nigeria bans foreigners from buying farm produce directly from local famers


Nigeria has banned foreigners from purchasing agricultural products directly from local farmers. This means that only registered local buyers can purchase from farm gates - and then sell to foreigners. The government says the policy is geared towards mitigating the exploitation of local farmers. CGTN's Kelechi Emekalam reports.

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Video - Nigeria plans to spend tens of billions to modernise railway network


Nigeria is planning to spend tens of billions of US dollars to modernise its railway network. The overhaul could give remote parts of the country a huge economic boost. Al Jazeera's Ahmed Idris reports from Lagos.

Al Jazeera

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Increased Power Shortages Compounds Nigeria’s Fuel Scarcity Woes

Nigerians are experiencing even less reliable electricity supply than usual amid gasoline scarcity that has caused long queues at gas stations for over a month in the West African nation.

In recent weeks, provision of power to Nigerian homes and businesses has been especially patchy, leaving them ever more reliant on expensive and polluting generators that run on gasoline and diesel.

The deterioration in the electricity supply is due to “very low power generation” by the nation’s power plants, the state-owned Transmission Company of Nigeria, or TCN, said last week. More than a dozen gas-powered facilities were either not operating or producing limited output at various points during the past two months, it said.

Nigerians are already contending with shortages of gasoline that have resulted in long queues outside filling stations for more than a month since the authorities rejected imported cargoes of the fuel for containing too much methanol.

More than 40% of the country’s approximately 200 million people don’t have access to grid electricity, according to the World Bank. Those that are connected to the grid endure frequent outages forcing them to rely on self-generated backup power with an estimated capacity of 40,000 megawatts.

The generation companies acknowledge they are struggling but attribute their current difficulties to the dilapidation of Nigeria’s transmission infrastructure -- the national grid collapsed twice in two days this week -- and years of being underpaid for their power. While the electricity plants could produce an average of about 7,100 megawatts between 2016 and 2021, the grid was able to receive less than 3,800 megawatts over the same period, according to the Association of Power Generation Companies, or APGC.

The power stations have lost out on 1.7 trillion naira ($4.1 billion) since 2015 by being unable to dispatch this “stranded capacity,” APGC Executive Secretary Joy Ogaji told reporters on March 13. The state-owned Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Co., or NBET, also owes the generation companies “huge sums” for electricity that was sent out to the grid and supplied to customers.

While data about the outstanding arrears owed to the generation firms wasn’t available, Nigeria’s electricity distribution companies paid NBET, which buys power from generating firms and sells it on, less than 30% of invoices worth 730 billion naira in 2020. This leaves NBET unable to remit full payment to its suppliers.

The government transferred most of Nigeria’s generation and distribution assets to private ownership in 2013, while retaining the transmission network and NBET under state control. The country’s privatization agency said last year it would propose the unbundling and sale of the TCN.

ByWilliam Clowes


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Video - Nigeria's electricity generation crisis continues

Friday, March 11, 2022

Video - Production of eco-friendly sanitary towels in Nigeria


Nigerian woman produce eco-friendly sanitary towels to help girls stay in school.

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Video - Meet Nigeria's first female Boeing 787 Dreamliner pilot


First Nigerian female pilot to fly the Boeing 787 Dreamliner Across the Atlantic, First Officer Adeola Ogunmola talks about her background and how she kept her dream alive with little or no resources.

Nigerian parliament rescinds decision on gender equality bills

Nigeria’s lower house of parliament has rescinded its decision on three bills that it discarded at a constitutional amendment session.

The decision, announced by the House of Representatives on Tuesday, was a volte-face on parliament’s March 1 decision to reject the proposed bills. It will now reconsider the bills in a month when it reconvenes for another parliamentary session.

One of the amendments was to grant citizenship to foreign-born husbands of Nigerian women; the Nigerian constitution already confers automatic citizenship on foreign-born wives of Nigerian men. Another would have given a woman the right to become indigenes of their husband’s state after five years of marriage.

The third provision was to assign 35 percent of legislative seats to women, as well as reserve 35 percent of political party leadership, for women.

The parliamentary decision came hours after women protested across three states and the commercial capital of Lagos, on International Women’s Day. It was the second such protest within a week.
“A slap to the face of Nigerian women”

Tuesday morning’s protests, the second in a week, came on the heels of the federal parliament’s rejection of five bills to promote gender equality. The demonstrations were also a call for justice after recent reports of sexual violence and ritual killings targeting women

In Lagos, women had gathered at the government secretariat at Ikeja, the city’s seat of power, singing loudly and chanting multiple grievances against society and government.

‘’It was a march organised to create awareness that women are no longer sitting on the sidelines to demand to be included in government,’’ Stephanie Etiaka, a Lagos-based tech operations manager, told Al Jazeera. “The recent bills that have been turned [down] by the legislative arm of government are a slap to the face of Nigerian women, saying we know that the system is rigged against you and we are not doing anything to create inclusivity.”

Experts and activists have pointed to a lack of women’s participation in government as a factor responsible for the downscaling of women’s rights, as well as a high rate of gender-based violence and economic inequality in Nigeria.

“There is a reason this country is not working,” Kadaria Ahmed, director of Radio Now 95.3 FM, told Al Jazeera at the Lagos protest. ‘’One of them is the lack of female participation. You cannot deny 50 percent of your population the chance to govern themselves to make laws and policies for themselves and expect that the country will make progress.’’

Womanifesto, a coalition of pro-gender equality women organisations in Nigeria, sent a petition to the state and federal parliaments stressing that “women decry this denial and consider [it] a death knell for everything female and for women’s rights.”

The petition demanded the “urgent re-convening, reconsideration and immediate passage of the five women/gender-related bills’’, among other requests.

In Lagos, a plot twist ensued after a march to the governor’s office. Politician after politician gave speeches about their lobbying efforts within government to ensure equality. And then the crowd began booing the speakers, mostly male members of the state parliament and a few female politicians.

Ireti Bakare, a member of the Womanifesto group and lead organiser of the Lagos rally, expressed disappointment at what she considered a hijacking of the protest by the political elite, for posturing.

‘’It is ridiculous,’’ she said. “[The protest] has been taken over by Lagos state.”

Protesters on the ground said the change in dynamics highlighted the struggle between civil organisations working towards gender equality and the political class. The protest ended with the civil organisations staging a walkout.

Half of Nigeria’s population is female but women’s representation in politics and government is still very low. Despite years of lobbying and activism, political spaces for women continue to shrink. Female legislators currently make up 4 percent of the legislature, a decrease from 5.8 percent in 2015.

At the rally, public officers including the state commissioner for women affairs called for patience, but those present insisted that they had reached the tipping point.

‘’Nigeria has been independent since 1960 and that is a long time to be patient,” Ahmed said. “What we have seen in the last 10 years is retrogression.”

By Ope Adetayo and Eromo Egbejule

Al Jazeera

Monday, March 7, 2022

Video - Fourth Batch of Nigerian Evacuees Arrives Nigeria


Another set of Nigerians fleeing the crisis in Ukraine, have been successfully evacuated by the Nigerian Government. The 306 Nigerians arrived at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport this morning bringing the total number of Nigerians returned to the country to 1,149.

Agriculture Remains Backbone of Nigeria's Economy, Says CBN

Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, says agriculture remains a strong pillar and saving grace for the Nigerian economy. Emefiele said this at the weekend while addressing journalists during an inspection tour of a palm plantation at Odighi Village in Ovia North East Local Government Area of Edo State.

The CBN governor expressed satisfaction with the level of interest shown in agriculture and the tremendous impact the sector had had in the last six years. He wondered how the country could have coped with the rising prices of food and commodity items across the world without the foresight to revamp agriculture.

Emefiele said the central bank had assumed a pivotal role in agriculture since 2015, when President Muhammadu Buhari directed that "we produce what we eat and eat what we produce". The apex bank had come up with several initiatives aimed towards repositioning the sector with a view to creating employment opportunities as well as growing the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), he said.

Shortly after the assessment of farm, Emefiele attested to the giant strides already being recorded in the production of maize and cassava and expressed optimism that in the next 12 months, palm produce harvests would have commenced. He acknowledged the significant role played by Edo State Government, under the leadership of Governor Godwin Obaseki, who he said had matched words with action by making sure that arable land was made available to those genuinely interested in agriculture.

He appealed to other state governors to emulate Edo State, which had so far made available about 70 per cent of the promised arable land.

On the socio-economic impact of the CBN interventions, Emefiele mentioned the Anchor Borrowers' Programme (ABP), among other interventions schemes, which revolutionised agricultural practice whereby smallholder farmers, who hitherto could not approach commercial banks for loans. He said the farmers were now being granted credit facilities in the form of inputs, like seedlings, fertiliser, and herbicides.

He said the smallholder farmers could now cultivate and produce enough for their families and sell produce for loan repayment with ease.

Emefiele also commended the efforts of the promoting company, Agri-Allied Resources and Processing Limited and its parent company, Tolaram Limited, for heeding the clarion by the CBN to source their critical raw materials locally. He pointed out that the company had painstakingly embraced backward integration principle by acquiring farmland, measuring about 18,000 hectares, for the cultivation of oil palm, cassava, and maize - the critical raw materials used by the group.

Earlier, Managing Director of Agri-Allaied Resources, Mr. Madhukar Khetan, said the company had so far accessed a 10-year loan in the sum of N15 billion at single-digit interest rate with two-year moratorium, under the Commercial Agricultural Credit Scheme (CACS), for the project.

The farm currently has a workforce of about 1,000.

By James Emejo

This Day

‘5G to create deals for digitally inclined Nigerians, firms’

Airtel supports families of Nigerians in Ukraine with free calls

Indications have emerged that businesses and corporations in Nigeria are warming up to leverage the high-speed, capacity and low latency features of the impending Fifth-Generation (5G) network rollout in Nigeria to strike beneficial and useful partnership between their organisations and digitally-inclined Nigerians.

This notion resonated at the weekend at the concluding sessions of the 2022 edition of AfricaNXT conference in Lagos.
Panel discussants from different organisations expressed optimism to drastically reduce unemployment in Nigeria by partnering with willing Internet-compliant Nigerians on various projects ahead of the deployment of 5G being driven by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).

At a panel session titled: Built to Last: Hardcoding Resilience Into the DNA of Your Business, discussants revealed that the organisation created digital work tools and employment opportunities by partnering with result-oriented individuals on various financially rewarding technology projects, products and solutions.

It was also noted that this was a way to retain talents, who wish to leave the organisation but can still be partners delivering results remotely by leveraging the world of possibilities that will be unleashed by extant and next-gen technologies and remunerated for work done. They believe that, these smart contracts will reduce unemployment and ensure continuous socio-economic development in Nigeria.

At another panel session on Disruptive Public Relations in the Imminent Metaverse Era, discussants noted that although not completely developed and fully deployed, the Metaverse (a metaverse is a network of 3D virtual worlds focused on social connection) would allow its users to engage in shared experiences.

Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, noted that Nigerians should expect a lot of amazing things with the deployment of 5G services in the country, which he said, would positively impact Nigeria’s socio-economic development.

MEANWHILE, Airtel Nigeria has said that customers on its network could now call their loved ones, family members and friends in Ukraine for free and without any conditions attached, noting that it is important to provide unhindered access to everyone who needs to reach out to their loved ones in Ukraine.

Commenting on the initiative, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, Airtel Nigeria, Surendran Chemmenkotil, said: “Airtel understands that many Nigerians are anxious about the safety and whereabouts of their friends, family members and loved ones in Ukraine and want to stay connected real time with them.”

By Adeyemi Adepetun

The Guardian

Nigerians blocked from volunteering to support Ukraine’s fight against Russia

The Nigerian government on Monday said it will not tolerate the recruitment of its citizens as mercenaries to support Ukraine fighting Russia.

Nigeria’s foreign affairs ministry spokesman Francisca Omayuli in a statement said Nigeria is in talks with Ukrainian counterparts to forestall such an occurrence.

“As a responsible member of the international community and consistent with our obligations under international law, Nigeria discourages the use of mercenaries anywhere in the world and will not tolerate the recruitment, in Nigeria, of Nigerians as mercenaries to fight in Ukraine or anywhere in the world,” Omayuli said.

“The Federal Government will continue to engage with the Embassy of Ukraine in Nigeria and other relevant authorities to prevent this possibility.”

Nigeria’s opposition to hiring its citizens to fight Russia in Ukraine comes days after media reports suggested that Nigerian volunteers were being drafted for the ongoing war.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky last week called on foreign nationals who are “friends of peace and democracy” to travel to the country to fight against the Russian invasion.

“Anyone who wants to join the defence of Ukraine, Europe and the world can come and fight side by side with the Ukrainians against the Russian war criminals,” Zelensky said.

About 115 Nigerians volunteered to join the Ukrainian forces after Zelensky made the call.

But Omayuli said Nigeria will prevent Nigerians from volunteering as mercenaries in the European country despite media reports that Nigerians were asked to pay $1000 for visas and travel tickets before they could be allowed to volunteer.

The Nigerian official, however, said the Ukraine Embassy refuted the reports that any money was demanded from Nigerian volunteers.

“Furthermore, the Embassy clarified that the Ukrainian government is not admitting foreign volunteer fighters and as such dissociated itself from the claim that it is requesting $1,000 from each Nigerian volunteer for air ticket and visa,” Omayuli said.

By Dennis Erezi

The Guardian

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Nigerian volunteer ‘fighters’ besiege Ukraine embassy

At a time Nigerians in Ukraine are struggling to return home, about 115 young men, yesterday, offered to join Ukraine in its fight against Russia.

The men, who besieged the Ukraine Embassy in Abuja, also put down their names in a register provided by the embassy.

Although, The Guardian was barred from taking their photographs, the Second Secretary, Ukraine Embassy, Bohdan Soltys, confirmed the development, adding that no step had yet been taken to that effect.

The volunteers may have been responding to a recent call by Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, urging people around the world to join the fight.

In a statement released last Sunday, the President accused the Russian army of killing civilians and praised Ukrainians for having the courage to defend themselves.

He said that the assault by Russia was not just “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine” but also the beginning of a war against democracy and basic human rights.

Zelensky had called on anyone who wished to join the defense of Ukraine, Europe and the world to come and fight side by side with Ukrainians.

This came as rights group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), faulted the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari for its response to the evacuation of Nigerians in Ukraine.

In a statement by its national coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, said:

“Like other aspects, President Muhammadu Buhari’s Presidency fumbled again. This time, woefully, because it failed to effectively and timeously evacuate Nigerians from Ukraine many weeks before the eventual war started, following the needless invasion of Ukraine by Russia on the illegal orders of President Vladimir Putin.”

In another development, the Federal Government expressed readiness to solidify bilateral ties with the state of Israel, especially in the areas of Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) and socio-economic development.

Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Ogbonnaya Onu, stated this when he received the new Ambassador of the State of Israel to Nigeria, Michael Freeman, in his office in Abuja, yesterday.

Onu informed the newly appointed envoy of the Federal Government’s desire to make Nigeria’s economy more diversified and knowledge-based.

He said: “Nigeria is blessed with natural resources and we have some of the most intelligent people in the world. We want to diversify our economy because we believe, with the huge human capital, we can add value to our raw materials and create jobs for our youths.”

The minister hailed the historical diplomatic ties between both nations, adding that the relationship has yielded positive fruits over the years.

Earlier, Freeman said his country is willing to collaborate further with Nigeria on many socio-economic areas, especially challenges that can be solved using STI.

By Bridget Chiedu Onochie and Sodiq Omolaoye and Ernest Nzor, Abuja 

The Guardian

Video - Nigeria encourages family planning to curb population explosion


The Nigerian government is urging its citizens to use contraceptives as a way of controlling the expanding population. Health workers say a lack of education and religious beliefs are the main reasons hampering the widespread use of family planning methods in the most populous country in Africa.