Friday, April 29, 2022

Video - Nigerian artist turns waste into creative pieces

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

The Criminals Undercutting Nigeria’s Oil Industry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Felicity Bradstock

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

Nigeria number 1 in crude oil theft

The Nigerian entrepreneur who runs ‘an Amazon for blood’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Chika Unigwe 

Al Jazeera

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Video - 10 killed by suspected Boko Haram insurgents in Geidam


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

Nigerians react to Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Ope Adetayo 

Al Jazeera

Video - A student-built robot in Nigeria


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

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Explosion at Nigerian illegal oil refinery kills more than 100

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Al Jazeera

Related story: Nigeria number 1 in crude oil theft

Shell raises concern on unprecedented oil theft in Nigeria

Friday, April 22, 2022

Video - Proposed social media law elicits mixed reactions in Nigeria


A proposal to introduce a new social media regulation in Nigeria has elicited mixed reactions. The government says the new regulation will deter cyber bullying and other online vices, but some social media users think it’s an infringement.

More than 160 passengers still missing from train attacked in Nigeria

More than 160 passengers who were on a train that was attacked in the northern Nigerian city of Kaduna last month remain missing or unaccounted for, as details of possible collaboration between Boko Haram jihadists and local bandits have emerged.

Ten people were killed, two in the weeks since the attack on 28 March, when gunmen bombed the rail tracks, derailing the train before gunning down passengers and train staff, and abducting scores of people.

The Nigerian Railway Corporation that runs the train service said earlier this month that 168 people were unaccounted for, including over 140 passengers it had not been able to reach through registered contacts. At least one person has paid a ransom and been released. A relative of two of the victims said families were not aware of any other freed captives by the assailants.

On Thursday, a spokesperson said that while there had not been an update on the number of passengers missing in two weeks – to the anguish of relatives – new information would be announced soon.

The attack was just one of many by armed groups targeting major transport links and communities across northern Nigeria in recent years and was the most significant targeting the train line between Abuja and a major city in northern Nigeria since it began operating in 2016.

The rail attack, like many incidents in the region, was initially suspected to be carried out by one of the so-called “bandit” terror groups, possibly by mainly ethnic Fulani gunmen who have launched deadly attacks from hideouts in a forested expanse stretching across northwest Nigeria and into the Sahel. The groups, some heavily armed and coordinated, have grown more deadly than jihadist groups. They emerged from a worsening conflict with farmers over encroachments on private farmland by pastoralists and disputes over land. Population growth, rural development and the climate crisis have fuelled a scarcity of land to graze cattle for herders, as historic grazing routes have vanished.

But in recent weeks, government officials and security experts have raised alarm at the involvement of jihadist groups, thought to be increasingly active in north west and central Nigeria. The region has become a nexus for several armed groups and an escape for jihadists facing more intense pressure from the Nigerian army in the northeast, but where insurgency continues to devastate lives.

On Thursday, Islamic State West Africa Province (Iswap), claimed responsibility for an explosion that it said killed or injured 30 people at a market where alcohol was sold in the eastern state of Taraba State, marking an expansion of the area where the extremist group has operated in.

Local government officials have said terror units, aligned with Boko Haram or Iswap are controlling rural communities as far south as Niger state, neighbouring the capital Abuja.

Nigeria’s minister of information and culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said last week that what was happening, “is a kind of an unholy handshake between bandits and Boko Haram insurgents”.

“Preliminary reports of what transpired at the Kaduna train attacks showed that there is a kind of collaboration between the bandits and the dislodged Boko Haram terrorists from the northeast. I can tell you very confidently that the federal government is on top of this matter,” he said.

Earlier this month, an unverified video circulating on social media appeared to show the attackers and dozens of abducted victims, some put forward to plead with the government for their lives. In the video, the assailants spoke in Hausa, saying the government knew their demands.

Yusuf Anka, a researcher based in Zamfara, northwest Nigeria said Ansaru – a Boko Haram unit in the region – had collaborated with bandits to stage the attack on the train, and that the group was seeking the release of their members detained by Nigerian authorities. “If their demands are met, and the prisoners are freed, it will be the first successful negotiation in the northwest for these jihadist elements.”

To ordinary people, attacks by bandits or jihadists were increasingly indistinguishable, he said. While in some areas jihadists have clashed with bandits, in some cases, they were working together. “There are also times where you will see cooperation between them, when attacking government institutions, especially the military or in attacks for financial motives,” Anka said.

Attempts by jihadist groups to rally bandits to their cause had largely failed, with jihadists often positioning themselves to local communities as guardians, offering protection, alternative governance and Sharia law in communities where bandits were intent on attacking.

Meanwhile, survivors and relatives of victims of the train attack have continued to express anguish.

One railway worker hid in the toilet along with two other employees when the train derailed, praying quietly, trying not to cry or make a sound as gunmen began shooting passengers on carriages.

“I’m still experiencing the trauma. I even had to move from Kaduna because I couldn’t sleep there anymore,” said the worker, who asked not to be named.

Four rail staff, friends of his, had been kidnapped, he said. Their relatives were desperately trying to raise ransom funds for their release, after almost a month in captivity.

In Abuja, over the last few weeks, a group made up of families of the kidnapped victims has held press conferences and marches, pleading with the government to help.

“There’s a seven-month pregnant woman, who only gives birth through cesarean section, only God knows what she’s going through … There’s a toddler who is twoyearsold for God’s sake,” a relative said, fighting back tears while others wept around him.

Many of the now frequent mass abductions and killings in Nigeria do not draw an official response from the federal government. When they do, such as after the train attack, President Muhammadu Buhari, pledged again to bring the attackers to justice.

Yet, relatives of victims have bemoaned that the government and security agencies rarely communicate updates and the government has maintained it does not pay ransoms. Families lament that even after victims negotiate directly with militants, security agencies do not collect information about the assailants from the families or the rescued abductees.

By Emmanuel Akinwotu and Alex Uangbaoje

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

Train attackers release hostage video

The Guardian

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Twenty burnt to death in Nigeria road accident

Twenty people, including children, were burnt to death after a public mini-bus collided with a car on a highway in northern Nigeria, the road safety agency said on Tuesday.

"The accident was caused by a speed violation. A driver was injured, 20 were killed and burnt to ashes," the Bauchi state command of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) said in a statement.

In Africa's most populous nation, many roads are poorly maintained and riven with potholes, leading to accidents that claim dozens of lives every year.

Reporting by Ardo Hazzad, Editing by MacDonald Dzirutwe and Sandra Maler


Are Nigeria’s bandits a new Boko Haram cell or rival ‘terrorists’?

On December 11, 2020, more than 300 boys were abducted from a boarding school in Kankara, a small community in the northwestern Nigerian state of Katsina by gunmen on motorcycles.

The incident fit Boko Haram’s modus operandi, and the group’s leader Abubakar Shekau claimed responsibility for the attack in an audio message, before releasing a video of the kidnapped children.

This further lent credence to the assumption by Nigerian politicians and pundits that the group which has waged war in the northeast for more than a decade, was the orchestrator of the brazen attack.

Within a month, the victims were released.

But in March 2021, Auwalun Daudawa, a notorious kingpin of one of the gangs responsible for abduction sprees in the northwest, claimed responsibility for Kankara. “I did that in Katsina because the governor [Aminu Masari] came out to say he will not dialogue again with our people,” he told the local Daily Trust newspaper.

According to local media reports, the abduction had been a joint operation by seven different gangs who had sent a video to Shekau asking him to claim responsibility. They knew that the government “feared Boko Haram more than them” and would be willing to meet the demands quickly.

The plan worked. According to the schoolboys, an unspecified amount was paid as ransom within days, even though the government repeatedly denied this.
Mislabelling and underestimation

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

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

But debate has been raging on many details about the bandits, including their capacity to shock the state and whether they were petty criminals or more advanced gangsters. In January 2022, the government proscribed them as “terrorists”.

On March 28, an unknown number of heavily armed men attacked a moving train between Nigeria’s capital Abuja and neighbouring Kaduna state. They detonated an explosive device to stop the train before shooting into the carriages, killing at least eight people and abducting a still unspecified number of passengers.

This happened a couple of days after an attack on an international airport and preceded another attack on a military facility – all in Kaduna.

The train attack was one of the highest-profile attacks to date in northern Nigeria and triggered a debate. But across social media and even in the corridors of power, the episode is being widely attributed, once again, to Boko Haram.

Since the Kankara school kidnapping, Nigerian government officials and public commentators have been quick to assign blame for major bandit operations to “jihadists”.

But experts say this constant mislabelling represents a longstanding underestimation of the northwest armed bandits and the complex dynamics of the region’s evolving conflict.

A close examination of the activities of these groups suggests that they pose a unique and perhaps, even more complex threat than Boko Haram and its factions, including ISWAP.

Key to their increasing notoriety and multiplication is increasingly easy access to sophisticated military-grade weapons, mostly through the many porous borders of West Africa and the wider Sahel.

But the high number of civilian casualties is also due to divergent modus operandi between armed bandits and the so-called jihadists.

For example, ISWAP, arguably still the most influential armed group in Nigeria today, focuses on attacking government forces and installations. Its commanders also tax and govern rural communities rather than terrorise them, said James Barnett, a research fellow at the Institute of African and Diaspora Studies, University of Lagos.

But the bandits comprise dozens of unaffiliated groups often competing for territory or spoils from raids and have no unified chain of command or single objective, complicating state efforts to conclude disarmament deals.

“There is no single leader or group of leaders that the state can negotiate with who has real control over the thousands of armed bandits operating in northern Nigeria,” said Barnett.

Unlike the armed groups operating in northeastern Nigeria, the bandits of the northwest who are also more in number, are mostly driven by economic opportunism and have no clear political ideology, said Fola Aina, a fellow at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies (RUSI), in London.

But the possibility of them adopting one soon – or even synergy between both groups – cannot be ruled out.

Most of the bandits are ethnic Fulani and have grievances stemming from perceived marginalisation in a state of predominantly Hausa people.

Consequently, they are “potential prime targets for manipulation and being co-opted by jihadis operating within the region, who have more clearly defined political objectives and are keen to increase the number of their foot soldiers, following the deaths of many at the hands of Nigerian security forces,” said Aina.
A layered conflict

And now the government may be recognising the signs, too.

After the Abuja-Kaduna train attack, sources within the Nigerian government blamed Boko Haram for these attacks and suggested that armed bandits did not possess the coordination and power to plan such an attack.

But in a recent interview, Nasir El-Rufai, governor of Kaduna, one of the states most affected by the crisis, said the attack bore the hallmarks of a collaboration between armed bandits and Boko Haram elements.

This view was reinforced on April 13 by information minister Lai Mohammed who said there was “an unholy handshake” at play.

Seven nights before the attacks on the airport and the train, a middle-ranking bandit based in Aja in Zamfara forest received a call from a criminal boss in another forest closer to Kaduna.

The former told Al Jazeera that it was an invitation for a job in Kaduna but he turned it down because he “just had a new bride” and wanted to spend time with her and enjoy Ramadan at home.

He implied that the attack in Kaduna was financially motivated and executed by multiple armed bandits from Zamfara, the epicentre of the crisis, alongside a few members of Ansaru – another Boko Haram splinter group.

But it was also “because the military raided a settlement of the armed bandit leader who is the closest friend of Ansaru some weeks ago, killing eight of his men, taking close to 30 motorcycles and recovering 11 rifles,” he told Al Jazeera.

The bandit also said his comrades were willing to let the Ansaru members “take credit to create the Boko Haram impression and make the government more scared but the Fulani there are only interested in the money”.

Beyond reprisals for military operations and air strikes leading to the arrest of some of their own, the bandits are also motivated by vengeance against ethnic Hausa vigilantes who they accuse of killing their wives and children. This has led to attacks against host communities of the vigilantes.

Al Jazeera also learned that there have been multiple efforts by Ansaru to convert the bandits – but a difference in ideologies has frustrated those moves.

From 2019 to 2020, Ansaru members held a series of preaching exercises in towns like Munhaye and Dandallah, both in Zamfara. During these sermons, they directed the bandits to desist from stealing, smoking, drinking, adultery, and to embrace fasting and prayers.

The bandits ignored this, leading to the deaths of five armed bandits and the planting of an explosive that detonated, resulting in the death of a high-profile bandit leader.

This severed relations between several armed bandits and the Ansaru, with the former even giving the latter an ultimatum at some point. This may jeopardise any future collaborations, except for commercial purposes.

A January study published by the United States Military Academy’s Journal of Terrorism Studies, based partly on interviews with armed bandits and “jihadist” defectors, concluded that: “Nigeria’s armed bandits have grown so powerful that they are not in desperate need of cooperation with jihadis, let alone a need to convert to jihadism.”

For the Nigerian government at all tiers, understanding the layered dynamics at play could be useful for any counterinsurgency operations.

By Yusuf Anka

Al Jazeera 

Related stories: Nigeria leader vows "no mercy" for gunmen behind massacre that left more than 150 dead in country's north

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Video - Conflict between herdsmen and farmers remains deadly in Nigeria

Monday, April 18, 2022

Facebook’s fibre optics in Nigerian state put Africa pivot in focus

When government officials in the southern Nigerian state of Edo set about radically improving poor internet access for its population of 4 million, they didn’t have to look far for help. MainOne, a company responsible for laying a vast network of fibre-optic cables across west Africa, was an obvious partner. Another, perhaps less obvious one, was Facebook.

A joint agreement was signed to install fibre-optic cables running across the state’s capital, Benin City. Since 2019, 400km (250 miles) of cables have been laid in Edo, about a quarter via the partnership between the two companies and the government.

“Obviously, Facebook isn’t really a digital infrastructure company, but they invested in these cables,” said Emmanuel Eweka, who worked as a senior government official for the Edo government until last September.

In recent years, as Facebook has come under rising legislative pressure in the west, the company has increased its focus on Africa, particularly in countries where the regulatory and legislative environment tends to be much looser.

The combination of weak and expensive internet coverage for most of Nigeria’s fast-growing population of more than 200 million people has meant that companies hoping to tap into a potential goldmine of new users – and their data – have sought to invest in the business of helping those potential users get online in the first place.

“To make internet data more affordable, Facebook needs to build infrastructures that are almost free,” Eweka said. “In fact, I’d say Facebook actually loses in terms of making money out of those cables. But then they gain it back on the user data that they will generate, and obviously that has huge potential in a country like Nigeria.”

New potential users are rapidly emerging in countries with fast-growing populations and rising smartphone use driven by increased connectivity. Just over half of Nigeria’s population currently has access to the internet, and the proportion with access is rising each year.

In places like Edo, where government officials are committed to overhauling sparse and expensive internet access, there are ripe opportunities for Meta, Facebook’s parent company, to become increasingly central to digital infrastructure, thereby positioning itself to capitalise on the increased connectivity that will follow.

Edo’s governor, Godwin Obaseki, has in recent years driven a digitisation agenda that touches on many areas of ordinary life, and tech companies have become fundamental parts of it.

In 2019, Facebook invested $20m in internet infrastructure in Edo, and committed alongside MainOne to laying 750km of fibre-optic cables in Edo and the south-western state of Ogun. Both states have committed to building business and technology hubs, expanding internet access for entrepreneurs, tech workers, government agencies and schools.

Faster internet supplied through the cables has underpinned a drive to change the way the government in Edo works.

The state’s previously “analogue” civil service now uses a Microsoft-based government portal, according to Eweka, using fibre-optic internet access provided by MainOne and Facebook. “The level of accountability this system brings is so effective,” Eweka said. “Right now, if a case file is sent to a civil servant from the governor’s office, the governor can see exactly when it is opened, and whether it has been actualised. So the days where you send one file somewhere and it gets lost in the system are gone.”

Schools in Edo and areas where fibre-optic cables can be accessed have benefited from subsidised internet connectivity and are also working with Microsoft-based learning programs, improving the quality of education, officials say.

Last November, the government launched the Edo Tech Park, a largely as-yet-unbuilt project on 200,000sq km of land that developers envision will be the centre of the state’s growing tech ecosystem.

The hub will provide “live-in, work apartments, residential and commercial real estate, tech incubators, and offices for rent”. Fundamental to the plans are the increased access to faster and cheaper internet services that Meta has helped provide.

Stephen Osawaru, a 38-year-old entrepreneur and business consultant in Benin City, works with a network of more than 300 startups in the state. “Many internet businesses in education, agriculture, health and finance didn’t exist five years ago that have now taken advantage of the connectivity in Edo,” he said. “The internet is better and cheaper than it was five years ago; internet penetration is growing at an exponential rate and creating more opportunities,” he said. Both of his businesses have thrived as a result of engagement through Facebook and Instagram and through WhatsApp broadcasts to customers.

Funke Opeke founded MainOne in 2008. Since then, a single deep-sea cable running south along the edge of the Atlantic, from Portugal to west Africa and on to South Africa, has expanded, spawning a vast maze of fibre-optic connections. She describes the public-private partnerships in Edo as “a model” for how internet access in Nigeria can be rapidly increased.

Opeke said cables are leased by other telecommunication companies and that this lowered costs for mobile operators because operators do not have to build their own infrastructure.

“We also build to all the critical points of importance for governments so that we’re able to deliver services to them and help their automation. It’s accelerating development and state services to the people – a win-win for the government and the private sector.”

Others are more circumspect, acknowledging the potential benefits to the country alongside the motives of the companies involved. When partnership announcements are made, the tone has sounded “quite altruistic, like they [the technology companies] are doing this to help,” said Gbemisola Alonge, a senior development analyst at Stears, an economic analysis company in Lagos. “But it’s never like that. It’s to expand their reach and increase their [user] base.”

A Meta spokesperson said the company worked with partners “to drive innovation on all aspects of performance and efficiency” and that its partnership with MainOne had helped bring online training to 2,000 teachers in Edo and connectivity to four schools and their surrounding communities

By Emmanuel Akinwotu

The Guardian

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Video - Amazon Prime Video signs deal with Nollywood

Amazon Prime Video is looking to attract new subscribers from Africa through a new deal with Nigerian filmmakers. The movie streaming platform has signed exclusive streaming agreements with two Nigeria production companies, which analysts say could boost Nigeria’s film industry to become the country’s largest export. 

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Video - Nigerian short film Chuks premieres at Toronto International short Film Festival


Nigeria leader vows "no mercy" for gunmen behind massacre that left more than 150 dead in country's north

Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari has vowed there will be "no mercy" for gunmen who killed more than 150 people in a series of weekend attacks in the country's north. In some of the worst violence Nigeria has seen this year, armed gunmen on motorcycles raided and razed a group of villages in the northern Plateau state, highlighting growing insecurity in the region.

Villagers have been scouring bushes and other terrain for missing loved ones since the Sunday attacks. Many locals were shot trying to flee from the gunmen. Residents have said women and children were abducted by the attackers, but the number of those abducted remained unclear.

More than 80 victims were buried earlier this week in mass funeral services in the four villages, as additional security forces arrived in the area.

In a statement issued by his spokesman, President Buhari urged residents to "expose the perpetrators of such incidents, their sponsors and those who encourage such criminals who carry out these dastardly acts of murder, so that the law will take its course."

Eyewitnesses said more than 100 houses were set alight, as well as a cell phone tower. Telephone service was already unreliable in the remote region, making it difficult for residents to call police for help, but also for news of the attacks to get out.

Analysts say criminal gangs, known in Nigeria as bandits, from the bordering northwest Kaduna state have become more brazen in recent years. The region has seen clashes between local farmers and herders over access to water and land for years, which evolved into criminal gangs that carry out revenge killings.

On March 28, bandits targeted a train travelling from Abuja to Kaduna state, blowing up the tracks, killing eight people and kidnapping dozens more. Several videos of the hostages have been released, showing them in a forest surrounded by armed men, pleading to the camera for the government to help.

More than a dozen soldiers were killed last week by gunmen who attacked an army base in Kaduna state.

Nigerian security forces say they're stretched too thin as they battle a 12-year jihadist insurgency by the Boko Haram extremist group and the regional ISIS affiliate in the northeast of the country. That conflict has driven more than 2 million people from their homes and left more than 40,000 dead since 2009.

The Northern Elders Forum, a council of local leaders, issued a statement on Tuesday calling on Buhari to resign immediately, arguing that he's failed to deal with killings, kidnappings, and general insecurity in the country during his seven years in office. 


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

Dozens killed in ‘barbaric, senseless’ violence in Nigeria

Canada salvages draw with Nigeria

Shelina Zadorsky shone among the brightest at Starlight Stadium on Monday night.

The centre back for Canada’s women’s soccer team scored the tying goal in the 88th minute to salvage a 2-2 draw for her team in a friendly against Nigeria in Victoria, B.C.

Zadorsky connected on a header on a cross from Janine Beckie, just after a Canadian corner kick. It was her third international goal in her 80th appearance for Canada.

“I think Shelina had a great game. Set play goals are what she wants to be known for, and for her to deliver that – it was a great header,” head coach Bev Priestman told the media after the game.

Zadorsky not only delivered on offence but was also a steadying presence on the Canadian backline, shutting down numerous Nigerian opportunities.

“I've just been training really hard, working on set pieces and really set goals for myself to be a game-changing centre back,” she said postgame.

It’s this positive attitude that has been Zadorsky’s guiding light for the past year as she adjusts to a new role with the national team.

Monday was just her third start and fifth total appearance in the past 12 games for Canada. The native of London, Ont., was a mainstay on the Canadian backline for many years, playing every minute for her country at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

But that changed at the start of the knockout round of the Tokyo Olympics, when Priestman opted to start Vanessa Gilles (who at that point had seven caps to her name) alongside Zadorsky’s long-time partner at centre back, Kadeisha Buchanan.

Gilles ended up becoming a breakout star for Canada at the tournament, and she and Buchanan have now become Priestman’s go-to pairing to anchor the team’s backline.

After the tournament, Canada’s coach said the decision not to start Zadorsky was a difficult one, calling the 29-year-old “one of the most consistent players” for the team.

“Every player has challenges in their career,” Zadorsky told TSN before Monday’s game. “I think it's a privilege to be on a team with so many – first and foremost, great centre backs – but also just great players who are fighting to be on the pitch.”

It’s an adjustment no player at the top level wants to endure, especially one who was playing key minutes on the international stage for many years.

“It's absolutely a grind,” she said. “But I think that's where I've really challenged myself – to look at my stats, look at where I can get better, where are the growths I can make. I'm the craziest critic of myself, so, I'm always pushing to get better.”

Priestman said she and Zadorsky have had a lot of frank conversations about how to get the defender to the best level on the pitch. After February’s Arnold Clark Cup, Priestman sat down with all her players for in-depth evaluations.

“She's not going to accept not being a starter, and I love that,” Priestman told TSN last week. “I'm incredibly lucky. I think we've got some top, top centre backs. It's a great problem to have.”

For Zadorsky’s detailed assessment, Priestman compared her to some of the best centre backs in the world and outlined what she believes the Canadian defender needs to target on both ends of the pitch.

“I think the most important thing for me is I'll always be honest, and I think that's my philosophy. When I tell a player that they're not starting… I just feel like my job is to be completely honest,” Priestman said.

“Bev and I have a great relationship,” Zadorsky said. “I'm a mature player in the sense that I've had a lot of experience. I always speak my mind, and I'm always honest with my own performances and whatnot. Bev's pushing me in a way that is good and positive.”

Even though Zadorsky is fighting to reclaim a role as a starer, she believes the Canadian team is never about the individuals, but the collective.

“We have so many good characters. It's not a team where anyone wants someone to do poorly. We all want to get the best out of each other, and I think that's what got us on the podium – being a team,” she said.

Part of Zadorsky’s character is being a leader for her teammates, whether she’s on or off the pitch. Photos of Canada’s gold-medal run in Tokyo show Zadorsky being among the most vocal cheerleaders for her team, especially during penalties against Brazil and Sweden.

“That's how I like to go about life – just trying my best to bring the best out of other people,” she said. “Ultimately, I love playing football because I love being in a team. So, I always try and bring the good energy and really just help people perform to their best.”

Zadorsky has carried that leadership to her club at Tottenham, where she has captained the team for the past year. She made the move to the Women’s Super League in England in 2020 after playing four seasons in the National Women’s Soccer League.

“To be able to play in one of the best leagues in the world is incredible,” she said. “I think it's challenged me in new ways, against incredible international forwards, week in and week out.”

Zadorsky said the coaches at Tottenham have a close relationship with Priestman and her staff at Canada, and the two sides have been working together to push her to new heights.

“It's just being ready for the opportunities,” she said. “And when they do come, being able to absolutely put your best foot forward.”

Just like she did on Monday night.

By Meaghen Johnson


Monday, April 11, 2022

VP Osinbajo finally declares to run for president

Nigeria’s Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has finally declared to run for president, ending months of speculations and tepid denials.

“I formally declare my intention to run for the office of the President, Federal Republic of Nigeria, on the platform of our great party, the All Progressives Congress,” Osinabjo said in a video posted to his social media handles Monday morning, shunning the fanfare that characterised the declarations by some aspirants.

The VP will be squaring up against APC bigwigs including his political benefactor and former governor of Lagos State Bola Tinubu, transportation minister Rotimi Amaechi, former governor of Imo State Rochas Okorocha and governors of Kogi and Ebonyi states Yahaya Bello and Dave Umahi.

Osinbajo served 8 years as attorney-general and commissioner for justice in Lagos State when Tinubu was the governor between 1999 and 2007. He was nominated as the running mate to Muhammadu Buhari in December 2014, the then-candidate of the APC for the 2015 presidential election.

Osinbajo has since served about seven years as vice president to President Muhammadu Buhari, whom he described as a “true Nigerian patriot”.

He said he and Buhari spent the last seven years working through some of the most difficult times in the history of the country, focusing on securing the country, providing infrastructure and growing its economy.

Osinbajo said being Nigeria’s VP since 2015 has afforded the opportunities to understand the “diverse experiences and yearnings” of Nigerians.

“In these seven years, I have served the government in several capacities and I have, at the direction of Mr President, represented our country in sensitive high-level international engagements.

“I’ve been to practically all local governments in Nigeria. I’ve been in markets, in factories, in schools, in farms.

“I’ve been in agricultural, mining and oil-producing communities in the Delta, in Kebbi, in Enugu, in Borno, in Rivers, in Plateau and Ondo and in all other states of the federation, listening to the diverse experiences and yearnings of our people.

“I’ve visited our gallant troop in the Northeast and brothers and sisters in the IDP camps. I’ve felt the pain and anguish of victims of violent conflicts, terrorist attacks, flooding, fire and other disasters.

“I’ve been in the homes of many ordinary Nigerians in various parts of the country. I’ve sat with our techpreneurs in Lagos, Edo and kaduna, with our Nollywood and Kannywood actors, with sour musicians from Lagos, Onitsha and Kano, and I’ve spoken to small and large businesses.

“I stood where they stood and I sat where they sat. I know their hopes and their aspirations and their fears. And in I believe that in those hopes and aspirations are the seeds for the great Nigeria that we all desire.”

The Guardian

Friday, April 8, 2022

Video - Nigeria launches special navy operation to curb sabotage, theft


Nigeria's government has launched a special operation led by its navy to curb sabotage and theft of oil in the country's oil-producing areas. Nigeria is battling an unprecedented oil theft which has seen production drop drastically leading to huge loss of revenue. The country has also not been able to meet its OPEC quota for quite some time now as a result of the problem. CGTN's Deji Bademosi has more on the story.

Nigeria's ex-president unhurt in road crash, two security aides killed

Former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan was unhurt in a crash involving his motorcade but two of his security aides were killed in the incident on Wednesday, his media office said Thursday.

Two other security aides of Jonathan also sustained injuries in the accident which involved a car carrying the security men in the vicinity of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, while the former president was on his way out of the city on Wednesday evening, the media office said in a statement.

"The former president who described the incident as painful and heart-rending stated that the sudden death of the two security details has thrown him into deep mourning," the statement said, without revealing the cause of the accident.

The deceased were police officers attached as security details to Jonathan, who was the Nigerian leader from 2010 to 2015.

Jonathan described the deceased aides as "fine officers who were dedicated to their duties and service to the nation," according to the media office's statement.


Train attackers release hostage video

More than a week after an Abuja-Kaduna train was attacked, gunmen released a hostage video depicting the captors and one of the abducted passenger who has since been freed.

Gunmen who carried an attack on a passenger train on March 28 before abducting an undiclosed number of passangers have released a video. In the footage, Alwan Ali-Hassan, a bank manager in Nigeria is surrounded by four masked gunmen in military uniform.

The hostage calls on the authorities to meet the demands of his captors to secure the release of other hostages who "are in a desperate situation," he says. Some may have returned home and failed to contact the authorities.

The AFP couldn't independently authenticate the video but Ali-Hassan relatives confirmed he was now free since Wednesday.


So far, no armed group or jihadist group has claimed responsibility for this attack, or for the video, which was shot in a forest area. Armed men locally called bandits have terrorised communities, conducting mass kidnappings for ransom, raiding villages and stealing cattle in the northwest and central Nigerian states.

Although criminal gangs used not to make ideological claims, there is growing concern about the infiltration of jihadists into these gangs. In the video visible elements are reminiscent of the propaganda footage fabricated by jihadist groups operating in northeastern Nigeria, hundreds of miles away.

One week after the men attacked a train with explosives in northwestern Nigeria, the whereabouts of 168 passengers are still unknown, according to the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC). 8 Passengers died during the attack.

Africa News

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

Monday, April 4, 2022

Video - Nigeria manufacturers warn of imminent job cuts as diesel prices soar


Nigeria is experiencing nationwide power outages caused by poor electricity generation and distribution. Businesses and homes are relying on generators, but the rising cost of diesel is adding to the problems. In the past 10 years, its electricity grid has had 200 system failures. Despite having four refineries, Africa’s biggest oil producer does not refine its crude oil. Instead, it imports fuel. Nigeria’s current electricity supply is only 4,000 megawatts for a population of more than 200 million. As the electricity supply worsens, thousands of industries have stopped working, throwing millions out of their jobs. Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris reports from Nigeria’s commercial capital, Lagos.

Video - Ghana-Nigeria rivalry transcends from cuisine to the pitch


The flavourful and spicy Jollof rice is the King of West African cuisines. That explains the unending banter about which African nation has the mastery of this infamous delicacy. The rivalry is particularly intense between Nigeria and neighboring Ghana. CGTN's Kelechi Emekalam brings us this report on the Jollof rice dispute.

Nigeria’s luxury home markets soared in 2021, record increase in sale prices

The Nigerian luxury real estate market is getting a significant boost from increasing number of wealthy individuals, who are seeking to own multiple homes and new portfolios.

The luxury residential market increased last year as a result of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, as many in the working class saw the need for better homes with access to facilities that encourage Work From Homes (WFH) policies.

Such facilities, include steady electricity supply and stable internet connections. Besides, increase in insecurity drove many to seek more secure neighbourhoods within gated communities.

The fall of the Naira relative to the dollar has also made purchase of houses more affordable for those in the diaspora, leading to an increase in demand, with its upward effect on the price of the residential units.

According to Knight Frank Nigeria, Port Harcourt, Abuja and Lagos recorded an increase in sale prices between 10 per cent to 12 per cent across the prime neighbourhoods in these cities.

“The motivations for price increase include adequate security and power supply as well as the quality of houses in these areas.

In 2022, Knight Frank anticipates a gradual increase in the demand for prime real estate, but not necessarily the super luxury class. “An expanding middle class desirous of quality housing will fuel increase in demand,” Chief Executive Officer, Knight Frank Nigeria, Mr. Frank Okosun said.

“As long as the offerings continue to match the expectations of the home purchasers, demand will remain sustainable. The growth of this demand is likely to be muted by the state of the wider national and global economy,” he said.

The Director, School of Environmental Studies, Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, Ogun State, Dr. Samson Agbato, said despite the country’s struggling economy and general unease, overall market activity in various residential sub-asset classes remained strong in the first half of the year.

Agbato, an estate surveyor and valuer, said Lagos and Abuja recorded an average of 25-30 per cent increase in price. The Lagos Island residential real estate market in H1 2021, for example, was characterised by the short let bubble, and the millennials’ rule.

“The increase in prices can be attributed to the all-time high price of land in prime locations on the Lagos Island (particularly in gated communities like Banana Island, Shoreline Estate, Cowrie Creek, and Pinnock Beach Estate).

“Fast-rising off-plan development activities, continuous rule of millennials, a short-let market bubble, an increasing number of off-market listings,” he said.

In 2022, Agbato said the residential real estate market would remain mostly unchanged from where it was in 2021 as fewer rooms will continue to be demanded in city centres as against four to five bedrooms.

“Short-term rentals will continue to receive upward reviews. Therefore, developers will make every effort to meet the highest possible standards in their projects, and some transactions will be completed for much more than the asking (and market) price, even though few ones may close for undisclosed sums,” he said.

The Guardian learnt there was “unexpected increase in demand for luxury homes,” while wealth creation also played a big role in driving price and demand growth in 2021. There were five million new millionaires in the world in 2021, according to the yearly Knight Frank Wealth Report.

This newly generated wealth led more buyers to make real estate investments of varying kinds. “Access to technology and the digital democratisation of investments, including private equity, have led to greater levels of wealth creation and growth. This is something that will gain momentum over the coming years,” the report said.

MEANWHILE, Dubai saw the biggest gain in luxury-home prices of any major global city in 2021, as values around the world increased, according to a new report.

The increase in demand and rise in prices across 100 major hubs for luxury real estate were fueled by many factors including low mortgage rates, shifts in lifestyle choices due to the pandemic and more flexible working patterns.

Dubai led the list with a 44.4per cent increase in high-end sale prices from December 2020 to December 2021, according to the report.

“The U.A.E’s handling of the pandemic, strong take-up of the vaccine, the delivery of high-end turnkey projects as well as innovative new visa initiatives and economic reforms, have together boosted Dubai’s profile in the eyes of international buyers,” said Kate Everett-Allen, head of international residential research at London-based Knight Frank.

In the Middle Eastern city, sales above $10 million have historically accounted for two per cent of all transactions but in 2021, they equated to seven per cent, according to Ms. Everett-Allen.

Moscow was in second place with a 42.4 per cent yearly change, mainly due to Russia’s mortgage subsidy programme and tight supply, the report noted.

The next three spots were filled by U.S. cities: San Diego, California, with 28.3 per cent, Miami with 28.2 per cent and New York’s Hamptons with 21.3 per cent increase in luxury home prices.

“We are seeing increasing interest in both indirect exposures, by way of real estate investment trusts for example and direct investment in physical real estate, especially as a hedge against potential inflation,” Pierre-Yves Lombard, managing director and deputy head of private banking at Lombard Odier for the Asia region, said in the report.

The luxury housing remains on track for another boom year in 2022, according to experts.

“Dubai, Miami and Zurich lead our 2022 forecast, with prime prices expected to end the year between 10per cent and 12 per cent higher. Asian cities are expected to trail slightly, but even here, prices will grow,” Liam Bailey, global head of research at Knight Frank, said in the report.
“Key themes to watch: Agents will complain about stock shortages, buyers will complain about rising taxes and cooling measures, and city markets will be back in demand.”

The world’s affluent population—those with a net worth of more than $5 million—grew by nearly 20per cent in 2021, according to The Report: 2022 Global Luxury Market Insights, produced by Coldwell Banker Real Estate LLC and the Coldwell Banker Global Luxury programme. In the U.S. alone, the wealth growth rates pressed even higher, rising nearly 25 per cent during that period.

As a result, luxury real estate is growing. The sales of single-family luxury homes, defined as the top 10 per cent of any given market, climbed nearly 15 per cent in 2021, and prices increased 20 per cent from 2020, according to the report.

“Stock market gains, rising home equity, increased savings and the cryptocurrency boom have all contributed to a massive expansion of wealth and the sheer number of affluent individuals across the globe,” says Michael Altneu, vice president at Coldwell Banker Luxury. “This—combined with a renewed focus on home for fulfilling a range of needs from security, escape, community, work, and wellness—has led to unprecedented demand for bigger and better homes in new locations. As a result, luxury is no longer concentrated in a few major cities; it’s everywhere and we’ll continue to see the growth of secondary markets for years to come.”

International buyers are expected to add to luxury markets, returning to U.S. real estate as pandemic-led travel restrictions loosen. About 83 per cent of real estate pros surveyed by Coldwell Banker anticipate international buyers coming back to the U.S. market. They believe foreign buyers will most be drawn to turnkey properties that offer additional space and privacy. Real estate pros also believe they will target secondary or suburban areas.

Secondary markets are becoming an increasing draw to the luxury market. For example, markets like Denver; Boise, Idaho; Sacramento, Calif.; San Antonio; Raleigh, N.C.; and Salt Lake City are seeing increasing interest from luxury buyers, according to the report.

“Work-from-home opportunities, climate change considerations, and accessibility to dream locations mean luxury may continue to expand throughout the country as consumers search for the home that best fits their needs and desires,” the report says.

Also, secondary home purchases are increasing as the wealthy add to their real estate portfolios. About 70 per cent of individuals with a net worth of $5 million or more own two or more properties. More affluent buyers also are purchasing getaway homes—about 32 per cent in 2021, up from 23 per cent in 2020, according to the report.

“Double-digit wealth and affluent population gains have happened concurrently with a once-in-a-generation change in living patterns and migrations,” says Liz Gehringer, president of Coldwell Banker Affiliate Business and chief operating officer for Coldwell Banker Real Estate LLC.

“As luxury real estate represents a larger percentage of the total housing market than ever before, it is absolutely crucial that luxury real estate professionals have a firm grasp of all factors influencing wealthy buyers and sellers today. The agent has become the affluent buyer’s connection point to new locations around the world.”

By Chinedum Uwaegbulam

The Guardian 

Friday, April 1, 2022

After Nigeria train attack, families contacted over ransom

Suspected bandits have contacted some Nigerian families to say they are holding relatives who went missing following an attack on a passenger train this week and that they will demand a ransom, the families said on Thursday.

Authorities in the northern Kaduna state said eight people died and 26 were hospitalised when armed gangs blew up train tracks on the Abuja-Kaduna route and kidnapped an unknown number of passengers on Monday night.

Ibrahim Abba told Reuters that unknown men called his family on Tuesday evening, informing them that they were holding his brother, who he said has not been seen since the attack on the train.

"They... assured us that (he) is safe with them," said Abba, adding that the men said they would call back with instructions for a ransom.

A Kaduna journalist whose mother and sister are among the missing passengers said the suspected bandits made contact on Wednesday night.

"This has confirmed that my mother and sister are alive. They asked us to expect further calls on a ransom demand," the journalist said.

Another relative, Malama Hadiza Gogo, told Reuters that she too received a call on Tuesday night and was told to stand by for a ransom demand for two missing family members.

Armed gangs roaming north-western Nigeria have spread terror among communities by kidnapping school children and villagers while also attacking security forces.


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