At least 31 people have been killed during a stampede at a charity event in southern Nigeria’s Port Harcourt city on Saturday (May 28), according to the Associated Press.
A witness named Daniel said “there were so many children” among the dead. Five of the dead children were siblings, he told the Associated Press. He added that a pregnant woman was also among those that lost their life.
The event was organized by the Kings Assembly Pentecostal church in Rivers state and it involved hundreds of people who had showed up to receive free food and other goods at the church’s annual “Shop for Free” charity event, according to Grace Iringe-Koko, a police spokeswoman.
Iringe-Koko stated that the donation drive was supposed to start at 9 a.m. but dozens of people arrived as early as 5 a.m. to secure their spot in line. The crowd apparently forced their way into the church, despite the fact that the gate was locked, causing the stampede.
“People were there earlier and some got impatient and started rushing, which led to stampeding. The police are on the ground monitoring the situation while the investigation is ongoing,” Iringe-Koko told Reuters.
Seven others were injured but are “responding to treatment,” said Iringe-Koko. The event was suspended while authorities launched an investigation on how the stampede occurred.
According to another witness Christopher Eze, some of the church members were attacked and injured by relatives of the victims after the stampede. The church has declined to comment on the situation.
Nigeria has seen similar stampedes in the past. In 2013, twenty-four people died at an overcrowded church gathering in the southeastern state of Anambra. In 2014, at least 16 people were killed when a crowd got out of control during a screening for government jobs in the country’s capital, Abuja.
Monday, May 30, 2022
At least 31 people have been killed during a stampede at a charity event in southern Nigeria’s Port Harcourt city on Saturday (May 28), according to the Associated Press.
Following the operational licences handed to Space Exploration Technologies Corp (SpaceX), owned by world’s richest man, Elon Musk, to operate in Nigeria, there appears to be hope of connectivity for the about 114 access gaps (communities without telecoms services) in Nigeria.
Data from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) showed that the 114 access gaps in the country currently house some 25 million Nigerians without basic telephony services. It must also be stated that where there are coverage currently, telecoms services have not been optimal.
Besides, the coming of Starlink is expected to boost Federal Government’s efforts, as enshrined in the National Broadband Plan 2020 to 2025, to reach 70 per cent broadband penetration, covering 90 per cent of the population by 2025.
Already, analysts have submitted that the coming of SpaceX, which brings Starlink into Nigeria’s over $75 billion telecoms market, is poised to cause a paradigm shift in telecommunications services in the country.
Starlink is a satellite Internet constellation operated by SpaceX, providing satellite Internet access coverage currently to 32 countries of the world. There are about 69,000 active Starlink users in the United States and other selected locations in the region.
Musk had on Friday, tweeted @elonmusk that Starlink had been approved by Nigeria and Mozambique to provide services.
The Guardian gathered that SpaceX, got six different licences, including Internet Service Provider (ISP) operational licence; International Data Access (IDA) operational licence; Full Gateway Operational licence; Sales and Installation Major (S&I- Major) licence; Gateway Earth Station (GES) Network Frequency licence per Gateway the company is to build; and Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) Network Frequency licence.
Starlink’s journey into Nigeria’s telecoms sector actually started May 2021, when a delegation from SpaceX, known for innovations, visited NCC in Abuja. The Guardian, however, gathered that the deal was sealed in Barcelona, Spain, at the yearly Mobile World Congress in February 2022.
As it is, Starlink will be competing against MTN Nigeria, Glo, Airtel and 9mobile and other ISPs in the market. This is coming on the back of about $30 billion, which the U.S company has projected to spend to make its service available in many markets, including Nigeria.
At the commencement of the move last year, Musk had tweeted, where he disclosed that Starlink is, “expecting over 4,200 Starlink satellites in operation within 18 months, which is two-third of all active satellites of Earth,” which makes it a force against existing players in the country.
The Guardian gathered that Lagos, Abuja and Benin are some of the areas mentioned for availability of Starlink in Nigeria when it begins operations soonest. SpaceX is reported to have spent between $5 billion and $10 billion in its bid to cover five per cent of the global population.
With Starlink tipped to offer high-speed, low-latency broadband Internet across the globe, hope of improved telephony services may have come to Nigeria, albeit expensive.
But to show its readiness for the Nigerian market, it was gathered that SpaceX had already launched several satellites into space, and currently in the process of launching a low-earth orbiting (LOE) constellation of satellites to provide low latency, high bandwidths Internet to all corners of the globe and Nigeria would be a critical market.
The coming of Starlink may be a decisive period for ISPs in the country, which has continued to reduce numerically due to supposed economic challenges, lack of innovation, among others, that have made many to close shops.
Statistics gathered from NCC as at the last quarter of 2021 revealed there were 73 licensed ISPs with 351,817 connected subscribers, of this, 198,090 were active users.
The ISPs, as listed by NCC, includes VDT Communications, Dimension Data Limited, Hypria Ltd, Layer 3, IpNX Nigeria Ltd, MainOne Cable Limited, Odua Telecoms Ltd, Tizeti Network Ltd, Cyberspace, Spectranet, among others, only have 1,879 Point of Presence (PoP) across the country.
Interestingly, the quartet of MTN, Airtel, Globacom and 9mobile, due to their Universal Access Service License (UASL), also offer Internet service. They currently have 145 million users. MTN has 60 million, Globacom 39.7 million, Airtel 39.3 million and 9mobile 5.5 million, as at March 2021.
Broadband users as at first quarter 2021, stood at 80.6 million with 42.7 per cent penetration in the country.
On the possible impact of SpaceX on the Nigerian telecoms sector, the National Coordinator, Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), Olusola Teniola, said satellite is used for many applications right from solving military to medical problems in hard to reach areas.
Teniola explained that satellite technology was very prevalent in telecoms in the absence of wide coverage of terrestrial networks especially during the 1980s to 2008 and before the advent of the laying of additional undersea fiber cables in the shores of Lagos.
The former ATCON boss said SpaceX offers another opportunity in addition to 5G and fibre to deliver hyper-fast broadband speeds to those that can afford to subscribe to the offerings being brought to market.
He said it is more than likely that those that live in the affluent parts of the cities will be able to now have an option to choose from. “So SpaceX will present a switching of customers from one technology to another at a price range that might exclude the low-income earners or those struggling to survive on a minimum wage.”
According to him, like the war between GSM and CDMA, SpaceX may challenge the 4G and 5G advance on a per Mbps basis. “I personally foresee a situation where different business models will be created to merge the strengths of each emerging technology to deliver the customer and consumer benefits. Price will always be the determinant and affordability the key outcome and measure of acceptability.
“In the Broadband Plan, it was envisioned that 4G should cover 90 per cent of the population by 2025 and that a mixture of both satellite and 5G technology will fill the remaining 10 per cent,” he stressed.
On the readiness of the Nigerian market for such disruption, the Group Managing Director/CEO, VDT Communications, an ISP operator, Biodun Omoniyi, said there is a way that strong global provider energises a market like never before. He said he believes Starlink would have significant competitive effect on the ISP sub-sector of the industry in the area of service quality and pricing.
Submitting that there is ample market for all, Omoniyi said Nigeria is still a land of scarcity for good broadband service, stressing that the country is the most important and attractive Internet market in Africa, given its population, GDP size and level of penetration.
The VDT boss said Starlink, been a satellite and fixed broadband offering, “it definitely would fill some important gaps that have been gaping all the while.”
According to him, given the entry price point that “I have read in the papers, the market looks more for high brow homes and offices.”
Conservatively, a Personal finance expert, Kalu Aja, stated that the arrival of Starlink in Nigeria implies that a child in Ohafia, Abia State will have the same or quicker Internet connection as a child in Ikoyi, Lagos.
He revealed this in a series of tweets in which he outlined the advantages of Elon Musk’s Internet company, Starlink, expanding into Nigeria.
He said, “Starlink coming to Nigeria means a kid in Ohafia will have same or faster internet access than a kid in Ikoyi. A teacher from Ohafia (a local government in Abia State) can move back to home where the cost of living is cheaper, open a school (or clinic), connect online, and create local jobs.”
He went on to list the possibilities of high-speed Internet remediating common pains suffered by Nigerians.
“A film crew in Jos can film and upload their videos direct from Plateau. A bank in Bama, Borno State, can be online in real-time with banks in Lagos. ABU Zaria students can stream high-speed videos from around the world. That’s productivity, that’s GDP growth, that’s wealth creation,” he said.
Another telecoms expert, Kehinde Aluko, said the Nigerian government has a National Policy on 5G Policy. “With 5G policy in place and the satellite that we have, this will support our security institution to leverage emerging technologies such as Robotics, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, Internet of Things (IoT), and many more to handle security challenges and to facilitate their activities in control of communication, computing, information gathering, intelligence gathering, surveillance and reconnaissance,” he said.
According to him, the satellite operations can easily be conducted with broadband from space, stressing that with 5G technology coming almost at the same time, this will redefine the telecoms sector to a greater extent, especially in two ways, which are fast-tracking economic development and handling security challenges.
By Adeyemi Adepetun
Nigeria has confirmed 21 cases of monkeypox since the start of the year with one death reported, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has said.
“Among the 21 cases reported in 2022 so far, there has been no evidence of any new or unusual transmission of the virus, nor changes in its clinical manifestation documented (including symptoms, profile and virulence),” NCDC said in a statement late on Sunday.
Monkeypox, a usually mild viral infection, is endemic in the African countries of Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nigeria.
But it has caused global alarm after more than 200 suspected and confirmed cases of the virus were detected in at least 19 countries since early May, mostly in Europe and the Middle East. No deaths have been reported so far.
The NCDC said out of 61 suspected cases of monkeypox reported since January, 21 had been confirmed with one death, that of a 40-year-old man. The cases were reported in nine states and the federal capital Abuja.
Six of the cases were detected this month, it said.
Wednesday, May 25, 2022
A plane that was towed along the side of a busy expressway in Lagos on Tuesday night has caused widespread confusion and amusement to commuters – and rumours it had crashed – before Nigerian authorities said that it was being delivered to its new owner via the busy road.
Several videos of the aircraft posted on social media showed it at various points along the side of a major road, within a mile of the international and domestic airport terminals and plane storage facilities in the Ikeja area of Lagos.
Footage showed the passenger aircraft being towed alongside heavy traffic as pedestrians passed closely by, with videos taken from one side of the plane showing trucks towing away part of one of the aircraft wings.
Some initial reports spread online claimed that the plane had crash landed in the populous area.
In response to questions on how the surprise aircraft had arrived on the side of the road, Ibrahim Farinloye, the head of Lagos’ emergency management agency said officials “tracked all incoming and outgoing flights in Lagos and there is no plane missing so far.”
Then in a statement on Tuesday night Nigeria’s airport authorities said reports of a crash landing were false. “The aircraft was sold by the owner to a buyer, who was talking it to its final destination. Thank you,” the statement said posted on social media.
Isaac Eneji, who took a video of the plane on his way home from work after 8pm said the sight of the plane left him and others baffled. “At first I thought it was an art work. I was arguing with a colleague until we saw it was a plane on the road. How can a tow truck move a plane’s fuselage along a major highway during the peak of traffic?” he said.
“I saw a towing truck pulling the fuselage of the plane out of something that looked like a ditch, and the cockpit was on the road,” Eneji said.
Jude, another eye witness who posted footage of the plane said, “It was a shock to everyone, seeing a plane on the express road. The things we see in Lagos.”
By Emmanuel Akinwotu
A Nigerian lawyer awarded a top prize for grassroots environmental activism has warned that international oil companies divesting from the West African country will abandon their obligations to compensate and clean up communities polluted by decades of crude production.
Multinationals such as Shell Plc and TotalEnergies SE have been selling onshore and shallow water permits to local firms for more than a decade to focus on deep-water projects off the Nigerian coast. That process is accelerating as the majors map out plans to transition to cleaner forms of energy and avoid problems associated with operating close to communities in the crude-rich Niger Delta, where the oil industry has wreaked massive environmental devastation.
“Once they have divested, then they will say that he who buys the assets also buys the liabilities,” Chima Williams, who on Wednesday was named a winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize, said in an interview. The risk is that “incompetent domestic companies” short of know-how and resources will end up in possession of the licenses, he said.
Williams, who is currently the executive director of Nigerian advocacy group Environmental Rights Action, has spent decades at the forefront of efforts to hold oil companies accountable for pollution from their facilities in the Niger Delta. The 52-year-old worked with farmers from two communities and the Dutch branch of Friends of the Earth to sue Shell in the Netherlands in 2008 over pipeline leaks that had occurred several years earlier.
In January 2021, the Court of Appeals in The Hague ordered Shell’s Nigerian subsidiary to compensate the villagers and also instructed the parent company to install better warning systems. The amount of money Shell will pay has yet to be determined.
While Shell didn’t respond to a request for comment, the company has argued most spills in the Niger Delta, including those in the Dutch case that affected the Goi and Oruma communities, are caused by theft and sabotage rather than equipment failure.
But Williams said much of the infrastructure for pumping oil and gas in Nigeria, including pipelines, “has outlived its lifespan,” which makes it “easy prey.”
“There is contributory negligence on the part of the operators,” he said. The prize, dubbed the Green Nobel, is awarded annually by San Francisco’s Goldman Environmental Foundation to six recipients recognized for their grassroots work.
Read more: A King in Oil-Rich Nigeria Delta Pins Hope on U.K. In Shell Case
Formerly a UK business with headquarters in the Netherlands, Shell relocated in January from The Hague to London – where it is also facing a potentially precedent-setting lawsuit brought by Nigerian communities. The UK Supreme Court ruled last year that more than 40,000 residents of the Niger Delta could sue Shell in England over oil contamination the plaintiffs blame on the company.
The claimants from Goi and Oruma filed their suit in Europe because they think it will be easier to enforce court decisions than in Nigeria, said Williams. “We decided to bring this case in the Netherlands where we feel that Shell respects the law, respects judicial orders,” he said. Other communities have contacted Williams and ERA about the possibility of taking legal complaints against oil companies overseas, he said.
Shell is considering bids for its remaining onshore and shallow water permits, while Total last month announced it would also seek to offload its minority interest in the same group of licenses. “You leave your legacy onshore pollution problems unsorted and you are receiving incentives for making investments in areas where it would be difficult to scrutinize what you’re doing,” Williams said.
By William Clowes
Related stories: Oil spills in Nigeria could potentially kill 16,000 babies a year
Monday, May 23, 2022
Nigerian doctors are leaving Nigeria in droves to seek better working conditions abroad. Health workers say decades of neglect by the government has led to mass exodus. While the doctor-patient ratio recommended by the World Health Organization is one for every 400, but in Nigeria, its one for 2,500. Nigeria’s nurses’ union says 11,000 members have left the country in the first three months of 2022, to work in hospitals abroad. Senior consultants say while the immediate future is bleak, the government can reverse the trend. Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris reports from Kano, Nigeria.
The Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) said it has introduced a tracking system for the monitoring of statuses of passport applications by applicants.
The acting comptroller general of NIS, Isah Idris, who disclosed this during a brief media interaction on Saturday evening, said the initiative is part of the agency’s efforts toward sustaining transparency and accountability in the passport issuance process.
Mr Idris said since the launch of the online appointment system by the agency, the allegations of corruption and harassment against his personnel have significantly reduced. This is even as he appealed to Nigerians to always stick to the rules and “stop inducing our officers.”
He said: “Like parcels sent through logistic companies or visa applications, we have introduced a tracking system so that people can stay in the comfort of their rooms and know the status of their passport applications.
“You don’t need to offer anyone any kobo. All that you need to do is to log into our website on www.trackimmigration.gov.ng, upload the required details and see an immediate response on the status of your passports.”
Significance of the initiative
According to Mr Idris, the new initiative is part of the efforts to phase out human interactions, saying the rowdiness and delay in the passport issuance would soon be a thing of the past.
He said the best method to address the inadequacies identified with the production process is the deployment of technology and pleaded with Nigerians to always apply for their passport before its expiration or “only when they need it.”
He added that other measures are being put in place to resolve all the challenges identified with passport application in Nigeria, saying the challenges currently being experienced are results of combined problems of the coronavirus disease, foreign exchange scarcity, national identity number validation, among others.
The acting comptroller general said apart from the tracking system, the agency will also in the next four weeks introduce self-validation of applicants’ NIN available on its portal and that only when such is done will the applicant proceed to pay and book an appointment for capturing.
He said: “We must also note that passports confer on holders the integrity of a nation, therefore the integrity of producing such documents should also not be compromised. So we must verify the authenticity of applicants’ claims before we proceed for production.
“Also, most times, delays are usually caused by the NIN validation problems and what we want to do now will allow individual applicants to, first of all, verify and validate their NIN and only upload validated NIN before they can pay for passports. By doing that, we would have successfully tackled the issue of a delay from other partners which we don’t have control over.”
Alert system introduction
Meanwhile, Mr Idris also explained that the Service is working on the introduction of an alert system “so that holders of passports can be reminded when it is six months to the expiration of their passports.”
“Like the driver licences, NIS is planning to introduce an alert system as soon as passports have about six months to expire. This is how much we are trying to leverage on technology to ease the stress currently being experienced,” the acting CGI said.
He also spoke on the plan to domesticate the production of passports, saying efforts have reached an advanced stage towards achieving that.
Mr Idris said President Muhammadu Buhari has since issued a directive towards achieving that, and that the ongoing process will only continue pending the completion of the domestication project.
He thanked the minister of interior, Rauf Aregbesola, for his efforts towards achieving the target, and pledged his administration’s commitment to “the dream.”
“If we eventually do that, we would have opened more job opportunities for Nigerians, improve the national economy by stopping the capital flight, and also enhance the sanctity of our nation. But there is more to it than just the production. The integrity of the system matters a lot and we cannot afford to have a passport that would lose its integrity,” he added.
By Mojeed Alabi
Police in Nigeria have discovered the severed head of a state legislator who went missing last week in the southeastern state of Anambra, where the government accuses separatists of carrying out a spate of killings and kidnappings, police said on Sunday.
The southeast, homeland of the Igbo ethnic group, is agitating to secede from the rest of Nigeria and the banned Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) group has been leading those calls.
Okechukwu Okoye, a legislator in the Anambra state assembly and his aide went missing on May 15. His head was found on Saturday night in a park in the Nnewi south local government area, Anambra state police spokesman Tochukwu Ikenga said.
"The lawmaker was killed. His head was found along Nnobi road. There is no suspect in custody yet," Ikenga said.
The Anambra state governor has put up a 10 million naira ($24,000) reward for information on the killers.
Early this month, gunmen killed and beheaded two soldiers in neighbouring Imo state. The government accused IPOB, which denied the charge.
The violence in the southeast is another layer of insecurity in Nigeria, where kidnappings for ransom are common in the northwest and an Islamist insurgency has been going on for more than a decade in the northeast of the country.
Amnesty International said last August that Nigerian security forces had killed at least 115 people in the southeast in the first eight months of 2021 and arbitrarily arrested or tortured scores of others. The government did not comment.
Friday, May 20, 2022
The Nigerian police have arrested two men suspected of being behind the high-profile kidnapping of two dozen students in April 2021 in northwestern Nigeria, and the murder of five of them.
"They have both confessed to the abduction of the students from the University of Greenfield, Kaduna State, and the murder of five students before the payment of ransom and the release of the other students," police spokesman Olumuyiwa Adejobi said in a statement on Wednesday evening.
The two suspects, Aminu Lawal known as "Kano" and Murtala Dawu known as "Mugala", who was involved in several kidnapping cases, will be brought to justice at the end of the investigation, Adejobi said.
In April 2021, gunmen stormed Greenfield University in Kaduna, abducting about 20 students and killing a staff member.
A few days after the attack, the kidnappers executed five hostages to force the families and the authorities to pay a ransom, which was later obtained.
The remaining 14 students were released after 40 days in captivity.
Heavily armed criminal gangs, known as "bandits", have been increasing their attacks in north-western and central Nigeria, looting, kidnapping and killing many villagers.
Last year, the "bandits" particularly targeted schools and universities to kidnap students en masse for ransom from their parents and the authorities.
In all, about 1,500 students were abducted in 2021 by armed men, according to Unicef. While most of the young hostages have since been released for ransom, some still remain in captivity in the forests, where armed groups hide
Families of people kidnapped from a train in Nigeria's Kaduna state two months ago are protesting a decision by authorities to resume service on the railway next week.
Officials of the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) said trains would begin running between the capital, Abuja, and Kaduna city again on Monday.
Relatives of kidnapped victims met Thursday morning to protest the planned resumption of train service on the Kaduna-Abuja line.
Authorities suspended service indefinitely on March 28, the day armed men blew up tracks in Kaduna and attacked a train. Nine people were killed during the attack and scores are still missing.
During Thursday's protest, the spokesperson of the group, Abdulfatai Jimoh, said at least 61 people were believed to be held captive, including Jimoh’s wife.
He said the government has been insensitive to the families’ plight.
"Our relatives kidnapped are still in captivity and we want them to be freed first before they can start thinking of that," he said. "We want the NRC management and the Ministry of Transportation to put adequate security measures in place to guarantee the safety of passengers before train services can resume. These are the minimum conditions we require from them."
Idahat Yusuf's two sisters, both in their 50s, are also among the abducted passengers. She does not understand why the NRC would restart train service.
"It's a national pain, it's not only the families' pain, so why would they choose to move on like that?” she asked.
The NRC said the decision to resume operations was not a sign of insensitivity to the situation and said efforts to have the captives released were continuing.
Security experts said negotiations have been deadlocked since the kidnappers demanded that authorities release members of their gang in exchange for the abductees.
Jimoh said the families have been given few details about the talks.
"We have information from government sources that discussions are ongoing with the abductors," he said. "We just don't know the extent or how far they have gone in these negotiations.”
The kidnappers have freed only three abductees, including a pregnant woman who told local news organizations that she was freed out of pity.
Northern Nigeria has seen a wave of kidnappings for ransom over the past 18 months.
This week, police arrested 31 people on charges of abducting students from a school in Kaduna state last year. Authorities also recovered 61 firearms, 376 rounds of ammunition, 22 cartridges and $5,000 cash.
By Timothy Obiezu
A Nigerian separatist in detention on treason charges has been allowed by a judge to watch the matches of his favourite team, Liverpool, on TV.
Nnamdi Kanu, who denies the charges, leads the banned Indigenous People of Biafra (Ipob) group.
In detention since last year, his privileges have not extended to watching whole football matches live.
But thanks to the judge, a fellow Liverpool fan, Mr Kanu can now view the climax to a possibly historic season.
Having already bagged the Carabao Cup and the FA Cup, Liverpool are just two matches away from winning the English Premier League title and the European Champions League.
Bizarrely, the change in fortunes for Mr Kanu did not come at his request and resulted from the discovery that Mr Kanu, his lawyer and the judge were all Liverpool fans.
He was in court on Wednesday for a hearing on a bail application following his arrest last year for campaigning for the independence of south-east Nigeria, which he refers to as Biafra.
The bail application was refused but during the discussions about whether he should be granted bail, Justice Binta Nyako complained that Mr Kanu had disobeyed a previous order that he stop appearing in court wearing clothes from the Italian luxury brand Fendi, when he had other options.
She may have been referring to a tweet in which Mr Kanu was seen in an Atletico Madrid tracksuit during a visit by Charles Soludo, the Anambra state governor.
The judge, then joked that she was a Liverpool supporter and asked Mr Kanu's lawyer, Mike Ozekhome if he was also a fan of the football club. The lawyer said: "Yes."
Mrs Nyako then turned to Mr Kanu in the dock. "What is your team?" she asked.
"My team is Liverpool even from age of seven," Mr Kanu, standing upright in the dock, responded.
The judge then ordered the prison representative to allow Mr Kanu to watch next week's Champions League final between Real Madrid and Liverpool and any other match of his favourite football club.
"You must allow the defendant to watch the matches any day they are playing," she said, adding that she was going to make an order to that effect.
Mr Kanu may now be able to sit down and watch Liverpool's last Premier League match on Sunday, but whether that will be an enjoyable experience is another matter.
Manchester City are currently one point ahead of Liverpool in the title race and are favourites to retain the trophy.
Wednesday, May 18, 2022
Fuel prices have tripled in less than a year, forcing many people to use firewood to cook their meals. Officials hoping to increase the use of cooking gas say expanding liquefied petroleum gas would save millions of trees and the environment. But the rising prices threaten that objective. Nigeria’s state oil company blames the rising costs on global price increases. But with the country still importing most of its gas, users are bracing for more price hikes. Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris reports from Kano, Nigeria.
In February, the Nigerian technology startup CrowdForce announced a big break: It had received $3.6 million from investors to expand its financial services operations to many more underserved communities.
Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Tomi Ayorinde said new funding will boost its mobile agent network from 7,000 to 21,000 this year.
"We were looking to scale faster and really gain market share," Ayorinde said. "And what we're doing is also very impact-related because we're creating jobs, avenues for people to make extra income in their communities. So, it was also very interesting for impact investors to be part of what we're trying to do."
When Ayorinde helped launch CrowdForce seven years ago, he intended it to be a data collection company. But after about two years, the company overhauled its business model when Ayorinde realized it could fill a need for bank accounts.
"When we collected data of 4.5 million traders what we saw was, a lot of them didn't have bank accounts and the ones that have bank accounts had a very tough time accessing the cash that was sent to them," said Ayorinde."That's when we kind of realized that there's a bigger problem to solve here.”
Experts say about 60% of Africa's 1.2 billion people lack access to banks or financial services. Technology startups in Africa are trying to fix that, said the African Private Equity and Venture Capital Association known as AVCA.
In a recent report, the industry group said African startups attracted $5.2 billion in venture capital last year, and that West Africa – led by Nigeria – accounted for the largest share of investments.
AVCA research manager Alexia Alexandropoulou said investors are looking to tap into Africa's huge population of young people.
"Africa is the world's most youthful population, so as the proportion of skilled labor increases, then the result will be more human capital in order to power African businesses and also the industrial development within the continent," said Alexandropoulou.
AVCA's report also cites increased internet penetration in Africa and more favorable government policies as contributing to increased investments in financial technology services knwoFintech.
But Fintech Digital Marketing Expert Louis Dike said there are obstacles to overcome, such as weak currencies and policies.
"Africa is not a perfect place because it's still made up of virgin markets," said Dike. "The standard of living is quite low, our regulations are not consistent, today the government will say this and tomorrow they will change the law and restrict some startup activities."
But with new talents emerging in technology, more startups with big dreams are emerging in Nigeria and elsewhere in Africa.
Nine people were killed after a gas cylinder explosion led to the collapse of a building close to a popular market in Nigeria’s northern state of Kano, the national emergency service and witnesses said.
The incident happened on Tuesday in the Sabon Gari area of the city, mostly populated by people who moved to Kano from elsewhere.
Mustapha Habib Ahmed, head of the National Emergency Management Agency, said a gas cylinder in a welding shop exploded, killing nine people. Emergency responders pulled bodies from the rubble during a search and rescue operation.
At a nearby school, parents rushed to pick up their children after hearing news of the blast, witnesses said. There were no reported injuries among the school children.
Kano, renowned for centuries as a centre for Islamic scholarship and a commercial hotspot in trans-Saharan trade, is the capital of the eponymous Nigerian state in the northwest region of the country.
The head of Nigeria’s treasury has been arrested for alleged involvement in fraud and money laundering worth 80 billion naira ($190m), the country’s anti-graft agency said.
Ahmed Idris, Nigeria’s accountant-general, was arrested on Monday “after failing to honour invitations” to respond to the allegations, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said.
The EFCC said Idris “raked off the funds through bogus consultancies and other illegal activities using proxies, family members and close associates”.
The proceeds were invested by Idris in real estate in the capital Abuja and in his home state of Kano in northern Nigeria, it said in a statement issued late Monday.
Idris has not commented on the accusations.
President Muhammadu Buhari came to power in 2015 on a pledge to end endemic graft, but has barely made a dent in corruption on a national scale.
Under his watch, the EFCC has secured a string of high-profile convictions, including ministers, state governors, senior public servants and prominent political figures.
But last week, the president announced a pardon for two ex-governors jailed for corruption, despite public outcry.
Last year, the agency said it had recovered 714 million euros ($750m) that had been plundered from the nation’s coffers.
The government has been accused of targeting the opposition in its anti-corruption drive, an allegation it denies.
Monday, May 16, 2022
The court in Nigeria has dismissed the Central Bank of Nigeria Governor's bid to run for political ambitions.
By Lawrence Njoku
Centre Director, Dr. Bonaventure Okere, stated that the lunar eclipse would be visible from across the nooks and crannies of Nigeria, as well as in several other countries of Africa, North and South America, Europe and parts of Asia.
He added that the lunar eclipse has remained one of the most interesting astronomical events/phenomena for sky-watchers globally over the years.
The natural phenomenon, according to him, occurs “when the Earth blocks the Sun’s light, which otherwise would have struck and reflect off the moon’s surface. In other words, the moon passes into the umbra/deep shadow of the Earth.
“When this happens, the short-wavelength light from our planet is scattered/absorbed while the light of longer wavelength (red colour) is refracted around the edges of the atmosphere while falling upon the moon’s surface, thereby turning the moon reddish in colour (the Blood Moon).”
Friday, May 13, 2022
Nigeria is a culturally diverse country known for various delicacies, this has seen food lovers converge for the Bole Food Festival, where there was some roasted plantain on cards.
Following the leadership crisis that has dogged Nigerian basketball for more than eight years, the Federal Government, yesterday, withdrew the country from international competitions for a period of two years.
Citing the “unending crises that have plagued and nearly crippled basketball development in the country,” the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development said President Muhammadu Buhari approved the action for the period to enable the country tackle the issues.
Speaking in his office yesterday, Youth and Sports Development Minister, Sunday Dare, said the move would also provide government opportunity to revamp the sport from the grassroots, as well as revive the domestic leagues, which have become moribund.
Represented by the ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Alhaji Ismaila Abubakar, Dare said the withdrawal will also allow for the setting up of an Interim Management Committee (IMC) to oversee the management and development of domestic basketball leagues and further address other related issues around the advancement of the game in the country.
He added: “Government intends to utilise this period of break to address all contentious issues among stakeholders. The Terms of Reference (TOR) and membership of the Interim Management Committee will be announced in due course.”
Dare also reiterated “government’s interest and commitment to the development of basketball in Nigeria, as well as huge talents of our youth domestically in an atmosphere that is free of rancour and squabbles.”
He called on players, officials, fans, and other stakeholders of the sport to remain calm “as government embarks on far-reaching initiatives to reposition, sustain and stabilize the game of Basketball for growth and success in the long term interest of the country.”
Recall that some basketball players had on Tuesday converged on the minister’s office to register their displeasure with government over its seeming unwillingness to resolve the post election crisis rocking the Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF).
Two separate NBBF elections were held on January 31, 2022 in Abuja and Benin with winners of the polls claiming to be the authentic leaders of the body.
The Abuja NBBF faction election produced Igoche Mark as the body’s president, while the polls in Benin returned Musa Kida as the federation’s boss.
The angry players, led by Players Representative on the Abuja factional board, Stanley Gumut, told journalists that the procession to the minister’s office was part of resolutions reached at their meeting held last week.
Gumut said players were not happy that the ministry appeared indifferent, while the leadership tussle was taking a toll on their careers, adding that the situation is hampering the growth of the domestic component of the game.
By Alex Monye
“It is with a heavy heart, but with total submission to the will of God that we announce the death of Rev. Fr. Joseph Aketeh Bako, which sad event took place in the hands of his abductors between 18 – 20 April 2022.”
These words, in a statement released on Wednesday by Fr. Christian Okewu Emmanuel, the Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Kaduna, announced the death of the 48-year-old Nigerian priest.
Abducted in March
Fr. Bako had been kidnapped on 8 March by gunmen from his residence in St. John Catholic Church, Kudenda, where he had been serving as parish priest.
Vatican News had reported the news of the priest’s abduction in March and noted that according to reports, the security guard of the Church was killed during the attack by the gunmen.
In the statement, the chancellor explained that the communication of Fr. Bako’s death was only coming at this time as “the fact of the circumstances leading to his death and the date of the incident have been carefully verified.”
Prayers invited for the peaceful repose of Fr. Bako
The Bishop of the Archdiocese of Kaduna, Most Rev. Matthew Man-Oso Ndagoso has extended his deepest sympathies to the family and the Catholic community of St. John Kudenda, the statement noted.
Christians are also invited to pray for the peaceful repose of the soul of Fr. Bako and for the consolation of the Christians in the Archdiocese of Kaduna.
Details of Fr. Bako’s funeral arrangements will be announced as soon as they are ready, the statement said.
Related story: Gunmen kidnap Nigerian Bishop in Owerri
A college in the northwestern Nigerian state of Sokoto has been indefinitely shut after a female student in the school was killed over alleged blasphemy.
The yet-to-be-identified student was accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad, which led to a mobbing that resulted in her death on Thursday, according to reports from local media. Her body was also allegedly burned afterwards within the school premises.
Sokoto state’s Governor Aminu Tambuwal ordered the closure of the school and directed the Ministry of Higher Education and relevant security agencies to investigate the incident. This came after outrage on social media against the killing, the state’s Commissioner of Information Isa Bajini Galadanchi told reporters.
“The governor has called on the people of the state to remain calm and maintain peace as the government would take appropriate actions on the investigation findings,” Bajini said.
The school’s management described the incident as an “early morning students rampage” in a circular dated May 12 and directed all students to “vacate the college campus immediately”.
Nigerians are using Twitter to protest the killing, calling on the government to ensure that justice was served.
“Murderers of Christian woman in Sokoto must be arrested & punished!” Farooq Kperogi, a journalism professor at Kennesaw State University, said in a tweet.
“Sadly, this sort of consequence-free murder of people in the name of avenging “blasphemy” has been going on for far too long in the North. This must stop! The monsters in that video are easily identifiable. The Sokoto State government must immediately apprehend them and make an example of them. If that doesn’t happen, this kind of murderous barbarism will continue,” he added.
Popular human rights activist Aisha Yesufu, herself a Muslim, also condemned the act saying “no one has the right in anyway whatsoever to kill another”.
Cases of mob attacks against alleged blasphemy happen intermittently in Nigeria, as “many Shariah laws in northern Nigeria continue to criminalise blasphemy and result in harsh punishments for blasphemers,” according to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.
The north of Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, is majority Muslim while the south is predominantly Christian.
The country’s Criminal Code prohibits any act that publicly insults any religion and stipulates a prison sentence of up to two years, while there are Islamic laws against blasphemy by sharia courts in 12 northern states.
The latter are “exclusively concerned with actions considered insulting to Muslims, the punishment for which can be as severe as execution”, according to the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs at Georgetown University.
“Most blasphemy accusations are made by Muslims against Christians and frequently trigger mob violence before any official actions like police arrests and judicial trials can be taken. Blasphemy is thus primarily a driver of sectarian violence rather than legal proceedings in the Nigerian context,” the Berkley Center said.
In April, a Nigerian court sentenced an atheist to 24 years in prison for making social media posts considered blasphemous against Islam. Mubarak Bala, a former Muslim, was sentenced after pleading guilty following a lengthy trial during which he spent nearly two years in prison.
In 2020, a sharia court sentenced Yahaya Sharif-Aminu, a 22-year-old Muslim gospel musician, to death for committing blasphemy in a series of private WhatsApp messages.
Wednesday, May 11, 2022
Nigeria is one of the largest producers of palm oil globally with small-scale farmers being essential to the country's annual output of more than one million metric tons. However, the farmers and industry players are struggling to realize their full potential due to various reasons. CGTN Africa spoke to stakeholders in the Nigerian capital Abuja to find out the reasons behind their struggles and what can be done to improve it.
A Nigerian dance group with a disabled member has suddenly gained popularity after posting their videos to social media.
One video has tens of thousands of views. The dancers are children as young as five years old. They are called “The Incredible Kids.”
Their videos have been posted to the video sharing service Instagram. The children dance quickly to popular Nigerian songs. And they are busy performing in cities like Abuja and Lagos, Nigeria.
One dancer is 15-year-old Joshua Anum. Joshua has a disability. He lost his arm after an accident at the age of five. Joshua’s father left him and his 8 brothers and sisters. They did not have much to eat when growing up. But that has not stopped Joshua from dancing, and it has changed his life.
"Before I came here I used to go to parties, I used to fight anywhere I went and I was not going to school," said Joshua. "Since coming here I have started school and I read and dance.
Vera Anum is Joshua’s mother. She said that she was very sad when the doctors removed his arm. But now she is happy and proud of him.
"Everybody thought...he will not be useful in life. Our people at home said he is finished because somebody whose hand has been amputated from childhood, what can he do?” Vera said.
She said, “See him today, at least the whole world is seeing him, watching him how he is performing."
Maliki Emmanuel is the dance group’s creator. Emmanuel said that many of the dancers do not have a good family life, so he has offered them support and a home.
The students often gather around Emmanuel in his chair at his home and watch music videos together so they can get new ideas for the dance moves and performances.
Emmanuel hopes to expand his group with more children who need a home and love to dance. "I can teach them then we will bring them to the crew,” Emmanuel said.
Money from the dancers’ performances helps pay the cost of the children’s education.
By Faith Pirlo
A group of supporters from northern Nigeria had bought nomination forms for Jonathan to take part in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) party’s primary elections scheduled for later this month.
But in a statement late on Monday, his spokesman Ikechukwu Eze said the former president did not authorise the purchase of the nomination forms, a requirement for candidates to take part in primary elections.
Jonathan was president between 2010 and 2015, under the People’s Democratic Party, now in opposition.
“While we appreciate the overwhelming request by a cross-section of Nigerians, for Dr Jonathan to make himself available for the 2023 presidential election, we wish to state that he has not in any way, committed himself to this request,” Eze said.
“We wish to categorically state that Dr Jonathan was not aware of this bid and did not authorise it.”
It is common for Nigerian politicians to switch sides during elections, but it would have been a surprising about-turn if the APC had decided to embrace a candidate it once derided as incompetent when he was president.
With President Muhammadu Buhari due to step down next year after serving two full terms, the race to succeed him is wide open with more than 20 governing party candidates registering to contest the primary vote.
Registration will end on Tuesday and a party committee will screen the candidates, who include Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, former Lagos state governor and party heavyweight Bola Tinubu, Minister of Petroleum Timipre Sylva and several ministers and state governors. Central bank governor, Godwin Emefiele, is also making an unprecedented presidential run.
But the field is expected to narrow once political horse-trading starts, which will lead to some candidates dropping out.
Monday, May 9, 2022
Gunmen have killed at least 48 people in attacks on three villages in northwest Nigeria’s Zamfara state, a local official and residents said.
Dozens of gunmen on motorcycles entered the three villages in coordinated attacks, shooting people as they tried to flee, Aminu Suleiman, administrative head of Bakura district where the villages are located, said on Sunday.
“A total of 48 people were killed by the bandits in the three villages [Damri, Kalahe and Sabon Garin] attacked Friday afternoon,” Suleiman said.
The worst hit was Damri, where the gunmen killed 32 people, Suleiman told AFP. The victims included patients at a hospital.
“They burned a police patrol vehicle, killing two security personnel.”
Since 2010, gangs of bandits have run riot in vast swaths of northern Nigeria, but only in the last few years has the crisis ballooned into national prominence in Africa’s most populous country.
The term “bandits” is a catchall for the criminal gangs masterminding frequent bouts of abduction, maiming, sexual violence and killings of citizens across northern parts of the country.
Data from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project shows that bandits were responsible for more than 2,600 civilian deaths in 2021 – many more than those attributed to rebel groups Boko Haram and the Islamic State West Africa Province in the same year – and almost three times the number of victims in 2020.
Troops deployed in the three villagers raided on Friday by bandits engaged the attackers in a gun battle, forcing them to withdraw, Suleiman said.
Abubakar Maigoro, a Damri resident, said the gunmen who attacked his village went on a shooting spree before looting livestock and food supplies.
“We buried 48 people killed in the attacks,” Maigoro said.
Nigerian police did not respond to requests for comment.
The criminals have recently stepped up their assaults despite military operations against their hideouts.
The so-called bandits maintain camps in a vast forest, straddling Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna and Niger states.
In the past two months, they have attacked a train travelling between the capital Abuja and Kaduna city, kidnapping dozens of passengers; massacred more than 100 villagers; and killed a dozen members of vigilante groups.
In early January, gunmen killed more than 200 people in Zamfara state.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, a former army commander, has been under intense pressure to end bandit violence before he leaves office next year at the end of his two terms in power.
Buhari called on security forces to “do all that can be done to bring an immediate end to the horrific killings”.
“The rural folk in Zamfara and elsewhere must be allowed to have peace,” he said in a statement on Sunday.
Officials in Zamfara say more than 700,000 people have been displaced by the violence, prompting the opening of eight camps to accommodate them.
The escalating violence has also forced thousands to flee to neighbouring Niger, with over 11,000 seeking refuge in November, according to the United Nations.
Thursday, May 5, 2022
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for the safe and “dignified” return of people displaced by conflict in northeast Nigeria, as local authorities close camps and urge people to go back to their communities. More than 40,000 people have been killed and some 2.2 million people displaced by more than a decade of fighting in the region between the military and Boko Haram and its offshoot Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP). During a Tuesday visit to a camp for displaced people in Borno state capital Maiduguri, the birthplace of Boko Haram, Guterres praised the local governor’s development efforts.
Wednesday, May 4, 2022
A Nigerian woman is leveraging technology to add more impetus in the fight against breast cancer. Kemisola Bolarinwa, a robotics engineer, has invented a wearable smart bra that can help detect breast cancer early. This could be a public health breakthrough as breast cancer is common in Nigeria and it's one of the leading causes of death in women.
Armed gangs who kidnapped dozens of passengers in an attack on a train in northern Nigeria are using civilians as human shields, making it difficult for the military to carry out a rescue mission, President Muhammadu Buhari said.
More than 150 people are still missing after the March 28 attack, according to the Nigerian Railway Corporation. Families of the abducted say there is no evidence of rescue efforts from the government.
In a statement on Monday, Buhari said the government, which has been criticised for not doing enough to rescue the passengers, was trying to avoid a “tragic outcome” in any rescue operation.
“They [the kidnappers] are using civilians as human shields, thereby making it difficult to confront them directly,” he said.
“It’s a delicate situation … Any rescue operation that results in the death of any hostage cannot be deemed a success.”
Abductions have become a near-daily occurrence in northwest Nigeria, where armed gangs, locally known as bandits, abduct people for ransom.
The brutal nature of the attacks has increased insecurity fears in a country also grappling with the armed group Boko Haram and its factions in the northeast and rising criminality around the country.
Monday, May 2, 2022
A three-story residential building has collapsed in Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city, killing at least five people with many feared trapped, emergency response services said Monday.
“Twenty-three people have been rescued alive including seven children and 16 adults,” said Ibrahim Farinloye of Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency. “Nine of those rescued alive have been treated and discharged.”
Among the dead are a mother and her son, said Farinloye.
The residential apartment building collapsed late Sunday night in the Oyingbo area of Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial center and most populated city with more than 14 million people.
Residents and passersby gathered before dawn as they joined a team of emergency and aid workers who searched through the rubble in search of survivors. It is not clear how many occupants were in the apartment building located in a densely populated area of the city.
Building collapses in the West African nation are frequent, including in Lagos which recorded five such incidents last year, including in November when more than 40 people died when a high rise still being constructed crumbled on workers.
Authorities face accusations that they have failed to enforce building regulations to make sure that structures are safe.
By Chinedu Asadu
Related stories: Search called off in school collapse in Nigeria
In 2017, Precious’s* husband was killed in a road accident. Four months later, his brother stopped by to visit Precious at her home in north-central Nigeria’s Plateau state.
It was around 2pm and Precious was doing laundry outside in the compound of the house she had shared with her husband and their three children. At first, she thought it was an ordinary visit to pay condolences.
But her brother-in-law was behaving strangely. He demanded food and sat in the living room watching television. As evening approached, Precious asked him when he was planning to leave.
“Why should I leave?” he replied. “Don’t you know I have come to sleep with you as is custom? I have come to claim [my] inheritance.”
Precious was shocked. “Inheritance of what?” she asked him. “Table, chair, rug?”
They argued and when he still refused to leave, Precious sought the help of her neighbours. But as her brother-in-law was forced to leave, he warned that he would make her pay.
Soon after, it became clear how. “I was summoned to the [in-law’s] village and the judgement was that all the money they spent at my husband’s burial, I should return it,” Precious says. They banished her from her husband’s land and seized the property.
Her staunch refusal to be “inherited” by her brother-in-law – a custom in some communities in northern Nigeria – set her on a collision course with her husband’s family and an ingrained centuries-old tradition.
Distrustful of the police and unsure of how to navigate the justice system, Precious did not know where to turn for help. But then, last year, she heard a radio programme where women called in to report abuses against them.
Silent Voices is a radio show on Jay FM, a station based in the business district of Jos, the capital of Plateau state, that reaches tens of thousands of listeners across Plateau, Bauchi and Kaduna states.
Since October 2020, the show’s host, Nanji Nandang, has used the weekly programme to help women and minors who are victims of violence and abuse seek justice.
Before launching the show, 31-year-old Nandang helped pioneer Pidgin News at Jay FM after encountering some local women traders who said they could not listen to the news because they did not understand what the newscasters were saying. So Nandang set about incorporating Pidgin English – a medley of English syntax and local linguistic varieties, which is more accessible to a wider variety of listeners – into the station’s broadcasting.
Silent Voices broadcasts in both English and Pidgin English. And each month, between seven to 10 victims like Precious reach out to the station in search of Nandang’s help.
But exposing perpetrators and helping get justice for victims is no small feat.
When Nandang started the programme, the COVID-19 pandemic was creating a “shadow pandemic” of sexual and gender-based violence. A United Nations Women report revealed that at least 48 percent of Nigerian women have been victims of violence since the pandemic began.
Nandang knew she needed to partner with someone who could help take up the victims’ cases so she reached out to the Plateau chapter of the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), a non-profit women lawyers’ association helping women access justice pro-bono.
Together with FIDA, Nandang has taken up several cases and helped get justice for women and children who might otherwise have remained unheard.
At Silent Voices, a case usually begins with someone reaching out to the show. Nandang and FIDA then investigate the case and find a way to solve it. At the end of the process – which can include legal mediation or even court proceedings – the person who submitted the original report is brought back onto the show to recount their journey for listeners.
Primarily, what Nandang airs are the “success stories” – where survivors of violence have already been helped. The stories of these “solved” cases are aired weekly, while lawyers, crime experts and psychologists are brought in to discuss topics including preservation of evidence and how to navigate trauma.
Nandang’s aim in sharing their experiences is to galvanise other women and child victims to seek her out, so they can get help too.
But the challenges can be daunting.
While Nigeria’s constitution guarantees that “every citizen shall have equality of rights, obligations and opportunities before the law”, in practice it is not always the case, and women are often on the receiving end of entrenched traditional practices that do not always protect their rights.
Last year, the Nigerian parliament rejected a bill seeking to enforce gender equality for the third time and in February this year, the legislative members overwhelmingly rejected a series of five bills that addressed some areas of gender disparity.
Lawyers say Nigeria’s constitution prohibits discrimination against widows like Precious, even in the case of customary marriages that are not formalised in court.
“A widow being prevented from inheriting her husband’s property is not only morally wrong but also wrong legally,” says Lagos-based human rights lawyer, Ridwan Oke. But not all women are accustomed to navigating this legal route. “The freedom some of these customs enjoy is because people don’t approach the court to enforce their rights,” he explained.
There is also distrust of the police and other authorities, especially regarding family issues where women are the victims. Many women say that even reported cases of domestic violence are often brushed aside as a “family matter”.
‘That story shook me’
Shy and introspective, Nandang may not seem like an obvious choice to vocally champion women’s and children’s rights. As a child, she wanted to be an actress, but her love for children pushed her towards social justice.
She is also a Sunday school teacher in her local church and says she has become familiar with the struggles of poorer families through some of the children she teaches.
“Children are innocent,” she says, solemnly, as she sits in a small meeting room at the radio station. “When I see things happen to them, I feel they don’t deserve it. Even if I cannot give them justice, if I can give them comfort, maybe they will see the world in a different light.”
It was Nandang’s teaching work that inadvertently led her to the sort of stories she would later champion on Silent Voices. One day, a colleague approached her about one of her students. The seven-year-old boy refused to sit down in class and always came to the school with a lot of cash.
The school authorities suspected the boy was stealing, but he denied it. Nandang’s colleague, however, felt the school’s focus should be on why he was unable to sit in class. After speaking to the boy, she convinced him to allow them to examine him. When they removed his school shorts to search for possible injuries, they found bruises and scabs on his backside. The pupil then revealed that his mother always took him to a man who raped him, in exchange for cash.
“That story shook me,” Nandang explains as she scrunches up her face to stop a tear rolling down her cheek. She felt she needed to do something since such stories are common but only discussed in hushed tones.
Months later, she started Silent Voices.
Two weeks after the first episode aired in October 2020, Nandang had her first case. A 28-year-old woman came to the station with her fiancé – she was covered in scars that had been inflicted on her by her fiancé’s family, who objected to their relationship. They used twisted wire cables to beat her, seized her phone and threw her out of the house. Like Precious and most of the others whose stories appear on the show, the woman did not report the assault to the police.
“They had no right to do that,” Nandang says of the family. After hearing the account, she aired the victim’s story and took the couple to FIDA for assistance.
‘I was a slave’
When Titi*, a mother of three who works at an abattoir in Jos, finally decided to leave her 14-year marriage after years of physical violence, her husband refused to accept her decision.
During the course of their marriage, her husband had emptied her piggy bank where she kept the money she was saving for her children’s school fees and replaced it with a wad of papers, took her ATM card without her permission to withdraw a business loan she had applied for and left home for long periods, pretending that he was looking for work in a different city, although people told her they had seen him in Jos.
But the final straw came when he beat her in public last April. Until then, she had kept his abuse hidden.
“He used to beat me seriously and I kept quiet because I did not want anybody to know,” she says, speaking softly and quietly, cautious that nobody should overhear her even though there is no one else around.
When she left her husband, Titi says he sent people to follow her. “It was frightening, I had to call my family [to say] that I could be kidnapped,” she says.
But it was not Titi who reached out to the radio station; it was her husband.
“The husband had called the station himself to report his wife abandoning him,” Nandang explains, describing how they tracked Titi down in order to investigate the case. When they did, they discovered that the situation was “completely different” from what her husband had described.
“It was a very pathetic case because the husband manipulated us,” Nandang says.
FIDA brought the couple to a mediation panel but Titi insisted on a divorce.
“I was a slave and I did not want to go back to slavery,” she explains. “There is just one life. If it is over, it is over. I don’t want a marriage to end it.”
Like many lower income and rural women, Titi’s marriage was customary and, although recognised by Nigerian law, it was not legalised in a court. This means she, herself, could not pursue legal means for separation. But because FIDA and Silent Voices agreed to represent her, her marriage was successfully dissolved.
“These perpetrators, if they see that you are the only one, they see that you are vulnerable, they will take advantage,” Nandang reflects. “But once they see that you have someone from a legal side, they are scared.”
‘The police are not supportive’
Cases are not always as straightforward as Titi’s. Several have got stuck in the court system or allegedly been bungled by the police. Although the police force inaugurated a “gender-friendly SGBV unit” to tackle sexual and gender-based violence in 2016, many believe the force still has a lack of interest in prosecuting gender-related cases.
Nandang sees the police as an obstacle to accessing justice.
“The police are not supportive,” she says. “They encourage the survivors to back down and settle it out of court. The police have a [lot to] gain because they collect money from the perpetrator.”
Gabriel Ubah, the spokesperson for the Plateau police, denied these allegations. “It is not true [that we encourage survivors to back down]. Any case with regard to sexual violence is a heinous crime and [the] police do not settle heinous crimes just like that,” he told Al Jazeera.
However, the police are not the only obstacle Nandang and FIDA encounter. There is also the bureaucracy of the judicial system and cultural expectations.
Mary Izam, a magistrate and, until recently, the chairperson of FIDA’s Plateau state chapter, says they “very often have to abandon cases”.
“The [judicial] system is thriving,” she adds, “but the gender-based violence cases are overwhelming, so the judges are overwhelmed, considering the fact that there are no designated courts for these cases. They are all being handled in the normal courts and then you find out that some of the cases are too much for a particular judge and we are faced with a lot of adjournments and delays. It takes a while to get justice.”
She believes only a specialist court created to handle sexual abuse cases – like those in Botswana and Kenya – will help ease the backlog.
The delay in getting justice frustrates the victims who, already under pressure from society and often facing stigma, often eventually give up on their cases.
Izam says the cultural obstacles can be greater in the largely Muslim north of the country.
“Religion and tradition [in the north] have more influence on the people, more than the laws,” she explains.
“Cultural practices are a huge hindrance to what we do because it has to do with mindset. You can imagine that a man’s child is being raped and all that the man is thinking of is his family name, wanting to protect his family’s name and not thinking about the perpetrator being brought to book and [that] the victim should be cared for?”
Going the extra mile
For Nandang, her work does not end when she leaves the radio station.
“I don’t want to end it on radio. I want to start street awareness and campaigns in these communities and educate young girls and their parents,” she says, describing a case where she got a tip about a girl being trafficked but her parents did not want Nandang to expose the case or the perpetrators because of social stigma.
“Confidentiality is my first responsibility, so I don’t expose anybody – even the perpetrators. I don’t shame anybody on the show,” says Nandang, who also does not discuss cases while they are in the court system.
When a victim’s family does not want a case to proceed because they fear the stigma that might result, Nandang finds a way to maintain their privacy while helping FIDA’s lawyers make anonymous reports to the police so that justice can still take its course.
“I don’t allow perpetrators to go scot-free,” she says.
Nandang goes the extra mile in other ways, too, when someone requires help.
She recounts a case where a minor was allegedly raped by a 54-year-old man. The child’s parents reported the case to the police and the alleged rapist was arrested. But when a local chief showed up at the police station, the police reportedly released the man to the chief who judged that he should pay a fine of 10,000 naira ($24) and five goats to the victim’s parents.
Nandang went on air the following week to report on the case, without using the victim’s or the alleged perpetrator’s name but mentioning the police station and the local chief. The resulting public pressure led to the State Criminal Investigation Department, a more senior authority to the police, rearresting the alleged rapist the following day. The case is now under investigation, but the courts in that state are on strike, which has led to delays.
Nandang hopes this case will show women and children that they will be supported if they speak out.
Meanwhile, Precious is waiting for the outcome of her case and says she is cautiously hopeful because of the support she has received from Silent Voices and FIDA.
*Names have been changed to protect the victims’ identities.
By Ope Adetayo