Monday, January 30, 2023

Video - Easing of health protocols reversed in Nigeria

Nigeria has reversed its recent decision to ease COVID-related health protocols for travelers, and now demanding proof of vaccination from all people coming into the country. This comes barely a month after the government lifted many travel restrictions. 


Cost of living crisis causes exodus of doctors from Nigeria

Africa's largest economy, Nigeria, is in the process of introducing new banknotes for the first time in more than 20 years. The move is an attempt to reignite confidence in the currency, the naira, which is under severe pressure. With inflation at more than 20%, people are struggling to cope with the rising cost of living. It is leading to the largest exodus of young professionals in years.

"Imagine going to the grocery store one day, and everything has tripled in price? How do you even cope? You have a family at home. What do you cut out of the budget?" Oroma Cookey Gam tells me by Zoom, her face incredulous.

The fashion designer left Nigeria's biggest city, Lagos, with her young family a year ago for the UK capital, London. Her husband and business partner Osione, an artist, was granted a Global Talent visa, which enables leaders in academia, arts and culture, as well as digital technology to work in the UK.

She says it had become too expensive to raise their young family in Lagos. "Our money was buying us less and less. We weren't able to pay our bills, we weren't able to do normal things that we were doing."

Oroma studied law at the UK's University of Northumbria and moved back to Nigeria almost 20 years ago, keen to use her degree to help develop her country. Along with Osione, she eventually set up This Is Us, a sustainable fashion and lifestyle brand that uses local materials and artisans, including cotton grown and dyed in northern Nigeria.

Initially, the cost of living crisis wasn't impacting them.

"Because we are 100% sourced in Nigeria, things were not as terrible for us as it was for other people," Oroma says. "So when everyone was increasing their prices, we skipped a couple of increases because we could manage."

But eventually their Nigerian customer base was finding it harder to afford non-essential items like clothing - particularly when food accounts for 63% of their spending. This means when the price of food goes up, people have less disposable income.

Oroma says it is particularly bad for young Nigerians. "Speaking to my mum, one thing that I realised is that when they were younger, things were a lot easier for them. They could afford to buy houses, cars.

"I always felt like: 'What is going on with me?' I'm failing because I can't do all the things my mum was doing, but I realised that the country is not working for me."

She is not the only one to feel this way. Nigeria is experiencing its worst wave of emigration in years. Reliable statistics are hard to find, but the number of Nigerians granted UK work visas has quadrupled since 2019. And 700% more visas have been awarded to Nigerian students.

There are long queues outside immigration processing centres and embassies every day, and everyone here seems to know someone who's leaving or trying to relocate abroad.

The term "japa", which means "to run, flee or escape" in Yoruba, has become a popular topic of conversation online, as well as on radio and TV chat shows.

Most of those who can afford to leave the country legally are well educated. They include doctors, nurses, engineers and IT professionals. It's led some to call the exodus a "brain drain".

The Nigeria Medical Association, says at least 50 doctors leave Nigeria every week to work abroad. Poor working conditions, coupled with bad pay and the rising cost of living are the main factors.

Kunle Ibisola is a junior doctor who used to work at the University College Hospital (UCH), in the south-western city of Ibadan. He now works for NHS Scotland.

"My story is the story of most Nigerian doctors," he tells me over the phone. "I never wanted to leave Nigeria. My intention was to start my residency there, become a consultant and practice in my country.

"The main reason I left is salary, and the cost of living. In the UK, if I work six to eight hours of locum work [overtime] and I convert that to naira, it will be the equivalent of my monthly salary in Nigeria. And that's not even including my main UK salary."

He says a year ago his hospital in Nigeria started haemorrhaging doctors.

"Some doctors didn't get paid for six to nine months, because there was an issue with the federal payment system. Some senior colleagues couldn't afford to drive to work or send their children to school. That was an eye-opener for a lot of people."

His wife and children are planning to join him in Scotland soon. When I ask him what he thinks the future holds for Nigeria, he grows pensive.

"If I think about it too much, it's depressing because even people currently in medical school are all planning to leave. If you aren't planning to leave, people think you're unfortunate or you don't have money."

I have spoken to half a dozen doctors, all with similar stories. Overworked and underpaid, they all decided to relocate over the past two years.

For those left behind, the pressure is immense. Cheta Nwanze, an economic analyst at SBM Intelligence, says Nigeria's current high rate of inflation is mainly caused by food inflation.

"SBM has this proxy for food inflation called the Jollof Index," he explains, referring to the tomato-based rice dish, popular across West Africa. "We calculate the average cost of making a pot of jollof rice for a family of five. It was just under 4,000 naira at the start of 2016, and now it's around 10,000 naira [$22, £18] - so it's more than doubled in five years."

He explains that although Nigeria has been affected by some of the same drivers of inflation as elsewhere in the world, namely the war in Ukraine and the 2020 pandemic, there are additional factors unique to the country.

He says that many farmers in the north, where much of the country's food comes from, have been unable to plant their crops in recent years because of attacks by Islamist militants and kidnappers.

"When you couple that with the government's protectionist policies with respect to food imports, and Nigeria's growing population, it means there's less food for more mouths to feed, which drives up inflation."

The impact of this can be seen in the country's markets. In Ajah, a small food market in a residential suburb of Lagos, there are fewer people than usual.

Omowunmi Ajekigbe, a market trader, is grating okra under a huge parasol. "Things weren't too expensive last year," she tells me, "but this year, it's too much. You used to see lots of customers rushing about, but now... you barely see anybody.

At a nearby stall, Cordelia Fidelis, a young woman with long braids and a big smile, is haggling with a vegetable seller. She owns a catering business and comes to the market every day.

"The cost of goods is alarming - in just two months the price of yams has more than doubled. It's crazy, I swear it's crazy, everything is so expensive. A box of egg is expensive, beef is expensive, palm oil is so expensive."

Some have started taking drastic action to manage their expenses. Angela Chukwulozie is a retired teacher who now sells Italian shoes. "Since the price of everything has gone up, I've cut back on how many meals my family and I eat every day. Instead of eating three times in a day we now eat twice."

The economy is one of the key concerns for voters in next month's elections. Despite being Africa's largest economy, four out of 10 Nigerians live below the poverty line, according to the World Bank. All of the main candidates have promised to improve the country's economy if elected, but there is scepticism as to whether they can deliver.

The Central Bank says the change of currency, which must be completed by 10 February when the old banknotes will no longer be legal tender, will help bring some of the cash currently being hoarded by individuals and companies back into the banking system.

It says 80% of the notes currently in circulation are outside banks. The organisation hopes the change will give it a better understanding of the money circulating in the economy so it can better manage inflation. Whether or not it will be successful is debatable.

Back in London, Oroma is optimistic, despite the hardships her country is facing.

"There's no place like home. I go back to Nigeria every three months, because when I haven't been there, I literally feel like I'm dying.

"I feel like Nigeria is at the point where, if we can change now, it's not too late. We just need some basics: people need to be educated, we need electricity, we need roads. If we can just do these three things and improve security, I think the potential in Nigeria is amazing."

By Mayeni Jones, BBC

Related stories: Frustrated Nigerians 'flee' abroad in punishing pre-election brain drain

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

Friday, January 27, 2023

Chaos in Nigeria as deadline on cash swap gets closer

Nigerians, from all parts of the country, will enter this weekend agitated and confused over the currency redesign policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
While banks remain open to receive old notes till Tuesday, January 31, scarcity of new naira notes and rejection of the old notes, beginning from today, by retailers and many sales outlets, is driving the citizenry into panic mode as the deadline stares them in the face while still having large amounts of the old N1,000, N500 and N200 notes.

Few days before the deadline, the exercise had led to chaos, as well as over-stretching bank workers due to the breakdown of counting machines in many of the branches.

Findings by The Guardian showed that the breakdown of the counting machines due to heavy pressure has resulted in bank tellers now counting monies in bulk manually, making many customers wait long hours on the queue before being attended to.

The Guardian gathered that not only are bank workers overstretched, the health implications of counting mutilated notes manually remain a concern. National President of the National Union of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institution Employees (NUBIFIE), Anthony Abakpa, who said the situation has not been brought to the union’s attention, called for compensation for the categories of staff, especially the bulk tellers and the notes counting officers at the end of the exercise.

He called on employers and management of banks to ensure that workers’ safety were more paramount, by giving them all the necessary gadgets and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), like nose masks and hand gloves to protect their fingers from germs.

This was similarly echoed by the National President of the Association of Senior Staff of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions (ASSBIFI), Olusoji Oluwole, who cited the stress and health implications on workers.

AMID the confusion overheating the polity, a Professor of Law, Joshua Alobo, has approached the Federal High Court in Abuja, urging it to among others, restrain the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and its Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, from implementing the January 31 deadline.

The request form part of the reliefs being sought in a suit, marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/114/2023. Alobo also wants the court to issue a mandatory order, compelling CBN to extend the “duration where the old notes cease to become legal tender to period of three weeks when the redesign notes will be sufficiently dispensed by the commercial banks.”

Defendants in the suit are the CBN, Emefiele and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami (SAN). Alobo, who accused commercial banks of failing to make the new naira notes available to their customers, stated that as of January 25, he was still handed the old notes on the counter and through the Automatic Teller Machine (ATM).

Few days before the deadline, the exercise had led to chaos, as well as over-stretching bank workers due to the breakdown of counting machines in many of the branches.

Findings by The Guardian showed that the breakdown of the counting machines due to heavy pressure has resulted in bank tellers now counting monies in bulk manually, making many customers wait long hours on the queue before being attended to.

The Guardian gathered that not only are bank workers overstretched, the health implications of counting mutilated notes manually remain a concern. National President of the National Union of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institution Employees (NUBIFIE), Anthony Abakpa, who said the situation has not been brought to the union’s attention, called for compensation for the categories of staff, especially the bulk tellers and the notes counting officers at the end of the exercise.

He called on employers and management of banks to ensure that workers’ safety were more paramount, by giving them all the necessary gadgets and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), like nose masks and hand gloves to protect their fingers from germs.

This was similarly echoed by the National President of the Association of Senior Staff of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions (ASSBIFI), Olusoji Oluwole, who cited the stress and health implications on workers.

AMID the confusion overheating the polity, a Professor of Law, Joshua Alobo, has approached the Federal High Court in Abuja, urging it to among others, restrain the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and its Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, from implementing the January 31 deadline.

The request form part of the reliefs being sought in a suit, marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/114/2023. Alobo also wants the court to issue a mandatory order, compelling CBN to extend the “duration where the old notes cease to become legal tender to period of three weeks when the redesign notes will be sufficiently dispensed by the commercial banks.”

Defendants in the suit are the CBN, Emefiele and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami (SAN). Alobo, who accused commercial banks of failing to make the new naira notes available to their customers, stated that as of January 25, he was still handed the old notes on the counter and through the Automatic Teller Machine (ATM).

THE commercial banks, yesterday, told the House that they were bound by CBN guidelines, as their regulator in the implementation of the cashless policy. The banks in a meeting with the adhoc committee of the House set up to interface with them on the withdrawal of old notes said they are getting allocation of the new notes from the CBN and dispensing same to their customers through the ATMs. According to them, the January 31 deadline of the CBN was still sacrosanct.

It will be recalled that the committee chaired by the leader of the House, Ado Doguwa had invited the various commercial banks to confirm or refute the claims by the CBN that there was sufficient new naira notes in circulation.

Represented by their various staff, the banks took turns to respond to the issues. They said that due to the cashless policy, they were not expected to collect as much money as deposited with the CBN, stressing that the public should first understand the import of the policy. They also revealed that the new notes can only be accessed through the ATM and not at the counters.

While the debate raged over his non-appearance at the House, Emefiele unveiled the Nigerian national domestic card scheme. The move, the apex bank added, is part of efforts to reshape the country’s payment landscape.

“The domestic card scheme is expected to strengthen the national payments system and deepen the usage of electronic platforms in Nigeria,” Emefiele said at the virtual launch.

He maintained that the new scheme is set to provide more options for domestic consumers and promote the delivery of services in a more innovative, cost-effective, and competitive manner.

Emefiele also assured Nigerians that the move will bring more opportunities to integrate the informal segment of the country’s economy, reduce shadow banking and bring more people into formal financial services.

THE Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has urged CBN to extend the deadline. NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, who stated this in Abuja, yesterday, also faulted the policy as one that was not properly thought through.

He argued that the newly redesigned notes are not widely circulated for the citizens to use, adding that CBN will throw many Nigerians, especially those in rural villages, into more hardship if it goes ahead to enforce the decision on the last day of January.

“We align ourselves fully with the position of the National Assembly because we go to the rural areas. We have workers in rural areas. We have many of our local government areas that don’t have banking facilities and some of those areas are even very hard to reach.

“So, we call for this policy to be reviewed and to give an extension so that all old notes can then be mopped up by the bank. We call on CBN, particularly in areas where you don’t have banks, don’t just go to one or two local governments as they did in Borno. Don’t select places and then tell the media that you are doing the right thing, you are doing the wrong thing.

“The new notes are not in circulation and the old notes are being rejected. They are pushing people to the wall and very soon people will react. Importantly, even in city centres, where we have banks, banks’ ATMs are not dispensing new notes.

“ CBN did not think through this policy very well. If it is targeting the rich, the rich are the owners of the banks, the rich are already spending dollars and the rich are spending other currencies. So CBN is targeting the rich, but punishing the poor.”

IN the meantime, scarcity of the new notes is creating hardship for Nigerians, both in rural and urban centres. In Abuja, some workers lamented their inability to send money to their aged parents at home.

Ajibola Sunday said while he appreciates the need to prevent politicians from inducing voters financially, other collateral damages are creeping into the scenario.

“Yes, I understand what President Muhammadu Buhari is trying to do, going by his antecedents in 1984, but this is also affecting other segments of the society. For instance, my mother is finding it difficult to get new notes to buy necessities. Most people in my village now reject old notes even when new ones are not available. The CBN can stay in Abuja and speak all the grammar, the reality is that most Nigerians are not getting the new notes.”

Though the new notes are beginning to be available in a few ATMs, people are not allowed to withdraw more than N20,000 per day. Most Point of Sale (POS) operators around FCT have been off business as they decry the dearth of new notes.

Ebele Nwankwo, a POS operator in Central Business Area, said customers are rejecting the old notes. According to her, bank cashiers are still giving old notes to customers, insisting that are no new notes in the bank.

“Where are we supposed to get the new notes if not from the bank? This is why I am not open for business today,” she said.“I will go back to the bank tomorrow (Friday) to check if I will get new notes. I can’t risk withdrawing old notes that customers will reject from me.”

It was a similar situation at the popular Berger junction along airport road, as the pool of POS operators was scanty. Aliu Ahmed, one of the few POS operators with new notes described the day as his ‘lucky’ day. “I have had a lot of customers today because some of my colleagues are not here, they are looking for new notes.”

He explained that he withdrew the new notes from one of the banks in a nearby town yesterday morning. Aliu, however, said that he was only able to withdraw N20,000, being the highest amount a customer can withdraw per day.

“With that little amount, I was able to exchange old notes of N5,000 for new N4,000 instead of the regular charges of N100 for N5,000 as people are desperately in need of the new notes to exchange goods for cash on the streets,” he said.

Many customers have begun to reject the old notes in Ogbomoso, Oyo State, while ATM points in the ancient town are deserted. Traders, PoS operators and residents complained bitterly about scarcity of the new notes, which they said is hampering businesses and socio-economic activities.

Investigation by The Guardian indicated that many PoS operators have hectic time convincing their customers to accept the old notes. Mr. Ojo Isaiah, a PoS operator, said he withdrew N400,000 from the bank but old notes were given to him. He vowed to wreak havoc if any bank refuses to accept the old notes from him on Monday to beat the deadline.

He said: “I was informed there were new notes available, which was why I filled teller to withdraw N400,000 but there was no single new one in the notes I was given.”

PRESIDENT Buhari’s visit to his Katsina home state, yesterday, stalled many business activities, even as commercial banks were unable to provide needed services for customers.

Buhari is on a two-day working visit, where he is expected to commission some state, federal and private projects. Some of the projects being commissioned are located on major streets, especially the IBB Way, where most of the commercial banks are located.

For security reasons, roads leading to and from project commission venues were cordoned off, making it difficult for businesses to open. The development also put serious setback to efforts by residents to swap their old naira notes for the redesigned ones.

A visit to some of the banks showed hundreds of customers struggling to access the few ATMs dispensing old notes.

A customer, Mrs Sarah Okpanachi, said the late commencement of banking activities, which was due to the President’s visit, affected efforts to swap old notes.

“They told us to be patient, that they would soon load the ATMs with the new notes, but nothing has been done as at 2:30p.m.” Okpanachi said though she managed to deposit the old notes she came with at the bank, effort to access and withdraw the new notes from the ATMs, didn’t yield positive result as cashiers in the banking hall directed customers to the ATMs.

IN Enugu State, investigations by The Guardian showed that while banks have resorted to paying lower denominations of the currency, including N100 and N50 over the counter, ATMs that should disburse the new currency notes have become empty.

While some banks stopped receiving the old notes from Wednesday and approved such receipts in designated branches in the state, churches have asked their members not to send in the old notes from yesterday. Some businesses have also started rejecting the old notes.

Benson Ugwu told The Guardian that efforts to withdraw from ATM proved abortive as none was dispensing cash. Perturbed by the development, Igbo youths under the aegis of Coalition of South East Youth Leaders (COSEYL) have called on CBN to extend the deadline for the use of old notes. They stated that they would embark on street protests to persuade the apex bank to review the deadline directive, its National Coordinator, Goodluck Ibem, stated.

A former Minister of Information, Prof. Jerry Gana, yesterday, called on the Federal Government to find a permanent solution to the nation’s persistent scarcity and increase in price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), also known as petrol, claiming that the unavoidably queues at the filling stations are intolerable and unacceptable.

According to Gana, the country’s economy has been severely hampered by what he described as needless scarcit.y The former Information Minister, who disclosed this at the 106th anniversary of the Archbishop Vining College of Theology in Akure, Ondo State, said drivers and commuters have been facing untold hardship nationwide.

Gana also expressed displeasure at what he termed needless difficulties Nigerians are going through over newly redesigned naira notes. He claimed that despite the approaching deadline, many citizens were unable to obtain the new notes.

To give the populace access to the new notes and head off the issue, he demanded a quick extension of the due date.
SPOKESMAN, Middle Belt Forum, Isuwa Dogo, yesterday, said Nigerians would soon realise the major error of allowing the CBN Governor to singlehandedly convince President Buhari to change to new currency notes without carrying the National Assembly along.

Dogo, while speaking with The Guardian, tasked the media to do thorough investigation behind the motives of Emefiele and those behind the new naira notes at this delicate election period.

He said: “The action of the CBN governor completely undermined the Constitutional role of the National Assembly, which represent the Nigerian populace. The action again undermined the fundamental rights of 200 million Nigerians, who were not given the opportunity to have input in such a critical and sensitive issue of currency change that have effects even on children that are in the womb.”

The Middle Belt Forum’s spokesman urged the National Assembly to use its constitutional power force the CBN governor to extend the deadline of January 31 to about six months.

By Collins Olayinka, The Guardian

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Video - New currency in Nigeria to affect small businesses according to World Bank

Domestic card scheme launched in Nigeria to promote cashless society

Nigeria's central bank on Thursday launched a domestic card scheme to rival foreign cards like Mastercard and Visa, hoping to enhance its drive to make Africa's biggest economy a cashless society and save the country foreign transaction fees.

The announcement by Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor Godwin Emefiele follows the bank's decision last year to phase out old higher denomination bank notes.

Emefiele told a virtual launch of the "AfriGo" card scheme that although penetration of card payments in Nigeria had grown over the years, many citizens remained excluded.

"The challenges that have limited the inclusion of Nigerians include the high cost of card services as a result of foreign exchange requirements of international card schemes and the fact that existing card products do not address local peculiarities of the Nigerian market," said Emefiele.

AfriGo is owned by CBN and Nigerian banks and Emefiele said that Nigeria was joining China, Russia, India and Turkey in launching a domestic card scheme.

International card service providers like Mastercard and Visa would not be stopped in Nigeria, he added.

"Rather, it (AFRIGO) is aimed at providing more options for domestic consumers whilst also promoting the delivery of services in a more innovative, cost effective and competitive manner," he said.

Africa's most populous nation Nigeria, has more than 200 million people and the majority still use cash because they live in rural areas where there are not banks. 

By Camillus Eboh, Reuters

Related stories: Citizens of Nigeria Uneasy about Cash Withdrawal Restrictions

Nigeria’s eNaira digital currency had an embarrassing first week


Thursday, January 26, 2023

Bomb blast kills at least 50 in Nigeria

Dozens of cattle herders and bystanders were killed and several injured by a suspected bomb blast in Nigeria's north central region, a state government official and spokesperson of the national cattle breeders said on Wednesday.

The incident happened on Tuesday night between Nasarawa and Benue states in north central Nigeria.

The spokesperson of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, Tasi'u Suleman, said a group of Fulani herders were moving their cattle to Nasarawa from Benue, where authorities had confiscated the animals for breaching anti-grazing laws, when an explosion rocked the area.

"At least about 54 people died instantly. Those who were injured were countless," Suleman said.

Nasarawa governor Abdullahi Sule did not say how many people were killed, but told reporters that a bomb blast was responsible for the deaths.

He did not say who was believed to be behind the explosion, but said he had been meeting with security agencies "to ensure that we continue to douse the tension" that could be caused by the incident.

North central Nigeria, also known as the Middle Belt, is prone to violence due to clashes between Fulani pastoralists and farmers, who are mainly Christian, which is often painted as ethno-religious conflict.

But experts say population growth and climate change has led to an expansion of the area dedicated to farming, leaving less land available for open grazing by nomads' herds of cattle.

The governor's spokesperson Abubakar Ladan told Reuters that mass burial for those killed were held earlier on Wednesday.

By Ardo Hazzad and Ahmed Kingimi, Reuters

Related stories: Dozens killed in ‘barbaric, senseless’ violence in Nigeria

Video - Conflict between herdsmen and farmers remains deadly in Nigeria

U.S. blocks entry to those 'undermining' democracy in Nigeria

The United States on Wednesday said it is restricting entry to people "believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining democracy in Nigeria" and their family members ahead of that country's elections this year.

"Additional persons who undermine the democratic process in Nigeria — including in the lead-up to, during, and following Nigeria’s 2023 elections — may be found ineligible for U.S. visas under this policy," U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari will step down after serving two four-year terms following a Feb. 25, 2023 ballot. Nigeria, Africa's largest economy, is facing unprecedented insecurity that has seen its electoral commission targeted by violence, including the bombing of its headquarters in one of the country's states last month.

"The decision to impose visa restrictions reflects the commitment of the United States to support Nigerian aspirations to combat corruption and strengthen democracy and the rule of law," Blinken wrote.

The visa restrictions are aimed at "certain individuals and are not directed at the Nigerian people or the Government of Nigeria," Blinken added. The statement did not name any specific targets of the new policy, which would make individuals ineligible to travel to the United States. 

By Susan Heavey, Reuters

Related stories: Video - Elections to go on despite security concerns in Nigeria

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Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Video - Elections to go on despite security concerns in Nigeria

As Nigeria's February elections to elect a new president draw closer, other parts of the country still face security challenges. But despite these security challenges Nigerian authorities say the elections will not be postponed over security concerns. 


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Flights in Nigeria disrupted as ground staff go on strike

Airlines in Nigeria said on Monday that flights were being disrupted after ground staff began an indefinite strike to demand higher pay.

Air Peace, which has the biggest fleet in Nigeria, and smaller domestic carrier Dana Air said the strike by the Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO) was delaying flights and they hoped the issue would be quickly resolved.

“The strike has affected all operations of all airlines being handled by the company [NAHCO],” Air Peace said in a statement.

British Airways and Qatar Airways, among the foreign airlines frequently flying to Nigeria, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The National Union of Transport Employees and Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria issued a notice last week that its members would go on strike from Monday to press NAHCO for better pay.

Flight disruptions are common in Nigeria due to issues surrounding logistics, labour union strikes and fuel scarcity.

In May 2022, the Airline Operators of Nigeria, an umbrella organisation of domestic airlines, suspended flights for days saying the price of jet fuel had jumped from 190 to 700 Nigerian naira per litre (from $0.45 to almost $1.70). The rise was primarily caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February. 

Al Jazeera

Billion-dollar deep seaport opened in Nigeria







Nigeria opened a billion-dollar Chinese-built deep seaport in Lagos on Monday, which is expected to ease congestion at the country's ports and help it become an African hub for transshipment, handling cargoes in transit for other destinations.

President Muhammadu Buhari has made building infrastructure a key pillar of his government's economic policy, and hopes that this will help his ruling party win votes during next month's presidential election.

The new Lekki Deep Sea Port is 75% owned by the China Harbour Engineering Company and Tolaram group, with the balance shared between the Lagos state government and the Nigerian Ports Authority.

"This is a transformative project, game changer project. This project could create at least 200,000 jobs," Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria Cui Jianchun told Reuters after the port was commissioned by Buhari.

China is among the largest bilateral lenders to Nigeria and has funded rail, roads and power stations.

By Seun Sanni, Reuters

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Video - Power generation firms to be privatized in Nigeria

Nigeria is facing a huge financial headache caused by challenges in funding its record 49 billion U.S. dollar budget. The government has announced plans to privatize its power generation companies and use those proceeds to plug the budget deficit.


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Monday, January 16, 2023

Priest dies in house fire caused by bandits in Nigeria

Around 02:00 GMT in the village of Kafin-Koro (centre), in Niger State, armed individuals locally referred to as "bandits" set fire to the residence of a priest, who was burned to death, said Wasiu Biodun, spokesman for the police in the state.

They set fire to the house of Father Isaac Achi, after failing to gain access. "Unfortunately, the bandits set the house on fire, while the said Reverend Father was burnt alive," he said.

The assailants shot and wounded another priest as he tried to escape: "The lifeless body of Father Isaac was recovered while Father Collins was rushed to hospital for treatment," the spokesman added.

In another attack a few hours later, "bandits" broke into a house in the village of Dan Tsauni (Kankara district, northwest), Katsina State, and abducted five worshippers preparing to attend Sunday mass in a nearby church.

"The terrorists seized five people in the house, shot a priest in hand and fled with the five hostages," state police spokesman Gambo Isa told AFP.

The priest was taken to hospital for treatment, he added.

Nigerian authorities are struggling to stem rising violence in the north and central regions where armed groups target rural communities, killing thousands and abducting people to ransom. Residents said that security forces are often outnumbered and outgunned and suspects are seldom detained.

The attacks sometimes target religious figures such as clerics. In July last year, Rev. John Mark Chietnum was killed after he was kidnapped in the northwestern Kaduna state.

Sunday's incident sparked international condemnation. In a statement, Antonio Tajani, the Italian foreign minister, called the attack "cowardly and inhuman."

Niger state Gov. Abubakar Sani Bello said the killing signalled that no one was safe. "These terrorists have lost it and drastic action is needed to end this ongoing carnage," he said.

Nigeria's Christian Association has asked authorities to investigate and do more to protect civilians. "Enough of the attacks and wanton killings of innocent Nigerian citizens," said Bulus Yohanna, the association's chairman.


Related stories: Nigerian Catholic priest killed after abduction

Kidnapped priest dies in captivity



Friday, January 13, 2023

Sacking of unmarried pregnant police officers scrapped in Nigeria

A rule banning unmarried Nigerian police officers from getting pregnant and ensured their sacking if they did, has been scrapped.

In a landmark case, a judge ruled the regulation was discriminatory as it did not apply to male officers who got co-workers pregnant.

The case was brought by a corporal who was sacked in 2021 after getting pregnant.

The woman was awarded 5m naira (£9,100) in compensation.

The ex-officer - who is named in Nigerian media as Omolola Olajide - challenged her dismissal on grounds of discrimination since her male counterparts are not dismissed in similar circumstances.

Although Ms Olajide was compensated for the violation of her fundamental right to freedom from discrimination, she will not get her job back as she was on probation at the time of her dismissal.

In a ruling in the south-western city of Akure, Justice Dashe Damulak said the regulation was "discriminatory, illegal, null and void" and struck it out.

The judge ruled that the regulation "violates sections of the Nigerian constitution as well as the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights Ratification and Enforcement Act, which abolished discrimination on basis of gender".

Nigerian police have not yet responded to the ruling, but experts believe it could have far-reaching consequences for other organisations which have similar regulations.

By Alex Binley, BBC

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Female bouncers in Nigeria show their strength fighting stereotypes







For years, Emem Thomas' body drew snarky remarks from slimmer classmates in southern Nigeria that shattered her confidence and natural affability.

As teasing and taunts marred her teenage years, she gave up on dreams like competing in a local beauty pageant.

Then she found a niche that values what Thomas now proudly describes as her "plus-sized" body type: the "Dragon Squad Limited", a team of female bouncers.

"I love what I see dragons do in movies," she said. "They are also a symbol of power and protection."

Founded in 2018, Thomas only employs women of a certain weight and shape, creating a safe space for plus-size women to excel in a field that is traditionally male-dominated.

"My team is all about plus-size ladies," she explained. "If you have the plus-size body then that is cool for me, before I now talk about your passion and other qualifications."

The Dragon Squad's 43 recruits have worked security at about 2,000 events including house parties, funerals, political rallies and club nights.

"People expect us to be in the kitchen or probably doing make-up and other feminine roles, but joining this squad has really enlightened me," said 23-year-old bouncer Peace Vigorous, the youngest of the crew.

In addition to walkie-talkies, boots and dark glasses, the bouncers carry pepper spray.

The risk of being molested on the job is "always something we have in mind", said Thomas.

"We always prep ourselves for that" and for "men looking down on us."


On an early overcast morning, Thomas led bouncers through a sweaty fitness session on a parking lot.

The women have acquired skills, strength, and most importantly for Thomas, confidence.

"Most of them... were always shy. They couldn't talk," she said, noting that she too became introverted because of her weight.

Behaviour that draws attention such as standing in front of a crowd and giving orders can be particularly challenging for women used to avoiding the public eye.

"Face the crowd and be yourself," Thomas tells them when they falter. "You are supposed to be seen and known."

Thomas's newfound confidence has transformed her social and family life in the city of Uyo, where the 37-year-old lives with her two children.

She no longer considers herself and introvert or shies away from events.

The Dragon Squad has also led her to advocate for the rights of girls and women.

Gender violence is rife in Nigeria, which has one of the world's highest rates of sexual assault. Jihadist groups in the north are renown for kidnapping girls and women and trafficking them into sex work and forced labour.

For Thomas, change comes with "breaking the barrier" to show what women bring to all sectors of society.

She believes female bouncers "have a way of taking off danger" by listening to troublemakers and victims in a way that most men do not have patience for.

"I see no reason why women (should not be) given a chance."

By Seun Sanni and Temilade Adelaja, Reuters

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Video - Nigerian business people eager to resume travel to China

Nigerian business people are looking forward to resuming regular travel to China, after China relaxed entry and exit conditions. Badamasi Kamaladdin is one of them. He has been buying phones and accessories from the Asian country for nearly a decade, and now says that he has high expectations in 2023 that his business will flourish once again.


Tuesday, January 10, 2023

GT Bank of Nigeria fines in UK over money-laundering failures

Britain’s financial watchdog has fined the UK subsidiary of Nigeria’s Guaranty Trust Bank 7.6 million pounds ($9.3m) for what it says are further failures in its anti-money-laundering systems and controls.

“These weaknesses were repeatedly highlighted to GT Bank by internal and external sources, including the FCA, but despite this, GT Bank failed to take appropriate action to fix them,” the Financial Conduct Authority said in a statement on Tuesday.

The watchdog said GT Bank has not disputed the findings and agreed to settle, making it eligible for a 30 percent discount on the fine, down from the original 10.96 million pounds ($13.3m).

“GT Bank’s conduct is particularly egregious as this is not the first time that the bank has faced enforcement action in relation to its AML controls,” the statement said.

Gbenga Alade, managing director of GT Bank UK, said the bank takes its anti-money laundering obligations extremely seriously and noted the FCA’s findings with sincere regret, adding that the FCA found no instances of suspected money laundering.

“We would like to assure all our stakeholders and the general public that necessary steps have been taken to address and resolve the identified gaps,” Alade said in a statement.

In August 2013, the FCA fined it 525,000 pounds ($627,323) for running afoul of the regulations.

“Banks are at the front line in ensuring the proceeds of crime do not enter the UK financial system,” Tracey McDermott, the FCA’s director of enforcement, said at the time. “GT Bank’s failures were serious and systemic and resulted in an unacceptable risk of handling the proceeds of crime.”

The bank said then that it had complied with the fine and addressed the issues.

Al Jazeera

32 people kidnapped from train station in Nigeria

Gunmen armed with AK-47 rifles have abducted more than 30 people from a train station in Nigeria's southern Edo state, the governor's office said on Sunday.

The attack is the latest example of the growing insecurity that has spread to nearly every corner of Africa's most populous country, posing a challenge to the government in advance of a February presidential election.

Police said in a statement that armed herdsmen had attacked Tom Ikimi station at 4 p.m. (1500 GMT) as passengers awaited a train to Warri, an oil hub in nearby Delta state. The station is some 111 km northeast of state capital Benin City and close to the border with Anambra state.

Some people at the station were shot in the attack, police said.

Edo state information commissioner Chris Osa Nehikhare said the kidnappers had taken 32 people, though one had already escaped.

"At the moment, security personnel made up of the military and the police as well as men of the vigilante network and hunters are intensifying search and rescue operations in a reasonable radius to rescue the kidnap victims," he said. "We are confident that the other victims will be rescued in the coming hours."

The Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) had closed the station until further notice and the federal transportation ministry called the kidnappings "utterly barbaric".

The NRC last month reopened a rail service linking the capital Abuja with northern Kaduna state, months after gunmen blew up the tracks, kidnapped dozens of passengers and killed six people.

The last hostage taken in that March attack was not freed until October.

Insecurity is rampant across Nigeria, with Islamist insurgencies in the northeast, banditry in the northwest, separatists in the southeast and farmer-herdsmen clashes in the central states. 

By Tife Owolabi, Reuters

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

How I survived the Kaduna train attack hijacking and captivity

Love for Anime grows in Nigeria with second Eko Anima Festival








Almost 1,000 fans of anime converged to Lagos, Nigeria for the second edition of the Eko Anime Festival. Some anime fans performed on stage, and many were cosplaying their favourite characters. 

Anime is animation originating from Japan. Its films and characters are part of a culture present in many more mediums like video games. 

"We realised that there really wasn't any convention or festival like an anime fest in the whole of Nigeria," says Laura Ajayi, co-organiser of the second edition of the Eko anime festival. 

"So, we thought why don't we start this because we have a whole community of otakus, weebs, even people that just want to dip their feet into the anime pool and so we thought why don't we just do this, everybody comes together and you know have fun and it works." 

Anime has a big following in Nigeria, where most grew up with Voltron, Naruto, and Samurai X in the 1980s all the way to the early 2000s. 

"I think Nigerians are interested in the anime culture because Nigerians generally love to try new things so the anime, which is an entirely different culture on its own is a new and unique thing to Nigeria so they will keep loving it because they keep bringing out different things each year which continue to hold our attention, which is very good for us," adds Ajayi. 

Nigerian anime lovers say their aim is to socialise and promote the culture. The popularity of anime culture is said to have grown online in Nigeria, with many Japanese comics (manga) available on websites and apps, and fans talking about them through social media. Antonio, who is attending the festival, likes anime because of its inclusivity. 

"Anime imitates life, there's an anime for everybody and everything. If you like sport, there's an anime for sports, if you like horror movies, action movies, romance, fairy tales, there's an anime for you and you just have to look at it. Anime is huge and it's for everybody." 

Anime lovers are optimistic that more Nigerians will come to love and embrace the culture, and also hope to organise bigger subsequent festivals.

African News

Monday, January 9, 2023

Video - Olubenga Olubanjo Powering Nigeria One Electric Capsule at a Time

Olubenga Olubanjo, founder of Reeddi, says he’s found a way to provide affordable, reliable and sustainable electricity to all Nigerians. 



Friday, January 6, 2023

Video - Braille trained pushing for education for the blind in Nigeria

In Nigeria, an estimated 50 million people have some form of visual disability. Several problems, including lack of access to qualified eye doctors, have impacted effective treatment and job prospects for the blind. But as Tesem Akende reports, one institution is helping to change that.


Cash Withdrawals from Government Accounts to be banned in Nigeria

Nigeria will ban cash withdrawals from government accounts from March 1.

Modibbo Tukur, the chief executive of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) said the move was part of efforts to tackle money laundering, according to a Thursday (Jan. 5) Bloomberg report.

“On March 1, if there is a cash withdrawal from a government account, even if it is one naira, we are going to trigger off money laundering and corruption investigations,” he told reporters in Abuja.

In recent months, Nigeria has been taking a hard line on cash transactions as it attempts to digitize its economy.

The government has imposed strict limits on cash withdrawals at ATMs, which will come into effect on Monday (Jan. 9). From then, individuals will be limited to withdrawing 20,000 naira ($44.49) daily, down from the current limit of 150,000 naira ($333.68).

The country is also in the process of removing old banknotes from circulation by the end of the month.

Championed by the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, the Naira redesign has been proposed as a way to prevent people from hoarding cash for illicit purposes and as a means of controlling inflation. However, the policy has divided opinion.

Two days after the CBN announced the redesign in October, the naira suffered a historic crash, following what has already been a turbulent year for the currency. Shortly after that, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) urged caution as the central bank implements the policy.

With nearly every political party taking a stance on the issue and Nigeria about to kick off its election season, the role of cash in the economy has become a hot political topic.

Proponents of the central bank’s efforts to reduce the weight of the cash economy say it is necessary to tackle corruption and stabilize the naira’s value on foreign exchange markets.

Critics, on the other hand, argue that the current approach is too aggressive and disproportionately affects small businesses and society’s poorest, who are most reliant on a functioning cash system and don’t necessarily have access to alternative means of payment.


Related stories: New bank note launched in Nigeria to help curb corruption

Video - New currency in Nigeria to affect small businesses according to World Bank

Thursday, January 5, 2023

Video - Oil production to rise to 1.6 mln barrels per day according to Nigerian authorities

Authorities in Nigeria are forecasting oil production will rise to 1.6 million barrels per day by the first quarter of this year. Crude output fell to less than 1 million in mid-2022, the lowest in years due to increased crude oil theft and vandalism of pipelines, forcing some companies to reduce or stop production.


Related story: Video - Dangote Refinery in Nigeria nears completion


WURA - First Telenovela from Nigeria to premiere in January











With an early new year gift unveiling, the African streaming platform Showmax, which has given a lot of originals since the beginning of 2022, announced that Nigerians are in for a new ride in 2023.

The streaming platform is set to launch a new original telenovela titled ‘Wura’ in January 2023.

According to them, the new series is a Nigerian adaptation of the hit South African 1Magic telenovela, ‘The River’.

With over 200 episodes, Wura is billed to be the platform’s first and longest-running Nigerian telenovela.

The series will debut on Showmax on the 26th of January, with four episodes, weekly adding to Showmax’s library of local content and investment in Nigeria’s film industry, Nollywood.

In a constructed spotlight, the story, which is set against the backdrop of the gold mining industry in the Iperindo community of Osun state, tells the story of Wura-Amoo Adeleke, a perfect wife, a loving mother of two and, in a twist, the ruthless Chief Executive Officer of the fictional Frontline Gold Mine.

In the eyes of her family, Wura is faultless and a saint, but when it comes to running her business empire, she is the ultimate iron lady who doesn’t care whose ox is gored in her path to get what she wants.

This series stars Nollywood veterans and fast-rising new stars, including Scarlett Gomez, who is cast as the lead Wura Amoo-Adeleke.

Famous Nollywood Yoruba actor Yomi Fash-Lanso plays Anthony Amoo-Adeleke, and Nollywood veteran Carol King stars as Grace Adeleke in the series.

Other cast members are Ray Adeka as Jejeloye “Jeje” Amoo, Iremide Adeoye as Lolu Adeleke, Ego Iheanacho as Iyabo Kuti, Martha Ehinome as Tumininu “Tumi” Kuti, and Lanre Adediwura as Olumide Kuti.


In Iperindo, where the show is set, although the story is fictional, the place is a natural, small community in Osun state in the South-Western part of Nigeria. It is one of the clusters of seven gold deposits around Ilesha town.

But, despite the promise that the presence of the precious metal holds for Iperindo and surrounding communities, residents are still plagued by poverty and exposed to environmental disasters due to mining activities. Wura, though fictional, will throw some light on this.

Speaking ahead of the show’s launch, Executive Head: content and West Africa Channels, MultiChoice Nigeria, Busola Tejumola, said: ‘Wura: explores the untold story of gold mining in Nigeria. Each scene is carefully crafted thoroughly,

Also, multiple award-winning makers of Wura, Rogers Ofime, said, “Wura gives all the emotions that a well-rounded series should; it will pull you into its world of intricacies, whodunit, deceit, triumph, and suspense from the very first frame to the last”.

By Solution Emmanuel, Premium Times

Related stories: Netflix Unveils Nigerian Original Series, Three Films

Netflix first original series from Nigeria drops highly anticipated trailer

$7.5 bln to be spent on petrol subsidy by Nigeria

Nigeria will keep its costly but popular petrol subsidy until mid-2023 and has set aside 3.36 trillion naira ($7.5 bln) to spend on it, Finance Minister Zainab Ahmed said on Wednesday.

Africa's biggest economy spent 2.91 trillion naira ($7 billion) towards a petrol subsidy between January and September 2022, state-owned firm NNPC said, a cost the government has blamed for dwindling public finances.

President Muhammadu Buhari signed the 2023 budget of 21.83 trillion naira ($49 billion) into law on Tuesday after lawmakers increased the size by 6.4% and raised the oil price assumption.

"Petrol subsidy will remain up to mid-2023 based on the 18-month extension announced early 2022," Ahmed said.

Buhari said in October that the country would stop the petrol subsidy in 2023, when he steps down after Nigerians vote for a new leader in February.

Successive governments in Nigeria have tried and failed to remove or cut the subsidy, a politically sensitive issue in the country of 200 million people.

Inefficient use of resources is constraining Nigeria's development goals, the World Bank has said, urging the country to remove subsidies on petrol, electricity and foreign exchange that mostly benefit wealthy households.

By Chijioke Ohuocha, Reuters

Related stories: The big kerosene fraud in Nigeria

Nigeria seeks to extend fuel subsidy program


Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Video - Unprecedented levels of oil theft in Nigeria cost millions

Nigeria is facing unprecedented levels of theft of its main export. The theft of oil is costing the country an estimated $700m a month. And the losses are forcing the government to borrow more to fund a growing budget deficit. Al Jazeera's @AhmedIdris reports from the Niger Delta, Nigeria. 

Al Jazeera 

Related stories: Shell raises concern on unprecedented oil theft in Nigeria

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

Nigeria's Buhari worried over large scale crude oil theft

Nigerian oil export terminal had theft line into sea for 9 years






Video - Dangote Refinery in Nigeria nears completion

Nigeria, Africa's second largest oil exporter, plans to end the importation of refined petroleum products this year. It also looks to end a long standing, highly costly fuel subsidy. To reach that goal, the country is banking mainly on the 650,000 barrels per day output of the Dangote Refinery. The facility is being built in the commercial city of Lagos, and it is expected to begin operations by the second quarter of 2023.


Related stories: Africa's richest man Aliko Dangote is building the world's largest refinery in Nigeria

Dangote Refinery to employ over 250,000 Nigerians

Video - Al Jazeera speaks with Africa's richest man Aliko Dangote


Monday, January 2, 2023

Video - Nigeria floods: Hundreds remain without shelter

People in Nigeria are still struggling to find shelter and food, weeks after devastating floods. Thousands of homes were destroyed along river banks, and more than 6,000 people killed. Al Jazeera's @AhmedIdris reports from Obogoro in southern Nigeria.

Al Jazeera 

Related stories: Displaced by devastating floods, Nigerians are forced to use floodwater despite cholera risk

Video - Nigeria floods cause food, fuel shortages for over a million people



Video - Nigeria's durum prices rise as demand increases, imports drop

Durum wheat prices are on the rise in Nigeria as import volumes fall and local demand continues rising. Experts say it is time the country strives to become self sufficient in wheat production.


Former president Obasanjo endorses Peter Obi for president





The former Nigerian president, Olusegun Obasanjo, has endorsed Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, as his preferred choice for president in next month’s election.

Mr Obasanjo gave his endorsement in an open letter to young Nigerians on Sunday.

“None of the contestants is a saint but when one compares their character, antecedent, their understanding, knowledge, discipline and vitality that they can bring to bear and the great efforts required to stay focused on the job particularly looking at where the country is today and with the experience on the job that I personally had, Peter Obi as a mentee has an edge. Others like all of us have what they can contribute to the new dispensation to liberation, restoration and salvaging of Nigeria collectively.

“One other important point to make about Peter is that he is a needle with thread attached to it from North and South and he may not get lost,” he wrote.

Mr Obi is one of the presidential candidates who had sought the support of the former president.

Others who have sought Mr Obasanjo’s support include Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress and Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr Obasanjo’s former party.

Is Obasanjo’s support relevant

Mr Obasanjo’s support does not guarantee any candidate victory in a presidential election but he is considered one of the most influential Nigerians alive.

In 2019, he supported his former deputy, Atiku Abubakar of the PDP, against incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari. Mr Buhari won that election.

However, before then, the candidates Mr Obasanjo (president from 1999 to 2007) supported in the presidential elections in 2007, 2011 and 2015 all emerged victorious.

Read Mr Obasanjo’s full statement below.

Dear Compatriots and Friends,



Happy New Year! May all our national calamities disappear this year.

I am constrained to write this letter to all Nigerians especially young Nigerians, friends of Nigeria globally as well as our development partners because of the gravity, responsibility and implications of the collective decision Nigerians, both young and old, will be making within the next two months.

The last seven and a half years have no doubt been eventful and stressful years for many Nigerians. We have moved from frying pan to fire and from mountain top to the valley. Our leaders have done their best, but their best had turned out to be not the best for Nigeria and Nigerians at home and abroad. For most Nigerians, it was hell on earth.

Those of us who are alive should thank God for His mercies, brace ourselves for the remaining few months of this administration and pray and work very hard for an immediate better future – future of liberation, restoration and great hope and expectation.

We have had campaigners going up and down the country feeding us with what they mean and what they do not mean, what they understand and what they do not fully understand, what is possible and what is not possible, what is realistic and what is unrealistic, what is true and what is untrue. I believe that we need not be confused nor be gullible. Let us be cautious, not to be fooled again.

I have interacted with the major contestants and I find it interesting that, in one form or the other, each of them claims to want to do what I did during my Presidency and to take Nigeria back to where it was at the height of my Presidency and immediately after. I was pained that most of them do not realise that the Nigeria of today had been dragged down well below Nigeria of the beginning of my Presidency in June 1999. Although at that time, Nigeria was in very bad shape and was tottering on the verge of collapse and break-up. Even then, Nigeria was not faced with the level of pervasive and mind-numbing insecurity, rudderless leadership, buoyed by mismanagement of diversity and pervasive corruption, bad economic policies resulting in extremes of poverty and massive unemployment and galloping inflation.

For these reasons, I kept pointing out to them that the instruments used in 1999 to 2007 and methodology used will grossly be inadequate for the perilous situation we now find ourselves.

Without prejudice but with greatest respect to each individual with utmost regard for the best for Nigeria and all Nigerians and from my personal experience, all the major contestants claim to be my mentees. I will not deny such positions since I have worked with all of them directly and indirectly in government.

I have come to realise a number of factors in character, attributes and attitude that are necessary in the job of directing the affairs of Nigeria successfully and at a time like this. These characteristics or attributes are many but let us be mindful of some key ones together.

From interaction and experience, and as mentees as most of them claim, I will, without prejudice, fear or ill-will, make bold to say that there are four major factors to watch out for in a leader you will consider to hoist on yourself and on the rest of Nigerians in the coming election and they are what I call TVCP: Track record of ability and performance; Vision that is authentic, honest and realistic; Character and attributes of a lady and a gentleman who are children of God and obedient to God; and Physical and mental capability with soundness of mind as it is a very taxing and tasking assignment at the best of times and more so it is at the most difficult time that we are.

Let me say straight away that ‘Emi Lokan’ (My turn) and ‘I have paid my dues’ are one and the same thing and are wrong attitude and mentality for the leadership of Nigeria now. They cannot form the new pedestal to reinvent and to invest in a new Nigeria based on an All-Nigeria Government for the liberation and restoration of Nigeria. Such a government must have representation from all sectors of our national life – public, private, civil society, professional, labour, employers, and the diaspora. The solution should be in ‘we’ and ‘us’ and not in ‘me’ and ‘I’.

Mind you, I reiterate that no human being is an angel let alone a Messiah, but there are elements of these attributes and on comparative basis and by measure of what we know of, and what some of us have experienced from the front-runners, we must assess judiciously and choose wisely. If anybody claims he or she has anything to the contrary, it will be up to him or her to prove to us.

I pray not to be proved right again in the bad sense but rather to be proved right in the positive and glorious sense of Nigeria becoming what God had created it to be – a land of plenty and prosperity united for common purpose of inclusive society, common security, shared prosperity, equity, egalitarianism, justice, and equal stake in the Project Nigeria with leadership role of Nigeria for the black race and fair share of global division of labour.

One ridiculous point that has been touted to justify unjustifiable appointments and selections is ‘competence’. In truth and in reality, genuine competence can be found in any region or section of Nigeria through track record and performance if only people will honestly and sincerely look hard for people with such attainment and attribute. Most of us in good conscience can testify to competence when we see any anywhere. What is masqueraded as ‘competence’ is self-interest and nepotism.

We have a unique opportunity to correct ourselves by ourselves for the good of ourselves. Those who are preaching division, segregation, separation, and want to use diversity for their own self and selfish interest are enemies of the nation, no matter what else they may disguisedly profess or proclaim.
The Challenge Is For Nigerian Youth:

If we fall prey again, we will have ourselves to blame and no one can say how many more knocks Nigeria can take before it tips over. To be forewarned is to be fore-armed. Future is not emotion. I challenge the youth to arise. Let nobody pull wool over your eyes to divide you and/or segregate you to make you underlings. Nigerian youth, wherever they come from, North or South, East or West need education which is now denied to over 20 million children; Nigerian youth also need skills, empowerment, employment, reasonably good living conditions, welfare and well-being.

My dear young men and women, you must come together and bring about a truly meaningful change in your lives. If you fail, you have no one else to blame. Your present and future are in your hands to make or to mar. The future of Nigeria is in the same manner in your hands and literally so. If for any reason you fail to redeem yourself and your country, you will have lost the opportunity for good and you will have no one to blame but yourselves and posterity will not forgive you. Get up, get together, get going and get us to where we should be. And you, the youth, it is your time and your turn. ‘Eyin Lokan’ (Your turn).

The power to change is in your hands. Your future, my future, the future of grandchildren and great grandchildren is in your hands. Politics and elections are numbers game. You have the numbers, get up, stand up and make your numbers count.

Let me say it again, loud and clear, Nigeria has no business with insecurity, poverty, insurgency, banditry, unemployment, hunger, debt, division and disunity. We are in these situations because advertently or inadvertently, our leaders have made the choices. They have done the best they could do. Let them take their rest deservedly or not and let them enjoy their retirement as Septuagenarians or older.

I became Head of State at 39 and at 42, I had retired into the farm. When it was considered necessary, I was drafted back into active political life after twenty years of interregnum. I came back at 62 and by 70, I was on my way out. Others like General Gowon and Enahoro became national leaders at 33 and 27 respectively and General Gowon at the helms of leadership of Nigeria at the highest level. The vigour, energy, agility, dynamism and outreach that the job of leadership of Nigeria requires at the very top may not be provided as a septuagenarian or older. I know that from personal experience. And it is glaring out of our current experiences. Otherwise, we will be fed with, “The President says” and we will neither see nor hear him directly as we should. Yes, for some, age and physical and mental disposition are not in tandem. But where and when they are with obvious evidence, they must be taken into account for purpose of reality. And yet it is a job in our present situation where the team leader or captain of the team should be up and doing, outgoing inside and outside and speaking to the nation on almost daily basis visibly and as much as possible interactively and meeting his colleagues all over the world on behalf of Nigeria. Youth of Nigeria, your time has come, and it is now and please grasp it. If not now, it will be never. I appeal to you to turn the tide on its head and march forward chanting ‘Awa Lokan’ (Our turn) not with a sense of entitlement, but with a demonstrable ideological commitment to unity and transformation of Nigeria.
Leave The Past, Face The Future:

Can we let the past go? I appeal to the young Nigerians to stop inheriting other people’s prejudices and enemies. Make your own friends and stop inheriting your father’s enemies.

Let’s stop criminalizing and demonizing one another on the basis of the civil war on which we are all wrong. And let’s praise and thank God for preserving the oneness of Nigeria. The Scripture says that if God would take account of all our wrongdoings, nobody would be able to stand before Him. While not suffering from amnesia, let us stop still fighting and reacting to the civil war in our hearts, minds, heads and our attitude acrimoniously. Let’s stop living on our different wrongs or mistakes of the past: treasonable felony, Tiv riot and its handling, first military coup and its aftermath, second military coup, araba, pogrom and the civil war, all in the 1960s. And more recently OPC, Egbesu, MASSOB, IPOB, Boko Haram and banditry. No region can claim to be innocent or to be saintly. And no justification will suffice. In our respective individual or regional positions, we have done right and we have done wrong. It is therefore not right for any of us to be sanctimonious to see ourselves as saints and the rest as devils incarnate.

Just let us agree to move forward together in mutual forgiveness, one accord, inclusive society, equality and equity. Together and without bias and discrimination, fear or favour, we can have Nigeria of one nation in diversity, in truth and in practice. Let us honour, cherish, respect and even celebrate our diversity which is the basis of our potential greatness and strength. If we will only continue to harp on wrongs done by each of us individually or collectively, we will never be able to stand together. If we will continue with wide brush to paint a national or sub-national group as bad and never to be trusted with leadership because of past error or mistakes that some of them were responsible for and treat their offspring as inheritors, it will amount to great injustice that will surely lead to no peace, no security and no stability for development and progress.

First, no group is faultless; second, for the greatness of the whole, we need one another as constituents of the whole; third, we cannot be talking and working for Africa’s integration and for Nigeria’s disintegration at the same time. Why for instance should I be stigmatized or despised because of my place of origin, place of birth or where I come from? Where I was born, by whom I was born and when I was born were not choices made by me. They were choices and prerogatives of God. Any antagonism against me on that basis is unfair and is tantamount to fighting against God, the Creator. Such derogatory attitude and mindset do not build any human institution let alone a nation. While not forgetting the past, let us put the past behind us for it not to continue to mar our present and our future and that of the coming generation. We must rise above primordial animalistic instincts and behaviour. Yes, we are human and higher than animals in the wild. Let us develop national ethos and national characteristics that can take us collectively to the promised.

My dear young men and women, let me assure you that there are only two tribes of people in Nigeria a tribe of good people and a tribe of bad people. You are either a good Nigerian of Igbo extraction, Kanuri extraction, etc, or a bad Nigerian of Yoruba extraction, Ijaw extraction etc.

I will at this juncture want to commend the politicians as they have generally been reasonably civil in their campaigns without making politics as a call to war against opponents. Genuine and fair competition conveys greater legitimacy in any political rivalry or competition. A situation where people in authority and power assume such positions through foul and despicable means and continue to espouse and act in ways that only engender conflict or war by subverting legitimacy of power and authority does not augur well for the polity and as such, the moral foundation of the government and the society will be terribly weakened.

May God help, save, protect and sustain Nigeria for all Nigerians, for Africa and for the human race. We can only continue to play politics of ethnicity, religion, region and money bags at the peril of our country and to self-destruction. We need selfless, courageous, honest, patriotic, in short, outstanding leadership with character and fear of God beyond what we have had in recent past.

None of the contestants is a saint but when one compares their character, antecedent, their understanding, knowledge, discipline and vitality that they can bring to bear and the great efforts required to stay focused on the job particularly looking at where the country is today and with the experience on the job that I personally had, Peter Obi as a mentee has an edge. Others like all of us have what they can contribute to the new dispensation to liberation, restoration and salvaging of Nigeria collectively. One other important point to make about Peter is that he is a needle with thread attached to it from North and South and he may not get lost. In other words, he has people who can pull his ears, if and when necessary. Needless to say that he has a young and able running mate with clean track record of achievement both in public and private life.

In conclusion, I want to bring to our remembrance part of the great speech that Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa made on October 7, 1960, on the occasion of Nigeria being admitted as the 99th member of the United Nations:

“Cooperation is for each man to be true to his religious belief and to reaffirm the basic principles of his particular creed. It may be that, when we hear the world crying out for peace, we may receive the inspiration to deal with these intractable problems and be able to really devote all our resources to the advancement of mankind by applying those eternal truths which will inevitably persist long after we ourselves are utterly forgotten”.

The Tafawa Balewas are gone. But the eternal truths inevitably remain and persist that cooperation, friendship, justice, equity, love and fear of God which are hallmarks of the three religions practised in this country are the basis of our full and fulfilled lives and living as Nigerians. In faith as Nigerians, we must pray and relate with God as it depends on Him and at the same time, in faith also we must work as it depends on us. Then we will win.

May God continue to help us individually and collectively.

Yours ever,

January 1, 2023

By Olasunkanmi Akinlotan, Premium Times

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Nigeria regrets travel restrictions to curb Omicron variant, says it disrupted business

The Nigerian government said the travel restrictions enforced to curb the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 had no health benefit.

The Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr Ifedayo Adetifa stated that the restrictions impacted negatively on individuals and businesses.

“Recent experience in Nigeria with the arrival of omicron showed travel restrictions did not have any public health benefits but were disruptive for persons and businesses. COVID-19 has and continues to follow a different course (epidemiology in Nigeria and most of Africa),” Adetifa tweeted.

Following a meeting of the NCDC COVID-19 National Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) held on Saturday, Adetifa said the EOC would continue to review the ongoing COVID-19 situation in the coming week.

He expressed confidence that the Nigerian population is significantly protected from a combination of natural infection and vaccination but hinted that there will be changes in government approach if the need arises.

“At the next review and if deemed necessary, a range of actions, not limited to enhanced surveillance of travellers at airports, may be implemented,” Adetifa said.

He advised Nigerians to make use of every opportunity the government has provided via to get vaccinated and urged citizens to receive their primary vaccination which can be two or a single vaccine dose.

“If you have received two vaccine doses already, go get your booster,” Adetifa said.

“If you have received one booster dose already, please go get your second booster dose. If you belong in any of the high-risk categories (old age, etc), kindly ensure you adhere to recommended public health safety measures – mask use, hand hygiene and avoiding crowded spaces.”

By Dennis Erezi, The Guardian

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