Friday, June 30, 2023

Video - 80% of small businesses in Nigeria die in under five years

A recent study shows that 80% of small and medium enterprises in Nigeria don't make it to their 5th birthday. Despite the sector's significant contribution to Nigeria's economy, small and medium enterprises face many challenges that slow down the country's overall potential.


Wednesday, June 28, 2023

According to World Bank Nigeria could save $5.1 billion this year from reforms

Nigeria could save up to 3.9 trillion naira ($5.10 billion) this year alone after reforms to its foreign exchange market and the removal of a petrol subsidy, the World Bank said on Tuesday, but warned of growing inflationary pressures in the short term.

Nigerian President Bola Tinubu is embarking on the country's biggest reforms in decades, including scrapping the popular but expensive petrol subsidy and unifying the country's multiple exchange rates.

World Bank lead economist for Nigeria Alex Sienaert said during a presentation in the capital Abuja that savings from the reforms did not amount to a fiscal windfall.

"They stop Nigeria from going over what you might call the fiscal cliff. They really set the stage for a new and an upward trajectory in terms of Nigeria's development path," Sienaert said.

Nigeria's economy was expected to grow 3.3% this year and 3.7% next year, he said.

The World Bank and International Monetary Fund had for years called on Nigeria to remove the petrol subsidy, which cost $10 billion last year, and free its exchange rate.

To deepen foreign exchange reforms, Siernaet said Nigeria should remove restrictions on a list of 43 items, including sugar and flour, that the central bank says cannot be funded from official dollar sales.

Tinubu's monetary policy advisor Wale Edun said the naira, which has weakened to record lows after forex restrictions ended, was expected to stabilise just below 700 to the dollar.

Inflation, which hit 22.41% in May, would rise further following the reforms, Siernaet said, adding that some four million more Nigerians may have been driven into poverty in the first five months of this year due to high prices.

Labour unions are pressing Tinubu's government to raise the monthly minimum wage more than sixfold to cushion workers against the impact of the fuel subsidy removal.

Nigeria has the second-largest population of poor people in the world and is one of the least developed countries globally, the World Bank says.

By Chijioke Ohuocha, Reuters

Student from Nigeria stabbed in Scarborough, Canada

 The victim of a stabbing in Scarborough Sunday evening has been identified as Ifeanyichukwu Oseke, 28, a student from Nigeria, Toronto police say.

Police said they received a call for a stabbing in the Eglinton Avenue East and Brimley Road area just after 7:10 p.m. on Sunday.

According to police, two men were involved in an altercation in a parking lot.

When officers arrived they found a man with signs of trauma. He was transported to hospital where he died.

In a news release on Tuesday, police said the suspect is a man with medium-length dark hair. He was wearing a light-coloured tank-top, pants and shoes. The suspect was last seen getting into a dark-coloured sedan travelling south on Brimley Road from Eglinton Avenue East, police said.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Crime Stoppers.



Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Video - 5,000kg of cannabis seized in Lagos

June 26 is the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. The day was created to strengthen action and cooperation in achieving a world free of drug abuse with this year's theme focused on stopping stigma and discrimination.


Nuhu Ribadu promises to stabilise Nigeria

Nuhu Ribadu on Monday, officially assumed duty as National Security Adviser (NSA) with a pledge to subdue insecurity and stabilise Nigeria.

Ribadu, who was appointed by President Bola Tinubu on June 19, took over from retired Maj.-Gen. Babagana Monguno.

“This is a work for Nigerians and we intend to continue with what has been done".

“We will stabilise this country, we will secure our country and we will make Nigeria peaceful,” the new NSA said.

He said that the administration of President Bola Tinubu has the firm belief that “time has come for this country to enjoy peace, restore order and rule of law just like any other country in the world.

“Securing the nation is a continuous process. We will look at what has been done and build on it. We will count on your support in the course of discharging our responsibilities.

“Mr. President has a huge commitment to securing every inch of our country. We will work with all stakeholders to deliver on this vision."

“This enormous task of securing our country is that of all Nigerians, and all friends of Nigeria.”

Ribadu solicited the full cooperation of all servicemen and women, as well as all Nigerians.

He said there was need for Nigerians to unite to accomplish the administration’s quest for a more stable, peaceful and prosperous nation.

In his remarks, the former NSA said “Ribadu is well equipped, well qualified, well educated and have a very deep understanding of the complexity of the security challenges confronting the Federal Republic of Nigeria”.

He added that the new NSA has the capacity to tackle whatever challenge that he might encounter having served in various related positions.

Monguno said he had submitted comprehensive handover note to his successor and briefed him extensively.

“For me, I want to give gratitude to the Almighty God for giving me the grace to serve for such a long time.

“And also allowing me to depart in good health and enjoy the rest of my life in an atmosphere that is bereft of the type of pressure that are associated with this all important office.

“I am also wishing in the same vein, that Mallam Nuhu Rubadu will have a very successful tenure and depart in good health when the time comes for him to depart.”

Monguno said the ever changing 21st security environment demand complex approach.

“Today we are dealing with a situation in which we have terrorists and insurrectionists.

“The way and manner you will deal with the situation is such that you will have to rely on collection of competent staff,” he added.

He urged the staff to support and cooperate with the new NSA to achieve the desired national security oobjectives.


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Nigerian accused of blasphemy stoned to death

A man was stoned to death after being accused of blasphemy in northwest Nigeria, authorities and activists said, sparking outrage on Monday from rights groups worried about what they said were growing threats to religious freedom in the region.

Usman Buda, a butcher, was killed Sunday in Sokoto state’s Gwandu district after he “allegedly blasphemed the Holy Prophet Muhammad” during an argument with another trader in a marketplace, police spokesman Ahmad Rufa’i said in a statement Sunday night.

Residents shared videos that appeared to be from the scene showing a large crowd that included children pelting stones at Buda on the floor as they cursed him.

Rufa'i said a police team was deployed in the area but when they arrived, “the mob escaped the scene and left the victim unconscious." He was later declared dead at Usmanu Danfodiyo Teaching Hospital in Sokoto, Rufa'i said.

The killing was the latest attack rights campaigners have said threatens religious freedom in Nigeria’s predominantly Muslim northern region. Blasphemy carries the death penalty under Islamic law in the area.

Amnesty International Nigeria’s office said the failure to ensure justice in such cases would encourage more extrajudicial killings. “The government is not taking the matter seriously and that has to change,” Isa Sanusi, acting director of Amnesty International Nigeria, said.

Sokoto Governor Ahmed Aliyu said residents should not take laws into their hands. But he also warned that his government would “deal decisively” against anyone found guilty of blasphemy.

“Sokoto people have so much respect and regard for Prophet Muhammad ... hence the need for all the residents to respect [and] protect his dignity and personality,” Abubakar Bawa, his spokesman, said.

Many of those accused of blasphemy never make it to court for trial. Last year, a student in Sokoto was beaten and burnt to death for alleged blasphemy while a man was killed and set ablaze for the same reason in the capital city of Abuja also in the northern region.

The police in Sokoto said it has opened an investigation into the latest incident, though arrests are rare in such cases.

“Even where arrests were made, there were serious allegations that those arrested were either later released or the whole case is jeopardized. This is very dangerous, and it shows the Nigerian authorities are deliberately not willing to do the right thing to fix this dangerous situation,” Sanusi added.


Related stories: Imam Sentenced to Death Over Blasphemy in Nigeria

Mob kills student over ‘blasphemy’ in northern Nigerian college

Nigerian singer sentenced to death for blasphemy in Kano state

Shell's Trans Niger pipeline spill under investigation by Nigeria

Nigerian authorities and Shell's local subsidiary were on Monday investigating the cause of a spill on the Trans Niger pipeline that lasted several days.

The 180,000-barrel-per-day pipeline is one of two conduits to export Bonny Light crude.

The spill at Eleme in Rivers state was detected on June 11 and four days later, Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited (SPDC) confirmed it in a statement.

Environmental rights groups said the spill lasted a week before it was contained.

A team comprising SPDC, Nigerian Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency and local communities were at the site on Monday to gather information, analyse data, examine physical evidence, and assess the causes of the leak, said Youths and Environmental Advocacy Centre which monitors spills in the Niger Delta.

A Shell spokesperson confirmed Monday's visit to the site.

The investigation will determine the volume of oil spilt.

Shell has over the years faced several legal battles over oil spills in the Niger Delta, a region blighted by pollution, conflict and corruption related to the oil and gas industry.

The oil major blames most of the spills on pipeline vandalism and illegal tapping of crude.

Thandile Chinyavanhu, Greenpeace Africa climate and energy campaigner, said the latest spill compounded Shell's record in one of Africa's leading oil producers.

"Shell must be held accountable and financially responsible for this spill and for its neocolonial role in causing climate loss and damage," Chinyavanhu said. 

By Tife Owolabi, Reuters

Monday, June 26, 2023

Nigeria Football Federation lets fans decide coach’s future

Nigeria coach Jose Peseiro's job is in the hands of the fans after football federation (NFF) president Ibrahim Gusau said he will let them decide if the Portuguese should stay on.

Peseiro, who has coached Porto and Sporting in his home country and took over Nigeria in May last year, has led his side to the Africa Cup of Nations finals in Ivory Coast starting in January but his contract ends on June 30.

There is now a national debate over whether the 63-year-old should be retained and Gusau said the people can decide.

"We have the plan to push the votes to Nigerians to hear their views and thoughts," Gusau said on the LovingFootball radio show.

"We've tried the foreign coaches and also the local coaches.

"Maybe we didn't get it right in the area of getting the right person. We are going to push it to the public, whether we should continue with Peseiro or he should go."

Despite Nigeria's continental qualification, results have been mixed under Peseiro even as he has been able to select from an array of players plying their trade in Europe’s top leagues.

Since failing to qualify for last year's World Cup in Qatar, Nigeria have won four and lost five of their games.

By Nick Said, Reuters

Nigeria amasses $3 billion debt to traders for oil swaps

Nigeria has accumulated up to $3 billion in debts to trading houses such as Vitol and oil majors such as BP (BP.L) for fuel supplies and is trailing four to six months behind schedule in repaying them with cargoes of crude, four traders and executives told Reuters.

Nigeria will likely take months to clear the debt, which will complicate reforms by new President Bola Tinubu aimed at weaning Africa's largest economy and most populous nation off costly fuel subsidies that have contributed to growing debt and foreign exchange shortages.

In his first two weeks in office, Tinubu removed petrol price caps and restrictions on the naira currency – liberalisation changes that investors have been awaiting for more than a decade.

As part of those reforms, Nigeria, Africa's top oil producer, plans to scrap an old scheme by which it swaps its crude for gasoline imports. Nigeria for years sold the gasoline, bought at the open market price, to its population at a discount, and the government paid the difference.

The subsidy costs about $10 billion last year. The last time the government tried to end the scheme, the move led to protests. Nigeria needs imports because it lacks the refinery capacity necessary to meet domestic demand.

The head of Nigeria's state oil firm NNPC, Mele Kyari, said earlier this month it was ending the swaps - known as Direct Purchase Direct Sale (DSDP) - after years of criticism by civil society groups including the Nigerian Extractive Transparency Initiative for a lack of transparency and corruption.

Kyari said payments would be now made in cash but traders say NNPC is still importing gasoline via swaps for July delivery and has to pay for those cargoes in crude as well as the pending payments for previous months of swaps.

The arrangement has for years involved more than a dozen foreign and local trading consortia and backpayments are expected to continue until at least October 2023, according to the four traders involved in business with NNPC.

NPPC, which claims the government owes it $6 billion for subsidised fuel sales, declined to comment. The government declined to comment. Swaps participants including Vitol, Mercuria, BP and TotalEnergies (TTEF.PA) also declined to comment.

"Swaps will ultimately stop but not yet. We are getting our swaps crude cargo in October at the earliest," one major player said.

NNPC had made a rare cash payment in May to some partners of around $200 million, two trading sources said, but no further payment has taken place since amid the government's cash struggles.

Nigeria's falling oil production has exacerbated the country's fiscal problems, because it reduces the revenue that could be used to repay debt.

Nigeria used to produce 1.8 million barrels per day of crude but output has fallen in recent years to as little as 1.1 million during due to lack of investment.


Paying for fuel deliveries with crude cargoes means there is less crude for Nigeria and NNPC's to export, and so less revenue.

NNPC's contribution to state coffers went from a peak of more than $30 billion a year in 2011 to zero in 2022 as it retained revenues to cover gasoline sale losses.

International monetary experts have long suggested Nigeria remove fuel subsidies and liberalise its foreign exchange to address its fiscal crisis.

In recent years, Nigeria's central bank kept the naira fixed at an artificially high rate that gradually rose from 200 to 450 naira to the dollar that only a few players, including the NNPC, could access. That shut out potential private gasoline importers from the market.

President Tinubu allowed the naira to fall steeply in recent weeks, and eliminated preferential naira rates, a move that means all potential importers get the same forex costs and could compete in fuel imports.

But the naira volatility, which makes it tough to calculate potential profits, and uncertainty over whether firms will be able to get money out of the country due to continued dollar shortages, has for now deterred private firms from importing fuel.

Besides private importers, Nigeria will also depend on businessman Aliko Dangote's refinery to cover fuel demand in the future. Nigeria's first major oil plant is unlikely to start full-scale operations before next year.

By Julia Payne, Reuters

8 Killed, 10 Abducted by Islamic Extremists in Nigeria

Islamic extremists killed eight farmers and abducted 10 in an attack in northeastern Nigeria, officials said Friday — the latest in a volatile region that is a key part of the country's breadbasket and where militants have threatened food supplies.

The farmers were ambushed in the bush in the Borno state's Mafa district Thursday. The attackers slit their throats, authorities said.

Babagana Zulum, the state governor, said the attack was an attempt to "sabotage the successes of the government" as it struggles to have those displaced in Borno return to their villages and rebuild their lives.

He said the security forces need to rise to the challenge but also urged residents to take individual precautions.

"We must rise to our responsibility and address the situation," Zulum said. "I've told the people to be resilient, and they should be security-conscious and avoid remote locations."

Islamic extremist rebels launched an insurgency in Borno in 2009 to establish their radical interpretation of Islamic law, or Sharia, in the region. At least 35,000 people have been killed and more than 2 million displaced because of the violence by the militant Boko Haram group and a breakaway faction backed by the Islamic State group.

Borno's farming communities have been frequently targeted in recent months, raising fears of extreme hunger as U.N. agencies continue to warn of famine.

On Friday, local villagers are mourning the slain farmers while also decrying inadequate security measures in remote and volatile areas.

Modu Ibrahim, a resident, said there were no security forces where the farmers' bodies were found. The extremists spared one teenager whom they asked to "deliver the message" about the attack to other villagers, Ibrahim said.

The Islamic insurgency in the northeast has also overstretched Nigeria's security forces as they continue to battle other crises across the country, including continuing clashes between nomadic cattle herders and farming communities in northwest and central regions of the West African nation.


Black market collapses in Nigeria due to fuel subsidy removal

Things have been topsy turvy lately on the roadsides of West African nations where cheap contraband petrol from Nigeria has abruptly doubled in price, upending an informal sector that is central to the region's economic activity.

Since Nigeria scrapped a state fuel subsidy on May 31, black market fuel vendors and commercial drivers in Cameroon, Benin and Togo who were heavily reliant on petrol smuggled from Nigeria have seen their businesses collapse.

With supplies dwindling, queues have been forming at official petrol stations, where fuel is now competitively priced.

In Garoua, a town in northwest Cameroon about 60 km (37 miles) east of the Nigerian border, a litre of petrol on the black market used to sell for about 300 CFA francs ($0.48). Now the minimum is 600 CFA francs, vendors said.

"Supply has become scarce and customers think we're ripping them off with this high price, yet it's from Nigeria that prices have soared," said Perevet Dieudonne, a black market seller.

The knock-on effects on motorcycle-taxis, a form of public transport ubiquitous in West Africa, include conflict between riders who often live hand-to-mouth and customers who demand cheap fares no matter what.

Ousmanou Mal Djoulde, a rider in Garoua, said he had been forced to more than double his fares. Many customers were refusing to pay and business was agonisingly slow.

The trade in black market fuel is so central to the local economy that authorities either turn a blind eye or are complicit. A Reuters reporter in Garoua saw a Cameroonian customs officer sitting on a motorcycle-taxi that was being refuelled with smuggled Nigerian petrol.


There is no reliable data on the amount of fuel that is smuggled from Nigeria.

The head of Nigeria's state-controlled oil firm NNPC, the sole supplier, said early this month 66 million litres of petrol left its depots daily but could not say how much was consumed locally, though he admitted smuggling was rampant.

Independent energy experts and Nigeria's Dangote Petroleum Refinery - which expects to start producing petrol from early August to alleviate chronic fuel shortages - put Nigeria's total daily consumption below 40 million litres.

In Benin and Togo, small nations to the west of Nigeria, contraband fuel vendors have lost both supplies and customers while formerly sleepy official petrol stations are suddenly busy.

At Hilacondji, a border crossing between Togo and Benin, some black market fuel stalls were shut, while at others vendors waited among rows of empty plastic jerricans for potential deliveries.

"While we wait for the situation to improve, some have gone into fishing or other small businesses," said Ayi Hilla, who had been making a living from selling contraband fuel for 10 years but was now focusing on running a small roadside bar.

Some informal fuel depots were being demolished, and men who used to work there unloading and carrying petrol were now unemployed.

More than 80% of employment in Africa is informal, according to the United Nations, making the informal sector a key driver of economic activity.

In Cotonou, the commercial capital of Benin which is about 60 km from Nigeria, queues have been building up at official petrol stations and some have been unable to meet the sudden surge in demand, especially from "zemidjan", the local word for motorcycle-taxis.

"Before, we were selling about 2,000 litres per day, but now we're selling up to 7,000 litres per day," said a worker at the JNP fuel station who gave his first name, Janvier. He had just turned away four customers because supplies had run out.

"The zemidjan-men are even fighting to get served," said Janvier.

By Desire Danga Essigue, Reuters

Friday, June 23, 2023

Fight between telcos, banks hurts financial inclusion in Nigeria

Lagos, Nigeria – Comfort Oluwaseyi has a time-tested shortcut for sending money to everyone.

For the 40-year-old fruit trader at Ikeja, in the heart of Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos, all it takes is dialling *737# on her Itel 2160, a non-smartphone which costs 7,000 Nigerian naira ($15).

Within seconds, the operation is concluded and recipients, usually her suppliers, are sorted. The fee? Only 6.98 naira per transaction, deducted directly from her bank account.

“I cannot afford a smartphone but the phone I use still serves me well,” Oluwaseyi told Al Jazeera. “This phone helps me operate this business which in turn supports my family.”

In Nigeria, feature phones, because of their relative affordability and longer battery life, are a popular choice in low-income households – 133 million people according to a 2022 report from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) – especially among older or illiterate citizens.

Furthermore, three things stand out: half of all phones shipped into Nigeria are still feature phones; only half of the country is connected to the internet according to the World Bank and, as per Lagos-based Enhancing Financial Innovation and Access (EFInA), only half of the adult population use formal banks.

For this reason, *737 is one of the most popular short codes on the Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) platform for millions in Nigeria.

USSD short codes – first introduced by the European Telecommunication Standards Institute (ETSI) in 1994, and in Nigeria for banking purposes in 2015 – help users with or without smartphones or internet connections perform multiple features.

Every day, millions of Nigerians use different short codes to pay for a range of services, from purchasing airtime to tracking sales from customers who prefer cash transfers and paying suppliers for new stock.

The ease of access also helps people like Oluwaseyi focus on business and avoid bank queues during business hours.

Even smartphone users rely on USSD services when their bank apps malfunction or banking services are poor – a routine complaint. A third of all consumer complaints filed in 2020 were against poor banking services, the most recent data from Nigeria’s Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) shows.

During a cash shortage in February that halted operations of many small businesses, USSD allowed Oluwaseyi to keep hers running, she said.

Dispute over bank fees

But a dispute between telecommunication companies and banks about the appropriate pricing model for USSD-powered financial transactions could cut off access to financial services for as many as 17 million people like Oluwaseyi.

Gbenga Adebayo, chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) traced the dispute to 2019 when bank CEOs pleaded with the state-run Financial Inclusion Steering Committee (FISC) to make USSD services free of charge to accelerate financial inclusion.

Until October 2019, banks billed users directly for the service using their airtime. To ensure that even users who had no airtime could use it, banks introduced corporate billing; they calculated the number of 20-second USSD sessions (each pegged at 3.5 naira) customers used, deducted it from their bank accounts and remitted to telcos at the end of each month.

Because telcos were also billing for failed sessions and refusing to extend the 20-second session cap, banks baulked at this arrangement and asked telcos to charge their customers directly.

At a point in the dispute, MTN, Nigeria’s largest telecom company announced plans to directly bill users 4 naira for every 20-second USSD transaction.

Central bank governor Godwin Emefiele criticised the move, saying direct user billing would hurt financial inclusion. The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) then suspended the new charges.

Thus began a tussle between banks and telcos over who shoulders the cost of USSD sessions for end users. The former insist that they provide the latter, who want payment for supplying infrastructure powering the USSD technology, with customers.

Today, the banks owe a cumulative 100 billion naira ($214m) to the telcos who are threatening to cut off access to the technology.

On May 12, ALTON said it had received approval from the NCC, Nigeria’s telecommunications regulator, to disconnect the banks.

And experts fear that this could have a significant impact on many Nigerians.

“If you turn off USSD the most vulnerable Nigerians will suffer because they don’t have smartphones or if they have smartphones they are using ancient and cheap smartphones that can’t work with the latest operating system,” Adedeji Olowe, CEO of Lagos-based fintech startup Lendsqr, and a trustee of Open Banking Nigeria, a nonprofit championing financial inclusion.

Even Adebayo, the telcos’ representative, believes that too.

“The average Nigerian relies on USSD, and a lot of those who use it for financial transactions will be affected. It will affect the entire financial institution … and the entire digital ecosystem,” he told Al Jazeera.

Chasing financial inclusion

Some bankers have described the USSD as a clumsy technology that cannot serve as Nigeria’s answer to its financial inclusion problems, arguing that the best path to financial inclusion is making data subscriptions more affordable.

A senior executive at a leading Nigerian bank told Al Jazeera anonymously that USSD is an overrated banking channel as bank hall walk-ins still carry the bulk of the financial transactions traffic, with intelligent banking systems such as WhatsApp banking slowly becoming more popular.

On the surface, the data seems to agree.

Data from the CBN reveals that USSD accounts for only 2.3 percent by volume and 0.29 percent of the value of all electronic transactions in Nigeria in 2022. Conversely, smartphone and internet-enabled channels make up 60 percent of such transactions. Additionally, the value of USSD transactions dropped by 13.2 percent or 685.45 billion naira ($1.47bn) in the same calendar year.

But experts like Olowe argue that even if internet subscription cost is zero, the cost of smartphones and expertise to operate them present barriers for the demographic of Nigerians who need financial inclusion the most.

“Except the economy improves a lot of people won’t be able to access smartphones and these are the exact people we are trying to expand financial services to,” he said.

In a country where only 3.7 million Nigerians spend more than $10 daily as of 2021 and most of that goes to food and transport, only a few people can afford to purchase smartphones.

“Nigeria’s economy is in a fragile place currently … another big, disruptive hit to consumer spending is the last thing that the country needs,” John Ashbourne, emerging market economist at Fitch Solutions, a London-based financial intelligence company, told Al Jazeera.

But disconnection of the service is also a difficult task because of bureaucracy surrounding approvals and resistance from the telcos, industry insiders say.

“The major source of their income, which is airtime vending, comes from these channels, if they [telcos] shut it down, they are the ones that would lose,” the bank executive said.

Two of Nigeria’s leading telcos, MTN Nigeria and Airtel made 1.25 trillion naira ($2.68bn) from airtime and data in the first 6 months of 2022, according to data from the NCC.

And that development could force innovation on the part of the telcos, Emmanuel Ido, a technology lawyer at Lagos-based law firm Aluko and Oyebode, told Al Jazeera.

“One possible outcome [of the dispute] is that telcos and banks will attempt to redefine their relationship and operate independently, with telcos providing banking functions independent of traditional banks,” he said.

For end users like Oluwaseyi, the disconnect would be detrimental to her business if the telcos went ahead with their threats to disconnect USSD services.

“All I had during this [cash shortage] period was my small phone,” she told Al Jazeera. “With it … I was able to make money transfers to my suppliers.”

Al Jazeera

16 dead in herders and farmers clash in Nigeria

Sixteen people have been killed in two attacks in north-central Nigeria in a region struggling with inter-communal violence, the army said.

Clashes between nomadic herders and farming communities often flare in Plateau State, which sits on the dividing line between the mostly Muslim north and Nigeria’s predominantly Christian south.

In the latest violence on Tuesday, half a dozen members of a local farmers’ self-defense group were killed by gunmen in Riyom district while another 10 people were killed in an attack in Mangu area, an army spokesman said.

“Six lives were lost in Riyom,” said army Major Ishaku Takwa told AFP on Wednesday.

“Another attack took place in some communities in Mangu and 10 persons died.”

Plateau state assembly member representing Mangu South, Bala Fwangje, said 14 people had been killed in that area.

“We heard that about 14 people were killed, houses destroyed, property burnt. I am yet to get the full details,” he said.

Since May, nearly 200 people have been killed in clashes between the Berom farming communities, who are mainly Christian, and the cattle breeding communities of Fulani Muslims in the Riyom, Barkin Ladi, and Mangu areas of Plateau.

It was unclear what exactly triggered the recent attacks in Plateau, but tit-for-tat killings between herders and farmers often spiral into village raids by heavily armed gangs who kidnap, loot and kill villagers.

The Plateau crisis is one of the many security challenges facing President Bola Tinubu who took the helm of Africa’s most populous nation at the end of May. 


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Thursday, June 22, 2023

After 12 years at No.1 Aliko Dangote is now 2nd Richest man in Africa

For the first time in a dozen years, Aliko Dangote has fallen from his perch as Africa’s richest person. The continent’s new number one, according to Forbes’ calculations, is Johann Rupert of South Africa, who built a fortune in luxury goods and more. Rupert overtook Dangote on Thursday, June 15 and has an estimated net worth of $11.7 billion, according to Forbes’ Real-Time Billionaires ranking at 10 a.m. ET on June 21. This marks the first time that Rupert ranks as the richest person in Africa; he's been on Forbes' list of billionaires since at least 1997. Dangote, 66, stands in second place behind Rupert, 73, among African billionaires with a fortune estimated at $10.4 billion. That’s a $3.7 billion drop from the $14.1 billion net worth Dangote had on Wednesday, June 14.

The decline of Dangote’s fortune comes in the wake of the Central Bank of Nigeria’s decision to float its currency, the naira, on June 14, abandoning the fixed exchange rate with the U.S. dollar. The naira, which had been trading around 465 per U.S. dollar, plummeted about 40% against the U.S. dollar on Friday, June 16 and fell to a low of N690 to the U.S. dollar on Tuesday, June 20.

The majority of Dangote’s fortune lies in his 85% ownership of listed firm Dangote Cement, the continent’s largest cement producer, shares of which have risen about 1% since the central bank’s decision to float the currency. The plunging naira far outweighed the slight uptick in Dangote Cement’s shares in shifting Dangote’s fortune.

The continent’s new No. 1, Rupert is chairman of Compagnie Financière Richemont, a Switzerland-listed luxury goods powerhouse that boasts brands such as Cartier, Montblanc and Van Cleef & Arpels. Richemont was founded by Rupert in 1988 when he spun off the international assets from The Rembrandt Group, his father’s conglomerate formed in the 1940s. Rupert also serves as chairman of Remgro, a South African investment holding company with a diversified portfolio in banking, healthcare and media companies. He also owns part of the Saracens English rugby team and says his biggest regret was not buying half of Gucci when he had the opportunity to do so–decades ago– for just $175 million.

Rupert’s net worth has increased by nearly $3 billion since early 2022 and more than doubled since early 2020, when Forbes estimated it at $4.6 billion.

The Nigerian Central Bank’s decision to float the naira is part of newly-elected President Bola Tinubu’s larger efforts to reportedly encourage investment into Nigeria and stop black market operators profiting from the margin between official and unofficial financial markets. Tinubu took office in May and since then has led an overhaul of the Nigerian economy that also includes abolishing the country's fuel subsidies, an incentive that has been in place since the 1970s.

According to Nimi Wariboko, a former investment banker in Nigeria and former strategic consultant at Nigeria’s Central Bank, Dangote may be able to play Tinubu’s scrapping of state fuel subsidies to his advantage with his company’s launch of a new oil refinery in Lagos last month. The plant was built to combat the country’s fuel shortages–Nigeria hasn’t been able to refine the oil extracted domestically–and was built at a reported cost of $19 billion. But Wariboko says it might also provide Dangote with an opportunity to reclaim his position as Africa's wealthiest individual.

“So he’s going to have a monopoly on [refining oil in Nigeria] and also be able to sell at a higher market price,” said Wariboko. “So this fall seems temporary.”

Representatives for Rupert and Dangote did not reply to a request for comment.

By Jemima Denham, Forbes

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

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

Video - Dangote Refinery in bid to end fuel imports in Nigeria

Peter Obi supports the Japa movement

Labour Party’s Presidential candidate in the February 25 presidential poll, Mr Peter Obi has endorsed Nigerians fleeing the country for greener pastures abroad, “JAPA”, saying it will benefit Nigeria’s fortunes in the future.

The former Anambra governor who gained massive support from Nigerians, especially on Social media in the just concluded electioneering campaign for being “a prudent and incorrupt politician”, stated that today’s brain drain will be Nigeria’s brain gain tomorrow.

Ex-governor Obi, in a series of tweets, Thursday, supported Bill Gate’s opinion on the migration wave hitting Nigeria, noting in the tweet that “Nigerians leaving the country will be critical in the building of the New Nigeria”.

“I read and agree with Bill Gates’s recent comment on the ‘japa syndrome, where, according to reports, he stated that the recent surge of Nigerian professionals leaving the country for greener pastures is good and healthy for our country.”

Obi noted that “I have always preached and maintained this same position that ‘Our brain drain today will be our brain gain tomorrow’.”

“Nigerians leaving the country may look like a loss today, but when we start doing the right things and taking the governance of our nation more seriously, the knowledge and resources from them will be critical in the building of the New Nigeria, as it happened in China, India, Ireland and other developing countries,” Peter Obi noted.

Peter Obi’s comments are coming on the heels of a clarification by the British Envoy to Nigeria on the UK visa policy believed to be targeted at Nigerian students who depart the country in droves with their families.

By Idowu Bankole, Vanguard

Barcelona basketball team condemn racist abuse of Nigerian player

The Barcelona basketball team has condemned the racist abuse suffered by Nigerian player James Nnaji during their Spanish championship final victory over bitter rivals Real Madrid.

The incident on Tuesday comes as Spanish sport wrestles with the global outcry sparked by racism aimed at Real Madrid’s Brazilian football star Vinicius Jr. The 22-year-old Brazilian forward called out racist abuse in the Spanish football league in May, which he had been subjected to since moving to Spain five years ago.

On Wednesday, it was the turn of Spanish basketball.

“Barcelona strongly condemns the racist insults suffered by first-team basketball player James Nnaji before game three of the final,” the team said in a statement on Wednesday.

“The club expects a firm response from the ACB [Spanish basketball league] against any racial or verbal insults.”

Images of the arrival of the Barcelona team bus at the WiZink centre in Madrid, where Tuesday’s match took place, showed several Madrid fans hurling insults at the Barcelona players.

According to local media, Nnaji was the target of racist insults.

“I want to talk about what happened here with James Nnaji. I think it’s regrettable. I hear a lot about Vinicius, and now it’s us who have to talk about what’s going on,” Barcelona basketball coach Sarunas Jasikevicius said later.

“It has to stop now. It doesn’t fit, I guess, with the values of Real Madrid and its supporters, and we have to be very angry about that,” he said.

Nigeria’s online media outlet Pulse Sports said the 18-year-old Nnaji played for just eight minutes and 35 seconds in the final but had a “pivotal role” in his team’s win.

Barcelona beat Real Madrid in 93-82 on Tuesday after winning the first two games of the final for the club’s 20th Spanish league title. 

Al Jazeera

Esports in Nigeria

In a room decked out in futuristic decor in an upscale district of Nigeria's economic capital Lagos, several thousand visitors gathered for a giant video game tournament on Saturday.

Whipped up by an emcee, crowds of young spectators cheered all day in front of the competitors whose games were interspersed with concerts of local Afrobeats stars, Victony and Crayon.

Competitors battled it out in popular eSports games like "Call of Duty: Mobile", "Street Fighter" and "FIFA".

The bling of the "Nigerian-style" show lived up to the ambitions of Africa's leading economy as it looks to establish itself as an eSports –- electronic sports –- leader despite the economic and logistics problems the country faces.

South Africa is now crushing the African eSports scene, thanks to numerous investments, followed by Egypt and Morocco, then to a lesser extent by Senegal, Ivory Coast and Kenya.

But Nigeria has something to make its neighbours swoon because its strengths -- and its challenges -- are immense.

Immense especially in size: it is the most populous country in Africa with more than 215 million inhabitants, renowned for being competitive in business, sports and music. And three-quarters of the population is under 25.

In Lagos, in the midst of the din of the tournament he was supervising, Kunmi Adenipebi explained it was almost impossible to know exactly how many players there are in Nigeria.

"Some say there are 60 million players in Nigeria. We did a survey and we know one thing for sure: there are at least 3 million players," said Adenipebi, chief of operations at Gamr, which organised the event.
Feet of clay

The potential pool of Nigerian players is enormous: broadband internet penetration has reached 48 percent, almost all via smartphone, and it continues to grow.

This is only the beginning, however, as Nigeria will be the second most populous country in the world at the end of the century with nearly 790 million inhabitants, just behind India, according to Lancet projections.

But, between widespread poverty, power cuts and the poor quality network, Nigeria remains a colossus with feet of clay.

It has few professional players even if there are more and more since the global Covid pandemic, Adenipebi said.

"Esport is a beautiful opportunity for our youth and to pull people out of poverty. We want it to become a means of living," said Chike Okonkwo, co-founder of Gamic, which promotes eSport.

A few metres from the main hall, Akintoye Arogunmati, who goes by the name "The_Arogs", was participating in the tournament.

Eyes glued to the screen, the 25-year-old, one of Nigeria's best professional players on "FIFA", says he earns an average of 300,000 naira (420 euros) per month. This is 10 times the minimum wage of 30,000 naira.

Last November, he participated in the Paris Games Week, which he called "a dream".

But "there are so many challenges to overcome" before he can get ahead, he said, laughing, his controller in his hands.

"Being a gamer in Nigeria comes with so many challenges. For an average Nigerian, equipment and generators are very expensive. There is no constant electricity in Nigeria. And the network," he said.

To play online, a gamer must obviously have a good internet connection but also a low "ping", a nightmare for many Africans.

Ping is the reaction time between when a player presses a key and when that action actually takes place in-game. It is the round-trip time between the player and the server they are on.

African players are at a disadvantage in online competition because the servers for almost all games are hosted in Europe, North America or Asia. That means it takes longer for African players' actions to register in the system.

"It is so frustrating, you know that the guy is not as good as you but because of the ping, you can't do anything. You can't compete," said Arogunmati.

In the room drenched in purple and blue neon lights, players compete on state-of-the-art giant screens. In the VIP area, the whisky flows freely.

The glitzy scene contrasts with the reality facing pro players, because even when you are a champion, life has "nothing fun" and the rewards are too low, said pro player "K.I.D".

"For a tournament like this one, they can pay you in three months or more," said Kevin Durst, a pro competitor in "Street Fighter".

"The reality is that without my sponsors I wouldn't have anything to eat."


Related stories: Nigeria hosting event focusing on Africa's potential in the videogame industry

Meet Hugo Obi: Nigerian Entrepreneur Changing The Video Gaming Landscape In Africa

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Suspended central bank chief of Nigeria facing criminal charges

Nigeria's suspended central bank governor is facing criminal charges, including misappropriation of funds, papers filed by government lawyers in court on Tuesday showed.

Godwin Emefiele was suspended by President Bola Tinubu earlier this month and detained by state security agents, who had not disclosed the charges he faced.

His lawyer asked the Abuja High Court to declare that the detention of Emefiele, who was not in court, breached his fundamental rights and that he should be released.

Emefiele has not been formally charged.

Government lawyers said they secured an order from the lower magistrate court to hold Emefiele longer as investigations continue.

Court documents deposed by the Attorney General's office and Department of State Security showed that Emefiele faced criminal breach of trust and criminal misappropriation of funds charges, among others, which carry long jail time if convicted.

The government lawyer opposed Emefiele's application challenging his detention, arguing that only a federal court was competent enough to hear the case.

Judge Hamza Muazu of the Abuja High Court said he will rule on July 13 on whether the court has jurisdiction over the matter.

By Camillus Eboh, Reuters

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

President Tinubu says Nigeria needs quick US funding for energy transition

Nigeria's President Bola Tinubu said on Monday the United States should help with more funding to help Africa's leading oil producer accelerate its energy transition plans as he pledged to meet the country's climate change goals.

Oil remains Nigeria's biggest foreign exchange earner and like many African nations, Nigeria argues that it still needs to exploit its hydrocarbons to help provide power to millions of citizens without electricity.

In a meeting with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of Energy Resources, Geoffrey Praytt, Nigeria's president said the U.S. should speed up funding to help the West African nation achieve its energy transition goals.

"There are bottlenecks that must be unbottled in terms of how the U.S. bureaucracy responds to our needs. Help must be given when it is needed. Please take it home that we need help and very quickly too," Tinubu said.

"I want to assure you that Nigeria will honour her obligations on climate change and renewables," he said.

Nigeria's previous junior petroleum minister told U.S. climate envoy John Kerry last September that there was "some moral basis" for Nigeria to get funding from rich nations to meet its climate change goals.

Under Tinubu's economic plans, Nigeria would ramp up oil production to 4 million barrels per day, from an average 1.4 million bpd, which has raised questions on whether the country is still committed to its climate change goals.

By Felix Onuah, Reuters

Eight-week timeline to agree minimum wage with unions in Nigeria

Nigeria's main labour unions and the government on Monday set an eight-week timeline to finalise an agreement to raise the minimum wage to help cushion the impact of high fuel prices after the removal of a popular but costly petrol subsidy.

The Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) had threatened to strike after fuel prices tripled following President Bola Tinubu's decision to scrap the subsidy.

Talks with the unions are one of the first challenges the new administration faces as it pushes forward with a raft of economic reforms.

The parties agreed to set up work groups whose terms of reference will be agreed later on Tuesday with some expected to start submitting their reports next week.

"Both parties went through the list (of demands) and we ticked off the viable ones which are now broken into three categories; those that can be given immediate attention, those that can be achieved in the medium term, and long term," said Dele Alake, a spokesman for the president, said.

TUC President Festus Osifo said the process would be completed in eight weeks.

"Everything must be rolled out within that time, (it is) not something that we are going to leave endlessly," he said.

The parties will reconvene on June 26.

Tinubu, who took office last month, is embarking on Nigeria's biggest reforms in decades, seeking to tackle low growth, high debt burden, rising inflation and mounting insecurity in Africa's largest economy.

In 2012, a wave of strikes and protests ensued when the government tried to end the subsidy, with authorities eventually backtracking. Tinubu, then in the opposition, was among those who opposed the measure.

By Camilus Eboh, Reuters

President Tinubu Names Nuhu Ribadu to Oversee Security Agencies in Nigeria

Nigerian President Bola Tinubu named new security chiefs to replace those he inherited from former President Muhammadu Buhari as he continues to put together a team to implement pledges made during his campaign.

Nuhu Ribadu, a former chairman of the country’s anti-corruption agency, will be national security adviser. Ribadu, who last week was named special adviser on security, will now take up a more senior role as coordinator of the country’s security agencies. New heads were also appointed for the army, navy, air force and police.

The security chiefs must contend with rising turmoil that has ravaged Africa’s most populous country, including a decade-long insurgency perpetrated by Islamist extremists and bandits in the north, as well as an increasingly violent secessionist movement in the southern part of the country.

Hadiza Bala Usman, former managing director of Nigeria Ports Authority, was appointed a special adviser for policy coordination, while Hannatu Musawa will serve a similar role for culture and the entertainment economy.

Tinubu named eight others to advisory roles last week, including Wale Edun, former chair of Lagos-based investment bank Chapel Hill Denham Group, as his senior adviser on monetary policy.

Three weeks into a four-year term, Tinubu has already made several key decisions, including ending a fuel subsidy that cost $10 billion last year, removing a controversial central bank governor and promising to unify a web of varying exchange rates. The moves have helped lead to a rally in dollar bonds and the stock market climbing to a 15-year high.

By Ruth Olurounbi, Reuters

Related stories: Nuhu Ribadu uncovers large scale oil fraud

Former EFCC chairman Sani Ribadu's brother kidnapped

Monday, June 19, 2023

Video - President Tinubu allows states to license and regulate electricity in Nigeria

Nigeria is fast-tracking efforts to boost its power capacity following years of stifled growth. President Bola Tinubu has signed into law legislation to overhaul Nigeria's power sector. The new plan will also allow Nigeria's state governments to license and regulate electricity markets within their jurisdiction.


Video - President Tinubu dazzles markets with first week of radical change in Nigeria

Nigeria's President, Bola Tinubu suspended the head of the country's economic and financial crimes unit, Abdulrasheed Bawa, over his alleged abuse of office. The move comes just a week after the president moved to suspend and detain the country's central bank governor, Godwin Emefiele. CGTN Africa spoke with Sopitan Segun, Principal Partner at Woodridge and Scott Consulting on his impression of the policy changes made by Bola Tinubu so far.


Video - President bola Tinubu on a mission to change Nigeria

Less than a month into his tenure, President Bola Tinubu has begun implementing a raft of reforms long sought by bankers, economists and multilateral lenders in order to revive Africa's biggest economy. The radical changes include removing a fuel subsidy that cost the state 10 billion U.S. dollars annually.


Friday, June 16, 2023

Nigerians languishing in prison for petty crimes

The Hope Behind Bars Africa has said that most awaiting trail inmates in Nigeria have been languishing in our Custodial facilities for petty crimes like loitering or hawking.

The human rights and criminal justice reform organisation said apart from such petty and misdemeanours cases, one would also find civil cases like disagreements between business partners that was given criminal correlations.

Executive Director Hope Behind Bars Africa, Mrs. Funke Adeoye revealed that 40 percent of the cases so far handled by the organisation are simple cases.

Adeoye said Nigeria’s prison population was 76,982 on the 30th of May 2023, the number which is spread across 240 custodial facilities, has about 69.3% awaiting trail inmates.

She said this yesterday in Abuja, during the organisation five years impact report/strategic plan launch and press conference.

She said, “40 percent of the cases we have handled are actually simple cases. Cases like people arrested for hawking, loitering and a lot of cases that the sanctions is less than three years. We also find very frequently people arrested by the Special Anti-Robbery squad for armed robbery but when we go into the nitty-gritty of the case we find their is no evidence, most of the cases are stalling for years on ending because their is really no evidence against the person on trail.

“We also find a lot of Civil cases that have been given criminal correlations, for instance, someone having a contract with another person and he gets the police to pick up the person, the person gets arrested and remanded.

“In the past five years, our organisation has dedicated major aspects of its work to providing free legal services to indigent pre-trial detainees, engaging in welfare, empowerment, reformation and reintegration interventions.

“Nigeria’s prison population was 76,982, on 30 May 2023. This number spreads across 240 custodial facilities. Inmates awaiting trial constitute about 69.3 percent of the prison population. This is the highest percentage of awaiting-trial prisoners in Africa,

“Hope Behind Bars Africa, having recognised this challenge, decided to leverage its legal network to foster access to justice. We started out directly representing inmates for free here in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and expanded to Kano and Edo states. Currently, we have a network of lawyers in Kaduna, Niger, Nasarawa, Edo, Kano and FCT. We have represented 420 indigent pre-trial detainees so far. About 40 percent of this number were charged with simple offences, 20 percent for misdemeanours, and the rest for felonies, capital crimes and fundamental human rights actions.”

By Matthew Ogune, The Guardian

Nigerians are feeling the brunt of President Tinubu's economic shakeup

Nigerians are feeling the strain as their new president pushes through a series of unpopular policies that have earned him praise from foreign investors.

Bola Tinubu, who was sworn in on 29 May, has surprised many observers by taking a running start to his tenure of Africa’s most populous country. In little over two weeks he has banished a longstanding petrol subsidy, ejected the country’s central bank governor and ended restrictions on the rate of the naira, Nigeria’s currency.

The steps have fired up markets, sending stocks in what is also Africa’s largest economy to their highest level in 15 years. But they have also increased living costs and drawn criticism from many Nigerians who have faced years of economic mismanagement.

Joseph Essien, 47, a taxi driver in Lagos, said he had stopped working altogether because he was no longer making any profit after the rise in petrol prices. He said he used to spend about 5,000 naira (£8.40) a day on fuel, which would last him for a day of eight hours and then into the next. Last week he was spending about 15,000 naira on fuel that barely lasted him a day.

“Over the weekend I just told myself it wasn’t worth it; I’m just working to pay Bolt [the ride-hailing company] their commission and I’m left with nothing,” he said.

Tinubu, 71, who won as the ruling party candidate in February’s election, last week suspended Godwin Emefiele, the controversial central bank governor, after criticising his botched replacement of naira notes in the lead-up to the election.

Inflation hit an 18-year high and Nigeria’s debt soared to more than $150bn (£118bn) under Emefiele’s watch.

On Saturday, the national domestic security agency arrested Emefiele “for some investigative reasons”, without giving further details.

Rid of its former governor, on Wednesday the central bank floated the naira to foreign exchange buyers, signalling the end of Nigeria’s control of its official rate, which soon dropped by about 40% – the biggest fall in its history.

Countries including the UK had lobbied for that move as essential to boosting foreign investment. A Whitehall source said it meant “short-term pain for long-term stability”.

Nigerians were already reeling from chaos triggered by Tinubu in the first minutes of his presidency when he declared in his inauguration speech, off-script, that Nigeria’s costly fuel subsidy was “gone”. The move sparked panic-buying before pump prices tripled, leaving travellers stranded. Two states have announced three-day office weeks for their civil servants in response, while one has reduced school teaching to three days a week.

Bolt increased its minimum fares earlier this month after the fuel subsidy was dropped but the union for drivers using ride-hailing apps said the increase goes nowhere near covering petrol prices that have roughly tripled.

Drivers went on strike last week in protest, and this week suspended the strike while negotiating with Uber and Bolt. Nigeria’s main workers’ union has also threatened to strike.

Dosunmu Oluwaseyi, 35, the floor manager of a restaurant in the Victoria Island commercial district of Lagos, said she like many had taken to “trekking” to work, choosing shorter, cheaper bush taxi routes and making up the difference on foot.

“Some people stay at work,” she said. “They will not be able to go home every day. By the grace of God they should reduce [the price].”

Ikemesit Effiong, head of research at analyst company SBM Intelligence, said Nigeria was in “national sacrifice mode”. The devaluation of the naira combined with the dropping of the fuel subsidy was already causing inflation, he said.

He added: “The hope is that the end of the subsidy regime frees up enough resources, political trust and transparency permitting, to be channelled towards desperately needed infrastructural and social investment.”

Some have urged Tinubu, an archetypal “big man” with a reputation for lavish spending, to tighten his own belt in these times of need. They suggest shortening his convoys of blackout-windowed 4x4s, which can stretch to more than 60 cars, or getting rid of some of the seven aeroplanes in his presidential fleet.

Charlie Robertson of the emerging markets investment firm FIM Partners praised Tinubu’s policies, saying they had prevented Nigeria defaulting on its debts, which would have led to rampant inflation. “We were heading to [the situation of] Venezuela,” he said. “Millions of refugees pouring across the border desperate for jobs and stability.”

He said the fuel subsidy was “simply unaffordable”, and freeing up the naira would encourage investment in the country and could boost a stagnant private sector, potentially creating jobs. But he added: “This is the easy stuff to do. The hard stuff is to make the country ready for industrialisation and a boom.”

For now Essien, the taxi driver, sits at home with his family, desperately learning the coding language Python. “By the end of this month I hope to be able to get a grasp of an aspect of it, and look for remote jobs,” he said.

By Richard Assheton, Reuters

Related story: President Tinubu stuns wary investors with quick reforms

President Tinubu stuns wary investors with quick reforms

Nigeria's new president, in office for less than a month, is pushing to put Africa's largest economy on a reform track that investors have eyed for decades, fuelling excitement that money could flow to a nation that many had deemed uninvestible.

President Bola Tinubu's bold actions, including removing restrictions on the naira currency that allowed it to hit a record 790 to the dollar and subsidy removals that tripled petrol prices, could take stress off the battered finances of Africa's largest economy.

But investors, burned by previous reforms that ultimately proved hollow, say it will take time to build trust and listed myriad questions over the final shape of the economy.

"The reaction is one of, 'finally'," said Tunde Ajileye, a partner at Lagos-based SBM Intelligence. "If this stays, then it would mean that (Tinubu) had been able to remove the two subsidies that have crippled Nigeria fiscally and monetarily for the last decade."

Tinubu is from the same party as predecessor Muhammadu Buhari, dubbed "Baba Go-slow" for his pottering pace - taking six months to appoint cabinet members.

By contrast, Tinubu lifted fuel price caps days after taking office on May 29, suspended controversial Central Bank chief Godwin Emefiele some 10 days later and on Wednesday removed FX restrictions.

The tangle of multiple exchange rates for everything from international school fees to food imports created foreign currency shortages and hobbled investment due to issues getting money out.

"Just the fact that you have seen quite a bit of movement in a relatively short space of time has gotten a lot of people in the market excited," said Goldman Sachs economist Andrew Matheny.

Nigeria's international dollar bonds and the country's stock market have been boosted by the speedy reforms.

Investors, though, remained wary, citing years of damaging currency controls; Goldman Sachs pegged the backlog of FX demand at a staggering $12 billion.

"We are still to see whether this will allow the FX backlog to clear, where the new market rate will stabilise, whether this will catalyse inflows into the country and ... that there will be no issues pulling money out of the country," said John Mumo, a partner at Blakeney, an Africa-focused equities fund management firm.

Joe Delvaux, a portfolio manager at Europe's largest asset manager Amundi, said it could take months or more to lure longer-term cash.

"Ultimately, you also have to keep in mind that the biggest provider of FX will still be the CBN," Delvaux said.

"We need to see that the system works."

Tinubu will also have to tackle the perennial corruption that has hobbled the country for decades. Nigeria is ranked 150 out of 180 in Transparency International's 2022 corruption perceptions index - and has been on a downward trend since 2016.

Investors also worry about low tax receipts and falling oil output - structural reforms that will take far longer to sort.

Some are also hoping to see a more orthodox interest rate policy. Inflation hit a near 20-year high of 22.41% in May and a weakening naira will amplify price pressures. Meanwhile interest rates, which Tinubu has said he would like to see fall, were hiked by 50 bps last month to 18.5%.

"Investors will need to see positive real rates and evidence that they will be able to repatriate their earnings before local currency debt is back in play," said Patrick Curran, senior economist at Tellimer.

Investors also worry about low tax receipts and falling oil output - structural reforms that will take far longer to sort.

Some are also hoping to see a more orthodox interest rate policy. Inflation hit a near 20-year high of 22.41% in May and a weakening naira will amplify price pressures. Meanwhile interest rates, which Tinubu has said he would like to see fall, were hiked by 50 bps last month to 18.5%.

"Investors will need to see positive real rates and evidence that they will be able to repatriate their earnings before local currency debt is back in play," said Patrick Curran, senior economist at Tellimer.

By Rachel Savage, Reuters

Thursday, June 15, 2023

Video - Search ends, recovery efforts intensify after tragic boat accident in Nigeria

Emergency crews in north-central Nigeria are searching for the bodies of dozens of people still missing after a boat capsized on the Niger River on Monday night. Around 140 people were rescued and more than a hundred are still missing. The accident happened on the Niger River - between the Niger and Kwara states. Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris joins us live on a boat close to the village of Egboti in Nigeria for the latest updates.

Al Jazeera

Video - President Tinubu says fuel subsidy removal will free up money for education, healthcare in Nigeria

Nigerian President Bola Tinubu defends the recent decision to remove the popular petrol subsidy. Tinubu acknowledged that the move would impose an extra burden on citizens but he maintained that the money saved would be diverted to development projects and improving public services. The subsidy kept petrol prices cheap for decades in Africa's biggest economy but it became increasingly costly for the country.


Tallest man of Nigeria dies at 47

Afeez Agoro, popularly known as Nigeria’s tallest man has died. In a phone conversation with a female relative who did not want her name mentioned, it was confirmed to Daily Trust that the entertainer is dead. In an emotion-laden voice, when asked about Agoro, the lady simply said sobbing, “It is true. He is gone. He is dead. Please, I will call you back.” Then she hung up the phone.

It was gathered that Agoro died at a Lagos hospital on Wednesday evening, after a prolonged battle with Acromegaly, commonly known as gigantism.

Born Afeez Agoro Oladimeji on December 13 was previously recognised as the tallest man in Nigeria. At 2.25 metres (7 ft 5 in), he stood shorter than his 2.41 metres (7 ft 11 in) compatriot, Abiodun Adegoke, who is likely the tallest man in Nigeria.

Agoro was born in Sabo Yaba, Lagos State, as the last child of three children for his mother who was the second wife of his late father.

It was gathered that he had normal growth until he developed an ailment at the age of nineteen and when taken to a hospital, he was diagnosed with Acromegaly, known commonly as gigantism, which made him grow vertically at a very rapid rate. Agoro unsuccessfully tried to combat the ailment and stood at 7’5″ which made him among the tallest people in Africa.

As an entertainer, in 2003, upon graduating from the Lagos State Polytechnic, Afeez Agoro went for his compulsory one-year National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme in Kolokuma Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, Nigeria. Agoro later had the opportunity to feature in movies and in August 2018, I Am Agoro, a Reality TV show which centred around his life and what it feels like living as the tallest man in Nigeria aired exclusively on Linda Ikeji TV.

By Ademola Olonilua, Daily Trust

Inflation rises to 22.41% in Nigeria

Nigeria's annual inflation rose to 22.41% in May on a year-on-year basis from 22.22% in the previous month, its bureau of statistics said on Thursday.

Food and non alcoholic beverages were the biggest drivers of inflation, the bureau said.

Inflation has remained elevated in Africa's biggest economy, eroding savings and incomes, and prompting the central bank to hike interest rates to their highest level in nearly two decades.

On Wednesday, the central bank moved to liberalize foreign exchange trading, capping a dramatic day that saw the official naira rate devalued by more than a third.

By MacDonald Dzirutwe, Reuters

Anti-corruption agency head of Nigeria suspended

Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu has suspended the head of the economic and financial crimes unit, Abdulrasheed Bawa, indefinitely for abuse of office.

The suspension was due to “weighty allegations of abuse of office”, against Bawa, a statement from the presidency said late on Wednesday.

The move came a week after the president suspended the country’s central bank Governor Godwin Emefiele.

Local media have reported that Bawa is currently being interrogated by Nigeria’s secret police, like Emefiele.

A spokesman for the unit, officially known as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) did not immediately respond to calls for comment.

Created 20 years ago, the EFCC investigates and prosecutes financial crimes, including money laundering and corruption.

Bawa, the fifth head of the anti-graft commission, was appointed in 2021 after the Senate refused to approve the reappointment of his predecessor Ibrahim Magu who was in office for four years.

Previous occupants of the office have also been involved in controversies that eventually led to their removal; Magu was also suspended by then-president Muhammadu Buhari over allegations of corruption.

Al Jazeera

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Video - More than 100 people feared drowned in boat accident in Nigeria

At least one hundred people are feared dead after a boat capsized. It happened on the Niger river between Niger and Kwara states. Witnesses say the vessel was carrying people returning from a wedding ceremony in Niger State. About 50 bodies have been recovered. Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris joins us now from the capital Abuja for the latest updates.

Al Jazeera

Monday, June 12, 2023

Video - Burna Boy gives Jamie Carragher dancing lessons

Burna Boy gives former Liverpool player Jamie Carragher some dancing tips during 2023 Champions League final televison broadcast.

Video - At least 55 farmers killed in Nigeria

Nearly 55 people have been killed in Nigeria's central-northern state of Niger. Bandits have been blamed for the weekend attacks, which included the abduction of dozens of women and children. The attackers were said to have invaded villages in the Rafi Local Government Area, forcing residents to flee their homes. 


Related story: Nigeria’s fragile security architecture is collapsing

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



Video - Community in Lagos celebrates Osimhen's record season in Football

Nigerian forward Victor Osimhen became the first African player to win the Italian Serie A Golden Boot after his 26 goals powered Napoli to the Scudetto. Osimhen is also the first player since 2009 to win the Italian Golden Boot and Scudetto in the same season. His record-breaking achievements sparked celebrations in one small community in Lagos. 


Eurobonds rise in Nigeria after suspension of Central Bank governor

Nigeria’s sovereign dollar-denominated bonds rose sharply as overseas investors welcomed the suspension late last week of Central Bank governor Godwin Emefiele, who oversaw multiple exchange rates that unsuccessfully sought to keep the naira strong.

The price of the West African oil producer’s eurobonds rose on Monday as much as 2.6 cents in the dollar before moderating slightly with many issues reaching their highest prices since late January, according to the Reuters news agency.

Longer-dated maturities saw the biggest gains with the 2049 maturity up 2.353 cents to 80.231 at 07:46 GMT, according to Tradeweb data.

Nigeria is facing severe dollar shortages, forcing many people to seek out foreign currency on the black market, where the naira trades much lower than its official exchange rate.

“We believe the changes signal a new era of focused, predictable monetary policy and a shift towards non-interventionism in the foreign-exchange regime,” Barclays economist Michael Kafe said in a note to clients on Monday about the suspension of the Central Bank chief.

President Bola Tinubu had criticised Emefiele’s handling of the naira and monetary policy at his inauguration two weeks ago.

Tinubu, who has promised to reset Nigeria’s ailing economy, has also removed a fuel subsidy and promised to consolidate the multiple exchange rates.

“The haste with which the newly appointed president has begun to tackle the country’s economic challenges (e.g. the immediate removal of the fuel subsidy…) suggests that he is keen to pursue all the difficult reforms at the early stages of his term,” Kafe wrote.

Folashodun Shonubi, a deputy governor, was named acting head of the Central Bank.

The suspended governor is now in custody and under investigation, police said on Saturday.

In December, a court order blocked Emefiele’s arrest for suspected “terrorism financing”, saying there was a lack of evidence. It remains unknown if the arrest at the weekend is for the same charge. 

Al Jazeera

Friday, June 9, 2023

Video - Parents pay school fees with recyclables in Nigeria

A school in Lagos, Nigeria accepts recyclable trash for tuition. The idea helps keep more children in school while keeping trash off Lagos city streets.

Thursday, June 8, 2023

President Tinubu defends end to fuel subsidy

Nigerian President Bola Tinubu on Wednesday defended the West African nation’s decision last week to stop subsidizing fuel, a move that has pushed up prices for transportation and commodities.

Tinubu appealed for patience as millions of citizens face additional economic hardship. The money saved by ending the decades-old subsidy will help the government’s efforts to fight poverty and implement other initiatives, he told governors in a meeting in Nigeria’s capital city, Abuja.

“We can see the effects of poverty on the faces of our people. Poverty is not hereditary, it is from society. Our position is to eliminate poverty,’’ a statement from the Nigerian presidency quoted Tinubu as saying.

The governors supported the subsidy’s removal and promised to work together in implementing it, the presidency’s statement said.

Though Nigeria is an oil-producing nation, it depends on imported refined petroleum products, and the government has subsidized the cost for decades.

But with oil revenues dwindling amid chronic theft and decreasing foreign investment, the government said the fuel subsidies are no longer economically sustainable. It budgeted 4.4 trillion naira ($9.5 billion) for the subsidies in 2022, far more than for education, health care and infrastructure combined.

Analysts, however, faulted the government’s decision to withdraw the subsidy without incentives in place, especially at a time when many Nigerians already struggle to cope with record high unemployment and poverty.

Inflation is at an 18-year high. Unions have threatened strike in protest of the subsidy decision.

Nigeria’s states have begun to adopt various measures seeking to assist citizens, especially workers commuting to work daily. Edo and Kwara states this week cut the work week from five days to three. Other states said Wednesday they are considering such measures as increasing the minimum wage of 30,000 naira ($65).

In Abuja and other parts of Nigeria, The Associated Press found businesses struggling from having to spend more money on fuel for generators. As many as 46% of Nigeria’s people do not have access to electricity, the World Bank says.

In Kano state, the economic hub of northern Nigeria, Mahmud Mudi, a taxi driver, said he had to halt his transport business because he was losing money due to higher gasoline prices.

“The situation is unbearable,” Mudi said. “As a family man, the already unfriendly economy has been worsened by this removal of fuel subsidy. I have had to suspend my taxi operations and rely on divine intervention.”

Rafi’atu Audi, a government employee in the state, said it was difficult to commute to work daily because of the sharp increase in transportation costs.

“Transport fares have shot up, but our salaries remain the same,” said Audi. “It’s painful (and) I cannot bear the costs anymore.”

By Chinedu Asadu, AP

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The aftermath of fuel subsidy removal announcement in Nigeria

Naira Drops to a Record Low

Nigeria’s currency sank to a record low after the central bank auctioned dollars at a naira rate that was almost 30% weaker than on the tightly controlled official market.

Faced with heavy demand from industries and importers for the greenback, the central bank of Africa’s biggest economy sold dollars at 645 naira apiece, adding to speculation that a devaluation may be in the cards after the inauguration of a new president last month.

In official trading on the Nigeria Exchange, the currency slipped as much as 0.7%, the most in almost six months before paring losses to 467.04 naira a dollar as of 2:40 p.m. local time — a record low.

Nigeria’s dollar earnings and reserves are dwindling and the government uses multiple exchange rates to manage supply and demand for foreign currency. Most residents who can’t get hold of the greenback on the main market or at auctions are forced to turn to black market trading where the naira is about 40% weaker.

Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu announced plan to adopt a uniform exchange rate during his inauguration last month, part of a program to boost investments and grow the economy. Last week, the central bank denied a report that there was a steep decline in the official naira rate.

“The president has said we don’t need all those windows, so it’s a question of time for the currency to find its real value at the oficial trade,” Adetilewa Adebajo, economist and chief executive with Lagos-based CFG Advisory said by phone.

CFG Advisory expects the currency to trade at about 650 naira a dollar following a devaluation, Adebajo said. “When you have multiple rates or a static exchange mechanism it works against you.” 


Wednesday, June 7, 2023

2,998 nurses leave Nigeria for UK

The International Council of Nurses (ICN) has deplored poaching of professionals by rich nations such as the United Kingdom (UK) from poor countries, saying the development was becoming “out of control.”

The submission comes as Nigeria lost 2,998 trained nurses in 2021-2022 to British National Health Service (NHS).

ICN’s Chief Executive, Howard Catton, told the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC): “My sense is that the situation currently is out of control.

“We have intense recruitment taking place mainly driven by six or seven high-income countries but with recruitment from countries which are some of the weakest and most vulnerable which can ill-afford to lose their nurses.”

According to a report first published by Daily Mail UK, the ICN said six or seven high-income countries are driving “intense recruitment” from places that “can ill-afford to lose their nurses.”

India and the Philippines account for the lion’s share of recruits for the period under review. But a fifth came from ‘red listed’ countries, where the NHS is banned from actively poaching nurses. They were Nigeria, Ghana, Nepal and Pakistan.

The data, from the UK’s Nursing and Midwifery Council, cover the period before Britain struck a special deal with Nepal to allow the NHS to recruit nurses from the country.

Ghana is one of the worst hit, with hospitals warning that their workforce had been slashed as staff rushed to fill NHS posts they found on social media.

Statistics from NHS England, which have 112,000 vacancies, suggest that approximately two-thirds of the increase in staff hired since 2019 were trained abroad.

Latest NHS, England data show that the service is recruiting more nurses abroad than ever before, with 44,000 joining the organisation since 2019, compared to the 22,000UK-trained attendants.

Most recruits were from India, the Philippines, Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Ghana.
IN a related development, The British government has committed £2 million to strengthen Nigeria’s health workforce.

British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Dr. Richard Montgomery, who disclosed this in a statement yesterday, noted that the Nigerian health system, like many countries in the global south, has been beset with challenges in having a resilient infrastructure that is able to provide quality health services, promote health and prevent diseases.

He submitted that a well-skilled, motivated and adequate health workforce is critical to ending preventable deaths and building resilience against global threats.

The envoy said the UK International Development funding aligns with the Nigerian health workforce strategic plan geared at assisting the country to upskill its workers and improve health outcomes in the long run.

World Health Organisation’s (WHO) two-year HRH project aims to support government at national and sub-national levels, as well as regulatory bodies, professional associations and other key stakeholders to develop transformative strategies for scaling up the quantity and quality of health workers, including competency-based curricula development and reviews.

Montgomery said the UK provided the multi-million Pound to support healthcare staff recruitment and retention in three African countries, namely Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana to enhance resilience against global health challenges

Consequently, WHO has commended UK’s Department of Health and Social Care for a fresh funding commitment to help Nigeria develop its health staff in the pursuit of Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

The global health body noted that the £2 million grant would assist Nigeria in optimising performance, quality and impact of its health workforce through evidence-informed policies and strategies over a two-year period.

It would help to align investment in HRH with the current and future needs of the population and health systems; strengthen the capacity of institutions, including regulatory bodies, for effective public policy stewardship, leadership and governance, optimise health workers’ retention, equitable distribution and performance, and strengthen the management of health workforce data for monitoring and accountability. The project would also implement interventions in Nigeria.

The project is to draw on the technical capacity of WHO to strengthen health systems, including experience of implementing similar projects with appreciable results in the past. Implementation at sub-national levels with a focus on six states of Cross River, Enugu, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano and Lagos will build on the presence and technical support being provided to state governments through the 37 WHO sub-national offices in Nigeria.

WHO Representative in Nigeria, Dr. Walter Kazadi Mulombo, said that the strength of every health system reflects the capacity and adequacy of its health workforce necessary to deliver quality services to address population health needs.

For a resilient and effective health system, he said Nigeria must have adequate numbers of health workers, who are fit for purpose, motivated to perform, and equitably distributed across sub-national levels to enhance equity in access to their services by the population in need.

By Chukwuma Muanya and Nkechi Onyedika Ugoeze, Reuters

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