Friday, September 29, 2023

Video - Naira plunges to record low against U.S. dollar

The Nigerian currency Naira weakened to record low against the U.S. dollar this week, falling to 1,000 Naira per dollar on the parallel market, 29 percent weaker than the official rate of 775.37 per dollar. So, how much is the uncertainty at the CBN driving the Naira's performance in comparison to other economic fundamentals? 


Britain urged to return James Ibori's loot to Nigeria

British and Nigerian civil society groups have urged the British government to return funds confiscated from Nigerian politician James Ibori, a convicted fraudster, to his country in a swift and transparent way so the money can benefit ordinary Nigerians.

In a letter to Britain's home and foreign affairs ministers, a coalition of close to 50 NGOs said the long-delayed confiscation process had undermined the strong anti-corruption message sent by Ibori's conviction over a decade ago.

"The years of disruption and delay in recovering and returning these stolen assets means this message has so far rung hollow for the Nigerian people," said the letter, made public on Thursday by one of its signatories, Spotlight on Corruption.

A former governor of oil-producing Delta State in southern Nigeria, Ibori pleaded guilty in a London court in 2012 to 10 counts of fraud and money-laundering and was handed a 13-year jail sentence, of which he served about half before going home.

Still influential in Nigeria, Ibori has had meetings with President Bola Tinubu in recent months and has friends and associates in other powerful positions.

The NGOs, which also included Transparency International and Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice, said funds confiscated from him should go to projects benefitting the people of Delta State and implementation should be subject to civil society monitoring.

Efforts by British prosecutors to confiscate Ibori's assets began in 2013 but have run into repeated obstacles and delays in the London courts.

In July, a judge ordered the confiscation of 101.5 million pounds ($123.9 million) from him, one of the biggest orders under Britain's Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 since it came into force.

He has applied for leave to appeal against the order and his application is at the early stages of the appeal process.

By Estelle Shirbon, Reuters

Related stories: Former Delta state governor James Ibori pleads guilty to money laundering

James Ibori denied appeal for jail term reduction

U.S. to seize $3 million of James Ibori looted funds

Oil workers in Nigeria to join nationwide strike next week

One of Nigeria's main oil and gas unions will join a nationwide strike starting on Oct. 3 to protest against government policies that are causing economic hardship for Nigerians, union leaders said on Thursday.

Nigeria is Africa's largest oil producer and relies on the commodity for around 90% of foreign exchange earnings and about half its budget.

The Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) directed its members to ensure "unwavering compliance" with the indefinite strike called by Nigeria's two biggest workers union federations.

NUPENG represents a myriad of workers across the entire value chain in the oil and gas sectors, including upstream oil platform workers, fuel tanker drivers and pump attendants, and its decision to join the strike is a significant escalation of the unions' dispute with the government.

NUPENG President Williams Akporeha said the government's policies have caused "excruciating and debilitating socio-economic pains" for Nigerians without any accompanying measures to cushion "the immediate effects and impacts."

President Bola Tinubu has been under pressure to reverse his decision to scrap a popular petrol subsidy that had kept fuel prices low but was costly on government finances.

While his policies have cheered investors, unions say they have led to soaring costs for Nigerians - an estimated four in 10 of whom live below the national poverty line- as they grapple with the highest inflation in nearly two decades.

By Camillus Eboh, Reuters

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

New central bank Governor of Nigeria Cardoso pledges to clear $7 billion forex backlog

Nigeria's new central bank Governor Olayemi Cardoso said on Tuesday his top priority was to clear the bank's backlog of unsettled foreign exchange obligations to local lenders, which he estimated could be as high as $7 billion.

The Senate unanimously approved Cardoso's nomination as central bank governor after he appeared before lawmakers to answer questions. Four new deputy governors were also confirmed.

Cardoso pledged to improve transparency, fix corporate governance, and restore diminished confidence in the autonomy and integrity of the central bank.

President Bola Tinubu had promised a thorough house cleaning of monetary policy at his inauguration in May after criticizing former Governor Godwin Emefiele's handling of the currency.

Cardoso said once the central bank has verified the extent of its obligations, it will need to find a way to settle them quickly.

"We need to promptly find a way to take care of that. It would be naive for us to expect that we'll be making too much progress if we're not able to handle that side of the foreign exchange market," he said.

Cardoso said he will maintain price stability, revert to evidence-based monetary policies and discontinue his predecessor's unorthodox monetary policies to bolster the country's naira currency.

Cardoso, who began work on Sept. 22 in an acting capacity, takes office following the resignation of Emefiele, who was suspended as central bank chief by Tinubu in June and later detained by security agents and charged with procurement fraud.

Cardoso's comments come at a time when the naira has slumped to a record low, reaching the psychologically sensitive 1,000 naira per dollar on the parallel market.

The official exchange rate was quoted at 785 to the dollar as of 1710 GMT.

Unmet forex demand on the official market due to inadequate liquidity and speculation in street trading added downward pressure to the currency, widening the gap with the official market where restrictions on trading were lifted in June.

By Elisha Bala-Gbogbo, Reuters

Related stories: Suspended central bank governor of Nigeria denies firearm charges

Critical mistakes made by central bank of Nigeria in cash swap

Suspended Nigeria central bank governor Godwin Emefiele charged

Video - Experts call for increase in incentives to boost fish farming in Nigeria

Fish farming is a costly enterprise and is struggling to plug the deficit to meet Nigeria’s needs. Experts say the high cost of mostly-imported fish food, the quality of fish being farmed and a lack of much-needed funding for farmers all affect production.


Labour unions call indefinite strike over cost of living in Nigeria

Nigeria's two biggest workers' unions plan to start an indefinite strike next week to protest against a cost-of-living crisis after the government scrapped a popular but costly petrol subsidy, union leaders said on Tuesday.

Unions have been pushing President Bola Tinubu to reverse his decision in May to scrap the decades-old subsidy that had kept fuel prices low but was draining government finances.

Prices have risen sharply, including the cost of food, transport and power as most businesses and households rely on petrol generators for electricity.

The Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Nigeria, the biggest unions, said they would begin the strike on Oct. 3.

"It's going to be a total shutdown ... until government meets the demand of Nigerian workers, and in fact Nigerian masses," the union leaders said in a joint statement.

"The Federal Government has refused to meaningfully engage and reach agreements with organised labour on critical issues of the consequences of the unfortunate hike in price of petrol which has unleashed massive suffering on Nigeria workers and masses."

The government had urged unions to continue negotiations instead of resorting to strikes, saying this would hurt an economy grappling with double-digit inflation, foreign currency shortages and low oil production.

Tinubu has defended his two biggest reforms - removal of the subsidy and foreign exchange controls - saying although this would lead to hardships in the short term, they were necessary to attract investment and boost government finances. 

By Camillus Eboh, Reuters

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

14 students abducted in Zamfara, Nigeria rescued

Security forces have rescued 14 of at least 20 students abducted from a university in northwestern Nigeria and are searching for the remaining captives, school authorities say.

Gunmen attacked the school in Zamfara state’s Bungudu district last week and fled with the students and some workers in the first mass school abduction in Nigeria since President Bola Tinubu took office in May.

The 14 students from the Federal University Gusau were rescued with two other people, a statement from the university said on Monday without providing details about when they were freed or the nature of the rescue operation.

“The sad and unfortunate incident has indeed thrown the University community into serious tension and apprehension,” the statement said, adding that security forces were “doing their best” to rescue the remaining students. It also said steps were being taken to boost security around the university.

Such abductions from schools are common in northwestern and central Nigeria, where armed groups often take people hostage in exchange for huge ransoms that analysts said help them to buy guns and sustain their operations.

Nigeria’s military has been fighting armed groups like Boko Haram in the northeast, which has left it thinly stretched to tackle the kidnapping gangs, known locally as bandits.

The bandits are believed to be mostly ethnic Fulanis, but pastoralists and mercenaries from the region as well as neighbouring Chad and Niger are also involved.

An estimated 12,000 people died and hundreds of thousands more displaced across the northwestern states of Sokoto, Kebbi, Zamfara, Katsina and Kaduna from 2011 to 2022 due to the crisis, according to the Centre for Democracy and Development, an Abuja-based policy and advocacy think tank.

In Zamfara, one of the kidnap-for-ransom hot spots, many vigilante groups have sprung up with teenagers joining their ranks and wielding knives and clubs.

The latest attack poses a new challenge to Tinubu, who extended the ruling party’s reign with his election victory after promising to solve Nigeria’s security crisis. It adds to growing pressure from the opposition and activists who have accused Tinubu of not doing enough to guarantee security.

Armed groups have been carrying out attacks in many remote communities, often taking advantage of the inadequate security presence in those areas.

While condemning the university abductions in a statement issued by his office on Sunday, Tinubu said his government is “determined to ensure that educational institutions remain sanctuaries of knowledge, growth, and opportunity, and totally free from the menacing acts of terrorists”.

Al Jazeera

Related stories: Video - Gunmen kidnap more than 30 people in Zamfara state, Nigeria

14 killed, 60 kidnapped in Gunmen attack in Nigeria

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

Monday, September 25, 2023

Video - Gunmen kidnap more than 30 people in Zamfara state, Nigeria

According to the regional governor’s spokesperson, 24 students, ten workers and a security guard were seized in the early hours of Friday from the Federal University of Gusau in Nigeria. 


Related story: 14 killed, 60 kidnapped in Gunmen attack in Nigeria

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



14 killed, 60 kidnapped in Gunmen attack in Nigeria

Gunmen in Nigeria killed eight people on Sunday and abducted at least 60 others in two communities of northwest Zamfara state, residents and a local traditional leader said, two days after armed men kidnapped dozens from a university in the state.

Elsewhere, in the northeast of the country suspected Islamist insurgents ambushed a convoy of vehicles under military escort, killing two soldiers and four civilians, said a police source and a motorist who witnessed the attack.

The attackers set fire to five vehicles and drove off with one truck, the witness said.

President Bola Tinubu is yet to spell out how he will tackle widespread insecurity. His economic reforms, including the removal of a costly fuel subsidy and freeing the naira currency, have increased the cost of leaving, angering citizens.

Residents said gunmen early on Sunday tried to attack a forward army base in a rural Magami community of Zamfara, but were repelled. Zamfara is one of the states worst affected by kidnappings for ransom by armed gangs known locally as bandits.

The gunmen in three groups attacked the army base and the communities of Magami and Kabasa, said a traditional leader who declined to be named for security reasons.

He said 60 people, mostly women and children, were kidnapped.

"The bandits rode many motorcycles with guns and other weapons (and) were shooting sporadically," Shuaibu Haruna, a resident of Magami, told Reuters by telephone.

Four people were killed during the attack, said Haruna, who attended their burial.

Isa Mohd from Kabasa community said four people were also killed and dozens of others kidnapped.

Police and army did not respond to requests for comment.

Attacks in the northwest are part of widespread insecurity in Nigeria. Islamist fighters still carry out deadly attacks in the northeast, gangs and separatists attack security forces and government buildings in the southeast, and clashes involving farmers and herders continue to claim lives.

By Ahmed Kingimi, Reuters

Related story: At least 20 villagers killed in latest attack in Nigeria

Video - Police warn of possible rise in crime across Nigeria

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

Friday, September 22, 2023

Video - Experts wary of oil fortunes in Nigeria after August boom

In August, Nigeria’s earnings from the export of crude oil grew by 188.7 billion naira (245 million U.S. dollars) due to an increase in the production of the commodity by foreign and domestic players. This financial windfall rode on the back of an increase in global oil prices. But experts worry the joy in the industry may be short-lived due to subpar crude production and the government’s huge spending.


Video - Nigeria eyes local production of building materials

Rising inflation in Nigeria is reported to be pushing up the prices of building materials and housing. According to data from Nigeria's Bureau of Statistics, inflation jumped to an 18-year high of 25.8 percent in August which has seen building materials, mostly imported, become more expensive. Developers are calling on the government to address this problem, possibly by facilitating more local manufacturing of these inputs.


President Tinubu urges UN to help curb exploitation of Africa's resources

Nigerian President Bola Tinubu urged the United Nations to become more proactive in addressing his African nation's poverty and security issues and helping to fight illicit resource extraction, his spokesman said on Thursday.

Tinubu raised the issues when he met U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York, his spokesman Ajuri Ngelale said in a statement.

The Nigerian leader said malign actors who engage in illicit activities, including resource and weapons smuggling, exploit Africa's vast mineral wealth and undermine its stability.

"We are facing the great challenge of scavengers ravaging our lands and oppressing our people on illegal mines, taking our gold and mineral wealth back to developed economies by stealth and violence," the statement cited Tinubu as saying.

"We will now be aggressive and we will question motives. We will stop what is happening," he said, urging "effective collaboration" with the U.N.

Tinubu called for the United Nations to evolve from a global discussion platform into a proactive coordination centre, highlighting the urgency of addressing poverty and security issues.

In response, Guterres acknowledged the need for comprehensive reform within the U.N. to address institutional weaknesses and improve decision-making power for developing nations, according to the statement.

"We now recognize the need to reform the institution to represent the world as it is today," Guterres was quoted as saying.

In a speech at the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday, Tinubu, who chairs the West African bloc ECOWAS, assailed military coups that have swept through West Africa and pledged to help re-establish constitutional order in Niger.

By Felix Onuah, Reuters

Related story: Video - President Tinubu Address At The 78th Session Of The UN General Assembly

Former government official to share in $11bn gas scandal damages

A former Nigerian civil servant could receive a portion of an enormous sum of damages if a British court rules against the West African nation, in a landmark case centred on a multi-billion dollar gas deal.

As part of an arrangement that Nigeria’s government calls “extraordinary” and “corrupt”, Grace Taiga, the petroleum ministry’s former head lawyer, hopes to share in the record-breaking $11.4bn awarded to the offshore company Process & Industrial Developments (P&ID) before England’s High Court.

Court filings and testimonies seen by Al Jazeera show that Taiga is one of three Nigerians who stand to make money if the court orders Nigeria to pay the award – an outcome that could severely damage the country’s economy. The other two are the businessmen Adetunji Adebayo and Mohammed Kuchazi.

In January 2017, a London-based arbitration panel ruled that Nigeria pay $6.6bn to P&ID as compensation for breaching the contract awarded in 2010. That amount has since ballooned to $11.4bn with interest. But Nigeria has refused to pay, claiming P&ID bribed officials including Taiga to secure the gas contract.

In an eight-week trial that ended in March this year, the government petitioned the High Court to invalidate the arbitration award. The court’s decision is expected within weeks.

Analysts say if Nigeria is ordered to pay the damages, its economy could be severely damaged.

“The negative shock would be monumental,” Olusegun Vincent, associate professor of finance at Pan-Atlantic University in Lagos State, told Al Jazeera. “It may take us back to the pre-1999 military era, when Nigeria wasn’t creditworthy,” he said, pointing to the risk that the government would be unable to pay its debt.

‘The P&ID scam’

This scandal began in the late 2000s when the administration of then-President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua planned to address Nigeria’s energy supply crisis by exploiting vast untapped gas reserves in its mineral-rich Niger Delta region.

Seizing the opportunity, P&ID pitched an ambitious project to the petroleum ministry, to build and operate a gas-processing plant near the southern city of Calabar despite having never undertaken a project like that before.

Taiga was at the centre of negotiations: She worked on the contract wording, recommended to the late Rilwanu Lukman, the petroleum minister then, that he sign a memorandum of understanding with P&ID in 2009, and witnessed his signing of the gas contract the following year.

Under the terms of the agreement, the government would provide wet gas to P&ID for free over 20 years. The two parties would then split the processed resource, with the government using its share to help power the country’s energy grid.

But the project never got off the ground. P&ID never built the plant and Nigeria never provided the company with any gas. P&ID blamed the government for the failure and convinced an arbitration panel it had been wronged.

The panel awarded the company damages equivalent to the total hypothetical profit the company would have made over the lifespan of the contract – $ 6.6bn plus interest of $1.3m per day from the time the contract was breached.

Evidence later emerged that Taiga had received close to $10,000 from individuals and companies linked to P&ID ahead of the contract signing. Before the High Court, Taiga acknowledged having received money but said that these payments were merely gifts from a family friend, P&ID co-founder Michael Quinn.

P&ID said it had done everything in its power to make the project work. However, its inexperience and Taiga’s receipt of undisclosed funds eventually led the Nigerian government to believe that it had been the victim of an elaborate fraud.

Addressing the United Nations General Assembly in 2019, then-President Muhammadu Buhari vowed to confront “the P&ID scam”, which he said was “attempting to cheat Nigeria of billions of dollars”.

Anticorruption campaigners seem to agree with him.

“The story of how a small offshore company with no meaningful track record, no website, and only a handful of employees managed to win a multibillion-dollar gas contract raises red flags for corruption that call for careful scrutiny,” Helen Taylor, senior legal researcher at the British NGO Spotlight on Corruption, told Al Jazeera.

The High Court will adjudicate these points. If Nigeria loses the case, the country would be legally bound to pay P&ID what amounts to eight times its 2023 federal health budget.

‘Part of the family’

How the proceeds would be divided, meanwhile, has long remained confidential. Taiga, who had previously denied in affidavits that she would receive any money from the award, finally told the High Court under oath on February 16: “I do have expectations.” Asked by Nigeria’s lawyer how much she expected P&ID co-founder Brendan Cahill to share with her, she said: “I did not put my mind on a particular ceiling.”

In one document dated October 2017, Cahill recorded a “commitment” of $200,000 to Taiga; in another, dated May 2019, the figure was put at $500,000. Al Jazeera has seen both documents, which form part of the evidence before the High Court. Cahill, an Irish businessman who founded P&ID alongside the now-deceased Michael Quinn, said that these were not firm commitments. “I sought to reassure her that she would be looked after to some degree,” he told the court. “I didn’t specify how or when.”

In court, Taiga denied having secretly helped Quinn and Cahill when she handled the gas contract at the petroleum ministry. But she added that she now saw herself as “part of the family” that is P&ID.

“It’s remarkable that this Nigerian government official who helped broker the controversial gas deal with P&ID now belongs to the close-knit beneficiaries of this opaque offshore company,” said Taylor. “Far from clearing up this conflict of interest, the obscure arrangements for paying her a cut of P&ID’s profits are deeply compromising to her credibility as a former public official.”

A billion-dollar promise and ‘lots of uncertainty’

For his part, Adetunji Adebayo, executive chairman of Nigerian gas company GFD Energy and middleman for P&ID during settlement negotiations with the government, could be entitled to $1.4bn. In an affidavit dated May 2022, Cahill wrote that “Mr Adebayo was promised 10 percent of the income from the arbitration” but added that there was still “a lot of uncertainty around the amount, if any, that will be paid out.”

Adebayo did not appear before the High Court.

Mohammed Kuchazi, who as P&ID’s commercial director assisted the firm in its relationship with the petroleum ministry, told the court that he believes himself to be entitled to 3 percent of the award – some $340m – as per an agreement he said he reached with Quinn. Cahill confirmed the existence of that deal in his affidavit.

In his own affidavit, Kuchazi wrote that he had been friends with Lukman, the minister, since the 1960s. Before entering business, Kuchazi had been a Nigerian politician.

Asked for further comment, Kuchazi’s lawyer Eric Ifere told Al Jazeera that his client’s entitlement to “a 3 percent commission” was supported by a written agreement with P&ID. He declined to share that document.

The Nigerian government has accused Adebayo and Kuchazi of having bribed Nigerian officials on P&ID’s behalf. The company and Kuchazi denied the accusations before the High Court.

Adebayo, Taiga, and P&ID did not respond to Al Jazeera’s requests for comment.

Al Jazeera

Finance Minister of Nigeria Blames Naira Dive on Overdue Payments

Nigeria’s finance minister Adebayo Olawale Edun said up to $6.8 billion of overdue forward payments in the foreign exchange market need to be addressed before the naira stabilizes.

The currency of Africa’s largest economy extended a months-long slide and hurtled toward the 1000-per-dollar mark in street trading on Thursday, as the central bank held back from supplying dollars to a panic-stricken market.

Read more: Naira Plunges Toward 1,000 on Street Amid ‘Stampede’ for Dollars

Edun, who was named to his role last month, said resolving the overdue contracts would allow the naira to strengthen and “pave the way for additional foreign exchange flows.

“The issue we have now is that the market is not liquid enough,” Edun saif in an interview in New York. “We are committed to encouraging liquidity based on reforms that have been made at the moment, on the fiscal side and the monetary side. And together with the restoration of trust and confidence we think the FX flows will return.”

Nigeria’s central bank on Thursday postponed a rate-setting meeting scheduled for Sept 25-26. Its new governor, former Citigroup executive Olayemi Cardoso, is yet to be confirmed in his role, while the acting governor and four deputy governors have resigned, effectively leaving a policy-making vacuum at the top.

The central bank has mostly been on the sidelines this month, according to market players, with one person saying it has barely supplied dollars to the official window. That has helped accelerate the naira’s slide, pushing it down from around 900 per dollar at the start of September.

Shrinking dollar supply from the central bank is forcing buyers onto the streets for hard currency. Inflation in Africa’s biggest economy is also at the highest in more than 18 years, prompting economists to predict that the central bank would raise interest rates again at its next meeting, which for now has been deferred to an unknown future date.

“The commitment is to maintain the existing reforms and improving them. Improving the FX market further so the gap narrows,” the finance minister said. “Looking at all options for boosting supply so the one-way bet of speculators that we are seeing at the moment is reversed.”

By Henry Meyer and Ezra Fieser, Reuters

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Video - Saving history of Nigeria through the News

Newspapers that once delivered news big and small are invaluable windows into our past. They risk being lost forever if not properly preserved and archived. Meenakshi Ravi reports on a project in Nigeria started by journalist Fu’ad Lawal - to rescue old newspapers from dust and decay and digitise decades worth of the country’s front pages in a freely accessible online archive. 

Al Jazeera

Video - President Tinubu Address At The 78th Session Of The UN General Assembly

Bola Ahmed Tinubu, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, addresses the general debate of the 78th Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations (New York, 19 - 26 September 2023). 

The UN General Assembly (UNGA) is the main policy-making organ of the Organization. Comprising all Member States, it provides a unique forum for multilateral discussion of the full spectrum of international issues covered by the Charter of the United Nations. 

Each of the 193 Member States of the United Nations has an equal vote. The United Nations is an international organization founded in 1945. Currently made up of 193 Member States, the UN and its work are guided by the purposes and principles contained in its founding Charter. 

The UN has evolved over the years to keep pace with a rapidly changing world. But one thing has stayed the same: it remains the one place on Earth where all the world’s nations can gather together, discuss common problems, and find shared solutions that benefit all of humanity.

Naira falls to a record 980 on black market

Nigeria's naira fell to a record low on the black market on Wednesday, driven mostly by speculative demand as individuals turn to the dollar as a store of value, traders said.

The unit was quoted at 980 naira to the U.S. dollar on abokiFx, a firm that publishes online black market exchange rates for the currency, compared with 965 on Tuesday.

The naira was quoted at 773.50 on the official market at 1349 GMT, swinging between a range of 738 naira and 789 naira this month.

"The current free fall of the naira is mostly driven from speculation as the black market premium has reached 23.3%," one trader said.

"The pressure also shows that liquidity in the official market is unable to support about $400 million petroleum importers need monthly to import refined fuels, given their 70% control of the market," he said.

The currency of Africa's largest economy has been weakening on the black market due to speculative activities and as excess demand is funnelled to the informal market, widening the gap with the official market, where restrictions on trading the currency was lifted in June.

One of the key challenges for newly nominated central bank governor Olayemi Cardoso will be to boost dollar liquidity to help stabilize the currency. 

By Elisha Bala-Gbogbo, Reuters

Kano state declares curfew after election tribunal sacks governor

Nigeria's northern Kano state declared a 24-hour curfew on Wednesday after a tribunal overturned the election of an opposition candidate as governor and declared a member of President Bola Tinubu's party the rightful winner.

Police in Kano, which has the highest number of registered voters, said in a statement that violators of the curfew "will be arrested and made to face the full wrath of the law."

Ahead of the election tribunal ruling, security forces occupied major roads in the capital of Kano, which shares the same name.

Governors wield wide influence in Nigeria, presiding over budgets bigger than some small African countries and their support often influences who becomes president.

Wednesday's ruling by a panel of five judges had sparked fears of unrest in the largely Muslim state.

The March gubernatorial vote had seen Abba Yusuf of the New Nigerian Peoples Party, a regional party, defeating ruling All Progressives Congress party candidate Nasiru Gawuna, who alleged fraud.

Yusuf can appeal the tribunal decision at the Supreme Court.

It is not unusual for governorship election results to be overturned in Nigeria, which has 36 states that are presided over by state governments.

By Hamza Ibrahim, Reuters

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Video - Nigerian creatives make voices heard at Abuja concert

A remarkable concert in Abuja saw the convergence of young music lovers and climate activists determined to use the universal language of music to amplify their message about the dangers of global warming.


Video - Nigeria hosts crucial summit to address aviation sector challenges

Nigeria is poised to revolutionize the aviation industry across the African continent, igniting monumental development that promises to be a catalyst for economic growth. The stage for this transformative journey was set as the West African nation hosted the 2023 Aviation Africa Summit.


Crypto usage growing further in Nigeria

Cryptocurrency usage is growing in Nigeria as Africa's largest economy grapples with a weakening currency and soaring inflation, New York-based blockchain research firm Chainalysis said in a report on Tuesday.

Nigeria's volume of crypto transactions grew 9% year-over-year to $56.7 billion between July 2022 and June 2023. In Uganda, crypto use is smaller but growing fast, rising 245% to $1.6 billion in the same period, while its use in Kenya fell more than a half to $8.4 billion, the report said.

In Nigeria, interest in bitcoin and stablecoins - crypto tokens whose monetary value is pegged to a stable asset to protect from wild volatility - increased when the naira's value plunged, particularly during the most extreme drops in June and July of 2023, Chainalysis said.

The currency weakened to record lows after President Bola Tinubu embarked on some of the boldest reforms that Nigeria has seen in years, including scrapping a popular but costly petrol subsidy and removing some exchange rate restrictions.

"People are constantly looking for opportunities to hedge against the devaluation of the naira and the persistent economic decline since COVID," Moyo Sodipo, co-founder of Nigeria-based cryptocurrency exchange Busha, said in a statement shared with the report.

Nigeria barred its banks and financial institutions from dealing in or facilitating transactions in cryptocurrencies in 2021.

Last year, the country's financial regulator published a set of regulations for digital assets, signalling Africa's most populous country was trying to find a middle ground between an outright ban on crypto assets and their unregulated use.

Nigeria's young, tech-savvy population has eagerly adopted cryptocurrencies, for example using peer-to-peer trading offered by crypto exchanges to avoid the financial sector ban. 

By Anait Miridzhanian, Reuters

Related stories: Video - Nigeria continues to record surge in adoption of cryptocurrencies

Nigeria Seeks to Boost E-Naira Users 10-Fold as Cryptos Grow

Nigerians Are Using Bitcoin to Bypass Trade Hurdles With China

President Tinubu tells UN he seeks to restore democratic order in Niger

Nigerian President Bola Tinubu said on Tuesday he was seeking to re-establish constitutional order to address political and economic problems in neighboring Niger following a July coup and welcomed any support for the process.

Tinubu is chairman of the main West African bloc ECOWAS, which has been trying to negotiate with the Niger military junta. ECOWAS has said it is ready to deploy troops to restore constitutional order if diplomatic efforts fail.

In a speech at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Tinubu assailed military coups, which have swept through West Africa in the past few years and are sometimes cheered by citizens.

"The wave crossing parts of Africa does not demonstrate favor towards coups. It is a demand for solutions to perennial problems," Tinubu said.

"Regarding Niger, we are negotiating with the military leaders. As chairman of ECOWAS, I seek to help re-establish democratic governance in a manner that addresses the political and economic challenges confronting that nation, including the violent extremists who seek to foment instability in our region."

The decision by ECOWAS in August to activate a so-called standby force for a possible intervention has raised fears of an escalation that could further destabilize the insurgency-torn Sahel region.

The junta in Niger last month ordered its armed forces to go on highest alert, citing an increased threat of attack.

By Felix Onuah, Reuters

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Nigeria looks to strenghten economic ties with South Africa

Nigeria's President Bola Tinubu held talks with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa in New York, seeking to advance economic cooperation between the two largest economies in Africa, his spokesperson said on Monday.

The two African leaders met ahead of the United Nations General Assembly that is scheduled to start this week, they said in a joint statement.

"We can collaborate in a mutually beneficial way that enriches our populations," Tinubu said, adding that both countries can cooperate in the mining and telecommunications industries to help "deliver jobs".

Tinubu has embarked on Nigeria's boldest reforms in decades, scrapping a popular but expensive petrol subsidy and lifting foreign exchange trading curbs. He has pledged to revive an economy struggling with record debt, anaemic growth and double-digit inflation.

President Ramaphosa hailed Tinubu's "brave" economic reforms and pledged that South Africa will explore greater partnership with Nigeria.

"We are two major economies on our continent, and it is important that we deepen economic ties, particularly in light of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement," Ramaphosa said .

"We would love to see Nigeria and South Africa working closely together on a number of issues because whenever we join hands, we have made an impact globally through those joint positions," he said.

Tinubu also urged South Africa to join Nigeria in a call for reforms of global finance institutions to help Africa combat rising poverty and economic woes.

"We must join hands and agree that International Finance Institutions require reform as Africa is not to be a ground for economic scavenging any longer, but it is a place with gifted people that is ready for investment and cooperation," Tinubu said.

Tinubu, attending his first U.N. General Assembly as Nigeria's president, is also scheduled to meet U.S. President Joe Biden and executives from Microsoft, Meta and Exxon Mobil in New York in a drive to mobilize global capital to develop infrastructure. 

By Felix Onuah, Reuters

US Treasury Secretary Adeyemo urges Nigeria to fight corruption

U.S. Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo on Monday urged Nigeria to work to stabilize its currency and fight corruption to unlock what he called the "unrealized opportunity" of Africa's most populous country.

Adeyemo, who emigrated from Nigeria to the United States as a child, is visiting Nigeria through Tuesday to underscore the Biden administration's commitment to deepening economic and trade ties with African countries.

His trip comes as Nigeria’s new president, Bola Tinubu, adopts reforms to revive the country's economy and is part of a broader push by U.S. President Joe Biden to strengthen ties and offer African countries an alternative to Chinese and Russian investment and trade.

"Your economic success is not only important to the approximately 200 million people who call Nigeria home, it is important to the region, the continent and the global economy," Adeyemo said in a speech at Lagos Business School.

The visit by Adeyemo, the highest-ranking member of the African diaspora in the Biden administration, comes after visits to the continent by other top officials, including Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Vice President Kamala Harris.

Adeyemo said Nigeria could attract more foreign direct investment if it accelerated efforts to stabilize the nation's currency, the naira, and revamped its fiscal policies to end fuel subsidies and invest more in digital infrastructure, education and a strong small business environment.

Rooting out corruption, including by moving more licensing and other government functions online, would also fight skepticism and boost digital entrepreneurship, he said.

Adeyemo also called for steps to shore up the integrity of the Nigeria's banks and reduce the ability of "criminals, terrorists and others" to launder money through the Nigerian financial system. Washington stands ready to help Tinubu's government tackle challenges in this area, he added.

"The opportunity has never been greater," he said. "Your government is pursuing difficult and bold reforms. The United States looks forward to being a partner as you build an economy that works for all Nigerians."

By Andrea Shalal, Reuters

Friday, September 15, 2023

Power being restored to Nigeria after nationwide blackouts

Nigeria's electricity distribution companies reported "a total system collapse" on Thursday after a fire on a major transmission line, causing widespread blackouts across Africa's biggest economy, before power slowly started to return.

Adebayo Adelabu, minister for power, said fire had caused an explosion on a transmission line connecting the Kainji and Jebba power plants in north central Niger state, tripping the grid.

"The fire has been fully arrested and over half of the connections are now up and the rest will be fully restored in no time," Adelabu said in a statement.

Power generation fell to zero in the early hours but had risen to 1,341 megawatts (MW) by 1400 GMT, still well below the daily average of 4,100 MW, data from the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) showed.

TCN did not respond to a request for comment.

Grid power is erratic in Nigeria, a major oil and gas producer, forcing households and businesses including oil firms and manufacturers to resort to diesel and petrol generators.

"The cost of fuelling a generator is eating into our finances and, as a tech business that relies on power, this is a heavy burden to bear," said Dickcion Bolodeku, an executive at technology firm Bayelsa Tech Hub in the southern oil-producing Bayelsa state, noting that President Bola Tinubu removed a subsidy on fuel in May.

In Lagos, despite enduring power cuts on an almost daily basis, some people were surprised at the nationwide blackout.

Lagos-based Eko Electricity Distribution Company, one of the biggest, said grid power was being restored.

The grid collapsed at least four times in 2022, which authorities blamed on technical problems.

Nigeria has 12,500 MW of installed capacity but produces about a quarter of that.

By Macdonald Dzirutwe, Reuters

Related story: National grid collapses in Nigeria causing blackouts across the country

Video - Government in Nigeria struggling to end perennial electricity challenge

Thursday, September 14, 2023

Nigeria footballer Plumptre signs for Saudi Women's side Al-Ittihad

Nigeria defender Ashleigh Plumptre said she has joined Saudi Women's Premier League side Al-Ittihad following the expiry of her contract at Leicester City.

The 25-year-old centre back has 15 caps for Nigeria. She played for England at youth level before switching allegiance and making her Nigeria debut in 2022.

"Grateful to have signed for Al-Ittihad," Plumptre said on messaging platform X, formerly known as Twitter. "Excited to start this journey alongside some incredible human beings.

"My journey of stepping into more of myself continues... It's more than football."

The Saudi women's top flight is gearing up for its second season, with eight teams vying for the title.

Saudi men's Pro League teams have been spending huge sums to attract some of the best players from European clubs, including Neymar, Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema.

Critics accuse Saudi Arabia of engaging in "sportwashing" in the face of heavy criticism of its human rights record and equality issues.

Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has introduced reforms allowing women greater control over their lives in recent years but men still retain a tight grip on power in the kingdom. 

By Pearl Josephine, Reuters

Related story: Video - Nigeria's women football star Oshoala trains girls at her academy

National grid collapses in Nigeria causing blackouts across the country

Nigerians were on Thursday morning thrown into darkness after the national grid system collapsed.

The system is operated by the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) from Osogbo, Osun State.

Some of the nation’s Distribution Companies confirmed that the grid collapsed in the early hours of Thursday, as most of their feeders are out.

The Enugu Electricity Distribution Company PLC (EEDC) in a statement said that “a total system collapse” occurred at 12:40 a.m. on Thursday.

“This has resulted in the loss of supply currently being experienced across the network,” the company said in a statement signed by Emeka Ezeh,
Head of Corporate Communications.

Due to this development, the distribution company said all its interface TCN stations are out of supply, and it will be unable to provide service to customers in Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo States.

“We are on standby awaiting detailed information of the collapse and restoration of supply from the National Control Centre (NCC), Osogbo,” it said.

The General Manager, Public Affairs at the TCN, Ndidi Mbah, told PREMIUM TIMES Thursday morning that the public would soon be updated about the development.

By Mary Izuaka, Premium Times

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

Government in Nigeria struggling to end perennial electricity challenge



Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Deaths caused by Malaria drops by 55% in Nigeria

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has applauded Nigeria‘s effort in fighting malaria, saying malaria deaths fell by 55 percent from 2.1 per 1000 population to 0.9 per 1000 population.

WHO regional director for Africa, Dr Moeti Moshido, stated this at the launch of the 2022 Nigeria Malaria Report in Abuja.

She said “While Nigeria accounts for around 27 percent of the global burden of malaria cases, the country has seen major progress. Malaria incidence has fallen by 26 percent since 2000 from 413 per 1000 to 302 per 1000 in 2021. Malaria deaths also fell by 55 percent, from 2.1 per 1000 population to 0.9 per 1000 population.”

Moeti identified the drivers of this continuing disease burden as the size of Nigeria’s population, which she said is making scaling up intervention challenging.

Speaking further, he said learning from COVID-19, continuity of provision of essential health services is critical to interventions in malaria and other diseases, particularly in populations affected by humanitarian emergencies, adding that changing environmental factors, such as climate change, and farming and mining practices that may increase transmission.

She said addressing the prevention, elimination, and control of malaria and the burden from other diseases requires critical data and information gathering for evidence-based investment and decision-making.

The Report on malaria in Nigeria 2022 is an excellent model from which to use data to prioritise health interventions. Using data, we can prioritise and target interventions, optimise allocation of resources and facilitate the monitoring of performance at federal and state levels. This report is a result of the collaboration between the Nigeria Malaria Elimination Programme, the WHO Regional Office for Africa, and the Global Malaria Programme.

The report provides critical information on the status of malaria in each of the 36 States and the Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria, making it unique in providing data at the State level to guide a truly subnational response to malaria, providing an overview of the malaria situation across all States, focusing on population demographics, malaria interventions, climate, and disease burden.

Going forward, the Regional Office must support the generation of the data and evidence required to develop similar reports on other diseases and conditions. This will enable countries to monitor interventions at national and sub-national level, to tailor the use of funds by donors and government in the control of communicable and non-communicable diseases.” 

By Patience Ivie Ihejirika, Leadership

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Ban lifted on Nigerian Travelers to UAE After president Tinubu’s Visit

The United Arab Emirates will lift a visa ban placed on Nigerian travelers almost a year ago following an agreement with President Bola Tinubu, who is on a visit to the Middle Eastern nation.

As part of the agreement with UAE President Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Etihad Airways and Emirates Airline will resume flights to and from the West African nation, said Ajuri Ngelale, spokesman for Nigeria’s president, in an emailed statement on Monday.

“This immediate restoration of flight activity, through these two airlines and between the two countries, does not involve any immediate payment by the Nigerian government,” he said.

Emirates suspended flights to Nigeria last year over challenges in repatriating funds from the West African nation and Etihad at the start of the pandemic.

Separately, Nigeria was among 20 African countries that the UAE placed visa restrictions on in October without giving a reason.

The deal comes as Tinubu, who was sworn in as president on May 29, has initiated several reforms to attract investment including ending costly gasoline subsidies and easing foreign-exchange controls that led to dollar shortages.

The two nations also agreed to a foreign exchange liquidity program that will be announced in the coming weeks and a framework that will result “in billions of US dollars worth of new investments into the Nigerian economy across multiple sectors,” Ngelale said.

By Ruth Olurounbi, Reuters

Monday, September 11, 2023

Ferry accident in Nigeria leaves 26 dead

At least 26 people died and several others were missing after a ferry capsized on a reservoir in north central Nigeria on Sunday, local officials said, the second such major accident to hit the region in three months.

Bologi Ibrahim, the spokesperson for the governor of Niger state, said the boat was carrying more than 100 people, including women and children, in the Mokwa local government area of the state. The victims were going to their farms across a major dam, said Ibrahim.

"Twenty six persons, mostly women and children have been confirmed dead, over 30 people rescued, while a combined rescue operation by marine police and local divers in collaboration with Niger State Emergency Management Agency is ongoing," Ibrahim said in a state.

In July, more than 100 people died when an overloaded boat capsized in a remote part of Niger state, in one of the worst such disasters in recent years.

Overcrowding and poor maintenance are responsible for most boat accidents on Nigerian waterways. 

By Camillus Eboh, Reuters

Friday, September 8, 2023

French Montana Donates 500 Canoes to the Makoko in Lagos, Nigeria

French Montana is committed to giving back.

After filming a music video for his single “Wish U Well” among the Makoko people in Nigeria, the rapper, 38, has donated 500 canoes to the community who live in structures built on stilts off the coast of Lagos.

Featured artist Swae Lee of the hip-hop duo Rae Sremmurd, as well as media company gamma. and management SALXCO, helped contribute to the donation.

According to a press release, the “Good Summer” artist and his team developed a plan to deliver boats to the community of 200,000 because they are often at the risk of being endangered by flooding and live with a lack of adequate sanitation systems.

The Moroccan-born, Bronx-raised rapper was said to have been drawn to the Makoko and their vibrant culture, which he highlighted in the “Wish U Well” video that dropped last week, and their resilience of living in the face of climate change.

Per the release, this is one of many times the Grammy nominee has given back to underserved communities. Back in 2017 when he and Swae Lee, 30, filmed the music video for their collaboration “Unforgettable” in Uganda, Montana made a financial donation to help build the Suubi Health Center for maternal healthcare. With the project, he became Global Citizen’s first-ever rap ambassador.

The hip-hop star shared a statement about his contribution to the Makoko in a press release. "I witnessed firsthand how water is both a lifeline and an obstacle in Makoko. These boats are essential tools transporting the residents of Makoko and goods and services,” Montana said.

He continued, “As an immigrant from Morocco, giving back to communities in Africa, the place that raised me is so important. When I was filming, I met local leaders who talked about the daily struggles and aspirations of the wider community. I was moved by their spirit and positivity, which inspired me to get involved and to help impact change.”

“Wish U Well” arrived in late August and saw the hip-hop star team up with the Rae Sremmurd star for the first time since 2017.

His documentary, For Khadija, premiered this spring at the Tribeca Festival, detailing his ascension in the music industry and exploring the sacrifices his mother made in his childhood. He spoke to PEOPLE about the project upon its release.

"The greatness start after your comfort zone," Montana said. "I knew that everything I was going to do was going to be out of the ordinary and I would have to sacrifice to get where I needed to go. Sacrificing was me being in the streets, because I hated to see my mother working 12 hours for $100."

"When it seems like it's impossible, that there's a way you could still make it happen," he added. "You just got to let go, man, and have faith, like how my mother did in the documentary. She prays, and how I did, when I had to make a choice, whether I was just going to get caught up with seeing my mother sacrifice, or I was going to do something about it and make a change."

By Sadie Bell, People

Related stories: Video - Makoko floating school collapses

Video - homeless battle in Makoko

Thursday, September 7, 2023

Tinubu's presidential win upheld by election tribunal

Nigeria's presidential election tribunal on Wednesday rejected challenges by opposition rivals to Bola Tinubu's win in February's disputed vote, following a pattern seen in previous election years in Africa's most populous country.

No legal challenge to the outcome of a presidential election has succeeded in Nigeria, which returned to democracy in 1999 after three decades of almost uninterrupted military rule and has a history of electoral fraud.

Atiku Abubakar of the People's Democratic Party and Peter Obi of the Labour Party, who came second and third respectively, had asked the court to cancel the election, alleging irregularities.

Justices of the five-member tribunal, taking turns to read out judgements for more than 11 hours, rejected Atiku and Obi's individual petitions point-by-point.

Judge Haruna Tsammani said Obi's petition was "unmeritorious" and had "not led any credible evidence sufficient enough" to back claims of irregularities.

Tsammani said Atiku's allegations of vote fraud and were "so lame" and dismissed his argument that Tinubu was not qualified to run for president.

"The petitions are hereby dismissed," said Tsammani.

Obi and Atiku, who were not in court, could not be immediately reached for comment. Obi's Labour Party in a statement rejected the judgment and said it would announce its next steps after a meeting with lawyers.

In a statement from India where he is preparing to take part in the G20 summit, Tinubu welcomed the tribunal ruling and urged his rivals and their supporters to support his government.

European Union observers had said in June that the elections were marred by problems including operational failures and a lack of transparency that reduced public trust in the process.

However, the elections stirred little sign of a groundswell of popular opposition, and Tinubu has been accepted by the international community as Nigeria's legitimate leader.

Atiku and Obi can appeal to the country's Supreme Court to strike down the tribunal's ruling. Any appeal must be concluded within 60 days of the date of the tribunal judgment.

While favourable to Tinubu, the tribunal's ruling was unlikely to generate any particular euphoria or momentum for the president after an election marked by record low turnout of 29%.

In a nation of more than 200 million people of whom 87 million were registered to vote, Tinubu garnered just 8.79 million votes, the fewest of any president since the return to democracy, limiting the goodwill towards him.

By Camillus Eboh, Reuters

Related story: Tribunal in Nigeria to decide if Tinubu stays as president

India gives $14 billion investment pledges to Nigeria

Nigeria has secured nearly $14 billion of pledges from Indian investors and seeks an economic cooperation pact with the South Asian nation, a presidential spokesperson said on Wednesday.

India's Jindal Steel and Power (JNSP.NS) has committed to pump $3 billion into Nigeria's steel sector and Indorama Corp plans to invest an additional $8 billion to expand its petrochemical facility in the West African country, spokesperson Ajuri Ngelale said in a statement.

Skipperseil Ltd's founding Chairman Jitender Sachdeva and India's Bharti Enterprises each pledged $1.6 billion over four years to build power generation plants and $700 million in Nigeria, respectively, Ngelale said.

Separately, Nigeria approved a $1 billion partnership agreement with the Indian government to help the Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria attain 40% self-sufficiency in local manufacturing and production of defence equipment in three years, Ngelale said.

President Bola Tinubu, who will attend the G20 summit in New Delhi representing a guest country later this week, held talks with Indian investors under the Nigeria-India presidential roundtable and conference to mobilize global capital to develop infrastructure.

Tinubu is attending at the invitation of India, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the bloc.

"We are ready to give you the best returns for investment possible, there's nowhere else like our country," Tinubu said in the statement.

The government of Africa's top oil producer wants to encourage investments rather than rely on borrowing to fund job creation and build badly needed infrastructure such as railways, roads and power plants.

Tinubu has embarked on Nigeria's boldest reforms in decades, including scrapping a popular but expensive petrol subsidy and lifting foreign exchange trading curbs. He has pledged to revive an economy struggling with record debt, anaemic growth, unemployment, and double-digit inflation.

Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, is considering applying to become the continent's second member of the G20, after South Africa, and is consulting on the risks and benefits.

By Nidhi Verma and Felix Onuah, Reuters

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Video - Electric train linking mainland Lagos with island starts operations in Nigeria

Authorities say the train service will operate 12 trips daily for the next four weeks using the locomotive system. Electric power train operation will follow thereafter with 76 trips planned for each day, transporting at least 150,000 passengers.


Related stories: New China-assisted light rail services commences in Abuja, Nigeria

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

Video - West Africa's first light railway system launched in Abuja, Nigeria

Tribunal in Nigeria to decide if Tinubu stays as president

 Nigeria's presidential election tribunal is due to rule on Wednesday on whether Bola Tinubu should stay as president after two rivals challenged his victory in February's disputed vote.

There have been numerous legal challenges to the outcome of previous Nigerian presidential elections but none have succeeded. Most political observers expect the tribunal to uphold Tinubu's win.

Atiku Abubakar of the People's Democratic Party and Labour Party's Peter Obi asked the court to invalidate the election, alleging irregularities and accused the electoral body of breaching the law by failing to use electronic machines to upload polling station results, among other criticisms.

The tribunal, which will deliver its ruling in the capital Abuja, has the power to cancel an election and order a fresh one, among other remedies.

If it upholds Tinubu's win, Atiku and Obi can still make a final appeal at the country's Supreme Court, the highest court in Nigeria. An appeal should be concluded within 60 days from the date of the tribunal judgment.

Ahead of the ruling, the military set up check-points on major roads into Abuja, randomly searching commuters and vehicles.

Tinubu, who is in India ahead of a G20 Summit, has defended his victory and says he is focused on reviving the economy. He has implemented reforms that include removing a popular but costly petrol subsidy and ending currency controls.

But getting Nigerians to stomach the painful reforms has been hard and the 71-year-old veteran faces opposition from labour unions, who started a two-day strike on Tuesday ahead of an indefinite strike from Sept. 21.

Anaemic growth, high unemployment, the highest inflation rate in two decades, record debt, massive oil theft that has hit government revenues and widespread insecurity are among the issues that Tinubu inherited from predecessor Muhammadu Buhari.

Fixing these pressing problems requires public support but Tinubu garnered 8.79 million votes, the fewest won by a Nigerian president since the country returned to democracy in 1999, limiting the goodwill towards him.

By Camillus Eboh, Reuters

Monday, September 4, 2023

Video - President Bola Tinubu raises alarm over increasing numbers of coups

Nigerian presidential spokesperson Ajuri Ngelale said President Tinubu continues to work with other African heads of state on how to handle the crisis in Gabon. Tinubu wants a united front against the growing threat of what he calls "contagious autocracy”. The governments of Sudan, Chad, Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Niger, and now, Gabon are all under military rule.


Nigeria plans to set up solid minerals corporation

Nigeria plans to set up the Nigerian Solid Minerals Corporation, a state-backed company to help attract investments into the extraction of gold, coal, iron-ore, bitumen, lead, limestone and baryte, a minister said on Sunday.

"The proposed corporation will seek and secure partnership investment agreements with big multinational companies worldwide to leverage on the attractive investment-friendly regime operating in the country to secure massive foreign direct investment for the mining sector," Solid Minerals Minister Dele Alake said in a statement.

Nigeria wants mining to play a much bigger role in its economy by expanding its mineral extraction sector to diversify away from an overreliance on oil exploration.

Alake did not give a timeframe for when the new company would be set up. Existing enterprises - the National Iron-Ore Company and the Bitumen Concessioning Programme - will be reviewed to fit into the new company while a mines police force will be active from October to detect illegal mining, he said.

President Bola Tinubu has embarked on the country's boldest reforms in decades to try to improve Nigeria's investment climate and draw foreign investors to Africa's biggest economy.

Tinubu inherited a struggling economy with record debt, shortages of foreign exchange and fuel, a weak naira currency, inflation at a near two-decade high, skeletal power supplies and falling oil production due to years of underinvestment, crude-oil theft and pipeline vandalism.

His administration has said it will seek to promote investments rather than rely on borrowing to create jobs.

Tinubu plans to attend the forthcoming G20 summit to promote foreign investment in Nigeria and mobilize global capital to develop infrastructure.

The new corporation will engage local financial institutions, which have shied away from the mining sector in the past due to a long gestation period for projects, to promote investment, Alake said.

By Camillus Eboh, Reuters

Nigeria considering G20 bloc membership

Nigeria is considering applying to become a member of the G20 bloc of major economies after concluding consultations on the risks and benefits, the president's spokesperson said on Sunday.

President Bola Tinubu will leave on Monday to attend the G20 summit in India at the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, spokesperson Ajuri Ngelale said.

South Africa is the only African member of the group of the world's 20 most industrialised nations.

"While Nigeria's membership of the G-20 is desirable, the government has embarked on wide-ranging consultations with a view to ascertaining the benefits and risks of membership," Ngelale said in a statement.

Tinubu's attendance was in part to further Nigeria's membership objective, he said.

On Friday, Ngelale said Tinubu will attend the G20 summit to try to promote foreign investment in Nigeria and mobilize global capital to develop infrastructure.

Nigeria's new government wants to encourage investments rather than rely on borrowing to create jobs as it tries to revive an economy struggling with record debt, a weak currency, double-digit inflation and skeletal power supplies.

Tinubu has embarked on the boldest reforms in decades, which have been welcomed by investors. However, they have brought additional hardship to Nigerians already dealing with a cost of living crisis.

Tinubu will attend the summit with some of his cabinet members including foreign affairs, finance and trade ministers.

By Felix Onuah, Reuters

Friday, September 1, 2023

Video - Transport sector declines by more than 50 percent in Nigeria

Segun Sopita, the principal partner at Woodridge & Scott Consulting, said the removal of the fuel subsidy by the Nigerian government has had a sharp impact on the transport and logistics sector. Nigeria’s transportation sector accounts for 0.89 percent of the West African nation’s GDP.


President Tinubu Suggests 9-Month Transition for Niger Junta

Nigerian President Bola Tinubu on Thursday floated the idea of a transition back to democracy in neighboring Niger similar to the nine-month period his country underwent in the late 1990s.

The Economic Community of West African States has imposed sanctions on Niger after troops ousted President Mohamed Bazoum in a coup on July 26 and the bloc threatened military intervention as a last resort if talks fail to restore civilian rule.

In a statement Thursday, the bloc insisted it wanted Bazoum back in power right away.

"The military authorities in Niger must restore constitutional order immediately by liberating and reinstating ... President Mohamed Bazoum," it said.

Niger's new military leaders have dug in, saying they want a maximum three-year transition period to restore constitutional order and have ordered police to expel France's envoy as tensions build with a key partner in Niger's anti-jihadist fight.

Late Thursday, Niger's interior ministry announced it was stopping U.N. agencies, NGOs and international organizations from working in military "operation zones."

It did not specify which regions were affected, but said the measures were "due to the current security situation."

"All activities and or movements in the zones of operations are temporarily suspended," it said.

Transition period

Tinubu said Nigeria returned to civilian rule in 1999 after a nine-month transition period instituted by former military head of state General Abdulsalami Abubakar, who has also headed delegations to meet the Niger junta.

"The president sees no reason why such cannot be replicated in Niger, if Niger's military authorities are sincere," the Nigerian presidency said in a statement.

Algeria, Niger's influential northern neighbor, has met with West Africa leaders in a bid to avoid any military intervention in Niger and has proposed a six-month transition.

But Tinubu's statement said there would be no relief from sanctions imposed by ECOWAS, of which he serves as chair, until the regime made "positive adjustments."

"The soldiers' action is unacceptable. The earlier they make positive adjustments, the quicker we will dial back the sanctions to alleviate the sufferings we are seeing in Niger," it said.

The overthrow of Niger's government has triggered concern around West Africa where Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso have all been taken over by the military since 2020.

Fears of contagion have deepened with this week's military rebellion in Gabon to overthrow President Ali Bongo, toppled moments after being declared winner of a highly disputed weekend election.

Diplomatic battle

Niger's new military rulers have also been engaged in a political battle with Paris, and stripped France's ambassador of diplomatic immunity and ordered police to expel him, according to a letter seen Thursday by AFP.

The envoy "no longer enjoys the privileges and immunities attached to his status as member of the diplomatic personnel in the French Embassy," according to their letter, dated Tuesday, to the foreign ministry in Paris.

Relations with France spiraled downwards after the July coup when Paris stood by Bazoum and refused to recognise Niger's new rulers.

Last Friday, the authorities gave French envoy Sylvain Itte 48 hours to leave the country.

France refused the demand, saying the military rulers had no legal right to make such an order.

French military spokesperson Colonel Pierre Gaudilliere on Thursday warned that "the French military forces are ready to respond to any upturn in tension that could harm French diplomatic and military premises in Niger."

France has around 1,500 troops in Niger, many of them stationed at an airbase near the capital, to help fight a jihadist insurgency in Niger.

On Aug. 3, Niger's new rulers denounced military agreements with France, a move that the government in Paris has also ignored on the grounds of legitimacy.

An organization set up after the coup named the Patriotic Front for Niger Sovereignty (FPS) has led public demands for the coup leaders to take a hard line.

It is calling for a "massive" march next Saturday on the French base, followed by a sit-in until the troops leave.

Dispatch of troops

A landlocked former French colony in the heart of the Sahel, Niger is battling two jihadist insurgencies -- a spill over in southeastern Niger from a long-running conflict in neighboring Nigeria, and an offensive in the southwest by militants crossing from Mali and Burkina Faso.

Bazoum came to office in 2021 after democratic elections -- a watershed in a country that had had no peaceful transition of power since independence from France in 1960.

He suffered two attempted coups before finally being toppled by members of his own guard.

ECOWAS responded by warning it could intervene militarily to restore civilian rule if efforts to end the crisis diplomatically fail.

Swift to support their military comrades in Niger, Mali and Burkina have said that any such operation would be deemed a "declaration of war" against them.

Burkina Faso has approved a draft law authorizing the dispatch of troops to Niger, according to a government statement in Ouagadougou on Thursday.