Thursday, November 30, 2023

GSK pull-out from Nigeria causes medication shortage

Asthma sufferers among those rationing drugs amid shortages and high prices after the pharmaceutical company ceased business in Nigeria this year.

Salamat Olashile takes a tablet from a white-and-green sachet. Five minutes later, her breathing is still laboured. “It will soon come down,” she says. She used to have an inhaler, which would have eased her asthma attack faster, but prices have increased dramatically since GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) “exited” the country. She is now reliant on a slower-working tablet called Araminol.

GlaxoSmithKline Nigeria, the country’s subsidiary of the British pharmaceutical firm, first announced in June that Nigeria’s economic problems and foreign currency crisis were severely affecting its work. In August, it said that it would be shutting down operations.

A GSK Global spokesperson said the company was not exiting, but pivoting to a “third-party distributorship”, which it is still processing. “In common with many companies operating in Nigeria, the significant challenge in accessing foreign currency in recent years impacted our local operations and has affected our ability to maintain consistent supply of medicines and vaccines in the market,” the spokesperson said.

Nigerians are now familiar with the resulting shortage of medications – and a spike in cost for inhalers such as Ventolin and Seretide Diskus, antibiotics such as Amoxil, as well as allergy relief drugs, an antimalarial drug and even over-the-counter painkiller, Panadol.

“I’ve been using Ventolin inhalers for eight years now,” says Jalaalah Shittu, a university student first diagnosed with asthma in 2015. “With Ventolin, there’s a hope I can still live a normal life. It provides an almost immediate relief.” But that relief has proved difficult for patients like Olashile and Shittu to replicate with other drugs.

Last week, Olashile’s father went out to get her Ventolin inhaler and came back with Araminol tablets. After a week of her asthma getting worse, he found an inhaler for 9,000 naira (£9), almost four times its usual price.

Olashile says: “My symptoms were worse because of the harmattan – a season characterised by harsh dusty winds and low humidity.” She has stopped going out and is trying to preserve the Ventolin for emergencies.

Shittu, meanwhile, is suffering unpleasant side-effects from alternative drugs. “I start to feel very weak and have a faster heartbeat and shaky body until the drug wears off, and that can take hours,” she says.

Oluwakemi Ebire of Famasi Africa, a digital health platform, says the situation is forcing people to ration medications of all kinds. “The ripple effect of these circumstances on patients is deeply concerning. For those without access to the right information, financial constraints can push them towards counterfeit medication, risking drug-adverse effects, drug resistance, treatment failure and even death.”

Nigeria has an estimated 13 million asthma sufferers, one of the highest rates in Africa. Ebire says: “I spearhead the care and management of chronic patients who depend on these medications for the rest of their lives, and I can tell you that these past few months have been very difficult for our patients, both financially and emotionally.”

In October, Famasi Africa registered a 15% drop in medication adherence rate among diabetic patients under its care, accompanied by a 10% increase in blood sugar levels.

The spokesperson for GSK said none of the medications supplied by the company is considered to be medically critical, and all have generic alternatives. It hoped that new third-party distribution plans could mean some drugs returning to the market early next year. 

By Olatunji Olaigbe, The Guardian

Armed men abduct 8 in Nigeria

Gunmen kidnapped at least eight people in an attack on the Dan Honu community in Nigeria's northern Kaduna state, residents said on Thursday.

Kidnapping for ransom is rife in northwest Nigeria where armed gangs, often referred to locally as bandits, have targeted schools, villages and travellers, making it unsafe to travel by road or to farm in some areas.

Kaduna police spokesperson Mansur Hassan said the police are investigating the incident, which occurred late Tuesday in Chikum local government area of the state.

Mohammed Danjuma, a resident who was spared, told Reuters about 16 people were taken but eight managed to get away.

"As they were busy trying to break into my apartment, one of the vigilantes in the community fired a shot into the air, which made the bandits uncomfortable and left," he said.

Malam Suleiman, another resident who was kidnapped, managed to escape while being led into the bushes. His teenage sons were taken by the bandits.

Attacks in northern Nigeria are part of widespread insecurity in the country that include a 14-year Islamist insurgency in the northeast and deadly clashes between farmers and herders in the central region. 

By Garba Muhammad, Reuters

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President Tinubu says Nigeri budget offers 'renewed hope'

Nigeria's president has delivered his first budget since taking office, as the country faces a deepening cost of living crisis.

He announced government plans to spend 27.5 trillion naira ($34.85bn; £27bn) in the new financial year.

Bola Ahmed Tinubu said the plans would attract investment, offering "renewed hope" during tough economic times.

Mr Tinubu had called for patience after inflation skyrocketed following an ambitious set of reform policies.

After winning disputed elections with 37% of the vote back in May, he shocked many Nigerians in his inaugural address when, in an off-the-cuff remark, he scrapped a decades-old fuel subsidy.

The move led to a sharp rise in the price of fuel and other goods, worsening the cost of living crisis for many.

Mr Tinubu also scrapped foreign exchange controls, which also contributed to pushing up inflation to its highest levels in nearly two decades, at 25%.

The value of the naira fell, increasing the cost of imports and making it more difficult to pay off international loans.

But Mr Tinubu stood by his decision, saying the fuel subsidy had proven to be "harmful" to the economy.

He insisted the budget's impact on the cost of living crisis would be temporary and has repeated calls for patience, saying the moves would benefit the country in the long term and attract more foreign investment.

Mr Tinubu said his "Budget of Renewed Hope" would guarantee macro-economic stability, lead to "job-rich" growth and reduce the budget deficit.

The government's spending priorities included improving security and infrastructure, as well as taking measures to ease the cost of living crisis, he added.

Mr Tinubu projected higher oil production and tax collection would boost government revenues and allow his administration to borrow less.

He added that the economy was expected to grow by at least 3.76% in 2024, and inflation would be at around 21.4%.

It stood at 27.3% in October, up from 26.72% in September, according to official statistics.

The economic crisis in Nigeria has led to a huge exodus of young professionals who have struggled to find jobs.

The budget will have to be approved by lawmakers before it comes into effect.

By Danai Nesta Kupemba, BBC

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Video - Graduates from Nigeria turn to creating jobs instead of looking for them

Nigeria has one of the highest unemployment rates globally. College and university graduates regularly find a job market with few opportunities in the West African nation. However, rather than wait for opportunities, many are now starting their own businesses.


British-Nigerian hacker pleads guilty to $6m fraud in US court

A British-Nigerian man has confessed in a US court to defrauding and stealing more than $6m (£4.7m) over seven years.

Idris Dayo Mustapha, 33, was part of a hacking ring that infiltrated email and brokerage accounts of US firms between 2011 and 2018, causing losses worth $6m (£4.7m), officials said.

A dual national of the UK and Nigeria, Mustapha was extradited from the UK in August, two years after his arrest.

His crimes carry a jail term of up to 20 years.

He has not yet been sentenced.

Mustapha pleaded guilty plea at a court in Brooklyn, New York, on Tuesday to four charges: computer intrusion, securities fraud, wire fraud and access device fraud.

Authorities say Mustapha and his ring hacked into the computer servers of financial institutions in the US to access confidential user data, such as users' personal identifying information.

They then used the stolen information and passwords to wire funds and transfer securities from the accounts of their victims to accounts under their control.

They also used the hacked accounts to conduct stock trades without the knowledge of the account holder.

US authorities had been pursuing Mustapha for several years.

By Gloria Aradi, Reuters

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Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Video - Canoe and para canoe 2024 Olympic qualifiers underway in Nigeria

The inaugural Confederation of Africa Canoe Sprint and Para Canoe qualifiers for the 2024 Olympic games in Paris begun in Nigeria. Nearly 15 nations are competing for Olympic berths, with the International Canoe Federation hailing the continent for the enthusiastic turnout.


Cabinet of Nigeria approves $1 billion African Development Bank loan

Nigeria's cabinet has approved a $1 billion concessionary loan from the African Development Bank (AfDB) to support financing the budget and improve foreign exchange supply, Finance Minister Olawale Edun said on Monday.

The AfDB loan will fetch an interest rate of 4.2% for 25 years with eight-year moratorium, Edun told reporters after a cabinet meeting in the capital city, Abuja.

Nigeria's cabinet on Monday revised the country's 2024 budget upwards by 1.5 trillion naira to 27.5 trillion naira ($32.76 billion), after increasing the oil price benchmark and lowering the naira exchange rate assumption.

"(Federal Executive Council) approved a $1 billion concessionary loan for general budget support and to be used to improve forex availability in the country," Edun said.

"The $1 billion loan from AfDB is a budget support fund for ongoing economic reforms. It is to support government programs ... in power sector, social inclusion and the fiscal policy reforms as a whole sector policy initiative."

The cabinet approved a limit of 2 trillion naira for use to refinance expensive government debt and save on debt servicing cost, Edun said. Nigeria has been spending the bulk of its revenue on debt service due to low tax collection.

"The view is that there will be an opportunity to save about 50 billion naira or more in debt servicing over time by giving back expensive debt, refinancing it with cheaper funding," Edun said.

President Bola Tinubu has embarked on Nigeria's boldest reforms in decades by scrapping a popular but costly subsidy on petrol and a system of multiple exchange rates that had kept the currency artificially strong, curbing trade and growth.

Tinubu is trying to rebuild Nigeria's economy and attract investors to revive growth, which has been sluggish for almost a decade, tackle a high debt burden, and lower double-digit inflation. 

By Felix Onuah, Reuters

Monday, November 27, 2023

Video - Over 100 kidnapped from four villages in Nigeria

Media in Nigeria reported that nearly 100 people were abducted in Zamfara state, in the northwestern part of the country. Bandits are said to have raided four villages, where they kidnapped residents for allegedly failing to pay protection levies imposed on the communities.


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Dozens kidnapped by motorcycle 'bandits' in Nigeria



Dozens kidnapped by motorcycle 'bandits' in Nigeria

At least 100 people have been abducted by gunmen in Nigeria's northwest, residents have said.

Locals told the BBC that armed men on motorcycles stormed villages in Zamfara state.

The residents were kidnapped after the villages failed to pay a "tax" imposed on them by the gunmen, witnesses said.

In recent years, kidnapping for ransom has become rife in north-western Nigeria.

Armed gangs, referred to locally as bandits, target villages, schools, and travellers, demanding millions of naira in ransom.

According to the Reuters news agency, a local village head said one resident was killed in Friday's attack.

The BBC heard from a resident from the village of Mutunji, who said he was abducted by the gunmen but managed to escape.

"We are trying to collect the money... but suddenly the bandits came in and robbed people. They took more than 100 people - most of them were women and young people," the resident said.

Locals told the BBC the gunmen's leader is named "Damana".

They said Damana controls most of the region in the absence of state security forces.

"The terrorists are in control of the area - they send us to the forest to work as agricultural labourers, and when we come back they come into the town to eat meat, tea and bottled goods without paying," one villager complained.

Nigeria faces multiple security challenges: the jihadist insurgency in the north, deadly clashes between animal herders and farmers, a separatist insurgency in the southeast as well as militants in the Niger Delta demanding a greater share of oil profits.

President Bola Tinubu, who took office in May, has yet to detail how he will tackle the insecurity. During his election campaign, Mr Tinubu's office acknowledged the challenge, touting his experience as governor of north-eastern Borno state, home to many Islamist militant groups and the Boko Haram insurgency.


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Friday, November 24, 2023

Daughter of Richard Pryor Shooting Nollywood-Hollywood Film In Nigeria

Rain Pryor, the daughter of American comedian and actor, Richard Pryor, has commenced shooting of her Nollywood-Hollywood film project in Nigeria.

The untitled film centers around the Yoruba Ifa Mythology, a subject she has studied over the years, then decided to make a movie about.

As an actress, Rain has featured in several film and TV credits and sitcoms including Head of the Class and Rude Awakening.

The film, which is her debut directorial role, is a cross-cultural affair that unites Nollywood and Hollywood talents, with Nollywood actor, Odunlade Adekola in the lead role as Oba Fagbemi.

“I am a fan of Nollywood. In the last year and a half, Nollywood has flooded the United States through Netflix and other streaming platforms, and I have watched King of Boys, Jagun Jagun among others. I have also watched Adekola’s acting range and what he can do and believe he possesses what is needed for the character of Oba Fagbemi in the film, and that’s why I chose him,” said the 53-year-old actress who was renamed Osunyemi Oriomodun (Osun Priestess).

For Rain, the project is life-changing as it was for her late father who had visited Africa during his lifetime.

“I have a family that is rich in tradition and culture, and when I travelled to Nigeria to learn about the Yoruba culture, predominantly Ifa, I thought how can I collaborate with Nigerians and Black Americans to create something that is a mixture of Hollywood and Nollywood? My father made profound changes in his life when he came to Africa, and felt that he found his soul and himself, and here I am, doing the same thing, finding my place.”

Arguably the first of its kind, in terms of magnitude of the collaboration between the two film industries (Nollywood and Hollywood), Rain is confident it will excite viewers in the United States and Nigeria with its rich and cross-cultural plot.

Working closely with her to achieve this feat are Nigerian filmmaker Bola Attah, and Arts Consultant, Chike Nwoffiah. Both serve as executive directors in the project contributing their expertise to the success of the film.

By Samuel Abulude, Leadership

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Rage room in Lagos offers Nigerians cathartic release for pent-up anger

Nigerians seeking a safe outlet for their anger can now get an unusual form of therapy, a "rage room" where they can break glass, smash wardrobes, and destroy electronic devices without any consequences.

Located in the crowded megacity of Lagos, Nigeria's commercial capital, the Shadow Rage Room offers 20-minute sessions for 7,500 naira ($8.93).

Banjoko Babajide James, a co-founder, said the idea for the rage room came from the rising mental health crisis in Nigeria which is "a taboo topic" to discuss openly.

"We want to create a community of like minds, to make people to understand that this thing is real and we are going to try to push it out," he said.

Patrons are outfitted in protective gear, a baseball bat and a selection of items to break, including glass cups and plates, electronics, and furniture.

The room has been a hit with Lagosians, who have been flocking to release the stress of the country's soaring cost of living, disputed presidential election, and widespread insecurity.

"I was really angry," said Nancy Igwe, a customer, after her session. "Living in Lagos, it is terrible, it is frustrating when you see that the prices of everything has increased."

Anita Christian, another customer, said she came to the rage room after losing a friend.

"I had to come and vent because when you don’t get clarity or closure it is really sad," she said.

While the room has been well-received, James acknowledges that not everyone understands the concept.

"The perception people get when they encounter the rage room is a place where we are promoting anger," he said. "We always try to explain that we are not doing that."

By Angela Ukomadu, Reuters

Video - Salsa teacher helps to dance the blues away in Nigeria

Nigerian woman creates country's first mental health helpline

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Video - 60 feared dead in militant fighting in northeastern Nigeria

Clashes between rival militant groups in Nigeria have left 60 dead. Sources told AFP that fighters from Islamic State West Africa Province ambushed a fleet of Boko Haram boats on Lake Chad this past weekend.


25 killed truck in overloaded truck accident in Nigeria

A truck overloaded with food items and more than 200 people crashed in north-central Nigeria’s Niger state, killing 25 passengers and injuring dozens of others, authorities said Wednesday.

The truck was on its way to Nigeria’s economic hub of Lagos on Tuesday when it crashed in Takalafia village in Niger’s Magama district on Tuesday, according to Nigeria’s road safety agency.

Niger Gov. Mohammed Umaru Bago said in a statement that the 25 victims have been taken to a nearby mortuary while other passengers were being treated for their injuries.

Kumar Tsukwam, sector commander of Nigeria’s Federal Road Safety Corps in Niger, told The Associated Press that it’s believed some of the passengers wanted to travel with the trailer through Tuesday night to avoid unsafe roads during the day.

“The passengers were not mindful of the (nature of the) road and the goods it was conveying,” Tsukwam said.

Overloading and speeding are common causes of crashes along major roads in Nigeria where traffic rules are often not adhered to, with drivers who disobey the rules often escaping penalties.

Authorities are going to ensure that “stringent penalties are meted out to traffic rule violators” in Niger state, Bago said.

Nigerian President Bola Tinubu mourned the victims and urged commuters to drive safely, especially as the festive season approaches.

“The president describes the incident as a harrowing tragedy and directs the agency responsible for emergency response to immediately move in and ensure that those injured get the necessary treatment,” Tinubu’s office said in a statement.

By, Chinedu Asadu, AP

Court grants bail to central bank chief of Nigeria facing fraud charges

A Nigerian court has freed former central bank Governor Godwin Emefiele, who has been charged with six counts of fraud and corruption, on bail.

Emefiele, suspended as head of the central bank in June and arrested by the security services, has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

He was granted bail by Justice Hamza Muazu on Wednesday subject to the provision of a 300 million naira (roughly $333,000) bond and two sureties with properties in the upscale Maitama district of the country’s capital Abuja.

“I hereby admit the applicant [Emefiele] to bail subject to his appearance in court,” Justice Muazu said in his ruling.

The judge asked Emefiele, 62, to deposit his travel documents with the court and remain in Abuja while the case against him proceeds.

The disgraced former bank chief, who made an unprecedented run for the Nigerian presidency last year, was one of the country’s most powerful people in the last decade. He was head of the bank for nine years, mostly under President Bola Tinubu’s predecessor, Muhammadu Buhari.

Emefiele oversaw a much-criticised system of multiple exchange rates used to keep the local naira currency artificially strong.

But then he fell out of favour with the government after Buhari’s exit and resigned in August, paving the way for Tinubu’s appointment of new central bank governor Olayemi Cardoso.

At his inauguration in May, Tinubu, who announced economic reforms, had said the central bank policy needed “thorough house-cleaning”.

Emefiele has since been accused of “conferring corrupt advantage”. Prosecutors cut the charges from a previous 20-count indictment, which he faced along with two others, so he could be tried separately and quickly.

He has not commented publicly on the case. 

Al Jazeera

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Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Nigeria leads as fastest-growing student population in Canada

Nigerians have emerged as Canada's fastest-growing international student population in the first half of 2023. This is according to a recently released report on Nigerian study permit trends in Canada, highlighting growing visa numbers and which provinces Nigerians are studying in.

The report published by ApplyBoard revealed that Nigerian student mobility to Canada is increasing at a momentous rate. According to the report, the Canadian government issued just over 3,000 student visas to Nigerian nationals in 2019. By 2021, that number had doubled, and in 2022, it doubled again. Now, amid record numbers of international students coming to study in Canada, Nigerians have become the country's fastest-growing student population.

Growing Canadian Student Visa Numbers for Nigerian Students

Key findings from the article reveal Nigerians submitted more than 43,000 study permit applications across the first six months of 2023 and appear likely to become Canada's second-largest cohort of inbound students this year.








Out of the 43,000 applications, nearly 18,000 Canadian study permits were issued to Nigerians across the first six months of 2023, more than for any other country of origin but India. Insufficient finances were cited as a refusal reason in 74% of study permit refusals for Nigerians in 2021 and 2022.










Nearly 18,000 Nigerian students came to Canada to study in the first half of 2023. This was more inbound students than any other country excep India.

The report also noted that the study permit approval rates for Nigerians continued to rise across the first six months of 2023, to just under 40% - more than double what approval rates were in 2020.

Another interesting insight from the report showed that Nigerian students are more evenly distributed across Canada than average. Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, and New Brunswick, each accounted for more than 5% of study permits issued to Nigerians from January to June 2023.

Eight of 10 provinces saw more Nigerian students issued study permits in the first half of 2023 than in the previous year.











Across these four regions, Ontario and BC accounted for around 63% of study permits issued to Nigerians in the first six months of 2023.

While Ontario and BC were the top destinations, Nigerian students are far less centralised in those two provinces than average. Nova Scotia's growth is particularly notable, with more than twice as many study permits issued as in full-year 2022. That was the third most behind Ontario and British Columbia.

Given the increasing centralisation of international students at Ontario colleges, the report concludes that the Nigerian student population is an important corridor to maintain the long-term health of Canada's international education sector.

By Victor Oluwole, Business Insider Africa

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Nigeria and Germany sign $500 mln renewable energy and gas deal

Nigerian and German companies on Tuesday signed two accords in Berlin that include a $500 million renewable energy pact and a gas export deal, further strengthening economic ties between the two nations, a presidential spokesperson said.

Union Bank of Nigeria and Germany's DWS Group signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on renewable energy. The agreement seeks to harness $500 million in investment in renewable energy projects across Nigeria, mostly in rural communities, spokesperson Ajuri Ngelale said in a statement.

A second MoU on gas export partnership was agreed between Riverside LNG of Nigeria and Germany's Johannes Schuetze Energy Import AG. Under the accord, Nigeria will supply 850,000 tons of natural gas to Germany annually which is expected to rise to 1.2 million. The first deliveries will be in 2026, Ngelale said.

The deal will help process about 50 million cubic feet per day of natural gas that otherwise would have flared.

Nigeria holds Africa's largest gas reserves of more than 200 trillion cubic feet, but flares, or burns off, about 300 million cubic feet daily due to inadequate processing facilities.

President Bola Tinubu, who is attending the G20 Compact with Africa conference in Berlin, welcomed the deals, Ngelale said.

On Monday German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Germany will invest 4 billion euros in green energy projects in Africa until 2030, noting these could in turn help Europe's largest economy achieve its own transition to carbon neutrality.

Germany will need to import large quantities of green hydrogen going forward, including from Africa, if it is to achieve its goal of net zero emissions by 2045, he said at a German-African business forum in Berlin.

The forum preceded the G20 Compact with Africa summit that aims to drum up investment in the world's poorest but fast-growing continent by coordinating the development agendas of reform-minded countries and identifying business opportunities.

Under Tinubu, Nigeria has embarked on the boldest reforms in decades, scrapping a popular petrol subsidy and lifting restrictions on foreign exchange trading.

Tinubu is seeking to make Nigeria attractive to investors as he strives to revive its economy that is weighed down by sluggish growth, record debt, double-digit inflation and theft of crude oil, its main export.

By Felix Onuah, Reuters

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Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Video - FAO says at least 27 million people in Nigeria likely to experience hunger in 2024

The Food and Agricultural Organization projects that nearly 26.5 million Nigerians will experience hunger by next year. This is linked to challenges, including security issues like insurgency and banditry in northern Nigeria, which have adversely impacted food production.


Wages in Nigeria diminish as inflation rises and government revenue dips

When Yusuf Mogaji joined Nigeria’s federal civil service as a non-teaching staff member at the University of Ilorin in 2015, he had dreams of building his own house. His monthly salary of 46,000 naira (then worth $236) was enough to cater for himself and his family and even buy a half-plot of land (300 square metres) later that year.

Eight years and four civil service appointments later, the land has remained untouched and Mogaji’s aspirations are no longer a priority as he is finding it difficult to feed himself and his family of three.

The value of the naira has plummeted such that even though his net salary has increased to 57,000 naira, the dollar equivalent in 2023 is $68.06 – $167.94 lower than what he earned in 2015. Almost half of the new earnings now go into transporting himself to and from work.

“Is it the money that is not even enough for me to feed that I will use to invest? There was a time when government work was great, but now there is nothing like that again,” Mogaji said.

Since 2015, Nigeria has experienced two recessions and its economy has been ravaged by the vagaries of global oil prices, the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s continuing war in Ukraine. In June, the country’s Debt Management Office said the government is servicing debts with at least 73.5 percent of its revenue, making it struggle to meet basic responsibilities.

Inflation is currently at an 18-year high – at 26 percent – in Nigeria as the naira continues to plunge in value against the dollar. The economic realities became grimmer when Bola Tinubu, elected president in February, devalued the naira and removed a decades-long fuel subsidy which had helped lower living costs. Mogaji has cut back on the amount of regular food and household items he purchases, including rice, semolina and even nappies because their prices have tripled.

The Nigeria Labour Congress, a major trade union coalition in the country, has repeatedly threatened to shut down the economy in protest against the government’s refusal to increase workers’ salaries despite the enormous spike in the cost of living. Nigeria’s minimum wage currently stands at 33,000 naira ($39.40).

During the independence speech, the government compromised by opting for an additional 35,000 naira ($41.79) wage award for six months. Al Jazeera spoke with Mogaji and three other workers who said this is barely enough.

“Even the salary is just for food and the remaining to transport yourself to work, there is nothing left. And they [the government] said the palliative is for six months. After the six months, will things go back to the way it was before? We will be back to square one,” he said.

‘A rock and a hard place’

As Nigeria’s economy worsens, an increase in the minimum wage has been the core demand of various workers’ unions. According to experts, salary increases cannot materialise because Africa’s biggest economy is broke and can barely fund its expenditure. Temporary remedies, they add, will barely help beneficiaries.

“There is no other answer than the inflation to be brought down and for inflation to stay down. The honest truth is that for anybody earning in naira, a 26 percent inflation rate ensures you are going nowhere no matter who you are; your monthly salary more or less does not matter,” Joachim MacEbong, a senior analyst at Lagos-based economic insights firm Stears said.

“The money is just not there. Nigeria’s total revenue is five trillion naira and under; you cannot do anything with that amount of money for a country of 200 million people,” he said.

Workers say they are not to blame for the country’s situation amid decades of corruption and wasteful government spending during economic booms.

“Unfortunately, there is a cost to that kind of governance that does not look to avert long-term pain. There is nothing we can do,” Amara Nwankpa, director of public policy initiatives at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Foundation, told Al Jazeera. “We can postpone it one or two more years but at the end of the day, the chickens will still come home to roost and that is the reality – the Nigerian workers are between a rock and a hard place.”

‘Liveable wage’

Since Tinubu announced his raft of economic reforms, many workers, even at the state level, have been clamouring for comprehensive policies to cushion the associated shocks.

Nigeria’s food inflation hit 30.64 percent in September, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. According to SBM Intelligence, a geopolitical advisory based in Lagos, inflation has made even staple foods like jollof rice, a popular food, out of reach. Similarly, electricity tariffs have increased by 40 percent and fuel now costs 700 naira ($0.84) per litre (0.26 gallons). Transport and other amenities are increasingly out of reach for workers, too.

Tunde Taiwo* [name changed for fear of retribution], 31, is a sergeant at Lagos Neighbourhood Safety Corps, a security agency created by the state government to tackle urban crime. His work often puts him in danger. Last year, he was overpowered and brutalised by louts.

When his 50,000 naira ($59.70) pre-tax October salary came, three loan companies shared in it.

“It is not like I want the loans but when your family is suffering, what will you do? What is the essence of doing a government job when you cannot even feed your family?” Taiwo, who has been working for the government for five years, said. And this is why he is unfazed by temporary increments.

“They should give us a liveable wage that we can depend on, not minimum wage, the way we are living is not up to any standard of living,” he said.

Experts say the government may have missed the window for introducing safety nets as it has squandered years of booms. “The government needs to go for the low-hanging fruit that can target the vulnerable and the most affected in the country like food and other sources of energy that can have immediate impact,” Nwankpa said.

By Ope Adetayo, Al Jazeera

Experts Fear Food Inflation In Nigeria Could Worsen Hunger Crisis

Millions of people in Africa's most populous country, Nigeria, are struggling with economic problems analysts say were caused in part by government reform policies introduced earlier this year.

Nigeria scrapped fuel subsidies in May leading to price hikes in food, transportation and energy costs. Data released last week by the National Bureau of Statistics showed Nigeria's inflation hit an 18-year high of 27.3%. Analysts say the trend could exacerbate suffering in a country with an estimated 25 million food-insecure people.

Nigerian roadside food vendor Vivian Nwankwo started her business four years ago to support her family after her husband died.

But as the cost of food items continues to rise, she said her profit margin has dropped by more than half and forced her to withdraw two of her children from school to free up cash for food.

"Before we were managing, but now things are too expensive," Nwankwo said. "It's difficult to cope or make profits. People are complaining and sometimes at the end of the day, I'm at a loss. Even my two children who are in school do not go every day because I cannot provide for them always."

There are millions of people like Nwankwo in Nigeria struggling to meet basic needs.

The United Nations estimates 25 million people in Nigeria — or about 15% of the total population — are food insecure.

Analysts say regional instability, climate change and inflation are the major triggers of food insecurity in Nigeria. The situation worsened after the government stopped paying subsidies on fuel in May, sharply increasing costs for food, transportation and energy.

Nigeria's currency devaluation is also impacting commodity prices and contributing to overall inflation.

Nigerian Humanitarian Affairs Minister Betta Edu said authorities are responding to the challenges, in part by declaring a state of emergency on food security.

"We have lots of interventions that we're putting on the table and the payments of this conditional cash transfer is ongoing," Edu said. "The conditions attached to it is that they invest in their businesses, ensure that their children go to school. These are all targeted at improving the lives of people and alleviating poverty. The third part is providing fertilizers for poor local farmers to be able to produce food that we'll buy off from them and sell as food rations."

According to the World in Data analysis, Nigeria is among countries with the highest food expenditure with an estimated 60% of total personal income spent on food.

Experts say the situation will worsen if food inflation continues to rise, and that vulnerable people will be most adversely affected.

The Nigerian Central Bank on Monday indefinitely postponed a crucial meeting on interest rates even as inflation worsens.

Analysts say unless something changes, many Nigerians like Nwankwo will struggle to get by from day to day.

By Timothy Obiezu, VOA

Monday, November 20, 2023

Video - Nigerian economists dismiss IMF concerns over China's economic slowdown affecting Africa

They insist that China has been instrumental to Africa's development, and say instead, the West African nation should prioritize solving its internal economic challenges.


4,000 inmates released to ease prison overcrowding in Nigeria

More than 4,000 Nigerian prisoners were released on Saturday as part of a drive to reduce prison overcrowding in the country, Interior Minister Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo announced on Sunday.

"We have announced the release of 4,068 prisoners (...) detained because of their inability to pay their fines", said the minister in a message posted on the social network X after visiting the Kuje detention centre, near Abuja, the previous day.

"Only detainees whose fines do not exceed 1 million naira (€1,113) have been chosen to benefit from this mass release," Interior Ministry spokesman Ajibola Afonja told AFP.

Mr Tunji-Ojo cancelled fines totalling 585 million naira (651,000 euros), the spokesman added.

This decision is part of a process to relieve overcrowding in Nigeria's prisons, a goal of Nigerian President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

Ultimately, the Head of State hopes to introduce new practices into the prison system, in particular the use of non-custodial measures.

In Nigeria, the United Nations deplores an overcrowding rate of 147% due to the excessive use of pre-trial detention. Prisoners often wait several years before being brought to trial.


Nigeria in talks with Elon Musk to create jobs in Nigeria

The Federal Government of Nigeria has initiated discussions with Elon Musk's Starlink on setting up programs that will create jobs in Nigeria through local maintenance and production of its hardware.

The discussions happened on the sideline of the ongoing International Telecommunication Union-World Radio Communication (ITU-WRC) Conference in Dubai, with the Senior Director of Global Licensing and activation of SpaceX, Ryan Goodnight.

The Minister of Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy, Dr Bosun Tijani, disclosed this on Sunday through his verified X handle.

The conversation focused on the possibility of Starlink creating a program to certify local installers and maintenance personnel in Nigeria, and contracts with hardware startups in the country to produce Starlink's repeater boxes locally.

What the minister said:

“Excellent conversation with Ryan Goodnight, Snr. Director, Global Licensing & Activation of @SpaceX on the sidelines of ITU-WRC 23, who shared that Nigeria is their biggest market in Africa. As demand for @Starlink continues to grow in Nigeria, we discussed connecting unserved and underserved Nigerians,” he stated.

“I also mentioned the possibility of creating thousands of new jobs in Nigeria through initiatives like a certified installer/maintenance programme for Starlink and working with hardware startups to produce repeater boxes locally.

“We intend to encourage every tech company to invest and deepen our tech ecosystem,” the Minister added.

When Elon Musk’s Starlink made its debut in Nigeria in January 2023, the next-gen satellite internet service provider promised to usher in a new era of high-speed internet connectivity in Africa's most populous nation. It also promised low-latency internet to areas where it is either unreliable or inaccessible.

In October, Starlink Nigeria reduced its hardware prices by 21% in its efforts to capture a larger portion of the Nigerian Internet Service Provider (ISP) market.

Following this reduction, Starlink's hardware is now priced at N299,500, down from its previous rate of N378,000. However, the monthly subscription fee of N38,000 has not changed. 

By Adekunle Agbetiloye, Business Insider Africa

Related stories: Nigeria becomes first country in Africa to have Starlink

Starlink in advanced talks for Nigerian operating licence

Video - Lackluster Nigeria held by Zimbabwe in World Cup qualifiers


Nigeria continued their stumbling start to the African 2026 World Cup qualifying campaign on Sunday when they were held to a 1-1 draw by Zimbabwe, but there were wins for Egypt and Algeria as the continent's top sides flexed their muscles.

Nigeria could only manage a point in neutral Butare, Rwanda after starting their bid to reach the global finals in the United States, Mexico and Canada with a desperately disappointing 1-1 draw at home to lowly Lesotho on Thursday.

The Super Eagles have therefore taken two points from their opening two games in the six-team Group C, with only the top side in each pool assured of one of Africa’s nine automatic qualification places.

South Africa could open up an early four-point lead in Group C when they visit Rwanda on Tuesday.

Zimbabwe took the lead midway through the first half via Walter Musona, but Nigeria salvaged a draw when Kelechi Iheanacho equalised in the second half.

Zimbabwe are among the 19 African countries forced to move their home qualifiers to neutral venues because of poor facilities or security concerns.

Trezeguet scored a brace of goals as Egypt cruised to a 2-0 win over nine-man Sierra Leone in the Liberian capital of Monrovia, making it a full haul of six points for The Pharaohs in their opening two qualifiers.

The Leone Stars lost Tyrese Fornah to a first-half red card and never looked able to challenge Egypt after that as Mohamed Salah, who scored four goals against Djibouti on Thursday, completed another 90 minutes and provided the assist for his side's second.

The hosts also had Abdul Kabia sent off for a second bookable offence, while before that there were ugly scenes as several local fans invaded the pitch and at least one was involved in a fracas with Salah before being forcefully removed.

Algeria made it two wins from two but had to wait until the 69th minute to get the opener in a 2-0 victory in Mozambique. Fares Chaibi handed them the lead and Ramiz Zerrouki made sure of the points in the final 10 minutes.

Gabon have also made a perfect start to their Group F campaign after claiming a 2-1 victory against Burundi in neutral Dar-es-Salaam.

Jim Allevinah and Denis Bouanga scored in either half, before Abedi Bigirimana set up a tense finish when he pulled a goal back for Burundi near the end.

An own goal from midfielder Charles Pickel 11 minutes from fulltime gave Sudan a 1-0 win over the Democratic Republic of Congo in the Libyan city of Benghazi.

By Nick Said, Reuters

Friday, November 17, 2023

Video - Insecurity in Nigeria's northern regions hampering food production

According to the Food and Agricultural Organization, as many as 26 million Nigerians could face severe hunger by next year. The UN agency says several issues, but mainly insecurity, contribute to the problem. Experts have called on the government to address these concerns to safeguard food production.


Nigeria declares state of emergency in health sector

The Federal Government has declared a state of emergency in Nigeria’s health sector.

This was as stakeholders across the sector converged in Ekiti State for the 64th National Council on Health where salient issues around the health sector are up for discussion.
Muhammed Ali Pate, the coordinating Minister for Health and Social Welfare said the nation’s health facilities are in bad shape, adding that there is a need for an urgent intervention.

The House of Representatives had last month called on the federal government to declare a state of emergency in the sector and allocate significant votes to it in the 2024 budget.

The call was a sequel to a motion by a Lagos lawmaker Fayinka Oluwatoyin (APC) during a plenary session in Abuja.

In the motion captioned “Need for the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency to collaborate with relevant health agencies in states and local governments to ensure the functionality of Primary Healthcare Centres,” the lawmaker representing Mushin Federal Constituency II of Lagos State said Nigeria’s health facilities are dilapidating at a fast rate.

Read also: FG urged to deepen public private partnership in health sector

According to him, the shortage of personnel, medical equipment, drugs, and qualified personnel among others, has led to a hike in the death toll in health facilities in the country.

By Temitayo Ayetoto-Oladehinde, Business Day

Ex-central bank chief of Nigeria remanded in custody pending bail hearing

A Nigerian court on Friday remanded former central bank governor Godwin Emefiele in custody on charges of procurement fraud, pending a bail hearing scheduled for Wednesday.

Emefiele applied for bail after pleading not guilty to six new graft charges that accused him of "conferring corrupt advantage". Prosecutors cut the charges from a previous 20-count indictment, which he faced along with two others, so he could be tried separately and quickly.

"The matter is hereby adjourned to Wednesday, November 22, for ruling on the bail application. Meanwhile, the defendant should be remanded in Kuje Correctional Centre pending the ruling on his bail," Justice Hamza Muazu said.

The main trial is set to start on Nov. 28, the judge said.

Last week, Emefiele was granted bail by a separate judge after successfully challenging five months in detention.

Emefiele, who has not commented publicly on the case, was suspended by President Bola Tinubu on June 9 and was arrested a day later.

He resigned in August while in detention, paving the way for the appointment of new central bank governor Olayemi Cardoso in September. 

By Camillus Eboh, Reuters

Related stories: President Tinubu orders investigation of Central Bank of Nigeria

Suspended central bank governor of Nigeria denies firearm charges


Naira briefly drops to record low on official market

Nigeria's naira briefly slumped to a record low against the dollar in thin trading on the official market on Thursday, bringing the official exchange rate within touching distance of the parallel market rate.

The currency of Africa's biggest economy fell as low as 1,105 naira to the dollar from 830 at Wednesday's close, LSEG data showed, before recovering to trade firmer on the day around 800 to the dollar.

A central bank spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment on the naira's fall or its plans for the currency when contacted by Reuters.

The naira's official exchange rate has been drifting towards the parallel market level for the past two weeks, traders said.

The naira was quoted at 1,135 to the dollar on the parallel market on Thursday, while lenders had been quoting the currency within a range of roughly 750 naira to 990 naira on the official market before Thursday's trade.

"We suspect this is an anomalous rate in a liquidity squeeze due to increased demand in the I&E window (official market), and don't expect this to be reflective of a true market rate going forward," said Kyle Chapman, FX markets analyst at London-based Ballinger & Co.

Olayemi Cardoso, the central bank governor who took office in September, has been silent about where he wants to see the trading band for the naira or when further liquidity might be injected into the market.

The central bank has not intervened on the official market since October, which has helped accelerate the naira's slide, traders said.

Last week the naira recovered from a record low of 1,300 on the parallel market after the central bank sold dollars to 14 lenders to clear outstanding currency forwards. Some other lenders are yet to get settlement.

The government has said it is expecting $10 billion in foreign currency inflows that will improve market liquidity, but it is not clear when those funds will arrive.

By Elisha Bala-Gbogbo and Chijioke Ohuocha, Reuters

Related story: Nigeria Inflation Hits 18-Year High

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Oladips: Nigerian rapper dies aged 28

 Tributes are pouring in for popular Nigerian rapper Oladips, following his death at the age of 28.

"We are still in shock as we speak," his management said in an Instagram post.

The cause of death is unclear but the post read he "kept his battles within himself" for two years.

Oladips was a talented musician who rapped about political issues like the ENDSars protests against police brutality.

He also touched on the subject of mental health and depression in his songs.

"His story telling rap was top notch" one fan wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Big Brother Naija contestant Hermes Iyele expressed his shock over the young rapper's death saying: "May God grant the family the grace to carry this grief."

The rapper was due to release his new album titled SUPERHERO ÀDÚGBÒ (The Memoir) on Thursday. His last single was called Die Young.

Oladips rose to fame when he won a rap competition called the King is Here hosted by Nigerian music giant DBanj in 2015.

Oladips's death comes a few months after another popular musician, Mohbad, died in September, leading to countrywide protests.

By Danai Nesta Kupemba, BBC 

Workers in Nigeria Strike Over Attack on Union Leader, Unpopular Economic Reforms

Nigeria's labor unions have begun an indefinite strike to protest the beating of Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) president Joe Ajaero on November 1. The labor leader was to lead workers in protest over unpaid salaries in Imo state when he was picked up by security agents, who allegedly beat him.

For a second day Wednesday, the nationwide strike called by the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) held firm.

Compliance is stricter in the capital, Abuja, the operational nerve center of the workers' unions.

Police have denied beating the NLC president, saying agents only took Ajaero into protective custody to save him from an angry mob.

Benson Upah, spokesperson of the Nigerian Labour Congress, said the NLC president is still recovering from the incident.

"He was in a bad shape, he lost his bearing, his right eye was popped and recognition was poor," Upah said. "Up till this moment, there has been no condemnation for what happened. No one has been arrested let alone prosecuted for this heinous act. It is about the right of every citizen to freedom and justice. The issues that led to the movement of NLC and TUC people to Imo, those issues have not been addressed.”

But Ajaero's beating is not the only reason for the strike. The unions also blame authorities for failing to honor agreements made to cushion the cost-of-living crisis triggered by the government's economic reforms, introduced in May.

Earlier this year, President Bola Tinubu scrapped expensive fuel subsidies and floated the Nigerian currency in a bid to unify a multiple exchange rate system. However, the decision has hurt the economy and millions of citizens.

In August, workers staged nationwide street protests against the reforms and in September embarked on a two-day warning strike.

Authorities promised to respond.

Last Friday, the National Industrial Court of Nigeria ordered the workers' unions to not go on another strike.

Eze Onyekpere, executive director of the Center for Social Justice, a pro-union NGO, said, "The regime came on board and removed fuel subsidy and floated the naira, which has led to a situation where the minimum wage virtually less than $30. Things the government was supposed to do to reduce the hardship in the land, they didn't do, so for people like me, this strike is long overdue."

On Monday, the presidency criticized the strike, calling it unwarranted, and said authorities have launched a probe into the attack of the union leader.

Onyekpere said the government must not make empty promises or there will be consequences.

"We're going to degenerate to a state where any riffraff simply because he's in power will simply be beating up everybody," he said. "The day Nigeria descends to that level and workers don't speak out or workers don't show their strength, then Nigeria is gone to the dogs."

The unions say authorities must prosecute those who beat Ajaero, offer an apology, and take steps to improve the welfare of workers and citizens. Without those measures, they say, the strike will continue

By Timothy Obiezu, VOA

Nigeria Inflation Hits 18-Year High

Nigerian inflation quickened to a new 18-year high in October as higher input costs and a weaker naira sent food and goods prices soaring, adding pressure on the central bank to raise interest rates.

Consumer prices rose 27.3% from the prior year, compared with 26.7% in September, according to data published on Wednesday on the National Bureau of Statistics’ website. The median of 10 estimates in a Bloomberg survey of economists was 27.7%. Prices rose 1.7% in the month.

Prices in the nation with the second-largest poor population in the world have surged after the easing of foreign-exchange restrictions in June led the naira to plunge 45% and the scrapping of a fuel subsidy a month earlier caused transport costs to almost triple.

Annual food inflation quickened to 31.5% in October from 30.6% and core price growth, which excludes farm-produce and energy costs, accelerated to 22.6% from 21.8%.

To restore price stability, the Abuja-based Central Bank of Nigeria, which is due to convene its first monetary policy committee meeting since July next week, is expected to lift interest rates for a ninth time in a row. It’s already raised rates by 725 basis points since May 2022 to 18.75%.

Read More: Nigeria Increases Bond Yields to Curb Liquidity, Halt Naira Rout

“We expect the MPC to raise the key policy rate further by at least 100 basis points,” said Abdulazeez Kuranga, analyst at Lagos-based Cordros Capital Ltd.

He sees inflation potentially reaching a 28.3% peak in December and said that a hike of that scale will send a strong message that the central bank “is not relenting in its inflation fight, particularly as near-term inflation expectations are tilted to the upside.”

The MPC meeting, expected to be held on Nov. 20-21, will be the first to be chaired by Olayemi Cardoso.

Since becoming governor in September, the central bank under his leadership has worked hard to eradicate financial market dysfunction, aid the slumping currency and mop up excess liquidity.

It’s cleared matured forward foreign-exchange contracts with an unspecified number of banks, lifted a ban on the purchase of dollars on the official market to import 43 specified items and started offering local bonds at higher yields.

The central bank is also working on a document that will set rules to ensure the foreign-exchange market is “predictable and without flip-flops,” Cardoso said last month.

By Emele Onu and Ruth Olurounbi, Bloomberg

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Nigeria central bank says old bank notes to remain legal tender

ABUJA, Nov 14 (Reuters) - Nigeria's central bank said on Tuesday old bank notes that were due to be removed from circulation next month would now remain legal tender, ending months of uncertainty after an attempt earlier this year to remove them caused serious cash shortages.

The Supreme Court in March ordered the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to extend until Dec. 31 the use of old 1,000, ($1.18) 500 and 200 naira notes, whose initial withdrawal from circulation became an election issue after it caused widespread hardship and anger.

The bank had defended the removal of the notes, saying new ones would be harder to counterfeit and that the process would also help control liquidity in an economy where most money is held outside banks.

On Tuesday, the CBN, which has had a new governor since September, said the old bank notes "will remain legal tender ad infinitum, even beyond the initial December 31, 2023 deadline".

During the election campaign, President Bola Tinubu had opposed the removal of the old bank notes.

By Camillus Eboh, Reuters

Related stories: Critical mistakes made by central bank of Nigeria in cash swap

Video - Supreme court suspends currency swap deadline in Nigeria


Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Video - 7 killed, others kidnapped in Nigeria

At least seven people are reported to have been killed and several others kidnapped by suspected armed bandits in Zamfara state.


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

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



Boat carrying 20 fishermen capsizes in Nigeria

KANO, Nigeria

At least 20 fishermen died after their boat capsized Monday in the Anyiin area of River Benue in northeastern Nigeria’s Taraba state.

Taraba Governor Agbu Kefas confirmed the incident.

“Today’s boat incident is even more unfortunate, since it comes on the heels of a similar one in Karim Lamido that plunged the state into mourning,” Emmanuel Bello, the spokesman for the governor, quoted him as saying.

According to Taraba State Water Transportation Chairman Alhaji Jidda Suleiman, the boat was carrying fishermen from the Ibi and Wukari local government areas of Taraba to Kwara state.

“I was informed that the fishermen converged and boarded the boat to Kwara state in search of greener pastures, and along the way, they had an accident and over 20 people died.

"Twelve of the dead are from Ibi, while some are from Gareji, in Gindin Doruwa, Wukari Local Government Area of Taraba state,” he added.

He said the governor has condoled with the families of the victims.

“It has been the tradition of our fishermen in Taraba state that once it is close to December, some will travel to Cameroon, some to Chad and other places to fish until August of the following year. It’s unfortunate that the usual tradition turned out to be sorrowful this time.”


Monday, November 13, 2023

Video - Sports experts call for Nigerian government to revive Judo in the country

Sports experts in Nigeria have called on the government to invest more in Judo. They say there is immense talent in the country to make a real impact at international level but poor funding and a lack of quality competitions to showcase talent are limiting their chances. 


Nigeria to Lure Foreign Investment With Tax Incentives

Nigeria will boost incentives for foreign investors in an attempt to address a decline in capital coming into the country as part of the government’s plans to revive the economy.

The administration in Abuja will introduce measures to eliminate double taxation and allow speedy remittances of foreign money, Doris Uzoka-Anite, the minister of industry, trade and investment, said in an interview late Saturday in Riyadh.

“We have the free-trade zones where they can situate their businesses, export and import their raw materials without any taxes,” she said. She called it a “strong incentive” for foreign direct investment, which plunged 52% to $698 million in the six years through 2021.

Since taking office in May, President Bola Tinubu has instituted reforms to revive Africa’s biggest economy from almost a decade of decline. They include scrapping a $10 billion annual fuel subsidy and liberalizing the foreign-exchange market, which led to a more than 40% devaluation in the naira.

Nigeria has also been reviewing its bilateral agreements with countries to drum up investment. In September, it entered into several agreements with India that could see companies set up auto and steel factories in Africa’s top oil producer. A number of investors from India have begun to make their commitments tangible, Uzoka-Anite said.

Key is to show investors their money will be protected, she said. The minister was in Saudi Arabia as part of a Nigerian delegation meeting officials in the Gulf country after the two established a business council and joint chamber of commerce, industry, mines and agriculture. “We’re very keen on making sure that the investments happen very quickly,” she said.

Ruth Olurounbi, Bloomberg

Thursday, November 9, 2023

Google brings Generative AI to Nigeria

Google has rolled out its Search Generative Experience (SGE) in the sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) region as an opt-in experiment in Search Labs, powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI-powered) experience and is available in English.

With new breakthroughs in generative AI, Google is reimagining what a search engine can do and is bringing these powerful new capabilities to Search in a bold and responsible way.

This new technology can unlock entirely new types of questions that Search could not previously answer, and transforms the way information is organised in Search to help people sort through and make sense of what’s out there.

Google General Manager for Search in Africa, Wambui Kinya, while announcing the initiative at a webinar organised by Google, said the initiative, which is in its experimental stage, would be launched after users and advertisers have had a good feel of it and are satisfied.

“With new generative AI capabilities in Search, we’re now taking more of the work out of searching. We’re imagining a supercharged Search that does the heavy lifting for you so you’ll be able to understand a topic faster, uncover new viewpoints and insights, and get things done more easily. This Search Generative Experience is the first step we’re taking in this journey, and part of our vision to make Search radically more helpful. We’re excited to bring this to the SSA region, and look forward to receiving feedback and iterating on the experience alongside our users over the next few months,” Kinya said.

With SGE’s generative AI capabilities in Search, people will see an AI-powered overview of key information to consider, with links to dig deeper. For anyone who has ever been overwhelmed by the amount of information online, this will help find answers more quickly.

For instance, with a question like “Does Honey ever Spoil?” Normally, you might break this question down into smaller ones, sort through the vast amount of information available, and then start to piece things together yourself. With generative AI, Search can do some of that heavy lifting. 

By Emma Okonj, This Day

Related story: Video - Nigerian music producer praises AI as productive and cost-saving

20,000 to be trained by Google for digital skills in Nigeria

Crypto usage groing further in Nigeria

President Tinubu signs budget including funds for yacht, bulletproof cars

Nigerian President Bola Tinubu has signed into law a $2.8 billion supplementary budget that includes funding for new bulletproof cars for himself and his wife, despite widespread criticism from citizens facing a cost-of-living crisis.

The budget, which was approved by lawmakers on Nov. 2, also includes allocations for a presidential yacht, official vehicles for the first lady's office, and renovations to the president's residential quarters.

The spending plan was initially proposed by Tinubu as a means to address "urgent issues" such as defence and security.

The presidency defended the provision for the yacht, describing it as an operational naval boat with specialised security gadgets.

However, specific allocations for such areas have been overshadowed by the allocation of funds for items seen as luxuries items and on renovations for the president's residential quarters.

Opponents of the budget have argued that the spending is unnecessary and insensitive to the plight of ordinary Nigerians, who are struggling to make ends meet amid rising inflation and economic hardship.

Africa's most populous nation is grappling with double-digit inflation, foreign currency shortages, a weakening naira, widespread insecurity and crude oil theft.

Tinubu, who was sworn into office in May, has been under pressure from unions to offer relief to households and workers. He has asked Nigerians to be patient with reforms.

By Felix Onuah, Reuters

Related stories: House of Representatives in Nigeria reject plan to buy presidential yacht

SUVs and Yachts in Nigeria Budget During Economic Hardship

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Video - Analysts believe Nigerian companies not capitalizing on CIIE opportunities

The China International Import Expo continues in Shanghai. Organizers say it's an opportunity for global companies to tap into the burgeoning Chinese market. However, industry experts in Nigeria say companies there are not fully capitalizing on the opportunities the Shanghai fair is providing.


Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Suspected Boko Haram kills 15 farmers in northeast Nigeria

At least 15 rice farmers were killed and several others feared abducted in Nigeria's northeastern Borno state after suspected Boko Haram insurgents attacked three villages, a local farmers' leader said on Monday.

The attack occurred in the villages of Koshebe, Karkut, and Bulabulin in the Mafa local government area in the state, about 15 kilometres from the capital Maiduguri, Mohammed Haruna, secretary of the Zabarmari Rice Farmers Association, told Reuters.

The Borno police spokesperson did not immediately respond to Reuters' request for comment on the attack, which happened on Sunday.

Haruna said the Islamists stormed the villages on motorcycles and attacked the farmers who were harvesting crops from their rice fields.

"They did not use guns to kill them, instead they used cutlasses and knives to stab them to death, while others were beheaded," Haruna said.

He said 15 farmers were confirmed killed in the attack, adding that some managed to escape. The number of those missing is still unknown.

The attack is the latest in a series of assaults by Boko Haram in northeast Nigeria. The group has been waging a 14-year insurgency in the region aimed at establishing an Islamic caliphate there.

At least 40 people were killed in the northeastern Yobe state last week, the first major Boko Haram attack in the state in 18 months.

Last week, Nigerian lawmakers approved a supplementary budget that includes provisions for defence and security.

President Bola Tinubu, preoccupied with fixing the economy, has yet to outline how he plans to tackle insurgency in the north and widespread insecurity across the country.

By Ahmed Kingimi, Reuters

Peter Obi slams court ruling confirming Tinubu election win

Nigeria's opposition Labour Party leader Peter Obi on Monday criticised the Supreme Court's ruling affirming President Bola Tinubu's victory in February's elections and vowed to continue to fight for a "New Nigeria".

The country's top court on Oct. 26 rejected an attempt to overturn the election result by the main opposition leader Atiku Abubakar and Obi, who came second and third in the vote, slamming the door on any legal challenge against Tinubu, who says he won fairly.

The Supreme Court judgment followed a pattern seen in previous presidential elections that have been challenged in court. None of the attempts to overturn results through the courts has been successful.

Speaking for the first time since the ruling, Obi, a former two-term governor who campaigned as an outsider, told reporters the judgment was a disappointment and contradicted overwhelming evidence of election rigging, false claims of technical glitches, and other irregularities.

He said the ruling was a "total breach of the confidence the Nigerian people have in our judiciary" and a "show of unreasonable force against the very Nigerian people from whom the power of the Constitution derives".

Despite the setback, Obi vowed to remain in the opposition and continue fighting for a "New Nigeria", pledging to remain committed to good governance to ensure the country was led away from what he called its current waste and consumption orientation to a production-driven economy.

"We will offer the checks and balances required in a functional democracy and vie robustly in forthcoming elections to elect those who share our vision of a new Nigeria," Obi said.

Obi's supporters, known as the "Obidients", have been vocal in their criticism of the Supreme Court ruling. They have accused the court of being biased and of protecting the interests of the ruling party.

Obi's rejection of the Supreme Court ruling is likely to resonate with his supporters, mostly young Nigerians who were attracted by his message of hope and change and see him as a break from the old guard.

By Camillus Eboh, Reuters

Related stories: Atiku says court ruling will erode trust in elections in Nigeria

Supreme Court of Nigeria affirms President Tinubu's election win

Explosion, fire at Canadian High Commission in Nigeria kills 2

An explosion at the Canadian High Commission in Nigeria's capital of Abuja killed two people and sent another two to hospital, according to the fire service that responded to the call.

"A tanker that was inside the generator building exploded ... killing two men who worked for the company managing the generator," Mercy Douglas of the FCT Fire Service told CBC News.

"Two people outside the building were injured by the explosion," she added. "They are in hospital having treatment."

An eyewitness who tweeted a video of the fire captured large plumes of black smoke billowing up from behind the building.

In a social media post, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said that officials were working to "shed light on what caused this situation."

"I send my heartfelt condolences to the families of the two people killed in this tragedy," Joly said.

Douglas said the fire service got a call at 11:55 a.m. Monday reporting the tanker explosion inside the generator building on Diplomatic Drive in the city's central business district.

Firefighters in Abuja subdued the fire and were back at the station by 1 p.m., Douglas said.

Douglas was unable to confirm whether any of the people killed or hospitalized held Canadian citizenship.

In a statement issued Monday afternoon, Global Affairs Canada said one of the two people killed was a "locally engaged employee."

"Global Affairs Canada extends its sympathies to the families of those killed and wishes a speedy recovery to those injured," the statement said. "We can confirm all other staff at the High Commission are safe and unharmed."

Global Affairs said it's working with local authorities to determine the cause of the explosion and the High Commission will be closed until further notice.

"An investigation will be carried out, but at this point everything points to an accident rather than a deliberate act," the department said.

By Peter Zimonjic, CBC

Monday, November 6, 2023

Video - Nigeria aims to boost revenues with shrimp

In an attempt to diversify Nigeria’s economy away from oil, the government wants to position the country to reap the gains from shrimp exports. However, local fishermen and experts say the country’s industry needs to overcome several challenges, including high fuel costs, technical issues, and a significant knowledge gap.


Friday, November 3, 2023

House of Representatives in Nigeria reject plan to buy presidential yacht

Nigeria's lower chamber of parliament has rejected the government's plan to buy a presidential yacht for $6m (£5m), a senior lawmaker has said.

Nigerians had criticised the plan as a waste of money on luxuries during an economic crisis.

Lawmakers instead moved the $6m to the student loan budget, doubling its allocation, Abubakar Bichi said.

President Bola Tinubu took office in May with a promise to cut waste, and ease people's financial hardship.

But he triggered an outcry after he tabled a supplementary budget in the National Assembly for approval, with the planned purchase of the yacht listed under the Nigerian Navy's proposed capital expenditure of $53m.

Human rights activist and former lawmaker Shehu Sani reacted by saying that "the poor can't be struggling for survival in a canoe while their leader is yachting".

Mr Tinubu's spokesman Temitope Ajayi distanced the president from plans to buy the yacht.

"From what I know, the request for a yacht, however it is named or couched in the budget is from the navy and they must have operational reasons for why it is required," he said.

The budget was approved by the House of Representatives on Thursday.

But Mr Bichi, chairman of the influential House Committee on Appropriation and a member of Mr Tinubu's ruling party, told local journalists that lawmakers had declined to approve the allocation for a presidential yacht.

The budget also earmarks $36m for State House expenditure, including the purchase of luxury vehicles and the construction of a presidential office complex.

The government is also planning to spend $15m (£13m) on the presidential air fleet.

The controversy comes at a time when Mr Tinubu is under intense pressure over the cost-of-living crisis, and a massive fall in the value of Nigeria's currency, the naira, against the dollar.

Nigeria's annual inflation rose to 26.7% in September, according to official statistics.

A leading advocacy group in Nigeria, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (Serap), said the purchase of a yacht could not be justified when "137 million Nigerians live in extreme poverty".

It added that their plight worsened after Mr Tinubu scrapped a fuel subsidy in his inaugural speech as president, causing the price of fuel and other basic commodities to rise.

Activist Omoyele Sowore accused the government of spending on luxuries while it "maintains the miseries of the Nigerian populace".

Mr Ajayi said the president and his vice-president were not planning to add new vehicles to their fleet, and were using "inherited vehicles" from the previous administration.

He said the budget for vehicles was for hundreds of civil servants and political aides working at State House.

By Farouk Chothia & Wycliffe Muia, BBC

Related story: SUVs and Yachts in Nigeria Budget During Economic Hardship

SUVs and Yachts in Nigeria Budget During Economic Hardship

Nigerian President Bola Tinubu’s first supplementary budget includes a fleet of SUVs for himself and his wife, a presidential yacht and the renovation of his villa amid a cost-of-living crisis for some of the poorest people in the world.

The proposal — which seeks additional funding beyond the annual budget approved by Tinubu’s predecessor — comes as the government asks Nigerians to persevere through pain caused in part by a raft of economic reforms ushered in by the new president. Africa’s most populous country faces rampant unemployment, soaring food prices and a plummeting currency.

Federal lawmakers approved the president’s request for extra spending on Thursday, but eliminated the provision of 5 billion naira ($6.01 million) to buy a presidential yacht. Instead, the doubled the allocation to a student loan fund to 10 billion naira, according Abubakar Bichi, chairman of an appropriations committee in the House of Representatives.

The lawmakers approved 1.5 billion-naira proposed to purchase SUVs for the office of First Lady Oluremi Tinubu — an amount larger than that allocated to many individual federal colleges. The supplementary budget also proposes almost 6 billion naira to purchase SUVs for the presidency — more than the amount initially allocated to fund a student loan program for poor families.

A spokesman said the president didn’t ask for a yacht and criticized coverage of the budget. The “public attack” is because of the “very simplistic way some of the line items are described by civil servants, who prepare the budget,” Temitope Ajayi said in a column posted to a local media outlet. New vehicles, he said, will be used by aides and civil servants, not Tinubu himself.

The legislature has also been slammed for buying hundreds of its own expensive SUVs.

Tinubu, who took office in May, ended a popular but costly fuel subsidy and removed currency restrictions that saw prices spike and the naira sharply devalued. That’s left many households struggling to survive in Africa’s most populous nation, where at least 40% of its more than 200 million people live in extreme poverty.

Last year, the country spent about 96% of its revenue servicing debt and the government plans to raise 9 trillion naira to help fund next year’s budget.

By Nduka Orjinmo, Bloomberg

Thursday, November 2, 2023

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