Friday, March 29, 2024

Detained Binance executives sue Nigeria's security adviser, anti-graft agency

Two executives from Binance, the world's largest cryptocurrency exchange, have sued Nigeria's national security adviser's office and the anti-graft agency for violating their fundamental rights and asked the court to set them free.

Tigran Gambaryan, a U.S. citizen and Binance's head of financial crime compliance, and Nadeem Anjarwalla, a British-Kenyan who is Binance's regional manager for Africa, flew to Nigeria following the country's decision to ban several cryptocurrency trading websites and were detained on arrival on Feb. 26.

Anjarwalla fled the country last week and now faces the prospect of an international arrest warrant.
On Thursday, Gambaryan appeared in a Federal High Court in the capital Abuja requesting Judge Iyang Ekwo declare his detention and seizure of his passport by the National Security Adviser and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) "amounts to a violation of his fundamental right to personal liberty" as guaranteed by Nigeria's constitution.

The executives, who said they had not been informed of any offences committed, requested an order to release them and return their passports, a public apology and a restraining order from further detention.

The judge adjourned the hearing to April 8 without making a ruling because lawyers for the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) and the EFCC were not in court.

Gambaryan and Anjarwalla were caught up in a crackdown following a period during which several cryptocurrency websites emerged as platforms of choice for trading the Nigerian currency, as the country battles a chronic dollar shortages. 

By Camillus Eboh, Reuters 

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Thursday, March 28, 2024

Nigeria thrown into darkness as power grid collapses

Nigeria was thrown into darkness on Thursday afternoon following the collapse of the electricity grid controlled from Osogbo, Osun State, around 4:32 p.m.

A source in one of the distribution companies (DisCo) said the feeders for most DisCos nationwide were out of supply.

The development, the source added, has left virtually all franchise areas for DisCos across the 36 states in darkness.

According to the source, as of 4p.m, the grid output was 2984 megawatts. But by 5 p.m., the 21 plants on the grid had zero output.

In February, a grid collapse also left the nation in darkness.

A last check with the source when filing this report revealed that Azura was the only plant on the grid with an output capacity of about 54 megawatts.

Egbin, Afam, Geregu, Ibom Power, Jebba, Kainji, Odukpani, and Olorunsogo, among other plants, all had zero output.

In November 2013, the federal government privatised all generation and 11 distribution companies, with the FG retaining the ownership of the transmission company. This was to improve efficiency in the sector.

However, since privatisation, the grid has collapsed more than 140 times.

By Olawunmi Ojo, Premium Times

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Ending sexual abuse in IDP camps in Nigeria

Young women and girls living in Nigerian camps for internally displaced people (IDPs) say they have to deal with sexual harassment every day. Now they are calling for more protection from their host communities.

Having escaped attacks by violent criminals and armed gangs known as bandits in their villages, many displaced women and girls in Nigeria are now facing a new challenge.

Sexual harassment is rife in camps for internally displaced people (IDPs) across northern Nigeria — mostly when it comes to access to food or money.

With little protection, IDPs are also at risk of being kidnapped by bandits and jihadists.
What are IDPs fleeing from?

A bloody conflict between the army and jihadist groups, including Boko Haram, has been raging in Nigeria since 2009.

It is estimated that more than 40,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million more displaced — 80% of whom are women and children who live in government-registered or unregistered camps for IDPs.

Amina Rabo, who lives in an unofficial camp in the northern Nigerian city of Katsina, fled her village after it was attacked by bandits.

Since arriving there, Amina says she has suffered various forms of violence. Apart from sexual harassment, she also lives with the fear of being kidnapped.

"We experience different kinds of harassment from bad actors within our host community. Our rooms don't have doors, making it easy for the attackers," Amina told DW.

"They rape our girls in the night, and the older women are not spared either," Amina said, adding that that seeing her young daughters being assaulted every night has left her distraught.

Amina told DW that she had to marry off one of her daughters outside the camp. After the wedding, she said that several people tried to rape her.

A call for more protection

To prevent further sexual assaults on IDPs, Sani Barau, who works for a humanitarian agency, told DW that his organization is now working closely with the police to monitor the safety of displaced people.

"We call the police whenever we see suspicious people lurking around the camp or individuals trying to harass young girls," Barau said. "And indeed the police have carried out some arrests."

Despite plans to guarantee protection against sexual assault and possible kidnapping by resettling individuals currently sheltering in IDP camps — challenges remain.

Jihadists target women in IDP camps

Since the beginning of March, more than 100 people — mostly children and women — have gone missing after jihadists in conflict-torn northeastern Nigeria carried out a mass kidnapping that targeted mostly women from IDP camps, officials told AFP news agency.

Nigeria's northeast remains the heart of an insurgency that has left more than 40,000 people dead and 2 million displaced since 2009.

Several details about the attack on the IDP camp in rural Ngala are still unclear and officials have given conflicting accounts. The number of people reported missing does not necessarily reflect the number held in captivity.

The UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said the attack took place a week earlier than reported and estimated that over 200 people had been abducted from IDP camps.

The organization said armed attackers took the women while they were out collecting firewood.

"The United Nations strongly condemns the reported abduction of internally displaced persons (IDPs), many of them women, boys and girls," it said.
Kidnapping — a lucrative business

Kidnapping is a major problem across Nigeria, which is also grappling with criminal militias in the northwest and a flare-up of intercommunal violence in central states.

On March 7, more than 130 schoolchildren were kidnapped from a school in Kaduna but later freed after two weeks in captivity.

Arrests are rare as most victims are released only after ransom payments by their families or through deals that sometimes involve the release of gang members.

The government, however, does not admit to such deals.

Nigerian President Bola Ahmed Tinubu came to power last year promising to address insecurity in Nigeria, but critics say the violence is still out of control.

By Shehu Salmanu, DW

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Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Naira gains on spot market after central bank rate hike

Nigeria's naira rose to a five-week high against the dollar in intraday trading on Wednesday, a day after the central bank hiked interest rates to tame inflation and lifted restrictions on foreign investors participating in its fixed-income auctions.

The currency rose to 1,200 per dollar on the official market, LSEG data showed, strengthening above the parallel market levels at about 1,340.

Africa's largest economy has been grappling with dollar shortages that pushed its currency to a record low of 1,851 per dollar last month, though central bank Governor Olayemi Cardoso has said that dollar liquidity is improving.

Last week, Nigeria's central bank said it had cleared all of its verified foreign exchange backlog, part of its strategy to stabilise the naira and tame soaring inflation.

The central bank on Tuesday raised its monetary policy rate 200 basis points to 24.75% from 22.75%, a month after its largest hike in around 17 years.

The central bank paid 26.6% for the one-year Treasury bill at its last auction two weeks ago, but investors at Wednesday's auction expect yields to rise above secondary market quotes of around 22.75% for the one-year bill and around 20.6% for the benchmark 10-year note.

Goldman Sachs analysts Andrew Matheny and Bojosi Morule said the central bank's further rate hike and "the emphasis on improving monetary transmission mechanism by mopping up liquidity will help to rebuild policy credibility", boosting Treasury bill yields to about 28% to 29%.

In the past, lenders faced constraints in fulfilling foreign investors' bids as they incurred extra costs on settlement day if they borrowed from the central bank's discount window to pay for bills.

Foreign investors can now pre-fund their accounts and get naira at the prevailing exchange rate for the auctions, analysts said.

"With this policy mix and with more inflows likely, including a Eurobond, we remain constructive on the naira, with our forex strategists forecasting an appreciation to 1,200 versus the dollar over the next 12 months," Matheny and Morule wrote in a research note to clients on Wednesday.

The central bank hopes the auctions can attract sufficient foreign interest to boost dollar liquidity.
Tellimer economist Patrick Curran said that "while forex liquidity has improved, it is still well below pre-pandemic levels and a boost in dollar supply will be needed to support further naira appreciation." 

By Chijioke Ohuocha and Elisha Bala-Gbogbo, Reuters

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Court in Nigeria sentences Chinese businessman to death for murdering girlfriend

A Nigerian court has sentenced a Chinese businessman to death after being found guilty of murdering his girlfriend Ummu Kulthum Sani in 2022.

Frank Geng Quarong was discovered in her room after having stabbed her several times there.

The killing of the 22-year-old university student shocked Nigerians and the case was closely followed.

Death sentences are rarely carried out in Nigeria. Quarong has 90 days to appeal against the verdict.

Speaking on behalf of the family, the victim's brother, Sadiq Sani, described the sentence of death by hanging handed down by the court in Kano as justice. He said that whoever kills anyone deserved to be killed too.

"We thank God for showing us this day... I pray that my sister's soul continues to rest in peace," he told the BBC.

Her family remember the young agriculture undergraduate as kind and jovial.

Quarong, 49, and Ms Sani had been in a relationship since 2020 after having met in a shopping mall, according to Mr Sani.

He was in the country working for a Nigerian textiles firm.

Talking shortly after the killing in September 2022, family friend Ahmad Abdullahi described what had happened.

He remembered coming to the family home and seeing that "a lot of people had gathered outside the house".

"That was when we knew something bad had happened. Geng was her boyfriend and had good relations with her family prior to that day.

"Before the incident they were having issues as she was no longer interested and he didn't want to let go."

According to neighbours, on the night of the killing Quarong was heard knocking heavily on the gate to the Sani family home.

When Ms Sani's mother opened the gate he pushed her aside and rushed straight to Ms Sani's room, locking it from the inside.

Her shouts and cries attracted the family and before anyone could break down the door to help she had been stabbed several times.

She died later in hospital.

Nigeria currently has more than 3,400 people on death row and the last execution was carried out in 2012.

By Mansur Abubakar, BBC

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Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Kidnapped Edo PDP chairperson freed

The Chairperson of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Edo State, Tony Aziegbemi, abducted on 15 March in Benin, has been freed.

The News Agency of Nigeria gathered that Mr Aziegbemi reunited with his family at 3 a.m. on Tuesday after 10 days in captivity.

Clem Aziegbemi, on behalf of the family, said the PDP leader was released unhurt.

“As a member of the Aziegbemi family, we say thank you all for your great show of love and solidarity with us all through the period of the abduction of our beloved son, brother, cousin, and leader, Dr Tony Aziegbemi.

“Thank you, all…. We are most grateful for all your valuable contributions through prayers and steadfastness. God bless,” he said.

Mr Aziegbemi was ambushed at the Bishop Edokpolor Boulevard Junction, off Country Home, GRA Benin City, while returning from the Government House, where he held a meeting with Governor Godwin Obaseki

His abduction came less than a month after his party conducted a primary election for the 21 September governorship election in the state.

When contacted, the police spokesperson in Edo, Chidi Nwabuzor, said the police would soon issue an official statement on the development.

Premium Times

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Monday, March 25, 2024

Video - Nigeria food banks cut back on handouts as prices soar

At a warehouse in Nigeria's commercial capital Lagos, dozens of women patiently wait their turn to receive food handouts. Among them is 68-year-old widow Damilola Salami, who received an invitation to the facility just as she had almost run out of food.

The Lagos Food Bank is a crucial lifeline to residents like Salami, but has seen supplies from private and other donors fall as inflation soars in Africa's biggest economy.

Nigeria is grappling with the worst cost of living crisis in decades, which has deepened since President Bola Tinubu rolled out bold but unpopular economic reforms after assuming office last May.

"There is nothing for us to eat, we are hungry," said Salami as she waited for her share of food and cooking oil. "Our children are out of school because of the increase in fees. Now, the children are at home and there is no food."

Mabel Wade, an 80-year-old charcoal seller, said sustenance was scarce and she often relied on neighbours before she was told of the food bank.

"Sometimes there is no food to eat at all... Sometimes, it is biscuit and water," she said, after registering for food stamps.

Last month a stampede broke out and killed seven people at a food distribution centre in Lagos.
World Bank data shows that 46% of Nigeria's population was deemed poor in 2023. Twenty million of them live in urban areas.

In the past, the imposing warehouse of Lagos Food Bank would be fully stocked with bags of Nigerian staples like rice, beans and vegetable oil. Not anymore.

Founder Michael Sunbola said the facility's major donor had cut supplies by 93%, citing the high cost of food.

The food bank has now dialled back on quantities, providing families with enough supplies for a few days at a time when once their parcels would have lasted two weeks. The facility is also having to "narrow down the number of people we want to reach out to", said Sunbola of the people invited to use the service.

"Now, we do only women from the age of 50," he told Reuters.

No Hunger Initiatives, a food bank serving mostly internally displaced people in the capital Abuja, faces similar problems.

The number of people seeking food handouts has tripled since May 2023 but the facility is unable to keep up because donors have cut back supplies by half due to rising inflation, said Kumdet Yilkon, a senior official. 

By Ope Adetayo, Reuters 

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More 200 pupils and staff abducted by gunmen from a school in northern Nigeria were released, just over two weeks after they were kidnapped from the town of Kuriga in Kaduna State. The Kaduna governor said the country's National Security Adviser had coordinated the release but gave no further details. Gunmen had last week demanded a ransom of 690,000 U.S. dollars for the release of the missing children and staff.


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Detained Binance executive escapes detention in Nigeria amidst probe

 Nadeem Anjarwalla, one of the two Binance executives detained in Nigeria has reportedly escaped from lawful custody, according to sources.

These sources revealed that Anjarwalla, aged 38, escaped on Friday, March 22nd, from the Abuja guest house where he and his colleague were being detained, Premium Times reported.

Guards on duty escorted him to a nearby mosque for prayers as part of the ongoing Ramadan fast.

The British national, who also holds Kenyan citizenship, is believed to have departed Abuja via a Middle Eastern airline.

The circumstances surrounding how Anjarwalla managed to board an international flight despite being in custody and his British passport being held by Nigerian authorities remain unclear.

Authorities are reportedly working to uncover Anjarwalla's intended destination to apprehend him and return him to custody.

According to an Immigration official, the Binance executive fled Nigeria using a Kenyan passport. However, authorities are trying to ascertain how he acquired this passport, as he did not possess any other travel documents apart from his British passport when he was detained.

Before now, WIRED reported that Anjarwalla fell ill while in custody, possibly due to malaria, although the precise nature of his symptoms was unclear.

Nadeem Anjarwalla, Binance's regional manager for Africa, along with Tigran Gambaryan, Binance's head of financial crime compliance and a U.S. citizen had travelled to Nigeria after the country banned several cryptocurrency trading websites to halt what the CBN described as continuous manipulation of the forex market and illicit movement of funds.

Upon their arrival on February 26, they were arrested by the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA), and criminal charges were filed against the two executives.

Binance was instructed to provide the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) with detailed data and information regarding all Nigerian traders on its platform.

According to Yemi Cardoso, the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), over $26 billion passed through Binance Nigeria from unknown sources. The government even hit the exchange with a $10 billion fine amidst a crypto exchange probe.

On February 28, 2024, the court granted the EFCC an order to remand the duo for 14 days. Due to Binance’s refusal to comply with the order, the court extended the remand of the officials for an additional 14 days to prevent them from tampering with evidence. The court then adjourned the case till 4 April 2024.

By Adekunle Agbetiloye, Business Insider Africa

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Nigeria files tax evasion charges against Binance

Nigeria's tax agency has filed tax evasion charges against crypto platform Binance, it said in a statement on Monday.

The cased filed by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) in Abuja accuses Binance of four counts of tax evasion.

Binance was not immediately available to comment.

The charges include non-payment of value-added tax (VAT), company income tax, failure to file tax returns, and complicity in aiding customers to evade taxes through its platform, the FIRS said.

By Camillus Eboh, Reuters

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Nigerian army rescues kidnapped Kaduna students

The Nigerian army on Sunday rescued students and staff who were abducted by gunmen from a school in the country's north earlier this month, the military said, days before the deadline for a ransom payment.

School officials and residents had said 287 students were taken on March 7 in the town of Kuriga in the northwestern state of Kaduna. A military spokesperson said 137 hostages - 76 of them female and 61 male - were rescued in the early hours of Sunday in neighbouring state of Zamfara.

"In the early hours of 24 March 2024, the military working with local authorities and government agencies across the country in a coordinated search and rescue operation rescued the hostages," Major General Edward Buba said in a statement.

A security source said the students had been freed in a forest and were being escorted to Kaduna's capital for medical tests before being reunited with their families.

Kaduna Governor Uba Sani earlier put the number of kidnapped at over 200. Given the discrepancies in numbers reported, it was unclear if any hostages remained captured. Some Kuriga elders said Sani had told them all hostages had been freed.

Jibrin Aminu, a spokesperson for the Kuriga parents, said he would clarify numbers on Monday when families had been given the chance to "take account of their kidnapped children."

The rescue took place just days before a deadline to pay a 1 billion naira ($690,000) ransom for their release.

Abductions at Nigerian schools were first carried out by jihadist group Boko Haram, which seized 276 students from a girls' school in Chibok in northeastern Borno State a decade ago. Some of the girls have never been released.

But since then the tactic has been adopted by criminal gangs without ideological affiliation.
Kidnappings by criminal gangs demanding ransoms have become an almost daily occurrence, especially in northern Nigeria, tearing apart families and communities that must pool savings to pay ransoms, often forcing them to sell land, cattle and grain to secure the release of their loved ones.

By Ahmed Kingimi, Reuters 

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Friday, March 22, 2024

Nigeria indicts 19 ‘terrorism financiers’

The Nigerian government has identified and sanctioned 19 terrorism financiers including six Bureau De Change (BDC) firms, a document obtained by PREMIUM TIMES has shown.

The identities of the alleged terrorism funders were revealed in the document issued by the Nigeria Sanctions Committee (NSC), headed by the Attorney General of the Federation.

Those named as financiers of terrorism include Tukur Mamu, a Kaduna-based publisher, Abdulsamad Ohida, Mohammed Abdurrahaman (FNU), Fatima Ishaq, Yusuf Ghazali, Muhammad Sani, Abubakar Muhammad, Sallamudeen Hassan, Adamu Ishak, Hassana Isah, Abdulkareem Musa and Umar Abdullahi.

Six firms – West and East Africa General Trading Co. Ltd, Settings Bureau De Change Ltd, G. Side General Enterprises, Desert Exchange Ventures Limited, Eagle Square General Trading Co Ltd, and Alfa Exchange BDC – were also named.

The committee gave a brief background of some of the indicted persons and subsequently detailed their alleged involvement in terrorism financing.

How named individuals financed terrorism

Mr Mamu, the Kaduna-based publisher of Desert Herald newspaper, was a spokesman to Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, a Kaduna-based Islamic cleric who has repeatedly called for negotiations with terrorists.

PREMIUM TIMES reported how Mr Mamu was arrested by Interpol in Cairo, Egypt, on 6 September 2022, while operatives of the State Security Service (SSS), raided his Kaduna residence and office. He is still being prosecuted.

The NSC said Mr Mamu “participated in the financing of terrorism by receiving and delivering ransom payments over the sum of $200,000 US dollars in support of ISWAP terrorists for the release of hostages of the Abuja-Kaduna train attack.”

The second person, Mr Ohida, according to the committee, was “a senior commander (Quaid) of the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) Okene.”

He was described as the “suspected attacker of the St. Francis Catholic Church Owo, Ondo State on 5th June 2022 and the Kuje Correctional Center, Abuja on 5th July 2022.”

List of the persons and entities indicted for terrorism financing. SOURCE: Nigeria Sanctions Committee (NSC)

Thirty-seven-year-old Mr Sani is a member of the Ansaru terror group, the committee stated, adding he was trained and served under Muktar Belmokhtar [aka One-Eyed], a notorious leader of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) who was reportedly killed in 2016.

Mr Sani who was into carpentry, also allegedly specialises in designing terrorist clandestine communication codes and Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). He was identified as one of the terrorists who escaped during the 2022 Kuje prison break.

The committee added that he is “a gatekeeper to ANSARU leader, Mohammed Usman aka Khalid Al-Bamawi. Equally, he was a courier and travel guide to AQIM Katibat in the desert of Algeria and Mali.”

Another indicted person simply identified as Abdurrahaman (FNU), was a senior commander of ISWAP in Okene, Kogi State, the committee disclosed.

ISWAP parted ways with Boko Haram in 2016 over doctrinal differences. It has since claimed responsibility for various attacks in some parts of the country, especially in the northeast and Lake Chad region.

Ms Ishaq, a resident of Unguwan Sarki in Kaduna North Local Government Area of Kaduna State, was said to be a “financial courier to ISWAP Okene.”

The committee said she was “responsible for the disbursement of funds to the widows/wives of the terrorist fighters of the group.”

Ms Isah, the other woman among the indicted persons, is the wife of Abdulkareem Musa (AKA Abu Khalid/Abu Aiman), the committee revealed, adding “She receives money from ISWAP and then goes on to pay the wives of the ISWAP soldiers.”

Her husband, Mr Musa, is a top commander of the ISWAP cell in central and southern Nigeria. He “worked as the manager of Star bread bakery, owned by ISWAP and located opposite Abusito Mosque, Irubucheba area, Okene, Kogi State, before being arrested and sent to jail in 2011.”

In 2015, Kano-based Mr Ghazali allegedly transferred N20 million to Surajo Muhammad, one of the six Nigerians convicted in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in 2020 for a similar offence.

That same year, he “transferred” N40 million to Ibrahim Alhassan, another convict, the report states.

“Abubakar Adamu Yellow who had calls and financial transactions with Alhaji Saidu Ahmed (the leader of the group) and direct financial transaction with two of the convicts (Surajo Abubakar Muhammad, Ibrahim Ali Alhassan) received a sum of N189 million from Yusuf Ghazali between 2016 and 2018,” the committee stated, noting Mr Ghazali owns entities and businesses reported in the UAE court judgment as facilitating the transfer of terrorist funds from Dubai to Nigeria.

Like Mr Ghazali, two other Kano-based residents, Messrs Sani and Muhammad, were accused of financing terrorism by engaging in financial transactions with the Nigerian-UAE convicts.

Borno-born Mr Hassan who lived in Lagos was also accused of the same offence.

The committee said he was a top ISWAP member and one of the founders of the ISWAP cell in the South-west geopolitical zone.

“He sources and coordinates their finances through cryptocurrency, dating and tax/covid19 palliative scams in the USA,” the committee stated.

Also, Mr Ishaq who was based in Kaduna was indicted as a logistics provider for ISWAP. The committee reported that he bought lands, and built and bought houses for ISWAP members in Jigawa and Kaduna states.

He was not alone. Mr Abdullahi, described as a Kano State resident and a top member of ISWAP from the Lake Chad region, was described as a “top logistics provider for the ISWAP.”

The committee stated that Mr Abdullahi was a grain merchant in Kano State and was “in charge of the ISWAP farm in Doma, Kebbi state.”

BDC operators indicted

According to the committee, West And East Africa General Trading Co. Ltd, in 2017, “transferred the sum of N153 million” to one Mustapha Adamu.

That same year, the firm transferred N50 million to Ali Yusuf, who was named as the brother to two of the Nigerians convicted in UAE — Ibrahim Alhassan and Bashir Yusuf.

A year before, the firm “transferred the sum of N160 million to Ambare Mohammed who is a major suspect in Maiduguri.”

Between 2014 and 2015, the committee reported that Settings Bureau De Change Ltd received N100 million from Mr Ghazali who had financial transactions with three UAE convicts — Surajo Muhammad, Ibrahim Alhassan and Bashir Yusuf.

“The connection of the entity to the mentioned suspect covers over 80% of the entity’s entire transactions within the reporting threshold,” the committee explained. “This made the entity a likely accomplice in the group’s activities.”

Detailing how G. Side General Enterprises made the list, the committee wrote: “The Director/Promoter Yusuf Ghazali transferred N20 Million to Surajo Abubakar Muhammad (who is the number one convict in UAE for Financing Terrorism in Nigeria) in 2015. Yusuf Ghazali, the Company’s Director/Promoter transferred N40 million to Ibrahim Ali Alhassan (who was convicted in UAE for financing terrorism in Nigeria) in 2015.

“Abubakar Adamu Yellow who had calls and financial transactions with Alhaji Saidu Ahmed (alleged leader of the group) and directed financial transactions with two of the convicts (Surajo Abukakar Muhammad and Ali Alhassan) received a sum of N189 Million from Yusuf Ghazali, the Company’s Director/Promoter between 2016 and 2018.”

The Desert Exchange Ventures Limited, in 2015, transferred N20 million to the convict Surajo Abubakar Muhammad, N146 million to Habibu Sani Maigida and N195 million to Rashab Nig Enterprises.

A year later, it transferred the N198 million to one Usaini Adamu.

For Eagle Square General Trading Co Ltd, the committee said the firm “transferred the sum of N165 million to Abubakar Adamu Yellow in 2018, N480 million to Usaini Adamu between 2017 and 2018 and N347 million to Bahafs Global Ventures within the same period.”

“Alfa Exchange BDC received N5 million from Yawale Muhammad Sani between 2013 and 2015,” the committee reported, adding the firm received N498 million from Yusuf Gazali.

“Alfa Exchange UAE was mentioned as being used as a repository of Boko Haram money for onward transfer to Nigeria,” the committee stated.

The sanctions

The NSC said it recommended the specific individuals and entities “for designation following their involvement with terrorism financing.”

“The Honourable Attorney General of the Federation, with the approval of the President, has thereupon designated the following individuals and entities to be listed on the Nigeria Sanctions List,” the NSC stated, rolling out sanctions against the indicted persons “in accordance with Section 54 of the Terrorism (Prevention and Prohibition) Act, 2022.”

It recommended that all funds, assets and any other economic resources belonging to the designated persons and entities be immediately frozen without prior notice.

The frozen assets or actions taken against the indicted persons and entities are to be reported to the NSC afterwards.

“Immediately file a Suspicious Transactions Report to the NFIU for further analysis on the financial activities of such an individual or entity; and report as a Suspicious Transactions Report to the NFIU, all cases of name matching in financial transactions prior to or after receipt of this list,” the committee stated.

The committee clarified that the sanctions affect “All funds or other assets that are owned or controlled by the designated persons and entities, and not only those that are tied to a particular act, plot, or threat of terrorism or terrorism financing.”

Assets and funds jointly owned or controlled [directly or indirectly] by the indicted persons and entities shall be frozen as well, the committee explained.

The sanction shall affect the “funds or other assets derived or generated from funds or other assets owned or controlled directly or indirectly by designated persons or entities.”

Funds or other assets of persons and entities acting on behalf of, or at the direction of designated persons or entities shall also be frozen, the committee clarified.

By Yakubu Mohammed, Premium Times 

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Thursday, March 21, 2024

Video - Babies born in Nigeria 80 times more likely to die before age 5

Health experts cite Inadequate funding, and the inability to deal with preventable ailments like malaria and diarrhea as leading causes of mortality rates in children under 5 years in those countries.

Related story: Video - Expectant mothers in Nigeria turning to home births amid high cost of maternal Care


Video - Nigeria SMEs turn to alternative energy sources to address chronic power crisis

One such small business owner operates a hotel in Nigeria's capital, Abuja. He says he lost a lot of business due to electricity issues. But an investment of 1,000 U.S. dollars in converting his electrical system to solar power is helping to lure customers back.


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Fifth electricity transmission line vandalised in one month in Nigeria




Video - Village in Nigeria reels from kidnapping of 87 residents

A spate of recent abductions in Nigeria has left citizens fearful, with the most recent case involving the abduction of at least 87 people from a village in Kaduna state. The government says it is working to rescue those abducted, but citizens say more needs to be done.


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Idris Elba to direct short film ‘Dust to Dreams,’ in collaboration with Nigeria's EbonyLife Films

Golden Globe winner Idris Elba has announced that he will be writing and directing an upcoming short film in an ongoing commitment to empower Africa’s creative economy, slated to star music icon Seal and backed by Nigerian superproducer Mo Abudu.

Backed by Nigerian superproducer Mo Abudu, the short film titled “Dust to Dreams” is written by Elba and will feature a star-studded cast topped by Seal, alongside Nollywood actresses Eku Edewor and Atlanta Bridget Johnson. Former Nigerian Idol contestant Constance Olatunde (also known as “Konstance”) will also be making her film debut.

The project is part of a collaboration announced last year between the “Luther” and “The Wire” star with Abudu’s EbonyLife Films, to develop emerging African talent and support creative industries throughout the continent – as well as the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), through its program called Creative Africa Nexus (Canex). Abudu will serve as both executive producer and producer.

Plot details are scant, but a press release shared the following synopsis: “Set against the vibrant backdrop of Lagos, Nigeria, the film follows the relationship between a mother and her teenage daughter, as she meets her father for the first time.”

Expressing her excitement about the collaboration, Abudu shared, “I am delighted to be working with Afreximbank and this incredibly talented team. ‘Dust to Dreams’ is a story close to my heart, and I’m thrilled to bring it to life with such passionate collaborators.”

Abudu has been described by Forbes as “Africa’s Most Successful Woman” and ranked as one of the “25 Most Powerful Women in Global Television” by The Hollywood Reporter.

Elba – a Brit of Sierra Leonean and Ghanaian descent ­– made his feature directorial debut in 2018 with British crime drama “Yardie.”

By Leah Collins, CNN

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President Bola Tinubu bans foreign trips by government officials

Nigeria's President Bola Tinubu will introduce a three-month ban on ministers and other government officials from going on publicly funded foreign trips.

Mr Tinubu's chief of staff said the move was prompted by the president's "concerns about the rising cost of travel expenses" by public officials.

The ban will take effect on 1 April.

President Tinubu and his administration have been criticised by some for their frequent visits abroad.

Since his inauguration in May, Mr Tinubu has made more than 15 foreign trips.

The Nigerian president is said to have spent at least 3.4bn naira ($2.2m; £1.8m) on domestic and foreign travel in the first six months of his presidency - 36% more than the budgeted amount for 2023, the Nigerian newspaper Punch reported in January, citing GovSpend, a civic tech platform that tracks government spending.

Mr Tinubu's chief of staff Femi Gbajabiamila said the travel ban will cut costs amid Nigeria's "current economic challenges and the need for responsible fiscal management".

The West African country is grappling with one of its worst cost-of-living crises in decades, a situation that has led to widespread hardship and anger.

The three-month block on official travel by government officials is Mr Tinubu's latest attempt at countering the public backlash.

In January, the Nigerian president announced a reduction in the size of the official travel delegation by about 60% , including cuts to his own travel entourage.

When the ban takes effect in April, government officials will only go on foreign trips "deemed absolutely necessary". They will also require President Tinubu's approval at least two weeks before they travel.

Mr Gbajabiamila added that the halt on travel will ensure that government officials "focus on their respective mandates for effective service delivery".

Despite clamping down on travel by government officials, Mr Tinubu has not said whether he will reduce his own trips.

The president and his representatives have in the past defended his trips as being vital in addressing the economic problems he is accused of ignoring.

By Gloria Aradi, BBC

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Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Court in Nigeria denies separatist leader Kanu bail


A Nigerian federal court on Tuesday denied separatist leader Nnamdi Kanu bail and instead ordered an accelerated trial of a pending seven-count terrorism charge against him.

Kanu, a British citizen who leads the banned Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) movement, disappeared from Nigeria after skipping bail in 2017. He was arrested in Kenya in 2021 and charged in Nigeria with terrorism.

In December, Nigeria's Supreme Court overturned a judgement by a lower court that dropped the terrorism charges against Kanu, setting the stage for his trial to commence.

"I will respond to all charges and the court will see that they are all lies," Kanu told the court.
Judge Murtala Nyako adjourned the case to April 17 to start trial.

Nyako also denied a request by Kanu, currently in the custody of the Department of State Services (DSS), a security agency, to be transferred to a regular prison on health grounds. He told the court he has congenital heart disease.

Kanu has previously denied the terrorism charges and knowingly broadcasting falsehoods, which are linked to social media posts he issued between 2018 and 2022.

His lawyers have argued that he could not receive a fair trial in Nigeria because he was forcefully extradited from Kenya. Kenya has declined to say if it played a role in Kanu's return.

Kanu's IPOB campaigns for the secession of southeastern Nigeria where the majority belong to the Igbo ethnic group. Nigerian authorities have labelled IPOB a terrorist organization.

An attempt by the southern region to secede as the Republic of Biafra in 1967, the year Kanu was born, triggered a three-year civil war that killed more than 1 million people.

By Camillus Eboh, Reuters 

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Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Video - Nigeria Senate to take action over relentless violence

Nigeria’s Senate is trying to take the initiative in curbing a relentless wave of armed militia assaults in the north. Recent violence left communities shattered, families displaced, and a cloud of fear looming large. Benue State, in Nigeria's North-Central region bore a significant brunt of the attacks.


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Nigeria considering state policing to combat growing insecurity


Nigerian Troops Rescue 16 Abductees in Kaduna

Nigeria’s military on Tuesday said troops have rescued 16 abductees in northwest Kaduna state after exchanging fire with insurgents who attacked a local community on Sunday night — one of two kidnap attacks in the area over the weekend.

According to a military statement posted on X, troops responded to a tip about the operation Sunday night of nonstate armed groups in the Tantatu community in Kajuru district.

The military said the attackers had taken several hostages before they arrived, exchanged fire with them and saved 16 of the abductees.

According to local media reports, 87 people, including women and children, went missing from the Sunday attack — barely 24 hours after gunmen captured 16 people from their homes in Dogon Noma, another community in Kajuru.

The army said troops are still searching the forests for missing people. The latest string of kidnappings in Nigeria in recent weeks is stoking fears of rising insecurity.

Security analyst Chidi Omeje says worsening economic problems and lack of governance in remote areas are to blame.

"These guys are becoming more audacious because they see the window of opportunity, and they're just exploiting it,” Omeje said. “It's very obvious that the response of the security government and security agencies are not effective enough to contain these infractions. But these are just the symptoms. The real issue here is the growing poverty and despondency in the people."

The deterioration of security in Africa's largest country comes amid a worsening economic crisis.

Kaduna state has been a hot spot of recent incidents. Just over a week ago, 287 school students were abducted in the state, and days later, another 61 residents were also kidnapped.

The latest incidents prompted authorities last week to order the establishment of a mobile police force base in the state.

But security analyst Kabir Adamu said what is needed the most is a change of strategy.

"There are gaps within the security architecture,” Adamu said. “The farther away you go from the city center, the bigger the gaps. It shows clearly that protection, especially in the rural areas, is almost nonexistent for the dwellers."

Kaduna is home to many military training institutions and installations.

Omeje said authorities need to revise the deployment of police officers to where they're needed the most. He said that there are many ungoverned areas while 60% of the nation’s police are devoted to VIP protection.

“Ten percent or so are in administration in the offices, then you're left with about 30% doing the real policing work,” Omeje said. “We have to be intentional about going back to the normal internal security structure."

President Bola Tinubu, who is implementing bold economic reforms, vowed last year to address insecurity if he was elected president.

On March 14, 16 soldiers, including high ranking officers, were killed and decapitated in southern Delta state. They were on a mission to quell conflict between two communities in the Bomadi region.

The Nigerian military has launched an investigation.

By Timothy Obiezu, VOA

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Sovereign fund of Nigeria to pilot development of 20 megawatts solar plant

Nigeria's sovereign fund plans to build a 20 megawatts solar power plant in partnership with a local firm, first phase of a 300 megawatts project, the country's Vice President Kashim Shettima said on Tuesday.

Shettima did not disclose the cost of the project or when construction will start.

Nigeria, with a population of more than 200 million people, has installed power generation capacity of 12,500 megawatts (MW) but produces a fraction of that, leaving millions of households and businesses reliant on petrol and diesel generators.

The vice president said on Tuesday in Abuja at the signing of the joint venture between the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) and North South Power (NSP) Company Ltd for the establishment of the Shiroro Generating Company, the country's pioneer on-grid solar-hydro hybrid project.

The Shiroro Generating Company is hybrid project is located in Shiroro, in Nigeria's northwest of Niger state.

Shettima said the 20 megawatt pilot project is embedded within a 300 megawatt solar programme, to be co-located within NSP's existing 600 megawatt Shiroro Hydroelectric Power Plant concession area in Shiroro, Niger State.

"As a nation, our resolve is to take proactive steps to diversify our energy sources, reduce our carbon footprints and ensure a more sustainable future for generations to come," the vice president said in a statement.

"This project will catalyze the realization of other hydro-solar projects and serve as a test case for deployment of solar energy on to the national grid." 


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Baby factories continue to thrive in Nigeria

Child traffickers often abduct girls and young women, take them to isolated locations and impregnate them. When they give birth, their babies are sold to childless couples. The practice has existed for years in Nigeria.

So-called baby making factories are facilities in Nigeria to which girls and young women are lured, impregnated and held against their will until they give birth.

The "factories" are usually small, illegal facilities parading as private medical clinics that house pregnant women and subsequently offer their babies for sale.

In some cases, young women have been held against their will and raped before their babies are sold on the black market.

The practice is largely prevalent in the southeastern states of Abia, Lagos, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo.

Around 200 underground baby factories have been shut over the last five years, according to Nigerian security agencies, however new facilities open to replace the closed ones.

Earlier this month, police officers stormed a hideout in Abia where they rescued 16 pregnant girls and eight young children.

Maureen Chinaka, a police spokeswoman revealed that the rescued girls were between the ages of 17 and 27 and had been told that they would be paid to leave the baby factories without their babies.

Last June, 22 pregnant young girls and two babies were rescued from a facility in the same state, where they had been held hostage.
Why do the factories exist?

There is a thriving market for babies among couples who are struggling to bear their own children. They are willing to pay between 1 million naira (€576) and 2 milion naira (€1,152) for a baby.

There is a higher demand for male babies, which tend to be sold at a higher price than baby girls.

Clare Ohunayo, a Nigerian activist and educationist, told DW that as long as there is demand for babies, the practice will prevail.
Supplying a demand

Ohunayo blames it on high levels of poverty and the stigma that comes with being a childless couple in Nigeria.

"The desperation that drives the baby factory has two sets of players. The first set is driven by the fear of poverty as a result of the socio-economic conditions of Nigeria," she said.

Those who own these facilities where the girls are kept, the men who impregnate them, and the girls themselves are all pushed into it by poverty, according to Ohunayo.

Some young female Nigerians told DW that they remain vulnerable because of their poor living conditions.

"This baby booming industry, even though it has been in existence, the reason it's coming up [is] because people are really really stressed in terms of striving for a daily living," a young resident of Abuja said.

Another Abuja resident told DW that: "We are experiencing an increase in crime rates due to hardship and poverty."

But not everyone blames it on poverty.

"Actually I think what is causing this menace has to do with moral decadence. Immoral people are desperate to make money. This is why you see this kind of thing happening, but to me I think it's very bad," said one Nigerian man.

Giving birth to children is considered signifcant in many African societies, and often couples unable to have their own children face humiliation, even from family members.

The demand for male children makes the practice especially lucrative, according to police officials.

"On the other side you have childless couple who want to avoid the stigma of [being] childless," said Ohunayo, describing a major cultural factor behind the baby factories.
Ending the baby factory business

Florence Marcus, a lawyer with the Abuja-based Disability Rights Advocate Center told DW there are laws to help tackle the menace.

"This issue of baby factories is a gross violation of the rights of the victims, especially these young ladies who are often taken to these facilities without theor consent," she said.

"The Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act prohibits all forms of violence against person, particularly women and girls. The law provides maximum protection and effective remedies for the victims and also punishment for the offenders."

Several arrests have been made across the Nigerian states in which the practice is prevalent.

Zakaria Dauda, spokesman for the National Agency for the Prohibition in Trafficking in Persons, a government body, told DW that the organization will continue to make arrests and ensure that pepatrators are punished.

"We know [with] the issue of baby factory most victims are usually young girls. We warn people of the dangers of such vices," he said.

"And those who become suspects, we take them [in] for people to also know that there is a crime being perpetrated called sale of babies."

By Ben Shemang, DW

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Court in Nigeria Orders Binance to Relinquish Data of All Nigerians Trading on its Platform

The interim order comes after an earlier report that Nigeria wanted Binance to give information regarding its top 100 users in the nation and all transaction history spanning the past six months.

A Nigerian court has ordered Binance to provide Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) with comprehensive information on all persons from the nation trading on its platform, according to a report by the local news outlet Peoples Gazette.

The interim order comes after an earlier report that Nigeria had asked the crypto exchange to hand over the information regarding its top 100 users in the country and all transaction history spanning the past six months. But Justice Emeka Nwite from the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court appears to have granted the motion of EFCC’s lawyer, Ekele Iheanacho which sought information on any Nigerian trading on Binance.

The EFCC is Nigeria’s law enforcement agency that investigates financial crimes.

“The applicant’s application dated and filed February 29, 2024, is hereby granted as prayed. That an order of this honorable court is hereby made directing the operators of Binance to provide the commission with comprehensive data/information relating to all persons from Nigeria trading on its platform,” the judge ordered, the report said.

Nigeria has taken action against the crypto industry for allegedly facilitating illegal capital outflows, which purportedly led to the Nigerian naira weakening to record lows against the dollar. The nation’s authorities have taken a particular interest in Binance’s operations, demanding $10 billion in penalties for enabling some $26 billion of untraceable funds.

Nigerian authorities also detained two of Binance’s senior executives after inviting them into the country to discuss the matter. The court hearing of the two detained Binance executives is scheduled for Wednesday, Reuters reported. Nigerian authorities have also proposed a 400% increase in registration fees for crypto firms.

Binance and the EFCC did not immediately respond to CoinDesk’s request for comment. 

By Amitoj Singh, CoinDesk

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