Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Video - At least 19 children die in suspected measles outbreak in northeastern Nigeria

Over 200 children are suspected of having contracted the disease in the Mubi North local government area. Official reports indicate that the deaths were caused by complications from the infection.


Related story: Meningitis outbreak kills 20 students in northern Nigeria


Nigeria appoint Finidi George to succeed Peseiro

Former international Finidi George has been announced as the new head coach of Nigeria, succeeding Jose Peseiro.

The 53-year-old was placed in interim charge of the Super Eagles after the departure of the Portuguese following Nigeria's defeat by Ivory Coast in the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations final in February.

George, also coach of club side Enyimba, oversaw two friendly matches last month, beating Ghana 2-1 before a 2-0 loss against Mali.

The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) confirmed his appointment on Monday after approving a recommendation from its technical and development committee.

Former Ajax and Real Betis winger George spent 20 months as an assistant to Peseiro and is expected to remain in charge of Enyimba, whom he led to the Nigerian title last year, until the end of the season.

George scored six goals in 62 international appearances for Nigeria and was part of the 'Golden Generation' which won the Nations Cup in 1994, the same year in which the Super Eagles appeared at the Fifa World Cup for the first time in the USA.

He will be expected to produce immediate results as Nigeria's next fixtures in June are two potentially crucial qualifiers for the 2026 World Cup, which will also be held in North America.

The Super Eagles' campaign needs reviving after the three-time continental champions drew their first two games in Group C.

The NFF has labelled the home match against South Africa and the game against Benin on neutral ground as "must-win encounters".

George is thought to have beaten off competition from a host of contenders for one of the most high-profile roles in African football, including former Super Eagles team-mate Emmanuel Amuneke and Spaniard Domenec Torrent, a former analyst and coach for Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola

The NFF has not announced the length of his contract.


Success on the pitch and in the dugout

One of Nigeria's best wingers of all time, George had a glittering career at club and international level.

He won three league titles with Ajax, who he joined in 1993, and also lifted the Uefa Champions League, Uefa Super Cup and Intercontinental Cup with the Dutch giants in 1995.

Spells at Betis, where he was a runner-up in the Copa del Rey in 1997, Mallorca and in England with Ipswich Town followed.

But he also registered several achievements with the Super Eagles after scoring on his international debut against Burkina Faso in 1991.

George netted the goal which secured Nigeria's qualification for the 1994 World Cup, going on to set up his country's first ever goal at the finals against Bulgaria.

He was also part of the squad which featured at the 1998 tournament in France.

George helped Nigeria beat Zambia 2-1 to lift the Nations Cup trophy in 1994 and was part of the squads which finished as runners-up in 2000 and as bronze medallists in 1992 and 2002.

He took over at Nigeria's most successful club Enyimba in 2021, leading them to their first title in four years by winning the league two years later.

The NFF's decision to choose Finidi George is not much of a surprise, although Emmanuel Amuneke was a fan favourite and a leading candidate to replace Jose Peseiro.

The recent friendlies against West African rivals Ghana and Mali were an audition which the new coach passed despite mixed results and George must now meet some high demands.

First up are 2026 World Cup qualifiers which take on even more importance after the Super Eagles missed out on the last edition of the finals in Qatar.

George will be tasked with putting together a team capable of delivering a fourth Nations Cup title, improving on the second place finish in Ivory Coast this year.

As an exciting winger in his playing days, he is expected to bring a new style of play - utilising and effectively managing the talented squad at his disposal as well as nurturing players in the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL).

George will continue to combine his roles as coach of the national team and defending NPFL champions Enyimba, who sit second in the table with six games remaining.

Meanwhile, the fact the NFF has overlooked Amuneke again will spark debate among fans of the Super Eagles

The 1994 African player of the year masterminded Nigeria's Under-17 World Cup triumph in 2015 with players like Victor Osimhen and Samuel Chukwueze, who are now an integral part of the senior squad.

The former Barcelona forward also led Tanzania to qualification for the 2019 Nations Cup.


Related story: Portuguese Peseiro quits as Nigeria coach

Monday, April 29, 2024

Prince Harry and Meghan to visit Nigeria

Prince Harry will return to Britain to celebrate the 10th anniversary of his Invictus Games in May, before joining his wife Meghan on a visit to Nigeria, his spokesperson said on Sunday.

Harry, the youngest son of King Charles, lives in the United States with Meghan and their two children after he gave up working as a member of the royal family in 2020.

He has only returned to Britain on a few occasions since his departure from royal life, arriving for major events such as the funeral of Queen Elizabeth in 2022 and his father's coronation in May 2023.

His spokesperson said Harry would attend a service at St Paul's Cathedral in London on May 8 to celebrate the Invictus Games, the international sporting event that he founded for military personnel wounded in action.

Harry served as a military helicopter pilot in Afghanistan and Invictus organisers said the service was designed to mark "a decade of changing lives and saving lives through sport".

It will include readings by Harry and the British actor Damian Lewis. Wounded veterans and members of the Invictus community will also attend.

Harry will then be joined in Nigeria by Meghan, a former American actress who is known as the Duchess of Sussex. Harry's spokesperson said the couple had been invited by the country's chief of defence staff, its highest ranking military official.No further details were given about the trip.

Harry was last seen in Britain in February this year for a brief meeting with his father after the monarch announced that he had been diagnosed with cancer.

The palace said on Friday that Charles would return to public duties after he made good progress following treatment and a period of recuperation.

By Michael Holden, Reuters

At least 23 civilian force members killed in northern Nigeria

At least 23 members of Nigeria’s civilian joint task force were killed on Saturday in separate attacks by militants and an armed kidnapping gang in the north, two officials from the force said on Sunday.

In northeast Borno state, the heartland of an Islamist insurgency, suspected Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) fighters used an improvised explosive device (IED) to blow up a vehicle carrying the Civilian Joint Tast Force (CJTF) team, a local force chairman said.

The CJTF was first formed in 2013 to protect communities in the northeast and help the military fight Boko Haram and later its offshoot ISWAP. The force has since been extended to other northern states that are grappling with armed kidnapping gangs.

Tijjanima Umar, CJTF chairman for Gamboru Ngala area near the border with Cameroon, said his team was travelling to Borno state capital Maiduguri when they drove over the IED.

“As the mine blew up, nine of them died instantly … while two other people had severe injuries and were immediately taken to hospital for treatment,” Umar told Reuters by phone.

The Nigerian military was not immediately available to comment.

Although severely curtailed by Nigerian security forces, Boko Haram and ISWAP still carry out deadly attacks against civilians and the military.

In northwestern Soko state, 14 CJTF members were killed and several were missing following an ambush by gunmen on Saturday, task force sector commandant Ismail Haruna told Reuters.

Haruna said the CJTF members were killed in Sokoto’s Isa local government area, where they had raided and destroyed a bush camp belonging to a known armed kidnapping gang leader.

The gang quickly regrouped and ambushed the CJTF as they drove back to Sokoto state capital, he added.

By Ahmed Kingimi, Reuters

Friday, April 26, 2024

Fire breaks out at Airport in Lagos, Nigeria - Flights diverted

The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) has diverted all flight operations from the E wing of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) following a fire outbreak at the terminal.

According to a statement by FAAN’s Director of Public Affairs, Obiageli Orah, the smoke was noticed on Thursday morning at about 05:29.

“At 05:29 hrs, smoke was detected billowing from the T54 Bridge, leading electrical engineers to immediately cut off power to the entire E Wing.

“The Airport Rescue and Firefighting Services (ARFFS) team was quick to respond, arriving at the scene by 5:30 hrs,” the statement read.

Mrs Orah stated that initial suspicions pointed to sparks from an electrical unit as the cause, but that a thorough investigation was ongoing to ascertain the cause of the fire.

She disclosed that the incident, which escalated into a fire, was later brought under control by 06:41 hrs.

Mrs Orah said efforts to ventilate the smoke from the building were in progress, adding that all flight operations in Terminal 1 of MMA had been diverted to the D Wing in the meantime.

By Oluwakemi Adelagun, Premium Times

Related story: Former aviation minister of Nigeria arrested for money laundering


Nigeria launches first multilingual LLM trained in local languages

The Nigerian government has launched the country’s first multilingual large language model (LLM) that will reflect its diversity and play a major role in its national artificial intelligence (AI) strategy.

Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy Minister Bosun Tijani announced the new LLM at the National Artificial Intelligence Strategy Workshop.

The new LLM will be trained in five “low-resource local languages and accented English to ensure stronger language representation in existing datasets for the development of artificial intelligence solutions.”

The language model is the product of a partnership between the government and the private sector. Awarritech, a local AI firm, and Data.org, a global data democratization initiative by Mastercard (NASDAQ: MA) and the Rockefeller Foundation, represent the private sector. The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) and National Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (NCAIR) represented Nigeria’s government in the development of LLM.

Additionally, the government relied on over 7,000 fellows from its 3MTT Nigeria program, which targets 3 million graduates who are fully proficient in technical courses, from AI and cybersecurity to cloud computing and machine learning.

One of the greatest challenges facing AI is bias. While policies can help reshape AI to be more inclusive, diversity in AI input will have a greater impact. One key solution is to develop localized LLMs that incorporate language and cultural nuances, resulting in AI that promotes connections globally.

In addition to the new LLM, Tijani announced the launch of the Nigeria AI Collective, a community of industry players pushing for AI development.

“We are inviting AI researchers, practitioners, academia, government, civil society organisations, startups, entrepreneurs, students and AI enthusiasts in general to join the collective to harness the power of artificial intelligence,” the minister said.

Tijani further relaunched the NCAIR, a subsidiary of NITDA focused on developing the two sectors.

By Steve Kaaru, CoinGeek

Former aviation minister of Nigeria arrested for money laundering

Nigeria's former aviation minister, Hadi Sirika, is expected to be arraigned in an Abuja court next week after being arrested earlier this week by the country's corruption watchdog in connection with fraud and money laundering allegations involving NGN8 billion naira (USD6.4 million). He was reportedly also questioned about the controversial Nigeria Air (NWB, Lagos) project.

According to local news reports, Sirika was detained on April 23 and remained in custody while being questioned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in Abuja, which was preparing charges against him.

As first reported by the newspaper The Punch, the investigation focuses on contracts Sirika allegedly approved during his tenure as aviation minister for Engirios Nigeria Limited, owned by his brother Abubakar Sirika, also a deputy director at the Federal Ministry of Water Resources.

The contracts included the construction of a terminal building at Katsina Airport in August 2022 for NGN1.35 billion (USD1.1 million); a fire-truck maintenance centre at the same airport in November 2022 for NGN3.8 billion (USD3.1 million); the procurement of lifts and other equipment for the Abuja office of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) in February 2023 for NGN615 million (USD498,000); and procurement of Magnus Aircraft for pilot training and a simulator for the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology in the city of Zaria in May 2023 for NGN2.2 billion (USD1.8 million).

It is alleged that at least NGN3.2 billion (USD2.6 million) was paid to Engirios Nigeria Limited, which then transferred the funds to various entities.

The EFCC started investigating Sirika in February 2024 concerning allegations of conspiracy, abuse of office, diversion of public funds, and contract inflation during his time in office between August 22, 2019 and May 29, 2023. The Punch revealed that Abubakar Sirika was arrested on February 4 and has been assisting the commission in its probe.

An unnamed source close to the investigation told the newspaper that Hadi Sirika was also being questioned about the controversial Nigeria Air project but gave no further insight. The EFCC is probing the proposed joint venture between a consortium led by Ethiopian Airlines and the previous government of Muhammadu Buhari. The consortium won a tender process run by the state-owned Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC). However, Nigeria Air's certification process was suspended in November 2022 after private airlines under the mantle of the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) lobby group won an interim court interdict against its further establishment, followed by legal to-and-fros about the jurisdiction of the case.

Sirika in particular came under public fire after he approved a publicity charter flight operated by Ethiopian Airlines bearing Nigeria Air branding shortly before the government left office. After taking office in August 2023, new Aviation and Aerospace Development Minister Festus Keyamo suspended the Nigeria Air venture pending the outcome of the EFCC investigation.

By Hilka Birns, chi-aviation 

Stranded cargo shows credit challenges at Dangote refinery in Nigeria

Chinese state energy major PetroChina has been waiting to unload a cargo of U.S. crude at Nigeria's giant new refinery for nearly a month due to payment issues, according to four trading sources and shipping data.

The impasse highlights difficulties the $20 billion plant funded by Africa's richest man Aliko Dangote faces in its aim to be the biggest refinery on the continent and in Europe when it reaches full capacity this or next year.

Dangote aims to reverse the trend by which the oil-rich country exports its crude but almost totally relies on imports of fuel and other refined products.

The 2-million-barrel West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude cargo shipped by PetroChina onboard supertanker Maran Mira has, however, been floating off Nigeria since March 28, shipping data on LSEG and Kpler showed.

The completion of the oil sale from PetroChina to Dangote has been delayed as the refinery has yet to issue a letter of credit to the Chinese trader, one source familiar with the matter said.

A letter of credit is the most common form of trade finance. A buyer's bank sends a letter to the seller's bank guaranteeing payment to the seller once goods arrive.

PetroChina was also not keen to receive oil products as payment, one of the ways that Dangote has been paying for its crude, the source said.

Two of the sources also told Reuters that the refinery has had difficulty accessing dollars through the Nigerian government, with the naira's slide against the U.S. dollar as global oil prices have risen straining Nigeria's finances.

The government did not immediately respond to a request for comment and a Dangote executive did not directly address the issue in comments to Reuters.

PetroChina has another 2 million barrels of WTI crude onboard supertanker Kondor that is making its way to Nigeria, according to another source and LSEG shiptracking data.

Potential sellers of U.S. WTI crude to Dangote have been confronted with difficult payment terms: either a 60 to 90 credit or an exchange of refined products for the crude oil, three of the sources said. Credit terms for oil deals are typically 30 days.

PetroChina did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.

A shipbroker estimated that the ship is incurring demurrage costs of around $65,000 a day.

Dangote group executive Edwin Devakumar told Reuters that seeking favourable sale prices and credit terms were normal business practices.

"If someone gives me one year credit, I'll grab it and if not, I'll negotiate the best possible deal," he said. "When you go to a shop to buy something ... You'll try the best possible deal and I do the same".

"We are not delayed. If someone's business is delayed, he is not giving us a good deal," Devakumar said, without specifically addressing the issue with PetroChina.


The refinery started operations in January and has reached half its capacity in recent weeks but a further increase is being slowed by its need to borrow billions of dollars in working capital to be able to buy large volumes of crude, trading sources said.

Devakumar declined to comment on the current run rates at the refinery.

The facility is importing around 10 crude oil cargoes a month, two traders said, roughly half the capacity of 650,000 barrels per day (bpd) it seeks to reach this year or next, which would make it the largest refinery in Africa and Europe.

The amount of Nigerian and U.S. crude discharged at Dangote totalled 8.4 million barrels in March and 5.4 million barrels so far in April, Kpler data showed. Another 1 million barrels of Nigerian crude is expected to arrive on April 27.

Trafigura, Mercuria, Vitol, Shell and NNPC were among Dangote's suppliers of crude last month, according to Kpler. 

By Florence Tan, Reuters 

Related stories: Video - Nigeria government directs crude oil be sold to domestic refineries first

Dangote refinery supplies petroleum products to local market in Nigeria

Taxi system fueled by electric vehicles in Nigeria

As climate change wreaks havoc around the world, the need for sustainable solutions grows more urgent. In Nigeria, a private company recently introduced an Uber-style taxi system made of approximately 200 electric vehicles. The company says the fleet is a step toward a greener future. Gibson Emeka reports from Abuja, Nigeria. Amy Reifenrath narrates.

By Gibson Emeka, VOA 

Related story: The eco-entrepreneur sparking the electric vehicle revolution in Nigeria



Thursday, April 25, 2024

Nigerian Clara Chizoba sets Guiness World Record for longest interview

A Nigerian Woman, Clara Chizoba Kronborg has set a new world record for the longest interview marathon. Clara Chizoba, who is Youtuber has interviewed various personalities during her attempt, including politicians, business owners, content creators among others as she went on with her marathon for 55 hours 24 seconds, making it the longest interview marathon and earning her a place in the Guinness world records (GWR).

The woman was allowed a break of 5 minutes after each hour of interview and it was only at that time she was allowed to use the toilet, change her clothes and take a nap, the GWR said. Though I felt sleepy during the course, I had a battery recharge each time I interviewed a new guest as I was eager to know their success story, said Clara Chizoba. Clara Chizoba interviews various people in her YouTube channel named, 'Women's World Show TV' and she describes her channel as a representative and mirror to women. The record was previously held by Rob Oliver of the USA and his interview marathon was for 37 hour, 44 minutes, the Guinness world records informed.

By Anudeep Sharma, Deccan Chronicle

Related story: Video - Woman drives from London to Nigeria in under 3 months


Inmates escape as rainstorm destroys correctional centre in Nigeria

Some inmates have escaped from the old Suleja Correctional Centre in Suleja Local Government Area of Niger State after a rainstorm destroyed parts of the facility Wednesday night.

Sources in Suleja said the storm during heavy rainfall destroyed parts of the custodial centre around 9 p.m., allowing many inmates to escape from the facility.

The rainstorm destroyed parts of the prison building and exposed the inner fence protecting one of the cells where inmates were kept.

A resident of Suleja town confirming the incident said: “We helped to arrest two of the inmates and handed them over to the prison authorities.”

It was learnt that security agents have been deployed to blackspots in Suleja in search of the fleeing inmates.

Meanwhile, it was observed that security had been beefed up on the Minna-Suleja and Suleja-Kaduna roads, including the Madalla axis of the Minna-Abuja road.

The state’s Comptroller of Prisons could not be immediately reached for his reaction, but a senior officer of the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS), who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to journalists, confirmed the development.

By Maimuna Raji Egigogo, Premium Times

Relates story: Set them free! The judge who liberates Nigerians forgotten in jail

Chinese supermarket in Nigeria shut for allegedly barring Nigerians

A Chinese-owned supermarket in Nigeria's capital has been shut by the authorities over allegations that it denies entry to African shoppers.

The supermarket in Abuja allegedly "exclusively permits individuals of Chinese descent to enter", Nigeria's consumer protection watchdog said on X.

It has summoned the supermarket's owner.

The Chinese chamber of commerce in Nigeria has denied the racism allegations.

The supermarket is a tenant in a building run by the China General Chamber of Commerce (CGCC).

Boladale Adeyinka, an official at Nigeria's Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC), said that the watchdog had launched an investigation into the allegations.

This follows widespread outrage on social media after some Nigerians shared their experiences of allegedly being turned away by security when they attempted to go to the supermarket.

In one of the videos, a man said he had discovered the supermarket online but was blocked from entering the complex where it is located.

"At the gate, the security people told me that the supermarket is strictly for Chinese people. If you are a Nigerian, you can't go inside or buy anything," he said in the clip posted on X, formerly Twitter.

In another video on X, a group of Nigerians are seen visiting a building to verify the reports that non-Chinese shoppers were being turned away.

A security guard outside the entrance appears to tell them that the supermarket had cut off access to Nigerians since January.

Several Nigerians have demanded the closure of the supermarket, including former senator Shehu Sani, who said that any store in Nigeria that was not accessible to citizens "should be forcibly opened or be pulled down".

In a statement quoted by local media, the CGCC said it stood for "equality and inclusiveness".

"Our principles are to enhance friendship between the people of both countries and promote economic development," it added.

The FCCPC quoted an administrator at the building, Sanusi Shuabiu, as saying that the supermarket mainly sold Chinese groceries and that while it was initially opened to serve the building's tenants, it permitted entry to outside shoppers, including non-Chinese visitors.

The supermarket's owner has not yet commented.

She has been summoned to appear before the consumer protection agency by Wednesday.

The watchdog says that the supermarket will remain closed until she complies with the summons.

Nigeria has a Chinese population of less than 10,000, according to the Statista website.

By Mansur Abubakar & Gloria Aradi, BBC

Related story: Video - Trade ties deepen between China and Nigeria

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Nigeria approves GMO Corn for planting

Amidst concerns over the adoption of Genetically Modified Crops in Nigeria, the federal government, in January, approved the commercial release of four “Tela maize” varieties for commercial planting in the country.

The move placed Nigeria second in the list of African countries that have adopted and commercialised the “T maize” varieties after South Africa, a report published in February, by the United States Department of Agriculture and the Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) noted.

“In addition to South Africa, Nigeria has become the second country in Africa to approve the commercialization of genetically engineered corn,” the report said.

Tela maize is a maize variety that has been genetically engineered for improved insect resistance and drought tolerance, to boost farmers’ yield per hectare and also complement existing demand gaps.

GMO debate in Nigeria

Over the past decade, the adoption of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), commonly referred to as GM seeds by crop farmers has been a subject of intense debate among scientists, environmentalists and even food activists in Nigeria and globally.

The question of what role, if any, GMOs should play in helping to address a range of agriculture, nutrition, and climatic challenges in developing countries like Nigeria has been at the centre of discussions.

Also, concerns have emerged over the environmental and health impacts of GMOs, their impact on traditional farming methods, and issues around seed patents.

Governments in developing nations are responding to those concerns in a variety of ways with some banning GMOs outright, some embracing the technology, and others attempting to find a balance between the concerns and needs of all sides.

According to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), at least 33 major food crops have been genetically modified globally. Of these, four (maize, cowpea, cotton and soybean) have been officially approved for commercialisation by the Nigerian authorities, with Nigeria listed among the six African countries leading in biotech crop adoption across the continent.

Tela maize is the latest GM variety approved for commercial planting in Nigeria.

Some experts have argued that planting GM seeds will help to produce enough food for the global population, hence achieving food security at a fast pace. Others have also argued that food productivity can be improved through natural methods.

A PREMIUM TIMES investigation in 2022 revealed that, while promoters of GMOs are working to counter criticisms and ensure safety, concerns are not the only challenge hindering the adoption of GMOs in Nigeria. It was discovered that across several communities in Nigeria, farmers growing GM crop varieties know too little to make informed decisions.

Tela maize potentials

According to the report by the USDA, in the marketing year 2022/2023, Nigeria produced an estimated 12.7 million metric tons (MMT) of corn, with an average yield of 2.2 tons per hectare. However, it noted that the adoption of the new maize varieties could increase the country’s production capacity significantly.

According to the African Agriculture Technology Foundation (AATF), yields of Tela maize could reach up to 10 tons per hectare if grown under good agronomic practices, the report said.

Reports indicated that the Nigerian authorities officially commercialised Tela maize varieties on 11 January, following an announcement by the Nigeria National Committee on Naming, Registration and Release of Crop Varieties, Livestock Breeds/Fisheries.

At the time, the group approved twenty-three new GM varieties for commercial planting, including four biotech Tela maize varieties. This implies that seed companies can license rights to produce and commercialise the new Tela maize hybrids under their private brand from AATF.

The AATF also noted that the approved varieties are owned by the respective institutions that developed them including the national government research organisations, and that they will be licensed to local seed companies royalty-free through the AATF.


According to the report, the Tela Maize Project was originally known as the Water Efficient Maize for Africa Project. Nigeria first joined the Tela Maize Project in 2019.

The project is perceived to have been driven by the move to develop a high-yielding maize variety that would be drought tolerant amidst lingering climate change effects, and at the same time be resistant to the highly virulent Fall ArmyWorm pest (FAW) that ravaged several corn fields across the country in 2016.

Some studies have posited that FAW can reduce corn production in affected areas by 20 to 50 per cent if not properly controlled, eventually leading to higher production costs through increased labour and pesticide applications.

However, the process towards the adoption of Tela maize in Nigeria began in 2021 after the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) approved the environmental release and field trials of the maize varieties categorised as SAMMAZ 72T, SAMMAZ 73T, SAMMAZ 74T, and SAMMAZ 75T.

Nigeria’s Institute for Agricultural Research carried out national performance trials of the four varieties across ten states with varied agroecological conditions.

According to reports, the trials showed average yields achieving 3 tons per hectare.


The adoption of Tela maize generated controversies among anti-GMO groups in Nigeria, particularly the environmental think-tank Health of Mother Earth Foundation ( HOMEF) and several other groups, who issued a joint statement at the time condemning GMO adoption in the country.

While commending the intention of the Nigerian authorities to address food insufficiency in the country, HOMEF expressed disappointment over the release of the genetically modified varieties.

The group noted that there is no evidence of a risk assessment conducted before the release of the Tela maize on either the website of the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), the agency saddled with the responsibility of regulating the uses of GMOs or the Biosafety Clearing House of the United Nations Convention on Biodiversity, where parties are expected to upload updates on their decisions/use of GMOs/LMOs.

In his reaction, HOMEF’s Executive Director, Nnimmo Bassey, said, “It is totally unacceptable that in the name of food sufficiency, the country is exposing its citizens to products of risky technologies without adequate, independent and/or long-term assessment on their impacts on human and environmental health.”

The environmentalist said there are many challenges associated with genetic modification crops that cannot be denied.

So far, he claimed that GMOs have been linked to cancers, diseases, allergies, and all sorts of health challenges due to environmental implications because of their dependency on toxic pesticides and the destruction of biodiversity and nutritional diversity.

“We are also concerned that there is no way to label or inform our farmers that they are planting GMO maize. To deny Nigerians the right of choice is highly objectionable and wicked,” Mr Bassey noted.

He said it is expedient that the government conduct independent long-term feeding tests and environmental/biodiversity assessments before any GM crop is approved for use and not merely testing to confirm productivity or performance.

Mr Bassey charged the Nigerian government to understand the difficulties of recalling genetically modified living organisms and to quickly withdraw the Tela maize.

Meanwhile, according to a statement issued by the NBMA last week, the Director-general of the agency, Agnes Asagbra, claimed that Tela maize has not been launched in the country.

“It’s crucial to note that though it has been commercialised, Tela maize has not yet been launched; it is not available in the market. This demonstrates our commitment to thorough scrutiny and due diligence,” she said in a statement shared with PREMIUM TIMES.

Mrs Asagbra described Tela maize as a variety that has been rigorously evaluated through risk assessments and regulatory processes before its approval.

She noted that the GM crops that have been approved were critically evaluated by Nigerian scientists who are professionals with vast experience and expertise in their fields.

“Their assessments are meticulous, ensuring that only safe and beneficial technologies reach our farmers and consumers,” she said.

She emphasised that the country’s biosafety law is critical in the quest for Nigeria to achieve food security.

“Biosafety is not just a policy; it’s a commitment to safeguarding our nation’s health, biodiversity, and environment. In regulating the activities of modern biotechnology, biosafety ensures that any technological advancements, particularly in agriculture, are beneficial and pose no harm to our people or our land, “ the agency said.

Mrs Asagbra urged Nigerians to embrace the advancements in safe modern biotechnology with an informed perspective.

“Let us trust in the rigorous processes that have been established to protect us all. Together, we can move towards a future where food security, environmental sustainability, and economic growth go hand in hand,” she said.

Experts react

In his reaction, the Executive Director of Nigerian Stored Products Research Institute (NSPRI), Lateef Sanni, said Nigeria is blessed with land and water resources to produce a wide range of agricultural products with high yield if research is taken seriously.

Mr Sanni, a Professor of Food Science and Technology, emphasised that Nigeria cannot continue to rely on breeders from other parts of the world for hybrid seeds.

He argued that the food situation in the country, the global acceptance of genetically modified foods, and the need for environmental sustainability, suggest that Nigerian farmers should accept Tela Maize for planting.

However, Mr Sanni said, this should not be taken as a permanent solution to getting the right breed of maize with good yield for farmers.

“Our breeders need to wake up to the task, and they need the support of government, private sectors, and farmers to be able to come up with quality seeds that will guarantee bountiful harvest,” he noted.

On his part, Qrisstuberg Amua, Executive Director, Centre for Food Safety and Agricultural Research, noted that citizens have every reason to be worried about Tela maize adoption in the country.

“Not only citizens, our political and economic leaders also have a lot to be worried about this development,” he told PREMIUM TIMES in an interview on Monday.

He said citizens should be worried about the new maize varieties for reasons ranging from its health implications and lack of sufficient details about the maize, adding that the health implications of GMOs are motley and that they are negative, coming in the forms of cancers resulting from hormonal or endocrine and immune system disruptions.

Mr Amua listed other possible health implications of GMOs to include fertility sterilisations, metabolic derangements, cardiovascular health disruptions, children obesity and attendant issues thereto, autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorders in children, mental health derangements and early memory decay (dementia) in individuals above 40 years of age and so much more.

He emphasised that the adverse health implications could emanate from both the genetic modifications of the organism which often involve recombinant splicing or stitching of DNA either through manipulations of specialised proteins that make the Messenger RNA (MRNA) or through what looks more like cut and join using the CRISPR (an acronym for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) technology.

Also, Mr Amua said from the many pesticides like glyphosate (the primary active ingredient in the commercially ubiquitous ‘Roundup’) and irks, that are used in the biotechnological engineering that ensures these GMOs are pest resistant, the varieties can tolerate the application of higher concentrations of phytotoxic pesticides as herbicides.

Based on this, the professor of bioinorganic chemistry said some of the GMOs are labelled as “Roundup Ready’ or RR” such as the RR Corn or RR Soy.

“Also, there are adverse health implications to the environment due to unregulated applications of these carcinogenic, mutagenic and teratogenic arrays of pesticides, as a result of higher tolerance of these GMOs to pesticides, generally,” Mr Amua said.

These environmental toxins, he said, tend to persist in the environment and weave their way up the food chain and ultimately into humans through menu choices.

“This is one other reason for the burgeoning cases of otherwise not so rampant non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like diabetes, cancer, hypertension, dyslipidemia, arthritis, etc. nowadays even in younger populations of our communities,” he said.

He stressed that the adoption of GMOs has adverse implications for the food production system and biodiversity, as their promotion encourages monocropping and eventual extermination of rather organic and even indigenous seed types.

“Lastly, they pose adverse economic implications and even strategic food and general security implications; as when a foreign multinational controls your food supply system (as these GMOs are patented products of non-national conglomerates), your economy and even strategic security can easily be compromised from outside of your shores,” he said.

He urged the Nigerians to reject all GMOs and also engage in various levels of personal and community education, sensitisation, and advocacy to demand the withdrawal/repeal of policies and legislation that allow licensing and indeed permit the cultivation, distribution and public consumption of GMOs.

“We should also rethink our consumption patterns to return to wholesome organic and indigenous foods that are not genetically modified,” he said.

By Abdulkareem Mojeed, Premium Times 

Related story: Monsanto planning to takeover agriculture in Nigeria

Video - Nigeria aims to ramp up cocoa production amid global shortages

With increasing global demand for chocolate and cocoa prices soaring due to the worst supply shortage in four decades, Nigeria is looking to boost local cocoa production to capitalize on this opportunity.


Related story: Video - Cocoa grown illegally in rainforest in Nigeria heads to companies that supply major chocolate makers


Video - African counter-terrorism summit held in Nigeria

The meeting aims to increase cooperation between governments in ongoing counter-terrorism efforts across Africa and find ways to combat militant groups and their proxies more effectively. It comes as many countries on the continent are stepping up security operations against terror groups.


AMN Deploys Starlink Connectivity in Rural Villages in Nigeria

Africa Mobile Networks (AMN) has deployed the company’s first base station in Nigeria that has connectivity via SpaceX’s Starlink constellation, AMN announced last week.

AMN has deployed over 4,000 base stations for cellular backhaul via satellite across Africa and Latin America since 2018. Last year, the company signed a commercial agreement to use the Starlink Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) constellation to connect its mobile network base stations with high-speed, low-latency broadband services.

The company said that with Starlink terminals providing low-latency satellite backhaul, the company was able to deliver the full capability of its multi-carrier radio access node (the ARN) with 3G and 4G as well as 2G. AMN said LEO backhaul also paves the way for AMN to deliver 5G services, targeted before the end of the year.

Installation of new sites continues throughout 2024 in Nigeria, DRC, Cameroon, Madagascar, Ivory Coast, Benin and Rwanda.

By Rachel Jewett, Via Satellite

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

Musk’s Starlink to disrupt ISP market as hope rises for 25m unserved Nigerians



Bail Hearing in Nigeria for Jailed Binance Exec Postponed Until May 17

Detained Binance executive Tigran Gambaryan will remain in prison in Nigeria until at least May 17, following an Abuja court’s ruling to postpone a scheduled bail hearing until after he is tried on money laundering charges.

Gambaryan, an American citizen and former Internal Revenue Service (IRS) special agent, is Binance’s head of financial crime compliance. He and a colleague, Binance’s regional manager for Africa Nadeem Anjarwalla, a dual U.K.-Kenyan national, were arrested and detained on Feb. 26 after flying to Nigeria’s capital city of Abuja to meet with the Nigerian government at the government’s request.

The Nigerian government had previously accused Binance of enabling currency speculation that crashed its currency, the naira. At first, Nigerian officials denied that Gambaryan and Anjarwalla were under arrest, but the pair were put under house arrest upon arrival and, along with Binance, charged with money laundering and tax evasion a month later.

Gambaryan was moved to the notorious Kuje prison – which also houses suspected members of the Boko Haram terrorist group – after Anjarwalla escaped and fled the country under mysterious circumstances. In a cell phone video filmed after Anjarwalla’s escape on March 23, a distressed Gambaryan said he had no knowledge of his colleague’s escape plans and asked the U.S. government for help.

The government’s response to Gambaryan’s imprisonment has been tepid. According to his family, Gambaryan has received only one visit from the U.S. embassy staff since being moved to Kuje prison and has limited access to his legal team.

“There is no justice in what is being done to my husband. I am in a constant state of grief and anxiety, not knowing what other injustice he is going to be put through,” Gambaryan’s wife Yuki Gambaryan said in a statement. “It is outrageous that Tigran, an innocent man, continues to be kept in a prison cell and the ruling on his bail will not be made until after the trial starts…This is just pure cruelty.”

Both Gambaryan and Anjarwalla have filed suit against Nigeria’s National Security Advisor, Nuhu Ribadu, and the Economic Financial Crimes Commission for violating their human rights.

Gambaryan has pleaded “not guilty” to all of the charges against him, which his family has called “bogus.”

The money laundering trial against Gambaryan and Binance will begin on May 2. The tax evasion charges will be tried separately beginning on May 17.

According to Gambaryan’s family, he will spend his 40th birthday in prison.

By Cheyenne Ligon, CoinDesk

Related story: Video - Detained Binance executive appears in court in Nigeria for tax, money laundry charges

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Video - Tade unions in Nigeria want 500 U.S. dollar-per-month minimum wage for workers

Union leaders say the adjustment is necessary to help workers cope with the rising cost of living in the country.


Video - Nigeria government directs crude oil be sold to domestic refineries first

Nigerian authorities introduced new regulations to enable domestic refineries to pay for crude supply from oil producers in the country in the local currency. The government also introduced a new directive requiring producers to first sell crude oil to local refineries. The actions will hopefully reduce Nigeria's dependence on imported petrol products.


Related stories: Analysts skeptical about improvement of local crude refining in Nigeria

Dangote refinery supplies petroleum products to local market in Nigeria



Nigeria seeking up to $2.25 bln in World Bank loans

Nigeria is seeking up to $2.25 billion in World Bank loans and expects the bank's board to approve the request in June, the government said in a statement following the IMF/World Bank spring meetings in Washington, D.C.

Nigeria also aims to issue diaspora bonds later this year to attract much-need foreign exchange into the country, Finance Minister Wale Edun said in the statement.

The World Bank loans would comprise $1.5 billion in development policy financing and $750 million in programme-for-results financing, the statement said, adding the bank would meet in June to consider final approval of the package.

The World Bank did not immediately comment on the statement.

Nigeria, typically Africa's largest oil exporter, has faced a shortage of foreign exchange that pushed its naira currency to record lows versus the U.S. dollar this year, though it has since rebounded.

President Bola Tinubu also inherited an economy saddled with record debt, high unemployment and large central bank financing, though Edun, in an interview with Reuters last week, said the government had halved federal borrowing from the central bank.

By Maxwell Akalaare Adombila
, Reuters

Chess Master from Nigeria plays the royal game for 60 hours in New York — a new global chess record

A Nigerian chess champion and child education advocate played chess nonstop for 60 hours in New York City’s Times Square to break the Guinness World Record for the longest chess marathon.

Tunde Onakoya, 29, hopes to raise $1 million for children's education across Africa through the record attempt that began on Wednesday.

He had set out to play the royal game for 58 hours but continued until he reached 60 hours at about 12:40 a.m. Saturday, surpassing the current chess marathon record of 56 hours, 9 minutes and 37 seconds, achieved in 2018 by Norwegians Hallvard Haug Flatebø and Sjur Ferkingstad.

The Guinness World Record organization has yet to publicly comment about Onakoya’s attempt. It sometimes takes weeks for the organization to confirm any new record.

Onakoya played against Shawn Martinez, an American chess champion, in line with Guinness World Record guidelines that any attempt to break the record must be made by two players who would play continuously for the entire duration.

Support had been growing online and at the scene, where a blend of African music kept onlookers and supporters entertained amid cheers and applause. Among the dozens who cheered Onakoya on at the scene was Nigerian music star Davido.

The record attempt is “for the dreams of millions of children across Africa without access to education,” said Onakoya, who founded Chess in Slums Africa in 2018. The organization wants to support the education of at least 1 million children in slums across the continent.

“My energy is at 100% right now because my people are here supporting me with music,” Onakoya said Thursday evening after the players crossed the 24-hour mark.

On Onakoya's menu: Lots of water and jollof rice, one of West Africa’s best-known dishes.

For every hour of game played, Onakoya and his opponent got only five minutes' break. The breaks were sometimes grouped together, and Onakoya used them to catch up with Nigerians and New Yorkers cheering him on. He even joined in with their dancing sometimes.

A total of $22,000 was raised within the first 20 hours of the attempt, said Taiwo Adeyemi, Onakoya's manager.

“The support has been overwhelming from Nigerians in the U.S., global leaders, celebrities and hundreds of passersby," he said.

Onakoya’s attempt was closely followed in Nigeria, where he regularly organizes chess competitions for young people living on the streets.

More than 10 million school-age children are not in school in the West African country — one of the world’s highest rates.

Among those who have publicly supported him are celebrities and public office holders, including Nigeria’s former Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who wrote to Onakoya on the social media platform X, “Remember your own powerful words: 'It is possible to do great things from a small place.’"

By Chinedu Asadu, AP

Related story: Tunde Onakoya attempts to break chess marathon record


Monday, April 22, 2024

Video - Domestic airlines in Nigeria struggle to stay afloat as price of aviation fuel soars

According to industry research, aviation fuel constitutes nearly 60 percent of operational costs for domestic airlines. The price has soared by 109 percent over the past two years, jeopardizing the survival of many of Nigeria's domestic air carriers.


Related story: Nigeria suspends permit of 3 private jet operators




Video - Nigeria President says no to ransom payment amid spike in kidnappings

Nigerian President Tinubu says ransoms will no longer be paid to kidnappers who have made the crime a business in the West African nation. He made the declaration during the commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the kidnapping of 276 school girls from the town of Chibok in the country's northern region.


Related stories: Video - Abductions in Nigeria surge despite raft of measures by authorities

Gunmen abduct 287 students in northwestern Nigeria in latest school attack



Cybercrime reforms in Nigeria leave journalists at risk

The officers treated journalist Saint Mienpamo Onitsha as if he was violent and dangerous. Guns drawn, they arrested him at the home of a friend, drove him to the local police station in Nigeria’s southern Bayelsa State, and then flew him to the national capital, Abuja.

A week later, they charged Onitsha under the country’s 2015 Cybercrimes Act and detained him over his reporting about tensions in the oil-rich Niger Delta region. This was in October 2023. He was released on bail in early February and is due to appear before a court on June 4.

The Cybercrimes Act is tragically familiar to Nigeria’s media community. Since its enactment, at least 25 journalists have faced prosecution under the law, including four arrested earlier this year. Anande Terungwa, a lawyer for Onitsha, described the law to me as a tool misused to “hunt journalists”.

For years, media and human rights groups had been calling for the act to be amended to prevent its misuse as a tool for censorship and intimidation. Then, in November last year, Nigeria’s Senate proposed amendments and held a public hearing to help shape changes. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), alongside other civil society and press groups, submitted recommended reforms.

On February 28, Nigerian President Bola Tinubu signed amendments to the act, including revisions to a section criminalising expression online, according to a copy of the law shared with me by Yahaya Danzaria, the clerk of Nigeria’s House of Representatives. The changes, which have yet to be published in the government gazette, have buoyed hopes for improved press freedom, but the law continues to leave journalists at risk of arrest and surveillance.

“It’s better, but it’s definitely not where we want it to be,” Khadijah El-Usman, senior programs officer with the Nigeria-based digital rights group Paradigm Initiative, told me in a phone interview about the amended law. “There are still provisions that can be taken advantage of, especially by those in power.”

One of the primary concerns has been Section 24 of the law, which defines the crime of “cyberstalking”. It is this section that authorities repeatedly used to charge journalists, and it is one of the sections that was amended.

Under the previous version of the law, Section 24 criminalised the use of a computer to send messages deemed “grossly offensive, pornographic or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character”, and punished such offences with up to three years in prison and a fine. The same punishment applied for sending knowingly false messages “for the purpose of causing annoyance” or “needless anxiety”. In practice, this meant journalists risked jail time based on highly subjective interpretations of online reporting.

The amended version maintains the heavy penalty, but refines the offence as computer messages that are pornographic or knowingly false, “for the purpose of causing a breakdown of law and order, posing a threat to life, or causing such messages to be sent”. While the narrower language is welcome, the possibility for abuse remains.

“It could have been more specific in wording,” Solomon Okedara, a Lagos-based digital rights lawyer, told me after reviewing the amended section. He said it was an improvement because the burden of proof to bring charges is higher, but still leaves room for authorities to make arrests on claims that certain reporting has caused a “breakdown of law and order”.

It remains to be seen exactly how these changes will affect the cases of journalists and others previously charged under now-amended sections. “It is now for the lawyers to use,” Danzaria explained. “You cannot use an old law to prosecute somebody…if [the case] is ongoing, the new law supersedes whatever was in place.”

For Onitsha’s case, Terungwa said he would seek to incorporate the amendments into his defence in court. CPJ continues to call for authorities to drop all criminal prosecutions of journalists in connection with their work.

Another issue with the law – even after the recent amendments – is how it may permit surveillance abuses. Section 38 of Nigeria’s Cybercrimes Act fails to explicitly require law enforcement to obtain a court-issued warrant before accessing “traffic data” and “subscriber information” from service providers. This oversight gap is particularly concerning given how Nigeria’s police have used journalists’ call data to track and arrest them.

“I’m looking towards a future cybercrimes act that respects human rights,” El-Usman emphasised, noting the need for laws that guard against abuses, not just in Nigeria, but across the region. From Mali to Benin to Zimbabwe, authorities have used cybercrime laws and digital codes to arrest reporters for their work. Journalists’ privacy is also broadly under threat.

Jonathan Rozen, Al Jazeera

Related story: Two arrested in Nigeria for sextortion after Australian boy's suicide

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

Friday, April 19, 2024

Nestle accused of adding sugar to infant formulas in Nigeria

Nestle Nigeria, a subsidiary of Nestle, a global food and beverage company, has denied adding sugar to its products sold in Nigeria, insisting it is not violating the global guidelines for infant formulas.

This was contained in a statement issued on Thursday and shared with PREMIUM TIMES by the company’s Head of Corporate Communications, Victoria Uwadoka.

Nestle Nigeria, a subsidiary of the Swiss-based multinational company, said it complies with the global requirements on the usage of sugar and supplies quality products to every part of the world.

The company’s statement is in response to an earlier inquiry by PREMIUM TIMES on the development. Ms Uwadoka had requested that a mail be sent by our reporter and pledged a response as soon as possible, saying she was far away from the office.


The statement counters the findings of a recent investigation, which revealed that Nestle had been selling substandard infant food products to Nigeria and other low and middle-income countries.

The investigation, carried out by the Public Eye, a Swiss investigative organisation, in collaboration with the International Baby Food Action Network, revealed that Nestle provides its best quality to Europe and other developed nations but supplies substandard products to low- and middle-income countries across the world.

“For Nestlé, not all babies are equal when it comes to added sugar,” the report said.

Samples of Nestle’s baby food products sold in Asia, Africa, and Latin America were sent to Belgium for laboratory testing.

PREMIUM TIMES had reported some of the findings which significantly involved Nigeria.

Sugar in Nigeria Cerelac

Traces of sugar, such as sucrose or honey, were found in samples of Cerelac, a cereal for children between six months and two years old, and Nido, a follow-up milk formula brand intended for infants at least one year old.

Reacting to these claims, Nestle Nigeria said the multinational company provided the same nutrition, health, and wellness principles everywhere in the world.

According to the company, Cerelac may have slight variations in recipes worldwide.

It also said, “In Europe, Nestlé’s range of cereals comes with and without added sugars.

“ Like everywhere in the world, in Nigeria, we do not add sugars (sucrose and glucose) to Infant formula for children aged 0-12 months.

It said, “These principles are aligned with both international and local guidelines, noting that baby formulas in Nigeria for children 0-12 do not add sugar contents. Nigeria, our Growing Up Milk have no added sugars.

“Our milk and cereals for young children are fortified with vitamins and minerals such as iron to help tackle malnutrition.”

High sugar in Nigeria’s Cerelac

Cerelac from Nigeria had the second-highest sugar content, with 6.8g per serving. The country closely follows the Philippines, which has 7.3g.

The report said, “On average, our analysis found almost 4 grams per serving or about one sugar cube.”

Nigeria was ranked 7th out of 10 countries with high sugar content in Nido. According to the report, samples from Nigeria and Senegal, ranked 8th, had 0.6g.

The highest sugar content was found in Panama samples, at 5.3g per serving. Then came Nicaragua 4.7g; Mexico 1.8g; Costa Rica 1.6g; South Africa 0.9g; and Indonesia 0.7g.

By Beloved John, Premium Times

Related story: Nigeria recalls J&J children's cough syrup over toxic substance

Tunde Onakoya attempts to break chess marathon record

Under the beaming lights of New York's iconic Times Square, Nigerian chess master Tunde Onakoya is attempting an ambitious challenge to break the record for the longest chess marathon.

He aims to play for 58 consecutive hours and raise $1m (£805,000) for charity in the process.

The money, he says, will support chess education for millions of children.

Hundreds of supporters have shown up to cheer on the chess master, including Nigerian Afrobeats star Davido.

The Nigerian community in New York has rallied behind their compatriot, providing Mr Onakoya with music and energising him with supplies of classic Nigerian dishes, including the beloved national staple, jollof rice.

Back home in Nigeria, people are throwing their support behind Onakoya as they watch him try to conquer the record on Twitch, a video-streaming service.

"Mr Onakoya is a symbol of excellence and resilience that distinguish Nigerians both at home and abroad... Go, make history, and inscribe our name in gold," Nigeria's Vice-President Kashim Shettima posted on X.

"Lagos is rooting for you," Lagos state governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu told Onakoya, adding that his attempt was "a powerful testament to how greatness can emerge from anywhere".

By 03:00 on Friday New York time (07:00 GMT), Mr Onakoya had played for 39 hours and raised more than $42,000.

After crossing the halfway point, he said achieving the record was "looking possible now".

He is set to play until at least 20:00 New York time on Friday, which will see him clock 58 hours and surpass the world record, recognised by Guinness World records, of 56 hours, nine minutes, and 37 seconds, which was set by Norwegian duo Hallvard Haug Flatebø and Sjur Ferkingstad in 2018.

Mr Onakoya, 29, credits chess with saving him from the overwhelming poverty he faced growing up in Lagos's infamous floating slums.

His NGO, Chess in Slums Africa, teaches children from poor communities chess and helping them with their education.

Mr Onakoya is also a board member of the US non-profit The Gift of Chess, which works to transform lives through chess and is targeting to distribute one million chess sets to underserved communities by 2030.

By Gloria Aradi, BBC

Related stories: Bill Clinton praises 8-year old Nigerian chess prodigy seeking refugee status in the U.S.

12-year-old Nigerian chess prodigy and his family granted asylum by U.S.

Video - 8-year-old Ivie Urieto spreads love for chess among the youth in Nigeria

Woman rescued 10 years after kidnap by Boko Haram in Nigeria

Nigerian troops have rescued a pregnant woman and her three children 10 years after she was abducted by Boko Haram militants when she was a schoolgirl in the town of Chibok.

Lydia Simon was rescued in Gwoza council area, about 95 miles (150km) east of Chibok, from where 276 schoolgirls were seized in April 2014. As many as 82 are still missing a decade after the high-profile mass kidnapping.

Announcing the news on Thursday, the Nigerian army did not give details of the rescue other than to say Simon was found in the community of Ngoshe.

Chibok and Ngoshe are in Borno state, birthplace of the 15-year old insurgency that has since spread to neighbouring Cameroon, Chad and Niger, uprooting about 2 million people across the region.

The army statement said Simon was five months pregnant. It was accompanied by a picture of her and her three children born in captivity, who appear to be between the ages of two and four. She has yet to be reunited with her family.

The Chibok abduction was the first of a series of mass school kidnappings in Nigeria, shocking the world and triggering a global social media campaign tagged #BringBackOurGirls. Ten years on, many of the abductees, now adults, have been freed or escaped, but jihadist groups and bandits continue to target schools for mass abductions.

Since the Chibok attack, more than 2,190 students have been kidnapped, according to the Lagos-based geopolitical risk consultancy SBM Intelligence. It said mass abductions had become “an increasingly favourite sport for Nigeria’s teeming armed groups”.

As many as 57 of the women from Chibok escaped in the hours after their kidnapping by jumping off the trucks used to abduct them. In May 2017, 82 others were released after the government reportedly paid million-dollar ransoms. Those who returned in recent years were mostly found abandoned in the forests.

Some Chibok parents and security analysts have said there is little evidence to show there is a special military operation to free the remaining women. It is not known if they are all still alive.

Some of the recently freed women were either raped by the insurgents or forced into marriages, according to Chioma Agwuegbo, an activist who was part of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign.

“We have heard their stories about the amount of trauma and violence they have faced. Somebody who was kidnapped 10 years ago is not returning as the same person,” Agwuegbo told Associated Press.

The cause has largely been forgotten by many of the politicians and celebrities who championed it. On 14 April, the anniversary of the abduction, the local activist collective that began the campaign and held rallies for years in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, said it was still seeking justice for the missing women after “this decade of shame”.

Simon’s rescue was symbolic of the enduring hope that pervaded her home town, said the Abuja-based analyst Idayat Hassan, a non-resident fellow with the Africa programme at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.

“It’s symbolic that 10 years after, we still got another of the girls,” Hassan said. “It keeps our hope alive.”

Simon’s family are waiting to be reunited with their long-lost relative, as are the villagers of Chibok.

“The government has not told us anything [and] we are waiting for an official call,” said Yakubu Nkeki, the chair of the Chibok girls’ parents’ association.

By Eromo Egbejule, The Guardian

Related stories: Video - Families of missing Chibok girls remain hopeful of reunion in Nigeria

Kidnappings in Nigeria rise 10 years after Chibok girls abducted

Analysts skeptical about improvement of local crude refining in Nigeria

Nigeria has been Africa’s largest or second-largest oil exporter for years, but relies heavily on imports to meet local energy needs. The government is trying to change that, saying the country’s four moribund oil refineries will be revived and put back in operation.

This week, authorities also announced a new policy that oil producers must sell a share of their crude oil to local refiners before they are permitted to export crude.

Nigeria’s petroleum regulatory commission announced the new Domestic Crude Oil Supply Obligation (DCSO) during a meeting with industry players. It's part of an amendment to Nigeria’s Petroleum Industry Act of 2021.

Under the policy, Nigerian oil producers are allowed to export crude only after meeting their supply obligations to local refiners.

The measure will take effect in the second half of the year, but it does not specify what quantity of crude must be supplied to local refineries.

Authorities said the objectives of the guideline are to bolster Nigeria’s refining capacity, improve the oil industry and earn foreign exchange.

Public affairs analyst Jaye Gaskiya said it was the right move. "In the current situation globally, this is actually going to turn out much more beneficial to both the producers and refiners in the country," Gaskiya said. "Essentially this is designed to ease the problem of supply to the local refineries so that they don't become redundant. The second thing is that it is also designed in such a manner to ease the pressure on the naira," which is the currency of Nigeria.

According to the regulations, payments for crude to domestic refiners can be made in dollars, naira or a combination of both.

Nigeria relies heavily on imports to meet the population’s energy needs. Analysts say refining crude oil locally could reverse this trend.

But oil and gas analyst Toyin Akinosho said he had concerns.

"In principle, I do not have a problem with it, but we need to be very careful about the foreign exchange implications and also the volumes that are going out," he said. "My challenge has always been, if you are overzealous about certain regulations, you can burn your fingers. In an era of very low forex [currency trading] and this being the major avenue for inflow into the country, you have to find a way of managing it."

The new measure includes penalties for oil producers who divert crude oil or refiners who fail to meet payment obligations.

But Gaskiya said there were some loose strings to the rule.

"The regulation says it is on the basis of willing buyer and willing seller, and that's quite tricky," Gaskiya said. "A situation where you have the suppliers, for instance, being unwilling, what are you then going to do as the regulator? So those are the things that the regulator needs to be on the lookout for."

The refineries in Nigeria, including the latest one built by Africa's richest man, Aliko Dangote, will have a combined processing capacity of 650,000 barrels of crude oil per day when rehabilitated.

While experts have doubts the new guidelines will be effective, authorities are optimistic Nigeria is getting closer to its goal of having a self-sufficient energy sector.

By Timothy Obiezu, VOA 

Related story: Dangote refinery supplies petroleum products to local market in Nigeria

Libya overtakes Nigeria as Africa's largest oil producer

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Video - Nigeria ponders ways to address surging population

The Nigerian government is trying to improve its infrastructure and create more jobs amid a surging growth in its population that could worsen poverty. Nigeria's population is currently estimated at 220 million and is projected to reach 377 million by 2050.


Related story: Video - Growth in elderly population raises concerns


Video - Trade ties deepen between China and Nigeria

China's growing demand for Nigerian goods is deepening trade relations between the two nations. Last year, trade volumes between Nigeria and China reached almost 23 billion U.S. dollars, marking a significant shift in the rising economic ties.


Related story: Rail projects in Nigeria drive home China's belt and road commitment to African infrastructure development


Heineken Shuts Down Two Plants in Nigeria

Beer-manufacturer Nigerian Breweries will shut down two of its nine manufacturing plants in Nigeria due to the harsh economic situation in the country, the company said in a note to the Nigerian Exchange Limited on Thursday.

Police makers at the company deemed the decision necessary due to operational concerns which was massively impacted by record foreign exchange loss up to the tune of N153.3 billion last year.

It’s the Nigerian subsidiary of Heineken Brouwerijen B.V’s highest foreign exchange loss in the company’s history since it began operations in Nigeria 77 years ago.

The company said it recognised how the closure of the two plants would affect workers in the affected locations. But he said the company was committed to reduce the effect of the situation by providing severance packages to the affected employees.

“We recognise and regret the impact that the suspension of brewery operations in the two affected locations may have on our employees,” said Hans Essaadi, the managing director of the company.

He added, “We are committed to limiting the impact on people as far as possible and providing strong support and severance packages to all affected.”

The decision will help the company to retain 15 per cent capacity expansion over the past decade as well as reduce costs of production, Bloomberg Africa reported.

By Victor Olorunfemi, Peoples Gazette

Related stories: Video - Why Are Multinationals Like P&G, GSK and Sanofi Leaving Nigeria?

Video - Nigeria advocates for increased patronage of locally manufactured goods



Nigerian film star Amal Umar arrested on bribery charges

One of Nigeria's most popular actresses has been arrested for allegedly trying to bribe a police officer in Kano state.

Police say Amal Umar gave an officer 250,000 naira (£137; $175) to have her impounded car released.

Her lawyer Adama Usman says she denies the charges, saying it was a police officer who first asked for money.

She has appeared in hundreds of movies over the past decade and is also well known in neighbouring countries.

Amal, as she is known by fans of Kano's film industry, Kannywood, has millions of followers on social media.

According to the police, Amal's car was seized over a year ago on suspicion it had been purchased using proceeds of fraud allegedly committed by her boyfriend.

"She gave our officer 250,000 [naira] with a promise to bring more money," Kano police spokesman Bashir Muhammad told the BBC.

Amal's lawyer Mrs Usman told the BBC they would continue to fight the case in court as she thinks the Fuska Biyu star was coerced.

"This is simply a case of abuse of her rights. We won the initial case in court where they were trying to link her with her boyfriend's activities which she has no hands in," the lawyer told the BBC.

"But the police are yet to obey court orders four months in by still holding on to her car.

"On this case of attempted bribery they are claiming, we are going to pursue it to the end because she was called to come and collect her car only for things to change," the lawyer said.

Amal, 24, has been freed on bail.

Police say Amal's boyfriend Ramadan Inuwa is wanted on charges of obtaining money by false pretences and is still at large.

He has not commented on the accusations.

By Mansur AbubakarBBC

Related stories: Kannywood filmmakers in Nigeria face jail if they show violence

Nigeria strikes deal with Shell to supply $3.8 bln methanol project

Nigeria has struck a deal for Shell to supply gas to its proposed $3.8 billion Brass methanol facility, resolving a major hurdle to a final investment decision on the project, the minister of state for gas said on Thursday.

Nigeria, which holds Africa's largest natural gas reserves of more than 200 trillion cubic feet, has struggled to tap the commodity due to capital constraints and a lack of infrastructure.

Minister Ekperikpe Ekpo said in a statement that the Gas Supply and Purchase Agreement, crucial for the Brass methanol project, will be executed next month following successful talks with Shell's Nigeria CEO and executives from other companies involved.

The GSPA will secure a long-term gas supply from a Shell-operated joint venture for the methanol production facility that will be built on Brass Island in the oil-rich coastal Bayelsa state.

"The NNPC/Shell joint venture partners are now fully committed to uninterrupted gas supply for the development of the Brass Methanol project," Ekpo said.

"Mr President is very passionate about this project and wants something positive to happen in respect of the Brass Methanol project before the end of May this year," Ekpo said.

The project includes a gas processing plant, a methanol production and refining site, and product export facilities.

By Camillus Eboh, Reuters

Related story: Amnesty International says Nigeria must stop Shell Niger Delta business sale


Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Video - Soaring food prices in Nigeria strain family budgets on staples

Many people in Nigeria are shocked at the surge in the cost of cassava flakes. Production of cassava flakes or garri, as they are locally known,, is being hampered by rising insecurity which has led to death and kidnapping of farmers for ransom.


Related stories: Video - Soaring fuel prices in Nigeria threaten agricultural prosperity

Video - Rising Food Prices spark protests and smuggling in Nigeria


Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Nigeria suspends permit of 3 private jet operators

Nigeria's Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has taken action against private jet operators flouting regulations by suspending the Permit for Non-Commercial Flights (PNCF) of three operators caught conducting commercial flights.

This crackdown follows warnings issued in March 2024.

Acting Director General Capt. Chris Najomo stated that increased surveillance at Nigerian airports led to the grounding of three operators found violating their PNCF terms. Specifically, they breached annexure provisions and Part 9114 of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Regulations 2023.

In response, the NCAA announced a thorough re-evaluation of all PNCF holders to ensure compliance with regulations, to be completed by April 19th, 2024. PNCF holders have been instructed to submit necessary documents within 72 hours to expedite the process. Najomo emphasized these actions highlight the NCAA's commitment to enhancing safety in Nigerian airspace.

Furthermore, the NCAA warned the public against using charter operators without a valid Air Operators Certificate and urged legitimate industry players to report any suspicious activities promptly.

This crackdown comes after the NCAA's stern warning in March against PNCF holders engaging in commercial operations.

Africa News

Nigeria says no record of child deaths from recalled J&J cough syrup

Nigeria's drug regulator has no record of children dying or falling ill from exposure to a batch of cough syrup made by Johnson & Johnson in South Africa that was recalled last week, a senior official said on Tuesday.

Nigeria's National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) announced the recall after laboratory tests found an unacceptably high level of diethylene glycol, which is toxic to humans, prompting regulators in five other African countries to also issue recalls.

South Africa's drug regulator said on Tuesday that there was no record of adverse reactions in South Africa or anywhere in the world to the two batches of Benylin Paediatric Syrup it recalled.

It said it was conducting tests and investigations, as was manufacturer Kenvue, which now owns the brand after a spin-off from J&J last year.

"We hope to finalise these soon," the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority told Reuters.
Consuming diethylene glycol can result in acute kidney failure. The substance has been linked to deaths of dozens of children in Gambia, Uzbekistan and Cameroon since 2022 in one of the world's worst waves of poisoning from oral medication.

Fraden Bitrus, NAFDAC's director of pharmacovigilance, told Reuters the regulator had been testing cough syrups in response to those deaths, not because of any specific report of harm to children in Nigeria.

"We sampled a number of products. Some failed and some passed. This particular product had been sampled earlier, but we were not thinking of diethylene glycol, and because of this, we decided to test the product again," he said.

The recalled batches of syrup were made by J&J in South Africa in May 2021. Asked whether J&J was working with Kenvue to investigate what had gone wrong, Joe Wolk, chief financial officer of J&J, told Reuters: "This is just with Kenvue at this point."

Kenvue has said it is working with health authorities to determine next steps.

In addition to Nigeria and South Africa, regulators in Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Zimbabwe have recalled the same batch of Benylin Paediatric Syrup.

By Ope Adetayo and Bhargav Acharya, Reuters 

Related story: Nigeria recalls J&J children's cough syrup over toxic substance