Thursday, June 20, 2024

Nigeria oil licence auction attracts huge interest

Nigeria is expanding the number of oil blocks slated for auction in its 2024 licensing round as well as extending the deadline for ending the exercise amid keen interest in the offer, the oil regulator told Reuters on Thursday.

Nigeria opened a licensing round in April offering a total of 19 onshore and deepwater oil blocks to investors. This has now been expanded to include an additional 17 deep offshore blocks to the 2024 licensing round.

"We have undertaken more exploratory activities and as a result acquired more data to expand the offer and extend the deadline. This has given rise to tremendous interest from investors," Gbenga Komolafe, head of Nigerian Upstream Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) said.

Komolafe said that registration, which had been slated to close on June 25, has been extended by 10 days. Bid submissions would open on July 8 and close on Nov. 29.

The oil regulator is seeking to deepen exploitation of the country's estimated 37.5 billion barrels of crude oil and 209.26 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves.

It has tried to sweeten the offer by cutting entry fees called signature bonus from around $200 million per field to $10 million, promised a fair and transparent process and allowed online submissions through its website. Bidders also have the option to lease single units of oil blocks or in clusters.

Nigeria is seeking to halt the flow of investments to African rivals Angola and Namibia by improving the ease of acquiring oil blocks.

Nigeria, a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), has seen its oil production decline from around 2 million barrels a decade ago to just over 1.4 million barrels per day.

Oil majors are leaving onshore fields - prone to sabotage and frequent claims to compensation for spills - to focus on deepwater fields where disruptions are less common. 

By Isaac Anyaogu, Reuters

Super Eagles drop eight places in FIFA ranking

The Super Eagles of Nigeria have dropped eight places in the FIFA rankings since the last update on 4 April. During this period, the Eagles struggled in their 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign, drawing 1-1 with South Africa on 7 June and losing 1-2 to Benin on 10 June.

Following these setbacks, their new manager, Finidi George, resigned after the Nigeria Football Federation announced its intention to hire a new foreign technical adviser.

In Africa, Morocco, Egypt, and Cote d’Ivoire each improved one spot, while Senegal dropped one spot.

The Atlas Lions are the highest-ranked African team at No. 12, followed by Senegal’s Teranga Lions at 18, Egypt’s Pharaohs at 36, the African champions Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire at 37, and the Super Eagles rounding out Africa’s top five at 38.

According to the FIFA release, “the top three, however, remain unshakeable. Argentina (1st) retains their place at the summit, with France (2nd) and Belgium (3rd) hot on their heels. But there is movement behind them, as Brazil (4th, up 1) and England (5th, down 1) swap places.

“Meanwhile, Portugal (6th), the Netherlands (7th), and Spain (8th) consolidate their spots in the top ten, while Croatia (9th, up 1) overtake Italy (10th, down 1), who nonetheless hold onto a place among the leading pack.”

These rankings are expected to change further this month, with the Euro Championship and Copa America taking place.

By Jide Alaka, Premium Times

NASRDA Signs MoU with SERA to Launch First Astronaut to Space from Nigeria

In a news report released by the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA), the space agency has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Space Exploration and Research Agency (SERA) in Abuja, to put the first Nigerian Astronaut in space.

Chief Uche Nnaji, the Minister of the Federal Ministry of Innovation, Science, and Technology (FMIST), stated that Nigeria is on track to make history in Africa by carrying out its first human space flight. He emphasised that the human space flight, which will be at no cost to the Federal Government of Nigeria, is a key objective of the nation’s space programme, initially scheduled for 2018. Nnaji added that the partnership with SERA will help address past delays and align the programme with President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s Renewed Hope Agenda.

Furthermore, the Minister congratulated the Director General of NASRDA, Dr Matthew Adepoju and his team, stating that this marks an excellent start to his tenure and validates the President’s wise decision to appoint the DG to lead the Agency at this crucial time. He acknowledged the critical role of Dr Ann Agi from the Learn Space Foundation in facilitating the collaboration and emphasised that the private sector involvement will significantly contribute to achieving the nation’s aspirations and enhancing its international reputation.

The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Mrs Esuabana Asanye, provided a brief history of the meeting between the former President of the United States, John F Kennedy, and the then Nigerian Head of State, Alhaji Tafawa Balewa. The meeting centred on the goal of sending the first American and Nigerian to space before the end of the 1960s. She noted that both leaders were assassinated before this dream could be realised. However, America succeeded in sending its first astronaut into space by 1969, while Nigeria has yet to achieve the same milestone. She expressed her gratitude for the collaboration between NASRDA and SERA, which is helping to make this long-held dream a reality. Mrs Asanye also commended the teams involved and urged them to continue their excellent work as the nation eagerly anticipates having its first Nigerian in space.

In his remarks, Dr Matthew Adepoju, expressed his gratitude to the Minister for his support, stating that the agency takes pride in being Africa’s premier space agency—not just as a mere claim, but as a fact. He highlighted that the collaboration with SERA signifies the beginning of NASRDA’s efforts to achieve its dream of human space flight, a key objective of the National Space Policy and Programme. Dr Adepoju emphasised SERA’s crucial role in providing this collaborative opportunity and praised their mission to democratise space exploration and exploitation for all nations as a noble endeavour. He assured that NASRDA is committed to doing everything necessary to send the first Nigerian into space through this partnership.

Furthermore, Sam Hutchinson, Co-founder of SERA, remarked that the Human Space Flight Programme with NASRDA is part of a broader mission to allow six astronauts from different nations, who have never been to space, to make their debut. He explained that SERA is dedicated to democratising space so that anyone can become an astronaut. According to Hutchinson, the Nigerian populace will select a candidate through an open democratic process managed by SERA. He added that Nigeria was chosen for this initiative because of its strong interest in space exploration and its reputation as a nation of scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs.

Joshua Skurla, the Co-founder of SERA, praised the event as a milestone for the African continent and assured that his team is committed to putting the first Nigerian astronaut in space. Speaking at the event, Victor Hespenia, the first SERA astronaut, emphasised that a trip to space could significantly impact young Nigerians by inspiring them to dream big and create space-based inventions valuable for the country’s growth. He stressed the importance of exposing young people to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) to ensure Nigeria’s bright future in space. The partnership acknowledges and appreciates Nigeria’s achievements in space science and technology. 

By Deborah Faboade, Space in Africa

Related story: Artemis Accords signed by Nigeria and Rwanda

Nigeria plans to send a man to space by 2030

Asthma patients face spiralling costs as big pharma exits Nigeria

 When Gloria Mofifoluwa’s friend informed her in March that the price of inhalers had risen in Nigeria, she did not think much about it.

The following week, when she went out in Ibadan city to replace her old Ventolin inhaler, the asthma sufferer was shocked to see that many pharmacies were out of stock and the only place it was available sold it for 7,500 naira ($5) – more than double the 2,800 naira ($1.86) she had paid months before.

This price jump – which followed the departure from Nigeria of a major health pharmaceutical – was a shock for the 24-year-old undergraduate student who earns a bit of money designing clothes. And the ripple effects were even worse.

Last month, while alone in her room at the university hostel and consumed by thoughts of her economic challenges, Mofifoluwa started hyperventilating and struggled to catch her breath.

Her roommate was away and there was no one to take her to hospital. All she had on her was an Aeroline inhaler, which she explained does not work as fast for her as the Ventolin she now struggles to get.

“I was just scared because not only was I alone in my room, I was also on my floor [and without the medicine I most needed],” she told Al Jazeera, adding that all she could do was pray until she fell asleep, hoping she would regain her strength by the time she woke up.

The pharmaceutical scarcity and rising prices causing stress for asthma sufferers like Mofifoluwa cap off a chain of events that began in May 2023, when Bola Tinubu was elected president.

During his inauguration ceremony, Tinubu announced the removal of a fuel subsidy, which resulted in an unprecedented increase in petrol prices. This also affected the cost of various goods and services and contributed to an inflation rate of above 27 percent. The cumulative economic effects have been harsh, especially for the vulnerable – including students and low-income earners.

The hardships worsened as the president’s monetary policies pushed the naira to an all-time low against the United States dollar, further leading to a downward trend as manufacturers struggled to meet production targets.

Amid the downturn – which included exchange rate volatility, declining revenues and a general worsening of the investment climate in Nigeria – a significant number of businesses including international pharmaceuticals exited the country.

GSK exit

Among those that left was British company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), which ceased direct business in Nigeria in August 2023 and transitioned to a third-party distribution model. The company had operated in the Nigerian market since 1972.

“We believe the move to a third-party distribution model, a strategy we’ve successfully implemented in other markets, will enable more sustainable access to our medicines and vaccines for patients in Nigeria in line with our global strategy,” said GSK spokesperson Dan Smith.

However, Nigerian doctors and patients Al Jazeera spoke to said GSK’s departure has contributed to rising prices and increased the scarcity of some medicines. As a major supplier of inhalers – including the type Mofifoluwa depended on – the company’s exit has not been good news for asthma patients.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), asthma cannot be cured but common treatments like the usage of inhalers which deliver medication to the lungs allow patients to live normal, active lives.

The global health body recommends that people with asthma get access to proper healthcare, but in developing countries like Nigeria, the situation is complicated. This has been worsened by the exit of companies like GSK.

While asthma inhalers were easily available and more affordable when the company was around, many now find the medication is out of reach. Despite there being alternative options, Nigeria relies largely on imported medicines, meaning high operational costs get added to the price tag for consumers.

For the average patient, an inhaler lasts about two months, depending on usage, which makes it a pricey regular cost in a country where the minimum monthly wage is 30,000 naira (about $20).

Like Mofifoluwa, 21-year-old Joseph Biyi also struggles with asthma. The library, archival and information science student was diagnosed in the middle of last year, and has since been confronted with the rising prices of inhalers.

The first time he bought a Ventolin inhaler, it sold at 3,500 naira ($2.30) but by his next visit to the pharmacy this year, the price had jumped to 7,500 naira ($5).

While Biyi has his parents to help him with money for inhalers, especially since the prices have skyrocketed, he said he now also forgoes some essential items, like groceries, to save the extra money for medicine, “just to avoid risk”.

High asthma rates

The Nigerian Thoracic Society says that, as of 2019, 15 million Nigerians were asthmatics while a nationwide study put the number at 13 million – one of the highest rates in Africa. With less than accurate data in Nigeria, because those in rural areas have limited access to quality healthcare or medical tracking, the number could be even higher.

On World Asthma Day in 2023, the president of the Nigerian Society of Asthmatics, University College Hospital (UCH) Branch, Professor Olusoji Ige, said more than 10 million Nigerians have asthma and about three-quarters of them risked dying due to poor asthma control.

Mrs Tinubu, the Matron of the University of Ibadan’s Asthmatic Club who prefers to be identified only by her surname, said there are several factors responsible for asthma. However, she noted that the ill-equipped healthcare system worsens the condition over time.

Due to the poor state of the public healthcare system in Nigeria, after diagnosis, most people take charge of getting their medication themselves.

Meanwhile, in Ibadan, some enterprising young Nigerians have been trying to help fill the health gaps that exist.

Temitope Omosebi, a postgraduate psychology student, told Al Jazeera that after having an encounter with an asthma sufferer in 2023, he understood the full gravity of the condition and wanted to do something to help.

That’s when he launched the #AttackAgainstAsthma campaign at the University of Ibadan, to help at least some patients get access to interventions. The campaign helps provide various types of inhalers, including Sivobutamol, Aeroline, Ventolin and Fortide, to those who need them. Last year alone, 40 inhalers were distributed and this year, an additional 60 were disbursed for free; all were procured with funds from Omosebi himself.

“The campaign is important as it addresses self-care medication for asthmatic patients which has become highly costly in the recent time,” Omosebi said. “Our focus is specifically on varsity students – and on individuals in low socioeconomic communities hopefully soon – because of the known financial challenges among these groups of people.

“In Nigeria, the government isn’t doing anything it’s meant to do,” he added.

‘All inhalers are expensive’

Olabitan Odunola, a doctor and the lead at The Health City, a tech-enabled platform that focuses on preventive services and education, bemoaned the scarcity and cost of GSK products since the company exited the Nigerian market.

She said that especially for asthmatic patients who depended on GSK’s inhalers, the new circumstances are disturbing and even alternative medicines are out of reach for most patients.

“Across the board, all the inhalers are expensive,” Odunola said.

Patients have switched to alternatives like Longlife Pharmaceuticals which mostly sells Aeroline inhalers, to find relief. There are also other options like Symbicort inhalers, manufactured by AstraZeneca, and Fortide inhalers, distributed by Pakistani pharmaceutical company Getz Pharma. While all are recognised and available, they are also largely unaffordable.

Odunola said the limited access to these preventers could worsen healthcare outcomes for asthmatics. Since the condition is long-term, she also feared that it could lead to more deaths, especially in instances when someone has an asthmatic attack.

The poverty rate in Nigeria, according to the World Bank, was estimated at 38.9 percent in 2023, and considering the relatively high prices of inhalers, patients may even resort to unproven asthmatic treatments out of desperation, experts fear.

There is a correlation between limited access to quality healthcare services and the number of asthmatic patients in Nigeria, said Bello Wada, a physician and the current public health rirector of the State Ministry of Health in Kano.

“This leads to delayed diagnosis, inadequate treatment and poor management of asthma, exacerbating the condition and increasing the number of patients,” he said.

Wada also pointed out that GSK leaving Nigeria further puts those who have been diagnosed at a disadvantage, as inaccessibly priced inhalers could lead to increased morbidity and mortality rates.

Finding solutions

In January, the value of drugs imported into Nigeria was estimated at 900 billion naira ($606m), showing a high dependency on imported medicines.

In February, the federal government announced a $240m investment in the local manufacturing of pharmaceuticals, but while this is yet to materialise, Wada wants the government to do more to address the situation.

“They need to implement policies to make essential medicines more affordable, increase funding for healthcare infrastructure and personnel, develop programmes to improve access to quality healthcare services, especially for vulnerable populations, and also engage with international organisations to secure donations or discounted prices for essential medicines,” he stressed.

Nigeria’s Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Professor Muhammad Pate, met with representatives and chief executive officers of pharmaceutical companies in Nigeria last year and said the government is concerned about the high cost of medicines and finding solutions to the crisis.

“The Federal Ministry of Health & Social Welfare, @Fmohnigeria, is working towards policy actions that may address the high prices of medicines especially for the most vulnerable Nigerians,” he said on the social platform X in November.

Until that happens, to help her asthma and manage costs, Mofifoluwa said she will continue to use Aeroline, which at 6,500 naira ($4.30) is slightly cheaper than Ventolin. Even though it does not work as well for her, she feels the lower price makes a difference and allows her supplies to last longer.

“I normally don’t use Aeroline because Ventolin works faster. I had to start buying because it’s less costly,” she told Al Jazeera. “But I still have to manage when I buy it and use it based on calculation [and only when necessary].

“During examinations period, I consume a lot because anxiety and stress are all over me,” she added.

Now, with the high cost of essential medicine she needs, school is not the only thing adding to her stress.

Al Jazeera

Related stories: GSK pull-out from Nigeria causes medication shortage

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

Nigeria announces plans to acquire 50 military aircraft

The Nigerian air force said Tuesday it will acquire 50 new aircraft to strengthen its capabilities against armed gangs and terrorists in northwest Nigeria.

Nigerian Chief of Air Staff Marshal Hassan Bala Abubakar made the announcement at the opening of new military facilities, including two aircraft hangars in northwest Katsina state.

Abubakar said the aircraft would include 12 AH-1 attack helicopters, 24 M-346 combat planes, 12 AW109 multipurpose helicopters and a pair of Casa 295 transport aircraft. He did not disclose the cost, nor did he say who would provide the aircraft.

He said Nigeria is expected to receive them by next year.

The aircraft will be used to bolster offensives against jihadist groups and armed gangs that have terrorized northwest and central states in recent years, Abubakar said.

But security analyst Mike Ejiofor says acquiring 50 aircraft is overambitious and possibly misdirected.

"I know it will bolster the fight against terrorism, but I believe that we should concentrate more on land than air. We're not at war,” Ejiofor said.

The money, he said, should “have been channeled to training and provision of welfare for the ground troops. I think we would've achieved more results."

Abubakar’s announcement came as Kaduna state authorities announced Tuesday a partnership with the military to set up three new operational fronts within the state.

Kaduna state Governor Uba Sani said, "We concluded with the military to set up forward-operating bases in southern Kaduna, and another one in the Giwa and Birnin-Gwari axis. All the arrangements are being concluded."

The Nigerian air force came under heavy criticism in December after more than 80 people were killed and dozens wounded during an airstrike in Kaduna state that was intended to target gangs.

Nigerian authorities have promised to operate with more precision to avoid future accidents.

Nigerian Chief of Defense Staff General Christopher Musa told journalists in Abuja, "The armed forces of Nigeria are highly professional. We're here to protect innocent citizens, not to harm them. Whatever it was that happened there was a mistake, but we're addressing such issues."

Ejiofor said authorities should focus more on boosting the ability of the air force to gather and process accurate information about the activities of armed groups.

"These strikes are intelligence-driven, so we must get the intelligence before they're guided to the areas,” he said. “I think what we should've done is to deploy more drones that will be sending this data."

By Timothy Obiezu, VOA 

Related story: Analysts Doubt Boost in Military Spending in Nigeria will Improve Security

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Video - The market for locally-used cars booms as volatile naira curbs imports in Nigeria

Nigerian car dealers report a surge in demand for locally-used cars over the past year, driven by the naira's devaluation, which has made imported cars more expensive. As a result, many dealers are now focusing exclusively on selling locally-used cars to meet the growing demand. (This was all over the place, the web, the news in late May.


Related story: Video - Analysts say Nigeria not prepared for a shift from fossil-fuel vehicle


Nigeria Spends $600m Importing Palm Oil Annually

The National Palm Produce Association of Nigeria (NPPAN) says Nigeria spends $600 million on palm oil importation annually.

Alphonsus Inyang, the national president of the association, stated this in an interview with NAN yesterday in Abuja. He described the expenses as unhealthy for national development.

Inyang said the money could be saved and injected into the economy if the palm oil sub-sector was given due attention by successive governments.

The president regretted that Nigeria, which was self-sufficient in palm oil production in the past, now spends a huge amount to import the same product.

Inyang recalled that in the 60s, Nigeria was number one in palm oil production and exportation globally, controlling over 60 per cent of world palm oil.

He said that the reverse was the case at the moment as over 50 percent of what we consume is imported.

“At the moment, the country occupies the fifth position in the league of palm oil-producing countries after Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Colombia.

“Nigeria may even lose the position to smaller countries who are investing heavily in the sector.

“Indonesia occupies the first position, producing 50 million metric tons, Malaysia second with 19 million metric tons, Thailand 3.28 million and Colombia 1.9 million metric tonnes,” he said.

The president attributed the challenge to the neglect of the sector by successive governments.

Inyang said that based on the U.S. The Department of Agriculture, Nigeria currently occupies fifth position in the league of palm oil-producing countries with 1.5 percent or 1.4 million metric tonnes of the world’s total output.

“Nigeria was overthrown as the world’s largest palm oil producer and exporter by Malaysia and Indonesia in 1966.

“Currently, Nigeria is the largest consumer of the product in the continent, consuming approximately three million metric tons yearly.

“Domestic production stands at less than 1.4 million metric tons, leaving a deficit of over 1.6 million metric tonnes,’’ he said.

Inyang specifically called on the federal ministry of agriculture and food security, to support NPPAN members with seedlings to develop 250,000 hectares per year.

“Our members can plant up to 250,000 hectares per year through the association’s National Oil Palm Strategy Development Plan; all we want are inputs.

“The government does not need to give and develop land for us, we need seedlings, fertilisers, logistics and implements to close this gap within four years.

“We will also create new millionaires in 28 states of the federation,” he said.


Related story: Video - Nigerian palm farmers eye lucrative opportunities in domestic market

The all-women church groups helping people in Nigeria

On a warm Thursday afternoon in May, the ululation, drumming and singing of a choir of two-dozen women can be heard across Gan Gora, a village so small it barely appears on the Nigerian map.

“We are happy you arrived safely,” they sing in Hausa welcoming the visitors to the community branch of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA), hidden in the hilly Zangon Kataf, an area of half a million residents in the state of Kaduna.

A congregation of about 100 women dance and sway alongside the choir, including Rifkatu Dauda Kigbu, 53, their spiritual adviser, hobbling on a fractured knee, a crutch in her left hand.

This is a weekly meeting of zumunta mata (Hausa for “fellowship of married women”), a clan that has banded together for almost a century, sisters in times of surplus and of scarcity. Their visitors are zumunta mata members of an ECWA, one of Nigeria’s largest churches, in Gonin Gora, a suburb of Kaduna city.

The first zumunta mata was formed in 1930 after a woman almost died during childbirth in Miango, a town more than 50 miles away in what is now the neighbouring Plateau state. Women in the ECWA Christian church contributed to buy a bicycle so future patients could be ferried to the nearest medical facility. It began a fellowship that now has millions of members in northern Nigeria, across a multitude of denominations both Christian and Muslim.

For years, outsiders have primarily known the zumunta mata for their colourful abayas, singing, which has garnered millions of YouTube views, and provision of spiritual guidance to young women and mothers.

Godwin Ogli, head of theatre arts at the Federal University, Lokoja, has been researching the group in Plateau state and says the original motive was to “provide a space for women to learn more about the word of God” and to be “an outreach arm of the church” to bring more women in.

That role expanded as Nigeria’s economy has stuttered and pastoralist violence has intensified across Kaduna and Plateau, and throughout the Sahel.

The Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project estimates that at least 2,600 people were killed by conflict in Nigeria in 2021. Villagers and local researchers say the casualty count is higher, as some incidents in Zangon Kataf, one of the hotspots, were undocumented.

Tensions over land have led to conflict between nomadic herdsmen and Indigenous farming communities. The herdsmen, mostly Fulani Muslims, have said they are acting in self-defence, stemming from rustling and killing of their cows and kinsmen. The farmers, who are mostly Christian, say they are protecting themselves from ethnic cleansing and land grabbing rooted in British colonial excesses.

Analysts say the climate crisis and overpopulation have exacerbated religious and ethnic differences between neighbours who coexisted peacefully for decades. “The relationship is [now] sour,” says Stella Amako, a local politician and elected chapter head of the visitors from Kaduna.

Conversely the bond within zumunta mata has strengthened. The fellowship is the first responder during crises. They have sleepovers, cook, offer small cash gifts and when necessary, bathe new babies or bodies of the dearly departed. When gifts come from NGOs, distribution is managed by the mama zumunta, who is elected every three years for a maximum of two tenures.

“We are even currently handling two cases of women on the brink of divorce,” says Amako.

While WhatsApp groups have become an important self-help tool in some parts of the global south, in Gan Gora even £5 (10,000 naira) smartphones are a luxury. So women attend meetings in person to listen to gospel lessons and give testimonies.

After the dancing, Kigbu advises the women in a brief lesson. “Any woman with dignity is respected. Her husband is blessed because of her and always boasts about her. Her good habits are contagious,” she says, her crutch resting next to her bible on the table.

Outside, her husband, Rev Luka Kasai Kigbu, shakes hands with local pastors who have come to thank the women for helping them out on a recent farming day. The couple are still recovering from a car jacking by the region’s marauding herdsman that led to Kigbu’s knee injury. They had been returning from a visit to family in a neighbouring state when they were attacked. The reverend managed to escape but the bandits dragged Kigbu out of the car and fractured her right knee. Eventually she was released, and is grateful, despite her injuries.

“I have to give thanks for every situation,” she says.

The women are proud of their support system. Mary Bawa, 68, joined as a new bride in 1976. “What gives me peace of mind and joy is knowing Christ and [having] these people around me,” she says.

A widowed mother of seven, Bawa passes on to young widows what she knows about farming soya beans to make tofu to trade.

One is Magdalene Israel, 32. Halfway into recanting how her husband and mother-in-law were killed on the same day, caught up in a firefight between herdsmen and farmers in September 2022, she stops to bend her head and weep.

She escaped from their farm that day by running non-stop to the next village, bullets whizzing past her ear. “I was just screaming holy ghost fire,” says the mother of three.

“Life has not been easy but zumunta mata and God Almighty have been behind me,” says Israel, who is praying for the ability to let go of her abiding anger and forgive the killers.

For now, conflict has paused and Gan Gora is a picture of serenity. In front of the church, the long tarred road connecting the community to others is flanked on either side by mango, neem and baobab trees and small fields of maize.

Multiple checkpoints dotting the road are held by young soldiers in khaki sitting on sandbags. It is a departure from the scarce government presence for years in an area where people remember other violent episodes, including a 1992 communal clash and a 2011 election crisis that both left hundreds dead.

The checkpoints were introduced after an army general from the region, Christopher Musa, was appointed a service chief last year. A barracks is being built to reinforce security around the hills. At state level, the new governor, Uba Sani, is seen as less divisive than his predecessor, Nasir El-Rufai, who proscribed a community association in Zangon Kataf for being an “unlawful group”.

Still, some are afraid to return to fields and villages.

In the relatively safer Gonin Gora suburb of Kaduna, the women enjoy regular sessions like learning how to make homemade liquid detergents to help cushion their households from the effects of Nigeria’s cost-of-living crisis. The choir rehearses songs about subjects such as forgiveness and heaven.

“They look out for one another, supporting one another, sometimes financially or emotionally, psychologically … this goes beyond the church,” says Ogli.

One such session helped Grace Friday, 33, with the art of food presentation that her husband now loves. Afterwards, he overheard her chatting with a friend about a forthcoming wedding as he ate and later told Israel he would buy her an outfit to the ceremony, to show his appreciation for the benefits the fellowship had brought to his family. She was overjoyed.

Eunice Shola, a 47-year-old civil servant who runs the cooperative union’s low-interest loan system, says the fellowship has helped her to try public speaking.

“When I started this, I couldn’t even stand and pray in the presence of two or three people … but this fellowship has really built my self-confidence,” she says.

Those in the city remember their sisters in the countryside. For the past 13 years Lucy Stephen, 48, has led Gonin Gora’s 57-woman choir, whose music helps members to show solidarity with their Zangon Kataf sisters and “build their faith”.

One song references the cry of a prophet in the Bible’s book of Habakkuk. “Oh Lord, how long must I call for help?” the first verse goes. “There is pathos everywhere.”

Eromo Egbejule, The Guardian

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Video - Gunmen kill 10 people and abduct several others in Nigeria’s Sokoto State

Police authorities confirmed the incident with witnesses saying the gunmen attacked with sophisticated firearms, shooting sporadically into the community. 


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Deaf students in Nigeria boost their coding skills – and their self-esteem

In a one-room apartment in Jos, Nigeria, instructor Wuni Bitrus and almost a dozen students gather around a table cluttered with equipment – a toolbox, a 12-volt adapter, a coding panel, a set of jumper cables, a mix of colored wires. The students’ idea: to build the prototype for a “smart” door that opens with the touch of a finger.

The students chat back and forth in sign language, and Mr. Bitrus signs back. The group discusses using Arduino, an open-source electronics platform, and one student wonders how fingerprints can be stored. Mindful of Nigeria’s electricity problems, Mr. Bitrus genially advises the group to use a battery-powered keypad lock system first and incorporate a fingerprint feature later.

“It works well, rather than waste time reinventing the wheel,” Mr. Bitrus says. After nodding in agreement, the students excitedly start working.

This is just another afternoon in a club run by the Deaf Technology Foundation, a nonprofit co-founded by Mr. Bitrus in 2017 that trains Nigerian children and young adults who are deaf in computer programming and robotics. The students also work to improve their reading skills, and receive career guidance and counseling to help them believe in themselves.

Mr. Bitrus’ driving force? “Compassion,” he says, because deaf people in Nigeria “are limited in so many ways.”

His desire to change the prospects of Nigeria’s deaf and hard-of-hearing community was sparked in 2014 by his encounter with a 13-year-old girl while he was teaching as part of the National Youth Service Corps in Zamfara state. Mr. Bitrus had noticed that the teen faced discrimination, and he became determined to learn sign language and teach her to use a computer. Three years later, he marshaled the resources, including funding from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to form the Deaf Technology Foundation.

Call her Mama Robotics

One of the darkest memories that Mercy Samson Grimah, a foundation student, has about growing up is looking at the faces of people around her and recognizing insults and negative energy directed at her.

“That hurt me so bad because I knew in my heart that I could do anything. They just see us as lesser human beings,” she says. “I wanted to show them that deaf people can become whatever they want to be.”

(Mr. Bitrus interpreted the students’ comments for this article.)

Ms. Grimah says her private secondary school did not formally teach sign language to her, nor much of anything else. But there was one teacher who knew how to sign, and she taught Ms. Grimah. When Mr. Bitrus visited Ms. Grimah’s school to promote the work of the Deaf Technology Foundation, she was happy to see that “he could sign,” too.

She dropped out in her third year because her parents could not pay her school fees, but fortunately, she had already formed a bond with the Deaf Technology Foundation.

“I had never touched a laptop before in my life,” she says. Now, she wants to become a computer scientist – and answers to the nickname Mama Robotics.

Five years ago, Ms. Grimah and several other students made a road trip from Jos to Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, to compete in MakeX, a robotics contest. The team had practiced for about 18 hours. In the end, it built robots to perform tasks such as cleaning trash in a model city. Although Ms. Grimah’s team was not chosen to go on to represent Nigeria in the international competition, it emerged fourth among about 15 teams.

“Our team was the only one made up of the deaf,” says Ms. Grimah, her eyes lighting up.

Her father, Grimah Samson, adds, “What they are doing changed her. The day we are not able to transport her here [to the Deaf Technology Foundation for club activities], she isn’t happy. We pray that God opens doors for her and the other children to make something of themselves.”

Shut out of the sciences

Mercy Sale wanted to study to become a computer scientist, but her school told her that, as a deaf student, she could not.

In October 2019, Ms. Sale was part of a Deaf Technology Foundation team that flew to the Netherlands. It was among teams from 10 organizations around the world that competed for the Nothing About Us Without Us Award, which goes to nonprofits working with marginalized or disadvantaged communities.

“I started seeing the reward for where technology can take me,” Ms. Sale says. Now, she wants to be a web developer.

Joy Yusuf, another Deaf Technology Foundation student, had wanted to become a doctor. But she was moved to a new school where the principal and staff said there was no way that could happen, even though the school welcomed students with disabilities.

“It was a blow for me,” Ms. Yusuf says. “I cried. I had to call Mr. Bitrus and my father to beg them, but [the principal and staff] still refused. For me, Deaf Tech is the only way I can have anything close to [studying] medicine.”

Now, she, too, wants to become a web developer.

The Deaf Technology Foundation’s major challenge is a lack of funding. There are only two paid tutors for computer programming and robotics, and the number of students keeps growing. Thirty-four students on average attend classes four days a week, but that number can rise to 70 when students are on breaks from their regular studies. To loosen up, they all gather twice a week for sports and dance.

In addition to the three clubs that the Deaf Technology Foundation has started in Jos, it has one each in Zamfara state and Abuja. Most of the foundation’s volunteers are older students who help conduct sports activities for club members on a temporary basis, Mr. Bitrus explains.

“This is what I love doing,” he says, adding that he hopes, in time, to see his students train others.

To scale up, the foundation aims to take advantage of the technology boom in Nigeria, particularly in the robotics sector. It hopes to partner with Jos-based companies on, for example, self-driving car technology and automated wheelchairs.

Lengdung Tungchamma, co-founder of Jenta Reads, a community initiative that aims to improve reading skills in impoverished areas of Jos, has worked with the foundation for a couple of years.

“The most important thing about Deaf Tech is the passion of its leaders and founders,” he says. “Giving people with [disabilities] skills that they can use to earn an income and make a future for themselves is the best thing anyone can do.

“People need to see that disability is not a death sentence or the end of life. ... That’s what Deaf Tech does. It just gives hope to people.”

By Nathaniel Bivan, The Christian Science Monitor

Related story: Video - Braille trained pushing for education for the blind in Nigeria

Monday, June 17, 2024

Finidi George Resigns as Super Eagles coach

Finidi George, former head coach of the Super Eagles, has attributed his resignation to the decision of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) to hire a foreign technical adviser.

Details from his resignation letter, published by The Eagleonline, reveal Finidi’s willingness to stay on despite the team’s underwhelming performance in his initial official matches.

He expressed confidence in his ability to get the Eagles back on track, even amidst their precarious situation due to a winless qualifying campaign.

Finidi’s tenure began with a challenging 1-1 draw against South Africa in Uyo.

Hopes for a quick turnaround were dashed by a disheartening 2-1 defeat to Benin in Abidjan, further complicating the Super Eagles’ position in Group C with only three points after four games.

“While the recent qualifying results haven’t been ideal,” Finidi wrote, “I remained committed to guiding our World Cup qualification campaign back on course.”

Deal Breaker

However, the NFF’s decision to appoint a foreign Technical Adviser indicated a lack of confidence in Finidi’s ability to secure the team’s World Cup qualification.

This move proved to be a deal breaker for Finidi, who was barely two months into his contract.

“Given the recent changes to the technical crew,” Finidi stated, “I believe it’s time for me to step aside.”

Despite his brief tenure, Finidi expressed his gratitude for the opportunity.

“I am writing to inform you of my decision to step down as head coach of the Super Eagles. This decision is made in light of the recent changes to the team’s technical staff. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the entire NFF leadership, the sports ministry, and the Nigerian people for the chance to serve as the Super Eagles’ head coach. Please be assured of my unwavering support for the team, and I wish us all the best in the future,” he wrote.

Decorated player

A decorated player himself, Finidi was part of the revered ‘Golden Generation’ that triumphed in the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) and captivated audiences during Nigeria’s debut at the 1994 FIFA World Cup.

He amassed 62 caps for Nigeria, participating in both the 1994 and 1998 World Cups. His trophy cabinet boasts gold, silver, and bronze medals from the 1992, 1994, 2000, and 2002 AFCON tournaments.

Finidi is also one of the very few Nigerian players to have lifted the UEFA Champions League trophy.

Prior to his appointment as manager of the national team, Finidi managed Enyimba International in the Nigerian Premier Football League (NPFL), leading them to the NPFL title in his second season.

By Tunde Eludini, Premium Times

Friday, June 14, 2024

Nigerian military kill terrorism kingpin, 36 other terrorists

A terrorism kingpin operating in Kaduna and other northern Nigeria states, Buharin Yadi, has been killed by Nigerian security forces.

The state’s Commissioner, Ministry of Internal Security and Home Affairs, Samuel Aruwan, announced this in a statement on Thursday.

Mr Aruwan said Mr Yadi was “one of the deadliest bandit leaders terrorising Northern Nigeria in the last decade, and has met his bitter end at the hands of security forces.

“The troops of Sector 6 Operation Whirl Punch rained down fire on the kingpin known as Buhari Alhaji Halidu (alias Buharin Yadi) and his cohorts, abruptly terminating their ignominious spell of terror.

“Halidu was neutralized in a fierce battle with the troops (under the coordination of their Commander, also the General Officer Commanding of One Division Nigerian Army, Major General MLD Saraso) which took place around Idasu forest at the boundaries between Giwa LGA of Kaduna State and Sabuwa LGA of Katsina State”, Mr Aruwan said.

He said the troops began the covert operation in response to intelligence reports on terrorists’ movement from Samunaka, Saulawa area of Katsina State.

“On advancing to Samunaka, the troops found the settlement destroyed and cattle killed, evidence of recent criminal activity by the bandits.

“A ferocious battle quickly followed, as approaching terrorists were pounded with artillery rounds at Hayin Almajiri. The troops then fought bravely through an ambush, to attain their objective. Initial assessments indicate that at least 36 bandits were eliminated in the engagement”, Mr Aruwan said in the statement.

Mr Aruwan said It was eventually verified that one of those killed was Kachalla Buharin Yadi.

“The kingpin, Mr Halidu (also known as Buharin Yadi or Buhari Janar) and the brigands under his command had been unleashing terror on citizens in Kidandan/Galadimawa general areas of Giwa LGA, Sabon Birni/Kerawa general areas of Igabi LGA,” he added.

His reign of terror extended to Sabuwa LGA of Katsina State, and indeed some parts of Niger and Zamfara states, Mr Aruwan added.

“Buharin Yadi was involved in large-scale cattle rustling, arms trading and drug trafficking. He had led his gang in the pillaging of communities and the slaughter and kidnapping of thousands of citizens in Kaduna and neighboring states.

“The merciless bandit was also known to have links with other deadly terrorist groups in the North-east and North-west,” Mr Aruwan added.

He said the breakthrough brought to an end a manhunt by security forces for this terrorist, which stretched more than five years ago.

“The news of his demise spread like wildfire, triggering massive relief and widespread celebrations among locals spanning Kaduna and Katsina states”, he added.

Meanwhile, Mr Aruwan said Governor Uba Sani was delighted with the development.

He said the governor described it as a pointer to the bravery, pro-activeness and sheer efficiency of the troops involved.

“The Governor commended the GOC, Major General Saraso for his sterling leadership, and lauded the troops for the comprehensive victory. Governor Sani reassured security forces in Kaduna State of his unflinching support and the continued collaborative stance of the Government.

“Members of the public are hereby informed that some of the terrorists sustained gunshot injuries during the encounter. Citizens in the general area and beyond are therefore enjoined not to render assistance (medical or otherwise) to individuals carrying suspicious injuries, but to immediately report such to security agencies.

“The Kaduna State Security Operations Room is available 24 hours a day to receive reports of this nature on the phone lines 09034000060 and 08170189999.

“Special operations against bandits continue in the general area. Citizens are urged to continue to volunteer supportive information to the security forces and the government”, the official stated.

By Abubakar Ahmadu Maishanu, Premium Times

President Tinubu jokes about fall during ceremony

 Nigeria's President Bola Tinubu has made light of his fall during Wednesday’s Democracy Day ceremony, saying it was his Yoruba culture on display.

Mr Tinubu slipped and fell over at an official event to mark 25 years of democracy in the country.

The president, 72, fell as he climbed the steps on a vehicle which was supposed to take him around Eagle Square in the capital, Abuja.

He had to be helped to get back to his feet.

Later in the evening, while giving a speech at the banquet dinner organised as part of the day's events, the former Lagos state governor noted he was all over social media after falling.

“Early this morning, I had a swagger and it's on the social media. They're confused whether I was doing buga or doing babanriga [referring to two popular dance moves in Nigeria]," the president said.

"But it's a day to celebrate democracy while doing dobale [yoruba term for bowing to greet elders] for the day. I'm a traditional Yoruba boy, I did my dobale."

One of his aides described it as a "mild misstep" and said the president had been able to continue with the rest of the day's programme.

"He immediately went on with the ceremonial rounds. No issues,” wrote presidential aide Dada Olusegun on X.

Mr Tinubu’s closest challenger during last year’s election, Atiku Abubakar, expressed his sympathy.

“I sincerely sympathise with President Bola Tinubu over this unfortunate incident as he was set to review the parade on Democracy Day. I do hope that all is well with him,” he wrote on X.

Popular politician and activist Shehu Sani said it was no big deal, and that the incident showed the president was no different to anyone else.

“Not Just President Tinubu, anyone alive can trip and fall; it happened to President Biden and Fidel Castro. Presidents are human beings and mortals.”

X user Arinze Odira said the fall was "scary to watch".

Another Nigerian, Charles Awuzie, posted on Facebook that he got emotional after seeing the clip.

“Whether it is President Biden or President Tinubu, I usually feel hurt when a human gets hurt in the place of service. I wish the president well.”

While most Nigerians have expressed their sympathy and best wishes, for some it has reignited questions about his health, which were raised by his opponents during the campaign for last year's tightly contested election.

By Mansur Abubakar, BBC 

Related story: President Tinubu says economic reforms will continue despite hardships

Nigeria Gets $2.25 Billion Boost From World Bank

The World Bank approved $2.25 billion in funding to support Nigeria’s economic reform efforts, helping to boost the supply of hard currency on the local foreign-exchange market.

The fresh funds will support Africa’s largest oil producer’s efforts to stabilize the economy and assist the poor and most economically at risk, the Washington-based lender said in a statement on Thursday. It will also help the country raise non-oil revenues and safeguard oil revenues to promote fiscal sustainability and deliver quality public services, it said.

Nigeria has battled years of acute foreign-exchange shortages arising from low crude production and a lack of economic diversification. Since coming to office in May 2023, President Bola Tinubu has worked to address the scarcity with a series of reforms aimed at attracting foreign investors and boosting economic growth. They include the central bank clearing a $7 billion backlog of unmet foreign-exchange obligations to industries and foreigners, allowing the naira to trade more freely, increasing interest rates steeply and sharply adjusting gasoline prices to phase out a costly fuel subsidy.

“Nigeria’s concerted efforts to implement far-reaching macro-fiscal reforms place it on a new path which can stabilize its economy and lift its people out of poverty,” said Ousmane Diagana, the World Bank vice president for Western and Central Africa. “This financing package reinforces the World Bank’s strong partnership with Nigeria, and our support towards reinvigorating its economy and fast-tracking poverty reduction, which can serve as a beacon for Africa.”

Monique Vanek, Bloomberg

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Video - Nigeria to invest $3.5 billion in the textile sector

Latest data from the National Bureau of Statistics shows that textiles contributed a negative 1.75 percent to Nigeria's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the first quarter of 2024, making it one of the under-performing industries in Nigeria. The government is counting on 3.5 billion dollars in investment secured late last month to turn things around.


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Women abused in Nigerian military cells after fleeing Boko Haram

Dozens of women and young girls have been unlawfully detained and abused in Nigerian military detention facilities after escaping captivity by Boko Haram extremists in the country’s northeast, Amnesty International said in a new report on Monday.

Some of the women were detained with their children for years because of their real or perceived association with the extremists, the report said. It cited 126 interviews, mostly with survivors, over the 14 years since the Islamic extremists launched their insurgency.

The report echoes past human rights concerns about the Nigerian military, which in the past has been accused of extrajudicial killings and illegal arrests in one of the world’s longest conflicts.

However, the report noted that prolonged and unlawful detentions have been less widespread in recent years.

Nigeria's army dismissed the report as “unsubstantiated” and reiterated that it has continued to improve on its human rights record and holds personnel to account.

The conflict has spilt over borders killed at least 35,000 people and displaced over 2 million. Women and young girls are often forcefully married or sexually abused in captivity.

But the conditions some women found themselves in after fleeing captivity were so “horrible” that some chose to return to Boko Haram, Niki Frederiek, crisis researcher with Amnesty International, said of the detention camps located in military facilities in Borno state.

At least 31 survivors interviewed said they were held illegally in the facilities, the report said, suggesting the practice had been more widespread.

“Some said soldiers insulted them, calling them ‘Boko Haram wives’ and accusing them of being responsible for killings. Several described beatings or abysmal conditions in detention, which amount to torture or other ill-treatment,” the report said.

“The Nigerian authorities must support these girls and young women as they fully reintegrate into society,” said Samira Daoud, Amnesty International’s regional director for West and Central Africa.

Africa News 

Related story: Nigerian girls failed by authorities after escaping Boko Haram captivity

President Tinubu says economic reforms will continue despite hardships

Nigeria's President Bola Tinubu said on Wednesday economic reforms would continue despite increasing hardships that have fuelled public anger, and promised to send an executive bill to parliament soon to set a new minimum wage.

Tinubu, who came to power a year ago, removed a decades-old petrol subsidy that kept prices artificially low and devalued the currency, sending inflation soaring to 33.69% in April, its highest level in nearly three decades and eroding incomes.

In a television broadcast to mark Democracy Day, Tinubu acknowledged hardships caused by the reforms, which also include higher interest rates and the partial removal of electricity subsidies, but he said this would create a stronger foundation for future growth.

"Our economy has been in desperate need of reform for decades. It has been unbalanced because it was built on the flawed foundation of over-reliance on revenues from the exploitation of oil," Tinubu said.
"As we continue to reform the economy, I shall always listen to the people and will never turn my back on you."

Nigeria is grappling with the worst cost-of-living crisis in decades and labour unions last week suspended a strike called to pressure the government to agree a new monthly minimum wage.

The government has offered to double the minimum wage to 62,000 naira ($41.89) a month against labour demands of 250,000 naira, and Tinubu said his government had negotiated in good faith. The last minimum wage was set in 2019.

"We shall soon send an executive bill to the National Assembly to enshrine what has been agreed upon as part of our law for the next five years or less," Tinubu said.

He did not say whether the bill would contain the government minimum wage proposal or a new figure.
Labour union leaders have said they would wait to hear back from Tinubu before deciding on next steps.

By Felix Onuah, Reuters 

Related story: Poll rates Tinubu’s performance as abysmal in first year as President

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Video - Nigerian businesses call for review of new currency trading guidelines

Operators argue the new regulation could drive many out of business after Nigeria’s Central Bank raised the minimum capital requirement for operators by over one thousand percent.


Video - Nigeria partners with Chinese firm to invest in first lithium processing plant

A Chinese firm has opened the first lithium processing plant in Nigeria, marking a departure from the past when firms mined and exported the mineral in its raw form from the country. The processing plant located in northwest Nigeria is a joint venture between Ming Xin Mineral Separation and the Kaduna state government.


Nigerian fishing community on edge after jihadists threaten attack

Nigerian fisherman Modu Umar has hardly slept for two weeks, torn between staying in his Baga community or fleeing after Islamist militants warned residents to leave their homes or face an attack.

Umar, a 33-year-old father of three, has known no life but fishing in nearby Lake Chad and selling his catch in the four countries around it. Now, like hundreds of other residents, he is anxious about his future.

Five Baga residents said fighters from Islamic State West Africa Province(ISWAP), a Boko Haram offshoot, attacked the community on May 27, killing 15 people and abducting many more.

Days later, the group issued a 14-day eviction notice that has rippled through Baga, which in the past has witnessed battles between the multinational forces of Cameroon, Chad, Nigeria and Niger, and jihadists.
"We are in a difficult situation and helpless," Umar told Reuters by phone. "Ever since the notice, I have been constantly worried and in fear."

Many residents have already left, although an estimate was unavailable.

President Bola Tinubu came to power last year promising to end widespread insecurity, which includes the Boko Haram insurgency that started in 2009.

Baga is part of Kukawa, one of the 27 local government areas in Borno state, the heart of the insurgency.
The town is headquarters to a brigade of the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF). But that offers little relief for residents.

In January 2015, Boko Haram carried out a series of raids on Baga, overran the MNJTF headquarters and killed dozens of people.

Defense spokesperson Major General Edward Buba told Reuters the military had put in place "measures to ensure the people are protected from acts of terror of the terrorists."

Modu Massah Baga, 39, provides for his two wives and eight children from fishing. He is worried he may have to give up his means of support.

"How can you just leave where you have a source of livelihood and go to where you don't know? It is disheartening to us because many are afraid and worried," he said. "This is the only place we work to feed our families."

Baga has also seen intra-jihadist fighting between ISWAP and Jama'tu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'awati wal-Jihad (JAS), another Boko Haram remnant that since last year has been seizing islands in Lake Chad previously controlled by ISWAP, security experts say.

This fighting could have triggered the eviction notice, the experts added.

"ISWAP is sometimes more aggressive towards civilians in the Lake Chad communities when it is facing setbacks because it has to resort to terrorizing communities in order to deter them from working with either the military or a rival faction," said James Barnett, a Hudson Institute research fellow who has written extensively on the insurgency. 

By Ope Adetayo, Reuters

Related story: Nigeria gunmen kill at least 25 in village raid, officials say

Super Eagles in World Cup disarray after qualifying loss to Benin

 Nigeria's loss to Benin has left the Super Eagles' chances of qualifying for the 2026 FIFA World Cup in tatters. The Super Eagles, looking for most of the game as if they would rather be anywhere but Abidjan, lost 2-1 on Monday to finish the second qualifying window with a measly three points of a possible 12 from four their games.

This may not have sounded a death knell to their hopes of qualifying, with six games still to play, but it is tough to see them making much headway without a significant turnaround in performances.

The Super Eagles must now win all six of their remaining games to guarantee themselves a place at the World Cup; on the basis of their performances in these two games, vs. South Africa and Benin, that is as wishful as thinking gets.

Nigeria head coach Finidi George made three changes to his starting line-up after the disappointment of a home draw to South Africa, and things looked like they were going according to plan when Raphael Onyedika scored from just inside the box in the 27th minute.

But that was as good as it got. Benin took over the game completely, and were level not long after. Calvin Bassey's error let in Jodel Dossou, who beat Stanley Nwabali from close range, and Steve MouniƩ took advantage of a defensive walkabout in the Nigeria box to fire home from close range as the first half came to a close.

The Super Eagles offered no thing in threats for the next 45 minutes, and the Cheetahs held on for their first victory over Nigeria at this level to go top of the group, at least for a day. For Nigeria, it is time for the recriminations to begin as the once-feared giants of African football are now whimpering their way out of a place at the first 48-team World Cup.

Don't fix (or break) what isn't broken

Nigeria were propelled to the Africa Cup of Nations Final earlier this year by an uncharacteristically strong and disciplined defensive structure; to achieve that, however, they had to sacrifice their attacking instincts.

George was handed the job as head coach, in large part, because of his work with the team at close quarters during that time; with the defensive structure set, there was an expectation that minor tinkering would follow up front to make the team more efficient at converting the chances they created.

George largely stuck to that formula in his two friendly games as interim coach, but this World Cup qualifying window saw him abandon Jose Peseiro's solid back three base and replace it with the previous back four.

Three goals conceded in the two games suggests the change did not go well; perhaps it might have worked better had players not been deployed in various degrees of unfamiliar positions, but George had to scrape the bottom of his defensive barrel given William Troost-Ekong, Kenneth Omeruo, Zaidu Sanusi, Jamilu Collins and Bruno Onyemaechi were all absent.

Bright Osayi-Samuel, a right-back, was deployed at left-back, and Benjamin Tanimu, a centre-back, played at right-back. None of which worked. Only when Osayi-Samuel pulled up with injury in the latter stages of the Benin game, did George revert to something resembling normality -- sending left-footed Bassey to left-back, moving Tanimu central, and bringing in the natural right-back Sodiq Ismael.

It is unclear whether George was trying to distance himself from Peseiro's tactics with his formation changes, but smart money says he should have stuck with what was not broken.

Lessons unlearned

George said after the game vs. South Africa that the team would carry the lessons learned from an inspiring second-half performance into the game vs, Benin. That proved to be wishful thinking. Barring the first half half-hour, when they bossed the game and got their goal, the Super Eagles were on the back foot for all but the final five minutes of added time. There was no spirit, no sense of urgency, no attempt to fight back.

With time running out, players passed the ball all the way back to the goalkeeper, and then stood around looking lost. When Nwabali hoofed the ball all the way up front, they could barely win it back let alone keep possession.

The insipid nature of the performance, more than anything else, is what has left fans with the stunned disbelief that this team can turn things around even with six games to play.

The team showed a shocking lack of character or belief, and questions have to be asked of the players. The coach will take the blame for everything, of course, and rightfully so, but the players must also accept accountability for their listless displays.

George indirectly called it out in his post game comments.

"We have to see how the players will start the new season, and see how we can the best out of them," he said. "Everybody must be committed. With that commitment, we will win games. I believe we are going to win games, and if we can win games the battle will still be there. We can't throw in the towel because we have only three points. We have to find a way to get these payers back in a way for them to perform."

Baffling substitutions

George made a number of substitutions across both games in his attempt to steady the ship. Against South Africa, they worked a peach and Nigeria were unfortunate not to win. Against Benin, the substitutions did not work quite so well; hooking the duo of Alex Iwobi and Samuel Chukwueze did not appear to be the best decisions from the bench.

Iwobi has taken plenty of flak from Nigerians, including some especially horrid abuse after the Nations Cup, but it was clear over these two games that he was the most energetic of the players whom George had sent out on the pitch.

The Fulham midfielder was involved in almost every play by Nigeria, closing down channels, making tackles, hunting down the opposition in possession, winning balls, and making passes.

In one passage of play against South Africa, Iwobi went from deep left to chase down a misplaced pass, won the ball back, found Chukwueze with a pass then made himself available for a return ball up in an advanced position. When it did not come, he slipped back into midfield then rotated deep into defence to receive the ball and progress it, all in a 40-second spell. No other player did that. He carried that running into the Benin game. So it came as a surprise when he was hauled off in the second half as Nigeria made a rash of changes.

Without Iwobi, Nigeria lost any semblance of midfield ball circulation and resorted to route-one football.

Gernot Roht gets his pound of flesh

In the final days of his five-year tenure as Nigeria coach, Gernot Rohr got the Super Eagles to the last round of qualifying for the 2022 World Cup but was fired before he could play for a chance to take them to Qatar 2022. Now Benin coach, he made a point of not dwelling on any thoughts of revenge, and specifically said he was not going for it, but this must feel really special for him. And the manner in which he was picked up and carried around the pitch in celebration by his players after the final whistle showed just how much this result meant to the coach.

There are Nigerians who are now definitely wishing Rohr was on their side of the touchline.

How does Finidi George survive

This is the big question.

Finidi George could end up serving the shortest tenure of any Super Eagles coach, as Nigeria has already entered panic stations. Immediately after the game, national sports minister John Owan Enoh demanded an explanation from the Nigeria Football federation (NFF), saying "the Super Eagles have underperformed".

The tone of the demand was anything but unambiguous.

"The recent results are unacceptable," the minister said in a statement. "The NFF must provide a comprehensive technical report explaining the reasons behind this poor showing, and give cause why there mustn't be consequences."

The ominous tone suggests the minister himself is under fire from the presidency, which means George will be in some hot okro soup himself from the NFF.

Whether he survives in the job is touch and go; expect a lot of movement over the coming days.

By Colin Udoh, ESPN

Nigeria gunmen kill at least 25 in village raid, officials say

At least 25 people have been killed and others abducted by gunmen in Nigeria’s northwestern Katsina state, authorities say.

Dozens of gunmen on motorbikes stormed Yargoje in Kankara late on Sunday, the state commissioner for security affairs, Nasiru Babangida Mu'azu, told BBC Hausa.

Attacks by armed gangs - referred to locally as bandits - in north-west and central Nigeria have become almost routine, with authorities seemingly powerless to stop them, despite claims by the government and security forces that they are working to end the widespread insecurity.

Residents told the BBC that dozens of gunmen on motorbikes rode into the community, shooting indiscriminately and looting shops before abducting an unspecified number of villagers.

“The people killed by bandits are more than 50, because some dead bodies are still being recovered from the bush," said a resident, who did not want to be named.

"They killed children, women and men, and kidnapped a huge amount of people. They injured more than 30 residents who are currently receiving treatment at the general hospital."

Another resident, Abdullahi Yunusa Kankara, told Reuters that he narrowly escaped the onslaught, which he said continued into the early hours of Monday.

“Our town has turned into a death zone. Almost every house in the village has fallen victim to this attack. More dead bodies were recovered this [Monday] morning," he said.

Surviving residents are trying to ascertain how many people have been abducted.

In December 2020, more than 300 pupils were kidnapped from a boys' secondary boarding school on the outskirts of Kankara by a gang of gunmen on motorcycles. They were later freed, a week after the Katsina state government confirmed they were in talks with the kidnappers.

In March this year, dozens of passengers were kidnapped in a broad daylight attack also in the same area of Katsina, the state where former Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari hails from.

By Chris Ewokor, BBC

Related story: At least 40 villagers shot dead in Nigeria

Monday, June 10, 2024

Video - Hike in number of malnourished children overwhelms health facilities in Nigeria

Doctors Without Borders reported that its Nigerian health facilities are dealing with severely malnourished children with life-threatening complications. The group says the number of admitted cases doubled in April due to violent conflicts.


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Nigerian girls failed by authorities after escaping Boko Haram captivity

Girls and young women who escaped Boko Haram captivity in north-east Nigeria faced further suffering, including sometimes in unlawful military detention, and are now receiving inadequate support as they attempt to rebuild their lives, Amnesty International said in a new report.

‘Help us build our lives’: Girl survivors of Boko Haram and military abuses in north-east Nigeria investigates how girls survived trafficking and crimes against humanity by Boko Haram, including abduction, forced marriage, enslavement, and sexual violence.

After escaping Boko Haram captivity, many then experienced further abuse in prolonged and unlawful Nigerian military detention, though in recent years this practice is less widespread during the conflict that has been raging for over a decade. Those not unlawfully detained were left to fend for themselves in displacement camps amid millions of other people needing humanitarian assistance. From there, some were “reunited” with their surrendered Boko Haram “husbands” in a government-run transit camp, exposing them to the risk of continued abuse.

“These girls, many of them now young women, had their childhood stolen from them and suffered a litany of war crimes, crimes against humanity and other human rights abuses. They are now showing remarkable bravery as they seek to take control of their future,” said Samira Daoud, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for West and Central Africa.

“An enormous number of girls suffered horrific abuse in Boko Haram captivity, with many survivors then detained or neglected by their government. Now, they are sending a clear message to the Nigerian government and its international partners. They urgently need increased specialist support to rebuild their lives.”

The crimes that the girls and young women endured have had long-lasting consequences that are specific to their age and gender, including health complications, access to education, the ability and desire to remarry, as well as stigma and rejection by their families and communities.

The report is based on 126 interviews, including 82 with survivors, that were conducted in-person in north-east Nigeria and remotely between 2019 and 2024. On 4 April, Amnesty International wrote to Nigerian federal and state authorities, as well as to UN offices, with its main research findings. In its response, the Nigerian military denied the allegations, said it upholds human rights in its operations, and referred to Amnesty International’s “sources”, which were primarily survivors, as “intrinsically unreliable”. UNICEF responded confidentially.

Abduction and sexual violence

Boko Haram carried out widespread abductions of children during attacks on the civilian population in north-east Nigeria. At least eight girls witnessed Boko Haram kill their relatives. CA*, who was abducted aged around 13 in 2014, said: “One day, Boko Haram… came into our house. They told our father we’re non-believers. They shot my father in the back of his head and the bullet came through his eyes. We started crying. They said if we don’t keep quiet, they will kill my mother too.”

Once abducted, most girls were then forcibly married. Child and forced marriage are common practices by Boko Haram, who generally consider girls to be “of age” to marry from early adolescence, or even before.

Girls were used in a multitude of ways as “wives”, including being made to serve their “husbands” in sexual slavery and domestic servitude. At least 33 survivors of forced marriage told Amnesty International that their “husbands” raped them. HA* was a teenager when she “agreed” to be married to save her father from being killed. She told Amnesty International she was beaten when she refused her “husband”, and that he frequently raped her.

A total of 28 interviewees said they bore children of sexual violence, and at least 20 were children themselves when they gave birth.

Punishments and suicide bombings

All those abducted were threatened into living under strict rules with severely limited freedom of movement. Any real or perceived breaches of these rules were met with physical punishment and, at times, prolonged periods of imprisonment.

Boko Haram meted out punishments publicly to instil fear and exert control. At least 31 girls interviewed were forced to watch forms of punishment that included lashings, amputations and beheadings.

GH*, now in her early 20s, spent around a decade in captivity. She was often forced to watch violent punishments and said: “Sometimes I dream about the corpses that I saw or the stoning of the women that I saw. Once I open my eyes, I can’t go back to sleep again.”

Boko Haram also used girls as suicide bombers on a large scale. Between mid-2014 and 2019, the majority of Boko Haram suicide bombers were female.

Violations in unlawful detention

Nearly 50 girls and younger women told Amnesty International they risked their lives and the lives of their children to successfully escape Boko Haram. Many experienced harrowing journeys lasting up to 12 days, where they survived on what little food and water they could find.

Some were “rescued” by the Nigerian military or members of the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF), a state-sponsored militia, who later unlawfully detained many of them. Throughout the conflict, the Nigerian military has arbitrarily detained thousands of children for prolonged periods.

Thirty-one girls and young women said they were unlawfully held in military detention for anywhere between several days and almost four years between 2015 and mid-2023, typically because of their real or perceived association with Boko Haram. Some said soldiers insulted them, calling them “Boko Haram wives” and accusing them of being responsible for killings. Several described beatings or abysmal conditions in detention which amount to torture or other ill-treatment.

NV* was around 20 when she escaped after eight years of Boko Haram captivity in 2021. She was unlawfully detained by the Nigerian military in Madagali, Adamawa State for about two months. She said: “When they [soldiers] brought food… they gave us a portion in our hand and soup in one bowl for all of us to share… As a toilet, they gave us a plastic bag.”

Many young women were detained with their children. Two interviewees gave birth in government detention, while others witnessed children die.

In violation of international human rights law, no interviewees had access to a lawyer or were charged with a criminal offence. BZ* was detained as a teenager in Giwa Barracks, an infamous military detention facility in Maiduguri, from around 2017 to 2020. She said: “Nobody explained anything to us. They just brought us there and nobody told us anything.”

Since 2016, most of those who had been unlawfully detained in Giwa Barracks were brought to Bulumkutu Interim Care Centre (BICC), where they were able to access some services.

‘We need support’: aspirations after Boko Haram

Many interviewees were reunited with their families by government authorities and their partners. All are now in overpopulated internally displaced persons (IDP) camps or communities across Borno and Adamawa States. Interviewees expected and requested specialist government support, but instead felt neglected.

AV* returned from Boko Haram captivity in 2021 aged around 15, and now lives in Madagali, Adamawa State. She said: “Most people in [the] government don’t care about us. We need support.”

Whilst the stigma of being a “Boko Haram wife” remains a barrier to reintegration for girls and young women, the situation has improved in recent years. Many interviewees said that community members insulted them, looked at them suspiciously, and voiced fears they would kill them or infect them with diseases.

ZC*, aged around 19, lives in an IDP camp with her formerly Boko Haram “husband”. She said: “They [the host community] always abuse us. They don’t give us anything. We always feel we are a burden to them.”

After years of oppression by Boko Haram, followed by unlawful military detention and neglect by government authorities, many interviewees valued freedom most of all. They expressed desires to become financially independent to support themselves and their families and to enrol their children in school.

Many identified access to education as their top priority and said they wanted to become doctors, nurses, teachers, and lawyers, or to work for non-governmental organisations. SB*, who spent around 10 years in Boko Haram captivity, said: “I want to start my life afresh. [There are] so many things I need, I don’t know where to start.”

Access to mental health and psychosocial support services is extremely limited throughout north-east Nigeria. The Nigerian government has an obligation to ensure that healthcare facilities and services are accessible.

“The Nigerian government has failed to uphold their human rights obligations to protect and adequately support these girls and young women,” said Samira Daoud.

“Along with their international partners, the Nigerian authorities must support these girls and young women as they fully reintegrate into society by prioritising access to healthcare, education and vocational training. They must get the assistance they need to rebuild their lives with dignity and in safety.”

Amnesty International is calling on the Nigerian government authorities, UN agencies and donor governments to urgently make available tailored reintegration services for these girls and young women, whilst ensuring other affected groups are not left behind. Amnesty International is also calling on the Nigerian authorities to ensure girls and young women have a meaningful alternative to being returned to their Boko Haram “husbands”, and given necessary support to rebuild their lives.


The non-international armed conflict between Boko Haram and Nigerian forces has affected millions of lives in north-east Nigeria since it started more than a decade ago. The conflict has resulted in a humanitarian crisis leaving millions of people internally displaced. All sides to the conflict.

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