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Dangote now 23rd richest in the world
November 6, 2014 | 0 Comments

images (4)NIGERIAN business mogul, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, has retained his position as Africa’s richest man with a $25 billion net worth. He has held that position for the fourth successive year. Globally, the influential Forbes Magazine rates him on the list of 25 richest people in the world. Dangote is ranked 23 up 43rd among the 100 richest persons in the world. The Nigerian businessman with interests in cement, sugar, beverages and petrochemical is said to be presently the first black man to break into the rank of top 25 richest people in the world. Mike Adenuga, owner of indigenous telecoms company Globacom, was next to Dangote on the list with a wealth of $4.6 billion, maintaining 325 position in the world, while Folorunsho Alakija, with $2.5 billion, was 687 in the world and Abdulsamad Rabiu ranks 1372 in the world, with $1.2 billion. Meanwhile, Bill Gates is back on top after a four-year hiatus, reclaiming the title of world’s richest person from telecoms mogul, Carlos Slim Helu of Mexico, who ranked number one for the past four years. Spanish clothing retailer, Amancio Ortega (best known for the Zara fashion chain) retains the number three spot for the second year in a row, extending his lead over Warren Buffett, who is again number four. *Vanguard]]>

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Nigeria: Aid for more than 50,000 violence-displaced people in north-east
November 5, 2014 | 0 Comments

download (2)On 3 November, the ICRC and the Nigerian Red Cross Society completed the distribution of food and household essentials to over 50,000 people living in extremely difficult conditions. “Not only did people have to flee their homes in Kodunga, Kaga, Gwoza and Damboa, they also lost all their belongings and their means of earning a living. They didn’t have enough food and they lacked important basic items,” said Karl Mattli, head of the ICRC delegation in Nigeria. “The additional strain placed on communities by hosting the displaced reached the point where it was more than they could bear.” After carrying out an assessment of the situation, the ICRC and the Nigerian Red Cross launched an emergency operation to meet urgent needs. ICRC staff and more than a hundred Nigerian Red Cross volunteers distributed 960 metric tonnes of food and other relief items to 51,000 people. Food and other items for needy people in the north-east Most displaced people who arrived in Maiduguri in the past few months were settled in government buildings, schools or official camps. Some stayed with relatives or host families, with whom they shared scant resources, while others found refuge in informal settlements. Whatever their living arrangements, the displaced cannot afford to buy their own food and therefore have had to depend on aid provided by the State or on the generosity of others to survive. “In the short term, the aid we have just distributed will improve significantly the well-being of the displaced,” said Janet Angelei, an ICRC economic-security specialist working in Nigeria. “The kitchen sets, blankets, soap, mats, hygiene items and tarpaulins we have provided will meet some of their immediate needs and reduce the burden on the hosting families.” The ICRC also distributed about a month’s supply of rice, beans, oil and salt. “Since fleeing our homes, we had not received any significant help,” said Abdullahi Abuya from Konduga. “Some of us had barely had anything to eat for weeks, but now things are better.” Health care In cooperation with the health ministry, the ICRC has undertaken to upgrade the Mala Kachalla primary health-care centre in Maiduguri and to train the centre’s staff. It has built a water tower with a 4,000-litre tank and installed a solar-powered water-supply system. In addition, it has completely renovated the facility’s floors, ceilings, doors and windows. “The centre, which is now fully operational, offers general outpatient services with a special focus on children under five years of age, ante-natal, delivery and post-natal services, and patient stabilization prior to referral for secondary care,” said Bernadette Gleeson, head of ICRC surgical and first-aid programmes in Nigeria. Because of the displaced people arriving in Maiduguri, the centre’s catchment population is now estimated to be in excess of 100,000. Emergency aid for Nigerians who fled to Niger [caption id="attachment_13747" align="alignleft" width="730"]Maiduguri, Nigeria. Thousands of families displaced by violence in the north-east of Nigeria queue up to receive food and essential household items during a distribution carried out by the ICRC and the Nigerian Red Cross. CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / A. Ahmed Hersi Maiduguri, Nigeria. Thousands of families displaced by violence in the north-east of Nigeria queue up to receive food and essential household items during a distribution carried out by the ICRC and the Nigerian Red Cross. CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / A. Ahmed Hersi[/caption] Civilians fleeing fighting between the Nigerian army and armed groups have recently arrived in the Diffa area, in easternmost Niger. The displaced, mainly women and children, arrived from the Abadam area and Nigerian villages near Lake Chad. They have lost everything and are entirely dependent on host communities and on aid provided by humanitarian organizations. At the beginning of October, the ICRC and the Red Cross Society of Niger distributed food to more than 2,000 people in Diffa and to over 3,500 people who have taken refuge on islands in Lake Chad. In 2014, the ICRC has also: •    visited detainees in over 20 detention facilities to assess the conditions in which they were being held. The findings were shared in full confidentiality with the authorities. In addition, ICRC staff provided detainees with blankets, mosquito nets and cleaning and hygiene items, improved hygiene conditions and helped make safe drinking water more easily available; •    restored access to clean water for more than 80,000 people in Kaduna and Plateau states; •    provided monthly food aid for 880 women in Maiduguri who lost their husbands in the ongoing conflict; •    provided food and other aid for over 37,000 people displaced as a result of intercommunal violence in Kaduna and Plateau states; •    taken part in a campaign launched at the end of October to vaccinate 150,000 head of cattle and 50,000 head of sheep and goats in partnership with the Plateau Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development •    supplied fertilizer and maize seed to close to 2,000 families in Plateau to enable them to restart their farming activities; •    sent a mobile surgical team to help treat over 70 people injured in bomb blasts in Jos (in May) and in Kaduna (in July); •    provided first-aid training for 1,850 people in cooperation with the Nigerian Red Cross; •    taught more than a thousand people, mostly from the Nigerian military and the Nigerian Red Cross, how to handle mortal remains properly. *SOURCE International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)]]>

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AfDB Approves US$ 148 million Line of Credit to Equity Bank Limited
November 5, 2014 | 1 Comments

AFDB's Donald Kaberuka AFDB’s Donald Kaberuka[/caption] The African Development Bank (AfDB) has approved a US$ 148- million multisector senior line of credit to Equity Bank Limited of Kenya for on-lending to key economic sectors in the country. The LOC approved by the AfDB Board in Abidjan on Wednesday 5 November 2014 is expected to further leverage Equity Bank’s capacity to deepen its lending activities to vital economic sectors such as manufacturing, agribusiness, transportation, financial services, telecommunications, construction and energy. According to papers presented to the Board, Equity Bank Limited was worth KES 238 billion (US$ 2.9 billion) in total assets and KES 50.7 billion (US$ 580 million) in equity as at 31 December 2013  and 158 branches across Kenya, Equity Bank is one of the largest banks in Kenya making up just under 10% of total bank lending. With over 8.4 million customers, Equity Bank Group is also at the forefront of the financial inclusion efforts of the country and closely associated with the empowerment of the traditionally unbanked. In 2013, Equity Bank provided over 170,000 loans to SMEs totaling over KES33B (US$380million). The Group includes subsidiaries in Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and South Sudan which make up just 10.6% of Group net interest income and 14% of Group assets. The LoC will ensure that Equity Bank can continue to finance projects of strategic important to the country’s development agenda by supporting the expansion of credit to SMEs with the associated benefits in private sector development, inclusive growth, increased employment and higher government tax revenues. Equity Bank Group includes subsidiaries in Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and South Sudan which make up just 10.6% of its net interest income and 14% of Group assets. The Line of Credit to Equity Bank is well aligned with both the Kenya Government’s and the Bank’s priority areas. It will enhance SME access to finance therefore contributing to their growth and development and contribute to helping Kenya further its growth and development aspirations. AfDB’s funding will contribute to diversifying and lengthening the maturity profile of Equity Bank’s funding and enhance its ability to extend medium to long-term financing to viable projects and borrowers. The provision of foreign currency resources for on-lending to entrepreneurs importing dollar-priced machinery and equipment also fosters additionality by providing a natural foreign-currency risk hedge.  ]]>

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Equity: Nigeria phone tower firm's $2.6 bn fundraiser biggest this decade
November 4, 2014 | 0 Comments

towerreutersNigerian phone tower group IHS has raised $2 billion in equity and $600 million in debt in what it says is the biggest equity fund raising by an African company this decade. IHS, the continent’s largest tower company, will use the money to finance infrastructure spending and recently agreed acquisitions, according to a company statement on Monday. It said the equity funding was from new and existing shareholders, but did not provide further details. The loan facility is split into two parts: a seven-year tranche of $500 million denominated in U.S. dollars and an eight-year tranche of $100 million in Nigerian naira. Ecobank, Standard Chartered, Standard Bank, Investec and the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) participated in the loan, IHS chief executive Issam Darwish told Reuters. “This is the largest equity raising by a private entity for the past 7-8 years in Africa — you’ve had mining, banks and now telecom infrastructure as a standalone sector is commanding this much interest from the international markets,” said Darwish. “This sends the right signal, it’s saying the international investor community believes in Africa and they’re putting a substantial amount of money behind that.” Building and maintaining mobile communications towers in Africa is typically more expensive than in other regions because of security costs and electricity shortages, while revenue per user is often lower. That has prompted many mobile operators to sell or lease towers to specialist companies such as IHS, which can reduce building and maintenance costs by hosting multiple tenants — mobile operators and Internet providers — on the same towers. In September, South Africa’s MTN agreed to sell 9,151 mobile towers in Nigeria to a new joint venture with IHS in a deal MTN said would cut its costs and boost its call and data capacity in Africa’s most populous country. That was MTN’s fifth tie-up with IHS following deals in Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Rwanda and Zambia. IHS in August agreed to buy and lease back 2,136 towers from Etisalat Nigeria, a unit of Abu Dhabi’s Etisalat. Darwish said a “substantial part” of the money IHS has raised would go towards paying for its recent acquisitions, with the remainder spent on boosting its infrastructure in the five countries it operates in. He said IHS would complete the two acquisitions soon, with one set to be concluded in a few weeks and the other shortly after that, although he declined to provide more details. Darwish predicted demand for broadband would drive growth in Africa’s telecoms sector. “The size of the middle class in Africa is now roughly one-third (of the population) – 15-20 years ago it was 10 percent or less,” said Darwish. “Broadband penetration is extremely low, less than 10 percent, so the potential is massive and you need towers to service that.” He predicted Africa could need 200,000-300,000 mobile towers over the next 10 years to meet future broadband demand, including up to 40,000 in Nigeria alone. IHS may raise further debt before the end of 2015. “Things keep growing and evolving for us so we may come back to the market very soon,” added Darwish. *Source theafricareport]]>

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Mortage and Housing: Nigeria loans for less
November 4, 2014 | 0 Comments

Tolu Ogunlesi in Lagos* [caption id="attachment_13690" align="alignleft" width="710"]Red tape and high interest rates have kept mortgages out of reach for a majority of Nigerians. Now sector reform and national and state-run schemes should boost the number of homeowners. Red tape and high interest rates have kept mortgages out of reach for a majority of Nigerians. Now sector reform and national and state-run schemes should boost the number of homeowners.[/caption] Enyi, 35, lives in Lagos and has been trying to get a mortgage for a while. Her struggle echoes the challenges facing Nigeria’s housing sector. The National Housing Fund (NHF), managed by the state-owned Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria, is her best bet, because it offers the best interest rates. But getting financing from the fund, even after fulfilling the requirements for eligibility, takes a while: between 12 and 24 months at least. “The NHF feels like a hush-hush thing,” she says. “Meanwhile it’s supposed to be available to every Nigerian of working age.” So, while waiting, she has turned to the next best option: a private mortgage bank. That should take less time than the NHF, but there’s one intimidating drawback: the “ridiculously high” interest rate, typically a minimum of 18% per annum, compared to the National Housing Fund’s 5%. Still, she has decided to brave it. Her plan is to arrange a private mortgage for now (because the property she’s set her eyes on won’t wait for the NHF loan to go through), and then switch to the NHF’s funding when it eventually arrives. Complicated, but better than nothing – if she can get it to work. The sad reality for her is that even the process of getting the expensive private bank mortgage has stalled. The developers of the property have had problems convincing the mortgage bank that the title to the land they were developing was genuine. “The mortgage bank said they couldn’t verify the papers with the state government,” Enyi says. Experts say the lack of efficiency and transparency around land-titling is one of the most debilitating issues affecting the housing sector in Nigeria. Ruth Obih, CEO of 3Invest, a real estate consultancy, points out that there are dozens of procedures required to register a piece of land, courtesy of a cumbersome land-use legislation dating back to the late 1970s, which vests ownership of all land in Nigeria’s federal and state governments – and ensures that formalities are tied up in corrupt and tardy bureaucracies. When she worked as a conveyancing lawyer in the UK, Obih was used to completing land registration procedures in weeks. In Nigeria, she laments, it takes years. Red tape combines with high interest rates, short repayment schedules (20-year mortgages are rare, making monthly repayments high) and an unfriendly legal system (inadequate fore-closure laws) to compound the problem. Where are the houses? But arguably the biggest issue is the availability of houses. For decades home construction has lagged well behind demand, so that Nigeria’s housing deficit – the number of houses that need to be built to ensure that everyone has access to one – is now estimated at 17m. It’s hard to talk about a housing finance market without houses, Obih says. At a housing summit in Abuja earlier this year, finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said that Nigeria’s housing finance market constitutes only 1% of GDP, a negligible figure compared to the US and UK (upwards of 75%), Hong Kong (50%) and Malaysia (32%). Analysts estimate a functioning housing finance market in Nigeria will boost annual economic growth by as much as a tenth. With the acute shortage of houses, even if industry-wide interest rates were to fall to single digits and legal knots miraculously dissolve, there would still be a problem. Developers in Lagos are disproportionately targeting the luxury market; the high rental and sale prices – in many cases denominated in dollars – are their only insurance in a very high-risk market. The financing end of the market has also struggled for years to get it right. In 2012 the central bank announced plans to reform the sector, in a manner similar to what was done to Nigeria’s commercial banks in 2004. Survival of the fittest At the beginning of July the verdict emerged. Only 36 of the hundreds of primary mortgage institutions (PMIs) made it over the new capitalisation hurdles: 10 are licensed to operate nationally; the rest have been given regional mandates. Those that failed will be delisted, and the fate of depositors is unclear. Enyi says she is currently trying to recover her deposit from one of the PMIs. “It’s a very unsettled industry right now,” Obih says. But it’s not all gloomy news. Analysts expect that recapitalised mortgage banks will be in a better position to provide cheaper financing. And a new entrant to the mortgage market promises to be a game-changer: the Nigeria Mortgage Refinance Company (NMRC), launched by President Goodluck Jonathan in January 2014 to provide cheap financing to the PMIs, enabling them to create more mortgages. The company has been likened to America’s Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which, until they fell into distress following the subprime mortgage crisis, considerably swelled the country’s class of homeowners. The federal government is not alone in its quest to transform the housing sector in Nigeria. State governments are also rolling out schemes to encourage activity. In Ogun State, the government last December launched a scheme to fast-track the vital “certificates of occupancy” for people who have already built on their land (typically C of Os don’t come for years; land owners have to make do with temporary certification). And in Lagos, there is a new state-run mortgage scheme. The Lagos Home Ownership Mortgage Scheme (HOMS) launched in February provides a 10-year mortgage option at 9% interest. The houses are built by the state through the Lagos Mortgage Board, while the financing is handled by the Lagos Building Investment Company (LBIC). All of the funding, state governor Babatunde Fashola has said, comes from tax-payers. “We have not borrowed one kobo to fund the scheme,” he says. Construction work is ongoing at 23 sites across the state, delivering, at the moment, 200 homes monthly. Because the number of applicants exceeds the number of available houses, a monthly draw is held publicly.” You don’t need to know anybody [to qualify],” Fashola told the crowd at the July draw, an attempt to dispel the belief common among Nigerians that all allocation schemes are rigged to favour those who have connections. Fashola acknowledges that the programme is a drop in the ocean, but is optimistic for the future. “A system that can support some people will ultimately support more people,” he said. “I’m confident that whether I’m here [as governor] or not, as many people who want to own a home in Lagos, and who are working, will do so.” He stresses that it’s not only salaried workers who stand to benefit from HOMS, an important clarification to make in a city where the informal businesses – traders, artisans, freelancers – are estimated to account for as much as 80% of the economy. For Dare Okusanya who, even though he currently works as a banker in Lagos, doesn’t want to live in the city, other options have to be explored. The one he seems set to settle for is the one most common across Nigeria: self-financing of home construction through one’s income and savings. Going it alone He owns a plot of land in Oyo State, two hours drive north of Lagos, in south- western Nigeria, where he plans to build his house. Like Enyi, he once had his eyes on the housing fund, even moving forward to make the necessary down payment. “I wanted the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria financing because the interest rate is reasonable,” he says. But after about eight months he gave up and asked for a refund, which he’s since collected. “I’ve tried to go ahead on my own to start building on the land. With the little I have I’ve been doing it gradually.” But the prospects for the housing finance sector are great, says Obih, both with the reforms and the NMRC, which should ultimately drive down interest rates and extend loan tenors. No doubt it will take a while for ordinary Nigerians like Enyi and Okusanya to feel its effects. Until cheap financing becomes widely available most will have to settle for the long, hard and uncertain slog of self-developing and self-financing. “[For now] it’s better for you to amass the money and do whatever you want to do with it, than to go for credit,” Okusanya says. ● *Source theafricareport]]>

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What now after Nigeria's Boko Haram ceasefire fiasco?
November 4, 2014 | 0 Comments

The chances of campaigners seeing an imminent release of the schoolgirls appear to be fading The chances of campaigners seeing an imminent release of the schoolgirls appear to be fading[/caption]

The latest Boko Haram video in which its leader Abubakar Shekau denies any ceasefire talks between his group and Nigerian officials will come as a huge embarrassment to the government, reports the BBC’s Africa Security Correspondent Tomi Oladipo.

The militant leader has directly contradicted government claims that the ceasefire would set the stage for the release of more than 200 schoolgirls abducted in April from Chibok town. With the presidential elections just three months away, any chances of having a peaceful vote in north-eastern Nigeria are unlikely. Analysts now suggest it might be time to rethink any diplomatic solution to the crisis and instead concentrate efforts on restoring the stability of the nation. ‘Married off’ Shekau’s defiance in the video did not come as a surprise to many. In fact it was the government’s announcement of a truce that provoked scepticism among Nigerians, even if some of the Chibok community said they were “cautiously optimistic”. Much of the handling of the crisis over the last six months has hinged on securing the release of the schoolgirls. While Shekau says the girls have now converted to Islam and been “married off”, there might still be the possibility of a swap for Boko Haram members in custody of the government. The insurgent group has long demanded the release of its men from prison. So far, attempts at dialogue have not led to any cessation of violence. Only a few weeks ago, Nigerian government officials seemed certain they had agreed a truce but Boko Haram militants and Nigerian security forces clashed shortly after the announcement. ‘Mixed signals’ So where does the government go from here? Veteran diplomat Bolaji Akinyemi suggests that the government needs to rethink its strategy. “We can accept this latest [Boko Haram] video at face value that this group is not willing to talk,” he says. “The government needs to stop sending mixed signals about the possibilities and now consider that maybe the solution is a military one. Unfortunately we have to accept that the loss of lives is inevitable and maybe we need to prepare ourselves for that.” Mr Akinyemi was part of a presidential committee tasked to come up with recommendations for a solution to the insecurity. One of its findings was that security agencies needed improved training and equipment to stand up to the Boko Haram challenge. *Source BBC]]>

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2015: Why I insist Jonathan, Buhari should not run – Sheik Ahmad Gumi
November 1, 2014 | 0 Comments

Sheik Ahmad Gumi welcomed us into his  modestly furnished, new apartment somewhere in a highbrow part of Kaduna town. He was there waiting for us, with broad sparkling grin that seemed to illuminate his gray beards. [caption id="attachment_13624" align="alignleft" width="250"]Sheikh Gumi Sheikh Gumi[/caption] As we exchanged pleasantries, the man who had sparked a national debate with two letters he had written to some Presidential aspirants,  appeared much younger that pictures portrayed of him. Our main mission was to find out why he wrote President Goodluck Jonathan and Gen. Mohammadu Buhari (rtd) not to contest the 2015 Presidential elections and to have his take on the insurgency ravaging the North Eastern part of Nigeria. Vanguard got more that it asked for. Gumi, in a calm, comported manner spewed out shocking and disturbing reasons for his letter. He further gave a grim dimension to the Boko Haram debacle, claiming that the Jonathan government was deliberately abetting the war to pave way for his continued stay in power. The son of late Shiek Abubakar Gumi, in this no-holds-bared interview with our Kaduna State Correspondent, Luka Binniyat, and Mayen Etim, went on to claim that he was a marked man over his recent letters, and gave reasons. It is a must-read. Sir, could you assess the state of the Nigeria Nation today? First, I welcome you all to my house. The state of Nigeria actually is not seriously different from what is happening in other countries in Africa.  Nigeria being a mixed society has different tribes, religions and cultures, and this has made the country significantly peculiar; because we share some of black Africa’s problems and also share the contemporary Muslim problems.  Every culture, every religion goes through stages like childhood, adolescence, middle age then old age. This is how civilization and religion grow, so we’re not different particularly now that our country is going through a very difficult stage.  So, what may be good for other countries may not necessarily be good for Nigeria looking at our condition, developmental stage and peculiarity.  So, Nigeria’s problems need a very special, careful approach, because the end result is if you don’t have peace and stability then nothing works. If you look at Nigeria’s problems it is a microcosm of what is happening in the whole world. The underdevelopment, the whole of black Africa, the whole of Africa is compounded with the problems Muslims are facing now.  These problems are both intrinsic and extrinsic and are caused by the Muslims themselves and external factors.  So, if you put all these together and reflect on Nigeria the situation is pathetic but it is not hopeless at all. .  You wrote to Gen. Mohammadu Buhari (rtd) and President Goodluck Jonathan asking them not to contest the 2015 presidential election. What motivated that? I wish to write more and more!  There’s no question of regret writing those letters and so far, I think the letters, to me, have achieved part of what I intended to achieve.  First, to at least put the issue in national discourse; let’s discuss issues not like the National Conference where we tended to tell people what they wanted to hear. The supporters of The President and the retired Gen. Muhammadu Buhari have reservations about your comments.  And there are people who agreed with you. What more would you want to tell Nigerians about your fear for 2015 election?Buhari’s Supporters, irrational, fanatical, sentimental? Yes, my fear about the 2015 election is that when I look at the parameters of 2011 election and what led to the crises, I didn’t see anything that have changed.  In fact, the factors are more aggravated now.  What’s coming now to explode is a big bomb. My letters addressed the factors. It’s about a Nigerian citizen telling Gen. Buhari, please step down for peace, unity and stability of Nigeria because your followers are fanatical, irrational, sentimental and they are many, not few. So, please … and look at their reaction (intolerance). Just telling their man to step down, and they reacted this way; what more if they were hoping, dreaming – because I tell you they’re sentimental and irrational – hoping their man will be president and suddenly he’s announced the loser, how will their reaction be like?  And who can control them? You see, the flames of war,  when they start nobody can control them.  Jonathan/Buhari are false lights” Look at Syria now, people fighting the government and vice versa. Then terrorists came in, fighting the liberalists, liberalists fighting the government and the dictators and now nobody, not even the United Nations has the honour and prestige to tell people. “please stop!”. That’s war.  Look at Libya, there’s war.  War in Nigeria, when it starts too, nobody can stop it and it may have no boundaries.  Now, it’s confined to some part of the North but when it engulfs the whole country nobody will settle anywhere. The worse thing is that people don’t know how to behave in war. It’s just like insects in the bush. If there’s light or flame they think it is good for them; they rush to it and fall into flame, killing themselves.  So, there’s fake light.  We’re creating fake light.  In the North people think that General (Buhari) is light whereby they can get salvation, but it’s a false light, it will destroy them. And in the South too, the government has false light. It is saying, “followers”, especially Christians, “this is your salvation, saviour” –  it’s a false light. Why? Anything that will cause polarization of the society even if you have the upper hand, you really  don’t have it because the other hand will try to undermine you.  So, in a stable society, there is a correct light whereby every segment of the society is comfortable, relatively and reasonably comfortable. There’s no agitation, no urge to fight back, this is the society we can all bring up ourselves.  We live happily together without  destroying any culture, religion and other differences. My dear sister came with attire with different colours (referring to the female reporter).  I don’t want her to be all white. We should accept our differences. God made it so.  In fact in the Qur’an (he quotes a verse of the scripture) which literally means “do your religion and me my religion.” Is not by force, there’s no compulsion in religion.  In fact, a verse in the Qur’an said you can never put faith into a person’s heart except God, so your own is to admonish people. Sir, maybe that’s what you meant in the letter to the President when you said; “surely with the Christain votes and northern PDP followers, you can win another election but you will also set the nation into another turmoil because that segment of the nation that rejects you believe so wrongly or rightly that you are involved negatively in the Boko Haram saga”. Can you please elaborate on this? “A big section of Nigeria will be uncomfortable with Jonathan continuing as President” [caption id="attachment_13625" align="alignright" width="412"]President Goodluck Jonathan displaying Expression of Interest and Nomination Forms at the People’s Democratic Party’s Secretariat in Abuja on Thursday (30/10/14). President Goodluck Jonathan displaying Expression of Interest and Nomination Forms at the People’s Democratic Party’s Secretariat in Abuja on Thursday (30/10/14). –[/caption] The question of Nigeria now is not about winning election; it’s a question of “I’m right, I won”.  It’s not about that now; it’s about responsibility;  it’s not enough to say I’ve won election. It’s only enough when every part of Nigeria feels truly that you’ve won. Secondly, when all sections say, “we’ll be comfortable with your leadership then that’s it. If there is any section of Nigeria which is afraid and suspicious of your leadership when you’ve not won, then don’t contest in the first place. Because everything  in this democracy was designed to have a peaceful and mutual understanding and consent of the people as put in the constitution. But in this case, if President Jonathan wins, a huge part of the society will  feel uncomfortable and frightened by his continuation.  The natural thing to do  is to give the chance to another person to contest; this is  just natural everywhere in the world.  ”And what about Boko Haram? Why the Boko Haram issue has two perspectives – the perspective you, the press, have been bombarding Nigerians with and the true perspective seen by the victims.  Let me tell you what the victims see in Boko Haram; We are  almost one full year of a state of emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa. people gave the government benefit of doubt at the beginning.  The National  Assembly sanctioned the state of emergency and that means that soldiers can liquidate or kill anybody without trial.  That automatically puts you out of the area if you are an outsider. You cannot go and see for yourself what’s happening. Powers were given to them and also   huge sums of money. With these huge sums,  nobody would have taught that after this long period of fighting Boko Haram we will still be fighting them.  Soldiers at the fronts  were being eliminated, outnumbered, and many civilians incarcerated.  The Army were just there arresting civilians and putting them in prison.  There is no military strategy to fight Boko Haram. On the contrary some of these soldiers cry to me personally.  They come to us and tell us stories contrary to what you people hear.  Helicopter droppings, tinted glassed vehicles, sometimes with foreigners in them. Army officers telling me that sometimes they’ll pursue  them but would be given orders to stop, “don’t pursue”. You (the press) don’t know this but we know, and even recorded some. We know it’s a remote control war.  This stalemate is a remote control war. ”There are Christians in Boko Haram” Who can believe  that with the kind of wealth that Nigeria has, our soldiers will be given few bullets to face Boko Haram. Nobody knows that this Boko Haram, from the few the army was able to kill, were mercenaries from Chad.  There are even some none-Muslims among them.  A soldiers came to us here from Bita, which  is very close to the Zambisa forest.  He  said when they went freshly with ammunition they were able to repel the first attacks of Boko Haram. When the Boko Haram were withdrawing, he heard them say Victor, Amir, John, Mohammed e.t.c. Boko Haram are not only Muslims. “Buhari and Jonathan are polarising figure” So, that’s why people in the north are frantic they don’t want President Jonathan to come back because of  their safety, lives and security. And this has made them to be too attached to Gen. Buhari because they think he’s the only credible person and he has large followers who feel that they can help defeat Jonathan. I know like Jonathan, Buhari is also polarizing figure.  Buhari is not only a polarizing figure in Nigeria, he is even so in the North. There are people who don’t want him at all for different reasons.  My Islamic credentials make me see things in broader perspective. And that’s why I am seriously telling him to consider that leadership is not only about honesty and accountability. It also has to do about conformity, flexibility, being nice to people and not just disciplinary strictness. No! All these people that are attached to him would be very surprised if he gets into power. He will not do what they want. “My father was  too soft, and a polarising agent to be president” If my father told me he wanted to be President I would say ‘I know you’re honest, more honest than Buhari, but still you’re not suitable to rule Nigeria because, you’re a polarizing figure even among the Muslims just like Catholics and Protestants.  Secondly, my father was a very lenient.  Really? Let me tell you something, he was at home and  the phone rang and his bank manager asked him; “did you send anybody to cash money from the Foundation account?”  He said no and still didn’t want to know the person because he didn’t want anybody to look bad before him. One day they brought a boy who presented a letter he purportedly signed and endorsed for the boy to be employed. They apprehended the boy and my father asked him why he did so. The boy said he did so because he wanted a job. My father said bring the letter let me sign the correct signature for you.   In Hausa land they knew him to be soft. If he told me that he wanted to be president of Nigeria, I would have told him that he was to soft and would not be fit to be President. Nigeria needs somebody not too hard and not too soft.  There are qualities that make a leader. Still on this Boko Haram issue, you have been a target of the insurgents, Gen. Buhari too. President Jonathan, is also a target, but well protected. What would Jonathan benefit in sustaining Boko Haram?   [caption id="attachment_13626" align="alignleft" width="412"]BUHARI DECLARES: General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) declaring his intention to seek the All Progressives Congress, APC, nomination to contest next year’s presidential election yesterday. - BUHARI DECLARES: General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) declaring his intention to seek the All Progressives Congress, APC, nomination to contest next year’s presidential election yesterday. –[/caption] There’s too much secrecy about handling of Boko Haram affairs.   Many people were arrested, put in jail and we’ve never seen the reports. There should be open trials. When there were bombings in Boston Marathon, the press, police and national guards were working hand-in-hand, step by step and when they discovered pictures everybody stepped up the search until the culprits were caught. Everything was open. But in Nigeria everything about Boko Haram is kept secret. Why not exposed them so that they speak and we know who their sponsors are.  There was a time Boko Haram targeted me. Explosives killed two of them when they were planting them. The military took their bodies away till today. They were not exposed for identification. You are advocating for a president that will be widely acceptable that will not divide the country.  Now there are so many people that have indicated interest to run for the Presidency. Have you spotted any among them that meets these standard? Okay, this is another question that is very good.  Nigerians are looking for an ideal President and there is nothing like ideal person when you talk of human terms.  No one is ideal.  What we’re looking for is someone palatable, someone that will cause less friction, problems and polarization.  This is the man we’re looking for and Nigerians should decide. Okay sir, we’ve taken much of your time I want to summarize this. I want you to give a very good advice to Nigerians My advice would in fact be to all Nigerians.   It’s very important we develop the culture of civility.  We have to be civil.  If you have a case take it to the court. The question of demonstrations, strive and killings should not even arise. If anybody feels he’s cheated in election let him go to court. . What is the value you get in trying to assert your right by violence? In doing that you kill many people? That’s why I’d thought it was important to pass this advice to the president and to Buhari before the elections. After the 2011, many innocent people that even didn’t know about politics died; youth corps members  were killed, and villagers were massacring each other. I thought that we have had enough of violence. This is what I expected from Buhari and Jonathan.  Groom people.  You can imagine now if Jonathan w groomed another person that will sustain our democracy, he would be a very great leader not to contest again and hand over to a successor.   If Buhari would have stepped down, people will say oh! he’s a great man. *Source Vanguard]]>

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Boko Haram denies ceasefire claim by Nigeria's government
November 1, 2014 | 0 Comments

News of the government supposedly sealing a truce with Boko Haram made the front pages News of the government supposedly sealing a truce with Boko Haram made the front pages[/caption]

Boko Haram has denied claims by Nigeria’s government that it has agreed to a ceasefire and will release more than 200 abducted schoolgirls.

The group’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, said the girls had converted to Islam and been married off since being taken. Nigeria’s army announced a ceasefire with the militants on 17 October, saying the girls would soon be freed. But violence has continued since news of the alleged truce, including a fatal bomb blast on Friday. Boko Haram has been fighting an insurgency since 2009, with some 2,000 civilians reportedly killed this year. ‘We will not negotiate’ In a video released on Friday, Abubakar Shekau said: “We have not made ceasefire with anyone. We did not negotiate with anyone. It’s a lie. “We will not negotiate. What is our business with negotiation? Allah said we should not.” Shekau also claimed that the militants were holding a German national, thought to be a teacher, who was kidnapped by gunmen in July. There was no indication of when or where the group’s latest video was shot. The BBC’s Tomi Oladipo in Lagos says the video will come as a huge embarrassment for the Nigerian government after it said it had secured a ceasefire with Boko Haram. The Islamist militants sparked global outrage in April by abducting 219 schoolgirls from the remote north-eastern town of Chibok, in Borno state. Their continued captivity has led to criticism of the Nigerian government’s efforts to secure their release. Hopes were raised earlier this month when Nigeria’s chief of defence staff, Alex Badeh, announced a truce with the group. “They’ve assured us they have the girls and they will release them,” he said. “I am cautiously optimistic.” But the Boko Haram leader said the girls were “in their marital homes” after being married off by the group. Last week, Human Rights Watch said in a report that Boko Haram was holding more than 500 women and young girls captive and that forced marriage was common in the group’s camps. *Source BBC]]>

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Femi Otedola: The billionaire who bounced back!
November 1, 2014 | 0 Comments

Femi-Otedola-on-forbes-front-page-BIG-PHOTO-464x357London could be Nigeria’s 37th state. From the underground to the finest hotels, you can hear an army of Nigerians on the march. There is an attitude about them – forward thinking, money spending- a force steeling Britain’s economy with streetwise Lagos cut-and-thrust. Be it academia, business, or just plain rich, there is plenty of Nigeria to go around in London. One of the best known is the Nigerian billionaire, Femi Otedola, who owns a $53.5-million home in the heart of rich Knightsbridge. Otedola, the man who always wears white, clearly doesn’t believe in doing things by half. He owns a fleet of custom Roll Royce cars in London and Mercedes fleet in Nigeria, together worth $7.7 million. On the waters off Lagos, he was a sleek, custom-made, $19.5 million yacht in the Victoria Island lagoon. His home in Lagos is bigger than the one on Knightsbridge, with more expansive balconies and better weather. Be it homes, gadgets or cars; Otedola appears to love the good life and doesn’t mind spending on it. On a Thursday morning in his tastefully furnished London pad adorned with family portraits, we meet for a chat; Otedola is jolly, answering phone calls and checking stocks on his tablets. He does this every morning after a few hours in the gym. There is no doubt it has been another prosperous year for the chairman of a leading Nigerian downstream oil company. Otedola was the second Nigerian to make the FORBES billionaires list in 2009. Following a major plunge in the shares of African Petroleum (now Forte Oil), he felt off the list. Another blow came when he topped the list if Nigeria’s debtors- owing banks around $900 million. Otedola has since reshuffled his finances and paid off every cent, according to the asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON). He returns to the FORBES AFRICA. The rise in net worth was helped by a spike in the share price of his company, Forte Oil where he owns an 80% shareholding. Otedola is part of a group of relatively young men who represent the new face of Nigerian capitalism. Born around the sixties and seventies, they came of age in the eighties and nineties as Nigeria inched deeper into military dictatorships that crippled the economy and the ambitions of entrepreneurs. They had to wait until the return of democracy in 1999- and the subsequent opening up of the economy- to unleash their entrepreneurial skills. They have since taken advantage of the upturn in the country’s fortunes; their rise coinciding with waves of Nigeria’s economic reform. “NO ONE IS INVINCIBLE. YOU COULD BE RIGHT UP THERE TODAY AND THEN, LOSE IT ALL TOMORROW, IF YOU ‘RE NOT ON TOP OF YOUR GAME.” So, how do you run up $1.5 billion in debt and become solvent in few years? Just ask Otedola, who believes it was something he had to go through that had an echo in his childhood. “I had my first business at the age of six. It was called FEMCO. I’d offer to groom my parents’ guests’ nails. Then, write a receipt and charge them for my service. They paid me too. I always had interest in business. For my seventh Christmas present, I remember asking my dad for a briefcase. I just thought it was a good look. He gave me one of his and I insisted on taking it to school with me. The Kids laughed at me, but I still loved the briefcase”. Down the years, Otedola nursed his passion and grew up TO WORK for his late father, Micheal Otedola, the former governor of Lagos State. It was a career that began with inky fingers. Otedola ran the marketing side of the family printing press in the late 1980s. It was a springboard to becoming a name in the world of Nigerian business. An insight into the way Otedola’s mind worked came years later in a very public feud with his now best friend Aliko Dangote- the richest man in Africa. The squabble was over a bid for the Nigerian arm of Chevron, Texaco’s downstream business, which the company put up to sale in 2006. Otedola- the oil – and gas man and second largest shareholder in Texaco at the time – was beaten to it by a company with links to Dangote, the cement-and commodities man; a move said to be in violation of a gentleman’s agreement to respect each other’s turf. When Otedola announced that he would be investing in sugar and cement factories- Dangote territory- few missed the dig in the ribs. The squabble lingered, but the storm passed, leaving the two men closer than brothers. A nautical manifestation of this is their identical yachts that bob side-by side in the lagoon off Lagos. “It was a case of conspiracy theories. Aliko and I have a genuine relationship and it was only natural that we had few differences along the line. Today, he is my mentor. I like his sincerity and integrity. Aliko’s word is his bond and I have a lot of respect for my friend. I believe he is real blessing to Nigeria and Africa as a whole. He is a godsend to his continent. I believe Aliko is highly underrated too. He will become the richest man on the FORBES list someday,” says Otedola. Otedola’s foray into oil business began after he stopped WORKING for himself. Being the son of a governor, Otedola had friends in government who supplied him with diesel. Friends that didn’t do his business any harm down the years. When the political climate changed, the supply stopped. He made enquires and approached a company for fresh supplies of diesel. The light bulb in his head went off when Otedola saw a clanking, broken-down truck deliver supplies to his house three days after placing the order. He decided to open his own, more efficient, diesel supply business. “I started buying diesel from a guy who had control of the market for retailing. I soon realized that a lot of the companies in the company actually use diesel. I once received an order from a bid transport company. The banks were closed so I could only offer a cheque. I was my supplier’s biggest customer but he refused to take a cheque from me. I immediately realized I needed to source an alternative method of getting my diesel.” With outrageous ambition, Otedola approached the new management of the depot, which was worth $4 million, and offered to buy it for $20 million. “I contacted Zenith Bank, sold my pitch on the venture and how we would finance it. I had a meeting that barely lasted for 10 minutes with Jim Ovia (another billionaire on the FORBES rich list); he believed in me and it was a done deal. This was in 2003. Soon, Otedola had a full control of the diesel supply infrastructure with his company, Zenon Petroleum and Gas Limited, holding 91% of the market. It turned out to be a great business decision. He set up a transport and shipping company in line with the logistics attached with the diesel supply – F.O Transport and Seaforce Shipping. At a stroke, he took control of the entire chain. He went further to diversify into property and buying into a string of other large companies. He was 35; he felt the adrenalin rush and wanted to dominate the market. All this in a mere seven years. At this point, Otedola’s biggest competitors were oil giants Total and Mobil. Soon, he was setting the diesel price and supplying his competitors. “While my competitors were sleeping, I was BUSY strategizing. I was liberal too. My strategy was; high volume, little margin. I was very excited at this point. However, I knew that at some point the government would fix the power issue (diesel is mainly used for generators during power cut) and I needed to move a step forward.” In what proved a wise move to cushion the business, Zenon bought a 28.7% stake in the African Petroleum. Zenon invested aggressively across the financial sector becoming the second largest shareholder in Zenith Bank, largest individual shareholder at the United Bank for Africa (UBA) and many more banks in Nigeria, as banks sought share capital, following a new directive from the reserve bank, many approached Otedola. He rolled the dice in the knowledge he was playing safe. At the time, Zenon was very solvent and the largest diesel importer in Nigeria. It invested a lot of money in Africa Petroleum with Otedola increasing the shareholding from 28.7& to about 55&, at a cost of $400 million. Then, the worst happened – the crude oil prices plunged from $146 to $36 in 2008. “We took a very big hit and I lost about %1.5 million, plus interest, in the process. When the oil prices were dropping, I saw it all coming. I could myself losing big money. I had diesel worth $400 million on the high seas. It didn’t look good. I’m a capitalist though. I was great while the money was rolling in. Now that i lost so much, it was also time to face the tune. It was a very low time for me and I explored different options, including suicide, but ultimately, I knew I had to solve this problem. My debts had to be paid.” “The same banks that had once sent pretty sales ladies TO GET MONEY from me for their accounts in the past were now sending tough looking men to knock at my door to get me to pay my debts in the morning. The only people I’d credit this point were my wife for her great support, Jim Ovia of Zenith Bank and Segun Agbaje of Guaranty Trust Bank who understood the situation and offered a restructured of the loans for ease of payment. I was however determined to pay it all up and move on. The banks sold the debts to Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria. It was a total of N200 billion ($1.2 billion).” Otedola separated his personal fortune from his business, so Zenon was bankrupt but he wasn’t. AMCON bought the debt for %867 million. They valued the Zenon assets, Otedola’s property company and existing assets. He added some cash and there was a court settlement. He had also started selling his bank shares, before the big plunge. It dragged on for four years. “The most important lesson I learnt, is that no one is invincible. No matter how high up there you are today, you can lose it all tomorrow if you’re not on top of your game. I also learnt that being good entrepreneur does not necessarily make you a good BUSINESS MANAGER. I learned to keep my hands off managing and leave it in the hands of experts.” Today, Otedola describes his approach to business as very risk averse and content. Having sold all the Zenon assets to pay his debts, he shifted his focus to African Petroleum which had to go through restructuring. Otedola’s fingers were burned and he was going to be tougher this time around. In 2011, a complete overhaul saw him sack all staff at Africa Petroleum, albeit with a handsome severance package. In the restructuring, Africa Petroleum became Forte oil. “I also made a decision not to run the business as I had failed at running it well. I then brought in a crop of fresh young talented guys to take over. I wanted fresh, brilliant minds and ideas. I wanted to build an institution based on the best corporate governance practices; a whole new direction.” Forte oil owns about 500 retail outlets across the 36 states of Nigeria. Its audited half year 2014 results shows growth. Its revenue grew by 33% to %511.18 million as against the 7385.03 million in 2003. Contributing significantly to revenue, for the first time, is the company’s power generation segment from Amperion Power. Under Nigeria’s power privatization PROGRAM, it acquired the 414MW Geregu plant in Kogi State. Overall sales costs increased by 30% to $453.39 million from 4348.20 million in 2003 gross profit surged by 57% to $57.79 million from $36.82 million while profit before tax grew by 152% to 426.92 million from 410.68 million. Alongside recovery in underlying business performance, exposure to the power sector acted as a catalyst for a rise in the share price at Forte Oil. The company has aggressive ambitions and is on the brink of a big deal. On returning to the FORBES list, Otedola says; “It is good to be back and is simply an addiction of how well we are doing.” On family, he says: “I’m extremely dedicated to my family. They come first at all times.” Speaking of family, Otedola’s daughter is on the way up though turntables rather than oil barrels. Florence Otedola, one of the four children who is also known as ‘DJ Cuppy’, plays and produces music on the dance floors and flies around the world to spin the tunes. “Cuppy is a very smart young lady who will go places. She has done very well and is currently in the United States for her Master’s program. She is very talented at her DJing. It is her passion and I have no choice but to support her. I want my children to follow their respective passion and I’ll support them to the best ability.” Otedola believes Nigerians are enterprising and therein lies the country’s strength. He detests the bad light in which Nigeria is often seen and hopes for fairer reporting that celebrates its successes as well. “I’d like to see a Nigeria with about 50 Dangotes,” he says on Nigeria’s future. As the FORBES list welcomes Otedola back, he is looking towards a brighter future and increasing his $1.2-billion wealth. He may have made a small slice of FORBES history by making a billion, losing it and clawing it back. Either way, he is burned, humble and bouncing back- wiser than ever. Man of Courage, Tenacity and Vision By Abisola Owolawi Femi Otedola’s business empire collapsed along with the shares of his company but he fought back to take his place among an elite group of successful African entrepreneurs. His fortitude has earned the respect of his peers. “The African business landscape is challenging but also full of opportunities for discerning entrepreneurs. Femi Otedola belongs to this class of bold entrepreneurs that have been able to navigate the storms often associated with doing business in Africa,” says Aliko Dangote the President and Chief Executive of Dangote Group. “He is a man of immense courage, tenacity, and vision who is not afraid to take on new challenges. He represents the indomitable Nigerian spirit – adapt and conquer.” Dolapo Oni, an Energy Analyst with the Ecobank Group, says there are three factors behind Otedola’s and Forte Oil’s recent success. “The First is the improvements in the payment of subsidiaries in 2013. Faster payment of cycles enabled companies such as Forte Oil to deleverage their balance sheets and improve their bottom- line. The second factor was the optimistic market reaction to the company’s acquisition of the Geregu power plant. The final factor is the inclusion of Forte Oil in JP Morgan’s emerging market stock index (MSCI) in May, which immediately triggered interest from portfolios,” says Oni. Jim Ovia, Chairman of Zenith Bank, admires Otedola’s resilience. “He has experienced the vicissitudes of doing business on the African continent in recent years. I have however encouraged and believed in him through the entire course. He has remained resolute in his quest and today, it is a pleasure to celebrate his successes,” says Ovia. “Otedola is a true survivor.” *Source: Forbes Magazine]]>

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Nigeria president begins re-election bid, thanking God and donors
October 31, 2014 | 0 Comments

Nigeria's president Goodluck Jonathan (R) shakes hands with Nigeria's ruling Peoples Democratic Party National Organizing Secretary Alhaji Abubakar Mustapha after collecting a nomination form for the PDP presidential ticket, October 30, 2014 in Abuja (AFP Photo/Wole Emmanuel) Nigeria’s president Goodluck Jonathan (R) shakes hands with Nigeria’s ruling Peoples Democratic Party National Organizing Secretary Alhaji Abubakar Mustapha after collecting a nomination form for the PDP presidential ticket, October 30, 2014 in Abuja (AFP Photo/Wole Emmanuel)[/caption]

Jonathan appeared at a brief ceremony at the headquarters of his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), where he collected a nomination form for the PDP presidential ticket.

He has so far no opponents in the party’s primaries and is therefore virtually guaranteed to be on the ballot for the February polls.

“First, let me thank God for today,” the 56-year-old leader of Africa’s most populous country and top oil producer said.

“Let me thank the leadership of our great party and all members of our party for believing in me,” he said, noting how they raised the funds for his nomination.

Little is known about Jonathan’s personal wealth, although his office demanded a retraction from a website earlier this month that put his net worth at $100 million.

There have been numerous reports that a key contender to challenge Jonathan, ex-military ruler Muhammadu Buhari, also needed help to raise the hefty nomination fee for his All Progressives Congress party.

Jonathan’s staggered re-election announcement — without any direct declaration from his own lips — has been described as drawn-out by some commentators.

It began with news from his office on October 23 that he had decided to run, followed by a statement announcing his plans to collect the nomination form.

A list of his re-election team with more than 200 names was then printed in leading newspapers.

The re-election announcement process is expected to culminate with a public event on November 11, organised by the Presidential Declaration Committee headed by former defence minister Bello Haliru Mohammed.

*Source AFP/Yahoo]]>

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President Jonathan recalls Keshi
October 31, 2014 | 0 Comments

President Goodluck Jonathan has ordered the immediate reinstatement of former Super Eagles coach, Stephen Okechukwu Keshi.

President Jonathan with the Afcon trophy pose with Super Eagles coach, Stephen Keshi at the reception

President Jonathan with the Afcon trophy pose with Super Eagles coach, Stephen Keshi at the reception

Keshi’s contract with the Nigeria Football Federation was not renewed after the World Cup in Brazil. But in a twist of fate, Sports Minister and Chairman of the National Sports Commission, Tammy Danagogo invited the Afcon winning coach to return to the team and prosecute the first phase of the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against Congo, South Africa and Sudan.

The campaign has been a near disaster as the Eagles could only garner 4 points from a possible 12. Nigerians were enraged and called for the head of the coach. Keshi was subsequently asked to go by the new NFF board.

President Jonathan’s order for the reinstatement of the embattled coach was not unexpected as there were reports of a strong lobby group comprising people from high places campaigning for the return of the former Hawks of Togo coach.

The former international said he was not angry against those who relieved him of his assignment but admitted he was ready to return as a sign of respect to Mr President.

“If the number one citizen of this country asked me to stay back I wouldn’t want to think any other team because this is the team I captained for 14 years and have coached for some years too but sometimes you do have mixed feelings because of what is on ground”.

Concerning the must win second leg tie of the 2015 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifier against Congo, Keshi said there is nothing to worry about because he still has his team intact.

He however, complained complained that Nigerians don’t seem to appreciate what he and his players were doing for the country.

*Source Vanguard

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Nigeria's game of thrones
October 29, 2014 | 0 Comments

Tolu Ogunlesi in Lagos and Patrick Smith* [caption id="attachment_13434" align="alignleft" width="710"]Photo© Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters/Photo Montage: Christian Kasongo for TAR Photo© Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters/Photo Montage: Christian Kasongo for TAR[/caption] Veteran politicians regard national elections as monumental, epoch-changing events, often reaching into history for parallels such as power struggles in the Yoruba kingdoms or Shakespeare’s history plays. This time they are not exaggerating, judging by the build up to the Nigerian elections due next February. Against the backdrop of Nigeria’s worst conflict since the civil war in the 1960s, billions of Naira are sluicing through the political system, thousands of activists are on the street and the two main parties are beset by high level intrigues. Much will depend on the election outcome and how it is achieved. Will it reaffirm support for national unity and pluralism or will it fire up divisions and deepen regional rivalries? The poll will resonate far beyond Nigeria’s borders. Nigeria is the newly crowned largest economy in Africa, so what happens there matters more than ever. Until now there has been a strange disconnect between commercial opportunities and political realities. Suddenly, companies planning to invest billions in electric power, retail chains and food production are looking more critically at developments. “It’s good that people are trying to understand our politics better,” said one of President Goodluck Jonathan’s political allies attending the US-Africa Leaders’ summit in Washington DC in August. “They can at least see the complexities. He [Jonathan] can’t snap his fingers and make things happen. There is this myth of the all-powerful president sitting in Aso Rock, and the trouble is everyone believes it until you work here,” he explained. Power at the centre “In fact, some of President Jonathan’s greatest successes have been getting the government out of the way,” he added, pointing to the US investors’ interest in Nigerian business. “We now have a private electricity industry with an incentive to deliver, we have our own major private oil companies and we want to see more of that in agriculture and manufacturing. We would make more progress if politicians and officials were less fixated on power at the centre.” The focus on power at the centre, however, is relentless and more fiercely partisan. In February 2015, Nigerians are to elect a president, 369 federal legislators, and governors and legislators in at least 29 of the 36 states. For the first time since the return of civilian rule in 1999, the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) faces a national opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), formed in 2013 when the four largest opposition parties merged. Since the APC’s founding, political sentiment has been yo-yoing. Initially, the opposition coalition seemed to be making all the right calls: its ranks were quickly swelled by leading PDP members such as former vice-president Atiku Abubakar and five state governors including those of Kano, Nigeria’s second most populous state, and oil-rich Rivers State – both key strongholds for the ruling party. Until the beginning of this year, the PDP and the government were on the back foot, consumed by internal divisions and failing to respond to heightening claims of grand corruption in the oil industry and worsening insurgency in the north. But, under Adamu Mu’azu, its new national chairman, the PDP has fought back aggressively this year, hitting at the opposition’s weaknesses and using its power of incumbency to the hilt. “This will be the most expensive election ever in Nigeria,” says Nasir el-Rufai, a former minister and leading stalwart of the APC. “The PDP is offering billions to us to defect. It’s about misspending the people’s money, not policy or strategy.” Next year’s contest still looks more evenly matched – and more unpredictable – than any of the past five national elections. The PDP has solid support in the oil-rich south-south states and the south-east. The APC has strong backing in the south-west and the north-west. Loyalties are fluid in the Middle Belt. Some doubt elections can be held in the north-east, where Boko Haram insurgents continue to launch attacks and claim to control territory. Godswill Akpabio, governor of Akwa Ibom, told The Africa Report that there was no question of postponing national elections: “This terrorism is an international crisis. We have seen it here before and we have dealt with it. We won’t stop elections. We are organising state elections in Adamawa in October. The terrorists will have no veto.” Yet terrorism and the threat of violence have ramped up the political rhetoric on both sides. APC leaders accuse Jonathan’s government of incompetence and a disregard for northerners in its handling of the Boko Haram Islamist insurgency. “I have heard one of the president’s advisers say that the insurgency is seen in Abuja as a fight among northerners, not a concern for the government,” says El-Rufai. “The question they have to answer is how do they let a ragtag insurgency defeat the biggest army in Africa – 100,000 strong – that is why we hear about so many conspiracy theories.” Attacked in london nigeriastats2014aIn an extraordinary meeting at the House of Commons in London on 8 September, El-Rufai and Lai Mohammed, the APC’s national publicity secretary, called on the Jonathan government to investigate claims that former chief of army staff Lieutenant General Azubuike Ihejirika and senator Ali Modu Sheriff had been financing Boko Haram. Dr Stephen Davis, an Australian security consultant who worked with major oil companies and regional governments, made those claims in early September. “If the government is unwilling to investigate and, if necessary, prosecute these people, we want these cases to be taken to the International Criminal Court at the Hague,” Lai Mohammed told the British members of parliament. “In view of the fact that the alleged Boko Haram sponsors are either members of the ruling party or friends of the president, it is clear the PDP-led federal government is unwilling and unable to try them.” Mohammed went on to accuse the Jonathan government and the PDP of exploiting the insurgency to win kudos from attending international security summits, boosting the security budget to $7bn this year and selectively declaring emergency laws in APC- ruled states. Some of the ferocity of this attack seems to have been triggered by the government’s attempts to label the APC as a party of Islamists and Boko Haram sympathisers. Indeed, at the Westminster meeting one Nigerian speaker accused the APC of being dominated by Muslims. Another suggested that it had some responsibility, direct or indirect, for Boko Haram’s jihadist insurgency. Certainly, the APC’s two main national figures – General (retired) Muhammadu Buhari and Bola Tinubu – are Muslim, as are 11 of its 14 state governors. Buhari, from the northern state of Katsina, has a reputation in the south for sympathies towards fundamentalism. This is des- pite his choice of a Christian pastor for his running mate in the 2011 elections. A shot at Hillary Clinton A report by American academic Jacob Zenn for the Bow Group, a lobby group within the ruling Conservative Party, echoed those views, describing the APC as “an Islamist-leaning political party founded in 2013 for the purpose of challenging President Jonathan in Nigeria’s 2015 presidential elections.” The report heavily criticised US presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, criticising her failure to put Boko Haram on the US terrorist list. Zenn concluded that “a US government that continues to be led by the Democratic Party would welcome the rise of the APC in Nigeria – as it initially did with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.” Outgoing Ekiti State governor Kayode Fayemi, a Catholic, dismissed such labels as “grotesque” in an interview with The Africa Report in July. “I do not believe APC is a religious party. I am sufficiently senior in APC to know if we are running a religious organisation. As a matter of fact, some of us are quite resentful of the idea of bringing religion at all into the politics of nationhood and development,” he said. After losing a state election and with its loyalists being targeted for impeachment, the APC has lost momentum. As it struggles to hold together its component parts, it has to face a bigger question: Is it really so different from the ruling party? Many of the APC’s senior figures seem united by little more than a desire to unseat Jonathan. The PDP, also an uneasy coalition of rival interests, benefits from the centripetal force of presidential power. As long as Jonathan can secure the presidential nomination and pacify the party’s sceptics in the north, he can rely on a formidable national organisation and billions of naira of patronage. The PDP has turned the tables on its opponents. Apart from winning the Ekiti governorship election in June, which gave it a foothold in the APC-dominated south-west, the PDP has benefited from a string of high-level defections.

A recent polling found that 51% survey by firm NOI of people in Nigeria reported improved domestic electricity supply

Jonathan’s team has also been hyping improvements made to electricity provision over the past few months. A recent survey by the Gallup-affiliated NOI Polls found that 51% of respondents “experienced an improved state of power supply to their households”. Candidates for the throne Both parties have to choose their presidential candidates and quieten the malcontents. An advocacy group with backing from powerful figures within the government has been holding large rallies canvassing signatures urging Jonathan to run for a second term. Governor Akpabio has no doubts: “President Jonathan will run. The people want him to run and he will win next February.” The APC is more taciturn about its favourites for the presidential ticket, but it is likely to field a northerner. Frontrunners include Buhari, Abubakar, Kano State governor Rabiu Kwankwaso and former Kwara State governor Bukola Saraki. Its handling of the primaries will be critical for the cohesion of the opposition coalition. “There’s an assumption we are going to have a strong [APC] candidate. But that will only be valid in the event of successful primaries that do not lead to a walkout by those who lose,” says Jibrin Ibrahim, director of the Abuja-based Centre for Democracy and Development. For Omano Edigheji, a Nigerian political economist and consultant for TrustAfrica, there are grave risks should the election be reduced to a north-south contest: “If President Jonathan wins, it’ll be more difficult to quell Boko Haram. If a northern candidate wins the elections, the Niger Delta [militants] are likely to take up arms again.” For Edigheji, the best approach at this point would be to ratchet down the regional rivalries and agree on “an inclusive government” rather than the winner-takes-all model, giving strong executive powers to the presidency in Abuja and the 36 state governors. But as election fever starts to envelop the country, power-sharing looks even less likely than a rancour-free vote.● *Source theafricareport]]>

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Nigeria says Boko Haram negotiations are 'ongoing'
October 29, 2014 | 0 Comments

Many Nigerians do not believe the government's claims of a ceasefire with Boko Haram Many Nigerians do not believe the government’s claims of a ceasefire with Boko Haram[/caption]

Nigeria says it is still holding talks with Boko Haram, two weeks after the government said it had agreed a truce with the Islamist militant group.

A presidential spokesman said he was optimistic that something “concrete and positive” would come out of the talks. There has been no comment from Boko Haram, and violence in northern Nigeria has continued. More than 200 schoolgirls are still being held by the group, which has been fighting an insurgency since 2009. The military had said they were expecting the schoolgirls’ release by 24 October. At least 2,000 civilians have been killed by Boko Haram this year. The group has taken more than 500 women and girls hostage since it began its insurgency in 2009, according to Human Rights Watch. ‘No timeframe’ At least one girl who was abducted by Boko Haram about a week ago has been freed, reports the BBC’s Abdullahi Kaura Abubakar from Nigeria. The circumstances surrounding her release are unclear. Contrary to an earlier report, she was not among the more than 200 schoolgirls who had been abducted in April from their boarding school in Chibok, Borno state. That abduction sparked global outrage, and the schoolgirls’ continued captivity has led to criticism of the Nigerian government’s efforts to secure their release. Nigerian presidential spokesman Reuben Abati told the BBC that the governments of Cameroon and Chad were involved with the latest negotiations. Their involvement is viewed as significant because Boko Haram frequently move across borders. Mr Abati added that it was “difficult to put a time frame” to the negotiations. ‘Unusual situation’ Nigerian presidential aide Hassan Tukur had previously told the BBC’s Focus on Africa programme that the arrangements for release of the schoolgirls would be finalised at a meeting this week in Chad’s capital, Ndjamena. Many Nigerians do not believe the government’s claims of a ceasefire with Boko Haram. Mr Abati responded to criticism of the military by saying: “We must realise that what the Nigerian military is facing is an unusual situation.” “I think that what the Nigerian military deserves and requires at all times is encouragement.” In May 2013, President Goodluck Jonathan imposed a state of emergency in the northern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, vowing to crush the Islamist insurgency. But Boko Haram increased its attacks this year. The group promotes a version of Islam which makes it “haram”, or forbidden, for Muslims to take part in any political or social activity associated with Western society. It frequently attacks schools and colleges, which it sees as a symbol of Western culture. *Source BBC]]>

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Nigerian Stock Exchange joins World Federation
October 28, 2014 | 0 Comments

Nigerian Stock Exchange joins World Federation of Exchanges, fifth African to become member   By Michelle Faul* IMG_0146 (Copy) (1)The Nigerian Stock Exchange became a full member of the World Federation of Exchanges on Tuesday, just as it prepares to woo Asian fund managers. It’s taken three years for the West African exchange to win approval based on proper regulation by bodies including the Securities and Exchange Commission of Nigeria, the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Central Securities Clearing System. The federation sent an assessment team to Nigeria last month and the Nigerian Stock Exchange announced in a statement that it received a unanimous vote for admission as a full member at the general assembly of the federation Tuesday in Seoul, South Korea. CEO Oscar Onyema said it is a step forward in the Nigerian exchange’s integration with global financial markets. The exchange’s head of strategy, Yvonne Emordi, said “It sets the tone for the upcoming Asia tour the Nigerian Stock Exchange will kick off in early December this year, to introduce our market to Asian fund managers with frontier and emerging market investment strategies.” The federation is a global trade association for operators of regulated securities exchanges that Onyema called “an important reference for international investors.” The main board of the Nigerian Stock Exchange currently lists 190 equities with a market cap of more than $83 billion. The membership comes the same year Nigeria, Africa’s biggest oil producer and its most populous nation of about 160 million, rebased its economy to overtake South Africa as the largest on the continent. The Nigerian exchange is only the fifth in Africa to join the federation. The others are based in South Africa, Egypt, Morocco and the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius. *Source AP/Yahoo]]>

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Nigeria: What happens after the elections in 2015?
October 28, 2014 | 0 Comments

Tolu Ogunlesi in Lagos and Patrick Smith* Nigerians are bracing for three possible scenarios as the west African country gets ready to hit the polls in February 2015. SCENARIO 1: PDP Victory apcpdp710President Goodluck Jonathan, the candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), wins outright in the first round. To get the numbers, Jonathan will have to keep all his core support in the south-south and south-east states. The toughest struggle will be in Rivers State, where outgoing governor Rotimi Amaechi has defected to the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC). Jonathan’s other priority will be to hold onto the electoral support that he won in south-western states such as Lagos, Ondo, Ekiti and Ogun in 2011. Then, he was helped by a back-room deal with Bola Tinubu, the godfather of Lagos politics. There is talk of another such deal for 2015. In 2011, Jonathan lost in the three largest northern states of Kaduna, Kano and Katsina. Many now argue Jonathan is more unpopular in the north than he was four years ago. Suspicions of vote rigging could provoke serious street protests in the north, which could be exploited by insurgents to ramp up confrontation with the authorities. Jonathan may try to dampen down the crisis by offering to form a government of national unity, like his predecessor President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. If Jonathan wins by a substantial margin again, the APC could disintegrate. ● SCENARIO 2: APC Victory The opposition APC wins by running an energetic and well-organised campaign. To counter Jonathan’s and the PDP’s use of the advantages of incumbency, the APC would have to be well funded with a strong northern candidate who exploits Jonathan’s unpopularity there and a dynamic running mate, probably from the south-west, the opposition heartland. For victory, the APC would have to shore up its support in the south-west, energise its substantial following in the north, make some inroads into the Middle Belt and hold on to its new base in Rivers State. It would face strong opposition in Rivers, and elsewhere in the Niger Delta, from the militants who have pledged loyalty to Jonathan. This would put great pressure on the leadership skills of the new president and vice-president to reassure the south-south and south-east after the election. A change at the centre would make little difference to the Boko Haram insurgents who are opposed to all northern politicians. After 16 years in power, the experience of losing office could deal a fatal blow to the coherence of the PDP. ● SCENARIO 3: Stalemate and power sharing  downloadNeither of the two parties gets the required 25% minimum vote in 24 states to be declared winner and the election goes into a run-off, the first time in Nigerian history. This also results in a stalemate in which both parties quibble over results amid allegations of rigging and manipulation, as they have in Afghanistan. This could lead to more flashpoints of violence or even more insurgencies in the north, the Middle Belt and the Niger Delta. There would be grave concerns about the ability of the much-weakened military to contain such pressures, running at least two major security operations at the same time. This could encourage a new elite pact, perhaps along the lines of the power- sharing deals in Zimbabwe and Kenya. New to Nigeria, such an arrangement might just stop the dangerous political and regional polarisation in the country. *Source theafricareport]]>

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Nigeria's Jonathan brushes off scandals to lead 2015 election race
October 28, 2014 | 0 Comments

images (2)ABUJA (Reuters) – Not many presidents could survive three multi-billion dollar government oil corruption scandals and a wave of cold-blooded killings and kidnappings of civilians by Islamist militants still holding hundreds of schoolgirls after six months.

Nigeria’s president Goodluck Jonathan has not only survived, he will seek reelection in February stronger than ever, after five years in a job no one expected him to get.

Jonathan’s support base within the ruling party is now unchallenged, a rare feat for the often fractious People’s Democratic Party (PDP), while the main opposition APC coalition is split between two contestants for the presidency.

The government announced a ceasefire with the Islamist Boko Haram rebels 10 days ago, ahead of talks in neighboring Chad to secure the release of more than 200 girls seized from Chibok village in April in an abduction that shocked the world. If the talks are successful it would help the president’s image. But nothing has come of it yet and violence has since surged, with dozens more children kidnapped. Jonathan has defended his overstretched military’s efforts against a Boko Haram insurgency that has killed thousands. In the case of the failure to free the schoolgirls, he has said any rescue attempt would endanger their lives. Meanwhile, apart from the security challenges, his government also has been beset by corruption allegations.

A parliamentary report detailed a $6.8 billion fuel subsidy fraud. A government investigation revealed corrupt cut price crude sales to oil majors that cost the treasury billions. And a former central banker has reported that between $10 and billion $20 billion had been diverted by the state oil firm over 18 months between 2012 and last year.

The government pledged to investigate the first two cases and denied the third.

Last month, South Africa froze two payments from the Jonathan administration totaling $15 million that it suspected were for illegal arms deals. Nigeria said the deals were legal. Yet it is a testament to Nigeria’s complex mix of ethnic rivalry, patronage and intense competition for centralized oil wealth in Africa’s top producer that Jonathan can brush off these various scandals and attract a high level of support. WEAKER OPPOSITION Jonathan, a Christian southerner, was an accidental president, taking over in 2009 after President Umaru Yar’adua, a Muslim from the north, died from illness. When Jonathan was elected to his own term in 2011, many in the north resented his decision to run, believing he had torn up an unwritten rule that power should rotate between mainly Muslim north and mainly Christian south every two terms. Former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari, who lost to Jonathan in 2011, and defected PDP ex-vice president Atiku Abubakar are vying for the opposition APC ticket. Both launched bids in the past month, focusing on security and graft. Roddy Barclay, senior Africa analyst at Control Risks, a political risk consultancy, sees two “principle factors for Jonathan’s robust position in spite of the scandals and failings which have rocked his government”. “Firstly, the primacy of money and patronage in determining electoral outcomes in Nigeria,” means an incumbent gets a huge advantage, and second, “the opposition lacks steadfast unity”.

That marks a big change from less than a year ago. In December it was the PDP that was in crisis. Thirty seven lawmakers defected to the APC that month, demolishing the PDP’s lower house majority. Rotimi Amaechi, powerful governor of the oil hub state of Rivers, also defected.

images (3)The same month, Jonathan’s mentor and PDP Godfather, ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo, wrote a scathing letter saying it would be “fatally morally flawed” for Jonathan to seek re-election in 2015 because of corruption under his rule. Jonathan called the intervention “unjustifiable and indecorous”. Ten months on and the APC has failed to capitalize. It has not agreed on a presidential candidate and several disillusioned APC figures have flipped to the PDP, underscoring the fluid nature of Nigerian party politics. They include popular two-term ex-governor of Kano state Ibrahim Shakarau, a Buhari rival, and former anti-corruption chief Nuhu Ribadu, denying the APC a strong anti-graft platform, although Buhari still has strong anti-corruption credentials. “MODEST EXPECTATIONS” In June, the APC then lost a governorship election in southwestern Ekiti state to the ruling party. “The opposition is cannibalizing itself. Its top elites are vying against one another. That’s a glide path for President Jonathan,” said Eurasia Group’s Philippe de Pontet. “Had the APC sustained its momentum from 5-6 months ago … we’d be in a different world.” On Dec 2, the dynamic could shift when the party picks its candidate. Buhari earned a reputation for cracking down on corruption during his time in power in 1983-85, and most Nigerians agree he did not use the post to enrich himself, but it is not clear whether he would win votes from APC supporters in the south. The emotional conflict felt by Barrister Isaac Matthew illustrates Jonathan’s staying power. Driven by the plight of the schoolgirls to leave a court case he was defending to join protesters demanding more action to rescue them, he says Jonathan bears ultimate responsibility since “leaders are supposed to protect their people”. “I’m still probably going to vote for him,” he said, citing Jonathan’s concentration on power reform and some works Matthew said had greatly improved the road network. “The opposition has no credible candidate to stand against him. Not Atiku (Abubakar) and not Buhari.” The power sector is under improvement, but that may not draw votes since the supply in one of the world’s most electricity-starved countries has fallen in the short term. Many voters are likely to see the Boko Haram insurgency, which only affects the remote northeast apart from occasional bomb attacks in the capital or other cities, as just one problem in their large, diverse country. “Expectations in the electorate are fairly modest and they are hugely disenfranchised, despite … years of civilian rule,” said Antony Goldman, head of Nigeria-focused PM Consulting.

“You don’t need to be popular or successful in conventional terms to win an election in Nigeria,” he said, although he added that no president had managed to stay popular after four years in office, and the APC had yet to present a clear alternative.

EBOLA NOT A FACTOR SO FAR One issue that has not yet played an important role is Ebola, rampant in some other West African states. A mixture of luck and impressively decisive action has meant Africa’s most populous country was able to avoid a potentially devastating epidemic after a Liberian brought it to the megacity of Lagos, but the virus could still come back to plague Nigeria, with unpredictable political consequences. Jonathan’s assumed decision to run has widened a divide between elites in Nigeria’s south and north because of a feeling in the north that it is still their “turn” to rule.

That makes violence likely, especially if the poll is close. In 2011, more than 800 were killed and 65,000 displaced in three days of violence after Jonathan beat Buhari in the poll.

If Buhari, now 71, gets the ticket but loses the election again, his supporters may have less reason to end the mayhem so quickly if they sense he has missed his last chance.

*Source Reuters/Yahoo
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South Africa's social grant system under the spotlight
October 28, 2014 | 0 Comments

Crystal Oderson in Cape Town* [caption id="attachment_13393" align="alignleft" width="300"]A man receives a monthly supply of food aid donated to residents of a squatter camp for poor white South Africans, at Coronation Park, in Krugersdorp, on March 6 2010. Photo©Finbarr O'Reilly/Reuters A man receives a monthly supply of food aid donated to residents of a squatter camp for poor white South Africans, at Coronation Park, in Krugersdorp, on March 6 2010. Photo©Finbarr O’Reilly/Reuters[/caption] South Africa’s social grant system, seen as the government’s most direct means of combating poverty, is one of the one of the most expansive of its kind in Africa and the developing world. According to South Africa’s National Treasury, the number of that country’s social grant beneficiaries doubled over the last decade, from around 7.9-million in 2003 to 15.8-million. It is likely to increase by another million over the next few years. In an exclusive interview with The Africa Report, Zoleka Capa, parliament’s chairperson of the social development committee said social grants are an important aspect of delivery, with the government seeking to raise the age limit to 23 from 18. “We have to support the vulnerable and have identified the gaps in the system,” he said. “We are looking at extending the grant to the age of 23 and we are also looking at extending the grant to (expecting) mothers from three months pregnant.” The general sentiment within the ANC is that social grants save lives and should reach more people every year. Social Development minister, Bathabile Dlamini said 16 million South Africans received some form of social security grant from government last year. “Of the total 15,932,473 grant beneficiaries last year, 70 percent received child support grants,” she said. “A total of R39.6bn was paid out on child support grants during 2013/14.” A total of 97 percent of the social development budget goes to the payment of social grants, with the South African Social Security Agency providing grants including old age, war veterans, disability, grant-in-aid, care dependency, foster care and child support. Survival Tanya Abrahams from Mitchell’s Plain on the Cape Flats said the grant is her only means of survival and is helping to feed her child. According to the Treasury’s National Budget Review for 2013/14, spending on social grants accounts for 3 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and is projected to rise from R118-billion in 2013/14 to R145-billion by 2016. There were 16 242,196 grant recipients at the end of June, and the cost of providing their benefits up to that date was R29.3bn. Some economists have, however, often warned about the cost of maintaining such a system, questioning whether there is enough money in the fiscus. But social activists argue that this critique is often unfounded. “The appetite for a radical and necessary social assistance net is not likely the cause of the claims of lower economic growth,” said Elroy Paulus from the advocacy group, Black Sash. Paulus told The Africa Report: “The social grant should not be decreased and should in fact be increased and it is in the interest of social cohesion and the government must be bold”. Black Sash said that research shows that social grants are one of the most effective means of reducing absolute poverty. “The sad reality, however, is that this assistance is only provided to children, the disabled and older people. Unemployed and chronically ill people are currently excluded from the social grants system, even when they suffer extreme poverty,” he said. “For their survival they must rely on children and pensioners who receive a grant, as they have no other form of income support.” Some opposition politicians have also sounded concern over the long term sustainability of the southern African country’s social grant system. Liesl van der Merwe, an Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) member of the parliamentary committee, said she was worried where the money will come from in the future. For now, however, Capa says the grant is necessary to help provide for millions of poor South Africans, like Tanya Abrahams who desperately need the social net. *Source theafricareport]]>

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My failed marriage will not deprive me of happiness – Ini Edo
October 27, 2014 | 0 Comments

images (1)Weeks after her crashed marriage, Nollywood actress, Ini Edo, has apparently bounced back in style. The actress has put her travails behind her and has even promised her fans that she won’t allow her failed marriage to deprive her of happiness. To prove that further, the Akwa-Ibom State born actress stormed Houston, USA for the just concluded African movie awards in North America, the Golden Icons Academy Movie Awards (GIAMA) which took place at the Stafford Center in Houston, Texas. It could be recalled that Ini’s ex-husband, Philips Ehiagwina lives within the neighborhood of Houston, but the star actress didn’t seem to give a damn if she might run into him in the course of touring the town. Ini and Phillip’s wedding, also took place in the same town on Saturday February 28, 2009, so they were more chances of the divorced couple running into each other or perhaps meeting with their old joint friends. Nevertheless, the unshaken actress ceases every moment to post the photos of all her activities in US on her Instagram page, not minding whose Ox is being gored. Although she has been receiving tons of criticisms and tongue lashing by concerned fans, Ini insisted she had long moved on with her life and would not want to be dragged into the issue any further, a development which may have put to rest many questions on the minds of her fans. A disappointed fan said she was one of those who prayed for her marriage so that it won’t crash, but when she read her post that she had decided to walk out of the union, she was shocked. “I said to myself after her decision that I won’t trust any actress again”. The actress recently said that she had realised that “every situation does not need a reaction,” apparently responding to some of the questions being thrown to her by her fans. *Source Modern Ghana]]>

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The World is fed up with Nigeria – Hayatou
October 27, 2014 | 0 Comments

Nigeria football looks to be, unfortunately, heading into a long, dark night as world football –governing body is set to wield the big stick  today against the most populous black nation on earth.

President Jacob Zuma and CAF president Issa Hayatou handing the last African Nations cup to Nigerian captain Joseph Yobo

President Jacob Zuma and CAF president Issa Hayatou handing the last African Nations cup to Nigerian captain Joseph Yobo

Even as the Super Eagles still have a chance of qualifying for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations to defend their crown, despite a poor start in the race; even with the Golden Eaglets, the reigning champions of the world, ready to compete at the African Championship to be eligible to travel to Chile to defend their world title next year, and with the Super Falcons reclaiming their continental title in Namibia on Saturday, non –conformity to simple football rules and regulations has put Nigeria at the danger of a big slam.

On Saturday in Windhoek, Namibia, CAF President Issa Hayatou told Nigeria’s Sports Minister, Tammy Danagogo in clear terms that the world was fed up with Nigeria’s incorrigibility in the area of football administration.

Hayatou’s words: “I had to plead passionately with FIFA President, Mr. Sepp Blatter not to take action on Nigeria on Friday, because Nigeria was in the final of the African Women Championship and a ban on your country would have been bad for the competition and our sponsors. We all heard the news of the court ruling on Thursday, and the football world is angry with Nigeria. That is the truth.

“The FIFA letter that came to your Federation before the elections of September 30 was very clear about an automatic suspension should there be any interference with the political process, and after the elections went ahead, we all thought you had settled your issues.”

The CAF supremo, at a meeting that had Nigeria’s Sports Minister, Dr. Tammy Danagogo, Nigeria’s High Commissioner to Namibia, Ambassador Biodun Olorunfemi, Nigeria’s Deputy President of the CAF Appeal Board, Mazi Amanze Uchegbulam, CAF General Coordinator, Mr. Paul Bassey and CAF Media Committee Member, Aisha Falode in attendance, said there was no going back on suspension of Nigeria this week if football matters are not withdrawn from civil courts.

“I appealed to FIFA to give until Monday for Nigeria to put its act together. After that, there is absolutely nothing I can do. It is all very disappointing because we have over 50 National Associations in Africa, but a big country like Nigeria is the one always giving us the biggest headache.

“Nigeria signed to be part of the football world by joining FIFA, and opted to abide by the FIFA –approved Statutes that you have. How many times do we have to tell your country that football matters are not taken to civil courts? If Nigeria no longer wants to be part of the football world, then so be it,” an obviously exasperated Hayatou said. His French words were translated to the rest of the Nigeria delegation by the multi-lingual Paul Bassey.

It would be recalled that FIFA President Blatter and CAF President Hayatou, as well as several National Associations and NFF’s partners and political leaders around the world, congratulated Amaju Pinnick following his victory at the September 30 elections.

NFF President, Mr. Amaju Melvin Pinnick, who was, inexplicably, stopped by security operatives at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos on his way to Namibia on Friday night with the Sports Minister, monitored the meeting on phone.

On Thursday, the Federal High Court, Jos gave a ruling setting aside the FIFA –ordered elections of 30th September, 2014 into the NFF Executive Committee, stoking the fire of anger at the world body’s Zurich headquarters.

The NFF Executive Committee, led by Amaju Pinnick, has filed for a Stay-of-Execution of the order at the same court, which the court said it will be hear on Wednesday.

Falode, who spoke from Windhoek on Sunday, said it was obvious the Government of Nigeria has to now intervene to avoid the hammer falling on Nigeria football.

“The future of millions of Nigerian youth is being put at risk by some persons who feel they have nothing to lose in the case of a FIFA ban. It is now for the Government to wade in. If we get suspended from international football now, FIFA will not revisit the matter until their 65th Congress on May 29, 2015. That would be too bad for our country’s football,” Falode said.

*Source Vanguard

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West Africa: The economic impact of Ebola
October 26, 2014 | 0 Comments

ebolaoverallsreutersOf the 16 countries in West Africa only three – Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone – are affected by the Ebola virus. Nevertheless, it is having an economic impact on not only these affected countries but many others in the region. Several West African countries have significant numbers of expatriate workers in critical sectors of the economy and the fear of Ebola has caused almost a mass movement of foreigners back to their home countries. The weak healthcare infrastructure of most countries in the region does not inspire confidence in the expatriate population to remain. In Ghana, for example, a country with no reported cases of Ebola, some global companies have evacuated non-essential foreign personnel. For countries affected by the virus it is much worse. Across Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, foreigners are naturally showing even greater levels of caution, including the Chinese who in the last few years have invested heavily in Africa. Recently, critical projects have stalled as a result of Ebola. For example, in Liberia, a World Bank contract for the construction of a road between Liberia and Guinea, expected to facilitate trade, has been suspended as the Chinese contractor, China Henan International Cooperation Group, pulled out its workers. Across West Africa, the sectors most likely to be affected are trade, tourism and agriculture. Trade Having been stuck below 10% in all trade over the years, trade within the region was beginning to increase following concerted efforts by governments to facilitate the movement of goods and services. But border closures by countries like Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, as well as travel bans by airlines to the worst affected countries, will have a significantly adverse effect on trade in the region. We have also seen the postponement of investments by foreign investors who are waiting to see the outcome of the disease. One of the attractions of West Africa for investment is the size of the market, and the huge number of deaths caused by Ebola has effectively reduced this so investors are clearly cautious about the timing of their investments in the region. Tourism Airlines, hotels and travel companies are expected to suffer reductions in revenues. The World Travel and Tourism Council, which represents airlines, hotels and other travel companies recently stated that early indications suggest a decline of 30% in bookings to the region. Gambia, which derives 16% of its GDP from tourism, is perhaps the worst affected in the region. The start of the tourism season in October has seen significantly lower number of tourists than in previous years with an anticipated 50-60% decline in numbers, according to the tourism minister of Gambia, Benjamin Thomas. In a country where half the population live below the poverty line and are dependent on this industry for their livelihood, we can expect a worsening of their conditions. Agriculture Another sector badly hit by the crisis is the agriculture sector. In Guinea, Sierra-Leone and Liberia, there have been disruptions due to farmers staying away from farmlands and market places to the detriment of the agriculture sector. Outside these countries, there are also concerns regarding the impact on agriculture production, with cocoa a critical area. West Africa produces 70% of the world’s global cocoa supply with Ghana and Ivory Coast accounting for 60%. This could be threatened if the virus continues its spread and extends to these countries. With so many disruptions to the productive sectors of the region’s economy, there will be a fiscal gap which must be managed. With aid coming in to strengthen healthcare infrastructure, consideration has to be given to how the fiscal gap can be contained as well. Overall impact The economic impact of Ebola is such that the IMF has now reduced its growth projections for the region to 5% from 5.5%. The World Bank shares this outlook, revising growth estimates for the three countries. It warns that the disease, if not successfully contained, could cost the West African economy US$32 billion in 2015. The World Bank expects that GDP growth in Sierra Leone will only be 8.3% (down from 11.3%), with agriculture among the worst affected sectors, and also causing a slow down in mining operations. Guinea’s growth estimate is down to 2.4% from 4.5%, the worst hit sector is again agriculture. And Liberia, one of the smallest economies in the world, has had its growth projections reduced to 2.5% from 5.9% with projections of zero or negative growth in 2015 – with mining and agriculture the worst hit sectors in the country. Overall, the World Bank estimates that the Liberian economy has declined by US$113m as a result of the crisis; Sierra Leone by US$95m; and Guinea by US$120m. In all of this, with people acting on their primal instincts to survive, consideration must be given to how actions to halt the spread of the disease may impact the economy and the long-term future health of citizens of the region. And, for those in the worst-hit nations of Guinea, Sierra-Leone and Liberia, even if the disease is stemmed today, the economic impact will be felt for many more years to come. *Source the African Report .The author, Enase Okonedo, is Dean of Lagos Business School at Lagos Business School. This article was first published by The Conversation  ]]>

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South Africa returns seized $15m to Nigeria
October 26, 2014 | 2 Comments

Nigeria's Jonathan and South Africa's Zuma Nigeria’s Jonathan and South Africa’s Zuma[/caption] The South African Ambassador to Nigeria, Lulu Mnguni, said in a news conference on Friday that the $15m earlier seized from some Nigerians by the South African Government had been released to Nigeria. The South African Government had, on September 5, 2014, seized $9.3m cash belonging to Nigeria and a month later seized another $5.7m, claiming that both funds were to be used for illegal purchase of arms, www.thecable.ng reported. However, Nigeria’s National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, said the transactions were legal, urging the South African Government to stop actions that could degenerate to a diplomatic showdown. The South African Government on October 14, 2014 said it would return the money to Nigeria. Mnguni also spoke on the collapsed building in the Synagogue church in Lagos State and its effect on the relationship between the two countries. He said that the two countries had come a long way and that the development would only make them remain stronger. “South Africa’s relations with Nigeria has come a long way, so now this actually will make us much closer, to see how we can close some of these gaps that result in such accidents,” he said. The South African ambassador added that the seizure of the funds was in no way related to the Synagogue collapse. “South Africa’s relation with Nigeria is priceless; it cannot be sold for $15m,” he said. *Source Punchng]]>

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Meet the man who tamed Nigeria's most lawless city
October 25, 2014 | 0 Comments

Babatunde Fashola, governor of Lagos, has transformed the city – and helped halt the spread of Ebola in Nigeria   By *

[caption id="attachment_13295" align="alignleft" width="300"]Babatunde Fashola has won near-celebrity status for transforming west Africa's biggest city Photo: AFP/Getty Images Babatunde Fashola has won near-celebrity status for transforming west Africa’s biggest city Photo: AFP/Getty Images[/caption] He famously claims to be “just doing his job”. But in a land where politicians are known for doing anything but, that alone has been enough to make Babatunde Fashola, boss of the vast Nigerian city of Lagos, a very popular man.
Confounding the image of Nigerian leaders as corrupt and incompetent, the 51-year-old governor has won near-celebrity status for transforming west Africa’s biggest city, cleaing up its crime-ridden slums and declaring war on corrupt police and civil servants.
Next month, he will come to London to meet business leaders and Mayor Boris Johnson’s officials, wooing investors with talk of how he has spent the last seven years building new transport hubs and gleaming business parks.
Yet arguably his biggest achievement in office took place just last week, and was done without a bulldozer in sight. That was when his country was officially declared free of Ebola, which first spread to Nigeriathree months ago when Patrick Sawyer, an infected Liberian diplomat, flew into Lagos airport.
Health officials had long feared that the outbreak, which has already claimed nearly 5,000 lives elsewhere in west Africa, would reach catastrophic proportions were it to spread through Lagos. One of the largest cities in the world, it is home to an estimated 17 million people, many of them living in sprawling shanty towns that would have become vast reservoirs for infection. To make matters worse, when the outbreak first happened, medics were on strike. Instead, Mr Fashola turned a looming disaster into a public health and PR triumph. Breaking off from a trip overseas, he took personal charge of the operation to track down and quarantine nearly 1,000 people feared to have been infected since Mr Sawyer’s arrival. Last week, what would have been a formidably complex operation in any country came to a successful end, when the World Health Organisation announced that since Nigeria had had no new cases for six weeks, it was now officially rid of the virus.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VfI2aEPDGzo     “This is a spectacular success story,” said Rui Gama Vaz, a WHO spokesman, who prompted an applause when he broke the news at a press conference in Nigeria on Tuesday. “It shows that Ebola can be contained.” The WHO announcement was a rare glimmer of hope in the fight against Ebola, and even rarer vote of confidence in a branch of the Nigerian government, which was heavily criticised over its response to the abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls by the Boko Haram insurgent group in April. As a columninst in Nigeria’s Leadership newspaper put it last week: “For once, we did not underachieve.” For Mr Fashola’s many supporters, it is also yet more proof that the 51-year-old ex-lawyer is a future president in the making, a much-needed technocrat in a country dominated far too long by ageing “Big Men” and ex-generals. “He is the best governor we have ever had,” said Odun Babalola, a Lagos-based pension fund portfolio manager. “He’s made a lot of progress in schools, railways, and infrastructure, and unlike a lot of politicians, who are corrupt, he’s a good administrator.” True, the successful tackling of the Ebola outbreak was not Mr Fashola’s doing alone. For a start, the doctor’s strike that was under way when Mr Sawyer collapsed at Lagos airport turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Rather than being taken to one of Lagos’s vast public hospitals, where he might have languished for hours and infected numerous fellow patients and staff, he was instead admitted to a private clinic. There he was seen by a sharp-eyed consultant, Stella Adadevoh, who spotted that his symptoms were not malaria as had been first thought. She then alerted the Nigerian health ministry, and along with other doctors physically restrained Sawyer when he became aggressive and tried to leave the hospital to fly to another Nigerian city. Her quick thinking help stop the virus being spread more widely, but also cost her her life: she caught Ebola herself while treating Mr Sawyer, and has now been recommended for a national award. But even by the time Mr Sawyer had been isolated, the virus was already on the loose. Knowing that he had passed through one of the busiest airports in west Africa, health officials had to try to track down every single person who had potentially been infected by him, including the other passengers on his flight. The list started at 281 people and grew to nearly 1,000. as eight others whom he turned out to have passed the virus to subsequently died. That was where Mr Fashola stepped in. He broke off from a pilgrimage to Mecca, flew home and then helped set up an Ebola Emergency Operations Centre, which spearheaded the mammoth task of monitoring all those potentially infected. A team of 2,000 officials were trained for the task, who ended up knocking on 26,000 doors. At one point the governor was being briefed up to ten times a day by disease control experts. He made a point of visiting the country’s Ebola treatment centre, a way of communicating to the Nigerian public that they should not panic needlessly. “Command and control is very important in fighting disease outbreaks, and he provided effective leadership,” said Dr Ike Anya, a London-based Nigerian public health expert. “He also said exactly the right things, urging for the need to keep calm. Regardless of whether you support his politics, he has been very effective as a governor and I would be happy to see him stand for leadership.” Born into a prominent Muslim family but married to a Christian, Mr Fashola trained as a lawyer and went into politics after being appointed chief of staff by the previous Lagos governor, Asiwaju Tinubu, a powerful politician often described as Mr Fashola’s “Godfather”. But while he has long enjoyed the backing of a political “Big Man”, is his role as a rare defender of Nigeria’s “Little Men” that has won him most support. Once, while driving through Lagos in his convoy, he famously stopped an army colonel who was driving illegally in one of the governor’s newly-built bus lanes, berating him in front of television cameras. “The bus is for those who cannot afford to buy cars,” he said. “I want a zero tolerance of lawlesness, and those who don’t want to comply can leave our state.” [caption id="attachment_13296" align="alignright" width="300"]A school official takes a pupil's temperature in front of the school premises in Lagos (Reuters) A school official takes a pupil’s temperature in front of the school premises in Lagos (Reuters)[/caption] It was one of the first times Nigerians had ever seen a civil servant confronting a member of the security forces, whose fondness for committing crime rather than fighting it has long contributed to Lagos’s legendary reputation for lawlessness. Armed robberies – sometimes by moonlighting police – used to be so common that few people ventured out after dark. Foreign businessmen would routinely travel with armed escorts, and the few willing to live there would stay mainly in a heavily-guarded diplomatic area called Victoria Island, a rough equivalent to Baghdad’s Green Zone. Add to that the suffocating smog, widespread squalor and regular three-hour traffic jams, and it was no suprise that the city had a reputation as one of the worst places in the world to live. Today, much of the problems remain. But members of the vast Nigerian diaspora say they now notice big changes whenever they go back. “When you return you see an absolute difference – things have improved 100 per cent,” said Nels Abbey, a London-based Nigerian journalist and businessman. “Traffic is not what it used to be, bus lanes have been introduced, and it feels a lot safer. Fashola has been like a Tory mayor for Lagos – he is trying to make it attractive to the well-off.” Styling himself as Lagos’s answer to Boris Johnson has not endeared him to everyone. As well as laying plans for a vast offshore business park intended as an “African Dubai”, he has accelerated programs to clear the ever-expanding shanty towns, ordering their occupants to return to their homes in Nigeria’s poorest east and north. That has led to criticism from human rights groups, although others say it is hard to see how Lagos will ever improve otherwise. “Do I endorse it?” said Mr Nels. “I am afraid it is a bit of a necessary evil.” [caption id="attachment_13299" align="alignleft" width="300"]Lagos, Nigeria (AP) Lagos, Nigeria (AP)[/caption] Another big achievement has been increasing tax revenues, vital in a city where the GDP of $43 billion makes it the fifth-biggest economy in sub-Saharan Africa. Mr Fashola has tried to sweeten the pill by putting up signs on all new infrasructure projects, saying “paid for by your taxes”. It is a rare acknowledgement of gratitude in a country where a guaranteed stream of state oil wealth has historically allowed rulers to remain aloof from the ruled. However, despite being relected with 80 per cent of the vote in 2011, the main hailed as Nigeria’s brightest political hope in years is far from guaranteed a life in office. Having served two terms in office already, he is not allowed to run as Lagos governor again. And as a member of a minority tribe and the country’s opposition All Progressives Congress, he currently lacks the political backing to go head to head against Goodluck Jonathan in next year’s elections. In the meantime, fresh from ridding Lagos of Ebola, he is focusing on an arguably even tougher challenge, launching a new initiative to stop motorists stuck in traffic jams from blasting their horns all day. As he put it: “If we can overcome Ebola, then we can overcome noise pollution.” *Source telegraph
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Exclusive:Chad says Nigeria deal with Boko Haram to free girls still on
October 25, 2014 | 0 Comments

By Emma Farge and Moumine Ngarmbassa*

N’DJAMENA (Reuters) – Chad said it believed Nigeria’s secret deal with Boko Haram Islamists to free more than 200 kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls would go ahead despite the breakdown of a truce, and revealed that the key to the agreement was a prisoner swap.

  download (3)  The accord mediated by Chad for the release of the girls seized from Chibok in northeast Nigeria in April has been called into question since it was announced by the Nigerian military last week. A ceasefire supposed to be part of the agreement has been broken, and a further 25 girls were abducted this week.

    Moussa Mahamat Dago, the No. 2 official at Chad’s foreign ministry, said it appeared some Boko Haram factions were refusing to abide by the deal, brokered by the Chadian foreign minister with two representatives of the Islamist group and two Nigerian negotiators at meetings in Chad on Sept. 14 and 30. “Quite possibly those who are fighting are dissidents that even they (Boko Haram) aren’t able to control. So far, there is no reason for others to doubt this agreement,” Dago told Reuters late on Thursday in the Chadian capital N’Djamena. “What I can say is that those that negotiated with the Nigerian government did so in good faith … We are waiting for the next phase which is the release of the girls.”

    Dago said the two sides agreed verbally to a series of points summarized in a document he had seen, including the release of the schoolgirls and of jailed Boko Haram fighters.

The Nigerian insurgent group, which has fought a bloody five-year revolt mostly in the northeast, has said it wants to carve out an Islamist enclave in the religiously-mixed nation, Africa’s top oil producer and biggest economy.

“The starting condition of Boko Haram was the liberation of some of their members … That is the compensation,” Dago said, adding that the specifics on the names and number of Boko Haram fighters still to be released had not yet been agreed. Dago said he still expected the girls to be freed, without giving a time frame. The Boko Haram negotiators were no longer in Chad although they had agreed to return in October after freeing the girls to hold more talks, he added. The first stage of the agreement made was the release of a group of 27 Chinese and Cameroonian hostages by Boko Haram two weeks ago in northern Cameroon, Dago said. [ID:nnL6N0S603O] “We remain optimistic. The two sides agreed to find a negotiated solution and to show their good faith they already freed some hostages and announced a ceasefire,” he said. Dago admitted it would be embarrassing for Chadian President Idriss Deby’s government, which has taken a leading role in security and diplomacy in Africa’s turbulent Sahel region in recent years, if the girls were not freed. “It would be very disappointing. We are engaged in this now. If this negotiation doesn’t succeed that would be damaging for Chad’s facilitating role,” he said. COMING NIGERIA ELECTION [caption id="attachment_13284" align="alignright" width="450"]Campaigners from "#Bring Back Our Girls" march during a rally calling for the release of the Abuja school girls who were abducted by Boko Haram militants, in Abuja October 17, 2014. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde Campaigners from “#Bring Back Our Girls” march during a rally calling for the release of the Abuja school girls who were abducted by Boko Haram militants, in Abuja October 17, 2014. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde[/caption] The release of the girls would be a boost for Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, who faces an election in February and has been pilloried at home and abroad for his slow response to the kidnapping and his inability to quell the insurgency. Boko Haram has not yet commented on the ceasefire. Its fighters have killed thousands of people in raids mostly in Nigeria’s northeast but have also claimed sporadic bomb attacks in the federal capital Abuja and the commercial hub Lagos. Dago said he was confident that the negotiators had the authority to speak on behalf of Boko Haram’s mercurial and reclusive leader Abubakar Shekau, whom Nigeria’s military has more than once claimed to have killed. “They are envoys who answer to their leader Shekau who himself confirmed that these emissaries spoke on his behalf. That was confirmed in writing to the Chadian government,” he said, confirming local press reports that the negotiators were named Cheikh Goni Hassane and Cheikh Boukar Umarou.

    Chad does not know where the abducted Chibok girls are being held, but Dago said it was likely they were outside of Chad and spread out over a wide area.

    The Chinese hostages freed earlier under the agreement were found scattered across northern Cameroon, he said. “They (Boko Haram) gave us guarantees that the girls are well but we don’t know physically where they are,” he said.

    “But they have certainly dispersed them like the Chinese hostages, who were spread out over a large area.”

    The two parties planned to meet again for a third time in Chad after the release of the schoolgirls to draft a roadmap to tackle more fundamental issues, Dago said.

“For the next stage of negotiations, the girls need to be freed. We cannot go into details as long as this question remains and it is a requirement of Chad that the girls are released before we start the next stage of talks,” he said.

*Source Reuters/Yahoo]]>

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Nigeria truce is shaky, no news of abducted girls
October 23, 2014 | 0 Comments

By HARUNA UMAR and CHIKA ODUAH* [caption id="attachment_13063" align="alignleft" width="300"]From left to right: Alleged Boko Haram sponsor Ali Modu Sheriff, President Goodluck Jonathan and President Idris Derby From left to right: Alleged Boko Haram sponsor Ali Modu Sheriff, President Goodluck Jonathan and President Idris Derby[/caption]

Days after Nigeria’s military raised hopes with the announcement that Islamic extremists had agreed to a cease-fire, Boko Haram still is fighting and there is no word on the fate of 219 schoolgirls held hostage for six months.

Officials had said talks would resume in neighboring Chad this week, but there was no confirmation that those negotiations had resumed by Wednesday.

The official silence raises many questions, especially since Boko Haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau has not confirmed that a truce has been agreed.

Relatives of the girls abducted from a boarding school in northeastern Chibok town said they are confused but trying to be hopeful.

“Things are still sketchy with lots of holes and varying statements,” Allen Manasseh, a brother of one of the missing schoolgirls, told The Associated Press by telephone. Manasseh said he relentlessly scours the news headlines to find out when his sister, Maryam, may return home.

Despite the cease-fire announced by the military on Friday, the Islamic insurgents have attacked two villages and a town in the northeast and raised their flag in a fourth village. People who escaped this week from Bama, a town in a part of northeastern Nigeria where Boko Haram has declared an Islamic caliphate, say hundreds of residents are being detained for allegedly breaking the group’s strict version of Shariah law. Residents who got out of Bama said so many people have been detained by Boko Haram that the local jail is overcrowded and houses are being used as makeshift prisons. Many young men have been forced to join Boko Haram, and those who refuse are killed, said those who ran away. [caption id="attachment_13039" align="alignright" width="300"]Members of the Abuja Bring Back Our Girls group during a protest march to commemorate six months since the abduction of the 219 Chibok schoolgirls. Photograph: Afolabi Sotunde/REUTERS Members of the Abuja Bring Back Our Girls group during a protest march to commemorate six months since the abduction of the 219 Chibok schoolgirls. Photograph: Afolabi Sotunde/REUTERS[/caption] People are jailed after brief “trials” for infringements like smoking cigarettes, said Amina Bukar, a middle-aged woman who said she hiked through the bush for five days before reaching Maiduguri, the Borno state capital 75 kilometers (nearly 50 miles) away. Food is running short since shops have been looted by Boko Haram, said Bukar. “Water also is very scarce, sometimes you line up (at the communal tap) for 24 hours,” she said. In Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, dozens of activists continue a daily protest ritual at Unity Fountain, using the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls to demand that the government and military ensure the release of the students. Campaigner Aisha Yesufu said they had been told the girls would be freed on Monday, but it didn’t happen. “The government spokesperson came out and said that they never said Monday, that they are saying this week. We are still watching. We are extremely anxious,” she told the AP. Some 276 girls and young women writing science examinations were kidnapped from a government boarding school in Chibok in the early hours of April 15. Dozens escaped by themselves in the first couple of days but some 219 remain missing.

Thousands of people have been killed and hundreds of thousands forced from their homes in the 5-year uprising to establish an Islamic state in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation of some 160 million people divided almost equally between Muslims and Christians.

*Source AP/Yahoo]]>

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A Private Meeting with President Obama to Discuss ISIS and Boko Haram
October 22, 2014 | 0 Comments

By * 2014-10-19-egbasepresidient-thumbAnthony Egbase, a nationalized American from Nigeria with dual citizenship, sat down with President Obama to discuss foreign policy and specifically the terror attacks in Syria by ISIS and in Nigeria by Boko Haram. Mr. Egbase is a highly respected Los Angeles attorney, who is licensed to practice in California, Maryland, District of Columbia and Nigeria. Egbase did not speak with the President as a representative or advocate of the Nigerian government, although he has friends in top government offices there. He participated in this discussion as a concerned Nigerian desiring that the United States offer more assistance to Nigeria in its fight against Boko Haram. On September 26th, in a very intimate setting, with approximately 20 attendees, the President discussed Egbase’s concerns and recommendations as they pertain to the United States’ involvement, or lack thereof, in addressing the crisis of terrorism in Nigeria. The United States has designated Boko Haram a Foreign Terrorist Organization and the United Nations has sanctioned Boko Haram as an Al-Qaida-linked terror group. Egbase confessed that he entered the meeting believing that President Obama was a man of African descent but was emotionally far removed from the crippling plight of many in Africa. He left the meeting wonderfully impressed, with not only the President’s in-depth understanding of Nigeria’s culture and political intricacies, but moved by his deep concern for the travesties occurring in Nigeria and Syria. The overriding message conveyed by President Obama was threefold: 1) the Nigerian government is fully capable of defeating Boko Haram 2) the United States cannot be solely responsible for ridding all of the world of its evil and 3) the shedding of American blood in foreign land is to be avoided whenever possible. I spoke with Anthony Egbase, exclusively, to learn more about how the Obama administration’s plans to deal with ISIS and Boko Haram in the wake of the escalated terrorist attacks. Q. Did you discuss ISIS with President Obama? Egbase: Yes we discussed ISIS. The President discussed ISIS in his opening foreign policy discussion. He focused on the war with ISIS and expressed his satisfaction with the way the US military is carrying out the campaign. He was particularly happy that there have been no civilian casualties because of the precise nature of the air strikes. Q. Did you discuss Boko Haram with President Obama? Egbase: Yes. We spent about 90 minutes discussing Boko Haram, the Nigerian government and the religious divide between northern and southern Nigeria. I was quite amazed about how knowledgeable he was about Nigeria. Q. Do you see any similarities between the ISIS terrorist strategies and that of Boko Haram? Egbase: Yes, and I informed Mr. President that Boko Haram is just as lethal as ISIS. In response to my statement, he agreed that Boko Haram is just as “dangerous” as ISIS. Q. Do you believe that Boko Haram is communicating with ISIS? Egbase: There is no doubt that Boko Haram is communicating with ISIS. They are both made up of religious extremists who want to kill people and or get killed. They believe killing people or getting killed will lead them to their goal. The two groups’ mode of operation is the same as they want to establish “Islamic Caliphate” even though their dream is unrealistic as they will kill themselves or be killed before that happens. Boko Haram kills and behead foreigners just like ISIS and they have attacked the United Nations building in the capital city of Nigeria killing foreigners. Q. What did the President share regarding the United States support of Nigeria in fighting Boko Haram? Egbase: I did not realize how much other countries in the world look to the United States for help until the President mentioned the same. Specifically, the calls from Ukraine, the Philippines and other natural disaster areas around the world. In his words, “they do not call on China or Russia, they call on us.” 2014-10-19-egbasepresidendmeeting-thumbThe President reminded me, as did his wife did at my meeting with her 10 days prior, that the United States in one country and cannot afford to commit its resources and personnel to fighting evil all over the world. The President’s opinion was that Nigeria, with its military capability right now, can obliterate Boko Haram. He added, however, the problem is Nigerian government’s fear that going all out against Boko Haram will alienate a certain portion of the Nigerian society. I stated that in some quarters in Nigeria, some believe that Nigeria’s inability to combat Boko Haram is partly due to the US embargo against Nigeria. The alleged embargo restricts Nigeria from purchasing arms from the United States. The President did not confirm or deny that the United States has such an embargo against Nigeria. Q. What were some of the suggestions made by the President in addressing Nigeria’s fight against Boko Haram? Egbase: He stated that changing the mindset of the people as part of solving the problem of terrorism. The President said that he would like to see many African nations form a coalition to address the Boko Haram problem. He did not specifically mention that the United States would support Nigeria if a coalition is achieved, however in the context he used it, I believe he would consider lending more support to Nigeria to fight Boko Haram if this happens. Q. What do you think the United States can do to make an immediate impact against Boko Haram? Egbase: I believe the United States, with its unique militarily and intelligence gathering capabilities, can help Nigeria combat the growing cancer Boko Haram. Like I mentioned above, many Nigerians believe the United States embargo against Nigeria is hampering the Nigerian government’s ability to fight Boko Haram. On the other hand, many Nigerians believe Nigeria is reluctant to seek United States assistance because Nigeria does not want to appear too close to the West which will alienate a certain section of the Nigerian society. To this point, the US Assistant Secretary for Africa Ms. Linda Thomas-Greenfield was quotedas saying to the Nigeria government in Abuja “the time of denial and pride was over” and that Nigeria should openly embrace US military assistance. Q. What immediate steps should the Nigerian government take in the fight against Boko Haram? Egbase: Nigeria government should take control of its northern border to prevent Boko Haram, which is made up of mainly foreigners, from coming in. Nigeria should increase it’s military and intelligence capabilities by doing all it can to tap into the United States unique capabilities. It can start by putting pressure on the Obama administration to review the Leheay Amendment if that is the problem. I believe the United States will listen to this because if Nigeria becomes a failed state there will be many more “underwear bombers“. Contemporaneously, the Nigerian government needs to lead the efforts, as it has done in the past, getting other African countries together, especially those affected like Cameron and Chad and form a coalition as President Obama would like to see happen.These immediate steps will enable Nigeria to have a fertile ground to plant the seed of reclaiming the affected communities. This will also enable the government to provide education and infrastructural development to the affected areas. Q. What was the most powerful statement the President made that you haven’t heard elsewhere? Egbase: The Presidents statement that part of the problem is the Nigerian government’s belief that coming down too hard on Boko Haram will alienate certain portion of Nigerian society. Q. Did you discuss the missing 200 Chibok school girls that were kidnapped by Boko Haram in April 2014? Egbase: No we did not discuss that unfortunately. However, at my meeting with the First Lady, I thanked her regarding her public condemnation of Boko Haram when the kidnapping happened. She talked extensively of many African leaders refusing to take the lead in training girls and changing the mindset of the people about equality between girls and boys. This she argues creates fertile ground for kidnapping of girls that simply want to go to school. Q. What is your take on recent reports that the Chibok school girls are to be returned within days of this article posting? 2014-10-19-egbasefirstlady-thumbEgbase: It is my prayers that the cease fire deal comes to fruition. Every right thinking person wants “our girls back” and we all hope the insurgency stops. However, I question whether the deal is realistic in light of the fact that we are dealing with religious extremists. For any meaningful deal to be reached, the following questions must be resolved: Have the members of Boko Haram suddenly decided to have change of heart? Have they renounced their ambition of forming a religious caliphate? Are they now willing to live side by side with Christians and other moderate Muslims? Do they now believe Western education is okay for their girls? I don’t see how one reaches a compromise on these types of issues. Nevertheless, again, I pray the cease fire deal is real. Q. Did you offer the President any suggestions regarding the United States assisting Nigeria in its fight against Boko Haram? Egbase: At some point I suggested to the President that many countries seeking United States assistance can actually afford to pay for such assistance. At that point the President reminded me about his wife and how she goes out working for military families that have lost loved ones, and service men and women who have lost their limbs. He mentioned what American young men and women are going through in Walter Reed National Military Medical Center‘. With teary eyes, he concluded “it’s not about the money but about putting American blood on the line.” He stated how many American service people have no limbs because they fight to defend freedom all over the world. He concluded by saying leaders of all counties need to step up and fight evil in their own countries. Q. Is there anything else you would like to share regarding your meeting with President Obama? Egbase: Yes. When I hugged the President I was asked him to please visit Nigeria before he leaves office. His response was “we are trying.” *Source Huffington Post]]>

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Nigeria is now free of Ebola virus transmission
October 21, 2014 | 0 Comments

Gov. Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State poses with survivors of the Ebola virus Gov. Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State poses with survivors of the Ebola virus[/caption] This is a spectacular success story that shows that Ebola can be contained. The story of how Nigeria ended what many believed to be potentially the most explosive Ebola outbreak imaginable is worth telling in detail. Such a story can help the many other developing countries that are deeply worried by the prospect of an imported Ebola case and eager to improve their preparedness plans. Many wealthy countries, with outstanding health systems, may have something to learn as well. The complete story also illustrates how Nigeria has come so close to the successful interruption of wild poliovirus transmission from its vast and densely-populated territory. As sometimes fortunately happens in public health, one success breeds others when lessons and best practices are collected and applied. Earlier this year, WHO confirmed that Nigeria had eradicated guinea-worm disease – another spectacular success story. When the eradication initiative was launched, Nigeria was the epicentre of this disease, with more than 650 000 cases reported each year. A shocked public health community – worldwide When laboratory confirmation of the country’s first Ebola case, in Lagos, was announced on 23 July, the news rocked public health communities all around the world. Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country and its newest economic powerhouse. For a disease outbreak, it is also a powder keg. The number of people living in Lagos – around 21 million – is almost as large as the populations of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone combined. Lagos, Africa’s largest city, is also characterized by a large population living in crowded and unsanitary conditions in many slums. Thousands of people move in and out of Lagos every day, constantly looking for work or markets for their products in a busy metropolis with frequent gridlocks of vehicle traffic. “How can contact tracing be done under such conditions?” This was the main concern raised at the beginning, shortly after the first confirmed case was announced. As the United States Consul General in Nigeria, Jeffrey Hawkins, said at the time, “The last thing anyone in the world wants to hear is the 2 words, ‘Ebola’ and ‘Lagos’ in the same sentence. ” As he noted, that single juxtaposition conjured up images of an “apocalyptic urban outbreak”. That never happened. With assistance from WHO, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and others, government health officials reached 100% of known contacts in Lagos and 99.8% at the second outbreak site, in Port Harcourt, Nigeria’s oil hub. Federal and State governments in Nigeria provided ample financial and material resources, as well as well-trained and experienced national staff. Isolation wards were immediately constructed, as were designated Ebola treatment facilities, though more slowly. Vehicles and mobile phones, with specially adapted programmes, were made available to aid real-time reporting as the investigations moved forward. Unlike the situation in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, all identified contacts were physically monitored on a daily basis for 21 days. The few contacts who attempted to escape the monitoring system were all diligently tracked, using special intervention teams, and returned to medical observation to complete the requisite monitoring period of 21 days.   The “index” case: how it all started The Ebola virus entered Lagos on 20 July via an infected Liberian air traveller, who died 5 days later. At the departure airport, he was visibly very ill, lying on the floor of the waiting room while awaiting the flight. He vomited during the flight, on arrival and, yet again, in the private car that drove him to a private hospital. The protocol officer who escorted him later died of Ebola. At the hospital, he told staff that he had malaria and denied any contact with an Ebola patient. As was learned later, his sister was a confirmed case who had died from the disease in Liberia. The traveller visited his sister while in hospital and attended her traditional funeral and burial ceremony. As malaria is not transmitted from person to person, no staff at the hospital took protective precautions. Over the coming days, 9 doctors and nurses became infected and 4 of them died. The second outbreak site: Port Harcourt The virus entered the country’s oil hub, Port Harcourt, on 1 August, when a close contact of the index case flew there seeking care from a private physician. That doctor developed symptoms on 10 August and died of Ebola on 23 August. Laboratory tests confirmed the city’s first case on 27 August. An investigation undertaken by a team of epidemiologists from the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), the Nigeria Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Programme and the State Ministry of Health, assisted by WHO, revealed an alarming number of high-risk and very high-risk exposures for hundreds of people. Again, all the ingredients for an explosion of new cases were in place. Dr Rui Vaz, the head of WHO’s country office in Nigeria, visited Rivers State (where Port Harcourt is located) to assess the situation there. He informed the State’s Governor of the potentially explosive situation and made his advice crystal clear: “All required resources must be immediately mobilized to stop this outbreak.” Fortunately, the State’s Governor heeded WHO’s advice and that “explosive situation did not happen. [caption id="attachment_13168" align="alignright" width="370"]Lagos State Nigerian Ebola survivor Doctor Ada Igonoh Lagos State Nigerian Ebola survivor Doctor Ada Igonoh[/caption] Today, exactly 42 days (twice the maximum incubation period for Ebola virus disease) after the country’s last infectious contact with a confirmed or probable case occurred, the chains of transmission have been broken. The virus is gone – for now. The outbreak in Nigeria has been defeated. What accounts for this great news? To a large extent, the answer is straightforward: the country’s strong leadership and effective coordination of the response. The Nigerian response to the outbreak was greatly aided by the rapid utilization of a national public institution (NCDC) and the prompt establishment of an Emergency Operations Centre, supported by the Disease Prevention and Control Cluster within the WHO country office. Another key asset was the country’s first-rate virology laboratory affiliated with the Lagos University Teaching Hospital. That laboratory was staffed and equipped to quickly and reliably diagnose a case of Ebola virus disease, which ensured that containment measures could begin with the shortest possible delay. In addition, high-quality contact tracing by experienced epidemiologists expedited the early detection of cases and their rapid movement to an isolation ward, thereby greatly diminishing opportunities for further transmission. How a highly contagious virus was stopped dead in its tracks Dr Rui Vaz and the WHO country team of epidemiologists, clinicians, logisticians and administrators have identified a number of specific lessons that may be useful for other countries facing their first imported Ebola case or preparing for one. They have also carefully documented a large number of “best practices” for containing an Ebola outbreak quickly. The most critical factor is leadership and engagement from the head of state and the Minister of Health. Generous allocation of government funds and their quick disbursement helped as well. Partnership with the private sector was yet another asset that brought in substantial resources to help scale up control measures that would eventually stop the Ebola virus dead in its tracks. Health and government officials fully appreciated the importance of communication with the general public. They rallied communities to support containment measures. House-to-house information campaigns and messages on local radio stations, in local dialects, were used to explain the level of risk, effective personal preventive measures and the actions being taken for control. On his part, the President reassured the country’s vast and diversified population through appearances on nationally televised newscasts. The full range of media opportunities was exploited – from social media to televised facts about the disease delivered by well-known “Nollywood” movie stars. Polio strategies “repurposed” for Ebola control For some time now, with dedicated and enthusiastic support from President Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria has been running one of the world’s most innovative polio eradication campaigns, using the very latest satellite-based cutting-edge GPS technologies to ensure that no child misses out on polio vaccination. The country, which passed through the high-transmission season with only 1 single case of polio detected by a finely-tuned and sensitive surveillance system, is on track to interrupt wild poliovirus transmission from its borders before the end of this year. When the first Ebola case was confirmed in July, health officials immediately repurposed polio technologies and infrastructures to conduct Ebola case-finding and contact-tracing. The use of cutting-edge technologies, developed with guidance from the WHO polio programme, put GPS systems to work as support for real-time contact tracing and daily mapping of links between identified chains of transmission. This is a good public health story with an unusual twist at the end. As part of preparedness for an imported case, several advanced countries with good health systems are now studying technologies “made in Nigeria”, with WHO support, to improve their own contact tracing capacities. The story has another very clear message, as noted by Dr Margaret Chan, the WHO Director-General. “If a country like Nigeria, hampered by serious security problems, can do this – that is, make significant progress towards interrupting polio transmission, eradicate guinea-worm disease and contain Ebola, all at the same time – any country in the world experiencing an imported case can hold onward transmission to just a handful of cases.” World-class epidemiological detective work would eventually link every single one of the country’s 19 confirmed cases back to direct or indirect contact with that 20 July air traveller from Liberia. In another strategy, traditional, religious and community leaders were engaged early on and played a critical role in sensitizing the public. Like many others, the strategy drew on successful experiences in the polio programme. The awareness campaigns that worked so well to create public acceptance of polio immunization were likewise repurposed to encourage early reporting of symptoms, backed by the message that early detection and supportive care greatly increase an Ebola patient’s prospects of survival. All of these efforts were supported by social mobilization experts from UNICEF, CDC and Médecins sans Frontières, while the staff from the WHO Nigeria office, the Regional Office for Africa and headquarters boosted outbreak investigation, risk assessment, contact tracing and clinical care. In the end, Nigeria confirmed a total of 19 cases, of whom 7 died and 12 survived, giving the country an enviable case fatality rate of 40% – much lower than the 70% and higher seen elsewhere. Finally, to help maintain the confidence of citizens and foreign companies and investors alike, the government undertook the screening of all arriving and departing travellers by air and by sea in Lagos and Rivers State. The average number of travellers screened each day rose to more than 16 000. Vigilance remains high Nigerian government and health officials, including staff in the WHO country office, are well aware that the country will remain vulnerable to another imported case as long as intense transmission continues in other parts of West Africa. The surveillance system remains on guard, at a level of high alert. Moreover, the country’s success, including its low fatality rate, has created another problem that calls for a high level of alert. Many desperate people in heavily affected countries believe that Nigeria must have some especially good – maybe even “magical” – treatments to offer. WHO’s Dr Vaz and others see a real risk that patients and their families from elsewhere will come to Nigeria in their quest for first-rate, live-saving care. Based on the experience gained from the response in the 2 affected States, the national preparedness and response plan has also been revised and refined. This strengthened response plan further boosts confidence that Nigeria’s well-oiled machinery has a good chance of working miracles again should another traveller – by land, air or sea – carry the Ebola virus across its borders again. *APO/WHO]]>

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Culture:The beat goes on in Lagos, Nigeria
October 21, 2014 | 0 Comments

Tolu Ogunlesi in Lagos* Whether it’s Fela, film or fiction, Nigeria’s economic capital has a non-stop calendar of cultural events, but other cities have their offerings to the muses too. nigeriaculture2014reaFreedom Park, a former colonial prison, has become the symbol of an artistic renaissance in Lagos – a city of 21 million people that can itself sometimes feel like an overcrowded prison. Where the prison’s gallows once stood is an open-air stage that overlooks an art gallery named for Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka. Terra Kulture is another popular arts venue, home to the annual Taruwa Festival of Performing Arts and a year-round schedule of visual arts exhibitions and theatre. Alongside Freedom Park, it hosted a recent series of plays to commemorate Soyinka’s 80th birthday. Adenrele Sonariwo, a curator of arts events and founder of the Modern Day School of Arts, says: “There are really interesting things going on in the cultural space in Lagos, some superficial, some with a lot of depth. Either way, it takes a lot of courage to do anything in Lagos, so everyone deserves commendation.” Feverish pace The city’s arts calendar is an impressive one, featuring weekly events like Industry Nite at Club Royale, Ikeja – bringing together the money and the talent in the music business – and monthly ones like Open Mic Night and Afropolitan Vibes, which draws attendees to Freedom Park on the third Friday of every month and plies them with live music and fresh palm wine. During the fourth quarter of the year, the pace becomes feverish. The season unofficially kicks off with the three-year-old Lights, Camera, Africa film festival from 25 September to 1 October. This year’s festival focuses on “connecting the classics to the avant-gardists in an audiovisual history that spans the times and genres”. Following this is Felabration, a week-long festival commemorating who else but Fela Anikulapo Kuti, the musical genius who invented Afrobeat in Lagos in the 1960s. The festival, from 13-19 October, is timed to coincide with Fela’s birthday on 16 October. The month ends with the Musical Society of Nigeria (MUSON) Arts Festival, Lagos Photo Festival and Lagos Fashion & Design Week. MUSON is the most influential promotor of classical music in Nigeria. Its annual festival takes place this year from 16-26 October. Lagos Fashion & Design Week kicked off in 2011 and swiftly acquired heft with partnerships with MTN, GTBank and the British Council. “In an international fashion world where a blasé boredom often engulfs the audience, the Lagos Fashion & Design Week was a tonic,” former International Herald Tribune style editor Suzy Menkes wrote about the 2012 edition. This year’s events will take place from 29 October to 1 November. Book fests galore The Lagos Book & Art Festival has taken place annually since 1999. In recent years it has made Freedom Park its home and this year’s edition, from 14-16 November, will celebrate Soyinka’s life. Lagos Photo Festival is a month-long gig that describes itself as “the first and only international arts festival of photography inNigeria.” This year it will be held from 25 October to 26 November. The enthusiasm for the arts extends beyond Lagos. After years of unrest caused by militants, the return of calm to Port Harcourt made it possible for the city’s bid for 2014 World Book Capital to be taken seriously. The ambition paid off, and last year Port Harcourt became the first city in sub- Saharan Africa to be named a World Book Capital. Book activist Koko Kalango, an architect of the bid, has organised a literary festival in the city since 2008. This year’s Port Harcourt Book Festival will take place on 20-25 October and will be a celebration of the city’s new status. In November, film buffs will shift their attention to Calabar and the literati will turn to Abeokuta for the Africa International Film Festival and the Ake Arts & Book Festival, respectively. Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, is struggling to cast off a reputation for cultural limpness. In the city, political intrigue seems to be the only show in town. This is slowly changing but, for now, Lagos – long-standing muse of artist and scam artist alike – continues to hog the cultural limelight. *Source theafricareport]]>

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Buhari vs Jonathan – In search of mathematicians
October 20, 2014 | 2 Comments

By Dele Momodu*

download (2)Fellow Nigerians, time changes everything indeed. In 2011, I would have said worse things about General Muhammadu Buhari. In truth, I actually wrote Buhari off completely, not without cogent reasons that I considered valid and relevant at that time. The first was that Buhari was too old to lead us. I was biased by the Obama Presidency and the emergence of David Cameron in Britain. I felt Buhari as a former dictator should be totally expunged from the race. I was also brainwashed by the relentless propaganda that he was a religious fundamentalist of the worst kind. If I was good in Fine Arts, I would have painted him in the lurid and monstrous image of Lucifer. That was how bad it was.
Trust me, I’m supposed to be one of the most liberal and tolerant human beings but it was just difficult for me to accept Buhari as a Presidential candidate at this time and age. I nearly clashed with my dear friend and brother, Simon Kolawole, after reading an article he had penned on Buhari and practically endorsing him at that time. I was so livid that I did not wait for Simon to get out of church before I started bombarding his lines with frenetic calls. When he eventually got back to me, and in his usual humble manner said “Egbon, I missed your calls, hope all is well?” I responded that all was not well as he had spoilt my appetite and breakfast that morning with his effusive praise of someone I considered a red-faced tyrant.

Simon was as cool as cucumber. He was incredibly blunt as he instantly confessed his unrepentant love, admiration and support for Buhari. He gave plenty reasons and regurgitated some of the offensive sentiments already expressed in his emotional article but I wasn’t impressed. I eventually dropped the matter as neither of us was prepared to yield any ground. Rather than abate, my anger got exacerbated. But that encounter challenged me to look more critically at Buhari and probe deeper into how he acquired such stupendous cult-following.

Without doubt, Buhari is a modern-day wonder. The story of his life is a stuff of thriller novels. In a country where money fixes most things and people, how did he manage to control the bodies and souls of his fanatical supporters? What is it that makes him such a dual personality that draws so many people to him while others withdraw as if to run away from a victim of Ebola? What can Buhari do or achieve at his age in this modern world where life itself has become computerised? I suffered from this interior monologue for a long time.

Some of my fears started evaporating one night in Abuja when I was invited over to meet him at the instance of Prince Lanrewaju Tejuoso, one of his godsons. I was dazed at the ease Prince Lanrewaju was able to get him to meet with me at such short notice. I was impressed that there were no intruders during our heart-to-heart talk. Perhaps, because he had no money to share, the usual parasites crawling all over the corridors of power were not in sight. He spoke calmly but firmly. He had this childlike innocence around him. It was difficult to imagine this man sitting across me could hurt a fly even as a soldier. There were no airs around him or chips on his shoulders. What you saw was what you got; take it or leave it. Many had confessed to similar reaction upon meeting him.
We took pictures together without much ado. And I actually found him more charismatic than my jaundiced eyes could have permitted. What I saw was that raw Fulani beauty and handsomeness. I and my aides left the place liking him a bit.

Of course the election came as usual and Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan trounced Buhari mercilessly. But most of us got so carried away that we failed to appreciate how well the man had performed against all odds. Here was a man without loads of cash. He didn’t have a preponderance of powerful Governors behind him. He could not mobilise so many billionaires to fund him. He lacked the power of incumbency. He could not secure the much needed coalition with ACN at the time. Many Christians saw him as Satan on earth. Many youths considered him too old. The super-rich saw him as the sword of Damocles dangling over them. All the odds were stacked up against him. Yet this poor man, as I like to describe him, recorded a whopping 12,214,853 votes while President Jonathan scored 22,495,187 votes.

Let’s break it down into simple Maths. Jonathan had a good spread scoring 25% or more in 31 States. Buhari managed to score 25% or more in 16 States and yet got a cumulative result of over 12 million votes. A good Mathematician should be able to help us here because I wish to show our President’s handlers that they will pay heavily for complacency if they assume and take it for granted that they can beat Buhari easily like PDP had always done in the past. Let me explain it further. A man who won the mandatory 25% in about half of the States secured by the President still went ahead to poll over half of what the President got. Now this is the tricky part.

Let me begin with the most obvious. Buhari had only 37.96% in Adamawa while Jonathan had 56%. The registered voters were 1,816,094 but the voter-turnout was a miserable 49.98%. With the way the country is right now, PDP would require a miracle to win Adamawa with a landslide. If Buhari secures the APC ticket, it is almost certain that he would clean up that State. And in case the voters turn out much bigger, it means that State can wipe off some of the deficits Buhari suffered in 2011. The two leading parties can still jerk up about one million extras which won’t be a bad idea even if PDP still gets 25% or more.

download (3)Let’s walk across to another interesting State, Bauchi where Buhari recorded 1,315,209 against Jonathan’s 258,404 despite the avuncular presence of PDP Governor, Isa Yuguda. The registered voters here were 2,523,614 but only 1,610,094 voters chose to vote with nearly 1,000,000 voters hibernating somewhere. I hope you’re patient enough to follow this Maths lesson.
Benue would certainly be a major battle ground this time for the candidates because the State has over 1.3 million voters (out of a total registration of 2,390,884) buried somewhere for the strongest candidate to resurrect. Here ethnicity and religion would play critical roles more than ever before. It is presently a virtual PDP State with Jonathan polling 694,776 against Buhari’s 109,680 and ACN (Nuhu Ribadu) 223,007. Benue had always been a State of enlightened voters and it may swing in favour of a serious candidate.

Let’s keep moving and find somewhere to land in the troubled spot of Borno State. This is a treasure ground with 2,380,957 out of which more than half of the voters have absconded and vanished into thin air. In 2011, Buhari 909,763 against the President’s humble 207,075 votes. Now this State is under fire but is NOW largely controlled by the new alliance known as APC.

Let’s saunter across to Gombe where Buhari scored 459,898 against Jonathan’s 290,347 votes out of a total registration of 1,318,377. All the parties combined recorded 770,019 voters. The implication of this is that if this State decides to be generous, it may dash out about 548,358 votes. We are still moving and scavenging for the votes wherever they are hiding.

Let’s say some quick Hello to our Brother, Governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido, who couldn’t hold Buhari down despite his equally tall physique. Here Buhari polled 663,994 against Jonathan’s 419,252. Total votes cast came to 1,140,766 out of 2,013,974 total registrations. Do not say I told you, this State has some 873,208 unseen registered voters probably perambulating as we write. This journey is still long and arduous.

Kaduna is a major war zone for the candidates because of its peculiar characteristics. Buhari’s supremacy was hotly challenged as Jonathan polled 1,190,179 against Buhari’s 1,334,244 votes . Total votes cast were 2,569,963 out of 3,905,387 total registered voters. Now wait for the good news of the kingdom; this beautiful State has 1,335,424 voters that it can conjure whenever needed or ready.

If you think Kaduna was super, please, wait for the almighty Kano where no serious candidate can play silly pranks with the energetic and fearless Governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso. In 2011, Buhari massacred Jonathan with 1,624,543 against 440,666. The then Governor and Presidential candidate, Ibrahim Shekarau even scored more than the President with his 526,310 votes. The total votes cast came to 2,673,228 out of 5,027,297. In case your Maths is poor like mine, let’s find a calculator before the brains explode. Kano alone can conveniently and benevolently donate 2,354,069 potential voters out of the skies.

We finally arrive in Buhari’s homestead of Katsina where he expectedly polled 1,163,919 against Jonathan’s 428,392. It is either many Katsina people didn’t dig their own son, since prophets hardly get honoured at home, or Buhari just didn’t employ artful dodgers to manipulate the votes in his favour. In all, 1,639,532 voters performed their civic duty out of 3,126,898 registered voters. By fire, by force, Katsina on a good day can still conjure some 1,487,366 votes.
Please, permit me to fast forward to the State of the Sokoto Caliphate where a floodgate can still be opened. Strangely, Buhari pulled merely 540,769 shots against Jonathan’s 309,057. A total of 909,808 voters came out of 2,267,509 registered voters. No one is able to explain this anomalous situation to us properly but some 1,357,701 unseen voters may decide to show up in 2015. Please, bear with me, you must be getting tired but we need to do this together because of my over-confident friends in Abuja who must have had F9 in Mathematics like me.

Let me now give you the shock treatment and take you straight to the biggest theatres of war. I must warn that this not for the faint-hearted. Welcome to the heartbeat of Nigeria known as Lagos State where Jonathan polled 1,281,688 against Buhari’s 189,983 and Nuhu Ribadu’s 427,203. Wait for this, only 1,945,044 voters turned up out of 6,108,069 voters. In effect, Lagos can, in its true majesty, produce additional 4,163,025 out of its bag of magic.

I wish there was space to display all the figures but it won’t be possible. But let me continue with the random sampling. Many of the States won by Jonathan or PDP or both, depending on why you voted in 2011, are not so easily available at this time. Take Oyo for example under the control of APC beyond the next Presidential election may prove too tough to handle. Only 863,544 out of 2,572,140 voters appeared in public but we don’t know the whereabouts of 1,708,596 potential voters.

Ogun State is another interesting territory where 543,715 people voted out of 1,941,170 who registered to vote. Meanwhile, the largest turnout of voters was recorded in areas controlled by Jonathan but let’s examine the figures. Abia has used up 1,188,333 out of 1,524,484; Akwa Ibom 1,232,395 out of 1,616,873; Anambra 1,157,239 out of 2,011,746; BAYELSA 506,693 out of 591,870; Cross River 726,341 out of 1,148,486; Delta 1,398,579 out of 2,032,191; Edo 621 out of 1,655,776; Ebonyi 502,890 out of 1,050,534; Ekiti 261,858 out of 764,726; Enugu 814,009 out of 1,303155; Imo 1,409,850 out of 1,687,293; Kwara 414,754 out of 1,152,361; Ondo 486,837 out of 1,616,091; Osun (lost by Jonathan) 512,714 out of 1,293,967; Rivers (the largest State in South South) 1,854,116 out of 2,429,231 and so and so on.

Jonathan-And-BuhariThis should give you a fair representation of what is at stake in the 2015 election. Politics is not exactly Maths but it is still a game of numbers. Those who think an incumbent President cannot be defeated should wake up from their self-induced coma. The mood of the Nigerian nation is very similar to that which swept Obama into power. Lagos and Kano combined account for 11,135,366 registered voters out of a grand total of 73,528,040. Only 38,199,219 people voted in all the States. There are 35,328,821 floating somewhere. Most of them are comfortably resident in APC States.

My free advice to the Jonathan campaigner is simple; stop projecting our President as a sectional leader whose only qualification is where he comes from. Stop raining insults on Northerners and avoid maligning innocent Muslims. The religious card you wish and hope to play will never play out in favour of President Jonathan. You should concentrate on projecting the positive work and his Transformation Agenda. A President is the father of the nation. A lot of damage has been done by portraying him as a victim who’s derided by everyone except his own.
The President’s handlers should worry more about how the goodwill of 2011 got frittered away in such a jiffy. Above all, they should urgently search for competent Maths teachers.

Believe me, the figures are no longer adding up.

*Source dailypost

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AVRS: Better times ahead as Nollywood gets copyright managers
October 19, 2014 | 0 Comments

Mahmood Ali-Balogun Mahmood Ali-Balogun[/caption] The new collective management organisation, soon-to-be licensed by the Nigerian Copyright Commission, will protect the works of filmmakers against unauthorised use. EXCITING times are ahead for players in the film industry. A new collective management organization, similar to the music industry’s Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON), will soon take off. Actually, the approval of its license by the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) is all that remains for the Audio-Visual Rights Society of Nigeria (AVRS) to commence full operation. Founded some two and half years ago, AVRS, according to its board chair, filmmaker Mahmood Ali-Balogun, is an initiative of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the Nigerian Film Corporation and Nigerian Copyright Commission. The three organisations invited players in the movie industry – including all guilds – to a meeting where the idea was thrashed out.  AVRS was thereafter registered as a corporate entity in July 2013 and is now only waiting for its license before it starts work as a CMO. Explaining how it will go about its business at an interaction with journalists last week in Lagos, Ali-Balogun disclosed that the organization will help individual copyright owners collect rights they are unable to collect themselves. He noted that while it is easy for owners of movies to negotiate broadcast and theatrical performance rights themselves, they may be unable to monitor the usage of the materials over time. “Because you’ve been engaged with other works, you begin to pay less attention to that particular film that might even be used online. AVRS monitors the usage and collects money accruable from it for you and likes of you,” said Ali-Balogun, who was joined by the General Manager of AVRS, Eme Akiba-Eyo and a board member, Francis Onwochei. He however stressed that each member would indicate the particular rights it wants AVRS to collect on its behalf. Regarding how collected monies will be disbursed, the founding president of the National Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners  said AVRS will retain 30 per cent it is constitutionally empowered to do for administrative purposes while the remaining 70 per cent will be shared amongst rights owners. “Rights owners are those who own copyright and they are registered with AVRS as members. If you are not registered with AVRS as a member, you are not entitled to anything from the organization until you register and registration is free.  But you must be a proven rights owner because we will verify that during the application process,” said Balogun who added that there are two types of owners. “We have financial partners; these are people who invest their money in the production, the executive producer. With the practice in Nigeria, the person whose name you see as producer may not necessarily be the person that invested his/her money. The executive producer will be the one that owns that right. It may be one person or two persons.  The Copyright Act recognises the person that finances the production as the copyright owner.  We also have creative collaborators comprising the directors, writers and actors. Actors in this case are lead; or supporting lead,” he said. The filmmaker who also touched on the sharing of royalties among actors in a movie said the producer will use his/her discretion, noting that, “The essence is to bring in the artistes so that they will be able to enjoy some of the residuals that AVRS will be generating.” He acknowledged that though getting people to pay in an environment that doesn’t respect intellectual property will be tough, he is confident that with advocacy and enlightenment, the challenge will be surmounted. “In our first two years or so, we will be enlightening the stakeholders because you can’t just approach people who have been enjoying a service freely and ask them to start paying. We will need a lot of enlightenment; we will need to engage people, let them know what’s going on. That this is different from money paid to DSTV and other cable TV operators. You are using the audio-visual materials to enhance your business, entertain your clients; it is not being used strictly in your home.” He, however, assured consumers of audio-visual materials including hotels, banks, TV stations, petrol stations and  saloons amongst others that the rates they will be charged  is affordable and negotiable.

On the issue of having just a single CMO per industry, Balogun admitted that “monopoly anywhere not the best but it is the sensible choice for our situation right now.” *Source tribune.com]]>

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“Why Jonathan approved ceasefire deal with Boko Haram”
October 18, 2014 | 0 Comments

From left to right: Alleged Boko Haram sponsor Ali Modu Sheriff, President Goodluck Jonathan and President Idris Derby From left to right: Alleged Boko Haram sponsor Ali Modu Sheriff, President Goodluck Jonathan and President Idris Derby[/caption] President Goodluck Jonathan’s commitment to end insurgency, ensure security and peace in Nigeria is the driving force for all engagements and negotiations with the extremist Boko Haram sect, a government spokesperson, Mike Omeri, has said. Mr. Omeri, the Coordinator, National Information Centre, said this on Friday while giving update on the ceasefire agreement reached between the Federal Government and Boko Haram sect to end insurgency in the country. “We can confirm to you that there have been contacts between the government and representatives of the Boko Haram. “The discussions are essentially in the relation to the general insecurity in the North-East and also the need to rescue all captives of the terrorists, including the students of Government Secondary School, Chibok. “From the discussion, they, terrorists, indicated their desire for and willingness to discuss and resolve all associated issues,’’ he said. According to him, they, terrorists, also assured that the school girls and all other people in their captivity are all alive and well. “Already, the terrorists have announced a ceasefire in furtherance of their desire for peace. In this regard, the government of Nigeria has, in similar vein, declared ceasefire,’’ he said. The coordinator assured Nigerians that the greater goal of the process was to ensure the return of normalcy to the country, especially in areas affected by the terrorist activities. Mr. Omeri said the negotiation was being facilitated by President Idris Derby of Chad, adding that the essence is to end terrorism, free the Chibok girls and all those in captivity. He said “no condition’’ was attached on the release of the girls and others. According to him, one of the commanders of the sect, Danladi Ahmadu, is representing the sect in the talks, while the Principal Private Secretary to the President, Hassan Tukur, is representing the government. *Source Premium Times]]>

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