Archive | Nigerian News

Naira Visa Card breaks boundary barriers

written by Blessing Anaro

The story, before the advent of Naira Visa Card for international business men and women was one of lamentation in some cases, of inconvenience at other times, among others. It was never a comfortable one.

In some occasions, people who change currencies when they arrive Nigeria or when travelling out of the country have complained about getting fake currencies or being short-changed by the bureau de change or parallel market operators.

Apart from that, the more you transverse the globe the more you are inconvenienced with the problem of changing from one currency to another.

But those and other numerous problems were resolved when the Naira Visa Card was launched in the Nigerian financial market.

It allows you to access foreign exchange from your Naira account while abroad and Naira while in Nigeria. To get the Naira Visa Debit Card, all you need is a Naira account – there’s no need for a domiciliary account. As soon as you open your account, the card will be issued to you. Plus you can look forward to so many more advantages.

Market analysts say it can be used on Automated Teller Machine (ATM) or Point of Sale (POS) globally where the Visa sign is displayed to either access foreign currency or pay for goods and services.

Bismarck Rewane, chief executive officer of Financial Derivatives Limited (FDC) said the introduction of Naira Visa Card will have a tremendous impact on the Nigerian economy.

Rewane said the introduction will make Naira more convertible. By this he said it will be easy to buy and sell the local currency, as well as increase the flow of trade and investment.

He, however, said the convertibility of the Naira will increase pressure on the external reserves.

Wale Abe, chief executive officer of the Financial Market Dealers Association of Nigeria (FMDA), said the development is good for the economy of the country, and will no doubt be a plus. Some of its benefits include convenient-easy access to foreign currency while abroad and it is safer, thanks to latest Chip and PIN card technology.

Once you have it, you can spend anywhere in the world and have your account debited in Naira. High international spending is limited up to $20,000 per annum, while abroad and N100, 000 per day in Nigeria.
It enables exclusive savings on hotels, restaurants, car hire and more, as well as keeps track of all your spending through 24-hour online banking.

Carol Oyedeji, a banker said: “The introduction of the Naira Visa debit card is a demonstration of our pledge to provide solutions to our customers’ financial needs. Easy access to global currencies without necessarily having a domiciliary account is one financial need our customers have and we can now meet with this innovative product.

Standard Chartered Bank in statement said: “The product will be issued to all customers who maintain Naira savings or current accounts with the bank. The card can be used globally at any ATM machine or Merchant outlets/POS terminals where the Visa logo is displayed to make cash withdrawals and payments. Holders of the card can access Naira while in Nigeria and foreign currency when outside the country from over 29 million outlets worldwide (including over 1 million ATMs on the Visa Network).

“The Standard Chartered Naira Visa Debit card also eliminates the hassle of buying travel allowance as customers can fund their Naira accounts and travel anywhere in the world with access to funds on demand.

“For existing customers, all you need to do is to reach us with an expression of interest and the card will be issued to you. For prospects, once an account is opened in any branch of Standard Chartered Bank, the card will be issued immediately all terms and conditions are met.”

About nine Nigerian banks issue Naira Visa Card. These include: Fidelity Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, Sterling Bank, Stanbic-IBTC, FCMB, GTB, Zenith Bank, Intercontinental Bank and Keystone Bank.

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Nigeria records 11,600 maternal deaths in 3 months


By Chioma Obinna & Monsur Olowoopejo

LAGOS— SOCIETY of Gynaecology and Obstetrics of Nigeria said, yesterday, that no fewer than 11,600 maternal deaths were recorded in Nigeria in the last three months, adding that 45 cases were recorded daily.

This came as the wife of the Lagos State Governor, Mrs. Abimbola Fashola, said the state would establish emergency toll-free lines solely designated for maternal cases.

Speaking at the Lagos West I Senatorial District Town Hall Meeting for maternal and child mortality reduction programme, at Oshodi-Isolo Local Government, Chairman Lagos State Chapter of the Society, Dr. Oluwarotimi Akinola, said: “Nigeria accounts for a disproportionate 10 percent of the global maternal deaths. This ranked the country as the second highest in the world after India.

“The major causes of the high maternal mortality rate in Nigeria are hemorrhage infection, hypertensive disorder of pregnancy, obstructed labour and anaemia. Any effort by the government to drastically reduce maternal mortality rates must address the root causes of delays in seeking health care, accessing healthcare and receiving help at the centre.”

Mrs Fashola said: “These lines would ensure that whenever any pregnant women are about to deliver, she can get help easily even when any of her relatives aren’t available.

“The lines will be the same as the already established emergency toll free lines 767 and 112.

“The death of a pregnant woman or death after childbirth is a painful event with great social and economic impact on the family and the country.

“At the close of work today, about 800 women from different countries would have died from complications related to pregnancy and child birth.

“99 percent (792) of these will occur in developing countries, including Nigeria.

“This statistic, released by the Chairman of the Society of Gynaecology and Obstetrics, Lagos sector, is alarming for a country that is regarded as the giant of Africa.

“This day (yesterday) will now be observed annually as Lagos State Maternal and Child Mortality Reduction Day.”

“Let us bear in mind that the statistic can be reduced drastically only if pregnant women and mothers of children under five years visit the over 60 Primary Health Care, PHC, centres constructed across the state by the government, to get information on what to do when faced with challenging condition during pregnancy, childbirth and after delivery.

“The importance of this town hall meeting initiated by the state government is to sensitise residents of the state, especially nursing and mothers-to-be, on the maternal and child mortality reduction programme launched on October 18, 2012 by the governor.

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Robbers invade Murtala Muhammed Airport •Raid Bureau de Change, kill 2, injure many

Written by  Shola Adekola




THAT the Murtala Muhammed International Airport is  porous  was on Wednesday night again confirmed, as deadly looking  robbers, numbering over 10, beat the airport security network to unleash terror on the entire airport. Two people were feared dead.

According to an eyewitness,  the armed robbers had entered the airport through the terminal zero, proceeded to the arrival hall and penetrated the departure hall of the terminal.

The incident, which occurred around 8.00 p.m. took the various security officials stationed at the airport by surprise with most of them  scampering  for safety due to the superior deadly weapons  the robbers paraded.

The eyewitness who works within the airport terminal building, explained further that on entering the terminal, the armed robbers ordered all the users of the airport to lie down while those who refused to comply were shot at.

In the process, a protocol officer of Addax Oil Company simply identified as Chike was shot and reportedly taken to a hospital through an ambulance after the armed robbers had left the airport.

The reason for the attack on the airport and the extent of damage could not be ascertained as at the time of filing this report, but another source who works with one of the agencies at the airport explained that the attack showed porosity of the entire airport.

However, information gathered indicated that the robbers were not able to penetrate into the central search of the airport.

The Nigerian Tribune however gathered that some people lost their lives following the manner the robbers shot sporadically while trying to find their ways to the terminal building.

As at the time of filing this report, it could not be ascertained the number of casualties but in responding,  the Corporate Communications, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Mr Yakubu Dati confirmed the incident, but said that the men of the Nigerian Police attached to the airport foiled an attempted robbery attack at the airport.

Dati explained that there was an exchange of fire, which resulted in the death of one of the robbers, stressing that the level of casualty was still being ascertained as at press time.

He, however, said that the robbers might have come to the airport to attack some of the bureau de change operators within the premises.

He added, “The situation has since been brought under control by the swift intervention of joint security force. They were apparently attempting to rob a bureau de change operator near the airport. Normal operations and flight have not been affected by the incident.”

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Standard & Poor, Moody raise Nigeria’s creditworthiness

By Omoh Gabriel LAGOS — Two international rating agencies, Standard & Poor’s and Moody, yesterday, upgraded Nigeria’s credit rating because of improved financial stability and optimism over reforms to the banking and electricity sectors.

Moody upgraded Nigeria rating assigning local and foreign currency issuer ratings of Ba3 to the government.

Standard and Poor ratings raised its long-term foreign and local currency sovereign credit rating to BB- with a stable outlook. This is three points below investment grade, from B+. This brings its view in line with Fitch’s rating.

The three foremost rating agencies in the world have all now agreed that Nigeria is managing its resources better than before.

The three agencies ranked the creditworthiness of borrowers using a standardized ratings scale which measures expected investor loss in the event of default. Their service rates debt securities in several market segments related to public and commercial securities in the bond market.

These include government, municipal and corporate bonds; managed investments such as money market funds, fixed-income funds and hedge funds; financial institutions including banks and non-bank finance companies; and asset classes in structured finance.

According to Moody, the Ba3 ratings reflect Nigeria’s strong economic resilience and strength, which are underpinned by its vast hydrocarbon wealth, its relatively large size and developed non-energy sector, but offset by significant infrastructure needs; evolving governance structures which form a key challenge for Nigeria’s institutional strength.

Nigeria’s moderate event risk due to the heightened security conditions in the north of the country; Nigeria’s fiscal assets in its excess crude account have risen to about $8.4 billion in October 2012, which provides a reasonable fiscal buffer; Nigeria’s external reserve buffers have also been strengthening on the back of high oil prices and strong exports.

The ratings agencies said the stable outlook assumes that the government will continue to pursue its reforms, thereby helping to support strong economic growth, and that there will be no worsening of political tensions and no significant return of insurgency in the Niger Delta.

Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services said it has raised its long-term foreign and local currency sovereign credit ratings on Nigeria to ‘BB-’ from ‘B+’. It said: “At the same time we affirmed the ‘B’ foreign- and local-currency short-term ratings. We raised the long-term national scale rating to ‘ngAA-’ from ‘ngA+’. We affirmed the short-term national scale rating at ‘ngA-1’. We revised the transfer and convertibility (T&C) assessment to ‘BB-’ from B+. The outlook is stable”.

Giving reasons for the revised rating it said “The upgrade reflects our view that owing to fuel subsidy cuts, conservative budget oil price assumptions, improving fiscal management, and high prices, Nigeria’s fiscal assets in its excess crude account (ECA) have risen to $8.4 billion (from US$2.0 billion at end-2010), which provides a reasonable fiscal buffer.

External buffers have also been rising on the back of high oil prices and strong exports, with foreign reserves standing at just above US$42 billion as of Nov. 1, 2012.

“In addition, some reform momentum continues. In the past year, the government has cut the fuel subsidy by about half, overhauled the country’s electricity sector, and raised electricity tariffs.

GDP growth is also strong: in 2012-2015 we expect real per capita GDP growth to average 4.3% per year, driven by strong non-oil growth. Gross general government debt has slightly increased in recent years to a still-low 20% of GDP at year-end 2011.

We consider Nigeria’s relatively low government debt stock a key rating strength. Fiscal reserves in the ECA and the nascent Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA), combined, have increased from about US$2 billion at end-2010 to around US$9.4 billion (US$8.4 billion in the ECA and $1 billion in the NSIA) at end-October 2012, providing a potential fiscal buffer. In our view, the NSIA still needs to be developed and in the short term the ECA will continue to operate as the government’s preferred account.

“Nigeria’s current account balance has consistently been reported as being in surplus although high errors and omissions hamper our analysis of the external accounts. We estimate that liquid external assets exceed external debt by 27% of current account receipts, highlighting a strong position in the external account.

“While Nigeria continues to face significant governance issues, violence in the Niger Delta, which has previously affected oil production, has decreased since the government granted an amnesty to insurgents in 2009.

In addition, increasing deep-water offshore production is making the disruption of oil production, and oil theft, more difficult. Since 2011, violence related to the Boko Haram terrorist group has risen, but not to the extent of undermining the overall stability of the political system.

The creation of the Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON) and the Central Bank of Nigeria’s actions following the 2009 banking crisis have contained contingent liabilities from the banking sector.

“Our local currency rating is equalized with the foreign currency rating because monetary policy options, which underpin a sovereign’s greater flexibility in its own currency, are constrained by Nigeria’s managed exchange rate regime and relatively less developed domestic bond markets.

Our T&C assessment is equalized with the sovereign foreign currency rating to reflect our opinion that the likelihood of the sovereign restricting access to foreign exchange needed by Nigeria-based non-sovereign issuers for debt service is similar to the likelihood of the sovereign defaulting on its foreign currency obligations.

“The stable outlook assumes that the government will continue to pursue its reforms, thereby helping to support strong economic growth, and that there will be no worsening of political tensions and no significant return of insurgency in the Niger Delta.

We could consider lowering the ratings if fiscal and external balances deteriorate, for example as a consequence of a sharp drop in oil production or prices. Downward pressure could also build if reforms stagnate, growth falters, or political tensions or violence increase substantially.

“We could consider raising the ratings if the authorities consistently improve fiscal performance and significantly enhance foreign currency reserves, if transparency in the oil sector and on the fiscal and external accounts improves, and if institutional capacities strengthen, thereby converging with higher rated peers.

While Nigeria continues to face significant governance issues, violence in the Niger Delta, which has previously affected oil production, has decreased since the government granted an amnesty to insurgents in 2009.

In addition, increasing deep-water offshore production is making the disruption of oil production, and oil theft, more difficult. Since 2011, violence related to the Boko Haram terrorist group has risen, but not to the extent of undermining the overall stability of the political system.

The creation of the Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON) and the Central Bank of Nigeria’s actions following the 2009 banking crisis have contained contingent liabilities from the banking sector.

Our local currency rating is equalized with the foreign currency rating because monetary policy options, which underpin a sovereign’s greater flexibility in its own currency, are constrained by Nigeria’s managed exchange rate regime and relatively less developed domestic bond markets.

Our T&C assessment is equalized with the sovereign foreign currency rating to reflect our opinion that the likelihood of the sovereign restricting access to foreign exchange needed by Nigeria-based non-sovereign issuers for debt service is similar to the likelihood of the sovereign defaulting on its foreign currency obligations.

Nigeria oil output recovers as floods recede – regulator

Nigeria’s worst floods in 50 years are no longer affecting oil output, an industry regulator said yesterday, although foreign oil majors have not yet said their production is back to normal. West African oil traders told Reuters this week there is ample supply of Nigerian crude in the market and loading programmes show December exports are due to be the highest in six months.

“Production is back to normal and has been for some time, it was only a brief outage,” a spokesman for the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) said by phone. Nigeria is Africa’s largest crude oil exporter and usually pumps between 2-2.5 million barrels per day (bpd). Widespread oil theft and a lack of accurate statistics means output figures fluctuate from month-to-month.

The DPR on Oct. 24 said floods had cut out 500,000 bpd of oil output in the previous weeks, reducing total production to around 2.1 million bpd, but was back to normal by the time of the announcement.

Shell still has a force majeure in place on Bonny Light and Forcados crude oil grades, after oil theft and flooding cut up to 20 percent of Nigeria’s output last month.

The Anglo-Dutch major said on Nov. 1 that floods would hit around 20,000 bpd of its output in the fourth quarter and this could get worse. It hopes to lift the force majeure on the two Nigerian grades by the end of November.

French oil firm Total declared force majeure in mid-October on gas supplies to Nigeria LNG’s liquefaction plant, saying it had stopped oil and gas production on one onshore block, which was losing 90,000 bpd of oil equivalent, in which it has a 40 percent stake. .   It said on Wednesday the force majeure was still in place.

Nigeria usually suffers flash flooding during the wet season, which runs roughly between April-October, but the sheer scale of rains this year has left large parts of southern regions, where the oil industry is, under water.

At least 363 people have been killed due to the floods since the start of July and 2.1 million people have been displaced, according to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA). NEMA said on Wednesday the oil-producing Niger Delta region was still flooded but water levels were falling and the heaviest rains had passed as Nigeria enters its 6-month long dry season.

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Israel begins mass deportation of Nigerians

In what looks like a crackdown on immigrants in their country, Israel has started a massive deportation of Africans comprising mainly Nigerians in what they called ‘operation clean up’.

In the last few weeks no fewer than 50 Nigerians have been deported from the middle east country for reasons ranging from what they termed illegal stay, work permit and other flimsy excuses.

Due to the recent series of offensive and racist statements made by Israeli politicians, African diplomats in Israel are afraid to walk down the street, said African ambassadors in Israel during a meeting with Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon.

The meeting, which was attended by the ambassadors of Angola, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia and the Ivory Coast, was recently held in the Foreign Ministry’s offices in Jerusalem, Yedioth Ahronoth, an Israeli newspaper reported.This was after the wife of the Ghanian ambassador was arrested by Israeli police where she was on shopping in Tel Aviv.

Israeli’s claim that  immigrants are  responsible for the  ongoing series of rapes and muggings committed in their country is a way of calling a dog a bad name in order to hang it.

Reports from  Tel Aviv where most of the immigrants live show that most of them now hide inside their apartments without going to work for fear of being arrested while on the street. ’Many Nigerians living  in Israel are very law abiding and go  their  normal businesses’ said an official of the Nigerian community who doesn’t want his name in print.

The recent crackdown has seen Isreaeli authorities

arresting Nigerians with families and taking them to detention camps sometimes with their very under aged children where they face harsh punitive measures and untold hardship before being deported  to their country.

To worsen the situation, the Nigerian Embassy officials have never intervened in this ugly incidents being meted on Nigerians, our source revealed

Mr Iweka [real name withheld] from Enugu state  said he has been living in Israel legally since  twelve years working in a restaurant but was deported on the orders of his employer who wouldn’t want to pay his accumulated gratuity. He was arrested in his apartment by over twenty security agents and chained both legs and hands and bundled into a van even after showing them his valid papers and driven to prison. His lawyer took his case to court and after spending two months in the prison under harsh conditions was deported without concluding his case. He described is ordeal as a racist, barbaric and unhuman.

Member of the Israeli Knesset  Shlomo Molla (Kadima) has  warned that, “The State has failed to do its diplomatic due diligence .No one wants to migrate here if they’re doing well… It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to send them back, but these events – abusing them like that – that’s wrong.

“I’ve seen case where people where physically hurt. If that’s not incitement – what is?” he wondered.

Member if Israeli Knesset K Dov Khenin (Hadash) read testimonies given by teens suspected of assaulting migrants, detailing the violent abuse they had perpetrated. He further deplored the government’s actions against them.

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3,000 Nigerians seek medicare in India monthly’


About 3,000 Nigerians seek medical treatment in India monthly, it was learnt yesterday. Chief Medical Director of the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital (UITH), Dr. Abdulwaheed Olatinwo, said at the 7th conference of the Association for Advancement of Cardiovascular Surgery and Medicine (AACVSM) held in Ilorin that heart-related diseases formed the majority of the reasons why Nigerians seek medical treatment abroad. Olatinwo, however, called for concerted efforts towards encouraging treatment of heart-related diseases and other ailments within the country.

The UITH boss noted that heart disease currently accounts for about 30 per cent of global disease mortality rate and about 47 per cent of deaths from non-communicable diseases.

He said congenital heart diseases account for many of the deaths in the developing world and that they have been associated with a lot of avoidable human suffering.

The Medical Director expressed hope that the conference, whose theme is: “Congenital Heart Disease” and sub theme: “Capacity Building in the Practice of Cardiovascular Surgery and Medicine,” would propose innovative solutions to elevate the quality of cardiovascular care available in the country to what obtains in the developed world.

Olatinwo said the UITH was aggressively pursuing an agenda of ensuring a total quality healthcare that guarantees patient satisfaction.

He said the hospital was investing heavily in the construction of a cardiac catheterization laboratory.

The President of the AACVSM, Peter Adeoye, said Nigeria was lagging behind in the open heart surgery as against the situation in other parts of the world.

He said: “Indeed, other African countries have progressed in this regard. South Africa, with population of about 50 million people has at least five standard cardiac centres serving the Western Cope region alone. Nigeria, with over 150 million people barely has one.

“Ivory Coast has at least two; Kenya has five centres in Nairobi performing and average of 150 open heart surgeries per year in each centre. Ghana and Sudan has at least a centre each also with similar volume of cases as in Kenya.”

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Fraud: UK to go tough on Nigerians coming for child delivery

By Uduma Kalu

The United Kingdom has said it will no longer tolerate  abuse of its National Health Service, NHS, by Nigerian visitors after a Nigerian woman reportedly flew to the UK to have her baby in a British hospital.

The unnamed Nigerian woman was alleged to have received treatment totalling £10,000 but returned to the country after having had her child without paying anything.

United Kingdom ministers said the Government would not tolerate abuse of the NHS.

UK Ministers had warned that gvernment would not tolerate abuse of the NHS by foreign visitors after the Nigerian flew into their country so that she could have her baby in a British hospital.

The ministers’ anger  came  a year after one Bimbo Ayelabola, a Nigerian, who gave birth to quintuplets in UK ,was embroiled in a residency row over her extended stay there, despite the fact that she was a visitor.

Ayelabola, 33,  reportedly took a fertility drug (Clomid) overdose in order to aid conception after losing her very first pregnancy. As soon as she found out she was pregnant, the woman allegedly relocated to the UK to be able to take the needed rest outside of the hustling and bustling of Lagos.

In UK, she underwent a scan which revealed she was expecting 4 babies in the first instance before it was discovered later during the baby delivery that there was a 5th baby. Hence, she was put on an emergency National Health Scheme, NHS, programme which as at July last year, had depleted the scheme’s purse to the tune of £200,000 ($320,000).

However, last week, Health Minister Simon Burns said that the Government was looking to tighten the rules to prevent “inappropriate” access to free hospital treatment by Nigerian and foreign visitors.

The heavily pregnant woman was said to have travelled from Lagos to Manchester because she was concerned about the standard of treatment she would receive in  Nigeria.

She was said to have gone straight from the airport to Wythenshawe Hospital where she told staff that there were complications with her pregnancy.

Two midwives, two consultant urologists, a radiology consultant, two consultant obstetricians and two anesthetists were reported to have been involved in her treatment before her healthy baby was born by emergency Caesarean section last two weeks.

Prior to her discharge from hospital on Monday, staff were said to have informed her that the cost of her treatment was around £10,000 and asked her for billing details. The woman was reported to have left without paying anything.

Burns said: “We won’t tolerate abuse of our national health service. The NHS has a duty to anyone whose life or long-term health is at immediate risk but it is not there to serve the health needs of the globe. “There are comprehensive rules and procedures to charge visitors for hospital treatment but we know that the system needs to be improved. That is why we are currently reviewing those arrangements to prevent inappropriate free access to the NHS and provide a fairer more balanced system.

“Hospitals have a legal duty to recover any charges made to overseas patients. The Government has also recently amended the immigration rules so that anyone with an unpaid debt to the NHS of £1,000 or more can be refused a new visa.”

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Nigerian teacher arraigned for raping schoolgirl in UK

A Nigerian science teacher who groomed a 14-year-old pupil before repeatedly raping her has been told he faces “a very long time” in prison, reported on Wednesday.

Keith Ogunsola, lured his victim to hotels around the country pretending he was going to give her extra science tuition.

Croydon Crown Court heard the 47-year-old started his abuse in January 2001.

When giving the victim a lift, he told her he really fancied her and tried to kiss her.

A month later, he met the student at the former Aerodrome Hotel, in Purley Way, Croydon, where he took her virginity by raping her.

The court heard he then embarked on a three-year secret affair with her, telling his victim to wear skirts with no underwear when they met so it was easier to have sex with her.

The court heard he also booked stays at the Premier Inn and Hilton hotel in Purley Way.

Prosecutor, Hanna Llewellyn-Waters, said, “She was manoeuvred into a position where she did not tell anyone, believing her word would not be believed against a teacher and the defendant told her what to do, say and wear.

“When she wanted to have a boyfriend he became jealous and when she refused to have sex with the defendant, he ripped her clothes off and raped her again.”

On Friday, May 18, a jury took two-and-a-half-hours to find the married father-of-three guilty of rape, indecent assault and engaging in sexual activity while in a position of trust.

The court heard Ogunsola, who taught in Sutton between 1998 and 2001, avoided jail in 2009 after being convicted of kissing one of his pupils in Ilford, Essex.

Remanding Ogunsola in custody, Judge Jeff Blackett said, “I have a pretty good idea in my own mind what the sentence is going to be.”

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Kano seeks husbands for 1,000 widows, divorcees


Kano State, where the number of divorcees is cause for concern, the government is acting as matchmaker to help ex-wives and widows find Mr. Right.

He should be tall. Kind, of course. And generous, especially when it comes to buying all those little trinkets that a woman desires.

“A little handsome,” but not too much, says Altine Abdullahi. “It’s a danger.”

In northern Nigeria, it is a truth almost universally acknowledged that a woman of a certain age, and in a certain situation in life, must be in want of a husband.

But if the woman in that certain situation is a divorcee or a widow, finding a husband isn’t easy, even without the shopping list of desirable qualities ticked off by Abdullahi (a divorcee).

That’s why 1,000 women have thrown their fates into the hands of the Kano state government, which will act as their matchmaker. The religious authority in the Muslim-dominated state, the Hisbah Board, has embarked on a massive husband hunt for divorcees and widows. The first 100 women, including Altine, are to be wed in coming weeks.

“I’m getting married,” she says. “God willing!”

She has no idea who her husband will be. But, like the practical character in a Jane Austen novel, she’s no romantic.

“I know love is something, but …” she pauses wistfully. “Love doesn’t really last.”

Abdullahi, 44, preens like a fine, glossy bird, creaming her plump lips, powdering her face, fluttering her eyelashes girlishly. Her smiling face, with perfect white teeth, peers out from dozens of photographs stacked on her desk and decking the wall of her office, where she heads the organization Voice of Widows, Divorcees and Orphans Assn. of Nigeria. Her skin is clear, her eyes bright, her silver bangles jangle happily, yet she complains that she looks “tired.”

“Beautiful? You should have seen me when I was young. Then I was beautiful.”

The state-as-matchmaker plan came after Altine Abdullahi made an emotional plea on Kano radio for husbands for desperate widows and divorcees.

In Nigeria, women of marriageable age who remain single are seen as suspect, their respectability questioned. Throughout many parts of the Muslim world, divorced and widowed women are forced to go home to their fathers or brothers and are viewed as a burden and failure. Or they live on the edges of society, shunned and forced into begging or prostitution to support their children.

Sometimes the brother of a dead man will marry the widow and support her and her children. But many divorced women find it difficult to remarry.

In Kano, the state capital, there’s a sense of crisis about the number of divorcees, although statistics aren’t available to back up widespread perceptions of an increase in failed marriages. The problem sharpened here after Kano state and 11 other predominantly Muslim states adopted sharia, or Islamic law, between 1999 and 2001, allowing men to divorce unilaterally simply by thrice stating “I divorce you,” an act that cannot be undone with a simple change of mind.

“With growing cases of divorce among couples, the state has reached an unenviable record in the country. In any social gathering and various fora, the most common discussion in the metropolis is the growing rate at which divorce is taking place,” said a February article in the Nigerian newspaper Leadership.

An everyday quarrel can easily escalate into divorce, says Abdullahi, whose divorce happened as quickly as a car crash, in a moment of heat, instantly regretted by both sides.

The row came after her husband took a third wife who was demanding more nights with him. When he conveyed the demand to Abdullahi (as second wife), she told him it was women’s business. He should send the third wife to her.

He refused. She insisted. He said, “Be careful.”

She insisted. He told her to leave. A few more sharp words and before anyone could stop it, the couple were divorced.

“I started crying. Even he started crying too. We cried together. He said, ‘Just go back to your room and forget about the divorce.’” But she couldn’t. Under sharia law, she says, she cannot go back to him unless she remarries and her husband either dies or her new marriage ends in divorce.

She left their four children with him, as is often the case. (“He treats them very well. So why should I worry myself about them?”) She has seen them once since, in 2005. She left, certain he’d miss her and her cooking, especially his favorite dish, spaghetti bolognese, made from a recipe she’d found in a magazine.

That was 12 years ago.

“I know he misses me.” Still, she says, 40 days can now pass without him entering her mind.

After the divorce,Al



ine  decided to put herself through law school, but being smart didn’t compensate for her lack of a secular education.

“I didn’t understand a word the lecturer said.”

In 2008, the state government’s religious Social Reorientation Program, A Daidaita Sahu, meaning “straighten your lines” in the local Hausa language, urged men to be tolerant of trivial marital problems. One reason for the state’s high divorce rate, the government found, was “the misapplication of power by men to divorce women.”

Many Kano men, who see obedience as an important wifely trait, don’t want to marry divorcees, Abdullahi contends.

“Nobody comes to us. They say we are not disciplined,” Abdullahi says. “We challenge that. They’re our men and if they don’t marry us, who will?”

The Hisbah Board is subjecting all marriage applicants, male and female, to medical and HIV tests, and requires each to fill out a form, providing details of their social “status,” education, likes and dislikes and an outline of what he or she expects in a spouse.

Husbands will pay a modest bride price, but no less than one gram of gold (which Abdullahi wants to go to the bride but usually goes to her family). The state will also pay all wedding expenses.

About 2,000 men have applied to be screened as potential husbands. For men, it looks like an affordable way to get hitched, with the bride price low, the trouble of haggling with the bride’s parents averted and the wedding paid for.

Even members of the Hisbah Board have recently taken extra wives “to set a good example,” board official Nabahani Usman said. (The board sees it as an act of charity and kindness to take in an extra wife.)

For many of the divorcees and widows, the attraction is the protection offered by the board, which will make sure any future divorce isn’t trivial.

Some critics of the marriage plan, such as writer Ayisha Osori, argue that its great flaw is in giving false hope of success in marriage to women when society’s views of wives remain problematic.

“Absolutely nothing has changed. The men have not changed, the state has not changed, and the realities of the women — right where society wants them to be — have also not changed,” Osori wrote in Leadership. “And so the cycle continues, with women in and out of the homes and beds of men who can discard them as quickly as it takes to say talaq,” she added, referring to the Islamic term for divorce.

Abdullahi met recently with Aminu Daurawa, head of the Hisbah Board, who promised to personally select the best available man for her.

He’d better find someone who appreciates a bold, charismatic woman.

Abdullahi’s outspoken ways have been controversial. In 2009 she planned a “million divorcee march” in the streets of Kano to protest the dire situation of many divorcees and widows. Tongues wagged over such a scandalous idea. Men — and women — condemned it.

She was summoned by the Hisbah Board, forced to cancel the protest and had to promise never to talk about it again. She was chastened but didn’t give up fighting.

“I’m a strong woman. I got my strength from my father.”

These days, Abdullahi looks anything but downtrodden. She adores fashion (which can be quite an expensive habit, even in Kano) and goes a little starry-eyed when listing the hoped-for qualities of her soon-to-be-found husband. She may not be romantic but can’t help dreaming big.

“I want a husband who will get me anything I want in my life. It’s not important to be rich. But I don’t want poor.”

And if he’s cruel, miserly, bad-tempered, violent or simply doesn’t suit, she will reject him.

“If he can take good care of me, fine, I’ll stick with him. But if not, I’ll find my own way.”

But can she? The Hisbah Board’s determination to save all but the most dire marriages may cut both ways. If she (or any of the women) doesn’t like the board’s version of Mr. Right, she may be stuck.

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Nigerian farmers, others to benefit from $7m US project



Farmers in six African countries: Kenya, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Ghana, Uganda, and Tanzania will benefit from the second phase of the Commercial Products (COMPRO-II) project, the Director for Natural Resource Management and Central Africa with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Dr Bernard Van Lauwe, has said.

The COMPRO-II project is a United States (US) $7 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, that aims to institutionalise quality assurance mechanisms and facilitate the rapid dissemination of top quality agricultural commercial products to increase yields and improve the food security of smallholder farmers in the region.

IITA will lead the project and will work with the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa – Soil Health Program (AGRA), Farm Input Promotions (FIPS), the Tropical Soil Biology and Fertility Research Area of the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (TSBF-CIAT), the Centre for Agricultural Bioscience International (CABI), universities, national research organisations, extension organisations, and quality control entities in the different targeted countries.

According to the Director-General, IITA, Dr Nteranya Sanginga, “The plan is to raise awareness among over two million smallholder farmers on effective and profitable commercial products by 2016, through public-private partnership.

“Of these households, 420,000 will have tested at least one effective commercial product and at least 50 per cent of these will have adopted the technology and achieve a 15-30 per cent yield increase with substantial impacts on food security and income.”

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Mystery crocodile terrorises Lagos community

Residents of Joshua Okeowo and Bepo communities in Ikotun/Igando suburb of Lagos State have raised the alarm over continued presence of a “mystery crocodile’’ in the area. Some of the residents told the News Agency of Nigeria on Saturday that the reptile had lived in the area for 15 years and had constantly been tormenting them.
‘’Honestly, we are tired of this crocodile. It has been around for some time and comes out from God-knows-where during the rainy season into the flooded streets to attack us. “A number of residents had been attacked and seriously wounded by this animal. Only a fortnight ago, it was spotted swimming toward a school boy playing in the flood.
‘’If not that some adult residents rushed to the scene and rescued the boy, it would have been a different story. Honestly, we are tired,“ said a resident, Mr Alabi Rabiu. Another resident, Babatunde Alabi, said the continued presence of the crocodile in the area had made the residents to live in perpetual fear. According to him, the reptile has chosen a permanent habitat in an uncompleted building in the area, making it difficult for residents to move freely. Pointing at the abandoned building sitting on a swamp, he said, “that is where it lives, everybody knows, but nobody dares go there.
“Some people have made attempts to get rid of it without success. The animal is feared by everyone. We need the government to help us,” he said. According to Alabi, the crocodile once lived in a nearby canal from where it swam into the community and decided to stay there permanently. Mrs Atinuke Adewale, another resident, said the giant reptile was unusually huge and behaved in a mysterious way. She said she had twice seen the animal swimming on Okeowo Street, which was always flooded and could not stand the sight of its huge size and the way it behaved.
“I have seen it twice. It is real. It is so big that I got confused if it was actually a reptile. It would swim back and forth and make some scary noise. “I could not watch it for too long. I was scared. I have never seen or heard anything like this. It just looked scary,” she said. Mr Adeyemi Oke, also a resident, said that once a solution was found to the problem of perennial flooding in the area, the animal would be dislodged. He therefore, urged the Lagos State government to come to their aid by building new drains in the area, into which the floods could be channeled.
“We are also calling on the government to help us tar the roads. Because of the floods, we cannot move freely to other communities. “Joshua Okeowo Street is a link road to Abaranje, but we can`t access the place directly because of the floods. We want the government to help us,” he said. Mr Tunji Bello, Commissioner for the Environment, who monitored the monthly sanitation exercise in the area, said the government was already taking steps to solve the flooding problem.
He said the Ifelodun and Potoku canals in the area were being expanded to take care of the floods. Bello urged residents to desist from any act that could exacerbate the problem of flooding.


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Lagos arrests 86 persons for having no address, work

 written  by Sesan Olufowobi

Lagos State Task Force on Environment and Special Offences (Enforcement) Unit has arrested 86 suspected illegal squatters, food vendors and aliens in Ikoyi area of the state for not having definite residential address and means of livelihood.

It was learnt that the arrest was in response to complaints by residents of the area about the presence of illegal squatters in uncompleted buildings and makeshift shops.

It was also learnt that the report of a security investigations conducted by policemen did not favour the squatters, as they were classified as security risk.

Task Force Chairman, Bayo Sulaiman, subsequently led policemen that raided the area between 11pm and 1am on Wednesday.

Sulaiman said those arrested were found in abandoned houses, shops and were food vendors and aliens. He said some of them were suspected to be part of criminal gangs terrorising Ikoyi residents.

The Chairman said, “They were arrested at Lugard Street, Bedwell Street, Glover Street and three different spots in Parkview Estate.

“Those arrested were those selling and living in shanties and those living in uncompleted buildings.”

Sulaiman explained that the food vendors were arrested because they usually sell food to suspected criminals squatting in uncompleted buildings.

He said the raid would continue because government wanted criminals out of the state. He added that the government would no longer tolerate people living in uncompleted buildings, saying a large number of them were criminals.

Sulaiman said, “Those arrested will be further investigated and charged to court.”

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