Newswire : Nigeria to slash funds for essential food imports while currency crisis looms

Nigeria currency

Aug. 12, 2019 (GIN) – Hard to imagine a steaming plate of Nigerian jollof rice without the rice. Or without fish. Or wheat. Rice, fish and wheat are Nigeria’s top three food imports but foreign exchange for these staple food imports is about to end by order of President Muhammadu Buhari.

Presidential spokesman Garba Shehu said Tuesday the move to end imports of these essential foods is aimed at improving Nigeria’s agricultural production and attaining food security.

“Don’t give a cent to anybody to import food into the country,” Buhari was quoted by his spokesman Shehu to say. “The foreign reserve will be conserved and utilized strictly for diversification of the economy, and not for encouraging more dependence on foreign food import bills,” he added.

Imported milk and other dairy products will also be restricted from access to foreign exchange in an effort to boost local production and investment in ranches.

Some may have hoped these risky ideas would be forgotten in time. But a recently decided lawsuit in the UK may have prompted the government to advance the timetable.

The lawsuit, decided this month, gives a company called Process and Industrial Developments Ltd the right to pursue some $9 billion in assets from the Nigerian government over an aborted gas project.

Currently Nigeria spends US$22 billion on food imports annually. Rice, imported from Thailand and India, accounts for about US$1.65 billion which could make Nigeria the world’s second largest importer of rice after China in 2019.

Many obstacles stand in the way of Nigeria becoming self-sufficient in food, some experts say. These include climate change, weeds, pests and diseases, farmers’ limited access to credit, training, rudimentary and time consuming tools like hoes, slashers, sickles, axes and rakes.

Economic analyst Tokunbo Afikuyomi says making it harder for businesses to import food through official channels will push importers to find foreign exchange on the black market.

“Making it harder for businesses to import food through official channels is likely to lead to higher food prices as businesses use more expensive exchange rates or expensive domestic alternatives,” Afikuyomi told CNN.

He said Nigeria’s strategy should be to produce which foods it can grow cheaply and import others that are more expensive to make.

“Nigeria cannot produce all the food it eats — no country in the world is able to achieve this. Banning food imports to save foreign exchange is not the way to build a sustainable economy,” he added.

Newswire: U. S. Secretary of State fired, cutting short long awaited Africa visit

Tillerson with Chadian leader
  Secretary of State Tillerson meets with Chadian foreign minister

Mar. 12, 2018 (GIN) – An extended visit to Africa this month by the U.S. Secretary of State to mend fences after the President’s crude description of African and Caribbean countries was cut short this week by the dismissal of the embattled Secretary Rex Tillerson.

It was the first tour of the continent by the ex-Secretary who was the first high level U.S. representative to visit the continent since the President’s vulgar remarks. Tillerson has been replaced by the CIA director, Mike Pompeo.

The President — who has long clashed will Tillerson— felt it was important to make the change now, as he prepares for talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, as well as upcoming trade negotiations, three White House officials said.

“(The President’s) statements shocked almost all Africans,” Chadian Foreign Minister Mahamat Zene Cherif said at a press conference seated next to Tillerson, but added, “We made efforts on either side to move ahead and look at the future with optimism.”

Quietly, however, Chadian President Idriss Déby made his anger known about his country being targeted in a Muslim travel ban despite close working relations between the two countries on anti-terrorism.

Other planned activities that were called off included the laying of a wreath at the memorial to victims of the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, and a working luncheon with Kenyan leaders.

A full day of meetings in Nigeria was reduced to a quick chat with President Muhammadu Buhari and his foreign minister before hopping a flight home.

Among the responses to the State Department’s visit was a published piece by visiting professor of international relations at South Africa’s University of the Witwatersrand, Joseph J. Stremlau, titled Three Reasons why Africa should treat the visit with scepticism.

The Secretary was scheduled to visit just five of Africa’s 54 countries: Chad, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Nigeria – the so-called “arc of instability,” noted Stremlau..

“Evidently, counter terrorism is America’s main Africa concern,” he wrote. “If Trump and Tillerson were seriously interested in issues of trade, public health, and good governance, he would have at least included democratic South Africa on his agenda. Instead, Tillerson has prioritized repressive governments and ones under states of emergency.”

Stremlau’s second reason for skepticism is that the US hasn’t shown much appetite for diplomatic engagement with Africa since Trump became president.

“By contrast, the US military is already deeply engaged in the struggle against counter terrorism.”

“Neither Trump or Tillerson has announced an overarching Africa policy. No assistant secretary for Africa has been named, important embassies, including in South Africa, lack ambassadors. This is in sharp contrast to the US’s active engagement on the military front,” he pointed out.

“Finally, said Stremlau, “Tillerson has no credibility. He has been publicly criticized and even mocked by his commander-in-chief. Rumors persist that he will resign or be fired. And any claims that the government he represents means what it says is undermined by Trump’s own false or misleading statements.”

Stremlau congratulated African leaders for setting a dignified precedent when Trump compared African countries to dirty toilets.

Africans should also remind Tillerson of their appreciation of China’s increasing importance as their leading development partner, Stremlau urged.
He added: “It’s worth recalling that since the 1990s, Congress has consistently supported expanding economic and political partnerships with Africa.

“The reason for this is that congressmen have been pressed to do so by African-Americans as well as other sympathetic elements in America’s diverse civil society, business, and philanthropic sectors.

“Networks such as these, as well as close ties at state and local government level that stretch throughout Africa may indeed be more important in the long run.”

Newswire : Africa’s floods largely go unnoticed despite higher death toll


Africa flood.jpg Women wades through flood waters in Niamey, Niger, west Africa

Sep. 5, 2017 (GIN) – “Floods in Africa in August killed 25 times more people than Hurricane Harvey did.”

That was the headline of a recent story in Quartz online by Lagos-based writer Yomi Kazeem. “Like severe floods in southern Asia, the disasters in Africa have been largely under-reported compared to similar events in Houston where Hurricane Harvey, a once in a “500-year storm” has wreaked havoc,” wrote Kazeem.

Across Texas, 50 people have been reported dead due to the tropical storm but across Africa, intense rains and mudslides killed at least 1,240 people in August, he pointed out.

Besides the mudslide in Sierra Leone, destructive floods have been reported in Niamey, Niger’s capital city. Last week, thousands of people in Niamey were advised to evacuate their homes following severe flooding. Back in May, the United Nations had warned that more than 100,000 people were at risk of the flooding and so far this year, the death toll has topped 40 people. Hundreds of homes have been destroyed forcing stranded residents to take shelter in local schools.

In Ituri, DR Congo, over 200 people are believed to have died after a mudslide hit a fishing village in mid-August. At the time, Pacifique Keta, deputy governor of the northeastern province, said rescue operations were “complicated” given the mountainous terrain of the area and the continued adverse weather. Like in Freetown, residents in the area have mushroomed on steep hillsides over the years worsening the effects of floods.

Similarly, in Benue, a state in Nigeria’s middle belt, more than 110,000 people have been displaced in after intense rains. In addition to thousands of homes, local markets and government offices were badly affected by the flood, according to the state emergency agency.

While President Muhammadu Buhari says he’s received reports of the flood with “great concern” and has ordered relief efforts, very little has been forthcoming. Collins Uma, a Benue-based writer says most of the relief efforts made available so far are down to the “efforts of individuals and groups, not the government.”

The floods in Benue are also not a new event. “This happens every year and will likely happen next year, but the government pays lip service to it,” Benue-based writer Collins Uma tells Quartz. “If we had working drainage systems, this would not happen.”

Climate scientists have been warning for several years that global warming is contributing the rise of the oceans and the intensification of major storms, like hurricanes, typhoons and other natural phenomenon.

Newswire : Nigerian leader, ending 3 month hospital stay, returns with fiery speech

President Buhari of Nigeria
Nigerian President Buhari
Aug. 21, 2017 (GIN) – After a long absence due to ill health, President Muhammadu Buhari returned to Nigeria pledging to renew the fight against terror group Boko Haram and end a rash of ethnic violence which he blamed on “political mischief makers.”

Buhari, 74, looking thin and frail, referred to a movement of Biafrans seeking an independent region in the southwest. The group had crossed a “national red line,” he said. The separatists were “daring to question our collective existence as a nation. This is a step too far.”

Fifty years ago, the people of “Igbo-land”, waged a futile war of secession against the well-armed Nigerian government, citing the persecution of Igbos and control over oil production in the Niger Delta.

The Federal Military Government imposed a blockade which led to severe famine. Over the two and half years of war, between 500,000 and 2 million Biafran civilians perished from starvation.

While the Igbos comprise one of the three largest ethnic groups, they have fewer states than the Hausas in the north and the Yorubas in the south-west, resulting in a smaller budget allocation.

This, some feel, puts them behind the other regions. The south-east has not been at the forefront of Nigeria’s development and none of its cities are major economic hubs.

Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, has called on his followers to boycott local and national elections scheduled for Nov. 18. Arrested in October 2015 for allegedly intending to levy war against Nigeria, he faces a trial on charges ranging from treasonable felony, terrorism and illegal possession of firearms.

Meanwhile, many Nigerians were disappointed that Buhari failed to comment on his prolonged health issues, but no reasons were given for his absence or the diagnosis.

Solomon Okoduwa told a reporter: “As a leader and the number one citizen, he should be able to tell his subjects the kind of headache, the kind of malaria, the kind of fever he went to treat in the UK that we cannot treat in Nigeria,” he said.

Failure to disclose the nature of his health issues is widely seen as an indication that he has something to hide.

Nigerians will be watching whether he is going to make a third medical trip abroad this year. If that were to happen, calls for his resignation will surely be expressed even louder.

82 kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls are reunited with their families, after trade for 5 Boko Haram fighters



Kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls Abducted by Boko Haram

82 schoolgirls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram have been released after more than three years in captivity.
They are the largest group yet to be released after years of tense negotiations between the government and the terrorist group, a Nigerian government spokesman said. Later government statements indicated that the girls were released in exchange for the government release of five Boko Haram fighters.
The girls were among about 220 students abducted from a secondary school in the northeastern town of Chibok in 2014, sparking a global campaign #bringbackourgirls supported by then-U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama, and a host of other celebrities.
· Enoch Mark, a Christian pastor whose two daughters were among those kidnapped, said he was told of the release by the Bring Back Our Girls pressure group and an official in Maiduguri. He added: ‘This is good news to us. We have been waiting for this day. We hope the remaining girls will soon be released.’
Bring Back Our Girls said it was awaiting an official statement but added: ‘Our hopes and expectations are high as we look forward to this news being true and confirmed.’
Boko Haram fighters stormed the Government Girls Secondary School in the remote town of Chibok on the evening of April 14, 2014 and kidnapped 276 girls. Fifty-seven managed to escape in the hours that followed but the remaining 219 were held by the group.
Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau claimed in a video message that they had converted to Islam. The kidnapping brought the insurgency to world attention, triggering global outrage that galvanized support across the globe.
21 Chibok girls were released in October in a deal brokered by Switzerland and the International Red Cross, while a handful of others have escaped or been rescued. However, a large number of the girls are still missing.
Last month President Muhammadu Buhari said in a statement that the government was ‘in constant touch through negotiations, through local intelligence to secure the release of the remaining girls and other abducted persons unharmed’.
The girls were taken from a school in Chibok in the remote northeastern Borno state where Boko Haram has waged an insurgency aimed at creating an Islamic state that has killed thousands and displaced more than 2 million people.

Nigerians put the brakes on superhighway cutting through rainforest


Ekuri woman protesting superhighway

( – Bulldozers approaching the communities of the southern state of Cross River, with orders to raze up to a million homes and cut down an ancient tropical rainforest, were stopped in their tracks as an environmental impact statement for a proposed superhighway was rejected by officials.
As conceived, the roadway would link northern Nigeria to a proposed deep seaport in the south, covering 162 miles and displacing along the way some 180 indigenous communities, a national park and adjoining forest reserves that are home to some of the country’s most endangered species.
But this week, at a public hearing with government ministers and stakeholders, the Minister of the Environment admitted the project could not go forward. “The EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) is not of standard, it is too primary and does not qualify as a working document for such an international project,” Minister Ibrahim Jibrin was reported to say.
The so-called Cross River Superhighway, the brainchild of the state’s governor, Ben Ayade, has been on the drawing board for years. Two years ago it was announced that the “much anticipated construction” was “on course” and that President Muhammadu Buhari would be performing groundbreaking ceremonies Sept. 21, 2015.
The roadway would have cut through several protected areas such as the Cross River National Park, Ukpon River Forest Reserve, Cross River South Forest Reserve, Afi River Forest Reserve and Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary – home to various threatened species, including Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzees, drills, Preuss’s red colobus monkeys, slender-snouted crocodiles and African gray parrots, among others.
Among the impacted communities is the Ekuri, whose conservation skills were recognized by the U.N. Development Program with a Equator Initiative Award for protecting biodiversity and reducing poverty.
Ekuri leaders say they supported the highway project at first, believing it would bring better transportation and greater economic opportunities to their people. But in a letter to the governor of Cross River State sent Feb. 7, the leaders withdrew their support, calling the project “a land grab in the guise of a Super Highway.”
Ekuri communities manage some 83,000 acres of community-owned forest – one of the largest in West Africa. “We require schools, water, electricity but not the kind of road that will take our forest away,” village leaders Stephen Oji and Abel Egbe told Premium Times news.