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Chibok girls: 82 reunited with families in Nigeria
Media playback is unsupported on your deviceMedia captionEmotions - whether tears or laughter - ran high at the reunion
A group of the "Chibok girls" freed from Nigeria's Boko Haram militants have been reunited with their families.
The 82 girls, who were part of a huge group kidnapped from their school in 2014, are in the care of security services in the capital, Abuja.
Their parents travelled by bus through the night to meet their daughters.
More than 100 of the 276 girls, taken from the town of Chibok, are still being held by the militant group. Their whereabouts are unknown.
The reunion in Abuja had a celebratory atmosphere, with music and dance.
The BBC's Alistair Leithead says the girls were already dancing when their parents got off the bus and raced towards them, in an emotional reunion.
The 82 young women were only freed two weeks earlier in exchange for five Boko Haram militants.The full story: Fate of the Chibok girlsChibok girl 'refused to be released'
The most recent group freed was supposed to have 83 girls - but one refused to leave, saying she was happy and had found a husband, a Nigerian government spokesman said.
The freed girls remain in government care - under the eye of security services who are questioning them about their time spent as captives.
Media playback is unsupported on your deviceMedia captionMr Nkeke saw his daughter earlier than most last week
After the girls were abducted from their school in April 2014, a massive global awareness campaign began, using the Twitter hashtag #BringBackOurGirls.
The Chibok girls represent a fraction of the women captured by the militant group, estimates for which number in the thousands.Read More »
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The inclusion of Orange Fleshed Sweetpotato (OFSP) in wheat bread and school meals has led to the boost of the nutritional status of children and could help Nigeria to reduce its imports of wheat drastically.
Developed by the International Potato Center (abbreviated by Spanish acronym CIP) and partners, the OFSP varieties are rich in Vitamin A—a critical vitamin that is deficient in most diets in sub Saharan Africa, and remains a serious public health problem in Ghana, Nigeria, and Burkina Faso in West Africa. In Nigeria, one in three children suffer from Vitamin A deficiency (VAD)—which can lead to blindness and even death.
In the last three years, CIP has pioneered a three-year project in Osun and Kwara States of Nigeria. In Osun State, the project intervention entails inclusion of OFSP in school meals as part of efforts to improve the nutrition of children. The project, which is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has also trained bakers on the inclusion of 40 percent OFSP puree (steamed OFSP) in wheat bread.
Mr Fatai Ganiyu, one of the trained bakers, said the inclusion of OFSP in bread has benefits including growing Nigeria’s economy and improving the health of children in schools.
“At the moment, I can’t meet the demand for OFSP-wheat bread. I supply the OFSP composite bread to 20 schools; part of the Oriade local government elementary schools. And the children love it,” he explained.
Wheat is among the top food imports into Nigeria with about 4.7 million tons being imported into the country according to government data.
Mr. Ganiyu said if more bakers adopted the technology, imports would be down significantly, saving the country scarce foreign exchange, but more importantly, creating jobs and better nutrition.
Researchers say that consuming OFSP can give the body needed vitamins.
“Results from a number of research has revealed that one small-to-medium boiled root (approximately 125g or 1⁄2 to 1 cup) of most OFSP varieties can supply the recommended daily amount of vitamin A for young children and non-breastfeeding women”, says Dr. Erna Abidin, from CIP and Manager for the project.
OFSP roots have a nutritional advantage over white- or cream-fleshed sweetpotato roots because they have beta-carotene, and therefore vitamin A content is higher as evidenced by the deep orange color of their flesh. Since cultivating OFSP on just 500 square meters can supply the needs of a family, farmers can still grow other crops to meet their diversified food needs at their household level.
Dr. Jude Njoku, National Coordinator, Sweetpotato program and Senior Agronomist at CIP said the project had introduced two OFSP varieties in Nigeria since 2012. “Farmers in Osun state are growing the Mothers Delight variety which is very high in beta-carotene. Its dry matter is low but school children love it since it is sweet and not too hard,” he added.
Working closely with the National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI) farmers now have access to improved varieties of OFSP vines. The OFSP planting materials are produced by a few smallholder farmers who have been trained on vine multiplication (also known as decentralized vine multipliers – DVMs). The DVMs then sell the vines to their neighbors for root production.
“We have worked closely with DVMs to ensure they produce good quality vines. We introduced the net tunnel technology so they produce and sell disease free planting material leading to high storage root yield,” said Mr. Ayodele Oladipo Akinpelu from NRCRI in Iresi.
Mr. Ademola Adepoju is one of 18 DVM’s in Oshogbo. From his 1.5-hectare farm in Ajebamidele village, Adepoju made 1.6Million Naira (USD 5,180) from the sale of OFSP vines which he planted in January 2017. “I have harvested my vines twice; in March and May. For root production, the Mothers Delight OFSP variety matures in only two and a half months while the local sweetpotato varieties take up to five months”, he says.
In 2016, six DVMs sold 12, 647 bundles of OFSP vine cuttings to 13 groups of storage root producers (284 farmers; 30% women). During the dry season of 2016, they grew 26.6 ha of OFSP in 12 Local Government Areas and sold 79.8 tons of OFSP roots to 17 schools, according to Souleimane Adekambi, a Monitoring and Evaluation specialist working for CIP on the project.
With the project coming to an end this May 2017, three types of markets have been developed around OFSP. First, is the school feeding program in Osun State. From a total of 8,157 pupils in 17 schools in mid-2015, the number of schools was scaled out to 186 by September 2016. To date, a total of over 41,216 students are fed weekly on OFSP from the O-Meals School Feeding Program. Second, bakery chains offer market opportunities for OFSP farmers. Mr. Ganiyu, the baker in Osun state buys a 60kg bag of OFSP roots every two weeks from Mrs. Foluke Okanlawon, who farms close to his bakery. Finally, the local market serves as an important alternative for mopping up excess production.
CIP and partners will continue working on OFSP, with the hope to scale out its many benefits to both the rural and urban community in sub-Saharan Africa.Read More »
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Photo: Premium Times
Nigerian Army Headquarters AbujaBy Cletus Ukpong
A new report has highlighted how Nigeria's political elites for years hid under the cover of the country's military to steal billions of dollars that would have been channeled into improving the living conditions of the citizens.
Corrupt officials over the years exploited the excessive secrecy of the country's defence budget to rip off the nation, says the report released Thursday in Abuja by Transparency International Defence And Security.
The 15-years-old war against Boko Haram insurgency has helped pushed up Nigeria's defence budget and corresponding increase in corruption within the sector, the report said.
A former National Security Adviser, NSA, Sambo Dasuki, is currently standing trial for allegedly mismanaging funds meant for the procurement of weapons to prosecute the war against Boko Haram.
The report repeatedly mentioned Mr. Dasuki's case as an example of how the country's defence sector leaves room for exploitation.
FILE PHOTO: Former NSA Sambo Dasuki and others arraigned over misappropriation at the FCT High Court in Abuja
The report also mentioned former President Goodluck Jonathan and the late military dictator, Sani Abacha, as some of the nation's leaders who profited from the inherent weakness in the sector.
According to the report, the stealing is usually done through inflating of procurement contract values and creating of "phantom" defence contracts.
"Such contracts are used as a vehicle for money laundering: facilitated via weak or corrupted Nigerian banks, illicit financial flows are often hidden in property in the UK, United States, South Africa and Dubai," the report says.
The stealing is done with the active connivance of the country's military leaders.
"With oil prices at a record low, defence has provided new and lucrative opportunities for the country's corrupt kleptocrats," says the report.
"Former military chiefs have stolen as much as US $15 billion - a sum equivalent to half of Nigeria's foreign currency reserves - through fraudulent arms procurement deals."
Former President, Goodluck Jonathan
The report, which was prepared in partnership with the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC, is titled, Weaponising Transparency: Defence Procurement Reform As a Counterterrorism Strategy in Nigeria.
Corruption in the defence sector, according to the report, is a major threat to Nigeria's internal security and political stability.
"Largely unaddressed, it has weakened Nigerian counterterrorism capacity whilst strengthening Boko Haram," it said.
The report, though acknowledged President Muhammadu Buhari administration's effort to tackle corruption in the country's defence sector.
But it warned that, "Only a holistic reform agenda can deliver the deep, systemic changes and improvements in transparency and accountability needed to prevent the next US $15 billion quietly leaving Nigeria through the back door".
"Since coming to power in May 2015, President Buhari has taken some bold action in tackling defence sector corruption. Central to his approach have been two ad hoc, temporary audit committees: one investigating spending by the Office of the National Security Adviser and one investigating defence arms and equipment procurement.
"Taking on the defence establishment was a significant move: the evidence uncovered by these probes revealed that several of the country's former military chiefs, using dozens of companies, together stole as much as US $15 billion.
Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari
"President Buhari's anti-corruption drive is a rare example of senior Nigerian defence and security officials being exposed to criminal investigation. By signalling that military impunity is not without limit, it is undoubtedly a positive step forward," it said.
State governors in Nigeria are also known to have used the secretive "security votes" as an avenue to steal public funds, the report said.
The report recommends a unified anti-corruption strategy for the defence sector, the extension of public access to defence and security information, and the monitoring of confidential procurements as some of the ways of tackling the problem.
Other recommendations include the sharpening of international focus on fighting corruption in Nigeria, plucking off money laundering loopholes in banks, the extension of whistle-blower protection to cover the defence sector, and regulation of secretive security votes.
"Declassifying how the security vote funds have been spent, after a two-year information embargo, could also enable citizen oversight," the report said.
Katherine Dixon, Director Transparency International Defence and Security, called for a quick action against corruption in the Nigeria's defence sector.
"Corruption in Nigeria is not just a problem for Nigerians, but a concern for all of those looking to tackle violent extremism around the world.
"Entering into blind defence deals that ignore the rampant corruption in Nigeria's defence sector means international partners could inadvertently be giving rise to Boko Haram. Likewise, the doors to allow corrupt officials to launder their ill-gotten gains out of Nigeria should be slammed shut, through the active denial of visas and other domestic legislation that targets corrupt money.
"With Buhari's first term soon to end, the international community may soon find itself without a Presidential ally in this fight - now is the time to act," Ms. Dixon said.Read More »
Nigeria Chibok girls: Lone schoolgirl escapes Boko Haram captivityImage copyright Reuters Image caption The latest escape comes after 82 of the captured Chibok girls were released in a prisoner swap on 6 May
A schoolgirl who was abducted by Nigeria's militant Islamists in 2014 has escaped from captivity, a presidential aide has told the BBC.
The girl was found by government troops while she was escaping, Femi Adesina said, without giving details.
She was among 276 girls seized by Boko Haram from north-eastern Chibok town in 2014, sparking global outrage.
A total of 103 of the girls have been released so far, including 82 earlier this month in a prisoner swap.
The 82 girls, who met Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on 7 May, are expected to be reunited with their families later this week.
They were escorted to a reception in the capital Abuja by armed soldiers, after a check-up at a medical centre.Chibok abductions: What we know The man who brought back the Chibok girls Torment of a freed Boko Haram 'bride' Who are Boko Haram?
"I cannot express in a few words how happy I am to welcome our dear girls back to freedom," Mr Buhari told the girls in Abuja, according to his office.
"On behalf of all Nigerians, I will like to share my joy with you."
Media playback is unsupported on your deviceMedia captionThe released Chibok girls received an official welcome in Abuja
The number of Boko Haram suspects released by the authorities in exchange for the girls remains unknown.
Last month, President Buhari said the government remained "in constant touch through negotiations, through local intelligence, to secure the release of the remaining girls and other abducted persons unharmed".Chibok father's joy at seeing daughter Chibok girl 'refused to be released'
Aside from the Chibok girls, Boko Haram has kidnapped thousands of other people during its eight-year insurgency, which is aimed at creating an Islamic caliphate in north-eastern Nigeria.
The government says more than 30,000 people have been killed, and hundreds of thousands forced to flee their homes.Read More »
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Protesters use catapult against police in Bamenda (file photo)By Mbom Sixtus
Bamenda — It's a Monday evening in Bamenda, the main city in troubled English-speaking Cameroon. The gates of the Vatican Express bus depot are shut, just like five other coach companies in town.
Any other day and there would be at least five long-distance buses ready to leave for the rest of the majority French-speaking country. But once a week there's a near-complete shutdown of businesses and public services. Mondays are now "ghost town" days throughout Cameroon's two anglophone regions: Northwest and Southwest.
The boycott action has been called by a civil society coalition protesting English speakers' "oppression, marginalisation, and deprivation". They are demanding the return to a pre-1972 federal constitution, when the entire western part of the country was self-governing.
On this ghost town day, one bus company, Professional Drivers Express, is defying the ban. Fifty passengers are squeezed onto a single 30-seater, negotiating its way through the massive potholes outside the depot, heading to the capital, Yaoundé, an eight-hour drive away.
It is an uneventful trip until near the end. A few kilometres from the presidential palace, the seat of executive power, a middle-aged man stands up and begins to declaim.
"The struggle must continue," he says. "If we stop now, we will be buried by La République. Francophones will dominate us even more."
Before he sits down, he issues a final warning, which is greeted by silence from his fellow passengers: "But let us make sure we don't end up dead or arrested!"
Breaking the boycott does not mean abandoning the cause. But it does demonstrate the contradictions triggered by this long-running crisis, in which six protesters have been shot dead, dozens injured, hundreds arrested, and two regions further impoverished.
Cameroon is a bilingual country; the constitution gives equal status to both English and French. But the English-speaking Northwest and Southwest regions are seething over their alleged marginalisation; accusing the government of giving preferential treatment to Cameroon's eight other administrative regions.
The discontent, known in Yaoundé as the "anglophone problem", is fanned by the perceived lack of investment by the government; a lack of political advancement for anglophones; and the general difficulty faced in the job market by those for whom French is not their first language.
Public unrest began in October 2016. It started as a strike by lawyers and then teachers over the "francophonisation" of the regions' legal and education systems. It quickly coalesced into a general outcry over poor governance, "cultural genocide", and the heavy-handed crackdown by the authorities.
Western Cameroon is 20 percent of the population but reportedly produces 60 percent of Cameroon's GDP, and has little to show for it. It was under British colonial rule after World War I and was administered as part of neighbouring Nigeria until choosing to join French Cameroon in a 1961 referendum.
That union is now under intense pressure. The government argues that a return to a two-state federal system is a non-starter. It instead suggests that existing constitutional provisions for decentralisation should meet the self-governing demands of anglophones. But critics point out that these provisions have never been implemented, in a country ruled by a single party since independence.
For a crisis that ostensibly has language at its root, there has been little talking. Dialogue between the government and an umbrella opposition group, the Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium, collapsed way back in January when the authorities began rounding up protest leaders.
Internet access in the anglophone regions was also switched off, on the grounds that activists were using social media for "spreading false news". It was restored only in April after an international campaign #bringbackourinternet and economic losses estimated at $3 million by the NGO Access Now.
President Paul Biya, in power for 35 years, has described anglophone activists as "extremists". He has used anti-terrorism legislation, which carries the death penalty, to charge some protesters. More than 25 people are currently facing trial at a Yaoundé military tribunal.
These include consortium leaders Felix Agbor, a human rights lawyer, Fontem Neba, a university lecturer, and activist Mancho Bibixy. The government has ignored calls by human rights groups for their release.
Two other leaders, Tassang Wilfred and Bobga Harmony, have fled to Nigeria and the United States respectively. They are now calling for the independence of "Southern Cameroons" (see map) - otherwise known as Ambazonia - a reflection of the growing secessionist sentiment among anglophone Cameroonians at home and abroad.
That radicalisation has extended to the ghost town protests. They are increasingly being enforced by intimidation. In March, more than 60 shops were burnt down in Bamenda's food market by unidentified youths as punishment for breaking the boycott, according to a government official.
There have been similar arson attacks in Limbe and Mutengene, in Southwest region. Schools have been burnt down too, and only remain open now with police acting as guards.
Even the Church has been split by the protests.
Anglophone bishops who publicly sympathised with the protests have been charged after making statements that the government said could "compromise national unity". The government adjourned those hearings when confronted by a threatened march on the courts in Bamenda and Buea, the main city in the Southwest region.
But the National Episcopal Conference, led by Archbishop Samuel Kleda - appointed as a mediator by Biya in February - has swung behind the government, condemning the protests and calling on children to return to school. On a tour of the western region, parents reportedly told Kleda they would only send their children back to classes when protest leaders were freed.
The consortium has said dialogue can be based "on one agenda only - the practical modalities for the putting in place of a two-state federation, and in the presence of representatives of the United Nations, and the UK".
Political scientist Mathias Owona Nguini argues that the "perspective of a francophone-anglophone federalism based on two federated states corresponding to the former respective territories of France and Great Britain is not negotiable".
But given the deadlock and poisoned political atmosphere, external mediation may be the only way forward.
In careful comments last month, the UN's special representative for the secretary-general in Central Africa, François Louncény Fall, encouraged the government to consider the release of detained anglophone leaders as a confidence-building measure.
In a statement he also called on the leaders of the protest movement to engage, "to find a consensual and lasting solution to the situation". To help achieve that, Fall said the UN was ready to "continue to accompany the two parties in their dialogue efforts".
As both sides struggle to find a common language of peace, grievances fester and a country is increasingly divided.Read More »
Nigeria: "Stay Off Politics," Army Chief Buratai Warns Nigerian Soldiers As Coup Rumours Spread – AllAfrica.com
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The heavy presence of armed guards at a nondescript building on the outskirts of Nigeria's capital is the only clue of its elusive residents -- the Chibok girls, many of whom are now young women.Read More »
The 82 Chibok schoolgirls who were released after negotiations between terrorist group Boko Haram and the Nigerian government have arrived in the capital city of Abuja, the government said Sunday.Read More »
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The heavy presence of armed guards at a nondescript building on the outskirts of Nigeria's capital is the only clue of its elusive residents -- the Chibok girls, many of whom are now young women.Read More »
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