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Chrisland, parenting and our new society by Reuben Abati

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The Lagos State government, following reports of an alleged “rape incident”  involving an 11-year old female student of Chrisland Schools Lagos, and male pupils of the school, during a trip to the World School Games in Dubai (March 10 -13), promptly shut down the school, to investigate exactly what happened. A video was put into circulation showing the girl in a sex position, with one of the students watching and recording the bedroom scene. The public was shocked. Raw sex in a primary school, photographed and videoed and put into circulation! Matters got worse when the mother of the girl involved raised an alarm and made statements to the effect that the school, Chrisland, had failed in its duty to take care of her daughter while on a trip to Dubai, under its auspices; that on the return of the students, her daughter was taken for a pregnancy test without her consent, and that when the video became public, every attempt to engage with the school failed, and that the school had told her daughter not to say a word to anybody about her experience. Her daughter, she claimed, went to Dubai as a virgin, and returned in a sex video, traumatised, afraid to return to school.

I followed the story closely. The Lagos State government having shut down the school and its various branches warned the public to desist from sharing the video. Long before the state government reminded everyone that the circulation of pornography would attract a penalty of 14 years imprisonment, the video was already in circulation in any case, and many social media sites used it as click-bait. But what would any parent gain from a group of minors exploring adult experience? Many must have been motivated by sheer curiousity and the native belief that seeing is believing. The Lagos State government has now re-opened the Chrisland Schools, and the students are on their way back to the classroom in all the locations where the school has branches: Victoria Garden City where the incident occurred, Idimu, Ikeja, Festac, Lekki and elsewhere.

Chrisland is one of those well-appointed schools with a strong reputation and record of achievements, dating back to 40 years. The Awosikas, owners of the school, have through their educational system produced generations of students who have become established in many fields of human endeavour at home and abroad. In the absence of a functional public system, many parents patronise schools like Chrisland, which aspire to and maintain higher standards of instruction. Nigeria is a country where education is still valued in terms of the acquisition of certificates, observing the routine and the process to the letter. Even if a child is still going to end up as an internet fraudster or as a Boko Haram soldier, parents believe that a starting point is to give their children good education. This is more the case among the troubled Nigerian middle class, especially in the Southern parts of the country. Elsewhere, in other parts, the story is different. The North, for example, has the largest collection of out-of-school children. In parts of the East, the enrolment of the boy-child in trade apprenticeship schemes, by the way a global business model, continues to compete with enrolment in the formal school system.

This then makes it all the more surprising when it is reported, one case after another, that there are serious issues with the same schools that middle class parents and their wannabe colleagues patronise  In the same Chrisland School in question, there was a report around 2019 about a male teacher who was said to have defiled a two-year-old. The man was convicted. In Abuja, there was also the case of a victim of sexual abuse, 14-year old Keren-Happuch Akpagher who died in one of the elite secondary schools – Premiere Academy, Lugbe. Before the latest incident in Chrisland, there was also the matter of Dowen College in Lekki, Lagos, in which 12-year old Sylvester Oromoni died. The Dowen College matter, still unresolved, with the family still protesting an attempt to sweep the matter under the carpet, was a big scandal. These are three of the reported cases of similar incidents in schools across Nigeria and in Lagos State. Many more of such incidents would go unreported, given the culture of silence that governs the Nigerian cultural and social space. Now, after the temporary closure of Chrisland Schools and police investigations, Chrisland has now been reopened by the Lagos authorities. The Police and the Lagos State government probably acted swiftly in order to prevent the ugliness of the Dowen College affair from re-occurring. To start with, I think, a review is necessary. In this country, we forget too soon, too easily. Things happen at such a frenetic pace, that we hardly have the time to reflect on what may have happened, before we move on to the next incident. Our present-mindedness, that is temporocentrism, is the biggest affliction that holds this country down.

I was struck by three major reactions to the pre-teenage sex scandal of the Chrisland students. Tonto Dikeh, the star actress, was the first to raise the alarm. Having watched the video, she said she did not think this was a case of rape or sexual violence, and that this was not the child’s first sexual encounter. She actually surmised that the girl must have had sex at least five times and that there must be an adult somewhere who exposed her quite early. I am tempted to believe Tonto Dikeh. She is a mature, experienced woman of multiple talents. I am therefore not in a position to doubt her ability to read this sort of situation and put a date and a stamp to it. But her more cogent point is that parents need to pay more attention to their children. The second reaction came from Shola Ogudu, the mother of Ayo Balogun’s first son, Boluwatife. Ayo Balogun is the superstar musician known popularly known as “Whizkid or Star Boy.” Ms Ogudu, in a statement, disclosed that her son attends the school in question and that she accompanied him to Dubai for the World School Games. There were 76 students from Chrisland and, incidentally, the school won about 34 medals which no one has bothered to talk about!

Ms Ogudu indicated that there was no way she could have allowed her son to travel alone to a foreign country, in the midst of 76 children and others! She advised parents to be more attentive, and devote more time to their children. Unlike the aggrieved mother in the story, Ms Ogudu was full of praise and support for Chrisland Schools. The third reaction that caught my attention was the statement by more than one psychologist that both the girl in the video and her parents need psychological counseling. And I ask: How about the boys too? What kind of 11-year old male child starts having sex so early? What kind of homes are these characters from? I have heard some people arguing that parents do not have time. Schools and teachers are expected to act in loco-parentis. This is where the problem lies.

In our time, growing up, our parents were hands-on guardians, coaches and advisers. They drummed values into our ears at every turn. Each time you tried to venture out of the house, to attend an event or return to school, you would be told: “Remember the child of whom you are.” This had nothing to do with money but everything about values, character, dignity and integrity. But in the new society in which we have found ourselves, many parents have abdicated their responsibilities. They claim that they are busy looking for money to meet everyone’s needs. In the course of that pursuit, a child is handed over straight from the maternity ward to a retinue of nannies, home assistants and aides. In our new society, we throw money at everything including our children. Daddy has no time. Mummy is too busy trying to compete with the Joneses. The children are given all the toys that they want – from TV, to Play station to 24-hour electricity supply. These uptown babies of the new society do not cry. As Max Romeo and the Upsetters put it: “They don’t know what hungry is like/Uptown babies don’t cry/They don’t know what suffering is like/They have Mummy and Daddy/Lots of toys to play with/Nanny and Granny/Lot of friends to stay with…”

As soon as they are old enough to press numbers, they get a sleek, smart phone – usually the costliest in the market, with unrestricted access to social media. Some parents even open instagram and TikTok accounts for their children as soon they start crawling. This Gen Z group is soon introduced to all the negative stuff that social media can offer. Even outside that space, they are exposed to the dissolute lives of their parents: twerking moms; violent, 12 o’clock dads; and a community of sick uncles and aunties who set very bad examples. There are many households out there in which parents and their children are strangers to one another. When the children then fail in school, morally and academically, the same parents blame the teachers. They claim that they have paid so much money so that their children can get the best training possible. The truth of the matter is that money cannot buy everything. There are just certain things money can’t buy. Many parents themselves are in need of parenting! What do you make, for example, of those overgrown babies who wake up in the morning, eat spaghetti and spend the rest of the day playing games in front of the TV. They don’t have to work: their own parents have made enough money to feed the next five generations of idle sons and daughters! These idlers father children and the cycle continues.

It seems to me that all cases of reported misdemeanour in our schools should trigger introspection in every right-thinking, concerned stakeholder. The problem is not that of Chrisland Schools. It is an indication of the deepening moral turpitude in our land. Everything that can go wrong is wrong with the younger generation: juvenile delinquency, drug abuse, value system collapse, cultism, the kind of music they listen to – there is even a Naira Marley Gang – you don’t want me to describe the sociology of that. Adolescent sexuality is on the rise, with promiscuity now the order of the day. Aristotle told us that “a child learns by imitation”. Nigeria has taught its children bad imitation, and that is why the children replicate the bad behaviour of their parents. It is beyond the schools. After all, one Christian university in this same country once decided that it would conduct compulsory virginity tests on its new female students. Many of us complained at the time that this was discriminatory and gender insensitive. The school authorities stood their ground. After two sessions, they didn’t need to be persuaded to abandon the practice without any argument, when they discovered that among the teenage female university entrants, a virginity test was no more than a futile search for a virgin in a maternity ward!

When incidents such as the one under review occur, processes are important. I hope that the Lagos State government and the Police would make their findings public. By deciding to re-open Chrisland Schools, both authorities must have made some findings and reached a conclusion that the school has no case to answer. Many parents are relieved. But the public has a right to know more. Parents in particular, need to know. There are also lessons to be learnt from how Chrisland Schools management has controlled the crisis and managed the communication process. They have done much better than the managers of Dowen College who practically slept off in the face of a crisis until things went out of hand. The team of crisis managers at Chrisland stayed on the matter and bombarded the public with their own version of the story before the alternative could gain ground. They had the support of other stakeholders who helped to intensify other aspects of the narrative, including detailed revelations about how the girl in question is an indulgent, over-pampered child with a reputation for sexual displays on social media and a wayward, bad-girl-attitude for which she is reportedly unapologetic!

Chrisland School has done a good job of rescuing and protecting its brand all through the storm. In a statement signed on behalf of the school by Akin Fadeyi, a member of the school’s Advisory Board, the school has in place a strong child protection mechanism. Going forward, the school must see the need to invest more in that mechanism, and constantly engage with parents to provide the best possible arrangements for students. Besides, Mrs Winifred Awosika needs to take a second look at the Victoria Garden City (VGC) branch of the School. It was in this same school three years ago, that a teacher was eventually sentenced to a prison term of 60 years for sexually abusing a two-year old. Is there something amiss in that school that needs to be addressed? Could it be the celebrity environment on the Island? Lagos State has more than 20 thousand schools – public and private, from the primary to the tertiary level. The government should strengthen the Inspectorate Division of its Ministry of Education to make it more efficient, vigilant, and productive for the good of all. To parents, a simple message: wake up!

Reuben Abati is a former presidential spokesperson, writes from Lagos.

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Tanko Muhammad, Ekweremadu and health of Nigeria by Suyi Ayodele

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What happened to the Nigerian judiciary under the now retired Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Tanko Muhammad, is a symptom of an ailing nation. We must all come to admit that Nigeria is a country that needs moral transplant. Who will be the donor is what we don’t know. That the aeroplane-driving CJN retired after his “brother justices” accused him of misconduct is never news to celebrate. The resignation itself is never a part of the diagnosis of what ails the country. And I sincerely do hope that the General Muhammadu Buhari administration will not because of the belated retirement  roll out the drums to celebrate his tough stance on the fight against corruption!  The judiciary is expected to be the healthiest of the three arms of government. Its chronic illness under Tanko is a pointer to the general well being of the government in power. The undertakers should not be far away as their services may be required soon.

In Africa’s worldview, a healthy man is a wealthy man. The saying, “health is wealth,” underscores the importance human beings attach to sound health. Without sound health, man becomes useless. This is why sane countries of the world don’t play with their healthcare delivery. But it is not so in Nigeria, a country which prides itself as the “Giant of Africa”. By that sobriquet, one would expect that Nigeria would tower above other African countries in all ramifications of life. If you are wondering why we are this low in all aspects of life as a nation, just take a look at our health care delivery system. If Nigeria’s health is failing, or has failed, the citizenry cannot be healthy. For those who care to know, Nigeria is not just ill, it is terminally ill.

Some two years ago or so, I had the misfortune of rushing an ailing church member to the University of Benin Teaching Hospital, UBTH. At the close of service that fateful Sunday, a friend and I had planned to go out with our spouses. We drove out of the church premises and saw the ailing woman being aided to the road to get a taxi to the hospital. We picked her up in my friend’s car while I joined him and asked the women to use my own car. By Ehaekpen Road, the woman gave up the ghost in the car. But we continued the journey to the UBTH. At the Accident and Emergency section of the hospital, she was confirmed as BID (Brought In Dead). That was where our ordeal began. The relation in the car contacted other family members and agreed that the remains of the woman be deposited at the hospital’s morgue. To our utter embarrassment, UBTH had no BID form to take the woman’s profile and have her corpse deposited in the morgue. For over two hours, the corpse was left in our car. I had to ask one of the hospital attendants in charge to copy the information of a used BID form at the back of another used form and fill in for the dead woman. I knew then that we had bigger problems than anyone could imagine. If a teaching hospital, as big as the UBTH, had no ordinary BID form, one can imagine the state of the General Hospital at Afrikpo, or Balewa Village or at Itawure!

This is why, at the slightest discomfort of headache, the locust masquerading as our leaders jet out of Nigeria to seek medical help abroad. From personnel to equipment, infrastructure to medications, hospitals in Nigeria are killing fields. In his 2017 article titled: ‘Africa’s presidents keep going abroad for medical treatment rather than fixing healthcare at home,’ published in Qartz Africa, an online publication, Yomi Kazeem has this to say: “The preference for an international doctor’s appointment is steeped in irony as these leaders often make promises about improving local healthcare a central part of their campaigns while seeking office. But by looking beyond the continent for medical solutions, African leaders maintain a vicious cycle which keeps faith in public healthcare low while channeling substantial state resources to hospitals abroad rather than plug local healthcare gaps. In many African countries, this reality is all too apparent. According to the World Health Organisation estimates, with a shortage of 4.2 million health workers, Africa is the region with the world’s second-worst health worker shortage”. Zeroing down on Nigeria, Kazeem  quoted WHO as saying that: “In Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, the shortage  will be less severe if the health system could call on the services of the up to 15,000 Nigerian doctors estimated to be working outside the country. But there’s little motivation for doctors practising abroad to return home with crumbling infrastructure, lack of drugs and poor compensation.” If in 2017, we had 15,000 Nigerian medical doctors working outside the shores of the country, your guess is as good as mine on what the figure will be now.

Nothing, in recent time speaks to the parlous state of our healthcare delivery system more than last Thursday’s arrest of Senator Ike Ekweremadu and his wife, Beatrice, by the Metropolitan Police in far away United Kingdom. According to the reports of the arrest, the former deputy senate president was accused of trafficking a child to the UK for organ harvest and slavery. A statement issued by the Met police says “Beatrice Nwanneka Ekweremadu, 55 (10.9.66) of Nigeria is charged with conspiracy to arrange/facilitate travel of another person with a view to exploitation, namely organ harvesting. Ike Ekweremadu, 60 (12.05.62) of Nigeria is charged with conspiracy to arrange/facilitate travel of another person with a view to exploitation, namely organ harvesting. They have both been remanded in custody and will appear at Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court later today. A child has been safeguarded and we are working closely with partners on continued support. As criminal proceedings are now under way we will not be providing further details”. Ever since, the senator’s team has responded to state that the alleged “organ harvest victim” is not a 15-year-old street lad, but a 22-year old adult who volunteered to donate one of his organs for Ekweremadu’s daughter, Sonia, who is having challenges with her kidney. My thrust here is not to probe into the veracity or otherwise of the claims that the supposed organ donor, David Nwamini Ukpo, was shipped to the UK legally. I would also not bother to interrogate whether Ukpo is on his own an opportunist, who, according to claims, when he realised that he would be shipped back to Nigeria after his organ failed to match that of Sonia,  decided to raise false alarms of abuse and what have you. No, my focus is why, in the first instance, Ekweremadu had to depend on a UK hospital for an organ transplant operation for his darling daughter.

The problem with the Enugu-born senator is the problem with all our political leaders in Nigeria. Like the saying goes: “all are thieves but he who is caught is the barawo”. For crying out loud, Ekweremadu has been in the corridors of power since the time lizards were few. He is a confirmed “omo ijoba” (government child). Two years before the advent of the current political disaster we call democratic governance, he was elected chairman of Aniri Local Government Area of Enugu State on the platform of the defunct United Nigeria Congress Party, UNCP. He was elected into the Senate in 2003 and was deputy Senate president for 12 years, beginning with the era of David Mark, through to Bukola Saraki. In his 19-year stay in the Senate, like his other political leeches feeding fat on our patrimony without a whim of concern for the common good, Ekweremadu did not see any reason why Nigeria should have well -equipped hospitals where ailments like organ failure of any shade could be treated. Unfortunately, Ekweremadu is not the only culprit in the league of Nigerian leaders engaged in medical tourism. The league, as we all know, is led by General Muhammadu Buhari, who holds the life trophy of spending 104 days at a stretch on a London hospital bed at our expense, with the presidential jet parked at Heathrow Airport, accumulating demurrage! When we add the BTA of his personal aides who accompanied him to the UK, Buhari will go down in history as the man who spent what could have built for the nation a decent hospital for the use of the people on a single medical trip abroad. So, when news of the arrest of Ike and Beatrice Ekweremadu filtered in, what easily came to my mind is the saying that when the head is rotten, the tail will be home for maggots! Cumulatively, an August 5, 2021 report by the Premium Times of Nigeria, puts the number of days General Buhari had spent on medical tourism to the UK at 200. You may wish to ask: did Buhari not talk about the parlous state of the nation’s health institution while seeking our votes in 2014? Did he not assure us that he would not go abroad for medical attention? Kazeem, quoted earlier, answers the posers.

That done, as humans, we may also wish to look at the desperation of the father-figure Ekweremadu presents as he seeks a medical solution to his ailing daughter’s health. There is a deep prayer among my people which says: “ki Oluwa ma fi ina omo jo wa” (May God not allow us to be scorched by the death of our child). This is where I believe that our thoughts should be with Miss Ekweremadu as she battles for survival at this critical moment. It is even more important for us to spare a moment of prayer for Sonia, now that the most important caregivers of her life, the parents, are in detention. The thought that her parents are locked up in cells in the UK because of her is devastating enough for the poor girl. While we have the assurance that, unlike what we have in Nigeria, the UK Government would not allow Sonia to be left unattended to, we cannot overemphasise the importance of the presence of her parents at this crucial  time. Again, that the Ekweremadus were picked up on their way to Turkey is an indication of how desperate they were to bring their daughter back to sound health. We may frown at the method employed to achieve that. We may interrogate why the replacement for the failing organ was not sourced within the family circles. In all that, we must have it at the back of our minds that every mother hen uses her back to shield her chicks from the ravenous hawk. We therefore call on the Almighty God, our Healer, to stretch His healing hands on Sonia and make this storm to pass. We pray that she surmounts this mountain before her and becomes useful to Nigerian society and humanity in general. We also pray that after this, every Ekweremadu in leadership in Nigeria will see the need to build up our health institutions and other decayed infrastructure in the country as doing so is also in their own interest. May Sonia live!

 

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Direct or indirect primaries: The uniting factor is moneybag politics by Afe Babalola

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THE Electoral Act 2022 (as amended) provides for the system of nomination of candidates by political par ties through primary elections ahead of presidential, state governorship, and legislative houses elections. Section 84(1) of the Electoral Act provides that a political party seeking to nominate candidates for election under this Act shall hold primaries for aspirants to all elective positions which shall be monitored by the Commission. Subsection 2 provides that the procedure for the nomination of candidates by political parties for the various elective positions shall be by direct, indirect primaries or consensus.

Direct primaries, as described in subsection 4 of the Act, connotes that the members of the political party will be given equal opportunity to vote for a party member of their choice as the nominated candidate of the party. It involves the participation of all registered members of a party in the selection of the party’s candidates. Indirect primaries, on the other hand, is a system whereby members of the political party democratically elect delegates at the party’s congress and, in turn, the delegates elect the party’s candidates on behalf of the members of the political party. Sections 5-8 of the Electoral Act, 2022 (as amended) generally stipulates the procedure for the conduct of indirect primaries in Nigeria.

The third category, and perhaps the least commonly adopt ed, is the system of consensus candidacy whereby all aspirants in the political party will voluntarily and expressly withdraw from the primaries and endorse a single candidate; and where there is no such express withdrawal, the political party will mandatorily proceed to conduct direct or indirect primaries. Section 9 of the Act provides as follows: 9 (a) A political party that adopts a consensus candidate shall secure the written consent of all cleared aspirants for the position, indicating their voluntary withdrawal from the race and their endorsement of the consensus candidate; (b) Where a political party is unable to secure the written consent of all cleared aspirants for the purpose of a consensus candidate, it shall revert to the choice of direct or indirect primaries for the nomination of candidates for the aforesaid elective positions. (c) A Special Convention or nomination Congress shall be held to ratify the choice of consensus candidates at designated centres at the National, State, Senatorial, Federal and State Constituencies, as the case may be.

Over the years, the choice of whether a party should adopt direct or indirect primaries has been the subject of debate by political pundits, commentators, and aspirants. The system of indirect primaries which most political parties adopt has been criticized for being easier to manipulate by party lead ers, and on their part, the delegates are expected to align with the party leadership. Another inherent defect in the conduct of indirect primaries includes some instances of the dubious manner of appointment of delegates. For instance, where a sitting Governor or President’s political appointees are made the party’s delegates, it is not in doubt that their nominations will ultimately favour their appointor’s political interest. Be sides, it is not uncommon to find dissimilar delegates’ selection at party congresses, conventions and primaries. On the other hand, the criticism of direct primaries is that it is a lot more expensive to operate and requires much more planning and organization. It is also more easily manipulated. For in stance, a strong contender in a political party can sponsor the members of his own political party to purchase membership cards of the opposition party en masse in order for such members to deliberately vote for a weaker candidate in the said opposition party to win the primaries, thereby giving him an edge in the general elections.

Notwithstanding the obvious differences in the conduct of direct and indirect primaries, there however exists no real difference because of the association of Nigerian politics with godfatherism and moneybag politics. Though it is easier to bribe fewer delegates to support a faction of the party as op posed to the reduced propensity to tilt the votes of all members of the political party to one candidate if direct primaries were held, it still does not change the fact that the underlying factor is the ability of a candidate to sway the few delegates, or the larger party members, with money.

In an interview published in the Punch newspaper on 19th June 2022, a member of the Peoples Democratic Party rep resenting the Ilaje/Ese Federal Constituency stated the im pact of money on politics. He reportedly said: “Except some are lying, it is real. Our politics is monetised. The process is monetised. Some will just come and tell you that they never pay money. They paid money. We paid money to delegates. There is no way you can survive that hurricane without effectively and efficiently releasing resources for those people (delegates). Whether you have served them for seven years and you have been their perpetual or perennial friend, it is not going to count. You just have to do the needful at that point. Again, if you don’t do it, they will not vote for you. This is because it is not just one aspirant or candidate that is doing that; it is a system. You will give what the system is asking for. There is a stimulus that the system is pumping and which the electorate will have to react to. It is not the fault of those who are currently in power or those that are seeking to come to power, it is not their fault… If you are the best (among the aspirants), you will pay; if you are the worst, you will still pay. It is just a systemic thing. Those who eventually won, it is still the same. In my area, we had three very strong contenders. We paid equally and people made their choice on who they wanted. The three people (aspirants) paid equal amounts of money. They (delegates) collected money from the three of us and made their choice on who they wanted.”

The bold admission by the honourable member of the House of Representatives excerpted above is the reality of the Nigerian political climate today. The influence of moneybags in Nigerian politics continues to hold sway in dampening the hopes of the nation in achieving true democracy. After all, the whole idea of democracy is the free will of the people in electing their political leaders, and where such “free will” is manipulated through the influence of political juggernauts, the country is further pulled away from the attainment of the best democratic policies. It accounts for the corruption and violence which have characterized many elections in Nigeria. On the day of the election, the politician who owes his nomi nation to his huge investments will naturally seek a win by any possible means. Where his reliance is placed on a political godfather, he can count on his godfather’s ability to deploy enormous wealth in a bid to corrupt electoral officials and the electorates and where these fail, violence will be deployed to bring about the desired result.

Consequently, the politician who wins an election based only upon the backing of his political godfather will feel no ob ligation to the electorate who in any event might have been disenfranchised in the whole scheme of events. He will there fore devote the entirety of his tenure of office to the promotion and satisfaction of himself, his cronies, and his godfather. There is an unhealthy synergy between godfatherism, money bag politics, and poverty. It is the entire citizenry who suffers the effect of political office holder’s obligation to recoup his investments and/or satisfy the whims of his godfather who, more often than not, are the actual persons in power.

AARE AFE BABALOLA, SAN, OFR, CON, LL.D (Lond.)

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