Nigeria and Jamaica completed a direct flight from Nigeria’s largest city Lagos to Montego Bay on Monday as the two nations attempt to pave way for a regular direct airline route between the two destinations.
“As part of the activities to commemorate 50 years of good bilateral relations between the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Republic of Jamaica, an inaugural direct flight, Air Peace, departed from Lagos and has landed in Montego Bay, on Monday 21 December 2020,” the ministry said in a statement.
Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs Geoffrey Onyeama was on board the flight, accompanied by a delegation of government officials and members of the private sector.
The delegation was received at Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay by Jamaica’s Minister of Transport Robert Montague and other leading state officials.
According to the statement, the event will strengthen relations between the two countries in several areas, among them tourism, education and economic activities.
Global streaming service Netflix set its eyes a few years ago on Nigeria’s film industry, better known as Nollywood.
Distribution of Nigerian movies on Netflix started around 2015. At the time the American giant bought the rights of blockbusters such as Kunle Afolayan’s October 1st, Biyi Bandele’s Fifty and several others, after they had already been distributed in Nigerian cinemas.
During the Toronto International Film Festival 2018, Netflix announced the acquisition of worldwide exclusive distribution rights for Nollywood star Genevieve Nnaji’s debut film as director, the comedy Lionheart. The film marked the first Netflix original film from Nigeria. Many saw this as the beginning of a new era in the relationship between one of the world largest streaming platforms and Africa’s most prolific film industry.
But, is this actually true? Is Netflix going to transform Nollywood? And how significant will its impact on the Nigerian film industry be?
These are not easy questions to answer. Nollywood’s economy and modes of production are unlike those of most other film industries. Over the past 20 years Nigerian films have circulated mostly on videotapes and Video Compact Discs (VCDs).
This distribution system made the industry widely popular across Africa and its diaspora. But it prevented Nollywood from consolidating its economy and raising the quality of film production. Piracy dramatically eroded distribution revenues and producers had trouble monetising the distribution of their films. Nollywood prioritised straight-to-video distribution because cinema theatres had almost disappeared in the country (as in most other parts of Africa) as a result of the catastrophic economic crisis that affected Nigeria in the 1980s.
New multiplexes have emerged since the beginning of the 2000s. However, today there are only about 150 widescreens for a population of almost two hundred million people. The cinemas that exist are often too expensive for most of the population that used to buy and watch Nollywood films when they were distributed on tapes.
Within this context, many in the industry thought that streaming could be the best solution to the industry’s problems with distribution. However, a closer look to the history of what has been labelled the “Nigerian Netflix” (iROKO.tv, the leading streaming platform for Nigerian contents) shows that the reality is more complicated.
When the company decided to move its headquarters from Manhattan to Lagos it encountered countless difficulties. They were mainly connected to the costs of infrastructure development in Nigeria and to the hostility of local distributors who controlled Nollywood’s economy since its creation.
Internet connection in Nigeria is still too weak and expensive to guarantee easy access to streaming platforms. As a result, Nollywood content distributed by iROKO.tv and Netflix circulates mostly in the diaspora. Netflix is aware of this problem and is investing in infrastructures to secure a better connection for its Nigerian audiences.
But larger investments seem to be necessary to produce a significant impact on audiences’ behaviour. Accessing Nollywood films via piracy or local screening venues will continue to be, at least in my view, the key strategy adopted by the largest percentage of Nigerian viewers.
Netflix could have better chances in penetrating the country’s elite market, as richer people in Nigeria and across Africa have easier access to reliable power supply and internet.
This might be the reason why MultiChoice, the South African telecommunication giant controlling much of Nollywood distribution across Africa through its Africa Magic channels, has reacted nervously to Netflix’s increased interest in African markets. MultiChoice wants Netflix to be more closely regulated.
These two aren’t the only telecommunication “superpowers” in the field. France’s Canal Plus and the Chinese StarTimes have also made a few investments in Nollywood over the past few years. The competition among all these actors will probably have a positive impact for viewers across Nigeria and the continent. It could bring lower subscription fees for streaming and TV content packages.
There are also likely to be new investments in content production and infrastructures. And there’s larger continental and global exposure for Nollywood films in the offing.
It remains to be seen how good these developments will be for Nollywood producers. Until now, foreign investments in Nollywood have mostly translated into “more of the same” content. Working conditions for crews and actors have remained the same – basically, low budgets and quick shooting schedules.
In fact, big investors seem to be mainly interested in Nollywood’s already established popularity with African audiences. Making Nollywood more palatable for international audiences doesn’t seem to feature.
This means that in most cases they are not ready to invest bigger money in production budgets. Rather, they invest in better structuring distribution networks to extract as much profit as possible from the Nigerian industry.
And most African audiences are indeed happy with how Nollywood is, even if they tend to complain regularly about the low quality and the repetition of film contents and aesthetics. The fact that Nollywood as it is keeps on attracting audiences makes investors reluctant to change the scale of their production budgets.
There are a few bigger productions, with higher production standards, that have emerged over the past few years in Nollywood. But they have hardly been the result of investments made by foreign firms like Netflix, Canal Plus or MultiChoice.
Nigerian producers are those who are mostly concerned about raising the quality of Nollywood films. They want to give better content to their audiences and reach global screens. In most cases, the people investing money in these kinds of projects have been independent producers or groups of investors related to the new business of multiplexes in Nigeria.
In my view, the question is: will these people benefit from Netflix, so as to continue investing in higher quality content? Or will Netflix and other international companies end up taking over the industry to make it only a bit more of the same?
Every year an increasing number of Nigerians flee poverty and unrest at home. Now, rich Nigerians are planning their escape too. And they’re taking their money with them.
Dapo has spent too long at home in Lagos, Nigeria. Back in October, protests against the SARS police unit kept him from going to his office. “First, we were told to stay at home because of the coronavirus. Then this,” he says.
A wealthy Nigerian, Dapo, who is in his late 30s, does not want to make himself identifiable by giving his surname and age, lest it draw unwanted attention.
He has had a “backup plan” for getting out of Nigeria for some time, he says. “I have Maltese citizenship. I can leave for there any time.” With one small obstacle – a 14-day quarantine upon arrival – Dapo could be permanently in Malta any time he pleases. He is not planning to go imminently, but describes it as his “plan b’’.
Dapo is one of a rapidly growing number of Nigerians who have bought so-called “golden visas” or foreign citizenships-by-investment this year. In his case it was Malta, the Mediterranean island where citizenship can be acquired for a minimum investment of 800,000 euros ($947,180) through the Malta Citizenship by Investment Programme.
Not that he has any special love for Malta. A record 92 countries around the world now allow wealthy individuals to become residents or citizens in return for a fee, sometimes as low as $100,000 but often several million dollars. It is billed as a “win-win”: The country gets much-needed foreign investment and, in return, the new citizens have new passports that open up more of the world to travel or live in.
Golden visas are the lesser-reported side of the Nigerian migration story. Every year thousands of Nigerians make their way to Europe via perilous crossings over the Sahara and Mediterranean. Now their wealthier counterparts are also making their way to Europe but via a different route.
A record year for golden visas
Whether rich or poor, the reasons for leaving one’s home country are often the same. Fear of political uncertainty at home and hope for better opportunities elsewhere. But 2020 has been exceptional.
Like Dapo, Folajimi Kuti, 50, was watching the #EndSARS protests from his home in Lagos in October. “I have children, they’re teenagers, and they’re asking me questions like, ‘How did we get here?’” he says, referring to the violence that accompanied demonstrations against the controversial Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
Kuti says he has believed for some time that social unrest would boil over in Nigeria, because of issues of poverty and police brutality. “It had been clear for the past two or three years that something was going to happen. It’s happened now in 2020 but, frankly, we’ve been expecting this outburst for a while so it wasn’t a matter of ‘if’. It was a matter of ‘when’.”Citizenship or residency abroad has become appealing, he adds. As a financial adviser to the wealthy, Kuti knows the process of applying for one having walked clients through it before. Most of his work involves advising Nigeria’s growing number of millionaires about investments and wealth planning. But now they are asking about foreign citizenships and Kuti himself is tempted by the idea. “Just knowing that if you need to go you certainly could and move without any restriction.”
The rush for golden visas among rich Nigerians started before October’s SARS protests. At London-based Henley & Partners, one of the world’s largest citizenship advisory firms, applications by Nigerians increased by 185 percent during the eight months to September 2020, making them the second-largest nationality to apply for such schemes after Indians.
More than 1,000 Nigerians have enquired about the citizenship of another country through Henley & Partners this year alone, which Paddy Blewer, head of marketing, says “is unheard of. We’ve never had this many people contacting us”.
Many, like Kuti, saw political problems ahead and wanted an escape plan. Others were focused on coronavirus: What if the pandemic overwhelms Nigeria?
“There is a lack of primary healthcare capacity that would be able to manage with either a second wave or whatever happens in, say, 2025,” says Blewer. “Let’s say there is COVID-21 still going on in 2025 that is of an order or magnitude worse. It’s, ‘Do I want to be based here and only based here, or do I want an alternative base of operations where I believe I will be safer and I will be able to run my global businesses’.
“And, I think, that’s what COVID has driven.”It was in July, when the number of COVID-19 cases in Nigeria escalated, that wealthy Nigerians started looking more seriously at citizenship abroad, experts say. “Those with medical conditions that could not fly out – a lot of them are buying passports just because if there is any problem they can fly out,” says Olusegun Paul Andrew, 56, a Nigerian entrepreneur and investor who spends much of the year in the Netherlands.
“Flying out” of Nigeria is hard and not just because of the coronavirus pandemic. Just 26 countries allow Nigerian passport holders visa-free entry, many of them part of West Africa’s ECOWAS arrangement. Both the United Kingdom and Europe’s Schengen zone require Nigerians to obtain visas ahead of travelling.
For the wealthy, this is too much hassle. “They don’t want to be queueing for visas for any EU country or whatever,” says Andrew. Instead, why not purchase the citizenship of a country with visa-free access to Europe?
To Europe, via the Caribbean
Bimpe, a wealthy Nigerian who also does not wish to give her full name, has three passports. One Nigerian, which she says she never uses, and two from Caribbean nations: St Kitts and Nevis; and Grenada.
The St Kitts and Nevis passport, which cost her $400,000 via a real estate investment programme, was useful when she travelled between London and New York on business as it allows for visa-free travel to the UK and Europe. But now that she has retired in Abuja, Bimpe, whose husband has passed away, wants her three adult sons to have the same opportunities to travel and live abroad.
“My kids were interested in visa-free travel. They are young graduates, wanting to explore the world. So that was the reason for my investment,” she explains.
Her investment to gain a Grenada passport for herself and her sons took the form of a $300,000 stake in the Six Senses La Sagesse hotel on the Caribbean island, which she bought in 2015 through a property development group called Range Developments. Like most countries offering their citizenship for sale, Grenada allows real estate investments to qualify for a passport.
Bimpe’s family has lived overseas before – spending nine years in the UK between 2006 and 2015. Of her three sons, she says: “One, for sure now, is never going to leave Nigeria. He loves it here. The second one lives in England. He’s been in England long enough to get British residency. My youngest – for him, living abroad is a very, very attractive option. He’s not very happy [in Nigeria]. He went to England very young – at age 12 – and he’s had a problem adjusting since. He’s been back in Nigeria five years and he’s still not settled.”
Now aged 26, Bimpe’s youngest son is looking at settling in the UK or in the US where, thanks to his Grenada citizenship, he qualifies for an E-2 visa, something not available to his fellow Nigerians since President Donald Trump’s ban on immigrant visa applications in February. Bimpe believes his career opportunities in acting – he studied Drama in the UK – are better abroad, and therefore considers the Grenada citizenship to be a worthwhile investment.
Neither Bimpe nor her sons have ever been to Grenada even though their investment allows them to stay on the Caribbean island, once known as The Spice Island. “I intend to go. I would like to go,” she says. “Just when I did [the investment], it was soon after my husband died and I wasn’t in the mood for travel and then I got my passport but there was no good reason for travel due to the pandemic.”
The Six Senses La Sagesse is being constructed by Range Developments, whose founder and managing director, Mohammed Asaria, says it is not unusual for investors never to visit. In fact, since there is no obligation for citizenship investors to visit Grenada, interest in the scheme has ballooned among Nigerians.
“We have between high single figures and low double-digit sales of hotel units on a monthly basis to Nigerians. The average investment is just under $300,000,” says Asaria. “It’s a big market for us. And it’s going to get bigger. There are 300 million people [in Nigeria].” Of these, more than 40,000 are millionaires and, therefore, potential customers for golden visas, according to the Knight Frank Wealth Report.
It is a similar story across the Caribbean. Arton Capital, a citizenship advisory group, says demand from Nigerian families for Antigua and Barbuda citizenship is up 15 percent this year compared with the last.
St Lucia has also seen a record number of Nigerians applying in 2020. “It’s more than it’s ever been over the past four years,” says Nestor Alfred, CEO of the St Lucia Citizenship-by-Investment Unit.
The citizenship market is not exclusive to the Caribbean, but these are the cheapest and they maintain that all-important visa-free access to Europe that their clients are hankering after.
“I’m rich but I’m not a Donald Trump. I wasn’t looking for a tax escape,” says Bimpe.
Investing in a foreign citizenship is not illegal for Nigerians, but the issue of wealthy citizens moving their assets overseas is a thorny one in Nigeria, where about $15bn is lost to tax evasion every year, according to the country’s Federal Inland Revenue Service. Much of that money finds its way to the Caribbean, as was highlighted in the leaked documents that formed part of the Panama Papers in 2016.
The tax benefits of an overseas citizenship are undoubtedly attractive. Citizens can become tax residents of countries like Dominica, where there is no wealth or inheritance tax, or Grenada which offers “corporate tax incentives”. In Europe, Malta has long been courting hedge funds with its light-touch regulations.
Being a citizen of a country with a more stable currency is also appealing to the wealthy. “Second citizenship helps with capital mobility. Pull up a graph of the Naira. If you look at the Naira for the last 10 years it’s been a horrible journey,” says Asaria. Better, therefore, in the minds of the wealthy, to own assets in euros or even East Caribbean dollars which are pegged to the US dollar.
“Businesses are struggling, inflation on the rise, insecurity, and a host of other issues. These issues have prompted an increase in citizenship or residency-by-investment from wealthy Nigerians in a bid to secure a better future for their families in developed countries,” says Evans Ahanaonu, a Lagos-based representative for High Net Worth Immigration, a citizenship advisory firm. Grenada and Turkey are popular for clients wanting quick access to Europe, he adds, while some go straight for the UK Innovator Visa which means setting up a business in the UK.
Given the number of applications processed by the citizenship advisory firms interviewed just for this article, a conservative estimate would put the amount invested by Nigerians into citizenship schemes at more than $1bn this year alone.
Where rich and poor migrants meet
The loss of wealth from Nigeria has severe implications for levels of employment in the country. With wealthy businesspeople investing their capital outside Nigeria rather than in it, there is less funding for local businesses or government projects which might otherwise generate employment. This, in turn is causing more poorer Nigerians to want to move overseas as well, in search of better work opportunities, a trend backed up by the findings of a 2018 survey by Afrobarometer, the data analysis group.
Just before the pandemic struck, Kingsley Aneoklloude, 35, was able to make his way to Europe, but via a very different route.
He was working as a mechanic in his village in Edo State, one of the country’s poorer provinces which have been untouched by oil wealth, where he earned 1,500 naira ($3.95) a week.
The salary was poor but the final straw was police brutality. Aneoklloude was briefly employed as a local election monitor during the 2015 presidential elections. He says he was pressured by representatives of a political party to manipulate ballot papers, but refused, after which he became afraid for his safety. “I left because they were chasing me. Honestly, they come and chase me,” he says.
First, he went to Kano State in the north of Nigeria. Then, in December 2019, Aneoklloude made the dangerous journey to Europe via Niger, then Libya, “where there was a heavy war in Tripoli”, before crossing the Mediterranean.
While adrift on the Mediterranean Sea, his small boat was rescued by Open Arms, an NGO which helps refugees and migrants crossing the Mediterranean. Their ship docked in Lampedusa, one of the Italian Pelagie Islands, where Aneoklloude’s asylum application for Germany was processed.
Now in Potsdam, Germany, he is waiting to hear the outcome of his application for new citizenship and a job. “I have a nine-month contract for work, but they need the immigration officer to sign the contract before I start,” he explains.
At 35, Aneoklloude is just a few years younger than Dapo. Both have witnessed police brutality from different angles, and both saw the Mediterranean as their way out.
But now, with Nigeria’s economy officially in another recession, more will likely follow. It is a dangerous spiral: The more wealth taken out of Nigeria, the fewer jobs available to its poorest.
Smartphone shipments into Nigeria increased 13.7% quarter on quarter (QoQ) in Q3 2020 to almost 3 million units, according to the latest figures from global technology and consulting services firm International Data Corporation (IDC).
The firm's newly published Quarterly Global Mobile Phone Tracker shows that Nigeria's smartphone market remained healthy in the third quarter as vendors shifted their model portfolios to entry-level and mid-range devices.
Transsion's Tecno, Itel, and Infinix brands dominated smartphone shipments in Q3 2020 with a combined 76.4% share. Samsung placed second with 7.0% share and Xiaomi placed third with 5.3%. Chinese brands continue to invest in the country as they attempt to penetrate the market and gain a foothold.
The average street prices of smartphones declined marginally (0.3%) as the dollar exchange rate remained high. The increase in VAT by 2.5 percentage points also had a negative impact on prices. With the relaxation of COVID-19 measures, the majority of consumers returned to the physical retail channel in Q3 2020, leading to a 21.5% QoQ increase in retail sales.
Feature phone shipments rebounded strongly in Q3 2020, with shipments increasing 21.2% QoQ to account for 56.0% of the country's overall mobile phone market. Feature phones remained resilient as they continue to be the preferred secondary phone in an environment of declining consumer purchasing power and rising unemployment. The major players in the feature phones space in Q3 2020 were Tecno with 49.7% share, Itel with 34.8%, and Nokia with 8.2%.
"In light of the economic hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, vendors continued to ship more affordable devices priced below $200 as they sought to address demand for cheaper models and penetrate consumer segments with lower purchasing power," says George Mbuthia, a research analyst at IDC. "This strategy of offering more devices in the entry-level and mid-range price bands (<$200) ensured a faster market recovery from the weak performance seen in Q2 2020, which was heavily impacted by COVID-19."
IDC expects Nigeria's overall mobile phone market to grow 3.1% QoQ in Q4 2020, with feature phone shipments increasing 1.9% and smartphone shipments growing 4.7%. "Promotions from the end of November through the festive month of December will support the market's growth in Q4 2020," says Ramazan Yavuz, a senior research manager at IDC. "COVID-19 will continue to pose a threat to the overall economy and, in particular, to mobile phone markets. However, smartphone shipments will remain resilient in 2021, with customers moving from feature phones to smartphones and data usage increasing in the medium term."
Located 65kms east of Lagos, in the immediate vicinity of upcoming Lekki Deep Sea Port, the Lagos Free Zone aims to enhance the ease of doing business in Nigeria.
Lagos Free Zone (LFZ), the first privately owned special economic zone in Nigeria with an integrated deep sea port, is home to several reputable global brands. Located 65kms east of Lagos, in the immediate vicinity of upcoming Lekki Deep Sea Port, the Lagos Free Zone aims to enhance the ease of doing business in Nigeria.
Developed by the Singapore based Tolaram Group, the LFZ, reflects their more than four decades of commitment to doing business in Nigeria, says Tejaswi Avasarala, General Manager, Strategic Marketing, Lagos Free Zone, who was speaking ahead of the 6th annual West Africa Property Investment (WAPI) Virtual Summit taking place this week (25-26 November 2020).
Regarded as the only premier regional real estate investment and development conference that provides access to more than 600 local and international decision makers, this year’s WAPI Virtual edition will provide attendees with unique content, networking opportunities and a platform to showcase projects and services to an international audience.
With currently more than 15 operational entities, the 830-hectare (ha) LFZ site will eventually host more than 100 businesses and provide more than 50,000 residents with a place to live, work and play, and will offer real estate investors and developers with appealing prospects.
“We are convinced that Nigeria bears immense growth opportunity and will continue to be a formidable growth engine amongst the emerging market economies. While there are some challenges that are typical of emerging markets, the government has taken steps in the right direction that have resulted in tangible improvement in the ease of doing business in the country over the past 5 years,” said Tejaswi.
In addition to the industrial manufacturing and port-based logistics cluster at LFZ, there are opportunities in the area of commercial developments such as multi-tiered housing, office spaces, business and leisure hotels as well as healthcare and educational projects which are extremely exciting and deliver on the LFZ’s objective of enhancing the ease of doing business in Nigeria.
This effort, as Tejaswi added, begins by providing business and developers with access to un-encroached, secured and developed land in the immediate vicinity of the deepest sea port in Nigeria, which is expected to start commercial operations by the end of 2022.
While the new deep sea port solves a lot of historical challenges of the country’s existing shallow and congested ports, investors at Lagos Free Zone would also enjoy access to reliable plug-and-play infrastructure such as access to power, gas, trunk infrastructure, ready-built facilities such as warehouses and standard design factories.
A perspective, which WAPI host Kfir Rusin shares. “The development of the Lagos Free Zone is an exciting development for the Nigerian economy and the industry as whole, as it will unlock new development opportunities for real estate investors and developers across the value chain. In what has been an extraordinary year, West Africa’s real estate leaders have demonstrated their resilience and their willingness to adapt and innovate to ensure returns in challenging conditions.
We believe that the future is bright and mega projects such as the LFZ, which is attracting world class tenants such as Kellogg (USA), Colgate (USA), Indofoods (Indonesia), Arla Foods (Denmark), BASF (Germany) and others is evidence that there are significant opportunities in the market, and we look forward to this week’s discussions.”
Despite having the largest oil reserves and resources in Africa, Nigeria only benefitted five per cent investment within the last five years.
This was disclosed in Abuja yesterday by the Managing Director, Total E&P Nigeria Limited, Mr. Mike Sangster at the ongoing virtual Nigerian Association of Petroleum Explorationists (NAPE) Conference and Exhibition with the theme: ‘Accelerating Growth in Nigeria’s Hydrocarbon Reserves: Emerging Concepts, Challenges and Opportunities.’
Delivering the keynote address at the management session of the conference, titled ‘Future of Oil and Gas Industry in Low Oil Price Environment: Survival Strategies,’ Sangster raised concerns over the country’s inability to optimise its opportunities and strengths.
Represented by the Deputy Managing Director, Deep Water District, Total E&P, Mr. Victor Bandele, he stressed the need for innovative technology deployment, collaboration by all industry players, reduction in the incidence of oil theft and the quick passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) to drive down costs and attract more investments into the sector.
According to him, a progressive and win-win PIB would, no doubt, be the catalyst needed for a new wave of hydrocarbon exploration and development investment in the country to further attract more capital investment in an ever more competitive world.
His words: “Nigeria has only benefitted from less than five per cent of all investments in oil and gas in Africa between 2015 and 2019 despite having the largest reserves. This is a fact; we are the giant of Africa, we have the resources in Africa, but the investment that has come to Nigeria in the last five years has been 5% of what has been put into Africa.
“That is to say that, the $3 billion invested in Nigerian projects, which took final investment decision between 2015 and 2019 accounts for five per cent of all oil and gas funds invested in Africa. When we say it’s $3 billion, it appears to be big, but I dare say, it’s a far cry.
“No major investment decision was taken in deep water Nigeria between 2015 and 2019, despite a number of available potentially viable projects and almost all the companies have one or two projects that are in the pipeline, that they have discovered and been working on.
So, it’s not a matter of resources being there; resources are there discovered, but we have not developed in the last five years.
“Uncompetitive fiscal terms and increasing cost are the major drivers of this decision that is not making us to go forward. Most of the licences are also getting to expire, the question is: what happens when my license expires, where will I find myself based on the fiscal terms we have on ground?”
While urging the Federal Government to provide an enabling environment for investors, he maintained that Total E&P had invested approximately $10 billion in the country from 2013 till date, and would continue to hold faith in Nigeria.
Chairman, Society of Petroleum Engineers, Olatunji Akinwunmi, decried the huge gap between exploration achievements and the enormous potentials in the oil and gas sector in the past decade.
Akinwunmi, who is the Executive General Manager, GSR Deepwater in Total E&P, further raised concerns over the several stranded but potentially cash-accretive major discoveries in the deep water, with no immediate development strategy in sight
A Nigerian company E.F. Network Ltd, has developed a mobile application that can make a device unusable by thieves, to curb theft or resale of mobile phones and other gadgets in the country.
Mr Ameh Ochojila, the company's public relations officer said this in a statement on Tuesday, in Abuja.
Ochojila, said that the application named 'ephonetaxi' will help provide solution to the growing number of stolen phones in the country and across the globe.
"The application 'ephonetaxi' helps to lock out anyone who is unauthorised to use the phone, making it unusable and unsellable," he said.
According to him, the application is designed to protect phone owners and the information stored on their phones from being compromised in the event of a phone theft.
"The application helps retrieve and send the user's stored contents to his email.
"It also locks the phone, prevents either unauthorised access to stored pictures, videos, messages, or contacts of the phone owner.
"The app alerts the phone owner of any change in SIM card, monitors, and tracks the phone location including taking pictures of criminals in possession of the phone and sending the pictures to the email address of the owner," he said.
Ochojila added: "The owner can do all these remotely in spite of the phone being lost or stolen.
"Once a phone is locked remotely by the owner, buying it will be a mere waste of money."
The technical manager of the company, Mr Kelvin Raymond said that the application could also be used to trace kidnappers as it can reveal real-time location of mobile phones.
Mr Gideon Egbuchulam, Chairman of the company said that the application was one of the application lined up by the company to meet technical and software needs of Nigerians.
Egbuchulam said that the company had opened an incubation centre in Abuja where he planned to recruit brilliant young Nigerian Information Technology (IT) professionals.
"Given enabling environment, Nigerian youths will take Nigeria to the next Silicon Valley in Africa.
"Almost all giant tech companies in the world are interested in the Nigerian market and that is the reason our company is recruiting over 1000 people by the end of 2020 to support talented youths," he said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that available data showed that in 2016 alone, over 400,000 phones were stolen in the UK, with a good number of them shipped abroad for resale.
The data also showed that many of the stolen phones were first sold to criminal gangs who tried to access them for information that could be used to hack bank accounts of their owners, before selling them to end users.
Protests in Nigeria against police brutality and specifically the Special Anti Robbery Squad, a police unit accused of human rights abuses, have mostly been by young Nigerians, aged 30 and below.
This age group, which forms close to 70 percent of the country’s population, have bore the most impact of bad governance. For instance, unemployment figures stood at 21.7 million in the second quarter of 2020. The youth account for 13.9 million of this. So, beyond the campaign to end police brutality, current protests have other underlining factors. To better understand these factors and what Nigeria can do to fully benefit from the strength of its young population, Adejuwon Soyinka asked Uche Isiugo-Abanihe, Professor of Demography and Dr. Funke Fayehun, senior lecturer and population scientist, both at the University of Ibadan, to unpack the issues.
How would you characterise the demographic profile of Nigeria?
Nigeria, with an estimated population of about 206 million, is the seventh most populous country in the world. The high growth rate of Nigeria’s population, about 2.6 percent, is a product of persistent high fertility over time and consistently declining mortality. Nigeria’s total fertility rate is 5.3 with crude birth rate of 38 per 1000 population. With the high growth and fertility rates, the population is projected to increase to 263 million in 2030 and 401 million in 2050 when Nigeria would become the third most populous country in the world. That would be a jump of about 49% in 20 years
According to population projections by the United Nations for 2020, about 43 percent of the Nigerian population comprised children 0-14 years, 19 percent age 15-24 years and about 62 percent are below age 25 years. By contrast, less than 5 percent is aged 60 years and above. This makes Nigeria a youthful population with a median age of about 18 years, which is lower than African and world estimates of 20 and 29 respectively. Children and adolescents make up a large segment of the population, a product of many couples having too many children.
What role would you say the fact that 70% per cent of Nigeria’s population is under age 30, played in the ongoing #EndSARS protests?
The protests that are being held in major cities in Nigeria are led by youths. Young Nigerians between the ages of 18 and 30 years are the major victims of extortion and police brutality in the country. They are often framed as lazy and fraudulent and are constantly harassed by the police. This, coupled with the fact that 34.9 percent of Nigerian youths are unemployed, has led to outcries about the disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). Unemployment stood at 21.7 million in the second quarter of 2020. The youth account for 13.9 million of this.
The alleged brutality of the SARS unit of the Nigeria Police Force include ill-treatment of young Nigerians, torture and extra-judicial execution and have made earning a living difficult for young entrepreneurs. The protests have, to a large extent, influenced government to dissolve SARS, replacing it with the Special Weapons and Tactics unit almost immediately.
Why do you think the ongoing protest has been largely driven by young Nigerians?
Nigeria has been unable to maintain a trajectory of improving economic development (currently about 2 percent to match its population growth of close to 3 percent). Hence, the country’s inability to provide the education needs, create more jobs for the expanding workforce, and provide basic infrastructure and services such as roads, electricity, and stable food supplies.
A possible result of remaining trapped in this state is that the government may reach a state of “demographic fatigue”. This is a condition where the state lacks the financial resources to stabilise its population growth and the capacity to manage available resources. It becomes unable to deal effectively with threats from diseases and population-induced crises such as communal clashes, banditry, insurgency and insecurity. The recent protests suggest that Nigeria may have reached this state because there is a huge backlog of youths whose capacity was not developed over the years and high rates of unemployment. These are compounded by lack of political will by the government to address the needs of the youth. This has led to discontent and frustration which are expressed through this protest.
How do you think Nigeria should handle its youthful population?
Large numbers of young people in Nigeria can represent great economic potential, known as demographic dividends. However, this can happen if families and governments can adequately invest in their health and education, and stimulate new economic opportunities for them.
The government should, as a matter of urgency, prioritise pro-poor policies. It should invest massively in education and youth empowerment, as well as health programmes for children and women that include an efficient family planning initiative. And it should implement sound economic and governance policies to create new business and economic opportunities. It goes without saying that carrying out these policies can be challenging for Nigeria’s social and government structures, making it difficult for Nigeria to take advantage of a demographic dividend in the next few decades.
In fact, simulation models constructed by Scott R. Moreland suggest that Nigeria can enter the ranks of lower middle income economies and obtain a demographic dividend only by 2050, if it adopts appropriate family planning, education and economic strategies. Meanwhile, the total population would have almost doubled to 401 million on the same total land mass of 910,770 sq. km (or 351,650 sq. miles). Only decades of purposeful, proactive and well-informed statesmanship can avert the impending catastrophe that will befall Nigeria.
Following weeks of nationwide protests against police brutality, led by young Nigerians who complain of being targeted by the police, Adejuwon Soyinka asked Oludayo Tade, a sociologist, to help us understand what it feels like being a young Nigerian living in the country today.
Why have the protests been driven by young Nigerians?
The immediate trigger of the protest has to do with the brutalisation of young Nigerians by the trigger happy and extortionist Special Anti-Robbery Squad, now disbanded. Members of the unit extorted and abused the privacy of the young people through negative profiling. Most of those killed by the police tactical team are young and have not committed any crime.
Efforts by families and friends of these victims to get justice have mostly hit brick walls. While the ‘uniformed offenders’ walk free, the victims are left to mourn their losses.
Young Nigerians have been at the receiving end of bad governance since the return of democracy in 1999. Their education is poorly funded, with poorly equipped laboratories, uninhabitable hostels and unmotivated lecturers. About 14 million young Nigerians are out of school, partly because of insecurity and education affordability. About two million young Nigerians write the university matriculation examination every year. But only about 500,000 get admitted to university. Over 90% apply to public funded institutions, most of which suffer from infrastructural decay.
In addition, young Nigerians are the worst affected by unemployment. There are 21.7 million unemployed Nigerians with the youth accounting for 13.9 million of this number.
There is increasing hopelessness and dashed hopes. Young Nigerians watch a system where the ruling class takes all.
What does it feel like being a young Nigerian living in Nigeria today?
Young Nigerians are called the iPhone or Twitter generation. President Muhammadu Buhari has described them as being lazy cohorts who are looking for free things. Apart from this presidential framing, any successful young person is falsely labelled as involved in internet fraud. This is what the disbanded police unit feasted on, pouncing on anyone on the road carrying laptops, having iPhones or driving posh cars. They do this not to prevent crime but to harass and threaten; to frame them with robbery or threaten them with death. Cases abound of such behaviour.
Thus, it seems to be an offence to dress well, look nice and have items such as a laptop.
More broadly, young Nigerians live largely on the margins of the society.
Why is this particular protest different?
It coincides with people reaching boiling point on many issues which the Nigerian state has failed to address. The economy has been on lockdown due to COVID-19. But intimidation and killing by the police hasn’t stopped during the pandemic.
This protest is coordinated online combined with people gathering physically. It is superbly organised.
A number of groups have been part of the demonstrations. There are students who have been at home due to a seven month strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities to force government to fund public universities properly. Then there are unemployed youth who have graduated from the universities but either have never had a job or have lost their job during the pandemic. Lastly, there are the victims of police brutality, their families and relations who have also mobilised.
This protest is largely organised by young Nigerians who have never experienced military rule. Is this material?
Democracy returned to Nigeria in 1999 – more than 20 years ago – but things have not improved. This generation is the internet generation. They hear of stories of Nigeria’s glorious past from their parents and in literature but are served with a bitter present. They also know what happens and what citizens of other countries enjoy. They do not need to have encountered military experience to speak up against a system that is not working or meeting their needs and aspirations.
What would you consider as important takeaways from this protest?
The first is that the way in which the protest was organised suggests there is a future for the country. The protesters showed empathy and created job opportunities. They showed the importance of taking care of people by providing food and drinks for protesters. They treated the injured and provided support for the vulnerable.
They also crowdsourced for funding and they accounted for the money without needing to set up a committee as their government would do.
And they showed that religion, party politics and ethnicity are divisive tools used by the ruling class to keep people divided while they exploit them.
Secondly, they used their protest to show their love for Nigeria. They show why people need to speak up against the tyranny of the ruling class.
Thirdly, the protest has woken up many from their slumber to act on the need to reform the Nigerian police.
Lastly, a new wave of rights-demanding citizenship is rising in Nigeria. If sustained it could reset the country and make the government responsible, responsive and accountable.
Nigerians have been protesting for years against police brutality, so why did this October's protests gain international attention and support at a scale never seen before?
Over the last two weeks, an outpouring of support for Nigerian protesters has played out on Twitter, with various hashtags, but predominantly #EndSARS.
Sars stands for the Special Anti-Robbery Squad.
Accusations of Sars officers robbing, attacking and even killing people go back years but a new wave of protest started at the beginning of October.
Nigerian technology news site Tech Cabal tracks this wave down to 3 October.
A tweet by someone with just 800 followers received more than 10,000 retweets:
The Tweeter, who calls himself Chinyelugo, told the BBC that he normally keeps a low profile on Twitter but that he personally had been harassed by the police previously so when a friend told him about what appeared to be another attack by police he felt the need to tweet it.
"If Sars see you as a young person who is successful with a nice car, they will harass you and extort money from you," he explained.
He later tweeted video of what he said was the young man shot by police.
The video appeared to be from an Instagram stories post by an account by someone who describes themselves as Azakaza Sarah - a brand ambassador.
Her posts are normally a mixture of posing in fishnet tights and promoting body scrubs.
It's possible that this video had already passed from the person who filmed it, through many different people, and WhatsApp groups before it reached Azakaza Sarah.
But now it was on Twitter.
A few people who the Nigerian press described as social media influencers, and later described themselves as "accidental leaders" took up the cause.
The BBC's Nduka Orjinmo says the real energy was injected on Wednesday 7 October, four days after the tweet about the man being shot, when Rinu Oduala, a woman who describes herself as a media strategist, persuaded other protesters to spend the night outside government house in Lagos.
In the early days of the protests BBC Nigeria correspondent Mayeni Jones observed an interesting digital protest which could explain why this protest got so much more attention than previously.
The organisers appeared to be attempting to shame brands and journalists by tagging their twitter handles in tweets and asking them why they weren't covering the protests.
Here's one directed at broadcaster DSTV.
Other tweeters piled in by cutting and pasting the text of the tweet and tweeting it on their own accounts.
It was like a "swarm of shame," our correspondent says.
It was very effective - within a day it was trending and more people were talking about it, she says.
Then protesters started bombarding celebrities.
On Friday 9 October Dípò Awójídé, who describes himself on Twitter as a senior lecturer in strategy, strategically tweeted Nigerian-British boxer Antony Joshua and Star Wars actor John Boyega asking them to tweet about it.
In his request, he equated the protests to the Black Lives Matter protests earlier in the year.
Again, streams of Twitter accounts bombarded the tweet underneath.
A little over an hour later, Boyega obliged.
The hugely popular Nigerian musicians Davido and Wizkid had also been bombarded with messages about the protests and they followed closely after Boyega in tweeting their support for the protesters.
By the end of that day the #EndSars hashtag was trending worldwide.
Over the weekend celebrities who had no tie to Nigeria, like German-Turkish Arsenal player Mesut Özil, also tweeted their support.
Özil alone has 25 million followers on Twitter.
The discussion on Twitter reached a peak of 661,340 tweets on Sunday 11 October.
By the middle of the next week, the CEO of Twitter himself, Jack Dorsey, tweeted, asking for donations to the protesters.
Two days later, he tweeted a new Twitter emoji, showing a raised fist in the colours of the Nigerian flag, designed especially for the protests.
As of Friday 16 October, there were nearly 3.3 million tweets with 744,000 retweets of posts containing the #EndSARS hashtag.