Super User

Super User

Most Christians do not bother with the words of Jesus. If they did, they would not be Christians. Churches carefully avoid Jesus’ words. They are not words on which a large congregational empire can be built. When the people heard the words of Jesus, they left in droves. When Peter understood the message of Jesus, he prevailed on Jesus to change it. Jesus’ words provide the small gate and narrow road that leads to life that only a few will find. (Matthew 7:14).

Deceitful money

So let us look at one of those weighty words of Jesus that Christians prefer to ignore. Jesus refers to money tautologically as “unrighteous mammon.” (Luke 16:9). This means money is fundamentally ungodly. There is no “righteous mammon.” According to Jesus, riches are deceitful. (Matthew 13:22). They promise what they cannot deliver. They promise prosperity but impoverish the soul. (Matthew 16:26). They promise peace but bring anxiety. (Ecclesiastes 5:12).

Money is man-made: it is not of God.  Indeed, it is an idol, the very antithesis of God. Money rules over men, ensuring that it competes with God for human allegiance. Therefore, our faith in Christ compels a choice.  Jesus insists: “No one can serve two masters. For either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (Matthew 6:24).

Jesus never has any commendation for the rich or for earthly riches. Instead, He warns: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21). 

Jesus’ position is that man’s heart is of limited capacity. If our heart is set on worldly riches, we cannot at the same time have God; “the Desire of All Nations” (Haggai 2:7), as our heart’s treasure.

Money is not a currency of the kingdom of God. The currency of the kingdom is righteousness. Jesus insists that money does not even belong to the believer, who is redeemed without money. (Isaiah 52:3). If it belongs to us, we will take it with us when we die. We don’t because it belongs to someone else.   

Therefore, Jesus asks: “If you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in what is another man’s, who will give you what is your own?” (Luke 16:11-12).

False riches

Money constitutes false riches. The riches of this world belong to the wicked. The psalmist declares: “Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches.” (Psalm 73:12). The wicked prefer the temporal to the eternal. Therefore, God is content to make this vainglorious world their inheritance. Thus, David talks of “men of the world who have their portion in this life.” (Psalm 17:14). 

What then belongs to the believer? “The LORD is (our) portion.” (Lamentations 3:24). When a man sought Jesus’ help to secure his inheritance, He replied: “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” (Luke 12:15). 

But how could the man have been guilty of covetousness when all he wanted was his portion of his inheritance? The man failed to understand that Jesus’ doctrine makes us heirs of God and not of men. He was guilty of insisting on what belongs to another man, while neglecting what is rightfully his portion in God.

God is interested in who we are and not what we have. He says: “I AM WHO I AM.” (Exodus 3:14). He does not say “I am what I have.” This life is not about ownership; it is about stewardship. Worldly possessions are the believer’s stewardship. We are managers of our finances, without the burden of ownership. 

In the Day of Judgment, God will require us to account for how we spent all the money that came into our hands. Did we use it to secure our temporal “future” here on earth, or to safeguard our eternal future in heaven? Jesus says sardonically: “Make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home.” (Luke 16:9).

It is not surprising then that God’s judgment is often proclaimed on those who handle money. (Zephaniah 1:11). Rich men who are not prepared to give away their wealth to the poor cannot enter the kingdom of heaven and become heirs of God. Instead of amassing earthly riches, Jesus counsels that we should endeavour to be rich towards God. (Luke 12:16-21).

Blessing of God 

Men bless with money. But Jesus says: “Not as the world gives do I give to you.” (John 14:27). Therefore, money cannot be a blessing of God. God blesses with His Holy Spirit. (Luke 11:13). 

What money buys is not of God, and that which is of God cannot be bought with money. (Acts 8:20). The blessing of the LORD makes rich, and He adds no sorrow with it.” (Proverbs 10:22). But money adds sorrow for the simple reason that it fails.   

Money failed in Egypt and in Canaan. (Genesis 47:15). Check the current exchange-rate: money has failed in Nigeria. Sooner than later, money grows wings and flies away like an eagle towards heaven. (Proverbs 23:5). 

Can we give money to God? Jesus says no. Unrighteous money belongs to Caesar; his image and inscription are on it. “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Matthew 22:21). 

What exactly belongs to God? God’s image is on man, so man belongs to God. We should give and dedicate ourselves to the Lord; while money should be given and dedicated to “Caesar.” 

Solomon says money answers everything. (Ecclesiastes 10:19). That may be true technically; but money is not the answer to most things. Solomon himself discovered that all that money gave him was vanity upon vanity.  He says: “He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver; nor he who loves abundance, with increase.” (Ecclesiastes 5:10).

 Wisdom of God

This is what I have learnt at the feet of the Lord. Money is not valuable; we are always giving it away in one transaction or the other. The most valuable things in this world are free. The most important jobs in Christ are the ones for which we receive no wages whatsoever. The poor are far more generous than the rich. (Mark 12:41-44). 

Martins Hile urgently needed to get somewhere, so he asked the Lord for money for transportation. But the Lord said to him: “Stop asking me for money.” The Lord told Martins to go and stand by the side of the road. 

As soon as he did so, a car pulled up in front of him. “Martins, where are you going?” asked the driver, who happened to be someone well-known to him. He then took Martins exactly where he was going.

The Lord said to Martins: “You don’t need any money. All you need is Me!”  

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There comes a time in most entrepreneurs' lives when they realize a simple truth: Money is valuable, but time is more valuable. And while none of us lives forever, there are some things we can do to live a bit longer. 

In fact, a massive new study suggests that eight fairly simple health habits can add 20 years to people's predicted lifespan – an extra 21 years of predicted life expectancy for women who follow them, or an extra 24 years for men. 

As presenting author Xuan-Mai T. Nguyen, a health science specialist at the US Department of Veterans Affairs who is also a rising fourth-year medical student at Carle Illinois College of Medicine, explained:

We were really surprised by just how much could be gained with the adoption of one, two, three, or all eight lifestyle factors. Our research findings suggest that adopting a healthy lifestyle is important for both public health and personal wellness.

The earlier the better, but even if you only make a small change in your 40s, 50s, or 60s, it still is beneficial.

The data was compiled from medical questionnaires and records collected between 2011 and 2019 from 719,147 people associated with a large Veterans Affairs study, and the findings were set to be presented last month at the annual meeting of the American Society for Nutrition in Boston.

I'm going to outline all eight of these habits below. For what it's worth, I found it useful to remember an old saying as I read them: "The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now."

Here are the habits, ranked in increasing order of how much time they can add to your life (as percentages), according to the study:

1. Having positive social relationships

The longest-running longitudinal study in history found that good relationships were the most important factor in a long and happy life. Likewise, this study suggests having good relationships led to a 5 percent predicted effect on longevity.

2. Managing or avoiding stress

Some stress is unavoidable, but this habit was associated with 20 percent additional longevity. While not part of the study, here's a compendium I put together a year ago including five simple ways to calm anxiety, including listening to a specially designed song, and controlling your breathing in a specific way.

3. Avoiding binge drinking

The emphasis here seems to be avoiding "binge" drinking, not never drinking alcohol at all, and it also was associated with 20 percent additional longevity. 

In fact, some studies have suggested that light to moderate drinking (one to two drinks per day) can have a positive effect on longevity. "I have no explanation for it," said one study lead, "but I do firmly believe that modest drinking improves longevity."

4. Having a sensible diet

Again: a 20 percent effect on predicted longevity. This factor probably doesn't surprise many people, as it's the one bit of advice we've received since we were kids (although the agreed upon composition of a smart diet has certainly changed). One bit of advice? Eat more vegetables.

5. Having good sleep hygiene

Here's another habit that probably isn't a big surprise. It has the added bonus of being enjoyable. I've written a lot here over the years on improving sleep hygiene. 

My two favorite studies are probably this one, laying out exactly how much sleep most people need, and this one, suggesting the benefits of a specific sleep position. Overall, sleep hygiene was associated with 20 percent expected longevity.

6. Having sufficient physical activity

Again, there are so many other studies, and I doubt you'll be shocked by this one. 

But as an example, researchers at Brigham Young University reported a few years back that they've found that a certain type of physical exercise can slow the aging process within our cells – to the point of someone appearing biologically nine years younger. 

In the current VA study, lack of physical activity was associated with a 30 to 45 percent higher risk of death.

7. Not using opioids

To be clear on this one, the habit is not having an opioid use disorder, as opposed to never using prescription opioids. Still, the effect on predicted longevity was estimated in the same 30 to 45 percent category.

8. Never smoking

Pure nonsmokers had the same 30 to 45 percent expected longevity effect. Again, it's not surprising; I've previously reported on studies that suggested smoking correlates to a seven year shorter life expectancy.

We should make clear that our old friend, causation versus correlation, is at play here, in that we can't say for sure whether any of these specific habits actually causes longer life; only that longer life is observed at scale among people who practice them. 

It's an important difference that can seem subtle, and I hope it won't dissuade anyone (myself included) from placing greater emphasis on these habits. Because if you dedicate your life to building things – a business, an industry, even a legacy – it only stands that you'd want to live long enough to enjoy what you've created. 

"Lifestyle medicine is aimed at treating the underlying causes of chronic diseases rather than their symptoms," Nguyen said in a statement accompanying the report, adding: "It is never too late to adopt a healthy lifestyle." 



Nigeria’s economy grew at a slower-than-expected pace after the oil sector contracted for a 13th straight quarter, adding to the list of issues President Bola Tinubu needs to address.

Gross domestic product in the continent’s biggest oil producer expanded 2.5% in the three months through June from a year earlier, compared with 2.3% in the prior quarter, the statistics agency said Friday. That undershot a median estimate for growth of 2.8% in a Bloomberg survey of five economists.

The yield on the nation’s dollar bonds due 2032 stayed seven basis points higher on the day at 11.07%.

The 3.58% growth in the non-oil sector in the second quarter from a year earlier was offset by a contraction in the oil sector. The industry contracted 13% as production decreased to 1.2 million barrels per day. That compared with 1.5 million barrels per day from a year earlier.

Nigeria has been trying to ramp up production to reach its full OPEC+ quota but has been beset by ongoing supply disruptions, theft and pipeline vandalism.

Growth is also likely to be crimped in the next quarter by Tinubu’s decision to remove fuel subsidies on May 29 and ease exchange controls a few days later, which has led to the naira losing 40% of its value against the dollar and sent prices soaring. Annual inflation quickened to a fresh 18-year highof 24.1% in July.

Last week Tinubu partially walked back those reforms when he suspendedincreases in gasoline prices.



Despite being the largest economy in Africa with an over 200 million human population and potentials to make fortunes, multinational companies are exiting Nigeria because of the high cost of doing business and lack of basic infrastructure, especially electricity.

Experts, who noted that even though the ugly development predated the President Bola Tinubu government, said it was always good to bring the issue to the front burner, especially now that a new government was being formed for the new leaders to act fast and salvage the situation.

Our correspondent reports that over time the multinational companies have been forced to exit the country as a result of surging inflationary pressure, foreign exchange (forex) volatility, rising interest rates, electricity crisis, among other challenges, which have impacted operating expenses and profitability of businesses.

Procter & Gamble, Surest Foam Limited, Mufex, Framan Industries, Moak Industries, Deli Foods, Stone Industries, MZM Continental and Nipol Industries are among companies that have shut down fully or partially in recent years.

That notwithstanding, other experts have a different perspective as to why foreign companies are leaving Nigeria.

They said sometimes, the decision is based purely on internal company exigencies or market-wide or sectoral global trends in labour or technology.

They said the companies’ exit might be driven by sudden changes like the pandemic or economic downturns, adding that it is possible that as some companies are leaving or closing locally, other companies may be coming in or opening.

They said for example, the fintech sector and the digital economy more broadly have been expanding in the country, saying this could be a substitution situation, whereby the decline of one sector is offset by the growth of another.

However, since the coming of the Tinubu administration, both the president and some of his aides have been speaking on efforts being put in place towards revamping the economy, encouraging Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and also making local industries vibrant and competitive.

For instance, about a month ago, Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, Evelyn Ngige, said the launch of Nigeria’s first trade and investment policies would boost the local economy and facilitate increased foreign and domestic trade.

She stated this at the opening of a stakeholders’ workshop on the maiden Nigeria Investment Policy (NINP) and Trade Policy (NTP) in Abuja.

Recall that on May 10, 2023, at the twilight of the former President Muhammadu Buhari administration, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved the implementation of the first Nigeria Investment Policy (2023-2027) and the review of the Trade Policy of Nigeria (2023-2027).

Ngige said both frameworks represented significant milestones in the journey for economic growth and development.

She stressed that the ministry remained committed to improving the domestic investment and business environment in order to position the country as one of the world’s preferred investment destinations.

She pointed out that the development of the first investment policy, as well as the review of the country’s trade policy, was a useful outcome of the sustained efforts of the ministry.

The NINP focuses on three pillars: investment promotion, investment facilitation and sustainable development, with the objective to develop the investment policy framework, especially fast-tracking the process of Nigeria’s economic diversification, improving investment and business climate to attract both domestic and FDI.

And in July this year, the Special Adviser (SA) to the president on revenue, Zacch Adedeji, said the government would streamline its taxes from 52 to 10 in order to promote efficiency and accountability.

He stated this during the virtual TOPAZ 88 second lecture series, which had the title: “Revenue Challenges and Opportunities in Nigeria Today”.

It would also be recalled that the President of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Francis Meshioye, recently said that more multinationals would exit Nigeria if electricity hike was implemented.

Meshioye, who stated that some international manufacturing firms had already exited Nigeria as a result of the electricity crisis, coupled with the unpredictability of the country’s forex before it was recently unified, added that over N144bn was spent on alternative sources of energy by manufacturers in 2022.

He said, “Now, if you spend N144bn on alternative energy sources in one year, you can only imagine the impact which that will have on your cost of operations. The manufacturing business in Nigeria is affected by so many factors, energy is a major one.

“Manufacturers provide almost every infrastructure by themselves. Outside the major roads, you find out that manufacturers provide water, power, security, etc. So, when you look at it, you find out that the cost of doing business is so huge, that a businessman will ask, ‘Is this the only place I can do my business? Can’t I move my capital elsewhere?’”

GSK could spark another exodus

The recent announcement by British multinational pharmaceutical and biotechnology company, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), to discontinue operations in Nigeria after 51 years has raised fear among experts that it may spark another exodus of multinational companies in the country.

Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA) and other expert bodies say the exit of multinational companies is as a result of unfavourable government policies.

They noted that GSK’s exit dealt a major blow to the country’s manufacturing sector which was already experiencing significant collapse.

President of NACCIMA, Dele Kelvin Oye, noted that, “While the current administration has commendably set Nigeria on a long-term path to economic progression, it has been noted that some of the immediate positive economic policies of Tinubu have had an adverse effect on certain sectors of the country. In particular, the sudden rise in the price of petrol and abolition of the official naira rate have caused a significant backlash, eroding the already earned income and trading capital of several multinational companies that had established their previous earnings based on the official naira rate at the time.

“As a result, there has been a steady exodus of multinational companies and the collapse of several local companies, resulting in significant job losses and economic damage.”

He, therefore, called on the government to urgently review the short-term impact of its economic policies as they related to commitments already concluded for remittances/raw materials by the affected companies/businesses to reverse the trend of companies leaving Nigeria.

He also called on the government to focus on creating a conducive environment for businesses to thrive and provide access to single-digit short and long-term financing to reduce the cost of doing business while prioritising investments in infrastructure and power supply, provide tax incentives to encourage businesses to invest in Nigeria and improve the ease of doing business by reducing bureaucratic bottlenecks.

He added that, “Furthermore, NACCIMA urges the government to work collaboratively with the private sector to develop policies that will stimulate economic growth and create job opportunities in the country. We firmly believe that with the right policies in place, Nigeria’s economy can be revitalised and the country can become a hub for business and investment in Africa.”

He also called on the government to take urgent action to reverse the trend of companies leaving Nigeria and restore confidence in all sectors of the economy.

On its part, LCCI, through a statement by its Director General (DG), Chinyere Almona, opined that despite presenting international businesses with the largest market in the continent, Nigeria still suffered from worrying economic slowdown decisions which were often provoked by the rising cost of doing business, epileptic power supply, weak infrastructural backing, among others.

Almona said, “With justification, the chamber is concerned that if the trend persists, the nation’s economic growth potential will not be realised. GlaxoSmithKline’s decision critically reflects on the nation’s poor ranking on the ease of business measures, which the chamber has constantly spoken about. It is time the government takes appropriate actions to reverse the saddening trends in the business clime in Africa’s largest market.

“Factor cost, as an integral element of the profit equation, is viewed with utmost seriousness by business people. In the face of rising costs, business people will likely search for cost-friendlier locations. The chamber is inclined to suggest the government take a holistic view/review of the business environment and take steps to make the nation’s business clime more competitive for growth.”

Speaking in Lagos, the DG of NECA, Adewale-Smatt Oyerinde, stated that, “The recent trend of business relocation and divestment is unfortunate. Over the last decade, the private sector has been adversely affected by various policy thrusts of government. Many of these policies were either anti-growth, ill-timed or not-well thought out, while others were not in alignment with the country’s economic realities. In more complex cases, we witnessed an era of policy clashes and contradictions and regulatory and legislative strangulation of businesses which left many companies without a clear path for planning and decision making. Operational costs have increased astronomically, heaping more woes on many companies.”

Speaking further, the DG averred that, “The consequences of the years of wrong policy choices are not far-fetched. As expected, divestment, capital flight and outright closures have become the ‘new normal’ within the business community. This is one of the chief reasons why the rate of unemployment continues to soar perpetually with consequential rise in crime and other security issues. When businesses cease operations, divest or move to other profitable and hospitable environments, a large number of Nigerians become unemployed. Inadvertently, the country loses income from taxes, social investment is hindered and poverty holds sway.”

While urging a more definitive and urgent intervention, Oyerinde stated that, “It is germane to state that the government must take urgent steps to arrest this predicament. While we acknowledge and commend the current administration’s effort to address the concerns of the private sector and the steps it took to provide some respite to businesses in specific sectors of the economy, more needs to be done. Beyond the tax reforms activity and the provision of palliatives to select corporate entities, government should, by deepening engagement with the organised private sector, provide the right intervention and incentive not only to attract more Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), but to also prevent more companies from shutting down, divesting or leaving the country.”

NECA, LCCI and NACCIMA urged the government to work collaboratively with the private sector with the view to developing and implementing action plans that are capable of promoting enterprise sustainability and competitiveness.

Apart from foreign companies, many indigenous companies are also folding up because of the harsh operating climate.

This is also leading to massive job losses in a country where the unemployment rate is above 35 per cent.

A former Chairman of the Textile Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (TMAN), Walid Jibrin, said recently that only 20 out of the 175 textile companies in the country were working as others had been forced to shut down.

The poultry industry has also seen decline in recent months as poultry farms are shutting down over the soaring price of maize as noted by the National President of the Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN), Sunday Ezeobiora.

A request to the SA to the President on Media and Publicity, Ajuri Ngelale, on other measures being taken by the government to address the collapse of businesses was not replied to at the time of filing this report.


Daily Trust

Saturday, 26 August 2023 04:55

Unclaimed dividend rises to N190bn - SEC

Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced that the unclaimed dividend figure has risen to N190 billion from N170 billion recorded as at December 2020.

At a Virtual post Capital Market Committee (CMC) Meeting held yesterday, Director General of the SEC, Lamido Yuguda, linked the rising figure to irregularities in identity management and multiple subscriptions from investors.

However, Yuguda stated that while the committee constituted by the SEC on identity management is working tirelessly to harmonise various databases of investors and facilitate data accuracy in the market, investors on their part have failed to claim their dividend.

According to him, the committee is expected to address the challenges of identity management and help tackle some of the issues of unclaimed dividends, direct cash settlement and multiple subscription.

Yuguda said: “The major issue causing rising unclaimed dividend is the owners not having access to them.”

As much as efforts are made by the regulators to ensure the figure is reduced, we keep putting efforts towards making sure that investors come forward to claim their dividend and update their account.

“This would help reduce the figure and ensure that future dividend and benefits get transmitted into the account quickly on a quarterly basis and every investor in the capital market is rightly accounted for to make our database more robust and help us in planning.”

He restated commitment towards ensuring that the commission strengthens its infrastructure base, noting that technology plays a major role in enabling the nation’s capital market attain its full potentials.

To this effect, he said SEC had concluded arrangement to roll out a technology infrastructure that would help strengthen its regulatory function in the capital market by the beginning of 2024.

He re-mphasised the need for government to prioritise the market as the most reliable medium to finance critical infrastructure, which already, is severally identified as the most challenging factor in doing business in the country.

Yuguda stated that the capital market provides variety of financing instruments that would help to facilitate their respective infrastructure projects.

“We need to harness the capital market to fund critical infrastructure that will stand the test of time and prepare Nigeria for the kind of population being forecasted for the country. We are likely to have a surge in our population in the next 30 years.

“We need to make necessary investment in infrastructure so that Nigeria will be prepared to confront this demography so that the youth will also capitalise on this to remain in the country and the capital market is well positioned to play a role in this developmental match,” he said.

In a related development, Yuguda, while briefing journalists at the 2nd 2023 Capital Market Committee (CMC) meeting in Abuja, noted that 90 percent of the N190Bn unclaimed dividend is deposited with the payee companies while the remaining 10 percent could be traced to the registrars.

He noted that despite the challenges, the Commission recorded a remarkable 5.23 percent surge in market recapitalisation at the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NGX) soon as President Bola Tinubu was sworn-in as Nigeria’s President in May, 2023, which was driven by optimistic anticipation of market reforms.

Yuguda, who doubles as the Chairman of the CMC meeting said, “We acknowledge the prevailing challenges arising from demanding macroeconomic conditions, constrained consumer spending and rising operational costs. Despite these challenges, there remains a shared sense of optimism that ongoing rigorous reforms will rejuvenate the nation’s economy.”

He emphasised the need for a resolute support of the Capital Market for the Federal government by navigating these challenges for the country’s brighter future.


The Guardian

Niger’s military leadership expelled the French ambassador just as talks to restore democracy between the West African nation and its regional partners were making progress.

The junta said earlier it was also expelling the ambassadors from the US, Germany and Nigeria, before a spokesperson retracted those orders. No such request has been made to the US government, the State Department said in a statement late Friday, adding that Niger’s foreign ministry has told the US it didn’t issue the images of the letters calling for the departure of American diplomatic personnel.

France’s ambassador Sylvain Itte was asked to leave the country in 48 hours after failing to honor summons to respond to questions about actions contrary to Niger’s interests, the foreign ministry said in a statement. France rejected the order, saying its ambassador would stay in the country as the junta doesn’t have the authority to make the demand, Agence France-Presse reported.

France’s ambassador was accredited by the foreign ministry under ousted President Mohamed Bazoum, Niger’s Foreign Minister Hassoumi Massoudou said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, on Friday.

France has previously said it supports all actions by the Economic Community of West African States to restore democracy in Niger. Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu has taken the lead, preparing for a regional military intervention.

The embassies of Germany and Nigeria didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment outside of regular business hours.

The latest development comes as the junta – facing regional and international pressure, has refused to relinquish power and release Bazoum.

Ecowas on Friday reiterated its readiness to use military action to overturn the July 26 coup if dialogue fails.

All options are on the table, including the use of force, Omar Alieu Touray, the president of the Ecowas Commission, told reporters in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.

Tensions have been mounting in recent weeks after Niger’s self-declared military leader Abdourahamane Tiani announced a three-year transition to democracy and paved the way for neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso to intervene militarily if the country is attacked.



Forty-nine women kidnapped by Boko Haram earlier in the week near Maiduguri, in Nigeria's northeastern Borno state, regained their freedom early on Friday after a state official paid a ransom for their release, two of the victims and a local leader said.

The women were abducted on their farms on Tuesday morning in Shuwaei Kawuri village on the outskirts of Maiduguri, two victims who did not want to be identified told Reuters.

"We were all released at midnight after Boko Haram said our families secured our release after meeting their demands," one of the victims said.

While the Islamists had demanded a N3 million ($3,891.86) ransom, the women, who are mostly poor peasant farmers, were released after a state official paid 1 million naira to the assailants following negotiations to secure their freedom, the local traditional leader said. He didn't want to be named because he wasn't authorized to speak to Reuters.

Borno commissioner for youth and police spokesman Sani Kamilu Shatambaya didn't immediately respond to calls for comment.

In late July, Islamists beheaded at least 10 farmers in Borno, a hotbed for insurgency and the epicentre of a 14-year war-on-terror in Nigeria that has spilled into neighbouring Chad, Niger and Cameroon.

The militants have been killing and abducting farmers in the mostly agrarian region, residents said, disrupting farming villages, which could lead to rise in food prices for a country already reeling with double-digit inflation.

($1 = 770.8400 naira)




Ukraine says it hit Russian military base in annexed Crimea

Ukraine's GUR military intelligence agency said on Friday a Ukrainian drone attack had hit a Russian military base deep inside annexed Crimea, while residents reported casualties, explosions and a road closure.

Early on Friday, Russia reported one of the biggest coordinated Ukrainian air raids yet over Russian-controlled territory but said air defence systems had downed all 42 drones attacking Crimea before they could hit their targets.

Ukrainian intelligence officials said the attack struck Russia's 126th Coastal Defence Brigade based in Perevalnoye, a town more than 200 km (120 miles) from Ukraine-controlled territory.

"We confirm that there was a hit," said GUR spokesman Andriy Yusov, according to Ukrainian media outlet Liga.Net.

Moscow annexed Ukraine's Crimea in 2014, declaring it Russian territory. The United States says it supports Ukrainian attacks on Russian military targets on the Black Sea peninsula of because it should be demilitarised.

"People - not only on the Ukrainian mainland but also in Crimea - need to remember and believe that our victory and their liberation are not far away," Ukraine's military intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov said of Friday's strike.

Perevalnoye residents, posting on the Telegram messaging app, reported hearing blasts from the military base and cited casualties.

Reuters could not independently verify the reports.

"Two people died on a firing range, one was taken to a hospital in a severe condition. This is information from above, from the firing range," said a user nicknamed Abdul Has, whose profile picture shows a man in camouflaged uniform.

Another user, Vlad the Local, said roughly one person was dead.

"Why was a gate to the military town closed?" user Julia Julia asked.

Another resident with the call sign Lis asked others not to disclose information.

"Residents of Perevalnoye, I strongly recommend - don't write here what happened and how," Lis wrote. "We help them to direct fire in the future with that."

** Russia downs drone near Moscow, suspends flights

Russia reported a new drone attack on Moscow in the early hours of Saturday, which again forced the authorities to temporarily shut down all three major airports serving the capital.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said that a drone was brought down by air defence systems over the Istra district of the Moscow region. The district is some 50 km (31 miles) west of the Kremlin.

Three major Moscow airports, Sheremetyevo, Domodedovo and Vnukovo, suspended flights for couple of hours on Friday, TASS news agency reported.

Aerial attacks on Moscow and other Russian-held territory have intensified in recent weeks, including 42 drones intercepted over the Russia-held Crimean Peninsula on Friday - one of the biggest reported air assaults since the war began.

Although the attacks have not caused extensive damage, their intensity has forced the Russian authorities to temporarily shut down airports serving the capital several times this week.

Russia has blamed Ukraine for the Friday attack and all the previous assaults that intensified after two drones were destroyed over the Kremlin in early May.

Ukraine did not immediately comment and almost never publicly claims responsibility for attacks inside Russia or on Russian-controlled territory in Ukraine.

The Ukrainian military has said previously, however, that destroying Russia's military infrastructure helps a counteroffensive that Ukraine began in June.



‘Total lie’ Russia killed Prigozhin – Kremlin

President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Friday dismissed what he called unfounded speculation by some media in the West that Moscow may have been behind the crash of Wagner head Evgeny Prigozhin’s plane.

“There is a lot of speculation about that plane crash and the tragic deaths of the passengers, among whom was Evgeny Prigozhin,” Peskov told reporters at the daily press briefing. “In the West, all that speculation is being presented from a certain angle. It’s all a total lie.”

Peskov asked the media to rely on facts, “which as of this moment are few, as they have to be uncovered by the ongoing investigation.” He also reminded reporters that President Putin had promised a thorough investigation, including the DNA testing of the remains.

“There are no official results as of yet. The moment they are ready to be made public, they will be,” Peskov said.

The Embraer 135BJ Legacy 600 private jet was en route from Moscow to St. Petersburg on Wednesday when it crashed in Tver Region. There were ten people on board, seven passengers and three crew members. None survived. Authorities are still working to identify the bodies.

Prigozhin’s name was on the passenger manifest, along with Dmitry ‘Wagner’ Utkin, whose call sign gave the private military company its moniker. Officially, however, the Wagner Group PMC does not exist

Putin commented on Prigozhin’s reported death on Thursday, calling him a man of “complicated destiny” whom he had known since the early 1990s. The Russian president touched on Prigozhin’s business deals in both Russia and Africa and thanked him and Wagner for what they had done in the Ukraine conflict. 

He did not touch on the failed Wagner mutiny at the end of June, after which much of the outfit was disbanded, with the remainder moving to Belarus, along with Prigozhin. 

** Drone destroyed en route to Moscow – mayor

An enemy drone has been destroyed as it was flying towards Moscow, Mayor Sergey Sobyanin said in the early hours of Saturday. He added that there was no damage on the ground and that no one was hurt. The Russian capital has been repeatedly targeted by Ukrainian attack drones in recent weeks.

The UAV was shot down in Istra Region west of the city, the mayor said, adding that emergency services were responding to the incident.

The Russian Defense Ministry later released a statement, saying that a Ukrainian drone was on mission to “conduct a terrorist attack” in the capital and the greater Moscow area.

Ukraine stepped up drone and missile attacks deep into Russian territory as its much-anticipated ground offensive, launched in early June, has failed to yield significant results.

Many of the drone raids targeted Moscow, including its high-end financial district, where several UAVs had crashed into office buildings, without causing any casualties. 

According to the MOD, a Ukrainian S-200 missile was intercepted in Kaluga Region, southwest of Moscow, on Friday. Kiev has remodeled some of its Soviet-era S-200 missiles, originally designed to strike airborne targets, into projectiles capable of striking targets on the ground, the Russian military said.

Also on Friday, Ukraine sent more than 40 drones to attack Crimea, all of which were either destroyed mid-air or veered off course due to signal-jamming, the Russian MOD said.







Lauren Mechlina

In her thrilling new book, Yepoka Yeebo tells the jaw-dropping story of a man behind a scam called ‘one of the most fascinating – and lucrative – in modern history’

The ever-proliferating grifter-lit bookshelf is on the verge of collapsing under its own weight. But Yepoka Yeebo’s contribution to the category stands out. Her meticulously researched Anansi’s Gold isn’t set in Silicon Valley or a swishy enclave such as Nantucket or Noto. Anansi’s Gold offers a tangled and mesmerizing history of Ghanaian-born John Ackah Blay-Miezah, architect of an Accra-based scam that American prosecutors called “one of the most fascinating – and lucrative – in modern history”.

The result of what the author calls a “six-year-long treasure hunt”, Anansi’s Gold involved countless hours at the library, trawls through hotel and military archives, and off-the-cuff conversations with Lyft drivers. Yeebo first heard about the story of Blay-Miezah when her mother sent her a video on WhatsApp showing a charismatic man who claimed to be the guardian of billions of dollars. “I was like, well, obviously not – that’s ridiculous,” Yeebo, 38, said by video call from her plant-filled apartment in London. “But every time I told a friend they were like, well, I’ve heard crazier stories. And I got obsessed with it.”

Her book is a tale of a man who had a Ripley-like talent for identifying and parroting the habits of the privileged class – be they people he met while working at a private club in Philadelphia or while in prison, serving time for petty fraud.

For nearly two decades, Blay-Miezah managed to convince thousands of investors all over the world that he had access to the gold, diamonds and cash that the Ghanian government had hidden from British colonists. He’d struck up a friendship with Ghana’s ousted president Kwame Nkrumah, you see. And Blay-Miezah was with him at his deathbed and granted oversight of a trust fund, worth $27bn. Anyone who believed in this fiction and wished to invest would see their investment grow tenfold. Blay-Miezah was a trickster whose self-delusion, shamelessness and unflagging popularity call to mind the ways of Donald Trump.

There are shades of Anna Delvey, too, to the story, given Blay-Miezah’s affinity for world-class luxury hotels, where he racked up bills that he had no intention of settling himself. But his scheme was larger in scope and far longer-running than Delvey’s experiment in being Manhattan’s worst houseguest. “When you’re staying somewhere really fancy, people make assumptions about you,” Yeebo said of her subject’s affinity for five-star hotels. “But he also just had ridiculously good and specific taste. It was developed by watching people who were born wealthier.”

It wasn’t until 1989, when the American news program 60 Minutes ran a humiliating interview with the cigar-chomping, jewelry-laden man, that his believers grew uneasy.

Diplomats, Nixon associates and businessmen – as well as humble mom-and-pop investors – had bought into Blay-Miezah’s claims. He said that he had been in Bucharest, at the deathbed of Nkrumah, who entrusted him with the hidden riches of Ghana, which declared independence in 1957. (At the time of Nkrumah’s death, Blay-Miezah was actually thousands of miles away, serving time in a prison outside Philadelphia.)

But details can be such a nuisance! He had an uncanny ability to befriend people in high places, forge documents and play the press. He set up satellite offices in Philadelphia and London, and used his combination of chutzpah, cunning and self-importance to keep the grift afloat. He didn’t just appeal to marks’ greed; his program was benevolent. Once the money was freed, he was going to funnel funds back into Ghana, for much-needed improvement projects. His lucre spelled out a direct route to dignity and liberation, and people were all too primed to buy into the con. “Even when he didn’t give them money, he gave them a tension or excitement,” Yeebo said. “He gave them a reason to keep taking risks.”

There were a few skeptics – notably, as it happens, Shirley Temple Black. The former child star was serving as a US ambassador in Accra and had her doubts about the so-called Oman Ghana Trust Fund. As she put in a cable to the secretary of state, Henry Kissinger: “Those who believe Blay-Miezah a fraud are worried he might just have the money and then they would look extremely foolish.” Victims’ reluctance to identify as suckers only helped shield Blay-Miezah and breathe life into his scam. People wanted to believe.

“He was magnetic and charming and handsome,” Yeebo said. “He also seemed to charm even the people who would come to hate him.”

Her blow-by-blow narrative comes to assume a cyclical quality. It happened again and again: skepticism led to criticism led to accusation led to defensive tactics that discredited any doubters and led to Blay-Miezah’s purchase on a higher social or political rung. A master of dog-ate-my-homeworking and squeezing lemonade out of lemons, he convinced a great many that he was the one man who held the key to restoring Ghana’s wealth. He was audacious and brave, inviting chief investors to congregate at international retreats where he would dole out the money they’d long waited for – only for a death of a business associate, or a sudden illness, or a new bureaucratic hurdle to present itself and render the gathering moot. Everybody was a little complicit. Yeebo cites a study from the 1950s, in which scholars looked at members of a cult whose leader had promised that the end of the world was nigh. When the apocalypse failed to materialize, “their belief became stronger”.

Yeebo’s book is also an evocative portal to a world that mixed mid-century glamor with futurism. “I actually have a giant folder of photos from the 50s all the way to the 90s,” Yeebo said. “I was really hungry for these images, because I hadn’t seen enough of them anywhere. It was almost like I could step into my grandparents’ photo album.”

She began digging around the story in 2016, after her mother sent her the WhatsApp video of Blay-Miezah’s notorious 60 Minutes appearance. His screen presence was startling and his gravity-defying narrative felt of a piece with the spirit of Ghana, where Yeebo’s parents were born and where political unrest and economic instability often gave rise to creativity. “You could have the most secure government job and, for some reason, you still wouldn’t get your salary for like six months,” she said.

Raised in London, Yeebo was living part-time in Ghana, filing freelance stories to British and American magazines, when she embarked on the project. Researching her book, she came to see the overlap between truth and fabrication. “I’d be randomly talking to someone in London or Philly or Accra. They tell me something just that couldn’t have been true at all. And then I’d go look it up and it was actually true,” she said. “You start to think about the stories people tell a lot more carefully.”

Decades after Blay-Miezah’s death, the con is still thriving, and other people are out there collecting investments for the supposed fund. If they’re any good, they probably don’t think what they’re doing is beyond the pale. “You can’t just be a liar,” Yeebo said. “You actually have to believe in it a little bit yourself.”


The Guardian, UK

According to Columbia University, in 2020, 1 in 10 Americans reported feeling depressed. So, since it's Mental Health Awareness Month, I thought it would be important to share the answers from this Reddit thread where Reddit user u/Folded_Towel_ asked: "Depressed people of Reddit, what are your hobbies that keep you balanced?" Here's what they had to say:

1. "Washing dishes on a regular basis [to avoid] sink clutter and blasting my favorite music so I remember how to be a human."


2. "One thing that worsens my depression is routine and monotony, so I do one new thing every month. Going somewhere I've never visited (could be anything from a local coffee shop to a day trip), trying a new craft, baking or cooking something I've never eaten, etc. This keeps me maintaining a sense of awe and curiosity."


3. "Video games always helped me escape the depressing real world."


4. "Crocheting. It's repetitive, calming, and creative and you get the feeling of at least a bit of productivity."


5. "Reading fiction (which kind of sounds counterproductive to sanity)."


"I used to adore reading and would get through two or three books per week. My depression then got much worse, and I just couldn’t seem to focus/felt like I didn’t deserve to enjoy anything anymore (that came from my counselor). I have adapted it now by listening to audiobooks! I’ll play them whilst out with my dog, doing housework and driving, etc. Music isn’t good for me, as I worry over the melody and don’t concentrate, whereas I have to pay attention to the words of the story."


6. "Looking at the ceiling is just the best hobby."


"Glad I'm not the only one that does this all day. I tried explaining to my therapist last week and she looked so confused."


7. "I recently started wood carving, it's calming and pretty fun. So far I've made a little duck."


8. "I just sit outside in the sun for hours."


9. "Sometimes, when it's quiet in the house and I can hear the steady rhythm of my wife's knitting needles clicking away, it sends me to a very peaceful place. Just knowing she's there and happy to be with me, working away on her next incredible project, fills my heart up so much."


10. "Gardening and growing food is so incredibly satisfying for the body and the soul. It's a sort of meditation when you are out in nature with your hands in the dirt."


11. "My wife and I do try to get out of the house for the occasional day trip every couple of weeks, which is the one thing that actually feels good for us. We either accompany my family to take our little niece somewhere, or we'll go for a walk around a lake or something. We love taking our niece to farms and sometimes we'll just go to a farm even without her — it's a bit weird being two adults wandering around a children's petting farm without a child, but being outside around animals is good for our mental health."


12. "Bird photography. I get into a meditative state that takes my mind off things that are troubling me."


13. "Get a big coffee and take a long train or bus to nowhere while listening to music and crying and pretending I'm the main character."


14. "So much guitar."


"Playing an instrument in general is very therapeutic. People just have to stick with it through the learning curve and then the fun truly starts. I’m still kinda new but it makes me happy when I play guitar and I’m really on it. I play drums here and there but that’s therapeutic because you get to smash shit that hardly breaks."


15. "Interacting with animals. Adopt a shelter animal. Or if that's too much of a commitment, foster some babies, like puppies or kittens. Try feeding stray cats and birds. Nothing brightens up a dull day than seeing an animal fed and happy and purring on your lap."


16. "Motorcycles. I find the playfulness of riding combined with the focus and attention needed to operate safely, a welcome break from office work."


17. "I am a writer. When I start to get into a depressive spiral, I start worldbuilding and/or plotting my next novel. It doesn’t always work, but even a 30% success rate is way better than nothing."


18. "Fish. It's hard to be depressed watching a happy wee fish just relax in life. Fish don't need any shit to relax."


19. "No longer depressed, but I’d like to throw this out there in case it helps anyone. Solo traveling really boosted my self-confidence and made me feel like I could do anything. I met tons of people from other cultures while bouncing around Europe staying in hostels in my early/mid-20s. I highly recommend giving it a try if you’re around that age and feeling stuck in your hometown."



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