How Fashion Brands Are (Finally) Catering More To Muslim Consumers




You’d think that Muslim women somehowjust started focusing on their sartorial choices, considering leading designers and international brands have only very recently recognized the significance of this crucial consumer group. How puzzling, then, that the fashion industry would likely “collapse without their patronage,” as Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell wrote in The Atlanticearlier this year. 

That patronage equates to a substantial amount of spending: According to the 2015-2016 State of the Global Islamic Economy Report, Muslim consumers spend an estimated $230 billion on clothing, a figure that’s estimated to reach $327 billion by 2019. That’s more than the current clothing markets of the U.K. ($107 billion), Germany ($99 billion) and India ($96 billion) combined. 

“For years, the mainstream fashion industry [has been] missing a trick,” Reina Lewis, professor of cultural studies at London College of Fashion UAL and author of Muslim Fashion: Contemporary Style Cultures, told Vice’s Broadly. 

But change is, finally, afoot in terms of the industry being mindful of Muslim customers. As of last week, British retailer Marks & Spencer will stock burkinis (that’s a controversial move, though); Dolce & Gabbana has unveiled an abaya collection, and Uniqlo recently released a range of hijabs and more modest clothing designed by British-Japanese designer Hana Tajima. DKNY, Oscar de la Renta, Tommy Hilfiger, and Mango have also designed one-off collections around Ramadan. Muslim fashion is apparently one of the industry’s fastest growing sectors, estimated to be worth more than $177 billion by 2020. With 29% of the global population projected to be Muslim by 2030, according to Al Jazeera, the importance of appealing to this demographic is clear. 

And the fashion aesthetic is about far more than just wearing (or not wearing) a hijab, but about facilitating a modest way of dressing, and that isn’t always easy to access in Western stores. “Mainstream fashion tends to be more geared towards something that is a very sexualized version of what beauty is,” Uniqlo’s modest clothing designer, Hana Tajima, told Dazed. hijab-fashion-2014-6

As a result of demand without much supply, a growing number of Muslim designers have been starting their own labels and portals, such as Modanisa, a Net-a-Porter type website for women who want to dress modestly. These endeavors are often quite successful. 

“There’s a growing Muslim middle class who love brands and love consumption,” Shelina Janmohamed, cofounder of Ogilvy-Noor, the world’s first Islamic Branding agency, told Refinery29. “They’re looking for brands to reach out to them, and [the ones that don’t] are going to be left behind by the ones that do.” 

So it appears they are trying. Uniqlo has been praised for collaborating with a Muslim designer, on its collection for a Muslim audience, and Dolce & Gabbana is the first global luxury brand to create a new product specifically for Muslim consumers. It has even promoted the items as part of its mainstream media presence (as it should!), with abayas featuring heavily on the brand’s Instagram account alongside the usual mix of backstage shots and catwalk collections.

Shelina explains that there’s been a shift toward understanding, at last, that Muslim women want to see themselves reflected in brand communications, citing H&M’s use of veiled model Mariah Idrissi in one of its 2015 campaigns. hijab-fashion-2014-4

But there’s still room for improvement, particularly in terms of how Muslim fashion is marketed. “When the advertisement first came out everyone said, ‘OMG, you’re the first Muslim model in hijab!’ And I was like, ‘Really?’” Idrissi told Refinery29. “It’s a bit shocking that it’s never happened until 2015.”

Indeed, the marketing is arguably just as important as the designs themselves in catering to a Muslim demographic. “You can compare it to catering to plus-size women. What is almost more important than separate ranges is actual representation of women who aren’t a size 6… Having a range is just one small part of it,” Nafisa Bakkar, cofounder of, a curated platform for Muslim fashion-seekers, told Refinery29.

It’s not abnormal that fashion brands are targeting different demographics. As Susan Sabet, founder and editor of Pashion, an Arabic- and English-language fashion magazine, explains: “This is just a continuation of the data-driven marketing strategies implemented before in key luxury markets, such as Japan, India, and China. Now, it’s the Middle East’s turn.” It’s only logical that brands go where the money is. 

With global trends spreading ever more quickly these days, fashion is becoming a melting pot of its own; influences come in from — and go back out to — the whole world. And this globalization of style is a crucial step in moving us away from the beauty standard that idealizes a hyper-sexualized, size 0, mainly white image in favor of a more inclusive one. Reaching out to Muslim consumers is a piece of that progress that — overdue as it may be — is a welcome change.

U.S. stands ready to help diversify Nigeria’s economy

U.S. stands ready to help Nigeria diversify its economy beyond oil, an assistant regional secretary said at the U.S. Institute of Peace. Photo by sakhorn/Shutterstock
U.S. stands ready to help Nigeria diversify its economy beyond oil, an assistant regional secretary said at the U.S. Institute of Peace. Photo by sakhorn/Shutterstock

WASHINGTON, March 30 (UPI) — The United States stands ready to assist Nigeria in diversifying its economy beyond the oil sector, a regional U.S. secretary said from Washington, D.C.

The International Monetary Fund warned the impact of lower crude oil prices were adding pressure to a Nigerian economy in need of deep structural reforms. The country’s oil-dependent economy has struggled under the strains that have emerged since crude oil prices first dropped below the $100 per barrel mark in 2014. From the pressure of oil prices alone, the government’s deficit doubled to about 3 percent of the gross domestic product last year.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. assistant secretary for African Affairs, told officials gathered at the U.S. Institute of Peace the country has an "incredible" opportunity for growth if it utilizes its natural resources, including oil and gas, effectively.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. assistant secretary for African Affairs, told officials gathered at the U.S. Institute of Peace the country has an “incredible” opportunity for growth if it utilizes its natural resources, including oil and gas, effectively.

About half of the Nigerian population lives on less than $1.25 per day. Plagued by problems ranging from terrorism to corruption, the country has been struggling to address deep-rooted economy gaps.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. assistant secretary for African Affairs, told officials gathered at the U.S. Institute of Peace the country has an “incredible” opportunity for growth if it utilizes its natural resources, including oil and gas, effectively. For inclusive and broad-based expansion, however, she said Nigeria needs to look beyond energy.

“There are areas in which we stand ready to partner with Nigeria to help the government advance important goals, including increasing non-oil revenue,” she said.

In early March, Nigerian Petroleum Minister and Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. Emmanuel Kachikwu said the state oil company would be divided into 30 independent companies in an effort to address corruption and revenue losses.

Nigeria is the No. 8 oil exporter to the United States, behind Kuwait, sending 78,000 barrels per day to the country for the week ending March 18. That’s down 251,000 bpd from the previous week, but up substantially from the 14,000 bpd sent during the same week last year.

Full-year Nigerian oil production has held steady at around 1.8 million bpd, though energy companies working in the country have had to halt operations at times because of security threats.

Shell Under Investigation in Italy Over Nigerian Oil Deal

Italian prosecutors are investigating Royal Dutch Shell PLC’s involvement in a Nigerian oil deal, a person familiar with the matter said, drawing the oil company into a corruption probe that has dogged Italy’s energy giant Eni SpA.

The prosecutors are investigating whether Shell’s piece of a $1.3 billion payment to acquire a rich oil field off the coast of Nigeria constituted a bribe, according to a person familiar with the probe. Italian and Dutch police last month raided Shell’s headquarters in The Hague looking for evidence that could be used in the case, the person said.

Shell on Wednesday confirmed it had received “notice of proceedings” from Italian prosecutors in connection with the Nigerian oil block and that its offices had been “visited” recently by Dutch authorities. The Anglo-Dutch company said it is cooperating with the investigators and is looking into the allegations.

Shell and Eni have jointly owned a Nigerian license, known as OPL 245, since 2011 to develop giant Atlantic Ocean oil fields thought to contain nine billion barrels of oil. It is a substantial project for the companies in a country that has been of historic importance to both of them.

Shell first pursued the oil fields in 2001, when it bought a stake from Malabu Oil & Gas Ltd.—a Nigerian company that was awarded the license when the African country was under military dictatorship. A new Nigerian government soon rescinded Malabu’s license, awarding Shell sole ownership and prompting years of legal disputes.

Malabu eventually reached a deal with the Nigerian government that gave it the license back, and attracted Eni as an investor. Shell agreed to drop its own legal challenges to Malabu’s ownership and together with Eni acquired the oil license in 2011 with a $1.3 billion payment to the Nigerian government.

Italian prosecutors are investigating where that money went and whether Shell and Eni knew its destination, according to Italian court documents.

The documents show the government later transferred almost all of the money to Malabu, and say the prosecution “believes that a considerable part of that sum was destined for the remuneration of Nigerian public officials.” Italian prosecutors aren’t investigating Malabu.

In 2014, prosecutors in Milan placed Eni and its chief executive, Claudio Descalzi, under investigation for international corruption in connection to the OPL 245 deal. Eni and Mr. Descalzi have denied wrongdoing.

Eni has always maintained that it paid the government directly and isn’t responsible for where the money eventually ended up. A Shell spokesman said that any payments for the license were made only to Nigeria’s federal government and any questions about where the money ended up should be directed to the government and to Malabu. Eni again denied any wrongdoing on Wednesday. The Wall Street Journal wasn’t able to reach Malabu for comment.

The long-running dispute over OPL 245 now threatens to cast a new cloud over Shell’s investments in Nigeria, where it has been present for 80 years and is the biggest Western investor in the country’s oil sector. Last year, Shell got nearly 10% of its output from Nigeria and the country remains a major pillar of its business even though it has sold some onshore assets in the Niger Delta in recent years that have been subject to attacks and theft.

Shell, which had already made large investments by 2011 developing the field, paid much less than half of the $1.3 billion acquisition price for a 50% stake in the oil field, according to Italian court documents. Italian prosecutors suspect most of the amount ended up being paid in bribes, potentially making Shell responsible for its part, the documents said.

Italian daily Corriere della Sera reported the investigation into Shell’s role in the Nigeria deal on Wednesday.

East Africa’s used-clothes trade comes under fire


The Economist – GIKOMBA market, just north of Nairobi’s downtown, is a place to buy just about anything. At its entrance, where ragged minibuses push their way through rutted red mud, stalls sell piles of pillows, plastic toys, cutlery and soap. But the most common wares are second-hand clothing. Piles of old T-shirts and jeans; winter jackets, incongruous in the equatorial heat; dresses and leather shoes; all are watched carefully by stallholders. This market is the biggest wholesale centre of the mitumba, or used-clothing, trade in east Africa. The clothes worn by the bulk of Nairobi’s population are sourced here.

Yet if the governments of the East African Community, the regional trade bloc which comprises Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, get their way, all will change. By 2019 the EAC wants to outlaw imports of second-hand clothes. The idea is that ending the trade in old clothes—mostly donated by their former owners in rich countries—will help boost local manufacturing. On March 10th Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya’s president, met market traders upset by the idea, and defended the need for “Kenyan manufactured apparel”. Yet the ban seems sure to fail.

Mitumba trading is a big employer for Kenyans, most of whom work in the informal labour market. By one estimate, there are 65,000 traders in Gikomba alone. Imports have increased massively over the past two decades. In 2015, according to UN data, Kenya imported about 18,000 tonnes of clothing from Britain alone. Whole-salers buy bundles for anything up to 10,000 shillings (about $100), and sort the contents by type and quality. Retail traders then come and source stock for their own stalls elsewhere in the city, to be sold on to ordinary Kenyans.

Few traders are happy with the idea of a ban. “Just let them dare,” says Elizabeth in front of her stall in a dark corner of Gikomba, piled high with women’s dresses, on being informed of the proposal. “How could they! We will remove our clothes, we will demonstrate in the streets, we will take our children.” Selling clothes is a relatively lucrative activity. A trader can make 1,000 shillings in profit a day in a part of Nairobi where many people get by on a tenth of that. And it is skilled work: traders have to put their own capital at risk, assessing how likely each item is to sell.

Mr Kenyatta argues that new, better, jobs will be created in the textile industry to make up for these losses. That is not implausible, reckons Andrew Brooks, an academic at King’s College London who has studied the used-clothes trade. Kenya had a textiles industry in the 1960s and 1970s; South Africa has a ban, and a substantial textile industry. But to work, it would rely on east Africa’s borders being effectively sealed. A more likely outcome is that cheap clothes would simply be smuggled in, and the government would lose the 35% tariff levied on their import.

Many traders think that the proposal is bluster. At Toi market, a warren of shops at the edge of Kibera, Nairobi’s biggest slum, where many of the clothes sold at Gikomba go next, Simon Kimondho runs a stall selling smart slacks and jeans. “Nothing will happen, they are just not able,” he says. Another trader, Julius Batu, opposite him disagrees. The ban will come in, he says, but he is not worried. “We can just go to China and get new clothes.”

Why Israel is warming up to the world’s largest Muslim country

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (front) arrives at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, March 27, 2016.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (front) arrives at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, March 27, 2016.

BY   |  Newsweek

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for the establishment of official diplomatic relations with Indonesia on Monday, as the world’s largest Muslim country continues to look eastwards to boost diplomatic and economic ties.

Indonesia, which has a population of approximately 250 million people, making it the most populous Muslim country in the world, does not yet have formal relations with Israel.

Diplomatic relations with Israel are treated with caution by many Arab and Muslim states, such as Egypt, which works with Israel on security issues but does not publicly talk about its cooperation with the country because of strong anti-Israel opinion among its population.

The country shares secretive ties with many Arab and Muslim countries, but in the public sphere it is rarely talked about. Israeli passport holders are banned from many Arab states, such as the United Arab Emirates. Israel only opened its first formal presence in the UAE in 2015.

Israel’s security cooperation with Jordan, which it shares a border with, is also now closer than ever, Israeli officials said earlier this year. The Israeli government gave 16 retired helicopters to Jordan in July 2015 to help with the country’s battle against ISIS, Reuters reported. Israel is now launching a charm offensive on Asia’s big economic players, including Indonesia.

As part of Israel’s bid to increase its security and economic prosperity in the region, Netanyahu has proceeded with a policy of pragmatism, seeking to boost ties with other Arab and Muslim countries.

“It’s time for there to be official relations between Indonesia and Israel. We have many opportunities for bilateral cooperation, especially in the fields of water technology and high-tech,” he told a visiting delegation of Indonesian journalists on Monday.

But Netanyahu faces a tough task. One of the reasons for the lack of public relations thus far between Israel and Indonesia, similar to Egypt, is that the Indonesian population has a negative view of Israel. A 2014 BBC poll showed that some 75 percent of the Indonesian population holds a negative view of Israel. Another is Israel’s military occupation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

In response to Netanyahu’s calls, Indonesia lawmakers have vowed to oppose any move to formalize ties with Israel. According to The Jakarta Post, one prominent lawmaker said on Wednesday that Israel’s wish to have formal ties with Indonesia would remain a wish as long as the country’s military occupation continues.

“We will not forge diplomatic ties with a country that colonizes another country. That is the mandate of our constitution,” Tantowi Yahya, a lawmaker from Indonesia’s House of Representatives commission that oversees foreign and security affairs said on Wednesday.

Despite the opposition of lawmakers, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely told the country’s lawmakers earlier this month that Israel currently has secret ties with Indonesia and has a bilateral relation “on a range of issues” behind closed doors.

The move comes at a time when Israel’s relations with the European Union, to the west, continue to deteriorate after the bloc imposed new guidelines on the labeling of products from West Bank settlements, considered illegal by much of the international community, in November 2015. Netanyahu, despite the concerns of the EU about Israeli settlements, stated that he believes there should be no such impediment to relations between Israel and Jakarta as they have mutual economic and counter-extremism interests.

“It’s time to change our relationship, because the reasons preventing it are no longer relevant,” he told the journalists, according to The Times of Israel. He said that Israel and Jakarta are “allies” in the fight against extremism.

Earlier this year, Indonesia was the target of a coordinated Islamic State militant group (ISIS) attack in Jakarta. Israelis have faced a six-month wave of Palestinian violence that has left 29 Israelis dead and more than 180 Palestinians dead.

In a sign of Netanyahu’s eagerness to warm towards this Muslim powerhouse, he told the delegation, invited as guests of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, that he has “quite a few Facebook friends who are Indonesian.”

Nigerian defense minister: Boko Haram will fall within 3 months

ABUJA, Nigeria, March 30 (UPI) — The Nigerian Islamist insurgent group Boko Haram will be defeated within three months, Nigeria’s defense minister predicted Wednesday.

Remaining Boko Haram forces have been pushed to one stronghold in northeastern Nigeria, Borno state’s Sambisa forest, in what the Nigerian military has called “cleansing operations.” The actions by the military have resulted in the freeing of hundreds of civilians held by Boko Haram.Nigerian-defense-minister-Boko-Haram-will-fall-within-3-months

Defense Minister Mansur Dan Ali, a retired general, said Wednesday, “We are all working together and we are sharing information, and the international community is also advising us in the right direction” in revealing he expects all Nigerian territory under Boko Haram control will be reclaimed within two to three months. He credited Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari‘s challenge to vanquish Boko Haram by the end of 2015 for “changing the game.”

Buhari said in December 2015 that the fundamentalist insurgents, who are aligned with the Islamic State, were essentially defeated and capable only of sporadic guerrilla attacks on soft targets like mosques and markets. Over 200 Nigerians have been killed in such attacks since the start of 2016.

Boko Haram’s movement began in 2009; tens of thousands of civilians have been killed and millions more displaced.

Nigeria’s Mission to Free Boko Haram’s Hostages

NSHIRA TURKSON  |  The Atlantic

Nigerian refugees prepare food and go about their daily lives at a United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) camp in Baga Sola on January 29, 2015. The refugees arrived in the camp after the attack by Boko Haram millitants in the Nigerian town of Baga. (Sia Kambou/AFP/Getty Images)
Nigerian refugees prepare food and go about their daily lives at a United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) camp in Baga Sola on January 29, 2015. The refugees arrived in the camp after the attack by Boko Haram millitants in the Nigerian town of Baga. (Sia Kambou/AFP/Getty Images)

Nigerian troops have freed hundreds of hostages held by the militant Islamist group Boko Haram in recent counter-terrorism efforts in Nigeria’s northeast.

The military missions, aimed at driving out terrorists and rescuing their captives,freed 829 people last week. The army rescued 520 people in the village of Kusumma, and 309 others from 11 other villages. Troops have also rescued 72 people held captive in northeast villages in two “clearance operations,” army Public Relations Director Sani Usman said in statements Sunday. The group still holds an unknown number of hostages.

“The gallant troops cleared the remnants of the Boko Haram terrorists hibernating in Kala Balge general area,” Usman said of one of last week’s missions.

Soldiers also destroyed a terrorist training camp, warehouse, and factory in Tilem, a northeast village, he added. Twenty-nine insurgents were killed and troops recovered weapons from Boko Haram hiding spots in the operations that freed 72 people.

Since 2013, Boko Haram has carried out mass abductions in Nigeria and neighboring countries in its quest to drive out Western influence and establish an Islamist state. The kidnapping of 276 Chibok schoolgirls in 2014 brought the group to global attention, birthing the viral hashtag #BringBackOurGirls. Two years later, 219 girls are still missing. Last week, one of two girls arrested in north Cameroon carrying explosives claimed to be one of the kidnapped girls.

The human-rights organization Amnesty International estimates Boko Haram has abducted about 2,000 girls and women over their seven-year history. Women are forced into marriage and sexual slavery, and are often made to carry out suicide attacks—at times in their own villages.

Earlier this month, two women blew themselves up at the Molai-Umarari mosque on the outskirts of Maidugrui, a northeast city that has long-endured Boko Haram’s violence. Twenty-four people were killed, and Nigerian officials suspect Boko Haram was responsible for the attack. The mosque had reopened just days before the attack after a near-identical bombing in October forced it to close. Two suicide bombers killed six people in that incident. One of the attackers was reportedly a woman.

Boko Haram has recently increasingly targeted public places like mosques, markets, and schools. The Global Terrorism Index 2014 Report found “terrorist activity in Nigeria has more in common with the tactics of organized crime and gangs, focusing more on armed assaults using firearms and knives than on the bombings of other large terrorist groups,” but recent months show an uptick in suicide bombings for Boko Haram.  The group’s violence is said to be responsible for the displacement of more than 2 million people since 2013.

Four days after the mosque bombing in Maiduguri, Nigeria’s Information Minister Lai Mohammed said Nigerian army efforts have reduced Boko Haram’s ability to carry out large-scale attacks, in an interview with Al Jazeera.

“Before these villagers (in Maiduguri) were under the control of Boko Haram insurgents; today they have been dislodged, now they’re attacking soft targets, which is what happens with a insurgency on its way out,” he said.

Press Freedom for Ethiopian Bloggers Tested Again

Marthe van der Wolf  |  VOA

FILE - Ethiopian journalists hold placards as they shout slogans during a demonstration at the Ethiopian Embassy in Nairobi, May 2, 2006.
FILE – Ethiopian journalists hold placards as they shout slogans during a demonstration at the Ethiopian Embassy in Nairobi, May 2, 2006.

Abel Wabela, 29, and eight other bloggers and freelance journalists spent more than a year and a half in prison. They were acquitted five months ago, but life has not been easy since.

“We cannot go abroad,” Wabela said, “getting a job is very difficult. We are not allowed to work, not allowed to move.”

Wabela previously worked at Ethiopian Airlines as an engineer, but it will not take him back. His left ear is no longer functional, he says, due to mistreatment in prison.

In addition, the bloggers’ passports have been confiscated.

Back in court

Wabela was one of six bloggers and three affiliated freelance journalists who were arrested in April 2014. They were accused under the anti-terrorism law of using social media to incite violence in Ethiopia.

Although all the bloggers and journalists were acquitted, the prosecutor appealed their release. For that reason, they have to appear Tuesday in Ethiopia’s Supreme Court.

Atnaf Berahane says that even though he has been out of prison for five months, he lives in a state of fear.

“After my release I basically do nothing, because I know that every move I make will be traced,” Berahane said. “I am afraid that I may go to prison. The appeal is going on, so the appeal is like a chain to me right now. I am preparing myself for prison.”

Imprisonment called unacceptable

Ethiopia is frequently criticized by human rights organizations on its press freedom record. The government states that those imprisoned are criminals using journalism as a cover.

Zone 9 is a reference to an Ethiopian state prison with eight zones; the bloggers use Zone 9 to indicate the larger “prison” they feel makes up the rest of the country.

Africa researcher Kerry Paterson of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists says the possible return of the bloggers to jail is unacceptable and a huge blow to press freedom in Ethiopia.

“The Zone 9 bloggers, their tagline has always been that they blog because they care,” Paterson said. “These are young people who are deeply committed to seeing a safer, freer, better, more democratic Ethiopia, and who have faced repression and crackdowns on every turn.”

Despite the belief by the bloggers that their future in Ethiopia is bleak and uncertain, Wabela, Berahane and the others are still blogging. The decision by Ethiopia’s Supreme Court on the appeal will mean they either must go back to prison, or can continue writing.

Nigeria Defense Minister: Military Made Gains Against Boko Haram

James Butty  | VOA

FILE - Soldiers are seen on a truck along a road in Maiduguri in Borno State, Nigeria.
FILE – Soldiers are seen on a truck along a road in Maiduguri in Borno State, Nigeria.

Nigeria’s defense minister said the military under President Muhammadu Buhari has made enormous gains in the fight against Boko Haram.

Retired General Dan Ali said Wednesday the military has reclaimed much of the land once occupied by the terrorist group and that Boko Haram has been reduced to waging mostly guerrilla warfare. “Within one year, the coming of our president has changed the game. Look at what was happening before whereby three states, the whole eastern region, was under the terrorists. Now we may have maybe two local governments,” he said.

Ali said the military should be able to clear the terrorists out of the Sambisa Forest within two or three months.

Shortly after President Buhari was inaugurated as president in May 2015, he confidently declared that Boko Haram would be defeated by the end of the year. Before 2015 was over, Buhari announced that he had succeeded in his pledge, claiming that Boko Haram is now “technically defeated”.

Ali said President Buhari’s regional and international approach to the fight against Boko Haram has also made a huge difference. “We have been receiving specialized training and intelligence sharing. If you can remember, my president has been going around. In the fact, the five neighbors, including Cameroon, Chad, Benin, have been integrity. We are all working together and we are sharing information, and the international community is also advising us in the right direction,” Ali said.

On the identity of the would-be girl suicide bomber who told Cameroon authorities this week that she is one of the 276 Nigerian school girls kidnapped by Boko Haram in 2014, Ali said the Nigerian military has information that while the girl was captured from Chibok, she was not among the 276 captured in 2014.

“She was one of the Chibok girls but not associated with the earlier ones. We have gotten a report on that that the girl was taken from Chibok but not among those that were earlier captured,” he said.

General Ali said the Nigerian military has been trying to find the girls, but apparently Boko Haram has dispersed them in different locations.

“All along we have been trying to track them [the girls]. Specifically, if I tell you that they are in a specific place, it is difficult. Nobody can keep all 250 girls in a particular place. So these girls might have been distributed. Remember that for some time now, they have been using these girls as bombers,” he said.

President Buhari still hasn’t signed off on Nigeria’s delayed budget

By Conor Gaffey   |  Newsweek

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, pictured speaking at the State House in Abuja, Nigeria, February 11, is holding off from signing the budget that was proposed back in December 2015.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, pictured speaking at the State House in Abuja, Nigeria, February 11, is holding off from signing the budget that was proposed back in December 2015.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to sign off on the country’s record budget a week after it was sent to him, further delaying the implementation of the fiscal plan.

Buhari proposed a record 6 trillion naira ($30 billion) budget in December 2015, which included plans to increase public spending by 20 percent and reduce the country’s reliance on oil, which accounts for 35 percent of GDP and more than 90 percent of the value of Nigerian exports.

Nigeria’s National Assembly finally passed the budget on March 23, after months of delay due to a series of errors and discrepancies. Hard copies of the budget went missing from the Nigerian Senate in January, forcing back a scheduled debate on its contents. When an amended version of the budget was debated,huge irregularities were found in the plan, such as 795 million naira ($4 million) being set aside to revamp the website of one unnamed ministry. Several officials publicly disowned the budget and Buhari sacked the head of Nigeria’s budget office, Yahaya Gusau, in February, just six months into his four-year term.

But Buhari is holding off from approving the budget as he had not been given sufficient details about it, a presidency official told Nigeria’s Premium Times. Buhari is leaving Nigeria on Wednesday to attend a three-day nuclear conference in the U.S., meaning the budget’s signing off could be delayed until he returns.

Nigeria’s economy has been hit by the fall in oil prices, which have dropped from $64 per barrel when Buhari was sworn in in May 2015 to around $40. The West African country, Africa’s biggest oil producer, has reportedly turned to the World Bank and African Development Bank to request billion-dollar loans to fund its budget.

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