Nigeria Mourns Plane Crash & Suicide Bomber Victims


Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 13:04 PM EDT, 4 June 2012

Nigeria Airline, Photo by Rick SchlampLAGOS, Nigeria - A Dana Airlines plane in route from Nigeria’s capital city, Abuja to Lagos State crashed in the Agege suburban as it made its final approach into Murtala Muhammed Airport. The death toll has not been confirmed, however, thus far 146 passengers, 7 crew members and 10 people on the ground have been identified as deceased.

This was the second tragedy to hit Nigeria on Sunday, 3 June 2012. Christians attending services in the Northern Bauchi State, which has previously been terrorized by the extreme Islamist group Boko Haram, were attacked by a suicide bomber who drove his car into the church killing 15 attendees and himself. (Source: ABS-CBN News)

This smaller tragedy has been eclipsed by the Lagos plane crash which still has an unknown number of casualties on the ground because of the wide swathe of carnage the plane crashed left in its wake. The pilot who is reported to be a U.S. citizen and the copilot an Indian, both died in the crash, despite the fact that stunned witnesses said the sky was clear and the weather sunny.


This plane crash was foreboded by a crash on Saturday involving another Nigerian aircraft which departed Lagos for its neighboring country, Ghana, where it overshot the runway and crashed at the International Airport in Accra. In that incident, 10 people on the ground are confirmed dead.

According to sources, a representative from the Nigeria's Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) said that they are still trying to locate the black box to determine what occurred in the minutes before the crash, however, with endemic corruption and two plane crashes in as many days, stringent investigations into the maintenance of the planes and certifications of the pilots should be vigorously pursued.

Additionally, an investigation into the role, if any that air traffic controllers may have played in this tragedy needs to be investigated. Intermittent power outages across the country, as well as failures of redundant Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPS) which are often powered by the state's electrical power grid or diesel have a history of going off-line thereby causing significant problems.

Some report that these failures have often resulted in radar tracking being unavailable for the duration of these outages.

Nigeria's aviation industry, which had one of the world's worst safety records before 2006, worked to improve it after an ADC Airlines plane crashed that year near Abuja, killing 97 people, Harro Ranter, president of the Flight Safety Foundation's Aviation Safety Network, said in a telephone interview from Roosendaal, Netherlands. (Source: SF Gate)

Fires continue to erupt around the crash site, as jet fuel burns throughout the decimated suburb where rubble continues to smolder. Firefighters and locals are working feverishly to locate any on the ground survivors.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan declared three days of national mourning on Sunday night for all who lost their lives in the Dana plane crash.

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First War, Now Elephantiasis


Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 23:55 PM EDT, 30 January 2012

UGANDA - When I was a child I first encountered a person afflicted with Elephantiasis when we moved to Nigeria. I wrote about this encounter in my post The Road to Naijiriya which details my arrival in Lagos as we embarked on our new life in Ile Ife.

Now, this disease is once again in the media as health services in Southern Africa have alerted the region to the need for increased preventative measures and prophylactic treatment options.

The 20-year civil war in Uganda has left severe scars on the economy, infrastructure, health and human services, and most of all on a populace that no longer has access to basic necessities such as potable water, food and medical treatment.

Lymphatic filariasis, commonly known as Elephantiasis, "afflicts over 25 million men with genital disease and over 15 million people with lymphoedema. Currently, more than 1.3 billion people in 72 countries are at risk. Approximately 65% of those infected live in the WHO South-East Asia Region, 30% in the African Region, and the remainder in other tropical areas." (Source: World Health Organization)

With proper medical treatment, the condition, which is caused by a parasite that is part of the roundworms family, can be cured. The parasite is usually transmitted to its human host through a mosquito bite. It subsequently invades and proliferates throughout the lymphatic system where it blocks and disrupts the immune system. "The adult parasites live for 6-8 years and, during their life time, produce millions of microfilariae (small larvae) that circulate in the blood." (Source: WHO)

Although, quite disturbing, this condition is easily treatable for patients with access to proper health care. However, in countries like Uganda, which has a long history of civil unrest and unstable governments; this disease remains unchecked in its transmission and infection. In addition to the excruciating physical pain caused by the disease, there is the accompanying psychological and sociological impact.

People afflicted by this disease remain ostracized by society and their communities much like lepers in previous centuries. They are also unable to earn a living because of the crippling disfigurement caused by the symptoms of this disease. The adult worms can be successfully killed usually with one treatment, however, the disfigurement suffered by the individual remains unless they can arrange to have surgery to remove the tumors.

It is sad that the Ugandan people who have been victimized by a series wars instigated by despotic rulers, the most egregious being Idi Amin, must now face a new marauder in the form of this parasite.

To learn more about the disease watch the Voice of America video below.


Nollywood | Bollywood


Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 14:14 PM EDT, 25 January 2012

NIGERIA - Lagos is one of the most populace cities in Africa. It is also the seat of the Nigerian film industry which began in 1992 and is known as Nollywood. It is the third largest film industry in the world after India's Bollywood and Hollywood in the U.S. Nollywood produces 2,500 films a year most for under $15,000.

The Indian movie industry caters to a population of over 1.2 billion citizens, and Nigeria, roughly 158 million. These numbers are the reason Nigeria is the largest and most dominant film industry on the Continent. (Source: World Bank, World Development Population Indicators)

In 2011, Bollywood and Nollywood concluded plans to host a joint film festival for both movie industries to commemorate the 60th and 50th independence anniversaries of both countries respectively. As former British Colonies, this festival would have provided a venue and opportunity to strengthen the cultural and economic ties that have existed between India and Nigeria. Unfortunately, due to safety concerns the 8th ION International Film Festival was moved from Port Harcourt, Nigeria to Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

The first Nollywood movie, Living in Bondage, was incredibly successful and is credited with launching the booming film industry in Nigeria. The films produced in Nigeria are financed and sold by electronics merchants and sold all over Nigeria in open air markets. Prior to 1992 most of the movies sold in Nigeria were imported from America or China or other markets. Since the advent of Nollywood, Nigerians claim that they only watch Nigerian made movies because they get to watch themselves and enjoy their unique culture, jokes, and the hope for a better life these films inspire.

Nigerian producers assert that Nollywood has become the voice of Africa. Because it is such a robust market it has become the benchmark for African film industry. In the West, Bollywood films have come to define the success of a film industry in an emerging market. Even though the highly acclaimed "Slumdog Millionaire" is not a Bollywood film, many Americans with only a cursory knowledge of the industry may concur with one of the movie's stars, Anil Kapoor that the movie is reminiscent of the genre.

Indian movie stars are well compensated through lucrative movie contracts, commercial and video appearances and product licensing. By contrast, many Nigerian actors work for little or no money because many believe that investing sweat equity into Nollywood's film industry is an important contribution. These actors feel that they are part of an important social and economic movement that helps ordinary Nigerians to dream of achieving a better life.

Nigerians believe that Lagos like New York, is a place that will make you or break you. If you can make it in Lagos you can make it anywhere in the world because life there is so grueling. I remember even as a child the sprawling ghettos, the crumbling infrastructure, and how crime was a dominant feature of Lagos. It has not changed much in the intervening years despite the incredible wealth generated by the oil industry.

In the early 1970's the Nigerian citizenry were increasingly subject to wanton violence as soldiers returned home from the Biafra wars with no opportunities and weapons. These men subsequently turned to crime as a means of support and began to terrorize the population. The danger posed by these marauders crippled downtown Lagos which resulted in the closure of restaurants, movie theaters and other entertainment venues. Going to watch a movie in a theater could result in the loss of life or property.

This socio-economic reality contributed to the underground development of the film industry because it was no longer safe to go out to the theaters to watch movies. In fact, there are only three functioning movie theaters in Lagos and none of them show Nollywood films. Most of the Nigerian made films are sold directly to the consumer who then view them at home or in communal settings.

These films speak directly to this population of poor people who have come to Lagos in search of a dream. When Nigerians watch these films they not only see themselves in the characters to whom they can aspire, and it provides them with the strength to continue to strive and not to loose hope. The film "Living in Bondage," is similar to a Medieval "English Morality Play," because during the lead character's struggles to make it he is repeatedly tempted to rely on the old tradition of Juju and witchcraft. Ultimately, this path provides him with worldly riches he desires at the cost of his soul. After experiencing other challenges, the character is finally redeemed through his conversion to Evangelical Christianity.

In a nation that is 52% Muslim and 47% Christian, Nollywood producers have adjusted their product to suit consumer demand. As more and more people struggle to survive in the economic downturn that followed the devaluation of the Naira, they need more than escape, and religion has begun to fill this void.  One of the largest film makers in Nollywood is Helen Ukpabio who is the head of Liberty Gospel Church which has over 50,000 members and 78 churches. Throughout many of her films, she blames witchcraft as the source of suffering for most Nigerians and the reason why many of their souls will be damned to hell.

Her films have captured a large segment of the 80 million viewers of Nollywood by presenting stories which preach the doctrine of achieving peace, prosperity and salvation by overcoming obstacles with the help of the church and a hefty donation. Though it may not have been her intention, Ms. Ukpabio and other Nollywood directors and producers recognized an opportunity to leverage the industry by moving from pure escapism to marketing religion as the new panacea. Right or wrong, the direction in which Nollywood is moving can be viewed cynically as a ploy to fleece the downtrodden, or beneficently as a tool to bolster faith.  Only time will judge, but for now Nollywood remains a powerful symbol of Africa's ascendancy.

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