Nigeria’s economy unexpectedly came out of a recession in the fourth quarter as growth in agriculture and telecommunications offset a sharp drop in oil production. GDP grew 0.11% in the three months through December from a year earlier, compared with a decline of 3.6% in the third quarter, the National Bureau of Statistics said on its website on Thursday. Hit by the coronavirus pandemic and falling oil prices last year, Nigeria slipped into recession in Q3 2020 for the second time in four years. Nigeria’s finance minister, Zainab Ahmed, predicted at the time that the country would exit the recession by the first quarter of 2021 — but new statistics show that a timid recovery came earlier. Oil production fell to 1.56 million barrels a day in Q4 from 1.67 million barrels in the previous three months. While crude contributes less than 10% to the country’s GDP, it accounts for nearly all foreign-exchange earnings and half of government revenue in the continent’s biggest producer of the commodity. The World Bank had warned last year that the economic impact of Covid-19 on Nigeria could be significant as the country faced its worst recession in four decades. Since Nigeria emerged from its previous recession in 2017 the OPEC oil-producing country’s growth has been sluggish. Over the whole of 2020, real GDP fell by 1.92%, a decline of 4.20% points compared to growth of 2.27% recorded in 2019.

The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control has approved the use of AstraZeneca Vaccine for use in Nigeria, it’s Director-General, Prof Mojisola Adeyeye, said on Thursday. With this development, Nigeria stands in a better position in the ongoing battle against the infection of Coronavirus pandemic among the global community. The AstraZeneca vaccine was recently approved by the World Health Organisation for emergency use to curtail the spread of Covid-19. Prof Adeyeye said that NAFDAC got the dossier of the vaccine a week ago, while its safety committee went to work immediately to evaluate its safety and efficacy for Nigerians. While affirming that the vaccine could be stored in two to eight degrees Centigrade, she explained that there were three additional vaccines undergoing evaluation. According to her, the evaluation on AstraZeneca shows that the vaccine is effective against the United Kingdom variant of the virus which has been reported in Nigeria. The NAFDAC DG stressed that the South African variant has not been reported in Nigeria, while the agency has over 30 herbal medicines undergoing review for listing.

A Nigerian Air Force helicopter gunship was deployed to support a preemptive assault on an alleged Eastern Security Network (ESN) enclave, the militant wing of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in South-eastern Nigeria. Security news site HumAngle quoted unnamed sources as saying that the operation in Orlu and Orsu border area of Imo and Anambra states was initiated to counter an imminent threat and escalation. Videos on social media appeared to show gunfire from a Nigerian Air Force MI-35p or MI-24v gunship deployed for the operation. There is also what appeared to be the gunships firing rockets, and a heavy machine gun burst fire could be heard in another video. Rockets’ use is consistent with air operations intended to cause minimal damage to targets and reduce the possibility of civilian casualties. However, sources and online comments raised concerns about the possibility of civilian casualties. Eyewitnesses disclosed that the gunship flew low above houses, commercial neighbourhoods and forest areas. The news sites said unnamed sources in the two states placed the start of the gunship operation on 14 February. On 13 December, 2020, the proscribed IPOB announced the launch of ESN, a militant-style unit the group said was formed to address security challenges in the South-East. Multiple videos have been released online showing ESN conducting combat drills and holding military-grade rifles. In January., Nigerian Army troops stormed Orlu, the second-largest city in Imo, to search for and possibly neutralise members of IPOB and ESN. The incident was preceded by reports of harassment of locals, destruction of government properties and skirmishes with security personnel. 

At least eight people were killed on Thursday near Burkina Faso’s northern border with Niger, an area notorious for jihadist attacks, a security source and local official said. “Armed men this morning stopped a bus going from Markoye to Dorbel in Niger. At least eight people were killed and the same number were wounded,” the security source said, an account confirmed by the local official. The attack occurred at around 8 am near Tokabangou, about 10 kilometres (six miles) from Markoye in Oudalan province. Burkina Faso, one of the world’s poorest countries, is struggling with a jihadist insurgency that began in neighbouring Mali in 2012 and spread into its territory in 2015. More than 1,200 people have died and a million have fled their homes. The attackers “were definitely members of terrorist groups which are teeming in the region,” the security source said. The security forces brought in reinforcements and were looking for the assailants, he said. The other source said the vehicle was a dual-purpose truck and passenger bus. “They fired on the vehicle and killed seven people. One person was shot by the attackers while they escaped,” he said. A resident of Markoye said the casualties were local traders who travelled each week to the market in Dorbel. “They also robbed some passengers before making off towards the Niger border,” the person said, adding that he had lost a close relative in the attack. Two dozen traders were killed in two similar attacks in northern Burkina Faso last year. The peril of travelling in remote regions has prompted transporters to organise convoys escorted by a government-supported auxiliary force, the Volunteers for the Defence of the Country, who are paid for the trip. On Monday, Chad pledged at a Sahel summit to send 1,200 troops to help strengthen security in what is known as the three-border zone, where the frontiers of Burkina, Mali, and Niger converge.