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Nigeria Senate approves Buhari’s $5.513 billion external borrowing request

The Nigerian Senate has approved President Muhammadu Buhari’s $5.513 (Five Billion, Five Hundred and Thirteen Million United States Dollars) external borrowing request. 

The approval came following consideration and adoption of the report of the Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debts. 

Giving a breakdown into the sources of the loan request, Chairman of the Committee, Senator Clifford Ordia (PDP – Edo Central) said the Federal Government would source $3,400,000,000 at one percent interest rate from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for Rapid Financing Instrument to part finance the 2020 proposed revised budget.

According to the lawmaker, the Federal Government would also source the sum of $1,500,000,000 from the World Bank for Development Policy Financing of the revised 2020 budget at 2.38 percent interest rate; and another $500,000,000 from the African Development Bank (AfDB) for COVID-19 crises response budget support operation to finance revised budget deficit at 1.315 percent interest rate.

The Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) is also expected to give a loan of $113,000,000 to the Federal Government of Nigeria to part finance the 2020 revised budget deficit at 0.4 precent interest rate.

The Committee in its report noted that revenue projections contained in the Appropriation Act of 2020 was adversely impacted by revenue shortfalls due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It further observed that same led to dwindling Government revenue from oil sales as well as sharp drop in global oil prices below $20 (USD). 

The Committee noted that as a consequence, the Federal Government found it expedient to seek amendment to the Appropriation Act of 2020 as well as review the 2020-2022 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF).

According to the report, “the Appropriation Act (Amendment) Bill 2020 contains a revised total budget of N10.594 trillion with a deficit of N4.563 trillion which will be part financed by proposed domestic borrowing of N2.188 trillion and external borrowing of N1.984 trillion.”

The Committee, however, added that the first component of the request of the President to seek the approval of the Senate to embark on external borrowing to the tune of $5.513 billion was to facilitate the financing of the revised 2020 budget deficit. 

The Committee stressed that the budget deficit request of the President is aimed at bridging the revenue shortfalls for the 2020 fiscal year and to access immediate funds required to deal expeditiously and decisively with the ravaging impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The report further stated that the Local and Foreign Debts Committee, in agreement with the attending Ministries, Departments and Agencies of Government, agreed to “conclude the consideration of the other two outstanding components of Mr. President’s External Borrowing request relating to Funding of Priority Projects of the Federal Government to be captured in the Budget estimates for 2021 and Facilities to support State Government to face the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

In a related development, the Senate also on Tuesday passed the amended 2020-2022 Medium Term Expenditure Framework/Fiscal Strategy Paper. 

The passage came following consideration and adoption of the recommendations of the Senate Committee on Finance. 

Chairman of the Committee, Senator Olamilekan Adeola (APC – Lagos West), in his presentation disclosed that as at March 2020, the Federal Government’s retained revenue was N950.56 billion, out of which N464.03 billion was from oil revenue. 

The lawmaker stated that the sum of N129.72 billion and N42.23 billion made up amounts from Company Income Tax (CIT) and Value Added Tax (VAT); while Customs collection was N97.47 billion. 

Accordingly, the Senate while adopting the Committee’s recommendations increased the price of crude oil to $28 per barrel as against the $25 per barrel proposed by the Executive. 

The upper chamber also reviewed oil production output from 1.9 million barrel per day (mbpd) proposed by the Executive arm of government to 1.8 mbpd. 

Retaining the exchange rate of N360/US$1 as proposed in the MTEF amendment, the Senate resolved that the sum of N500 billion intervention fund drawn from various accounts, for the purpose of funding projects already added to the proposed revised 2020 budget be sent to the National Assembly for approval. 

The Senate further maintained that the deficit of N4.95 trillion be financed from new borrowings estimated at N4.17 trillion, while expecting that N1.98 trillion of the new borrowings will be from external concessional sources.

It gave the external multilateral sources as mainly the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, African Development Bank and Islamic Development Bank. 

The Senate while retaining the Federal Government’s reduction of budgeted revenue figure for Customs from N1.5 trillion to N950 billion, resolved that the the Federal Government portion of N360 billion from first line NNPC deductions go straight to the revenue coffers for funding of the 2020 amended budget. 

The upper chamber also resolved that the non-oil revenue which include the Capital Gaines Tax, Stamp Duty and Company Income Tax be sustained as contained in the proposed MTEF/FSP amendment with serious supervision with a view to blocking revenue leakages. 

African Development Bank delivers on a decade of transformative commitments to reduce poverty

For the past five decades, the African Development Bank Group has been at the forefront of driving Africa’s economic transformation, leveraging its diverse resources and unique know-how as an indigenous development finance institution.

The Bank has delivered on its goals of reducing poverty and fostering inclusive growth on the continent. We scaled up development support for our 54 regional member countries and recorded remarkable successes in recent years in our renewed push to help deliver life-changing impact to livelihoods.

Overall, the Bank’s investments have benefited millions of Africans through its 10-year strategy which it began implementing from 2013. Here are highlights of the Bank’s achievements:

Landmark General Capital Increase: At an extraordinary shareholders’ meeting in October 2019 in Abidjan, Governors of the African Development Bank, representing shareholders from 80 countries, approved a landmark $115 billion increase in capital for the continent’s foremost financial institution.

The increase, the largest in the history of the Bank since its establishment in 1964, more than doubled its capital from $93 billion to $208 billion. This solidifies the Bank’s leadership in development financing for the continent.

Successful African Development Fund (ADF15) replenishment: In December 2019, donors announced a remarkable $7.6 billion to replenish the African Development Fund. The replenishment represented a 35% increase in financing for low-income African countries at the end of the fifteenth replenishment of the African Development Fund, the concessional window of the Bank Group. The ADF contributes to poverty reductionand economic and social development in the 38 least developed African countries by providing concessional funding for projects and programs, as well as technical assistance for studies and capacity-building activities.

Resource mobilization for Women-Owned Businesses at G7 summit:At the G7 summit of world leaders in Biarritz, France, in August 2019, the President of the Bank Group, Akinwumi Adesina, successfully launched a global campaign of the Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA) to mobilize $3 billion for women entrepreneurs in Africa, with strong support and resources from G7 leaders and nations.

During the summit, French President Emmanuel Macron announced France’s contribution of $135 million to the AFAWA initiative to encourage women’s access to funding in Africa. The amount represents more than half the financial support of $251 million promised by the G7 governments. 

Also, the Bank co-hosted delegations from around the world for the first Global Gender Summit held in Africa, in Kigali, Rwanda. The gathering, attended by the presidents of Ethiopia – Sahle-Work Zewde, and Rwanda, Paul Kagame – moved the needle forward on gender equality and women’s empowerment in Africa and around the world. Several agreements were signed to facilitate project financing for women entrepreneurs in Africa.

2019 Africa Investment Forum (AIF): Following a highly successful inaugural event, the Bank secured more than $40 billion worth of investment interest in less than 72 hours at the second edition of the Africa Investment Forum held in Johannesburg, South Africa. The Forum, Africa’s largest marketplace for mobilizing capital, featured 56 boardroom deals valued at $67.6 billion – a 44% increase from the 2018 debut.

Transparent InstitutionThe Bank ranks 4th globally in transparency among 45 multilateral and bilateral institutions by Publish What You Fund, an outfit that consists of 19 developed economies. In addition, all the major rating agencies Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s, Fitch and the Japanese Credit Rating Agency have assigned it a triple-A rating. The outlook on all the ratings is stable and reflects the Bank’s strong membership support, healthy capital adequacy, preferred creditor status and strong financial condition.

The Bank also recorded a few firsts.

Room2Run:In 2018, the Bank launched Room2Run, a pioneering $1 billion synthetic securitization of a portfolio of its private sector loans to serve as a model for other multilateral development banks and investors as they seek new ways to release much-needed financing to catalyse private capital in developing markets.

COVID-19 Social Bond: In March 2020, the Bank raised an exceptional $3 billion in a three-year bond to help ease the economic and social impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on livelihoods and Africa’s economies. The Fight Covid-19 social bond garnered interest from central banks and official institutions, bank treasuries, and asset managers, including socially responsible investors, with bids exceeding $4.6 billion. It was the largest dollar-denominated social bond ever launched in international capital markets and the largest US dollar benchmark ever issued by the Bank. It will pay an interest rate of 0.75%.

LSE listing of Social Bond:The Bank celebrated another milestone with the listing of its Fight Covid-19 social bond on the London Stock Exchange on April 3. The bond is now available through its Sustainable Bond Market.

TAAT innovation boosting agriculture:The Bank’s Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation program (TAAT) is leading the charge in helping to transform local staple crops across the continent, including maize, rice, wheat, cassava, high-iron beans, sorghum, millet, orange-fleshed sweet potatoes as well as livestock and fish. 

TAAT aims to raise food output in Africa by 100 million tons and lift 40 million people out of poverty by 2025 by harnessing high-impact, proven technologies to raise productivity, mitigate risks, and promote diversification and processing.

Prophet TB Joshua: God has not told me to reopen the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN)

Prominent Nigerian Pastor TB Joshua has reacted to the announcement from the Nigerian Government regarding the reopening of churches, insisting he will only open The Synagogue, Church Of All Nations (SCOAN) when he “hears from God” to do so.

Joshua, whose church is one of Nigeria’s major tourist attractions, said he received a “revelation” from God about the church’s initial closure.

In a video posted to YouTube, the cleric can be heard forewarning of The SCOAN’s closure on three occasions – in February 2019, April 2019 and January 2020 – long before the coronavirus outbreak resulted in a ban on public gatherings.

“The thing God is still telling me – you will just get here one day and learn that there is no church,” he had stated during a regular Sunday service, adding that congregants would only view him on Emmanuel TV, the popular Christian channel.  

“Viewers, that same God we are waiting to hear from on when to reopen – when things will go back to normal – as usual,” Joshua said in a statement released to his official social media channels. 

“God’s time is the best. We are waiting at His feet for that time. We are tarrying for the Holy Spirit’s instruction,” he continued, calling on his followers to “pray without ceasing”.

The cleric added he would continue his usual broadcasts on Emmanuel TV “until we hear from God when to reopen.”

“It is God’s work, not our work,” he added. “Here, our thanks go to the authorities for understanding. Jesus is Lord!”

On Monday 1st June 2020, President Muhammadu Buhari had announced the easing of lockdown restrictions in Nigeria, including the reopening of churches and mosques in line with “state government protocols”.

African Union Chair Cyril Ramaphosa to participate in OACPS Summit on COVID-19

Cyril Ramaphosa, President of the Republic of South Africa and Chairperson of the African Union (AU), will join Heads of State and Government of the Organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) in a virtual Summit to discuss responses to the COVID-19 pandemic among member states.

It will be the first Extraordinary Inter-Sessional Summit of this association of nations.

The virtual OACPS Summit, on Wednesday, 03 June 2020, will be chaired by His Excellency Uhuru Kenyatta, President of the Republic of Kenya.

The Summit theme is “Transcending the COVID-19 Pandemic: Building Resilience through Global Solidarity”.  

The Summit is expected to discuss multiple challenges faced by members of the OACPS in public health, the economy, food security and education. 

The Summit is also expected to discuss the threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic to the maintenance of international peace and security. 

The Summit will assess the  global situation of COVID-19 with a particular focus on its effects and consequences for OACPS members.

Leaders will also review opportunities and actions for immediate responses to the pandemic and identify opportunities for global solidarity and action involving the United Nations, G20, European Union, the World Bank and regional development finance institutions.

It is expected that the Summit will chart an intra-OACPS response aimed at mitigating the effects of the pandemic.

South Africa’s participation in the Summit is within the context of promoting the African Agenda and advancing South-South solidarity and cooperation.

President Ramaphosa has in his capacity as the Chairperson of the African Union (AU) spearheaded a number of initiatives under the AU umbrella to deal with the serious consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa.

Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) member states comprise Angola, Barbados, Congo Brazzaville, Fiji, Gambia, 
Guinea Bissau, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, Seychelles, South Africa, Tuvalu and Zambia.

Nigerian President to embattled President of African Development Bank Akinwumi Adesina: Don’t worry, I will stand by you

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari says Nigeria will stand solidly behind Dr Akinwumi Adesina in his bid to get re-elected as President of the African Development Bank (AfDB).

President Buhari spoke at State House in Abuja on Tuesday while hosting Dr Adesina on a courtesy visit.

President of the African Development Bank Akinwumi Adesina and President Muhammadu Buhari meet at Abuja on Tuesday June 2, 2020
President of the African Development Bank Akinwumi Adesina and President Muhammadu Buhari meet at Abuja on Tuesday June 2, 2020

“In 2015, when you were to be elected for the first term, I wrote to all African leaders, recommending you for the position. I didn’t say because you were a People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Minister, and I belonged to the All Progressives Congress (APC), so I would withhold my support. I’ll remain consistent with you, because no one has faulted the step I took on behalf of Nigeria,” said President Buhari.

Mr. Buhari pledged that Nigeria would work with all other leaders and stakeholders in AfDB to ensure that Dr Adesina was elected for a second term built on the record of his achievements during his first term.

President of the African Development Bank Akinwumi Adesina and President Muhammadu Buhari meet at Abuja on Tuesday June 2, 2020
President of the African Development Bank Akinwumi Adesina and President Muhammadu Buhari meet at Abuja on Tuesday June 2, 2020

The African Union had already endorsed the incumbent AfDB President as sole candidate for the continent, but some other stakeholders are trying to ensure that Dr Adesina is re-investigated on some allegations, and rendered ineligible to run.

Giving a background to what was happening in the bank, Dr Adesina, a former Nigerian Minister for Agriculture, said the 16 allegations raised against him were trumped up, “and without facts, evidence, and documents, as required by the rules and regulations of the bank.”

He added that the Ethics Committee of the bank cleared him of all the allegations, and calls for fresh investigation by the United States of America, were against the rules.

President of the African Development Bank Akinwumi Adesina and President Muhammadu Buhari meet at Abuja on Tuesday June 2, 2020
President of the African Development Bank Akinwumi Adesina and President Muhammadu Buhari meet at Abuja on Tuesday June 2, 2020

“My defense ran into 250 pages, and not a single line was faulted or questioned. The law says that report of the Ethics Committee should be transmitted to the Chairman of Governors of the bank. It was done, and the governors upheld the recommendations. That was the end of the matter, according to the rules. It was only if I was culpable that a fresh investigation could be launched. I was exonerated, and any other investigation would amount to bending the rules of the bank, to arrive at a predetermined conclusion,” Dr Adesina said.

Stressing that the motive was to soil his name, and that of the bank, the AfDB President said he was proud to be Nigerian, and thanked President Buhari for his unflinching support.

“You helped me to get elected in the first place, and you have supported me robustly all along, and the African Union unanimously endorsed my re-election” he declared.

While commiserating with President Buhari on the death of the former Chief of Staff, Mallam Abba Kyari, Dr Adesina described Professor Ibrahim Gambari, new Chief of Staff as “a man of integrity, and of global standing.”

Nigeria Senate confirms appointment of 37 nominees of Federal Character Commission

The Nigerian Senate on a Tuesday confirmed the appointment of 37 nominees forwarded to the upper chamber by President Muhammadu Buhari for confirmation. 

The nominees were confirmed after the upper chamber considered the report of the Senate Committee on Federal Character and Inter-Governmental Affairs.

The nominees whose appointments were confirmed are: Dr. Muheeba (Farida) Dankaka, Chairman (kwara); Hon. Henry Ogbulogo (Abia); Dr. Salihu Bello (Adamawa); Obonganwan Dorah Daniel Ebong (Akwa Ibom); Rev. Ibeabuchi Uche (Anambra); Mohammad Tijjani (Bauchi); Tonye G. Okio Member (Bayelsa); Mr. Silas Mfa Macikpah (Benue); Abba Ali Monguno Member (Borno); Mr. Nsor Atamgba (Cross River); Hon. Moses Anaughe (Delta); Chief George Afamefuna Ossi (Ebonyi); Imuetinyan Festus Member (Edo); Barr. Sesan Fatoba (Ekiti); and Mrs. Ginika Florence Tor (Enugu).

Others are: Hamza Mohammed (Gombe); Dr. Diogu Uche (Imo); Lawan Ya’u Roni (Jigawa); Hadiza Usman Muazu (Kaduna); Muhammad Awwal Na’iya (Kano); Hon. Lawai Garba (Katsina); Abubakar Atiku Bunu (Kebbi); Pharm. Idris Eneye Bello (Kano); Abdul Wasiu Kayode Bawa-Allah (Lagos); Barr Alakayi Toro Mamman (Nassarawa); Maj.Gen. Suleiman Barau Said.(Rtd) (Niger); Abiodun Isiaq Akinlade (Osun); Chief Olufemi Lawrence Omosanya (Ondo); Adeoye Abdulrazak Olalekan (Osun); Prof. Adeniyi Olowofela (Oyo); Mr. Stephen A. Jings (Plateau); Wokocha Augustine (Rivers); Abdullahi Aminu Tafida (Sokoto); Alhaji Armaya’u Dauda Abubakar (Taraba); Hon. Jibril Maigari (Yobe); Hon. Sani Garba (Zamfara); and Sen. Adamu Mohammed Sidi-Ali (FCT). 

In a related development, the Senate on Tuesday also confirmed the appointments of Dr. Frederick Ekwem, Commissioner, (Imo and Abia); and Dr. Jonah Madugu, Commissioner (Benue, Nasarawa and Plateau). 

The confirmation of both appointments was sequel to the consideration and adoption of the report of the Senate Committee on Establishment and Public Service. 

Meanwhile, the Senate has received a formal request from President Muhammadu Buhari to replace one of the members on the Federal Character Commission. 

The letter dated May 29, 2020, was read by the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, on the floor during plenary on Tuesday. 

The letter reads: “In compliance with the provision of Section 154(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), I have the pleasure to present for confirmation by the Senate, Mr. James Jiya Kolo as a Member representing Kwara State in the Federal Character Commission replacing the nominee earlier submitted for the state, Mr. Daniel James Kolo who died on 19th May, 2020.”

In another letter received by the Upper Chamber, President Muhammadu Buhari requested the confirmation of Tella Adeniran Rahmon as Resident Electoral Commissioner from Osun State in the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC). 

According to the President, the request seeking Rahmon’s confirmation was pursuant to Paragraph 14(3) of Part One of the Third Schedule to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended). 

Senate president Ahmad Lawan calls for stiffer penalties against rape in Nigeria

President of the Nigerian Senate, Ahmad Lawan, has advocated for stiffer penalties against rape in Nigeria. 

Lawan made the call in his concluding remarks on a motion considered to condemn the increasing cases of rape and brutality against the girl child in Nigeria. 

According to him, having in place stiffer penalties in Nigeria’s criminal and penal code will serve as deterrent to perpetrators involved in the act. 

“We stand together should to shoulder on this, and I think we need to make the penalties for rape stiffer to be sufficient deterrent for those who are involved in this, or who even desire to be involved. We have to save our future, and these girls and women are the future of this nation,” the Senate President said. 

Earlier, sponsor of the motion on “increasing cases of rape and brutality against the girl child in Nigeria”, Senator Sandy Onor (PDP, Cross River Central), noted that on Tuesday, 26th May, 2020, a 16 year old girl, Miss Tina Ezekwe, was hit by a bullet when a trigger-happy policeman opened fire on a bus in Lagos

According to the lawmaker, “efforts to save Tina proved futile as she passed on two days later at a hospital.”

Citing another incident, the lawmaker noted that “on Wednesday, 27th May, 2020, a first year undergraduate student of University of Benin, Miss Uwa Omozuwa was brutalised and raped at her church, where she went to study in the evening of that day.”

He added that, “brutality and rape cases against the girl child in Nigeria are on the rise, with some of these cases reported and several others, admittedly unreported.”

The lawmaker who bemoaned the lack of safety for the girl child in Nigeria, said that, “our young girls may no longer have the confidence to live their normal lives.

“The average young girl in Nigeria is obviously becoming terrified and scared to live with and trust her close male relatives and neighbours.”

Onor expressed worry “that most Nigerian girls and women might have experienced one form of verbal and physical abuse or assault in their lifetime.”

He stated further that the negative physical, psychological and emotional effects of rape and brutality on young girls might impact them for the rest of their lives with attendant consequences on their self esteem and general productivity.

Onor expressed concern “that if proactive measures are not taken by relevant authorities to curb these dastardly acts and bring the culprits to justice, the cases of sexual assault and brutality will rise even further.”

The lawmaker further stated that unless timely action is taken against sexual assault and brutality, the absence of same “will hinder our growth as a nation and it is therefore our responsibility as leaders to rescue these young girls from the scourge of rape and brutality.

Lending her voice in support of the motion, Senator Biodun Olujimi (PDP – Ekiti South) said, “these are very ominous times for our children, especially the girl child.”

“Mr. President, if the authorities do not take serious action against rape, it would become a big scourge that will eat us down the line because the girls are being attacked psychologically, and that is not good for this nation.”

Accordingly, the Senate in its resolutions called on the State Houses of Assembly to amend the penal and criminal code to make the penalties for rape and sexual assault stiffer so as to deterrent to perpetrators. 

It also condemned the killings of the young girls, and called for the immediate arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators of these unwholesome acts.

The Upper Chamber while urging the Federal Government to stage a campaign against the increasing brutality and rape of the girl child, called on the relevant security authorities to evolve proactive measures to checkmate these unfortunate occurrences. 

The Senate also observed a minute silence for Tina and Uwa and all those who have lost their lives from such brutality and rape. 

N-Power and Sadiya Farouk’s detractors – Perspectives by Emma Agu

In my early days as editor, one day, as I agonised openly over what I had considered was a misreading of my intentions leading, at times, to hostility towards me, my colleague Tony Nzotta, asked me to come over to the newsroom. Nzotta had a penchant for the dramatic. Once we got to the door of the newsroom, he stopped abruptly, halting me in the process. He then re-enacted what he described, was the action of a one-time editor of the New York Times who, faced with similar predicament, had gone to the entrance to the newsroom and, in exasperation howled at nobody in particular: “For crying out loud, why does everybody hate me here?” The reply was instant. One of the personnel who was in a similar position as Tony Nzotta was now occupying, retorted: “Because you are the editor of the New York Times”. Looking straight into my face, Nzotta quipped: “Because you are the editor of The Statesman”. That was in 1988. I was 31 at the time.

Tony was to explain further. The convention was: nobody ever loved the editor of the New York Times. If he was ever loved, then he was not the task master extra-ordinaire; he was not the deadline maestro and he was likely to fail in his duty. According to him, all that the job called for was respect and if love came along, it was a bonus.

Some jobs come like that. Not many a worker ever admired the auditor or the person in charge of internal control in an organisation. Similarly, not many people are patient with a reformer or any functionary with an honest desire to effect change, particularly disruptive change that bothers on transparency. In fact, in most cases, the advocate of change becomes a victim of all manner of umbrage and blackmail. The reason is simple: change comes with the loss of privilege; and those whose comfort zone have been threatened or disrupted are not likely to let go without a fight.

The Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouk appears to have fallen into the editor’s (or should I say, auditor’s) dilemma. In recent weeks, she has been subjected to serious vilification over the activities of her ministry. Principal targets have been the Modified School Feeding Programme and the N-Power Programme. While criticism of the former has focused on the desirability or otherwise of continuing implementation under the lockdown, critics of the later have demanded the outright removal of the minister, claiming that she is incompetent. I shall dwell more on the later whose proponents happen to be enrolees of the programme.

Their grouse is that payment of the stipend has fallen into arrears since the minister assumed office. For that reason, they have employed expletives such as “wicked” and “incompetent” to malign her. Besides, they claim that the programme was better run by its previous managers.

For a better understanding of the controversy, it is well to recall that the programme, a laudable one at that, was initiated by the President Muhammadu Buhari Administration as a platform for capacity building, employment creation, people empowerment and social engineering. It has the strategic imperative of taking jobless graduates off the streets and crime; of equipping enrolees with life skills and in the process, boosting the economic power of families. For effect, it was domiciled in the office of the Vice President.

However, the programme, with other components of the equally ambitious Social Investment Programmes (SIP) of the Federal Government, was transferred to the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs upon its creation in 2019. Ever since, hell has known no greater fury.

For good reasons therefore, the minister is bound, like the editor, to be worried that she is so viscerally hated, to the extent of calling for her head. Why not? How many people of her age have been privileged to occupy such a huge strategic ministry? What does she expect when her charge touches directly on jobs creation and the daily livelihood of millions of people, in a personal manner? At any rate, as a public officer, every action or inaction of the minister is fair game for public scrutiny, including, occasional insults or throwing of rotten tomatoes and eggs; the price you get to pay when you are being fed, by the poor tax-payer. To that extent, the rage of the enrolees will seem understandable. But is their logic justified. I doubt that.

For a start, granted that uneasy lies the head that wears the crown, the attempt to personalise the delay in payment of stipends is not only mischievous but patently untenable. An honest enquiry would have revealed that, as the minister stated, payment was delayed by technical hitches that were beyond her control. Of course, it would not have helped the case of the petition writers if they had acknowledged that the minister had kept to an earlier pledge that the payment would be done, the week before last. Good a thing, that has been cleared. But would that be the first time that payment was delayed? The answer is an effective no.

Obviously, without prejudice to the effort of earlier managers of the programme, any attempt to paint a picture of a scheme that had, hitherto operated, seamlessly, would tantamount to standing truth on its head. For one, long before now, there had been protests, by N-Power beneficiaries, over delayed stipends. Besides, while it is acknowledged that the stipend, the bread, is a very important component of the programme, it will defeat the noble objectives of the program to hinge its success on that singular value.

Anyone who has monitored the programme would have observed the several shortcomings calling for concerted and decisive solution if its overall objective is not to be defeated. One of such malfeasance that the Ministry is working to eliminate is the situation whereby some already gainfully employed people connive with unscrupulous officials to defraud the system. Under the arrangement, some enrolees who never reports for duty agree to part with a percentage of their stipend, in favour of a cartel that spans a broad gamut of the programme. In fact, as far back as 2017, while on a visit to one of the states, the Special Assistant to the President on Job Creation and Youth Employment, Mr. Afolabi Imoukhuede reportedly discovered cases where enrolees were receiving their stipends without reporting for work. Interestingly, in a sting operation in January 2019, that was several months before the creation of the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, an undercover journalist of The Cable newspaper had detailed the elaborate conspiracy of a broad network of persons who gamed the system by hosting “ghost” enrolees. Though Imoukhuede had denied any such infractions, he nonetheless admitted that, like any other programme, the N-Power programme was not perfect. Pray, how could a programme that was not perfect in January 2019 be said to have been running seamlessly, at the same time? And if the programme was already fraught with problems several months before the Minister, Sadiya Farouk, assumed office, does it not translate to blatant falsehood, deliberate mischief and wanton character assassination to pillory her in the brazen manner that those calling for her innocent head have done?

If her critics were sincere, rather than engaging in puerile and scurrilous demonisation of the minister, they should be supporting her genuine effort, to fix fundamental flaws that continue to undermine the lofty objectives of the programme. One such flaw is the lack of a clear exit strategy which explains the untenable situation whereby enrolees whose programme is for 24 months have grossed 40 months without any clear exit strategy. Paradoxically, even with such a serious flaw, the petitioners still claimed that the programme was running efficiently, with the deceptive caveat that the former managers were already concluding their exit plan. Pray, why did it take all of one year after the expiration of their programme for the exit plan to begin to take shape, if the program was indeed running efficiently?

As things stand, the Minister, Sadiya Farouk, should realise that she is in a rocky flight; she must tighten her seat belt as she seeks to correct the obvious anomalies that have frustrated the full realisation of the vision of the N-Power Programme. In this regard, she should never capitulate to the ploy of some enrolees who, in their desperation to remain in the system, are ready to deploy every sinister tool of blackmail, to scuttle her resolve to return to the original vision of the program; that is, to work with other stakeholders towards exiting those who have completed in order to create room for others.

During a recent briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Sadiya Farouk had disclosed that the Ministry was reviewing the program with a view to reforming and streamlining it for better efficiency. The minister’s definitive clarification demands that, the time for selfish conspiratorial inter-agency and politically motivated filibustering is over. For the sake of the Nigerian youth whose fate may well be tied to this programme, it is time for every hand to be on the deck; to facilitate the emergence of the new template being put in place by the ministry. to promote transparency and overall effectiveness of the programme. Achieving a transparent recruitment process; eliminating collusion to defraud the system through effective internal control and establishing workable exit strategy for the enrolees, on completion of the programme, are some of the long-standing deficits inherited by Sadiya Farouk that, when resolved, will place the program on near auto-pilot.  

Agu, publisher of ZEST TRAVELLER Magazine is a fellow of the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) and the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ).

Nigerian reggae legend Majek Fashek dies in New York

Nigerian reggae legend Majek Fashek has died in his sleep in New York, his manager Omenka Uzoma said. He was 57.

He was popular for hit songs such as Send Down the Rain and So Long for Too Long.

Mr Uzoma said in an Instagram post it was “a time for us all to celebrate his achievements, and not mourn”.

The musician and entertainer whose real name was Majekodunmi Fasheke worked with big stars, including Jimmy Cliff, Tracy Chapman and Snoop Dogg.

“He’s done a lot for Nigeria and Africa,” his manager said.

“He was drawn to reggae in the 1980s at a point when highlife and juju were more dominant in Nigeria. The artist said Bob Marley was a major influence as a consequence his musical style and looks mirrored the Jamaican legend,” noted the BBC.

The cause of death was unknown although he’s been ill.

HLPF: Stakeholders validate Nigeria’s VNR Report On SDGs, Ready For Submission To The UN

In preparation for the 2020 United Nations High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) Meeting on Sustainable Development in New York, stakeholders in Nigeria have unanimously validated the Final Draft Report of the 2nd Voluntary National Review (VNR) on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Nigeria.

The exercise was carried out during the Virtual National Validation Workshop on Nigeria’s 2020 VNR Report, which had about 141 participants in attendance. The participants cut across representatives from key Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government, United Nations System, Organized Private Sector, Civil Society Organizations and Non-Governmental Organizations. Notable among the participants were the Minister of State, Budget and National Planning, Clement Agba, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Edward Kallon, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on SDGs, Princess Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire as host.

The validated Report, which will be presented at the HLPF scheduled to hold between July 13th and 17th, 2020 is a product of extensive research and wide consultations.

“To ensure an evidence-based and policy-useful Report is produced, Nigeria’s 2020 VNR focused on seven priority reporting SDGs: 1, 3, 4, 5, 8, 16 and 17. This prioritization was based on our national development priorities as embedded in the Nigeria’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) 2017-2020 and the three cardinal objectives of President Buhari’s administration – economy, security and fight against corruption. Thus, the Report before you was carefully framed to establish these conceptual links,” Princess Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire stated.

The Report also aggregated useful knowledge and shared experiences generated from the broad-based participations at regional and national consultative workshops hosted virtually across key segments of the society grouped according to their levels of specialisations/interests. The groups include Civil Society Organizations and the Scientific Community; People with Disabilities (PWDs); the Organized Private Sector and the Donors/Development Partners. Youths, women and older persons were also embedded in the virtual workshops.

In his keynote address, the Minister of State, Budget and National Planning, Clement Agba restated the commitment of government to efforts to attain the SDGs.

“Interestingly, this review coincides with Nigeria’s Plan to develop a successor Development Plan to the ERGP. I am happy to state that plans have reached advanced stage in the preparation of the country’s future plan. Specifically, with the domestication and customization of the Integrated Sustainable Development Goals (iSDG) Model late last year and its deployment to the Macroeconomic Analysis Department of the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, we are committed to using this Model in the development of the next National Development Plan.”

The UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Edward Kallon, in his remarks congratulated Nigeria on the commitment to produce the report in face of numerous challenges. He, however, noted that the government and people of Nigeria must not rest on their oars in the quest to deliver on the goals ahead of the 2030 target date.

Speaker Gbajabiamila mourns Senator Munir Muse

The Speaker of the Nigerian House of Representatives, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila has described the passing away of Sen. Munir Muse as sad and painful.

Gbajabiamila said Sen. Muse, who represented Lagos Central Senatorial District, where the Speaker comes from, would be missed by all Lagosians, especially those from his immediate senatorial district.

In a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Lanre Lasisi, the Speaker described Sen. Munir Muse, who was in the Red Chamber from 2007 to 2011, as a perfect and easygoing gentleman.

He said the late Sen. Muse, who died at the age of 81, gave his best in terms of representing the yearnings and aspirations of his people when he served in the Senate.

Gbajabiamila also recalled with nostalgia how the late senator made remarkable achievements when he served as the chairman of Apapa Local Government before his election to the Senate in 2007.

“On this day, I join millions of Lagosians to mourn a very distinguished man, who served his people with uttermost dedication and commitment. He was a perfect gentleman and silent achiever.

“As a politician myself, I learnt from his wealth of experience. I remember our public engagement at Eko Club, Surulere in 2018 where he encouraged me not to renege on the pursuit for the speakership seat in the interest of the country, A lot of people may have hoped to continue learning from him, but God Almighty has taken him away.

“I won’t forget in a hurry Sen. Munir Muse’s towering achievements as council Chairman of Apapa Local Government, which earned him special recognition in Lagos State, hence his elevation by the people of Lagos Central to the position of Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“And when he went to the Red Chamber, Sen. Munir Muse did not disappoint his people as he represented their interest the best way he could.

As a mark of honour, his successor, Senator Oluremi Tinubu has been organising a football tournament annually in his honour. The Speaker recalled kicking off the finals of the 2018 edition of the Senator Munir Muse Cup.

”Though he is no more today, we find solace in the fact that he lived a life worthy of emulation,” Gbajabiamila said.

Amnesty International lambasts Trump after U.S. leader declared war on Americans

Amnesty International on Monday night blasted President Donald Trump after the American leader promised to use force against mostly peaceful protesters demonstrating across the country following the murder of George Floyd by Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Speaking on Monday from the White House Rose Garden, President Trump announced a crackdown on nationwide anti-racism protests.

His words were so surreal, it seemed he was referring to Boko Haram terrorists in Nigeria after the mass kidnap of the Chibok girls in April 2014.

As he spoke in the White House, police flash-bang explosions could be heard nearby as they faced protesters with hands up chanting “hands up, don’t shoot”.

He mentioned George Floyd, the black man murdered by a white cop, only in passing, and focused the rest of his speech on law and order, and the police response, ignoring the brutality that many police officers have subjected peaceful protesters to, including journalists.

He said he would mobilize “all available federal resources, civilian and military, to stop the rioting and looting, to end the destruction and arson, and to protect the rights of law-abiding Americans, including your Second Amendment rights.” and called on governors across the country to deploy the National Guard, vowing to deploy the U.S. military if states refused to comply.

Condemnation was swift. Amnesty International expressed outrage over the comments and said “the violence that can no longer be ignored is the violence committed against Black lives by the police.”

Ernest Coverson, the End Gun Violence campaign manager at Amnesty International USA said: “The violence that can no longer be ignored is the violence committed against Black lives by the police. The real disgrace is the anti-Black racism of the Trump administration.The President swore an oath to the nation to protect all of its people – not just those he deems worthy. 

“The time for justice has passed for George Floyd, his children, and his loved ones. The possibility for justice was taken away the day that he was killed. All that remains is accountability – and accountability has been absent from an administration that continues to fan the flames of hate. 

“People are angry. People are exhausted. They have a right to take to the streets and peacefully protest – everyone has that right. The rights of the many to take to the streets and demand justice and comprehensive police reform cannot be trampled upon, for any reason. No longer can police be allowed to run rampant and terrorize our communities. Law enforcement exists to work for the people – but it only seems to work for some. Black lives matter. Trans Black lives matter. Black immigrant lives matter. Black asylum-seeker lives matter. Sending in the military to respond to a peaceful revolution has been the only action this administration has taken. What’s been absent is a legitimate attempt to change a system that does not work for Black people, but directly oppresses them. 

“The U.S. system of policing is broken and needs systemic reform to root out racism and radically change its approach to law enforcement and human rights. Amnesty International USA is calling for a number of reforms, including passage of the PEACE Act to limit the use of deadly force, which should only ever be used as a last resort. When real reforms take place, only then will it send a message to Black people that their  lives matter and our Black communities can live in safety, justice and freedom.”

Africa Akinwumi Adesina (AFDB): Any conspiracy from the western block? – Perspectives by Jimoh Ibrahim

Please wait a minute; it is about corporate governance! Yes, in a simple bank matter, and what is more, as Wolfensohn will say, corporate governance is about promoting corporate fairness, transparency, and accountability.

Every day we keep struggling on which of the rules of ethics or governance will secure corporate sustainability and profitability. The strategy is unending from its trajectory from the 1776 Adam Smith “it is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self -interest.

We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessity but of their advantages” In 1932 we were inodiated with the corporate governance of Berle and Means, which centered on the separation of ownership from the control that produces a condition where the interest of the owner and ultimate manager may, and often do diverge. Or desire to maximized shareholders’ value.

And, could this be the desire of the Western block interest in AFDB? We are no longer in the 1980 days of mergers and acquisitions. Or, Junk Bonds and poison pills no one is interested in selling her shares in AFDB. (at least I do know that the Nigeria shares is not for sale!) it may be that the 1900 rise of institutional investors is the thinking of Donald Trump on corporate governance as a businessman.

The challenge with an institutional investor is the high cost of monitoring and the free-rider problem, liquidity versus dialogue, who own the institutional investor share, and who is the ultimate beneficiary of the shares in the end? Or the challenge of the company versus index investing, effective market hypothesis, portfolio diversification. Will individual action make a difference concerning AFDB ethical issues? Or a case of rationale apathy or outright apathy ignorance, and what is the active oversight of the US going to add any value to AFDB? We left those issues to the events of the 1990s.

A new challenge to corporate governance in the 2000s was the case of activism, and Hedge Funds and Private equity—the 2010 issues of pooled Funds and stewardship cannot be wholly left out since trust is of a challenge. In 2020 we are not even sure what response to corporate governance will be with COVID 19. The problems of managing corporations from home include presenting an integrated fiduciary relationship between the management and the Board at a time when the Directors can be held responsible for the management’s actions, and defense of I did not do what the management did can no longer stand!

Liberalism has a way of making everyone wealthy from the absolute gain advantage through collective action. The assurances of collective resources to pursue share gains so is the West, NATO, and North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). It is against such authoritarian regimes that liberalism thinks, liberals will not go into war against one another, and the principle of collectivism and collaboration is in the best interest of economic harmony.

Yes, the democratic peace theory and the campaign for the establishment of the liberal domestic democratic Government worldwide. The US will not buy Nigeria oil, yet we are hoping for wealth creation among two liberals with absolute gains and collective interest. The US may cross the border to control Nigeria’s investment in AFDB and wishing to remove the Nigerian elected president in a bank in which Nigeria has the highest interest. Is the relative gains principle of liberalism in international units strengthen US interest against Nigeria? The US aims at spreading liberal democracy that widening the zone of peace inhabited by world democratic states. Yet, the US is questioning the Nigerian appointment and praxis of a Nigerian bank president in a bank in which Nigeria has the highest shares!

What is more of a nonsensical or absurd idea or talk of a President of AFDB asking to explain why he employed a female staff? He favors the highest shareholder, why his personal team is known to him before resuming to work, what he has to say about a staff that proceeded on medical leave on health ground after the bank physician-approved a health leave for him. What a nonsense. And notwithstanding the clearance from the Board room, a ‘powerful’ shareholder wants independent probe of the nonsense allegations!

In global governance, the US can violate global governance principles without question; all she needs to say is that she is doing so on a humanitarian grant! Adesina, a Human being need not have an altruistic feeling so conceived the US. If he invites a colleague who both of them made first class in the university to work with him, then the US must trump up a limited war at least for a start.

The US power as a hegemon cannot be challenged. (yet international society is anarchic in the sense that there is no central Government) At least without the UN resolution, the US invaded Iraq for violation of the UN directives for ten years. Where did the US get the authority to invade Iraq? Never worry, it is all about providing stability as hegemon to the new world, (But the US does not give central Government for the global society) Who invade Panama in the face of article 2 (4) and (7) of the UN chapter? It all in the protection of global governance principles. (maybe.) In Nigeria, out of the list of liberal states? Alexander Dumas ‘all for one and one for all’ now comes to the unwillingness of other western nations to protect Nigeria in the face of the US launch of the attack on Nigeria as one significant investment in Africa’s continent. Where did we go wrong!

The US indeed must be a powerful country battling so many issues at the same time. From the challenges of power shift, the WHO imbroglio, the debt crises, outdating infrastructure, and more importantly, COVID 19 and now to Akinwumi Adesina query to explain why he employed Nigerians and allow a sick director to go on leave at AFDB. Also, less I forget why he employed his personal staff like the chief of staff from people he already knows!! There is no specific allegation on fraud yet. The US is about launching a limited war in AFDB. Again, will the war be not, however, absolute?

If what is left from the remains of liberalism is anything relevant from the battle of COVID19 to Africa Development Bank (AFDB), then America will soon remember Winston Churchill golden worlds ‘to jaw jaw is always better than to war war! At least after the upcoming August re-election of Akinwunmi Adesina. Yes, liberalism is all about collaboration, collectivism, and interdependence.

It is all about the harmony of interest. No one will forget too soon that liberalism is a normative theory that has its own phenomenon of what ought to be rather than what it is. And, it is not contending the fact that there are specific regulations in respect of what is in the procedural setting of AFDB rather than what it ought to be. The processes and procedures of the African Development Bank are not for reforms (at least for now). The US should be applying the procedure after the change, not using what ought to be as Yasick for today’s judgment. For unjust orders are inherently unstable because they invite rebellion by the people they oppress. We say that liberal theory is often prescriptive, recommending specific policy for just order not in the content of what is established to be known to us as AFDB rules of ethics coded and written praxis.

Amanda Glassman: Trump’s WHO pullout will have substantial impacts on Sub-Saharan Africa

President Donald Trump’s decision to cut U.S. funding to the World Health Organization (WHO) will have substantial impacts on health delivery in Sub-Saharan Africa, Amanda Glassman, a global health expert and executive vice president of the Center for Global Development, a think tank based in Washington, DC, said on Monday.

“Much of the US voluntary contribution of approximately 350-400 million USD per year goes to WHO programs on infectious diseases that are most prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa – HIV/AIDS, malaria, vaccine-preventable diseases. Efforts to combat the new DRC Ebola outbreak and other threats will also be affected,” Glassman told TODAY NEWS AFRICA‘s Simon Ateba in an interview.

According to her, assistance to Sub-Saharan Africa is in the interest of the United States as COVID-19 has illustrated “perfectly how a virus can move around the world, back and forth between and within countries.”

But the bilateral relations between the United States and Sub-Saharan Africa will continue, she said, noting that “most of the money spent on health delivery in Africa comes from the region’s own governments and the pockets of its citizens”.

“In most countries, total health aid is less than 30% of total health spending.  In addition, regardless of WHO, the US continues to provide bilateral aid to 34 countries in SSA,” Glassman added.

Can you please react to the decision by U.S. President Donald Trump to cut ties with the World Health Organization?

The seemingly offhand decision to withdraw from the WHO in the midst of a pandemic is inexplicable and counter to US interests. Beyond the formal inclusion of Taiwan, specific reforms were never named by the Administration and the decision did not even respect their own previously announced timeline for reforms (11 vs 30 days).

How will cutting U.S. funding to the WHO impact countries in Sub-Saharan Africa in particular?

Much of the US voluntary contribution of approximately 350-400 million USD per year goes to WHO programs on infectious diseases that are most prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa – HIV/AIDS, malaria, vaccine-preventable diseases. Efforts to combat the new DRC Ebola outbreak and other threats will also be affected.

The U.S. contributes about $450 million to the WHO annually, how much of that money is redirected to the Sub-Saharan African region and what is it used on?

Hard to know exact amounts, but I expect that most of the voluntary contribution is targeted towards SSA, with smaller amounts going to Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Venezuela.

Can the WHO and health delivery in Africa continue without U.S. funding?

Of course. Most of the money spent on health delivery in Africa comes from the region’s own governments and the pockets of its citizens – in most countries, total health aid is less than 30% of total health spending.  In addition, regardless of WHO, the US continues to provide bilateral aid to 34 countries in SSA – see table 2 for amounts by country. The US also provides support to the World Bank and the African Development Bank who provide budget support and health programs in most countries.  The WHO is most important for vaccination programs and for outbreak response, but it is marginal in terms of the amount that it represents as a share of total health spending.  

What are some of the pressing health needs in Sub-Saharan Africa at the moment amid COVID-19?

The usual disease burden continues and could potentially worsen given less access and use of health services – malaria, pneumonia, risky maternity, non-communicable diseases all contribute. COVID-19 will add to this burden — see tables 1 and 2 here 

Speaking more broadly, what complications has COVID-19 brought upon global health delivery in Sub-Saharan Africa?

Effects are most pronounced in South Africa and Nigeria so far where urban hospitals and crowded neighborhoods are seeing more cases and feeling pressure. Limits in access to oxygen are concerning.  However, the age distribution is protecting the region – there are fewer vulnerable groups – and many countries have been vigilant in testing and isolating.  The big issue is the drop in access and use of non COVID health services – because people are under stay-at-home orders, or because they have less money to spend on health, or because health services are closed. We are already seeing signs of declines in vaccination rates and TB screening, among other efforts.

And why should the U.S. assist Sub-Saharan African in the first place?

There are multiple reasons why —

Moral reasons – health and economic needs are great and aid has a good track record of working in the region

Health reasons – an infectious disease threat anywhere is an infectious disease threat everywhere

Economic reasons – SSA markets were growing before this crisis, and there are investment and profit opportunities, raw commodities were demanded by US markets and firms

Security reasons – region is strategically important

Is President Trump not right that U.S. money should just be spent on the United States and nowhere else?

It’s not an either/or choice, it has to be both for the well-being of US.

Can a health emergency in Africa affect people in the United States?

Obviously yes – COVID-19 itself illustrates perfectly how a virus can move around the world, back and forth between and within countries.

Burundi’s elections marred by abuses, arrests and intimidation – Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch on Monday called for an investigation into serious allegations of abuse during Burundi’s May 20, 2020 elections, and those found culpable should be held to account.

“The elections took place in a highly repressive environment with no independent international observers,” said Lewis Mudge, Central Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Reports of killings, arbitrary arrests, beatings, and voter intimidation during the campaigns should not be brushed under the rug.”

After a campaign for presidential, legislative, and communal elections marred by violence, arrests of opposition members, including candidates, and a crackdown on free speech, the national electoral commission announced provisional results on May 25.

The commission announced that Évariste Ndayishimiye, the candidate for the ruling National Council for the Defense of Democracy-Forces for the Defense of Democracy (Conseil national pour la défense de la démocratie-Forces pour la défense de la démocratie, CNDD-FDD), had won a reported 68.72 percent of the vote, but on May 28, the commission’s president said “draft” results that had not been “officially published” needed to be retracted. On May 30, the commission pronounced Ndayishimiye the winner of the presidential vote, although the constitutional court has yet to confirm the results.

The largest opposition party, the National Congress for Freedom (Congrès national pour la liberté, CNL), denounced the results, calling the vote “a fiasco.” Its allegations include arrests of opposition party members and candidates, voter intimidation, vote rigging, and partisanship by election officials in the pre-election period and on election day.

The elections took place in the absence of any international observation mission and, on the day of the vote, access to social media and messaging apps was blocked throughout the country, restricting independent reporting and information sharing. Since the provisional results were announced, Human Rights Watch has received credible reports of opposition members being threatened and beaten, particularly in rural areas. Local media have also reported arrests of opposition members, accused of threatening the security of the state.

The CNL told local media that over 600 of its members had been arrested during the campaigns and on election day, and Burundian rights organizations reported multiple abuses, including arbitrary arrests and beatings of CNL and other opposition party members. Human Rights Watch has also documented killings and arbitrary arrests of CNL members during the pre-election period.

The CNL alleged serious irregularities including ballot stuffing and said that its polling agents (mandataires) were denied access to polling places and, in some cases, arrested. Human Rights Watch spoke with several voters, journalists, and human rights defenders who said that in some rural locations, ruling party youths were present at polling places and had intimidated voters, while election officials and the police turned a blind eye to voter harassment and intimidation.

“Responding to allegations of serious human rights violations and electoral fraud with more repression risks inflaming an already tense situation and could have disastrous repercussions,” Mudge said. “The government, its international partners, and regional actors should remember that elections are about the rights of voters – not those in power – to choose the people’s leaders.”

New Ebola outbreak detected in northwest DRC

The Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo announced today that a new outbreak of Ebola virus disease is occurring in Wangata health zone, Mbandaka, in Équateur province. The announcement comes as a long, difficult and complex Ebola outbreak in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo is in its final phase, while the country also battles COVID-19 and the world’s largest measles outbreak.

Initial information from the Ministry of Health is that six Ebola cases have so far been detected in Wangata, of which four have died and two are alive and under care. Three of these six cases have been confirmed with laboratory testing. It is likely more people will be identified with the disease as surveillance activities increase.

“This is a reminder that COVID-19 is not the only health threat people face,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “Although much of our attention is on the pandemic, WHO is continuing to monitor and respond to many other health emergencies.”

This is the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s 11th outbreak of Ebola since the virus was first discovered in the country in 1976. The city of Mbandaka and its surrounding area were the site of Democratic Republic of the Congo’s 9th Ebola outbreak, which took place from May to July 2018.

“It’s happening at a challenging time, but WHO has worked over the last two years with health authorities, Africa CDC and other partners to strengthen national capacity to respond to outbreaks,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “To reinforce local leadership, WHO plans to send a team to support scaling up the response. Given the proximity of this new outbreak to busy transport routes and vulnerable neighbouring countries we must act quickly.”

WHO is already on the ground in Mbandaka supporting the response to this outbreak, as part of capacity built during the 2018 outbreak. The team supported the collection and testing of samples, and reference to the national laboratory for confirmation. Contact tracing is underway. Work is ongoing to send additional supplies from North Kivu and from Kinshasa to support the government-led response. A further 25 people are expected to arrive in Mbandaka tomorrow. WHO is also working to ensure that essential health services are provided to communities despite these emergency events.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s 10th outbreak of Ebola, in North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri provinces, is in its final stages. On 14 May 2020, the Ministry of Health began the 42-day countdown to the declaration of the end of that outbreak.

New outbreaks of Ebola are expected in the Democratic Republic of the Congo given the existence of the virus in an animal reservoir in many parts of the country.

President Ramaphosa appoints Ouma Rasethaba and Rodney de Kock as Deputy National Directors at NPA

President Cyril Ramaphosa has appointed Advocates Ouma Rasethaba and Rodney de Kock as Deputy National Directors of Public Prosecutions with effect from today, Monday, 01 June 2020.

The President has also approved the appointment of Adv. Mthunzi Mhaga as a Special Director of Public Prosecutions in the Office of the National Director of Public Prosecutions.

The President has made the new appointments in terms of Section 9(1) and 11(1) of the National Prosecuting Authority Act 1998, (Act 32 of 1998), and after consultation with Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Ronald Lamola and National Director of Public Prosecutions Adv. Shamila Batohi.

These appointments are essential for the efficient functioning and rebuilding of the NPA as part of the fight against crime and corruption and as a contribution to deepening the capability of the state.

Adv. Ouma Rasethaba will serve as Deputy National Director of Public Prosecutions, a role to which she brings at least 30 years of legal experience since her admission as an attorney in 1990 and an advocate six years later.

She holds a B Proc (University of the North), LLB (University of Witwatersrand), Dip. Company Law (University of Witwatersrand) and LLM (University of Pretoria).

Adv. Rasethaba is a Governance and Risk Expert, having worked in the corporate sector for 10 years.

She is also certified as a trainer, coach, teacher and public speaker and has trained as a negotiator, mediator and arbitrator.

President Ramaphosa has also appointed Adv. Rodney de Kock as Deputy National Director of Public Prosecutions: National Prosecution Services.

Adv. De Kock was appointed as the Director of Public Prosecutions for the Western Cape by the President of the Republic of South Africa on 1 November 2003 and he currently occupies this position.

Adv. De Kock has been a Director of Public Prosecutions for 15 years and is currently the second most senior Director of Public Prosecutions. Adv. De Kock has 32 years’ relevant legal experience – 15 years of those at an executive leadership level within the NPA.

Adv. De Kock was awarded a Bachelor of Arts and Law Degrees in 1983 and 1984 respectively from the University of Cape Town. Adv. De Kock has two degrees (BA and LLB). He was admitted as an attorney of the High Court of South Africa in July 1986; became an attorney of the High Court of Namibia in April 1990, and an advocate of the High Court April 1999.

Adv. Mthunzi Mhaga has been appointed as Special Director: Strategic and Legal Advisor within the Office of the National Director.

He will provide legal advice to the National Director regarding specific legal and administrative issues; provide strategic inputs in matters brought before the National Director, and will manage the relationship between the Office of the National Director and NPA stakeholders.

Adv. Mhaga is a highly experienced, skilled and multi-talented legal practitioner with 17 years’ experience covering State Advocacy, Specialised Investigations, High Court, Regional Court and 

District Court Prosecution, Media Liaison and Part Time Law Lecturing.  He offers a wide range of legal skills with a strong understanding of civil litigation, public prosecutions and media communications.

Adv. Mhaga worked at the NPA in various roles that included being the Senior State Advocate: Specialised Commercial Crimes Unit (SCCU), Senior State Advocate: Priority Crimes Litigation Unit and Member of the Directorate of Special Operations (DSO/Scorpions) task team.

Prior to that he worked as a State Advocate at the Mthatha High Court, Regional Court Prosecutor, District Court Prosecutor and Volunteer Prosecutor and part-time law lecturer.

President Ramaphosa congratulates South African citizen Elon Musk on SpaceX’s historic commercial flight into space

President Cyril Ramaphosa has offered his warm congratulations to South African citizen and global technology pioneer Elon Musk for his company SpaceX’s historic first commercial flight into space

Powered by SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft carried NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley into space on Saturday, 30 May 2020, en route to docking with the International Space Station 19 hours later.

This was the first time in history that a private-sector entity launched astronauts for NASA, which is an entity of the United States government.
 

Elon Musk holds South African, Canadian and United States citizenship.
 

President Ramaphosa said: “In the midst of our struggle against COVID-19, Elon Musk has made us proud as a country and continent.
 
“The Dragon’s successful flight to the International Space Station speaks of the ability of a resilient, industrious, fearless and visionary individual to harness talent and material resources to open new frontiers of hope, adventure and opportunity for generations into the future.
 
“It is most appropriate that we have been given this hope and excitement at a time when insecurity and uncertainty defines the human condition in many parts of the world.”
 

President Ramaphosa details steps taken to reopen schools in South Africa amid COVID-19

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has laid out steps being taken to ensure a safe reopening of schools amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In his weekly letter to South Africans, which he writes every Monday, President Ramaphosa focused on children, schools and COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

His message came on the International Day for Protection of Children, which is commemorated around the world to draw attention to children’s rights and welfare.

He ensured parents and caregivers that no schools will reopen unless it was considered safe by the authorities.

Read his full letter below

Today is the International Day for Protection of Children, which is commemorated around the world to draw attention to children’s rights and welfare. Fittingly, it is also the UN Global Day of Parents, honouring the commitment of parents and caregivers to the wellbeing of children.
 
On this day I want to thank the millions of parents, grandparents and caregivers around South Africa who continue to play an important role in the formative years in the lives of our youngest citizens. The encouragement, support and protection children receive from their parents and caregivers is essential for their future happiness and success.
 
After 65 days of a nation-wide lockdown, the country is today starting a new phase in its fight against the coronavirus. Many economic and social activities are restarting, including a phased resumption of schooling.
 
We have said that we are taking a gradual approach, guided by the advice of our scientists and led by the realities on the ground and consultations with stakeholders.
 
In the last few weeks, as we have prepared to return to school, we have had extensive and detailed discussions with all role-players in the education sphere. These have guided our approach to this complex and challenging task.
 
Now, in the last few days, several of these stakeholders – including teachers and parents – have expressed concern about the state of readiness in many schools. We have heard them, we welcome their contributions and are taking steps to address their concerns as well as proposals.
 
It is understandable that many parents and caregivers have mixed emotions at this time about the reopening of schools. There is relief that children will be able to resume their education after a prolonged absence from classrooms and lecture halls. Young people are eager to be in school again and to see friends and teachers.
 
But there is also apprehension on the part of parents, educators and learners themselves.
 
Parents want reassurance that the necessary precautions should be in place to adequately protect learners. The safety of our youngest citizens from a health and physical perspective is not negotiable. It is our foremost priority.
 
As we prepare for the gradual re-opening of our schools and places of higher learning, education authorities have been hard at work putting the necessary health and safety measures in place. That documentation regarding standard operating procedures have been provided to all schools. These standard operating procedures cover issues like training and orientation of screeners, timetable realignment and configuring classrooms to meet social distancing requirements.
 
We are continuing with the process of delivering personal protective equipment and ensuring the availability of water and sanitation services. Learning, once it commences, will take place under strict conditions with a correctly limited number of learners and students.
 
As parents, teachers, governing bodies and government, we are in agreement that no school should re-open until all the necessary precautions are in place. There needs to be transparency about the level of preparedness of each of the schools. Everyone who is a key role player, be they a parent, a school governing body member, a teacher or a government official should be able to have the correct information about the state of preparedness of each school. It is our collective responsibility to ensure that the learning environment is safe.
 
I want to salute parents and caregivers, in particular, for the role they have played over the last two months. With schools closed, they have had to take greater daily responsibility for the education and development of their children. Many parents and caregivers have had to assist learners with their schoolwork at home, no doubt gaining a keen appreciation of the hard work being done by our teachers every day.
 
Once the lockdown is lifted and more learners return to school, we parents should continue to play a more active role in the education of our children, whether it is through joining school governing bodies, volunteering our services at schools or other forms of assistance. Parents can join in volunteering to clean schools, establishing vegetable gardens or being part of neighbourhood school safety committees. This can turn the schools into real, meaningful “community schools”.
 
Though we may feel anxious and fearful as our sons and daughters leave our care, we must draw courage from the fact that every effort is being made to protect them.
 
As parents, you have entrusted us with the welfare and safety of your children. It is a responsibility we do not take lightly. In the days and weeks to come, we will be closely monitoring the return to school.
 
If we follow the protocols and maintain all precautions – as parents, educators, communities and learners – we will effectively minimise the risk posed by the coronavirus.
 
Ultimately it is both our personal actions and our collective efforts that will keep our children safe. Whatever we do next, we need to do together.
 
With best wishes,

Trump taken to underground bunker as anti-racism protesters roar outside White House

President Donald Trump was taken to an underground bunker as anti-racism and anti-police brutality protesters roared outside the White House on Friday following the day light murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Mr. Trump was in the bunker for over an hour before he was brought outside, multiple reports said on Sunday quoting law enforcement and White House sources.

CNN quoted a law enforcement source familiar with protocol as saying that if authorities moved Trump, they would move all protectees, including Melania and Barron.

The medium quoted a second source as saying “if the condition at the White House is elevated to RED and the President is moved” to the Emergency Operations Center “Melania Trump, Barron Trump and any other first family members would be moved as well.

The New York Times was first to report Trump was taken to the presidential bunker.

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