Home Blog Page 2

Minister Mthembu welcomes new DG of the DPME

The Minister in the Presidency, Mr Jackson Mthembu, welcomes the new Director-General for the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME), Mr Robert Nkuna, who joins the DPME after serving in the same position in the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services (DTPS) for four years. Mr Nkuna commenced his responsibilities as the Director-General of DPME on Wednesday, 1 July 2020. He takes over from Ms Nompumelelo Mpofu who left the DPME in January 2020 for another Government entity. 

Mr Nkuna brings a wealth of experience in public administration, communication and policy development. His vast leadership experience dates back to his days as a student activist, advisory roles in Government as well as becoming the accounting officer of a national Government department. He served as an advisor to the Ministries of Telecommunications, Transport & Energy in the Republic of South Africa.  Between 2006 and 2010, Mr Nkuna was a Councillor at the communications regulator – the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA).  He also served on various boards including South African Post Office (SAPO) and the Media Development & Diversity Agency (MDDA).  

He holds a Master’s degree and is currently pursuing his PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies at the University of Witwatersrand, focusing on the regulation of administered prices in Infrastructure and Utility Industries. 

“The transfer of DG Nkuna to the DPME comes at an opportune time when Government is grappling with the Covid-19 pandemic. His vast experience in the telecommunications environment will assist the department to maximise on new technologies in carrying out its monitoring and evaluation function for the whole of Government,” said Minister Jackson Mthembu. 

“We wish the DG well in his new role and welcome him to the DPME family,” Minister Mthembu added. 

Why we declined to declare Orji Kalu’s seat in Senate vacant: Lawan

President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan on Tuesday explained why the Senate refused to yield to pressure to declare Senator Orji Uzor Kalu’s s seat and position vacant during the period of his incarceration.

Lawan told leaders of thought from Abia State that what Senate did by preserving Kalu’s seat and his position was not extra-ordinary but the right and just thing to do.

The delegation of the leaders of thought were at the National Assembly in Abuja to appreciate the Senate and it’s leadership for showing their concerns for Kalu during his incarceration.

Senator Orji Uzor Kalu (left) and President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, during a solidarity visit by some Senators to the Chief Whip after his release from the Kuje correctional facility on Thursday in Abuja.
Senator Orji Uzor Kalu (left) and President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, during a solidarity visit by some Senators to the Chief Whip after his release from the Kuje correctional facility on Thursday in Abuja.

Kalu was the Senate Chief Whip when a court in Lagos sentenced him to 12 years imprisonment in December 2019 for fraud committed while he was Abia State Governor between 1999 and 2007.

Kalu spent six months in the Correctional Facility before he eventually regained his freedom and returned to the Senate following the Supreme Court’s judgement which nullified his conviction on grounds of lack of jurisdiction by the trial judge.

Lawan told his guests that “there was no way anybody could convince us in the Senate that somebody should take the Abia North Seat because it wasn’t vacant.

“He(Kalu) was on several appeals and until he exhausted all the opportunities available to him, that seat remained his seat.

“Similarly the position of the Chief Whip, we didn’t even appoint an acting Chief Whip. The Deputy Chief Whip continued to play that role until he was released.

“We came under pressure, of course. But we thought the right thing to do was to keep that seat, that position until he was able to get his judgement.

“It would have been prematured, unjust and unfair to declare his seat vacant or his position to be given away because he was in that situation.

“So we didn’t do anything extra-ordinary really. We did what was right, what was just, what was necessary.”

Looking at the bi-partisan composition of the group, the Senate President commended the leaders for the unity and understanding among them and their followers.

“It has been a long time, I have not seen or heard the kind of unity, understanding and desire to move a state forward in a bi-partisan way.

“Our people need us to give them leadership. They need us to give them good governance. They want to have better life and particularly in Abia state, you have a lot of business people. They would like to see their businesses grow and do well.

“Once the leaders are united, it makes it much easier for the followership to remain united and supportive so that reaching the promise land can be quite easy,” Lawan said.

The leader of the delegation, Senator Chris Adighije said the visit was to appreciate the Senate and it’s leadership for their concerns for the former Governor.

“We want to thank the Senate. It’s something that the entire Abia State and Indeed the South East appreciate very much,” Ndighije said.

African Union chair Ramaphosa to address leaders at International Labor Organization’s global summit on COVID-19

African Union Chairperson Cyril Ramaphosa will on Wednesday July 8, 2020, participate in the International Labor Organization (ILO)’s Global Summit on COVID-19 and the World of Work. Ramaphosa is scheduled to address the virtual Global Leaders Day ILO Summit after mid-day. 

President Ramaphosa’s participation will form part of the Global Leaders Day which is a component of the Summit program.

The ILO‘s virtual Global Summit on COVID-19 and the World of Work is being held under the theme “Building a Better Future of Work“. The forum brings together workers, employers and governments from all around the globe to discuss challenges and opportunities around the economic and social impact of the worldwide pandemic.

The COVID-19-focused Summit will build on the ILO’s 2019 International Conference which adopted the Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work.

The Summit will expand on the transformation the world of work is undergoing, driven by technological innovation, demographic shifts, climate change, globalisation – and in the current context, a global threat to public health and economic activity.

The virtual Summit will also set out a road map of action for the International Labour Organisation and its tripartite constituents of workers, employers and governments to shape and direct these changes.

The ILO is championing a human-centred approach to the future of work in the context of the persistent poverty, inequalities, injustices, conflict and disasters that continue to threaten shared prosperity and decent work for all.

Human Rights Watch calls on Nigeria to release Mubarak Bala, humanist arrested for allegedly insulting Prophet Muhammad on Facebook

The Nigerian police should immediately disclose the whereabouts of Mubarak Bala, president of the Nigerian Humanist Association, who has been detained incommunicado since April 28, 2020, Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday. 

Bala was arrested at his home by police in Kaduna State in response to a complaint by lawyers accusing him of publicly insulting the Prophet Muhammad on his Facebook page. The police transferred him to Kano State around May 2, but have since refused to provide details of his whereabouts and denied access to his wife and lawyers.

“Regardless of the offense or the sensitivity of the case, the authorities may not withhold information on Bala’s whereabouts from people legally authorized to know,” said Anietie Ewang, Nigeria researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The authorities are required to ensure that he has regular and adequate access to his legal counsel, and Bala’s family should be able to speak to him.”

Nigerian law criminalizes insult to religion. Islamic Sharia laws applicable in the country’s 12 northern states with a significant or majority Muslim population, including Kano, also criminalize blasphemy. People have been sentenced to death for blasphemy under Sharia law. Blasphemy allegations have also triggered violent riots and killings in Kano State. Nigeria’s constitution, however, protects freedom of thought, conscience, and religion and guarantees the right to freedom of expression.

Bala has been an outspoken religious critic in the conservative northern region, where open religious opposition is unusual. After renouncing Islam in 2014, he was forcibly committed to a psychiatric facility by his family in Kano. He was discharged and has continued to receive death threats for alleged blasphemy.

The petition against Bala to the Kano State Police Command concerned his Facebook comment comparing Prophet Muhammad to a Nigerian Evangelical preacher who he suggested was better than the Prophet because he was not a terrorist. The lawyers contended that he had violated Nigeria’s cybercrimes law, which criminalizes insult of people based on their religion. It also alleged that the posts were contrary to the Kano State penal code, which sets punishments of up to two years in prison for public insults or contempt of any religion likely to lead to a breach of peace.

James Ibor, the lawyer heading Bala’s legal team, told Human Rights Watch that the authorities have yet to bring charges against him. He said that the Kano police filed a First Information Report on May 4 before a magistrate court, which under the criminal procedure code should evaluate whether to proceed with charges. The lawyer said the response has been slower than usual.

Ibor also said that the magistrate had granted a police application to keep Bala in protective custody. Details of the order, made without the knowledge of Bala’s legal team, are yet to be made available to them.

Leo Igwe, the founder of the Nigerian Humanist Association, told Human Rights Watch that he believes Bala’s arrest was an effort by the authorities to silence him and send a strong message that such views and ways of thinking will not be tolerated. “It is not clear why the authorities will transfer Bala to Kano State, which is prone to religious tensions, if they are concerned about his safety,” he said.

Bala’s wife told Human Rights Watch that she had repeatedly called the Kano State Police Commissioner to ask about her husband’s whereabouts, but has not received a response. “I have sleepless nights worrying about Bala while struggling to care for our baby who was born a month before the arrest,” she said.

Bala’s lawyers filed a case at the Federal High Court in Abuja in May, but the case has yet to be heard due to Covid-19-related delays in court processes. The case challenges Bala’s arrest and detention as a violation of his rights to liberty, fair trial, freedom of thought and expression, and freedom of movement, as enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution and international human rights law.

The UN Human Rights Committee has stated that prohibitions of displays of lack of respect for a religion or other belief system, including blasphemy laws, in principle violate freedom of expression. Authorities rejected the claims that access to Bala’s lawyers has been denied. Habu Ahmadu, the Kano state police commissioner, told Human Rights Watch in a phone interview on July 4 that Bala’s case was before the courts, where he is free to have legal representation. “The lawyers should be able to get access to him from the courts,” he said.

On June 29, the Magistrate Court in Kano granted an order mandating the police to allow Bala’s lawyers access to him after a formal application was made. The order has still not been processed by the chief magistrate and so cannot be enforced. The delay appears to be an effort to further impede access. 

“The authorities should urgently allow Bala’s lawyers access to their client and preclude any further delay in the justice process,” Ewang said. “Immediate steps should be taken to charge him with an offense that does not violate his human rights, or release him unconditionally.”

Nigerian Prophet TB Joshua: I’m ready to pray for COVID-19 patients in isolation centers

Nigerian Pastor TB Joshua has signaled his readiness to virtually offer prayer for COVID-19 patients in isolation centers around the world. 

In a special announcement posted to Joshua’s YouTube channel Emmanuel TV, the cleric called on relevant government and medical authorities to “organise those who are in isolation” and “arrange how to connect them to us on Emmanuel TV”.

“The blessing of Jesus is for those who knock and ask,” the announcement began. “In whatever way you support to make this happen, we are a team; we are not doing more than you,” it added.  

“Together we shall pray for them. Together we shall be set free from this COVID-19,” the statement continued, quoting the Biblical reference in Luke 4:40 where Jesus healed “all who had various kinds of sickness after the mass prayer.”

“The same anointing that heals one is also able to heal all at the same time,” it concluded, calling on all interested parties to contact the church via their email address [email protected].

Last week, the World Health Organisation reacted to a trending video in which a Cameroonian medical doctor was ‘healed’ from COVID-19 after receiving “interactive prayer” from Joshua’s ministry, acknowledging “spiritual leadership is very important in a time like this”.

His testimony was followed days later by a couple of university lecturers who equally acknowledged receiving healing from the dreaded virus, replete with medical reports before and after prayers from Emmanuel TV.

Since starting its ‘Interactive Prayer’ – in which online prayer is offered via video calls – Joshua’s ministry has prayed for COVID-19 patients from around the world including citizens of USA, South Africa, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Honduras and Cuba.

COVID-19 reversing decades of progress on poverty, healthcare and education, UN report finds

The 15-year global effort to improve the lives of people everywhere through the achievement of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 was already off track by the end of 2019. And now, in only a short period of time, the COVID-19 pandemic has unleashed an unprecedented crisis, causing further disruption to SDG progress, with the world’s poorest and most vulnerable affected the most, according to a new report released today by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

According to the Sustainable Development Goals Report 2020, the world had been making progress—although uneven and insufficient to meet the Goals — in areas such as improving maternal and child health, expanding access to electricity and increasing women’s representation in government. Yet even these advances were offset elsewhere by growing food insecurity, deterioration of the natural environment, and persistent and pervasive inequalities.

Now, the COVID-19 pandemic has quickly become the worst human and economic crisis of our lifetime, spreading to all countries, with the global death toll exceeding 500,000 and the number of confirmed cases at more than 10 million people. 

“As Member States recognized at the SDG Summit held last September, global efforts to date have been insufficient to deliver the change we need, jeopardizing the Agenda’s promise to current and future generations,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres. “Now, due to COVID-19, an unprecedented health, economic and social crisis is threatening lives and livelihoods, making the achievement of Goals even more challenging.” 

The Secretary-General stressed that COVID-19 was not affecting everyone the same. “Although the novel coronavirus affects every person and community, it does not do so equally. Instead, it has exposed and exacerbated existing inequalities and injustices.” 

Using the latest data and estimates, this annual stocktaking report on progress across the 17 Goals shows that it is the poorest and most vulnerable – including children, older persons, persons with disabilities, migrants and refugees – who are being hit the hardest by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Women are also bearing the heaviest brunt of the pandemic’s effects.

Key findings:

An estimated 71 million people are expected to be pushed back into extreme poverty in 2020, the first rise in global poverty since 1998. Lost incomes, limited social protection and rising prices mean even those who were previously secure could find themselves at risk of poverty and hunger.

Underemployment and unemployment due to the crisis mean some 1.6 billion already vulnerable workers in the informal economy – half the global workforce – may be significantly affected, with their incomes estimated to have fallen by 60 per cent in the first month of the crisis.

The more than one billion slum dwellers worldwide are acutely at risk from the effects of COVID-19, suffering from a lack of adequate housing, no running water at home, shared toilets, little or no waste management systems, overcrowded public transport and limited access to formal health care facilities.

Women and children are also among those bearing the heaviest brunt of the pandemic’s effects. Disruption to health and vaccination services and limited access to diet and nutrition services have the potential to cause hundreds of thousands of additional under-5 deaths and tens of thousands of additional maternal deaths in 2020. Many countries have seen a surge in reports of domestic violence against women and children. 

School closures have kept 90 per cent of students worldwide (1.57 billion) out of school and caused over 370 million children to miss out on school meals they depend on. Lack of access to computers and the internet at home means remote learning is out of reach of many. About 70 countries reported moderate to severe disruptions or a total suspension of childhood vaccination services during March and April of 2020.  

As more families fall into extreme poverty, children in poor and disadvantaged communities are at much greater risk of child labour, child marriage and child trafficking. In fact, the global gains in reducing child labour are likely to be reversed for the first time in 20 years.

The report also shows that climate change is still occurring much faster than anticipated. The year 2019 was the second warmest on record and the end of the warmest decade of 2010 to 2019. Meanwhile, ocean acidification is accelerating; land degradation continues; massive numbers of species are at risk of extinction; and unsustainable consumption and production patterns remain pervasive. 

The annual report,  a joint effort of the global statistical community, is being launched on the opening day of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development as leaders from governments and different sectors of society gather to chart strategies and efforts to fully implement the SDGs. The report provides essential data that allows decision-makers to guide efforts toward a sustainable recovery. 

“The principles on which the SDGs were established are key to building back better in the post-COVID-19 recovery,” said UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Liu Zhenmin. “The continued pursuit of these universal Goals will keep Governments focused on growth, but also on inclusion, equity and sustainability. Our collective response to the pandemic can serve as a ‘warm-up’ for our preparedness in preventing an even larger crisis – that is, global climate change, whose effects are already becoming all too familiar. ”

Additional 49 million Africans could be pushed into extreme poverty and continent could lose up to $189 billion of GDP in 2020 amid COVID-19 pandemic, African Development Bank says in updated forecast

The African Development Bank on Tuesday projected that an additional 49 million Africans could be pushed into extreme poverty as the economy shrinks amid COVID-19 pandemic, with West and Central Africa likely to be worst hit regions on the continent. The bank also projected that Africa could lose between $145.5 billion and $189.7 billion of GDP in 2020.

AfDB called on African governments and development partners to respond in a more “coordinated, targeted, and rapid manner to be effective in limiting impacts” of the virus.

The development bank said real GDP is expected to shrink by 1.7 percent under the baseline scenario and 3.4 percent in the worst-case scenario.

The AfDB forecast, contained in its latest economic outlook update for Africa, said a partial recovery of 3 percent is expected in 2021, provided that governments manage the COVID-19 infection rate well.

More specifically, AfDB said the projected growth in 2021 and beyond would depend largely on African governments’ effectiveness in flattening the curve of the outbreak and policies to reopen economies.

Just last January before the lockdowns and shutdowns triggered by COVID-19, Africa’s growth was forecast at 3.9% in 2020 and 4.1% in 2021.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently projected a contraction of 3.2 percent for Sub-saharan Africa in 2020 and a rebound of about 3.4 percent in 2021. That projection was also far worse than what the IMF forecast about two months ago in April.

“To reopen economies, policymakers needed to follow a phased and incremental approach that carefully evaluates the trade-offs between restarting economic activity too quickly and safeguarding the health of the population,” said Charles Leyeka Lufumpa, Acting Chief Economist and Vice President for Economic Governance and Knowledge Management, at the African Development Bank. “Economic activities can be restarted incrementally on the basis of the transmission risks of different sectors”

The new economic outlook noted that only 21 out of 54 African countries were clinically prepared to deal with epidemics.

Executive Director of the African Economic Research Consortium and Former Governor of the Central Bank of Kenya, Njuguna Ndung’u described the African Economic Outlook 2020 supplement as “a very important and useful policy tool for African countries who actually need it at this time.”

“It will be useful now and in the future. It gives us important short, medium- and long-term strategies,” he said, adding that the current COVID-19 crisis, in a way, presents a good opportunity for innovative reforms in countries.

According to Hanan Morsy, Director of the Macroeconomic Policy, Forecasting and Research Department at the African Development Bank, “The African Economic Outlook 2020 Supplement shows that for the first time in the last half-century, Africa would be facing an economic recession as a fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. This would affect the gains achieved in poverty reduction as an estimated 49 million Africans could be pushed into poverty, with about 30 million jobs at the verge of disappearing. Policymakers need to act fast to alleviate the impact of the crisis on vulnerable groups through well targeted social safety net measures.”

The report called for urgent policy interventions to mitigate the impact of the pandemic: “Across Africa, the response must be well-sequenced and multipronged, involving a public health response to contain the spread of the virus and minimise fatalities, a monetary policy response to ease liquidity constraints and solvency risks, and a fiscal response to cushion the economic impacts of the pandemic on livelihoods and to assist businesses,” the report said.

Other proposed interventions included labour market policies to protect workers and their jobs, and structural policies to enable African economies to rebuild and enhance their resilience to future shocks.

The supplement warned that the tourism, transportation, and entertainment sectors may take longer to recover.

Between 2017 and 2018, African travel and tourism grew by 5.6%, compared with the global average of 3.9%.

According to Morsy, the supplement projected that, in the worst-case scenario, an additional 49 million Africans could be pushed into extreme poverty by the pandemic and its aftermath. The number of people in extreme poverty in Africa (using the $1.90 international poverty line) could reach 453.4 million in 2020 as a result of the pandemic compared to 425.2 million under the no-outbreak scenario.

Global health expert Amanda Glassman alarmed by Trump administration’s decision to notify Congress of intent to withdraw U.S. from WHO

Amanda Glassman, the executive vice president and a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development in Washington D.C. has criticized the Donald Trump administration for formally notifying Congress of its intent to withdraw the United States from the World Health Organization (WHO).

“The Trump Administration’s actions to withdraw from the WHO endanger public health and well-being in the United States and around the world,” Glassman wrote in a statement received by TODAY NEWS AFRICA in Washington D.C.

The Trump administration also sent a letter to United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres withdrawing the US from WHO.

The Washington Post noted that under the terms of a joint resolution passed by Congress in 1948, the United States must give a year’s notice in writing and pay its debts to the agency in order to leave.

President Donald Trump has frequently accused the WHO of mismanaging the coronavirus pandemic response, and for not holding China accountable and for reportedly hiding some facts about the respiratory disease to the world. The WHO has always refuted those claims with a detailed timeline of its response to the pandemic, as far back as January, at a time when Trump was still downplaying the crisis, and calling it a hoax at a rally.

However, Glassman, a global public health expert, said the threat posed by the U.S. withdrawal from the WHO goes beyond COVID-19 and would affect the most vulnerable people around the world.

“The threat is not just COVID-19 today. There has been a notable rise in the frequency of pandemics from the year 2000 onwards due to increased viral disease amongst animals and high levels of human mobility essential for prosperity at home and abroad,” she said.

Amanda Glassman is a global health expert and executive vice president of the Center for Global Development, a think tank based in Washington, DC
Amanda Glassman is a global health expert and executive vice president of the Center for Global Development, a think tank based in Washington, DC

“The likelihood of a new coronavirus emergence in the next five years is considered likely given what we are seeing with SARS-CoV-2 mutations and spread to other species. The probability of a high lethality strain of influenza in the next decade or so is also significant, the only uncertainty is the timing. Resistance to antibiotics and antivirals is also on the rise, and requires global coordinated action to conserve these medicines that make modern health care possible. Other, still unknown biosecurity threats are also on the horizon.

“COVID-19 has already cost more than 130,000 American lives and is projected to result in $8 trillion in economic losses in the US over the next decade. The human and economic impact of this and future outbreaks do not depend only on what the US does domestically, but what every country in the world does to detect early, to conduct on-going high-quality surveillance and laboratory testing, to share disease intelligence from genomic sequences to interventions, to control spread, and to conserve medical countermeasures like antibiotics. The WHO is the agency mandated to coordinate these global functions under the supervision and governance of its board of member countries.  

“As has now been shown in sharp relief, the WHO lacks the necessary funding and full capabilities needed to effectively control the global spread of infectious diseases. Failures and weaknesses throughout the international system, including WHO but also national governments who design multilateral institutions for short-term benefit, have led us to where we are today.

“Yet none of the corrective measures needed at WHO will be accomplished without US membership in good standing. Withdrawal is counterintuitive at best and dangerous to human life at worst. The US Congress should immediately explore what power it has to prevent this from happening,” Glassman added.

African Development Bank projects tripled incomes of rural producers and traders in Tanzania

An African Development Bank project to enhance market infrastructure, value addition and rural finance (MIVARF) in Tanzania produced highly satisfactory results, according to a report released by the project team.  The project, rolled out in the country between 2012 and 2017 increased the incomes of rural producers and traders threefold.

With $56.8 million in funding from the African Development Bank, the programme was undertaken in 32 districts with a population of 6.1 million  in 1.2 million households. Approximately 78% of beneficiaries reported improved incomes, rising from an average of $41 in 2012 to $133 in 2017.

“This increase is attributable to the sale of value-added products, improved access to markets, increased productivity, the use of improved techniques (including the System of Rice Intensification and the use of fertilizer and improved seed) and enhanced capacity to negotiate better prices,” explained project team lead Salum Ramadhan.

Small producers and traders also gained greater access to agricultural markets, which cut their post-harvest losses of staple crops. One beneficiary, the Meru Dairy Company, recorded a nearly-85% spike in production: establishment of a cold room boosted the company’s milk-production capacity from 400 to 2200 litres.

Transportation costs on all refurbished roads dropped by an average of 20% to 50%. For example, the cost of transporting a bag of onions on the renovated road to Mang’ola market in Karatu fell from $1.30 to $0.22. Transport times for produce harvested have fallen from an average of three-and-a-half hours to 56 minutes.

Downstream, the use of the programme’s warehouses has led to a sharp decline in post-harvest losses, from 57% to 15% overall.

“Despite challenges in terms of coverage, the programme has worked well thanks to the efficiency of communication with the district and regional liaison officers, and to the good relationships established with district and regional political and administrative structures,” according to the project completion  report  .

The successful implementation of the project is thought to have helped rural poverty reduction and economic growth, by improving incomes and food security. The project also complemented the work of government agencies by boosting access to markets and increasing the quantity of value-added agricultural products.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro who downplayed the pandemic tests positive for coronavirus

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has tested positive for Covid-19, he said in a televised address on Tuesday.

“Everyone knew that it would reach a considerable part of the population sooner or later. It was positive for me,” Bolsonaro said, referring to the Covid-19 test he took Monday.

Bolsonaro’s press office told CNN affiliate CNN Brasil that the President was being treated with hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin as he awaited the result of his fourth Covid-19 test in four months.

African Development Bank forecasts economic turmoil for Africa in 2020 amid COVID-19

The African Development Bank on Tuesday forecast an economic turmoil for Africa in 2020 amid COVID-19 pandemic with real GDP expected to shrink by 1.7 percent under the baseline scenario and 3.4 percent in the worst-case scenario.

The AfDB forecast, contained in its latest economic outlook for Africa, said a partial recovery of 3 percent is expected in 2021.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently projected a contraction of 3.2 percent for Sub-saharan Africa in 2020 and a rebound of about 3.4 percent in 2021.

AfDB said inflation has quickly increased in the continent because of supply chain disruptions—up to 5 pp more in some countries while exchange rates have fluctuated
widely, especially for frontier economies as a result of capital outflows.

This story would be updated.

Nigeria’s anti-corruption czar Ibrahim Magu suspended for financial fraud

The embattled chairman of the Economic and Financial crimes commission (EFCC) Ibrahim Magu has been suspended.

His suspension by the presidency on Tuesday, first reported by the BBC Hausa language, comes a day after he was arrested, interrogated and detained by the police in Abuja.

He was expected to be arraigned in court for fraud and removed from office after a night in police custody.

Mr. Magu was arrested by security agents on Monday and taken to the presidential palace and made to face a presidential panel probing allegations of financial fraud against him.

Local newspapers said allegations of insubordination and embezzlement of recovered funds were levelled against him by the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, but the government has not officially commented on his arrest, interrogation and detention.

Earlier reports had suggested that Mr. Magu was arrested by the Department of State Services, but the DSS in a statement denied arresting him, and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said Magu was only invited for questioning.

But a night in police detention, after hours of questioning in the presence of an EFCC counsel Rotimi Oyedepo do not seem to portrait a simple invitation for questioning narrative, especially because Magu was sent to Area 10 Force Criminal Investigation Department (FCID) of the police where he spent the night.

Magu was appointed to lead the fight against corruption in Nigeria in 2015 by President Muhammad Buhari after he defeated Goodluck Jonathan vowing to “kill corruption before corruption kills Nigeria.”

But Magu was rejected by the Senate twice after a report by the DSS concluded that he lacked integrity and was linked with corrupt individuals or the proceeds of corruption. Twice also, President Buhari stood by him and retained him despite those allegations.

It was, therefore, not clear why the presidency has decided to move against Magu now when allegations of corruption against him have persisted for years, or even why the government has decided to play his arrest, interrogation and detention in the public domain before removing him.

TODAY NEWS AFRICA learned that President Muhammadu Buhari was considering a replacement for Magu and the decision could come today or tomorrow

Nigeria sexual harassment bill to guarantee safety of students in schools

President of the Nigerian Senate, Ahmad Lawan, said on Tuesday that the passage of the sexual harassment bill by the Senate will ensure the safety of students of tertiary institutions in the country.

He was speaking after the upper chamber passed a bill for an Act to prevent, prohibit and redress sexual harassment of students in Tertiary Educational Institutions.

The bill was sponsored by the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege (APC – Delta Central).

The passage of the bill followed the consideration of the report of the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters.

Speaking on the bill passed by the upper chamber, Lawan said, “this is a very important and landmark legislation that this Ninth Senate has passed. We have to protect our daughters from predators.”

“In the process we could see clearly that we wanted fair means of determining what offence somebody is accused of, so it is a balanced legislation.

“We want our tertiary institutions to be a very safe environment for everyone, and this is a legislation that will ensure that wish”, the Senate President added.

Earlier, Chairman of the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele (APC – Ekiti Central), in his presentation said the piece of legislation “attracted unprecedented support from not only Distinguished Senators as demonstrated by the 106 Senators that Co-sponsored the bill but an overwhelming number of Nigerians who see the bill as a necessary legislative intervention that will bring sanity and good order to the educator-student relationship in our tertiary institutions.”

According to the lawmaker, “the bill is not targeted at a particular community – the educators and that it does not interfere with the autonomy of the universities – rather, it is intended to reposition and strengthen our tertiary educational institutions to maintain the core values of etiquette and excellence.”

He added that with the passage of the bill, the piece of legislation will bridge the huge gap and give legal backing to any internal rule by educational institutions to check the incidences of sexual harassment.

Bamidele stated that contrary to ASUU’s claim that there are extant laws that can sufficiently address sexual harassment in tertiary institutions, the Committee found that there are no such laws.

“This legislation is meant to address incidence of sexual harassment in tertiary institutions only, as there are other laws that address sexual offences in respect of persons under the age of 18 years such as the Child Rights Act 2003”, the lawmaker stressed.

He added that, “by enacting this bill into law, the Nigerian Government would be fulfilling part of its obligations undertaken through the ratification of the United States Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa, and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, amongst others.”

Lawmakers during the clause by clause consideration of the bill, however differed on the retention of clause seven in the bill.

The Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege who proposed an amendment to clause 7, argued that it was unnecessary for the prosecution to prove the intention of the accused person or the condition under which the act of sexual harassment was carried out.

According to him, the commission of sexual harassment was sufficient to try any educator accused of a sexual offence.

Lawmakers such as the Senate Leader, Yahaya Abdullahi (APC – Kebbi North) and Senator Abdullahi Adamu (APC – Nasarawa West), however, argued on the contrary that should the bill make it unnecessary for the prosecutor to prove the intention of any accused person in a sexual harassment trial, same would lower the requisite standards obtainable in criminal proceedings.

According to Senator James Manager (PDP – Delta South), going ahead to pass the bill without making it compulsory for prosecutors to prove the intention of the accused person in a sexual harassment case, may expose educators to blackmail.

“Laws are being made for the people, and when you make laws with a technical amendment like this, we have to be very careful.

“The rape cases that we have had in recent times, majority of them are outside the universities or the tertiary institutions and they are all strict liability offences. We have not been able to amend that particular part of the law.

“When you isolate, because some of the rape cases are on children who are even five or six years, but the burden of proof is still strict liability. You have to prove, that is for a separate law for a separate group of people.

“Mr. President, we have to be very careful, as we are trying to protect the female students, we must be seen to be protecting some innocent lecturers.

“In this day of the internet, a lecturer can easily be set up. We have to be very careful. For us to isolate by removing the intention, that will not be good enough”, Manager said.

The lawmakers while voting on clause seven, voted for its retention as contained in the bill and recommended by the Committee.

The clause provides for strict liability which makes it necessary for prosecutors to prove the intention of the accused, as well as the condition under which the act of sexual harassment was carried out.

FULL LIST as Nigerian senate receives Buhari’s request to confirm 11 Judges

The Nigerian Senate on Tuesday received a formal request for the confirmation of 11 nominees as Judges of the Federal High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

The request was contained in a letter read on the floor during plenary by the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan.

The letter reads: “In accordance to Section 256(2) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended, I have the honour to forward for confirmation by the Senate, the under-listed names of eleven (11) nominees as Judges of the High Court of the FCT, Abuja.

The nominees are: Abubakar Husseini Musa (Adamawa State); Edward Okpe (Benue State); Babashani Abubakar (Borno State); Emuesiri Francis (Delta State); Jude Ogho (Delta State); Josephine Enobi (Edo State); Christopher Opeyemi Oba (Ekiti State); Mohammed Idris (Kano State); Hassan Maryam Aliyu (Kebbi State); Fashola Akeem Adebowale (Lagos State); and Hamza Muazu (Niger State).

The Minority Whip, Senator Philip Aduda, while relying on Order 43 of the Senate Standing Rules objected to the absence of a nominee from the FCT.

Chairman of the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele (APC – Ekiti Central), while coming under the same point of order, explained to the contrary that the FCT already has Judges on the bench of the FCT High Court.

“What is being done by the National Judicial Council at the moment is to fill existing vacancies on the bench of the FCT Judiciary.

“What will become an issue is if you take list of the over 40 Judges of the FCT and any particular state is missing, that is when it becomes an issue.

“A major criterion is to ensure that states that do not have anybody on the bench are given priority. I just wanted to clarify that FCT has Judges on the bench of the FCT”, the lawmaker explained.

In a related development, the President also requested the upper chamber to confirm the appointment of three members of the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB).

“In compliance with the provision of Section 154(1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), and pursuant to Section 1(2) and (3) of the Code of Conduct Bureau Act LFN 2004, I write to request for confirmation by the Senate, the following three nominees for appointment as members of the Code of Conduct Bureau. The curriculum vitae of the nominees are attached herewith.

They are: Barr. Ben Umeano (Anambra State – South East); Hon. Johnson Abonaema (Edo State – South South); Olayinka Babatunde Balogun (Ogun State – South West).

Also to be confirmed is the appointment of Umar Garba Danbatta, as Executive Vice Chairman of the Governing Board of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) for a second term of five (5) years.

According to President Buhari, the nominee’s appointment is In accordance with the provision of Section 8(1) of the Nigerian Communications Act 2003.

Meanwhile, the confirmation of the nomination of Idahagbon Williams Omoregie for appointment as Commissioner of the Federal Civil Service Commission was referred by the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, to the Committee on Establishment and Public Service.

The Senate President also referred the nominations of Usman Mahmud Hassan as Commissioner of the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission to the Committee on National Planning and Economic matters; Tella Adeniran Rahmon as Resident Electoral Commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission to the Committee on INEC; Suleiman Sani as Career Ambassador; and the appointment of 41 Non-Career Ambassadors to the Committee on Foreign Affairs.

The Committees are expected to submit their reports to the Senate in two weeks.

Nigerian activists call for fair treatment of detained anti-corruption czar Ibrahim Magu

Nigeria’s Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has expressed “concerns about reports that the apparently arbitrary arrest of the acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Ibrahim Magu, may be ‘the outcome of power-play’ at the highest levels of government.”

Mr Magu is reportedly still being detained in police custody on the orders of a presidential panel probing alleged infractions against him.

A member of the Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption (PACAC) has reportedly stated that Magu’s arrest may be due to “an outcome of power-play by power blocs in the corridors of power that is not really interested in, or in support of, President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption fight.”

In a statement today by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said: “The reported statement by a member of PACAC seems to suggest that Magu’s arrest may be politically motivated and aim to undermine the independence and freedom of action of the EFCC. If true, this would make a mockery of Buhari’s oft-repeated commitment to fight grand corruption and the impunity of perpetrators, which is fuelling widespread and systemic corruption in the country.”

The statement, read in part: “SERAP urges the authorities to afford Magu his constitutionally and internationally guaranteed fair trial rights. Magu must either be charged with a recognizable criminal offence or released immediately and allowed to do his job without fear of reprisals.”

“Nigerian authorities cannot continue to keep Magu in detention under suspicious circumstances without bringing any legitimate charges against him in violation of national and international law.”

“Nigerian authorities must support the independence and freedom of action of anti-corruption agencies and institutions if they are to be able to genuinely fight grand corruption, which has for many years turned public service for many into a kind of criminal enterprise.”

“Nigerian authorities should focus on addressing the impact of corruption such as political violence, and denial of access for millions of Nigerians to even the most basic health and education services, as well as other patterns of human rights violations.”

“Improving the independence of anti-corruption agencies and institutions is the most promising way to make tangible progress in the fight against corruption now and in the near future.”

“Article 9(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 6 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to which Nigeria is a state party guarantee to everyone the right to liberty and security of person, and that no one should be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention.”

“Similarly, Section 35(1) of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 (as amended) guarantees to every person the right to personal liberty and that no person should be arbitrarily deprived of such liberty.”

Nigeria’s anti-corruption czar Ibrahim Magu who was arrested for financial fraud on Monday expected to be arraigned in court and removed from office after night in police custody

Nigeria’s anti-corruption czar Ibrahim Magu who was arrested for alleged financial fraud on Monday is expected to be arraigned in court and removed from office after a night in police custody.

Mr. Magu was arrested by security agents on Monday and taken to the presidential palace and made to face a presidential panel probing allegations of financial fraud against him.

Local newspapers said allegations of insubordination and embezzlement of recovered funds were levelled against him by the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, but the government has not officially commented on his arrest, interrogation and detention.

Earlier reports had suggested that Mr. Magu was arrested by the Department of State Services, but the DSS in a statement denied arresting him, and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said Magu was only invited for questioning.

But a night in police detention, after hours of questioning in the presence of an EFCC counsel Rotimi Oyedepo do not seem to portrait a simple invitation for questioning narrative, especially because Magu was sent to Area 10 Force Criminal Investigation Department (FCID) of the police where he spent the night.

Magu was appointed to lead the fight against corruption in Nigeria in 2015 by President Muhammad Buhari after he defeated Goodluck Jonathan vowing to “kill corruption before corruption kills Nigeria.”

But Magu was rejected by the Senate twice after a report by the DSS concluded that he lacked integrity and was linked with corrupt individuals or the proceeds of corruption. Twice also, President Buhari stood by him and retained him despite those allegations.

It was, therefore, not clear why the presidency has decided to move against Magu now when allegations of corruption against him have persisted for years, or even why the government has decided to play his arrest, interrogation and detention in the public domain before removing him.

TODAY NEWS AFRICA learned that President Muhammadu Buhari was considering a replacement for Magu and the decision could come today or tomorrow.

Atlanta mayor and Biden’s running mate candidate Keisha Lance Bottoms tests positive for coronavirus

Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

“COVID-19 has literally hit home,” the 50-year old mayor tweeted. “I have had NO symptoms and have tested positive.”

Keisha Lance Bottoms is often referred to as a possible running mate for Joe Biden.

Her profile rose recently amid the coronavirus pandemic and racially motivated killings of black people in the state of Georgia.

Georgia reported 1,897 new coronavirus cases on Sunday.

Global experts call for radical health policy shift in Africa amid COVID-19 pandemic

Global health experts have called for a radical policy shift in Africa amid COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking during a policy webinar hosted by the African Development Institute (ADI), the experts said there should be a “Marshall Plan on Inclusive Health in Africa.”

More specifically, they argued that there is an urgent need for inclusive health policy in Africa – one that can detect and interpret warning signs and rapidly mobilize to isolate threats, absorb and adapt to shocks, and organically innovate new strategies to maintain its core functions.

“There must be a radical shift in Africa’s health policy from one that focuses on medical outcomes, to one that focuses on the broader concept of inclusive health – ensuring quality health from conception to end of life, to all people and all the time,” according to a summary document on the webinar’s outcomes.

March 31, 2020 - MADAGASCAR. With Madagascar’s health system under strain from the COVID-19 pandemic and schools shuttered for the foreseeable future, the health, education, and overall wellbeing of the Malagasy people are increasingly at risk. As the pandemic hits more and more countries, the World Bank Group and other organizations are stepping up to provide immediate support in order to quickly get resources to the front lines of fighting this disease. Photo: World Bank / Henitsoa Rafalia

The webinar, the third in a series of the ADI’s Global Community of Practice (G-CoP), took place 22-23 June 2020 and brought together 565 global experts and 69 panelists from 50 countries.

The ADI hosted the seminar jointly with the World Health Organization (WHO); the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention; the Bank Group’s Health Department and Health Centre; the African Population and Health Research Center at Murdoch University, Western Australia; Drexel University’s School of Public Health, USA; City University of New York School of Medicine, USA; and the University of Nigeria Faculty of Health Science and Technology.

Among the panelists were former Ministers of Health, Education and Finance from Africa, the staff of various Prime Ministers’ Offices, a Minister of Health from Western Australia, specialists from multilateral institutions including the World Bank, heads of health policy research institutes, teaching hospitals, think-tanks and private sector representatives.

Webinar participants encouraged the African Development Bank and partners to build support for the Marshall Plan on Inclusive Health by engaging the private sector, academia and civil society.

African countries were urged to adopt WHO recommendations on frequent handwashing, practicing social distancing and wearing masks in public to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases. They should also scale up testing, contact tracing, isolation and quarantining COVID-19 patients, as well as restricting movement to minimize the virus’ spread.

“These basic personal hygiene practices are needed not only for containing COVID-19 but also for mitigating other communicable diseases that affect citizens of Africa,” said the summary report of the seminar.

The ADI and partners will synthesize the outcomes of the seminar into a matrix of Policy Options and a policy brief for governments and other decision-makers in their response to the pandemic.

“There is no one size fits all policy option. Decision-makers need to engage with local experts and influencers to articulate clear policy messages, define incentives, norms or behaviors, and rules for managing defiance,” it said.

African countries were advised to provide social safety nets and essential primary health care services, such as access to quality water and sanitation, food, and basic sanitary services for vulnerable households.

Africa, delegates observed, is largely absent from the race for vaccines and drug discovery to combat several diseases it faces, and to address this, lending institutions should prioritize investments in domestic capacity for the production of medical equipment and pharmaceuticals. Critical to doing so is the retention of health professionals in Africa by reversing ongoing brain drains, delegates stated.

Countries must strengthen and reform their health policy research institutions to focus on Africa-led inclusive solutions.

“Response policies should be guided by science, not politics,” said the report.

Nigerian President saddened over recent boat mishaps that killed many people in Benue and Lagos

President Muhammadu Buhari has commiserated with the families of victims of recent boat mishaps on inland water ways in Benue and Lagos States.

Describing their deaths as “sad and unfortunate,” the President also condoled with the governments and people of both States.

President Buhari, while calling on state authorities and surrounding communities to step up rescue efforts of passengers still missing, called on would-be passengers of water transportation to adhere strictly to safety regulations outlined by national and state authorities in order to prevent avoidable accidents and loss of lives and property.

According to the President, “Such a call has become imperative in view of prevailing COVID-19 guidelines against overcrowding and night travels.”

He prayed that God will comfort the bereaved families and grant rest to the souls of the departed.

Burkina Faso resumes polio vaccination campaigns under strict COVID-19 prevention measures

Burkina Faso today concluded a four-day mass polio immunization campaign, vaccinating 174 304 children under five years of age in two districts of the country’s Centre-East region, while observing COVID-19 infection prevention and control measures.

The campaign is the first to be conducted since the government suspended all mass immunization on 27 March due to the COVID-19 pandemic to comply with the physical distancing guidelines to curb transmission of the virus.

As immunization campaigns resume, World Health Organization (WHO) teams at both regional and country offices have developed guidance for countries and frontline workers to ensure their safety and that of the children and their families.

All vaccinators and health care workers involved have been trained on maintaining physical distancing while conducting the vaccination. Additionally, a total of 41 250 masks as well as 200 litres of hand sanitizers were made available through the COVID-19 Committee in country to the 2000 frontline workers who took part in the immunization campaign.

While mass immunizations were suspended, health facilities were still operating, offering routine vaccination services. However, parents and care givers expressed some hesitation to vaccinate their children for fear of contracting COVID-19, leading to a 10% drop in vaccination rates, according to WHO teams in the country.

“We cannot wait for the COVID-19 pandemic to be contained to resume immunization activities. If we stop immunization for too long, including for polio, vaccine preventable diseases will have a detrimental effect on children’s health across the region,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.

“The campaigns run by the Polio Eradication Programme demonstrate that mass immunization can be safely conducted under the strict implementation of COVID-19 infection prevention and control guidelines,” added Dr Moeti.

Burkina Faso received its wild poliovirus-free status in 2015 yet is currently one of 15 countries in the African Region which are experiencing outbreaks of circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus, a rare form of the virus that affects unimmunized and under-immunized populations living in areas with inadequate sanitation and low levels of polio immunization.

As of 27 June, the country’s disease surveillance system had detected 10 cases of circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus transmission in the districts of Ouargaye, Bittou, Bogodogo, Kaya, Tougouri, Signoghin, Saponé and Dori, requiring an urgent response.

“Suspending immunization activities, even though necessary to protect frontline workers and the community, has derailed our response to circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus. However, our teams have been working non-stop across the region to ensure that in addition to supporting the COVID-19 response, we continue essential disease surveillance and plan for the resumption of polio outbreak response once the situation permits,” said Dr Pascal Mkanda, Coordinator of WHO Polio Eradication Programme in the African Region.

The WHO African Region set up an inter-agency Rapid Response Team in September 2019 to mobilise responses to circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus outbreaks in the region within 72 hours. Campaigns involve conducting three rounds of immunization campaigns in affected areas within three months, with the first round conducted within the first 14 days. The Rapid Response Team has succeeded in ending three outbreaks in Kenya, Mozambique and Niger.  

From 10 to 13 July, Angola is planning a polio vaccination campaign, targeting 1,287,717 children under five years of age. The campaign staff of 14,742 will include 4,309 vaccinators. Like Burkina Faso, strict infection prevention control measures are in place, including the distribution of 90,000 masks and 23,000 sanitizers of 500ml from the country Ministry of Health.

error: Alert: Content is protected !!