CSOs Ask UN, AU To Secure Sowore’s Release    

Sowore Accuses APC, PDP Of Spending Beyond N1bn Threshold At Primaries
Omoyele Sowore speaks during an appearance on Channels Television’s Sunday Politics on December 2, 2018.

 

Calls have been made from about 50 Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) asking the United Nations and the African Union to intervene in the Federal Government’s case against the publisher of Sahara Reporters, Mr Omoyele Sowore.

They also want the international bodies to secure the activist’s release.

The groups include the Amnesty International, Media Rights Agenda, All Workers’ Convergence, and Afrika Movement for Freedom and Justice .

The CSOs had filed an appeal on Sowore’s behalf at the United Nations (UN) and the African Union (AU) on August 23.

This comes after one of the lawyers representing Sowore alleged that the Department of State Services (DSS) repeatedly blocked a bailiff of the Federal High Court in Abuja from serving a fresh court order for his release.

AU Advisory Board Member Decries ‘Underfunding’ Of Anti-Corruption Institutions

A member of African Union (AU) Advisory Board on anti-corruption, Alhaji Isa Salami has decried what he described as ‘underfunding’ of anti-corruption agencies.

Salami, who disclosed this in an interview on Channels Television’s Programme, Sunrise Daily, stressed the need for a collaborative effort from various stakeholders to successfully tackle corruption.

According to him, underfunding of anti-corruption agencies is not only a problem in Nigeria but in Africa as a whole.

“It’s not only in Nigeria but the whole of Africa. They are not sufficiently funded. They are underfunded. There are some critics who believe that it is a deliberate act.

“They believe that African government wants to be seen fighting corruption because it is fashionable to be doing so, but in effect, they don’t really want it to succeed.

“Nigeria being the champion of anti-corruption in Africa needs to take the lead by funding anti-corruption agencies so that they can perform very well.”

Salami who is also a former member of the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) added that anti-corruption establishments in the country should be allowed to operate independently without interference from other bodies.

He said the fight against corruption in Nigeria is not the responsibility of government alone. “The anti-corruption institutions must be allowed to operate and they must operate independently so that it is systemic and does not depend on the faces of the person in power,” he said.

Active participation and collaboration of all and sundry is important, he said, adding that, “there is the need to involve stakeholders and discuss with them.”

African Leaders Set To Sign Landmark Trade Deal At AU Summit

 

 

African leaders will meet Sunday in Niger for the African Union (AU) summit, to sign a landmark free trade agreement, and to discuss looming security and migration crises on the continent.

In a “historic” moment for the 55-member bloc, according to its chairman Moussa Faki, heads of state will officially launch the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) at the two-day summit in Niamey, the Nigerien capital.

The agreement comes after 17 years of tough negotiations, and was formalised at the end of April when the agreement had crossed the launch threshold, which required ratification by at least 22 countries.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country and largest economy, announced this week it would after all join the pact in Niamey, having unexpectedly pulled back from the agreement last year.

READ ALSO: Buhari Arrives Niamey Ahead Of AU Summit

Nigeria’s chief trade negotiator, Ambassador Chiedu Osakwe, said President Muhammadu Buhari would sign the landmark agreement, “opening Africa up to abundant opportunities.

“We weren’t dragged into this, we are a leading advocate,” Osakwe told AFP. “But it is about assessing how to make it work for Nigeria and indeed the continent.”

State trade ministers agreed the zone should be operational from July 2020, AU Trade and Industry Commissioner Albert Muchanga told AFP, as countries needed time to adapt to the agreed changes.

An official start date will be agreed by heads of state Sunday — with only Benin and Eritrea still to sign the agreement.

There are still key issues that need to be ironed out however, such as setting common criteria to determine rules of origin for traded products.

Amaka Anku, Africa analyst at Eurasia group, described the deal as a positive step but said the AfCFTA was still “a long way from taking off”.

The AU estimates that implementing the AfCFTA will lead to a 60-percent boost in intra-African trade by 2022.

At the moment, African countries trade only about 16 percent of their goods and services among one another, compared to 65 percent with European countries.

High security

Also on the summit agenda is security — an issue afflicting the Sahel in particular.

Summit host Niger has faced constant attacks by jihadist groups.

Its fellow members in the G5-Sahel security pact — Chad, Mali, Burkina Faso and Mauritania — will seek backing at the AU summit to push for a greater UN security force to address the terror threat.

The countries hope to activate Chapter VII of the UN Charter, a Nigerien security source told AFP. The chapter allows for the UN Security Council to determine a threat to peace and propose measures, including military deployment, to deal with it.

“No prosperity, no integration is possible without peace,” said Faki, who stressed the importance of an AU Peace Fund launched in 2018 to finance security activities and called on member states to fulfil their financial promises.

So far, only $116 million has been received for the envisaged $400-million fund.

Niamey is under high surveillance, with summit facilities subjected to strict access controls and a heavy security presence.

“We have a special unit of several thousand men” on duty, said Defence Minister Mohamed Bazoum.

The city has been revamped and boasts a brand-new airport, upgraded roads, and new hotels for the occasion.

Migration crisis

The leaders will also discuss boosting intelligence cooperation and the global migration crisis.

An airstrike Tuesday on a migrant detention centre near the Libyan capital, Tripoli, killed 53 and injured more than 130.

The AU’s Peace and Security Council on Friday condemned what it called a “savage attack”, calling for an independent inquiry into the incident.

AU member states needed to quickly repatriate their nationals from Libya “in order to prevent any further exploitation of their fragile situation,” they said in a statement.

Buhari Departs Abuja For AU Summit In Niger

File Photo

 

President Muhammadu Buhari has left Abuja for Niger to attend the African Union Summit holding in Niamey, the country’s capital.

The President departed the country on Saturday morning to join other African leaders.

Buhari’s departure was confirmed in a tweet by the Federal Government, @AsoRock.

The President is expected to participate in the 12th Extraordinary Session of the Assembly of the Union on African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and the First Mid-Year Coordination Meeting of the AU and the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) in Niamey.

READ ALSO: Buhari To Attend AU Summit In Niger Republic

The Extraordinary Session of the Assembly of the Union is expected to launch the operational instruments of the Agreement establishing AfCFTA.

The instruments include AfCFTA Rules of Origin, Tariff Concession Portals, Portal on Monitoring and Elimination of Non-Tariff Barriers, Digital Payments and Clearing Systems and African Trade and Observatory Dashboard.

Prior to the Summit, the Buhari Administration had embarked on extensive consultations with stakeholders, culminating in the submission of the report by the Presidential Committee to Assess Impact and Readiness of Nigeria to join the AfCFTA.

The committee had recommended that Nigeria should sign the Agreement which aims to boost intra-African trade.

President Buhari will sign the AfCFTA Agreement on the margins of the AU meeting in Niamey.

African Free Trade Zone Expected To Begin In 2020

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry (C-L) delivers a speech at the opening of the 35th Ordinary Session of the Executive Committee of the Meeting of the African Union at the Palais des Congres in Niamey, on July 4, 2019, ahead of the Heads of States of the African Union Summit in Niger. ISSOUF SANOGO / AFP

 

A landmark African free trade zone due to be ceremonially launched at a summit in Niger this weekend is expected to take effect from July 2020, the African Union (AU) trade commissioner said Friday.

“We have recommended to the summit that the actual date of trading should be the 1st of July 2020,” Albert Muchanga, in charge of trade and industry at the 55-nation bloc, told AFP.

“It is not yet definitive, the summit has to consider that recommendation,” he said.

However, “the ministers of trade have accepted, so naturally, you would expect that the head of states will.”

“I am very optimistic, the passion is spreading and everyone is ready to work hard for the better,” he added.

The launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), 17 years in the making, will be the major focus at the AU summit.

Nigeria, had announced earlier this week that it would sign up to the AfCFTA in Niamey.

‘Removing Fragmentation’

Muchanga said the accord, which will progressively phase out duties on 97 per cent of goods traded between African countries, would be a spur for growth.

“The biggest benefit is you are removing the fragmentation of Africa,” Muchanga said, predicting an influx of foreign capital that would create jobs and prosperity.

According to the AU, the zone, bringing together Africa’s 1.2 billion people into the world’s largest trade bloc, could increase intra-African trade by 60 per cent by 2022.

Some, however, have feared that cheaper imports will hit small manufacturers and farming families.

Some countries would face a short-term hit to revenues but competition would drive innovation, Muchanga said.

A billion US dollars (890 million euros) in credit has been earmarked by the African Import and Export Bank for countries requiring support, he announced.

“Countries which will have adjustment costs then can have recourse to that facility which will assist them,” he said.

Devil in Details

The pact notionally came into being in late May after crossing the threshold of ratification by at least 22 countries.

AU members, after formally launching it Niamey, will then have to hammer out key details to make it operational.

Some of these are notorious pitfalls in trade liberalisation talks, say analysts.

They include a timetable for lowering customs duties, rules for certifying “Made in Africa” products and arbitration mechanisms to settle disputes.

Observers also caution that import duties are not the only obstacles to freer business – corruption, decrepit infrastructure and lengthy waiting times at borders are also major deterrents to trade.

Obasanjo, Kufuor Ask AU, ECOWAS To Intervene In Benin Crisis

 

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo and his Ghanaian counterpart, John Kufuor have asked the African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to intervene in the crisis rocking the Benin Republic.

Both leaders made their position known in a joint statement released on Thursday by Obasanjo’s spokesman, Kehinde Akinyemi in Abeokuta, the Ogun state capital.

According to them, there was a need for the intervention in order to avoid escalation of the festering political crisis.

“The crisis in Benin calls for urgent action by ECOWAS and African Union (AU) to avert the escalation of the festering political unrest.”

READ ALSO: PHOTOS: George Weah Visits Buhari At Presidential Villa

The former leaders believe that the country’s ongoing political crisis if not properly handled could worsen the security and humanitarian situation.

“We are of the view that all stakeholders should be carried along in the electoral process. In addition, the ongoing political crisis appears to be worsening the security and humanitarian situation which might open a floodgate to terrorist incursion that will lead to further destabilisation of the West-African sub-region, the statement read in part.”

They also want African leaders to rise to their responsibility by urgently intervening with a view to putting pressure on the incumbent administration to play the games of democracy by the rules.

The former leaders urged the AU and ECOWAS to send a strong delegation to appeal to President Talon to release his immediate predecessor who needs medical attention abroad.

Delay Release Of Election Results, AU Urges Congo

African Union (AU) Chairperson and Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame (R) speaks with African leaders on DR Congo election at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, on January 17, 2019. EDUARDO SOTERAS / AFP

 

The African Union called Thursday for the final announcement of last month’s disputed presidential elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo to be suspended due to “serious doubts”.

Meeting in Ethiopia, the AU agreed to urgently send “a high-level delegation” to Kinshasa in a bid to find a way out of the political crisis.

“The Heads of State and Government attending the meeting concluded that there were serious doubts on the conformity of the provisional results, as proclaimed by the National Independent Electoral Commission, with the votes cast,” the AU said in a statement.

As a result, it has “called for the suspension of the proclamation of the final results of the elections”.

The provisional results of the long-awaited election announced last week are being challenged in court, in a country that has never known a peaceful transfer of power since gaining independence from Belgium in 1960.

The electoral commission last Thursday declared opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi the winner of the December 30 vote with 38.57 percent of the tally against chief rival Martin Fayulu’s 34.8 percent.

Fayulu who launched the court action said it was an “electoral coup” forged in backroom dealings between Tshisekedi and outgoing President Joseph Kabila, who has been in power since 2001.

“Even if the situation on the ground has been fortunately calm so far, it obviously remains a cause for concern,” AU chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat told African leaders including from South Africa, Zambia and the Republic of Congo gathered to discuss the vote dispute at AU headquarters in Ethiopia.

Earlier this week, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), a bloc that includes Angola and South Africa, called for a recount of the vote and a unity government in DR Congo.

But in a communique issued on Thursday, SADC made no mention of those demands, instead calling on Congolese politicians to “address any electoral grievances in line with the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Constitution and relevant electoral laws”.

It also asked the international community to respect the DR Congo’s “sovereignty” and “territorial integrity”.

The vote dispute has raised fears that the country’s political crisis, which erupted two years ago when Kabila refused to step down at the end of his constitutional term in office, could worsen.

The vast and chronically unstable country became a battlefield for two regional wars in 1996-97 and 1998-2003, and the last two presidential elections, in 2006 and 2011, were marked by bloody clashes.

The country’s top court is due to rule on the court action later this month.

AFP

Police Officers, Civilians Killed In DR Congo Vote Result Protest

 

Two police officers and two civilians were killed in the western DR Congo city of Kikwit Thursday when police intervened to end protests over the outcome of presidential elections, security forces said.

“In the operation to restore public order today in Kikwit, two policemen and two civilian were killed. We also recorded 10 wounded,” city police chief General Dieudonne Mutepeke told AFP. Kikwit is a stronghold of opposition candidate Martin Fayulu, who was declared runner-up in the elections.

AU urges ‘peaceful’ resolution of DR Congo vote dispute

The African Union called Thursday for any dispute over the Democratic Republic of Congo’s election result to be resolved in a peaceful manner, and through dialogue.

“It is important that any disagreement over the proclaimed results, notably that they did not reflect voters’ wishes, be resolved peacefully, by turning to the relevant laws and through political dialogue between the parties involved,” read a statement from the office of AU chief Moussa Faki Mahamat.

Mahamat did not congratulate winning opposition candidate Felix Tshisekedi, whose surprise victory was quickly met with cries of fraud and accusations he had struck a deal with outgoing President Joseph Kabila, whose handpicked candidate came a distant third.

The DRC’s powerful Catholic Church said the provisional results did not match its own nationwide polling data while France said it believed opposition rival Martin Fayulu had in fact won.

Mahamat merely “took note” of the result and said “no matter the definitive outcome” of the election, the DRC must seek national consensus based on the respect of democratic principles and human rights as well as the “preservation and consolidation of peace”.

African Union Condemns Coup Attempt In Gabon

In this video grab made on a video footage obtained on YouTube on January 7, 2019, Gabon soldiers on state radio called on the people to “rise up” and announced a “national restoration council” would be formed, as an ailing President Ali Bongo is out of the country. YOUTUBE / AFP

 

African Union chief Moussa Faki Mahamat “strongly condemned” an attempted coup by rebel soldiers in the Gabonese capital on Monday.

“The African Union strongly condemns the coup attempt this morning in Gabon. I reaffirm the AU’s total rejection of all unconstitutional change of power,” he wrote on Twitter.

AFP

Magu Wants African Leaders To Support Buhari’s Anti-Corruption War

The Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Ibrahim Magu on Monday said it is important that African leaders support Nigeria’s President in his war against corruption.

On July 4, 2017, African leaders unanimously endorsed President Muhammadu Buhari to champion the fight against corruption on the continent. The endorsement took place during the 29th Session of the AU and was in recognition of his personal commitment and acclaimed anti-graft drive at the domestic level.

President Buhari accepted his nomination on July 25, 2017, in a letter to President Alpha Conde of Guinea, the outgoing AU Chairperson.

READ ALSO: Terrorism Financing Must Be Curbed, Says Buhari

Mr Magu at the ongoing 30th AU summit in Addis Ababa told journalists that African leaders must therefore support President Buhari in his task as the champion of AU’s fight against corruption for successful anti-corruption war.

The head of Nigeria’s anti-corruption agency said further that the political will is the driving force of fight against corruption and that the agency is committed to continue its fight despite the many challenges.

Buhari on Friday, January 26 left Abuja for Ethiopia to participate in the 30th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU).

On Sunday, January 28, he said in Addis Ababa that corruption is one of the greatest evils of our time.

This was during the formal launching of the African Anti-Corruption Year 2018 and the Opening Ceremony of the 30th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union in the Ethiopian capital.

“Corruption is indeed one of the greatest evils of our time. Corruption rewards those who do not play by the rules and also creates a system of distortion and diversion thereby destroying all efforts at constructive, just and fair governance,” Buhari said.

The AU Summit is themed “Winning the Fight against Corruption: A Sustainable Path to Africa’s Transformation.”

This is the first time in the 54-year history of the AU that anti-corruption will be made a theme of the gathering of the regional leaders.

Furious African Union Asks Trump To Apologise For ‘Shithole’ Remarks

The African Union has expressed its disappointment and outrage over the comments made by US President, Donald Trump, about the continent.

A statement by the AU, dated January 12, 2018, said there is a huge misunderstanding of the African continent and its people by the current administration.

Trump reportedly demanded to know why the United States should accept immigrants from “shithole countries”, after lawmakers raised the issue of protections for immigrants from African nations, Haiti and El Salvador.

Read Also: Africans Outraged Over ‘Racist’ Trump Remarks, Demands Apology

In reaction, the AU said member states value the strategic partnership with the US and therefore, noted that there is a serious need for dialogue between the US Administration and the African countries.

“While expressing our shock, dismay and outrage, the African Union strongly believes that there is a huge misunderstanding of the African continent and its people by the current administration. There is a serious need for dialogue between the US Administration and the African countries.

“The African Union, through its member states, values the strategic partnership with the US. This relationship should be from the point of equality and mutual respect based on accepted international principles of respect of basic human dignity for all.”

Furthermore, the AU demanded that the comments are retracted, and an apology tendered.

“The African Union Mission condemns the comments in the strongest term and demands a retraction of the comment as well as an apology to not only the Africans but all people of African descent around the globe.”

AU Commends Nigeria’s Fight Against Boko Haram

Yemi Osinbajo
File Photo

The African Union Peace and Security Council has commended Nigeria’s role in tackling the Boko Haram insurgency, despite the recent set back in the fight against the menace, especially in the Lake Chad region.

Members of the council made the commendation at the end of a meeting with the Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo.

Addressing journalists after the meeting, Nigeria’s permanent representatives to the A.U., Ambassador Bankole Adeoye said the collaboration of the Multinational Joint Task Force has so far helped in the fight against the insurgents.