African Nations Increase Farm Spending, Winning Poverty Battle

President Barack Obama hosts the leaders of four African nations this week, all of which are cited in a new report for effectively increasing spending on agriculture to combat extreme poverty and hunger.

The report by the ONE Campaign, an anti-poverty group co-founded by Irish rockers Bono and Bob Geldof, said Senegal, Malawi, Cape Verde and Sierra Leone either met or were close to meeting targets for increased budget spending on agriculture.

All of the countries, except Cape Verde where there is little data, are also on track or close to meeting a U.N. target of halving extreme poverty by 2015, the report said.

The African leaders will visit the White House on Thursday to showcase their fledgling democracies, but also their potential in a region where strong economic policies are attracting increased investment.

A recent World Bank report said Africa’s agricultural sector could become a $1 trillion industry by 2030 if farmers modernized their practices and had better access to financing, new technology, irrigation and fertilizers.

“Despite record improvements by select African countries, Africa overall is still far from realizing its agricultural potential,” said the ONE Campaign report, which assessed progress by 19 African countries and donors that send them aid.

“For African governments, donors and the private sector alike, 2013 is the year to deliver on these building blocks that impact farming and expand economic opportunities for farmers,” the report said.

This year marks a decade since African governments committed to allocate 10 percent of national spending to boost agricultural production, reversing decades of under investment in the sector. The so-called Maputo commitments expire this year, giving world leaders the opportunity to lay out a bold new plan with targets, the report said.

According to ONE’s analysis, at least four of the 19 African countries analyzed – Ethiopia, Cape Verde, Malawi and Niger – met or exceeded the target of 10 percent total expenditure on agriculture. Senegal and Sierra Leone are close to the target.

Meanwhile, the laggards are Nigeria, Liberia and Ghana, which spend less than 2 percent of their budgets on agriculture.

The report also called on industrialized nations – the United States, France, Britain, Canada, Japan, Germany and Russia – to make good on their various funding promises to help African nations increase agricultural production.

The G8, which meets in June this year, has repeatedly promised to support Africa-led initiatives, yet G8 agriculture investment plans have only secured about half of their required financing, and many donors contribute only a small fraction of their agriculture aid to poor countries, the report said.

The report shows that European Union institutions, Canada and Germany increased their share of foreign assistance to agriculture, while Britain, Japan and France cut theirs.

Ajibola Traces Loss Of Bakassi To Britain-Germany Treaty

Former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Bola Ajibola at his book launch on Saturday blamed Nigeria’s loss of Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroon on a treaty between Britain and Germany as well as the lack of understanding of past administrations in Nigeria.

Speaking at the book launch in his honour, Mr Ajibola gave reasons for thejudgement passed by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) as regards the lost land.

He said, “At the time that the British decided on ceding the entire area of Bakassi to Germany; it was not owned at that time by the British. It was that agreement that was being mainly relied upon by us here.”

He expressed doubts on any hope of re-claiming the lost land.

U.S. Warns Health Officials To Be Alert For Deadly New virus

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday warned state and local health officials about potential infections from a deadly virus previously unseen in humans that has now sickened 14 people and killed 8.

Most of the infections have occurred in the Middle East, but a new analysis of three confirmed infections in Britain suggests the virus can pass from person to person rather than from animal to humans, the CDC said in its Weekly Morbidity and Mortality Report on Thursday.

The virus is a coronavirus, part of the same family of viruses as the common cold and the deadly outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that first emerged in Asia in 2003. The new virus is not the same as SARS, but like the SARS virus, it is similar to those found in bats.

So far, no cases have been reported in the United States.

According to the CDC’s analysis, the infections in Britain started with a 60-year-old man who had recently traveled to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and developed a respiratory illness on January 24, 2013. Samples from the man showed he was infected with both the new virus and with H1N1, or swine flu.

This man subsequently passed the infection to two members of his household: a male with an underlying illness who became ill on February 6 and subsequently died; and a healthy adult female in his household who developed a respiratory illness on February 5, but who did not need to be hospitalized and has recovered.

The CDC said people who develop a severe acute lower respiratory illness within 10 days of returning from the Arabian Peninsula or neighboring countries should continue to be evaluated according to current guidelines.

The health agency said doctors should be watchful of patients who develop an unexplained respiratory infection within 10 days of traveling from the Arabian Peninsula or neighboring countries. The CDC has set up a special website with updates on the infections at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/ncv/ .

Symptoms of infection with this new virus include severe acute respiratory illness with fever, cough and shortness of breath. Neither the CDC nor the World Health Organisation has issued travel restrictions related to the virus.

Britain to hold talks with Syrian rebels

Britain plans to hold talks with armed Syrian rebels in a bid to unite the opposition to the regime of president Bashar al-Assad.

This announcement comes as David Cameron arrives in Jordan on the latest stage of his visit to the Middle East where he will discuss the fighting in Syria with the king of Jordan and meet refugees from the conflict.

Downing Street said the talks between UK officials and Syrian rebels would take place in Jordan and Turkey.

On Tuesday Mr. Cameron said he was prepared to see President Assad allow safe passage out of Syria if that would help ensure a peaceful power shift but he insists that he would “favour him facing the full force of international law and justice for what he’s done.”

More than 30,000 people have been killed in the violence in Syria which began last year.

U.S. Open Final 16:18 year old Robson stuns Li Na

Laura Robson has landed herself in the last 16 of the U.S. Open taking place in New York as she ran over China’s Li Na.

The 18-year-old became the first British women to reach the final 16 at the US Open since 1991 as she now focuses on her next opponent.

Robson was in fine form at the Louis Armstrong Stadium with a fantastic 6-4 6-7 6-2 victory over the 2011 French Open champion.

Speaking after the match, Robson, who also knocked out Kim Clijsters earlier in the tournament, said she knew that if she kept sticking with Li Na and playing her shots it might payoff for her and she is glad that the game plan paid off even though she lost the few break points she had had to the her much more experience opponent but she took her chance when it showed up.

Commenting on Li Na, Robson said she is a great hitter and she will have to go back to the gym to recover for her next match as she will now be facing Aussie Samantha Stosur in the next round.

1,500 Nigerian students face deportation from the UK

The British government on Thursday announced that Over 2,600 foreign students are about to face deportation from Britain, after their university was stripped of its ability to sponsor visas for students beyond the European Union.

The move provoked dismay from students and accusations that the move by the Conservative-led government, which is bent on reducing immigration, could damage Britain’s global reputation.

London Metropolitan University has lost its “highly trusted status” because a survey found significant problems with the qualifications of many of its foreign students, Immigration Minister Damian Green said.

In a “significant proportion” of cases, there was no documentation that students had a good standard of English, Mr Green said, and there was no proof that half of those sampled were attending lectures. He said the sampling of the university’s foreign students indicated that more than a quarter did not have current permission to be in the country.

“Any one of those breaches would be serious,” Mr Green told BBC radio. “We found all three of those breaches at London Metropolitan.”

A degree from a U.K. university is highly prized by many students abroad, and those from outside the European Union often pay higher fees than residents. The British government, which has cracked down on immigration in multiple ways, has pointed to student visas as a category ripe for abuse by those who may instead be looking for work.

London Metropolitan has 30,000 students, and 2,600 are affected by the government’s decision, said university spokesman Nick Hansen. Students from other European Union countries don’t need visas.

The affected students will have 60 days to find new sponsors once they are formally notified by the government, or they could be deported. A task force has been set up to help genuine students who otherwise qualify for visas, Universities Minister David Willetts said, but with the fall term imminent students have little time to find new sponsors and courses.

DFID awards 2012-2013 Chevening scholarship

The acting British High Commissioner, Giles Lever, says Britain will continue to use scholarship opportunities to impart leadership qualities to young Nigerians with promising careers.

Speaking with our correspondent Doris Okenwa during a reception in Abuja for the ex and new Chevening Scholars, he said this scholarships are a diplomatic tool to promote stronger bilateral relations with Nigeria.

15 Nigerians were awarded the British Chevening Post Graduate scholarship for 2012-2013.

This is a yearly initiative by the British government to assist young people in developing countries reach the peak of their career and give back to their societies.

Olympics: Gold for Australia in sailing

Australia overcame a nervy start to clinch gold in the men’s two-hander 470 sailing class with Britain taking silver.

Triple world champions Matthew Belcher and Malcolm Page edged a tight contest with their British challengers Luke patience and Stuart Bithell.

Argentina’s Lucas Calabrese and Juan de la Fuente deny Italy’s Gabrio Zandona and Pietro Zucchetti to pick bronze.

New Zealand’s women sailors fulfilled a pledge to go one better than their men by winning gold.

Jo Aleh and Olivia Powrie sailed calmly round ahead of Great Britain’s Hannah mills and Saskia Clark.

South Africa grab lightweight four gold

South Africa powered to victory in the men’s lightweight four final on Thursday, holding off the favourites Britain and Denmark in a thrilling sprint for the line to win the country’s first Olympic rowing title.

The victory by about a foot with a breathtaking late burst denied Britain a third gold medal of the Games and a win for brothers Peter and Richard Chambers from Northern Ireland. Britain finished second with Denmark in third.

Denmark led the race from the start before South Africa and Britain pulled level. In a final sprint for the line in front of 25,000 roaring fans, the South Africans just got their timing right before collapsing in their boat and looking to the big screens to see whether they had won.

South Africa triumphed in a time of six minutes 02:84, from Britain a quarter of a second back. Denmark were a further 0.07 of a second behind the British.

Britain pledges to support Nigeria

The British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Andrew Lloyd has promised that Britain will continue to support Nigeria in building a stronger democracy and economic development.

Mr Lloyd reaffirmed this commitment during the commemoration of the Queen Elizabeth’s diamond jubilee in Abuja, tagged ‘An evening to celebrate the 60 year reign of Queen Elizabeth the II’.

The High Commissioner also delivered the Queen’s message to families of the Dana Air crash victims, consoling them and urging them to keep faith despite the tragedy.

Government officials and members of the diplomatic corps were in attendance to witness the event in honour of the second longest serving British monarch who has been on the throne since 1952.

The High Commissioner urged the federal government to remain committed to democracy and the rule of law.

Top government officials present at the event paid tribute to the Queen of England and her reign of peace. They anticipate stronger ties between Nigeria and Britain in various areas of common interest.

Nigeria remains one of Britain’s key partners closely working together on a range of domestic and international issues. Britain assures it will continue to support Nigeria in promoting good governance.

British police vows to fight corrupt Nigerian politicians

Following last month’s conviction of  former governor of Delta State, James Ibori, by a Southwark Crown Court for stealing millions of pounds from the treasury of his state, the British police anti-money laundry unit  have pledged to intensify its fight against corrupt politicians from Nigeria who transfer their loots to the UK.

In an interview with Cable News Network, the Unit head of the Proceeds of Corruption Unit of London’s Metropolitan Police, Detective Chief Inspector Jonathan Benton, disclosed that some measures would be applied against corrupt Nigerian politicians in the wake of the Ibori conviction.

According to him,  “We hope that, by tackling the likes of James Ibori, we’re saying to those stealing from the state purse, you can’t have your children at private school in London. You can’t have a multimillion pound house in one of the most affluent areas of London. You can’t drive around in top of the range vehicles. We won’t let you move money around to buy multimillion pound jets.”

In a statement, Hooman Nouruzi, spokesman for the British High Commission in Nigeria said  according to the UK law, “money acquired through corrupt and illegal practices should be confiscated and should not be available to be used by criminals to fund an affluent and privileged lifestyle for themselves and their families.”

He said that the “Crown Prosecution Service prosecutors have already obtained confiscation orders against associates of Mr James Ibori and have asked the Court to make a confiscation order against Mr Ibori himself. A confiscation order is a requirement to pay a specific sum of money. It does not prohibit activities such as paying school fees, but this is likely to be a consequence of illegal funds being frozen or paid back”.

Mr Benton disclosed that his unit which comprises twelve detectives, traces the flow of foreign politicians’ money through London.

While examining the role played by British banks in aiding Ibori to loot his state’s treasury, it was found that Nigerian politicians find London an attractive location for laundered funds.

According to Robert Palmer of anti-corruption NGO, Global Witness, “London holds a double attraction for corrupt politicians. We are a major financial and legal centre so there’s a lot of expertise, and there’s also a lot of assets that go through the British financial institution, so it’s easier to disguise your assets….but there’s a prestige about being able to bring your assets and your wealth into the UK.”

 

British envoy pledges to solve Nigeria’s security challenge

The British High Commissioner Mr. Andrew Lloyd has pledged Britain’s support to assist Nigeria with its security challenges.

Mr. Lloyd said “We have had more British ministers and officials visiting Nigeria in the last one year than we have had in past four years combined and so across the board we have a very strong and very vibrant relationship and we are going to be with Nigeria as it faces its challenges just as I am sure we are going to help Nigeria develop those opportunities which are important to Britain and the rest of the world”

The High Commissioner made the pledge while speaking with journalists at the commemoration of the commonwealth day in Abuja.

He said ” the vision of the commonwealth day for 2012 is connecting cultures which is primarily the main vision of the commonwealth itself and Britain is committed to strengthening its relationship with Nigeria for the mutual benefits of both countries. He said “in terms of diversity, because we are different and one of the strengths of the Common Wealth is that we can bridge those differences and help contribute to global understanding”

The Commonwealth of Nations is a voluntary association of 54 independent sovereign states. Most are former British colonies, or dependencies of these colonies.