ECOWAS Asks Academics To Support Fight Against Financial Crimes

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is seeking collaboration with academics in the area of research aimed at checking money laundering and terrorism financing in the West African sub region.

Officials of the ECOWAS Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA) made the call at the second Annual Public Lecture on anti-money laundering regimes which held at the University of Benin, Benin City, the Edo state capital.

They appealed to Nigerians to support the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in the fight against money laundering and all other forms of corruption.

Speaking at the event, the Director General of GIABA, who was represented by Dr Bruno Nduka, said, “The implementation of an effective EML safety standard, especially within our region, poses unique challenges and this requires collective, concerted, coordinated and collaborative efforts at all levels.

“Furthermore, the dynamic nature of the criminal world and the continuing menace of money laundering and terror financing, make it imperative for all stakeholders including the academia to deepen collaboration with GIABA to effectively address threats arising from these crimes.”

The Deputy Vice Chancellor Administration of the University of Benin, Professor Jacob Ehiorobo also commended the initiative.

“The idea of gathering active minds for a public lecture like this will create the necessary platform to promote knowledge and sensitise the academic community of their roles in channeling research and teaching to the anti-money laundering/counter financing of terrorism efforts that will bring about management policies which will deal with this challenges in our society.”

Speaking to journalists after the lecture, the National Correspondent of GIABA, Mr Francis Usani, urged Nigerians to support the EFCC in its anti-corruption drive.

“With current vigor to fight these things, I think the EFCC is doing very well, my appeal to each and every one of us is to understand the impact of these things and let us try as much as possible to support the EFCC to do this job.

“Let us remove sentiment most times because I have been in situations where people will say, ‘What (offence) has this one committed?’, ‘What about the other one?’ But those (questions) are not justification for us to commit offences,” Mr Usani said.

It is expected that with the meeting, the group would come up with strategies to enable them check money launderers in the West African sub-region.

Buhari Assures EU Of Commitment To Human Rights Protection

Muhammadu-Buhari-in-France The President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, on Wednesday told the European Union that his administration was doing its utmost best to protect the fundamental human rights of persons in the ongoing counter-terrorism operations against Boko Haram insurgents.

The President gave the assurance on Wednesday while addressing a special session of the parliament in Strasbourg, France.

President Buhari said that his government shared the European Union’s commitment to peace and security, respect for human rights, democracy and good governance as well as equality and tolerance as ways of developing prosperous and strong societies.

On our part, we have updated our Rules Of Engagement in fighting terrorism and pay very close attention during operations to the treatment of captured terrorists, civilians caught up in the conflict and in general, safeguarding property.

“Our aim is to use minimum force necessary in our fight against terrorists,” the President told members of the parliament and the European Union commission.

Economic Partnership Agreement

President Buhari also spoke of Nigeria’s concerns about the Economic Partnership Agreement between the European Union (EU), African, Caribbean and Pacific group of states (ACP), collectively endorsed by the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS).

He said that Nigeria was yet to sign the agreement because pertinent technical issues raised by the Federal Government have not been satisfactorily addressed.

“Giving due consideration to the mismatch of the two regions (Europe-ECOWAS) in terms of technology and manufacturing experience, the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria and Associated Trade Unions raised concerns over the negative impact of the agreement on Nigeria’s industrialisation programme.

Muhammadu-Buhari-in-France-meeting
Muhammadu Buhari addressing parliament in Strasbourg, France

“Nigeria is working towards addressing her own side of the issues and I therefore, urge our European Union partners to also address our own concerns to allow for an economic partnership agreement that is mutually beneficial and can contribute to the prosperity of our people, in the context of our shared values and interest at promoting cordial bilateral trade relations,” he said.

Oil-theft And Illegal Bunkering

The President also sought greater support from the European Union for Nigeria’s efforts to curb the theft of its crude oil and corruption in its oil and gas sector.

“Nigeria is facing the challenges of oil-theft and illegal bunkering in the Niger delta as well as recovery of illicit funds. In this regard, Nigeria solicits the cooperation of the European Parliament to support the efforts aimed at stemming these vices.

“Our attempt to restore security, curb corruption and fight crime will result not only in improving social stability in Nigeria but will re-open the doors for full economic relations with Europe and the rest of the world.

“Those who wish to invest in our country have immense opportunities and we intend to guarantee the security of people and investments brought to Nigeria,” he said.

Illegal Migration To Europe

President Buhari also assured the parliament that Nigeria would collaborate with the European Union to address illegal migration to Europe.

“Our government is making concerted efforts to address the push-factor that propel migration, especially from Nigeria, as both destination and transit country.

“In this year’s budget, the government has provided for over 500,000 graduate employment in the teaching profession alone. We are equally collaborating with the states and local governments to strengthen skills acquisition centres in order to train the teeming youth in various vocational skills, so that they can be self-employed and eventually become employers of labour,” he stated.

The Nigerian leader further said that his government was also making efforts to diversify the economy, giving impetus to agriculture and solid minerals exploitation, to create wealth and employments.

“Nigeria welcomes the outcome of the Valletta EU-Africa summit on migration, including the launching of 1.8 billion Euros Emergency Trust Fund to address the root causes of migration from Africa to Europe.

“Nigeria will work with the countries of the Sahel and Central Africa to submit to the board of the Emergency Trust Fund, our identified projects for funding in due course.

“The Common Agenda on Migration and Mobility (CAMM), which Nigeria was the first African country to sign on March 12, 2015, is a demonstration of the positive spirit of our cooperation with the European Union in the field of migration and development,” President Buhari further told the gathering.

He also proposed a reciprocal visa waivers for holders of Nigerian diplomatic and official passports attending official meetings and conferences in Europe.

 

Buhari Pledges To Support B/Faso In Conduct Of Elections

Oil and GasPresident Muhammadu Buhari has pledged that Nigeria will work with other ECOWAS member-nations and the international community to assist Burkina Faso in the conduct of free, credible and peaceful elections.

Speaking at an audience with Mr Rene Bagoro, Burkina Faso’s Minister of Housing and Urban Development, President Buhari said that Nigeria will do all that it can to help in the achievement of successful elections in Burkina Faso on October 15.

“I am aware that ECOWAS is providing logistics support and some form of electoral assistance to Burkina Faso. Nigeria will provide its own support as soon as possible,’’ President Buhari assured Mr. Bagoro, who was in Abuja as a Special Envoy of the transitional President of Burkina Faso, Mr. Michel Kafando.

President Buhari also received Niger Republic’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ms Aichatou Kane who delivered a special message from President Mahamadou Issoufou.

The message from the Nigerien leader and President Buhari’s discussion with the Foreign Minister focused on ongoing efforts to strengthen the Multinational Joint Task Force established to combat Boko Haram.

ECOWAS WIll Forever Remember Jonathan – Niger President

Niger_PresidentThe President of Niger Republic, Alhaji Muhammadou Isoufou, on Thursay said ECOWAS leaders will forever remember President Goodluck Jonathan for the humble way he conducted himself in the affairs of the country and the West African sub region.

The Nigerien President who was in the Presidential Villa on a courtesy visit said the outgoing Nigerian President has shown great maturity and statesmanship by conceding to defeat and calling his challenger in the last presidential elections to congratulate him describing the act as a great lesson to all African leaders.

Alhaji Issoufou arrived the Presidential Villa at about 12 noon and went into a meeting with President Jonathan for about 40 minutes before speaking to State House correspondents through an interpreter on the purpose of his visit.

He said that Doctor Jonathan has always conducted himself in a very humble manner and that the ECOWAS leaders will forever remember him for that.

According to him Nigeria and Niger have worked together in the last four years in all spheres, economically, politically and on security matters especially in the fight against Boko Haram and thanked the President for the cooperation.

ECOWAS Chairman Condemns Xenophobic Attacks In S/Africa

ECOWAS PresidentThe President of Ghana and Chairman of the Economic Community of West African states (ECOWAS), Mr John Mahama on Tuesday condemned the xenophobic attacks on foreigners in South Africa describing the incident as regrettable and a source of concern in the continent.

“The pictures we’ve seen are very horrible, as ECOWAS, we’ve issued a statement condemning what is happening, the unfortunate thing is that this is not the first time.

“It keeps flaring up. We must work with the South Africa government to ensure that this doesn’t happen again,’’ he said.

Speaking to journalists after a private meeting with President-elect, retired General Muhammadu Buhari, Mr Mahama said ECOWAS is working to create an integrated continent in Africa where people can move freely, but the recent xenophobic attacks is a setback for the goal of integration especially in South Africa which has investments in different countries in Africa.

Mahama expressed worry that the youth carrying out the xenophobic attacks did not know the history of how other African nations fought alongside them to end apartheid.

“I think that it is an issue that we are all worried about because of the specific circumstances of South Africa and it is most regrettable and most unfortunate.

“I think that the young people of South Africa do not know what happened before they gained their freedom, the whole of this continent stood behind South Africa.

“The whole of Africa stood behind South Africa to fight against apartheid. I remember growing up as secondary school child we were part of the African youth command.

“We carried out demonstrations, all in the fight against apartheid,’’ Mahama said.

President Mahama urged the South African government to take strong action and ensure that those found culpable of killing foreigners in South Africa must be punished.

“We are trying to create an integrated continent where our people can move freely amongst our countries.

“This does not set a very good example for integration, especially for South Africa that has investments all across our countries.

“I think that the government must sit up and take strong actions.

“Those who have been involved in these atrocities must be punished to serve as a deterrent to others and to ensure that it doesn’t happen in future,’’ Mahama said.

Central, West African Leaders To Meet Over Boko Haram In April

Boko Haram terrorists fighting vehicles destroyed by troopsCentral and West African states will hold a summit next month to agree a common strategy to combat the Boko Haram insurgency, their leaders said on Wednesday.

Armies from Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger have launched an offensive to end the Islamic militant group’s six-year campaign, which has killed thousands in northern Nigeria and spilled over into Cameroon and Niger.

Ghana’s President John Dramani Mahama and his Chadian counterpart Idriss Deby told reporters in Accra that the April 7-8 summit, for which the host country has yet to be chosen, was needed to sustain the regional offensive.

Mahama chairs the West African regional bloc ECOWAS, while Deby heads the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS).

“Single-handedly, no country can overcome this threat and therefore through pooling our resources together …we are going to overcome this challenge,” Deby told reporters.

ECOWAS Re-Admits Burkina Faso As 46th Session Ends

EbolaThe 46th session of Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) ended on a pleasant note with the readmission of Burkina Faso into the body.

The body also directed that all steps be taken to ensure that the country receives full support as it goes into elections next year.

Member states further reiterated a commitment to promoting and upholding the principles of democracy, good governance, peace and security as enshrined in the relevant ECOWAS treaties.

The summit says it is pleased with w the region’s improved growth prospects for 2015 despite the impact of the Ebola Virus Disease on the region’s economy.

The West African sub regional Heads of State and Governments made this known in a 69 point communique  issued at the end of the meeting that lasted for a whole day, as the various they brain stormed on all burning issues affecting the sub region.

They commended the political parties, civil society groups and the Armed Forces in Burkina Faso for resolving the crisis and congratulated Mr Michel Kafando on his appointment as Interim President.

On the dreaded Ebola Virus Disease, the Summit reaffirmed a strong commitment to continue to mobilise in the fight against the scourge and reiterated the urgent need for member states to strengthen their national health systems.

They also reaffirmed a commitment to promoting and upholding the principles of democracy, good governance, peace and security in the sub-region and expressed deep concern over continued terror attacks by the Boko Haram group in Nigeria, and sympathised with the government and people of Nigeria.

The Heads of State and Government also expressed concern on the security situation in Northern Mali and pledged to continue in the peace process.

They further stressed the need for elections in five countries – Nigeria, Togo, Cote d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso – to be conducted in a peaceful, free, fair and credible manner come 2015.

They also promised to support Cape Verde as it battles natural disaster following a volcanic eruption in Fogo Island in November.

The next ordinary session of ECOWAS will hold on May 28, 2015, in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city.

Ebola: ECOWAS Urges Member States Not To Shut Borders

EbolaThe President of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Kadre Quedraogo, has appealed to governments of member states not to shut their borders owing to the outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease in the region, but maintain caution on its surveillance rules.

The ECOWAS President explained that shutting the borders would only frustrate current efforts to strengthen economic ties and integration process among member states.

Mr Quedraogo, who was speaking at the 10th edition of the ECOWAS Development Partners Annual Coordination meeting in Abuja, urged countries to focus on improving access to basic services and job creation to tackle the challenge of terrorism.

Examining the major challenges facing the West African region, other development partners at the meeting, like the United Nations and the European Union underscored the need to aggressively fight against both human and food insecurity.

In the wake of the growing challenges of terrorism and more recently the Ebola Virus Disease, countries have teamed up to proffer more permanent solutions to the outbreak.

There have been deepening discussions on how to adopt a more coordinated approach to the issues as member countries sought bold measures to contain the epidemic.

 

ECOWAS Staff Who Aided Patrick Sawyer Dies In Lagos

ECOWASThe Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has announced the passing of a staff member of its Lagos Liaison Office, Mr Jatto Asihu Abdulqudir, aged 36.

Mr Abdulqudir, a Protocol Assistant was among those who assisted to a regional meeting, the Liberian delegate, Mr Patrick Sawyer, who died from the Ebola Virus Disease at a Lagos hospital on July 25, 2014.

Mr. Abdulqudir had been under quarantine following the sad incident.

In a statement released on Tuesday, the Commission expressed its gratitude to the Nigerian Government authorities and others who contributed to managing the late official while under quarantine.

“The Management of the Commission wishes to commiserate with Mr. Abdulqudir’s family and colleagues and prays for the repose of his soul.

“Before this sad event, the Commission working in collaboration with Nigerian health authorities, had disinfected all the facilities of the ECOWAS Lagos Liaison Office as part of precautionary measures to safeguard the health, safety and security of staff members, and will continue to monitor the situation.

“Management has also intensified awareness campaign among staff on the deadly virus and uses this opportunity to invoke the spirit of solidarity and mutual assistance.

“The Commission wishes to reassure staff of all Community Institutions all over the entire region that it is taking all necessary steps to guarantee their health and safety.

“Furthermore, Management enjoins all staff members and community citizens in general to intensify the observance of personal hygiene. They should also report any suspected case to health facilities and seek medical advice or attention for the effective containment and defeat of the Ebola disease.

“On the directive of regional leaders, ECOWAS has already set up a Solidarity Fund to fight the disease and has solicited the support contribution of Member States and development partners to the Fund to rid the region of the virus,” the statement read.

The ECOWAS Commission also reiterated its continued commitment to support Member States in confronting the deadly virus.

Slum Dwellers To Receive $70,000 From FG, International Court Rules

court_courtThe Community Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has ordered Nigerian security forces to pay $70, 000 to some residents of Bundu Ama Community in Rivers State, as damages for opening fire at them during a protest five years ago.

The court, which ruled that there was no justification for the shooting, also held that the Nigerian Government had breached its obligation to protect and respect the right to peaceful association and assembly.

On October 12, 2009, armed security forces opened fire on unarmed protesters in Bundu Ama, an informal settlement in Port Harcourt, leaving at least one person dead and 12 seriously injured.

The total number of dead remains unknown because the Government not only refused to undertake an inquiry into the incident but denied anything had taken place.

The case was brought by 10 residents of Bundu waterfront and surrounding communities and the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) against the Federal Government and the Rivers State Government.

“We have come a long way and achieved a great amount,” said Joy Williams, one of the applicants, who was 17 years old when she was shot in the leg during the incident.

“Our community refused to lie down and become victims but instead took action and have now beaten the Government in court,” she said.

“This is an important victory in our campaign for justice but it is not the end of our struggle. The judgment of the court must now be fully implemented,” said Fubara Samuel of Collaborative Media Advocacy Platform (CMAP).

Human Rights Organisations Hail Ruling

Tuesday’s court decision against the Nigerian security forces is a victory against impunity and a triumph for justice, Amnesty International and Collaborative Media Advocacy Platform (CMAP) said.

Amnesty International’s Africa Director, Netsanet Belay, said, “This remarkable victory brings to a close a long battle for justice by members of the community of Bundu Ama, who were unlawfully killed and injured at the hands of Nigerian security forces.

“It sends a clear message to governments that they cannot violate people’s rights with impunity. It also demonstrates that with courage and commitment, communities – no matter how marginalised – can successfully stand up for their rights. This judgment is a testament to the courage of a community who refused to allow their human rights to be violated with impunity.”

Amnesty International and CMAP also called on the Nigerian Government to fully and effectively implement the judgment in a comprehensive and timely way and not ignore the ruling as they have done repeatedly in other cases.

They recalled that in December 2012, the ECOWAS Court of Justice found the Nigerian Government responsible for pollution caused by oil companies and ruled that it must hold the companies and other perpetrators to account but no action has yet been taken.

The case, according to the groups, highlights a number of issues of concern to Amnesty International, including the ongoing use of forced evictions and the use of excessive force by the Nigerian Police and Army.

Amnesty International and CMAP are calling for:

 

  • The Nigerian Army and Police Force to end the use of excessive force and the repeal regulations which are not in line with international standards such as Police Force Order which permits police officers to shoot protesters, whether or not they pose a threat to life.

 

  • An immediate end to mass forced evictions in Nigeria and the enactment of legal safeguards to protect people from forced eviction.

APC Women, Labour Leaders Demand Immediate Release Of Chibok Girls

Chibok girls videoAll Progressives Congress (APC) women and Labour unions in Lagos State on Tuesday joined the call for the rescue of the over 200 girls abducted from a secondary school in Chibok, Borno State a month ago by suspected Boko Haram insurgents as the incident continues to draw both national and international attention.

Led by their leader Mrs Kemi Nelson, the women submitted a letter to the State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), for onward dispatch to President Goodluck Jonathan, demanding, among others the immediate and safe release of the girls.

In the letter read by Nelson, before submission to the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Lateef Ibirogba, who received them at the Lagos House, Ikeja, on behalf of the Governor, the women expressed dismay at the apparent inaction of the Federal Government towards securing the release of the girls.

They particularly accused the President of insensitivity toward the incident recalling “with sadness” that despite the untoward happening and the fact that parents of those children were going through serious trauma, President Goodluck Jonathan danced publicly at a campaign rally of the People’s Democratic Party in Kano State.

Noting that the kidnap of the Chibok girls was not the first of such incident in the country, the women told the President, “Like in the first kidnap on Tuesday January 14 2014, Nigerians and indeed the entire world have not seen any positive action. Instead, and sadly too, the local and international media are awash with saddening reports which point to complicity of inaction by even the Nigerian Military”.

They expressed shock Amnesty International’s disclosure that the Nigerian Military High Command was allegedly alerted four hours before the “unprecedented mass kidnap” and that even after the kidnap, the military kept away from immediately pursuing the terrorists in order to rescue the girls.

Noting that such reports did not depict seriousness on the part of the President in seeking the rescue of the girls, the women declared, “Mr. Presidents, we advise that you brace up to arrest the worsening security situation in the nation”.

The women, however, expressed relief that the international community, notably the United States of America, Britain, France, China, Israel and countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), have all offered their assistance towards rescuing the girls.

In their own letter to the President, the State Councils of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC), appealed to all well-meaning Nigerians, including religious leaders and the international community, to continue to put pressure on the Boko Haram to release the girls unconditionally.

The unions said they have chosen to toe the line of peaceful approach to the resolution of the problem because of its sensitive nature pointing out that if violence was employed in the effort to secure the release of the girls, it would lead to bloodshed and the casualty toll would inevitably include the girls themselves.

“We call on Mr. President and our allies to spare no rod to ensure that the Chibok Girls are brought back to their families and the nation hail and alive. We know that they would have to undergo medical and psychological treatment to heal the horrors they may have been subjected to”, the unions said adding that if all Nigerians work together as a single unit of humanity, the insurgency issue would be defeated.

Warning against any attempt by the international community to turn Nigeria into a theatre of war with terrorists like Afghanistan, Pakistan and others, the unions declared, “If we unleash the power of the working class within the confines of Nigeria and worldwide on anti-people  regimes or terror forces like Boko Haram, such bodies would disintegrate and collapse”.

Demanding the unconditional release of the girls by Boko Haram, the Unions also asserted, “We honestly hope that the Nigeria labour movement would not be forced to declare full battle against the abductors of the Chibok girls before the reasonable is done”.

Receiving the letters from the two groups on behalf of the Governor, the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Lateef Ibirogba, thanked them for identifying with the rest of Nigerians, particularly the affected families, to seek the release of the Chibok girls.

The Commissioner, who expressed sadness at the nature of the abduction of the girls whom he described as “those expected to take over from us”, prayed that they would be rescued and returned to their families in good health, adding that the global reaction to the abduction has been spontaneous.

Hoping that the Federal Government would not misconstrue the action to mean that it is being sponsored like was the case during the mass action over fuel crisis, Ibirogba declared, “We are all in this believing that since no nation thrives on violence and irregularities that we have now, the God we serve will bring back these children hale and hearty”.

“We are happy that despite that some people in Abuja would have swept the issue under the carpet, the international community has taken it up and now we are all seeing the result and everybody is hearing the news globally. We believe that everybody has a right to life and nobody should be denied that right whether a minor or an adult”, the Commissioner said.

Prominent among those present were Chairman Lagos Council of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Comrade Idowu Adelakun and his Trade Union Congress of Nigeria counterpart, Comrade Kazeem Akeem on the Labour side, and Senator (Mrs.) Oluremi Tinubu and Hon. (Mrs.) Olufunmilayo Tejuosho, among numerous other prominent party Chieftains and Market women.

SERAP Seeks UN Security Council Sanctions Against Boko Haram

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged the UN Security Council to “move swiftly to impose targeted sanctions against Boko Haram and their backers to end persistent attacks against children and other civilians.”
 SERAP
In a statement signed by the Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, the organization said that, “By its Resolution 2068 (2012), the UN Security Council has stated its readiness to adopt targeted sanctions against armed groups like Boko Haram that persistently violate the rights of children in armed conflict, including through abduction and attacks on schools.”
 
“With over 200 Chibok schoolgirls still missing having been abducted by Boko Hamam, now is the time for the Council to show that it can deliver on its mandate and implement its resolution when it matters most,” the group said.
 
“Sanctions send a powerful signal to the perpetrators and contribute to greater compliance with the Council’s agenda on children in armed conflict,” the group added. 
 
According to the group, “The Council should consider a broad range of options for increasing pressure on Boko Haram and their backers if it is to contribute to stemming the persistent abuse of children by the extremist group, and assist Nigeria in the fight against terrorism. This will certainly increase international action against the impunity with which Boko Haram operates, and may be the turning point to secure the safe return of the missing schoolgirls.”
 
“The suggested action is entirely consistent with Resolution 2068. This resolution reiterates the primary responsibility of the Council for the maintenance of international peace and security and its commitment to address the widespread impact of armed conflict on children,” the group also said.
 
The group further noted that, “it is not enough for the Council to express concern over the plight of children remaining in the grip of armed groups, as well as those affected by violence.  It is now time for the Council to act decisively against the Boko Haram. The cost of inaction is simply too high to contemplate. Taking strong action would send a strong signal that the resolutions of the Council are not only words on paper, and that vigorous action can be taken when they are not implemented.”
 
“The future of these missing schoolgirls hang in a balance.  The Council should not leave them to fend for themselves. It should send a message that it will not turn away. Any child that the Council saves from the scourge of armed conflict represents hope for a better future. Accountability remains an integral element both to address and prevent violations against children. It should begin with targeted sanctions against Boko Haram and their backers,” the group stated.
 
According to the group, “The Council should work with the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on this initiative. The Council must reaffirm its willingness to act, while also emphasizing the government’s responsibility to end impunity and prosecute the perpetrators.”