UNHCR, ECOWAS Sign MoU To Tackle Issues Of IDPs, Others

Angele Dikongue-AtanganaThe United Nations High Commission for Refugees, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Economic Community of West African States, to jointly improve the situation of displaced people in the West African sub-region.

The UNHCR  has also predicted that people living in the Bakassi area may not be able to prove a link with either Nigeria or Cameroon in the nearest future.

The commission’s representative to Nigeria, Mrs Angele Dikongue-Atangana, made this known at a meeting in Abuja on Wednesday.

She noted that the partnership framework between UNHCR and the ECOWAS parliament “comes at a critical time in the sub-region, where additional efforts are needed to improve the protection of the environment for persons of concern, and ensure the full respect of their rights”.

Mrs Angele explained that through the MoU signed on Wednesday, UNHCR and the ECOWAS parliament have formalized their cooperation into a framework.

UNHCR, ECOWAS, IDP'sAccording to her, “this would allow both organizations to better protect the rights of asylum-seekers, refugees, returnees, IDPs, stateless persons and those at risk of statelessness.

“It would also ensure proper interpretation and application of relevant international, regional and national laws” she explained.

For the sake of clarity, she went further to describe the stateless person, saying that there were many of them currently found in one state or the other within the sub-region.

“They are not citizens of those states, but cannot point to any other country of their origin because they found themselves there as displaced persons due to violence, hunger, disaster among others,” she added.

She admitted that the issue of statelessness was very old, and recalled that in 2014, a decade of combatting the issue was declared.

She, however, expressed hope that the partnerships that the UNHCR is entering into across the world, would bring the issue to an end eventually by the year 2024.

El-Rufai Flags Off Construction Of Potato Factory In Kaduna

Kaduna, Nasir El-Rufai, Potato Factory Kaduna State Governor, Mr Nasir El-Rufai, has flagged off the construction of a Potato Farm and Processing factory worth $120 million, in line with his administration’s economic diversification programme.

The factory, said to be the first of its kind in West Africa, is expected to be completed in the next 18 months. It is located at Manchok in Kaura Local Government Area of the state in northwest Nigeria.

The proposed factory is being constructed in partnership with Vicampro International, an agro-based company with branches in several countries.

At the ground breaking ceremony for the proposed factory on Saturday, Governor El-Rufai said the processing facility would earn foreign exchange and reduce over-dependence on oil.

He stated further that the state government was committed to promoting agricultural practices to fast track development, diversify the economy and boost Internally Generated Revenue.

Reduction Of Poverty

The Governor appealed to the host community to support and cooperate with Vicampro, in order to pave way for the attainment of its mission.

He expressed the belief that the return of vibrant economic activities and the reduction of poverty among the populace would drive prosperity and reduce the divisions that became pronounced as the state’s economy entered dire straits from the late 1980s.

In his remarks, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr Godwin Emefiele, spoke on the issue of access to finance, which he said remained a major challenge of most investors.

He pledged that the issue was being addressed to ensure that investors with viable ideas were given the necessary support.

Need For Diversification

The CBN Governor, who said the drop in oil prices had affected Nigeria’s economy drastically, suggested further diversification as the only alternative to overcome the economic crisis.

He assured the people that the CBN would collaborate with the Kaduna State government to translate the idea to reality for the benefit of all.

On her part, the Minister of State of Trade and Investment, Mrs Aisha Abubakar, described the development as a giant stride towards moving the nation’s economy forward.

Giving the details of the project, the Executive Secretary of Kaduna State Investment Promotion Agency (KADIPA), Gambo Hamza, explained that to successfully run the plant, the factory would need about 10,000 hectares of land for potato cultivation.

He added that upon completion, the factory would have the capacity to process 2,500 tonnes of potatoes daily and create at least 30,000 jobs.

In his remark, the Managing Director of Vicampro, Michael Agbogbo, said the company would produce French fries, Irish flakes and biscuits for local and international consumption.

The residents of Manchok on their part, lauded the investment and expressed hopes that it would improve their community’s economy and provide jobs for them.

ECOWAS Defence Chiefs Meet Over Security

ecowasThe 35th ordinary meeting of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Chiefs of Defence Staff (CDS) on Thursday begun in Dakar, Senegal.

Chief of Defence Staff, General Gabriel Olonisakin, led the Nigerian delegates, including the Chief of Naval Staff, to the meeting, where new structures for the ECOWAS Standby Force (ESF) and the Peace Support Operations Division (PSOD) is deliberated on.

Other areas of discussion include ECOWAS mission in Guinea Bissau, exit strategy and the implementation of the defence and security sector reform programme in Guinea Bissau.

The Nigerian delegates are using the occasion to brief the wider regional body about the Boko Haram insurgency and the efforts the Nigerian Armed Forces and the Lake Chad Basin Commission member countries are putting in place to end Boko Haram activities in the region.

They said with increased regional and continental awareness of the evils of terrorism and related crimes in the West African sub region, the perpetrators will have it rough with regional forces.

Buhari Meets Private Sector Leaders, Reels Out APC Manifesto

Muhammadu Buhari APC Presidential candidate2The Presidential Candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), General Muhammadu Buhari, on Saturday met with private sector leaders, promising to strengthen and make government institutions more independent if elected.

At the meeting held in Abuja, General Buhari reeled out the manifesto of the opposition party, saying it took the party six months of service and painstaking analysis of the Nigerian condition to develop.

The former military president said that the APC had come out with a comprehensive economic development plan geared towards promoting agriculture, power supply, infrastructural development, industrialisation and job creation among others.

He said that the party would provide the necessary regulatory framework for a conducive business environment.

Value Chain Of Opportunities

“We will provide level playing field and we will not allow politics to creep into and constrain the business climate.

“We will embark on multiple tracks reform in the oil and gas sector, especially government institutions like the NNPC, to block revenue transmission leakages and make them more efficient and accountable.

“We shall promote sound micro economic positive environment, run an efficient and transparent government. Restore and strengthen financial confidence by putting in place a more robust monitoring, supervision and regulation of all financial institutions.

“We shall embark on natural infrastructural development programme that will promote road, air and water transportation in the country to make Nigeria a hub of the West African sub-region,” General Buhari said.

The APC Presidential candidate also said that the party would embark on roads and rail construction that would unlock a value chain of opportunities for construction companies, builders, engineers, architects, quarry operators cement and iron rod production and supply.

General Buhari earlier in a rally in Nasarawa urged all Nigerian voters to come out en masse and vote in the general election that will hold on March 28 and April 11.

Jonathan Assures World Leaders Of Renewed Commitment To MDGs

President Goodluck Jonathan today as part of his visit to the United States addressed the 68th United Nations General Assembly.

Amidst several concerns surrounding peace and security on the African continent raised in his speech, the president says there will be more commitment to millennium development goals by his administration.

“There have been several conflicts with devastating consequences in virtually all regions of the world, as global citizens; we have a sacred duty to free our world of wars, rivalries, ethnic conflicts and religious division.

“Our collective efforts in our drive for a better world will continue to bind us together”.

Realising the need to sustain peace in Nigeria beyond the year 2015, Jonathan says he is committed to building systems that will see that the conflicts and insecurity confronting the nation doesn’t pull it apart.

“Mr. President, Nigeria continues to support the efforts of the United Nations in addressing the global initiatives to combat the menace of the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons

“We have redoubled efforts to address this arduous challenge within our borders and across the West African sub-region. In doing so, we also recognised the need for a God-based global partnership in the on-going battle against trans-border crimes including terrorism and acts of piracy

“It is regrettable that these scourges are sustained by concerted assets by non-state actors to illicit small arms and light weapons with which they foster insecurity and instability across the continent

“For us in Africa, these are the weapons of mass destruction; it is therefore in the light of our collective obligations and unseasoned struggle to end this nightmare that I congratulate member states on the adoption of the arms treaty in April this year

“Our hope is that, upon the entry into force, the arms treaty will herald an era of accountable trade in conventional arms, which is critical to the security of nations”

Fashola warns of more ocean surge in Lagos

The governor of Lagos State, Mr Babatunde Fashola has warned residents in the state to be prepared for more ocean surge in what he described as the typhoon season which is raging across cities bordering the Atlantic Ocean.

The governor gave the warning on Saturday while inspecting the devastated Kuramo Beach in Victoria Island, which was destroyed by an over-night ocean surge, killing 16 people.

Mr Fashola described the ocean surge as part of a global environment challenge which the state government will continue to address with innovative and courageous solutions.

Noting that earlier in the day, Hurricane Isaac hit Haiti and some states United States, the governor stated “it is the same Atlantic ocean that is serving Haiti and most of the States and countries of the West African sub-region and Southern Africa to the left of your global map.”

“To your right is the Indian Ocean and right at the bottom around Cape Town is where the Indian Ocean and Atlantic meet. That is the Cape of Good Hope. So, people must understand this that if it is happening in those places, you must expect that there would be consequences down the line. America is going into hurricane season and we are bounded by the same Atlantic.”

Ripple effect

The governor further explained “it is like when you throw a pebble into a bowl of water, you will see ripples. We will feel the ripple end (of Hurricane Isaac) maybe in a week or two as each storm hits America, as it hits Cuba and as it hits Haiti.”

“Now in the Pacific Ocean, the South East Asian nation, Taiwan and all of them are now being buffeted by serious typhoons. Are we going to pretend that we are not part of that world?” the governor asked.

Responding to the recent criticism that the on-going dredging for Eko Atlantic City could be responsible for the ocean surge, the Governor affirmed his government can beat its chest that “rather than being the cause of the problem, the project had been pivotal to saving the whole of Victoria Island from the Ocean surge”, adding that “people often forget when a problem had been solved.”

Governor Fashola explained that before the Eko Atlantic City project started, it was always front page news that the ocean surge had reached the Nigerian Law School, stressing that the same applied to the Modupe Oshikoya Avenue right in front of the IMB Plaza which was already gone.

“Now, you can drive through a road, now peoples’ homes did not flood. Victoria Island and Ikoyi are saved. Those are the financial heart of Nigeria’s capital markets today, banks, jobs, homes, skyscrapers and hotels. That is what the Eko Atlantic City has done”, he stated.

The governor pledged that since the problem is now manifesting itself in other parts of the state, it means government might have to extend the intensity of its work to the Kuramo parts and protect all of the homes and properties across the coastline up to Alpha Beach and Goshen Estate.

He descried the development at Kuramo as “an emergency that must be dealt with”, adding that if the federal government is not going to come to the aid of the state,  he will find ways to ensure that the State House of Assembly make appropriation for Kuramo. The Kuramo erosion challenge was not included in the budgetary plans for the year, he added.

Experts call for regulation of small arms trade

Government officials from ECOWAS member states and a delegation from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have demanded an urgent attention to the proliferation of small arms in the sub-region.

This was the focus of the talks on addressing the challenge during the meeting on small arms trade in Abuja on Wednesday, as top government officials from the 15 member states of ECOWAS converged in Abuja to prepare for the United Nations arms trade treaty negotiations scheduled for July this year..

The head of delegation of the ICRC, Zoran Jovanovic warned that the unregulated trade in arms is causing immense human suffering to countries and communities therefore it is now imperative that arms transfers be strictly regulated on a global level.

The meeting noted that influx of small arms into the West African sub-region is not about to decline anytime soon unless the trade is speedily regulated through the United Nations small arms trade treaty.

They also warned that the unregulated trade in arms will continue to spur conflicts and violence giving rise to human suffering and economic stagnation in the sub-region.

The meeting is crucial in ensuring that ECOWAS interests are adequately reflected in the arms trade treaty even as the sub region is grappling with spill over of arms from countries such as Libya and the recent coup d’état in Mali.

Going forward in identifying the challenges standing in the way of reducing the large number of small arms flooding the region, lack of political will by governments and financial gains from small arms trade were some of the identified hindrances among others.

While the speedy endorsement of the United Nations small arms trade treaty has been identified as a key element in fighting the proliferation of small arms, adopting the treaty is just a minor step, the meeting noted and called for more action.