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Buhari rallies international support against terrorism

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President Muhammadu Buhari has called on the Turkey-Africa Partnership Summit to provide concrete support to help defeat terrorism and insurgency on the African continent.

The president who made the call yesterday while speaking at the third edition of the summit in Istanbul Turkey admitted that the Boko Haram terrorist group, though fragmented by internal strife and degraded by Nigeria’s defence forces, is still active and preying on soft targets.

President Buhari also expressed delight that the Summit convened by Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has given due consideration to the issue of terrorism, while also focusing on development and infrastructure in Africa.

This is coming as Erdogan has stated that Turkey would send 15 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to Africa, adding that the low vaccination rates there was a blot on humanity.

Buhari advised that the partnership should also focus on the global challenge of climate change which is impacting Nigeria, Turkey, and indeed the world at large.

According to him, it has become a catalyst for conflict through food insecurity, drying up of lakes; loss of livelihood, and youth migration, among others.

He said: “The trend is the same around the world where communities are overwhelmed by forest fires, rising sea levels, flood, drought, and desertification. I want to seize this opportunity to appeal for support for initiatives such as Africa’s Great Green Wall on Environment and Land Management, which is designed to fight the effects of climate change and desertification in Africa. The initiative aims to restore 100 million hectares of degraded land in the 11 countries of the Sahel-Sahara strip, capture 250 million tons of carbon and, create 10 million green jobs by 2030.”

On the global coronavirus pandemic, Buhari urged nations to follow the example of Africa-Turkey cooperation, which emphasises solidarity and support in tackling the challenge.

The president noted that given the increasingly unpredictable nature of contemporary global challenges facing mankind, world leaders must continue to put the wellbeing of humanity at the centre of the agenda for the common good and prosperity of all.

While applauding President Erdogan for initiating the Turkey-Africa Partnership in 2008, Buhari urged the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AFCTA) to assist in further increasing the level of Africa-Turkey trade, leading to a win-win for all countries.

He said: ‘‘The pandemic is a global challenge which calls for global solidarity and solutions and the Africa-Turkey cooperation model has proved to be an example to the world. Not only has there been mutual support to respond to the pandemic but also mutual support to build resilience and sustainable development in other sectors. We also commend the African Union for the excellent role it has been playing in coordinating the implementation process of the Partnership.

We must therefore promote science, technology, and innovation and share knowledge from research and development to better equip us to address present and future challenges more equitably and sustainably.

“In this regard, Nigeria strongly endorses the Summit Declaration as well as the 2022-2026 Joint Action Plan. We are confident that given the level of openness, trust and commitment manifested in the Africa–Turkey Partnership, this cooperation mechanism will be a game-changer for our countries and set us on the path of sustainable development for our peoples”

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New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern cancels her wedding amid new Omicron restrictions

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New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden has cancelled her wedding as the nation imposes new restrictions to slow the community spread of the Covid-19 Omicron variant, she told reporters on Sunday.

New Zealand will impose mask rules and limit gathering from midnight on Sunday after a cluster of nine Covid-19 Omicron cases showed community spread from the North to South islands after a wedding.

A family returned to Nelson in the South Island by plane after attending a wedding and other events in Auckland in the North Island. The family and a flight attendant tested positive.

New Zealand will move to a red setting under its Covid-19 protection framework, with more mask wearing. Indoor hospitality settings such as bars and restaurants and events like weddings will be capped at 100 people. The limit is lowered to 25 people if venues are not using vaccine passes, Arden said.

“My wedding will not be going ahead,” she told reporters, adding she was sorry for anyone caught up in a similar scenario. Ardern had not disclosed her wedding date, but it was rumored to be imminent.

Asked by reporters how she felt about the cancellation of her wedding to longtime partner and fishing-show host Clarke Gayford, Ardern replied: “Such is life.”

She added, “I am no different to, dare I say it, thousands of other New Zealanders who have had much more devastating impacts felt by the pandemic, the most gutting of which is the inability to be with a loved one sometimes when they are gravely ill. That will far, far outstrip any sadness I experience.”

New Zealand’s borders have been shut to foreigners since March 2020. The government pushed back plans for a phased reopening from mid-January to the end of February out of concern about a potential Omicron outbreak as in neighboring Australia.

People able to travel to New Zealand under narrow exceptions must apply to stay at state-managed quarantine facilities. The government last week stopped issuing any new slots amid a surge in the number of people arriving with Omicron.

About 94% of New Zealand’s population over the age of 12 is fully vaccinated and about 56% of those eligible have had booster shots.

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SERAP drags Nigerian government to ECOWAS Court over undisclosed loans spending

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The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project has filed a lawsuit against the government of President Muhammadu Buhari before an ECOWAS Court over “secrecy in the spending of loans so far obtained, the unsustainable level of borrowing by the government and the 36 states, and the crippling debt burden”.

Last week, SERAP lawyers, Kolawole Oluwadare and Opeyemi Owolabi filed a suit before ECOWAS Court of Justice in Abuja, in which the organisation sought, “An order directing and compelling the Federal Government to issue an immediate moratorium on borrowing by itself, and the 36 states, in conformity with the country’s international human rights obligations.”

SERAP is also seeking, “An order directing and compelling the Federal Government to publish details of spending of the loans obtained by governments since 1999 including the list of projects and locations of any such projects on which these loans have been spent.”

The organisation maintained that, “Persistent and unsustainable borrowing by the federal and state governments and the crippling debt burden undermine the rights of Nigerians to economic and social development, and are antithetical to the public interest.

“There is lack of transparency and accountability in the spending of the loans so far obtained, and opacity around the terms and conditions in loan agreements, including repayment details for these loans. The details of the projects on which the loans are spent are shrouded in secrecy.

“Without a moratorium on borrowing, the Federal Government and many of the 36 states may be caught in a process driven mostly by creditors’ needs. 

“This will result in an exorbitant social cost for the marginalised and vulnerable sectors of the population.

“The Federal Government and many of the 36 states would seem to be in debt distress or at high risk of debt distress.

“The Senate and House of Representatives recently approved the loans of $5,803,364,553.50 and a grant component of $10million under the 2018-2020 External Borrowing (Rolling) Plan of the Federal Government.

“This followed previous approvals by the National Assembly of $16.2 (16,230,077,718) billion loan; €1 (1,020,000,000) million and a grant component of $125 million loan; $36.8 billion, €910 million loans, and a grant component of $10 million; $8.3 billion and €490 million loans; $6.1 billion, $1.5 billion and 995 million loans; and $4(4,054,476,863), €710 million and grant component of $125million.

“Several of the 36 states are also facing a debt crisis, and vicious debt cycles. According to the Debt Management Office, the foreign debt stock of the Federal Government, 36 state governments and the Federal Capital Territory presently stands at $37.9billion.

“The loans from China alone amount to $3.59billion. According to the UN Independent Expert on foreign debt and human rights, Nigeria faces debt service relative to tax revenues that exceed 20 per cent, with escalating social tensions linked to poverty and inequality.

“According to the World Bank’s IDA FY21 Report, with debt exposure of $11.7billion US Dollars, Nigeria ranked fifth among the top 10 countries with highest debt risk exposure. The top four countries are India with $22billion, Bangladesh ($18.1billion), Pakistan ($16.4billion), and Vietnam ($14.1billion).”

Meanwhile, no date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.

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COVID-19: Nigeria records 29 fresh infections, lowest in two months

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The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control has said that 29 people tested positive for Coronavirus on Saturday.

The figure is the country’s lowest single-day count since November 19, 2021 when 23 cases were reported.

In its latest update, NCDC said the positive cases of Coronavirus came from three states.

A breakdown of new cases showed that Lagos — Nigeria’s pandemic epicentre — recorded the highest number of new infections with 27 new positive samples, followed by Kano and Rivers with one each.

According to the agency, 40 persons recovered from the infection while 225,946 people have now been discharged.

No death figure was recorded from COVID-19 complications, leaving the death toll at 3,124.

Since the index case in February 2020, a total of 251,959 Coronavirus infections have been confirmed across Nigeria — out of which 22,889 are active cases. 

On Saturday, the Lagos government said the consistent decrease in COVID-19 cases indicates the end of the pandemic’s fourth wave in the state.

Giving a situation update via Twitter, Akin Abayomi, the state’s Commissioner for Health, said there was a reduction in positivity rates — from 29.3 percent recorded on December 21, 2021, to 1.9 percent as of January 20, 2022.

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