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Covid 19: Ghana announces social welfare reliefs for affected areas
April 6, 2020 | 0 Comments

Ahedor Jessica 

President Nana Akufo Addo and his government have been proactive in measures to mitigate the ravages of the pandemic

The President of Ghana Nana Akufo Addo has announced the first set of broad social welfare reliefs intended to cushion the affected areas of the country’s lockdown in the wake of covid 19 pandemics.

The president through the finance ministry has directed parliament to initiate the coronavirus Alleviation Program to facilitate, accelerate and reduce the impact of the covid 19 on the ordinary Ghanaian.

‘’We are in difficult times, I directed the Minister for Finance to send to Parliament the Coronavirus Alleviation Program (CAP), whose objective is to protect households and livelihoods, support micro, small, and medium-sized businesses, minimize job losses’’.

He added that the decision is to source additional funding for promotion of industries to shore up and expand industrial output for domestic consumption and exports’’.

The President intimated, the Program through the Ministries of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Local Government and Rural Development, and the National Disaster Management Organization (NADMO) are working with Metropolitan, municipal district chief executives MMDCEs and the faith-based organizations, to provide food for up to four hundred thousand (400,000) individuals and homes in the affected areas of the restriction.

The distribution which begun in Accra yesterday saw a replica in Kumasi in the Ashanti region today. Deliverables including dry food packages and hot meals, to the selected locations in Accra, Tema, Kumasi and Kasoa.

Government is also set to absorb water bills for all Ghanaians for the next three months, from April to June. According to the president all water tankers, publicly and privately-owned, are also going to be mobilised to ensure the supply of water to all vulnerable communities. Ghana Water Company Ltd and the Electricity Company of Ghana have also been directed to ensure a stable supply of water and electricity during this period.

As at, Sunday, 5th April 2020, Ghana’s current situation stood at two hundred and fourteen (214) cases. The Greater Accra Region has one hundred and eighty-nine (189) cases, followed by the Ashanti Region with twelve (12), Northern Region ten (10), Upper West Region one (1), Eastern Region one (1), and Upper East Region one (1). The ten from the Northern Region are the West African nationals who entered our country illegally, after the closure of the borders.

In total, three (3) persons have fully recovered from the disease, forty-nine (49) persons have been discharged from treatment facilities, and are being managed from home, and the remaining one hundred and fifty-five (155) are responding to treatment. Two (2) persons are moderately ill, and five (5) persons, have lost their lives.  

Of the one thousand and thirty (1,030) travellers, who were mandatorily quarantined and tested on their arrival in Ghana on the 21st and 22nd of March, seventy-nine (79) was initially found to be positive, and appropriate arrangements were made for their isolation and treatment. Subsequently, after twelve (12) further days of quarantine, twenty-six (26) other persons were found to be positive as a result of their second test, bringing the total number of those found to be positive to one hundred and five (105), all of whom have been isolated for treatment.

Of the remaining nine hundred and twenty-five (925) persons, who have undergone two tests and found to be negative, eight hundred and four (804) have been released from quarantine to join their families. The remaining one hundred and twenty-one (121) are, in the process of being released.


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World Needs New Economic Platform to Fight COVID-19
April 6, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Lawrence Freeman*

Today April 5, the total cases of COVID-19-(coronavirus) in Africa are 8,536, deaths 360, and recoveries 710. On March 30, one week ago, the total cases were 4760, deaths 146, and recoveries 355. The diagram above shows the increased rate of the spread of COVID-19 across the African continent. In my March 30 article, New Economic Order Required to Combat COVID-19 in Africa, I concluded with a call for a New Just Economic Order, if humankind is going to effectively conquer the current pandemic.

We have come to a moment in the evolution of our civilization that we must acknowledge the failures of the present political-financial system. The Western-advanced sector nations, lacking an in depth and over-supplied health infrastructure have found themselves utterly unprepared to deal with the latest and most deadly zoonotic virus, COVID-19. The G-7 nations with a population of 750 million, and 39% ($34 trillion) of the world’s GDP are grabbling to muster the resources and capacity to defeat the coronavirus, while 90% of the world’s 7.5 billion people live with a frail health infrastructure, or none at all.

We have witnessed an increasing number of new zoonotic viruses (SARS, MERS, Swine Flu, HIV/AIDS) over recent decades. Humanity will only successfully defend itself by launching a global upgrading of healthcare including new scientific research into how human immune systems can become less susceptible to viruses that originate in animals.

Inadequate healthcare and impoverished living conditions in the developing sector cannot continue. It is a crime that has been perpetuated for decades, and the very survival of humanity screams out for a revolution in our thinking and practices. Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, stated eloquently the link between Africa and the advanced sector in this current crisis: “Advanced economies are unveiling unprecedented economic stimulus packages. African countries, by contrast, lack the wherewithal to make similarly meaningful interventions. Yet if the virus is not defeated in Africa, it will only bounce back to the rest of the world.”  (emphasis added)  PM Abiy “If Covid-19 is not beaten in Africa it will return to haunt us all” .The virus can only be overcome in Africa, and the rest of the developing sector, if we launch a new economic system, one that values human life above servicing debt and avariciousness.

Perilous Conditions in Africa

Dr. John Nkengasong, head of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said that COVID-19 “is an existential threat to our continent.” The Africa CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO) do not know the actual number of Africans infected with the virus, due to a lack of ability to test the population. Nor do they have an accurate count of the number of ventilators available in each African nation. Over a month since the appearance of the coronavirus on the continent, experts estimate that Africa is at the early phase of its proliferation.

The United Nations World Food Program warned that “the coronavirus pandemic threatens to cause food shortages for hundreds of millions of people especially in Africa,” according to Naharnet. “For many poor countries, the economic consequences will be more devastating than the disease itself.” Pandemic Threatens Food In Import Reliant States

An article published by QuartzAfrica Has About One Doctor for Every 5000 People cites a report by the (WHO), that Africa in 2013 “had a deficit of estimated 1.8 million healthcare worker that is projected to rise 4.3 million by 2035.”  One reason, according to the article is that: “Currently, there are only 170 medical schools serving the 47 countries of sub-Saharan Africa. Of those countries, 6 have no medical schools, and 20 have only one medical school.”

Statistics for the number of doctors per 1,000 population for African nations are horrifying. Physicians Per 1,000 People. When Compared to the figures for advanced sector nations that are now “hot spots” for COVID-19 to those of Africa, where the incidence of the virus is weeks behind Europe and the United States, Africa’s potential death rate is frightening.

Examine these estimates: U.S. has 2.3 doctors for 1,000 people, Spain 3.2, Italy 4.2, and South Korea 1.8. The average for sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) has an absurdly low 0.21 doctors for 1,000 people. Twenty SSA nations have .08 doctors or less to treat 1,000 of their citizens, with several at levels of 0.03 and 0.02 doctors. Two orders of magnitude less physicians than the nations that today are experiencing the highest mortality rates.

Governor Cuomo of New York, and Mayor de Blasio of New York City beg every day for more healthcare professionals, ventilators and PPEs (Personal Protective Equipment) to deal with the overload of coronavirus cases, Imagine what the potential death rate of Africa’s almost 1.5 billion population could be when one factors in extreme levels of poverty, weakened immune systems, and malnourishment, all prevalent on the African continent.

(Courtesy of SlideShare)

UNCTAD’s $2.5 Trillion Strategy

The March 30, 2020, statement by the United Nations Conference on Trade and DevelopmentUNCTAD,  UN Calls for $2.5 Trillion Coronavirus Crisis Package for Developing Countries  is excerpted below.

“The consequences of a combined health pandemic and a global recession will be catastrophic for many developing countries and halt their progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.”

UNCTAD’S strategy includes:

  • $1 trillion of debts owed by developing countries should be cancelled this year
  • $500 billion needed to fund a Marshall Plan for health recovery and dispersed as grants

Credit for a New Economic Order

Debt cancellation, and a Marshall Plan to build up health infrastructure for the developing sector nations are crucial for the survival of emerging nations. However, to break from the old political-financial system that has failed us, and to create a new economic platform, we must create credit for physical economic growth.

What is missing from UNCTAD’s proposal, and what is absent from all United Nations strategies, is the understanding of the importance of establishing a mechanism for the creation of credit. Following in the footsteps of President George Washington and his brilliant Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, we should establish a National Credit BankNations Must Study Alexander Hamilton’s Principles of Political Economy. Wisely, the US Constitution provides for the federal government, not the states, to issue public credit to promote the general welfare.

Credit for production and infrastructure, unlike mere money, is the sine qua non for any healthy economy. This is not the same as printing trillions of dollars of money to bail out an over extended monetary system with a bubble of over one quadrillion of dollars in debt and derivatives.

Debts of developing sector nations must be cancelled to clear the decks for the issuance of new credit directed to fostering industrialized economies with healthy agricultural and manufacturing sectors. Extended credit with low interest rates must be issued for long term investments in vital construction of infrastructure. This is a life and death matter for the very survival of African nations.

Every government is obliged to create a national bank for the sole purpose of generating physical economic growth critical for the security and future health of that nation. Instead of relying on the present global financial institutions that dictate loan agreements at unnecessarily high interest rates coupled with arduous conditionalities we should create a new global economic system. One founded on the principles that promote the true shared common good for all nations and all peoples. Under this new system sovereignty is inviolate, and trade and credit agreements are premised on improving the material conditions of life for the people of those nations. All political and economic relationships between nations should be to benefit the general welfare of its citizenry.

Human beings are sacred, financial systems are not. We can and should craft new monetary systems to advance progress, not monetary profits. President Franklin Roosevelt created the Bretton Woods System, with the intention of uplifting the planet from the misery of World War II. He had magnificent ideas for promoting economic growth around the world, including greening the deserts of Africa.  Sadly, after his death, Bretton Woods was perverted, and became the opposite of what he intended.

While we must fight this deadly virus with all the resources that governments can assemble, we need to also think to the future; the creation of a more advanced economic platform. It is up to us create a new architype of relationships among sovereign nation states to transform the world out of the ashes of its present decayed state. Let us call this new paradigm by its historic name–A New Just World Economic Order

*Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in the economic development policy of Africa for 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com


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South Sudan Petroleum Minister Holds Talks with OPEC to Find Solutions on Oil Price War
April 6, 2020 | 0 Comments
Hon. Puot Kang
Hon. Puot Kang notably expressed South Sudan’s willingness to work with OPEC and OPEC+ to end the price war in any way possible


JUBA, South Sudan, April 6, 2020/ — While oil prices rebounded last week on hopes of successful negotiations between Saudi Arabia and Russia, they went back down again today following the negotiations’ delay. Oil prices currently average $25 to $30 a barrel, maintaining their historic low and hurting producers around the world.

Recently appointed Minister of Petroleum of South Sudan, Hon. Puot Kang had talks over the phone with H.E. Mohammed Sanusi Barkindo, Secretary General of OPEC today, to try to find an exit out of the current crisis. Hon. Puot Kang also pledged to join the OPEC negotiations on Thursday April 9th, with the hope of reaching a favorable agreement that will stabilize the market and bring benefit to South Sudan and its producing companies.

South Sudan has been part of the OPEC Declaration of Cooperation and OPEC+ for years and a consistent supporter of OPEC’s measures to prevent volatility and maintain market stability. Because 98% of the economy of South Sudan depends on oil production and revenue, the country is one of the hardest hit by the current crisis and prices war.

“South Sudan believes that market volatility is negative for every player in the market and hurts out ability to attract new foreign investment, diversify our economy and promote peace,” stated Hon. Puot Kang. “South Sudan is focused on boosting exploration and opening up new oil & gas fields, and the current scenario hampers our growth targets significantly,” he added.

Hon. Puot Kang notably expressed South Sudan’s willingness to work with OPEC and OPEC+ to end the price war in any way possible. He also further welcomed OPEC’s support in the exchange of information and best industry practices on key matters pertaining to local content development, domestic capacity building, technology transfers and oil revenue management.

*Africa Energy Chamber
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African Development Bank appoints Mrs. Nafissatou N’diaye Diouf Acting Director for Communications and External Relations
April 6, 2020 | 0 Comments
I look to Nafissatou to steer the Department at this critical moment as the Bank responds to the rapidly changing situation of COVID-19 and to continue the excellent work done to date in the Department, says AFDB President Akinwumi Adesina

Nafissatou, a Senegalese national, is currently a Division Manager in the Communications and External Relations Department of the African Development Bank Group

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast, April 6, 2020/ — The African Development Bank Group (www.AfDB.org) is pleased to announce the appointment of Mrs. Nafissatou N’diaye DIOUF as the Acting Director for Communications and External Relations Department (PCER), effective 1 April 2020.

Nafissatou, a Senegalese national, is currently a Division Manager in the Communications and External Relations Department of the African Development Bank Group. A dedicated and results driven communications professional, Nafissatou brings over twenty (20) years of experience to the role, with a comprehensive background in corporate communications, public relations, journalism, digital and media Development.

Since her appointment as Division Manager in 2018, Nafissatou has fostered agile communication strategies, consistently reflecting cohesion with the Bank’s vision. She has built and led a world-class team of editors, writers, digital and media specialists, resulting in exponential increase in coverage and awareness around the Bank’s strategic objectives and projects.

Prior, Nafissatou had served as a communications consultant with the Bank’s Private Sector and Infrastructure Complex and Trade Department from 2016 to 2018, during which she engaged with Regional Integration and Trade Department Senior Management, streamlining communication and public relations strategies across a variety of platforms.

Before joining the Bank, Nafissatou, the founder and Managing Director of 54 Communications company, in Dakar, Senegal from 2011 to 2017 provided leadership for the cross-functional development and delivery of compelling public relations, branding, communication and event management strategies for a broad spectrum of public and private entities.

Nafissatou also worked as Public Relations Director for Francophone Africa ZK AdvertisingJohannesburg, South Africa during which she demonstrated a keen aptitude for cross-cultural leadership, managing teams of public relations professionals, account managers and country representatives across seven African countries, including Gabon, Niger, Chad, Madagascar, Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo. With a creative and collaborative approach to project management within challenging markets, Nafissatou excels in strategic storytelling, content development, capacity building and mentoring.

Prior to her transition into corporate communication, Nafissatou worked as a journalist with the Associated Press (AP), covering international conflicts and crises west and central Africa including Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Niger, Mauritania, and the Central African Republic. Many of her breaking news stories were featured in global newspapers such as the Washington Post, USA Today, The Boston Globe and the LA Times. Nafissatou also worked as an Open-Source Officer for the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS), a division of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Directorate of Science and Technology.

A native French speaker, Nafissatou holds a Master of Arts degree in Interpreting and Translation from Salford University in the United Kingdom (UK), a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in Applied Language Studies from Thames Valley University and a Diploma in Journalism and Newswriting from the London School of Journalism.

Commenting on the appointment, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank said: “Nafissatou is a respected professional in the Communications and External Relations industry. I look to Nafissatou to steer the Department at this critical moment as the Bank responds to the rapidly changing situation of COVID-19 and to continue the excellent work done to date in the Department”.

*AFDB

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BENIN: President Patrice Talon’s relentless persecution of his most feared opponents: The Case of former State Minister of Finance Komi Koutche
April 6, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L & Amos Fofung

By slamming a heavy jail sentence on Komi Koutche, President Talon is hoping to clip the wings of someone presented as a formidable opponent in the 2021 Presidential elections
By slamming a heavy jail sentence on Komi Koutche, President Talon is hoping to clip the wings of someone presented as a formidable opponent in the 2021 Presidential elections

Widely considered as one of the success stories of African democracy with its peaceful political transitions, Benin has lost its shine since President Patrice Talon came to office in 2016. From controversial Halloween night’s constitutional changes to going after political opponents including his predecessor President Yayi Boni, there is growing fear that the West African nation is headed down the wrong path.  

In late July 2019, the Talon Administration released a list of “wanted” political figures it accused of evading justice in the country with  a decree stopping authorities from issuing identification documents for anyone who did not answer police summons, in a move seen as targeting Talon’s opponents abroad. Amnesty International said post-election “repression reached disturbing levels”

Four people were killed during the demonstrations. Benin’s status declined from Free to Partly Free in the Freedom in the World report, because a new electoral code and a series of decisions by the courts, electoral authorities, and the government resulted in the exclusion of all opposition parties from the April 2019 parliamentary elections.

According to Heritage Foundation 2020 report, Benin continues its slide toward less economic freedom, with scores dropping steadily from a high-water mark in 2016. Its economy is now well entrenched among the mostly unfree. 

While fighting corruption in Africa is critical and should be applauded, it becomes very troubling when targets are real and perceived political opponents of a seating President. Such seems to be the case in Benin, where most of those targeted are known to be people with presidential ambitions of their own.

On Saturday April 3rd,  2020 Benin’s Court for the Repression of Economic Offenses and Terrorism (CRIET) sentenced in absentia  Former State Minister of Finance Komi Koutché, Talon’s top Challenger’s  to twenty 20 years in prison and a 100 million CFA francs fine for embezzlement of public funds and abuse of office.

Koutché’s sentence made him the latest victim of President’s Patrice Talon relentless persecution of opponents perceived to be formidable challengers in the 2021 Presidential election in Benin. Earlier on, in October 2018, multimillionaire Sebastien Ajavon, who had voiced his ambitions for the top job, was sentenced in absentia to 20 years for drug trafficking. Former President Thomas Boni Yayi was kept under de-facto house arrest for 52 days after he criticized one-sided parliamentary elections that sparked bloody street protests. And in August 2019 a court in Benin court banned presidential rival and former Prime Minister Lionel Zinsou from polls for 5 years and  with a suspended 6-month jail term over 2016 campaign breaches.


By taking on Businessman and former Presidential candidate Sebastian Ajavon, Former Minister of Finance Komi Koutche and former Prime Minister and runner up in last Presidential elections Lionel Zinsou, President Talon is slowly but steadily pushing out his most formidable rivals in the 2021 elections .Photo credit Courtesy

 

For those sounding the alarm bells, one of the most cited examples is the frenzied manner in which the Talon administration has gone out to forcefully saddle embezzlement and corruption charges on former Finance Minister Komi Koutche.

Young, dynamic, and hardworking, Komi Koutche is one of the most persecuted members of the previous Administration. Accused of embezzling public funds and corruption, the abrasive manner in which the government has gone about the case , trampling on existing rules and creating new ones has only helped in fueling the feeling that there is more to the case than meets the eye.

To Koutche’s camp, the attempts to indict him at all cost are nothing short of attempts by President Talon to take out a potential and formidable rival. In a recent statement from Mr. Koutche’s team chronicling a timeline of his judicial travails, the former Minister is painted as victim and the whole process described as a sham and a political witch hunt.

From the statement, the judicial woes and persecution It all started in July 2017 when the Council of Ministers presided by the Head of State Patrice Talon, released two audit reports. The first audit report was about Benin cotton industry and the second about the management of the National Microfinance Fund (NMF). 

The council of Ministers was transformed for the occasion into an indictment court. The council pronounced a staunch indictment on Komi Koutche’s Management of the National Microfinance Fund and alleged misconduct by the audit reports. 

Joseph Djogbenou, then Minister of Justice, and personal lawyer to President Patrice Talon  and was instructed to initiate legal proceedings against Mr. Koutche. This procedure was faulted by Mr Komi’s team as due process was not followed and he was not heard in the proceedings as auditing rules and regulations require.

In August 2017, Komi Koutché filed a complaint before the Benin constitutional court on two counts (the Cotton’s audit and the National Microfinance Fund’s audit) alleging the violation of his rights to be heard during the audit proceeding as required by law. In December the constitutional court, presided by Professor Theodore HOLO, squashed the cotton audit ruling and declared that the government violated constitutional provisions. The appeal about the National Microfinance Fund (NMF) is yet to be reviewed because the government hasn’t responded to the investigatory measure indicated by the Court;

In a bid to better control the judicial proceeding, the current administration saw that Joseph Djogbenou, Minister of Justice responsible for prosecuting Komi Koutche became President of the Constitutional Court, the statement says, and it didn’t take that long for him to bring back Komi Koutche’s NMF appeal ushering a complete turnaround in the case.

He argued that the lack of hearing during an audit procedure is not a violation of the Constitution. This led to the convocation of Komi Koutche who at that time was out of the country and could not be present within that designated timeframe. 

This immediately resulted in the signing of an arrest warrant by the judge. On April 06, 2018, Komi Koutche appeared before a judge who found no reason to arrest him as requested by the prosecutor. By order, he set aside the arrest warrant of April 4, 2018, and stated that disciplinary proceedings will be opened later against Komi Koutche. 

July 2018 saw the creation of the Criminal Enforcement of financial and Terrorism Offences Court, CRIET, described by Komi’s partisans as a body designed to do the government’s bidding. To back this up, they point to the fact that Komi Koutche’s files were immediately transferred to the CRIET.

On August 27 after canceling Komi’s passport and ordering for his extrajudicial arrest while on visit abroad, Komi Koutche was arrested in Madrid on December 14, 2018, on a fraudulent notification to Interpol of the loss of his passport. 

Then State Minister of Finance (left) signing the second millenium challenge compact under with the CEO of MCC Dana Hyde under the watchful eyes of Former US Vice President and Presidential hopeful Joe Biden and former two terms president of Benin Boni YAYI

The government notarized the same day the April 04, 2018 arrest warrant, previously canceled by the judge, and transmitted it to Interpol. An extradition request was transmitted the same day.

Recognizing their blunder in utilizing a canceled arrest warrant, a new arrest warrant for regularization was issued under the pretext that Komi Koutche did not respond to a CRIET convocation on December 18. Note that at this time, Komi was incarcerated in Madrid. An additional extradition request was made to the Spanish courts.

After close scrutiny of the case, Komi Koutche regained his freedom on January 17, 2019, and the Spanish proceeded to reject the extradition request without the possibility of an appeal, stating that the CRIET could not offer guarantees of a fair trial.

At its 109th session, on July 2, 2019, Interpol, upon reviewing the issue through its legal department, concludes it’s a political file and decides to delete all the data in its database about Komi Koutche and moved to notify all its operations worldwide that any police collaboration under the pretext of international cooperation would be a violation of the constitution of the organization. This position applies as well for the French and the Guinean criminal police.

Despite the verdict by the international court and Interpol’s decision against proceeding with the verdict, Komi was in September referred back to the CRIET criminal chamber. 

The African court of human rights orders the Beninese government to report the abusive decision to cancel Komi Koutche’s passport and shall refer the rest of the claims to the fund and in December 2019, the U.S. administration after conducting its findings concluded that the lawsuit is based on political persecution and not corruption charges as claimed by Benin government. 

Getting into the new year, Komi Koutche’s lawyers were convened on the first appeal. It should be recalled that the lawyers mentioned the regularization warrant of December 27, 2018, issued under the pretext their client had not responded to convocation on December 18, 2018, was pointless since the issuers knew that Komi Koutche was already incarcerated in Madrid during this period. 

The appeal was dismissed with the lawyers requested to convene at the Supreme Court for the second appeal. 

During a press briefing on the criminal session which opened on March 16, 2020, Special Prosecutor of the CRIET evoked the NMF file for which Komi Koutche is subject to legal actions, among the dossiers to be studied…However this dossier was still the subject of a cassation procedure and the hearing on the cassation was on March 13, 2020. Apparently, the Special Prosecutor without any statement from the Supreme Court already knew the decision which would be taken the day after its press conference.

Unsurprisingly, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal and returns the file to the CRIET prosecutor. Komi Koutche’s lawyer receives a summons to appear for his client on March 24, 2020, but the summoned could not be honored due to the global shutdown enforced so as to curtail the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

And with all airports limiting or completely halting flights, Komi’s lawyers say honoring the summon was not possible and have rather picked on the government for failing to comply with the demand of the African Court on Human Rights which requested that Komi’s travel documents be reinstated.

“Even if Komi Koutche can travel, he risks extrajudicial arrest once he steps into the country” his defense team is quoted to have said as they struggle to vindicate their client against the unjust political prosecution he faces.  Nevertheless  late at night from Friday 03 to Saturday 04 April 2020 Komi Koutche was finally tried in absentia by the judges of the Court for the Repression of Economic Offenses and Terrorism (Criet) and sentenced to  20 years’ imprisonment and 100 million F CFA fines .

In the face of his judicial woes, and relentless persecution, Komi Koutche has continued to speak out on seminal issues concerning Benin. From castigating President Talon for confiscating power, to calling on the international to help rescue democracy in Benin, Komi Koutche seems to be sending the message that if judicial persecution was the way to silence him, the government of Benin got it wrong as he is still very much in the political game.

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Nigeria: On 2011 Elections, US Envoy Got It Wrong-Former President Goodluck Jonathan
April 6, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Ikechukwu Eze*

Former President Goodluck Jonathan

Our attention has been drawn to regurgitated discredited comments by John Campbell, a former United States Ambassador to Nigeria, who in a recent article on political developments in Nigeria, repeated his disproven assertions that the 2011 Presidential elections won by former President Goodluck Jonathan, was rigged.

Mr. Campbell styles himself as a ‘Nigeria expert’ at the Council for Foreign Relations, but in truth, he is regarded as a figure of ridicule in Nigeria for his postulations, which have repeatedly and consistently proven to be way off the mark.

How he can continue to make pretensions to be an expert on Nigeria, beats our imagination. Besides serving as a diplomat in his country’s embassy in our dear country, what other competences does Campbell possess to qualify as a Nigeria expert?

Sadly, he has continued to deploy his half-baked knowledge of the nation’s political environment and his closeness to the United States power brokers not only to canvass his ill-conceived political agenda, but to also exploit some Nigerian politicians.

For instance, because he is not well schooled in the tone and nuances of Nigerian politics, he had no way of knowing that the riots he cited in some cities in the north following the 2011 presidential election had nothing to do with his claims on rigging. Otherwise, why would Bauchi and Kano States, where former President Jonathan had only 16% and 15% of votes, witness the worst riots?

However, for the benefit of his audience, we will like to further state the following facts:

The 2011 Nigerian Presidential elections were adjudged by both local and international observers including the Commonwealth Election Monitoring Group and even the US contingent of both the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute, as the most credible and transparent elections in Nigeria, since our great nation returned to civil rule in 1999.

Speaking on 18 April 2011, the chair of the Commonwealth Election Observer Group, former Botswana President Festus Mogae, said the 2011 Nigerian elections “discarded the notion that the country can only hold flawed elections”.

He further said: “Previously held notions that Nigeria can only hold flawed elections are now being discarded and this country can now shake off that stigma and redeem its image.”

Secondly, the 2011 elections saw a 75% reduction in election petition cases in Nigeria and the United States Institute for Peace described the elections as the “best run” election in Nigeria’s history, saying, inter alia, that “Nigeria’s 2011 general elections–in particular the presidential election–were seen widely as being well-run. This was especially important, given the universally decried elections of 2007.”

Thirdly, on December 29, 2011, the Nigerian Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, declared that then President Jonathan was validly elected. It is important to note that this was a seven man panel, and there was no dissenting judgment. The verdict had no such precedent in Nigeria’s political history.

Former President Jonathan is known for his ‘one man, one vote, one woman, one vote, one youth one vote’ policy. Before the 2011 elections, he said “my ambition is not worth the blood of any citizen” and was indeed guided by that creed throughout the process. He is also on record to have publicly called on members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) not to even attempt to rig for him, stating that he was a pencil in God’s hands.

There is no doubt that Nigerians above 45 years witnessed the past six presidential elections in the country- 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019 – and are in a better position than Campbell to objectively appraise the processes. Today, our compatriots are focusing on such issues as electronic voting and complete independence of the electoral body INEC, as a way of strengthening our democracy, ahead of the next general elections. Anyone who means well for the country’s democracy should rather focus his attention on perspectives that could illuminate this path, not offer jaundiced and self-serving opinions on a settled past.

Perhaps this is the time to remind Campbell and other wheeling and dealing consultants like him that Nigerians have placed the 2011 elections behind them and are no longer in a position to welcome those who have nothing but sophistry to offer our citizens! As our own inimitable Fela would say, ‘Mr. Teacher don’t teach us nonsense’!

In the light of these overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the public, especially the esteemed audience of the Council on Foreign Relations, should ask themselves what Mr. Campbell’s motives are, especially as he has been known to act as a consultant to certain political interests in Nigeria.

*Spokesman to former President Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan

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Merck Foundation joins hands with First Ladies of Africa to raise awareness about Coronavirus and how to stay safe and healthy
April 6, 2020 | 0 Comments

Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation with H.E. CONDÉ DJENE, The First Lady of Guinea Conakry; H.E FATIMA MAADA, The First Lady of Sierra Leone; H.E. PROFESSOR GERTRUDE MUTHARIKA, The First Lady of Malawi; H.E. FATOUMATTA BAH-BARROW, The First Lady of The Gambia; H.E DENISE NKURUNZIZA, The First Lady of Burundi; H.E AÏSSATA ISSOUFOU MAHAMADO, The First Lady of Niger; H.E. BRIGITTE TOUADERA, The First Lady of Central African Republic; H.E. REBECCA AKUFO-ADDO, The First Lady of Ghana; H.E. CLAR WEAH, The First Lady of Republic of Liberia; H.E. ANTOINETTE SASSOU-NGUESSO, The First Lady of Congo Brazzaville; H.E. MONICA GEINGOS, The First Lady of Namibia; H.E. AUXILLIA MNANGAGW, The First Lady of Zimbabwe; H.E. NEO JANE MASISI, The First Lady of Botswana; H.E. DR. ISAURA FERRÃO NYUSI, The First Lady of Mozambique and Former First Lady of Mauritania
Merck Foundation announces special awards during Coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown and movement restriction, “Stay at Home” Media Recognition Awards for African Countries to encourage media to be creative and effective in raising awareness and sensitizing Communities on how to stay safe and keep physically and mentally healthy during Coronavirus lockdown

ACCRA, Ghana, April 6, 2020/ — Merck Foundation (www.Merck-Foundation.com), the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany together with African First Ladies of Ghana, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Malawi, Namibia, Niger, Guinea Conakry, Burundi, Central African Republic (C.A.R.), Chad, Zimbabwe, Zambia, The Gambia, Liberia and Congo Brazzaville, announced the call for applications for their ‘Stay at Home” Media Recognition Awards for African countries. The theme of the awards is ‘Raising Awareness on how to Stay Safe and keep Physically and Mentally Healthy during Coronavirus Lockdown’.

Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation explains, “This unsettling period due to the coronavirus scare is difficult for everyone – both physically and mentally. While most countries are under complete lockdown or restricted movement, people do not know how to handle this situation. Social Distancing is our Social Responsibility and the only way to kill Coronavirus, however, it will take a lot of courage and discipline to practice it. Taking good care of your mental and physical health is important during this period. So, we decided to initiate these awards in order to reward the journalists who are raising awareness in most effective and creative way on how to keep safe and keep physically & mentally healthy during this phase”.

All the journalists from Print, Online, Radio and Multimedia Platforms from English speaking, French speaking, Arabic speaking and Portuguese speaking African countries are invited to send their entries for the awards. The most creative and influential media work aiming to raise awareness and sensitizing communities about this alarming topic at a regular basis will be eligible to win these awards.

“We have created four categories for Africa; English, French, Portuguese and Arabic speaking countries”, Dr Kelej added.

Merck Foundation will extend the awards to include Middle Eastern, Latin American and Asian Countries in the next few days to involve all media across the global South. 

“Since most of the people are confined to their homes, they are spending a lot of time reading and listening to news through different platforms. Media professionals, it is your time to help the people to take care good care of their mental & physical health during these disturbing times, through your creative, informational and motivational work. You can guide them to adjust to their new and different routine & rhythm of life”, emphasized Dr. Rasha Kelej.

Details of the Merck Foundation “Stay at Home” Media Recognition Awards

Who can Apply:

Journalists from Print, Online, Radio and Multimedia Platforms from English speaking, French speaking, Arabic speaking and Portuguese speaking African countries

Last date of submission:

Entries can be submitted till 30th June 2020

How to apply?

Entries can be submitted via Email to info@merck-foundation.com along with your details (including Name, Gender, Country, Media house, Email address & Mobile Number) and entry as an attachment

Categories and Prize Money:
Category
TV USD 500
Radio USD 500
Print USD 500
Online USD 500
Prize Money USD 500

*Merck Foundation


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Juggling at the Top: What it Takes to Manage a Pan-African Energy Law Practice in 2020
April 6, 2020 | 0 Comments
Zion Adeoye, Managing Director of Centurion Law Group.

Zion believes that a practical mindset and local understanding is how African lawyers can make the difference in a very competitive industry
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, April 6, 2020/ — At 35, Zion Adeoye is the youngest Managing Partner at an African multi-national law firm. Appointed in 2020 to head the Centurion Law Group (https://CenturionLG.com), Zion embodies a new generation of African lawyers leading the continent into the transformations that will place Africa as the 21st century’s success story. As he reflects on his professional journey so far, he shares his lessons to any young Africans in search of a meaningful legal career on the continent.

Called to the bar in 2011, Zion holds an LLB from the University of Ibadan in Nigeria and a BL from the Nigerian Law School. Having spent most of its early legal career in Nigeria working on cross-border energy transactions, he moved to South Africa in 2017 to take on the position of Senior Associate Attorney at Centurion, before being promoted to Managing Director this year. “By my third year at the University of Ibadan, I knew what I wanted to do was specializing in Energy Law. In fact, I had an unconventional journey because I completed by NYSC programme at the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) before proceeding to Law School,” he recalls. His early career in Nigeria would then take him to the Tax division of KPMG and eventually to top law firms in Nigeria such as Terra Cotta Legal, Olaniwun Ajayi LP and Templars, before moving in-house at the Transnational Energy/Bresson Power Group. Such experience has offered Zion a decade of expertise in energy, finance and taxation law, which has been the pillar of his success at the Centurion Law Group.

Swimming Against the Current: Beware of the Underdog

As a young Nigerian lawyer working for a pan-African energy law firm, Zion has been in the position of the underdog more than once in his career. “When you are a relatively young energy lawyer in Africa and practice law on a meaningful level, you get used to walking into a room and having people questioning your credibility,” he explains. “This is especially true of the oil & gas industry where a lot of deals are still made outside the continent in big places like Paris, London or New York by lawyers who are twenty to thirty years older than you and very often educated in big international universities. I have quickly learned to trust my African education and experience gained from doing deals on the ground. Trusting your abilities is key if you want to make it in this industry.”

From his experience gained doing deals in Nigeria but also Zambia, Uganda or South Sudan, Zion believes that a practical mindset and local understanding is how African lawyers can make the difference in a very competitive industry. “Do not let your age or gender bring you down. At the end of the day, clients will be judging you on the quality of the work you do. Do not be afraid of being the underdog,” he says.

Leading in Unchartered Territory: the Challenges of a Changing Legal Profession

As the legal profession worldwide enters unchartered territory, it is in need of leaders who understand both the evolving needs of clients, but are also willing to adopt new technologies and innovate to make their practice more efficient.

With the launch of its new on-demand legal services platform, CenturionPlus, the Centurion Law Group is bringing to Africa a new legal approach to solving clients’ requirements on a need-basis. “CenturionPlus is an answer to clients’ demand for more flexibility in the delivery and billing of their legal requirements, but also responds to the increasing complexity of corporate and commercial transactions made in Africa,” explained Zion. “Managing an African law firm in 2020 presents a lot of challenges, especially because our continent is growing so rapidly. You need to make sure your team stays ahead the curve and that your practice is constantly innovating to deliver on clients’ expectations. As a team leader, this requires you to build consensus and align your team around one vision and determination,” he added. Despite a challenging environment these past years, Centurion has remained ranked Band 1 law firm in its key jurisdictions such as Equatorial Guinea while its senior lawyers are constantly recognized for their contribution to the industry. At the end of 2019 for instance, Zion was recognized as an ESQ 40 under 40 Lawyer at the Nigerian Rising Stars Award.

Adapting to Change: Managing Multi-Cultural Relations with Clients and in the Workplace



Often described as one entity, Africa is one of the most culturally-diverse continent on the planet. Its 54 countries speak hundreds of languages, have their own particular legal regimes, and are at different stages of economic growth. Growing a pan-African practice requires a deep understanding of social and cultural nuances across Africa, which many executives often under-estimate. “The oil sector is one of the most internationalized industries so by nature you will be dealing with clients from all over the world willing to invest and do business in African jurisdictions that can be very different from one another,” declared Zion. “Do not make the mistake of thinking that because you have done a deal in Ethiopia, you can do the same deal easily in Ghana. Similarly, having as a client a major American oil company is not the same as working on a transaction for a major Chinese oil company. I have seen many law firms and lawyers making these costly mistakes,” he added.

To address this issue, Centurion has kept regionalizing over the years and currently has offices in Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, Ghana, South Africa, Mauritius and Germany. It has also diversified its lawyers and attorneys, who currently come from over 10 countries and notably speak English, French, Spanish and Portuguese. “If you want to be successful at managing your law firm, you need a multi-cultural mindset and an understanding that people from different countries and background do business differently and communicate differently,” declared Zion. “I always found that my legal background has been useful in this regard. As lawyers we are used to finding the right balance between technical, financial, commercial and legal aspects of a transaction. Managing your team takes the same approach of arranging different pieces together to attain a common goal.”

With this leadership style, Zion has earned himself a strong reputation among its peers and the firm’s leading clients from across the continent. When asked about what his biggest challenge was on accepting the responsibility of managing the firm earlier this year, he said: “The biggest challenge when you manage a law firm is having two jobs at the same time. As a Managing Director, I have to oversee several support departments such as business development and marketing, along with supporting other lawyers at the firm and coordinating our strategy. But I am also a lawyer with my own practice having to retain our biggest clients.”

*Centurion Law Firm
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SOUTH SUDAN CONFIRMS FIRST CASE OF COVID-19
April 6, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Deng Machol

The announcement was made by by First Vice President Dr Machar
The announcement was made by by First Vice President Dr Machar

Juba – South Sudan has confirmed its first case of COVID – 19 pandemic, becoming the latest African nation to report a case of the deadly disease caused by the new coronavirus.

This was announced by the country’s first vice president, who is also the deputy chairperson of the COVID-19 Task Force, Dr. Riek Machar at a press conference in Juba on Sunday.

Dr. Machar said a 29-year-old female patient [UNMISS staff] arrived in the country from the Netherlands via Addis Ababa on February 28, and that she was being treated in isolation.

He explained that on Saturday, 4th April 2020, the Public Health Laboratory tested and confirmed a case of COVID-19 in an individual.

“The suspect presented to the UN clinic on 2nd April 2020 with fever, cough, headache, and shortness of breath. The Ministry of Health’s Rapid Response Team went to the clinic and collected samples the same day. The initial test came positive. A second run of the confirmatory test also returned positive,” said Machar

The deputy chairperson says the patient is currently in isolation and “in good health.”

Dr. Machar further said the Ministry of Health, the World Health Organization and the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating the outbreak including identifying and following up all the possible contacts.

It urged the public to remain calm and observe the public health measures such as social distancing and washing hands with soap.

“The government of the Republic of South Sudan seizes this opportunity to ensure the public to remain calm. The high-level taskforce has put in place relevant public health measures over the past two weeks. Social distancing in the only way we can minimize the risk of contracting and transmitting the disease,” said Dr. Machar.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has confirmed a case of coronavirus disease among its staff.

The patient has been resident in South Sudan for five weeks. However, she started working from home immediately after the onset of the symptoms. The patient is recovering well, UN says in the statement.

A month ago, the UN has imposed a travel freeze on all the staff travelling into country, ensured staff, who arrived prior to the ban self-quarantined for 14 days, introduced work-from-home measures to reduce numbers of people in offices and enforced social distancing rules and frequent hand washing by all personnel.

“The UN’s priority is to protect the people of South Sudan and UN staff who are here to serve. For that reason, the UN will make every effort to continue its activities to protect civilians provide humanitarian assistance, build peace and support development. The UN will also continue to support national-led COVID-19 prevention and preparedness efforts,” said UN in the statement, followed an announcement of first case of coronavirus.

Of recent, Juba government banned all the gatherings, international flight, sport activities and church mass and also imposed the night curfew in the country in effort to avoid the spread to the country.

The world youngest country has weak health capacity, a restive country has only four (4) ventilators for the individuals having problem with their respiratory system.

The confirmed of COVID – 19 pandemic, has already caused panic and worry amongst citizens of the nine (9) years old nation, which has been blighted by persisted conflict and corruptions for years.

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COVID-19:Nigeria Open to Evacuating citizens from USA
April 6, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Amos Fofung

President Muhammadu Buhari

The federal government of Nigeria is preparing to evacuate it citizens from the United States as the country now tops the world in coronavirus infections.

By the time of this report, the United States had a record total of 304,826 positive cases and had already counted 7,616 deaths.

In a public notice dubbed “Evacuation of Nigerians from the USA” the Consulate General of Nigeria in New York called on Nigerians in the US to get ready, saying plans were well afoot to “rescue” them from the health pandemic raving thousands in the across the United States.

“The Consulate General of Nigeria is compiling names of Nigerian Nations requiring emergency evacuation during this challenging period of the covid-19 pandemic. The purpose of the exercise is to enable the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria provide the necessary assistance nationals in the united states of America,’ a section of the noticed signed by Ninkanwa O. Okey Uche, Information and Community Relations officer at the New York Consulate reads.

The administration of Muhammadu Buhari via its consulate urged all citizens in need of evacuation to follow through with necessary modalities adding that as soon as arrangements are finalized, all those who wishes to be evacuated will be informed accordingly.

Nigeria is the first country to call it citizens back from the US as the world super power crumble to it knees after been hit hardest by the pandemic which started in Wuhan China earlier this year.

With just 232 confirmed cases, 5 deaths and 33 recoveries, Nigeria just like most African states still has lower casualty rates from the ravaging pandemic which now counts 1,274,543 confirmed cases worldwide with over 69,487 deaths.

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Rwanda: Government officials donate salaries to the fight of COVID-19
April 6, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Maniraguha Ferdinand

President Kagame (left) chatting with Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente during National Retreat
President Kagame (left) chatting with Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente during National Retreat

Government officials in Rwanda have agreed to donate their April salaries to help in the fight against coronavirus.

Their pledge comes when Rwanda registers 104 confirmed cases of coronavirus, in which four people were recovered and discharged as of Sunday.

A statement that came from Prime Minister’s office this Sunday, 5th April 2020 said that government officials ‘salaries will be forfeited, and be used in ongoing social protection initiatives.

“In the context of the fight of against COVID-19, and in the solidarity with the most affected Rwandans , the Government of Rwanda has decided over and above ongoing social protection initiatives, that all cabinet members, Permanent secretaries , Heads of Public institutions and other senior officials shall forfeit one month salary (April”, the statement said.

Rwanda is in a lockdown that is set to end by 19th April 2020. Life is hard for those who would get a meal because they have worked.

Government have set up a relief fund that help in distributing  food for the most vulnerable during the lockdown.

In late March during a national address, President Paul Kagame promised that government will do everything possible to support Rwandans “through this challenging time”.

“We know that this is not an easy period for most Rwandans, whose livelihoods have been interrupted across the country. But we ask you to be patient. Although we are making good progress, we cannot afford to relax yet,”  he said.

Citizens around the country were later  mobilized to help their neighbors during this difficult time.

Kigali Roman Catholic archbishop, Monsignor Kambanda Antoine on Sunday urged Christians around the country to share food with the most vulnerable as they move in a holly week  preceding Easter celebrations.

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The AFDB is a model of governance-President Akinwumi Adesina in reply to Le Monde Article
April 6, 2020 | 0 Comments
The African Development Bank has a very high reputation of good governance says AFDB President Akinwumi Adesina

PRESS STATEMENT BY DR. AKINWUMI ADESINA, PRESIDENT, AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT BANK April 6, 2020, ABIDJAN, COTE D’IVOIRE

An article in Le Monde has come to my attention. Following its publication, I have been overwhelmed by the tremendous show of support and solidarity I have continued to receive.

The African Development Bank has a very high reputation of good governance. The Bank was rated as the 4th most transparent institution in the world by Publish What You Fund. I have strong confidence in the governance systems of the Bank put in place by the Board of Governors of the Bank.

The Ethics Committee of the Board of Directors is following its internal review systems and should be allowed to complete its review and work without interference from anyone or the media.

I am 100% confident that due process and transparency, based on facts and evidence, will indicate that these are all nothing more than spurious and unfounded allegations.

I would like all our highly dedicated Bank staff, shareholders and partners not to be moved or shaken by any of these blatantly false allegations.

I will stay calm and resolute. I will not be distracted. No amount of lies can ever cover up the truth. Soon the truth will come out. 

I will continue to discharge my duties and responsibilities as President, with the highest level of professionalism, dedication and unshaken resolve, to lead and support the Bank’s bold mission for Africa’s accelerated development, and to help protect the continent at this time of the COVID19 pandemic.“

Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina

President, African Development Bank

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