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The Future of Africa lies in Agro Business-Mohamed Kagnassy
October 7, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L

The Future of Africa lies in Rural Economy says Mohamed Kagnassy

Young, dynamic, innovative and optimistic, Mohamed Kagnassy has enjoyed the kind of success story that should inspire many young Africans. Currently serving as Adviser on Agro business, and rural development to President Alpha Conde of Guinea, Kagnassy has previously held similar roles with the government in his native Mali, and continues to meet with other leaders and stake holders across the continent to harp on the game changing potentials of agro-business.

In Guinea, Mohamed Kagnassy says there have been significant improvements towards modernizing the agricultural sector in the country. From more quality seeds, to fertilizers, and general education on the potentials in the agricultural sector, Kagnassy says Guinea is getting its act together. Contributing to the changing landscape of agriculture in Guinea is an app created by Kagnassy called Kobiri which matches farmers with resources like tractors at affordable rates.

Mohamed Kagnassy has his eyes firmly set on making Africa as a whole to pay greater attention to agro business.With its size,climate, population, and more, there is no reason for Africa to keep spending vast amounts to import food that should be grown on the continent, says Kagnassy interviewed recently in Washington,DC by Ajong Mbapndah L

PAV: You have been adviser on agro-business and rural development to President Conde since 2016, what is it you do and how is it like working for President Conde?

Mohamed Kagnassy: As you said, I started in 2016 and it has not been that long, but so far so good. I am very happy to bring my vision to what we call rural development in Guinea in trying to modernize this sector. And this is my vision, trying to advice on how to restructure the rural economy in Guinea and how to modernize it.  

PAV: Since you started advising the President in 2016, what are some of the changes you have noticed with regards to rural development in Guinea?

Mohamed Kagnassy: The first thing is education. We are there to communicate and rebrand agriculture. That is why we are talking of innovation. We have been able to improve or produce new varieties or techniques of agriculture. For example, we import more fertilizers than before as Africa produces fewer fertilizers. When you compare with some countries like India that produces up to 200kilo per hectares, in Africa, some countries have 10kilo per hectares. The farmers have more fertilizers than before; we have new variety of plants like cocoa. We produce Arabic coffee in some parts of Guinea and good seeds such as corn, rice and others.

PAV: We also know that you are President/Director of West Wing. What does your company do and how do you manage your duties as adviser to the President and President/Director of that company?

Mohamed Kagnassy: Private and public association could be one of the solutions to Africa. Today we can notice that many private initiatives are more or better  structured than many public ones. But since we are working for the national interest, we are just experts bringing the expertise of our private sector experiences to improve public actions. The target is to get better results and that is what we have to keep in mind.

Mohamed Kagnassy is using his expertise to help President Conde in modernizing Agriculture in Guinea

PAV: You are young and successful, what potential do you see for agrobusiness in Guinea and across Africa?

Mohamed Kagnassy: In Africa More than 70 per cent of the population lives in the rural areas. The future of Africa lies in rural economy. This should be a priority for any political action in my point of view. Today in Guinea, we have made it a priority in government actions. We cannot ask the young people today to practice agriculture like traditional agriculture. We have seen that the youths will not go for that kind. And that is why we are talking about modern agriculture and innovation. It characterises various factors like mechanization, fertilizer, good seeds and methods. That is what we are promoting like other parts of the world are doing. Today we just have to go for it despite the challenges we face.

PAV: In Guinea, you have created a platform called Kobiri. How does it work and what impact does it have on rural development and agribusiness?

Mohamed Kagnassy: It is a social or digital platform. Today in Guinea we are doing our best to get mechanization that is tractors available to all farmers. They do not need to buy because of farm areas or communities that are so small, and we cannot give a loan for such a small supply. So we need to scale up and what we need is through a digital platform we can visualise. Today in Guinea, through Kobiri, we have the possibility to rent a tractor for hectare to hectare which can take time for farmers to grow their seeds. We have a data system which aids in recovery and support to farmers.

Mohamed Kagnassy, at an international trade fair earlier this year in Paris.The Kobiri platform is opening farmers to vital resources at affordable rates in Guinea. Photo credit Théau Monnet ,Jeune Afrique

PAV: What impact has it had with farmers in Guinea?

Mohamed Kagnassy: It is very simple. When you have mechanization, it eases the burden. For example, what you had to do with 25 guys to prepare one hectare of farm land, with a tractor you can do it at a faster and cheaper rate.

PAV: How affordable is it for the farmers to use the platform as sometimes people complain that getting network is a problem, getting credit for the phone or other cost involved?

Mohamed Kagnassy: That is a good question and like I said it is a choice. To get access you have a choice to either call if you have credit on your phone, go to the various centres- 7 of them in number covering all parts of Guinea, and if you have application you can order. So it is not only one single way. The cheapest one now is digital. When distance is too far and the road network in Africa is a problem, through digitalization you can make profit as you can be in your field working and ordering at the same time as movements cost money and time. So, we just given the choice to our farmers for them to make the one that is convenient for them.

 PAV: So, we know it is working for Guinea. Any plans to move the platform to other African countries for them to benefit?

Mohamed Kagnassy: Yes, and as I said we have a model which is adapted to Guinea. We will go and offer the platform to other African countries. Each country has its own reality. As I said agriculture is not theory, it is reality. Anything which is social means progress.

PAV: You are currently adviser to President Conde; you have had experiences working in Mali, and recently you met with President Tshisekedi. When you interact with them, do you get a feeling, they are willing to attach seriousness to agriculture and rural development?

Mohamed Kagnassy: Most of our African countries are very young. There are a good number of challenges in Africa, and we have very few resources available. I like to show them today that some solutions can be gotten to improve on rural economy that we didn’t have few years back at a very affordable cost. Africa has a good climate, water, young people, and it doesn’t make sense today for us to keep importing everything even to feed ourselves. We are used to it but we have to change now and say this is not normal. This sector can give jobs to the majority of our people, and this is the start to get a secondary sector which is industrialization. If we don’t produce how can we transform? Everything starts from production, and we can get other sectors growing. This sector has a lot of potential with an available market to increase economic growth across Africa.

By investing in agro business, African governments will not go wrong, says Kagnassy here with PAV’s Ajong Mbapndah L in Washington DC

PAV: What message do you have for the youths on how to make use of the huge potential agriculture has?

Mohamed Kagnassy: I will invite them to come see the innovation in agriculture today. We will like the youths to go into agribusiness as it is the branding of agriculture. Farmers in Africa today are not like those of 50 years back. Our children go to school, and they have more knowledge of the world because of technology and the internet. Most of the immigration today is for economic reasons. I will like to tell the young people to take time to see what is available. Agriculture made America and there is no economy without agriculture. So they should not go away from agriculture as people are coming from China because they know the value of agriculture.

PAV: You are originally from Mali and here you are advising the President from Guinea, what can Africa learn from this in terms of integration?

Mohamed Kagnassy: Thank you for that interesting question and I can only say how grateful I am to President Alpha Conde, a leader who has also been President of the African Union. Like Mandela, and other great men, great nations like America had Barack Obama whose father is originally from Kenya. Guinea has been the capital of Africa. When I was in West Africa I was told that President Nkrumah was called the President of Guinea which was of course a title. President Conde believes in an Africa which is united, and it is easy for him to look for expertise around Africa. Colours or origins do not matter for President Conde, but how useful you are for your community whatever your nationality. For us the integration of Africa should be a reality, but the reality is that it is rare, leaders like President Conde should be saluted for their openness and strong vision.

PAV: We end with recommendations you have not just for President Conde, but other Presidents. What is it that all countries in Africa must be able to do so that they can get maximum potential from the benefits of agribusiness?

Mohamed KagnassyAfrica should invest in agriculture and agribusiness. Africa has water, land and young people. Africa has a population of more than 1 billion and by 2050; we should be the most populated continent. The future of agriculture is in Africa due to its population growth, availability of land, and our leaders must do everything to create the enabling environment, and for young people to take advantage of the huge opportunities in the sector.  

*Full Interview will feature in the October Issue of PAV Magazine

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BEN MUNA: A TRIBUTE TO A COLOSSUS GONE HOME IN DIRE TIME OF NEED
October 6, 2019 | 0 Comments

                                  By Chief Charles A. Taku*

Barrister Bernard Muna

The phone call from my dear sister and friend Bibiana Taku once more announced the sad news of the death of Ben Muna. This phone call announcing the death of Ben Muna, replicated in some regards, that which announced the death of my friend Bate Besong which is a painful loss from which I have never recovered.

Some months ago, Ben Muna and our distinguished colleague Paul Chiy flew in from London to the Hague to discuss important professional matters with Karim Khan QC and me.  The contributions of Ben Muna in that profound professional discussion will remain indelible in my memory.

I have known Ben Muna for so many years. Barely four years in my professional career, I contested and was elected a member of the council of the Cameroon Bar Association. Ben Muna was the President of the Bar Council then. Shortly on being elected, I became his close partner in several battles for the enthronement of the rule of law and a just social order.

We fought against the politicization of justice and the militarization of constitutional rights that was imposed on the citizenry by a power cartel of power mongers. Ben was a passionate advocate of justice with a human conscience and mobilized lawyers and the citizenry to join him in this crusade.

Ben led a delegation of lawyers to the biannual conference of the African Bar Association in Abuja Nigeria in 1991, where Chief MKO Abiola presented the keynote address. My distinguished learned colleagues Chief Eta Besong Jr, Mrs M.N Weledji, Peter Monthe Tumnde, Mrs Helen Ebai, Charles Eno, and many others were in the delegation. 

There, African lawyers gathered in that conference witnessed the leadership skills of Ben Muna. In a potentially tense election battle that was about to erupt, Ben took the microphone and urged the attendees, “learned colleagues, why this pushyfooting?  Why not give Mr Charles Idehen the President of the NBA a mandate to move this great continental association to higher heights?”.  There was an acclamation and Roger Chamba the Hon Attorney General of Zambia who was the outgoing President, after consultation, reconvened and the choice of Ben was endorsed by a near majority as the President of the NBA. My late friend Kamni Ishola Isobu remarked to me the end of the day’s proceedings that Ben Muna was, indeed, a great lawyer capable of providing the type of continental leadership that Chief Abiola had advocated in his keynote address.

 When we last met in Stockholm last year, the first time since the African Bar Association Conference in 1991, Hon. Roger Chamba and I recalled the memorable intervention of Ben Muna in that conference.  It is regrettable that several attempts to reunite Ben and Charles Idehen  did not materialize because of the bad telephone network communication.

Ben led us to valiantly defend the erstwhile President of the Cameroon Bar Council Yondo Black and the venerable Albert Mukong and others before a court-martial in Yaoundé Cameroun, for asserting a constitutional right to pluralist democratic governance.   From thence, I forged an enduring alliance with Albert Mukong for the struggle for freedom and human dignity leading to the creation of the Human Rights Defence Group.

Ben mobilized lawyers and human rights defenders to defend my friend Puis Njawe and Celestin Monga whose only crime was the publication of articles exposing and condemning the endemic corruption that has destroyed the economic and moral foundation of Cameroun.  Through this and other cases, Ben provided the platform for the establishment of civil society advocacy in the fight to liberate the people from the bondage and abuses of dictatorial political brigandage.  In this regard, the fearless legal luminary provided unprecedented leadership in the fight for justice and civil liberties that permeated his national and international law career.

By the verdict of fate and destiny, we met again at the International Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha where he was the Deputy Prosecutor and I was a Lead Counsel for one of the accused persons.  I found myself alone on the defence bench while Ben, Carla Deponte and five other Prosecutors were on the prosecution bench to argue an interlocutory appeal, I filed before the Appeals Chamber of the ICTR.  I stood my ground and responded to the alternate submissions by all the members of the prosecution team. At the close of the session, Ben moved across to me and we briefly laughed at the fact that Ben was back where he began his law career as a Prosecutor. Persons present watched as we discussed courteously and pleasantly only a few minutes after we were subjected to intense legal combat with ammunitions provided on both side by the very erudite judge Shahabuddin now of blessed memory and his four colleagues in the panel.  Little did they know that although a prosecutor, Ben was indeed, a champion of fair trial rights for accused persons before the courts. 

Ben ended his time on earth, defending largely abducted victims of atrocity crimes and the arrogance of power before a court-martial.  His memorable prophetic submissions will inform the conscience of a nation at battle with its soul about the consequences of trivializing human rights, human dignity and politicization of justice.  The enduring consequences of these violations may never be reversed. But no one will ever say that Ben Muna the prophetic voice of reason and the conscience of true justice did not caution and provide an opportunity for the abatement of the madness that has led to the collapse of an imposed house of cards.

May the justice of the Lord, the Guarantor of true justice and all life, grant him a place of choice in God’s heavenly kingdom

May his soul rest in peace.

**Chief Charles Taku  is the immediate past President of the ICC Bar Association

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How the 1996 Constitution Can Take Care of the NW/SW Exception: A legal Perspective of a ‘third option’.
October 5, 2019 | 0 Comments

BY: ASHU NYENTY (Ph.D.).*

Cameroon Prime Minister Joseph Dion Ngute chaired the dialogue

As delegates to the major national dialogue, especially those from the two regions that triggered the dialogue in the first place, converge on the Conference Centre beginning this Monday, and judging from the tenor of proposals in the consultations engineered by Prime Minister, Chief Dr. Joseph Dion Ngute, the debate has largely focused on two potentially rancorous and divisive concepts: Unitarism v Federalism. It is on these two concepts that most of the attention is focused, as if to say it is   either one or the other, as a solution to the crisis in the NW and SW regions.

The mistake that may be ineluctable if care is not taking is that delegates get into what I call an ideological blockage and fail to adequately explore an alternative that appears to be at arm’s length, but which seems to have been long forgotten. This is mainly so because of lack of familiarity with the various territorial or regional organization models available to Cameroon.

The purpose of this paper, as my own contribution to the major national dialogue, is therefore, to inform public opinion that these two are not the only alternatives and that they should watch out for the potency of a possible ‘third option’ or model that may send everybody home happy- the NW and SW, the other eight regions and of course the government.   The issues discussed here would be more relevant to the commission on decentralization and local development, though they may necessarily have ramifications on the work of other commissions such as education and justice system. The reason is that this is the most politically sensitive area of the discussions that may have legal repercussions after the dialogue.  

                      What is the current status of the issues at stake?

Writing on the issues at stake in the national dialogue, Barrister Paul Simo, who has over 20 years’ experience working on countries undergoing peace-processes and political transitions across the world, opined that the discussion has often been tailored in terms of three options, to wit, “separatism, federalism and unitarism”.

In this analysis, I deliberately leave out separatism, because in the context of a national dialogue, that option is dead on arrival. I will proceed to discuss the other two.    Federalism in the present state of discussions has two variables. First, an “arrangement similar to the 1961-1972 federation, or in another, to a new multiple federated-state configuration”. The inconvenience of this is that if either of the two configurations is adopted it would lead to a sudden and drastic transformation of the administrative configuration of the state that may force the other eight regions into an arrangement they never asked for or for which their base did not mobilize for; many in the other regions do not yet understand the contours and ramifications of a federation. If there could be an agreement on that fine, but in my view, still coming out of a three-year gruesome war, be sure this option will be resisted with vigour.

Unitarism on the other hand is considered, even by many in the other regions as largely responsible for the despicable state of affairs in the North West and South West regions. Many in the other regions also feel the pinch of Unitarism even though they have not been as vocal as their counterparts’ from the two regions. It is clear that Unitarism as it is currently perceived and practiced may not satisfy or meet “the high aspirations of the people of the NW and SW” and also “of all the other components of our nation”, who clearly want to have a greater say in the management of their local affairs.  If these two concepts, in the current state of affairs may be resisted or rejected, what then is the way out?

                                     What is the ‘third option”?  

The crux of the matter  is that because of their peculiarities( to be discussed shortly) the NW and SW regions desire an arrangement that would provide them with a greater hand in what goes on in their respective regions. That is what leads us to what I have termed the third option (its political and administrative advantages will also be elucidated shortly). In discussions of this nature and based on our immediate past history, I think it would be counter-productive to appear intransigent or take a zero-sum posture of this or nothing. It seems to me that it is advisable to be flexible, weigh the different options and then give and take. That is the very essence of a dialogue.

 In my view, the third option is found in the current Constitution of Cameroon. Since the 1996 Constitution was adopted, one provision that has often been ignored and indeed even overlooked, since the search for solutions to the crisis started, is the last Section of Part X devoted to Regional and Local Authorities.  That Section 62(2) stipulates that:

“Without prejudice to the provisions of this Part, the law may take into consideration the specificities of certain Regions with regard to their organization and functioning”.

The underlying notion in that section is what is known in modern constitutional engineering as “territorial asymmetry”, which is consonant in countries that have an entrenched minority factor as is the case of the NW and SW regions.   According to Barrister Simo,   this is an arrangement “in which some regions…would be granted certain attributes and competences different from those granted to other regions”, because the latter regions do not have the same specificities.  This model has been practiced with success in countries such as India and even China over Hong Kong, in what is known as the one country two systems paradigm. Even though not everybody in Cameroon espouses this variable geometry in the treatment of regions, the beauty of this asymmetric treatment is that it also works well in a unitary form of state. The example of China and its asymmetric treatment of Hong Kong, and which is a much more centralized system than Cameroon is necessary to point to again. This means that the present Decentralized Unitary system could be maintained, while at the same time the NW and SW find satisfaction in the management of their local affairs. Besides, given that the present Constitution of Cameroon allows for the continuous application of the Common Law, it is recognition of the exceptions that constitute the NW and SW regions. Apart from the examples already given, two of Cameroon’s colonial masters, whose double heritage the Cameroon of today enjoys, that is, Britain and France are  plausible other examples. In   the case of the United Kingdom, there is a separate status each for Wales, Scotland and even Northern Ireland within the same unitary state. In France, the Corse has a special status. It must be pointed out that it were calls for greater autonomy and threats of breakaway that among other factors pushed the French authorities to give a separate administrative status to that region.

Dr Ashu Nyenty

Furthermore, in the couching of the provisions of Section 62(2), it would appear the drafters were foresighted enough to preempt the possibility of considering variations between the different regions in the extent of the powers they should have, depending on their ability and history. My understanding of that section is that the drafters of the Constitution of Cameroon had already envisaged a situation where some regions could be allowed to sail in different boats within a unitary state framework, based on their linguistic, historical, cultural or even demographic peculiarity. The case of the two regions is a very good example, where these conditions of peculiarity are amply fulfilled.  

                                How are the NW and SW peculiar?

To amply justify the need for a special status each for the North West and South West, it would be necessary, in my view, to demonstrate the peculiarity of these two regions. It is clear to everybody of good faith in Cameroon that there are fundamental differences between the NW and the SW on the one hand, and the other eight regions on the other. However, some detail analysis of a few examples would be necessary to make the point. The fact that francophone parents in their numbers send their children to English speaking schools is an eloquent testimony to the fact that there are differences in the educational systems between the two components. It is not simply the language of instruction, the culture of teaching and learning is also fundamentally different.

In addition, in the legal domain, the common law is practiced in the English speaking regions while the civil law holds sway in the other regions. Though some attempt has been made at harmonizing some aspects of the two, they still remain for all intent and purposes walls apart. The Constitution of Cameroon clearly recognizes this legal disparity. It is instructive that it is the perceived adulteration of the educational and legal systems that is the immediate cause of the current crisis.

Again, the colonial past of the two components is different. While the British practiced indirect rule and the Native authority which gave the people much leverage in the management of local affairs, the French system of assimilation, paternalism and the Jacobin-style strong state authority did not afford much of that. So in matters of governance the colonial experiences of the two components differed and this heritage which has been transferred to younger generation has now met zones of friction and conflict.

Even though there are many other examples, these few, in my view sufficiently make the case for the NW/SW exception, within the bigger Cameroonian picture.  

          What should be the content of the special status arrangement?

Since the current constitution already mentions that possibility, it sounds reasonable that the main worry now for the delegates, if this third option were to be adopted, is  to present  a basket of what should go into the special status arrangement. What powers do the two regions want to have for themselves exclusive from the central state authorities? Before I proceed to discuss what this basket could contain, it is germane to point out that the special status arrangement could be applied exclusively to the two regions concerned as a matter of priority. However, in order to allay the fears of geometric treatment of regions, which I mentioned, earlier, these powers could also be extended, of course   in relative degrees to the other regions if they find no objection for the time being.

Having said that emphasis should at this juncture be focused on the package deal or what I will call the content of the basket.  That is what I think the commission on decentralization and local development should be able to do. This is because as I said earlier this is the most political of all the eight commissions. The other issues to be canvassed by the other commissions could only come to add up to that.  The basket would certainly be for the delegates to fill but based on my own experience in the understanding of the conflict, the package deal may include but not limited to the management of the education system, the protection of the common law legal system, the proportion of the use of the two official languages in the regions. That basket will include the powers that the regions want to control and the powers of the local councils as well. The central government should be clear on what it intends to irreversibly relinquish to both the regions and the councils. 

In addition to the merit of this model mentioned already, this model is neither to the right nor to the left of the debate spectrum. It is at the Centre. It accommodates the desires of those who are opposed to a change of the form of state and also satisfies those who seek greater autonomy. There is no doubt about it; we have already seen that special status arrangements work perfectly well in a unitary state arrangement. In that way everybody is satisfied and consensus is easy to reach on both sides.

Some of these changes if adopted would obviously necessitate legislative, administrative, policy or even constitutional reform. If the commissions consensually agree on what  to do then they can easily propose the kind of reform that may suit their agenda so as to protect what they may have proposed.

 I submit that the tenor of section 62 discussed above requiring the law to “take into consideration the specificities of certain Regions” is weak.  I would rather propose that based on comparative constitutional law, and even Cameroonian history, such fundamental aspects are better guaranteed in the highest legal norm in the hierarchy. In this case it is the Constitution. If that were the case a constitutional revision could be sought to the extent that those guarantees are entrenched.

                       Is a constitutional amendment possible? 

In the run up to the convening of the dialogue and even after the fundamental question on many lips was whether proposals and or conclusions arrived at may be translated into constitutional reform. To this question and analyzing the tenor of President Paul Biya’s 10 September speech, convening the dialogue, some legal experts have argued that such reform was “neither mandatorily required of, nor specifically excluded from the purview of the Dialogue process”.

But that possibility comes to life when you read other portions of the speech together with legal and constitutional provisions in force. On page 14 of the English language version of the speech, he announced his decision to convene a national dialogue “in line with our Constitution”, to “enable us to seek ways and means of meeting the high aspirations of the   people of the North West and South West Regions”. My understanding is that if the high aspirations of the people in those two regions are to take charge of those affairs as we have discussed above, and possibly other arrangements agreed to in other commissions,  it means that based on what the President said we have to go into the Constitution to seek to satisfy them. Either the Constitution has the answer directly or it points at the direction we must take.

If the Constitution does not have a direct response then a constitutional revision may be necessary to accommodate the issues at stake. And if a proposal is made in this regard, it seems to me that it does not overstep the confines of the Constitution. Provided the revision is pursued in a procedure that is in line with the Constitution of Cameroon, which the President swore to uphold.

On this score, it should be noted that the ‘Natonal Dialogue’ if it is working within the Constitution, does not have the locus standi or power   to deliver “binding resolutions” or seek Constitutional amendments. It may only propose. Based on the President’s speech, which for now is the guiding instrument on the purview of the Dialogue’s powers, it has the power to propose whatever it wants to propose, if these can address the concerns and aspirations of the people in those two regions.  But it is not within its powers to insist, to push amendment to Parliament, otherwise it would be acting ultra vires and out of tune with the fundamental law of the land.

People gather at the Congress Palace during the opening session of the National Dialogue called by President Paul Biya, in Yaounde, Cameroon, Sept. 30, 2019. Photo Credit VOA

Who has the power to seek a constitutional amendment in Cameroon? According to section 63(1), “Amendments to the Constitution may be proposed either by the President of the Republic or by Parliament. These are the only two authorities that are constitutionally empowered to seek an amendment of the Constitution. This may of course be through a government bill from the President of the Republic to Parliament or a Private Members bill in Parliament. However, The President of the Republic may also decide to bypass Parliament and directly “submit any bill to amend the Constitution to a referendum; in which case the amendment shall be adopted by a simple majority of the votes cast” and that will be constitutionally correct. .

 While a constitutional amendment is not illegal,   there are some amendments that will be inadmissible.

According to section 64 “No procedure for the amendment of the Constitution affecting the republican form, unity and territorial integrity of the State and the democratic principles which govern the Republic shall be accepted”. This means in clear terms that any amendment that seeks to change the state from a Republic to a monarchy, transfer part of our territory to another state or institute a one-party state shall not be accepted.

In fine, given the positions held by the different protagonists in the national dialogue and leveraging on my understanding that more consensual conclusions and recommendations may be viewed in a better light, I submit unequivocally, that a third option as I have discussed should be given a thought and explored, if all the parties must take back something to their bases.  

*The author of this article is a Doctor in Law and Political Scientist. (The content are his personal views) .The article was previously published in the Median Newspaper on 30 September before the National Dialogue started in Cameroon

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Cameroon:Teachers Celebrate International Day under Precarious Situation in Anglophone Cameroon
October 5, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Boris Esono Nwenfor

Teachers celebrate International Day under dire situation in the two English-speaking regions of Cameroon. Photo Boris Esono Nwenfor Pan African Visions

The 25th edition of the World Teachers Day has been commemorated in Buea despite the threats and dire situation in which the teachers are in. The celebration which took place at the esplanade of the Buea council was under the theme, “Young Teachers: The future of the profession.”

This day comes at a critical point in Cameroon history with the country facing upheavals in the Anglophone Regions. The over three-year crisis has seen teachers beaten, manned, kidnapped, and others killed simply for practicing their profession.

The Regional Delegate of Secondary Education Dr. Hannah Mbua Etonde speaking during the ceremony urged the teachers to shun fears and be courageous, considerate, and daring knowing that if they stay away from classes, they are killing generations. “Let us measures that will see teachers work in a calm atmosphere. At this point in time, teachers need to be credible and courageous while adapting to the changes to the profession taking into consideration technological advancement.”

For the past three years, teachers have been beaten, maimed, kidnapped, and some have been killed simply for practicing their profession. “There is a good number of challenges that the teachers are going through in the South West Region. No matter the challenges, let us remain teachers,” she said while calling on the teachers to shun fears and be courageous, considerate, and daring while knowing that they are killing a generation if they decided to stay away (from classrooms). “Teachers should shun the unwilling attitude to teach students.”

The upheavals have equally had a devastating effect on educational establishments in the Anglophone regions. Many schools have been destroyed as the teachers have been chased away by separatist fighters. Speaking on this issue, the Regional Delegate called on the teachers, and proprietors of such establishments or those that are not functional to apply for redeployment, so they could be posted to areas that are operational.

To Esunge Ndive, President of the Buea Area Teachers’ Association, BATA said, “The very unfriendly environment where we are working today, due to the sociopolitical upheavals plaguing the Anglophone regions where teachers are kidnapped or killed is evocative. It is an environment where teachers are afraid to go to work due to fear of the unknown.”

He went further to outline some issues that are plaguing the teaching profession such as the non-award of academic honors and medals to the teachers of the Basic Education sector, very low salaries, especially for teachers in the private sector which cannot even pay their house rents, non-registration of teachers of the private sector for pension schemes, and no signing of labor contracts for teachers in the private sector with their employees — this leaving them at the mercy of such employers, who demise them whenever they desire.

The SG appreciated the teachers for having turned out to celebrate the day despite various threats at their safety. The teachers are the main actors of development. He went on to call on teachers to be the ambassadors of their generation, to preach by example and to serve as a model for the youths. They should equally work according to the ethics of their profession.

Another issue that was greatly frowned upon was the slackness new teachers have about their profession. According to officials, many present day teachers are only in search of the matricule number and not having the teacher spirit. “To the young teacher, teaching is not seen as a vocation,” Njikang Gabriel noted.

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Nigeria: David Cameron Got it wrong On Nigeria Under Me-Goodluck Jonathan
October 5, 2019 | 0 Comments

– My Response To David Cameron’s Claims

By Goodluck Jonathan*

British Prime Minister David Cameron (L) takes part in a press conference with Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan at the State House on July 19, 2011 in Lagos, Nigeria. Photo credit Christopher Furlong/Getty Images Europe

I read the comments by former British Prime Minister, David Cameron, in his new book, For the Record, in which he accused me and the Nigerian Government, which I headed, of corruption and rejecting the help of the British Government in rescuing the Chibok Girls, who were kidnapped on April 14, 2014.

It is quite sad that Mr. Cameron would say this because nothing of such ever occurred. As President of Nigeria, I not only wrote letters to then Prime Minister David Cameron, I also wrote to the then US President, Barrack Obama, and the then French President, François Hollande, as well as the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, appealing to them for help in rescuing the Chibok Girls.

How could I write to appeal for help and then reject the very thing I appealed for?

Also, history contradicts Mr. Cameron. On March 8, 2012, when the same Boko Haram linked terrorists abducted a British expatriate named Chris McManus, along with an Italian hostage Franco Lamolinara, in Sokoto, I, as Nigerian President, personally authorised a rescue effort by members of the British military Special Boat Service supported by officers and men of the Nigerian Army, to free the abducted men.

So, having set a precedent like that, why would I reject British help in rescuing the Chibok Girls, if it was offered?

I also authorised the secret deployment of troops from the United Kingdom, the United States and Israel as a result of the Chibok incident, so how Mr. Cameron could say this with a straight face beats me.

Moreover, on March 8, 2017, the British Government of former Prime Minister, Theresa May, in a widely circulated press statement, debunked this allegation and said there was no truth in it after Mr. Cameron had made similar statements to the Observer of the UK.

In his book, Mr. Cameron failed to mention that I wrote him requesting his help on Chibok. Why did he suppress that information? I remind him that copies of that letter exist at the State Houses in Nigeria and London. He never called me on the phone to offer any help. On the contrary, I am the one that reached out to him.

He accused me of appointing Generals based on political considerations. How could that be when I fired my service chiefs twice in five years, to show that I would not tolerate anything less than meaningful progress in the war on terror.

I was completely blind to ethnic or political considerations in my appointments. In civil and military matters, I appointed people that I had never even met prior to appointing them, based on their professional pedigree. Though I was from the South, most of my service chiefs came from the North.

I do, however, know that Mr. Cameron has long nursed deep grudges against me for reasons that have been published in various media.

On July 24, 2013, while celebrating the passage of the United Kingdom’s Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act, 2013, Mr. Cameron said “I want to export gay marriage around the world”.

At that occasion, he boasted that he would send the team that successfully drafted and promoted the Bill, to nations, like Nigeria, saying inter alia:

“I’ve told the Bill team I’m now going to reassign them because, of course, all over the world people would have been watching this piece of legislation”.

As President of Nigeria at that time, I came under almost unbearable pressure from the Cameron administration to pass legislation supporting LGBTQ Same Sex marriage in Nigeria. My conscience could not stomach that, because as President of Nigeria, I swore on the Bible to advance Nigeria’s interests, and not the interest of the United Kingdom or any foreign power.

As such, on Monday, January 13, 2014, I signed the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Bill into law after the Bill had been passed by an overwhelming bipartisan majority of Nigeria’s parliament, in line with the wishes of the Nigerian people. This happened shortly after a study of 39 nations around the world by the U.S. Pew Research Center came up with a finding which indicated that 98 percent of Nigerians were opposed to the idea of Gay Marriage.

Immediately after I took this patriotic action, my government came under almost unbearable pressure from Mr. Cameron, who reached me through envoys, and made subtle and not so subtle threats against me and my government.

In fact, meetings were held at the Obama White House and at the Portcullis House in Parliament UK, with the then Nigerian opposition to disparage me, after I had signed the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Bill into law.

On the issue of corruption, it suffices to say that Mr. Cameron is not as competent as Transparency International, which is globally acknowledged as the adjudicator of who is corrupt and who is not.

During my administration, in 2014, Nigeria made her best ever improvement on the annual Transparency International Corruption Perception Index, moving from 144 the previous year, to 136, an 8 point improvement. As a nation, we have not made such improvements on the CPI before or after 2014.

In line with these facts, I would urge the public to take Mr. Cameron’s accusations with a grain of salt. I will not be the first person to accuse him of lying on account of this book, and with the reactions in the Uk so far, I definitely will not be the last.

*Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, Chairman of the Goodluck Jonathan Foundation and President of Nigeria 2010-2015. Caption from PAV and response culled from his facebook page.

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Cameroon: 148 detainees in connection with Anglophone crisis Released
October 5, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Boris Esono Nwenfor

Some prisoners have been in captivity for two years in relation to the Anglophone crisis in Cameroon. Photo Boris Esono Nwenfor, Pan African Visions

One hundred and forty-eight persons including two females arrested in relation to the ongoing Anglophone crisis in the North West and South West Region have been set free. The release took place October 4, 2019, in Buea during a court session at the Military Tribunal.

The release follows a decree signed by Cameroon’s President Paul Biya to discontinue the case of 333 inmates arrested for their alleged roles in relation to the Anglophone crisis in the North West and South West Regions. “I have ordered the discontinuance of proceedings pending before Military Tribunals against 333 persons arrested for misdemeanors, in connection with the crisis in the North West and South West Regions,” said Biya on Twitter.

“I am thanking the President for such a gesture to us. I am going home to invite my friends to come out from the bushes. I know that if they come out nothing will happen to them,” one of the released people told this reporter.

“I am very happy today that my son has been released after more than a year in prison” said Joana Nwanjo while calling on the released children to hold on to God as he is the one creating all the miracles today.

Jubilant Prisoners in Buea as they were released in connection to President Biya’s Pardon. Photo Boris Esono Nwenfor, Pan African Visions

To the President of the Buea Military Tribunal Colonel Mem Michael, “They (released inmates) have learn a lot and hopefully they will join to build a better nation.” On his part, Frederic Poh Boule, EMIA Commissioner of Government told reporters that the release of the prisoners is a measure to solve the Anglophone crisis and we appreciate the measure taken by the Head of State.

The Secretary General of the South West Governor’s Office Dr. Mohammadou has cautioned the released inmates not to go back to the activities they were doing prior to them being arrested. He said, “Let them go now to their respective communities to preach the message of peace and tolerance, the message of living together.”

The separatists have however called for the release of what they say is 5000 people imprisoned since 2016, including 10 leaders who were sentenced in August to life in prison on terrorism charges, and the withdrawal of Cameroon’s military from the North-west and South-west regions. “We will not accept an olive branch from someone whose troops are still in our territory,” said Ivo Tapang, a spokesman for 13 armed groups called the Contender Forces of Ambazonia. “We will intensify our struggle with guns and bullets.”

Speaking to Barrister Ishi Daniel, he said when someone is arrested and is at the process of investigation security forces ask for their ID Cards and never return it. There is no law which says that the ID card of the suspect or accused person should be retain and made part of the case file. At the time they use the ID cards; they fill statements and even add information that is against the spirit of the law,” Barrister Ishi Daniel said.

The insurgency emerged after a government crackdown on peaceful protests late in 2016 in the Northwest and Southwest regions by lawyers and teachers who complained of being marginalized by the French-speaking majority.

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Cameroon: Charges against Political Prisoners, Kamto’s Allies dropped
October 5, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Boris Esono Nwenfor

Kingue, Penda Ekoka, Kamto and Albert Dzongang in Prison. Pic credit Facebook

Barely a day after the conclusion of the Grand National Dialogue, the President of Cameroon Paul Biya has ordered that charges against some officials, and militants of political parties including those of the Cameroon Renaissance Party (CRM) of Maurice Kamto be dropped. 

In the statement seen by Pan African visions, the government did not say whether charges against Maurice Kamto, the leader of the MRC Party has been dropped. According to the statement signed by Ferdinand Ngoh Ngoh, Minister of State, Secretary-General of the Presidency of The Republic, said the President has dropped the charges following the conclusion of talks at the Major National Dialogue.

“… President Biya has ordered the discontinuance of proceedings pending before Military Tribunals against some officials, and militants of political parties in particular the Cameroon Renaissance Movement (CRM), arrested and detained for acts committed during protests against the result of the recent presidential election,” the statement read. 

He added that, “the decision is guided by the President’s constant resolve to promote peace, fraternity and concord amongst the sons, and daughters of Cameroon” while adding, “that the President is determined to look for ways to provide a peaceful solution to any crisis and disagreement…”

Tweet from Cameroon’s President Paul Biya

“Professor Kamto is being held at Kondengui Central prison of Yaounde infamously known for its horrendous conditions of detention. Reports of torture as well as cruel and inhuman conditions by law enforcement agents have surfaced on many occasions,. Our concern is heightened by reported systematic violations of accused persons’ due process rights by law enforcement and judicial authorities in Cameroon including the use of unlawful and prolonged detention, coercion, and torture,” the New York City Bar Association, one of the world’s oldest bar association said, as quoted by todaynewsafrica.

Kamto was arrested and jailed in January along with more than 200 of his supporters after they refuted the victory of Cameroon’s long time President Paul Biya at the 2018 Presidential election. Kamto organized a nationwide peaceful protest, and equally indicated that he was the winner of the election and not the incumbent. His decision to protest led to him arrested and several others.

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At SBEC Training: Business owners, Agribusiness persons enlighten on Basic entrepreneurship skills in Cmeroon
October 5, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Boris Esono Nwenfor

Participants, Trainers at the end of the 3rd SBEC training in Yaounde

The third edition of the training on Small Business Management and Entrepreneurial skills has been organized with participants educated on Business management, Tax requirement, registration, declaration procedures and access to finance. The training exercise took place October 3, 2019, in Yaounde.

The SBEC training is the third in a series of six events organized by the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Centre of the Denis and Lenora Foretia Foundation in partnership with Global Affairs Canada. The training aims at equipping small business owners with basic managerial and financial management tools.

During her welcome remarks, the Director of Programs Agathe Djomeghu enjoined participant during trainings to become more dynamic business owners.

Dr. Ahanda Sosthene, Lecturer of Business administration, and project management at the University of Yaounde One speaking on the theme, “Business Management” drilled participants on the importance of knowing what they are selling, why they are selling, and the size of the market, who is best in that sector, how they can add more value, and what their obstacles are.

Usmanu Baba, SBEC Director indicated that access to finance sustains any good business idea. Participants were taught various sources of finance that they can explore for their businesses which included internal, external, formal, and informal sources. They were equally were enlightened on the different mechanisms put in place by the banks to assist small business owners.

Edison Ngeh, Coordinator REO Group International

According to information, access to finance is a key factor to the growth of SMEs but that notwithstanding, because of the difficulties faced by financial institutions in obtaining information on the borrower-solvency, lack of reliable financial statement of SMEs, absence of guarantee or inadequate collateral and lack of business plan, they (banks) become reluctant to award loans to these SMEs.

On his part, Ngeh Edison Tamfu, Founder of REO Cameroon, and a Small Business Consultant speaking on the module “practical approach to the small business tax systems in Cameroon edified various participants on the importance of operating their business in the formal sector and the skills they need to understand and comply with the tax modalities in Cameroon. As per the 2009 IMF study report, heavy taxes and 15 percent interest ceiling on loans on SMEs also discourage these institutions from financing the sector.

SMEs in Cameroon face serious challenges (inadequate capital, lack of managerial skills, lack of knowledge on the tax system)-which affects their growth and sustainability. Thus, this training falls within the framework of the prime purpose of the Small Business and Entrepreneur Centre (SBEC) — to spur economic growth in Cameroon through the provision of tools to establish, expand and sustain private sector business.

Small and Medium Size Enterprises (SMEs) contribute around 36% of Cameroon’s GDP, make up over 90% of businesses in Cameroon, and employ above 60% of the population. Yet, glaring realities indicate that enormous potentials inherent in this sector are unfortunately not fully harnessed — especially given that above 70% of SMEs still operate informally.

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Verve International celebrates 10 years of resilience, innovation, determination and unmatched services to Africa
October 5, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Amos Fofung

(L-R) Mitchell Elegbe, GMD and Founder, Interswitch Group; Patrick Akinwutan, MD / Regional Executive, Ecobank Nigeria Plc and Mike Ogbalu III, CEO, Verve International at the Verve at 10 media parley held in Lagos, September 27, 2019

Verve, a leading payment technology and card business established in Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria, is celebrating ten years of unparallel service and innovation.

The celebration comes barely weeks after Verve penned an agreement with Discovery Global Network, a US-based direct banking and payment service in New York, enabling Verve cardholders to use their Verve Global Cards on the Discover Global Network which provide acceptance in more than 190 countries and territories worldwide.

Assessing the path covered so far by the giant in African card business, Mike Ogbali III recounted that what started as a mare dream, has today concurred the African economic sphere and is set to take on the world.

“Ten years ago, a group of young, vibrant, innovative minds decided that it was time to challenge the status quo, it was time to drive financial inclusion; economic prosperity by building durable Nigerian enterprises; propositions that the rest of the world is willing to embrace. All they had was a dream…today we are gathered here to celebrate that dream, which has not only become a reality but has helped to re-define the payment landscape in Nigeria, Africa and beyond.”

Recalling that before its introduction in Nigeria the sector was flooded with foreign card business, he pointed out that “Verve was created to cater to the need of Nigerians and offer real value to the Nigerian market…As a domestic card of African origin, with a better understanding of the African Market, we have delivered this promise in issuing our card to 21 African countries.”

“Ten years after we have become an international brand…It is general knowledge that the global financial technology ecosystem is accelerating at a rapid pace and as Africans we cannot afford to be left behind, not just as users, but more importantly as innovators and enablers. That is why over the past years, we have evolved from being a domestic card scheme to a globally accepted brand giving Africans the opportunity to explore the world with an African key,” he added.

Weighing in, Mitchell Elegbe, Group Managing Director/FOUNDER, at VERVE, an Interswitch digital company that prides itself as a pacesetter in facilitating seamless electronic transaction referred to the last 10 years of Verve’s journey as a period colored with different experiences, stories and emotions.

His words; “the Verve brand, which is the focus of our gathering today, has come a very long way. The card scheme has grown from just an idea to solve the payment inefficiencies in Nigeria, into a bouquet of innovative payment solutions for Nigerians, Africans; rest of the world, including Verve Classic card, accepted in Nigeria 21 African countries; Verve Global card, accepted in 185 countries including U.S, U.K and Dubai.”

Reiterating that despite their steadfastness its not been an easy ride, Mitchell Elegbe pointed out that such turbulent times have helped the brand to earn its stripes and come this far.

Verve card scheme started out as a small branch of the Interswitch family, over-time has grown into an independent company of its own with several product offerings in its portfolio. Behind this growth has been our people. They have remained resilient in the face of all the challenges, odds and seasons of doubt. They have trudged on, ensuring that objectives set are met, projects are delivered, relationship with partners are well nurtured, ultimately customers are satisfied.”

Attributing Verve’s success to the dedication of its employees, the Group Managing Director adds; “today, the solutions and products Verve has brought to the marketplace so far demonstrate what can happen to any endeavor when met with the right people, opportunities and environment. I consider these first 10 years as years of consolidation and growth. We anticipate the next 10 years as years of massive investment in unprecedented customer service delivery. In the coming 10years we will improve financial inclusion even more and make payment much more seamless efficient.”

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Anti-corruption war: A case for whistleblower law in Nigeria
October 5, 2019 | 0 Comments
The corruption fight promised by Buhari has not yielded desired results

By Godwin Onyeacholem

At every given opportunity, President Muhammadu Buhari not only proudly re-affirms his administration’s commitment to mount a vigorous fight against corruption, he also as best as he can often ticks off some of the initiatives laid out for that purpose and the achievements so far. Here is the reason: waging war against corruption was one in the triumvirate of key promises he made to the electorate in the run-up to the 2015 election.

In fact, nothing else could be said to have fetched him the presidency other than the general belief that he would be ruthless in tackling corruption, and also a perception of him as a steadfast symbol of integrity.

Nigeria’s 59th independence anniversary on October 1 was yet one of such familiar opportunities where Buhari once again used his speech to gloat about how the war against corruption under him has been living up to its billing. In that speech he ran through a couple of his administration’s anti-corruption strategies and, as he had done in the past, never failed to mention the whistleblower policy which in many respects remains the flagship of his anti-corruption design.

Recounting the achievements, Buhari said those initiatives had “saved billions of naira over the last four years, and deterred the rampant theft and mismanagement of public funds that have plagued our public service.” That’s not entirely true. Although stealing may not be “rampant,” a somewhat disturbing degree of subtle stealing of public funds, combined with barefaced impunity, is still going on.

He also said, “This administration has fought corruption by investigating and prosecuting those accused of embezzlement and the misuse of public resources.” That is also not completely true. At least there are two personalities under the presidency who were accused of corrupt practices but are still enjoying the protection of Buhari, if nothing else. One is his own chief of staff, Mallam Abba Kyari, whose was never investigated much less prosecuted.

Then there is Dr. Marilyn Amobi, the MD/CEO of Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading (NBET) Plc. Both Abba Kyari and Amobi cavalierly spurned repeated invitations from the popular Brekete radio to state their side of the story. Although Amobi was investigated and indicted by ICPC, and the report of the investigation submitted to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in March, up till the time of writing this piece, she has not been suspended, much less prosecuted.

All of this you expect not to witness in a government with Buhari as the head, given the subconscious awe and no-nonsense aura around his reputation prior to 2015. In essence, for the war against corruption to be convincing, Buhari needs to do more than self-laudatory speeches and come down much harder on the perpetrators of corruption in both the public and private sector. And he must do this with as much evenhandedness as can be summoned.

A significant chunk of the billions of naira which he said had been saved since the inception of his administration are most likely looted funds recovered courtesy of the whistleblowing initiative which was introduced just about one and a half years after the government was inaugurated. But this highly commendable initiative is now in grave danger of extinction as nothing is being done by this government to protect those patriots, yes patriots for that is what they truly are, who continuously risk their lives to blow the whistle.

In its operations, the whistleblowing policy is only currently restricted to corrupt practices and other variants of wrongdoings in the public sector. Since it came on stream, huge sums of looted public funds in various denominations as well as property have been recovered through the efforts of whistleblowers, a majority of whom are public servants who are not even induced by the reward attached to successful recoveries.

This administration acknowledges the efficacy of the whistleblowing as a tool for fighting corruption but regrettably closes its eyes to the varying degrees of unwholesome retaliations perpetually meted out by top public officers to courageous subordinates who heed the call to report corruption and wrongdoing. These reprisals range from long-term suspension from work without pay, outright dismissal, denial of salary and other entitlements (annual leave, promotion, etc.), intimidations, threat to life sometimes extending up to family members, undue harassments, physical assault and other kinds of unimaginable inhuman treatment.

Just last week, Murtala Ibrahim, once the deputy head of internal audit at the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN) was fired by the bank’s management after about two years of being subjected to constant maltreatment which culminated in his transfer from the headquarters in Abuja to Jalingo, Taraba State. His boss, Teslim Anibaba, was transferred to the Kaduna office from where he resigned last year out of frustration.

Both were punished for uncovering official alterations of figures of a half-year report and for refusing to co-operate in other corrupt transactions initiated by top officials of the bank. The Nigerian government, which said it could not successfully fight graft on its own, and therefore urged citizens to join in the fight, could not save them from the ruinous excesses of the bank’s management. It is important to point out that whistleblowers who were lucky to be reinstated are still going through some form of victimization in their offices. The envisaged whistleblower law can take care of this.

However, whistleblowers like Sambo Abdullahi of the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Plc and Joseph Akeju of the Yaba College of Technology, to mention just a few, are still wallowing in the misery imposed by the way they have been treated by the heads of their places of work. The main anti-corruption agencies received their petitions, but the petitioners have yet to see any sign of reprieve from their predicament. Sambo has been denied his salary and other entitlements since December 2017, while Akeju was sacked barely two weeks to his retirement from public service. Their offence was nothing more than reporting corruption and abuse of office in their places of work. Buhari needs to investigate these cases and ensure that these whistleblowers get justice.

Continuing, he said in his independence anniversary speech, “We are determined to ensure that transparency and good governance are institutionalized in public service. We must commit to installing the culture of good governance in all we do.” It’s a commendable, lofty aspiration that is unrealizable unless a critical agency of actualization, the whistleblowers, are given effective protection through the provisions of a progressive whistleblower law. US, Britain and our African brothers–South Africa, Ghana and Uganda, already have one as a sign that they are committed to caging the monster of corruption.

As corruption continues to chip away at the development edifice Nigeria has been struggling to construct in the past six decades, Nigeria cannot afford to keep lagging behind.  To this end, Buhari should urgently direct conscious efforts towards seeing that a whistleblower bill is submitted to the National Assembly for passage into law and his assent of same in the next 12 months. It must be done within this time frame before activities for 2023 elections begin to gather momentum.

Unless whistleblowers enjoy protection via a firm legal backing, the seed of the whistleblowing tree planted in 2016 will die in no time. It doesn’t seem that is what this government wants. Neither does any stakeholder in transparency, accountability and good governance in Nigeria.    

*Godwin Onyeacholem is with the African Centre for Media & Information Literacy (AFRICMIL)

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German Ambassador Outlines Projects in Gambia
October 4, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Bakary Ceesay

President Adama Barrow today received the Dakar-based German Ambassador to The Gambia, His Excellency Stephan Roken, who was at the presidency to brief the President on the fulfillment of the promises made by the German president during his Gambia visit in 2017.

Following President Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s trip, the German government inaugurated a Gambia Technical Training Institute (GTTI) annex institute in Mansakonko, Lower River Region, which, according to the Ambassador, will provide training for Gambian students in solar energy installation and repairs and agricultural machinery repair and maintenance. The regional extension will enable youth in the rural Gambia to acquire skills and meaningfully contribute to the development of the country.

During his 2017 visit, the German President expressed commitment to support the energy sector, and the expansion drive of The Gambia Technical Training Institute after touring its complexes.

Regarding the addressing of the energy supply deficit in the country, the Ambassador stated that his government handed over to National Water and Electricity Company (NAWEC) a capacity-building project package designed to improve electricity supply in the Greater Banjul Area through improvements in monitoring and communication.

 ‘’We did a lot of training on monitoring and we helped in communication systems but what is important is the training of engineers into collaborators of NAWEC. With this monitoring system, there will be fewer power cuts in the Greater Banjul Area.’’

The German ambassador added that the German companies that were working with NAWEC were impressed by the skills and dedication demonstrated by the NAWEC staff.

Similarly, he disclosed that a German organisation, GIZ, is implementing EU funded projects geared towards creating job opportunities for the young people of the country.

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Clear frameworks key to investor interest in Africa’s renewable energy industry
October 4, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Grant Henderson*

Solar panels in Africa. Image: IRENA

With a population of more than 1 billion people and a collective economy of around US$1.5 trillion, Africa is a continent ripe for economic growth.  Developing the capacity to satisfy its people’s energy demands is key to unlocking that potential.

We already know that sustainability is a critical component of any real, meaningful development. Increasingly governments are coming to realise what this means; that in order to deliver on their broader economic and socio-political objectives they need to focus their attention on producing more power with renewable energy projects and innovative electricity storage and distribution strategies being a key part of this.

Historically, one of the biggest inhibiting factors associated with renewable energy projects has been the cost, however, the cost of delivering power from renewable energy projects is declining as a result of emerging technologies.

Securing the buy-in of the private sector is key to development in this sector. Incentivizing investment in the industry is at the heart of this, but so too is the establishment of clear, transparent frameworks for procurement and the setting of tariffs.  Investors need not only a thorough understanding of the environment in which they are committing, but assurances that these markets will remain predictable and stable. In the absence of these frameworks and the security that they provide investors will simply take their capital to countries to where the environment is perceived as more secure.

The second iteration of DLA Piper’s Renewable Energy in Africa summarises the regulatory environment for renewable energy in twenty African countries, highlights the key policy objectives for national governments and provides insight into the projects which are expected to deliver these goals. In showcasing the diverse approach to renewable energy being adopted across the African continent – and the legal, economic and technological developments being implemented – this report highlights that African governments are, despite the challenges they face, increasingly prioritising the creation of policies and frameworks that allow for the industry to be developed.

Kenya, for example, has since the 1990s allowed for independent power producers to operate in the country. Now with its long-awaited 2019 Energy Act finally having been passed in March of this year – the private sector will also have the opportunity to participate in the industry in a distributive capacity.  This is likely to result in a significant increase in competition which, in turn, should see the quality of the service being provided drastically improve. This in the wake of last December’s launch of the Kenya National Electrification Strategy, which provides a roadmap for universal access by 2022.

Uganda, meanwhile, is actively working to promote private sector participation in the renewable energy industry and encouraging partnerships that can effectively harness the potential of the country’s vast untapped natural resources. This as the government moves to reach its target of a rural electrification rate of 22% by 2022. Add to this the legislative changes introduced in 2016 that are serving to open up Botswana’s energy market to independent producers and you can see a positive and progressive picture of the industry’s development on the continent.

If the improvements to the regulatory environment continues, then so too will the accompanying spike in investor interest. Coupled with the wealth of renewable energy resources Africa has to offer – including solar power, wind power, geothermal energy and biomass – this could herald in the start of a whole new era for the continent’s renewable energy industry.

The future could hold some exciting developments, such as the ability to store electricity and a move away from fixed grids to the development of mini or micro grids to power remote communities and businesses.

The direct employment opportunities that emerge during the construction and development of renewable energy projects are, on their own, significant, but so too are the knock-on effects. Put simply, the absence of power is an economic inhibitor and developing and adding power to the grid provides and encourages opportunity in many forms. Ultimately, more power drives stronger economies and that is something that we should all get behind.

*Director at DLA Piper Africa

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