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Corruption Is Robbing Nigerians Of Democratic Dividends-Okey Sam Mbonu
August 13, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L

The absence of a strong vision and rampant corruption impede Nigeria from reaping the dividends of democracy, says Okey Sam Mbonu
The absence of a strong vision and rampant corruption impede Nigeria from reaping the dividends of democracy, says Okey Sam Mbonu

No party that sells primary tickets to the highest bidder deserves to be in power in Nigeria, says Okey Sam Mbonu President of the Nigerian American Council. A seasoned player on African policy circles in the USA, Mbonu says the pervasive corruption culture in Africa’s most populous country is making it difficult for the country to meet its development obligations.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with Pan African Visions, Mbonu who mounted a presidential bid in the 2019 elections says a year after the re-election of President Buhari, the lack of a strong vision and rampant corruption are preventing Nigeria from reaping the dividends of democracy.

On the upcoming US elections, Mbonu says the US-Nigerian council is undergoing critical structural reforms with a view to broadening its tent, and playing a more impactful role on US-African ties. While the current Administration has taken a laid-back approach to Africa, Mbonu believes that it is in the interest of the next administration irrespective of party to step up its game in Africa to curb the marauding Chinese presence.

It has been over a year since President Buhari started his second term of office, what assessment do you make of his leadership?

President Buhari’s current and final term has been bedeviled by some major problems, including:

-Lack of vision, which manifests through the limited delivery of democratic dividends, such as economic growth via a diversified economy.

-Lack of a broad view of national governance issues, because his core inner-circle is of one mindset, thereby robbing the President of the diversity of thought necessary for progress, in a highly diverse country like Nigeria, especially on security and the economy.

-Finally, the President has had to deal with economic uncertainty occasioned by COVID-19, and the collapse of the Oil Industry.  The COVID-19 is nobody’s fault, but the collapse of the Oil economy should have been anticipated way before now.

What do make of the way his government has handled the coronavirus pandemic?

Well, Buhari’s government has adapted well with existing public health protocols in other countries.  However, the COVID-19 has revealed the under-belly of the Nigerian economy, which is that a huge chunk of the economy, perhaps more than 75% is unregulated and informal.  Most Nigerians basically survive by going out on the streets every-day to “hustle”.  Thus if they don’t go out, for a week or two, they may die of hunger.  Many people essentially went berserk out of hunger and deprivation, during the state mandated lockdowns.

May we have your take on the suspension and subsequent detention of Ibrahim Magu former Chair of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission – EFCC ?

 My recent extended exposure to Nigeria showed how corrupt the country really is, especially among the political leadership.  We have witnessed former state governors who essentially plundered their states beyond recognition, walk away from jail (maybe temporarily), thus giving everyone a license to plunder.

 However, what is so troubling is that an entity like EFCC could also be mired in the very essence of their existence, corruption within a corruption fighting agency. 

If the allegations are proven, it erodes the trust of all international partners who depend on the credibility of their crime-fighting partners, to maintain sanity and economic stability via standards rooted in the “rule of law” in the world.  A situation where every entity and everyone becomes beholden to corruption, will eventually lead to a chaotic “everyman for themselves” doctrine. 

There isn’t, and won’t be enough police to contain all out corruption in the country, thus ultimately leading to a complete grounding of the country.

No party that sells its primary tickets to the highest bidder deserves to be in power anywhere ,says Okey Mbonu
No party that sells its primary tickets to the highest bidder deserves to be in power anywhere ,says Okey Mbonu

What is your take on the National Assembly hearings on the misappropriation of funds in the Niger Delta Development Commission?

The NDDC saga, is another showdown that the problem of Nigeria is really the thieving elites versus the masses.  If serious prosecutions do not happen, then the executive branch would have failed to get a grip on the evil of corruption. 

It is really sad, because, if you think about the mind-boggling figures involved, you wander, why public officials need to steal in an unconscionable manner like that.  However, if you take a look at the physical appearances of these people, you know they won’t live very long.  It’s obvious from their distended stomachs from excessive consumption of alcohol and the like, organ failures, high-blood-pressure, obesity, heart problems, etc.  So what is all the stolen loot for?

Nigerians have now had the opportunity of comparing leadership and governance from the APC and the PDP which are the dominant parties, which of these two parties has responded more to the expectations of Nigerians?

 None.  It’s the same people going back and forth in different color-painted buses.  President Buhari could have done a better job of reining in some excesses, and setting some examples, by signaling intolerance of corruption from his own party members, as well as prosecute members of other parties.  However, Buhari still has a chance to set some example before his term is over.

On the other hand, the first of these two parties (APC and PDP), to open up their primaries, without excessive nomination fees to new-generation candidates, and a corruption-free nomination process, will ultimately prevail in the moral battle for the soul of Nigeria. 

No party that sells its primary tickets to the highest bidder deserves to be in power anywhere, because that candidate who “bought” the ticket, does not owe the electorate anything, except to recoup their money, and empower their family to their heart’s content.  That is why you frequently see a governor who plundered their state and failed to pay salaries walk the streets of Nigeria without outrage.

Do you agree with those who think that a third major force or party will be a healthy development for democracy in Nigeria?

A third major party is a viable route, but that third party may ultimately have to ally with one of the big two, in order to pull-off a national victory.  There are many other intricacies to address, but it is doable.

You did get into the 2019 Presidential race, but dropped out, could you share some of the lessons that you learned from the experience and any plans for 2023?

 Yes, my Campaign team calculated that the Labour Party, which is technically the third largest party, with existing structures in all 36 States, was a good vehicle to challenge the status quo.  However, it turned out that the Labour Party needed substantial internal reforms, in order to float a national candidate.  We came close to clinching the party’s nomination, but met resistance from the party’s national leadership who did not see the vision we saw.

The shocking end was that the party actually did not present a presidential candidate after I dropped out, because there was no other candidate of caliber like myself to fly the flag of the party.  However, there are a few good people at the party leadership level, and maybe they learned enough lessons to get it right in the future.

As we do this interview, the US is bracing up for elections in November, how is the Nigerian American Council that you lead preparing for this?

Well, we have actually commenced an evolution at the Council, which is now veering off in a new direction, to embrace the entire African Diaspora via a new “National Council for African Diaspora (NCAD)”, which you’ll be hearing about very soon (August/September 2020).  The new NCAD vehicle will encompass the entire African Diaspora, and is poised for more impact in US and Africa in the near future.

May we know what changed negatively or positively for US-African relations in the first term of the Trump Presidency?

While the current US Administration has not placed a lot of strategic interest on Africa at the moment, however, the traditional US institutions and organs like the State Department, continue to perform their traditional roles of engagement with Africa. 

However, most of us in the policy-circles expect that the US beyond 2020, regardless of who wins the election, will as matter of necessity engage more with Africa, because to disregard Africa, is to capitulate to the Chinese, who are now having a field day in Africa.

If care is not taken, the Chinese will take charge of strategic sources of African input in the global economy, especially in the area of expendable natural resources.

Young and dynamic with a strong vision, Okey Sam Mbonu remains a player to watch in the future of Nigerian politics
Young and dynamic with a strong vision, Okey Sam Mbonu remains a player to watch in the future of Nigerian politics

What is at stake for Africa in the elections and what are some of the recommendations that should guide the choice of voters especially those of African origin?

Politics is consistently about protecting or preserving one’s interests.  The African Diaspora should not be guided by emotions, but by a clear strategy of preserving their interests in the US and beyond.  Once the community determines what those interests are, then they should invest in candidates or programs, or movements that will protect those interests.

Could we also get a word from you on the reaction of African countries on the murder of George Floyd, when the same African countries remain silent on flagrant atrocities that take place across the continent daily?

George Floyd opened the eyes of Africans to racism in the US, in ways they never knew existed.  It has also forced continental Africans to begin to evaluate how their own police enforce the status quo in their law and order.

Africans within the continent actually need to make greater efforts to cultivate and maintain cordial effective and cooperative relations, with their African-American cousins.  African-Americans are the most prominent black Diaspora on the world stage; their struggles should garner strong solidarity across Africa.  However, in reality we find that because of colonial mentality, and a profound lack of enlightenment, many Africans inside the continent, do not see the struggles of African-Americans as their struggle as well.

This is where the continentals who migrated in the past 20, 30, or 40 years effectively come in, as the bridge between the continent of Africa, and the West, especially the US.

About 70% of current African leaders, from Buhari to Biya, etc, do not have a clear understanding of the need to raise the stakes, in the Africa versus the rest of the world dynamics, which could be a win-win situation for all.  I believe only newer generation continentals with exposure to Africa, Europe, the America’s and even Asia can address the gap.

*Culled from August Issue of PAV Magazine

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Mozambique confirms that it was supposed to be final destination of cargo that exploded in Beirut
August 11, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Jorge Joaquim

The private explosives company Fabrica de Explosivos de Mocambique (FEM) has confirmed that it was supposed to be the final destination for the shipment of ammonium nitrate that exploded with devastating effect in Beirut last Tuesday.

Interviewed by the United States television network CNN, a spokesperson for FEM said the company was the original buyer for the ammonium nitrate, which was to have been used to make explosives for the Mozambican mining industry.

‘We can confirm that yes, we did order it,’ a spokesperson for FEM told CNN. But it never turned up at its supposed destination, the central Mozambican port of Beira.

FEM imports ammonium nitrate regularly, and this shipment, which was supposed to arrive in Beira in 2013, was the only one which never showed up.

‘This is not common. It’s absolutely not common,’ the FEM spokesperson said. ‘Usually, when you place an order for whatever it is that you’re buying, it’s not common that you don’t get the goods. This is a vessel, it’s not like one thing that was lost in the mail, it’s a big quantity.’

FEM said it never paid for the ammonium nitrate. However, the Lebanese law firm Baroudi and Partners told the “New York Times” that Mozambique’s largest commercial bank, the Millennium-BIM (International Bank of Mozambique) paid for the chemical on behalf of FEM.

But the FEM spokesperson told CNN it had worked with an outside trading company to facilitate the transfer of the chemical from Georgia to Mozambique. But several months after the ammonium nitrate left Georgia, the spokesperson said the trading company told FEM it would not be arriving: ‘We were just informed by that trading company: there’s a problem with the vessel, your order is not going to be delivered,’ the spokesperson said. ‘So, we never paid for it, we never received it.’

FEM then purchased another shipment of ammonium nitrate to make up for the one that never arrived. The spokesperson did not say how much FEM would have paid for the ammonium nitrate from Georgia, other than that it would have been “a significant amount”.

According to AIM, FEM appears to have been caught unwittingly in an international swindle. The ammonium nitrate was on board the Moldovan registered ship, the “Rhosus”, which was leased by a Russian businessman, Igor Grechushkin.

There are some indications that he never intended to send the ship on to Beira. First, the crew had not been paid, and secondly Grechushkin claimed he did not have the money to pay the fees for using the Suez Canal – even though, according to the ship’s captain, Boris Prokoshev, he had received a million dollars to take the ship to Beira.

Allegeldy, Grechushkin sent the “Rhosus” to Beira, to take on more cargo. The idea was that an additional cargo of heavy machinery would earn more money for the ship. But, as Grechushkin should have known, there was no room in the holds of the “Rhosus” for the machinery as well as the ammonium nitrate.

Furthermore, the “Rhosus” was not seaworthy. It was leaking when it arrived in the port of Beirut. Lebanese inspectors found the ship was in no condition to put out to sea again. Furthermore, the “Rhosus” had failed to pay port docking fees. So the Lebanese impounded it.

Attempts to contact Grechuskin were unsuccessful. He simply abandoned the “Rhosus”, with its bills unpaid, included the wages of the crew. Prokoshev and other ship officers found themselves virtual prisoners in Beirut, since the Lebanese would not allow them to leave until the port fees were paid.

Prokoshev recalled that the Russian embassy was unsympathetic and told him “Do you expect President Putin to send special forces to get you out?”

The crew depended on the good will of port officials for food, and eventually, in August 2014, a Lebanese judge ordered the release of the crew on compassionate grounds.

The unseaworthy “Rhosus” eventually sank, but by then the ammonium nitrate had been transferred to a warehouse, where it stayed for six years. Lebanese customs repeatedly urged the judiciary to order the removal of the chemical since it presented a serious threat to human life and to property. Their worst fears were realized on Tuesday, in the enormous explosion which destroyed the port, killed at least 137 people, and injured thousands.

The FEM spokesperson told CNN he was surprised to learn how long the chemical had been stored at the port as ‘that’s not a material that you want to have stored without having any use for it”, adding, ‘this is a very serious material and you need to transport it with very strict standards of transportation.’

‘It’s absolutely massive and devastating to see all of that (the events in Beirut). And it’s with great sorrow that we see that,’ he added. ‘And unfortunately, we see our name attached, even though we have absolutely no part in it.’

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Mozambique announces new state of emergency
August 7, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Jorge Joaquim

Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi
Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi

Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi announced the introduction of another state of emergency cycle starting on August 8, nationwide, for 30 days, saying that data from the health authorities indicate that the covid-19 epidemic is rapidly worsening, with an increase in the number of deaths and hospitalized patients.

Nyusi also outlined plans for a phased easing of restrictions in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease. The three-phase plan will begin on August 18, when activities deemed low risk can resume. These include the resumption of face-to-face classes in universities, higher education institutions, military academies, teacher training, and at technical, professional, and health institutes. Religious services may also resume, with congregations of no more than 50 people. Up to 50 people will be able to attend funerals, up from the current limit of 20, with exceptions for the funeral of those who have died of covid-19, where the maximum attendance will remain at ten.

The second phase is scheduled to begin on September 1, and will allow for the resumption of activities deemed medium risk. This includes the reopening of cinemas, casinos, and gyms.

The third phase covers activities deemed high risk and is set to begin on October 30. Measures included in this phase include the resumption of face-to-face classes for final year secondary school pupils.

All other current measures remain in place until further notice, including social distancing and the use of face masks in public. Bars remain closed indefinitely.

All other activities that have not been announced will be subject to regulation by a decree to be issued by the Council of Ministers, Nyusi said.

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Lethal Cargo In Beirut Was Once Headed For Mozambique
August 6, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Jorge Joaquim

Preliminary investigations into the gigantic explosion that ripped through Beirut on Tuesday, killing over 50 people, and injuring thousands more, was caused by an abandoned cargo of ammonium nitrate that had once been headed for Mozambique, according to CNN.

Reports emerging from Beirut suggest that the tragedy began in 2013 when technical problems forced a cargo ship, the MV Rhosus, flying the flag of the former Soviet republic of Moldova, to put into the port of Beirut.

The Rhosus set off from the Black Sea port of Batumi in Georgia, on 23 September 2013, and its destination was listed as the central Mozambican port of Beira.

But it never got further than Beirut. When Lebanese inspectors boarded the ship it found that it was in no fit state to continue its journey. Furthermore, in its hold was a cargo of 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, commonly used as fertiliser.

It is also a component of explosives used in the mining and construction industries. In the wrong hands, ammonium nitrate is highly dangerous. It has been used by terrorists, notably in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing in the United States, carried out by domestic terrorist Timothy McVeigh, which killed 168 people, and the Oslo bombing of 2011, carried out by Norwegian fascist Anders Breivik. There have also been many accidental ammonium nitrate explosions this century, with a death toll running into hundreds.

The owner of the Rhosus was a Russian businessman, Igor Grechushkin, whose last known address was in Cyprus. Grechushkin made no attempt to make the Rhosus seaworthy, and in early 2014, he simply abandoned it. The ship’s captain, Ukrainian citizen Boris Prokoshev told a Ukrainian legal aid organisation in June 2014 that Grechushkin claimed bankruptcy. “I don’t believe him, but that doesn’t matter”, he said. “The fact is that he abandoned the ship and the crew, just like he abandoned his cargo, ammonium nitrate.”

Eventually a Lebanese judge allowed Prokoshev and other Ukrakinan crew members to go home. The Lebanese law firm representing the seamen said “Emphasis was placed on the imminent danger the crew was facing given the ‘dangerous’ nature of the cargo still stored in ship’s holds”.

A shipping industry journal, “The Arrest News”, which tracks ships that have been impounded, said, in 2015, “Owing to the risks associated with retaining the ammonium nitrate on board the vessel, the port authorities discharged the cargo onto the port’s warehouses”.

For the next six years, the ammonium nitrate was effectively abandoned in the warehouse, despite repeated efforts by Lebanese customs to persuade the country’s judiciary to order its removal. As Tuesday’s events showed, it was a bomb waiting to go off.

It is not yet clear who the southern African customer for the ammonium nitrate was. The final destination may not have been Mozambique at all. Given its use in mining explosives, it might well have been intended for mining operations in Zimbabwe or Zambia. Currently the answer to this is unknown.

Mozambique with no notification on Rhosus

However, Cornelder, the managing company of the port of Beira, told Lusa on Wednesday that it had never been notified of the operation of a ship containing 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate destined for Mozambique.

“Normally, before receiving a ship, we are notified. In this case, we never received any notification from a ship coming to the port of Beira with these characteristics and cargo,” said António Libombo, deputy executive director of Cornelder, concessionaire of the Port of Beira since 1998.

Lusa contacted the Mozambican Ministry of Transport and Communications, which also said it had not been informed about a vessel with these characteristics that year.

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August 1, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Omar Arouna, MBA *

Omar Arouna is a former Ambassador of Benin to the USA

A cul-de-sac, also called, a dead end, is a passage with only one entrance or exit. In the game of chess, deadlock is a situation where the player whose turn it is to move has no legal movement.

Here, dead end is in reference to the context in which further resolution or action seems very difficult or unlikely to all. It is therefore clear on this day when we are celebrating sixty years of independence that we are at an impasse in Benin, in a cul-de-sac, socio-economic and political from all points of view.

Socio-economically, even if we will now be referred to as “lower middle-income countries” (after the tampering of economic “rebasing”) or “asphalting”, make no mistake about it; poverty remains rampant.

Frantic and recurring borrowing, all-out impositions and taxes, massive layoffs, frequent business closings, unemployed by the thousands, a tangential education system, the closure of borders with the wealthy neighbor to the east, the drastic decline in port traffic, purges within the army, the drop in the global cost of cotton, diplomatic isolation, embarrassment, denial of justice, flight of capital, the inability to provide social support for COVID-19, What else do I know … are warning signs of a dead end socio-economic situation, a cul-de-sac.

At the political level, the observation is clear. The country cannot move forward or make progress since the exclusion that led to the electoral crisis of May 2019 where several children of Benin have died, the population is paralyzed.

Crisogenic laws, a non-consensual constitution, an illegitimate national assembly, Non-elected municipal officials, institutions without credibility, exiles, resistance fighters, opponents,  fake opponents, supporters, fake supporters, candidates without godfathers, godfathers without candidates; an elusive presidential election … so many obvious signs of a muddy political context where no progress can be made due to fundamental disagreement. In short, it is a dead end, a cul-de-sac.

It’s hard not to yell “is there an adult in the house Benin, to talk to the head of state?” ; make him understand the alarming socio-economic context and above all explain to him that this provincial notion of development, which would exist absent of a democratic order or at odds with freedoms and human rights, is ludicrous and without merit. “Is there an adult in the house Benin to remind the Head of State” if the dream is still to be “carried in triumph at the end of his first and only term therefore  as in a dead end, a cul-de-sac,  he will have to turn around because the way out is the same as the way in… the restoration of democratic and republican order.

* Ambassador Arouna, MBA is Managing Partner at USAFCG, Founder and CEO of Global Specialty (GSL), Former Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Benin to the United States of America, and Representative of Benin to Mexico and to the Organization of the American states. He is a recognized expert on private sector investment in Africa, government relations, and US-Africa relations.

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Covid-19 has weakened the rule of law in Zimbabwe, according to a local elections monitoring organization
July 29, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Wallace Mawire

President Mnangagwa has  announced a raft of new measures aimed at protecting the citizens and assisting the government in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
President Mnangagwa has announced a raft of new measures aimed at protecting the citizens and assisting the government in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Election Resource Centre (ERC) in Zimbabwe has express concern on increased authoritarianism in Zimbabwe amidst the ravaging Covid-19 pandemic.

It is reported that the Election Resource Centre (ERC) has taken note of the national address by President E.D. Mnangagwa on 21 July 2020 in which the President announced a raft of new measures aimed at protecting the citizens and assisting the government in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

 The organization says that since March 2020 when the first Statutory Instrument was published in the gazette, the government has taken extraordinary steps to tackle COVID-19 in the country.

 “As the number of cases in Zimbabwe increase, the lockdown measures have tightened. It is now vital that checks and balances on the executive power making these lockdown regulations increase with the same verbosity,” ERC said. 

  They add that the worrying signs is that the pandemic has increased authoritarianism, weakened rule of law and diminished the parliamentary role to provide constitutional oversight.

 “The series of Statutory Instruments and pseudo-executive orders has made the Executive the ultimate authority in the country, wiping out what remained of Parliamentary control in Zimbabwe,” ERC said.

 It added that the absence of effective checks being exercised by Parliament on the implementation of SI’s and executive powers, has become a major threat to the principles of accountability, democracy and the separation of powers in Zimbabwe.  “The Executive finds itself in the precarious position of having taken over the core legislative function reserved for Parliament which undermines the constitutional authority of the Executive,” ERC added.

 It says that Parliament is one of the key state institutions in a democratic system of governance and has a critical role to play in promoting democracy and good governance. “Parliament must ensure that constitutionalism and rule of law prevails” they add. 

 It is reported that the role of Parliament is to legislate, to scrutinize the policies and activities of the Executive and to hold the Executive to account for its actions.  “Therefore, the ERC calls on Parliament to exercise oversight and ensure a return to constitutionalism in the handling of the COVID-19 lockdown measures,” ERC added.

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Adesina Completely Exonerated by High Level Independent Review Panel led by former Irish President Mary Robinson
July 28, 2020 | 0 Comments
Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina
Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina
In January 2020, sixteen allegations of ethical misconduct were levelled against Adesina by a group of whistleblowers.

A much awaited report by an Independent Review Panel has completely exonerated the President of the African Development Bank, Akinwumi Adesina of any ethical wrongdoings.

The Independent Review Panel was set up by the Bureau of Governors of the Bank, following a complaint by the United States, to review the process by which two previous organs of the Bank – the Ethics Committee of the Board, and the Bureau of the Board of Governors – had previously exonerated Adesina.

The distinguished three-member Independent Review Panel include Mary Robinson, who is a former President of the Republic of Ireland, a former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the Chairperson of the Elders, a global body of wise persons concerned with the world’s wellbeing; the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Gambia, Mr. Hassan B. Jallow; and Mr. Leonard F. McCarthy, a former Director of Public Prosecutions, a former Director for the Office of Serious Economic Offences, and a former Head of the Directorate of Special Operations of South Africa. He also served as the Vice President of Integrity for the World Bank for nine years.

In January 2020, sixteen allegations of ethical misconduct were levelled against Adesina by a group of whistleblowers. The allegations which were reviewed by the Bank’s Ethics Committee of the Board of Directors in March, were described as “frivolous and without merit.” The findings and rulings of the Ethics Committee were subsequently upheld by the apex Bureau of the Board of Governors in May, which cleared Adesina of any wrongdoing.

The report of the Independent Review Panel states that it “concurs with the (Ethics) Committee in its findings in respect of all the allegations against the President and finds that they were properly considered and dismissed by the Committee.”

The Panel once again vindicates Adesina and states, “It has considered the President’s submissions on their face and finds them consistent with his innocence and to be persuasive.”

The conclusions of the Independent Review Panel  are decisive and now clear the way for Governors of the Bank to re-elect Adesina to a second five-year term as President during annual meetings of the Bank scheduled for August 25-27.

Adesina is a highly decorated and distinguished technocrat and globally-respected development economist. He was awarded the prestigious World Food Prize in 2017 and the Sunhak Peace Prize in 2019 for global leadership in agriculture and for good governance.

Since taking over the reigns of the Bank in 2015, he has introduced several innovative reforms including a High5 development strategy; a restructuring of the bank including setting up offices in several African nations to get closer to its clients; an Africa Investment Forum that has attracted $79 billion in investment interests into projects in Africa between 2018 and 2019. He successfully led a historic General Capital Increase campaign that culminated in the Bank’s shareholders raising the institution’s capital from $93 billion to $208 billion, in October 2019.

In June and July respectively, global credit ratings agencies Standard and Poors and Fitch Ratings both affirmed the ‘AAA’ rating of the Bank, with stable outlook.

Under Adesina’s leadership the African Development Bank launched a $10 billion crisis response facility to boost African nations’ ability to tackle the health and economic effects of COVID-19.

Several Governors of the Bank speaking off the record, say it is now time to put recent events in the past; provide the Bank’s President with full support; and bolster the Bank’s efforts on Africa’s critical development issues.
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After COVID-19, will Africa Catch Up, Stand Still or Fall Further Behind?
July 27, 2020 | 0 Comments
With this crisis comes an economic disruption of unprecedented proportion

By Professor Banji Oyelaran-Oyeyinka*

Professor Banji Oyelaran-Oyeyinka, is the Senior Special Adviser on Industrialization to the President, AfDB
Professor Banji Oyelaran-Oyeyinka, is the Senior Special Adviser on Industrialization to the President, AfDB

At one time or another, nations and individuals confront crisis points – moments of existential challenge that also open up new possibilities. African countries, at just such a crisis point as a result of the novel coronavirus, face three possible outcomes post-pandemic: play catch-up, stand still or fall even further behind the industrialized world [1].

With this crisis comes an economic disruption of unprecedented proportion. To avoid falling further behind, Africans must narrow the scientific and technology gap and leverage our comparative advantages. It is time for Africa to adopt radical technological and policy innovations. The global economy is increasingly driven by science-based and patent-intensive systems. Through investments in molecular technology, AI and other technologies the 4th industrial Revolution is ushering in, they can overcome existing barriers to entry. 

Catching Up

India offers an example of how to catch up. There, two key developments in the sixties and seventies sharply altered the country’s trajectory.

In 1965, following past famines crises, India imported 250 tons of high-yielding Mexican dwarf wheat seed varieties for wide-scale testing on farms. Early positive results led to the importation of a further 18,000 tons. Along with the use of irrigation and other innovations adopted by farmers, Indian agriculture was transformed. 

Within five years, India produced enough grains to support its population and, even following a drought in 1979, had no need to import grain. Overall, the country’s wheat and rice production tripled between 1961 and 1980. Radical policy response to famine-induced crisis birthed the Green Revolution.

India’s pharmaceutical sector also experienced a crisis-inflection point in 1972, when the government passed the Patents Act, which enabled domestic firms to replicate drugs that had been patented by multinational corporations. Local companies have since dominated the global market through reverse-engineering leading to generic medicines that are far more affordable than patented ones. Radical policy response to crisis-induced shortage of medicines transformed Indian Pharma.

Falling Behind

Africa processes a very small proportion of its agricultural produce. We continue to export raw commodities like cocoa, timber and cotton that others process and re-sell to Africa at a much higher valuation. Our continent also has sufficient sunlight, wind and hydropower, technologies that can power Africa sustainably, and other regions besides.

Critically, Africa also has a median age of 19, far younger than that of any continent, a potential demographic dividend of young innovation-driven workers and a relatively small proportion of elderly workers. This human capital will foster Africa’s forging ahead.  

If we fail to harness new technologies and leverage our strengths to create abundant high paying manufacturing and service jobs to compete within global supply chains, then we risk falling even farther behind on socioeconomic terms.

Forging ahead

To forge ahead, Africa will first have to return swiftly to economic growth. Beyond that, diversifying our economies will be critical, particularly for those countries that are dependent on one or two mineral resources or commodities. Above all, African companies must deepen capacities for competitive advantage to master new technologies in emerging sectors.  

African innovators need a robust innovation framework and a better enabling environment to master the so-called industrial biology embedded in the 4th Industrial Revolution. For instance, firms in Morocco, Senegal, Nigeria and some other African countries have developed COVID-19 test kits but face a difficult path to commercialization. 

China’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic is once more illustrative of a dynamic industrial policy. It is targeting ambitious increases in domestic firms’ share of the global medical supplies market. The government has provided cheap land for factories subsidized loans, helps them to secure a supply chain of raw materials, and to stimulate domestic demand by incentivizing hospitals and companies to use their products.

And there are powerful examples right here on the continent. South Africa successfully financed the production of The National Ventilator Project to address COVID-19, developing prototypes, securing component supply chains, and a manufacturing facility. The project owes its success in part to strong government support and broad coordination among economic and technological agencies. As with South Africa, the rest of the continent would benefit from strong innovation systems that are part of national budgeting and planning frameworks. 

African businesses have a critical role to play, but so do African leaders, who must strike a delicate balance between state intervention and open markets. African governments are best placed to identify market failures and opportunities, and devise policies and regulations that benefit Africa’s private sector and its people.

*Professor Banji Oyelaran-Oyeyinka, is the Senior Special Adviser on Industrialization to the President, AfDB, he is a fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Engineering and Professorial Fellow, United Nations University.

1] The theory was mooted in a 1986 paper by Moses Abramovitz who posited that countries with lagging productivity could grow rapidly and catch up with the leading economies by realizing their potential.

SOURCE African Development Bank Group (AfDB)

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Cameroon: Chief Nkemayang Paul, Publisher of The Star Newspaper interred
July 26, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Boris Esono Nwenfor

Chief Foanyi Nkemayang Paul was a household name in Cameroon Journalism

One of the leading campaigners for media rights in Cameroon and the Publisher of the Star Newspaper Chief Foanyi Nkemayang Paul, who died June 18, 2020, had been laid to rest. The burial of the journalist, traditional ruler took place July 25, 2020, in Limbe, South West Region of Cameroon.

The late traditional ruler died of a reported diabetic coma at the Presbyterian Health Centre in Down Beach Limbe. According to the wife, the late Chief Nkemayang Paul was rushed to the hospital and his vital signs were checked, revealing that his blood sugar level was above 500 which made him to go into a diabetic coma before his demise.

Scores of people, friends, family members, fellow journalists, and government officials (Minister Paul Tasong, Senator Mbella Moki Charles, Andrew Motanga Monjimba, Limbe City Mayor) turned out at the Catholic Church in Bonadikombo, Mile 4, Limbe to pay their last respect.

Chief Nkemayang Paul took his final breathe on June 18, 2020
Chief Nkemayang Paul took his final breathe on June 18, 2020

He founded The Star Newspaper in January 1991. The Knight of the National Order of Valour was pioneer President of the Commonwealth Journalists Association, CJA Cameroon cumulatively serving as Vice President of CJA Africa.

Chief Nkemayang Paul was a founding member of the Cameroon Association of English-Speaking Journalists, and a founding member of the National Communication Council. He was also technical adviser to the Cameroon Anglophone Newspaper Publishers Association, and a traditional ruler in his native Lebialem. He was crowned Osari Maribu in Manyu among other traditional titles he received.

Speaking to the mourners His Lordship Bishop Andrew Nkea of the Bamenda Metropolitan Archdiocese said, “We have lost a promoter of social justice, and an ambassador of truth.” “Chief Nkemayang was ready to give his all for his people and defend human rights.”

The Bishop went on to call on all to stay awake and for all to be ready as they do not know what tomorrow lies ahead. To him, everyone should be dress for action as one can just drop dead at any moment. “Always stand for truth and do not manipulate information for your advantage. Always have the duty for you to defend those who are being oppressed,” Bishop Andrew Nkea told journalists.

Chief Nkemayang dedicated his over three-decade journalism career fighting for a better society, improved working conditions for journalists and the abolition of obnoxious and archaic media laws. As a journalist he had no fewer than eight detentions without trial. He was never prosecuted, but was always persecuted. Chief Nkemayang’s courage and readiness to continue doing his work in truth won him several distinctions at home and abroad.

Chief Nkemayang Paul was posthumously decorated Commander of the National Order of Valour
Chief Nkemayang Paul was posthumously decorated Commander of the National Order of Valour

It was his advocacy of a free press and journalists’ rights for which Chief Foanyi will probably be most remembered. He was detained several times by the authorities but never prosecuted. He was prominent most recently in the campaign for justice for fellow Cameroonian journalist Samuel Wazizi, who died in suspicious circumstances while being detained by the military.

“A good journalist must be somebody who is courageous, one who speaks the truth without blinking, and one who writes without blemish,” Chief Foanyi Nkemayang Paul once said.

Samuel Wazizi had been accused of speaking critically on air about the authorities and their handling of the crisis in Cameroon’s English-speaking regions, where clashes between soldiers and separatists calling for independence or more autonomy have left many dead.  Many more thousands of people have been displaced.

In white, Wife and children of the late Chief Nkemayang Paul
In white, Wife and children of the late Chief Nkemayang Paul

The late Chief Nkemayang Paul was posthumously decorated Commander of the National Order of Valour, something the chief had been seeking before his demise. “… Today I feel like he is a happy man and I feel that what he wanted 9Commader of the National Order of Valour) the state has recognized him even at his dead,” Solomon Agborem, Editor of the Star Newspaper told PAV.

“… We are going to miss him but I can assure the Cameroonian people that we will continue dedicating service and truth as our motto of The Star Newspaper. The paper lives on, and they should expect to read from us as the bigger stories are right ahead.”     

Journalists from across paid their last respect to Chief Nkemayang Paul
Journalists from across paid their last respect to Chief Nkemayang Paul

“He was someone who not only fought for the rights of journalists but fought against all forms of gross human rights violations. It is a big loss not only to the media houses but for everyone in the North West and South West Regions. We hope the young journalists will follow in the chief’s footstep and leave a legacy for posterity,” Barrister Agbor Nkongho Felix said.

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Sierra Leone : President Bio launches sexual offences Court in Sierra Leone
July 24, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Ishmael Sallieu Koroma

Sierra Leone’s President Julius Maada Bio

Sierra Leone’s President Julius Maada Bio has launched the first ever sexual offences Model Court to fight sexual and Gender based violence  (SGBV) in the country at the Law Court Building in Freetown.

The launch of the special sexual offences court by the government of Sierra Leone,  is to fight the increasing number of SGBV  cases in the country despite the President’s declaration of a state of emergency  in February 2019.

According to Rainbow Initiative  , one of the leading institutions providing services to victims of sexual assault and rape in the country it said in 2019, they recorded 3,701 sexual assault cases with 598 pregnancies, 4 HIV positives , and 255 successful prosecution adding that  between January and May 2020, they   recorded a total of 1,272 sexual assault in  five districts with a total of 217 pregnancies and 932 STI that can be directly related to sexual assault.

In his statement President Bio said , this year is a year of deliverables and that today’s launch of the sexual offences Model court is an indicator of his government’s deliverables to the people of Sierra Leone.

“We deliver yesterday and today we are about to start a journey with female, and girls in Sierra Leone . This is truly going to be  a long and arduous journey, but it is one that we should embark on together .With the determination  that we are going to free the girls , the children who constitute mothers , 60% of our population . so, I want to start my remarks by saluting the great courage of sexual and gender-based violence.,’’ President Bio said.

President Bio assured women and girls that the country, and friends of the country that as a government they will continue to show care and stand by them to get justice whilst thanking the first lady for her commitment in the fight against violence on women in the country.

In 2018 , First lady of Sierra Leone , Fatima  Bio, launched the Hands Off our Girls Campaign for the first time in history in order to eliminate rape and culture of rape in the country. The Office of the First Lady as part of the Hands Off Our Girls initiative has mobilized all 16 districts of the country to promote and protect the rights of all girls against sexual violence and other harmful cultural practices.

In her statement during the launching of the court,   Fatima Jabbie Maada Bio said violence against women and girls in the country is a persistent problem that is affecting women and girls not to contribute to national development adding that as the country  walk this path today, “let us go home knowing that violence against women and girls is become common place in Sierra Leone with no regards to their pride , dignity on their future” .“I am honoured to be part of this historic moment in the fight against sexual and Gender Based Violence. As we gathered here this moment  , may I asked us to reflect on the cultural and traditional issues entrenched for the future we want for our women and girls in the society where they are confronted against violence and discrimination on a daily basis ,’’she said.

She added that the time to act is now stating that  in fact, it is well recorded that several of the perpetrators of rape victims  are close relatives  or intimate  partners who conceal of rape acceptable in our society thus saying  Such practices need to be changed.

“ In December 2018 , other African first ladies and the public join me in the streets of Freetown on a peaceful protest to express their frustrations over rape of our women and girls in the country . A situation that is undermining social change and developmnmnt in the country,’’ First lady Fatima explained.

UN women Rep, Dr. Mary Okumu said she was happy with the strides the Bio led administration is doing in the fight against and Sexual Gender based Violence adding that Sexual and all forms of violence against women and girls remained and  outstanding crime and  an obstacle to achieving  true independent of women and girls . 

“These are the important indicators of the political commitment of the government of the republic of Sierra Leone in creating access to justice and safe guarding the rights of women and girls in particular the survivors of sexual and gender-based violence . Is a big , big political commitment,’’ she said.

Chief Justice of Sierra Leone , Justice Babatunde Edwards, said the launched of the sexual offences is a milestone and history in the annals of the development of the judiciary in the country  stating that the judiciary will ensure the dispensation of justice to women and girls.

“  Your 116 hotline and the SGBV one stop supports send referral centres  are most welcome . I will ask that support be given in the centre for video recording to capture witness statement that are admissible in  evidence  and that more doctors be enlisted  to work at or with the centres as only three doctors available for the whole of Freetown let alone the provinces ,’’he said, thus urging the government to employ more doctors to help them in their work.

He added that doctors are relevant to their work stating that their non-availability must invariably slow the adjudication of sexual offences in the court thus saying they  need a good number of doctors across the country.

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Gambia: No Justice for 2005 Massacre of Migrants
July 22, 2020 | 0 Comments

-International Inquiry Needed

Families of massacre victims, in Kumasi Ghana, April 2018. © 2018 Reed Brody/HRW

The families of more than 50 Ghanaian and other West African migrants killed in Gambia and Senegal 15 years ago have yet to learn the full truth and obtain justice concerning the massacre, 11 human rights organizations said today. 

Amid growing evidence that the murders were carried out by Gambian security force members acting on the orders of then-president Yahya Jammeh, the groups called for an international investigation of the massacre.

“A credible international investigation is needed if we’re ever going to get to the bottom of the 2005 massacre of West African migrants and create the conditions to bring those responsible to justice,” said Emeline Escafit, legal adviser at TRIAL International. “Until now, information has come out in dribs and drabs, year after year, from different sources.”

On July 22, 2005, Gambia security forces arrested the migrants, who were bound for Europe, after their boat landed in Gambia, on suspicion of involvement in a coup attempt. Over the next 10 days, almost all the migrants, including about 44 Ghanaians, 9 Nigerians2 Togolese, and nationals of Cote d’Ivoire and Senegal, plus 1 Gambian, were killed in Gambia or taken across the border into Senegal and shot and their bodies dumped in wells.

“I have been fighting for 15 years for truth and for justice for my companions who were killed,” said Martin Kyere from Ghana, who jumped into the forest from a moving truck carrying other detained migrants who were killed shortly thereafter. When Kyere returned to Ghana he began rallying the victims’ families. “African leaders say that migrants should be treated with dignity, but for us, honoring their memory means justice, not lies and cover-ups.”

While several Gambian soldiers have confessed to the murders and said they acted on Jammeh’s orders, the chain of events leading to the killings is unclear. There is still no information on exactly where migrants were buried in Senegal nor are all the victims’ identities known, including 8 of the 9 Nigerians. Gambia returned 6 bodies to Ghana in 2009, but the families question whether the bodies were those of the murdered migrants.

The groups said that because the crimes took place across two countries, Gambia and Senegal, involve victims from six countries, and a primary suspect, Jammeh, now resides in Equatorial Guinea, an international investigation would be best placed to uncover all the facts. They said that if neither Gambia nor another country like Ghana would conduct a transnational investigation, they should support an independent inquiry that could investigate in all the countries concerned.

Previous efforts to investigate the massacre have repeatedly been stymied or flawed, the groups said. Following initial campaigning by Kyere and Ghanaian families and rights groups, Ghana attempted to investigate the killings in 2005 and 2006, but was blocked by the then-Jammeh government.

In 2008, the United Nations and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) formed a joint investigative team, which produced a report in April 2009. The UN wrote that the report concluded that the Gambian government was not “directly or indirectly complicit” in the deaths and disappearances, blaming it on “rogue” elements in Gambia’s security services “acting on their own.” The joint report has never been made public, however, despite repeated requests by the victims and by five UN human rights monitors. The Gambian and Ghanaian governments have said that they do not have copies.

2018 report by Human Rights Watch and TRIAL International, based on interviews with 30 former Jammeh-era officials – including 11 directly involved in the incident – cast serious doubt on the UN/ECOWAS conclusion, however. Human Rights Watch and TRIAL International found that the migrants were detained by Jammeh’s closest associates in the army, the navy, and the police, and then summarily executed by the so-called “Junglers,” a unit of Gambian soldiers operating under Jammeh’s orders. The Gambian government also destroyed key evidence before the UN/ECOWAS team arrived.

In July 2019, three former Junglers testified publicly before the Gambia Truth, Reconciliation, and Reparations Commission (TRRC) that they and 12 other Junglers had carried out the killings on Jammeh’s orders. One of the officers, Omar Jallow, recalled that the operation’s leader told the men that “the order from … Jammeh is that they are all to be executed.”

The groups said that even though the UN and ECOWAS had delayed the search for justice for 10 years by wrongly clearing Jammeh in 2009, the fall of Jammeh combined with the new revelations provide the opportunity to move forward.

“The UN and ECOWAS can make a real contribution now by releasing their report and working with Gambia, Ghana, and Senegal to uncover exactly how this crime was committed so that the victims can have justice at long last,“ said Reed Brody, senior counsel at Human Rights Watch and an author of the 2018 report. “With Jammeh out of power, getting to the truth is just a matter of political will.”

In a 2009 Memorandum of Understanding between Ghana and Gambia following the UN/ECOWAS report, the two countries “pledged to pursue through all available means the arrests and prosecution of all those involved in the deaths and disappearances of the Ghanaians and other ECOWAS nationals.” Now that several people have testified as to their role and that of others, political will is needed for arrests and prosecutions, the groups said.

Families of the Ghanaian victims have called for Ghana to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the killings under its laws against enforced disappearances. The Ghanaian government announced on May 27, 2018 that it had “tasked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Attorney-General’s Department to study [the matter] and explore the full extent of its legal and diplomatic implications and also advise the government on the way forward.” The Gambian government pledged to cooperate with any investigation by Ghana. However, no concrete actions have been taken by the affected countries.

“In 2005, about 44 Ghanaians were cruelly murdered in a foreign country,” said William Nyarko, executive director of the Africa Center for International Law and Accountability (ACILA), who coordinates the “Jammeh2Justice” campaign in Ghana. “We now know who some of the direct perpetrators of these killings were and that the evidence points to Jammeh as having given the orders. The time has come for the government of Ghana to act.”

In December 2019, Ghana’s president, Nana Akufo-Addo, responding to growing impatience from victims, members of the Ghanaian Parliament, and West African civil society, told the media that he knew in 2005 when he first sought to investigate the case as foreign minister that Jammeh’s government was “complicit” in the killings. He added that following the confessions by the Junglers, the Gambian government should “instigate the trials” of the people who had been named. He said that he had spoken to President Adama Barrow of Gambia, who he said answered “things are still insecure, please give me time.”

The Gambian government has stated that it is awaiting the recommendations of the Truth Commission, expected in 2021, before deciding on which Jammeh-era crimes to prosecute. The commission has announced that, in addition to the Junglers who testified in July 2019, it will hold hearings on the migrants case this year. The groups urged the commission to hear the testimony of three Ghanaians who survived the massacre as well as former Gambian officials involved in the incident and the subsequent coverup, and the UN and ECOWAS experts who worked on the report.

The groups making the call were ACILAAfrican Network against Extrajudicial Killings and Enforced Disappearances (ANEKED), Amnesty International GhanaCommonwealth Human Rights InitiativeGambia Center for Victims of Human Rights ViolationsGhana Centre for Democratic DevelopmentHuman Rights Advocacy CentreHuman Rights WatchMedia Foundation for West AfricaPOS Foundation, and TRIAL International.

*Human Rights Watch

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Mozambican police involved in illegal mining – Inspector
July 22, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Jorge Joaquim

Members of the police In the northern Mozambican province of Nampula are involved in illegal artisanal mining and obstructing the work of government inspectors, according to the provincial chief inspector of mineral resources and energy, Adelto Cumbana.

There were cases where an inspection team had identified police officers protecting artisanal miners, he said.

“The police ought to protect us in our inspection work”, said Cumbana, “but in some cases, we are surprised with police agents controlling and protecting the illegal mining. They allow people to undertake this activity, affecting the purposes of inspection”.

Accounting for the police behaviour, Cumbana said the unrestrained race to hunt for mineral resources was causing some people to lose their focus, adding that when illegal mining was reported, information could leak out in the process of obtaining police protection for the inspectors.

He recalled occasions when inspection teams intended to visit sites where illegal mining was going on, and arranged protection with the police. But information on the impending visit by the inspectors was leaked to the miners by somebody in the police, Cumbana accused.

Perhaps even worse was that inspectors have been denied access to the VIP lounge in Nampula International Airport. Cumbana believed the lounge is used by smugglers, who are using it to take precious stones out of the country.

But the airport security guards do not allow the mineral resource inspectors to search the baggage of people in the VIP lounge.

The illegal mining is carried out under dangerous conditions: miners are sometimes digging in shafts that are 25 metres deep and are always at risk of collapse. The mining also scars the landscape and poisons Nampula rivers.

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