Director-General, World Trade Organisation (WTO), Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, yesterday arrived in Nigeria on a 4-day official visit aimed at enhancing trade and improving the Nigerian economy.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Okonjo-Iweala, who assumed duty on March 1, 2021, as the new Director-General of the WTO, is also in Nigeria to express appreciation to President Muhammadu Buhari and hold talks on how to stimulate economic activities.
Speaking to journalists on arrival, Okonjo-Iweala, said the objective of her visit was to see how the WTO could better assist Nigeria and her entrepreneurs on improving the economy.
On Nigeria’s share of trade in Africa, she expressed optimism that Nigeria could use the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to boost trade and investment.
“And to do that we have to improve our investments and add value to some of our products, because the AfCFTA is a unique opportunity for us to be able to engage commercially with other African nations to boost export.
“When you boost export, you create more jobs. We are also going to talk about the digital economy and how young people are accessing the internet for e-commerce, those are some of the issues and more activities we can create to support that,” she said.
Dr Nasir Sani-Gwarzo, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, noted that it was a unique moment and opportunity to thank the world for supporting us to achieve this feat of having a Nigerian as the head of the WTO.
“We have received a lot of support from many countries, we appreciate them.”
Her visit is specifically to start from home to say thank you to the President and Nigerians who supported her from home and in the Diaspora.
“Tremendous support has gone into the process and we are grateful that she emerged, after a very thoroughly contested process as the D-G. It is a proud moment for Nigeria, for herself and also for women in the world,” Sani-Gwarzo said.
According to the programme of the visit, on Monday, March 15, she will be meeting with the President and the Chief of Staff to the President at the presidential villa, and later hold a meeting with the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo, and Minister of state, Mariam Katagum at the ministry.
On Tuesday, March 16, Okonjo-Iweala will be meeting with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Godwin Emefiele, after which she will meet the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, among others.
She will proceed to a meeting with the Captains of Industry, which will be followed by a Press Conference at Transcorp Hilton, Abuja.
Furthermore, on Wednesday, March 17, the WTO D-G will hold a meeting with the Women Entrepreneurs, SheTrade, and operators of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), followed by a press conference with some ministers.
A dinner and reception in honour of Okonjo-Iweala will hold at Transcorp Hilton, Abuja, to round-off the visit. (NAN)
2023 General Election: INEC Promises to Apply Electoral Laws Without Fear, Favour
INEC has said that it will apply the laws, especially the Electoral Act, of 2022 without fear.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said that it will apply the laws, especially the Electoral Act, of 2022 without fear or favour to ensure free, fair, valid, thorough, and transparent elections in 2023.
The electoral body affirmed that it was important for all stakeholders, especially the political parties to note the crucial features introduced by the new Electoral Act 2022 and the likely implications of those changes on the approaching elections.
INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, revealed this at the 4th Abubakar Momoh Memorial Lecture with the theme, “Electoral Act 2022: Imperatives for Political Parties and the 2023 General Election,” in Abuja on Wednesday.
The helmsman of the Commission identified some of the vital changes put forward by the new electoral law to include: The conduct of early party primaries, technological differences in the electoral process, the commission’s power to evaluate the decision of returning officers, and over-voting based on the number of accredited voters.
Represented by the chairman of the Board of Electoral Institute, Abdullahi Zuru, the INEC chairman confirmed that the umpire has no chosen party or candidate and it shall only guarantee that valid votes count and the winners are determined solely by the voters.
“The usage of electronic devices such as Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS), INEC Voter Enrolment Device (IVED), INEC Results Viewing Portal (IRev), and other technological devices, are now lawfully allowed in the accreditation procedure for voters, collation of results and in the general conduct of elections.
“Please be guaranteed that these innovations are aimed at deepening the Electoral practice in our country and their optimal achievement in the just completed gubernatorial election in Ekiti and Osun States is an expressive testimony to their electoral significance. We shall only do more to strengthen their deployment in our election,” he said.
He expressed hope that the political parties would be devoted to assuring that the 2022 general election is “devoid of intentional violations to the 2022 Electoral Act, basically by enabling the electoral process to run smoothly thereby, cultivating a rich democratic culture and satisfactory election outcome.”
Yemi Akinseye-George, the guest speaker, put forward that politics is not anarchy and a game of disorderliness.
According to him, “Politics is no anarchy; it is not disorderliness; it must be punctuated by justice, fairness and orderliness.”
The professor of law also emphasized that politics must not be seen as a dirty game, indicating optimism that the 2023 general election would hold against all odds and referring to the passion shown for voter registration as an indicator of the fact.
While claiming that political parties must obey their own rules, he said: “the Supreme Court has agreed on numerous cases that political parties must heed their constitutions as the court will not permit them to act arbitrarily or as they like.”
Akinseye-George clarified that the lecture concentrated on the political parties because they constitute the major pillar on which democracy is established.
“Indeed, the achievement or otherwise of our democracy is related to the degree of enlightenment and ability of the political parties to accept the rule of law in their operations,” the scholar said.
He emphasized the constitutional requirements associated with political parties; selection of candidates and political party’s finances as empowered in the Electoral Act, 2022 as well as appointed leading judicial pronouncements on political parties and elections.
Also speaking, the convener of Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room, a body of over 70 Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), Ene Obi, petitioned INEC to reopen the halted Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise at least for one month.
Obi noted that such a window would encourage those willing to participate in the exercise, but could not due to technical issues and other glitches.
She said: “The civil society organizations are endorsing and petitioning INEC to open registration because a lot more want to register and we don’t want to shut down their enthusiasm. So, they must reopen it even if it is for one month.
“More than 11 million of those who conducted their forms online were unable to complete their registration. That means you are losing 11 million electorates. That’s a lot, and INEC should address it. We are still soliciting that more of them can still register. They should open it even if it is a window of one month.”
Earlier, in his welcome statements, the director general of the Electoral Institute, Sa’ad Idris, said the theme for this year’s lecture was carefully selected considering the condition and requirements for executing the 2023 general elections under a new law (Electoral Act, 2022).
Idris said the speech aims to look at the significance of the new electoral law for not only the Commission but also, in particular, the 18 political parties that will be fielding nominees for the numerous elective offices in the next year’s polls.
He said, “This topic is also very apt, to train the Executives (National Chairman and Secretaries) of the 18 Political Parties on the several Sections of the new Act and the crucial implications ingrain in many of its Sections.
“The tragic prevalence of many legal cases occurring even from the pre-election period up till after the conduct of the elections, indeed have at many times gave rise to a lot of challenges to the electoral process and our country’s political advancement at large.”
FG Has Paid Fuel marketers N74B in Seven Months — NMDPRA
The Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) on Wednesday disclosed that the federal government has paid oil marketers N74 billion as bridging claims in last seven months..
The agency said it was reacting to claims by the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association Nigeria (IPMAN), Suleja branch, that continuing fuel scarcity was caused by non-payment of bridging claims.
The agency said it paid N71.2 billion bridging claims and another N2.7 billion freight differentials to the marketers as of June 6.
In May, IPMAN said the government owed its members half a trillion naira being the cost of transporting petrol across the country.
However, at the time NMDPRA had claimed to have paid oil marketers bridging claims of about N59 billion in five months.
In recent months, fuel scarcity has worsened in Abuja and several other cities across the country.
Marketers had listed the high cost of buying petrol at the depots and the high cost of diesel to truck them as the major factors responsible for the recent queue.
On Monday, the government announced that the nation’s capital petroleum deliveries were up nearly 100 per cent after the government offered additional N10 freight reimbursements to marketers.
The statement by the NMDPRA reads: “The attention of the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) has been drawn to allegations made by the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association Nigeria (IPMAN Suleja Branch) on product scarcity as a result of non-payment of bridging claims.
“The authority chief executive of the NMDPRA, at a meeting held on 17th May 2022 with IPMAN bridging payment was discussed extensively and the processes were explained and agreed upon by IPMAN.
“He assured IPMAN of NMDPRA’s willingness to continue making payments of outstanding claims to promote seamless operations.
“Pursuant to the meeting, the NMDPRA went ahead to make an additional payment of N10 billion in June and sought for an upward review of the freight rate which was approved by President Muhammadu Buhari and is currently being implemented.
“The Authority wishes to reiterate that bridging payment is an ongoing process which is carried out after due verification exercise by the Authority and Marketers.
“So far, the Authority paid N71,233,712,991 bridging claims and another N2,736,179,950.84 freight differentials to the Marketers as at 6th June 2022.
“A breakdown of payment made to Marketers is as follows: Major Marketers (MOMAN) received N9,958,777,487.24, IPMAN members were paid N42,301,923,616.96, NNPC Retails N6,661,459,118.61 while DAPPMAN members were paid N12,303,195,651.57, these translate to a total of N73,969,892,941.84.
“It is disheartening that despite these payments and increase of N10 bridging cost, which was approved by President Muhammadu Buhari two weeks ago, IPMAN could turn around to accuse the NMDPRA of insensitivity,” the statement said.
It said NMDPRA remains committed to ensuring a safe, efficient, and effective conduct of midstream and downstream petroleum operations.
Nigeria-Cameroon Link Bridge up for Inauguration this June – Fashola
The Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola (SAN), has stated that the Nigeria-Cameroon link bridge will be inaugurated this June.
Speaking at the 16th inter-ministerial meeting of the group in Abuja, Fashola who doubles as the Chairman of the five regional ministerial steering committees, explained that the largely funded bridge by the African Development Bank (AfDB) is completed and in hopes that ECOWAS would deliver support for the inauguration.
“We have completed a new link bridge that links Nigeria to Cameroon, and it was funded largely by the AfDB and we are hoping that the ECOWAS commission will give us the necessary support to ensure the formal opening of that bridge sometime in the month of June,” he said.
The commitment to the piece of infrastructure, according to the minister, is to transform the road network into a first-class six-lane motorway, emphasizing that while speed is important, quality must not be lost.
“We’re trying to deliver a better life for five countries and over 40 million people who use that corridor, almost on a daily basis.
“The future is bright, this is an important investment for the people of Africa to achieve the objective of the Africa Union (AU) to create a trans-African highway,” he stated.
Lydie Ehouman, AfDB’s Chief Transport Economist and Project Task Manager, also spoke at the event, stating that the bank had been able to acquire an additional €3.5 million for the road project.
Investors King gathered that the total sum available for the initial financing of the project’s strategic research has increased to $41 million.
“The agreement for the on-lending of this additional grant by the bank to ECOWAS is currently being finalised. Thus, in addition to its substantial contribution of $25 million, the bank will have mobilised €12.63 million in the form of a grant from the European Union.
“This brings the total amount available for the financing of this highly strategic study to the equivalent of about US$ 41 million,” she stated.
She did, however, point out that specialists in member countries’ claims of delays were untrue, because the arrangement was that labor should persist while any differences were aired and rectified.
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