West African leaders are still pursuing mediation to ensure a peaceful transfer of power in Gambia where President Yahya Jammeh refused to accept defeat in an election last month, Liberia's President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said on Saturday.
Sirleaf told reporters after a meeting among regional leaders in Ghana's capital Accra that regional bloc ECOWAS did not yet intend to deploy its standby military force in Gambia.
"We are committed to a peaceful mediation and a peaceful transfer of power in the Gambia.. we will continue to pursue that for now," said Sirleaf who chairs the 15-member body said.
Asked if the regional group would deploy a standby force soon, she said "no", adding that ECOWAS was closely monitoring proceedings in Gambia's Supreme Court where Jammeh is challenging the poll result.
Jammeh, a former coup leader who has ruled Gambia for 22 years, initially accepted his defeat by opposition figure Adama Barrow in the Dec. 1 election. But a week later reversed his position, vowing to hang onto power despite a wave of regional and international condemnation.
Mohamed Ibn Chambas, the United Nations' top official in West Africa, also attended the special closed-door meeting, which was the first official engagement by Ghana's new President Nana Akufo-Addo who was sworn in on Saturday.
A Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), Centre for Values in Leadership, said cross border trade promoted by ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS) was vital to promoting trade and economic integration in the region.
Senior Vice President of the organization, Mr Rasheed Adegbenro, said this in Abuja on Monday during a policy dialogue on combating corruption along Nigeria-ECOWAS trade routes.
In a paper entitled “Inhibitions to Domestic and Cross Border Trade and Remedial Measures by all Stakeholders’’, he said trade activities rewarded producers of goods and services through revenue, and government, in tariff revenue.
Adegbenro said that apart from the benefits, disruption and challenges in economics could frustrate or cause dislocation in the economy where appropriate measures were not in place to mitigate abuses along a trader corridor.
“No sacrifice is too great to formalise the current informal trade very dominant in the region.
“This can be achieved by reducing administrative documentations with human intervention required in the processing of trade transactions,’’ he said.
Adegbenro said in order to improve cross border trade, trans-regional trademarks should be promoted to improve brand equity of manufactured products in the region and reduce product discrimination.
He said that Public-Private Partnership should be adopted to evolve a national trade bank as export development financial window.
He called for appropriate funding of National Approval Authority (NAC), to be promoted to facilitate frequent meetings of the authority.
Adegbenro said the application for ETLS should be done online to reduce human intervention in the approval process and associated bottleneck.
“Nigeria should give high priority to creation and linkage with the railway network in the region,’’ he said.
Mrs Omoyemisi Akinola, Trade Policy and Facilitation Unit, Deutscche Gesellschaft Fur International Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), called for application of Trade Route Incident Mapping System (TRIMS).
According to her, GIZ is a mechanism that will help to formulate evidence-based policies.
Akinola, in her paper on TRIMS, said that for traders and transporters, route mapping was an initiative that would help them to report delays, harassments and irregular payment while moving goods.
She said that TRIMS was co-funded by German Government and the European Union and implemented by Pro-Poor Growth and Promotion of Employment (SEDIN) programme, GIZ Nigeria and that it was a six-year project.
Akinola said that the objective was to tackle the issue of non-tariff barriers in Nigeria and support the country’s strive to improve its doing business and global competitiveness rankings.
She said that TRIMS would help to address multiple levies, delays, harassment and other illegal non-tariff barriers.
Akinola said that so far, more than 2,200 reports had been received as of March, 2017 from the pilot state, Ogun.
She said with TRIMS, more than 4,000 traders had been sensitised and educated on other relevant issues for traders, including HIV and AIDS.
She recommended the regular training of the officers, especially with regards to the scope and limits of the protocols and related matters.
Mr Chris Kaka, a management expert, said border official operated in total disregard of ECOWAS protocol of free movement of persons, goods and capital.
Kaka, who is with Chartered Institute of Financial and Investment Analysts Nigeria (CIFIAN) called for the sensitisation and awareness creation for traders on their rights and obligations in the conduct of their business.
He said that there was need for advocacy towards the review of ECOWAS court provision-private party breach of trade related grievance.
Kaka called for capacity building, anti-corruption reform, reduction of government agencies along trade routes and border posts.
He also called for the training and retraining of officials to inculcate and sustain strong ethical behaviour in the discharge of their duties as border agents of government. (NAN)
The ECOWAS court sitting in Abuja, has dismissed the application filed by the federal government asking that the suit filed by the Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) be quashed.
The suit by the IPOB leader is seeking his unconditional release and 800 million U.S dollars in damages.
The Federal Government in its application had asked the court to dismiss the case because it is a subject matter before the Federal High Court and the Appeal court and as such, it constitutes an abuse of court process.
Presiding judge, Justice Micah Wright-Williams, in his ruling, however dismissed the application for lacking in merit, because according to him, the ECOWAS court has the jurisdiction to hear cases of infringement of human rights.
PARIS, MAY 6, 2017: (DGW) President Adama Barrow has been urged to make the newest Africa's democracy in sub-Sahara Africa worthwhile after 22 years of despotic rule by exiled Yahya Jammeh.
Ambassador Robin Renee Sanders the former US Permanent Representative to ECOWAS reminded the new President of The Gambia that expectations are indeed high not only from the Gambia people but from ECOWAS leaders who put their reputations and resources on the line to install the new government in the tiny West African nation.
Among the West African leaders, she said, are Senegal's leader Macky Sall, Liberia's Johnson Sirleaf and Nigeria's Muhammadu Buhari who expects nothing short of positive results from the new leadership in the Gambia.
Lauding the regional intervention force put in place that ousted Jammeh from power, she said, the regional bloc did what the African Union has failed to do since its founding following the sit-tight syndrome by many African leaders.
She called attention to the need to institute good human rights and governance practices, address longtime concerns about the country's security agencies, reform the military, and ensure that those wrongly accused (especially political prisoners) who are behind bars are given due process or freed.
This, she said, is an all-important task for the new democracy to do. The American envoy remarked that over 63% of the Gambian population are 25 years old who are not familiar with any other leadership except Jammeh's reign of terror will be looking forward to opening a political process, dialogue, freedom of association and the press.
Among the task before the newest democracy in the subregion is the long-standing economic woes that have resulted in huge budget deficit up to the tune of $107 million and the resultant high youth unemployment.
Another area to be addressed to better the lots of the Gambians is to expand the country's narrow economic base - which is mostly focused on ''revenue from tourism, agriculture and remittances and also address social issues of education and health; provide for the large increase in rural to urban migration; and focus on infrastructure development.''
(AFP) - At least three people were killed and buried in rubble and two others fatally wounded onThursday when a building under construction collapsed in Benin, AFP has reported.
Residents of Dekagon, the economic hub of Cotonu where the incident reportedly took place said the collapse happened early in the morning as workers were pouring the concrete of the third floor of the four-story building.
"This is a building site and as you now see we are looking for people still in the rubble," Arlette Saizonou, a local mayor, told AFP.
"We already have three dead bodies out of the rubble and two wounded," she added.
Building collapses happen frequently in West Africa where poor workmanship and materials coupled with a lack of official oversight often result in accidents.
One of the most notorious collapses in the region happened in 2014, when a building owned by Nigerian pastor TB Joshua collapsed and killed more than one hundred people, most of them South Africans.
A Nigerian coroner found that the six-story guesthouse had more floors than the foundation could hold, but the pastor said a mysterious "hovering" aircraft seen over the building before the collapse was to blame for the accident.
PARIS, OCTOBER 7, 2016: The Army has again suffered heavy casualties as no fewer than twenty-two soldiers have been reportedly killed in an attack probably carried out by jihadists, on a camp in Niger, a security official told AFP on Friday.
“Some 30 to 40 heavily armed men speaking in Tuareg carried out the attack (on Thursday), killing 22 soldiers in a camp where Malian refugees are being sheltered,” the official said. The UN refugee agency confirmed the death toll.
“Some 30 to 40 heavily armed men speaking in Tuareg carried out the attack, killing 22 soldiers,” the official, who asked not to be named, told AFP.
He said the attack was “probably carried out by jihadists.”
Confirming the incident , a security official said assailants “headed directly to the camp’s security post and machine-gunned the soldiers who were having lunch,” the security official added.
They left two hours later after seizing three vehicles, including an ambulance, as well as weapons, food and clothing.
Gambians have been voting for members of their one-chamber parliament in the the first polls since Yahya Jammeh left power after more than 22 years, BBC has reported.
Under Mr Jammeh, the National Assembly was frequently ignored as the president enacted executive decrees without consultation.
Expectations are high that under the new president, Adama Barrow, parliament will play a key part in lawmaking.
Mr Barrow has pledged to carry out political, security and media reforms.
As part of his proposed reform, he is setting up a truth and reconciliation commission to investigate abuses committed under Mr Jammeh’s rule.
Reports say voter turnout has so far been relatively low.
“Jammeh was a determining factor which encouraged some people to vote and now that he is gone they are not really motivated,” Pierre Gomez from Banjul University told the BBC.
Some of the candidates were also not well known to voters, he added.
Mr Jammeh sparked a political and constitutional crisis by refusing to leave office following his defeat in the December 2016 presidential election.
He finally headed for exile on 21 January after neighbouring countries threatened to remove him by force.
The Gambia’s press is set to win unprecedented freedom when its new government overhauls the constitution of former leader Yahya Jammeh, its freshly appointed justice minister has said.
Abubacarr Tambadou, a former UN assistant prosecutor, said Tuesday on being sworn in that he hoped to remove restrictive laws on the media.
“We will be starting a constitutional review process with a view to ensuring that our constitution is relevant and serves the purpose for which Gambians adopted it,” Tambadou said.
Reform “particularly in the criminal justice sector and media law reform,” were priorities, he said.
Journalists were regularly slapped with crimes including sedition, slander and publication of false news under Jammeh, offences described as “catch-all” by Amnesty International, and many served jail time.
Nollywood actor Prince James Uche has died after battling diabetes and kidney disease for several years.
According to the #SavePrinceJamesUche campaign, the 55-year-old actor died Wednesday afternoon while being taken to a private hospital in Festac, Lagos, for dialysis.
He was said to have been unconscious for the past five days and was scheduled to travel to India on Saturday for surgery.
“We regret to be the bearers of this sad news, but our colleague, father, husband [Prince James Uche) passed on [Wednesday] from complications following diabetes, blindness, BP, kidney,” said the statement signed by Chioma Okoye, Rita Edochie, Emeka Ojukwu and Ejiro Okurame.
“He has been experiencing fever, strange blood infection, and strange blisters on his legs for the past three days after he secured his Visa before he passed on today Wednesday March 8th in the Ambulance on his way for Dialysis at 2:15pm.
“He was meant to travel this Saturday March 11th to India for his surgery.
“We sincerely want to thank everyone who donated to save this great man…we shall keep you all posted.”
Prince James Uche is survived by his wife and three children.
Uche was a former vice president of the Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN).
He had been in and out of hospitals for the past few years as a result of a kidney-related ailment.