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Buhari to world leaders: Reject coups in West Africa

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President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday tasked the international community to stand up against the recent trend of power hijack by the military in some African countries.

President Buhari, who spoke at the 76th Session of the United Nations’ General Assembly in New York, the United States of America (USA), warned that rising cases of coup in West Africa were eroding the democratic gains of the past decades.

According to the President, the unconstitutional takeover of power had sometimes been in reaction to unilateral change of constitution by some leaders, admonishing those elected to lead countries to reject the temptation of staying beyond their constitutional term of office.

He affirmed Nigeria’s support of efforts by ECOWAS, AU and the UN to address this growing challenge, saying “as leaders of our individual member states, we need to adhere to the constitutional provisions of our countries, particularly on term limits. This is one area that generates crisis and political tension in our sub-region.”

The President urged the international community not only to deal with the symptoms of conflict but also the immediate causes that fuel conflicts in the first place.

“These include poor and undemocratic governance, human rights abuses, poverty, ignorance, injustice and inequalities.

“There are no easy solutions to these conditions. They require long term investments and more effective international cooperation.

“In this connection, my delegation underscores the importance of promoting peaceful, unfettered, and inclusive participation of states in global actions towards conflict prevention.

“This will facilitate the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the African Union Agenda 2063,” he said.

The President’s speech, delivered from the podium of the General Assembly hall, addressed other matters on the international agenda of interest to Nigeria, including the COVID-19 pandemic, Arms Trade Treaty, climate change, terrorism, anti-corruption, debt suspension, international trade, UN Security Council Reform, Palestinian Question and racial discrimination, among others.

On international trade, President Buhari called for reforms that will engender recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, build resilience to future shocks and pursue transformative development strategies that can deliver the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

He said: “Nigeria reaffirms that international trade is an engine for development and sustained economic growth, as well as the global eradication of poverty.

‘‘My delegation would like to reaffirm the critical role that a universal, rules-based, open, non-discriminatory and equitable multilateral trading system can play in stimulating economic growth and development.

‘‘Fair and equitable trade would eventually eliminate the need for aid.

‘‘My country and indeed all African countries do not intend to stay indefinitely looking for aid. All we need is a fair and equitable system of international trade.”

On the issue of debt in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Nigerian leader urged G20 countries to extend its debt suspension initiatives to all developing countries, least developed countries, small island developing states facing fiscal and liquidity challenges.

The President also called for outright debt cancellation for countries facing the most severe challenges.

“Developing countries have been faced with unsustainable debt burdens even before the pandemic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the risk of new wave of deepening debt, where vital public financial resources are allocated to external debt servicing and repayments at the expense of domestic health and financing for critical developmental needs.

“I must commend the current initiatives by the international financial institutions and the G20 aimed at significantly mitigating the economic situation of the indebted countries and urge for more efforts in this regard.

“Therefore, there is an urgent need to consider expansion and extension of the Debt Service Suspension Initiative to include all Developing, Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States facing fiscal and liquidity challenges.

“In addition, a review of the eligibility criteria for debt suspension, including outright cancellation, is needed for countries facing the most severe challenges.’’

The President also used the occasion of the speech to renew his advocacy for equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, outlining steps Nigeria has taken to achieve “moderate success” in containing the virus and halt its deadly onslaught in the country.

“Nigeria remains grateful for the assistance received from our partners and friends all over the world.

‘‘Vaccination is the key to our safe emergence from the pandemic.

“We fully support the COVAX initiative from which we have benefitted. We also thank the United States of America, Turkey, India, China, European Union and others for the vaccines provided.

‘‘Despite the acknowledgement, however, I would like to reiterate my call for a fairer and more equitable distribution of vaccines to all countries so that, together, we can fight and contain the pandemic.

“The rising wave of newer and more contagious strains makes this even more urgent. No country can afford the socio-economic implications of prolonged shutdown. It is imperative to underscore that no one is safe until everyone is safe.’’

On Nigeria’s intervention to halt the pandemic, the President said: ‘‘At the outset, we recognised detection and contact tracing to be important tools in combating the virus.

‘‘In this connection, from a mere four laboratories with testing and detection capacities, we ramped up the facilities to over 140 centres today.

‘‘Similarly, we built isolation centres and emergency hospital wards in record time all over the country. We carry out genomic sequencing in designated laboratories across the country with a view to detecting variants in circulation.

‘‘In addition, over 40,000 health care workers have recently been trained on Infection, Prevention and Control measures with the support of various partners.

‘‘Through the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control, we have established 16 infectious disease treatment centres located within our Teaching Hospitals and Federal Medical Centres.’’

On the fight against terrorism, the President told the UN General Assembly that the Nigerian security forces have recorded considerable success.

‘‘As a result of the renewed vigour of Nigeria’s military, many terrorist fighters are voluntarily surrendering to our security forces,’’ he said.

The President noted that while terrorism continues to dominate security discourse worldwide, in Nigeria, the Boko Haram terrorists group, though fragmented by internal strife and weakened by our defence forces, is still active and preying on soft targets.

‘‘Nigeria will continue to work closely with UN Counter-Terrorism bodies and entities with a view to bringing this scourge to an end, ’’ he said, adding that the country would spare no effort in addressing the challenges of terrorism posed by the activities of Boko Haram in North-East Nigeria and the Lake Chad region, as well as banditry in the North-West and North-Central Nigeria.

‘‘I and three other Nigerian Heads of State served actively as peace keepers and Nigeria continues to support peacekeeping efforts. We know the sacrifice involved; we also know how important peacekeeping is for those in vulnerable situations.

‘‘Nigeria will continue to play its part fully in supporting United Nations peacekeeping operations within Africa and beyond,’’ he said.

The Nigerian leader also renewed the call for the reforms of the UN Security Council, stressing that intergovernmental negotiations on the issue was taking too long.

‘‘No reform of the United Nations system is more urgent than that of the Security Council. Stakeholders around the world are asking how such power could be concentrated, with scant representation.

‘‘The intergovernmental negotiations have taken too long, some 15 years.

‘‘We must avoid going in circles. Consensus has been achieved in some of the elements of this reform, especially that of the representation of Africa on the basis of the Elzuwini consensus and the Sirte Declaration.

‘‘It is unreasonable to expect unanimity in this matter. The issue, indeed, is about justice, not unanimity. Without justice, the legitimacy (even efficacy) of our Organisation is called to question.

‘‘We can and must make substantial, irreversible progress on Security Council reform in the current session,’’ he said.

On the Palestinian question, the President encouraged Israel and Palestine to re-engage in dialogue based on relevant UN resolutions and Initiatives.

‘‘The two-state solution has the support of the international community and is widely acknowledged as the path to lasting peace,’’ he said.

President Buhari expressed deep concern at the devastating effects of small arms and weapons, calling for accountability in conventional arms trade.

“Nigeria remains deeply concerned over the illicit trade, transfer, and circulation of small arms and light weapons. Their excessive accumulation and uncontrolled spread in many regions of the world are having devastating humanitarian and socio-economic consequences, especially on the continent of Africa.

“It is on this note that my delegation calls for the worldwide application of the Arms Trade Treaty to codify accountability in conventional arms trade, which is critical to the security of nations. This is in recognition of the need for a broad-based global partnership in the ongoing battle against trans-border crimes, including terrorism and piracy.”

President Buhari concluded his UN speech at the 76th annual general debate with praise for the outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

He also pledged Nigeria’s unalloyed support for multilateralism and faith in the UN as the pre-eminent body for solving current and emerging global challenges.

‘‘Our organisation is at the peak of the multilateral system.

‘‘It is also the pre-eminent body for solving our current and emerging challenges, and for developing norms that are protective of us all. We need to re-commit to it, rejuvenate it to better serve us.

‘‘Nigeria re-affirms its faith in the United Nations and is further resolved to continue to work with all Member-States for peace and security, development and the protection of human rights.

‘‘In the current moment, hope for these, is dependent on how we assist each other to get Covid-19 out of all countries, regardless of their classification. We can and must do so.

‘‘In this regard, let me close my statement by paying special tribute to a great and humane internationalist, and an exemplary practitioner of multilateral cooperation. I am speaking of Chancellor Angela Merkel of the Federal Republic of Germany. As she exits the stage, we wish her well,’’ he said.

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DHQ confirms arrest of Owo church attackers

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The Defence Headquarters has confirmed its arrest of suspected terrorists behind the attack on St Francis Catholic Church, Owo, Ondo State, that killed scores of worshippers.

Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Lucky Irabor, said this on Tuesday at a media briefing in Abuja.

Some gunmen suspected to be terrorists on June 5 attacked the church, with 40 people confirmed dead after the incident.

On June 17, the funeral for the slain worshippers was conducted at the Mydas Resort and Hotel in Owo.

The names and photographs of those killed in the church were published in the funeral handbook, while 74 names were listed as those who sustained injuries during the attack.

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Sanusi: I warned Buhari govt its policies will destroy Nigeria’s economy

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Former Emir of Kano, Muhammad Sanusi II

Former Emir of Kano, Muhammad Sanusi II, has said he warned the President Muhammadu Buhari administration that its economic policies would destroy Nigeria’s economy.

He also lamented the current state of the nation, saying Nigeria would  not be where it is if public office holders had taken their job seriously.

The former emir, who spoke in Lagos at a stage play titled “Emir Sanusi: Truth in Time”, said every inherent danger in the economic polices he had warned the administration when he newly came on board in 2015/2016 was what the country was facing currently.

The former Kano Emir recalled how he wrote a confidential letter to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan as the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor voicing his strong concerns about the economy.

“If every president, every governor, every minister, every commissioner took their job seriously, this country will not be where it was,” he stated.

“If people are willing to be ministers, commissioners, governors and presidents for eight years, and not tell us how they have improved our lives, we have a problem.”

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He charged politicians to be accountable to the people.

Sanusi asked Nigerians to take charge of the country, he said Africa’s most populous nation will not move forward until actual steps are taken.

The ex-CBN governor also spoke on why he usually criticises government policies he found not to be good enough, saying what many do not know is that he would have advised the officials privately for months before going public.

On the current administration, Sanusi said he warned the Federal Government of the dangers of its policies in 2015, especially how it would destroy the economy.

“With the current administration, I spent the whole of 2015 and 2016 speaking to everybody who should be communicated to, and telling them that the economic policies they were pursuing were going to destroy the Nigerian economy.

“It was only when that failed that I spoke publicly, and we had to speak. Now the question which everybody is asking is should an Emir speak? The answer is yes and it depends on what you are speaking on,” he added.

According to Sanusi, he served as Chief Risk Officer at the United Bank for Africa, at First Bank, and also as CBN governor; as Emir of Kano for six years.

He stated that he would be ungrateful to God if he expressed regret or sadness over his removal as emir despite his position in life.

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Nigeria, three others top World Bank debtors’ list

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Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed

Rising debt has pushed Nigeria up the World Bank’s top 10 International Development Association borrowers’ list.

The World Bank Fiscal Year 2021 audited financial statements, known as the IDA financial statement, showed that Nigeria was rated fifth on the list with $11.7bn IDA debt stock as of June 30, 2021.

However, the newly released World Bank Fiscal Year 2022 audited financial statements for IDA showed that Nigeria has moved to the fourth position on the list, with $13bn IDA debt stock as of June 30, 2022.

This shows that Nigeria accumulated about $1.3bn IDA debt within a fiscal year, with the country taking over the fourth top debtor position from Vietnam.

This debt is different from the outstanding loan of $486m from World Bank’s International Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

The top five countries on the list slightly reduced their IDA debt stock except Nigeria.

India, which is still the first on the list reduced its IDA debt stock from $22bn in the previous fiscal year to $19.7bn, followed by Bangladesh from $18.1bn to $18bn.

It is followed by Pakistan which cut its debt from $16.4bn to $15.8bn, and lastly, Vietnam, which went down the list to fifth position, from $14.1bn to $12.9bn.

Nigeria has the highest IDA debt in Africa, as the top three IDA borrowers (India, Bangladesh and Pakistan) are from Asia. The World Bank disclosed recently that Nigeria’s debt, which may be considered sustainable for now, is vulnerable and costly.

The bank said, “Nigeria’s debt remains sustainable, albeit vulnerable and costly, especially due to large and growing financing from the Central Bank of Nigeria.”

However, the Washington-based global financial institution added that the country’s debt was also at risk of becoming unsustainable in the event of macro-fiscal shocks.

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The bank further expressed concerns over the nation’s cost of debt servicing, which according to it, disrupted public investments and critical service delivery spending.

Economists have also raised concerns over the rising debt profile of the Federal Government.

The Fiscal Policy Partner and Africa Tax Leader of PwC, Mr Taiwo Oyedele, expressed his agreement with the World Bank on the high cost of debt servicing.

He said, “I agree with the World Bank. Although the debt to GDP ratio is not too high, if you think about the debt service cost to revenue ratio, it is already over 70 per cent. That’s when you know it’s costly.

“Nigeria borrows at double-digit, and even when we borrow in dollars, the rates are very high and then you devalue the naira and the cost of servicing the debt in naira goes up because it is dollar-dominated debt.

“Put all of that together, and you can easily say to yourself that even though our debt to GDP ratio is very low, our cost of borrowing is unsustainable because it is very high, and therefore, make it very costly.”

A former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria and former presidential candidate, Kingsley Moghalu, also criticised the increasing borrowing tendency of the government, urging the officials to re-consider other ways of generating revenue for the country.

According to Moghalu, it was also not reasonable to borrow for infrastructural development as the government could expand the public-private partnership options for such development.

In a document by the Director General of the Debt Management Office, Patience Oniha, recently obtained by our correspondent, the DMO stated that high debt levels would often lead to high debt services and affect investments in infrastructure.

According to the DMO DG, “High debt levels lead to heavy debt service which reduces resources available for investment in infrastructure and key sectors of the economy.”

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