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WTO: Okonjo-Iweala Didn’t Threaten to Resign

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Okonjo-Iweala

A source in Zurich, Switzerland, yesterday clarified that the Director General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, did not at any time threaten to resign her appointment at global trade body as being speculated by some media reports.

The source, however, stated that Okonjo-Iweala, the first female and first African to head the WTO, was feeling frustrated on the job.

Responding to a question on whether the director general threatened to resign her appointment, the source who pleaded to remain anonymous said: “She did not threaten. She did express quite a lot of frustration. I will tell you … she is an extraordinary person but at a very difficult job.

“I do not think it is easy to explain to someone how difficult the job actually is. There are only a handful of people that sat in that seat. I have seen closely a lot of director generals and any time you think you have a difficult job, just think about the director general of WTO.”

Also, Okonjo-Iweala was quoted to have told Bloomberg that: “I just got here, I’m enjoying what I am doing. It is a very exciting job and I am trying to have some success here.”

The apparent lack of consensus on intellectual property right, which has been hindering the transfer of technology to third world countries to manufacture COVID-19 vaccines as well as the thorny fishery subsidy negation were reportedly pilling up frustration on Okonjo-Iweala.

It was reported that the tone of negotiation at the WTO yesterday was marked with raised tampers but the source stated that what was needed currently at the WTO was how to build a convergence of opinion among members on the body of text already agreed upon the fisheries subsidies.

“Nobody pointed to any proposal and said because of them things are going backward. What they were saying is that any proposal at this stage that cannot lead to consensus is not healthy. We have text now. Putting things in there that will make it imbalance is not helpful,” source said.

The source added that the Okonjo-Iweala basically laid it on the table that not building a consensus to complete the fisheries subsidies negotiation should not be considered as an option by anyone.

“It was a sobering assessment and she made a very interesting kind of metaphor when she talked about when she was a girl how her mother used to take her to the market to teach her how to haggle with the people in the market stalls. She said that at one point everybody realises that if the price remained too high the customer will walk away.

“She, therefore, said that negotiation like this is an art form and not a science, warning that ‘we need to be conscious of the point where if you push this person too far and he says what is the point and he walks away.’

“That will bring about a very bad outcome, which means the process will breakdown and we will not get an outcome.”

Dike Onwuamaeze, Thisday Live

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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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