Nigeria’s Muhammad-Bande declares for UNGA presidency

Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Prof. Tijani Muhammad-Bande, has formally declared his intention to vie for the presidency of the 74th UN General Assembly (UNGA).

Muhammad-Bande made the declaration at a cocktail party attended by world diplomats and delegates in New York on 4th May,2019.

This came barely eight days after the current UNGA president, Ms Maria Espinosa, announced him as the first candidate for the position.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that election of the president of the 74th UNGA will hold at the UN headquarters on June 4.

In a statement on its website, UNGA said the presidency of the 74th session was zoned to Africa in “full respect of the established principle of geographical rotation”, among other reasons.

The current president, who is the Foreign Minister of Ecuador, was elected on June 5, and assumed duty on Sept. 18, 2018.

Thus she will step aside on Sept. 17, as the UNGA presidency runs on a one-year tenure

According to the statement, an informal interactive dialogue with Muhammad-Bande is scheduled for May 13, in line with UNGA’s resolution 71/323 titled “Revitalisation of the Work of the General Assembly”.

At the session, the Nigerian permanent representative will have the opportunity to respond to questions from other stakeholders.

Addressing guests at the event, the candidate pledged to make the organisation stronger and work better for its member states and their citizens.

He said as president of the 74th Session, he would focus on the effective implementation of existing mandates, and make a contribution in all defined follow-up areas.

The candidate promised to promote international peace and security, prevent conflict, strengthen global action to tackle climate change, ensure inclusion, human rights, and the empowerment of youth and women.

He also pledged to ensure that the decisions reached and resolutions passed at the general assembly were implemented for the benefits of citizens.

Muhammad-Bande, who hails from Zagga in present day Kebbi, has had an outstanding career as a scholar and diplomat.

He holds M.A in Political Science from Boston University, USA, in 1981 and a PhD in Political Science from the University of Toronto, Canada in 1987.

Between January 2000 and February 2004, he was the Director-General of the Centre African de Formation et de Recherche Administrative pour le Development (CAFRAD) in Tangier, Morocco.

CAFRAD is Africa’s premier institution with responsibility for training and research in public administration and management.

Besides other positions both locally and internationally, he was the Director-General of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) between 2010 and 2016.

He served as the Vice-President of the General Assembly during the 71st session and remains active in several fora, including as Chair of the United Nations Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations (C34); Member, Advisory Board of the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Centre, and Chair of the ECOWAS Group (2018-2019).

Muhammad-Bande has also been an assessor for the National Merit Award (Nigeria) and for professorial positions in universities.

He has won merit awards and honours from institutions and Governments, including the United States and China.

Most notably, he is a recipient of Nigeria’s Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, one of the country’s highest national awards.





EU, ECOWAS stake $173m to address maritime insecurity

Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the European Union (EU) have committed €155 million (about $173 million) to address issues associated with maritime insecurity and related clandestine networks of dirty money in West Africa.

The ECOWAS Commission targets the insecurity situation in the Gulf of Guinea, which it said had adverse effect on the health and economic indices of ECOWAS member states.

The Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security of the commission, Gen. Francis Behanzin, explained that the situation necessitated an information and coordination synergy of maritime security projects.

Specifically, the commission’s operational agencies such as the EU-funded Support to West African Integrated Maritime Security (SWAIMS) and the Improved Regional Fisheries Governance in West Africa (PESCAO), along with the Dakar-based Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA), have sought to fight Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, goods trafficking, among others, in the Gulf of Guinea.

PESCAO and SWAIMS, who jointly presented at the meeting the relevance and benefits of regional cooperation on maritime security, fall under the ECOWAS Directorate of Agriculture and Rural Development and ECOWAS Directorate of Peace Keeping and Regional Security.

ECOWAS loses an average of $2 billion annually to theft of maritime resources and illegal fishing. In 2018 alone, 201 incidents of maritime piracy and armed robbery were reported. Also, in the same year, the gulf accounted for all six hijackings, 13 of the 18 ships fired upon, 130 of the 141 hostages held and 78 of the 82 seafarers kidnapped for ransom worldwide.

Gulf of Guinea is also notorious for illicit oil bunkering, illegal trafficking and smuggling, maritime pollution, money laundering and IUU fishing.

To curb these crimes, ECOWAS identified intelligence sharing and information exchange as critically important.

EU noted that the region was the most dangerous in 2018 for piracy and robbery at sea, which not only jeopardised critical maritime route for business, but also affects human security, governance and environment.

The Head of the Cooperation of the EU Delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Kurt Cornelis, said: “The Gulf of Guinea in recent times has been one of the most dangerous in terms of maritime security. The number of kidnapping and robbery at sea is more than any other part of Africa, and even the world.

“While there are several EU-supported programmes committed to maritime security, the biggest right now is the SWAIMS. The EU has about €155 million committed to fight against maritime insecurity, which encompasses illegal trafficking of goods, illegal fisheries and other aspects such as policing, information sharing in the Gulf of Guinea.




IOM, ECOWAS, NAPTIP launch campaign against human trafficking

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) on the 7th May, 2019 recently embarked on a cross-border campaign to sensitise people in West African countries on the ECOWAS National Biometric Identity Card (ENBIC).

The five-day campaign, which took off at Mile-2 ECOWAS Motor Park, Lagos was used to enlighten transporters plying West African coasts on the fight against human trafficking.

The project, which was jointly funded by ECOWAS Commission and European Union in partnership with National Agency of the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), was in support of Free Movement of Persons and Migration in West Africa.

Mr Albert Siaw-Boateng, ECOWAS Director of Free Movement, said that the sensitization campaign would promote the use of the ENBIC and other valid travel documents to better facilitate mobility throughout the region.

He said it would address the incessant cases of trafficking in persons, harassment at the border and vulnerability of ECOWAS travellers.

IOM Chief of Mission, Mr Ofrantz Celestin, said his organisation was supporting the project because it believed in migration, stressing, however, that anyone migrating should do that through legal channels.

Celestin advised that anyone migrating should also beware of traffickers on the prowl in ECOWAS member states, urging them to be vigilant.

The Assistant Controller General of Nigeria Immigration, Zone A Ikeja, Mr Mohammed Aphar, said ENBIC card would help in securing the borders and also identifying who comes into or leaves the sub-region at any given time.

Mohammed said the card, which replaced the ECOWAS Travel Certificate, would also assist member countries to share information and enhance data collection.

“Once you have the card, all the features in international passports are embedded in it. At the border point, the official only swipes it, and all information about the traveller is revealed,” he said.

He advised transporters against conveying passengers without necessary travel documents, assuring them that all their complaints about harassment and extortion by security officials along Lagos-Seme route would be looked into them.

Director General of NAPTIP, Julie Okah-Donle, said transporters were major players in the movement of victims and traffickers, appealing to them to join hands with the agency to fight traffickers.

She urged the transporters to always sensitise travellers on the danger of being trafficked, urging them to alert the agency immediately they suspected some people were being trafficked.

Responding, the transporters commended the organisers for the programme, stressing that if the card could be used without any hitch in Nigeria, such card would be used elsewhere without a problem.

The transporters, however, lamented the ill-treatment they received from Nigerian security agencies, including the police, NDLEA and Immigration Service whom they claimed always extort them.

“In Nigerian border, there are too many security agencies at the border; drivers spend between N9, 000 and N10, 000 before crossing the border. We spend almost all our earnings on paying bribes at all these checkpoints.

“We appeal to ECOWAS representatives to use your offices and authority to bring sanity to our road. Reduce the number of these checkpoints on Seme road,” one of the transporters said during the interactive session.

The Togolese Ambassador to Nigeria, Mrs Paulette Adejovi-Yekpe, called on the transporters to check passengers’ information before carrying them, noting that every month; she always returned some of her citizens trafficked to Nigeria back to Togo.




ECOWAS to adopt Nigerian academy for graft studies

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission is to adopt the Anti-Corruption Academy of Nigeria (ACAN) – the training and research arm of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission’s (ICPC) – as a centre of excellence in graft studies, especially in the area of Corruption Risks Assessment (CRA).

The idea was part of the resolutions reached at the end of the consultative meeting by the Network of Anti-Corruption Institutions in West Africa (NACIWA) to develop faculties for training on CRA which held at the headquarters of ECOWAS Commission in Abuja.

The Director, Political Affairs of the sub-regional body, Dr. Remi Ajibewa, represented by the Head, Democracy and Good Governance Division, Eyesan Okorodudu, stressed the adoption of preventive approach such as CRA for a successful anti-graft fight.




Judge calls for repeal of anti-press laws

A member of the Community Court of Justice, ECOWAS, Justice Dupe Atoki, has called for a repeal of all laws that run contrary to press freedom.

Justice Atoki made the call last weekend at the forum to celebrate this year’s World Press Freedom Day.

With a theme, Press Freedom in Nigeria – Violent Extremism, Rule of Law and the Media, the two-day event was put together by Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ) and the European Union’s Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption (RoLAC) Programme with funding from the British Council.

Justice Atoki regretted that in spite of constitutional provisions for free press; government has sustained assault against journalists.

She also recalled how government has continuously flouted court orders, particularly those directing it to divulge information in line with the provisions of Freedom of Information Act.

Similarly, the judge admonished journalists to be professional in their reportage and avoid instances of fake news.

Speaking, the Head of European Union Delegation to the Nigeria and ECOWAS, Ambassador Ketil Karlsen, noted that the quality of democratic processed is linked to the state of freedom of expression. According to him, there is no democracy without a truly free press.

“Freedom of expression is a fundamental right enshrined in international law and while bearing the great responsibility to guarantee accurate news to the public, free, diverse and independent media are at the core of a pluralistic and open society.”

He regrets however that globally, there have been attempts to curb the space for free media and undermine their credibility.

“Concerning Nigeria, it is our assessment that the Nigerian press remains one of the most vibrant on the continent.”

For the National Programme Manager, Rule of Law and Anti-corruption (RoLAC) programme, Mr. Danladi Plang, noted that like any human endeavor, there is room for improvement in the relationship between the government and the media.

On the part of government, he stated that signing of Freedom of Information Bill into law by the legislature, which is part of government was one way of ensuring legal framework that allows for media freedom.

Mr. Plang therefore urged the government to enforce the law it enacted.

On the part of the media, Plang admitted that while they have played crucial roles in deepening democracy and good governance, there was need to enhance the quality of their reportage.

The Senate President, Bukola Saraki was represented by Senator Philip Aduda, and he held that if Nigeria must grow and preserve its democracy, the people must understand that a free and pluralistic media environment that guarantees access to information is non-negotiable.




ECOWAS takes steps towards common Monetary Union

A working group comprising of academic scholars and representatives of Central Banks of Member States from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have reviewed the Terms of Reference to recruit a consultant towards the development of the design of the symbol of the ECOWAS single currency.

In the first meeting of the working group which held on 1st April 2019 in Abuja, Nigeria, the Commissioner for Macroeconomic Policy and Economic Research of the ECOWAS Commission, Dr. Kofi Konadu Apraku stated that participants should also be guided by historical, cultural, economic, political and social factors as they proffer suggestions for the name of the single currency.

He stressed that the establishment of a common monetary union in the region is an integral part of the vision of the ECOWAS founding fathers. “A vision which, if fully realized, would see the social, cultural and economic transformation of the region”, he said.

The chairman of the meeting and representative of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Moses Tule, noted that the actualization of the ECOWAS single currency is of great importance as every region in Africa will have a monetary union by 2034 as stipulated by the African Union.

The participants of the meeting are expected to submit suggestions for the name of the single currency to the ECOWAS Commission ahead of its second meeting scheduled to take place on 23rd and 24th April 2019, in Accra, Ghana. The meeting will also feature discussions with graphic designers on the symbol of the currency.

The proposed name and symbol of the ECOWAS Single Currency will subsequently be submitted to the ECOWAS Council of Ministers for approval. Also in attendance of the meeting was the Director General of the West African Monetary Agency, Momodu Saho, the representative of the West African Monetary Institute, Isataou Mendy and representatives of the Central Bank of West African States (also known as BCEAO).


Validation of ECOWAS 2019/2023 action plan for the return…

The meeting of Directors of Cultural Heritage and Museum of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) ended on 11 April 2019 in Cotonou, Benin with a number of recommendations for stakeholders.

The stakeholders include African Union, ECOWAS Heads of State and Government, West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) and Member States.

Member States were requested to take measures to ratify the UNIDROIT Convention as soon as possible, prepare official letters to countries in possession of these artefacts to return them, inform and raise awareness in order to mobilise national stakeholders.

They were also urged to provide adequate financial resources for the implementation of the action plan on the return of cultural artefacts in their countries, promote the introduction of legal instruments for creating business foundations by non-state actors in order to support funding of activities for returning cultural heritage and adopt a common position for nominating ECOWAS representatives in international decision-making bodies on culture.

The African Union on its part, was recommended to take ownership of ECOWAS action plan on the return of cultural artefacts and contribute to its implementation.

As regards the Heads of State and Government, participants recommended that they become more involved and ensure the implementation of the action plan on the return of artefacts and the establishment of a group devoted to cultural artefacts.

ECOWAS and UEMOA, on their part, were invited to prepare a draft international agreement on the specific issue of the return of cultural artefacts and establish a regional committee for monitoring the implementation of the action plan.

The meeting also urged them to organise an international conference on the return of cultural artefacts in order to inform, sensitise and mobilise all stakeholders, strengthen cooperation with professional organisations, particularly the International Council of Museum (ICOM) and mobilise the necessary financial resources for the implementation of the action plan on the return of cultural artefacts.

At the end of the meeting, the participants validated the ECOWAS 2019/2023 Action Plan for returning cultural artefacts to their countries of origin, and recommended its adoption by the meeting of Ministers of Culture of the region.

The ECOWAS Commissioner for Education, Science and Culture, Prof. Leooldo Amado expressed satisfaction on the completion of the document, which was commissioned by the Heads of State and Government. He commended the general enthusiasm and determination the return of artefacts to their countries of origin have generated, while underlining the problems and challenges inherent in the return of cultural artefacts.

‘We are going to present the status of our cultural property and succeed in returning them to our respective countries. We should sensitise our people on the importance of these items, and work towards enlisting their support to ensure our development and cultural welfare’, declared Prof Leopoldo Amado.

Speaking during the closing ceremony, the Director of Cultural Heritage, Mrs Carole Borna, representing Benin Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sports commended the participants for the relevant recommendations made. She expressed the hope that these recommendations would be adopted at the next meeting of ECOWAS Ministers of Culture, and concrete actions taken for the return of African cultural artefacts to their counties of origin.



ECOWAS and Sweden sign MOU on forest transformation for…

The Commission of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and Sweden have jointly endorsed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Global Forest Transformation for People and Climate in West Africa, on the 24th of April 2019, in Abuja, Nigeria.

The Global Forest Transformation for People and Climate in West Africa is for the period 2019-2023. The MoU was signed on behalf of ECOWAS by the Commission’s President Jean-Claude Kassi Brou while the Swedish Charge d’Affairs to ECOWAS, Nigeria and Ghana, Stafan Tillander underwrote the document on behalf of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.

President Brou noted that the joint initiative comes handy in taking concrete steps towards strengthening the cooperation between Sweden and the ECOWAS Commission while working together for the actualisation of set goals.

Thanking the government of Sweden for the continuous support it is giving to the ECOWAS Commission, President Brou noted that he would like to build on that with a courtesy visit to the Swedish International Development Agency at the opportune time to “reaffirm the ECOWAS-Swedish cooperation”

Responding, Mr. Tillander who was accompanied by the Deputy Head of Mission of the Swedish Embassy in Nigeria Madam Ida Hockerfelt, stressed the importance of working with the ECOWAS Commission on very germane issues like climate change and the protection of the environment. He added that the Swedish government will like to get on further with the existing collaboration.

The Global Forest Transformation for People and Climate project aims to strengthen the implementation of the convergence plan for the sustainable management and utilisation of forest ecosystems in West Africa.

It is billed to be carried out in accordance with the terms and conditions agreed between Sweden and the United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO).

Sweden and ECOWAS are also expected to cooperate in the implementation of the project while participating in annual consultations with FAO as described in the contribution agreement.




ECOWAS to conduct sensitization on national biometric identity card…

The Commission of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), within the framework of the ECOWAS-European Union project “support to Free Movement of Persons and Migration (FMM) in West Africa”, embarked on a four-day advocacy and sensitization campaign for the ECOWAS National Biometric Identity Card (ENBIC) and the fight against Trafficking in Persons between 23rd to 26th April 2019.

The delegation for the advocacy and sensitization campaign was led by representatives from the ECOWAS Commission’s Free Movement and Humanitarian Directorates and was supported by the International Organization of Migration (IOM), the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) and Nigeria’s National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP).

The aim of the campaign which traversed the Nigeria-Benin-Togo borders sought to engage key stakeholders such as transporters and law enforcement agencies in charge of border management with the aim of sensitizing them on the instrumentality of the ENBIC in combating Trafficking in Persons and strengthening the security architecture and data management at the ECOWAS borders.

The ENBIC which will improve the free movement of people, goods and services has been adopted as a valid travel document within the ECOWAS region and so has far been deployed in Ghana, Senegal and Guinea Bissau.


Don’t disregard our decisions, ECOWAS Court begs Nigeria, 14…

The Community Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States has appealed to Nigeria and the 14 other member states of the regional body not to disregard  its decisions often made to salvage the fate of poor citizens.The President of the court, Justice Jerome Traore, who made this appeal during the official opening of the 2017/2018 legal year of the court in Abuja on Monday, said a court judgement had no value if not implemented.

The ceremony, with the theme, ‘Current trends in international and regional commercial arbitration’ was attended by the representatives of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN); Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Muhammad Bello; Minister for State for Foreign Affairs, Khadijat Buka; Speaker of ECOWAS Parliament, Mousapha Cisse Lo.

Director of Legislation, Ministry of Justice of Cameroon, Kenfack Douaji, was the guest speaker.

Our correspondent gathered that failure of member states to enforce or obey the decisions of the court is among the major challenge facing the court since its establishment in 2001.

Recently, the court ordered the release of a former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd), being detained by the Department of State Service but the order was not obeyed.

Justice Traore said on Monday that “judicial efficiency” was not limited to justice delivered in reasonable time, but also had to do with enforcement of court decisions.

He noted that there could not be judicial efficiency without the enforcement of the court orders.

“Now to talk of judicial efficiency is to talk first of all of justice delivered in reasonable time.

“Our English-speaking friends rightly say ‘Justice delayed is justice denied’, don’t they?

“Thus, ‘diligence’ which does not sacrifice serenity on the altar of speed, is without doubt, a guarantee of quality and judicial process.

“Again, to talk of judicial efficiency, is to talk of enforcement of court decisions in the best possible time and in good faith.”

He also noted that failure of member states to obey or enforce the judgement of the court was as retrogressive as reducing the number of judges of the court when the number of cases filed before the court was on the rise.