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Togo elects first female head of National Assembly

Togo has elected its first female head of the National Assembly, following parliamentary elections that saw the ruling party maintain its majority.

Yawa Djigbodi Tsegan, from President Faure Gnassingbe’s Union for the Republic party, was chosen on Wednesday in a vote by her fellow lawmakers.

The 47-year-old Tsegan, a tax inspector who previously held the position of parliamentary administrator, won 88 nominations from the 89 members of parliament who voted, an AFP reporter said.

She takes over from her party colleague Dama Dramani, who has been in the post since September 2013.

Togo held parliamentary elections in December last year to elect 91 new members of the National Assembly.

But the main opposition coalition boycotted the vote, citing organisational “irregularities”.

Gnassingbe’s party won 59 of the 91 seats. Observers from the African Union and the West African bloc ECOWAS said the election was “free and fair”.

Togo has endured nearly 18 months of political turmoil, including street protests calling for constitutional reform that have developed into a call for Gnassingbe to resign.

Gnassingbe has been in power since 2005, following the death of his father, who ruled Togo for 37 years beforehand.

The opposition wants a return to a limit of two terms for the president, applied retroactively, which would rule out Gnassingbe standing for re-election in 2020 and 2025.

Talks with the government, brokered by ECOWAS, are in deadlock, as the ruling party refuses to apply the term limit retroactively.

Another opposition protest has been scheduled for Saturday.

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AfDB, ECOWAS sign agreement on 1,000km Abidjan-Lagos highway

The African Development Bank (AfDB) and ECOWAS, have signed an agreement for a study into a 1,000 km highway that will link Cote d’Ivoire’s commercial capital Abidjan, to Lagos.

Mr Chawki Chahed, Senior Communications Officer, Communication and External Relations Department of AfDB, made this known in a statement in Abuja on Tuesday.

Chahed disclosed that the development would mark a new step in building regional integration and trade in the sub-region.

He explained that the proposed Abidjan-Lagos Corridor Highway, a six-lane and three-lane dual motorway, would connect the countries via Accra, Lome and Cotonou.

He said that the agreement was signed on for a study on the technical, implementation and operational aspects of the project.

According to him, the agreement comes nearly five years after the presidents of Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Benin and Nigeria, signed a treaty on the establishment of the highway, in March 2014.

The communications officer recalled that the President of the ECOWAS Commission Jean-Claude Brou and Vice-President of the ECOWAS Commission Finda Koroma, attended the ceremony, which took place in Abuja.

He said that Nigeria’s Minister of Power, Works and Housing; and Chairman of the Ministerial Steering Committee for the project, Mr Babatunde Fashola, and EU Head of Co-operation in Abuja Kurt Cornelis were also present.

Chahed disclosed that the bank had approved 12.6 million dollars to finance part of the study; and mobilised 9.1 million Euro grant from the EU Commission, bringing the total financing for this important study, to 22.7 million dollars.

“By linking some of Africa’s largest and economically dynamic cities, the road will promote cross-border trade and integrate fast-growing economies within the ECOWAS.

“This is expected to contribute to reducing the poverty levels of the population that depends on inter regional trade for livelihood,” he said.

The official quoted the Senior Director of AfDB in Nigeria, Mr Ebrima Faal, as saying that the bank remained fully committed to the 2020 ECOWAS’ Vision.

“We will work closely with the public and private sectors to unlock new sources of growth for Africa, while reducing inequality between countries and within countries.

“Together, we can unlock the enormous potentials of the West African region and deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals for the region,” Faal said.

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Nigeria re-elected into AU peace, security council

Nigeria, alongside Burundi, Algeria, Lesotho and Kenya, has been elected into the African Union Peace and Security Council (AU-PSC).

They were elected for a term of three years lasting between 2019 and 2021, with Nigeria and Kenya re-elected into the AU PSC.

The spokesperson, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, George Ehidiamen Edokpa, disclosed the re-election of Nigeria in a statement made available to our correspondent.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs wishes to inform the public that the Federal Republic of Nigeria has been re-elected into the African Union Peace and Security Council (AU-PSC) for a new three-year term. Alongside Nigeria, four other countries: Burundi, Algeria, Kenya and Lesotho were also elected, reflecting the five regions of the continent.

“The election was held on February 8, 2018, during the ongoing 34th Ordinary Session of the Executive Council of the African Union in Addis Ababa where seven countries keenly contested for the available five vacancies,” Edokpa said.

Edokpa further stated that the Nigerian Ambassador to Ethiopia and Permanent Representative to the AU, Bankole Adeoye, said Nigeria had sustained the membership of the AU-PSC since its inception in 2004, following the decision of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government to dedicate a seat of three-year term to Nigeria at every PSC election in recognition of Nigeria’s contribution to the maintenance of peace and security in Africa and beyond.

“It is pertinent to note that the PSC is a standing decision-making organ of the African Union charged with responsibilities of conducting early-warning and preventive diplomacy, facilitating peace-making, establishing peace-support operations, and, in certain circumstances, recommending intervention in member states to promote peace, security and stability.

“The PSC also ensures the implementation of key conventions and instruments to combat international terrorism, promote coordination between regional mechanisms and the AU with respect to peace, security and stability in Africa.

“The PSC’s role through Nigeria’s guidance in the Lake Chad Basin region has been remarkable, particularly in the endorsement of the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF). Nigeria has also supported the AU PSC engagements in the security situation in the ECOWAS region, Sahel and beyond.

“Therefore, following the successful re-election, Nigeria’s objective in the African Union Peace and Security Council will be guided by its renewed commitment towards proving the needed support in the ongoing implementation of the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) and the African Governance Architecture (AGA) in-line with the AU Agenda 2063 and the SDGs 2030 goals,” Edokpa further said.

Edokpa also said as Africa continues to respond to old and emerging conflicts on the continent, Nigeria would continue to collaborate with other member states to improve on the gains made in proffering African solutions to African problems, as regards the overall objective of African ownership and leadership to durable peace on the continent.

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Ghana deports 723 Nigerians in one year

Nigerian Government has expressed displeasure over the alarming, incessant arrest and deportation of Nigerians from Ghana in the last one year.

Ambassador Olufemi Abikoye, Nigerian High Commissioner to Ghana, said during a meeting with the Comptroller-General of the Ghana Immigration Service (GIS) Kwame Asuah Takyi, in Accra, that 723 Nigerians have been deported from January 2018 to date.

In a subtle protest, the High Commissioner noted that though the GIS had linked prostitution and cybercrime as some of the reasons for the deportation, he however, posited that it was “improper” to deport Nigerians for alleged illegal stay in Ghana.

Ambassador Abikoye said there were several Ghanaians living in Nigeria but the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) has never deported any of them back to Ghana because of brotherliness between the two countries.

There is Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Protocol on free movement of persons to migrate to the respective member nations without necessary valid documents.

The Nigerian Envoy brought to the attention of the CG several cases of molestation, harassment and torture of Nigerians by the GIS officials, especially those awaiting deportation at the GIS detention facility.

The High Commissioner reminded the Ghana Immigration Boss that the ‘inhuman act was against the United Nations Convention against torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Therefore, he enjoined the CG to prevail on his officials to treat Nigerians and other ECOWAS nationals with human face, caution and not as common criminals.

Responding, the Immigration boss said the Service was being compelled to carry out the deportation because of the conduct of some Nigerian nationals in Ghana.

According to him, besides engaging in cybercrime and prostitution, some Nigerians have become ‘law’ in themselves.

He said they do road blockages in major Ghanian streets where they drink, fight and stab each other, stressing that the ‘unruly’ behaviour contravenes the local laws in Ghana.

The CG therefore, appealed to the High Commissioner to continue to admonish Nigerians living in Ghana to abide by rules and regulations of the host country.

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President Sall set for re-election in Senegal presidential poll

Voters in Senegal are set to elect a president on Feb. 24 from a mere five candidates, including incumbent and frontrunner Macky Sall, an official said.

Analysts believe President Sall, 57, has high chances of winning a second term, after two prominent opposition figures were barred from running.

They are the former mayor of the capital Dakar, Khalifa Sall, and Karim Wade, a former minister and son of former President Abdoulaye Wade.

Idrissa Seck, 59, a former prime minister (2002-2004) and candidate of the Rewmi party, now counts as Macky Sall’s main rival.

Also in the running are opposition parliamentarian Ousmane Sonko of the Patriots of Senegal for Work, Ethics and Fraternity (PASTEF) party; El Hadj Sall, the leader of the Party of Unity and Gathering (PUR); and independent candidate Madicke Niang, a former foreign minister.

Both Khalifa Sall, who has no family relation to the current president, and Karim Wade were barred in January by the Constitutional Council over their convictions for misuse of public funds.

Khalifa Sall, one of Senegal’s most popular politicians, was in 2018 sentenced to five years in prison for corruption, a verdict he says was politically motivated.

The 63-year-old’s attempt to appeal his sentence was denied.

Karim Wade, 50, who had been groomed to succeed his father and was supposed to be the candidate of Senegal’s largest opposition party, the Senegalese Democratic Party.

He was in 2015 sentenced to six years in jail for “illicit enrichment” while working as a minister during his father’s presidency.

A year later, President Sall pardoned Wade, who had been in detention since 2013.

The two exclusions are likely to clear the path to Macky Sall’s re-election, analysts say.

“The legal proceedings are regarded as being aimed at removing important rivals,” Paulin Toupane, Aissatou Kante and Adja Faye, analysts at African research organisation the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), said in a joint report.

“As Feb. 24 approaches, suspicions persist and political tensions are rising,” the researchers said.

Macky Sall has been leading the politically stable former French colony, which is often hailed as one of Africa’s model democracies, since 2012.

During his first term in office, the flag-bearer of the ruling Benno Yakaar coalition has been lauded for implementing socio-economic reforms, including investment in infrastructure, education, the health sector and job creation.

The government has been popular in Senegal for the social grants it has doled out to poor families, and this policy is likely to secure Macky Sall many votes in this year’s poll, particularly in rural areas.

“Many beneficiaries are eager to profit from the promised social and infrastructure achievements of this programme’s second phase,” political Commentator, Omar Dieng, said,

It therefore comes as little surprise that Macky Sall has focused his election campaign on the promise to implement a second phase of his socio-economic development programme.

The president has also been lauded for creating the national anti-fraud and corruption authority (OFNAC), set up to investigate corruption among high-ranking government officials, which has led to several convictions.

Many of the West African nation’s almost seven million registered voters have, however, become suspicious of Macky Sall’s political motives.

“The president’s refusal to appoint a neutral minister of the interior to organise Senegal’s elections reinforces this feeling.

“The current minister, a ruling party member, stated in February 2018 that he would do his best to ensure Macky Sall’s victory,” according to Toupane, Kante and Faye.

Seck, meanwhile, has garnered the backing of many opposition parties, as well as support from the camps of Wade and Khalifa Sall, who have officially supported him since being barred.

Seck, who unsuccessfully competed for the presidency in 2007 and 2012, has pledged to focus on good governance, economic growth and security if elected to the highest office.

Like many other top politicians in Senegal, Seck has a questionable past.

He was detained in 2005 for corruption in connection with a road infrastructure project – charges he denied – but released due to lack of evidence some six months later.

Senegalese voters will elect their president between 08:00 GMT and 18:00 GMT at more than 15,000 polling stations across the country.

The poll will be monitored by observer missions from the EU, the AU and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

Provisional results are expected within three days of the election. A candidate needs to garner more than 50 per cent of the votes to win in the first round.

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Polls postponement: ECOWAS Head of Observer Mission departs Nigeria

The ECOWAS Head of Election Observer Mission, former Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf on Monday returned to her country following the postponement of the February 16 general elections.

Mr Jonathan Bara-Hart of the Directorate of Communications, ECOWAS Commission, in a telephone interview in Abuja on February 18, 2019 said that Mrs Johnson-Sirleaf would be back to Nigeria on the 21st of February,2019.

 

Mr Bara-Hart said that there were four members in her delegation from different parts of the region.

The United Nations, Commonwealth, European Union, African Union, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation were among international observers approved by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to observe the elections.

INEC had rescheduled Saturday’s presidential and National Assembly elections until February 23 and also postponed the governorship, state assemblies and FCT area council elections from March 2 to March 9.

The Heads of the international observation missions in Nigeria on Saturday in a joint statement urged INEC to strictly adhere to the new dates it had scheduled for the general elections.

They also called on Nigerians to continue to remain calm and supportive of the electoral process as INEC worked to implement its new timeline.

The missions also added that they would continue to closely observe preparations across the country.

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Presidential poll: ECOWAS deploys 200 observers

ECOWAS has deployed 200 election observers across the six geopolitical zones of the country ahead of Saturday’s presidential and national assembly elections.

This was made known at a briefing by the ECOWAS Election Observation Mission to Nigeria on February 14, 2019 in Abuja.

The ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Francis Behanzin, noted that a pre-election fact-finding mission had been to Nigeria in November 2018 ahead of the elections.

Mr Behanzin explained that the fact-finding mission included high-level representatives of the ECOWAS Commission who met with relevant stakeholders in the electoral process and urged them to support peaceful and credible elections.

“Based on the recommendations of the pre-election fact-finding mission a five-member core team of Long-Term Observers were deployed on Jan. 13 to observe the phases of the electoral process leading up to the elections.

“This core team was joined by additional 27 Long Term Observers from Jan. 26.

“In furtherance of our commitment to the process, a total of 200 Short-Term Observers are ready to be deployed in all the six geopolitical zones in the country to support the long term mission on the Election Day,” he said.

The commissioner encouraged observers to be attentive, strictly follow the observation codes and guidelines and give their full commitment to the mission.

The Head of the mission, former Liberian President, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, tasked observers to be proactive in the discharge of their duties.

Mrs Johnson-Sirleaf said their commitment would contribute to building the confidence and trust of the electorate in the democratic process in Nigeria and the region.

She added that the outcome of the mission would undoubtedly serve as a yardstick to measure the credibility of the elections.

“It is in this spirit that we should all see this onerous task as very important which should be diligently and meticulously done without compromise.”

She also urged political parties and leaders to “conduct themselves in a manner that contributes to a peaceful, free, fair, credible and transparent election, as has been done previously in the country”.

“In the case of Nigeria, the current election is being held on the heels of nagging security challenges and tense political environment.

“We are, however, confident that Nigeria’s strength and resilience, as well as with the support of friends, will go through this process in the most successful manner.

“We should remain mindful of the fact that the onus to hold peaceful, free and fair elections rests with the Nigerian people themselves,” she added

 

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ECOWAS launches Plans of Action for its Conflict Prevention…

The Plans of Action (PoA) of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)’ Conflict Prevention Framework (ECPF) was launched on Monday, the 28th of January 2019 at the ECOWAS Commission headquarters, in Abuja, Nigeria.

The ECPF comprises 15 components including its Enabling Mechanism which is at the heart of reinforcing intra-ECOWAS cooperation and ensuring the coordination of the implementation of the ECPF Plans of Acton that contributes to a measurable improvement of peace, security and stability in the region.

The PoA being launched, drive the activities of the components which include: Early warning, preventive diplomacy, democracy and political governance, human rights and rule of law, media, natural resource governance, cross-border initiatives and security governance.

Others are: Women, peace and security, youth empowerment, ECOWAS Stand-By Force, Humanitarian assistance, peace education (Culture of peace) as well as the Enabling Mechanism.

The launch of the PoA is a precursor to the upcoming retreat meant for the ECPF Focal Point Directorates from the 29th to the 31st of January 2019 in Goshen City, Nasarawa State, Nigeria.

The retreat is positioned to create a platform for all ECPF Focal Point Directorates to strategize on the improvement of conflict preventions blueprints and to enhance effective cross-departmental collaboration, cooperation and capacity building.m

Additionally, the gathering is meant to reinforce learning and strategizing for effective resource mobilization initiatives and project implementation best practices.

The ECOWAS Conflict Prevention Framework (ECPF) was adopted by the ECOWAS Mediation and Security Council (MSC) in January 2008 to provide a framework for identifying, designing and implementing programs and activities for operational and structural conflict prevention in ECOWAS Member States.

By mainstreaming conflict prevention into ECOWAS’ policies and programs, the ECPF seeks to provide tools to strengthen regional and national capacities for preventing violent conflicts or their recurrence.

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ECOWAS moves to protect Child rights and prevent Child…

Ministers responsible for children affairs from Member States of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) made a political declaration and took a common position against child marriage during a meeting which witnessed them adopt the ECOWAS Child Policy and its Strategic Action Plan (2019-2023).

The declaration was made by the regional Ministers on 25th January 2019 in Abuja, Nigeria where they resolved to promote the retention of all children in formal and/or alternative quality education systems up to the age of 18 in a compulsory and progressively free manner.

The Ministers urged the inclusion of gender-sensitive educational policies and programs that address issues of gender stereotyping, gender-based violence and child marriage. This they stated will not only improve the lives of children in the region but also create an enabling environment for the development of economic opportunities.

In order to ensure that the rights of children are protected, the Ministers stressed the need for cooperation on all levels (regional/national) to mobilize financial and technical support for planning, implementing laws and policies, monitoring and evaluation, as well as accountability for measures taken to end child marriage.

The ECOWAS Commission’s Commissioner for Social Affairs and Gender, Dr. Siga Fatima Jagne in her remarks during the meeting, reiterated the Commissions’ commitment to prioritizing, mobilizing and allocating the necessary resources to address the multi-faceted issues affecting children in West Africa.

The Commissioner stated that child marriage is a good example of problems that still persist in West Africa. “Available data shows the prevalence of child marriage in ECOWAS to be about 42% among girls and 3% among boys”, she said.

The representative of the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) at the Ministerial meeting, Mohamed Fall enthused that, with the adoption of the ECOWAS Strategic Framework for strengthening child protection systems and the update of the ECOWAS Child Policy, ECOWAS is emerging at the forefront of African institutions that promote and protect the rights of the child.

Also, the representative of the International Labour Organization, David Doukenoo, added that all West African governments can develop and implement national action plans to end child labour and child marriages as well as support girls who are already in forced marriages.

The Ministers adopted the reviewed ECOWAS Child Policy and Strategic Action Plan and the roadmap on prevention and response to child marriage which will be submitted to Council of Ministers and subsequently to the Authority of Heads of States and Government for approval

 

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2019: ECOWAS, AU launch apps to monitor threats to…

The West Africa Network for Peace building (WANEP) Nigeria has launched the Online National Early Warning System (NEWS) Platform and the ArcGIS 360 mobile application as part of measures to prevent violence and other threats to the 2019 general elections.

Speaking during the launch and training of 80 Election Conflict Monitors in Abuja, WANEP Executive Director, Dr. Chukwuemeka Eze, said despite the widespread success of the 2015 general elections, there were reports of over 60 violent incidences resulting in 58 deaths and wanton destruction of properties.

This according to him necessitated the series of activities by the organisation partnering with ECOWAS, African Union (AU) and others to ensure the peaceful and credible conduct of the election, especially that it is being seen by political analysts as a test for the nation’s democracy and stability.

On his part, the Programme Officer (GIS) and Mapping, Department of Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Early Warning Directorate of ECOWAS commission, Mr. Ismaila Gueye, said “If you look at the last election in Ghana, Benin or any other country, you will see that there is a lot of progress.”

Also, the Information Systems Officer, Continental Early Warning System, Peace and Security Department, African Union Commission, Taye Abdulkadir, said the AU has a number of frameworks that have been designed through the years to provide good governance, election, democracy.

On her part, the Analyst for West Africa, Early Warning System, Peace and Security Department, African Union Commission, Mfrekeobong Ukpanah, said there are series of threats and there are series of signs and that was why they started the project in collaboration with ECOWAS and WANEP in October.