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AfCFTA deal boosts Africa’s market with $3.4 trn GDP – Buhari

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By Matthew Denis Abuja

President Muhammadu Buhari  revealed that the recently executed African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) is a typical reference point as the deal has created a continent-wide market embracing 55 countries with 1.3 billion people and a combined GDP of $3.4 trillion.

The President made the disclosure at the opening ceremony of the 15th Annual Banking and Finance Conference in Abuja on Wednesday.

He said ” In the new Glocal context, the role and significance of the finance industry cannot be overstated in driving economic prosperity. The sector provides opportunities to create SME start-ups, expand existing business interests and create more jobs thereby pushing the local brand overseas to frontier markets.

“Therefore, repositioning the finance services industry involves valuable innovations to ensure global solutions reach local indigenous customers.

” The recently executed African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) is a typical reference point. The deal creates a continent-wide market embracing 55 countries with 1.3 billion people and a combined GDP of US$3.4 trillion.

The President stressed that Its first phase which took effect in January, 2021 would gradually eliminate tariffs on 90 percent of goods and reduce barriers to trade in services.

“In repositioning itself, the finance sector would serve not just as an intermediary for lenders and borrowers but in creating a new ecosystem consisting of platforms where ordinary Africans can buy and sell their locally made products despite currency disparity as being practiced on the Pan-African Payment and Settlement System (PAPSS), a brainchild of Afrexim Bank. “According to him the theme of this year’s conference “Repositioning the Financial Services Industry for an Evolving Glocal Context” is most apt in view of the need to constantly adapt internationally acceptable best practices to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the sector in playing its primary role of holding financial assets, financial intermediation and capital formation.

He said ” The expediency of discussions on repositioning the sector within an evolving glocal context cannot be over-emphasized as it stands to benefit from the experiences of other nations in navigating through emerging issues such as the fall-out from the COVID-19 Pandemic and the on-going Russian-Ukraine war which have global implications on financial service delivery in local economies.

“This will enable participants and industry players gain new knowledge and insights to address emerging challenges and optimize the opportunities within the Nigerian financial sector.

“Other opportunities for the repositioning of the Nigerian financial sector to promote financial inclusion and the diversification of the nation’s economy include the following:Deepening the market and expanding product offering across the various segments of the industry to adequately finance Nigeria’s infrastructure and business investment needs as well as developing strategies to encourage Insurance penetration in Nigeria.

“Leveraging on the growing Non-Banking Financial Institutions (NBFIs) in the country to crowd in capital from pension funds and insurance assets through well-structured and risk-mitigated financial instruments to broaden and deepen the country’s financial markets.

“Deploying innovations in Fintech for the extension of financial services to the under-served population as well as expanding the product space by taking advantage of the opportunities provided by other digital trading platforms such as  Warehousing, Collateral Management and Crowdfunding. Raising funds to finance the infrastructural needs through the issuance of revenue bonds, securitizing government assets and adopting other private finance arrangements, that allow private sector to provide services and infrastructure to the public transparently and competitively, thereby allowing for efficiency and improved revenue generation.

He noted that over the past seven years, our administration has through various initiatives supported the repositioning of the Nigerian economy within an evolving Glocal Context including government’s support of the Nigeria’s creative industry and indigenous Small and Medium-sized businesses as well as the agricultural sector which have enhanced the capacity of indigenous enterprises to compete with their counterparts from other countries. These efforts would be sustained and extended to more sectors of the economy.

“It is important state that the resolution of global issues within the local context will continue to give impetus for economic prosperity in our local communities. Let me at this point, highlight some of the key socio-economic issues which are currently being tackled at both local and global levels; Climate Change, Eroding Purchasing Power Due to Inflation  and Insecurity.

“May I emphasize that we need a Nigeria of the future that harnesses her strengths, competences, and cultural diversity to tackle the challenges that plague her people, from climate change to pandemics, and insecurity. “He noted that the Government will continue to formulate and implement policies that are aimed at promoting self-sustenance in critical areas such as energy, agriculture, health, technologies and awaits the outputs of this Conference as inputs for the process.

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Appeal Court fails to hear EFCC suit against order restraining ex-Kogi governor’s arrest

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The Court of Appeal in Abuja on Monday did not sit to hear the appeal lodged by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) against the order of a Kogi High Court which restrained the anti-graft agency from arresting the immediate-past governor, Yahaya Bello.

The Kogi court, in a ruling on April 17, restrained the EFCC from arresting, detaining and prosecuting  Bello.

The judge, I.A Jamil, gave the order in a two-hour judgment delivered in suit no HCL/68/M/2020 in Lokoja, the Kogi State capital, on Wednesday.

The judgment coincided with the  ”siege’ nvasion of Bello’s home in Abuja by EFCC operatives in a bid to arrest him.

The EFCC is seeking to arraign the former governor on 19 counts bordering on alleged money laundering, breach of trust and misappropriation of funds to the tune of N80.2billion.

The anti-graft agency determined to get Bello to face the law for his alleged crime, approached the Federal High Court in Abuja on the same day to get an arrest warrant.

.The warrant was issued following an ex parte motion filed by the EFCC.

In his ruling on the motion, Justice Emeka Nwite also directed that the former governor be produced before him on Thursday, April 18, for arraignment.

He said, “It is hereby ordered as follows:

That an order of this honourable court is hereby made directing and/or issuing a warrant for the immediate arrest of the defendant to bring him before this honourable court for arraignment.

“That case is adjourned until April 18 for arraignment.”

Alhough Bello was absent to take his plea, his team of lawyers, led by Abdulwahab Mohammed (SAN), informed the court of the matter before the appeal court.

Mohammed told the court that it was wrong for the EFCC to apply for an arrest warrant against Bello when the same matter was already before the appeal court.

The EFCC counsel, Kemi Pinehero, argued that court could go ahead with the trial.

The EFCC, in its appeal through its solicitor, J.S. Okutepa (SAN), is seeking a stay of execution to the order of the trial court in Kogi State.

In the appeal marked CA/ABJ/PRE/RDA/CV/165MI, the anti-graft agency contested the court order on the grounds that it is a body created by statute to carry out functions specified in its Establishment Act and empowered to investigate and prosecute economic crimes as set out under sections 6 and 7 of the EFCC Act.

The EFCC faulted the order of the lower court, describing it as an obstruction.

“The orders granted ex parte on the 9th of February 2024 constitute a clog in the progress of the appellant/applicant’s performance of its statutory functions and duties under the EFCC Act 2004,” the EFCC said.

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Unite against plastic pollution: HOMEF’s World Earth Day message

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In observance of the 2024 World Earth Day, the Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), a non-governmental organization, has rallied for a unified effort to combat the pervasive issue of plastic pollution plaguing the planet.

HOMEF’s media officer, Kome Odhomor, issued a statement in Yenagoa emphasizing the necessity of concerted action to eliminate the scourge of plastics and preserve the well-being of all life forms. Dr. Nnimmo Bassey, Executive Director of HOMEF, echoed this sentiment, urging individuals worldwide to actively safeguard the environment within their local communities.

“Today presents a critical juncture where we must choose between the sustenance of our planet and the proliferation of plastics,” remarked Dr. Bassey. “While the allure of convenience may tempt us towards plastic usage, we must prioritize the health of our planet, which sustains all life forms. Failure to do so could lead us down a path of plastic dependency, resulting in dire consequences for our health, climate, and the overall ecological balance.”

HOMEF emphasized the imperative to recognize World Earth Day as a poignant reminder of our collective responsibility to protect and preserve the Earth. This year’s theme, “Planet Vs Plastic,” underscores the urgent need to forge a sustainable future for humanity, wildlife, and natural ecosystems.

“Our addiction to single-use plastics is suffocating the planet,” stated HOMEF. “These non-biodegradable materials persist indefinitely, clogging our environment and posing grave threats due to their chemical composition. The rampant production of plastic, coupled with dismal recycling rates, underscores the magnitude of the challenge we face.”

Acknowledging global efforts to reduce plastic consumption, HOMEF commended initiatives advocating for a 60 percent reduction in plastic usage by 2040. Additionally, the organization stressed the importance of embracing sustainable alternatives to mitigate the adverse effects of plastic pollution.

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IGP wants NSCDC, FRSC merged with police

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The Inspector General of Police, Mr Kayode Egbetokun, has advised the Federal Government to merge the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) with the police for effectiveness.

Egbetokun said this at the National Dialogue on State Policing, organised by the House of Representatives on Monday in Abuja with the theme “Pathways to Peace: Reimagining Policing in Nigeria”.

The I-G, represented by the Assistant Inspector General (DIG) of Police, Mr Ben Okoro, said that the NSCDC and the FRSC were a duplication of the police.

Egbetokun also said that Nigeria was not ripe enough for state police urging those calling for state police to work toward merging the NCDSC and the FRSC with the police for effectiveness.

He said the police were battling with inadequate training as well as lack of adequate manpower.

He said that most police barracks had dilapidated due to lack of maintenance and renovation.

“This has have a negative impact on the performance of the policemen,” he said.

Egbetokun also faulted calls for state police saying that Nigeria was not matured enough for state police.

He added that state police would create avenues for state governor to use it to suppress the opposition in their states.

He said creating state police would also lead to the problem of jurisdiction, which would bring about conflicts of interest.

He added that the state police would not be able to combat terrorism, kidnapping, and banditry, because they required enormous resources to combat.

He also said that there was a need to improve the training of personnel to enable modern policing, adding that funding was necessary to also help maintain internal security.

The Chief of Defense Staff, Gen. Christopher Musa, said that there was need for comprehensive and effective security framework to tackle rising security challenge in the country.

Musa, represented by Maj. Gen. Kunle Ariyibi, said that the security and safety of the country was paramount.

“I is imperative that we come together to find sustainable solutions.

” It is through collaboration and a shared commitment to the common good that we can develop policies and strategies that will enhance the security infrastructure of our dear nation,” he said.

Musa said it was imperative to create a security framework that would be inclusive, responsive, and capable of safeguarding the rights and freedoms of all Nigerians.

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