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Gbajabiamila , Other African Speakers Push For Debt Cancellation

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Gbajabiamila spreads African Speakers’ push for debts cancellation
…Nigeria to host maiden Conference of African Speakers and Heads of Parliament
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila on Monday convened a meeting of some African Speakers of Parliaments where it was agreed that there is an urgent need to push for debt cancellation for the continent from their multilateral and bilateral partners.
This is as Gbajabiamila’s initiative to establish the Conference of African Speakers and Heads of Parliament (CoSAP), a body that will facilitate increased collaboration between Speakers, Heads of Parliament and National Assemblies across Africa got a boost.
The African Speakers will also seek to advance the African development agenda within and outside the continent in conjunction with both the executive arms of government as well as African regional institutions.
These emerged following a virtual meeting conveyed by Gbajabiamila on Monday with Hon. Tagesse Chafo, Speaker, House of Peoples Representatives, Ethiopia; Rt. Hon. Prof. Aaron Mike Oquaye, PhD, Speaker of Parliament, Ghana; Hon. Justin Bedan Muturi, Speaker, National Assembly, Republic of Kenya; Rt. Hon. Donatille Mukabalisa, Speaker, Chamber of Deputies, Rwanda; and President Moustapha Niasse, AFP, President, National Assembly, Senegal.
In his opening remarks, Gbajabiamila said there was an urgent need to join local and global efforts to push for the cancellation of the external debt owed by various countries on the continent.
Saying that development across the continent has become stunted due to the heavy burden of the debts, Gbajabiamila noted that the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) has compounded the issue for the continent, considering the socio-political and economic consequences of the disease.
“We all agree that Africa’s debt burden has become an existential threat to our societies, our economies and the future; we leave to posterity, and we need to do something about this and treat it as a continent-wide priority.
“It is safe to say that the burden of debt servicing, vis-à-vis spending on education and health care for example, is a threat to our continent’s stability and development, especially in the era of Covid-19.
“When we find ourselves having to make policy choices between paying debts or saving lives, we know something is not morally right. And as democratically elected representatives of our people, we cannot be silent. We must speak up and we must act. And the time to act is now.
“Furthermore, is the need for us to reflect on, the processes that led to Africa’s heavy indebtedness in the first place, the role parliamentarians can play to address this going forward and what assurances we as parliamentarians can give our borrowers that if our debt is cancelled, the freed-up resources will be invested in social and economic development of our citizens.
“If we want debt cancellation, we must be able to build the confidence of the borrowers that the cancellation will indeed save lives and livelihoods across the continent, and we, as Speakers and Heads of our parliaments, will ensure that is indeed the case”.
On the need for the establishment of the Pan-African Speaker’s Conference, Gbajabiamila noted that collective efforts at tackling challenges facing the continent have become expedient.
He said: “The motive behind this initiative is that each year we identify a theme, issue, or challenge that is pan-African in scope and we meet to deliberate on how we can work together across parliaments in Africa to tackle these continental issues and challenges.
“As heads of our respective parliamentary entities, it will also be a good platform to share experiences and expertise in different aspects of our legislative duties pertinent to the growth, development and sustenance of our economies and our societies; and on ways to enhance the capacity and impact of our parliaments on our democracies and the lives of the peoples we all represent.
“We have spent decades learning from the rest of the world, now we must begin to learn from one another”.
Throwing his weight behind the two initiatives, Hon. Tagesse Chafo, Speaker, House of Peoples Representatives, Ethiopia, noted that though almost every government on the continent has been trying to seek debt forgiveness, this should not, however, stop the parliaments from contributing to the efforts through a platform such as this.
“As representatives of our people, we are to come together, advise and campaign about the issue, we don’t have to keep quiet because debt cancellation would be good for the resuscitation of our economies that have been ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic,” he added.
In the same vein, Rt. Hon. Prof. Aaron Mike Oquaye, Speaker of Parliament, Ghana noted that the debt burden is essentially a common challenge on the continent, as most African countries have to depend on foreign loans to execute their national budgets.
He, however, noted that the Speaker’s group, in its efforts to push for debt cancellation must be able to convince the creditors about accountability if they hope to succeed.
He said: “Donor agencies are interested in accountability because they are confounded about the issue of corruption, and we must be able to give the assurance and that is why the Speakers Conference is critical. And if nothing is done, there may be no economy to service the loans”
Hon. Justin Bedan Muturi, Speaker, National Assembly, Republic of Kenya also emphasised the need for the initiative, adding that, the coronavirus pandemic has undermined most African economies because conditions attached to most of the loans have been eroded by the consequences of the novel pandemic.
On her part, Rt. Hon. Donatille Mukabalisa, Speaker, Chamber of Deputies, Rwanda, while noting that African countries depend on and heavily burdened by loans even before the pandemic, however, added that the group must be clear about the kind of debt it is seeking to address and from which partners.
While President Moustapha Niasse, AFP, President, National Assembly, Senegal also regretted that the pandemic has affected all economies on the continent negatively, he, however, suggested that opinions of members of the forum must be sought on how to solve the issues between suspension or cancellation of debt
“We must be convinced that we have a job to do at the level of parliament,” he added.
It was also agreed that a Communique would be released in the first week of September 2020, while the campaign for implementations of the plan of action would begin in the second week of September 2020 as well.
According to the forum, the third week of September would be devoted to the planning for the 2021 conference by the Secretariat.
While it was decided that Nigeria would host the maiden edition of CoSAP chaired by Nigerian Speaker the Rt. Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, the new body is expected to meet again in the first week of September to approve the plans and swing into action.

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Lagos State Governor Hosts Barcelona Star , Asisat Oshoala

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IMG 20200920 051522 Lagos State Governor Hosts Barcelona Star , Asisat Oshoala

Today, @AsisatOshoala paid me a courtesy visit. She is a worthy ambassador of Lagos from Ikorodu & we are proud of her. She spoke about her plans for the Asisat Oshoala Foundation and I promised to support her.
We kicked the ball for a bit and I think I still have my skills.

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FG Collaborating With Investors To Improve Nigeria ’ s Digital Sector – Osinbajo

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images 9 3 FG Collaborating With Investors To Improve Nigeria ’ s Digital Sector - Osinbajo

*OFFICE OF THE VICE PRESIDENT*
PRESS RELEASE
*FG COLLABORATING WITH INVESTORS TO IMPROVE NIGERIA’S DIGITAL SECTOR, SAYS OSINBAJO*
*VP engages Facebook VP and former UK Deputy PM, Nick Clegg, in fireside chat
*Tech giant announces new office in Lagos, outcome of 2018 VP-led FG delegation’s visit to Silicon Valley
Just as global Social Media and technology giant, Facebook was informing the Federal Government about its decision to open a Nigerian office in Lagos, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN has restated the determination of the Buhari administration to keep boosting the nation’s technology sector and digital economy.
Prof. Osinbajo stated this on Friday during a fireside chat with Facebook’s Vice President on Global Affairs and Communications, former UK Deputy Prime Minister, Sir Nick Clegg. The chat focused on the digital economic pillar of the Nigerian Economic Sustainability Plan, NESP.
Clegg and other Facebook officials, including Ebele Okobi, Facebook’s Head of Public Policy, Africa, had informed the Vice President about the decision to open its second African office in Lagos possibly by the end of this year or next year.
It would be recalled that a delegation of the Federal Government led by the VP and including the Communications & Digital Economy Minister, Dr. Isa Ali Pantami, had visited Silicon Valley in 2018 and one of the issues on the table then was how such global tech giants like Facebook could have full representation in the country, including a Nigerian office.
According to the Vice President during the fireside chat on Friday, the focus of the Nigerian government on the digital sector is crucial in various socio-economic aspect of national life, from education, e-commerce, social investments programmes to the activities of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government.
He said, “The NESP is our response to the economic crisis caused by the (COVID-19) pandemic. Our focus on the digital sector is really because practically everything we are doing centres around expanding our reach in the digital sector.
“For example, financial inclusion is critical for us because we are spreading and extending our social services, payment of cash transfers to the poorest and most vulnerable and other manners of such payment; and sometimes to the farthest flung places in Nigeria. So, we certainly need to expand our reach in order to do so. Of course, technology is critical to that.”
The VP also noted that the Federal Government is collaborating with the private sector to fund, establish and expand e-learning and education platforms, and other areas of digital technology growth.
“Practically everything is now being done remotely. Earlier on today, I did a virtual commissioning of the MSME clinic in Lagos, sitting in my office in Abuja. So, for us, the digital space is very important, which is why the focus was on the digital economy in the Economic Sustainability Plan.
“We are led by the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, which is the ministry fully devoted to all of what we do in the digital space. We have NITDA, an agency responsible for Information technology (policy implementation); as well as the private sector.”
Recalling the trip to Silicon Valley and Facebook campus in the US in 2018, the VP stated that the tours helped to boost government’s digital drive, while leading to significant improvement in the country’s digital sector.
“The tours were extremely successful. In Silicon Valley, Nigerian start-ups got a chance to pitch their products to tech sector investors, that was very good. In fact, before we left Silicon Valley, one of our venture platforms was able to sign a deal worth about $10m with the Nigeria-US Council. Since then, we’ve seen tremendous activity post-trip. The visit helped in showing our seriousness about the technology sector, and also the entertainment industry. We held a few meetings also with the entertainment industry.
“As of 2018/19, we’ve gotten about $377m in investments in the tech sector. Although, it still scratches the surface if one considers the size of our economy and country. But there were very significant gains, and I’m very happy to do that. I think we’ve started off a series of interactions that have been very useful and we will continue to engage.”
On the issue of regulations to ensure smooth collaboration between government and the private sector, the Vice President stated that the Federal Government will continue to engage with the private sector to boost development of the tech and creative sector.
“With regulation, we are dealing with uncharted territory, because quite a few of what we are seeing are entirely new. And I must say that the regulatory authorities have done quite a decent work, trying to grapple with the newness of some of what they are seeing… So, what has happened is that the collaborative efforts of govt and the tech sector, even the entertainment sector, worked on this. We had set up a technology and creativity advisory group; these are young entrepreneurs, innovators etc, who worked with us in the Industrial and Competitiveness Council to craft some of these regulations and to think through some of the problems,” Prof. Osinbajo said.
According to him, “we are trying to work with practically everyone who is interested in the Nigerian digital sector. By way of preparation, one of the critical issues for us is improving our broadband infrastructure. We’ve heard the exciting stuff that Facebook is doing, especially by way of subsea cable that is being launched.
“But we also have a Nigerian National Broadband Plan 2020-2025 recently launched by the Hon. Minister of Communication & Digital Economy. There is a presidential committee which has just been inaugurated to work on this. These are broad objectives, and for us, creating that infrastructure is crucial, and we are happy to see the partnerships from Facebook and from some of the other tech companies.”
The Vice President further said government is also working to ensure access to credit for innovators.
“We’ve talked a bit about foreign investments in innovation in Nigeria, but more importantly, the work that the Bank of Industry is doing. The Bank of Industry has a technology fund. The Central Bank of Nigeria has also recently established a technology fund. Also, we are working with the African Development Bank (AfDB), which has a $500m fund; at the moment we are at the final stages, trying to bring that into existence.
“So, there is quite a bit of activity to ensure that there is access to funding, while we are improving the business environment and the environment for technology companies to operate,” he said.
On his part, Sir Clegg noted that he was impressed with Nigeria’s broadband goals and what Government is doing to improve the digital sector.
He said “Let me say how excited I am, on behalf of the whole of Facebook and all of our teams, of the emerging ambitions that we see in the broadband space in Nigeria, particularly with the Economic Sustainability Plan led by His Excellency, the Vice President. What a huge pleasure for me to hear directly form the Vice President about these ambitions.”
At the chat also attended by the Communications and Digital Economy Minister, Facebook announced that it will be opening an office in Lagos, Nigeria. This would be its second office on the African continent as the tech giant officials explained that the opening is part of its continued commitment and ongoing investment in Africa.
According to Facebook officials, this is aimed at supporting the entire Sub-Saharan Africa, adding that the office is expected to become fully operational in 2021. The Facebook Nigeria office will be the first on the continent to house a team of expert engineers building for the future of Africa and beyond.
According to Facebook, the “office will be home to various teams servicing the continent from across the business, including Sales, Partnerships, Policy, Communications as well as Engineers.”
Laolu Akande
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media & Publicity
Office of the Vice President
19th September, 2020

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Kogi Government Writes US Over Electoral Fraud Allegation

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images 12 3 Kogi Government Writes US Over Electoral Fraud Allegation

KGS/GO/ADM/25/II/XX.X
16 September 2020
The Ambassador Of The United States of America
Embassy of The United States of America
1075 Diplomatic Drive
Central Business District
Abuja, NIGERIA
Your Excellency,
RE: VISA RESTRICTIONS ON INDIVIDUALS AND INCLUSION OF THE 2019 KOGI STATE GUBERNATORIAL ELECTIONS IN US STATE DEPARTMENT LIST OF ALLEGEDLY COMPROMISED ELECTIONS – A LETTER OF PROTEST
1. I have been so directed by His Excellency, Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State and I hereby make and forward this Letter of Protest to you in respect of the matters contained in it.
2. The Kogi State Government became aware of a United States Government list of individuals who received US visa restrictions for alleged electoral malpractices via a Press Statement to that effect posted on your Embassy website at https:///32vD96M. In your own words, the still unnamed individuals are cited as guilty of ‘acts of violence, intimidation, or corruption that harmed Nigerians and undermined the democratic process.’ They are also alleged to ‘have operated with impunity at the expense of the Nigerian people and undermined democratic principles and human rights.’
3. You also noted in the Statement that the sanctions are derived from unspecified misconducts by the said individuals which extend from the February/March 2019 General Elections in Nigeria through the off-cycle November 2019 gubernatorial elections in Kogi and Bayelsa to the as yet unheld governorship contests in Edo and Ondo States. Please note that for the purposes of this protest letter we are only interested in the citations to the extent that they are referable to Kogi State and her citizens.
4. For the most part, we concede that elections in Nigeria are complex affairs which will continue to require improvements for the foreseeable future. The 2019 Kogi State Gubernatorial Election was also not without its challenges. However, it is also crystal clear from critical and composite analyses of the records (official, media, observers, etc) of the November 16, 2020 polls that regrettable incidents were limited to a few polling units, while the overwhelmingly larger portions of the ballot were free, fair and credible.
5. Further, and in line with Nigerian law, the few political parties and individuals who alleged widespread electoral malpractices had free rein to contest the outcome in court. They vigorously litigated their claims over a grueling 9-month period, through a 3-step hierarchy of courts, to the inescapable conclusion at the Supreme Court of Nigeria that the said elections satisfactorily complied with the Nigerian Constitution and the Electoral Act.
6. Our concern right now is not the prerogative of the United States of America to impose entry restrictions on anyone, for any or no reason at all, which prerogative remains unfettered, but the room for atrocious misinformation which the timing of your Press Statement and the mention of the Kogi elections therein has created in our state.
7. For the February and March 2019 General elections, your advisory came out in July 2019, long before the Supreme Court delivered her judgments in the petitions against those elections, including challenges to President Muhammadu Buhari’s reelection. The presumption is that in spite of your intervention, the Supreme Court still discovered no merit in the petitions and dismissed them accordingly.
8. In our case, ie, Kogi State, you made the tactical decision to release the update shortly after the Supreme Court delivered judgments in the 4 petitions which made it before her. Amongst a plethora of well-reasoned pronouncements the Apex Court dismissed the said petitions for failing to prove their allegations and for having no ‘scintilla of merit’. The inference from your timing is that the judgment is somehow tainted and did not meet the justice of the case, thereby casting aspersions, not only on the Nigerian Judiciary, but on the second term mandate freely bestowed on His Excellency, Governor Yahaya Bello by the good people of Kogi State.
9. We find this unacceptable, and we protest your presumption. The least you could have done, if indeed this is about democracy and human rights as claimed, is create room, no matter how slim, for fair hearing. As it is now, partisan speculation as to who is indicted, who is not and for what, has become cudgels, furiously swung in the media space by all comers. Your action has therefore added abundant grist to the rumour mills and electrified the merchants of fake news.
10. For instance, a United States based blog, saharareporters.com, has made inflammatory publications in which they named His Excellency, Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State, among others, as a definite recipient of your visa restriction. Though you have named no names, accuracy is of no moment to them, just base political expediency, and they quote unnamed US State Department sources to give credibility to what is otherwise unproven.
11. Also, other players in the Kogi political space, including candidates and officials of opposition political parties which lost the elections and could not prove their allegations in court as aforesaid have now latched onto this action, holding media conferences and making press releases, claiming that the United States has justified their wild allegations and conspiracy theories where the courts and the administrative quarters failed. This is utterly regrettable.
12. Let it be noted that we are not challenging your visa bans in any way, whoever they may affect and for how long, but we do register the strongest protest possible as a State to the collateral and unwarranted interference in our political and social processes which it represents. You have reignited already dying embers of discord around the February/March General Elections and the November 16 Kogi State Gubernatorial Elections of 2019. This has invariably made our usual post-election duty of reconciliation with fair-minded political opponents all the more harder. We are hurt and disappointed.
13. Digressing a little beyond Kogi State to our contiguous states of Edo and Ondo, we wish to advice generally that by so preemptively interfering in their elections, both of which are yet to hold, events on ground since your publication indicate that the United States has foisted on our political process, not the expected caution or good behaviour by politicians which may have been your intent, but further calcification of hardened attitudes, more violent polemics, and increased sabre-rattling.
14. Even now every camp is trying to spin your action as evidence of US support for themselves and hostility to their opponents. Everyone involved in those elections is now stoked with an aura of invincibility and hellbent on displaying all manners of outrageousness on election day to prove their opponents the aggressors. After all, with sanctions looming over everyone like the Sword of Damocles, every stakeholder, including the security agencies are on tenterhooks and less likely to be lively. We fear you may have done our democracy more harm than good with this action, and we consider it most unfortunate indeed.
15. In conclusion, we believe that if the United States of America, despite her commanding heights and much longer experience as the acclaimed Bastion of Democracy in the world, is still locked in a fight to defend the integrity of her own electoral processes to this very day, then she ought to accord greater empathy, more civility and much less disruption, to nascent democracies.
16. Please be assured of our high regards always.
MRS FOLASHADE ARIKE AYOADE, Ph.D
Secretary to the Government of Kogi State

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