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FG sets up task force to dismantle check-points on Benin-Nigeria highway – Minister

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FG sets up task force to dismantle check-points on Benin-Nigeria highway – Minister

Check-points

Abuja, April 15, 2019 The Minister of Foreign Affairs Geoffrey Onyeama, says the Federal Government has set up a Presidential Task force to dismantle all check-points on the Nigeria-Benin route to encourage trade and regional integration.

Onyeama said this on Monday in Abuja, when members of ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ELTS) Task Force at the borders of member states paid him a courtesy visit.

The ELTS task force led by its Spokesperson, Mr Ken Ukaoha, also gave the report of its finding on activities across the borders along the Lagos-Seme-Benin route and factors impeding free trade in the region.

The minister said that the Presidential task force on Check-Points, which would be inaugurated soon, was domiciled in the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF).

“The government has set up a task force to address the checkpoint issues; clearly Mr President has given a directive to remove all check-points.

“As soon as this is implemented, we will have some progress in that area.

“The task force will give recommendations on dismantling different check-points along the border route and it will get stakeholders involved.

“Government has also set up a steering committee of the stakeholders to come together to address the challenges,” he said.

Onyeama expressed the determination of President Muhammadu Buhari, who is the Chairperson of ECOWAS, to ensuring free trade within the region.

“It is depressing that some of your discoveries are part of the challenges and the issue of corruption that the president is dealing with.

“As you can see the various areas and the impact on trade in the region.

“We are chairing ECOWAS at the moment, we will continue the work and ensure the removal of all barriers to trading in our sub-region,” he said.

According to him, the issue of smuggling, which is also putting a real strain on the objectives of ECOWAS, is something that is harming countries in the sub-region and government is determined to address that.

“And of course the re-parking and reloading are parts of the security measure that we want to take, and once that is done we are determined to take all the necessary measures to address all the issues you have raised.

“All the ECOWAS countries have to tackle issues and to make sure that the provisions of ECOWAS are maintained, otherwise the efforts are defeated.’’

uKAOHA had earlier told the minister its findings on challenges impeding trade between ECOWAS countries, which included multiple checkpoints along the border between Nigeria and Benin republic.

He said the team undertook a tour from Lagos to Seme and to Benin and discovered ten check-points manned by different uniformed men instead of two approved by ECOWAS law .

The task force leader said that the situation became worse when the team was returning, as the check points, made up of police, customs, immigration, NDLEA, Federal Road Safety Corps and quarantine staff, had increased to 33.

He expressed concern that progress in trade liberation had been impeded because of different and unnecessary checks points along the sub-region’s borders.

“Much progress has not been made in terms of trade, though on other areas, some level of achievements has been attained.

“If the ECOWAS can move as a region, more than 45 per cent of the wealth that should have been generated by over 350 million people in ECOWAS would have really helped in reducing poverty.

“Movement of people, goods and services have been impeded by a lot of factors in the region and therefore the subject of poverty reduction has not been achieved,” he said.

The ELTS task force said there was the need to improve operations at the joint border which he said had just been commissioned.

According to Ukoaha, the region needs to increase awareness among the uniformed men and provide them with modern and sophisticated equipment that would enhance their operations.

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Pope Francis delivers speech on humanitarian issues to Thai Govt

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Pope Francis was officially welcomed by the Thai Government in a ceremony on Thursday at the prime minister’s office in Bangkok where he delivered a speech that touched on a range of humanitarian issues.

An honour guard of marching Thai soldiers came to a halt as they stood for the Vatican City national anthem.

In his opening remarks to a room of Thai government officials and priests, Francis said he welcomed Thailand’s transition from a military government to a civilian one.

The comment was met with a bright smile from Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who led the former military government after overthrowing an elected government in a 2014 coup.

Prayut leads the current civilian coalition government after his junta introduced new election laws to favour his return as prime minister.

Francis’ speech then touched on the global issue of refugees, which he described as an “important ethical issue for our times”.

He said the problem is not about the migration of people but stems from situations that force people to flee their homes.

“Thailand was once a country that had a reputation of accepting refugees,’’ he said.

“I plead that communities in each country to responsibly proceed with addressing the problems that lead to people having to flee their countries.’’

Francis said the issue of refugees reminds him of women and children, who are taken advantage of and face “violence and forced labour in many forms’’.

Later in the evening, Francis is scheduled to meet the Thai king before addressing a stadium in Bangkok for a holy mass, where around 50,000 people are expected to attend.

Edited by Fatima Sule/Abdulfatah Babatunde (NAN)

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China says it will strive to reach ‘phase one’ trade deal with U.S.

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China says it will strive to reach an initial trade agreement with the U.S. as both sides keep communication channels open.

Gao Feng, spokesman for the Chinese commerce ministry said this on Thursday in an attempt to allay fears that talks might be unraveling.

According to Gao, China is willing to work with the U.S. to resolve each other’s core concerns on the basis of equality and mutual respect, and will try hard to reach a “phase one” deal.

“This is in line with the interests of both China and the U.S., and of the world,” he said.

Economists warn that the prolonged trade dispute between China and the U.S. is escalating risks to the global economy by disrupting supply chains, discouraging investment and dampening business confidence.

Completion of a phase one deal could slide into 2020, trade experts and people close to the White House said, as Beijing presses for more extensive tariff rollbacks and the U.S. administration counters with heightened demands of its own.

Global equities retreated on Thursday due to concerns that the ‘phase one’ deal would be delayed.

The trade jitters also sent the 10-year U.S. Treasury yield down to near its lowest levels in three weeks.

The Chinese yuan also softened against the dollar.

Officials from Beijing had suggested that Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. counterpart Donald Trump might sign a deal in early December.

Some experts said the next date to watch was Dec. 15, when U.S. tariffs on about 156 billion dollars in Chinese goods are set to take effect, including holiday gift items such as electronics and Christmas decorations.

In a dinner speech in Beijing on Wednesday, Chinese Vice Premier Liu He said he was “cautiously optimistic” on a phase one deal, Bloomberg News said, citing people who attended the event ahead of a forum organised by Bloomberg LP.

Liu, China’s chief negotiator at the trade talks, separately told one of the attendees that he was “confused” about the U.S. demands, but was confident the first phase of a deal could be completed nevertheless, Bloomberg added.

Gaosaid he did not have more information to disclose beyond the fact that both parties would continue to communicate, and “outside rumors are not accurate.”

A former Chinese commerce minister said that both sides should return to the time when the trade war first started.

“We should return to the point of origin and cancel all tariffs,” Wei Jianguo said on the sidelines of the Bloomberg forum.

Wei said he was hopeful for a phase one pact, in light of the pressure on both the U.S. and Chinese economies as the trade war dragged on.

“Now, Trump himself is cognizant about the needs of the (upcoming U.S.) elections, and the U.S. economy has also suffered great losses,” he said.

“Under such circumstances, it is entirely possible to reach a phased agreement.”

(Edited by Fatima Sule/Emmanuel Yashim (NAN))

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IMF says trade tensions can shave off 0.8% of global GDP

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The International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) chief on Thursday warned that trade tensions and resulting uncertainties could shave off 0.8 per cent of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2020.

Kristalina Georgieva, the Managing Director of the IMF, said this at the end of a roundtable discussion with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and the heads of five other international organisations in Beijing.

The global economy is in a “synchronised slowdown,’’ Georgieva said.

Ninety per cent of the world’s GDP is slowing compared with 2018. In contrast, 75 per cent of the world’s GDP was increasing just two years ago, before the start of the U.S.-China trade war, Georgieva said.

While a variety of factors have contributed to the slowdown, key among them are the trade tensions and resulting uncertainties, she said.

The IMF expects China’s economy to grow 6.1 per cent this year and slip below the 6-per-cent mark in 2020.

The world’s second-largest economy slowed to 6 per cent growth in the third quarter of the year – its slowest pace in almost three decades – under pressure from rising debt and the trade war with the U.S.

(Edited by Fatima Sule/Emmanuel Yashim (NAN))

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Opposition leader sworn-in as Sri Lanka’s new prime minister

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Opposition leader Mahinda Rajapaksa was sworn-in as the new prime minister of Sri Lanka on Thursday following his brother’s victory in the presidential election, officials said.

The 74-year-old Rajapaksa was sworn-in before President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the Presidential Secretariat in Colombo in a ceremony broadcast live on television.

Earlier in the day, the outgoing Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe handed over his resignation, paving the way for Rajapaksa’s appointment and a new cabinet of ministers.

The 15 new ministers are to be sworn-in later in the day or on Friday for an interim period until parliamentary elections are held in 2020.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa, contesting as the presidential candidate for the Sri Lanka Podujana Party (Peoples’ Party), received 52.25 of the vote in weekend elections against Sajith Premadasa of the New Democratic Front alliance, who received 41.99 per cent.

It would be within the president’s powers to dissolve parliament after March 2020 and call for early elections.

However, if both the ruling party and the opposition agree to approve a resolution by a two-thirds majority in the 225-seat parliament then elections could be called even earlier.

President Rajapaksa’s brother, Mahinda Rajapaksa, has also served as president, in two consecutive terms from 2005 to 2015, during which he played a key role in leading the military to defeat the Tamil rebels, bringing an end to the 26-year conflict in 2009.

(Edited by Fatima Sule/Emmanuel Yashim (NAN))

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Indonesia will continue to partner with Nigeria for benefit of the two nations – Ambassador

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The Ambassador of Indonesia to Nigeria, Dr Usra Hendra Harahap, has pledged that Indonesia would continue to extend a hand of partnership to Nigeria on an equal basis for the benefit of the two nations.

Harahap made the pledge at the 74th anniversary of the Indonesian Armed Forces Day late Wednesday in Abuja.

The theme of the event is “Professional Armed Forces, Pride of the Indonesians’’.

“We will continue to extend a hand of partnership on an equal basis, with one sentence in our mind: ‘A closer relationship between Indonesia and Nigeria for the benefit and prosperity of our peoples’.

“And I believe, by materialising this partnership, it will bring common benefit for the two nations.

“May Indonesia-Nigeria friendship and cooperation intensify further in the years ahead,’’ he said.

According to him, the cooperation between Indonesian and Nigerian armed forces should be promoted.

He said that no nation could stand alone in order to gain its full potential, adding that cooperation and partnership were the best paths for nations to develop themselves.

Harahap said that Indonesia is always ready to cooperate with any country to enhance the ability and capability of her armed forces through the procurement of strategic equipment and capacity building of the personnel.

“I will work hard to make more Nigerian military personnel get their training and education in Indonesia.

“Indonesian industries is also offering its strategic products to Nigeria to fulfil the requirements of security and defence activities.’’

The ambassador said that the 74th anniversary of Indonesian Armed Forces signified continuous progress and achievements of the country’s armed forces in protecting the nation over the decades.

He said that the Indonesian Armed Forces has the role of defence to deter external military threats, eliminate threats and ensure peace and security within its national territory.

Harahap said that in a wider international context, “Indonesia continues to promote its commitment to world peace and stability’’.

He added that it was a mandate, which was written in its constitution since independence on Aug. 17, 1945.

“In this regard, as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council in 2019 – 2020, Indonesia is actively involved in the global peace-building decision-making process.

“Indonesia is also more active in delivering the interest of developing countries in any peace process.’’

He said that Indonesian armed forces were being reformed into a better, more agile defence forces, adding that they are modernising themselves by procuring imported equipment and by developing their own defence technology capabilities.

Earlier, the Indonesian Defence Attache, Col. Bangun Marahan Tanjung said that the Indonesian Ministry of Defence has a strong willingness to collaborate and cooperate with its counterparts in West African Countries.

“The establishment of the office of defence attache in Nigeria since 1981 has shown that big interest.

“Therefore, it has always been my duty to bridge communication and bring the state of the relationship between Indonesia and Nigeria as well as other African countries, especially in defence sector closer and stronger.

“I wish that this good cooperation will be strengthened in the future and, hopefully, in the broader areas not only limited to weaponry but also education and training,’’ Tanjung said.

He said that the event was to echo the historical development of the Indonesian armed forces from time to time since the colonial era to modern ages.

According to him, Indonesian armed forces, `Indonesian National Military’ (TNI), which was born on Oct. 5, 1945, has gradually transformed into a professional entity.

He said that TNI serves, not only as of the guardian of the Indonesian national interests domestically but also as an active proponent to the peacekeeping missions around the globe.

 “The active engagement of TNI in different missions under the mandate of the UN Security Council since 1957, in Congo and Sudan is partly a demonstration of the active contribution of Indonesia to the peace and stability of the world.

“Transnational issues, from terrorism to cyber threat for example, eventually force countries to work together bilaterally and multilaterally,’’ he said.

In his remarks, the Nigerian Chief of Defence Intelligence, AVM Mohammed Usman, said that Nigeria looks forward to better cooperation between the two nations.

Usman said Nigeria has been partnering with Indonesia in the production of defence and security equipment.

Represented by Brig.-Gen. Parker Udiandeye, Usman said that all armed forces of every nation were a pride to their nation.

According to him, they secure their people, ensure the safety and security of the people to conduct their economic and social undertaking.

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Edited by Abdulfatah Babatunde (NAN)

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Mustering energy, consensus and fairness to negotiate the world

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Mustering energy, consensus and fairness to negotiate the world

-Bande (the 74th President of the United Nations General Assembly)

It is difficult not to love Nigeria. The people are warm and charming. They can be critical of one another yet still bask in each other’s success.

Having held leadership roles in the country and on the African continent, I have been reminded of this time and again. Observing the enthusiasm generated in Nigeria by my emergence as President of the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly reinforces my love for the country, and I am grateful to all for their best wishes.

The UN is a difficult place to get your head around. I know this only too well, having served as Nigeria’s permanent representative to the organisation. I now understand how the institution works. Yet since taking up my new role in September, I appreciate there will be many people who wonder what it actually entails.

First, the General Assembly itself: this is the main deliberative organ of the United Nations. It is like a national parliament: each member country’s single vote counts as much as any other and everybody has the chance to put their perspective across.

As President, which rotates on a yearly basis among regional groups, I chair this assembly. I mediate and moderate; I set the agenda for the year; I look at the inner plumbing of the UN, and whether it is assembled to serve the purposes of the organisation – development, human rights, and international peace.

For the 74th session, I chose the theme “Galvanizing multilateral efforts for poverty eradication, quality education, climate action and inclusion.” The UN has 17 goals to achieve by 2030 – the Sustainable Development Goals (an evolution of the Millennium Development Goals) – which the General Assembly adopted by consensus in 2015.

These goals interlink and I believe that eradicating poverty, achieving quality education, climate action and inclusion are key in reaching the other goals. Education further stands out for me given my background in academia, for it has the unique capacity to provide an opportunity for all.

The position of the General Assembly within the UN makes more sense when viewed amongst its other organs. The other two best-known bodies are the Secretariat and the Security Council.

The former is like a civil service: it performs the day-to-day running of the UN, administering the programmes and policies the rest of the organisation decides on. The Secretary-General is the head of it and is appointed by the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council.

Trygve Lie, the first Secretary-General, described it as “the most difficult job in the world”, given the need to balance the competing demands of both the Secretary (administrator) and the General (moderator) functions of the role on a global scale.

The Security Council is the body charged principally with the founding mission of the UN: to safeguard world peace. Yet it is in serious need of reform because it reflects power dynamics that are almost three-quarters of a century old. It’s permanent members (as opposed to 10 non-permanent members, who each serve for two years) are China, France, Russia, the UK and the USA. Each has a “veto”, which means their vote can effectively overrule all other nations will.

This has raised questions of the democracy and legitimacy of the Council.

The reform of the Security Council is within the purview of the General Assembly but requires a two-thirds majority and – crucially – consent of each permanent member. I – as President of the General Assembly – must marshal energy and consensus to ensure more equitable representation, and ensure the council can address key issues instead of becoming deadlocked (a possibility gave the veto).

A key aspect of my position is to represent the General Assembly at international events around the world. For example, last month I attended the meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement Head of State and Government in Baku, Azerbaijan. This month I travelled to France for the Paris Peace Forum. And this week I will be returning home to Nigeria for a conference aimed at strengthening human rights for older people in Africa.

Looking ahead, I will attend events in Ireland, Spain, Kuwait and Qatar in the coming weeks. I will use those platforms to advocate for the farthest behind among us. I am committed to visiting countries in Special Situations – particularly Small Island Developing States, Least Developed Countries and nations in conflict – to draw the world’s attention to the existential issues they face. At every occasion, there is a focus on what partnerships can be created, or deepened, to address the challenges.

In a similar vein, I endeavour to increase the presence and relevance of the UN across the world.

Sometimes this global organisation has seemed too remote from those people it serves. That is something all of us who represent this organisation must labour to change. For it is only through collective action we can solve today’s greatest challenges.

I – like many previous holders of this role – am committed to the reform of the UN to reflect the realities of the 21st century, and to ensure that cynicism or apathy does not creep into the organisation.

Next year marks the 75th anniversary of the UN’s formation. In the build-up to this event, we have a chance to stand back and reflect on what this institution has done, should do and how to do it. And I want to hear from all perspectives on what the UN should be – whether that be from Azerbaijan, France or indeed Nigeria. (NANFeatures)

**If used, please credit the writer as well as Nigeria News Agency

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