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Oby Ezekwesili demands China write-off Africa’s debt for failing to stop coronavirus

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Oby Ezekwesili, a former Minister of Education in Nigeria, has said that China would have to pay damages and liability compensation to Africa for their failure to ”transparently and effectively” manage this global catastrophe termed the Coronavirus pandemic.

In an article she wrote for Washington Post, Ezekwesili said Africa’s economic gains since the last global crisis has been eroded due to this pandemic. She wrote that it is time to make offending rich countries pay the poor ones a global risk burden tax for delaying their rise out of poverty due to their own careless activities. She said China should immediately announce a complete write-off of the more than $140 billion that its government, banks and contractors extended to countries in Africa between 2000 and 2017.

Read her piece below:

The COVID19 pandemic has dealt a severe injury to Africa’s development prospects and worsened the conditions of its poor and vulnerable. Although there are calls for voluntary international aid to support the continent during this difficult time, this is far from the best solution.

The continent must be accorded damages and liability compensation from China, the rich and powerful country that failed to transparently and effectively manage this global catastrophe. Africa’s economic gains since the last global crisis have been eroded. It is time to make offending rich countries pay the poor ones a global risk burden tax for delaying their rise out of poverty.

Today, Africa is home to more than 70 percent of the world’s poorest people, with more than 400 million living below the poverty line. It is no surprise that it is disproportionately vulnerable to this crisis. It should not suffer even more because yet another powerful country failed to act responsibly.

China should immediately announce a complete write-off of the more than $140 billion that its government, banks and contractors extended to countries in Africa between 2000 and 2017. This would provide partial compensation to African countries for the impact that the coronavirus is already having on their economies and people.

The analysis of the balance of compensation due to Africa can then follow from discussions with the Africa Union and its member countries, alongside global and regional organizations including the United Nations, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the African Development Bank and the European Union.

Our world is long overdue for a change of approach in the way it manages global risks that leave the poor worse off due to failures of the rich and powerful. The current model of development assistance is broken and can never deliver any real change of fortune for the most vulnerable. We need a new model that strengthens people to engage in the design of their pathway out of poverty and builds economic resilience.

The current conditions mirror what happened during the 2008 global financial crisis. In my time as the vice president in charge of the World Bank’s operations in Africa, we had to mobilize internal and partner resources to mitigate the severity of the economic recession suffered by the continent. Exogenous shocks dealt a lethal blow to the countries’ decade-long steady rises of economic growth, which had averaged 5 to 6 percent annually until tumbling to 2.4 percent in 2009.

This sharp fall ended Africa’s upward economic growth trajectory and sent per capita income tumbling. It increased inequality and the number of Africans in absolute poverty. Such fragile and low economic growth rates for a continent with one of the world’s highest concentrations of young people and annual population growth rate of about 2.5 percent is a key reason for widespread multidimensional poverty — a threat that carries seeds of global insecurity and instability.

The economic shock caused by the coronavirus has badly reduced the opportunity Africa would otherwise have had to lift hundreds of millions out of poverty. The African Union Commission estimates that Africa’s gross domestic product will shrink by as much as 4.5 percent, resulting in 20 million job losses.

This has dangerously hampered the possibility that Africa can generate jobs for young people and women, or increase literacy levels by reducing the number of out-of-school children with access to quality learning opportunities. It will result in lessened ability to reduce maternal and child mortality, improve nutrition and food security, make reliable energy available and accessible, improve the availability of quality roads, water, sanitation, and other infrastructure, and such other investments in public goods.

China, a country that only within the past four decades has managed to lift more than 850 million people out of poverty, would understand how critical it is for African countries to accelerate inclusive growth. While economies in Asia, Europe and the Americas have announced hefty emergency stimulus packages for their people and businesses, countries in Africa struggle to meet short-term food needs.

Most of Africa’s countries simply do not have the buffer required for fiscal relief in times of crisis, because they were already severely constrained by budgetary crises caused by poor domestic revenue mobilization, high public debts and low productivity. The parlous public finances of these countries worsened due to volatility in commodity prices as the pandemic worsened.

Africa faces frequent shocks caused by climate, terrorism, health issues, food insecurity, crime and other sources of risk. Most of these perils emanate from the failures of the rich and powerful economies, but end up inflicting a disproportionate share of the poor and vulnerable.

China should demonstrate world leadership by acknowledging its failure to be transparent on covid-19. Beijing’s leadership should then commit to an independent expert panel evaluation of its pandemic response. China and the rest of the Group of 20 countries should engage with the Africa Union and countries to design a reparations mechanism.

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Military in Burkina Faso takes over government, announces on live TV

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More than a dozen mutinous soldiers on Monday announced that a military junta now controls Burkina Faso after they detained the democratically elected president following a day of gun battle in the capital.

A junior officer announced the suspension of the constitution, the dissolution of the government and parliament, and the closure of the country’s borders from midnight Monday, reading from a statement signed by Lieutenant Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba.

Announcing that a new Patriotic Movement for Preservation and Restoration (MPSR) would re-establish “constitutional order” within a “reasonable time”, the soldiers blamed the takeover on the civilian president’s failure to contain an Islamist insurgency.

They also announced that a nationwide nightly curfew would be enforced. The soldiers said the takeover was carried out without violence and those detained were in a secure location.

The statement read;

“MPSR, which includes all sections of the army, has decided to end President Kaboré’s post today.

“The constitution has been suspended. Secondly, the government has been dissolved. Thirdly, the national assembly has been dissolved. Fourthly, land and air borders have been closed from January 24, 2022. Lastly, a curfew has been imposed from 9pm to 5am.

Kabore has been in power since 2015 and reelected in 2020 on a pledge to prioritize the fight against the insurgency. He has faced rising public anger over his failure to stop the bloodshed in the poor, landlocked country.

On Monday, the People’s Movement for Progress ruling party said Kabore was the victim of an “aborted assassination attempt”. A government minister, who was not named, also survived an attempt on his life and the president’s home was ransacked, it added.

The party said the presidential palace had been “encircled” by “a group of armed and masked men” and the national radio and television “occupied”.

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Soun, Alao-Akala’s deaths: UNILORIN V-C leads NYSC Board members on condolence visit

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The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ilorin, Prof. Sulyman Abdulkareem, has described the death of the Soun of Ogbomoso, Oba Jimoh Oyewumi, Ajagungbade III, as a huge loss not only to the people of Ogbomoso, but also to the entire mankind.

According to the University of Ilorin’s bulletin issued on Monday, Abdulkareem, made the statement when he led a four-man team of the Board on a condolence visit to the Soun’s Palace.

The Vice-Chancellor, who is also a member of the Board of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), also condoled with the people of Ogbomoso on the death of Chief Christopher Alao-Akala, a former governor of Oyo State.

He described the late Oba Oyewumi as a well-recognised industrialist and a renowned traditional ruler.

He said that Oyewumi’s tentacles were spread beyond political, religious and tribal affiliations before and during his 48 years of reign in Ogbomoso land.

While eulogising the late traditional ruler, Abdulkareem said with the progressive development in the town, reported, seen and testified to, the Ajagungbade III lived an exemplary life worthy of emulation by all.

He condoled with the entire people of Oyo State, especially the indigenes of Ogbomoso, over the demise of the traditional ruler, as well as the recent loss of their illustrious daughter and sons.

He also described as sad the demise of Prof. Taibat Danmole; the eldest daughter of the late Soun, who was also a former staff member of the University of Ilorin, Chief Christopher Alao-Akala and Prof. Alex Gboyega of the Political Science Department, University of Ibadan.

Abdulkareem prayed for the peaceful repose of the departed, and the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss for the families, and the entire Ogbomoso people.

In his response, Prince Oyekunle Oyewumi, the surviving eldest Prince, and a member of the National Board of NYSC, who spoke on behalf of the royal family, commended the team for commiserating with the royal family.

He added that the entire people of Ogbomoso and the royal house had taken solace in the fact that the Crown lived well.

Similarly, the team also paid another condolence visit to the Minister of Sports and Youth Development, Chief Sunday Dare, who is also a prominent son of Ogbomoso, and whose Ministry oversees the NYSC.

While welcoming the team, the Minister, who is also the `Agbaakin’ ( a traditional chief’ of Ogbomoso land, thanked them for their thoughtfulness by identifying with Ogbomoso land during the dark time of mourning, saying it is best known to God.

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UK orders probe into Islamophobia claims by conservative lawmaker

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UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has ordered an investigation into conservative lawmaker, Nusrat Ghani claims that she was sacked as a junior minister in 2020 over concerns that she was a Muslim.

A Downing Street spokesperson announced on Monday in a brief statement to reporters that “the Prime Minister has asked the Cabinet Office to conduct an inquiry into the allegations made by Nusrat Ghani MP.’’

In an interview published by the Sunday Times, Ghani said that she was dismissed as a junior transport minister in February 2020.

She said following her dismissal a senior Conservative lawmaker told her that her Muslim faith made colleagues “uncomfortable” and that her career would be “destroyed” if she tried to complain.

In a subsequent statement on Sunday, she said that she had directly informed Johnson about the matter but that the prime minister wrote to her that he could not get involved and suggested that she use the internal Conservative party’s complaint process.

Reacting to the launch of a probe, Ghani wrote on Twitter that she welcomed the decision and asked that all that was said in Downing Street, and by her senior Conservative colleague be included in the terms of reference of the inquiry.

“As I said to the Prime Minister last night, all I want is for this to be taken seriously and for him to investigate,’’ she added.

The Islamophobia claims came as Johnson was facing calls to resign over a string of parties that were allegedly held in Downing Street during the COVID-19 lockdown.

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