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Nigeria’s President urged on African trade deal ratification2 minutes read

Nigeria had been a key backer of the plan for several years, yet suddenly pulled out last March

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Nigeria's President urged on AfCTA ratification | News Central TV

A special government panel has recommended that President Muhammadu Buhari signs Nigeria up for a landmark African free trade agreement, ahead of a key meeting of African leaders.

The panel was formed by Buhari in March last year to assess the impact of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCTA), after Nigeria abruptly pulled out of signing the deal adopted by a majority of African nations.

“Our reports show that, on balance, Nigeria should consider joining the AfCFTA”, the panel’s chair, Desmond Guobadia, said in a statement to the president Thursday, after submitting the report.

Related: Africa’s continental free trade deal: Single market on the horizon?

The trade deal “provides immense opportunities for Nigeria’s manufacturing and service companies to expand to Africa”, Guobadia said. 

The panel, however, recommended Buhari delay “liberalising”  and ratifying the deal which would open Nigeria’s markets to the continent, in order to manage the agreement’s “negative impacts.”

“AfCFTA is not without major risks”, it said, warning that the deal could lead to increased smuggling and abuse of ‘rule of origin’ labels on products.

“The risk is that it will provide incentives for traders to disguise goods imported from outside the continent as made-in-Africa goods”, the report warned.

The continental pact which formally came into force last month represents an ambitious African Union (AU) plan that seeks to integrate and boost intra-African trade.

Nigeria had been a key backer of the plan for several years, yet suddenly pulled out last March, days before other African countries endorsed the document at a summit in Rwanda.

Calling for more time to address concerns from business and labour unions, Buhari, instead formed a panel to engage industries across the country on the impact of the deal on Nigeria.

Related: Africa Free trade deal set for take-off following Gambian ratification

“Our position is very simple, we support free trade”, Buhari said, “as long as it is fair and conducted on an equitable basis.”

Ahead of an AU summit of African leaders in Niger Republic next week, the AfCFTA will again be on the agenda with Nigeria widely expected by industries and labour unions in Nigeria to, at least, partially adopt the agreement. 

The report “will form part of the consideration in our decision on the next steps on the AfCFTA”, said Buhari.

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Chinese, Nigerians celebrate Lunar New Year in Abuja

“With a fresh start here, we are very confident and optimistic about the cooperation and friendship between our two great countries and our relations,” Chinese Ambassador Zhou said

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A cheerful audience fell over themselves to catch a glimpse of a huge dragon mascot that walked into a venue of the 2020 Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations in Nigeria’s capital Abuja on Saturday.

The audience, including diplomats, as well as top government officials and captains of industries, applauded the mascot with its acrobatic dance and displays to mark the opening of the colorful celebration of the Chinese Lunar New Year in Abuja.

The Chinese community in Nigeria held a carnival-like celebration that brought people of both countries, and citizens of other countries, who came from far and near to experience the opportunity of a colorful cultural exhibition that the event provided.

It was the first of several events outlined for the celebration of what is also known as the Spring Festival observed by the Chinese people.

The event, organized by the Chinese Embassy in Nigeria and the China Cultural Center in Abuja, witnessed a large turnout of merrymakers, including high school students.

The revelers, who gathered at the China Cultural Center, tucked in the central business area of the Abuja city, were enthralled by a colorful exhibition of the Chinese culture and various Chinese and Nigerian art performances.

The dragon dance, performed by nine experienced Nigerian male dancers and one lady dancer who manipulated the long flexible figure of the dragon using a pole, was the opening act of the event.

It is often performed during Chinese new year celebrations.

In an interview, Zhou Pingjian, Chinese ambassador to Nigeria, told Xinhua the celebration was to mark the beginning of good things to come.

“With a fresh start here, we are very confident and optimistic about the cooperation and friendship between our two great countries and our relations,” Zhou said, referring to the mutually-beneficial cooperation between China and Nigeria.

In an earlier message to congratulate China, the Chinese community in Nigeria and the world over on the Chinese Lunar New year, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari noted that there is a new impetus in Nigeria-China relations and new opportunities for mutual benefits.

Many Nigerians present at the Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations in Abuja acknowledged the Spring Festival as the most important traditional festival for the Chinese.

“This celebration clearly emphasizes the concept of family and the opportunity of reunion. And if you look around, you will observe that these two values are shared by both Nigerians and the Chinese,” said Goke Oloruntoba, a student at the University of Abuja.

The Spring Festival has gained popularity in cities in Nigeria due to the sense of anticipation and excitement shared by the Chinese community in the West African country for the festival and the way it is colorfully celebrated every year.

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Nigerian Army deploys 185 troops for peacekeeping in Guinea Bissau

Army authorities asked the troops to respect the culture and people of Guinea Bissau and warned against getting involved in “trafficking of illicit substance of any kind.”

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Nigeria has completed pre-deployment training for 185 troops for peacekeeping mission in Guinea Bissau, army authorities said on Friday.

The 185 troops began their pre deployment training on January 6, at the Martin Luther Agwai International Leadership and Peace Keeping Centre, MLAILPKC, Jaji Kaduna State.

Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai, said the troops will be Nigeria’s Company 8, in the ECOWAS Mission in Guinea Bissau, official News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reported.

Buratai was represented by Maj.-Gen Kelvin Aligbe Commandant Nigerian Army School of Infantry, NASI.

He said the graduation further confirmed the commitment of Nigeria to deploy quality peacekeepers as part of its contributions to the quest for global peace and security.

He explained that the pre-deployment training was aimed at refreshing and polishing their knowledge and expertise in peace support operation.

“The training was to equip you with the requisite skills required to protect yourselves, ECOWAS Mission in Guinea, equipment and the citizens of Guinea Bissau your host nation, while carrying out the mission’s mandate,” Buratai said.

The army chief cautioned the troops to avoid any ugly incident that could tarnish the image of the Army and Nigeria during their stay in Guinea Bissau.

“Let me categorically state that you are to discharge your duties in consonance with the mission’s mandate at all times. I must also remind you that the rules of engagement in the mission give you the latitude to exhibit utmost professionalism in the discharge of your responsibilities.

Buratai asked the soldiers to respect the culture and religious sensitivity of the people in Guinea Bissau and warned that they must not involve themselves in “trafficking of illicit substance of any kind.”

He added that the ECOWAS Mission has zero tolerance for sexual exploitation and abuse.

“The Nigerian Army and indeed the government will also not tolerate the contravention of these policies,” Buratai said.

Earlier, Maj.-Gen James Ataguba, Commandant of MLAILPKC said that the training included classroom lectures on prescribed United Nation pre-deployment training materials.

Ataguba said that the physical and field training covered areas such as intensive physical exercises, occupation of basic camp, crowd dispersal, tactical convoy movement, escort of VIP and weapons handling.

“I therefore make bold to say that the Nigerian Company 8 Economic Community of West State mission in Guinea Bissau has received adequate training required to be into any UN or regional coordinated mission,” the official said.

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Burkinabe Parliament backs plan to legalise, fund vigilante groups

The law, which now goes to President Roch Marc Kabore for his signature, calls for volunteers to receive brief military training and unspecified equipment.

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Members of Burkina Faso's National Transitional Council (CNT) the official opening ceremony of the parliamentary session at CNT's new headquarters in Ouagadougou on December 22, 2014. The military seized power in Burkina Faso when former president Blaise Compaore fled the country on October 31 after being ousted in a revolt sparked by his bid to extend his 27-year hold on power. Faced with intense international pressure, it eventually agreed to hand power over to an interim government until elections are held in November 2015. AFP PHOTO / YEMPABOU AHMED OUOBA Yempabou Ahmed OUOBA / AFP



Plans by Burkina Faso’s government to legalise and fund vigilante groups to combat constant killings by militant groups and terrorists on Thursday received the backing of the country’s parliament which approved the request.

The law, which now goes to President Roch Marc Kabore for his signature, calls for volunteers to receive brief military training, unspecified equipment, healthcare and bonus payments. Recruitment is to be managed by village leaders.

The move, which is expected to apply mostly to vigilante groups called Koglweogo – “guardians of the bush” in the Moore language – has drawn concerns from the United Nations and human rights activists, who fear it could empower fighters accused of ethnic killings in the past, a Reuters report said.

But authorities are in a dilemma due to constant attacks and killings, leaving them with no choice than to provide funding and training to local vigilantes in response to the growing firepower of terrorist groups who threaten to overrun government forces across large swathes of the West African country.

The vigilantes grew significantly as a response to instability that followed the 2014 revolution that overthrew longtime President Blaise Compaore. There are an estimated 40,000 such groups across Burkina Faso, according to the U.N.

“This law was voted unanimously by the parliament,” Defence Minister Moumina Cheriff Sy told reporters after the vote. “It shows that beyond our differences of opinion… we can be one when it comes to defending the homeland.”

Security deteriorated dramatically across Burkina Faso and its neighbors in the semi-arid Sahel region last year, as militants with ties to Islamic State and Al-Qaeda stepped up their attacks.

On Monday, militants killed 36 people at a market in a village in northern Burkina Faso.

Collaboration between state security forces and the vigilantes has previously been informal. The government said the new law would help defeat the “terrorist Hydra”.

A U.N. committee of experts on torture voiced concerns in November about a lack of oversight of the Koglweogo, saying the groups were implicated in a massacre of dozens of Fulani herders in January 2019.

The violence in the Sahel has also fuelled ethnic conflict, particularly between rival hunting and farming communities, with ethnic self-defence militias targeting civilians in reprisal for militant attacks.

In neighbouring Mali, a vigilante group is believed to be responsible for an attack that killed about 160 Fulani civilians last March, the deadliest such incident in recent times.

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