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Nigeria’s land borders closed to all goods, official confirms

Ban since summer on goods imported via land borders has pushed up food prices and pummeled neighbouring Benin’s economy.
Nigeria has closed its land borders to all movement of goods and has no timeline for reopening them, the head of the nation’s customs agency said.
“All goods, for now, are banned from being exported or imported through our land borders and that is to ensure that we have total control over what comes in,” Hameed Ali, comptroller-general of the Nigerian Customs Service told reporters in Abuja this week.
President Muhammadu Buhari unexpectedly closed Nigeria’s borders to imported goods in August declaring the time had come to end rampant smuggling across the porous frontiers.
The closure has had a devastating effect on Benin, Nigeria’s neighbour to the west, which has been a key exporter of foodstuffs to Africa’s most populous country.
It has also pushed up prices for staples such as rice at markets around Nigeria.
Ali’s announcement this week was the first official confirmation of a total shutdown in trade across Nigeria’s land borders – including goods that had been moving legally.
“We are strategising on how best the goods can be handled when we eventually get to the point where this operation will relax for the influx of goods,” he said.
He did not give a timeline for any relaxation of the controls.
The closure does not affect Nigeria’s oil exports, which are exported almost entirely via the nation’s ports and offshore oil platforms.
Ali said that all imports should now come through the country’s ports where they can be monitored more easily and generate much-needed revenue.
Nigeria relies heavily on imports to feed its booming population of some 190 million, but the government is seeking to bolster domestic agriculture as it looks to diversify the oil-dependent economy.
Unilateral border closures go against all commercial and freedom of movement treaties signed under the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
The closure has also cast a shadow over a historic free-trade agreement, signed by 54 out of 55 African countries, that reached a key operational threshold in July.
Nigeria, as well as Benin, had signed onto the pact on the eve of the landmark day- a move hailed as a crucial push towards ending the continent’s trade barriers.

Nigeria’s Top 5 States with highest debt profiles in the first half of 2019

Lagos is the most indebted state in both foreign and domestic borrowing in the first half of 2019, with total public debt at N992.38 billion.

Business Insider SSA’s analysis of the Debt Management Office data shows that Lagos’ domestic borrowings dipped by 7.35% to N479.04 billion from N517 billion recorded June 30, 2018.

Lagos state’s foreign debt stood flat at $1.42 billion (N513.33 billion) in Q2 2019 when compared to the same period in 2018.

Following Lagos on the foreign debt profile is Edo state with $277.74 million while Rivers state followed on domestic borrowing with N266.94 billion, during the same period under review.
Here are the Nigerian States with highest foreign debt

Lagos $1.42 billion
Edo – $277.74 million
Kaduna $223.76 million
Cross River $192.73 million
Oyo – $136. 53 million.
The Nigerian States with highest domestic debt

Lagos N479.04 billion
Delta N233.56 billion
Rivers N266.94 billion
Akwa Ibom N206.41 billion
Cross River N168.82 billion

Despite growing concerns over the country’s debt level, Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, said the challenge is not in debt level but how to raise revenue as an alternative.

The IMF said the country’s Debt-to-GDP ratio is good but too risky.

In an Independent Day report on October 1, 2019, the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) described how Nigerian state debt profiles serve as impediments to democratic values and dividends. The report observed how successive governments accumulate debts for new ones serving as obstacles for the provision of capital projects.

Edward Singhatey Appears before TRRC Today

Edward Singhatey has relived moment he grabbed former President Yahya Jammeh by the arm and put him in a vehicle when the former president attempted to chicken out during the implementation stage of the July 22nd coup.

Mr Singhatey was part of a five-man group of junior army officers who seized power in July 1994, ending the 30-year rule of former president Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara.

On the day of the coup on July 22, 1994, hundreds of soldiers led by Mr Singhatey marched from Yundum Barracks to Banjul to seize State House. Jammeh who had been a member of the group that planned the coup was present as troops mobilised but the man who would later become the face of the takeover as the leader of the new transition government exhibited signs of cowardice well before the troops started marching.

Mr Singhatey recalled on Wednesday during the start of his testimony at the TRRC: “When he tried to opt out, I told him, ‘no, it’s not what we agreed.’ So I grabbed him by the arm and put him in one of the trucks.”

Mr Singhatey is testifying on his role in the human rights violations that took place in the 22 years rule of Jammeh.

His testimony continues and he is expected to give evidence on his role in the executiion of over a dozen soldiers in November 1994. He will also testify on his role in the brutal murder of former Gambian minister Ousman Koro Ceesay.

Nigerian president vows crackdown on abusive Islamic schools

For the second time in a month, police raid a building where hundreds of boys were held in dehumanizing conditions.

Nigeria‘s president on Tuesday ordered a crackdown on abuse at Islamic schools, after a second police raid in less than a month revealed men and boys subjected to beatings, abuse and squalid conditions.

Nearly 300 had been held captive at a school in the Daura area of Katsina, the home town of President Muhammadu Buhari, where police said they discovered “inhuman and degrading treatment” following a raid on Monday to free the remaining students.

Late last month, police freed hundreds from similarly degrading conditions in neighbouring Kaduna state.

“Mr President has directed the police to disband all such centres and all the inmates be handed over to their parents,” said a presidential spokesman.

“The government cannot allow centres where people, male and female, are maltreated in the name of religion,” he said.

Prior to this week’s raid, hundreds of captives had escaped the centre, police said on Tuesday.

The 67 inmates who were freed by Katsina police were shackled, and many were taken to hospital for treatment, Police Superintendent Isah Gambo told Reuters.

“I tell you they were in very bad condition when we met them,” Gambo said.

A freed captive told Reuters on Monday that the instructors beat, raped and even killed some of the men and boys held at the facility, who ranged from seven to 40 years of age. It was not immediately possible to verify his account.

While the institution told parents it was an Islamic teaching centre that would help straighten out wayward family members, the instructors instead brutally abused them and took away any food or money sent by relatives.

Police said they had arrested the owner of the facility and two teachers, and were tracking other suspects.

The more than 200 captives who escaped were still missing, Gambo said. Police were working to reunite the others with family members.

“The inmates are actually from different parts of the country – Kano, Taraba, Adamawa and Plateau States,” he said.

“Some of them are not even Nigerians. They come from Niger, Chad and even Burkina Faso and other countries.”

Islamic schools, called almajiris, are common in the mostly Muslim north of Nigeria.

Muslim Rights Concern, a local organisation, estimates about 10 million children attend them.

Buhari said the government planned to ban the schools eventually, but he has not yet commented on the Katsina school.

Isolate nations which aid and abet terrorism: Vice President in Sierra Leone

Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu on Sunday (local time) termed terrorism as one of the major challenges confronting the world today and said nations which aid and abet terror should be isolated.

“Terrorism is one of the major challenges confronting the world today. All the nations must intensify their collective efforts and strive to eliminate the menace of terrorism and also isolate nations which aid and abet terrorism. India has borne the brunt of cross border terrorism over decades,” the Vice President said in a press statement during his visit to Sierra Leone.

The Vice President made the remarks after his delegation-level meeting with President of Republic of Sierra Leone, Julius Maada Bio.

Naidu while thanking President Bio for Sierra Leone’s support to India’s candidatures in various International organisations, also called for reform in UNSC saying, “We agreed that both sides need to continue pushing for these reforms so that one-third of mankind residing in Africa and India occupy their rightful place at the high table in decision making bodies of the United Nations.”

The Vice President also expressed his happiness at Sierra Leone joining the International Solar Alliance (ISA) in order to enable rapid deployment of solar energy globally and to facilitate the transfer of technology.

Terming the vibrant Indian community in Sierra Leone as an organic bridge between the two nations, Naidu thanked President Bio for ‘taking care of their welfare’.

Edward Singhatey Appears before TRRC Today

Edward Singhatey, a former vice-chairperson of the defunct AFPRC Government has today appeared before the TRRC voluntarily for the first time.

Singhatey is the third (3rd) member of the defunct junta to appear before the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC). Sanna Sabally and Yankuba Touray have both appeared before the Commission, but Touray declined to give testimony relying on what he called his Constitutional immunity in the 1997 Constitution that happenings between the years 1994 to 1996 cannot be a subject of investigation or litigation.

The retired captain together with former President Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh, ex-Captain Sanna B. Sabally, ex-Captain Sadibou Hydara and ex-Captain Yankuba Touray formed a military government after toppling the PPP’s government in a military coup in July 1994.

Former President Jammeh was made the chairman of the established Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council (AFPRC) and Sanna B. Sabally as the vice-chairman while Singhatey and others held ministerial posts. Six months after the coup, Singhatey acceded to the position of vice-chairman after the arrest of Sanna Sabally, who was accused of attempting to kill former President Jammeh.

Singhatey was the Minister of Defense before assuming the position as the vice chairman under their junta government. Singhatey also served under the APRC Government for years as a Minister before falling out with former President Jammeh, who decided to dismiss him from his position.

All set for first all-female spacewalk: NASA

American space program NASA plans to carry out the first all-female spacewalk this week, it said Tuesday.

Astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir will venture outside the International Space Station either Thursday or Friday to replace a power controller unit that failed over the weekend.

‘‘There are a lot of people that derive motivation from inspiring stories of people that look like them,’‘ Koch said when asked about the significance of women making strides in the space program

‘‘What we are doing now shows all the work that went in for the decades prior, all the women that worked to get us where we are today. It’s really nice to see how far we have come,’‘ Meir said.

Breaking sexism barriers

The first such mission was supposed to take place in March but had to be cancelled because the space agency had only one medium-sized suit at the time, with a male-female combination performing the required task at a later date.

Traditionally male-dominated NASA’s failure to be adequately prepared was denounced in some quarters as evidence of implicit sexism.

What’s the mission?

The new date was announced by administrator Jim Bridenstine in a tweet, while a blog post detailed the job at hand: swapping out a faulty Battery Charge/Discharge Unit (BCDU) with a new one.

The station is out of direct sunlight for much of its orbit and therefore needs batteries, and the BCDUs regulate the amount of charge that goes into them.

The ISS currently has six crew members: Americans Koch, Meir, and Andrew Morgan; Russians Alexander Skvotsov and Oleg Skripochka, and Italian Luca Parmitano.

Spacewalks last several hours and are frequently needed to perform maintenance on the complex, the first part of which was launched into space by Russia in 1998.

White House scrambles to slow impeachment

The White House is launching a new effort to slow the speeding Democratic impeachment push, but its noncooperation strategy is being constantly thwarted by a daily stream of explosive secrets being spilled behind closed doors on Capitol Hill.

Current and former officials are painting an ever more damning picture of a wider than originally perceived scheme by President Donald Trump and his crew to pressure Ukraine that they warned could amount to a trampling of US law.
Vice President Mike Pence launched a new effort Tuesday to bolster White House hopes of stalling the House inquiry long enough for Trump to turn public opinion against it. He refused to turn over documents related to Trump’s now notorious call with the President of Ukraine on July 25.
But White House officials are becoming increasingly frustrated at revelations from the closed-door hearings. Given that there is no presidential counsel in the room, they struggle to frame a defense, learning about almost daily bombshells only from news reports, CNN reported on Tuesday.
And the possibility that former national security adviser John Bolton — who may have little incentive to shield the President who recently ousted him — could soon be called to testify will do little to ease the impression among White House officials that they are flying blind.
Fresh testimony in recent days has elevated the crisis for Trump. It has appeared to expose an off-the-books effort to perform an end run around US foreign policy officials with political appointees that predated his notorious phone call with the President of Ukraine in which he sought dirt on his possible 2020 foe Joe Biden.
On Monday, former senior White House Russia aide Fiona Hill testified that she had tried to raise the alarm about possibly illegal activity — and had been encouraged to do so by Bolton.
A senior State Department official, George Kent, testified Tuesday that he’d been told by a supervisor to lie low after complaining about Rudy Giuliani’s meddling in Ukraine, according to Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly of Virginia, who sits on the House Oversight Committee.
More peril looms for the White House on Thursday, when Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union, is expected to tell lawmakers that a text he sent to a colleague insisting there was no quid pro quo offered to Ukraine was dictated by the President himself.
The most worrying development so far this week for the Trump team is that Hill’s stunning mention of Bolton raises the possibility that a possibly disgruntled former national security adviser, who was forced out under a cloud, may have an incentive to offer testimony that could damage his former boss.
Trump’s rather worn defense of his actions exemplifies the depth of his problem. The Ukraine story has outpaced the President’s attacks on a whistleblower who first exposed the story and his defense of his “perfect” call with Ukraine’s President. Trump’s allies are bemoaning what they say is a lack of due process in the Democratic impeachment investigation — but they often seem unable to effectively parry the damaging tidbits leaking out of depositions.

Trump’s defense is beginning to look insufficient

The President stuck to generalities on Tuesday.
“We just hit the greatest economy we’ve ever had. ‘Let’s impeach the President’ — isn’t that a good idea?” Trump said during an event with the Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues.
“I wouldn’t worry about it, fellas. I wouldn’t worry about it,” the President told several senators in the audience, referring to impeachment — raising questions as to whether he understands the seriousness of his plight.
Democrats are expressing deep satisfaction with the pace of their three-week-old investigation so far.
And in a sign that GOP attacks on their process are not yet biting, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday that she had no plans yet to bow to demands for a vote formally authorizing the impeachment proceedings.
House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff laid claim to “dramatic progress” Tuesday in digging out the truth about Trump’s call with President Volodymyr Zelensky on July 25.
And Democratic presidential candidates — in a grave moment at the start of their latest debate in Ohio — reflected polls showing growing public support for investigating the President.
Former Vice President Joe Biden blasted Trump as “the most corrupt” President “in modern history and all of our history.”

Yankuba Touray to Appear Before the High Court Today

Yankuba Touray, an ex-member of the defunct AFPRC will today appear before the high court of The Gambia in Banjul.

Touray’s last appeared before the High Court on the 23rd July 2019 before Justice Sainabou Wadda – Sise on a contempt charge, which was struck out. He is now left with his murder trial before Justice Ebrima Jaiteh.

The former junta member has in 2019 faced three different criminal trials. He was discharged on the 10th April 2019 by the Kanifing Magistrates Court on his Conspiracy to Commit Felony and interfering with informant or witness case.

After he was discharged by the lower court, he was immediately arrested by the police and was subsequently charged with the same offence. At the High Court, the case was also withdrawn.

He was later re-arrested and arraigned before the High Court on a contempt charge after he declined to give evidence with regards to the happenings during 1994 to 1996. This charge was struck out by the High Court because of procedural defect.

He is now charged with the murder of Ousman Koro Ceesay, a former Minister of Finance during the AFPRC reign. Touray denied culpability and the State has indicated before the court its intention to increase the charges to include murder and other serious offences.

Another member of the defunct AFPRC, ex-Captain Edward Singhatey is reported to be in town and is expected to appear before the TRRC this week.

Gambia Intercept 3 Chinese vessels for illegal fishing in Mandinari

Gambian authorities on October 9 intercepted three Chinese fishing vessels for illegal fishing in a restricted zone in the waters of Mandinari.

The vessels owned by Qunlong Fishing Enterprise were intercepted by the Gambian authorities with assistance of Sea Shepherd crew.

This came barely weeks after the Fisheries Director shrugged off claims that his institution issued a license to Chinese vessels to land in Mandinari.

The 3 vessels have been taken into the custody of the Gambia Navy in Banjul.

DE-HONG 1, DE-HONG 2 and DE-HONG 3 vessels are in state custody for illegal fishing in Gambian water.

Lamin Saidy, the manager of Qunlong Fishing said their three remaining vessels were intercepted and suspended from operation.

“As for now, we’re no longer operating in Mandinari, because our 3 remaining vessels were suspended as a result of issues relating to documents,’’ he said.

“The agent representing these vessels in Banjul, is currently working with the authorities to ensure that the matter is resolved so that our vessels would be allowed to resume operation,’’ he added.

Army spokesperson, Major Lamin K. Sanyang confirmed the story. He said the Sea Shepherd crew reported the issue of suspected illegal fishing activities around Mandinari waters involving 3 Chinese vessels.

“The joint operation went and arrested them for their illegal fishing. The trio vessels are now in the custody of the Navy,’’ he said.

According to GAF PRO, the interception came into effect following a joint operation led by Sea Shepherd crew, inspectors from the Department of Fisheries and Gambia Navy.

Dr. Bamba A.M Banja, the Permanent Secretary at the Department of Fisheries, also confirmed that these vessels were intercepted for their violation of Fisheries legislation by fishing in a wrong zone.

However, he said when the joint operation team intercepted the vessels, they were escorted by personnel of the Navy to the sea port. He said while they were there, they were under the close supervision of the Gambia Navy until a decision was reached by the authorities.

“Fishing without a license is the worst crime because you can even lose your fishing vessel when you’re caught,’’ Fisheries PS remarked.

“They (the vessels) are at the custody of the Navy until they pay the fine,’’ he said, adding: “We’re not denying them to fish in the Gambian waters, but what we want is for them to comply, and if they comply, they will make live easy for everyone.’’

Sea Shepherded Conservation Society, an international non-profit organization in partnership with the government of The Gambia, are working on tackling illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in West Africa.

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