Buhari returns to Abuja after AU Summit
President Muhammadu Buhari returned to Abuja yesterday after attending the 12th Extraordinary Summit of the African Union in Niamey, Niger Republic.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the presidential aircraft, conveying the president and some members of his entourage landed at the Presidential Wing of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja at about 1:25 p.m.
While in Niamey, Buhari signed the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement, making Nigeria the 53rd state in the continent to append its signature to the document.
The signing of the agreement was the first event at the opening of the summit on the launching of the operational phase of the AfCFTA.
The president had delayed signing the agreement, which entered into force on May 30, 2019.
The delay was to give room for extensive consultations with stakeholders, culminating in the submission of the report by the presidential committee, to assess the impact and readiness of Nigeria to join the free trade area.
The AfCFTA is expected to be the world’s largest free trade area since the formation of the World Trade Organisation, with a potential market of 1.2 billion people.
Mr Buhari at the summit met with Mansur Muhtar, Vice- President of the Islamic Development Bank and solicited the support of the bank to address Nigeria’s infrastructure deficit.
According to the president, with the growing population and infrastructure deficit, no amount of money is too much to commit to the revamping of Nigeria’s development challenges.
‘‘We need all the support we can get on infrastructure because the oil will not last forever,’’ said Mr Buhari.
The Nigerian leader also met with the Head of Libya’s Government of National Accord, Fayez Al-Sarraj, and pledged Nigeria’s continued support for Libya’s quest to regain political and security stability.
Thuggery, Intimidation, Attacks, Abductions Characterise Recent Polls – EU Mission
The European Union Election Observation Mission (EU-EOM), has said that there were at least 21 reported deaths in the just concluded general election.
The election monitoring group said the fatalities were recorded on election day.
In its second preliminary report released yesterday, the EU-EOM said there were “multiple incidents of thuggery and intimidation” that interrupted polls in several voting units across the country on election day.
The EU-EOM said, “obstruction and organised violence limited the free expression of the will of the voters, despite efforts by civil society to promote democratic standards”.
It also said vote-buying was recorded in the election, affecting the proper conduct of the exercise.
“The 25 February post-election environment was largely peaceful, with parties appealing to supporters for calm. However, a few days before the 18 March elections, violence abruptly increased with more than a dozen attacks and abductions of candidates by thugs and unidentified gunmen, some of which resulted in fatalities. Violence shortly before and on election day appeared to strategically suppress voter participation,” the report reads.
“Overall, on election day, multiple incidents of thuggery and intimidation interrupted polling in various locations, primarily across the south but also in states in the central and northern areas. There were reportedly some 21 fatalities. In polling units in several states, violent incidents targeted voters, INEC personnel, citizen observers, and journalists.
“Most polling units opened with materials and personnel deployed on time, although a dismal level of voter participation meant less pressure on INEC operations throughout the day. Vote-buying, also observed by EU EOM observers, further detracted from the appropriate conduct of the elections.”
The election observers said journalists were attacked while carrying out their duty and that security operatives turned blind eyes instead of prosecuting the attackers.
“Law enforcement agencies failed to prosecute persons who attacked, intimidated or harassed journalists during or after the presidential polls in at least five southern states with fiercely contested state-level races,” the EU-EOM said.
“In two further states, police arrested two journalists on bogus charges. EU EOM observers confirmed 10 incidents involving media; only in one instance, police opened a case.
“Impunity encouraged by police inaction is detrimental to freedom of expression, particularly as independent and trusted outlets are targeted. This does not accord with Nigeria’s regional and international commitments to the protection of the media.”
AU commends Aisha Buhari over Peace Mission
The First Lady, Dr. Aisha Muhammadu Buhari, has commended the African Union (AU) Commission for its efforts to strengthen the African First Ladies Peace Mission (AFLPM). She was speaking while receiving a 6-man delegation from the Commission, on Friday, March 17, 2023, at the State House, Abuja.
Mrs.Buhari, who is the elected president of the African First Ladies Peace Mission, recognized the contributions of the Commission, especially in the area of peacebuilding and conflict resolution on the African continent, harping on the need for more women’s involvement.
“Africa has many present and past First Ladies who are willing and ready to provide their services to this cause and all they need is a platform like the Africa First Ladies Peace Mission.” She said.
She said the building of the headquarters of the Mission was conceived by Nigeria to provide such a platform that will also serve as a secure environment for women of all shades and ages to connect. The building, which she said is 90% complete, is to be commissioned in May 2023.
She thanked the President of the Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat for his positive contributions in the area of conflict prevention, management, and resolution in Africa.
Earlier, the Head of the AU delegation, Ambassador Adeoye Bankole, Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, conveyed the message of appreciation to the First Lady, expressing the full support and commitment of the Commission to her initiatives as President of AFLPM and noted that the construction of a Secretariat for the Mission is an expression of her zeal and commitment, and her work exemplified what visionary first ladies everywhere should be doing.
He said the support of the AU Commission to the Mission is in line with Agenda 2063 of the AU and UN Security Council Resolution 1325, both of which provide for the involvement of women in peace and security.
Earlier, the team had inspected the construction work at the headquarters building of the AFLPM.
Burundi Announces 1st Polio Outbreak in 30 years – WHO
By Cecilia Ologunagba
World Health Organisation (WHO) says health authorities in Burundi have detected eight samples of polio, officially declaring the landlocked African nation’s first outbreak in more than 30 years.
Heath authorities said there was a confirmed case in an unvaccinated four-year-old child in Isale district, in western Burundi, as well as two other children with whom he had been in contact.
“Additionally, five samples from environmental surveillance of wastewater confirmed the presence of the circulating poliovirus type 2.
“The detection of the circulating poliovirus type 2 shows the effectiveness of the country’s disease surveillance,” Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa said in a statement on Friday.
“Polio is highly infectious and timely action is critical in protecting children through effective vaccination…
“We are supporting the national efforts to ramp up polio vaccination to ensure that no child is missed and faces no risk of polio’s debilitating impact.”
The disease is transmitted through contaminated water and food, or by contact with an infected person, many do not become seriously ill, but some can go on to develop acute flaccid paralysis.
Its early detection is critical in containing a potential outbreak.
Burundi declares an outbreak of poliovirus type 2.
The Burundian Government – which has declared the detection of the virus a national public health emergency – plans to implement a vaccination campaign to combat polio in the coming weeks, aiming at protecting all eligible children, from newborns to age seven.
The health authorities, with support from WHO and the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) partners, have also begun to investigate the epidemiology of the limited outbreak, including risk assessments to ensure containment.
Burundi is further bolstering polio surveillance, with WHO experts in the field supporting additional sample collection as well as assessing the possibility of opening new environmental surveillance sites for early detection of the silently circulating poliovirus.
Circulating poliovirus type 2 is the most prevalent form of polio in Africa and outbreaks of this type of poliovirus are the highest reported in the region, with more than 400 cases reported in 14 countries in 2022.
Type 2 infection can occur when the weakened strain of the virus contained in the oral polio vaccine circulates among under-immunized populations for long periods. (NAN)
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