Items filtered by date: Monday, 07 October 2019

Ex-South African President Jacob Zuma’s son Duduzane denied wrongdoing at a graft inquiry on Monday, rejecting testimony by an official who said he was offered a bribe and a ministerial post at a meeting where Duduzane was present.

Duduzane Zuma is a key witness at the so-called “state capture” inquiry set up last year to test allegations of high-level corruption during Jacob Zuma’s nine years in power.

He was a business partner of the Guptas, three Indian-born brothers accused of using their friendship with the former president to win state contracts in the years leading up to Zuma’s ousting as head of state in February 2018.

Former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas told the inquiry last year that a Gupta brother offered him a 600 million rand ($40 million) bribe and the position of finance minister at a meeting arranged by Duduzane in 2015, on the condition that Jonas would assist the Guptas with their business ventures.

Duduzane Zuma said on Monday that he did arrange a meeting involving Jonas at a Gupta residence in Johannesburg in 2015 but his testimony about the meeting differed on almost every other detail. He said the meeting was between himself, Jonas and businessman Fana Hlongwane to discuss a rumour that Hlongwane was blackmailing Jonas.

Duduzane Zuma also said a different Gupta brother to the one named by Jonas poked his head into the room where Duduzane and Hlongwane were chatting with Jonas and that the meeting had not ended acrimoniously, as Jonas had said.

“After the meeting everything was cool,” Duduzane Zuma told the inquiry, answering calmly. “As I’ve mentioned in my affidavit, I’ve bumped into Mr Jonas once or twice subsequent to that meeting and my view was there was no hostility.”

He said he had held similar informal meetings at the Gupta residence “all the time”.

The state capture inquiry has shocked ordinary South Africans with revelations about the brazen way in which some people close to Jacob Zuma allegedly tried to plunder state resources and influence policymaking.

But the investigation has struggled to nail down convincing evidence of corruption involving top officials - something analysts say could be a problem for Zuma’s successor Cyril Ramaphosa, who is on a campaign to clean up politics.

Jacob Zuma appeared before the inquiry in July, but he also denied wrongdoing in several days of evasive testimony and said he was the victim of a decades-old plot.

The Guptas, who left South Africa shortly after Zuma’s removal, have not appeared before the inquiry but have submitted an affidavit in which they denied allegations against them.

Zuma still has some loyal followers in the governing African National Congress (ANC) who view him as a champion of policies that seek to address the deep racial inequality that persists more than two decades after the end of white minority rule.

But Zuma’s critics associate his leadership with deeply entrenched corruption and erratic policymaking that deterred investment and held back economic growth.

 

- Reuters

Published in Economy
The State Broadcaster, ERT, said 500 people were ferried from Lesbos to Piraeus, with hundreds more to follow in the coming days.
 
Overall, the Greek Government planned to move 10,000 people, families, children, vulnerable groups and generally those with a realistic chance of receiving asylum, to facilities on the mainland by the end of 2019.
 
However, the move was dictated by a spike in arrivals from Turkey, aggravating the already poor situation in the migrant camps on the islands Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Leros, and Kos.
 
According to UNHCR, in September, 10,258 migrants landed on the islands, compared to 3,960 in the corresponding month in 2018.
 
Meanwhile, over the past six months, the population of asylum seekers and migrants in the camps had risen from 14,000 to around 30,000. The number of sea arrivals in the first nine months of the year was at 35,848 on Sept. 29 and was already higher than the annual totals from 2018 and 2017.
 
The EU and Turkey agreed in March 2016 to curb the inflow of migrants across Greece and the Balkans. The arriving migrants had since been kept in the Greek island reception centres until their asylum applications were processed, with those rejected to be returned to Turkey.
 
However, even the dwindled inflow since 2016 outpaced the slow vetting, leading to overcrowding in the camps, built for a total of 7,000 people.
 
According to the European Commission, those transferred to the mainland can no longer be returned to Turkey under the pact struck between Brussels and Ankara.
 
Published in World
A Federal High Court Sitting in Lagos south west Nigeria today ordered the temporary forfeiture of N280.5million “warehoused” in the bank accounts of Invictus Oil and Gas Limited and Invictus Investment Limited alleged to have been owned by Obinwanne Okeke “a strong leader of a cybercrime syndicate specialized in business email compromise.”
 
Okeke, popularly known as Invictus, is standing trial in the United States of American over an alleged $11.5m cyber fraud.
 
The 31-year-old Nigerian, who was in 2016 celebrated by Forbes as one of Africa’s most outstanding 30 enterpreneurs under the age of 30 and described by the magazine as “proof that there is hope for Africa,” was arrested in August this year by the American Federal Bureau of Investigation as the ringleader of a cybercrime syndicate, which had defrauded a number of American citizens to the tune of $11m “through fraudulent wire transfer instructions in a massive coordinated business email compromise scheme.”
 
The order of the court was as a result of an application filed and argued before the court by the EFCC Legal officer Rotimi Oyedepo
 
The presiding Judge, Justice Rilwan Aikawa made an order for the temporary forfeiture of the sums of N240,250,904.46 and N40,304,106.19, which the anti-graft agency said it found warehoused in First City Monument Bank Plc accounts of Invictus Oil and Gas Limited and Invictus Investment Limited, respectively.
 
Mr Oyedepo, told the court that the funds were reasonably suspected to be proceeds of cybercrime and urged the judge to order their forfeiture to the Federal Government to prevent Okeke from dissipating same.
 
In an affidavit filed in support of the application, EFCC investigator, Ariyo Muritala, said the commission assigned him and others to investigate a request for information on Okeke and three others by the United States Department of Justice, Office of the Legal Attache, US Consulate General.
 
“I know as a fact and verily believe that our investigation has revealed the following far-aching and mind-boggling findings:
 
*That the Obinwanne George Okeke is a strong leader of a cybercrime syndicate specialized in business email compromise.
 
* That the said syndicate has defrauded many innocent and unsuspecting victims, That the said Obiwanne George Okeke has been arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the United States of America for cybercrime-related offences
 
*That if these funds are not forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria Obiwanne George Okeke and his cronies will dissipate same,” Muritala said in the said sworn affidavit.
 
Oyedepo argued that Justice Aikawa had the power to make the interim forfeiture order by virtue of Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and other related Fraud Offence Act No. 14, 2006.
 
The judge acceded to the request and ordered the temporary forfeiture of the funds
Published in Bank & Finance
Monday, 07 October 2019 18:21

Trump impeachment: Congress casts net wider

US Congressional Democrats have cast their net wider as they began the impeachment probe of President Donald Trump.
 
In their latest move, they issued subpoenas to the Pentagon and the White House budget office, seeking documents related to Trump’s decision to withhold military assistance from Ukraine.
 
The three House of Representatives committees leading the inquiry said the Department of Defense and the White Office of Management and Budget must turn over the documents by Oct. 15.
 
“The committees are investigating the extent to which President Trump jeopardized national security by pressing Ukraine to interfere with our 2020 election and by withholding military assistance provided by Congress to help Ukraine counter Russian aggression, as well as any efforts to cover up these matters,” the committee chairmen said in a statement.
 
The new subpoenas follow those issued to the State Department and White House in recent weeks by the House Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs Committees.
 
Democrats have called a number of U.S. diplomats to Capitol Hill for closed-door testimony this week as they build their impeachment case against Trump, while the White House considers ways to slow down the process.
 
The interviews follow a whistleblower’s allegations that Trump leveraged $400 million in aid to secure a promise from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate political rival Joe Biden, and his son Hunter, who sat on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.
 
The taxpayer funds had been approved by Congress to help Ukraine protect against Russian aggression.
 
Trump has denied wrongdoing and assailed the probe.
 
Those scheduled to testify this week include Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union who was involved in efforts to get Ukraine to open the Biden investigation, and Masha Yovanovitch, who was abruptly recalled from her post as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine in May after Trump supporters questioned her loyalty to the president.
 
The White House could formally tell House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi as early as Monday that it will ignore lawmakers’ demands for documents until the Democratic-controlled House holds a vote to formally approve the impeachment inquiry.
 
Pelosi says a vote is not needed. Democrats say she would prevail if one were held, although very few Republicans would be expected to side with the Democratic majority. Congress returns to Washington on Oct. 15 after a two-week recess.
 
The impeachment investigation could lead to the approval by the House of formal charges against Trump.
 
A trial on whether to remove him from office would then be held in the Republican-controlled Senate, but few Republicans have broken ranks with Trump so far for asking Ukraine and China to launch investigations of Biden, a former vice president and a leading contender for the Democratic nomination to face Trump in the November 2020 presidential election.
 
Published in World

Oil prices rose around $1 on Monday, buoyed by hopes of progress in U.S.-China trade talks and supported by challenges to supply facing major exporters.

Brent crude rose $1.01 or 1.7% to $59.38 a barrel by 1431 GMT, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude was at $53.80, up 99 cents or 1.9%.

Both futures contracts ended last week with a more than 5% decline after dismal manufacturing data from the United States and China, with the trade row between the world's top economies undermining global economic prospects.

U.S. and Chinese officials meet in Washington on Oct. 10-11 in a fresh effort to work out a deal, which U.S. President Donald Trump said his administration had a "very good chance" of achieving.

On the supply side, deadly anti-government unrest has gripped Iraq, the second-largest producer among the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.

Iraq's oil exports of 3.43 million barrels per day (bpd) from Basra terminals could be disrupted if instability lasts for weeks, Ayham Kamel, Eurasia Group's practice head for Middle East and North Africa, said in a note.

"Any oil production disruption would occur at a time when Saudi Arabia has lost a significant part of its energy system redundancies (spare capacity)," he said.

The major Buzzard oil field in the British North Sea was also shut for pipe repair work, China's CNOOC said on Friday, while Shell maintains force majeure remains on exports of Bonny Light crude in Nigeria.

Still, Total's giant Johan Sverdrup offshore oil field started up in the North Sea this month with a goal of achieving 440,000 bpd at peak production.

Libya's National Oil Corporation (NOC) said on Sunday it would close the Faregh oil field at Zueitina port for scheduled maintenance from Monday until Oct. 14.

But analysts said the resumption in Saudi Arabian production after Sept. 14 attacks could undermine a price rally.

"The Saudi attacks have quickly been forgotten about and global growth is back to being the main driver of oil markets," said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at OANDA.

"Such complacency could come back to bite oil traders as another aggressive spike will likely accompany any further escalation in the region."

Despite Monday's gains, Brent is still down more than 20% from the 2019 peak of $75.60 a barrel recorded in April.

But OPEC Secretary-General Mohammed Barkindo said it was still too early for the group to discuss deeper oil output cuts to support prices, Russian news agency TASS reported on Monday.

 

Published in Engineering

Lagos was an orderly urban environment 70 years ago. This was the case from the 1950s, when the city was a federal territory through to the 1960s when it became federal capital – a status it held until 1991.

The foundations of orderliness for any city are planning and management. Lagos had this in place in the early days. The city was governed by an elected Lagos City Council, Nigeria’s oldest, established in 1900. It was governed according to colonial legislation, particularly the 1948 Building Line regulations and the 1957 Public Health Law.

The city was much smaller and was made up of Lagos Island (Eko) which included Ikoyi and Obalende neighbourhoods. It was a beautiful environment that featured Portuguese, Brazilian, and British Victorian architecture. Its streets were clean and tree-lined. Urban crime was virtually non-existent.

Governance standards declined when political control of Lagos, and the rest of Nigeria, came under military rule between 1966 and 1979 and again from 1984 to 1999. Proximity of the two capitals – federal and state, respectively – in the Ikoyi and Ikeja neighbourhoods of the same conurbation, put more pressure on the city. In the 1970s the city expanded to link up previously distinct areas such as Ikeja, Mushin, Orile, Ojo, Oshodi and Agege.

The result was increased pollution, congestion and wear on infrastructure. This was particularly true between 1970 and 1991.

But things have changed. Efforts have been made to revitalise the city in terms of a cleaner and greener environment, improved road and water infrastructure, urban bus system and waste management, overhaul of security and consultation with citizens through town hall meetings.

Nevertheless, big challenges remain. The city still has far too many slums and squatter settlements, it lacks a functioning public transportation system, proper traffic management, efficient waste disposal, sanitation, adequate potable water supply and routine road maintenance.

Lagos also suffers because of problems that afflict the country. There isn’t regular electricity supply, and there are high rates of poverty and unemployment. And, as elsewhere in the country, many residents don’t comply with laws on building, traffic and sanitation.

The history

Lagos was affected positively as well as negatively by Nigeria’s 1970s emergence as a major crude oil producer.

On the upside, there was investment in infrastructure. This included the building of the second bridge linking the Island, the Eko Bridge, and re-building of the first (colonial) Carter Bridge. The third and longest bridge was commissioned in 1990.

These bridges were aimed at improving accessibility between the two islands (Victoria and Lagos) and the mainland. But, uncontrolled commercial development on the islands has produced persistent traffic bottlenecks. This has been worsened by the lack of a public transport system.

Two developments added to pressures on the city. Its population burgeoned while infrastructure lagged behind. This period marked the beginning of the decline of planning for the city. The worst periods were the late 1980s and the 1990s. As architects Rem Koolhaas and Kunle Adeyemi noted in an interview, these were Lagos’ darkest times:

Lagos, in the 1990s, was the ultimate dysfunctional city and an example of what happens to a society where the state is absent. At that point the state had really withdrawn from Lagos; the city was left to its own devices, both in terms of money and services.

The city was being governed by the military. But it was not cut out for governance, had no accountability and couldn’t care less about planning and environmental issues. As a result it routinely disregarded existing regulations.

In the 1990s, for instance, the largest public park in Lagos – the old, colonial 10-hectare Victoria Park in Ikoyi – was sold as residential development land. The waterfront of the Lagos Cowrie Creek in Victoria Island was also sold for commercial development, effectively blocking direct public access to the waters and a picturesque view of Ikoyi.

The collapse of zoning all over Lagos also led to residential neighbourhoods such as Victoria Island and southwest Ikoyi being converted for commercial use. The military had no reasoned response to Lagos’ urban challenges. Instead, it took the decision in 1975 to establish a new capital in Abuja.

This move, which finally came to fruition in December 1991, left Lagos forlorn.

The positives

Positive changes have taken place.

For example, over the past 15 years the authorities succeeded in raising more taxes using money to restore basic infrastructure, expand public services and strengthen law enforcement.

Research shows that the commitment to reform the city was driven by electoral pressures as well as elite ambitions to construct an orderly megacity. The return to democracy helped to make these changes possible by enabling an elected government to work in the people’s interest.

Improvements includes public transport and the reclamation and greening of previously disused and misused spaces below Lagos’s many flyovers, bridges and interchanges. In addition, roads have been fixed and pavements built. In some parts of the city there is potable water supply and blighted residential and commercial areas have been rebuilt.

But, given decades of neglect, a great deal still needs to be done.

What’s broken

One of the biggest problems is the lack of coherent and integrated development .

Another major issue is flooding which Bongo Adi, a Lagos based environmental expert argues, hasn’t been decisively tackled.

Nor have improvements over the past decade impressed everyone. As Femi Akintunde argues, Lagos remains deplorable, rowdy, unsanitary, and a city of the urban poor. Akintunde is the managing editor and CEO of Financial Nigeria International Limited.

Lagos still ranks low on liveability. Its governance deficits are acutely felt by the poor, but also touch wealthier residents.

For these issues to be fixed, the standard of governance has to improve.

Who should run the city?

There are two potential authorities: Lagos state, sitting at the top, and the municipal authorities which interact with the grassroots.

The problem is that Lagos city isn’t really run by the city authorities. But effective urban governance should be “bottom-up”, making it possible for the people to take increasingly greater control over their lives.

In addition, being run from the top means that local capacity is being stunted. This has implications for sustainable change. As international fellow at International Institute for Environment and Development Jorgelina Hardoy says,

sustainable development in cities largely depends on the actions and capacity of local governments.

Whoever takes charge should recognise the necessity of getting residents’ buy-in before implementing modernisation policies. The city can’t develop by leaving its people behind.

Also, city planners should not plan for only the rich to the exclusion of the poor and disadvantaged. While accepting that slums and informal settlements have to be tackled, my research recommends a policy rethink that should involve

enabling strategies which fully address the rights of people who are illegally settled on public land.The Conversation

Ndubisi Onwuanyi, Lecturer, University of Benin

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Published in Opinion & Analysis

LIBERIANS HAVE LONG been consumed with an urge demanding their leaders to step down.

DURING THE 1980’s, many upset with the dictatorial tendencies of Samuel Kanyon Doe, who had shredded his military uniform for civilian clothes did all they could to get rid of Doe. Multiple Coup d’etats, alleged assassination attempts finally climaxed into a bloody civil war on Christmas Eve of 1989.

DOE WOULD DIE a year later at the hands of one of his nemesis, Prince Y. Johnson, head of the breakaway National Patriotic Front of Liberia, his ears chopped off, as he labored in pain, refusing to divulge the whereabouts of the millions he had supposedly stashed away in foreign banks.

THE IRONY of Doe’s death was clear for all to see. Nearly a decade prior to seizing power, he had led a coup d’etat that ended decades of Americo-Liberian rule under the age-old True Whig Party that dominated Liberian politics under a one-party system for more than a hundred years; depriving the ethnic and indigenous majority of their share of the economic spoils.

PRESIDENT WILLIAM R. TOLBERT, like Doe was slain to death on the morning of the April 12, 1980 coup while a dozen of his cabinet ministers executed like dogs. Like Doe, murmurs of his supposed millions remains entrenched in gossips and speculations. The latter stage of Tolbert’s reign was marred by mounting pressure from the progressives who finally staged a rice riots in 1979 that preceded Tolbert’s demise.

THE RIOT WAS SPURRED by a decision by then minister of agriculture, Florence Chenoweth, to propose an increase in the subsidized price of rice from $22 per 100-pound bag to $26. Chenoweth asserted that the increase would serve as an added inducement for rice farmers to stay on the land and produce rice as both a subsistence crop and a cash crop, instead of abandoning their farms for jobs in the cities or on the rubber plantations. However, political opponents criticized the proposal as self-aggrandizement, pointing out that the Tolbert family of the president operated large rice farms and would therefore realize a tidy profit from the proposed price increase.

THE PROGRESSIVE ALLIANCE of Liberia called for a peaceful demonstration in Monrovia to protest the proposed price increase. On April 14 1979 about 2,000 activists began what was planned as a peaceful march on the Executive Mansion. The protest march swelled dramatically when the protesters were joined en-route by more than 10,000 “back street boys,” causing the march to quickly degenerate into a disorderly mob of riot and destruction.

TOLBERT WAS OVERTHROWN after the progressives rightfully complained about some injustices in the system and members of the Progressive Peoples Party, formerly Progressive Alliance of Liberia (PAL) marched and sat at the executive mansion at midnight and asked Tolbert to resign. They were arrested and jailed at the then post stockage. The next even after this was the 1980. The coup ended the over 100 years of Americo-Liberian rule but became a major development set for Liberia.

CHARLES TAYLOR, head of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia preyed on the vulnerabilities of a nation that had become fatigued by Doe with a firebrand tough-talking persona that won him a cross-section of support. Former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf even acknowledged contributing US$10,000 to help Mr. Taylor and his rebellion, albeit she testified before the Truth and Reconciliation that she gave the $10,000 for “humanitarian” purposes.

WHEN MR. TAYLOR and his rebels finally gained traction and began capturing counties and territories, it was the very people who supported his rebellion that received the short-end of the stick. What followed was a trail of endless tribal and ethnic killings, looting and unprecedented flight of Liberians from their own country, into exile and strange lands where many have become citizens and residents after escaping the carnage in their homeland.

LIBERIANS WANTED Taylor out and he was replaced by an interim government comprising of warring factions that were seeking the interest of their individual factions and not national interest.

DURING THE FORMER regime of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, murmurs of resignation and step-down campaigns were a dominant chorus from the opposition, including some, now in the current ruling party.

THE IRONY of the Sirleaf era is as chronic as was that of Doe’s.

AFTER SERVING HER FIRST six-year term, the masses overwhelmingly gave Sirleaf a second term. But not long after that, in January, 2013, two years after the 2011 elections, a group of Liberians operating under the banner of the “Ellen Step Down Campaign,” emerged, calling on Africa’s first woman head of state to step down from her democratically-elected position.

THE CAMPAIGNERS, WHO had all voted in the 2011 elections, took President Sirleaf to task amid accusations that she was corrupt, nepotistic and overseeing a government that had failed to improve the lives of the Liberian people.

ORGANIZERS PENCILED in October 9, 2013 as the protest date, while allegedly distributing T-shirts to supporters of their campaign. But even as some members of the step-down drive, including Mulbah Morlu, now chair of the ruling CDC-led government, Julius Jensen, Bah-Wah Brownell and others were either arrested or under surveillance, a euphoria greeted Sirleaf as she returned home following a trip to the United Nations General Assembly.

PRAISE SINGERS gathered at the airport to welcome Sirleaf calling on her to continue to steer the state and maintain the ten years of unprecedented peace.

IN A FEW MONTHS, the current administration of President George Manneh Weah will be marking its second year in office and already, chants of step down are already in the air.

ON JUNE 7 THIS YEAR, thousands took to the streets to protest against the corruption and economic decline pointing the blame on Mr. Weah, an iconic figure, who made his name on the football pitch.

PROTESTERS TOOK aim at the stagnant economy in which most still live in deep poverty and a scandal in which the country last year allegedly lost $100 million in newly printed bank notes destined for the central bank.

IN THE WAKE of mounting challenges, some Liberians have in recent weeks questioned why the international community is not doing something about the declining economy, the failing political environment amid spurts of protests which is becoming a norm over the past few months.

MAYBE THE INTERNATIONAL community are simply tired and fed up with Liberia, and are also tired coming to their aid and maybe for once they expect Liberia and Liberians to cry their own cries.

PERHAPS SOME have become frustrated that the opposition never can seem to get its act together, often wailing and crying about the person in power but never willing to make the sacrifices to remove them from power through the ballot box with egos often colliding amongst political forces, most times to their own detriment.

RECENT RESULTS in District No. 15 and last weekend’s Senatorial By-elections in Grand Cape Mount County is just the latest in a season of discontent to expose the disunity and lack of cohesion amongst those in the opposition.

TO BE HONEST, how many times can the world come to one country’s aid? How many times should one country, as old as methuselah, the oldest on the African continent, continue to make SOS calls to the world to come to its aid.

THE WORLD WAS not a party to the 2017 elections and was never a party to the two elections held in 2005 and 2011. Going back to 1985, when Doe won, the world was not a party and neither was the world a party to the 1997 elections won by Taylor, marred by now infamous chants – He killed my ma, he killed my pa, but I will vote for him.”

THE STARK REALITY is that Liberians have always taken it upon themselves to put the leaders or rulers they desire in office, often voting on lines of friendship, populism, family – or who will be better for them to enrich themselves.

THE PAINFUL truth is that in the end, often rapidly, they regret their votes and begin complaining, suddenly turning their attention to the rest of the world to help them correct their mistake.

ALSO PAINFUL is seeing those who were in power and were defeated or overthrown quickly becoming broke and so agitated to be given employment back in Government, creating the infamous “recycled politicians”.

WELL, THE WORLD appears to be tired cleaning Liberia’s diapers and has perhaps had enough.

MR. WEAH OVERWHELMINGLY WON the 2017 presidential elections, ahead of an impressive field of candidates with more than 60% of the vote in the second round.

MR. WEAH, IMMEDIATELY TOOK to Twitter after the final results were announced, declaring: “I measure the importance and the responsibility of the immense task which I embrace today. Change is on.”

MR. WEAH won fairly and squarely, according to the National Elections and he deserves to end his six-year term, peacefully.

IF ANYONE is unhappy with the way things are, now is the time to mobilize, set egos aside and do what they feel needs to be done to defeat Mr. Weah at the ballot box.

SINCE 1847, Liberians have been clamoring for change.

THEY SEIZED the opportunity when the American Colonization Society encouraged it to proclaim independence, as it no longer wanted to support it. Although the United States declined to act on requests from the ACS to make Liberia an American colony, or to establish a formal protectorate over Liberia, but it did exercise a “moral protectorate” over Liberia, intervening only when European powers threatened its territory or sovereignty.

LIBERIA RETAINED its independence throughout the scramble for Africa by European colonial powers during the late 19th century, while remaining in the American sphere of influence.

EVEN AS AN INDEPENDENT nation, the country has for more than a century, appear unwilling to seize control of its destiny. Governments have come and gone, repeating the same mistakes – over and over again.

THIS IS WHY we strongly believe that no amount of protests can save Liberia. Protests only prolong the suffering of a people, exploit the vulnerabilities of those languishing at the bottom of the economic ladder and enrich those advocating for change, often driven by their own selfish agenda to the detriment of a nation in desperate need of redemption and social, political and economic cleansing.

THOUSANDS OF LIBERIANS died in an endless civil war and scores also died in vain attempts to overthrow a sitting government, many felt was not governing right.

WHAT HAS CHANGED since 1847? What new ideas have been thought of in a bid to make a difference – or to do things differently? What has the nation learned from April 14, 1979, April 12, 1980, November 12, 1985 or December 24, 1989 – key dates that remain entrenched in Liberia’s rugged history – for all the wrong reasons.

WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED since June 7; Save the State protest this year? What needs to be done differently? What do planners have in place in case of a premature end to the Weah presidency? Another political stalemate? Uncertainty?

THE TRUTH OF THE MATTER is even those who advocated change on those dates – would not even know the answer when the stuff begins hitting the fan.

AS HISTORY HAS SHOWN, many of them were in positions of power – and still are, repeating the very same things they accused others of yesterday.

FOR THIS, Liberians need to rethink and reprogram themselves to the changing realities of what it is they really want and how they really want to go about achieving it.

THE SAD REALITY is, Liberians can protest from now until judgment day, if the mindset remains the same, if the corrupt tendencies and urging for greed, nepotism and favoritism are still entrenched in those with aspirations for power, no amount of protesting will bring about any kind of change.

IT IS IMPORTANT that all Liberians advocate for the perseverance of the country’s bourgeoning democracy and resist any attempts by anyone to revert the course of the political dispensation.

WHAT GUARANTEE IS THERE that this latest stepdown call will yield anything different? If the Weah-led government is as bad as those advocating for his early exit feel it is, the democratic route is their best chance at removing the government from power.

FORMER US ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE, Herman Cohen once said: “If this war should reach Monrovia, it will take Liberia one hundred years back”. Liberians did not listen but were welcoming Taylor because we wanted President Samuel Doe out. Today, Liberia that was once considered the beacon of hope in Africa that attracted immigrants and investors from around the world is now considered as one of worst, corrupt or poorest countries in Africa.”

PHILOSOPHER AND WRITER George Santayana in his original writing or quote, wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

FOR THOSE advocating for Weah to stepdown or be removed, the best way is through the ballot box in the next presidential election in 2023.

THE COUNTRY’S FRAGILE history has shown that modern Liberia experienced major setbacks when our leaders were removed before their constitutional terms ended.

SEVERAL DEVELOPMENT projects that would have benefitted the nation from Tolbert last development plan produced by the Rural Development Task Force were not implemented because of the coup.

THE DEVELOPMENT PLAN called for electing county Superintendents by the residents of the counties, construction of vocational schools like those that were in Grand Gedeh and Lofa at a community college level in each county, expansion of the University of Liberia, Construction of the Atlantic Highway from Grand Bassa to the southeast by Mensah Construction Company, a Liberian Construction Company that constructed the Monrovia-Robertsfield Highway. The company was in the process of carrying out a survey of the road when the coup occurred, bringing that program to a halt. It should have been completed by 1983. Also, the pave road from Ganta would have been connected to this road through Grand Gedeh to Maryland. We lost all these because of the 1980 coup.

Under Samuel Doe, Liberia saw the first group of inexperienced and incompetent Liberians at the top of government entities during his first three to four years. After the 1985 election, Doe tried to transition himself from a Military man (Master Sergeant) to a statesman. He brought in some of the most competent Liberians and came out with his development agenda – whether some were inherited or not. He started or continued the Ganta-Harper highway that would have connected Nimba to the southeast, a road from 12th Street Sinkor to Gardnerville, called the Beyan Kessely Drive, extending the Gardnerville road to four lanes by a company called Armtel, construction for a bridge from the YMCA broad street curve to Garnerville, battery factory and the construction of the Ministry of Defense where the New Ministerial complex is located.

IT IS CLEAR THAT LIBERIA HAS lost a lot because of removing our leaders pre-maturely, often replaced by governments that were corrupt or worse.

THE MILLION-DOLLAR question is, would removing Mr. Weah pre-maturely immediately solve Liberia’s economic, social or other problems?

IT IS HIGH TIME that Liberians begin to wake up to the realities that violence is simply not the answer, it only prolongs the suffering and exploit the vulnerable masses. The experience of the players in the current government, who were in opposition yesterday is the best lesson anyone can learn about how the shoe fits when one is on the outside looking in.

A Hint to the Wise!!!

Published in Business

It cost me more than three times the money and an extra 15 minutes to fly to my local airport in an Uber helicopter than if I had taken the highway in an Uber X. It also required multiple cab rides, squeezing into a tight space and overcoming a mild-to-moderate fear of flying while soaring alongside the Brooklyn Bridge.

On Thursday, the ride-hail company launched a premium helicopter service in New York City with the promise of 8-minute flights to nearby John F. Kennedy airport from downtown Manhattan. Uber intends to expand the service to more US cities and eventually — implausible as it may sound — offer this option to daily commuters who travel to and from neighboring suburbs.

In some ways, this ambitious service is a throwback to the premise Uber launched with a decade ago: offer a sleek and convenient transportation option so customers with too much disposable income can feel like high rollers — or "ballers" — while traveling. This time, the question is whether Uber can convince the Wall Street crowd near the helipad to upgrade from a car to a chopper.

During a test run earlier this week, it cost $205 for a one way Uber Copter trip to the airport — an experience that, start to finish, took me 55 minutes to complete. That fee included a 19-minute Uber X car ride from the Lower East Side 2.8 miles to the heliport, as well as a 5-minute trip to my final destination, the new TWA Hotel at JFK.

But for what's supposed to be an alternative to waiting in highway traffic, it still ends up being a headache. I could have arrived at the hotel in 40 minutes for $61 if I had ordered an Uber X ride from my original location south of Houston Street. That's saving almost $145 for a faster service. (Full disclosure: I tested the Uber Copter in the late morning; Uber typically offers it during peak afternoon commuting hours when flying over airport traffic really counts).

The launch comes at a time when the company could use some flashy product launches and positive headlines as it faces a daunting list of problems, including record losses, multiple rounds of layoffs, continued scrutiny over passenger safety, potentially existential regulatory threats and a stock price that is hovering near an all-time low.

As Uber expands its fleet of cars to scooters, bikes and now helicopters, it wants to give users more options for getting from one place to another. It envisions replacing helicopter trips with autonomous electric flying cars to make transportation faster and, in theory, safer. Under its new Uber Air division, it's working on a class of flying electric vehicles that can take off and land vertically. The company is expected to launch its first set of electric aircraft in Dallas, Los Angeles and Melbourne, Australia, in 2023.

"You can imagine Uber Copter is [as] kind of being the first version of that future product — that is fundamentally what we think of as multimodal," Eric Allison, head of Uber Elevate, said at the TWA Hotel following my Uber Copter flight. "Copter is not just about the air ride, but the overall journey. [We] can weave together our network of cars on the ground with the air vehicles; and in this case, the helicopter, so you can seamlessly transition from a car to the helicopter to a car to get you to the final destination. It's completely sequenced and figured out by our technology behind the scenes."

For now, Uber Copter is a narrow launch in one small slice of one big city. To get its helicopter business off the ground, it's relying on a third-party, charter company HeliFlite.

The 8-minute flight was the easiest part of the experience; check-in at the helipad was as simple as scanning a barcode and showing a driver's license. Ordering the Copter was easy, too. Users who have the highest status levels in Uber's reward program will see an option pop-up in the app when planning a trip involving Lower Manhattan.

But here's where it gets complicated: Trips must start or end in this designated zone in Lower Manhattan. The company will coordinate a pick-up car service to get passengers to the helipad, adding significant minutes to a trip depending on the start location. (Uber said it plans to open up some of the geo-fencing restrictions around the pickup locations in the future.)

As it stands, nothing particularly sets the Uber Copter experience apart from any other helicopter you might take. There's no extra leg room or free bottles of water. The service is also competing with other helicopter booking services such as Blade, which offers flights to neighboring airports, as well as routes to the Hamptons, Atlantic City and Nantucket, via an app. (Blade and Uber partnered several years ago to let users of the ride-sharing app book chartered helicopter rides to Montauk, New York, for July 4th weekend.) Blade's flat rate to JFK is $195 one way.

In line with HeliFlite's rules, Uber Copter passengers are only allowed to bring one personal item and one piece of luggage on flights to the airport — a potential deterrent for someone who might be traveling overseas with more bags.

Uber copter

The real highlight of the Uber Copter trip is soaring along the stunning New York City skyline, past the Brooklyn Bridge and near the Statue of Liberty — sights alone arguably worth more than $205. After touching down at JFK just a few minutes later, I barely had time to remember my fear of flying.

The service will likely appeal to Wall Street types conveniently located near the helipad or those traveling to the airport during peak hours who can afford to pay a premium to avoid sitting in traffic. But for the rest of us, an Uber X — or heck, even a $2.75 subway ride — will do just fine.

 

Credit: CNN Business

Published in World

Cameroon’s maritime fisheries, both artisanal and industrial, are largely dominated by foreign fishers.

Industrial fishing is carried out entirely by foreign trawlers predominantly, from China and Nigeria, in partnership with Cameroon fish entrepreneurs. They are licensed to commercially exploit fish stocks beyond 3 nautical miles of the coastline. Their main catch includes croakers, oysters and a variety shrimp species.

Similarly, about 80% of the documented 34 355 artisanal fishers are immigrants from Nigeria, Ghana, Benin and Togo. They operate from around 300 artisanal fishing ports along Cameroon’s 402-kilometre coastline and are allowed to fish within 3 nautical miles of the coast. These artisanal fishers mainly target fish found in shallow depths, such as bonga shad, sardinella, prawns and shrimp.

While most of the industrial caught fish are destined for Europe and Asia, the artisanal catch is mainly sold in local markets. It’s a vital source of animal protein, especially for communities that live along the coastline.

Cameroon’s fisheries sector is of huge social and economic importance to the country. Fisheries makes up 1.8% of the country’s estimated US$35 billion GDP. The sector employs more than 200 000 people and, since 2015, fishers catch an average of 205 000 tons of fish each year. The industrial sector accounts for about 9 000 tons of this.

Despite its importance, the maritime fisheries sector is plagued with largely hidden, or ignored, fisheries crimes.

My research over the past three years tries to lift the lid on the types of crimes that are happening, the actors involved, their networks and how they operate. I looked at both the industrial and artisanal sectors.

My study documented numerous crimes involving people associated with the fisheries sector. But most go undetected. To tackle criminality in the fisheries sector, all concerned stakeholders – from fishers to policymakers – need to be able to identify and report on the different fisheries crimes they see.

Endemic problems

I found that there’s an endemic problem of corruption, fraud and the illegal exploitation of and trade in endangered marine species. I also found a link between the fisheries sector and wider transnational crimes such as the smuggling of contraband, weapons and immigrants.

Because of the hidden nature of these offences it’s difficult to quantify the impact they’ve had on Cameroon. There are some insights. For instance, based on government statistics, illegal fishing in Cameroonian waters costs the country about CAF 20 billion (about US$33 million) every year.

If not tackled quickly, these crimes will continue to compromise government efforts to raise income from taxes generated from the sector. Moreover, it will affect the livelihood of millions of people that depend on the sector through job losses, and access to essential food and nutritional security.

I conducted research over a period of three years. I observed fishing operations at industrial and artisanal fishing ports and carried out informal group discussions and semi-structured interviews with state officials, coastal community groups and other civil society organisations. I also analysed existing research and media reports.

I found that in both the industrial and artisanal sectors, fisheries crimes were perpetrated by a variety of stakeholders. These include senior government officials, fisheries officers, elites with stakes in industrial fishing companies, fishers and fish entrepreneurs.

While some fisheries crimes are carried out at sea, most occur on land; in government offices, fish landing sites, beach huts and coastal backwaters, sometimes by those who are meant to protect fish resources. It involved nationals and foreigners, some from as far as China.

Corruption

Corruption was identified as a major problem. It manifested as bribery and abuse of office. It was systemic and permeated all aspects of the value chain from acquiring fishing permits, catching fish at sea, processing the catch and marketing the produce to consumers. This typifies the corruption landscape in the country as highlighted in other areas, such as the judiciary and police administration.

Corruption has enabled other crimes to flourish. This includes document and identity fraud and the abuse of workers. Some workers (particularly immigrants and children) were illegally recruited into the fisheries sector. Most workers were made to work in squalid conditions.

Corruption also allowed for the illegal exploitation of and trade in endangered and critically endangered marine species, such as dolphins and turtles. Of particular concern was the illegal trade in giant croaker fish bladder. This is a highly valued delicacy in China and, despite the huge volumes I saw traded, there’s little awareness about it.

I also found that the fisheries sector was used to commit transnational crimes, specifically to smuggle weapons, fuel, ivory, rice, fake bank notes and timber products. Most of this happened between Cameroon and Nigeria, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. Boats were also used to traffic illegal immigrants between Nigeria and Cameroon, and from Cameroon to Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.

Combating fisheries crime

There’s currently a national effort to root out corruption which has mainly focused on the judiciary and police. This needs to pay more attention to the fisheries sector. The best option would be to have a subcommittee dedicated to rooting out corruption in fisheries.

Because of the transnational nature of fisheries crime, regional and international cooperation is vital. A key first step is for the state to ratify the Copenhagen Declaration – an international framework to specifically support inter-agency cooperation of all relevant stakeholders against fisheries crimes at national, regional and international levels.The Conversation

 

Maurice Beseng, Visiting Research Fellow in Maritime Security, Coventry University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Published in Agriculture
Monday, 07 October 2019 04:29

Nigeria to Assemble Solar Cars By 2020

As Nigeria celebrates 59th Independence anniversary, an indigenous company says it is intensifying efforts to begin assembling of solar cars by 2020.

Mr Moses Onaja, Chief Executive Officer, Sun Energy Community Development Initiative (SECODI), made the disclosure last week during an exhibition of solar products in Ibadan.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the exhibition was aimed at inspiring Nigerians to have access to renewable and clean energy which is environmental friendly.

"We want to promote the use of renewable energy products in Nigeria to promote a clean and healthy environment.

"What we want to do now is to start assembling solar cars in Nigeria. Let it not just be in China.

"By the special grace of God, we want to see how we can work with the government to ensure that; we are hoping that in 2020 we should have the assembly point here," he said.

Onaja said that the company discovered that some people died from diseases caused by fossil fuel, adding that it would want to bring solutions toward minimising deaths from air pollution in Nigeria.

"For over six years, we have been into solar research, and today, we have our solar car. It is a product of an imagination that has been translated into reality.

"This car can run purely on solar battery, and you don't have the issue of monthly maintenance or any kind of repair that you have to be doing regularly because it has little movable parts inside," he said.

He described the manufacture of a solar car as a breakthrough, adding that it had no accident-prone part. Onaja said that SECODI worked in partnership with some foreign companies to bring the car into reality, saying that the vehicle was built in collaboration with various technicians.

He gave the assurance that the price of the car would go down on commencement of assembling in the country.

"Even now, it is very affordable compared to what you expect of a car that doesn't run on fuel. It is actually very affordable," he said. NAN reports that the event featured presentation of a solar car to Mr Gbenga Akintoye, the Oyo State Coordinator of SECODI.

The event also featured exhibition of SECODI solar television sets and tricycles, among other products using solar energy.

 

Credit: NAN

Published in Engineering
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