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Joe Biden assumes office as US President, calls for end to ‘Uncivil War’

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Joseph Robinette Biden Jr has been sworn in as the 46th president of the United States alongside his vice, Kamala Harris.

At the inauguration ceremony Wednesday in Washington, D.C., it was a celebration of the return of the Obama administration and the Democratic Party. With the absence of outgoing President Donald Trump, the image of the Republican Party at the end of Mr Trump’s turbulent tenure was one of a contemptible lack of graciousness in loss.

In his inaugural address, President Biden who becomes the oldest person to elected American President, called for an end to the “uncivil war,” addressing the toxic politics of the past four years, even as the Senate prepares to try his predecessor in the coming weeks following a second successful impeachment trial by the House of Representatives.

President Biden asked for a “lower[ing] of the temperature” but took a swipe at the Trump administration and the falsehoods that ensued after the elections, which MrTrump still refuses to concede.

“We must reject the culture in which facts themselves are manipulated and even manufactured,” the new president said.

The unprecedented global health crisis, and the usually high number of casualties in the U.S., currently over 400,000, was already going to affect the layout of the inauguration. But the bitter contention between the two political parties, especially in the period following the November 4 elections have further heightened the contention in Washington, D.C., and culminated in the attack on the Capitol on January 6 by Trump supporters.

As a consequence, the inauguration was conducted amidst a lockdown in the nation’s capital city. Entire sections of the city were shut to the public and a wide perimeter created around the Capitol Hill to prevent a repeat of the brazen attack of two weeks prior. The inauguration committee made a decision to plant flags throughout the lawn in the National Mall, where attendees would ordinarily have occupied. The city has also been besieged by the presence of about 25,000 National Guardsmen, an overwhelming security move to quell any prospects of violent protest. One thing is certain, there will be no contest of crowd numbers regarding the 2021 Inauguration.

Yet, the tensions did not mask the palpable sense of victory for Democrats who turned out in their numbers, within the constraints of the COVID-19 protocols. Notably, former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who lost the last election to Mr Trump in 2016, appeared to revel in being instrumental in thwarting the 2nd term ambitions of President Trump.

Amy Klobuchar, a sitting senator and former presidential hopeful who was once tipped to be Mr Biden’s running mate, opened the event and welcomed the ‘bunch of Bidens,’ mirroring the warmer, less contentious atmosphere that is expected to replace the fraught Trump Administration. Ms Klobuchar also celebrated the glass-ceiling breaking achievement of the incoming Vice-President Kamala Harris, who is the first woman to attain these heights in the history of the US.

The orders for the new president are tall. Mr Biden will fall in headlong into a global health crisis that has had devastating effects on the U.S. health sector and the US economy at large.

President Biden has laid out plans to carry out a series of Executive Orders this week, including rejoining the World Health Organization (WHO). He is also expected to expedite the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine in the coming weeks.

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NPA vows to upgrade country’s maritime hub status

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Rotimi Amaechi, Minister of Transportation

In a statement issued on Sunday in Lagos by NPA General Manager, Corporate and Strategic Communications, Mr Olaseni Alakija, Bello-Koko disclosed this in Abeokuta, Ogun,  at the first retreat for the reconstituted board of directors.

The theme of the retreat was “Expanding the Frontiers of Service Excellence.”

He noted that investments in modern deep seaports would attract very large merchant vessels with the attendant multiple socio-economic benefits, as well as boost port revenue performance.

The statement said Bello-Koko disclosed that a lot had been done, especially in the last few months, to resolve most of the identified constraints to the efficient movement of cargoes to and from ports.

Such efforts, he said, were in line with the new direction and measures being put in place to actualise NPA’s aspirations,

“Nigeria accounts for about 70 per cent of cargoes imported into West and Central Africa and the country controls an impressive stretch of the Atlantic Ocean.

“Nigeria’s rich aquatic endowments and her border with landlocked nations makes development of deep seaports a huge potential revenue earner for the nation.

“The move towards earning the status of hub in the region is in line with our new vision statement.

“This was adopted at the recent NPA Management retreat with the theme ‘To Be The Maritime Logistics Hub For Sustainable Port System In Africa,” he said.

The statement said the acting managing director described the board retreat as very timely, as it signposts a unity of purpose and shared vision.

According to him, the vision is one in which the executive management works closely with every section, unit, department, division and directorate and embraces an all-inclusive strategic outcome for the organisation with the requisite buy-in of the board.

“In appreciation of this, I will like to crave the understanding of the board with regards to the executive management’s limitations in actualising some of our goals and objectives, which I am sure distinguished board members must have noticed in the course of the tour of ports that preceded this retreat,” he added.

The NPA boss informed the board that recent interventions made by the authority had led to significant improvement in terms of ship and cargo dwell time at the ports.

He, however, explained that some of the benchmarks which were yet to be achieved were dependent on “externalities and variables” that required concerted inter-agency actions.

He said that NPA, despite dogged efforts, has yet to optimally achieve the said benchmarks due to systemic administrative constraints and red-tape.

He enumerated the constraints as conflicting directives from the agencies operating within the ports and reporting to different supervising ministries with jurisdictional overlaps and duplications of functions.

He informed the board that concerted efforts were being made to expand NPA’s revenue streams, in addition to revenue from traditional port operations.

According to him, unlike the practice in sister Francophone countries where government funds the dredging of ports, the NPA was responsible for funding its.

This, he said, has put a lot of strains on its resources and capacity to invest in critical port infrastructure.

“We are facing decaying port infrastructure, for example, sections of the quay aprons or walls at the Tin Can Island Port, Onne, Delta and Calabar Ports are collapsing and require huge funds to repair them.

“With the increasing pressure to remit more revenue to the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) of the federation, it has become very difficult to have sufficient funds to attend to these decaying facilities.

“There is then the need to explore alternative funding sources outside the traditional port service offerings,” he stated.

Bello-Koko explained that the authority was blessed with prime real estates which could serve as alternative funding sources outside the regular budget.

“NPA has a lot of high value landed properties in Onne, Snake Island, and Takwa Bay that are designated free trade zones.

* Apapa Wharf

“They are mostly allocated but burdened by poor arterial road network and other infrastructure to make them attractive for private investments which would bring good revenue to the authority and the Federal Government.

“Management will need the support of the board to drive the process of alternative revenue sources to actualise the lofty aspirations of the authority,” he said.

The Acting MD also disclosed that management had opened correspondence with some multilateral financial institutions such as the French Development Agency (AFD), African Development Bank (AfDB), European Investment Bank (EIB) and Sanlam Infraworks (a Central Bank of Nigeria approved fund manager for InfraCorp).

He explained that these were all part of plans to access long term low interest credits for port infrastructure upgrades and expansion.

“In making the Nigerian seaports more business friendly, we have been able to deploy technology to address the perennial traffic gridlock that has been frustrating the conduct of business around the Lagos ports corridor.

“A software application code named “eto” is gradually restoring sanity to trucking business despite the initial teething problems and resistance by vested interests hitherto profiting from the chaos.

“The authority has accredited 33 private truck terminals within the Lagos area, in addition to the Lily Pond Truck Transit Park and Tin Can Island Port Truck Transit Park, to ensure trucks do not park indiscriminately on the access roads.

“The trucks would only be allowed to transit to the port after obtaining electronic tickets via the “eto” call-up platform and the authority is collaborating with the Lagos State Government to ensure enforcement and compliance with the e-call up system, he said.

He added that other solutions being implemented was the push to link all seaports to the national rail network, as well as optimise the use of the inland waterways through the transfer of cargo or containers via barges.

Bello-Koko said that currently the authority was streamlining barge operations to ensure efficiency, safety and cost effective cargo delivery for increased port revenue.

He said that the Bonny Seaport project in Rivers, boosted by two major railway projects, would massively transform the economic landscape of the country, particularly the South-South and South-Eastern regions.

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BREAKING: Former CBN Deputy Governor Obadiah Mailafia Dies at 64

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A former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Dr. Obadiah Mailafia, has passed on at the age of 64.

Mailafia, who was a columnist with The PUNCH was said to have died at midnight after a brief illness.

The former deputy governor, who was the Presidential candidate of the African Democratic Congress in the 2019 election, was a known government critic and had advocated for public sector and exchange rate reforms.

Mailafia was born on December 24, 1956, in the Sanga Local Government Area of Kaduna State.

He later graduated top of his class at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, in 1978 with a First Class B.Sc.Honours Social Sciences degree (Politics, Economics, and Sociology). He also has an M.Sc. from the same institution.

He subsequently won a French Government Scholarship to France, where he earned a Certificate in French Language and Civilisation from the University of Clermont-Ferrand in 1985.

Mailafia later proceeded to the United Kingdom as a Foreign and Commonwealth Office Scholar at Oriel College, earning a DPhil from the University of Oxford in 1995.

He joined partisan politics in 2018 amid the rising killings in Southern Kaduna.

Despite losing, he remained an ardent government critic and got into trouble with the regime of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), when he alleged that a northern governor was a Boko Haram commander.

This earned multiple invitations by the Nigeria Police Force, forcing him to recant his statement.

In his last interview with The PUNCH, Mailafia said the refusal of the CBN to sell foreign exchange to bureau de change operators may not yield the expected result because corrupt bankers would frustrate it while the BDC operators were being shielded by a “Jigawa cabal”.

He had also lamented that Nigeria was operating a “dollarised” economy which was hampering economic growth.

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