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On day one, Biden issues orders reversing key Trump policies

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…..US rejoins WHO, Paris Climate Accord

…..Lifts travel ban on Muslims

U.S. President Joe Biden used his first day in office to issue a raft of executive orders undoing some of former President Donald Trump’s marquee policies on climate change and immigration.

Among the 17 executive orders and presidential actions Biden signed on Wednesday were moves to rejoin the Paris climate accord, end a travel ban from several Muslim-majority countries, and halt Trump’s withdrawal from the World Health Organisation.

“There’s no time to waste,” Biden said before signing executive orders in the White House.

“These are just all starting points,” he added.

Biden made rejoining the climate agreement a key point of his presidential campaign, vowing to undo former president Donald Trump’s policy.

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres welcomed the U.S. president’s move.

“Following last year’s Climate Ambition Summit, countries producing half of global carbon pollution had committed to carbon neutrality,” Guterres said.

“Today’s commitment by President Biden brings that figure to two-thirds,” the UN chief added.

Trump, who long railed against the global agreement signed by almost every country, notified the UN of his intent to exit the deal in 2019 and the U.S. formally left in November 2020.

The move also led to a sharp decrease in U.S. contributions to a fund to help poorer nations cope with climate change.

Biden also ended the entry ban on citizens from over a dozen countries, including Eritrea, Yemen, Nigeria, and Sudan.

The American Civil Liberties Union, a non-profit civil rights organisation, applauded the move calling the travel policy a “cruel Muslim ban that targeted Africans.”

Critics had called the policy – one of the first moves by Donald Trump when he became president in 2017 – a “Muslim ban.”

However, the ban was changed, in part due to legal challenges, and included some non majority-Muslim nations.

Biden has described the policy as discriminatory and an affront to the country’s values.

The president also submitted a letter to UN chief Guterres saying the U.S. intended to stay in the WHO, halting Trump’s withdrawal, which was scheduled for July of this year.

The U.S. will be a “full participant and a global leader” in confronting the Coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) and other public health threats, Biden said in a letter to UN chief Guterres that rescinded U.S’s. withdrawal from WHO.

Biden issued an executive order halting construction of a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico, dealing a blow to one of Trump’s signature policy goals meant to keep South American immigrants out of the US.

The president also signed an executive order mandating that people wear masks in all federal buildings and on federal lands in an effort to fight the spread of the coronavirus.

“Wearing masks isn’t a partisan issue — it’s a patriotic act that can save countless lives.

“It’s time to mask up, America,” Biden wrote on the official presidential Twitter account.

Trump had long downplayed the need to wear masks and avoided wearing masks in public even as COVID-19 pandemic killed over 400,000 people during his tenure as president.

As part of his executive order, Biden asked everyone in the U.S. to wear a mask when in public for at least the next 100 days.

Biden’s transition team said earlier that the executive orders were meant to reverse “the gravest damages of the Trump administration.”

The Democrat made the policies cornerstones of his presidential election campaign, seeking to reverse tougher immigration rules, a lax attitude on public health and an aversion to international cooperation on climate change seen under his predecessor.

The president has also sent a bill to Congress to overhaul the country’s immigration system, his team said earlier.

The legislation aims to provide pathways to U.S. citizenship for undocumented people, address the root causes of migration and speed up the reunification of families after children were separated from parents at the U.S. border with Mexico.

Biden has already made it clear he aims to push for another 1.9 trillion dollars in relief and stimulus to help the economy through the coming months of the pandemic.

This will involve working with Congress, where he is likely to meet some resistance to more spending, after the U.S. government has already pumped trillions into the economy since March.

However, jobless data is worrying and business are suffering. (dpa/NAN)

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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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