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WTO: APC governors forum endorses Okonjo-Iweala

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The Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF) has called on member countries of the World Trade Organization (WTO) to support Nigeria’s candidate for election into the office of the Director-General, Dr Ngozi Okonjo Iweala.

In a statement issued Wednesday in Abuja, chairman of the forum and Kebbi state governor and Governor of Kebbi state, Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, said the main objective of establishing the World Trade Organization is to create a trading system that is equitable and with least distortions.

“Regrettably, while being an improvement on the Agreement on Trade and Tariffs GATT, the WTO is yet to deliver in achieving the objectives. Worst still is that it is perceived as impotent. The exit of UK from EU and the brickbat between the US and China is illustrative of the difficulties with bilateral trade agreements talk more of a global one. The failure of the WTO to reach an agreement on agriculture, for example is punitive to all of Africa”, he said.

According to Gov. Bagudu, the literal freezing of world trade occasioned by the Coronavirus Pandemic serves as a stark warning that the world needs to have a better trade system.

“Whoever imagined that one country can ‘seize’ medical supplies going to other countries? Fixing the global trading system is one of the most important challenges of our time and doing so shall contribute to global prosperity more than any agreement. In so doing poverty shall be reduced and global prosperity shall be more equitably shared. Reforming the World Trade Organization is at the heart of any of such quest, and thus the choice of the next leader of the Organization matters.

“In nominating our own Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, President Buhari is not just presenting a Nigerian Candidate but is presenting to the world one of its best, albeit from Nigeria, and one who is eminently qualified to lead the task of fixing the world trading system. An economist, international development expert and a global public servant, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala is one candidate that comes with all the experiences and expertise required to reposition the WTO. Both President Buhari and Dr. Okonjo-Iweala deserve commendation for giving the world the opportunity towards correcting the distortions in the world trading system.”

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Aviation

Direct Flights Between Nigeria and Seychelles Soon, as both Countries Sign BASA

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Following the approval of the Federal Executive Council of the Memorandum on signing and ratification of Air Service Agreement between the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Republic of Seychelles, the two countries have formerly ratified the Agreement.

Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika using the platform of the ongoing International Civil Aviation Negotiation (ICAN) event holding in Abuja, led officials of the Ministry to sign Bilateral Air Services Agreement ( BASA) while the Republic of Seychelles Minister of Transport, Mr. Anthony Derjacques, signed on behalf of his country.

Nigeria’s Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika signing the BASA with Seychelles

During the ceremony, the two Ministers underscored the importance of the BASA as it will promote air services and connectivity between both countries, enhance business, and promote tourism.

Seychelles Minister of Transport, Mr. Anthony Derjacques endorsing the BASA with Nigeria

According to a statement by the Special Assistant to the Minister of Aviation on Public Affairs, James Odaudu, the two Ministers agreed that the signing would further promote the African Union Agenda 2063 and called on citizens of both countries to latch on the opportunities of the BASA for their mutual benefits.

Meanwhile, the Federal Ministry of Aviation has either signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and initial Air Services Agreement (ASA) with Senegal, Benin Republic, Ethiopia, Kenya, Finland, Cameroon, Morocco, Suriname, India, Sudan and Uganda.

The Ministry has also had discussions on how to further implement the open skies Agreement, signed 30 years ago, with the United States of America.

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International

WNBA star Brittney Griner released from Russian detention in prisoner swap for convicted arms dealer

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WNBA star Brittney Griner has been released from Russian detention in a prisoner swap for convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, according to a source familiar
Bout, nicknamed the “Merchant of Death” is a former Soviet military officer serving a 25-year prison sentence in the United States on charges of conspiring to kill Americans, acquire and export anti-aircraft missiles, and provide material support to a terrorist organization.

Moscow had slammed his sentencing in 2012 as “baseless and biased” and Bout has maintained he is innocent.
Griner — who had for years played in the off-season for a Russian women’s basketball team, had been detained since February, when she was arrested on drug smuggling charges at an airport in the Moscow region. Despite her testimony that she had inadvertently packed the cannabis oil found in her luggage, she was sentenced to nine years in prison in early August and was moved to a penal colony in Mordovia in mid-November after losing her appeal.

The swap did not include another American that the State Department has declared wrongfully detailed, Paul Whelan.

He is a US, Irish, British and Canadian citizen — was detained at a Moscow hotel in December 2018 by Russian authorities who alleged he was involved in an intelligence operation. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison on espionage charges he has vehemently denied. Whelan had been carrying out his sentence at a labor camp in Mordovia, an eight-hour drive from Moscow, where he told CNN in June 2021 he spent his days working in a clothing factory that he called a “sweatshop.”

US basketball star Brittney Griner’s freedom ultimately hinged on the release of a convicted Russian arms dealer, nicknamed the “Merchant of Death” by his accusers, whose life story inspired a Hollywood film.

Viktor Bout, a former Soviet military officer, is currently serving a 25-year prison sentence in the United States on charges of conspiring to kill Americans, acquire and export anti-aircraft missiles, and provide material support to a terrorist organization. Bout has maintained he is innocent.
The Kremlin has long called for his release, slamming his sentencing in 2012 as “baseless and biased.”

The Russian businessman who speaks six languages eluded international arrest warrants and asset freezes for years. He was arrested in a sting operation in 2008 led by US drug enforcement agents in Thailand posing as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known by the acronym FARC. He was eventually extradited to the US in 2010 after a protracted court proceeding.

“Viktor Bout has been international arms trafficking enemy number one for many years, arming some of the most violent conflicts around the globe,” said Preet Bharara, the US attorney in Manhattan when Bout was sentenced in New York in 2012.

“He was finally brought to justice in an American court for agreeing to provide a staggering number of military-grade weapons to an avowed terrorist organization committed to killing Americans.”
The trial honed in on Bout’s role in supplying weapons to FARC, a guerrilla group that waged an insurgency in Colombia until 2016. The US said the weapons were intended to kill US citizens.

But Bout’s history in the arms trade extended much further afield. He has been accused of assembling a fleet of cargo planes to traffic military-grade weapons to conflict zones around the world since the 1990s, fueling bloody conflicts from Liberia to Sierra Leone and Afghanistan. Allegations of trafficking activities in Liberia prompted US authorities to freeze his American assets in 2004 and blocked any US transactions.

Bout has repeatedly maintained that he operated legitimate businesses and acted as a mere logistics provider. He is believed to be in his 50s, with his age in dispute because of different passports and documents.
Source: CNN

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International

Suspension of Visa on Arrival Not Targeted at Nigerians – Ethiopian Government

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The Ethiopian government has explained that the recent suspension of its ‘Visa on Arrival’ policy is not targeted at citizens of any particular country, including Nigerians.

A statement by Nigeria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the explanation became necessary following misgivings in some quarters that the suspension was aimed at Nigerians.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Nigeria wishes to inform the general public that the Federal Government of Ethiopia has suspended issuance of “visa on arrival” to non-
resident foreigners at all points of entry into the country, over security concerns and the current political situation in that country. The suspension applies to nationals of all countries bearing Standard Passports, who seek entry into Ethiopia and not specifically targeted at Nigerians, as reported in some quarters.

“The Ethiopian authorities have explained that the measure is aimed at better border control of movement of persons into Ethiopia in view of the ongoing armed conflict in the Northern part of the country. The measure is said to be temporary, pending improvement in the security situation in the country and not a replacement of Ethiopia’s open visa policy.

“Therefore, Nigerians bearing Standard Passports intending to travel to Ethiopia are
by this notification advised to obtain appropriate entry visas at the Ethiopian Embassy
or an electronic visa (e-visa) through the country’s Immigration and Citizenship
Service (ICS) portal at www.evisa.gov.et Also, those transiting through Bole
International Airport, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to other destinations or intend to briefly stop over would require valid entry visa to enable them access hotel facilities in the city or else would be obligated to remain in the airport pending their connecting flight.

“The new temporary visa restriction measure came into effect on 29th September, 2022. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, will liaise with the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) and relevant Airlines to ensure that intending Nigerian travellers enroute Ethiopia are well sensitized.

“The general public is invited to take note of the new visa regime of the Federal Government of Ethiopia and be guided accordingly”.

In a related development, the Nigerian Government has noted the concern expressed by the Ethiopian authorities over the abuse of the country’s visa policy by some Nigerians who enter the country on tourist visas and remain even after the expiration of their visas, engaging in unwholesome activities.

“The activities of these few elements not only tarnish the image of the country, but limit opportunities for well meaning Nigerians outside the country. Such persons are enjoined to turn a new leaf and take advantage of the opportunity provided by the Ethiopian National Security Agencies to participate in the ongoing registration of undocumented migrants to avoid unpleasant situations” thestatement concluded.

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