French President Emmanuel Macron yesterday sought improved ties with English-speaking Africa, setting out a plan for closer cooperation with Nigeria to tackle security challenges and promote a new vision of the continent back home.
Macron arrived in the capital, Abuja, from Mauritania, where he met leaders on the sidelines of the final day of the African Union summit that was dominated by security issues in the Sahel.
After talks with President Muhammadu Buhari, Macron said he was “really emotional” to be back in the city where he spent six months as an intern at the French embassy in the early 2000s.
“I’m extremely delighted to be back,” he told a joint news conference at the Presidential Villa, joking that he had never expected to return as Head of State.
Since coming to power, the 40-year-old leader has made a point of boosting ties with France’s former colonies but also improving trade with anglophone countries.
He visited Ghana last year and Nigeria — Africa’s economic powerhouse and the continent’s leading oil producer — was the next logical step.
Nigeria, a country home to over 180 million people, produces nearly two million barrels of crude oil per day and is a key economic partner for France.
“France wants to do much more with Nigeria,” he told Buhari, promising France’s “full support”.
In Nouakchott, Macron held talks with the leaders of the French-backed five-nation military force fighting Al-Qaeda-linked jihadists in the Sahel.
Niger and Chad, where France has a sizeable military presence, are part of the “G5 Sahel” group, which has faced a rise in attacks in recent days.
They are also members of a five-nation regional force tackling Boko Haram in Nigeria’s remote northeast.
Nine years of violence has killed at least 20,000 people and forced more than 2.6 million others homeless, triggering a humanitarian emergency in the wider Lake Chad area.
Macron noted links between Al-Qaeda-linked groups in the Sahel, and Boko Haram and Islamic State group-backed jihadists operating around Nigeria’s northern borders.
“It was important to act together, with African countries in the lead, to stop a conflagration”, he added.
“The challenge for us is to manage the conflicts… and stop them joining together,” he added.
But he also said it was important to stop people joining in the first place and sketched out plans to increase economic, cultural and sporting ties to provide better opportunities.
Buhari, who maintains Boko Haram is a spent force despite continuing attacks, said he backed the plan and appreciated France’s help with Nigeria’s francophone neighbours.
“I’m very grateful to France for the support we have been getting,” he added.
Nigeria is currently gripped by a resurgence of violence between nomadic cattle herders and farmers, which has claimed some 1,000 lives since January. this year.
Amnesty International last week said some 1,813 people have been killed in all types of violence since the start of 2018.
That has put former military ruler Buhari, 75, under pressure as he looks towards securing a second term at elections in February next year.
– Homage at the Shrine –
From Abuja, Macron headed to Lagos — Nigeria’s teeming megacity of 20 million people in the southwest — to focus more on the thriving artistic and cultural scene.
He was expected to officially launch the African Cultural Season which takes place in France in 2020, at an event showcasing music, fashion, cinema and theatre.
He said the aim was to show “contemporary African culture unknown in France” and elsewhere in Europe.
The choice of location — the Shrine concert venue of Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti — is a surprise for many Nigerians given its association with the anti-establishment musician.
No elected president is believed to have officially visited the spiritual home of the so-called “Black President”, which is more synonymous with marijuana smoke and gyrating dancers than diplomatic niceties.
Workers were seen repairing the potholed approaches to the ramshackle venue in preparation for Macron’s arrival, as the Lagos state authorities shut down roads as a security precaution.
Macron revealed he had been to the Shrine before for a concert by Fela Kuti’s son, Femi. “It’s an incredible, vibrant place,” he said.
Fela Kuti was jailed under Buhari’s military government in the 1980s but the civilian president made no mention of the incident, saying only the visit was “a very good idea”.
Declare Buhari’s Seat Vacant, Owuru Urges Court
The candidate of the Hope Democratic Party (HDP) in the last presidential election, Chief Ambrose Owuru, has approached the Federal High Court in Abuja, asking it to declare the seat of President Muhammadu Buhari vacant.
Owuru, who was among the four petitioners that went to tribunal to challenge Buhari’s re-election, in his fresh suit, sought for an order to restrain the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), from “undertaking or planning any other election into the office of the President”, in 2023.
The Plaintiff, in his suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/480/2021, maintained that Buhari is “an unlawful President that is illegally occupying the Presidential seat”.
It would be recalled that Owuru and his party, HDP, had in an earlier appeal they litigated up to the Supreme Court, insisted that the Justice Mohammed Garba-led Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, erroneously dismissed a petition they lodged against the return of Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC), as winner of the presidential election that held on February 23, 2019.
They specifically prayed the apex court to sack Buhari on the premise that he emerged through an illegal process.
According to the Appellants, INEC, failed to follow condition precedents stipulated in the Electoral Act, when it unduly postponed the presidential election that was originally fixed for February 16.
The HDP claimed that its candidate, Owuru, secured over 50million votes in a referendum that was conducted by both electorates and observer networks that were dissatisfied with the unilateral postponement of the presidential election by INEC.
However, in a unanimous decision, a five-man panel of Justices of the Supreme Court led by Justice Mary Odili, struck out the appeal for constituting “a gross abuse of the judicial process”.
Meantime, in the fresh suit, Owuru and his party argued that their suit against Buhari at the Supreme Court was inconclusive.
The Plaintiffs argued that the case was fixed outside the 60 days period that was allowed by the law.
Owuru asked the court to declare him the authentic winner of the last presidential poll, as well as, to issue an order for his immediate inauguration to take over from Buhari.
He prayed the court to declare that he is entitled to serve out a tenure of 4 years after his formal inauguration.
More so, the HDP presidential candidate, aside from asking for Buhari’s immediate removal from office, equally prayed the court to compel him to refund all salaries, allowances and emoluments he collected while he unlawfully stayed in office as President.
Owuru also asked the court to give an order that salaries, allowances and emoluments be paid to him from May 29, 2019, when he ought to have been sworn in, till date.
The Plaintiff further applied for, “An order of interlocutory injunction restraining the Respondents by themselves and acting through their agents, servants, privies and or proxies howsoever from any further organizing, undertaking or planning of any other election into the office of the President of Nigeria or any such other Presidential Election interfering, harassing and or disturbing the Applicant adjudged acquired right as unopposed and unchallenged winner of the original scheduled and held the February 16 Presidential Election thereof until the 1st Applicant unserved constitutional four years term of office is served pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit by this honourable court”.
Cited as 1st to 3rd Respondents in the matter were Buhari, the Attorney General of the Federation, and INEC.
Meanwhile, no date has been fixed for the matter to be heard.
World Bank Report Exposes Buhari’s Lies, PDP Affirms
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said the report by World Bank that 7 million Nigerians have been pushed into poverty in the last year, has clinically belied the integrity posturing of President Muhammadu Buhari and the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The opposition party said the World Bank report came in the face of the recent claims by President Buhari that his administration has lifted over 10 million Nigerians out of poverty in the last two years.
The PDP asserted that the report by the World Bank has further vindicated its position that President Buhari runs an uncoordinated and clueless administration that thrives on lies, false performance claims, deceit, and perfidious propaganda.
The statement added that, “Nigerians can now clearly see why the APC and President Buhari’s handlers are always in a frenzy to attack our party and other well-meaning Nigerians whenever we point to the poor handling of the economy and on the need for President Buhari to always be factual on pertinent issues of governance in our country.
“Unfortunately, it indeed appears that Mr. President enjoys living in denial while watching millions of Nigerians go down in abject poverty, excruciating hunger, and starvation as our country now ranks 98th out of 107 in Global Hunger Index under his watch.
“Otherwise, why would Mr. President claim that his administration has lifted over 10.5 million Nigerians out of poverty while official figures even from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) show worsening poverty rate with 142.2% growth in food inflation and over 82.9 million Nigerians being unable to afford their daily meals due to the failure of the administration to take practical steps to grow and protect the food sector?
“Under President Buhari, Nigerians are now subjected to the worst form of poverty and hardship, with collapsed purchasing power, occasioned by a voodoo economy management that has wrecked our productive sectors and pummeled our naira from the about N167 to a US dollar in 2015 to the current over N500 per dollar.
“It is unfortunate that Mr. President will choose to always bandy fictitious figures and false performance claims, when he has, in a space of six years, destroyed our national productivity and reduced our country to a beggarly nation, a laughing stock and object of pity among the comity of nations.
“The PDP invites Nigerians to note President Buhari and APC’s similar false performance claims in other critical sectors, including power, transportation, road infrastructure, health, education, agriculture, security, aviation among others, where the Buhari administration has been bandying fictitious figures with no tangible project to point at.
“Our party counsels President Buhari, his handlers as well as their party, the APC, to note that Nigerians have seen through their deceitful clams.
“The PDP, once again, urges Mr. President to end his false performance claims and get more competent hands to manage the economy before every Nigerian is turned into a street beggar.”
Amnesty Kicks As FG Pushes Social Media Regulation
Amnesty International has strongly opposed the call by the Nigerian Government to regulate the use of social media and online broadcasters.
It would be recalled that the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, had urged the House of Representatives to include regulation of Twitter in the National Broadcasting Commission Act.
The minister made the call at the public hearing on a bill to amend the NBC Act organised by the House Committee on Information.
“I will want to add, that specifically, internet broadcasting and all online media should be included in this because we have responsibility to monitor content— including Twitter,” he said.
Reacting, Amnesty International, in a tweet via its Twitter account, yesterday, kicked against the motion.
It noted that when social media is regulated, authorities can arbitrarily have powers to shut down the internet and limit access to social media.
It further noted that criticizing the government will be made punishable with penalties of up to three years in prison.
“When social media is regulated, authorities can arbitrarily have powers to shut down the Internet and limit access to social media.
“Criticizing the government will be made punishable with penalties of up to three years in prison.
“Regulating social media in Nigeria could be easily abused to punish critics of government policies and actions, and anyone who asks difficult questions could find themselves liable for ‘diminishing public confidence in the government.’
“Seeking a law to prohibit abusive, threatening and insulting behaviour is open to very wide interpretation. This section would pose a threat to critical opinion, satire, public dialogue and political commentary,” the statement added.
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