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African Free Trade: AU Hopeful Of Nigeria Signing Agreement

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The African Union (AU) says it is optimistic that Nigeria will sign the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), which came into force on May 30.
The Head, AU Strategic Partnerships, Bureau of the Chairperson, Dr Levi Madueke, made this known in an interview with newsmen on Wednesday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The Tide source reports that no fewer than 49 countries have endorsed AfCFTA, which aims to redefine trade relations within African states and beyond.
It proposes creating a single market for goods and services, with free movement of people and investments across 55 countries.
The agreement also has a dispute settlement mechanism similar to the one set up by the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
However, Nigeria, which is the most populous country with the largest economy in Africa, is yet to sign the deal.
Madueke said AfCFTA was conceived to remove trade barriers among African nations, in order to promote businesses within the continent.
He said: “We are hopeful that Nigeria will come on board. I don’t think there is any fear of Nigeria not signing it because we know every country has a process.
“I think Nigeria is taking its time and we are hoping that Nigeria will join us.
“A lot of African countries have endorsed the programme. It is going to help Africa to promote trade among ourselves.’’
Madueke explained that AfCFTA was part of the flagship programmes being initiated under the AU Agenda 2063, which is a 50-year plan from 2013 to 2063.
According to him, the programme is divided into five phases and a ten- year implementation plan, with the first phase being from 2013 to 2023.
He said: “Within the Agenda 2063, we have seven aspirations, 20 goals and 39 priority areas.
“We also have what we call the AU flagship programmes. These are the programmes we want to implement within a phase of 10 years.
“Those we cannot handle within 10 years, we will roll them over but these are projects we have designed to enable Africa become a developed and integrated continent.’’
Madueke said that the plan of the AU was to work with development partners to increase air, rail and road connectivity within the continent, adding that the move was critical to Africa’s future.
“We want to also ensure free movement of people, goods and services within the continent, which is being encouraged by the visa-on-arrival policy now adopted by many countries.
“We are also encouraging the regional blocs to promote free movement within the regions. ECOWAS has done very well in that regard. Other regional economic communities are also engaging in that.
“We believe that within the period of 10 years, we would have been able to achieve a lot.
“The most important thing is that we are poised to change the African narrative and make sure that Africa becomes the Africa we all want.’’

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FG To Recover N614bn Debt From 35 States

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The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Hajiya Zainab Ahmed, says the Federal Government has resolved to recover N614 billion loan facility from 35 states of the federation.
The minister disclosed this when she briefed State House correspondents on the outcome of the meeting of the National Economic Council (NEC), presided over by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, at the State House, Abuja, yesterday.
Ahmed said each of the affected 35 states received N17.5billion as bail out from the Federal Government.
She said that already the Council had agreed to constitute a team to finalise modalities for commencement of repayment of the loan facility.
The team, according to her, would be constituted from the Nigerian Governors Forum to meet with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Ministry of Finance.
The Minister of Finance said that she briefed NEC on the progress of the loan facility, detailing how the Federal Government has made a total of over N614 billion available to 35 States being N17.5 billion each.
“Council agreed to constitute a team from the Nigerian Governors Forum to meet with the CBN and Ministry of Finance to finalise modalities for commencement of payment,’’ she said.
The minister further revealed that she updated the Council on the activities of the Ad-Hoc Committee on Excess Crude Account (ECA) and other special accounts of the federation.
She said the committee requested for extension of time to finalise and present its report during the next meeting of the Council.
On the $9billion dollars London Court judgement against Nigeria, the minister said the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami had assured that Nigeria would appeal against the judgment.

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I’ll Lift Nigerians Out Of Poverty – Minister

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The new Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Mr Olamilekan Adegbite, has promised to lift Nigerians out of poverty by developing the nation’s endowed natural resources.
He made the promise on Wednesday in Abuja when he assumed office shortly after he and other 42 ministers were sworn in by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The Tide reports that the minister was received by directors in the ministry and some heads of parastatals and agencies under the ministry.
“I intend to learn quickly from all of you. I have been following the progress of Dr Kayode Fayemi, the immediate past minister of this ministry who did a lot of work.
“I also intend to learn the robes quickly with the Minister of State, so that we can contribute our quota to the development of the country, especially with regards to lifting people out of poverty.
“Mr President has promised to lift 100 million people out of poverty in 10 years, at the end of tenure of this administration which is four years, we want to at least achieve 40 per cent of that,’’ he said.
Adegbite expressed optimism that the administration would achieve a lot at delivering the dividends of democracy.
The minister said he would stamp out corruption in the sector in line with the agenda of the Buhari administration.
“Corruption fight begins with all of us, if we can be disciplined in the little things we do in our privacy, it will be easier to fight corruption in the country.
“We will join efforts with the Federal Government in fighting corruption to ensure a corruption free society,’’ he said.
Speaking in the same vein, the Minister of State for the ministry, Dr Ikechukwu Ogor, said he would support the minister to achieve the vision for the sector.
Ogah solicited the support of members of staff of the ministry to achieve the vision.
“We will all work as a team to take this ministry to an enviable position,’’ he said.
The ministry‘s Permanent Secretary, Dr Abdulkadri Mu’azu, welcomed the ministers and gave them the break-down of the departments and operations.
He said the ministry was strategic to the country, especially with regards to diversification of the economy.
Muazu pledged the loyalty and dedication of the management and staff of the ministry to the ministers to enable them succeed the tasks ahead.
Some members of staff of the ministry expressed optimism that the ministers would bring to bear their experiences to take the ministry to greater heights.

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CTA To Assist Farmers Access Drought, Flood Tolerant Seeds

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The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), has revealed that it is working with partners in various countries to ensure that farmers have access to drought and flood-tolerant seeds.
This move became necessary following the rising effects of climate change which has a direct impact on agricultural activities.
The Senior Program Coordinator of CTA, Dr Oluyede Ajayi said agriculture is central to development in Africa, but unfortunately it is subjected to a lot of pressures of climate change, like drought, weather extremes that affect food production.
Dr Ajayi who spoke with newsmen in Abuja at the Regional Workshop on Climate Finance and Support Mechanism for a Resilient Agriculture Sector in West and Central Africa said the point they raised was how to improve investment to help farmers become resilient and promote food security in the face of extreme weather.
“One of the points that we raised is how we improve investment to help farmers become resilient and to promote food security in the face of extreme weather situations, to do that requires more than investment, unfortunately less than 10 per cent of fund that goes to the climate is spent on agriculture, we are expecting so much from agriculture, but the fund that goes into agriculture in terms of investment to address climate issues is very low.
“So, this meeting is being organised to brainstorm the practical ways to leverage funding and improve financing to support climate action in agriculture”, he said.
He further said that they were also working towards exposing farmers to climate technologies which would assist in increasing their yield even in unfriendly weather.

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