Luanda - The United Nations' top human rights official urged Angola's government on Wednesday to reduce the huge disparities between rich and poor that have developed in the oil-rich country despite considerable progress since the end of a 27-year civil war in 2002.
Angola, which is Africa's No. 2 oil producer, has posted rapid growth since the end of the war, but opposition parties and rights groups have long accused President Jose Eduardo dos Santos of doing too little to combat widespread poverty.
Speaking in the capital, Luanda, after a three-day visit, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay praised the government for progress in rebuilding the country's infrastructure and clearing thousands of landmines.
“This development has not been without controversy,” she said. “Two issues that have consistently been brought to my attention are the huge disparities that have developed between the richest and the poorest, and the sometimes harsh methods used to evict people from land earmarked for development, especially in and around Luanda.”
Dos Santos, who has been in power since 1979, was easily re-elected last year for a new five-year term during which he has pledged to improve the distribution of Angola's vast oil wealth.
His government says it cut poverty levels to about 39 percent of the population in 2009 from 68 percent in 2002, and increased public spending in this year's budget by over a quarter to help improve social conditions.
Pillay said she stressed in a meeting with Dos Santos on Wednesday the importance of cutting the wealth disparities over the next four or five years.
The UN official said the president and Cabinet ministers accepted that problems remained and seemed genuinely committed to improving human rights.
She said, however, that the government must tackle alleged abuse - especially sexual abuse - of migrants by security forces and border officials that has persisted for the past decade, especially on the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“During my visit to a remote border crossing in Lunda Norte, I received indications that sexual abuse of female migrants is continuing, as well as theft of property,” Pillay said.
Recognising that the irregular entry of tens of thousands of migrants every year, many seeking to dig illegally for diamonds, causes major problems and that the government has the right to deport them, she said it must do so humanely.
Pillay said other problems included implementation of laws on freedom of expression and assembly, including the “heavy-handed” suppression of protests, and the fact that millions of Angolans, including 68 percent of children under age 5, had not been listed in the national identification registry. - Reuters
On Saturday, February 23, more than a thousand Scientologists and their guests assembled to celebrate the opening of the new Church of Scientology Pretoria. National, provincial and city dignitaries as well as South African royalty joined Church officials for the dedication ceremony.
The Church’s new home stands on Stanza Bopape Street neighboring the Union Buildings, official seat of the South African government and home to the presidential offices. The campus, less than a block from Embassy Row, is comprised of five heritage homes originally constructed at the turn of the 20th century. The Church meticulously restored the Edwardian-style buildings and altogether transformed them into a 21st century Ideal Organization (Ideal Org) to accommodate an ever-growing congregation.
In honor of the occasion, Mr. David Miscavige, Chairman of the Board Religious Technology Center and ecclesiastical leader of the Scientology religion, stated: “Today we open an Ideal Org on sacred ground, for it was here at the veritable summit of South Africa that freedom was claimed for so many. And just as the sun shall never set on so glorious a human achievement, it shall never set on our own work until that freedom is realized by every last soul in the land. So yes, with this new Church, we rededicate ourselves to carry on the work L. Ron Hubbard began in this nation and so fulfill his prediction that ‘from Southern Africa will spring the next great civilization on this planet.’”
Dignitaries on hand to welcome the new Church included ANC Chief Whip Dr. Mathole Motshekga, MP; Director of Programs for South Africa’s Constitution Hill, Mr. Thabo Madisa; CEO of Opera South Africa and Thembu royal, Prince Unathi Mtirara; Commissioner for South Africa’s Department of Corrections, Mr. Alfred Tsetsane; Coordinator at the Department of Education, Gauteng, Ms. Theodora Mohale; and National Coordinator Humanity’s Team South Africa, Anna-Mari Pieterse.
ANC Chief Whip Dr. Mathole Motshekga invoked the African idea of Ubuntu (meaning “I am because you are, you are because we are”) in welcoming the new Church to Pretoria: “May today herald the beginning of a beautiful friendship—one that forges the South African spirit of Ubuntu that governs our nation’s development and brings about a marriage of social and spiritual development that our icon Nelson Mandela envisioned for our future.”
Director of Programs for South Africa’s Constitution Hill, Mr. Thabo Madisa, spoke of L. Ron Hubbard’s legacy in South Africa: “Your founder was a great man. After all, he wrote a constitution of equality for us when our heroes were calling for one, but their calls were not heard. And thus he held out a hand to our people when all that was offered was a fist. There is no freedom without human rights. And there are no human rights without a vanguard there to protect them.
This Church is a citadel. It stands here in the name of L. Ron Hubbard to carry through on what he promised. And we promise to work with you, to guarantee that this Rainbow Nation will walk tall forevermore.”
Thembu royal, Prince Unathi Mtirara, highlighted The Way to Happiness, a common sense guide to living authored by L. Ron Hubbard: “The Way to Happiness speaks Xhosa, Zulu and Afrikaans—its language is universal. My grand uncle, Former President Mandela, has said that if you give a child a book to read you’ve given them everything that they ever need. That is why I want to get a copy in the hand of every child in this land. We need this in every street of Johannesburg, in every school in Cape Town — I want it all for South Africa.”
Coordinator at the Department of Education, Gauteng, Ms. Theodora Mohale, addressed L. Ron Hubbard’s tools for learning and literacy: “I know that through the use of Study Technology, you are providing skills to create the lifelong learners our country needs. And therefore, you are in perfect harmony with our aims at the Department of Education. This new Church must be celebrated as an opportunity for us to work together and make great strides in basic education for all children in South Africa.”
Regional Commissioner for South Africa’s Department of Corrections, Mr. Alfred Tsetsane, spoke of his continuing partnership with the Church-sponsored Criminon criminal rehabilitation program: “With conditions of our facilities, rehabilitation of offenders and safety a constant challenge, there is much still needing to be done. I came to know about the Church of Scientology as I witnessed the implementation of the Criminon program. This program has produced remarkable results in the rehabilitation of offenders.”
National Coordinator, Humanity’s Team South Africa, Anna-Mari Pieterse, said of working with the new Church: “L. Ron Hubbard well recognized the inherent potential in our South Africa. And it is my wish and belief that this new Church of Scientology, with its humanitarian programs and solutions available to one and all, provides the opportunity for the people of this city and nation to realize their full potential.”
The new Pretoria Church provides residents of Tshwane with an introduction to Dianetics and Scientology, beginning with the Public Information Center. Its displays, containing more than 500 films, present the beliefs and practices of the Scientology religion and the life and legacy of Founder L. Ron Hubbard.
The Information Center also offers a detailed overview of the many Church-sponsored humanitarian programs—including a worldwide human rights education initiative; an equally far-reaching drug education, prevention and rehabilitation program; a global network of literacy and learning centers; and the Scientology Volunteer Minister program, now comprising the world’s largest independent relief force. The Center is open morning to night for visitors to tour at their leisure and return as often as they wish.
The Church’s Chapel provides for Scientology congregational gatherings, including Sunday Services, Weddings and Naming Ceremonies—as well as a host of community-wide events open to members of all faiths. The new Church further includes multiple seminar rooms and classrooms, in addition to dozens of rooms for Scientology auditing (spiritual counseling).
The Church of Scientology Pretoria is the second new Ideal Org to open in 2013, following Cambridge, Ontario on February 9. A parade of Ideal Orgs opened over the past year: Padova, Italy (October 27); Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Israel (August 21); Los Gatos, California (July 28); Buffalo, New York (June 30); Phoenix, Arizona (June 23); Denver, Colorado (June 16); Stevens Creek in San Jose, California (June 9); Orange County, California (June 2); Greater Cincinnati, Ohio (February 25); Sacramento, California (January 28); and Hamburg, Germany (January 21).
Through the coming year, more than a dozen new Ideal Orgs are scheduled to open—in Australia, New Zealand, Asia, Europe, England, South and North America.
Ideal Orgs reflect the fulfillment of Founder L. Ron Hubbard’s vision for the religion. They not only provide the ideal facilities to service Scientologists on their ascent to greater states of spiritual awareness and freedom, they are also designed to serve as a home for the entire community and a meeting ground of cooperative effort to uplift citizens of all denominations.
Other new Ideal Orgs opened in recent years include London, Brussels, Moscow, Berlin, Madrid and Rome in Europe; Johannesburg, South Africa; Melbourne, Australia; New York, New York; Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles, Inglewood, Sacramento and San Francisco, California; Tampa, Florida; Nashville, Tennessee; Seattle, Washington; Dallas, Texas; Quebec City, Canada; and Mexico City, Mexico. For a complete list of new Ideal Orgs of Scientology, visit Scientology.org.
The Scientology religion was founded by author and philosopher L. Ron Hubbard. The first Church of Scientology was formed in Los Angeles in 1954 and the religion has expanded to more than 11,000 Churches, Missions and affiliated groups, with millions of members in 167 countries.
Recently New York Times published an article about the increase of U.S. immigrants going back to their native countries to start up their own businesses. It is safe to say over the past decade the countries grouped in the BRICS have been fortunate to receive a brain-gain, as many of their best and brightest have seen their own countries as land of opportunities.
On one of my social media networks I spotted a comment that said “By the time Africans get featured in an article like this the gold rush will be over.” Of course you can easily interpret this statement in several ways but it spoke volumes about how Africans tend to always be last in everything.
As a Nigerian in the Diaspora I would love to go back after I finish my education to pursue my own dreams but realistically we are faced with obstacles that cause many diasporans to become reluctant to return back to Africa to start up a business. Here are my reasons why…
The Political Climate
The political climate in Nigeria is one of the number top reasons why the Nigerian Diaspora refuse to go back to Nigeria. Despite a democratic society, the political system is still full of corruption and lack of transparency. If we compare our political history to a developing country such as Malaysia you will see some similarity as both countries received independence two years apart from each other from British rule.
Even in the 1960’s Nigeria was ahead of Malaysia economically wise and had vast more natural resources. If we compare both countries as of today, Malaysia has been able to pull ahead in terms of development. In Malaysia, a person can literally start a business in less of week versus Nigeria which is 30 plus days.
Interestingly enough there is an increasing Nigerian base in Malaysia. In other countries hard work can actually turn into a successful business like Chris Aire who has created a jewelry empire or Kase Lawal a well known business man in the oil sector. In Nigeria there are many businesses thriving based off their own work, but as well just as many growing because of ties these companies have with the government.
Lack of infrastructure
It is 2012 and Nigeria still does not have a stable power for companies to run businesses. Many companies in Nigeria use over 10% of their income to run power from day to Night. In other countries running power for the company is the least of one’s concern and normally amount to 1% to 2 %. Besides the power, roads are an eyesore and connectivity is still a problem among businesses. These issues have stifled Nigerians for decades who dream of building a business. Many Nigerians in the Diaspora have great ideas but are held back simply because Nigeria lacks the infrastructure to turn their idea into a viable business.
Out of touch with Nigeria
Let’s face it some people in the diaspora are just simply out of touch. They have no clue what is taking place in Nigeria and some do not even want to know. Other countries do a great job of connecting their people in the diapora to their home countries. In India a person from the Diaspora sits on parliament. Chinese have groups in the Diaspora that actually have influence in Chinese affairs.
If we look in Liberia they allow they citizens in the Diaspora to vote in government elections. Yes, we can say we have “people” in the government who are suppose to handle Diaspora affairs, but what can we say they have done. We have groups in the Diaspora who are there to help Nigerian entrepreneurs invest back into Nigeria, but instead it becomes a power struggle of who will lead the group. In this area the Diaspora affairs must improve in order to create a better bridge between those in and out of Nigeria.
The comfort of being overseas
Time and time again I meet Nigerians who continue to say I want to back to Nigeria one day and it never becomes a reality. I remember jumping in a taxi cab on my way to a meeting and coincidentally the taxi driver was a Nigerian. He was telling me his journey from Nigeria and how he wishes to go back but he is just use to his routine in the US.
Many people aspire to be entrepreneurs but some rather deal with the comfort of 9 to 5 rather than going back to Nigeria to deal with the headache. Nigerians who have left to go back to Nigeria get there to discover a pile of empty promises. People who said they will connect them with so and so end up being dead ends. Staying in the Diaspora may not be the ideal route, but to many Nigerians it is considered the safe route.
Despite all of these roadblocks to go back to Nigeria I am still moved by the vast opportunities to try my luck and move back to Nigeria. There are many Nigerians who have gone back and have made a successful name for themselves. Nigeria is growing by leaps and bounds ripe for development.
It will be difficult to assimilate back into the country, but anything great is not easy to obtain. The challenges of Nigeria should not discourage people in the Diasporas; it should in fact encourage us to transfer our skills to build up Nigeria. As a wise man once told me, “Nigerians are walking on money; the opportunities are far too great to not see them”. I call on Nigerians in the Diaspora to migrate back to Nigeria to take advantage of these opportunities. Do not wait for the gold rush to be over tap into Nigeria’s potential.
Are you a Nigerian in the Diaspora? Are you willing and ready to return home? Or are you a newly returnee? How is your experience? Leave your comments below!
Bremen - Laye-Alama Conde was a drug dealer who died in the hands of a Doctor who had forced some medical procedures on him due to cocaine balls found in his stomach.
He was from Sierra Leone and had swallowed some cocaine balls back in 2004. While in police custody, Dr. Igor V. had administered some procedures on him which proved fatal and irregular.
Although Dr. Igor was was acquitted on the charge of involuntary manslaughter, the Federal Court overturned it after reviewing it.
Now the people of Bremen are asking for a Memorial statue in remembrance of Laye-Alama Condé. But the Local city is saying that a monument is questionable for a man who was found with cocaine balls in his stomach.
But others are saying that is irrelevant. Case is ongoing.
The mighty is dead but still hasn't fallen. Chinua Achebe, one of Africa's most celebrated Literature writers is dead.Proffessor Achebe who was the Professor of Literature at Brown University, died on the night of March 21st.
The author of the classic novel "Things Fall Apart" was 82 yrs old. Topafric learned that he had been sick for a while and had been in the hospital.
He is originally from Anambra State, Nigeria. He is best know for the classical novel "Things Fall Apart". His latest book "There Was A Country" (A Personal history of the Biafran Nation) is still on the best seller list.
Nigeria has been ranked among leading countries in the world, which have lost huge sums of money through illicit outflows between 2001 and 2010. A December 2012 report from Global Financial Integrity (GFI) entitled: "Illicit Financial Flows from Developing Countries: 2001-2010," just released, showed that Nigeria lost $129 billion out of the $8.56 trillion lost by developing nations within the period.
The report, written by GFI's Lead Economist, Dev Kar, and GFI's Economist, Sarah Freitas, ranked Nigeria seventh on the table with China leading the pack with $2.74 trillion in illicit outflows.
GFI, a Washington-based research and advocacy organisation, noted in the report that $859 billion in illicit outflows in 2010, showed an increase of 11 per cent over that of 2009, adding that the capital outflows stem from crime, corruption, tax evasion and other illicit activities.
But in a swift reaction, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe, said the Federal Government was not aware that such amount of money was illegally taken away from the country.
The report is the first by GFI in incorporating a new, more conservative estimate of illicit financial flows.
It facilitates comparisons with previous estimates from GFI updates and identifies crime, corruption and tax evasion as biggest channels with nearly $6 trillion stolen from poor countries.
According to the report, besides China with a cumulative loss of $2.74 trillion during the 10-year period, Mexico lost $476 billion; Malaysia, $285 billon; Saudi Arabia, $210 billion; Russia, $152 billion; Philippines, $138 billion; Nigeria, $129 billion; India, $123 billion; Indonesia, $109 billion; and United Arab Emirates, $107 billion.
"Astronomical sums of dirty money continue to flow out of the developing world and into offshore tax havens and developed country banks. Regardless of the methodology, it is clear that developing economies are haemorrhaging more and more money at a time when rich and poor nations alike are struggling to spur economic growth.
"This report should be a wake-up call to world leaders that more must be done to address these harmful outflows. The estimates provided by either methodology are still likely to be extremely conservative as they do not include trade mispricing in services, same-invoice trade mispricing, secret transactions, and dealings conducted in bulk cash. This means that much of the proceeds of drug trafficking, human smuggling, and other criminal activities, which are often settled in cash, are not included in these estimates," the report said.
The report further stated that $859 billion of illicit outflows lost in 2010, was a significant increase from that of 2009 during which the developing countries lost $776 billion under the new methodology.
"This has very big consequences for developing economies. Poor countries lost nearly a trillion dollars that could have been used to invest in healthcare, education, and infrastructure. It's nearly a trillion dollars that could have been used to pull people out of poverty and save lives," it said.
Reacting to the report, Okupe said the Federal Government was not aware that such amount of money was stolen.
Responding to inquiries by THISDAY on the matter, Okupe said: "We are not aware that such amount of money was stolen. I have not seen the report and therefore I cannot react without seeing or reading the said report.
"Until I see and read the said report, then I can comment."
Meanwhile, major oil industry executives are expected to gather in Abuja this week for an annual conference as Nigeria comes under pressure over reports alleging large-scale corruption and mismanagement in the oil sector.
The conference, beginning today, is expected to see appearances by ministers and top officials from oil majors Shell, Exxon, Total and Chevron, as well as the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
It comes on the heels of a report from a government-appointed panel alleging that Nigeria has lost tens of billions of dollars in recent years through questionable practices in the industry.
Another audit released earlier this month said NNPC owes the government $8.3 billion for the period between 2009 and 2011.
Beyond that, a parliamentary committee report in 2012 said $6.8 billion in revenue was lost between 2009 and 2011 through the fuel subsidy programme.
Despite pledges from the government to clean up the oil sector, there has been little change in response to such findings. NNPC and firms including Shell, which has been the country's biggest producer, have denied any wrongdoing.
There is not likely to be much discussion of the reports at the conference itself, with topics such as Nigeria's long-stalled effort to overhaul its oil industry more likely to be in the spotlight.
"You have all the issues there," Auwal Ibrahim Musa Rafsanjani of the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, Transparency International's local partner, said of the reports on industry mismanagement. "Solutions have been provided, but there is no political will to act on them."
Nigeria has however renewed its push to overhaul the oil industry, presenting a fresh 223-page Petroleum Industry Bill to the legislature last July which would reshape taxes and royalties as well as restructure NNPC, among other measures.
The bill has been stalled, as previous versions have, although the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, has said that negotiations are ongoing with the industry.
Major oil firms have argued that the fiscal terms in the bill are too harsh and would prevent new investment, while the government has said it is fair to all sides, though it is willing to work out a compromise.
With Agency Reports