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
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
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.
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!
Ghana will be celebrating her 56th birthday as an independent State from British Colonial rule on Wednesday, March 6, which made the West African nation the first to break its links with colonial authority.
The event is normally marked as statutory public Day and characterised by parades by school children, security personnel, workers and other identifiable bodies at the Black Stars Square, in Accra and throughout the country.
It is also an opportunity for the Head of State to address the nation to whip up the fervour of nationalism.
Although the British Colonialists made moves towards decolonization after World War 11, the shooting of gallant ex servicemen who were marching to the Osu Castle to demand their ex-gratia after the war, escalated the agitation for independence.
The 28 February Christianborg Cross Road Shooting in 1948, led to the death of Sergeant Adjeitey, Corporal Attipoe and Private Odartey Lamptey.
The newly formed United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) called for self-government within the shortest possible time.
After violent clashes increased for self government the members of the UGCC were arrested including Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah, the General Secretary of the party.
Nkrumah later formed the Convention People’s Party, which asked for self government now, setting in motion ‘Positive Action’.
Due to the nationalistic aspirations whipped up by Nkrumah, he was rearrested and imprisoned.
After winning a majority in the Legislative Assembly in 1952, he was released and appointed leader of government business after a number of negotiations with the British, and on the eve of 6 March, 1957 Nkrumah declared Ghana independent at the Old Polo Grounds.
The catch phrase for the day was “Ghana Free forever”.
Ghana adopted Red, Gold and Green with a Black Star as a new Flag. It was designed by Theodosia Salome Okoh.
The red represents the blood that was shed towards independence, the gold stands for the mineral wealth, the green is symbolic of the rich agricultural resources and the black star as the symbol of African emancipation.