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AfCFTA Mulls January 2021 Kick-off Date

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AfCFTA

By Adedapo Adesanya

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) could begin operating on January 1 next year, after the COVID-19 pandemic led to the shifting of its original launch date.

This was disclosed by the official charged with overseeing the bloc’s establishment during a webinar organised by the Africa CEO Forum during the week.

AfCFTA Secretary-General, Mr Wamkele Mene, said the new target date would be subject to the disease’s spread on the continent.

“We have made a recommendation that in the next six months the free trade zone could start trading but subject to the pandemic itself,” he said.

The trade deal had been due to be implemented from July 1, 2020 but as cases continue to escalate on the continent, a date for the kickoff has become difficult to set.

The World Health Organization (WHO) had predicted there will be a steady increase in COVID-19 cases in Africa until a vaccine is developed, which is not possible for mass production until early 2021.

Mr Mene, who also serves in his capacity as an advisor to African government leaders on the AfCFTA, said most African nations are either in partial lockdown or have closed their borders, complicating the establishment of the trade bloc.

“It is not credible for us to say that we are trading from July 1 when we know that trucks at borders are lined up 40 to 50 kilometres,” he said.

The continental free-trade zone, once implemented, would be the largest new economic bloc since the creation of the World Trade Organization in 1994. It will bring together 1.3 billion people in a $3.4 trillion economic partnership.

The onset of the pandemic halted negotiations and trading between member countries during April and May and this made the July 1 date impractical, Mr Mene said.

He added that he hoped member countries would conclude negotiations on tariffs over the next six months so the bloc could  work with a January 1, 2021 kickoff.

Adedapo Adesanya is a journalist, polymath, and connoisseur of everything art. When he is not writing, he has his nose buried in one of the many books or articles he has bookmarked or simply listening to good music with a bottle of beer or wine. He supports the greatest club in the world, Manchester United F.C.

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Google Earmarks $25m for Women Empowerment in Africa

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poor Kano women

By Ahmed Rahma

The charitable arm of a tech giant, Google, has called on non-profit organisations and social enterprises creating pathways to prosperity for girls and women to apply for mentorship and support from its company as well as up to $2m in funding.

The company made the call to tackle gender inequality in line with the International Women’s Day celebration, celebrated all over the world today.

The Impact Challenge for Women and Girls will commit $25 million to fund organisations that are “creating pathways to prosperity for women and girls”, the tech giant said.

Google.org’s president, Jacquelline Fuller, said the COVID-19 crisis has been “particularly devastating” to women.

According to a report, last week by PwC’s Women in Work Index, progress for women in work could be back to 2017 levels by the end of this year due to the impact of the pandemic.

Fuller said the new challenge is an opportunity to go out in the world and find the best ideas on how to advance economic opportunities for women and girls.

“We want to understand what you think could be the real inflection point along some of these pathways,” she said.

“Google is going to come alongside those winners and provide resources, which we know is what non-profits and social enterprises need the most.”

The chosen organisations will receive funding of between $300,000 and $2 million as well as technical expertise from Google employees.

To be part of the challenge, the company stated that the four areas of focus for applicants are how their idea can help women, how innovative the idea is, how feasible or realistic it is, and whether or not the idea is scalable.

“We are looking for ideas that are grounded in reality, do have a solid track record, but are innovative, new ideas that are really scalable,” said Fuller.

“We also want to make sure that we’re really leaning into equity on this project. We’re really looking for how we [can] help women and girls who are most disadvantaged.”

Applications will be judged by an expert panel that includes the first US national youth poet laureate, Amanda Gorman, Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchú Tum and former Irish President Mary Robinson.

“We have a full range of people who understand what it takes to be successful,” said Fuller.

It further disclosed that applications are open for organisations around the world from today (March 8) till Friday, April 9 and selected organisations will be announced later in 2021.

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OML 110: BUA Group to Sue Kainos Exploration MD

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BUA Group crash prices of food items

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

The management of BUA Group has threatened to file a suit against the Managing Director of Kainos Exploration and Production, Mr James Onyejekwe.

The conglomerates said it was taking this action over the alleged involvement of Mr Onyejekwe in a publication that claimed the organisation was involved in a $20 million scandal.

A statement issued by the firm lamented that the report was a “clear intent to impugn the integrity and reputation of BUA Group and its Chairman, Mr Abdul Samad Rabiu.”

“BUA takes its reputation seriously and we will continue to do everything to protect it from anyone and any entity who obstructs our mandate to conduct business in a proper, legal and socially-responsible manner.

“BUA will, therefore, utilise its legal and human resources to resist every campaign of defamation and distraction,” the statement further said.

The company, which trades the shares of its cement subsidiary on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), said it discovered that Mr Onyejekwe was behind the news story on the internet after an “independent investigation.”

“We have, therefore, instructed our legal team to immediately commence criminal defamation proceedings against the person of Mr James Onyejekwe who is the said originator of the malicious letter fraudulently attributed to Cavendish Petroleum against our person, with damages,” the statement seen by Business Post noted.

BUA explained that, “We deem these actions necessary, in order to protect the name and reputation of BUA Group.”

“We see no reason why Mr James Onyejekwe of Kainos Exploration and Processing would single out BUA in a supposed business dispute which had no link to the BUA Group in its entirety.

“Therefore, BUA finds it absurd that Mr Onyejekwe or anyone else will decide to drag BUA into their issues and/or put out such a malicious and defamatory statement, fraudulently using the name of Cavendish/Mr Mai Deribe without recourse to the truth, facts, decorum or decency,” it added.

The company described the news report bordering allegations of corruption as “false, malicious and spurious.”

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IWD: Access Bank Plans Chat on Workplace Stereotypes, Gender Balance

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Access Bank Dividend

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

Thursday, March 11, 2021, has been fixed by Access Bank Plc for a Fireside Chat on workplace stereotypes, gender balance, amongst others.

This is in commemoration of International Women’s Day. The event, themed Take the Center Stage: Speak Up!, is being organised by the W Initiative of Access Bank Plc.

A statement from the lender disclosed that it hopes to analyse and offer solutions to how women can maintain assertiveness in the workplace, own their voice as well as identify and handle imposter syndrome.

Other conversation areas include the importance of flexible work environments in encouraging engagement and retention for women in the workplace and leveraging intersectionality in the workplace.

Amongst the confirmed speakers and panellists for the event are Aisha Ahmad, the Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN); Dr Dere Awosika, Chairman, Access Bank Plc; Pearl Uzokwe, Director for Governance & Sustainability, Sahara Group Limited; Adenike Adebola, Marketing Director, Guinness; Rabi Adetoro, Senior Manager, Talent and Career Management, MTN Nigeria, and Folake Adeniyi Adeleye, Int’l HR Leader, Certified Executive Coach, Founder, Coachivate.

Interested participants can join the virtual conversation at 11am on Thursday using the link: https://thewcommunity.com/international-womens-day-2021/.

Speaking ahead of the event, the Group Head, W Initiative at Access Bank, Ms Ayona Trimnell, stressed the need for “increased discussions about real challenges that affect women in the workplace.”

“The peculiarities of the global community today means that we are awakened to the successes women can achieve given the right systems and platforms for expression.

“We are also aware of the gaps and stereotypes that need to be challenged if we are to achieve the ultimate goal of this month’s commemoration – gender balance and equality.”

“Women daily are seen through the lens of stereotypes that exist in the society, marketplace, in the government, corporate organisations, to name a few.

“Hence to achieve our objectives as women, we need to champion conversations that will cause changes in the various spheres of the society.

“At Access Bank, we do not only support women but also promote safe spaces for conversations that will further improve lives and the forthcoming Fireside chat is a testament to this fact.

“We look forward to hosting remarkable women across all walks of life to discuss the best way to chart a course for change,” she concluded.

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Buhari Praises Yemi Osinbajo at 64

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Buhari Osinbajo

By Ahmed Rahma

President Muhammadu Buhari has commended the Vice President, Mr Yemi Osinbajo, for being a patient and cooperative politician.

The President’s spokesman, Mr Garba Shehu, in a statement in Abuja on Sunday, stated that the President described his vice as “a reliable and dedicated deputy, who is not only admirably competent but also exudes confidence and passion in the performance of his job.”

In a message to celebrate the Vice President on his 64th birthday on Monday, the President was further quoted as saying, “I’m proud to have selected Osinbajo as my running mate, and he has given a good account of himself since our journey began in 2015.”

According to him, Mr Osinbajo is a cool-headed gentleman who puts Nigeria’s interest above other narrow considerations.

“Vice President Osinbajo is an incredibly patient politician, who demonstrates remarkable intellectual and mental energy in the discharge of his duties,” he further noted.

Similarly, the Northern Governors’ Forum described Mr Osinbajo as a patriotic Nigerian who had combined character, professionalism, and pragmatism in handling national issues.

In a statement, the Chairman of the forum, Governor Simon Lalong, said, “As northern governors, we have enjoyed tremendous cooperation of the vice president who gives us a listening ear at individual and collective levels and engages us on how to tackle the challenges of our region and the nation.

“Among other things, we cherish his leadership of the National Livestock Transformation Programme, which seeks to usher Nigeria into the threshold of modern livestock business, capable of ending the negative consequences of open grazing in the country. We assure the vice president of our continued collaboration as he supports the president to deliver his promises to the people.”

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AMANO Suggests 100-Year Port Development Plan to FG

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Maritime Academy of Nigeria

By Adedapo Adesanya

The Alumni Association of Maritime Academy of Nigeria (AMANO), Oron, Akwa-Ibom, has advised the federal government to put in place a 100-year port development plan that will continue to respond to the dynamic nature of the nation’s port industry.

In a statement signed by the president of the group, Mr Emmanuel Maiguwa, it was explained that if such a port development plan is put in place, it will move the industry forward for growth.

Mr Maiguwa also said that a system of incentive on port fess suitable to operate coastal and inland container cargo vessel must be put in place so as to make shipowners begin to look at the possibilities of owning freighters.

According to him, freighter vessels contribute more to creating dock labour employment opportunities in the maritime labour industry.

The group also commended the management of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) for its newly initiated electronic call system for trucks into the ports, saying that “If well implemented, the initiative will temporarily reduce traffic congestion in our ports.”

The leader of the association suggested that a minimum standard be set up for trucks coming into the ports, noting that some rickety trucks were worse than junkyards scraps.

He said: “It is for this simple reason of road unworthiness that they eventually breakdown on their way out of the port and cause congestion on the port access roads.

“If this gap is not addressed, it would mess up the electronic call-up system.”

The Maritime Academy of Nigeria is a federal government-owned educational institute in Oron, Akwa Ibom State. It was originally called the Nautical College of Nigeria and was established in 1979 to educate and train shipboard officers, ratings and shore-based management personnel. The first batch of cadets graduated in 1983.

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SON Approves 96 New Nigerian Industrial Standards

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96 new SON Standards

By Aduragbemi Omiyale

A total of 96 new Nigerian Industrial Standards (NIS) have been approved for national use by the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) governing council.

The approval was announced at the first meeting of the council since the appointment of Mr Farouk Salim as the new Director-General of the agency.

A statement from SON disclosed that the new standards cut across chemical technology, electrical/electronics, food/agriculture, textile/leather and services.

Chairman of the council, Mr Nasir Sani-Gwarzo, who was represented at the meeting by Mr Halilu Hamma, explained that the approved standards were essential for the production of medical and other supplies required for the management of the COVID-19 pandemic such as syringes, face barriers, alcohol-based hand sanitiser, medical electrical equipment, health and safety measures for tourism and hospitality establishments, amongst many others.

According to him, others of great economic, regulatory and industrial importance include standards for agricultural, petroleum and automobile gas products, electrical/electronic standards for smart energy meters and renewable energy, all of which support the Federal Government policies, strategic priorities and plans.

Also, he congratulated the new DG on his appointment and assured him of the full support of the council members via a harmonious working relationship based on mutual trust and respect in order to significantly improve the organisation’s efficiency and effectiveness in delivering on its mandate to Nigerians.

Mr Sani-Gwarzo further assured the new SON chief of access to a rich and diverse knowledge, expertise and experience in the council to support his aspiration of making SON a high impact organisation in support of the nation’s socio-economic growth and development.

He praised him for being able to convene the meeting a few months after his appointment in spite of the challenges of the health pandemic and other socio-economic events.

In his remarks, Mr Salim expressed appreciation to President Muhammadu Buhari for giving him the opportunity to further contribute to national development through SON, stressing that he looked forward to tapping from the rich expertise and experience of the council members in the areas of providing necessary approvals for policies to make the organisation more efficient and effective in touching the lives of Nigerians.

He expressed concern about the lack of a befitting corporate headquarters for the organisation, conducive working environment for the staff nationwide to enable them to deliver efficient services, need to be properly positioned to tackle the influx of substandard products into the country, faking and adulteration amongst others and sought the council’s support to tackle them.

However, Mr Salim reiterated his commitment to making SON a better and more impactful organisation in Nigeria as well as in regional, continental and international standardisation activities.

He also informed the council that a committee of distinguished Nigerians would be appointed to help review SON management practices and procedures and make recommendations for far-reaching reforms to strengthen the system has submitted its interim report.

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