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S/Leonean Judge, Barnett, seeks W/African Envoys’ support for AU rights job



Justice Tonia Barnett
Justice Tonia Barnett

A Sierra Leonean Judge, Justice Tonia Barnett has sought the support of diplomats from West African states for her candidature for the position of Commissioner of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights.

Barnett, the Sierra Leonean nominee, said at a dinner hosted for Ambassadors and High Commissioners from West African countries, that protection of rights had been her passion hence the zeal for the position.

The dinner was organised by the Sierra Leonean High Commission led by High Commissioner Solomon Gembeh.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Commission, based in Banjul, Gambia was established in 1987 and the term of the current Commissioner Solomon Ayele Dersso from Ethiopia lapses in 2021.

NAN also reports that some of the countries whose diplomats were present at the dinner with the Sierra Leonean nominee include: Burkina Faso, Guinea Bissau, Ghana, Liberia among others.

Barnett sought the support of their home governments for her candidacy, saying that having withnessed war and rights deprivation, she is very committed to the tenets of the position.

She said: “As a woman whose teenage life were robbed by rebel incursion in Sierra Leone, my upbringing made me strong and has given me an opportunity to be here tonight.

“My nomination by my President Julius Bio has garnered support from the Judiciary in Sierra Leone and Key Civil Society Organisations including the Human Rights Organisation.”

The nominee said that being a judge who has never been investigated and whose morality never questioned, she had met the qualification criteria for the job as stipulated by Article 31 of the Charter of African Human and Peoples Rights.

She said that her work as a legal practitioner and judge over the years, working mainly to protect and promote human rights, also lent credence to her work experience as a precondition.

“Before I was appointed Judge, I was a Magistrate for 11 years, hearing and determining sexual abuse cases, cruelty to children.

“As a judge of the High Court; I hear and determine cases that border on human rights. Cases like the right to family life, rights of association and right to belong to political parties.

“These are rights that border on the African Charter and human rights, treaties and conventions.

“Presently in Sierra Leone, the Chief Justice is pushing very hard to ensure that access to Justice is a right and must be enhanced and enjoyed by every citizens.

“We hold view that it is not only fair hearing, but you must have the right to make a complaint and be heard by a competent court,” she said.

Barnett who holds LLM in Women and Children Affairs, stressed that in discharging her work she upheld treaties and conventions which her country had signed and ratified.

She said that her believe in human rights resulted in a perceived controversial bail which she granted a frail-looking 75-year-old man who had prostate cancer in a case of sexual abuse.

The man, she said, had not been found guilty and could not be allowed to suffer in the poor prison facilities in his old age and ill health condition while the case was being determined.

The nominee recalled that her passion for human rights and fair hearing was kindled during the war when she saw a man hacked to death over an accusation even without hearing from him.

“Article for of the Charter on African Human And Peoples Right stipulates that the rights of man must be enhanced and that is also entailed in our constitution.

“During the campaign for the abolition of the death penalty, my position was – because death is irreversible and wrongful conviction can be detrimental, I said that we should reconsider death penalty.

“To every right, there must be a corresponding responsibility. I want to enjoy my freedom of expression but I must not defame.

“With that in mind and all citizens living up to that, I think we would have a peaceful society.

“So as a candidate for the position, what I bring is vitality. We need to go down, we need to get up from the chairs and walk. We need to canvass with state parties to understand that human right issues is not just a one party issue, it is everybody’s issue.

“If the citizens’ rights are being jeopardised, it allowed for uprising and a peaceful society will not be enhanced. As Africans we want a peaceful society, we have cried too much.

“Those who have not experienced war would want war,” she said.

She assured that the role will avail her opportunity to achieve some of her dreams to impact the lives of African in slums and fostering their rights as well. (NAN)

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Nigeria’s Senate President Akpabio seeks IPU’s voice in ending conflict in Gaza



President of the Senate, Godswill Akpabio
President of the Senate, Godswill Akpabio

The President of Nigeria’s Senate, Godswill Akpabio, has called on the International Parliamentary Union (IPU) to lend a strong voice to the restoration of lasting peace in war-torn Gaza.

Akpabio made the call while contributing to discussions at the ongoing 148th Session of the International Parliamentary Union Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland.

He said it is time for nations to rise above sentiments and invoke the spirit of humanity, by doing all they can to bring sustainable peace to the region.

Some of the resolutions, according to the Chairman of Nigeria’s National Assembly, should include access to humanitarian aid, the restoration of normal life in Gaza, and meetings on a permanent truce.

His words: ” Madam President, this is a lone voice from Nigeria. We tried our best in Angola, and we failed to lend a collective voice to what is happening in Gaza. Today, the world is very expectant.

“We must drop ego. It has nothing to do with which country brings the proposal. The basic tenets of humanity demand that we leave here with a resolution for the rest of the world, to show that we have human feelings in us.

“The issues are very clear. If you notice the proposal for 12 blocs; they attempted to even marry the proposals from South Africa. Yes! South Africa has a right to be emotional, but we have children who are dying even as we are talking now. We have people who do not have water to drink, even as we are talking now. We have people who are going to suffer infections from gunshots.

“We have to show the world that we are human beings. The cessation of hostilities must be a part of our resolutions. Access to humanitarian aid must be a part of our resolutions.

‘At the same time, the release of hostages and even those who are prisoners of war, because if both sides take steps in releasing the hostages, releasing the prisoners of war, it means that both sides have agreed that the international community can go to the next stage, which is negotiation for sustainable peace.

“If they cannot agree, I would urge that, from here, we have a three-man drafting committee to come up with those resolutions which we must make before we leave here.

‘We can no longer allow a child to die tonight without lending our voice. It doesn’t matter which side. We are all parents. If we come here to look for ego and then try to be emotional, it’s not affecting them.

“There’s nothing affecting Denmark; there’s nothing affecting South Africa. The people affected are over there and nobody will agree to the lone resolution from Israel. It must be all-encompassing so that we stand up from here as human beings. That would be my plea.

“Let them go aside, meet and remove those vexatious items. In the course of their discussions, we can have amendments. We can add items that we should add, but we must discuss the Gaza issue in this 148th IPU Assembly. That is my position.”

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Okonjo-Iweala ‘Less Optimistic’ About World Trade In 2024



Ngozi Okonjo Iweala
Ngozi Okonjo Iweala

The World Trade Organization’s chief Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala on Wednesday said she was “less optimistic” about world trade in 2024, pointing to tensions in the Red Sea.She said weaker global economic growth, “worsening geopolitical tensions, the new disruptions we see in the Red Sea, on the Suez Canal, the Panama Canal” meant “we are less optimistic”.

Okonjo-Iweala was speaking to journalists at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss resort of Davos where political and economic elites are meeting to discuss global challenges.

Before the massive Hamas attack on Israel in October and the subsequent outbreak of war in Gaza, the WTO had predicted trade would grow by 0.8 per cent in 2023 and projected growth of 3.3 per cent this year.

But Okonjo-Iweala warned the figure for 2024 would now be lower in future forecasts.

“We think there are a lot of downside risks to the forecasts we had made last year of 3.3 percent of growth of merchandise volumes this year. So we expect weaker performance,” she said.

“We will be revising estimates for this year, but they won’t be ready for another month or so,” Okonjo-Iweala added.

A spate of attacks by Yemeni rebels on Red Sea shipping has disrupted the vital trade route while the worst drought in decades to hit the Panama Canal has forced authorities to slow transits.

Yemen’s Huthi rebels say their strikes are in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza.

The attacks have, however, also caused shipping companies to avoid the Suez Canal.

The Hamas attack on October 7 resulted in the death of around 1,140 people in Israel, most of them civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.

More than 24,400 Palestinians, around 70 percent of them women, young children and adolescents, have been killed in the Gaza Strip in Israeli bombardments and ground offensive since October 7, according to the Hamas government’s Ministry of Health.


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Your Investments Are Safe In Nigeria, Tinubu Assures Saudi Investors



Asiwaju Bola Tinubu
President Bola Ahmed Tinubu


President Bola Tinubu on Friday assured potential investors that their investments are safe in Nigeria.

Speaking at the Saudi-Africa Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, President Tinubu said Nigeria is ready for business while assuring investors of some of the world’s highest returns on investment.

“I also wish to assure all potential Saudi investors of the safety of their investments based on the sanctity of the rule of law and good returns on their investments in the largest economy in Africa,” the President was quoted in a statement by his media aide, Ajuri Ngelale.

“In this regard, the benefit attached to the early inauguration of the Nigeria-Saudi Business Council can not be over-emphasized. Nigeria, like the Kingdom, is diversifying its economy away from oil dependence to promote sustainable development.

“My administration has undertaken bold economic reforms by removing wasteful subsidies on petroleum and the merging of our foreign exchange market, among other incentives aimed at improving the ease of doing business in Nigeria.”

Tinubu stated that Nigeria is desirous of enhancing collaboration with Saudi Arabia on combating terrorist organisations such as Boko Haram, ISWAP, and other violent extremist groups which have been terrorising the Lake Chad and Sahel regions.

He said, “Nigeria and Saudi Arabia have always enjoyed a special relationship at both the bilateral and multilateral levels. Within the past six decades, our bilateral cooperation, which was initially hajj-centric, has witnessed diversification to cover a number of areas of common interest.

“It is delightful to note the presence in this great Kingdom of a large number of our compatriots and professionals, including highly skilled medical practitioners and professional football players.

“As members of several international organizations including the UN, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, the International Energy Forum, the G77, the Islamic Development Bank, and the Digital Cooperation Organization among others, our two nations have effectively used these and other platforms to enhance close interaction and coordination.”

The President expressed confidence that the countries’ joint positive disposition within those platforms would continue to be demonstrated “as we seek to advance our mutual interests”.

Further, he thanked the Middle-East nation for the various humanitarian interventions in Nigeria through the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre.

Speaking on climate change and how it affects Africa, President Tinubu said climate change had led to an expedited rate of desertification and incessant flooding in Nigeria and many other countries of Africa.

He commended the efforts of the Kingdom for its various initiatives to fight the effects of climate change, adding that Nigeria is also working on a number of initiatives to fight the effects of climate change and energy poverty.

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