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European Court of Justice rules Britain can unilaterally cancel Brexit

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…As Baghdad reopens fortified Green Zone a year after Isis ousted from Iraq***

As the U.K. nears its slated Brexit due date, the country’s messy divorce from the European Union has threatened to consume all aspects of public life.

Many friends and relatives remain bitterly divided, lawmakers are mired in political deadlock, and economists warn any independence gained will likely come with a serious financial cost.

On Monday, the E.U.’s top court ruled that the United Kingdom can change its mind and forget the whole thing — if it wants to.

The ruling comes at the start of what promises to be a week of high drama, one day before the most pivotal parliamentary vote in an almost three-year process.

Anti-Brexit campaigners heralded Monday’s ruling as a game-changer, boosting their hopes of reversing the divorce altogether.

However, the government attempted to pour cold water on this, saying the decision was irrelevant because there were no plans to deviate from the planned exit from the E.U. on March 29.

The Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice said the U.K. can revoke Article 50, the exit clause the U.K. triggered in March last year that set a two-year countdown for leaving the E.U.

Crucially, the court said the U.K. does not need the consent of the other 27 E.U. member states to revoke Article 50 and cancel Brexit.

It did not say exactly how the decision might be reversed, only that it must come about “following a democratic process in accordance with national constitutional requirements.”

Some experts took this to mean a vote by lawmakers, another referendum, or merely a decision by Prime Minister Theresa May or her successor if she’s toppled. With lawmakers at an impasse, it’s not clear how any of these things would come about.

Article 50 can be reversed, the court said, because the withdrawal agreement negotiated between May and the E.U. has not yet come into force.

British lawmakers are set to vote on her plan Tuesday, but with many openly opposing the deal — including scores from May’s own Conservative Party — it appears headed for heavy, and potentially humiliating, defeat in Parliament.

If and when that is voted down, it is far from clear what happens next. Although May’s deal does not appear to have a majority, neither, it seems, does anything else, be that another deal or some other way to stop or postpone Brexit.

If not further action is taken, the U.K. will crash out of the E.U. on March 29 under a “no deal” scenario — something that could have all sorts of alarming implications.

In the meantime, Iraq has begun removing cement walls from areas surrounding its capital’s most fortified enclave, opening parts of the so-called Green Zone to traffic in a symbolic move coinciding with nationwide celebrations to mark the anniversary of the country’s costly victory over Islamic State.

The partial reopening of parts of the high-security area is intended to portray increased confidence in the country’s overall security situation and has also been billed as an act of transparency following protests against corruption and poor public services.

The enclave on the west bank of the Tigris became home to foreign embassies and key government buildings after the US-led invasion of 2003 and has since then been surrounded by blast walls and barbed wire, inaccessible to most Iraqis.

The partial reopening of some side streets – initially just for five hours a day – has been repeatedly delayed and then timed to coincide with the one year anniversary of Iraq’s victory over Isis.

The group has lost virtually all the territory it once held but still carries out sporadic attacks to hang on to its last enclave in Syria near the Iraqi border.

The government declared victory last December after a grueling three-year war in which tens of thousands of people were killed and hundreds of thousands displaced. Entire towns and neighbourhoods were reduced to rubble in the fighting.

Monday was declared a national holiday and a moment of silence was held at midday. Checkpoints in the capital were decorated with Iraqi flags and balloons, as security forces patrolled the streets playing patriotic music.

“That victory and the relative stability in security is a golden opportunity for the government to rebuild the country and to meet the needs of its people,” said Sameer al-Obaidi, who led an initiative in the capital’s Sunni-dominated northern Azamiyah neighborhood to distribute flowers to security forces at checkpoints.

“It is important to treat all Iraqis equally so that they feel that their sacrifices are appreciated,” al-Obaidi added.

The celebrations took place amid political infighting over the formation of the government and setting next year’s budget.

Isis, which traces its roots back to the insurgency that followed the 2003 US-led invasion, swept into Iraq from neighbouring Syria in the summer of 2014. It carved out a self-styled caliphate across a third of both countries, imposing a harsh form of Islamic rule and massacring its opponents.

Iraqi forces aided by a US-led coalition eventually drove the group out, including in the climactic battle for Mosul, the country’s second-largest city.

NBC with additional report from Guardian UK

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Gulf of Guinea: UN Official urges Stronger Action to Tackle Piracy 

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Gulf of Guinea: UN Official urges Stronger Action to Tackle Piracy 

A senior UN official, Ms. Martha Pobee has called on countries and their international partners to accelerate efforts to counter the singular threat of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.

Pobee, an Assistant Secretary-General in the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA) made the appeal while briefing the Security Council at UN headquarters in New York on Tuesday.

Presenting the Secretary-General’s latest report on the issue, Pobee warned of a shifting situation that would require greater response.

According to her, the decline in incidents is the result of concerted efforts by national authorities, supported by regional and international partners, both on land and at sea.

Actions such as increased patrols, deployment of naval assets, enhanced coordination, as well as convictions, have served as deterrents to criminal activity.

However, she said piracy in the Gulf of Guinea had morphed over this period.

“Pirate groups are adapting to changing dynamics both at sea and in coastal areas,” she said.

“In this respect, the recent decrease in instances of piracy may in part be attributable to the shift by criminal networks to other forms of maritime and riverine crime, such as oil bunkering and theft, which they likely view as both less risky and more profitable”.

She stressed that it was imperative for States and their regional and international partners to accelerate efforts to establish security in the Gulf of Guinea, as outlined in the Yaoundé Code of Conduct, signed in June 2013.

Pobee pointed to some of the achievements since then, such as the recent signing of an agreement to establish a Multinational Maritime Coordination Centre (MMCC) for a zone that covers Cabo Verde, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Mali and Senegal.

A maritime exercise involving 17 of the 19 countries that border the Gulf of Guinea, as well as eight international partners, was also conducted last in October over an area stretching from Senegal to Angola.

She also underscored the UN’s continued political and technical assistance to States, including through agencies such as the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

“At present, there is no firm evidence to suggest any potential or possible linkages between terrorist and pirate groups,” she told the Council.

“However, addressing the underlying social, economic, and environmental challenges faced by communities in the region will ultimately serve to contain both threats.”

Pobee said the UN is also strengthening collaboration with international financial institutions to support countries in addressing the underlying causes of fragility and security.

With the 10th anniversary of the Yaoundé framework approaching, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) chief, Ghada Waly while briefing pointed to the opportunity to dedicate greater attention, resources and action to supporting maritime security and the rule of law in the Gulf of Guinea.

She urged the international community to help governments develop their capacities and legal frameworks, with domestic laws that criminalise piracy and enable prosecution.

“We must improve investigation and prosecution capacities, to give teeth to enforcement efforts and reach a ‘legal finish’ to every case pursued,” she said.

Waly highlighted the need to be quick to respond to the shifting trends in piracy to “prevent the threat from simply taking a different form”.

She called for developing a regional framework to expand cooperation and urged vigilance against the possibility of terrorist groups in the Sahel linking up with criminal enterprises in coastal regions.

The UNODC Executive Director also underscored the crucial need to address the root causes of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea by working with vulnerable coastal communities.

These populations are also dealing with challenges such as environmental degradation and biodiversity loss, fuelled by climate change and illegal fishing.

“Criminals at sea must be stopped and held accountable, but to ensure a truly sustainable response, due attention must be paid to the people who may become such criminals, the factors that drive them to it, and the people most affected,” she said.

“We must pursue community-based crime prevention strategies and engage with at-risk and marginalised youth to cultivate personal and social skills, prevent risky behaviors, and grant them opportunities.”

Waly said UNODC is supporting the development of community-based crime prevention strategies in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, which she hopes will be replicated in other coastal communities.

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World Bank urges Nigeria to fix public finances to promote development

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World Bank urges Nigeria to fix public finances to promote development
World Bank-Maritime First Newspaper

The World Bank says Nigeria must fix its public finances, in order to promote inclusive and sustainable development.

This is contained in the World Bank Nigeria Public Finance Review Report released on Monday in Abuja.

A copy of the report was obtained from the World Bank’s website.

According to the report, macroeconomic and fiscal reforms are urgently needed to lift Nigeria’s development outcomes, which are severely constrained by inefficient use of resources.

”For years, a large share of Nigeria’s resources have financed inefficient and regressive subsidies for petrol, electricity, and foreign exchange.

“Not all these subsidies are accounted for in the budget, which makes them difficult to track and scrutinise.

“However, available data suggest that these subsidies, which accounted for more than the amount spent on education, health, and social protection in 2021, benefit primarily wealthy households.”

The statement said that these subsidies also distort incentives, discourage investment, and crowd-out spending on pro-poor programmes, thereby, hindering progress in Nigeria’s social development.

It said Nigeria had one of the lowest public expenditure and revenue levels in the world, undermining the government’s ability to improve service delivery.

“Between 2015 and 2021, total public spending in Nigeria averaged 12 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), less than half the world average of 30 percent.”

The statement said improving service delivery in Nigeria required more resources.

“Therefore, one of the most critical aspects of meeting Nigeria’s vast development needs lies in raising more revenues, as the country ranks consistently among the world’s poorest-performing countries in terms of public revenue mobilisation.

“With total revenues averaging just seven percent of GDP in 2015-2021, far below the global average of 24 percent. ”

It said low tax rates and poor utilisation of tax bases, weaknesses in tax administration, and large deductions from oil revenues were constraining Nigeria’s inability to generate enough revenues.

The statement quoted the World Bank Group President, David Malpass as saying “Nigeria’s government urgently needs to strengthen fiscal management and create a unified, stable market-based exchange rate”.

“The government also needs to phase out its costly, regressive fuel subsidy and rationalise preferential trade restrictions and tax exemptions.

“These would lay the groundwork for the increases in public revenues and spending needed to improve development outcomes.”

Malpass said decisive moves would significantly improve the business-enabling environment in Nigeria, attract foreign direct investment, and reduce inflation.

He said the World Bank was ready to increase support to Nigeria as it designs and implements these critical reforms.

The statement also quoted Nigeria’s Country Director, Shubham Chaudhuri as saying “Nigeria is at a critical historical juncture and has a choice to make.

“A child born in Nigeria today will be only 36 percent as productive when she grows up as she could be if she had access to effective public education and health services, and has a life expectancy of only 55 years.”

Chaudhuri said these stark indicators illustrate the urgency for action by Nigeria’s policymakers to improve the macroeconomic and fiscal framework, to sustainably enhance the quality of spending and public services at federal and state levels.

The statement said the Nigeria Public Finance Review was conducted at the request of the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget, and National Planning.

It said the report was prepared in close collaboration with the Budget Office of the Federation, the National Bureau of Statistics, (NBS), the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation, and the Debt Management Office (DMO).

It aims to inform the public debate on Nigeria’s future by providing a thorough analysis of the fiscal performance and necessary reforms needed to establish a robust and sustainable development model.

The aim is to provide broad-based economic opportunities for all Nigerians.

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UNWTO proposes Hollywood-Nollywood collaborations to export African culture

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UNWTO proposes Hollywood-Nollywood collaborations to export African culture

The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) on Wednesday proposed a collaboration between Nollywood and Hollywood to further export the African culture.

Zurab Pololikashuili, Secretary General, UNWTO, said this during the UNWTO Conference on “Linking Tourism, Culture and the Creative Industries”, held in Lagos.

Pololikashuili, who said he was impressed with Nollywood performance over the years, noted that the proposed collaboration would feature a roadshow using cinemas and the creative industry to export the potential of tourism and African culture.

“We can do a lot of things together, if we can speak on this from Nollywood and Hollywood, and we agree, then at our next meeting, we will sign the necessary documents.

“With this, it will be easier to understand one another, I say congratulations to Nigerians, to have succeeded with Nollywood.

“The various presentations have been interesting and amazing and I am happy to have made new friends here in Nigeria,” he said.

The three-day global conference which commenced on Nov. 14 would end on Nov. 16.

The conference attracted delegates from across the globe.

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