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WTO: 79 Countries Endorse Okonjo-Iweala’s Candidacy

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Agency Report

Nigeria ’s Ngozi Okonjo -Iweala voiced confidence on Friday in her quest to lead the crisis -wracked World Trade Organisation after all of Africa backed her candidacy , vowing she would champion reform .
“ I feel the wind behind my back , ” she told a virtual press briefing after the 55 -member African Union officially supported her over her sole remaining opponent , Yoo Myung -hee of South Korea .
Okonjo -Iweala said she was thrilled to learn that “ all African countries are getting behind me .”
According to her, a group of Caribbean and Pacific states had also said they would back her, bringing the number of countries officially endorsing her candidacy to 79 out of the 164 states that comprise the WTO .
She also said she felt “ optimistic ” about her support in Latin America , and said she felt she had gotten “ very good traction and good support ” in Asia so far.
“ I feel quite confident that across the regions , we will be able to attract ” support , Okonjo -Iweala added while hinting that the European Union was due to announce its preference of the last two candidates “ soon” .
President Muhammadu Buhari, on Monday, assured Okonjo -Iweala during her visit to Aso Villa in Abuja that he would do all within his powers to ensure she gets the job .
The global trade body is set to be led by a woman for the first time whichever of the two candidates is successful in their bid to follow Roberto Azevedo, who stepped down as WTO director -general in August a year ahead of schedule .
Okonjo -Iweala , 66 , who served as Nigeria ’s first female finance and foreign minister and has a 25 -year career behind her as a development economist at the World Bank , said it would be good if WTO could also boast its first African leader .
“ If that person is African and a woman , I think that is great . Because … neither an African nor a woman has led the organisation , ” she said.
But at a time when the WTO is engulfed by multiple crises, she stressed that the new chief must above all be highly skilled in political and diplomatic negotiations , as well as at the managerial level .
“ The WTO at this time with the challenges it confronts needs a very competent Director General who is able to have the political reach and stature to be able to do reforms and deal at very high levels .
“ It is not only having those skills but having them all meet in one person at this juncture when the WTO needs that ,” she said .
Even before the Covid- 19 crisis hit, the WTO was already grappling with stalled trade talks and struggling to curb tensions between the United States and China .
The global trade body has also faced relentless attacks from Washington , which has crippled the WTO dispute settlement appeal system and threatened to leave the organisation altogether .
Okonjo -Iweala said she had broad experience in championing reform and was the right person to help put the WTO back on track.
“ I am a reform candidate and I think the WTO needs the reform credentials and skills now . ”
The initial pool of eight candidates for the WTO ’s top post , which has been whittled down over two rounds of consultations , had included three Africans , and the AU had until now refrained from offering an official endorsement .
The third and final round of consultations seeking to establish consensus around one candidate is due to begin next week and end on October 27 , with the announcement due in early November .

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NERC: Over 1m Electricity Consumers Have Received Prepaid Meters

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Labour Warns FG Against Electricity Tariff Hike 

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The Nigeria Labour Congress faulted plans to allegedly sell the Transmission Company of Nigeria, saying it will lead to an increase in electricity tariff.

The NLC President, Mr Ayuba Wabba, said this in a statement titled, “This Kite will not Fly’’ on Friday.

Wabba explained that instead of allegedly planning to sell the transmission company, FG should focus on improving the electricity supply.

He described the attempt to hand over the TCN to a few ‘privileged’ Nigerians as self-serving, obtuse, odious, morally reprehensible and criminal.

The NLC president said, “The TCN is a strategic economic asset of immense national security implications. This is because the TCN traverses all nooks and crannies of Nigeria.

“It will be wrong that our country will be deliberately exposed to an avoidable vulnerability and thus, provide an opportunity to others to restrain the Nigerian state.

“We apprehend that the planned sale of the TCN is only an attempt to further confound the people and concurrently raise electricity tariff. Unfortunately, this time around, Nigerians have had enough.

“The government cannot promise improved power supply to consumers by the planned sale of TCN. The under-the-table scheming as transparent privatisation cannot pass muster.

“It is an unsavoury narrative for our country, that even the privatised assets, which have survived the rapacity of the new owners, have been turned into unrealisable collaterals for unpayable loans.

“This constitutes a bone stuck in the throat of financial institutions and sundry creditors.”

Wabba explained that the plan would “fundamentally weaken the security of the nation and above all, deprive the people of their age-old investments in the commanding heights of the Nigerian economy”.

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FG To Consider Death Penalty For Rail Vandals – Amaechi

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The federal government says it may consider a death penalty for vandals of critical railway equipment in the country.

Rotimi Ameachi, minister of transportation, stated this on Monday, during a town hall meeting on “protecting public infrastructure” in Abuja.

On May 8, the Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC) announced the arrest of two persons suspected of vandalising rail tracks along the Kaduna-Zaria rail line.

Few days later, suspected vandals were arrested for destroying and carting away tracks and rail rods laid on a section of the Warri-Itakpe rail line.

On May 16, the Kaduna state police command said it arrested five suspected rail-trail vandals at Dalle Village of Jema’a LGA and recovered two trucks loaded with locomotive railway sleepers.

After the Warri-Itakpe incident, the senate asked the federal government and security agencies to ensure that those caught vandalising rail lines across Nigeria are given maximum punishment without a fine.

”I am not quantifying the material cost; what I am quantifying is the lives that will be lost,” Ameachi said at the town hall meeting.

“Imagine that a driver of a rail track is driving and suddenly bumps into a track that has been severed, what happens? It will derail.

“If it derails, can you quantify how many passengers that would have died in the course of one man thinking he is making money?

”Some people have recommended that since these people are killing people, if an accident happens people will die, so we should go back to the National Assembly and pass a law that does not only criminalise the action but consequences should be death.”

The minister also said track vandalism is carried out in collaboration with foreign partners.

”In Jos, they arrested a Chinese company that bought those tracks from them, went to court and found them guilty and fined them N200, 000. So there must be consequences as N200,000 is not enough,” he added.

“Lagos and the Western District recorded one, North Western 31, Northern District 10, North Eastern 43, Eastern 36 and North Central 50 incidents of vandalism. Abuja-Kaduna has 13, Warri-Itakpe 2 and Lagos -Ibadan nill.”

Amaechi, who frowned at traders selling items on railway tracks, especially in Port Harcourt and Lagos, advised individuals engaging in the practice to desist or face the penalties.

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