Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Parliament (546)

Nigeria failed to win a medal at this month's World Athletics Championships - meaning Africa's most populous nation has come home empty-handed from eight of the last nine tournaments.

Some athletes, like Tosin Oke, feel the lack of medals reflects a lack of support from the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN).

The triple jumper alleges discrimination and the holding back of training funds from the AFN.

He also feels let down by the IAAF, after complaining to athletics' governing body about his concerns.

Who is Oke?

Tosin Oke in the sandImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Oke, 36, is the reigning African champion in triple jump.

Having competed for Great Britain as a youngster - winning a European junior title - he switched to compete for his parents' homeland after not being selected for the 2007 World Championships.

Since then, he has won three African titles: Two gold medals at the All Africa Games (the "African Olympics") and another gold medal at the 2010 Commonwealth Games. At the 2012 Olympics, Oke was Nigeria's best performing individual athlete - finishing seventh in the final.

Nonetheless, he says he has suffered repeated discrimination at the hands of Nigerian sports authorities, which he believes stems from his public criticisms of their work.

After winning at the 2015 All Africa Games (AAG), Oke wrote to the director-general of the National Sports Commission, the body then responsible for overseeing sport in Nigeria.

'No victory lap, no Olympics'

In his email to Alhassan Yakmut, the athlete outlined the funds he desired to support an attempt to go for a field medal at the 2016 Olympics - a feat which no Nigerian man has ever achieved.

"Well received. Sorry your refusal to take a lap of honour at the AAG has ruled you out of Rio. Yakmut," came the reply.

A baffled Oke duly sent through pictures of his victory lap but failed to win over Yakmut, who chastised him for looking "emotionless".

Two weeks later, Oke learned that his name had not been put forward by Nigerian officials for an Olympic Solidarity Scholarship training grant provided by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

"We do not know the criteria used by the IOC," Solomon Ogba, then president of the AFN but now a board member, had told him in March 2015 when Oke had queried his absence.

"The selection was not done by us. What [we] did was send all the names to them," added Ogba, a vice-president of Nigeria's National Olympic Committee (NOC).

Tosin Oke at the All Africa Games in 2015
Oke - pictured here smiling after winning gold at the 2015 All Africa Games - was told he was emotionless about his medal

Concerned by the tone of Yakmut's mail, Oke wrote to the IOC to ask why it had rejected his application.

"Your name was not included in the list of scholarship requests we received from your NOC," came the IOC reply.

When contacted by the BBC about the discrepancy between their versions of events, Ogba said:

"Athletes were asked to fill the forms which the NOC processed and sent to the IOC. Not all those - to the best of my knowledge - who filled the forms got the scholarship."

Despite lacking training funds, Oke did make it to Rio - after buying an expensive flight to Brazil at late notice when the AFN told him the government had not released funds on time.

Told he would be refunded for his fare in Brazil, Oke realised this would not be the case upon arrival in Rio, so he spent the run-up to his event trying to secure his money, which equated to two months' salary.

"At this point my mind was definitely not on competing, it was on 'this is a huge amount'," he said.

Unlike 2012, Oke failed to reach the final. He says he is still owed for a third of his flight fare. The government says all flight fares have been paid in full.

Nigerian record holders

Sprinter Femi Ogunode represents QatarImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Sprinter Femi Ogunode represents Qatar

Nigerian-born athletes hold the fastest 100m times on three different continents:

  • Africa (Olusoji Fasuba, representing Nigeria)
  • Europe (Francis Obikwelu, representing Portugal)
  • Asia (Femi Ogunode, representing Qatar)

Oke says he has repeatedly failed to receive significant funds due to him from Nigerian officials - primarily for training grants.

Originating from the Nigerian government, the funds must pass through the AFN before reaching the athletes.

While saying he did receive some grants, Oke claims he was deprived of at least $146,500 (£112,923) more by the AFN between 2010 and 2015.

Tosin Oke won silver medals at the 2014 Commonwealth GamesImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Tosin Oke won silver medals at the 2014 Commonwealth Games

Ogba rejects the allegations.

"The best thing is for him to petition the government who he claimed released money to the AFN," he told BBC Sport.

"As a matter of fact, most of the monies he claimed to have received were my personal assistance to him and other athletes."

When contacted by the BBC, the Nigerian government declined to comment on this matter.

IAAF response

In December 2015, Oke sent a 10-page statement to the IAAF in which he outlined his allegations of funds being withheld from athletes as well as other claims about lax doping controls and mismanagement - all of which he largely blamed on then-AFN president Ogba.

Ogba denies the allegations.

In his letter, Oke also hoped that its recipient - IAAF President Lord Coe - would find his "experiences serious enough to ask the right questions of the characters running the federation".

The IAAF responded to Oke's letter by sending a representative to meet the athlete, Ogba and the AFN's general secretary in March 2016.

"Having spent time with both Mr Oke and his federation [president and general secretary], the IAAF representative left reassured that the other issues canvassed by Mr Oke would be resolved between them," Huw Roberts, the IAAF's Legal Counsel, told BBC Sport.

The IAAF did not confirm whether or not its representative had brought up the denial of funds at the meeting.

Oke feels the IAAF effectively asked the AFN to investigate itself.

'Lax' doping controls

Oke had also told the IAAF how he had witnessed insufficient doping controls in Nigeria.

"This year [2015], I saw an athlete enter the doping room claiming to be another athlete," he wrote. "As ID is not asked for/checked, anything is possible."

The IAAF says that according to its representative, the issue was not raised in March 2016 when he met both Oke and Ogba.

Oke maintains he did discuss wider concerns over doping in Nigeria with the representative, even if he did not directly address the matter above.

"The AFN, under my leadership, fought doping violations with every vigour we could muster," Ogba told BBC Sport.

Scenes at stadium in World Athletics Championship in London 2017Image copyrightREUTERS
Nigeria's athletes did not manage to win a medal at the 2017 World Championships held in London

Oke was not originally set to compete at the 2017 World Championships in London.

As an area champion, he was qualified to do so but the AFN did not put his name forward on time.

"It was the duty of your National Federation to submit your entry in due course," the IAAF told Oke.

"At this late stage, with entry lists being already published, I am afraid there is nothing we can do."

When the BBC asked the IAAF about Oke's letter of 2015 and its various allegations, the initial response that came back two working days later largely dealt with the athlete's selection issues with Nigeria.

It also revealed that the Nigerian had now been included in the World Championships - just six days before the event began.

The IAAF told Oke this was due to "exceptional" circumstances.

Oke, who says he had stopped training in the run-up since he was not expecting to be involved, finished in 25th place.

Despite his experiences, the athlete still hopes to compete for Nigeria at next year's Commonwealth Games.

He is not the only athlete to be frustrated by the way in which Nigerian athletics is run, with several having switched nationality to compete for other countries in recent years.

Posted On Tuesday, 15 August 2017 12:36 Written by

DAKAR, Senegal — Torrents of water rushed through the streets of the Sierra Leone capital of Freetown on Monday, causing mudslides that killed hundreds and trapped hundreds more in their homes and vehicles, officials said.

As many as 200 people were killed after heavy rains overnight deluged the city’s poor drainage system and created one of the most devastating floods Freetown has experienced.

Residents awakened Monday to find some streets filled waist-high with water, and roads in some areas were transformed into muddy raging rivers. Some reported bloated bodies floating down the streets and washing up on beaches.

By Monday morning, the county coroner’s office had run out of space, Sinneh Kamara, a coroner technician at Connaught Hospital in Freetown, told a local television station.

Continue reading the main story
Volunteers and health care workers awaited the arrival of more bodies at Connaught Hospital. CreditJane Hahn for The New York Times

Officials were coordinating rescue and recovery efforts conducted by the armed forces and the Red Cross, and the government ordered people living in vulnerable areas on hilltops or close to the coastline to move to safer ground. Boats were warned to halt all sea travel because of the “life threatening” situation created by the heavy downpour.

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The exact death toll was unknown, said Francis Langumba Keili, the director of the Office of National Security, and the count was expected to rise. He said emergency workers were trying to rescue survivors as more bodies were turning up.

“Our efforts is to look for more survivors, but so far all we see is dead bodies,” Mr. Keili said.

On Monday, residents of the Kaningo neighborhood on the west side of Freetown were going about the gruesome task of collecting the dead even as floodwaters had yet to recede — one body was retrieved from up a tree. The neighborhood was among the hardest hit by rampaging floodwaters, which washed away a bridge and left homes caked in mud and debris. Boxes, plastic containers and furniture were scattered among the homes in the neighborhood, and residents’ belongings were stuck in tree branches and on rooftops.

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In Freetown, residents cut through debris to free the body of a woman killed in the mudslide. CreditJane Hahn for The New York Times

Young people used ropes to retrieve some bodies from the fast-running water, according to witnesses. Many of the victims were children, they said.

Several bodies were piled up on a soccer field in the neighborhood, waiting to be taken to the mortuary.

Alimamy Zachariah Barrie, a resident of Kaningo, said more than 15 ambulances were on hand to transport the dead.

“They have retrieved over 50 bodies so far,” said Mr. Barrie, who added that many people were also seriously injured. Other residents had complained that there were not enough ambulances to transport the injured.

In another neighborhood of the capital, Regent, the rain caused a massive mudslide that killed seven members of the same family, including children, when the two-story building in which they lived collapsed. Three people trapped in another building in Regent had been calling for help all morning, but the house was still inaccessible as of Monday night because of mud from a slide that reportedly wiped out half the land in the neighborhood.

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A house in Freetown was surrounded by water. Some homes were submerged, and many buildings were flattened altogether. CreditJane Hahn for The New York Times

Elsewhere in the city, several people were stuck in vehicles surrounded by floodwaters. Local television broadcast images of people standing on rooftops waiting to be rescued. Some homes were submerged, and many properties were flattened altogether.

Freetown is dotted with scores of informal settlements, many of which are on hilltops or close to the sea, making them vulnerable to landslides and flooding. The city is also one of the wettest in West Africa, receiving more than 20 inches of rainfall on average in August, the wettest month of the year.

In an interview in June, Oswald Hanciles, a spokesman for President Ernest Bai Koroma, warned that homes constructed precariously on hillsides in defiance of government regulations posed a significant risk to residents and the environment. He said that residents were building recklessly and cutting down trees that would otherwise help protect the land.

Still, many Sierra Leoneans say the country’s drainage system is insufficient and this is a main cause for most of the flooding in the country.

In September 2015, just as the country was dealing with the devastating effects of an outbreak of Ebola that killed thousands in the region, a huge flood in the capital killed at least seven people and left several thousand homeless.

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Rescue workers cleared debris and dug through mud as they searched for bodies. CreditJane Hahn for The New York Times
Posted On Tuesday, 15 August 2017 12:29 Written by

The President of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, says the finances of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) are being sorted out in order to improve access to quality healthcare, as well as ensure that health workers are unencumbered and free to do their work.

Reiterating his determination to solve the problem of unpaid bills to healthcare providers, President Akufo-Addo noted that the NHIS is at the core of the country’s health delivery system, and government has a duty to make it work.

“So far, government has, by dint of prudent management within the short space of seven months, cleared GH¢560 million out of the GH¢1.2 billion of debt inherited.

I am told I can confidently say that we will settle all the arrears within the next 12 months. This year, we are up to date on the payment of claims to service providers. It is essential that the businesses of healthcare providers do not collapse,” he said.

President Akufo-Addo made this known on Saturday, 12th August, 2017, when he delivered a speech at the 50th congregation and 5th oath taking and induction ceremony of the School of Medical Sciences of the University of Cape Coast.

With the major burden of healthcare in Ghana coming from diseases that are preventable, President Akufo-Addo noted that these are better dealt with at source and in the communities, rather than to wait until they become problems at the hospital level.

“It requires better sanitation, and not better medication, to deal with cholera, which seems to have reared its ugly head again in our country, especially since 2014. I hope that such programmes, as you have instituted here, would position the students to play good advocacy roles as healthcare providers within the communities they work in after their studies,” he said.
Outlining the problems that bedevil the health sector, such as the challenge of bridging the equity gap in access to healthcare between urban and rural Ghana, the production and distribution of health personnel, and high under-five and maternal mortality rates, President Akufo-Addo noted that some of the answers lie in improving the physical infrastructure of the health sector.

His government, the President assured, will strive to complete ongoing projects around the country, as well as expand health promotion programmes, scale up disease prevention strategies and enhance access to curative and emergency services.

On the BOT arrangement being entered into with a Canadian group to build infrastructure at the University, President Akufo-Addo noted that such initiatives are admirable and are to be expected from a University, whose Chancellor is one of the most renowned entrepreneurs of Ghana’s generation.

“I hasten, however, to add a word of caution. I think we should learn, from previous and unfortunate bitter experience, that such arrangements should not be done on the blind side of government. I will strongly urge, if you have already not done so, that you seek the blessing of the Ministry of Finance and the Office of the Attorney-General to the arrangement,” the President said.

He continued, “There is currently a difficult situation at the University of Ghana that should serve as a useful lesson for all public tertiary institutions, which seek to engage in such arrangements.”

Government, President Akufo-Addo indicated, will continue to make capital outlays in the health sector, and has begun to undertake a number of healthcare projects across the country to bring the provision of healthcare delivery to the doorsteps of the people.

All these projects, he added, are geared towards expanding health facilities in the country, and creating ready job opportunities for students in health disciplines in the country.

“We have a duty to ensure that this School is well-equipped to produce capable medical doctors with all the skills needed to improve the quality of medical practice in our country. It is my expectation and hope that graduates from this School will be motivated to take on the challenge and the opportunities for higher achievement through innovation and creativity, in the science and technology-led, knowledge-driven global economy,” the President said.

Posted On Sunday, 13 August 2017 22:26 Written by

The President of the Republic, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has stated that with West Africa and Africa’s population set to reach 500 million and 2 billion people in 20 years, respectively, the process of regional and continental integration should be in the interest of all Africans and must no longer stall.

According President Akufo-Addo, West Africa and Africa’s projected populations mean that “genuine regional and continental markets in Africa should be in our mutual economic interests, for these markets will present immense opportunities to bring prosperity to the peoples in our region and continent with hard work, creativity and enterprise”.

Functioning, common regional and continental markets, he added, have to be very fundamental objectives of Ghanaians, Nigerians, and, indeed, of all the peoples and governments in the region and on the continent, objectives that will consolidate the processes of structural transformations of our national economies on which we must be engaged.

“We cannot persist with economic structures that are dependent on the production and export of raw materials, if we are to bring prosperity to the masses of our peoples,” he added.

President Akufo-Addo made this known on Tuesday, August 1, 2017, when he delivered the keynote address at the graduation ceremony of Course 25 participants of Nigeria’s National Defence College, in Abuja, Nigeria.   

The President noted that for a continent that has made the choice of pursuing integration, “we have not done much as we should have in liberalising and promoting trade amongst member countries”.

Indeed, research has shown that countries or groups of countries with the largest share of world trade are located within regions with the highest share of intra-regional trade. Trade between African nations remains low compared to other parts of the world.

In 2000, intra-regional trade accounted for 10% of Africa’s total trade, and increased marginally to 11% in 2015. Trading amongst members of the European Union, for example, amounted to 70% in 2015. With these very low levels of trade and investment co-operation in Africa, we must put in place deliberate measures at expanding trade and business collaborations to improve the prospects for prosperity of our peoples.

“For my part, I have made it clear on several occasions, and in the countries I have visited so far in the region and on the continent, that I am willing to do whatever I can to strengthen the ECOWAS and AU communities,” the President said.

He continued, “It is extremely important for the welfare of the 1.2 billion people of the continent that we, the leaders, demonstrate strong political will to make the project of integration, at the regional and continental levels, economic and political successes, and make them realities in the lives of our peoples”.

President Akufo-Addo stressed that if the Ghana and Nigeria consider the benefits of the full implementation of ECOWAS and AU Treaties on trade, free movement of goods and persons, customs, taxation, statistics, money and payments, then the two countries would both benefit in far better ways.

“It surely makes more sense for Nigeria to import its salt from Ghana than from Brazil. When we think of Africa before our own countries, we are not just being pan-Africanists, we are being true nationalists because what makes Africa better will make each of our countries better and more prosperous,” he said.

Follow EU example

President Akufo-Addo noted that nearly seven decades ago, on 9th May, 1950, a few nations of Europe, in response to a proposal from French Foreign Minister, Robert Schuman, embarked on a new journey.

“When he made the proposal that has today led to the European Union, the European continent was just five years removed from the Second World War; a war that had broken the back of Europe and spilled the blood of so many, including some of our own,” he said.

Today, according to President Akufo-Addo, the European Union has a market of 508 million people or 7.3% of the world population — the world’s third largest population after China and India –, one currency, and the free movement of goods, services and people across twenty-seven countries, albeit with Great Britain having voted to exit the Union, and beginning the processes for BREXIT.

“The EU in 2016 generated a nominal gross domestic product (GDP) of 16.5 trillion US dollars, constituting approximately 23% of nominal global GDP, which is the second largest economy by GDP in the world. The single currency, the EURO, has increased efficiency, lowered the cost of doing business and improved transparency in pricing. The overall effect has been to make Europe a much stronger economic and political player on the world stage,” he said.

Nigeria must provide leadership

President Akufo-Addo noted that West Africa and Africa cannot make the bold transformative changes they need to make without visionary political leadership.

“We need leadership that is focused on the region and continent, and not on individual countries. The European Union took off because the political leadership of France and Germany decided to make it work. Once the political will is evident, we can then work together to make out of ECOWAS and the AU true regional and continental markets,” he said.

President Akufo-Addo was of the view that Nigeria must provide the political leadership and passion to translate the ECOWAS and AU dreams into reality.

“You have the numbers, you have the economic muscle and, dare I say it, you owe it to the region and continent,” he said.

Posted On Wednesday, 02 August 2017 15:09 Written by

The President of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has stated that the successes being chalked as a result of the collaboration taking place amongst countries in West Africa and Africa in the fight against terrorism and armed groups is significant.

According to President Akufo-Addo, countries such as Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Benin have joined Nigeria in the fight against Boko Haram, with the leaders of Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad and Burkina Faso, known as the G5 du Sahel, launching a multinational force to fight armed groups in the Sahel region

The co-ordination of activities between the armies and the intelligence agencies these countries, he added, is absolutely essential to a successful battle against terrorism.

“African countries are co-operating in the fight against terrorism and achieving results, and this should spur us on in our collective drive towards an integrated and united Africa,” he said.

President Akufo-Addo made this known on Tuesday, August 1, 2017, when he delivered the keynote address at the graduation ceremony of Course 25 participants of Nigeria’s National Defence College, in Abuja, Nigeria.   

Making reference to the strides made by the European Union (EU), President Akufo-Addo indicated that the EU was given the Nobel Peace Prize for its role in “the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe”, “transforming most of Europe from a continent of war to a continent of peace”, and the “successful struggle for peace and reconciliation and for democracy and human rights.”

The President noted that “it is a widely acknowledged fact that the EU has helped prevent war amongst its current members since the end of World War II in 1945. History tells us that Britain, France, Germany and Italy had for centuries waged wars over religion, territory and power.”

He continued, “Thus, the creation of a free market, concealing economic and geographical borders, would erode the justification for using war as the quickest avenue to wealth and power, and lessen its appeal. That was the vision that inspired the idea behind the European Economic Community, now the EU, in 1957.”

President Akufo-Addo, thus, indicated that Africa should be inspired by this, and hasten her efforts towards integration.

“If Europe, through the formation of the EU, was able to stop the vicious cycle of violence that had plagued them for centuries, and lead them onto the path of advancement, wealth and prosperity for all, Africa can no longer dither,” he said.

Ghana, Nigeria must work together

With France and Germany being the keys to the success of the European Union, President Akufo-Addo stated that, in the same vein, Ghana and Nigeria, working together, can be the engine for growth of West Africa and Africa.

“Our respective armed forces have co-operated successfully in joint peacekeeping operations in several conflict situations in the region and on the continent, which have enabled peace and security to be re-established. Liberia, Sierra Leone, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea Bissau, Togo, Sudan, Somalia, Mali and, most recently Gambia, all come to mind,” he said.

President Akufo-Addo, thus, urged the two countries to “now work together to unleash the energy and ingenuity of the African, and with a market of 1.2 billion people, soon to reach 2 billion, the sky will be the limit. Let us work towards the day when all of us will look to doing business, first in our region and continent, before looking to Europe, Asia or the Americas because we have the men and women, the goods, the services and the quality.”

The way forward, he stressed, is to implement regional and continental decisions, such as the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme and the Continental Free Trade Area, recognising that ultimately the benefits are in everyone’s interest.

“Those of us who believe strongly in integration can do no better than to give our full support to regional and continental decisions. Through this, we will build institutional confidence and integrity in the structural organs of ECOWAS and the AU,” he added.

All governments in the region and continent, the President stressed “need to collaborate to ensure that the countries of Africa adhere to and maintain common values of governance, i.e. the principles of democratic accountability, respect for individual liberties and human rights, and the rule of law. Such commonality will facilitate immeasurably the process of bonding amongst the nations of our region and continent.”

Posted On Wednesday, 02 August 2017 15:07 Written by

With a picture-perfect coastline, unrivalled wildlife and a fascinating culture, there are countless reasons you should go to Kenya – but here are just a few…

You can take an alternative safari

Before I ever actually went on a safari, I thought the popular activity was all about sitting in a 4×4 behind reinforced windows and gazing at animals from afar.

How wrong I was. It turns out it’s perfectly safe to get up close and personal with the animals – not to the extent of petting a lion or trying to tickle an elephant’s tummy (obviously), but to feel a lot closer than the traditional 4x4s would have you believe.

At Ol Malo Lodge in Laikipia County, a beautiful, boutique hotel with just a handful of bedrooms, there’s no need for 4x4s.

While you can, of course, go wildlife-spotting in a truck, it seems far more adventurous to venture out on foot, with a guided walk with a local Samburu tribesman, or to sit atop a camel or horse while trying to spot animals between the trees.

It’s a surreal experience to be gazing at zebras, elephants, giraffes and more, just feet away, while clinging onto your camel for dear life with one hand and snapping away with your camera with the other.

You can learn all about another culture

9 reasons you need to book a trip to Kenya right now
A young Samburu shepherdess (Picture: Getty)

Ol Malo works very closely with the local Samburu tribe, so, as a visitor, you’re offered a firsthand perspective into their fascinating lives.

Just hours after stepping off the tiny Safarilink plane that whisked us from Nairobi to Laikipia, we were strolling through the wilderness on our way to a local Samburu village, accompanied by our guide Leuia.

The Samburu are a polygamous, nomadic tribe that live in villages called manyattas. In this particular part of Laikipia, they work closely with Ol Malo, giving guests access to their vastly different, intriguing lives.

They have a variety of interesting customs – drinking blood as a major food source, enduring painful rituals to become warriors (such as men getting circumcised without even being allowed to wince – ouch!) and creating treasured jewellery formed of beads, with each different shape and colour symbolising a different meaning.

You can see genuine corporate social responsibility in action 

Ol Malo set up the Samburu Trust, an organisation that works closely with the Samburu people, providing everything from clean water and healthcare to beadmaking workshops and a nomadic school.

So many hotels work closely with the local community, but it feels more hands-on here.

Guests are invited to watch the beadmaking workshops that help the Samburu women bring an income to their homes, and we were also given a tour of the nomadic school where children from the local tribe can get a primary education.

You can watch your breakfast being hoovered up by an eland

True story: if you’re not too protective over your cornflakes, then you’ll probably enjoy watching Ol Malo’s resident eland demolishing your cereal.

You can hang out with adorable animals

If you’ve always secretly wished The Lion King was real-life, and not just a film, I’ve got good news for you – you can find a live-action version in Kenya.

The beautiful Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club, a sophisticated, elegant hotel in Nanyuki with gorgeous views of Mount Kenya, not only has monkeys running around the property, but is also home to an animal orphanage, where you can spot everything from leopards and warthogs (yes, real life Pumbas!) to zebras, sunis (tiny, adorable antelopes) and even a 150-year-old tortoise whose life expectancy is 300.

I defy you to take a trip Ol Pejeta Conservancy (a short drive from the Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club), and not want to drop your job, cramped flat and everything you know to go and live with baby animals.

This baby zebra – which we named Storm – was abandoned by his mother after a bout of awful weather, and is now being cared for by experts at the conservancy.

While of course he was fluffy and adorable, meeting the scared, week-old creature shaking and searching for his mother was also a heartbreaking experience, and the importance of funding and donating to conservancies like these really hit home.

You can stay on opposite sides of the equator

The Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club has the enviable position of being split down the middle by the equator.

There are two basins on opposite sides of the path that’s directly on the equator, and on each side, the water in the basin swirls down the plughole in opposite directions.

If you want to splash out on a truly equatorial adventure, the Equatorial Suite – where Winston Churchill used to stay – has a bed with one side in the southern hemisphere, and the other in the northern.

You can learn about the increasingly important issue of conservation

Ol Pejeta is home to the last three northern white rhinos in the world.

The last male, Sudan, is the equivalent of 100 years old, and we were able to meet him at the conservancy.

The last two female northern white rhinos, Najin and Fatu, also live at the conservancy, but are sadly infertile.

It will take a miracle of science, such as stem cell technology, to keep the species alive so that it doesn’t die with the last three at the conservancy.

You can do some crazy things too

If petting rhinos and trying to spot stingrays isn’t crazy enough for you, take a trip to the postcard-pretty Diani Beach, with its endless white sand beaches and Instagram-friendly panoramas.

If lazing at the pool or building sandcastles isn’t quite daring enough, there’s always Skydive Diani.

You may never have experienced terror like it (signing the waiver is scarier than actually jumping out of the plane), but after the rush of hurtling through the Kenyan sky, there’s no view quite like the one you see while suspended in the air with the calm sea and stretches of Diani Beach below you.

When the adrenaline rush is over, you can crash at the enormous pool at Diani Beach’s beautiful Swahili Beach, and rewatch for the hundredth time the video of the exact moment you jumped out of the plane.

You can eat some fantastic food

Kenya is a heaven for foodies, with plenty of amazing culinary spots.

Picca Alapatt, the chef at Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club whips up an incredible Indian feast, with huge platters of dishes catering to the most avid meat-eaters as well as vegetarians too.

Eating a five-course breakfast on the slopes of Mount Kenya, and gorging on a seemingly endless feast by a bonfire in the large grounds of the resort are particular highlights offered by the hotel that you shouldn’t miss out on.

The Sands at Nomad Hotel – a boutique property in Diani Beach – is also a culinary delight worth experiencing, with its classy beach setting, fresh, tasty food and perfect views of the white sands and glittering seas.

The Carnivore, in Nairobi, brands itself a “beast of a feast”, and for good reason. If you’re vegan or vegetarian it may not be the ideal place for you (there’s a lot of meat being passed around), but for carnivores, you’ll get to try everything: ostrich meatball, lamb chops, turkey, crocodile and even bull testicle. Yum.

How do I get there?

Kenya Airways flies to Nairobi from Heathrow daily, with economy class tickets starting from £439, and business class tickets starting from £1891 return.

Considering that the chairs in business recline to an almost fully flat bed and that you’re presented with the snuggliest blanket on the planet to fall asleep under, upgrading to business is definitely worth considering – it certainly seems like better value for money than many other business class long-haul flights out there.

Where do I stay? 

In Laikipia, Ol Malo Lodge is offering a ‘Stay 3, Pay 2’ special offer for 2017, with prices starting from $530 per night, including guided walks, horseriding, camel treks, Samburu cultural visits and more.

The posh Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club – a favourite haunt of Winston Churchill and Bing Crosby – offers rooms from $265 per person per night on a full board basis. 

Swahili Beach, a luxury hotel with enormous rooms, a swimming pool fit for a king and an ideal location right next to the beach, offers rates starting from £160 per night per room on a half-board basis. 

Before catching your flight back home, you’ll want to spend some time in Nairobi too, and you can’t pick a better place to rest your head for the night than the elegant Fairmont The NorfolkA bed and breakfast stay starts from $200 per person per night.

For more information on visiting Kenya, you can contact the Kenya Tourism Board on 020 7593 1731 or visit Magical Kenya. 

Posted On Monday, 31 July 2017 00:52 Written by

Ghana and Malta have pledged to strengthen the ties of co-operation that exist between the two countries, as well as collaborate further and provide mutual support for each other at both bilateral and multilateral levels.

This was the outcome of a roundtable discussion held between the ministerial teams of Ghana and Malta, on Wednesday, July 26, 2017, as part of events marking the 3-day State Visit to Ghana by the President of Malta, Her Excellency Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca.

Describing the visit to Ghana by President Marie-Louise Preca as a landmark one, as it is the first time a sitting President from the Republic of Malta is paying a State Visit to Ghana, President Akufo-Addo, in his remarks at a joint press conference with the Maltese President, stated that their discussions bordered on several issues of importance to both countries.

These issues, he stated, included the improvement in the volumes of trade between Ghana and Malta; mutual support for candidates from the two countries vying for positions with international organisations; issues of migration; and the deepening of political consultations on matters of mutual interest to the two countries, amongst others.

President Akufo-Addo noted that his Maltese counterpart and her team have resolved to give voice to Ghana’s cause and interests at the European Union. Ghana, on the other hand, the President stressed will also help to facilitate the provision of a platform for enhanced economic engagement between Malta and the member countries of ECOWAS.

This, according to President Akufo-Addo, should boost the trade volumes, and help bring prosperity to the peoples of Ghana and Malta.

On the matter of reforms of the global political order, President Akufo-Addo made it clear that the inability of the United Nations to undertake the reforms of its institutions that will reflect the realities of our times, and not the realities of the post-war world, represents a manifest injustice against the peoples of Africa.

The Ghanaian team, according to President Akufo-Addo, stressed the importance it attaches to the process of UN Reform, especially of the UN Security Council, as set out in Africa’s Common Position on UN Reform, based on the Ezulwini Consensus, and solicited the support of Malta for this position.

“It is time to correct the longstanding injustice that the current structure and composition of the UN Security Council represent for the nations of Africa. Her Excellency and her delegation shared this sentiment and expressed its desire to collaborate with Ghana to this end,” he added.

It was also agreed that Ghana and Malta extend support to candidates from their respective countries vying for positions in international organisations.

“Ghana has, therefore, given support to Malta’s bid for membership of the Council of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) elections, which take place later this year. Malta, on the other hand, will support Ghana’s bid for a Non-Permanent Seat at the UN Security Council from 2020 to 2021,” the President said.

He continued, “This support mechanism has also been to the candidature of Professor Henrietta Mensah-Bonsu, as a Judge on the International Criminal Court (ICC). An MOU, to this end, would be signed after this session by the Foreign Ministers of the two countries.”


On the issue of migration, President Akufo-Addo bemoaned the high numbers of young Africans taking distressing risks across the Sahara and around the Mediterranean, trying to reach a better life.

“Whilst we strive to provide youths with the right environment in Africa, which would enable them enhance their skills, receive appropriate training, and have access to digital technology and enhanced economic opportunities, Her Excellency the President and her delegation have reiterated their commitment to champion the need for humane treatment of illegal migrants as well as the protection of their human rights in accordance with international law, both at home and on EU platforms,” he added

President Akufo-Addo revealed that Ghana has been included in the list of beneficiary countries of the EU’s Emergency Migration Fund – a Fund designed to assist in the return and re-integration of our citizens into society.

Government, President Akufo-Addo assured, will collaborate with Malta and EU member stated to help find solutions to the factors that trigger illegal migration.

“Our deliberations also centered driving investment opportunities, domestic and foreign, in our two countries, and the need for enhanced co-operation and partnership in our development efforts.

A Business Forum between our two Chambers of Commerce, as well as with the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI), has been scheduled to take place at the Accra International Conference Centre tomorrow, July 27, 2017, to identify the trade and business opportunities that exist and would be mutually beneficial to our two countries,” he added.

It was the hope of President Akufo-Addo that “as we shape the future of Ghana, and position Ghanaian enterprises to compete effectively in the global market space, we have friends, such as the Republic of Malta, to support us in this objective.”G

Posted On Monday, 31 July 2017 00:43 Written by

The President of the Republic, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has assured that his government will partner and support public universities in the country with the aim of raising and improving their standards, so they can compete with the best on the continent.

According to President Akufo-Addo, “Ghanaian Universities should be ranked amongst the top 10 on the continent. This is not beyond us to achieve, and my government will ensure that universities are equipped with the requisite logistics and guarantee that lecturers are well motivated to achieve this feat.”

The President has also stressed that research and innovation will be at the heart of education in Ghana, as “this would ensure that our graduates from our educational institutions enter the labour market well-equipped with skills for good-paying jobs.”

President Akufo-Addo made this known on Saturday, 29th July, 2017, when he attended and delivered a speech at the 21st Congregation Ceremony of the University of Education, Winneba (UEW).

Applauding UEW for its position as the citadel of teacher education in Ghana, President Akufo-Addo also commended the University for its pioneering role in distance education, noting that UEW is now a pacesetter in distance learning, with 37 study centres spread across the country.

He noted that almost all modern, successful societies that have had outstanding results in training and economic development such as Singapore, Finland, Korea and Canada have shown that teacher quality is the single most important determinant of their successes.

“For us also to make a success of our nation, we must pay attention to teachers. It is only a crop of well-trained, self-confident and contented teachers that can deliver the educated and skilled workforce we require to transform our economy,” he said.

To this end, the President also stressed that government intends to restore the teaching profession to the status it once enjoyed, and make it an attractive career choice.

Teaching, he added, must no longer be seen as a stop-gap measure or a job of last resort, but as a viable choice to enter a well-paid, well respected profession with long term career prospects and good benefits.

“Accordingly, government intends to facilitate teacher training nationwide, as well as special incentives for them, such as support for teachers to acquire their own homes, in collaboration with the Ghana National Association of Teachers, NAGRAT, and other teaching associations to facilitate an affordable housing scheme for teachers,” the President said.

He continued, “We will also support teachers to enrol in Distance Education programmes to boost their capacity. This is in line with our policy of motivating teachers, and rewarding their hard work in the classroom. It is for this reason that government, from September, is re-introducing the teacher training allowance that was cancelled by the previous government.”

Ensure amicable settlement of issues

President Akufo-Addo urged the newly constituted Governing Council of the University of Education, Winneba (UEW), to do all within its power to see to an amicable settlement of all matters currently pending before the Winneba High Court.

Describing the recent happenings at UEW, President Akufo-Addo stated that it is noteworthy that it appears that finality is being brought to bear on the matters.

The current challenges, in the President’s view, can be best surmounted if all stakeholders act within the confines of the law and respect the rule of law.

“Court decisions are not always pleasant, but they are, in principle, the surest way of resolving disputes. Let us not through our utterances, actions and inactions undermine the authority of our courts,” he said.

In the same vein, President Akufo-Addo urged the chairperson of the governing council to ensure that the Council puts in place measures to seal all loopholes of waste and the abuse of public funds.

“I encourage all lecturers to resume full academic duties and use the university’s processes to resolve any outstanding grievances,” he added.Gha

Posted On Monday, 31 July 2017 00:39 Written by

Let me welcome you all to the seat of the Presidency for this 1st media encounter since I came here. I must, at the outset, thank members of the media, particularly the presidential press corps, for the extent and depth of the coverage they have given to the activities of the Presidency these last six months. I cannot complain about the lack of exposure of my thoughts, statements or policies since I became President. And for that, I am grateful to the media and, as I say, particularly to members of the presidential press corps, whose duty it is to cover the President. They should know that their work is appreciated.

In so saying, I think it necessary also to record my delight at the vibrancy of the Ghanaian media. I know there are some who take issue with the media on several fronts, and even go so far as to criticise me for my part in the repeal of the Criminal Libel Law, for it made the media “too free”. Even though I have been one of the greatest victims of the irresponsible section of the media, i.e. those who have created an industry from spewing calumnies, falsehoods and outright fabrications against my person, I do not regret one bit my role in repealing that old, discredited law. The repeal has inspired the Ghanaian media to be one of the freest and most vibrant on the entire continent of Africa, if not in the world. I may not go as far as Thomas Jefferson when he said that “were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter”, but I will say that I much prefer the noisy, boisterous, sometimes scurrilous media of today to the monotonous, praise-singing, sycophantic one of yesteryear. The Ghanaian media has, in fact, enriched the nation’s governance by its persistence, curiosity and investigative skills.

Eleven days ago, 7th July, was exactly six months since I swore the oath of office as the 5th President of the 4th Republic. Needless to say, it has been an eventful six months. But, apart from one or two brief encounters, I have not had a sustained, direct engagement with the media. I believe that, symbolically, this is a good time to do so. Hence my invitation for this occasion. It will enable me to share some of my thoughts on what has gone on, and allow you, members of the media, to express your concerns and questions, if any, for my response. It is my intention to have such encounters twice a year.  

On 7th December, 2016, Ghanaians went to the polls, and voted decisively for change. A change to advance the economic fortunes of this country and bring about improvements in their livelihoods. A change to eradicate the perception of widespread corruption in public life and enhance the quality of governance in our nation. A change to banish the spectre of national demoralisation and renew the spirit of confidence of the Ghanaian people. 

I said in my first Message on the State of the Nation that the times in which we live demand that all of us be in a conscious hurry to deal with the problems we face. This was what has motivated my actions till now. Half-way into my first year in office, it is good to take stock of what has happened and the way forward. This forum is not intended to give another Message on the State of the Nation, neither is it to announce my achievements. It is guided, rather, by the principle of accountability.

We, and I mean we, in government, and you, in the media, together, have a responsibility to bring the details of the governing process to the people of Ghana. They deserve to know what we are doing and why we are doing it, and how that would lead to the betterment of their lives. If the people are not kept informed or do not understand the activities of the government, then, we in government, and you in the media, are failing in our duties.

My first important task was to assemble a team of quality, capable of working to overcome my government’s poor legacy, and setting Ghana on the path of progress and prosperity. By 12th April, the full central government was in place, in the fastest period of time in the history of the 4th Republic. By common consent, so as not to be seen to be blowing my own trumpet, it is regarded as being composed of some of the best persons in public life today, men and women of achievement, experience, integrity and knowledge, together with youthful elements who are full of promise. By that date, the regional government was also in place, again, a strong representation of competence and integrity. I must, once more, thank the Legislature, the Parliament, for the expeditious, but responsible manner in which it exercised its constitutional power of approval of my nominees, notwithstanding the bizarre, incomprehensible episode of the non-existent bribery of members of Parliament’s Appointments Committee. The process of constituting local government is also now almost complete, with the nomination and approval of 208 out of 216 Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives. The remaining 8, hopefully, will soon be in office. Let me use this medium to thank the relevant Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies for their vote of confidence in my nominees. I am confident that, on their part, they will work harmoniously with their Assemblies. It is worth stressing that these MMDCEs will be the last batch to take office under the current system, if the constitutional proposals for reform are accepted and passed. We have to expand full democracy to local government.

I knew that the biggest problem we would face on coming into office would be the economy, but I can safely say that I was still shocked at the state of affairs we found. A very competent Economic Management Team, with the brilliant Vice President, Aljahi Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, in the chair, has initiated, with my support, measures to deal with the mess. Our desperate economic situation has meant that we have had to take some unorthodox, but brave measures. There was never any chance that this government, voted into office with a mandate for change, would dare to do things in the business as usual manner.

The Asempa Budget that the highly respected Minister for Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta, presented in March set the tone for the new ways of doing things that will transform our economy. It also provided the opportunity to deliver on some of the promises we made during the election campaign.

Nurses and teacher training allowances have been restored to take effect at the start of the new school year. Nuisance taxes have been abolished, and other measures have been taken to shift the focus of our economy from taxation to production. 

The macroeconomic indices are beginning to show a turn for the better. The monetary policy rate (MPR) of the Bank of Ghana has been cut from 25.5 percent to 22.5 percent in the first half of the year. Inflation has gone down from 15.4% in December 2016 to 12.1% in June 2017, i.e. a period of six months, the lowest in four years. The benchmark 91-day Treasury Bill (T-bill) rate was 22.8 percent in January last year, and has narrowed to 11.9 percent in June 2017, the lowest in 5 years.

We are encouraged by the gradual decline in the cost of borrowing and the increase in banks’ credit to the private sector by nearly 6 percent in the first quarter of 2017, compared to a decline of about 7 percent in the same period in 2016. But we have to continue to work to bring down the cost of borrowing to enable businesses to have access to much needed credit. It is my hope and expectation that these statistics will soon translate into tangible benefits in the lives of Ghanaians.

We have also introduced a number of innovative interim packages to help, particularly, new entrepreneurs. I do not need to repeat that the greatest challenge we face is the creation of jobs. Young people are very anxious about not finding jobs, and their parents are even more anxious about the future of their children after seeing them through school. I am well aware that the success or otherwise of my administration will be judged largely on job creation. Last Thursday, I launched the National Entrepreneurship and Innovations Plan (NEIP) which is an innovative scheme, under the Business Development Ministry, to help startups, and the difficult early stages of setting up businesses. We have committed $10 million of public funds, which we hope to leverage into $100 million from private sources to back the plan.

The Asempa Budget has allocated an amount of $100 million dollars as Government contribution either as equity or in kind support for the establishment of the district enterprises, 1-District-1-Factory. An additional amount of $340 million has been leveraged from local financial institutions for the programme. Government, in collaboration with the Association of Ghana Industries, has also arranged a Suppliers Credit Facility for $2 billion from China to provide equipment, machinery and other facilities in support of the programme. It is now clear that this programme is destined to succeed. 

The Asempa Budget also provided a $50 million stimulus package for the revival of distressed companies. At the end of June 2017, 285 applications had been received. So far, 118 of these applications have been screened, of which 80 have been adjudged eligible for various stimulus packages. In addition to Government’s contribution, an amount of $20 million has been earmarked by local financial institutions as part of the stimulus package. This will definitely help in the revival of our industrial sector under the dynamic leadership of the Minister for Trade and Industry, Alan Kyerematen.

At this stage of our development, agriculture will necessarily have to provide the majority of the jobs, and that is why we have to pay urgent attention to the modernisation of our agricultural practices. Extension officers are being employed, for the first time in many years, to provide hands-on support to farmers, and we are generally paying extra attention to every stage of farming.

The one-village-one-dam scheme is taking off in the three northern regions with the rehabilitation of the existing ones that are in sad states of disrepair. Planting for Food and Jobs, one of our flagship initiatives, has also started with increasing enthusiasm. The Programme has registered 185,000 farmers out of the 200,000 targeted; government is bearing 50% of the cost of fertiliser for farmers; and to date eighty thousand and thirty seven (80,037) tonnes of fertiliser have been distributed to farmers enrolled on the programme. Thirty five thousand seven hundred and forty seven (35,747) metric tonnes of seedlings have also been supplied to farmers. It is noteworthy that many of the suggestions for the 1-district-1-factory initiative are agriculture based, and that tells me that my many sermons on agriculture and food processing as the basis for our industrial take-off are finding many converts.

Over the years, several diseases such as the swollen shoot, black pod and mealy bugs have attacked our agriculture. The latest in the series is the fall army worm invasion, which is ravaging farmlands across Africa. Government is fully aware of the infestation. Our statistics indicate that it has affected one hundred and twelve thousand eight hundred and twelve (112,812) hectares of land. So far, fourteen thousand four hundred and twenty (14,420) hectares of land have been destroyed. In dealing with this menace, Government has mobilised support for farmers by supplying them with seventy two thousand seven hundred and seventy four (72,774) litres of insecticide. More are in the pipeline to confront effectively this scourge. 

In the six months of our being in office, easily the headline subject has been the fight against galamsey. I am glad that the majority of our compatriots have recognised the danger posed to the existence of our nation by the practice of galamsey.

As I have said before, since the Almighty has blessed our land with mineral resources, we cannot do without mining, and we have the right to exploit the minerals in our land. But we cannot and should not destroy our lands and water bodies and our environment in the search for gold and other minerals.

I am grateful that the majority of people and you, the media, have lent their support to the campaign against galamsey. I am hoping that the programme to restore the degraded lands will attract the same enthusiasm. For my part, I will not relent in this struggle, nor will the Cabinet Committee, headed by that eminent Ghanaian, the Minister for Environment, Prof. Kwabena Frimpong Boateng, which is spearheading government’s efforts in this fight.

Government’s plan to find funds to deal with the dramatic deficit in our infrastructure needs, has at its heart, the exploitation of our mineral wealth. The Vice President went to China, with a plan to leverage some of our bauxite deposits to raise money to tackle the programme for industrialisation and the building of roads and other infrastructure.

If proof were needed, this must surely be it, that this government is neither against mining nor against Chinese. But we certainly are against the degradation of our lands and water bodies by whoever.

I suspect it is not a surprise to anyone that we have spent a lot of time these past six months on the vexed subject of the ease of doing business in our country. By the end of the year, we intend to have our ports functioning properly and those who require the services of the ports should not feel oppressed by unnecessary and repetitive paperwork and corrupt practices. I expect to hear an announcement shortly from the Attorney General about the prosecution of the customs officials and clearing agents who have been allegedly responsible for the unlawful loss of GH¢1.2 billion to the central treasury. 

As we have already stated, all internal customs barriers will be dismantled by the beginning of October. Moving around the country should be easier not just for business people, but for the ordinary citizen as well.

The National Identification Scheme will be working by the end of the year as promised, and the digital address system will be functioning.

If I had been having this function back in January, I suspect I would have had to start with DUMSOR. Today, things have improved quite a bit. We are not yet where we should be, particularly with regard to the cost of energy. This is a great threat to the operations of business and the cost of living in the country. The Minister for Finance, in collaboration with the Minister for Energy, is at an advanced stage of floating the $2.5 billion energy bond to retire the $2.4 billion debt overhang on the energy sector. This development will attract more investment into the sector, and reduce the cost of energy.  

I am much relieved, however, that the supply and distribution have improved and we are working to bring costs down and make energy supply generally more reliable.

One of the tenets of my government is the commitment to inclusive and accountable governance. Inclusivity requires wider participation of the mass of our citizens by broadening our democratic base. This explains our desire to reorganise our system of regional governance.

We have signalled our intention to honour the petitions that have been received for the creation of potentially six new regions; two each out of the Northern and Brong Ahafo Regions, and one each out of the Western and Volta Regions. The Ministry of Regional Reorganisation and Development has worked well, under the skillful guidance of the Minister, Hon. Dan Kwaku Botwe, aka, The General, to oversee the demands of all groups and communities that will be affected. I have initiated the formal process for the consideration of these petitions by seeking by letter, dated 26th June, 2017, the advice of the Council of State on them, in accordance with Article 5(2) of the Constitution. If the consultation is positive, the Constitution requires the President to set up a Commission of Inquiry to inquire into the demands and make recommendations on all the factors involved in the creation of these new regions. The President is further required to act in accordance with the recommendations of the Commission, which will involve a Referendum being organised by the Electoral Commission in the affected areas to solicit the views of the affected people.

A fundamental part of our strategy for growth has been to associate Ghana strongly with the process of regional and continental integration. The transformation of our economy, through the measures we have begun to put in place these past six months, should make Ghanaian businesses more competitive in West Africa, Africa and beyond. As the empowered Ghanaian businesses become stronger and more successful, they will need bigger markets. West Africa has a market of 350 million, which will expand to 500 million people in 20 years. Africa’s population will also increase to 2 billion, up from its current 1.2 billion, within the same time frame. This means that establishment of genuine regional and continental markets in West Africa and Africa should be in our economic interest, for these markets will present immense opportunities to bring prosperity to our nation with hard work, creativity and enterprise. The principal reasons for my journeys across West Africa since May, are to renew friendships with our fellow ECOWAS member states, explore areas of co-operation, and reaffirm Ghana’s commitment to the important process of regional and continental integration.

Let me address a few words on the matter of BOST, and the sale of the five million litres of off-spec products. I want to reiterate that, even though investigations have been concluded by the security agencies and the National Petroleum Authority (NPA), a 9 member Committee, under the chairmanship of Dr. Lawrence Darkwah, Head of the Petroleum Engineering Department, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, has been setup by the Minister for Energy. Amongst others, the Committee is tasked with making recommendations to ensure that we put the era of contaminated and off-spec products behind us, by tackling issues such as: the integrity of the pipeline infrastructure; improving pipeline operations and maintenance; continuous training and skills upgrade of pipeline operators; and implementing improved Standard Operating Procedures, including the controlled evacuation and disposal of products under the direct supervision of NPA.

I want to stress the importance I attach to ICT development, because its potential is enormous, both at the macro and micro levels. The sector’s link to GDP is well proven. Key initiatives such as the automation of tax and business registration systems are already beginning to yield dividends. Upcoming digital platforms for procurement, immigration, parliamentary and judicial services will transform the way government conducts its business, including the business of Cabinet. Also, we want every Ghanaian to have access to good and affordable connectivity. Every Ghanaian everywhere must have access to voice and data connectivity. This is the imperative of our times. The energetic and knowledgeable Minister, Hon. Ursula Owusu Ekuful, is another Minister providing strong leadership to her sector.

It would be remiss of me not to say anything about sanitation. In the short-term, it is important to recognize that there are huge debts owed to the service providers which are hampering their ability to deliver the needed services in a timely and regular manner. Government has, however, taken measures to begin to settle these obligations to facilitate the evacuation and disposal of the heaps of refuse in our cities. It is my understanding that meetings have been held between the Ministry, led by an experienced Minister, Hon. Kofi Adda, and the service providers on this matter, and the evacuation of the refuse, which has already started on a modest scale, would be aggressively pursued to rid the cities of filth. Additionally, provision has been made to augment the sanitation infrastructure by constructing waste transfer stations at strategic locations to facilitate rapid waste collection to final disposal sites, beginning in the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area. As you know, I have committed to making Accra the cleanest city in Africa, and the new Metropolitan Chief Executive of Accra, Mohammed Adjei Sowah, is working assiduously to meet this commitment.

When I came to this job, I knew there would be difficulties and I knew there might be some mistakes. For instance, I wish that voluntary groups within my party, the NPP, who had worked so hard with us during the campaign, had not overstepped the mark, and had not got into the news for all the wrong reasons. I refer to some of the Invincible and Delta Forces, who got into trouble and gave the party and the government bad publicity.

My often stated view, which I have communicated clearly to the law enforcement agencies, is that the best way of dealing with such incidents is to let the law take its course without any political interference. The young men have shown remorse and the legal process is working. I hope that we all learn the required lessons from these unfortunate incidents.

Then there was the horrendous murder of Major Mahama. I trust and pray that the trauma suffered by the whole nation as a result of the incident will cure us of the barbaric practice of mob justice. It is absolutely essential that we leave the prosecution and punishment of suspected criminals to the Police and the Judiciary.

And when it comes to wrongdoers of the kind that, indeed, cause our nation the greatest harm, corrupt public officials, I am glad to say that the Office of Special Prosecutor will be with us shortly. The bill has currently been gazetted and will be in Parliament during this meeting. We all, in and out of Parliament, should take an interest and help with the rapid passage of a law that will serve us well.

In responding to the concerns not just of Ghanaians at home, but of overseas Ghanaians as well, Government facilitated this year’s Ghana Diaspora Homecoming Summit. It afforded Government the opportunity to listen, at first-hand, to the concerns, suggestions and opinions of overseas Ghanaians on the development of our country. We know from the examples of several countries what fruitful collaboration between their overseas nationals and their governments has brought to their national development and prosperity, and my government intends to emulate them. And to our overseas Ghanaians, let me again apologise for the whining.

I declared my assets within two weeks of my inauguration, and so has the Vice President. The Ministers have declared their assets, and I am insisting that all those required to do so, under the law, should comply. I suspect this has not happened before, and I intend to make sure we keep to the intentions behind this requirement of the law. In other words, I am sticking to my word that those who would serve in my government must protect, and not abuse the public purse, and must at all times recognise that they are in public service, not for private gain.

Thank you very much for your attention, and may God bless us all and our homeland Ghana, and make her great and strong.  

Posted On Friday, 21 July 2017 12:16 Written by
  • On April 6th 2017, the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu announced the reconstitution of 23 Governing Boards of Nigerian Universities. A public statement issued by the minister proclaimed that the exercise was carried out on the authority of President Muhammadu Buhari. Similarly, the government in the same announcement also named the Chairmen and Board members for Boards of Education Parastatals and Agencies of the Federal Government.
  • On May 9th, the Minister inaugurated the boards of 23 universities whose reconstitution he previously announced. At the ceremony, he said the reconstitution was necessitated by the fact that the four year tenure of the previous boards had expired since April 6th. The new council members are also limited to a four year term after which their appointments will be reviewed.
  • The Minister said the mandate of the new councils extended to approving financial guidelines for the universities, determining the terms of appointment of Vice Chancellors and other principal officers of the universities as well as annually reviewing the budget of the universities to monitor their performance and access the overall impact of the implementation among others. Since then the new appointees have swung into action. We commend the zeal and speed with which the new governing council members have applied to their jobs.
  • Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the other Boards under the same ministry whose appointments were made known by the same Minister and at the same time. We are informed that even though the boards are also charged with statutory responsibilities similar to the ones of the university governing councils, they are yet to be inaugurated. Needless to say, this inexplicable lacuna has had its negative effects on the functions of the boards and the institutions whose operations they are by the nature of their appointments mandated to supervise.
  • The Board Chairmen who are yet to be inaugurated almost four months after their appointments were made public by the Minister include Ayo Banjo – National Universities Commission (NUC), Mr. Emeka Nwajiuba – Tertiary Education Trust Fund (Tetfund),
    Dr. Ekaette Obon Oko – National Institute For Educational Planning And Administration (NIEPA), Dr. Mahmoud Mohammed -Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), Prof. Zainab Alkali -National Library of Nigeria (NLN), Dr. Abubakar Saddiq -National Examinations Council (NECO) and, Dr. Gidado Bello Akko – Mass Literacy.  Others are Prof. Gidado Tahir -Nomadic Education, Prof. Leonard Shilgba -National Business & Technical Examination Board (NABTEB), Prof. Adamu Baikie -Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN), Alhaji Maigari Dingyadi – National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE), Senator Mallam Kaka Yale -National Teachers Institute (NTI) and, Prof. Buba Bajoga -National Mathematical Centre (NMC).  The rest are Dr. Emmanuel Ndukwe -Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Chief N. N. Nnabuchi – National Institute For Nigerian Languages (NINLAN),Chief Paul Unongo -Nigerian Educational Research & Development Council (NERDC), Prof. Saliba Mukoro – Nigerian French Language Village (NFLV), Prof. Modupe Adelabu -National Board for Technical Education (NBTE)and,  Prof. O. Oladusi – Nigerian Arabic Language Village (NALV). 

The Managements of these institutions are unwittingly handicapped in their operations because they are by law restrained from carrying out certain activities. Such activities as heavy expenditures and some categories of appointments have to be approved by their boards. Sadly, without their inauguration, the boards cannot just jump into action. With a government that came to office with the banner of change and transparency, it is little wonder that the managements of these agencies have been reduced to lame ducks.

Sadly also, this tardiness in appointing people into offices is almost becoming a trademark of this government. It is on record that it took President Buhari months after his inauguration in 2015 to appoint members of his kitchen cabinet – his personal staff that did not require confirmation by the Senate. The appointment of his Ministers which required Senate confirmation took a prolonged time to come. For a man who made three unsuccessful attempts to win the presidency, this was a rather poor start. It gave the public impression that he was not ready for the job he so desperately fought for.

Even as we discuss the non-inauguration of already appointed board members in the ministry of Education, there are many boards in the federal government whose constitution have not been announced. For a government that is battling the ravages of recession, we find the failure of government to take action on such elementary issues inexcusable.

We therefore call for an immediate inauguration of the appointed boards under the Ministry of Education and the constitution of boards whose membership is still vacant.


Posted On Friday, 21 July 2017 11:51 Written by
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