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Despite Omicron scare, Ramaphosa’s state visit successful – Buhari

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From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja

President Muhammadu Buhari Wednesday in Abuja described the State Visit of President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa as successful despite the scare generated by the new Omicron COVID-19 variant.

Omicron has been classed as a “variant of concern”. Early evidence suggests it has a higher re-infection risk.

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The heavily mutated variant was detected in South Africa earlier this month and then reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) last Wednesday.

At a joint press conference with the visiting South African President, the Nigerian leader said new Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) between Nigeria and South Africa in diverse areas were signed while existing ones were reviewed for the progress and prosperity of citizens of both countries.

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“We have now come to the end of a very successful State Visit and the 10th Session of the Nigeria-South Africa Bi-National Commission.

“Despite the scare generated by the new COVID-19 variant, we have been able to hold successful meetings, while observing strict COVID-19 protocols, through fraternal cooperation and understanding.

“I sincerely wish to thank my brother and colleague, President Cyril Ramaphosa for honouring my invitation. I equally wish to thank members of the South African delegation and the experts that worked tirelessly during the Senior Officials Meeting.

“Today has witnessed the signing of new Memoranda of Understanding between Nigeria and South Africa in diverse areas including Youth Development, Women and Child Empowerment and Political Consultations; critical areas that will lead to increased people to people contact.

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“Also, existing MOUs signed during previous Bi-National Commission meetings were also reviewed. These include MOUs on Military Cooperation, Power, Cooperation in the field of Geology, Mining, and Mineral Processing, Oil and Gas and several others.

“Today, we also jointly launched the Nigeria-South Africa Youth Dialogue, another veritable tool for interaction among our youth with the aim of creating shared values and aspirations. Many of our youth, from Nigeria and South Africa, joined us virtually during the launch,” he said.

President Buhari, who described the Youth Dialogue as another veritable tool for interaction among our youth with the aim of creating shared values and aspirations, thanked his South African counterpart for initiating the dialogue, noting that continuous interaction between the youth of the two countries will further break down barriers and suspicion among our people.

He added that the inauguration of the Joint Ministerial Advisory Council on Industry, Trade and Investment, would enable the private sectors of the two largest economies in Africa to further promote economic cooperation and development.

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“We appreciate that we need to do much more to achieve further integration of our two economies and take full advantage of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).

President Ramaphosa thanked the leaders of Nigeria, Cote D’Ivoire, Ghana and Senegal for expressing their dissatisfaction with the travel ban imposed on South Africa and sister neighbouring countries in the aftermath of the discovery of the Omicron COVID-19 variant by South African scientists.

He described as ‘harsh and unfair’ travel bans enacted against his country and its neighbours over the new coronavirus variant Omicron.

President Ramaphosa, at the end of his state visit to Nigeria, further commended African countries who are standing united against what he called the imposition of arbitrary and discriminatory restrictions that are not only unscientific but will be counterproductive in the long run.

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‘I think it is important that I emphasize this in the light of the discovery by South African scientists of the Omicron variant of the Coronavirus and subsequent imposition of extremely harsh and unfair travel restrictions on flights from and to South Africa as well as on a number of other African countries,’ Ramaphosa said

‘President Buhari, the solidarity expressed by yourself and the Government of Nigeria sends the strongest message. It says that as African countries we are standing united against the imposition of arbitrary and discriminatory restrictions that are not only unscientific but counterproductive in the long run. Indeed, the leaders of Cote d’Ivoire where we are travelling to later today, as well as the leaders of Ghana and Senegal, have also expressed their dissatisfaction with the travel ban against South Africa and our sister countries in southern Africa.

‘This is a global pandemic. And overcoming it requires that we collaborate and work together as a collective. The resulting damage to this travel ban to the economies of the countries affected will be considerable and long-lasting. So I want to use this opportunity to once again call on the countries who have imposed this ban to reverse their decisions, whether they are in the northern, more developed economies or in other parts of our continent and elsewhere.’

Of the many areas of cooperation explored during this Bi-national Commission was Nigeria and South Africa working to build resilience in our respective health systems and around our shared health priorities. A draft memorandum of understanding in this regard is being processed. As African countries, we affirmed that health care cooperation is a critical area of focus in the current climate, as well as in furtherance of the AU’s agenda 2063. Members of the media from Nigeria and South Africa, I want to thank you for being here because you play an invaluable role in communicating work that is being done in our respective countries, and in faithfully imparting the message that we are committed to doing, particularly in strengthening the ties between our two countries. We’ve just concluded a successful 10th session of Nigeria’s South Africa bi-national commission, President Buhari and I witnessed the signing of a number of agreements and memoranda of understanding to advance trade and investment, development, economic upliftment, as well as youth empowerment amongst others. These new agreements between our two countries broaden the scope of our cooperation on issues of common interest and mutual benefit. And we will continue to work together to ensure their implementation. At present, our countries have signed approximately 32 agreements. And today we have added other agreements. They are an MOU in the field of youth development and agreement on audiovisual cooperation, and a programme of cooperation on arts and culture. The youth development agreement will be key to improving People to People relations, and to capacitating the young people of our two countries in acceding to higher levels of development, as well as progress.

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Speaking also on the MOUs signed, Ramaphosa said: “South Africa, Nigeria both have rich cultural, vibrant arts and flourishing sports sectors all of which will be greatly enriched through greater collaboration through the program of cooperation between the two countries. “The agreement on audiovisual cooperation will be a boost to the film production industries in our respective countries. And we, as South Africa stands to benefit greatly from cooperation with the world-famous Nollywood, which has really emerged very strongly here in Nigeria.

‘I also am pleased that additional MOUs on political consultation and on an early warning mechanism will be signed as soon as possible as soon as all the legal processes have been concluded. During this binational commission, we also launched two groundbreaking initiatives.

‘The first is a joint Ministerial Advisory Council on trade, investment and industry. This council will promote economic relations between our two countries, two countries that are the very large economies on our continent, Nigeria being the largest economy, and they will also serve as a platform through which obstacles to doing business can be overcome.

‘The trade and finance and industry working group of the binational commission has recommended that we look into the constraints that affect businesses, or business people in both our countries. It is furthermore a means for our ministers to interact and share ideas about new opportunities in trade and investment between our two countries.

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‘We want to improve the balance of trade between our two countries. And we’re extremely encouraged by the interest expressed by a number of Nigerian businesses in accessing the South African market. We are particularly encouraged by the interest from Nigerian banks, and it has been recommended, they work with the South African regulatory authorities to facilitate their access into the financial sector in South Africa.

‘The second initiative that we have launched is the inauguration of the South Africa, Nigeria youth dialogue. The purpose of this dialogue is to build the capacity of both South African and Nigerian young people across a range of sectors from peacebuilding to conflict resolution from intercultural learning to civic education, from human rights education, and democracy to promoting tolerance and diversity.

‘We will be working towards regularizing this dialogue such that it becomes an integral part of the binational commission between our two countries in future engagements as South Africa, we will be looking at how we can establish a youth exchange Leadership Development Program rallying around the legacy of President Nelson Mandela, who was as we all know a champion of youth development, it will include important components such as civic education, value system inculcation, social cohesion and promoting a culture of service. More details of this will be provided in due course,’ the South African president stated.

Related: Omicron travel bans ‘harsh and unfair’, says Ramaphosa

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Nigeria Newspapers

Google appeals $2.8bn shopping fine at EU court

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Google on Thursday appealed an EU court decision to uphold the bloc’s 2.4-billion-euro ($2.8-billion) fine for abusing its search engine dominance.

The tech giant said it would go to the European Court of Justice, the EU’s highest court, after the General Court confirmed in November a decision by the European Commission in 2017.

At the time, the fine was the European Union’s biggest ever. But it was later exceeded by a 4.3-billion-euro fine against Google over its Android smartphone operating system.

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“After careful consideration, we have decided to appeal the General Court’s decision because we feel there are areas that require legal clarification from the European Court of Justice,” a short statement by the company said.

The case centres on Google’s shopping service and is one of three against the search engine giant currently moving through the EU’s drawn-out appeals system.

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The new appeal could take up to two years to reach an outcome, stretching the case out to well more than a decade after the commission launched its investigation in 2010.

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The court confirmation on Google Shopping was a win for the EU’s anti-trust supremo Margrethe Vestager, who burst onto the scene in Brussels by scrapping her predecessor’s more conciliatory approach to the US internet giant.

Vestager had lost in the same court in a different major case, against Apple and Ireland, in which her teams had ordered the iPhone maker to repay 13 billion euros plus interest to the Irish taxpayer. The EU has appealed that ruling.

The fine for Google came after seven years of investigation launched by complaints from other price-comparison services that saw traffic plummet against Google Shopping.

AFP

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Nigeria Newspapers

NSCDC busts recharge card specialist fraudsters in Osun

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By Olajide Idowu

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Two suspects, Adeyemo Mufutau, 26, and Oladiji Hezekiah, 27, have been arrested in Osogbo, Osun State for engaging in use of recharge cards to dupe people while pretending to be herbalists.

The suspects were arrested by operatives of Osun Command of Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC).

While parading the suspect, Osun NSCDC Commandant, Mr Emmanuel Ocheja, explained how the herbalists initiated their fraudulent activities by calling members of the public on their phones, and pretending as old men/herbalists to defraud them.

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“They will send fake recharge cards to people, and then call the receiver that the person should help return the cards, and afterwards introduce one ‘baba’ ( an old man)/ or a herbalist as the person intending to send the recharge cards to his son.

“They will say the ‘baba’ wants to specially thank anybody who sends the recharge cards back to them.

“During the process, the suspects would introduce themselves as old men/herbalists who wanted to reciprocate the kind gesture of those that had sent back the recharge cards to them.

”The suspects would say they wanted to help solve the problems of their unsuspecting members of the public ,” he said.

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The commandant added that the suspects had confessed to the crime and would be charged to court.

Similarly, Ocheja said that two other suspects were arrested on Monday at a mining site within Ita Obi Community of Ilesa, for mining illegally while three others were also arrested on Wednesdsy for dealing illegally in petroleum products.

He said one Zainab Afeez was also arrested for allegedly assaulting and pouring hot water on her 11-year old biological daughter, while one Abdulrahman Ibrahim was arrested in connection with a stolen Toyota Camry, 1999 model, in Osogbo but recovered in Kano.

Ocheja said that all the suspects would be charged to court after the completion of investigations into their matters. (NAN) (www.nannews.ng)

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