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EU plans €300bn in development aid to rival China

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The European Commission announced Wednesday a plan to mobilise €300 billion ($340 billion) in public and private infrastructure investment around the world, a move seen as a response to China’s ‘Belt and Road’ strategy.

“Global Gateway will aim at mobilising investments of up to 300 billion euros between 2021 and 2027… bringing together resources of the EU, member states, European financial institutions and national development finance institutions,” a commission document said.

The Global Gateway plan does not mention China’s rival and longer-standing international infrastructure strategy by name — but EU chief Ursula von der Leyen called it a “roadmap for major investment in infrastructure development around the world.”

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The money to be made available will not come from EU and member state coffers, and the plan will need funding from international institutions and from the private sector if it is to get anywhere near its target.

China launched its global investment strategy known as ‘Belt and Road’, a flagship project of President Xi Jinping, in 2013. Beijing has said it had invested $139.8 billion by 2020, including $22.5 billion last year alone.

Officially, it aims to develop land and sea infrastructure to better connect China to Asia, Europe and Africa for trade and development, and it has found many partners around the world.

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The West, however, sees it as a tool for China to influence poorer countries. They criticise Beijing for inciting emerging economies to take on too much debt and allege the secretive tender process is prone to corruption.

China argues that it respects its partners’ sovereignty while providing loans that benefit joint projects, while critics say Beijing’s contractual terms ignore abuses of human, labour and environmental rights.

The EU strategy is an offshoot of a plan by G7 countries to offer developing countries an alternative to Belt and Road presented in June at the industrial powers’ summit in Cornwall.

Jutta Urpilainen, the EU commissioner for international partnerships, defended the bloc’s performance, telling reporters that European development aid between 2013 and 2018 was “very close” to the level of ‘Belt and Road’ funding.

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In addition to mobilising funds, the EU plan aims to share European technology and expertise with developing economies.

“We want to make Global Gateway a trusted brand that stands out because of high quality, reliable standards and high level of transparency and good governance,” said Von der Leyen.

“We are deeply convinced that this will ensure that investment makes a real difference on the ground. And this that this is done in a sustainable way.”

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Kidnapped Plateau monarch freed, troops arrest two suspects

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A traditional ruler in Plateau State, Da Gyang Balak, who was kidnapped by gunmen, has been rescued by troops of .

had reported that Balak, who is the paramount ruler of Vwang District in the Jos South Local Government Area of the state, was abducted on Sunday while driving home close to the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru.

It was learnt that the kidnapped monarch was freed on Monday night.

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The Military Information Officer of Major Ishaku Takwa, confirmed the release of the traditional ruler in a statement on Tuesday.

Takwa said, “Immediately the incident was reported, the Commander, Operation Safe Haven, Major General Ibrahim Ali, placed the troops of Sector 6 deployed in Riyom on red alert to go on hot trail of the perpetrators.

“Consequently, the troops, in conjunction with other security agencies, vigilance groups and hunters, conducted clearance operation in the mountainous region of Sabon Gida Kanal, Gero and Dahol general areas. Two suspects were arrested at an abandoned building during the operation.

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“This development led to the release of the paramount ruler by his abductors. He has been reunited with his family.”

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We’ll forward amended Electoral Act bill to Buhari this week – Lawan

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Eniola Akinkuotu, Friday Olokor and Leke Baiyewu

The President of the Senate, Dr Ahmad Lawan, has expressed hope that the National Assembly will pass the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill on Wednesday (today) and present it to the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), for assent this week.

Lawan disclosed this in an interview with  State House correspondents on Monday after a meeting with the President at the Aso Rock Villa, Abuja.

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He, however, said that if the “cleaning process” took more than a day to complete, then it would be represented to Buhari early next week.

He said, “By the grace of God, tomorrow both chambers, the Senate and the House of Representatives, will pass the bill. And I hope that by the end of the week, the bill could be brought back to Mr President for his assent.

“I hope that but one thing I’m sure by the grace of God is we are passing the bill, the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2010, tomorrow, Wednesday in both chambers, and we are happy that at the end of the day, we have been able to narrow down our differences and arrive at the very patriotic resolution that our country must have a new electoral law that will guide the 2023 general elections in the country, and Nigeria would have everything to benefit from this law.

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“And for us in the 9th Assembly, the Electoral Act Amendment Bill is one of the primary legislative agenda that we wanted to deal with in the 9th National Assembly, and to the glory of God Almighty Allah by tomorrow (Wednesday), we will be able to pass that bill for Mr President to consent to it.

“I hope that the cleaning process will not take more than a day. But if it does, then it has to be early next week. But I’m very optimistic that there is not much to clean up because normally, when we pass a bill like this, it goes to the legislative drafting unit of the National Assembly.”

Earlier, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, specifically said on Tuesday that the electoral bill, from which the President withdrew assent, would be reworked and passed on Wednesday, and subsequently resent to the President.

“I remain convinced that the proposal for direct primary elections is valuable for building accountability in our political system.  But we must not allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good.

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“Therefore, the House will reintroduce the amendment this tomorrow (Wednesday).  And we will work quickly to address the mitigating concerns, pass the bill and send it back to His Excellency President Muhammadu Buhari for assent,” Gbajabiamila said.

Buhari had vetoed the electoral bill over the restriction of political parties to direct primary, insisting on the direct, indirect and consensus options.

Both the Senate and the House of Representatives had suspended action on the bill till resumption on Tuesday, after the Christmas and New Year break.

Gbajabiamila, in his opening address, restated the benefits of restricting political parties to direct primary while criticising the parties for lacking comprehensive membership registers.

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According to him, a strict direct primary option would have forced the parties to have a documented register.

He partly said, “Unfortunately, that bill did not receive presidential assent, and it is unlikely that it will in its current form.  Now, we have to choose between sticking to our guns regarding the provision to mandate direct primary elections for political parties or reworking that provision to save the rest of the bill.

“Now let it be clear to all that our only objective in introducing that provision was to strengthen the foundations of our democracy so that it works for all of our nation’s people.  The process by which political parties nominate candidates for election is essential, perhaps even just as important as the general election itself.

“A primary nomination process that deprives the majority of party members of the opportunity to choose who represents them in the general elections is susceptible to bad outcomes and ought to be fixed.”

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The Speaker noted the argument by some Nigerians that political parties do not have proper registers of their members, which was a reason to reject the direct primary option.

“Nonetheless, it is disappointing that the failure of political parties to adequately document their membership is being used to not give the Nigerian people the power to fully participate in our nation’s politics,” said Gbajabiamila.

Gbajabiamila also decried the errors said to have been discovered in the bill, noting that the version transmitted to the President was different that the one being scrutinised by the public.

The Speaker said he had, however, set up a technical committee to review the legislation which is expected to report back by Thursday.

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Gbajabiamila subsequently called for an executive (closed-door) session which lasted about 20 minutes.

The Senate, however, held its executive session before plenary.

Emerging from the session, Lawan said, “The Senate postponed discussions on the consideration and response of Mr President on the Electoral Act 2010 (Amendment) Bill to enable us to consult with our counterparts in the House of Representatives and consult our constituents.”

Electoral Amendment bill:

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In a related development, INEC has said the passage of the contentious Electoral Act Amendment Bill will determine its preparation for the 2023 polls.

Yakubu bared his mind in Abuja during the first quarterly meeting of INEC with political parties in 2022.

According to him, the commission is looking forward to the speedy passage of the bill.

He said that the commission would release the timetable for 2023 elections immediately the President signs the bill.

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“On the Electoral Amendment Bill currently before the National Assembly, the commission is encouraged by the Senate President’s assurance to give priority attention to the bill when the National Assembly reconvenes from its recess today, and the commitment by the President to assent to the Bill as soon as the issue of mode of primaries by political parties is resolved.

“We look forward to a speedy passage of the bill, which is crucial to our preparations for future elections. As soon as it is signed into law, the commission will quickly release the timetable and schedule of activities for the 2023 general elections based on the new law”, Yakubu said.

The INEC chairman said 2022 would be a very busy year for the commission and the political parties, with the 2023 general election just 396 days away, adding that all the critical preparations must be concluded this year.

On the Continuous Voter Registration, Yakubu said that as at Monday January 17 a total of 8,260,076 eligible Nigerians commenced the online pre-registration, completed the registration physically or applied for transfer to new voting locations, replacement of their Permanent Voters’ Cards or updated their voter information records as required by law.

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