Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes unveiled on Wednesday the measures in Phase-3 deconfinement starting June 8.
The hotel and catering sector — cafes, bars and restaurants in particular — will reopen, provided that rigorous protocol is followed, Wilmes stressed.
The protocol includes a 1.5-meter safety distance between tables and a maximum of 10 people per table. Each customer must sit and be served at his table, and waiters must wear masks.
From June 15, Belgium will reopen its borders to and from the United Kingdom, European Union (EU) member countries and four other countries of the Schengen zone (Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein).
In terms of social contacts, the four-person upper limit has been raised to 10. “You will be able to have contacts with 10 people a week in addition to your family,” Wilmes said.
All activities in the cultural sector will also resume from June 8 — without an audience. Performances with an audience will resume from July 1, with respect for social distance and a maximum of 200 people, Wilmes said.
Worship and sports activities will also be able to resume from June 8.
“Today, we can say that the situation is much better than we thought. However, the virus has not yet gone away. The risks are there, let’s remain vigilant,” concluded the prime minister, calling for everyone’s responsibility.
Belgium has recorded 17 new deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 9,522 since the beginning of the epidemic, according to figures published by the public health institute Sciensano.
In the same 24 hours, 70 new cases of COVID-19 have been reported, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 58,685.
Edo poll voter turnout decline worrisome in spite of credible conduct — CDD
Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), a pro democracy civil society organisation, has said that in spite of the general peaceful and credible conduct of the Edo election, it was worried over the decline in voters turnout for the election.
The group in its final observation report signed by CDD Director, Ms Idayat Hassan, and Head, Election Analysis Centre (EAC), Prof. Adele Jinadu, said that the credible conduct of the election was a refreshing development.
“The decline in voter turnout is pointed out as a trend, which would not augur well for the robust participation of the electorate, including marginalised groups.
“Backing this assertions with figures, CDD noted that in 2003, voter turnout stood at 78 per cent of 1,432,891 registered voters; In 2020 however, only 25.2 per cent of voters turned out to cast their ballot out of a registered number of 2,210,534.
“ CDD figures similarly showed a consistent decline in voter turnout from 78 per cent in 2003 to 40.5per cent in 2012, and further down to 32.3 per cent in 2016.
“CDD, therefore, expressed worries that the further decline in voter turnout in 2020, which came down to a low of 25.2 per cent could be read as a steady loss of faith in the electoral process, as well the entire democratic system of governance.”
Hassan said that CDD rated the conduct and outcome of the Sept. 19, 2020 governorship election in Edo as relatively credible, in spite of the challenges and infractions, which dogged the process.
She said that CDD deployed 250 stationary and roving observers to keep a close eye on key processes in the election and handed down its verdict in a final observation briefing.
She said that the Centre noted that the election was relatively peaceful when compared to other polls recently conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), in spite of high vote buying .
“The peaceful conduct points the way away from the “degeneration” that has historically been the country’s sad experience with electoral outcomes, and towards outcomes that significantly reflect the mandate of the electorate.
“In this respect, the election potentially augurs well for the future of democracy and development in the country.
“This is particularly in view of the determination shown by the electorate to protect their mandate and ensure that it counted in the critical penultimate months to the election day. ‘’
Head, Election Analysis Centre (EAC), Prof. Adele Jinadu noted that the credible outcome of the election was due to the activities of various strategic stakeholders, particularly INEC and the peace-keeping efforts, the Oba of Benin and the Abdulsalam Abubakar-led National Peace Committee.
Jinadu said CDD, however, warned that there remained certain anomalies in the process, which if left unaddressed could turn the current euphoria into a mirage that would precipitate a reversal to the status quo ante.
He listed some of the issues as the controversial modality used for selecting the governorship candidates and the abuse of the power of incumbency for partisan party political advantage.
He added the general poverty in the state and the high unemployment rate that resulted in vote selling among others.
He said that although the group pointed out some malfunctioning of smart card readers, however, it acknowledged that the overall performance of INEC was smooth across the state.
He said that the group commend INEC for the introduction of the result viewing portal in improving transparency and accountability of the collation and declaration of results.
This, he said, enhanced citizens’ trust in the electoral process.
Jinadu said that CDD urged INEC to concentrate on the dual purpose of implementing its protocol on conducting elections during COVID 19 and improved voter education programme especially for other elections.
He said that there was need to reform the country’s party system to strengthen internal party democracy.
“This measure will ensure that political parties pay more attention to the nomination of women and the youth as candidates and have equal access to leadership opportunities within party organisations.
CDD further called on government and citizens to push to encourage compliance with Chapter II of the Nigerian Constitution and achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in order to curb poverty in the country.
Edited By: Donald Ugwu
Bayelsa begins 2021budget process, pledges citizens’ participation
The Bayelsa government on Monday said the 2021 budget would be driven by the citizens’ input and participation toward the utilisation of public funds based on the needs of the people.
Gov. Douye Diri of Bayelsa said that the government was poised to adopting best practices in budget process by engaging all stakeholders, which include the executive, legislature, civil society, labour, youths, women and community leaders, physically challenged amongst others.
Diri, who was represented by his Deputy, Mr Lawrence Ewrhudjakpo said that the state was adopting the citizen based approach in budgetary process for the second time.
“The Citizen’s Participation Budget Conference has been called in compliance with section 22(2) of the Fiscal Responsibility Law of 2009 (as amended) which states:
“The government shall direct citizen’s participation conference to be convened and cause the outcomes of the said conference, together with the view expressed to be published on the state website.
”Itis designed to ensure accountability and strong collaboration by all stakeholders in stewarding our communal resources.
“Indeed, in reviewing and approving the annual state budget, you play the vital role of guaranteeing that we apportion our resources sensibly and in accordance with our shared vision and values, with a view toward helping all our citizens thrive and prosper in a sustainable manner.
“Budget policy is therefore, mostly about planning. As Benjamin Franklin stated, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”
“The impact of COVID 19 pandemic and the heavy toll it has taken on our inflows from federal allocations, means that the need to plan to diversify our economy has become more urgent,” Diri said.
He said that the government would focus on security, health, education and agriculture in the 2012 fiscal year for allocating resources among competing needs and plan for delivering on its promises and obligation to the citizens of Bayelsa.
Speaking earlier, Mr Akpoebidei Alamieyeseigha, the Commissioner for Budget and Economic Planning noted that the participation of citizens would eliminate the issue of duplicating projects and ensure value for money.
He said that the input of the people at the foundational non-technical stage was critical to the success of the next statues and urged the stakeholders to participate meaningfully in the process.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that representatives of several groups took turns to make contributions and the NEEDS Assessment during the interactive session segment.
Chief Joshua Igbugburu, the Monarch of Bomo clan in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa urged the state government to fund the Yenagoa-Poroma road project to connect the coastal communities.
Also Mrs Dise Ogbise, the Executive Director, DO Foundation, who spoke on behalf of the Civil Society commended the government for adopting a transparent approach by involving members of the public.
She pledged the support of civil society organisations in the state to the process.
Edited By: Grace Yussuf
Northern Ireland groups warn Brexit bill could harm peace process
Civil society groups in Northern Ireland on Monday urged the British government to drop a plan to override part of its EU withdrawal agreement, warning that the move could jeopardise the territory’s fragile peace process.
British lawmakers are expected to approve Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s controversial UK Internal Markets Bill on Tuesday in spite of critics warning that superseding the Brexit agreement could break international law and erode trust with Brussels.
Johnson wants to create a legal “safety net” giving him the power to override a provision in the withdrawal agreement that would impose different post-Brexit customs rules on Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom.
The provision seeks to prevent the creation of border checks between Northern Ireland, which is leaving the EU as part of the United Kingdom, and EU-member Ireland.
Seven civil society groups said Johnson’s bill, if passed, would “jeopardise the Good Friday Agreement and the functioning of devolved government” in Northern Ireland.
It would “contravene international law and undermine … rights and equality protections,” they said in a joint statement.
The 1998 Good Friday Agreement underpins Northern Ireland’s peace process, which ended decades of sectarian violence.
The Northern Ireland Protocol in the withdrawal agreement “does not just deal with tariffs and trade, though avoidance of a hard land border is vital,” the groups said.
“Its full implementation is also fundamental to the protection of equality and human rights, which form the bedrock of the Good Friday Agreement.”
Edited By: Fatima Sule/Felix Ajide
CODE canvasses support for Okonjo-Iweala over nomination as WTO’s D-G
Mr Hamzat Lawal, Chief Executive of CODE and Founder of Follow The Money, disclosed this in a statement issued to newsmen in Abuja.
Lawal said that its support for Okonjo-Iweala’s nomination by respective governments for position of WTO Director-General among seven other candidates was based on her capability to creatively steer the affairs of the organisation.
According to him, the support is based on understanding of Okonjo-Iweala’s sound judgment, remarkable skills in navigating difficult institutions in national affairs, motherly and cerebral style of problem-solving.
Lawal said, “Okonjo-Iweala represents what WTO needs at this moment; the international body is actually staging a contest to replace outgoing Director-General Roberto Azevedo, who is stepping down a year early.
“The new WTO leader will be taking on an institution beset with huge challenges even before the pandemic-driven global economic crisis struck.
“As the global community now struggles to recover from COVID-19, the role of free and fair trade will be very crucial to the world’s recovery.
“The two-time Nigerian Minister of Finance has bagged the experience of pushing a troubled developing country from the doldrums of economic mismanagement to the high pedestal of continental superstardom.
“It was under Dr Okonjo-Iweala’s leadership that Nigeria became the biggest economy in Africa.”
Lawal noted that, moreso, Okonjo-Iweala’s emergence as Director-General would be exemplary for women to duly occupy positions of leadership, in line with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on gender equality before 2030.
He explained that his first encounter with Okonjo-Iweala was in 2019, at the invitation of to meet the American entrepreneur, Jack Dorsey, the co-founder and CEO of Twitter, during his visit to Nigeria.
Furthermore, he said that her educational background, work experience and track record of accomplishment were testimonials of her suitability for the job.
Other candidates contesting with Okonjo-Iweala are Dr Jesus Seade Kuri (Mexico), Me Abdel-Hamid Mamduoh (Egypt), Mr Tudor Ulianovschi (Moldova) and Ms Yoo Myung-hee (Republic of Korea).
Also in the race are Ms Amina Mohamed (Kenya), Mr Mohammad Maziad Al-Tuwaijri (Kingdom of South Arabia) and Dr Liam Fox (United Kingdom).
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that WTO deals with the global rules of trade between nations and to ensure that trade flows smoothly, predictably and as freely as possible.
NAN also reports Lawal was recently appointed into the prestigious Malala Fund Global Education Champion, working to accelerate progress to get girls’ back to school in Northern Nigeria.
Edited By: Oluyinka Fadare/Ifeyinwa Omowole