European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic is set to hold crisis talks in London on Thursday affter Britain announced a plan to override part of its EU withdrawal agreement.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson remained defiant on Wednesday in spite strong criticism of the plan by EU leaders, British opposition lawmakers and two former prime ministers from his conservative party.
Johnson wants to override a provision in the agreement that would impose different post-Brexit customs rules on Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom.
That provision was designed to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland – which is leaving the EU as part of the United Kingdom – and the Republic of Ireland, an EU member state.
Sefcovic is scheduled to meet Michael Gove, Johnson’s cabinet chief and senior Brexit minister.
“The EU seeks clarifications from the UK on the full and timely implementation of the withdrawal agreement,” European Commission spokesman Eric Manner tweeted on Sefcovic’s visit.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday said she was “very concerned” that Britain’s potential breach of the withdrawal agreement would “undermine trust” between the two sides.
Britain formally left the EU in January and entered a transition period until the end of the year, during which it still belongs to the EU single market and customs union.
Talks have continued this week on post-Brexit trade arrangements, but negotiations appear to have reached an impasse.
Edited By: Fatima Sule/Wale Ojetimi
Suarez language exam for Italian citizenship rigged, prosecutors insist
Italian prosecutors said on Tuesday they had evidence that the language exam taken by FC Barcelona’s Uruguay striker Luis Suarez was rigged.
The exam was to enable him obtain Italian citizenship ahead of a possible move to Juventus.
Suarez, whose wife is of Italian descent, passed the exam last Thursday at the University for Foreigners in Perugia.
It cleared the way for a fast-track citizenship approval which would mean Juventus could sign him without exceeding its permitted quota of non-EU players.
But suspicions were quickly raised in the media that he was given preferential treatment.
Perugia chief prosecutor Raffaele Cantone said his investigations showed the questions had been agreed with Suarez ahead of the exam.
He added that it had already been decided what mark to give him, in spite of his scarce knowledge of Italian.
The university denied any wrongdoing, saying in a statement it had acted with “correctness and transparency” and was confident this would emerge at the end of the probe.
Police searched the university on Tuesday looking for further evidence, Cantone said in a statement.
Italian newspaper la Repubblica reported that five university employees had been put under investigation, including the rector.
Suarez himself is not cited among those under investigation.
La Repubblica published alleged conversations tapped by police during their probe, in which a tutor preparing Suarez for the exam told a colleague “he can’t speak a word”.
The tutor had described him as an absolute beginner in Italian.
Suarez obtained the intermediate B1 qualification required for citizenship in just 15 minutes, his examiner said after the test.
The 33-year-old was only required to do the oral part of the exam.
Other citizenship applicants taking the B1 exam on the same day in Rome had to also complete a written paper lasting two-and-a-half hours.
Suarez’s mooted transfer to Juve now looks unlikely, as the Serie A champions have moved to sign striker Alvaro Morata from Atletico Madrid.
The Uruguayan international seems set to take Morata’s place at Atletico Madrid.
Suarez has had a controversial career, including being banned for four months for biting Italy defender Georgio Chiellini at the 2014 FIFA World Cup finals in Brazil.
He also bit an opponent while playing for his former clubs Ajax Amsterdam in 2010 and Liverpool in 2013, which were punished with seven-match and 10-match bans respectively.
Edited By: Olawale Alabi)
NDDC promises to pay outstanding fees of stranded UK students
The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) says it will soon verify and pay all outstanding fees owed students under its foreign scholarship programme.
Dr Cairo Ojougboh, NDDC Executive Director of Projects stated this in a statement by the commission’s Director of Corporate Affairs, Charles Odili in Port Harcourt on Tuesday.
Ojougboh was quoted to had pledged payment at a recent meeting with representatives of the United Kingdom (UK) based-scholarship students’ in London.
“So, we have decided to verify the scholarship awards of the students because of obvious discrepancies.
“We are also doing this due to the fact that 50 of the students awarded the scholarships in 2019 did not leave Nigeria for their studies to the UK.
“The verification exercise will involve the registration of all scholars on the commission’s newly custom built portal to confirm the claims with the students’ universities of study,” he said.
The executive director blamed the delayed in payment of the students on distraction caused by the probe of the commission by the National Assembly.
He further said the death of Chief Ibanga Etang, the then NDDC Executive Director of Finance and Administration, also played a part in the delayed payment of the students.
“NDDC could not pay the students as it needed to wait for the replacement of Etang to be able to access funds in its domiciliary account at the Central Bank of Nigeria.
“So, after the verification, we will pay all outstanding foreign scholarship claims within the next few weeks,” he assured the students.
Commercial disputes: Stakeholders canvass for virtual Court hearings for speedy resolution
Stakeholders on Tuesday called for the amendment of relevant rules and regulations to allow virtual Court hearings for speedy resolution of commercial disputes in Nigeria.
They made the call during a virtual dialogue organised by the Nigeria Competitiveness Project (NICOP).
Participants also said that it would boost ease of doing business in Nigeria.
NICOP is an European Union (EU) co-financed initiative under the West African Competitiveness Programme, aimed at strengthening the competitiveness of Nigeria and to enhance it’s integration into the regional and International trading system.
Ms Katrine Thomsen, Head of Economic Section, EU delegate, said Nigeria is a leading trading partner with the EU.
She said that Nigeria’s partnership with the EU is highly cherished and had continued to improve daily.
“To support that improvement and trading partnership with Nigeria and West Africa in general, the EU has committed 125 million Euros to improving the competitiveness of West African economies,”she said
Thomsen said that the objective of NICOP is to stimulate and improve competitiveness of Nigeria in some selected value chains and to support the business climate in the country.
She said that a proactive legal system is critical to improving investment and business climate.
According to her, if we must diversify the economy and improve the country’s ranking in the ease of doing business, reforming the court system especially for contract enforcement and commercial dispute settlement is critical.
“We welcome NICOP and other stakeholders, joining voices with the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osibanjo who recently advocated for new set of directives to enable virtual Court proceeding in the country.
”I am sure that the Supreme Court of Nigeria had ruled and confirm the legality of virtual Court hearing.
“To this end, Nigeria is demonstrating leadership in the new normal,”she said.
Also, the Head of Programmes, NICOP, Mr Markus Wauschkuhn, said that virtual Court hearing would strengthen Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and address key issues in business areas.
Wauschkuhn said that the idea is to improve the business environment and investment climate in the country.
According to him, NICOP had supported capacity development for commercial dispute resolution in focal states of Kano, Plateau, Ogun, Kaduna.
The Managing Partner, Law Future Partners (LFP), Mr Elvis Asia, said that the COVID-19 experience had presented an opportunity for Nigeria to fix the state of commercial dispute resolution which take almost forever.
In a paper titled “Opportunity for Contract Enforcement and Commercial Disputes Settlement Reform”, Asia said that it has serious negative effects on investors.
He said that transfer of Judges and calling off of hearing which contribute to the delay in serving justice would taken care off by virtual hearing.
Asia said virtual hearing would make recording easier, eliminate time wastage and corruption and fast-track quick delivery of judgment.
According to him, more members of the public can participate in any case of their interest from anywhere in the world.
He, however said that though there is no express provision for virtual Court hearing in the Constitution, it empowers Heads of Courts to make regulation for effective proceedings.
The legal practitioner said that there was need to amend the Evidence Act to clearly give credence to electronic copies of documents in the court.
He also called for the creation of a commercial Court division with requisite technology and skill acquisition for legal and paralegal practitioners.
In her contribution, Justice Olutoyin Ipaye of the Lagos State Judiciary, said that virtual court hearing had come to stay.
She recommended that virtual Court hearing should not be limited time-bound cases but should be expanded to cover all disputes.
Ipaye said that virtual hearing has tremendous advantages that will further enhance the justice system in the country.
Also, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mrs A. J Offiah, said that life is becoming more virtual than physical, saying that there is the need to address disputes virtually.
Offiah, who is the founder and principal partner of OBRA Legal, said that many heads of courts were already tilting towards virtual hearing.
She said there was need to create link between the database of all relevant government agencies with the Judiciary to enable easy access to authoritative documents.
Edited By: Remi Koleoso/Sadiya Hamza
Burna Boy becomes first Nigerian artist with certified silver album in UK
Nigerian superstar, Damini Ogulu, a.k.a Burna Boy has become the first Nigerian artist with a certified silver album, “African Giant” in the UK.
The renowned singer, who said he was so excited over the achievement, took to his Instagram page @burnaboygram to announce the news to his fans and also expressed love to everyone that supported him.
The News Agency of Nigeria , reports that a silver certification in the UK means an album has sold 60, 000 copies.
NAN also reports that this came after news that ‘Own It’ by Stormzy featuring Burna Boy and Ed Sheeran, has a two-time platinum certification for selling 600,000 copies.
On June 4, it was announced that ‘Be Honest’, the 2019 single by British singer, Jorja Smith featuring Grammy nominee, Burna Boy has been certified platinum in France.
Burna Boy had accepted a gold plaque for his 2018 single “On The Low’’. The gold plaque is for selling 100,000 (or more) copies.
A gold plaque can also be handed to an artist, whose single has been streamed 15 million times in the country, thus 15 million streams of a single in France is equivalent to 100,000 pure sales.
Burna Boy is a multi-awarding Nigerian Afro-Pop singer, whose sound inspired by Nigerian legend Fela Kuti.
He got his breakthrough in 2012 with his hit single such as to Party off his debut album ‘L.I.F.E’ released in 2013.
Burna Boy in 2017, signed with Bad Habit/Atlantic Records in the U. S. and Warner Music Group internationally.
He released his first major label backed album ‘Outside’ in 2018.
The artist immense contribution in entertainment industry coupled with his numerous songs has made him outstanding.
Edited By: Abiodun Esan/Grace Yussuf