In boost for faltering process, Colombia’s Santos wins Nobel Peace Prize

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos won the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for his efforts to end a 52-year-old war with Marxist rebels, a surprise choice and a show of support after Colombians rejected a peace accord last Sunday.

Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos talks during a news conference after a meeting with Colombian former President and Senator Alvaro Uribe at Narino Palace in Bogota, Colombia, October 5, 2016. REUTERS/John Vizcaino
Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos

The Norwegian Nobel Committee said Santos had brought one of the longest civil wars in modern history significantly closer to a peaceful solution, but there was still a danger the peace process could collapse.

The award excluded FARC guerrilla leader Rodrigo Londono, better known by his nom de guerre Timochenko, who signed the peace accord with Santos in Cartagena on Sept. 26.

Santos has promised to revive the plan even though Colombians narrowly rejected it in a referendum on Sunday. Many voters believed it was too lenient on the FARC guerrillas.

“There is a real danger that the peace process will come to a halt and that civil war will flare up again. This makes it even more important that the parties, headed by President Santos and FARC guerrilla leader Rodrigo Londoño, continue to respect the ceasefire,” the Norwegian Nobel Committee said.

“The fact that a majority of the voters said “No” to the peace accord does not necessarily mean that the peace process is dead,” it said.

More than 220,000 people have died on the battlefield or in massacres during the struggle between leftist guerrillas, right-wing paramilitaries and government troops.

Millions have been displaced and many beg on the streets of the capital, while economic potential has been held up in the mostly rural nation.

The committee quoted Santos as saying the award would help further the peace process.

“He was overwhelmed. He was very grateful. He said it was of invaluable importance to further the peace process in Colombia,” committee secretary Olav Njoelstad told Norwegian state broadcaster NRK after having spoken to him by phone.

Colombia’s ambassador to Norway, Alvaro Sandoval Bernal, said it was a message of hope for his country.

“It reiterates that there is hope for the peace process in Colombia.”

Asked why Londono was left out, committee leader Kaci Kullmann Five said Santos had been central to the process.

She declined to elaborate on Londono’s role. The rebel leader’s initial reaction indicated no disappointment that he had been left out.

“The only prize to which we aspire is that of peace with social justice for a Colombia without paramilitarism, without retaliation nor lies,” he wrote on his Twitter account.

POSSIBLE ANGER

Santos is the first Latin American to receive the peace prize since indigenous rights campaigner Rigoberta Menchu of Guatemala won in 1992, and is the second Colombian laureate after writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who won the literature prize in 1982.

The scion of one of Colombia’s most prosperous families, Santos was not thought likely to spearhead a peace process with FARC (the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia).

But though he had served as defense minister under hardline ex-president Alvaro Uribe, when the FARC were weakened by a U.S.-backed offensive, Santos used his two terms in office to open negotiations with rebel leadership at four-year-long talks.

His family once owned leading Colombian newspaper El Tiempo, where Santos worked as an editor before turning to politics. He also trained as an economist at the London School of Economics.

He was finance minister in the 1990s, helping to steer the Andean nation through one of its worst fiscal crises.

The peace talks made bitter enemies of Santos and Uribe, who accused his former protege of betraying FARC victims, and who founded a new right-wing political party and won a Senate seat, in an effort to undermine Santos’ peace efforts.

The news may anger those Colombians who see Santos’ bid for peace with the FARC as selling out the nation as he negotiated terms that they see as an embarrassment.

But the fact that his rebel foe did not receive the prize alongside him may be a relief to Santos, given the political tension following referendum. On the other hand, it may give Santos the moral upper hand in talks with Uribe.

A joint win may have set back sensitive talks with the opposition as Santos tries to negotiate new terms with the “No” camp and possibly convince the FARC to accept changes to the original accord.

The “No” vote was a disaster for Santos, who had hoped to turn his focus quickly to other matters including possible talks with the smaller ELN rebel group, tax reform and other economic measures to compensate for a drop in oil income.

The government had hoped peace would lead to a boom in investment by commodities investors, in gold mines, oil and agriculture in Latin America’s fourth-largest economy

ACHIEVEMENT AFTER SETBACK

Some Nobel watchers had taken Colombia off their lists of favorites after the referendum “No”.

“The peace accord was indeed a major achievement and, although the referendum was a setback, hopefully this award will help peacebuilders maintain the momentum needed to keep the process moving forward,’ Stockholm International Peace Research Institute Director Dan Smith said in a statement.

The United Nations refugee organization, which does not usually comment on Nobel Peace Prizes, said the award was a recognition of how important the conflict in Colombia was.

“I think the High Commissioner would hope this gives a big boost to the peace process which has been going through a bit of a roller coaster in the past few weeks,” UNHCR spokesman Rupert Colville said in Geneva.

The one-sided prize echoes previous awards, such as to South Korean President Kim Dae-jung in 2000 for his work for reconciliation with North Korea. West German Chancellor Willy Brandt won in 1971 for his policies of reaching out to the communist East.

But often the awards go to both sides in peace negotiations, such as to Israelis and Palestinians in 1994 or to Egypt’s Anwar Sadat and Israel’s Menachem Begin in 1978.

The Nobel Peace Prize, worth 8 million Swedish crowns ($930,000), will be presented in Oslo on Dec. 10.

In boost for faltering process, Colombia’s Santos wins Nobel Peace Prize

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos won the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for his efforts to end a 52-year-old war with Marxist rebels, a surprise choice and a show of support after Colombians rejected a peace accord last Sunday.

Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos talks during a news conference after a meeting with Colombian former President and Senator Alvaro Uribe at Narino Palace in Bogota, Colombia, October 5, 2016. REUTERS/John Vizcaino
Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos

The Norwegian Nobel Committee said Santos had brought one of the longest civil wars in modern history significantly closer to a peaceful solution, but there was still a danger the peace process could collapse.

The award excluded FARC guerrilla leader Rodrigo Londono, better known by his nom de guerre Timochenko, who signed the peace accord with Santos in Cartagena on Sept. 26.

Santos has promised to revive the plan even though Colombians narrowly rejected it in a referendum on Sunday. Many voters believed it was too lenient on the FARC guerrillas.

“There is a real danger that the peace process will come to a halt and that civil war will flare up again. This makes it even more important that the parties, headed by President Santos and FARC guerrilla leader Rodrigo Londoño, continue to respect the ceasefire,” the Norwegian Nobel Committee said.

“The fact that a majority of the voters said “No” to the peace accord does not necessarily mean that the peace process is dead,” it said.

More than 220,000 people have died on the battlefield or in massacres during the struggle between leftist guerrillas, right-wing paramilitaries and government troops.

Millions have been displaced and many beg on the streets of the capital, while economic potential has been held up in the mostly rural nation.

The committee quoted Santos as saying the award would help further the peace process.

“He was overwhelmed. He was very grateful. He said it was of invaluable importance to further the peace process in Colombia,” committee secretary Olav Njoelstad told Norwegian state broadcaster NRK after having spoken to him by phone.

Colombia’s ambassador to Norway, Alvaro Sandoval Bernal, said it was a message of hope for his country.

“It reiterates that there is hope for the peace process in Colombia.”

Asked why Londono was left out, committee leader Kaci Kullmann Five said Santos had been central to the process.

She declined to elaborate on Londono’s role. The rebel leader’s initial reaction indicated no disappointment that he had been left out.

“The only prize to which we aspire is that of peace with social justice for a Colombia without paramilitarism, without retaliation nor lies,” he wrote on his Twitter account.

POSSIBLE ANGER

Santos is the first Latin American to receive the peace prize since indigenous rights campaigner Rigoberta Menchu of Guatemala won in 1992, and is the second Colombian laureate after writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who won the literature prize in 1982.

The scion of one of Colombia’s most prosperous families, Santos was not thought likely to spearhead a peace process with FARC (the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia).

But though he had served as defense minister under hardline ex-president Alvaro Uribe, when the FARC were weakened by a U.S.-backed offensive, Santos used his two terms in office to open negotiations with rebel leadership at four-year-long talks.

His family once owned leading Colombian newspaper El Tiempo, where Santos worked as an editor before turning to politics. He also trained as an economist at the London School of Economics.

He was finance minister in the 1990s, helping to steer the Andean nation through one of its worst fiscal crises.

The peace talks made bitter enemies of Santos and Uribe, who accused his former protege of betraying FARC victims, and who founded a new right-wing political party and won a Senate seat, in an effort to undermine Santos’ peace efforts.

The news may anger those Colombians who see Santos’ bid for peace with the FARC as selling out the nation as he negotiated terms that they see as an embarrassment.

But the fact that his rebel foe did not receive the prize alongside him may be a relief to Santos, given the political tension following referendum. On the other hand, it may give Santos the moral upper hand in talks with Uribe.

A joint win may have set back sensitive talks with the opposition as Santos tries to negotiate new terms with the “No” camp and possibly convince the FARC to accept changes to the original accord.

The “No” vote was a disaster for Santos, who had hoped to turn his focus quickly to other matters including possible talks with the smaller ELN rebel group, tax reform and other economic measures to compensate for a drop in oil income.

The government had hoped peace would lead to a boom in investment by commodities investors, in gold mines, oil and agriculture in Latin America’s fourth-largest economy

ACHIEVEMENT AFTER SETBACK

Some Nobel watchers had taken Colombia off their lists of favorites after the referendum “No”.

“The peace accord was indeed a major achievement and, although the referendum was a setback, hopefully this award will help peacebuilders maintain the momentum needed to keep the process moving forward,’ Stockholm International Peace Research Institute Director Dan Smith said in a statement.

The United Nations refugee organization, which does not usually comment on Nobel Peace Prizes, said the award was a recognition of how important the conflict in Colombia was.

“I think the High Commissioner would hope this gives a big boost to the peace process which has been going through a bit of a roller coaster in the past few weeks,” UNHCR spokesman Rupert Colville said in Geneva.

The one-sided prize echoes previous awards, such as to South Korean President Kim Dae-jung in 2000 for his work for reconciliation with North Korea. West German Chancellor Willy Brandt won in 1971 for his policies of reaching out to the communist East.

But often the awards go to both sides in peace negotiations, such as to Israelis and Palestinians in 1994 or to Egypt’s Anwar Sadat and Israel’s Menachem Begin in 1978.

The Nobel Peace Prize, worth 8 million Swedish crowns ($930,000), will be presented in Oslo on Dec. 10.

Hurricane Matthew batters Florida as Haiti death toll rises

The first major hurricane threatening a direct hit on the United States in more than 10 years lashed Florida on Friday with heavy rains and winds after killing at least 339 people in Haiti on its destructive march north through the Caribbean.

Hurricane Matthew
Hurricane Matthew

Hurricane Matthew packed gusts of 100 miles per hour (160 kph) as it tracked north-northwest along Florida’s east coast, the National Hurricane Center said in an advisory. The storm’s eye was 25 miles (40 km) east of Cape Canaveral, home to the nation’s chief space launch site.

“We are seriously ground zero here in Cape Canaveral — hunkered down, lights flickering, winds are crazy,” said resident Sandy Wilk on Twitter.

The storm downed power lines and trees and destroyed billboards in Cape Canaveral, reported Jeff Piotrowski, a 40-year-old storm chaser from Tulsa, Oklahoma.

“The winds are ferocious right now,” he said. “It’s fierce.”

NASA and the U.S. Air Force, which operate the Cape Canaveral launch site, took steps to safeguard personnel and equipment. A team of 116 employees was bunkered down inside Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Control Center to ride out the hurricane.

“We’ve had some close calls, but as far as I know it’s the first time we’ve had the threat of a direct hit,” NASA spokesman George Diller said by email from the hurricane bunker.

No significant damage or injuries were reported in West Palm Beach and other communities in south Florida where the storm downed trees and power lines earlier in the night, CNN and local media reported.

About 300,000 Florida households were without power, local media reported. In West Palm Beach, street lights and houses went dark and Interstate 95 was empty as the storm rolled through the community of 100,000 people.

Hurricane Matthew was carrying extremely dangerous winds of 120 mph (195 kph) on Friday, but is expected to gradually weaken during the next 48 hours, the hurricane center said.

Matthew’s winds had dropped on Thursday night and into Friday morning, downgrading it to a Category 3 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane intensity. It could either plow inland or tear along the Atlantic coast through Friday night, the Miami-based center said.

A dangerous storm surge was expected to reach up to 11 feet (3.35 meters) along the Florida coast, Ed Rappaport, deputy director of the Miami-based NHC, said on CNN.

“What we know is that most of the lives lost in hurricanes is due to storm surge,” he said.

Some 339 people were killed in Haiti, local officials said, and thousands were displaced after the storm flattened homes, uprooted trees and inundated neighborhoods earlier in the week. Four people were killed in the Dominican Republic, which neighbors Haiti.

Damage and potential casualties in the Bahamas were still unclear as the storm passed near the capital, Nassau, on Thursday and then out over the western end of Grand Bahama Island.

Qatar donates food items to Borno IDPs

The Government of Qatar on Tuesday donated food items valued at N6.5m to internally displaced persons in Borno State.

Presenting the food items at the Borno State Government House, Maiduguri, the Director of Qatar Charity, Sheikh Mohammed Ajur, said they were meant to complement “humanitarian assistance and intervention” of the United Nations and other donor agencies and to feed  internally displaced persons.

He said the food items comprised of 1,500 litres of palm oil and 1,500 bags of rice, beans, guinea corn, maize and millet.

Ajur explained the foundation, a charity organisation with activities worldwide, worked in collaboration with the Emir of Kano, Mohammed Sanusi II; and Shehu of Borno, Abubakar Ibn El Kanemi.

He thanked the royal fathers and state government for their cooperation and prayed for the quick return of peace to the state and the country at large, while urging the government to ensure judicious distribution of the relief materials.

FG starts deliberation on minimum wage, fuel price hike

FG starts deliberation on minimum wage, fuel price hike

The Federal Government on Thursday inaugurated the technical committee set up to look into Labour’s grievances arising from the increase in the pump price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS).

After the committee’s inauguration by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), David Babachir Lawal, the committee headed by the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chris Ngige, held its inaugural meeting.

Briefing journalists at the end of the meeting, Ngige said the committee has been commissioned to look into three key areas.

According to him, the committee will look into a framework of a national committee that will discuss the issue of minimum wage and consider suggestions of all parties including government and the organised labour on how they can give amelioration to workers and Nigerians in general to cushion the effect of the fuel price hike.

He added: “Government has already provided N500 billion in the 2016 budget as palliatives and this will be subjected to a review by the committee.

“Another term of reference is the recommendation of the composition of the board of the Petroleum Product Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA).”

The organised labour, before embarking on its recent strike, had faulted the federal government’s rational for hiking the fuel price from N86.50 to N145 per litre when the board of the PPPRA was not in place.

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) had also requested that the federal government should include labour stakeholders in the N500 billion palliative measures it planned to use to cushion the effect of the fuel price hike.

The union also demanded for upward review of the minimum wage to N56,000.

But President Muhammadu Buhari had subsequently approved the appointment of Mohammed Buba as the Chairman of Board of PPPRA.

At the end of the inaugural meeting of the Committee, NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, said he concurred with the remark of Dr. Ngige.

One of the labour leaders, who spoke on a condition of anonymity after the inauguration, said the government has to look beyond the N500 billion as the sharing formula has already been completed.

“Government should think of other palliatives,” he said.

Fuel Scarcity – Refineries to Begin Operations April – NNPC

Nigeria’s refineries would resume refining crude oil for local consumption within the month of April to help address the current fuel scarcity, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) said.

 Fuel Scarcity - Refineries to Begin Operations April - NNPC
Fuel Scarcity – Refineries to Begin Operations April – NNPC

Two of the refineries, Port Harcourt and Kaduna were shut simultaneously late January after the Bonny-Okrika crude supply line to Port Harcourt and the Escravos-Warri crude supply line to the Kaduna refinery suffered breaches.

But speaking to reporters after inspecting some petrol stations in Abuja Sunday, the Group Executive Director/ Chief Operating Officer (COO), NNPC (Downstream), Mr. Henry Ikem Obih said all of the refineries are at various stages of startup.

He said, “In terms of moving them closer to their optimal yield, there is a lot of work going on through the great work done by our engineers. We are hoping that within this month of April we would also have locally produced fuel as part of what people are buying at the pump.”

On what the Corporation has done in the last four days to improve the fuel situation, Obih said the Corporation has taken delivery of four vessels of refined petrol that are at various stages of distribution across the country.

On the other measures the NNPC has put in place to ensure there are no gaps in the supply chain in the second quarter of 2016, Obih said the NNPC is working with some of the best refining and trading companies around the world to help source fuel in a timely manner.

“We are working extremely hard to ensure that we eliminate the queues. What we have seen today is encouraging but we are still not there. We will be there when you go into a couple of filling stations and you are able to buy fuel and drive away,” he stated.

The inspection by the COO covered major and independent retail outlets within the centre of Abuja. At A.Y.M Shafa located at Apo, Gudu Market, the team queried the station for not discharging the product from the truck.

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