80% of Kano coronavirus samples positive –Buhari’s panel [Punch]

The Nigerian Union of Allied Health Professionals on Sunday called on the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), to reverse his decision on the easing of  COVID-19 lockdown,  which takes effect today (Monday).

The NUAHP made the call in a statement signed by its National President, Dr Obinna Ogbonna, and its General Secretary, Martin Egbanubi.

As health workers advised the President,  members of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 he sent to  Kano State expressed concern about the high rate of community transmission in the state.

The presidential team said 80 per cent of every 100 samples taken from the state for testing always came out positive.

As of March, the state had no case of COVID-19, but on April 11,  a former ambassador, who attended a Jumat service while awaiting his coronavirus test result, was diagnosed with the virus.

As of 5.51pm on Sunday, there were 313 COVID-19 cases in the state, which was second to  Lagos State that had 1,084,   the highest in the country.

Buhari had, in his broadcast to the nation on April, 27,  imposed a total lockdown on Kano State and dispatched a team of experts to the state the following day as part of efforts to stop the spread of the virus.

But in the national broadcast on April 27, he said there would be phased and gradual easing of the lockdown in the Federal Capital Territory, Ogun and Lagos State, which started on March 30.

He, however, imposed a dusk to dawn curfew on the country and banned inter-state movements.

Kano has high rate of community transmission –Head of FG’s team

The Head of the team sent to Kano State by the President, Dr  Nasiru Gwarzo,  said the state had a high rate of community transmission of COVID-19.

Gwarzo told the BBC Hausa Service in an interview that the high rate of transmission, as shown by increased testing, was evident when compared to the former situation in the state.

According to him, there is an urgent need for the people of Kano to take the deadly disease seriously as out of every 100 samples taken for testing, 80 per cent always came out positive.

He said, “This is a serious situation which needs collective effort to address as the case of pandemic has gone beyond people’s imagination as it has gone to community transmission.

“What we are afraid of in this pandemic is what is happening.   The pandemic has left the first stage of entering the country. It has left the second stage and has entered the third stage of community spread. This is not news that will be palatable to the public but like a Hausa proverb says, ‘on the day you are to take a bath, you cannot hide your navel.’”

Most of the strange deaths in Kano caused by COVID-19, says Gwarzo

He said the team was worried about deaths, which had claimed many personalities in the state.

According to him, most of the recent mass deaths in the state were caused to COVID-19.

He said, “If you follow the debate (over the cause of the Kano mysterious deaths), while there is some truth in other causes, (complications from hypertension, meningitis, among others), coronavirus is the leading cause of these deaths in Kano.”

“On the coronavirus itself, when we conducted tests before, you saw four or five; now you can take 100 samples and 80 (per cent) return positive,” he added.

But the NUAHP, which consists of clinical professionals in the health sector with the exception of physicians and nurses, in its statement, said its decision to call for the reversal of the President’s order was based on its observation in the last few days concerning the increase in the number of infected persons, number of deaths and testing capacity.

It said, “The union has studied carefully the declaration by President Buhari on the gradual easing of lockdown nationwide with effect from Monday, May 4, 2020 and hereby raises a serious concern based on reported cases of increase in coronavirus infection and spread across the country in the last few days.

“As a union with members as frontlines workers, we cannot but caution the federal and affected state governments to continue with the lockdown until adequate measures have been taken to contain it.

“We must not forget the fact that the deficit of health professionals, medical materials and facilities in our country would not be able to handle whatever upsurge that may arise due to the high incidences especially the community transmission that is being presently witnessed in some parts of the country.”

We need 5,000-bed spaces for COVID-19, says Kano govt

Meanwhile, Kano State, on Sunday, said it required no fewer than 5,000-bed spaces in isolation centres to accommodate the rising number of COVID-19 patients in the state in the next month.

The Director of the  Infection Control, Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital and Chairman of the Risk Communication Committee on COVID-19, Prof Isah Abubakar,  disclosed this in an interview with The  PUNCH  in Kano on Sunday.

The Director-General of the NCDC, Chikwe Ihekweazu, had, at the PTF media briefing on Thursday,  said Lagos State, with the highest cases of the virus,  needed more bed spaces.

Ihekweazu, who stated that there were 3,500-bed spaces nationwide for COVID-19 patients, said Lagos was struggling to get bed spaces.

But on Friday, he said no state in the country had fully fulfilled the capacity required to address the outbreak of the virus.

Speaking on the state government’s efforts to combat COVID-19, Abubakar, in the interview with one of our correspondents, said,  “In the next one month,  Kano is targeting 5, 000  beds to be provided at isolation centres in view of the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in the state.”

He said there were three fully-equipped isolation centres with over 600-bed spaces in the state.

According to him, the isolation centres are Kwanar Dawaki,  the  Muhammadu Buhari Specialist Hospital and the Sani Abacha Centre.

He said the state government had also established six additional isolation centres which would commence operation to complement the existing ones.

Abubakar added, “The newly established centres expected to begin operation soon are at the Abubakar Imam Urology Hospital, Air Force Hospital, Murtala Mohammed Library, Daula Hotel, Sports Training Institute, Karfi and Kofar Mata Stadium.

“The isolation centre at the Kofar Mata Stadium, which has already been equipped with necessary facilities, will be ready for use by next week.”

Another traditional title holder, ex-Rep, former commissioner  die in Kano

In a related development,  a traditional leader and Jarman Kano, Prof Isa Hashimi, on Sunday became the latest prominent person to die in the state, which has lost no fewer than 640 people in the last few weeks.

Hashimi died in the early hours of Sunday at the age of 86. A government official confirmed the death to one of our correspondents.

His demise was coming barely hours after the death of the Emir of Rano, Alhaji  Abubakar Ila II,  on Saturday.

Hashim,  who was once a lecturer at the Bayero University, Kano, was a senior member of the Kano Emirate Council.

Also,  a former member of the House of Representatives, Jakada Kiru, died on Sunday.

A family source, who confirmed the death to one of our correspondents, said Kiru died at the age of 62 and had been buried in accordance with Islamic rites in his hometown, Kiru.

A former Commissioner for Education, Mallam Haruna Shanono, died three days ago. Shanono was a commissioner during the Kabiru Gaya’s tenure as  governor of the state in the Second Republic.

It was gathered that the ex-lawmaker and the former commissioner died of  COVID-19 related complications.

Zamfara Emir dies in COVID-19 isolation

In  Zamfara State, the Emir of Kaura-Namoda,  Alhaji Mohammed Asha,  died in the early hours of Sunday.

The Publicity Secretary for the Control and Prevention of COVID 19 in the state, Alhaji Mustafa  Kaura, told journalists that the Emir was brought to  the isolation centre  at the Yariman Bakura Specialist Hospital, Gusau, three days ago, when he developed symptoms of the disease.

Kaura stressed that his blood sample had been sent to Abuja for the test, adding that “the result is still being awaited”.

He said the remains of the Emir were in the hospital awaiting burial by officials of the NCDC.

Nasarawa  lawmaker dies of COVID-19,  23 Assembly members quarantined

Also, the Nasarawa State House of Assembly member, representing Nasarawa central, Mr Sulaiman  Adamu, died of  COVID-19 on Sunday.

The state governor,  Abdullahi Sule,  confirmed this on Sunday while briefing journalists on COVID-19 cases in the state.

Sule, who said Adamu died before the result of his test came out,  said the state the house of assembly complex would be shut.

According to him, no fewer than 23 members of the state House of Assembly have been quarantined as a result of Adamu’s death.

The governor stated, “The family members of the late lawmaker have also been quarantined, alongside members of the state assembly. All the kits ordered by the state government for protection against  coronavirus have also arrived.”

FMC shuts unit, confirms death of COVID-19 pregnant patient

Meanwhile, the  Federal Medical  Centre, Idi-Aba, Abeokuta, on Sunday confirmed that a pregnant woman died of COVID-19 in the centre on Friday.

The management also said it had shut down the Accident and Emergency Complex of the centre where the woman died.

The Head of the Public Relations Unit of the FMC, Abeokuta, Segun Orisajo, disclosed this in a statement on Sunday.

Fears have gripped workers of the hospital since Friday when the pregnant woman died in the facility.

Four health workers were said to have attended to the patient before she died.

There are concerns that the health workers  that attended to the patient might have been exposed to the virus, hence, their samples were taken for tests and results are still being awaited.

Reacting to the development, Orisajo explained that the incident involved three persons which included two women.

He said,  “Three suspected cases were being managed at the Accident and Emergency Complex of the Centre within last week.

“However, two of the patients tested positive while one was negative. One of the patients who tested positive was a pregnant woman who passed on on Friday. Her result returned positive on Saturday.”

The PRO further said  the hospital management had released the corpse of the deceased to her husband.

According to Orisajo, her corpse was released to her husband after careful counselling and due adherence to the World Health Organisation’s guidelines on  such matter.

On the second case, Orisajo explained that the patient was a young man who had been transferred to the state isolation centre.

He said “The second patient is a young man who has been transferred to an isolation centre in the state.

“He is clinically stable. Both patients were managed in the accident and emergency complex.”

While allaying fears, the hospital spokesperson said there was no cause for alarm over the state of health of workers who attended to the patients.

Lagos discharges 22 COVID-19 patients, three die

Also, the Lagos State Government on Sunday announced three COVID-19 related deaths. It said  22 patients were discharged from the isolation centres in the state.

The state Ministry of Health, via its twitter handle, @LSMOH, said the state had recorded 28 COVID-19 related deaths and discharged 247 patients who recovered from the infection.

It tweeted, “As of May 2, 2020, 62 new cases of COVID-19 infection were confirmed in the state, making a total of 1,084 confirmed cases. 22 COVID-19 Lagos patients were discharged. Total discharged now 247.

“Unfortunately, three COVID-19 deaths were recorded. This brings total number of COVID-19 related deaths in Lagos to 28.”

Bauchi tests 348 Almajiris, moves seven  positive ones to ATBTH

In Bauchi, the Executive Chairman of the state Primary Health Care Development Agency, Dr. Rilwan Mohammed, told one of our correspondents in a telephone conversation that the state had tested over 348 Almajiris brought back to the state.

He said,  “We have screened 348 of them. What we normally do is that as soon as they are brought into the state, we move them to the General Hassan, Katsina Unity College, Yelwa, here in Bauchi where they are being isolated. Then we’ll take their samples and send for testing before we will know their statuses.

“Today (Sunday), we have received additional 54 that have been brought back and we are still expecting about 300 others. As I speak with you now, the team has gone to take the samples of these 54 that   have just been brought into the state.”

The state Commissioner for Health, Dr Aliyu Maigoro, in a text message sent to The PUNCH,  said seven Almajiris, who tested positive, had been moved to the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University Teaching Hospital, Bauchi.

The Nigerian Medical Association chairman in Gombe State, Dr Zawaya Kefas,  told The PUNCH that all  almajiris should be tested for COVID-19

Kefas said the way Almajiris got food on a regular basis explained the growing positive cases among them.

 

Osun illegal mining: 17 Chinese, monarch, others face prosecution [Punch]

The Osun State Government on Sunday said its Joint Task Force has apprehended 27 illegal miners in the state.

The government said those arrested were 17 Chinese nationals, nine locals, and a village head.

The Deputy Chief of Staff to the Osun State Governor, Abdullahi Binuyo, in a statement, said no responsible government would fold its arms and watch its land being degraded by unauthorised persons.

Binuyo said apart from ensuring that those arrested were prosecuted, they would also be made to pay compensation.

“As part of the government’s economic reforms, solid mineral is a major sector we are looking to explore. For these reforms to work, it has become imperative to stop illegal mining and step up enforcement activities. The result is what we are witnessing today,” he said.

One of the arrested Chinese, May Zam, said she was not aware they were engaged in illegal mining.

 

17th birthday: Leah Sharibu’s parents accuse FG of deceiving Nigerians [Punch]

Parents of Leah Sharibu, who was abducted two years ago by Boko Haram insurgents, have said the Federal Government has been deceiving Nigerians and the international community with promises of rescuing her from captivity.

The spokesperson for the family and President, Leadership Empowerment Advocacy and Humanitarian (LEAH) Foundation, Dr Gloria Samdi Puldu, explained this in an interview with THE PUNCH.

She said Nathan and Rebecca Sharibu were still in great pains because Leah is still not home.

“Born on May 14, 2003, Leah Sharibu, the young Christian girl who refused to renounce her Christian faith has had her 15th and 16th birthday while in ISIS-WA captivity, this is a reproachful memory. Will she spend another birthday in captivity?

“It is impossible for any parent to keep hearing different hurtful reports about their daughter and not become heartbroken. It is even more traumatic to hear that she has been forced into motherhood in captivity,” she stated.

According to her, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), should rise up to his responsibility of rescuing Leah like he did when he ensured the freedom of all other Muslim girls abducted with Leah just a month after their abduction.

She was responding to enquiries on the update about Leah Sharibu whose 17th birthday would be on May 14.

The PUNCH reported that Leah Sharibu was one of the 110 female students of the Government Girls’ Science and Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe State, who were abducted on February 19, 2018, by Boko Haram terrorists.

While others were released by the terrorists following negotiations, Leah is still being held captive because she refused to renounce her Christian faith.

She said that an aid worker from Plateau State, Jennifer Ukambong, who was released in January, 2020 after staying nearly one month in Boko Haram captivity, had said Leah Sharibu was living somewhere close to Lake Chad.

“Ukambong also said Mrs Alice Ngaddah, Miss Grace Taku and Leah Sharibu who were abducted at various times by the terrorists were all doing fine in the forest. Jennifer said she does not know the specific location but they say it is close to Lake Chad,” she stated.

While describing Leah Sharibu as a bold and courageous child who had stood boldly and courageously in defence of her faith, the UNIJOS don told the Nigerian government to know that Leah would never be forgotten in captivity as “she represents the face of those who are persecuted for their religious beliefs and the girl-child in the North-East who is being denied education.”

She said, “Will Leah Sharibu spend another birthday in captivity? If there is sincerity on the side of the government, then let us see them fulfil their promises. It seems that the government simply wants to make Nigerians and the international community who demand the release of Leah to be quiet.

“Therefore, they are always claiming that negotiations are going on to secure her release. This is very unfortunate that we are still in great pains because Leah is still not home. We keep hearing all sorts of rumours about her condition in captivity. It is very painful.

“For the commemoration of Leah’s third birthday in Boko Haram captivity, we ask the Nigerian government to take action and fulfil the so many promises they made to the Sharibu family and to all Nigerians.

“Nigerians are waiting, now that the world has seen that Chadian soldiers have cleared Boko Haram from the Lake Chad area where Leah Sharibu is suspected to be. The question begging for answer is, where is Leah Sharibu?”

Puldu called on everybody to continue to pray for Leah and to pressurise the Nigerian government to take action and fulfil their promises to secure Leah’s release.

 

CBN, Bankers’ Committee halt mass sack in banks [Nation]

THE anticipated mass sack in the banking sector has been halted by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Bankers’ Committee.

The suspension of the lay-offs in banks followed a resolution reached by the apex bank and the committee that no bank should sack, whether on temporary or permanent position.

The Bankers’ Committee was convened on May 2, 2020, to further review the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on the local banking industry.

In a statement released on Sunday, CBN Director, Corporate Communications, Isaac Okorafor, said the committee particularly deliberated on the issue of the operating costs of banks in view of the disruptions emanating from the global economic difficulties.

The committee therefore decided that in order to help minimize and mitigate the negative impact of the COVID- 19 pandemic on families and livelihoods, no bank in Nigeria shall retrench or lay-off any staff of any cadre (including full-time and part-time).

The committee also agreed that the express approval of the CBN shall be required in the event that it becomes absolutely necessary to lay-off any such staff.

It (statement) reads: “The CBN solicits the support of all in our collective effort to weather through the economic challenges occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

At the end of the deliberations, it was also decided that “the express approval of the CBN shall be required in the event that it becomes absolutely necessary to lay-off any such staff.”

 

PTF: Coronavirus cause of mass deaths in Kano [Nation]

             Kano residents nonchalant attitude worries Fed Govt

             Emir dies in Zamfara

             Nasarawa lawmaker’s death raises dust

             Lagos govt: discharged patients must self-isolate for 14 days

CORONAVIRUS pandemic is the cause of the so-called mysterious deaths in Kano, northern Nigeria’s economic hub and largest city, the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 said on Sunday.

The preliminary report of the panel working to unravel the cause of the deaths established this, leader of the team, Dr Nasiru Sani Gwarzo, said.

He spoke to reporters in Kano after the donation of mobile testing laboratory facilities by the Aliko Dangote Foundation to the state government.

Dr. Gwarzio explained that the verbal autopsies and tests carried out established without doubt that COVID-19 caused the deaths.

The Kano State government had repeatedly said the deaths were not coronavirus- related. It attributed the deaths to “mysterious causes” which it said would be investigated.

Gwarzo said: ‘’with the preliminary report, most of the deaths recorded of recent and tests carried out indicated that coronavirus is the cause. Hence, before the final reports which would be ready in the next one week or few days, it is necessary for people of the state to wake up from their slumber that this is a serious issue at hand. ‘’

He added: “We have five cogent reasons to say that the mass deaths recorded in Kano is associated with Coronavirus.”

He said a look at the age of the deceased persons, Concentration of the people in one place and tests that were carried out, showed evidence of COVID-19.

Dr Gwarzo expressed disgust over the attitude of Kano residents to the fight against COVID-19

He wondered why many residents in Kano are exhibiting nonchalant attitude to laid down rules in preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Gwarzo said “awareness is our main problem until when Kano people are ready to accept the reality that COVID 19 is real then we have a long way to go because most of the residents are yet to believe in the seriousness of the pandemic.  Until they take precautionary measures against the spread of the disease through community transmission.

“The Presidential Task Force is here to support the state team. We are not re-inventing the wheel and we are not creating a parallel structure, we only have instructions from the Federal government to come and assist by working with the team.

“We don’t look at problems as a shortcoming but we look at them as challenges.  That is why the Presidential Taskforce is here to resolve these challenges.

“The major challenges we have I can assure you is not from the government of Kano, it is from the people of Kano, they must have understanding, they must have the clear appreciation of the magnitude and trajectory of the epidemic otherwise if they don’t, whatever is invested will come to a difficult end.”

Gwarzo who is the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Health said: “We have six centres that are ready to take the upsurge.  In the next 48hours, Kano will have a new 500 space capacity. In the next two weeks, we will be able to make one thousand to three thousand capacity so that more people are received, given care, and in the process protected from not only getting sick but protected from not transmitting the disease.”

Commenting on mass death in Kano, Gwarzo said there are three studies that are going on the results will be giving an idea very soon and now we are getting clearer on the causes of death and we will tell you, people, very shortly when the test are done we shall give you very clear pictures of the outcome of the result.

On testing, he said: “Here in Kano, we have about three centres, one has the capacity of 180 samples and another 80. It is 260 and with the Dangote Foundation bringing another new Mobile Testing  Laboratory Centre in the state with 400 samples capacity there will be a tremendous improvement.

“It will now reach about 660 within the possible time and that will not be enough and since they said within one week it will accommodate one thousand samples; that will make us get out of this problem.

“Within no time you will see other states will be bringing their samples here in Kano and that will further ginger us to further expand our scope to achieve maximally.

“No country in the whole world will say that she is free of the virus we have to be proactive in expanding and providing sophisticated equipment that could enable us to be ahead of COVID 19 and if we relent the end result will be destructive.”

Between April 25 and last week, Kano lost many prominent men and women under mysterious circumstances.

Among them are father of Dr. Sani Aliyu, the PTF National Coordinator, Aliyu Daneji, a former National Economic Intelligence Committee Chairman, Prof. Ibrahim Ayagi, former executive secretary of the state Universal basic Education, Adamu Dali, and a former Editor of Triumph newspapers Musa Tijjani.

Others are: Garba Dambatta, a former Kannywood artist, Ado Gwanga, Dr. Saba Kurawa, Prof. Balarabe Maikaba, Malama Shittu, Dr. Uba Adamu, Alhaji Salihu Ado, Aminu Yahya, Hamma Akilu, Tijani Yola, Uztaz Rabiu, Dr. Ghali Kabir and Prof. Aliyu Dikko.

 

How CBN can boost production and investment, by Tinubu [Nation]

  • APC stalwart canvasses interest rates cut

TO lift the Nigerian economy into prosperity, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) must seize the advantage of the coronavirus pandemic-induced crisis to lower the interest rates with a view to boosting domestic production and investment.

The one-time Lagos State governor said modern global economy is built on credit while prosperous nations built their success on the use of credit to generate high level domestic investment which allows for significant consumer financing.

He added that high interest rates for many years crippled domestic production and created a false sense of security on foreign capital inflows.

The national leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), gave this position in a statement yesterday titled: “The case against high interest rates in time of contagion.”

He described high interest rates as a fundamental drag on national economic growth, second only to Nigeria’s unreliable power supply on negative impact to national prosperity.

The Monetary Policy Rate (MPR), which is the benchmark interest rate, has been 14 per cent since July 2016 until it was reduced to 13.5 per cent in March 2019.

Banks are expected to lend at three to four per cent above MPR to prime customers while the maximum lending rate is between 25 to 40 per cent per annum.

It could be higher depending on the perceived risk of the borrower.

CBN Governor,Godwin Emefele said the decision to loosen the MPR was borne out of the desire to stimulate growth in various sectors of the economy.

Despite the reduction in MPR since March 2019, banks have continued to charge high interest rates on loans, especially at the retail end of the credit market.  Maximum and prime lending rates have continued to rise, while rates on consolidated demand, savings and terms deposit declined, further worsening the gap between the average lending and deposit rates

Giving reasons why the CBN should revise the high interest rates policy, Tinubu said: such rates penalise domestic investment and consumer borrowing; reduce aggregate domestic supply and, to a lesser degree, aggregate domestic demand.

According to him, the chronic gap between domestic supply and demand has been filled by bloated levels of imports which encouraged an overvalued exchange rate that the high interest rates have helped produce.

Explaining how high interest rates affect the economy, he said in normal times, they attract significant foreign financial speculation, the ever-ominous hot money, which provides short-term boosts to financial inflows. But over time, as compound interest payments become due on these foreign investments, the nation loses an ever-increasing amount of money to satisfy foreign debt obligations.

On CBN’s intervention programmes in many sectors of the economy, Tinubu explained that while they look good at first glance, they expose important contradictions in the apex bank’s position. He said the special schemes are an implicit admission that normal rates stifle investment borrowing and thus suppress the economy.

For Tinubu, if the financial sector functioned properly, servicing the needs of the economy in general, there would be no need to constantly resort to specialised sectoral plans for concessionary lending below regularly available rates of interest. He said each such scheme is evidence that the overall financial system is fragmented in a manner that artificially reduces investment and the positive consequences increased investment has on growth, production and employment.

“The extraordinary schemes would not be required if the general interest rate was at a proper level. By establishing the special programmes, the CBN attempts the impossible. On one hand it defends the general rate as prudent. On the other, it proliferates special exceptions in order to spur investment borrowing that the general rate has heretofore stifled,” he added.

He said the practice of defending the naira in an import-dependent economy like Nigeria drains funds to support the exchange rate that could be better invested in strengthening the productive capacity. “If we went to a freely floating exchange rate, the naira would devalue. This means our currency is overvalued in terms of our trade with the outside world. This overvalued exchange rate is buoyed by high interest rates. Yet to maintain both interest rate and exchange rate levels simultaneously over time requires that money be siphoned from use in the productive economy in order to prop up both rates,” he said.

Furthermore, he said over time, high rates cause more inflation than they prevent. “In the initial phase, high rates might lower inflation. However, an economy is dynamic not static. Feedback loops created by the initial high rates will eventually encourage inflation,” he said.

He explained that the suppressed levels of private sector activity will result in higher levels of government borrowing than otherwise would be the case had private sector incomes and productivity been unhindered by the high rates. He said borrowing at higher rate makes domestic firms to charge high prices in order to achieve profit levels sufficient to repay their high interest loans, leading to higher inflation.

On borrowing, Tinubu said interest payments on bonds computed as compound interest, compels the country to pay an increasing percentage of its dollar intake through oil sales to service the interest charge on the foreign debt. This, he said, leads to enormous pressure to cover widening gap between foreign debt calculated at compound rates and foreign currency revenues which tend to remain flat and linear, if not decline during times of economic weakness.

Subsequently, debt servicing as a percentage of overall public and private sector spending increases, causes more naira to be misdirected; exchanged into dollars instead of being used for productive economic discourse that would create wealth and jobs on these shores.

“To maintain the exchange rate, we must sacrifice both naira and dollars that could have been invested in strengthening our productive capacity and job creation. Instead of bolstering the economy, we give these financial resources to international finance arbitragers who care little for our well-being, who invest little in our productive economy and who gain too much influence over our national economy as insensitive creditors,” he stated.

“My position has always been one of reticence to foreign denominated debt due to repayment challenges. However, if we need foreign currency to buy items essential to protecting the nation from the coronavirus, now is the time to borrow. The World Bank and other DFIs have said they will grant loans at concessionary rates. We should hold them to their word and demand a renegotiation of existing loans or debt relief,” he advised”.

Lower interest rates, he added, will allow for longer-term mortgage notes, real estate would become a better functioning collateral for investment borrowing not only for the housing industry, but for the general economy.  He called on financial authorities to consider formulating regulations that banks must reduce the high interest rates on existing business loans to the new lower general rate. This, he said, can be achieved through regulations requiring banks to automatically roll-over existing loans at the lower rate or regulations stating this must be done if the borrower so requests.

 

Prepare for fresh lockdown, doctors tell Nigerians [Sun]

  • Don’t create reasons for another lockdown, RTEAN tells drivers, conductors •Count cost before going out –NBA

As the partial lifting of the four-week lockdown in Lagos and Abuja ordered by the Federal Government begins today, the Association of Resident Doctors (ARD) has advised Nigerians against risky behaviours or risk another round of shutdowns, if the number of cases continues to rise.

Chairman of the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital (UITH) chapter, Dr. Lanre Olosunde, gave the advice  yesterday during an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Ilorin.

Olosunde lamented that the partial lifting of lockdown was not the best step at the moment. He pointed out that the fear of COVID-19 should rather drive Nigerians to behave responsibly and follow laid down rules to ensure the prevention of spread and not panic.

“Everyone should also be prepared for another round of possible lockdowns, if cases continue to increase exponentially,” he advised.

President Muhammadu Buhari, in a nationwide broadcast last week, announced a gradual easing of the COVID-19 lockdown in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, and Lagos and Ogun states, from May 4.

The new measures included a nationwide night-time curfew, mandatory wearing of face masks and a ban on “non-essential” travel between different regions.

However, the ARD chairman said: “I think it is not the best choice at this time when we are really seeing the evidence of active community spread of COVID-19.

“This is coupled with the fact that our testing capabilities are still far below what is required.

“I sincerely pray we won’t get to the number of the deaths recorded in Italy or that of United States,” he said.

Olosunde, therefore, advised Nigerians to follow the advice of medical experts on prevention of COVID-19.

He said those who were elderly or those at any age who have underlying chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), HIV and cancer,  among others, need to take extra precautions and stay at home because they were most vulnerable to this disease.

He said people should beware that COVID-19 was deadly, adding that we have seen what it has done to people in other climes, and the fear of COVID-19 should drive all residents to behave responsibly.

Against the backdrop of the lockdown, the Road Transport Employers’ Association of Nigeria (RTEAN) has urged its members to adhere to the Lagos State government’s new transport guidelines to forestall further spread of COVID-19.

Lagos State chairman of RTEAN, Alhaji Mohammed Musa, admonished members to avoid any compromise capable of creating reasons for another lockdown.

According to Musa, RTEAN members have been duly informed and cautioned on the guidelines, and the association will ensure compliance in the interest of society.

“We will like to appeal to our members to cooperate with the the Lagos State government in their interest and in the interest of the society.

“We have all discovered that coronavirus is real and all that government is doing is to prevent further spread of this deadly virus.

“We have told our members not to be careless at all. We are not touts, we are owners who obey law and order. We should not create any situation that will make government declare another round of lockdown.

“We believe our members will shun carelessness and negligence that can stop their source of food, because, if the virus continues to spread beyond normal, government will still impose lockdown,” he said.

The chairman urged bus drivers and conductors to strictly abide by the compulsory use of face masks and social distancing in the buses, and the curfew.

He said passengers without face masks should not be picked. According to him, any member found flouting the safety directives will be sanctioned.

The RTEAN boss called on commercial bus operators to acquire hand sanitisers to sanitise their hands regularly as well as those of passengers before entering their buses.

“Since our members and commuters handle money that has moved from hand to hand, those hands need to be sanitised regularly to avoid spread of COVID-19.

“We don’t want to lose any member but we must also do our part. Life is very important. As owners, let us be careful,” he said.

The union leader said that 14-seater commercial buses should not carry more than eight passengers while tricycle operators should carry only two passengers with face masks.

Musa said the unit, chapel and zonal chairmen of the association had been directed to provide hand sanitisers and hand washing facility at various parks where the union was operating.

The chairman, who also said that the union had taken steps to fumigate parks, directed all its members to disinfect their buses every working day.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Ikorodu branch, Lagos, has advised lawyers to count the cost before hitting the streets, as the Federal Government gets set to ease lockdown.

The branch chairman, Mr. Bayo Akinlade, gave the advice in statement in Lagos on Sunday. He noted that some lawyers, like other Nigerians affected by the five-week lockdown, might be  eager to go out as from Monday, to do their jobs.

He advised lawyers to contact court registrars through phone calls to find out the status of their cases before going out.

“I urge all members to count the cost before they leave their homes from Monday, May 4. My advice is that you first contact the court registrars to find out the status of your cases.

“Under no circumstances should you go to court to make inquiries; the less the number of people who move out, the better.

“If you want to file a fresh matter or file a process, make sure you take all precautionary measures – wear your face mask and ensure you have a personal hand sanitiser.”

Akinlade said that the branch had planned a Zoom webinar with a Canadian judge to educate its members on how to use technology to advance their litigation practice, with specific focus on issues around ‘access to justice’.

He advised state governments to give more attention to the magistrates’ and customary courts and provide necessary infrastructure for remote hearings, “as justice is for all people.”

Akinlade said that the  NBA, Ikorodu branch, was willing to support the judiciary with technical support, where required.

 

Use COVID-19 to crash interest rates, Tinubu charges CBN [Sun]

The National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has called on the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to leverage the coronavirus(COVID-19) pandemic to lower interest rates in the country.

The former Lagos State Governor, who stated this in a position paper entitled, The Case Against High Interest Rate in Time of Contagion, said “high interest rates are a fundamental drag on national economic growth while lower rates will spur domestic investment and production. This creates both jobs and wealth.  High rates serve only to suppress these vital factors. Lower rates will have some negative short-term impact on inflation and the exchange rate.

However, in a twist of irony, the economic dislocations caused by the coronavirus serve to mitigate those temporary negative consequences. If there is a time to reduce interest rates, that time is now.” Highlighting the negative impacts of high interest rates on business in the country, he said: “The economic fallout from the coronavirus may present the best, most pressing case for revising the CBN’s high interest rate policy. The undue rates penalise domestic investment and consumer borrowing. This reduces both aggregate domestic supply and to a lesser degree, aggregate domestic demand.

The chronic gap between domestic supply and demand has been filled by bloated levels of imports and encouraged an overvalued exchange rate that the high interests have helped produce. In normal times, the high interest rates also attract significant foreign financial speculation, the ever-ominous hot money. While in the short-term, the foreign speculation boosts financial inflows. Over time, as compound interest payments become due on these foreign investments, the nation will lose an ever-increasing amount of money to satisfy foreign debt obligations.

In the short run, high rates seem to attract foreign capital and spur the economy while giving it discipline against inflation. In the longer-term, all of this is untrue. High rates give us the worst of both worlds. They stifle domestic investment and incomes while pushing up inflation and exposing an ever-increasing share of our financial system to foreign manipulation and dependence.

“The Central Bank of Nigeria has demonstrated its financial agility by establishing a growing number of special financing programs for various industries and sectors of the economy.  While these programs look good at first glance, they also expose important contradictions in the CBN’s position.

The special schemes are an implicit admission that normal rates stifle investment borrowing and thus suppress the economy.

The extraordinary schemes would not be required if the general interest rate was at a proper level. By establishing the special programs, the CBN attempts the impossible. On one hand, it defends the general rate as prudent. On the other, it proliferates special exceptions in order to spur investment borrowing that the general rate has heretofore stifled.

 

Malami tasks journalists on ethical conduct [Sun]

Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, has called on Nigerian journalists to continue to uphold the ethics and virtues of the profession and to guard against spreading fake news.

Why felicitating with the Nigerian journalists on the occasion of the World Press Freedom Day, Malami saluted the courage and support from journalists in upholding the rule of law, enhancing the fight against corruption and protecting the tenets of democratic principles in the country.

In a statement by his Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations, Dr. Umar Gwandu, the minister reiterated government’s commitment to providing a conducive atmosphere for the practice of journalism in the country.

“Malami urges journalists to continue to uphold the ethics and virtues of their profession and guard against ‘infodemic’ of spreading fake news, misinformation and distorted facts, especially in this period of COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Minister expresses appreciation on the media’s role in informing the citizens on the activities of government and holding the government accountable in compliance with Section 22 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).

 

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