COVID-19: FG extends flight ban by another 4 weeks [Sun]

  • Local airlines lose N21bn -Sirika

The Federal Government has extended the ban on all flights into the country for an additional four weeks.

Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), chairman of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, announced this at the daily briefing yesterday.

“Tomorrow (today) marks the last day for the enforcement of the closure of Nigeria’s airspace to flights. We have assessed the situation in the aviation industry and have come to the conclusion that, given the facts available to us and based on the advice of experts, the ban on all flights will be extended for an additional four weeks,” he said.

The Federal Government had, on March 18, announced the restriction of entry into the country for travellers from 13 countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom.

The restriction was extended to travellers from countries with more than 1,000 COVID-19 cases. They included China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Japan, France, Germany, Norway, the Netherlands and Switzerland, according to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

On March 23, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority confirmed that only essential flights would be allowed, including aircraft in state of emergency, over-flights, operations related to humanitarian aid, medical and relief flights, alternate aerodrome identified in the flight plan, technical stop where passengers do not disembark, cargo flights and other safety-related operations.

Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, said the sector has lost about N21 billion since the pandemic that necessitated the closure of the airports to international flights.

“Based on the trend of events prior to COVID-19, the total loss is about N21 billion approximately plus about N3 billion (trajectionally). It is divided in this form: N7 billion for aviation (what they lose in a month), N10 billion for airlines, N4 billion for ground handling, catering, etc., and then the taxation is N3 billion.”

Meanwhile, the PTF chairman has expressed concerns that Nigerians were not complying with the guidelines  for the gradual easing of lockdown.

He said from their observations, Nigerians have abandoned protective measures to curb the spread of coronavirus, noting that all indications pointed at trouble ahead. He called on all stakeholders, especially community and religious leaders, to help government in turning the tide.

The SGF reiterated his call for all Nigerians to take responsibility for their individual safety, as well as for their loved ones, warning that COVID-19 was a deadly outbreak, which should be taken seriously.

“The overall assessment of compliance with the measures and outcomes of modelling we have developed point in the direction of danger ahead. We, therefore, need personal discipline, increased awareness and enforcement.

“The PTF calls on community, religious and traditional leaders to take up this challenge. Similarly, we call on trade associations, professional bodies and organisations to complement the efforts of government. The PTF appreciates your current efforts but it has become very obvious that more needs to be done, together.

“Early assessment of the ease of lockdown phase indicates that Nigerians are yet to come to terms with the deadliness and the virulent nature of the COVID-19 and this gives us concerns on the high possibility of increased seeding of the virus to hitherto un-affected persons and populations.”

He appealed to governors to align their plan for the movement of Almajiris with the ban imposed by the President. Mustapha also admitted that people had faced challenges in the last few weeks, but warned “as we continue to push the frontiers of risk communication, I wish to appeal to all Nigerians to be vigilant and desist from taking undue risks. The PTF recognises the challenges earlier encountered at the bank. We, however, assure you that the Central Bank of Nigeria as well as the Bankers’ Committee have put in place strategies that would reduce such recurrence.

“I, therefore, plead with Nigerians to be patient and schedule their physical appearances at banks. On the other hand, I wish to repeat my call to the banks to also quickly address issues related to difficulty with using their on-line platforms, especially re-validating expired ATM cards, among others,” he said.

The SGF also expressed the concerns of President Muhammadu Buhari, as well as the PTF, on increasing cases of infection of medical doctors and other health sector frontline workers, adding that government would continue to renew efforts at training frontline personnel.

He specifically spoke about the situation at the isolation centres in Gombe State, where concerns of lack of care had been raised in viral online videos.

He said, “We have investigated and I wish to assure you that the NCDC team is on ground in Gombe to support the state EOC. Similarly, I can confirm that the testing laboratory in Gombe will be activated soon.”

He called on transportation managers, as well as leaders of various transport unions across the country to enlighten drivers of commercial vehicles on managing crowds, especially as public transportation had become a major clustering point.

He further said the PTF had continued to interface with state governments and other sub-national entities on various effective strategies to manage the health crisis.

Plane conveying Nigerians from Dubai makes midair return

A chartered plane conveying Nigerian returnees from the United Arab Emirates yesterday made a U-turn after a pregnant woman on board reportedly went into labour.

Chairman of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, confirmed the report.

The plane, which was initially scheduled to land at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport at 3pm, eventually arrived at 7pm.

The Emirates flight was the first of at least two other flights scheduled to evacuate Nigerians within the next few days.

The Foreign Affairs ministry said discussions were ongoing with British Airways to airlift 300 Nigerians from London on Friday; arrangements are also being made with Ethiopian Airlines for a flight from New York to Abuja next Monday.

Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, said on Monday that over 4,000 “willing” Nigerians were waiting to be evacuated across the world back home.

The returning Nigerians are expected to be quarantined for 14 days in select hotels on their arrival, the foreign ministry said on Tuesday. The quarantine is to ensure the coronavirus status of every returnee is ascertained.

Amnesty programme evacuates 27 beneficiaries in Ghana

Twenty-seven beneficiaries of the Presidential Amnesty Programme who completed a six-month training in automobile engineering at the Hyundai Automobile Centre in Koforidua, Eastern Region, Ghana, on April 2, have been evacuated to Nigeria amid daunting challenges occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.

They arrived at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, yesterday aboard an Air Peace chartered flight and were received by officials of the NCDC and the Amnesty Office.

In line with protocols put in place by the PTF, the 27 returnees were taken to a hotel in Maitama to be quarantined for 14 days.

The beneficiaries, who returned to the country after undergoing a comprehensive training in automobile assemblage, repair and maintenance at the Hyundai Automobile Centre in Ghana, popularly known as the Hyundai Dream Centre, commended the National Security Adviser, Gen. Babagana Monguno (retd), for authorising their airlifting back to Nigeria.

Leader of the beneficiaries, Mr. Omieh Orlando, also thanked the chairman and members of the caretaker committee superintending over the Amnesty Programme for facilitating the smooth evacuation process, as well as President Buhari for the gesture and sustaining the Amnesty Programme in his determination to reposition the Niger Delta region.

Mr. Emmanuel Ifie, managing director, Esco & Jester Services Limited, the consultant for the training of the beneficiaries, expressed joy over the evacuation exercise, which he said was a huge success.


FG slashes revenue, oil earnings to N3tr, N1.1tr [Sun]

  • Forecasts N4.7tr drop in Federation Account …Economy needs N10.1tr interventions –NESG

The Federal Government has predicted a N4.7 trillion shortfall in accretion to the Federation Account in 2020. Its projected amount for the year now stands at N3.9 trillion as against the N8.6 trillion previously proposed before the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, made the disclosure in a videoconferencing on Nigeria’s response to the fall in oil prices and the COVID-19 pandemic, held in conjunction with the Department for International Development (DFID).

The panel led by the Minister for Finance and supported by Mr Clem Agba, Minister of State, Budget and National Planning; also included Mr. Ben Akabueze, Director General, Budget Office of the Federation and Lade Jaiyeola, the Chief Executive Officer of the Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG).

The Minister’s disclosures came as the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) noted that the economy would require about N10.1 trillion in financial interventions to cope with the damage done by the coronavirus, stressing that current intervention capacity of N4.5 trillion was insufficient.

The meeting reckoned that the implied funding gap of N5.6 trillion was likely to be covered by medium to long term domestic borrowing, external borrowings possibly from World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), International Finance Corporation (IFC), African Development Bank (AfDB).

Ahmed explained that the total economic stimulation liquidity from the Federal Government, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and other donors currently stands at N4.5 trillion, representing 3.1per cent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

She added that the Budget Office was already finalising a revised 2020-2022 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Strategy Paper (MTEF/FSP) as well as an amendment to the 2020 Appropriation Act.

At the meeting, it was estimated that net oil & gas revenue available for Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) distribution has dropped by 80 per cent from the hitherto N5.5 trillion to N1.1 trillion.

Similarly projected Federal Government receipt into the federation account for 2020 was now put at N2.4 trillion, as against N4.8 trillion previously proposed.

This is despite a N649 billion reduction in allowable fiscal deductions by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) for federally funded projects/expenditures.

Specifically, projected petrol under-recovery has been reduced from N457 billion to zero. At the meeting, the Finance Minister said oil production was now projected at 1.7mbpd as against 2.18mbpd previously estimated.

The 2020 budget revenue benchmark was also reduced from $57/barrel to $30/barrel and later to $20/barrel.Moreso, average production cost of Nigerian crude has been revised downward to $28 per barrel from $33 per barrel with implications for Petroleum Profit Tax.

Revenue of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has been reviewed downwards from N1.5 trillion to N1.2 trillion this year.

The amount accruable to the Value Added Tax (VAT) pool account is expected to drop from N2.1 trillion to N2 trillion in 2020.

The revenue drop also cascaded to the states and local governments who are now likely to obtain N2.1 trillion and N1.5 trillion respectively from FAAC, compared to N3.3 trillion and N2.5 trillion, respectively, in previous estimates. The Finance Minister also noted that the Projected N5.6 trillion budget deficit would be financed through privatisation proceeds of N126 billion, drawdowns from FGN Special Accounts of N260 billion, bilateral/multilateral drawdowns of N387 billion, and new borrowings of N4.6 trillion.


2023: We’ll go all out for Presidency –Ohanaeze [Sun]

The Ohanaeze Ndigbo has vowed to go all out for the actualisation of Nigerian president of Igbo extraction.

The group, which has consistently clamoured for the restructuring of the country expressed optimism that God would make it possible.

It described as laughable news report purporting that it had engaged former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, to lobby for the emergence of President of Igbo extraction in 2023.

It also said that if it was decreed by God that the Igbo stock would become president of Nigeria, the babbling of some amorphous groups masquerading as champions of the interest of Ndigbo would not count.

A group trading as Ohanaeze Youth Council (OYC), headed by one Okechukwu Isiguzoro, had recently alleged that it had appointed the former military leader to lobby for an Igbo to become president.

But the apex Igbo organisation in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Prince Uche Achi-Okpaga, yesterday, said that Isiguzoro and his sponsors were on their own.

Ohanaeze also described as deceitful the story that its leadership was planning to have an interface with some prominent political figures in the country towards achieving the same objective.

It, therefore, said that at no time were the aforementioned situations ever contemplated or was there any meeting at which they were tabled for consideration, let alone any action being taken or a press statement issued on that.

Ohanaeze stated: “The purported actions exist only in the imagination of the miscreants and enemies of the Igbo nation who are the purveyors of the unfortunate concoctions.

“Ohanaeze Ndigbo reiterates that there is no organisation as Ohanaeze Youth Council recognized by Ndigbo and that the misguided so-called leader of the group, Okechukwu Isiguzoro, is a warped, egocentric and power-hungry mind who obviously is living in an incontrovertible state of mental delusion.

“Ohanaeze Ndigbo regrets the unpatriotic acts of some Igbo politicians sponsoring these equally unpatriotic irredentists shamelessly flying the kite for them towards 2023.

“It states that if it is the wish of God that a president of Igbo stock shall emerge in 2023, it will not be midwifed by an inconsequential group whose only mission and preoccupation is personal aggrandizement and not the collective interest and aspiration of Ndigbo.”



2 patients abscond from isolation centre in Oyo [Sun]

Two among the 33 active cases being managed for COVID-19 in an isolation centre in the Oyo State have absconded.

Governor Seyi Makinde made the confirmation yesterday, in an update on the management of coronavirus pandemic by the Oyo State COVID-19 task force, which he posted on his Twitter. But he did not give details of the absconded cases and the isolation centre where the incident took place.

The confirmation has, however, laid to rest a report that was circulated on social media on Tuesday that four persons absconded from the isolation centre.

“Of the 33 active cases being managed by the state, two have absconded, possibly to their permanent places of residence. This brings the number of active cases in Oyo State to 31.

“Ten cases are self-isolating, while 21 cases are being managed in the isolation centres in Oyo State; one at the University College Hospital, Ibadan and 20 in Olodo. Nineteen of these 20 cases at Olodo are asymptomatic and the last person has anosmia (loss of smell),” he said.

Makinde said 975 samples have so far been collected and are being processed.

The governor, who is the chairman of the task force, said the state received more results from pending COVID-19 confirmation tests, adding that the result of one suspected case came back positive on May 3 and the person is based in Ibadan.

“The results of five suspected cases came back positive on May 5. Four of these five cases are travellers from the northern part of Nigeria and the last one is an Oyo State resident.

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control had announced five new cases of COVID-19 in Oyo State while the total number in the state as at Tuesday stood at 38.


Gloomy outlook for states as Federation Account falls [Nation]

– ‘Many states won’t be able to pay wages from June’

The scale of the looming financial crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic has been revealed by Minister of Finance Mrs. Zainab Ahmed.

The Federal Government, the states and the local government councils have lost massive projected revenue which will affect their plans for this year.

Many states may be unable to meet their critical obligations, including payment of workers’ salaries, following the huge reduction in their revenue inflow from the Federation Account. The states expecting to share N3.3 trillion this year will not have more than N2.1 trillion.

The councils, which were projected to share N2.5 trillion will not get more than N1.5 trillion from the Federation Account.

The Federal Government’s share, which should have been N4.8 trillion will now be N2.4 trillion which is 50 per cent of the expected accruals, the minister explained.

She spoke during a citizens dialogue in Abuja, organised by the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning in conjunction with United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID).

The seminar discussed Nigeria’s response to the fall in oil prices and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The cut is in projection of revenue expected from oil and gas, Customs, and the Value Added Tax (VAT, she said.

According to her, the projected overall inflow into the Federation Account in 2020 is N8.6 trillion but what is expected now is N3.3 trillion.

The Custom’s projected revenue of N1.5 trillion has shownix to N1.2 trillion, VAT has gone down to N2 trillion from the targeted N2.1 trillion.

The worst-hit is the oil and gas intake which has dropped drastically from the projected N5.5 trillion.

The Budget 2020 oil price benchmark  was set at $55 per barrel. The projected was review downwards to $30. Now it is going further down to $20 as oil prices continue the free-fall in the international market.

The other  panelists were Prince Clem Agba, minister of State, Budget and National Planning;  Mr. Ben Akabueze, director-general, Budget Office of the Federation, and Lade Jaiyeola, chief executive officer, Nigeria Economic Summit Group.

The minister of state said: ”We also expect that from about June, the States might begin to feel the effects of low revenue coming from oil and, therefore, might be having challenges in meeting up with obligations, especially the payment of salaries.  To mitigate this, certain steps are to be taken.

“Of the $2.5 billion facilities from the World Bank, about $1 billion of it will be going to the States as loans. These are concessionary loans. Mr President has already approved N850 billion loan from domestic capital market.

“He has also approved $150 milion to be taken from the Sovereign Wealth Account in support of FAAC.

“We are also looking at suspending deductions in respect of the budget support funding which was provided to the States as a way of easing (burden).

“So, discussions are on with the CBN as to provide moratorium on the deductions in respect of the bailout loans.

“Already, N10billion has been given to support Lagos State; we also have additional provisions to cover the remaining 35 States and the Federal Capital Territory.

“We will ensure that about 5 million homes that are off-grid are provided with solar system. This is being driven from the Ministry of Power,” he stated.

“We are also looking at job creation for the youths. You are also aware that Mr President approved a thousand people to be employed within each local government. There are 774 local governments and this translates to 774,000 jobs across the country. This is going to be for three months starting from October.

”We are also providing additional financing to the Humanitarian Ministry for the cash transfers where one million additional household are being added.

“We are also providing support for small businesses, MSMEs, in order to ensure that jobs are protected and ensure that more jobs are created.”

He said that the Aviation sector would be assisted to stay afloat.

According to him, “We are also looking at how to support the Aviation sector. Like you know, a lot of planes are parked and this is causing almost N21 billion (loss) on a monthly basis.  We are looking at how to provide some form of bailout support to ensure that the industry doesn’t die.”

Verbal autopsy in Jigawa after strange deaths [Nation]

Verbal autopsy is being carried out by the Jigawa State Government to unravel the causes of the mass deaths in some of its towns.

A five-member team constituted by Governor Muhammadu Abubakar and supported by representatives of the World Health Organisation in the state is expected to complete the task on Thursday.

The constitution of the committee coincided with reports of similar deaths in Yobe State. The Jigawa fatalities in Hadejia in Hadejia Local Government Area was put at 150 while that of Yobe is believed to be around 148.

Worried Governor Abubakar said while inaugurating the committee, that “the government has taken this issue seriously.”

Chairman of the committee and leader of the team dispatched to Hadejia, Dr. Mahammud Abubakar, said, “We are in Hadejia to conduct verbal autopsy and find out the actual number of people that have died.

“The committee is also expected to uncover the causes for the recent increase in death rate in Hadejia; whether the deaths are related to COVID-19 or not.

“We will conduct the verbal autopsy and grave counting latest by tomorrow (today.)

“We are working closely with local government authorities and traditional rulers in order to ease our work. So far, we have not discovered anything that could link these deaths to COVID-19,”

Reports from the state indicated that most of the deceased had high fever, diabetes and high blood pressure.

The Special Assistant to the Local Council Chairman on Media, Sani Kakabobi, told The Nation that that many residents are apprehensive over the mass deaths.

He said health experts and local government council officials have warned the residents   to avoid sleeping indoors.

Kakabobi added, “Our people have been advised to be sleeping outside or open ventilated spaces. They are also to avoid congested places while sleeping or carrying out their activities.”


Four doctors, 18 nurses, others test positive in Bauchi, Kano [Nation]

Four doctors and 18 nurses on Wednesday tested positive for Coronavirus (COVID-19). The doctors and six other health workers tested positive in Bauchi State and the nurses in Niger State.

Executive Chairman of the Bauchi State Primary Health Care Development Agency (BASPHCDA), Dr. Rilwan Mohammed, who gave a situation update on the pandemic, confirmed the COVID-19 status of the four doctors.

It was during a news conference at the Government House, Bauchi, the state capital, on Wednesday.

Mohammed said: “So many doctors and nurses are getting infected in that area and their families are also infected and we have to follow their families up.

“The health workers who have tested positive include four doctors, six other health workers, including some nurses. Some of them are in Bauchi while some are in Azare but we have a higher number of them in the Azare zone.”

In Kano, the National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives said 18 of their members have tested positive for dreaded virus.

Kano State chapter Chairman of the Association, Ibrahim Maikarfi Muhammad, who confirmed this in Kano, said 86 samples of nurses were taken and results of 18 have indicated their positive status.

According to him, nine of affected workers are from National Orthopedic Hospital, Dala, seven from Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital and two from state-run hospitals.

Muhammad appealed to the government to provide health professionals with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to enable them discharge their responsibility without fear.


Security agents must stop violation of interstate lockdown, says NGF [Punch]

  • PTF decries dubious concealment of passengers in food trucks

The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 on Wednesday lamented Nigerians’ non-compliance with guidelines on the gradual reopening of the economy.

The task force Chairman, Boss Mustapha, who stated this at the PTF  press conference in Abuja, said disregard for the ban on interstate movements and other guidelines was an indication of the danger ahead.

But the Nigeria Governors’ Forum told The PUNCH that security agencies must live up to their responsibilities  by stopping violation of the ban on interstate movements.

The NGF stated this as the Arewa Consultative Forum hit northern governors on the shoddy implementation of the evacuation of Almajirai to their states of origin.

The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), had, in his broadcast on April 27, banned interstate movements.

The PTF a few days later issued guidelines on social distancing and the ban on any gathering of  more than 20 people.

But despite the ban on interstate movements, trucks carrying youths from the northern parts of the country have been finding their way into the south.

Nigerians yet to come to terms with COVID-19 deadliness

Assessing compliance with guidelines, the PTF chairman,  Mustapha, said an early assessment of the ease of lockdown indicated that Nigerians had yet to come to terms with the deadliness and the virulent nature of the COVID-19.

According to him, if Nigerians continue to disregard social distancing and other guidelines released by the PTF, there is danger ahead.

The SGF said some of the PTF worries included non-compliance with social/physical distancing guidelines evidenced by higher-than-advised congregation of people in banks, traffic gridlocks, especially at entry points to metropolitan areas and disregard for guidelines on carrying capacity of vehicles.

PTF decries dubious concealment of passengers in food trucks

He lamented that there was an increased level of interstate movements worsened by the dubious concealment of people in vehicles carrying foods, and unhygienic and ill-advised use and sharing of masks especially multiple fittings before buying from vendors.

He said, “The overall assessment of compliance with the measures and the outcome of modelling we have developed, point in the direction of danger ahead. We therefore need personal discipline, increased awareness and enforcement.”

The PTF chairman also recognised the challenges encountered at banks.

He stated,  “I wish to repeat my call to the banks to also quickly address issues related to difficulty with using their online platforms, especially revalidating expired ATM cards, among others.”

Educate your members on ban on interstate movements, FG begs transport union

The PTF chairman also urged transportation unions to educate their members on the ban imposed on interstate travels.

He said, “In view of the fact that public transportation is a major clustering area through which the virus can easily be transmitted, we call on the leadership of various transport unions to properly enlighten their members on the danger associated with non-adherence to the COVID-19 containment guidelines.

“Once again, we appeal to the governors to please align their plan for the movement of almajiris with the ban imposed by the President. We shall intensify our dialogue on this matter.”

Mustapha said the NCDC would visit Kogi and Cross River states, which had yet record any COVID-19 case to provide support for them.

He added that Buhari had expressed worry over the infection of health workers in the country.

FG probes Gombe protest

The SGF said an investigation had been carried out into a viral video of infected persons in Gombe State protesting the conditions of their health care.

He stated, “We have similarly received reports about the emerging situation in isolation centres in Gombe circulating in a viral video clip.

“We have investigated and I wish to assure you that the NCDC team is on  ground in Gombe to support the state. Similarly, I can confirm that the testing laboratory in Gombe will be activated soon.”

We won’t give any patient to herbal practitioners – Minister

Also at the PTF press briefing, the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire,  said many traditional medicines that were being suggested by some herbal practitioners in the country as cures for COVID-19   had not been tested and might be toxic.

The minister, who spoke amid criticism that the Federal Government was not looking inward in search of for the COVID-19  cure,  said the traditional cures must first be tested on animals and certified not to be toxic.

He  said   the Federal Government would not give COVID-19 patients to  traditional or alternative medical practitioners  to test the efficacy of their drugs as  there were  no “human guinea pigs.”

He said, “On the cure of COVID-19, the traditional medicines that have been given to us or rather that people said they had, we have referred to them to Traditional Medicine Complementary Department of the Federal Ministry of Health and to the Nigerian Institute of Pharmaceutical Research and Development to evaluate.

“But some of them, who have written to me that they have medicines, have asked me to give them 10 patients so that they can cure them. They say ‘give me 10, give me one and I will cure them, and you will see that it works.’

“But we don’t do it like that in medicine. We don’t have human guinea pigs. Anybody who knows that he or she has a cure must prove to me that it was tried and it worked. Many of the cures are not tested on anyone at all.”

“Of course, I am not giving them anyone to go and carry out their tests. That is why they have to go through the research cycle to make sure that their medicines are not toxic and you can also check the efficacy. So, those are things that will be tested.

“Any kind of medicine can be toxic. The toxicity can be checked and you can also check the efficacy. And as you know, you have to try it on animals such as rats  and mouse, before it is certified.”

Ehanire added that the Federal Government would mandate states to improve the conditions of the isolation centres because of the complaints about the poor feeding and living conditions in some of the centres.

He also said the Federal Government was making efforts to get more materials for COVID-19 treatment.

The minister stated, “We are increasing our intensive care units beds and ventilators. We have some on order and we are also getting from countries. The United States President promised Nigeria some ventilators. We also got a letter that the government of China is sending us another load of relief materials to attend to COVID-19. So it is a question of fixing them particularly in our teaching hospitals and federal medical centres.

“Without drawing any conclusion, the number of persons who have required ventilators so far is very few.

“The fatalities arising from COVID-19 are overwhelmingly connected to pre-existing conditions such as kidney disease, high blood pressure, cancer and tuberculosis. They are connected to age and underlying conditions.

He said the PTF was preparing to have isolation and ICU centres in all states.

The health minister directed state governments to increase the number of isolation centres as the Nigerian cases of COVID-19 soared close to 3,000.

The health minister added that the Federal Government had taken note of several complaints about the turnaround time to get the results of the COVID-19 tests.

Ehanire said, “While we are striving to increase our testing capacity, we have noted the complaints about turnaround time to get the results of tests conducted. We are doing what we can to resolve them.”

The NCDC Director General, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, in his address, highlighted the importance of data gathering and analysis to the COVID-19 national response.

Ihekweazu explained that after the Ebola outbreak, one of the biggest lessons learnt was that the country needed to collect electronic information on infectious diseases.

On efforts to increase the country’s testing capacity, Ihekweazu said, “This week, we have a team looking at Port Harcourt, Owerri and Anambra, as well as another team in Gombe and Yola. Very soon, we will have five more labs.”

The National Coordinator, PTF, Dr Sani Aliyu, appealed to state governments, particularly those that had yet to ensure the provision of isolation facilities, to make sure they had, at least, 300 beds available.

Security agents must stop violation of interstate movements, says NGF

But the NGF challenged security agencies to ensure that the ban on inter-state movements was not violated.

In spite of the ban, trucks carrying hundreds of youths from the northern part of the country have been finding their ways into southern states such as Ondo, Lagos and Delta.

The Head of Media and Public Affairs of the NGF, Abdulrazaque Bello-Barkindo, said security agencies had the responsibility of enforcing the ban on interstate movements.

He was responding to inquiries from The PUNCH about what was being done about reported cases of people moving from the northern to the southern part of the country and vice versa, in spite of the inter-state lockdown.

Bello-Barkindo referred The PUNCH correspondent to the communiqué signed by the Chairman of the NGF, Governor Kayode Fayemi, after the 6th teleconference meeting of the forum in April when the governors unanimously agreed to implement the interstate lockdown.

The NGF spokesperson said, “The guidelines for the lockdown made exemptions for the movement of agricultural products, foodstuff and pharmaceuticals. It did not include the movement of human cargo.

“Security agencies have the responsibility for enforcement of these guidelines and it is expected that they enforce these rules. Where they find people taking undue advantage of this provision, they are empowered by law to take actions in line with approved rules of engagement.”

ACF hits northern govs over clumsy implementation of Almajirai evacuation

Meanwhile, the apex northern socio-political organisation, the ACF, on Wednesday said it agreed with the decision of the northern governors to repatriate Almajirai to their states of origin.

The National Publicity Secretary of the ACF, Emmanuel Yawe,  who spoke to one of our correspondents on the  telephone  in Kaduna, however faulted the implementation of the decision by the governors.

Yawe said the Almajirai menace was retrogressive and completely at variance with development, adding that the implementation of the  repatriation  implementation  was  clumsy and uncoordinated.

He said, “The decision of repatriating Almajirai to their states was taken by the Northern Governors’  Forum and we have no quarrel with that because we don’t believe in the Almajirai system.

“It is a retrogressive system. We don’t believe in it at all. It is against the human development of the north and the development of the country. So, the ACF is against the Almajirai system.

“So, the decision of the governors to take them to their states of origin  to find their families, we totally agree with it. This is because if somebody has given birth to a child, he should be in the position to look after that child and not to throw the child onto the streets.

“We support that decision. But the only problem is with the implementation. The implementation is very clumsy and the governors should sit up and implement it in a proper way.

“They(governors) are implementing it haphazardly. It is not properly implemented. You can’t just carry the Almajirai in your(one) state and without proper coordination with another state and go and drop them in another state and go away.”

The forum spokesman noted that the implication of the northern governors not properly implementing the policy, would force the children back to the streets.

But  the northern governors  said there was no going back on their decision to return the Almajirai to their home states of origin.

Spokesman for  the Chairman of the forum,Dr Macham Makut stated this on Wednesday while referring one of our correspondents to the decision of the northern governors in their meeting held on April 21,2020.

In a statement issued after the meeting, the northern governors had  vowed never to allow the system to persist any longer because of the social challenges associated with it including the perpetuation of poverty, illiteracy, insecurity and social disorder.

Kano evacuates 1,172 Almajiris to five states – Chairman

In Kano State, the state government says it has so far evacuated 1,172 Almajiris to five states since the exercise began about two weeks ago.

The state Commissioner of Education and Chairman of the Almajiris Evacuation Committee,  Alhaji Sanusi Kiru disclosed this in an interview with The Punch in Kano on Wednesday.

He said out of the total number of Almajiris that had been repatriated to their state of origin,  419 were deported to Katsina State, 524 to Jigawa State, 155 to Kaduna State, while Bauchi and Gombe states had 38 and 36 Almajiris respectively.

In a related development, four members of the Nigeria Society of Physiotherapy have tested positive for  COVID-19 in Bauchi, Kano, Lagos and Jigawa states.

The association has also lost one of its members in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital,  as a result of the pandemic.

The National President of the association, Dr Rufai Ahmad, disclosed this in an interview with journalists in Kano on Wednesday.

Jigawa 47 deaths not linked to COVID-19 – LG chair

Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Hadejia Local Government Area of  Jigawa State, Abdullahi Maikanti, has said the 47 deaths recorded in the area had no link to COVID-19.

According to the News Agency of Nigeria, the council chairman said after a second audit on Tuesday, it was confirmed that 47 people died in the area.

Maikanti the deceased were elderly people with pre-existing conditions.


Opening markets, closing churches for COVID-19 wrong –Oyedepo [Punch]

The Presiding Bishop of Living Faith Church Worldwide, aka Winners’ Chapel International, David Oyedepo, has questioned the continuous closure of churches over the COVID-19 pandemic, saying he suspects ulterior motives.

Oyedepo, who spoke during the Covenant Hour of Prayer Programme on Wednesday, said if markets could be opened for six hours, there was no reason churches should not be opened for two hours.

The revered cleric said he believed there was a gang up against the growth of the church in the country.

He said, “There is something wrong. For people to be allowed to be in the market for six hours and can’t be in church for two hours, it is an upside-down way of looking at things.

“Which one is more orderly? The market or the church?

“I can smell a rat. The Lord spoke to me on it so strong yesterday. I can smell a rat. Behind all this, how do we stop the church from exploding? The people involved don’t know it.

“The voice of darkness is influencing people at various levels, targeting the church because the growth and expansion of the church is the greatest headache of the devil. But the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. The devil and all his agents shall surely pay for this.

“I don’t know what hospital that records the kind of healings that the church of God records. And now hospitals, where people die every day, are open, but the church is closed because the oppression of the devil has no medical cure.”

Earlier, the President of the LoveWorld Incorporated, aka Christ Embassy, Chris Oyakhilome, had slammed church leaders who agreed to the lockdown of churches without praying and consulting with other pastors.


Why I called $311m looted fund Abacha assets – Malami [Punch]

The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN), on Wednesday, defended his labelling of the just-repatriated $311m previously looted by the late Head of State, General Sani Abacha, as ‘Abacha assets.’

The PUNCH had reported that Malami came under criticism on Twitter between Monday and Tuesday for what commentators, including the publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore, described as the minister’s improper labelling of the proceeds of the looting perpetrated by the then maximum ruler.

But in a statement by his Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Dr Umar Gwandu, Malami said he deliberately referred to the funds as ‘Abacha assets’ because it had been repatriated to Nigeria and qualified as Federal Government’s assets.

Describing the criticism of his reference to the funds as ‘Abacha assets’ as a needless media hype, Malami urged Nigerians to focus on the utilisation of the funds for public good.

He stated, “The office (of the AGF) maintained that the choice of words was deliberate.

“It is to be noted that by way of antecedence that Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN has been consistently describing the recovered funds as ‘Abacha loot’ at several fora during the process of recovery of the looted funds, particularly before the eventual repatriation of the funds.

“The point needs to be made that when the seal of legitimacy was appended to the funds by way of repatriation, it became an asset in favour of the Federal Government as a beneficial owner of same.”

He added, “Beyond the issues of verbal dexterity and vocal acrobatics, Nigerians should focus more on effective utilisation of the recovered looted funds in accordance with the content of the signed tripartite agreement in the interest of the Nigerian public.

“It may interest the general public to note that there is a unit called Assets Recovery and Management Unit at the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice.

“The use of the word ‘assets’ in relation to the post-recovery of looted assets is to qualify same as Federal Government assets.”

Malami had in his tweet on Monday announcing the repatriation of the $311m from the United States of America and Bailiwick of Jersey, referred to the funds as ‘Abacha assets’.

This infuriated some Twitter users who contended that the description of the funds as ‘Abacha assets’ could imply that the funds might be returned to the Abacha family.

But Malami insisted that the money would be expended on identified infrastructural projects as agreed in the tripartite contract between the governments of Nigeria, the US and Bailiwick of Jersey, before the repatriation of the funds.



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