FG pays university lecturers 2 months withheld salaries [Sun]

  • ASUU shocked how IPPIS was used for payment

The Federal Government on Friday paid university lecturers in 43 federal universities the contentious two months withheld salaries for February and March.

Some branch chairmen and a zonal coordinator of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) confirmed to Sunday Sun that members received bank alert on Friday with anomalies in the payment.

The payment of the withheld salaries came after President Muhammadu Buhari intervened and directed the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation (OAGF) to release the February and March salaries to the affected ASUU members, who had earlier rejected the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS).

Attempt by the OAGF to pay the withheld salaries by demanding for the lecturers’ Bank Verification Number (BVN) was rejected by ASUU.

ASUU Lagos Zone Coordinator, Prof Olusiji Sowande acknowledged the payment, but added; “the withheld salaries was paid though we don’t know the details yet. Consultation is ongoing and the union will react appropriately.”

Chairman of ASUU, University of Port Harcourt branch, Dr Austen Sado told our correspondent that the situation would be reviewed.

Also, ASUU, University of Lagos branch chairman, Dr Dele Ashiru, said that “reports indicate that the majority of members received payment alert for the unlawfully withheld salaries for the months of February and March.”

According to him, the payment was made on the rejected IPPIS platform, which confirms “our age-long conviction that IPPIS is a fraud as it can be manipulated by those vehemently agitating for the forceful implementation of the scheme.”

Dr Ashiru commended members for their sacrifices and commitment to the principled struggle of the union and advised them to be prudent and conserve funds as the face-off is far from being over on account of the payment.

“Our struggle goes beyond the question of salary payment/IPPIS. Our members are advised to remain resolute and steadfast as we await further directive from the national leadership,” he said.

A lecturer at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaira confirmed receipt of the February and March salaries through the rejected IPPIS platform.

“I and my colleagues are wondering how the OAGF got ASUU members enrolled on the IPPIS platform which the union had earlier rejected. Our national leadership should take up the issue with the appropriate authorities, “ the ABU senior lecturer said.

The image-maker of OAGF, Mr Henshaw Ogubike did not respond to question on how the payment was made when the affected ASUU members in 43 federal universities did not enrol on the IPPIS platform.

Currently, ASUU members nationwide are on strike to press home the non-implementation of 2009 signed agreement, other Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), IPPIS issue and renegotiation of the 2009 agreement.


COVID-19: Sanwo-Olu threatens another lockdown on Lagos [Sun]

  • Says 33 dead, 448 treated

Babajide Sanwo-Olu, governor of Lagos State, has said that his administration may be forced to review the ease of lockdown if residents continue to  ignore public health guidelines.

Speaking during the maiden briefing after the ease of a five-week lockdown, Sanwo-Olu said: “Another round of interminable lockdown of movement and business activities would be introduced if there is no improvement in the adherence to the guidelines initiated to break the cycle of transmission of the dreaded virus.”

The government, he said, was taken aback, watching residents going about their businesses in the last five days after the ease of lockdown without complying with the public health guidelines despite massive advocacy.

Sanwo-Olu said the crowd observed at various banks and markets across the state flouted the public gathering directive, noting that the government would not watch while people violate the State’s guidelines towards combating the pandemic.

“As a Government elected to uphold security of its citizens, which include health security, we will not hesitate to review the terms of the easing of lockdown if we do not see an improvement in adherence to our public health guidelines in the next couple of days,” he said.

“We will be forced to take a painful decision of bringing the entire system under lockdown if we continue to see evidence that Lagosians are determined to flout the rules.

“As we eased restrictions on movement, we have increased our testing capacity and we are also actively increasing our isolation capacity. Members of the public will also see a change in our isolation strategy in the weeks ahead, as we transition towards decentralisation.

“What this means is that, we will be introducing community management of cases, by accrediting and incorporating primary healthcare facilities and private healthcare facilities for the management of mild-to-moderate cases of COVID-19 patients. However, we will guide this initiative carefully to ensure that it is not done at the expense of the capacity required to handle other medical cases.”

The governor,  lamented the rising case of Coronavirus in the state, disclosing that 1, 683 cases of the global disease had been reported in the state.

He disclosed that 448 patients have been treated and discharged, while 33 persons have lost their lives to the virus-related disease.

“This week, (which ended yesterday) has been unprecedented in terms of the numbers of newly confirmed cases in Lagos State. As at Friday May 8, 2020, we had 1,683 confirmed cases. Of that number, 448 have been treated and discharged, while we have, sadly, lost 33 persons.

“In the six days since my last address to you, while we have seen a 32% increase in the number of fatalities in Lagos State, and a 62% increase in the number of confirmed cases, we have also seen a remarkable 100% increase in the number of persons who have fully recovered.

He added: “This trend of recoveries is very encouraging, and we believe it will continue at this rate. It gives us some of the much-needed confidence to face the difficult days and weeks ahead”.

While decrying the attitudes of a section of  Lagosians to the guidelines on the pandemic,Sanwo Olu said :” Let the numbers we have seen this week stand as a warning to all of you the good people of Lagos State. What we are seeing is child’s play compared to what we could be seeing if we continue to be irresponsible”, he warned.

The governor, who admitted  that the state was in the community transmission stage of the infection, he added that that the only way to be sure was making all the right decisions is ensuring that we continue to scale up testing.

In this regard, he revealed that there are now four testing facilities in the state and expressed gratitude to the National Comtrol for Disease Centre and other partners involved in the fight against the disease.


Lockdown ease: Fear of virus spike grips Lagosians [Sun]

■ As many in city ignore safety measures against disease ■ Others don’t believe govt, efforts made in fight

Fear is high in Lagos State that a spike of the Coronavirus disease would occur in the Centre of Excellence following the number of residents who may have been infected with the virus after the lifting of the lockdown last week

This is based on the flagrant neglect of the directives laid out by the Lagos State government prior to the relaxation of the lockdown imposed on the state.

In apparent confirmation of this, the Lagos State COVID-19 Task Force has predicted that the number of infected persons would rise up to 120,000 by July this year.

The Lagos State Commissioner of Health, Prof Akin Abayomi, gave this indication on Friday during a press briefing on the COVID-19 situation in the state.

He said that the worry of the state government is that most people would get infected, be unaware of it as they would not show any symptoms (asymptomatic), but unconsciously spread the virus to many others thereby worsening the growing community transmission.

Contrary to the directives which specify that people must observe social distancing, wear face masks, wash their hands with water and soap before boarding commuter buses or use alcohol-based sanitizers while commercial vehicles must not carry more than 60 per cent of their regular capacity, Lagosians seem unperturbed by the dangers of COVID-19 as they have been conducting their daily affairs they in ways that suggest indifference to the rules.

The earliest indication of this came on Monday, when aerial pictures of Eko Bridge and other major arterial roads that lead into the Lagos Central Business District, taken by a drone showed bumper-to-bumper traffic of vehicles heading for the Lagos Island and other parts of the island. As it was in that axis, traffic gridlock was also witnessed in Ikeja and other parts of the mainland.

From that day to the end of the week, huge numbers of customers besieged and massed up at the gates of commercial banks in total defiance of the social distancing rule just as the majority of them pulled down their masks to their chins as they talked in high voices, protesting against being kept outside for too long under excruciating conditions.

At a popular bank branch in Ire Akari Estate, Isolo, there was stampede by customers who tried to gain entrance into the banking hall.

The same was experienced at the Aguda, Surulere branch of a first generation bank. Other scenes of pushing and struggle by customers on queues who stood too close to one another at less than elbow length, were seen even as most of the people pulled down their masks as they discussed about the handling of the COVID-19 palliatives and related issues.

A customer at the branch who spoke with Sunday Sun, Mr Pius Okafor, said he could not totally blame people for their conduct.

“Our leaders too are not showing good examples. For instance, the Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof Akin Abayomi, is always pulling down his mask, even when he is at the premises of the Infectious Diseases Hospital, IDH, Yaba.

“It is like these people are not really telling us the truth. Some people still believe that the government is not telling us the whole truth about this pandemic. Though we have seen cases of deaths recorded, but most Nigerians believe that once you go for COVID-19 test you automatically become infected. It seems they have a way they regulate the test kit to show negative and positive,” Okafor said.

He said that he foresees another lockdown looming. “From the statistics, the abuse of the process is enormous. I feel they should do total relaxation. It would help the situation because Lagosians don’t hear. The urge to rush home before 7:00 p.m because of the curfew is causing a lot of mayhem in the society.  People are busy jamming bodies to ensure they get to their respective homes by 7:00p.m.,” he said.

Transporters also are not helping matters. The buses are full as if nothing is happening. Then the Kabukabu in most places still carry three passengers at the back seat instead of the two prescribed by the government.

At the Lawanson market in Surulere, Mrs Nifemi Martin, said that the way traders behave should be given proper consideration. “The government has earmarked Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, but Lagosians don’t comply with the rules.”

Martin recalled that when she confronted a trader in the market as to why she was not wearing a mask, the lady replied that she forgot her mask at home, adding in pidgin, “The thing no master person.”

Another woman said she found wearing the mask tiring and uncomfortable. She explained: “I have been wearing the mask since morning; I think pulling the face mask down is not bad. With time Nigerians will get used to the mask.”

Interestingly, a visit to Yakoyo, a popular eatery in Surulere, showed that the normally busy facility had few customers inside who came to purchase take-away food packs, and were carefully observing social distancing while waiting to be served.

In the major distribution hubs in the metropolis, the leaders of the markets have adopted measures to ensure that buyers and sellers at the bustling markets adhere strictly to the preventive measures announced by the government, which include social distancing, washing of hands with soap and water, as well as the use of hand sanitizers.

However, a number of the normally crowded markets and shopping malls in Lagos have been implementing the directives given by the Lagos State government. For instance, at the Computer Village, Ikeja, Lagos, which is the biggest information and communication technology (ICT) hardware distribution hub in West Africa, Sunday Sun observed has adopted a policy of ‘No Mask, No Entry,’ which are seen on signposts erected at the gates to the super busy market, and persons without face masks were prevented from entering the market by a combined team of Lagos State officials and the task force established by the leadership of the market to enforce the directive of the government, which made the wearing of face masks compulsory after the lifting of the lockdown.

One of the officers of the Computer Village COVID-19 Task Force, who spoke with Sunday Sun on condition of anonymity, explained the modus operandi of the team in these words: “We are engaging the people, encouraging them to wear the mask and in a way we are also enforcing compliance. When you are around this street, if you are not wearing it, we engage you, explain the importance to you and encourage you to use it. But where you prove to be adamant, we advise that you go home and stay. That is what we are doing and it is in line with the strategies against the spread of COVID-19.”

Other major commercial hubs like Ojo-Alaba International Market, Ojo, and Ojuoye Market in Mushin, in their bid to avoid too much crowd trooping into the markets, decided to alternate their trading days. It was gathered that the two electronics and consumer goods distribution hubs would open for business three times a week (Monday, Wednesday and Friday).

“Aside from not opening our markets, we traders also ensure strict compliance with government guidelines,” Mr Joseph Chibuike, an electrical/electronics trader at the market, said, adding that “I sanitize the hands of any customers that enter my shop. Also, security officials have increased their drive-in visits, to arrest anyone without face mask seen on the roads within the market. So, it’s no child’s play for both traders and buyers here in Ojo-Alaba.”

In the same vein, a foodstuff seller at the Ojuoye Market, Mrs Kemi Bukola, said that they have been ordered not to open their shops from Monday to Wednesday. “I learned that while Ojuoye is closed, Daleko Market (another foodstuff distribution hub) would open for business. And on the day we open, Daleko traders close their shops.”

Even with the campaigns on radio, television and social media, to boost awareness about the dangers of COVID-19 and thereby curb the spread of Coronavirus infection which has caused the pandemic, many people still doubt the veracity of figures being churned out by the NCDC, regarding the COVID-19 situation in the country.

Chinedu who deals in auto spare parts at Ladipo, told Sunday Sun: “I don’t wear face masks or use sanitizers because I don’t trust this government’s sincerity on the issue of the virus. I believe that COVID-19 is in Nigeria, but I don’t agree with the figures being released by the government. The figures keep rising and they keep telling us to stay at home and close our shops, but if you look at the government, you’ll notice their hypocrisy. I made up my mind on this when I saw what happened at Abba Kyari’s burial. So, I’m not ready to throw away my money on face masks or hand sanitizers.”


COVID-19: Mob kills police inspector while enforcing curfew [Nation]

  • 12 more health workers test positive for coronavirus in Kano
  • Kano returnee who sneaked into Osun tests positive

A POLICE inspector who was part of a security team enforcing the coronavirus curfew in Auchi, Edo State has been killed by a mob.

The team was attacked on Friday by unknown hoodlums who fatally shot the inspector.

Twelve health workers at the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital (AKTH) and another one at the University Teaching Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, are among the latest Nigerians to test positive to the virus.

Ondo State recorded two more cases on Saturday while Osun and Enugu reported one each.

Spokesman for the Edo State Police Command, Chidi Nwabuzor, confirmed the Auchi attack on Saturday.

He said: “On Friday, May 8, 2020 at about 9 p.m., Inspector Felix Egbon and team were attacked with guns and other dangerous weapons by unknown hoodlums, who emerged from the bush at Iyetse Quarters, Auchi, while enforcing COVID-19 curfew imposed by the Federal Government of Nigeria from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. In the process, Inspector Felix Egbon was shot on the neck. He was immediately rushed to the General Hospital, Auchi, where he gave up the ghost.

“Consequently, the Commissioner of Police, Edo State Command, Lawan Jimeta, has ordered full-scale investigation into the gruesome murder of the Police Inspector and he solicits for the assistance of the sister security agencies, vigilance group and hunters in the area in arresting the perpetrators.

“Edo State Commissioner of Police also pleads with the traditional rulers, village heads and youth leaders to assist in providing information that may lead to fishing out those responsible for the dastardly act. He warns the perpetrators to submit themselves to the police.

“Edo State Police Command reiterates its resolve to continually protect the lives and property of the good citizens of the state, in line with its constitutional mandate.”

12 additional AKTH workers test positive for COVID-19

Twelve more workers at the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital (AKTH) have tested positive for COVID-19, the Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU) AKTH Branch announced yesterday.

Chairman of the branch, Dr Murtala Isa Umar, in a statement listed the affected workers as five nurses, three technicians, one medical information officer, one billing officer and one attendant.

Thirteen other workers tested negative, Umar said.

Twenty-two JOHESU members who had earlier tested positive for COVID-19 are currently in isolation centres.

UCH worker tests positive

The story is similar at the University Teaching Hospital, Ibadan, where a worker also tested positive to the deadly virus.

The authorities of the hospital said yesterday that the “staff in question is in good health and is receiving the necessary support while the routine contact tracing and relevant infection control protocols instituted.

“Consequently as at 4 pm, Friday, 8th May 2020, we have one new case of COVID-19 confirmed. The total number of COVID-19 patients that the hospital has attended to is now 11 (eleven).

“Out of these, six patients were managed as in-patients in the isolation unit or other locations in the Hospital, two of which were discharged after being declared free from the virus from results of investigations done.

“One patient was however transferred to Lagos for further treatment. Regrettably, two deaths occurred.

“Presently, there are three active confirmed cases of COVID-19 being managed by staff of the Hospital. One of these is on admission while the other two are being managed at home.”

Four discharged in Akwa Ibom

Four COVID-19 patients have been discharged in Akwa Ibom State while one case has been sent to an isolation centre.

Health Commissioner Dominic Ukpong told reporters in Uyo on Friday. He said the confirmation followed the outcome of five of the 31 samples that were sent to the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) by the State COVID-19 Management Committee.

He said: “we recently tested 31 patients and we have started getting the results. We’ve got five results so far and of the five results, four are actually negative, so we discharged them.”

Kano returnee who sneaked into Osun tests positive

A resident of Kano State who allegedly sneaked into Osun State is said to have tested positive to coronavirus.

Health Commissioner Rafiu Isamotu said  the new case sneaked into Iwo from Kano before his neighbours alerted the State COVID-19 team.

There are currently three active cases in the state.

He said: “the COVID-19 confirmation test for one suspected case came back positive on Friday out of the 14 samples we sent for testing at the NCDC accredited Testing Centre; the African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases, Ede during the week.

“The case sneaked into the State from Kano State and the neighbours immediately alerted our COVID-19 team.

“Presently, we have three active cases in the State. The good news is that the new case on arrival self-isolated although he wasn’t showing any symptom of the virus.”

The Commissioner said a total of 434 tests have so far been conducted at the NCDC accredited Testing Centre, Ede.

Ondo records two, Enugu one

Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State said on his official Twitter handle yesterday that there were two fresh cases of coronavirus in the state.

“We recorded two new cases of #Covid19 in Ondo State. I will be giving details on these new cases during my weekly briefing on Monday,” he said.

Enugu State also confirmed another new positive case.

The new case happens to be another contact of the third case reported in Enugu who had travel history from outside Enugu.

The total number of cases reported in Enugu now stands at 10, eight of which are active.

The patient has also been admitted for Isolation and Treatment.


COVID-19: PTF reports Kogi governor to Buhari [Nation]

  • Accuses Bello of frustrating testing in Kogi
  • Unhappy with Wike, Ayade
  • NMA slams claims by Kogi, Cross River to be coronavirus-

THE Presidential Task Force (PTF) on Coronavirus Disease  has formally reported Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State to President Muhammadu Buhari  for what it termed the governor’s hostile attitude to the body.

The Task Force is also displeased with Governors Nyesom Wike (Rivers) and Ben Ayade (Cross River) for allegedly not cooperating with the committee in the fight against COVID-19.

Similarly unimpressed by the attitudes of the Kogi and Cross River State governments is the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), particularly on claims by the two states that they are coronavirus free.

The association says the two states must follow the testing guidelines issued by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) before having such bragging rights.

The Nation gathered yesterday that the Federal Government may impose a lockdown on Kogi State or declare a state of emergency if Governor Bello continues to defy the PTF.

Sources said the Kogi governor who is generally perceived as a  core Buharist stands the risk of losing the favour he currently enjoys from the Villa.

The PTF, according to sources, is angry at the “very poor” attitude of Bello to the management of Coronavirus epidemic, which has led to the conduct of only two tests so far in his state.

The committee suspects that the state may be suppressing information about Coronavirus infections in its territory, going by the governor’s alleged maltreatment of NCDC officials sent to the state on Thursday.

The four-man NCDC team to the  State was allegedly hounded and escorted out of Lokoja by some policemen and security agents up to the airport road in Abuja on the order of the governor.

The development and reports of  some cases at the Federal Medical Centre in Lokoja, the state capital are said to have fueled suspicion by the PTF that the state has more to hide on COVID-19.

Consequently, the PTF has met with all the security agencies to “keep them abreast of the breach of the Quarantine Act by the state government.”

A top level source said: “The facts at our disposal have shown that Kogi is at the risk of COVID-19 because it is a melting point for inter-state travelers and it shares borders with 12 states (about one-third of the states in the Federation) which had recorded infections. The border States are Ondo, Ekiti, Edo, Kwara, Niger, Anambra, Niger, Enugu, Osun, FCT, Plateau and Benue.

“Kogi has only conducted two tests despite the increasing rate of community spread. We were shocked that the state government has refused to fulfill its obligations as enshrined in the Quarantine Act 1990 CAP 384 LFN.

“Yet, the PTF has been very polite in relating with Bello. For instance, the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire on Tuesday called the governor and it was agreed that a four-man team of NCDC would be sent to the state.

“But while receiving the four-man team on Thursday, he said they should handover the letter they brought to the state Commissioner for Health. In the process, the commissioner had contact with the head of the team and the governor sparked by ordering his immediate quarantine.

“Following refusal to be quarantined, the governor humiliated the team by ensuring that they were escorted  by armed police  out of Lokoja to the airport road in Abuja.”

Another reliable source said: “The PTF was briefed by the team which went to Kogi State. And the committee in turn held a meeting with security agencies where the governor’s unbecoming attitude was formally reported.

“The PTF members also unanimously decided to report the governor to President Muhammadu Buhari since he has always boasted that he has the ears of the President.

“The position of the  committee is for the President to invoke his powers in the 1999 Constitution to declare a state of emergency in Kogi State or use his inherent authority in the Quarantine Act to impose lockdown on the state.

“The PTF believes any of these steps should be taken if the governor remains recalcitrant. It is left to the President to decide the fate of Kogi State.

“Although the governor is a favourite of the Presidential Villa, it is doubtful if he can have his way. He is overstretching his luck.”

Committee also displeased with Wike, Ayade

Investigation also showed that the PTF was equally angry with Governors Nyesom Wike (Rivers) and Ben Ayade (Cross River) for “not cooperating with the committee on containment of COVID-19.”

A member of the task force said: “These two governors are not doing enough to contain the coronavirus; they are playing politics with it. They have not paid serious attention to the campaign against COVID-19.

“These two governors are also under watch because we won’t allow them to derail our efforts at containing the epidemic. What we are demanding from the governors are concrete steps to stop community spread, not playing to the gallery. Enough of politics with COVID-19.

“Ayade sees the entire COVID-19 epidemic as not real but an attempt to make money.”

The Cross River governor once said: “I think Africans should come together to the realization that it is not vaccines. It is healthy living. Give people jobs. Thabo Mbeki once told the world, ‘don’t tell us about giving us HIV drugs in South Africa. Give us money let us improve our agriculture.’ Let everybody have a job and is working and living healthy. HIV virus will disappear; the same thing with coronavirus.

“It would sound very controversial but you should know that I am talking from a sound intellectual and scientific background.

“The virus itself, the test method itself, the PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction)  test method is an unreliable method and is never to be used for diagnostic purpose but genomic sequencing, for just research purposes.

“But the PCR is being used, test kits are being produced. Test kits manufacturers are making cool money. If I test you and you are coronavirus positive, what do I do? There are no vaccines. There is no established approved international treatment protocol.”

It could not be immediately ascertained whether the President may impose lockdown on Rivers and Cross River States.

A highly-placed source said: “We won’t allow the situation in those two states to deteriorate, we are monitoring them closely.”

The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), in a recent statement said the President has  power to deal with the situation reports in Kogi, Rivers and Cross River States having taken similar measures in Lagos, FCT and Ogun.

Malami said: “Section 3 of the Act enables the President to declare any part of Nigeria as an infected area. Section 4 of the Act further empowers the President to make regulations to prevent the introduction, spread and transmission of any dangerous infectious disease. “Section 6 of the Act requires the President and State Governors to provide sanitary stations, buildings and equipment. Thus, in recognition of the critical roles being played by the state Governors in these trying times, the Federal Government has been working with the states in line with the dictates of Section 6 of the Act,” he said.

“It is important to inform the discerning members of the public that the President did not make a declaration of a state of emergency under Section 305(1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which would have required the concurrence of both houses of the national assembly.

“Even at that Section 305(6)(b) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) permits a proclamation of a State of Emergency to run for a period of 10 days without the approval of the National Assembly when the parliament is not in session as in the present situation wherein the National Assembly has shut down.”

NMA slams claims by Kogi, Cross River to be COVID-19 free

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) yesterday faulted  claims by Kogi and Cross River States to be coronavirus (COVID-19) free, saying the states must ensure that they follow the testing guidelines issued by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

The association urged the Federal Government to investigate the claims of the two state governments in the interest of safeguarding Nigeria’s public health.

The President of the NMA, Dr. Francis Faduyile, in a statement yesterday in Abuja, said “pronouncements of some political leaders constitute outright interference in NCDC’s coordination of case treatment for effectiveness and learning lessons.”

The NMA “vehemently decries the stance of the Governments of Kogi and Cross River states to NCDC’s advisory.”

It added: “While it would be welcome news for a ‘no-positive-case’ status in any state or FCT, every state must ensure that it is following the testing guideline issued by the NCDC.

“That way, no cases are missed, as that would seriously imperil the whole national response to controlling COVID-19 pandemic.”

The NMA  appealed to the Federal Government, through the Presidential Task Force (PTF), to investigate the claims of the two state governments in the interest of safeguarding Nigeria’s Public Health, and to recommend appropriate remedial intervention (s) if necessary to Mr. President.

It said: “NMA review revealed verifiable difficulties in collecting samples, transporting them in the proper media and dearth of test kits by the Coordinating authorities. This development is coming a few days after being told of the markedly increased capacity of 50,000 samples per day in 21 laboratories to ramp up testing nationwide.

“The Association places the responsibility on the PTF and the NCDC to find the fastest workable solutions to fix this challenge, including incorporating the approved private sector laboratories that already have established specimen pick up and transport modalities.”

On the Infectious Diseases Control Bill 2020, proposed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, the NMA said it welcomed the resolve of the House to subject the Bill to a Public Hearing.

It called for the withdrawal of the Bill entirely and redrafting it to remove any existing and future doubts in the people.

“The NMA is not oblivious of the socio-political and economic implications of continued lockdown, and the attendant hunger and acute deprivation in the population. But the NMA maintains the firm view that the solution is not to loosen the lockdown prematurely, for that assures more catastrophic worsening of the infection and deaths from coronavirus.

“Instead, The NMA proffers that the solution lies in a more robust and widened palliatives’ policy and its practical and urgent implementation.

“NMA welcomes the announcement of Special Risk Allowance and Insurance for Healthcare Workers and has stated as much already.

“We therefore strongly demand that there should be no further delay in commencement of the payment of the announced sums or contemplation of effective date of implementation as it was of common knowledge when COVID-19 became a public health emergency in Nigeria.”


Mum from hell! Burns stepson’s two hands [Nation]

  • He keeps making love to me in my dreams –stepmother •Boy: It’s a lie, she’s ruined my life

It’s one of the most bizarre of stories, but true. Linus Oota in Nasarawa, reports the story of a step-mother who connived with a witchdoctor to burn off all fingers of her 13-year-old step-son.


THE 13-year-old Ovey Friday was deeply in grief, his head, downcast and he appeared too weak to even acknowledge the presence of The Nation correspondent, who had come to know how he is coping, having recently lost all his fingers to what he termed the wickedness’ of his step-mother.

Even the presence of his uncle and grandmother could not stop the torrents of tears trickling down his cheeks, as he cried uncontrollably, lamenting his predicament and wishing his late mother was alive.

“Ooh mum, the day you died, I held your hand four times; after you died, I held you close to me; I knew it was for the last time, for you had been sick and in so much pain. That was no life.

“I know you were afraid to die; I hope you have found comfort. However, for my elder sister, Salvation and I, life has no meaning anymore

“Since your demise, my first two siblings have also left us to join you, and I now go about without hands – all my fingers, cut off by my father’s wife for no reason other than hatred. Sometimes, I feel like coming to join you in the grave, for life has no meaning to me anymore.

“Mum, more than ever before, I can’t imagine life without you. People talk about broken hearts in songs and movies; I never truly knew what a broken heart meant until my hands were burnt without any justifiable reason. Mum, wherever you are, pray for me, since my father has neglected his duty of protecting me and allowed his wife to deform me.” Again, he burst into tears.

No sign step-mum has mental issues

Mrs. Mercy Juammai, 35, who lives with her step-son in Wulko community in

Nasarawa Eggon Local Government whenever her husband was away has no history of mental disturbances or imbalance, hence no one could have predicted that she would at any time attempt to snuff the life out of her step-son.

But the trajectory of families with second wives in Wulko irreparably changed recently, when, Juammai attempted to kill her 13-year-old step-son.

Juammai, in a flurry madness, attempted to murder his step-son in connivance with a witchdoctor on the allegation that the little boy was sleeping with her in her dream.

Ovey, lying in a hospital bed, told our correspondent that his trouble began when his mother, Esther died and his father decided to take another wife. He said as soon as the second wife arrived, his trouble began.

“She started accusing me of being a wizard; she kept raising false alarm and accusations against me; that I made love to her in her dream; that she always saw me making love to her in her dream. But I told her that it was not true.

“Thereafter, she started threatening me, saying I could not stay in the same house with her. She then took me to a native doctor, a Fulani man by name Mohammed Danlami. When we got there, the native doctor picked a stone and threw it at me. Thereafter, he rubbed the stone on me and tied my two hands with a rope

“He then brought charcoals out of the fire and poured them on my tied my hands, asking me to confess that I was a wizard and a member of a secret society. But I told him that I was innocent of what he was accusing me of. He brought out powdered pepper and poured it into the fire allowing it to smear my face, while my hand burned.

“After that, he fetched more charcoals from fire (he did it three times); that was when I began to pray to God. When he saw that I was praying, he came back and untied the rope from my hands, but my wrists, palms and fingers were already badly burnt. They brought me home but I woke up the next day to see that both my hands were swollen. That was when they took me to the hospital for treatment. The intention of my step-mother  was for the man to burn me alive,” he said.

At this point, the 13-year-old again burst into tears. “What is my offence? I committed no offence to her; how I wish my mother was alive. Her absence has ruined my life. I’m being persecuted for an offence I did not commit. How can I make love to my step-mother in her dreams? It is certainly a case of hatred. Mum, wherever you are, your son has been disfigured. I wish you were here; I’m no longer whole. John and Moses died immediately to join you, and Salvation and I have felt your absence every day of our lives. I fell into an unending well of agony after you left, and dwelled there for years. Now, depression runs in my veins alongside my blood.

“Please mum, wherever you are, I want you to know how much of an impact losing you has had on our young lives. I can no longer continue my education again because I don’t have hands to write. What a wicked world and a wicked step-mother! But I have forgiven her, although God will judge her for what she has done to me because I didn’t do any wrong to her.” Tears of agony again.

Our correspondent also spoke to Friday’s uncle, Mr Zakaria Jeremiah. His facial expression, mood and intermittent sighs portrayed emotional gashes that will take time to heal. He introduced himself as the elder brother to Ovey ‘s late mother.

He said “The late Esther is missed so much. Since she left, no one has been able to fill the space she left behind, especially in the life of her two surviving children, Salvation and Ovey.

“She was an easy-going woman, good and dutiful; always committed to achieving whatever she sets out to achieve. She loved her children very much and meant well for them, but she died very early in life, leaving them. Two later died, leaving only two.”

He said what happened to Ovey has rendered him speechless, but he has accepted the fact that God almighty allowed it to happen. He added that even if the woman is sent to life imprisonment, it cannot bring back Ovey’s fingers, which are now gone forever.

He said Ovey is staying with him in Lafia at the moment and he is thinking of fixing artificial fingers for him, so that he can continue his education going forward.

He does not deserve to live – Step-mother insists

The Nation also had a chat with the woman, Mercy Jummai, who is heavily pregnant for her first child. She insisted on the allegation that the boy, Ovey, kept making love to her in her dreams and that he deserves to die.

She confirmed that she actually took him to the herbalist with the intention of burning him alive. “He is an evil child who does not deserve to live. He is a member of a secret cult and eliminating his life is the best option.”

Commenting on the incident, the village head of Wulko, Sarkin Garin Wulko, Joseph Envuladu, expressed shock over the incident, which he said was not common in the community.

He said, “Ovey is popular in the village; he is humble and respectful; he is a member of the St Mary’s Catholic Church choir and a class captain at Government Junior Secondary School in the community.

“How can you carry out such wickedness on a small innocent boy because he is the son of your husband? His mother died long ago and was buried  before the man got married to you, so what is his offence?”

Assailant released

Just before going to press, our correspondent gathered that the assailant, Mrs. Jummai, who was initially detained at the police station, has been released while her husband, who happens to be the father of Ovey, is in detention.


Controversy as Bauchi community suffers over 110 strange deaths in 14 days [Punch]

  • Ex-Rep in letter to Buhari links deaths to COVID-19, demands probe
  • Only 30 died, cases unconnected to coronavirus –Deputy gov
  • Deaths may be over 300, say indigenes, Katagum District Head confirms 110

There was controversy on Saturday over an alleged huge deaths of about 110 persons in Azare town, headquarters of Katagum Local Government Area of Bauchi State, within the past two weeks.

The drama began when a former member of the House of Representatives, Ibrahim Mohammed Baba, raised the alarm in a letter to the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), informing him of the death of over 100 persons in the town in the last one week.

The letter was obtained by Sunday PUNCH on Saturday.

Baba, who confirmed to one of our correspondents that he wrote the letter, claimed that the deaths were due to the outbreak of coronavirus in the town. The outbreak, he said, resulted in over 100 fatalities, “throwing the entire area into great mourning, panic and confusion.”

The former lawmaker served between 2015 and 2019, reelected in 2019 but removed by the Elections Petitions Tribunal. He also said about 286 persons were allegedly buried at the Azare cemetery in the last two weeks, adding that anyone in doubt should visit the cemetery to verify his claim.

He said, “If you go to the graveyard, they have a register there and you would see it yourself. In the last two weeks, they registered more than 286 bodies at the Azare graveyard. The normal death rate in the town was about one to two per day, so you have to raise the alarm when you are burying 200 to 300 persons in two weeks and over 100 per week. Our people are dying, do we have to keep quiet?

“We are not blaming anybody; this is a pandemic, we are just asking the government to take further action. The Federal Medical Centre there is doing well; they have over 20 people in isolation there. It’s a case of community transmission like the one in Kano.

“Go to the Federal Medical Centre isolation centre and ask them how many people they have there within two weeks. When Justice Dahiru Saleh died, the record was around 236. If you go to the Azare cemetery, the register is there. What we are trying to do is to inform the government to do the needful. We are asking for a testing centre and other measures the government can deploy to give palliatives to people.”

In the letter titled, ‘Massive COVID-19 outbreak in Azare: Request for urgent action’, Baba, who once represented Katagum Federal Constituency, requested the President to intervene urgently.

The letter partly read, “The centrality and proximity of Azare to Bauchi, Kano and some major cities of Jigawa State makes the town’s large population susceptible to the virus due to the already existing large cases of the disease in those areas.

“And because media coverage is always largely skewed towards states capitals and other more prominent cities, the ongoing horrific situation in Azare has not got the attention it deserves, and that is why I want to use this privilege to appeal to you for urgent action to arrest the unpalatable situation.

“Consequently therefore, I wish to appeal to Your Excellency to direct the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 to urgently reach out to Azare town with all the necessary facilities and palliatives to assist the communities there.

“And to help in this expected effort, may I draw your attention to the fact that an Opthalmology unit and laboratory have already been built and equipped by the Central Bank of Nigeria at the Azare Federal Medical Centre since 2013 but have not been inaugurated and put to use till now.”

Meanwhile, the total number of cases in the state rose to 161 following the addition of the 44 new cases detected on Saturday.

Overall, there were 239 new cases in the country on Saturday, pushing the total cases to 4,151. Number of deaths increased to 128 while 745 persons have so far been discharged.

Katagum district head confirms 110 deaths

But, when contacted, a member of the Katagum Emirate Council and District Head of Katagum, Usman Mahmood Abdullahi, told Sunday PUNCH in a telephone interview that there had only been 110 deaths and no evidence to link the deaths to COVID-19.

He said, “We have one major burial ground in Azare and the information available to me is that from the time we started our fasting (April 24) till date, we have buried 110 persons. When I asked the graveyard managers, they told me the average death is between 10 to 12 in a day, even without this COVID-19. So, from the look of things, we didn’t even meet the average because if you look at it, we only have 110 deaths within 15 days. And the number is falling.

“Secondly, I’m in touch with the FMC where the isolation centre is. I don’t know how he got his information. We have a register at the graveyard and anybody can go and check. The information I gave you is from the available register.”

Asked if the deaths could be due to COVID-19, he said, “No, because I’m not a medical doctor. About four to five of them who died recently were over 85. So, it’s a normal death.”

Deaths may be over 300, say indigenes

However, in a different but related twist to the controversy, a Peoples Democratic Party candidate from Azare/Madangala constituency for the House of Assembly election in the last general elections, Musa Azare, in an open letter to Governor Bala Mohammed claimed that as of Thursday, there were over 301 fresh graves dug at the Azare cemetery in the last 14 days.

He said what was more worrisome was the way people accompanied the corpses for burial, pointing out that it was in violation of government’s directives and protocols.

He added, “Information reaching me from Azare says that as at yesterday there were 301 fresh graves in the Azare cemetery, dug in the last 14 days. I have verified this information from multiple sources.”

Azare said that there was the need to intensify awareness among the people, advising the indigenes to be more cautious in the face of the pandemic.

He said, “And to our people, you better wake up and accept the reality of what the whole world is going through. This deliberate ignorance and reckless scepticism will not do anyone any good. In fact, it is part of the reasons why we are witnessing more and more deaths. And truly, it amounts to us killing ourselves.”

In a related revelation, an indigene of Azare and Secretary of the Muhammad Dankauwa Horse Riders Association in the town, Mr Umar Farouq, said over 300 people had died in the community.

He said it was sad that no tests were being carried out to determine the cause of the deaths.

He said, “Most of the people who have died were aged 60 and above. Since April 24 when Fatima Adamu, the mother of the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, died in Azare, we have been seeing more deaths.

“About 300 persons have died in Azare now. No autopsy has been carried out to determine what killed them and we have been living as if nothing is going on.

“We are scared because most people living in Azare are like a family. We need a COVID-19 testing centre to determine what’s going on.”

Another indigene, a teacher who lives at Azare, Mr Inuwa Umar, also told one of our correspondents on the telephone that in the past two weeks, over 300 persons had died in the community.

“In the past few days, almost every day when I open the social media or go to the mosque, there have been announcements of people who died from illness. Both the prominent and ordinary residents have died,” he said.

Umar said he was afraid that Azare might be experiencing the deaths due to its proximity to Kano, saying over 30 buses usually left Azare for Kano every day.

Kano is an epicentre of the COVID-19 in the North-West, with 576 cases as of Saturday. The state also recently experienced a series of what residents tagged ‘mysterious deaths,’ which were later found out to be COVID-19 related.

Umar said, “I think the situation might be as a result of what is happening in Kano. We have strong economic ties with Kano. Over 30 buses go to Kano from our town daily, which means that anything that happens to Kano people might easily happen to us.

“Even during the lockdown, you would be surprised to see the number of people travelling to Kano for business. Our people know the routes to get to Kano.

“The people dying are mostly aged 60 and above. The deaths are rampant, I’m telling you. There is a central cemetery here at Azare where they are burying the deceased. It’s so bad here that even yesterday (Friday), our former House of Representatives member wrote a letter to the President that we need his attention. We don’t know what’s happening and we are really scared.”

‘Magnitude of deaths unprecedented, causing panic’

Also, the Damajen Katakum (District Head), Bashar Kabir, told one of our correspondents on Saturday that the magnitude of deaths had caused panic in Azare, with many linking them to COVID-19.

Kabir stated, “There were series of deaths but nobody can confirm they were (caused by) coronavirus. Only the medical workers can confirm that. But I know there were a series of death over the past two weeks and the magnitude has been unprecedented; it’s high this time around. That is why people are linking it to coronavirus.

“There is panic. People that used to go there (Azare) cannot go because of the fear of the unknown. There are people that go there regularly, but now they cannot go because of that.

“What I heard was that a former member of the House of Representatives wrote to the President, through the SGF (Secretary of the Government of the Federation) asking them to intervene. And I learnt that the deputy governor was there with the state team to assess the situation, but I don’t know the outcome,” he added.

He also said that though efforts were ongoing to sensitise the villagers to the need to protect themselves from contracting COVID-19, most of the residents doubted the existence of the virus.

“What the former member of the House of Representatives did was the right thing. He wrote the Federal Government, through the SGF, asking them to please send a team,” he added.

Only 30 died, cases unconnected to coronavirus – Deputy gov

Meanwhile, the state government has denied the reports of mass deaths in Azare, saying only 30 people died. It also dismissed the insinuations that the deaths were related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking at a press conference at the Government House on Saturday, the state Deputy Governor, Baba Tela, who is also the Chairman of the state Rapid Response Task Force Committee on COVID-19 and Lassa Fever, said, “It is a seasonal thing in the area especially during the hot season when people with underlying illnesses get complications which always lead to their deaths.”

Tela, who is also from Azare, however, explained that what is happening in Azare is a spillover from Kano considering its proximity to Kano and Jigawa states where mysterious deaths had been recorded.

He gave the assurance that medical experts were working round the clock to ascertain the cause of the deaths.

One death recorded in Azare

While giving an update on the coronavirus disease in the state, the deputy governor said, “So far in Azare, only one person died of COVID-19 while receiving treatment at the FMC, Azare. As of Saturday, May 9, only 26 patients are on admission at the FMC having tested positive for COVID-19 and receiving treatment while a few others have been quarantined awaiting the results of their test.”

He said the state government was doing everything possible to reduce the number of infections in the state, noting that facilities at the FMC Azare would be expanded to ensure that the infection was contained.

12 medical officers infected with COVID-19 in Bauchi – Commissioner

The Bauchi State Commissioner for Health, Dr Aliyu Maigoro, has also said 12 medical officers in the state have been infected with the coronavirus disease.

Maigoro, who made the disclosure at a news conference on Saturday in Bauchi, however, said that no death had been recorded so far amongst all the affected medical officers.

He said, “As of today, we have 12 medical officers in the whole of Bauchi State who have been infected with COVID-19. Six of them are in Azare, while others are in Bauchi.”

He said the state was on the alert to avoid the escape of COVID-19 patients.

Meanwhile, the Medical Director, Federal Medical Centre, Azare, Dr Ibrahim Abdullahi, said the cases of strange deaths were not reported to the hospital.

Abdullahi, who spoke to one of our correspondents in a telephone interview, said the hospital had only recorded one COVID-19 related death and no record of alarming mortality in recent times.

He said, “As far as the Federal Medical Centre in Azare is concerned, we have not witnessed an increase in the pattern of mortality in our hospital. In truth, we have had only one death from COVID-19. She was an elderly woman, aged about 80. She came to the hospital and we tested her and she was COVID-19 positive before she died.

“We are managing the other confirmed cases while others are still awaiting the outcome of their test.”

Asked specifically about the strange deaths, he said, “The truth is that in the community there are deaths but any death that happened in the community and not brought to the hospital is under the jurisdiction of the local government and the National Population Commission to take care of, I mean any increase in statistics.”


Supreme Court judgment on Kalu to affect over 50 other cases [Punch]

The Friday’s judgment of the Supreme Court which nullified the trial and conviction of a former governor of Abia State, Orji Kalu, will cause an automatic reversal of gains already recorded in at least 50 criminal cases pending or concluded at various High Courts, findings by Sunday PUNCH have revealed.

The progress recorded in the over 50 cases are attributable to the authorities given to about eight Justices of the Court of Appeal to return to their previous positions as High Court judges to conclude the cases which they were handling before their elevation to the higher bench.

But in a major upset, reversing the progress recorded in the cases, the Supreme Court on Friday nullified Section 396(7) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, which made it possible for the Justices to continue handling the cases after their elevation to the Court of Appeal bench.

The section 396(7) is one of the innovative provisions, including the prohibition of stay of proceedings in a criminal trial, contained in ACJA which was enacted in 2015 to address delays and other odds often encountered in criminal trials in the country.

The apex court had since 2017 validated Section 306 of ACJA which barred stay of proceedings in criminal trial.

But a full panel of seven Justices of the Supreme Court, on Friday, made the far-reaching decision nullifying Section 396(7) in the case involving Kalu, who along with others had been convicted and sentenced for N7.1bn fraud on December 5, 2019.

The panel led by Justice Olabode Rhodes-Vivour, unanimously nullified the ex-governor’s trial.

It also ordered that the trial which had lasted 12 years with 19 witnesses called by the prosecution, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, be reassigned to another judge of the Federal High Court and start afresh.

The apex court’s judgment was on the grounds that a Justice of the Court of Appeal, Justice Mohammed Idris, who handed down the conviction in December 2019, lacked the power to return to the Federal High Court to conclude the case which he had partly heard before his elevation to the higher bench.

The apex court also nullified Section 396(7) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 which had enabled the then President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa (retd), to issue fiat to Justice Idris to return to the Federal High Court to conclude the case.

Justice Ejembi Eko delivered the apex court’s lead judgment and other members of the panel, comprising, Justices Rhodes-Vivour, Mary Odili, Olukayode Ariwoola, Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, Inyang Okoro and Amina Augie consented.

Few days after the Federal High Court had convicted Kalu, the then President of the Court of Appeal, Bulkachuwa, on December 9, 2019 had lauded the completion of the case.

Justice Bulkachuwa attributed the credit to the provision of section 396(7) of ACJA, 2015.

She spoke in Abuja at a national workshop organised by the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies in collaboration with Federal Ministry of Justice on setting of minimum standards for the effective implementation of ACJA.

Justice Bulkachuwa said at the event that she had issued fiats 50 times to about eight Justices of the Court of Appeal, including Justice Idris, to enable them to conclude such part-heard cases.

She said Justice Idris, in addition to Kalu’s case, had concluded 15 cases through the application of the provision of section 396(7) of ACJA.

She added, “I have given fiats at least 50 times to about eight Justices of the Court of Appeal to go back and complete their assignments.

“The most recent is that of Justice Idris when he completed the matter of Orji Kalu. But before then, he had completed about 15 matters.

“Similarly, Justice Talba, and Justice Umar, Justice Ojo from the FCT High Court; and from the Federal High Court were Justices Idris, Justice Aliyu, I think about five of them from there, who have completed matters.

“I think this is a big plus for the Administration of Criminal Justice Act because matters get to be completed within the shortest time possible and decisively. I have not seen any of the matters that have come on appeal yet. I have not heard. Maybe that is the end of the matter as it is.”

The number of such fiats issued after the event in December could not be ascertained.

But  Mr Femi Falana (SAN), advised on Saturday that, “in the light of the judgment of the Supreme Court, all the cases that have been benefitting from the application of the nullified provision of ACJA have to be immediately terminated and reassigned to start afresh”.

He said even the ones that had been concluded like the Kalu’s case had to start afresh.

He described the apex court’s judgment as “a reversal of the gains of the Administration of Justice Act”.

A lawyer and former National President, Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, Mr Malachy Ugwummadu, noted that “the approximately 500 sections of the ACJA 2015 including Section 396 under review were direct legislative responses and reform efforts to cure most of the seemingly intractable challenges in our criminal justice system”.

He said previous decisions of the Supreme Court in cases of Ogbuanyinya V. Okudo, and Bichi V. Shakarau, the apex court and the Court of Appeal, delivered a judgment similar to Friday’s verdict of the apex court predated the enactment of the ACJA. He noted however that the judgment casts “serious doubts on the credibility, legal and policy research and consultations that are made and scrutinised before legislations are churned out to achieve certain dynamics and progressive objectives.”


COVID-19: Senate may summon finance minister as massive job loss looms [Punch]

The Senate has said that it is already planning a comprehensive legislative intervention that will ensure that workers in the private sector do not suffer job losses as a result of the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country.

The upper chamber, however, promised to unfold its agenda after a robust engagement with the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, to know the specific plans by government to prevent private firms from collapsing.

It appreciated the moves by the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Bankers Committee to save the jobs of workers in the banking industry.

The Chairman, Senate Committee on Finance, Senator Solomon Adeola, gave the explanation in an interview with Sunday PUNCH.

He said, “We are planning to invite the Minister of Finance to find out additional measures already put in place to ensure that workers in Nigeria are not laid off. This will guide our line of thought on how we could come up with legislative interventions that can protect the jobs of Nigerians.

“As we all know, the executive arm of government is already trying its best, within the confines of the law. What we, as a legislature, can do is to still liaise with the executive because if we make any pronouncement now, we don’t know what the government has done or being done to assist the private firms.

“Before we make a pronouncement from the legislative point of view, we need to know the current state of things with the companies who are planning to lay off staff. We need to know what they are doing with the executive arm of government which has its full responsibility of liaising with them.

“As a Senate, we have to assess the economic situation in the real terms before we make any pronouncement because we need to be guided.

“We are happy that already, the executive is taking the bull by the horns. The Central Bank and the Bankers Committee made a pronouncement that there should be no lay-offs.

“The Federal Government is working round the clock to ensure that the post-COVID-19 fallout does not have an adverse effect on the economy and by extension, on the generality of the people.

“Going forward, we are ready to work closely with the executive on any decision that would be taken to alleviate the sufferings of Nigerians and also by extension, ensure that nobody is laid off from his or her workplace.  We are working, watching and looking at all these things.”

Adeola clarified that the National Assembly was still expecting the executive to present to it the amendments made to the 2020 budget.

He said the amendments would accommodate the N500bn being proposed by the Federal Government as part of its intervention in fighting COVID-19.

He admitted that the federal parliament at the moment did not have the details of the beneficiaries of the N500bn intervention fund.

He said, “The N500bn intervention fund is still undergoing process. The executive has incorporated it in the proposal they are bringing for amendment to the National Assembly.

“The budget document is still a work in progress. It is still within the executive, it has not been sent to the National Assembly.

“Until it is laid, we don’t know the components of the N500bn. We don’t know what it would be spent on and details of the beneficiaries.

“It is meant to be an intervention fund during the ongoing fight against COVID-19.”

He added that the Senate was not expecting official communication from the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd) on the N850bn loan currently being sourced by his regime from the local capital markets.

The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Special Duties, Senator Yusuf Yusuf, had said that the upper chamber had yet to receive details of the proposed N850bn loan from the President.

But Adeola told Sunday PUNCH that the details were already in the 2020 Appropriation Act, passed by the nation’s parliament late last year.

Adeola said, “We are not expecting details of the N850bn loan request from the President because the money is already in the 2020  Appropriation Act passed by the National Assembly.

“It is not a fresh loan request. The capital component of the budget was to be funded with foreign and domestic borrowing.

“50 per cent was expected from foreign loans and 50 per cent from the local sources.

“While the local sources are being taken care of, access to foreign loans is being hampered by the global pandemic that has taken over the whole world.

“That is why the Federal Government decided to change the strategy by beaming its searchlight on the domestic borrowing arrangement.

“If not for the global pandemic, the Federal Government would have taken the foreign loans, but since that is becoming difficult, it decided to borrow the same amount locally.

“However, to enable the executive do that, they needed the Senate approval to avoid any argument.

“The money would be used to fund the capital projects contained in the 2020 budget.

“It is even cheaper for the country to borrow locally than go after foreign loan because of the exchange rate,” he added.



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