WHO to begin drug trial in Lagos, Ogun, FCT, others [Nation]

– Buhari okays collection of Madagascar’s cure drug – Minister: Island nation’s herbal drug plant in Nigeria

NIGERIA has joined more than 100 other countries to participate in the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s “solidarity trial treatment” for COVID-19.

The arrangement is part of the efforts of the international health organisation’s effective treatment regimen and vaccine to combat coronavirus in the shortest possible time.

Minister of Health Dr. Osagie Ehanire, who announced this on Monday at the briefing by the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 in Abuja on Monday said: “Federal Government is cooperating with the WHO on treatment regimen solidarity trial with the following states enrolled; Lagos, Ogun, Kaduna, Sokoto, Kano and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).”

The minister, however, did not state when the trial will begin and the modalities for it.

More than 1,200 patients have been randomised from the first five countries to evaluate the safety and efficiency of the drug combinations, it was learnt.

According to the agency, “the Solidarity Trial will compare four treatment options against standard of care, to assess their relative effectiveness against COVID-19”. By enrolling patients in multiple countries, the Solidarity Trial aims to rapidly discover whether any of the drugs slow disease progression or improve survival. Other drugs can be added based on emerging evidence.

The international health body added that “As of April 21 2020, over 100 countries are working together to find effective therapeutics as soon as possible, via the trial.

“The greater the number of participating countries, the faster results will be generated. WHO is facilitating access to thousands of treatment courses for the trial through donations from a number of manufacturers.

“Until there is sufficient evidence, WHO cautions against physicians and medical associations recommending or administering these unproven treatments to patients with COVID-19 or people self-medicating with them.”

The minister said Nigeria has conducted 27,078 COVID-19 tests with 4,399 cases in 34 states and the FCT. He gave the ratio of infection as 70 per cent for men to 30 per cent for women.

Dr. Ehanire added: “Kogi and Cross River States have not reported any cases, but we are optimistic that we can work with the State Health Ministry to validate this in due course, when we engage the state authorities.

“A team from the Ministry of Health, made up of experts from various specialties, including the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), is on standby to proceed to Calabar as soon as travel arrangements can be made, taking with them, resource to support the health system.

“Senior management of the Federal Ministry of Health and clinical case managers in our hospitals, this morning participated in a multinational teleconference with Chinese medical and academic experts in Beijing, where much insight was gained into the treatment strategy of China and other matters of common interest were discussed. The learnings from this intervention are invaluable in reexamining our methods.

“It is important that our response to COVID-19 be a concerted national, collaborative drive, to stand a better chance of being effective. So far, our efforts are yielding result as shown in states where panic and scare were initially rife, but now subsumed.”

He Minister explained that the 260 ThisDay Dome treatment and isolation bed facility for COVID -19, situated in the Central Business District, Abuja, is ready for use and will be commissioned on Tuesday.

According to him, “The ThisDay Dome treatment center, a project of the Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) is complete and ready for commissioning tomorrow. The Hon. Minister of FCT will participate in the event.

“This center is fully self-contained, coming with a PCR Laboratory, a fully equipped ICU and an incinerator. This over 260 bed facility adds tremendous boost to the FCT capacity and capabilities.”


How to save the economy from COVID-19 blows [Nation]

The economy has been battered, human movement caged and turmoil in global stock and financial markets due to COVID-19 pandemic. However, experts say the situation is redeemable, writes SINA FADARE

THE COVID-19 pandemic hit the world unexpectedly. While the advanced economies were rattled and are frantically searching for a solution after thousands of lives have been lost, the underdeveloped economies are yet to wake up from their slumber in terms of confronting the deadly virus and its adverse effect.

The effects of the pandemic on the economy and all other areas of human endeavour were devastating because of the poor health system and the country’s mono-economy that has been operational for many years. The situation has led to the unprecedented disruption of food chains, reduction in crude oil price and total lockdown of all economic activities.

According to analysts, the adverse effects on critical sectors such as oil and gas, airlines, manufacturing and consumer markets were largely due to the mono-economy which the country has operated for many years until lately when agriculture is being considered as an alternative to oil in terms of revenue earning and food security.

Perhaps, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had the premonition of this calamity a few years back when it gave agriculture a pep in its intervention programmes.

Anchor Borrower Scheme became handy and the saving grace for farmers. The scheme, which was launched by Buhari in 2015, was designed to empower farmers to ensure food security.

According to the Director, Corporate Affairs of the CBN, Mr. Isaac Okoroafor, over 2.5 million farmers have benefited from the scheme in about 17 agricultural commodities.

Savouring the economic gains of these intervention programmes, the issue of border closure crept in, a policy that did not go down well with some of our neighbouring countries and was heavily criticised.

However, shedding more lights on the closure of the border, the CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele pointed out that “we are not saying that the borders should be closed in perpetuity, but that before the borders are re-opened, there must be concrete engagements with countries that are involved in using their ports and countries as landing ports for bringing in goods meant for local consumption, it is understandable,”

He further explained that before the closure of the border, the Rice Processors Association of Nigeria has nothing less than 25,000 metric tons of milled rice which they cannot sell due to saturation of the market with imported rice from the Republic of Benin, adding that just after a week of the closure of the border, all the rice were sold.

The CBN boss emphatically said the closure of the border has brought a good tiding to the Nigerian economy.

“So, on what the benefits of the border closure on the economy of Nigeria are, I just used two products – poultry and rice. The benefit is that it has helped to create jobs for our people, it has helped to bring the integrated rice milling in the country back into the business and they are making money.

Though the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected the economy and the lockdown not only collapsed a lot of businesses but also opened a window of hunger for artisans who majorly depended on daily hustling for their survival, a situation that has invalidated earlier gains before the pandemic.

Speaking to The Nation on the ability of the country to quickly return to its economic hub that has encouraged a paradigm shift from oil and gas to agriculture and agro-allied ventures, Mr. Mike Osagie, an economist, noted that though the pandemic took the country by surprise, the agricultural programmes embarked upon by the Federal Government a few years ago had made food available, otherwise the country would have been worse hit.

Osagie further explained that a lot of lessons has been learnt during the lockdown which could encourage the government to put on their thinking cap and address all the critical area such as health facilities, adding that it should focus more on agriculture and let the farmers be the centre of focus to ensure food sufficiency and creation of more jobs.

According to him, post-COVID-19 should be a new Nigeria where massive diversification in agriculture is made necessary.

”Since the CBN got it right due to some of its intervention programmes for farmers, manufacturers and small-scale enterprises. This will go a long way in restoring all the economic losses during the lockdown.

However, the CBN, to cushion the effect of the pandemic on the economy, took some radical steps to meet the yearnings of the people. The Director, Financial Policy and Regulation of the apex bank, Mr. Kevin Amugo noted that the bank is committed to providing support for affected households, businesses, regulated financial institutions and other stakeholders to cushion the adverse economic impact of COVID-19.

Amugo pointed out that all CBN intervention facilities are granted a further moratorium of one year on all principal repayments effective March 1,  which indicates that any intervention loan will have additional one year to pay up, adding that participating financial institutions are to provide new amortisation schedules for all beneficiaries.

In addition to this, the apex bank said all interest rates on all applicable CBN intervention facilities are hereby reduced from nine to five per cent for one year effective from March 1, 2020.

According to him, the bank has established a facility through the NIRSAL Micro Finance Bank for households, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that have been particularly hard hit by COVID-19, including, but not limited to hoteliers, airline service providers and health care merchants.

He explained that the CBN has extended its grants to all Deposit Money Banks to consider temporary and time-limited restructuring of the tenor and loan terms for businesses and households most affected by the outbreak, particularly oil and gas, agriculture and manufacturing.

Amugo noted that the bank is ready to consider additional incentives to encourage the extension of longer-tenured credit facilities and provide liquidity backstops as and when required given its role as Banker to the Federal Government and lender of last resort.

Assessing the situation, Adetunji Ogunyemi, an Economic Historian and lawyer who equally doubled as the Acting Head of Department of History, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, noted that four critical lessons have been learnt from the lockdown due to COVID-19 pandemic.

In a chat with The Nation, Ogunyemi said the Nigerian economy has been founded on an extremely fragile pedestal of mono-culturalism due to its excessive dependence on oil revenue and export whose health and viability are externally determined.

“The real sectors of the Nigerian economy such as agriculture, industries and manufacturing, which should have employed the largest proportion of the Nigerian populace, have been neglected for too long and this has been to the peril of the economy.”

He explained that the private sector, especially in the areas of transportation, small and medium-scale enterprises hold the key to the country’s economic development and not an over-bloated public sector that consumes more than 70 per cent of total government expenditure but cannot defend the economy in critical periods such as this.

According to him, real and effective governance happens at the state and local government levels, adding that the time has come to devolve more powers and resources to those levels by restructuring the power equation in the country under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The don explained that there are a lot of things that can be put in place so that the economy will bounce back in a post-COVID-19 pandemic. This includes the reality that the private sector holds the key to the nation’s economy which government at all levels must key into and give support to Small and Medium-Scale Enterprises (SMEs).

Ogunyemi noted that the Federal Government also needs to reduce the cost of governance by faithfully implementing most of the recommendations contained in the Steve Oronsaye’s Report on reforming the federal public sector.

He said: “We do not need a public service that is consuming the largest proportion of resources, sometimes up to 80 per cent of the total budgetary expenditure. It is time we reduced the cost of governance and then increase productivity through redirection of finance in favour of private sector investments in agriculture, mining, manufacturing, industries and education.”

He argued that the time has come to restructure the country along with competitive federalism.

“The states of the federation should be centres of investment and growth and not of distribution of revenue from the Federation Account.

“There should be, for now, a suspension of the implementation of the 7.5 per cent Value Added Tax. The old rate of five per cent should still subsist until the year 2021. This is to allow the SMEs to recover from the huge losses that the lockdown had inadvertently caused them and also to stimulate demand and consumption,” he said.


Infectious diseases: How not to make a law [Nation]

Much of the country’s public health laws relating to infectious diseases require an update, but many Nigerians have opposed the Control of Infectious Diseases Bill 2020 recently introduced in the House of Representatives, writes Legal Editor, JOHN AUSTIN UNACHUKWU.

The Control of Infectious Diseases Bill 2020 passed second reading in the lower legislative chamber in record time – less than two weeks after its introduction.

Its sponsors, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, his colleagues Pascal Obi and Tanko Sununu, have maintained that it was conceived in Nigerians’ best interest.

The long title of the Bill is “A Bill for an act to repeal the Quarantine Act, Cap. Q2, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and enact the Control Of Infectious Diseases Bill, make provisions relating to quarantine and make regulations for preventing the introduction into and spread in Nigeria of Dangerous Infectious Diseases, And For Related Matters (Hb.836)”.

According to Gbajabiamila, the country’s infectious diseases and public health emergency frameworks require urgent reform. He noted, for instance, that the weaknesses of the present system resulted in the government’s inability to hold to proper account those whose refusal to adhere with Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) guidelines led to the further spread of the coronavirus in the country.

The Speaker noted that since the introduction of the Bill two weeks ago, there had been a barrage of criticisms against it, with allegations of sinister motives.

“Our current framework for the prevention and management of infectious diseases in the country is obsolete and no longer fit for purpose.

“The current law severely constrains the ability of the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to take proactive action to prevent the entry into Nigeria of infectious diseases and the management of public health emergencies when they occur.

“Even now, the government remains vulnerable to claims that some directives already being implemented to manage the present crisis do not have the backing of the law and therefore cannot withstand judicial scrutiny,” Gbajabiamila stated.

A week after Gbajabiamila’s bill, the Senate began work on a similar bill.

A similar bill titled: ‘’National Health Emergency Bill’’ was sponsored by Senator Chukwuka Utazi (PDP, Enugu-North). He is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Primary Health and Communicable Disease.

The Bill which passed first reading on the floor of the upper legislative chamber, was immediately opposed by a former Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu (PDP, Enugu-West).

Opposition to the Bill

Some Nigerians including lawyers, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), human rights organisations and religious groups, have opposed both Bills, particularly the one in the House of Reps.

According to them, it is a sinister attempt to turn Nigerians into guinea pigs for medical research and take away their fundamental human rights as contained in Chapter Four of the constitution, especially right to life.

Others, referencing international doomsday conspiracy theories somehow involving the novel coronavirus, American billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates, the New World Order and a secret ‘666’ microchip, have questioned the introduction of the Bill at this time, particularly the speed at which the sponsors pursued its passage without recourse to public hearings, consultation and scrutiny by relevant stakeholders.

They also noted, among others, that the bill seemed to mostly copied from the Singapore Infectious Disease Act, 1977, without proper editing to fit local circumstances.

Some of those opposing the bill include the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and a former Senator representing Kogi West Dino Melaye, who has filed a suit against Gbajabiamila and the government over the bill.

Melaye’s lawyer, Nkem Okoro, stated that the former Senator has filed an application for the enforcement of his fundamental rights by asking the Federal High Court, to declare the provisions of the Control of Infectious Diseases Bill, as being draconian, authoritarian, undemocratic, unlawful and unconstitutional as the said provisions are likely to breach his fundamental rights

CAN, through its General Secretary, Joseph Daramola, said: “The question in the hearts of many people is this: Why the rush when the vaccine is not available yet?”

CAN said the bill “was initiated to destroy the Civil and Human Rights of Nigerians; that it prevents Nigerians from having a say in their own affairs.

“Among this denial of the fundamental human rights are: right to life, personal liberty, freedom from inhuman treatment, privacy, right to acquire/own property, freedom of movement and religion.

Sixty five Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) also opposed it. They included: Amnesty International, EiE Nigeria, Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA), ActionAid Nigeria International Press Centre, IPC, among others.

Falana, Sagay disagree

Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs), Dr. Olisa Agbakoba and Mr Femi Falana however looked at the controversy surrounding the bill, from different perspectives.

Agbakoba, a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA)  said: “The bill has a variation in the Senate whose purpose is to broaden the Quarantine Act of 1926. A lot of suspicion about the new Act, including compulsory vaccination is complete rubbish. Vaccination in relation to infectious diseases is compulsory.

“There is no section of the human rights provision in Chapter Four of the constitution that is not elevated above public interest.

I dealt with infectious diseases in 1984 when a client of mine was compelled to take vaccination for heart disease and I told him that, if in the opinion of the doctor you are required to take it in the overall public interest, you must take it. An infected person doesn’t have a choice to say no, he must take it.”

But Falana described the proposed Infectious Diseases Bill as superfluous, illegal and unconstitutional.

He said efforts to replace the Quarantine Act was a waste of time, adding that the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, Act of 2018 has taken care of what the legislators are trying to achieve.

“It is pertinent to inform Nigerians that in November 2018, a law was enacted in this country – the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC)  Act, which has taken care of infectious diseases in the country.

“So, it is not correct, in fact, it is misleading on the part of the House of Representatives to say that it is amending the 1926 Quarantine Act because there is already a development between 1926 and now. You had the 2018 Act which has taken care of the entire provisions of the new bill.

“The new bill, as far as the law is concerned, is superfluous. Its provisions are largely illegal and unconstitutional.” Falana stated

Problematic sections of the bill

Mr Ogundu Kingsley Chinda, who represents Obio-Akpor Federal Constituency, of Rivers State in the House of Representatives, outlined several areas where the bill is problematic.

Chinda said: “While the short title is ‘Infectious Diseases Act 2020’, a closer look at the content of the Bill reveals that the title of the Bill is deceptive. Whereas it purports to regulate ‘infectious diseases’, it actually goes beyond infectious diseases and regulates diseases of any nature, depending on the discretion of the Minister – Section 5(1)(b) of the Bill.

“The short title of the Bill should actually be Control of Diseases Bill 2020 rather than ‘Control of Infectious Diseases Bill, 2020’ as contained in Section 81 of the Bill.”

“The power to administer the Bill is vested in the Director-General (DG) of Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) under the directive of the Minister. Please note that the office of the DG was created by another Act, the Nigeria Centre for Diseases Control Act,/ 2018 with powers and functions bestowed on him under that law.”

According to him, the powers vested in these political appointees are humongous and bound to be abused. More so, they are accountable to their appointer and take instructions from him and not from the Nigerian people.

He continued: “The NCDC Act that created the office of the DG gave him powers and also gave some powers to the Board of NCDC. Some of the functions of the Board under the NCDC Act are given to the Director under this current Bill.

“The Bill as stated in the introductory paragraphs above, failed to take cognisance of our local circumstances, consequently, the Bill has some serious constitutional and statutory contradictions. Several sections that are the life wire of the Bill conflict with existing laws and the 1999 Constitution.

“The federal system of government in Nigeria was not considered in the Bill, thus there are no role(s) for other tiers of government- (states and local governments), particularly the states as a federating unit. This is more serious, recognising the fact that health is an item in the concurrent legislative list in the 1999 Constitution.

“The powers of governors to take steps and come up with executive orders in times of public health emergencies contained in the Quarantine Act sought to be repealed were jettisoned. Thus, state governors have no role and are merely at the mercy of the DG, NCDC and the Minister of Health. This is abnormal and would be counterproductive.”

According to him, all state governors are today relying on the Quarantine Act to come up with executive orders to manage the COVID-19 peculiar situations in their respective states.

“If this power is removed, it means that the DG, NCDC has to micro- manage all the states and local government areas in the country in times of health crises (as we have now). This will be most inefficient,” he added.

Like the CSOs noted, the lawmaker also observed that the Bill attacks the rights of citizens under Chapter 4 of the Constitution dealing with Fundamental Human Rights, and also the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Right (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, Cap. A9 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004: the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights, 1948 and International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, 1976 which are ratified by Nigeria and are thereby local legislations.

The Bill also conflicts with the Environmental Health Officers (Registration ETC) Act 2002. The DG is empowered in Section 2 of the Bill to determine who a Health Officer is against the clear provision of sections 13(1) and 14 of the Environmental Health Officers Act which outlaws any practice or provision of health services in Nigeria without certification by the Council – Health Officers are professionals and cannot be picked discretionally by any individual.

Compulsory testing and other rights violations

One area of concern among Nigerians is the requirement of compulsory testing.

Chinda observed that Section 6 of the Bill provides for compulsory testing based on mere suspicion by the DG, NCDC. Failure to test at one’s own cost, attracts legal sanctions, including a conviction.

He said: “This provision can and would be abused by power drunk officers without an option of legal challenge to such abuses. There are people whose religion does not permit injections or blood test or transfusion. This could thus be a breach to the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion in Section 38 of the 1999 Constitution.

“Section 7 of the Bill empowers the DG, NCDC to order a post-mortem test, based on suspicion. No exception was considered and it is entirely at the discretion of the DG. This could breach the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion in Section 38, 1999 Constitution.”

He notes further that Section 8 of the Bill removes the fiduciary relationship (the duty of confidentiality) between patients and their personal physicians on mere suspicion. The Nigerian Health Act still protects this relationship and is therefore in conflict with this Bill.

The lawmaker adds: “This can only be reasonable after a test is carried out and the person is confirmed to be infected. A citizen can be subjected to inhuman treatment and denied his right to privacy by publishing his/her medical history without his/her consent and refusal is a crime.

“Section 12 of the Bill empowers the DG on mere suspicion to stop a wake and prohibit the burial of a deceased by his/her family. This again violates Sections 34 and 38 of the Constitution on the Citizens’ Right to Human Dignity and Right to Thought, Conscience and Religion. Burial rites are mostly cultural or religious-based. This would be reasonable if it is confirmed that the corpse is infected. Even at that, the infected corpse does not need to be present at the wake.

“Section13 empowers the DG on mere suspicion to detain a citizen as long as he wishes without an order of a competent Court of law and he, of course, cannot be sued even where his suspicion turns out afterwards to be false or wrong, as Section 70 protects the DG and his agents from personal liability.”

According to him, this runs fowl of the victim’s fundamental Right to Liberty (S.35) and movement (S.41) of the Constitution.

“Also, note that Section 35 (e), which provides an exception only contemplates those suffering from a disease not “suspected” as provided in the Bill. Thus, the Bill tends to surreptitiously amend Section 35 (e) of the Constitution through the back door.


What should the National Assembly do?

Last Tuesday, Gbajabiamila said the reps had taken note of the criticisms.

“The Control of Infectious Diseases Bill will be put forward to a public hearing where stakeholder contributions will be sought to make improvements to the Bill before it is reviewed and debated by the Committee of the whole.

“It is from the accumulation of these myriad views, suggestions and good faith critiques from within and outside the House that we will arrive at final legislation that meets the present and future needs of our country, and which we all can support in good conscience,” he said.

In the light of the lawmakers’ new stance, the 65 CSOs, in a statement, made several recommendations to the National Assembly, with respect to the bills.

They are: The House of Representatives should provide information on the committee responsible for the coordination of public hearing; Communicate a practical schedule for public engagement on the Bill; hold a virtual and physical public hearing: Multi-layered stakeholder consultations and intensify publicity on the Bill.

It added: “Considering the sensitivity of the Control of Infectious Diseases Bill, we cannot afford a rushed or haphazard process.

“It is important that the National Assembly prioritise and invest in building public trust and confidence to limit the spread of disinformation or misinformation on the Bill.

“The legislature remains the legitimate core of democracy and must therefore represent the voices of WE the people. The Control of Infectious Diseases Bill must be comprehensive, futuristic in nature, and in conformity with; the Constitution, Nigeria’s international human rights obligations, and democratic principles.

“Any legislative process that does not guarantee the active and free participation of the people fails in its purpose and will not be accepted.”


Don’t attack judges, Kalu cautions well-wishers [Sun]

Senate Chief Whip and former governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, has dissociated himself from anybody or group attacking judges over his earlier conviction, which was nullified by the Supreme Court last Friday.

A seven-man panel of the Supreme Court had voided Kalu’s conviction by Justice Mohammed Idris on the grounds that the judge had no competence to handle the case, having been promoted to the Court of Appeal. Justice Idris presiding over the Federal High Court in Lagos, had continued Kalu’s case despite being elevated to the Court of Appeal. He sentenced the accused to 12 years imprisonment over alleged N7.2 billion fraud brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

In a statement by Emeka Nwala, his Special Assistant, Kalu said anybody  that is criticising a judge does not have his mandate.

The senator said he had not directed anybody to issue a statement condemning judges and does not support such line of action.

He called on his supporters and well wishers to apply restraint and cease from criticising judges.

“Senator (Dr.) Orji Uzor Kalu has become aware that some people have taken to the media to criticise some judges or members of the judiciary in relation to his case. He is deeply disturbed by such development.

“Senator Kalu has not authorised any statement or comment on his case, his appeal or last week’s judgment of the Supreme Court. Also, he has not directed anyone to issue any statements on his behalf in connection to the case.

“While he has no control over the reactions of the public, the Senator felt compelled to call on his supporters and well-wishers for restraint and caution. Judges do not go to the media to justify their judicial actions and people should not go to the media to criticise judges for things done or not done in their official capacities. He therefore urges his supporters to cease and desist from any adverse media commentary against any judge on account of his case, or any other case for that matter.”


Catholic Church donates 425 hospitals as isolation centres [Sun]

The Catholic Bishop Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) has offered all its 425 health facilities across the country as isolation centres for COVID-19.

Mustapha said state governments can now take advantage of the facilities.

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) had said no state in the country has enough bed spaces for COVID-19 patients.

But Mustapha said the recent donations would add as support for the state governments.

“As part of efforts to support the states in the establishment of the isolation and treatment centres, I wish to remind our governors that the Catholic Bishops Conference has volunteered all the 425 hospitals and clinics nationwide for adaptation and use as isolation centres,” he said.

“Governors are encouraged to please approach Catholic Bishops in their states to access these facilities.

“As a further cost-effective measure, I also wish to remind subnational authorities that the Nigeria Institute of Architects has pledged the pro bono services of their members to modify, design and supervise all COVID-19 related projects nationwide. Again, we urge that this offer be taken up speedily.”


COVID-19: Buhari okays check on Magadascar herbal remedy [Sun]

  • PTF confirms search for local cure, warns on cases explosion

President Muhammadu Buhari has directed the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 to pick up Covid-Organics, Madagascar’s self-proclaimed plant-based remedy for coronavirus.

Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Chairman of the Presidential Taskforce (PTF) on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha,  made the disclosure at yesterday’s briefing.

He said Madagascar donated some of the products to Nigeria through Guinea-Bissau and arrangements were being made to pick them up.

Madagascan President Andry Rajoelina had three weeks ago officially launched a medicine he believed can prevent and cure patients suffering from COVID-19.

Developed by the Malagasy Institute of Applied Research and branded COVID Organics, President Rajaolina, while presenting the remedy to the media, said it contains Artemisia, a plant cultivated on the Big Island to fight against malaria.

“All trials and tests have been conducted and its effectiveness in reducing the elimination of symptoms has been proven for the treatment of patients with COVID-19 in Madagascar,” President Rajaolina had said.

Mustapha, while responding to a question on if Nigeria had ordered for the syrup said: “It’s been sent to Guinea Bissau by the President or Prime Minister of Madagascar and certain allocations have been made to different countries. We have an indication of the quantity that has been allocated to Nigeria and we are supposed to make an arrangement to freight it out of Guinea Bissau to Nigeria.

“I’ve received instructions from Mr. President to make arrangements to freight it home, with a clear instruction that I should subject it to the validation process similar to what will happen to any other medicine or syrup or vaccine that is discovered or created internally. So, it will be subjected to the same process before it is put into any form of use. There’ll be no exception for that. Madagascar has made allocations to various countries, and sent them to Guinea Bissau. We’re supposed to make arrangements to freight Nigeria’s allocation from Guinea Bissau; it’ll be subjected to the standard validation process for pharmaceuticals.

“Mr. President has given instructions for the airlifting of Nigeria’s allocation of the Madagascar COVID-19 Syrup and clear instructions that it must be subjected to the standard validation process for pharmaceuticals; there will be no exceptions for this.”

The SGF reiterated that Nigeria has only one national response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Whereas there are differing strategies is in the implementation of non-pharmaceutical interventions, but as far as the (health) response is concerned, there is only one National Response.”

Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, said the extract of the plant used for the herbal drug  grows in the country.

According to him, the herbal drug will be subjected to analysis by the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD) to determine its efficacy and safety before it can be adopted for the treatment of COVID-19.

“We are going to get samples of the herb of the botanical product for analyses and also probably use that opportunity to speak with the health authorities there particularly the scientific community on how they use it. We will also give it to the research community here with us to examine and see what they can do with it.

“We understand that it is something called Artemisia Annua, which also grows here. But we would like to get that sample and compare it with the strain here to know if they are exactly identical or similar and then see what properties it has.

“It will be subjected to analysis to find out what works in there and how it works and is used in getting a cure. All countries around the world are interested in finding a cure and we are not different; So, we will look at all options and promises that have been made. Before we give any of these medicines to our people, we will make sure they are actually safe and that they work,” Ehanire said.

The Federal Government also condemned in strong terms the challenges facing the frontline health workers, including receiving threats from patients in their care.

According to the SGF, the PTF COVID-19 viewed such behaviour as reprehensible and should be deprecated. He called on state governments to take this up appropriately.

Lagos, FCT, Ogun, Kaduna, Sokoto, Kano for WHO drug trials

Lagos, FCT, Ogun, Kaduna, Sokoto and Kano states have enrolled on the World Health Organisation (WHO) treatment regimen on solidarity drug trials, Ehanire revealed.

The four drugs that will be monitored in the solidarity trial are Remdesivir, Chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine, Lopinavir and Ritonavir.

The Federal Government, he said, is cooperating with the WHO on treatment regimen solidarity trial in the six states. This is even as he said that as at Sunday, the country has ramped up testing by additional 1,127 to make a total of 27,078, which yielded 4,399 cases in 35 states, with a gender ratio of 70 to 30 percent for men and women.

He also said 778 persons have been discharged and that the nation recorded 143 deaths.

“The new cases breakdown are Lagos 81, Jigawa 35, Bornu 26, Kano 26, Bauchi 20, FCT 13, Edo 12, Sokoto 10, Zamfara seven, Kwara seven, Kebbi four, Gombe two, Taraba two, Ekiti two, Ogun two, Osun and Bayelsa one each.

“Kogi and Cross River states have not reported any cases, but we are optimistic that we can work with the state Health Ministry to validate this in due course, when we engage the state authorities. A team from the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) made up of experts from various specialties, including NCDC, is on standby to proceed to Calabar (Cross River) as soon as travel arrangements can be made, taking with them resource to support the health system,” Ehanire said.

He added that senior management of the FMoH and clinical case managers in the hospitals participated in a multinational teleconference with Chinese medical and academic experts in Beijing, where much insight was gained into the treatment strategy of China and other matters of common interest were discussed, yesterday.

“The learnings from this intervention are invaluable in re-examining our methods. It is important that our response to COVID-19 be a concerted national, collaborative drive, to stand a better chance of being effective… It must be sustained and or extended, with room for interstate collaboration. So far, our efforts are yielding result as shown in states where panic and scare were initially rife, but now subsumed,” he added.

FG to use local airlines to evacuate Nigerians abroad

He said the PTF would henceforth use Nigeria carrier to airlift returnees to reduce unnecessary burden over the fate of Nigerians abroad.

“Government is mindful of need to use local carriers. Arrangements for Airlines for first batch of flights were not done by government. Flights being arranged henceforth are all Nigerian carriers; we intend to use only Nigerian Airlines henceforth.”

While apologising for what went wrong with the transfer from Lagos to Abuja for the evacuees from the UK on Friday, and also the hitches faced when they arrived in Abuja, he assured that mechanisms have been put in place to ensure nothing of such happens against.

He said there were still many Nigerians out there, who want to return home, from China, India, France, Canada, Lebanon, Egypt, Sudan and other countries.

Lagos, Abuja isolation centres saturated

With 600 evacuees from Dubai, London and New York, he said the isolation centres in Abuja and Lagos have reached saturation point and would not be able to take more

“The  number we are able to care for are limited, this means we are going to be staggering flights before bringing others back to the country.

“Many Nigerians willing to come home are still in China, India, Sudan, Lebanon, Egypt among others; this calls to question our capacity to absorb all of them and also ensure we deliver optimally,” he said.

Catholic Church donates 425 hospitals as isolation centres

The Catholic Bishop Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) has offered all its 425 health facilities across the country as isolation centres for COVID-19.

Mustapha said state governments can now take advantage of the facilities.

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) had said no state in the country has enough bed spaces for COVID-19 patients.

But Mustapha said the recent donations would add as support for the state governments.

“As part of efforts to support the states in the establishment of the isolation and treatment centres, I wish to remind our governors that the Catholic Bishops Conference has volunteered all the 425 hospitals and clinics nationwide for adaptation and use as isolation centres,” he said.

“Governors are encouraged to please approach Catholic Bishops in their states to access these facilities.

“As a further cost-effective measure, I also wish to remind subnational authorities that the Nigeria Institute of Architects has pledged the pro bono services of their members to modify, design and supervise all COVID-19 related projects nationwide. Again, we urge that this offer be taken up speedily.”

Lagos discharges 33

Lagos Government has announced the recovery and discharge of 33 new COVID-19 patients, increasing the number of recoveries in the state to 502.

The state Ministry of Health, through its verified Twitter handle said the patients were nine females and 24 males, all Nigerians.

It said that 17 of the patients were from Onikan and 16 from Eti-Osa (LandMark) Isolation Centres had tested negative twice consecutively for COVID-19.

“With this, the number of patients successfully managed and discharged in Lagos has risen to 502,” it said.

I’ve lost 2 bosom friends in Lagos, Bauchi –Lalong

Plateau Governor, Simon Lalong, said he has lost two friends in Lagos and Bauchi.

He described as unfortunate the situation where some people violate laid down regulations aimed at tackling the virus and tried to persuade others to disregard government directives on the claim that the pandemic is not real.

Lalong in a statement said the state is taking stringent measures to curtail the spread of the virus at the community level.

“It is sad and unfair for people to take this position and try to instigate others to disregard our regulations. COVID-19 is real and for me, I lost two friends recently, one in Lagos and the other in Bauchi.  They were both classmates and lawyers. Let us not put people at risk by not only being careless, but discouraging them from doing the right thing. I appeal to our people to take serious precaution and stay at home while observing all the regulations”, the Governor said.

Governor Lalong asked citizens not to panic, but to continue to strictly adhere to regulations put in place to contain the disease and curtail community spread.

He said the rise in the number of cases in the state calls for concerted efforts to achieve effective contact-tracing and stop community spread which is now the major challenge.


Madagascar drug: COVID Organic to be used when confirmed safe, working, says PTF [Punch]

  • FG, WHO carrying out drugs trial in FCT, Lagos, Kano, others

The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, on Monday said the Federal Government and the World Health Organisation were carrying out COVID-19 drug trial in the Federal Capital Territory and fives states.

Ehanaire, who disclosed this at the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 press briefing in Abuja, listed the states as Lagos, Ogun, Kaduna, Sokoto and Kano.

The minister confirmed that Nigeria was expecting a herbal drug, COVID Organic,  from Madagascar. The drug was reported to have been used by the Indian Ocean island country to cure patients, who tested positive for COVID-19.

Also,  the PTF Chairman and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, said the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), had directed the airlifting of COVID Organic to Nigeria.

However, both Ehanire and Mustapha said the herbal drug would be subjected to scientific analyses in the country.

According to them, the drug will only be used in Nigeria after it has been confirmed to be safe and working.

The WHO had said it had not approved the use of the drug, but Madagascar President, Andry Rajoelina, slammed the organisation for not endorsing it.

“If it were a European country which had discovered this remedy, would there be so many doubts?,’’ Rajoelina had asked in an exclusive interview with France 24, a Paris-based international television news network.

He added, “The problem is that it comes from Africa. And they cannot accept that a country like Madagascar, which is one of the poorest countries in the world, has discovered this formula to save the world.”

But at the PTF press briefing on Monday, Nigeria’ health minister explained the Federal Government’s efforts to combat the virus.

He said senior officials of the Federal Ministry of Health held a video meeting  with Chinese medical and academic experts in Beijing on Monday to seek further treatment strategies from China.

According to him, Nigeria is taking part in the WHO solidarity international clinical trial, which is aimed at  finding  an effective treatment for COVID-19.

The trial aims to rapidly discover whether any of the drugs slows disease progression or improves  survival.

He stated, “On the WHO treatment, the Federal Government is cooperating with the WHO on treatment regimen solidarity trial with the following  enrolled; Lagos, FCT, Ogun, Kaduna, Sokoto and Kano.”

He also spoke on strange deaths in Kano, Sokoto and   Bauchi states.

He stated,  “On the update in Kano, the ministerial task team deployed to assist in the containment effort and provide direction in managing the COVID-19 situation has made significant gains. The investigation into unexplained deaths in the state has  to complete its work.

“On Katsina, a detailed report is being awaited and it is expected to provide a roadmap to addressing the challenges in line with the response pillars. A contingent of the ministry team in Kano will also visit Bauchi State on a fact- finding mission. A team will later visit Sokoto at the invitation of the state authorities on a similar mission.”

We won’t give  Madagascar COVID-19 cure to our people until we  confirm it’s safe, working – FG

Ehanire added that the Federal Government would send the COVID-19 cure being expected from Madagascar for analyses and comparison with the Nigerian strain to identify similarities, differences, as well as how it works.

Madagascar was reported on Monday to have offered African countries its  COVID-19 cure. According to the report, the consignments for  Nigeria were sent  Guinea Bissau , from where they will be brought to the country.

Speaking on the herbal cure, the minister  said, “With regard to the cure from Madagascar, it is making the news and we have promised of being able to get samples of the botanical products. We will be speaking with the health experts and the scientific community on how to use it. We will also give it to the research community here to examine and see what they can do with it. We understand that it is something called artemisia annua which also grows here.

“But we will like to, if we get that sample, compare it with the strain here whether they are identical and see what properties it has. Things like that are subjected to analyses to see what works there and how it works.

“Obviously all countries in the world are interested in finding a cure and we are not different. So we will look at all possibilities and all options. But before we give it to our people, we will make sure that it  is actually safe and it actually works.”

Buhari orders airlifting of Madagascar’s cure

The PTF chairman   said the task force  would soon release a new protocol on COVID-19 after reviewing existing guidelines.

Mustapha said the President had given permission to freight a consignment of Madagascar’s COVID-19 organic from Guinea Bissau for treatment and cure of the disease.

He, however, said the drug would only be administered after undergoing all necessary validation process with relevant agencies of the government as in the case of drug research and approval to guarantee safety of Nigerians.

Mustapha stated, “On the Madagascar’s syrup, it is being freighted to Guinea Bissau by the President of Madagascar. Certain allocations have been made to different countries. We have an indication of the quantity for Nigeria.

“I have received instructions from Mr President to freight it home with a clear instruction that I should subject it to the validation process similar to what will happen to any medicine, vaccine or syrup that is discovered internally.”

No special provisions for physically challenged pupils, says FG

The Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba,  said that there was no “special provisions” for learning as it concerned physically challenged pupils during the COVID-19 pandemic other than the materials they were given before school closure.

The minister added that apart from the blind, who were given Braille materials home, and the deaf pupils who had sign language interpreters during television learning, other pupils with a form of physical limitation would have to make use of the online resources made available by the Federal Ministry of Education.

Also at the PTF briefing, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control said it had increased testing capacity to 23 laboratories across the country.

The Director General of the NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu,  stated that the agency spent the weekend doing a review of its work.

Ihekweazu said, “Now, we have 23 labs across the network that have to be kept going. The surveillance systems have to keep working. Whether it’s Saturday or Sunday, these things have to work.”

Community transmission in Lagos, Kano, other northern states

According to him, the country has to accept that there is community transmission, especially in Lagos, Kano and in a few other cities in northern Nigeria, including the Federal Capital Territory.

He stated, “In those areas, we will have to adapt our response to face the realities: this is a virus that is very easily transmissible, irrespective of the hard work that is being done across the country.

“So, as it spreads to other cities, we adapt and change our response in order to manage that. We keep pushing in states that have not yet collected samples to do a bit more.”

According to him, the agency has issued  guidelines for private laboratories that want to take part in COVID-19 tests.

“So, any private sector lab that wants to join the COVID-19 testing can go and pick up these guidelines that we’re going to publish on our website tonight, look through it, define what they need to do to be able to join the network and we will support them through that process.”

The National Coordinator, Dr Sani Aliyu, said the PTF would continue to prioritise human and economic needs of the people based on global guidelines and protection of health services.

He also assured of the Federal Government’s determination to protect jobs in the formal and informal sector in spite of the pandemic.

Aliyu said the PTF had placed special interest on COVID-19 cases in the North- East and North -West as well as the spikes in hot spots in the country.

He emphasised  the need for governors to identify spaces for isolation of persons who tested positive for coronavirus.

He expressed concerns that many states had yet to provide the 300-bed space.

PTF asks states to convert schools, abandoned buildings to isolation centres

He said, “It is important we start considering schools, academic institutions and even abandoned buildings because we need to build our isolation capacity.”

Catholic bishop gives 425 hospitals as isolation centres

He stated, “I wish to remind our governors that the Catholic Bishops Conference has volunteered all the 425 hospitals and clinics nationwide for adaptation and use as isolation centres. Governors are encouraged to please approach Catholic bishops in their states to access these facilities.”

The SGF expressed regret over reports of attacks and threats to lives of health workers at isolation and treatment centres by patients.

He said, “Let me underscore the fact that these frontline workers constantly put their lives on the line to make sure persons infected are provided with the best care possible to enable them become healthy citizens again.

South-South, S’West get tough on almajarai, increase surveillance at borders

There were indications on Monday that states in the South-West and South-South had stepped up measures to check the influx of Quranic education pupils, popularly known as Almajirai from the North into their states.

The Chairman of the South-West Governors’ Forum, Mr Rotimi Akeredolu, in an interview with The PUNCH, indicated border communities had been sensitised to the need for them to be vigilant and report strange movements.

On his part, the Chairman of South-South Governors forum, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa,  who is also the  Delta State governor, said youths had been recruited to assist security agents  to detect unauthorised movements and stop people from entering the state.

The President had in his broadcast on April 27 imposed a  dusk to dawn curfew on all parts of the country as part of efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19.He also banned inter-state movements.

But in spite of  the ban on inter-state movements, Almajarai, who are being dislodged from streets in northern states, are being hidden in trucks and brought to the South.

The Northern Governors’ Forum  had at their meeting outlawed Almajarai.

The Kwara State Police Command had on Saturday intercepted Lagos-bound 200 Almajirai at the Moro Local Government Area of the state.

According to the command’s spokesman, Ajayi Okesanmi, the Almajirai were coming from Funtua in Katsina State.

Also on Sunday, the Federal Road Safety Corps, the  Ondo State Command intercepted 13 Almajirai along Ilesa-Akure Road.

On Saturday, the Cross River State Government and security operatives  intercepted and sent back a truck carrying no fewer than 30 Quoranic education pupils Almajirai at the Gakem-Benue border in the state.

The Chairman of the South-West Governors’ Forum and Ondo State Governor,  Akeredolu on Monday declared that the influx of the Almajirai was already being contained by the government of the six states of the region.

The governor, in an interview with journalists in Akure, said  the almajirai were mostly destitute and were very vulnerable to the infection of the deadly coronavirus disease.

The governor said, “The influx of young people from some states in the northern part of Nigeria into our states is new and embarrassing experience and it is a matter of serious concern.

“Their massive influx into other states, particularly in South-West coinciding with the spread of COVID-19 constitutes a great threat in many respects and calls for concern.

“The government has set up an effective and already running system of containment which returns the Almajirai to their states of origin. On this, my message to the people at this time is to remain vigilant and be conscious of happenings in their environment.

Report importation of Almajirai, Akeredolu tells communities

“You are enjoined to report cases of such importation of Almajirai to appropriate authorities to help us effectively curtail community transmission of COVID-19.”

The Chairman of the South-South Governor’s Forum, Okowa, said youths had been recruited to assist security agencies in detecting illegal movements.

Okowa  stated this through his Chief Press Secretary. Mr. Olise Ifejika. He frowned upon the manner people crossed borders against government order.

He said, “We are aware that some persons are being moved from one part of the country to the other. In response to that, Delta now formed a task force made up mainly of community youths to support the security agencies at the border.

“And they are really doing it. So all those thing about people coming in has been seriously reduced. You may be aware that last Saturday, we visited this boys and the governor told them not to allow unauthorised vehicles to enter the state.

For Almajiria, the chief press secretary  said although the state had not recorded any influx, he said Delta State was working with other  states in ensuring adequate security within the region.


Court orders forfeiture of ex-presidential fleet commander’s N510m [Punch]

The Federal High Court, Abuja, on Monday, granted an order of interim forfeiture of N510m allegedly owned by a former Commander, Presidential Air Fleet, Air Vice Marshall Uko Ebong.

Ebong served as the commander of PAF between 2013 and July 2015.

Justice Ahmed Mohammed granted the interim forfeiture order of the fund linked to Ebong in a ruling on an ex-parte application filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

The anti-graft agency, through its counsel, Mr Ekele Iheanacho, alleged that the sum of N510m was part of proceeds of illegal acts.

The commission also alleged that the sum of N510m was found in an account belonging to a company owned by Ebong, Elionenai International College.

The commission alleged that “AVM Ebong, while being a public officer managed and used private companies to carry out financial transactions while concealing his identity”.

The companies, according to the commission, include Magnificent 5 Ventures Ltd, Tripple Kay Company Nigeria Ltd and Elionenai International College Ltd.

It stated that the directors of Magnificent 5 Ventures Ltd registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission were Ebong’s wife, Mrs Ebong Mercy Uko, and her brother, Ekpo Ubong Asuquo.

It stated that Ebong controlled the financial dealings of the company.

The commission also claimed, “Without any contractual agreement, a total sum of N731, 000, 000.00 was paid to Magnificent 5 Ventures Limited between May, 2014 and October, 2014 by the ONSA under the guise of payment for renovation of PAF barracks, PAF staff quarters.

“There is no proof of any work carried out by Magnificent 5 Ventures Ltd based on which the above payments were made to it.

“The payments were made into the Sterling Bank Plc Account No. 0026142493 operated by Magnificent 5 Ventures Ltd. Mrs Ebong Uko and her brother, Ekpo Asuquo, are also the signatories to the said bank account of Magnificent 5 Ventures Ltd.”

It added, “That upon receipt of the above funds into the account of Magnificent 5 Ventures Ltd, the funds were transferred and fixed-deposited in the Sterling Bank Account of Tripple Kay Company Nigeria Ltd.

“The transfer instructions were purportedly authorised by Mrs Ebong, the wife of AVM Ebong.”

On the EFCC’s request for the interim forfeiture of the fund, Justice Mohammed, ruled on Monday, “An order is hereby made for the interim forfeiture of the sum of N510,000,000 in Sterling Bank account No: 0029581583 recovered by the applicant, which funds are reasonably suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities.”

He also ordered the EFCC to publicise the said order for anyone interested in the funds to appear before the court within 14 days to prove why the money should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.


Air force men lead hoodlums to demolish Lagos buildings [Punch]

Pandemonium broke out in the Aboru area of Iyana-Ipaja in the Alimosho Local Government Area of Lagos State recently as four air force men attached to the OP MESA allegedly led about 17 hoodlums to demolish some buildings at the Valley View Estate.

PUNCH Metro gathered that the air force men, led by Staff Sergeant T. A. Oyewo, and the hoodlums allegedly acted on the instructions of one Mr Yinka Campbell, when they force their way into the estate around 10.30am, destroyed some buildings and took advantage of the situation to loot property worth millions.

While these were going on, the owners of some of the affected buildings informed the Oke-Odo Police Division and policemen, who were detailed to the scene, arrested the air force men and nine of the hoodlums.

The narrative, however, changed when the suspects were taken to the police station, from where they were transferred to the Area ‘P’ Command, but the Commander, Gbenga Adepoju, reportedly released the air force men.

A landlord, whose building was affected, Adekunle Williams, while condemning the police for releasing the air force men, expressed shock that when the matter was transferred to the State Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department, Panti, Yaba, the Investigating Police Officer, ASP Lateef Sanusi, also released the hoodlums.

He said, “I just finished building my house at the Valley View Estate, but I could not move in because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But one Mr Campbell recruited the OP MESA and hoodlums during the lockdown to illegally demolish my building and others. Items worth N9m were stolen from my building. I quickly reported the incident at the Oke-Odo Police Station and the air force men and some of the hoodlums were arrested.

“The matter was transferred to the Area ‘P’ Command, where the OP MESA men were released despite not providing a court order and demolition notice for what they did. The case was later transferred to the SCIID, Panti, Yaba, and the hoodlums were detained and later released.

“We challenged the IPO, ASP Lateef Sanusi, when we heard about the release of the suspects and he said it was not a case of stealing and murder, but he never considered the value of what we lost.”

Another landlord, Babajide Ogundeji, said the Zone 2 Police Command had been petitioned to intervene, adding that till date, Campbell had not been arrested.

He challenged Campbell to show valid documents of his claim to the land and the demolition order from a competent court.

Ogundeji said, “We were expecting Sanusi to charge the hoodlums, but he didn’t. Despite the hoodlums’ confession that they were sent by Mr Yinka Campbell, the police refused to arrest him. The incident happened on Wednesday, April 29, 2020.

“We were at the Zone 2 when we called Sanusi about the case and he said the suspects had been released.

“I asked if Campbell had been arrested, but Sanusi said they don’t know his address and that the touts told him that they usually meet at a junction to collect money. Honestly, I feel like giving up on my country with what is happening with the security agents manipulating the case. We have picture and video evidence and the confession of the hoodlums as to who sent them, but up till now, no one has been brought to justice.”

When contacted, Campbell denied responsibility for the demolition but said those who carried it out acted with his full backing, because his firm had been granted possession of the land.

“I had in the past been demolishing their structures, but I was not the one who arranged this last one. When the people we sold the land to organised to demolish, they told me and I said I was in full support,” he stated.

The surveyor, Benjamin Akinsanya, who sold the land to the victims, told PUNCH Metro that his clients had a Supreme Court judgment in their favour on the land, adding that Campbell was fond of destroying property without court orders and challenged him to produce documents on the ownership of the land.

The state Police Public Relations Officer, Bala Elkana, said, “Investigation is still ongoing; the demolition happened during the lockdown and the courts were not sitting, so we couldn’t charge the suspects and we couldn’t keep them in our custody indefinitely.

“For the safety of our officers and the suspects, we couldn’t keep them in our custody, except for very grievous offences like murder and kidnapping. This is a land-related matter that resulted in malicious damage, so the suspects were granted bail pending when the investigation will be concluded and the courts resume sitting.”

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