P&ID: U.S. judge okays Nigeria’s request to access Jonathan’s, Diezani’s bank records [Nation]

  • Ex-president ‘has no account abroad’

A United States court has granted Nigeria permission to investigate bank transactions involving former President Goodluck Jonathan, his wife Patience, former Petroleum Resources Minister Diezani Allison-Madueke and other top government officials.

These politicians were in office when the country signed a contract with a company, Process and Industrial Development Limited, which has become a source of dispute.

The New York Federal Court’s ruling followed the Federal Government’s application to it for official access to the bank’s records on the former president and his erstwhile petroleum minister.

”There is good reason to believe that ministers at the highest level were involved in a corrupt scheme to steal money from Nigeria,” Attorney-General Abubakar Malami stated in his application to the court submitted on March 24.

Nigeria’s chances of annulling the giant penalty lie on proving the 2010 gas supply arrangement was a sham designed to fail by P&ID and government officials.

The saga became a full-blown crisis for Nigeria last August when a U.K. judge ruled that P&ID could enforce an arbitration tribunal’s 2017 ruling, now totaling $9.6 billion including interest, which found the country breached the agreement.

The applications were made by Alexander Pencu, a partner of Meister Seelig & Fein LLP, attorneys for the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Malami.

Details of the information being sought by the Federal Government are meant for use in “ongoing foreign criminal investigations and criminal proceedings in the Federal Republic of Nigeria (the “Nigerian Proceedings”),” the filing, dated March 25, reads in part.

“The requested discovery will assist applicants in the Nigerian Proceedings to investigate and prosecute individuals and entities that participated in, and were enriched by, P&ID’s fraudulent scheme,” it added.

In the testimony of the subpoena filing addressed to Citibank, for instance, the applicant sought the intervention of the bank or any of its officers to testify in the case.

The politically-exposed persons named in the subpoena are  former oil minister late Rilwanu Lukman; Dr Jonathan and his wife, Patience; and Allison-Madueke.

Others named in the subpoena are Taofiq Tijani; Grace Taiga; Mohammad Kuchazi; one Michael Quinn, who died in 2014; James Nolan; Adam Quinn; and Ibrahim Dikko.

Former Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke.

In its report last month, Bloomberg quoted a spokesman for P&ID as denying wrongdoing, adding that Malami has “manufactured a claim of fraud and bribery” to evade the state’s legal obligation to pay what amounts to about 30% of the country’s foreign reserves. Some of the banks declined to comment on the case.

Dr. Jonathan said that he has no account or property abroad.

“He has no accounts in the United States of America, and encourages US authorities to cooperate fully with the Federal Government of Nigeria’s subpoena,” he said in a statement by his spokesman Ikechukwu Eze.


Buhari settles for Gambari as Kyari’s replacement [Nation]

President Muhammadu Buhari has tapped a former Under United Nations Secretary as his Chief of Staff, it was learnt on Tuesday.

Prof. Ibrahim Agboola Gambari, 75, is expected to assume office today as a replacement for the late Mallam Abba Kyari, who served in the post since 2015 until April 17 when he died from Coronavirus complications.

It was learnt that the President picked Gambari, who was Minister of External (Foreign) Affairs during his time as Military Head of State between January 1984 and August 1985 because he is apolitical.

The President, according to sources had a breakfast session with the renowned diplomat yesterday where he offered him the appointment.

He was reportedly picked from a list of 14 others screened for the position, which is the clearing house in the office of the President.

Presidential spokesman Femi Adesina neither confirmed nor denied the appointment of Gambari. There was also no official communication.

Adesina said yesterday when contacted: “An announcement will be made during the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting tomorrow (today).”

A virtual FEC will hold on Wednesday, the first after weeks of the partial lockdown of the State House since mid-March – over the outbreak of Coronavirus.

It was learnt that the President opted for Gambari because of his patience and reputation as an international bureaucrat.

Another factor which informed the President’s position was Gambari’s unofficial advisory role since 2015 without asking for any favour.

It was gathered that the President listed his expectations when he met with Gambari.

A highly-placed source said: “The appointment was sealed at an early morning meeting between the President and Gambari.

“The meeting had barely ended when many foreign embassies got the hint and they became excited about the President’s choice.”

Some of the qualities the President outlined for his new Chief of Staff are:

             competence;

             rich experience in bureaucracy and diplomacy

             absolute loyalty;

             sharing the same vision and principle with Buhari on the Next Level Agenda;

             longstanding relationship with the President;

             being incorruptible;

             being apolitical;

             less controversial; and

             a man of peace

A top source, who spoke in confidence said: “Out of the list of about 14 candidates available to the President, Gambari is the least exposed to the vagaries of Nigerian politics. He is a diplomat and an international bureaucrat.

“The appointment was made to pick an apolitical fellow and to correct the mistake of the past where the Office of the Chief of Staff is exposed to politics and pressure from politicians.

“To move forward, the President wants to restrict his Chief of Staff to bureaucratic schedule and not political manoeuvres in order to fast-track the implementation of the goals of his administration.

“The manner of jostling for the Office of the Chief of Staff since the death of the former occupant of the office actually suggested that those who have political ambitions were desperate for it.

“The international profile of Gambari played a significant role in his appointment. Buhari is looking at global politics after the post-COVID-19 pandemic and opted for an experienced hand in Gambari whose mileage can add credibility to his government and attract goodwill

“Bilateral and multilateral relations will take the centre stage after the Coronavirus pandemic and he needs a respected international bureaucrat to assist his government to reach out to the world.”

The source added: “Although some ministers are very close to the President, he avoided appointing any of them because upgrading a minister will not help the system.”

Among those considered, according to sources are: Ambassador Babagana Kingibe; Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu; Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Col. Hamid Ali; Secretary to the Government of the Federation Boss Mustapha; Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai; Senior Special Assistant to the President on Special Duties, Ya’u Shehu Darazo; a former Military Administrator of Lagos State, Gen. Buba Marwa; and the immediate past Permanent Secretary, State House, Mr. Jalal Arabi

Others are Minister of Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu; the Senior Special Assistant to the President, Sarki Mukhtar Abba; the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ahmed Rufai Abubakar; and a former Governor of Kano State, Sen. Ibrahim Shekarau.

Gambari will become the nation’s fifth Chief of Staff since 1999.

He will be the second office holder from Ilorin to occupy the Office of the Chief of Staff after Gen. Abdullahi Mohammed.

In the last 21 years, Nigeria has had four Chiefs of Staff. These are: Gen. Abdullahi Mohammed — 1999-2008; Mike Oghiadomhe — 2010-2014; Gen. Jones Arogbofa — 2014-2015; and Mallam Abba Kyari -2015 – April 17, 2020.

Although ex-President Umaru Yar’Adua scrapped the Office of Chief of Staff in 2008, ex-President Goodluck Jonathan reintroduced it in 2010.

The responsibilities of Chief of Staff are “selecting key presidential staff and supervising them, structuring the staff system, controlling the flow of people to the Presidential Villa; managing the flow of information, protecting the interests of the president, negotiating with the National Assembly and other branches of government to implement the president’s agenda; and advising the president on various issues, including telling the president what they do not want to hear.”

Emir of Ilorin and Chairman, Kwara State Council of Chiefs, Mai-Martaba Alhaji Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari, yesterday thanked President Muhammadu Buhari for appointing Professor Gambari.

Sulu-Gambari in a statement by his Media Aide, Mallam Abdulazeez Arowona described the appointment as great honour to the entire people of Ilorin Emirate and Kwarans at large.

He said: “The choice of the former diplomat would be justified by outstanding contributions, administrative experience, scholarship and excellence which he would inject into the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government towards ensuring good governance, democratic dividends as well as shared prosperity in the nation.

”While congratulating Professor Gambari on the new appointment, the monarch wished him a successful tenure in office even as he expressed confidence in his ability to justify the confidence reposed in him by President Muhammadu Buhari.

“He will surely bring to fore his wealth of experience as an academician, former Minister, former Diplomat, former University Chancellor, Prince of the renowned Alimi dynasty, family man and community leader of high repute.

“Professor Ibrahim Gambari is the Wambai of Ilorin Emirate.”


Private hospitals to the rescue as virus cases rise [Nation]

             Govt gives guidelines

             NCDC confirms 146 new cases

Owing to rising cases of Coronavirus infection and the inability of government facilities to cope, more private hospitals have been given the green light to treat patients.

Minister of Health Dr. Osagie Ehanire said on Tuesday that accreditation had been given to more private hospitals in Lagos and other parts of the country.

This new approach is a modification of the government’s position last month that private hospitals were barred from treating patients.

Mallam Abba Kyari, Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, died at a private hospital in Lagos of Coronavirus complications on April 17.

As at last night, the virus positive cases had inched near 5,000, with the government worried about the shortage of bed spaces at the treatment isolation centres.

Ehanire, who spoke at the daily briefing by the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 control, in Abuja, said besides the accreditation already given out, teams had been despatched to mant parts of the country to assess private hospitals for the purpose of allowing them to treat patients should they meet the protocols as developed by the PTF.

Dr. Ehanire said: “We have developed a protocol for accreditation. They have been given to many of the states. Special teams have been sent out to help. The team that was sent to Kano has already visited about four states in the North to help set up the accreditation.

Government hospitals and teaching hospitals have been examined and accredited and some state hospitals as well. Private hospitals, some in Lagos have been accredited but I can’t give you the exact number. But they have been accredited by the teams sent to the states.”

Although he did not release the guidelines which the private hospitals must meet to be given the signal to treat patients, he had last month said: “If you as a private hospital want to run a treatment centre for Coronavirus, you have to show first of all that you have the staff; a doctor who must be an infectious disease specialist and nurses and even cleaners who are trained in infection prevention protocol. The operations are different from what obtains in other hospitals.”

Ehanire said there has been “no new infections of health workers reported in recent times, as those who have recovered are awaiting certification to resume work. I can’t give you a direct number and they are not all in one place. So, I can’t give you a count if you are asking how many.”

He urged the organs of state maintaining vigilance at the borders, including the Port Health Services, to keep up the good work and not to relent.

About 150 health workers have so far been infected by the virus, according to the President of the Nigerian Medical Association, Dr. Francis Faduyile.

Dr. Ehanire said: “The FMoH has been closely monitoring and reviewing the unfolding situation in some states, where covid19 appears to have gained ground. We had responded to the situation in Kano by dispatching a team of medical experts to provide technical support to the Ministry of Health in the states.

“I am happy to inform that the team has done well in their assignment and has reported a lot of success in helping to stabilise the state’s health system and assuage the disquiet among health workers, who are to restart routine service delivery.”


2 Chinese arrested for offering N100m bribe to EFCC officer [Sun]

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has arrested two Chinese for offering N100 million bribe to head, Sokoto zonal office, and his investigating team.

The two Chinese, Meng Wei Kun and Xu Kuoi of China Zhounghao Nigeria Limited, a construction company, were arrested in a well coordinated operation that lasted four days.

Parading the suspects yesterday, Abdullahi Lawal, the commission’s Sokoto zonal office head, told newsmen that the duo offered him and his investigating team N100million to compromise an ongoing investigation against their company.

He said: “On May 7, 2020, I was contacted by Mr Meng Wei Kun, Managing Director, China Zhounghao Nig. Ltd, in respect of an ongoing investigation against their company.

“I and my investigating team were offered the sum of one hundred million naira to compromise the case.

“Four days after series of discussions, it was agreed that I should come for half of the money, which was ready, at their office/residence, along Airport Road, Kasarawa, Sokoto.

“In a well coordinated operation with a team of operatives, Mr Meng Wei Kun and Mr Xu Kuoi, were arrested while giving the bribe money to me at the above address.

“In the process, the sum of fifty million naira, three laptops, five smartphones and some relevant documents were recovered.”

Lawal further explained that China Zhounghao Nig. Ltd, is currently being investigated by EFCC Sokoto zonal office over alleged offences of conspiracy, abuse of office, misappropriation, diversion of public funds and money laundering.

The money involve the sum of over fifty billion naira contracts awarded to the company by Zamfara State government between 2012 and 2019, where the company received payments of over forty-one billion naira, and about sixteen billion naira, equivalent to over fifty-three million dollars, was diverted and traced to Bureau De Change operators.

The EFCC assured that the duo would be charged to court when investigation is concluded.


COVID-19: CBN okays research grant for local vaccine production [Sun]

  • SGF says virus has reawaken collaboration between critical partners

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on Tuesday, said it is developing a framework to release grant and long term facilities to researchers, science institutions and biotechnology firms to develop local vaccines to manage the coronavirus disease.

Governor of CBN, Godwin Emefiele, disclosed this Tuesday at the commissioning of Thisday Dome COVID-19 Testing, Tracing and Treatment Centre, in Abuja.

The 300-bed facility with a 54 gene laboratory, is a private sector-driven initiative donated by a consortium of like-minded partners powered by the Sahara Energy Group and the ThisDay Media and Technology Group. Other key players include the CA-COVID, the AFC, CCECC, Nigerian National Petroleum  Corporation and the Central Bank of Nigeria.

The centre was commissioned by Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on response to the Coronavirus pandemic, (PTF) COVID-19, Boss Mustapha.

Emefiele said in order to encourage greater research and development of drugs and vaccines that would help prevent the spread of the virus in the country, “the CBN is developing a framework which would grant and long term facilities to researchers, science institutions and biotechnology firms to develop the Nigerian vaccine.”

He challenged Nigerian scientists at home and in the Diaspora to go back to their laboratories and develop a local vaccine for the virus.

“Once validated by the health authorities, the CBN will step in and do the needful for the sake of over 200 million Nigerians now confronted by COVID-19.”

“Our inability to accurately predict the extent to which the coronavirus could spread, and how long it would last, requires that we build sufficient capacity within our health system in order to contain the spread of the virus, state by state, city by city and preserve the lives of vulnerable Nigerians.

“This requires that we all come together to support the ‘work of the Presidential Task Force in it’s determination to save lives and stem the pandemic.”

Emefiele noted that Nigeria’s ability to restore the growth of the economy is dependent on how the country addresses the public health crisis brought on by COVID-19, adding that” It is in the realisation of this fact that the CBN recently launched an N100 billion healthcare intervention fund. Practitioners in the Pharmaceutical and health care sectors will be able to access finance at a single-digit rate through this fund.

“Our objective is to improve the capacity of our health system to address emerging public health challenges.” He commended the Nigerian private sector practitioners who came together under the Coalition against COVID-19 (CA -COVID) to support the government, by raising funds to procure needed isolation centres, medical equipment, etc. “So far, the CA-COVlD-19 has raised up to N27 billion to fund these initiatives. These donations are being used to build well-equipped isolation centres across the 36 states of the federation.

“The THISDAY Dome Testing, Tracing and Treatment Centre being launched today represents a part of the support being provided by the CACOVID alliance. These measures will result in the addition of close to 4,000 hospital beds across the country and will serve as a significant boost towards our efforts at containing the spread of COVlD-19.


Insecurity: Military, police, others overwhelmed –Senate [Sun]

  • Charges IGP to enforce COVID-19 interstate ban •Reps probe extra-judicial killings

The Senate, yesterday, raised the alarm that Nigeria’s security agencies were overwhelmed by the myriad of challenges.

The admission followed the consideration and adoption of a motion tagged: “The rising spate of armed banditry attacks and persistent killings in Katsina State” sponsored by Mandiya Bello.

Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, who presided over plenary, said the state of insecurity, particularly insurgency and banditry, had placed a huge burden on security agencies and warned that reforms must be carried out to salvage the sector.

The Senate recently passed a comprehensive blueprint on how to restructure Nigeria’s security architecture.

Bello, in his motion, had said: “Even while Katsina State, like the rest of the country, is groaning under the current plight of the coronavirus pandemic, the plight of indigenes of the state is daily being compounded by the devastating activities of the marauding bandits, which have left many people in complete fear and despair.

“Apart from attacks that have been going on for months, which were mostly unreported, very recently, between May 5 and 6, armed bandits carried out multiple attacks on several communities in Faskari, Kankara, Sabuwa, Dandume, Batsari and Jibia local government areas of the state during which the Divisional Police Officer (DPO), Aminu Abdulkareem, was shot and the head of administration of Danmusa was kidnapped together with his son to unknown location. The DPO is yet to recover from the serious gunshot injuries inflicted on him by the bandits.

“About the same period, armed bandits invaded several communities in Kankara Local Government of Katsina State, killing so many people, while carrying out other heinous crimes, including cattle rustling, kidnapping, and also causing forced displacement of the villagers from their ancestral homes. These communities are becoming desperate and may resort to self-help leading eventually to a state of anarchy.”

The Senate has also mandated the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, and other security chiefs to enforce the ban on interstate movement imposed by President Muhammadu Buhari to curb the spread of COVID-19.

The position of the Senate followed the adoption of a motion sponsored by Ike Ekweremadu, a former deputy senate president, tagged: “Need to enforce Presidential Order banning interstate movement.”

Ekweremadu, in his debate, said the continuous flouting of the ban on interstate movement and the complicity of security agents in the breach of rules and regulations to stem the spread of COVID-19 should be of concern to Nigerians.

“I am alarmed at the spike in the number of COVID-19 cases in the country, which currently stands at 4,641 cases and 150 deaths. I am also alarmed that confirmed daily cases of COVID-19 by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) is now in hundreds. I am seriously worried by the numerous reports and trending videos on the flagrant breach of the curfew and interstate travel. The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 has raised the alarm over what it described as ‘increased level of interstate movement, worsened by the dubious concealment of people in food-carrying vehicles.’ I am conscious of the fact that the nation’s security agencies, particularly the police, have the responsibility to enforce law and order, including the presidential ban on interstate movement. I am worried about reports of alleged complicity in the said breaches by those who are supposed to enforce compliance with the directives of the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.

“We condemn in strongest terms the barefaced breach of the presidential order on interstate movements and enjoin Nigerians to strictly comply with these orders for their own safety and to quicken the nation’s victory over the COVID-19 pandemic,” Ekweremadu said.

Meanwhile, Lawan kicked against the violation of social distancing by senators during plenary yesterday.

The Senate President, who made the observation while reading votes and proceedings of last Tuesday’s sitting for adoption, urged senators at the back row to sit far apart from one another, in line with the precautionary measures against the spread of coronavirus.

“Distinguished colleagues, as leaders and lawmakers, please, let us ensure that the principle of social distancing is observed. The principle is not observed at the back seats, going by the way distinguished colleagues are seated. Please, let the principle be reflected straight away by ensuring the required gaps between the seats,” he said.

A few minutes after the admonition, the Senate President was forced to repeat it when he told Senator Uche Ekwunife that she was too close to the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ovie Omo- Agege. Lawan added that all senators should ensure that their face mask was on at all times in the Chamber. He demanded that any senator who speaks should do so with full usage of the face mask.

Concerned by the spate of extrajudicial killings and abuse of human rights by security agents enforcing the lockdown imposed by various state governments to check the spread of COVID-19 in the country, On its part, the House of Representatives, yesterday,  resolved to institute an investigation.

The House, while condemning brutalisation and extortion and the killing of innocent Nigerians by security operatives enforcing the COVID-19 lockdown across the country, called on President Buhari to direct the heads of security agencies implicated in the act to fish out the perpetrators for prosecution and punishment, according to law.

This followed the adoption of a motion by Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, on the need to halt the extrajudicial killing of Nigerians and rights abuses by security agents enforcing the COVID-19 lockdown.

Onyejeocha, in her motion, noted that, according to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC),  security agents, enforcing COVID-19 lockdown, have extrajudicially killed 18 innocent Nigerians in Abia, Delta, Ebonyi, Kaduna, Katsina, and Niger states

The lawmaker expressed regrets that, as of April 13, when the lockdown was extended for another two weeks, the number of Nigerians killed by security agents were more than those from COVID-19.

She explained that of the 18 deaths, the Nigeria Correctional Service was responsible for eight, Nigeria Police Force was responsible for seven, the Nigerian Army was responsible for two, while the Ebonyi State Task Force on COVID-19, Afikpo South LGA, was responsible for one.

Onyejeocha added that “the case of Abia State has assumed a more worrisome dimension with the brutalisation of the people and the killing of five innocent persons; Onyemazu Chibueze of Isuochi Umunneochi LGA on April 4, 2020; a petrol station attendant in Ogbor Hill, Aba on Monday 6 April 2020; Amobi Igwe, a commercial motorist in Umuikea, Isiala Ngwa South LGA on Wednesday 15 April 2020; Ifeanyi Arunsi of Ebem Ohafia on Friday 17 April 2020; and one other person in Uratta Junction, Aba also on Friday 17 April 2020.”


COVID-19: FG deploys team to Bauchi, Katsina, Jigawa over unusual deaths [Sun]

Federal Government has dispatched a delegation of health workers to Azare, Bauchi; Katsina and Jigawa state over rising cases of unusual deaths associated with the COVID-19.

Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, said this at the 29th joint national briefing of the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19, in Abuja, yesterday.

“A Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) delegation of experts is presently in Bauchi State on a fact-finding mission to work with Bauchi State government and look into reports of unexplained deaths in Azare, Bauchi State.

“The similar missions to Katsina and Jigawa identified needs in those states, which include the need for a molecular laboratory in Katsina to reduce the backlog of pending tests and the turn-around time for results. This will be looked into.

“Other high burden areas or states grappling epidemic control issues will be offered similar support. In this connection, I must commend the ongoing initiative being developed by the (Nigera) Governors’ Forum to give each other mutual support, by rallying available human resource for health volunteers from states, to support other states with a high burden and manpower shortages,” he said.

Responding to a question on Susan Idoko, the index case in Benue State who was transferred to Abuja, Ehanire said she has refused to take the third test that will certify her fit to go home.

According to him, despite meeting all her demands to see all her results, she had continued to come up with impossible requests.

“The history, I think, is already known that she came in from the UK and has had three tests, she is due for another test which she has refused to take.

“We strongly believe that by now she’s definitely negative, but we need to document it because we also work with guidelines released by the World Health Organisation which we follow. In order to document it, I called her on phone and persuaded her to just let them take the test and she gave me the condition that first, they must give her all her results from the past then she will agree just to take a specimen.

“Those of you here who have done it know how simple it is and I gave the instruction. They took all her results, photocopied all of them and gave them to her.

“But on the day of the test when NCDC got there, she told them she wanted the test to be taken by World Health Organisation and then the test should not be done in Nigeria, it should be sent to the UK.

“That seems to be a very difficult order and it demands that it should be taken to the UK and that the specimen must only be taken by the WHO. So, it is becoming a very hot drama.

“It was reported to me. So I called her again and asked her why have you changed the conditions? You said you wanted your results, you have your results and she wrote a text to me saying I should consult her lawyer that she has gotten a lawyer, so that was just yesterday. So we are going to continue with the lawyer business.

“But is only just a document that she’s okay and to live on, it seems to be a drama that is playing out there.

“So, that is the situation with the lady but she’s quite well, she’s in good health and the hospital authorities have also done their very best.”

The minister said that no new infections of health workers have been reported in recent times, adding that those who have recovered were waiting for certification to resume work.

State govts told to align  with FG’s directives

The PTF has charged state governments to align their actions and enforcement with the guidelines provided by the Federal Government to flatten the curve of the Coronavirus.

According to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and PTF chairman, Boss Mustapha, the virus does not respect boundaries, neither does it respect status.

“All state governments are, therefore, urged to strengthen their monitoring and enforcement machinery in collaboration with the security agencies.

“Let me emphasise that we have seen visuals on the social media depicting total disregard for physical distancing in some locations. This is a dangerous journey towards uninhibited spread if not checked. The PTF is consulting with the authorities of the identified areas to review their strategies,” he said.

While recalling that the guidelines on the reopening of offices directed managements of such offices to take certain steps and put in place policies that would ensure the safety of their staff, he said the leadership of various offices should make such provisions including infra-red temperature guns at entrances, sanitisers, hand washing facilities, social distancing arrangements and ensuring that masks are worn always.

He said this was particularly critical for government offices in high concentration areas like the Federal Secretariat complex. He also warned of the danger of sharing masks: “The PTF COVID-19 at virtually all its national briefings, consistently pleaded with Nigerians for their support and understanding, especially in complying with the advisories and guidelines issued. We also shared our assessment of the level of compliance and the risks associated with non-compliance.

“I wish to use this medium to once again underscore the imperative of collective survival because of the lack of compliance by any person or group of persons poses a threat to all of us.

“Particularly, the PTF has become aware of the on-going practice of sharing masks and picking of masks for recycling from dumpsites. This places a lot of responsibilities on all of us to be self-educated and to educate others,” he said.

He said with the exception of fabric masks, every disposable used mask is a hazardous medical waste and should be disposed of properly, preferably by burning.

“It is very risky to share masks as the virus is capable of remaining on surfaces for several hours and you could get infected. The unhealthy practise of picking up disposed masks for whatever purpose is harmful to both the individual picking it and whoever procures it later.”

He said since the recording of the index case, Nigerians have clamoured for research into the homegrown solution to COVID-19 and that the PTF, as part of its mandate, has continued to promote research and appealed to all researchers to go through the validation process to enable humanity benefit from their hard work, while they in turn benefit from the intellectual property rights associated with such research.

PSN opposes importation of Madagascar herbal remedy as syrup is airlifted to Nigeria

The Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) has described as distasteful the importation of Madagascar herbal remedy, COVID-Organics (CVO).

President Muhammadu Buhari had directed the Presidential Task Force to pick up the plant-based Coronavirus remedy.

But PSN, in a statement by its president, Sam Ohuabunwa, said news that the Federal Government was about to import herbal concoction, called COVID-Organics, from Madagascar was received with utter disbelief.

“While in principle we would not mind Nigerian government importing any new drug that is proven to cure COVID-19 or indeed any other disease for which we have neither the capacity nor the technology to produce locally, we are totally appalled that Nigeria is about to spend scarce foreign exchange to import ‘coal into Newcastle.’

“Even if we are not going to pay for this, it is thoroughly disgraceful that a country that should be the leader of Africa, with the largest GDP will allow itself to be dragged this low. Nigeria has about 174 universities (43 Federal, 52 State and 79 private), 20 Faculties of Pharmacy and about 69 Federal-Funded Research Institutes (including National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research & Development and the National Institute for Medical Research) while Madagascar has only six universities, one faculty of pharmacy and nine research centres.”

Ohuabunwa said Nigeria has some of the best scientists (pharmaceutical, medical, biochemical, biological etc.) in the world who have done so much work on natural and herbal medicines.

“Nigeria has developed a pharmacopoeia of natural and herbal products and has one of the richest flora and fauna – potent sources of phytomedicines. Since the outbreak of the COVID-19, a number of them have raised their voices that they have herbal and natural products that can be used to treat or manage COVID-19.

“Some have patents. Many herbal companies and producers have announced specifically that they have herbal formulations that can do what this ‘invention’ from Madagascar can do.”

He insisted the Society have raised its voices severally that the Federal Government should review these claims and help put them through clinical evaluation, as most of these producers cannot afford to conduct clinical trials.

“We have recommended that a portion of the nearly N25 billion donated/allocated for the COVID-19 pandemic should be dedicated for local research and development. But our government has remained essentially silent only waiting to participate in World Health Organisation (WHO) sponsored or mandated trials. We have been told that Nigeria is participating in the WHO solidarity trial, but nothing on trying our own inventions and formulations.

“Now we want to import COVID-Organics from Madagascar to try? Why are we like this? If the world can supply us synthetic and chemically-sophisticated medicines which we apparently lack the technology to produce, why must we wait for the world to supply us herbal formulations which we can easily make and which we have similar products,” he queried.

Peter Obi backs Buhari

Former Anambra bi governor, Peter Obi has endorsed President Muhammadu Buhari’s decision on Madagascar’s COVID-19 herbal drug.

In a tweet, yesterday, Obi said: “I firmly support the authorisation of @MBuhari for importation and subjection of the Madagascar #COVID19 Syrup to standard validation process for pharmaceuticals, and possibly for use in the cure of this virus.

“Similar authorisation and encouragement should be given to local inventions. This will save us scarce forex and will give confidence to domestic researchers and inventors.”

Save Nigeria from looming danger, CLO tells security forces

Worried by the disobedience of presidential restriction on interstate movement, the Civil Liberties Organization (CLO), has urged security forces to take up the challenge and save the country  from impending danger.

CLO said in spite of the rising cases, Nigerians had continued to thwart the executive order on interstate movement, thereby jeopardising the fight against the virus in Nigeria.

In a statement, yesterday, signed by CLO Executive Director, Ibuchukwu Ezike, the group said it had been inundated with reports of  mass movement of people, especially those suspected to be infected with Coronavirus.

Warning that the flagrant violation of the order banning the interstate movement of people and goods in the country would cause the uncontrollable spread of COVID-19 across the country, CLO urged security forces to ensure strict enforcement.

FG disburses over N1bn financial support to vulnerable in Katsina

The Federal Government has disbursed over N1 billion financial support to the vulnerable in Katsina State for the COVID-19 through the Social Investment Programme (SIP).

The state Coordinator of SIP, Alhaji Aliyu Girka, disclosed this while briefing newsmen in Katsina on Tuesday.

He stated that over 153,000 vulnerable people had benefitted from the Federal Government assistance through the SIP.

According to him, another set of 173,000 vulnerable and the neediest were registered in 12 local government areas of the state.

The coordinator listed the local governments as Rimi, Danmusa, Kaita Mani, Baure, Ingawa, Bindawa Bakori, Musawa, Kankia Kankara and Dandume.

Girka said that the exercise would be carried out with the support of traditional institutions in the respective areas.

He appealed to people to give necessary support and cooperation in order for the programme to achieve the desired objectives.


Nigerians picking face masks from dumpsites, PTF cries out [Punch]

  • State, private hospitals in Lagos get coronavirus accreditation
  • Panel deploys pathologists over Bauchi, Jigawa strange deaths

The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 has raised the alarm over an unhealthy practice of some Nigerians who pick face masks from rubbish dumps and sell them.

The  Chairman of the task force and  Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha, who raised the alarm at the PTF press briefing in Abuja, warned that such a practice would worsen the spread of COVID-19 in the country.

He also said northern state governments, which had been evacuating the Quranic school pupils, popularly known as Almajirai, to their states of origin should suspend it.

The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanaire, also at the press briefing, said pathologists from Sokoto, Bauchi, Jigawa, Katsina and Kano had been trained, adding that they were investigating deaths in the states.

The task force, shortly after the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), in his national broadcast on April 27 ordered the gradual reopening of the economy, gave guidelines that would assist in flattening the COVID-19 curve in the country.

Among the guidelines are the compulsory use of face masks and maintaining social distance in public places. The government also banned a gathering of over 20 people and interstate movements.

Nigerians picking disposed face masks, PTF raises the alarm

Reviewing Nigerians’ adherence to the guidelines, Mustapha noted that people were still sharing face masks.

He said, “The unhealthy practice of picking disposed masks for whatever purpose is harmful to both the individual picking them and whoever procures them later.

“The PTF has become aware of the ongoing practice of sharing masks and picking of masks for recycling from dumpsites. This places a lot of responsibility on all of us to be self-educated and to educate others.

“The following points are emphasised: Except for fabric masks, every disposable used mask is a hazardous medical waste and should be disposed of properly, preferably by burning.

“It is very risky to share masks as the virus is capable of remaining on surfaces for several hours and you could get infected.”

Suspend interstate movements of Almajirai, FG tells govs

The PTF also advised governors to suspend interstate movements of Almajirai so as not to frustrate efforts to combat the pandemic.

Northern Governors’ Forum, in a statement issued after its meeting on April 21 unanimously decided to ban the Almajirai system of education. They decided that the children should be sent back to their parents or states of origin.

States, which have been repatriating the Almajirai back to their states of origin include  Kano and Nasarawa.

But some of the children have been diagnosed with COVID-19. For example, On May 2, the Kaduna State Government said 21 out of  61 Almajirai deported to the state from Kano tested positive for the virus.

Besides, some of the children are being hidden in vehicles carrying food and brought to the South, a development southern states have frowned upon.

Expressing concern about the development, the SGF said, “This is not the time for movement of Almajirai because of interstate lockdown. If you say  interstate movements  are banned, I don’t think that movements of Almajirai are essential movements.”

Mustapha urged state governments to align their actions and enforcement with the guidelines provided by the PTF.

“The virus does not respect boundaries neither does it respect status. All state governments are, therefore, urged to strengthen their monitoring and enforcement machinery in collaboration with the security agencies,” he stated.

You should be ready to go through validation, PTF tells researchers

The SGF urged researchers to come up with homegrown drugs and vaccines for the treatment of COVID-19.

He, however, said they must be patient to go through the validation process to establish the safety of their drugs and avoid litigation

He said, “Since the recording of the index case, Nigerians have clamoured for research into homegrown solutions to COVID-19.

“The PTF, as part of its mandate, has continued to promote research and wishes to repeat its appeal to all our researchers to go through the validation process so as to enable humanity to benefit from their hard work and they in turn benefit from the intellectual property rights associated with such research.”

‘COVID-19 vaccine won’t be ready until 2021’

He urged Nigerians to abide by the PTF guidelines to fight the virus.

Mustapha said, “Ordinarily, from the little literature I have read on COVID 19,  we are not expecting any vaccine to be on the shelves until towards the end of 2021. That is for industries that have perfected the processes of manufacturing of this vaccine.”

The SGF also challenged the private sector to continue to support government in order to fortify the health system and infrastructure against present and future pandemics.

Responding to a question, the SGF said hotels accommodating Nigerians evacuated from abroad would be decontaminated after 14 days isolation of the returnees before receiving a new batch.

Also, the National Coordinator of the PTF, Dr Sani Aliyu, lamented that large movements of people across state borders were frustrating efforts aimed at containing the pandemic.

He appealed to security agencies to rise to the challenge and stop the trend, except for essential services.

FG approves hazard allowances for COVID-19 health workers

Also at the press briefing, the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire,  said the Federal Government had signed a deal approving hazard allowances for health workers involved in the COVID-19 containment.

He said the agreement had been forwarded to the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed.

Ehanire noted that the Nigerian Medical Association and other stakeholders were present at the signing of the deal, which had also been forwarded to the Ministry of Labour and Employment.

PTF deploys pathologists to probe strange deaths Bauchi, Jigawa, others

He said the Federal Ministry of Health assembled and trained pathologists from Sokoto, Bauchi, Jigawa, Katsina and Kano states who were thereafter sent to probe the strange deaths in the states.

He said, “With regard to the investigation in Kano (deaths), it is going to be a very scientific investigation and they will sit down to collate a report. They are trying to ensure that there is no room for error. I have not seen it yet, but it is in the pipeline.

“I have told the teams to bring pathologists to these states which are reporting these deaths. We have brought pathologists from Sokoto, Bauchi, Jigawa, Kano and others to develop a protocol and training by which they can now carry out this investigation.”

He said the ministry had developed a protocol for accreditation of hospitals, adding the protocol had been given to many states.

He also said some hospitals, including private and public facilities, had been accredited to treat the virus.

The minister stated, “The team that was sent to Kano has already been to four other states. The Federal Government and state hospitals; some private hospitals in Lagos, have been accredited by the accreditation team.”

He appealed to each state government to provide at least 300-bed spaces as isolation centres.

Ehanire also spoke about a  COVID-19 patient at the National Hospital, Abuja, who allegedly insisted on her tests being conducted by the World Health Organisation officials.

The minister said, “On the lady at the National Hospital whom we have been engaging with. The history is already known that she came from the United Kingdom and has had three tests. She is due for another test, which she has refused to take.  We strongly believe that she is by now negative but we have to be able to document it because we also work with guidelines released from the WHO.

“So, I called her on the phone and persuaded her to let them take the test. First, she gave me conditions that they (officials) must give her all her tests from the past. I gave an  instruction and they took all her results, photocopies and gave them to her.”

Bar northern govs from deporting  Almajirai, Reps tell FG

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives has called on the Federal Government to stop northern governors from deporting Almajirai from their states.

The House made the call at the plenary on Tuesday following the unanimous adoption of a motion moved by Mrs Aishatu Dukku and Mr Shehu Kakale on the need to halt interstate movement of Almajirai.

Adopting the motion, the House resolved to “urge the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 to enforce the interstate travel ban order (by the President) and direct the governors concerned to immediately halt the evacuation of the Almajirai.”

The House also urged the National Centre for Disease Control to “counsel the governors concerned on the threat posed by the evacuation of the children at this critical period.”

The legislative chamber further urged the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management to “include the Almajirai children among the beneficiaries of palliatives being distributed by the Federal Government to the less-privileged.”

Also, the House urged the Federal Ministry of Health to examine the health condition of the Almajirai children.

It  urged the Northern Governors’ Forum to “rescind their decision on banning the system of education until those already in the system are provided for in the Universal Basic and Technical Education System.”

Moving the motion, Dukku recalled that governors, under the aegis of the Northern Governors’ Forum, had on April 21, 2020, issued a statement where they unanimously decided to ban the Almajirai system.

Dukku said, “The House is worried that the evacuation of the Almajirai is jeopardising the fight against COVID-19 due to the high level of movement of the children from different places and its attendant high risk of infection. The House is concerned that the evacuation of the children is against their fundamental human rights of residing anywhere in Nigeria as guaranteed in Chapter IV of the Constitution.”


Uncertainty surrounds Gambari’s reported appointment as Buhari’s CoS [Punch]

Uncertainty on Tuesday surrounded the appointment of Prof. Ibrahim Gambari as a new Chief of Staff to the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).

The Emir of Ilorin, Alhaji Sulu-Gambari, had in a statement on Tuesday signed by his media aide, Abdulazeez Arowona expressed appreciation to the President for appointing Gambari as his new chief of staff.

The statement seemed to have lent credence to earlier online media reports that Prof. Ibrahim Gambari had been appointed to replace the late chief of staff, Abba Kyari.

An online news medium, TheCable, wrote, “Gambari to be unveiled as the new chief of staff on Wednesday (today)”

It stated, “Although his (Gambari’s) appointment has not been officially announced, TheCable confirmed from Presidency sources that he would replace Abba Kyari, who died from COVID-19 complications last month,” the medium reported.

The statement from the Ilorin Emirate read, “Emir of Ilorin and Chairman, Kwara State Council of Chiefs, Mai-Martaba Alhaji Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari, thanked President Muhammadu Buhari for appointing Prof. Ibrahim Gambari as his new chief of staff.

“He noted that the choice of the former diplomat would be justified by his outstanding contributions, administrative experience, scholarship and excellence, which he would inject into the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government towards ensuring good governance, democratic dividends as well as shared prosperity in the nation.”

But even with the reports and the Emir’s congratulatory message, the Presidency, as of 6.29 pm, made no official confirmation or denial on Tuesday of the reported appointment of Gambari.

The Presidency made no official announcement to confirm or deny the appointment.

Both presidential spokespersons, Mr Femi Adesina and Mr Garba Shehu made no confirmation as of 6.29 pm.

Shehu merely replied to an enquiry, writing, “I have not been briefed.”

Former CoS, Mr Abba Kyari, had died of complications associated with COVID-19 on April 17.

When the emir’s palace was contacted on Tuesday for clarification, a palace source, who confided in The PUNCH, said, “What we acted on is a speculated statement, the appointment of Prof. Gambari has not been announced in a statement signed either by Femi Adesina or Garba Shehu, who are the two spokespersons of the President.

“Please, discountenance the statement purportedly to have been issued from the palace of the Emir of Ilorin as of now.”


Lagos woman drowns daughter in bucket of water [Punch]

  • Shame, lack of money made me do it – Suspect

A 22-year-old mother, Oluwafunmilola Adisa, has been arrested for killing her daughter, Oluwanifemi, at their place of residence on Plot 221 Gowon Estate, in the Ipaja area of Lagos State.

The incident, which happened on Monday, also saw the woman dropping a note for her sister, Damilola, chronicling how she perpetrated the crime.

She blamed Oluwanifemi for the hardship she had been facing after she gave birth to her 21 months ago, adding that the daughter’s arrival cost her an admission to study law.

In a bid to alleviate herself suffering, Oluwafunmilola said she drowned her baby in a bucket of water, adding that after committing the crime, she went to the Gowon Estate Police Station to report herself.

Explaining the events leading to the baby’s death, the Ogun State indigene stated, “I turned myself in after killing my daughter on Monday, May 11, 2020. “At first, I was thinking of strangling her, later I thought of suffocating her with a pillow, but my sister warned me to keep Oluwanifemi away from water after she had a dream and that gave me the idea of drowning her.

“On the day of the incident,  around 2 pm, Oluwanifemi was assisting me to dress up, because she thought that I would take her out with me. But I told her that she was not going anywhere because she would die that day and I would be going to the police station after killing her. So, I opened a big bucket of water, threw her in and covered the bucket, but she was able to push away the cover.

“The water in the bucket was not much, so, I poured more water in it, but she was still able to push away the cover to breathe, so I turned her upside down, threw her in the bucket of water and closed it.

“After some time, I saw her floating and when I brought her out, she was still breathing. I put her in again and brought her out after some time, but she was still breathing and at the third attempt, I left her for some minutes till she died. I didn’t feel any pain-killing her, because I was desperate.”

After perpetrating the crime, Oluwafunmilola stated that she wrote a letter to her sister, Damilola, to inform her that she had fulfilled the promise of killing her baby, adding that she took the action because of the shame the baby’s birth had brought to her and as a result of lack of money.

She stated, “The reason for the drastic decision is lack of financial help; I was tired and ashamed; when I gained admission to study law at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State, I got pregnant and deferred my admission, which I later lost.

“So killing my baby and losing my admission have a connection. I felt I would be free if I kill her and would be able to go anywhere I like and no one would disturb me that I had a daughter outside wedlock.

“After she died, I removed her from the bucket of water, placed her remains on a pillow and covered her with a white cloth. I confirmed that she was dead because her legs and hands were very pale; her tongue also popped out in between her teeth.

“I also dropped the note I wrote to Damilola beside her corpse and the reason I wrote the letter was to let my sister know that I was the one who killed Oluwanifemi and that I was going to report myself at the police station.

“I had been telling Damilola of my plans to kill her, but she usually prevailed on me. I wanted to carry out my plan on Sunday, but Damilola started calling our parents and the pastor, so I postponed it till Monday when I was home alone with my daughter. Damilola had gone to work when I killed her.”

The letter that Oluwafunmilola wrote to her sister read in part, “Good day Damilola, thanks for everything you have done for me and Mama (Oluwanifemi), for the fake love, real love, false accusations, lies, and everything. The purpose of writing this letter is because Mama (Oluwanifemi) is dead. I soaked her inside a bucket filled with water and I am telling you to know that I have fulfilled it. Extend my greetings to father, pastor, friends. Goodbye forever, don’t look for me, save your money and invest.”

She claimed that the father of her baby, one Folarin Yusuf, abandoned her after she got pregnant.

When contacted, the state Police Public Relations Officer, Bala Elkana, said Oluwafunmilola was in custody, adding that she would be charged.

Elkana stated, “When we got the report that a woman was suspected to have killed her baby, our homicide detectives went there and found the baby dead on the bed. But the woman left a note beside the baby’s corpse that she was the one who killed her.

“She confessed that she dipped the baby in a bucket of water three times till she died and said she was frustrated and killed the innocent baby because she was tired of life. The State Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department have commenced an investigation into the matter. The suspect will be charged for the crime.”

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