Nationwide lockdown: 50% pregnant women, nursing mothers, others desert hospitals [Punch]

The COVID-19 pandemic is taking its toll on all health services in the country as the Federal Government says outpatient visits to hospitals nationwide have reduced by half.

The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, who stated this on Thursday at the press briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19,  said that latest statistics obtained by the Federal Government showed that pregnant women and other outpatients’ visits to hospitals had dropped by half.

He also said immunisation services had reduce by half.

Ehanire, however, said the gradual easing of the lockdown in the country would address the problems.

Although Nigeria recorded its COVID-19 index case on  February 27,  as of Wednesday, no fewer than 4, 971 persons had been diagnosed with the deadly virus.

Also, out of the figure, 1,070 patients have successfully treated and discharged, while 164  have died.

The virus has killed pregnant women in states such as Ekiti, Jigawa and Ogun. On April 22, a 29-year-old pregnant woman, who sneaked into Ekiti State from Lagos State, died of the virus.

On May 3, the Federal Medical Centre, Abeokuta confirmed that the virus killed a pregnant woman in the hospital on May 1.

On May 4, the Jigawa State   Commissioner for Health, Abba Zakari, said a pregnant woman died of coronavirus at the Dutse Isolation Centre.

Outpatient visits drop from 4m to 2m, antenatal from 1.3 million to 655,000

At the PTF press briefing on Thursday, Ehanire quoted figures from the National Health Management Information System.

He said that while outpatient visits to hospitals dropped from four million to about two million, antenatal visits dropped from 1.3 million to 655,000.

Skilled birth attendance falls from 158,374 to less than 99,000

The minister said for skilled birth attendance, there was a “drop from 158,374 to less than 99,000 while immunisation services also reduced to about half.”

The minister said the ministries of health and the Federal Capital Territory met on Thursday and agreed on the need to ensure the delivery of routine services in all hospitals in Nigeria.

Immunisation services reduced by about half

He noted, “Latest statistics from the NHMIS indicate that outpatient visits dropped from four million to about two million; antenatal visits from 1.3million to 655,000. Also, skilled birth attendance from 158,374 to less than 99,000 while immunisation services reduced to about half.

“All these failings have yet undetermined consequences, which the easing of the lockdown should hopefully address. However, easing restrictions has to be balanced by citizens complying with protective and prophylactic advisories, and to encourage relatives, friends, neighbours and customers to do the same.”

The health minister reiterated that the government would engage state commissioners of health and their workers through an information and communication technology platform to retrain health workers.

He said, “The Federal Ministry of Health and its agencies, particularly the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, have scaled up training in infection prevention and control, case finding and management, emergency patient transport systems, surveillance outbreak response management analysis system.”

No money  for COVID-19 research, FG tells researchers

During the question-and-answer session, the health minister said individuals and groups which believed that they could research into the cure for COVID-19 should go ahead as the Federal Ministry of Health would not stop such a  venture.

Ehanire clarified that the ministry would not give money to those carrying out or intending to carry out such researches.

He said, “We encourage all those who think they have an answer to the COVID-19 problem to go ahead to do the research they want to do. We have universities and research centres and we want them to go ahead. The ministry itself is just a regulator. So, it is not to be imagined that the ministry is trying to stop anybody.

“But certainly, the ministry will not start giving anybody money, unless if there are organisations that give grants to do research.”

The minister said Nigerians, who returned from the United States and  United Kingdom, were still in  14-day quarantine .

Furthermore, the health minister said, “As regards the deaths in Kano, I can report that the so-called unexplained deaths were not only in Kano, but they have also been recorded or mentioned in connection with some other states. And the team that left for Kano is looking at all these and creating a protocol and a system to look into these unexplained deaths.”

FG partners northern states to utilise Almajirai schools

The Minster of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, at the press conference,  said that the Federal Ministry of Education was working with state governors in the North on how they can maximise the Tsangaya schools built for the Almajirai.

The minister said, “On the Tsangaya schools, over 157 such schools were built a few years back (by the Goodluck Jonathan administration)  and within the first part of this administration, the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, began the process of getting different state governments and Islamic scholars to take over the schools.”

Airlifting Madagascar’s solution not our priority – PTF

The Chairman of the task force and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha,  said Nigeria did not order for the Madagascar herbal mixture for the cure of coronavirus.

He said the African country sent the herbal drug to other countries on the continent out of brotherly love in order to contain the pandemic.

Mustapha said, “Nigeria did not ask Madagascar for any solution. The Madagascar government decided to airlift the quantity meant for African countries. That of West Africa was airlifted to Guinea Bissau.

“The impression out there is as if we abandoned homegrown solution and we are looking for Madagascar’s solution. It was taken in the spirit of brotherly love to Guinea Bissau.”

The SGF, however, said airlifting the solution was not a priority of the task force as there were other issues before it.

He stated, “We have to make efforts to airlift  it out of Guinea Bissau, but there are no flights, so there are so many things we need to consider. If we are freighting it through air cargo, it has its process.

“It is not our priority for now. There are other things we are dealing with to make sure we contain the spread in our nation. We will do that but that does not in anyway downplay what we have asked our scientists to do.”

Wearing of mask not optional – SGF

The SGF warned that wearing of face masks was compulsory for  all citizens, urging states, the Federal Capital Territory and law enforcement agencies to enforce it as stated.

“Because we are persuasive does not mean there is an option to it. It was part of the declaration that was signed by Mr President. Everything listed there has a force of law,” he said.

The PTF chairman lamented that evaluation of the implementation of the guidelines on the easing of the lockdown showed a high level of noncompliance.

He said further recommendations would be submitted to the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.)  before the second phase would commence.

He said, “I must, however, state that our initial evaluation points firmly in the direction of a high level of noncompliance which, as we have often warned, portends grave self-inflicted danger. This fact has made it imperative for me to re-echo our call for taking personal responsibility.

“You must abide by the guidelines (wash your hands as frequently as necessary; use hand sanitizers; maintain social distancing, use a face mask or covering in public places). In addition, you must comply with the ban on interstate travels, avoid crowded places, observe the curfew and do all you can to stay home and stay safe.”

PTF makes case for farmers

The task force chairman stressed the need to promote and sustain chain of food production and distribution, urging states and security agencies to allow farmers access to their farms.

The SGF commended health workers for being dutiful and rising to the challenge, saying a total of 1,071 Nigerians had already been discharged from the various isolation and treatment centres.

Research budget not enough

The PTF National Coordinator, Dr Sani Aliyu, said the task force could not fund all the research bodies due to its low budget, urging researchers to source  grants from donor agencies.

Aliyu said, “We have a small amount of money in our budget for research but research institutions primarily get their money through grants.

“What we have in the PTF budget will be insufficient to cater for every research body but certainly we have  partners that will continue to make sure they submit quality applications that will allow them compete in the world of researches.”

COVID-19 can survive in hot weather

The PTF coordinator  said the disease could spread rapidly in a hot weather country as Nigeria.

He said, ‘No matter how sunny or humid the weather is, anybody can get coronavirus. Nigeria has recorded about 5000 cases as of today irrespective of the fact that we are a hot country. There is no scientific evidence to show that coronavirus cannot survive in hot weather.”

He also advised Nigerians to stop stigmatisation of people with COVID-19. He  added that research had  shown that those that recovered had a antibody that could protect them.

Almajirai movement to South worsening COVID-19 spread – Senators

Meanwhile, some senators have raised the alarm that the uncontrolled movement of  some northern children, popularly known as Almajirai to the southern part of the country, is worsening the spread of COVID-19  in the South.

They urged governors of the southern part of the country to put more stringent security measures in place to check the mass exodus of the northern children  into their domain.

They said the movement of Almajirai to the South was capable of frustrating government efforts at curtailing the spread of coronavirus.

The senators spoke in separate interviews with one of our correspondents in Abuja.

The Senator representing the Rivers East Senatorial District in the National Assembly, George Sekibo, noted with concern that the activities of the Almajirai contravened the Quarantine Act.

He said, “The  movement of Almajirai from the North to South is against the COVID-19 regulations especially the Presidential order banning interstate travelling.

“If that is so, it becomes very wrong for some people from Adamawa, Kano, Kaduna or anywhere,  to find themselves through whatever means, in Abia, Enugu, Ebonyi and Rivers states.

“The appropriate punishments for defaulters are contained in the Quarantine Act. For me, any defaulter should go through the due process of the law and be given the appropriate punishment.

“They (Almajirai) have always been moving like that, it became public knowledge simply because there is a lockdown. We wouldn’t have known,  if there is no lockdown.

“For them, they don’t listen to radio and television. They don’t even know that COVID – 19 is in existence. Nothing concerns them.

“They have leaders. Their leaders are of the same tribe with them. They should stop them from moving to other states at this critical period.

“They are lawless and they are violating the law on interstate movement. I have not travelled to Rivers State, where I come from since the announcement of  the lockdown and I don’t plan to visit the place soon so that I will not be quarantined.

“I will encourage any state government to start arresting those northern young men who are travelling up and down and send them to court and jail them. At such an emergency period, we must be orderly.

“We must follow regulations.  We must follow the prescription from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control. The figure of infected persons is going up because people are now behaving the way they want.

“There will be a catastrophe in this country in the next few weeks if the trend is not checked. I advocate a proper lockdown so that everybody will be able to stay at home for 28 days and we will be able to clean up.”

The Senator representing Oyo North Senatorial District, Abdulfatai Buhari, advised  people to form  vigilante groups, adding that security agents should remain vigilant to guard  against infiltrations.

Also the Senator representing Benue South, Abba Moro, urged the security agencies to ensure proper enforcement of the presidential order on lockdown to minimise the spread of COVID – 19.

He said, “The primary responsibility of government is to protect lives and property of the people. Government should rise to the occasion and end insecurity by giving security operatives  the necessary marching order.”

 

Sell presidential jets, cancel N27bn National Assembly renovation fund –Atiku [Punch]

Former Vice-President, Atiku Abubakar, has faulted the latest review of the 2020 budget by the Federal Government, saying it shows that the regime has lost touch with current global economic realities.

Rather than reviewing the budget, Atiku advised the FG to sell eight or nine of the presidential jets and cancel the N27bn earmarked for the renovation of the  National Assembly complex.

Atiku said this in a statement in Abuja, on Thursday. He expressed disappointment that despite the crash of oil prices in the international market and the nation’s inability to expand its revenue base, the regime only slashed the budget by a “mere 0.6 per cent.”

The former Vice President explained that significant cuts in funds budgeted for presidential feeding and transport as well as non-essential sub heads will go a long way in ensuring that Nigerians get a better deal.

Atiku said, “It is to my consternation that despite the crash in the price of oil, and the inability of Nigeria to expand our revenue base through the non-oil sector, the Federal “Government of Nigeria has only seen fit to slash our budget by a mere 0.6 per cent, from N10.594trn to N10.523trn. This represents a reduction of only N71bn.

According to him, as at the time the budget was first presented to the National Assembly on Tuesday October 8, 2019, it was predicated on a crude oil production of 2.18 million barrels a day, at an expected oil price of $57 per barrel. He said this situation has since changed.

He pointed out that Saudi Arabia, a nation with a much stronger production capacity than ours and with a larger global market share, as well as foreign reserves that is 12 times ours, has slashed her budget by almost 30%. Ditto for other oil economies.

He said, “My counsel to the Federal Government of Nigeria is this: put Nigerians first and cut your coat, not according to your size, but according to your cloth.

“Realistically slash the budget. Every pork barrel has to go. The billions budgeted for the travels and feeding of the President and Vice President has to be reduced. The N27bn budget for the renovation of the National Assembly has to go.

“The massive budgets to run both the Presidency and the Legislature has to be downsized. The budget for purchasing luxury cars for the President, his vice, and other political office holders must be jettisoned. Leave the salaries of civil servants alone, but reduce the salaries of political appointees. Sell 8 or 9 of the jets in the Presidential Air Fleet.

“Any budget slash that is less than 25% will not be in the interest of Nigeria. And beyond a budget slash, Nigeria needs a budget realignment, to redirect expenditure away from running a massive bureaucracy, into social development sectors like education, infrastructure, and above all, healthcare. We must invest in the goose that lays the golden egg – the Nigerian people.”

 

IPPIS: Paying lecturers without biometrics fraudulent, says ASUU [Punch]

The Academic Staff Union of Universities on Thursday said the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation used the controversial Integrated Payment and Personnel Information System platform to pay the salaries of university lecturers, without capturing their biometrics and other information.

ASUU argued that such step by the Federal Government confirmed its suspicion that the IPPIS was fraudulent and unfit for the university system, while urging the authorities to consider its alternative – the University Transparency and Accountability Solution.

The ASUU President, Prof Biodun Ogunyemi, stated this in an interview with our correspondent in Abuja, adding that if lecturers who did not register on IPPIS were paid through the system, it meant that anyone could be imported onto the platform.

The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), had on April 21 ordered the payment of the February and March 2020 withheld salaries of lecturers in federal universities.

The salaries had been withheld because the lecturers had failed to register on the IPPIS – an ongoing matter of contention between ASUU and the government.

But a statement by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, had said the payment was immediate and without condition.

The ASUU President, Ogunyemi, said on Thursday that the union had clear evidence that the controversial IPPIS platform was used in paying the lecturers’ salaries without any biometrics or data capture.

He said, “The first comment is that we wondered how they could have used the IPPIS platform when our members didn’t submit BVN or sign into IPPIS? The impression we were given before is that before the government could use IPPIS, people must submit themselves for data capture, biometrics capture and so forth. But that did not happen in this instance.

“So if the government could go ahead and use the IPPIS to pay salaries, it means our suspicion is being confirmed which means they can manipulate that platform as they want. This is because if people who did not register on IPPIS are being paid through IPPIS, it means that anybody can be imported into that system and that has been our suspicion all along. We have said that the IPPIS is not waterproof as claimed.

“Secondly, by using IPPIS to pay our members (because in the alert, it was clearly stated there; the IPPIS was mentioned in the alert) we have also seen the inadequacies of that platform.

“When the government called us for a meeting in July 2019, it said all the fears had been addressed. How come, this time round, by using the IPPIS, you distorted people’s salaries?

“Our members are saying the government amputated their salaries. They removed from some people’s salaries. The pay slips are nowhere and the cooperative deductions, union dues and all the third party deductions are nowhere to be found. You now start to wonder whether this is the system we need. As we have been saying, the alternative we have been working on is in progress and we will soon unveil it to Nigerians.”

 

Kanu should return home, fight for Biafra – MASSOB [Punch]

The Movement for the Survival of the Sovereign State of Biafra has dared the leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, to come back home and fight for Biafra.

MASSOB also cautioned Kanu to desist from insulting its leader, Ralph Uwazuruike over issues concerning the struggle for Biafra.

Speaking in a telephone interview with our correspondent on Thursday, the movement’s National Director of Information, Sunday Okereafor, said it was wrong for Kanu to stay in Canada, United States of America or London and think that he could achieve Biafra from outside Nigeria.

Okereafor also faulted Kanu for accusing Uwazuruike of thwarting the fight towards achieving a sovereign state of Biafra, adding that the MASSOB leader brought the IPOB leader into the struggle.

He maintained that the IPOB leader would not be able to achieve Biafra by speaking from London, Canada and America.

“MASSOB says on Biafra, we stand. Nnamdi Kanu can’t say that he is fighting for Biafra and he is staying in America, London, Canada, Australia. Every day, he is flying; he should come back home and pay the price.

“MASSOB is telling Nnamdi Kanu to come down home and fight for the freedom, rather than hiding abroad. Nnamdi Azikiwe was in Nigeria as Governor General of Nigeria and Muammar Ghaddafi was there fighting for the freedom of his people, Jomo Kenyatta fought for the freedom of Kenyans from Kenya.

“Also, Thomas Jefferson of America stayed in America and fought for their own freedom. So, Nnamdi Kanu should come home; he should bring his own members home and fight, rather than castigating Uwazuruike.

“Odumegwu Ojukwu never castigated Michael Okpara and Uwazuruike never castigated Ojukwu. Kanu was an employee of MASSOB. Uwazuruike employed him. It is now that he wants to be the boss. Does Kanu know about the struggle? No,” Okereafor said.

He stated that MASSOB would continue to maintain its non-violent approach towards achieving Biafra, adding that some people were working towards hijacking the struggle from the movement.

Okereafor said, “We know that they want to hijack the struggle. Even now, they want to hijack it. But Uwazuruike remains the father. Kanu was an employee of MOSOB. How can an employee know more than the Managing Director?

“Uwazuruike is going the normal line in which he is supposed to go and get Biafra. We don’t carry arms; so, how can you expect us to carry arms. Kanu is a freedom fighter; how would you run away from the people he is fighting for?”

 

Governors flay Senators, Reps over Infectious Disease Bill [Nation]

The controversy trailing the handling of the Control of Infectious Diseases Bill, 2020 by the National Assembly has continued with governors asking the National Assembly halt all activities in relation to the bill.

The governors also expressed worry over the rising cases of COVID-19 in the country and its impact on the finances of the states.

They resolved to approach the Federal Government for financial assistance and to seek  clarification on the distribution of  recovered looted funds.

The chief executives of states made this known after the 8th COVID-19 teleconference of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) on Wednesday.

The governors, in a communiqué made available to reporters on Thursday, expressed discomfort that they were not consulted by the National Assembly on the infectious diseases bill as the leaders of anti-COVID efforts in their respective states.

According to the communiqué which was signed by the NGF Chairman and Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi: “The governors raised concern with the lack of consultation with state governments, who are at the forefront of the epidemic.

*The forum resolved that the bill should be stepped down until an appropriate consultative process is held, including a public hearing to gather public opinion and concerns.”

According to the communiqué, members of the NGF took the decision after they were briefed by Sokoto State Governor and former Speaker of the House of Representatives Aminu Tambuwal  on the content of the bill and the implication of its passage into law.

The forum proceeded to establish a committee comprising the Governors of Katsina (Aminu Masari), Sokoto (Tambuwal) and Plateau (Simon Lalong) to lead a consultative meeting with the leadership of the National Assembly on the  controversial  bill. The  NGF secretariat was mandated to comprehensively review the bill and its implication on states.

Members of the NGF also raised concern over the 4,787 COVID-19 cases across the country  (as of May 12, 2020).

They  noted that “the worrying trend urgently calls for additional measures by states to ramp up capacity for testing, increase the availability of isolation beds to at least 300 per state, accelerate the procurement of additional personal protective equipment (PPE) and training of  health workers, as well as the continued enforcement of inter-state restriction of movements.

“In line with the commitment made by the forum to intensify public-private collaboration for the delivery of palliatives from the private sector, governors are making warehouses available for the delivery of palliatives and have appointed state coordinators who will be responsible for the receipt and distribution of palliatives to vulnerable persons.”

The governors also expressed concern about the impact of COVID-19 on the finances of their states and resolved among others, to approach the Federal Government for assistance.

They said: “Following an update on the rising trend of deductions from revenues accruable to the federation account available for distribution to the three tiers of government, we noted the threat this poses on the fiscal capacity of states to respond to the demands of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Members also raised concern about the ownership and distribution of proceeds from recovered looted funds and accounts or investments funded as first line charge from the federation account.

“We agreed to engage with the Federal Government to ensure that the governance arrangement of all federation-funded investments recognise state governments as shareholders in the distribution of proceeds and decision making.

“We have followed with interest, the development of the 12-month Economic Sustainability Plan by the Federal Government, which is designed to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 crisis.

“In the spirit of developing a truly coordinated national response to the crisis, we expressed the importance of greater consultation and collaboration between the federal and state governments on development planning.

“A committee was consequently set up to interface with the federal government on the next Medium-term National Development Plan. The Committee is made up of the governors of Bauchi( Bala Mohammed), Plateau (Lalong), Kebbi (Abubakar Bagudu), Akwa Ibom(Udom Emmanuel), Abia (Okezie Ikpeazu) and Ekiti(Fayemi).

“A second committee, comprising the governors of Gombe(Inuwa Yahaya), Nasarawa (Abdullahi Sule), Delta (Ifeanyi Okowa), Ebonyi(Dave Umahi), Oyo(Seyi Makinde) and Kaduna( Nasir El-Rufai) was established to steer the activities of the NGF-NESG Economic Roundtable (NNER) – a sub-national platform of the NGF and the Nigerian Economic Summit Group created to promote sub-national competitiveness through public-private collaboration.

“To fast-track the deployment of e-procurement across States, the Forum will be adopting a Software as a Service (SaaS) model with the Kaduna State government providing the framework agreement that other states can leverage on.”

The NGF added that the meeting received a briefing from the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mele Kyari, on the Oil and Gas Industry Intervention Initiative on COVID-19.

Kyari was said to have informed the governors that intervention by players in oil industry was to provide medical consumables to states, deploy logistics and in-patient support systems, and deliver permanent medical infrastructure across the six geopolitical zones.

The forum also congratulated Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, the new Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari.

It wished him ”well and looks forward to a fruitful partnership that will support the development of the country.”

 

Returnee Nigerians to pay for quarantine [Nation]

  • N843,200 is total cost from Thailand, Turkey, Kuwait

Stranded Nigerians that are returning home will henceforth offset their two-week quarantine bill on arrival, according to the revised guidelines.

Hitherto, the returnees were only required to pay for their flight while the government took care of their two weeks stay in isolation.

Returnees from United Arab Emirates (UAE), the United States and the United Kingdom who are currently kept in Lagos and Abuja hotels are being taken care of by the government. The new guidelines stopped that.

The new guidelines have been sent to Embassies and High Commissions which have communicated them to Nigerians wishing to return home.

The government said it imposed the fees “due to measures that are beyond the control of COVID-19 local organizing team.”

There were indications last night that the government could no longer afford the cost of taking care for two weeks, of the estimated 4,000 Nigerians who have indicated interest to return.

Nigerians returning from Thailand, Turkey and the State of Kuwait, it was learnt had recovered the information.

A 14th May,  letter by the Embassy of Nigeria in Bangkok, Thailand, which was signed by the Head of Chancery, Nicholas P. Uhomoibhi, said each returnee is expected to pay N297,600 for quarantine and feeding in Nigeria.

The letter said: “I am directed to bring to your attention due to measures that are beyond the control of  COVID-19 local organizing team in Nigeria, all evacuees going to Nigeria henceforth are to now pay  for their quarantine, isolation, accommodation centre or hotels before departure and arrival in Nigeria

“In this regard, all prospective evacuees are to note the negotiated rate below: Accommodation (N15,000 x16 days=N240,000) and  Feeding (N3,600 x16 days=N57,600). Total: N297,600 at N18,600 x16 days”

Kindly be informed that these rates were negotiated in Nigeria and that the Embassy has been instructed not to airlift any evacuee who fails to pay the above fee.”

A similar letter sent to all Nigerians in the State of Kuwait by the Embassy of Nigeria on May 13, 2020, said the evacuees will pay N297,600 for their quarantine in Nigeria apart from the air fares.

The letter, titled “Re: Request for evacuation of Nigerian nationals in the wake of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.” said in part: “Further to our notice of 5th April 2020 on the above mentioned subject matter, the Embassy wishes to inform that all intending evacuees  are to pay for their quarantine/isolation/accommodation/centre/hotels before departure and arrival in Nigeria.

“The negotiated rate is as follows: Accommodation-N240,000 (N15,000 x16 days); Feeding-N57,6009( N3,600 x 16 days). Total- N297,600 (N18,600 x16 days).

“All evacuees are to pay the aforementioned amount for their quarantine/isolation/centre/hotels directly to the airline along with their tickets. Evacuees have option to pay in dollars or its equivalent in Naira.

“It is important to note that evacuees that do not pay for their quarantine/isolation/accommodation/ centre/ hotels will not be allowed to board the flight.”

For Turkey, the Embassy in Ankara informed them with a May 13 memo to pay N297,600.

Some of the stranded Nigerians have been protesting the fees.

One of them said: “As seen on Embassy of Nigeria in Turkey, how would a stranded person be able to afford this.

“I really don’t know the kind of sense that has possessed those in charge.

“Why not make use of a cheaper hotel or give options so that those who can’t afford this rate can go for a cheaper rate.”

Another said: “This has really shown the high level of irresponsibility and how unmerciful that decided on those figures can be can be… Rubbish decision.”

 

Malabu Oil Block: ex-minister Orubebe’s wife quizzed over N360m deals [Nation]

Former Niger Delta Affairs Minister Godsday Orubebe’s wife Maureen, has been grilled by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over a N500 million deal linked to the $1.092 billion Malabu Oil Block scandal.

Mrs. Orubebe is also being investigated for alleged money laundering.

She was alleged to have bought three assets from the company of one of the suspects on trial over the Malabu Oil Block Settlement Agreement.

The assets were alleged to be part of those which over $523 million (out of $1.06b) was used for.

Investigation showed that  the two properties valued at over N360 million, are located in Maitama and Katampe districts of Abuja.

Mrs. Orubebe allegedly paid N360 million to a firm, A. A. Oil which had been under probe by the anti-graft agency.

It was learnt she could not account for how she came about N360 million as a housewife.

A source at the anti-graft agency said: “Following the tracking of over $523million out of the $1.092 billion Malabu Oil Block cash by our investigators, it was discovered that part of it was used to acquire choice properties by one of the suspects implicated in the Settlement Agreement deal.

“In the process of tracing some of these assets, our operatives uncovered how two were sold to Mrs. Orubebe, who claimed to be a housewife.

“When we invited her, she said she had been into property business and that she sold a house in Apo District for N100million whose proceed  she used to buy a duplex on Panama Street in Maitama.”

The source added: “We have grilled her but because of COVID-19, we released her on bail.”

The OPL245 is an offshore oil block with about nine billion barrels of crude.

It was auctioned for $1.3 billion (about 1.1 billion euros).

Although the Federal Government received only $210 million as Signature Bonus, about $1.092 billion was traced to a London bank account which was suspected to be slush funds allegedly used to bribe some middle men and politicians in the country.

A former President was accused of benefiting about $200 million as proceeds from the Malabu oil deal.

About $523 million out of the $1.092 billion paid for the block was shared out as bribes to some former ministers and politicians.

 

Buhari vows to stem insecurity [Sun]

President Muhammadu Buhari has vowed to use every resources at his disposal to reduce the spate of violence and insecurity in the country.

He gave the assurance at the end of the national security council, which he chaired at the council chambers of the State House, Abuja.

Addressing State House Correspondents at the end of the meeting, National Security Adviser (NSA), Maj. Gen. Babagana Monguno (retd), said yesterday’s meeting started with a comprehensive brief by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Chairman of Presidential Task Force in COVID-19 on the gains made so far, highlighting areas of concern, which needed to be addressed as well as making projections for the next couple of  weeks.

The NSA said Mustapha’s brief was mainly focused on the current situation in areas that needed urgent attention and possible solutions.

“I also highlighted other issues that are related to the problems of kidnapping which we noticed has been on the increase in recent times. But the most important thing is that I stressed to council that there is a need for collective action, not just for the security agencies, but by all ministries,  departments and agencies of governments, civil societies organisations and all non-governmental organisations within Nigeria. We have, of course know that we are all firmly within the cross heirs of all kinds of criminal elements trying to undermine national security. Mr. President noted all the issues raised and of course in due time he will be able to address these issues.

“Arising from this meeting, I will like to assure all Nigerians that Mr. President is fully on board, he is committed to doing whatever is necessary to reduce the spate of violence and insecurity in the country. He is also committed to spending whatever resources he has at his disposal to bring to a quick end to all the issues affecting Nigerians and bringing a lot of sorrows to Nigerians. That is the most important takeaway from today’s meeting. Mr. President’s reassurance that issues are being addressed and that he will redouble his effort in ensuring that the primary responsibility of government which is to ensure the safety of lives and property is realised,” Monguno said.

 

Malabu: How Etete’s ally, Abubakar Aliyu, withdrew N24bn in cash –Prosecutor [Sun]

Facts have emerged in the multi-million Malabu OPL 245 scandal of how a Nigerian oil magnet Abubakar Aliyu allegedly withdrew a whooping N24 billion ($60,593,000) in cash.

Aliyu, an ally of former Petroleum Minister, Dan Etete and owner of the popular A.A Oil, is charged alongside former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice (AGF), Mohammed Bello Adoke (SAN), over alleged complicity in the Malabu fraud.

The revelation was made during a proceeding in a Milan court in 2018, prosecution said the withdrawal took place as soon as Malabu Oil and Gas received $801million of its $1.1billion from Shell and Eni (through the Nigerian government), Etete, transferred half the funds to Nigerian companies controlled by or associated with Aliyu in suspicious circumstances.

Specifically, a transcript of the Milan court proceedings, Aliyu made the huge withdrawal from the funds transferred to him by Etete.

Prosecution alleged that portions of the fund were used to bribe some officials of the Goodluck Jonathan government, an allegation Aliyu has since denied.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had in March 2017, filed charges against him, along with Adoke and Etete, over alleged involvement in the $1.1 billion Malabu Oil scandal.

The anti-corruption agency is prosecuting them alongside two international oil giants – Shell Nigeria Exploration Production Company, and ENI, as well as Malabu Oil & Gas Ltd, Rocky Top Resources Ltd, Imperial Union Ltd, Novel Properties & Dev. Co. Ltd, A Group Construction Ltd, and Megatech Engineering Ltd.

However, Adoke has denied any wrongdoing and said the actions taken in respect of the transfer of the bloc were based on the instructions of former President Jonathan and in the best interest of Nigeria.

In January 2020, the EFCC arraigned Messrs Aliyu and Adoke on charges relating to money laundering and exchange of alleged N300 million bribe.

They were, however, granted bail in February by Justice Binta Nyako of the Abuja division of the Federal High Court on same terms and conditions earlier granted by Justice Idris Kutigi of the FCT High Court in Gwagwalada.

The Malabu scandal involved the 2011 payment of $1.1billion by Shell and ENI through the Nigerian government to Malabu for the takeover of a lucrative oil asset, OPL 245.

From accounts controlled by Mr Etete, about half of the $801million initially transferred to Malabu was moved into accounts of companies controlled by Aliyu, suspected to have fronted for top officials of the Goodluck Jonathan administration as well as officials of Shell and ENI, charges he strongly denies.

Although Shell and ENI initially claimed they did not know the money would end up with Etete and his cronies, evidence has shown that claim to be false. Shell, Eni, Etete, Aliyu and several officials of the oil firms are being prosecuted in Italy for their roles in the scandal.

“The accounts,” prosecutors alleged while interrogating a witness during the Milan hearing, “are aligned to Rocky Top (Resources Limited) level in the scheme. I would ask you a few questions, but it seems to me you were saying at the beginning that the signing powers on these accounts had Alhaji Aliyu Abubakar.”

The witness, one Ferri Alesandro, replied: “Yes, exactly.” For emphasis, the prosecutor asked yet again: “So these are movements arranged by Alhaji Aliyu Abubakar?” The witness replied in the affirmative.

“So, some details, let’s start looking at the outputs from AE Group,” the prosecutor continued. “There is an annotation $ 60,593,000, Aliyu Abubaker cash withdrawal. I believe there are not many precedents for cash withdrawals of this size. The question is: is it a single withdrawal or multiple withdrawals?

The witness, Mr Alessandro, replied: “As can be seen from sheet 142, from the documentation … and from card and the documentation below, are more withdrawals of the amount, some also of $5 million.”

Alessandro explained that the sum of $5 million withdrawal was also made simultaneously “in a single solution”.

“Because if you go to see the documentation that is attached to the sheet 142 there are lists where the abbreviation of Abubakar Aliyu appears,” the witness continued, apparently reading from the banking records of Aliyu and those of his companies.

“As I said on the basis of the opening accounts, he was the only one who had access to those figures, for which there are receipts, I do not know how … signed by him, with the indication of the withdrawal, the indication of the number and its abbreviation, which is similar, equal to the one deposited in the moment… at the bank when they opened the account.”

The prosecutors did not name the Nigerian banks from which Aliyu made the withdrawals.

The withdrawal of such amount of cash is a violation of Nigeria’s anti-money laundering law which forbids individuals from accepting cash payments exceeding N500,000 or its equivalent. Corporate bodies are also not allowed to make or accept cash payment exceeding N2million.

But in his statement to the EFCC, Aliyu said the transactions he made were payments to companies and individuals on the directives of Etete, payment for properties he sold to Etete in Nigeria and Dubai and the consultancy fee he received for his role in facilitating the controversial settlement agreement between Malabu and Shell/Eni.

 

COVID-19: Govs reject infectious disease bill [Sun]

  • Ask NASS to consult further, resolve to set up 300-bed isolation each

There is no letup in the controversies trailing the proposed Control of Infectious Diseases Bill 2020 pending before the House of Representatives as the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF), yesterday, demanded its suspension.

In recent weeks, the bill had come under criticisms given the way the House sought to railroad it into law without subjecting it to due process including public hearing.

The governors, in a communique issued at the end of the NGF’s 8th teleconference held to review the COVID-19 situation and develop strategies on how best to quickly overcome the effects of the pandemic, raised concern with the lack of consultation by the House  with state governments.

The communique signed by the NGF Chairman and Ekiti Governor, Kayode Fayemi, said following an update they got from the Governor of Sokoto State and Vice Chairman of the NGF, Aminu Tambuwal, on the proposed Bill, the Forum resolved that the bill should be stepped down until an appropriate consultative process is held, including a public hearing to gather public opinion and concerns.

Fayemi said the forum has established a committee comprising the governors of Katsina, Sokoto and Plateau to lead a consultative meeting with leadership of the National Assembly on the proposed bill.

“The NGF Secretariat was also mandated to comprehensively review the Bill and its implication on states,” he said.

The governors also expressed worry over the increasing cases of coronavirus  in the country and have agreed to ramp up testing as well as provide a 300 bed space per state for isolation and treatment.

They expressed concern that the number of cases had reached 4,787 as at May 12,  based on an update from the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19.

“The worrying trend urgently calls for additional measures by governors to ramp up capacity for testing, increase the availability of isolation beds to at least 300 per State, accelerate the procurement of additional personal protective equipment (PPE) and training for health workers, as well as the continued enforcement of interstate restriction of movement,” Fayemi said.

The governors said in line with the commitment to intensify public-private collaboration for the delivery of palliatives from the private sector, they have resolved to make warehouses available for the delivery of palliatives and have appointed State Coordinators who will be responsible for the receipt and distribution of palliatives to vulnerable persons.

Concerned about the ownership and distribution of proceeds from recovered looted funds and accounts or investments funded as first line charge from the federation account, the governors resolved to engage the Federal Government to ensure all arrangements involved the states.

“Following an update on the rising trend of deductions from revenues accruable to the federation account available for distribution to the three tiers of government, the governors noted the threat this poses on the fiscal capacity of states to respond to the demands of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Members also raised concern about the ownership and distribution of proceeds from recovered looted funds and accounts or investments funded as first line charge from the federation account. The Forum agreed to engage with the Federal Government to ensure that governance arrangement of all federation-funded investments recognise state governments as shareholders in the distribution of proceeds and decision making,” Fayemi said.

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