COVID-19: Almajirai attack Northern governors over alleged maltreatment [Sun]

■ Condemn repatriation, ban, say govs’ action anti-Islam

A new group, Concerned Almajirai has called for the constitution of a stakeholders forum by the Federal  Government to design a blueprint to address the challenge of Almajiri system in northern states.

Leader of the concerned Almajirai, Malam Onuchi Abdulghafaar at a press conference in Maiduguri, Borno State capital on Friday said neither repatriation of Almajirai to their states of origin by some northern state governors or outright ban could solve the crisis in the system.

“The act is not in line with the Islamic principle which enjoins someone who is in a place affected by a plague not to leave (to prevent the spread of the plague) and someone outside the affected area not to enter the area (also to prevent him from contracting the plague,” Abdulghafaar, also an almajiri and chemical engineering graduate, said.

He suggested that the stakeholders’ forum should comprise community, Islamic, religious and traditional leaders, parents, teachers, governments, civil society organizations and non-governmental organizations. He said the stakeholders could constitute a committee to draw a blueprint for the management of Almajiri system.

“The committee should extensively establish a database of all the Tsangayas in each state with the number of students. This will assist the governor in having a prospect of intervention needed in the Tsangaya,” he disclosed.

He said the Almajiri system was not a bad form of education, stressing that it teaches students knowledge of the Holy Qu’ran and basic conduct.

He said he as an almajiri, also improved on his knowledge by studying Chemical engineering. He mentioned other notable persons in the north that passed through the same system and had risen to the pinnacle of their career.

He charged parents in the north to take responsibility of their children. “Allah has given us capacity over the children He gave to us. Parents must take responsibility and cater for their children wherever they are seeking for knowledge. They should not leave them begging around to eat because they are learning,” he said.

The recent return of Almajirai from Kano and other states in the north to their home states over containment of coronavirus has generated mixed reactions from Nigerians.

 

COVID-19: Kaduna Catholic hospital sacks 120 workers [Sun]

As the economy continues to nosedive as a result of lockdown arising from coronavirus crisis, a Catholic mission hospital, Saint Gerard Catholic hospital, Kaduna, has laid off over 100 staff as part of measures to remain in operation.

All the departments, beginning from security post were said to have had their staff strength reduced to a minimal number.

As at Thursday, many of the affected staff got their notice of sack through SMS, asking them to “proceed on compulsory leave without pay”.

One of the affected told our correspondent that, “ There is nothing we can do than to go home and rest, it is nobody’s fault, we have to bear the situation for now. Our hope is in God”.

It was gathered that the hospital has overall  staff strength  of 250 before the recent staff reduction.

When contacted, the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the hospital, Mr. Sunday Ali said the staff were not laid off, but were asked to go home pending when the situation will improve. Ali actually admitted that a total of 120 staff were asked to stay off duty.

“In the letter, the hospital gave to the affected staff, the hospital did not state that they were laid off, it stated that they should go home for now until the situation improves. So the hospital did not lay off any staff. The fact remains that there is no need keeping them when our financial base is running down because there are no enough patients.

“How will the hospital pay salaries of these staff if it continues to keep them for the period of coronavirus crisis. So the hospital has no option than to ask them to go home for now pending when the situation improves”, Ali stated further.

The hospital spokesman noted that prices of drugs and other goods needed by the hospital have gone up in the wake of the COVID-19 without corresponding increase in the treatment and bills of few patients that patronise the hospital.

He however, disclosed that individuals, corporate organisations and Kaduna State government are indebted to the hospital, running into millions of naira, just as he appealed to them to offset their respective debts.

 

Enugu govt. seals Lord’s Chosen church headquarters [Sun]

The Enugu State Government through the Enugu Capital Territory Development Authority (ECDTA) has sealed the state headquarters of popular Pentecostal church, the Lord’s Chosen Charismatic Revival Movement.

The action, according to ECDTA was to forestall likely casualty from the imminent collapse of the structure as it was built on the waterway and has been ravaged by flood.

Speaking on the development, the Executive Chairman of ECTDA, Dr. Josef Onoh, explained that the decision to seal the church was to save lives and property and avoid a recurrence of building collapse in the state.

He revealed that ECDTA has equally directed the leadership of the church to immediately liaise with the state chapter of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) to assess the level of damage done by the flood and recommend appropriate engineering measures to be applied to fortify the church.

According to him there has been a public outcry, especially from residents living at the bank of Ekulu River, G.R.A, adjacent to The Lord’s Chosen Church, over the imminent danger posed by the worship centre, which was built on the waterway, on their property.

“The ECTDA had served “Stop-work” and “Remove” notices on the ongoing construction work at the premises of the church, which were ignored completely until the recent havoc that wrecked the foundation of the church building to the point of imminent collapse,” he noted.

He expressed concern over the spate of construction works on the waterway and without building approvals and their imminent dangers and appealed to residents to always adhere strictly to rules and regulations guiding structural development in the state, in order to save lives and avert damage to property.

 

Coronavirus: FG to increase weekly testing by over 9,000 [Punch]

The Federal Government may be able to increase its weekly COVID-19 testing by 9,100 following its readiness to repurpose the tuberculosis GeneXpert machines already deployed in all the states and the Federal Capital Territory, Saturday PUNCH has learnt.

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control in its ‘National Strategy to Scale Up Access to Coronavirus Disease Testing in Nigeria’ posted on its website noted that the objective of planning to repurpose the tuberculosis machines were to decentralise and speed up testing across the country and strengthen national surveillance for COVID-19.

In the document, the NCDC explained that the country has 407 GeneXpert instruments deployed in 399 health facilities across the country, for use as first-line testing for TB diagnosis. It, however, noted that the United States-based Food and Drug Administration had granted the manufacturer, Cepheid, Emergency Use Authorisations for the use of the instruments and specially designed cartridge in testing for COVID-19.

The NCDC, which is the coordinating agency for the COVID-19 response in the country, said given that “every state of the federation including the FCT has at least five GeneXpert sites, at least one site in each state will be repurposed for COVID-19 testing.”

It noted that with the GeneXpert machines, each of which could test 24 samples daily, it is targeting 1,300 tests per day with ability to return test results same day, and since the NCDC conducts tests every day of the week, Nigeria could therefore increase its weekly testing by 9,100.

The NCDC added, “There are also available in-country two mobile laboratories equipped with two GeneXpert instruments each. These will be deployed as needed to support COVID-19 testing surge in target states.

“The planned decentralised testing using GeneXpert will enable states to test low volume samples (1–24 samples daily) with same day return of results, while bulk samples will be referred to the Central/Regional PCR Laboratories as elucidated above. This will increase the country’s testing capacity by additional 1,300 tests per day.”

Meanwhile, the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, said at the briefing by the Presidential task Force on COVID-19 on Friday that government envisaged a steady rise in the number of cases with “more diligent testing, treatment, isolation and (contact) tracing.”

He added that in the use of the GeneXpert machines, the government would prioritise Sokoto and Borno states as soon as the cartridges begin to arrive in a few weeks.

He said, “A Federal Ministry of Health team has been assembled to proceed to Sokoto and Borno on fact-finding and support missions to engage with state authorities and determine material and technical needs.

“A most immediate probability is the prioritisation of these states for the deployment of repurposed GeneXpert machines as soon as we start receiving the cartridges in a few weeks to bring speed to testing.”

Speaking on the index case in Benue State, Ehanire said the government was able to persuade Mrs Susan Idoko-Okpe to allow her test sample to be taken to the laboratory for testing on Thursday and that the result was being awaited, noting that it would be given to her in person.

He said the annual World Health Assembly held every year in Geneva, Switzerland would begin on Monday through teleconference and he would lead the Nigerian delegation to the conference, which he said would focus on the global spread and response to COVID-19.

On the issue of foreign medical doctors, Ehanire noted that the government had not allowed Nigerians to be treated by any foreign national.

 

FG gives FAAN, NAMA, others 45 days to relocate HQs to Abuja [Punch]

The Federal Government has ordered all aviation agencies to relocate their headquarters to Abuja  within  45 days.

The Ministry of Aviation  officials confirmed this on Friday, adding that the directive only involves four of the ministry’s agencies, as two other key parastatals  have their  headquarters in Abuja and Kaduna.

This came as some employees of the affected agencies complained that there were few office spaces in Abuja to accommodate the workforce.

However, it was learnt  that the directive by the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, is  aimed at cutting down the cost of governance by the Federal Government.

Currently, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, Accident Investigation Bureau and the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency  have their  headquarters in Lagos.

The Nigerian Meteorological Agency has its headquarters in Abuja, while the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology has its in Zaria, Kaduna State.

In a letter dated May 4, 2020, with reference FMA/PMD/7061/T/4 and signed on behalf of Sirika by the Director, Human Resource Management, FMA, Muhammad Shehu, the minister reminded the agencies that the order was given  by the President in 2012.

The letter read in part, ”I am directed to remind you of a Presidential directive issued in 2012 requesting all the agencies under the Ministry of Aviation to relocate their corporate headquarters to the Federal Capital Territory (Abuja) for efficient and effective coordination and enhanced service delivery and note that eight years after the directive, the agencies are yet to comply.”

The minister stated in the letter that it was imperative for the agencies to heed the order following the economic realities globally.

Sirika said, “Accordingly, considering the current situation and the economic impact worldwide, as well as the need to reduce the cost of governance and manage scarce resources in a sustainable way, it has become imperative and further to the minister’s directive to request that you facilitate and complete the relocation of your corporate headquarters within the next 45 days in line with this earlier directive.”

A senior official at the aviation ministry confirmed the letter and latest directive to our correspondent in Abuja, adding that the order had been issued earlier.

The official also stated that FAAN, NAMA, AIB and NCAA were affected by the directive.

The source said,  “It (the directive) is true, but it is not new  per se. Initial directive was given in 2008, another in 2012 which were not implemented.”

The official, however, countered claims by some employees of the affected agencies that their organisations had not been mobilised to relocate.

The source added, “On paper, both the NCAA and AIB have their headquarters in Abuja, but have continued to operate from Lagos even though mobilisation had been done for staff movement.

“This directive involves only FAAN, NAMA, AIB and NCAA. NiMet and NCAT have been in Abuja and Zaria respectively.”

Some workers at the affected agencies had stated that their organisations were ordered to relocate staff from Lagos to Abuja amid the COVID-19 pandemic,  but no mobilisation funds to move and non readiness of office space in the FCT.

In fact, the workers, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said some of the offices in Abuja were under reconstruction and stressed that the order failed to consider the fact that over 60 per cent flight operations in Nigeria take place in Lagos.

 

NANS plans nationwide protest as FG insists on school feeding [Punch]

  • N-Power beneficiaries to get payments next week

The National Association of Nigerian Students on Friday said it would mobilise its members for a nationwide protest if the Federal Government continued its school feeding programme during school closure occasioned by of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is as the Federal Government on Friday explained that it continued the National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme because it was practically impossible to get back the funds that had already been paid to food vendors before the lockdowns in states commenced.

The NANS President, Danielson Akpan, in a statement in Abuja, said the programme was a misplaced priority and a “discreet attempt to fleece the hard-earned resources of the country.”

Akpan said the source of the proposed N697m to be spent daily, amounting to N13.5bn a month on the programme, must be queried, stressing that the decision was “reckless spending.”

He said, “The national body of NANS, after a deliberate and robust discussion on the Federal Government’s decision to commence the school feeding programme during a virtual meeting held earlier this morning (Friday), vehemently rejected and condemned in totality the said decision.

“We condemn in totality the plan to feed school children at home. We see it as an avenue to perpetuate corruption and fraudulent activities.

“We do not only condemn this, we also frown at any attempt by some people to further loot our national treasury. The continuation of the school feeding programme at this period that schools are closed is sheer fraud.

“If the Federal Government goes ahead to implement the programme, we will have no choice but to mobilise our members across the federation for a mother of all protests.”

Akpan called on the Federal Government to use the money meant for the execution of the programme to revive the collapsed education system and fund infrastructural projects in institutions.

Explaining why the Federal Government went ahead with the programme despite the lockdown, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar-Farouq, urged Nigerians to support the scheme.

She spoke in Abuja at the daily briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and stressed that government could not get back the funds it had already invested in the hands of vendors for the food items.

Umar-Farouq said, “Because the programme was already ongoing, food vendors had already been contracted and mobilised for the project. We are also mindful of the fact that most vendors, having been mobilised, had made purchases preparatory to the project execution. It is just not possible to ask them for refunds.

“This had been done before the school calendar was disrupted. In light of this, demanding a refund will be cumbersome and unrealistic.”

 

Reps attack governors over Infectious Diseases Bill [Nation]

  • Lawmakers to state chief executives: we’re not your subordinates
  • Say we legislate for Nigeria, not governors
  • Accuse Tambuwal of misleading colleagues

MEMBERS of the House of Representatives are at daggers drawn with the governors of the 36 states of the federation over the lawmakers’ proposed bill on infectious diseases.

In a statement issued in Abuja, the spokesman of the House of Representatives, Hon. Benjamin Kalu, pointedly told the governors that the House of Representatives is not an appendage of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF).

His declaration followed a communiqué reportedly issued by the NGF at the end of its virtual meeting held on Wednesday, asking the House to step down the Control of Infectious Diseases Bill, 2020, whose public hearing was already scheduled.

The governors, in a communiqué signed by the NGF Chairman and Ekiti State governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, and made available to reporters, expressed discomfort that they were not consulted by the National Assembly on the infectious diseases bill as the leaders of the anti-COVID-19 efforts in their states.

In their own statement, however, the lawmakers told the governors to realise that the House was not legislating for their states, adding their opposition to the bill was not only misplaced but also came too late.

The House also accused the governor of Sokoto State, Rt. Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, a former speaker of the House of Representatives, of misleading his colleagues in the NGF because of his alleged opposition to the emergence of the Femi Gbajabiamila led leadership of the House, going by the role he played in the 2015 and 2019 elections.

Kalu said that while the lawmakers consider governors as critical stakeholders in the task of nation building, the National Assembly is not an appendage of the governors.

He told the governors to bear in mind that unlike a constitutional amendment that requires the concurrence of state assemblies, the control of infectious diseases bill does not require their approval to become law.

He stressed, however, that the governors were free to submit a memorandum to the already scheduled public hearing on infectious diseases bill.

He opposed Tambuwal’s membership of the committee set up by governors to interface with the House, saying the fact that he could not properly guide his colleagues as a former speaker is suggestive of bias on his part.

Kalu’s statement reads: “It has come to the attention of the House of Representatives that the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) has, through a communiqué at the end of its virtual meeting held on Wednesday, May 13, 2020, asked the House to step down the Control of Infectious Diseases Bill, 2020, whose public hearing is already scheduled.

“In the communiqué, the NGF noted that following an update from the Governor of Sokoto State and Vice Chairman of the NGF, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, on the proposed Control of Infectious Diseases Bill, 2020 introduced by the House of Representatives, governors raised concern with the lack of consultation with state governments who are at the forefront of the epidemic.

“The NGF said it 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.

“Against the impression given in the NGF’s communiqué, the House has since last week resolved to subject the Control of Infectious Diseases Bill to a public hearing where Nigerians from all walks of life will have the opportunity to make their inputs towards the draft legislation.

“The NGF’s position is coming rather belatedly.

“However, the House wishes to state clearly that whilst it legislates for the Federal Republic of Nigeria, including being the Parliament for the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja only; the Nigeria Governors Forum is recognized by members of the House as leading lights in the task of nation building.

“It is rather surprising that the NGF, in arriving at its decision, relied on “an update from the Governor of Sokoto State,” who, apart from being a lawyer, is a former Speaker and an ex-ranking member of the House, who should know better and guide the Forum accordingly.

“We assume that his position was informed by his well-known personal and partisan opposition to the emergence of the current leadership of the House, considering his obvious stance in 2015 and 2019.

“Unlike in a constitution amendment matter where state houses of assembly have a defined constitutional role to play in effecting any review to it, bills such as the Control of Infectious Diseases are not by our constitution subject of concurrence of state houses of assembly or state governors.

“We do believe that our respected governors are aware of these lawful processes of legislation and should not be misguided by a biased position of a former speaker.

“Let it be known that the House of Representatives, and indeed the National Assembly, are independent of the control of any state governor or former Speaker, except if we want to change that now.

“Even at that, it has to be by a constitutional amendment sponsored by the citizens and not by the personal view of one governor and former speaker.

“Notwithstanding, the House expresses its readiness to work with the committee raised by the NGF to meet members of the Green Chamber on the Bill.

“Governors are our critical stakeholders in nation building, and we understand the importance of working with our governors at critical moments such as this pandemic period.

“The House also wishes to state that the NGF is free to make its position on the bill known through a memorandum during the planned public hearing or send its representative or representatives to appear in person.

“Till date, no single governor has called the Speaker or anyone in leadership to express his views. It is our belief that there are better channels of communication available to the NGF to address the leadership of the House than the pages of newspapers.

“The House is also concerned that the presence of the Sokoto State Governor in the NGF’s consultative panel may not guarantee a smooth interface, since in his capacity as a former Speaker he could not guide the Forum appropriately on the matter, and he appeared to have already taken a biased position.

“Thus, the House calls on the NGF to review the membership of the consultative committee so as to achieve the desired objectives with the unbiased members during their engagement with the leadership of the House.

“It is instructive to note that the 1999 Nigerian Constitution (as amended) in Section 60 gives the House the powers to regulate its legislative activities, and the House would not shy away from that.

“Members of the 9th Assembly are united irrespective of party affiliation and will continue to do those things that will promote good governance, unity and progress of our country.”

 

EFCC hands over seized Diezani’s building for use as isolation centre [Nation]

ONE of the choice properties confiscated from former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Allison-Madueke, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) will now serve as an isolation centre for suspected cases of COVID-19 in Lagos.

The property, which comprises six flats of three bedrooms and a boys’ quarter, was handed over to the Lagos State Government by the EFCC on Friday.

The building was forfeited by Mrs Allison-Madueke following an order of a Federal High Court in Lagos in 2017.

Speaking during the handover ceremony, the Zonal Head of the EFCC in Lagos, Mohammed Rabo, said the gesture was a demonstration of the agency’s support in the effort to curb the spread of the virus.

“This gesture is part of the commission’s efforts in discharging its own social responsibility towards the fight against the spread of Coronavirus,” he said.

“The commission is always committed and ready, alongside its mandate in fighting economic and financial crimes, to also render any essential service that may be required of it in the fight against the pandemic.

“Therefore, the state should not hesitate to call on the commission any time the need for such an essential service arises,” Rabo said.

Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu commended the commission for the gesture, saying it was a welcome collaboration between the Federal Government and states.

More than N47 billion and $487.5 million in cash and properties have so far been traced to the former minister.

They include a block of six units serviced apartments at number 135, Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, just a few metres away from the EFCC zonal operations hub.

The apartment has a standby power generator, sporting facilities, play ground and a water treatment plant.

The property was bought for N800 million (eight hundred million naira) on January 6, 2012.

There is also a 15-storey building in Banana Island, Lagos which she was said to have purchased for $37.5m.

The property comprises 18 flats and six penthouses.

Justice Chuka Obiozor, a vacation judge sitting at the Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos, ordered the final forfeiture of the building on August 7, 2017, following an ex parte application filed on July 17, 2017 by the EFCC.

The EFCC said on its website that “by far the most numbing, record-shattering acquisition of Alison-Madueke is to be found in the ritzy, nouveaux riches playground of Banana Island, Lagos.

“It consists of two apartments at the Bella Vista Court. The apartments, which are penthouses, are located on Block C-5, Flat 21, Plot 1, Zone N.

“For them, a $350 million (three hundred and fifty million US dollar) hole was allegedly dug in the Nigerian treasury on November 22, 2011, by Alison-Madueke.”

Other properties in Yaba, Lagos, also discovered by the commission are located at number 7, Thurnburn Street and 5, Raymond Street.

The Thurnburn Street property consists of 21 mixed housing units of eight 4-bedroom apartments, two penthouse apartments of  3-bedrooms each and six 3-bedroom (all en-suite) terrace apartments.

The Raymond Street property is made up of two en-suite 2-bedroom apartments and one 4-bedroom apartment.

The Yaba, Lagos properties, which cost N1 billion (one billion naira), were paid for on May 30, 2012; the same day Alison-Madueke spent N900 million on the Port Harcourt estate.

The EFCC said: “In Lekki Phase One, an upscale neighbourhood of Lagos, operatives found a twin four-bedroom duplex.

“The duplex is located on Plot 33, Block 112, Lekki Peninsula Residential Scheme Phase 1, Lekki, Lagos, with an estimated value of over N200 million (two hundred million naira).

“Also in Lagos, a large expanse of land at Oniru, Victoria Island, Lagos has also been traced to the former Petroleum Resources Minister.

“The land, which is located in Oniru Chieftaincy Family Private Estate, Lekki Peninsular, Lagos and currently being utilised as a dumping site, was bought on February 16, 2012 for N135 million (one hundred and thirty- five million naira).

“Plot 8, Gerard Road Ikoyi, Lagos, another property traced to Alison-Madueke, is a penthouse on the 11th Floor in the Block B Wing of the building. It was bought for N12 million (twelve million naira) on December 20, 2011.

“On plot 10, Frederick Chiluba Close, in the serene, upscale Asokoro District of Abuja lies a tastefully built and finished duplex.

“In the compound, there are also a guest chalet, a boy’s quarters, an elegant swimming pool, fully equipped sports gym and a host of other amenities.

“Investigators have discovered that the property acquired by the ex-minister in December, 2009, at the cost of N400 million (four hundred million naira) was never declared in any of the asset declaration forms filed by Alison-Madueke.

“Also linked to the former Minister in Abuja is a mini estate at Mabushi, Abuja.

“The estate located on Plot 1205, Cadastral Zone B06, Mabushi Gardens Estate, houses 13 three bedroom terrace houses, each with one bedroom en-suite maid’s quarters.

“It was purchased on April 2, 2012 at the princely sum of N650 million (six hundred and fifty million naira).”

The anti-corruption agency had also found in Alison-Madueke’s palatial residences in Abuja boxes of gold, silver and diamond jewellery worth several million pounds sterling.

President Muhammadu Buhari had instructed that all forfeited assets be sold and the money put in the Treasury Single Account.

Receiving members of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption at the State House, Abuja in October last year, Buhari said that in the past, assets seized from officials who could not explain how they got them were returned to them when government was changed.

“Let’s see who will now take back the money from the treasury and give back to those people as was done in the past,” the President said.

 

UK-based Nigerian doctor, wife die 10 days apart [Nation]

  • Care home director wife contracted deadly disease while at work

NIGERIA-born Dr. James Oniah and his care home director wife, Mary, have died from coronavirus infection in the United Kingdom 10 days apart.

Seventy-nine year old retired radiologist Oniah died on April 24 only for Mary to succumb to the virus on May 4.

They both died at King George Hospital in Ilford, East London, according to the London Mail.

They are survived by three children.

Their son, Okey, 25, described them as wonderful parents.

He said the family was still coming to terms with their tragic deaths.

Dr. Oniah hailed from Onitsha and had studied at the University of Sussex.

He worked in several hospitals as an agency radiologist before recently retiring.

Mary trained as a nurse and a midwife at the University Teaching Hospital (UTH) in Lusaka, Zambia and St Georges and Roehampton University Teaching Hospital in South London and palliative care nursing at City University of London.

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