Many top Nigerians dying due to COVID-19 home care – FG [Punch]

  • Don’t use drugs without doctors’ prescriptions, counsels minister
  • Nigeria didn’t pay for Madagascar’s coronavirus drug, says PTF
  • Reps tackle health minister over explanation on Chinese doctors

The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, on Tuesday said the Federal Government was disturbed that COVID-19 deaths came from many educated, well-to-do Nigerians who chose home-based care and were only rushed to hospitals after sudden complications.

The minister, who stated this during the daily briefing by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 in Abuja, advised everyone who tested positive for COVID-19 to seek medical attention, and not use drugs without a doctor’s prescription.

Ehanire  said five centres in the country were researching into possible COVID-19 drugs. He said chloroquine  was one of such drugs.

The health minister said, “As we learn more about coronavirus every day, we must be ready to adjust our strategy, based on knowledge and evidence. As of Monday, we had  sadly recorded 191 deaths in 26 states and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

“Even though this figure seems low compared to other countries, a disturbing picture emerging from the statistics is that not only are most fatalities linked with pre-existing diseases,   many are educated, well-to-do people, who chose home-based care, where they develop sudden complications and have to be rushed to hospital.

“Experience is showing that  complications in COVID-19 patients can arise with little or no notice. This is an added reason why all persons should seek medical attention when they test positive.”

The minister said the ministry of health and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control were assessing isolation centres across the country.

He added, “We have recently been in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, and Osogbo, Osun State. We  will continue providing diagnostic commodities and facilities in collaboration with partners.”

Minister warns against self-medication

Ehanire added, “On chloroquine, first, we do not at any time or in any way support self-medication. If you hear that anyone is taking medication of any type, it has to be something prescribed by his doctor. There are medicines that should not be in your hands unless they are prescribed by your doctor.

“There are medicines over-the-counter that you can buy. But there are prescription medicines, which you should not have unless your doctor prescribes them.”

Ehanire noted that a ministerial task team was already in Calabar, Cross River State – one of the two states with no COVID-19 cases s – and had useful meetings with state government officials.

FG team visits states to enforce routine hospital services

The health minister added that the Federal Government had embarked on missions to states to ensure that normal medical services were restored in hospitals.

He said, “The Federal Ministry of Health places special priority on the maintenance of essential services in both private and public hospitals throughout the country, because of the serious harm that arises from neglecting routine healthcare services like immunisation, chronic disease management, and others due to fear of COVID-19 or sole focus on COVID-19.”

The health minister warned Nigerians to desist from buying sanitisers, unless they were at least 60 per cent alcohol-based and had been certified by the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control.

FG didn’t pay for Madagascar’s  COVID-19 drug

On his part, the  PTF Chairman and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, said the Madagascar’s herbal drug for COVID-19 was sent to Nigeria at no cost.

He also said the reopening of the economy would largely depend on the level of compliance with the guidelines issued for the control of the spread of the pandemic.

He said, ‘We have repeated that we didn’t ask for it. It was given to us by the government of Madagascar to African countries as their contribution towards solution to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The consignment for West Africa was dropped in Guinea Bissau and we were making effort to airlift. As God would have it, the President of Guinea Bissau visited our President last Saturday and came with our consignment of five cartons. They were handed over to me yesterday evening (Monday) sealed. It was handed over to me without an invoice, so I assume it didn’t come with any cost.”

The PTF chairman said Nigerians, especially the business sector, must use the period of the extended eased lockdown to prepare ahead of the reopening by adopting a change in attitude in order to contain the spread.

COVID-19 won’t go away soon – PTF coordinator

The PTF National Coordinator, Dr Sani Aliyu, said the country must brace for the challenge because the pandemic would not go away in few weeks.

He said the conditions for the gradual easing of the lockdown were to slow down the pandemic and ensure there was no rebound.

The Director General of the NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu,  said transmission of COVID-19 to most health workers occurred before the infected patients were diagnosed.

He explained, “Most of the transmissions to health care workers and (most) hospital infections have happened before the diagnosis is made because, once people know it’s a COVID-19 patient, they start dressing from top to bottom in Tyvek suits.”

 

Curfew: Against Buhari’s directive, IG bars journalists, doctors, others [Punch]

The Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, contrary to a directive by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), on Tuesday ordered police commands not to exempt anybody, including workers on essential duties, when  enforcing the ban on interstate movements and the nationwide curfew.

The IG gave the directive to the zonal assistant-inspectors general of police and state commissioners of police during a virtual conference  on Tuesday.

The President had, in his first COVID-19 address to the nation on March 29, ordered a lockdown in the Federal Capital Territory, Lagos and Ogun states.

Buhari, however, exempted health workers, journalists as well as the staff of telecommunication companies from the lockdown.

In his second COVID-19 on April 13,  when he extended the lockdown in the FCT, Lagos and Ogun states, the President also emphasised that workers on essential duties were exempted from the lockdown.

Commenting on harassment by security agencies, the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19  on March 30 said journalists needed only their identity cards to move around during the lockdown.

On April 27, when he ordered a ban on interstate movements and imposed an 8pm to 6am curfew on the nation, the President repeated that workers on essential duties were exempted.

The PTF Chairman and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha, while announcing the extension of interstate lockdown and the nationwide curfew at the task force press conference on Monday, said exemptions granted by the President in the first phase would subsist.

IG didn’t tell us to exempt doctors, journalists, others – Top police officer

But a source at the IG’s  conference with police commissioners on Tuesday said Adamu had directed policemen not to allow any exemption.

The source stated, “ For your information, a curfew is a curfew. After 8pm, there will be no movement by anybody, including journalists and doctors as well as other health workers.

“The directive we have received from the IG is that as from 8pm, the question of being on essential services does not arise.”

Be strict, IG tells police officers

The Force spokesman, Frank Mba, in a statement on Tuesday, confirmed that the IG at the virtual conference with top police officers ordered strict enforcement of the curfew and interstate movement restriction nationwide.

Mba explained that the virtual conference availed the police leadership the opportunity to assess the security situation in the country, review operational strategies and take decisive measures aimed at evolving customized security solutions to cope with crime trends and other security challenges relating to the pandemic.

He said, “The Inspector-General of Police has ordered strict enforcement of the national curfew and interstate movement restriction orders emplaced by the Federal Government as part of measures to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

“The IG gave this directive to the zonal assistant-inspectors general of police and state commissioners of police during a virtual conference held on Tuesday.”

It will be ridiculous for IG to give such an order – NPAN

The Executive Secretary of the Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria, Feyi Smith, in an interview with one of our correspondents, noted that the IG’s directive could not override  the President’s directive exempting the essential workers.

He  stated that it would be ridiculous for the IG to make the order.

He said, “I want to believe that given the directive of the President that all essential services are exempted, there is no way the IG’s order can override that of the President. I want to believe that there was a miscommunication along the line and I want to believe that he could not have said so.

“I still believe that the President’s directives stand until he says otherwise or we have a clarification from the spokesman of the President. It will be ridiculous that anybody will say such a thing.”

The Nigerian Medical Association and the National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives  cautioned  Adamu over his directive on workers on essential duties.

IG’s directive can’t supersede Buhari’s order – NMA

The President of the NMA, Dr Francis Faduyile, stated that those on the essential services, especially health care workers, should remain exempted from enforcement.

Faduyile, in an interview with The PUNCH, noted that the President is the Commander-in-Chief, adding that his directive should supersede that of the IGP.

He said, “I don’t think he (IG) has a right to give a counter-directive. Doctors are recalled from home to do emergencies and they have to return home. They can be recalled at any time when there is an emergency and they have to move.

“For the medical professions, I know that the restriction does not include us because it can be his (IG) sister, brother, son, wife, father or mother in that distress, and you need that medical professional to come and attend to him or her.

“I know that there is nobody who can say there is a restriction that would affect medical professionals. Even in war, medical professionals are allowed to move around to help, wherever one finds oneself. I don’t think that directive can be fixed.”

Adamu’s order counterproductive – Nurses

Similarly, the President, NANNM, Abdulrafiu Adeniji, told one of our correspondents that the Chairman of the PTF during the task force press briefing on Tuesday,  gave allowances for those on essential duties.

Adeniji said, “I think it’s contradictory. On the issue of no exemption for essential services, what apparently that may mean is that all the essential services should not work again.

“Otherwise, what the PTF Chairman, Boss Mustapha, said this evening in their briefing is that all the people who are on essential services with their adequate identity cards will assuage the efforts of the police in trying to curtail undue movements.

“But it would be counterproductive if people that are expected to be given due regard are not being given such. Otherwise, the smooth running of health care services will cease as the hospital runs 24 hours and there could be an emergency at any point in time.”

IG’s directive to stop essential workers’ movement by 8pm faulty – NBA

Also, the Nigerian Bar Association  faulted the directive by the IG  to stop all movements by 8pm in disregard of privilege given to essential workers to operate at that time.

Speaking through its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kunle Edun, the NBA said the IG lacked the power to contradict a presidential directive excluding essential workers from the movement restrictions.

Edun told The PUNCH that the IGP should rather be more concerned about the enforcement of interstate restrictions which he said were often beached in “obvious disregard of the presidential directive”.

He said, “The directive of the President regarding restriction of movement does not apply to persons designated to be on the essential service list.

“I don’t think the IGP has the authority to contradict the President on a clear directive. Regarding curfew, it is not all the states in the federation that curfew has been declared.”

Essential services are critical – TMG chair

Also the Chairman of  the Transition Monitoring Group,  Dr Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, said the IG did not have power to override the President

“Essential services are critical and that is why it’s important for the government to be clear on who should be exempted. It will be unreasonable for him not to obey the directives. It’s important for the Presidency to call him to order,” she said

A former President, Campaign for the Defence of Human Rights, Malachy Ugwummadu,  on his part, said, “I am neither convinced nor persuaded to believe that this particular IG is unaware of what “essential duties” mean.

The Executive Director, Centre for Public Accountability, Femi Lawson, said the IG made an  error of generalisation.

He stated,  “I heard the statement and what quickly came to mind is that even in the worst of circumstances and war times, essential services providers are always exempted from restriction of movement.”

Police cannot override rights of essential workers – Falana

A human rights lawyer, Femi Falana,  said a police signal could not override the rights of doctors, nurses, fire service officials, journalists and other essential workers.

The Senior Advocate of Nigeria warned that police commissioners must not subject Nigerians to unwarranted harassment over the directive by the IG.

He said, “The Nigeria Police Force is bound by the COVID-19 regulations made pursuant to the Quarantine Act by the President. By this directive the IG has charged the commissioners of police to enforce the said regulations. The directive cannot contradict the regulations made by the President and state governors.

“A police signal cannot override the rights of doctors, nurses, fire service officials, journalists and workers who provide essential services to be on duty. In any case, directives contained in police signals must be in strict conformity with the regulations and exceptions stipulated by the President. We are not in a police state. Therefore, police commissioners should not subject Nigerians to unwarranted harassment”

Adamu’s directive sad – NUJ

The Nigeria Union of Journalists National President, Chris Isiguzo, in an interview with The PUNCH, said, “It’s sad to hear that our right to free movement as essential workers has been restricted. I don’t want to believe that such a statement was actually issued by the police top brass.

“I know very well that even in a war situation, those on essential duties especially health workers and journalists enjoy free movement.”

50 journalists, doctors, others detained by police in Lagos

Meanwhile, no fewer than 50 journalists, health workers and others were detained on Tuesday by the police from the Alausa, Ikeja division, over the curfew imposed by the Federal Government.

A crime correspondent with the TVC, Ivy Kanu, who was among the detainees, told the television station that some of the victims were put in cells.

Kanu said, “I left the office tonight (Tuesday) and on my way, I noticed that the roadblocks had increased.

“I turned to Alausa and I was picked. I am at the Alausa police station and you have doctors, essential workers. The place is packed. Over 50 people are here and I heard that the new instruction for the next three days is to go after everybody, essential workers and non-essential workers.

“I don’t know how long we will be here. The impounded vehicles are more than 20 and more are still coming in. I don’t know if this is part of a new directive from the Federal Government or it is over-zealousness on the part of the police officers.

“Some of them (detainees) have been taken into custody; they have been put into cells and some are standing outside. I was asked to go behind the counter; that was where I was before she (DPO) announced that everybody should come outside and they should hand over our keys and we should sleep in our cars till the next morning.”

It was, however, learnt that the 50 essential workers  were not released at 10:30pm.

Mba, in a statement on Tuesday evening, said, “All essential workers including medical personnel, firefighters, ambulance services and journalists are exempted from the restriction of movement associated with both the partial lockdown and the national curfew across the Federation.

“The Inspector General of Police, IGP Mohammed A. Adamu has therefore directed all zonal assistant inspectors general of police  and commands commissioners of police to give effect to these exemptions whilst enforcing the restriction orders.”

 

Foreign soldiers saving Nigerians from bandits — Senator [Punch]

The representative of  Sokoto East in the Senate, Senator Ibrahim Gobir, claims  his constituents  are  at the mercy of  bandits as  they have  been abandoned to their  fate by the military.

Gobir made the claim on the floor of the Senate  on Tuesday while seconding the motion moved by the Deputy Chief Whip, Sabi Abdullahi, on the order given by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari, (retd.), to the military  to flush bandits  out of  Zamfara State.

According to the legislator,  his constituents  now rely on Nigerien soldiers  for protection.

He said, “There is no protection for my people in the Sokoto East Senatorial District because of the incessant attacks by   bandits.

“At least 300 people have either been killed or kidnapped in the last three months while over 5,780 cows valued at N2.5bn had been stolen.

“We are even appealing to the Federal Government through the Senate for reparation.

“We now rely on the Nigerien Army that is  helping us since Nigerian soldiers have abandoned us.

“The situation is so bad  that we only get help from the Niger Republic, not even from Nigeria.

“We can’t be big for nothing and watch the Nigerien Army to assist us.

“Whenever there is an attack and we call the Nigerian Army, they won’t come, or come, patrol some metres and leave  the people at the mercy of the bandits.

“However, immediately we inform the commandant of  the  Nigerien Army at a formation few kilometres away, the officer will come with his troops and help Nigerians.

“When we call the Nigerian Army, whose personnel are in a few kilometres away, we won’t get instant response but the Nigerien soldiers, who are in about five kilometres  away, will quickly move in and  ward off the intruders.

“At the moment, the Nigerians in Sokoto East are relocating to   the Niger because they are no longer safe  in Nigeria.”

Abdullahi in the motion based  on orders 42 and 52 of the Senate Standing Rules  lamented the daily occurrence of  banditry in Niger State which requires urgent intervention from the President.

However, the  Senate commended  Buhari for ordering the military to flush bandits out of  Katsina State, but asked him to expand the scope of the order to cover Zamfara,  Kaduna,  Niger, Sokoto and other states under bandit attacks.

The upper chamber also called on the military and police to increase their surveillance operations to check banditry.

 

Senate seeks suspension of planned tariff increase, queries trillions of naira invested in power sector [Sun]

  • Explains why privatisation should cancelled

The Senate has told the Federal Government to suspend the planned electricity tariff increase scheduled to take effect from July 1, bearing in mind the increased hardship resulting from COVID-19.

It also charged its standing Committee on Power to investigate the trillions of naira spent by the Federal Government in the power sector since its privatisation in 2013.

The Red Chamber took the decisions at plenary, yesterday, demanding that the privatisation of the power sector be revisited citing investors lack of capacity to make the requisite investments to grow the sector.

The position of the Senate followed the adoption of a motion sponsored by Gabriel Suswam, chairman of the Senate Committee on Power.

President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan who presided over the plenary said: “We gave power to them and they still come to the public to ask for funds. I think its time for Nigeria to consider reversing the privatisation of the power sector or they should just cancel the entire privatisation process completely. If we leave it, we may not have power for another 10 years. We expected efficiency and something better. DISCOS have no capacity to supply us power. We shouldn’t continue to give them money. “They are private businesses. We need to review this whole thing. Something is wrong. Our committee needs to investigate the trillions of naira spent. That is a lot of money. Try and find out what has happened so far. Government needs to look at this whole thing. Maybe government is not doing its own part. We need to find out. There is lack of capital. We feel very bad. There is no electricity and the country is suffering.”

The senate also asked its Committee on Power to investigate all market participants in the power value chain and ascertain the level of corporate governance compliance in the Nigerian Electricity Industry (NESI) and report back within four weeks. It also urged the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to allow operators in the power sector access to foreign exchange for procurement of equipment and materials like what obtains in the aviation and oil industry.

It equally urged the Federal Government to consider additional tariff support to cushion the effect of rate shock over a fixed period to allow time required for power companies to access funds and implement performance improvement investments that will support increased tariffs to certain classes of customers, especially given the COVID-19 pandemic.

The upper chamber also urged the Federal Government, through the Federal Ministry of Finance, to include the Nigerian Electric Power Sector in the disbursement of the proposed N500 billion COVlD-19 Crisis Intervention Fund to ameliorate the financial hazards and operational challenges such as the enumeration of metering of actual consumers and recent problem arising from the pandemic.

 

Trump gives WHO 30-day deadline over COVID-19 [Sun]

  • Threatens to pull U.S. membership, funding permanently

United States President, Donald Trump has sent a letter to the World Health Organisation (WHO) threatening to pull U.S. funding permanently from the organisation over  its poor response to COVID-19.

The letter outlines a 30-day deadline for the body to commit to “substantive improvements” or risk losing millions  of U.S. dollars and membership altogether.

Addressed to WHO Director General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, it criticised the stages of the body’s response to COVID-19 since December 2019.

Trump published the letter on Twitter last Monday, following a day of heavy U.S. criticism of the health agency. Health Secretary, Alex Azar spoke at the WHO’s World Health Assembly and accused the organisation of letting COVID-19 spin “out of control” at the cost of “many lives”.

In his letter the U.S. President accused WHO of having an “alarming lack of independence” from China.

Trump called for the organisation to commit to “major substantive improvements” within 30 days, without clarifying what this means.

Without these changes, the president said, the U.S. will make its temporary freeze of funding permanent and “reconsider our membership in the organisation.”

Among his assertions, Trump accused the agency of having “consistently ignored” what he describes as “credible reports” of the virus spreading in Wuhan at the start of December or even earlier. The U.S. president has repeatedly accused China of failings in its response to the coronavirus outbreak.

In the letter, Trump cited reports that WHO delayed an emergency declaration under pressure from President Xi Jinping, and criticised the agency’s praise of China’s “transparency” amid its censorship and lack of international co-operation. Trump accused WHO of failing to comment on virus-related discrimination against Africans within China and said Dr. Tedros could have saved “many lives” if he had acted more like Dr. Harlem Brundtland, the WHO chief during the Sars outbreak of 2003

Trump, in his conclusion, alleged that “repeated missteps” by Dr Tedros and the WHO had been “extremely costly for the world”.

“The only way forward for the World Health Organization is if it can actually demonstrate independence from China,” his letter said.

Beijing has denied the allegation. Earlier this month, the Chinese foreign ministry said the country had “all along been in good communication and co-operation” with the WHO and had “never attempted to manipulate the organisation”.

Trump announced the halting of U.S. payments last month. The country is the largest single contributor to the WHO, accounting for just less than 15 per cent  of its funding in the past financial year. Trump’s ultimatum also comes at a time of pressure for the WHO.

Dr. Tedros recently  backed a review of the agency’s handling of the pandemic. He said an independent evaluation would take place “at the earliest appropriate moment”. Earlier Trump had called the UN’s health body a “puppet of China”.

The president, who faces re-election this year and has himself been criticised for his handling of the pandemic, has blamed China for trying to cover up the outbreak and has accused the WHO of failing to hold Beijing to account.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Trump was trying to mislead the public, smear China and “shift the blame for (the US’s) own incompetent response”. The US has more than 1.5 million of the world’s 4.8 million confirmed cases of coronavirus so far, with more than 90,000 deaths.

 

Tougher curfew enforcement underway [Sun]

  • 2 weeks extension not punitive, says PTF

Tough time lies ahead for Nigerians as security agencies have received a marching order to strictly enforce the inter-state travel ban.

Rising from a virtual meeting yesterday, the Inspector-General of Police(IGP), Mohammed Adamu, particularly ordered strict enforcement of the national curfew and inter-state movement restriction orders as part of measures to prevent the spread of the pandemic.

President Muhammadu Buhari had in his national address exempted some categories of workers including media practitioners, health workers and others from the lockdown restriction.

Chairman of the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha and the Information Minister, Lai Mohammed, have consistently emphasised the sanctity of the exemption granted essential workers at daily media briefings.

But multiple sources told Daily Sun last night that at the meeting involving top echelon of the police and other sister agencies, they resolved that it would no longer be business as usual.

“One thing they agreed on is the fact that the current phase is curfew and no longer just restriction. They have resolved to enforce the curfew no matter whose ox is gored.”

With the arrangement, police and other security personnel have been given the power to lock down movement between 8pm and 6am.

However, PTF has assured that the extension of the eased lockdown is not punitive but a bid to further contain and control the spread of the disease.

Speaking at the daily briefing in Abuja, yesterday, he said Nigeria must delicately balance between safety and economic considerations before reopening the economy fully.

“This well considered decision was taken out of an abundance of caution, current experiences from different countries and expert advice. I must add also that we were persuaded by the history of global pandemics because it is replete with evidence of exponential rise in pandemic upon early lifting of restrictions, for which the 1918–1920 influenza remains the most recent example in human history.”

He reminded Nigerians that COVID-19 virus ravaging the world does not discriminate on the basis of status, creed, political persuasion, profession or where you come from.

“Now is the time to avoid any distraction from whatever quarters and all hands must be and remain on deck. On our part, we assure Nigerians of our commitment to accountability, diligence and probity.

He appealed to everyone to diligently comply with measures put in place.

“Of particular importance is the need to obey the curfew, obey the ban on interstate travels, observe physical distancing, avoid large gatherings, observe personal and respiratory hygiene and align with the policy on use of masks/covering.”

The PTF chairman said the two additional weeks should be utilised by businesses, offices, professional bodies, places of worship and educational institutions, among others awaiting reopening to plan and adopt new strategies under a COVID-19 era in line with the guidelines.

“In the coming days, intense consultations will be deepened with different segments of the society including the state governments, security agencies, religious and community leaders to ensure a coordinated implementation of the measures.

“As I mentioned yesterday (Monday), specific directives have been issued to security agencies to strictly enforce the measures. I, therefore, admonish Nigerians to please observe the restrictions in full. I, however, wish to assure our essential workers such as the frontline medical personnel, the media, the environmental health workers, farmers and agro-related service providers, oil and gas services, aviation, the power sector and a host of others that they will be adequately protected. Your obligation is to always carry a valid means of identification.”

 

How COVID-19 has crippled entertainment, hospitality sectors [Nation]

 

With the lockdown of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Lagos and Ogun states and the subsequent nation-wide curfew imposed by the Federal Government, the Coronavirus has prevented social life to have a breather, writes Assistant Entertainment Editor GBENGA BADA

From New York to London, Paris to Berlin, Johannesburg to Lagos, the world’s social life has suffered a huge blow as a result of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, which has ravaged the world.

After a riveting 2019 that ended with a superb Christmas and New Year festivities across the world, showbiz impresarios, nightclub owners, cinema operators and other individuals made projections for 2020.

Sadly, a handful of these projections have remained but a dream due to the widespread of Coronavirus across the globe.

Just like other countries that are battling to curb the spread of the novel virus, Nigeria’s social life has come to its knees. Covid-19 has prevented the  social life to have a breather with two bastions -social distancing and lockdown.

With every arm of the world’s social life shattered like a windowpane, business owners in the entertainment world and other related sectors have been counting their losses. From the music and film industries to wedding, event management and the nightlife industries, Covid-19’s effect can be felt with a bang.

Musicians are beginning to count their losses after six weeks of no action. Tour dates, concerts and music festivals have been postponed indefinitely, leaving them with devotion to live performances on social media such as Instagram and Facebook. The cancelation of these events also has had an untoward effect on their fortune.

“No money for now… no show in sight abeg .. We all dey here together,” Davido said to a fan on Twitter when asked for a giveaway. “In like two to three months we go know the people that saved money.”

The rich musician had earlier released a terse statement on the need to cut short his North America tour, saying: “I’m saddened to halt what has been a fantastic sold-out tour so far, but postponing is the right thing to do. The health and safety of my fans and members of staff are most paramount and nothing else matters. Be safe and see you all soon. God be with us all.”

In the same manner, singer Tiwa Savage lamented how the pandemic has affected her tour plans after the release of her much-anticipated album.

“I had already finished my album and it was supposed to be released in the first week of the second quarter, but the pandemic has stalled it. I will be putting out a single in the next two or three weeks. The album will still be released, but I will share the dates later,” the United Kingdom (UK) trained Savage said, adding: “I had 45 dates and festivals lined up after my album release, but all these have  been canceled as a result of the Covid-19 and it has affected my pocket.”

Nevertheless, this is not to say that music stars are entirely not making any income or are not working.

During the lockdown, Teni the Entertainer, released an Elongated Play entitled: “The Quarantine EP”, while Peruzzi, MI, AQ, Mayorkun, Tiwa Savage, Davido and others recorded and released singles and EPs. As for other incomes, the musicians are still raking a lot of money both in  Naira and Dollars from streaming platforms that offer their songs to fans across the globe at a cost.

After the Federal Government in concert with Lagos State government imposed a general lockdown, which was relaxed six weeks after, the film industry appeared as one of the most hit in economic terms. The industry was literally shutdown with many actors resorting to the social media platform.

The first segment of the film industry to be hit was the cinema. Cinema were houses were forced to shut down operations across the state. These Cinema houses such as Silverbird, Genesis and Filmhouse,  under the aegis of the Cinemas Exhibitors Association of Nigeria unanimously agreed to shut down operations in Lagos, Abuja at first and other states of the federation much later. Their losses are unimaginable as they trickled down to loss of producers and eventually, actors and production crews.

As a result of the closure, actors, directors, producers and production crews working on different sets across the country were made to stop work. The various guilds in the industry – Directors Guild of Nigeria (DGN), Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN), TAMPAN and ITPAN released strict orders and placed embargo on any production activity until further notice.

Towing the same line, Multichoice Nigeria suspended all of its productions  and wrapped up the first edition of the reality TV show, Ultimate Love, a week earlier than scheduled.

The entertainment and media outfit went ahead to release up to N400 million as financial reprieves to producers, actors and technical talents, who currently have contracts with the organisation. Its Chief Executive Officer (CEO), John Ugbe said the palliative was to cushion the effect of the lockdown, which has disrupted creative activities.

Worse hit is Funke Akindele-Bello, who was filming episodes of her series, which included Jenifa’s Diary, My Siblings & I, Industreets, and Omo Ghetto: The Saga. The film producer and popular actor had to down tools and wait as the pandemic refuses to ease its firm grip on the world.

Equally affected was Toyin Abraham, who had worked assiduously to complete her much-anticipated film, Alakada: The Party Planner, ahead of a release in March 2020. Abraham had hit the production sets a few months after welcoming her first child to work on the project only to meet a stumbling block in Covid-19 few weeks to the film’s premiere.

However, the situation is not totally a bad, at least in terms of finances, especially for all the actors and producers. This is because producers and studios with films on popular streaming platforms such as Netflix, Iroko TV and SceneOne TV still rake in funds from rights on their contents. This is similar to music practitioners.

If the music and film industries cried and are still crying foul from the massive hit on box offices and concerts, the Nightlife appeared to have suffered more.

The night clubs have been so badly hit by the pandemic so much so that their existence and experience are gradually fading away from the memories of night crawlers whose lifestyle is patronising upscale bars and nightclubs in the Lagos metropolis.

Chibuike Okechukwu and Hon. Shina Peller are two of the biggest night club owners in Lagos. Okechukwu, widely known and referred to as Cubana Chief Priest, runs Cubana Nightclubs on Victoria Island and Ikeja, while Peller runs the famous Quilox on Victoria Island.

Both nightlife kings have the pandemic to blame for the closure of their businesses and itching to return to business. The nightclubs, which boast of a turnover of over N8 million per night, have undoubtedly, been hit harder.

Five weeks ago, Quilox announced the closure of business, saying it intended to bounce back on a date to be announced later.

The statement reads: “Sadly, the activities of Club Quilox Season 7 have come to an abrupt end due to the rising cases of Covid-19 in Nigeria. The management of Africa’s biggest nightlife brand decided to halt all its activities, thereby taking the customary yearly break earlier than expected.

“Club Quilox is concerned about the number of infected people and the rapid rate of transmission, especially the high probability of community spread in the country. More so, large gatherings make people more susceptible to this disease.”

Another player in the hospitality industry, Wale Oluwaleimu, co-owner of House 30 Lounge and Hotel, noted that his business was shut down for seven weeks until the lockdown was relaxed.

He said: “We were the first set of businesses that were affected by the lockdown. The Lagos State Police Commissioner drove around Ikeja looking for Bars and Nightclubs that were still running on the first day of the lockdown. So, we had to comply.”

In compliance with the guidelines by the Lagos State government, Oluwaleimu said sinks, soap and water have been put in place outside the compound to ensure that customers coming to pick up stuffs will wash their hands. He also reiterated that members of staff are protected with facemask and gloves, which are disposed of daily.

However, the pandemic might have started another trend in the industry. Though the outbreak may have disrupted once lively night spots around the country, innovative Disc Jockeys (DJs) have keyed in to going virtual with their performances so that night crawlers and fun seekers do not miss out.

The virtual club trend is another example of how Covid-19 has altered daily life in ways many never imagined until social distancing was imposed to curb the spread of the virus.

Worthy of mention is the strict enforcement of compliance to the lockdown guidelines by the Lagos State government in the last six weeks. This has left even decrepit local pubs in bad shape. Aside from erring pubs owners and hotels, which are less than one per cent of the industry, socialites have found it hard to either hobnob or exchange greetings by shaking hands.

From SBLive Band to Akin Shuga and Eboni Live Band, the story is the same. Nevertheless, music bands still connect with their fans via Instagram/Facebook live performances. Masters of Ceremony (MCs) and comedians are also some of those practitioners that are badly affected.

The colourless Easter celebration badly affected Nigerian comedians’ and Masters of Ceremonies’ (MCs’) incomes, as they lost shows and events because of Covid-19.

For instance, Gbenga Adeyinka the 1st cancelled the 10th anniversary of his comedy and music show in Ibadan after investing over N10 million. The same with his colleague, I Go Die, who was also planning to host the 10th anniversary of his show. I Go Die sunk several millions into the planning, but lost all to the novel Covid-19.

Also, Ayo AY Makun would not forget in a hurry how he missed another chance to rake in millions of naira as the pandemic prevented him from holding his popular AY Live on Easter Sunday.

 

Fear over malnutrition heightens [Nation]

In pre-COVID-19 era, Nigeria had recorded estimated 2.5 million children suffering from acute malnutrition. With the virus spreading and the lockdowns, there are fears that the malnutrition rate may increase, writes MEDINAT KANABE.

There was pandemonium at the Ojo area of Lagos State some days back. Reason: A woman had just discovered that her three children were dead. It was already over a month since the total lockdown in the state and neither the woman nor her husband could go out to eke out a living.

According to neighbours, they had been managing to feed since the lockdown as the husband who is a vulcanizer had not had any job to do and she couldn’t go out to sell her wares either.

Out of frustration, the woman was said to have given her children who had not eaten anything for two days, some medicine to sleep pending the time their father would come back as he had found a way to go out to look for food for them.

When he returned, they tried to wake the children up. Shockingly, they were dead.

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), child malnutrition is a direct or underlying cause of 45 per cent of all deaths of children under five years worldwide.

Malnutrition refers to getting too little or too much nutrients. It can lead to serious health issues, including stunted growth, eye problems, diabetes and heart disease.

Currently, Nigeria has the second highest burden of stunted children in the world, with a national prevalence rate of 32 per cent of children under five.

Estimated 2.5 million children in Nigeria suffer from severe malnutrition, but only two out of every 10 children affected is currently reached with treatment.

 

There’ll be increased malnutrition: UNICEF

When The Nation contacted UNICEF, its Chief of Nutrition, Simeon Nanama said amid COVID-19 pandemic, UNICEF has intensified efforts in the fight against child malnutrition in Nigeria.

According to him, with the rise in the scourge of COVID-19 pandemic, UNICEF has rejigged its fight against child malnutrition, even as he added that before the outbreak of the pandemic Nigeria was struggling with child malnutrition both as a public health and development concern.

He said Nigeria relies heavily on oil and the price of oil has gone down because of COVID-19. This has greatly impacted its economy.

Internally Nigeria is on lockdown and a lot of people who rely on daily work to earn a living are all in their homes. Nanama said this will have an impact on nutrition.

“Again, these mitigation measures are happening at the beginning of the rainy season.  If they had to be extended, they will affect the planting season.

This will result in medium-and long-term impact on food security and this, in the long run, will affect child malnutrition,” he said.

On the problem associated with the lockdown, which he said is the disruption of the food system which is critically important for nutrition, he said: “We will see an increase in malnutrition.

We will also see a spread in the geographic distribution of malnutrition because the lockdown is more severe in some states than in others.

“Also, cities where lockdowns appear to be more enforced, may become the new centres of child malnutrition, which has not been the pattern of malnutrition in Nigeria.”

On what they have done, he said UNICEF has done a COVID-19 proofing of its nutrition programme, which aims to ensure that it continues to deliver critical nutrition services while observing the mitigation measures, including social distancing and hand washing.

“We have received a lot of guidance from the regional office and from the global level which applied to our programmes and those guidelines have been shared with government to ensure that they can use and implement it,” he said.

He said UNICEF encouraged the government to establish a task force on nutrition to help get a voice at the presidential task force on COVID-19, to ensure that the mitigation measures and support that government is providing includes nutrition.

Nanama said the UNICEF is advocating to government to “make sure that there is access to health centres, that the flow of food and other nutrition services are not impeded, and the food supply system is not completely broken. To make sure they factor nutrition in actions and palliatives such as food distribution for COVID-19.

“In the context where schools are closed, it is important to still reach children with food and commodities because we know that in some areas, children rely on this school feeding programme to get their only daily food intake.

“UNICEF  is also in collaboration with the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) so that infected mothers who have children under the age of two are able to breastfeed their babies in line with the guidelines on breastfeeding and COVID-19.”

In enforcing the social distancing restriction, he said UNICEF has trained mothers and supplied them with middle and upper arm circumference (MUAC) tapes so that they can screen their children themselves and bring them to the health facilities for treatment. He said it has also changed the admission modalities at the malnutrition treatment centres.

“Instead of designating one day in a week for treatment of malnourished children, it is now daily. This limits the crowds and enforces social distancing which is one of the COVID-19 mitigation measures.

These actions are aimed at limiting the impact of COVID-19 on child malnutrition in Nigeria and not exacerbate the problem,” he said.

Fruits, vegetables important – Brai

One time President Nutrition Society of Nigeria, Bartholomew Brai, of the Federal University, Oye-Ekiti who spoke with The Nation on phone said Nutrition is a multi-sectorial issue. Once any sector is facing a major problem, it will impact negatively on the nutritional status of individuals.

He said the COVID-19 pandemic is a major health issue around the world. “Nations are adopting several but diverse measures that could lead to the containment of the disease.

These measures include partial or total lockdown of cities/regions and restrictions on local and international travels.

“The pandemic is mopping up the financial resources of individuals, households, communities and nations as well as disrupting the food systems and existing strategies to address the high burden of malnutrition in Nigeria.

“Mandatory lockdowns have led to income reductions/losses due to loss of jobs/livelihoods. Thus individuals find it difficult to provide for their families.

“The food supply chain is affected by the restrictions on movement. Supply constraints bring about demand shocks and its attendant price hikes leading to breakdown of food markets. All these will negatively affect access to food,” he said.

Brai said at the moment our weak health care system is overburdened, adding that resources for nutrition, including health care providers, are being mobilised to combat COVID-19.

“Health and nutrition services such as antenatal care, micronutrients supplementation, prevention and treatment of childhood diarrhea, infections and acute malnutrition are no longer receiving adequate attention,” he said.

Calling on various stakeholders to work together to effectively manage the pandemic, promote adequate nutrition and reduce post-COVID-19 burden and severity of malnutrition, he said government should provide resources for maternal and child health care by ensuring availability of care providers, adequate and regular provision of essential maternal and infant health care services. It should equally sustain life-saving efforts to prevent and treat infectious diseases such as malaria and diarrhea.

“Government should make use of available community structures to reach school-age children enrolled in the school home-grown feeding programme,” he said.

On what individuals and parents should do, he said individuals should eat balanced meals to ensure adequate nutrition, parents should choose from the various food groups to ensure adequate consumption of nutrients- both in quality and quantity.

“Fresh fruits and vegetables that are in season should be included in the diet to supply vitamins and minerals,” he noted.

Not leaving physical activities out, he said it should be encouraged to prevent overweight and obesity which are forms of over nutrition.

 

Edo’s controversial agric loans [Nation]

Edo State government and the Safe Edo Movement (SEM), a socio-political organisation, are at loggerheads over controversial agriculture loans, writes BISI OLANIYI, Southsouth Bureau Chief.

 

Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki has always stated that his administration was committed to agricultural development and empowerment of residents of the  state, but members of a socio-political organisation, the Safe Edo Movement (SEM) appeared not impressed with this.

In order to know the truth about the much touted agric loans, meant to jumpstart agricultural revolution in the state, SEM, through its President, Chris Oshokha Ethuakhor, wrote a strongly-worded petition to the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed.

Copies of the petition, which alleged fraud in Edo’s agric loans, particularly diversion of the funds, were also sent to the World Bank, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

The socio-political organisation said: “Ever since the year 2018, various interventionist initiatives and policies, backed by funds from Nigeria’s prime economic institution, the CBN, and the global World Bank, have been pumped into Edo State. These policies, initiatives and funds, although channeled towards agriculture, have all gone largely unaccounted for.

“Of major concern to us is that loans obtained under the guise of boosting agricultural productivity do not end up in the hands of Edo State’s farmers, who are in dire need of support. Rather and sadly too, the funds go missing or end up in the pockets of private hijackers.

“It is the aim of this petition to call the attention of the World Bank, CBN, EFCC and the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning to the series of unresolved cases pointing towards corruption.

We hope that a team of competent investigators, made up of civil society organisations, public officers and operatives of EFCC will be asked to investigate the misappropriation of loans given to Edo State government between 2017 and 2020.”

SEM also stated that the method and process of obtaining the loans were shrouded in secrecy, thereby necessitating the call for diligent investigation in order to know the truth and that those found culpable be arrested and prosecuted as this will serve as a deterrent to others.

It said: “In 2017, the CBN gave N2 billion loan to Edo State government, for the production of maize, under the agripreneur programme.

The last known and traceable activity with this fund is that Edo State government transferred it to SARO Agro Sciences Limited to cultivate and manage the 5,000-hectare maize farm at Sobe, on behalf of Edo State government.

After this known activity, the whole initiative has disappeared into thin air, and to this date, nothing has been heard of it. We implore the CBN to spearhead a thorough investigation that will inform Nigerians of how the fund was spent.

“In 2019, the CBN gave Edo State government a loan of an undisclosed amount, urging that the fund be spent in support of the state’s agripreneur programme, through the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk-Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL).

The fund, the CBN conceived, should aid the cultivation of the 5,000 hectares of rice farm in Agenegbode, Warrake, Iguomon, Illushi and Iguoriakhi, all in Edo State.

“At the start of the farming season, which began in July 2019, each farmer was tentatively given the sum of N1.3 million, which was distributed and held in accounts at Sterling Bank and could only be accessed by NIRSAL.

“Even though the rice was cultivated and later harvested the same year’s October, the farmers are, to date, yet to receive their money lodged in Sterling Bank’s accounts.

The last probing that was answered had the Edo State Ministry of Agriculture stating that the rice paddings were moved from Agenegbode to Abakiliki in Ebonyi State for processing, because Edo State does not have a rice-processing mill despite all the agricultural investments in the state.”

SEM also stated that in 2019, the CBN approved the sum of N65 billion for the Edo State Oil Palm Programme (ESOPP), which it said would definitely be used to support Ellah Lakes Plc, managed by Mr. Chuka Mordi, who according to the group, fronted for Obaseki, while stressing that Edo governor had already ceded the state-owned lands in Igwelaba to the company.

The socio-political body, however, lamented that till date, no tangible progress has been made on the project, neither was there a public update to the effect.

It said: “In what appears to be a reinforcement of existing progress, in the year 2020, an additional N5 billion loan was approved by the CBN for the agripreneur programme.

This would not have drawn the ire of the public, except that there is no ongoing activity or progress on the said agripreneur programme.

This draws curiosity on the seeming bottomlessness of the programme that fails provable evidence and refuses completion.

“Having studied the transactions, we are convinced that the records and history of the handling of these funds are not impressive. Put mildly, the continued loan approvals, even in the face of obvious misappropriation, amounts to insult of the intelligence of Edo people.”

It continued: “It is imperative to note that, besides mere speeches given at t

. Edo people are asking why the CBN continues to give loans to Edo State government, when it is clear that these loans end up in private pockets, except that some vested interests benefit from the mismanagement of these loans, despicably, to the detriment of Edo citizens.

“All of us at the SEM, therefore, by our devotion to the advocacy of the good of the common Edo people, feel obligated to bring the grumblings and dissatisfaction of the people to the notice of the Central Bank Governor, World Bank, EFCC and the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning.

“It will serve the utmost purpose of social justice and restoring public confidence in the concerned institutions if, as we requested, you investigate all loans given by the CBN to Edo State government from 2017 to date and objectively inform the public of the findings.”

SEM, in line with best practices, also strongly recommended that while the investigation would last, further disbursement of loans to the state should be halted, adding that it will ensure that there are no further complications and/or further avenue for unmitigated fraud, which the government had been indicted and suspected of.

However, Obaseki’s Special Adviser on Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security, Prince Joe Okojie, during a news conference at the Government House, Benin, the state capital, dismissed allegations levelled against Obaseki’s administration by SEM, particularly on the agric loans.

Okojie said: “Edo State agriprenuer programme started since the inception of this (Obaseki’s) administration. Governor Obaseki’s position is that the quickest and easiest way to create wealth and engage our teeming youths and women, is through agriculture.

“So, at the initial stage, we did some pilots, using Fadama farms. We later had crops and livestock farms across the 18 local government areas of Edo state. The way the farms work is that in a particular area, we aggregate the farmers, who are farming a particular crop or livestock.

In crop production, each farmer gets about five hectares. In cassava production, each of the farmers gets two hectares, because cassava has a longer gestation period.

“You were all present when we launched Edo State Oil Palm Programme (ESOPP), where the Governor of the CBN, Godwin Emefiele, was present and he committed up to 75 per cent of the total investment required to do phase one, which was about N91.3 billion.

The 75 per cent is about N68.9 billion. The money does not come to the state. It is not a loan to the state. The commitment that the CBN governor made would be a loan to the would-be investors, who must demonstrate that they have capacity to bring 25 per cent equity to the table.

Once they have demonstrated that, then the CBN can loan them up to 75 per cent of the investment required.

“As we speak, we have our implementation committee set up and the members are working round the clock, to make sure we allocate the lands to our would-be investors, so that the programme can kick off in earnest.”

Okojie also revealed that under the agripreneur programme, the state government mainly concentrated on five main crops: rice, soyabeans, maize, cassava and oilpalm.

He said: “I do not really want to take issue with the people (members of SEM) that are flying the kite. I am not aware of any N2 billion that was allegedly given. I am not also aware that Edo State took a loan of N2 billion for agripreneur purpose.

“What I am aware of is that Edo State government took a loan of N5 billion for the agripreneur programme, which we have been using for agricultural development, especially from land development to crops’ cultivation. The loan is domiciled in Sterling Bank. The balance is still in excess of N4 billion, in spite of all that we are producing this year. It is an ongoing project.

“Some of the funds were used for land development. You must first bring people to remove the trees, before you can start mechanising the farms.

The money you spent on land development does not come back to you. It is part of the long-term investments.

What comes back to you is the money you spent on crop production, which when you sell the crops, the money comes back to the account.”

According to him, during the 2019 farming season, officials of Edo government had to go as far as Kano and Kaduna states, to get tractors since the state had not been farming in that capacity and was without the needed implements.

He said: “So, Governor Obaseki partnered the private sector that came to set up a mechanisation hub in the Agricultural Development  Programme (ADP).

So that this year (2020), we would not have to go too far to get some tractors to start. Even though we brought some tractors from outside Edo State, but we were able to start before those ones came.

“The way the programme works is that we identify the farmers, funds are paid into the farmers’ accounts and there is a lien on the funds, so that the farmers will not be able to just take the money out. From the accounts, we pay for inputs and agro-chemicals.

At the end of the day, we will bring for them the off-takers that buy the produce from them. The off-takers pay into the off-takers’ accounts from where the farmers’ accounts are credited.

The loan was at the rate of nine per cent interest. I understand that the CBN has reduced it to five per cent, but as at last year, it was nine per cent annual rate.

“Loans and the interests are deducted, and the balance, which is the profit of the farmers, is released to the farmers. Last year’s farmers, when they were given their money, it was done publicly and Governor Obaseki personally handed them their profit cheques.

The programme is working and it has been a success. It is true that some people might not have made profit. If you plant and you do not tend to your farm, you will not get the desired yield.

When the farmers sell their produce, they must pay back the loans. Farmers that did not make profit last year, we are giving them opportunity again this year to re-farm and come up with some creative ways, so that they will be able to make profit.

“Allegation that money disappeared from farmers’ accounts is laughable. We paid the money into the farmers’ accounts after the off-takers had paid and the farmers took their profit.

The farmers must pay back the loans and the interests. The money needs to be pooled, so that it can be directed for the following year’s production.”

Obaseki’s aide, who disclosed that other programmes would come up, also assured that Edo government would scale up the activities this year.

He said: “We are at the stage of clearing the land and we do not have the luxury of irrigation, as most of our crops are rain-fed and they are all-time sensitive. If you plant rice after May, you may not get the desired yield, but you can plant cassava year round.

“A few days ago, we added yam and groundnut to the crops that we are going to support the farmers on. Groundnut in Edo North Senatorial District and yam across the state, because yam does well across Edo State. All the steps we are taking are to mitigate against food insecurity post Covid-19. The petition writers’ best know their intentions,” he said.

He added: “The Coronavirus Disease has been a blessing in disguise, in the sense that we are producing more now than we produced last year and we are going to produce more.

Since the outbreak of Covid-19, most Edo people and other Nigerians have been at home eating, as well as buying off all the food items in bulk and giving them to the vulnerable.”

He also said there would be shortage of food at some point because the rate at which the people were buying the food items could not match production.

To him, Obaseki had forseen what could possibly happen and taken steps to mitigate against food shortage in Edo by coming up with a programme.

It included people no longer relying on the food production through the agripreneur programme, but government officials going to farmers producing independently and helping them to increase their productivity.

Okojie said: “For identified farmers across the 18 LGAs of Edo State, if each of them was farming one acre before, we want to make sure he/she is now farming a minimum of one hectare.

In the one hectare, we will clear the land for you, mechanise it, give inputs/improved seedlings and agro-chemicals that will help increase the productivity.

“That is why we decided to add yam and groundnut. All these are steps being taken by Governor Obaseki to ensure that we successfully mitigate against food insecurity during or post-Covid-19.”

+ posts

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here