CAN unveils guidelines for June reopening of worship centres [Sun]

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has unveiled guidelines for the reopening of churches in the first week of June.

CAN President,  Samson Ayokunle, in a statement yesterday, said discussions were ongoing with the Federal Government for the reopening of churches.

He said such move would allow congregational cry unto God over the pandemic.”

There has been a ban on large gatherings and open worship announced by various state governments following COVID-19 outbreak.

“We are discussing with the Federal Government on the re-opening of the churches nationwide. We know the danger of COVID-19 is not over yet but we are thinking that if we engage this method of congregational cry unto God over the pandemic, God would hear our prayers,” the statement read.

“The government from our discussions wants us to draw up suggested guidelines for worship in keeping with COVID-19 containment requirements and submit for approval.

“Below is a draft which I want you to see and possibly add to, if there is any remaining. Quick response is important because I and the Sultan of Sokoto would hold a zoom meeting with the Secretary to the Government of the Federation this week. We hope that latest by the first week in June, we would be back in churches nationwide.”

Ayokunle said churches will disinfect their premises, as well as make provisions for alcohol sanitisers, among others.

He also suggested the use of face masks and adherence to other social distancing measures.

“The suggested guidelines: Churches should disinfect their premises first before they are reopened for services,” it read.

“Churches should provide alcoholic sanitizers, temperature readers, soap and water in their Premises to be supervised by medical professionals in the Church.

“Every worshipper must either use soap to wash their hands or apply sanitizers.

“The temperature  of every worshipper must be taken before admission into the church and people with the high temperature should not be allowed into the church but be advised to go and see their doctors.

“Every worshipper must wear face mask. Social distancing should be observed in the sitting arrangement with one meter gap between two worshippers.

“One and a half hour service is enough for a start. There should  be a gap of 25 or 30 minutes between one service and another where there are multiple services to avoid crowd.

“Churches can make use of classrooms and multipurpose halls for services where available, especially in big churches in order to accommodate more worshippers at a go. TV circuit and speakers can be used for those who are not inside the main auditorium.

“Handshaking and hugging should be avoided before, during and after the service. Prayers should be offered to God for a speedy end of COVID-19 and quick recovery of all that are afflicted by the pandemic. Prayers should also be offered for those frontline workers for divine protection.

“CAN in each state and local government should constitute a committee together with law enforcement agencies in their area to enforce full compliance. Such civilian compliance officials should be given backing by the governments to apprehend those who contravene the worship regulations and hand them over to law enforcement agents.

“Churches observing Holy Communion service should use separate cup for each participant.”

 

DHQ raises the alarm over inter state movement of bandits [Sun]

The Defence Headquarters has raised the alarm over the inter state movement of armed bandits as the nation battles the COVID-19 pandemic.

The coordinator, defence media operations, Major General John Enenche, who raised the alarm, however, assured that the armed forces has put proactive measures in place to handle the situation.

Enenche, at a media briefing in Abuja, said the military, working in conjunction with the police and other security agencies in the country, have put stringent measures in the North West to tackle interstate movement of armed bandits and other criminals within the North West and North Central zones. He further stated that air assets have been deployed to cover Kaduna, Niger, Nasarawa and Kogi states to curb the menace.

Enenche said: “There are worries from some quarters in the North West and North Central parts of the country that armed bandits could escape from states where the Armed Forces of Nigeria and other security agencies are conducting various operations at the moment, to other states.

“In this regard, the High Command of the Nigerian Military hereby assures all concerned that proactive measures are in place to handle such occurrences. To address this specifically, all current operations are in synergy with the ongoing operations in the North West to tackle interstate movement of armed bandits and other criminals within the North West and North Central zones. In addition, air assets have been deployed to cover Kaduna, Niger, Nasarawa and Kogi states.

“I am to affirm that, the Armed Forces of Nigeria is totally committed to tackling all the security challenges in the country until normalcy is restored. Hence, the public is requested to continue to provide credible information to the Nigerian Military.”

There has been outcry over the mass movement of suspicious persons from a certain part of the country to the south, particularly the South East despite the ban on interstate travels.

It is suspected that the violators of the interstate movement ban could  be on sinister mission.

 

As FG considers re-opening 5 airports [Sun]

  • Says airlines to pay for crew COVID-19 test bi-weekly

Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has released COVID-19 Pandemic Public Health Protocols for Nigerian based crew operating international flights, stating that the flight crew will not be quarantined but must undergo mandatory testing for COVID-19 every 14 days at a cost to the air operator upon return to Nigeria and crew members who test positive will be taken to a treatment centres for further management.

The protocol also states that flight crew must now wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and observe Infection, Prevention and Control (IPC) measures for the duration of the flight. This is as the NCAA is also considering the gradual lifting of domestic travel restrictions with the re-opening of four or five airports at a time and also carrying out campaigns to rebuild confidence and encourage people to resume flying.

In a letter with reference NCAA/DG/AIR/11/16/120 dated May 27, 2020 and signed by the Director General, Captain Musa Nuhu, to all operators, airports and other service providers, the new protocol approved by Federal Ministry of Health replaces the current practice where Nigerian based flight crew members who operate international flights are quarantined for 14 days upon their return to Nigeria.

According to the letter, Nigerian based airlines and crew wishing to conduct flight operations outside the country shall be required to ensure orientation and sensitisation of crew on Infection, Prevention and Control (IPC) measures as per training and guidance from public health authorities. They would ensure they have adequate stock of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), minimum 70percent alcohol-based hand sanitisers and Universal Precaution Kits (UPK) on board aircraft before the flight. “Flight crew members will have no physical contact with any persons while in a foreign country, including ground handling staff, airline staff, embassy staff, drivers, protocol officers, hotel/accommodation staff etc.

Upon return to Nigeria flight crew will not be quarantined but will undergo mandatory testing for COVID-19 every 14 days at cost to the Air Operator. Crew members who test positive for COVID-19 will be taken to a treatment center for further management.

 

2020 revised budget: FG raises debt servicing to N3trn [Sun]

  • As Senate gears to approve Buhari’s $5.5bn loan, budget next Tuesday

As part of moves to realign the 2020 budget with current realities, the Federal Government has jerked up some components of its revised Appropriation Act while also reducing other aspects.

According to a document seen by Daily Sun, the sum of N2.951 trillion has been set aside for debt servicing, with  a total of N4. 928 trillion now being earmarked for recurrent (Non-Debt Expenditure), while the sum of N2.230 trillion is for capital expenditure.

The total budget has also been reduced by N85 billion as the Federal Government is now seeking for the approval of N10.509 trillion, as against its earlier N10.594 trillion.

Consequently, aggregate revenue available to fund the 2020 budget is now projected at N5.09 trillion (35% or N2.78 trillion less than 2020 budget passed by the National Assembly).

Out of this amount, about 26per cent is projected to come from oil related sources, while the balance is to be earned from non-oil sources. The provision from Stamp Duty was reduced to N200 billion from N463.95 billion, while Signature Bonus is now down to N350.52 billion from N939.30 billion.

With the retained revenues of the ten major Government-Owned Enterprises (GOES), the aggregate Federal Government revenue is projected at N5.56 trillion.

The 2020 Appropriation Act (Amendment) Bill is now predicated on oil production of 1.93 million barrels per day and a benchmark oil price of $35 dollar per barrel.

The official exchange rate has also been adjusted upwards to N360/ $1 by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). At the Importers and Exporters Foreign Exchange (IEFX) window, where the bulk of foreign exchange transactions are consummated, the exchange rate recently depreciated from about N360/ US$1 in January, 2020 to over N385/US$1.

In the earlier 2020 Budget, oil production was put at  2.18 million barrels per day at a benchmark oil price of $57 dollar per barrel and an exchange rate of £305 to a dollar.

According to the document, the Federal Government is expected to lose about $26 billion from oil revenues. Oil is Nigeria’s major source of revenue used in funding the budget.

Meanwhile, President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, has given three Senate Committees- Local and Foreign Debt; Finance; and Appropriation a five-day ultimatum to submit their reports to enable the upper legislative chamber pass President Muhammadu Buhari’s $5.513 billion loan request and the 2020 revised budget.

Lawan gave the order on Tuesday when he read two letters from President Buhari. By Lawan’s directive, the relevant Committees are expected to work on the documents on Friday and Monday.

The Senate Committees will bypass a serious scrutiny of the documents and may not hold public hearings, where representatives of the various Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) will come for a defence.

Similarly, State Governments who are expected to benefit from the loan request, may not send representatives to make any defence since the Senate placed a ban on public hearing.

 

How to beat COVID-19, by Buhari [Nation]

President Muhammadu Buhari has said the support of developed countries and international financial organisations to poorer countries will help to beat COVID-19.

Buhari renewed the campaign for debt cancellation for African countries on Thursday during a virtual meeting for about 50 countries across the globe, convened by Canada, Jamaica and the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Speaking during the meeting, tagged “High-Level Event on Financing for Development in the Era of COVID-19 and Beyond’’, President Buhari observed that global solidarity was the hope for humanity, adding that debt cancellation for African countries would help the human race to reverse the devastations of COVID-19.

 

According to a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, the President also cautioned major nations against adopting a ‘’me first’’ and ‘’every man for himself’’ attitude.

His words: ‘’The world has changed through COVID-19 and so must the global financing architecture for development financing and the response to the current pandemic. There is an urgent need for weak and needy countries, especially those of Africa, to receive a fresh reprieve.

‘’This is a historic plague affecting every corner of the globe. In the circumstances, the response needed must be global, unconditional, comprehensive, and rapid. Debts must be forgiven and cancelled. Free additional resources are needed urgently through an international consensus to enable poor countries work to reverse the devastations of COVID-19 to the human race.

‘’Rising now and standing together in true global solidarity to my mind is the only hope for humanity, the best approach to safeguarding the 2030 SDGs and the only way we can build back for more resilient economies and societies. ‘’

The President apprised the international community of the devastating impact of the pandemic on the Nigerian economy, the health sector and efforts by his government to mitigate the crisis.

‘’For Nigeria, the shocks are multiple, including the sharp decline in international oil prices which has negatively impacted revenues and growth, worsened external and domestic positions, and further increased banking sector vulnerabilities, resulting in enormous human and economic toll on the country.

‘’We have been proactive in implementing a number of strong measures, including fiscal, monetary and structural policies, and a multi-front response to the health crisis created by COVID-19 which captures all tiers of Government as well as the private sector.

‘’Our objective is to revert to the government’s planned medium-term fiscal consolidation path once the crisis is over. Our strategy for macroeconomic stability is anchored on our home-grown Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), ‘’ he said.

Buhari said Nigeria revised its 2020 budget downwards and shifted emphasis to response activities towards bridging the critical gaps in the health infrastructures to strengthen national response to COVID-19 and other diseases.

On demographics and health, the President told the meeting that with an estimated population of 200 million and a large segment of economically vulnerable population, Nigeria had a high burden of communicable and non-communicable diseases.

‘’This level of disease burden, coupled with poverty level and Nigeria’s weak system; the COVID-19 pandemic is certainly jeopardizing and reversing the gains already made by the Government and its partners including in such other areas as outbreaks of Lassa and yellow fevers and measles,’’ he said.

 

Buhari, Obasanjo, AfDB board back Adesina [Nation]

The Federal Government and ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo have faulted the call by the United States for an independent investigation of African Development Bank (AfDB) President Dr. Akinwumi Adesina.

Obasanjo and the government urged the bank’s Board of Governors to ignore the U.S.

Adesina was accused of favouritism but was absolved of the allegations by the bank’s ethics committee.

The letters were addressed to board chairman, Niale Kaba who is also Cote d’Voire’s Minister of Planning and Development.

Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning Zainab Ahmed, whop wrote on  behalf of the Federal Government, said: “The call for an independent investigation of the president is outside of the laid down rules, procedures and governing system of the bank and its articles as it relates to the code of conduct on ethics for the president.”

Obasanjo, in his letter, said:  ”Unfortunately, the U.S. government, through the U.S. treasury secretary, has written a public letter (that was also distributed to the press globally) to disagree with the conclusions of the ethics committee of the board of directors and the chairman of the board of governors of the bank. Instead of accepting the exoneration of the president of the bank, they called for an independent investigation.

“This is outside of the rules, laws, procedures and governance systems of the bank. The US treasury secretary disparaged the bank and ridiculed the entire governance system of the bank, which has been in place since 1964.

“This is unprecedented in the annals of the African Development Bank Group. If we do not rise up and defend the African Development Bank, this might mean the end of the African Development Bank, as its governance will be hijacked away from Africa.”

Obasanjo said AfDB must remain an “African-focused development bank, rather than one which serves interests outside Africa”.

Also, the bank’s Board of Governors denied reports that Adesina was asked to resign. The board, in a statement by Kaba said no decision has been, taken on the complaint by some shareholders about the Ethics Committee report exonerating Adesina of allegations of ethical misconduct.

The Board pleaded to be allowed to do its work without interference.

The statement reads: “On Tuesday, 26 May, the office of the Board of Governors of the African Development Bank Group held a meeting to examine the matter arising from a complaint from the Board of Directors of the Bank, and about that which I received from some shareholders expressing different points of view.

”Following this meeting, several publications in the international press were brought to my attention concerning the content of the deliberations of said meeting. This leads me to make clarifications to avoid any misunderstanding.

“The Office, which I chair, wishes to reassure the public that it has taken up the matter and is treating it with the greatest rigour and with all the seriousness that it deserves. However, the Office informs the public that no decision has been made as falsely conveyed in some publications.

“I must emphasise that there is no institutional crisis within the African Development Bank Group. Above all, in no case has the President of the Bank Group been asked to resign.

“Everyone must allow the Office to do its work and let the process of examining this case take its course. The opinion of all the governors will be sought for its successful outcome.”

 

NAFDAC, others get Madagascar’s drug for review [Nation]

Federal Government health agencies including the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration Control (NAFDAC) have received Madagascar’s COVID-19 treatment drug for evaluation.

The samples were brought to the country on May 16 by Guinea Bissau President Umaro Sissoco Embaló.

Minister of health Dr. Osagie Ehanire said on Thursday that the samples were found to be in two varieties  – one for prevention, the other for treatment.

The other government agencies that also got samples of “COVID Organics” are:  National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD), and Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR).

The herbal solution will be thoroughly x-rayed and analysed by the agencies to determine the constituents, toxicological, and efficacy.

Dr. Ehanire said: “Global efforts to find a cure for COVID-19, in which Nigeria is participating in the WHO solidarity trial, will be reviewed by our panel of experts, as WHO suspended the trial, due to alarm raised by a medical journal, on the safety of some drugs being tried, like hydroxychloroquine, chloroquine and their combinations.

“Proposals for trial of local remedies for the disease have been sent to the relevant research and testing agencies for scientific evaluation.

“Samples of the Madagascar herbs have been given to three agencies of the Ministry of Health – NAFDAC, NIPRD and NIMR. We have written to the Ministry of Science and Technology to expect samples because they also have agencies that conduct research on phyto-medicines.

“These are normal processes for new preparations to be approved for use in Nigeria, and include toxicological and efficacy tests and clinical trials. Government will investigate all genuine efforts to find home grown solutions to the pandemic.”

The Director-General of the West Africa Health Organization (WAHO), Prof. Stanley Okoli, also added that it will support traditional practitioners with claims of either an outright cure for COVID-19 or its treatment, with clinical trials.

He stressed that WAHO is yet to endorse Madagascar’s solution for the treatment and management of COVID-19 patients.

 

Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Kano airports to reopen in ‘few days’ [Nation]

Major airports in the country will in the “next few days” roar into life after weeks of inactivity caused by the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.

The airports are the Murtala Mohammed Airport, Ikeja; Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja; Aminu Kano Arport, Kano and the Port Harcourt Airport, Choba, Rivers State.

The  Federal Government on March 16 placed a travel ban on 13 countries, including China, United States  and Italy  that had recorded over 1,000 cases of Coronavirus.

On March 13 it shut all  airports for one month and later extended it by two weeks. On May 6, the government further extended the airports’ closure by four weeks until June 7.

The decision to commence flights at the airports, according to the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), is to avoid chocking the “system.”

NCAA Director-General, Captain Musa Nuhu stated this at a virtual event organised by the Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ART) titled COVID-19: The Challenges and Opportunity for Nigeria’s Aviation Value Chain, During and Post.

Nuhu said the NCAA worked with representatives of  airlines and ground handling companies before forwarding a proposal to the Minister of Aviation for approval.

The NCAA boss said: “We may resume domestic operations with four or five airports and we hope to expand as we get better. We don’t want to rush everything at the same time and get it choked up….

“Every money is important and we cannot achieve the two-meter physical distance. We are hopeful in the next few days we can resolve those issues and allow the airlines to commence operations.

“We have made our suggestion and recommendations and we are awaiting feedback from the Ministry of Aviation.”

Nuhu  said air transport must be safe and not become part of the ways of  spreading Coronavirus. He stated that physical distancing was an issue as discussions were still on on leaving the middle seats in an aircraft vacant.

Chairman, Air Peace, Mr Allen Onyema, urged  the government  to provide intervention for local carriers.

He said such intervention should be specific in order to enable the airlines retain their workers.

Onyema however disagreed with plans to leave the middle seats of aircraft free  as that could further affect  the revenue of the airlines.

He said: “The world is on break and nothing is happening. The authorities have reeled out things and these things come with a huge cost.  How will airlines manage them and still be able to pay about 37 charges.

“I do not want free money that I cannot account for. This is not an opportunity to ask for money to buy new planes. In fact, intervention should be for the work force. I have over 3, 000 staff  members at Air Peace. These people’s livelihood are endangered and we must do everything possible to keep  their jobs.

“We should be asking the government for specific things that would help retain jobs. Job retention should be first and foremost.”

NCAA has however released COVID-19 protocols as approved by the Federal Ministry of Health for the aviation industry.

The protocols are for Nigeria-based crew operating international flights.

The crew members are now required to wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and observe Infection, Prevention and Control (IPC) measures for the duration of their flights.

Nuhu, who announced the approval of the new protocols in a letter to airline operators, airports and other service providers, added  that the crew members  would not be  quarantined  but would undergo mandatory testing for COVID-19 every 14 days at the expense of their employers.

According to the letter, the new protocols replace the current practice where Nigeria- based international flight crew members are quarantined for 14 days upon their return to Nigeria.

Nuhu added that in the new protocols the airliners must ensure among others, orientation and sensitization of their crew on Infection, Prevention and Control (IPC) measures.

The protocols also state that airlines must  have adequate stock of  PPE, minimum 70 per cent  alcohol-based hand sanitizers and Universal Precaution Kits (UPK) on board every aircraft.

The letter reads in part: “Onboard the flight crew will  request passengers wash their hands after using the lavatory, apply disinfectant spray in lavatory every 60 minutes during the flight and maintain a safe distance between passengers and themselves; avoid direct physical contact and serve only pre-packed meals to passengers.

“Flight deck crew must wear non-medical face masks and gloves but can remove  face masks   when the cockpit door is closed.

“They must also ensure safe removal of gloves after performing specific tasks and avoid touching their face and eyes with unclean hands.”

 

NCDC cries out as rapid test kits black market rises [Punch]

  • FG to use hotels, schools as quarantine, isolation centres
  • Hospitals’ refusal to treat patients leads to more deaths – FG

The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 on Thursday raised the alarm over increasing deaths caused by rejection of patients in the country’s hospitals.

The PTF Chairman and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha,   at the task force press conference in Abuja, lamented that despite the admonition of the Federal Ministry of Health,  hospitals were still rejecting non-COVID-19 patients.

Also at the press conference, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control Director General, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, raised the alarm over growing rapid test kits black market in the country.

According to him, some organisations are selling “what they call antibody tests.” He, therefore warned that such “antibody tests” could not give valid COVID-19 results.

Nigeria currently has  8,733 COVID-19 patients and  112 isolation centres in 35 states and the Federal Capital Territory. There are 29 laboratories, where COVID-19 is being tested.

With COVID-19 cases rising   to 8,733  on Wednesday,  the task force  warned that the government could not cope with increasing  coronavirus cases.

We are recording more deaths over hospital’s refusal to treat patients, F G laments

But on Thursday, Mustapha raised the alarm that more deaths were being recorded from non-coronavirus illnesses in the country.

It attributed this to the refusal of hospitals, including federal institutions, to treat patients for fear of COVID-19.

The PUNCH had on Wednesday reported that a man, identified simply as Joel,  lost his life after he was allegedly refused treatment by the Isolo General Hospital in Lagos State over fear of being a COVID-19 patient.

On May 6, PUNCH Healthwise reported that a female artiste, Bertha Mary Okey,  lamented how hospitals refused to treat her brother, Sylvester Okey, before he died.

Mustapha, at the presidential task force briefing,  said,  “The PTF has received rather sadly, reports of continued refusal by medical institutions to receive and treat patients for fear of COVID-19. This has resulted in several unfortunate and avoidable fatalities and statistics have shown that there is a drastic drop in the percentage of attention being paid to other ailments not related to COVID-19.

“This situation is made worse by the fact that federal tertiary institutions have been mentioned among those rejecting patients for fear of COVID-19. This is not acceptable. We are saddened by this development.

“The minister of health has reached out to all medical directors directing them to continue providing regular medical services so that we do not end up with avoidable deaths. Truth be told, we are having more deaths from non-attendance to other diseases than even COVID-19.”

The SGF urged all the chief medical directors and private health service providers to attend to other health challenges, which had continued to confront people on a daily basis.

PTF to submit report to President on Sunday

The PTF chairman said further recommendations would be submitted to the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.),  in the next 72 hours after an assessment report on the eased lockdown.

He said, “Within the next 72 hours, the PTF will conclude its assessment on the impact of the measures put in place and further recommendations would be submitted to the President for a decision.”

PTF calls for attitudinal change

Mustapha stated that task force had continued to stress the need for a drastic change in lifestyle and behaviour because  COVID-19 was long term and that the cure was not readily available.

He stated, “This advisory is based on the fact that the battle is long term and the cure is still in the distant future, nearest being towards the end of 2021. We continue to urge our citizens to follow these advisories diligently.”

He said that the PTF  had not shortlisted three drugs for the treatment of COVID-19 as reported in the media.

He said, “For the avoidance of doubts, neither the PTF nor the Federal Ministry of Health has shortlisted any remedies. This can only be done after diligent processes and as may be advised by the relevant agencies.”

The PTF National Coordinator, Dr Sani Aliyu, said the task force would be focusing on greater community mobilisation by engaging over 800,000 volunteers.

Aliyu stated, “This strategy involves an aggressive campaign to ensure everyone in the community is armed with the information they need to stop the spread of COVID-19 and to protect themselves.

“It will empower communities to self-mobilise within their interest groups and collectively practise and enforce prevention measures.”

Aliyu said the campaign would cut across communities in the 774 local government areas at the grassroots by engaging partners such as the National Orientation Agency, the Nigerian Red Cross Society, the United Nations Children Education Fund, Jamaatu Nasrul Islam, National Council for Women Societies, Yar’Adua Foundation, Nigerian Interfaith Action Association, the UN system and many more.

At the press conference, the NCDC director general said there were  organisations selling  “antibody tests.”

He said, “It’s important to understand what an antibody test is. When an antibody test works, it only tells you if you have been exposed and infected. It doesn’t tell you if you have an active infection or not. Therefore, on its own, it is very difficult to use it to make a clinical decision.

“So, I would really encourage everyone, as we begin to plan to go back to work, whether you are an employee and an employer, to really focus on prevention.”

According to him, testing one’s workforce with the methods that are available will only show if one has the virus at present.

He stated, “It won’t tell you if you’ve had it before or if you will have it in the future. So, even if he is positive, it tells you, ‘Yes, he’s infected now.’ But if it is negative, it gives you a false sense of security around his susceptibility to future infections.

“So, it’s important that, as we open our industries and services, we really think about the measures we’ve continued to advise everyone to carry out and leave testing for the purpose for which it is there.

“There’s a growing black market on rapid diagnostic test kits in Nigeria. We have to be careful in what we buy, how we use it and how we interpret the results that it provides,” he said.

He also said the Governor of Ekiti State, Dr Kayode Fayemi, and his  Jigawa State counterpart,  Mohammed Abubakar,  requested COVID-19 test laboratories in their states.

Firms seek PTF’s assistance to test entire workforce before resumption

According to him, the PTF has received demands   from companies, which intend to test their entire workforce before people are allowed back into work.

He said, “We have got a lot of queries around rapid diagnostic test kits and companies intending to test their entire workforce before people are allowed back to work. So, I decided to use this opportunity today to talk about rapid diagnostic test kits.”

Speaking further on the RDT kits, he said, “Nothing will excite us more than if there is a validated kit available. But at the moment, we don’t know of any and, very often, we are asked, ‘Would it not be good to have a cheap test, a 15-minute or 20-minute test?”

The NCDC DG said, in the meantime, the centre was relying on its polymerase chain reaction testing capacity, which, according to him, it continued to build up.

He stated that the immediate target was to have one lab per state, adding however that those following carefully would see some states had much more than one lab.

Ihekweazu noted that, in the “next couple of weeks,” the PTF would push every state to increase its testing and collection.

He said, “The labs are ready. They have reagents. The entire infrastructure is ready. We now need physicians, public health practitioners and people.

“Citizens, if you’re sick and you feel you meet the case definition, please have the confidence to approach the public health infrastructure to find out if you have this disease or not.

“Only through doing that will we be able to manage it successfully and prevent further transmission.”

NCDC insists on Kogi positive cases

Speaking on the situation in Kogi State, where two COVID-19 cases were confirmed, the NCDC DG noted that Ehanire was in touch with Governor Yahaya Bello “over the last couple of days.”

He added, “I think everybody is working very hard to resolve this issue. There’s actually no dilemma in the two cases. They followed normal practice. These were patients that were referred from the Federal Medical Centre to the National Hospital. This is a normal referral pathway when you have a case.”

DG criticises poor sample packaging in states

Ihekweazu stated that so far, the NCDC had trained 880 professionals on sample collection, packaging and transport.

He added, “One of the biggest challenges we’ve had in testing is that the samples getting to the labs are so badly packaged and often have leaked out completely or come without forms that they, eventually, make a wasted effort.

“So, we’ve been working very hard to train people across the country. Yesterday, CACOVID (Coalition Against COVID-19) finally put N47m into sample transportation. So, the private sector is coming on as well.

“CACOVID is a collection of corporate Nigeria and they put in funding going directly into the private courier firm that is supporting sample transportation across the country. So, everybody is now coming together to make this system work.”

FG to use hotels, schools as quarantine, isolation centres

On his part, the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire,  said the Federal Government would require hotels and school dormitories as quarantine and isolation centres because of a  shortage of hospital beds.

The minister noted that there were four levels of COVID-19 patients ranging from those  on quarantine with zero or mild symptoms to those that would need to be in intensive care unit.

The minister said, “We have sadly recorded 254 deaths, most of them are persons associated with other ailments, confirming the general observation that risks are higher for those with illnesses such as hypertension, diabetes and non-communicable diseases.

“We need to continue increasing bed capacity to match the probable number of patients, so that we do not experience horrific scenes of bed space shortages seen in some European hospitals.

“In event of overflow, we can require hotels and school dormitories to be prepared for level 1 which is quarantine, and level 2, is isolation of COVID-19 positive with zero or mild symptoms, to free hospital beds to be dedicated to level 3 which are moderate to severe cases and level 4 which is for the high dependency and the intensive care unit.

“I therefore call on activists and philanthropists to work with state governments  to scale up non-pharmaceutical measures and beef up infrastructural assets for isolation and treatment in their states.”

Ehanire said Nigeria would review its participation in the World Health Organisation solidarity trial. He also stated that proposals for trial of local remedies for COVID-19 had  been sent to the relevant research and testing agencies for scientific evaluation.

He stated, “The Madagascar herbs have been received at the Ministry of Health, and were found to consist of two varieties; one labelled to be for prevention and the other for treatment. Samples have been given to three agencies of the Ministry of Health and also to the Ministry of Science and Technology.

“These are normal processes for new preparations to be approved for use in Nigeria, and include toxicological and efficacy tests and clinical trials. Government will investigate all genuine efforts to find homegrown solutions to the pandemic.”

The minister said   Madagascar’s drugs had been sent to NAFDAC, National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development, and the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research.

 

Buhari writes National Assembly, seeks $5.5bn fresh loan [Punch]

The Senate on Thursday justified the $5.513 fresh external loan request from the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), insisting that it would not be a burden to the country.

The National Assembly had in April this year approved N850bn domestic loan request of the President, to finance projects in the 2020 budget.

The loan was to be sourced from external lending institutions, but the arrangement was frustrated due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Senate had also, earlier in the year, approved another $22.79bn external loan request for Buhari, which was also meant to fund the total 2020 budget size of N10.5tn.

Surprisingly on Thursday again, Buhari sent another external loan request of $5.513bn to the two chambers of the federal parliament.

The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, read the letters during plenary, after a closed session with members on Thursday.

Buhari said the loan would be used to finance the proposed 2020 revised budget, some priority projects and other projects to support state governments.

He said it became imperative for the funding of the revised 2020 budget and insulating the nation’s economy from the yet-to-be-abated COVID-19 pandemic.

The sources for the loans, according to him, are the International Monetary Fund, $3.4bn; World Bank, $1.4bn; Africa Development Bank, $500m; Islamic Development Bank, $113m, among others.

The letter read, “As the Senate may be aware, the COViD-19 pandemic has resulted in economic and fiscal challenges for many countries.

“Nigeria has also been affected in this regard, especially with the lower demand for crude oil, which has affected our sales and the sharp decline in the price of oil below $25 per barrel, which is much lower than the $57 per barrel benchmark in the 2020 Appropriation Act.

“The COVlD-19 pandemic has also created the need of additional expenditure in the health sector.

“All of these have necessitated a review of the 2020 Budget and the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework (2020-2022).

“The draft revised budget proposed by the executive for 2020 has a higher deficit. In order to finance the deficit, the Federal Government is planning to raise funds from both domestic and external sources.

“For the external component, the government is negotiating with multilateral institutions for funding on concessionary terms.

“The facilities totalling $5.513bn, being arranged in this regard, are detailed below.”

Details of the projects were not made available to journalists, but both chambers of the National Assembly had referred the documents to their committees on local and foreign debts.

The committees are expected to submit their reports on Tuesday next week.

Addressing journalists after the plenary, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Dr Ajibola Basiru, said the loan request was in order because it was targeted at specific projects.

He said the various external and domestic loans being taken by the Buhari regime would not be a burden to the nation, contrary to fears expressed by some economists.

The Senate spokesperson also justified the huge sums proposed by the regime in the 2020 budget to service loans.

He said, “Debt servicing is a cost of the funds you have raised. For the economists, it is a question of whether the cost of funds is justified by the value you get for what you are raising.

“The truth is that, globally today, debt is a major source of public finance funding. Debt is not a burden.

“It only becomes a burden when you take funds and irresponsibly spend the money on what will not bring development to the country.

“If you borrow and do infrastructural development and enlarge the economy and increase the earning power, you are in order.

“The infrastructure that we will spend this $5bn to execute, if we want to wait until we raise the money, it could have increased to $15bn.

“The interest that we get today will be lower than what we will get later.”

 

18 groups jostle to monitor $311m Abacha loot spending [Punch]

Eighteen groups, on Thursday, expressed interest to monitor the spending of the last tranche of repatriated $311m funds looted by the late Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha.

The bids’ opening was conducted by the Bureau of Public Enterprise in collaboration with the Assets Management Unit of the Federal Ministry of Justice in Abuja on Thursday.

A BPE official, Mr Nasir Bello, presided over the exercise which held at the Olusegun Obasanjo Auditorium in the Federal Ministry of Justice in Abuja.

The exercise was observed by journalists and other bodies.

The bids submitted by the rest of the 17 bidders were publicly opened. The 17 included Triump Oil & Gas Nig. Limited, International Action Centre, GPM Associates, Phenai Penal Consults Ltd/Africa in Foundation Infrastructure, CLEEN Foundation, Olotu Lekan F. & Co., Anti-Corruption and Research Based Data Initiative, Public and Private Development Centre, and Arewa Community and Social Development Network in Nigeria.

The rest were Quadrante, IBLF Global, PPP Advisories Consortium, Restitution Impact Limited, Urban Project Prospects Integrate Services Limited, Centre for Social Justice, Foundation for Public-Private Partnerships Nigeria, and Global Society for Anti-Corruption.

The $311m repatriated to Nigeria from the United States of America and the Bailiwick Island of New Jersey in April this year has already been designated to be spent on three ongoing projects: the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, the Abuja-Kano expressway and the Second Niger Bridge.

Part of the terms and conditions contained in the tripartite agreement leading to the repatriation of the fund to Nigeria is that the spending of the funds on the projects must be monitored by non-governmental organisations.

Leading the bid opening, Bello of the BPE, said a technical committee which would evaluate the technical bids would determine which among the 17 bidders had the technical pre-qualification/competence to advance to the next stage of the bidding process.

The next stage is the submission of financial bids by the pre-qualified bidders and participation in the bid opening exercise.

A representative of COREN, Mr Saidu Njidda, questioned why some of the bidders were limited liability companies when it was CSOs that were called upon to bid.

Responding, Bello said the evaluation committee would look at the documents submitted by all the bidders to determine their qualification to participate in the monitoring exercise.

 

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