Resident doctors give 14-day ultimatum to begin indefinite strike [Sun]

…Over unpaid salaries, entitlements, others

The National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) has threatened to embark on indefinite strike 14 days from yesterday, if the government at all levels fail to attend to several issues that border on unpaid members’ salaries, entitlements, and other issues that concern the doctors.

The doctors’ association claimed that its members are owed salaries and entitlements, particularly in Kaduna and some other states, claiming that their members at the frontline of fight against Coronavirus are harassed by security agents among several other complaints, which have been reported to appropriate authorities for action.

The Resident Doctors said that they would no longer tolerate such unfair treatment of its members particularly those under the employment of some state governments, particularly Kaduna State that had decided to slash the salaries of medical doctors and also denied them some entitlements, hence the unanimous decision to down tools14 days from now, if actions are not taken.

NARD President, Dr Aliyu Sokomba, in a communique issued at the end of NARD’s 40th Ordinary General Meeting held in Bauchi, demanded the immediate implementation of the revised hazard allowance, payment of COVID-19 inducement allowance, arrears of consequential adjustment of the new minimum wage of members and its application to state tertiary health institutions.

The doctors demanded the immediate recall of the sacked resident doctors at Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH), as well as payment of their outstanding salaries and other entitlements in addition to universal implementation of the Residency Training Act in both federal and state teaching hospitals to enhance the availability of manpower in the hospitals.

Regarding the fight against COVID-19, NARD called on the federal and state governments to provide adequate Personnel Protective Equipment (PPE) such as N95 respirators, gloves and other equipment to all health workers at the frontline of the battle.

The doctors’ association said that they have resolved that urgent steps be taken to ensure that the fate of their members at the state tertiary health institutions are improved significantly through engagement with the various states’ government and relevant stakeholders.

 

We’re ready to resume worships –Church leaders [Sun]

■ Reel out new congregational service guidelines

More than two months after the suspension of religious gathering in the country, Christian leaders say they are ready for the resumption of services in their churches, expressing determination to support the government in the battle against COVID-19.

The outbreak of Coronavirus in Nigeria in February and its concomitant spread weeks later had constrained the government to ban large gatherings, including businesses, social and religious gatherings, as part of efforts aimed at containing the spread of the virus.

However, with the government gradually relaxing the lockdown imposed on the country, Sunday Sun gathered that efforts to ease the restrictions on religious activities in churches have been in top gear with the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, spearheading the move.

President of the body, Samson Ayokunle, in a statement last Thursday, revealed that discussions were ongoing with the Federal Government for the reopening of churches. The move, he noted, “would allow congregational cry unto God over the pandemic.”

According to Ayokunle, the government had given the body the go-ahead to draw up guidelines for worship in keeping with the COVID-19 containment requirements and submit the same for approval.

The CAN leader who expressed hope that religious activities in churches could start in the first week of June, released a 10-point guideline to be presented to the government, which if approved, would guide the operations of worship centres in the country.

“Churches should disinfect their premises first before they reopen for services. Churches should provide alcohol-based sanitizers, infra-red thermometers, soap and water in their premises to be supervised by medical professionals in the church. All worshippers must either use soap to wash their hands or apply sanitizers,” Ayokunle said.

He further explained that the measures to be adopted by each congregation include: “The temperature of every worshipper must be taken before admission into the church auditorium and people with high temperature should not be allowed into the church, but 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. Closed circuit TV screens 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 the frontline workers for divine protection.

“The CAN chapter in each state and local government should constitute a committee together with law enforcement agencies in their areas 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.”

Speaking in an interview with Sunday Sun on the development, Chairman, Lagos State chapter of the association, Apostle Alexander Bamgbola, said that the setting in the church necessitates the need to be cautious in the face of the pressure being exerted for the reopening of worship centres in the country.

His words: “People are comparing the market with the church or mosque. No, it doesn’t make sense. People in the church sit down together closely, in the mosque the same thing, but in the market, you don’t need to sit down. You can walk around,  buy whatever you want to buy and go away, you are not locked up like in  the church or mosque.

“That is why the government is very careful. And the way Coronavirus  moves, all it is  looking for are  people who are seated together or a crowd that is closely knit together, where one person breathes out another and that’s it. That is why the government is very careful. We are anxious to have churches and mosques open. In Lagos, the Christian leaders and Muslim leaders speak to each other quite often. We see the need to be very careful despite the fact that many people in the church are abusing us; some ministers are angry and want the churches to reopen.

“No amount of noise anyone can make will make any difference until all of us agree. The Bible commands us to obey the government that is in authority, the Bible commands us to pray for those in authority that we may live in peace. Those two things are what we must do and that is what the leadership of the church is doing. When the government is doing anything they tell us the reasons for what they are doing.”

Pastor Josiah Oladele of Cherubim & Seraphim Church, Altar of Grace, Lagos, said that the church is ready to collaborate with the government in the battle against COVID-19.

Oladele, who commended the government’s move to lift the ban on religious gathering said thatevery right thinking Nigerian, going by unpalatable experience of the COVID-19 lockdown, must join hands with government in the search for an end to the pandemic.

His words: “I have seen the proposal by the Christian Association of Nigeria to the government as part of the conditions for lifting the embargo on congregational worship and I believe the guidelines, as far as I am personally concerned, should not pose problem to anybody desirous of seeing the end of the virus in Nigeria.

“Social distancing, wearing of face mask, applying sanitizer and living hygienically, all these have gradually become part of our daily life in the last couple of weeks. So taking all these measures to church settings shouldn’t be too difficult for us. What perhaps I will like to be added to these guidelines is that Christian leaders should encourage sick church members to seek medical help in hospital rather than coming to church for spiritual solutions on health issues. We can support church members with prayers while they are recuperating in the hospital.”

In his own submission, Rev Ladi Thompson, said  that the issues at stake loom much larger and have a global impact that is still unfolding.

He called for collaborative efforts of all and sundry if the battle must be won.

His words: “If we are to survive the days ahead there has a to be an all-hands-on-deck approach and cooperation rather than competition between the state and the church, this should be of paramount importance. The church is the ground and pillar of truth and there are many things the government is struggling with that could be better executed from the platform of the church and the mosque.

“We must remember that the future of the next generation is the prime concern and the government is only limited to the physical and mental wellbeing while the church is reckoning with the spiritual, the physical, as well as the mental wellbeing of Nigerians. We can safely say that the COVID-19 disruption will eventually bring about a global economic and financial collapse in the days ahead and Nigeria will be plunged into darkness if we don’t prepare ahead since the sophistication of our financial institutes are highly suspect.

“To avoid panic and extreme reactions we must give the people hope and an expectation of a secure future and such a vision is best established by the cooperation of the church and state. There is every possibility that the pandemic might still explode and that would end the present bliss that ignorance breeds. Desperation mixed with the fear of death is not something that politics or governance can handle because most Lagosians and indeed Nigerians are not even on the financial banking grid.

“I don’t want to speak above the head of most people, but this COVID-19 pandemic is just another evidence of the dynamic tensions between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of man. The kingdom of man through its institutes of medical research is looking for a vaccine, but our church archives tell us that the biblical cure to every pandemic has been proven time and time again. This is what John G. Lake demonstrated during the pandemic of the early 1900s. He never needed a nose mask or protective clothing and it was medically tested and proven that his body could not be infected because the deadly pathogens died the moment they came in contact with his flesh.”

 

CoronaGates: How security operatives are sabotaging Wike, Obiano’s efforts [Sun]

■ Commuters pay between N400 and N1000 to pass gates ■ Anambra, Delta clash over River Niger bridge gate, 2 SSGs reach truce

The aphorism that ‘desperate times demand desperate measures’ was given expression when the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike and his Anambra State counterpart, Willie Obiano, respectively erected massive iron gates at two major entry points to their states.

Governor Wike erected a gate in Oyigbo Local Government Area at the Imo River border between Rivers and Abia State while Governor Obiano similarly erected an iron gate at the River Niger Bridge entry point to Onitsha, the commercial nerve centre of the state.

However, Obiano’s action nettled Delta State Governor Ifeanyi Okowa as he considered it an affront and consequently directed that the gate built on the Asaba side of the Niger Bridge, which had caused severe traffic gridlock that affected movement within Asaba, the state capital, be pulled down.

This ultimately led to flurry of phone calls between key official of the two states and consequently an emergency meeting to resolve the issues and avert looming ‘war’ over the gate.

Following the outbreak of the Coronavirus disease in the country, Wike had proactively taken the step to declare a closure of the major entry points at the boundary between the state and other states, to curb the importation of the virus into Rivers.

When the monitoring exercise embarked on by the governor to evaluate the effectiveness of the ban on vehicular and human traffic in and out Rivers showed that the move had not proved to be a strong deterrence, the state government decided to build a metal barricade at the Imo River, the border between Rivers and Abia State to strengthen the enforcement of the border closure.

The Aba-Port Harcourt expressway is a major highway from Port Harcourt to Enugu and from the Coal City links to Benue State and other parts of the North. There are two other major roads between Rivers and Imo, Rivers and Bayelsa, as well as Rivers and Akwa Ibom State.

During the course of the lockdown, there were allegations of corrupt practices by security agencies manning the closed boundary points. Wike while expressing frustration over the lax enforcement of the boundary closure directive had accused the security agents of compromise and contributed to the rise of COVID-19 cases in the state.

Sunday Sun reporter who visited the Oyigbo boundary at Imo River observed that security operatives were very active collecting tolls from motorists and other commuter bus drivers and allowing them to enter or exit from the state.

Some of the commuters who passed through the Wike’s barricade to enter into Aba told Sunday Sun that the drivers had to sort out the security operatives manning the gate with N500, the same with those manning the Niger Bridge Obiano’s gate, who were collecting N1,000.

However, it was learnt that any day the Chairman of Oyigbo LGA, Gerrard Oforji, visited the River’s barricade, travellers would groan as there would be strict enforcement. A commercial motorcyclist told Sunday Sun that one could spend more than four hours with security agencies there.

Another person, Emmanuel, further revealed that for the duration of Oforji’s stay at the border, no vehicle or person would cross the border, but when the council chairman leaves, security agencies would revert to their ‘main business’ of collecting tolls to ease movement in and out of the state.

Sunday Sun noticed that everybody trekking across the border, no matter the age, had to pay N400, which was collected on behalf of the security operatives by some community boys dressed in reflective apron.

Commercial cars, buses, heavy duty and private vehicle drivers paid different rates. Some drivers, who did not want their names mentioned in print, said the border closure was not in the interest of the poor people as the expenses incurred in settling the security operatives was passed to them in terms of higher fares. They argued that many poor families depend on daily income before they eat.  For instance, a journey to Aba from Obigbo which used to be N400 is now N900.

A Port Harcourt-based trader, Obinna Nwachukwu, told the reporter that travelling to Aba to buy goods was an inevitable choice. He said: “This lockdown has shown us that life is not what and how we think it is. It is not easy. Just to cross to another state, people are suffering in this manner. It is unbelievable.

“To buy goods from Aba and convey to Port Harcourt, under this COVID-19 border closure causes pain in the heart. Unfortunately, there is nothing anyone can do about it. Government, in the guise of fighting COVID-19 pandemic, erroneously created an opportunity for security agents to enrich themselves. The poor people are suffering for it.”

Anambra State Governor Obiano, whose territory gives access to the rest of the Southeast found his administration in the discomforting position of being inundated by a flood of suspicious night travellers passing through or terminating their trips in the state and possibly bringing with them the dreaded COVID-19 that could worsen the situation of the state and further burden the healthcare system.

To checkmate this dangerous trend, the Anambra State Taskforce on COVID-19 moved in the night of Saturday, May 23 to erect an iron barrier on Onitsha bridgehead aimed at controlling both vehicular and human movement into the state.

By Sunday afternoon, the gate had not been opened, resulting in untold hardship to motorists, truck drivers and pedestrians, who became stranded for hours before it was eventually opened.

Reacting to the frustrations expressed by aggrieved victims of the measure, Senior Special Assistant to Governor Willie Obiano on Parks and Markets and Chairman of COVID-19 Taskforce at Onitsha Bridgehead, Mr Anthony Obieze, said that the taskforce, which is made up of youths, political appointees and security agencies, was set up to man the boundary and check people coming into the state.

His words: “There is no way we shall satisfy human beings. We put the barricade to stop travellers from coming into the state with the virus especially at night. We noticed that despite the ban on interstate travel, some people always travel from one state to another. So, what they do is to stop at the Asaba end and walk into Anambra across the bridge and then continue their journey to their various destinations.

“You can see that our effort will be fruitless if we continue to watch and allow such activities to go on without checkmating the movement, to curtail the spread of the virus and stopping those that may import it into the state.  We put the gate to check the travellers with the necessary devices before we allow them to cross to ensure that they are not infected with the disease.”

He said that they were told to allow only vehicles with essential commodities like food, medicines, etc, “but you will see some other vehicles with passengers trying to force themselves into the state.”

The President General of Bridgehead Markets, Chief Sunday Obinze commended the state government and the taskforce for taking the bull by the horn by putting the iron barrier in a bid to curb importation of the virus into the state.

He blamed the security agents at the bridge for the initial poor enforcement of the governor’s directive, which necessitated erection of the barricade at the bridgehead.

A resident of Asaba, Mrs Chinwe Nwuzor, lamented the hardship they suffered due to closure of the bridge against the residents and motorists, saying that those doing business in Onitsha found it difficult to cross.

“We normally make use of pedestal walkways, but now they closed it completely with iron bars and we cannot use there again. So, now everybody is using the major road, which is dangerous for us who cross on foot. I’m appealing to them to reconsider and open the pedestrian walkway for free movement,” she pleaded.

Meanwhile, Anambra and Delta state governments have agreed on strategies to check the heavy human and vehicular traffic across the Niger Bridge amid the ban on inter-state travel.

The Secretary to the Government of Anambra, Prof. Solo Chukwulobelu and his Delta State counterpart, Mr Chiedu Ebie, held a meeting at the Asaba end of the bridgehead where they agreed on best modalities to tackle the border issues.

The Commissioners of Police as well as COVID-19 Task Force teams from both states were also present during the meeting.

The meeting was held to douse tension between the two state governments over the iron barricades built on both sides of the bridge.

Chukwulobelu who addressed newsmen after their meeting said that both governments had agreed to move their checkpoints far from the foot of the bridge to enable free flow of traffic.

His words: “The idea is that those trucks that are not on essential service or not carrying essential commodities can be turned back very quickly while those that come into the bridge can have faster exit. This will ensure that there are no heavy trucks parked on the bridge at any point in time and further minimise the suffering of people and time wasted on the bridge.”

The Anambra SSG also said that both parties agreed that each truck crossing the bridge would have just a driver and two helpers.

“If you are carrying more than three people including the driver, that truck will not be allowed to proceed and may be impounded. The two state governments have agreed to ensure that construction workers and materials, especially those for Federal Government projects are not hindered from crossing,” he added.

The Delta SSG promised that the state government would collaborate with the Anambra government to ensure that the strategies were implemented to guarantee flow of traffic.

“But our plea to everyone is that if you have no business on the bridge, respect yourself and stay away. Those who defy the directive will have their trucks impounded; before you depart your station, please ensure you are not carrying frivolous goods.

“We have noticed that some commercial transporters play smart by discharging their passengers shortly before the bridge and then crossing to pick them up at the other side. We will be smarter this time around to ensure that such buses are impounded as well,” Ebie warned.

He apologized on behalf of both governments for the inconveniences and hardship being faced by truck drivers as a result of the steps being taken by both governments to ensure implementation of the inter-state lockdown as ordered by President Buhari.

Ebie thanked the Commissioners of Police and members of the Task Forces from both states and security agencies for their support.

The meeting between the two top Anambra and Delta states officials was prompted by the iron-gate mounted at the Asaba end of the River Niger Bridge in Delta State by Anambra State COVID-19 Taskforce, which irked Governor Okowa, who ordered that it be dismantled within 24 hours.

However, the removal of the barrier has resulted in the build-up of traffic on top of the bridge as a result of screening at both the Asaba and Onitsha ends to ensure that only vehicles conveying essential goods are allowed access. Meanwhile, pedestrians, motorcyclists and tricyclists get unfettered access at both ends of the bridge.

Madam Udoka who hawks Abacha, a local delicacy in Asaba, comes from Onitsha every day to sell. She told Sunday Sun in Asaba that she usually crosses the bridge on foot with her wares borne on her head, adding that at times she boards a tricycle or motorcycle if available.

“They don’t stop Okada or Keke on the bridge. It is only cars and trucks that are checked. Whenever I cross over into Delta, I will trek down to the tollgate area to board commercial bus going into Asaba,” she said, adding that business has been stressful since the implementation of the inter-state lockdown.

Also Musa, an assistant on one of the trailers stuck on the Niger Bridge (at the time of the report), said that a lot of man-hour was being lost every day as a result of the screening being done at both ends.

Musa said a lot of perishable goods, including fruits and vegetables had been destroyed in the course of trying to negotiate to get to their destination. He lamented that the screening always took too long, leading to heavy vehicular traffic on the expressway.

“The other day, tomatoes and fruits went bad in the vehicles that were bringing them because of the long queue of vehicles. There was nowhere to preserve the goods. This is what we go through every day in trying to provide essential services,” Musa said.

Meanwhile, security agents and other officials enforcing the lockdown are having hectic time with the traffic at the screening points. The rule that no vehicle should carry more than two persons is being by-passed by truck drivers.

While the screening is going on, some private vehicle owners who are on essential duties do actually help those not on essential duties to cross.

“Human beings are always difficult to deal with,” said an official of the Delta State taskforce, adding that “some private vehicle owners will come here and show us identity card or a permit because they are on essential duty, but what we are finding difficult to deal with is the fact that some of these persons do actually carry their loved ones across.

“What they do is to stop some meters away, drop those not legally permitted and pass the screening, only to pick up the same set of persons he/she had dropped off, to continue the journey into Onitsha.”

 

Edo primary: APC govs to meet Tinubu over Obaseki [Punch]

  • move to save embattled gov from ‘gang-up’
  • may meet President to reconcile Oshiomhole with gov
  • No discussion yet with Edo governor over defection, says PDP

Governors elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress are scheduled to meet with the party’s National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Sunday PUNCH has learnt.

The meeting, which is believed to be connected to last-minute efforts to ensure the Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, clinches the party’s ticket for the forthcoming governorship election in the state, is scheduled to hold today (Sunday).

It was not clear if the governors’ emissaries would meet with the former Lagos governor at his Bourdillon residence in Ikoyi or it would be a virtual meeting.

A source privy to the development confided in one of our correspondents in Abuja on Saturday that the meeting was at the instance of the governors, noting that a delegation of the governors would meet with Tinubu to seek his intervention preparatory to further talks with the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), on the issue.

The source said, “The meeting with Tinubu is essentially to seek his intervention in the crisis rocking the party in Edo State. Part of the conditions being worked on, which the governor is expected to meet, is to swear in the remaining members of the state House Assembly who have yet to be sworn in.”

About a year after the Assembly was inaugurated, only 10 out of the 24 members of the Assembly had so far been sworn in. This is due to the crisis that surrounded the issuance of the proclamation of the Assembly by the governor.

In defence of the action, the governor claimed that those who had yet to assume office refused to be sworn in.

Talking about the peace move, a top-ranking party source said, “The train has since left the station. It is too late in the day to find a common ground on the Obaseki issue.

“We expect all aspirants (governorship) to go to the field to test their popularity. This is the language of democracy.”

Conversely, another party source said, “In politics, nothing is cast in stone. Old foes can become friends with the right incentives. After all, there are no permanent friends or enemies.”

One of the APC governors, who also spoke on the issue, told one of our correspondents that he and his colleagues would do whatever they could do to save Obaseki out of what he called the “gang up against one of us.”

He said the governors would not want Obaseki to be treated “as an outsider when those ganging up against him are not accusing him of non-performance.”

He added, “We will see what we can do to make things right. Whatever is in our power as progressive governors we would do in the interest of our party and in the interest of the people of Edo State. We may also see the President on the issue.”

Asked if the direct primary election sanctioned by the party at the national level was not meant to swing the result of the governorship primary against Obaseki, the source said “we shall see.”

notwithstanding, the party’s National Organising Secretary, Emma Ibidiro, has continued to assure all aspirants that the party will ensure that everyone is treated fairly.

He said, “The APC is a party that is given to observing the rule of law, our constitution and the guidelines in all our activities and I want to assure the aspirants that this party will offer every aspirant the level playing ground.

“I want to assure you that contrary to what people may think, I am very optimistic that the forthcoming primary will prove this party as a party that will be fair to all concerned.”

Also, the party’s National Vice Chairman (South-South), Hilliard Eta, expressed confidence that the party would come out stronger after its primary in Edo State.

“True democracy demands the involvement of citizens in decision making. For us as a political party, we will continue to give all our members a voice.

“Edo is an APC state and we intend to keep it so with the support of Edo citizens and residents who will be voting in that election. Our primary is an internal party business, we will ensure justice and fairness to all. “

A few days ago, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, who recently defected from the Peoples Democratic Party to the APC, had announced himself as the consensus candidate chosen by seven APC aspirants. He made the announcement while speaking to journalists after collecting his expression of interest and nomination forms at the APC National Headquarters last week.

“I am happy to announce that at the end of the day, I was chosen amongst this formidable group,” Ize-Iyamu said.

The PUNCH had exclusively reported the outcome of the party’s National Working Committee meeting where it was agreed that the direct mode of primary would be used to select the party’s candidate on June 22.

Political watchers are of the opinion that the NWC led by the National Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole, is supporting Ize-Iyamu.

Oshiomhole, who handed over to Obaseki as the governor of Edo State, has been at loggerheads with his successor over political issues in the state.

Both men had on many occasions accused each other of planning to cause crisis in the state.

Oshiomhole had accused Obaseki and a few governors of teaming up to remove him as the national chairman of the ruling party until the intervention of the President some months ago.

President Buhari stopped the aggrieved members of the party, which included some ministers, governors and members of the NWC from conveying the party’s National Executive Committee meeting where Oshiomhole was meant to be sacked.

APC, PDP rake N130m in from sale of forms

Meanwhile, Sunday PUNCH investigations had revealed that both the APC and the PDP had made N130.5m from the sale of nomination and expression of interest forms to aspirants who were interested in contesting the primary.

The Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, at a briefing at the commission’s headquarters in Abuja on February 5 said the commission had fixed September 19 for the governorship election in Edo State.

Out of the N130.5m, while APC raked in N67.5m from the sale of three sets of expression of interest and nomination forms, the PDP, which also has three aspirants, made N63m.

For the APC, the amount was realised from the N22.5m paid each by the three aspirants who have so far bought the forms as at the close of business on Friday. Those who have so far collected the forms include: Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu and Governor Godwin Obaseki.

National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, Kola Ologbondiyan, who spoke with one of our correspondents, said three aspirants had purchased forms to contest the party’s primary.

The party extended the sale of its forms from last Friday to Monday (tomorrow).

it was learnt that the move might not be unconnected with the need to accommodate aggrieved members of the APC who might be considering defecting to the PDP.

“We have strong candidates for the election. Already, three aspirants have picked our forms. The primary is going to be free, fair and transparent. The NWC of the PDP under the leadership of Prince Uche Secondus has no room for manipulation of primary. The people themselves will deliver the candidate of their choice through their votes.

“There will be no room for imposition of candidate. We are even ready to sell our forms to those who have yet to join us. We are not foreclosing the issue of waivers,’’ he added.

PDP says no talk with Obaseki over defection

Meanwhile, the Edo State chapter of the PDP has said it will welcome Governor Godwin Obaseki into its fold if he chooses to defect from the APC following the protracted crisis rocking the ruling party in the state.

It, however, stated there was no deal to cede the PDP governorship ticket to the governor, ruling out the possibility of giving him an automatic ticket to contest the September 2020 election.

However, the state Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Chris Nehikhare, told one of our correspondents that while the party’s doors were open to the governor if he failed to secure the APC ticket, he (Obaseki) would have to go through the rigours of the party’s rules and regulations.

Nehikhare said, “The governor has not approached us and we have not approached him. Of course, our doors are open; he’s free to come and join. But on the issue of an automatic ticket, that’s not possible. He’ll have to go through our normal procedure. That is the position of the party.

“There is no deal to cede the governorship ticket to the governor if he defects. We’re not holding any discussion secretly or openly.”

Nehikhare, however, said there was no cause for alarm with the emergence of Ize-Iyamu as the consensus candidate of a faction of the APC. Ize-Iyamu was the PDP governorship candidate in the 2016 governorship election.

“The popularity he gained then was because he was a PDP member and because the PDP was able to promote him and present him to the people. It was not by his personality or who he was, but by the platform on which he contested at that time.

“We will not interfere in the internal affairs of the APC and they can bring anybody they want. Edo people will decide at the right time,” he stated.

Nehihkare also stated that the party’s chances in the election were not dependent on the crisis in the APC, adding that “our process is always the indirect primary. We will have an election for delegates first before the delegates will choose who our candidate will be.

“Our strength is not in the weakness of our opponent but in the message of development we are sending to the electorate that we will do better; we are not like the APC.”

COVID-19: Bayelsa, Imo, Plateau elections, others’ll hold, says INEC

INEC on Saturday said the bye-elections in Bayelsa, Imo and Plateau states would take place despite the coronavirus pandemic.

The commission also said it had been studying reports of elections conducted in countries like Mali and South Korea to strengthen its preparations for the forthcoming elections in Nigeria.

The chairman of INEC, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, stated these during the first virtual meeting with Resident Electoral Commissioners in Abuja against the background of the global health challenge posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the event, he also announced that 6,454,950 registered voters had been scheduled to partake in the governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states scheduled for September 19 and October 10, 2020 respectively, in addition to other bye-elections.

Other bye elections, according to INEC, included the five senatorial and four state Assembly bye-elections spread across nine states of the federation.

The commission said all the elections involved a cumulative number of 62 local government areas; 687 Registration Areas; 9,149 polling units and 6,454,950 registered voters.

He explained that the pandemic had disrupted the commission’s activities, including its engagement with the National Assembly and stakeholders on electoral reform as well as the conduct of some off-season elections that had to be suspended because of the pandemic.

He added, “The end of tenure governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states scheduled for September 19 and October 10 respectively will proceed as planned. Already, some of the political parties have notified the commission of the dates for their party primaries.”

he said health authorities had advised on measures to protect the public from the virus, including all those involved in the elections.

“In addition to the two governorship elections, the commission is also making preparations to conduct nine legislative bye-elections. Already, vacancies have been declared by the Senate President in respect of four senatorial districts (Bayelsa Central, Bayelsa East, Imo North and Plateau South).

“Similarly, the Speaker of the Nasarawa State House of Assembly has declared the seat for Nasarawa Central state constituency vacant. Information reaching the commission also indicates the existence of vacancies for the Cross River North Senatorial District, Nganzai and Bayo state constituencies of Borno State and Bakori state constituency of Katsina State.”

Yakubu also revealed that the commission was determined to hold some of the bye-elections before the governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states to enable INEC “to do a test-run and fine-tune our modified processes in view of the COVID – 19 pandemic.”

 

COVID-19: Govs fume as interstate travel ban collapses [Punch]

Some governors have expressed frustration at the apparent collapse of the interstate travel ban by many commercial drivers and commuters.

They worried that this trend might increase the spread of the coronavirus and shoot up the number of COVID-19 cases.

Fresh 553 cases were recorded on Saturday in 14 states and the Federal Capital Territory.

Data from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control showed that Lagos had 378; FCT, 52; Delta, 23; Edo, 22; Rivers, 14; and Ogun, 13.

Others were Kaduna, 12; Kano, 9; Borno, 7; and Katsina, 6. Jigawa and Oyo had 5 cases each while Yobe and Plateau had 3 cases each. Osun had 1.

With the new cases, Nigeria had 9,855 COVID-19 cases. There were 273 deaths and 2,856 recoveries.

To curb the coronavirus spread, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), had on March 30 ordered lockdown in the FCT, Lagos and Ogun states for an initial period of two weeks, followed by a three-week extension.

Several state governments introduced similar restrictions to curb the COVID-19 spread.

Buhari, however, announced a gradual easing of the lockdown from May 4, based on the recommendations of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.

But the President announced a nationwide curfew from 8 pm to 6 pm and directed that measures such as the ban on public gatherings and non-essential interstate travel, as well as social distancing remained until further notice.

He also ordered new measures such as the compulsory wearing of face masks. Many state governors also made similar moves.

However, there are growing concerns that the interstate lockdown imposed by the President and Nigeria Governors’ Forum has failed due to the ceaseless failure of security agencies to enforce the restriction of movement imposed by the directive.

Despite the interstate lockdown, which the President extended indefinitely to contain the spread of COVID-19, findings by Sunday PUNCH revealed that interstate travel in the country has refused to cease, as many interstate commercial bus drivers bribe their ways through the different checkpoints mounted by security agencies across the country.

The security agents deployed to enforce the lockdown include the police, soldiers, and personnel of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps. In some states, some paramilitary task forces are also involved in the enforcement of the interstate travel ban.

Recently, Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai deployed commissioners and permanent secretaries to secure the borders. He said one of the cases in the state came in from Kano and the person ended up infecting about nine other persons in Kaduna State.

Governors Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo), Nyesom Wike (Rivers), Godwin Obaseki (Edo) and Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti) have also accused the police of failing to enforce the interstate travel ban.

The PTF had also queried the police over the poor enforcement of the interstate travel ban.

Despite all these, Sunday PUNCH findings showed that many commercial drivers and passengers were still flouting the interstate travel ban.

For instance, Edo State Governor, Obaseki, expressed worry over the failure of the people to obey the interstate travel ban.

Obaseki, who spoke with Sunday PUNCH through his Special Adviser on Media and Communication Strategy, Mr Crusoe Osagieon, disclosed that the government had arrested some travellers who eventually tested positive for COVID-19.

He said, “We noticed that some motorists are bribing their way through the borders and this is a major source of concern for us. We are worried over the failure of the interstate travel ban; people are circumventing it.

“We now have screening centres at the borders to ascertain the COVID-19 status of anyone who flouts the interstate travel ban and enters the state.”

Also, the Ogun State Government said it was worried over the violation of interstate travel ban by travellers.

The Special Adviser to Governor Dapo Abiodun on Public Communications, Remmy Hazzan, decried that it was worrisome that people were still entering the state through borders that were supposed to be closed.

“We have to be worried if we see state borders that are closed down looking like they are not. We should be worried; we are worried,” he said.

However, Hazzan said the state government had engaged the police authorities in the state to come up with strategies to stop the further violation of the interstate lockdown.

Also, the Enugu State Government expressed displeasure with the continued violation of interstate movement ban.

The state Commissioner for Information, Mr Chidi Aroh, said the state government was fighting hard to secure the borders.

“For anybody to enter Enugu from Lagos, Abuja or Kano, they must have passed through the borders of five or six states. These people are not complying with the restriction of interstate movement,” he said.

The situation was the same in Ondo State as the state government decried the high rate of violation of the interstate travel ban by some travellers.

The state Commissioner for Information, Mr Donald Ojogo, said, “The government is very worried like every other person in society. We have studied the situation carefully and decided that some extra measures be taken to curb this situation from becoming uncontrollable.”

The Osun State Government lamented the violation of interstate travel ban by travellers passing through unconventional routes.

The Chief Press Secretary to Governor Gboyega Oyetola, Ismail Omipidan, said drastic measures were already being taken to improve the restriction order.

In Ekiti State, the Coordinator of the state Task Force on COVID-19, Prof Mobolaji Aluko, said some travellers now trekked through bush paths to enter the state.

He said, “Some people have devised the means of walking through the bush paths (to enter the state).

“We learnt some of them would board motorcycles to border points in a bid to walk across. But we are working to prevent this in conjunction with security agencies.”

In Taraba State, one of our correspondents found out that vehicles were still entering the state despite the interstate travel ban.

A driver with the Taraba State Transport Corporation who spoke on condition of anonymity said, “There is a lockdown in the state but we are still driving through states. We know how to find favour from the police and other security agents.”

Another transporter who spoke on condition of anonymity said they were still travelling interstate.

“I returned from Jos last week and yesterday (Friday) I returned from Onitsha. I will be travelling to Lagos on Sunday (today). We must move to make a living and to also serve the needs of the people,” he said.

But the Chairman of the Taraba State Task Force on COVID-19 and Commissioner for Health, Dr Innocent Vakkai, said the interstate travel ban had been effective despite the reports of travellers going in and out of the state.

State police commands react to allegations

However, some state police commands have reacted to the allegations that motorists were bribing them to travel across states, in defiance of the President’s directive.

The Taraba Police Public Relations Officer, ASP David Misal, said the police were implementing the lockdown order and that travellers were no longer entering the state. He added that all entry points were strictly manned by the men and officers of the command as well as personnel of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps.

Also, the Benue State Command Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Catherine Anene, denied the allegations that police officers were collecting money from travellers to allow them to enter through the borders.

“Really, I cannot say that the police are doing this because they are not the only security personnel on the road,” she said.

Similarly, the spokesperson for the Osun Police Command, Yemisi Opalola, dismissed claims  that policemen at the borders had compromised. She said those who entered the state during the lockdown must have taken unconventional routes.

But the Ogun Police Command admitted that some policemen were guilty of the offence.

The command’s spokesperson, Abimbola Oyeyemi, disclosed that some violators of the interstate travel ban and some erring policemen had been arrested and punished.

He blamed the public for subverting the government order and bribing their way through the borders.

He said, “We have arrested many people, taken them to mobile courts, fined them and made them to do community service.

“Nobody is telling you that the people in the police are angels. But the people too need to assist the police in reporting those that were caught.”

Oyeyemi added, “Those we have their reports have been dealt with; some have undergone orderly room trial.

“Many people are the ones corrupting the police because they want to cut corners all the time. We have arrested many that violated the lockdown order.

“Many have been charged before the court and some of the policemen caught in the act of corruption are undergoing orderly room trial. Some have been found guilty and dismissed.”

Forget using schools as isolation centres, proprietors tell FG

In the meantime, private school owners under the aegis of the National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools have said they weren’t ready to convert their facilities to isolation centres.

This is as the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 on Thursday said the Federal Government would require hotels and school dormitories as quarantine and isolation centres because of a  shortage of hospital beds.

The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, said due to the increasing number of cases amid hospital bed shortage, hotels and schools could be required as isolation centres.

He said, “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 the 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.”

However, private school owners have rejected the idea, saying there were other public places such as moribund hospital complexes that the government could convert to isolation centres.

The President of NAPPS, Chief Yomi Otubela, said before the health minister suggested the idea, they had already rejected it.

He said, “I don’t know how many of the Western countries whose methods we are copying use schools as isolation centres; I have not seen any. We should copy and copy rightly. Schools are meant for children and we should not use them for a purpose that will make them abandon schooling.

“Private school owners reject this idea. In fact, private schools should be considered for reopening because it is easy to maintain physical distancing than in public schools because they are usually crowded.

“Private school owners will not and never allow the use of their facilities for isolation centres.”

Otubela said there were many public places that the government could convert to isolation centres.

“There are large expanses of land and moribund hospital facilities that the government can quickly fix and use for isolation centres,” he added.

FG should reopen schools to NECO, WAEC candidates — PTA

The National Parent-Teacher   Association of Nigeria has asked the Federal Government to reopen schools nationwide, first to pupils who will be sitting external examinations by bodies such as the West African Examinations Council and the National Examinations Council.

The NAPTAN National President, Alhaji Haruna Danjuma, said in an interview with one of our correspondents said the government could provide safety medical equipment in schools.

Danjuma noted that the  association had resolved to put measures in place such as the provision of face masks, hand-washing containers in schools, and hand sanitisers to minimise the infection risk among school children.

He said, “We, parents’ association, are bothered about this stay-at-home order as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. It has disrupted the calendar and academically affected all our children – particularly those graduating at the Junior Secondary School 3 and Senior Secondary School 3 levels.

“You know, the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board has already conducted this year’s Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination and some of our children sat for it with awaiting O’Level results. They hoped by June and July, the West African Examinations Council and the National Examinations Council would have conducted their exams too.”

 

Tinubu isn’t my man, says El-Rufai, congratulates Aregbesola at 63 [Punch]

In a fresh twist to the silent row between the Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, and the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the Kaduna governor has said Tinubu is not his man.

Speaking at a webinar in commemoration of the 63rd birthday of the Minister of Interior and former Governor of Osun State, Mr Rauf Aregbesola, on Saturday, El-Rufai, noted that Aregbesola remained his man any day but that Tinubu was not his man. This, he said, was due to the differences between him and the former Lagos governor.

The webinar was tagged, ‘Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola Colloquium 2020,’ with the theme, ‘Government Unusual: Innovative economic solutions to unlock mass prosperity,’ and was moderated by Boason Omofaye.

El-Rufai’s statement came as a subtle confirmation of the disagreement between him and Tinubu. Both of them are stalwarts of the ruling party and are rumoured to have ambitions to contest the presidency in the 2023 elections.

Tinubu has never made any public statement about their seemingly frosty relationship and el-Rufai had also been conservative on the issue except for very few occasions.

Already, there had been mounting tension over which of the six zones would produce the next president in the 2023 elections.

Also in February, the Governor of Yobe State, Mai Mala Buni, while responding to fears that the APC might collapse when the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), leave office in 2023, said the much speculated presidential ambitions of El-Rufai and Tinubu could not break the APC, stating that it would rather strengthen the party.

While neither of them had declared an intention to contest the election, the Yobe governor said, “I don’t think their ambition will affect the party. You should know that for now, there is no party in Nigeria that is as formidable as the APC. The APC also controls more states than the other political parties.”

At an event organised by the Bridge Club tagged, “An evening with His Excellency Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, Governor of Kaduna State, in May 2016, the Kaduna governor was believed to be referring to Tinubu when he explained how to end godfatherism in Lagos. Tinubu is widely known to be the godfather of Lagos politics since he left office as governor in 2007.

During the question and answer session, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and three-time commissioner in Lagos State, Dr Muiz Banire, asked El-Rufai how godfathership could be dealt with given how it had served as one of the drawbacks for professionals and businessmen who might want to go into politics.

Responding, El-Rufai said he defeated and retired four political godfathers in Kaduna State, saying the feat could be replicated anywhere, including Lagos State. He stated that the key was to go back to the people directly, noting however that it was a step that required time and hard work. “The key is to go to the people,” he added.

But while eulogising Aregbesola during the webinar, El-Rufai said he was not ashamed to state that he copied the school feeding initiative in his state from Osun State when he visited Aregbesola as governor, adding that there was a lot governors could learn from the way he developed the state, in spite of the economic crisis that plunged the state into debts.

While congratulating the birthday celebrant, El-Rufai said, “I want to congratulate my brother, Ogbeni (Aregbesola), on his birthday. You know I’m your man any day. I’m not Asiwaju’s man and you are Asiwaju’s man, but I am your man any day. Asiwaju and I have differences but you and I have no differences.”

In his remarks, Aregbesola, who was visibly overjoyed by the contributions of the panellists and the eulogies he received from them, noted that his achievements as governor were driven by his passion for the people, a virtue he said he imbibed from his teenage years.

He, however, appreciated the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), for encouraging him all along, adding that, “the second person who has played a very huge role in making me a good public administrator is Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. He takes all the glory, apart from God.”

Other panellists at the webinar were the governor of Kebbi State, Atiku Bagudu; Statistician General, Nigerian Bureau of Statistics, Dr Yemi Kale; the CEO, Financial Derivatives, Mr Bismarck Rewane; the Chairman, Citibank Nigeria; Dr Yemi Cardoso; the CEO, Lotus Capital Limited, Mrs Hajara Adeola; and the Country Director, Development Alternatives Incorporated, Dr Joe Abah.

Kale, in his submission drew a nexus between weak earners, larger households, especially in rural areas, illiteracy, lower education indicators and poverty. He proposed three solutions to address poverty from the state level, saying, “Address unemployment, increase formalisation of the informal sector and design appropriate tax systems to extract revenue from economic activities.”

Kyari’s treatment in private hospital shows Nigeria’s poor health care system, Kaduna gov says

Meanwhile, El-Rufai has said that the COVID-19 pandemic has taught Nigeria a few lessons, including revealing the state of healthcare facilities in the county and the fact that Nigeria was on its own in solving its challenges.

He said, “In my view, the lessons are that we are on our own. The rest of the world does not care. The rest of the world is becoming increasingly nationalistic.

“As a state government, we are even trying to get test kits for COVID-19 because America and Europe are buying up everything. Nobody cares about Africa. They only think of us when they want to test vaccines or when something dangerous is to be tried. So, we must be more nationalistic and try to develop our internal capacity to produce and be self-sufficient. This was what Osun State under Rauf Aregbesola has tried to do and I think this is a lesson for all of us.

“Look at our health care system; we are struggling to deal with this pandemic. Today, the fact that the (late) Chief of Staff to the President (Abba Kyari) went and check himself in a private hospital when he got tested positive for COVID-19 is a very clear message that we are in trouble.”

“So, what happens today if our President is sick? We can’t fly him abroad; most countries have closed their airports. Do we have a hospital that can look after the President of Nigeria? In our individual state, do we have a public hospital that can look after the governors? When I tested positive, I got treated by the public health system and here I am.

“We must begin to think of how to make government intervene in the right places but not to be obstructionist.”

He advised that it was time to invest aggressively in digitising government, private sector and the way things are done.

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