COVID-19: States to handle cases, NMA demands compliance from churches, mosques [Nation]

  • PTF says Nigeria approaching phase two, cases pass 10,000
  • Buhari to decide on curfew, churches, mosques’ reopening today

Leading health unions in the country on Sunday differed over Nigeria’s preparedness for reopening of worship centres and other sectors in the country,   as the second phase of eased lockdown ends today.

The Nigerian Medical Association, the National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives as well as the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria spoke on reopening of worship centres just as the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 said in the next phase of the battle against the virus, states would handle cases.

The new President of the NMA, Prof Innocent Ujah, in an interview with The PUNCH, said  government should approach the issue of reopening of worship centres scientifically.

He said government must sensitise religious groups and other segments of society to ensure compliance with COVID-19 guidelines.

Ujah stated that churches, mosques and others must abide by social distancing and use of face masks.

But the President of the NANNM, Abdulrafiu Adeniji, said the reopening of churches and mosques should be gradual.

On his part, the General Secretary of the PSN, Emeka Duru, said churches were ready for reopening.

The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), had on April 27 announced a “phased and gradual easing” of the lockdown declared to curtail the spread of COVID-19. He also declared a nationwide curfew with effect from May 4.

Two weeks after, on May 18, the Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, announced that the President had approved that the “phased and gradual easing” be extended by another two weeks.

Mustapha, who is also the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, said at the time that in spite of the modest progress made, Nigeria was not yet ready for full opening of the economy “and tough decisions have to be taken for the good of the greater majority.”

During the eased lockdown, the PTF said schools, churches, mosques and hotels remained shut, but some state governments, including Kano and Katsina, allowed the opening of worship centres during the last Sallah celebration.

Even with the extension of the eased lockdown, COVID-19 cases in the country increased to 9,855 cases on Saturday. No fewer than 2,856 patients have recovered from the virus, while 273 have died.

On Saturday alone, Nigeria had  553 cases, the highest since it recorded the index case on February 27. It has also tested 60,825 persons for the virus.

Already, religious groups, including the Christian Association of Nigeria and the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, have been meeting government in preparation for the reopening of churches and mosques.

Nurses seek gradual churches, mosques reopening

In an interview with The PUNCH,  the President of the  NANNM, said the reopening of churches and mosques should be gradual.

The nurses’ president said, “In the first instance, they (churches and mosques)  are expected to be partners of progress with the government. A religious organisation (in the United States) went to court against the government and it lost. There is no way it could say the government should not try as much as possible to enforce public health law.”

The US Supreme Court, on Friday, turned away a request from a church in California to block enforcement of state restrictions on attendance at religious services.

Adeniji said, “If the religious institutions are opened, we must know the limits and provide all the things that are expected to be provided. It is not a matter of multitudes just rushing in. It has to be bit by bit.

‘Lockdown hasn’t stopped COVID-19 spread’

“The people there should be asked to maintain social distancing, use masks and there should be fumigation from time to time. We have been in this (pandemic) since February. The lockdown has been on since around March and we have seen the results.

“Nigerians need to learn the basic rule of social distancing and public health regulation of adequate use of masks and having adequate knowledge and spread of the virus.”

He lamented that despite the partial lockdown, there were several violations, including people attending parties.

Adeniji said, “Some night clubs started hosting events. Even the transport operators started picking four passengers, even within towns and suburbs. The only thing is that the government is watching, with the advice of the experts. My take is that the lockdown has not stopped our problem totally and we must look elsewhere.”

“Besides, it is an equation — the economy on one side and bio-security on the other side. As obedient Nigerians, each one of us should spread the message of how to maintain social distancing, even if you’re going out; use masks, wash your hands properly with soap; if you don’t get that, use sanitisers; and ensure that, if you are infected or exposed, you declare your status.”

Churches ready for reopening – PSN

But the General Secretary of the PSN, Emeka Duru, said the important issue regarding reopening churches and mosques was the economic ramifications.  According to him, churches are more ready than other sectors for reopening.

Duru said, “I think churches, from what I can perceive, are more ready, because they want to continue their activities, and they wouldn’t want the Federal Government interrupting their activities again, so they would try to enforce guidelines.

“For instance, in the Catholic Church, to which I belong, they also tell people not to engage in stretching of hands anymore. I believe that churches, especially the Catholic Church, would decide the number of people that will attend a particular session of mass, so that there would be a reduced number of people.”

He however expressed concern about  the reopening of what he described as “mushroom churches.”

The PSN secretary general explained that in such churches, as with any uncontrolled gatherings, “anything can happen, just like the buses we see on the road where everybody is on his own.”

Duru said, “It is not a matter of being ready. It is a question of if our economy is ready to sustain the present reality we have found ourselves. The Federal Government is a big institution, including provision of security, and it wouldn’t like to be embarrassed as the citizens are opening up the lockdown themselves.”

I have yet to see preparations for reopening – NMA president

The NMA President, Dr Innocent Ujah, said he had not seen any preparation for the reopening of worship centres.

He stated,  “What have we put on the ground to say they should push back a little bit? I don’t have the answer because I have to have evidence.

“They said there shouldn’t be more than 50 in a church or a mosque. But have we not seen congregation of people everywhere? What about markets?”

“But I have no power to say yes or no. I  am only  saying we should approach these things scientifically, because it’s science.  It’s not about emotions. The National Orientation Agency should also do its job. In this case, in my opinion, the NOA is not doing well. I think it should do more in sensitisation.”

He noted that with the eased lockdown, Nigerians were not abiding by social distancing and the use of face masks.

Ujah stated  “The issue of face masks and physical distancing is not obeyed or followed. I am a scientist and I’ve even commissioned some boys to look at the compliance on the use of face masks and social distancing.”

On non-compliance with COVID-19 guidelines, Ujah said though burials should be done quietly, people had been sighted crowding around graves.

He stated, “If you go to Lugbe, Nyanya (Abuja) or a place like Mararaba, Nasarawa State, there is nothing like social distancing. Over 90 per cent do not wear face masks. You have to have water to wash hands. We need to know whether there is universal availability of water to wash hands. That’s the truth.”

Nigeria approaching phase two, states to handle cases – PTF

Meanwhile, the PTF on Sunday met with the President. The PTF chairman said one of the recommendations submitted to Buhari was that  Nigeria would enter the second phase of the battle against the pandemic.

Mustapha, while briefing journalists after the meeting at the Presidential Villa, said the task force had made recommendations to the President. According to him,  states should now manage the pandemic, with coordination by the Federal Government.

Buhari to decide on churches, mosques reopening, others today —PTF

Mustapha, while responding to a question on states reopening worship centres, said the issue was discussed at the meeting.

He said, “That is part of what we have considered in its totality. We await Mr President’s decision on that. Once I receive his approval, going forward, as to certain recommendations that we have put in place, we will see how that happens.

“The issue of easing up, you know we were in the first phase and we had an extension of two weeks for the first phase. The next phase should be the second phase and along with that, we came with a lot of recommendations which we expect Mr President to consider.

“I can assure you of one thing: the ownership of the next phase will be the responsibility of the states under national supervision and coordination, because we have gone into community transmission. Where are the communities? The communities are in the states.

“So, the ownership of the next phase will be that of the states, the local governments, the traditional institutions, the religious leaders at the different levels of our communities. That is where the problem is.

“Like we have kept saying, 20 local governments (areas) out of 744 account for 60 per cent of confirmed cases in Nigeria today. So, where are these 20 local governments? They are in the communities. It means that we have reached the epitome of community transmission, so we must get the communities involved.”

The SGF also said the PTF had reviewed the issues of places of worship, schools and businesses, saying “we have made the appropriate recommendations.”

He added, “But you know that Mr President is the only one that can take decisions in respect of that. In the framework, the states are sub-nationals; they have their own responsibilities too. So, it is in the exercise of those responsibilities that they met with religious bodies and agreed on the protocols and guidelines on how to open up. But in the framework of the national response, we are taking that into consideration.”

When asked if the economy would be opened soon, the PTF chairman said, “We have started, even in the first phase and the extension that came with it. The essential part of the economy was opened up by way of allowing agricultural production and people who produce fertiliser. The oil and gas industry was never closed for one day. Haulage, refining and prospecting continued. Some parts of the financial sector were opened.

“After we receive the approval of Mr President tonight or tomorrow (Monday) morning, we will now know which (other) segment of the economy is allowed to open.”

Mustapha also disclosed that the issue of Kogi  State, which had refused to welcome Federal Government’s initiatives on the pandemic, was tabled before Buhari. He noted that efforts were being made to bring all states on board.

Meanwhile, proprietors of private schools on Sunday rejected the plan by the Federal Government to convert their facilities to isolation centres for COVID-19 patients.

The Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire had, on February 28 asked schools and hotels to be prepared in the event of a shortage of bed spaces for patients.

But in a statement on Sunday,  the  President of the National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools, Yomi Otubela, said the NAPPS rejected the idea.

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

RCCG issues guidelines for resumption of services, stops children church

Also,  the Redeemed Christian Church of God has issued a seven-page guidelines for all its parishes.

According to the guidelines, which it called “Church re-opening strategy,” children churches in all the parishes will remain closed in the event that the government decides to reopen worship centres.

The Assistant General Overseer (Admin/Personnel), Pastor J. F. Odesola, in a May 28, 2020 memo, addressed the guidelines to all the church’s assistants general overseer, special assistants to the general overseer, as well as pastors in charge of regions and provinces.

Nigeria’s COVID-19 cases on Sunday exceeded 10,000 according to a statement by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control on its website.

 

Your lopsided appointments’ll ruin Nigeria, Umar tells Buhari [Nation]

A former Military Governor of Kaduna State, Col. Abubakar Umar (retd), on Sunday, warned the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari(retd), over alleged lopsided appointments in the country.

Umar, who gave the warning in his open letter to the Buhari, urged the President to emulate the administration of the late Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Olusegun Obasanjo (Military Government) and the late Alhaji Shehu Shagari in terms of appointments.

The former governor in the letter titled, ‘Mr President,  please belong to all of us,’ stated that Nigeria had become dangerously polarised and risk sliding into crisis on account of Buhari’s lopsided appointments.

The letter dated 31st May, 2020 read, “I have been prompted to write you this open letter, Mr. President, by the loud sounds of drums, singing and dancing that erupted within many groups in the last few days on the grounds that you attained the 5th year in office as President of Nigeria.

“It comes as no surprise that enthusiasm for the celebration is not shared equally by segments of the public. While your admirers and supporters believe you have performed well, many others believe the five years you have been in office as our President has not met the yearnings, expectations and change promised Nigerians.

“And truth be told, Mr President, there are quite a lot of things that speak to your remarkable accomplishments, not least of which is that for the first time in our democratic history, a sitting President was defeated. That feat was achieved by Muhammadu Buhari. The reason was the public belief of you as a man of integrity.”

He however added, “At this time and in the light of all that have happened since you took office, any conversation with you, Mr President, cannot gloss over the chaos that has overtaken appointments into government offices in your administration. All those who wish you and the country well must mince no words in warning you that Nigeria has become dangerously polarised and risk sliding into crisis on account of your administration’s lopsided appointments which continues to give undue preference to some sections of the country over others.

“Nowhere is this more glaring than in the leadership cadre of our security services.”

He warned the President that the “skewed appointments into the offices of the Federal Government, favoring some and frustrating others, shall bring ruin and destruction to this nation.”

He said, “I need not remind you, Mr President, that our political history is replete with great acts of exemplary leadership which, at critical moments, managed to pull this nation back from the precipice and assured its continued existence.”

 

Obaseki, seven APC govs meet Tinubu, plan President’s meeting [Punch]

Eight governors elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, on Sunday, held a meeting with the National Leader of the APC, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu, at the state House Marina, Lagos to make a case for the Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki.

Although details of the meeting were still sketchy as of the time of filing this report, it was gathered that the governors were at the closed-door meeting to seek Tinubu’s intervention in the search for truce in the political conflict between Obaseki and his godfather, the National Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole.

Governors who attended the meeting included the chairman of the Progressives Governors Forum, Abubakar Bagudu (Kebbi), Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano), Babajide Sanwu-Olu (Lagos), Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo), Adeboyega Oyetola (Osun) and Dapo Abiodun (Ogun).

Others are Mohammed Abubakar (Jigawa) and Obaseki.

Five of the governors, including Obaseki, then proceeded to Abuja, preparatory to a meeting with the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).

A source privy to the meeting who pleaded anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said, “The governors met with our national leader, they laid their cards on the table and plainly asked for his intervention.

“They admitted that mistakes had been made especially with the governor’s refusal to pave the way for the swearing in of 14 elected APC members as members of the state Assembly.

“They also noted that the meeting ought to have held earlier and that the governor who was present at the meeting should have reached out to seek help much earlier before the situation degenerated to the level of a public spat between the governor and the national chairman.

“And being the kind of person, he is, our leader listened patiently and he is not one to rush into judgment before hearing from the other party. He will look at what is in the party’s best interest after consulting widely with other stakeholders before taking a final stand.”

The National Working Committee of the party had approved the direct primary as the mode of selecting the party’s standard bearer for the forthcoming governorship election in the state.

Loyalists of the governor are opposed to the mode arguing that it was meant to frustrate his chances of standing as the party’s standard bearer.

Obaseki and his estranged political godfather have been at odds over the former’s bid for a second term in office following a long-drawn battle for the political control of the state.

Pundits accuse the governor of working with his fellow governors opposed to Oshiomhole leadership style in an earlier attempt to force Oshiomhole out of office.

A member of the party’s National Working Committee who also pleaded anonymity for fear of retribution said, “Besides the feud between Obaseki and our National Chairman, we have to consider the overall interest of our party. The best thing to do for our party in Edo is to have direct primaries. This is why; it is the best for us even without the conflict between the two leaders. The last time we did primaries even for the election of Obaseki as governor, it was direct, we have done that there before, we can only improve on it than to go and try something new. Two, if we are learning from our past mishaps like what happened in Rivers State, there were litigations over the congresses we did before and we went into indirect and we used officials whose positions were being challenged in court as delegates and when the court nullified the congresses that brought the executives, everything done was nullified, we lost the opportunity to contest the elections in Rivers State.

“There are two chairmen in Edo, we have recognized the removal of the Anselem-led exco and the matter is still in court, whichever way the court rules, we may have a problem if we use the indirect using the executives as delegates.

“Then there is the issue of COVID-19 with the protocol of social distancing. It will be easier to manage a crowd in each ward instead of bringing four to five thousand people in one place as the indirect mode will require.”

When contacted, the APC National Vice-Chairman, South South, Hilliard Eta said, “As the governing political party, the APC will continue to lead by example when it comes to giving party members the right to choose candidates.

Also, the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, said, “The APC will, as always, provide a level playing field for all aspirants to pursue their legitimate aspirations in line with the constitution on our party guidelines.”

 

Tension in Senate over reviewed 2020 Budget [Nation]

THE peace in the Senate has been rocked by last week’s disagreement over the passage of the Revised Budget 2020 forwarded by President Muhammadu Buhari

Multiple sources in the upper lawmaking chamber told The Nation that dusts were raised following Senate President Ahmed Lawan’s proposals on the passage of the document.

The advisory by Dr. Lawan, rejected by senators at the executive session, and the misgivings pointed out, it was learnt, include:

             giving senators one week to pass the revised budget which the executive spent about two months to revise.

             allowing the senate Appropriation Committee to review the budget and make recommendations

             alleged padding errors which only the different committees can spot in the document and

             lopsidedness in the allocation of the N200 billion National Assembly’s constituency projects

It was learnt that many senators were shocked to discover that a member of the Senate Appropriation Committee allocated N12 billion worth of projects to his constituency while some Senators only got between N300 million and N500 million.

Another Senator got about N5 billion projects for his district.

The development led to an uproar at the executive session to demand what they termed “equity and justice.”

President Muhammadu Buhari presented an Appropriation Bill of N10,330,416, 607,347 for 2020.

But the National Assembly raised the proposal by N200 billion leading to the passage of  N10.594 trillion 2020 budget.

The highlights of the final figures, assented to by the President, are N10,594, 362,364,380, including N560,470.827,235 as statutory transfers; N2,725, 498, 930 for Debt Servicing; N4, 842, 974, 600, 640 for Recurrent (Non-Debt) Expenditure and  N2, 465,418,006,955 to the Development Fund for Capital Expenditure.

But following COVID-19 pandemic and the drastic fall in oil price, the executive is seeking the Revised Budget of N10,509,654,033,054.

According to a source, it was learnt that based on the need to fast-track the revised budget, Lawan appealed to members at the executive session to ensure a speedy passage.

He said the nation was facing economic challenges and the Legislature must rise to the occasion to assist the government accordingly.

He specifically pleaded that the revised budget be passed tomorrow.

He urged senators to allow “only the Appropriation Committee” to go through the Revised Budget presented by the executive.

Although Lawan initially allowed two senators to respond to his remarks, he increased the number to three, following pressure.

Firing the first salvo, Sen. Uche Ekwunife cautioned the Senate against being a rubber stamp without going into the details of the revised budget.

A source from the Northwest, who was at the session said: “Ekwunife took up issues on the one-week timeline. She said if it took the executive two months to revise the budget while the National Assembly was waiting, the President of the Senate should allow the senators to go through it for at leat two weeks.

“She said since the Capital Expenditure had been adjusted, it is important for senators to study the revised budget and align it with the needs of Nigerians.

“She also faulted the Senate President’s recommendation that only the Senate Appropriation Committee should consider the revised budget and report to the Senate. She said each committee should be allowed to go through it.”

Senator Adamu Aliero spotted the imbalance in the allocation of capital projects.

Another source said: “Aliero observed that the South has more capital projects than the North. He said there is a need to address the imbalance.”

The session became rowdy when Senator Aishatu Dahiru Ahmed (Binani) observed that the allocation of N200 billion Constituency Projects in the budget was lopsided and unfair to most senators.

She exposed how some senators took undue advantage of being in privileged committees, especially appropriation, to allocate billions of naira projects to their districts.

She cited the case of a Senator who allocated projects worth between N10 billion and N12 billion himself while some senators got between N300 million to N500 million projects for their districts.

Another Senator, according to her, got N5billion projects for his district.

A Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Senator said: “Although Sen. Ahmed praised the leadership focus of the President of the Senate, her revelations were stunning. She got a standing ovation for her delivery. We rejected such inequality.

“For about five minutes, the situation was rowdy at the Executive Session. It was the first time the President of the Senate would see the other side of the Senators.

“The President of the Senate was surprised that such a thing could be happening. To make matters worse, the senator who allocated N12 billion projects to her district is not even a principal officer. Sen. Aishatu said while it is acceptable for principal officers to get more projects than other Senators, why will a colleague be so daring.

“The implication is that projects meant for many Senatorial Districts have been diverted by the said Senator.”

“This development has caused disquiet and we are suspecting the padding of the 2020 Budget by the same clique because some allocations to some Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) are questionable. In some cases, the budget proposals of some MDAs were increased for no just cause.

“Now, we have demanded for more time to study the 2020 Revised Budget. We do not need to pass it in a hurry.”

It was gathered last night that the President of the Senate had started reaching out to senators to douse the tension.

“Yes, the President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, has taken charge. He is reaching out to senators to douse the tension. He is appealing to us to pass the Revised Budget on time.

“In fairness, Lawan has been involving all members in his administration, but we will no longer accept cheating. Some of his associates are greedy. If they don’t relent, we will show our true colour. We thank God that those affected cut across parties,” another senator added.

 

AfDB…Cold war between developed world and Africa [Nation]

International relations experts have likened the quest by the United States to dictate how the internal affairs of the African Development Bank (AfDB) are conducted as a cold war, which Africa must ensure it wins, writes BOLA OLAJUWON and ROBERT EGBE

 

FOR the United States, there is nothing wrong changing the rule of the game in the middle on the probe of the allegations against African Development Bank (AfDB) President Dr. Akinwumi Adesina. But international relations experts are frowning at this. Former Ministry of Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary Ambassador Bulus Lolo said the United States must be resisted, insisting that AfDB’s internal mechanism should be allowed to endure.

Lolo challenged those alleging unethical conducts by Adesina to check where the bank is now from where Adesina met it.

“If the internal organ of AfDB has come up with a report on the issue, why should a non-regional member be attacking such report?” the retired diplomat queried.

He urged African leaders not to allow a situation whereby people play politics with the internal organs of the bank.

“Now, there is a controversy in the United States over a glaring human right abuse that some people committed. Why have people not been pointing fingers at the U.S. that ‘your justice system has failed, your justice system is corrupt, your justice is weak?’ They will disagree with you,” Lolo said.

The retired diplomat emphasised that he supported the positions of African leaders on Adesina and he hoped they would use that to convince the rest of the world.

Similarly, former emir of Kano Muhammadu Sanusi II yesterday urged Africans and friends of the continent to stand up and ensure that laid-down rules are respected in the AfDB Group.

“The excellent letter written by the finance minister says it all and I am pleased that President Obasanjo has weighed in on the matter. Every well-meaning African or friend of Africa should speak up on this matter,” he said.

“It is a simple adherence to global best practices in governance. AfDB has clearly defined rules and processes for investigating and dealing with allegations of misconduct. Everyone is innocent until proven guilty.

“Since those processes were duly followed it is unheard of for the rules to be changed because someone does not like the outcome.”

Sanusi, who is a former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), said the support being shown for Adesina should not be viewed as “defending a Nigerian or a friend”.

“I have watched him at AfDB and his stellar performance is there for all to see. This is not about defending a Nigerian or a friend,” he continued.

To ex-Director-General, Nigeria Institute of Foreign Affairs Prof. Bola Akinterinwa, there was no controversy about the issue.

“It’s not a debate. But a cold war between the developed world and the leaders of Africa. What does that mean? The problem is the war of struggle – a struggle for influence. The western or developed world wants to ensure control, if not absolute control of the bank. Nigeria has the largest share and that is 9.3 per cent of the equity participation in the bank and the U.S. has 6.5 and Algeria with 4.3 per cent. The issue is about America in the second position wanting to ensure its share is used to protect American interest to the detriment of other shareholders. I do not look at the problem as being between the ADB and Adesina but between the West and Africa.

“As far back as 1981, President Shehu Shagari never wanted what we call extra-regional equity participation. Membership of the bank is either regional or non-regional. Regional refers to all 54 African member states and 27 non-regional members – they include the U.S., the Chinese, Taiwan, others.

“Shagari, by that time, opposed the idea of allowing extra-African countries, but other African leaders opposed Nigeria’s position. African leaders prevailed on Nigeria and Nigeria acceded to their request. And that was how that problem started. All these non-regional people have more money – their contributions are dollarised and in this particular case, they begin to wax stronger. That is how the struggle for influence and control begins.

“It is, therefore, simply not a problem between Adesina as president of the bank and the U.S. It is more than that. It’s an attempt to prevent Adesina from managing the bank the way he is going about it now tackling African challenges,” Akinterinwa said.

Saying he agreed with Africa’s position, he added: “I cannot but agree. The allegations are terribly atrocious. They are simply ridiculous. One of the allegations says that the director of agriculture in the bank is the brother-in-law of Adesina. Adesina is not a glamorous person, but the wife is well known. The brother-in-law they are referring to, it is not so. It’s just a blatant lie. That means the whistleblowers didn’t do a good job.”

On recruitment of Nigerians, he said: “When the bank started, what was the ratio and population of Americans, of Europeans or westerners? The western world is jittery. They want to increase the population of their people in a way that they would be able to have control, especially in terms of their shareholding.”

Former Nigeria Ambassador to France Akin Fayomi supported the position of African leaders on the issue. “I don’t really think I have anything new to add to the plethora of new and opinions already out there,” he said.

The Federal Government, through a letter by the minister of finance, stood with Adesina and rejected the U.S. call.

 

The crux of the matter

 

On January 19, a “Group of Concerned Staff” within the African Development Bank (AfDB) wrote a petition accusing AfDB President Akinwunmi Adesina of “breaches of the Code of Conduct of Elected Officers of the Bank”.

The petition claimed that Mr Adesina breached 16 of the bank’s code of conduct, including “unethical conduct, private gain, an impediment to efficiency, preferential treatment, involvement in political activities, impunity and bad governance”.

Adesina vigorously denied the allegations and defended his integrity.

The whistleblowers also sent copies of the petition to both the Director of the Integrity & Anti-Corruption office (PIAC) of the Bank, and the Chairperson of the Audit & Finance Committee (AUFI) in line with the Bank’s “Whistleblowing and Complaints Handling Policy”.

Between February 4 and April 9, 2020, the ethics committee held series of meetings to review documents and presentations as it conducted “preliminary examination” of the allegations against Mr Adesina to establish whether they were “based on any objective and solid facts” pursuant to Resolution No. B/BG/2008/11. Resolution No. B/BG/2008/11 adopted at the 43rd Annual Meeting of the Board of the Bank held on May 14, 2008, made the Code of Conduct for its Executive Directors and those of the African Development Fund (ADF) also apply to the President of the Bank Group.

Apart from the petition, other documents reviewed during the series of meetings by the committee included the confidential memo submitted by Mr Adesina detailing his defence of the allegations against him.

On May 5, the ethics committee of the bank’s board of directors headed by the institution’s Japan Executive Director, Takuji Yano, found that Adesina was not guilty of any of the allegations.

Yano, who led the investigation, described as “spurious and unfounded” claims that Adesina violated the bank’s code of conduct.

The ethic committee’s verdict cleared the way for Adesina, 60, to firm up his second term bid for election as AfDB president at an annual general meeting scheduled for August.

But, two weeks later, United States Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin rejected the ethics committee result and called for an independent probe into the allegations.

In a May 22 letter addressed to Niale Kaba, chairwoman of the bank’s board of governors, Mnuchin said the Treasury disagrees with findings by the bank’s ethics committee that “totally exonerated” Adesina.

But the confidential memo submitted by Mr Adesina to the committee on April 8 gave a point-by-point response to all the 16 allegations,

The memo also suggests that the allegations by the “Group of Concerned Staff” may be connected with scuttling Adesina’s presidential re-election bid.

In the memo, Mr Adesina accused the petitioners of violating Section 6.7.2 of the Whistle Blowing Policy of the bank by making public disclosure of the matter beyond submission to the ethics committee.

He accused the petitioners of disclosing their allegations beyond the committee “by acting in concert with others outside the AfDB system”.

“The point about others acting in concert with the whistle-blowers is not speculation. A group of independent Bank staff members apparently wrote a ‘Disassociation Note’ on March 9, 2020, in which they explained that they had been members of a group called ‘Group of Concerned Staff Members,’ namely the whistle-blowers behind the Disclosure, but that they had been ‘manipulated’ by a group of non-regional Executive Directors behind Mr (Steven) Dowd, not for the good governance of the African Bank of Development, but to discredit the candidacy of the current President for his re-election,” Mr Adesina said in his memo to the committee.

“Certainly if the Disassociation Note is to be believed, and there is no reason not to believe it, the whistle-blowers’ complaint cannot be considered to be in good faith, because it was not designed to expose fraud, corruption or other misconduct. Instead, it had another ulterior motive,” he added.

Mr Dowd is the U.S. government representative at the bank.

One of the petitioners’ allegations is that Nigerians are overrepresented at the bank. “Certainly, Nigeria is the AfDB’s largest shareholder, with a little over 9% of the capital, but could that explain why Mr Adesina hires one Nigerian after another to leadership positions at the AfDB?” wrote the group.

But a breakdown of the nationalities shows this to be untrue.

Based on the latest figures available on staff members’ countries of origin) French nationals made up 63 of the AfDB’s headcount (5.2% of the total), meaning they are overrepresented in proportion to France’s share of the capital (3.7%).

 

Obasanjo’s take

 

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo last Thursday criticised the U.S. for insisting on “independent investigation” into the allegations.

Obasanjo, in a letter to the Board and 13 African former leaders, said the clearance granted Akinwunmi, who he said has performed creditably well, by the laid down institutions should have put the matter to rest.

He questioned the insistence of the U.S. on “independent investigation”, declaring “it 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.”

He called for solidarity in the fight to preserve the independence of the bank, stating the former African leaders should issue a joint statement “to support the laid down procedures embarked upon to evaluate the allegations and recommend that the Board of Governors, as well as the Ethics Committee of the Bank, should firmly stand by their process and its outcome.”

The AfDB Group comprises three entities: the African Development Bank (AfDB), the African Development Fund (ADF) and the Nigeria Trust Fund (NTF).

Adesina is the first Nigerian to lead AfDB following his five-year term election in September 2015. He was Nigeria’s agriculture minister from 2011 until his move.

 

Federal Govt hands over COVID-19 battle to states [Nation]

  • Buhari’s decision on schools, worship centres expected
  • ‘20 local govt areas account for 60 per cent of cases’

 

THE Federal Government has pushed the battle to contain Coronavirus to states and communities, Chairman of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on the pandemic, Mr. Boss Mustapha, said on Sunday.

According to him, the Federal Government will henceforth only provide supervision and coordination.

Mustapha, the secretary to the government of the federation (SGF), spoke on Sunday at the State House after members of the PTF briefed President Muhammadu Buhari and discussed their recommendations on the next phase of the battle.

With him at the briefing were Minister of Health Dr. Osagie Ehanire; National Coordinator of the PTF Dr. Sani Aliyu; Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) Dr. Chikwe Ihekwaezu, and Minister of Interior Rauf Aregbesola.

Mustapha said: “The ownership of the next stage will be the responsibility of the states  because we have gone into community transmission.

”Where are the communities? The communities are in the states. So, the ownership of the next stage will be the responsibility of the states, the local government, the traditional institutions, the religious leaders at the different levels of our communities, because that is where the problem is.

”Like we’ve kept saying, 20 local governments out of 774, account for 60 per cent of confirmed cases in Nigeria today. So where are these 20 local governments? They are in communities. It means we have reached the apex of community transmission and we must get the communities involved.

”So, the issues of places of worship, the issues of schools, the issues of some certain businesses that were not opened hitherto are part of the packages that we have looked at and we have made the appropriate recommendations, but you know that Mr President is the only one that can take decisions in respect of these.

”In the framework, the states are sub nationals, they have their own responsibilities too, so it is in the exercise of those responsibilities that they had meetings with those religious bodies and agreed on the guidelines and protocols on how they can open up, but in the framework of the national response, we are taking that into consideration”, he said.

According to him, Nigeria had reached the critical stage of community transmission, adding that communities were under the supervision of the council areas, under which structure the communities fall.

He said there would also be the full involvement of traditional and religious institutions, adding that managing the health crisis at this point had melted down into the more complex community level.

The PTF chairman said the advice on the reopening of the economy and worship centres had been delivered to President Muhammadu Buhari who will take the decision likely to be communicated to Nigerians today.

”That’s part of what we have considered in its totality. We would await Mr President’s decision on that, once I receive his approval, going forward, as to certain recommendations we have put in place, we will see how that happens.

”The issue of easing up, you know we are in the first phase, we had an extension of two weeks for the first phase, the next phase should be the second phase and along with that will come in with a lot of recommendations, which we expect Mr President to consider.

On the total reopening of the economy, he said it was a process that had since been ongoing, noting:

”We have started, even in the first phase and the extension that came with it. Essential parts of the economy were opening up by way of allowing agricultural production, people that produce fertilizers.

”The oil and gas industry was never closed for one day and some aspects of the financial sector were opened. After we receive Mr President’s approval tonight (yesterday) or tomorrow (today) morning, we will now know which segment of the economy he has allowed opening”, he said.

He added: “We are winning. As a matter of fact, you juxtapose the rate of cases with our fatality rate, which is basically about three per cent, in other countries and other climes, it’s over 10 per cent, but the most important thing that you will realise when we started this exercise, we had only five testing stations, now we’ve ramped it up to 28, without a correspondent increase in the number of deaths. We’ve gone beyond 60,000 tests now, that reflects in the number of confirmed cases

”We’ve not reached the peak yet and I won’t want to fool Nigerians by telling them that we are out of the woods. No, we are not out of the woods.

As we even open up and accommodate more enterprises, because we are trying to have a balance between livelihoods and life, there’s a likelihood of an increase in transmission in cases.

”But that should not be a source of despair. Like we’ve always said, the experts will tell you over 80 per cent will contact Coronavirus and will not even notice that they have and that accounts for what is happening at the isolation centres when you see young men saying they are not sick and asking why they are being kept there. They are asymptomatic, they don’t show symptoms and they will wear it out.

”There’s a 20 per cent that is critical by virtue of certain factors, indices: age, underlying health conditions and vulnerability.

That’s the percentage we are trying to protect and if we don’t do something in terms of management, in terms of putting in non-pharmaceutical intervention and guidelines to protect that 20%, about five per cent of them can fall critically ill and eventually become fatalities in the numbers and that’s what we are trying to avoid.

”So everything we are emplacing is to ensure we protect this vulnerable 20 per cent. Eighty per cent will wear it out so the figure isn’t a thing of major concern.

Yesterday when I saw the 553 I called the governor of Lagos, I thought he was going to be under intense pressure, but surprisingly, he said no, that it was expected because testing has been ramped up and as you ramp up your testing, it reveals what is happening in your community that prepares better for the kind of management care you will put in place.

”We are not worried about it as to whether the numbers will increase? They will increase”, he said.

On Kogi and Cross River states, the SGF pointed out that steps would be taken to correct the disagreements.

He said: ”We discussed challenges generally and I believe that in the context of those discussions, certain steps will be taken. We are doing everything to ensure that the entire nation is on the same page with one response and it is very important that we realise that no state is an island unto itself, when you deal with public health matters.”

 

Buhari to decide schools, churches, mosques’ resumption – PTF [Sun]

  • Says no state an island

CHAIRMAN of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 (PTF) and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, has said that President Muhammadu Buhari would decide on the resumption date for schools, mosques and churches.

Mustapha who led the PTF team to submit its report to the President yesterday said the task force submitted the fourth interim report to the president and appraised him of progress made in the last two weeks.

With authorities in Kogi and Cross River states rejecting results of coronavirus tests by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 also disclosed that it was President Buhari who has the final say on efforts to ensure no state operates as an island in the fight to flatten the COVID-19 curve.

Mustapha stated this against the backdrop of  Kogi State rejecting two index cases of coronavirus reported by the NCDC last week Wednesday. Cross Rivers remains the only state that is COVID-19 free with allegations  that these two states have not cooperated with the NCDC in allowing unhindered tests on citizens and residents.

The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) recently urged the Federal Government to direct, through the Presidential Task Force (PTF), an investigation into the coronavirus-free status of Kogi and Cross Rivers States

Mustapha said the refusal of the two states to cooperate with the NCDC came up during discussions with President Buhari.

“We are doing everything to ensure that the entire nation is on the same page with one response and it is very important that we realise that no state is an island unto itself when you deal with public health matters. Whatever happens in a particular locality has the consequences of spilling off to other constituencies. That is the message that we’ll continue to drive in our pursuit of getting everybody to be on board and I can assure you that there’s no island that exists as far as COVID-19 is concerned in this country.

“We must integrate all responses from the different segments of the community and the state and have everybody to be on the same page. We will continue to pursue that and we must also ensure that it happens. I can assure about that,”said Mustapha.

On reopening of worship centres, Mustapha said the PTF was awaiting the directive from the President.

“We have made the appropriate recommendations. But you know that Mr. President is the only one that can take decisions in respect of that. In the framework, the states are sub-nationals; they have their own responsibilities too. So, it is in the exercise of those responsibilities that they met with religious bodies and agreed on the protocols and guidelines on how to open up. But in the framework of the national response, we are taking that into consideration,” he said.

 

No going back on NDDC probe – Senate [Sun]

  • Dares those opposed to it to approach court

The Senate, yesterday, said it would not be cowed by the Interim Management Team (IMC) of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), as it has vowed to go ahead with its probe of the commission.

Senate spokesman, Ajibola Basiru, in a statement, said the probe was geared at repositioning the NDDC for better service and would not interfere with ongoing forensic audit of the NDDC ordered by President Muhammadu Buhari.

He also dared those opposed to the Senate audit of the alleged N40 billion spent in about three months by the IMC of the NDDC to challenge the matter in court.

Said Basiru: “The attention of the Senate has been drawn to a statement credited to Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, executive director of projects of the Niger Delta Development Commission under the Interim Management Committee, that senators and members of House of Representative are behind the fraud in NDDC. Ordinarily, while we are still at a loss as to why Ojougboh has repeatedly made such allegations at a time when the NDDC is under scrutiny of forensic audit and investigation by the National Assembly, the Senate is even more surprised considering the fact that the allegations are baseless and unsubstantiated.

“Apparently, Ojougboh, is ignorant of the constitutional mandate of the National Assembly to carry out oversight function over all agencies expending government resources, with a view to exposing and preventing corruption and abuse. It stands logic in the head to claim that, by invoking its constitutional power of oversight to investigate the activities of the IMC, the National Assembly intends to scuttle forensic audit. The outlandish claim is illogical. What is the adverse relationship between oversight function of the National Assembly and a forensic audit?

“While the National Assembly is committed to reposition the NDDC to address the challenges of the Niger Delta through facilitating the rapid and sustainable development of the Niger Delta, however, it is naturally concerned about the allegations of poor management or outright fraud in the management of the funds and operations of the commission. The setting up of the investigation is predicated on the above concern and not to victimise or witch-hunt anyone. It was also in this regard that the National Assembly has accorded the executives the necessary cooperation that will facilitate the completion of the forensic audit.

“Ojougboh, as a former member of the House of Representatives, should know that the National Assembly is vested with the powers of appropriation for all government ministries, departments and agencies, including the NDDC. It will appraise the budget and operations of the commission, like other agencies, to entrench a culture of transparency and accountability. Therefore, on the allegations in respect of the budget, one wonders whether this it is not a ruse as to why it is being brought up in the wake of exercise of oversight function by the National Assembly. It clearly smacks of cheap blackmail predicated on falsehood.

“Also, one would have expected an organisation of integrity to have formally made complaints to the anti-corruption agencies of the purported allegations against senators and members of House of Representative of the NDDC committees, if there are facts to substantiate same. The Senate, and indeed the National Assembly, is also committed to exercising it constitutional mandate and will not be cowed by spurious allegations of the likes of Ojougboh. This is a very disturbing trend and the Senate will not toe this path. The proper avenue to challenge exercise of power of the National Assembly is the court of law, not spewing falsehood on pages of newspapers and electronic media. The National Assembly will not succumb to cheap blackmail from any quarters and is committed to ensuring probity and accountability of all agencies of government, no matter whose ox is gored.”

 

Umar to Buhari: Belong to all [Sun]

  • Fearless retired Army Colonel writes president on state of affairs, warns of imminent crisis over lopsided appointments

Former military administrator of Kaduna State, Col. Abubakar Umar (retd), said Nigeria has become dangerously polarised and risk sliding into crisis on account of President Muhammadu Buhari’s lopsided appointments.

In an open letter addressed to the president, the former governor urged President Buhari to approve the confirmation of acting President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Monica Mensem or risk being accused of favouring only northern Muslims for sensitive positions.

He said one of the swiftest ways of destroying a kingdom is to give preference of one particular tribe over another or show favour to one group of people rather than another.

He said while the president’s admirers and supporters believe he has performed well, many others believe the five years he  has been in office has not met the yearnings, expectations and change promised Nigerians.

Umar wrote: “You might wish to recall that after the results of the 23rd of February 2019 presidential elections were announced, giving you victory, I addressed a press conference during which I urged the runner-up, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the PDP, to concede defeat. The reason was clear: tensions  were running high and little missteps by the leaders might ignite violence as often happened after major elections.

“Some supporters of Abubakar Atiku disagreed with me and told me off. As it happened, Alhaji Atiku went ahead to mount a legal challenge to the outcome of the elections up to the Supreme Court. Mercifully, his actions did not result in an outbreak of violence as we feared.

“At the same occasion, I counselled the declared winner, your good self, to use the opportunity of your second term to redeem your pledge of being a leader and president of all Nigerians.

“On the occasion of the first-year anniversary into your second four-year term, I feel there is an urgent need to revisit this subject matter.

“Mr. President, you have often expressed the hope that history will be kind to you. It is within your competence to write that history. But you have less than three years in which to do it. You may wish to note that any authentic history must be devoid of myth. It will be a true, factual rendition of the record of your performance.

“And truth be told, Mr. President, there are quite a lot of things that speak to your remarkable accomplishments, not least of which is that for the first time in our democratic history, a sitting president was defeated.  That feat was achieved by Muhammadu Buhari. The reason was the public belief of you as a man of integrity.

“The corollary to this is that at the expiration of your eight-year tenure in 2023, your achievements will not be measured solely by the physical infrastructure your administration built. An enduring legacy would be based on those intangible things like how much you uplifted the spirit and moral tone of the nation. How well have you secured the nation from ourselves and from external enemies?

“At this time and in the light of all that have happened since you took office, any conversation with you Mr. President cannot gloss over the chaos that has overtaken appointments into government offices in your administration. All those who wish you and the country well must mince no words in warning you that Nigeria has become dangerously polarized and risk sliding into crisis on account of your administration’s lopsided appointments which continues to give undue preference to some sections of the country over others.  Nowhere is this more glaring than in the leadership cadre of our security services.

“Mr. President, I regret that there is no kind or gentle words to tell you that your skewed appointments into the offices of the Federal Government, favoring some and frustrating others, shall bring ruin and destruction to this nation.

“You may wish to recall that I had cause to appeal to you, to confirm Justice Onnoghen as the substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria a few days before the expiration of his three months tenure of acting appointment to be replaced by a Muslim Northerner.

“We were saved that embarrassment when his nomination was sent to the senate by the then acting President, Prof. Yemi Osibanjo. When he was finally confirmed a few days to the end of his tenure, he was removed after a few months and replaced by Justice Muhammed, a Muslim from the North.

“May I also invite the attention of Mr. President to the pending matter of appointment of a Chief Judge of the Nigerian Court Appeal which appears to be generating public interest. As it is, the most senior judge, Justice Monica Dongban Mensem, a northern Christian, is serving out her second three-month term as acting chief judge without firm prospects that she will be confirmed substantive head. I do not know Justice Mensem but those who do attest to her competence, honesty and humility.

“She appears eminently qualified for appointment as the substantive Chief Judge of the Court of Appeal as she is also said to be highly recommended by the National Judicial Council.

“If she is not and is bypassed in favour of the next in line who happens to be another northern Muslim, that would be truly odd. In which case, even the largest contingent of PR gurus would struggle to rebut the charges that you, Mr. President, are either unwilling or incapable of acting on your pledge to belong to everyone – and to no one.”

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