Respite For Transporters As FG Lifts Interstate Ban [Leadership]

Reprieve came the way of transporters and commuters as the federal government yesterday lifted the ban on interstate travels for movement of vehicles as well as domestic airlines.

But the interstate travels billed to resume tomorrow, July 1, 2020, is only permitted outside the curfew hours, as motorists and commuters are to set on their journey from 4am to 10pm in observance of the curfew.

LEADERSHIP had reported last week Monday that transporters and commercial drivers were lamenting the continued enforcement of the ban on inter-state transit emplaced to curb the spread of COVID-19, saying it has impoverished them, rendered most of their workers jobless and crippled their transport businesses.

Apparently heeding to their plea, the federal government yesterday lifted the interstate ban, noting however that its aim had been defeated.

Speaking at the daily briefing of the presidential task force (PTF) on COVID-19, secretary to the government of the federation (AGF), Boss Mustapha explained that government had to lift the ban because it was no longer effective as it has become huge business for some transporters who engage in serious business of extortion.

He also explained that state governments were carried along in the planned interstate lifting of the ban as some of them actually expressed willingness for the lifting of the ban.

On the dangers of transferring affected people to other states with the interstate travels, Mustapha said that would not be the case as the transmission of COVID-19 was already at the community level.

The SGF who is also the PTF chairman announced that the ban on domestic airlines has also been lifted and operations are set to resume soon.

He noted that all guidelines for the resumption of the interstate travels and domestic airlines will be further released by the ministries of Transportation and Aviation respectively.

Accordingly, the federal extended the second phase of the gradual easing lockdown by another four weeks.

Mustapha said the extension will start from Tuesday, June 30, 2020 through Midnight of Monday, 27 July, 2020.

He also announced the reopening of schools as part of modifications to the COVID-19 lockdown, the phase two of which it extended for another 30 days.

The resumption of schools is, however, limited to graduating primary 6, JSS 3 and SSS 3 preparing to write their final examinations.

 

FG Alleges Attempt By Politicians To Hijack 774,000 Jobs [Leadership]

The federal government yesterday raised the alarm over alleged attempt by some political leaders to determine who gets allotted the 774,000 jobs approved by President Muhammadu Buhari for unemployed youths.

It, however, vowed that it will not give into the series of blackmails and pressure by such politicians.

The 774, 000 approved jobs come under the special public works programme of the National Directorate of Employment (NDE), specifically targeting unskilled persons in the rural areas.

Speaking at the official inauguration of the state’s selection committee of the extended special public works programme in Abuja, minister of state for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo (SAN), maintained that the majority of the jobs must be allotted to ordinary Nigerians who were in need of them.

While noting that he would not sacrifice his reputation and principles by going beyond the 10 to 15 per cent allotted political officers, he said only President Buhari can make him do otherwise.

Keyamo said, „In the past, it used to be that certain people entrusted with this kind of programmes hand them over entirely to political leaders. There has been an attempt at blackmailing me on this particular programme too, to make us also yield into political leaders and we have said no, not while I am here.

„Except Mr. President who appointed and gave me the opportunity and rare privilege to drive this programme stops me, no other political leader or person can stop me; I am answerable only to Mr. President. This programme is for all Nigerians.”

 

Why Nigeria Should Not Introduce New Tax Regime Now – IMF [Leadership]

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has advised the federal government not to introduce new tax measures as it said Nigeria is in for a difficult year in 2020 with gross domestic product (GDP) growth expected to contract by -5.4 per cent.

Speaking at a press briefing on the Regional Economic Outlook for Sub-Saharan Africa yesterday, director of the IMF’s African Department, Abebe Aemro Selassie, said while it will be very important to have very nimble policy response to ensure that the hits to the economy is not compounded by policy challenges, this is not the time to be aggressively introducing new tax measures.

“There is a long-standing challenge on the fiscal side of needing to have sufficient resources generated by the government from non-oil sources to provide investments in health, education, infrastructure so there is that long-term agenda that needs to be addressed.

“Right now, fiscal policy can be supportive and needs to be supportive. On the monetary and exchange rate front, there is a response that will facilitate the much-needed adjustment of the economy to these real shocks.

“Our projection of -5.4 per cent is contingent on in-built policy response and avoiding some of the challenges that were experienced when oil prices declined in 2016 causing GDP to be depressed for an extended period.

“Subject to a flexible and nimble policy response, we expect that there would be some recovery but this year would be a difficult one for the country. Nigeria is an oil-exporting country so the impact of the pandemic is being compounded by the sharp decline in oil prices.”

 

COVID-19: FG extends Phase 2 of eased lockdown by 4 weeks [Sun]

  • Reopens schools for SS3, JSS3, Primary 6 pupils

The Federal Government, yesterday, approved the extension of the second phase of the eased lockdown by another four weeks, with effect today June 30. Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, announced this at the daily briefing in Abuja.

The PTF also announced the reopening of  schools, resumption of domestic flights, and interstate travel, so long as it is not outside curfew time.

Nigeria had imposed its first round of lockdowns in late March, but President Muhammadu Buhari, on April 27, announced a five-week gradual easing in FCT, Lagos and Ogun states.

The lockdown was eased with a nationwide curfew imposed from 8pm to 6am, from May 4 to May 17. The first phase of the lockdown was subsequently extended by two weeks and elapsed by midnight, June 1.

The second phase, which was implemented over four weeks, June 2 to 29, is still subject to review.

Speaking yesterday after he led a team comprising minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, coordinator of the PTF on COVID-19, Dr. Sani Aliyu, and Director-General of Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, to brief the president as the second phase of the easing of lockdown ended after an initial period of four weeks, Mustapha said: “I am pleased to inform you that Mr. President has carefully considered the fifth interim report of the PTF and has accordingly approved.

“That, with the exception of some modifications to be expatiated upon later, the phase two of the eased lockdown be extended by another four weeks with effect from Tuesday, June 30.’’

He stated that this would run through midnight of Monday, July 27, 2020, adding, however, that the following measures shall either remain in place or come into effect: “Maintaining the current phase of the national response for another four weeks in line with modifications to be expatiated by the national coordinator;

“Permission of movement across state borders only outside curfew hours, with effect from July 1, 2020, enforcement of laws around non-pharmaceutical interventions by states.”

He added that, in particular, the use of face masks in public places would be mandated, in addition to safe reopening of schools to allow students in graduating classes resume in person, in preparation for examinations.

“Safe reopening of domestic aviation services as soon as practicable and publication of revised guidelines around the three thematic areas of general movement, industry, labour and community activities.’’

He listed others to include provision of technical support for states to mobilise additional resources for the response and strengthening partnerships with states, local governments and traditional rulers. Others are community, religious leaders and civil society to ensure increased public awareness and compliance with preventive guidelines.

Coordinator of the PTF, Aliyu, said only pupils in Primary 6 and students in JSS3 and SSS3 would resume in preparation for their examinations.

This is even as he added that all schools, including primary schools and daycare centres across the nation would remain closed until further evaluation. He said the use of face masks remains mandatory in government and commercial premises, saying, no mask, no entry.

“For educational activities, all daycares and primary schools are to remain closed until further evaluation. Schools are encouraged to continue with e-learning and visual teaching but pupils may proceed to take the national common entrance as soon as is feasible, provided there is compliance with issued non-pharmaceutical interventions.”

“For secondary and tertiary institutions, all schools remain closed till further evaluation. Arrangements are to be made for exiting graduating students in JSS3 and SS3 to resume at both boarding and day schools as soon as possible for intensive revision exercises.

“All educational establishments are to conduct exhaustive reviews to ensure compliance with the issued guidelines on COVID-19 before they open up for this purpose and just to clarify they will open up only for the purpose of exiting students.

“Arrangements are to be made for students taking part in the Natural Area Protection Tax Exemption Program (NAPTEP), Business and English Certification (BEC) exams, West African Examinations Council (WAEC) examinations, National Examinations Council (NECO) and sub-exams, respectively.  All schools must comply with the six recommended steps and required measures to be issued by the Federal Ministry of Education before an institution is reopened in the timeline to be provided.”

 

APC caretaker committee to begin reconciliation process among party members [Sun]

The Governor Mai Mala Buni-led Caretaker/Extra-ordinary National Convention Planning Committee of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has unveiled plans to embark on immediate reconciliatory processes among aggrieved members of the party at all levels.

The interim committee has also made a passionate appeal to aggrieved members that instituted cases in court to withdraw them.

Buni, who is also Yobe governor made the appeal during the swearing in of other committee members in Abuja, yesterday, assuring that the committee would concentrate on medium and long term development of strategies and internal organisation to support the party.

He described the crisis that has rocked the party in the last few months as internal disagreements which were common in all political associations.

“What happened to us as a party in the last few months is not totally strange in a big political party like APC, internal disagreements are common in all political parties, so ours is not an exception. It is time for this committee, therefore, to commence the process of true reconciliation among leaders and members of the party at all levels. It is our believe that the decision by National Executive Committee (NEC) to constitute this committee will mark the beginning of a new chapter in our great party.

“To achieve this, I urge all party members to heed to the appeal by our leader, President Muhammadu Buhari on his call to all aggrieved members who have instituted various cases in the courts to please withdraw such cases in the interest of our great-party,” he said.

According to him,  change was inevitable and disagreements on issues and concepts were an integral part of human and institutional relationship.

“As a political party built on strong ideology and parading men and women of enduring principle and integrity, we must prepare for real and anticipated changes and their consequences. The outcomes of changes that evolve in our party politics must be decided by us. As the interim managers and leaders of our party, our priority would be the recognition of the need to act appropriately and acceptably in the overall interest of the party,” he said.

He said the committee’s actions in the next few months would be proactive and responsive.

I’m satisfied –Giadom

Former acting National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Victor  Giadom, has expressed happiness over the dissolution of the party’s National Working Committee (NWC), saying  the action rescued the party from imminent collapse.

Speaking after formally handing over to the Caretaker/Extra-ordinary National Convention Planning Committee at the party’s secretariat, yesterday, Giadom said what happened would, however, serve as big lesson for members of the dissolved NWC.

He expressed confidence in the ability and capability of members of the caretaker committee to deliver even as he said disagreements should be expected in a large party, like the APC.

Buhari has not violated constitution –Gov Bagudu

Kebbi Governor, Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, has said President Muhammad Buhari and Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami have not violated the Nigeria’s Constitution by hosting APC  NEC virtual meeting at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

Bagudu, who is also Chairman of Progressives Governor’s Forum(PGF), stated this, yesterday, during an interaction with newsmen on national issues in Birnin Kebbi.

He said the party would work for the victory of its candidates in the forthcoming Edo and Ondo states gubernatorial elections.

“It is the party that sponsors people and has obligation for anybody who is a president who contested under its platform, hence belonging to a political party is not partisanship. This is created by the qualifying section of the constitution without which he or she cannot even contest the presidency or any political position. So this partisanship, if belonging to a political party can be described as such, is constitutional as it is imposed upon us by the constitution,” he said.

Bagudu said President Buhari would have possibly won election, if the law had allowed him to contest as an independent candidate because of his popularity.

“But unfortunately, the Nigerian Constitution necessitates aspirants to only contest under a party platform, and Buhari contested under a party, won and took oath of office. I don’t know of any sentence in that oath of office that could have been violated by thepresident attending a political party meeting in a virtual manner. The COVID-19 pandemic made the president to adjust his itineraries and activities so that he can participate in activities and meetings across the country as part of his official duties and obligation to a political party in virtual manner.”

 

Igbo group begins strict enforcement of ‘Operation Lion Walk’ [Sun]

The Igbo National Council (INC) said it has commenced strict enforcement of Operation Lion Walk vigilante launched in the South East penultimate week to checkmate the activities of herdsmen in the zone.

As part of the enforcement, it disclosed, yesterday, that it has begun spreading the message to the nooks and crannies of every community in region.

National President of the group, Chilos Godsent, told newsmen in Owerri, Imo State, that there was no going back on the operation.

He said the national body of INC has started dispatching official letters to various traditional rulers, President General of town unions , vigilante Coordinators , chairman of hunters association, youth leaders as well as community stakeholders to that effect.

“We once again sincerely thank all the communities that has taken the bull by the horn to do the needful.

“It’s imperative that we  inform the public that there is no going back on the strict enforcement of the ‘Operation Ije Agu’ in all the communities of the Igbo nation. On the foregoing, the headquarters of the Igbo National Council (INC) worldwide has commenced the dispatch of official letters to the various traditional rulers, president general of town unions, vigilante coordinators  across the Igbo nation states to brief them on the Operation Ije Agu and also to request all communities that has not commence the enforcement of the excise to immediately join the chorus.

 

APC interim panel to visit Tinubu, begs members to withdraw suits [Punch]

  • Giadom hands over to Buni, commends Buhari for saving ruling party

The Mai Mala Buni-led All Progressives Congress Caretaker Committee and Extraordinary National Convention Planning Committee will before the end of this week visit the APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, The PUNCH has learnt.

It was gathered that this was part of the decisions taken during the inaugural meeting of the committee held at the APC national secretariat in Abuja, on Monday. The meeting, which started at  1.02pm ended at 3.16pm.

It was learnt that the visit, which had been tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, was meant to reassure the APC national leader that the dissolution of the party’s National Working Committee was not targeted at him.

The APC National Executive Committee had, at its meeting attended by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), on Thursday sacked the party’s NWC loyal to the National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, whose suspension was upheld by the Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja on June 16.

Following Oshiomhole’s suspension on June 16, the APC was divided into two factions with one led by its suspended Deputy National Secretary, Victor Giadom, and the other consisting of 18 NWC members, who were loyal to the national chairman.

Buhari declared support for Giadom and attended the Thursday meeting, which he convened.

Many analysts had interpreted Buhari’s support for Giadom and the sack of the NWC loyal to Oshiomhole, as the President’s deft move against Tinubu ahead of the 2023 presidential poll.

But the Presidency, in a statement on Saturday dismissed reports that  Buhari and  Tinubu had fallen apart following the dissolution of the  NWC.

Also, Tinubu, in a statement on Saturday,  supported the dissolution of the NWC at the instance of the President during the NEC meeting. Buhari, Tinubu said, acted like a true father to save the party from disintegration.

An APC chieftain, who confided in our correspondent, said at their meeting on Monday, the party caretaker committee members agreed to visit Tinubu to seek his support.

The source said, “It was agreed that the committee should go and meet our national leader, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu, to pacify and assure him that the dissolution of the Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee of our great party was not targeted at him. He is one of our most revered leaders. We recognise and appreciate his enormous contributions to this party.  We plan to visit him tomorrow (Tuesday). If the visit does not take place tomorrow, it will take place before the end of the week.”

It was also gathered that the committee decided to focus on reconciling aggrieved members, the formation of a campaign council for the Edo governorship election and preparations towards peaceful conduct of the primary for Ondo State.

Earlier, the Head of the APC Legal Department, Dare Oketade, administered oaths of office and allegiance to members of the committee.

APC caretaker chairman, Buni, takes over pledges’ reforms

The APC caretaker chairman, in his inaugural address after members of the committee were inaugurated, assured party members that the committee would work on short and long term strategies to reposition the party.

Buni, who is also the Yobe State Governor, said since its formation six years ago, Nigerians were attracted to the APC largely due to its sincerity of purpose, principles and unblemished integrity of its founding fathers.

He said the least Nigerians deserved from the ruling party they massively believed in and voted for was good governance as exemplified in the provision of dividends of democracy.

The Yobe State governor also explained that internal disagreements were normal especially in all political parties noting that the APC was not an exception.

He said, “It is time for this committee therefore to commence the process of true reconciliation among leaders and members of the party at all levels. It is our belief that the decision by NEC to constitute this committee will mark the beginning of a new chapter in our great party.”

“Changes are inevitable and disagreements on issues and concepts are an integral part of human and institutional relationships. As a political party built on strong ideology and, parading men and women of enduring principle and integrity, we must prepare for real and anticipated changes and their consequences. The outcomes of changes that evolve in our party politics must be decided by us.”

Party begs members to withdraw court cases

The chairman appealed to all party members to heed the appeal by the President to aggrieved members, who had cases in courts. He urged them to withdraw the cases in the interest of the party.

Buni said, “I urge all party members to heed to the appeal by our leader, President Muhammadu Buhari GCFR on his call to all aggrieved members who have instituted various cases in the courts to please withdraw such cases in the interest of our great party.”

After his presentation, the committee went into a closed session in the conference hall of the NWC. It was at this event that the former acting APC National Chairman, Victor Giadom, handed over the mantle of leadership to Buni in the presence of other committee members.

While answering questions from journalists after emerging from the hall, the former acting chairman, said, “I, feel extremely grateful to God and also extremely grateful to the leadership of our own party especially Mr President, Commander-in-Chief, Muhammadu Buhari, and the entire leadership of the National Executive Committee for rescuing this party from what would have befallen the party.”

The APC Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Yekini Nabena, in a statement after the meeting, said the committee unanimously adopted a six-point working document aimed at repositioning the party.

 

FG okays primary six, JSS 3, SSS3 resumption, ends interstate lockdown [Punch]

  • Day care, other primary, secondary schools’ classes, higher institutions remain shut
  • Domestic flights to resume
  • Churches, mosques, cinemas remain closed

The Federal Government has approved what it called “safe reopening” of schools nationwide in the next phase of the gradual easing of lockdown ordered to curtail further spread of COVID-19.

However, only graduating pupils in Primary 6, Junior Secondary School 3 and Senior Secondary School 3 will resume.

Higher institutions, day care centres and other classes in primary and secondary schools, apart from final classes, will remain closed.

The government has also lifted the ban placed on interstate travels with effect from July 1, provided such journeys are made outside curfew hours.

The Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, disclosed these at the daily briefing of the task force in Abuja on Monday.

Mustapha, who is also the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, had earlier in the day told State House correspondents that the mortality rate of COVID-19 had been low in Nigeria due to the age bracket of most of those infected, saying most victims of the disease were in the age bracket of 31 to 40 years.

He spoke when he led members of the task force to brief the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), on efforts being made to curtail further spread of the virus.

At the daily briefing, however, he said the government had approved the safe resumption of domestic flights in the country.

He said the reopening of schools was meant to allow pupils in graduating classes resume preparation for examinations.

He disclosed that the latest developments were contained in the task force’s fifth interim report which was submitted to the President earlier in the day.

He said Buhari approved the extension of the Phase II of the lockdown by another four weeks.

Mustapha said, “I am pleased to inform you that Mr President has carefully considered the 5th Interim Report of the PTF and has accordingly approved that, with the exception of some modifications to be expatiated upon later, the Phase Two of the eased lockdown be extended by another four weeks with effect from Tuesday, June 30, 2020 through midnight of Monday, 27 July, 2020.

“Specifically, however, the following measures shall either remain in place or come into effect:

“Maintaining the current phase of the national response, for another four weeks in line with modifications to be expatiated by the national coordinator;

“Permission of movement across state borders only outside curfew hours with effect from 1st July, 2020;

“Enforcement of laws around non-pharmaceutical interventions by states, in particular, the use of face masks in public places;

“Safe re-opening of schools to allow pupils in graduating classes resume in-person in preparation for examinations. Safe reopening of domestic aviation services as soon as practicable.”

Nationwide curfew remains in force

Giving further details on the latest developments, the task force’s national coordinator, Dr Sani Aliyu, said, “The current nationwide curfew will remain. We will maintain restrictions on mass gatherings and sporting activities. Domestic aviation services will recommence.

“Movement across state boundaries will be allowed but only outside curfew hours. Pupils  in graduating classes – only graduating classes; Primary 6, JSS 3 and SSS3 – will be allowed to resume in preparation for examinations.”

PTF lists conditions for bus parks

According to him, transporters must adhere to guidelines that will be released by the Federal Ministry of Transportation.

He explained that waiting passengers must maintain social distancing, adding that there must be temperature checks.

“If you are not wearing a mask, you will not be allowed entry to the parks and terminals. We also expect transporters to arrange for crowd control. Buses must have a maximum of 50 per cent capacity,” he said.

The PTF coordinator added that state governments would inspect facilities and confirm compliance as a pre-condition for resumption of interstate operations by transporters. “Non-compliance with the guidelines will result in withdrawal of permission to operate interstate mass transit,”  he stated.

FG restricts movement in high burden LGAs

Aliyu further said, “For intrastate travelling, we will maintain the occupancy level for buses to 50 per cent and two passengers for taxis, but we will restrict movement in high-burdened local government areas to essential travels only. This will be part of the hotspot strategies that will be introduced.”

He said companies’ working hours must not violate the nationwide curfew hours from 10 pm to  4am. “Offices must maintain working at 75 per cent capacity,” Aliyu added.

Churches, mosques, cinemas remain closed

“For hotels, restaurants and eateries, there is no specific change. Hotels must observe all mandatory non-pharmaceutical interventions. Restaurants should remain closed for eat-in, with strict cleanliness guidelines except for restaurants that are serving hotel residents.”

The PTF coordinator stated that gyms, cinemas, event centres and nightclubs would remain closed, just as churches and mosques. He added that the restrictions on recreational parks/communal sports would remain until further evaluation.

Day care, primary, secondary schools,  higher institutions remain shut

Explaining the partial reopening of schools, Aliyu said, “For educational activities, all day care and primary schools to remain closed until further evaluation. Schools are encouraged to continue with e-learning and virtual teaching. But pupils may proceed to take the national common entrance (examination) as soon as it is feasible, provided there is compliance with issued non-pharmaceutical interventions.

“For secondary and tertiary institutions, all schools to remain closed until further evaluation. Arrangements are to be made for exiting graduating students in the JSS 3 and the SS3 to resume at both boarding and day schools as soon as possible for intensive revision exercises.

According to him, arrangements are to be made for pupils taking external examinations such as the West African Examination Council exams.

FG says hike in airfare inevitable

While answering a question on the possible hike in airfare by the time domestic flights resume, Mustapha said the situation was inevitable.

He said since profit remained the motivation for going into business and flying is not a social service, business owners would find a way of recouping their money.

 

Suspected kidnappers kill doctor, son, friend after collecting N7.5m ransom [Punch]

Operatives of the Intelligence Response Team have arrested members of a kidnap syndicate, who allegedly killed three of their victims after collecting N7.5m ransom from their family members.

The Force Public Relations Officer, DCP Frank Mba, disclosed this in Abuja on Monday while parading 26 suspects arrested for kidnapping, armed robbery, unlawful possession of firearms and other sundry offences.

According to Mba, the kidnap syndicate abducted one Dr Audu Benedict, his son and a friend of the family, who were on their way to Abuja.

While in captivity, the suspects were said to have contacted the families of their victims, who subsequently paid N7m to secure their release.

“Before the ransom was paid, the suspects forced Benedict to raise a cheque of N500,000, which was successfully cashed,” Mba stated.

He, however, regretted that the syndicate went ahead to kill their victims, notwithstanding the ransom.

He stated, “Among the suspects, we have a kidnap syndicate that specialises in terrorising people of the North-Central zone.

“A ransom of N7m was paid by the family of Dr Audu Benedict. While in captivity, the doctor also raised a cheque of N500,000, bringing the total to N7.5m.

“After collecting the ransom, the suspects went ahead to kill the doctor, his son and the family friend.”

He added that the gang also kidnapped one Veronica Aboyi, who is related to one of the suspects.

Two of the suspects, Gwar Henry and one Bello, admitted the crime.

The police said six AK-47 rifles, three pump action rifles and other weapons were recovered from the gang.

Meanwhile, the police said they rescued six children “stolen sometime last year.”

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