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Address logistic issues to restore people’s confidence – UK envoy tells INEC

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Address logistic issues to restore people’s confidence – UK envoy tells INEC

Election

The British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing, has urged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to address logistics issues associated with the Feb. 23, elections, to restore people’s confidence in future polls.

Laing said this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on Friday in Abuja, at the side-line of events to mark the 2019 International Women Day.

“We’ve been tracking very carefully the parallel vote tabulation and we were happy to see that their results are in line with the INEC conclusion of the presidential election.

“There were clearly many challenges in the elections, particularly logistical challenges, there were also problems with the collation of the votes.

“There were examples of voter intimidation and violence; and sadly some people lost their lives around these elections.

“So, we also want INEC and the government to now urgently work on addressing many shortcomings of this election.

She commended President Muhammadu Buhari’s plan to investigate the issues that led to INEC’s postponement of the Presidential and National Assembly elections by one week.

She however, said the investigation should be extended to issues raised on the conduct of the last elections, adding that membership of the panel should be extended to the opposition to restore confidence.

“The President himself announced after the delay that he wants to set up an investigation as to what had gone wrong, we think that’s good starting point.

“And what we will encourage is that that investigation is expanded wider than just the issues around that one week delay, but actually it depicts the wider shortcomings in this election.

“And, we will also encourage them to include the opposition in the investigation.

“The opposition as you know have indicated they are going to pursue a legal challenge, which is absolutely within their right.

“If there is a serious investigation on all range of issues that had affected this election, including the opposition’s rights, that will be a good way to give people confidence that the government is seriousness about addressing some of the issues.”

The envoy said that conflicts associated with elections required peaceful resolution and therefore advised the federal government to take necessary steps using dialogue to resolve issues arising from the elections.

She, however, advised all stakeholders in electoral process to ensure that their constitutional roles were effectively carried out, to promote democratic growth in the country.

Laing, former British Ambassador to Zimbabwe, was appointed High Commissioner to Nigeria in November 2018 succeeding Mr Paul Arkwright.

NNN reports that the International women day celebrated globally on March 8 with the theme “balance for better” sought to raise awareness against gender bias, take action for equality and promote women’s achievement.

The Day is also designed to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, to mark action for acceleration of gender parity.

Lydia Beshel: is a graduate and a professionally trained journalist, with experience in national news reporting/editing and verification at the News Agency of Nigeria. NNN is a Nigerian online news portal that publishes breaking news in Nigeria, and across the world. Our journalists are honest, fair, accurate, thorough and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting news in the best interest of the public, because truth is the cornerstone of journalism and they strive diligently to ascertain the truth in every news report. Contact: editor[at]nnn.com.ng

Defence/Security

Kidnap victim recounts ordeal, urges govts to address insecurity

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A kidnap victim, Mr Emenike Soronnadi, 50, has recounted his ordeal in the hands of his abductors, urging Federal and State Governments to urgently address issues of insecurity to safeguard lives of citizens.

Soronnadi, a husband and business man, was kidnapped on April 20, and held captive for 11 days before his release on May 10, 2020.

The victim told News Agency of Nigeria in Port Harcourt that he was abducted from his wife’s shop in Woji, Obio/Akpor Local Government Council, Rivers.

According to him, three men fully armed with AK47 assault rifles and shooting sporadically into the air forcibly took him away from his wife’s shop.

“I left my house around 5:40p.m to my wife’s shop in Woji town. At about 7:40p.m, three men stormed into the shop, shot into the air and whisked me away.

“The heavily armed kidnappers blindfolded and forcefully took me into their waiting car and drove away. They told me to cooperate with them otherwise they will shoot me.

“After about 30 minutes of driving, they transferred me into another waiting car. We later arrived to a community in Gokana council. There, I was kept in a house.

“Around midnight, they took me on a motorbike through a bush path to their camp. While still blindfolded, my abductors chained my legs and threatened to kill me,” he said.

Soronnadi further said that his abductors later told him that they were paid by someone to assassinate him.

However, he said the gunmen promised that they would not kill him on one condition that he pays them some millions of Naira as ransom.

The victim said the kidnappers requested phone numbers of his wife and friends, promising that he would not be tortured if family and friends should cooperate with them.

“The house that I was kept in was so unhygienic that I lost appetite to eat. I only took water until days later when they gave me garri and salt to drink.

“Later, they also gave me rice and red oil to eat. I could not eat other compromising foods that they were eating in the camp.

“After few days, I started plotting my escape, but later jettisoned the idea. I think some villagers living around the camp knew about the place and somehow profited from it,” he added.

Soronnadi said that on the day of his release, one of the hoodlums came into his cell around 7p.m, removed the bound on his legs and ordered him to put on his cloths.

“Thereafter, the kidnapper asked me to pray for him. He took me to a motor park in Bori town in Gokana; gave me back one of my phones and left.

“Unfortunately, I could not find any vehicle at the motor park going to Port Harcourt due to the lockdown and restriction of movements in the city.

“So, I called my wife, who immediately contacted my sister-in-law, a navy officer. My wife’s sister later picked me up and we arrived home around 11p.m.

“I am so grateful to God, my wife, my pastor, Chibuzor Chinyere of Omega Power Ministries and some friends for putting pressure on security agencies to secure my release from the kidnappers’ den,” he said.

The businessman wondered why he had remained a target by criminals after about 15 men broke into his house in 2013, tortured and shot him and his wife on their legs.

He said that he was worried with the level of insecurity in the state, urging the Federal Government to quickly address insecurity in the country.

He said the matter was reported to the police while he was held captive, saying the police was yet to invite him for debriefing after his release.

The spokesman of the Police Command in Rivers, DSP Nnamdi Omonim, who confirmed the incident, said no arrest had been made yet.

He said the police had launched full investigation into the matter and was currently on the trail of the kidnappers.

Edited By: Edwin Nwachukwu/Felix Ajide (NAN)

 

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UNDP urges swift action to address violence against women, girls during pandemic

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Governments across the world must act urgently to prevent and tackle the rising rates of violence against women and girls during the COVID-19 crisis, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) said Friday.

Governments must put “stronger measures in place” such as designating shelters and hotlines as emergency services and support police and the justice sector during lockdowns to better protect women and girls, it said.

Guidance from UNDP, Gender-based violence and COVID-19, also recommends developing new protocols to provide support via phone or online platforms rather than in person, expanding immediate response services in order to save lives, and most ensuring that steps to prevent gender-based violence are in every COVID-19 response plan and budget, said UNDP, the United Nations’ global development network.

“Now more than ever there is a need to send a strong message that violence will not be tolerated, those who carry it out will be brought to justice, and survivors will be heard and supported,” said Raquel Lagunas, acting director of the UNDP gender team.

The impacts of the COVID-19 on women and girls include rising rates of domestic or intimate partner violence, while lockdowns and social distancing may be particularly hard on survivors of gender-based violence, who may already be economically dependent on their abusers.

Together with other UN agencies, UNDP is working with more than 40 governments around the world to prevent and address gender-based violence during the crisis.

UNDP said, by citing an example in Somalia, that UNDP is supporting communities to develop neighborhood watch systems, where men and women receive training to regularly patrol their neighborhood to prevent or mitigate incidents of violence.

In Mexico UNDP, in collaboration with UN Women, is helping establish phone and online platforms to support vulnerable women via the LUNA centers, which are safe spaces for women and girls.

In Botswana, community members, including school principals, tribal chiefs, farmers and nurses, are raising awareness of the rise in violence and advising the government on village challenges and needs.

In Uganda, UNDP in partnership with Jumia Food Uganda, the leading e-commerce company in the country, is exploring how to incorporate messaging to prevent violence against women and girls in an e-commerce platform which connects small and medium-sized enterprises and informal market vendors to customers.

In the Dominican Republic, UNDP and BHD Bank are putting in place a partnership to facilitate referral services of domestic violence cases that are reported by the bank’s customers.

UNDP is coordinating with UN sister agencies and development partners, for example, through the Spotlight Initiative, a joint EU-UN partnership to end violence against women and girls. The global, multi-year initiative is targeting 50 million direct beneficiaries across five regions and more than 25 countries.

(XINHUA)

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Interview: Int’l collaboration “the only way” to address COVID-19 crisis, says UK scholar

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International collaboration is “the only way” to combat the COVID-19 pandemic as sharing best practice, data and helping less developed countries are vital to address the global crisis, a British scholar has said.

“I think collaboration with all countries is the only way to look at this, and that is coordination with all countries globally: sharing best practice, sharing systems, sharing accurate and timely and transparent data and information and that’s the most important thing,” said Mark Eccleston-Turner, a lecturer in law at Keele University, in an interview with Xinhua.

Specializing in the field of international law and infectious diseases, he said Britain, and other Western countries, should also look to help other countries strengthen their health systems to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus, as opposed to adopting a unilateral approach.

Whereas Britain, China and the European Union (EU), among others, have agreed to a collaborative global effort to combat the coronavirus, U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened to permanently cut its funding to the World Health Organization (WHO) and reconsider the U.S. membership in the organization.

Eccleston-Turner believes the United States move would be a huge blow for any sign of international collaboration in the fight against the coronavirus.

“It’s a big blow to multilateralism. It’s a big blow to collaboration. When you look at something like a pandemic of this sorts, it’s a public health emergency of international concern and what that means is it’s an extraordinary event which warrants a coordinated international response.”

The World Health Assembly (WHA), decision-making body of the WHO, opened its first-ever virtual session on Monday, calling for unity, a stronger WHO role and equity amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the WHA, EU, Britain, China and others have endorsed the principle of making any COVID-19 vaccine produced in the near future globally accessible.

Eccleston-Turner said that is a very good thing, and it was fundamental that if Britain had successfully developed a vaccine, it would make it available for all.

According to a recent statement from the British government, the University of Oxford has agreed a global licensing agreement with AstraZeneca, a British-based pharmaceutical company, for the commercialization and manufacturing of their potential vaccine.

This means that, if the Oxford vaccine is successful, AstraZeneca will work to make up to 30 million doses available by September for people in Britain, as part of an agreement to deliver 100 million doses in total, the government said.

“The agreement will deliver 100 million doses in total, ensuring that in addition to supporting our own people, we are able to make the vaccines available to developing countries at the lowest possible cost,” said Business Secretary Alok Sharma.

“The real point of collaboration, the real test of collaboration and a real test of the UK’s role within the global community will be what happens if we develop a vaccine,” Eccleston-Turner said.

He said there is important reasons for such collaboration.

“Number one is that a reservoir of COVID-19 anywhere in the world remains a threat to the rest of the world. Even if COVID-19 no longer exists in the UK, if it’s endemic in other regions then it can very easily come to the UK and spread through Europe again — and spread through what we think of the global north again,” said Eccleston-Turner.

Secondly, Britain has a moral duty to share the vaccine with the world, he said.

“Individuals, regardless of wherever they live in the world, need equitable access to a vaccine against the coronavirus and just because we happen to live in a country that can afford this vaccine and can develop this vaccine doesn’t mean that we should deny other people in the rest of the world this vaccine,” he said.

(XINHUA)

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Economy

MAN urges FG to address bottlenecks at nation’s ports

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The Manufacturers Association of Nigeria has appealed to the Federal Government to address bottlenecks encountered in accessing the nation’s ports.

Its Director of Economics and Statistics, Dr Oluwasegun Osidipe, made the appeal on Tuesday in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria in Ota, Ogun.

He said that the persistent gridlock in accessing the country’s port facilities and perennial congestion had remained recurring decimals, leading to delay in the clearance of manufacturing inputs and machineries.

Osidipe said that it also led to demurrage and increase in the cost of production in the sector.

 

“There is the need to see that cargoes containing manufacturing raw materials are cleared swiftly and ensure compliance with additional free days from the terminal shipping lines to clear the containers to avoid demurrage,”he said.

 

Osidipe urged the Federal Government to direct  Nigeria Customs Service,the Nigerian Port Authority and other related agencies to treat all requests of manufacturers expeditiously, understanding the prevailing situation.

 

He also called on the government to fast track the provision of critical infrastructure, especially stable power supply, accessible road networks  and functional rail networks to cushion the effects of COVID-19 pandemic on  manufacturers.

Osidipe appealed for a reversal of the Value Added Tax (VAT) increase and reduction in the Personal Income Tax to a flat rate of 10% for one year, effective April 2020.

These, he said, would improve the disposable income of Nigerian workers, stimulate consumption, promote an upsurge in demand and increase production output.

Edited By: Edith Bolokor/Oluwole Sogunle (NAN)

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IMF approves 520 mln USD to help Jamaica address COVID-19 impact

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The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Friday approved Jamaica’s request for emergency financial assistance of about 520 million U.S. dollars to help meet the urgent balance-of-payments needs stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Despite the authorities’ best efforts, the pandemic is severely impacting the Jamaican economy, as a sudden stop in tourism and falling remittances are generating a sizable balance-of-payments need,” Zhang Tao, deputy managing director of the IMF, said in a statement, adding the economic outlook remains subject to “an unusually high degree of uncertainty”.

The disbursement under the IMF’s Rapid Financing Instrument (RFI) will strengthen Jamaican reserves and help catalyze additional support from other international financial institutions and development partners, Zhang noted.

“Once the crisis abates, building on their demonstrated commitment to reform and stability-oriented measures, the authorities should continue the implementation of their ambitious reform agenda to support the economic recovery and ensure strong and sustainable economic growth,” he said.

The Government of Jamaica has declared the entire island as a disaster area and established a special taskforce to coordinate the country’s COVID-19 response and recovery efforts, according to the IMF.

(XINHUA)

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Politics

Gbajabiamila restates govt’s commitment to address IDPs challenges

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The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila has reiterated the commitment of  the Federal Government to addressing various challenges facing Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the country.

Gbajabiamila said this in a statement issued by Mr Lanre Lasisi, Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, on Friday in Abuja.

The speaker made the commitment during his outreach programme at the Durumi IDP Camp, where he donated food and sanitary items to the Durumi and Kuchigoro IDP camps.

Represented by Hamzat Baba, Special Assistant on IDPs,  the speaker urged the displaced persons not to despair and assured them that they had not been forgotten and would not be left behind.

He said efforts would be made to ensure that every Nigerian that had suffered the misfortune of being forced to flee their homes would be encouraged to return to productive livelihood.

Gbajabiamila  donated over three hundred bags of rice, cartons of vegetable oil, cartons of noodles, packs of hand  sanitisers and bags of face masks among other items.

“We are here to extend our arms of fellowship to our brothers and sisters who, in flight from conflict and deprivation, have come to find a measure of peace in the protection of this camp.

“We have come bearing gifts which we hope will in some small way, help to improve the circumstances of life for all those who are resident in this camp.

“More than that, we have come bearing assurances that you have not been forgotten and you will not be left behind,” he said.

The speaker also  made a commitment of his time in office, to ensure a return to productive livelihood for all citizens of Nigeria who suffered the misfortune of being forced to choose between dying at home and running away to survive.

“Allow us the honour of spending the day with you as brothers and sisters, and may God bless and keep us all through the challenges of the present times,” the speaker said.

Responding, Mr Idris Halidu, the Coordinator/Spokesman of Abuja-based IDPs, commended the gesture of the speaker, adding that Gbajabiamila was the first lawmaker to remember IDPs in Abuja since the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic.

“The speaker has been around for a long time and we know him, he is not a bench warmer; he has been very active and proactive.

“He is the first to remember us since the outbreak of this pandemic.

“As we thank him for this kind gesture, we implore him to help to resuscitate the IDPs Bill.

“It passed second reading in the Eighth National Assembly but could not go further. We want to encourage him to assist in revisiting the bill,” the IDPs spokesman said. 

Edited By: Chioma Ugboma/Felix Ajide (NAN)

 

 

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More resources must be allocated to address gender discrimination in COVID-19 national response plans: UN roundtable

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United Nations officials and gender equality experts attending a high-level roundtable said Tuesday that efforts must be made to allocate additional resources to address discrimination against women in COVID-19 national response plans.

As the COVID-19 pandemic is moving beyond a global health crisis and morphing into a labor market, social and economic crisis, UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and Head of European Commission’s Service for Foreign Policy Instruments Hilde Hardeman, and International Labour Organization (ILO) Deputy Director-General for Policy Deborah Greenfield on Tuesday convened ministers, chief executives officials, and business associations, trade unions, civil society and academia representatives at the high-level roundtable, “The G7’s role in ensuring women’s economic empowerment and security in the post-COVID future.”

Roundtable participants said that efforts must be made to “allocate additional resources to address discrimination and violence against women and girls in COVID-19 national response plans, including effective measures to reduce the risks of heightened levels of domestic violence.”

The COVID-19 pandemic poses a serious threat to women’s employment and livelihoods as it deepens pre-existing inequalities, and exposes cracks in social, political and economic systems. From access to health services, social protection and digital technologies, to significant rise of domestic violence and unpaid care work, the impacts of COVID-19 are exacerbated for many around the world, said a press release issued by UN Women.

“Women with caring responsibilities, informal workers, low-income families and youth are among the hardest hit,” it said.

Globally, women represent 55.8 percent of employees in service industries, while in the Group of Seven (G7), women make up around 88 percent of the service industry workforce. Nearly 60 percent of women around the world work in the informal economy, earning less, saving less, and at greater risk of falling into poverty. Most are unable to work remotely and may require additional care support for children or older family members as they leave their homes to work.

This pandemic has brought to light the collective reliance on public social safety nets in a time of crisis. The COVID-19 crisis has also made starkly visible the fact that the world‘s formal economies and the maintenance of our daily lives are built on the invisible and unpaid labor of women and girls. Along with governments, the private sector and workers’ representatives have a key role to play in establishing an equitable and gender-responsive future of work, now increasingly reliant on digital technology, and built on social, environmental and economic justice,” said the press release.

Roundtable participants put forth recommendations for G7 member states to foster resilient and regenerative societies and economies and build the world we want postpandemic. It is important for G7 countries to work in solidarity through global coordination with all stakeholders, and to prioritize gender equality and women’s economic empowerment in their COVID-19 crisis response and recovery.

Among the 10 proposed key actions for G7 member states to promote gender equality and women’s economic empowerment in COVID-19 crisis response and recovery are designing and implementing gender-responsive crisis responses with long-term solutions, expanding and investing in universal gender-responsive social protection, mitigating the pandemic‘s impact on enterprises and employment, providing health care and other front-line workers with occupational safety and health equipment and allocating additional resources to address discrimination and violence against women and girls in COVID-19 national response plans.

A more detailed call to action will be made available in advance of the virtual G7 Leader’s Summit taking place from June 10 to 12, the press release said.

(XINHUA)

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Iran’s parliament approves motion to address Israel’s “hostile measures”

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Iranian lawmakers on Tuesday approved “a double-urgency motion” which, in case of turning into law, would oblige the Iranian government to take certain measures against “hostile measures” of Israel.

The 14-article motion bill was passed with 43 votes in favor, according to Tehran Times daily.

One of the articles states that “the historic land of Palestine belongs to the original Palestinian people.”

Also, according to the bill, “the government of Iran will be obligated to impose bans on all economic, commercial and financial institutions of Israel whose shares belong to Israeli citizens or which are registered in the occupied territories,” said the report.

On Tuesday, Chairman of Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Mojtaba Zonnour said while the world is distracted with the novel coronavirus pandemic, Israel “is doing everything it can to put Iran’s interests at risk.”

In the day, the Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani urged the commission to address the motion as soon as possible so that the parliament can vote on it at the beginning of next week.

(XINHUA)

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IMF approves 2.772 bln USD in emergency support to Egypt to address COVID-19 pandemic

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The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved on Monday Egypt’s request for emergency financial assistance of 2.772 billion U.S. dollars over the COVID-19 outbreak.

The fund, which came under the Rapid Financing Instrument (RFI), aimed to meet Egypt’s urgent balance of payments stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prior to the COVID-19 shock, Egypt carried out a successful economic reform supported by the IMF’s Extended Fund Facility to correct large external and domestic imbalances, according to an IMF statement.

The COVID-19 pandemic and global shock pose an immediate and severe economic disruption that could negatively impact Egypt’s hard-won macro-economic stability if not addressed, it noted.

The RFI will help alleviate some of Egypt’s most pressing financing needs, including those for spending on health, social protection, and supporting the most impacted sectors and vulnerable groups, the IMF said.

Egypt announced in late April that it had asked the IMF for financial support to help deal with the coronavirus crisis.

In mid-March, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi allocated 100 billion Egyptian pounds (6.35 billion U.S. dollars) to finance an anti-coronavirus plan.

(XINHUA)

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Health

Covid 19: Northern Elders laud FG efforts in addressing alarming situation in Kano

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The Northern Elders Forum has  commended the efforts of the Federal Government in addressing the alarming situation of COVID – 19 in Kano State.

Prof. Ango Abdullahi, the Convener of the forum gave the commendation in a statement in Kaduna on Thursday.

Abdullahi noted that the efforts were vital in limiting further escalation of infections in the entire North and the country.

According  to him, the forum shares the nation’s concern over the daily rise in verified cases of infections from COVID-19 all over the country, including Kano state.

“The forum condoles with families who have lost members to this pandemic, and prays for the full recovery of others who have tested positive to the virus.

“The forum commends the efforts of the Federal Government towards addressing the alarming situation in Kano, and notes that these efforts are vital in limiting the further escalation of infections in the entire North and the country.

“In particular, we commend the decision to deploy a strong medical team , among others to verify the causes of many deaths that are being popularly attributed to the pandemic.

“As well as assist the government of Kano State to improve its facilities, investigations and treatment of suspected infections and those who are infected.”

Abdullahi further commended the decision of the federal government to source for equipment and  other facilities on behalf of the Kano State government, and  urged that this be done with speed and openness.

He however called for more to be done in providing medical facilities, personnel, Protective Personal Equipment (PPEs) to ensure total success in containing the virus and treatment of infected persons.

“Citizens with other ailments cannot get medical attention due to restricted availability of spaces, equipment and more importantly personnel.

“Testing and preparation of isolation centres are far behind the rate of spread of the virus, and these need to be addressed with the resources of the government of Kano State, the Federal Government and public spirited individuals and corporate individuals.

“We cannot overemphasize the need for government of Kano State to take steps to regain confidence and support of the citizens of the State; to open its medical assets and give medical personnel the protection and confidence,

“And other resources they need and support  the population to stay at home and observe other regulations.”

He advised Kano  state government to improve its strategic communication strategies, ensure openness with regards to causes of recent deaths, and more effective means of convincing the public over the realities of the dangers we all face.

Abdullahi said that the forum regrets  attempts by many state governments “to play politics with numbers for what appears to be expectations that more funds from federal government and foreign donors will be allocated to them.”

He stressed that what the nation requires now were good policies that protect all Nigerians; equipment and facilities for testing and treatment and resources to support people who will find it hard to stay at home without some palliatives during lockdown.

He added that  these requirements can be met with resources currently available, which should be deployed to the service  but they need to be put at the service of the public in a transparent and professional manner.

“Policies that waste progress in some parts of the country and others which trample on the rights of vulnerable groups must be discouraged,” he said.

He urged states to adopt policies that suit their peculiarities

“But the nation as a whole must agree on, and implement basic policies that protect the entire population.”

Abdullahi said the forum acknowledged the assistance, in funds and equipment, from the international community.and urged the government to put them to prompt and effective use.

“The forum similarly appreciates the tremendous assistance of Nigerian and corporate bodies in this fight.

“We hope that all governments will utilize the vast assets in expertise, goodwill and integrity available in the private sector and professional groups and individuals in the country, and involve them in all stages in the fight against this pandemic.”

“The forum appeals to all citizens to respect official directives in their own interest and exercise greater discipline in the manner they protect themselves and their families.”

Edited By: Constance Imasuen/Maharazu Ahmed (NAN)

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Hajj: Board urges NIS to address E-Passport challenges

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Gombe Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board (MPWB) has called on the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) to address the challenges in obtaining E-Passport during Hajj operation.

Alhaji Sa’adu Hassan, Executive Secretary of the board, made the call during a familiarisation visit by the newly posted NIS Comptroller, Cordolla Goewam, on Tuesday in Gombe.

Hassan said that MPWB was experiencing lots of challenges in getting passport which needed to be addressed to have successful pilgrimage.

He said he was delighted over the visit and promised to work with NIS for a hitch free exercise.

”The  door is always open to receive advice. We will partner with any organisation toward hitch free exercise in the state,” Hassan said.

In her response, Goewam said that the visit was to familiarise herself with the staff in discharging her duties in the state.

She solicited for the support and cooperation of the Board in discharging her responsibility in the state.


Edited By: Chinyere Bassey/Wale Ojetimi (NAN)

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China urges U.S. to address int’l concern of its bio-laboratories

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China on Wednesday urged the United States to take the international community’s concern on its bio-laboratories in former Soviet Union countries seriously and protect local peoples’ health and security, a Foreign Ministry spokesperson said Wednesday.

Spokesperson Geng Shuang made the remarks at a routine press briefing after a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson expressed such concern.

Foreign media also disclosed that those laboratories are completely led by the U.S. side, and ordered by the U.S. Defense Ministry to study dangerous diseases targeted at specific groups of people or even conduct some research projects that are prohibited in the United States.

Photo taken on Feb. 19, 2020 shows the Pentagon seen from an airplane over Washington D.C., the United States. (Xinhua/Liu Jie)

Photo taken on Feb. 19, 2020 shows the Pentagon seen from an airplane over Washington D.C., the United States.

(Xinhua/Liu Jie)

“The United States has established a number of biological laboratories in former Soviet Union countries but has kept quiet about their functions, uses and safety factors,” Geng said, noting the move has raised deep concern among local people and neighboring countries, and some people strongly demand the closure of relevant laboratories.

“We hope the U.S. side takes the international community’s concern seriously, consider the health and security of the local people in a responsible manner and take concrete measures to reduce misgivings,” he said.

(XINHUA)

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Features

President Buhari’s address on COVID-19

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ADDRESS BY H.E. MUHAMMADU BUHARI, PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA ON THE CUMULATIVE LOCKDOWN ORDER OF LAGOS AND OGUN STATES AS WELL AS THE FEDERAL CAPITAL TERRITORY ON COVID- 19 PANDEMIC AT THE STATE HOUSE, ABUJA, MONDAY, 27th APRIL, 2020

1. Fellow Nigerians

2. I will start by commending you all for the resilience and patriotism that you have shown in our collective fight against the biggest health challenge of our generation.

3. As at yesterday, 26th April 2020, some 3 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been recorded globally with about 900,000 recoveries. Unfortunately, some 200,000 people have passed away as a result of this pandemic.

4. The health systems and economies of many nations continue to struggle as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

5. Nigeria continues to adapt to these new global realities on a daily basis. Today, I will present the facts as they are and explain our plans for the coming months fully aware that some key variables and assumptions may change in the coming days or weeks.

6. Exactly two weeks ago, there were 323 confirmed cases in 20 States and the Federal Capital Territory.

7. As at this morning, Nigeria had recorded 1,273 cases across 32 States and the FCT. Unfortunately, this includes 40 deaths.

8. I am using this opportunity to express our deepest condolences to the families of all Nigerians that have lost their loved ones as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is our collective loss and we share your grief.

9. Initial models predicted that Nigeria will record an estimated 2,000 confirmed cases in the first month after the index case.

10. This means that despite the increase in the number of confirmed cases recorded in the past two weeks, the measures we have put in place thus far have yielded positive outcomes against the projections.

11. The proportion of cases imported from other countries has reduced to only 19% of new cases, showing that our border closures yielded positive results. These are mostly fellow Nigerians returning through our land borders. We will continue to enforce land border arrival protocols as part of the containment strategy.

12. Today, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has accredited 15 laboratories across the country with an aggregate capacity to undertake 2,500 tests per day across the country.

13. Based on your feedback, Lagos State Government and the FCT with support from NCDC have established several sample collection centers. They are also reviewing their laboratory testing strategy to further increase the number of tests they can perform including the accreditation of selected private laboratories that meet the accreditation criteria.

14. Several new fully equipped treatment and isolation centres have been operationalised across the country thereby increasing bed capacity to about three thousand.

15. I commend the State Governors for the activation of State-level Emergency Operation Centres, establishment of new treatment centres and the delivery of aggressive risk communication strategies.

16. Over 10,000 healthcare workers have been trained. For their protection, additional personal protective equipment have been distributed to all the states.

17. Although we have experienced logistical challenges, we remain committed to establishing a solid supply chain process to ensure these heroic professionals can work safely and are properly equipped.

18. In keeping with our Government’s promise to improve the welfare of healthcare workers, we have signed a memorandum of understanding on the provision of hazard allowances and other incentives with key health sector professional associations.

19. We have also procured insurance cover for 5,000 frontline health workers. At this point, I must commend the insurance sector for their support in achieving this within a short period of time.

20. Nigeria has also continued to receive support from the international community, multilateral agencies, the private sector and public-spirited individuals. This support has ensured that critical lifesaving equipment and materials, which have become scarce globally, are available for Nigeria through original equipment manufacturers and government-to-government processes.

21. The distribution and expansion of palliatives which I directed in my earlier broadcast is still on-going in a transparent manner. I am mindful of the seeming frustration being faced by expectant citizens. I urge all potential beneficiaries to exercise patience as we continue to fine tune our logistical and distribution processes working with the State Governments.

22. Our Security Agencies continue to rise to the challenge posed by this unusual situation. While we feel deeply concerned about isolated security incidents, I want to assure all Nigerians that your safety and security remain our primary concern especially in these difficult and uncertain times.

23. As we focus on protecting lives and properties, we will not tolerate any human rights abuse by our security agencies. The few reported incidences are regrettable, and I want to assure you that the culprits will be brought to justice.

24. I urge all Nigerians to continue to cooperate and show understanding whenever they encounter security agents. Furthermore, for their protection, I have instructed that the personnel of all the security agencies be provided with the necessary personal protective equipment against infection.

25. As we continue to streamline our response in the centres of Lagos and the FCT, I am gravely concerned about the unfortunate developments in Kano in recent days. Although an in-depth investigation is still on-going, we have decided to deploy additional Federal Government manpower, material and technical resources to strengthen and support the State Government’s efforts, with immediate effect.

26. In Kano, and indeed many other States that are recording new cases, preliminary findings show that such cases are mostly from interstate travel and emerging community transmission.

27. Drawing from these, I implore all Nigerians to continue to adhere strictly to the advisories published by the Presidential Task Force and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.

28. These include regular hand washing, physical distancing, wearing of face masks/coverings in public, avoidance of non-essential movement and travels and avoidance of large gatherings.

29. Fellow Nigerians, for the past four weeks, most parts of our country have been under either Federal Government or State Government lockdown. As I mentioned earlier, these steps were necessary and overall, have contributed to slowing down the spread of COVID-19 in our country.

30. However, such lockdowns have also come at a very heavy economic cost. Many of our citizens have lost their means of livelihood. Many businesses have shut down. No country can afford the full impact of a sustained lockdown while awaiting the development of vaccines.

31. In my last address, I mentioned that Federal Government will develop strategies and policies that will protect lives while preserving livelihoods.

32. In these two weeks, the Federal and State Governments have jointly and collaboratively worked hard on how to balance the need to protect health while also preserving livelihoods, leveraging global best practices while keeping in mind our peculiar circumstances.

33. We assessed how our factories, markets, traders and transporters can continue to function while at the same time adhering to NCDC guidelines on hygiene and social distancing.

34. We assessed how our children can continue to learn without compromising their health.

35. We reviewed how our farmers can safely plant and harvest in this rainy season to ensure our food security is not compromised. Furthermore, we also discussed how to safely transport food items from rural production areas to industrial processing zones and ultimately, to the key consumption centres.

36. Our goal was to develop implementable policies that will ensure our economy continues to function while still maintaining our aggressive response to the COVID-19 pandemic. These same difficult decisions are being faced by leaders around the world.

37. Based on the above and in line with the recommendations of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, the various Federal Government committees that have reviewed socio-economic matters and the Nigeria Governors Forum, I have approved a phased and gradual easing of lockdown measures in FCT, Lagos and Ogun States effective from Monday, 4th May, 2020.

38. However, this will be followed strictly with aggressive reinforcement of testing and contact tracing measures while allowing the restoration of some economic and business activities in certain sectors.

39. Furthermore, new nationwide measures are to be introduced as follows;

a. There will be an overnight curfew from 8pm to 6am. This means all movements will be prohibited during this period except for essential services;

b. There will be a ban on non-essential inter-state passenger travel until further notice;

c. Partial and controlled interstate movement of goods and services will be allowed for the movement of goods and services from producers to consumers; and

d. We will strictly ensure the mandatory use of face masks or coverings in public in addition to maintaining physical distancing and personal hygiene. Furthermore, the restrictions on social and religious gatherings shall remain in place. State Governments, corporate organisations and philanthropists are encouraged to support the production of cloth masks for citizens.

40. For the avoidance of doubt, the lockdown in the FCT, Lagos and Ogun States shall remain in place until these new ones come into effect on Monday, 4th May 2020.

41. The Presidential Task Force shall provide sector specific details to allow for preparations by Governments, businesses and institutions.

42. In respect to the above guidelines, State Governors may choose to adapt and expand based on their unique circumstances provided they maintain alignment with the guidelines issued above.

43. To support our businesses and traders, the monetary and fiscal authorities shall deploy all the necessary provisions needed for production to continue and thus, jobs restored.

44. These revised guidelines will not apply to Kano State.

45. With regards to Kano, I have directed the enforcement of a total lockdown for a period of two weeks effective immediately. The Federal Government shall deploy all the necessary human, material and technical resources to support the State in controlling and containing the pandemic and preventing the risk of further spread to neighbouring States.

46. I wish to once again, commend the frontline workers across the country who, on a daily basis, risk everything to ensure we win this fight. For those who got infected in the line of duty, rest assured that Government will do all it takes to support you and your families during this exceedingly difficult period. I will also take this opportunity to assure you all that your safety, wellbeing and welfare remain paramount to our Government.

47. I will also recognise the support we have received from our traditional rulers, the Christian Association of Nigeria, the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs and other prominent religious and community leaders. Your cooperation and support have significantly contributed to the successes we have recorded to date.

48. I will urge you all to please continue to create awareness on the seriousness of the coronavirus among your worshippers and communities while appealing that they strictly comply with public health advisories.

49. I also thank the Nigeria Governors’ Forum and the Presidential Task Force for all their hard work to date. Through this collaboration, I remain confident that success is achievable.

50. I also wish to thank corporate organisations, philanthropists, the UN system, the European Union, friendly nations, the media and other partners that have taken up the responsibility of supporting our response.

51. And finally, I will thank all Nigerians again for your patience and cooperation during this difficult and challenging period. I assure you that government shall continue to take all necessary measures to protect the lives and livelihoods of our citizens and residents.

52. I thank you for listening and may God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria

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Foreign

UN chief urges more efforts to address challenges faced by young people

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United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday urged the international community to do more to address various challenges faced by young people who are encountering such problems as inadequate participation opportunities and exclusion from political decision-making.

“We must do more to address these challenges, guided by the findings of the Independent Progress Study on Youth Peace and Security,” the UN chief told the virtual Security Council meeting on the Maintenance of International Peace and Security: Youth, Peace and Security.

The secretary-general called on the international community to invest in young people’s participation, organizations and initiatives.

“The Peacebuilding Fund is an invaluable tool, and I urge you to ensure it has the resources it needs,” he said.

Guterres also said that “we must strengthen human rights protections and protect the civic space on which youth participation depends,” adding that “we must emerge from the COVID-19 crisis with a determination to recover better — massively increasing our investment in young people’s capacities as we deliver the Sustainable Development Goals.”

Noting that the world has been shaken by the COVID-19 pandemic, Guterres said that “young people are feeling the impact acutely, from lost jobs to family stress, mental health and other hardships.”

“Over 1.54 billion children and youth are out-of-school,” said the secretary-general. “Young refugees, displaced persons and others caught up in conflict or disaster now face even more vulnerability. Persons with disabilities may face new hindrances in access to the services and support to which they have a right.”

Noting that young people were facing enormous challenges even before the current crisis, he said that one of every five young people was already not in education, training or employment.

“One of every four is affected by violence or conflict,” he added. “And every year, 12 million girls become mothers while they themselves are still children.”

“These frustrations and, frankly, failures to address them by those in power today, fuel declining confidence in political establishments and institutions,” said the secretary-general.

The UN chief warned that “when such a cycle takes hold, it is all too easy for extremist groups to exploit the anger and despair, and the risk of radicalization climbs.”

Despite these hurdles and risks, the UN chief said, young people are still finding ways to engage, support each other, and to demand and drive change.

“The world cannot afford a lost generation of youth, their lives set back by COVID-19 and their voices stifled by a lack of participation,” he said.
(XINHUA)

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General news

COVID-19: Again, Buhari addresses Nigerians ahead of expiration of 14-day extended lockdown

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President Muhammadu Buhari will again address the nation later this evening, the Presidency has announced.

Mr Femi Adesina, the President’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, made this known in a statement in Abuja on Monday.

Adesina said the president would make the broadcast at 8 p.m today (April 27).

”Television, radio and other electronic media stations are enjoined to hook up to the network services of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) and Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN), respectively, for the broadcast,” he said

The News Agency of Nigeria recalls that the president had earlier addressed the nation in March and on April 13 where he announced measures.

The steps included lockdown of Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Lagos and Ogun States to contain the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

NAN observed that the additional 14-day lockdown extension in FCT, Lagos and Ogun will expire by 11 p.m on April 27.

Edited By: Muhammad Suleiman Tola (NAN)

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Foreign

Kenya launches new intervention measures to address malaria scourge

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Kenya’s health ministry on Saturday introduced additional intervention measures to address malaria scourge in the country.

Mercy Mwangangi, chief administrative secretary, said that the government is launching mass net distribution campaign 2020 targeting approximately 25 million people living in 27 regions that are most affected by malaria.

“The new interventions are to be carried out in addition to distribution of long-lasting insecticide-treated nets, indoor residual spraying, increased access to malaria testing and treatment among others,” Mwangangi said in a statement marking the world malaria day.

She said that the government is also set to launch a malaria youth army and a nationwide “Zero Malaria Starts with Me Campaign.”

“The youth army will engage the youths in malaria control and prevention activities in the communities,” she said.

The Zero Malaria Starts with Me Campaign, which aims to promote individual responsibility and empower communities to take action in the fight against malaria, she said,

Mwangangi said that the government plans include innovative Kenya-Cuba malaria vector control project that was signed by President Uhuru Kenyatta and the Cuban government in 2018 targeting eight counties in western Kenya.

“This has led to a shrinking of the malaria map with malaria cases reported from health facilities declining from 74 to 40 cases per thousand in 2018,” she revealed.

The official noted that the reduction over the decade has translated to fewer cases annually from six million to approximately 4.6 million confirmed cases and reduction in severe malaria cases and malaria deaths.

She added that the interventions have also contributed to reduced maternal and child mortality.

According to Mwangangi, the residual indoor spraying done in early 2020 has coffered protection to about two million residents of Homa Bay and Migori in western Kenya.

Improved capacity for diagnosis means more than 90 percent of facilities having the capacity to accurately diagnose malaria, she added.

Mwangangi observed that even as the government is currently addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, there are commitments to ensure continuity of malaria services across the country.

“We will continue to work with all the county governments and all its partners to ensure that we sustain the gains so that we continue to protect our communities from the malaria disease,” she added.
(XINHUA)

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General news

COVID-19: NUJ says more awareness needed to address misconceptions

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Mr Alhassan Yahaya, Vice President, Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Zone E, has called for more public  awareness on the novel coronavirus to address misconceptions about it and strengthen the fight against it.

In an interview with News Agency of Nigeria in Gombe on Saturday, Yahaya said that the misconceptions posed a danger.

According to him, with sustained awareness against the pandemic, Nigerians who are having different misconceptions about the virus will understand that the virus is real.

He said that getting the people to understand and observe all directives  by government and health authorities to curb the pandemic,  would impact greatly on the country’s ability to contain the spread.

He said that the role of journalists was key to the success of the fight against coronavirus.

“Today, there are lots of learned people who do not believe that there is coronavirus while some others believe that coronavirus is a concept used to siphon funds.

“We must bring such people to realise that coronavirus is real.

“It is our (journalists’) job to keep sensitising those people who are yet to believe anything about how deadly coronavirus is, until they come to terms that COVID-19 is real and has no boundaries,’’ he said.

Yahaya advised journalists to take precaution while discharging their duties.

“Their safety is what we are concerned about; they are frontline workers rendering timely service to their fatherland.’’

He also urged journalists to rely on COVID-19 committees at state and national levels for information about the pandemic.

“Any fake news puts the credibility of journalists and their organisations at stake,’’ he told NAN.

He called on the Federal Government to consider life insurance for all frontline journalists, adding that palliatives for journalists would encourage them.

Edited By: Cecilia Odey/Ijeoma Popoola (NAN)

 

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Judiciary

Lawyer advocates overhaul of judiciary to address post-COVID-19 cases

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Convener of the Fight Against Corruption in the Judiciary (FIACIJ), Mr Bayo Akinlade, has advocated an overhaul of the Judiciary to address postCOVID-19 cases.

Akinlade made the recommendation in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria in Lagos on Thursday.

He underscored the need for all relevant stakeholders in the Justice sector to join hands in rebuilding a legal system that would reflect the judiciary as truly the last hope of the common man.

While noting that businesses had remained locked down since the pandemic, he urged the justice sector to take proactive steps to sharpen its legal system that would address cases that might arise after the COVID-19 pandemic.

“With new cases of those tested positive to COVID-19 reported every day, fear now grips both the rich and the poor alike.

“Most small scale businesses have already become comatose, while others struggle for survival. Employers on their part, already worried about paying back loans they took to start up the business.

“In all of these, the Judiciary which is the last hope of the common man must brace up to the challenge and map out strategies for enhancing the legal system postCOVID-19.

“The justice system is an integral part of political, social and economic stability and so, the judiciary must live up to expectations,’’ he said.

According to him, the recent calls for reform within the judiciary by various stakeholders cannot be ignored any longer.

Akinlade said: “The judiciary officers took an oath to serve the citizens without fear or favour and so, must strive to live up to the expectations of the people.

“Even as we consider these, we must also turn the searchlight on ourselves as lawyers.

“The death of Chief Richard Akinjide, SAN, is a rude awakening for all. Chief represented some of the heroes of the profession and the nation as a whole.

“The current judiciary infrastructure was designed by his generation but there are currently over four generations of lawyers since the time of late Chief Akinjide, who must follow his legacy.’’

He noted that the judiciary must also strive to move from the current analogue system to a computer-based system of dispensation of Justice.
UNS/

Edited By: Kevin Okunzuwa/Adeleye Ajayi (NAN)

 

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Economy

Inflation: NECA wants demand, supply shocks addressed

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The Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) says policy measures to address demand and supply shocks will help address the rising inflation rate as well as stimulating the economy ahead of potential recession.

The NECA Director-General, Mr Timothy Olawale, made this known in a statement on Wednesday while reacting to the release of the March 2020 Consumer Price Index (CPI).

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that data released by the National Bureau of Statistics has shown that the CPI, which measures inflation, increased by 12.26 per cent in March.

An analysis of the report released by the bureau on April 2, showed that Lagos witnessed a decrease in the general price of food items in March on a month-on-month basis.

The CPI increased by 0.06 percentage points from the 12.20 per cent recorded in February.

Olawale said: “Following the release of the March 2020 CPI, the Inflation rate has increased by 0.06 per cent from the February 2020 figure to 12.26 per cent rising for the eighth consecutive month and the highest inflation rate the country has recorded in 23 months.

“With the lockdown and closure of businesses, it is believed that recession looms in the economy amidst the rapid spread of COVID-19 pandemic.”

The director-general said that conventional policy measures currently being taken such as reducing interest rates and costs of borrowing, tax cuts and tax holidays were quite remarkable.

He said, however, that these conventional policy measures were quite potent when there were demand shocks.

“There are limitations to the successes that can be recorded when demand shocks are combined with supply shocks.

“It is already apparent from the emergence of the current crisis that there are implications on the economy from both the demand and supply sides.

“Some of the demand factors include social distancing with consumers staying at home, limitations in spending and declining consumptions.

“On the supply side, factories are shutting down or cutting down production and output, while in other instances, staff work from home to limit physical contact,” he said.

NAN reports that NECA is the umbrella organisation of employers in the organised private sector of Nigeria.

Edited By: Abiodun Esan/Muhammad Suleiman Tola (NAN)

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Foreign

Chinese envoy calls for efforts to address root causes of hunger

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A Chinese envoy on Tuesday asked the international community to address the root causes of hunger by working toward the peaceful settlement of conflicts and by promoting inclusive and balanced development.

It is imperative to prevent and resolve conflicts and to promote dialogue and political settlement of hot-spot issues, Zhang Jun, China‘s permanent representative to the United Nations, told the Security Council in a debate on the protection of civilians affected by conflict-induced hunger.

The Security Council should keep up to its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security and promote the resolution of conflicts through political and diplomatic means in order to relieve civilians from sufferings of war, including from hunger, he said.

It is essential to promote inclusive and balanced development and always take development as a priority, said Zhang.

“It’s difficult to achieve development without peace. What is also true is that it is hard to realize sustainable peace without development.”

He also stressed the importance of international cooperation in promoting global food security.

The international community should jointly take urgent action to ensure unobstructed global food supply chain and maintain food supply and price stability, he said. “We must support the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Food Programme in playing their unique coordinating role in providing humanitarian assistance to countries concerned to prevent large-scale famine.”
(XINHUA)

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