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Final planning Conference of the ECOWAS Command Post Exercise Begins



The Final Planning Conference (FPC) of the ECOWAS Command Post Exercise (CPX) began on the 25th of February 2020 in Abuja, Nigeria.

The FPC is meant to finalize both the construct, plan as well as real life support and a review of the completed staff work since the commencement of the earlier main conference in 2018.

In his opening remarks at the at start of the conference, the ECOWAS Commission’s Director, Peacekeeping and Regional Security Dr Cyriaque Agnekethom opined that the activity was an important milestone in the planning process for the execution of the Command Post Exercise, leading to the CPX of the ECOWAS Standby Force (ESF) code named Exercise Jiguii IV.

Since it is aimed at sustaining the full operational readiness of the ESF, Dr. Agnekethom pointed out that the conference presents “an opportunity to make things right” with the necessary re-evaluation and updating before the commencement of the Exercise of the ESF in March 2020.

More significantly, he said the Command Post Exercise is being undertaken to ensure that the ECOWAS Standby Force (ESF) is operationally ready to respond to present and future deployment scenarios taking into account the security threats being faced by our region.

Furthermore, he noted that it is also an opportunity to test the capability of the ESF to conduct operational and strategic level planning for multidimensional operations and to exercise command and control of deployed forces on a simulated ECOWAS/AU mandated Peace Support Operations.

The conference is poised to develop host nation and host institution support being an important requirement of the Maputo five-year strategic work plan of the African Standby Force (ASF).

Speaking in this regard, the Commandant of the Nigerian National Defence College Rear Admiral M.M Kadriri, represented by the Provost of the institution Amb Chidoke Wigwe pledged the commitment of the National Defence College to sustainable cooperation with ECOWAS and the African Union in the organization of programmes towards the engagement of stakeholders who are involved in Peace Support Operations (PSOs).

The Representative of the implementers of the programme, the Deutshe Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) Mr. Leonardo Steinfeld expressed satisfaction with the commitment of all the participants in the exercise while thanking the host country, the Nigerian National Defence College as well as participants for their steadfastness.

The programme is funded by the German Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the European Union (EU).

Apart from the adoption of an Exercise plan the 3-Day conference is expected to produce real-Life Support as well as communication and Information System (CIS) plan, among others.


Spanish gov’t to ask for sixth, final extension of State of Alarm




Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez will this week ask parliament to grant a sixth and also final extension of the State of Alarm, which was put into effect on March 15 to help control the spread of COVID-19.

Sanchez confirmed he would make the request for the extension during his weekly video conference with the leaders of Spain‘s 17 autonomous communities on Sunday morning, reported Spanish state TV network RTVE.

If the request is supported by parliament, the State of Alarm will be extended for another two weeks until June 21. By then, the country is expected to enter the final stage of the government’s four-stage plan to relax lockdown restrictions in Spain.

According to reports, Sanchez has promised regional leaders “absolute control” over lifting restrictions during the final stage, and to participate in the management of the European Union‘s funds for postpandemic recovery.

The decision came after Sanchez on Saturday reached an agreement with the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) and the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC), asking the PNV to support him in Congress and the ERC to abstain, to help guarantee him adequate votes next week.

On May 20, Sanchez‘s request for a fifth extension of the State of Alarm was passed with 177 votes in favor and 162 against in the 350-seat Congress, with the center-right Citizens party supporting him and the ERC voting against along with the right-wing opposition People’s Party and Vox.


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Palestine begins high-school final exams under anti-coronavirus precautions




Around 78,400 high-school students in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip began on Saturday their final exams under precautions against the novel coronavirus.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Ishtaye visited one of the high schools in the northwest of the West Bank city of Ramallah to check the first day of the final exams.

Today the Palestinians are united in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Diaspora where all students began their high-school final exams amid the coronavirus pandemic,” Ishtaye told reporters.

He said his cabinet had formed a special committee including the ministries of education and health to observe how the final exams are going.

Meanwhile, Minister of Education Marwan Awartani told reporters that his ministry’s plan for the high-school final examinations meets the health measures against the deadly virus.

In Gaza, Zeyad Thabet, director general of the Hamas-run ministry of education, told a news briefing that his ministry prepared 50 additional classrooms and each classroom has 15 seats for 15 students.

“Distancing between one student and the other is obligatory as part of the precautionary measures taken against the coronavirus,” said Thabet, adding 242 schools are participating in the final exams in the Gaza Strip.


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Dresden finally start survival mission against ‘rest of the world’



After a seemingly endless delay, Dynamo Dresden, finally start their ambitious quest of surviving in the German second division on Sunday, with eight games in 22 days.

Positive tests for the novel coronavirus within their ranks forced them into quarantine at home for a fortnight, the only Bundesliga or second-tier club to suffer this fate amid frequent testing.

This led to the postponement of their first three games after the restart two weeks ago.

As a result, Sunday’s game against promotion-seeking VfB Stuttgart will start an eight-match marathon until June 21 and they hope to save themselves again when the season ends another game later on June 28.

“It is us against the rest of the world.

“Let the others talk while we tackle it together because we have no more time to lose,’’ Dresden said on social media when they finally started full team training last Saturday.

With three games in hand, bottom side Dresden are five points from Karlsruhe in the relegation play-off spot, and seven off Nuremberg in safe 15th.

Coach Markus Kauczinski and his players are in a quarantined team training camp after everyone had to be in quarantine at home for two weeks while the other teams trained and played.

“We must get a feeling for space and playing together.

“It is new for me as well and I must find a way.

“It will require skill and not putting too much of a burden on the players in a short time,’’ Kauczinski.

The tight schedule will allow no further proper training once they play again, with Kauczinski agreeing “there won’t be a lot of training but rather recovery and analysis’’.

The eight-time East German champions want to avoid a return into the third tier after four years and had improved after the winter break before the pandemic suspended play in mid-March, just one point off the play-off spot and four from safety.

Apart from the other teams garnering points while they were in quarantine, Dresden also face a difficult schedule.

Opponents include the top three of Stuttgart, SV Hamburg and Arminia Bielefeld but two matches against fellow-strugglers, Sandhausen and Wehen Wiesbaden.

“At the moment it doesn’t feel like there will be a fair result.

“But we shouldn’t see ourselves as victims.

“I feel the players’ motivation,’’ Kauczinski said.

Goalkeeper Kevin Broll confirmed that the players are willing to give their all in the survival bid.

“Who still believes in us? We do!

“That must be our motto for the coming weeks,’’ Broll told the club website.

“We play every three days and can do great things for the club.

“That should be sufficient motivation because together we can reach our goal.’’


Edited By: Abdulfatah Babatunde (NAN)

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Belgian Cup final back on and set for Aug. 1



League champions Club Bruges will meet Royal Antwerp in the Belgian Cup final on Aug. 1, the Belgian football association said on Thursday.

The match, which is holding in spite of the rest of the 2019/2020 season having been called off, will take place behind closed doors at the King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels.

The decision was announced after the two clubs, the Belgian Pro League and football association met with city officials to sort out arrangements and police and security services gave a green light.

The final was originally supposed to be played on March 22 but was called off at the start of the COVID-19 health crisis.

Belgium has since ended its season early with Club Bruges declared champions.

Edited By: Olawale Alabi) (NAN)

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NASA, SpaceX make final preparations for historic launch




Two NASA astronauts will fly on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) on Wednesday, the first launch of American astronauts on an American rocket from American soil since 2011.

The mission team concluded the launch readiness review for the upcoming mission, dubbed Demo-2, on Monday at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, said Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, at a prelaunch briefing.

NASA and SpaceX key managers have given the “go” for the launch, she said, adding the team continues to make progress toward the mission.

“The only thing need to do is how to control the weather on the launch day,” Lueders said.

Liftoff of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft, carrying NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, is scheduled for Wednesday at 4:33 p.m. Eastern Time from Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39A.

The two astronauts are scheduled to arrive at the ISS about 24 hours after launch.

The spacecraft is designed to do this autonomously, but astronauts aboard the spacecraft and the station will be monitoring approach and docking, and can take control of the spacecraft if necessary, according to NASA.

After successfully docking, Behnken and Hurley will be welcomed aboard station and will become members of the Expedition 63 crew. They will perform tests on Crew Dragon in addition to conducting research and other tasks with the space station crew.

The mission duration has not been announced yet. NASA said it will be determined once on station based on the readiness of the next commercial crew launch.


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Africa javelin champ Yego looks to clinch gold in final Olympics




Africa javelin champion Julius Yego hopes to use the Diamond League campaign to improve his throws ahead of the rescheduled Tokyo Olympic Games in 2021.

Yego, 31, won silver with one throw at the last Olympics in Rio in 2016, before a groin and ankle injury slowed his progress.

However, after three years of rehabilitation, false starts and bruised egos, Yego is ready to pick up the gauntlet and stake his claim to the javelin gold at the delayed Tokyo Games next year.

Yego is eyeing the Diamond League to showcase his blossoming talent and reclaim his status on the world stage.

“I started my training early enough knowing that for the first time, I had no niggling injuries. I can say, I was doing very well in training and looked forward to start of the season,” Yego said in Nairobi on Monday.

His target will be to improve his personal best time. At the continental level in Rabat, Morocco last year, Yego threw a season’s best 87.73 meters to clinch the Africa title, just five meters off his personal best, which he set in Beijing in 2015 when he hurled the javelin 92.72m to win the world title.

“I feel this was to be my year. I had it all planned, but I have to go back and plan hoping to emerge stronger when the lockdown is lifted. It is important to remain fit and active so as to take little time to return to competition,” he added.

World Athletics has confirmed that the Diamond League will start in August.

“In Rio, I got silver because of injury. I was sure to win gold in 2020, but here we are, the Games are postponed. I still hope that I will achieve my dream of getting an Olympic gold next year because I believe it will be my last appearance at the Games,” said Yego.

The lockdown and closure of training camps in Kenya has not stopped Yego from training.

“I maintain a strict routine to keep fit through running and other small exercises,” added Yego. “I hope to regain my form, which I had in 2015. Time will tell.”


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Washington’s Europe travel ban leads to “final viral infusion” in U.S. — media




A report by The Washington Post on Saturday said that the White House’s travel restrictions on Europe have prompted the crush of passengers from then COVID-19 epicenter and triggered a “final viral infusion” in the United States.

Citing the crowded population and cursory temperature check at U.S. airports after a 30-day Europe travel ban went into effect in March, the report said these scenes showed “how a policy intended to block the pathogen’s entry into the United States instead delivered one final viral infusion.”

“(President Donald) Trump has repeatedly touted his decision in January to restrict travel from China as evidence that he acted decisively to contain the coronavirus,” the article said. “But it was his administration’s response to the threat from Europe that proved more consequential to the majority of the more than 94,000 people who have died and the 1.6 million now infected in the United States.”

On March 11, Trump announced a suspension of travel from more than two dozen European countries to the United States for the next 30 days. The ban did not apply to American citizens who would be screened before entering the country.

Alarmed by the announcement, many American nationals including students in Europe chose to fly back to the United States. “As those exposed travelers fanned out into U.S. cities and suburbs, they became part of an influx from Europe that went unchecked for weeks,” the report said.

Last month, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo also blamed the White House for its botched response to contain the coronavirus, saying, “We closed the front door with the China travel ban, but we left the back door wide open.”


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Lagos govt. finalises Register-To-Open guidelines, ahead restart of economy



The Lagos State Government says it has set the process of re-opening its economy in motion, with the rollout of ”Register-to-Open” guidelines.

Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu said this at a webinar organised by First Securities Discount House (FSDH) Group, with the theme: ”A Global Pandemic: Local Realities and Peculiarities – A View from the Frontlines”.

Sanwo-Olu was a panelist in the online discussion that also featured Gov. Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State and Gov. Godwin Obaseki of Edo, with about 1,200 people participating from across the globe.

He said that the state government was daily battling the reality of balancing reactivation of economic activities and the continuation of the state’s response to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

The governor said that the battle to stop the ravaging virus in Lagos had subjected the state to a delicate situation.

He said it was a situation of having to manage hunger resulting from weeks of slowdown in economic activities and also the movement of consumer goods to keep the economy afloat.

Sanwo-Olu said that the four-page Register-to-Open guidelines were the major part of the measures initiated to achieve phased re-opening of the state economy.

According to him, the government has offered incentives that will affect its Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), in order to prevent job loss in critical industries that provide employment for a large number of people.

Sanwo-Olu said that the state government remained committed to tackling COVID-19 and breaking the cycle of its transmission.

He, however, said that there was need to address hunger and job loss that could arise from prolonged lockdown of the economy.

”We have been caught in a very delicate situation between managing COVID-19 on one hand and managing hunger and sustaining an economy that is not only dependent on commercial activities in Lagos alone, but also other states across the federation.

”We have had weeks of engagement with players in fast-moving consumer goods sector and part of the measures we are taking is that, we are giving them additional clearance to work for longer hours.

”Besides, we initiated what we called Register-to-Open, which is a thorough guideline to help the residents ahead of the full re-opening.

”Some of the things we will be seeing in the four-page guideline is, how we want to manage space at various places of business and what numbers of personnel and clients we expect at a given period, which must be based on the sizes of the facilities.

”As we prepare for this phased re-opening, we are giving priority to sectors that have higher number of labour,” Sanwo-Olu said.

The governor, however, maintained that the re-opening would not be done in haste.

He said that the construction and manufacturing sectors would be accorded high priority for full re-opening, given the high level of employment they generate.

According to him, the entertainment, hospitality and aviation industries will be considered in the second phase of intervention.

Sanwo-Olu said that the weeks of inertia in the economy also had significant impact on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), that millions of small-scale businesses operating in the state could completely fold up if the economy was not fully reactivated.

He said that the state government was granting three-month moratorium to MSMEs that applied for loan facilities at the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF).

Sanwo-Olu also said that the government had started to compile data of registered MSMEs in the state for operational support that would cushion the effect of economic slowdown on their businesses.

”The other part of our intervention is our conversation with big corporations in various sectors on the requirements they may want from us to ensure that they do not retrench their staff in this emergency period. This conversation is very important.

”The companies have given us a retinue of incentives they want us to give and these are the things that will affect the state’s Internally Generated Revenue (IGR).

”We are willing to make this sacrifice to prevent loss of livelihood for millions of our citizens,” the governor said.

Sanwo-Olu said that in the course of the lockdown, the state government provided palliatives for over 800,000 households, as there was the need to bring succour to residents that lived on daily wage.

He said that people must trust the government on the management of the coronavirus and data being churned out.

”Lagos has been affected both on the healthcare and economy sides. We have had to take a deep dive into our budget and have about 25 per cent cut, which is not very good number for us.

”This is the time we need to continue to spend to stave off pressure on our citizens. However, we need to be prudent at this time and cut unimportant expenditures. Salary is one thing we cannot even touch.

”In terms of direct economy, entertainment industry, hospitality, land transportation and aviation businesses have been affected significantly.

”These sectors are large employers of labour. We are thinking through on how to reset these sectors in a graduated manner and bring back the economy on the full swing,” Sanwo-Olu said.

Edited By: Oluwole Sogunle (NAN)

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Spanish PM says to ask for final extension to State of Alarm




Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said Saturday he will seek a fifth and final extension to the State of Alarm, which was imposed on March 15 to control the spread of the coronavirus.

Speaking in a televised speech, Sanchez said the upcoming final State of Alarm, which will come into effect on May 24 if approved, will be “different” from others.

“It is expected to be the last State of Alarm. We are going to request in the Congress of Deputies that it should last for a month,” he said. All the previous four extensions have been 15 days.

There has been increased opposition in Spain to the State of Alarm, which is the first of three emergency levels a Spanish government can apply under exceptional circumstances. It grants the government special powers to limit the movement of citizens, control the means of production, use private assets if needed, and also use the military to carry out essential logistical and supply jobs.

Sanchez insisted the measures had worked. “The path that we are taking is the only one possible,” he said.

On Saturday, Spain‘s health authorities said 102 new deaths were confirmed in a 24-hour period, the smallest daily increase since the State of Alarm was put into effect.

Sanchez also pointed to the preliminary results from a nationwide coronavirus antibody study, which helped the government gauge the extent of the epidemic.

“Only 5 percent of Spaniards have been infected,” he said, explaining that the study made clear that the “herd immunity” approach initially favored in Britain would not have worked.


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