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First Nigeria prom concert, Afroprom, to motivate school leavers

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To reward,  inspire and promote social network for secondary school leavers, J.Vanni Global, an event producer, has created the first Nigeria Prom Concert tagged Afroprom.

The Lead Project Manager, Mrs Mobola Abiru, made the disclosure at a media briefing on Tuesday in Lagos.

According to her, the Afroprom concert  was conceived to give Nigerian students an opportunity to experience prom while celebrating, networking and partying with Nigerians top-rated celebrities.

“We created Afroprom concert for high school graduates between the ages of 14 to 18, with an eye of getting these teens to celebrate a remarkable achievement at a crucial age of their lives.

“Prom is not new to them, they see it happen everywhere else but not in Nigeria; this spurred us to create an avenue that will welcome them into adult life.

“It is also at this age that they should be rewarded for their hardwork, integrated with inspirations and given all the values they will need to grow in life,” she said.

Abiru added that renowned mediapreneur, Debola Williams, and superstar musician, politicians and others  would be in attendance to inspire and educate the students on the next step after school, by sharing authentic stories of their rise to the top.

She said that guests would be treated to  breathtaking performances fit by Teni, Rema, Donflex and the Extigate team, Dream Catchers and others.

According to her, other side attractions would include a shot at Afroprom King and Queen crowns.

“There will be motivational speaker to inspire the students and a 3D class for them.

“As regards security, the event centre will be adequately protected, the event time is from 12p.m to 6p.m. and a location will be given to parents that will want to accompany their children.

“We have made contact with over 200 schools through social media, and we have ambassadors that are helping out with getting students aware of the event,” she said.

She said that the event scheduled to hold on July 14 at Eko Convention Centre would be hosted by OAP Jimmy and would reward attendants with enticing giftssuch as an iPhone XR, PlayStation 4 and lots more.

She advised interested persons to check events.nairabox.com for  details.

Edited by Ijeoma Popoola

Chiazo Ogbolu: 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

Foreign

Mozambique reports first death case of COVID-19

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Mozambique registered the first death case of COVID-19 as the total number of the confirmed cases in the country rose to 209, the country’s public health director Rosa Marlene said on Monday.

The victim was a 13-year-old teenager from Nampula Province.

Rosa Marlene told the press conference in Maputo that the young victim was admitted to the provincial hospital on May 20, when the health authorities detected symptoms of cough and fever and decided to test her for COVID-19. The result turned out to be positive.

The director said 15 more people were diagnosed positive for COVID-19, bringing the number of people infected with the disease to 209.

Health authorities also said that a total of 71 individuals had already recovered from the disease.

(XINHUA)

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Health

Nnamdi Azikiwe varsity hospital records first case of COVID-19, says CMD

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Authorities of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital (NAUTH), Nnewi, have confirmed one case of the coronavirus at the hospital.

Prof. Anthony Igwegbe, the Chief Medical Director (CMD) of the hospital, disclosed this on Monday.

Igwegbe said the patient was diagnosed with the virus following a test upon getting to the hospital.

According to him, the test result was released on May 23.

He said the patient was immediately moved to one of the isolation centres in Anambra for treatment.

“The patient was quickly moved from our isolation ward to the Anambra state Treatment Centre last night for care and treatment.

“The patient, a male trader resident in Onitsha was admitted to the isolation ward following proper triage on his presentation on May 20.

“Specimen for test was taken the following day and sent to Irrua,” he said.

Igwegbe told the News Agency of Nigeria that a suspect was earlier taken in, but test sample was not taken before the patient died.

“That was a probable case, the patient showed some symptoms but sample was not taken before the patient died.

“So we have only one confirmed case of COVID-19 in NAUTH so far,” he said.

The CMD added that all the necessary precautions were taken and all those that attended to the confirmed patient used Personal Protection Equipment.

He gave an assurance that the hospital would remain vigilant.

Edited By: Emmanuel Okara/Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)

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Foreign

Israeli aircraft lands in Turkey for first time since 2007

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An Israeli plane has landed in Turkey for the first time for over a decade, Israel’s leading airline El Al said on Sunday.

El Al was the only Israeli airline to conduct flights to Turkey until it canceled the route to Istanbul in 2007 due to high security costs and stiff restrictions arising from the tense relations between the two countries.

Since then, except for emergency landings and private flights, no Israeli aircraft has landed in Turkey.

On Sunday, however, El Al’s Dreamliner aircraft, converted to carry cargo, landed in Istanbul.

It was loaded there with 24 tons of humanitarian coronavirus equipment, destined for Israel and the United States.

So far, El Al has received approval from the Turkish authorities to operate two flights for humanitarian purposes and is awaiting approval to operate cargo flights regularly.

(XINHUA)

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Foreign

COVID-19 deaths in New York drop below 100 for first time since March

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave Westchester and the Hudson Valley the green light to reopen starting on Tuesday as the coronavirus death toll dipped below 100 for the first time since the crisis erupted in March.

The governor also suggested hard-hit Long Island could start the reopening process on Wednesday if the death toll and case numbers keep dropping in Nassau and Suffolk counties.

“What’s safe in Buffalo is safe in Albany is safe in New York City,” Cuomo said on Saturday.

The death toll dropped to 84 people Friday, the first time it’s dipped below 100 since the pandemic slammed the city and surrounding suburbs more than two months ago.

Cuomo called it a bittersweet benchmark that shows how far New Yorkers have come.

“It doesn’t do any good for those 84 families that are feeling the pain.

“But we are making progress and that feels good,” Cuomo said.

In the city, 52 people died of coronavirus in the 24 hours ending Friday evening.

The total death toll rose to 21,138.

There have been nearly 195,000 COVID-19 cases in the five boroughs.

Cuomo explained that the Hudson Valley region, which includes suburban Westchester – the first state hot spot – Rockland, Putnam, Orange and Dutchess counties has already met the state-set benchmarks for deaths and cases.

The area still needs to meet its goal of the number of trained people to trace and track infected people, but officials expect to surpass that total over the long weekend.

Long Island, which was once as serious a COVID-19 hot spot as the five boroughs, will begin the open up on Wednesday as long as its numbers keep headed in the right direction.

New York City hopes to start its reopening process in June if officials see enough progress.

As the state continues to emerge from the first wave of the pandemic, Cuomo has urged New Yorkers to get tested for the infection, even if they have previously been tested.

He said capacity had now exceeded the demand for tests so anyone who wanted a test should get one, especially if they interacted with the public.

“Get a test. We’ve made it as easy as possible, so go do it.

“It’s not: ‘I got one test and I’m done.’ Get tested again,” Cuomo said.

As the Memorial Day weekend started with a rainy Saturday, the governor praised state beach-goers for obeying social-distancing rules on Friday.

Showing photos of a sparse crowd at sunny Jones Beach, he said sun-worshipers mostly stayed safely apart from one another and many wore masks.

“People were great,” said Cuomo, who added: “They are doing what they are supposed to do and we thank them.”

Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)

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Foreign

Gaza reports first death case of COVID-19

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The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza on Saturday reported the first death from COVID-19 in the Palestinian enclave.

In a press statement emailed to reporters, the ministry said the death case is a 77-year-old woman from the district of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip who died at the quarantine hospital near the border with Egypt earlier in the day.

The woman, identified as Fadila Abu Reida, returned from Egypt last week through the Rafah Border Crossing, it added.

A total of 55 people in Gaza have been infected with the coronavirus since March 5, according to the statement.

The death toll of the virus in the Palestinian territories has reached five, with two in the West Bank, two in East Jerusalem, and one in the Gaza Strip.

Both the Palestinian Authority that rules the West Bank and Hamas, ruler of the Gaza Strip, recently tightened the precautionary measures against the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Eyad al-Bozzom, spokesman of the Hamas-run ministry of interior, told a news briefing in Gaza that no infection cases have been recorded in the populated areas in the Gaza Strip.

So far, 16 patients have recovered from COVID-19 in Gaza, while the others are in stable conditions, he revealed.

(XINHUA)

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Foreign

Kenya’s First Lady Margaret Kenyatta calls for more efforts to end obstetric fistula

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Kenya’s First Lady Margaret Kenyatta on Saturday called for the need to intensify ongoing efforts to end obstetric fistula even as the country is battling with COVID-19 pandemic.

Margaret said although Kenya has in the past couple of years registered encouraging decline in maternal mortality, pregnancy-related complications such as obstetric fistula and other morbidities continue to be a public health concern.

“During this COVID-19 pandemic period when health concerns have been prioritized to fight the pandemic, our healthcare facilities are not only strained but also disrupted,” she said in a statement on this year’s International Day in Ending Obstetric Fistula being observed globally on Saturday.

Margaret said she has made a firm commitment to champion advocacy in ending obstetric fistula in Kenya by 2030, by creating awareness on prevention and also by encouraging women living with the condition to seek treatment through surgical repair.

“We have supported these women to integrate back into their communities and supported the training of 136 community healthcare workers who are the frontline caregivers for our women and girls,” Margaret said.

Obstetric fistula affects women who lack access to quality obstetric care.

The disease is more prevalent among women living in communities whose cultural practices encourage early marriage and female genital mutilation, both factors increase the risk of prolonged obstructed labor leading to the condition.

(XINHUA)

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Foreign

Uzbekistan makes first arrests after dam bursts

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Two persons have been arrested over the Sardoba dam’s bursting that killed six people earlier this month, Uzbekistan’s General Prosecutor’s Office said Saturday.

The burst was caused by official negligence and violation of safety rules, officials said.

Around 90,000 people were evacuated when the Sardoba dam, located in the central Syrdarya region, burst, flooding residential areas and crop fields on May 1.

(XINHUA)

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Foreign

Chinese UN Mission marks first Int’l Tea Day

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China‘s Permanent Mission to the United Nations on Thursday held a virtual event to celebrate the first International Tea Day.

President of the 74th Session of the UN General Assembly Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, permanent representatives of more than 20 countries and nearly 200 delegates joined the online celebration.

In his remarks, Muhammad-Bande said the tea industry is related to key areas of the UN’s work, including poverty eradication, zero hunger, climate action and inclusion, adding that tea is also “a main source of income and export revenues” for some of the least developed countries.

A worker makes green tea in Danzhai County, southwest China‘s Guizhou Province, April 25, 2020. (Xinhua/Ou Dongqu)

A worker makes green tea in Danzhai County, southwest China‘s Guizhou Province, April 25, 2020. (Xinhua/Ou Dongqu)

He called on the international community to promote the sustainable development of the tea industry and help relevant countries attain the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Zhang Jun, China‘s permanent representative to the United Nations, said the inception of International Tea Day has given tea new life and vitality. With a shared love for tea, people of all countries could work together to build a better and more harmonious world.

Tea can help promote the harmonious coexistence between humans and nature, and efforts to protect Mother Earth and achieve green development, he told the virtual event co-organized by the Chinese mission and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Aerial photo taken on April 25, 2020 shows farmers picking tea leaves at a tea garden in Danzhai County, southwest China‘s Guizhou Province. (Xinhua/Ou Dongqu)

Aerial photo taken on April 25, 2020 shows farmers picking tea leaves at a tea garden in Danzhai County, southwest China‘s Guizhou Province. (Xinhua/Ou Dongqu)

Tea production can lift farmers from poverty, promote trade and build an interconnected world, Zhang added.

Chinese Agriculture Minister Han Changfu offered his congratulations and good wishes through a video message.

FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu delivered closing remarks, saying that the culture of drinking tea has a long history and the tea industry provides livelihood for millions in rural areas. He expressed the hope that all parties could join hands to promote the sustainable development of the tea industry.

The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution in December 2019 to designate May 21 as International Tea Day.

(XINHUA)

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Economy

Unitrust Insurance pays over N269m claims in first quarter

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Unitrust Insurance Company Ltd. on Friday said it paid its customers over N269 million as claims in the first quarter of 2020.

The insurance company said in a statement that the claims were paid during the COVID-19 lockdown in fulfillment of its avowed commitment to prompt claims settlements.

“We have been working remotely despite the COVID-19 disruption and have remained reachable to our customers via our CRM solutions and other business continuity plans.

“Some of the major businesses whose claims were settled includes: Mouka Foam Ltd. (Fire and burglary Policy), Pz Cusson Nigerian Ltd and Subsidiary (Marine and Fire policy),” it stated.

According to Unitrust Insurance, other organisation that were also settled included Sumal Foods limited (Marine Cargo and Goods-in-Transit), RATCON Construction (Engineering and Cash-in -Transit Insurance).

Unitrust was licensed in 1981 and authorized by the Corporate Affairs Commission RC– 42899 and National Insurance Commission (NAICOM).

Edited By: Edith Bolokor/Wale Ojetimi (NAN)

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Foreign

Namibian livestock sector heavily affected in first quarter

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The Namibian livestock sector was on the back foot in the first quarter of 2020, weighed down by climate change, policy uncertainties and the impact of COVID-19, the Meat Board of Namibia said Thursday.

Statistics showed that the number of cattle marketed dropped by 31.39 percent in the first quarter to 64,245. Weaner exports mainly to neighbouring South Africa also declined by 22.90 percent from 63,417 in 2019 to 48,896, while the number of slaughtered cattle halved to 15,349.

Goat marketing declined by 24.94 percent from 26,509 during the first quarter of 2019 to 19,897 in the same period of 2020 due to the uncertainties brought by COVID-19.

Sheep marketing also decreased with a significant 60.51 percent to 70,141 compared with 177,601 during the first quarter of last year, while the number of sheep slaughtered for export also went down significantly from 52,903 to 12,456 during the first quarter.

The downward trajectory in sheep marketed and exported is expected to continue for the rest of the year due to the scarce rainfall in the south of the country, as well as policy uncertainties, the board said.

(XINHUA)

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Foreign

Feature: FAO promotes first Int’l Tea Day to help improve global health, fight poverty

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To promote tea consumption among the world‘s population, the Rome-based UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has spearheaded the effort to mark May 21 as the International Tea Day that falls on Thursday for the first time.

FAO said that the day was organized in part because of the health benefits of tea, which is believed to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, and also as a way to strengthen the economies of the main tea-producing countries, which are clustered in Asia and Africa.

“Welcome excellencies, dear guests, friends and tea lovers,” FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu, said to open a virtual meeting of world leaders, economists, and tea industry figures called to mark International Tea Day.

Qu said, “this day is a proof that the United Nations recognizes the importance of tea”, adding that the economic benefits of tea as a crop were important. “Most tea is grown in poor areas, often mountainous areas that need the economic development that comes from tea.”

Calling the day’s activities a “celebration of life,” Qu called on the world to “celebrate tea and tea farmers and producers around the world.”

In a series of statements FAO furthered Qu’s remarks. “International Tea Day is an opportunity to celebrate the cultural heritage, health benefits, and economic importance of tea, while working to make its production sustainable from the fields where it is grown to individual teacups, ensuring its benefits for people, cultures, and the environment,” FAO said in a statement.

FAO further explained: “The tea industry is the main source of income and export revenues for some of the poorest countries and, as a labor-intensive sector, provides jobs, especially in remote and economically disadvantaged areas,” it said. “Tea can play a significant role in rural development, poverty reduction, and food security in developing countries, being one of the most important cash crops.”

Marco Bertona, president of the Italian Tea & Infusions Association — one of the main organizations that lobbied the United Nations and FAO to celebrate International Tea Day — said the double goal of improving health outcomes and aiding farmers in developing countries is an important combination.

“Tea is a healthy drink and it improves the quality of life for the people who drink it. And encouraging its use helps the economic prospects for tea farmers in poor and developing countries,” Bertona told Xinhua. “Promoting the use of tea spreads benefits.”

According to the statement from FAO, the origins of tea date back more than 5,000 years ago, in what is now southwest China, northern Myanmar, and northeastern India. Today, it is grown in more than 35 countries and more than 13 million people depend on tea in some way for their livelihoods.

International Tea Day, which will be celebrated annually going forward, is part of the United Nations’ far broader Millennium Development Goals, which seek to eradicate poverty and hunger, improve educational outcomes, combat disease, foster sustainability, and promote gender equality, among other areas.

According to FAO, International Tea Day addresses several of those points, including fighting poverty and hunger, empowering women, and sustainable development.

(XINHUA)

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Foreign

Roundup: Italy looks ahead three months after first COVID-19 outbreak

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The coronavirus infection curve continued downward overall in Italy on Thursday, three months after the pandemic officially broke out in its northern Lombardy region on Feb. 21.

Nationwide, the number of active infections dropped by 1,792 to 60,960 cases, according to the Civil Protection Department. Recoveries increase by 2,278 compared to Wednesday, bringing the nationwide total to 134,560.

A further 156 COVID-19 patients had died in the past 24 hours in Italy, bringing the country’s toll to 32,486, out of total infection cases of 228,006.

Of those who tested positive for the new coronavirus, 640 are in intensive care, 36 fewer compared to Wednesday, and 9,269 are hospitalized with symptoms, down by 355 patients from Wednesday.

The rest 51,051 people, or about 84 percent of those who tested positive, are quarantined at home with no symptoms or only mild symptoms.

The Lombardy region whose capital is Milan still led in terms of cases, with 26,715 active infections. At the other end of the spectrum was the northern Valle d’Aosta region in the Alps, with 43 active infections.

“A CALCULATED RISK”

In a report to the Lower House of Parliament on Thursday, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte outlined the government’s strategy for Phase Two, or the post-lockdown phase.

“We realize the challenge that lies ahead is even more difficult and just as dangerous as the one we faced at the beginning of the emergency,” he said.

“Exactly three months after the first case was confirmed (in Lombardy), we can state in good conscience that we made the right choice, the only one that could prevent the epidemic from spreading throughout the national territory,” Conte said in reference to the March 10-May 3 national lockdown decreed by his government.

Although “the epidemiological picture is not completely resolved,” the government believes it is time to return to normality, the prime minister said.

“We are now in a condition to face Phase Two with confidence… We all know a little more about the virus, and how to protect ourselves,” Conte said.

The prime minister also warned young people that “now is not the time for parties” and that “in this phase more than ever, social distancing and the use of masks are essential” in keeping the virus at bay.

“We are aware that starting this new phase could make the contagion curve rise again in some parts of the country,” Conte added.

“It is a calculated risk, and we will keep the (infection) curve under observation,” the prime minister continued. “We must accept this risk. We cannot stop while we wait for a vaccine. Otherwise our productive and social fabric will be irremediably compromised.”

Conte assured lawmakers that the government has “set up an accurate nationwide monitoring system based on data from the regions” and that “this will allow us to intervene should new outbreaks occur.”

Conte also noted that beginning on May 25, “serological tests will be available for free to 150,000 volunteers for the sole purpose of scientific research.”

Scientists want to find out how many healthy people have developed antibodies to the new coronavirus.

Carrying out the tests “will require an effort, based on the work of volunteers” and there will be a “national coordinating structure” to oversee them, the prime minister said.

ANTIBODY SCENARIO IN MILAN

In an article posted on Wednesday, Milan’s Policlinico Hospital cited a recent study saying that an estimated 1 in 20 inhabitants of Milan had COVID-19 antibodies weeks before the outbreak officially began on Feb. 21.

“What the experts suspected has been demonstrated with a study of blood donors at the Policlinico Hospital … where over 40,000 people from Milan and other parts of Lombardy give blood every year,” the article said.

Researchers selected a random sample of 800 healthy people who donated their blood at the Policlinico between Feb. 24 and April 8.

“According to the results, at the (official) beginning of the epidemic, 4.6 percent of the donors already had antibodies to the virus, and that percentage had risen to 7.1 percent by the beginning of April,” researchers wrote.

“A seroprevalence of 4.6 percent means 1 person out of 20 had already come in contact with the virus and had developed an immunity to it,” they wrote.

They concluded that “when the epidemic officially began, the new coronavirus had already been circulating among the population for a while.”

NOTE OF CAUTION

Meanwhile, Italians are looking forward to another date — June 3, when they will be allowed to move freely within the country again, and not just within the region they live in.

For many, that means a holiday by the sea, a trip to a country house, or a visit to distant friends and family.

However, Regional Affairs Minister Francesco Boccia sounded a note of caution.

In an interview earlier on Thursday, he told Mattino Cinque TV program that the new nationwide coronavirus monitoring system which was put in place last week “will allow us to know whether a region is at low, medium or high risk” of infection.

Whether or not Italians will get to travel beginning on June 3 “depends on the region” they want to reach and its level of risk, Boccia said.

“If it is a low-risk region, probably yes,” the minister said.

“For almost three months we have been reading tough, difficult data — we must never forget that 32,000 Italians are no longer with us because of COVID-19,” Boccia said.

Like the prime minister, he also warned the youth against partying in public.

“We all want our teens and young adults to be happy,” said Boccia, a father of three, including two teenagers. “But public parties are intolerable. Safety is not optional — it is an obligation.”

Conte and Boccia’s comments came after reports of young people crowding together in public, especially in Milan, since the end of the lockdown.

(XINHUA)

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Economy

FirstBank targets 1m students in free e-learning platform

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First Bank of Nigeria Limited says it is targeting one million students in free e-learning solutions platform in partnership with Roducate and Lagos State Government.

Dr Adesola Adeduntan, the bank’s Chief Executive Officer, stated this on Thursday, in a statement in Lagos.

Adeduntan said the gesture was in furtherance of the bank’s resolve to close the gap of the disruption in children’s education due to schools’ closure following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Adeduntan said thousands of students had already signed up to access the e-learning solutions, noting that the bank’s target was one million students.

He said the “Roducate e-learning platform” was structured in line with the government’s accredited curriculum for primary, secondary and tertiary schools across various fields of academic endeavours.

Adeduntan said “it includes tutorial videos to reinforce the learning engagement as well as assignments and mock exam to test the students’ knowledge and progress in the course of studying.

“In addition, learning on the platform enables one to take notes for quick reference.

“In view of the need to foster extra-curricular activities – beyond academic pursuit – the Roducate e-learning platform is configured with exciting features to make learning exciting and fun.

“These features include podcasts and various games such as brain pulse, monster munch etc. which allows one to play with other students online thereby building relationships and promoting interactive learning.

“The partnership with Lagos State has seen us provide low-end devices for students preloaded with Roducate offline; content which include government accredited curriculum for primary through secondary education and several university courses.

“This solution will see Lagos State offer children in the lower bracket, who may not have access to devices or data from home affordable smart phones preloaded with the curriculum.

“The phones have SIMs and limited data tied only to the Roducate learning product, which means the recipients cannot browse, encouraging safe learning but can still submit tests and mock exams.

“We encourage parents and guardians to have their children and wards registered in this initiative so their educational development is not held back”, he stated.

Edited By: Wale Ojetimi (NAN)

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Banking

FirstBank will maximise COVID-19 induced opportunities — Adeduntan

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First Bank of Nigeria Limited has assured its stakeholders that it will optimally maximise the opportunities from the disruptions occasioned by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on the economy to their advantage.

Dr Adesola Adeduntan, FirstBank Chief Executive Officer, gave the assurance on Thursday at the bank’s Virtual Corporate Customers forum webinar.

The News Agency of Nigeria, reports that the forum had the theme: Navigating the Financial Impact of COVID-19 – Business Leaders’ Role in Finding a ‘New Normal’.

Adeduntan said that the bank would continue to leverage the changes to reduce cost of doing business.

He said that the bank had strengthened its digital channels, noting that 85 per cent of its transactions were now on alternative channels.

Adeduntan said the bank would continue to push this to reach the 90 per cent set target.

COVID-19 is giving business leaders an opportunity to rethink on an established wisdom.

“It is a major crisis that we need to deal with and we must change it from a bad to good crisis.

“It offers an opportunity to reinvent our business. We have to think without the box,”Adeduntan said.

According to him, the bank is looking at several opportunities to do things differently to achieve desired result.

Speaking on the topic “Impact of the COVID-19 Crisis on the Nigeria Financial Sector,”the FirstBank CEO said the pandemic had put significant pressure on revenue and profits of commercial banks.

He said that the banking industry was witnessing more stringent interest rates, higher foreign exchange funding cost and concerns on level of foreign reserves, among others.

The bank chief said that the pandemic had led to uptick in the level of non-performing assets and increase in the level of cyber attacks due to migration to digital channels.

Adeduntan assured customers that the bank would overcome the pandemic, having been in existence for the past 126 years.

He said that FirstBank was already in existence when the first pandemic of 1918 occurred.

“It weathered it and would still shake off COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our customers are right in there at the centre of our business,” Adeduntan

He said that the bank had unveiled enhanced palliative measures to help its customers and Nigerians through the times of COVID-19 lockdown.

According to him, the bank has introduced moratorium to give customers more time to repay their loans.

Mr Ini Ebong, FirstBank Group Executive, Treasury & Financial Institutions, said that collapse of oil price, oil price war, COVID-19 pandemic and global lockdown affected the foreign exchange market.

Ebong said the foreign exchange market was under immense pressure due to exit of portfolio investors.

He said that demand for dollars was heightened due to collapse of oil price and Coronavirus pandemic.

Ebong explained that steps taken so far by the Federal Government and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to support the economy would bring back liquidity.

“If we create a good conducive environment, portfolio managers will still come back to our market,” he said.

Mr Wole Obayomi, Partner, KPMG, said tax was part of life, while noting that no country had cancelled tax payment because of COVID-19.

Speaking on the topic, “Tax Advisory: Market Disruptions,” Obayomi advised corporates to ensure payment of tax as and when due, to reduce tax bills in form of penalties.

He said that corporates could engage tax authorities for payment extension if they forsee late payment due to the global pandemic.

Obayomi, however, called on the Federal Government to suspend the new Value Added Tax increase to 7.5 per cent till 2021 due to COVID-19 pandemic.

Also speaking, Ms Bunmi Bajomo, FirstBank Group Head, Corporate Banking Group (Manufacturing), noted that fundamental change requires fundamental actions by corporates, governments, customers and consumers.

Speaking on the topic: “Impact of the COVID-19 Crisis on the Manufacturing Sector”, Bajomo, said, ”there is always an opportunity in any crisis.”

She said that companies with strong balance sheet would come out stronger and marginal players would struggle.

According to her, corporates should be careful and smarter with operational expenses.

Bajomo said that actions corporates take would determine where they would be postCOVID-19.

Edited By: Remi Koleoso/Oluwole Sogunle (NAN)

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General news

Housing project:Yobe Govt. sets 9 months time-frame for completion of first phase

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Yobe Government has assured that the construction of the first phase of 1,800 housing units across the state, approved on May 4, would be completed in nine months.

Alhaji Bukar Dauda, the Commissioner, Ministry of Housing and Urban Development gave the assurance  while answering  questions from  newsmen on Thursday in Damaturu.

The News Agency of Nigeria recalls that the state government approved N15.96 billion for the completion of 3,600 houses to bridge the state’s housing deficit.

The housing project, to be constructed in phases, include 701 units of three-bedroom, 324 units of two-bedroom urban design and 775 units of rural building design.

The funds for the housing units will be secured from the Federal Ministry of Finance through the Family Homes Finance Limited.

Dauda said the state government was sure of the time frame because most uncompleted projects were due to lack of payment to contractors.

“In this case, however, we have assured the contractors that as soon as they reach certain agreed level in the project, they will be paid within just a week.

“So we hope somewhere around Jan. 2021, the 1,800 houses will be completed. That is our target,” the Commissioner said.

The commissioner also said the cumulative cost of the first phase of the project stood at N7.4 billion while the state government had already paid 15 per cent mobilization fee to the contractors.

He said one of the contract terms was that the contractors must patronise Yobe Sahe Aluminium Company for roofing sheets to strengthen the economy of the state.

Edited By: Joe Idika (NAN)

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Economy

Osinbajo presides over first ever virtual NEC meeting

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Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on Thursday, presided over the first ever virtual meeting of the National Economic Council (NEC) at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

The meeting anchored from the Yellow Room, Office of the Vice President, was the fourth for the year as the nation strives to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Minister of Finance featured at the meeting while the governors joined the virtual NEC from their states.

Constitutionally, the vice president is the chairman of NEC which meets monthly to deliberate on the coordination of economic planning and programmes of various levels of government.

NEC comprises the 36 state governors, Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Minister of Finance, Head of the Civil Service of the Federation,  Secretary to the Government of the Federation and other relevant government officials whose duties hinged on the economy.

Edited By: Maureen Atuonwu (NAN)

 

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Economy

Global green energy growth to fall for first time in 20 years – IEA

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Global growth in new renewable energy capacity will experience its first annual decline in 20 years, this year amid the coronavirus pandemic.

But, it is expected to pick up next year, the International Energy Agency said on Wednesday.

The world is set to build fewer wind turbines, solar plants and other installations that produce renewable electricity this year as energy demand has been reduced across commercial and industrial sectors and logistics issues delay projects.

“Countries are continuing to build new wind turbines and solar plants, but at a much slower pace,’’ IEA Executive Director, Fatih Birol, said.

“Even before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the world needed to significantly accelerate the deployment of renewables to have a chance of meeting its energy and climate goals.’’

Renewable capacity additions this year are set to total 167 gigawatts (GW), 13 per cent less than last year, according to the IEA’s Renewable Market Update report.

But overall global renewable power capacity is still expanding and will grow by six per cent in 2020.

Slower growth this year reflects delays in construction activity due to supply chain disruptions, lockdown measures and social distancing as well as financing challenges.

Next year, renewable power additions are forecast to rebound to the level reached in 2019, as delayed projects come online and assuming a continuation of supportive government policies.

Growth for 2020 and 2021 combined is expected to be 10 per cent lower than the IEA had previously forecast before the coronavirus outbreak.

Almost all mature markets are affected by downward revisions, except the U.S. where investors are rushing to finish projects before tax credits expire.

AIB

Edited By: Abdulfatah Babatunde (NAN)

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Foreign

Erdogan announces first nationwide lockdown in Turkey before Eid 

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Turkey is to impose its first nationwide lockdown before Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The four-day lockdown is to start on Saturday, on the eve of Eid festivities, across all 81 provinces, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday.

Turkey has not had a stringent countrywide curfew since it reported its first positive case on March 11, resorting instead to weekend curfews in certain provinces.

Erdogan said that some mosques would also gradually reopen for afternoon worship after Friday prayers on May 29.

Congregational prayers in mosques have been suspended since March 16.

Exit and entry bans are to be extended for 15 days in 15 provinces and cities, including financial hub Istanbul and national capital Ankara, Erdogan said.

Schools are set to reopen in September, he told the nation in a televised address following a cabinet meeting.

“I believe that, god willing, after (Eid) we will encounter a situation where we don’t need these kinds of restrictions,” Erdogan said, but warned of tough measures if people fail to follow the rules.

Turkey has reported more than 150,000 cases and 4,171 deaths from COVID-19.

Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)

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Foreign

Thailand’s economy sees first decline since 2014 during pandemic

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Thailand’s economy contracted during the first quarter of 2020 for the first time in six years, officials said on Monday, and forecast further economic turbulence to come.

Thailand’s gross domestic product (GDP) declined by 1.8 per cent in the first quarter of this year, Tossaporn Sirisamphan, head of the Office of the National Economic and Social Development Council (NESDC), said.

GDP forecasts for this year have been revised from previous projections of between 1.5 and 2.5 per cent growth down to a contraction of between 5 and 6 per cent.

The Thai economy was shrinking “due to the Covid-19 pandemic’s impact on the world’s economy which has also affected tourism,’’ Tossaporn said.

Revenue from tourism, which accounts for more than 10 per cent of Thai GDP, is forecast to fall by 68.8 per cent this year compared to 2019, he added.

The first quarter of 2020 saw a 38 per cent decline in the number of tourists to Thailand, the first time the country has recorded a fall in tourist arrivals since 2016, the NESDC chief said.

But there was light at the end of the tunnel, he added.

“The NESDC expects the economy to see its worst decline in the second quarter and we hope that it will return to normal in the third quarter, and will bounce back in the fourth quarter,’’ Tossaporn added.

“We hope that there will be a vaccine by 2021 which would help the world be back to normal again,’’ he said.

Edited By: Halima Sheji/Ali Baba-Inuwa (NAN)

 

 

 

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Health

Plateau records first death from COVID-19

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The Plateau Government on Sunday announced the first death resulting from COVID-19 in the state.

Gov. Simon Lalong, made the announcement during a media briefing on the update of COVID-19 in Plateau at Government House, Jos.

Lalong explained that the patient died before his result of COVID -19 which read positive came out.

“As at today, we have successfully treated and discharged 10 infected persons including the index case who have all been reunited with their families.

“The other 22 infected persons are still undergoing treatment and in stable condition. Sadly, one suspect whose sample was taken died yesterday before his result was returned positive,” he said.

He said the state had recorded more cases of COVID-19 that rose to 33, which had necessitated redoubling of efforts to checkmate community spread, by conducting contact tracing, isolating suspected contacts and treating the infected patients.

The governor said breaches at the interstate border was the major challenge the state was facing in its efforts to control the spread of the disease but was engaging community members to block illegal routes.

“This has exposed the state to more dangers of COVID-19, as virtually all the cases we have recorded, originated from other states and were imported by people who defied our directives and entered the State at all costs. This is indeed sad,” he said.

He said to ensure better enforcement and compliance, the state government would enrol some of its civil servants on grade levels 10 to 14 for the exercise, while such action would also be replicated at the Local Government Areas.

Lalong said that the government had to review some of its guidelines on its lockdown due to concerns of residents’ hardship to access financial institutions.

“With effect from May 17, 2020, the total lockdown will resume from midnight of every Sunday and be relaxed on Wednesdays 12 midnight.

“This will henceforth be the pattern until further review. In other words, the total lockdown is relaxed on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays; while Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays remain totally locked down,” he said.

He noted the Faringada Market in Jos North local Government Area had continued to defy all guidelines for social distancing and sanitation and posed potent threat to efforts to combat COVID-19, thus the market had been shut down.

The governor said the market would remain closed, until the trade unions and the management of Jos North Local Government come up with an acceptable model for regulation that posed no risk to public health and safety.

Lalong said the state had so far evacuated 601 Almajirai (Qur’anic education) pupils to their home states and had received 119 in the state, saying that only one of the returnees tested positive to COVID-19.

He said the decision for the evacuation of the pupils was a collective decision taken by 19 Northern governors to guarantee the safety of the children exposed to many dangers, including COVID-19.

The governor thanked the various individuals and corporate organisations who contributed to the Plateau COVID-19 Trust Fund, saying it had received almost N100 million in donations which would be deployed transparently.

The governor condoled with the family of Rinji Bala, a 20- year-old University of Jos student, who was shot along Zaria Road on May 12, 2020, saying he had already ordered a probe while urging for calm for legal action.

He also sympathised with victims of attacks in some communities, especially in Bassa Local Government and the family of Dr Nandi Drenkat, a Senior Lecturer at the University of Jos, who was murdered and his daughter kidnapped.

“I am glad to report that following the quick response of security agencies in conjunction with the Hunters Association, the kidnapped daughter of the lecturer was rescued alive.

“Sadly, one of the gallant members of the Hunters Association, Muhammadu Sani, made the supreme sacrifice as he died of gunshot wounds from the criminals,” he said.

Lalong said the state government was working with security agencies to arrest perpetrators of the criminals and ensure they were punished.

“Already, security forces have arrested a suspected mastermind of kidnappings around the Eto-Baba, Bauchi Road general area, who is currently undergoing interrogation,” he said.

Edited By: Edith Bolokor/Adeleye Ajayi (NAN)

 

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