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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 COVID- 19 PANDEMIC SUNDAY 29TH MARCH, 2020

1. Fellow Nigerians,

2. From the first signs that Coronavirus, or COVID-19 was turning into an epidemic and was officially declared a world-wide emergency, the Federal Government started planning preventive, containment and curative measures in the event the disease hits Nigeria.

3. The whole instruments of government are now mobilized to confront what has now become both a health emergency and an economic crisis.

4. Nigeria, unfortunately, confirmed its first case on 27th February 2020. Since then, we have seen the number of confirmed cases rise slowly.

5. By the morning of March 29th, 2020, the total confirmed cases within Nigeria had risen to ninety-seven.

6. Regrettably, we also had our first fatality, a former employee of PPMC, who died on 23rd March 2020. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family in this very difficult time. We also pray for quick recovery for those infected and undergoing treatment.

7. As of today, COVID-19 has no cure. Scientists around the world are working very hard to develop a vaccine.

8. We are in touch with these institutions as they work towards a solution that will be certified by international and local medical authorities within the shortest possible time.

9. For now, the best and most efficient way to avoid getting infected is through regular hygienic and sanitary practices as well as social distancing.

10. As individuals, we remain the greatest weapon to fight this pandemic. By washing our hands regularly with clean water and soap, disinfecting frequently used surfaces and areas, coughing into a tissue or elbow and strictly adhering to infection prevention control measures in health facilities, we can contain this virus.

11. Since the outbreak was reported in China, our Government has been monitoring the situation closely and studying the various responses adopted by other countries.

12. Indeed, the Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) was one of ten global health leaders invited by the World Health Organisation to visit China and understudy their response approach. I am personally very proud of Dr Ihekweazu for doing this on behalf of all Nigerians.

13. Since his return, the NCDC has been implementing numerous strategies and programs in Nigeria to ensure that the adverse impact of this virus on our country is minimized. We ask all Nigerians to support the work the Federal Ministry of Health and NCDC are doing, led by the Presidential Task Force.

14. Although we have adopted strategies used globally, our implementation programs have been tailored to reflect our local realities.

15. In Nigeria, we are taking a two step approach.

16. First, to protect the lives of our fellow Nigerians and residents living here and second, to preserve the livelihoods of workers and business owners to ensure their families get through this very difficult time in dignity and with hope and peace of mind.

17. To date, we have introduced healthcare measures, border security, fiscal and monetary policies in our response. We shall continue to do so as the situation unfolds.

18. Some of these measures will surely cause major inconveniences to many citizens. But these are sacrifices we should all be willing and ready to make for the greater good of our country.

19. In Nigeria’s fight against COVID-19, there is no such thing as an overreaction or an under reaction. It is all about the right reaction by the right agencies and trained experts.

20. Accordingly, as a Government, we will continue to rely on guidance of our medical professionals and experts at the Ministry of Health, NCDC and other relevant agencies through this difficult time.

21. I therefore urge all citizens to adhere to their guidelines as they are released from time to time.

22. As we are all aware, Lagos and Abuja have the majority of confirmed cases in Nigeria. Our focus therefore remains to urgently and drastically contain these cases, and to support other states and regions in the best way we can.

23. This is why we provided an initial intervention of fifteen billion Naira (N15b) to support the national response as we fight to contain and control the spread.

24. We also created a Presidential Task Force (PTF) to develop a workable National Response Strategy that is being reviewed on a daily basis as the requirements change. This strategy takes international best practices but adopts them to suit our unique local circumstances.

25. Our goal is to ensure all States have the right support and manpower to respond immediately.

26. So far, in Lagos and Abuja, we have recruited hundreds of ad-hoc staff to man our call centers and support our tracing and testing efforts.

27. I also requested, through the Nigeria Governors Forum, for all State Governments to nominate Doctors and Nurses who will be trained by the NCDC and Lagos State Government on tactical and operational response to the virus in case it spreads to other states.

28. This training will also include medical representatives from our armed forces, paramilitary and security and intelligence agencies.

29. As a nation, our response must be guided, systematic and professional. There is a need for consistency across the nation. All inconsistencies in policy guidelines between Federal and State agencies will be eliminated.

30. As I mentioned earlier, as at this morning we had ninety-seven confirmed cases. Majority of these are in Lagos and Abuja. All the confirmed cases are getting the necessary medical care.

31. Our agencies are currently working hard to identify cases and people these patients have been in contact with.

32. The few confirmed cases outside Lagos and Abuja are linked to persons who have travelled from these centres.

33. We are therefore working to ensure such inter state and intercity movements are restricted to prevent further spread.

34. Based on the advice of the Federal Ministry of Health and the NCDC, I am directing the cessation of all movements in Lagos and the FCT for an initial period of 14 days with effect from 11pm on Monday, 30th March 2020. This restriction will also apply to Ogun State due to its close proximity to Lagos and the high traffic between the two States.

35. All citizens in these areas are to stay in their homes. Travel to or from other states should be postponed. All businesses and offices within these locations should be fully closed during this period.

36. The Governors of Lagos and Ogun States as well as the Minister of the FCT have been notified. Furthermore, heads of security and intelligence agencies have also been briefed.

37. We will use this containment period to identify, trace and isolate all individuals that have come into contact with confirmed cases. We will ensure the treatment of confirmed cases while restricting further spread to other States.

38. This order does not apply to hospitals and all related medical establishments as well as organizations in health care related manufacturing and distribution.

39. Furthermore, commercial establishments such as;

a. food processing, distribution and retail companies;

b. petroleum distribution and retail entities,

c. power generation, transmission and distribution companies; and

d. private security companies are also exempted.

40. Although these establishments are exempted, access will be restricted and monitored.

41. Workers in telecommunication companies, broadcasters, print and electronic media staff who can prove they are unable to work from home are also exempted.

42. All seaports in Lagos shall remain operational in accordance with the guidelines I issued earlier. Vehicles and drivers conveying essential cargoes from these Ports to other parts of the country will be screened thoroughly before departure by the Ports Health Authority.

43. Furthermore, all vehicles conveying food and other essential humanitarian items into these locations from other parts of the country will also be screened thoroughly before they are allowed to enter these restricted areas.

44. Accordingly, the Hon. Minister of Health is hereby directed to redeploy all Port Health Authority employees previously stationed in the Lagos and Abuja Airports to key roads that serve as entry and exit points to these restricted zones.

45. Movements of all passenger aircraft, both commercial and private jets, are hereby suspended. Special permits will be issued on a needs basis.

46. We are fully aware that such measures will cause much hardship and inconvenience to many citizens. But this is a matter of life and death, if we look at the dreadful daily toll of deaths in Italy, France and Spain.

47. However, we must all see this as our national and patriotic duty to control and contain the spread of this virus. I will therefore ask all of us affected by this order to put aside our personal comfort to safeguard ourselves and fellow human beings. This common enemy can only be controlled if we all come together and obey scientific and medical advice.

48. As we remain ready to enforce these measures, we should see this as our individual contribution in the war against COVID-19. Many other countries have taken far stricter measures in a bid to control the spread of the virus with positive results.

49. For residents of satellite and commuter towns and communities around Lagos and Abuja whose livelihoods will surely be affected by some of these restrictive measures, we shall deploy relief materials to ease their pains in the coming weeks.

50. Furthermore, although schools are closed, I have instructed the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development to work with State Governments in developing a strategy on how to sustain the school feeding program during this period without compromising our social distancing policies. The Minister will be contacting the affected States and agree on detailed next steps.

51. Furthermore, I have directed that a three month repayment moratorium for all TraderMoni, MarketMoni and FarmerMoni loans be implemented with immediate effect.

52. I have also directed that a similar moratorium be given to all Federal Government funded loans issued by the Bank of Industry, Bank of Agriculture and the Nigeria Export Import Bank.

53. For on-lending facilities using capital from international and multilateral development partners, I have directed our development financial institutions to engage these development partners and negotiate concessions to ease the pains of the borrowers.

54. For the most vulnerable in our society, I have directed that the conditional cash transfers for the next two months be paid immediately. Our Internally displaced persons will also receive two months of food rations in the coming weeks.

55. We also call on all Nigerians to take personal responsibility to support those who are vulnerable within their communities, helping them with whatever they may need.

56. As we all pray for the best possible outcome, we shall continue planning for all eventualities.

57. This is why I directed that all Federal Government Stadia, Pilgrims camps and other facilities be converted to isolation centers and makeshift hospitals.

58. My fellow Nigerians, as a Government, we will avail all necessary resources to support the response and recovery. We remain committed to do whatever it takes to confront COVID-19 in our country.

59. We are very grateful to see the emerging support of the private sector and individuals to the response as well as our development partners.

60. At this point, I will ask that all contributions and donations be coordinated and centralized to ensure efficient and impactful spending. The Presidential Task Force remains the central coordinating body on the COVID-19 response.

61. I want to assure you all that Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies with a role to play in the outbreak response are working hard to bring this virus under control.

62. Every nation in the world is challenged at this time. But we have seen countries where citizens have come together to reduce the spread of the virus.

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Facts are stubborn things, by Femi Adesina

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FACTS ARE STUBBORN THINGS

Next week, the Muhammadu Buhari administration would be exactly five years in office. Four full years of a first term, and one year accomplished in the second term of four years.

In five years, President Buhari has touched Nigeria in diverse ways, despite myriad of challenges; economic, security, political, social, and many more.

The fact sheet will be unfolded few days hence, but today, as build up to the anniversary season, let’s dwell on some unassailable truths that can never be swept away. As Sir Winston Churchill, former British Prime Minister said; “Truth is incontrovertible. Ignorance may deride it, panic may resent it, malice may destroy it, but there it is.”

The President and his team are steadily and painstakingly retooling Nigeria. Out of sheer and deliberate ignorance, some people deride it, saying we see nothing, we hear nothing.

Yes. When you have become deliberately blind, you can see nothing, even when it is thrust before your very eyes. You won’t see it. When you have become willfully deaf, when it is noised to your hearing daily, you won’t hear.
Some other people do theirs out of panic. Shall it be said that what Napoleon couldn’t do, has been done by that simple, unassuming man from Daura? Can anything good come out of Nazareth? Daura of all places. That small place. Not a man from a major city. And he wants to be recorded in history as the man who turned Nigeria right side up. They resent it out of panic.

Yet some others operate out of malice. He is not of my ethnic stock. Nor of my religion, language, political party. Why must Nigeria work under him? It won’t happen. We won’t see anything, nor hear anything. In fact, he is doing nothing. The country is even worse off than he met it five years ago.
There is a quote often attributed to John Adams, a former American President, though some people claim it was not original to him. It goes thus: “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”

A number of times, I have written about a private journey I took to Onitsha, in Anambra State, last December.

I was on the same flight with the Obi of Onitsha, His Royal Highness Igwe Nnaemeka Alfred Achebe. When we landed at Asaba, and I had paid him royal courtesies, he asked me to give the thanks and appreciation of his people to the President on the Second Niger Bridge, currently under construction. For many years, many administrations had made unfulfilled political promises on the project.

“As you drive on the Niger Bridge, just look to your right, and you will see the new bridge coming up,” the revered monarch had said. “Please tell Mr President that we are very happy, and we thank him.”

I saw the Second Niger Bridge, and it kindled the joy kiln in my heart. But you know what? Some people pass on the 1965 Niger Bridge, see the new one in the works, and just pretend not to. Some others see it, and they are angry. Will this Daura man succeed where others have failed? But facts are stubborn things.

“Truth is incontrovertible. Ignorance may deride it, panic may resent it, malice may destroy it, but there it is.”

Have you seen the Owerri Interchange lately? It is the 1.6 kilometers bridge and 10.3 kilometers highway being built by Julius Berger, at Onitsha/Owerri road, Obosi junction. It will lead to the Second Nigeria Bridge.

In March, before the COVID-19 pandemic caused national emergency and halted the project, Works and Housing Minister, Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) visited. Very impressive. Now, here’s the news:

As part of the Phase 1 of the easing of lockdown occasioned by Coronavirus in the country, work is restarting on 53 infrastructure projects in 26 states, across the country. Despite the crash in revenue due to the collapse of oil prices in the international market, 11 contractors have been mobilized back to site in 26 states. And the Owerri Interchange is one of the scenes of action.

The Second Niger Bridge is projected to be completed in the lifetime of this administration, in fact by February 2022. The man from Daura will go into records as the person that did it, with Fashola as the midwife. Facts are stubborn things.

In Phase 2 of the easing of the lockdown, you know what will happen? The Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA) will roll out 92 repair works across 24 states in the country. That will be different from the 53 projects in 26 states.

Nigeria will be one huge construction site, at a time the economy is down, and revenue has shrunk considerably. That is the hallmark of a government out to serve the people, come rain or shine. Minister Fashola says the objective “is to get all those depending on daily living back to work, when the COVID-19 is finally contained.”

Strides in agriculture will not stop. Nigeria is on the verge of food self-sufficiency. Rice, beans, maize, millet, all grains, we import none, unlike in the past.

What if President Buhari had not invested in agriculture right from 2015? How would we have survived at a time like this? Where would we run to? We run to the sea, the sea would be boiling. We run to the bush, the bush would be burning. We run to the rocks, the rocks would be cracking. Where would we have run to? Yet some people say: we can’t even see what the government is doing. Yes, willfully blind people won’t see. But facts are stubborn things.

What of railway lines criss-crossing the country? Lagos to Ibadan is ready. Abuja to Kaduna had been in operation.Ibadan to Kano is in the works.

Roads? Lagos/Ibadan Expressway is 61% completed. Abuja/Kano is bursting forth. Enugu/Port Harcourt. And many others. In fact, there is a federal road project ongoing in almost every state in the country.
Airports. New terminals at Abuja, Kano, Port Harcourt. Many others under construction
Solid minerals? Contribution to Federation Account In 2015 was N700 million. In 2016, it went up to N2 billion,and N5 billion in 2017. It hasn’t stopped growing since then.

We have a Social Investment Programme that is the biggest and most ambitious in Africa. President Buhari recently directed that those on the social security register be increased from 2.6 million households to 3.6 million.

Yet, all that some people can do is pick holes. They forget that there was a time in recent history that the country didn’t have a social security register at all. They won’t even let the one that has been established grow.

Corruption is being fought to a standstill. The same with insecurity in different parts of the country. External reserves are growing at a time of economic crisis. Yet some people don’t see what the government is doing. But those who see, and hear, are full of appreciation.

True, facts are stubborn things. “Truth is incontrovertible. Ignorance may deride it, panic may resent it, malice may destroy it, but there it is.”

Femi Adesina is Special Adviser to President Buhari on Media and Publicity

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 Virtual AGMs by Proxy: Nigeria’s Response in the Face of COVID-19

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 Virtual AGMs by Proxy: Nigeria’s Response in the Face of COVID-19

,

News Agency of Nigeria

 Necessity, they say, is the mother of invention. This saying came into play with innovations created as a result of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).

The pandemic, with its huge negative impact on economies, has led to emergency lifestyle adjustments, with countries thinking outside the box as they grapple with partial or total lockdown.

COVID-19 pandemic has led to government-ordered closure of companies and offices, and affected  global stock market, causing  postponement of public companies’ Annual General Meetings (AGMs) as well as loss of jobs, among others things.

According to a report by the Institutional Shareholders Services (ISS), as at March 31, the total number of meetings postponed or cancelled globally because of COVID-19 is approximately 557 while the number of meetings that will be virtual-only or proxy-only stands at 560.

These figures, as tracked by the ISS, are changing by the day as the pandemic is pushing into the traditional AGM season for many markets in the northern hemisphere.

 

In response to stay-at-home orders and ban of gatherings, many countries updated their regulations, allowing quoted companies greater freedom to hold virtual AGMs.

Some of the countries that updated their regulations to allow quoted companies to hold virtual AGMs or AGMs by proxy are Spain, Switzerland, Austria, United Kingdom and Nigeria.

In Nigeria, virtual AGM is a novelty.

The Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), in March, in view of the COVID-19 pandemic, said companies could hold their AGMs by taking advantage of Section 230 of the Companies and Allied Matters Act on the use of proxies.

The CAC published guidelines and procedures that companies should follow in conducting  AGMs in view of the new normal in the country.

It says  approval of the CAC shall be obtained before such a meeting is held, adding that application for approval  can be submitted to its head office in Abuja or any branch office in states.

It demands that the meeting shall only discuss the Ordinary Business of an AGM as provided in S.214 CAMA, while notice of meeting and proxy form shall be sent to every member in accordance with the requirements of CAMA.

According to the guidelines, all members shall be advised in the notice that in view of the COVID-19 pandemic, attendance shall only be by proxy, with names and particulars of the proposed proxies listed for them to select therefrom.

Consequently, Guaranty Trust Bank on March 30 became the first quoted company in Nigeria to conduct an AGM with attendance by proxy when some quoted companies had notified the market about the postponement of their AGMs due to novel coronavirus

With GTBank’s bold step, many listed companies that earlier cancelled their various AGMs due to the COVID-19 pandemic embraced the initiative.

Some companies that have successfully conducted their AGMs by proxy include  FBH Holdings, United Bank for Africa, Access Bank, Fidelity Bank, Union Bank of Nigeria, FCMB Group, Transcorp, Africa Prudential and Wema Bank.

Financial experts are convinced that the practice have come to stay even after COVID-19.

If the desirable is not available, the available becomes desirable, they argue.

Uche Uwaleke, a Professor of Finance and Capital Market at the Nasarawa State University,  hails  the initiative.

Uwaleke believes that  virtual AGM as well as AGM by proxy will still ensure payment of dividends to shareholders once approved at the meeting.

He also.notes that it saves cost of attendance, saves time spent travelling and attending the meeting by shareholders.

According to him, it enables shareholders who are far away or in remote places and unable to attend physical meetings to participate in discussions and voting, which are done electronically.

On the flip side for the shareholders, Uwaleke says virtual a AGM does not allow  bonding among shareholders and networking, which physical AGM promotes.

“A shareholder may also face issues, if in a remote location, of electricity and internet service, and a local shareholder may not be recognised to air his views in a virtual meeting.

“Unlike in a physical setting where one can keep one’s hands in the air to draw the attention of the presiding officer, virtual meetings may not give shareholders, especially the minority and ‘troublesome’ ones, equal opportunities to be heard during AGMs. 

“The chairman of the meeting can pretend not to notice a shareholder who indicates to speak through the hand symbol, using Zoom, for example,” Uwaleke argues.

On the advantages of a virtual meeting to a company, he is of the opinion  that it saves huge cost of organising a physical AGM, including hiring of venue and making provisions for refreshments, gifts  and security.

“It saves the company a lot of time spent and logistics/hassles associated with organising the event. 

“Resolutions including voting may be faster and not as rowdy as obtained in physical meetings.”

Uwaleke points out, however,  that the success of a virtual meeting depends on availability of enabling technology, especially internet service.

“Technology can fail, leading to  disruption of the meeting; unlike a physical meeting where shareholders can be seen, it may be difficult in a virtual meeting  to know those who actually participated,” he adds.

For Mr Moses Igbrude, the immediate Publicity Secretary, Independent Shareholders Association of Nigeria, the new coronavirus pandemic has necessitated a new normal which Nigeria must embrace.

“Many companies postponed their AGMs initially, thinking it (COVID-19) would soon be a thing of the past but we can see now that the end is not in sight.

“Should we stop doing business or  develop new ways of doing things until normalcy  returns?  So, virtual AGM by proxy is the one of the new normals,” Igbrude says.

The shareholder-activist believes that  virtual meetings make it possible for shareholders to get dividends in time instead of postponing the meetings.

According to him,  it will also enable companies to avoid huge expenses on AGMs.

However, the National Coordinator, Progressive Association of Nigeria (PSAN), Mr Boniface Okezie, is of the opinion  that the virtual meeting option is  not stated in the law of CAMA.

 

He adds that even in the face of the meetings by proxy or virtual technology, some companies fail to provide links for shareholders to join in the meetings.

“This one just came from an emergency situation, as this is not what was planned,” he notes.

According to Okezie, the CAC was reluctant to approve the AGMs because it was not in CAMA.

“As long as there has not been an amendment to the law of CAMA,  there is nothing of such called virtual meetings.

“It is noteworthy to point that companies should not abuse these things.

“A lot of these shareholders were disenfranchised due to virtual meetings which I think will result in some of these companies perpetrating illegalities which could have been challenged by shareholders.

“After the pandemic, we cannot do this same type of meeting because, to get technology to continue, involves a lot of money,  and I cannot advise companies to start spending on technology from investments made from  shareholders,” Okezie urges.

Analysts are convinced that  virtual AGM by proxy in this era of COVID-19 pandemic is helpful, but warn that it should not be abused. (END)

***If used, please credit the writer and agency*

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NEWS ANALYSIS: Lockdown against COVID-19 and matters arising

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Lockdown against COVID-19 and matters arising

A News Analysis by Julius Enehikhuere, News Agency of Nigeria

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Unarguably, the situations of things will not be the same again across the world in the postCOVID-19 pandemic management.

From several weeks of lockdown resulting in somewhat hardship among citizens and job-loss threat, among others, observers note that the pandemic has radicalised the human’s “normal’’ modes of living.

In the unfolding events towards what could be the expectations of the citizens in future, Dr Bello Udoka, a social commentator, says both the Federal Government and states’ government should be sensitised to the need for care-giving and support to the people.

According to him, more community, traditional and religious leaders should be involved in such arrangements.

In apparent reaction to this concern, Mr Boss Mustapha, Chairman of the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19, notes that the Federal Government has been fighting the pandemic in a manner that inspires the public to join in the fight.

“Both the Federal Government and states are working together to cushion the effects of the pandemic,’’ he observes.

Further to the arrangements by the government, concerned citizens insist that with Nigeria’s population that is more than 170 million people, there is the need to put into consideration solid measures involving palliatives for the poor and the vulnerable.

According to them, most developing countries, including Nigeria, can suffer more loss due to poverty, weak economy, hunger and other diseases.

They note further that COVID-19 has come to stay, claiming more lives and leaving millions of people as carriers globally and only pragmatic scientific approaches will eradicate the disease.

In one of the steps to assess the progress in the fight against the spread of the disease after about five weeks of lockdown imposed on March 30, the Federal Government decided to ease the lockdown off the FCT, Lagos and Ogun on May 4.

President Muhammadu Buhari assures Nigerians to show understanding as the Federal Government would help in cushioning the effects of the pandemic.

One of the presidential responses to the pandemic is the post-19 COVID-19 Economic Sustainability Committee headed by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo.

The major focus of the committee is to look at the economy and consider variables that will reposition the economy.

In that regard, the effort of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in the provision of N50-billion loan support for the informer sector has been commended by Nigerians.

The intending beneficiaries of the loan, however, appealed to the apex bank to reduce the bottleneck involved in getting the loan.

The Director-General, Small Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria, Dr. Dikko Radda, says the initiative is commendable as pandemic has brought difficult times that have taken a toll on businesses.

He commends the CBN for the credit line, while also asking for a one-year moratorium to give it a human face.

He also recommends further that between two to three million jobs ought to be created during this period to tackle the after-effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Analysts, however, express concern that the economy could experience a lull for the next few months, calling for a careful economic planning that can, perhaps, cover debt forgiveness, waivers and tax reductions.

But Prof. Charles Soludo, the former governor of CBN, says there should be strategic repositioning of the economy for postCOVID-19 pandemic for effective economic growth.

Soludo, a member of the Presidential Economic Advisory Council, called for a fundamental strategy to redefine processes for the growth of the country’s economy after the pandemic.

According to Soludo, the country could not afford to be left behind in a postCOVID-19 pandemic as values and opportunities ought to be created in the agriculture, technology and manufacturing sectors, among others.

Soludo says he does not recommend a permanent lockdown because people must feed by working and contributing to the economy.

For a robust economy, lifestyles, development and wellness of the citizens in postCOVID-19 pandemic situation, therefore, he believes that every decision must be taken by the authorities in the best interest of the nation, the citizens and their survival.(NANFeatures)

**If used, please credit the writer as well as News Agency of Nigeria

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The Nile River: Tackling an arising African conflict

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The Nile River: Tackling an arising African conflict

News Agency of Nigeria

A scenario is unfolding in Africa between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) project on the Nile River. The project is a gravity dam on the Blue Nile River that has been launched by Ethiopia and under construction since 2011.

As of October 2019, the work stood at approximately 70 per cent completion. Once completed, the reservoir could take anywhere between 5 years and 15 years to fill with water, depending on hydrologic conditions during the filling period and agreements reached between the three countries.

It has an installed capacity to generate around 6.5 GW of Electricity. It is said that at its maximum capacity of 74 billion cubic metre (BCM), the GERD will store 150 per cent of the average annual flow of the Blue Nile, which is 49BCM. This is a serious concern to other riparian Nations along the flow of the river.

In a bid to find a level playing ground for all three countries in this issue, several meetings were held since 2014, with tempo picking up since late 2019 where Washington offered to facilitate talks between the three countries. At least 12 meetings were held between November 2019 and February 2020, culminating in a draft agreement that Ethiopia declined to sign.

In assessing the issue, the International Crisis Group (ICG), a conflict prevention organisation, observed that Ethiopia is moving ahead with the construction in spite of Egypt’s apprehension of a reduced downstream flow of the Nile, the source of around 90 per cent of its freshwater supply.

The ICG states that the Nile basin countries could be drawn into conflict because the stakes are so high: Ethiopia sees the hydroelectric dam as a defining national development project; Sudan covets the cheap electricity and expanded agricultural production that it promises; and Egypt perceives the possible loss of water as an existential threat.

It also added that Ethiopia settled on a dam design featuring a huge reservoir, bigger, some experts contend, than what was needed for a dam intended to generate hydropower rather than to store water for irrigation.

It, therefore, suggested a two-step approach to find a level playing ground among the countries: first, they should build confidence by agreeing upon terms for filling the dam’s reservoir that do not harm downstream countries.

Next, they should negotiate a new, trans-boundary framework for resource sharing to avert future conflicts. Most urgent is the question of how quickly to fill the dam’s reservoir.

Apart from the ICG, other bodies have been involved in finding solution to the challenges facing these countries and the way forwards. In 2013, an International Panel of Experts (IPoE) was given the mandate to “review the design documents of the GERD, provide transparent information sharing and to solicit understanding of the benefits and costs accrued to the three countries and impacts if any of the GERD on the two downstream countries.”

A treaty, the “2015 Agreement on Declaration of Principles (DoP)”, was even concluded between the three countries to guide this process. These Principles embraced relevant International law principles and guidelines governing trans-boundary international rivers, mainly not causing significant harm to riparian states, fair and appropriate use of Nile Water, ensuring sustainable development, regional cooperation, territorial integrity and building common trust, exchanging relevant information in a timely way and peaceful settlement of disputes.

DoP stipulated that the studies recommended by the IPoE shall be used to agree on the rules governing the filling and operation of the GERD and that the entire process should be completed within 15 months.

These provisions also make it incumbent on Ethiopia not to commence the first filling of the GERD, which Ethiopian officials declare could start next July, without an agreement with downstream riparian states.

While Egypt’s letter to the Security Council, a fortnight ago, raises the stakes further, the possibility of armed conflict stemming from the dam dispute is still “very unlikely. We could expect some sort of diplomatic escalation, more aggressive rhetoric.

But a negotiated resolution to this is obviously the best way out for everyone, and there still seems to be plenty of possibility of that,” William Davison of the ICG said.

 

 

Outside partners could help build confidence among parties. The European Investment Bank, which the Ethiopians perceive as less pro-Egyptian than the World Bank, might offer Addis funding for the last phase of dam construction.

Such funding could be conditional on Ethiopia cooperating on sticking points such as the fill rate. The EU and other friendly parties should continue its talks with downstream countries on potential guarantees (including loans) and other instruments to support those countries in years in which drought or other shocks endanger food security.

The U.S. and China, which enjoy close ties to some Nile basin governments, could also encourage parties to resolve their disputes before the GERD is completed.

Egypt and other States could consider rejoining the Nile Basin Initiative after enabling conditions are in place, being an important forum that brings together all riparian countries and a venue available for discussing mutually beneficial resource sharing.

Such talks would consider Egyptian proposals that, currently and in the future, upstream countries carry out major development projects in consultation with downstream nations.

A permanent institutional framework could also help the countries prepare for challenges down the road, including climate change-induced environmental shocks, notably variable rainfall patterns, which could cause greater water stress.

African Union’s 2020 theme of “Silencing the Guns: Creating Conducive Conditions for Africa’s Development” is very instructive in these arising challenges.

The union must give priority to concerns raised by different parties on the GERD project and the development and unity of the continent. The overall historical, economic and engineering impact of the project should form a basis for the way forward in this conflict that has been festering for the last decade.

The United Nations should, likewise, have an input that should significantly see to the attainment of silencing the gun in Africa. (NANFeatures)

**If used, please credit the writer as well as News Agency of Nigeria

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Demystifying Financial Inclusion through USSD

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Demystifying Financial Inclusion through USSD

 

 

,
News Agency of Nigeria
Global disruptions caused by the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic have made individuals, organiastions and countries to think out of the box to be able to survive in the various aspects of life. It has also made them to make necessary adjustments.

 

In Nigeria, in an effort to curb the spread of the pandemic, President Muhammadu Buhari on March 30 locked down the Federal Capital Territory and Lagos and Ogun states.

 

The five-week lockdown brought to the fore the importance of the cashless banking policy initiated and implemented by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and made many citizens and other residents to embrace the initiative more.

 

The policy was introduced to reduce the amount of physical cash in circulation thereby encourage the use of electronic platforms for settlement or payment for goods and services.

 

Cashless policy introduced by the apex bank in December 2011 and kick-started in Lagos in January 2012, had been greeted with mixed feelings due to lack of deep understanding of its functionality.

 

However, with the closure of financial institutions during the lockdown, banks customers resorted to the use of Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) and other online financial platforms as advised by financial institutions.

 

 

A great benefit of going cashless is increased security for both vendors and customers. Cash has long been the target of thieves, and its removal has the potential to reduce crimes.

Cashless payments reduce errors and the cost of labour involved in processing cash.

The expenditure incurred in printing and transportation of currency notes is also reduced with cashless banking.

 

According to the CBN, cashless policy was introduced in line with the nation’s Vision 2020 goal of being one of the top 20 economies. It is aimed at driving development and modernisation of the Nigerian payment system as well as driving financial inclusion.

 

In line with the apex bank cashless banking initiative, First Bank of Nigeria Ltd., in 2015 launched *894# USSD mobile banking channel through which various banking activities are carried out on a mobile phone.

 

Analyst are convinced that the USSD banking platform supported many Nigerians during the lockdown to carry out various cashless transactions and services from the comfort and safety of their homes amid COVID-19.

 

A public affairs commentator, Mrs Obiageli Elemuo, says the banking channel promoted financial inclusion deeply during the lockdown.

 

She observes that many Nigerians who hitherto were not comfortable using the channel, for fear of fraud, resorted to using to it as a substitute for a physical banking hall.

 

She is of the opinion that even with banks’ re-opening of  banking halls following gradual ease of the lockdown, many Nigerians are still opting for the channel so as to reduce handling of currency notes for fear of contracting COVID-19 through the handling.

 

Elemuo believes that the *894# USSD banking service is quick, convenient and easy to use, and gives instant notifications, thereby re-assuring customers.

 

According to Mr Chuma Ezirim, FirstBank’s Group Executive, e-Business and Retail Products, over 9.5 million customers are active on the platform at present.

 

He describes the service launched in January 2015 as user-friendly, noting that the channel can be used across the four major GSM network operators in the country without the use of the internet.

 

“Customers are able to enjoy a wide range of banking services using the bank’s *894# USSD banking.

 

“These services include fund transfers, data and airtime top-up for self and third-party individuals, quick balance enquiry and bank verification number enquiry,’’ he says.

 

 

The official says FirstBank is satisfied with the impact so far made by the platform.

 

“At FirstBank, we are excited about the impact our innovative solutions are making in the Nigerian payment landscape.

 

“Our *894# USSD banking has been a viable platform through which we take our banking services to the doorstep of our customers, right on the palm of their hands, without the limitation of an internet connection,” Ezirim says.

 

He gives the assurance that the bank will remain committed to creating avenues to enable Nigerians to carry out various financial activities conveniently and securely.

 

A customer of FirstBank, Mr Moses Igbrude, describes USSD banking as amazing, saying that the banking product helped him much during the lockdown.

 

He urges service providers to come up with initiatives that will sustain their operations and the nation in the midst of COVID-19 as well as make them stronger after the pandemic.

 

Another customer, Mr Ugochukwu Okoroma, believes that USSD banking promoted financial inclusion during the lockdown.

 

According to him, some Nigerians, who were compelled by the lockdown to use the channel, found it interesting and are willing to continue with it.

 

“It has been wonderful. I cannot remember the last time I visited the banking hall. I am enjoying the product very well,’’ he says.

 

Okoroma, however, advised banks to secure the platform adequately against hackers, adding that they should strengthen their complaint frameworks in case of failed transactions. (END)

 

***If used, please credit the writer and the agency*

 

 

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Harnessing local content in post COVID-19 era

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Harnessing local content in post COVID-19 era

, News Agency of Nigeria

It is obvious that after the containment of the conoravirus pandemic, the world would face global economic challenges, especially countries that rely heavily on commodities for their foreign exchange earnings.

Stakeholders in Nigeria have therefore underscored the need for strategic approach, not just to contain the coronavirus, but also to ensure sustainability of the nation’s economy in the postcoronavirus era.
They noted that Nigeria relied mostly on oil for foreign exchange earnings and the future of oil is very bleak.

The current price of crude oil has dropped greatly from the $57 per barrel benchmark of Nigeria’s 2020 budget, because of COVID-19 ravaging the world.

The stakeholders who spoke at different fora, stressed the important of local content development, and called on the Federal Government to invest in local content development to sustain the nation’s economy.
They noted that raw materials, agricultural and natural resources deposits abound in the country and can be used to turn around the nation’s economic fortune.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who acknowledged the importance of local content development, said that prioritising use of local resources and creating local jobs in the construction and allied industries, among others, would be critical in sustaining the economy in the post COVID-19 era.
Osinbajo in his virtual address at the 2020 edition of ‘The Platform’ with the theme `Nigeria’s Battle against COVID-19,’ stressed the need to harness local content.
The Platform is an annual discussion programme of the Covenant Christian Centre.
The vice president listed some of the Federal Government’s efforts at addressing the economic fallouts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We will get through this much stronger economically, and much stronger as a people because of our resilience; there are a lot of challenges but they offer significant opportunities for us to turn things around.
“We have to prioritise the use of local resources in all public works; in road construction for instance, it is cheaper to build concrete roads using limestone than spending resources on the importation of bitumen.
“We have limestone in abundance, hence we should be looking in that direction; the road from Apapa Port to the Lagos –Ibadan expressway is being built with cement and is of high quality.
“In the housing sector where we have a huge deficit, we need to focus on using local resources to build houses and in the process we will be creating opportunities for young engineers, architects and builders.’’
In the same vein, the African Union (AU) Economic, Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC), said that  civil society organisations and indigenous companies most collaborate to sustain postCOVID-19 efforts in order to boost economic development across the continent.

Dr Tunji Asaolu, 1st Nigerian Representative of the AUECOSOCC Nigeria, who gave the advice, said that Africa must look inward.

“There is the need to work closely with CSOs and relevant stakeholders in the fight against COVID-19.
“There is also need to support African home grown medication for the treatment of COVID-19 infected patients.
“Africa must take this opportunity to start looking inward as a continent whose development is people-driven and which relies on potential of the African people to become united and an influential player in the global arena,” he said.

He urged government at all levels to invest in agriculture, to forestall hunger and also invest more on screening and testing of people to help tackle the postpandemic.
He underscored the need for autonomy of local governments in the post COVID-19 era, as the third tier of government would establish direct link and access for local communities to understand and participate fully in governance.
In the same vein, Dr Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) urged the Federal Government to consider adopting local measures to combat the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic.
Agbakoba said that the dreaded coronavirus disease had exposed the fragility of the public health system of many countries including Nigeria.
“For Nigeria to handle COVID-19 successfully, especially in view of Nigeria’s public health system and paucity of funds, I need to make two overriding points.
“First, the need to depart from international strategy by developing a ‘Nigerian strategy’ in managing COVID-19 and diversification of the economy in view of dwindling oil revenue.
“On the need for a Nigerian strategy on COVID-19, I call on the Federal Government to interrogate available quinine medications and to engage Nigerian virologists and infectious diseases specialists,’’ he said.
He also called on the Federal Government to engage public health professionals and traditional and herbal medicine institutions with a view to exploring local Nigerian solutions to COVID-19.
He explained that such approach would also help to enhance the capacity of Nigerian specialists, in line with the policy of promoting and utilising local content.
On his part, Prof. Jonah Onuoha, urged the Federal Government to create enabling environment for the development of local content, promote industrialisation and other policies that would boost the economy.

Onuoha, who is the Head, Department  of Political Science, University of Nigeria Nsukka, said that government must find ways to enhance production, especially in the agricultural sector to ensure food security.

According to him, development of local contents is the only way to avoid recession, because no economy can be sustained without production.
“Production is what distinct the poor from the rich; Nigeria must invest in agricultural production now that the rainy season has set in.
“Nigeria is not producing anything from oil at the moment; people should be allowed to go to farm, because production of local content from agriculture is the way forward to escape recession.
“Federal Government must lay criteria for state governments on local content; they must produce within specific timeframe to achieve the desired goal,” he said.

The challenge posed by the COVID-19 pandemic is that Nigeria must look inward and harness local content. As suggested by stakeholders, government must put in place criteria for local content development. (NANFeatures)

**If used, please credit the writer as well as News Agency of Nigeria

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Enemy of The State – by Femi Adesina

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ENEMY OF THE STATE

You have possibly watched the 1998 action-thriller film with the above title, starring Will Smith. It was the box office hit story about a group of people plotting to kill an American Congressman, and the tape of the plot was discovered.

Well, an Enemy of the State struck in Nigeria on Monday, but this time, it was no fiction. It was real life act of sabotage from somebody who does not wish his own country well at all, and who derived a sinister kind of pleasure from undermining the system.

President Muhammadu Buhari was to broadcast to the country by 8 p.m, to give an update on the battle against COVID-19, and what becomes of the lockdown that had lasted four weeks, particularly in the Federal Capital Territory, Lagos and Ogun States. Kano was also a point of heavy interest, with the strange deaths ravaging the state. Was it COVID-19 or not?

As the country waited for the President with great expectations, a purported copy of the broadcast began to circulate on social media from about 4 p.m. Whodunnit?
I took a look at the circulating document, and within one minute, I knew that it was a rogue copy. What immediately gave it away was the paragraphing. It was completely different from the one I had been part of producing, and which had been recorded for broadcast by the President.

Another tell-tale to the dubiousness of the document was the date it gave. It said the lockdown in the affected states and the FCT would be eased from May 2, while the authentic copy bore May 4. There were some other discrepancies. Paragraphs that had been excised from the final copy were still intact, and the document was riddled with spelling and grammatical errors, which you would rarely find in a presidential broadcast, which would have passed through a number of select and trusted hands.

I made a few phone calls to those of us involved with the script, right from origination, which was from outside the Presidency, to final editing, which I did, and the conclusion was easy to reach. Somebody had spirited out the original draft, which had gone through many stages of fine-tuning in terms of content and language, and thinking that it was a world exclusive in terms of artifice and underhand action, he fed it into the social media.

Who would do such a thing, except an Enemy of the State, someone who wants to ridicule the government, cause utmost confusion in the polity, and smirk his lips in malevolent pleasure, as the government, and possibly the media handlers of the President were flagellated, and taken to the cleaners.

Yoruba people talk of ‘ba ase je.’ Somebody who spoils the feast. Everybody is rejoicing and making merry, and he comes to pollute their joy. He could bring extremely bad news that sends everyone scurrying home, or looking for cover. He could even urinate in the big pot of soup in the full glare of the merrymakers. Or he could pour sand in the big pot of rice on the fire. Ba ase je (spoiler of the feast) can strike in many ways. That was the same thing the Enemy of the State did.

Igbo people speak of the proverbial lizard that ruined his own mother’s funeral. That was what the hidden hostile hand did. But he forgot that in these days of technology, almost everything leaves a trail. Before the end of that evening, computer evidences had narrowed down the suspect, and he was already answering for his evil action.

There is the house mouse called ‘oofon ‘ in Yoruba. And there is a delicious soup made from beans called ‘gbegiri.’ Yes, do you remember the popular amala and gbegiri politics as championed by Lamidi Adedibu in Oyo State in those days? That’s the soup I’m talking about. What happens when the house mouse urinates inside the bowl of gbegiri soup? Lassa fever! That’s why we have the Yoruba saying; oofon to si gbegiri, ki eleko ko eko e dani. Translating this into English makes it lose some originality, but let me try. The house mouse has urinated in the pot of gbegiri soup, let all merrymakers find their ways home. That was what the evil mind attempted to do by leaking the presidential broadcast hours before it came. But he fired blank, having laid hands on a wrong copy.

However, if that person had got the final, authentic copy, that is the same way he would have leaked it. To what end, to what purpose? Sinister. Sneaky. Hateful.

Some people hate their own country, and ironically would be the first to complain that things were not going well. Every act of the government (any government) they would undermine. If they can stick a knife into the soft underbelly of government in any way, they do it with relish, and would be the first to grumble that things were not going right. Enemies of the State.

If the person that leaked the unedited draft of the broadcast had access to more sensitive national documents, he would do the same thing. If he cottons on information that could sell Nigeria to the enemy, he would gladly do it. Thou art in the midst of foes, watch and pray.

I am surprised that a large number of people, including newspaper houses, fell for the gambit. They took their information from the wrong source, and ended up publishing falsehood. That was what the Enemy of the State wanted. Cause maximum confusion. And he succeeded to some extent.

There is a way we release information from the media office of the President. And the media knows it. If a presidential speech was to be given ahead, there would be an embargo on it for a particular time. The circulating copy bore no embargo, yet they fell for it. And got embarrassed by publishing inaccurate information. Serves them right, do you say? The final copy was released by 8.06 p.m, good enough time for a newspaper to still produce and get early to market for the next day.
The social media is being used for every purpose: good and bad. It is the bastion of fake news, hate news, concoctions and all sorts of conjurations. Will the users and consumers be more discerning? It is said that the person that stole a keg of palm oil from the rafter is not the only thief. The person that collected the keg from him is also a rogue. Those who began to share an obvious leak, rebroadcasting it, are also not guiltless. Be quick to hear, and slow to speak.

It was amusing to me to hear armchair critics blaming the media office of the President for the leakage. Ignorance. Why pontificate about what you don’t know? They were on radio and television stations the next morning, magisterially shooting breeze. It was Dr Reuben Abati, immediate past media adviser to a President who gave some proper perspectives on how a presidential broadcast is originated and produced, and how it was improbable that the leakage came from the Presidency. The lesson? Seek information, get your facts right, before arriving at a conclusion, lest you look foolish and uninformed.

Some people are not interested in the well- being of their own country. Sad, very sad. Such would sell their mothers, and their country for thirty pieces of silver. Thou art in the midst of foes, watch and pray.

.Adesina is Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to President Buhari

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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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COVID-19: ‘social distancing’ rule shuts down casino games around the globe

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The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been overwhelming across all spectrums of life. Due to restriction of movements, social distancing’ rule, fear, among others. The social distancing’ rule has put a pressure on the tourism sub-sector operating amid a widespread shutdown of entertainment and sporting events as authorities limit public gatherings to curtail the spread of the illness.

Australia

As a result, the Australia’s two biggest casino companies said they would shut off half their poker machines to force gamblers to engage in “social distancing” and slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Casino companies already have reported a pinch in their businesses targeting wealthy tourists from Asia, known as VIPs, due to travel restrictions related to the coronavirus. Melbourne-based Crown Resorts, which is 37 per cent owned by billionaire James Packer, and Sydney rival Star Entertainment Group said they would keep gamblers apart by switching off every second electronic machine.

They said they would also restrict the number of players at gambling tables. The two companies are licensed to operate a total of over 4,000 machines mostly in Sydney and Melbourne. Crown also said it would restrict the number of people in individual conference or restaurant spaces to 450 people, while Star said it would limit the number of people to 500.

The Australian government has advised against non-essential gatherings of over 500 people. Crown said its “social distancing policy” was approved by the chief health officer of Victoria state, while Star said its measures were in line with Federal Government policy.

According to Philip Russo, president of the Australasian College for Infection Prevention and Control, the measure taken by the companies was a minimum requirement. “It will likely slow down spread, but more stringent social distancing would have a greater effect,” he added in an email.

In Las Vegas, casino giant Wynn Resorts Ltd said it would close completely for two weeks due to the virus amid a broad rush of U.S. government and entertainment facilities shuttering amid the pandemic.

 

Nigeria

There is not yet a shutdown announced in Nigeria as Nigerians are still seen indulging in all kinds of online gambling activities such as the popular betway live casino games. Some of the players in a telephone chat argue that this is a way to keep themselves busy and this does not  breach the social distancing rule. Notwithstanding, Nigeria has over 1000 officially confirmed cases of COVID-19 that are imported and community spread.

 

Cambodia

But in Cambodia, the Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday said the nation’s casinos would be closed starting on Wednesday and rice exports would stop by Sunday in response to the coronavirus pandemic, state media reported.

Recently, as Cambodia’s total Covid-19 infections topped 100 cases, the premier said the government was weighing whether to declare a state of emergency, but as of yet, no national lockdown has been announced.

The South-East Asian nation’s casino sector has boomed in recent years, spurred by Chinese investment in the south-western coastal province of Preah Sihanouk.

However, growth in the industry took a hit at the end of 2019 when the government stopped licensing online gambling businesses, many of which set up shop inside casinos.

State media outlet AKP reported Cambodia confirmed 107 Covid-19 cases since January, over half of which are foreign nationals.

Some 23 people have recovered from respiratory disease. According to AKP Hun Sen, who has led the country for 35 years, said, the halt on rice exports, a key agricultural crop, was intended to ensure local food security during the pandemic.

 

Macau (Hong Kong)

On Tuesday, Macau, the world’s biggest gambling hub, said it had asked all casino operators to suspend operations for two weeks to help curb the spread of the virus.

In another announcement that will compound worries about the economic impact, Hyundai Motor said it would gradually suspend production at its South Korean factories because of supply chain disruptions from the outbreak.

The Hong Kong death took to 427 the toll from the virus, including a man who died in the Philippines last week after visiting Wuhan, the central Chinese city at the epicentre of the outbreak.

Chinese authorities said the toll in China rose by a record 64 from the previous day to 425, mostly in Hubei, the virtually locked down province whose capital is Wuhan.

New cases were reported in the U.S., including a patient in California infected through close contact with someone in the same household who had been infected in China.

It was the second instance of person-to-person spread in the U.S. after a case reported last week in Illinois.

“We expect to see more cases of person-to-person spread,” said Dr Nancy Messonnier, Director of the National Centre for Immunisation and Respiratory Diseases at the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The total number of infections in China rose by 3,235 to 20,438, and there were at least 151 cases in 23 other countries and regions.

 

World Health Organisation (WHO)

WHO has declared the flu-like virus a global emergency and experts say much is still unknown about the pathogen, including its mortality rate and transmission routes.

Such uncertainties have spurred extreme measures by some countries to stem the spread.

Australia sent hundreds of evacuees from Wuhan to a remote island in the Indian Ocean, while Japan ordered the quarantine of a cruise ship with more than 3,000 aboard, after a Hong Kong man who sailed on it last month tested positive for the virus.

The Asian financial centre has confirmed 15 cases of the virus and its public hospital network is struggling to cope with a deluge of patients and measures to contain the epidemic.

Hong Kong was badly hit by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), another coronavirus that emerged from China in 2002 to kill almost 800 people worldwide.

WHO figures show SARS killed 299 people in Hong Kong then. Chinese data suggest that the new virus, while much more contagious than SARS, is significantly less lethal, although such numbers can evolve rapidly.

The U.S. said on Friday it would block nearly all foreign visitors who have been to China within the past 14 days, joining Australia, Singapore, New Zealand, Vietnam and others with similar restrictions.

China accused the U.S. on Monday of scaremongering and said on Tuesday it would welcome its help to fight the outbreak. The White House said China had accepted its offer of U.S. experts among a WHO mission to study and help combat the virus.

Airlines have stopped flights to parts of China. A suspension by the United Arab Emirates on Monday will affect the Gulf airlines Etihad and Emirates. Some economists predict world economic output will shrink by 0.2 to 0.3 percentage points due to China’s lockdown.

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COVID-19 lockdown: Virtual meeting to the rescue

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COVID-19 lockdown: Virtual meeting to the rescue

, News Agency of Nigeria

Globally, the COVID-19 lockdown, with the attendant emphasis on social/physical distancing, has derailed the normal web of human activities and interactions.

Convergences, meetings, worships, transportation, industries, trading and businesses, sports among others have been cancelled, shut down, suspended or scaled down.

As the innovative and tech-driven world is striving to shake off the COVID-19 induced inertia and making frantic efforts to find a vaccine or cure for the pandemic, many activities have tilted towards virtual–meetings, teaching, worships, healthcare, sports among others.

In Nigeria, the virtual leeway is evident as online meetings are being held to discuss critical national issues, vis a vis COVID 19 pandemic and its economic aftermath.

In a teleconference with the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, President Muhammadu Buhari tasked the committee to step up efforts in contact tracing of those infected with the virus in order to curb community transmission.

Buhari urged the task force to flatten the curve of the virus as quickly as possible in order to break the chain of the expected community transmission.

PTF’s Chairman, Mr Boss Mustapha, who is also the Secretary to Government of the Federation, said that the president also challenged the PTF to reduce the spread of the virus as soon as possible.

“In the last two weeks, we have reached where we are now, and the president is conscious of the fact that we need to flatten the curve as quickly as possible.

“Be able to trace, find the people, conduct as numerous tests as we can and try as much as possible to break the chain of any community transmission.

“I can’t assure you that there won’t be transmission, there will definitely be transmission, but if we are able to get ahead of it, then, we can deal with it decisively.

“Some of the new measures that the president has introduced, he has asked a committee to look at how the economy will operate within the context of COVID-19,’’ he said.

More recently, the president via video-conferencing, participated in extraordinary summit of the Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS).

The summit was convened by the regional leaders to deliberate on the COVID-19 pandemic which has continued to ravage humanity worldwide.

The highlight of the video-conference was the appointment of Buhari as Champion of the COVID-19 Response, that will lead the region’s campaign for debt forgiveness among others.

On his part, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has been having series of virtual engagements.

Osinbajo recently presided over the meeting of the National Economic Council’s (NEC) Special Committee on COVID-19 anchored from the Presidential Villa via video-conferencing.

The vice president, at the virtual meeting, said that there was need for more public enlightenment and sensitisation on the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Osinbajo urged governments at all levels to intensify efforts so that more Nigerians would become aware of the compelling and critical dimensions of the situation.

He harped on the importance of the assignment and the urgency required.

“The Federal Government is already packaging further resources for a comprehensive economic response to alleviate the challenges of the pandemic, support the states and provide succor to Nigerians in a timely and effective manner.

“The newly created Economic Sustainability Committee (ESC) constituted by the president will also be meeting this week to start its work and respond to the situation appropriately.

“The Special Committee of the National Economic Council on COVID-19 is working hard to develop additional measures to alleviate the challenges being faced by Nigerians because of the implications of the global pandemic in the country,’’ he said.

Those who joined the vice president in  video-conference are governors Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti,  Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna,  Abdullahi Sule of Nasarawa, Mohammed Abubakar of Jigawa and  Godwin Obaseki of Edo.

Other are governors David Umahi of  Ebonyi,  Dapo Abiodun of  Ogun, and Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi.

The meeting also featured the Finance Minister, Hajiya Zainab Ahmed and the Director-General of the Budget Office, Mr Ben Akabueze among several other top officials.

Again, Osinbajo joined online an event organised by the HACK COVID-19 Call Centre, where young Nigerian technology innovators talked about the impact of COVID-19 on the economy and wellbeing of Nigerians.

The vice president, at the video-conferencing, said that part of the tasks given to ESC, which he chaired, was to develop further palliatives.

According to the vice president, containing the spread of pandemic and tackling its fallout, is an all Nigeria effort that requires the cooperation of all.

Osinbajo responded to questions on how the Buhari administration intended to handle the consequences of the restriction of movements in parts of the country and support vulnerable Nigerians.

He said that part of the work of the ESC was to look at some of the concerns that affected the poor; especially, in the context of what had already been done and the data already collated.

According to the vice president, the committee will also look at how to implement some strategy that will be able to alleviate the sufferings of the poor and the informal workforce

“So, we have data of the poorest of the poor, with the assistance of the World Bank, we have developed what is called the National Social Register, where we mapped out, in practically all local government areas in Nigeria, those who are considered the most vulnerable.

“Already, some of them got conditional cash transfers but, again, compared to the numbers, it is not large enough.’’

The vice president, however, assured that though the challenges were daunting and expectations high, government was ready and willing to address all of them.

He said efforts were also being made towards incorporating local manufacturers in the production of items needed to manage the pandemic.

Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, the Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), joined the vice president at the online event, alongside a number of technology innovators from across the country.

In addition, Osinbajo had a video-conference with representatives of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank on how the agencies could collaborate with Nigeria in the planned additional economic stimulus packages to address the fallout of COVID-19 pandemic.

What’s more, the vice president held a virtual conference with eight governors from the geopolitical zones with a view to harmonising federal and state governments’ responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Deserving no less attention, the Northern Governors Forum (NGF) had a tele-conference on how to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the region.

Gov. Simon Lalong of Plateau, who is also the Chairman of the forum, briefed his colleagues on the request for special funding, palliatives, testing centres among other types of assistance to the region in tackling the pandemic.

Lalong told them that the president assured him that the region would get needed support through the programmes that the Federal Government had rolled out.

Also via virtual conferencing, the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC) shared N780.926 billion as March Federation Account Revenue to the federal, states, local governments and relevant agencies in the country.

The deployment of virtual tools in the midst of COVID-19 lockdown in Nigeria has gone a long way to ensure that governance is not locked down.

The palpable advantages of virtual communication in the COVID-19 lockdown, could be harnessed appropriately in the post pandemic era.(NANFeatures)

**If used, please credit the writer as well as News Agency of Nigeria

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Lockdown: “Underground Fridge” panacea for congested mortuaries in Anambra

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The Anambra Government on March 23 suspended all public gatherings, including traditional marriage, ceremonies, community, festivals, masquerade festivals, baby christening, new yam festivals, title-taking ceremonies and funeral ceremonies.

This pronouncement made by Gov. Willie Obiano in a broadcast which also outlawed any meeting of more than 30 participants anywhere within the state, was part of the government’s proactive measures to check the spread of Coronavirus in the state.

In order to ensure full compliance, Obiano said traditional rulers and Presidents-General of communities where these rules were violated would be held responsible.

One month into the policy regime, the impacts are already beginning to manifest, especially in the volume of unburied dead bodies in mortuaries in the state, especially in the metropolitan cities of the capital, Awka and its environs, Onitsha and Nnewi.

But this is not to say that mortuaries in the rural communities are not affected.

Although the suspension of burial ceremonies did not bar families from burying the bodies of their dead loved ones, the rate of burials had reduced because of the ceremony that goes with burial in Igboland.

The traditional ruler of Nanka Community in Orumba North Council, Igwe Godwin Ezeilo, said that the order had been religiously observed that there had not been funeral ceremonies in the last one month.

Ezeilo said the people of Nanka embraced the suspension of burial and other ceremonies with their two hands knowing full well that it was for their own good.

“Nanka community accepted that order and have been obeying it, there has not been burial ceremonies that involved large crowds, however, most people are keeping their dead in the mortuary waiting for when the order will be lifted,” he said.

Ezeilo said there was nothing wrong with burying corpse immediately after death because it was an old culture which most people, including traditionalists still practiced today.

The monarch said there had been a number of such burials in Nanka where less than 20 persons participated since the suspension of burials.

“We have had such burials where few members of the family will be invited to witness it, as a matter of fact some people will tell you not to take them to mortuary when they die, so you have to respect that wish.

“If the person is a Catholic, clear yourself with the church and invite your parish priest to bless the grave, later you plan for the funeral ceremony,” he said.

Rev. Fr Martin Onwudiwe, Head of Social Communications , Catholic Diocese of Nnewi, corroborated the monarch’s position that burial ceremonies had not been going on at least in the diocese.

Onwudiwe said reports from parishioners were that either the mortuaries were filled up or the morticians were rejecting corpses because they were not sure of what killed them.

He said the families were now resorting to immediate interment of the dead bodies without out funerals which they hope to hold later, noting that there was sense of urgency this time around.

The priest said there was no basis to compare the number of deaths between this period and before the suspension but attributed congestion at the mortuaries to the burials which were scheduled to hold since the suspension but were called off.

“From all indications, mortuaries are filled up, so when somebody dies, the family buries the body immediately, that is the situation we are in now.

“To the best of my knowledge, it is the family that buries corpse and if the person was a Catholic, the parish priest will go and conduct the burial,” he said.

Onwudiwe said immediate burial was the best way to go under the prevailing circumstance in terms of convenience and cost as nobody was sure of the economy of post Covid-19 pandemic.

According to him, every law has an exception, some families may not have the money to pay mortuary bills, so I will encourage that when somebody dies whether a Catholic or a non-Catholic, they can bury their dead and plan for the funeral later.

Dr Uche Okeke of the General Hospital Enugu-Ukwu, said people die everyday from sickness, accident and other causes.

Okeke said those who died in the hospital were referred to mortuaries outside the hospital premises for preservation because that of the hospital had not been functional for a while.

He said it was not impossible that operators will increase their rates because the number of corpses was on the increase, while the available spaces were shrinking.

The doctor advised people who lost their relation to bury them without much delay.

“People die everyday, as I am talking to you now, my friend just died and the family are planning to bury him immediately,” he said.

Prof. Anthony Agbata, Head, Department of Histopatholoy, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University Teaching Hospital (COOUTH), said the suspension of burial ceremonies in Anambra had put a lot of pressure on mortuaries.

Agbata, a professor of Pathology, said that in spite of the surge in the number of dead bodies, mortuaries were not rejecting corpses but have become innovative by creating spaces in their facilities.

According to him, it is true that there is pressure on mortuaries now but many of them are not rejecting corpses, what we have done is to become more innovative in finding ways to keep them, so we are creating spaces.

“Like here in COOUTH, we are using every compartment available to keep the corpses, we have also proposed to management to build racks for us so that there can be more spaces, because everywhere is occupied.

“We don’t want to pack dead bodies like bags of rice, we can’t run away from dying and mortuaries can’t in run away from accepting corpses, so the option available to us is to create more space,” he said.

Agbata, however, says the only solution was for families that lose their loved ones during this period is to adopt the “underground preservation system” popularly known as ‘Fridge-Ani’ in Igbo cultural parlance.

He explained that ‘fridge-ani’ was a situation were families bury their dead for economic or culture reasons pending when they would be ready for the funeral.

The pathologist said that part of the culture that led to keeping corpses in the mortuary was that certain members of the family must be informed and be around during the burial.

“It is not usual for us to bury our loved ones unceremoniously in Igboland like in some other places and other religions.

“Before now, when somebody dies and the people around are so indigent that they can’t afford mortuary bill, they bury immediately, that is what we call ‘fridge ani’ pending when they will be ready for the funeral.

“But people feel that when people die, there are certain things that should be done before they are buried and if not the members of the family will be guilty and they will be haunted for a long time.

“My own position is that if a family deals with that psychological burden, let them go ahead and bury their dead,” he said.

The expert said that at the moment, there was no evidence that Coronavirus can be detected through autopsy, and that there was nowhere people who died in recent time were subjected to autopsy.

Chief Kelvin Chukwumaobi, Managing Director of APAMS Ltd, a frontline funeral management company, said everything concerning burials around the South-East were at a stand standstill because of the COVID-19 lockdown.

Chukwumaobi said the suspension following the lockdown was for public safety but was a heavy price to pay.

On burying people immediately after death, the APAMS boss said it was a matter choice and that families could adopt it when necessary.

“Immediate burial is a choice, it depends on what the person want,” he said.

However, the fact remains that most mortuaries in parts of Anambra are filled with corpses, leading to some of them that are innovative to seek ways of accommodating more dead bodies and managing them well, though it’s a tall order.

But the question is, for how long can the attendants in the mortuaries be able to keep the bodies since they are filled to capacity and more are still be deposited?

Well, it is hoped that the bodies won’t decompose given the vagaries of power outage and other natural elements. If that happens, shall we not be expecting some health hazards?

It is time the people found a way out of this situation so that they could bury their dead as soon as they die, preferrably in “Underground Fridge” so that they could rest in peace.

(
Edited By: Peter Ejiofor) (NAN)

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Mamman Daura’s Tribute to Malam Abba Kyari

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MALAM ABBA KYARI: A GREAT PUBLIC SERVANT

 

BY MAMMAN DAURA

 

Corona virus is a law, yet lawless unto itself. As of yesterday it has claimed 183,424 lives worldwide and 28 Nigerians.

One of those lives lost was Malam Abba Kyari’s, Chief of Staff to the President. Malam Abba succumbed to complications after contracting and recovering from Corona Virus a week today.

Malam Abba Kyari was a man blessed with mountainous gifts and uncommon attributes of intelligence, diligence, hard work, loyalty to friends and worthy causes.  One could exhaust superlatives to do him full justice.

I first set eyes on Malam Abba about 47 years ago. I was at my desk at the New Nigerian newspapers office scribbling something or other when the gate messenger brought a chit of paper with a name “Abba Kyari Chima” wanting to see the Editor.

When he came in he looked winsome and slightly diffident. After pleasantries I wanted to know his reason for coming to New Nigerian. He said he read and liked an Editorial in the paper a few days earlier headed: “Solution looking for a Problem” and he resolved to work with us.

After swift enquiry, I was told there were no vacancies in the Newsroom nor in Sub-Editing. But a lowly position existed as proof reader as someone had just left. I was about to apologise to him that what was available was beneath his station. Malam Abba quickly said: “I will take it.”

After formalities he was enrolled as a staff of New Nigerian.

By “taking it” he was taking a sizeable cut from his previous teaching job’s pay as the salary scales in the New Nigerian where Malam Abba and I worked were historic in their frugality. You couldn’t get fat on the wages of the New Nigerian in the mid-70s.

Anyway, within weeks Malam Abba had moved to the Newsroom and was an articulate member at the daily editorial conferences. Moreover he and I became firm friends ever since. If I recall correctly we both left the services of New Nigerian within a short time of each other.

After New Nigerian, Malam Abba worked at NDDC and Zamfara Textiles – a state-sponsored investment company and a private manufacturing outfit – valuable experience in later life – and soon grew out of those jobs.

Constantly striving to improve himself he went to Warwick University in England -where General Gowon also attended after leaving Nigeria as Head of State – and acquired an Honours Degree in Sociology and thence to the world-famous Cambridge University where he graduated in Law before returning to Nigeria.

When a group of sponsors including Malam Ahmed Joda, Mr. Philip Asiodu and Malam Isma’ila Isa Funtua floated a new newspaper, The Democrat, Malam Abba was nominated and unanimously accepted as its Editor. His previous experience in the New Nigerian and his quality education enabled him to run the newspaper with aplomb.

Malam Abba served as Company Secretary with the burgeoning African International Bank. But as I said Malam Abba grew out of every job he held hitherto.

And when Mr. Hakeem Bello-Osagie assembled a team of investors and managers to help revive the collapsing UBA, Malam Abba was persuaded to join the group and after weeks of diligence the group acquired UBA and Malam Abba joined the Bank as a Senior Executive. Needless to relate, he eventually became the Bank’s Chief Executive and on retirement was persuaded to remain as non-executive Vice-Chairman.

These times coincided with the country’s return to democracy and Malam Abba was among those enthusiastically espousing the cause of General Obasanjo. On his selection as PDP candidate, a group of women and youths in the PDP lobbied Obasanjo to pick Malam Abba as his Vice Presidential running mate. After heated debates, Obasanjo eventually picked Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.

In the 2003 elections, Malam Abba was in opposite camps with President Obasanjo. General Muhammadu Buhari had declared his intention the previous year to contest the presidency and Malam Abba joined his team and worked wholeheartedly in all the campaigns through the drudgery and injustices of the 2003, 2007 and 2011 elections without losing hope or sight of the ultimate goal.

Perseverance paid off and in 2015 General Buhari under the banner of APC (an amalgam of CPC, ACN, ANPP and break away factions of the PDP and many other smaller parties) won the Presidential elections. To his great surprise, the President appointed Malam Abba as the Chief of Staff.

Fortified by the rigours of a Cambridge education and varied experience in Banking, industry, investment and journalism, Malam Abba set himself the task of defining the role, functions and status of the Chief of Staff. He started by consulting previous incumbents of the position he could reach as a way of educating himself of the challenges ahead of him.

All future Chiefs of Staff will henceforth be judged by the benchmark of Malam Abba Kyari. Next, he assembled a team of very competent staff who worked incredibly long hours, 7 days a week to analyse, itemize, disaggregate knotty problems and advise the President. Malam Abba was an exacting taskmaster and his staff were relieved if he travelled outside the country. But to a man they valued, respected some even liked him.

Malam Abba was at odds with many senior members of the government on economic policies. Many Nigerian elites tend to lean towards the Bretton Woods one-size-fits-all solutions long discredited and demonstrably failed in so many so-called Third World countries. Malam Abba tended to look inward for solutions and was not an ideologue.

He was heavily influenced by two Nobel Laureates, the great West Indian Economist, Professor Arthur Lewis and the eminent Indian Professor Amartya Sen, the latter Malam Abba frequently called to exchange views.

Despite holding firm views, his advice to the President was dispassionate, even-handed and did not hide unpleasant facts, in the best traditions of public service. In point of intellect, he stood above all Ministers and Special Advisers in this government. But personally he was modest, ever willing to learn, ever willing to help others.

Malam Abba leaves a widow, the estimable Hajiya Hauwa and four children, Aisha (Amma), Nuruddeen, Ibrahim and Zainab. The children have all been well educated and are able to pursue their own careers.

Few people knew that over ten years ago, he turned his house in Maiduguri (since he no longer resided there) into accommodation for IDPs. At some stage there were 75 people whom Malam Abba was feeding, clothing and looking after; in addition to their children’s education. Later, the numbers got larger. Malam Abba never said a word to anybody about this. Amma and her siblings are not the only orphans Malam Abba left!

He lived a fairly simple life and habitually wore a red cap, white clothing and black shoes. He had to be forced by his friends to change the cap and he wore the shoes to the ground before buying a new pair!

According to hospital reports, his body fought hard in face of deteriorating complications, but his time had come. We remember him with sadness in our hearts and tears in our eyes…..

 

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Mallam Abba Kyari: A rare Gem with courage of personal conviction – by Jalal Arabi

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MALLAM ABBA KYARI: A RARE GEM WITH COURAGE OF PERSONAL CONVICTION, by Jalal Arabi

The Almighty Allah has decreed that “every soul shall taste death.” Indeed that has come to pass for Ya’ Abba and for us his loved ones and admirers world over. This is more pronounced in the encomiums showered on him and eulogies delivered at every opportunity of condolence. Indeed, the demise of Ya’Abba has brought to fore his hidden qualities and attributes hitherto largely unknown, misunderstood and grossly underestimated.

            In the last five years, our daily retreat used to commence with paying compliments to each other and inquiring about each other’s family. We would then share latest happenings in our dear nation. However, Ya’Abba’s main areas of interests in all the reportage were citizens’ comments on infrastructural developments and costs of living. He equally would inquire about reported or recorded security reports and breakthroughs in the agricultural sector. After that it was coffee time since we had reduced taking breakfast tea. This latter period was sober as we would discuss how the Government was faring and the need to expand the frontiers of success.

            We will then carry the discussions to lunch where he will insist that every member of the “family” is notified that lunch was ready. The congregation included, until recently, a large group comprising Ambassador Ahmed Rufai, Mallam Musa Shafi’i, Late Tijjani Yusuf, Ambassador Yahaya Lawal, Faruk Gumel, Abdulmutallab Muktar, Fola Oyeyinka, Bode Oyetunde, Amina Ado, Francis Anatogu and Mohammed Salisu Adaya. On most occasions we were joined by Mallam Ya’u Darazo and Garba Shehu. He would insist some dignitaries that would visit him during the period eat with us. Usually, lunch time provided him the opportunity to tap our brains, share his experience on sustainable development and the way forward for our country. We always looked forward to the timing and the engagements. Whoever was not available will be looked for and he would usually apologise if for any reason he delayed coming to table on time. That was vintage Ya’Abba.

            Today, I write to pay tribute to a Boss, Mentor, Elder Brother and a teacher of innumerable qualities who stood for loyalty, principle, commitment, dedication, patriotism and courage of personal Conviction-Qualities (nouns that) he lived for till he breathed his last.

            I was fortunate to meet Ya’Abba in June, 2015 after they came into the Villa as an Administration. We were then remnants administrative staff left behind by the previous administrations and so have the rare opportunity of welcoming them in. Unassuming as he was till the end, we would meet in the Villa Mosque and on the walk way and exchanged pleasantries. Never given to sycophancy nor mediocrity, he would always mind his business and move on. You would always notice his presence on occasions ONLY if invited otherwise, he would do his beat and retire to the presence of his mentor, Mallam Mamman Daura.

            It was not until August, 2015 that destiny brought us closer, and since then it was never the same again. He was appointed Chief of Staff to the President on 29th August, 2015 and as with the standard practice, he had an overview of his Areas of Responsibility and undertook a tour of units within his purview, one of which was the State House Counsel, which I was privileged to be occupying then. Subsequently, I would be giving him a daily briefing on where we were policy-wise and level of implementation. True to his proactive nature and results-orientation, he would direct immediate follow ups and where necessary drafts for quick update to Mr. President for appropriate action. I continued on that trajectory even after God elevated me to the position of Permanent Secretary. That had never ceased and remained his trademark “prompt action, prompt result”. He detested procrastination under whatever guise.

            Luck came my way when I was able to win the confidence of Ya’Abba by appealing to his appetite of executing instruction on time and with logic. How else could one describe that rare opportunity? As earlier posited, Ya’Abba became my teacher and never for a day denied me the leverage of asking him probing questions. He would always answer your questions from position of pure knowledge, which I believe was acquired over time, more so, with compelling references readily available. He was never bothered by the loads of books and journals in and around his office that can easily qualify same as a library of intellectualism. The sloppy side of this however, is you can never at will borrow or ask him to lend you of any of these treasures except he was sure you would truly read, utilize what you gained therefrom and add value to the discourse. I came to appreciate the style otherwise the “shelves” would have been emptied. Ya’Abba was on the list of first takers of any released publication on Politics, Economics, Philosophy and Social Developments before they are publicly unveiled, – quote me.  You can now understand why his contributions at all forums were not only rich but comprehensive and factual without contradiction. Truly a rare gift of nature, but alas all that has gone, even as the records survived.

            Ya’ Abba’s love for this nation was never in doubt. He was never shy to take on any contrary stance with in-depth analyses and explanations. He would engage the nay sayers in making them understand the purpose for which we were entrusted with people’s mandate.

The nation and its less privileged first before the affluent.  Little wonder that he became unpopular with the elites. It was not that he had any disdain for the elites (alias Private Sector) having been a beneficiary for most part of his career life but he detested exploitation, unfairness and injustice. With a quick and sharp grasp of the reality of Nigerian situation he went all out to ensure that the Buhari Administration leaves an enduring legacy.

He therefore made sure that where necessary, he got aside the bureaucratic processes and procedures to achieve quick results like someone trying to beat his time and so it was. He believed that Government policies should be geared towards bettering the lives of the majority so that way he subtly challenged any slow pace of implementing an infrastructural development and socio-economic policies.

Dear to his heart as legacy projects for our administration include the National Council on Food Strategy; Presidential Fertilizer Initiative; Presidential Infrastructure Fund; Presidential Artisanal Gold Mining Initiative; Completion of Second Niger Bridge; Initiation for the Funding of 18 Key Road projects across the country; Rehabilitation of Abuja-Kaduna-Kano Road Network; Presidential Power Initiative – Siemens; 10MW Grid Solar Power Project In Kano; Planting of 26 Million Trees to address Desertification; Establishment of 16 Federal Science and Technical Schools in the States; Creation of Special Public Works Program to provide part time employment to 40,000 Nigerian Youths across eight (8) states on a pilot basis; and Federal Government’s Covid-19 palliatives; etc.

Once those heavy structures and projects are completed or attained to satisfactory levels, he believed Nigeria and Nigerians will be the best for it.

I need not remind that it was in the quest of achieving his wish to see to the rescue of the Power-sector that he took ill and subsequently died. Ya’Abba, we were consoled that you died a Hero.

 I cannot stop thinking about how you believed in your cause. How you envisioned Nigeria of your dream. How you felt for the less-privileged. How you planned and ensured the execution of policies that touched on the lives of Nigerians, especially the less-privileged in the areas of Agriculture and Rural Development, Power and the general Economy. I need not say more as the voice of the majority so far have echoed such. I will therefore lean on the maxim “Res Ipsa Loquitur”.

            However, like every mortal, Ya’Abba was not perfect. He was rather reticent and restrained. He was also rather wary or at times suspicious of the civil servants. These two traits seemed to have tainted his orientation and outlook; and might have, in some ways, contributed to his rather unknown and unsung hope or record of achievement.

            Certainly, Nigeria will never be the same again. It has lost an illustrious son who was detribalized, patriotic, honest and realistic. You always taught me to be assertive in my principle, patriotic when it came to Nigerian project and be helpful to the needy within the confines of the Rules. In you I learnt family virtues and communal relationship and fraternity. Our families have become closer that we feel for each other and always there for one another. You have helped me in deepening my knowledge of the world and my country. You taught me the virtues of true friendship and deep appreciation of diversity. You let me into your world of friends and associates most of whom are your likes and in whom I found traces of your commonality of ideas and truthfulness. I only pray that God gives me the tenacity to maintain such a privilege.

            Ya’Abba is gone and so shall all of us go at the appointed time but until such a time I urge us all to imbibe the culture of patriotism and loyalty which were the hallmark he held on to until his demise. This I can attest to and stand for till my last breathe as we shall all depart this world at our appointed time, without exception and shall account for our deeds in the hereafter. I pray that we depart this world of vanity in similar circumstances that will qualify our deaths as martyrs, which simply means dying for a good cause in circumstances that are ordained and exalted. For all intents and purposes, we are hopeful that Ya’Abba died a martyr.

13. I condole with Mr. President, Baba Mamman and most especially, his wonderful family over the irreparable loss, believing that Allah will have mercy on his soul and on ours as well. I now truly believe that “every job is easy when you are not the one doing it”. Allah ya maka Rahama Ya’ Abba, Sai Munzo.

 – Jalal A. Arabi, is the outgoing Permanent Secretary, State House, Abuja.

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COVID-19:  Can working remotely be sustained after lockdown?

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COVID-19:  Can working remotely be sustained after lockdown?

, News Agency of Nigeria

Remote Work Model (RWM) that allows professionals to work outside of a traditional office environment is not new. It is predicated on the fact that work does not need to be done from the work place or permanent environment.

When President Muhammadu Buhari on March 29, ordered lockdown of activities in the Federal Capital Territory, Lagos and Ogun states, to check the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), it was imperative that workers of many organisations, public and private would work remotely.

Even before the lockdown ordered by Buhari, many states had done the same in order to check the spread of the COVID-19.

Mr Jide Awe, the Managing Director, Jidaw Systems and an Information Communication Technology expert, said that remote working is universally embraced because of its flexibility.

He listed: Voice calls, e-mails, messaging applications, cloud-based productivity applications,  audio conferencing, meetings through desktops and mobile devices, as tools that enhance remote working.

Awe said that individuals and organisations decide their remote work model based on their needs and capacity, and responsibilities and tasks that can be done out of the office.

“Affordability and availability of technology tools for remote working are key. The large and sophisticated organisations in Nigeria are able to go the whole hog, utilising all the digital resources, including advanced video conferencing and online collaboration.

“Smaller businesses, which are in the majority, tend to limit themselves to lower end resources, such as telephone calls, e-mail and messaging services such as WhatsApp.

“Some organisations adopt a mix of technologies that change with the tasks at hand according to requirements and culture, because there is no size that fits all models.’’

According to him, it should be expected that remote working after the pandemic will still persist as organisations will change their structures to realign with the reality that certain work activities are better performed remotely.

“More employees and employers will embrace the benefits of more flexibility at work, better work-life balance and reduced physical costs that produce quality work.

“There will be a new trend that will see organisations continue to use remote work and learning tools. We are at a turning point that will change how we work and learn forever.

“Organisations will however need to invest to support remote working.’’

Awe, however, made a case for remote work policies, and also stressed the need for a full buy-in and alignment among all stakeholders, which would help in growing relevant fields within the IT sector.

According to him, this will require greater investment in technical equipment and services.

He regretted that most of the technology companies in the likes of Microsoft, Slack, Google, Zoom, leveraging on remote working and providing enabling tools are foreign-based, with little local companies’ representation.

Awe said that there will be better local value on remote working and learning, if processes of organisations are digitised, adding that the IT sector needs to galvanise resources to promote this emerging requirement.

“Technology innovation can help to address current limitations of remote work, to further enable the remote workforce, which the major development will be innovations for jobs and work activities that currently cannot be done remotely.

“It is both a challenge and an opportunity for the IT sector, but the future of work is upon us, as we `re-imagine’ how to work more productively.’’

He emphasised that lack of digital inclusion, access to digital equipment, quality internet services, broadband penetration, infrastructure development, cost of technology tools and cyber security, are some of the bottlenecks needed to be addressed for RWM to thrive.

Mr Akindayo Akindolani, Chief Executive Officer, Elizabeth Zariah Foundation, said massive adoption of remote working is long overdue, adding that it is having encouraging impact on organisations that never engaged in RWM before the pandemic and lockdown.

Akindolani observed that such organisations are migrating from the diverse challenges associated with the model, which ranges from network hiccups to adapting to change and are finally embracing the new model.

According to Akindolani, talents, skills sourcing with no location barriers, smaller physical office spaces and boosting of internet facilities by providers, will change in the work place and enhance remote working.

“Now we know that from being afraid of embracing change, to getting confused and now enjoying full remote work, remote working is about to disrupt the work place, even in ways we may not envisage at the moment.

“With remote working, demand for larger office spaces will drop to accommodate only a few support and administrative staff, that may necessarily need to come to a physical office.

“Internet service providers will need to look at suitable pricing model for remote work, because it relies heavily on exchange of information through multiple means such as text, image and video.

“The role of human resources managers is expected to change, as they will need to start thinking of benefit, packages that will make staff work effectively and efficiently remotely.’’

He, however, agreed that every leap that brings change in the activities of humans, have a downing effect which will require time for readjustment.

Akindolani opined that having smaller physical office spaces will affect real estate practitioners and contribute to loss of jobs.

Mr Ime Udoko, Director, Research and Marketing, Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA), said that RWM may encourage upsurge in cyber attacks if organisations fail to protect their work space remotely.

Udoko noted that most home digital devices are not protected by corporate firewalls and anti-phishing security controls and connections.

He said that in the office space, browsers on many computers provided by companies hold sensitive information like user IDs, passwords and they are already susceptible to attacks.

He added that some people believed that connections to corporate networks in the work from home model were done through Virtual Private Network (VPN) and could be secured.

Udoko disagreed, adding that VPN of a system used for corporate work could easily be manipulated, thereby exposing the organisation to threat.

He recalled that prior to the COVID-19 era; there were already some disturbing statistics about Nigerian internet space by the Threat Intelligence Reports of CheckPoints, an institution monitoring cyber threats globally.

“Typical organisations in Nigeria with internet presence is being attacked 1,292 times per week in the last six months compared to 411 attacks per organisation globally.

“Eighty-eight per cent of the malicious files targeting institutions in Nigeria were delivered through e-mails, compared to 66 per cent of malicious files globally.

“The most common vulnerability exploit type in Nigeria is Remote Code Execution (RCE) which is impacting 70 per cent of organisations in the country.’’

Udoko said that COVID-19 had changed business model, thereby creating every avenue to double the rate of attacks which could be blamed on low cyber risks awareness level.

He added that the attacks stated by CheckPoints were being launched on organisations operating 90 per cent physical model and less than 10 per cent cyber dependent.

Udoko advised that government and private institutions should consider setting up a cyber risk management team, to evaluate all possible risk scenarios, provide adequate IT resources to support staff.

“Companies should invest more on creating awareness on the do’s and don’ts, while working from home, ensure employees’ devices comply with organisations’ internal policy, have up-to-date security software and security patch levels.

“Ensure all the corporate business applications are accessible only via encrypted communication channels, ensure Data at Rest (DAR) on employee laptops are encrypted to protect against unauthorised disclosure in the case of theft or devise loss.

“Where possible, get full protection from credential theft through phishing or social engineering, as well as malware, exploits, ransom ware, and other e-mail delivered threats, by investing in relevant services.

“Safeguard access to application portals through the use of multi-factor authentication mechanisms, vet Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) such as personal laptops or mobile devises from the security standpoint.’’

He also advised institutions to ensure policies for responding to security incidents and personal data breaches were in place, as well as keep the staff informed.

According to him, the processing of personal data by the employer in the context of remote working, should be in compliance with the local legal framework on data protection, such as the Nigeria Data Protection Regulations (NDPR).

Udoko warned that employees should be discouraged from sharing the virtual meeting URLs on social media or other public channels, adding that unauthorised third parties could access private meetings and breach business confidentiality.

With the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown popularising the RWM, there is need to come up with initiatives that will accommodate working remotely and boost digital skills capacity building.(NANFeatures).

**If used, please credit the writer as well as News Agency of Nigeria

 

 

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COVID-19: With no known vaccine for prevention, face masks to the rescue?

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Since the coronavirus (COVID-19) was first reported in Wuhan, China in December 2019, it has spread to many parts of the world. On Feb. 27, Nigeria confirmed its first case of COVID-19.

Ever since, the number of confirmed cases had continued to increase, fuelling fears of rapid spread as Nigeria has a large population of about 200 million people.

Though there is no vaccine yet for coronavirus, the    World Health Organisation (WHO), said medical face masks should be worn by people who show symptoms of COVID-19, health workers and people who are taking care of people with COVID-19 in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).

On its part, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), has issued new advisory to guide Nigerians on the use of face masks to check spread of COVID-19.

The Director-General of NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, said that globally, there was a debate on the effectiveness of masks as a preventive measure against COVID-19.

According to him, the use of masks can prevent an asymptomatic  person (a person who never develops symptoms)  from transmitting the disease as well as prevent transmission during  pre-symptomatic period ( before a person develops symptoms).

He added that there was emerging evidence of the ability of a mask to prevent contact with respiratory droplets.

The director-general said that comparisons also appeared to suggest better outcomes in countries that used masks as a general policy.

“Sources of concern have been that people who wear face masks may feel protected and ignore physical distancing advice.

“In addition, if face masks are not worn correctly, disposed of appropriately or if people touch their faces more frequently due to adjustments of face masks they are wearing, they run a higher risk of infection.”

He said in addition to face masks, the NCDC also recommended other measures such as physical distancing, hand washing and respiratory hygiene.

“Masks have to be properly disposed of in waste bins. Improper handling and frequently touching of masks can increase the risk of infection.

“Improvised masks are an option as long as they are properly washed regularly.

“They can be made out of cloth or other materials,” he said.

The director-general said that usage of face masks was particularly advisable when attending gatherings “where it is absolutely necessary to attend.”

He listed such gatherings to include shopping outlets, markets and pharmacies, among others, adding that patients and healthcare workers needed masks the most.

He advised that elderly persons with medical conditions such as diabetes should wear masks since they were at a higher risk of the infection.

He stressed that face masks should be used by those with respiratory problems and those already exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms and awaiting testing.

Ihekweazu said it was important to note that usage of face masks alone could not be relied upon to prevent COVID-19, stressing that physical distancing and regular hand washing were necessary for protection against the virus.

Ihekweazu advised that people should use fabrics coverings, not surgical masks or specialised N95 masks, which should be reserved for healthcare providers.

“If you are making your own covering, new research shows that some fabrics are better than others at filtering out viral particles.

“You have to use relatively high quality cloth,”  he said.

Ihekweazu noted that masks are not intended to protect wearers from getting sick, but rather, to prevent them from spreading the virus to others.

Dr Scott Segal, Chair of Anesthesiology at Wake Forest Baptist Health in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, carried out a study on the most suitable fabrics to use for face masks.

In partnership with Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, he tested a variety of cloth materials to see which ones would not only allow for breathability, but also filter small particles such as viruses.

The research from Wake Forest has not been submitted for publication and has not been peer-reviewed.

To test various masks and fabrics, the team pumped air through both types of face coverings.

“Our instruments could read down to 0.3 microns, which is about the size of a big virus,” Segal said.

“Regular surgical masks filtered out 62 per cent to 65 per cent of particles, for comparison, N95 masks filter 95 per cent of those particles.

“But the fabrics led to a variety of results, one piece of cloth filtered just 1 per cent of particles, rendering it virtually useless, while others were found to perform even better than the surgical masks.

“We had some that performed at 79 per cent,” Segal told NBC News.

The best masks were constructed of two layers of heavyweight “quilters’ cotton” with a thread count of at least 180, and had thicker and tighter weave.

Lesser quality fabrics also worked well, as long as they had an internal layer of flannel.

“You do want to use woven fabrics like batik,” Segal said, “but you don’t want to use knit fabrics, because the holes between the knit stitches are bigger.”

In other words, if the fabrics allow for a substantial amount of light to shine through, it is probably going to allow tiny viral particles through, as well, Segal said.

Dr Osagie Ehanire, Minister of Health, advised Nigerians to always use dry masks.

“Make sure to use dry masks, when masks get wet, even from the moisture emitted when a person exhales, the fabrics could be more likely to transmit virus,” the minister said.

Ehanire stressed the need to wash masks regularly with detergent and in regular washing machine cycles. He said that Nigerians should avoid bleach or other harsher chemicals until they know the effect on the fabrics’ effectiveness.

Mr Boss Mustapha, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, and Chairman, Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, on his part, called on Nigerian tailors to start mass production of face masks, using the country’s local fabrics, to meet the increased demand.

He said that with face masks available, it would greatly reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

“It is critical to repeat, however, that compliance with the advisories for personal hygiene, social distancing, restriction of movement, early reporting of symptoms and wearing of masks regularly, especially in public, remain the best measures for the prevention of infections and to slow down the spread,” Mustapha said.

Meanwhile, many local manufacturers have risen to the challenge of producing masks as well as other items needed in checking the spread of COVID-19.

Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia, said recently that local manufacturers in the state had mass-produced face masks that would end the importation of masks into the country.

Ikpeazu said that the state had sent the first batch sample of the product to NCDC for approval for nationwide distribution to ensure they meet appropriate health standards.

“They are medical items which you must sanitise in a specific way; we have used the recommended items to sanitise them and I hope it will meet the requirement of the NCDC,” he said.

The NCDC is already patronising locally made products. According to the NCDC, “everything we buy now in NCDC is from local manufacturers.”

While scientists battle to find cure and vaccine for coronavirus, the readily available alternative recommended by WHO, NCDC and other stakeholders is effective use face masks, in addition to social distancing. Adherence to these recommendations will check the spread of the coronavirus. (NANFeatures)

 

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President Buhari’s statement on late Abba Kyari

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TO MY FRIEND, MALLAM ABBA KYARI: Mallam Abba Kyari, who died on 17th April, 2020, at the age of 67 from complications caused by the Coronavirus, was a true Nigerian patriot. My loyal friend and compatriot for the last 42 years – and latterly my Chief-of-Staff – he never wavered in his commitment to the betterment of every one of us.

He was only in his twenties when we first met. A diligent student, soon after he was blessed with the opportunity to study abroad – first at Warwick and then law at the University of Cambridge. But there was never any question Abba would bring his first-rate skills and newly acquired world-class knowledge back to Nigeria – which he did – immediately upon graduation.

Whilst possessing the sharpest legal and organisational mind, Abba’s true focus was always the development of infrastructure and the assurance of security for the people of this nation he served so faithfully. For he knew that without both in tandem there can never be the development of the respectful society and vibrant economy that all Nigerian citizens deserve.

In political life, Abba never sought elective office for himself. Rather, he set himself against the view and conduct of two generations of Nigeria’s political establishment – who saw corruption as an entitlement and its practice a byproduct of possessing political office.

Becoming my Chief of Staff in 2015, he strove quietly and without any interest in publicity or personal gain to implement my agenda.

There are those who said of him that he must be secretive – because he did not have a high public profile. But Abba was the opposite: he simply had no need, nor did he seek, the cheap gratification of the crowd; for him, there was nothing to be found in popular adulation. He secured instead satisfaction and his reward solely and only from the improvement of the governance of this great country.

Working, without fail, seven days each and every week, he acted forcefully as a crucial gatekeeper to the presidency, ensuring no one – whether minister or governor had access beyond another – and that all those representing and serving our country were treated equally.

He made clear in his person and his practice, always, that every Nigerian – regardless of faith, family, fortune or frailty – was heard and treated respectfully and the same.

Mallam Abba Kyari was the very best of us. He was made of the stuff that makes Nigeria great. Rest In Peace, my dearest friend.

To his loving wife and doting family who survive him, I extend my heartfelt sorrow at your loss.

Muhammadu Buhari President, Federal Republic of Nigeria

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Expert urges more attention on asymptomatic COVID-19 cases

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Zhong Nanshan, a renowned Chinese respiratory specialist, on Thursday said more attention should be paid to asymptomatic coronavirus cases.

Zhong made the comments during a video conference in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou with clinicians from Europe, the U.S. and Africa.

According to him, China is currently facing the risk of imported cases from overseas and more attention is paid to asymptomatic cases.

“Incubation period of these cases are mostly three to seven days, while the longest incubation period might be 14 days.

“During the incubation period, they may have no symptoms or have very mild symptoms, and the patients themselves do not know,’’ Zhong said.

According to him, data show that about 50 per cent of asymptomatic cases do not have symptoms of novel coronavirus pneumonia.

“Close contacts and individuals returning from communities where an outbreak occurred should be closely monitored to prevent further transmission,’’ Zhong said. (Xinhua

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Drama of COVID-19: Like America, like Nigeria

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Besides currently being the global epicentre of the novel coronavirus disease, the United States is also full of drama surrounding the pandemic.

In this piece, we serve you a rundown of dramatic happenings across the country on Wednesday that many may find interesting.

The day began with media reports that the U.S. Department of Treasury had directed that President Donald Trump’s name be printed on stimulus cheques meant for Americans hit by the economic hardship resulting from the pandemic.

Citing unnamed senior officials at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the reports say the cheques will “bear Trump’s name in the memo line, below a line that reads, ‘Economic Impact Payment’.”

Eligible citizens are expected to receive a $1,200 (N451,000) cheque each, as part of the $2.2 trillion (N827 trillion) financial stimulus package unveiled by the government in March to cushion the economic impact of the pandemic.

Some critics, including Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ms Nancy Pelosi, are worried that the move would delay delivery of the cheques to hundreds of thousands of Americans urgently in need of the money to pay their bills.

Coming ahead of the November presidential elections with Trump as a candidate, others have accused the president of trying to use public resources for his personal political gain.

At least, Nigerians now know that it is not only in their country that political public officers slap their names or party identities on relief items purchased with public funds for distribution to the poor.

Next, we take you to the state of Michigan where hundreds of protesters hit the streets of the capital, Lansing, in a massive rally against extension of the state government’s stay-at-home order.

As part of measures to slow the spread of the virus in Michigan, the state governor, Gretchen Whitmer, on March 23 had issued a three-week stay-at-home order that was to expire on Tuesday.

But last week, Whitmer announced extension of the order through April 30 and added more restrictions, including forbidding most residents from visiting other residences unless they are going to care for relatives or drop off their children.

But residents would have none of it, saying they were tired of staying at home, meaning that they prefer the high risk of exposure to the deadly virus to the boredom of being confined to their homes.

Called “Operation Gridlock” by its organisers, the rally brought vehicular traffic to a crawl with protesters even blocking the entrance to a hospital.

Coincidently, residents of Sapele in Delta also poured into major roads in the ancient town on Wednesday in a demonstration against a similar extension by their state government.

But unlike their Michigan counterparts, who were mostly driven by the crave for outdoor leisure, the Sapele protesters were forced out by what has now come to be known as the “hunger virus”.

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced an executive order requiring residents to wear face masks in public places where social distancing is impossible.

Speaking at his daily news briefing, Cuomo said the order would take effect after a three-day grace period, and then went ahead to outline a gradual reopening of businesses in the state.

The people of Cross River State can relate with this. There is a standing no-mask-no-movement policy in the state where civil servants from grade level 10 have been directed to return to work from Tuesday.

The state governor, Mr Ben Ayade, was recently quoted as saying that locking the state down was no longer necessary since the use of face masks could also effectively prevent the spread of the virus.

If media reports are anything to go by, then Cross River has an edge over New York with Ayade’s directive to the state garment factory not to sell masks but give them out for free.

Finally, we conclude this journey with a couple of controversial comments by Trump during his daily White House COVID-19 briefing, which has become a veritable source of world news headlines.

First, a visibly angry Trump threatened to force the United States Congress to adjourn if the Senate did not confirm his nominees for vacant public offices, including judges.

The president said he was frustrated that the lawmakers were not in Washington to confirm his nominees needed to address challenges from the coronavirus crisis.

He said he would invoke his executive power to compel federal lawmakers to either return to Congress for urgent legislative business or adjourn formally.

Legislators in both chambers of Congress have been conducting pro forma sessions, and are not expected to return to the Capitol Hill until May 4.

Trump dismissed the pro forma sessions as “phony” and “a dereliction of duty that the American people cannot afford during this crisis”.

The president also accused New York City of padding its coronavirus death toll, a day after the city revised how it tracks fatalities by adding 3,700 victims said to have died with symptoms of the disease but were not tested.

Unsubstantiated claims that the coronavirus originated in a Chinese laboratory also elicited comments from Trump, who hinted at a U.S. investigation of the allegation with his characteristic phrase: “we’ll see”.

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COVID-19: Employment effects likely to be severe in urban areas -ECA

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The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) says COVID-19 employment effects are likely to be severe in urban areas.

It said this in a statement issued on Wednesday by the Communications Section in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).

The organisation called for adequate consideration of the vulnerability of city economies as African governments consolidate efforts and define stimulus measures to mitigate national and regional economic impacts.

“Urban-based sectors of the economy (manufacturing and services) which currently account for 64 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in Africa are expected to be hit hard by COVID-19 related effects, leading to substantial losses in productive jobs.

“In particular, the approximately 250 million Africans in informal urban employment (excluding North Africa) will be at risk.

“Firms and businesses in African cities are highly vulnerable to COVID-19 related effects, especially Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) which account for 80 per cent of employment in Africa.”

According to the statement, urban consumption and expenditure (of food, manufactured goods, utilities, transport, energy and services) is likely to experience a sharp fall in light of COVID-19-related lockdowns and reduced restrictions.

Ms Thokozile Ruzvidzo, Director, Gender, Poverty and Social Policy Division of the ECA, said as engines and drivers of economic growth, cities face considerable risks in light of COVID-19 with implications for the continent’s resilience to the pandemic.

“Africa’s cities drive consumption with their growing middle class with per capita consumption spending in large cities being on average 80 per cent higher at the city level than at the national level.

COVID-19 related decline in urban consumption will thus impact domestic value chains, including rural areas.”

The ECA added that with the per capita expenditure of African local authorities being the lowest in the world at 26 dollars, many local authorities are poorly resourced and less able to contend with the onslaught of COVID-19.

It said that alarming also was the likely fall in revenue streams for local authorities due to COVID-19 curtailing their already limited ability to respond to the crisis.

“Intergovernmental/national transfers which account for 70 to 80 per cent of local authorities’ finance are likely to be reduced due to immediate national response and recovery requirements.

“Own source revenues which are already low at only 10 per cent of local authorities’ finances with city level lockdowns and restrictions leading to reduced economic activity.

“Yet, local authorities are frontline responders to such shocks and crises.

“Given the proximity to their constituencies, local authorities are well positioned to and already do lead responses to some of the immediate effects.

“By doing so, they have a better understanding of needs and necessary measures,and enable higher transparency of accountability.”

In light of these circumstances, the statement said the ECA was proposing specific support to city governments to mitigate and respond to the economic effects of COVID-19, in addition to the immediate health and humanitarian focus.

It added that disaggregating the analysis and identification of priorities and responses at the sub-national and city scales was a first step.

According to the ECA, proactive measures are also needed for urban economic recovery including measures to boost finances and capacities of local authorities as first responders.

It said there should be short term bailouts and exemptions for SMEs to limit productivity and employment losses and social protection for those in informal urban employment should be provided.

It emphasised that in this regard, local governments must be supported because they are better able to respond to local needs including coordination with community-based structures.

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NCDC confirms 34 new COVID-19 cases in 5 states

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By Abujah Racheal
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has announced 34 new positive cases of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).

The latest cases were from Lagos, Kano, Kastina, Delta and Niger States, as total number of infections in the country rises to 407.

NCDC, through its verified Twitter account, on Wednesday said that the 34 new cases of COVID-19 were recorded as follows: Lagos – 18, Kano – 12, Kastina -2, Delta -1 and Niger -1.

According to NCDC, as at 11:20 p.m. April 15, there are 407 confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported in 20 states in Nigeria, while 128 have been discharged and 12 deaths recorded.

As of 11:20 p.m, April 15, Nigeria has 267 Active Cases with 128 treated and discharged. Majority of the active cases are in a stable condition.

As it stands: Lagos has a total of 232 positive cases, while the FCT and Osun have 58 and 20 confirmed cases of COVID-19, respectively.

Others are Ogun – 9, Edo – 15, Oyo – 11, Bauchi – six, Kaduna – six, Akwa Ibom – six, Katsina – seven, Kwara – four, Ondo – three, Delta – four, Kano – 16 , Enugu – two, Ekiti – two, Rivers – two, Benue – one, Niger – two and Anambra – one.

Meanwhile, 16 more COVID-19 patients have been discharged from isolation centres in Lagos State.

Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu confirmed this on his Twitter handle.

They were discharged after each tested negative twice to the virus.

The development brings the number of patients successfully managed and discharged from facilities in the state to 85.

The governor disclosed that three of the 16 patients who recovered from the virus and were discharged were foreigners – one of them is British, one Chinese and one Polish.

Fourteen of the patients were discharged from the Infectious Disease Hospital In Yaba, while the remaining two were from the Onikan Isolation Centre.

Kaduna State has also discharged one COVID-19 patient from the Infectious Disease Centre in the state.

The state Commissioner for Health, Dr Amina Baloni, who confirmed this in a statement on Wednesday, said the patient had fully recovered after treatment at the isolation centre.

She said that two consecutive tests conducted on the patient came out negative on Tuesday, 14 April 2020.

The FCT has also discharged nine people who previously tested positive for the COVID-19.

Mr Mohammad Bello, the FCT Minister, announced this on Wednesday, while giving updates on the virus in Abuja.

Bello stated that the patients were returned to their homes having tested negative for COVID-19.

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