Scores of arrests were made after a group of violent demonstrators, on Friday night, again clashed with the Police in front of the Serbian parliament, and also attacked numerous reporters and anyone filming the scene.
The latest incident erupted when a group of young men, chanting patriotic slogans, pushed past the demonstrators who oppose violence, pushed the metal railing aside and barged through the undefended front door of the parliament building in Belgrade.
Police deployed inside then pushed them back and established a cordon around the small platform in front.
Then they endured around half an hour of bombardment from the attackers, who threw bottles, flares and rocks at them.
Several carried large slabs of concrete from elsewhere and hurled them at the Police.
Eventually, the attacks stopped, but the two groups remained nearly face to face.
Police had initially not fired a single round of tear gas throughout the altercations outside the building.
But they used tear gas and truncheons in the end to put an end to the violence started by the group of young men described as “nationalists” or “hooligans”.
Police detained at least 70 people involved in the violence, according to local media reports.
Several people were injured, the local newspaper Blic reported.
The main demonstration remained peaceful throughout.
Friday night’s incident was the third spate of violence in four nights of demonstrations in the Serbian capital this week.
The protests started on Tuesday when President Aleksandar Vucic announced a long weekend curfew because of the deteriorating COVID-19 situation.
Only on Thursday no clashes occurred, but largely owing to resistance from the peaceful protesters.
While police in riot gear stood in front of the parliament on the first two nights of the protests, they were inside and behind the building on Thursday and Friday.
On the first two nights of protests, the Police virtually doused the entire central Belgrade with tear gas and threw flash grenades at the attackers.
Although the protests were initially directed against the return of restrictive epidemiological measures, they swiftly shifted focused on Vucic’s autocratic rule.
On Friday, Vucic’s meeting with the Kosovo Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti in a teleconference with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel further fanned the rage.
After the meeting, intended as a kick-start of stalled normalisation talks, Vucic acknowledged that Serbia was alone in its bid to keep some sort of sovereignty over the mostly Albanian Kosovo.
The runaway province, which most Serbs see as their heartland territory, declared independence in 2008.
Far-right politicians and extremist groups have been accusing Vucic of treason for negotiating with Kosovo Albanians.
Earlier on Friday, both Vucic and Prime Minister Ana Brnabic urged protesters to refrain from violence and to avoid the risk of further spreading COVID-19 and bringing the already overburdened health system down.
Peaceful protests were also reported from other cities in Serbia, according to state television reports.
Edited By: Abdulfatah Babatunde (NAN)
Resumption: Unity schools’ Principals in Lagos assure parents, guardians of students’ safety
The Principals of King’s College, Lagos, Mr Andrew Agada, and Queen’s College, Lagos, Dr Tokunbo Yakubu-Oyinloye, have assured parents and guardians of safety of their children and wards as they resumed.
Agada and Yakubu-Oyinloye gave the assurance in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria on Tuesday in Lagos, on the resumption of schools by the exiting students of the 104 Unity Colleges across the country.
NAN also reports that the schools had been shut following the directive from the Federal Ministry of Education since March, as a result of the ravaging pandemic.
The Federal Government after due consultations with other key stakeholders, agreed to reopen the schools only for the existing classes of the Senior Secondary School 3 and the Junior Secondary School 3.
Agada said: “First and foremost, I want to thank God for sparing our lives, the children, our parents and all other stakeholders. We have also been looking forward to receiving them.
”I also want to seize this opportunity to thank the Federal Ministry of Education for the assistance rendered so far in order to make this resumption possible.
”Yesterday, the entire college was decontaminated, ranging from the classrooms, hostels the laboratories, everywhere, by the Federal Ministry of the Environment.
”We want to assure our parents that there is no need to panic, as our lives are in God’s hands but we will do our best and God will continue to protect us.”
According to him, the college has set up a committee called the “COVID-19 Guidelines Enforcement Committee”.
He said that the committee was made up of dedicated teachers that would be going round during the classes, the dinning halls and hostels to ensure that the students maintain the safety protocols.
Agada added that already, messages had also been sent to the parents and guardians to also advice their children and wards against any form of gatherings or contact activities such as playing of football or games that would bring them together.
“They have come, let them concentrate on their examination as there is barely no time left, and so, we have put a committee in place whose responsibility is also to monitor the students.
”By tomorrow, full lecture will commence. We are fully prepared. The timetable is out and the teachers are very ready more than ever before to hit the ground running,” he said.
On the part of the management, the principal said that they have also put certain things in place.
“First, since it is only the SS3 students that are coming back, we have prepared hostels and spread them to all the hostels that hitherto, accommodated SS1, 2, 3 in the college.
”So, currently, we are not having more than 12 students in a room.
“Secondly, on the issue of classrooms, we have 30 of it at our main campus here, for the senior school.
“The SS3 students are coming in soon and these ones will be occupying 19 classrooms at the JSS section of the college, as against the 10 they used to occupy before now.
”All these are means of ensuring strict adherence to social distancing and also we have sanitisers, even customised ones, that is the pedal one.
“And graciously, where we procured some of these equipment from, the company is also coming in to assist us by giving us automated dispensers, like you see at the airports and other places,” Agada said.
He added that the college would also be mounting about 15 of such at the main campus and another 15 at the annex for the Junior Secondary School.
”We have also worked on our water, as we recently dug another borehole to expand our water reticulation system.
“The hostels too, we have worked on the hostels, the bunks, the broken down ones have been repaired, the classroom desks, we have also refurbished them.
”So, as the students are coming, we are sure that there is enough desks, bunks, space and water and all other necessary facilities that would ensure their safety and comfort.
“They have come, let them concentrate on their examination as there is barely no time left and so we have put a committee in place whose responsibility is also to monitor the students.
“Again, another measure we adopted to reduce the crowd is to allow the borders in two houses, to be checked in first. We have four houses. By tomorrow borders in the other two remaining houses will be checked in,” he said.
The principal added that for now, only the borders were being checked in.
He said parents of some day students were also applying to be accommodated as boarding students.
The principal cited difficulty of accessing the roads to the college, following the closure of the 3rd Mainland bridge as a huge challenge.
”We have considered them, because we have the space.
”Our advice, therefore, to our parents is to remain hopeful and assuring that God who has kept us all these while, is still fully in control, and we must look unto Him and have faith in Him.
Also, at the Queen’s College, Lagos, its Principal, Dr Tokumbo Yakubu-Oyinloye, took NAN Correspondent round the college premises.
Yakubu-Oyinloye said: “We have put all the guidelines and protocols in place to ensure that our students are safe when they resume and all through the period of their stay here.
“You can see the sitting arrangements in our classes. We do not have more than 20 students per class with their seats placed two metres apart from each other.
“Names of students per class have been pasted by the entrance of each of the respective classes.
”We have also fixed automated hand sanitisers in all the classes, including the foot pedal sanitiser at the gate.”
According to her, instead of using the 12 classes that were designated before now for SS3 students, 34 more classrooms, including those for the SS1 and SS2 have now been converted for tluse of SS3 students to ensure social distancing.
Yakubu-Oyinloye added that the same measures also applied to the hostels.
The principal said that the school management, in collaboration with the PTA had fumigated the hostels and all other sections of the college.
She said that already, the Federal Ministry of Education, also in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of the Environment, had decontaminated and disinfected the entire college.
”We have also serviced our water treatment plant as well as wash our tanks. In addition to keeping social distancing, we will also be staggering our break periods as well as our meal time.
”We have also designated a building as an isolation centre in the college, should there be any case of high temperature, before contacting the appropriate authorities.
“On the part of the teachers, they have been fully sensitised and equipped.
“In fact, teachers who will have no business on campus are not allowed to come around. They can do their jobs at home.
“In the same vein, all returning SS3 students must also come with at least five masks and must wear their masks before they can be checked in.
“They must also ensure that they come with their personal effects including cutleries as sharing is not allowed,” Yakubu-Oyinloye said.
The principal commended a set of the Old Girls of the college for donating 68 white boards for each of the classrooms in the college, adding that already another set of the old girls are set to donate four interactive boards to facilitate teaching and learning.
She pleaded with parents to impress it on their children and wards to ensure that they always adhere strictly to the safety guidelines.
Edited By: Tayo Ikujuni/Olagoke Olatoye (NAN)
New York’s health commissioner resigns over COVID-19 handling
New York’s Commissioner for Health, Dr Oxiris Barbot, has resigned over alleged under-utilisation of the department’s “incomparable disease control expertise.”
“I leave my post today with deep disappointment that during the most critical public health crisis in our lifetime, that the Health Department’s incomparable disease control expertise was not used to the degree it could have been.
“Our experts are world renowned for their epidemiology, surveillance and response work.
“The city would be well served by having them at the strategic centre of the response not in the background,” Barbot said in her letter of resignation.
This confirms speculation of disagreement between the Department of Health and the city administration over alleged handling of the Coronavirus pandemic.
This triggered complaints from officials of the department who felt the mayor made a wrong call by relieving them of their traditional responsibility.
Barbot’s replacement was immediately named as Dr Dave Chokshi, who was the Principal Health Adviser to former President Barack Obama’s Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
Reports say New York’s Coronavirus contract tracing programme has come under criticism in recent weeks over complaints by contact tracers about lack of coordination and poor working conditions.
Edited By: Chioma Ugboma/Felix Ajide (NAN)
LASG holds consultative forum for Y2021 Budget, adopts holistic approach to COVID-19
Mr Samuel Egube, the State Commissioner for Economic Planning and Budget, made this known at the 2021 Budget Consultative Forum on Tuesday in Lagos.
Egube said that in order to minimise the effect of the pandemic, the state government had implemented interventions along the line of aggressive healthcare responses, business support, sustainability measures and relief to the poor.
“We are going to flag off our internship programme by the Ministry of Wealth.
“The idea is to get people to work, and the state government will pay them, while working for SMEs to gather experience and tackle unemployment,” the commissioner said.
He said that for half of the year 2020, the state recorded a budget performance of 57 per cent (N334. 838bn), which was in absolute terms higher than the 73 per cent (N316.676bn) for the same period of 2019.
“The COVID-19 pandemic with its resultant health and economic impacts greatly affected the state, like other geographies around the world and changed the context within which we execute development agenda.
“Within this very difficult context, LASG was able to achieve greater revenues, while managing expenditure with revenue stronger by six per cent against the approved budget.
“We will continue to minimise wastage through tighter expenditure controls and promote prudent spending.
“Plans to invest in comparative advantage areas such as aquaculture for quick wins was underway,” he said.
For the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), the commissioner said that the state was providing wage subsidies based on maintaining payroll and enhancing the access of SMEs to short term funding through the State Empowerment Trust Fund.
“Rice Mill at Imota is expected to employ 300, 000 people and is at 75 per cent completion.
“It is expected to produce 120, 000 Metric Tonnes annually, and increase local rice production by 75 per cent.
“Efforts are also ongoing to train rice farmers on the right variety of rice to produce to feed the mill,” he said.
The commissioner said that continued efforts to digitise the state were ongoing.
On the economic outlook for year 2020, he said that forecasts suggest 2020 GDP growth would be severely impacted followed by a sharp rebound of 3.5 per cent.
Earlier, Mr Adebayo Sodade, Special Adviser on Economic Planning and Budget, said the forum was an avenue to update the stakeholders on the half year performance of the budget.
Sodade said it also brought to general knowledge the resources available for the next budget, taking into cognisance all economic variables and externalities such as crude oil prices, inflation, interest rates and the effect of COVID-19 on the economy.
“Rubbing minds with you also provides us an ample opportunity to share ideas geared toward the greater Lagos project, while ensuring that your desired interests are adequately captured in the development agenda,” he said.
Sodade urged citizens to fulfil their civic responsibilities through regular payment of taxes, monitoring of government projects and reporting observed lapses.
He also called for the protection of public facilities and infrastructure, obedience to traffic and safety rules and regulations, ensuring environmental friendliness and security consciousness for a greater Lagos.
The special adviser said government had planned to improve revenue and overall service delivery by widening the tax base to meet citizens’ expectations.
Edited By: Bola Akingbehin/Olagoke Olatoye (NAN)
Resumption: Lagos schools comply with COVID-19 protocols
Secondary Schools in Lagos State are complying with the COVID-19 prevention protocols, as students in exit classes resume.
The News Agency of Nigeria correspondents, who visited some schools in the state, report that water, soaps , alcohol-based hand sanitisers and infrared thermometer were provided by the schools.
Also, compulsory wearing of nose masks and social distancing in classrooms were observed by students and teachers.
A big banner displaying World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines was seen at the entrance of the Honeyland Schools, Ipaja.
At the Senior High School, Alimosho, students wore face masks or shields while receiving lectures in their classrooms.
Mr Oluyemi Faleke, Principal of Honeyland Schools, said that SS3, students of the school were ready for the West Africa Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (WASSCE).
Faleke said that during the COVID-19-induced lockdown, the school engaged its students through virtual learning.
He said that participation was compulsory.
“We do not just collect money from parents, we make sure students get good quality education.
“We have many classrooms for students to practise social distancing , it is possible for five students to sit per class during the examination,” he said.
Kehinde Fadaka, Head Boy of Honeyland Schools, said that he was ready to write the examination.
He said that he studied hard with the assistance of the school’s virtual learning and personal timetable.
“The classes we are having now are to help me revise all I have read and prepare me for further.
Miss Opeyemi Hamzat, SS3 students of Senior High School, Alimosho, said that she was very happy to resume.
Hamzat said that she read everyday during the lockdown and participated in the WAEC revision programme aired on television by Lagos State Government.
Mrs Betty Attah, Executive Director, Mandate Schools, Akerman in Alimosho said that the school followed the COVID-19 prevention guidelines.
”We have prepared our boarding facilities for all SS3 students, the arrangement will accommodate three students instead of 10.
“We have six students in each class in order to practise social distancing,” she said,”Attah said.
Mrs Grace Ikazan, Principal of Sophem High School, Ipaja – a private school, said that the school was doing revision for SS3 students.
Ikahan said that only SS3 students resumed, adding that the students’ temperatures were being checked regularly and social distancing observed.
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Edited By: Ijeoma Popoola (NAN)