Wole Adedoyin, the President of the Society of Young Nigerian Writers (SYNW) has congratulated Prof. Remi Raji, popularly known by his pen name as Remraj on the conferment of chieftaincy title of Mogaji (Mogaji of Adegboro Clan of Idi Arere, Ibadan), by Oba Saliu Akanmu Adetunji (Aje Ogunguniso I).
The title “Mogaji” is the foundation and the pivot of the Ibadan traditional system, the very foundation on which the superstructure of the system is expected to rest – from the peace, progress and patriotic contribution of every Ibadan household to the sustenance of a system that becomes the envy of other areas of Yorubaland. In strict interpretation, it is a distinctive first recognized traditional title in Ibadanland which connotes the first grade in the hierarchy of Ibadan chiefs.
Wole Adedoyin, in a statement issued and signed in Ibadan on Tuesday, felicitated with the former Dean of the Faculty of Arts, University of Ibadan and the former President of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) on the recognition.
According to the Statement, the recognition was inspired by his (Remi Raji) contributions to the development of Ibadanland as the second largest city in Africa, Oyo State as a state and Nigeria as a country.
In the ancient days, the Mogajis were military leaders and their authority extended to tribute areas in the countryside. Today, Mogajis, who live in town, control family land. The Mogajis of the town are superior to the village heads whom they appoint. A recognized Mogaji may be followed and obeyed by several thousand people in the town and the rural districts, although his own extended family does not normally exceed 300 individuals.
Wole Adedoyin commended Prof. Remi Raji’s extended family for nominating him as the head and leader of the historic and renowned Adegboro Clan.
SYNW finally urged the newly installed Mogaji not to disappoint his people and Oba Saliu Akanmu Adetunji (Aje Ogunguniso I).
Aderemi Raji-Oyelade (born 1961) is a Nigerian poet, writing in English. He is popularly known by his pen name as Remraj.
Remi Raji, a Salzburg Fellow and visiting professor and writer to a number of institutions, among them Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, the Universities of California at Riverside and Irvine, University of Cape Town, South Africa, and Cambridge University, UK, Raji has had scholarly essays published in journals including Research in African Literatures and African Literature Today. He has read his poems widely in Africa, Europe and America. In 2005, he served as the Guest Writer to the City of Stockholm, Sweden.
His volumes of poetry include Webs of Remembrance (2001), Shuttlesongs America: A poetic guided tour (2003), Lovesong for My Wasteland (2005), Gather My Blood Rivers of Song (2009) and Sea of My Mind (2013). Raji’s works have been translated into French, German, Catalan, Swedish, Ukrainian, Latvian, Croatian and Hungarian. He has been an Alexander von Humboldt Scholar to Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany.
Remi Raji was elected as the Publicity Secretary of the Oyo State chapter of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) in 1989. His second elective position was as Vice-Chair of the ANA in 1997. He became the substantive Chairman of the ANA from 1998 to 2000, at the election of Dr. Wale Okediran to the national executive committee of the ANA. Raji served as the Year 2000 Editor of the ANA Review, the official journal of the association. On 3 December 2011, during the 30th-anniversary celebration of the founding of the Association of Nigerian Authors, Remi Raji was elected as the ANA‘s 11th President.
Raji was the National Coordinator of the resuscitated Nigerian PEN Centre in 1999 before he was elected as the Secretary of the Centre, a position he held till February 2010. During this period, Raji facilitated international workshops and strategic meetings of African PEN Centres within Africa and in Europe. He was unanimously elected as the first Coordinating Secretary of PAN, the Congress of PEN African Centres, at a special meeting of the group on 22 November 2003 in Mexico City.
At his university, University of Ibadan, the Professor of English and African Literatures and Creative Writing has served in many administrative capacities which culminated in his appointment as the Head of the Department of English in 2011. Over a year after that substantive position, he was elected as the Dean of the Faculty of Arts.
Books authored by Prof. Remi Raji include: A Harvest of Laughters, 1997, joint winner of the Association of Nigerian Authors/Cadbury Poetry Prize and winner of the Association of West African Young Writers’ VOCA Award for Best First Published Book, Webs of Remembrance, 2001, Shuttlesongs America: A Poetic Guided Tour, 2001–2003, Lovesong for My Wasteland, 2005, Gather My Blood Rivers of Song, 2009, Sea of My Mind, 2013.
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Nigeria and the Life After, By Garba Shehu
Nigeria and the Life After
In Nigeria, my country of close to 200 million people, the COVID-19 lockdown began on March 30 in Lagos, Ogun and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). As with nations the world over we are following the advice of a scientifically-led national action plan to halt and then defeat the spread of the virus by staying at home to save lives.
With hindsight, it is clear there is no country anywhere on earth that was as ready as could now be hoped. But fortunately, since the election of 2015 – when for the first time in history power changed hands between an incumbent president and challenger at the ballot box – our now twice democratically elected administration has spent five years rebuilding governance after decades of political corruption under an effective one party state.
When President Buhari was first elected in April of that year, Nigeria and the world was reeling at the news that 276 mostly Christian schoolgirls had been kidnapped by the terrorist group Boko Haram. The previous administration had done next to nothing to try to find them. The then president had even delayed for weeks before acknowledging they were missing.
We soon discovered why: tens of thousands of “ghost” soldiers on the military payroll. Many of those allegedly fighting at the front simply did not exist. The previous government claimed to be waging war against terrorists – but was in truth waging financial fraud against its own people and threatening their security through the corrupt theft of salaries of non-existent soldiers.
Today, the majority of the Chibok girls are now returned to their families. Boko Haram is fractured, desperate and in retreat. Our military is rebuilt, and previous partnerships with the British and American militaries that had seen those countries place defence equipment export bans upon previous Nigerian administrations are lifted.
In government, President Buhari has waged an effective war on corruption, with some 60 per cent of the general public personally experiencing its rapid decline – in testament to the administration’s zeal. And earlier this year some USD 300 million in funds looted under a previous regime was finally returned to Nigeria from banks in the US and the UK (Jersey Islands) and all of that money is being channeled into infrastructure financing.
In December 2017, the Federal Government signed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Switzerland on the return and monitoring of the $322 million Abacha loot. This money is being used to fund the Social Investment Programmes, including the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) that began in December 2016. Under the CCT scheme the President had promised to assist one million poor and most vulnerable Nigerians with a monthly stipend of N5,000 each.
These funds are now being distributed directly to individual citizens mostly in need during the coronavirus pandemic and to allow for a three month moratorium on loan repayments by farmers and small businesses granted through government schemes.
Repatriated funds can also be used to boost our health spending – which was already expanding year-on-year for the last five years – for the purchase of test equipment, ventilators, masks and protective clothing.
This would simply not have happened under previous administrations – because all Nigerians know from our personal experiences of living under them that the levels of corruption, social strife and distrust in governance they created would have made that impossible.
The fact that it is today under a President who is a Muslim, his Vice, an evangelical Christian pastor, and their cabinet equally balanced between Christians and Muslims does not go unnoticed in Nigeria.
But it is less known externally – which is why individuals who supported previous, corrupt governments seek to use the cover of the coronavirus pandemic as their opportunity to wage a fake news war against the country at this time.
They insinuate to further their false claims that a President who writes for the Church Times and Christianity Today and enjoys a personal friendship with the Archbishop of Canterbury is anti-Christian, and that the same President who call for stronger trading alliances between Commonwealth nations and signs bilateral trade and military agreements with Britain is somehow anti Britain and the West.
They insinuate that Boko Haram’s terrorist attacks on Christians are somehow the government’s doing; that health spending is somehow declining – when it is in fact increasing after they pilfered the system for decades; and that it is this government that created corruption – when in fact the general public themselves make it clear that it is this twice-democratically elected administration that is finally addressing this stain on our governance and society.
To a large degree, many of those Nigerian names writing to conservatives in the UK and the US are just going round making money off the back of lies.
There is a difference between opinion and fact. Everyone is entitled to express the former, The latter can, of course, be questioned: but it does not then change that it is still a fact.
We can only imagine the untruths that would today be peddled to the Nigerian people and the world beyond our borders during this coronavirus pandemic had previous administrations – or those packed with their heirs – had been in charge. We can only give thanks to the wisdom of Nigerian voters that they are not.
When this worldwide health emergency is defeated, we must look to each other to rebuild the global economy – and look to strengthen partnerships that work. Nigeria is ready to take a more forthright role in the Commonwealth and global economic system as a whole. But today we can only do so because the very thing that allows us to fight the virus at all is a better government, which for the first time in Nigeria’s history is both truly representative of our country’s two great religions and shorn of the limitless corruption of our predecessors.
Garba Shehu is Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity.
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COVlD-19: Kwara govt begins distribution of palliative to vulnerable households
The Kwara government on Sunday begun distribution of various food items to vulnerable residents in all 193 council wards to cushion the effect of the COVID-19 lockdown in the state.
Nigeria News Agency reports that the distribution had already been concluded in all the 17 wards of Asa local government area of the state.
Each of the beneficiaries had received 5kg of Semovita, 10kg of rice, vegetable oil, spageti, sugar and other assorted items.
Alhaji Bola Olojoku, the President of the Mekunnu forum agenda in Kwara and member of the state Committee in charge of distribution told NAN that no cash was earmarked in the gesture.
According to Olojoku, the target beneficiaries of the palliative are widows, the aged, physically challenged, artisans among others.
He assured that the items were enough to go round the target beneficiaries in all the 195 wards of the state.
“The committee had completed the distribution in all the 17 wards of the Asa local government area and will move to the llorin West local government area for the continuation of its assignment,”he said.
Meanwhile, Olojoku said Imams and pastors and community leaders in Ilorin had submitted lists of their followers and subjects also expected to benefit from of the state government palliative.
The lmam of Onilu mosque Okoerin road llorin, Uztaz Yusuf lsmaeel, told NAN in an interview that he had already submitted the list of his followers to Alagua Okoerin.
Also, Malam Amosa Uthman, a youth leader in Okoerin ward of llorin West local government area said all names of the youth eligible to benefit from the relief materials had been submitted.
Edited By: Shuaib Sadiq and Isaac Ukpoju
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COVID-19: WAHO distributes 90,000 kits, says there is enough for W/Africa
The West African Health Organisation (WAHO), has said that it is doing everything within its power to ensure that West African countries do not run out of medical kits and supplies to manage the Covid-19 pandemic.
WAHO, an ECOWAS institution, said in a statement issued in Abuja on Thursday that in spite of the disruption of supply chains, it would ensure that medical demands were met.
This is even as the organisation also hinted that it had so far distributed 90,000 kits, including diagnostic test kits, specimen transportation kits and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
WAHO also hinted that it was currently sourcing for ventilators to distribute to the 15 member-states to help manage the pandemic.
It noted that since the first case was reported from Lagos, Nigeria on Feb. 27, 2020 there had been a total of 1,077 confirmed cases and 31 deaths.
“WAHO has distributed over 30,000 diagnostic test kits to the 15 ECOWAS Member States and these were the first testing kits received by most of our countries.
“We are also currently distributing 50,000 specimen transportation kits, 10,000 Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and some medications to Member States.
“Many States have received their allocation of diagnostic kits, but all the other support are expected to be delivered to the countries by DHL between March 30, and April 7.
“We have placed orders for more diagnostic test kits and PPEs which we expect to arrive within the next 2 weeks.
“In addition, we are sourcing for ventilators, which are equipment for supporting the breathing of severer ill patients in hospitals, to distribute to countries.
”However, there continues to be the challenge of securing sufficient materials given the disruption in global supply chains.
“This is something WAHO is tackling through its partnership with other agencies and bodies to ensure we never run out of stock in the region,” it said.
The organisation said that it’s efforts were to supplement those of the individual member-states.
It added that it was the institution designated by the highest authorities of ECOWAS to lead the coordination, collaboration and communication in the region with regard to COVID-19 pandemic.
It recalled that WAHO had among other things convened an emergency meeting of the Ministers of Health of ECOWAS on preparedness and response to the outbreak of COVID-19 and had strengthened the capacity of member-states through training.
Waho said that it had also developed operational guides for the fight against COVID-19 pandemic while also engaging in online training for healthcare workers.
The ECOWAS health institution, however, maintained that the most important tool in the fight was the behavior of every citizen.
“It is of utmost importance that the citizens heed the information on how to protect themselves and their loved ones, and so stop the spread of the pandemic in their own community.
“Every citizen must:
“Regularly and thoroughly wash hands with soap and water, or if not possible clean them with an alcoholbased hand sanitiser.
“Limit the number of people with whom you are in contact each day and reduce physical contact to the minimum. Maintain at least 1.5 meter distance between yourself and anyone, do NOT shake hands, kiss or hug.
“Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, particularly with unwashed hands since the virus easily infects the body through these areas.
“Cover your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze; then dispose of the used tissue immediately.
“If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention following the directions of your local health authority,” he said.
Edited By: Franca
(NAN) Ofili/Donald Ugwu
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COVID-19: What President Buhari has done, and is doing – by Presidency
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FEATURE: April fools: A permissive day for peddling falsehood?
April fools: A permissive day for peddling falsehood?
, Nigeria News Agency
It was about noon on Apri 1, 2014. A colleague met his friend and obliged to have a visit to a garden in Abuja and discuss some critical professional issues as it was called by one of them who initiated the meeting; conscious of the date.
After a while in the garden, his friend said: “I call you here to inform you that you must not go home today.
“Local hunters in your locality have announced that a lion has strayed into the community you live and every community member is staying indoor. So, call your family members in the community and inform them’’.
His friend believed it because it had happened in his home-town communities previously.
He allowed his friend to place a call through to his wife before he said “April fool’’.
“Isn’t this too expense a joke?”His friend asked.
They laughed it off after all; and they had some bottles of frothing lager.
However, the prank had done the damage of frightening his friend’s family members and others who might have been contacted immediately by the wife, although his friend had to call back and tell them it was April Fools’ day prank.
So it is with the enthusiasts of April fools’ day when pranks and hoaxes such as this is prominent.
It is a day that seems like the god of lying descends on liars to display expertise and even infecting others with the temptation to tell lies for the purpose of the day.
Involving practical jokes and hoaxes, it comes every April 1 somewhat unannounced. This, perhaps, gives reason why the captivated public listens and believes fairytales until they are told it is April fools’ day.
Because the day is not preceded by advocacy for its triviality as it is in the case of Valentine and other observances, enthusiasts of the day take the advantage to lure the unsuspecting public to believing whatever is fabricated to fascinate them.
Expensive pranks, fictitious narratives, flattery and lies, among others, aimed at stimulating hearers’ emotions, have become the order of the day.
The deception involved in the observance of the day which is expected not to last into few hours of the day is purposeful, dwelling on the absurd and unusual events in the society.
In climes such as UK, all pranks and jokes accompanying the day are expected to end at noon andthere are some differences and variations in the observance of the day across the world.
Some segment of the public believe that April fool was preceded by an event in which France changed its calendar to the modern Gregorian version in 16th century by which January 1 is observed as the beginning of a new year instead of the last week of March, being the tradition then.
Some people opposed the new calendar and chose to continue celebrating theirs on the end of the new year on April 1 and those that chose to stick to the old calendar were referred to as fools.
So, on every April 1, the observance is focusing on testing how gullible some segments of the public can be; reacting to fabricated lies just for the fun of it.
Brazil captures the observance of the day succinctly; referring to it as Dia da Mentira –Lie Day — in which people try to fool friends for joke and to create fun.
Irrespective of insignificance of the observance, psychologists note that April fools’ moments can provide good health by creating a relaxed atmosphere to relieve stress through jokes, hoaxes and pranks, among others.
But critics say April fools’ jokes could be nasty, deceitful and misleading and generate confusion and panic, especially when the victims of the jokes take the falsehood or pranks seriously.
They observe that in some cases, people die, get injury and heart attacks, among other development as a result of lies accompanying expensive pranks arising from April fools’ observance.
Mr Wale Olorunda, a resident of Abuja says he nearly had accident in his car when a friend he was travelling with on an April fools’ day announced that someone close to both of them was in coma in a hospital.
He says “the prank creates a lot of panic before I realise it was April fool as announced later by this friend’’.
A resident of Abuja, Miss Paulin Abutu, says “April Fools’ observance is just a creation of an event to expose the capacity of the public in doing exploits in mischief-making and create oddity when the occasion presents the opportunity’’.
A student in a tertiary institution in Abuja, Miss Lilian Ogwuche, believes that April fools’ day is entertaining, engaging and hilarious that should be expected to last longer than noon on the day.
According to her, people should not, however, engage in expensive pranks that can cause panic or create “instant blood pressure for the victims of the pranks’’.(NANFeatures)
*If used, please credit the writer as well as Nigeria News Agency
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President Buhari’s address on COVID-19
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.
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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COVID-19: President Buhari’s Special Message to Nigerians
*President Buhari writes…*
Over the last few days I have received extensive briefings on the state of the nation as it relates to the Covid-19 pandemic, from the relevant Federal Government agencies as well as the Lagos State Government.
Accordingly, I approved the following:
The immediate release of a 10 billion Naira grant to Lagos State, which remains the epicentre of the Covid-19 outbreak in Nigeria. This grant will enable Lagos State increase its capacity to control and contain the outbreak, while also supporting other States with capacity building.
The immediate release of a 5 billion Naira special intervention fund to the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) to equip, expand and provide personnel to its facilities and laboratories across the country.
The Nigerian Air Force is already making its fleet available to the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19, to enable a better coordinated and more effective response across the country.
To protect our homeland from external exposure, I directed the immediate closure of our International Airports and Land Borders for four weeks in the first instance, to enable us put up the appropriate policies, processes and infrastructure to cope with suspected and confirmed cases at home, without risking a compounding of the situation with more imported cases.
The inconvenience caused by these flight and travel restrictions to our fellow citizens abroad who want to return home is regrettable, but it is necessary for the greater good, and I thank you all for your understanding and cooperation.
I have also directed that only cargo vessels that have been at sea for more than 14 days be allowed to dock in our ports, after the crew have been tested and confirmed disease-free by the Port Health Authorities. This 14-day restriction however does not apply to vessels carrying oil and gas products as by their nature, there is minimal human contact.
We have also suspended the movement of commuter trains to limit the spread of the virus to other parts of the country.
I have directed the NCDC to draft all its recent retirees back into service to beef up our manpower as we respond to the pandemic.
Furthermore, all NCDC staff and experts who are away on training or international assignments are to return immediately. Already the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) are conducting an evacuation mission to bring back some of our specialists in Central Africa, to enable them support the national response.
I commend the monetary policy authorities for their financial intervention to support our entrepreneurs and companies as we go through this difficult time. We are also looking at fiscal measures to minimise the negative impact of this pandemic on the livelihood of millions of Nigerians.
As you are aware we have begun the process of reviewing the federal budget. We shall communicate our fiscal interventions once the budget review process is concluded.
In the meantime, I have directed the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, to work with the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, to ensure that all production of essential items such as food, medical and pharmaceutical products continues unhindered.
We are engaging our international friends and partners to share knowledge and to seek their support in our response to the pandemic. We are grateful for the show of support thus far – we have already started receiving goods and supplies intended to help us scale up our efforts.
Let me specially thank and commend all of the hard and heroic work being done by our medical personnel, the NCDC, Port Health Authorities, Security Agencies, State Governments, and all ad-hoc staff and volunteers.
I urge all Nigerians to be mindful of those among us who seek to spread panic and misinformation, and sow confusion at this time. We must all pay attention only to the relevant government agencies working day and night to make accurate and useful information available to the public.
I will also ask all of us to strictly obey all public health guidelines and instructions issued by the Federal and State health authorities, regarding personal hygiene and social distancing. These guidelines will be updated from time to time as new information and treatments are obtained.
In the meantime, I want to assure all Nigerians, that the Federal Government remains committed to protecting all Nigerians. We seek your full support and cooperation as we go through this very difficult time. Together we will triumph over this pandemic.
*President Muhammadu Buhari*
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Evaluating impact of COVID-19 on aviation sector
Evaluating impact of COVID-19 on aviation sector
News analysis by Gabriel Agbeja, Nigeria News Agency
The International Air Transport Association (IATA), said disruption of air travels due to the continued spread of coronavirus would cost Nigeria 434 million US dollars revenue loss and 22,200 jobs.
IATA, an umbrella body for 290 airlines globally, added that Nigeria would also lose approximately 2.2 million passengers, and that the spread of the virus, that was first reported in Wuhan, China, at the beginning of December 2019, would negatively impact the aviation industry worldwide.
In order to check the spread of the coronavirus, the Federal Government has banned international flights into Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, and Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), announced the ban in a statement signed by its Director General, Musa Nuhu, on March 21.
“Further to our earlier letter on restriction of international flights into Nigeria, we wish to inform you that effective Monday, 23 March, at 2300Z to 23 April, at 2300Z, Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos and Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja, will be closed to international flights.
“This is in addition to the closure of Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano, Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, and Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa, effective Saturday, 21 March at 2300Z.
“Henceforth, all airports in Nigeria are closed to all incoming international flights with the exception of emergency and essential flights.”
NCAA added that domestic flights would continue operations at all airports across the nation.
Also as precautionary measure to contain the coronavirus pandemic, Sen. Hadi Sirika, the Minister of Aviation, said that the Federal Government had cancelled already issued visas for travellers from 13 countries.
He listed the countries as: China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Japan, France, Germany, Norway, USA, UK, Netherlands and Switzerland, pointing out that Austria and Sweden were later added, bringing the number to 15.
“The affected countries have over 1,000 cases domestically.
“Some of the foreign airlines expected to be equally affected are British Airways, Lufthansa, Emirates, Ethiopian Airlines, Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways, AirFrance, KLM, Delta Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, South African Airways, Kenyan Airways, Rwandair, Turkish Airlines, Egypt Air, Royal Air Maroc and Africa World Airlines.
“Data from the NCAA showed that from January 2019 to December 2019, the foreign airlines recorded 15,474 flights into the five international airports in Nigeria with an average of 298 flights weekly,’’ the minister said.
In a related development, Sirika said that the nation’s international airports had been collaborating with relevant agencies to check the spread of the dreaded COVID-19 into the country.
The minister spoke after inspecting facilities at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, to check its preparedness to forestall spread of the virus in the country.
Sirika was accompanied on the inspection visit by Ministers of Health, Information and Humanitarian Services.
Mr James Odaudu, Director of Public Affairs in the Ministry of Aviation, quoted Sirika as saying that the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) was also working closely with Port Health,
Agriculture Quarantine, Nigeria Customs Service, Nigeria Immigration Service and ground handlers.
He said the Port Health Emergency Contingency Plan ( PHECP), which was designed to detect, prevent and respond to any infectious diseases and outbreak had been very effective.
The minister said successful implementation by PHECP depended on strategies and activities based on collaboration of relevant agencies to mitigate the spread of the disease into the country.
“We have entry screening for arriving passengers by Port Health Services, using the temperature scanners.
“We are also collecting travel history information and carrying out physical observation of all incoming passengers.
“We are also focusing on early recognition and isolation of suspected passengers with facilities to transport them to designated hospitals and trace those that have had contacts with them.
“We also have a designated conducive holding area for Port Health Services in case of suspected cases on any aircraft,” Sirika said.
Nevertheless, the government in the guidelines released by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha, at the inaugural meeting of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on Control of COVID-19 Pandemic in Nigeria, banned foreign travels by public servants indefinitely.
Government also advised all Nigerians with non-essential international travel plans, especially to countries with prevalent cases of the COVID-19, to shelf such plans forthwith.
Mustapha, who is also Chairman of the PTF, said the committee had decided to upgrade the nation’s health emergency system to the highest level as a result of the wave of damage the pandemic had been causing globally.
He said that all persons returning to Nigeria from abroad must observe self-isolation for a period of 14 days, adding that more attention would be focussed on those returning from nation’s that had been designated as high risk.
Members of the PTF chaired by Mustapha are: Dr Osagie Ehanire, Minister of Health, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Rauf Aregbesola, Minister of Interior, Mr Hadi Sirika, Minister of Aviation, Hajiya Sadiya Farouq Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Services.
Others are: Mr Adamu Adamu, Minister of Education, Alhaji Lai Muhammed, Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Adeleke Mamora, Minister of State, Health, Alhaji Sulaiman Adamu, Minister of Environment.
Mr Yusuf Bichi, Director-General, Department of State Services, Mr Chikwe Ihekweazu, Director General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and WHO Country Representative in Nigeria, Dr Wondimagegnehu Alemu. (NANFeatures)
**If used, please credit the writer as well as News Agency of Nigeria
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Abacha loots’ repatriation: Of agreements and adherence to international laws
Abacha loots’ repatriation: Of agreements and adherence to international laws
By Martins Odeh, News Agency of Nigeria
What appears to be a criminal siphoning of the common patrimony of the nation by the Sani Abacha administration, has eventual turn out to be a
magnificent graft savings.
The gradual repatriation of the Abacha loots is hilariously described as monetary alerts by the late military head of state from the grave.
These recoveries had at variously times been deployed as palliatives and interventions in the economy by successive governments.
President Muhammadu Buhari has not left anyone in doubt as to his firm readiness to build on the successes previous governments had recorded in trying to repatriate the country’s stolen wealth.
The president had in 2016 while attending the Anti-corruption Summit in London, expressed the willingness to activate plethora of legal frameworks and agreements to recover the country’s stolen money starched abroad.
Legal complexities are usually associated with freeing up such funds by host countries.
The Federal Government was taken aback by recent claims that it asked the United States to give 100 million US dollars from loots recovered from late Abacha to Kebbi governor, Atiku Bagudu.
Mr Abubakar Malami, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, said that the Bagudu family assets in contention, which constituted a distinct cause of action, did not have anything to do with the assets already recovered and being recovered under the Abacha 2014 non-prosecution agreement.
“It is therefore mischievous and pedestrian for anyone to seek to turn the law and the facts on its head on the matter of repatriation, whose terms are clearly spelt out and agreed among the parties.
“ There was no form of agreement to hand over 100 million US dollars out of the latest tranche of the recovered 300 million US dollars Abacha loot to Kebbi State Governor Atiku Bagudu or any third party interest.
“Bagudu was pursuing separate cases in court in the United States and the United Kingdom to assert his right in connection with the Abacha loot,’’ Malami said.
Mrs Juiliet Ibekaku-Nwagwu, the Special Assistant to the President on Justice Sector Reform and International Relations, corroborates the stance of the President and Malami.
She said that the administration was committed to uphold the sanctity of international laws and agreements guiding recoveries of the Abacha loots.
“The ongoing discussion about assets recoveries is that the President made it clear since 2016 when he attended the Anti-Corruption Summit in London, that every wealth and funds that belonged to Nigeria must be recovered.
“ The Attorney -General of the Federation has developed policies that would ensure that every penny that is owed to Nigeria reverts to the country.
“The government has through the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation gone to several countries to trace the country’s assets.
“The government has also gone to court with so many of these countries to recover money for the country,’’ Ibekaku-Nwagwu said.
Beyond the Abacha loots, there are other funds that have been traced to countries like United Arab Emirates (UAE), United States, United Kingdom, Island of Jesse, British Virgin Island and France.
Ibekaku-Nwagwu said that it is important Nigerians understand the intricacies of international law and agreements guiding the effort at recovering the Abacha loots.
She described the recent narrative suggesting that the Buhari- government was working toward ceding 100 million US dollars to Bagudu as a malicious conjecture capable of hurting the country’s image before the international community.
It is imperative to point out that the issue of Abacha funds recovery started in 1998 when Gen. Abdulsalam Abubakar, the country’s Head of State issued a decree to that respect.
The decree was meant to recover assets regardless of the assets’ location, as long as there was a possibility that Nigeria could enter into agreements with countries holding onto the monies.
Ibekaku-Nwagwu said that one of the first agreements the country entered was with Switzerland, where, according to her, Nigeria has recovered more than 750 million US dollars so far.
“This recovery did not happen by accident. It is important to note that in 2000, the international laws were not friendly to countries like Nigeria.
“Why was it so? Those countries did not believe that those funds should be returned, otherwise why did they take the money in the first place?’’
The possibility of recovering most of the country’s stolen funds taken abroad only became certain when the international community started insisting that funds that related to corruption must be returned to the victims’ countries.
In fact, it was only in 2003 that the United Nations ratified the United Nations Convention Against Corruption and made it mandatory for countries to trace assets that were related to corruption and to work with the countries where those funds were criminally taken out to return them.
Ibekaku-Nwagwu said that the country quickly leveraged on the UN convention to pass the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) Law.
She said the ICPC law had since then been used as the legal instrument through which the country could negotiate with other countries on stolen funds’ repatriation.
The special assistant to the president also explained that the sanctioning of the country by the Financial Action Taskforce compelled the passage of legislation on financial crime and money laundering.
“That was what led to the Money Prohibition Act of 2003 and subsequently Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), was created to enforce the Money Laundering Prohibition Act.
“And subsequent amendment was critical in order to support recoveries from other countries
“This background is important to understand why President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2003 agreed and consented to sign an agreement to ensure the repatriation of our assets trapped abroad.
“Obasanjo, in coming to office realised that they were so much of Nigeria’s funds outside of the country, while those countries were unwillingly to return those funds without the assistance or approval of citizens who looted the funds.
“This is where the Atiku Bagudu issue came in. When Bagudu was invited, he was living in the United States with his family to the best of our knowledge based on the court documents that we have.
“The US government had expressed interest to arrest him, but the UK government was not in agreement with US action. All these funds as at the time we are talking were held in the UK, Switzerland, Island of Jesse or France and not in US’’, Ibekaku-Nwagwu said.
She further said: “By this time, the Abacha family was trying to negotiate with Nigeria government and so Atiku Bagudu publicly agreed that he was in custody of parts of Abacha loots and was ready to return it.
“The Bagudu family said they no longer wanted to keep the stolen funds as they did not know where the money came from. The Bagudus said the Abacha family had asked them to invest the money for them.
“The UK government, therefore, requested the US government to release Atiku Bagudu to come to UK in order to commence the process of returning those funds to Nigeria.
“In doing so, the UK government and the Island of Jesse also reached out to the US government and they agreed to work with other countries to ensure these monies were returned to Nigeria in 2003,’’ Ibekaku-Nwagwu explained.
To ensure success of the process, the governments of UK, Island of Jesse, France, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Nigeria as well as Bagudu met in England to identify all the accounts with a view to aggregating them.
The special assistant to the president said that Bagudu had demanded for a non-prosecution agreement before a final agreement to relinquish the funds could be stuck.
“It was on the basis of this that the agreement was signed. It was also on the basis of this that President Obasanjo approved the agreement for the return of the Abacha loots managed by Bagudu.
“We are aware that because the Bagudu family cooperated at that time, Nigeria recovered more than 163 million US dollars in 2003.
“Subsequently, other funds were repatriated, and so they helped Nigeria to trace all the funds related to programmes that the Abacha family was working on outside the country,’’ she said.
Ibekaku-Nwagwu, in deflating widely held view that the Buhari administration was on the verge of releasing 100 million US dollars of the Abacha loots to the Bagudu family, said it was public knowledge that Bagudu had his separate assets.
“The Bagudu family has their own assets that were separated from the assets that were recovered from late Gen. Abacha.
“The court document and the 2003 agreement showed that paragraph 7.10 of that document clearly set out the assets that belonged to the Atiku Bagudu family and the ones to be repatriated.
“The record shows that what the Bagudu family left in the UK was their blue-holdings investment and therefore, foolhardy for anyone to conjure and construct a fictitious 100 million US dollars approval to be released to Atiku Bagudu.
“Mind you, as at the point the accounts were identified and monies aggregated, there was nothing like 100 million US dollars belonging to the Atiku Bagudu family and there is no such money as at today,’’ she said
The special assistant to the president further explained that the Bagudu family blue holdings assets had yielded interest for approximately17 years, adding that the trust was kept as an investment for the family.
Perhaps, the lack of sufficient information on the details of the Bagudu’s agreement viz a viz the non-prosecution order may have provided the fertile ground for the recent rumour.
Ibekaku-Nwagwu, however, said that the matter took a twist in 2012, when the Federal Government sought the assistance of the United States to recover the Abacha loots.
She explained that the Federal Government rode in error when it included the assets of the Bagudu’s family in the official correspondence to the US.
According to her, subsequent entreaty to the US government to leave the Bagudu’s family out of the probe by the Federal Government in 2014 fell on deaf’s ears as the US Department of State insists of prosecuting the governor.
Aggrieved by Federal Government’s action, Bagudu approached the English Court, claiming damages to the extent that the Nigerian government was trying to breach the 2003 agreement which included non-prosecution of the plaintiff.
The court granted Bagudu’s prayer by awarding the claims for damages in his favour.
“When this government assumed office in 2015, the president, following a request from the US government advised that both countries assess all the documents for better appraisal of the situation.
“As it stands, the US government is not concerned about or prepared to study the 2003 agreement.
“We have therefore told them that the country’s law would not allow the government to revisit or go against the 2003 agreement with jurisdiction in England.
“It would amount to double jeopardy when the government concluded prosecution of someone and then go back to re-try him,’’ she said.
According to her, Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution forbids such an action when a step is taken to issue a non-prosecution agreement.
“The agreement means that the person is free, because the person has given something in return. The Badugu family indeed assisted Nigeria when they free up Abacha loots in their custody,’’ she explained.
The US government seems not to agree with this position and is determined to institute a criminal investigation on the Kebbi governor. They claimed not to be part of the 2003 agreement.
Nonetheless, the Nigeria government, according to the office of the Attorney- General of the Federation, remains resolute and committed to the process that is now legally binding.
Dr Umar Gwandu, Spokesman to the Minister of Justice, restated government’s commitment to the agreement, adding that the US government lacked the jurisdiction on the matter as the issues were already before the English court for determination.
Already the country had again approached the English court over this issue in order not to be in breach of the 2003 agreement.
“There is no money in Nigeria’s custody to hand over to the Bagudu family. As such, every proposal regarding the 2003 agreement is before the court in England for determination,’’ Gwandu said.
Ibekaku-Nwagwu, also said that both Nigeria and US could explore possibility of out of court settlement in order to deflate the palpable legal dispute.
“You can see, President Buhari was not here in 2003, neither was he here in 2012. We have seen several governments come and maintain the 2003 agreement.
“This is about gaining the trust of a citizen that the government entered into agreement with. It is about protecting our citizens as well as protecting the sovereignty of our constitution and international laws,’’ she said.
The Anti-Corruption and Research Based Initiative (ARDI), a non-governmental organisation, in corroborating facts of the matter presented by the Ministry of Justice, said its findings had not controverted what the authorities said.
Dr Denise Aghanya, Executive Secretary of ARDI, described the efforts of the ministry and government in trying to repatriate all stolen funds held abroad as legendary.
The association was responsible for the investigation that led to the retirement of the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen.
“The whistle-blower policy of President Muhammadu Buhari in the administration’s anti-corruption fight gives us the impetus to do what we do.
“We have investigated the claims that the Federal Government was about releasing 100 million US dollars of the Abacha loots to the governor of Kebbi, Atiku Bagudu.
“Our finding shows that it was empty claims, based on rumour mongering and peddling that serves no good.
“The association will continue to track events relating to the transactions with a view to telling citizens the truth and nothing but the truth,’’ Aghanya said.
What Nigerians need in every issue of national importance is sincere briefing about the true position of things. (NANFeatures)
**If used, please credit the writer as well as News Agency of Nigeria
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