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Foreign

UNIFIL chief urges Lebanon, Israel to avoid provocative activities

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UNIFIL chief urges Lebanon, Israel to avoid provocative activities

The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) Chief Stefano Del Col urged on Thursday Lebanon and Israel to “avoid activities that could be deemed provocative by the other side.”


Otherwise, the two sides have the potential to escalate with uncontrollable consequences, said a statement by the UNIFIL.

Del Col underlined UNIFIL’s confidence-building and conflict mitigation efforts and asked that the parties “to de-conflict and enhance stability along the Blue Line.”

Del Col’s remarks came during the second special Tripartite meeting since the COVID-19 outbreak with senior officers from the Lebanese Armed Forces and the Israel Defense Forces.

The discussions focused on the situation along the Blue Line, air and ground violations and other issues within the scope of UNIFIL’s mandate under UN Security Council resolution 1701.

(XINHUA)

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Agriculture

Food sufficiency: Osun commissioner inaugurates ‘Wave City’ project

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Osun Commissioner for Agriculture, Mr Adewole Adedayo, on Tuesday  inaugurated an agricultural project, ‘Wave City,’ sited by FarmKonnect Agribusiness Nigeria Ltd at Wasimi to promote food sufficiency.


Speaking at the inauguration,  Adedayo, who described the project as the first of its kind in the state and the South-West region, said it was aimed at promoting food sufficiency, national development and agricultural inclusion.

According to him, every responsible government must create an enabling environment for farmers.

“Today, I believe FarmKonnect is now realising a dream that started in 2017. Today, having FarmKonnect in Osun State is another dream.

“Today, having these facilities on ground to develop agriculture in the south-west is a dream realised. So FarmKonnect has realised a dream.

“Like I keep saying, agriculture has the highest potentials to create jobs, both for skilled and unskilled labour. So, I will like to thank FarmKonnect for bringing this project to Osun State,” he said.

According to the commissioner, agriculture is top on the agenda of the state government.

The commissioner, who highlighted the various initiatives of the government to support agricultural development, pledged the administration’s readiness to welcome investors like FarmKonnect to the state.

“We are looking for investors like this, people who will empower our youths and also create jobs for farmers,” he said.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that FarmKonnect was founded by Lt.-Col. Oluwole Azeez who voluntarily resigned from the Nigerian Army to invest in agriculture real estate business.

Azeez said that his organisation’s mission was to take agriculture beyond just planting crops and making money to a business which promotes food sufficiency, national development and agricultural inclusion.

“In FarmKonnect, we run a model we call agricultural real estate and we are the first to do that. This allows multiple people to own a portion of the farm and they don’t necessarily have to step on the farm.

“All they just need to do is engage their money and we take all the performances around. The greenhouses you are seeing here are specifically designed for the tropics.

“The vision is to build one million square metres of greenhouses, a controlled farming environment technology using greenhouses and net houses to produce fruits and leafy vegetables from tomatoes to pepper.

“This is the first of its kind in Nigeria. This is specifically designed for minimal electricity as well as to expand our yield,” he said.

Azeez  said he was grateful to the Osun government for its tremendous support to the project and assured it of greater benefits in terms of food sufficiency and job creation.

Also speaking, Dr Bosade Ogunlana, the Founder of Entrepreneurship Initiative, commended FarmKonnect for the project, saying it would help in empowering the youths.

According to her, Africa has more youths to engage in land cultivation in order to boost food sufficiency and security.

“Africa is the biggest gun of the world because over 60 per cent of arable land in the entire world resides in Africa. I know with something like this happening here today, there is hope for Nigeria.

“Agriculture is the new gold, there is no longer oil. There is nothing we want to do with oil. Agriculture can help us with the GDP of the economy.

“It can help us to engage the youths. It can help us to ensure there is no scarcity of food,” she said.

Ogunlana thanked the Osun government for its support to FarmKonnect, urging it to ensure adequate security for the project.

NAN reports that the event,  which also featured the unveiling of the tomato statue and facility tour, was held in strict adherence to COVID-19 protocols.

The event was also attended by Mr Yemi Lawal, the Commissioner for Youth and Sports in Osun, as well as representatives of the various partners of FarmKonnect.

(
Edited By: Chidinma Agu/Mufutau Ojo) (NAN)

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Education

Resumption: Unity schools’ Principals in Lagos assure parents, guardians of students’ safety

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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.

The students were resuming to write their examinations after a long break due to the lockdown and closure of schools following the outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in 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.

This is to allow the SSS 3 students to participate in the 2020 West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE).

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.

”It is our prayer too that our students will all finish their examination successfully in good state of health and will all return home to their parents safely,” he prayed.

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.

NAN reports that the resumption of the JSS 3 students of the Unity Colleges in the state had been moved to Aug. 10.

Edited By: Tayo Ikujuni/Olagoke Olatoye (NAN)

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COVID-19

New York’s health commissioner resigns over COVID-19 handling

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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.

The resignation came after Mayor Bill de Blasio, stripped the department of the responsibility of COVID-19 contact tracing, and gave it to the hospital management agency.

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)

 

 

 

 

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COVID-19

LASG holds consultative forum for Y2021 Budget, adopts holistic approach to COVID-19

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The Lagos State Government says it is engaging a holistic approach to restarting the state’s economy and re-imagining its operations toward surviving the COVID-19 pandemic in its year 2021 budget.


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.

“The state government has increased commitment to Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises MSMEs to help them during and post COVID-19.

“We intend to adopt consolidation and tactical redirection to areas that would help employment, food production and security, particularly to overcome the effects of COVID-19.

“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.

“In view of the dwindling revenue of the State’s Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) due to the pandemic, LASG is committed to growing the state’s IGR to sustain its developmental projects.

“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.

He added that the state also focussed on agriculture as plans to finish the Rice Mill at Imota and undertake a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) concession afterwards was underway.

“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)

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