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Face Of The Nigerian Economy

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At the time of her Independence from Britain on
October1, 1960, Nigeria was largely an agrarian economy. The then population comprised nearly 70 per cent farmers who practiced their occupation at subsistence levels, producing such food crops as cassava, yam, corn, cocoyam, plantain, rice, beans, millet, vegetables and fruits.
The major cash crops cultivated at the time included cocoa, groundnuts, palm oil, cotton, rubber, cashew nuts and copra which the regional governments encouraged as these formed their major export commodities alongside solid minerals.
Cattle rearing, fishing, hunting and other forms of livestock keeping also fetched incomes.
Crude oil had just been discovered in commercial quantity and was yet to become a major revenue source for the government.
This was indeed the scenario until the early 1970s when the Arab-Israeli war in the Middle East forced an escalation of the international price of petroleum, creating the oil revenue windfall that enabled the then Federal Military Government under General Yakubu Gowon to undertake massive reconstruction and rehabilitation programmes at the end of the 30-month Nigerian Civil War.
Up till this time, the nation’s economy could still be described as upbeat with well implemented 5-year National Development Plans that saw an average Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate of 9.4 per cent and poverty rate of about 48 per cent.
While the oil boom lasted, successive military and civilian administrations were said to have squandered the trillions of naira that accrued to the national treasury without any form of savings. Instead, the government went borrowing whenever there was a slight fall in oil price or any downward adjustment in production quota by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
With oil revenue accounting for about 80 per cent of the nation’s budget revenues and over 90 per cent of its foreign exchange earnings, Nigerians felt it was time to abandon the rural farms and seek better paying city jobs. Consumption patterns suddenly changed as the people began to show preference for foreign manufactured food items, drinks and fashion products.
Official corruption became evident as the political leaders and their business cronies abandoned projects at will after sharing the full contract sums. These leaders also abandoned all the development programmes that were aimed at diversifying the country’s economy away from oil.
Rampant stealing, wasteful spending, inadequate investment and excessive consumption in the face of dwindling oil returns did finally bring Nigeria on its knees in the mid 1980s. And even though the initial plan to obtain credit from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for setting off her huge balance of payments deficit was later dropped, the adoption of some of the Fund’s conditionalities (including fuel subsidy withdrawal) led to the introduction of the infamous Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) by the General Ibrahim Babangida government.
Whether the austerity measures that came under SAP served the interest of the nation is difficult to say at this point but it will be safe to point out that the poverty rate continued to rise, reaching 70 per cent by the time the military handed over power to civilians in 1999.
One of the earliest major achievements of President Olusegun Obasanjo’s first tenure was the invitation of private competition in the telecommunications sector which had hitherto been the exclusive playground of the now moribund Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL). Not only has the sector witnessed a near revolution in terms of service delivery, it has also helped to create alternative sources of livelihood for many Nigerians. In fact, it is currently regarded as one of the non-oil sector units that are strongly driving the nation’s economy.
Still under Obasanjo, Nigeria succeeded in obtaining debt write-off from her foreign creditors in the Paris Club. For agreeing to pay $12 billion within one year, Nigeria’s entire debt of $30 billion which was to be paid back in 33 years along with compound interest charges was written off. She therefore enjoyed a forgiveness of $18 billion, the implication of which was that her annual GDP grew at a faster rate while her debt to GDP ratio became one of the lowest in Africa.
This feat was said to have been made possible due largely to the clout and negotiating skills of Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the then finance minister and former vice president of the World Bank who incidentally is still Nigeria’s Finance Minister and Co-ordinating Minister of the Economy.
The areas that are likely to attract significant benefits to the economy are the ongoing infrastructural development where the power sector reforms have led to the unbundling of the monopolistic Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) and privatisation of its subsidiaries for better generation, transmission and distribution of electricity in the country. Nigeria now has over 10 power generating companies (Gencos) and more than 15 distribution companies (Discos) while there are plans to concession the transmission company (TCN) and construct a new transmission network using the public private partnership framework.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had introduced some banking sector reforms that served to sanitise and buoy up the nation’s banking system which laid virtually prostrate in the aftermath of the global economic crisis of 2008. Its proactive intervention led to the recapitalisation of about 25 banks to the tune of N25 billion each. Added to this, was the recent nationalisation of three highly insolvent banks for which acquisition bids from interested local and foreign banks are now being considered. The newly established Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON) did play a significant role in this regard.
Outside the banking industry, the CBN introduced monetary policy measures that helped to stabilise inflation at 8 per cent, down from 12 per cent in 2011. This includes maintaining the monetary policy rate (MPR) at 12 per cent for a long period. The apex bank is also pursuing an aggressive liquidity squeeze by increasing the cash reserve requirement (CRR) of public sector bank lodgments from 25 per cent to 50 per cent and now, 75 percent. This is in addition to its cashless policy.
The CBN had in the past few years also released funds for special intervention in manufacturing, textiles, infrastructure, aviation, movie industry and small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
President Goodluck Jonathan’s transformation agenda is widely reported to be slowly but steadily turning the economy round. The Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA), National Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP), National Automotive Policy (NAP), Gas Master Plan, YouWin Entrepreneurial Scheme, Multinodal road and rail transport system, Inland Waterways and Ports Development are some of the components of the administration’s programmes.
But even as the government is being applauded for toeing a promising path, there is no doubt that its progress has been hampered by declining state revenues occasioned by incessant labour strikes, oil theft and pipeline vandalisation in the Niger Delta and high level of insecurity as exemplified by the ongoing Boko Haram insurgency in parts of the North East.
Growth of GDP vis-à-vis increasing poverty
For nearly 24 years since 1990, Nigerians had lived with faulty representations of their country’s annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) had, during this period, relied on 1990 price schedules to calculate the total value of goods and services produced in the country, leading to the release of figures that consistently depicted the Nigerian economy as being among the poorest in Africa even though the annual average growth rate was reported to have risen above 5 per cent for much of the period.
This low economic classification of the most populous African country did change early this year when the statistics office recalculated the nation’s GDP for the past four years using 2010 as a new base year. The result of the exercise, as announced by the Statistician General and Chief Executive of the bureau, Dr Yemi Kale, on April 6, 2014, showed that Nigeria’s nominal GDP for 2010 was N54.20 trillion, while those for 2011, 2012 and 2013 were N63.25 trillion, N71.18 trillion and N80.22 trillion, respectively.
“Analysing the 1990 nominal series, agriculture contributed 30.3 per cent to the GDP, while industry contributed 46.1 per cent and services contributed 23.6 per cent.
According to the rebased 2010 series, in nominal terms, the share of agriculture has declined to 24 per cent. The share of industry to the country’s GDP has also declined to 25.8 per cent, while the share of services to the country’s GDP has increased to 50.2 per cent,” Kale said.
Presentation of the revised figures was said to have been witnessed by representatives of the public and private sectors of the Nigerian economy as well as those of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the African Development Bank (AfDB) who readily endorsed the rebasing outcome.
The dollar equivalent of the 2013 GDP figure which is $510 billion was also found to be higher than South Africa’s $384.3 billion for the same year, hence the claim that Nigeria has now overtaken late Nelson Mandela’s country as the largest economy in Africa, ranking 26th in the world and only a few spots to realising her vision of being counted among the world’s 20 most prosperous nations by the year 2020.
But even with all this, there still exists a puzzling contrast between the rising GDP growth rate and increasing poverty level in Nigeria.
The country’s over 7 per cent average annual growth rate for the past five years was touted to be among the highest in the world, almost equal to those of the so-called Asian Tigers. And considering that this growth was most evident in agricultural and trading activities where the bulk of Nigeria’s rural poor are engaged, it still beats the mind as to why there is hardly any visible improvement in their incomes and welfare.
In its Nigeria Economic Report of May 2013, the World Bank said, “Poverty rate remains high in Nigeria, particularly in rural areas. These rates declined between 2003-2004 and 2009-2010, although not nearly as fast as would be expected from the pace of economic growth in the country.
“While the officially reported growth rates of GDP well exceed population growth in the country, the pace of poverty reduction does not, this implies that the number of poor Nigerians living below the poverty line has grown measurable.”
The erstwhile CBN Governor and now Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, had while attempting to explain this unfortunate circumstance in Nigeria blamed it on the government’s economic policy that needs to change.
According to him, “…The economy since SAP is one that supports imported consumption and not local production, perpetuating dependency, non inclusive growth and insecurity. Why is it that the economy is growing at 7 per cent annually but the people are getting poorer? The answer is simply because growth gains are not evenly distributed. Personal income is skewed towards people in the oil industry, telecoms, high finance, stock market, real estate and yes civil servants and politicians who feed on corruption. We produce crude oil but import petroleum products.
“We have a large cotton belt but import textiles from China. We are the world’s number one producer of cassava but import cassava starch from Europe. We have a huge tomato belt in Kadawa, Jigawa and Chad Basin but are the world’s largest importer of tomato paste – from China and Italy. We can produce rice but we import rice from Thailand and India – most of it from grain reserves that have been in stock for over five years.”
The Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, had while commending the GDP rebasing effort cautioned against Nigerians expecting an immediate reflection of the new figures on the prevailing poverty and unemployment situations in the country. She, however, assured that the outcome will serve as additional tool for the government to tackle poverty and improve the people’s standard of living.
According to her, “Not all our ratios look good. Our revenue to GDP ratio doesn’t look that good. We have a tax to GDP ratio of about 20 per cent, which is in the range of emerging market economies, but our non-oil tax to GDP ratio is quite low at seven per cent.
“With these new GDP numbers, we are not going to look so good. Our tax revenue to GDP ratio will fall to about 12 per cent and four per cent for non-oil tax…”
It has been said that the bulk of Nigeria’s income ends up in the hands of a privileged few. Some analysts have even suggested that 90 per cent of these incomes are in the hands of less than three per cent of the entire 160 million population.
What’s more, taxation which is a veritable weapon of income redistribution has hardly been administered effectively. Tax dodging and evasion, particularly by the elite, have continued to expand the income gap in Nigeria.
Again, the clumsy implementation of the N18,000 national minimum wage by governments at all tiers has also served to ensure that earnings between the rich and the poor tend even wider apart.
The 2013 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, had attempted to draw global attention to the growing income inequality in the world, especially in the emerging market economies. But rather than draw from the message of that summit, the Nigerian delegation came back looking like people who obviously missed the point.

 

Ibelema Jumbo

Trading floor of Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE)

Trading floor of Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE)

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Rivers SEEFOR: The Journey So Far

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The need for youth employment and access to socio-economic services formed the bases for the formation of the State Employment and Expenditure for Results (SEEFOR) Project, to consolidate the gains from the amnesty programme of the Federal Government and ensure that youths do not fall back to social vices.
The Project which is financed with credit from the World Bank, grant from European Union and counterpart fund from the State Government, commenced implementation on July 31, 2013. The objective is to enhance opportunities for employment and access to socio-economic services whilst improving the Public Financial Management Systems in the four Niger Delta participating States of Bayelsa, Delta, Edo and Rivers.
SEEFOR has two main components: Component A: Youth employment and access to socio-economic services and Component B: Public Financial Management (PFM) Reforms.
Since implementation commenced in Rivers State, the project has traversed the nooks and crannies of the state and transformed lives of several youths, women and communities at large.
Reviewing the activities of the multifaceted project across its sub-components: Public Works, Technical, Vocational and Agricultural Training (TVAT), Community Driven Development-Economic and Community Driven Development-Social as well as its Public Financial Management Component, beneficiaries bared their minds on the activities of the Project.
Under the Public Works Sub-Component, which entails executing small road maintenance and waste management projects, the State Project Coordinator, Mr Kelcious Amos said it has surpassed its target of executing 224 projects and engaging 10,845 beneficiaries to executing 497 projects and engaging 21,770 beneficiaries.
Some beneficiaries and resident of communities visited expressed their gratitude: At Okwutake Community in Degema LGA where Utie-Iwula Road was maintained; a resident, Mrs Elizabeth Brown said “the road was very bad that people could not even use it during rainy season, people could not go through the road to the Waterside, but after SEEFOR’s intervention, the road is now very assessable.”
At Apostolic Church Road, in Eleme one of the beneficiaries, Miss Christy Ogbaji said the project has given her engineering knowledge that she can apply anywhere.
At Lawson’s Compound/Health Centre Road where a mini bridge was constructed to replace a worn-out wooden bridge that was there, the community members thanked the project for the bridge that has eased transportation of sick people and pregnant women in and out of the Health Centre. They also said the bridge is connecting them to nearby communities and called for more projects in the community.
Speaking on the TVAT sub-component, the State Project Coordinator said the project had a target of training 5,436 youths but 6,134 youths have benefited from this sub-component and some have received starter packs. He explained further that SEEFOR has intervened in four technical schools that include Government Technical College (GTC) Ahoada, Ele-Ogu, Port Harcourt and Tombia. Others are Government Craft Development Centre, Port Harcourt, School-to Land Authority, Rumudomaya, Women Development Centre Taabaa, Ken Saro-Wiwa Polytechnic, Bori and Capt. Elechi Amadi Polytechnics, Rumuola.
He explained further that under Ken Saro-Wiwa and Elechi Amadi Polytechnics youths were trained in the following short-term skills; air-conditioning and refrigeration maintenance, carpentry/wood work, computer and phone repair/maintenance, electrical installation, block laying, concreting and iron mongery, automobile technology, electronics installation/maintenance, plumbing/tiling, and welding and fabrication.
SEEFOR in collaborated with some non-state actors also trained youths in Fashion Designing, welding and fabrication, Carpentry/wood work, livestock farming, catering and hotel management.
In addition to the above, the project engaged volunteer teachers to augment the effort of the State government in technical schools.
The Community Driven Development (CDD) sub-component has provided both economic and social succour to rural dwellers. A review of the Community Driven Development-Social (CDD-S) that was designed to provide access to social infrastructure in rural communities based on needs assessment and project selection, reveal that the project has intervened in 448 communities and implemented 94 micro projects across 17 LGAs
Assessing the impact of the project in communities showed a visibly elated people who applauded SEEFOR for infrastructural development through micro project provided for them.
At Ewika in Eleme where a Civic Centre and Borehole was constructed, the traditional ruler, Chief Jacob Mpka said the project was the first of its kind in the history of the Community. He explained that since the inception of the community they have being without potable water, that the construction of borehole by SEEFOR Project was a big relief to the entire Egbere Ewika Community and its environs. The Chief further said the Civic Centre is now a source of social gathering for the people.
Similarly, in Igwuruta where 240 km walk way was constructed; Hon Ken Amaewhule who spoke on behalf of the community thanked SEEFOR for the road, that has boosted both their individual and commercial activities.
At Kalaibiama Community in Bonny LGA, members of the community thanked the project for the electrification of the community which had hitherto being in darkness.
The CDD-E sub-component is created to provide grant for the implementation of agricultural micro project in rural communities thereby increasing their income base. SEEFOR Project is collaborating with FADAMA III to implement this sub-component. So far, 712 cooperatives have benefitted from this sub-component across 49 communities.
Members of some communities who spoke on behalf of their communities were unanimous in their accolade for the project.
At Somiari-Ama, Tere-Ama Community in Port Harcourt LGA where a poultry and lives stock cluster farm was implemented as well as public convenience;
Mrs Dorathy Somiari thanked the project for given the community opportunity to raise their income base as some youths in the community where employed to work on the farm in addition to the proceeds from the farm which is sold periodically. A representative of the community Mr Emmanuel Somiari said by siting the public convenience there, several causalities have been averted, noting that before SEEFOR’s intervention, aged people usually fall down while trying to climb the wooden bridge to toilet.
At Umuagwu in Omuma LGA where market stalls, public convenience and water micro projects were sited, members of the community thanked SEEFOR/FADAMA, adding that it has improved their businesses, social and individual lives as people now have markets stalls to sell their goods without fear of rain and sun, while the search for portable water has been eliminated.
Speaking on behalf of Ido SEEFOR/FADAMA Community Association in Asari-Toru, Mr Sagbe Endure thanked the project for the Cluster farm sited in the community and the borehole water project that has replaced the well water that was the only source of drinking water in the community.
The State Project Coordinator, speaking on Component B of the project said; the Public Financial Management Component is designed to deepen the on-going financial management reform effort of the State Government to ensure judicious utilization of public fund. It is also to improve and modernise the PFM systems, practices, processes and institutions with the aim of improving efficiency and effectiveness in managing public resources to achieve value for money.
Enumerating on the achievements of the component, Mr Amos listed the following:
• Draft Bills for the PFM Legislation and Audit has been passed by the RSHoA and await executive assent.
• Fiscal strategy paper and budget manual developed
• Socio-Economic survey of the State completed
• 10 year State Development Plan (2017 – 2027) completed
• Procured ICT Equipment to the Min. of Budget & Economic Planning
• IPSAS based Chart of Account developed
• Production of IPSAS based Annual budget since 2015
• Procedure Manual for financial reporting developed
• IPSAS cash based financial Report produced since 2017
• Capacity building within and outside the country across all sub-component of the PFM Reform
• SIFMIS infrastructure all in place
• Training of 300 SIFMIS End-Users in basic ICT skills completed
• Standard bidding document developed for BoPP
• Public Asset register developed for BoPP
• Development of document management system completed
• Establishment of procurement Data Base for BoPP completed
• Rivers State BoPP website upgrade completed
Giving an over view of the assessment of the performance of SEEFOR Project in the State, the National Project Coordinator, Dr Greg Onu said “Rivers SEEFOR has surpassed its targets in most indicators, some by 200%, some by 250%”. He applauded Rivers Project Team for the success recorded and ensuring that the project objective is achieved.
The National Project Coordination Team was in the State on a Media Tour of some project sites to access the success of the project in preparation for the project closure in September 2020.

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Coronavirus: FG’s Deadly Double Standard In Rivers

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The politicisation of the fight against the spread of Coronavirus has brought to the fore the deadly application of exclusive list by officials of the Federal Government when it comes to issues that relate to Rivers State and the safety of its people.
This morning (April 12, 2020) as I perused through the newspapers, one report published by Punch Newspaper caught my attention. This report exposed the deadly double standards against Rivers State and her people. It also exposes the underlying deliberate plot to undermine the health security system of the state.
The report: “Chinese doctors’ flight:  How three airline crew members ‘disappeared’ from Lagos quarantine centre” highlighted how the Federal Government is collaborating with the Lagos State Government to quarantine pilots and crew members of Air Peace who flew in  Chinese doctors into the country. These pilots and crew members will be isolated from the rest of the Lagos community for 14 days to ascertain their Coronavirus status.
Please click this link to read the full report: https://punchng.com/chinese-doctors-flight-how-three-airline-crew-members-disappeared-from-lagos-quarantine-centre/
From the report, the Lagos State Government has quarantined 17 personnel of Air Peace who went on that national assignment on behalf of the Federal Government, operators of the ALMIGHTY EXCLUSIVE LIST. Amongst these 17 personnel are pilots and flight attendants.
Reading through the report, it is clear that the quarantine procedure is mandatory, especially when such crew members have entered a Coronavirus impacted territory. In the case of Nigeria, Lagos State is a Coronavirus-impacted territory.
The Commissioner for Health, Lagos State, declared that community transmission of Coronavirus is in full swing in the state. With this public declaration, it is necessary that precautionary measures be taken as long as the persons are coming from that location.
Please read this report for the confirmation of community transmission of Coronavirus in Lagos: https://businessday.ng/exclusives/article/rising-community-transmission-of-covid-19-strengthens-case-for-social-distancing/
Recall that the Federal Government has quarantined the Chinese doctors that are in the country to carry out medical outreach on behalf of the Federal Government.
This brings me to the main point that I have set out to make. The Federal Government that has emphasised EXCLUSIVE LIST every step of the way in relation to interactions with pilots and AVIATION, has willingly allowed the LAGOS STATE GOVERNMENT to quarantine 17 Air Peace pilots and crew to stem the spread of Coronavirus.
In fact, three crew members that escaped from quarantine were located by the joint team of the Federal and Lagos State Governments to apprehend them for the overall safety of Lagos State.
Air Peace did not raise alarm. The Federal Government did not raise alarm to warn the Lagos State Government that it has touched the ALMIGHTY EXCLUSIVE LIST.
The quarantine of the 17 Air Peace personnel who were on National Service was never programmed to be an issue during the daily press conferences at Abuja. Therefore, the Minister of Aviation, Alhaji Hadi Sirika, the chief advocate of EXCLUSIVE LIST had no reason to insult the Lagos State Governor the way he insulted Governor Wike for defending the people of Rivers State and the health security system of the state.
If you read through the report of Punch on the issue, it was programmed to present Lagos State Government as caring for her people. Several Pro-APC Media will replicate this report. Pro-Lagos Editorials will be written about the proactive isolation of these Air Peace personnel on National Service.
I will also throw up another point highlighted in the Pro-APC Report on the quarantine of the Air Peace personnel by the Lagos State Government. There is a standing order of the Federal Ministry of Health that persons flying from Coronavirus-impacted territories be quarantined to check the virus.
Let me quote a paragraph from the said Sunday Punch report of April 12, 2020 that underlines the preferential treatment accorded Lagos State and the unfortunate politicisation of the fight against Coronavirus by the agencies of the Federal Government, operators of the EXCLUSIVE LIST.
“The 17 pilots and flight attendants later on Wednesday proceeded to Lagos to be quarantined by the Lagos State Government in line with an agreement the Ministry of Health reached with the carrier’s management. The Chinese medical personnel were quarantined in Abuja,” Sunday Punch wrote.
The above paragraph indicates that each time a flight leaves and returns, necessary precautionary measures must be taken to check the spread of Coronavirus and the general transmission of the virus. In Lagos State and Abuja, the Federal Government is ever ready to observe the established health protocols to check the spread of Coronavirus.
But when it comes to Rivers State, the operators of EXCLUSIVE LIST are willing to risk the lives of over six million Rivers people and Nigerians just to drill barrels of oil. They are willing to insult the Rivers State Governor everyday on National Television and Mainstream Media for insisting on the implementation of an agreement for the observation of basic health protocols to protect the lives of Nigerians, wherever they may be.
This is what the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, said about the observation of the health protocols on flights.
He said, “They knew that before they came and have undergone tests before they left their country. Nevertheless, they will be in quarantine for 14 days. The Nigerian Centre for Disease Control has gone to see where they will be quarantined.”
To think that two leading national newspapers allowed themselves to be used to lampoon the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, for insisting on the operation of the health protocols underscores the rot in the country. The hatred for the truth is nauseating, embarrassing and unfortunate.
If 17 personnel of a leading airline who flew 14 hours nonstop to China to ferry essential health equipment to tackle Coronavirus for the overall safety of Nigeria could be quarantined for 14 days in line with established health protocols, why would anyone justify the reckless flights into Port Harcourt by Caverton Helicopters, who consistently refused to observe health protocols?
If the Federal authorities allowed the Lagos State Health Authorities to freely operate at the Murtala Mohammed Airport, where they apprehend pilots on essential services and quarantine them for the safety of Lagos people, why embolden CAVERTON HELICOPTERS to disregard health protocols when they fly into Rivers State?
The entire world is singing from one hymn page to ensure the safety of everyone. But in Nigeria, the situation is different. The Federal Government has instituted measures that frustrate the fight against Coronavirus in major opposition states. Aside encouraging private businesses to compromise the health security system of Rivers State at this critical time, there is no federal support for Governor Wike to carry out this herculean task.
With the 17 Air Peace personnel on compulsory quarantine, nobody has heard of threats from the Airline Operators of Nigeria threatening fire and brimstone. But they issued deadlines on Rivers State Government because they were primed to do so, even though they know of the health protocols operational at this time.
It is sad that the Federal Government will engage in this needless game of double standards. Introducing politics into the fight against the spread of Coronavirus is counterproductive.  It makes the entire country vulnerable and weakens the health defence mechanism of all the 36 states.
The objective of the fight against Coronavirus is to stop the virus from decimating the Nigerian population. In this fight, all established health protocols must be respected whether in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt or Enugu. Undermining health protocols in Port Harcourt because Rivers State is on another political path, is dangerous and would undermine the national struggle.
This double standard is deadly. It is unnecessary and it is unfortunate. Nobody should fuel the spread of the virus in one part of the country because of the irregular application of EXCLUSIVE LIST.  God has exposed this aspect with the quarantine of Air Peace personnel by the Lagos State Government. All Nigerians should begin to reason along the safety of the population and not the falsehood of operators of EXCLUSIVE LIST.
It is in our national interest for the Federal Government to discard the politicisation of the fight against Coronavirus and enthrone national respect for the operation of the established health protocols agreed by all tiers of government. What is EXCLUSIVE LIST in the face of national ill-health?
I conclude with Governor Wike’s advice to the Federal Government on the dangers of politicising the fight against Coronavirus.
He said: “It is quite unfortunate that the containment of Coronavirus has been politicized by the Federal Government. Every state is important in the fight against the spread of Coronavirus. Therefore, no state should be singled out for special treatment. The Federal Government should prevail or its agencies that connive with Aero Contractors and Caverton Helicopters to fly in workers on essential services to the state to ensure that the health status of these individuals as it relates to COVID-19 is ascertained.”
Nwakaudu is Special Assistant to Rivers State Governor on Electronic Media

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COVID-19 Is Not A Joke -Buhari

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Fellow Nigerians In my address on Sunday, 29th March, 2020, I asked the
residents of Lagos and Ogun States as well as the Federal Capital Territory to stay at home for an initial period of fourteen days starting from Monday, 30th March 2020.
Many State Governments also introduced similar restrictions.
As your democratically elected leaders, we made this very difficult decision knowing fully well it will severely disrupt your livelihoods and bring undue hardship to you, your loved ones and your communities.
However, such sacrifices are needed to limit the spread of COVID-19 in our country. They were necessary to save lives.
Our objective was, and still remains, to contain the spread of the Coronavirus and to provide space, time and resources for an aggressive and collective action.
The level of compliance to the COVID-19 guidelines issued has been generally good across the country. I wish to thank you all most sincerely for the great sacrifice you are making for each other at this critical time.
I will take this opportunity to recognise the massive support from our traditional rulers, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) during this pandemic.
I also acknowledge the support and contributions received from public spirited individuals, the business community and our international partners and friends.
I must also thank the media houses, celebrities and other public figures for the great work they are doing in sensitizing our citizens on hygienic practices, social distancing and issues associated with social gatherings.
As a result of the overwhelming support and cooperation received, we were able to achieve a lot during these 14 days of initial lockdown.
We implemented comprehensive public health measures that intensified our case identification, testing, isolation and contact tracing capabilities.
To date, we have identified 92% of all identified contacts while doubling the number of
testing laboratories in the country and raising our testing capacity to 1,500 tests per day.
We also trained over 7,000 Healthcare workers on infection prevention and control while deploying NCDC teams to 19 states of the federation.
Lagos and Abuja today have the capacity to admit some 1,000 patients each across several treatment centres.
Many State Governments have also made provisions for isolation wards and treatment centres. We will also build similar centers near our airports and land borders.
Using our resources and those provided through donations, we will adequately equip and man these centres in the coming weeks. Already, health care workers across all the treatment centers have been provided with the personal protective equipment that they need to safely carry out the care they provide.
Our hope and prayers are that we do not have to use all these centres. But we will be ready for all eventualities.
At this point, I must recognise the incredible work being done by our healthcare workers and volunteers across the country especially in frontline areas of Lagos and Ogun States as well as the Federal Capital Territory.
You are our heroes and as a nation, we will forever remain grateful for your sacrifice during this very difficult time. More measures to motivate our health care workers are being introduced which we will announce in the coming weeks.
As a nation, we are on the right track to win the fight against COVID-19.
However, I remain concerned about the increase in number of confirmed cases and deaths being reported across the world and in Nigeria specifically.
On 30th March 2020, when we started our lockdown in conforming with medical and scientific advice, the total number of confirmed cases across the world was over 780,000.
Yesterday, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases globally was over one million, eight hundred and fifty thousand. This figure is more than double in two weeks!
In the last fourteen days alone, over 70,000 people have died due to this disease.
In the same period, we have seen the health system of even the most developed nations being overwhelmed by this virus.
Here in Nigeria, we had 131 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in 12 States on 30th March 2020. We had two fatalities then.
This morning, Nigeria had 323 confirmed cases in twenty States. Unfortunately we now have ten fatalities. Lagos State remains the center and accounts for 54% of the confirmed cases in Nigeria. When combined with the FCT, the two locations represent over 71% of the confirmed cases in Nigeria.
Most of our efforts will continue to focus in these two locations.
Majority of the confirmed cases in Lagos and the FCT are individuals with recent international travel history or those that came into contact with returnees from international trips.
By closing our airports and land borders and putting strict conditions for seaport activities, we have reduced the impact of external factors on our country. However, the increase in the number of States with positive cases is alarming.
The National Centre for Disease Control has informed me that, a large proportion of new infections are now occurring in our communities, through person-to-person contacts. So we must pay attention to the danger of close contact between person to person.
At this point, I will remind all Nigerians to continue to take responsibility for the recommended measures to prevent transmission, including maintaining physical distancing, good personal hygiene and staying at home.
In addition, I have signed the Quarantine Order in this regard and additional regulations to provide clarity in respect of the control measures for the COVID-19 pandemic which will be released soon.
The public health response to COVID-19 is built on our ability to detect, test and admit cases as well as trace all their contacts. While I note some appreciable progress, we can achieve a lot more.
Today, the cessation of movement, physical distancing measures and the prohibition of mass gatherings remain the most efficient and effective way of reducing the transmission of the virus. By sustaining these measures, combined with extensive testing and contact tracing, we can take control and limit the spread of the disease.
Our approach to the virus remains in 2 steps – First, to protect the lives of our fellow Nigerians and residents living here and second, to preserve the livelihoods of workers and business owners.
With this in mind and having carefully considered the briefings and Report from the Presidential Task Force and the various options offered, it has become necessary to extend the current restriction of movement in Lagos and Ogun States as well as the FCT for another 14 days effective from 11:59 pm on Monday, 13th of April, 2020. I am therefore once again asking you all to work with Government in this fight.
This is not a joke. It is a matter of life and death. Mosques in Makkah and Madina have been closed. The Pope celebrated Mass on an empty St. Peter’s Square. The famous Notre Dame cathedral in Paris held Easter Mass with less than 10 people. India, Italy and France are in complete lockdown. Other countries are in the process of following suit. We cannot be lax.
The previously issued guidelines on exempted services shall remain.
This is a difficult decision to take, but I am convinced that this is the right decision. The evidence is clear.
The repercussions of any premature end to the lockdown action are unimaginable. 43. We must not lose the gains achieved thus far. We must not allow a rapid increase in community transmission. We must endure a little longer.
I will therefore take this opportunity to urge you all to notify the relevant authorities if you or your loved ones develop any symptoms. I will also ask our health care professionals to redouble their efforts to identify all suspected cases, bring them into care and prevent transmission to others.
No country can afford the full impact of a sustained restriction of movement on its economy. I am fully aware of the great difficulties experienced especially by those who earn a daily wage such as traders, day-workers, artisans and manual workers.
For this group, their sustenance depends on their ability to go out. Their livelihoods depend on them mingling with others and about seeking work. But despite these realities we must not change the restrictions.
In the past two weeks, we announced palliative measures such as food distribution, cash transfers and loans repayment waivers to ease the pains of our restrictive policies during this difficult time. These palliatives will be sustained.
I have also directed that the current social register be expanded from 2.6 million households to 3.6 million households in the next two weeks. This means we will support an additional one million homes with our social investment programs. A technical committee is working on this and will submit a report to me by the end of this week.
The Security Agencies have risen to the challenges posed by this unprecedented situation with gallantry and I commend them. I urge them to continue to maintain utmost vigilance, firmness as well as restraint in enforcing the restriction orders while not neglecting statutory security responsibilities.
Fellow Nigerians, follow the instructions on social distancing. The irresponsibility of the few can lead to the death of the many. Your freedom ends where other people’s rights begin.
The response of our State Governors has been particularly impressive, especially in aligning their policies and actions to those of the Federal Government.
In the coming weeks, I want to assure you that the Federal Government, through the Presidential Task Force, will do whatever it takes to support you in this very difficult period. I have no doubt that, by working together and carefully following the rules, we shall get over this pandemic.
I must also thank the Legislative arm of Government for all its support and donations in this very difficult period. This collaboration is critical to the short and long-term success of all the measures that we have instituted in response to the pandemic.
As a result of this pandemic, the world as we know it has changed. The way we interact with each other, conduct our businesses and trade, travel, educate our children and earn our livelihoods will be different.
To ensure our economy adapts to this new reality, I am directing the Ministers of Industry, Trade and Investment, Communication and Digital Economy, Science and Technology, Transportation, Aviation, Interior, Health, Works and Housing, Labour and Employment and Education to jointly develop a comprehensive policy for a “Nigerian economy functioning with COVID-19”.
The Ministers will be supported by the Presidential Economic Advisory Council and Economic Sustainability Committee in executing this mandate.
I am also directing the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, the National Security Adviser, the Vice Chairman, National Food Security Council and the Chairman, Presidential Fertiliser Initiative to work with the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 to ensure the impact of this pandemic on our 2020 farming season is minimized.
Finally, I want to thank the members of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 for all their hard work so far. Indeed, the patriotism shown in your work is exemplary and highly commendable.
Fellow Nigerians, I have no doubt that by working together and carefully following the rules, we shall get over this pandemic and emerge stronger in the end.
I thank you all for listening and may God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

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