The Rivers State Task Force on Street Trading, Illegal Markets and Motor Parks said no fewer than 30 of its operatives have been sacked over extortion and misconduct since the force was inaugurated, last year.
The Special Adviser to the Rivers State Governor and Coordinator of the Task Force, Hon Bright Amaewhule disclosed this, yesterday morning, when he appeared on a live radio programme in Port Harcourt monitored by The Tide.
Amaewhule, who was reacting to the death of a 75-year old bureau de change operator at the Rumuola axis of Port Harcourt, reiterated that his men were not responsible for the demise of the octogenarian.
He explained that he cannot be everywhere at the same time, but that the reports and complaints from members of the public have helped in the operations of the task force, just as he decried the attitude of some persons who have deliberately refused to obey extant laws of the state.
“We have measures in place to check activities of our men. I can tell you that so far, we have been able to flush out over 30 persons. I can tell you on good authority that those who have been found guilty of one offense or the other, even those who don’t operate with the vest and we confirm that you are a task force member we also discipline you.
“Many of them (task force operatives) have gone and with what is happening now, we are going to take other standard measures. Rivers people should not be afraid. We are not there to witch-hunt anybody, we are not there to just attack people unnecessarily,” he stated.
The governor’s aide, however, expressed worry that seven months after the inauguration of the task force, people still operate illegal markets and motor parks as well as the activities of street traders, but assured that nobody doing genuine business would be harassed by his men.
He further said, “This task force came on board in September, 2019, and upon setting up, we swung into action, and people have been commending our good works. What has been happening of recent is the people continued resistance to obey the law setting up the task force.
“You can’t believe that seven months into the existence of this task force, people are still operating illegal motor parks, still carry out illegal street trading, illegal markets and mechanics despite the efforts we are putting.
“But because of our determination to do what the law has asked us to do, people give us bad name. For us, all that is happening is because people don’t want to obey the law or do the right thing. Although I am the coordinator, but I cannot be everywhere at the same time.
“But the information I get from the public and passers-by helps me on how to also operate. I appreciate the fact that some people have been calling to say, ‘look, caution your people’ and I have noted that. We have been disciplining some of our members where we confirm that they were extorting money from people. We have sacked most of them.
“We have also sacked those who are not necessarily collecting money but who have been unnecessarily hard and very offensive to members of the public. We caution them, sometime, we suspend them for a period of a month, and when they return, they change.
“The important thing is that if you do the right thing, go to Rumuola, people are passing Rumuola freely. Why are we not going after those who are doing legitimate businesses? It is only those who are doing illegal business, as the law says that those who are operating illegally should be dislodged from those junctions or those areas, and that is what we are doing.
COVID-19: Churches Witness Low Turnout On Palm Sunday
Many churches witnessed low worshippers for the Palm Sunday service in Awka, the Anambra State capital, with most of them visited maintaining the required social distancing of no less than two meters for safety.
Across the state, most worship houses were monitored by priests on adherence to government directive while others worshipped online.
At St Peter’s Catholic Church, Nkwelle-Awka, worshipers attended the 6am service maintaining social distancing.
At St Faith’s Anglican Cathedral, a priest who preferred anonymity, was seen ensuring that worshipers used the hand sanitiser placed at the entrance of the church.
“All I am here to do is to make sure that everyone that comes here washes their hands and use this sanitiser,” he said.
At Dominion Chapel, Awka, fewer worshipers were seen entering the church devoid of the large turnout usually witnessed.
A worshipper, Anthony Eigbe, told newsmen that the low turnout was deliberate.
“Proper spacing of about two meters necessitated the low turnout for us not to go contrary to government directive.
Bishop Paulinus Ezeokafor of Awka Diocese of the Catholic Church, conducted the Palm Sunday service live on Anambra Broadcasting Service TV and radio stations for its numerous members to follow from their respective homes.
Similarly, Christians in parts of Kaduna State marked this year’s Palm Sunday in their homes because of the imposed curfew by the state government over the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Most churches in the state capital, including Barnawa, High Cost, Television, Romi, Sabo and Trikaniya, have remained closed in compliance with the government directive, while the residents marked services in their respective homes.
Pastor Femi Folorunsho of the Devine Life Church in Sabo told newsmen that the prevailing circumstances necessitated the need for everyone to observe self-isolation.
“We told our members to observe services in their homes knowing that God accepts worship irrespective of location,” he said.
Also, Rev. Fr. Christopher of St. Christopher’s Church at Romi, said specific prayers to mark the Holy Week and the Palm Sunday had been transmitted electronically to all Catholics while instructions stipulated compliance with government directive.
“Catholics all over the world will remain in their houses and mark the Palm Sunday as well as offer prayers for the healing of the Earth,” he said.
A resident of Barnawa area, Mr Thomas Ajiya, said considering the spike in COVID-19 cases in the state and the nation, it was only expedient that Christians mark the celebration of any kind at home.
“Bible says our bodies are the Temple of the Lord, as such, one must not have to be at the church building before God hears your prayers.
IPPIS: VCs Behind ASUU’s Opposition, FG Alleges
The Federal Government has accused vice-chancellors of public universities of being behind Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) action opposing the implementation of Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) in universities.
The government which likened ASUU’s opposition to the scheme as “Voice of Jacob and hand of Esau”, insisted that university lecturers were mere frontrunners for the vice-chancellors, who it said, wanted to thwart the implementation of the scheme in the university to cover up their age-long fraud.
But the government vowed that it was pressing ahead with the implementation of the scheme in the universities no matter the opposition by the university lecturers, saying time was up for their sponsors to be exposed through the system.
It claimed that it had uncovered monumental fraud in the employment of university staff by the vice-chancellors, saying it was computing the records to take necessary action.
The development, it said, necessitated its insistence that implementation of the IPPIS scheme must cover the university system contrary to strong resistance by ASUU.
The government, which claimed it had in its ongoing investigation, uncovered fraud where the university heads injected fictitious names of employees in the employment registers of their various institutions and used the same to draw money from it for long, expressed optimism that more than half of the nation’s public universities’ vice-chancellors would be found wanting in the act when the exercise is wrapped up.
“University vice-chancellors are behind this staunch opposition to the implementation of IPPIS scheme in universities. ASUU is just being used because they feel that as a strong union in the university, they are the only body that can stop the government from taking the programme into the university system,” a top management staff of the Federal Ministry of Education, said.
But he preferred his identity in secrecy because according to him, he was not given the mandate to go public on the issue.
“You think university lecturers would just ordinarily come out like that to oppose government’s mode of payment? What is their own? After all, they are mere employees of government,” he said.
He spoke further: “Vice-chancellors over the years have been engaging in employment rackets. All these years, they were just presenting the lists of their staff without government verifying the authenticity or otherwise. The IPPIS is about exposing them and they know the implications and that is why they are using lecturers to stop it so they can continue their old ways.
“But as a government, we are resolved to push ahead to the success of the scheme in the nation’s ivory towers no matter the position of ASUU and half of the vice-chancellors will not escape punishment,” he vowed.
All efforts made to get the reaction of ASUU failed as its President, Prof Biodun Ogunyemi, neither picked calls made to his known mobile lines nor responded to a text message sent.
It would be recalled that the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, Sonny Echono, had recent alleged massive corruption in the nation’s public varsities.
Echono said ASUU’s opposition to the IPPIS, was to cover the fraud being perpetrated in the universities, vowing that the government would not succumb to pressures from any quarter to drop implementation of the scheme in universities.
He had said: “I can tell you, there is massive fraud going on there. There is hardly any university that is an exception. We will not have the record for state universities but you can imagine if it is a pattern.
“It is not unique to universities, before IPPIS we were having similar problems in the public service.
“People will tell you, I have 1,000 staff but in real terms is only 500 that you have. In fact, when we now migrate to IPPIS, you are journalists, you should know that there were so many secret recruitment just to see how to put their names because of the gap.
“If you have been claiming 1,000 and you have only 500 names somebody would look at it and say where are these millions going to every year. Many have not been able to fill all the gaps because they also have some challenges.
“If you recruit somebody today, you cannot put him on the nominal roll two years ago. So if you ask them for the nominal roll three years ago, there are two things you can do, is either you give us the correct thing which will show that you didn’t have them or you go and put fake names there now and tell us that those people were there before but they left. And if you go and put fake people, this can be verified.
“The system check by the ICPC was launched by the President and it is in the public knowledge. In the report, they mentioned Constituency projects in National Assembly as a major source of fraud but our own it is the payroll system and Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) in universities.”
Three Nigerians Die Of COVID-19 In US
The Consul General of Nigeria in New York, Mr Benaoyagha Okoyen, has confirmed the death of three Nigerians from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the United States.
Okoyen made the announcement in a statement in New York on Saturday evening.
He said one of them, a doctor from Abia, contracted the virus while on duty in New York, the epicentre of the pandemic in the U.S.
The envoy identified the second person as 25-year-old Bassey Offiong, a final year Chemical Engineering student of Western Michigan University whose case has been reported by the Nigerian media.
Okoyen said: “It is regrettable to announce that three Nigerians have died of COVID-19 in the United States of America.
“The first case was a 60-year-old lady, Hajia Laila Abubakar Ali of Kano descent, who died on March 25, while receiving treatment at the Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx, New York.
”Secondly, 25-year-old Bassey Offiong from Calabar, a final year Chemical Engineering student of Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, died on Saturday, March 28, at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak.
“Unfortunately, the last case was a medical practitioner, Dr Caleb Anya, from Ohafia in Abia State.
“He died while rendering service to humanity on the forefront of the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic in New York on April 1.
“On behalf of the Consulate General of Nigeria in New York, I wish to extend our condolences to the families of the deceased Nigerians in this tragic circumstance.’’
The consul general saluted the sacrifice of medical personnel and other essential workers risking their lives on the frontline to save others.
“We are particularly very proud of Nigerian medical professionals in the USA who form part of the incredible workforce in the service of humanity at this time,’’ he added.
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