As part of measures to prevent the spread of Coronavirus codenamed COVID-19, the Rivers State Government says it is working with the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) to tighten surveillance at the domestic wing of the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa.
The state Commissioner for Health, Prof. Princewill Chike stated this during a live radio programme in Port Harcourt, monitored by The Tide in Port Harcourt, weekend.
Chike said the Rivers State Committee on Coronavirus Enlightenment was doing everything within its powers to ensure that all entry and exit points to the state are well checked.
According to him, “At the domestic wing, we want to also commence screening because we fear that the virus carriers may also come in through Lagos or Abuja routes. Passengers might disembark in Abuja or Lagos, and then take domestic flights to Port Harcourt.”
The commissioner said he was at the airport with the terminal managers and the zonal team that took him round to ensure that the appropriate preventive measures were in place, saying, “So, we don’t want to leave any stone unturned and our team is also ready”.
Chike also advised residents in the state to adopt extra caution to prevent the virus from entering Rivers State, and urged residents to adhere to simple personal hygiene and not panic.
“The state government is doing everything possible. It is not the time for fear but fact. We still encourage people to maintain high hygiene. Wash your hands severally with soap and water, and then, you also add alcohol-based sanitizers, then, the social distancing and coughing onto the flex arms of your elbow.
“As much as possible, reduce contact. If you can’t avoid handshake, in fact, you can give the person a beautiful smile from a distance, and then, continue. We are talking about you being alive and not contracting this virus.
“The airport is in the purview of the Federal Government but what we are doing is assisting and making sure the Port Health Service and our own medical surveillance teams are on the ground to make sure that these things are done. Like when we discovered one or two things that are not functional, we pointed it to them, and they have corrected that and made sure they are done,” the commissioner added.
Meanwhile, the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, has assured that the state government would proactively announce additional measures to check the scourge of Coronavirus pandemic in the state, today.
Addressing Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) delegates at the State Elective Congress in Port Harcourt, last Saturday, Wike said that the state government would continue to put appropriate public health safety measures in place to protect Rivers people.
The governor said: “By Monday, the state government will take additional measures to tackle the novel Coronavirus.
“It is important that we continue to take this matter very seriously. The mere fact that there is no confirmed case does not mean that we should relax.”
Wike explained that the state government had directed that precautionary measures must be taken before the state PDP Elective Congress was held.
According to him, “That is why we said that before any delegate is allowed to come inside the venue, he must have his/her temperature checked and hand sanitizer applied.
“We continue to pray that there will be no confirmed case in Rivers State”, Wike added.
Earlier, the Rivers State Government had ordered the closure of all schools in the state and directed religious organisations to restrict their activities as a result of the global novel Coronavirus pandemic.
In a state-wide broadcast, last Friday, the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike said that the action was taken in the interest of the state.
The closure affects public and private primary, secondary and tertiary institutions, effective today.
The governor stressed that, “Based on the above precautionary measures, the state can be described to be at an alert state. To further strengthen our resolve to protect our citizens, the state government has taken the following decisions: “All schools in the state are to be closed down with effect from Monday, March 23, 2020. All religious organisations are to restrict their activities.”
Wike explained that his administration took the decision with a deep sense of responsibility.
He said: “As you are aware, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has described Coronavirus as a global pandemic. This development calls for collective action by all well-meaning citizens.
“As a responsive government, even though we have not had a confirmed case of Coronavirus, we did not rest on our oars as we set-up a five-man inter-ministerial committee to carry out an aggressive public enlightenment that will protect all those living and doing business in the state from the disease.
“This decision was taken because we understand that we are the headquarters of the hydrocarbon industry and also a major commercial hub in the country that attracts people from all walks of life across all continents.”
The Rivers State governor noted that with actions taken, the state was alert to address any situation.
“The committee had since its inauguration carried out stakeholder engagement with Community Development Committees, religious groups, principals and head teachers of schools, traders’ association, National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), military, paramilitary, police, International Oil Companies (IOCs) and chairmen of local government councils under the auspices of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON).
“In addition to this, radio and television jingles, flyers and billboards have been fully utilised by the committee to pass the prevention message to all the nooks and crannies of the state.”
The governor added: “The state Ministry of Health has also been empowered to set up intervention resources: 158 surveillance and ad-hoc personnel have been trained. One treatment centre, holding centres in the two teaching hospitals and all general hospitals in the state are fully functional. All health workers, both private and public have been trained and briefed on infection control measures and appropriate use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), hand sanitizers have been procured, infrared thermometers have been procured, other commodities and equipment have been stockpiled, and we have redoubled surveillance at our airports, seaports, waterways and land routes.”
Wike pleaded for the understanding of Rivers people, adding, “My dear good people of Rivers State, as painful as these decisions may seem, it is a sacrifice we must make to protect ourselves in the face of recent developments.
“Let me assure all those resident in the state that the state government under my leadership is ready and willing to protect their lives at all times.
“May I, therefore, call for the understanding and collective support of all and sundry to keep our state safe from Coronavirus. Together, we shall win with God on our side”, Wike noted.
However, following the executive order by the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, for all schools to close, effective today, the state Commissioner for Education, Prof. Kaniye Ebeku has warned that any school that does not comply with the directive would be sanctioned.
Speaking during a press briefing, held last Friday, at the State Secretariat, Port Harcourt, to announce the setting up of an additional five-man committee to ensure compliance of schools to the governor’s order, Ebeku, pointed out that the immediate closure of all schools as directed by Chief Executive Officer of the state does not in any way confirm that there is any Coronavirus case in the state.
The education commissioner added that it was better to prepare for war than wait for the war to start before preparation.
Ebeku noted further that these are not good times in the world, reminding Rivers people that the World Health Organisation has already warned African countries to prepare for the worst, with increasing cases of the virus across many countries on the continent.
“With a deep sense of solemnity and responsibility, I must say that these are not good times for us. The scourge of the virus called COVID-19 is ravaging virtually all countries of the world, and WHO has warned African countries to prepare for the worst.
“Earlier today (Friday), the state Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, as a dynamic and responsible leader, had in a state-wide broadcast, announced that all schools in the state are to be closed with effect from Monday, March 23, 2020.
“This is the most painful, but necessary decision to protect the people of Rivers State, particularly our schools growing children from the pandemic, and the order of closure affects all schools, both public and private, and from primary to tertiary institutions.
“In furtherance to this decision, Chief Nyesom Wike has set-up a committee to monitor compliance with the order for closure of schools. I have also set-up a five-man committee which has been mandated to move round the state to ensure compliance,” Ebeku added.
Kaniye stated that in addition to the committee set-up by the Rivers State governor, he also set-up another follow-up committee to monitor compliance in order to ensure that any school that goes against the governor’s directive is sanctioned and the operational license retrieved from the school.
“For the avoidance of doubt, any private school that violates the order of closure will have its operating license withdrawn”, Ebeku warned.
On the issue of duration of the closure, the commissioner stated that the closure was indefinite for now, pending the seriousness or otherwise of the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic.
On the issue of allowing the pupils to finish their examinations, Ebeku explained that the government had agreed with school heads to ensure that all examinations were concluded before today.
Southern Govs Back Wike, Insist On VAT Collection …A’Court Urges Rivers To Submit Written Application For Receiver
Southern Governors met in Enugu, yesterday, and declared their support for Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, insisting that it is within their purview to collect the Value Added Tax (VAT).
This is coming amid row between the Rivers State Government and the Federal Government, a case that is now subject of litigation.
The governors also reaffirmed their stand on open-grazing ban, urging every state in the region to quickly pass a law to that regards.
The resolution by the Southern Governors Forum is part of the six-point communique reached at its meeting at the Government House, Enugu, Enugu State, and read by Chairman of the Forum and Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN.
The meeting of the Southern Governors Forum, which reviewed the state of the nation and the progress of the implementation of the decisions reached in its previous meetings, expressed satisfaction with the rate at which the states in Southern Nigeria were enacting and amending the anti-open grazing laws which allowed a uniform template and aspiration of Southern Governors, and encouraged the states that were yet to enact the law to do so expeditiously.
Reading the communique after the closed door meeting to journalists, Akeredolu said that the meeting reiterated its earlier position that the next President of Nigeria most come from the southern part of Nigeria, in line with politics of equity, justice and fairness.
According to the communique, the Southern Governors agreed to encourage the full operationalization of already agreed regional security outfit which will meet, share intelligence and collaborate to ensure the security and safety of the region.
Akeredolu opined that the meeting also reaffirmed its earlier commitment to stick to fiscal federalism as resolved at the inaugural meeting of the forum held on Tuesday, May 11, 2021, at Asaba, Delta State, and emphasize the need for the Southern States to leverage the legislative competence of their respective state Houses of Assembly, as well as representation in the National Assembly to pursue its inclusion in the Nigerian Constitution, through the ongoing constitutional amendment.
The communiqué, according to the forum’s chairman, expressed satisfaction with the array of issues around the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) and ownership of NNPC by the larger Nigerian Governors Forum.
The forum thanked the host Governor, IfeanyiUgwuanyi, and chose Rivers State as the next host for the Southern Governors Forum meeting in November, 2021.
Present at the meeting were Rivers StateGovernor, Chief NyesomWike; Delta StateGovernor, Dr.IfeanyiOkowa;AkwaIbom StateGovernor, Chief Emmanuel Udom; and Osun StateGovernor, IsiakaAdegboyegaOyetola.
Others were Enugu StateGovernor, IfeanyiUgwuanyi;Bayelsa StateGovernor, Senator DuoyeDiri;Lagos State Governor,BabajideSanwo-Olu; and Ogun State Governor,EngrOluwaseyiAbiodun.
The governors of Oyo, Ekiti, Edo, Imo, Abia, and Ebonyistates were represented by their deputies.
The communiqué read in full, “The Nigerian Southern Governors’ Forum at its meeting of Thursday, September 16, 2021 held in the Government House, Enuqu, Enugu State, reviewed the state or the nation and the progress of implementation of the decisions reached in her previous meetings and further resolved as follows:
“Expressed satisfaction with the rate at which the states in the Southern Nigeria are enacting or amending the Anti-Open Grazing Laws which align with the uniform template and aspiration of Southern Governors and encouraged the states that are yet to enact this law to do so expeditiously.
“Encouraged the full operationalization of already agreed regional security outfits; which would meet, share intelligence and collaborate, to ensure the security and safety of the region.
“Reaffirmed its earlier commitment to structural and fiscal federalism as resolved at the inaugural meeting of the Forum held on Tuesday, May 11, 2021 at Asaba, Delta State, and emphasized the need for the Southern States to leverage the legislative competence of their respective State Houses of Assembly as well as representation in the National assembly to pursue its inclusion in the Nigerian Constitution through the ongoing constitutional amendment.
“Following from paragraph 3 above, the meeting resolved to support the position that the collection of VAT falls within the powers of the states.
“Expressed satisfaction with the handling of issues around the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) and ownership of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) by the larger Nigerian Governors’ Forum.
“Reiterated their earlier position that the next President of Nigeria must come from the Southern part of Nigeria in line with politics of equity, justice and fairness.
“The forum thanked the host Governor, IfeanyiUgwuanyi, and chose Rivers State as the next host for the Southern Governors’ Forum meeting in November, 2021″.
However, the Court of Appeal, yesterday, declined to accede to the request of Rivers and Lagos states for the appointment of Receiver or Manager for the purpose of collecting and keeping Value Added Taxes (VAT) in place of the Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS) pending the resolution of all legal disputes in the matter.
The two states separately canvassed that the order of status quo ante bellum granted on September 10 in favour of FIRS to continue the collection be put on hold given the appeal already lodged at the Supreme Court against the order.
Counsel to Rivers State, IfedayoAdedipe, SAN, in his oral application, pleaded with the appellate body to exercise its power under Order 4 Rule 6 of the Court of Appeal to appoint a Receiver or Manager to take custody of the VAT in the interest of justice to parties in the matter.
The Attorney General of Lagos State, Mr MoyosoreOnigbanjo, SAN, who stood for his state, toed the path of Rivers in canvassing that the court be fair and just in the pending appeal.
Onigbanjo specifically asked the Appeal Court to restrain FIRS from further collecting the tax and replace it with a Receiver or Manager that would act for parties that are locked in the legal battle.
The Lagos Attorney General predicated his expressed fear of unjust treatment on the fact that FIRS apart from collecting the tax has been sharing it among the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) despite the pendency of the legal tussle.
“I think it is also necessary to restrain the FIRS, because they collect the VAT, distribute to all the states and keeps their own 4 per cent.
“If, at the end of the day, the court agrees with the judgment of the Federal High Court, how do we retrieve the funds that have been shared?”,Onigbanjo added.
The appeal by the FIRS is against August 9, 2021 judgment by Justice Steven Pam of the Federal High Court in Port-Harcourt, voiding the Value Added Tax (VAT) Act and holding that states could collect VAT.
Justice Haruna Simon Tsanami, who led a three-member panel, directed them to make the application formal by providing the necessary facts, including ascertaining the amount being collected as VAT.
Other members of the panel are Justices BatureGafai and Peter Affen.
Meanwhile, the court has reserved ruling on an application by Lagos State to be made a respondent in the appeal filed by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).
The court, after listening to arguments by lawyers to parties, yesterday, said they would be informed when the ruling was ready.
In arguing Lagos’ application, Onigbanjo (SAN) said his client was a necessary party as it would be affected by the outcome of the case.
He noted that, as a federating unit/state in Nigeria, Lagos was entitled to collect VAT by virtue of the judgment of the Federal High Court that annulled VAT Act.
Onigbanjo argued that even the appellant (the FIRS) recognised that Lagos State has an interest in the case, which he said, was evident in the affidavit it filed, wherein copious reference was made to the Lagos State Government.
He further argued that since FIRS, in an affidavit supporting its application for stay of the judgment, recognised the interest of the Lagos State Government in the case, “it cannot now turn around to say the Lagos State Government has no interest in this case and should not be joined. It cannot blow hot and cold or speak from both sides of its mouth.”
Onigbanjo also contended that it was unfair for the FIRS to oppose Lagos’ request to be heard in the case after making allegations against the state.
He added that even the court recognised the interest of Lagos State in the case when it extended its order on maintenance of status quo to Lagos State, which was not yet a party in the case.
Onigbanjo prayed the court to join his client as a respondent.
Adedipe adopted Onigbaajo’s argument, and urged the court to allow the application by Lagos State.
Following the observation by Onigbanjo that the written address filed by the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) was incompetent, the lawyer representing the AGF, TijaniGazali (SAN), withdrew the address, subsequent upon which the court struck it out.
Lawyer to FIRS, Mahmud Magaji (SAN), objected to the joinder application filed by Lagos State, arguing, among others, that the state was not a necessary party.
Magaji faulted the competence of the application, and urged the court to discountenance it.
On second thought, Magaji said if the court was willing to join Lagos; it should extend such indulgence to the other states of the federation.
Okonjo-Iweala Makes ‘TIME 100’
Nigerian-born Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has thanked the Duke of Sussex, Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan Markle, for the kind words they penned about her as she makes the TIME 100 list of The World’s Most Influential People.
The magazine has noted the globally-rated economist’s activities around the efforts to ensure that everyone on the planet earth gets vaccinated against any preventable disease for which there is a vaccine.
The ex-World Bank guru has been the Board Chair of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, since January 1, 2016.
Gavi has the goal of increasing access to immunization in poor countries.
Concerning the TIME entry, the Duke and the Duchess state, “What will it take to vaccinate the world? Unity, cooperation—and leaders like Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala”.
“As the first African and first woman to lead the World Trade Organization, a 164-member group of nations that oversees trade across the world, Okonjo-Iweala took on the role of director-general this March at a watershed moment for our global health and well-being. Make no mistake; her job affects every person, family and community.
“As we face a constant barrage of vaccine misinformation, bureaucratic slowdowns across both government and industry, and the rise of variants that underscore the urgency of the situation, Okonjo-Iweala has shown us that to end the pandemic, we must work together to equip every nation with equitable vaccine access.
“Our conversations with her have been as informative as they are energizing. This is partly because, despite the challenges, she knows how to get things done—even between those who don’t always agree—and does so with grace and a smile that warms the coldest of rooms.
“The fragility of our world right now cannot be overstated. Just over a quarter of the nearly 8 billion global population is fully vaccinated.
“Achieving vaccine equity is a global duty of compassion for one another. Our hope is that guided by strong leaders like Ngozi, we can get there soon”, they wrote.
Relocation Of Insurgents, Wake-Up Call, CAN Warns
The Chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Kaduna State Chapter, Revd Joseph Hayab, has described the alleged relocation of Boko Haram leaders to Southern Kaduna as a wake-up call on people of the area.
Hayabsaid that though the news of the alleged relocation was not new, government has not done enough to protect the people.
He claimed all the calls from voices of reason appeared not to have moved both the federal and state governments to rise to the occasion.
“The relocation of Boko Haram to Southern Kaduna is not new. Who are those that have been killing people indiscriminately in that area in the last few years? The church, SOKAPU and the people have been complaining about killings in Southern Kaduna but only fell on the deaf ear of those in authority.
“Therefore, the leaked document has simply confirmed our worries and shows that more days for killings of innocent citizens are coming unless the people take personal initiative to defend their lives and land. Our government has not done enough to convince us that they want to stop the killings going on all over the area.
“Now, we were being told that there is a leaked memo about Boko Haram when those in authority have always turned deaf ears to cries of our people when we complain about killers that people see every day. Boko Haram fleeing North-East to Southern Kaduna is simply a wake-up call for the Southern Kaduna people to rise to the occasion,” he said.
A leaked DSS memo had said insurgents were relocating from Sambisa forest in BornoState to Chikun LGA in Kaduna State.
The alert was in a leaked memo marked NSCDC/NHQ/INT&INVST/323/2021, dated September 9, 2021, and signed by the Acting Deputy Commandant-General of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Intelligence and Investigation, B.O. Bassey.
The DSS, therefore, asked the civil defence to be on the alert.
“It has been uncovered, plans by senior Boko Haram fighter, Ibrahim (FNU) alongside his foot soldiers relocating from ‘Sambisa Forest in Borno State to Rijana Forest in ChikunLocal Government Area of Kaduna State with a view to joining their counterpart under the leadership of one AdamuYunusu (aka Saddiqu).
“In light of the above, you are hereby directed to step up surveillance and intelligence gathering on the aforementioned areas and environs.”
Meanwhile, months after the crash involving a Nigerian Air Force (NAF) King Air 350 aircraft on May 21 at the Kaduna Civil Airport, Commissioner of the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), Akin Olateru, has submitted an interim report to the Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Amao, at his office at NAF Headquarters, Abuja.
After the crash, the CAS directed that a joint investigative body consisting of NAF safety officers and the AIB be constituted to investigate the causes.
A joint statement by the Director of Public Relations and Information, Air Commodore Edward Gabkwet, and General Manager, Public Affairs, AIB, TunjiOketunbi, revealed that at this interim stage, a total of 27 initial findings and eight safety recommendations were made for the convening authority as well as other aviation-related agencies for immediate implementation.
They further disclosed that it is expected that the final report would contain the flight data recorder readout, the reviewed operator’s and service provider’s standard operating procedures as well as other detailed analyses.
While receiving the report, the CAS reiterated the main essence of activating the ‘joint investigative’ clause contained in the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the NAF and the AIB on July 1, 2020.
He said successful collaboration is a clear indication of the potency of collaboration in aircraft accident investigation, which must be encouraged.
Similarly, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), has blamed Almajiri system in the North for the increasing cases of banditry, kidnapping, terrorism and armed robbery in the country.
The Chairman of CAN in Imo State, Rev. Eches Divine Eches, stated this in an interview with journalists in Abuja, ahead of the organisation’s 45th anniversary and Founder’s Day billed to hold today in Owerri, the Imo State capital.
According to him, banditry and kidnapping are increasing because the authorities have failed to pay more attention to the critical factors behind the widespread insecurity in the country.
Eches also expressed concern over Sheikh Ahmed Gumi’s links with the bandits terrorising the North-West region and the alleged helplessness of the government to arrest and caution him for his many ‘unguarded utterances’ about their activities.
He said, “You can’t have Almajiri system of life and government in the last 40 years in our nation bringing up people without any trace to families, hometowns or nationalities.
“They are scattered all over the street, without you knowing that someday they will leave the street and go to the bush where they will begin to do the trade of kidnapping.
“Also, you can’t, in any sane nation, have the likes of Gumi, a religious scholar, going about promoting banditry and you don’t think that this will continue. Yet, that is what we are seeing today. We are not seeing anything more than what we have planted.
“We allowed this thing (insecurity) to continue and it is now going to consume the nation, if drastic measures are not put in place to take them (Almajiri) out of the streets, give them a sense of belonging, put them in school, and help them realise their potentials.
“These bandits we find today were the Almajiri who used to be in front of our houses and begging for food.
“We are praying and that is why God is still sustaining our nation. I trust God will continue to sustain us in Jesus name.”
On CAN’s 45th anniversary of its Founder’s Day, Eches said the programme was necessary to remember the labour of past heroes, including over 250 retired church leaders and indigent youth and women who were weak.
“They retired church leaders laboured to bring to bear what we are enjoying and working on today.
“We thought it very necessary to remember the weak among us as most of them are passing through terrible times, especially in such a time as this in our nation.
“So, we thought it very important that we will use this 45th anniversary of our Founders’ Day to celebrate such a people and remember their labours, and say to them ‘you deserve to be celebrated’ both by cash and gift,” he said.
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