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SERAP Wants Transparency In Coronavirus Funds Spending

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The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Muhammadu Muhammadu to instruct the anti-graft agencies, EFCC and ICPC, to track and monitor spending by federal agencies and state governments on fighting the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria.
SERAP, in a letter to President Buhari posted on its Twitter handle, yesterday, said the monitoring will check mismanagement in the healthcare system, “that is already weakened by systemic corruption.
It said the EFCC and ICPC should ensure the prosecution of anyone found to have stolen public funds meant for addressing the Coronavirus pandemic.
SERAP also urged President Buhari to encourage state governors to use parts of their security votes to provide additional resources towards strengthening the health systems within their states.
The 36 state governors, under the platform of the Nigeria Governors Forum, last Wednesday, had asked the Minister for Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, to give them an estimate to set up functional test and isolation centres in every state in the country.
The full statement reads, “By prioritising transparency and accountability in the spending of funds to combat Coronavirus, your government will be taking preventive measures to ensure that the efforts to reduce the spread of the pandemic and promote the health and safety of Nigerians are not compromised by corruption.
“Concerned that systemic corruption in the health sector across the country would hurt the federal and state authorities’ responses to the Coronavirus crisis.”
“The challenges posed by the Coronavirus pandemic also show the urgent need for your government to improve Nigeria’s health systems and to encourage state governors to commit some parts of their security votes to provide additional resources towards strengthening the health systems within their states.
“Your government ought to move swiftly to increase spending on efforts to combat Coronavirus in the country and provide funding support to Nigerians that are most affected by the crisis, by presenting COVID-19 budget/spending plan to the National Assembly and setting up a COVID-19 trust fund to which wealthy individuals and others should be encouraged to contribute.
“The proposed increase in spending of funds on COVID-19 means accountability for those funds should be top of your government’s list of priorities, if it is to remove opportunities for corruption that can undermine initiatives to stop the spread of COVID-19.
“The EFCC and ICPC should ensure that anyone found to have mismanaged or stolen public funds meant for addressing the Coronavirus pandemic are effectively prosecuted and punished.
“We also urge you to take urgent measures to ensure that health sector services in federal institutions and agencies are strengthened and that the appropriate corruption risk assessments are implemented and monitored.
“The lessons from the Ebola crisis are that even in times of public emergencies, there are those who aim to profit from others most affected by the crisis.
“Monitoring the spending on Coronavirus would help to apply the lessons of the Ebola crisis and prevent corruption, which characterised the efforts to combat it in some countries including in Sierra Leone and Liberia, where patients reportedly paid bribes to access health services.
“Corruption in the spending of funds to combat Coronavirus will undermine public trust in any efforts by your government to bring the spread of the pandemic under control, and deny access to basic public health services to Nigerians who need the services most.
“Monitoring the spending of public funds budgeted to combat Coronavirus would also ensure respect for human rights and contribute to ensuring that Nigerians who cannot afford to pay bribes are not denied access to testing and treatment, and that high-ranking officials and wealthy individuals subject to quarantines are not abusing the systems.
“We will continue to closely monitor the situation and where appropriate invoke the Freedom of Information Act and take legal action to ensure transparency and accountability, and full respect for Nigerians’ human rights.
“The right to health provides that health facilities, goods, and services should be: available in sufficient quantity, accessible to everyone without discrimination, and affordable for all, especially the most vulnerable and marginalized groups.
“These obligations mean that your government should ensure that accurate and up-to-date information about the number of identified cases and spread of Coronavirus in the country, access to services, service disruptions, and other aspects of the response to the outbreak is widely available and accessible to all.
“The right to health also imposes obligations on your government to minimize the risk of occupational accidents and diseases including by ensuring health workers and others involved in the Coronavirus response have information and adequate protective clothing and equipment they need.
“This request is consistent with Nigeria’s international anti-corruption and human rights obligations including under the UN Convention against Corruption, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Nigeria has ratified these treaties.
“Under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, everyone has the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.
“Your government is obligated to take effective steps for the prevention, treatment and control of epidemic, endemic, occupational and other diseases.
“As the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which monitors state compliance with the covenant, has stated, the right to health is closely related to and dependent upon the realization of other human rights, including the rights to food, education, human dignity, life, non-discrimination, equality, and access to information.”

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Shell Donates Subsea Training Facilities To UNIPORT

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The Nigeria deep-water arm of global energy giant, Shell, has donated multimillion naira laboratory equipment and software packages to the Offshore Technology Institute of the University of Port Harcourt as part of the company’s Nigerian content human capital development programme delivered in collaboration with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
Speaking at a ceremony to hand over the facilities to the university, last Thursday, Managing Director, Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company Limited (SNEPCo), Mrs. Elohor Aiboni, said, “The donations are aimed at strengthening advanced practical teaching and research in subsea engineering to give the students the required skills and competences for entry level jobs in the oil and gas industry”.
The facilities, valued at over $700,000, are in alignment with the Human Capacity Development Guideline of the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB).
Aiboni, represented by SNEPCo’s Social Investment Manager, Dr. Gloria Udoh, expressed optimism that with the level of investment by NNPC and SNEPCo in deep-water training via the establishment centres of excellence and donation of cutting-edge information and communication technology centres, among others, Nigerian oil and gas industry would surpass its local content aspiration earlier than projected.
“This investment anchored on the maintenance of subsea infrastructure on Nigeria’s pioneer deep offshore field, Bonga, is expected to develop and upskill the cognitive and technical abilities of students who pass through the Offshore Technology Institute for the ultimate benefit of our industry and of our country,” Aiboni added.
With the new laboratory and software packages, according to Aiboni, the Offshore Technology Institute is positioned to deliver effective training in engineering design; construction and installation of offshore and subsea structures; computer simulations; civil and construction tests; 3D printing/engravement capability; Measurement/Metering Technology and Robotics; Alternative Energy Technologies; and Data Acquisition Learning System.
In his remarks, Vice Chancellor, University of Port Harcourt, Prof. Onwunari Georgewill, commended NNPC and SNEPCo with its co-venture partners for their goodwill to the university and particularly to OTI, and canvassed more areas of collaboration between the university and its industry partners.
Georgewell said, “This project’s completion is timely because it latches on to the university’s leadership philosophy, which focuses on advancing education through an integrated learning environment to produce industry-ready university graduates and workforce.
“The current administration of the university places a lot of emphasis on university and industry collaboration and partnership. This donation will therefore enhance the achievement of the postgraduate degree-awarding Offshore Technological Institute in the practical context.”
Also speaking, Executive Secretary of NCDMB, Mr. Simbi Wabote, described the human capital initiatives of SNEPCo as commendable.
Wabote added, “I commend your remarkable and consistent collaboration and partnership with the NCDMB towards the development of in-country capacities and capabilities.”
Represented by NCDMB General Manager, Corporate Service and Logistics, Mr Halilu Abdulmalik, Wabote said, “Your Nigerian content initiatives are consistent with the objectives and aspirations of NCDMB’s 10-year strategic roadmap, and we hope that necessary adjustments will be made to the curriculum to ensure optimal utilization by students in the university community.”

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Obasanjo, Osinbajo, Wike, Others Bag CAN Awards

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Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Senator Rochas Okorocha, Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, Emeritus Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Cardinal John Onaiyekan, and Mummy Esther Ajayi, were among prominent Nigerians who received awards at the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Sapphire awards in Abuja, last weekend.
Others, including Pastor Enoch Adeboye, Cardinal Olubunmi Okogie, and Chief Arthur Eze, also received awards at the event; while the kidnapped Dapchi school, Leah Sharibu, won in the Young Christian Achiever award category.
Former Head of State, Yakubu Gowon, and Goodluck Jonathan, Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustafa, and some Christian governors, serving and past National Assembly members bagged awards.
The awards were part of activities for CAN’s 45th Anniversary Sapphire Celebration Dinner and Award Night.
Earlier in his welcome address, CAN National President, Rev. Samson Ayokunle, had said that the gathering was to celebrate 45 years of the church in Nigeria.
He said that Governance Category awards were for Christians in politics who had shown excellent and remarkable services.
“These include past presidents, serving governors and senators in our assessment that deserve such award.
“An award ceremony is applause of vision, personal discipline and determination; it is an event like this that makes people feel that their works are valued.
“The award is a catalyst that is expected to reinforce the awardees to serve humanity more and more,’’ he said.
The CAN president said it was heart breaking that majority of those in Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps were Christians who were displaced by religious fanatics, bandits and gunmen in their territories.
He solicited the awardees’ financial support in fulfilling some of CAN’s obligations to fellow Christians and bringing to fruition the association’s projects.
Obasanjo, who was represented by the Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Boss Mustapha, was the special guest of honour at the awards.
Obasanjo said that the award was significant in that it would encourage other citizens to serve humanity, adding “I will continue to do the best I can to uphold the principles of justice, love, equity, mutual respect, industry and the fear of God which epitomise the church of Christ until there’s no breath left in me.”
While showing appreciation to CAN on behalf of all the award recipients, VP Osinbajo said Nigerians needed to be more tolerant of other people’s views.
The vice president dedicated the award to those who, daily in different locations, distant and near, propagated the message of the love and reconciliation of the gospel of Jesus Christ, sometimes in difficult and life-threatening situations.
He said that the awardees were not necessarily the most deserving of Christians to be given any recognition but by the special grace of God which placed them in the high capacity they served.
He said, “As we have seen in the past few years, there’s a growing ethnic and religious chauvinism, and almost intemperate, vehement and violent dismissal of the views of people of other persuasions and faith without adequate consideration.
“At the same time, there is also the rise of cultural and identity politics. The answer to hate and intolerance and conflicts is the gospel of Jesus Christ. We must believe enough in it, to live it out as our article of faith.
“The gospel commands consideration of the views of others, treating them we would wish to be treated. Our words must be of grace, seasoned with salt.
“We must remain constant and relentless advocates of freedom of worship, respect for human rights, fairness, justice, rule of law because they are fundamental to peace and security. We cannot talk of peace and security without fairness and justice, and compliance with the rule of law.
“We are in the advantageous position that our contribution will be more easily noticed.
“So, this award is dedicated to the men who, daily in different locations, distant and near propagate this message of the love and reconciliation of the gospel of Jesus Christ in sometimes even difficult and life-threatening situations.
“And to many who have suffered deprivations, the families of those who have lost their lives by reason of their belief.
“And we are deeply grateful to the Almighty God for the opportunity and enablement to serve in the positions to which we have been referred.
“I bring, also, the very warm felicitations of the President Muhammadu Buhari and the Federal Government of Nigeria on the 45th anniversary of the birth of this foremost association of Nigerian Christians.
“CAN was formed to, among other objectives, nurture the unity of the church in Nigeria and to work with the leaders of other faith and persuasions to build bridges and forge understanding, peace and unity among the various people and faith in our nation.
“CAN has not only been continually faithful to its founding vision, it has become a veritable force for peace, for unity and for social justice.
“Pursuant to the gospel, CAN has consistently spoken up on behalf of the least of those in our society,’’ he said.
He said that the current and past leaderships of CAN had acted in full realiasation and recognition of their roles as pivotal stakeholders alongside the government and private sector in nation building.
Earlier, Senator Rochas Okorocha, who noted the dire financial condition of the umbrella Christian organisation in the country, advised clerics to tone down their criticism of those in authority.
He said, “I just want to caution some Christian pastors concerning the way we use our pulpit and the kind of fire of insults and abuses that comes from there. When you abuse those who will give you money where will you get the money.
“The Bible says to pray for those in authority. You need to draw your leaders close. When you draw us closer and tell us what your problems are, it will energise us to help. Money will flow more than you need.”
Also, Imam Abubakar Abdullahi, who sheltered no fewer than 200 Christians in Barkin Ladi, Plateau, during an attack, was presented with the Special Recognition award.
The late Obadiah Mailafia, former CBN Deputy Governor, was given a post-humous award of Spokesperson for Oppressed alongside Matthew Kukah, Bishop of Catholic Diocese of Sokoto and Human Rights Lawyer, Femi Falana.
Awards were also given to best candidates in the 2020 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination and Senior School Certificate Examination.
Highlight of the event was the cutting of the anniversary cake.

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Bandits Free 10 More Kaduna Baptist Students, Keep 11

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The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), yesterday, confirmed that 10 more students of Bethel Baptist School in Kaduna State have been released.
The Vice President of CAN (19 Northern States and Abuja) and its Chairman in Kaduna State, Rev. Joseph John Hayab, said this in a short WhatsApp message to newsmen.
He said, “Ten more students of Baptist High School were released this afternoon. We have 11 now with bandits.
“We are thanking all Nigerians for their prayers and support.
“We are trusting God that the rest will be released very soon. All have been reunited with their parents.”
Earlier, 10 students of Bethel Baptist School in Kaduna were released on Saturday, September 18, after spending 74 days captivity of terrorists, with 22 others still being held.
Hayab had said, “10 students were released this (Saturday) evening and have reunited with their parents. We are now hoping for the remaining 21 who are still with the bandits.”

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