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COVID-19: NCDC Set To Increase Test Capacity To 1,500 Daily …As Confirmed Cases Of Coronavirus In Nigeria Rise To 139

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The Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, said, yesterday, that the centre would increase its capacity to test for the Coronavirus to 1,500 per day in the country.
Ihekweazu stated this at the Presidential Taskforce Briefing on COVID-19 in Abuja, yesterday.
He said the focus of NCDC efforts was to improve the number of people that could be tested for the disease.
He said: “Last week, we had the capacity to test 500 per day, by the end of this week we will be at 1000 a day.
“By next week, we are hoping to get to 1,500 a day.”
Ihekweazu, however, said that Nigerians need to reduce the demand side of the testing to those who really needed it.
He noted that the more the people force themselves into being tested, the less NCDC would have the capacity to test those who really need the screening.
In a related development, the Minister for Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, Sadiya Umar Farouq, said that the ministry was unrelenting in its school children feeding.
She said the ministry would liaise with the state governments to work out the modalities to know how to go about the programme, despite the stay-at-home directive.
Farouq also disclosed that the ministry has about 2.6 million poor and vulnerable households on its social register.
However, the Federal Government has said it will be reaching more than 11 million Nigerians with palliatives to cushion the harsh effects of the measures set to fight back outbreak of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Also, the government has said it will continue to increase capacity to test for cases of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) on weekly basis.
The Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouk, while reacting to questions, yesterday, at the daily media briefing by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 in Abuja, also disclosed that internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the North-East part of the country already received two months rations of relief materials.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian government has announced four new cases of COVID-19 in the country.
This brings the total number of cases so far confirmed on Tuesday to eight. Four cases were earlier confirmed Tuesday morning.
The total number of confirmed cases in the country is now 139 at the time of this report.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said of the four new cases reported in Nigeria, three are in the FCT and one in Lagos.
The public health agency said “as at 08:00 pm 31st March there are 139 confirmed cases of COVID19 reported in Nigeria. Nine have been discharged with two deaths.”
Of the eight new cases reported on Tuesday, so far, three are in Osun, three are in the FCT, one in Lagos and one in Ogun State.
It said all new cases have mild to moderate symptoms and are currently receiving care.
A breakdown of cases by states show that Lagos is the epicentre for the COVID-19 in Nigeria. Cases have also been on the rise in FCT, Osun and Oyo states.
Although there has been an increase in the number of cases across the country, more are expected in days to come.
The government has intensified contact tracing to identify those who have been in contact with persons who tested positive to COVID-19. They have also improved the testing capacity by adding more laboratories to the ones available.
This implies that more diagnosis would be carried out daily.
The Director-General of NCDC, Chikwe Ihekweazu, said in Abuja Tuesday that efforts are on to test more people for the virus.
“Last week we had the capacity to test 500 per day, by the end of this week we will be at 1000 a day.
“By next week we are hoping to get to 1500 a day,” he said.
Also, a multi-sectoral national emergency operations centre (EOC), activated at level 3, continues to coordinate the national response activities.

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Money We’re Spending On Cancer Hospital Justified -Wike

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The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has declared that the money his administration is spending on the Dr. Peter Odili Cancer and Cardiovascular Disease Diagnostic and Treatment Centre in the state is not a misplaced priority.
The governor made the assertion, yesterday, when he visited the project site at Rumuokuta in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area, to inspect the progress of work done already.
Wike said that no amount of money spent in putting in place facilities that will secure the health of all residents in the state will be considered a waste.
“I’m very happy that the money we have spent here is not a misplaced priority. The healthcare of our people is important to us.
“It will save the time people travel overseas for cancer treatment. I think it will be something every Nigerians will be happy with. Here will be like a tourist centre. It has helipad, and doctors’ quarters. In case of emergency, they will fly in helicopter to this place and doctors who stay here will attend to them.”
The governor explained that the State government decided to build doctors’ quarters within the precincts of the Cancer and Cardiovascular Disease Diagnostic and Treatment Centre so that no doctor will claim he is unable to attend to patients timely, particularly in emergency situations, because of distance of where he stays to the hospital.
The governor expressed satisfaction with the pace of work done in view of the gigantic nature of the project and the difficult topography that requires massive piling.
“We have confidence in Julius Berger and having come here today, I think they are on schedule. We are happy with the level of work.
“It’s not a job you must rush. They are taking their time to make sure they give the citizens of the state the best and to Nigerians in general.
“You knows it is a specialist hospital, the first of its kind in this country. We are quite comfortable and confident that by end of July 2022, they would have handed over this very important project to the State.”
The Regional Manager of Julius Berger Nigeria PLC, Juergen Fischer, said they are conscious of the promise they have made to the governor to deliver the project as agreed.
Already, he noted, the milestone achieved has surpassed what was initially expected because they have done ground piling and concluded the critical baseline underground structural work done.
“You can be sure that by the end of July as we promised his excellency, we will deliver this hospital. We are a little bit ahead of schedule even in the rainy season.”

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US Lawmakers Stop $875m Defence Equipment Sale To Nigeria

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The United States lawmakers are holding down a proposed sale of attack helicopters to Nigeria amid mounting concerns about President Muhammadu Buhari government’s human rights record as it grapples with multiple security crises.
US lawmakers on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have reportedly delayed clearing a proposed sale of 12 AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters and accompanying defence systems to the Nigerian military.
The deal is worth $875million, according to US officials and congressional aides familiar with the matter.
In addition to the helicopters, the proposed sale includes 28 helicopter engines produced by GE Aviation, 14 military-grade aircraft navigation systems made by Honeywell, and 2,000 advanced precision kill weapon systems—laser-guided rocket munitions, according to information sent by the State Department to Congress and reviewed by ‘Foreign Policy’ magazine.
A report by ‘Foreign Policy’, last Tuesday, said the behind-the-scenes controversy over the proposed arms sale illustrates a broader debate among Washington policymakers over how to balance national security with human rights objectives.
The hold on the sale also showcases how powerful US lawmakers want to push President Joseph Biden administration to rethink US relations with Nigeria amid overarching concerns that Buhari is drifting toward authoritarianism as his government is besieged by multiple security challenges, including the Boko Haram insurgency.
But Western governments and international human rights organisations have ramped up their criticisms of the Buhari regime, particularly in the wake of its ban on Twitter, systemic corruption issues, and the Nigerian military’s role in deadly crackdowns on #EndSARS protesters, last October.
The Chairperson of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Bob Menendez, called for a “fundamental rethink of the framework of our overall engagement” with Nigeria during a Senate hearing with US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken in June.
Both Menendez and Sen. Jim Risch, a top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, have placed a hold on the proposed arms sale, according to multiple US officials and congressional aides familiar with the matter, who spoke to ‘Foreign Policy’ on condition of anonymity.
The details on the proposed sale were first sent by the US State Department to Congress in January before then-former Vice President Joe Biden was inaugurated as president, according to officials familiar with the matter.
Nigeria has just received six out of the 12 Tucano jet fighters purchased from the US Government.
Some experts said the United States should hit the pause button on major defence sales until it makes a broader assessment of the extent to which corruption and mismanagement hobble the Nigerian military, and whether the military is doing enough to minimize civilian casualties in its campaign against Boko Haram and other violent insurrectionists.
Administration officials say they are tired of regular efforts by Capitol Hill to review arms sales to some countries.
“There doesn’t have to be a reason why we don’t provide weapons or equipment to the Nigerian military,” the Director of the Africa Programme at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank, Judd Devermont, said.
“But it has to be done with an assessment of how it will actually, one, change the direction of conflict in Nigeria, and, two, that they will use it consistent with our laws. In both cases, it’s either a question mark or a fail.
“There is a culture of impunity that exists around abuses by the military,” Nigeria researcher at Human Rights Watch, Anietie Ewang, said.
Ewang cited the Nigerian military’s killing of unarmed protesters during the massive #EndSARS demonstrations against police corruption and brutality last year as well as cases documented by human rights organizations of abuses in the military’s campaign against Boko Haram.
“I’m sure it’s a difficult situation. There are so many conflicts springing up across the country now,” Ewang said.
“The authorities, I presume, are trying to do the best they can to save lives and properties. But this must be done in accordance with human rights standards. You can’t throw one out just to be able to achieve the other.”

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Nigerians Waiting To Elect PDP In 2023, Atiku Claims

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The former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar says Nigerians are waiting eagerly for the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) to take over power at the federal level in 2023.
Speaking to journalists at the Rivers State Government House, Port Harcourt, yesterday, Atiku said his meeting with the state Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike was fruitful.
Atiku explained that party affairs brought him to Port Harcourt, and he had spent the time reconciling touching issues with the governor.
According to him, the issues bother on how to ensure unity and stability in the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), that are critical for the party in clinching electoral victory in 2003.
“Well, I came here to reconcile with the governor on party affairs and how we can ensure that there is unity and stability in the party, so, that we can take over government in 2023. I believe that Nigerians can’t wait for 2023 to come, so that PDP will return.”
Speaking on the current insecurity challenges that have overwhelmed the capability of the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led Federal Government, Atiku described the prevailing situation in the country as bad.
He urged Nigerians to wait for the appropriate time when PDP shall unveil its policies on how it wants to address the issue of insecurity across the country.
“I have never seen it (insecurity) this bad. I am 70 years plus, I have never seen it this bad in terms of security challenges, in terms of economy, in terms of unemployment. This is the worst.
“Why can’t you give us time? We will come up with our policies. We will present them to Nigerians when the time comes.
“We have done that before. Under PDP, we recorded the highest economic growth, the best foreign reserves, we reduced unemployment. You know that we can do it”.
The former vice president also acknowledged the tremendous leadership success recorded by Wike, who he described as a topmost governor among his peers in the party.
“I think he (Wike) is the topmost governor we have in the party. There is no doubt about that in terms of projects, youth empowerment and employment; in terms of security. Yes, we have security challenges all over the country.”
He further commended the governor for his outstanding leadership and sterling performance in office.

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