Former military Head of State, Gen Ibrahim Babangida (rtd), ex-Presidents Goodluck Jonathan, Alhaji Shehu Shagari and Chief Ernest Shonekan, were conspicuously absent at yesterday’s Council of States meeting at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
This is as the Senate President Bukola Saraki was hailed on arrival by the Sokoto State Governor, Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal as he sauntered into the venue of the meeting.
As at the time the meeting started few minutes after 11am before journalists left the venue, only three former Presidents, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, retired Generals Yakubu Gowon and Abdulsalami Abubakar were at the venue alongside President Muhammadu Buhari.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo arrived after the national anthem and the opening prayers were said.
The meeting was the third Council of States meeting held under the democratic administration of President Buhari.
The Council of States meeting is always attended by former Presidents or Head of States, serving and former Chief Justices of Nigeria (CJNs), serving Senate President and Speaker, House of Representatives as well as State Governors.
Aside President Buhari and the three other past presidents, the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, Senate President, Bukola Saraki and four former Chief Justices of Nigeria were seated at the Council Chamber, the venue.
The past four CJNs present were Idris Kutigi, Alfa Balgore, Mariam Aloma Muktar and Mohammed Uwais, while the serving CJN, Walter Onnoghen was absent, though unconfirmed report has it that the serving CJN was not a member of the Council of States.
Also absent as at the commencement of the meeting was the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Yakubu Dogara.
Others also present at the meeting included state Governors of Adamawa, Benue, Kebbi, Jigawa, Delta, Lagos, Nasarawa, Abia, Sokoto, Imo, Bauchi, Akwa Ibom, Kano, Plateau, Ogun, Rivers, Zamfara, Ebonyi, Kaduna.
The meeting started when President Muhammadu Buhari arrived the Council Chamber, venue of the meeting, and went round to shake hands with those present.
The first meeting under Buhari was held on October 21, 2015, while the second was held in September, 2016.
The National Council of State is chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari, with Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo as deputy chairman.
The opening prayers were said by Gowon and Uwais, respectively.
The meeting focused on issues of insecurity in the country as well as the coming elections in 2019.
Officials from Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) also attended to brief the council on preparations ahead for the 2019 elections.
Obasanjo, who was five minutes late, rushed when a minute silence was being observed in honour of the late former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Dahiru Musdapher.
He then went straight to shake hands with Buhari, Senate President, Bukola Saraki and Abdulsalami Abubakar, before taking his seat.
The deputy governors of Bayelsa and Enugu also attended the meeting.
The Council of State is an organ of the Federal Government saddled with the responsibility of advising the executive on policy making.
Its duties include advising the president in the exercise of his powers with respect to the National population census and compilation, publication and keeping of records and other information concerning the same; prerogative of mercy; award of national honours; the Independent National Electoral Commission (including the appointment of members of that Commission); the National Judicial Council (including the appointment of the members, other than ex-officio members of that Council); the National Population Commission (including the appointment of members of that Commission).
The council also advises the president whenever requested to do so on the maintenance of public order and on such other matters as the he may direct.
It was gathered that the hailing of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki by the Sokoto State governor may not be unconnected with the recent removal of the Chairman of Northern Governors’ Forum, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, last Wednesday, by majority of senators from the North, and his replacement with Senator Aliyu Wammako, former governor of Sokoto State.
Fashola Faults ‘Coat Of Arms’ Display On National Flag
Former Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, has cautioned Nigerians from inscribing the coat of arms on the national flag, saying doing so is a misuse of the national colours.
Fashola said this on Monday, during a live appearance on Channels Television’s Empowering Tomorrow: A New Vision for Nigeria, a special programme on the 63rd anniversary of Nigeria’s independence celebrated annually on October 1.
“Just this afternoon, I was asked to hoist a flag of Nigeria. By the time the flag unfurled, I saw that there was a coat of arms in the middle and I whispered to my host that ‘this is not the flag of Nigeria’. Nigeria’s flag does not have a coat of arms in the middle. It is green, white, and green”, Fashola said.
The former minister also said that Nigerians should pay attention to “some of the small things that matter”, adding that national symbols are to be rendered during recognised events for the country at large.
“When I was in primary school, these were the symbolisms of those Independence Day parades, Children’s Day parades, and this was how we were taught to stand up or maintain our position whenever we heard Nigeria’s national anthem being rendered,” Fashola said.
“You sit today and you shudder in your skin what happens today, what people have been taught when the national anthem is rendered”, he added.
The former governor of Lagos also spoke out against the rendition of the national anthem “at every little event”, including when the president appears at a social event, saying it is to be sung as the symbol of the country’s sovereignty.
“I have had cause to ask people not to sing the anthem for me, either as governor or minister, because I’m not a sovereign. It’s a projection of our minds,” he said.
“These are, for me, the important things to talk about and that’s why I say this anniversary provides an opportunity for reflection and, indeed, inflection”, Fashola added.
NCDC Records 1,968 Lassa Fever Cases In 28 States
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) has registered 1,068 Lassa fever infections across 112 local government areas in 28 states of the federation.
The NCDC said this yesterday, via its official website in its Lassa Fever Situation Report for Week 37 (September 11 -17, 2023).
The centre indicated that 75 percent of the cases were detected in Ondo, Edo, and Bauchi states.
Lassa fever is a viral hemorrhagic fever caused by the Lassa virus. It is primarily found in West Africa, particularly in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and Nigeria.
The virus is transmitted to humans through contact with the urine or feces of infected rodents, specifically the multimammate rat.
According to the NCDC, there are currently 7,352 individuals with suspected cases and the infection has resulted in the unfortunate loss of at least 181 lives in the country.
The centre said that the case-fatality ratio of the infection stood at 16.9 percent.
“Cumulatively from week 1 to week 37, 2023, 181 deaths have been reported with a case fatality rate of 16.9 percent which is lower than the CFR for the same period in 2022 (19.1 percent).
“In total for 2023, 28 States have recorded at least one confirmed case across 112 local government areas.
“Seventy-five percent of all confirmed Lassa fever cases were reported from these three states (Ondo, Edo, and Bauchi) while 25 percent were reported from 25 states with confirmed Lassa fever cases.
“Of the 75 percent confirmed cases, Ondo reported 35 percent, Edo 29 percent, and Bauchi 11 percent.
“The predominant age group affected is 21-30 years (Range: 1 to 93 years, Median Age: 32 years).
“The male-to-female ratio for confirmed cases is 1:0.9. The number of suspected cases increased compared to that reported for the same period in 2022,” it said.
It said that in 2023, Lassa fever infected 49 healthcare workers across the country.
The agency said that the National Lassa Fever Multi-partner, Multi-sectoral Emergency Operations Centre had been activated to coordinate the response activities at all levels.
It added that prevention of Lassa fever involves avoiding contact with rodents and their droppings, practising good personal hygiene and taking precautions when caring for infected individuals.
The NCDC said that early diagnosis and prompt medical care are crucial in managing the disease and preventing complications.
Army Orders Investigation Into Allegation Of Troops’ Poor Feeding
The Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt.-Gen. Taoreed Lagbaja, has ordered an investigation into an allegation of poor feeding of frontline troops in the North East Theatre of Operations.
The Director, Army Public Relations, Brig.-Gen. Onyema Nwachukwu, made this known in a statement in Abuja, yesterday.
Nwachukwu said that the welfare of troops had been given premium by the present leadership of the Nigerian Army and was one of the vital pillars of the COAS Command Philosophy targeted at motivating the Force.
“The Nigerian army therefore takes these allegations very seriously and COAS has directed immediate investigation into the complaints to ascertain its veracity and unravel the circumstances,” the army spokesman said.
Nwachukwu assured the public and all army personnel that a thorough investigation would be conducted to get to the bottom of the claims.
He said the Nigerian army had always prioritised the welfare of troops, including their nutrition, adding that it has a comprehensive feeding system for troops, especially those serving at the frontline.
“We, however, acknowledge that there may be isolated incidents where lapses occur, and we are determined to squarely address them.
“An internal investigation has already been initiated to ascertain the truth behind these allegations.
“We will thoroughly examine the supply chain, the quality of food provided, and any other factors that may have contributed to this situation,” he said.
Nwachukwu stressed that the Nigerian army remained committed to transparency and accountability, and would not condone any form of negligence or misconduct.
“If any culpability is detected, it will attract appropriate disciplinary action and immediate corrective measures to ensure that such incidents do not recur in the future,” he assured.
Nwachukwu called on Army personnel to report any grievances or concerns they might have regarding their feeding arrangements through the established channels for feedback, assuring that prompt action would be taken to address any legitimate complaints.
He said that the Army would continue to be resolute in the fight against insurgency and other security challenges, and would ensure that its soldiers were provided with the necessary support and care to carry out their duties effectively.
“We are committed to ensuring that our troops are well-fed, motivated, and equipped to defend our nation,” he added.
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