The Rivers State Government has insisted that there is no case of Coronavirus in any part of the state, describing claims of the disease in the state as the handiwork of mischief makers.
The state Commissioner for Information and Communications, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim stated this at a special live radio programme in Port Harcourt, monitored by The Tide, yesterday.
This is as the Rivers State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Princewill Chike, who was also at the live programme, said it is embarrassing when people carry information and twist it the way it suits them, noting that those behind the false report neither mean well for Rivers State, nor Rivers people or Nigeria.
Both Nsirim and Chike were reacting to report in the social media which went viral recently alluding to the fact that Coronavirus is now in Rivers State, specifically claiming that a patient referred from a private facility called ‘Prime Medical Centre’ to the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH) is a confirmed case.
The Tide confirmed, yesterday, that the management of Prime Medical Centre in Eliada Estate, Rumuogba, had dismissed the claim as false, describing the rumuor as the handiwork of mischief makers, and fake news purveyors.
In a statement, yesterday, titled, “Public Information on COVID-19 Rumuors”, signed by the Clinical Director, Dr Gabriel Ominyi, Prime Medical Consultants, said that the rumour was “a gross mis-representation” of the fact, adding that “The said patient presented to us requested to be tested for COVID-19. Since we do not have the required equipment for conducting the test, we referred him to the Public Health Department of UPTH where the test could be arranged for him. It is, therefore, not a case of us making a diagnosis of COVID-19, and sending him to the teaching hospital as purported in that post.
“We have a protocol in place for identifying suspected cases, and what to do if we suspect a case”, the clinical director added.
Further clarifying the issue, Chike said, “That information is wrong and it is not correct. In every profession, there is what we call protocol and ways issues are done. Wherever such information came from, whoever posted it does not mean well for Rivers people, Rivers State and does not mean well for Nigeria.
“If you recall the issue of Coronavirus disease was first reported in January, 2020. But the World Health Organization (WHO) did not declare it a pandemic until yesterday (Wednesday), March 11, 2020. There was a time lag. Certain protocols are followed, certain protocols are observed, certain protocols are put in place before you take certain decisions in every profession. The medical profession is not an exception.
“The medical profession is a very discipline profession. If I hear information, I must confirm before I make the diagnosis. Let us come to think of it, the protocols which we have advised all medical facilities in the state is if you notice and you suspect, the normal teaching is you send to any teaching hospital in the state. Maybe, the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital or Rivers State University Teaching Hospital.
“From that spot, the Rapid Response Team of Rivers State Ministry of Health, the Emergency Operation Centre is on alert 24hours, and they will come and take off from there. There are certain things we look at before we make such diagnosis, there are certain things we look at before we say ‘yes’ this is this.
“Let us take the index case that came to Nigeria in Lagos. Up till now, have you seen Lagos State Government going from bed to bed and showing the face of the man? There are certain discipline, until you prove that it is positive, you cannot say it is positive because the communication Rivers State Ministry of Health has with emergency operation and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, we have information 24hours and our personnel are 24hours receiving and sending information because it is key to what we are doing.
“So, when a patient is suspected in any private or public sector hospital, that protocol must be followed, and then, from there, you take over. From that time the Ministry of Health was informed, we went in and everything has been done. This patient they are making noise and saying stories about may even be healthier than some of us here.
“But we did not keep our oars down because the state we are in Rivers State we are at alert phase. In alert phase, it is like you suspect armed robbers are coming into your territory. The people at the checkpoint are at more alert to check through everything, to search through before they say anything.
“So, the Ministry of Health has done what it is supposed to do. This so-called star case, we have collected samples, and now, kept them on hold. When the result comes, if it is positive, we will tell the public.
“But for now, I don’t think there is any cause for alarm. We still insist that the preventive measures be put in place. Every school, for example, should have enough water and soap or sanitisers for the children and teachers to wash their hands,” Chike advised.
Similarly, Paulinus Nsirim said, “You cannot talk about COVIC-19 as a medical practitioner without evidence, and like the health commissioner explained, the protocol to establish that is known by every medical practitioner.
“So, if a medical practitioner worth his salt will go and make that categorical statement about such a matter, then, we begin to question where the person got his certificate. What has happened now is that some people who want to cause mischief, and then, throw panic into the state are trying to make this case look as if there is a virus that is circulating in Rivers State.
“We want to make it clear to everybody living and doing business in Rivers State that yes, somebody was sent to teaching hospital, but that does not mean that the person has a virus. And until the protocol, like the health commissioner has explained, has been thoroughly established and examined, then, Rivers State Government will not make a categorical statement.
“What has happened in Lagos State is an index case, and we have all been following the trend of what happened there. Lagos did not just come and announced that somebody has contracted the virus until this protocol was followed before even the Federal Government had to also intervene.
“So, the Rivers State Government is in contact with the Federal Ministry of Health and the National Centre for Disease Control, and the Health Ministry here (Rivers State) is prepared to do what it takes to ensure that if something like that happens, Rivers people will know.
“But for now, that information circulating in the social media is not correct. Those living and doing business in Rivers State should discountenance the information from the social media. Somebody who goes to the social media to begin to talk about COVID-19, first does not even understand the protocol.
“He does not also understand the gravity of what he is doing to create panic in the system. Just to let you know, the Rivers State Government is desirous in ensuring preventive measures are kept to the required level,” the state government spokesman said.
Meanwhile, the Rivers State Government said it has increased surveillance at all land borders and entry points into the state as part of measures to prevent the dreaded Coronavirus.
The state Commissioner for Health, Prof. Princewill Chike stated this during a live radio programme in Port Harcourt monitored by The Tide.
Chike said though no case of the COVID-19 has been recorded in the state, the Ministry of Health has alerted its rapid response team and its emergency response centre as part of proactive measures since the first case of the disease was recorded in China.
He also disclosed that the Rivers State Government has already mapped out an ad-hoc treatment centre for any case of COVID-19, noting that the pandemic was not something you fold your hands and watch, saying, “Rivers State has been proactive since the index case in China. We have tried to beef up our activities in corroboration with the Federal Ministry of Health and the Ports Health.”
Chike added, “You know we have the international airport and the sea ports. So, what we have done is try to work hand-in-hand with them. But as par arrangements and preparations for the state, these are what we are doing. Already, you know we have had cases of Ebola, Lassa fever, monkey pox previously, and with that experience, we have already put in place the necessary precautionary measures in case of any incident. First, there are areas of entry point into Rivers State.
“We have the land routes, the sea routes and the airport areas. The land routes: we have through the Bayelsa axis, we have the Imo axis; we have the Abia axis; and the Akwa Ibom axis as well. So, in these areas, what the ministry has done is to arrange and set up our contact men so that we will be able to identify, at least, any case that comes from these directions.
“Then, from the airport area together with the Federal Ministry of Health and the Port Health have been arranged and working together. As the flights come in, we know the high density areas where the pandemic has already come on and the areas where it has not come on.
“So, depending on where the flights are coming from, what we now do is we arrange ourselves and make sure our men are there to ensure that they identify and handle any case that comes up,” he stated.
Chike also said surveillance at the Port Harcourt International Airport was at high alert together with the multiple screening, the in-flight assessment and tarmac cameras aimed at detecting any suspected case early enough.
“There is also secondary screening of selected passengers in line with international protocol. Any symptomatic travellers from impacted areas coming into the country through our international airport, we do first of all place on self-isolation for maximum incubation period in case there is anything we suspect.
“We make contact with the Ports Health Services team in case of anything they suspect and also make contact with the Navy too in case of ships (vessels coming from impacted areas) so that they can intercept them from the sea and prevent them from coming close to the state.
“Together with the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), our surveillance team is at high alert in all entry points because of this COVID-19. We have already made contacts with the teaching hospitals in the state. I can tell you authoritatively that the Rivers State Government has already mapped out an ad-hoc treatment centre for COVID-19 and the State Response Mechanism.
“We are working with the NCDC, and the State Response Team has already prepared. The Rivers State Government has provided sufficient amount of commodities, especially Protective Personal Equipment (PPE) and supportive drugs for therapeutic intervention in case of any challenge, and making same available to areas at risk and needs,” he stated.
In related development, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has declares Coronavirus a pandemic, the Rivers State Government has set up a five-man Executive Council Committee to carry out aggressive public enlightenment and awareness measures to prevent the dreaded virus from infecting anybody in the state.
The state Commissioner for Information and Communications, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim, disclosed this while briefing newsmen after the State Executive Council meeting, in Government House, Port Harcourt, yesterday.
Nsirim said: “As a responsive government, the Rivers State Executive Council, chaired by the Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, today (yesterday), in a meeting, reviewed this global problem and set up a five-man Executive Committee to carry out an aggressive public enlightenment and awareness on preventive measures”.
“Members of the committee include, Commissioner for Information and Communications, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim, who is the chairman; Commissioner for Health, Prof Chike Princewill; Commississioner for Environment, Dr Igbiks Tamuno; Commissioner for Chieftaincy Affairs, Barrister Eloka Tasie-Amadi; and Commissioner for Youth Development, Mr Ohia Prince.
“This committee is to ensure that citizens of the state in the 23 local government areas get adequate information that will stop them from contracting the virus.”
The commissioner added: “We also use this opportunity to inform members of the public that they need to practice elementary hygiene. They should use hand sanitizers to prevent contracting the virus.”
Nsirim, therefore, used the opportunity to call on members of the public, especially those living and doing businesses in Rivers State to begin to practice elementary hygiene.
He urged them to use hand sanitizers that are very good to prevent people from contacting the virus.
UBA Appoints Bawuah As First Female CEO For Africa Operations …Announces Six Other Executive Appointments …As Oni Retires From Group Board
The Board of Directors of the United Bank for Africa Plc, Africa’s Global Bank, has today, announced the appointment of Mrs. Abiola Bawuah, as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of UBA Africa.
Bawuah will also join the Group Board as an Executive Director, overseeing the Group’s operations across the African continent, outside Nigeria.
UBA operates in 19 African countries beyond Nigeria, in addition to global operations in New York, London, Paris and the UAE.
Bawuah, a Ghanaian national, is the first female CEO of UBA Africa.
Her appointment further demonstrates UBA’s commitment to diversity.
The UBA Group Board now includes eight female Directors.
Prior to her appointment, Bawuah was Regional CEO, West Africa, supervising the Group’s operations in nine subsidiaries, including Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Senegal, and Sierra Leone.
She previously held the role of CEO, UBA Ghana.
Speaking on the new appointment, the Group Board Chairman Mr Tony O. Elumelu said, “Abiola has contributed significantly to the growth of UBA Africa for close to a decade.
She brings a wealth of experience in commercial banking, and stakeholder engagement.
It also gives me great pleasure that with her appointment, the UBA Group Board has now become a majority female board.”
The UBA Group also announced the following executive roles:
Chris Ofikulu becomes the Regional CEO, UBA West Africa.
Ofikulu, who has over two decades of banking experience spanning corporate, commercial, and retail banking.
Uzoechina Molokwu will take on the role as Deputy Managing Director (DMD) of UBA Ghana, subject to local regulatory approvals.
He was previously the Executive Director, Business Development – UBA Côte d’Ivoire and has over 23 years banking experience.
Ayokunle Olajubu will be the Managing Director/CEO UBA Liberia, subject to local regulatory approvals.
He currently drives compliance across Africa subsidiaries andcomes with 30 years banking experience in Nigeria and other African countries,including Sierra Leone, Cote D’Ivoire and the Gambia.
Theresa Henshaw has been appointed as CEO of UBA UK, subject to local regulatoryapprovals.
She was previously the DMD, Business Development, UBA America and joined the Group as ED, Business Development at UBA UK.
Usman Isiaka, currently CEO, UBA Sierra Leone, will be the Deputy CEO in UBA America, subject to local regulatory approvals.
Adeyemi Adeleke, the former CEO of UBA, UK is now the Group Treasurer.
Adeleke will be working to unlock the immense value in the Group’s multi-jurisdictional balance sheet, leveraging on its presence in 24 countries within and beyond Africa.
In addition to the executive appointments, UBA has announced the retirement of High Chief Samuel Oni, an independent non-executive Director, from the Board following the expiration of his tenure.
He joined the UBA Group in January 2015 and served on the Board of the Group for eight years.
The Group Chairman, Mr Tony Elumelu expressed his appreciation to High Chief Oni, for his commitment, leadership and extensive contributions to the UBA Group and on behalf of the Board, wishes him the very best in all his future endeavours.
Operating in 20 African countries and in the United Kingdom, the United States of America, France and the United Arab Emirates, United Bank for Africa provides retail, commercial and institutional banking services, leading financial inclusion and implementing cutting edge technology.
UBA is one of the largest employers in the financial sector on the African continent, with 25,000 employees group wide and serving over 37million customers globally.
Naira Swap: Reps Reject Extension, Threaten Emefiele’s Arrest
The House of Representatives Ad hoc Committee on New Naira Re-design and Naira Swap Policy has added a new twist to the controversy surrounding the deadline for the validity of old notes by rejecting the 10-day extension granted by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for the exchange.
The committee described the extension as a mere political gimmick to further deceive Nigerians and worsen their economic and social livelihood.
Recall that the CBN had earlier fixed January 31 as the deadline for the exchange of N200, N500 and N1000 old naira notes.
The CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, however, yesterday, said President Muhammadu Buhari gave permission for the deadline to be extended till February 10.
But the Ad hoc Committee, chaired by the Majority Leader, House of Reps, Alhassan Doguwa, in a statement in Abuja, yesterday, rejected the extension, insisting that the CBN must comply with sections 20 sub 3, 4, and 5 of the CBN Act.
The Lower House, had during its sitting on Tuesday, last week, following the outcry by Nigerians, constituted the Ad hoc committee to look into the issue.
Doguwa said, “The 10-day extension for the exchange of the old naira notes is not the solution. We as a legislative committee with a constitutional mandate of the House, would only accept clear compliance with Section 20 Sub-section 3, 4, and 5 of the CBN Act and nothing more.
Nigeria as a developing economy and a nascent democracy must respect the principle of the rule of law. And the House would go ahead to sign arrest warrant to compel the CBN Governor to appear before the Ad hoc committee.”
According to him, under his chairmanship, the committee would continue its work until it gets the demands of Nigerians addressed in accordance with the laws of the land.
While describing the extension as a mere political gimmick to further deceive Nigerians and worsen their economic and social livelihood, Doguwa insisted that the CBN governor must appear before the House or stand the risk of being arrested on the strength of legislative writs to be signed by the Speaker on Monday (today).
He also said the policy was capable of frustrating the forthcoming general election.
“Security agencies and their operations especially at the state level are generally funded through cash advances and direct table payments of allowances to operatives during elections,” he said.
2023 Election Failure’ll Polarise The Polity, Set Democracy Backwards -Wike
Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, has urged Nigerians not to allow the 2023 general elections to fail.
He said the failure of the 2023 elections would increase political polarisation, exacerbate social fault lines and set Nigeria’s democracy backwards.
Governor Wike gave the charge at the 2023 Port Harcourt International Conference, sponsored by Rivers State Government, with the theme: Deepening Democratic Culture and Institutions for Sustainable Development and Security in Nigeria”, held at Obi Wali International Conference in Port Harcourt, last Thursday.
The governor, in a statement issued by his Special Assistant on Media, Kelvin Ebiri, noted that barely one month away, Nigerians are hoping and praying for the 2023 general elections to herald the deepening of democratic culture, the rule of law and good governance in the country.
Governor Wike, however, insisted that the opportunity to elect a new President of the federation and 30 State Governors should be a success because it will consolidate and strengthen the roots of democracy in the national life of Nigeria.
“In a democracy, periodic elections are the only legitimate means for the peaceful transfer of power from one party to another. Since 1999, Nigeria has had six general election circles, but none was considered substantially clean and fair.
“The outcome of the 2003 general elections was rejected at different levels by the opposition and the losers, and litigated up to the Supreme Court. The outcome of the 2007 elections led to protests, riots, the loss of several lives, and the destruction of property in particular sections of the country”, he noted.
Governor Wike also recalled that even President Musa Ya’ardua had promised necessary electoral reforms when he publicly denounced the process that brought him to power because it was severely flawed.
According to him, the 2011 general election also suffered a similar experience and was litigated by the opposition to the Supreme Court.
“None of the defeated contestants believed they lost fairly and blamed the umpire, the security agencies and politicians for undermining our democracy with brazen electoral fraud”.
Governor Wike noted further that the 2015 general election, though considered rigged, recorded some improvements with the use of the smart card reader and the emergence of opposition candidates as the winners of the presidential.
The governor said the 2019 general election was equally problematic and rejected as highly compromised by the opposition and litigated up to the Supreme Court.
“In Rivers State, we battled the military in the 2015 and 2019 re-run and general elections with pure courage and determination to secure our victory and retain our mandate with the sweat and blood of innocent citizens”, he said.
Governor Wike pointed out that when the government compromises the integrity of elections through election management agencies, it denies citizens their constitutional right to elect the leaders they want and can hold accountable.
Conversely, he emphasised, when elections lack integrity, the leaders who emerged from outside the people’s will are illegitimate.
According to him, “Such leaders without trust are likely to be authoritarian, divisive and incapable of effective governance. Serial election rigging threatens our democracy and constitutes an existential challenge to the nation’s future stability.
“Therefore, deepening democratic culture and institutions for sustainable development and security is important to us as a nation, and free and fair elections with integrity remain the only path to achieving this objective”.
Speaking further, Governor Wike said the new electoral law, especially with the provisions of the use of technology, holds the prospect for a brighter democratic experience for Nigeria if implemented effectively.
However, he stressed, that beyond the legal regime, political parties’ internal practices and external electioneering behaviour must conform to democratic norms and standards.
“The efficiency of the judiciary in interpreting and enforcing the existing regulatory regime, including the laws, regulations and guidelines beyond reproach and the capacity and consistency of INEC and the security agencies to be firm, impartial and independent in the discharge of their functions are most crucial.
“Safeguarding and deepening our democracy lies with every citizen. We must have the courage to stand up for justice, the rule of law, an independent and courageous judiciary, and our rights and freedoms to vote and be voted in a transparent election”, he stated.
Presenting his keynote address, former president of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, who titled his paper: “Respecting the Principles of Democracy”, noted that Nigeria’s democracy has gone through twists, dives and turns since political independence.
He said the best of the country’s history has been the sustenance of democracy since the military transfer of power to an elected government in 1999.
He however, observed that there may be reasons to doubt how much lessons the leaders and followers have drawn from the country’s past and how far they are willing to go to deepen, widen and strengthen democracy and democratic practice.
The former president declared that the ways in which the political class have practised democracy have deepened contradictions, negative coalitions, distrust, disloyalty and unpatriotic tendencies within and between communities and constituencies all over the country.
He stated that this means that there is a deep structural and philosophical problems that must be deal with.
Chief Obasanjo informed that if the practice of democracy is superficial and opportunistic and it is designed to pursue a struggle of limited objectives, it would precipitate variants of fractured engagements that cannot address structural and philosophical contradictions and challenges.
“In fact, the order of the day would be community against community, religion against religion, leader against leader. Ordinary citizens are then dragged into the directionless, meaningless and opportunistic personal or narrow ambitions of leaders. The end result will be confusion, diffusion, distraction and possibly leading to separation and disintegration”, he said.
The former president stressed that democracy is possible in Nigeria and the people have the capacity to build a culture of democratization. However, he insisted that Nigerians must recognise and accept the fact that it is an evolutionary process with principles.
“Without retracing our political steps to the right direction, the current process will either not produce the right leaders or it will leave so many broken blocks on the path to governance and attract resources and energy away from the task of rebuilding Nigeria and consolidating our democratic practice.
“The result will be democratic quagmire, increased corruption, insecurity and survival of the fittest, richest and better connected with little or no recognition of merits. The implications and cost of such a scenario to our present and future can best be imagined. I pray that God will grant us the wisdom to do what is right for our country and people at all times and more so now”, he said.
In his opening remarks, former Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, who was the chairman of the occasion, said the theme of the conference addresses itself to the imperative of enhancing democratic governance to the benefit of Nigerians and the country.
Fayemi pointed to the scholarly assertions of late Claude Ake, on feasibility and possibility of democracy wherein there has to be enduring democratic culture and democracy being structured to be developmental in nature.
He observed that Nigeria’s democracy is bedevilled by lack of party based politics, issued based politicking, untamed political violence, winner take all mentality, growing influence of money in politics, exploitation of loophole to subvert the will of the people and social media and spread of fake news.
“Though, there are some political milestones achieved since 1999, there is no doubt that we still have a longway to go in building a robust culture of power and politics that is both democratic and sustaining”, he said.
As part of the event, there was the unveiling of the book, “Bridging Rivers”, under the chairmanship of former governor of Rivers State, Dr. Peter Odili.
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