Nigeria, many African countries and others around the world are at risk of widespread famines “of biblical proportions” if Coronavirus continues to bite, the United Nations (UN) has alerted.
The novel Coronavirus has claimed more than 175,000 lives and affected 2.5million people worldwide.
The Head of the World Food Programme (WFP, David Beasley, who raised the alarm, yesterday, also called for an urgent action.
The number suffering from hunger could almost double from 135million to more than 250million.
WFP added that the 10 nations are currently affected by conflict, economic crisis and climate change.
The Global Report on Food Crises listed them as Yemen, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Nigeria and Haiti.
Beasely told the UN Security Council, during a video conference, the world has to “act wisely and act fast.
“We could be facing multiple famines of biblical proportions within a short few months. The truth is we do not have time on our side.
“I do believe that with our expertise and our partnerships, we can bring together the teams and the programmes necessary to make certain the Covid-19 pandemic does not become a human and food crisis catastrophe.”
In a statement, WFP Senior Economist, Arif Husain, said the economic impact of the pandemic was potentially catastrophic for millions “who are already hanging by a thread. It is a hammer blow for millions more who can only eat if they earn a wage.
“Lockdowns and global economic recession have already decimated their nest eggs. It only takes one more shock – like Covid-19 – to push them over the edge. We must collectively act now to mitigate the impact of this global catastrophe.”
Meanwhile, the United Nations, yesterday, announced that it received €1.2million from the European Union for the provision of lifesaving preparedness and response activities for Covid-19 in Nigeria.
The Communications Specialist, UNICEF Nigeria, Mr Geoffrey Njoku, disclosed this in a statement in Abuja, yesterday.
The UN said the support was due to the increasing number of Covid-19 cases in Nigeria, along with concerns around the need to drastically scale-up public health preparedness and response.
It also said that the humanitarian funding received would further the UN’s Covid-19 response in Nigeria.
This, it said, would be by engaging with communities on how to best protect themselves from the virus and providing essential health supplies where they were needed most.
It said, “With these critical funds from the EU, the UN as a whole in Nigeria is in a better position to do the important work of engaging with communities on how they can prevent the spread of this virus.
“It will also complement the government’s efforts to ensure that healthcare workers can continue the critical work they are already doing to test and treat cases in the country,” it quoted the UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Peter Hawkins, as saying.
“Where we have funded close to €271.5million (N116billion) in emergency food aid, shelter, access to clean water, hygiene and sanitation, and basic primary healthcare since 2014,” it also quoted the Head of the EU’s Humanitarian Aid Office in Nigeria, Thomas Conan, as stating.
It said that with EU funding, UNICEF would be contributing to the efforts underway in the country to contain the spread of the virus and mitigate its effects.
It added that it would help with the emergency response to identified cases, as well as prevention and preparedness measures for possible future outbreaks in crowded cities and camps for internally displaced people in Nigeria’s north-east region.
It said that the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), and global health leaders around the world, are advising that physical distancing, washing of hands on a regular basis and staying at home will help significantly to halt the progress of the virus.
Similarly, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) says Consumer Price Index (CPI), which measures inflation, increased by 12.26 per cent year-on-year in March.
The NBS made this known in its latest report on inflation released, yesterday.
It explained that the report showed that inflation in March was 0.06 per cent points higher than the rate recorded in February, which was 12.20 per cent.
The bureau said the lock down in Abuja, Lagos and Ogun states and various major disruptions in normal economic activities in several states started in April and wouldn’t have had any impact because this report focused on March.
It stated that the increases were recorded in all Classification of Individual Consumption by Purpose (COICOP) divisions that yielded the headline index.
The NBS added that on a month-on-month basis, the headline index increased by 0.84 per cent in March and this was 0.05 per cent higher than the rate recorded in February, which was 0.79 per cent.
“The percentage change in the average composite CPI for the 12 months period, ending in March over the average CPI for the previous 12 months period was 11.62 per cent showing 0.08 per cent point from 11.54 per cent recorded in February.
“The urban inflation rate increased by 12.93 per cent year on year in March as against 12.85 per cent recorded in February while the rural inflation rate increased by 11.64 per cent in March from 11.61 per cent in February.
Gov. Fubara Pays Tribute To Herbert Wigwe, Assures of Immortalizing Some of His Legacies
Governor of Rivers State, Sir Siminalayi Fubara says the late Herbert Wigwe lived an impactful life, affecting society positively and his administration is determined to immortalise him as a worthy son of the State.
Sir Fubara made the promise at the Night of Tributes in Port Harcourt on Tuesday evening, an event that was organised by the Port Harcourt City One Love Family, to reflect, celebrate and eulogise the life of late Herbert Wigwe.
Governor Fubara described as double loss the death of Herbert Wigwe, first as an in-law, and second as a trail blazing son of the state who exhibited daring spirit known of Rivers people in pursuit of their dreams and became successful in his career with reckonable social impact.
“I have come to understand something about life, those that God has favoured, blessed and truly cherish, He does not like them to stay too long on earth because he doesn’t want them to get corrupted.
“But the wicked ones, the cruel, that you are praying to die, will stay and they will not die. So, you should understand that what has happened to our brother and his family, is truly painful to everyone. But at the long)
The governor said no matter the wealth acquired, in death, nothing is taken along and advised that people live life of value, and be at peace with people they encounter daily. “So, it is for us to appreciate the mystery of life.
Governor Fubara also enjoined members of the Port Harcourt One Love Family to uphold and continue with those social impact endeavours that late Herbert Wigwe devoted his time to.
Chairman of the Port Harcourt One Love Family, Ambassador Idaere Gogo Ogan said the death of Herbert Wigwe has caused an unbearable and lamentable pain.
He however, noted that in their grief, God provided strength and they were honouring a man who was a pillar and a potent force in this Port Harcourt City and selflessly committed his time and resources to promote the state and offered enduring help to so many persons.
Economic Hardship: Protests Rock S’West, Rivers, Bayelsa, Anambra, Kaduna, Others …NLC Presents Demands To N’Assembly
Nigerian workers across the country under the aegis of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) yesterday defied the Federal Government’s threat not to embark on nationwide protest.
NLC had issued a 14-day ultimatum to the Federal Government to meet its demands or face a two-day protest which began yesterday.
In response, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Lateef Fagbemi, had warned the organised labour that going on protest would amount to a contempt of court in view of a previous court order.
But the NLC was adamant, insisting on the protest after its meeting with the Federal Government ended in a deadlock on Monday.
There have been a series of protests across the country over the cost of living, inflation, insecurity and hardship among Nigerians.
The NLC and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) had on February 8 issued a 14-day nationwide strike notice to the Federal Government over the failure to implement the agreements reached on October 2, 2023 following the removal of the fuel subsidy.
The organised labour threatened that the Federal Government’s failure to fulfil its promises after the 14-day ultimatum would be met with a two-day nationwide protest.
The NLC had last week Monday begun mobilising its members for a nationwide protest slated for February 27 and 28 over the high cost of living crisis in the country.
However, barely 24 hours after the planned protest, the TUC pulled out of the arrangement, saying it was not part of the planned protests declared by the NLC.
TUC said that the decision to protest on February 27 and 28 as announced by the NLC was not taken collectively by both unions.
A last-minute meeting called by the Federal Government on Monday night to avert the proposed nationwide protest ended in a deadlock, as the union vowed to kick off the protest.
As planned, NLC, yesterday, mobilised its members across the country for the protest.
In the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, the protest started from the Labour House Headquarters, Abuja at exactly 9:36 am and moved to the National Assembly where the NLC President, Joe Ajaero, handed over the Labour’s letter of demands to the National Assembly.
The demands included full implementation of the welfare provisions, employment generation, immediate subsidy to farmers to boost agricultural production, and fixing the four refineries among others.
Ajaero handed over the letter to the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Labour, Employment, and Productivity, Senator Diket Plang, yesterday.
Ajaero in his remarks at the National Assembly, said Nigerians embarked on the peaceful protests because there was hunger in the land, adding that “Nigeria is becoming like Zimbabwe.”
Ajaero noted that the minimum wage negotiation has started but the amount was yet to be decided.
He said that the protest would serve as a signal to the Federal Government to immediately tackle the challenges bedeviling the country.
Plang, after receiving the letter, assured the protesters that the demands of the NLC would be looked at and discussed immediately.
The protesters were seen wielding placards with inscriptions such as “#End Poverty and Hunger. Support Local Industries#,” “Fix Local Refineries End Subsidy#;” “#End Naira Devaluation; Tax the Rich, Subsidise the Poor#”, among other inscriptions to make their grievances known on the current economic hardship across the country.
Addressing journalists before the protest started, the NLC President, Joe Ajaero said, “The government said we should not do rally. They used peaceful means and threats but we are in God’s hands.
“We are here for a rally so that Mr President will know how Nigerians feel and know where it is pinching us.”
Unions taking part in the protest include the Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria, the FCT Council, the National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives, and the Nigeria Union of Teachers and Construction Workers’ Union, among others.
Also present at the national protest is a former Nigeria Country Director, ActionAid, Ene Obi; presidential candidate of the African Action Congress, Omoyele Sowore, among others.
In Lagos, the home state of President Bola Tinubu, members of the NLC stormed the streets to express their grievances over the current economic hardship.
The NLC members in their numbers stormed the Ikeja underbridge and were seen singing and dancing while calling on the government to give listening ears to their demands.
Meanwhile, there was a hilarious twist to yesterday’s protest as policemen were seen in a moving vehicle sharing biscuits and water to protesters who in turn chanted “Up Nigeria Police” in Alausa, Lagos.
In Rivers State, the NLC members led by its State chairman, Alex Agwanwor, began the protest at the Labour House, D-Line, Port Harcourt and moved to the Government House gate to present a letter of demands to the State governor, Sir Siminialayi Fubara.
The Head of the Rivers State Civil Service, Dr. George Nwaeke, who received the protesters on behalf of the governor, noted that the grievances outlined by the protesters primarily fell within the purview of the Federal Government.
He stated, “To all who listened to every presentation of the labour leader as it is being read out, we can find out none is local, not originating from local source here. They are all national issues and we have hope in the Renewed Hope Agenda of the Federal Government. We have hope. And I know Governor Fubara will also deliver this message as presented by you to the President.”
Fubara further assured the protesters that his administration remained committed to alleviating the economic hardships faced by the people of Rivers State.
In Ibadan, Oyo State capital, Governor Seyi Makinde joined the state chapter of the NLC in its peaceful protest.
During the protest, Makinde assured the protesters that the current hardship would soon be over.
The workers began their protest from the NLC state secretariat, Agodi in Ibadan, and moved down to Gate-NTA-Yemetu roundabout where Makinde joined the protesting workers.
The governor said, “I am aware of the hardship in town and the difficulty the people are going through but I will be part of the generation that will fix the country.”
He also assured the workers that their letters of protest and complaints would be delivered to President Bola Tinubu.
Earlier, the state NLC Chairman, Kayode Martins, had said the cost of living was no longer bearable, especially for the common man.
He said, “The cost of living in Nigeria today is nothing to write home and the people are fed up, so that’s why we are on the street now.”
In Osogbo, Osun State capital, business activities were paralysed for some hours as the NLC and its affiliates in the State staged a peaceful protest against the current economic hardship ravaging the country.
The protesters led by the Osun NLC chairman, Christopher Arapasopo, began their march from Freedom Park, Osogbo, and moved through MDS road chanting anti-President Bola Tinubu songs.
Some of the affiliates of NLC that participated in the protest include; the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Radio, Television, Theatre and Arts Workers Union of Nigeria (RATTAWU), and Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), among others.
As the protesters moved towards Olaiya Junction where they eventually converged, vehicular movement was grounded along Osogbo/Gbongan road.
Also, for more than two hours that the protesters converged under Olaiya Bridge, business activities around the area were paralysed.
Police operatives, men of the Department of State Security and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, were also present at the scene of the protest in large numbers while it lasted.
But in other parts of the state capital, business activities went unhindered before and during the protest.
Addressing the protesters, ASUU Coordinator for Akure Zone, Dr. Adeola Egbedokun, lamented the hardship that Nigerians were going through and called on the Federal Government to reverse its policies that have impacted negatively on the people.
Egbedokun said many people felt unconcerned and refused to join the protest because they did not have a deep understanding of the negative effects of the Federal Government’s policies on them.
He called on the workers to sensitise other members of the public on the need for them to join the protests.
In his remarks, Osun NLC chairman, Arapasopo, called on the Federal Government to immediately find solutions to the economic hardship facing Nigerians.
He said, “What Tinubu promised during his electioneering campaign was a reprieve for Nigerians but what we are seeing now is the opposite of that.
“He must immediately come up with solutions. People are hungry and they are angry. We don’t want the situation to go out of hand. There is a need for measures that will immediately address the situation.”
NLC protest also held in Bayelsa State yesterday as NLC members hit the streets of Yenagoa, the State capital, to protest against the high cost of living in the country.
The protesters matched towards the Government House gate in the state capital while policemen provided protection for them to prevent hoodlums from hijacking the rally.
In Anambra State, the protest was led by its chairman, Humphrey Nwafor.
The protesters gathered at the Aroma Roundabout in Awka, the State capital, and marched towards the Government House gate.
Also joining the protest were members of ASUU led by its chairman, Prof. Kingsley Ubaoji.
The state NLC chairman, Nwafor, in a short address, said the economic hardship in the country has become unbearable for workers and other citizens.
He called on the Federal Government to review workers’ salaries to a minimum of N1.2 million, insisting that is one of the solutions that can save workers out of the current situation in the country.
He also urged the state governor, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, to resume the payment of the N12,000 wage award which the state has stopped paying for some months now.
The ASUU chairman, Ubaoji, on his part, urged Soludo to look into the poor condition of the Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University, adding that, “At the moment, nothing is happening at the COOU, infrastructure is decrepit, the governor should look into this.”
Security operatives, such as the police personnel, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps and other critical agencies were on the ground offering protection for the protesters to prevent hoodlums from hijacking the rally.
Similar scenario played out in Kwarra Kaduna and Zamfara States where civil servants trooped out in their number in Ilorin and along Independent Way in Kaduna respectively to voice their concerns about the prevailing economic challenges in the country.
The workers were seen carrying placards and banners with different inscriptions while chanting protest songs.
The protesters said threats by the government cannot deter them from registering their displeasure over the poor economic situation in the country.
In Zamfara State, protesters stormed the streets and marched to the office of the State’s Head of Service, Barrister Ahmed Liman.
Addressing the protesters at Liman’s office, the chairman of the state chapter of the NLC, Sani Haliru, said the protest was not only for the workers but for the entire people of the country.
“The alarming rate of hunger and starvation, suffering has become so worrisome and unbearable that the labour forces have no option than to go on protest,” Haliru said.
He stated that a series of meetings have been held between the Labour and the federal government but the meetings could not produce any beneficial result.
He, however, commended the state government for clearing the backlog of three months’ salaries of workers and pensioners even though the governor inherited such liabilities from the past administration in the State.
Meanwhile, Liman lauded the labour for protesting peacefully across the state while assuring them that he would convey their message to the state governor, Dauda Lawal, for appropriate action.
Borno, the home State of the Vice President, Kashim Shettima, was not left out as protesters were seen walking just a few meters outside the gate of the NLC secretariat to the junction of the road leading to the Vice President’s residence.
They were, however, halted by a barricade erected by police operatives at the junction.
The State NLC chairman, Yusuf Inuwa, had earlier explained to the workers who had thronged the secretariat preparatory to the rally that they were restricted by the Police AIG Zone 15, Abdu Umar, and the Borno CP, Mohammed Yusufu, on the grounds of the peculiar security of the state.
“At our meeting with the police at the State Police Command, which lasted up to about 3:30 am, the police said that there were intelligence reports that some miscreants were planning to sneak in and hijack the protest,” he said.
“Two to three days ago there were intelligence reports that some of the surrendered Boko Haram insurgents, who have been complaining of hunger and threatening to go back to the bush, were planning to sneak in and hijack the protest, which could have resulted in a development more dangerous than we can imagine,” Inuwa stated.
Police operatives, led by Yusufu, had earlier barred the workers from stepping out of the NLC secretariat gate, warning that if the workers insisted, they had the mandate to seal the secretariat.
The workers were, however, afterward allowed to stage the rally at the gate of the secretariat, which extended a few meters to the junction of the road leading to the house of the Vice President.
In Jos, Plateau State capital, hundreds of protesters stormed the streets chatting anti-government songs.
The protesters who gathered at the Secretariat Flyover bridge lamented the economic hardship and insecurity being faced by Nigerians in the state and other parts of the country.
Describing the situation as unbearable, the protesters called on the Federal Government to act quickly and save Nigerians from further suffering.
They also demanded an end to the security challenge in the country.
The state Chairman of the NLC, Eugene Mangji, who led the protests said, “We are not happy, Nigerians are not happy over the situation in the country that has brought untold hardship and suffering of the citizens which started immediately after the removal of the oil subsidy.
“It started as a joke and suddenly, the price of petrol which was initially sold at N197 jumped to N530 and then to N670. Today, petrol is sold at more than N700.
“Imagine that we are not up to one year in the life of this present administration and Nigerians are experiencing this kind of thing. The exchange rate has also gone to almost N2,000 per dollar and since everything is dependent on the exchange rate, prices of goods and services have also gone up beyond the reach of ordinary Nigerians. Even the students in higher institutions are not finding it easy at all.
“Nigerians are crying over the situation and we are not left out as Labour and we are calling on the Federal Government to arrest the ugly situation quickly, including the security challenge before they get out of control.
Workers in Akwa Ibom State also joined their counterparts in other states of the federation to protest the economic hardship currently facing the country.
The NLC Chairman in the state, Sunny James, who led the protest, yesterday, lamented that people had been stretched to their limit due to excessive hunger and hardship.
Addressing the Speaker of the House, Mr Udeme Otong, James urged him to encourage his members to make laws that would address the problems of the people and enable them to eat on a daily basis.
He that the situation of the country does not need laws that do not have meaning and positive impact.
He said that Nigerians are suffering due to unfavorable policies of the present Federal Government.
“We are here to present our position to members of Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly that they need to make laws in the direction of our problem, laws that will be beneficial to us. We don’t need laws that don’t make meaning to us.
“If the leaders are not willing to change the situation, we will force them to change the situation, how can we be buying a bag of rice at N95,000 and a cup of garri N500?
“In Akwa Ibom State, this protest has to be domesticated, we need our gratuity, we need our promotion arrears, we need our 2023 promotion to be released immediately, we need the CNG busses to work, we need our refineries to work, we need increase in our wages, we need the prices of our staple food to come down, we need to see rice from Ini, we need to see garri and tomatoes been sold at our secretariat here.
“We are presenting these proposals to the governor and we give him a timeline, if he does not listen to us, we shall gather again for a protest.”
The NLC also commended the commissioner of Police and the leader of DSS in the State for their solidarity and support especially giving the protesters premium security and ensuring that everything went successfully.
Responding, the Speaker, Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Udeme Otong described the protest as orderly and peaceful, and promised to look into the prayers of the NLC as contained in their letter.
He assured the protesters of the governor’s readiness to put up all measures to assuage their suffering noting that the three laws that would be passed today (Tuesday) are geared towards bringing down the cost of living vis a vis the prices of commodities.
He added, “Be assured that no matter what happens you have somebody like me who is once a comrade you can rely on. I’ll ensure that all your demands as contained in this letter receive legislative action.
“Thank God we have a proactive governor who is on top of the situation. The three laws we are going to pass today will bring down the cost of living. The governor has assured me that he will meet with the leadership of NLC and TUC to address some of these issues.”
The nationwide protest is expected to continue today (Wednesday).
FG Debunks Report Of Coup Scare
The Federal Government yesterday debunked a news report of a coup scare in the country.
The Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, in a statement said “the report is unequivocally false, and is a heinous act of disinformation”.
In the statement made available to newsmen in Abuja by the Minister’s media aide, Mr Rabiu Ibrahim, he urged the public to ignore the report aimed at sowing seed of discord in the country.
According to the Minister, the report is “the figment of the warped imagination of detractors, whose malicious intent is to destabilise the country and undermine the present administration”
Idris said the government would neither be distracted nor intimidated into abandoning the ongoing reforms aimed at rejuvenating the economy and creating a pathway of prosperity for the citizenry.
“It is now evident that some desperate individuals have resorted to publishing fake news to erode public trust in the government and sow the seed of discord in the country.
“The government will exercise its rights within the laws to contain rogue actions to destabilise national security and the nation’s hard-earned democracy,” he said.
Idris urged the public to exercise discernment and refrain from spreading or amplifying the unfounded report.
He stressed that the report was being strategically planted on some pliant and compromised news platforms to subvert the nation’s democracy.
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