COVID-19: Nigeria To Resume Int’l Flights In Weeks …Virus Now In 536 LGs As FG Extends Eased Lockdown By Four Weeks
The federal government has expressed its readiness to reopen the nation’s airspace for international flights in ‘a matter of weeks’.
This was as it lamented the growing wave of community transmission of Covid-19, saying the virus has now made incursions into 536 out of Nigeria’s 774 local government areas. Consequently, the government has extended the current phase of the eased lockdown by another four weeks while planning towards re-opening of the airspace for international flights.
Also, the 10.m. to 4p.m. curfew, limitation on mass gatherings and virtual holding of government meetings remain in place. It noted that in the last month, the number of states with over 1, 000 confirmed cases increased from 4 to 10 and the FCT.
Chairman of the Presidential Taskforce PTF on Covid-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation SGF, Mr Boss Mustapha disclosed this during yesterday’s briefing of the taskforce.
He lamented the increased non-compliance with non-pharmaceutical prevention measures; lack of enforcement of necessary guidelines issued to preserve lives; insufficient engagement by some states with the national response; as well as “a lingering concern about the gap between identified cases and the actual burden of disease; and apathy, fatigue and disbelief combining to challenge public enlightenment, compliance and behaviour change.
“Community transmission is increasing, as reflected in the fact that 536 Local Government Areas – 69% of the total – have reported a COVID-19 case.
“To sustain gains already made, therefore, the PTF recommended to the President, the retention of the current phase of the response with minor changes to address economic, socio-political and health concerns. These measures are further outlined in the guidelines to be elaborated upon by the National Coordinator.
“It is, however, important to inform you that the major changes being proposed are aimed at achieving the following: Gradual re-opening of international air flights within established parameters; Re-opening of rail transportation within established parameters; Granting permission to exit classes to resume ahead of examinations; Allowing civil servants from Grade Level 12 to resume work; and opening recreational parks for supervised exercises.
“After due consideration of the recommendations, Mr. President approved the following: Maintaining the current phase of the National Response to COVID-19 for another four weeks in line with the modifications reflected in the Report; Partnering with States and Local Governments to improve community sensitisation and engagement to the COVID-19 response; Mandating State authorities and the FCT, to enforce non-pharmaceutical guidelines, primarily the use of face masks in public appearance and places; Encouraging State Governments to collaborate with Local Government Authorities to intensify necessary measures such as contact tracing, grassroots mobilisation and risk communication; and Strengthening of collaboration with other mandate groups at Federal/State levels to harmonise the country’s COVID-19 response, on the short, medium and long-term basis”.
National Coordinator of the PTF, Dr. Sani Aliyu on his part said the taskforce has asked the aviation ministry to work towards resumption of international flights in weeks.
Aliyu added that the management of the National Youth Service Corps NYSC has been told to start working towards resumption in the next phases of the eased lockdown.
He said; “The restrictions in the entertainment and education sector as well as other activities that attract mass gatherings such as operation of markets and worship centres, remain.
“Specific to air transportation, domestic operations have already resumed as well as the railways. For international travel, we have made recommendations to the aviation industry to commence the process for opening international airports provided all existing international and local prevention guidelines on COVID-19 are in place.
“We have modified the advice with regards to the arrival for flights. Passengers arriving at the airports for domestic flights are advised to arrive at least one and a half hours before their flights and three hours before international flights when it is restarted.
“There might be requirements for additional infrastructure in some of the airports. What we want to do, and we have made it very clear at the PTF is, we want to reopen as soon as possible but in a safe manner that does not put at risk all the efforts we have made to control this pandemic. Hopefully, the airports would open in weeks, rather than months. That is what we are looking at”, he added.
Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control NCDC DrChikweIheakwazu said the National Council on Health which held its meeting yesterday resolved that the sector must continue to work harder to halt the spread of the virus in order to be able to fully reopen the economy. According to him, until there is a vaccine, workers in the health sector cannot relax in the battle against Covid-19.
“What we collectively agreed was in order for our economy to reopen, in order for our country to restart slowly, in order for the full benefits of the eased of restriction to manifest, we on the public health side have the responsibility to strengthen our response.
“Until we have a vaccine there won’t be a point where we would say, okay, let us relax. That is completely out of the question. The meeting we had today with the Honourable Commissioners of Health was to really encourage ourselves, you know, the motivation to keep going in spite six months of really tough work”, he said.
Minister of Aviation, HadiSirika said the resumption of international flights is not solely an aviation function as the main consideration is the health of the people.
According to him, while the industry would love to reopen fully so as to make money and save jobs, the reality on ground is such that it has to work with relevant stakeholders before reopening the airspace for international flights.
Meanwhile, the Federal Capital Territory Administration FCTA said it will not hesitate to shut down any school within the territory that violates the Covid-19 guidelines recommended for the safety of their students in exit classes who are resuming for their examinations. Chairman, FCT Ministerial Enforcement Task team on COVID 19 Restrictions, IkharoAttah who led the team to inspect some schools within the nation’s capital, stated that the administration cannot afford to expose the students to the danger of contracting the virus, and therefore will not compromise the guidelines for the resumption of the schools.
“Any school that fails to comply, we will do everything within our power to safeguard the students and such schools would likely be shut down through legal processes while the students will have to go and write their exams somewhere else, pending when the school complies with the safety guidelines, and those responsible for the school mismanagement will be brought to book.
“The FCT Minister, Malam Muhammad Musa Bello has been very clear about it, that he is not going to risk the life of any student or teacher. He said everyone must come in within the context of safety”, Attah said.
He noted most of the public and private schools his team visited to ascertain their level of compliance, had shown about 80 percent in their preparedness to the safety of students and teachers in their respective schools, by providing adequate handwashing hand points, sanitizer and decontaminated environment.
“From our own point, it is already encouraging in the sense that the schools we have been to, both government and private, if we assess them at a point of average, you will score them about 85 percent in terms of preparedness. They have complied. You could see hand washing points, hand sanitizers and there was also social distancing in their classrooms”, he said.
Judge Warns Against Text Messages In EFCC’s N5bn Suit
Justice Inyang Ekwo of a Federal High Court, Abuja, has warned those sending him private messages in the N5 billion suit filed by the EFCC against Sen. Stella Oduah and others to desist from intruding into his privacy.
Justice Ekwo gave the warning on Monday during the hearing of the matter.
The judge made this known after counsel for Oduah (1st defendant), Onyechi Ikpeazu, SAN, and lawyer to Crystal Television Ltd (7th defendant), Ogbu Onoja, SAN, informed that moves were ongoing to resolve the matter without going through trial.
The judge then said: “Somebody has been breaching my privacy on this matter by sending me messages concerning this matter saying it is part of a concerned group.
“I will send security agencies to fish him out. You cannot be intruding into my privacy.”
Justice Ekwo, who condemned the act, said his records were public documents that could be assessed by anybody after the public laws had been complied with.
Responding, prosecuting lawyer, Hassan Liman, SAN, who appeared for the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), also condemned the act.
He said even if the person was a party in the suit, he had no right to communicate with the judge.
Earlier, upon resumed proceeding in the matter, Liman told the court that the matter was slated for formal arraignment of the defendants pursuant to the order made in the last adjourned date.
He said he was ready to proceed.
But Ikpeazu said there were applications they planned to file and that they felt discussion should be had on this with the prosecution.
Onoja, who represented the 7th defendant, also informed the court that his client had approached the anti-graft commission and paid almost 95 per cent of the money alleged in the case.
“We are waiting for the commission’s response and almost about N80 million is remaining,” he said.
Liman admitted that it was true that counsel for the 7th defendant wrote to the EFCC, seeking for the discontinuance of the matter.
“I confirm also that Mr Ikpeazu spoke to me this morning,” he said.
The lawyer, who said that the matter was filed since 2020 said though he agreed that there was reconciliation move, he however argued that the defendants must take their plea once the matter had been filed in court.
“The money we are talking about is over N7 billion,” he added, saying it was not such amount Onoja was making allusion to.
Liman said though a letter had been written, he said the commission had not even considered it, despite making the payment.
He admitted that the delay in the prosecution of the matter was not the court’s fault.
“I urge my Lord to order them to take their plea,” he prayed.
Justice Ekwo, who said he was ready for the arraignment, said it would be better to dialogue with the defendants and if that failed, the trial could commence.
He consequently adjourned the matter until June 15 for report or commencement of trial.
Recall that the EFCC had sued Oduah, former Aviation Minister, alongside Gloria Odita, Nwosu Emmanuel Nnamdi and Chukwuma Irene Chinyere.
Others include Global Offshore and Marine Ltd, Tip Top Global Resources Ltd, Crystal Television Ltd, Sobora International Ltd and others.
The senator, who currently represents Anambra North Senatorial District at the National Assembly, was scheduled to be arraigned on alleged N5 billion fraud and financial misappropriation while she served as minister during President Goodluck Jonathan government.
In the 25-count charge marked: FHC/ABJ/CR/316/2020, they are accused of conspiracy, money laundering and maintaining anonymous bank accounts with a commercial bank.
RSHA Elects Amaewhule As Speaker
The Rivers State House of Assembly has elected former House Leader and the lawmaker representing Obio/Apkor constituency 1, Hon. Martin Amaewhule as the speaker of the 10th Assembly.
The House also elected the lawmaker representing Gokana constituency, Dumle Mao, as Deputy Speaker.
Amaewhule was elected yesterday after the 10th Assembly was proclaimed by Governor Siminalayi Fubara through a nomination by the lawmaker representing Okrika Constituency, Linda Somiari Stalwart and seconded by Major Jack of Akuku-Toru Constituency.
The Speaker in his speech, shortly after the oath of office, promised a top class Assembly that will come up with legislations that will stand the test of time.
Amaewhule commended members for voting him and assured them of a new assembly that Rivers people will be proud of.
He, thanked Governor Fubara for proclaiming the Assembly and also the immediate past governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, for his developmental strides in the state.
He also thanked the staff of the Assembly for assisting in the business of government.
Amaewhule is currently serving his fourth term as a legislator and was unanimously voted for by all members present.
The governor had earlier dissolved the 9th Assembly based on the constitutional provision as contained in the 1999 constitution as amended.
By: Ike Wigodo
Terrorism: Tinubu’s Charges Security Agencies On Synergy
President Bola Tinubu has charged security agencies in the country to share information in order to combat the negative effects of terrorism.
He said that hoarding such resources would be counter-productive in the fight against the menace.
The president stated this last Monday, during a tour of the new office of the National Security Adviser and facilities at the National Terrorism Centre (NCTC) in Abuja.
He said his administration recognised the relationship between security and economic revival, prosperity and development.
Tinubu said that terrorism is a global phenomenon that must be tackled with all resources in order to eliminate completely.
“If we as Nigerians are looking for economic revival, prosperity and development, then we have to give priority to security.
“What I have seen here is a demonstration of intelligence efforts to counter-terrorism. This must be backed by knowledge.
“Counter-terrorism that is not backed by knowledge and intelligence is not going to be of any service to any nation. We are going to work on that together.
“The effort of the entire armed forces of this country must be put together in a way that there will be one single focus on securing the country,” he said.
Tinubu, who described the tour of facilities at the new ONSA building as very important, said his administration would provide necessary support to the nation’s security architecture.
In his remarks, the NSA, retired Maj.-Gen. Babagana Monguno, thanked the president for making the visit his first engagement outside the Villa.
He said: “It reinforces his commitment, dedication and inflexible rigidity to ensuring that the security misfortunes of Nigeria and by extension the sub-region are overcome within the shortest possible time.”
Monguno pledged the total commitment and dedication of ONSA to ensuring that the president realises his promises to the people on security.
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