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Governors meet Wednesday over financial autonomy for states’ judiciary, legislature [Nation]

The Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) will meet on Wednesday to discuss the issue of financial autonomy for the states’ judiciary and legislature, code-named the Executive Order 10, 2020.

A statement issued in Abuja on Tuesday by the Head, NGF Media and Public Affairs, Abdulrazaque Bello-Barkindo, indicated tomorrow’s consultation would be the ninth in the series of teleconference meeting held by the governors since the lockdown, occasioned by the outbreak of COVID-19.

President Muhammadu Buhari, last Friday, signed into law, an Executive Order, granting financial autonomy to the legislative and the judicial arms across the 36 states of the country.

The order also mandated the Accountant-General of the Federation to deduct from source, amount due to state legislatures and judiciaries from the monthly allocation acording to states that refuse to grant such autonomy.

According to Bello-Barkindo, the meeting, which will take place at 2pm, will have in attendance, all the 36 governors, via Microsoft Team from their various states.

The statement reads: “Among the issues to be reviewed are a number of critical national questions that revolve around the financial autonomy for the states’ judiciary and legislature code-named the Executive Order 10, 2020.

“The governors will also touch issues around the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) ownership, the controversial National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) Bill.

“Also to be discussed is the restructuring of states’ loans and the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) deductions, which have been a recurring decimal on the governors’ table.

“As usual the governors will be given an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in the country, as well as review a letter from the National Coordinator of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 as it relates to the pandemic draft regulations.”

Bello-Barkindo added that there would also be a general update on efforts of the Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID).

 

Immigration recruitment: Ex-minister, fugitive businessman know fate Thursday [Nation]

In 2014, there was a recruitment exercise, during which applicants died in a stampede. A Federal High Court in Abuja will tomorrow decide a case instituted against the key players, write London Bureau Chief OLATUNDE KAZEEM and ERIC IKHILAE

Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of the Federal High Court, Abuja will decide on Thursday whether Patrick Abba Moro, Drexel Global Tech Limited, Mahmood Ahmadu, Anastasia Daniel-Nwaobia, former Permanent Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Interior and Felix Alayebami, former deputy director at the Ministry of Interior, have a case to answer regarding a 2014 scam immigration recruitment into the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) that caused the death of 15 Nigerian graduates.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) prosecuting the trial, which began in February 2016, claims that former Interior Minister, Abba Moro now a senator from Benue State, fugitive businessman Mahmood Ahmadu and the three others deliberately designed the botched recruitment exercise solely to defraud job-seeking Nigerians.

Interestingly too, while Ahmadu opened bank accounts with Drexel Tech Nigeria Limited to receive monies, he signed the deal on the exercise with the Ministry of Interior with Drexel Global Tech which was not registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission.

The EFCC said Moro and others conspired to induce 675,675 Nigerian job applicant seeking employment in NIS to each pay N1000 application fee (totalling N657,657,0000) under false pretence through e-payment for their online recruitment exercise into the NIS on 17th March 2013.

The story began with former NIS Controller General, David Paradang, approaching former President Goodluck Jonathan through the Ministry of Finance requesting that a total of 4,556 officers and men be recruited to shore up the NIS operations. But the former Minister of Finance and the Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, overruled Paradang, saying that there was no money to support that large number. Rather than get the 4,556 staff at once, the minister advised that the number should be spread over three years.

A proposal by Rosbony Ltd to partner on the recruitment followed quickly in 2012 but Abba-Moro and Ahmadu’s company, the unregistered Drexel Global Tech Ltd, hijacked the idea side-lining the NIS comptroller-General.

Not surprisingly, the exercise ended in tragedy as several people died during a stampede as thousands of jobseekers scrambled into the Abuja National Stadium to take part in the exercise. “I was surprised about the recruitment exercise because I was not aware of it,” Paradang told the Federal High Court in Abuja.

The EFCC identified the key brain behind the shambolic exercise as Abba-Moro and Mahmood Ahmadu. The anti-graft agency describes Mahmood Ahmadu as “at large”, and that he made a total of 677m naira (£1.4m; $1.6m) from the bogus recruitment exercise. Ahmadu, a businessman was honoured with the Order of The Niger by President Goodluck Jonathan in 2014 as the Chief Executive Officer OLS SERVICES.

The EFCC said the accused by-passed all relevant laws, including the Public Procurement Act, Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (Establishment) Act 2005 and the Immigration and Prison Board Act to enable them to manipulate the recruitment process to suit their aim.

It alleged that not only did the defendants sidestepped established procedure in awarding a contract for the provision of an online recruitment portal to unregistered Drexel Global Tech, they also failed to advertise the contract as required to exclude eligible companies from applying and to pave the way for their preferred firm, which was not registered by the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).

The prosecution, led by Aliyu Yusuf, detailed the roles played by the four defendants in the alleged scam and argued that it has sufficiently established a prima facie case against the defendants to warrant being called to defend themselves against the charges.

The prosecution alleged that “the foundation of the fraudulent contract started with an unsolicited proposal from a company known as Rosbony Ltd. This was attested to in the statement of the 1st defendant (Moro), admitted and marked as Exhibit AAFD48 (1-8). According to Yusuf, four firms, including Drexel Global Tech Limited were invited to bid.

“Evidence before the court is that the procurement process was activated by the defendants with utter disregard for the provisions of BPP Act 2007, Immigration and Prison Board Act 2004 and Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (Establishment) Act 2005 in a scheme designed to fraudulently obtain money from innocent applicants.

Moro’s lawyer Akinlolu Kehinde argued that the prosecution failed through the evidence led by its 12 witnesses, to establish a prima facie case against them.

But witnesses called by the EFCC gave blow-by-blow accounts of how the deals were done and the money shared.

Bilikisu Mohammed, a prosecution witness who is a Relationship Manager with Keystone Bank, IBB Way, Maitama, testified as PW6. She revealed to the court how monies received by Drexel Tech Nigeria Limited were transferred to various accounts. “The account (Drexel Tech Nigeria Limited) was opened on 19th August 2013 as a corporate account with two signatories – William Butau and Ahmadu Mahmoud who is the CEO of the company.

“The first transaction in September 2013 was N20, 000 for legal fees. Subsequently, there were two major inflows into the account.

“The first was N462, 370,000 in October 2013. This money was put in a fixed deposit. The second was about N111, 967,200.00 in November 2013.

“From these, there were three major transfers to one Sofiano Ali’s account as follows: N33, 800,000; N33, 700,000 and N33, 700,000.

“The fixed deposit was liquidated sometime in January 2014 and instructions were received to transfer funds into four accounts, Oak Global – N66, 250,000; Africano Global – 4,000,000; Crown Medics – N120, 100,000 and one Chichi Habiba Abba Gana – about N202, 500,000.

“A transfer instruction also came in February 2014 to transfer N28, 500,000 to Mikano,” she said.

In support of the claim, documents including correspondence between the EFCC and Keystone Bank, Account opening packages for Drexel Tech Limited, Mikano, Crown Medics, Sofiano Ali, as well as, documents of various transfer instructions from Drexel Tech Limited to Keystone Bank were tendered by the prosecution and admitted as Exhibits AAFD 35 – 43.

Another witness, Augustine Chukwuma Ugorji, a former Head of Finance, Pay4Me Services Nigeria Limited, an e-commerce company, narrated to the court how Drexel Tech Nigeria Limited engaged Pay4Me Services Nigeria Limited to provide a payment platform for the collection and online management of payment activities through designated banks for the ill-fated recruitment exercise.

According to Ugorji, “The process of Pay4Me is that the applicant goes through the website of the client, in this case, the Ministry of Interior, completes the form and is redirected to the payment platform where he or she is given the option to pay either through their banks or their card.”

He stated further: “Eight banks – Union Bank, United Bank for Africa, Diamond Bank, Zenith Bank, Sterling Bank, EcoBank, Enterprise Bank, and Interswitch – participated.

“Pay4Me has the Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System Plc., NIBSS, as a partner. The role of NIBSS was to act as a central switch through which banks do their clearing.

675,675 applicants made their payments through our platform.

“The agreement between Drexel and the Ministry of Interior was for each applicant to pay N1000. The agreement was for Drexel to pay Pay4Me N150 per applicant. From the N150, Pay4Me agreed to pay the bank N70 per applicant, leaving N80 for Pay4Me. The balance of N850 goes to Drexel”.

Giving details of remittances by each of the banks, Ugorji stated that, Zenith Bank remitted N22,425,390.00; Sterling Bank- N38,013,420.00; United Bank for Africa, UBA, – N190,187,416; Diamond Bank – N114,616,260.00; Union Bank – N133,862,010.00; Fidelity Bank – N58,175,670.00; Enterprise Bank – N12,527,100.00; EcoBank – N48,146,870.00 and Card Payments: N10,879,115.00.” He added that two tranches of remittance were made to Drexel through their Keystone Bank account.

Accordingly, six documents including the witness’ statement given, appointment letter from Drexel Tech Nigeria Limited to Pay4Me Services Nigeria Limited, Pay4Me’s CBN license, as well as Master Service Agreements between Pay4Me and participating banks, were also tendered by Yusuf and admitted as exhibits AAFD 29 – 34.

Testifying earlier on May 19, 2017, the PW4, Mustapha Bello, an officer in the Compliance department of the Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC, gave evidence to the effect that, while Drexel Tech Nigeria Limited is duly registered by the Commission, there is no record of Drexel Global Tech Limited – the company to whom the Ministry of Interior awarded the contract for the provision of online enlistment and e-recruitment services.

Before his evidence, Ishaq Yahaya, Director of Compliance at the Bureau of Public Procurement testified that the Ministry contravened some sections of the Public Procurement Act, 2007 by failing to advertise the project and engaging the services of Drexel Global Tech Limited, who had submitted an unsolicited proposal, without the approval of the BPP and without complying with mandatory pre-qualification criteria.

Interestingly, while other co-accused have been admitted on bail, Mahmood Ahmadu has continued to enjoy trade partnership with the Federal Government through another of his company called Online Integrated Solutions (OIS).

He secured a deal for OIS to collect Bank Verification Number (BVN) record of Nigerians based overseas through their biometrics for onward transmission to the Central Bank of Nigeria. Nationals of India were predominantly employed worldwide to handle the data collection, storage and transfer.

OIS, on its website, prides itself as “a specialist Nigerian visa and passport application agency” in partnership with diplomatic missions across the world to “expedite hitch-free travel” to global destinations.

On its LinkedIn profile, OIS said it was established in 2011 as a Nigerian indigenous company and operates in 25 major cities across the world, including Nigeria, China, Lebanon, UAE, Malaysia, Italy, Netherlands, South Africa, USA, France, Germany, UK, India, and Canada.

However, its registration details on the Companies House record in the United Kingdom showed that it was incorporated in October 2012 with 75 per cent being controlled by Mahmood Ahmadu. He was also described in the UK Companies House record as owner with significant influence or control, controlling rights of votes and right to appoint and remove directors.

He exercised this right immediately after the shambolic recruitment by shutting three of his UK companies. Many of the companies are believed to be shell companies being coordinated from Jersey Island, a UK dependant island located on Channel Island and regarded as a tax haven and top offshore financial centre.

Ahmadu registered another company in the UK in March 2014 and tweaked the name to appear similar to that which was used in securing the deal for the recruitment exercise. He called it Drexel Tech Global Limited, which was hurriedly shut in August of 2014.

Ahmadu filed for the strike-off one month after the tragedy despite the Senate Committee on Internal Affairs commencing a probe into the exercise. Ahmadu never showed up throughout the committee sitting. Drexel Tech Global was Registered in June 2011 with a share capital of £1 (one-pound sterling) and dissolved in August 2014.

The directors of Drexel Tech Global are; Mr Mahmood Ahmadu, 53, Nigerian of 63 Dennis Osadebey Crescent, Apo Legislative Quarters, Abuja, Nigeria; Ms Theresa Mahoney, 55, (American) of 6 Hitchcock Circle, Simbury, Connecticut, USA, 06070. Drexel Tech Global Company account was filed as dormant in June 2012 and 2013 financial years and then dissolved through voluntary strike-off in August 2014 without single taxation paid to the UK government.

Another of Ahmadu’s companies, Socket Works Ltd and Socket Works Global Ltd which were registered in the UK in March and April 2013, was also shut down soon after.

Socket Works Global Ltd was closed down in Oct 2014 and Socket Works Ltd in Feb 2015 at a time the Nigerian presidential election was originally scheduled.

His other evasive attempt at operating from behind the scene was not glamorous either. Ahmadu replaced himself and another Mrs Maryam Mahmood, 41, believed to be his wife as directors at Online Integrated Solutions Ltd UK with two other people. He resigned from Online Integrated Solutions Ltd on February 2016 shortly after the EFCC’s hunt became public, while Mrs Mahmood left earlier in November 2015.

Ahmadu has, however, kept alive his interest in Gau Limited, which he registered in the UK in Jan 2015 and in A2A International Ltd, which was registered in Jersey, Channels Island in 2012. But his interest is represented in the Jersey registered company by Online Integrated Solutions Ltd.

Ahmadu has been living large. He was presented Asian Voice Award in front of more than 300 top British, Asians and African leaders and VIP in Sheraton Hotel, Park Lane, London in May 2016.  This was at a time the EFCC said Ahmadu was hiding in Europe and mulled the idea of using the Interpol and relevant agencies in the UK to track him.

 

Senate, Reps return to consider revised 2020 budget [Nation]

The National Assembly will resume on Thursday from its Sallah break to consider President Muhammadu Buhari’s Appropriation (Amendment) Bill, 2020.

Both chambers had on May 20 adjourned plenary to June 2 for the Eid-el-Fitr festivities.

Clerk of the National Assembly, Mohammed Sani-Omolori, in a statement in Abuja yesterday, said Senators and House of Representatives members are expected to resume tomorrow to consider the reviewed budget.

The statement reads: “This is to inform all distinguished Senators and honourable members that resumption of plenary session earlier scheduled for Tuesday 2nd June, 2020, has been rescheduled for Thursday, 28 May 2020, to enable members to consider the Appropriation (Amendment) Bill, 2020.

“All Distinguished Senators and Honourable Members are expected to resume in plenary by 10.00 am on Thursday, 28th May, 2020.”

Senate President Ahmad Lawan had said the Senate would cut short its break to consider any urgent communication from President Muhammadu Buhari, especially on the revised 2020 budget.

 

COVID-19: Chloroquine trial to continue in Nigeria [Nation]

Medical experts divided on NAFDAC’s action

Nigeria will continue with the solidarity trial of chloroquine for COVID-19 treatment, the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) said on Tuesday.

This is contrary to the suspension of trial announced on Monday by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a result of “safety concerns”.

According to the international agency, a report published by Lancet, which indicated that more people are dying from the use of the drug, influenced its decision.

But Director-General of NAFDAC, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye said on a television programme on Tuesday:  “There is data to prove that hydroxychloroquine worked for many COVID-19 patients. Therefore, we would continue our own clinical trials in Nigeria.

“Hydroxychloroquine has been proved to work at a mild stage. So the potency depends on the severity of the disease in the patient’s body.

“If medical doctors, research scientists, pharmacists, herbal experts work together, we should conclude the clinical trial in three to four months. The narrative might change afterwards but for now, we believe in hydroxychloroquine.”

During the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 briefing on May 18,  Fiona Braka, the officer in charge of WHO in Nigeria, announced that the solidarity trial had started in Nigeria.

Three days later, Lagos State Health Commissioner Prof Akin Abayomi, said the state had concluded plans to roll out hydroxychloroquine trials for possible prevention and treatment of COVID-19.

The suspension of the process by WHO came few weeks into the solidarity trial.

But doctors caution NAFDAC on turning against the WHO advice. Speaking with The Nation, President of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Dr. Francis Faduyile, said: “The World Health Organisation did not just stop the use of chloroquine, they said that some of the researches that have been carried out show that chloroquine does not have any good effect.

“I hope NAFDAC can study the report and decide on the way they want to move from there. Again, NAFDAC does not conduct researches, it is only for registration. We have so many researchers that are the working on this in Nigeria.

“Concerning the evaluation and analysis of herbal medicines, it is always a welcome development to test whatever anybody brings up, so that we will not be accused of not thinking of how to resolve some of these problems within the country.

“We will continue to hope that we can see something good from such claims that they have stated. Certainly, Nigerian traditional medicine or alternative medicine is improving because they are now willing to bring their formulation for clinical trials and that is the way to go and be recognised within the committee of nations.”

The President of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), Dr. Aliyu Sokomba, said: “The solidarity trial was like any other clinical trial that was embarked upon to determine the efficacy as well as the safety of the hydroxychloroquine in the treatment of COVID-19.

“The first stage is to establish the safety of the drugs before you even move to the efficacy. If the test does not scale through safety, you cannot proceed.

“I support the stand of the WHO to temporarily stop the use of hydroxychloroquine because it is the right thing to do. They probably need to go back to the laboratory and re-evaluate the use of the drug before bringing it up again for a clinical trial.

“As for its continued use in Nigeria, I want to believe that the drug again is being used as a trial drug.  Perhaps, based on the information available to the researchers here in Nigeria, they do not think the drug is not safe for use and they are proceeding with the research.  I want to believe that in due course, whether the drug is safe or not, it will become obvious and the appropriate measures will be taken whether to discontinue the use of the drug or not.

“With regards to the evaluation of traditional medicines for a potential treatment or cure for COVID-19, I think the move by the Federal Government is a welcome development. This is as long as the efficacy of whatever drug they are proposing will be evaluated before they are made available to the public for use.”

The President of the Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria (AMLSN), Dr. Bassey Enya, said: “WHO relies on evidence which is provided through data. The kind of data they work with is the data they have looked at overtime and analysing viz-a-viz what becomes the health implications for the population.

“However, NAFDAC has a mandate and I think NAFDAC can also provide evidence that the WHO can also lean on to be able to advise others. Whatever NAFDAC is doing, the WHO will still look at the procedure adopted to arrive at their conclusions.

“I think that the advisory from WHO is quite in order. The WHO does not have the power to stop NAFDAC from trial, it can only advise. Its responsibility is to provide guidance.

“If NAFDAC comes out to provide additional evidence that contradicts what WHO has done, then WHO will sit back and still evaluate the process and procedures adopted by NAFDAC to arrive at the new evidence they are providing to the people.

“The Federal Ministry of Health is in order if it asks NAFDAC to evaluate their active ingredients from those herbal products viz-a -viz the potency of those products. So I think the ministry is in order to ensure that NAFDAC evaluates the claims of traditional medicine practitioners.”

Announcing the decision, Ghebreyesus said: “As you know, more than two months ago, we initiated the Solidarity Trial, to evaluate the safety and efficacy of four drugs and drug combinations against COVID-19.

“On Friday, the Lancet published an observational study on hydroxycholoroquine and chloraquine and its effects on COVID-19 patients that have been hospitalised.

“The authors reported that among patients receiving the drug, when used alone or with a macrolide, they estimated a higher mortality rate.

“The Executive Group of the Solidarity Trial, representing 10 of the participating countries, met on Saturday and agreed to review a comprehensive analysis and critical appraisal of all evidence available globally.

“The review will consider data collected so far in the Solidarity Trial and, in particular, robust randomised available data, to adequately evaluate the potential benefits and harms from this drug.

“The Executive Group has implemented a temporary pause of the hydroxychloroquine arm within the Solidarity Trial while the safety data is reviewed by the Data Safety Monitoring Board.”

Hydroxycholoroquine has been touted by United States President Donald Trump and others as a possible treatment for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. The U.S. President has said he was taking the drug to help prevent infection.

Dr. Mike Ryan, head of the WHO emergencies programme, said the decision to suspend trials of hydroxychloroquine had been taken out of “an abundance of caution”.

 

NSCIA raises panel, CAN meets on worship centres’ reopening [Punch]

CAN President, Supo Ayokunle and Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar

The Christian Association of Nigeria and the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs have begun work on guidelines, which will prevent the spread of COVID-19 in churches and mosques after the reopening of wo++ told The PUNCH, on Tuesday evening, that consultations with various groups within the blocs in CAN were ongoing in anticipation of the Wednesday meeting.

He said, “The CAN President, Reverend Supo Ayokunle, is very busy at the moment as he has been having series of meetings with various groups for hours. We are not sure of how long the meeting would last because there are two more groups waiting to meet with him separately this evening.

“This is related to the guidelines on modalities to follow after the lockdown is lifted. There will be clearer picture by tomorrow (Wednesday). After the consultation with the leaders of the blocs in CAN, a virtual meeting would hold. Perhaps, the online meeting on Wednesday (today) would lead to the constitution of a committee that would make recommendation on the final steps to be taken.

“After the meeting, a clear picture will be given. I think the foundation upon which steps to follow would be based is being laid at the moment.”

NSCIA sets up committee

On his part, the NSCIA spokesman, Ibrahim Aselemi, stated, “A committee has been set up to work out the modalities as requested. I shall make the details known to you as soon as they are okayed by my superiors.”

COVID-19: NAFDAC disagrees with WHO, continues hydroxychloroquine trials

The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control has said it will continue hydroxychloroquine clinical trials for the treatment of COVID-19 in Nigeria, despite the suspension of  the trials by the World Health Organisation.

The PUNCH reported that the WHO, on Monday, said it had “temporarily” suspended the clinical trials of hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment for COVID-19.

But the NAFDAC Director General, Prof Mojisola Adeyeye, who spoke on Television Continental on Tuesday, stated that there was evidence that hydroxychloroquine had been effective in the treatment of COVID-19 patients, especially those at the “mild stage” of the virus.

Adeyeye said, “There is data to prove that hydroxychloroquine worked for many COVID-19 patients. Therefore, we would continue our own clinical trials in Nigeria. Hydroxychloroquine has been proved to work at a mild stage. So the potency depends on the severity of the disease in the patient’s body.”

While noting that Lagos State had already begun hydroxychloroquine clinical trials, the NAFDAC boss said, depending on the speed of work, the clinical trials would be concluded in three to four months.

“If medical doctors, research scientists, pharmacists and herbal experts work together, we should conclude the clinical trial in three to four months. The narrative might change afterwards, but for now, we believe in hydroxychloroquine,” she stated.

According to the WHO, the decision to suspend trials of hydroxychloroquine followed a study, which showed that using the drug on COVID-19 patients could increase their chance of dying.

The WHO Director General, Tedros Ghebreyesus, said, “The Executive Group has implemented a temporary pause of the hydroxychloroquine arm within the Solidarity Trial, while the safety data is reviewed by the Data Safety Monitoring Board.”

He stressed that hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine “are accepted as generally safe for use in patients with autoimmune diseases or malaria”, noting that the suspension was a temporary measure.

Health ministry  gets Madagascar’s drug from SGF today

Barring any last minute change in plan, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, will on Wednesday (today) hand over Madagascan native formulation for the treatment of COVID-19 to the Ministry of Health.

Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, disclosed this on Sunday evening during a programme on Channels Television, Sunday Politics.

Sunday PUNCH had reported exclusively that over a week after receiving the Madagascan formulation for the treatment of COVID-19, the Presidency had yet to send the samples to NAFDAC for testing.

The report had quoted a source as saying that the drug, which was delivered to the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), by his Guinea Bissau counterpart, Umarro Embalo, 10 days ago, had remained in the possession of the SGF.

Ehanire, in confirming the report, said his ministry would take delivery of the drug “on the next working day.”

Since the Federal Government has declared Monday and Tuesday as public holidays to mark this year’s Eid-el-Fitr, the next working day is Wednesday.

The minister said, “The Madagascar herb is supposed to be handed over to the Ministry of Health on the next working day.

“That’s when we will pick it up and then send to our research institutes, first of course to NAFDAC and then to the Nigeria Institute of Pharmaceutical Research and Development to look into it and tell us what it is.”

On issue of local alternative experts, the minister said he had received “quite a few” proposals from people who claimed to have medicines for the virus.

He said NAFDAC and other research institutes would also look into the samples sent to him.

The minister said the process might take a bit of time.

Ehanire said the country would continue to increase on its testing capacity, which he said depended on getting the reagents which  had very high global demand.

The SGF had, at the daily COVID-19 briefing last Tuesday, said he had received the consignment of Madagascar’s drug and that  it would be sent to the ministry of health.

Mustapha had said, “As God would have it, the President of Guinea Bissau decided to visit our President last Saturday and when he was coming, he came with our consignment of five cartons and those five cartons were delivered to me yesterday in the evening, sealed, without a bottle out of it.

“I am going to engage the minister of health who has the responsibility of validation, through his institutions that are chartered by law to do that. The President was upfront with that even when he took delivery of it from the President of Guinea Bissau.

“He said it quite clearly of what we are going to do with the consignment would be guided by science, under the processes of validation. We’ll now know where to go.”

We are prepared to comply with regulations, says RCCG

Meanwhile, the Redeemed Christian Church of God expressed readiness to adjust its services in order to meet government guidelines for worship.

The Head, Media and Public Relations, RCCG, Pastor Olaitan Olubiyi, said the church was always ready to comply with any regulations.

He said, “From the outset of this pandemic and the attendant lockdown, our general overseer has continued to emphasise that all our churches must abide by whatever rules and regulations the government brings. We are sufficiently ready to comply with the rules.

“When we look at the issue of spacing, for instance, churches are in different categories. We are a church planting mission. We have some of our churches that are in the lower cadre in terms of the population of the congregation. Some are under 50, while some are under 100.

“So, when the rules are ready, we will adjust. Some of our mega churches, space should not be a problem; it is a matter of reducing the number of people worshipping at a time.

“In all the sermons that our general overseer has been preaching on Sundays, he has been emphasising the issue of social distancing. Once we know the details of what the government wants, we will work towards achieving it.”

Meanwhile, global COVID-19 cases rose to 5,550,339 at 10pm on Tuesday, while 348,447 had died of the disease as of the time sending this report.

In the United States, COVID-19  cases increased to 1,676,401 on Tuesday. The virus had killed 98,787 as of 11:15pm on Tuesday.

 

FCT arrests 29 Lagos-bound commercial motorcyclists, seizes truck [Punch]

The Federal Capital Territory Ministerial Enforcement Task team on COVID-19 on Tuesday arrested 29 commercial motorcycle riders, who were travelling in a truck from Lafia in Nasarawa State to Lagos.

The truck, with registration number LFA 837 ZX, was stopped at the AYA Bridge in the Asokoro District of the FCT.

The driver, Samaila Samiya, said on getting to Lafia, he decided to pick the passengers after they pleaded to pay him N2,000 each.

One of the passengers, Musa Simon, claimed they were commercial motorcycle riders who had left Lagos in the wake of the COVID-19 lockdown.

“We are returning to resume work following threats by motorcycle owners that they would sell off the motorcycles if we fail to resume work,” he said.

Addressing journalists at the Eagle Square where they were arraigned before a mobile court, the Chairman of the Task Team, Ikharo Attah, lamented that, “despite series of arrests, prosecution and turning back of violators by the FCT Administration, many persons have yet to fully comply with the presidential directive on interstate travel ban.”

He added, “Just when one feels there is enough arrest to deter people, many more would continue to move and traverse state borders.”

Magistrate Idayat Akanni, who found them guilty, ordered that the truck be impounded and fined the driver N3,000.

She also ordered that all the occupants of the truck be sent back to their point of departure.

 

Ogoni women protest semi-nude, demand demolished hotel manager’s release [Punch]

A group of Ogoni women from the Khana Local Government Area of Rivers State, on Tuesday, protested semi-nude over the continued detention of their son and manager of the demolished Prodest Hotel, Dr Bariledum Azoroh.

The women, who gathered in the Zaakpo community, Khana LGA, called on Governor Nyesom Wike to release Bariledum.

He was fined N50,000 and quarantined for 14 days for violating the COVID-19 guidelines.

The hotel manager was also reported to have tested positive for COVID-19.

But the protesting women, including Bariledum’s mother, Beewo, threatened to go totally naked if the state government failed to release their son soon.

Some of the placards displayed by the protesters read, ‘Ogoni cannot lose another son again’, ‘Wike, please, release our son’ and ‘Our son is innocent’, among others.

Beewo said, “My son is innocent; since I was born, I have never seen such intimidation and victimisation. Please, Governor Wike, release my son.

“As a mother, I have been traumatised and took ill since the arrest of my son. Mr Governor, I believe you have a mother and brothers. How will you feel if someone treats them the way you are treating my son?”

Another woman, who gave her name simply as Grace, said Bariledum was healthy and nothing was wrong with him.

“There is no sickness in our son’s body. That is the truth. We beg you in God’s name to release him. Our son does not have the COVID-19 sickness,” she stated.

 

FG rolls out tough guidelines for passengers ahead flight resumption [Sun]

  • Says VIP escorts’ll be banned from terminals •As Netherlands evacuates 71 citizens

THE Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) has said passengers should brace up for rigorous health checks at the airports, flight delays and increase in airfare when restrictions are lifted and operations resume post COVID-19.

Speaking at an aviation webinar organised by Women in Aviation (WIA) Nigeria, with the theme: Aviation: The New Norm in the post COVID-19, the General Manager, Corporate Affairs, Henrietta Yakubu, said passengers should expect delays and long hours of checks and re-checks right from when they arrive the airport and departs as the agency has put arrangements in place regarding passenger facilitation and what to expect.

She said escorts of Very Important Persons (VIPs) would no longer be allowed to follow their principals into the terminal and such principals would be subjected to all its health checks. She said passengers are expected to leave home early hours before their flights in order to go through the various checks before entering the terminal and after.

 

“We are going to expect flight delays; flights will experience delays because of checks and re-checks. If you are travelling, I will expect a potential traveler to leave home hours before his flight, why do I say this? Because there is going to be a lot of checks in the front of the terminal. We have been told that some activities and procedures will take place in front of the terminal. So air travelers are expected to leave home very early so that they can get to the airport on time.”

The FAAN spokesperson also explained that passengers should expect that airlines would charge more in terms of airfare, adding that the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has said that there would be 45 per cent increase in fares.

Yakubu stated that the COVID-19 had brought a lot of changes to air travel and to ensure the safety of passengers and airport users the way of doing things before have to change, adding that the pandemic would make people cut down on non-essentials and lead to low demand of air travel.

At all airports, she said social distancing would be 100 per cent, temperature screening, wearing of face masks, disinfection of shoes and luggage of passengers would also be carried out 100 per cent regardless of personalities.

“There will be floor markings indicating where each passenger will wait on the queue, arriving passengers will also be subjected to temperature screening, physical distancing too will be observed while passengers are waiting by the carousel to pick up their luggage.

Passengers are expected to arrive the airport with their face masks on, their luggage and pairs of shoes to be disinfected.

Passengers are expected to observe social/physical distancing.

“Passengers will subject themselves to temperature screening and departure halls will be arranged in such a way that physical distancing too will be observed,” Yakubu said.

In her contribution, Ebele Okoye, General Manager Customer Service/SERVICOM,

FAAN, harped on the decongestion of the terminal building especially outside where all sorts of people who do not have business at the airport mill around.

According to her, in reducing contact, the days of opening people’s bag at the airport to search what is inside should be done away with. Okoye urged passengers to save themselves the stress of coming to the airport to buy tickets rather they buy their tickets online, check in online and pay for their trolleys online to reduce the hours they would have to spend carrying out these activities.

“Social security can be done, online ticket purchase: I am sure that the airline will notify the people who purchase their ticket online to check in online and decongest the terminal building. There would be no hangers around, touts should be out of the airport, anyone not travelling should not be allowed to enter the airport. How do passengers get their trolley?

They can pay online, you don’t need contacts,” she said.

In a related development, the government of Netherlands on Tuesday, evacuated 71 of its citizens from the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos.

The Boeing 767-300 airlifted 71 passengers from MMIA to Accra.

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