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Worship centres: JNI says PTF guidelines difficult, Catholic faults continued closure [Punch]

The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III-led Jama’atu Nasril Islam has supported guidelines issued by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 for reopening of churches and mosques across the country.

The JNI Secretary-General, Dr  Khalid Abubakar-Aliyu, who stated this in an interview with one of our correspondents in Kaduna on Wednesday, urged Nigerians to support efforts of the Federal Government to fight the pandemic.

He, however, expressed concern about the ability of worshippers in churches and mosques to abide by the PTF guidelines.

Abubakar-Aliyu said that it would be difficult for worshippers to adhere to the PTF guidelines during services.

At the PTF press conference on Tuesday, its Coordinator, Dr Sani Aliyu, released the guidelines for the reopening of worship centres.

According to the guidelines, churches and mosques are expected to provide running water, soap and sanitisers at their entry and exit points. The guidelines stipulate compulsory use of face masks at worship centres.

The task force advised vulnerable people including those with conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancer as well as people that were above 55 years to worship at home

It added members of the same family should sit together during services and that there should be a distance of two metres between people.

It said religious organisations should try to limit the time of their services to one hour. The task, however, disclosed that states would take final decisions on the reopening of the worship centres based on the guidelines it issued.

On Tuesday, states such as Lagos, Ogun, Oyo and Kaduna said they had yet to reopen churches and mosques despite the Federal Government’s relaxation of the ban on gatherings at places of worship.

On Wednesday, the JNI said it supported the PTF’s guidelines. The group’s secretary general, however, expressed concern about the shortage of face masks and other kits for the protection of citizens.

Abubakar-Aliyu said, “It is indeed the stand of the JNI to appreciate efforts of government to reopen worship places after the outbreak of the deadly virus in the world and in particular, Nigeria.

“It is also important for the aged and children to adhere to experts’ advice to avoid worship places as outlined in the guidelines because once they are infected their lives will be in danger.

“But the problem is not all this. The problem is the ability of worshippers to keep to these rules. It is indeed difficult. It is not easy how this can be realised.

“Another challenge is the kits to prevent people from contracting the virus. It is difficult to get face masks in shops. They are scarce. It is important for the government to do more in facilitating how this can be realised  by  making the face masks available in affordable price for the common man to get.

In Ogun State, the League of Imams and Alfas  expressed satisfaction with the conditions given by the PTF.

But the Chairman of the  state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria , Bishop ‘Tunde Akin-Akinsanya,  said  the association was waiting for the guidelines on the reopening of churches  from the state government.

In his remarks, the Secretary General of the Islamic group  in the state , Alhaji  Tajudeen Adewunmi,  said the Muslim leaders in the state had reached a consensus to support the conditions of the government in the interest of public safety.

But the national leadership of CAN said it was still meeting over the PTF guidelines.

Adebayo Oladeji, the  Special Assistant (Media and Communications) to CAN President, Samson Ayokunle, in an interview with The PUNCH, said, “We are still meeting and studying the guidelines.”

FCTA meets religious leaders

In Abuja,  there are indications that the Federal Capital Territory Administration is still discussing the reopening of  worship centres with religious leaders.

The Chancellor of the Abuja Catholic Archdiocese, Rev. Fr. Sebastian Musa, indicated this in a statement on Wednesday.

He stated, “As we are already aware, the Federal Government lifted the ban on public worship in the country, subject to the provision of guidelines by state governments.

“Here in the FCT, the leadership of Christian Association of Nigeria  and other religious leaders are still in dialogue with the FCT Administration concerning the guidelines.

Lagos Catholic Archdiocese kicks against continued closure

But the Catholic Archbishop of Lagos has opposed the continued closure of worship centres by the state government.

The Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, Most Rev Alfred Adewale Martins, stated this on Wednesday, in a statement by the archdiocese’s Director of Social Communications, Rev. Fr Anthony Godonu.

Martins was reacting to a statement by the state government through its Commissioner for Home Affairs, Mr Anofiu Elegushi, who on Tuesday said the ban  on religious gatherings had not been lifted.

The Catholic Archbishop of Lagos called on the Lagos State Government to ease the restriction on religious gatherings in the state.

He wondered why  it was concluded that the virus could spread at places of worship when people gathered in markets, motor parks and banks.

Martins stated, “There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic is real, and we all feel concerned that the numbers are rising. However, we know also that the virus will be with us for some time and more testing will reveal more infected persons but at the same time the truth is that life must go on. We believe strongly that churches as institutions are better able to exert control of situations and maintain discipline among their faithful than most other institutions.”

“The argument that we can pray in our individual houses and God will hear our prayers is true but it is also true for us as Christians that gathering together to worship is our heritage and practice arising from the Holy Bible. It was in the gathering of the Apostles that the Holy Spirit came down upon them(Acts.2:1); the early Christians gathered together in private homes for prayers and the breaking of the Bread(Acts 2:46) until the number  became too large to handle in private homes and it became necessary to have Church buildings.

“If Christians were willing to suspend their right to gather in Church buildings for the sake of common good at a time when all gatherings of people were suspended, it is unfair and unjust for government to restrict gatherings for worship when other gatherings are being allowed. Anyone who argues that gathering to worship is not essential as it is to eat and get money from the bank, obviously does not understand the spiritual, emotional, and psychological soothing that Christians get from gathering together to worship.

“In any case, are we saying that it is more dangerous for people to gather to worship than it is to gather for banking and trading or that it is gathering for worship that is responsible for the spread of thevirus?”

He said the archdiocese considered as fair, the position of Lagos State Government that it would approve a set of guidelines and monitor adherence to them.

Martins stated, “The monitoring is even more easily done in churches than in markets and motor parks or other places where the virus can even be more easily spread. This “volte face”of government gives the impression that the position of Christians is considered secondary and of no consequence in the affairs of the state.”


Akpabio inserted N500m projects in NDDC 2017 budget – Senate Panel [Punch]

The Senate Committee on the Niger Delta Affairs on Wednesday released documents to justify its allegations that the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, requested the inclusion of about N500m worth of projects in the NDDC 2017 budget.

The Chairman of the Senate panel on the NDDC, Peter Nwaoboshi, had last week alleged that Akpabio, who served in the 8th Senate, wrote to seek the leave of the panel to push his constituency projects through the Niger Delta Development Commission.

Nwaoboshi said he granted Akpabio’s request as Chairman of the Senate Committee during the 8th Senate.

However, Akpabio in a press statement on Tuesday denied these allegations.

The National Assembly is currently investigating the Interim Management Committee of the NDDC over alleged “reckless spending” of N40bn, between January and April this year.

Although the Senate set up an ad hoc committee to probe the alleged scam, the NDDC panel members have been accused of corruption by the IMC.

The documents indicting Akpabio were released to journalists at the National Assembly on Wednesday.

One of the documents indicated that in August 2017, Akpabio, requested for projects worth N500m from the NDDC and suggested the fixed amount each of them would cost.

In the letter dated August 7, 2017, and addressed to the Chairman, Senate Committee on NDDC, Akpabio, as the then Minority Leader, requested that five projects worth N500m be included for him as part of the NDDC budget.

The projects include fencing the Federal Polytechnic Ukana, Akwa Ibom North-West Senatorial District (N200m); and fencing of the Federal Government College, Ikot Ekpene (Old site) Akwa North-West Senatorial District. (N100m)

Another is entrepreneurship training on the use of modern farming implement for youths in Aiwa Ibom North-West Senatorial District at the cost of N75m, among others.


Edo polls: Oshiomhole insists on direct primaries, writes INEC [Punch]

The National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Adams Oshiomhole, has written to the Independent National Electoral Commission insisting that the party has chosen the direct primary mode for the selection of its candidate for the Edo State governorship poll.

In a letter dated May 19, 2020, addressed to INEC Chairman, Oshiomhole said the party had put in place measures to ensure strict compliance with the COVID-19 prevention guidelines.

An acknowledged copy of the letter sighted by our correspondent in Abuja, on Wednesday, said the party’s decision was in full compliance with the APC constitution and the Electoral Act.

The letter captioned “Notice of intention to conduct direct primary for the Edo State Governorship Election,” read in part, “I convey to you my compliments and wish to respectfully inform you that the All Progressives Congress has decided to conduct direct primary for the Edo State Governorship Election on Monday, 22nd of June, 2020.

“To this end, we have put in place modalities to ensure strict compliance with the COVID-19 prevention guidelines as announced by the COVID-19 Presidential Task Force and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.

“Therefore, direct primaries will be conducted in one hundred and ninety-two (192) wards.”

“We, accordingly, invite you as observers of the primaries with full compliance with All Progressives Congress Constitution and the Electoral Act.”


Churches, Mosques open in Kwara, Osun, Kano, Benue [Nation]

  • Islamic council urges caution as CAN faults advisory to 55 years old and above to avoid worship centres

Our states on Wednesday opened worship centres for Christians and Muslims to carry out their religious obligations – but under very strict conditions.

The decision is in line with the advice by the Federal Government that states should take charge but with full enforcement of the guidelines as released by the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 Control.

Osun, Kwara, Benue and Kano states gave the nod for churches and mosques to open for worship.

Kaduna State said it will release its guidelines by weekend while talks are ongoing in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) between the Administration and religious leaders.

They are expected to be concluded at the weekend.

After separate meetings with Christians and Islamic religious leaders in Osogbo, the Osun State capital, Governor Adegboyega Oyetola listed the conditions which must be met by churches and mosques for worship to take place.


Oyetola said only regular church services of not more than one hour, and maximum of two services would be allowed. For Muslims, Jumat service including khutbah (sermon) and prayers must not exceed 20 minutes.

He said vulnerable individuals such as those from age 65 and above and people with underlying ailments like tuberculosis and diabetes are to continue worshipping at homes. He also directed that all worship centres be fumigated to ensure that the environments were free of virus and other infectious diseases.

Oyetola said: “Worshipers are to keep reasonable space in churches and mosques and no worship centre must be filled to capacity during any service and solat respectively. Attendance at any service or solat must not exceed one-third capacity of the church or mosque. There should be provision of washing facilities or sanitisers for worshipers before entering the churches and mosques.

“Also, use of face mask is important; sharing of worship devices such as microphones and other musical gadgets should be discouraged. Water and food distribution during service should be discouraged.

“Worshippers must avoid exchange of banters and social distancing must be strictly observed. Windows in churches and mosques should be opened during worship for ventilation. Signage and notices should be placed at strategic locations to remind worshippers of best hygiene practices to be observed.”

He mandated churches and mosques to provide thermometers to check temperature of worshippers, adding that whoever is with high temperature should not be allowed into the worship centres.

The governor added that vigils and children activities remained suspended; adding that worship centres with support of security operatives should set up taskforce to enforce compliance with the measures.


Benue State Govenror Samuel Ortom said: “The churches and mosques are to hold standard services to accommodate fewer people.

“Social distancing must be observed in all religious gatherings. Wearing of face masks is mandatory for all.

“There must be water and soap for washing of hands. Also, alcohol-based hand sanitisers must be kept for use by the people.

“We are going to monitor what is happening in churches and mosques,” he said.

He said markets could open, but with strict observance of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) protocol.

“Here too, we will monitor as well to ensure compliance.

“Burials and other ceremonies should not have more than 30 persons at a time.

“Interstate border travels still remain closed except for transportation of essential services.”


The Kwara State Government said worship centres may reopen on Friday on the condition that they satisfy the criteria already agreed.

The government, however, warned that the reopening does not mean that the state has flattened the curve of transmission of COVID-19 pandemic.

Deputy Governor Kayode Alabi, speaking after meeting religious leaders, said:  “Worship centres shall be organised in such a way that one attendant is at least one metre away from the next.

“Each worship centre shall make provisions for hand washing or hand sanitisers, and infrared thermometer

“Wearing of face masks shall be mandatory for all worshippers

“There shall be no hand shaking or hugging among worshippers

“Children remain restricted from worship centres. People above 65 or persons with underlying health conditions are urged to stay away from worship centres

“Muslims should perform ablution from their houses. Ablution spots are not allowed for now to avoid the spread of the virus.

“Muslim women are to stay away from mosques, as suggested by the leadership of the Muslim community in the state; each worship centre is to dedicate a few minutes before service or prayers to educate attendants about COVID-19 and its dangers; adequate ventilation is to be ensured at each worship centre

“Government’s officials shall conduct random visits to worship centres to take samples and do temperature checks

“Government shall hold affected religious leaders responsible for non-compliance with all COVID-19-related safety measures in their worship centres. This is as agreed by the religious umbrella bodies.

“Government demands full compliance with all protocols as failure to do so is a huge drain on public resources.

“The leadership of religious communities agreed that any worship centre that violates these provisions would be shut down and its leadership strictly held accountable.”


The Commissioner for Information, Malam Muhammad Garba, said in a statement that after due consultations, markets, places of worship and movement of persons are now allowed on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 6:00am to 6:00pm.

He said it is necessary for such places to ensure compliance with safety rules, including mandatory use of  face masks; provision of hand washing facilities/sanitisers; and extensive temperature checks.

The commissioner pointed out that while these restrictions have been lifted, interstate movements, except for goods, agricultural produce and essential services, is still in force.

He said as schools will remain closed, students should avail themselves the opportunity of radio and televised lessons sponsored by the state government.

The immediate-past chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Kano branch, Bishop Ransom Bello, said: “The setting of the congregation complies with physical distancing. Worshippers are wearing their face masks. Out there, we have water, soap and sanitizers for all worshippers and visitors. We are complying with all these protocols because I personally believe that prevention is better than cure.

“I agree that Fridays and Sundays should be free for muslims and christians to worship their God. What we need to do as a people is to help ourselves. Government has been doing a lot. We need to strictly comply with the COVID-19 protocols for our good health and that of the members of our families.

“Here in the church, we teach the congregation, we preach to the congregation, we appeal and advise the congregation to comply with the COVID-19 protocols.”


However, Kaduna State Government said it was still working with the stakeholders to finalise guidelines and protocols to be adopted ahead of reopening, after two and half months of lockdown.

The government said a final document containing the detailed guidlines will be out latest by the weekend.

But, source said, schools, worship places and social gatherings may still remain under lock and key.

Special Adviser to Governor Nasir El-Rufa’i on Media and Communication Muyiwa Adekeye said the government had opened discussion with stakeholders to get their input to the draft guidelines.

He said: “Discussion is going on, we are sharing our views and we are listening to people who practice things, because they have the capacity to come up with more cost-effective guidelines. So, we are expecting that, by the end of the week, the guidelines will be ready.”

Part of the draft document reads: “Ensure adequate attention to the most vulnerable population, especially senior citizens above the age of 50 from the costs of community transmission especially those with underlying health risks. Protect the health and safety of our frontline health workers by supplying adequate PPE, medical equipment, incentives and limit risks of infection from active cases.

“Mobilise the public to mass produce and face masks whenever going out. Identify potential hotspots, especially communities bordering neighboring states and ensure that such areas remain under restrictions of movement to and from.”

According to the document: “Schools are not permitted to reopen due to collateral risk of parents, teachers and caregivers. They should continue to explore virtual learning platforms and TV, radio and Online platforms.

“Religious gatherings remain prohibited.

All services in the hospitality sector are prohibited. These include hotels, social gatherings like wedding ceremonies, concerts etc are prohibited. The reopening of mall is prohibited for other segments. Except ICT/electronic shops/stalls at the mall. Those shops/stalls can open on Wednesdays only.”


Protests, others trail death of Uniben student [Nation]

  • Colleagues seek justice for late colleague

The rape and murder of Miss Vera Omozuwa, 100-Level Microbiology student of the University of Benin (UNIBEN), who went to read in a Redeemed Christian Church parish in Benin City, has sparked an outrage from the university community, students and the country at large, reports IFUNANYA OSAKWE (UNIBEN).

HER ambition was to graduate from the University of Benin (UNIBEN) as a microbiologist and looked forward to a life of bliss thereafter. This was not to be. Last week, Miss Vera Uwaila Omozuwa’s young life was cut short by some rapists. This has thrown the university into mourning.

Omozuwa, a 100-level student of UNIBEN, was attacked at the Ikpoba Hill branch of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), in  Benin City, the Edo State capital, on May 27, where she had reportedly gone to study at night. The 22-year-old Vera’s head was allegedly smashed with a fire extinguisher by her assailants.

CAMPUSLIFE gathered that when the  church security officer went to collect keys from the keeper, he was told someone had done so. In the church, he met the victim in a pool of blood as well as saw the blood-stained fire extinguisher. After informing the keeper, Vera was immediately rushed to the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH),  where she revealed that some men had come into the church to rape her and subsequently hit her head with a fire extinguisher. She died on Saturday, May 30, after efforts to save her failed.

Outrage from students

Though UNIBEN is not in session due to the Covid-19 pandemic, its students have condemned the killing of  Omozuwa.

A 100 level student of Physics Department, who gave her name as Queen Osagie, described the murder of Miss Vera as an act of wickedness and extreme evil.

She said the incident had made her realise that no place was safe.

“I was shocked and sad when I saw the news on WhatsApp. I couldn’t imagine such an act happening in a church. The perpetrators must be evil and without hearts to have taken the life of a fellow human being.

“No place is really safe. I pray that the culprits will be caught and punished severely so that they will understand that  human life is not something to be destroyed at will,” she said.

Meanwhile, another student from Ekenwan Campus of the university, Bolaji Jokanola, condemned the rape and killing of Vera. He described the act as evil, which should not be condoned in  a decent human society.

“For me, rape is not something to be excused or accepted as part of those things that happen in our society. But the most gruesome part is killing the victim after such an act.

“It shows the callous heart of the culprits. The society and necessary agencies should take this incident seriously and ensure that the suspects are apprehended and  dealt with for  such crime against humanity,“ said Bolaji.

Another student from the Ekenwan campus, who gave her name as Rukky, equally  decried  the dastardly act against the victim.

She called on the various agencies involved to ensure that the culprits were apprehended and punished. She advised parents to avoid  religious bigotry.

“This act is pure evil. No matter what might have led to Miss Vera’s murder, it can never be justified. We all must try to be careful with whom we associate with as bad friends lead people into evil ways.

“I pray Miss Vera’s perpetrators will be caught and justice applied so that those out there with such evil intentions will eschew such misdeed.

“Parents, however, should be mindful of where their children go to, especially at night. Parents should also enlighten their children on issues like this,” she said.

Wisdom Obuetor from the Department of Political Science also condemned the killing of Vera.

“If I say that I was not shocked when I saw the  news  on WhatsApp, then, I will be lying.

“It is very surprising that such act was committed in a church of all places. This made me wonder if a church is just like any other building.

“I am so saddened and I  pray for strength for the family at this trying time. I also implore everyone to avoid places that are lonely, especially at night, because evil doers work in the dark,” he said.


Physical and virtual protests from students

In a show of solidarity, students in Edo State organised a peaceful protest on Monday to decry the crime with placards bearing messages like: “Stop Raping Us”, “Stop Killing Us”, “No Means No,” as they marched to the state Criminal Investigation Department (CID) to register their grouse and make sure justice is done.  There were protests online too with the hashtag #justiceforuwa as people expressed their angst.


Sister accuses police of demanding money

Sadly, a sister of the deceased, Judith Omozuwa, in an online video, lamented that the police had requested money before they could do anything about the matter.

“They (the police) told us to bring money before they could act. It is very bad. And that would not be possible at all,” she disagreed.

Uniben Vc, Adeboye react

The Vice Chancellor, Prof. Lilian Imuetinyan Salami, in a statement, described the news as shocking and condemnable, noting that such a heinous crime should not be condoned in the society. She commiserated with the family of the bereaved and prayed that God grants the victim a peaceful repose. She, however, urged students of the institution and the youth to be careful of the company they keep and the places they visit.

It was also gathered that a delegation was sent by the university management to commiserate with the family of the late undergraduate.

The General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor Enoch Adeboye,  condemned the mindless crime and urged everyone to be calm as the church was already looking into the issue. He went on to pray for the family of the deceased.

“All I can do at this time is to pray for the family of Omozuwa and do everything possible working with relevant authorities to bring the perpetrators to book. I and my family members condemn this act strongly and urge everyone to stay calm as we are already looking into the matter,” he wrote on his Twitter page.


Governor Obaseki orders investigation

Meanwhile, the Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, has ordered the police to investigate the death of Vera.

In a statement, the Special Adviser to the governor on Media and Communication Strategy, Mr. Crusoe Osagie, said Obaseki had mandated the police and other security agencies to fish out the culprits, who perpetrated the act and bring them to justice.

“The governor is deeply saddened by the news of the death of Miss Vera Uwaila Omozuwa. We have been in consultation with the Edo State Command of the Nigeria Police and have ordered a thorough investigation of the matter to ensure that those who are responsible for this heinous crime are brought to book,” Osagie said.

He added that the government would ensure that the culprits were fished out and dealt with.

The governor expressed his condolences to the family of the deceased.


Fed Govt okays N148b refund to Osun, others [Nation]

The Federal Executive Council (FEC) has approved the refund of N148, 141,987,161.25 to five states as the cash they disbursed in fixing federal roads in their domains.

Information, Culture and Tourism Minister Lai Mohammed, who dropped the hint in a chat with State House reporters after Wednesday’s virtual FEC meeting, listed the beneficiaries as Cross River, Ondo, Osun, Bayelsa and Rivers states.

The minister said the memo for the refund was presented by Works and Housing Minister Babatunde Fasola.

According to Mohammed, the virtual meeting, which was presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari, considered claims of the five states in the approved memo.

A breakdown of the refunds shows that Cross River will get N18,394,737,608.85; Ondo (N7,822,147,577.08); Osun (N2,468,938,876.78); Bayelsa (N38,040,564,783.40) and Rivers (N78,953,067,518.29).

Mohammed, however, noted that the Council had warned that there would be no more of such refunds in future, should any state government venture into projects without first getting a mandate from the federal government.

He said: “You will recall that in 2016, 36 states of the federation sent a very huge bill to the Federal Government, asking for compensation for money that they have expended on federal roads.

“This prompted Mr. President to set up a committee to go and verify the claims of these 36 states, whether indeed these projects were actually constructed, were they completed, in line with the federal government standards.

“At the end of that exercise by an inter-ministerial committee, chaired by the Honorable Minister of Works and Housing, but also had ministers of Education, Transportation, Finance, Minister of State for Works, Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) Director-General  and the Permanent Secretary of the Cabinet Office as members.

“At the end of that exercise, the committee recommended that the federal government should refund N550,364,297.31 billion to 31 of the 36 states, after they were convinced that, yes indeed, the projects were completed and there were federal government roads.

“But, the claims of five other states – Cross River, Rivers, Ondo, Bayelsa and Osun failed on the grounds that they did not do proper documentation and the committee felt they needed proper documentation.

“So, the committee went back with new terms of reference to ensure that the claims of the five states were in order. That is why the BPP is on the committee. So, at the end of the exercise, the committee now reported that the five states – Cross River with 20 roads and one bridge will get a refund of N18,394,737,608.85, Ondo with six roads to get a refund of N7,822,147,577.08, and Osun with two roads and one bridge to get a refund of N2,468,938,876.78.

“Others are Bayelsa with five roads and one bridge is to get a refund of N38, 040,564,783.40 and Rivers with three roads and three flyovers bridges is to get a refund of N78, 953,067,518.29.”

The minister said the committees confirmed the roads and the bridges; that not only were they completed, they are in substantial good form, adding that some of the bridges and roads were built about 10 years ago.

However, Mohammed said the FEC placed a caveat on similar circumstances as gave rise to the demand for refunds, saying “the Federal Government will pay the states but however, henceforth, if any state takes on federal road, it will not be paid, they will not get any refund.

“Even if you want to pay from your own pocket, you will still need the permission of the federal government and it will be supervised by the federal ministry of works and housing.”

He said the modalities of refund  was being worked out, while payment would be made over a period of time, even as he said 31 states were earlier paid the sum of over N500 billion.


Kalu out of Kuje Correctional Centre [Sun]

Barely 24 hours after the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos ordered his release, Senate Chief Whip and former Abia State governor, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, has regained freedom after six months incarceration.

He stepped out of Kuje Correctional Centre last night after the completion of his release formalities.

The court had transmitted the judgment as well as Warrant of Release duly signed by Justice Liman to the authorities of Kuje Correctional Centre, Abuja early yesterday to facilitate the senator’s freedom.

Justice Liman of the Federal High Court, Lagos had on Tuesday ordered the immediate release of Kalu. He also set aside the trial, conviction and sentence of the former governor to 12 years imprisonment on December 5, 2019, in accordance with earlier ruling of the Supreme Court.

In his ruling, Justice Liman ordered Kalu’s immediate release from prison as well as set aside the earlier trial and order given by Justice MB idris that Slok Nigeria Limited be wound up and its assets forfeited to Federal Government.

Kalu had gone to the court asking for his release in line with the Supreme Court’s judgment last month nullifying his trial and conviction.

The Supreme Court had ruled that since Justice Idris was elevated to the Court of Appeal, he had no jurisdiction to have concluded Kalu’s trial.

The apex court therefore nullified the conviction and ordered a retrial.

Kalu had stepped out of the Kuje Correctional Centre accompanied by his wife, Mrs Ifunanya Uzor Kalu. He was received by member representing Bende Federal Constituency, Ben Kalu; former member of the House of Representatives, Nnanna Uzor Kalu; former Chief of Staff, Abia State, Mr Mascot Uzor Kalu; a former Deputy Chief of Staff, Abia State, Dr. Maduka Ukaegbu, Kalu’s associate, Mr Obidigbo Enwezoh, among others.

The senator left the correctional centre’s premises in a black Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV). He arrived his Aso Villa residence to behold supporters and well wishers.

Addressing the people, Hon Ben Kalu appreciated all the people of Bende Federal Constituency, Abia North Senatorial District, Abia people, the people of the South East, members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and entire Nigerians.

Speaking earlier, a former Minister of State, Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Administration, Chief Chuka Odom, extended gratitude to all those who stood by Kalu during the period of his ordeal.

“We are very happy today that he is back home and you all know that at this point in time, there is a lockdown in the whole country because of COVID-19. We are trying to respect the Federal Government’s policy in this direction to ensure that we do not allow crowd around. It is not out of lack of appreciation for the sacrifice all of you have made in these past few hours and days,” Odom said.


Postponing Edo, Ondo elections may lead to constitutional crisis –INEC [Sun]

  • NNPC unveils contact tracing App

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has warned that postponing the Edo and Ondo states governorship polls and other bye-elections will throw Nigeria into a constitutional crisis.

Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, chairman of INEC, who raised the red flag at the commission’s first virtual consultative meeting with media organisations, yesterday, however, reassured the election umpire would continue to adopt and implement measures to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the country’s electoral activities.

“The commission is, therefore, determined to proceed with the two end of tenure governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states and 10 senatorial and state Assembly elections with cautious optimism bearing in mind that the health and safety of the people will be crucial determinants of the success or otherwise of the elections.

“We are mindful of the fact that we are at war with an ‘unseen’ enemy. We are aware of the fact that some of our compatriots have lost their lives on account of COVID-19 pandemic. We are aware that so many people are in isolation and quarantine centres. We are aware that some of our people are isolated and quarantined at home. This existential threat has therefore caused major disruption in public life which has led to a rethink of the way we administer elections and the processes connected therewith,” he said.

Yakubu solicited media cooperation and support in disseminating required information that would help to protect the health of voters and all those involved in electoral activities.

“The commission believes that your opinions and suggestions will be of immense benefit to our electoral activities. The commission, therefore, values your contributions to policy formulation and implementation,” he said.

Yakubu said COVID-19 pandemic had necessitated a rethink of many activities that had been taken for granted”

Meanwhile, the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has said it has developed a COVID-19 contacts-tracing software application that can be deployed in all its locations across the country.

The corporation disclosed this in a statement by its spokesman, Dr. Kennie Obateru, in Abuja yesterday.

It said the idea was in line with the Transparency, Accountability and Performance Excellence (TAPE) agenda of the present leadership of the corporation.

According to Obateru, the NNPC continues to show the commitment to continually deploy Information and Communications Technology (ICT) for the purposes of operational efficiency and accountability within the corporation’s system.

He quoted the corporation’s Group General Manager, Information Technology Division (ITD), Danladi Inuwa, as saying that the novel app was part of the NNPC’s sectoral contribution to curb spread of the pandemic within its formations, ministries, departments and agencies of the government.

“The contacts-tracing Solution is ready to be deployed, all the technical testing have been done and the solution is ready to go live.

“Everywhere you go around NNPC locations will be covered by this novel application, which will reveal all information about persons visiting any official.”


Foreign tax: controversy trails CBN’s unremitted $3.3bn [Sun]

  • As Senate panel summons Army, Police, EFCC over unaudited accounts

The Senate Committee on Public Accounts, yesterday, queried the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) over an alleged unremitted $3.3 billion from the $21.3 billion collected by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) as foreign tax in 2015.

Trouble started when the CBN was queried by members of the Committee who said while FIRS recorded $21.3 billion as total sum of foreign tax collected in 2015 and domiciled in the apex bank, the CBN, on the other hand, recorded $18 billion.

On the strength of the query, the Committee led by Mathew Urhoghide, took up the CBN management to explain the shortfalls which its Deputy Governor (Corporate Affairs), Mr Edward Lamatek Adamu, couldn’t explain convincingly.

The Deputy Governor in his effort to convince the committee that the shortfall of $3.3 billion was not missing or unremitted, said variations in exchange rate during the time, resulted in the difference of amounts recorded by FIRS and CBN.

Dissatisfied with his explanation, the Committee ordered him and other top officials of the bank to report back on Monday with required documents on the alleged variations in exchange rate.

Addressing newsmen after the session,   Urhoghide said: “While the record of FIRS showed $21.3 billion, the record of apex bank showed $18 billion.

“When the CBN was asked about why the differences in the amount, it hinged its argument on exchange rate variation following which, officials of the bank were directed to come up with supporting documents if they have any.

“There were 13 queries raised concerning CBN. Today, they have explained some while some are yet to be sufficiently explained, particularly the $3.3 billion difference it has from the $21.3 billion foreign taxes remitted by FIRS.”

Meanwhile, the Committee has slated next Tuesday for appearances of some other highly rated government establishments like the Nigerian Army, the Police and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), over alleged unaudited accounts over many years.

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