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DPO, 7 policemen, 1 other killed in Kogi bank robbery [Sun]

Nine persons, including eight policemen and one civilian, were feared killed in Isanlu, Kogi State, when a gang of armed robbers launched an attack on a branch of First Bank in the town, yesterday.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) gathered that among those killed were the Divisional Police Officer (DPO), in the town, five other Policemen and two Policewomen.

NAN sources indicated that while the DPO, the two Policewomen, and four Policemen were killed at the Police Station, one Policeman was killed at the bank’s premises. The other victim, a male civilian, died when a stray bullet hit him.

The armed robbers were said to have invaded the Police Station at about 1 p.m. and opened fire on all officers and men on duty.

The source told NAN that the Police Station was completely destroyed by the armed robbers who also set free all detainees in the detention facility.

The robbers later proceeded to the area’s First Bank Plc branch where they killed one of the Policemen on duty and carted away money.

An eyewitness, Mr. Segun Thomas, told NAN that the robbery operation lasted almost one hour. “The robbers came in two vehicles – a bus and a car – with which they also escaped from the town. NAN learned that the car, believed to have been snatched from its owner, was later abandoned around Kizito College, Isanlu. Mr. William Aya, the spokesman of the Police Command in Kogi, confirmed the robbery incident and the invasion of the Police Station, but added that the casualty figure was “still hazy.

“The Commissioner of Police, Mr. Ede Ayuba, has dispatched the Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of the operation, to Isanlu to ascertain the true situation,” he told NAN.

Aya promised to brief the press “as soon as details are available”.

The attack came barely 48 hours after the joint task force under the Kogi state police command reportedly shot dead two notorious armed robbers and kidnap kingpins that have been terrorising the people in Idah Local government area of the state and its environs.

DSP William Ovye Aya, Police Public Relations Officer, Kogi state police command, had said the joint taskforce also succeeded in foiling their operation.

He said that the notorious robbery gang engaged the men of the task force, but said they fled with various gun injuries while the bodies of the two members of the gang, Onucha Opia and Danlami Shuaibu were found by the men while combing the area.

 

Churches, mosques to reopen in Lagos June 19, 21 –Sanwo-Olu [Sun]

  • Worship restricted to Fridays, Sundays •Bans children, elderly

Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, yesterday, gave the nod for the re-opening of religious houses in a fortnight, but warned against hosting more than 500 members in a service.

He stated this at the Lagos House, Marina, when he released fresh guidelines for the second phase of the ease of the lockdown of the state.

He said mosques were free to begin Jumaat service on  Friday, June 19, while churches were permitted to  open for worshipers June 21.

The governor warned  against allowing more than 40 per cent of congregation access to worship centres, suggesting instead more than one service if they had  larger congregations exceeding 500 at a service.

He also barred congregational vigils and other weekly activities outside Friday and Sunday worships and persons below 15 years of age and above 65 years from worship centres “because those within that age bracket are extremely very vulnerable to the pandemic.”

While urging religious houses to adhere strictly to safety measures like fumigation of worship centres, use of sanitisers, keeping the premises clean and insisting that worshippers wear face masks,  he said the state safety commission would go round to check the level of compliances.

“let us self-regulate ourselves, regulate your conduct or government will regulate you,” he warned.

He directed that as  from Monday next week, civil servants on levels 13-14 could resume alongside those on level 15 and above.

He said the other guidelines as announced by the PTF  were still operational.

They include curfew from 10pm-4am, full re-opening of banks and other financial institutions, offices and business places to operate from 7am-6pm, manufacturing companies permitted to do night shift but to make arrangement for movement of staff.

He also disclosed that hotels and hospitality businesses were also free to open while restaurants will open for take away services only. Cinema, event cents, night clubs, gyms, spas and all other such services remain closed, while interstate movement  is prohibited.

Sanwo-Olu also disclosed that the government will deploy 570 buses on the BRT corridor on various routes next week and that the buses are being cleared from the port.

According to him, primary and secondary schools will remain shut “because the government is still consulting with all stakeholders in the sector and will come out with guidelines for their re-opening in two weeks time, and that the on-line classes for tertiary institutions continue.”

  • Pandemic hits Ebonyi executive council

David Umahi, governor of Ebonyi, has ordered the closure of all government offices for fumigation as the number of COVID-19 cases in the state rise to 75.

On Wednesday, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) announced fresh 23 confirmed cases within 24 hours in the state.

In a statement in Abakaliki, yesterday, Uchenna Orji, commissioner for information, said the governor is disturbed by the way some members of the state executive council contracted the disease.

He said the governor has directed government officials in the ministries of finance and budget to undergo COVID-19 test within seven days.

“Whereas we have discharged a total of 26 COVID-19 cases and 49 cases still receiving treatment and in stable conditions, the Governor is disturbed about the way and manner some State Executive Council members were infected, although they are also in stable conditions,” he said.

“In order to ensure effective contact tracing, he has directed that all Government offices be shut down from Thursday, 4th June 2020 and resume on Wednesday, 10th June 2020. The Governor is concerned about the number of Coronavirus cases recorded in the state which has unfortunately risen to 75 out of over 3, 000 samples tested.

“The governor further directs Dr. Richard Nnabo and his team to commence comprehensive decontamination of Government offices including the new and old Government House complex. All Exco members and Government officials, especially of the Ministries of Finance and Budget, are advised to undergo COVID-19 test within this seven days period.

“The governor further advises that during this period of the close down of government offices, all workers, especially from the two Ministries aforementioned, should go into self-isolation. All site operations shall, however, remain open, but must be in strict observance of COVID-19- protocols.”

Abia to prosecute religious leaders who flout directive, shut worship centres

Abia  Government has vowed to prosecute religious leaders who disobey directives on COVID-19 protocols at the state Mobile Courts.

The state also threatened to shut down such places of worship.

Secretary to State Government/Chairman, Abia State COVID-19 Committee,  Chris Ezem, in a statement, said government was displeased at the attitude of some church leaders who carry out Sunday services with more than 50 persons in attendance while paying lip service to wearing of face masks and protocols on good hygiene.

“Government frowns at flagrant disobedience of this directive and will henceforth not hesitate to seal off such places of worship and also prosecute the leaders before the state Mobile Courts. As the spread of the dreaded COVID-19 keeps soaring in Nigeria, Abia State government is concerned about the safety of all Abians and residents alike.

“As it were, Abians are to note that all COVID-19 protocols must be observed particularly as it affects burials, markets, local and intrastate transport and religious worships etc,” he said.

“Our task force will continue to pay unscheduled visits to these outfits to ensure compliance. All eateries are advised to operate on take away basis,”  he said.

While the state government said it observed that some markets in the state operate outside the approved days of Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 9am to 3pm, it said government would henceforth hold responsible transition committee chairmen and traditional rulers of any community that abuse market directives by taking decisive actions against them.

Ulama faults conditions for worship centres’ re-opening

Following the relaxation of the ban on worship centres in Kwara State, the Council of Ulama of the Ilorin Emirate council has described some of the conditions by the government as difficult to meet.

Kwara State COVID-19 committee had on Wednesday rolled out some conditions to be adopted by religious centres seeking to reopen for worshipers as from Friday June 5.

Secretary Council of Ulama, Justice Salihu Olohuntoyin Mohammed (retd), in a statement issued after the council meeting, yesterday, said: “The conditions released by the state government are very difficult to adhere to based on our peculiarities. Majority of stakeholders are about the age limit of 65 years listed for non-participation in prayers/jumat service. In islamic parlance, Imams are the leaders of congregations and majority of them are within the age bracket of 65 and above.

“We also observed that each of the conditions listed by the government cannot be implemented due to the fact they are difficult to be enforce strictly. We urge the government to allow Jumat mosques to remain closed in the interim and ensure review of the guidelines.”

Ex-ASUU president cautions against reopening of schools

Former National President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Prof. Ukachukwu Awuzie, has urged the Federal Government to have a re-think on its plans to  reopen  schools shutdown two months ago as part of measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Ukachukwu told Daily Sun in Owerri, yesterday, that at present, the government lacked the infrastructure to ensure the safety and health of students should it decide to reopen the schools.

According to him, the large number of students in the nation’s schools should serve as  enough discouraging factor for the government to reopen schools even when the spread of COVID-19 had not been adequately curbed.

“Reopening of schools, now would jeopardise all efforts earlier put to prevent the virus. When we say social distancing, I don’t know how many schools which has a classroom that can take 200 students a time and observe social distancing,” Awuzie said.

He said if the Federal Government must order the reopening of schools, especially tertiary institutions, only final year students should be allowed to go back to enable them graduate and give opportunity to those behind them.

Zazzau Emirate worried over rising cases

Salenken Zazzau and Chairman Zazzau traditional leaders committee on health, Dr. Abdulkadir Bello Salanke, has disclosed that the new COVIDd-19 treatment facility at Ahmadu Bello Teaching Hospital (ABUTH), Zaria has been overwhelmed by rising number of patients from Zazzau Emirate.

He spoke during a sensitisation meeting organised by the emirate council, yesterday to create awareness about the virus.

The council appealed to people  to observe the COVID-19 protocols and protect themselves from the disease expressing the worry that Ahmadu Bello Teaching Hospital, Zaria was already overwhelmed by the rising number of patients from Zazzau Emirate.

He Kaduna government for collaborating with ABUTH to provide a 20-bed facility for COVID-19 patients and called on the people to take personal responsibility to fight COVID-19.

Masari re-opens offices,  markets

Katsina Governor, Alhaji Aminu Bello Masari, has directed all category of civil servants to resume work on June 8.

A statement from Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Head of Service, Lawal Ado Dutsin-ma warned that  it was mandatory for workers to wear face masks while on duty as well as comply with physical distancing, other protocols and precautions designed to contain the spread of COVID-19.

 

Put party interest first, Yari tells Oshiomhole, Obaseki [Sun]

Former Governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari, has advised Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomhole, and Governor Godwin Obaseki, to put the interest of the party first as they go into the governorship primaries in Edo State.

Yari who was at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on a private visit to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, called on Oshiomhole and Obaseki to tolerate each other no matter what their personal interests might be.

The governorship election slated for September 19, 2020, has been trailed by intra-party feud between Oshiomhole and Obaseki.

Similar unresolved issues in Zamfara  and Rivers states cost the APC electoral fortunes in the 2019 general election in Nigeria.

“I think as a party man and pioneer party person, the entire life is about tolerance.

“We have to tolerate one another and no matter what interest we have, we must put the interest of the party in our hearts. We should also look at the interest of the party as superior to any other interest.”

The former Zamfara governor said that there are laid down procedures of the party, insisting that such procedures must be followed in resolving issues in the party.

“The laid down procedure there is there; the rules are there; the constitution is there.

“Let us respect the constitution of our party and let us respect one another because the issue of part is not about me, it is not about the chairman, it is not about the president.  It is collective responsibility.

“Therefore, I think it is important for both the governor and the chairman to fine-tune how they are going to work for the safety of this party and for the purpose of winning election in Edo State,” Yari stated.

 

Anger in House of Reps over rising killings, insecurity [Nation]

 

THERE was anger in the House of Representatives on Thursday over rising killings and insecurity in the country.

The lawmakers resolved to invite the service chiefs, the National Security Adviser (NSA) and the Department of State Services (DSS) Director-General.

They noted that despite their earlier call for the service chiefs’ dismissal, killings have worsened.

The House resolved to engage with all the security agencies monthly.

For over one hour, members took turns to lament the increasing cases of insecurity in the land.

They kicked against negotiations with bandits by some governors in the north.

While debating a motion by Sada Soli from Katsina State, they said the service chiefs must brief them on efforts to address the security challenges.

To them, the service chiefs, who they said have failed, ought to have honourably resigned their appointments.

A member, Victor Mela from Gombe, threatened to resign if nothing concrete was done in the next two weeks to address the issues.

He said he was tired of observing a minute silence on the floor of the House in honour of victims.

The House had in February asked the President to declare a state of emergency on insecurity and to sack all the service chiefs for not living up to expectation.

On Thursday, the lawmakers devoted time to the “motion of urgent public importance on the need for the relevant security agencies to bring to an end the spate of kidnapping, killings and armed banditry across the country”.

Soli said insecurity in some parts of the country has degenerated, as cases of kidnapping, killings and banditry have become a daily occurrence in Niger, Sokoto, Zamfara Kaduna, Katsina and other states.

According to him, with the persistent attacks by criminals on farming communities, especially in the Northwest and Northcentral, there is a likelihood of serious food shortage.

He claimed that at least 500 primary schools and 2,000 communities have been destroyed across the country by armed criminals.

Deputy Speaker, Ahmed Idris Wase, said despite military operations across the country, the spate of banditry has worsened.

The National Assembly, he said, has voted so much money for security operations with nothing to show for it.

Wase decried a lack of collaboration among the security agencies, saying there was no patriotism in the battle against the bandits.

Wase regretted that despite the House passing a vote of no confidence on the Service Chiefs, they were neither sacked nor has anything changed.

“How do we survive as a nation when insecurity has become the order of the day?” he asked.

Many lawmakers, including Mohammed Dandutse, Bello Maigari, Mohammed Kazaure, Nkiruka Onyejeocha, Ahmadu Abdullah, Toby Okechukwu and Chris Emeka reiterated the call for the service chiefs to be dismissed for non-performance.

Dandutse wants vigilante groups to be allowed to secure their communities without interference by security agencies.

Maigari wondered how the high calibre security vehicles commissioned by the President and the billions budgeted for security are used.

Kazaure descried the absence of intelligence, arguing that the DSS has failed to in its duties.

He wondered why bandits would spend several hours ransacking villages, killing and maiming people without security intervention.

“How can the governor of a state be negotiating with bandits with AK47 on their neck? This is a situation of a failed state,” he said.

Onyejeocha said the failed service chiefs must go.

“It is only in Nigeria that you fail and remain in office. We should not celebrate failure and we should be bold enough to tell those who have failed that they have failed, even if that person is your father,” she said.

Emeka said the nation’s security architecture has expired, adding that people enter the country without proper identification.

Abdullahi accused the executive of failing to act on “precious resolutions” reached by the lawmakers.

“We have been calling for the resignation and dismissal of the service chiefs by the executive but these have been falling on deaf ears.”

 

Fed Govt targets five million jobs with $1.2b scheme [Nation]

THE Federal Government is targeting five million jobs with its new agricultural revolution tagged: “The Green Imperative”.

It plans to invest some $1.2 billion in the scheme, which has it said will inject $10 billion into the economy within the next 10 years.

According to the government, the scheme will attract six tractor assembly plants in the nation’s geopolitical zones and 142 agro processing service centres.

It said the scheme will be implemented over a period of 5-10 years with foreign funding which was described yesterday as “loan-in-kind”.

Information, Culture and Tourism Minister Lai Mohammed and Agriculture and Rural Development counterpart Sabo Nanono gave the details on the programme at a joint briefing in Abuja.

Mohammed said: “The stage is now set for an agricultural revolution that will strengthen food security, create massive jobs, transfer technology, revive or reinvigorate many assembly plants, strengthen the economy, save scarce resources, mechanised farming and lead to the emergence of value-added agriculture, among other benefits.

“The Vice President launched “The Green Imperative” programme officially on 17 January, 2019 in the presence of the representatives of the Federative Republic of Brazil, Deutsche Bank as well as Brazilian and Nigerian private sector.

“The programme, worth $1.2 billion, is to be implemented over a period of 5-10 years with funding from the Development Bank of Brazil (BNDES) and Deutsche Bank; with insurance provided by Brazilian Guarantees and Fund Managements Agency (ABGF) and the Islamic Corporation for Insurance of Export Credit (ICIEC) of the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB), and coordinated by Getúlio Vargas Foundation (FGV).

“Now, how will this programme revolutionise agriculture in Nigeria, you may ask?

“The Green Imperative” programme will lead to the following:

  • Reactivation of six motor assembly plants in the six-geopolitical zones of the country for assembling tractors and other implements. The programme will import the Completely Knocked Down (CKD) parts of about 5,000 tractors and numerous implements (for local assembly) annually for a period of 10 years.
  • Establishment of 142 agro processing service centres for value addition, with one centre in each senatorial district.
  • Establishment of 632 mechanisation service centres to support primary production in the 774 local government areas and the Federal Capital Territory. This will create 774 service centers nationwide to mechanize our farming methods and process or add value to farm produce locally, leading to efficiency and eliminating post-harvest losses, thereby cutting down cost of food all year round.
  • Private sector operators will operate and manage all the service centres and the assembly plants.
  • The programme will create about five million jobs and inject over $10 billion into the economy within 10 years. It will create sustainable supply chain of agricultural raw materials for our large manufacturing companies to source locally, thereby saving billions of dollars in food-related forex.”

The minister highlighted other benefits accruable from the programme as training 100,000 extension workers within three years; impacting over 35 million persons nutritionally and economically; revatilisation of research and extension service delivery through a five-year technology-package transfer component; and  transfer of technology from Brazil’s manufacturers and institutions to Nigeria.

On how Nigeria and Brazil agreed to collaborate on the programme, Mohammed said: “The Buhari administration is set to revolutionize agriculture in Nigeria through a programme called “The Green Imperative”, a Nigeria-Brazil Bilateral Agriculture Development Programme. It is the outcome of Nigeria’s decision, dating back to 6 June 2016, to enroll in Brazil’s Government-to-Government More Food International Programme (MFIP).

“Following that decision, and between June 2016 and December 2019, several high level ministerial and technical visits and exchanges have occurred between the two countries. During one of such visits, the Bilateral Protocol of Intention with the government of Brazil was signed in March 2017.

“The programme design was jointly done by Nigeria and Brazil. The Honourable Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development set up a High-Level Inter-Ministerial Committee for the bilateral programme design.

“In the course of the programme design, the Brazilian technical mission visited Nigeria and met with rural small-holder farmers. The Nigerian technical team also embarked on a study tour of three African countries (Ghana, Kenya and Senegal) where MFIP is being implemented to study their challenges as well as their successes or failures.

“The Nigerian technical team has also visited the selected assembly plants in the six geopolitical zones to determine in-country capacity to handle the assembly of a CKD-based programme of this magnitude.

“Since 2015, the Buhari administration has been working hard to bring about irreversible change in many sectors and to diversify the economy away from oil.”

Nanono said: “The programme is centered on mechanization of agriculture in the country. This mechanization is going to affects 632 local government areas.

“We have about 82m to 90m hectares of land in Nigeria but we have only cultivated 34 million hectares and the cultivated land is not at optimal level. We cannot continue to depend on crude implements.

“The Federal Executive Council (FEC) has approved this $1.2 billion loan and I think the National Assembly will approve it. It is not that the cash is coming to us but the equipment are coming to Nigeria.”

On the six assembly plants, Nanono added: “We hope that before the end of the year, the plants will come on stream.”

 

Churches, mosques, hotels to open in Lagos June 19 [Nation]

CAN seeks review of worship time to 90 minutes

SOME OF THE CONDITIONS

  • Centres to operate at 40% capacity
  • Kids, 65 years and above disallowed
  • Mid-week service, vigils banned
  • Face masks, sanitisers to be used
  • Schools reopening rules coming

 

WORSHIP centres are to reopen in Lagos as the government on Thursday released guidelines to further ease the lockdown.

Also to commence business are hotels and the hospitality industry, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu said.

The reopening of churches, mosques and the hospitality business will take effect from June 19.

Worship centres will, however, only be allowed to conduct services on Sundays for Christians and Fridays for Muslims.

Midweek services and vigils will remain suspended.

Churches and mosques are not expected to operate beyond 40 per cent of their membership while those with large congregation where the members exceed 500, will be permitted to hold more than one service.

States, such as Osun, Kwara, Kano and Benue on Wednesday reopened worship centres.

Governor Sanwo-Olu also said those below 15 years of age and above 65 years old should not be allowed into places of worship “because those within that age bracket are extremely very vulnerable to the pandemic”.

He also urged all religious houses to adhere strictly to safety measures like fumigating and keeping the premises clean, and making sure that worshipers wear face mask and use of sanitizer.

The Lagos State Safety Commission will register religious centres before opening and inspect their activities to check level of compliance. He added that the state government had the discretion to stop or restrict worship where there is no compliance.

A statement by Director-General of the Lagos State Safety Commission, Lanre Mojola, advised all religious and social centers (social clubs, event centres, restaurants, bars, night clubs, spas, cinemas and gyms) within the state to commence the registration process on the designated portal www.lasgsa fetyreg.com immediately.”

Giving an update relating to the COVID-19 pandemic in the state on May 17, the governor said the government was considering full reopening of the economy, including critical sectors like tourism and hospitality, sporting, event centres, cinemas, entertainment, and religious gatherings.

He said businesses in these sectors would have to undergo re-registration before reopening and that the Lagos State Safety Commission and Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA) would be visiting offices and business premises to assess the level of their readiness to resume operation.

Sanwo-Olu said: “We are at a level where we are reviewing the other arms of the economy. In the coming days, we will be starting what we call Register-to-Open, which means all players in the restaurant business, event centres, entertainment, malls and cinemas will go through a form of re-registration and space management.

“There is a regulation that will be introduced to supervise this move. We will be coming to their facilities to assess their level of readiness for a future opening. I don’t know when that opening will happen in the weeks ahead, but we want these businesses to begin to tune themselves to the reality of COVID-19 with respect to how their work spaces need to look like.”

Sanwo-Olu said primary and secondary schools will remain shut because the government is still consulting with all stakeholders in the sector and will come out with guidelines for their re-opening in a fortnight, and that the on-line classes for tertiary institutions continue.

From Monday, civil servants on levels 13-14 will resume with their senior colleagues on level 15 and above, while levels 1-12 would wait.

All other guidelines as announced by PTF on Monday would be enforced. They include: curfew from 10pm-4am, full re-opening of banks and other financial institutions, offices and businesses to operate from 7am-6pm; manufacturing companies permitted to do night shift but to make arrangement for movement of staff.

Restaurants will open for take away services only, while gyms, spas, cinema, event centres, nite clubs and all other such services remain closed and inter state journeys remain banned.

The governor admonished Lagosians to wear face masks always, saying the level of compliance on wearing of masks was not encouraging, adding, “let us self-regulate ourselves, regulate your conduct or government will regulate you.”

Sanwo-Olu also said the government will deploy 570 buses on the BRT corridor on various routes from next week.

 

FG threatens to ban church, mosque gatherings again [Punch]

As state governments  reopen  worship centres this weekend, the Federal Government  has  threatened to review the relaxation of the restriction placed on  churches and mosques, if worshippers  disregard its guidelines.

The Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, said this on Thursday at the task force press conference in Abuja.

He also lamented that some Nigerians, who tested positive for the virus,  refused to go into isolation.

In the guidelines, the task force advises vulnerable people including those with conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancer as well as people that are above 55 years to worship at home.

On Thursday, Mustapha said the task force would continue to explain the guidelines it issued to worship centres and other public places.

On the reopening of churches and mosques, he stated, “As we approach the weekend, we remind the public to be aware of the guidelines set for restricted opening of places of worship. National guidelines have been shared with the states and we expect that protocols will be agreed with religious leaders. Compliance is important so as to avoid unwanted consequences that put the lives of people at risk of contracting COVID-19. We urge utmost caution at all times.

“The PTF will continue to monitor the overall compliance to the easing of restriction as well as evolution of the outbreak. However, we will not hesitate to review as we progress, should the situation warrant, to avoid preventable risks of transmission.”

Mustapha restated that the World Health Organization had resumed the clinical trial of hydroxychloroquine, which it suspended on May 25.

COVID-19 Nigerians rejecting isolation – SGF

Calling for the cooperation of all Nigerians, the SGF stated, “We have received reports about citizens refusing to help with contact tracing as well as going into isolation after testing positive. It is in the interest of everybody that contacts are traced so as to slow down the spread.

“It is also in our interest to go into isolation facilities for close monitoring. A number of fatalities have been recorded due to change in the condition of patients while staying outside the isolation facilities.”

FG worries over fleeing COVID-19 patients

On his part, the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, said the Federal Government was disturbed by COVID-19 patients, who were fleeing isolation centres. This, he said, had worsened the transmission of the virus in communities.

The health minister said government had problems in trying to convince some COVID-19 positive people that they had the virus.

He said,  “We also have issues with people who test positive and think you are going to look for them and then they run. So the figures don’t tally because people who think you are going to trace them don’t want to go into isolation.”

The health minister explained that the Federal Ministry of Health team sent to investigate the incidents in Kano, Sokoto, Jigawa, Borno, Katsina and Gombe  had concluded its work and would submit its final report on Friday (today).

NCDC  issues new discharge protocol

The  Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, at the press conference, issued a new set of guidelines for the discharge of COVID-19 patients in treatment centres.

The Director General of the NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, stated that COVID-19 patients would no longer require a negative test result before  being  discharged.

The discharge criterion by the NCDC, which had included two consecutive negative tests, was reviewed last month to one negative test.

Ihekweazu, however, explained that, with new knowledge on the duration of the virus, it had become unnecessary to keep COVID-19 patients in treatment centres until they tested negative.

He said, “The two critical groups of patients are symptomatic and asymptomatic. For symptomatic patients, they may now be discharged at least 10 days after symptom onset and at least three days without symptom.

“So, if you’re symptomatic, you can be discharged if you’ve had three days without symptoms in addition to at least 10 days of symptoms. If your symptoms stay longer, we will wait for longer while managing you supportively.

“If you’re asymptomatic, you can be discharged 14 days after your first positive test, with confidence that you can go home and you’re no longer infective and you’re not putting anyone else at risk. So, we no longer have to wait for a negative test to discharge.”

The NCDC DG stated that medical professionals were ignoring the new guidelines due to their attachment to the previous protocols, adding that the science showed that 10 days without symptoms was sufficient to discharge patients.

On post-discharge management, he noted that only asymptomatic patients would be discharged.

Ihekweazu said, “We are not suggesting that people are discharged while they are still symptomatic, so we are talking about discharging people that are asymptomatic and have recovered.”

According to Ihekweazu, the reviewed guidelines are in line with the findings of the World Health Organisation, based on a new research.

FG removes antiviral drugs from COVID-19 treatment guidelines

Another policy change brought on by the latest research on COVID-19 case management, according to Ihekweazu, is the decision to stop the administration of antiviral drugs.

He said, “In addition, we have also removed the use of antivirals from our treatment guidelines. Like the minister just said, the trials for chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine will still go on.”

Speaking further on antiviral drugs removed from the COVID-19 treatment guidelines, Ihekweazu said, “We reached out to some antiviral drugs. One that was in our guidelines recently was the lopinavir/ritonavir combination, which is a combination of medicines we use for HIV. So, we look for whatever we have to try.

“As evidence emerges and science improves, then we have to start making hard choices. There have been quite a number of studies now that have shown that they don’t really improve the outcome of this illness, so we’ve withdrawn them from the guidelines of management.”

The National Coordinator, PTF, Dr Sani Aliyu,  raised the alarm over the lack of access to care for chronic medical conditions, including human immunodeficiency virus, as well as absence of maternal, newborn and child health services.

According to him, persons with underlying medical conditions are unable to receive the needed care.

 

Buhari nominates Okonjo-Iweala to head WTO [Punch]

The President, Major Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (Retd.), has approved the nomination of a former Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, for the position of director-general of the World Trade Organisation.

TheCable reported on Thursday that Buhari withdrew the candidacy of Yonov Agah, Nigeria’s permanent representative to WTO, for the same position.

The election is scheduled to hold in Geneva, Switzerland in 2021 for a four-year term that would run from 2021 to 2025 after former Director-General of the organisation, Roberto Azevedo, stepped down a year to the end of his second term.

“The embassy of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and permanent mission to the African Union and United Nations Economic Commission for Africa present compliments to all embassies and permanent missions in Addis Ababa and has the honour to inform that the Federal Government of Nigeria has withdrawn the candidacy of Ambassador Yonov Frederick Agah for election to the position of director-general of the World Trade Organisation,” the letter seen by TheCable read.

“Nigeria is therefore pleased to request the support of esteemed AU member states as well as permanent missions and embassies in Addis Ababa in favour of the candidacy of Okonjo-Iweala.”

Agah is Nigeria’s permanent representative to the WTO and the organisation’s deputy director-general.

Okonjo-Iweala currently chairs the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, a public-private global health partnership with the goal of increasing access to immunisation in poor countries.

She also sits on the board of Twitter and is a former managing director (operations) at the World Bank.

 

Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, 2nd Niger Bridge ready 2022 –FG [Punch]

The Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, the Second Niger Bridge, and the Abuja-Kaduna Expressway, among others, are to be completed in the first quarter of 2022, the Federal Government has said.

It said the roads were grouped as essential infrastructure and projected to be delivered in less than two years.

The Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, said this in a live television programme monitored by our correspondent in Abuja on Thursday night.

He said, “The Second Niger Bridge, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Abuja-Kaduna-Kano roads are part of the projects under the Federal Government’s essential infrastructure development fund and their expected delivery dates are in quarter one of 2022.”

The minister argued that real construction work only commenced on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway when the current government came to power.

Fashola said, “Since 2007, no measure of reasonable construction work took place on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, except palliatives. It was when this government came that construction really started.

“Those who don’t use the road will not appreciate what is going on there, but those who use the road on a daily basis for their survival will tell you that the bottlenecks and traffic time on that road had significantly reduced.”

When told that the initial plan was to deliver the road next year, the minister said about one year was lost in the construction process.

He said, “That was the plan and you know that we’ve lost almost a year of work and I complained at the time when the budget for that road was reduced from N31bn to N10bn, at the time we were owing the contractors N15bn.

“Essentially, no work was done in that year 2017 because the contractors specifically stopped work.”

The minister insisted that the first quarter of 2022 remained the expected delivery date for the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and other essential infrastructure projects, but noted that the COVID-19 pandemic had slowed work on some of the projects.

“Mind you, as I speak to you now, we have lost essentially the prime of our working period, which is the dry season in the COVID-19 period. We have to try and recover all of that,” Fashola said.

For the Second Niger Bridge, he said all the foundation works had been completed, adding that the project was on course to meet the expected delivery date.

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