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COVID-19: FG orders five-week closure of schools, considers int’l flight ban

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  • Directs civil servants to work from home
  • Restricts gatherings to 50 people

Nigeria has entered a panicky mode over the second wave of coronavirus now ravaging the United Kingdom among others as the Federal Government on Monday ordered all federal civil servants on Grade Level 12 and below to stay at home for the next five weeks.

It also restricted guests at weddings, conferences, and sporting activities among others to 50 and hinted about plans to ban some international flights as part of measures aimed at curtailing the spread of the new wave COVID-19 to Nigeria.

Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, gave the directives, adding that the new measures had been approved by President Muhammadu Buhari.

The measures came as the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control said the nation recorded 356 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday and six deaths.

Mustapha, who is also Secretary to the Government of the Federation, said, “The PTF has surveyed developments and actions taken by governments around the world, assessed our domestic environment and has accordingly submitted its recommendations to Mr President on immediate measures to be taken.

“Accordingly, His Excellency, Muhammadu Buhari, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, has authorised the PTF to engage with the states and the FCT to assume full ownership of this stage of the response by deploying legal structures and resources, including enforcement to manage the pandemic within their jurisdictions.”

He specifically said all schools would remain closed till January 18 and that restrictions had been placed on social and religious gatherings for five weeks.

“The PTF on the advice of the Federal Ministry of Education expects that schools would have vacated from the 18th December 2020 and remain closed till at least the 18th of January, 2021 to enable the measures introduced to take effect,” he stated.

Mustapha also said those heading government agencies and ministries should “encourage virtual meetings in government offices. The leadership of such offices is to ensure that all offices are well-ventilated, and encourage staff to work from home where possible;

“All government staff on GL.12 and below are to stay at home for the next five weeks; permanent secretaries and chief executives are to be held accountable for enforcing NPI rules in their domains with frequent spot checks.

 “All persons above the age of 60yrs and/or with morbidities are to be encouraged to stay at home and avoid crowds.

“All non-essential travels – both domestic and international during the holiday season are seriously discouraged.”

The government also ordered the closure of all bars, nightclubs and restaurants.

Mustapha said, “In line with the authorisation, the PTF wishes to issue the following advisories to sub-national entities for implementation over the next five weeks because these activities are considered super spreader events:

  1. Close all bars, night clubs, pubs and event centres, and recreational venues;
  2. Close all restaurants except those providing services to hotel residents; takeaways, home deliveries and drive-ins;
  3. Restrict all informal and formal festivity events including weddings, conferences, congresses, office parties, concerts, seminars, sporting activities, end of year events shall be restricted to 50 persons;
  4. Limit all gatherings linked to religious events to less than 50% capacity of the facility of use during which physical distancing, mandatory use of face masks shall be strictly enforced;
  5. Where more than 50 persons are attending, any such events, the gathering should be held outdoors only;
  6. Public transportation systems are to carry passengers not more than 50% of their capacity in compliance with social distancing rules.
  7. Enforce compliance with NPI protocols especially the advisory on wearing of face masks in public spaces.”

Mustapha added that to reduce overcrowding in public spaces, markets, shopping centres, offices and schools, states were advised to implement the following:

  1. Encourage virtual meetings in government offices. The leadership of such offices to ensure that all offices are well-ventilated, and encourage staff to work from home where possible;
  2. All government staff on GL.12 and below are to stay at home for the next five weeks permanent; secretaries and chief executives are to be held accountable for enforcing NPI rules in their domains with frequent spot checks;
  3. The PTF on the advice of the Federal Ministry of Education expects that schools would have vacated from the 18th December 2020 and remain closed till at least the 18th of January, 2021 to enable the measures introduced to take effect;
  4. All persons above the age of 60yrs and/or with morbidities are to be encouraged to stay at home and avoid crowds;
  5. All non-essential travels – both domestic and international during the holiday season are seriously discouraged.”

International flights ban likely

Meanwhile, Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has said the FG may impose a travel ban on certain parts of the world.

He disclosed on Monday at a special forum of the News Agency of Nigeria in Abuja that government would not hesitate to impose the travel ban if it was the only way to protect the people from the new strain of the disease.

The minister said, “We are more concerned about the new strain of COVID-19, which is manifesting itself in the UK; that is the mutated strain. It is difficult to detect, it spreads faster and people have been known to die of it within a very short period of its detection.”

The minister, who noted that many European countries had banned flights to and from the UK, said, “This season, many students are coming from the UK in particular, to come and join their families in Nigeria.

“Besides many of our people, because of the traditional link we have with the UK, may want to go there for business or family reunion.

“It is a very testy time and it might be another dangerous period to transmit this new variant of COVID-19.”

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Britain Launches 2nd Phase Of Collaboration Against Trafficking At Nigeria-Niger Border

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The British High Commission in Nigeria has launched the second Phase of the Collaboration Against Trafficking and Smuggling at the Nigeria-Niger border programme (CATS NN).

 

The launching took place on Thursday 29 July, during a joint event hosted by the British High Commission with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), to mark the World Day against Trafficking in Persons.

The CATS programme was developed following the signing of the Sandhurst Treaty between the UK and France in 2018.

 

Under the Sandhurst Treaty, France and the UK committed to collaborating on regional border management capacity as well as on countering trafficking in people, modern slavery and Organised Immigration Crime.

Speaking at the event, the British High Commissioner in Nigeria, Catriona Laing, said the United Kingdom; “is a proud ally of Nigeria in its efforts to tackle human trafficking and supporting Nigerian victims and survivors through a variety of programmes that provides shelters, physical and mental health interventions and rehabilitation and integration.”

 

She said the CATS programme would help Nigerian and Nigerien migration services and anti-trafficking agencies tackle their shared challenges.

 

On his part, Franz Celestin, Chief of Mission for the IOM in Nigeria, said: “Trafficking in persons is still on the rise and counts as one of the top three most profitable illegal businesses worldwide.

“Driven by the demand for cheap labour and commercial sex, trafficking rings across borders and within countries take advantage of economic, social and political vulnerabilities to exploit their victims.

 

“As IOM, we welcome the UK Home Office’s Collaboration Against Trafficking and Smuggling Programme between Nigeria and Niger to enhance migration governance and an effective counter-trafficking response between the two countries.

 

Also, Barbara Rijks, Chief of Mission for the IOM in Niger, said Nigeria and Niger were both important countries along the Central Mediterranean Route, stretching from sub-Saharan Africa to the southern European coast.

 

While noting that the border remained one of the most perilous in the world today, she said IOM Niger welcomes the UK Government’s support to strengthen cross border collaboration between Niger and Nigeria.

 

The Nigeria-Niger border is, at around 1600km long, the single longest land border within ECOWAS and is challenging to control.

 

In 2013 the United Nations General Assembly declared the 30 July as the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons.

 

This year’s theme, “Victims’ Voices Lead the Way”, aims to amplify the voices of victims, putting their experiences and their perspectives at the centre of counter-trafficking responses and prevention efforts.

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Sick El-Zakzaky’s wife flown abroad after acquittal

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Mrs. Zeenat Ibraheem has been rushed abroad to an undisclosed hospital less than 48 hours after she and her husband, leader of Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) El-Zakzaky were released.

 

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They were discharged and acquitted by a High Court on charges of culpable homicide on Wednesday.

 

Justice Gideon Kurada discharged El-zakzaky and his wife Zeenat, from the eight charges pressed against them by the State Government for lack of merit.

 

Mohammed El-Zakzaky, the son of the IMN leader, in a statement on Friday said El-Zakzaky also traveled with his wife.

 

Mohammed expressed gratitude to Allah and all those that stood by them during the ordeal that lasted for almost 6 years.

 

He said: “As you are aware, yesterday my father Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky and Mother Zeenah Ibraheem have recently regained their freedom, after the Kaduna state High Court discharged and acquitted them of all charges filed by the current Kaduna State Administration.

I along with our entire family, wish to especially thank those men, women and children who stood firm in the face of injustice, risking life and limb to demand justice and freedom for them, both inside and outside this country.

“Of special note are the heroes who marched daily in Abuja non stop for 5 years, a monumental act of sacrifice seldom heard of and certainly unprecedented in the history of Nigeria.

 

“I wish to express our gratitude to human rights organizations who continued to help provide us with a voice during this difficult time.

 

“Of special note Amnesty international, Human Rights Watch and especially The Islamic Human Rights Commission for ensuring that the Atrocities carried out in December 2015 could not be simply covered up.

 

“We hail the efforts of free media and those journalists whose commitment to the truth shone even in the face of censorship, threats and often lethal violence.

 

“We commend your steadfastness and bravery, and wish to thank you for all those times you refused to turn a blind eye to tyranny, discrimination and other crimes being committed in the name of the state.

 

“Last but certainly not least I wish to thank my parent’s competent and loyal legal team that was ably led by Chief Femi Falana SAN, who despite all the malicious maneuvers to delay, manipulate and obstruct judicial due process, the legal team persevered and ultimately prevailed. We will be eternally grateful for your efforts.”

 

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Abba Kyari: FBI agents hold talks with Nigeria’s IGP

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Officials of the Federal Bureau of Investigation have met with the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Usman Alkali Baba to demand the arrest and extradition of Deputy Commissioner of Police, Abba Kyari to the United States, SaharaReporters learnt.

According to a top source, four FBI agents met with the IGP on Thursday asking that Nigeria’s celebrated cop, Kyari be taken to the United States for interrogation over his role in the activities of suspected serial internet fraudster, Ramon Abbas, more commonly known as Hushpuppi.

The source stated that the agents have returned on Friday (today) to ensure their demands are met, citing the urgency of the case.

He said, “FBI agents met with the IGP yesterday (Thursday) to demand Abba Kyari’s arrest and extradition to the United States citing the urgency of the case. Four FBI agents returned to the IG’s office this morning, they are there asking the IGP to release Kyari for interrogation.”

Meanwhile, as of Thursday night, the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba, had ordered an internal review of the receipt of allegations and indictment processes from the Federal Bureau of Investigation against Kyari.

This was contained in a statement issued by the force’s spokesperson, Frank Mba, on its Facebook page on Thursday night.

The force also stated that it is committed to the pursuit of justice and the strengthening of its professional relationship with the FBI and other international partners.

It assured Nigerians to further communicate developments on the case to members of the public.

The statement read, “Sequel to the receipt of allegations and indictment processes from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) against one of the personnel of the Nigeria Police Force, DCP Abba Kyari, the Inspector General of Police IGP Usman Alkali Baba psc (+), NPM, fdc has ordered an internal review of the allegations.

“The Nigeria Police Force reaffirms its commitment to the pursuit of justice and the strengthening of its professional relationship with the FBI and other international partners.

“Further developments on this case will be communicated to members of the public accordingly.”

Otis Wright of the United States District Court for the Central District of California ordered the Federal Bureau of Investigation to track down Kyari and produce him in the United States for his role in a multi-million dollar fraud.

Abbas was arrested in Dubai last June and he pleaded guilty to fraud in the US this week.

The FBI said Abbas and Kyari have been friends and were both involved in a conspiracy to launder money.

American prosecutors first sought a court warrant to arrest Kyari on February 12, 2021.

Another warrant was requested on April 29, 2021.

Judge Wright’s permission for the FBI to arrest Mr Kyari and hold him in U.S. custody was unsealed on July 26.

Hushpuppi had narrated how he bribed Kyari to have one of his rivals arrested and jailed in Nigeria following a dispute over a $1.1 million dupe of a Qatari businessperson.

Abbas had asked Kyari to arrest and jail a fellow fraudster Kelly Chibuzor Vincent after both were locked in a dispute presumably over how to share the $1.1 million loot received from the Qatari businessperson.

Abbas had pleaded guilty to a multi-million fraud earlier this month and faces up to 20 years in jail.

He will be sentenced in the coming weeks and will forfeit some of his assets and his rights to appeal while also paying restitution to victims of his years-long fraud.

Kyari in a statement on Facebook has, however, dismissed the allegations of bribe.

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