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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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Retired soldiers protect against non-payment of security allowance

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Some retired soldiers on Monday protested in Abuja over non-payment of their security debarment allowances, among others.

The protesters who defied the rains demonstrated in front of the Ministry of Defence headquarters, clutching mats and banners as well as singing.

The protesters lamented the non-payment of their Security Debarment Allowance, among others.

They were joined by some relatives of deceased military personnel, blocking access road to the ministry located at Ship House on Olusegun Obasanjo Way in the Federal Capital Territory.

The military veterans under the aegis of the Retired Members of Nigerian Armed Forces and the Coalition of Concerned Veterans, accused the Minister of Defence, Maj.-Gen. Bashir Magashi (retd.), of being insensitive to their plight.

Addressing reporters during the protest, spokesman for the CVV, Abiodun Durowaiye-Herberts, vowed that they would not leave the ministry’s entrance until their demands were met.

He said they had already made arrangement to sleep overnight if the situation warranted it.

“We are here alongside our wives and children, and the widows of late military personnel and veterans who died in service, some of whom died fighting Boko Haram terrorists. We’ll be sleeping over at this place until the Minister of Defence, Magashi accede to our demands,” he said.

On his part, the National Secretary of RMNAF, Roy Okhidievbie, explained that the demonstration was to demand the payment of their security debarment allowance owed them by the Federal Government.

He accused the minister of refusing to disburse the allowances despite approval by President Muhammadu Buhari.

“We have had meetings with the Defence Minister, Magashi, but he appears to be headstrong, heartless, and unperturbed concerning the grievances of retired military officers, as he never paid nor showed any interest or concern to pay these allowances, especially the Security Debarment Allowance.

“Interestingly, President Buhari-led administration has approved the payment of this allowance, but Magashi has refused to make disbursements,”

In January, some retired soldiers under the aegis of the Coalition of Concerned Veterans protested against the non-payment of their pension arrears for 24 months.

The veterans who gathered at the Ministry of Finance headquarters, Abuja, insisted on getting answers to their demands, or else they would continue protesting.

They were seen with placards on which various inscriptions were written. One of the placards reads, “CCV demands immediate payment of security debarment allowance.” Another read, “Military veterans demand 24 months arrears of minimum wage approved.”

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Nationwide outage as grid collapses to zero megawatts again

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Nigeria was thrown into a total blackout Monday morning as the national grid collapsed to zero megawatts (MW).

The latest incident, which reportedly occurred at 10:51am Monday, is the seventh time the power grid would collapse this year.

This came just days after electricity consumers said they had enjoyed improved supply.

Some power distribution companies including Kaduna Electric, Enugu and Kano have already communicated the nationwide outage to their customers, adding that efforts were being made to restore supply.

The national electricity grid as of 10am on Monday had 3,712MW generated from 21 power generation companies (GenCos) before it dropped to 0MW one hour after, Daily Trust reported.

It stated that information from the System Operations, a section of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), indicated only Afam IV was on the grid but with zero supply as of 12noon.

It also showed that as of Sunday, the highest generation was 4,100MW while the lowest was 3,652MW with the frequency hovered between 49.04 Hertz (Hz) and 50.34Hz.

Electricity consumers have attested to improvement in supply in their various areas since July this year.

For instance, the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) recently confirmed increment in its daily allocation to over 500MW from the actual 300MW it had distributed before then.

Though the national grid had not cross 5,000MW, Daily Trust observed that level of load rejection especially around the DisCos’ networks had dropped significantly with some customers entitled to five-hour supply, recording over 12 hours daily.

The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) had attributed the improvement in power supply nationwide to the partial activation of contracts seeking to hold sector operators liable for deliberate incompetence.

The national grid collapsed twice, in July and in August but was quickly restored and power supply improvement was sustained before the latest system collapse on Monday.

Although the TCN, the national grid manager, was yet to establish the cause of the crash, some insider said it could be as a result of a maintenance of the 330 kilovolts Jos – Bauchi transmission line maintenance slated for Monday.

 

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2023: PFN disowns Bishops for holding meeting with Tinubu

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The Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) has disowned the “Pentecostal Bishops Forum of Northern Nigeria” for holding meeting with Bola Tinubu, presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Deputy National Secretary of the PFN, Bishop David Bakare, told reporters in a telephone interview that such group was not known to the PFN, saying, “there is nothing in PFN that is regional based like Southern or Northern Pentecostal Bishops.”

Bakare, who maintained that the PFN is an arm of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) said the position of the fellowship on same faith presidential ticket of the APC has not changed.

“The meeting between Tinubu and the Pentecostal Bishops Forum of Northern Nigeria has nothing to do with PFN. I am speaking to you officially and authoritatively that the ranks of the Christian community and of course, the PFN which I represent, is not broken at all.

“The Pentecostal Bishops Forum of Northern Nigeria is not known to the PFN. The forum does not have any affiliation or relationship with the PFN that is registered with the government of this nation.”

He added  that the position of the PFN “on same faith ticket still stands as it was in the beginning and we have not, for any reason, shifted our position on that matter…

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The PFN was not a part of the meeting with the presidential candidate that was highly politicised. We are, however, aware of the ripples in the public domain about this matter. I am speaking officially to clarify that the PFN has nothing to do with that organisation.

“We didn’t take such a decision, we have not met that political party and whatever we will do would be in the public domain. That group is on its own and has nothing to do with the real incorporated  PFN. I looked at the photos (from the meeting) and the names. I could  recognised  about two people who are our members, but they speak for themselves.”

He’s procuring fake Christian groups  -Babachir

This is a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, accused the presidential candidate of the APC of procuring fake Christian groups in a desperate bid to convince the electorate to accept the same faith ticket.

The SGF, in a statement, disclosed that a number of Nigerians have reached out to him and former Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, to convince them to accept the same faith presidential and vice presidential ticket.

“We have so far not taken the road to reconciliation because in the first instance, neither the APC as a party nor its presidential candidate has bothered to seek us out for reconciliation even though early on, our doors were left open for such.

“We only get to learn of their views through vile propaganda in the media courtesy of their rabid attack dogs who they have procured in abundance.

“There are of course some ‘Christian’ turncoats and ‘Judases’ who, driven either by moral turpitude, poverty or greed, have hired themselves out as agents and spoilers of this noble Christian course.

“To this group, I wish to recommend the study of the biographies of Judas Iscariot and Ahithophel in the Bible. Be careful to note how their lives ended

“It seems that Bola/Kashim’s preferred approach is to attempt to counter our position through insults and sponsored fake Christian organisations in order to create the impression that there is division within the Christendom on this matter.

“Needless to say, this tactic has failed woefully. They are now the butt of jokes in church gatherings all over the country. Unknown to them, Church history emphatically records that Christians are more united in terms of adversity and persecution as now being propelled by this same faith ticket of the APC.

“This approach has also portrayed the duo as arrogant and pitiable people whilst also exposing them to the public as people with unimaginable deficiencies of noble character.

“The reality is that for each minute that this same-faith ticket duo have  spent on their Goebellsian propaganda, they have ended up spending several hours more trying to rebutt the controversies that they themselves create in the process.

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“Everyone, including some notable Christian haters, are now inviting  false Bishops and ‘CAN leaders’ to meetings. They are busy fabricating overnight “Christian” organisations that churn out falsehood to the public. It is such a pity that people who intend to lead our country could descend to such low levels of morality and deficiency of conscience.”

We’re consulting for a pan Nigerian platform to adopt  -Dogara

Former Speaker of House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, said having rejected the divisive same faith ticket, they were consulting with relevant Islamic and Christians leaders to jointly adopt a pan-Nigerian platform that all of them would support in 2023.

He stated this  in a lecture entitled: “Nigerian democracy post 1999: Progress, diversity and national unity” and  magazine launch and awards event organised by MUPUN youths association in Jos.

Mr. Dogara, who was  represented by the former member representing  Pankshin, Kanke Kanam federal constituency of Plateau, Timothy Golu, said when some of them rose against the same faith ticket, it was because they were bothered by the issues and  insistence on same faith ticket and same faith voting which  is tantamount to summoning a jihad to collide with a crusade.

He explained tha, the people promoting “this combustible agenda” hate the North and by extension, Nigeria, adding that they wanted to “use religion to weaken the North first for some sinister schemes because our weakness is their strength.

“Take it or leave it, if Nigeria has a major promise those that will deliver on it will be those of you who will summon the courage to embrace people of other faiths in the spirit of justice equity and fairplay. The truth is that no one will root out Islam just like no one will root out Christianity from the North or Nigeria.

“If that is the case, why won’t Christians and Muslims work together on the many things we agree upon to make Plateau, the North and Nigeria great? All that bothers us is the progress of all Nigerians regardless of creed.”

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‘Ex-SGF undermining goodwill of northern Christians’

Replying, Yakubu Dati, Chief of Staff to the Director General, APC Presidential Campaign Council, Governor Simon Lalong, accused Babachir Lawal of trying to isolate Christians in the north from playing significant roles in the mainstream politics of Nigeria.

He accused him of trying to lead northern Christians in the wrong direction because he lost the bid to be appointed running mate to Tinubu.

“Last time I checked, Babachir Lawal does not have the mandate to speak on behalf of northern Christians because he was never elected to lead any such group and does not command the respect of the average northern Christians. Even in his native Hong Local Government, Lawal does not have a voice, as his voice thins out when other respected personalities from the area like the current SGF, Boss Mustapha, speak.

“But more profoundly is the fact that Babachir Lawal talks as one who does not have a sense of history hence he is trying to carve out a region out of Nigeria to make them a target of derision and scorn.

Without anybody sending him, Lawal is trying to damage the reputation of northern Christians who have all along been accommodating and tolerant of other Nigerians,” he said.

Dati observed that Northern Christians in Borno, Yobe, Gombe, Bauchi, Kano, Kebbi, Sokoto, Kaduna, Plateau, Taraba Benue, Nasarawa, Kogi, Kwara etc were not known to be hostile, self-serving or epitomise bigotry as Lawal was trying to portray them, noting that the northern Christians have worked peacefully and harmoniously with other Nigerians and while they demand equity and fairness in all affairs, do not stake their integrity on the altar of tokenism of political office.

“The northern Christians have taken the front seats in some administrations and played other roles in others and other sections of the country have understood the exigencies of such era and have been cooperative.

Yakubu Gowon, a northern Christian, has been head of state, while TY Danjuma, Joe Garba, Domkat Bali, Shagaya, etc have held responsible positions in this country at one time or the other,” he said.

Sun

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