By Ebere Chibuzor
Governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong, has expressed the preparedness to showcase the great Plateau tourism destinations to participants at the forthcoming 2020 National Festival, Nafest.
He also assured the federal and state governments that Nafest slated for Jos in November would be a reference touch bearer in the nation.
Lalong who spoke during a courtesy visit of the Nafest technical team led by Director General, National Council for Arts and Culture, NCAC, Otunba Segun Runsewe, reiterated that the government and people of Plateau State are more than ready to host the 33rd edition of the iconic national festival despite the challenges of the new normal, noting that the Plateau was ready to prove that it’s truly the destination and home of cultural tourism in Nigeria.
“We are more than prepared. The best hotels, recreation centres are here; the best and oldest golf course; the temperate climate unequalled, the culinary offerings, hospitality and the rich culture of our people will be generously offered to all delegates and visitors during the event” he stated.
Lalong further assured of adequate security and welfare to all Nigerians including foreigners throughout the one-week festival, adding that the COVID-19 protocols and health regulations would be observed to the letter.
“We are the first state in Nigeria to ensure COVID-19 testing is taken to the grass roots, starting with all ministries and agencies, local governments and also ensured total fumigation of all public places. It’s not a fluke that we responded and took responsibility to check COVID-19 in the state not only because of our people but we know we are the home of hospitality and tourism in Nigeria.”
Lalong urged technical committee members to inform all delegates and visitors that Plateau State is ready to accommodate those planning to stay behind and take up residence in the state after the event.
“We know that we shall spoil you people beyond measure; only try and leave something behind; sow a seed in appreciation and for those who do not wish to leave after the event, we are more than willing to give accelerated approval to request for landed property,” Lalong further said.
Speaking earlier, Runsewe told Lalong and his cabinet members that the technical committee members were in the state to inspect and evaluate the level of preparedness of Plateau State towards hosting the festival and to thank him for singular commitment to overall success of the festival.
“It was very scary for me and all the stakeholders not knowing what will befall hosting of this national festival because of new normal but when you assured me that you woulld do the needful. I was more than relieved because we know COVID-19 pandemic will not be too long in leaving our shores,” Runsewe said.
Presenting branded Nafest Jos 2020 souvenirs made from local fabrics to the governor and all his cabinet members, the NCAC boss informed that Jos national festival was first in Africa post-COVID-19 and would be showcased with the new normal digital marketing opportunities ever.
He said, “Our culture is a solution driver to many challenges we face as a nation and we at the NCAC are more than determined in proving to the world and to all Nigerians that our indigenous diversity and way of life can help us reshape our future and keep us together.”
FG: We’re investigating airport officials helping travellers evade COVID-19 requirements
The federal government says it is investigating reports of corrupt airport officials who take bribes from travellers and help them evade COVID-19 quarantine requirements.
Speaking on Monday during the national briefing of the presidential steering committee (PSC) on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, secretary to the government of the federation (SGF), said the government has taken note of the challenges facing travellers with regards to COVID-19 requirements.
There have been recent reports of corrupt airport officials who help passengers travelling of the country evade COVID-19 test and also procure fake vaccine cards for the travellers.
In December, undercover investigation at Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, and the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, had exposed how government officials forged COVID-19 test results in exchange for bribes.
“The PSC has taken note of the challenges raised by travelers that visit the National International Travel Portal in compliance with travel protocols,” Mustapha said.
“It has similarly noted with dismay, fraudulent activities perpetuated at our international airports by on-duty staff, who extort money out of those who equally wish to evade quarantine requirement. The authorities are conducting necessary investigation in to various reports received.
“Notable progress is still being made in the area of vaccine. Over 3.5m doses of Pfizer is being expected from the US Government this month while about 4m doses of Astrazeneca is being expected early next month. Nigeria will be receiving over 1m doses of J&J shipments on a monthly basis. The PSC is committed to access enough vaccines for the 70% eligible persons in the country in record time.”
Mustapha, who is also the chairman of the presidential steering committee on COVID-19, said there’s need for more caution among Nigerians despite the declining global COVID-19 cases.
Buhari to world leaders: Reject coups in West Africa
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday tasked the international community to stand up against the recent trend of power hijack by the military in some African countries.
President Buhari, who spoke at the 76th Session of the United Nations’ General Assembly in New York, the United States of America (USA), warned that rising cases of coup in West Africa were eroding the democratic gains of the past decades.
According to the President, the unconstitutional takeover of power had sometimes been in reaction to unilateral change of constitution by some leaders, admonishing those elected to lead countries to reject the temptation of staying beyond their constitutional term of office.
He affirmed Nigeria’s support of efforts by ECOWAS, AU and the UN to address this growing challenge, saying “as leaders of our individual member states, we need to adhere to the constitutional provisions of our countries, particularly on term limits. This is one area that generates crisis and political tension in our sub-region.”
The President urged the international community not only to deal with the symptoms of conflict but also the immediate causes that fuel conflicts in the first place.
“These include poor and undemocratic governance, human rights abuses, poverty, ignorance, injustice and inequalities.
“There are no easy solutions to these conditions. They require long term investments and more effective international cooperation.
“In this connection, my delegation underscores the importance of promoting peaceful, unfettered, and inclusive participation of states in global actions towards conflict prevention.
“This will facilitate the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the African Union Agenda 2063,” he said.
The President’s speech, delivered from the podium of the General Assembly hall, addressed other matters on the international agenda of interest to Nigeria, including the COVID-19 pandemic, Arms Trade Treaty, climate change, terrorism, anti-corruption, debt suspension, international trade, UN Security Council Reform, Palestinian Question and racial discrimination, among others.
On international trade, President Buhari called for reforms that will engender recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, build resilience to future shocks and pursue transformative development strategies that can deliver the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.
He said: “Nigeria reaffirms that international trade is an engine for development and sustained economic growth, as well as the global eradication of poverty.
‘‘My delegation would like to reaffirm the critical role that a universal, rules-based, open, non-discriminatory and equitable multilateral trading system can play in stimulating economic growth and development.
‘‘Fair and equitable trade would eventually eliminate the need for aid.
‘‘My country and indeed all African countries do not intend to stay indefinitely looking for aid. All we need is a fair and equitable system of international trade.”
On the issue of debt in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Nigerian leader urged G20 countries to extend its debt suspension initiatives to all developing countries, least developed countries, small island developing states facing fiscal and liquidity challenges.
The President also called for outright debt cancellation for countries facing the most severe challenges.
“Developing countries have been faced with unsustainable debt burdens even before the pandemic.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the risk of new wave of deepening debt, where vital public financial resources are allocated to external debt servicing and repayments at the expense of domestic health and financing for critical developmental needs.
“I must commend the current initiatives by the international financial institutions and the G20 aimed at significantly mitigating the economic situation of the indebted countries and urge for more efforts in this regard.
“Therefore, there is an urgent need to consider expansion and extension of the Debt Service Suspension Initiative to include all Developing, Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States facing fiscal and liquidity challenges.
“In addition, a review of the eligibility criteria for debt suspension, including outright cancellation, is needed for countries facing the most severe challenges.’’
The President also used the occasion of the speech to renew his advocacy for equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, outlining steps Nigeria has taken to achieve “moderate success” in containing the virus and halt its deadly onslaught in the country.
“Nigeria remains grateful for the assistance received from our partners and friends all over the world.
‘‘Vaccination is the key to our safe emergence from the pandemic.
“We fully support the COVAX initiative from which we have benefitted. We also thank the United States of America, Turkey, India, China, European Union and others for the vaccines provided.
‘‘Despite the acknowledgement, however, I would like to reiterate my call for a fairer and more equitable distribution of vaccines to all countries so that, together, we can fight and contain the pandemic.
“The rising wave of newer and more contagious strains makes this even more urgent. No country can afford the socio-economic implications of prolonged shutdown. It is imperative to underscore that no one is safe until everyone is safe.’’
On Nigeria’s intervention to halt the pandemic, the President said: ‘‘At the outset, we recognised detection and contact tracing to be important tools in combating the virus.
‘‘In this connection, from a mere four laboratories with testing and detection capacities, we ramped up the facilities to over 140 centres today.
‘‘Similarly, we built isolation centres and emergency hospital wards in record time all over the country. We carry out genomic sequencing in designated laboratories across the country with a view to detecting variants in circulation.
‘‘In addition, over 40,000 health care workers have recently been trained on Infection, Prevention and Control measures with the support of various partners.
‘‘Through the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control, we have established 16 infectious disease treatment centres located within our Teaching Hospitals and Federal Medical Centres.’’
On the fight against terrorism, the President told the UN General Assembly that the Nigerian security forces have recorded considerable success.
‘‘As a result of the renewed vigour of Nigeria’s military, many terrorist fighters are voluntarily surrendering to our security forces,’’ he said.
The President noted that while terrorism continues to dominate security discourse worldwide, in Nigeria, the Boko Haram terrorists group, though fragmented by internal strife and weakened by our defence forces, is still active and preying on soft targets.
‘‘Nigeria will continue to work closely with UN Counter-Terrorism bodies and entities with a view to bringing this scourge to an end, ’’ he said, adding that the country would spare no effort in addressing the challenges of terrorism posed by the activities of Boko Haram in North-East Nigeria and the Lake Chad region, as well as banditry in the North-West and North-Central Nigeria.
‘‘I and three other Nigerian Heads of State served actively as peace keepers and Nigeria continues to support peacekeeping efforts. We know the sacrifice involved; we also know how important peacekeeping is for those in vulnerable situations.
‘‘Nigeria will continue to play its part fully in supporting United Nations peacekeeping operations within Africa and beyond,’’ he said.
The Nigerian leader also renewed the call for the reforms of the UN Security Council, stressing that intergovernmental negotiations on the issue was taking too long.
‘‘No reform of the United Nations system is more urgent than that of the Security Council. Stakeholders around the world are asking how such power could be concentrated, with scant representation.
‘‘The intergovernmental negotiations have taken too long, some 15 years.
‘‘We must avoid going in circles. Consensus has been achieved in some of the elements of this reform, especially that of the representation of Africa on the basis of the Elzuwini consensus and the Sirte Declaration.
‘‘It is unreasonable to expect unanimity in this matter. The issue, indeed, is about justice, not unanimity. Without justice, the legitimacy (even efficacy) of our Organisation is called to question.
‘‘We can and must make substantial, irreversible progress on Security Council reform in the current session,’’ he said.
On the Palestinian question, the President encouraged Israel and Palestine to re-engage in dialogue based on relevant UN resolutions and Initiatives.
‘‘The two-state solution has the support of the international community and is widely acknowledged as the path to lasting peace,’’ he said.
President Buhari expressed deep concern at the devastating effects of small arms and weapons, calling for accountability in conventional arms trade.
“Nigeria remains deeply concerned over the illicit trade, transfer, and circulation of small arms and light weapons. Their excessive accumulation and uncontrolled spread in many regions of the world are having devastating humanitarian and socio-economic consequences, especially on the continent of Africa.
“It is on this note that my delegation calls for the worldwide application of the Arms Trade Treaty to codify accountability in conventional arms trade, which is critical to the security of nations. This is in recognition of the need for a broad-based global partnership in the ongoing battle against trans-border crimes, including terrorism and piracy.”
President Buhari concluded his UN speech at the 76th annual general debate with praise for the outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
He also pledged Nigeria’s unalloyed support for multilateralism and faith in the UN as the pre-eminent body for solving current and emerging global challenges.
‘‘Our organisation is at the peak of the multilateral system.
‘‘It is also the pre-eminent body for solving our current and emerging challenges, and for developing norms that are protective of us all. We need to re-commit to it, rejuvenate it to better serve us.
‘‘Nigeria re-affirms its faith in the United Nations and is further resolved to continue to work with all Member-States for peace and security, development and the protection of human rights.
‘‘In the current moment, hope for these, is dependent on how we assist each other to get Covid-19 out of all countries, regardless of their classification. We can and must do so.
‘‘In this regard, let me close my statement by paying special tribute to a great and humane internationalist, and an exemplary practitioner of multilateral cooperation. I am speaking of Chancellor Angela Merkel of the Federal Republic of Germany. As she exits the stage, we wish her well,’’ he said.
Buhari set to address UN General Assembly
President Muhammadu Buhari is set to address 76th Session of the high-level General Debate of the UN General Assembly at the UN headquarters in New York on Friday, the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports.
The Nigerian leader would deliver his address around 9am (around 2pm Nigerian time) to other world leaders during the morning session.
Buhari will speak to the theme of the Assembly and other global issues.
The theme for the 76th session is, “Building Resilience Through Hope – To Recover from COVID-19, Rebuild Sustainably, Respond to the Needs of the Planet, Respect the Rights of People and Revitalise the United Nation’’.
Friday’s session will also include speeches by leaders from The Gambia, South Sudan, Republic of Benin, Senegal and Germany, among others.
The Nigerian leader has participated in some bilateral meetings with a number of leaders of other countries’ delegations and heads of International Development organisations.
Buhari has met with the President of Burundi, Evariste Ndayishimiye, held meeting with Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director-General of the World Trade Organisation and also attended the UN Food Systems Summit.
The Nigerian leaders also held a bilateral meeting with Her Majesty, Maxima Zorreguieta, Queen of The Netherlands and participated at hybrid High-Level event, tagged “Transformative Actions for Nature and People”.
In addition, the President delegation had participated in other high-level meetings such as the Commemoration of the 20th Anniversary of the Adoption of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action on Reparations, Racial Justice and Equality for People of African Descent.
The delegation is also attended High Level Plenary Meeting to commemorate and promote the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, among others. (NAN)
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