...vow to mobilise youths, women to occupy property after 30 days
A militant group, the 21st Century Youths of the Niger Delta and Agitators with Conscience (21st CYNDAC), has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently intervene in the alleged refusal of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to vacate the property of Chief Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo and unfreeze his accounts.
The group, in an electronic mail statement on Sunday by its Coordinator, ‘General’ Izon Ebi, said the appeal became necessary to avoid the development snowballing into another round of unrest and agitations in the Niger Delta region.
The 21st CYNDAC said it was disheartening and provocative for the EFCC to refuse to obey a valid court decision of discharging and acquitting Tompolo of wrongdoings.
It said the alleged unjust treatment being meted out to Tompolo and his family by the EFCC and other Federal Government agencies was the height of oppression taken too far on one of the illustrious, beloved and most respected leaders in the Niger Delta.
The group said the Ijaw nation and the youths of the Niger Delta would no longer fold their arms and watch a good and highly respected leader being unjustly framed up politically and descended upon with federal might by perceived enemies of the region.
The 21st CYNDAC said: “We are therefore calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to quickly intervene to show that he means well for the Niger Delta and its people as promised in the just concluded roundtable discussion between governors from the region, traditional rulers and stakeholders in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, to douse tensions and reassure Niger Deltans that without peace there will be no meaningful development.
“After 30 days of this appeal, we shall have no choice but to mobilise youths and women to occupy Tompolo’s properties to enable the workers that are out of jobs as a result of the seal off of his properties to resume work immediately for them to be able to fend for their families.
“The peace in the creeks of the Niger Delta can be greatly attributed to Tompolo’s efforts and commitment to maintain peace. Therefore, the onus lies on the Federal Government to do the needful.”
Bill Gates, a co-founder of Microsoft and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), has said he does not understand why coronavirus numbers have not been as high as predicted in Africa.
Recall that Gates and his wife, Melinda, had in more than one occasion, warned that there will be dead bodies all over the streets of Africa if the world does not act fast enough.
Melinda said her heart was in Africa, adding that she is worried that the continent might not be able to handle the devastating effect of the virus.
But in his end of the year note, Bill said he was happy his prediction about Africa has not happened, “One thing I’m happy to have been wrong about—at least, I hope I was wrong—is my fear that Covid-19 would run rampant in low-income countries. So far, this hasn’t been true,” he wrote.
In most of sub-Saharan Africa, for example, case rates and death rates remain much lower than in the U.S. or Europe and on par with New Zealand, which has received so much attention for its handling of the virus.
“The hardest-hit country on the continent is South Africa—but even there, the case rate is 40 percent lower than in the US, and the death rate is nearly 50 percent lower.
“We don’t have enough data yet to understand why the numbers aren’t as high as I worried they would get — but gave probable reasons Africa was not as affected as expected.”
Meanwhile, Nigeria is currently fighting the second wave of the coronavirus.
The Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 had last week announced a second wave of the dreaded virus.
The Federal Government on Tuesday directed civil servants from grade level 12 and below to stay at home.
They are to remain at home for five weeks following the second wave of the Covid-19 disease in Nigeria.
Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, on Friday stated that Covid-19 related deaths now stand at 1,246.
Nigeria currently has a total of 82,747 confirmed cases in the country.
Former Governor of Niger state, Dr. Babangida Aliyu has said any Governor that is frustrated and tired of security situation in his state should resign and go back to his village.
He stated this while delivering a paper titled “Place of Colleges of Education in the Development of Nigeria” at the 50th golden anniversary of Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto on Sunday.
“I was surprised when i saw a headline that Governors are tired of insecurity. No Governor should be frustrated and tired of security, otherwise he should resign and go back to his village,” he said
“A chairman of the local government has a job and many Governors have no respect for traditional rulers and they are the ones that have the intelligence.
” The Governors must use every institution that is with them to do their job, because their primary job is to secure the life and properties of their people.
“So when I saw that headlines on all the national dailies I was shocked.”
According to him, the issue of security is a collective responsibility adding that during his reign, he owned all the federal government establishments in his state, including the security operatives and that was why he didn’t have much problem in Niger state.
“What i did then and i was happy and i did not have much problem was owning federal establishment. My argument was that if you are a military sent to Niger state, you were sent to help me not to kill me.
” So I own them and I was doing PR and social welfare for them. I don’t discriminate to say that they are not indigenes of the state. And if there was any security issue, I sent all of them and they were willing to go because they know I was willing to pay,” he said
Aliyu who is the alumnus of the college, added that “we didn’t wait for the federal government to send them money, otherwise we would all die,” he said.
While speaking on banditry, he stated that “there was a rumour that bandits were invited to fight Jonathan government. Whether that is true or not is immaterial now. But now even our own Fulanis have suffered, their cattle rustled and they are on revenge mission now.
The Governor also chided ASUU over their incessant strike, saying they should seemed to be professional than trade union.
The minister of women affairs, Pauline Tallen has tested positive to COVID-19.
The minister, in a statement on Sunday announced that she had gone on self-isolation after her interaction with individuals that showed asymptomatic sign of COVID-19.
“Following interaction with individuals that later show asymptomatic sign of COVID-19, I was advised by my medical team to undergo the test and self isolate for observation over the past few days.
“This is to inform the general public that after undergoing a test carried out on myself and members of my family, my result returned positive while that of members of my family tested negative.
“Currently, I am asymptomatic and have gone into isolation during the period of treatment. Please keep me in your prayers and I implore you all to stay safe and observe all COVID-19 protocols as we grapple with this pandemic.
“Please keep me in your prayers. I implore you all to stay safe and observe all COVID-19 protocols as we grapple with this pandemic. I urge you all to please take responsibility for yourself and your family in order to protect our dear country even more at this time.”
The Nigeria Centre For Disease Control (NCDC) had on Saturday night reported 829 new infections of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), pandemic outbreak in the country.
Since the beginning of the outbreak in February, more than 925,215 samples have been tested in the country.
One death recorded
The NCDC said that the new infections bring the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country to 83,576 which includes 70,495 discharged cases and 1,247 deaths.
The public health agency said that the country sadly recorded one additional death in the last 24 hours.
It disclosed that 256 patients were discharged after recovering from the infection from isolation centers across the country.
“Our discharges today include 113 community recoveries in Lagos State and 92 community recoveries in Kaduna State managed in line with guidelines,” it stated.
The NCDC said that the new infections were reported from 14 states and and the Federal Capital Territory, in the last 24 hours.
According to it, Lagos state had 296 new infections, while the Federal Capital Territory recorded 291 new infections, Kaduna, Rivers and Kano reported 79, 40 and 35 cases respectively.
Others states with new infections were Nasarawa-25, Bauchi-19, Benue-8, Borno-7, Edo-7, Oyo-7, Sokoto-7, Cross River-3, Jigawa-3 and Ogun-2
Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked President Muhammadu Buhari and state governors to disclose the security votes for their states in 2021.
SERAP in a statement issued on Sunday by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, called for measures to be put in place to prevent the misuse and embezzlement of public funds in the name of security votes.
“Disclose details of proposed ‘security votes’ spending in your 2021 appropriation bills to ensure the security and welfare of Nigerians, and to explain the measures your governments are putting in place to prevent the misuse and embezzlement of public funds in the name of security votes,” the statement partly read.
“In the wake of the abduction of over 300 students from the Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, Katsina State, and ongoing security challenges in several parts of the country, the time has come to demonstrate transparency and accountability in the spending of public funds meant to secure people’s lives and property.”
The group noted that while the authorities may keep certain matters of operational secrets from the people in the name of national security, there is no constitutional or legal basis to hide basic information on public spending from the people.
According to Oluwadare, Nigerian leaders should be honest to the citizens amid the numerous security challenges in the country.
SEE FULL STATEMENT HERE:
Insecurity: Disclose security votes spending for 2021, SERAP tells Buhari, 36 governors
Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent Freedom of Information requests to President Muhammadu Buhari and 36 state governors urging them to “disclose details of proposed ‘security votes’ spending in your 2021 appropriation bills to ensure the security and welfare of Nigerians, and to explain the measures your governments are putting in place to prevent the misuse and embezzlement of public funds in the name of security votes.”
SERAP said: “In the wake of the abduction of over 300 students from the Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, Katsina State, and ongoing security challenges in several parts of the country, the time has come to demonstrate transparency and accountability in the spending of public funds meant to secure people’s lives and property.”
In the FoI requests dated 26 December, 2020 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “Disclosing details of spending as security votes for 2021 would serve to engage the Nigerian people in an honest conversation about the security challenges confronting the country, and what the federal and state governments are doing to respond to them. This is a legitimate public interest matter.”
SERAP also said: “While SERAP understands that authorities may keep certain matters of operational secrets from the people in the name of national security, there is no constitutional or legal basis to hide basic information on public spending from the people.”
SERAP expressed “concerns that the intense secrecy and lack of meaningful oversight of the government’s spending of security votes have for many years contributed to mismanagement and large-scale corruption in the sector, as well as limited the ability of the people to hold high-ranking public officials to account for their constitutional responsibility to ensure the security and welfare of the people.”
According to SERAP: “Your government’s responsibility to guarantee and ensure the security and welfare of the Nigerian people is closely interlinked with your responsibility under Section 15(5) of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended] to abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of office. This imposes a fundamental obligation to promote transparency and accountability in security votes spending, and to remove opportunities for corruption.”
The FoI requests, read in part: “Nigerians have the right to know what the government is doing in their name. The framers of the Nigerian Constitution never contemplated opaque spending of public funds as security votes. Transparency and accountability would ensure that the policies and action that the government will pursue to guarantee the security of Nigerians are truly relevant and effective in keeping them safe.”
“We would be grateful if the requested information is provided to us within 7 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall take all appropriate legal action under the Nigerian Constitution, the Freedom of Information Act, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to compel you to comply with our request.”
“Successive governments have failed to effectively discharge their primary and constitutional responsibility to protect the lives and property of Nigerians. This is patently contrary to Section 14(2)(b) of the Nigerian Constitution, which provides that ‘the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.’”
“Our requests are brought in the public interest, and in keeping with the requirements of the Nigerian Constitution, the country’s international human rights obligations including under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Nigeria has ratified both human rights treaties.”
“By the combined reading of the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution, Freedom of Information Act 2011, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, applicable throughout Nigeria, there are transparency obligations imposed on your government to disclose information to the public concerning your proposed security votes spending for 2021.”
“The Nigerian Constitution, Freedom of Information Act, and the human rights treaties rest on the principle that citizens should have access to information regarding their government’s activities.”
SERAP Deputy Director
Police in Katsina State say, they have arrested a 13-man syndicate for armed robbery and theft of 2 Mercedes Benz cars.
Spokesperson of the Command, SP Gambo Isah said this, while parading the suspects in Katsina, the state capital.
Isah says the Government Residential Area, GRA Divisional Police Officer, raided the hideouts of the suspects based on credible intelligence, and succeeded in smashing the notorious syndicate of armed robbers, terrorising Katsina, and recovered two stolen motor vehicles.
Similarly, the police succeeded in smashing a syndicate of thieves and receivers of stolen motor vehicles, terrorising Katsina and its environs.
The Police image maker further added that, the personnel also arrested an ex-convict and 2 other boys between the ages of 18 and 21, known for notoriously dealing in cannabis sativa and recovered 51 carefully sealed loaves of dried leaves, reasonably suspected to be illegal drugs.
Isah said, all the suspects confessed to the commission of the crimes and investigation is on going in all the cases.
The senate has queried the Ministry of Power for allegedly spending N7 billion without appropriation by the National Assembly.
The query was contained in the 2015 report of the Auditor General of the Federation submitted to the Senate Committee on Public Accounts.
The committee, chaired by Senator Matthew Urhoghide, wondered how N7 billion appeared in the ministry’s account at a time when the 2015 budget had not been passed, while the account for 2014 was already closed.
The lawmakers observed that there was no evidence that such money was budgeted for in respect of hydropower transmission in either 2014 or 2015 fiscal years.
The query read in part: “The sum of N7 billion was received by the Ministry of Power in January, 2015, as shown in the accounts. This fund was spread into four commercial banks under the Account name: Hydropower Transmission Project.
“The budget for 2015 was not yet passed as at the time this money was received by the ministry in January, 2015, while the account for the year 2014 was already closed as at 31st December, 2014.
“It was also observed that there was no evidence that such money was budgeted for in respect of the Hydropower Transmission Project in either 2014 or 2015 fiscal years of the ministry’s Appropriation Act.”
But the Ministry of Power, in a written response, said: “The Federal Government released the money under special intervention fund to the ministry for the funding of Hydroelectric Power Project.
“The fund was released as special warrant and therefore was outside of the ministry’s approved budget.
“The Office of the Accountant General of the Federation approved project accounts for the fund in four different banks.”
Residents have fled their homes as Boko Haram terrorists attacked four villages in the southern part of Borno State.
According to local sources who are on the run, the attack is ongoing as of 9pm on Saturday.
Eyewitnesses told newsmen that the insurgents rode in at least 10 Toyota Hilux vans, and they were first seen around Mandara Dirau at about 1pm.
The insurgents were said to have proceeded unchallenged through parts of villages identified as Debiro, Tashan Alade, Tirgitu, and Shaffa town shooting sporadically, looting food items, and setting houses ablaze.
Villages attacked are situated within Hawul and Shaffa Local Government Areas of the state.
Terrified villagers were said to have hidden in nearby mountains, except for the old and the sick that were feared to be stuck in the mayhem.
For fear of attacks, farmers in remote villages resorted to storing their harvested food in rented stores at the local government headquarters of Biu Local Government.
It was learned that despite distress calls to the military, the terrorists were not repelled, adding that the villages attacked today are not remote and the attacks were unexpected.
Recall that the insurgents have been launching attacks since Thursday where a Chibok village was ransacked during a Christmas Eve carol night.
A similar attack was also launched in Garkida, an Adamawa town bordering southern Borno.
Today’s attack is the third in three days, with no word from the military.
Details of today’s attacks are still sketchy as villagers are still in hiding.
Boko Haram and a splinter group known as the Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP) have launched a series of attacks in Nigeria for more than a decade now.
More than 30,000 people have been killed and nearly 3 million displaced in a decade of Boko Haram violence in Nigeria, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
According to the UN Refugee Agency, violence by Boko Haram has affected 26 million people in the Lake Chad region and displaced 2.6 million others.
• Bank credit grew by N290bn in six weeks, says apex bank
• Businesses lament, knock govt over poor inflation management
Barely five days to the end of the year 2020, the Central Bank of Nigeria has disclosed that a survey carried out by its Statistics Department revealed that the naira is expected to depreciate further in January 2021.
The report, titled, ‘December 2020 Business Expectations Survey Report’ added that there might also be a steady rise in interest rate from December till the next six months.
The naira witnessed a sharp fall in recent weeks, reaching its lowest on November 30, 2020, when it exchanged for N500/$1. Since then, the dollar has been hovering between N460 and N470. As of Friday, however, one dollar exchanged for 465 in the parallel market.
Also, the Nigerian economy had on November 21 slid into its second recession in five years when the economy shrank again in the third quarter. The recession is said to be the worst in 36 years, according to the data obtained from the World Bank. The Federal Government and some economists had expressed optimism that the country would exit the recession in 2021.
Meanwhile, in the 11-page survey report, the CBN said it conducted the survey online from December 7 to 11, with a sample size of 1,050 businesses nationwide. It noted that a response rate of 91.3 per cent was achieved and that the sample covered the agriculture/services, manufacturing, wholesale/retail trade and construction sectors.
It added that the respondent firms were made up of small, medium and large corporations covering both import-oriented and export-oriented businesses.
The report partly read, “Respondent firms expect the naira to depreciate in the current month and next month but appreciate in the next two months and the next six months.
“Inflation level is expected to rise in the next six and 12 months as firms expect the average inflation rate in the next six months and the next 12 months to stand at 13.24 and 14.51 per cent, while borrowing rate is expected to rise in the current month, next month, next two months and the next six months with indices of 19.2, 14.9, 14.7 and 14.3 points.”
In the survey, respondent firms expressed pessimism on the macro economy, while their outlook on the volume of business activities, average capacity utilisation, the volume of total order and financial condition (working capital) were positive.
The CBN stated that respondent firms identified insufficient power supply, unfavourable economic climate, competition, high interest rates, unclear economic laws, financial problems, unfavourable political climate, access to credit, insufficient demand, lack of equipment, lack of materials input, and labour problems as major factors constraining business activities in December 2020.
Bank credit grew by N290bn in six weeks – CBN
In a separate development, the apex bank in a communiqué number 133 of the Monetary Policy Committee meeting held on November 23 and 24 and signed by the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, said the aggregate domestic credit grew by 7.61 per cent in October 2020, compared with 7.35 per cent in the previous month.
This it said was as a result of the bank’s policy on Loan-to-Deposit Ratio, supported by its interventions in the various sectors of the economy, adding that total bank credit grew in the banking industry by N290.13bn between the end of August and the middle of November.
The communiqué added, “Total gross credit by the banking industry stood at N19.54tn as at November 13, 2020, compared with N19.33tn at the end of August 2020, an increase of N290.13bn.
“When compared with N15.56tn at the commencement of the LDR policy in May 2019, total gross credit increased by N3.97tn, these loans were granted mainly to manufacturing (N738bn), general commerce (N874bn), agric and forestry (N301bn), construction (N291bn), and ICT (N231bn), just to mention a few.”
The communiqué noted further that the MPC observed the gradual improvement in the manufacturing and non-manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Indices, which rose to 50.2 and 47.6 index points respectively, in November 2020, compared with 49.4 and 46.8 index points in October 2020.
It added, “This development signposts an increase in economic activities, driven by growth in new orders, improved supply delivery time, rising production levels and new export orders. The employment level index component of the manufacturing and non-manufacturing PMIs also improved in November 2020 to 47.3 index points and 46.7 index points, respectively, compared with 46.0 index points and 44.2 index points in October 2020.
“The committee, however, noted the likely downside risk to growth of the recent unrest in the country, warning that this may adversely impact economic recovery in the near term.”
Businesses lament, knock govt over inflation management
Meanwhile, on respondents’ opinion over the control of inflation, the CBN report said the respondents decried the poor management of of inflation by the management.
It said, “Respondent firms expressed dissatisfaction with the management of inflation by the government, with a negative net satisfaction index -33.5 in December 2020.”
On the business outlook, the report showed that at -15.2 index points, the overall confidence index on the macro economy was pessimistic in December 2020 while respondents were optimistic in their outlook for the month of January 2021 with a confidence index of 29.4.
The respondents also expressed optimism in the overall business outlook for February and June 2021 as shown in a greater confidence of the economy with 39.2 and 55.2 index points respectively.
It added, “The pessimism on the macro economy in the current month was driven by the opinion of respondents from agriculture/services (-10.4 points), wholesale/retail trade sectors (-1.7), construction (-1.6 points) and manufacturing sectors (-1.6 points).
“The major drivers of optimism for next month were agriculture/services (16.8 points) and manufacturing sectors (10.3 points). Further analysis revealed that businesses that were neither import and export-oriented (-9.5 points), both import and export-oriented (-3.4 points), importers (-2.0 points) and exporters (-0.2 points), drove the negative business outlook for the month under review.”
In terms of employment and expansion plans, the report said respondent firms’ opinion on the volume of business activities indicated a favourable business outlook for January and February 2021, with indices of 47.7 and 55.0 respectively.
It added, “Businesses also hope to employ in January and February 2021 as the outlook was positive at 18.5 and 21.5 index points respectively.
“The breakdown by sector showed that the agric/services sector with (20.5 points) has the highest prospect for employment in the next month, followed by construction sector with an index of 17.9 points, manufacturing sector (16.7 points) and wholesale/retail trade (13.4 points).
“Respondents were also optimistic about the volume of business activities and employment outlook index in the next six months as all indices were positive. An analysis of businesses with expansion plans in January showed that the agric/services sector and construction sector have the highest disposition to expand with 52.9 index points each.
“Manufacturing and wholesale/retail sectors had an index of 46.6 and 41.2 respectively”
Speaking on the implications of the report, a former President, Association of National Accountants of Nigeria, Dr Sam Nzekwe, explained that all the plans for recovery of the economy were presently based on oil, and that volatility in oil price would continue to affect the economy because the country was not producing.
For the naira and inflation to moderate, he said, the economy must start producing and security must improve.
He said, “Oil has actually not come up; we are not yet sure of what will happen in January and February. When the advanced countries are using solar, electric power for vehicles, it means that most of the advanced economies that demand our oil may not demand as much because they are shifting emphasis from oil to electricity. The economy may not recover in January and inflation is going high as well.
“There is also the issue of insecurity; there will be food shortage because most farmers are not going to farm again because of banditry and kidnappings, and when there is a food shortage, inflation will keep on rising.”
He added that it was important to create infrastructure and an enabling environment so that the productive sectors could thrive.
Also, the Director-General, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dr Muda Yusuf, said the macroeconomic fundamentals, the structural factors and the policy choices would determine the exchange rate and inflation outcomes in 2021.
He added, “For instance, a rise in oil price and output could change the narrative regarding the exchange rate and our foreign reserves. Some of these variables are difficult to predict.
“For inflation, the key drivers are the exchange rate, transportation costs, the impact of security on agricultural output, seasonality of harvests and energy costs, among others.
“It is unlikely that much would change in these variables by January.”
Speaking on the solution, Yusuf said, “To fix the problem, we need to fix the factors driving price increases as highlighted.”
The President, Chartered Insurance Institute of Nigeria, Muftau Oyegunle, said it was unlikely that much could be done on the inflation rate because the crisis in the North had drastically cut down food supply, whereas food supply from the North is a major source of food items in the country.
While he did not subscribe to the fact that naira would depreciate further, he said, “Fundamentally, one thing that is clear is that Nigerians abroad are the ones sustaining this economy through remittances even before Nigerians acknowledged the role the money from abroad is playing in the economy.
“Remittance from Nigerians abroad is more than what we earn from oil and this is making the difference in the value of the naira.” ,,
Prospective couples have been directed by the Lagos state government to obtain clearance from the Lagos State Safety Commission to hold weddings.
In a notice titled ‘Stay At Home’, couples were directed to hold weddings with not more than 300 people in attendance with prior clearance from the Commission.
“Weddings and social gatherings must not exceed 300 people with prior clearance from the Lagos State Safety Commission."
Director-General of the Lagos State Safety Commission, Lanre Mojola who confirmed this in an interview with Punch, said the state government is concerned about large gatherings and big weddings as the state experiences a spike in the number of Covid-19 cases.
He added that the clearance is free and prospective couples will have to go on the Commission’s website to input the details of their weddings. Mojola also revealed that safety marshals will be deployed to such events to enforce all COVID-19 protocols to prevent any possible spread of the virus.
“If it is not a big wedding, maybe 50 people, 100 people, we are not really concerned. But if it is a large gathering with 300 people and above, it is mandatory that you get a clearance. It is a free clearance; no payment whatsoever.
“The process is not difficult, you go online and input the details of the wedding. There might be a requirement to have safety marshals on ground, depending on the size of the wedding.
“The move is to put in place some control measures to prevent super-spreader weddings and hold people accountable. It also helps us in planning. For instance, if we are envisaging 500 guests at a wedding, there will be more attention on them. We will do our regular patrols and visit such places to ensure that they comply with safety protocols.”
A professor of African History, Peace and Conflict Studies, Isaac Olawale, has said it is strange that none of the abductors of the Kankara schoolboys was arrested or killed. This, he said, signalled a conspiracy by some powerful leaders against the people they govern.
About 344 pupils of the Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, Katsina State, were on December 11 abducted from their hostels on the school premises by bandits.
They were released about a week after following negotiations between the government and the bandits.
Governor Aminu Masari of Katsina State had said his adviser, members of Miyetti Allah and some top police and military operatives were involved in the negotiation that led to the pupils’ release, while the military said it secured their release, even as presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu, also said repentant bandits helped in securing the release of the boys.
Speaking on the conflicting accounts of how the pupils were rescued, Olawale, who is also the pioneer Director of the Institute of African Studies at the University of Ibadan, argued that criminals had been exploiting the absence of coordination in government to carry out attacks.
He added, “So, the military would want to present it to us as a rescue while the civilian rulers would want to present it to us as something else. It shows clearly that we are not coordinated. However, what I can pick from this, based on my own professional perspective, is that indeed several agencies participated in that operation to get the boys out, but there is confusion in the explanation of what happened.
“Each of these agencies wants to take all the credit. However, the most disgraceful part of this, if we move beyond people trying to canonise themselves, is that none of the bandits was arrested or killed and the whole thing melted just like that. It’s very strange. It tells you that there is a big conspiracy against Nigerians by some of these people claiming to be our leaders.”
The director-general of the Health Ministry said on Saturday that Israel hopes to eventually reach a vaccination rate of at least 150,000 people per day, and called on the public to obey restrictions even if they do not have faith in the government.
“I hope that within a month, millions will have received their first dose, if not their second,” Chezy Levy told the Kan public broadcaster.
Levy also said that the at-risk population should be largely vaccinated with the two required doses of the vaccine at some point in February.
“But it is all dependent on two things — firstly that Pfizer and Moderna will be able to increase the supply of vaccines to Israel. And the second thing of course is that the public turns up to get inoculated,” Levy said.
He added that there was no shortage of vaccines and that the intention was for people to be inoculated seven days a week, 24 hours per day if necessary.
At that rate, the vast majority of the population could be vaccinated by the end of March. Israeli hospitals are to join the vaccination effort next week, and hundreds of IDF medics will also participate, to help expedite the process.
Along with some four million doses from Pfizer expected to arrive by the end of the month, it has been reported that another four million were expected to come by the end of March for a total of eight million doses — enough to vaccinate four million people.
The country also has an agreement to receive 6 million doses of the Moderna vaccine, enough for 3 million people, which was authorized in the United States for an emergency rollout on Friday by the Food and Drug Administration. However, Channel 12 has said Moderna’s vaccine is not expected to arrive in Israel earlier than April.
Levy noted the scenes of crowding in markets across the country and a large party held in Tel Aviv’s Park Hayarkon on Friday, calling on the public to obey the virus regulations “even if they don’t believe in the government.”
People wearing face masks shop at the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem on December 25, 2020.
While the vaccination drive is moving quickly ahead, Israel’s virus contagion rates are also rising, however, and the country is going into a third nationwide lockdown on Sunday afternoon.
Levy also said the lockdown could in fact last for three to four weeks until infection rates were significantly lowered.
“I believe it won’t just be two weeks,” Levy said. “These are [infection rates] that we haven’t seen for a long time.”
People wait to receive a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at a nursing home, in Ganei Tikva, Israel, Dec. 22, 2020. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Levy’s comments came a day after a top official from his ministry said Israel aims to begin vaccinating the general public within 7-10 days.
Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, the acting head of the Health Ministry’s public health services, told Channel 12 news that the ministry intends to move quickly to vaccinations 24/7, and “we hope in 7-10 days” to start vaccinating the general public.
Over 200,000 Israelis received a first dose of the vaccine this week — with the focus on healthcare workers, people aged over 60 and at-risk groups — placing Israel second in the world in vaccinations per capita, after Bahrain, according to the University of Oxford-run Our World in Data.
Asked on Channel 12 whether this meant Israel would essentially have completed its vaccination drive by March 23’s election day, Alroy-Preis carefully avoided a direct answer but stressed that the ministry was doing everything in its power to expedite the arrival of sufficient vaccine doses and to accelerate the inoculation program. The Pfizer vaccines which Israel is using require two doses, three weeks apart.
Alroy-Preis also said vaccinations in elderly care facilities should be largely completed by the end of next week.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu predicted on Thursday that Israel would likely be the first country in the world to overcome the pandemic.
“I want to tell you that the combination of the marvelous vaccine campaign on the one hand, and a short and quick lockdown on the other, is allowing us to get out of the coronavirus [pandemic],” Netanyahu said in a statement.
“And we’ll likely be the first country to get out of [it], within a few weeks,” he added.
Students in Nigerian public universities who were hoping to resume academic work after the Yuletide following the suspension of a strike by lecturers will have to wait longer.
This is because the National Universities Commission (NUC) has issued a directive to all universities to suspend academic activities due to the spread of COVID-19.
Nigeria is currently experiencing its second wave of COVID-19, with the country experiencing more new cases than ever. The over 5,000 new cases recoded last week was the highest weekly figure ever.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how lecturers in public universities, ASUU, on Wednesday, suspended their nine months strike after an agreement with the government on university funding and other matters.
ASUU also said its members were ready to work as soon as the government puts COVID-19 protocols in place in the universities.
“As far as we are concerned, we are ready to resume work. Let the government do what is needed to ensure safety. We insist that the COVID-19 protocol should be observed,” ASUU president Biodun Ogunyemi said.
While the government has not spelt out clear COVID-19 protocols for the universities, it had announced that all schools should remain shut till at least January 18.
The latest directive stopping physical academic activities, including in private universities not affected by the ASUU strike, thus means that until a counter directive by the NUC, universities will not resume academic activities.
The NUC called on vice-chancellors of universities not to allow any form of academic activities involving large crowds to be organized or hosted on their campuses.
Details of the NUC directive was contained in a circular by Chris Maiyaki, Deputy Executive Secretary (Administration), and obtained by a news agency, PRNigeria.
According to PRNigeria, the NUC said classrooms, hostel accommodation, conferences and seminars should be suspended.
It further directed that universities should remain closed during this intervening period, pending further directives by FG on the reopening of schools.
“Vice-Chancellors are to please note that the directive is part of the measures approved by Mr. President to mitigate the second wave of Coronavirus infections in the country. The affected officers are expected to perform their duties from home while those on GL 13 and above should strictly adhere to the extant preventive measures, including maintenance of physical distancing, regular washing of hands and/or sanitizing of hands, wearing of face masks and reducing the number of visitors to offices,” it said.
Gunmen kidnapped a traveller on the Isan-Iludun-Ekiti highway in Oye Local Government Area of Ekiti State on Friday.
Amotekun Corps Commander in the state, retired Brig.-Gen. Joe Komolafe, confirmed the mishap on Saturday and said another would-have-been victim was rescued by the corps.
He said the Ekiti State Security Network Agency codenamed Amotekun Corps and the police command in the state jointly engaged the gunmen before one of the travellers was rescued.
Komolafe said in Ado-Ekiti that the kidnappers were suspected herdsmen.
He said the assailants shot at the vehicle in which the victims were travelling on Friday, but were confronted by men of the Amotekun Corps and the police.
“We actually got a distress call from the people of the area on Friday that some persons were abducted on the Iludun-Ekiti Road and quickly, we dashed down and were able to rescue one person from the kidnappers after my men gave them serious manhunt in the bush.
“According to information made available to us, the victims were ambushed at a bad spot and when they were trying to make a detour to escape, another set of gunmen came out from the bush from behind them and started shooting at the vehicle from both ends.
“In their wisdom, the victims hurriedly opened the vehicle and ran into the bush in different directions.
“They were pursued by the gunmen and abducted but we were able to rescue one of them.
“Sensing danger from the Amotekun Corps, the kidnappers abandoned one of the victims and we have been in the bush with other security agents since Friday trying to rescue the other person,’’ he said.
Komolafe called on residents of Ekiti State not to panic as Amotekun men, in collaboration with other security agents, would ensure the safe return of the kidnapped victim and also intensify surveillance on all highways to guarantee safety of travellers.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that cases of kidnapping have been rampant in Ekiti State during the outgoing year, but became more pronounced in the last two months with about three cases recorded within two weeks.
Only recently, a former Commissioner for Agriculture in Ekiti State, Mr Folorunso Olabode, was kidnapped on the same route while one of his political associates, a councillor, was shot dead by gunmen.
Chinese expatriates working on the new Iyin Road were also recently attacked on site by gunmen who killed one of their police escorts and took one of the expatriates away after seriously wounding another expatriate.