Buhari Thanks Nigerians Over COVID-19


PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari has expressed gratitude to Nigerians for their alertness and cooperation over the management and control of the pandemic coronavirus.

In a statement on Saturday, Buhari thanked all Nigerians for their patience, resolve and strong determination to conquer the disease.

His statement reads in part:
“We realize that today, there will be sons and daughters unable to visit their parents, and elders that are isolated from young ones. And there will be those who live day-to-day, eating as they earn, who face real and present suffering.

“No elected government could ask more of the citizens of the country that elected them than today we ask of you. But we must ask you – once more – to observe restrictions on movement where they are in place, and follow the instructions of our scientists and medical advisers: stay home, wash your hands, save lives.

“The freedoms we ask you to willingly forsake today will only last as long as our scientific advisers declare they are necessary. But they are essential – world over – to halt and defeat the spread of this virus.

“For those who suffer most egregiously, the Government has announced multiple measures to assist: 70,000 tonnes of grain is being released from the National Strategic Grain Reserves for distribution to those in most need; distribution of small cash payments are also being made, and will continue to be made by the federal government in the states and local government areas.

“We ask you to listen and follow public announcements via the mass media for instructions as to how to receive this government support – and learn of more public assistance in the coming days.

“All that the Government is asking you to endure is because nowhere in the world today is there any known way of defeating this pandemic. There is no vaccine. And that means there are choices to be made: between continuing as usual, or accepting the restrictions even when they come with unintended consequences.

“But at this darkest hour, it remains our duty to offer you the full and unvarnished truth: This is a global pandemic. 210 countries and territories across the globe are affected. We cannot expect others to come to our assistance. No one is coming to defeat this virus for us.

“Instead, the defeat of the virus in our country will be in our hands, alone. We cannot wait for others. We can only depend on ourselves now. And so we must – and we will – end this outbreak ourselves as Nigerians, together”.

However the president was silent on whether he would extend the two-week lockdown imposed on Lagos, Ogun and Abuja which will expire on Monday.





Okowa Cnogratulates Okonjo-Iweala On New Job


DELTA State governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa on Sunday congratulated Nigeria's former Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, on her appointment as Chairman, Presidential Economic Advisory Council (PEAC) of South Africa.

Okonjo-Iweala, an illustrious Deltan from the Ogwashi-Uku royal family, was a two-time Minister of Finance in Nigeria, who led the country's economy to exit foreign debt obligations during her first term under President Olusegun Obasanjo.

She went further to grow the nations Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to become the largest in Africa in her second stint under President Goodluck Jonathan. 

In a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr Olisa Ifeajika, in Asaba, Okowa said that he was elated to hear of Okonjo-Iweala's appointment by President Cyril Ramaphosa to head South Africa's PEAC. 

He described Okonjo-Iweala as a brilliant, competent, world-class economist and international development expert whose works over the years distinguished her globally.

He stated that the former minister remained a worthy ambassador of Delta and Nigeria as well as a great role model for the girl-child.

"I am elated to hear of your appointment by President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa. 

"Your appointment is indeed, a testament to your competence and experience as a renowned economist and international development expert. 

"On behalf of my family, the Government and people of Delta, I congratulate a worthy ambassador of Delta and Nigeria, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, on her appointment into South Africa’s Presidential Economic Advisory Council as not just a member but as chairman.

"As you take on this onerous but distinguishing assignment in another country, I pray and urge you to re-enact that, which you have always done - bringing pride and honour to Delta and Nigeria.

"It is without doubt that your pedigree and impeccable footprints in monetary and economic administration in Nigeria and at the World Bank stood you out for this sublime international assignment.

"As you continue in this remarkable trajectory, we wish you success and in all your other endeavors," Okowa stated.

Okonjo-Iweala met last Friday with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and members of the country’s Economic Advisory Council to begin discussions on the country’s economic growth.

South African economy is presently facing a second-time recession in two years amidst poor power supply.




Pneumonia, now World's highest child-killer diease


A new finding has revealed that pneumonia now rank the highest child-killer disease in the world. While 437,000 children under five died due to diarrhoea and 272,000 to malaria last year, a total number of 802,000 children died from pneumonia within the same year. These figures do not capture unregistered deaths in remote communities lacking access to health facilities.

Similarly, a total number of 162,000 children in Nigeria below the age of five died in 2018 from pneumonia, according to ‘Save the Children’, a child rights group.

By the statistics, Nigeria ranked the second highest victim after India with 227,000 pneumonia infant mortality cases.
According to the Chief Executive of the UK-based ‘Save the Children’, Kevin Watkins, who made the revelation in Abuja last Monday while marking World Pneumonia Day, pneumonia might be responsible for 19 per cent of under-five deaths, which stood as the leading child-killer disease in Nigeria within the year.

“Globally, 802,000 children under the age of five died from pneumonia in 2018, more than from any other disease. By comparison, 437,000 children under five died due to diarrhoea and 272,000 to malaria.

“Just five countries were responsible for more than half of child pneumonia deaths: Nigeria 162,000; India 227,000; Pakistan 58,000; the Democratic Republic of Congo, 40,000 and Ethiopia 37,000,” Watkins said.

He lamented situation in Zamfara State, northwest Nigeria where, he said every child under fiver years might be easily exposed to death, adding that a new analysis indicated that pneumonia killed one child every three minutes.

According to him, children whose immune systems are weakened by other infections or by malnutrition especially those living in highly polluted air and unsafe water were at greater risk.

While suggesting that most deaths arising from pneumonia could be prevented by treatment with such low-cost antibiotics as Amoxicillin DT, Watkins called on the government of Nigeria, United Nations and concerned groups to tackle the alarming health problem.

“This is a forgotten global health epidemic that demands a greater international response. Millions of children are dying for want of vaccines, affordable antibiotics, and routine oxygen treatment. The pneumonia crisis is a symptom of neglect and indefensible inequalities in access to health care,” Watkins said.

‘Save the Children’ UK Ambassador in Nigeria, Florence Otedola, also lamented that Nigeria spent paltry $10 per person on health care in 2015, whereas the World Health Organization recommended a minimum of $86 .

She noted that the disease is preventable and that everyone could play parts “in making sure the children of Nigeria do not die from pneumonia. She called on sundry “to come together and invest in providing treatment to every child who deserves to survive this preventable disease.”




PDP Hails Benue, Bauchi Govs Over Tribunal's Ruling


THE Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Tuesday, hailed Benue State Governor, Samuel Otorm and his Bauchi State counterpart, Senator Bala Mohammed, on their recent victory at the governorship election petitions tribunal.
According to the party, “the verdict of the tribunal is a clear consolidation of the triumph of the will of the people of the two states as expressly delivered through the March 9 governorship elections.”

The statement signed by its spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan further noted that “the spontaneous jubilation that greeted the verdict across the two states affirms the fact that justice was delivered in the matters in line with the will and aspirations of the people.

It further stated: “Indeed, Governor Ortom’s resounding victory at the election underlines the overwhelming acceptance of his leadership style as demonstrated in his unprecedented commitment to the welfare and development of his state despite daunting security and economic challenges.

“His re-election marks the consolidation of good governance and contribution towards the uplifting of the living standard of the people in all sectors of life.

“In the same vein, the PDP notes the excitement of the people of Bauchi State on the affirmation of the election of Governor Bala Mohammed whose administration marks the repositioning of the state toward greater productivity in all critical sectors.
“The party observes Senator Bala’s commitment to massive infrastructural development across the state as well as economic development of the people (which) directly reflect the desires and aspirations of the people of Bauchi State.

“The PDP, in congratulating the governors, urged them to continue in their selfless services to the people in line with the manifestos of our great party, the PDP.”




Nigeria's anti-corruption campaign in jeopardy, presidency indicted

FEDERAL Government's campaign against corruption has suffered further doubts as the auditor-general of federation accused almost all government agencies, departments and ministries even the presidency of corruption in fiscal dealings.

Report by the office of Auditor-General indicates that over 500 billion naira claimed to have been spent by the presidency and some government agencies as shown in government's submission to the National Assembly are not only faulty but also doubtful. More embarrassing is the impunity of some government agencies queried by the auditor-general over their improper accounting for the said funds.

The report indicates that a total number of 323 agencies did not submit financial statements to the auditor-general in 2016 as statutorily required, but they all went away with it. According to the report, only 51audited financial statements for 2016 were submitted while 149 government institutions submitted for 2015 as at December 2017.

For the past nine years, 76 government agencies have never submitted their financial statements while 109 of them stopped since 2013. The report lamented that 65 government agencies had never submitted financial statements since they were established.

 “As at April 2018, 109 agencies have not submitted beyond 2013; 76 agencies last submitted for the 2010 financial year; while 65 agencies have never submitted any account since inception,” report from office of auditor-general lamented. It was signed by the auditor-general, Mr. Anthony Ayeni.

More worrisome was the failure of the presidency, National Assembly and such anti-graft agency as EFCC to remit over 3.79 billion naira deducted as tax from salaries of workers. Over 40 government agencies are involved in the act.
In what appears a doubtful claim, 13.96 billion naira which appears in EFCC's consolidated financial statement as salaries and wages was not presented in its trial balance submitted to auditor-general for reconciliation.

Further, while EFCC's financial statement for 2017 do not account for 315million naira, House of Representatives is yet to explain the whereabouts of 291.68 million naira for the same fiscal year.

According to the report, over 4.87 billion naira obtained as personal advances by 62 government agencies including the presidency and EFCC had not been retired as at December 2016.

More indictment goes to the Ministry of Health where over 380.9 million naira taken as cash advance two years earlier was still outstanding as at October 2016. The report laments that some of the advances were granted without evidence of retirement of the previous advances.

Not exempted is Ministry of Trade and Investment where 13 payment vouchers of N60.39 million were raised for payment of allowances and air tickets to some staff without supporting documents as required by Financial Regulation 603.

The report blames President Muhammadu Buhari for encouraging financial recklessness given that he rejected the Time-Frame Bill but gave no alternative while the Federal Audit Reform Bill also passed by the National Assembly is yet to receive the president's assent.

In another development, the presidency said it discovered over 1500 properties in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, owned by some Nigerians without proper identifications.

Chairman of Special Presidential Investigation Panel for Recovery of Public Property (SPIP), Mr. Okoi Obono-Obla, penultimate week, told newsmen that his panel would require the services of international police to establish the identities of such citizens, noting that tax expected from such properties had not been paid over the years.

Analysts however faulted institutions charged with the responsibility of deducting and remitting taxes.  Such taxes are, by law, supposed to be deducted from source and remitted to the appropriate government agency mostly through the banks.
Non-payment of tax is not the only offence in having such foreign properties. The owners, mostly public officers are required to declare sources of their incomes on assumption of office.

It was also alleged in the social media that the Chief of Army Staff, General Tukur Yusuf Buratai owned some properties in Dubai.

Sahara Reporters alleged in its June 27 2016 edition that “General Buratai and his two wives in 2013 paid the sum of 1,498,534.00 AED (N120 million/$419,000) for the first property, Project TFG Marina Hotel Unit 2711. Sale documents indicated that the first property was handed over to the Buratais on January 13, 2013.”

Explanations were made by Colonel Sani Kukasheka Usman, acting Director of Army Public Relations that the cost of the said properties in Dubai were paid in tranches from Buratai's personal savings. But the publication revealed documents indicating contradictions in the Army's explanation. The army chief also explained that the said properties belonged to his family; not him as a person.

As the developments make mockery of the Federal Government's anti-corruption campaign, it is not known if Buratai's properties are among the 1500 properties in Dubai owned by some unidentified Nigerians.

Observers are of the view that the owners are largely those in the government, as no private person would have any reason to make such secret investment away from home. “Find them among government people, including the police, Para-military and military personnel, who can no longer steal and invest in the West because of anti-money-laundering campaign particularly in Europe and the North America.  For what reason should any private person make such secret investment far away in Dubai?” queried Justine Nwabugo, a lawyer and rights activist.

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