Monday, 19 April 2021

BUSINESS AND ECONOMY

By Moses Emorinken, Abuja/ THE NATION

The National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) has suspended its strike, which started on April 1, 2021.

President of the NARD, Dr Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi, told The Nation the suspension was based on some good comebacks from the negotiations with the government.

He however gave the government four weeks ultimatum to meet their sundry demands.

He said: “The strike has been suspended. The government gave us some good comebacks from our negotiations.

“We had an emergency National Executive Council (NEC) meeting an hour ago, and we decided to suspend the strike for four weeks.”

Details shortly…

Published in Business and Economy

By Nicholas Kalu, Abuja/ THE NATION

A suspected drug trafficker, Okonkwo Chimezie Henry, has excreted 113 wraps of cocaine weighing 1.750 kg with a street value of N423 million.

This followed his arrest at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Ikeja, Lagos on Easter Day, Sunday, 4th April, 2021, where he was headed for Madrid, Spain.

Director, Media and Advocacy, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) Headquarters, Abuja, Femi Babafemi, disclosed this in a statement in Abuja yesterday.

The statement reads, “Okonkwo was about boarding a Turkish Airline flight number TK0626 at about 8pm when he was apprehended at screening 2 point and taken into custody by the NDLEA operatives at the Lagos airport. He was subsequently put under observation at the JBTF/NDLEA facility for further investigation.

“Twenty four hours after putting him under excretion observation, the suspect, who has been living in Spain for 10 years, excreted 39 wraps of cocaine and subsequently passed out a total of 113 wraps in five excretions. Further investigation reveals he ingested the illicit drug in a hotel in the Igando area of Lagos.”

The statement quoted the Commander, MMIA Command of the NDLEA, Ahmadu Garba, as saying, “the suspect excreted 39 wraps weighing 600 grammes at 9.58am on April 5; 13 wraps weighing 200 grammes at 6.30pm same day; 16 wraps weighing 250 grammes at 10.30pm same day; and 32 wraps weighing 500 grammes at 7.30am on April 6.”

Babafemi said operatives at the airport also intercepted a 2.8kg of skunk meant for Dubai in UAE through Emirate Airline.

“The illicit drug was concealed in crayfish, bitter leaves and melons packaged in a sack but was recovered at the SAHCO export shed of the MMIA, he said.

Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of the NDLEA, Brig. General Mohamed Buba Marwa (Retd), in his reaction commended officers and men of the MMIA Command for not allowing criminal elements take advantage of the Easter holiday to further their illicit trade, and dent Nigeria’s image abroad.

Published in Headliners

The Duke of Edinburgh, who married the future queen in 1947, brought the monarchy into the 20th century, but his occasional tactless comments hurt his image.

Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, husband of Queen Elizabeth II, father of Prince Charles and patriarch of a turbulent royal family that he sought to ensure would not be Britain’s last, died on Friday at Windsor Castle in England. He was 99.

His death was announced by Buckingham Palace, which said he passed away peacefully.

Philip had been hospitalized several times in recent years for various ailments, most recently in February, the palace said.

He died just as Buckingham Palace was again in turmoil, this time over Oprah Winfrey’s explosive televised interview last month with Philip’s grandson Prince Harry and Harry’s wife, Meghan. The couple, in self-imposed exile in California, lodged accusations of racism and cruelty against members of the royal family.

As “the first gentleman in the land,” Philip tried to shepherd into the 20th century a monarchy encrusted with the trappings of the 19th. But as pageantry was upstaged by scandal, as regal weddings were followed by sensational divorces, his mission, as he saw it, changed. Now it was to help preserve the crown itself.

And yet preservation — of Britain, of the throne, of centuries of tradition — had always been the mission. When this tall, handsome prince married the young crown princess, Elizabeth, on Nov. 20, 1947 — he at 26, she at 21 — a battered Britain was still recovering from World War II, the sun had all but set on its empire, and the abdication of Edward VIII over his love for Wallis Simpson, a divorced American, was still reverberating a decade later.

The wedding held out the promise that the monarchy, like the nation, would survive, and it offered that reassurance in almost fairy-tale fashion, complete with magnificent horse-drawn coaches resplendent in gold and a throng of adoring subjects lining the route between Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey.

More, it was a heartfelt match. Elizabeth told her father, King George VI, that Philip was the only man she could ever love.

Philip occupied a peculiar place on the world stage as the husband of a queen whose powers were largely ceremonial. He was essentially a second-fiddle figurehead, accompanying her on royal visits and sometimes standing in for her.

ImagePrince Philip at a banquet at a Tokyo hotel held by the Japanese Equestrian Federation in 1986.
Prince Philip at a banquet at a Tokyo hotel held by the Japanese Equestrian Federation in 1986.Credit...Tsugufumi Matsumoto/Associated Press

And yet he embraced his royal role as a job to be done. “We have got to make this monarchy thing work,” he was reported to have said.

He kept at it until May 2017, when, at age 95, he announced his retirement from public life; his final solo appearance came three months later.

But he did not entirely fade from public view. He surfaced in May 2018, when he joined the sun-splashed pomp of the wedding of Harry and Meghan, waving to crowds lining the streets from the back seat of a limousine, the queen beside him, and striding up the steps of St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle in a crisp morning suit.

By then he had re-emerged as a kind of pop-culture figure, introduced to a whole new generation through the hit Netflix series “The Crown,” a costume drama that has traced the events of postwar Britain through the prism of his buffeted royal marriage. (Matt Smith played the prince as a young man, and Tobias Menzies in middle age.)

Philip’s public image often came dressed in full military regalia, an emblem of his high-ranking titles in the armed forces and a reminder of both his combat experience in World War II and his martial lineage: He was a nephew of the war leader Lord Mountbatten.

Many saw Philip as a mostly remote if occasionally loose-lipped personage in public, given to riling constituents with off-the-cuff remarks that were called oblivious, insensitive or worse. To a Black British politician he was quoted as saying, “And what exotic part of the world do you come from?”

As the years went by, word seeped out that Philip, in private, could be irascible and demanding, cold and domineering — and that as parents, he and an emotionally reserved queen brought little warmth into the household.

Even more, as many Britons came to see the royal family as increasingly dysfunctional, they found Philip to be a not-insignificant actor in a state of affairs that had many questioning the very thing that he and Elizabeth had been elevated to ensure: the monarchy’s stability.

Philip had apparently not expected the type of public scrutiny that came with the times, when the washing of dirty linen, even the queen’s, had become a staple of the tabloid press, which he grew to despise.

No headlines were more boisterous than those during the tumultuous marriage and divorce of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer. But Philip himself felt the spotlight’s unwelcome glare when the royal family was castigated for a seemingly grudging response to Britain’s outpouring of grief over Diana’s death in a car crash in Paris in 1997.

The royal family in 1969. From left, Prince Edward, Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth, Princess Anne, Prince Charles and Prince Andrew.
The royal family in 1969. From left, Prince Edward, Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth, Princess Anne, Prince Charles and Prince Andrew.Credit...Associated Press

Painful, too, for Philip was the revelation that Prince Charles, his oldest son, had let it be known that as a child he had been deeply wounded by a father who belittled him time and again, often in front of friends and family.

A 1994 biography, “The Prince of Wales,” by Jonathan Dimbleby with the cooperation of Prince Charles, noted that while Philip indulged “the often brash and obstreperous behavior” of his daughter, Princess Anne, he was openly contemptuous of his son, whom he thought of as “a bit of a wimp.”

Charles, for his part, “was cowed by his father,” who he believed had forced him into a “terrible mismatch” with Diana, Mr. Dimbleby wrote.

Though the glory he knew was largely of the reflected kind, Philip nevertheless enjoyed the privileges and prerogatives of the British crown, living in luxury, sailing yachts, playing polo and piloting planes. And he used his station to promote the common good, lending his name and time to causes like building playing fields for British youths and protecting endangered wildlife.


Prince Philip, an avid sportsman, at a bicycle polo game at Windsor in 1967.
Prince Philip, an avid sportsman, at a bicycle polo game at Windsor in 1967.Credit...United Press International

Another was instituting efficiencies at Buckingham Palace, originally bought by his and Elizabeth’s ancestor George III. Philip had intercoms installed, for example, to obviate the need for messengers.

At home he showed — by palace standards, at any rate — a common touch. When the telephone rang, he answered it himself, setting a royal precedent. He even announced to the queen one day that he had bought her a washing machine. He reportedly mixed his own drinks, opened doors for himself and carried his own suitcase, telling the footmen: “I have arms. I’m not bloody helpless.”

He sent his children to school instead of having them tutored at home, as had been the royal custom. He set up a kitchen in the family suite, where he fried eggs for breakfast while the queen brewed tea — an attempt, it was said, to provide their children with some semblance of a normal domestic life.

Prince Philip carried British passport No. 1 (the queen did not require one) and fulfilled as many as 300 engagements a year, including greeting President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle Obama, at Buckingham Palace in April 2009 and again in May 2011. (He was not in attendance when the queen met with President Donald J. Trump in December 2019 in London.) And he was front and center at royal events, like the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton in April 2011, watched around the world, and Elizabeth’s visit to the Irish Republic, the first by a British monarch, the next month.

Philip was the first member of the royal family to go to the Soviet Union, representing the queen on a trip with the British equestrian team in 1973.

To escape the court life, Philip liked to drive fast, often relegating his chauffeur to the back seat. Once, when the queen was his passenger, a minor accident led to major headlines. He ultimately surrendered his driver’s license in 2019 at age 97, after his Land Rover collided with another vehicle, injuring its two occupants, and overturned near the royal family’s Sandringham estate in Norfolk.

He liked to pilot his own planes and once had a near miss with a passenger jet. He enjoyed sailing, but was said to have so little patience with horse racing that he had his top hat fitted with a radio so that he could listen to cricket matches when he escorted the queen to her favorite spectator sport.


Prince Philip in a training plane at White Waltham Airfield in England in 1953. He liked to pilot his own planes.
Prince Philip in a training plane at White Waltham Airfield in England in 1953. He liked to pilot his own planes.Credit...Associated Press

When he first came to public attention, his every colorful remark was noted. When a man introduced his wife as the Ph.D. in the family, saying, “She’s much more important than I am,” Philip replied, “We have the same problem in our family.”

Philip was born on the Greek island of Corfu on June 10, 1921, the fifth child and only son of Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark, who was the brother of King Constantine of Greece. His mother was the former Princess Alice, the oldest daughter of the former Prince Louis of Battenberg, the first Marquess of Milford Haven, who changed the family name to Mountbatten during World War I.

Philip’s family was not Greek but rather descended from a royal Danish house that the European powers had put on the throne of Greece in the 19th century. Philip, who never learned the Greek language, was sixth in line to the Greek throne.

Through his mother, Philip was a great-great-grandson of Queen Victoria, just as Elizabeth is Victoria’s great-great-granddaughter. Both were great-great-great-grandchildren of George III, who presided over Britain’s loss of the American colonies.

Philip in Greek dress on his ninth birthday. His family was descended from a royal Danish house that the European powers had put on the throne of Greece.
Philip in Greek dress on his ninth birthday. His family was descended from a royal Danish house that the European powers had put on the throne of Greece. Credit...The New York Times

A year after Philip was born, the army of King Constantine was overwhelmed by the Turks in Asia Minor, now part of Turkey. Prince Andrew, Philip’s father, who had commanded an army corps in the routed Greek forces, was banished by a revolutionary Greek junta.

In “Prince Philip: The Turbulent Early Life of the Man Who Married Queen Elizabeth II” (2011), the British writer Philip Eade reported that as an infant Philip was smuggled out of Greece in a fruit crate as his father, eluding execution, found refuge for his family in Paris, where they lived in straitened circumstances.

Philip’s father was said to have been an Anglophile. The boy’s first language was English, taught to him by a British nanny. He grew to 6 feet 1 inch, his blue eyes and blond hair reflecting his Nordic ancestry.

When his parents separated, Philip was sent to live with his mother’s mother, the Dowager Marchioness of Milford Haven, a granddaughter of Queen Victoria. He spent four years at the Cheam School in England, an institution bent on toughening privileged children, and then went to Gordonstoun School in Scotland, which was even more austere, promoting a regimen of hard work, cold showers and hard beds. In five years, he said, no one from his family came to visit him.

Even so, Philip sent Charles to both schools, to have him follow in his footsteps.

At Gordonstoun, Philip developed a love of the sea, learning seamanship and boatbuilding as a volunteer coast guardsman at the school. He seemed destined to follow his Mountbatten uncles into the British Navy.

While he was at Gordonstoun, in 1937, he learned that his pregnant sister Cecilie had died in a plane crash along with her two children and her husband, a German aristocrat and prominent Nazi Party member. Philip, at 16, traveled to Germany for the funeral and was photographed having to march alongside men in Nazi uniforms with whom he would soon be at war. (Three of his four older sisters had married into the German aristocracy, and another of their husbands became an SS officer. His surviving sisters were later not invited to his wedding to Elizabeth.)

Philip in 1963 at the tiller of Coweslip, his Flying Fifteen class sailboat, with Uffa Fox, a friend and the originator of the design, on the Isle of Wight.
Philip in 1963 at the tiller of Coweslip, his Flying Fifteen class sailboat, with Uffa Fox, a friend and the originator of the design, on the Isle of Wight.Credit...Associated Press

Philip entered the Britannia Royal Naval College at Dartmouth in 1939 and was honored as the best all-around cadet of his term. The next year, with Britain at war, the 19-year-old Philip went to sea as a sublieutenant aboard the battleship Ramillies in the Mediterranean fleet. He was later transferred to the Valiant, another battleship.

On March 28, 1941, the British fleet caught an Italian squadron off Cape Matapan in Greece and, with the Royal Air Force’s help, sank three cruisers and two destroyers. Philip participated in the clash, operating a searchlight. “Thanks to his alertness and appreciation of the situation,” his captain wrote, “we were able to sink two eight-inch-gun Italian cruisers.”

Philip was promoted to lieutenant in June 1942 and took part in the Allied landings in Sicily in July 1943 before sailing for the Pacific campaign. There he served as aide-de-camp to his uncle Louis, Lord Mountbatten, who was then the supreme allied commander in Southeast Asia; Philip was on the United States battleship Missouri on Sept. 2, 1945, when the Japanese formally surrendered. (Lord Mountbatten was killed in a bombing by the Irish Republican Army in 1979.)

Where or when Philip first met Princess Elizabeth remains unclear, but it seems certain that he was invited to dine on the royal yacht when Elizabeth was 13 or 14, and that he was also invited to stay at Windsor Castle around that time while on leave from the Navy. There were reports that he had visited the royal family at Balmoral, its country estate in Scotland, and that by the time the weekend was over, Elizabeth had made up her mind, telling her father that this dashing young naval officer was “the only man I could ever love.”

George VI had doubts. He took her to South Africa on a royal tour, cautioned her to be patient and wrote to his own mother, Queen Mary.

Princess Elizabeth and Philip in Quebec in 1951. The next year, they were in Kenya when they learned that her father, George VI, had died. Her coronation followed.
Princess Elizabeth and Philip in Quebec in 1951. The next year, they were in Kenya when they learned that her father, George VI, had died. Her coronation followed.Credit...Fox Photos, via Getty Image

“We both think that she is too young for that now, as she has never met any young men of her own age,” George wrote. But he added: “I like Philip. He is intelligent, has a good sense of humor” and “thinks about things in the right way.”

Elizabeth was said to have written to Philip three times a week while she toured South Africa. By the time she returned to England, Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark had renounced his foreign titles and become Lt. Philip Mountbatten, a British subject. The gesture pleased his future father-in-law. The engagement was announced on July 10, 1947.

Articles about the coming marriage pushed reports of food and coal shortages off the front pages. Sales assistants sent ration coupons to the princess (even the royal family was living within limits) so she could have new dresses. The House of Commons approved 100 extra clothing coupons for her. On the eve of the wedding, in 1947, Lieutenant Mountbatten was made the Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron of Greenwich, and given the title His Royal Highness.

A year later, on Nov. 14, 1948, Elizabeth gave birth to the couple’s first child, Charles Philip Arthur George, at Buckingham Palace. Charles was followed by Princess Anne, in 1950; Prince Andrew, in 1960, after Elizabeth had become queen; and Prince Edward, in 1964. In addition to the queen and his four children, Prince Philip is survived by eight grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

After his marriage, Prince Philip took command of the frigate Magpie in Malta. But King George VI had lung cancer, and when his condition worsened, it was announced that Philip would take no more naval appointments. In 1952, the young couple had reached Kenya, their first stop on a commonwealth tour, when word arrived on Feb. 6 that the king was dead.

It fell to Philip to break the news to his wife.

Philip presided over the Coronation Commission, and in 1952 the new queen ordained that he should be “first gentleman in the land,” giving him “a place of pre-eminence and precedence next to Her Majesty.” Without this distinction, Prince Charles, who was named Duke of Cornwall and later Prince of Wales — the title traditionally given to the heir to the throne — would have ranked above his father.

Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation on June 2, 1953. One of her first acts was to give Philip “a place of pre-eminence and precedence next to Her Majesty.”
Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation on June 2, 1953. One of her first acts was to give Philip “a place of pre-eminence and precedence next to Her Majesty.” Credit...Associated Press

Philip was appointed to the highest ranks in the armed services: admiral of the fleet, field marshal and marshal of the Royal Air Force. He held the posts without pay.

Four years later, in 1956, Philip, then 35, took a four-month, 36,000-mile sea tour. Ostensibly he was on his way to Melbourne, Australia, for the opening of the Olympic Games, but the trip followed reports of his carousing with friends at bachelor parties in London.

On his return, the queen gave Philip the title Prince of the United Kingdom. By royal warrant, Elizabeth brought her husband’s name into the royal line, ordering that their children, except for Prince Charles, be known as Mountbatten-Windsor.

There were rumors of trouble in the marriage, reports of raised voices in the palace corridors. But the marital difficulties of their children overshadowed any discord between the parents. Princess Anne was divorced from her first husband, Mark Phillips, in 1992, and Prince Andrew’s divorce in 1996 from Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, who was known as Fergie, provided a field day for the tabloids.

But those divorces paled beside the travails of Charles and Diana. And Philip, a vigilant guardian of royal propriety (he once complained that Henry VIII, whom he called a “wonderful military strategist,” was remembered solely for his six wives), was not a silent bystander in the melodrama. According to Andrew Morton, in his book “Diana: Her True Story,” written with Diana’s cooperation, Charles told her that his father “had agreed that if, after five years, his marriage was not working, he could go back to his bachelor habits.”

From left, Prince Charles, Prince Harry, Earl Spencer, Prince William and Prince Philip stood as the coffin bearing the body of Princess Diana was taken into Westminster Abbey in London on Sept. 7, 1997.
From left, Prince Charles, Prince Harry, Earl Spencer, Prince William and Prince Philip stood as the coffin bearing the body of Princess Diana was taken into Westminster Abbey in London on Sept. 7, 1997.Credit...Pool photo by John Gaps III

Once their differences had become public, however, Philip registered his disapproval of Diana by snubbing her at the Royal Ascot horse race. And after Diana, at 36, was killed in 1997, Philip came in for his share of criticism when the royal family remained out of view at Balmoral, seemingly out of touch with the public’s grief, an attitude portrayed as stubborn and cold in the 2006 film “The Queen,” in which James Cromwell played Philip to Helen Mirren’s Elizabeth.

Over the years, Philip became a national gadfly and occasional source of embarrassment. In 1961 he criticized British industry as a bastion for “the smug and the stick-in-the-mud,” calling failures in manufacturing and commerce “a national defeat.” He was said to write his own speeches, and his habit of saying what he thought made him good copy.

In 1995 he asked a Scottish driving instructor, “How do you keep the natives off the booze long enough to pass the test?” On a visit to Australia in 2002, he asked an aboriginal leader, “Do you still throw spears at each other?” And speaking about smoke alarms in 1998 to a woman who had lost two sons in a fire, he said: “They’re a damn nuisance. I’ve got one in my bathroom, and every time I run my bath, the steam sets it off.”

The comments invited scorn. “I know all about freedom of speech,” he told some students, “because I get kicked in the teeth often enough for saying things.”

Philip was a sportsman. He was captain and mainstay of the Windsor Park polo team. When he turned 50, troubled by arthritis and liver problems, he curtailed his playing and turned to carriage racing. He also started painting.

In an interview on BBC Radio in 1965, Philip recognized that he was missing out on things like “just being able to walk into a cinema or go out to a nightclub or go to a pub.” But he quickly acknowledged the bright side.

“I’ve got a lot of advantages which compensate for it,” he said.

Prince Philip inspecting Canadian troops in 2013 in Toronto.
Prince Philip inspecting Canadian troops in 2013 in Toronto.Credit...Chris So/Toronto Star, via Getty Images

Published in News & Stories

By Faith Yahaya and Frank Ikpefan, Abuja/ THE NATION

The Federal Government on Friday stated work would soon begin on some selected rail projects for which contracts have been awarded.

The government listed some of the rail projects to include the Ibadan-Kano, Port Harcourt Maiduguri, Kano-Maradi and Lagos-Calabar rail lines.

Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, disclosed this while speaking in Abuja at the annual ministerial briefing on programmes, projects and activities of the Federal Ministry of Transportation and its agencies.

He was joined at the briefing by Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed and Minister of State for Transportation, Gbemisola Saraki.

The Minister said government has solved the financial problems associated with the rail projects.

Amaechi said: “We have awarded the following contracts and we are about to start and we have even tried to solve the financial problems. This is because we have the problem of having to hire consulting engineers.

“The ones we are about to start are Ibadan to Kano, that we are waiting for funds from China.

“We are about to start Port Harcourt to Maiduguri, we are waiting for the cabinet to approve consulting shares. We are also to start the Kano-Maradi and Lagos to Calabar.”

He added: “But one thing that is unique about these contracts is that the President early enough directed that all rail lines must stagnate at the sea ports.

“That is why there may be a bit of adjustment in the pricing of Kano-Maradi because we have to adjust it to link up to Kano-Lagos so that it can terminate at Lagos seaport.”

Amaechi said the 185.5km Lagos-Ibadan double standard gauge line with extension to Apapa seaport was nearing completion while the 186km Abuja-Kaduna and 302km Warri-Itakpe standard guage lines had been completed and were functional.

He frowned at the ticket racketeering perpetuated by some employees of the Nigeria Railway Corporation and directed the management of the NRC to deal decisively with anyone found culpable.

Amaechi, however, stated that with the introduction of the online ticketing system on the Abuja-Kaduna train service, the NRC had been able to raise its earnings by about N50m after deducting its operational cost.

On the refund of loan, the Minister said the government had “paid a total sum of N420.46m into the escrow account from revenue received from Abuja-Kaduna train services over the period of the ERGP (Economic Recovery and Growth Plan 2017-2020).”

Published in Headliners

By Ekaete Bassey/ THE NATION

Davido’s fiancée, Chioma Avril Rowland, also known as Mama Ifeanyi or the Chefchi, has been spotted on a date with a talent manager and Special Adviser to Cross River Governor on tourism, Ubi Ekapong Ofem, popularly known as Ubi Franklin.

Amid rumour of her split from the 30GB boss, Chioma was seen in the company of her friend, Nayomee having a good time out with Ubi Franklin who got divorced from his wife, Lilian Esoro, a Nollywood actress, in 2020.

In the video making rounds on social media, Mama Ifeanyi was seen showing off her beautiful body and making different facial expressions.

Published in Entertainment

Morgan Freeman delivered a damning critique of anti-vaccine campaigners on Tuesday and urged people to “go get the freakin’” coronavirus vaccine.

“The only wishes I have is those people who are refusing to take these dadgum shots would change their minds and realize this is one of those things we really have to do,” the movie star said on Tuesday’s episode of “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.”

“I don’t understand, to tell you the truth, anyone who has some issues with the idea of being vaccinated against this scourge, you know?” the actor continued. “The facts are in. We know that all those dead people are dead and why they’re dead.”

“But if you don’t, it’s really up to you,” Freeman added. “Except that now I have to avoid you. And I will, of course.”

Freeman earlier this week became the latest celebrity to appear in a public service announcement encouraging uptake of the COVID-19 shot.

“I’m not a doctor, but I trust science. And I’m told that, for some reason, people trust me. So here I am to say I trust science and I got the vaccine,” Freeman said in the spot, released by the nonprofit arts advocacy group The Creative Coalition.

“If you trust me, you’ll get the vaccine,” he added, urging people to “help make our world a safe place for us to enjoy ourselves again. Please.”

Published in Arts & Culture

The government says more than a half million Americans have already taken advantage of the Biden administration’s special health insurance sign-up window that’s keyed to the COVID-19 pandemic

Biden campaigned on a strategy of building on the Obama-era health law to push the United States toward coverage for all. As president, he’s wasted no time.

Those sweeteners are available the rest of this year and through the end of 2022. Consumers who were already covered by the health law at the beginning of this year are also entitled to the increased financial aid, but will have to go online or call to update their plan. People on average could save $50 a month, the government says.

The numbers released Wednesday by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services show that 528,005 people newly signed up for government-sponsored private plans from Feb. 15 to Mar. 31.

But those figures are incomplete because they cover only the 36 states served by the federal HealthCare.gov insurance market. National enrollment will be higher when totals are factored in later on from states such as California and New York that run their own insurance websites.

The new report also showed that more than 870,000 people who went to the HealthCare.gov website or reached out to the call center were found to be eligible for Medicaid, the federal-state health program for low-income people.

Although President Donald Trump spared no effort to overturn the Obama-era law, more than 20 million people remained covered under it at the end of Trump’s term. That number combines those with HealthCare.gov plans as well as low-income adults covered through expanded Medicaid. But with the economy shedding jobs because of coronavirus shutdowns, the number of uninsured Americans has been on the rise. Biden sought to stop the erosion, and hopes to ultimately reverse it.

Among the states showing strong gains in enrollment are several big ones that went for Trump in last November’s election, including Florida, Texas, and North Carolina. Florida recorded the biggest gain, with more than 146,000 sign-ups.

The CBO estimates about 3 million people lost coverage as a result of the pandemic. Some private experts estimate higher numbers, in the range of 5 million to 10 million.

Published in News & Stories

By Adebisi Onanuga/ THE NATION

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) Chief Mike Ozekhome on Wednesday described the appointment of the new acting Inspector General of Police (IGP) Usman Alkali Baba as illegal and unconstitutional.

Ozekhome contended Baba’s appointment negated provisions of Federal Character as enshrined in the 1999 constitution, as amended.

He stated this in a statement titled “Buhari’s Northernisation of Nigeria Police.”

The activist lawyer argued the President lacks the power to single handedly appoint the IGP.

He said the President can only appoint an IGP in conjunction with the Nigeria Police Council comprising Mr. President as chairman, all the 36 state governors, the chairman of the Police Service Commission and the IGP.

He argued the appointment of Baba, as the new acting IGP “is capricious, arbitrary, whimsical, unconscionable, illegal, unlawful, wrongful and unconstitutional.”

The senior advocate wondered why the President chose to ignore and disrespect the Federal Character principle enshrined in section 14(3) of the 1999 Constitution.

He lamented the appointment DIG Usman Alkali Baba, a northern Muslim, as acting inspector-general of police, to replace Adamu Mohammed, another northern Muslim.

He said: “With Muhammad Maigari Dingyadi, another northern Muslim as the minister of police affairs, the circle of policing in Nigeria is complete.

“Of course, Buhari controls the police by virtues of sections 214, 215 and 216 of the 1999 Constitution. It is the same situation with the ministry of petroleum resources and NNPC, the entire security architecture of Nigeria, and other key sectors and commanding heights of the economy.

“The illogical and puerile argument is always that the president only appoints people he can trust and that such persons are qualified in any event. That argument is insulting and insensitive to the intelligence, sensibilities and plurality of Nigeria.

“Can’t President Muhammadu Buhari for once, just for once, in his opaque appointments look beyond his religion and immediate and forsake sectionalism, cronyism, prebendalism, tribalism, favouritism, and act as a true statesman?

“Is he truly saying he cannot trust any of the other over 15 million Nigerians who voted for him, or that he cannot find any of them that is qualified to be made an IGP?”

Published in Business and Economy

Manchester City legend Sergio Aguero would consider joining Tottenham Hotspur when he leaves his current club at the end of the season.

The Argentine wants to remain in the Premier League after 10 years at the EtihadStadium, and he is even ready to sacrifice Champions League football for next season in order to do so.

With 181 Premier League goals in 272 games for Man City, Aguero has established himself as one of the best strikers in the English top-flight, and landing such a player will definitely boost Spurs’ chances of winning silverware and returning to Europe’s elite competition.

While the 32-year-old will be signed as a free agent, his wages could prove too much for a side like Tottenham.

Chairman Daniel Levy has been prudent with his side’s finances for a while, and he would have to break his policies in order to bring Aguero to North London.

With four Premier League titles and five League Cups to his name, the Man City legend is the type of serial winner Spurs need in their dressing room, and his experience and quality will very much come in handy.

Tottenham fans cannot believe that Aguero would be open to joining their club, and some of them have taken to Twitter to react thus:

While the Portuguese is not a huge fan of a two-striker system, things could change with two of the best finishers on the planet at his disposal.

It is too early to predict how things can go during the summer transfer window, but Aguero definitely will not be short of suitors, and Tottenham will strike gold should they land such a player.

Published in Sports

By AbdulGafar Alabelewe, Kaduna/ THE NATION

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has confirmed abduction of members of Anglican Church in Kaduna State.

The abductors, according to CAN, have already contacted the Church to demand N100 million ransom.

The Nation had reported female members of the Church were among 25 persons abducted during blockade of Kaduna-Kachia road in the early hours of Tuesday.

Confirming abduction of the Anglican Church members, Kaduna CAN chairman, Rev. Joseph Hayab, clarified that, of the 15 members of the Church on the journey, only four were whisked away by the kidnappers.

The CAN Chairman said other occupants of the bus fled into the bush during the attack and some of them sustained gun injuries in the process.

According to him: “My conversation with the Anglican church is they were 15 members in the bus but the others ran into the bush and others were shot and sustained injuries but the bandits took four persons; one old woman and three young ladies.

“They took a lot of people, they even contacted them (the Church) already asking for N100 million. That is what they said.

“It is a very sad thing nine people were killed and we are not sure of the number of persons kidnapped; that 28 that some people are quoting is an estimated number,” he said.

Published in Business and Economy
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