Saturday, 04 July 2020

NEWS AND STORIES

Almost all the U.S. tech firms, from Google to Amazon, Twitter and Facebook have condemned the latest visa ban announced by President Donald Trump.

They said the freeze would make the US less competitive.

Trump on Monday banned new H-1B visas, used by major companies to bring over highly-skilled engineers from abroad.

Around 18,000 H1-B visas were given to Google and Apple last year.

Trump said he did it to create jobs for Americans hurting economically due to the pandemic.

However, the tech companies said the policy was a bad one.

Amazon said the measures ‘put America’s global competitiveness at risk’.

The CEO of file-sharing firm Box dubbed it ‘unbelievably bad policy’.

A Facebook spokesperson said it will be even more difficult’ for the US to recover after coronavirus because of the measures.

An Amazon spokesperson told Business Insider: ‘Preventing high skilled professionals from entering the country and contributing to America’s economic recovery puts America’s global competitiveness at risk.’

CEO of Alphabet – Google’s parent company – Sundar Pichai tweeted: ‘Immigration has contributed immensely to America’s economic success, making it a global leader in tech, and also Google the company it is today.

“Disappointed by today’s proclamation – we’ll continue to stand with immigrants and work to expand opportunity for all.”

Box founder and CEO Aaron Levie wrote that Trump’s measures are ‘unbelievably bad policy on every level. It will only mean more jobs move outside the US, and in no way makes America better or more competitive.’

Reports said that the country most hit by the ban is India.

Indians take up nearly 70% of the 85,000 H-1B visas issued every year. And the ban is expected to hurt Indian technology companies and workers.

The visa is useful for Indian tech giants like Wipro, Infosys and Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) as it allows them to send workers from India to manage important projects.

It also helps US tech giants like Google, Facebook and Twitter hire talent from India.

The ban announced by Mr Trump will only affect individuals who are planning to apply for the visa – which means those who have already got it and are working in the US will not be affected.

However, H-1B visa holders who travelled to their home countries due to the pandemic will not be allowed to re-enter the US until the end of the year.

Nicholas Kalu, Abuja/ The Nation

The Nigeria Police has arrested a 54-year old man, Chukwudi Odo, for allegedly luring a 40-year old Filipino woman, Irene Panas, to Nigeria through Facebook and keeping her incommunicado for months.

She was allegedly sexually molested and money extorted from her while she was held.

Force Public Relations Officer, DCP Frank Mba, who paraded Odo alongside other suspects at the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) headquarters in Abuja on Monday, said the woman who flew all the way from Manila in the Philippines to Abuja, came in an apparent unsuccessful search for love.

He said the woman, who was held in Enugu State, was successfully rescued by operatives of the State Police Command at Neke-Uno Village, Enugu East local government area, following a tip off.

“The Philippino was rescued six (6) months after she arrived Nigeria from the Philippines in an apparent but unsuccessful search for love.

“Irene Torento Panas, an Accountant by profession and a native of Manila in the Philippines arrived Nigeria in November 22, 2019 on a visit to one Chukwudi Odo ‘m’ 54yrs of Enugu Ezike in Igbo-Eze North LGA of Enugu State whom she met on Facebook on 8th March, 2017.

“The visit which was originally intended to be for 10-days however turned out to be a full case of abduction following Chukwudi Odo’s refusal to allow her return to her country against her will. She was held incommunicado by the suspect, Chukwudi Odo.

“The victim who was critically ill at the time of rescue was successfully rescued by police operatives attached to the Unity Police Division, Ibegwa Nike, Enugu State led by the DPO, SP Siga Malgwi, following a tip-off from some members of the public in the area. She was immediately taken to the hospital for medical attention where she was admitted from 5th June to 16th June.

“Preliminary investigations reveal that the suspect, Chukwudi Odo deliberately lured the victim into the country with the aim of confining her, sexually abusing, and extorting money from her.”

The IGP, while enjoining members of the public to tread cautiously in their use of the social media, warns against any abuse of the cyberspace noting that such criminal acts will not go undetected and unpunished by the Force.

Meanwhile, the Force is already in contact with the Embassy of the Philippines in Nigeria so as to reunite the victim with members of her family,” Mba said.

Odo confirmed that he met the woman on Facebook in 2017 and they became friends and were keeping in touch on the social media platform until he invited her to Nigeria last year.

Odo said he was planning to marry the woman.

He said he has been married before but was separated from his wife.

He said he doesn’t have children.

“I met Irene on Facebook on March 8, 2017. I added her and sent her a message and she responded and we became friends on Facebook. Then we became familiar with each other and was in touch with each other. From 2017 to 2019. In 2017 we had agreed to marry each other. And she was working in Dubai at that time. And then she told me to have patience with her until 2019. Then she would come and live with me in Nigeria or I have an option of coming to live with her in Philippines.

“I told her for now I would not leave to another country and then I told her I was financially handicapped and being that we are in touch with one another despite the distance that we should try and save some to sustain,” he said

According to PM News:

Filipina, Irene Torento Panas, who arrived Nigeria on 22 November 2019 to meet her Facebook lover, ended up a victim of abduction for for more than six months.

Irene’s lover Chukwudi Odo turned out to be a monster.

He turned her into a sex slave, squeezed her for money and locked her up in his home in Neke-Uno Village, Enugu East LGA, making her incommunicado.

A romantic journey that was to last 10 days, became more than a six-month nightmare for the Filipino.

Her ordeal ended 5 June, when the police rescued her and arrested her abductor and tormentor.

She was critically ill, the police said today.

“She was immediately taken to the hospital for medical attention where she was admitted from 5th June to 16th June”.

In a statement today, the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, cautioned users of the social media, using 40 year-old Irene’s case as a lesson.

Here is Irene’s story as told by the police:

“Irene Torento Panas, an accountant by profession and a native of Manila in the Philippines arrived Nigeria in November 22, 2019 on a visit to one Chukwudi Odo ‘m’ 54years of Enugu Ezike in Igbo-Eze North LGA of Enugu State whom she met on Facebook on 8th March, 2017.

“The visit which was originally intended to be for 10-days however turned out to be a full case of abduction following Chukwudi Odo’s refusal to allow her return to her country against her will.

“She was held incommunicado by the suspect, Chukwudi Odo.

“The victim who was critically ill at the time of rescue.

“She was successfully rescued by police operatives attached to the Unity Police Division, Ibegwa Nike, Enugu State led by the DPO, SP Siga Malgwi, following a tip-off from some members of the public in the area.

“She was immediately taken to the hospital for medical attention where she was admitted from 5th June to 16th June.

“Preliminary investigations reveal that the suspect, Chukwudi Odo deliberately lured the victim into the country with the aim of confining her, sexually abusing, and extorting money from her.

“The IGP, while enjoining members of the public to tread cautiously in their use of the social media, warns against any abuse of the cyberspace noting that such criminal acts will not go undetected and unpunished by the Force.

“Meanwhile, the Force is already in contact with the Embassy of the Philippines in Nigeria so as to reunite the victim with members of her family”.

President Muhammadu Buhari is currently meeting with Service Chiefs at the Council Chambers of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

The Service Chiefs, led by the Chief of Defence Staff, General Gabriel Olonisakin arrived at the seat of power at 08:50 GMT and proceeded straight to the Council Chambers.

The President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, Muhammadu Buhari joined the meeting at 09:00 GMT and the meeting immediately went into a closed session.

The Service Chiefs are expected to brief State House Correspondents at the end of the meeting.

The meeting may be connected with the high level of insecurity in Nigeria especially in the North-East and the recent killings in some parts of Katsina and Kaduna states.

This is coming less than 24 hours after the United States Government condemned the brazen killings of civilians in Northern Nigeria.

United States urged the Buhari-led administration to intensify efforts in protecting Nigerians as well as bringing those responsible for the killings to book.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – As the community continues to mourn the deaths of two women, activists and celebrities took to social media to advocate for justice.

The bodies of Oluwatoyin "Toyin" Salau, 19, and Victoria "Vicki" Sims, 75, were found Saturday at the same location in Tallahassee after police used GPS to track Sims' cellphone. It is unclear whether or not the women knew each other before their deaths.

Aaron Glee Jr. was arrested Sunday in the Orlando, Florida, area, hours after the women's bodies were discovered inside and near his home, according to court records released Tuesday. He was charged with felony murder and kidnapping.

Two petitions have received nearly 400,000 signatures. One of them, created by Hana Bangura of New York, was aimed at the Tallahassee Police Department and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to further investigate Salau's death. It has gone viral as celebrities including Academy Award winner and former NFL wide receiver Matthew Cherry and rapper Yung Baby Tate have shared them on Twitter.

Senator Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), actress Alyssa Milano, George Floyd family attorney Ben Crump and "Moonlight" director Barry Jenkins also have expressed their support for justice in the disappearance and death of the activist.

Salau was reported missing June 6 and Sims was reported missing June 11. It's unknown exactly when they died.

Here's what we know about their deaths and the suspect:

Who is Oluwatoyin Salau?

Black Lives Matter demonstrator Oluwatoyin Salau, pictured during a protest at TPD, has been missing since June 6.

Salau was an activist who was found dead Saturday night.

She was affiliated with Movement 850, which describes itself as "student leaders and community residents working together to demand justice and policy change" for police reform in Tallahassee. She spoke at recent protests and spent her final days carrying signs that pleaded for justice in the wake of Black lives lost.

“Those lives may be lost, but we cannot be scared," Salau said last month, during a protest in front of the Tallahassee Police Department. "You are angry and it’s OK to be angry.”

In a series of tweets that were sent on the afternoon of June 6, Salau talked about a man who molested her earlier that day. She said the man offered her a ride back to a church where she had been staying.

On June 9, Tallahassee police posted on social media a missing persons flier for Salau, saying she was last seen June 6 in an area about a quarter mile from where she tweeted she was picked up for a ride and later sexually assaulted.

Meanwhile, the Kearney Center, a homeless shelter, reported that Salau sought help June 8 and was given phone numbers for people who could directly help her seek emergency shelter. They have no record of her trying to get in touch with those case managers.

Background: Florida protester Oluwatoyin Salau killed in Tallahassee

Vigil: Mourners remember Salau near site where activist's body was found

Who is Vicki Sims?

Victoria Sims, 75, a volunteer for AARP, was reported missing Saturday night. On Sunday, AARP officials confirmed she was dead, the victim of a homicide.

Police say Sims was last seen June 11. Police reported her missing June 13 after a neighbor went to check on Sims and found the front door to her apartment ajar. Her home is about a mile from the area Salau said she was sexually assaulted.

Officers found her home ransacked, burglarized and her car missing, police confirmed in an update Tuesday. Friends and family mentioned she occasionally gave rides to a man named Aaron, who lived on Monday Road.

Sims was a retired state worker, grandmother and volunteer who was well-known for her work in local Democratic politics.

In a statement released Sunday, Dave Bruns, spokesman for AARP, said, "Vicki worked tirelessly to improve the lives of others – as a dedicated advocate for older Americans; a committed volunteer for AARP, Second Harvest Food Bank of the Big Bend and other community causes; a devoted mother and grandmother; and a passionate, fully-engaged citizen, helping our nation to achieve its highest ideals."

Timeline: Toyin Salau, Vicki Sims' disappearance, death in Tallahassee

Suspect Aaron Glee Jr. arrested

Aaron Glee Jr.

Glee Jr., 49, was arrested early Sunday morning in Orlando on a warrant for murder,according to jail records.

The arrest came hours after police descended on his dilapidated home on Monday Road on Saturday night, when police found Salau and Sims' bodies on the property.

According to jail records, the original charge against Glee was kidnapping with intent to terrorize.

Glee was also arrested May 29, on separate aggravated battery charges after an officer spotted him kicking a woman in the stomach, according to police reports. After, the woman told police she had rejected a sexual advance from Glee, who had become angry. The victim in that case was neither Sims nor Salau.

Salau’s description of the alleged abuser that she posted to Twitter and provided to police before disappearing doesn’t match Glee Jr.

More on Glee's arrest: Suspect in killings of Victoria Sims and Oluwatoyin Salau arrested in Orlando area

Cellphone trace leads to bodies

Court documents released Tuesday say police ran a trace on Sims' cellphone. When they arrived at Glee Jr.'s house, they found Sims' white Toyota, stuck in mud.

"It appeared as though the driver was attempting to drive north of the stopping location, but was unsuccessful," court documents say. "There was a white sheet covering the rear of the vehicle, including the license plate. The license plate was bent upward, as though attempting to conceal the vehicle's identity."

Officers knocked on the door, but no one answered. Concerned Sims was inside and in danger, they broke in. They found Sims' body in a bedroom, covered with a white blanket that was soaked with blood. Her wrists and ankles were bound behind her back, according to the probable cause affidavit.

Officers and a police dog found Salau's body covered in leaves, about 200 feet northeast of the house.

Glee is being held in the Orange County Jail in Orlando. It's not clear when he will be transported to Tallahassee for his first court appearance.

Contributing: Nada Hassanein, Daniella Medina, Tallahassee Democrat

This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: Oluwatoyin Salau death: Aaron Glee Jr. arrested in Orlando; Vicki Sims

The All Progressives Congress (APC) has declared Pastor Osagie Ize Iyamu eligible to contest the party’s primary scheduled for June 22, 2020.

Ize Iyamu was cleared alongside two other aspirants, Dr. Pius Odubu and Mr. Osaro Obazee.

The party’s screening committee led by Professor Jonathan Ayuba announced this on Friday in Abuja.

The screening committee had earlier announced the disqualification of the incumbent governor, Godwin Obaseki, and two other aspirants, Chris Ogiemwonyi and Matthew Iduoriyekemwe from contesting the primary.

The writing had been on the wall as Obaseki and his predecessor, Oshiomhole, have been at loggerheads over the governor’s second term bid and other issues.

The feud between Obaseki and Oshiomhole has polarised the party in Edo State.

However, Ize-Iyamu, endorsed by the APC faction loyal to Oshiomhole, now appears to be the man that will lead the party’s interest in the September 19 governorship election in Edo State.

Ize-Iyamu is a former chief of staff and secretary to the Edo state government.

He was the governorship candidate of the People’s Democratic Party for the 2016 Edo state gubernatorial election.

He was the National vice-chairman, South-South Zone of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).

He served as Director-General of Adams Oshiomhole’s 2nd term Campaign Organisation.

He was also the Coordinator of the Goodluck/Sambo Campaign Organisation.

The All Progressives Congress (APC) has declared Pastor Osagie Ize Iyamu eligible to contest the party’s primary scheduled for June 22, 2020.

Ize Iyamu was cleared alongside two other aspirants, Dr. Pius Odubu and Mr. Osaro Obazee.

The party’s screening committee led by Professor Jonathan Ayuba announced this on Friday in Abuja.

The screening committee had earlier announced the disqualification of the incumbent governor, Godwin Obaseki, and two other aspirants, Chris Ogiemwonyi and Matthew Iduoriyekemwe from contesting the primary.

The writing had been on the wall as Obaseki and his predecessor, Oshiomhole, have been at loggerheads over the governor’s second term bid and other issues.

The feud between Obaseki and Oshiomhole has polarised the party in Edo State.

However, Ize-Iyamu, endorsed by the APC faction loyal to Oshiomhole, now appears to be the man that will lead the party’s interest in the September 19 governorship election in Edo State.

Ize-Iyamu is a former chief of staff and secretary to the Edo state government.

He was the governorship candidate of the People’s Democratic Party for the 2016 Edo state gubernatorial election.

He was the National vice-chairman, South-South Zone of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).

He served as Director-General of Adams Oshiomhole’s 2nd term Campaign Organisation.

He was also the Coordinator of the Goodluck/Sambo Campaign Organisation.

By President Muhammadu Buhari

National broadcast by President Muhammadu Buhari on democracy day, June 12th 2020

Fellow Nigerians,

  1. The 2020 celebration of Democracy Day marks 21 years of uninterrupted civil administration in our dear country. This day provides us an opportunity to reflect on our journey as a nation, our achievements and struggles.
  2. It is a day to honour our founding fathers who toiled to establish our republic and every Nigerian who has worked tirelessly to sustain it.
  3. We are celebrating this year’s Democracy Day despite the COVID-19 pandemic which afflicts our nation and the whole world.
  4. It is indeed a very difficult time for everyone especially those who have lost loved ones to the virus and those whose sources of livelihood have been severely constrained by the stringent measures we introduced at every level of government to contain the virus and save lives.
  5. The dedication of our health and other essential services staff towards containing this virus is a testament of our courage and resilience as a people and as a great nation, and I use this opportunity to say thank you to all of you for your service to the nation.
  6. Sustaining our democracy thus far has been a collective struggle, and I congratulate all Nigerians and particularly leaders of our democratic institutions on their resilience and determination to ensure that Nigeria remains a shining example of democracy.
  7. In my 2019 Democracy Day address, I promised to frontally address the nation’s daunting challenges, especially insecurity, economy and corruption. I therefore find it necessary to give an account of my stewardship on this day.
  8. We have recorded notable achievements in the course of implementing our nine priority objectives and are establishing a solid foundation for future success.
  9. On the economic front, our objectives have remained to stabilize the macroeconomy, achieve agricultural and food security, ensure energy sufficiency in power and petroleum products, develop infrastructure, fight corruption and improve governance.
  10. We have witnessed eleven quarters of consecutive GDP growth since exiting recession. The GDP grew from 1.91% in 2018 to 2.27% in 2019 but declined to 1.87% in the first quarter of 2020 as a result of the decline in global economic activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  11. Every single economy in the world has suffered a decline. Ours has been relatively moderate.
  12. In order to stabilize the economy, the Monetary Authority took steps to build the external reserves which resulted in improved liquidity in the foreign exchange market. The external reserves grew from $33.42 billion on April 29th 2020 to about $36.00 billion in May, 2020 which is enough to finance seven months of import commitments.
  13. Agriculture remains the key to our economic diversification strategy. The Presidential Fertilizer Initiative programme continues to deliver significant quantities of affordable and high-quality fertilizers to our farmers. This initiative has also revived 31 blending plants and created a significant number of direct and indirect jobs across the value chain.
  14. Government is also revamping the cotton, textile and garment sector via a CBN Textile Revival Intervention Fund that would considerably reduce foreign exchange spent on cotton and other textile imports.
  15. Through the food security initiative, we are promoting “Grow What We Eat” and “Eat What We Grow”. I am also delighted that more and more Nigerians are taking advantage of the opportunities in the agriculture and agri-business sector. I assure you that government will continue to support the Agriculture sector through the CBN Anchor Borrowers Programme and similar schemes.
  16. To protect our farming investments, we have deployed 5,000 Agro-Rangers and employed 30,289 in our para-military agencies.
  17. We are also integrating rural communities to the formal economy by extending access to credit and inputs to rural farmers and building feeder roads.
  18. Our efforts on growing non-oil exports have started to yield some results. For instance, in the past year, our revenue from Cocoa and Sesame Seed increased by $79.4 million and $153 million.
  19. Africa presents a huge opportunity for our export base diversification and we are developing our strategy to grow intra-Africa trade through the Africa Continental Free Trade Area Agreement.
  20. Nigeria has risen by 25 places on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business ranking from 146th to 131st and is now rated as one of the top ten reforming countries.
  21. This development is due to the Visa on Arrival policy, consistent promotion of initiatives that expand facilities available to Micro Small and Medium Scale Enterprises, robust electronic registration and payment system, seamless processing of business registration and reduction of cost of registering business by 50%. We are confident that on-going efforts would result in further improvement of this rating.
  22. We remain committed to expanding our mining sector. To this end, I have directed the resuscitation of the Ajaokuta Steel Plant based on Government-to-Government financing and a Public-Private Sector financing.
  23. With foreign and domestic investments and the participation of Small Scale Miners, we are harnessing the supply value chain in gold production.
  24. We would also be launching a fully digitized mineral rights management platform for quick processing of mineral rights application, digitization of records and plugging revenue leakages.
  25. The Power Sector remains very critical to meeting our industrial development aspirations and we are tackling the challenges that still exist in the delivery of power through different strategies.
  26. We are executing some critical projects through the Transmission Rehabilitation and Expansion Programme including the:
  27. Alaoji to Onitsha, Delta Power Station to Benin and Kaduna to Kano;
  28. 330kv DC 62km line between Birnin Kebbi and Kamba;
  29. Lagos/Ogun Transmission Infrastructure Project;
  30. Abuja Transmission Ring Scheme; and
  31. Northern Corridor Transmission Project.
  32. Our agreement with Siemens will transmit and distribute a total of 11,000 Megawatts by 2023, to serve our electricity needs.
  33. On transportation, another critical sector to improving our economic competitiveness, we are growing the stock and quality of our road, rail, air and water transport infrastructure.
  34. Through the SUKUK-Funded Road Projects, a total of 412km of the targeted 643km road projects have been completed, representing 64%.
  35. The Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund projects are also progressing very well. On the 2nd Niger Bridge, piling work has been completed and the approach roads are being constructed. 48% of work on this bridge has been achieved. We have constructed 102km of the 376km Abuja – Kaduna – Kano Road, representing 38%, and the 42.9km Obajana – Kabba Road is 87.03% complete.
  36. Furthermore, the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency has completed routine maintenance on over 4,000km of federal roads out of the 5,000km targeted.
  37. We are extending and upgrading our railway network too. We are introducing more locomotives, coaches and wagons for the Abuja-Kaduna Rail Line. The Central Ajaokuta – Itakpe – Warri Line has been completed and is being extended from Itakpe to Abuja on one end and from Warri Town to Warri Port on the other.
  38. The Lagos-Ibadan Rail Line is 90% completed and would be extended to the Lagos Port which would help address the long-standing grid-lock at the Apapa port.
  39. The Kano – Maradi Single Track Standard Gauge Railway, Coastal Railway Project and Port Harcourt – Maiduguri Standard Gauge Railway, with its associated branch lines running through the South Eastern and Gombe States, industrial park and Bonny Deep Sea Port are all ready for concessioning.
  40. Government continues to make investments in the Aviation sector to position it as a travel and trade hub in West Africa and the wider African continent.
  41. Airport Terminals in Abuja, Lagos, Kano and Port Harcourt are being expanded, while the rehabilitation of the Enugu Airport is almost completed. All our airports are being raised to international standards with the provision of necessary equipment, especially navigational aids, to guarantee world class safety standards.
  42. For the first time in over ten years, Nigeria is conducting bidding process for 57 Marginal Oil Fields to increase revenue and increase the participation of Nigerian companies in oil and exploration and production business.
  43. We continue to grow local content in other areas of the oil and gas sector with the disbursement of funds from the $200 million Nigerian Content Intervention Fund to indigenous manufacturers and service providers.
  44. With sustained engagement of youths, opinion leaders and other stakeholders, we have restored peace in the Niger Delta Region and maintained our oil production levels.
  45. The Head office of the Niger Delta Development Commission will be commissioned shortly. The Funding of sections I–IV of the East-West Road shall be pursued with a view to completing the project by the end of 2021.
  46. Furthermore, I am determined to ensure that development meant for the people of the Niger Delta get to them so I have authorised a Forensic Audit of the Niger Delta Development Commission.
  47. Digital Economy continues to play an important role in our development agenda as we move into the age of Artificial Intelligence.
  48. Since the creation of the Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy, the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy has been launched. Steps have been taken to achieve a reduction of connectivity cluster gaps from 207 to 114 as well as increase the level of 4G coverage by 30%.
  49. Nigeria remains committed to expanding access to quality education to enhance the productivity of its citizens and would continue to pursue the enforcement of free and compulsory basic education for the first 9 years of schooling.
  50. In pursuit of this, we have launched the Better Education Service Delivery for All in 17 states, established additional 6 Federal Science and Technical Colleges and currently executing a pro-active Teacher Training Plan with all states of the Federation.
  51. In our revision of the operations of specialized education funds and to implement reforms that would optimize their benefits to the sector, we have adopted a Public-Private Sector Partnership for provision of infrastructure and also collaborate with the private sector to create jobs.
  52. Our pursuit of affordable housing for the low and middle-income earners has received a boost with the delivery of 1,200 housing units, provision of 520 service plots with infrastructure through a Public Private Sector partnership and the issuance of 868 mortgages totaling N7.7 Billion. Similarly, Home Renovation Loans totaling N16.2 Billion have been granted to 19,210 people.
  53. To enable sustainable access to safe and sufficient water to meet the social, cultural, environmental and economic development needs of all Nigerians, we continue to expand our water supply, irrigation and dam facilities.
  54. The Completion of Amauzari, Amla Otukpo and other 42 Earth Dams with combined job creation of about 43,354 direct jobs and 71,172 indirect jobs, would provide more support for irrigation agriculture and water supply.
  55. To further institutionalize our effort in this regard, I signed the Executive Order 009 on Ending Open Defecation in Nigeria.
  56. In order to improve our forest cover and in fulfilment of my commitment at the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in 2019, we have commenced the planting of 25 million trees. This initiative will also contribute to our effort to mitigate the effect of climate change.
  57. In the area of security, we remain unshaken in our resolve to protect our national infrastructure including on-shore and off-shore oil installations, secure our territorial waters and end piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.
  58. Ending insurgency, banditry and other forms of criminality across the nation is being accorded appropriate priorities and the men and women of the Armed Forces of Nigeria have considerably downgraded such threats across all geo-political zones.
  59. All the Local Governments that were taken over by the Boko Haram insurgents in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa have long been recovered and are now occupied by indigenes of these areas who were hitherto forced to seek a living in areas far from their ancestral homes.
  60. The total collapse of the economies of these areas, which constituted a threat to our food security, has also been reversed with the gradual recovery of farming and other economic activities.
  61. I regret recent sporadic incidents with tragic loss of lives in Katsina and Borno States as a result of criminals taking advantage of COVID-19 restrictions. Security Agencies will pursue the perpetrators and bring them to swift justice.
  62. I must implore state and local governments to revamp their intelligence assets so that the Security Agencies can nip in the bud any planned attacks in remote rural areas. I send my heartfelt condolences to all the relatives and communities affected.
  63. As part of the strengthening of our internal security architecture, the Ministry of Police Affairs was created.
  64. Amongst others, Government has expanded the National Command and Control Centre to nineteen states of the federation, resuscitated the National Public Security Communication System and commenced the implementation of the Community Policing Strategy.
  65. Government has similarly established a Nigerian Police Trust Fund as a public-private sector vehicle for alternative sources of funding security activities.
  66. To reduce security challenges through our external borders especially smuggling of oil products out of the country, inflow of small arms and drugs into the country and equally protect our local manufacturers, we introduced operation “Ex-Swift Response” closing our borders from August 20th 2019, and have considerably succeeded in meeting its objectives as well as improving our national revenue.
  67. Our Government has continued to work to reduce social and economic inequality through targeted social investment programmes, education, technology and improved information.
  68. Our Social Investment Programme has continued to be a model to other nations and has engaged 549,500 N-Power beneficiaries, 408,682 beneficiaries of the Conditional Cash Transfer Programme and 2,238,334 beneficiaries of the Growth Enhancement and Empowerment Programme. This is being done in collaboration with the States.
  69. Similarly, “Marketmoni” and “Tradermoni” Programmes have provided affordable loans to small and micro scale enterprises to grow their businesses. Under the National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme, over 9,963,729 children are being fed to keep them in school and improve their nutritional status.
  70. Fellow Nigerians, the year 2020 has been like none other. In January 2020, the COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization. The number of global infections has risen from less than 8,000 shared between China and eighteen other countries to over 7million spread over 216 countries and on all continents.
  71. Nigeria recorded its first case of COVID-19 on February 27th 2020 and within the first 100 days, I have had cause to address the nation on three occasions within one month, which underscores the gravity of this pandemic.
  72. There is no doubt that this pandemic has affected the global economy and all known socio-economic systems. It has also brought grief and pain to families that have lost their loved ones. Like many Nigerians, I feel the grief and pain not only as your President but also as someone who has lost a close member of my staff and some relatives and friends.
  73. In order to have a robust National response, I approved a Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 to provide guidance and leadership in tackling the pandemic nationwide.
  74. State Governments also constituted their own COVID-19 Task Forces. Complementing this was the establishment of a National Emergency Operations Centre responsible for providing technical and professional guidance in the National Response.
  75. The overall objective of the PTF COVID-19 is to ensure that the pandemic does not overwhelm our health systems, while ensuring that we maintain an effective Case Management System to help in containing the spread of the virus.
  76. The impact of the pandemic has disrupted our economic system and to ensure its functioning while still addressing the spread, the Federal Government put in place a number of various non-pharmaceutical measures to slow down the spread of the virus, in addition to a progressive re-opening of the economy.
  77. As part of the strategy to create jobs in reducing the effect of COVID-19 on our youths, I directed the employment of 774, 000 Nigerians. These youths will be engaged in Special Public Works Programme aimed at cushioning the effects of economic downturn. Each of the 774 local government areas in the country will be allotted 1,000 slots. I am pleased to report that this programme has commenced.
  78. I receive regular briefing from the PTF on COVID-19. I note that the National Response relies on Science, Data and Experience in taking decisions. This informed my approval for the ease of lock down phase to ensure a balance between lives and livelihoods.
  79. I am confident that the steps being taken by the PTF would result in flattening the COVID-19 curve. I, therefore, implore all Nigerians to abide by the approved guidelines and protocols. There is hope for us all if we take individual and collective responsibility.
  80. Government is determined to turn this COVID-19 challenge into a motivation to action by building a nation-wide public health care system that will help us overcome the COVID-19 pandemic and prepare for any future outbreak.
  81. Already, we have begun to look inward and I charge our inventors, researchers and scientists to come up with solutions to cure COVID-19.
  82. Government has continued to implement accountability and transparent policies through the Open Government Partnership and the transparency portal on financial transactions. Similarly, we have strengthened auditing and accountability mechanisms so as to ensure that rules and regulations are followed strictly.
  83. Anti-Corruption Agencies have secured more than 1,400 convictions and also recovered funds in excess of N800 billion. These monies are being ploughed into development and infrastructure projects.
  84. The Public Service of Nigeria remains the bedrock for the formulation and implementation of policies, programmes and projects in the country. This accounts for why it continues to evolve especially as new socio-economic challenges emerge for Government to address.
  85. I will continue to give all the necessary support for the on-going reforms designed to return discipline, integrity and patriotism as the hallmark of the public service.
  86. In the face of dwindling resources and rising cost of governance, I have authorized that the White Paper on the Rationalisation of Government Parastatals and Agencies be reviewed for implementation.
  87. Our youth population remains a source of strength in achieving development objectives. In this regard, we would continue to concentrate in developing their skills, providing them with opportunities to express their entrepreneurial, research and industrial capacities as well as ample opportunity to take leadership positions in the service of the nation.
  88. The commitment of this Administration to the well-being of people living with disabilities remains unwavering. Government recognises their contributions to development. I have directed that all relevant Government agencies pay special attention to the peculiarities of persons with disabilities in the formulation and implementation of their policies and programmes, and where suitable their employment.
  89. Nigerian women remain a particular treasure to this nation and for this reason this Administration has continued to give them a place of pride in the affairs of our country.
  90. I salute your courage, enterprise and resilience as well as your contributions to national development. I wish to assure all our women of this administration’s determination to fight Gender Based Violence through the instrumentality of the law and awareness creation. I am particularly upset at recent incidents of rape especially of very young girls. The Police are pursuing these cases with a view to bringing perpetrators of these heinous crimes to swift justice.
  91. Government continues to recognize and harness the power of the media for positive development. The reforms of the broadcast and advertising industries including digital switch over and continuous engagement through town hall meetings remain central to accurate and credible information dissemination.
  92. Our culture provides the basis for our existence as a people and a nation. In preserving iconic aspects of our national culture, this government has been pursuing the recovery of artefacts removed from Nigeria, promoting heritage sites and festivals and working towards designating some of our heritage sites as UNESCO World Heritage Centres.
  93. This administration is focused on ensuring that Nigeria would always be governed by the Rule of Law and I would do my utmost to uphold the constitution and protect the lives and property of all Nigerians.
  94. Government has initiated a number of policies and programmes designed to promote the legal rights of Nigerians, facilitate the institutionalization of a responsive legal system, provide support to all constituted bodies in implementing their mandates and improve our custodial system of justice.
  95. The National Assembly has been an important partner in our quest to sustain our democracy and achieve our development objectives.
  96. I therefore greatly thank the leadership and members of the Senate and the House of Representatives for their invaluable support at all times.
  97. I will also like to convey our deep appreciation to members of the Press for your doggedness in the struggle for attainment of democracy since the beginning of our nationhood.
  98. I must admit that the relationship between the media and successive governments has not always been perfect. But there is no denying the fact that you have been an effective watchdog for the society especially in holding public officers to account. It is sad that in the course of securing our democracy, some of your colleagues have had to pay a heavy price.
  99. We will continue to guarantee freedom of the Press as we place high premium on responsible journalism that is devoid of hate speech, fake news and other unethical professional conduct.
  100. Fellow Nigerians, as we celebrate this year’s Democracy Day, let us remember that, notwithstanding our aspirations, humanity and indeed democracy is under the threat of COVID-19. Nigeria has survived many crises before and came out stronger. I am confident that by God’s grace we shall overcome this one and emerge stronger and more purposeful

Colonel Dangiwa Umar has fired an open letter, dated 30 May, 2020, to President Muhammadu Buhari, whose administration was five years old on 29 May, asking him to preserve his name in history by putting right the skewed appointments (which favour the North ) that have characterised his tenure. This, according to Umar, “is more glaring in the leadership cadre of our security services.”

He asked Buhari to learn from the great acts of exemplary leadership which, at critical moments, managed to pull this nation back from the precipice and assured its continued existence.

He cited an example: “In February, 1965, the NPC-led Federal Government was faced with a decision to appoint a successor to the outgoing Nigerian Army General Officer Commanding (GOC), General Welby Everard, a Briton. Four most senior officers were nominated; namely, Brigadiers Aguiyi Ironsi, Ogundipe, Ademulegun and Maimalari. The first three were senior to Maimalari but he was deemed to be more qualified due to his superior commission. He was the first Sandhurst Regular trained officer in the Nigerian Army. His being a Muslim Northerner like the Minister of Defense, Alhaji Muhammadu Ribadu and the Prime Minister, Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa granted him added advantage by today’s standards. But to the surprise of even the Igbos, and opposition from some senior NPC members, Minister Ribadu recommended Ironsi, pointing to his seniority. The Prime Minister concurred and Aguiyi Ironsi was confirmed as the first indigenous GOC of the Nigerian Army.”

But what does Nigeria have under Buhari? Umar lamented: “Mr. President, I regret that there are no kind or gentle words to tell you that your skewed appointments into the offices of the federal government, favoring some and frustrating others, shall bring ruin and destruction to this nation.

“At this time and in the light of all that have happened since you took office, any conversation with you Mr. President cannot gloss over the chaos that has overtaken appointments into government offices in your administration…Nigeria has become dangerously polarized and risks sliding into crisis on account of your administration’s lopsided appointments which continues to give undue preference to some sections of the country over others.”

Umar added: “Mr. President, you have often expressed the hope that history will be kind to you. It is within your competence to write that history. But you have less than three years in which to do it. You may wish to note that any authentic history must be devoid of myth. It will be a true, factual rendition of the record of your performance.”

Below is Col Umar’s open letter

OPEN LETTER FROM COL. DANGIWA UMAR (RTD) TO PRESIDENT MUHAMMADU BUHARI

Muhammadu Buhari, Sunday 30th May 2020

President,

Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces,

Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Dear Mr. President,

  1. PRESIDENT; PLEASE BELONG TO ALL OF US.

“One of the swiftest ways of destroying a Kingdom is to give preference of one particular tribe over another or show favor to one group of people rather than another. And to draw near those who should be kept away and keep away those who should be drawn near” Sheikh Usman Dan Fodio.

I have been prompted to write you this open letter, Mr. President, by the loud sounds of drums, singing and dancing that erupted within many groups in the last few days on the grounds that you attained the 5th year in office as President of Nigeria. It comes as no surprise that enthusiasm for the celebration is not shared equally by segments of the public. While your admirers and supporters believe you have performed well, many others believe the five years you have been in office as our President has not met the yearnings, expectations and change promised Nigerians.

Mr. President, you know me well enough and my position on issues to realize that I can be neither a rabid supporter nor a fanatical opponent of yours. I believe being a responsible citizen is enough reason to wish you well and to work for your success. As we have seen all too clearly these past few years, your success is ours as is your failure. We swim or sink with you!

You might wish to recall that after the results of the 23rd of February 2019 presidential elections were announced, giving you victory, I addressed a press conference during which I urged the runner-up, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the PDP, to concede defeat. The reason was clear: tensions were running high and little missteps by the leaders might ignite violence, as often happened after major elections. Some supporters of Abubakar Atiku disagreed with me and told me off. As it happened, Alhaji Atiku went ahead to mount a legal challenge to the outcome of the elections up to the Supreme Court. Mercifully, his actions did not result in an outbreak of violence as we feared.

At the same occasion, I counselled the declared winner, your good self, to use the opportunity of your second term to redeem your pledge of being a leader and president of all Nigerians.

On the occasion of the first-year anniversary into your second four-year term, I feel there is an urgent need to revisit this subject matter.

Mr. President, you have often expressed the hope that history will be kind to you. It is within your competence to write that history. But you have less than three years in which to do it. You may wish to note that any authentic history must be devoid of myth. It will be a true, factual rendition of the record of your performance.

And truth be told, Mr. President, there are quite a lot of things that speak to your remarkable accomplishments, not least of which is that for the first time in our democratic history, a sitting President was defeated. That feat was achieved by Muhammadu Buhari. The reason was the public belief of you as a man of integrity.

The corollary to this is that at the expiration of your 8-year tenure in 2023, your achievements will not be measured solely by the physical infrastructure your administration built. An enduring legacy would be based on those intangible things like how much you uplifted the spirit and moral tone of the nation. How well have you secured the nation from ourselves and from external enemies?

At this time and in the light of all that have happened since you took office, any conversation with you Mr. President cannot gloss over the chaos that has overtaken appointments into government offices in your administration. All those who wish you and the country well must mince no words in warning you that Nigeria has become dangerously polarized and risk sliding into crisis on account of your administration’s lopsided appointments which continues to give undue preference to some sections of the country over others.

Nowhere is this more glaring than in the leadership cadre of our security services.

Mr. President, I regret that there are no kind or gentle words to tell you that your skewed appointments into the offices of the federal government, favoring some and frustrating others, shall bring ruin and destruction to this nation.

I need not remind you, Mr. President, that our political history is replete with great acts of exemplary leadership which, at critical moments, managed to pull this nation back from the precipice and assured its continued existence.

A few examples will demonstrate this:

In February, 1965, the NPC-led Federal Government was faced with a decision to appoint a successor to the outgoing Nigerian Army General Officer Commanding (GOC), General Welby Everard, a Briton. Four most senior officers were nominated; namely, Brigadiers Aguiyi Ironsi, Ogundipe, Ademulegun and Maimalari. The first three were senior to Maimalari but he was deemed to be more qualified due to his superior commission. He was the first Sandhurst Regular trained officer in the Nigerian Army. His being a Muslim Northerner like the Minister of Defense, Alhaji Muhammadu Ribadu and the Prime Minister, Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa granted him added advantage by today’s standards. But to the surprise of even the Igbos, and opposition from some senior NPC members, Minister Ribadu recommended Ironsi, pointing to his seniority. The Prime Minister concurred and Aguiyi Ironsi was confirmed as the first indigenous GOC of the Nigerian Army.

When on 13 February 1976, the Commander-in-Chief, General Murtala Muhammed, was assassinated in a failed Coup de tat, General Olusegun Obasanjo, his deputy and the most senior officer at the time, was sworn in as his successor. The Chief of Army Staff, General T.Y Danjuma, a Northern Christian, was next in line to succeed Obasanjo as the Chief of Staff, SHQ and Deputy Commander in Chief. General Danjuma however waived his right and recommended a much junior officer, Lt. Col. Shehu Musa Yar’adua, for the post. Shehu was promoted two steps up to the rank of Brigadier and appointed Chief of Staff SHQ and Deputy Commander-in-Chief. Lt. Col. Muhammadu Buhari was appointed Minister of Petroleum. This was done to placate Muslim North which was deemed to have lost one of its own, Murtala Muhammed.

Both the chief of staff, Mr. Sunday Awoniyi, and the personal physician Dr Ishaya Audu to the Premier of Northern Nigeria, Alhaji Sir Ahmadu Bello, a direct descendant of Sheikh Usman Dan Fodio, were Christians.

Barely nine years after the civil war in 1979, the NPN Presidential candidate, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, picked an Igbo, Dr Alex Ekwueme, as his running mate. They enjoyed a truly brotherly relationship as President and Vice President. President Shagari’s political advisor, Dr Chuba Okadigbo and National Assembly Liaison, assistant, Dr K.O Mbadiwe, were both Igbos. His economic advisor, Prof. Emmanuel Edozien and his Chief of Personnel Staff Dr Michael Prest, were of Niger Delta extraction. Remarkably, all his military service chiefs were Christians with the exception of his last Chief Army Staff, General Inuwa Wushishi under whose tenure he was removed in a military coup de tat.

Mr. President, as a witness and beneficiary, it is our expectation that you would emulate these great acts of statesmanship. Which is why we have continued to engage with you.

You may wish to recall that I had cause to appeal to you, to confirm Justice Onnoghen as the substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria a few days before the expiration of his three months tenure of acting appointment to be replaced by a Muslim Northerner. We were saved that embarrassment when his nomination was sent to the senate by the then acting President, Prof. Yemi Osibanjo. When he was finally confirmed a few days to the end of his tenure, he was removed after a few months and replaced by Justice Muhammed, a Muslim from the North.

May I also invite the attention of Mr. President to the pending matter of appointment of a Chief Judge of the Nigerian Court Appeal which appears to be generating public interest. As it is, the most senior Judge, Justice Monica Dongban Mensem, a northern Christian, is serving out her second three-month term as acting Chief Judge without firm prospects that she will be confirmed substantive head. I do not know Justice Mensem but those who do attest to her competence, honesty and humility. She appears eminently qualified for appointment as the substantive Chief Judge of the Court of Appeal as she is also said to be highly recommended by the National Judicial Council. If she is not and is bypassed in favor of the next in line who happens to be another northern Muslim, that would be truly odd. In which case, even the largest contingent of PR gurus would struggle to rebut the charges that you, Mr. President, is either unwilling or incapable of acting on your pledge to belong to everyone — and to no one. I hope you would see your way into pausing and reflecting on the very grave consequences of such failure not just to your legacy but to the future of our great country.

Thank you for your time, Mr. President.

COL. ABUBAKAR DANGIWA UMAR (RTD)

World Health Organisation said it has suspended a clinical trial of the anti-malaria drug, hydroxychloroquine in coronavirus patients.

The UN agency said it did so out of safety concerns.

It said it was concerned about safety of the drug, after a study from The Lancet revealed higher mortality rates among COVID-19 patients who took the drugs.

“The authors reported that among #COVID19 patients receiving the drug, when used alone or with a macrolide, they estimated a higher mortality rate”, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Monday.

He said hydroxychloroquine and chloraquine drugs are accepted as generally safe for use in patients with autoimmune diseases or malaria.

Hydroxychloroquine has been touted by President Donald Trump as a cure for coronavirus.

He even revealed he took the medication for two weeks as prophylactic

Tedros full statement:

On Friday, TheLancet published an observational study on hydroxycholoroquine & chloraquine and its effects on COVID-19 patients that have been hospitalised.

“The authors reported that among #COVID19 patients receiving the drug, when used alone or with a macrolide, they estimated a higher mortality rate.

“The Executive Group of the Solidarity Trial, representing 10 of the participating countries, met on Saturday and has agreed to review a comprehensive analysis and critical appraisal of all evidence available globally.

“The review will consider data collected so far in the Solidarity Trial and, in particular robust randomised available data, to adequately evaluate the potential benefits and harms from this drug

“The Executive Group has implemented a temporary pause of the hydroxychloroquine arm within the Solidarity Trial while the data is reviewed by the Data Safety Monitoring Board.

“The other arms of the trial are continuing.

“This concern relates to the use of hydroxychloroquine and chloraquine in #COVID19.

“I wish to reiterate that these drugs are accepted as generally safe for use in patients with autoimmune diseases or malaria.

“WHO will provide further updates as we know more.

“And we will continue to work night and day for solutions, science and solidarity”

Saturday, 23 May 2020 03:02

Africa COVID-19 cases top 100,000

The COVID-19 pandemic on Friday reached a milestone in Africa, with more than 100,000 confirmed cases.

The virus has now spread to every country in the continent since the first case was confirmed in the region 14 weeks ago.

Despite crossing this threshold, the pandemic, which has struck with such devastating force in much of the world, appears to be taking a different pathway in Africa.

Case numbers have not grown at the same exponential rate as in other regions and so far Africa has not experienced the high mortality seen in some parts of the world. Today, there are 3.100 confirmed deaths on the continent.

By comparison, when cases reached 100,000 in the World Health Organization (WHO) European region, deaths stood at more than 4,900. Early analysis by WHO suggests that Africa’s lower mortality rate may be the result of demography and other possible factors.

Africa is the youngest continent demographically with more than 60% of the population under the age of 25. Older adults have a significantly increased risk of developing a severe illness. In Europe nearly 95% of deaths occurred in those older than 60 years.

African governments have made difficult decisions and were quick to impose confinement measures, including physical and social distancing, which will have significant socio-economic costs. These measures, which along with contact tracing and isolation, expanded or increased hand washing have helped to slow down the spread of the virus.

“For now COVID-19 has made a soft landfall in Africa, and the continent has been spared the high numbers of deaths which have devastated other regions of the world,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “It is possible our youth dividend is paying off and leading to fewer deaths. But we must not be lulled into complacency as our health systems are fragile and are less able to cope with a sudden increase in cases.”

The continent has made significant progress in testing with around 1.5 million COVID-19 tests conducted so far. However, testing rates remain low and many countries continue to require support to scale-up testing. There is a need to expand the testing capacity in urban, semi-urban and rural areas, and provide additional test kits.

Cases continue to rise in Africa and while overall it took 52 days to reach the first 10,000 cases, it took only 11 days to move from 30;000 to 50 000 cases. About half of the countries in Africa are experiencing community transmission.

More than 3.400 health care workers have been infected by COVID-19. It is important that health authorities prioritize the protection of healthcare workers from COVID-19 infection at medical facilities and communities. There is also a need to provide enough personal protective equipment to health care workers and raise their awareness as well as increase infection prevention and control in health facilities.

“Testing as many people as possible and protecting health workers who come into contact with suspected and confirmed cases are crucial aspects of this response. Despite global shortages, we are working hard to prioritize the delivery of testing kits and personal protective equipment to low- and middle-income countries that have the most vulnerable populations, based on the number of cases reported,” said Dr Ahmed Al Mandhari, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean.

Despite the relatively lower number of COVID-19 cases in Africa, the pandemic remains a major threat to the continent’s health systems. A new modelling study by WHO predicts that if containment measures fail, even with a lower number of cases requiring hospitalization than elsewhere, the medical capacity in much of Africa would be overwhelmed.

Now that countries are starting to ease their confinement measures, there is a possibility that cases could increase significantly, and it is critical that governments remain vigilant and ready to adjust measures in line with epidemiological data and proper risk assessment.

WHO has offices in every country on the continent and is working closely with the Africa Centres for Disease Control, Ministries of Health, United Nations agencies and other partners to support the scale-up of the response through coordination, technical expertise, the provision of much needed medical supplies and assisting with data collection and analysis.

WHO has trained more than 7000 health workers, including 1000 district health teams to support the decentralization of the response. So far, more than 225 experts have been deployed to over 39 countries in Africa and over 900 staff have been repurposed at the regional and country level to support the response.

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