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Army GOC Dies from COVID-19 Complications

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By Chika Otuchikere and Mirian Gom, Abuja

The Nigerian Army was yesterday thrown into mourning as news filtered through that  the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 6th Division, Port Harcourt, Rivers state, Maj. Gen. Johnson Olu Irefin has died from COVID-19 complications.

Irefin was deployed to the command the division in July 2020 replacing Maj.

-Gen.
Felix Agugo. His death has thrown the army in confusion as there has not been a contact tracing of officers and men who had dealings with him in the past days,

A senior army officer, who confirmed the death, described it as shocking.

“One of our fine officers is dead.

He is the GOC 6th Division. He died in Abuja after developing complications caused by the coronavirus pandemic”, he said.

Meanwhile, the ongoing Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Annual Conference 2020, has been abruptly terminated as one of the participating officers was on Tuesday confirmed to have tested positive for COVID-19.

Acting Director,  Army Public Relations, Brigadier General, Sagir Musa made this known in a statement yesterday in Abuja.

According to Sagir, the cancelation of the remaining activities to mark the annual conference were due to the resurgence of COVID – 19 pandemic in the Federal Capital Territory, which, according to him, appeared to be a second wave of infection cycle.

“The Nigerian Army wishes to inform members of the public that due to resurgence of COVID 19 Pandemic in the Federal Capital Territory Abuja in what appears to be a second wave of infection cycle and the unfortunate incident on Tuesday 8 December 2020, where an officer participating in the ongoing Chief of Army Staff’s Annual Conference 2020 here in Abuja tested positive to COVID 19, the remaining activities of the conference have therefore been immediately cancelled.

“All the participants have been mandated to immediately proceed on self-isolation in line with the Federal Government’s protocol for COVID 19 and to prevent any further spread of the disease,” he said.

In a related development, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.Gen. Tukur Buratai has scaled down activities for the wedding Fatiha of his son Hamisu, over the resurgence of COVID-19.

A statement by the army spokesman, Brig. Gen. Sagir Musa said the action was connected to the incident where one officer attending the COAS conference tested positive for the COVID-19.

According to Musa, all officers invited to the wedding who participated in the conference have been withdrawn from the list of invited guests.

The statement read in part:

“Due to resurgence of COVID -19 Pandemic in the Federal Capital Territory Abuja in what appears to be a second wave of infection cycle and the unfortunate incident on Tuesday 8 December 2020, where  an officer participating in the ongoing Chief of Army Staff’s Annual Conference 2020 here in Abuja tested positive  to COVID 19, which resulted in the cancellation of the remaining activities of the conference and all the participants mandated to immediately proceed on self isolation in line with the Federal Government’s protocol for COVID 19 and to prevent any further spread of the disease. 

“Consequently, the Chief of Army Staff Lt Gen TY Buratai wishes to inform all dignitaries and other invited guests that activities earlier scheduled for the wedding of his son Mr Hamisu Tukur Buratai will proceed as arranged albeit pruned down without the participation of all those who were at the conference. 

“The Chief of Army Staff, on behalf of his family, feels honoured to sincerely appreciate, thank and welcome all dignitaries and invited guests to his son’s Wedding Fatiha slated for Friday 11 December 2020. However, due to the resurgence of the Pandemic in the FCT, General Buratai will be unable to personally attend to, receive or meet you at the event. All inconveniences hereby regretted please”

In yet another development, the Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai has said that the State was experiencing a rising rate of Covid-19 infections, warning that government may impose another lockdown among other options it is considering to manage the situation.

El-Rufai called on citizens to adopt and practice the prevention protocols such as wearing facemasks and avoiding crowded places and large gatherings, to enable the state to contain the situation without imposing another lockdown.

The governor’s Special Adviser on Media and Communication, Mr. Muyiwa Adekeye issued a statement on Thursday, saying that el-Rufai conveyed his concern at the 2021 budget signing ceremony held at the Government House.

Speaking at the event, the governor expressed concern that infection rates were now hovering between 20% and 35%.

The statement quoted the governor as saying that ‘’by August and September, we were down to 1%, 2%, 3% infection rates from samples we tested. Now, we are hovering between 20% and 35%.’

“The rate of infections is surging and we have now decided that every employee of Kaduna State Government must be tested and no person will be allowed to enter any government office, any hospital, any school, any public facility without a mask and maintaining social distancing,’’ he warned.

As part of the measures for managing the situation, the governor said the state will ‘’bring back mobile courts to enforce the wearing of masks because if we don’t do that, these infections will continue to rise and will affect the lives and livelihoods of our people.’’

el-Rufai explained that compliance with Covid-19 prevention protocols represents the most effective and least costly way to contain the disease.

According to the governor, the state prefers to avoid a lockdown but may have no option if the adherence to prevention controls does not improve.

“If people refuse to wear masks and observe social distancing, we will consider locking down the state once again. Nobody wants that. We know the impact of that on lives and livelihoods, but we must save lives first,’’ he said.

Health Workers Doubt COVID-19 Existence­-NCDC

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control ((NCDC) has revealed that many health workers, who should champion the campaign against the COVID-19 pandemic were still in doubt about its existence.

 “Health workers should create awareness on COVID-19, but many of them still doubt its existence. We must work hard to remove such doubt,” Dr Oladipo Ogunbode, Assistant Director, Department of Prevention Programmes and Knowledge Management of the NCDC, said in Abuja.

Ogunbode spoke at a conference to mark this year’s health week. The theme of the conference was “Disease outbreak in Nigeria, are we ready?”.

The director said that it was “amazing and inexplicable” for medics to doubt the fact that the pandemic was a reality, and particularly regretted that many express such doubt openly.

“To handle the doubt, there is the need to increase the level of awareness on the virus.

“As health workers, there is no one of us that does not know at least one person that has not been confirmed COVID-19 positive,” the official pointed out.

He said that the perception about COVID-19 was still low and people were not adhering to the basic protocol of wearing facemasks.

The official called for increase in communication and the need to engage the media on the pandemic, urging front line health workers to be COVID-19 ambassadors by speaking the message and letting people know that the disease was around.

Head, Response Division, Department of Health Emergency, Preparedness and Response, Dr Olaolu Aderinola, also urged various partners involved in the COVID-19 fight to speak up.

“We have so many partners working with us to bring out this message on COVID-19. As NCDC, we are working very hard and things are going smoothly but our partners are the ones that will speak for us,” Aderinola said. 

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Tinubu Charges Qatari Investors to Report Bribe Demanding Officials

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By David Torough

President Bola Tinubu yesterday in Doha, Qatar charged captains of industry in Qatar to report to him any government official who will demand a bribe or any form of inducement at any point in their business activities in Nigeria.

Speaking at the Nigeria-Qatar Business and Investment Forum in Doha yesterday Tinubu told Qatari investors that Africa’s largest economy is being reformed and upgraded.

He reassured the international business community that Nigeria is ready for serious business as his administration will deal decisively with any and all entrenched interests in the country who undermine investor confidence in the Nigerian economy, pledging to remove all bottlenecks standing in the way of profitable and legitimate enterprise.

The president said, “I am here to give you the assurance that reforms are going on; forget about whatever you heard in the past. Whatever is the obstacle or problem that some of you might have experienced; it is in the past, because there is no obstacle in the future.

“Do not offer a bribe to any of our people, and if it is requested or taken from you, report to us. You will have access to me. Nigeria will no longer be defined by the past, but by what we do now and moving forward. Do not let perceptions become a hindrance to your will to invest. Nigeria is serious about revolutionizing investment promotion.

“We are removing obstacles today and we are going to continue to remove all obstacles. We have done so much within nine months. And I assure you, it is free entry and free exit. Your funds will flow smoothly into and out of our country. Bring your investments.”

Tinubu noted that the war against corruption and insecurity in Nigeria had been significantly strengthened with the appointment of the former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, as National Security Adviser (NSA).

“We have a man who has won many global awards for anti-corruption as an anti-corruption czar.

“My responsibility is to tell you that Nigeria is open for business and to assure you that your investments are safe in our hands. We have men and women of great reputation here. And we believe we can forge a good committee that will advance our discussions to fruitful conclusions.

“A nation is an artificial entity unless there are good people to drive it. People build great nations and we have great people. We are ready,” the President affirmed.

Tinubu noted that Nigeria possesses vast opportunities in various fields, telling his host: “We have oil and gas; we have solid minerals. I do not see why we cannot become prolific partners in exploring iron ore, as well as steel production, and energy across the board.

“I am here to give you assurances in all spheres: tourism, hospitality, healthcare, and many other opportunities that abound around us. Do not be the investors who miss out on the golden opportunity we present,” the President added.

Welcoming the Nigerian delegation in the presence of Qatari captains of industry, Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad bin Qassim Al Abdullah Al Thani, Qatar’s Minister of Commerce and Industry, said his country looks forward to exploring opportunities in Nigeria, owing to its population demography and market, as it seeks to prioritize new investments in low carbon initiatives, mineral products, petroleum chemicals, industry, and consumables.

“We look forward to working with our Nigerian counterparts to achieve our joint objectives in these sectors,” the Minister said.

The President of the Nigeria-Qatar Business and Investment Forum were: Borno State Governor, Professor Babagana Umara Zulum; Kaduna State Governor, Senator Uba Sani; Lagos State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu; National Security Adviser (NSA), Ribadu; Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance, Mr. Wale Edun; Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Dr Dele Alake; Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Professor Muhammad Ali Pate; Minister of Marine and Blue Economy, Mr. Adegboyega Oyetola; Minister of Trade, Industry and Investment, Dr Doris Uzoka-Anite; Minister of Youth, Dr Jamila Bio Ibrahim; and the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources (Gas), Mr. Ekperipe Ekpo.

Others at the meeting were Special Adviser on Energy, Mrs. Olu Verheijen; and the President of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Mines, and Agriculture (NACCIMA), Mr. Dele Kelvin Oye.

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Mob Beat Two Policemen to Death after Road Crash

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By Our Reporter

Two policemen on escort duty were yesterday beaten to death, two others injured following a mob action at Ikpeshi in Akoko-Edo Local Government Area of Edo State.

This happened after a Toyota Hilux vehicle belonging to the escort duty policemen in the convoy of former Edo House of Assembly member Emmanuel Agbaje hit a motorcycle, resulting in the death of the rider, a woman and her child.

Ikpeshi youths, according to sources, besieged the office of Edo State Security Vigilante Network, where the two policemen were taken, overpowered them and beat the policemen to death.

Two other policemen were rescued by the vigilante members.

The rescued police were taken hospital.

The four policemen were from Police Mobile Force (PMF) 19, Port Harcourt in Rivers State.

The chairman of Akoko-Edo local council, Tajudeen Alade who condemned the activities of Ikpeshi youths declared that the persons involved would be identified, arrested and prosecuted to serve as a deterrent to others.

Edo Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Chidi Nwabuzor, confirmed the incident.

He said investigation into the incident was ongoing after which the command would release more details to the public.

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NDIC Reimburses Depositors of 183 Rested Microfinance, Mortgage Banks

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By Tony Obiechina, Abuja

Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) has reimbursed depositors of 179 rested microfinance and four mortgage banks across the country.

The Managing Director of the corporation, Dr Bello Hassan disclosed this at the NDIC Special Day during the just-concluded 45th Kaduna International Trade Fair.

Hassan, who was represented by the NDIC’s Deputy Director of Communication, Hauwa Gambo reiterated that the corporation’s priority was the protection of depositors’ funds of licensed banks in distress.

According to Hassan, in carrying out its statutory functions, the corporation has introduced the Single Customer View framework to expedite payment to depositors of liquidated banks.

He added that the NDIC has enhanced its collaboration with the judiciary for speedy prosecution of failed insured banks which has resulted in resolving long-drawn cases of closed banks such as Fortune and Triumph Banks liquidation.

According to the NDIC boss, the efforts have significantly improved the debt recovery rate, which enabled the corporation to declare 100 per cent liquidation dividends to uninsured depositors of more than 20 deposit money banks.

He said, “Our priority at NDIC is the protection of Nigerian depositors. We are dedicated to safeguarding depositors’ funds from the adverse effects of bank failure. The corporation has introduced the Single Customer View framework to expedite payment to depositors of closed banks.

“The corporation has enhanced collaboration with the judiciary for speedy prosecution of failed insured institutions. This concerted effort has resulted in resolving long-drawn cases of closed banks such as Fortune and Triumph Banks in liquidation.

“Moreover, we have utilised alternative dispute resolution mechanisms and out-of-court settlements, revitalising our liquidation activities. These efforts have significantly improved our debt recovery rate, enabling us to declare 100 per cent liquidation dividends to uninsured depositors of more than 20 deposit money banks in liquidation.”

Hassan also said that NDIC deployed digital remote payment strategies to facilitate electronic funds transfers to verified depositors’ alternate bank accounts.

To address the apathy among depositors with small balances, he said the NDIC launched the ‘Deposit Tracer’ in partnership with mobile operators, which allows depositors to access their unpaid balances through mobile accounts.

He urged depositors of banks in liquidation to utilise the various initiatives by the corporation to claim their funds trapped in closed banks.

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