•Opposes ban of flights from UK
•Buhari salutes sacrifices of 20 doctors lost to COVID-19
•FG orders varsities to suspend academic activities
•Akwa Ibom threatens another shutdown
Tobi Soniyi in Lagos, Okon Bassey in Uyo and Ibrahim Shuaibu in Kano, Adibe Emenyonu in Benin City
The Anap Foundation COVID-19 Think Tank has raised the alarm over the new wave of COVID-19 infections, and called on both the federal and state governments to come up with smart crisis management plans to address the spread of the virus. In a statement jointly signed by its chairman and vice chairman, Atedo Peterside, and Abubakar Siddique Mohammed, respectively, the foundation warned against shutting down small businesses. It, however cautioned, “Our response must take into consideration Nigeria’s realities: recession, high unemployment and rising insecurity.”
On the question of ban on flights from the United Kingdom, where a new strain of the coronavirus has been detected, the foundation said, “Nigeria needs not join the reactive ban on flights to and from the United Kingdom and/or other hotspots due to our existing robust travel protocols requiring tests before boarding, seven days isolation on arrival and a second test.”
In a related development, President Muhammadu Buhari saluted the sacrifices of 20 doctors killed by COVID-19, sending his condolences to the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA). Buhari also mourned the demise of the Galadiman Lokoja, Chief Godwin Ajakpo, and the chairman of Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga (Rtd), a former military governor.
As part of its response to the second wave of COVID-19, the federal government, through the National Universities Commission (NUC), instructed Vice Chancellors of universities to suspend academic activities involving large crowds on their campuses.
In a similar vein, Akwa Ibom State Governor Udom Emmanuel threatened another shutdown due to the spread of COVID-19. This was as the state mourned the loss of its first military administrator and current Chairman of Pan Niger Delta Elders Forum (PANDEF), Otuekong Idongesit Nkanga, who died on the eve of Christmas following complications from the coronavirus. He was 68 years old.
A statement by the Anap Foundation said, “While countries across the world are experimenting with variations of lockdown measures to balance lives and livelihoods as infection cases rise amidst the yuletide season and festivities, we should look to countries with similar realities, such as Ethiopia and Senegal.”
The foundation said governments should allow businesses to stay open across the country “on the condition that all Nigerians self-regulate and ‘celebrate responsibly’ by wearing face coverings, maintaining physical distance from others, avoiding indoor crowds and washing hands frequently.” It suggested the intensification of campaigns on behavioural change with firm and humane oversight by applicable agencies and society leaders.
Anap advised that those who could should be encouraged to work from home as a measure to contain the virus.
It said, “However, closer monitoring of the post-arrival COVID quarantine of travellers into Nigeria will help limit the risk of imported infections.
“We believe that effective implementation of the above measures along with adherence to recent awareness campaigns spearheaded by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), the Presidential Task Force (PTF), Kaduna and Lagos State Governments can help ease the hardship on citizens whilst curbing the spread of COVID-19.”
The foundation commended NCDC for its diligent tracking of COVID-19 cases and the on-going efforts of the federal government to contain the second wave of the pandemic. It said it was alarmed by the rate of increase and pattern of cases now spreading rapidly across Nigeria with a new high of 1,145 cases confirmed on December 17.
The group recalled that at the height of the first wave of the pandemic, the highest daily incident in Nigeria was 790 cases on July 1.
Anap Foundation COVID-19 Think Tank was established on March 22 2020 to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. It has 18 members drawn from across the six geopolitical zones of the country and the diaspora, especially Germany and the United States.
Buhari Salutes Doctors’ Sacrifices
President Muhammadu Buhari acknowledged the sacrifices made by 20 doctors killed by COVID-19, saying the welfare of frontline medical workers in the fight against the virus is a priority for his government.
In a statement by Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, Buhari also mourned the demise of the Galadiman Lokoja, Chief Godwin Ajakpo, and a former military governor and chairman of Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga (Rtd).
The president said, “The death of our front line health workers in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic is particularly sad because these professionals risk their own lives in order to save others.”
He added, “Our health workers are making maximum sacrifices for the country in line with their humanitarian calling, and this administration will leave no stone unturned in order to ensure their needs are met…
“Our health workers are operating under severe limitations, but they are undeterred in discharging their duties in saving lives.
“Let me say without any fear of contradiction that no reward is too much for the sacrifices of our health workers in the country, and this administration will give their welfare the priority it deserves.”
FG Orders Varsities to Suspend Academic Activities
Worried by the increasing spread of COVID-19 in the second wave of the pandemic, the federal government, through the National Universities Commission (NUC), ordered Vice Chancellors of universities to suspend all academic activities involving large crowds on their campuses. The directive comes less than three days after the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) suspended its nine-month-old strike.
The government further issued a circular directing Officers on Grade Level 12 and below to stay at home for five weeks, effective from December 23, as a result of the rise in the number of new cases of coronavirus.
In the circular by its Deputy Executive Secretary (Administration), Chris Maiyaki, NUC said classrooms, hostel accommodation, conferences and seminars should be suspended forthwith. It added that universities should remain closed during the intervening period, pending further directives by the government on the reopening of schools.
Maiyaki stated, “Vice Chancellors are to, please, note that the directive is part of the measures approved by Mr. President to mitigate the second wave of coronavirus infections in the country.
“The affected officers are expected to perform their duties from home while those on GL13 and above should strictly adhere to the extant preventive measures, including maintenance of physical distancing, regular washing of hands and/or sanitising of hands, wearing of facemasks and reducing the number of visitors to offices.”
Oba of Benin Cancels Annual Thanksgiving
In view of the resurgence of the coronavirus pandemic, the Oba of Benin, Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare II, cancelled the annual thanksgiving service usually observed by him to round off the Igue (Ugie) Festival. The cancellation was contained in a statement yesterday by the Secretary, Benin Traditional Council (BTC), Frank Irabor.
The statement said, “The Benin Traditional Council wishes to inform the general public that the worship at Holy Arousa Church by His Royal Majesty, Omo N’Oba N’Edo, Uku Akpolokpolo, Ewuare II, Oba of Benin on Sunday 27th December, 2020, has been cancelled due to the second wave of COVID-19.”
The statement, however, invited the general public to worship in the church with Oba Ewuare II as part of the celebration of the annual festival.
The Igue festival is celebrated as a thanksgiving in Benin every December by the reigning Oba and his subjects to mark the end of the year and to usher in the new year.
Emmanuel threatens another lockdown as state’s first military administrator dies of coronavirus
Akwa Ibom State Governor Udom Emmanuel threatened to declare another lockdown in the state if the residents continued to break the COVID-19 protocols during the festive period.
Emmanuel gave the warning in a broadcast on Friday to mark the Christmas celebrations. He advised the citizens to do everything possible to stay alive and beat the ravaging pandemic.
The governor appealed to residents of the state to assist in efforts to stem the second wave of the virus.
He stated, “The use of facemasks, social distancing, regular hand washing, hand sanitisers are protocols that have worked in reducing infections. Let us remain committed to applying these protocols.
“If we adhere to these simple but effective rules, there may be no need for us to impose another lockdown. But if we observe that these rules are flouted, then, we may have no other option than to put the state under lockdown.”
The governor said the government had applied the necessary tools to contain the virus, adding, “When in 2018 we brought in 13 ventilators and other advanced and modern medical supplies, some people had sneered at us in the media, some went to the extent of saying the equipment were phantom or non-existent.
“When we also constructed the 300-bed Infectious Disease Control Centre at Ituk Mbang and equipped it with medical facilities that rival the best in the world, some people also took issues with us and questioned the propriety of the construction of the centre.
“Today, our investments in healthcare sector have shown that you can’t go wrong by being proactive. Our state has stayed above the curve and has been able to manage this pandemic and other infectious diseases very effectively.”
Meanwhile, Akwa Ibom State Government, yesterday, confirmed the death of a former military administrator of the state and current Chairman of Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Otuekong Idongesit Nkanga.
Aged 68, Nkanga died on the eve of Christmas from COVID-19 complications.
A statement signed by the Secretary to the State Government, Dr Emmanuel Ekuwem, said, “Requisite protective protocol and contact tracing have been immediately activated. The information from the Isolation centre, where he was admitted and managed, indicates that the first indigenous military governor of our state and leader of Pan Niger Delta Elders Forum (PANDEF) died from complications resulting from COVID-19 infection.”
The governor, the statement stated, was saddened by the news of his passing and condoled with the bereaved family.
According to Ekuwem, the governor has declared a seven-day mourning, effective Saturday, December 26. Emmanuel also directed that flags should fly at half mast for the entire duration of the mourning in the state.
Nkanga, a former commander of the Presidential Fleet, retired as an Air Commodore in the Nigeria Air Force. He served as military governor of Akwa Ibom State between 1992 and 1993 during the regime of military president Ibrahim Babangida.
He contested to become the governor of Akwa Ibom State in 2003 under the defunct Nigeria Democratic Party (NDP) but lost to Obong Victor Attah.
In 2007, Nkanga was appointed chairman of the Akwa Ibom Airport Implementation Committee and he also served as Chairman, Board of Directors, Ibom Air, an airline floated by the Akwa Ibom State government, a position he held until his death.
In 2011, Nkanga was Director-General for Godswill Akpabio campaign organisation. Akpabio won the election.
Nkanga was also Director-General of the Divine Mandate, a political machine that worked for the emergence of Emmanuel in the 2015 and 2019 governorship elections.
As chairman of PANDEF, Nkanga was outspoken in the campaign for the restructuring of the country and development of the Niger Delta.
Kano Citizens Flout COVID-19 Protocols as NEMA Sensitises Motorists on Spread of Virus
Authorities in Kano State are currently worried that coronavirus infections may spike again, as hundreds of residents in the state ignore safety measures, such as wearing of facemasks and physical distancing.
But the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) has undertaken a sensitisation exercise for over 10,000 commercial vehicle drivers in the state on the dangers of over speeding and overloading during the Christmas and New Year celebrations.
THISDAY observed that nightclubs and events centres in Kano were operating with huge gatherings without regard for public health and safety guidelines. Many event and viewing centres across the state had suspended the observation of social distancing and the use of facemasks.
Kano State Government also did not announce the banning of large social gatherings, like carnivals, concerts and street parties, despite the increase in coronavirus cases in the country.
But THISDAY gathered that major shopping centres like Shoprite, Chicken Republic, and Grand Square, made it mandatory for anybody entering their premises to wear facemask and wash their hands before they were allowed in.
During the Christmas celebration, most of the churches visited by THISDAY ensured worshippers used facemasks and washed their hands.
Chairman, Kano State chapter of Christian Associations of Nigeria (CAN), Reverend Samuel Adeyemo, urged Christians to follow the COVID-19 protocols as laid down by the government.
Kano and Jigawa Zonal Coordinator of NEMA, Alhaji Ado Sanusi, said during the sensitisation tour at Unguwa-Uku motor park, KAROTA temporary motor park and Naibawa motor park, “This sensitisation exercise is aimed at reminding commercial drivers of the dangers of over speeding and overloading so as to minimise crashes.
“The sensitisation campaign was flagged-off in Abuja and continued nationwide in order to ensure safety of road users during the end of the year festivities. And it was also aimed at rallying all stakeholders to support the primary roles of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) of minimising road crashes and loss of lives during the season and beyond.”
Sanusi emphasised the need for drivers traveling out of the state to always maintain the normal 120 speed limits for their safety and that of other road users.
“We are committed to ensure strict enforcement of traffic rules and regulations and prepositioning our officers and men and for effective response to road traffic accidents before, during and after the yuletide,” he said.
Speaking at the motor parks, also, the sector commander of the FRSC in Kano, Mr. Zubairu Mato, disclosed, “In November, many deaths were recorded due to the negligence and reckless driving by motorists especially along highways.
“More accidents were recorded in November due to the negligence, impatience and greediness of the drivers. Don’t let such greediness push you into over speeding. Many of the drivers use the newly constructed road which always lead to serious accidents.”