•Warns Nigerians against promoting ethno-religious prejudices
•NSIA boosts virus fight, donates medical equipment to healthcare institutions
Deji Elumoye in Abuja and Obinna Chima in Lagos
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday called for unity among members of the international community to defeat terrorism, corruption, COVID-19 and other challenges confronting the world.
The president, while receiving letters of credence from new ambassadors of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Argentina said the second wave of COVID-19 came with more challenges than from the initial outbreak.
Buhari, on another occasion also yesterday, warned Nigerians against promoting ethnic and religious prejudices so that the nation could witness rapid development.
In a statement by his media adviser, Mr. Femi Adesina, the president said: “We have common challenges that impact so much on our countries, which include terrorism, insurgency, climate change, population explosion, human trafficking, corruption, poverty and proliferation of small arms and light weapons.
“On top of all these, the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic has come with different strains that pose an additional challenge to the initial outbreak. These challenges underscore the need for the international community to work even more in concert to collectively identify
appropriate ways and means to globally resolve these challenges.”
Buhari also expressed his admiration for the cooperation that Nigeria and the other three countries have enjoyed in other fora.
“All three countries represented here enjoy excellent multilateral relations with us. In addition to the United Nations, the largest multilateral umbrella platform, we are also members of the G-77 and the South-South Cooperation, which Nigeria, Argentina, Egypt and Saudi Arabia have used to advance our collective interests and causes.
“Nigeria is proud to be associated with these platforms, for they have enabled us to work closely together with the principal representatives of these countries,” he said.
The president told the ambassadors about the readiness of Nigeria to work with them to achieve global peace, food security and a sustainable environment.
While wishing the envoys a successful tenure, Buhari urged them to improve on the relationship between their respective countries and Nigeria.
He said: “On behalf of the government and people of Nigeria, I urge you, in the course of your duties in Nigeria, to build on the successes of your predecessors and enhance the existing fraternal relations between our countries.”
Responding on behalf of others, the Ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt to Nigeria, Ambassador Ihab Moustafa, thanked the president for receiving them and accepting their letters of credence.
He assured him of their commitment to work his government to further enhance and strengthen their countries’ friendship and partnership with Nigeria.
“We will count on your kind support and guidance to this end,” he told the president.
Besides Moustafa, other ambassadors who presented their letters of credence are Mr Faisal Ebraheem Alajrafi Alghamdi from the Royal Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Mr Alejandro Miguel Francisco Herrero from the Republic of Argentina.
Buhari Warns Nigerians against Promoting Ethnic, Religious Prejudices
Also yesterday, the president warned Nigerians against promoting ethno-religious prejudices so that the nation could witness rapid development.
The president, while hosting a delegation of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), led by its President-General and Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, however, gave an assurance that his administration will continue to create the enabling environment for religious freedom as guaranteed by the Nigerian constitution.
Buhari, in a statement issued at the end of the meeting by Adesina, stated that the federal government does not and will not allow religious prejudice or partisanship to influence any of its decisions and policies.
“It is my solemn decision to be fair and just to all segments of society. The federal government will continue to promote religious freedom as it is a constitutional responsibility. I must thank the Muslim Ummah for promoting inter-religious dialogue in the country. It is self-evident that if the country must work, we must continue to work together in spite of our ethnic, religious and political differences because Nigeria is our collective project,” he stated.
The president assured the delegation that the federal government is doing all within its powers to combat insecurity and called on local communities to assist the security forces in enhancing their effectiveness.
He said: “The federal government has worked tirelessly to combat insecurity and other challenges that are confronting the country. Security is a protracted problem but we are not relenting in our efforts. Not only are we equipping the military, but we are also boosting their morale to perform their constitutional duties without undue interference. We are also encouraging locales to enhance their intelligence gathering and timely remit it to the security agencies.
“I acknowledge that security is the first responsibility of government, but the government cannot do it alone. It requires stakeholders, such as you.
“Therefore, I urge you to lend your support to the security agencies by providing information that may stem the tide of crimes and insecurity in society.”
Buhari also spoke on efforts being made by his administration towards making life better for Nigerians, saying: “We are diversifying the economy and putting appropriate mechanisms in place to reduce poverty and more fiercely combat corruption, regardless of the status of those involved. “Programmes such as N-Power, Conditional Cash Transfer, Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme and Home-Grown School Feeding are just some of the interventions made to empower Nigerians and cater to their needs. “The National Social Investment Programme alone has directly benefited four million Nigerians through job training and financial assistance.”
The president called on the leaders to continue to speak to Nigerians and to amplify the message of peace through their tried and tested networks.
He urged them to give full backing to the Alternate School Programme, which he launched on Tuesday.
According to him, the programme was “designed to not only address our high out-of-school rates, but it will boost our levels of girl-child education while also equipping our youth with the right tools in making decisions at every turn of their lives when confronted by peddlers of evil and hateful messages… and also, address the public health crises that the world is currently facing.”
Buhari appealed to Nigerians to support his government’s efforts on COVID-19.
He said: “As the government continues to work towards managing this crisis, it is also critical that you lend your voices in support of those basic but fundamental protocols that can significantly curtail the spread of this disease – washing of our hands, using face masks and ensuring social distancing as much as possible, as they have been proven to be our first line of defence in the fight against this virus.
“Furthermore and much more important, when the vaccines which we are working hard to procure for the nation arrive, please, please join in the drive to educate people that these vaccines are meant to save lives and protect everyone.” Earlier, the sultan had commended the president for the successes achieved so far in the North-east, calling on the federal government to deal decisively with the banditry ravaging Zamfara, Katsina and Sokoto States as well as some parts of the North-central.
While expressing confidence that security forces, with better synergy among them will overcome present challenges, he solicited the cooperation of all governors with the federal government, irrespective of their political leanings.
He also urged Nigerians to support the new leadership of the armed forces.
The sultan appealed to Nigerians, particularly religious leaders, to refrain from making inflammatory comments that could sow discord in the polity and exacerbating the current insecurity in the land.
He asked that religious leaders making subversive comments should be called to order.
NSIA Boosts COVID-19 Fight, Donates Medical Equipment to Healthcare Institutions
As part of efforts to support Nigeria’s ailing healthcare sector as well as the federal government’s COVID-19 fight, the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) yesterday handed over 126 units of Patient Monitors and 63 units of Oxygen Concentrators to 21 tertiary healthcare institutions across the six geopolitical zones of the country.
The virtual handover ceremony had in attendance top government officials, including Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha; the Minister of Finance, Budget, and National Planning Mrs. Zainab Ahmed; the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire; and the Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu.
In attendance were also the Chief Medical Directors of the 21 medical centres.
The Managing Director, NSIA, Mr. Uche Orji, in his remarks, said the donation was part of measures aimed at supporting the containment of the recent surge in the reported cases of Covid-19 infections in Nigeria.
Orji said the NSIA would ensure that beneficiaries of the equipment receive after-sale support from the original equipment manufacturer in terms of training and maintenance.
“In our opinion, this is the only sustainable model. Aside from this, we also sought to address the economic implication of the pandemic which research has shown has negatively impacted Nigerians,” he added.
He disclosed that the NSIA had collaborated with Global Citizens on Nigeria Solidarity Support Fund.
“Healthcare is a key area of focus for the NSIA. While our mandate is to preserve capital for future generations, we first must ensure that Nigerians are alive. The authority acknowledges that there are many shortcomings plaguing our healthcare sector and we are not willing to accept them as insurmountable.
“Over the last 24 months, the NSIA has commissioned three fully operational Centre of Excellence to meet specific healthcare needs in the country. The other part of NSIA’s vision is the creation of a pharmaceutical manufacturing company which is one of the things we are working on with the University College London, to develop pharmaceutical manufacturing capacity in the country to ensure that we are able to support our healthcare sector,” he added.
In his remarks, Ihekweazu pointed out that the pandemic has affected the lives of a lot of Nigerians as well as weakened the economy.
However, the NCDC boss said the pandemic presents an opportunity to build a better and stronger health sector to respond to the present challenges as well as future outbreaks.
“Our colleagues at the NSIA have been passionate about improving healthcare infrastructure in Nigeria. This support comes at a critical time when we are experiencing an increase in cases in our health system and our health facilities are increasingly challenged.
“These equipment would enable the provision of specialised care which is a major need in all our facilities,” he said.
Ehanire, who commended the NSIA, said the government was studying the interventions by the agency in the health sector as a model for the way forward.
“The health system as you know in our country is in need of great reforms. It is not where it is supposed to be and it is not where we want it to be. And it is with interventions like that that we are going to find the way forward. We would work with the state governments to revamp secondary healthcare in the country to bridge the gap in healthcare,” he said.
Ahmed assured Nigerians that the president and members of his cabinet were doing everything possible to sustain the economy and return swiftly to normalcy.
“While there is a lot of uncertainty, we know that we need to act fast to adapt to our changing reality. Now, more than ever before, our country needs to step up and put the resources that are required to drive fundamental change,” she said, while also highlighting steps so far taken by the government to cushion the impact of the virus on Nigerians.
In his comment, Mustapha said lack of compliance with the non-pharmaceutical measures and the emergence of the second wave compelled the federal government to issue the new COVID-19 Health Protection Regulation 2021.
This, he said, was to bring to the fore the issue of enforcement.
“We have come to the realisation that enforcement has been lacking and the instrumentality of this regulation will give guidance to security agencies and sub-national entities to begin the process of enforcement with immediate effect,” the SGF said.