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Nigeria reopens economy, worship centres as flights resume June 215 minutes read

A News Central investigation showed that the government had barely no choice than to drastically reopen the economy as most Nigerians were already violating the lockdown measures and the police seemed to have lost control of enforcement.

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File photo of President Muhammadu Buhari in an address at the State House, Abuja.

The Nigerian government on Monday further announced the relaxing of Covid-19 lockdown that has shuttered the economy for more than two months.

Under the phase two reopening, the ban on the banking sector, religious gatherings and closure of markets were lifted with the earlier national curfew revised between 10pm to 4am, the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 announced Monday at a briefing in the capital, Abuja.

A News Central investigation showed that the government had barely no choice than to drastically reopen the economy as most Nigerians were violating the lockdown measures with the connivance of some sections of security agencies like the police who were mostly being bribed by commuters and drivers to pass through checkpoints on interstate highways despite the ban on interstate travel.

Most small businesses and worship centres in suburbs of state capitals including the nation’s capital, Abuja were also operating unhindered in what seemed like the authorities had lost control of the lockdown, residents said. The rule on compulsory use of facemask was also being violated as many refused to use such measures except after sighting policemen or local taskforce operatives.

Cabinet Secretary, Boss Mustapha who heads the Taskforce said President Muhammadu Buhari had also approved that domestic flights should resume on June 21 and directed airlines to take between 50 and 70 per cent of passengers on any flight.

The PTF said the aircraft of most airlines were currently being serviced in preparation for the June 21 resumption date for domestic flights.

– Local flights to resume –

Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika at the briefing also said the airfares of flights would be proportionate to the current global realities facing the aviation industry due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The modality of operations by airlines and the passenger numbers will certainly drop and the load factor will also drop. Only 50 or 70 per cent of the passengers should be taken. These are some of the things that we have been looking at”, Sirika announced.

Sirika said the three-week period between June 1 and the resumption date would enable operators to adhere to all the necessary industry regulations, without which they would not take to the skies after being dormant for some time.

“This is because aviation, unlike other sectors, is a highly regulated sector,” he said.

The minister said consultations had been on and would continue between the ministry and industry stakeholders on the best ways to operate profitably while at the same time ensuring the safety of travellers.

Sirika had earlier cautioned owners of private aircraft who had been in the habit of asking for permits to fly within the country despite the restrictions in place to desist, as the restrictions were still in place, except for those on essential services.

Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu at a national briefing of the PTF on Covid-19 in Abuja. Twitter/@NCDCgov

– Banks, markets reopen –

National Coordinator of the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19, Dr. Aliyu Sani said the full reopening of the financial sector, restricted opening of worship centres will be granted by the 36 states and capital, Abuja subject to the PTF guidelines.

The announcement injected a new lease of life into big businesses and SMEs that had remained shut over the months.

Banks were given immediate clearance to operate fully. Hotels got the nod to reopen “but must observe all mandatory non-pharmaceutical intervention”.

“The goal of phase two over the next four weeks is to balance public safety with protecting livelihoods as well as allowing the full restoration of economic activities across the country”, Sani said.

“We are not opening places of worships across the board. We are saying that opening is conditional and it is based on these clear-cut guidelines and would only cover regular church and mosque services.

“The nationwide curfew will remain in place but the timing of this will be reduced to 10pm to 4am. The purpose of the curfew is to limit social interactions and therefore reduce the risk of transmission of the virus”, Dr Sani said.

The government also announced that “all interstate travels by individuals remain prohibited except for essential travels and the movement of goods and services. All restrictions on the free movement of goods and services is now removed in this phase.”

– Not yet uhuru on Covid-19 fight –

Despite the new relaxation of Covid-19 lockdown rules, the government said it was “still safer to stay at home and avoid crowds. The pandemic is not over in this country and the relaxation of some of the rules doesn’t mean that it is safer to go out. If you do not need to go out please continue to stay at home.”

“The mass gathering of more than 20 people outside of the work place or places of worship remains prohibited. In terms of general movement, persons may go out for work, go to buy necessary food and for exercise provided that they abide by the curfew hours”, officials announced.

Schools however remain closed as the federal authorities said they were yet to reach a decision on the matter but made some concessions.

“The Federal Ministry of Education has been instructed to work with school owners to prepare students that require exiting exams to allow them to take exams early in the next phase of the lifting of the lockdown”, PTF’s Sani said.


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Zamfara Governor Gets Honorary Doctorate Degree From Togolese University

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The University of Science, Administration and Commerce, Lomé, Republic of Togo, on Saturday conferred an Honorary Doctorate Degree in ‘Leadership and Administration’ on Gov. Bello Matawalle of Zamfara.

The Director-General of Media, Public Enlightenment and Communications to the Governor, Malam Yusuf Idris, disclosed this in a statement made available to journalists in Gusau on Saturday.

Idris said the award was received by the Deputy Chief of Staff to the governor, Dr Bashir Maru, who led a high-powered delegation of four persons to Lome for the event.

He stated that the conferment of the Doctor Honoris Causa on Matawalle was in recognition of the “governor’s passion, commitment and great enthusiasm in providing strategic leadership and selfless service to the people of the state and the Nigerian nation in general.”

He said while thanking the institution’s Governing Council and its management for finding him worthy of the award, Gov. Matawalle offered to explore more areas of cooperation with the university.

According to the statement, the governor also said that his administration had in the 17 months of its inception, vigorously pursued the enthronement of peace in the state which was hitherto characterised by banditry, kidnapping, cattle rustling and other criminal activities.

“Matawalle observed that the recognition and conferment of the Honorary Doctorate Decree on his person may have drawn impetus from his efforts in the return of peace and other legal business and social activities in the state which have now made it attractive to investors within and outside the state.

“He informed the gathering that Zamfara accounts for a very large percentage of Nigeria’s vast mineral resources and will be willing to do genuine business with investors,” it said.

The Vice Chancellor of the University, Dr Innocent Kagara, said the institution decided the honour only two persons in 2020 with Honorary Doctorate Degree as they had distinguished themselves in leadership qualities the world over.

Kagara said that the university had been watching with keen interest the level of progress being made in Zamfara since the inception of Gov. Matawalle’s administration.

He said that the institution appreciated the giant strides the governor was making to diversify the entire African economy from over-dependence on oil to mining which will boost the region’s economic status.

Presenting the certificate to the governor on behalf of the university, Dr Hamman Mensa, the institution’s Registrar, said the award given was based on excellence and hardwork in leadership.

The other members of the delegation that received the award on behalf of their principal were the State Commissioner of Special Duties, Alhaji Muhammad Maiturare, the Principal Private Secretary to the governor, Alhaji Lawal Maradun and the Director-General of Media, Public Enlightenment and Communications to the Governor, Malam Yusuf Idris.

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US Forces Rescue American Kidnapped In Niger

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The United States’ SEAL Team 6 has rescued Philip Walton, 27, who was kidnapped earlier this week in Niger and held hostage in northern Nigeria.

Walton, who kept camels, sheep and poultry and grew mangoes near the border with Nigeria, was kidnapped on Tuesday by six men armed with AK-47 assault rifles who arrived on motorcycles at his home in southern Niger’s Massalata village early on Tuesday.

His wife, young daughter and brother were left behind.

Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman in a statement on Saturday said, “U.S. forces conducted a hostage rescue operation during the early hours of 31 October in Northern Nigeria to recover an American citizen held hostage by a group of armed men.

“This American citizen is safe and is now in the care of the U.S. Department of State. No U.S military personnel were injured during the operation.

“We appreciate the support of our international partners in conducting this operation. The United States will continue to protect our people and our interests anywhere in the world.”

The mission, which was several hours long, was conducted by the Navy’s elite SEAL Team 6 who were flown to the region by Air Force special operations, a US official with knowledge of the operation told CNN.

The US forces who conducted the mission killed six of the seven captors, the official said.

The US believes the captors have no known affiliation with any terror groups operating in the region and were more likely bandits seeking money.

Niger, like much of West Africa’s Sahel region, faces a deepening security crisis as groups with links to al Qaeda and Islamic State carry out attacks on the army and civilians, despite help from French and U.S. forces.

Four U.S. soldiers were killed in an ambush in Niger in 2017, sparking debate about the United States’ role in the sparsely populated West African desert that is home to some of the world’s poorest countries.

At least six foreign hostages are being held by Islamist insurgents in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. Islamists have collected millions of dollars in ransom payments in recent years. The U.S. government has frequently criticized other countries for paying.

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SARS Men Tortured Me Till My Two Months Pregnancy Aborted – Nigerian Schoolteacher

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A Nigerian school teacher, Obiechina Ndubuisi, on Saturday, told the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Enquiry and Restitution for Victims of SARS related abuses and other matters how men of the now-disbanded rogue police unit – Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) – arrested and tortured her till she lost her two months pregnancy.

Mrs Ndubuisi said the incident happened in 2017, adding that the SARS personnel had arrested her on a bogus allegation of being a thief and a kidnapper.

Mrs Ndubuisi identified some of her torturers as “Phillip Rilwan, Christian and Haruna Idowu”. She said her ordeal at the hands of the trio lasted 22 days.

She said men of the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) also stole her husband’s N50,000 and compelled them to cough up N400,000 as bail, before they were freed.

She told the panel that the couple sued the Police at the Federal High Court in Lagos and won.

Justice Mohammed Idris ordered the Police to pay them N2million as compensation.

They also won on appeal but the Police refused to comply.

She said, “On June 1, 2017, I received a text message from an unknown number that I had a parcel from DHL. A caller using different numbers asked for my home or office address and I gave him my school address upon my husband’s advice.

“The following day, I saw a black jeep with huge men inside it. One of them was in a DHL uniform. Immediately, they approached me, they started beating me. They said I should enter inside. They said I was a thief, an armed robber. The one in the DHL uniform removed it. My HM (headmistress) was peeping at us. I said let me go and tell her. They said no.

“I said my kid is there, they said no, that I should follow them, that my kid would die there.

“My HM came to the gate; they pointed a gun at me. She asked what was going on. They said, ‘This woman is a thief, a kidnapper. She must follow us and go. They said they were Police, SARS’.

“They pushed me inside the car and moved. The men were slapping, beating me. I was two months pregnant. I started vomiting. That’s when they found out I was pregnant. But they kept torturing me. I told them I did not know the suspect.

“They took me to their office at Ikeja. They took me to a shrine. They hanged me, beat me. They said they would force my baby out of me. They said I must produce the person or die there.”

Continuing she said, “At 3 pm, they brought me out I said they should allow me to call my husband so that he would know where I was, I also told them that I have a 5-year-old child in a school that I need to call someone to take the child home, they refused.

“Later I was allowed to talk to my husband, but the phone was on the loudspeaker, it was one of the SARS men, Christian that put the phone on speaker, my husband said he had looked for me everywhere, that the proprietress told him that some policemen arrested me.

“When my husband came to area F, Keeps field, they started beating him and put a tyre on his neck, and said that they will kill him like others that he is a thief. They hit my husband’s head with the butt of a gun  and also hit his head with a stone, I was urinating on my body when all the torture was going on.

“Around 7 pm, they took us to Federal SARS at Ikeja and then gave my husband his phone so he called our pastor and I was also allowed to call a co-teacher friend to help me take care of the child, they said the child should die there. We spent three weeks in the cell under open roof and rain was beating us, we slept on the floor and as a pregnant woman, I didn’t eat anything, at night they would come and take me upstairs on interrogation, because of the stress and torture, I lost the two months pregnancy.”

“I got pregnant again the second time after we were released so on Sunday, while we were preparing to go to Church, they came again to arrest my husband and Philip Rieninwa, said that the order was from Abba Kyari, I pleaded with them to allow my husband dress up because he was on boxers, but they refused and took him away.

“When I couldn’t get through to my husband after one week, then I contacted our lawyer and he said it is getting out of hand so he got an order from the Federal High court that he should be released immediately, and he then wrote to SARS, because of the stress and trauma that I went through, I lost the second pregnancy again.

“We were awarded the sum of N 2million, by the federal High court because of the brutality and trauma that SARS caused us, but up till now, we have not been given the compensation, we also appealed the judgement but the appeal court dismissed it, nothing has happened since then.

“SARS, also took the N50,000, that my husband brought to the place, we bailed ourselves with N400,000”.

Panel chair, Judge emeritus Doris Okuwobi, adjourned sitting to enable the mentioned operatives an opportunity to appear and respond to the allegations.

The Obiechinas’ testimony was the first of four petitions for the third day of sitting since the Lagos State Government set up the nine-member panel on October 15, following weeks of near nationwide #EndSARS protests.

The panel sitting is ongoing.

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