Aidoghie Paulinus, Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye and Fred Itua, Abuja,
A total of 160 Nigerians evacuated by the Nigerian Missions in the United States, yesterday, arrived at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
Kimiebi Ebienfa of the Crises Monitoring and Public Communications Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the returnees comprised 92 males, 60 females and eight infants.
The Ethiopian Airline, Boeing 787, with flight number ET8509, which departed New Jersey on May 9, at 7:15pm arrived Abuja yesterday, at 11:15am.
Earlier in a statement dated May 9, the Consulate General of Nigeria in New York said on arrival, all returnees would be transported by the Federal Government from the airport to the designated quarantine centres for 14 days.
“During this period, all returnees will be tested for COVID-19 and will also be re-tested at the end of the quarantine period. Only those that test negative will be allowed to retrieve their passports from the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), while positive cases will be transferred to designated Isolation Centres for treatment,” the Consulate General said.
Okoyen said returnees would be responsible for planning their own travel arrangements from Abuja to their respective destinations within Nigeria after the compulsory quarantine period.
As Nigeria grapples with the impact of the COVID-19 on the economy, Cross River Governor, Ben Ayade, has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to lift ban on domestic flights.
The governor, who spoke when he inspected the ongoing asphalting of the dualised Odukpani – Calabar highway, said the continuous closure of Nigeria’s domestic airspace was impacting negatively on aviation, hospitality and tourism sectors and was also having negative spiral effect on small businesses and service providers, thus worsening the economic situation of that category of Nigerians. Ayade warned that the adverse effects of another four weeks closure of the airspace could be catastrophic.
“The suspension of domestic flights has affected most hotels leading to their closure. It is so bad that most hotels including 5-star hotels are shutting down because they cannot sustain the cost of diesel for their generating sets and as that happens they start laying off workers. So you have a lot of workers, young people who used to work in hotels and tourism industry out of jobs. And the big question is, how long can this continue?. The caterers who supply food to the hotels are all out of business. All the suppliers are out of business. So as we continue to lock the domestic airports for another four weeks, what we are going to have in terms of economic loss, what we are going to have in terms of social delinquency, the associated moral and social tension that will come with it will be just too huge for the country to bear?” he said.
Ayade said rather than ban domestic flights, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC ) should devise strict guidelines to enable the airline sector to continue to operate without exposing passengers and crew to COVID-19.
He appealed to the president “not to lock down the healthy, but rather lock down the sick and allow the healthy to work.”
Publish details of suppliers, sites, budget for home feeding programme, SERAP tells FG
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent a Freedom of Information (FoI) request to the Federal Government, demanding that authorities urgently publish details of the suppliers and contractors, the procurement rules, including bidding processes, the total budget, and all designated voucher distribution and collection sites for the implementation of the school feeding programme at home.
SERAP is also seeking “information on the number of states to be covered during the COVID-19 crisis, the projected spending per state, details of the mechanisms and logistics that have been put in place to carry out the programme, as well as the role expected to be played by the World Food Programme.”
Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disasters Management and Social Development, Ms. Sadia Umar-Farouk, had recently announced that the government would start feeding school children in their homes during the COVID-19 crisis, starting from Ogun and Lagos states, and Abuja.
In the FoI request dated May 9, and sent to Ms. Sadia Umar-Farouk, SERAP demanded that the Federal Government invite the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to monitor the implementation of the school feeding programme.
The FoI request signed by SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, said: “Publishing the details requested is in the public interest. This would help to address public scepticism regarding the ability of the government to satisfactorily implement the programme, promote openness, and allow Nigerians to track its implementation and to hold suppliers and contractors to account. SERAP notes that the UN Convention against corruption to which Nigeria is a state party requires the government to set the highest standards of transparency, accountability and probity in programmes that it oversees.”
Why we partner on ThisDay Doom Isolation centre – Sahara Group
Executive Director, Sahara Group, Temitope Shonubi, has said the desire to make a difference respond to COVID-19 pandemic in terms of physical, mental, and socio-economic well-being of Africans, was the reason it partnered with the media, oil and gas, power sector, financial institutions, and the government covert ThisDay Dome in Abuja to an isolation centre.
Shonubi said this while taking journalists on a tour of the multipurpose centre built for events which has now been converted to a 300-bed COVID-19 isolation and treatment centre.
He explained that Sahara’s Downstream entity, Asharami Synergy, in collaboration with other members of the Depot and Petroleum marketers Association in Nigeria (DAPMAN) provided support towards the completion and equipping of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Hospital in Abuja.
Located at the ThisDAY Dome in Abuja, Shonubi said the centre was delivered by a coalition of partners including Sahara Foundation, ThisDay , CCECC, Arise News, The Presidency, Egbin Power, Abuja Electricity Distribution Company, Federal Capital Territory Authority, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Federal Ministry of Health, African Finance Corporation, Central Bank of Nigeria through CACOVID. Wood Factory, the Regents School, the three fashion brands of Ebewele Brown, Traffic Clo and Syari Clothiers, Kenol, Mama Cass, 54 Gene and Central Park.
The Executive Director, Sahara Group, added that the Centre which would be overseen by the Federal Capital Territory Authority (FCTA) under the supervision of NCDC has a capacity of a minimum of 300 beds with additional six, plus two Intensive Care Unit beds, ventilators, dialysis machines, protective equipment and mobile facilities for testing.
Touching on the continent’s effort to flatten the curve of the pandemic, Shonubi noted that an intra-Africa led collaboration and interventions by the private sector can help the continent bolster ongoing efforts geared towards containing the spread of COVID-19 as well as promote sustainable development across the continent.
APTCON alleges plot to sideline transport operators in stimulus plan
The Association of Private Transport Companies of Nigeria (APTCON) has raised the alarm over alleged plot to frustrate road transport operators out of the proposed stimulus plan being contemplated by the Federal Government.
Spokesman of the association, Mr. Audu Gaddo, described as evil and conspiratorial a situation where senior government officials appear to be deliberately pursuing the interest of only one arm of the transport sector as the country groans under the COVID-19 pandemic.
Addressing a web conference last Monday, Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Prince Clem Agba, had made known government’s intention to throw a lifeline to the airline industry, while having in plans for the road transport sector
“Like you know, a lot of planes are parked and this is causing almost N21 billion loss on monthly basis. We are looking at how to provide some form of bailout support to ensure that the industry doesn’t die,” Agba said.
But Gaddo said the minister’s utterance showed a poor understanding of the economy and portends great danger for the country.
“We have noted with total displeasure government’s dangerous plans to surreptitiously bail out the aviation sector without any consideration for the road transport sector that contributes more to the GDP and employs a greater number of Nigerians.
“The thought is devious to say the least. Our sector is the one experiencing the worst distress with losses estimated at over N50 billion monthly. Indeed, our members are gearing up for some of the worst job losses Nigeria’s economy will ever know. With APTCON members remaining law-abiding as the nation-wide lockdown lasts, revenue projections have fallen to zero, while some unstructured operators are daily bribing their way through government barricades to sabotage the COVID-19 protocols. It is unacceptable that the government is sidelining road transporters while contemplating pouring more money into a sector that only a few years ago received over N150 billion in government support, and squandered same with most of the airlines now in AMCON’s receivership.”
‘Chida Hotel not harbouring evacuees’
The management of Chida International Hotel Abuja, one of the hotels designated to accommodate evacuated Nigerians from abroad in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic, has denied being involved the project.
Spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ferdinand Nwonye, in a statement had listed Chida International, Bolingo, Apo Apartments, Royalty, Belvior and Barcelona Hotels, as designated accommodations for quarantine purposes.
However, the management of Chida Hotel, said it was not part of the arrangement due to the non-availability of space in its facility.
“It is pertinent to state that at present, Chida International, Abuja is not part of the arrangement to accommodate evacuated Nigerians from abroad, though we were contacted by the ministry but could not proceed with the plan because of non-availability of space. At present, we have in-house guests that we had hoped would have checked out due to the easing of the lockdown, but majority who are longstanding clients have indicated their desire to continue to lodge due to our in-house health protocol, therefore, we could not proceed with the plan to host those returning to the country,” the hotel said.