Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Aidoghie Paulinus, Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja and Job Osazuwa
The Federal Government has evacuated 317 Nigerians stranded in the United Kingdom.
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, who disclosed this on his Twitter handle @GeoffreyOnyeama, saying the 317 passengers would be brought back aboard Air Peace Airline. Onyeama said in line with the guidelines on COVID-19, the evacuees would be quarantined once they arrive the country.
“@flyairpeace evacuation flight APK 7801 from Heathrow Airport London just departed with 317 passengers, including nine infants after several hours delay due to operational reasons. The combined flight to Abuja and Lagos will first land at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja to disembark 175 passengers before proceeding to Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos with the remaining 142. All evacuees will proceed on the mandatory 14 days self-isolation stipulated by @NCDCgov and @Fmohnigeria on arrival,” Onyeama said.
The Federal Government has so far evacuated Nigerians stranded in the United States, China, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, India, United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and South Africa.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government has said the palliatives to be announced for the aviation industry next week would not be in cash.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) had called for aviation-specific financial relief measures from the Nigerian government to address the severe impact of COVID-19 crisis on air transport sector.
The government had in May said the sector had been losing about N21billion monthly since the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country.
Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, made the disclosure weekend when he spoke to the media after the airport simulation exercise in Lagos ahead of resumption of activities in the aviation sector.
He said the Ministry of Finance and Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) would make the announcement, adding that the sector had been captured in the economic stimulus plan of government.
Sirika explained that all stakeholders from airlines, food vendors, ground handlers, car hire and others would be beneficiaries of the government assistance which may not necessarily be cash, but something to cushion the impact of the pandemic on their businesses.
In the area of aircraft safety, he minister said all technical issues have been carefully handled from the aircraft to pilots, engineers, crew, air traffic controllers to ensure they are compliant in the area of proficiency and airworthiness to ensure flight safety.
Minister of State for Health, Dr. Olorunnimbe Mamora, warned that government was going to be more strict in enforcing the safety protocols as the aviation industry is opened for operation.
“So the issue of compliance is very critical, but where people fail to comply, government has a duty of enforcement,” he said.
Coordinator of the PTF on COVID-19, Dr. Sani Aliyu, said he was satisfied with the level of preparation by the operators, stakeholders and regulators of the aviation sector, especially on the preparedness for air travel restart.
He, however, implored passengers to do their own part of the bargain any time the airports are open for flight, by voluntarily complying with all safety protocols the aerodrome managers had provided.
The government had on March 23 shut all international airports in a bid to halt the spread of the virus.
Name beneficiaries of cash payments, donations, – SERAP
Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit asking the Federal High Court, Abuja, to order the Federal Government and Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to “publicly identify and name Nigerians who have so far benefited from any cash payments, cash transfers, food distribution and other reliefs and palliatives during the lockdown in Abuja, Lagos and Ogun states because of COVID-19.”
In the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/657/2020 filed last week, SERAP is seeking: “an order for leave to apply for judicial review and an order of mandamus to compel Ms Sadia Umar-Farouk, Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disasters Management and Social Development, and Mr Godwin Emefiele, CBN governor, to publish spending details of public funds and private sector donations to provide socio-economic benefits to the country’s poorest and most vulnerable people.”
SERAP is also seeking “an order to direct and compel Ms Umar-Farouk and Mr Emefiele to publish up-to-date list of donations and names of those who have made payments as per their publicly announced donations; spending details of the N500 billion COVID-19 intervention fund, and the names of beneficiaries, and whether such beneficiaries include people living with disabilities (PWDs).”
The suit followed SERAP’s Freedom of Information (FoI) requests dated 4 April, 2020, expressing concern that: “millions of the country’s poorest and most vulnerable people have not benefited from the announced palliatives, donations, reported cash payments, cash transfers and other reliefs.”
No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.
Reps step up oversight at airports
The House of Representatives has promised to step up its oversight function to ensure strict adherence to safety protocols at the airports, as part of measures to combat the COVID -19 pandemic in the country.
Chairman House Committee on Aviation, Nnaji Nnoli, in a statement, yesterday, expressed satisfaction with safety measures put in place in airports by the Ministry of Aviation ahead of the resumption of flights operations, after the airports were shut down months ago, over the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, the lawmaker noted that there was need for strict compliance with safety measures at the airports, as the country continues to grapple with the COVID -19 pandemic..
According to him, the test flight by members of the Presidential Task Force on COVID -19 from the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja to the Muritala Mohammed International Airport , Lagos was necessary to ascertain the safety operational standards of the airports .
He admonished Nigerians to embark on “only absolutely necessary” air travels upon the resumption of flights as COVID-19 remained a real threat.
Expert recommends 100% fruit juice
A nutritionist and spokesperson of the Nutrition Society of Nigeria, Olusola Malomo, has called for regular intake of 100 per cent fruit juice as part of measures to maintaining sound health.
Quoting the Harvard Medical School in its Harvard Health Publishing, Malomo revealed that deficiency in zinc, iron, copper, folic acid, vitamins A, B6, C (which is contained in large quantity in fruit juice) and E have negative impacts on immune responses.
He also recommended regular exercise as a measure to boost the immune system and combat the pandemic.
He gave the advice at a monthly healthy living dialogue organised by CHI Limited.
While describing COVID-19 as a respiratory infection which causes fever, tiredness, sore throat and in severe cases, shortness of breath and respiratory difficulty, Malomo said the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other global public institutions have confirmed that the severity of the COVID-19 infection is linked with the overall state of the body’s immune system.
He said this explained the reason people with pre-existing health challenges were most vulnerable to contracting COVID-19.
He lamented that during the five weeks the Federal Capital Territory, Lagos and Ogun were on lockdown, shops and supermarkets had run out of orange fruit juice stock in the first two or three weeks of the restriction.