Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye and Benjamin Babine, Abuja
In the run up to the off-season gubernatorial polls in Ogun and Ondo and bye-elections in a few other states, the Federal Government has announced new guidelines for the conduct of elections during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Director-General of the Nigeria Cente for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chike Ihekweazu, made the announcement at briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, yesterday.
He urged political parties to make use of electronic media for campaigns as well as mobile trucks with everyone wearing face masks, maintaining physical distance as well as frequent use of hand sanitizers.
“We really want to urge politicians and political leaders to take responsibility and lead by example. Leadership will be critical in this era. Think about the lives of your electorate first; your electorate staying alive is far more important than any votes you might win.”
He added: “As you’re all aware, some states will be holding state and local government elections this year being the first time we’re holding elections of this significance during a pandemic.
“Therefore, we’ve developed these guidelines to support everyone involved political parties, INEC, but most critically Nigerians as we are going to vote in these difficult times, voting still remains a civic responsibility and even though we’re in the middle of a pandemic we have to find a way of doing this safely.
“We have to adapt to the new normal and as we know the virus thrives in mass gatherings. So, there’s a challenge that we have in the way. We have conducted elections, pre-election, during election, post-election.
“So, in these guidelines, we try and offer advice on how to do this safely.
“We strongly encourage the use of TV, radio, mobile vans, social media and other forms of communication as we solicit votes as a politician solicits votes. We advise careful adherence to mass gathering guidelines.
“Unfortunately, the virus doesn’t really recognise whether we’re conducting elections, whether we’re religious gatherings, whether we’re in business settings, it just thrives when people come together.
“So we have provided specific guidelines for these settings, none of them will be surprising but we’ve been explicit about it.
“And finally in this particular case, we really want to urge our politicians, leaders to take responsibility and lead by example.
“Leadership will be critical in this era and we’re asking you to please think of the lives of the electorate first, the electorate staying alive is much much much more important than any vote you can win. So, let’s take that into consideration.”
Rising infection among VIPs threat to governance, security
Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Chairman of the PTF, Boss Mustapha, expressed worries over the rising cases of confirmed cases, describing it as threat to national security threat and governance.
Mustapha said the developments had further confirmed that COVID-19 does not discriminate or respect positions, assuring that the PTF would step up its sensitisation strategy against the virus.
“Of recent, we have witnessed a high rate of positive cases, especially among people in authority. This has a direct impact on governance and security of our nation.
“We urge that vigilance and care should be exhibited by all Nigerians irrespective of status. This virus does not discriminate and the PTF shall keep sustaining its sensitisation messaging,” he said.
The SGF added that notwithstanding the fact that Nigeria decided to relax some of the restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the virus, its spread across the world had not slowed down, stressing the need for every Nigerian to remain responsible and prevent a repeat of the mistakes made during the 1918 pandemic.
Also speaking, the National Coordinator of the PTF, Dr. Sani Aliyu, noted the critical role to be played by religious and community leaders as well as traditional rulers in taking risk communication and sensitisation to the community level.
“We are appealling to all traditional rulers, community and religious leaders, who remain integral part of the rural communities as well as the urban communities, to join the fight by driving the sensitisation programmes right down to the grassroots, as it relates to COVID-19 prevention.
“The PTF will life to see religious and traditional figures incorporate our life saving health advisories in their messages to their worshippers and community members. This should be considered an opportunity at every prayer session in the country,” he appealed.
Aug 4-Sept 5 for WAEC exams
The Federal Government also announced that West African Examinations Council (WAEC) exams for graduating students will hold from August 4 till September 5.
Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba said the local timings for the country will be published while concluding stakeholders meeting with NCDC and Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) will hold on today.
He also advised parents and guardians to ensure their wards register for National Examinations Council (NECO) exams currently ongoing.
He said dates for National Business and Technical Education Board (NABTEB) and NECO exams would be announced soon.
Air passenger without mask’ll be considered unruly, ejected
Speaking on new airport procedures as domestic airlines commence operations tomorrow, Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, said passengers who fail to wear face masks will be considered unruly and ejected from the flight.
This is even as he disclosed that the last row of seats on the plane will be reserved for isolation of persons suspected to have the coronavirus infection.
He said going there will be Mandatory Temperature and symptoms checks, face masks must be worn at all times inside the airport and airplane, Frequent cleaning of hands and Physical distancing will be maintained at all times.
Minister of Aviation explained the cabin air is safer than most other environments, adding that the processes of compression, heating, cooling, and filteration that aircraft cabin air is subjected to take out 99.99 percent of all organisms including viruses. On the resumption of flights, the minister said: “Domestic flight operations will commence on Wednesday July 8, 2020. Lagos and Abuja and Kano airports have passed all tests. But Wednesday resumption is only for Lagos and Abuja. Kano, PH, Owerri, Maiduguri scheduled to reopen July 11.
He said President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the banned of aides of ministers, military, National Assembly members, governors, judiciary at the airport, with exemptions of people with disabilities who will be assisted at the airport by the ground staff of the airline as well as those with diplomatic immunity.
NITDA enact policies to save 100,000 jobs
The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) said it has enacted policies to help save 100,000 jobs and create 30,000 new jobs in preparation for post COVID-19 economy.
Director General of NITDA, Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, stated this at the Innovation Support Network (ISN) North Regional Gathering 2020, a virtual event organised in collaboration with Ford Foundation.
Abdullahi said the agency had set up the Tech4COVID-19 committee, which came up with plans to ensure that people retain their jobs while creating additional ones in the post COVID-19 era.
“We swiftly initiated several policies and programmes for the technology ecosystem and startups to be able to withstand the impact of the pandemic. The agency has also rolled out these initiatives in order to ensure that technology continues to enable innovation and entrepreneurship while addressing challenges of the society,” he said.
He said the NITDA technology innovation and entrepreneurship support scheme would support startups and hubs across the country, noting that “with over 130 hubs in Nigeria, we are finalising plans to ensure rapid intervention is provided for hubs and startups based on competence and carefully selected criteria.”
He said the agency was following up the startups with highly innovative ideas selected for further incubation and mentorship, saying this action supported indigenous and local content policy, thereby creating more jobs.
FG proposes N2.3trn to boost mining, other sectors
Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Olamilekan Adegbite, said Federal Government has proposed N2.3 trillion to boost the mining and other sectors of the economy in post COVID-19 rescue operations.
Adegbite said this in an interactive session with newsmen on Federal Government’s post COVID-19 plans for the solid mineral sector in Abuja.
He said the ministry would get N6 billion from the total sum at the end of the day.
He said the ministry has lofty plans before the COVID-19 pandemic, which he has adversely affected the solid mineral sector considering its operations.
Adegbite said the development was not peculiar to the solid mineral sector as other sectors of the economy were equally affected by the pandemic.
“The pandemic for instance, has limited our ability to go forward on the Ajaokuta Steel project, we are four to five months behind schedule according to government’s plans to resuscitate the complex before the pandemic,” he said.
This, he said, was specifically so because Russian experts who supposed to come for the technical audit of the complex could not come because of the pandemic and the ban on flight operations.
He added that the idea was for the experts to come into the country and be hosted for 12 weeks within which they were expected to do a proper audit of the Ajaokuta Steel Complex.
He said this had been put on hold until the lockdown occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic and the ban on air travel was lifted