Home Blog Page 3

EFCC’s Magu ‘arrested’: When the hunter becomes the bush meat – Perspectives by Fredrick Nwabufo

“It has been long coming. Expect things to be done differently from now on,’’ a source in the thick of things told me regarding the ‘’arrest’’ of Ibrahim Magu, acting EFCC chairman, by security operatives. 

Magu’s fall – even though delayed – preceded him. He walked on molten magma. He had chalked up lots of professional liabilities before he became the EFCC czar. 

In August 2008, when Farida Waziri was the commission’s chairman, Magu was alleged to be in the possession of some sensitive documents which were not supposed to be at his disposal. These documents were allegedly discovered at his residence. He was redeployed to the police after days of detention, and was suspended from the force afterwards. 

Also, in December 2010, the Police Service Commission (PSC) was said to have found him guilty of action prejudicial to state security – withholding of EFCC files, sabotage, unauthorised removal of EFCC files and acts unbecoming of a police officer — and slammed severe reprimand on him as punishment.

Despite these alleged infractions, Magu was reabsorbed into the anti-graft agency when Ibrahim Lamorde was the EFCC chairman, who also recommended him for the top job. All these allegations were foregrounded in the DSS report of 2016.

Soon after he became acting EFCC chairman, Magu busied himself with incurring more ‘’karmic debts’’. He was said to have been embroiled in the blackmail of suspects and was frolicking with the ‘’so-called looters’’. He was also alleged to be living outside the remit of his means.

The DSS’ vignette captures it thus: “Magu is currently occupying a residence rented for N40m at N20m per annum. This accommodation was not paid [for] from the commission’s finances, but by one Umar Mohammed, air commodore retired, a questionable businessman who has subsequently been arrested by the secret service.

“For the furnishing of the residence, Magu enlisted the Federal Capital Development Authority to award a contract to Africa Energy, a company owned by the same Mohammed, to furnish the residence at the cost of N43m.”

By the sheer tonnage of these redoubtable claims, the senate in 2016, declined to confirm the appointment of Magu as EFCC chairman. But despite the senate’s pushback, President Muhammadu Buhari re-nominated him. The reaction to the decision of the senate at the time was that some corrupt elements in the national assembly were trying to derail the anti-corruption efforts of the president.

However, it is obvious now why the president did not seek to have Magu’s appointment confirmed even with the current legislative dispensation, under Ahmad Lawan, which is tied to his apron strings. I think Buhari did not discount the allegations against Magu, but he would not bend to the will of the senate under Bukola Saraki which was at daggers drawn with him. 

The death knell finally sounded on Magu when Abubakar Malami, attorney-general of the federation (AGF), asked the president to sack him over some “weighty” allegations, including the diversion of recovered loot. In addition to allegedly re-looting the recovered loot, Malami accused the acting EFCC chairman of insubordination and misconduct.

Before his ‘’arrest’’ on Monday, the EFCC chief had travelled to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates without the authorisation of Buhari during the COVID-19 lockdown – a contravention of the president’s order on measures instituted to curb the spread of the disease. And when he was questioned, he said he went for an investigation.

It is reassuring that the president has elected to stop dilly-dallying on Magu. He has set up a presidential panel to look into these allegations, and perhaps, to put Magu out of his misery.  The panel is currently sitting at the presidential villa where the acting EFCC chairman is present. 

Magu is on a date with fate. He hoisted himself with his own petard. 

Fredrick Nwabufo is a writer and journalist.
Twitter: @FredrickNwabufo

Confusion over identities of security agents who arrested Ibrahim Magu, Nigeria’s anti-corruption czar accused of financial fraud

The Nigerian secret service has denied arresting Ibrahim Magu, the powerful acting chairman of the country’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), and a local newspaper reported that the security agents who arrested him on Monday afternoon in the capital Abuja took him straight to the presidential villa to appear before a presidential panel sitting at the Banquet Hall of the villa. He was joined there by Rotimi Oyedepo, an EFCC counsel.

“The Department of State Services (DSS) wishes to inform the public that it did not arrest Ibrahim MAGU, Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) as has been reported by sections of the media. The Service, has since, today, 6th July, 2020, been inundated with enquiries over the alleged arrest,” Peter Afunanya, the SSS spokesperson, said in a statement.

The report said the panel is investigating allegations of corruption and insubordination levelled against him by the Attorney-General of the Federation. Abubakar Malami

Buhari mourns former APC vice chairman Inuwa Abdulkadir

President Muhammadu Buhari joins the All Progressives Congress (APC) in grief over the passing of former member of the National Working Committee, Alhaji Inuwa Abdulkadir, who served as Vice Chairman, North West.

President Buhari condoles with family members, friends and political associates of the party stalwart, who served the country as Minister of Sports and Youth Development, and played a prominent role in the creation and sustenance of the party.

The President believes Alhaji Abdulkadir’s humility, maturity and penchant for facilitating reconciliation among members will be sorely missed at a time the APC is rebuilding and repositioning to deliver on its promises, urging members to always remember and project same legacies of putting the country first.

President Buhari prays that the almighty God will receive the soul of the departed, and comfort his family.

African Union chairman Cyril Ramaphosa welcomes resumption of Nile dam negotiations between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday, in his capacity as the Chairperson of the African Union, welcomed the resumption of Trilateral Negotiations between the Parties to the Grand Renaissance Ethiopian Dam (GERD).

Following the meeting of the African Union (AU) Bureau of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government held on 26 June 2020, the ministerial delegations of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan, supported by technical experts, reconvened on July 3, 2020, to discuss the outstanding legal and technical issues around the GERD.

The GERD is one of the largest infrastructure projects in the Continent and has the potential to be a catalyst for integration and development in the sub-region.

“The resumed Trilateral Negotiations is an indication of the commitment of all Parties to the GERD to dialogue as a means toward a peaceful, amicable, and durable solution taking into consideration all the dimensions of the GERD matter. By this act, the Parties have demonstrated their commitment to an African-led process in the spirit of African solution to African problems,” said President Ramaphosa.

“I am sincerely encouraged by the initial report I have received, which indicates focused attention by all Parties to the GERD in finding solutions, and I wish to further implore the Parties to proceed along this path in order to reach an agreement on all outstanding issues”.

In accordance with the decision of the AU Bureau meeting of 26 June 2020, President Ramaphosa will be presented with a report on the outcomes of the Trilateral Negotiations, after which he will convene a meeting of the Bureau to consider the report.

In the meantime, President Ramaphosa is maintaining, dynamic, regular contact with all the Heads of State and Government ahead of this meeting in order to lend further momentum to the ongoing negotiations.

WHO warns access to HIV medicines severely impacted by COVID-19 as AIDS response stalls

Seventy-three countries have warned that they are at risk of stock-outs of antiretroviral (ARV) medicines as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new WHO survey conducted ahead of the International AIDS Society’s biannual conference. Twenty-four countries reported having either a critically low stock of ARVs or disruptions in the supply of these life-saving medicines.

The survey follows a modelling exercise convened by WHO and UNAIDS in May which forecasted that a six-month disruption in access to ARVs could lead to a doubling in AIDS-related deaths in sub-Saharan Africa in 2020 alone.

In 2019, an estimated 8.3 million people were benefiting from ARVs in the 24 countries now experiencing supply shortages. This represents about one third (33%) of all people taking HIV treatment globally.  While there is no cure for HIV, ARVs can control the virus and prevent onward sexual transmission to other people.

A failure of suppliers to deliver ARVs on time and a shut-down of land and air transport services, coupled with limited access to health services within countries as a result of the pandemic, were among the causes cited for the disruptions in the survey.

“The findings of this survey are deeply concerning,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “Countries and their development partners must do all they can to ensure that people who need HIV treatment continue to access it. We cannot let the COVID-19 pandemic undo the hard-won gains in the global response to this disease.

Stalled progress

According to data released today from UNAIDS and WHO, new HIV infections fell by 39% between 2000 and 2019. HIV-related deaths fell by 51% over the same time period, and some 15 million lives were saved through the use of antiretroviral therapy.

However, progress towards global targets is stalling. Over the last two years, the annual number of new HIV infections has plateaued at 1.7 million and there was only a modest reduction in HIV-related death, from 730 000 in 2018 to 690 000 in 2019.  Despite steady advances in scaling up treatment coverage – with more than 25 million people in need of ARVs receiving them in 2019 – key 2020 global targets will be missed.

HIV prevention and testing services are not reaching the groups that need them most. Improved targeting of proven prevention and testing services will be critical to reinvigorate the global response to HIV.

WHO guidance and country action

COVID-19 risks exacerbating the situation. WHO recently developed guidance for countries on how to safely maintain access to essential health services during the pandemic, including for all people living with or affected by HIV. The guidance encourages countries to limit disruptions in access to HIV treatment through “multi-month dispensing,” a policy whereby medicines are prescribed for longer periods of time – up to six months. To date, 129 countries have adopted this policy.

Countries are also mitigating the impact of the disruptions by working to maintain flights and supply chains, engaging communities in the delivery of HIV medicines, and working with manufacturers to overcome logistics challenges.

New opportunities to treat HIV in young children

At the IAS conference, WHO will highlight how global progress in reducing HIV-related deaths can be accelerated by stepping up support and services for populations disproportionately impacted by the epidemic, including young children. In 2019, there were an estimated 95 000 HIV-related deaths and 150 000 new infections among children. Only about half (53%) of children in need of antiretroviral therapy were receiving it.  A lack of optimal medicines with suitable pediatric formulations has been a longstanding barrier to improving health outcomes for children living with HIV.

Last month, WHO welcomed a decision by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to approve a new 5mg formulation of dolutegravir (DTG) for infants and children older than 4 weeks and weighing more than 3 kg. This decision will ensure that all children have rapid access to an optimal drug that, to date, has only been available for adults, adolescents and older children. WHO is committed to fast-tracking the prequalification of DTG as a generic drug so that it can be used as soon as possible by countries to save lives. 

“Through a collaboration of multiple partners, we are likely to see generic versions of dolutegravir for children by early 2021, allowing for a rapid reduction in the cost of this medicine,” said Dr Meg Doherty, Director of the Department of Global HIV, Hepatitis and STI Programmes at WHO. “This will give us another new tool to reach children living with HIV and keep them alive and healthy.”

Tackling opportunistic infections

Many HIV-related deaths result from infections that take advantage of an individual’s weakened immune system. These include bacterial infections, such as tuberculosis, viral infections like hepatitis and COVID-19, parasitic infections such as toxoplasmosis and fungal infections, including histoplasmosis.

Today, WHO is releasing new guidelines for the diagnosis and management of histoplasmosis, among people living with HIV. Histoplasmosis is highly prevalent in the WHO Region of the Americas, where as many as 15 600 new cases and 4500 deaths are reported each year among people living with HIV. Many of these deaths could be prevented through timely diagnosis and treatment of the disease.

In recent years, the development of highly sensitive diagnostic tests has allowed for a rapid and accurate confirmation of histoplasmosis and earlier initiation of treatment. However, innovative diagnostics and optimal treatments for this disease are not yet widely available in resource-limited settings.

Chairman of Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Ibrahim Magu arrested for financial fraud

The acting Chairman of Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Magu, has been arrested for financial fraud.

Magu was arrested on Monday afternoon in Abuja and is currently undergoing interrogation at the DSS Headquarters In Aso Drive.

Local news publications reported that the security agents who arrested him on Monday afternoon in the capital Abuja took him straight to the presidential villa to appear before a presidential panel sitting at the Banquet Hall of the villa. He was joined there by Rotimi Oyedepo, an EFCC counsel.

While some reports said the panel is investigating allegations of corruption and insubordination levelled against him by the Attorney-General of the Federation. Abubakar Malami, other said Magu was reportedly arrested over allegations that he owns four properties and that he was allegedly transferring funds abroad through a third party, according to some reports.

Local newspapers recalled that the DSS in a 2016 report accused Magu of living beyond his means, in a N40 million mansion paid for by Umar Mohammed, a retired air commodore who is allegedly involved in shady deals.

Earlier reports suggested that he was arrested by the Department of State Services but the agency said it did not arrest him.

“The Department of State Services (DSS) wishes to inform the public that it did not arrest Ibrahim MAGU, Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) as has been reported by sections of the media. The Service, has since, today, 6th July, 2020, been inundated with enquiries over the alleged arrest,” Peter Afunanya, the SSS spokesperson, said in a statement.

Serial killer Aaron Glee charged in Florida with murders of 75-year old Vicki Sims and 19-year old Nigerian protester Oluwatoyin Salau who demanded justice for George Floyd

American serial killer Aaron Glee has been charged in Florida with the murders of 19-year old Nigerian protester Oluwatoyin Salau and 75-year old American woman Vicki Sims.

The Tallahassee police in Florida was trying to find Victoria Sims, a retired state worker who had gone missing a few days earlier, when they traced her cellphone to Glee’s residence on June 13.

“A search of the property and nearby woods turned up the bodies of Sims, 75, and Oluwatoyin Salau, 19, a local student and Black Lives Matter protester who’d been missing about a week,” reported USA Today.

The report said, “Glee, 49, managed to slip out of town before officers arrived, fleeing on a Greyhound bus with blood stains still on his pants. Police caught up with him at a bus station in Orlando, arresting him on murder, kidnapping and sexual assault charges.”

Before she was murdered, Oluwatoyin Salau who went missing on June 6, was last seen demanding justice for George Floyd, the unarmed black man who died on May 25 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Suspect house
Suspect house where the victims are believed to have been killed.

Family members told the Tallahassee Democrat, part of the USA TODAY Network, that she was found dead on Saturday June 13.

“Salau was one of two homicide victims discovered Saturday night in southeast Tallahassee, a couple miles from where she was last seen at a library,” reported USA Today.

Serial killer Aaron Glee
Serial killer Aaron Glee

“There is no justice that can be served that will replace my sister’s life,” her brother, Oluwaseyi Salau was quoted as saying.

The report quoted her friend Danaya Hemphill as saying that the last time she saw her was the day before she went missing. They were at a Friday afternoon protest.

“We were all together one minute and the next minute our friend was gone,” Hemphill said.

“I had a feeling that we were not going to find Toyin alive,” said Hemphill, 22. 

USA Today said “at each demonstration, Salau had been reciting the names of Black people killed, such as Tony McDade of Tallahassee and George Floyd of Minneapolis.”

“I don’t want their names gone in vain,” Salau said during one protest in front of the Tallahassee Police Department last month.

Africa’s chance at World Trade Organization and the Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala candidacy – Perspectives by Yushau A. Shuaib

With quite a reputation behind her, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala appears to mean different things to different people across the spaces she has straddled. This is why I paused for a moment of contemplation when a professional colleague working in a multilateral institution abroad sought my opinion on the candidacy of Nigeria’s first female Finance minister and also Foreign Affairs minister, for the post of Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

This prodding brought to mind in recall the phone call I had received on the evening of Wednesday, March 20, 2013 from her when she was Finance minister, complaining about an article I had written about her and a number of appointments that had then been made in the Nigerian economic sector in a major national newspaper. While I had thanked her for the call, I refrained from tendering an apology for what I still consider as the objective commentary I made in that article.

This must have riled the honourable minister so much that while I became the subject of protracted victimisation, this eventually culminated in my forced displacement from public service. Feeling unfairly treated, and challenging my persecution in court, it was to my utter shock to later discover that prominent civil servants, including directors in the service, were behind the dishonest recommendation for my disengagement from the civil service. Some of the intrigues, episodes and persons behind that ordeal are documented in my book ‘An Encounter With the Spymaster.’

Although reinstated by the court five years later, I have since voluntarily retired from the federal civil service. Meanwhile, three years after the court order for the payment of my entitlements, some civil servants are still dilly-dallying over this directive. In life, one must always be grateful to the Almighty God for sparing one’s life and giving the direction that leads in making one better off than how one was in the past.

However, back to my friend’s request, I understand that the WTO is an intergovernmental organisation, established to promote and regulate international trade, and its Director-General performs both managerial and advisory roles, with member-states being ultimately left to make their own decisions. Surprisingly, no African has served in the top position in the WTO since 1948 in its precursor organisation, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). The current Director-General of WTO, Mr Roberto Azevêdo has announced his decision to step down on August 31, which makes the position potentially vacant, and in need for the recruitment of a new head.

President Muhammad Buhari must have considered Dr. Okonjo-Iweala’s pedigree and credentials before nominating her as Nigeria’s candidate for the WTO top job. Even though she has not served in any capacity in his administration, the president might have acknowledged her contributions as Nigeria’s first female Finance minister, during which time she spearheaded an ambitious debt relief negotiation with the Paris Club of Creditors during the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo between 1999 and 2003. The efforts of her team led to the outright cancellation of $18 billion of Nigeria’s total debt stock, and a series of other measures eventually leading to the reduction of the country’s external indebtedness from $35 billion to $5 billion.

Similarly, in her second coming as Finance minister during the tenure of President Goodluck Jonathan between 2011 and 2015, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala was responsible for leading aggressive but praiseworthy reforms that enhanced the transparency of the government’s accounting systems, which strengthened our public institutions against corruption. She introduced the Government Integrated Financial Management System (GIFMS), the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Management System (IPPMS), and the Treasury Single Accounts (TSA), which are now being fully implemented by the Buhari administration.

Dr. Okonjo-Iweala had an impressive over 25-year career at the World Bank, rising to the position of the Managing Director in charge of Operations of the foremost financial organisation. In 2010, she was made Chair of the World Bank’s successful drive to raise $49.3 billion in grants and low-interest credit for the poorest countries in the world.

Still, after her last official engagement in Nigeria, Okonjo-Iweala has been quite preoccupied as a global finance expert, helping many multilateral and multinational organisations with their developmental ventures in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and North America.

She is a World Health Organisation (WHO) Special Envoy for Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator and was recently appointed as an African Union (AU) Special Envoy to mobilise international financial support for the fight against COVID-19. She also currently chairs the boards of the African Union’s African Risk Capacity (ARC), the Nelson Mandela Institute, and the African University of Science and Technology, Abuja.

In the business world, outside the African continent, she is a Senior Adviser at Lazard and sits on the boards of Standard Chartered PLC and Twitter Inc. She further serves on the advisory boards of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, Harvard University International Advisory, the Oxford University Martin School Advisory Council, Women’s World Banking Africa Advisory Board, and the International Commission on Financing Global Education. Also, she is on the advisory boards of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Tsinghua University, Beijing’s School of Public Policy, the CARICOM (Caribbean) Commission on the Economy, and the Tax Inspectors Without Borders (an initiative of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), among others.

More so, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is Chair of the Board of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which has immunised 760 million children globally and saved thirteen million lives since its inception in 2000. Through Ngozi’s leadership of GAVI, world leaders have pledged an additional US$ 8.8 billion for the vaccination of children, far exceeding the initial target of US$ 7.4 billion. The project will ensure the immunization of over 300 million children including the creation and distribution of the COVID vaccine globally and mostly in Africa.

With a growing concern that what Africa needs is trade rather than aid, to fight poverty, hunger and disease, a savvy bridge builder and go-getter in the person of an Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is the right figure who can broker numerous agreements that would promote fair trade. In fact, the core objective of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AFCTA) in creating a single continental market for goods and services, with the free movement of business persons and investments across the globe could be easily achieved through her watch.

In a recent media interview, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala said the WTO is a most important global multilateral body with challenges that require reforms. She said: “I believe it is relevant for the economic development, growth and sharing of prosperity in the world. I want the (WTO) job because I have the skills and the organisation needs some reforms to make it relevant for times we are in and I have a reputation as a strong reformer.”

With the foregoing, I strongly believe that if what the WTO is looking for is ‘a candidate with vast experience in international relations, encompassing trade and/or political experience, a firm commitment to the work and objectives of the organisation, proven leadership and managerial ability; and demonstrated communications skills,’ then Nigeria’s Okonjo-Iweala is not only the strongest African contender but she is a bold reformer, skilful negotiator and finest globally acclaimed developmental economists needed for the job.

Yushau A. Shuaib
Founder of the Economic Confidential and Author of ‘An Encounter with the Spymaster’

Nigerian activists baffled by the gargantuan corruption of former senior official Ngozi Olejeme

The Nigerian Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, CACOL, has hailed the Federal High Court Abuja for granting an order of interim forfeiture of 48 choice properties, allegedly belonging to a former chairman of the Nigerian Social Insurance Trust Funds, Ngozi Olejeme.

“It would be recalled that the forfeiture order was granted after the counsel for the EFCC, Ekele Iheanacho, convinced the court that the said property was purchased with proceeds of crime,” read a press release issued by the anti-graft coalition’s Coordinator for Administration and Programs Mr. Tola Oresanwo on behalf of its Chairman Mr. Debo Adeniran.

“The former chairman of the Nigerian Social Insurance Trust Funds, Ngozi Olejeme who was also the treasurer of the Jonathan-Sambo Campaign Organisation in 2015 has been on the run since 2016 and was in September 2017, declared wanted by the EFCC for criminal conspiracy, abuse of office, diversion of public funds and money laundering. She was alleged to have, along with the former managing director of NSITF, Mr Umar Abubakar, mismanaged and diverted over 69 billion Naira,” the statement added.

“The court presided over by Justice Taiwo Taiwo, in granting the application, ruled that the interim order should be published in a leading newspaper within seven days of receipt of the order and for any interested party to show cause within 14 days why the property should not be permanently forfeited to the government”.

The chair of the Anti-Corruption Coalition said “we commend, laud and enthuse on the Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja for granting an order of interim forfeiture for these choice properties though the principal suspect in the case is still at large”.

“We can also recollect how President Buhari, recently asked the current Managing Director, Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund, Mr Adebayo Somefun, to go on immediate and indefinite suspension for alleged financial misappropriation.

In a statement by the Ministry of Labour and Employment on Thursday stated that 11 other officials in the NSITF were also asked to proceed on suspension. Their suspension, according to the ministry, was due to the preliminary established prima facie infractions of the Financial Regulations and Procurement Act, and other acts of gross misconduct”.

“This recent suspension of the top management cadre of the fund is an indication that corruption has indeed found its safe abode in the nest of the trust fund. It further shows that these set of people who were entrusted with the fund cannot be trusted as they have continually been dipping their hands in the cookie jar”.

The CACOL’s Chief added “It is pathetic and lamentable that in a country with majority of its citizens living far below the poverty line and where social safety nets are almost nonexistent, the fund allocated for social insurance can be misappropriated and spent without recourse to due process”.

“We therefore call on the Federal Government to immediately and as a matter of urgency audit the role of the suspended officers in financial and procurement breaches as well as in gross misconduct in the NSITF from 2016 till date as stated in the statement from the Ministry of Labour and Employment and if found wanton they should be handed over to the anti-corruption agencies for necessary prosecution. The government should not fold its arms and allow unscrupulous public officials to run the various parastatals of government in their care aground while illegally enriching their private purses”.

Ramaphosa urges South Africans to protect the elders against COVID-19

President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday urged South Africans to protect their elders against contracting COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, which is deadlier among those with underlying respiratory conditions and the elders.

“The reality however is that in keeping our distance from our elderly parents and grandparents at this time we could be saving their lives,” Mr. Ramaphosa said in his weekly letter to South Africans.

“Coronavirus can infect anyone, but older people are among those at highest risk of getting severely ill and possibly dying. Sadly, there have been a number of coronavirus outbreaks at old age homes and care centres, resulting in a number of deaths,” he said.

President Cyril Ramaphosa at Ehlanzeni District Municipality to assess the Mpumalanga’s provincial response to the COVID-19 pandemic on July 3, 2020. [Photo: GCIS]
President Cyril Ramaphosa at Ehlanzeni District Municipality to assess the Mpumalanga’s provincial response to the COVID-19 pandemic on July 3, 2020. [Photo: GCIS]

Dear Fellow South African,

For those fortunate enough to have an elderly parent or grandparent still alive, not being able to spend time with them has been one of the most difficult parts of the lockdown.

For millions of senior citizens, social activities like meeting friends and family and attending religious services and stokvel and burial society meetings are the mainstay of their lives.

Because of social distancing regulations, most of these activities have been curtailed, potentially leaving them feeling socially isolated and lonely. And leaving their loved ones anxious for their wellbeing.

The reality however is that in keeping our distance from our elderly parents and grandparents at this time we could be saving their lives.

Coronavirus can infect anyone, but older people are among those at highest risk of getting severely ill and possibly dying. Sadly, there have been a number of coronavirus outbreaks at old age homes and care centres, resulting in a number of deaths.

In addition, data released by the Department of Health indicates that people with underlying medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, renal disease, asthma and chronic respiratory disease are more vulnerable to developing severe complications and dying from coronavirus.

According to new research published by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, a third of patients admitted to hospital with COVID-19 had at least one co-morbidity.

This is a significant concern in a country such as ours that also has high prevalence of HIV and tuberculosis, the leading cause of natural deaths in South Africa last year.

Additionally, more than 4.5 million South Africans have diabetes, a figure that has doubled since 2017. In the Western Cape alone, diabetes is a co-morbidity in over half of all COVID-19 deaths.

In a number of our provinces, including Gauteng and Western Cape, testing is being offered to people with co-morbidities such as diabetes whether they show coronavirus symptoms or not. This smart approach to screening and testing is part of our effort to limit infections among those most vulnerable.

We will continue to be led by scientific evidence and adapt our strategies where necessary.

As part of the national effort to contain coronavirus, protecting the general population from becoming infected must be matched by efforts to protect people who are at greater risk.

Throughout the nationwide lockdown period, we have taken measures to ensure that those who rely on chronic medication or treatment are able to visit health facilities.

The Department of Social Development has set dietary standards on the food provided to communities during lockdown to ensure they (are) of nutritional value, which is particularly important when managing diabetes. Companies can play their part by keeping basic food prices down, which means that people don’t need to seek out cheap processed foods of poor nutritional value.

Among the many cases being made for the National Health Insurance is that we will be able to mobilise the necessary resources to overcome the burden of these non-communicable diseases and improve the health outcomes of all our people, not just those who can afford to pay.

Until we have overcome this pandemic, we all have to play it safe, for ourselves and those around us.

Difficult though it may be, we should not expose our elderly mothers and fathers to the virus through social visits. Let us keep in touch with them by phone or video messaging.

If they live with us, let us ensure we observe proper hygiene at all times by washing and sanitising our hands. Frequently touched surfaces, including equipment used by our parents and grandparents like walkers and canes, should be frequently cleaned.

We should limit our shared spaces where possible and wear a mask when around our elderly relatives. At the same time we must be led by common sense and not isolate elderly or sick relatives at a time when they need us most.

People with underlying medical conditions like diabetes and hypertension should be extra cautious. They should observe social distancing, stay home if possible and stay away from crowded places. Like everyone else, they should practice good hygiene and continue to take their medication.

One of the lessons from this pandemic is that we need a holistic approach to health. Anecdotal evidence suggests many of our people have used the lockdown period to make positive lifestyle changes like doing more exercise or quitting smoking. Such developments should be welcomed. If some of us have become healthier during the lockdown, we should continue in this vein.

Reducing the burden of lifestyle-related diseases on our health system is ultimately in the best interests of our health, our economy and our own personal finances.

While the COVID-19 fatality rate is low in South Africa compared to the rest of the world, the rising number of infections is a caution against complacency.

If we follow all the prevention measures we will be able to protect ourselves. We will also, through our everyday actions, protect and keep safe those who are most vulnerable.

 Let us remain cautious. Let us remain vigilant. Let us stay safe.

With best wishes,

President Cyril Ramaphosa

239 scientists from over 30 countries urge WHO to tell the world about airborne spread of coronavirus

At least 239 scientists from over 30 countries are urging the World Health Organization to address the airborne transmission of COVID-19, a scary development that may mean coronavirus can be contracted by just being in the same room with an infected person even if they are six feet away.

Most public health guidelines have focused on social distancing measures, hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette, including precautions to avoid droplets, especially because of the belief one needed to come into close contact with an infected person to contract the coronavirus.

However, the scientists now say there is growing evidence the virus can spread indoors through aerosols that linger in the air and can be infectious even in smaller quantities than previously thought.

In a forthcoming paper shared with The Washington Post ahead of publication this week in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases and titled “It is Time to Address Airborne Transmission of Covid-19,” the 239 signatories to the paper say the potential of the virus to spread via airborne transmission has not been fully appreciated even by public health institutions such as the WHO.

“The fact that scientists resorted to a paper to pressure the WHO is unusual, analysts said, and is likely to renew questions about the WHO’s messaging,” The Post said.

“There is no reason for fear. It is not like the virus has changed. We think it has been transmitted this way all along,” said Jose Jimenez, a chemist at the University of Colorado who signed the paper. “Knowing about it helps target the measures to control the pandemic more accurately.”

Co-author Donald Milton, a professor of environmental health at the University of Maryland, said the WHO’s apparent reluctance to emphasize this aspect of the virus’s ability to spread is probably because of the difficulty identifying tiny infectious particles.

“It is easy to find virus on surfaces, on hands, in large drops,” he said in an emailed statement. “But, it is very hard to find much less culture virus from the air — it is a major technical challenge and naive investigators routinely fail to find it. . . .

“Because a person breathes 10,000 to 15,000 liters of air a day and it only takes one infectious dose in that volume of air, sampling 100 or even 1000 liters of air and not finding virus is meaningless.”

Nigerian president condemns Boko Haram attack on UN helicopter that killed 2 people including 5-year old

President Muhammadu Buhari has condemned what he called “the dastardly attack on UN aid helicopter in the Northeast on Saturday by the Boko Haram terrorists.”

In a reaction to the reports of the incident, President Buhari said: “This latest cowardly attack on the UN humanitarian helicopter is yet another desperate rear guard action by the Boko Haram terrorists who have been under intense pressure from the Nigerian military.”

“Let me reassure the international community and Nigerians that this latest cowardly attack on a UN helicopter which claimed the lives of two people, including a five year old baby, would not go without severe consequences.”

“Boko Haram terrorists are clearly on the back foot and their increasing attacks on innocent civilians, including UN humanitarian workers, was part of their desperation to prove that they are strong in order to cover up their dwindling fortunes.”

President Buhari said “the security of foreigners and Nigerians remain the top priority of this administration, and we shall leave no stone unturned until we eliminate these remorseless enemies of humanity.”

The President also underscored the need for all humanitarian and other aid workers in the region to, at all times, properly coordinate movements — air or land, with the Theatre Commander and other military authorities.

South Africa mourns playwright legend Welcome Msomiu

President Cyril Ramaphosa says South Africa’s creative community has lost a significant treasure with the passing of playwright and entrepreneur Mr Welcome Msomi.

The President has expressed his condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Mr Msomi, who passed away on Saturday, 04 July 2020 at the age of 76.

Welcome Msomi’s creativity first came to the fore when he wrote a book at the tender age of 15.

This creation gave rise to a creative career of half a decade during which Bab’Msomi distinguished himself in radio and as a choreographer and outstanding playwright who became a force in Zulu literature and South African culture at large.

Early in his career he established the iZulu Dance Theatre (IDT) and Music in 1965 in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal.

He is best and globally remembered for uMabatha, his adaptation – in isiZulu and set against in 19th-century Zulu history – of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

He owned his own recording label and in the latter part of his life served on various boards and was active in the public relations industry.

President Ramaphosa said: “We have lost a cultural stalwart whose creativity gave depth, colour and lyricism to South Africa’s dramatic and complex history.

“While Welcome Msomi was exceptionally talented as an individual, he dedicated his energy, time and resources to the development of new generations of performers who would celebrate and showcase our nation’s cultural diversity.

“This investment in the future of our cultural communities is Welcome Msomi’s true legacy; one that will ensure that his inspiration lives on in his physical absence.”

Nigerian activists give President Buhari 14 days to provide answers over missing N300 billion

Nigeria’s Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has given President Muhammadu Buhari 14 days to “direct the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Mr Abubakar Malami, SAN, and appropriate anti-corruption agencies to urgently investigate allegations that over N300bn of public funds are missing, mismanaged, diverted or stolen, as documented in the 2017 audited report by the Auditor General of the Federation (AGF).”

SERAP also urged him to “ask Mr Malami and the anticorruption agencies to promptly investigate the extent and patterns of widespread and endemic corruption in the ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) indicted in the audited report. We urge you to take meaningful and effective measures to clean up an apparently entrenched system of corruption in these MDAs.”

In the letter dated 4 July, 2020 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “The 2017 audited report reveals grim allegations of mismanagement, diversion and stealing of public funds, as well as unaccounted-for spending. The report suggests a grave violation of the public trust, and that the indicted MDAs and the National Assembly lack effective and credible internal processes to prevent and combat corruption.”

According to SERAP, “Investigating and prosecuting the alleged grand corruption documented by the AGF would improve the chances of success of your government’s oft-repeated commitment to fight corruption and end the impunity of perpetrators. It will improve the integrity of MDAs, serve the public interest, as well as improve Nigerians’ access to public services and goods.”

SERAP said: “Any failure to promptly investigate the allegations and prosecute suspected perpetrators would breach Nigeria’s anti-corruption legislation, including the Public Procurement Act, the 1999 Nigerian Constitution (as amended) and the country’s obligations including under the UN Convention against Corruption and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to which Nigeria is a state party.”

The letter, read in part: “It would also mean that Nigeria is failing to fulfil the obligations under the covenant to use its “maximum of available resources” to progressively realize and achieve basic economic and social rights, including access of Nigerians to public services and goods like quality education, healthcare, clean water and regular electricity supply, as well as the right to honest public services.”

“SERAP has carefully analysed the 2017 audited report by the AGF and our analysis reveals the following grim allegations of mismanagement, diversion and stealing of public funds, as well as unaccounted-for spending.”

“The Federal Civil Service Commission spent ₦25,856,279.00 on behalf of Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs to develop online recruitment in April 2014 without any supporting memo from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and without due process. Although the project was suspended, the Commission went ahead and paid ₦25,856,279.00 for contract not executed. The AGF recommended the full recovery of the public funds.”

“The Commission granted cash advances totalling ₦8,590,000.00 to 25 officials between February and December, 2016 but failed to retire or account for the money. Also, ₦6,850,000.00 was paid for store items that were never supplied. Another ₦2,619,210.00 was spent without receipts. The AGF expressed concern that the money may have been misappropriated or stolen, and recommended the full recovery of public funds.”

“The former Chairman of the Commission whose tenure of office ended in May 2017 took away with him four vehicles (One Toyota Hilux, one 407 Classic Peugeot, One Toyota Land Cruiser Jeep and One Toyota Corolla) belonging to the Commission, despite the Monetization Policy of Government clearly stating that all vehicles of MDAs belong to the pool, and are not expected to be taken away as part of severance package at the expiration of an officer’s appointment.”

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs failed to show any receipts for the payment of ₦4,385,230,763.25 between January and December 2016. The Ministry also had no insurance cover for all its motor-vehicles, despite the budgetary allocation of ₦11,805,802.00 for insurance premium. The Ministry spent ₦105,000,000.00 to buy computer consumables, photocopy machine consumables, papers and other store items, contrary to official circular, and without any receipts. The AGF recommended the return of the money to the public treasury.”

“The Ministry also spent ₦72,000,030.00 to improve power supply to the Ministry but the contract for this was not captured in the 2017 appropriation. Despite the purported spending, power supply to the Ministry has not improved. Also, ₦7,520,000.00 was spent by 20 officials to visit 8 out-stations of the Ministry without due process and without any receipts. ₦234,622,718.00 was also spent but remained unretired or unaccounted for. The AGF recommended the full recovery of public funds.”

“The Ministry also paid ₦83,719,500.00 to a company for the rehabilitation and re-integration of released Chibok girls in August, 2017 without any agreement between the Ministry and the contractor, and without any evidence of purchase of the back-to-school materials, and job completion certificate. The AGF recommended the full recovery of public funds.”

“The Ministry also transferred a take-off grant of ₦83,317,257.00 for Consulate-General of Nigeria, Guangzhou to the personal account of the Ambassador of Nigeria in Rome in 2013 to be remitted to Guangzhou. But the money was never remitted to Guangzhou and has remained outstanding till date. The AGF expressed concern that the money may have been diverted and misappropriated, and recommended that the Ambassador of Nigeria in Rome whose account was used be asked to account for the money.”

“The Ministry of Justice disbursed ₦10,460,950,841.00 judgment debt in 2017 without due process. The committee to manage the funds was dissolved after 2013 financial year was not reconstituted as at the time of the 2016 and 2017 appropriations but funds were nonetheless disbursed. Also, ₦32,353,693.00 was spent between March and September 2017 on international travels without approval or evidence of spending. The AGF recommended the full recovery of public funds.”

“At the National Assembly, the House of Representatives spent ₦95,212,250.00 without due process and without any receipts. The National Assembly Management Accounts also showed spending of N673,081,242.14 between April–October 2017 without any documents. The AGF expressed concerns that the money may have been misappropriated and recommended that the Clerk of the National Assembly should fully recover the money and return it to the treasury.”

“The Senate also spent ₦1,364,816,397.95 to renovate a store at the National Assembly but the AGF was denied access to the store and records, thus expressing concerns that ‘public funds may have been diverted for unappropriated purposes.’ The AGF recommended that the Clerk of the National Assembly account for the money.”

“The National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies misappropriated ₦67,296,478.00, as payments were made to unknown persons. The AGF expressed concerns that the money may have been diverted and recommended that the Director-General should fully recover the money and return it to the treasury.”

“The Public Complaint Commission spent ₦63,826,941.30 on contract to renovate State offices in Delta, Kwara, Akwa– Ibom, Taraba, Borno, Ekiti and Niger States without due process, valuation certificates, and without receipts. The AGF expressed concerns that the money may have been diverted and recommended the full recovery of public funds.”

“The Federal Ministry of Water Resources spent ₦343,957,350.60 without due process, receipts, and without any evidence of work done or services rendered. Also, ₦14,993,950.00 granted as cash advances to staff was not accounted for. The AGF expressed concerns that the money may be missing and recommended that the Permanent Secretary is made to account for it.”

“The Lower Benue River Basin Development Authority, Makurdi misappropriated ₦42,277,285.50 of contract money for project management. Similarly, the National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria paid a contractor ₦33,425,000.00 in March 2017 for awareness training but there was no evidence that the contract was executed. The AGF expressed concerns that the money may have been diverted and recommended that the Executive Director should recover and return it to the treasury.”

“The Cross-River Basin Development Authority, Calabar, overpaid a contractor to the tune of ₦10,387,490.00 for construction of Link Road between Cross River and Ebonyi State without any justification. Also, ₦30,616,110.00 was spent for construction of erosion control works at Nguzu but remained unaccounted for. The AGF expressed concerns that the contractor may have received money for project not executed, and recommended that the Managing Director should recover the money and return it to the treasury.”

“The Lake Chad Research Institute, Maiduguri, Borno State failed to account for 2 Nos. Toyota Prado Jeeps which were purchased in 2013 and 2014 with registration No. 45KOIFG for one Jeep but the second Jeep was not registered, and no reason was given for this. The AGF expressed concerns that the Jeeps may have been diverted to private use, and asked the Executive Director to account for the vehicles.”

“The National Water Resources Institute, Mando Road, Kaduna paid ₦84,401,940.74 to a company on 4th May 2017, being 10% payment on the construction of a 2-story building for UNESCO without any existing contract, and without receipts. The AGF recommended the recovery of the money.”

“The Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency, Abuja paid ₦24,800,000.00 into a staff private account for production/prevention of the 2016 annual flood outlook (AFO) and without evidence of services performed. Another ₦31,439,300.00 was paid in September 2016 into the account of another staff for sensitization workshops. The AGF expressed concerns that the money may be missing and asked the Director-General to recover it.”

“The Hadejia – Jama’are River Basin Development Authority, Kano State paid ₦204,893,978.09 to contractors without any receipts. The Nigeria Institute for Oil Palm Research, Benin City, Edo State paid ₦210,921,849.66 and ₦30,010,963.65 without any receipts. Another ₦15,630,050.00 cash advances to staff in 2017 was also not accounted for, as at 2018. The AGF expressed concerns that the money may have been mismanaged and asked the Accounting Officer to recover it.”

“The Federal Capital Territory Administration spent ₦393,254,000.00 to support security agencies without due process and without receipts. Another ₦362,481,173.52 was paid for the procurement of stores locally without due process. The AGF expressed concerns that the money may be missing and asked the Permanent Secretary to recover it.”

“The Ecological Funds Office misappropriated ₦1,257,791,992.86 meant for contract for Canalization and Desilting of OKOKO and Ogbagba Rivers in Osogbo Township, Osun state. There was no evidence that ₦30,000,000.00 meant for compensation to owners of marked-to-demolish structures and economic trees affected by the project, received any payment. The AGF expressed concerns that the money may be missing and asked the Permanent Secretary to recover it.”

“The Office of The Head of The Civil Service of The Federation paid ₦301,984,103.00 for projects without accounting for it. ₦36,641,528.00 was also paid for seminars, conferences and workshops without any receipts. Also, ₦16,096,712.00 was spent on projects not executed. The AGF expressed concerns that the money may have been diverted and asked the Permanent Secretary to recover it.”  

“The Federal University of Petroleum Resources, Effurun spent ₦830,267,951.23 as Special Presidential Needs Assessment Phases I and II to the Federal University of Petroleum Resources, Warri for the Construction of Building, Procurement of Laboratory Equipment and Capacity Building/Staff training but the funds were misapplied. ₦190,495.824.75 was approved for a project to construct and furnish workshop and laboratory but the contractor was paid ₦199,324,657.10 and without any evidence of request by the contractor.”

“The University also spent ₦990,621,753.29 to construct and furnish a 3-storey, 4-floor structure Student Residential Building Complex but the contract for the spending was awarded without due process. Also, only a 2-storey, 3-floor building was constructed. Several other infractions are documented in the report. The AGF expressed concerns that the money may have been diverted and asked the Vice-Chancellor to account for it.”  

“The National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion spent ₦2,270,000.00 for a 2-day workshop but without any receipts. The AGF asked the Director-General to recover the money. The Nigerian Railway Corporation failed to remit ₦122,242,337.63 in taxes to the authorities. The National Power Training Institute of Nigeria (NAPTIN) paid ₦20,569,398.20 for supply of Power System Simulator without evidence of supply. It gave ₦6,187,393.50 as cash advances to 17 officers which remained unaccounted for.”

“The Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria paid ₦3,604,000.00 for the services of solicitors without the consent of the Attorney-General of the Federation. Another payment of ₦13,542,822.82 for the completion of machine tools workshop was made without contract agreement or receipts. In total, ₦126,533,197.08 was paid without contract agreement or receipts. The AGF expressed concerns that the funds may have been misappropriated and asked the Managing-Director to recover the money.”

“The National Health Insurance Scheme paid ₦4,931,475,094.63 as cash advances to staff without due process. ₦72,383,000.00 was also supposedly paid for verification exercise but the AGF found no evidence that the verification took place. Another ₦31,478,400.00 was purportedly paid for accreditation of Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) but again the AGF found no evidence of this.”

“The National Information Technology Development Agency paid ₦28,525,000.00 to a Security company for the production of procurement manuals for the Agency. 300 copies of the manual were produced although only 5 copies were needed and utilized, with a copy of the manual costing ₦95,083.33. The agency also paid ₦15,842,970.00 printer tonners.”

“There are several other infractions documented in the report, a copy of which can be obtained from the Auditor-General’s office.”

“We request that you take the recommended action within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter, failing which SERAP will institute legal proceedings to compel your government to act in the public interest.”

The letter was copied to Mr Abukabar Malami; Professor Bolaji Owasanoye, Chairman Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC); Ibrahim Mustafa Magu, Acting Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC); and Mrs Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning.

President of Ghana Nana Akufo-Addo goes into COVID-19 self-isolation

The President of Ghana Nana Akufo-Addo is going into self isolation for 14 days after a person in his close circle tested positive for coronavirus, the government said in a statement on Saturday without identifying the person involved.

“He has, as at today, tested negative, but has elected to take this measure out of abundance of caution,” the government said, adding that he took the advice of his doctors and will continue working while in isolation in compliance with COVID-19 protocols.

Ghana has recorded 19,388 coronavirus cases and 117 deaths.

The deputy trade and industry minister Carlos Kingsley Ahenkorah resigned on Friday for violating coronavirus self-isolation measures after he tested positive for the virus.

Nigeria is now polio-free and President Buhari has written world leaders to thank them

President Muhammadu Buhari has written world leaders and partners to appreciate their support towards helping Nigeria attain a Wild Polio Virus (WPV) free status, pledging that his administration would sustain the momentum and strengthen the primary health care system.

The President also commended Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Chairman Presidential Taskforce on Polio Eradication, and his team, for making Nigeria proud and saving her children from the scourge of poliomyelitis.

‘‘This is to express our profound appreciation for your leadership of the Presidential Taskforce on Polio Eradication and Routine Immunization.

‘‘The declaration of Nigeria as a Wild Polio free country is the result of your effective coordination of the Nigerian Polio eradication program through the Presidential Taskforce on Polio Eradication and Routine Immunization, Federal Ministry of Health and the National Primary Health Care Development Agency.

‘‘Please extend my personal appreciation to all members of the Presidential Taskforce on Polio Eradication for making Nigeria proud and saving her children from the scourge of Poliomyelitis.

‘‘I urge the Taskforce under your leadership to sustain this coordination especially in mobilizing State Governors to provide the needed oversight and resources to sustain the momentum and strengthen the primary health care system by improving routine immunization, maternal, newborn and child health services.

‘‘I urge you to sustain the momentum as I look forward to us leveraging on the polio infrastructure and experience to drive other health interventions,’’ the President wrote in the letter to Prof Osinbajo.

The President also wrote a separate letter to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, thanking the European country for decades of financial support to Polio Eradication Initiative (PEI) programme in Nigeria through KfW.

‘‘Please be assured that my Government will remain committed and focused to ensuring the needed resources will be provided to sustain the momentum and strengthen the primary health care system of our great Country,’’ the President said in his letter to Chancellor Merkel.

President Buhari also thanked traditional and religious leaders, who through their leadership built community trust for the polio programme thereby increasing acceptance and ensuring all eligible children are reached with the polio vaccine.

Specifically, he wrote Alhaji Muhammad Saad III, Sultan of Sokoto, the leadership of Jama’atul-Nasirl Islam (JNI) and the President, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN).

The President also wrote separate letters of appreciation to Bill Gates, the European Union, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization, Dr. Robert R. Redfield, Director, U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Henrietta Fore, Executive Director, United Nations Children’s Fund, David Malpass,  President, World Bank Group and John Barsa, Acting Administrator, United States Agency for International Development.

 Others are, Global Affairs Canada, Professor Shinichi Kitaoka, President, Japan International Cooperation Agency, and the International President, Rotary International.

President Buhari also appreciated the support of Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Chairman Aliko Dangote Foundation,  Sir (Dr) Emeka Offor and Governor Kayode Fayemi, in his capacity as the Chairman, Nigerian Governors Forum.

2023 isn’t the Igbo’s turn for presidency — it’s Nigerians’ – Perspectives by Fredrick Nwabufo

How much progress has Nigeria made with its ethnic-motility politics? Since 1999, we have had presidents of different ethnic extractions – Yoruba, Fulani, and Ijaw – who were largely elected on the portfolio of ethnicity and religion rather than on the content of their minds?  But how have we fared?

The Obasanjo administration despite investing billions of dollars, estimated to be around $16 billion, in the power sector, did not crack a fire; the country is still trolled by the undersupply of electricity. And subsequent administrations, including the current one are yet to find the X of the power problem. Other sectors – health and education — suffer the same kismet.

‘’Turn-by-turn presidency’’, which is strictly based on ethnicity and religion, will not turn around our ruined fortunes. The 2015 mistake was the fallout of this deprecating ‘’na-our-turn’’ arrangement. Becoming the president of the most populous black nation in the 21st century is not by character, qualifications, accomplishments, competence, and integrity but by the emulsion of ethnicity and religion. Tragic!

We cannot make progress this way.

Yes. I know I once made an argument for a president of Igbo extraction in 2023. My position was that we have to create a system which will engender unity, justice and fairness for all citizens. But this does not negate the very important place of competence for leadership. Competence trounces every other consideration in the checklist of leadership.

As a matter of fact, the current arrangement exacerbates corruption because whatever leadership that is trumped up by this orthodoxy will see power not as a means to build the nation, but as an avenue to corner resources to its own part of the country.  That is what is happening now.

We have an administration, which without scruples and with defiance, peopled the security architecture with 97 percent of officers from a section of the country. And we have a president who has not flinched in letting everyone know that the section of the country which gave him 97 percent vote must be treated better than the section which gave him ‘’5 percent’’ vote.  This is the consequence of ‘’turn-by-turn’’ political ordering.

We are likely to make the same mistakes of 2015 and 2019 in 2023 if we persist on this patched path.

This brings me to the question: What is really our national interest? Do we have a national interest? Or are there disparate interests? In essence, Hausa interest, Igbo interest, Yoruba interest and Christian/Muslim interest? Perhaps, our national interest is dependent on the religious or ethnic background of the leadership of the day. Whichever way it swings, it is predicated on the primordial.

Our ethnically-charged selection process influences all aspects of our national life. At a time of grave insecurity, there is no urgency to curb the incursion of armed herders from outside the country. This is despite reports that some of the bandits terrorising the country are foreigners from Niger Republic. The reasoning is that the leadership of the day is dithering because of the umbilical cord of ethnicity.

The way forward for us is obviously not ethnic politics, which has held us down for years. As I said in my previous article, ‘We must renounce our tribal identities; I’m Nigerian Not Igbo’, we must begin to erode ‘’tribal identities’’ and to build the ‘’Nigerian identity’’ to make progress as one country.

We need a Nigerian leadership to foster a sense of nationhood among the variegated peoples of the country. The more we emphasise ethnicity and religion in our politics the further we are divided along these devious lines.

Nigerians need a Nigerian president in 2023 NOT — an Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa or Fulani president — a leader who has been tested with responsibility and leadership; a president for all. These people are not in short supply here.

Fredrick Nwabufo is a writer and journalist

Twitter: @FredrickNwabufo

WHO discontinues hydroxychloroquine and lopinavir/ritonavir treatment arms for COVID-19

WHO on Saturday accepted the recommendation from the Solidarity Trial’s International Steering Committee to discontinue the trial’s hydroxychloroquine and lopinavir/ritonavir arms, the organization said in a statement.

The Solidarity Trial was established by WHO to find an effective COVID-19 treatment for hospitalized patients.

“The International Steering Committee formulated the recommendation in light of the evidence for hydroxychloroquine vs standard-of-care and for lopinavir/ritonavir vs standard-of-care from the Solidarity trial interim results, and from a review of the evidence from all trials presented at the 1-2 July WHO Summit on COVID-19 research and innovation. 

“These interim trial results show that hydroxychloroquine and lopinavir/ritonavir produce little or no reduction in the mortality of hospitalized COVID-19 patients when compared to standard of care. Solidarity trial investigators will interrupt the trials with immediate effect. 

“For each of the drugs, the interim results do not provide solid evidence of increased mortality. There were, however, some associated safety signals in the clinical laboratory findings of the add-on Discovery trial, a participant in the Solidarity trial. These will also be reported in the peer-reviewed publication. 

“This decision applies only to the conduct of the Solidarity trial in hospitalized patients and does not affect the possible evaluation in other studies of hydroxychloroquine or lopinavir/ritonavir in non-hospitalized patients or as pre- or post-exposure prophylaxis for COVID-19. The interim Solidarity results are now being readied for peer-reviewed publication,” the WHO added.

South Africa mourns veteran actress Mary Twala

President Cyril Ramaphosa has expressed his deep sadness at the passing of veteran actor and Esteemed Member of the Order of Ikhamanga, Ms Mary Twala.

Mama Twala passed away today, Saturday, 04 July 2020. She was aged 80.

President Cyril Ramaphosa bestows the Order of Ikhamanga in Silver to Mary Twala Mhlongo at the Sefako Makgatho Presidential Guesthouse in Pretoria. (Photo: GCIS)
President Cyril Ramaphosa bestows the Order of Ikhamanga in Silver to Mary Twala Mhlongo at the Sefako Makgatho Presidential Guesthouse in Pretoria. (Photo: GCIS)

The distinguished thespian was awarded the Order of Ikhamanga in 2019 in recognition of the  versatility and longevity of her creative career.

During her exceptional career, Ms Twala-Mhlongo starred in many television and film productions, Sarafina, A Love in Africa and Taxi to Soweto, for which she won a Best Supporting Actress award. 

She also had leading roles in Soul Buddyz, Yizo-Yizo and Hlala Kwabafileyo, which won her a Best Comedy Performer award. In 2011, she was nominated as the Best Supporting Actress at the Sixth Africa Movie Academy Awards.

President Ramaphosa extends his deep condolences to Ms Twala-Mhlongo’s family, friends, colleagues and fans.

The President said: “Like millions of South Africans, I am saddened by the passing of a great icon of our nation’s creative community; someone who was a household name and face to all of us and brought home the joys, the struggles and the humour under pressure that characterises our national life.

“We have lost a unique talent and an endearing human being whose performances brought to life the meaning of being South African, and appealed to South Africans of all generations. We will miss her dearly.”

President Buhari commends Nigerian student Ikenna Nweke who shocked Japan by returning missing wallet with huge sums of money in it

President Muhammadu Buhari has sent warm greetings and commendation to a Nigerian doctorate student in University of Tsukuba, Japan, Mr Ikenna Nweke, who returned a missing wallet with huge sums of money to the police, and also turned down offer of a percentage by the authorities.

President Buhari saluted Nweke for projecting the values of honesty, integrity and contentment that should be the hallmark of a people, noting that good virtues and propriety are the hallmark of every culture in Nigeria, while crimes and criminalities are exceptions.

The President said he believes Nweke’s behaviour, coming at a period that the country needs a positive spotlight and close-up on its real values, clearly signposts what should hold the nation together, inspired by solid foundations laid by most families, religious bodies and communities for success in life.

President Buhari wished Nweke all the best in his studies and work as a teaching assistant in same university, urging all Nigerians, home and abroad, to keep celebrating the age-old, irreplaceable attributes of honesty and decorum, and shun the microwaved, get-rich-quick tendencies that bring individual and collective shame.

error: Alert: Content is protected !!