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INTERVIEW: COVID-19: What We Discussed With Buhari – PTF Chairman Mustapha

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…As President Muhammadu Buhari receives briefing from Presidential Task Force on COVID-19

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, on Sunday, led members of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 to a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari.

After the meeting which held at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, Mr Mustapha, who is the PTF chairman, addressed journalists on what was discussed at the meeting.

Excerpts:

SGF: This is part of a routine exercise. I think this is about the third time that we have had cause to submit an interim report to him on our activities as task force and also to update him on preparation for the other phases of engagement. And we have supplied him with all the materials that is required to look at the issues. Because, we are in for the long hurl, this is not a short distance race, it’s a marathon and we have to keep everything in perspective. But remember on the 27th of April, he addressed the nation and put in place the easing down of the lockdown effective from the 4th of May. From the 4th of May to date is about 13 days, tomorrow we should expect new processes to be put in place. But we have to give him all the material details will help us in preparing for the future. So that is why we are here.

Q: Can the PTF say the action has achieved its purpose.?

SGF: Yes. We had three objectives and I can say to a large extent we have achieved these objectives. We might not be there totally but I am confident that looking at the strategies that we are putting in place, going forward we will strengthen those objectives that we have substantially achieved which are purpose driven in terms of dealing with COVID-19 and like I said it is not a 100-metre race, it is a marathon. So at every point in time you put in place the strategy and move forward and that is what we are doing. I can assure that what proposals we have brought today for Mr President’s consideration, I think holistically, it will put us in a better frame to deal with the future.

Q: PTF repeatedly expressed worry over the behaviour of Nigerians, what is the situation now?

SGF: That is one of the set backs that I can say. There was a poll that was conducted over the last two weeks covering all facets of segments and demography of people, 99 per cent of Nigerians said they are aware of COVID-19, they have listened to publicity materials, jingles and the information that has been put out there by the ministry of information and the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control. But different percentages that have different perspective, some 26 per cent said that they are immune, with that kind of a mindset, when someone said he is immune, it means that he will not use the face mask he will not observe social distancing, he will not stay at home when he is supposed to stay at home. And different percentages have ascribed different levels of understanding of what COVID-19 is. But the most important thing is for us to drive home, community ownership, let the community understand that there is a COVID-19 that is deadly, that can ravage their health and their wealth and the most important thing for them to do is for them to take personal responsibility in dealing with it. How do they take responsibility? All of them should be overseers of their communities, watch out for people who have symptoms and urged them to report at the nearest health facility and get tested and if they are confirmed positive, their contacts can be traced and they will be taken into care, that is the most important thing to do. COVID-19 is not going to go away in the next one or two months, whoever tells you that is not being realistic. No vaccine is in the horizon, we are talking about 18 months to two years before vaccines would be confirmed for human use as far as COVID-19. And unless we get there, it means is that it will remain.

It might have cycles, after the first cycle of pandemic, they might be a relief, there can be a resurgence and that is evidenced all over the world. It has happened before as is the nature of infections. So, I believe that what we are going to do now as a taskforce is to come down to the level of having the communities take ownership of the response. We have developed a national response which has been cascaded to the states but the communities must plug into the national response. Where we have primary health care centres all over the country, they can be used as stations of reporting of surveillance within a particular community, of tracing, of tracking so that we can take out those that we suspect have exhibited symptoms or have come in contact with people who have exhibited symptoms for testing and isolation. That way you plug them out of the community and reduce the risk of transmission. That is basically what we are working on

We have been preaching that in the last one week. All our press conferences, we emphasised that there must be a change and there must be a paradigm shift to community responsibility because we believe we have gotten to the stage of community transmission and the only way you can deal with community transmission is when you give the responsibility back to the community, not in terms of treating people, no. In terms of being conscious and aware of the fact that this thing is in our community and we have the collective resolve to ensure that we protect our people, particularly the aged, the sick, the ones that have underlying health conditions that are easily susceptible to the fatalities of COVID-19. And that is why as a task force we have stood very strong against congregations. Congregations are the easiest places where you can get infected in terms of transmission and that is why we try as much as possible to discourage congregations in all that we do. Because, the aged, the sick and the vulnerable will turn up in congregations and once they get infected it becomes another ball game all together. And so the zeal now and the drive will be geared towards community ownership.

Q: What did the president tell you?

SGF: Well, the president expressed his satisfaction that in spite of the difficulties and the fact that as a nation, we lack the capable infrastructure looking at what is happening to the developed world, where countries that have traditionally established health institutions with all the palliatives, with all the privileges, with all the schemes that guide its people have crumbled as a result of COVID-19, we are still standing and doing our best under the circumstances to ensure that we provide the necessary direction. So he expressed his satisfaction with the PTF, the minister of health and Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, which are integral part of the taskforce and all the multi-sectoral ministries that are involved in this work – the armed forces, the police, the kind of cooperation we have received from them, without them we wouldn’t have recorded the modest successes that we have achieved. So he expressed his appreciation (to those) that have contributed to where we are today.
Our numbers are going up but you have to consider that our mortality too is not as drastic as it’s being expected.

Q: Have you received the Madagascan remedy?

SGF: I understand it’s been brought by…I will take delivery probably tomorrow, Monday. The president has already said it will be scientifically dealt with, it is only after that that he can allow it to be tested. But that has been our position that whatever comes in, whatever cure, whatever solution that is being provided must be subjected to a process of validation. The minister of health has institutions under his ministry that are charged statutorily with the processes of validation. Anything that we will receive, anything that is locally developed must go through the processes of validation before we will allow it.

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PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS: AVIATION MINISTER, PERMANENT SECRETARY SIGN AGREEMENT

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In furtherance of the implementation of the Performance Management System in the nation’s public service, the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Abubakar Sirika, has signed a Performance Management commitment with the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Dr. Emmanuel Meribole.

A statement by Dr James Odaudu
Special Assistant to the Minister of Aviation on Public Affairs stated that the Performance management agreement was signed at a ministerial retreat organised by the Ministry in Abuja.

Speaking at the event Senator Sirika expressed appreciation to President Muhammadu Buhari for granting approval to the Head of Civil Service of the Federation to introduce the Performance Management System (PMS) in the Service, as the PMS is meant to change the old APER system used to appraise the performance of civil servants to determine their promatability to their next grade levels.

According to the Minister, the new system provides a platform that ensures a reliable assessment of officers, ensuring that promotion is purely based on verifiable merit.

The retreat with the theme “Delivering on the Aviation Roadmap through effective Performance Management System “ provided the latitude for the Permanent Secretary to sign a compact agreement on his key deliverable areas in line with the mandate of the Ministry and the nation’s sustainable goals.
The Retreat was also used by the Directors of the Ministry to sign their own compact agreements with the Permanent Secretary.

During the signing, the Honourable Minister eulogized the competency of the Permanent Secretary and for his vision in bringing together Directors of the Minister to have robust discussions and evaluation of the Seven (7) Aviation Roadmap envisioned by him on assumption of duty in 2015. He urged Directors of the Ministry to continue to give their supports to the Permanent Secretary for the purpose of delivering on the mandate of the Ministry and presidential deliverables.

Also speaking at the Retreat, the Permanent Secretary, Dr Emmanuel Meribole acknowledged the commitment of the minister to the welfare of the Ministry’s staff, and creating an appropriate environment for the realisation of the ministry’s mandate.

He reiterated the commitment of the management and staff of the ministry to the successful implementation of the aviation roadmap which is at the completion stage.

The Retreat, anchored by Diadems Global Support Services, a Consultancy outfit, had papers presented on “Ministerial Mandates and the Roadmap “; Emotional Intelligence “; Health and Wellness; and “Performance Management “.

The Retreat which began on Thursday 26th January, is expected to end with a Communique on Saturday.

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Buhari Appoints Prof Abdullahi Mohammed FCT SUBEB Chairman, Approves Constitution Of 3 Boards In FCT

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*President Muhammadu Buhari, has approved the constitution of three Boards in the Federal Capital Territory Administration.*

The constituted boards under the supervision of the FCT Minister of State, Dr. Ramatu Tijjani Aliyu, are FCT Universal Basic Education, FCT Area Council Service Commission, and FCT Primary Health Care Board respectively.

A letter from the office of the Chief of Staff to the President disclosed that the approval was sequel to a request made by the FCT Minister of State, Dr. Ramatu Tijjani Aliyu, in a letter dated December 21, 2022.

The 14-member appointed to oversee the activities of the FCT Universal Basic Education Board include Abdullahi Mohammed, a Professor of Public Administration, as Chairman, Sule Alhassan as Secretary, Murtala Usman Karshi as member. Hon. Mohammed Angulu Loko, Adaji Usman, Hassan Musa Mohammed and Haj. Binta Mohammed Mayana, are also expected to serve as members of the FCT-UBEB board.

Other members include Haj. Aisha Ibrahim Baiye, Hon. Dapo Olutekunbi, Comr. Suleiman Ango, Hamidu Sarki, Hafsat Ismail, Adamu Mohammed Galadima and Ndatsu Mohammed.

Members appointed to manage the affairs of the FCT Area Council Service Commission include Hon. Audi Haruna Shekwolo as Chairman, Musa Loko as Administrative Secretary, Alh. Usman Yahaya, as Permanent Member 1, and Prince Suleiman Tanko Abubakar, as Permanent Member 2,.

Others include Yuda Pius Azana as member, Haj. Rakiya Ibrahim, Mrs. Nike Abubakar, Malam Rajab Yabagi, Haj. Aisha Adamu, Abdullahi Galadima and Alh. Shuaibu Umar.     

While the 12-member appointed to oversee the activities of the FCT Primary Health Care Board include Sen. Usman Jibril Wowo as Chairman, Dr. Isah Yahaya Vatsa as Secretary, Mrs. Sarauniya E. Erondu as Resident member, Haj. Amina Idris, and a representative of FCDA Director.

Others include a representative of Area Council Services Secretariat Director, Chairman of ALGON FCT Chapter, Director of FCT Treasury, General Manager FCT Health Management Board, Executive Secretary FCT Health Insurance Scheme, Chairman NMSA FCT branch and Chairman JOHESU, FCT branch.

The boards that will be inaugurated soon are expected to facilitate the administrative process in the FCT Universal Basic Education, FCT Area Council Service Commission, and FCT Primary Health Care Board respectively.

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We’re Committed to Free, Fair and Credible Elections – INEC Chairman

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By Emmanuel Oloniruha

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says it’s leaving no stone unturned in its quest to ensure hitch-free and credible 2023 general election.

INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu said this when he addressed the press at Chatham House, London, on Tuesday.

Yakubu said that INEC was satisfied with the level of its of preparations for the election, saying that 11 out of 14 activities scheduled for the election had been accomplished.

He, however, said that in spite of extensive preparations, there were still some outstanding issues and challenges of concern, some of which were beyond INEC.

Yakubu said that one of the problems had to do with the current security challenges in the country and the possible impact on the election.

He said security challenges in many African countries remained source of concern for election managers.

“For many years, Nigeria has been grappling with its own insecurity in the North-East, the long-standing Boko Haram insurgency has continued, albeit with attacks now more intermittent than regular.

“In the North-West and the North-Central, banditry, terrorism and the herder-farmer conflicts remain major challenges.

“In the South-South, the threat of renewed insurgency by groups demanding more share of petroleum revenue to the Niger Delta continues to simmer.

“In the South-West, although an earlier surge by a group demanding independence for the region has considerably dissipated, recent violent attacks on places of worship, rise in the activities of violent cults and kidnapping groups, as well as a history of violence involving groups seeking to control markets and motor parks remain strong,” he said.

Yakubu added: “In the South-East, the lingering agitation for separatism championed by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) pose a major security threat.

“Not only have violent attacks by a number of armed groups increased, the long-standing weekly lockdown of the five States in that geo-political zone, continue to disrupt social and economic activities”.

He said that violence and threat of violence were major challenges to organising credible election in 2023.

He said that violence could make deployments for elections difficult, particularly where some of the attacks targeted at the electoral process and participants.

Yakubu, however, said the commission had been working with security agencies and other stakeholders to establish mechanisms to understand, track and mitigate security challenges.

“We are working collaboratively in the context of the Inter-agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES).

“We also have the Election Violence Mitigation and Advocacy Tool (EVMAT), which is a research and diagnostic tool for predicting and mitigating election violence prior to elections.

“In addition, there is the Election Risk Management Tool (ERM), which tracks and reports general risks to elections.

“In all, we feel assured by the actions we have taken and our collaboration with the security agencies. The 2023 general election will proceed as planned. There is no plan to postpone the election,” he said.

The INEC boss said that another challenge was the fate of Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) and rising attacks on INEC facilities, materials and staff.

He said that although INEC had revised its policy on IDPs voting, it was difficult to identify IDPs in some states as they lived in host communities or extended family members or in communities where they were not registered voters.

“As a result, it is very difficult for the Commission to provide necessary electoral services to such IDPs. However, those in camps within Nigeria will be catered for in line with the commission’s policy,” he said.

Yakubu said that between 2019 and 2022 INEC experienced 50 attacks on its facilities, mostly in the form of arson and vandalisation.

He said that the 2022 attacks constituted the deepest concerns for INEC.

‘’This is so not only because they are increasingly happening closer to the general election, but also because some of them seem to be coordinated,” he said.

He said that the implication of the attacks was that those facilities must be rebuilt and several election materials must be replaced.

“Further, the commission and security agencies must have to increase the number of their personnel to these facilities.

“Nevertheless, the commission is determined to continue its preparations for the general election in spite of these attacks.

“So far, all the destroyed facilities will be rebuilt, or alternatives found, and the materials lost are being replaced.

“However, the commission has repeatedly called for more concerted efforts to control the attacks,” he said.

He listed other challenges to include campaign violence, fake news and disinformation, campaign finance and vote buying as well as litigations.

Yakubu said that in spite of the challenges, INEC had promised Nigerians and friends of Nigeria that the 2023 general election would be free, fair, credible and inclusive.

“We have left no stone unturned in preparing for it, in spite of several challenges.

“But all elections, especially those involving the type of extensive national deployment like we do in Nigeria, will naturally come with challenges.

“We have worked closely with stakeholders and development partners to confront these challenges and we are satisfied with our preparations so far.

“Our commission does not take the pledge that we have repeatedly made to Nigerians lightly. We are leaving no stone unturned in our preparations,” he said.

Yakubu renewed INEC’s commitment to serving Nigerians only as an independent body.

“We cherish the institutional independence and integrity of the commission.

“With the enthusiasm of Nigerians, the goodwill of stakeholders and partners, and the commitment of the Commission, we believe that the 2023 general election will be among the best conducted in Nigeria,” he said.

He acknowledged that there were enormous expectations, both within Nigeria and outside, on the conduct and management of the election.

Yakubu said that those expectations placed a great responsibility on INEC, a responsibility that was not taken lightly.

“We appreciate that there are challenges and concerns. But we also realise that there is enormous goodwill and support, both in Nigeria and beyond,” he said.(NAN)

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