Month: July 2020

Edo Jobs-backed innovator installs COVID-19 prevention tool kit at Benin Airport

The Edo State Skills Development Agency (EdoJobs) has scored another first as one of the entrepreneurs at its facility, the Edo Production Centre, has developed a coronavirus (COVID-19) prevention tool kit for use in public facilities, which has now been installed at the Benin Airport, in furtherance of the state government’s effort to boost local industrial capacity.

Executive Director, EdoJobs, Ukinebo Dare, who disclosed this during a chat with journalists, said the Governor Godwin Obaseki-led administration has provided the enabling environment for businesses to thrive in the state and a platform for entrepreneurs to contribute to building the state’s industrial base.

According to her, “An entrepreneur who runs Almetech RL at the Edo Production Centre (EPC) has developed an automated kit for prevention of coronavirus (COVID-19) in public places. It is an automated equipment that uses censors and allows for ease of use. The machine has been installed at the Benin Airport for use by passengers and we believe it is a major boost for entrepreneurs and others working in the state.”

She added that the materials used in fabricating the equipment were sourced locally, noting that the EPC provides a space for production of such equipment so as to boost the state’s industrial base.

“The equipment was fabricated at the EPC and we are very proud of what has been done. We would be seeing more of these as the state government has rolled out plans to replicate the model on Sapele Road in other locations in Benin and other parts of the state,” she noted.


Group worries over rising cases of COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria

A group, Centre for Change, has expressed worries over the rising cases of COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria, urging both Federal and State Governments to adhere strictly to COVID-19 protocols.

Its President, Dr Joe Okei-Odumakin, expressed the concern in a statement on Monday in Lagos.

Okei-Odumakin decried the spikes in cases due to what she described as “the loose approach” adopted by the governments and people’s nonchalant attitude to observance of the protocols.

“All over now, the COVID-19 protocols, especially face masks, and the observance of physical distancing, are not strictly adhered to.

“Laws have been enacted for enforcement, but these, too, have been exploited in the main by unscrupulous officials to further fleece people and feather their own nests.

“These, then, are sure recipes for further community spreading of the virus.

“Efforts at lockdown, having failed owing to its fainthearted implementation as well as outright sabotage by those meant to enforce it, the authorities appear in a quandary on how to prosecute this war,” she said.

The group president said with 555 new cases of the Coronavirus infection reported last night by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Nigeria had eventually crossed the 40,000 threshold.

“The total number of infections now stand at 40,532. Discharged cases are 17,374, while deaths recorded stand at 858.

“Ironically, as the spike in infections continues, the dread of the virus among Nigerians appears to wane.

“Many Nigerians go about their life as if unmindful of the existence or viciousness of the virus.

“Virtual all aspects of economic life have been opened fully or partially, including schools and places of worship in many states of the federation.

“The initial tough stance of the Federal Government in its handling of the pandemic has also waned.

“So, also has its breathing down the neck of state governments ceased,” Okei-Odumakin said.

She noted that the state governments had now assumed the independence to take steps to open up their states at their discretion, often at variance with Federal Government directives or opinions on the matter.

According to her, states too, are not coordinated in their respective decisions, leading to divergence of views and decisions from state to state.

She noted that analysts were of the opinion that these uncoordinated approaches were reasons for the spike in the case of infections.

The right activist added that other reasons adduced include: lack of good examples by those in leadership positions in that they blatantly violated the COVID-19 protocols for all to see.

“It is not surprising, therefore, that many highly placed citizens have been known to have contracted the virus.

“While many of them have survived, a few high profile fatalities have been recorded,” she said.

Okei-Odumakin said that getting accurate data was problematic as cases of infections and fatalities were usually concealed or attributed to other sources.

“Many, both high and low, still regard it as a stigma to announce that someone close to them died of COVID-19.

““The poverty level on the side of the vast majority of people coupled with the lean resources of government to provide palliatives make another nationwide lockdown a nightmare, even as the country has yet to get to the plateau of infections.

“There is, therefore, no denying the fact that in the days and weeks ahead, the country will continue to witness a spike in infections.

“With costs of treatment on the rise, facilities and equipment getting inadequate, and many who cannot find space in designated isolation centres or cannot afford the cost resorting to self help or treatment at home, the last has not been heard on the COVID-19 pandemic on these shores,” Okei-Odumakin said.


COVID-19: How FG spent N15.8bn on hazard allowances ― Ngige

The Federal Government says it has so far spent N15.8 billion on hazard allowances in its teaching hospitals and medical centres across the country.

Sen. Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment, disclosed this while addressing newsmen at a meeting with the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) leadership on Monday in Abuja.

The meeting was held to assess the level of implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) entered by both parties and to avert strike threat by health workers.

Ngige said a resolution has been reached and all disputes resolved, assuring that the federal government was committed to health workers’ safety and welfare.

“The federal government has so far spent N15.8 billion naira for hazard allowances in its teaching hospitals, medical centres and some other non- COVID-19 facilities where doctors have also been treating virus cases.

“Government has cleared the April and May special allowances which is no doubt a big feat, knowing that this is for special allowances only, and at a time its earning has fallen short of the expected earning.

“The affected medical personnel will also draw their normal salaries and other allowances,” he said.

The minister further said that the June allowances were still outstanding because the budget has been affected by developments not originally captured, such as pay for house officers, interns, NYSC doctors and volunteers.

He, however, added that government was already liaising with the Presidential Taskforce to sort out especially for volunteers.

Ngige also said that the 20 per cent top-up for all health personnel inside the COVID-19 wards and isolation centres of the hospitals should be effected as quickly as possible.

He noted that hence, a directive was given to the Ministry of Health and the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation to reconcile all matters relating to the issue by August 4, to enable urgent payment.

He also said the issue of Residency Training Fund was captured in the 2020 budget.

“We noticed that the subhead captured in the service-wide vote will need some amendment by the Budget Office in liaison with the National Assembly to handle the problem, so that implementation can start as soon as possible,” Ngige said.

He also said the government has paid all the premium for Group Life Insurance spanning between April 17, 2020 and April 16, 2021 for all federal civil servants except those in the revenue generating agencies such as customs, FIRS and NNPC who could afford their own insurance.

The minister added that agreement has been reached to forward the nominal roll of the Health Ministry workers and its parastatals to the six handling insurance companies latest next week.

He added that problems arising from the consequential adjustment of the minimum wage in the Health Ministry, especially those on GIFMIS, non-regular staff such as interns and NYSC members, would be resolved as soon as NARD submitted the list of affected workers.

He further said that government would continue to appreciate the untiring efforts of all health workers.

“President Muhammadu Buhari at every time, remembers and thanks you for the immense sacrifice you make for the nation and firmly believes that nothing is too much to do for you to show appreciation.

“Government will do more to protect the health of our people,” Ngige said.

He advised trade unions to always follow due process in seeking redress for disputes, arguing that first in line was negotiation with the parent ministry who was their primary employer.

Dr Aliyu Sokomba, NARD President, commended the government for its commitment and expressed optimism that progress would be made by the time the meeting reconvenes.

The meeting will reconvene on Aug. 6, to take stock of the implementation of the agreement reached.

It also set up a committee to resolve the lingering problem between the management of the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital and NARD.

The meeting was attended by the Minister of State for Labour, Festus Keyamo, Minister of State for Health, Sen. Olorunimbe Mamora, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Labour and Employment.


Nigeria discharges 829 COVID-19 patients

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) says 829 COVID-19 patients were discharged on Monday.

The NCDC in a tweet said the number was the highest in one day since the index case was reported on Feb. 27.

Nigeria, It said, has successfully treated  18,203 cases of COVID-19.

The  NCDC data showed that 648 new COVID-19 infections were recorded in 21 states across the country, which brought the total number of confirmed cases to 41,180.

It stated that regrettably two deaths were recorded in the country. 

The health agency said that the new COVID-19 infections were reported in Lagos, 180, Plateau, 148, FCT, 44, Ondo, 42,  Kwara, 38, Rivers, 32,  Oyo, 29, Kaduna, 21 and Osun, 20.

Others  were Edo and Ogun, 17 each,  Ekiti, 11, Kano, Benue, Delta and Abia, 9 each,  Niger, 7,  Gombe, 3, Borno, Bauchi and Imo, 1 each.

According to it, till date, 41,180 cases have been confirmed, 18,203 cases, discharged and 860 deaths recorded in 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory. 

It noted that a multi-sectoral national emergency operations centre (EOC), activated at Level 3, would continue to coordinate the national response activities across the country. 

The Federal Government underscored the need for Nigerians to protect the older population and the most vulnerable from infection by giving special attention to risk communication and priority for admission for observation and treatment.

The government said that of utmost concern were  still the asymptomatic cases  with the potential to spread the disease, of whom the young and able-bodied could be difficult to manage. 


Man Battles For His Life After Assault By Abia COVID-19 Taskforce Officer

A middle-aged man whose name could not be disclosed is currently battling for his dear life following several punches and serial assault by enforcement officers attached to Umuahia North Covid-19 protocol enforcement team. Trouble started when the victim, a commercial tricycle operator who approached a checkpoint opposite the General Post office in the capital city and was stopped by the taskforce officers. It was discovered that one of his passengers was not wearing the mandatory face mask.

She was said to have hurriedly searched for it from his bag before the team attacked the Keke rider for carrying a passenger allegedly violating COVID-19 safety protocol. The officers directed the Keke operator to take the vehicle to the local council headquarters and as he was still asking the taskforce member to take it easy, he received a deadly blow on his face, with three other punches coming simultaneously before the victim lost his balance and slumped lifelessly on the road. The scenario attracted passersby who gathered to see the end of the Thursday afternoon drama while the attacker fumed in his rage over what he saw as belittling by the tricycle operator. But when it became obvious that the Keke Operator may not be coming back so soon, the crowd became violent and insisted that the task force staff single-handedly convey his victim to hospital. In the melee that ensued, the irate mob started manhandling the taskforce staff who after taking the heat for a while, made well his escape after taking to his heels and running into the council headquarters. The irate mob that went after him was stopped from entering the premises of Umuahia North Council area by the Civil Defense officers at the entrance gate who jammed it after the culprit raced through the gate while all efforts to get him out to attend to the lifeless Keke Operator proved abortive.

The victim who from all indications was in danger was later taken to the Police Clinic along Bende road for medical attention while every effort made to ascertain the state of the health of the unlucky Keke Operator was not gotten as at the time of filing in this report.

I contracted COVID-19 from eating with people, not observing social distancing –Owode, Osun agency boss

Dr Isiaka Owode is the Executive Chairman, Education Quality Assurance and Morality Enforcement Agency in Osun State. The 66-year-old, who recently survived the coronavirus, shares his experience with BOLA BAMIGBOLA

How does it feel being a COVID-19 survivor?

It is not a death sentence. That is one thing people should take away. Once all the symptoms are treated, you are back to yourself. I thank God. I’m out of the place (isolation centre) now. I thank the healthcare personnel. It started like a normal fever, body ache, cold, etc., and I was treated for fever. After three to four days, the symptoms persisted and it was getting worse, with severe difficulty breathing, which is a major symptom of COVID-19. By that time, I was invited to the isolation centre at Asubiaro, Osogbo. But before then, I had done the test, and on Saturday (July 11, 2020) morning, it came out positive. I thank God because I have got over it. The health officials were well-prepared for it. Everything needed at the intensive care unit was there — oxygen, complete medication, etc. They started with the administration of medication and I was placed on oxygen.

How many days did you spend at the isolation centre?

I spent four days there before I was told I was fit and well enough to go home and was also given some more medication. I would advise our people, especially the elderly ones and people with underlying health issues like diabetes, cancer, asthma and high blood pressure, not to be careless with their health. COVID-19 is not malaria. What it does, especially in the area of difficulty in breathing, malaria does not do that. Malaria only weakens the body, causes loss of appetite and others, but this one (COVID-19) targets the lungs. Gradually, the oxygen intake, which should be around 95 to 96, begins to reduce to 60 to 64. At that point, one begins to struggle to breathe. I didn’t know the state hospital, Asubiaro, was that well-equipped and the caregivers were fantastic. They showed due care and courtesy; they would encourage you to eat and take your drugs, which is crucial because the loss of appetite is another outcome of (COVID-19).

When did you first notice the signs that you may have been infected?19

I think about 10 days ago (July 10), I was feeling weak and tired and, gradually, my breathing was becoming difficult but I had not been tested then. So, I thought it was malaria and we treated malaria. But the breathing wasn’t getting better. One of my personal doctor friends came in to have a look and gave me medication. The result was not out then, so we didn’t know whether it was COVID-19 or not. He started treating me and placed me on oxygen to relieve me of the breathing issue. After one night with his treatment, the result came and it (test result) was positive and the COVID-19 task force team said I must go to the isolation centre at Asubiaro.

What was your first reaction when you tested positive?

It is nothing to be scared about because we know that more people are being treated than those that die. That is a statistical fact all over the world. Unfortunately, in Nigeria, we have some notable deaths, like those of Abba Kyari, Abiola Ajimobi, Bayo Osinowo and others. But people are surviving the treatment, especially when you go early. Going for treatment is crucial once you feel unpleasant, especially in terms of breathing. Fortunately, the Osun facility turned out to be great. Everything was ready and they commenced treatment immediately.

How did you get infected?

I wish I knew. Everyone at the club I attend knew I was notorious for being fanatical about everyone wearing face masks and observing social distancing, especially during the lockdown. I didn’t go out. But there are many carriers who don’t show symptoms and that is why we are urged to wear a face mask. There is nowhere you go that people will not talk. Once they talk, there is no way fluids won’t come out, though it may not be noticeable. But if you are too close that it lands on you, it becomes a problem. It’s very difficult to pinpoint the source of the infection but I think it’s largely from eating with people and not wearing a face mask or observing social distancing.

How did your immediate family react when you tested positive?

They knew it wasn’t a death sentence. The awareness was there already. People knew notable names had been infected and survived it. I think it’s only in very rare cases of morbidity where patients have underlying health issues previously that could result in complications. My family members were with me as much as possible and were also taking care of themselves.

Can you describe the most fearful feeling you had during your battle with the virus?
The whole fear obviously is about dying. It would be at the back of one’s mind that death was the possible consequence. People have died as a result of it and they went in like that too and some complications may set in. Obviously, dying was one of the worries. But you develop a strong feeling and believe in yourself, put that (fear) behind and take your medications. I think the world is lucky that though there is no confirmed vaccine for the virus, at least, the treatment is working so far. My family prayed and I was praying as well. I think after two days, people noticed I was out of danger, my breathing stabilised and oxygen level was normal and good enough. But the fear of dying was there. I thank God, now, I am back to life.

Some survivors said they took chloroquine as part of the medications. Did you also take it?

I wouldn’t know the specific drugs (I took). I was taking up to six or seven different drugs. I understand they are largely immune boosters but I don’t know. It is likely chloroquine would have been one of them because it is one of the most largely advertised of the medication.

What experience did you take home from the isolation centre?

The place is comfortable enough as far as a hospital is concerned. It is comfortable for the job they do there and the caregivers are very helpful. They show you love, encourage you to take your drugs, eat your food and assure you that things will get better. One thing older people should be concerned about is not having a serious underlying medical issue which is not under control. For instance, for a person who has diabetes that is not under control, that would decrease immunity seriously and the virus would have its way. But if one does not have any issue, then most likely, the person would respond to treatment. The elderly should stay at home if there’s no reason to be out. Avoid any congregation or party for now. Avoid large gatherings, whether in the church, mosque or anywhere. And if you have to be out, wear a face mask. Some say it is not convenient, but you just have to use it, observe social distancing and avoid unnecessary gatherings until there is a vaccine for COVID-19. It is not malaria.

How have your friends and colleagues been relating with you since you returned from the centre?

They’ve been rejoicing with me.  Everybody had the fear of any possible consequence, especially when we had some big names that were victims. When someone is announced positive, some sorts of thoughts go to people’s mind. But when you come out, they become happy. I’ve received some calls and congratulations, especially on Facebook. I thank them and I thank my family. Life goes on, I’m fully back. In another two days, I’ll be back to my normal life and club. It (COVID-19 infection) is not a death sentence but people should not joke with it and say it is malaria.

WASSCE cancellation: Adding salt to our educational injury

Our schools will only open when we believe it is safe for our children and that is when  the situation is right, not when the rate of the (COVID-19) infection is going up in the nation. I just want to make it clear. We will not open soon for examination or for any reason, even the West African Senior School Certificate Examinations, unless it is safe for our children. The West African Examination Council cannot determine for us what to do. Schools will remain closed,” said Adamu Adamu, the Minister of Education, while affirming the Federal Government’s decision to cancel the 2020 WASSCE, after last Wednesday’s virtual meeting of the Federal Executive Council.

As expected, the minister’s comment raised a lot of dust and was met with diverse reactions from many well-meaning Nigerians.

Whether it was the right decision to take or not will be decided by Nigerians and posterity. However, I don’t think it was a right one; especially in a country where the quality of education has dropped drastically over the years. From academic calendar instability and increase in number of out-of-school children, it certainly appears to me that Federal Government’s decision will only add sour to the already existing injury in the educational sector

That Nigeria is the only country (out of five West African countries that take the examination) to have announced cancellation of the 2020 WAEC is enough reason for the government to have a rethink. Otherwise, it would lead to a whole year wasted in the lives of the numerous candidates seeking to further their education in tertiary institutions. It would also breed many immoral acts such as thuggery, stealing and rape.

If the full re-opening of schools would be a setback in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic, the government should consider students in terminal classes who are set to write crucial exams. After all, schools have been reopened in Oyo State since July 6 and by adhering to the laid down safety protocols, they are doing just fine.

Cutting off the head shouldn’t be a remedy for headache. Protocols should be made and guidelines should be laid. Each school should be fumigated upon resumption, provision should be made for hand sanitisers and nose masks, and there should be strict compliance with social distancing in the examination halls. Then, we would be good to go.

If the governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states that are scheduled to hold on September 19 and October 10 respectively have not been cancelled out of fear of the pandemic, even with the huge population of voters that would be at campaign grounds and polling units, then WASSCE shouldn’t be cancelled.

COVID-19: Poor Ghanaians to enjoy free electricity till 2021

The Ghanaian government has extended free electricity to poor citizens till January 2021 due to the economic hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, made the announcement on Thursday, adding that all citizens irrespective of social status would enjoy free water supply for the next three months.

The period for free water, which ended in May 2020, would be extended for additional three months while electricity would last for the next six months.

While the free electricity would be enjoyed by lifeline consumers that consume less than 50kWh per month, water would be given to all citizens for free for the next three months.

President Nana Addo Akufo-Addo, in a compassionate move during the lockdown, announced three months of free electricity for lifeline consumers and 50 per cent rebate for consumers who went beyond the lifeline threshold.

Additionally, water bills for all Ghanaians for April, May and June were taken up by the government, following complaints of lack of potable water in communities affected by the lockdown

The minister announced the extension of the packages in the mid-year budget review, presented on the authority of the President to the nation through Parliament, in Accra.

He assured Ghanaians that government would continue to put their aspirations first.

“That is also why we further reduced electricity prices by half and completely provided potable water for free for everybody since March this year, and we will extend it for another three months,” Mr Ofori-Atta said.

“It takes a caring government of the people, and with that, I mean, a government of all the people, to offer cost-free water to all across the country: representing all domestic and commercial customers in Ghana for three months.

“It takes a caring government to be for the people and for business, large and small, to choose to subsidise electricity consumption by 50 per cent to 4,086,286 households and 686,522 businesses at a cost of ¢1.02bn ($176m) in three months.

“And we will extend the coverage for lifeline customers for another three months,” he added.  ,,