Afghan Taliban Announce Three-Day Eid Ceasefire With Govt

Afghan security forces sit in a Humvee vehicle amid ongoing fighting between Taliban militants and Afghan security forces in Kunduz on May 19, 2020. STR / AFP

 

 

The Taliban announced a three-day ceasefire during the Eid al-Fitr holiday starting Sunday in a surprise move following months of bloody fighting with Afghan forces after the group signed a landmark agreement with the United States. 

President Ashraf Ghani swiftly welcomed the insurgents’ offer and ordered his forces to also comply, while the US envoy to Afghanistan hailed the deal as a “momentous opportunity.”

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement posted on social media that the group’s “leadership instructs all the mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate to take special measures for the security of the countrymen, and conduct no offensive operation against the enemy anywhere.”

READ ALSO: Nigeria Marks Eid-El-Fitr Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

The statement, which announced a halt to hostilities “during the three days of Eid,” instructed Taliban fighters to refrain from entering government areas and also said that Kabul forces were not allowed to enter territories under their control.

Since the US invasion in 2001 there has only been one other pause in the fighting — a surprise three-day ceasefire between the Taliban and Kabul marking the religious festival of Eid in 2018.

That ceasefire call was given by Ghani, which the insurgents had accepted.

During the brief lull in fighting at that time, Afghans responded joyfully, with Taliban fighters, security forces, and civilians hugging, sharing ice creams, and posing for selfies in previously unimaginable scenes.

Ghani was quick to accept the Taliban ceasefire offer Saturday.

“I welcome the ceasefire announcement by the Taliban,” he said on Twitter.

“As commander-in-chief I have instructed ANDSF (Afghan National Defence Security Force) to comply with the three-day truce and to defend only if attacked.”

The announcement comes just days after the Taliban’s leader Haibatullah Akhundzada urged Washington “not to waste” the opportunity offered by the deal the militants signed with the United States in February that set the stage for the withdrawal of foreign troops from the country.

“The Islamic Emirate is committed to the agreement… and urges the other side to honour its own commitments and not allow this critical opportunity to go to waste,” Akhundzada said in a statement, using the Taliban’s name for Afghanistan.

The signing of the deal between the United States and the Taliban was preceded by a so-called “reduction in violence” but not an official ceasefire.

US Special Representative to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad, who brokered the deal, said on Twitter Saturday that the United States welcomed “the Taliban’s decision to observe a ceasefire during Eid, as well as the Afghan government announcement reciprocating and announcing its own ceasefire.”

He urged the Taliban to continue to abide by the agreement, calling the halt in violence “a momentous opportunity that should not be missed” while pledging that the United States would “do its part to help.”

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg also welcomed the ceasefire, urging all parties to “seize this opportunity for peace, for the benefit of all Afghans.”

 

– US pushes for peace –

The US-Taliban deal is aimed at paving the way for the insurgents to hold direct peace talks with Kabul.

US President Donald Trump’s administration has made it a priority to end the war in Afghanistan, and in a bid to pull out foreign forces US officials have been pushing the Taliban and government leaders to hold peace talks.

Analysts however say the Taliban have been emboldened by the deal with the US, and Afghan government officials have reported more than 3,800 attacks since it was signed, killing 420 civilians and wounding 906.

But Khalilzad has maintained that the insurgents have kept up their end of the bargain — even if recent violence violated the spirit of the accord.

“The Taliban have implemented their agreement not to attack the coalition forces,” he said earlier this month.

The remarks come after a horrific attack against a maternity hospital in Kabul that killed dozens — including mothers and infants — and a suicide bombing at a funeral.

The Taliban denied involvement in the attacks, but President Ghani blamed them and the Islamic State (IS) group for the bloodshed.

Following that attack and another suicide bombing in the country’s east the government ordered security forces to switch to an “offensive” posture against the Taliban.

The Taliban responded by vowing to increase attacks against government forces.

The group has carried out regular attacks against Afghan forces in recent days, and earlier this week even tried to enter the northern city of Kunduz.

Afghan forces, however, managed to repel the Taliban attack on Kunduz, a city which had fallen to the insurgents twice before.

Netanyahu’s Corruption Trial Set To Open

(FILES) In this file photo taken on February 9, 2020, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. RONEN ZVULUN / POOL / AFP.

 

 

A new page in Israeli history opens Sunday as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu becomes the first sitting premier to face criminal charges, accused of a string of corruption allegations he denies.

After more than 500 days of electoral deadlock in which he fought for his political survival Netanyahu is to take his seat in the Jerusalem District Court for a new battle — to stay out of prison and avoid a stain on his legacy.

The 70-year-old is used to setting precedents: he is the first Israeli prime minister born after the foundation of the state in 1948 and the longest-serving in its history.

But the impending trial is a deeply-unwanted first.

In 2009, prime minister Ehud Olmert stepped down after police recommended he be indicted for graft.

He was later tried and convicted of taking bribes and sentenced to 27 months in prison but was paroled after less than a year and a half.

Like Netanyahu, Olmert came from the right-wing Likud party, although he subsequently defected to the centrist Kadima.

Netanyahu is fighting tooth and nail to avoid Olmert’s fate.

READ ALSO: Nigeria Marks Eid-El-Fitr Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

Among the charges he faces is that he sought to illegally trade favours in exchange for positive coverage for himself in Yediot Aharonot, Israel’s top-selling newspaper.

He is also accused of accepting cigars, champagne and jewellery worth 700,000 shekels (180,000 euros) from wealthy personalities in exchange for favours.

Perhaps most serious of all is the claim that Netanyahu offered media mogul Shaul Elovitch regulatory changes worth millions of dollars to his telecom giant Bezeq in exchange for favourable reporting on the Walla! news website.

That charge is also the most complex, said Amir Fuchs, a researcher at the Israel Democracy Institute, who says it differs from “classic” bribery cases where money changes hands.

– ‘Political death warrant’ –

In this case, Fuchs argued, the allegation is that Netanyahu “is getting only media coverage,” rather than cash.

“It is unprecedented,” he told reporters.

But in the Bezeq case, Fuchs adds, Netanyahu, is accused of doing far more than seek flattering write-ups.

“It was actually complete editorial control of this site even on the specifics of which posts to make, or which pictures to make.”

Netanyahu denies all the accusations and claims he is the victim of a witch hunt by the media and legal officials.

After months of suspense and repeated police questioning of Netanyahu, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit in January filed charges against the premier.

Many commentators considered this the premier’s political death warrant.

But Netanyahu retained the Likud leadership and after three inconclusive general elections managed to hammer out a power-sharing deal with his chief rival Benny Gantz.

Under the agreement, Netanyahu will continue to lead the government for 18 months before handing over the premiership to Gantz.

 

– ‘Conflict of interest’ –

Netanyahu’s trial had been due to open in mid-March, but the COVID-19 pandemic lead to a postponement to May 24, and the proceedings will be marked by social-distancing and other hygiene measures.

Netanyahu’s lawyers requested that he be excused from appearing in person on Sunday afternoon (1200 GMT) at the opening of a trial that will stretch over months or even years with possible appeals.

They argued that his attendance, to hear the formal reading of the charges against him and confirm that he has read and understands them, was merely technical.

But the court rejected the request, citing a clause in Israeli criminal law stating that “a person may not be tried on criminal charges except in his presence.”

Under Israeli law, a sitting prime minister does not have automatic immunity from prosecution but also is not obliged to resign when charged, only when convicted and after all avenues of appeal have been exhausted.

Yuval Shany, professor of law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, argues that there is “a basic incompatibility” between Netanyahu’s role as head of the government and his status as a criminal defendant.

In the latter role, Shany says, the premier will be “fighting very aggressively and maybe effectively to weaken the government authorities that are prosecuting him”.

“There is a very serious conflict of interest situation,” he said.

Once the trial is underway the three judges selected by the Supreme Court will be able to demand Netanyahu’s presence in court when they consider it necessary.

At any time before the verdict Israeli law allows Netanyahu to change his plea in exchange for lesser or fewer charges.

Such plea bargains are common in Israeli courts.

AFP

Eid-El-Fitr: COVID-19 Restrictions Remain In Force, Police Tell Nigerians

The Inspector-General of Police, Mr Mohammed Adamu, at a meeting with the President in Abuja on May 14, 2020.

 

 

Police authorities have called on Nigerians to be mindful of the measures put in place by the government to curb the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) as they celebrate Eid-el-Fitr.

The Inspector-General of Police, Mohammad Adamu, made the call in a statement on Friday by the Force Public Relations Officer, Frank Mba.

He urged them to continue to comply with the government’s prevention regulation orders against COVID-19.

According to the police boss, these include the interstate movement restriction orders, nationwide curfew, the prohibition of mass socio-religious gatherings by the Federal Government in Lagos, Ogun, Kano States and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), as well as restriction orders by governments in some states.

The statement said, “Citizens should observe the Eid celebrations bearing in mind the unusual times occasioned by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, as the Force will leave no stone unturned towards the due enforcement of the orders.”

While congratulating Nigerians on the occasion, the IGP assured the people of adequate security during and after the Eid-el-Fitr celebrations.

He noted that proactive and robust anti-crime measures, including the deployments of tactical and intelligence assets of the Force, were already in place to prevent any untoward incidents in the country.

The IGP commended the Muslims for the successful conclusion of the Ramadan which he described as a period of self-denial geared towards attaining wholesomeness.

He said the period has reinforced his belief that with the citizens’ collective perseverance and voluntary compliance with the prevention regulations emplaced by governments at all levels, the nation would surely overcome the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fully-Loaded Passenger Plane Crashes In Pakistan

Rescue workers move a body from the site after a Pakistan International Airlines aircraft crashed at a residential area in Karachi on May 22, 2020. Asif HASSAN / AFP

 

 

A Pakistani passenger plane with nearly 100 people on board crashed into a residential area of the southern city of Karachi on Friday.

The Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plane was close to landing when it came down among houses, sending plumes of smoke into the air that could be seen from some distance away.

Rescue workers and local residents pulled people from the debris, as firefighters tried to put out the flames.

“I heard a big bang and woke up to people calling for the fire brigade,” said Karachi resident Mudassar Ali.

PIA spokesman Abdullah Hafeez said there were 91 passengers and seven crew on board the flight, which lost contact with air traffic control just after 2.30pm (0930 GMT).

“It is too early to comment on the cause of the crash,” he said.

Rescue workers gather at the site after a Pakistan International Airlines aircraft crashed in a residential area in Karachi on May 22, 2020. Rizwan TABASSUM / AFP

 

Abdul Sattar Khokhar, of the country’s aviation authority, said the Airbus A320 was travelling from Lahore to Karachi.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said he was “shocked and saddened” by the crash, tweeting that he was in touch with the state airline’s chief executive.

“Prayers & condolences go to families of the deceased,” said Khan.

Foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said the plane crashed into a residential area minutes before it was due to land.

The disaster comes as Pakistanis across the country are preparing to celebrate the end of Ramadan and the beginning of Eid al-Fitr, with many travelling back to their homes in cities and villages.

The Pakistan military said security forces had been deployed to the area and helicopters were being used to survey the damage and help ongoing rescue operations while offering condolences over the “loss of precious lives” in the incident.

A firefighter sprays water on a burnt building after a Pakistan International Airlines aircraft crashed in a residential area in Karachi on May 22, 2020. Rizwan TABASSUM / AFP

 

Commercial flights resumed only days ago after planes were grounded during a lockdown over the coronavirus pandemic.

Pakistan has a chequered military and civilian aviation safety record, with frequent plane and helicopter crashes over the years.

In 2016, a Pakistan International Airlines plane burst into flames after one of its two turboprop engines failed while flying from the remote north to Islamabad, killing more than 40 people.

The deadliest air disaster on Pakistani soil was in 2010 when an Airbus A321 operated by private airline Airblue and flying from Karachi crashed into the hills outside Islamabad as it came into land, killing all 152 people on board.

People comfort a relative of a victim near the site after a Pakistan International Airlines aircraft crashed in a residential area in Karachi on May 22, 2020. Rizwan TABASSUM / AFP

 

An official report blamed the accident on a confused captain and a hostile cockpit atmosphere.

PIA, one of the world’s leading airlines until the 1970s, now suffers from a sinking reputation due to frequent cancellations, delays and financial troubles. It has been involved in numerous controversies over the years, including the jailing of a drunk pilot in Britain in 2013.

AFP

COVID-19 Cases In Lagos Exceed 3,000

(File) A health worker collects the sample of a man to test for COVID-19. Photo: Channels TV/ Sodiq Adelakun.

 

The number of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases confirmed so far in Lagos State has exceeded 3,000.

This was confirmed by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) in its latest update on the outbreak of the disease in the country.

In a late-night tweet on Thursday, the agency reported 339 new cases of COVID-19 across 17 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) – one of the highest single-day figures recorded so far.

Of the new infections, Lagos has 139, followed by Kano and Oyo States which reported 28 cases respectively.

Edo also has 25, Katsina – 22, Kaduna – 18, Jigawa – 14, Yobe and Plateau – 13 each, FCT – 11, Gombe – eight, Ogun – five, Bauchi – four, Nasarawa – four, Delta – three, Ondo – two, as well as Rivers and Adamawa – one case each.

This brings the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Nigeria to 7,016 with 3,093 infections reported in Lagos, representing 44 per cent of the total figure.

The country has recorded 211 deaths and 1,907 recovered COVID-19 patients have been discharged from various isolation centres.

According to the NCDC, Lagos has 2,471 active cases of COVID-19, 582 discharged cases, and 40 fatalities from the disease.

See the breakdown of the COVID-19 figures from the NCDC below:

COVID-19 NIGERIA

Friday 11:03 am 22 May 2020

Samples Tested

40,043

Confirmed Cases

7,016

Active Cases

4,898

Discharged Cases

1,907

Death

211

Confirmed Cases by State

States AffectedNo. of Cases (Lab Confirmed)No. of Cases (on admission)No. DischargedNo. of Deaths
Lagos3,0932,47158240
Kano87571612336
FCT44629014214
Katsina3032395113
Borno2351228924
Bauchi228901335
Jigawa225143784
Oyo190137494
Ogun183104736
Kaduna17082844
Edo14499396
Gombe14449923
Sokoto113257513
Rivers8052217
Zamfara768635
Plateau7055141
Kwara6640251
Yobe453951
Osun425334
Nasarawa3818182
Kebbi3211174
Delta3113126
Adamawa2712132
Ondo226151
Niger221651
Ekiti205132
Akwa Ibom184122
Taraba188100
Enugu161060
Ebonyi131210
Imo7070
Bayelsa7250
Abia7610
Benue5500
Anambra5410

INEC Approves Policy To Conduct Elections Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

A file photo of INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, addressing a press conference in Abuja. Photo: Channels TV/ Sodiq Adelakun.

 

 

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has approved a policy to conduct elections despite the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the country.

INEC’s National Commissioner and Chairman of Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, announced this in a statement on Thursday.

He disclosed that the strategy tagged “Policy on Conducting Elections in the Context of COVID-19 Pandemic” would be released on Monday next week.

Okoye explained that the policy would enable INEC officials and staff to handle the challenges of conducting elections in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He added that it would provide a guide for engagement with various stakeholders as they prepare for the forthcoming governorship elections in Edo and Ondo States, as well as some bye-elections.

According to the INEC spokesperson, the commission is committed to conducting all elections that are due within the extant legal framework.

He, however, noted that the electoral umpire would put a premium on public safety and mitigation of health risks from coronavirus.

The commission had earlier announced that it would not postpone the governorship elections in Edo and Ondo States scheduled for September 19 and October 10, 2020 respectively.

Read the full statement below:

INDEPENDENT NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION

PRESS RELEASE

POLICY ON CONDUCTING ELECTIONS IN THE CONTEXT OF THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) met today, 21st May 2020, and approved its “Policy on Conducting Elections in the Context of COVID-19 Pandemic”.

The general purpose of the Policy is to enable officials and staff of the Commission to understand and respond adequately to the challenges of conducting elections in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and to provide a guide for engagement with stakeholders as they prepare for elections.

The clean copy of the policy document, which will be released on Monday 25th May 2020, covers health and legal issues, election planning and operations, election day and post-election activities, voter registration, political parties, election observation, electoral security and deployment of technology.

Conducting elections in a pandemic such as COVID-19 is yet uncharted waters. Only very few jurisdictions have any experience with this.

That notwithstanding, the Commission is committed to conducting all elections that are due within the extant legal framework. However, in so doing it will put a premium on public safety and mitigation of health risks from COVID-19.

Citizens must be assured that they will be safe while participating as voters, candidates, and officials.

The Commission remains committed to raising public confidence in the electoral process in spite of the challenges posed by the pandemic and to regularly communicate its actions and challenges to the public.

 

STAKEHOLDER ENGAGEMENTS

In view of the end of tenure Governorship elections in Edo and Ondo States scheduled for 19th September 2020 and 10th October 2020 respectively, the Commission will flag off robust engagements with its critical stakeholders to present the Policy Document. To this end, the Commission will meet with:

Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) on Saturday, 30th May 2020;

Political Parties on Monday, 1st June 2020;

Civil Society Groups on 2nd June 2020; and

The Media on 3rd June 2020.

 

CONDUCT OF BYE-ELECTIONS

It is to be noted that in addition to the Governorship elections in Edo and Ondo States, the Commission has received official declaration of vacancies for 4 Senatorial Districts and read reports of the passing of a Senator and 4 members of some State Houses of Assembly.

As at today, the Commission is planning for nine (9) bye-elections across seven (7) States of the Federation as follows:

Bayelsa Central Senatorial District

Bayelsa West Senatorial District

Imo North Senatorial District

Plateau South Senatorial District

Cross River North Senatorial District

Nganzai State Constituency, Borno State

Bayo State Constituency, Borno State

Nasarawa Central State Constituency, Nasarawa State

Bakori State Constituency, Katsina State

 

The provisions of the Policy on Conducting Elections in the Context of the COVID-19 Pandemic shall also apply to the conduct of these elections.

In conclusion, the Commission urges all Nigerians to adhere strictly to the COVID-19 protocols issued by the health authorities.

Festus Okoye Esq.

National Commissioner and Chairman,

Information and Voter Education Committee

21st May 2020.

Customs Seize Suspected Hard Drugs Worth N1bn In Lagos

The Comptroller of Western Marine Command of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Olugboyega Peters, with some senior officers at the Command Headquarters in Lagos.

 

 

The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) says it has made a massive seizure of drugs suspected to be Cannabis Sativa worth over N1 billion.

According to the service, this is the largest single seizure of hard drugs ever recorded by its officials on the high sea.

The Comptroller of Customs Western Marine Command in Lagos, Olugboyega Peters, disclosed on Thursday that the success was recorded by operatives of the command based on intelligence.

He explained that the operatives conducted round the clock surveillance for a period of three days in a maiden seagoing patrol of Lagos waters.

Peters added that suspected smugglers dived into the water upon sighting the customs operatives from afar around the Ishashi area of the state.

He noted that the drugs were suspected to be coming in from Ghana and had crossed many borders by water before the seizure in Lagos.

The comptroller stressed that since there were no suspects accompanying the seized goods, they would be liable to destruction in collaboration with relevant government agencies and other security services.

PTF Decries High Purchase Of Hydroxychloroquine By Nigerians

A file photo of the PTF Chairman, Mr Boss Mustapha, at a press briefing in Abuja.

 

 

The Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 has decried the rate of purchase of hydroxychloroquine by Nigerians.

While addressing reporters in Abuja on Thursday, the PTF Chairman, Mr Boss Mustapha, warned the citizens against self-medication, especially when they have the symptoms of COVID-19.

He explained that the drug has not been certified for the treatment of the disease and could be harmful to such patients.

“Through the surveillance system set up by the PTF, we have received reports that Nigerians have been purchasing hydroxychloroquine in large quantities,” said Mustapha who is also the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF).

He added, “We wish to reiterate that this drug has not been certified for use in treating COVID-19 in Nigeria by the relevant health and pharmaceutical authorities. Self-medication of any kind is fraught with the danger of increasing risks of avoidable casualties.

“We, therefore, strongly warn against self-medication. If you are sick, please seek medical advice, and if you are confirmed positive, kindly self-isolate in an approved facility.”

 

The PTF chairman stressed that Nigerians must see COVID-19 as a highly infectious and dangerous disease, noting that the World Health Organisation (WHO) had warned that the world still has a long way to go in fighting the pandemic.

He quoted the WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, as saying that 106,000 cases were recorded globally in 24 hours, representing the highest single-day number since the outbreak of the pandemic.

According to Mustapha, the importance of the message is very clear to Nigerians who need to eschew skepticism about the existence of COVID-19 and its potency.

He also urged the people to change their behaviours and commit to joining hands in tackling the pandemic in the country.

The PTF chairman also addressed the issue of harassment of essential service workers by security officials enforcing the COVID-19 curfew and apologised to the victims of such ill-treatment.

He said, “For sometimes now, the PTF has consistently answered questions and provided explanations on the categories of persons and services exempted from some aspects of these guidelines particularly as it relates to restrictions on interstate movement and curfew.

“For the avoidance of doubt, essential workers including our indefatigable medical personnel, diligent journalists, courageous fire service personnel, telecommunications workers, are all exempted.”

Immigration Arrests 24 Togolese, Nigerians At Ogun Border

 

Operatives of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) have arrested 14 Togolese nationals and 10 Nigerians at Ajilete and Ilase border posts in Ogun State.

The Service Public Relations Officer, Sunday James, disclosed this in a statement on Thursday.

According to him, the Togolese nationals who are all females comprise eight adults and six minors.

James explained that they were arrested in a J5 bus at Ajilete and the other 10 Nigerians were apprehended at Ilase for defying the government’s directive on the closure of land borders.

He added that five of the Nigerians were victims of human trafficking and would be handed over to the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP).

The NIS spokesman said the arrested persons were profiled by the Comptroller of the Ogun State Command, Kunle Osisanya, after health officials subjected them to COVID-19 tests in line with the medical procedures of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

In his reaction, the Comptroller General of NIS, Muhammad Babandede, commended the officers for the success and asked them to up the tempo of their patrol.

He noted that some of the arrests were along illegal points created by the smugglers in the area.

Lagos Reduces N1.168trn 2020 Budget By 21%

A file photo of Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu. Photo: [email protected]

 

 

The Lagos State government has commenced a downward review of the year 2020 budget as a result of the negative economic and social effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The Commissioner for Economic Planning and Budget in Lagos, Sam Egube, disclosed this on Thursday, noting that the review was approved by the State Executive Council.

He explained that the process aimed to reduce the N1.168 trillion budget approved by the Lagos State House of Assembly to N920.5 billion.

Egube said the initial budget figure contained a capital expenditure of N711 billion and N457 billion recurrent budget, showing a strong preference of 60 per cent ratio for capital projects.

He revealed that the first quarter of 2020 recorded a budget performance of 56 per cent (N163.28 billion), which was in absolute terms higher than the 68 per cent (N148.38 billion) recorded for the same period in 2019.

The commissioner pointed out the negative effect of the fall in crude oil prices on statutory allocation expectations, the downward pressure on Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), devaluation of the naira, reduced public and private investment and increased inflation rate as reasons for the overhaul of the projected figures of the 2020 budget.

He listed other factors to include the decline in demand for goods and services, as well as a reduction in manufacturing activities which he said indicated lower GDP growth and increased unemployment.

Egube explained that Lagos has adopted a holistic approach to the shocks induced by COVID-19, adding that the strategies included the maintenance of a strong pandemic response, restarting the economy, and reimagining the way the state has been operating.

According to him, the strong pandemic response will enable the state government to engender food security and safety net mechanisms, in addition to economic stimulus.

“To restart the economy, we are going to optimise the state’s budget for investments in jobs and priority sectors through job creation, economic stabilisation, and fiscal consolidation,” Egube said.

He added, “In reimagining the state economy, we will prepare the state to operate and thrive within the new reality with digitisation, business environment reforms, improved economy and diversification of revenue sources.”

The commissioner disclosed that the revised budget has a reduction of the total budget size by 21 per cent from N1,168.562 billion to N920.469 billion, with the financing deficit increasing slightly by 11 per cent from N97.533 billion to N108.005 billion.

The recurrent expenditure (debt and non-debt) in the revised budget, according to him, will decline by 10 per cent from N457.529 billion to N411.608 billion and 28 per cent reduction has been proposed for total capital expenditure from N711.033 billion to N508.861 billion.

“The revised total revenue represents a drop of 24 per cent in the previous projections from N1,107.029 billion to N812.46 billion,” Egube said.

COVID-19 Cases: Lagos Has Not Reached Its Peak Yet – Abayomi

 

The Lagos State government has asked residents to continue to comply with the measures put in place to flatten the curve of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the state.

Despite the increasing figures of COVID-19 reported recently, the Commissioner for Health in Lagos, Professor Akin Abayomi, believes the state has yet to reach its peak.

While giving an update on the outbreak of the disease, Professor Abayomi disclosed that the government had projected to see figures near 200 at this time.

“We know the outbreak is expanding, so we expect to see more cases,” he told reporters at a press conference on Thursday.

The commissioner added, “We have not reached our peak yet, but the graph and the rate of new cases are very gentle and that is what we defined by our module and it is following through to the trend that we defined in our module to see this kind of increase.”

This comes hours after Lagos – the epicentre of COVID-19 outbreak – reported 199 new cases of coronavirus.

In a late-night tweet on Wednesday, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said the figure in Lagos was among the 284 new infections recorded in 12 states and the Federal Capital Territory.

It noted that the state now has a total of 2,954 COVID-19 cases, out of which 582 patients have been discharged with 40 deaths.

 

Gradual Increase, Not Dramatic

A file photo of the Commissioner for Health in Lagos, Professor Akin Abayomi. Photo: [email protected]

 

In his reaction, Professor Abayomi stated that the government was not surprised that the number of new cases was increasing.

According to him, Lagos is witnessing a gradual and not dramatic rise in the number of cases, compared to the situation in other places.

“We knew we were going to see about 200 (cases) by this time and maybe by next week, we might be seeing 250 or 300 per day.

“When you will say something is dramatic is if it goes from 50 to 200, to 1,000; that will be dramatic and that’s what was seen in the northern hemisphere – in Europe and America,” the commissioner said.

He added, “Ours is gradual; we’ve gone from 50 to 70 to 100 to 130 to 150 and now for the first time, we are seeing numbers approaching 200 per day.”

Professor Abayomi noted that one of the factors responsible for the increased figure of new cases was the improved testing capacity of the state.

He said, “We now have four laboratories that are testing and they have the capacity to test 24 hours a day on different shifts. So, our total testing capacity has gone up to 800 tests a day.”

Nasarawa Chief Judge Frees 16 Inmates

 

The Chief Judge of Nasarawa State, Justice Suleiman Dikko, has granted clemency to 16 inmates in the state.

Justice Dikko ordered their release on Thursday when he visited a correctional facility where the inmates were held in Lafia, in the state capital.

According to him, this is in compliance with the directive of the Chief Justice Of Nigeria, Justice Muhammad Tanko, to decongest correctional facilities across the country as part of measures to curb the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

READ ALSO: Nigeria Records Eight More COVID-19 Deaths, Total Now 200

The chief judge disclosed that some inmates and convicts from other custodial centres in Wamba, Keffi, and Nasarawa Local Government Areas would also be pardoned after the Sallah break.

The beneficiaries who were held at the Medium Security Custodial Centre of the Nigeria Correctional Service in Lafia were freed after the chief judge of the state paid their fines.