President Muhammadu Buhari has called on political parties, candidates, and security agents participating in the Edo governorship election to uphold democratic standards during the poll.
A statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Garba Shehu, on Thursday quoted the President as saying that failure to abide by the rules would truncate efforts to achieve free and fair elections.
“I am passionately committed to free and fair elections, but my own commitment is not enough if other actors at ground zero refuse to abide by the rules,” the President said.
“I want to see democratic standards in the country raised higher at every level, but these cannot be achieved when politicians resort to do or die methods to gain power by any means or machination.”
According to the President, the do-or-die mentality to politics is a threat to free and fair elections because the actors are more focused on winning than caring about a fair outcome that reflects the will of the people.
Apart from the parties and their candidates, the President called on security agents and electoral officials to remain neutral.
That way, he said, they would be able to “ensure free and fair elections and avoid any action(s) capable of compromising the integrity of the elections.”
The Edo governorship election is scheduled for Saturday, September 19 with 14 candidates in the race.
After a heated campaign, the President expects all participants to follow the rules.
He also restated the importance of free and fair elections to the country.
“Conducting free and fair elections is one of my main concerns for our democracy, and I want this commitment to be one of the legacies I will leave behind when I depart office,” he said.
Pharma giant AstraZeneca and Oxford University on Saturday said they had resumed a Covid-19 vaccine trial after getting the all-clear from British regulators, following a pause caused by a UK volunteer falling ill.
“Clinical trials for the AstraZeneca Oxford coronavirus vaccine, AZD1222, have resumed in the UK following confirmation by the Medicines Health Regulatory Authority (MHRA) that it was safe to do so,” the company said in a statement.
AstraZeneca announced on Wednesday it had “voluntarily paused” its trial of the vaccine developed alongside Oxford University after the volunteer developed an unexplained illness.
An independent committee was drafted in to review safety, in what the company and the World Health Organization described as a routine step.
The committee “has concluded its investigations and recommended to the MHRA that trials in the UK are safe to resume”, AstraZeneca said.
Oxford University confirmed the resumption and said: “In large trials such as this, it is expected that some participants will become unwell and every case must be carefully evaluated to ensure careful assessment of safety.”
After the pause, AstraZeneca had said it remained hopeful that the vaccine could still be available “by the end of this year, early next year”.
But pharma companies including AstraZeneca and scientists have expressed concern about political pressure to rush a vaccine out, not least from US President Donald Trump.
Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate for president, has accused Trump of “undermining public confidence” by regularly raising the possibility a vaccine will be ready before the election on November 3.
Charlotte Summers, lecturer in intensive care medicine at Cambridge University, welcomed the resumption of the Oxford trial and said the researchers had shown their commitment “to putting safety at the heart of their development programme.”
“To tackle the global Covid-19 pandemic, we need to develop vaccines and therapies that people feel comfortable using, therefore it is vital to maintaining public trust that we stick to the evidence and do not draw conclusions before information is available,” she said.
AstraZeneca’s vaccine candidate is one of nine around the world currently in late-stage Phase 3 human trials.
In the United States, the company began enrolling 30,000 volunteers across dozens of sites on August 31, and the inoculation is being tested on smaller groups in Britain, Brazil and South Africa. Trials are also planned in Japan and Russia.
The AZD1222 vaccine uses a weakened version of a common cold-causing adenovirus engineered to code for the spike protein that the Covid-19 coronavirus uses to invade cells.
After vaccination, this protein is produced inside the human body, which primes the immune system to attack the coronavirus if the person is later infected.
“AstraZeneca is committed to the safety of trial participants and the highest standards of conduct in clinical trials,” Saturday’s statement read.
“The company will continue to work with health authorities across the world and be guided as to when other clinical trials can resume to provide the vaccine broadly, equitably and at no profit during this pandemic.”
The disease has killed more than 900,000 people worldwide since surfacing in China late last year, according to an AFP count. More than 28.5 million cases have been confirmed, and the United States has the most deaths, with more than 193,000.
In Britain, infection rates are again surging in line with the rising trend seen of late in the rest of Europe, forcing the government to tighten public restrictions from Monday and impose local lockdowns.
“I think one would have to say that we’re on the edge of losing control,” Mark Walport, the British government’s former chief scientific adviser, told BBC radio.
Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone has tested positive for Covid-19, the club announced on Saturday.
Simeone, 50, is isolated at home and has not presented symptoms.
Atletico’s squad and staff returned early from a pre-season trip to Los Angeles de San Rafael just outside Madrid after a test on Thursday came back positive. Further tests on Friday showed Simeone had caught the virus.
“The analysis of these new samples in the laboratory has determined that our trainer, Diego Pablo Simeone, has given a positive result for Covid-19,” read the club statement.
“Fortunately, our coach does not present any symptoms and is at his home isolated and fulfilling the corresponding quarantine after being with the team since last Monday.”
Simeone was absent from training on Saturday. Atletico’s first La Liga match against Granada is not scheduled to be played until September 27 as the club have been given extra time off before starting the season.
A United Kingdom judge has ordered P&ID to make an interim payment of more than £1.5 million to Nigeria within 21 days to cover legal costs the country incurred as part of its successful application for the extension of time to challenge the arbitration award of $9.6 billion to the company.
The judge gave the order on Thursday when Nigeria appeared before it in a hearing held to decide procedural and costs issues relating to the FRN’s applications to challenge the arbitration award and to determine the short-term directions to trial.
This latest order follows the major victory it secured on Friday last week when the court allowed the country to bring a fraud challenge against a $9.6 billion arbitration award obtained by vulture-fund-backed P&ID well outside the normal time limits.
“This is another crucial win for Nigeria in our ongoing fight against the vulture-fund-backed P&ID,” a spokesperson for the Attorney General of the Federation said in a statement announcing the latest development.
“We are pleased that the English Courts have taken our fraud challenge seriously, and awarded us a substantial interim payment in respect of our successful application for an extension of time to challenge the award.”
With the order, Nigeria will now proceed to a full fraud trial, in its quest to avoid paying the arbitration award which is estimated to be one-third of the national budget.
The Nigerian government considers the order a “significant blow” to P&ID as will help speed up the trial and halt what it says are attempts by the company to delay the process.
“To date, P&ID and its financial backer VR Capital have not produced a single document or credible witness to challenge the FRN’s fraud evidence,” it said of the attempts.
“Instead, they continue to resort to disseminating misleading claims, while taking every step possible to delay or obstruct our investigations across multiple jurisdictions.”
The Nigerian government has maintained over time that the contract that led to the arbitration was fraudulent and that it would work relentlessly to overturn it.
After securing two favourable court decisions, it restated the commitment to overturning “the injustice”, saying it “will not rest until we secure justice for the people of Nigeria – no matter how long it takes. Investigations into the GSPA are ongoing, and we are confident that more of the truth will be revealed over the coming months.”
P&ID, a firm based in the British Virgin Islands, won a $9.6 billion arbitration award against the Nigerian government after the 2010 gas project collapsed.
The award accrued interest since 2013 and is now worth more than $9 billion.
However, Nigeria on September 3, secured a landmark victory in its pursuit to overturn a $10 billion judgment awarded against it in a case against P&ID in a failed gas deal in 2010.
Ross Cranston, a judge of the Business and Property Courts of England and Wales, granted Nigeria’s application for an extension of time and relief from sanctions, in the nation’s bid to overturn a $10 billion judgement awarded against it.
President Donald Trump admits he tried to minimise the seriousness of the threat from Covid-19 at the outset of the pandemic in audio recordings released Wednesday from interviews with veteran US journalist Bob Woodward.
“I wanted to always play it down,” Trump said in an interview with Woodward on March 19, according to a CNN preview of the book “Rage,” due to be published September 15.
“I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic,” he said in the conversation with Woodward, which was recorded.
Coming eight weeks before the November 3 presidential election, the revelation added new pressure on Trump. Opinion polls show around two-thirds of Americans disapprove of his handling of the virus and he has often been accused of minimising the crisis in order to try and boost his reelection chances.
Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump denounced the book as “another political hit job” and said if he’d downplayed Covid-19 it was to prevent a “frenzy.”
“The fact is I’m a cheerleader for this country, I love this country and I don’t want people to be frightened,” he said.
“I’m not going to drive this country or the world into a frenzy,” he said. “We have to show leadership and the last thing you want to do is create a panic.”
However, “Rage” will give fresh ammunition to the Democrats arguing that Trump failed to prepare Americans for the severity of the coronavirus outbreak or to lead them into a proper response.
In the interviews with Woodward, Trump made clear he’d understood at the outset that the virus was “deadly stuff” — far more dangerous than the ordinary flu.
In public, however, Trump repeatedly told Americans during the initial weeks at the start of 2020 that the virus wasn’t dangerous and would “disappear” by itself.
“He knew how deadly it was,” Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden said while campaigning in Michigan. “He lied to the American people. He knowingly and willingly lied about the threat it posed to the country for months.”
“It was a life and death betrayal of the American people,” Biden added.
But there was support for Trump from the highly respected infectious diseases expert Anthony Fauci, who has consistently told the public that the coronavirus requires a tough response — even when the president appeared to be saying something different.
“I don’t recall anything that was any gross distortion in things that I spoke to him about,” he told Fox News.
Trump was keen to stop the country from getting “down and out,” Fauci said.
The US death toll from Covid-19 is expected soon to pass 200,000 but the president has repeatedly insisted that he has successfully managed the pandemic.
He points to early decisions to ban travel from China, where the virus first appeared, and from hotspots in Europe.
However, at minimum Trump delivered mixed messages at a time when the country was looking for guidance.
He veered from declaring himself the equivalent of a war-time president to contradicting government scientists and calling for early reopening of the economy.
In February — well after he had been briefed by advisors on the dangers posed by the coronavirus — he said that the virus might go away by April “with the heat.”
In March, he described the government’s “tremendous control over” the situation and said: “It will go away. Just stay calm.”
That same month, Trump compared the coronavirus to the common flu, which he noted kills “between 27,000 and 70,000 per year” yet “nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on.”
At the end of March, a grim-faced president announced that a death toll of 100,000 was looming. Shortly before, he’d been talking up the idea of people ending social distancing in time for Easter in mid-April.
It took until July before Trump even wore a face mask in public. Early on, he also frequently praised the Chinese government’s response, only later pivoting to ferociously blaming Beijing for the global health crisis.
A rape survivor in Nigeria on Tuesday shared a shocking tale of how she was raped for years by a man she thought was her father.
Fatima Ada Isiaku was first sexually abused at the age of five. Her stepfather started off her nightmare by using his fingers on her.
“At the age of seven, the abuse became worse. I was a sex slave for complete seven years under my mother’s nose without her knowing that I was being abused,” she said during the UN Spotlight Initiative Town Hall on Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Nigeria.
Her attempts to get help failed as her mother, the person she went to would not believe her.
She endured the abuse and worse for years more, all the while believing her rapist to be her father.
“So, I thought he was my dad; I never knew he was not my dad. It was at the age of 14 that my mum found out (and) she revealed to me that he was not my dad,” she said.
After years of trying to convince her mother to believe her, it took another humiliation before the truth came out. Her mother subjected her to a crude virginity test.
After returning home, to the military barracks where they lived at the time, she found herself received coldly by her mom.
“When I came back from school, my younger ones greeted her, I greeted her; she responded to them but she did not respond to me. She said to me, ‘You stand in the corner’ and she told my younger ones to go inside and not come out. She told me to stand aside.
“So, she poured the water into me and the water went in. She then shouted, ‘So, you are not a virgin?’ At that time, at the age of 14, Fatima had not received any sex education and had no clue what the word ‘virgin’ meant.
“I said, ‘so, who is a virgin?’ and she said, ‘a man has been going through you’. And I told her it was my father,” she shared during the show.
It had taken Fatima so long to get her mother to hear and believe her because, according to her, her stepfather did not only make her a sex slave, he successfully ran a campaign to discredit her and turn her mom against her.
An EU, UN Initiative
The Spotlight Initiative is a new, global, multi-year initiative from the European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN).
The Initiative aim is to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls (VAWG).
According to the United Nations, “violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations in our world today.”
The Spotlight Initiative aims to bring focused attention to this issue, moving it into the spotlight and placing it at the centre of efforts to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment, in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
An initial investment in the order of EUR 500 million has been made, with the EU as the main contributor.
Nigeria is working with the World Health Organisation to finalise enrollment with ACT Accelerator, a global mechanism tracking and sponsoring research organisations working on covid19 vaccine development.
Minister of Health Dr Osagie Ehanire said this on Thursday during a briefing by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.
“We are also interested in the COVAX facility, a GAVI supported global initiative to procure and assure equitable access to vaccines, as soon as they are available, especially for lower and lower middle-Income Countries (LMIC),” the minister said.
“This will prioritise Nigeria for allocation of a part of two billion vaccines doses that will be secured, in a special plan to protect the interests of poorer countries.”
Confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Nigeria crossed the 50,000 mark on Wednesday with the death toll at 985, despite efforts to halt the spread of the pandemic.
Dr Ehanire who noted the data, including the fact 37,304 people have recovered from the virus, warned that the continued emergence of new cases is evidence that “COVID-19 has not abated”.
With the race for a vaccine still on and deaths being reported from across the world amid fears of a second wave of the pandemic, the health minister once again called for concerted efforts from all Nigerians to halt the spread of the disease.
“I shall end my speech today by reminding us all to take responsibility together, not only for today but also for the days ahead, when the imperative to open our economy will demand great sacrifice and discipline from us all,” he said.
“The new normal may be demanding, but we all – government and citizens- must collaborate to halt the spread of this disease for each other’s sake.
“Global experience so far has proved that by following advisories and adhering to all the prescribed measures including the appropriate wearing of face masks, physical distancing, and respiratory hygiene, we can control the spread of this disease.”
As people play their parts, Dr Ehanire gave the assurance that the Health sector, on its part, is being strengthened and new coping measures are being developed to counter the challenges ahead, “from developing ambulance networks for patient transportation in case of emergency to improving treatment options for COVID-19. Our objective remains to depress the case fatality rate.”
The Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Mr Boss Mustapha, on Thursday, ripped into the attitude of Nigerians, placing the blame for the country’s failure to halt the spread of the pandemic on them.
In an impassioned speech during the briefing of the PTF, Mustapha who is also the Secretary to the Government of the Federation said everything was put in place to stop the pandemic from spreading as much as it has in the country. The only thing missing was the right attitude.
“Our biggest challenge has been the attitude of Nigeria; that is our biggest challenge,” he said, reflecting on the fact that confirmed cases in the country have exceeded 50,000 with the death toll just 15 cases shy of 1,000.
A visibly upset Mustapha suggested that rather than follow guidelines, Nigerians thought only about their rights, failing to realise that the rights came with “correspondent responsibilities”.
“We would have flattened the curve. We would have dampened this ravaging virus by now if we had just complied with the simple instructions,” he lamented.
Another area Mustapha took up issues with Nigerians is in testing. Since the first case of the pandemic was confirmed in Nigeria on February 27 and as Nigeria struggled to contain the spread, there have been concerns about the country’s testing capacity.
Although the country has ramped up its testing capacity, the PTF Chairman is unsatisfied with the attitude of Nigerians towards getting tested.
He said, “In terms of even testing, we have ramped up our testing capacity from two to 64 (testing centres) within a period of three to four months. As a matter of fact, right now, the testing capacity in terms of volume is that we can test up to 15,000 samples in a day. But how many are we testing on a daily basis? So our major challenge as a Presidential Task Force has been the attitude.”
Nigeria with a population estimated at over 200 million has not tested up to 500,000 samples while South Africa with a population of 57 million has tested more than three million people.
Apart from the attitude, Mustapha doesn’t see any major problem with Nigeria’s response.
For him, money wasn’t really the problem. Neither was it the absence of a plan.
“Everything to fight COVID-19 has been placed at our disposal. We arrested the 2020 Budget and got it revised – all in an attempt to deal with the financial needs of fighting COVID-19,” he said.
Although COVID-19 disrupted life, shut down economies, and forced billions across the world to stay indoors as part of the scramble to halt the pandemic, the PTF Chairman said Nigeria received a lot of financial support.
“We received a great deal of support from the UN (COVID-19) Basket Fund, from the European Union, from West African Health Organisation, from the World Health Organisation, from friendly countries like China,” he said.
“I just reported to you that even the Federal Republic of Germany gave their modest support to ensure that our industries begin to prepare and even manufacture PPEs locally.”
Apart from the support received externally and the revision of the 2020 Budget, Mustapha explained that Nigeria had a strong plan and backing from the private sector and prominent Nigerians.
“We are not short of any resources to fight COVID-19,” he declared. “We’ve coordinated a response, nationally, that pulled in everybody that mattered in this country: the corporate world through the CACOVID has assembled a huge war chest of resources – they are all over the place; private individuals giving up their resources to ensure that we reengineer and equip our health care infrastructure.”
Former Super Eagles player and Nigerian Football Ambassador, Daniel Amokachi, has been appointed as Special Assistant on Sports to President Muhammadu Buhari.
“I am pleased to inform you that Muhammadu Buhari, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has approved your appointment as Special Assistant on Sports,” the appointment letter dated August 17, 2020, and signed by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation Mr. Boss Mustapha, reads in part.
The appointment takes effect from August 11, 2020.
As special assistant on sports, Amokachi is expected to advise the President on all sports matters.
The former Everton of England forward was earlier in the year named Nigeria’s Football Ambassador.
Although a ceremonial role, as Ambassador, he is expected to mentor youngsters and promote the game at the grassroots.
Nicknamed “The Bull”, Amokachi began his career in Kaduna with Ranchers Bees Football Club of Kaduna, played for Club Brugge of Belgium, Besiktas of Turkey, Everton of England and Colorado Rapids.
He played in two World Cup finals, USA 1994 and France 1998. He was a member of Nigeria’s 1994 African Cup of Nations winning team and won the 2013 edition in South Africa as assistant to the late Coach Stephen Keshi.
Amockachi also won Gold with team Nigeria in the Football event of the Atlanta 1996 Olympics.
Since confirming his retirement from active football, the former Besiktas of Turkey player has also coached the U-23 National Team, served as assistant coach of the Super Eagles, and coached NPFL club side, Nasarrawa United.
The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has rejected “outrightly” the Companies and Allied Matters Act, 2020, which was signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari on August 7.
“The law, to say the least, is unacceptable, ungodly, reprehensible, and an ill-wind that blows no one any good. It is a time bomb waiting to explode,” said a statement by Pastor Adebayo Oladeji, the Special Assistant on Media and Communications) to CAN President, Rev Dr Samson Ayokunle.
CAN’s position is in strong contrast to that of the Presidency which hailed the new law as innovative and “geared toward enhancing the ease of doing business in the country”.
In its statement on Thursday, CAN made clear that its grouse was not with efforts by the government to fight corruption but a section of the Act that contained what it said amounted to an attempt to bring churches under government control.
“The satanic section of the controversial and ungodly law is Section 839 (1) &(2) which empowers the Commission to suspend trustees of an association (in this case, the church) and appoint the interim managers to manage the affairs of the association for some given reasons,” it said.
“While we are not against the government fighting corruption wherever it may be found, we completely reject the idea of bringing the Church, which is technically grouped among the NGOs, under control of the government. The Church cannot be controlled by the government because of its spiritual responsibilities and obligations.”
Based on its position, the association expects the federal government to change course and amend the law.
It said, “This is why we are calling on the Federal government to stop the implementation of the obnoxious and ungodly law until the religious institutions are exempted from it.
“We call on President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently return the law to the National Assembly for immediate amendment. Nigeria should not be compared with any other nation when it comes to the relationship between religious institutions and the government. In Nigeria, people’s religions are tied to their humanity and of course, their life.”
Should the government insist on implementing the law, CAN believes it would amount to an affront to Christianity.
“If the government is bent on imposing a law on us which the entire Church in Nigeria is against, then, they have declared war on Christianity and the agenda to destroy the Church which we have spoken against before now is coming to the open more clearly,” it said.
“If you cannot give us good amenities of life, we would not allow you to take away our liberty to worship our Maker.”
CAN is surprised that President Buhari signed the CAMA Bill into law with such a section in it because it had initially rejected moves to bring the church under government regulation during the President’s first term.
It said, “We recall that during the first term of the President, there was a public hearing conducted by the National Assembly on the Non- Governmental Organisations Bill tagged ‘Bill for an Act To Provide For The Establishment Of The Non-Governmental Organisations Regulatory Commission For The Supervision, Co-ordination And Monitoring Of Non-Governmental Organisations’ which was attended by CAN and many NGOs.
“At the Public Hearing, the Bill that sought to bring the religious organisations and NGOs under the control and influence of the government was totally rejected because it would snuff life out of the church and rank the church as a secular institution under secular control.
“We thought it was all over until we heard of the CAMA that was assented to by the President, making the rejected bill a law.”
Defending its position against the law, CAN questioned what right the government had to control an institution it did not establish.
It is also concerned about the implication of allow secular officials to superintend over spiritual matters, arguing that, ultimately, the government had specific responsibilities to focus on.
“How can the government sack the trustee of a church which it contributed no dime to establish? How can a secular and political minister be the final authority on the affairs and management of another institution which is not political? it asked.
“For example, how can a non-Christian head of Government Ministry be the one to determine the running of the church? It is an invitation to trouble that the government does not have power to manage.
“Let the government face the business of providing infrastructure for the people. Let them focus on better health provision, food, education, adequate security employment, etc. The government should not be a busy body in a matter that does not belong to it. The government does not have the technical expertise to run the church of God because of its spiritual nature.”