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Management officials of federal tertiary hospitals across the country have been directed to engage the services of National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members to maintain routine services in place of resident doctors.

The directive was issued in a statement by Osagie Ehanire, minister of health, as part of efforts to “mitigate the effect” of the strike by resident doctors across the country.

The National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) had embarked on a nationwide strike on Monday over the non-payment of their COVID-19 hazard allowance and other demands.

Reacting to the situation in a statement on Tuesday, the minister said the strike is ill-timed and ill-advised, given the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ehanire reminded the doctors that their primary responsibility is to save lives, adding that it is expected of them to work together to confront COVID-19, “the common enemy”.

“We must remember that the primary duty of doctors and all health workers is to save lives. Embarking on a strike in this time that the country is battling with the COVID-19 pandemic is ill-timed and ill-advised,” Ehanire said.

“It is a critical time in which all well-meaning medical professionals should close ranks and confront the common enemy, which is the COVID-19 pandemic threatening mankind.

This is therefore one strike too many. Besides, most of the demands have been met and others, though difficult, are at an advanced stage of implementation. A little patience would have made a big difference.”

To address the absence of the resident doctors as a result of the industrial action, Ehanire gave federal health institutions four guidelines to comply with.

“COVID-19 treatment outlets should continue to function as before; emergency services should continue to run as before; routine services should be maintained with consultants, NYSC Doctors; locum staffers to be brought in when and where necessary to forestall services disruption when applicable and affordable,” the minister said.

“I call on the NARD to return to work and engage the Federal Government in completing the ongoing due process of implementing the MoU between NARD and government.

“I wish to assure the general public that measures have been put in place to ensure that they continue to access services at all our federal tertiary hospitals across the country.”

The federal government says it has spent N20 billion on the allowance of health workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking when he appeared on Sunrise Daily, a breakfast programme on Channels Television, Olorunnimbe Mamora, minister of state for health, dismissed the allegation that government is not committed to the welfare of health workers.

Doctors under the aegis of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), commenced a nationwide indefinite strike on Monday.

Aliyu Sokomba, NARD president, said the doctors decided to embark on strike due to the failure of the government to meet their demands made in June.

In June, the doctors embarked on a week strike over unpaid salaries, non-payment of hazard allowance, and a dearth of personal protective equipment (PPE) in hospitals, among other reasons.

Mamora said the government is taking steps to meet up with the demands of health workers.

“We have been able to disburse close to N20 billion and I repeat close to N20 billion. So, to now say nothing has been done, that is not true,” he said.

“The initial computation we had from the ministry was in excess of N70 billion. But we had to scale it down based on other realities.

“When we took off in April, the federal ministry of finance budget and national planning was able to source for N20 billion that they put down to cater for three months period.

“But we discovered in the process of implementation that we have other figures based on what we were given at the various centres. We discovered that what we had could only cater for a little above two months but not even reaching the entire three months period. So that was how we got stuck and at each point in time we tried to explain this.

“We were able to pay April, May full, June, part of it has been paid but not fully paid and it is because of the economic situation and these funds have to be sourced for one way or the other.”

The minister said the funds were paid to federal health institutions across the country, including federal medical centres, teaching hospitals, among others.

On the N5,000 hazard allowance for doctors and health workers, he said the payment was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Mamora added efforts are being made to mobilise funds for the payment of health workers.

Nigeria’s total debt stock increased by N2.381 trillion between March 31 and June 30, data released by the Debt Management Office (DMO).

The total public debt stock, which comprises the debt stock of the three tiers of government, stood at N31.009 trillion at the end of June 2020 compared to N28.628 trillion at the end of March 2020.

The DMO said, on Wednesday, that the increase in the debt stock was due to the $3.6 billion budget support loan from the International Monetary Fund, new domestic borrowing to finance the revised 2020 appropriation act including the issuance of the N162.557 billion Sukuk, and promissory notes issued to settle claims of exporters.

“The DMO expects the public debt stock to grow as the balance of the new domestic borrowing is raised and expected disbursements are made by the World Bank, African Development Bank and the Islamic Development Bank which were arranged to finance the 2020 budget.

“It will be recalled that the 2020 appropriation act had to be revised in the face of the adverse and severe impact of COVID-19 on government’s revenues and increased expenditure needs on health and economic stimulus amongst others.

“Additional promissory notes are expected to be issued in the course of the year, this, and new borrowings by state governments are also expected to increase the public debt stock.”

After reviewing the 2020 budget as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government requested for loans worth $6.9 billion from the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and African Development Bank.

The IMF approved a $3.4 billion loan for Nigeria in April.

President Muhammadu Buhari has again asked ministers to channel their requests to meet him through his chief of staff.

Buhari gave the directive while speaking at the first-year ministerial performance review retreat of his administration, in Abuja on Tuesday.

He said matters related to the federal executive council should be handled by the secretary to the government of the federation.

“Let me also reiterate that all submissions for my attention or meeting requests should be channelled through the chief of staff,” he said.

“While all federal Executive council matters should be coordinated through the secretary to the government of the federation.”

This is the second time that the president would give such directive to ministers.

The first time was in 2019 when the president asked them to submit such requests through Abba Kyari, his late chief of staff.

But the instruction at the time triggered different reactions, with some critics of the Buhari administration saying the president had handed over to Kyari.

Ibrahim Gambari is currently the chief of staff to the president.

President Muhammadu Buhari says his administration is doing its best in carrying out its mandate, considering the available resources.

Speaking at the closing ceremony of the one-year ministerial performance review retreat in Abuja on Tuesday, Buhari asked the “Nigerian elites” to judge him fairly, and that ministers should vigorously defend the government.

According to him, more has been achieved with little resources compared to previous administrations when oil sold at a higher rate.

“I have charged all of you to defend the government vigorously and not allow any irresponsible and politically motivated statements to keep spreading falsehoods about this government,” he said.

“Information to the public should be better packaged; go on the offensive, we are proud of our achievements and we should blow our own trumpets.

“I want the Nigerian elites, please encourage them, to judge us fairly… the average production of oil in the country, from 1999 to 2014, was 2.1 million barrels per day (and) sold at an average price of $100.

“When we came, it collapsed to $37, $38 per barrel, you know it. And the militants were unleashed on the administration, and the production went down to half a million barrels per day.

“I want you to please reflect. What was the condition of the infrastructure then, in spite of those earnings? The roads, the rail was dead and there was no power; up till now, no power. Where does the money go?”

‘I AM BEING CALLED ‘BABA GO SLOW”

Buhari added that contrary to what obtained when he was military head of state when people were detained at will, he is “trying to follow the system” in fighting corruption.

“Now, I’m being called ‘baba go slow’,” he said.

The president further directed the release of funds for implementation of the federal government’s N2.3 trillion economic sustainability plan and for capital projects in the 2020 budget.

“I also enjoin ministers to ensure that funds released are utilised efficiently and transparently in implementing the programmes and projects under the line priority areas of government,” he said.

“On behalf of the people of Nigeria, I demand uttermost levels of performance, deliverables and results. I look forward to a result orientated year with tremendous benefits that will continue to change the lives of our people positively.”

President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday revealed his response to President Donald Trump over the American leader’s allegation that he is killing Christians.

On April 30, 2018, Buhari met with Trump in Washington to discuss issues ranging from the fight against insurgency, the economy, among others.

In his closing remarks at the end of the two-day ministerial performance review retreat at the presidential villa, Abuja, Buhari said he told his American counterpart that the problem between herders and farmers is not religious but cultural.

“I believe I was about the only African among the less developed countries, the president of United States invited, and when I was in his office only myself and himself, only God is my witness, he looked at me in the face, he said ‘why are you killing Christians?’” Buhari said.

“I wonder if you were the person how you will react. I hope what I was feeling inside did not betray my emotion.

“So, I told him that the problem between the cattle rearers and stagnant farmers I know is older than me not to talk of him (Trump). I think I am a couple of years older than him.

“With climate change and population growth and the culture of the cattle rearers, if you have 50 cows and they eat grass, any root to your water point, they will follow it, it doesn’t matter whose farm it is.”

He applauded the first republic leadership, accusing subsequent administrations of not handling herder-farmer crisis properly.

“The first republic set of leadership was the most responsible leadership we ever had. I asked the Minister of Agriculture to get a gazette of the early 60s which delineated the cattle routes where they used meagre resources then to put earth dams, wind mills even sanitary department,” he said.

“So, any cattle rearer that allowed his cattle to go to somebody’s farm is arrested, taken before the court, the farmer is called to submit his bill and if he can’t pay, the cattle are sold, but subsequent leaders, VVIPs (very very important persons) they encroached on the cattle routes, they took over the cattle rearing areas.

“So, I tried and explained to him, this has got nothing to do with ethnicity or religion. It is a cultural thing which the respective leadership was failing the nation.”

Femi Falana, a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), has asked the judicial panel investigating Ibrahim Magu, suspended chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), not to act on “misleading evidence”.

The panel, headed by Ayo Salami, retired president of the appeal court, is investigating Magu over allegations of corruption and abuse of office. 

In a letter dated September 4, 2020, Falana said one Gnahouse Sonrou Nazaire, a Benin Republic national who is standing trial at the Lagos state high court, petitioned the panel that he was accused wrongly by the EFCC under Magu.

In the two charges pending at the Lagos state high court, Nazaire was accused of having defrauded Rachidatou Abdou, his erstwhile girlfriend and business partner who is a Nigerian citizen.

Falana, writing on behalf of Abdou, his client, requested that the panel refrain from recommending the termination of the charges against Nazaire at the Lagos court.

The senior lawyer said Naziare and others have been frustrating the court proceedings, and are now using the panel to have the criminal cases against them terminated.

“Our client who is the complainant in both criminal cases has informed us that the defendants recently submitted a petition to the Honourable Judicial Commission of Inquiry headed by the Honourable Justice Issa Ayo Salami PCA (rtd) where they claimed, albeit falsely, that the suspended Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mr. Ibrahim Magu abused his office by charging them with forgery and stealing in the Lagos State High Court on the basis of a petition written on her behalf by our law firm,” the letter read.

“We have since confirmed that the Honourable Judicial Commission entertained the petition, reviewed the two criminal cases pending in the Lagos State High Court and took evidence from the 2nd defendant who has been dismissed from the company on grounds of fraud. The tainted evidence of the defendants was said to have been corroborated by his lawyer who alleged that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is currently prosecuting Mr. Ricky Tarfa SAN for defending the defendants in the criminal cases.

“Contrary to the spurious evidence of the defendants before the Honourable Judicial Commission our client’s petition was submitted to the EFCC under the chairmanship of Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde. The EFCC painstakingly investigated the complaint, indicted the defendants and charged them with forgery and uttering of documents at the Lagos State High Court on July 20, 2015.  The Charge No was LD/1709C/2015 (FRN v Gnahoue Sourou Nazaire &2 Ors) was later amended with the leave of the learned trial judge. However, following the commencement of the criminal proceedings in the Lagos State High Court the defendants filed a fundamental right application (Suit No FHC/L/CS/715/2015) at the Federal High Court seeking to restrain the Attorney-General of the Federation, Inspector General of Police and EFCC from arresting, detaining and persecuting them on the basis of our client’s complaint.

“It is on record that the criminal case instituted by the EFCC against the defendants at the Lagos State High Court in July 2015 and the fundamental rights cases filed by the defendants at the Federal High Court were inherited by Mr. Ibrahim Magu in November 2015 upon his appointment as the Acting Chairman of the EFCC. Therefore, the defendants LIED ON OATH and deliberately set out to pervert the course of justice when they claimed before the Honourable Judicial Commission that our client’s petition was submitted to the EFCC under the leadership of Mr. Ibrahim Magu.”

Arguing that the panel lacks the competence to review the criminal cases that are pending before the court, Falana said if the panel fails to react, he would approach federal high court “with a view to quashing the proceedings of this Honourable Judicial Commission of Inquiry for reviewing criminal cases that are pending before the Lagos State High Court.”

Lai Mohammed, minister of information, says the “opportunistic” opposition is playing dirty politics with the new electricity tariff and increase in petrol price.

Addressing a press conference on Monday in Abuja, Mohammed said subsidising petrol is no longer feasible owing to the prevailing economic conditions.

Mohammed said the federal government could no longer afford petrol subsidy because the country’s foreign exchange earnings have fallen by almost 60 percent.

He said petrol price in Nigeria remains the lowest in West Africa with N162/ litre, adding that Ghana, Benin Republic and Togo sell petrol at N322, N359 and N300 per litre respectively.

“The opportunistic opposition and their allies are playing dirty politics with the issue of petrol pricing and electricity tariff. Please note that these naysayers did not complain when the price adjustment led to lower petrol prices on at least two occasions since March,” he said.

“Yet, the government has had to sustain expenditures, especially on salaries and capital projects.

“One of such difficult decisions, which we took at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March – when oil prices collapsed at the height of the global lockdown – was the deregulation of the prices of PMS.

“As I said earlier, the benefit of lower prices at that time was passed to consumers. Everyone welcomed the lower fuel price then. Again, the effect of deregulation is that PMS prices will change with changes in global oil prices.

“This means quite regrettably that as oil prices recover, there will be some increases in PMS prices. This is what has happened now.”

The minister said the adjustment to the electricity tariff is for the industry to be able to sustain itself.

“The truth of the matter is that due to the problems with the largely-privatised electricity industry, the government has been supporting the industry,” he said.

“To keep the industry going, the government has so far spent almost 1.7 trillion naira, especially by way of supplementing tariffs shortfalls.

“The government does not have the resources to continue along this path. To borrow just to subsidize generation and distribution, which are both privatized, will be grossly irresponsible.”

The minister said the government is not insensitive to the economic difficult

President Muhammadu Buhari has explained why he delayed in approving community policing in Nigeria.

Buhari said the inability of states to pay workers was responsible for the delay in approving community policing.

He disclosed this through his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu.

Speaking on Channels Television, Shehu said there is a standard national procedure and prescription for each state to comply with regarding community policing.

Shehu also disclosed that the president was concerned about the proliferation of arms, hence the delay.

He said, “For President Muhammadu Buhari, the concern has always been about the spread and abuse of weapons in the hands of police.

“He said repeatedly that, look, a lot of the states that had clamoured for state police, many of them are unable to cope with salary payment.

“If you hire a community policeman and give him a gun, and keep him for five, six months without salary, what do you expect?

“Whatever name they go by, Amotekun or whatever, they will be streamlined and they will be run in accordance with the structure as defined by the Inspector-General of Police.”

Recall that Buhari has approved the sum of N13.3 billion for the take-off of community policing in Nigeria.

The approval was disclosed at a meeting of the National Executive Council, NEC, meeting presided over by the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo last week.

The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), on Tuesday, said it has received about 40 applications for the approval of herbal formulations for the treatment of COVID-19.

Speaking during an online news conference, Mojisola Adeyeye, NAFDAC director-general, said the herbal formulations were undergoing review to ensure their safety for use.

According to NAN, Adeyeye said there was no cure for COVID-19 and emphasised that any claim to the contrary must be subjected to clinical trials.

“In March 2019, we inaugurated the Nigerian Herbal Medicine Product Committee (HMPC) to bridge the gap often created between traditional medicine practitioners and researchers,” she said.

“COVID-19 pandemic created an opportunity and we have been encouraging traditional medicine practitioners to submit their herbal formulations for evaluation.

“We also developed guidelines on how to register herbal medicine online and the labelling of the product.

“Professor Maurice Iwu’s application for approval of a herbal medicine for management of COVID-19 is also part of the 40 applications we are reviewing for safety. We use animals for safety tests to ensure the formulation will not kill anybody.

“Until a clinical trial is done in a scientific manner, no herbal medicine manufacturer can claim cure or effectiveness to treat COVID-19 associated symptoms. I believe that Nigeria’s herbal medicines may be able to cure COVID-19.”

She added that herbal remedies have huge potential and “it is time to translate research of herbs into products of proven safety and efficacy, for the benefit of our people”.

As of August 24, 2020, a total of 52,548 coronavirus infections had been confirmed in Nigeria, out of which 39,257 recoveries and 1,004 deaths have been recorded.