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BIG STORY

Coronavirus: Atiku Urges FG To Give Families N10,000 Each; Ask Telecoms Providers To Give Free N1,500 Airtime To Customers

Gbemileke Ajayi

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Former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar has called on the federal government to institute a stimulus package for poor families amid the coronavirus.

Atiku made this call in a letter he personally signed in which he also appealed to telecommunication operators to award free credit of at least ₦1500 per mobile line to their subscribers.

In the letter, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, said coronavirus has foisted economic hardship on struggling families and called on the government to mitigate the suffering in form of a stimulus package.

He went to pledge N50m as his contribution to the proposed program.

It reads: “As the coronavirus pandemic ravages the world, I applaud the various Nigerian state governments who have proactively taken measures, such as issuing stay at home orders, and shutting down non-essential markets and other places of mass gatherings, while also giving guidelines for social distancing.

“However, we must accept the fact that much of the Nigerian public have a subsistence existence. A large percentage of our people do not have the financial capacity to withstand long periods of self-isolation and even lockdown.

“It is, therefore, incumbent on the Federal and state governments to provide palliatives to the Nigerian people to enable them to survive, even as they abide by these necessary measures put in place for their safety.

“At approximate 30 million households or thereabouts, the government should devise modalities to distribute N10,000 as a supplement for foodstuff to each household, among other palliative measures, with no one left behind.

“It is thus time for the National Assembly to reconvene in an emergency session, perhaps by teleconference (in line with the demands of social distancing), to legislate a Stimulus Package Act that will cater to all Nigerian citizens.

“I also call on all Mobile Telephony Companies in Nigeria to urgently develop mobile money platforms so that the government can reach the unbanked with financial assistance. I also urge these telecommunications firms to offer each of the 100 million mobile phone lines in Nigeria free credit of at least ₦1500 per mobile line, so that Nigerians who show symptoms, or those who just want information, can call the nearest available health facility, or even an ambulance service, as the case may be.

“I commend all individuals and corporate organizations who have one way or the other provided some form of relief for the Nigerian people. In essence, this is what makes Nigeria great, when we help each other at such crisis times as this, irrespective of any differences. I further call on more corporations and individuals with capacity, to assist the public in these trying times. To this end, Priam Group pledges N50 million on my behalf as my humble contribution to a relief Fund that will form part of the stimulus package.”

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Don’t Allow External Forces Destroy Us, Allow Seed Of Peace Germinate —- Sanwo-Olu Begs Lagosians

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The Governor of Lagos State, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has appealed to residents not to allow external forces to destroy the wellbeing and security of the state.

He spoke on Tuesday during a stakeholders’ engagement, tagged, ‘Internal Security and Conflict Resolution in Lagos State.’

The meeting, which held at the Adeyemi Bero Auditorium, Alausa, was also attended by the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola; Minister of Police Affairs, Maigari Dingyadi; human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, among others.

Sanwo-Olu said the coordinated arson and destruction that trailed the #EdSARS protest was a wake-up call to all citizens and security organizations to be vigilant and move against actions that could affect the wellbeing and security of Nigeria.

He pleaded with residents to allow the seed of peace being sown to germinate, while also stressing the need to re-establish communication links between the government and the people.

He said, “We have to reignite the communication link between government and the people so that fifth columnists or conspiracy theorists will not be able to infiltrate and spread disinformation and misinformation that would jeopardize the future of our country or the opportunities available for our youths to contribute to the greatness of our country.”

The forum later moved into an executive session where discussions were held on ways out of the current situation.

The participants, in the 15-point communique issued after the meeting, called on the Federal Government to treat Lagos security as a national issue.

The group also called for increased intelligence gatherings by security agencies by working with neighbourhood security apparatus.

They urged job creation for the youth, including the reintroduction of value-driven programmes, such as Boys Scout, Girls Guild, “in our schools to meaningfully engage young people.”

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U.S Exempts Nigeria From Trump’s New $15,000 Visa Bond Policy

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The United States Mission in Nigeria says Nigeria is not currently part of the pilot visa bond programme.

The Trump administration had introduced a new temporary policy issued to discourage nationals of some countries with higher visa overstay rates.

Under the new policy, visitors to the US from such countries may have to pay up to $15,000 in bonds.

The visa bond pilot programme is said to target mostly African countries with high visa overstay — the visitors are believed to have entered the country legally on student, tourist, work visas and then stay past their visa expiration date.

According to data from the DHS, almost 30,000 Nigerians overstayed their B1/B2 visas in 2018, ranking as the 5th country with the most visa overstays in the US.

This makes Nigeria the African country with the most visa overstays.

In 2019, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) had reported that Nigeria might be affected by the move of the Trump administration to check the tide of countries whose immigrants overstay their visas at relatively high rates.

On Monday, the US government announced that it had introduced the visa bond pilot programme for B-1 visas (for business travellers) and B-2 visas (for tourists).

It said the pilot programme will run for six months.

There have been concerns that Nigeria may be affected by the policy.

But in a statement on Tuesday, the US mission in Nigeria said the most populous black nation on earth will not be affected by the policy.

“In response to the April 2019 Presidential Memorandum on Combating High Nonimmigrant Overstay Rates, the Department and our embassies and consulates overseas conducted an in-depth analysis to identify and address root causes of overstays,” the statement read.

“Among other efforts to address this challenge, the State Department is considering additional steps to address overstays, including piloting a limited visa bonds program to test, in coordination with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the operational feasibility of posting, processing, and discharging visa bonds as means to ensure the timely departure from the United States of certain travelers. Accordingly, the State Department will begin a limited six-month visa bond pilot program beginning on December 24, 2020.

“We are committed to combating visa overstays and making sure travelers to the United States respect our laws. The implementation of this pilot builds on our engagement with foreign governments in recent years and will ensure continued progress to reduce overstay rates. Nigeria is not included in this six months pilot program.”

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Family Of Slain Newspaper Vendor Demands N500m From Gbajabiamila

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The family of Ifeanyi Okereke, the vendor killed by a security aide of Femi Gbajabiamila, speaker of the house of representatives, is demanding N500 million from the number four citizen.

Last week, Okereke was shot by Abdullahi Hassan, a Department of State Services (DSS) operative attached to the speaker.

According to PUNCH, the demand was contained in a letter addressed to the speaker by Mike Ozekhome, counsel to the family.

In the letter dated November 23, the Okereke family said the demand is not enough to replace their son.

“Our clients have instructed us to make from your good self, the following modest demands: That you use your good offices to ensure the immediate prosecution of your security aide (Abdullahi Hassan), who went on a frolic of his own, clearly acted outside the purview of his duty and responsibility by shooting to death an innocent, harmless and armless citizen,” Ozekhome said.

“That you adequately compensate the Okereke family with a modest sum of N500m only.

“This monetary demand can never adequately replace or take the place of their son, husband, brother, and breadwinner’s life. But it will at least mitigate the obvious trauma and hardship the premature demise of their irreplaceable breadwinner has placed on them.”

The lawyer said if the speaker fails to accede to their demand in seven days, they would take legal steps.

“Take note therefore that it is our clients’ firm instruction that in the event that you fail, refuse and/or neglect to accede to or proffer reasonable compensatory terms to our above modest demands within seven days from the date of this letter, we shall without any further correspondences from us, take appropriate legal steps to enforce our clients’ constitutional rights,” he said.

Gbajabiamila said he has handed over the aide to the DSS for discipline.

He has also visited the family of the deceased to condole with them.

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