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Buhari, Governors Strike Deal On Reopening Of Churches, Mosques; Worshippers Not To Exceed 50

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There were indications on Friday that President Muhammadu Buhari and state governors reached a five-point agreement on containing the coronavirus disease while easing the lockdown nationwide.

It was learnt that the deal addressed the apprehension of some governors on the observance of Sallah prayers and the reopening of worship centers.

A major thrust of the agreement is that gatherings in mosques or churches and the observance of Eid-el-Fitr prayers will not exceed 50 people at a time.

Muslims are also not expected to go to any praying ground but they can use a neighbourhood mosque with only 50 worshippers.

It was gathered that the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), Dr. Kayode Fayemi, also had talks with the President of the Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), Sultan Sa’ad Abubakar, and the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rev. Supo Ayokunle, on the understanding reached with the President.

The NGF chairman was also said to have had discussions with the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha.

Speaking with our correspondent, Fayemi said the governors held a National Economic Council (NEC) meeting on Thursday and that their position on public gathering had not changed, adding that no governor would go against the agenda.

According to findings, the governors proposed a five-point agenda concerning the management of the eased lockdown, which the President endorsed.

The agreement is applicable to all Nigerians, including Muslims and Christians.

Findings revealed that at the NEC session on Thursday, the governors were advised to stick to the agreement reached with the President,

A North-West governor said: “We do not know where all the noise is coming from as if governors are heady and out to frustrate the management of COVID-19.

“In easing the lockdown, we presented a five-point agenda to the President, namely restriction on inter-state movements; internal relaxation of stay-at-home order within a time frame; compulsory wearing of masks; and public gathering, be it social, political or religious, not exceeding 50.

“The fifth clause in the agreement is that we must increase testing so that we can be more accurate.”

Another governor said: “The NGF chairman has had robust discussions with the President of the Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), Sultan Sa’ad Abubakar, and the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rev. Supo Ayokunle, on the pact with the President.

“We, therefore, got the buy-in of NSCIA and CAN on how we want to go about the easing of the lockdown.

“We were briefed at our meeting on how the NGF leadership consulted the Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and other stakeholders on our agenda to ease the lockdown, especially as it concerns worship centers.

“We have got to a stage where we need to lay the cards on the table to show that governors have been mutually consultative.

“What is causing the apprehension nationwide is the fear that governors may not be able to manage the situation if they unlock worship centers or during the Eid-el Fitr celebration.

“So far, we have spoken to ourselves and reached a consensus that we will abide by the agreement.

“We even consented to a clause that nobody should come to the Eid praying ground, the central mosque. Instead, Muslims are expected to use neighbourhood mosques if they cannot stay at home.”

On the alleged recalcitrant posture of some governors, the source added: “I think some of them are being pushed by either some Ulamas or some politicians for electoral purpose.

“We are however hopeful that no one will violate the five-point agenda.”

When contacted, the Chairman of NGF, Dr. Kayode Fayemi said: “Our position on the five-point agenda we gave to the President has not changed.

“I think no governor will go against the agenda.”

BIG STORY

Aides Of VIPs, Politicians To Be Barred From Airports —- FG

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Aides of Very Important Persons (VIPs) and politicians without business traveling will no longer be allowed to enter the airports when domestic flights would resume, Aviation minister Hadi Sirika said on Thursday.

Sirika spoke at an interactive session with members of the Senate Committee on Aviation while responding to questions on protocols put in place to stop further spread of COVID-19 pandemic.

The minister said: “We have circulated this information and Mr. President has approved it.

“All those who have no business traveling will certainly have no business to enter the airport. They will not enter the airport, not at all.

“So, anybody coming into the airport this time around as a personality, a minister or even our honourable members, distinguished senators, will not be carrying their aides into the airports any longer.

“We will provide for all their security for the VIPs and the VIP will get in and travel.

“So the VIPs should help us and take responsibility and ensure that they don’t add to our problems in this country.”

Sirika said the Abuja and Lagos airports would resume domestic operations on July 8, as Kano, Port Harcourt, Owerri, and Maiduguri would resume on July 11, while other airports would resume on July 15.

The minister said the airport authorities were committed to ensuring the provision of necessary safety protocols of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

“There is nothing like rush hour. People have to stay safe before anything happens.

“So, I’m sure that as civil aviation, we are responsible to ensure that everybody remains safe.

“There should be no fear, no panic, the industry is highly regulated. It is one aviation and I’m sure that you have seen from what we have been doing lately.

“We have been following international conventions and practices.

“So, this will not be different, there is nothing to panic about, we will ensure physical distancing when required.”

If the social distancing protocol would result in the reduction of the boarding capacity of an aircraft in terms of the number of passengers, Sirika said: “No, we didn’t say so.

“Bear in mind that most of the flights are not always full. That is number one.

“Number two, I said to you that we are working with the airlines to come up with the protocols before we open. That will be unveiled to you in due course.”

He also assured the Senate committee members that there would not be an issue with the payment of worker’s salaries in the sector.

If the effect of COVID-19 will affect the price of ticketing, he noted that “Price is not in my hands.

“But like I said from what we have put in place, I do not think that anything significant will happen to affect the propensity to fly.”

On the safety of the aircraft for flight operations the Director-General, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Capt Nuhu Musa, said that immediately the airlines stopped flying NCAA gave them guidelines.

“What is called storage maintenance for them to comply with to ensure that their aircraft are properly stowed and in good condition when ready to fly.

“Despite the guidelines, we also check the aircraft before resuming operations.

“Our inspectors are going there to cross-check what the airlines have put in their checklist.

“We are, however, not taking them for what they said. We are physically verifying the true state of their aircraft.”

He said NCAA would not approve any airline or service provider to begin flight operations “until it fulfills and complies with every international guideline and protocols provided by the international civil aviation authority”.

Chairman of the Committee, Sen. Smart Adeyemi (APC-Kogi), said the interactive session was designed to find out steps being taken by the ministry and aviation authorities to ensure the safety of passengers as the airports reopened.

He also said the meeting was also meant to get details on the demands of aviation workers who had earlier complained of non-payment of their salary.

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BIG STORY

Elated Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu Christened Grandson BAT Jnr

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The current situation of things all over the world failed to take the shine off the christening of Seyi and Layal Tinubu’s newborn son, though the newborn grand-parents could not come physically to the naming ceremony due to the pandemic induced traveling ban, they were virtually present, as they all imputed their own choice of name for the baby.

Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu Named the baby Bolatito, after himself and the rest of the names are Ayyan, Tobias, Jidenna, Oluwaseyifunmi, James, Akanbi Tinubu.

According to a source present on the online christening, the astute politician was full of joy as he gladly proclaimed that the latest addition to his family will now be answering to his own revered initials B. A. T which stands for Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

Meanwhile, a very happy Seyi was full of thanks to God for the safe delivery and full of admiration for his darling wife who he explained carry and nurture their bundle of joy safely for 9 months and keep him safe even during the global pandemic and is also taking care of the elder sister even when he was not physically present.

Since the birth was announced last week, congratulatory messages have been trooping in from different people and nations.

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BIG STORY

Police Arrest Chinese Couple Who Locked Up Eight Nigerian Domestic Employees For Four Months In Abuja [PHOTOS]

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The police have arrested a Chinese couple in Abuja for allegedly locking up their Nigerians employees in their apartment for the past four months.

Eight domestic workers were rescued by the personnel of the Utako Divisional Police Station on Tuesday following a tip-off by a resident, who reported the incident to the Human Rights radio station.

The police raided the residence of the Chinese in the Jabi area of Abuja and took the unidentified couple and their domestic employees to the station.

In footage provided by the International Centre for Investigative Reporting, the victims said they had been locked up in the apartment since February.

A lady, who did not give her name, said the domestic workers were not allowed to move out of the building and that the couple refused to allow her to go for treatment when she took ill.

She stated, “When I was seriously sick, I asked these people (Chinese employers) to open the gate for me, but they refused until I became very angry before they opened the door. I know my life may be at risk but I don’t mind, let the world know what is happening.

“They told us that if someone was going out, he could help buy something for us, but when this man (referring to a colleague) went out to buy sachet water, they deducted his salary. What do they want us to do?

“We had to stay in the room and talk to people through the windows. They didn’t give us food; apart from the salary, they didn’t give us anything; they even cut our salaries.”

The driver of the Chinese, who simply identified himself as Alex, said he and the seven others had been working against their will for the couple since the outbreak of COVID-19 in February.

Alex stated, “They never allowed us to go out since February; if any of us went out and they know, a certain percentage of the person’s salary would be deducted.

“Even on Monday when this man (pointing at one of his co-workers) sent someone to buy water, N500 was deducted from his salary that has yet to be paid.”

Another worker said the couple deducted N3,000 from his salary because he went out to fill his pension form.

But sources told PUNCH Metro on Thursday that the workers were refusing to cooperate with the police, adding that when they got to the station, they claimed that they were not forcefully detained by their employers.

“We were surprised by the refusal of the Nigerians to narrate the details of their ordeal to the police. All of them claimed that they chose to stay with the Chinese couple without coercion, but that was not the information that prompted our visit to the apartment. From the look of things, there may be more to what they are telling us,” a police source said.

The spokesman, Federal Capital Territory Police Command, DSP Anjuguri Manzah, confirmed the incident, noting that investigation had commenced.

He said the Chinese couple had been released on bail.

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