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Banks, Hotels, Others Back As Government Reopens Businesses

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Businesses got on Monday a new lease of life as government commenced phase two of the ease of lockdown by gradually reopening the economy.

Banks were given immediate clearance to operate fully. Hotels got the nod to reopen “but must observe all mandatory non-pharmaceutical intervention”.

The Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 Control unveiled the new guidelines on Monday at the end of the first phase of lockdown easing ordered by President Muhammadu Buhari on May 4.

National Coordinator of the PTF, Dr. Aliyu Sani, who announced the reopening of the financial sector, said the restricted opening of worship centers will be granted by states subject to the PTF guidelines.

The Aviation Industry is also to be reopened this month.

Airlines and other stakeholders in the industry have been given till June 21 to work out all necessary plans and preparations for the resumption of domestic flights.

Dr. Sani said: “The goal of phase two over the next four weeks is to balance public safety with protecting livelihoods as well as allowing the full restoration of economic activities across the country.

“We are not opening places of worships across the board. We are saying that opening is conditional and it is based on these clear-cut guidelines and would only cover regular church and mosque services.

“Effective from tomorrow (today) Tuesday the 2nd of June, 2020, the easing of the lockdown will be characterized by the following:

“The nationwide curfew will remain in place but the timing of this will be reduced to 10 pm to 4 am. The purpose of the curfew is to limit social interactions and therefore reduce the risk of transmission of the virus.

“Persons that are on essential duty, including but not limited to those involved in the provision of health care services, media services, and critical infrastructure are exempted from the curfew.

“All interstate travels by individuals remain prohibited except for essential travels and the movement of goods and services. All restrictions on the free movement of goods and services are now removed in this phase.

“There will be a full opening of the financial sector with banks now allowed to operate normal working hours-five days a week.

“The mass gathering of more than 20 people outside of the workplace or places of worship remains prohibited.

“There will be controlled access to markets and locations of economic activities. But local authorities will continue to provide guidance on opening times.

“Restricted opening of places of worship will be based on state government protocols and restrict guidelines of physical distancing and other non-pharmaceutical interventions. This will apply to regular church and mosques services only.

“In terms of general movement, persons may go out for work, go to buy necessary food, and for exercise provided that they abide by the curfew hours.

“Movement between local government areas is strongly discouraged unless for critical reasons such as healthcare and work.

“I will like to emphasize that it is still safer to stay at home and avoid crowds. The pandemic is not over in this country and the relaxation of some of the rules doesn’t mean that it is safer to go out. If you do not need to go out please continue to stay at home.

“Hawking and trading are also prohibited and we will be looking into this in later details with state authorities.

“The aviation industry requested to start developing protocols to allow for domestic flights to resume anytime from June 21 onwards. Airlines must ensure physical distancing by reducing passenger capacity, ensure the provision of hand sanitizers, and appropriate personal protective equipment as well as carrying out temperature checks at points of entry and departure and ensuring that airports are not congested by either non-travelers or by airport staff.

“With interstate travels, movement across state borders remains restricted other than the free movement of goods and essential travels. Security services are requested to please cooperate with members of the public and ensure that goods are provided with the free passage as this particular phase is directed at ensuring the economy starts moving again.

“With intra-state travel, we will implement new travel processes for areas of the country with high burden local government areas and this will be restricted to essential travel but for the moment with intrastate travel, all the prior guidelines will remain, including reduced occupancy for buses and taxis, the need for a temperature check and where available, the provision of handwashing facilities and the maintenance of physical distancing.

“For the industry and labor sector in terms of working hours, normal working hours will apply to offices other than government offices provided this is kept within the curfew hours of 10 pm to 4 am.

“Offices are to maintain working at 75 percent capacity while maintaining the two-meter physical distancing.

“For government offices, they can open between the hours of 9 am to 2 pm. So, no change in opening hours but can work from Mondays to Fridays. Prior to this, we allowed a three-day working week. However, only persons that are within the grade level of 14 and above at both the federal and state government levels will be allowed to come into work. We will encourage staff to continue to work at home if possible, including the business and private sector, making the best use of technology that is now available.

“Hotels may reopen but must observe all mandatory non- pharmaceutical interventions.

“Restaurants, other than those in hotels must remain closed to eat -ins but are allowed to prioritize and continue practicing the takeaway system.

“The Federal Ministry of Education has been instructed to work with school owners to prepare students that require exiting exams to allow them to take exams early in the next phase of the lifting of the lockdown.

“State governments and security agencies are enjoined to ensure effective and strict enforcement of these guidelines while respecting the exemptions that have been approved by Mr. President.”

BIG STORY

Diezani Removed $70m From NNPC In 12 Bags —– Ex-NNPC GMD

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A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos heard on Thursday that in 2015, a former Petroleum Resources Minister Diezani Alison-Madueke ordered the removal of $70 million from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) in 12 padlocked bags.

A former NNPC Group General Manager told Justice Muslim Hassan that he delivered the bags to an Abuja-based banker on Mrs. Alison-Madueke’s instructions.

He testified that he and others “had a command-and-obey relationship and also took an oath of office to obey directives and authority”.

The former GGM appeared as a prosecution witness in the trial of a former Executive Director of a top commercial bank, Dauda Lawal.

Lawal is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for alleged money laundering of N928,000,000

The commission accused him of handling $25 million out of $153 million, which the former minister allegedly doled out to influence the 2015 general elections.

The trial opened on Thursday with the ex-NNPC GGM appearing as the first prosecution witness.

Led in evidence by EFCC Prosecutor Rotimi Oyedepo, the witness narrated how he delivered the cash-laden bags to the Abuja banker, identified simply as Charles, in the front of Dume Supermarket in Abuja.

The witness said: “My lord, as I can remember, shortly before the 2015 elections, it was the norm for heads of subsidiaries (of the NNPC) to be invited for an undisclosed briefing of activities of their departments to the minister.

“At the end of such briefings, the then Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Alison-Madueke, gave me a GSM number in respect of one Charles, whom I had never met, with a clear instruction that I should convey 12 padlocked bags to the said Charles.

“My lord, the source, the content, and the purpose of the bags were not disclosed to me.

“Thereafter, I called the said Charles, who equally confirmed to me that he had been briefed about the message. I delivered the bags to Charles.

“Much later, my lord, the EFCC invited me for interrogation on the issue and I made a statement to that effect.

“Charles equally confirmed at the EFCC that he received the 12 padlocked bags and the bags contained $70 million.”

Under cross-examination by the defense counsel, Patrick Ikwueto (SAN), the witness said he had never met Lawal before.

Justice Hassan adjourned till July 21, 22, and 23 for the continuation of trial.

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BIG STORY

Afenifere Demands Sack Of Education Minister For Stopping School Resumption

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The pan-Yoruba socio-political organization, Afenifere has condemned the decision of the Federal Government that schools should remain closed in the country until further notice.

The group called on the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (red.), to sack the minister of education for planning to ground education for a year.

The Secretary-General of the association, Bashorun Sehinde Arogbofa, said the Federal Government should have allowed pupils to resume and find means of protecting them against coronavirus disease.

He said, “Adamu Adamu should be sacked, he cannot bring our school system back to the stone age. They had about six months to plan for these children what did the Federal Government do?

“It means the two of them (Adamu and the Minister of State for Education) don’t know what they are doing, so they should go. I think the two ministers in the ministry should go. Why would one say the pupils should resume taking their paper in August and the other minister would come and reverse the order?”

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BIG STORY

Magu Quizzed Over 380 Houses, 7 Crude Oil-Laden Ships, N37bn Assets

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The embattled Acting Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, was on Wednesday confronted with more allegations.

The Justice Ayo Salami-led Presidential panel asked him to account for 380 houses and seven vessels loaded with crude oil.

The probe panel also grilled on him on the disposal of assets worth N37 billion.

Magu is being grilled, following allegations raised against him by Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami(SAN).

The panel started quizzing Magu on Monday after his arrest by detectives in Abuja. On Tuesday, he was grilled on cash discrepancies said to be N539 billion realized from the sale of seized assets and N504 billion declared by the commission.

Both issues are part of the over 20 allegations leveled against the anti-graft agency chairman by the AGF.

It was also gathered, on Wednesday, that on the ground floor of the Federal Criminal Investigation Department, FCID, Area 10, Abuja, where the EFCC boss is being held, his family members are allowed to visit him.

A Presidency source had said, on Tuesday, that the probe was an affirmation that nobody under the present administration was above scrutiny.

The source had also explained that the interrogation of the anti-graft boss was being done to give him the opportunity to clear himself of the weighty allegations.

It was gathered that Magu was brought to the venue at about 11:14 am from the Force Criminal Investigation Department, FCID, building where he had been held since Monday. He was also joined by his lawyer at the panel for interrogation.

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