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COVID-19: If You’re 55 And Above, Avoid Mosques, Churches For Now —- FG

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The Federal Government on Tuesday gave an advisory to Nigerians saying “If you are 55 years old and above, avoid churches and mosques’.

Those with health conditions such as diabetes, cancer, HIV, among others, are also enjoined to stay at home to worship, the government added.

It noted that the advice was necessary because places of worship have been recognised as a major avenue of the potential spread of Coronavirus.

The government stated this through the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 Control. It released the guidelines for states to follow in discussions with religious leaders before the reopening of churches and mosques for worshippers.

The government said the protocols made available would be the baseline which the states are not expected to go below while firming up an agreement with religious leaders.

Nigerians have been pressuring the government to reopen worship centres in spite of the spike in COVID-19 positive cases, leading to easing of restrictions on religious centres.

The PTF National Coordinator, Dr. Aliyu Sani, who announced the guidelines said religious centres should keep a record of attendees.

Dr. Sani said this would allow for contact tracing in the case of virus spread.

He urged worshippers experiencing common symptoms of COVID-19 to stay away from churches and mosques.

He said: “We are strongly advising vulnerable individuals such as those with underlying conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, HIV, cancer and those above the age of 55 years to please stay at home and consider remote participation or non-contact attendance.

“When we look at the death rate for persons who have died from COVID-19 in Nigeria, the case fatality rate; more than half of those that died were above the age of 50.

“Secondly, the case fatality rate if you are above the age of 50, is 17 per cent. If you are above the age of 55, it is 18 per cent. It is almost a one in five chances of dying if you catch COVID-19 and you fall within that group.

“Worshippers should be reminded not to attend in person if experiencing common symptoms of COVID-19, including fever, cough and shortness of breath or have had close contact with an infected person in the last 14 days.

“All worshippers noted to have a temperature or are symptomatic should be turned back and not allowed admission.

“Places of worship should ideally keep up to date record of their staff including contact details and if possible, a record of attendees of church services for instance or an even small mosque to enable contact tracing in the event that somebody comes up positive.

“Considering the dangers posed by the pandemic, we strongly recommend that religious visits to homes by religious clerics should be discouraged.”

The national coordinator said: “It is important to note that due to the nature of religious congregations, places of worship are particularly recognised to have a major potential for spreading COVID -19 infection among worshippers and this has been clearly demonstrated in several outbreaks globally linked to religious gatherings.

“Places of worship that are unable to comply with these measures should not be allowed to operate by state governments.

“Churches are to open from 5 am and close by 8 pm. Each service should be for a maximum of one hour with an interval of 20 minutes in-between services to allow time for disinfection.”

He said the task force will not hesitate to shut down religious centres if they fail to comply with the protocols developed for their reopening.

“These guidelines provide a baseline for the states to then develop their own policies specific to their areas depending on the prevalence of COVID-19, depending on whether or not people are likely to follow and comply fully.

“But we will be reviewing these guidelines from time to time and we will definitely review them if it looks like we are having issues with regards to this relaxation and I plead with the public to understand with us but more importantly, continue to stay safe.

“It is better to stay at home and worship than to go into a place of worship,” he emphasised.

Sani reminded Nigerians of the dangers posed by the virus, noting that now is not the time to relax measures against the pandemic.

“Let me make some clarifications because I understand there has been a lot of concern nationwide about the opening of places of worship.

“There is no doubt that COVID-19 is still around, there is no doubt that it is safer for you to stay at home and there is also no doubt that it is safer for you to worship at home.

“The PTF is providing safety advisory or guidance in the event that you need to upgrade your spiritual needs and you cannot do it at home but we are not making recommendations that people should go to places of worship but if they chose to, we are providing advisory to enable them to do so safely.

“COVID-19 has not gone away. You only need to look at the numbers. We are in the exponential stage of the illness. We have moved as a country right up to the third position in Africa and because of our population, we could also move to the second position or even the first.

“So now is the time to continue to take precautionary measures. Now is not the time to relax. I hope I have made that clear.

“In view of the widespread community transmission of COVID -19, it is important that places of worship operate in a safe manner to ensure the protection of public health, avoid outbreaks and safeguard the health of vulnerable members of the population.”

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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