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Government Lists Guidelines For School Reopening, Omits Resumption Date

Gbemileke Ajayi

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There was confusion on Monday over reopening of schools in the country as the Federal Government issued guidelines, but failed to mention the resumption date for the schools.

The guidelines for the reopening of schools were contained in a document titled, ‘Guidelines for schools and learning facilities reopening after COVID-19 pandemic closures: Taking responsibility for safe schools and quality learning.’

It was signed by the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, and Minister of State for Education, Mr Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba.

The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 had, at its press briefing on June 29, said the Federal Government had approved the resumption of graduating pupils in Primary 6, Junior Secondary School 3 and Senior Secondary School 3.

It said the resumption would enable the pupils to prepare for their final examinations. The task force said the West African Examinations Council had fixed the West African Senior School Certificate Examination for between August 3 and September 5.

At the June 29 press briefing, the PTF National Coordinator, Dr Sani Aliyu, said, “Pupils in graduating classes – only graduating classes; Primary 6, JSS 3 and SSS3 – will be allowed to resume in preparation for examinations.”

But on Wednesday, the Federal Executive Council, at its meeting made a U-turn when it put the planned resumption of graduating classes on hold on the grounds that it was not safe to reopen schools because of COVID-19.

It said pupils of the Federal Government-owned unity schools would not participate in WASSCE.

Despite putting the resumption on hold, the Federal Ministry of Education on Monday issued guidelines for the reopening of the schools.

According to the guidelines, the safe distancing measures require that in schools and other learning facilities, learners should be supported to stay two metres apart.

The document states that where the two-metre rule could not be reasonably applied, other risk mitigation strategies could be adopted.

It states, “In these circumstances, risk assessments must be undertaken with the best interests of the learners, teachers, and other education personnel in mind. The scenarios require organising learners and children into small groups with consistent membership and compliance to the risk mitigation strategies. The membership of these groups should not change unless the NCDC public health guidelines suggest otherwise.”

The government said with the release of the document, it would conduct a rapid assessment of funding requirements for upgrading infrastructure such as classrooms, furniture and water to meet prescribed safe school reopening requirements.

Speaking on the guidelines, Adamu said, “Given that COVID – 19 may be with us for a while, the guidelines also highlight the urgent need to maintain and improve upon distance-learning programmes. Our aim is to identify and strengthen programmes that will guarantee the recovery of learning gaps resulting from the pandemic.

But at the PTF press conference on Monday, Nwajiuba insisted that there was no policy somersault on the planned reopening of schools.

Nwajiuba said, “Mallam Adamu Adamu is consistently in tune with what we have said in the PTF. No schools are reopened, we didn’t reopen any school.

“He (Adamu Adamu) was only giving what he has received which was the timetable as published by WAEC and advised that this period, from now till when the (WASCCE) examination will take place sometime in August, anybody who wanted to use the schools would have to follow the guidelines.

“He said however that he is not in charge of private schools and schools under the concurrent list and power have therefore been devolved to sub-national who can take a decision on their state-owned schools, whether they can participate in the WAEC examinations or not.

At the press briefing, the PTF said the Federal Government had asked all government officials to suspend what it called all unnecessary travels for meetings, saying they should continue with virtual meetings.

With electioneering reaching its peak in Edo and Ondo states where governorship elections would hold, the government also cautioned politicians to be circumspect in their gatherings.

The PTF Chairman, Boss Mustapha, who is also the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, urged corporate organisations not to misconstrue the resumption of flights but also encourage virtual meetings.

He said, “The PTF wishes to reiterate the following: ‘all government offices shall continue to hold virtual meetings in their offices especially where participants exceed four persons and suspend all unnecessary travels for meetings.

“For corporate organisations, board members, etc, the reopening of the domestic flights should not be misconstrued. The PTF strongly encourages virtual meetings as well.

“We still urge places of worship to cautiously follow the guidelines on public gatherings, and we urge members of the political class to exercise utmost circumspection in their gathering for whatever reasons.”

On the testing deficit, the SGF said the task force has resolved to establish one sample collection centre per local government area.

The Director-General of the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, on his part said new evidence suggested that COVID-19 might be transmitted through the air.

He explained that hitherto the virus was believed to only be transmittable through droplets which emanate from the nose and the mouth and fall to the ground.

Ihekweazu, however, stated that studies of new infections showed that the disease might also be airborne.

The NCDC boss said, “Over the past few weeks, increasing evidence has emerged that in addition to droplet infections, we cannot rule out that airborne transmission is also possible as a mode of transmission of Covid-19.”

Ihekweazu said with this new revelation, the wearing of face masks and the need to maintain social distancing had become imperative.

The NCDC boss also stated that one of the challenges undermining the agency’s efforts was the high number of unnecessary calls being received by the emergency centres.

He said last week alone 26 per cent of the calls its emergency centres received were ‘hoax’ calls.

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One Year After, Abuja Court Fines Senator Abbo N50m For Assaulting Woman At Sex-Toy Shop

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The High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in Maitama, Abuja, on Monday, awarded N50m damages against the senator representing Adamawa North, Elisha Abbo, to be paid as compensation to a female attendant at a sex-toy shop, Osimibibra Warmate, whom he assaulted.

Justice Samira Bature gave the order in her judgment on the fundamental rights enforcement suit instituted by Warmate against the senator.

The video clip of the alleged assault of the woman by the senator had gone viral.

The police had in 2019 charged before a magistrate court in Zuba, Abuja with one count of assaulting Warmate at a sex-toy shop in Abuja.

But the presiding magistrate, Abdullahi Ilelah, had dismissed the case after upholding the no-case submission filed by the senator.

Warmate, through her legal team including Esosa Omo-Usoh and Nelson Onuoha, went on to sue Abbo in a fundamental rights enforcement suit filed before the FCT High Court and marked FCT/CV/2393/19.

Justice Bature upheld the plaintiff’s case in a judgment on Monday by ordering the senator to pay N50m to the applicant.

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BIG STORY

War Of Words: Amaechi Fights Wike At Supreme Court Justice’s Burial

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Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, and his predecessor, Rotimi Amaechi, on Saturday engaged in a verbal fight at the burial of a former Justice of the Supreme Court, Adolphus Karibi-Whyte, in the Abonnema, Akuku-Toru Local Government Area of the state.

Amaechi, who is the Minister of Transportation, while speaking at the funeral service, lamented what he termed the rising insecurity and political intimidation in the state, saying the state was back to the time of Ateke Tom, a former militant leader, who is now the traditional head of Okochiri town in Okrika LGA of the state.

“You have lost your voice. The sage (the late justice) has gone under and nobody is speaking. When I was governor, I gave people voices, but they have blocked those voices.

“Everyone is scared. We are going back to when Ateke held sway. We are going back to the period where we run away from our people. We are back to a period when nobody could speak. But from next year, I will begin to speak, if nobody wants to speak.

“We are all here because we need to bury a man God has blessed. I have stopped traveling because of bad weather, but I told myself I must be here because of Justice Whyte.

“If you knew Justice (Karibi-Whyte) very well, you will know I was close to him. I was one of the few people he mentored,” Amaechi stated.

Wike on his part described the late Karibi-Whyte as an epitome of unshakable integrity, civility, and dignity, but noted that comments credited to Amaechi were embarrassing.

Responding to Amaechi, Wike who was represented by his Chief of Staff, Chief Emeka Woke, said the minister had lost touch with developments in the state, adding that since the launching of Operation Sting by his administration, the security situation had improved greatly.

Wike said, “It is unfortunate for Amaechi to come to Kalabari land and accuse former President Goodluck Jonathan of not developing the area six years after he had left office.

“I wonder why the former governor will choose to make such embarrassing remarks at the funeral of late Justice Karibi-Whyte, a man he (Amaechi) claimed to be his mentor.”

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Nationwide Strike: Nigerian Govt Releases Details Of Agreements With Labour Leaders

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The Federal government on Monday made public the details of its agreements with organised labour.

A statement on FG’s Twitter handle said officials held consultation meetings with leaders of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) on September 15, 24 and 27, 2020.

The resolutions reached included establishment of Technical Committee on Electricity Tariff.

It is chaired by the Minister of State, Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, and comprises ministries, agencies, NLC and TUC.

They will work over the next two weeks.

They are to examine the justification for the electricity tariff review; review the deployment of meters, and advice FG on issues hindering implementation.

During the two-week period, DISCOs will suspend implementation of the electricity tariff adjustments.

The statement reiterated that the petrol subsidy regime has stifled downstream sector growth.

“In addition, the dire financial circumstances of the Federation preclude the ability to sustain any subsidy on PMS, and thus makes the deregulation of the sector inevitable. NNPC will expedite the rehabilitation of its Refineries, with a 50% completion target for Port Harcourt by December 2021.

“NNPC will integrate national leadership of NUPENG and PENGASSAN into the Steering Committee established to oversee the Rehabilitation Exercise. A Validation Team comprising of Reps of @NNPCgroup, @nigeriaeiti, @icrcng, NUPENG and PENGASSAN will be established to monitor the progress of the Rehabilitation of Refineries, Pipelines and Depot Networks.

“The Federal Government will continue to facilitate licensing and delivery of new modular and regular refineries. FG will ensure delivery of 1 million CNG/LPG Autogas Conversion Kits, Storage Skids and Dispensing Units under the Nigeria Gas Expansion Programme, by December 2021.

“A Governance Structure for this project will be established and will include Labour Representatives. FG will work to facilitate the removal of tax on minimum wage. FG will make available to Labour 133 CNG/LPG-driven Mass Transit Buses immediately, for use in major cities nationwide, and thereafter extend to all States and LGAs before December 2021.

“Ongoing FG Housing Initiatives will have 10 per cent allocated to Nigerian workers. Moribund National Labour Advisory Council (NLAC) will be revived before the end of 2020, to institutionalize dialogue and engagement on socio-economic and labour issues to forestall future crises,” it disclosed.

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