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COVID-19: When will the lockdown end?

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COVID-19

By: Nura Garba

Many people around the world have continued to ask several questions with regard to the lockdown being experienced which has kept them away from daily activities. The prominent of which is when will the lockdown end in the face of coronavirus?

It is no longer news that the spread of coronavirus has infected over 2.2 million people with more than 156,000 deaths, increasing concern over the continuous spread and fatalities in the coming weeks.

With over 33,000 deaths in America, the Vice President, Mike Pence projected 130,000 deaths in the country. This has sparked more fears and apprehension despite the fact that President Donald Trump has started mapping out plans for reopening of the country’s economy in phases. But experts warn against doing that now.

Since the directive of the two-week lockdown of three states of Abuja, Lagos and Ogun as part of the roll out plans to contain the spread of the virus by the President on 30th March, 2020, the virus has continued to rear its ugly head. This forced the President to add another two-week lockdown in the three states through a national broadcast on 11th April, 2020.

As it stands on Saturday, 18th April, 2020, 493 people have been tested positive in Nigeria and 17 people were confirmed dead. This further raises more concern especially with the rapid increase in positive cases and fatalities.

One area of concern is that 20 states in the country have been affected and stakeholders have projected that in few coming weeks all states would be affected.

Many Nigerian states have followed suits with the lockdown directives because experts argued that it is the best way to contain the spread of the virus.

Testing

Nigeria’s policy is one of targeted testing. This involves identifying those who are most likely to be infected, namely those who have just come back from other countries and those they have been in contact with.

In terms of contact tracing, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control has identified between six and seven thousand contacts cumulatively. The focus of last week was to improve the level of contract tracing, made easier by the lockdown.

With contact tracing, each new case tends to have about 30-40 contacts to follow up. Every contact is followed up with for 14 days. To date, about 30% of all the cases in the country have been found via contact tracing.

Even though, we cannot compare our healthcare facilities with that of US, the rate at which people are tested is alarming. This is because only a little over 5,000 people were tested and the United States has rolled out plans to test 120,000 people daily. This is one area that Nigeria should expedite action in order to establish laboratories in all states of the federation.

In South Africa, in the face of increasing local transmission—and the threat of Covid-19 spreading to the majority of the country, who are not able to afford private healthcare or testing—the National Health Laboratory Service has said that by the end of April, it will be able to process approximately 36,000 tests in 24 hours.

Africa now has more than 1,000 deaths from COVID-19, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Saturday, with Nigeria currently has nearly 500 cases of the virus.

The World Health Organization noted a 51% increase in cases in Africa and a 60% jump in deaths in the past week. But the WHO chief warned that because of a shortage of testing “it’s likely the real numbers are higher than reported.”

The Honorable Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire  two days ago said that there are 12 functional COVID- 19 testing laboratories in Nigeria with a capacity to test 1,500 samples daily. This is quite unfortunate looking at the mass population. Nigeria 2020 population is estimated at 206,139,589 million people at mid -year according to United Nation data. Nigeria population is equivalent to 2.64% of the total world population. In view of this, how can we know the exact number of people with positive cases? That is why we still have somewhat inaccurate cases of covid 19 because of lack of testing laboratories.

For instance, with the population of South East and the nature of their people who usually travel outside the country and within the country especially Lagos and Abuja has far less cases of the virus compared to a single state of Kano with 27.  Does it mean they conceal their people from being tested or simply put it that there are no testing facilities in the region?

This is a critical time when the country must scale up testing samples in order to identify the positive cases with a view to containing them. If care is not taken Nigeria may face one of the biggest health challenges in history.

Abba Kyari’s Death

Nigeria recorded its first high profile death on Friday, 17th April, 2020, when the Chief of Staff to the President Muhammadu Buhari, Abba Kyari died of coronavirus complications. His death has triggered more concerns in the country to the danger associated with the virus and its deadly consequences.

Abba Kyari had earlier been tested positive following a trip to Germany and Egypt, according to Nigerian media. So, too, have at least three of his staffers. Nigerian media described Kyari as “very sick,” and that he had been removed from Abuja to an infectious disease treatment center in Lagos. Kyari reportedly began coughing heavily during a meeting that included, among others, the president and vice president.

The Progressive Governors Forum has described the death of the Chief of Staff to the President, Mallam Abba Kyari, as a call for united action against the spread of COVID-19.

Chairman of the forum and Governor of Kebbi State, Abubakar Bagudu, said this in a statement he signed and made available to newsmen in Abuja, via email, on Saturday.

Bagudu said, “The death of Mallam Abba is a further call on all Nigerians to be united in the fight against the spread of COVID-19.

“As Progressive Governors, we, on this sad day, hereby re-affirm our unconditional support to the laudable initiatives of the President Buhari-led Federal Government.”

The forum said it received news of the death of the presidential aide with heavy heart and gratitude to Allah (SWT) for a life well blessed.

The statement further read, “We, the Progressive Governors Forum (PGF), join the family, President Muhammadu Buhari GCFR and the nation to pray for the repose of the soul of our dear and beloved Mallam Abba Kyari. His death is a loss to the nation and the Nigerian progressive community.

“We pray to God Almighty to grant the family the fortitude to bear this heavy loss. May Allah reward all the good work of Mallam Abba, forgive his limitations and bless what he left behind.

“We call on all Nigerians, irrespective of our political, religious, ethnic, social status or any other differences, to support the Federal Government in the fight against this deadly virus.

Many Nigerians have prayed for the repose of the deceased and the family to have the fortitude to bear the loss.

Will the lockdown be relaxed?

As it is globally, many countries are extending the lockdown directive due to the rising cases of the pandemic as the situation is becoming beyond their control.

In Nigeria, with the demise of Abba Kyari and the increase in the cases to almost 500, it is unlikely that the lockdown will be relaxed. Some states are yet to record the covid-19 cases but implemented the lockdown measure. Other states with that have not taken measures should do so to contain the virus before it spreads.

Nigerians should continue to stay at home and observe social distancing as a way of precautionary measures to contain the spread of the virus. “I know the difficulties Nigerians have been facing through the lockdown,” said Mr. President in his second national broadcast last week.

The Director Centre Centre for Infectious Diseases Research (CIDR), Bayero University, Kano, Professor Isa Abubakar warned states against relaxing the lockdown, saying that it is too early and risky to do that at least for now.

In an interview with the Daily Trust Newspaper, Prof Abubakar stated that “that is categorically a very wrong step to take because we are watching what is happening across the globe. The pandemic is ravaging developed countries, many are being infected every second, and many are still dying with the disease. I do not know what informed the decision of the state governors to start relaxing the lockdown. That is ill advised,” he argued.

From the way things are going, the two-week lockdown extension given by the President Buhari on three states and similar directive imposed by some state governors in the country may be extended. Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa has extended the lockdown indefinitely.

The Kano State Governor, Dr. Abdullahi Ganduje has imposed a one-week lockdown in the state. The state has now recorded 27 cases with one death and according to health experts many cases are on the offing due to negligence and attitude of the people. “Some people in Kano still do not believe that the corona virus exists, health expert in the state said.

“This is a serious issue that must be given serious attention. We have taken drastic measures to curtail the spread of the virus,” said Governor Abdullahi Ganduje.

Palliatives to the Rescue

This is the time that the government, legislators and philanthropic individuals should be up to the task by supporting the people because no one knows when the lockdown will end.

Government should consider its masses especially in northern Nigeria where most people live from hand to mouth because there will come a time when people may not understand the stay at home measures if they don’t have what to eat.

But for now, people must respect the government’s directives to stay at home, observe social distancing and wash hands regularly with sanitizers and water to avoid contracting the virus.

Only God knows when the lockdown will end, but we should pray fervently and seek Allah’s intervention to bring this pandemic to an end.

Nura Garba writes from Bayero University, Kano.

You can reach him via garbanbuk@gmail.com

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Opinion

Electronic transmission of results: The joke is on NASS, INEC, not NCC  

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Aliyu Momodu

In the heat of the debate over Electoral Act Amendment Bill and the propriety and workability of electronic transmission of result, the House of Representatives invited the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, the nation’s telecoms regulator.

The House also invited the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to answer to some questions. But as it has now turned out, the invitation to NCC was needless, baseless and at best a futile exercise in red-herring. The NCC, it must be stated, is one of the best performing public institutions in Nigeria with its exemplary culture of good corporate governance noised abroad even as far as Switzerland, the head office of the International Telecommunications Union, ITU.

The NCC has over the years become a worthy Ambassador of Africa in the ITU family. It has not only represented Africa on the international circuit, it has sponsored young Nigerian techies and tech nerds to ITU-promoted competitions on innovation and in most cases, these fecund Nigerians have come out tops, beating competitors from Asia, Europe and the rest of the world. NCC has functioned as a truly independent regulator, inspiring confidence in investors, telecom consumers and other stakeholders including the media. It was therefore needless and a clear act of mischief to drag such an untainted commission into the nation’s murky political waters.

Dragging the commission to testify before the House on the feasibility of electronic transmission of results is mischievous on the part of the lawmakers. It’s a joke taken too far by a body that was supposed to understand the basics of the nation’s Grundnorm, the constitution. They feigned ignorance of relevant sections of the constitution just to scapegoat the NCC and make themselves look squeaky clean.

The Senate itself was fraudulent and duplicitous when it pushed the responsibility of Electronic Transmission of result to the NCC in spite of what the constitution says about the powers of INEC to determine the electoral process including the pattern of voting and mode of transmission of result. Some senators, including the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, a man who once desecrated the hallowed chamber when he sponsored and promoted in broad daylight the ignoble venture of stealing the Mace, the symbolic authority of the Senate, were quick to quote obviously false statistics which they dubiously ascribed to the NCC. What a show of shame that persons elected to make laws for the good governance of the nation and who should know the rudiments of extant laws including the constitution would feign ignorance of aspects of the law that makes utter nonsense of their tomfoolery and moral somersaults in the chambers of the Senate.

For the avoidance of doubt, Section 78 of the Constitution provides that ‘The Registration of voters and the conduct of elections shall be subject to the direction and supervision of the Independent National Electoral Commission’.”

The Third Schedule, Part 1,F, Section15 says: “INEC has power to organise, undertake and supervise all elections to the offices of the President, Vice President, Governor and Deputy Governor of a state, and to the membership of the Senate, the House of Representatives and the House of Assembly of each state of the Federation.”

The Constitution further provides that INEC operations shall not be subject to the direction of anybody or authority.”

This, therefore, renders the action of the NASS nugatory. By inviting NCC and INEC shunning its own invitation, it appears the House was acting a devious and utterly treacherous script intended to do harm to the purity of the electoral process, and only conscripted NCC into the plot to draw legitimacy from the globally acknowledged good governance rectitude of the telecom regulator. It was a wrong decision meant to hoodwink Nigerians and clearly intended to make the lawmakers smell like rose flower while the NCC and INEC appear like villains of a political plot.

Electronic transmission of result is not rocket science. It is a universal norm in the 21st century. Smaller and poorer nations across the globe have achieved electronic transmission of result even with their limited infrastructure, Nigeria should not be an exception. It’s as simple as sending a text message, WhatsApp message or using any other platform recommended by INEC, not NCC, not NASS. Even if network is weak or non-existent in a particular unit, moving further away from such unit until you access a place of better network still will not vitiate the authenticity of the result already tallied at the polling units. The electronic copy only complements the physical copy which must have been signed by all agents relevant to the election. Electronic copy as a back-up copy helps to strengthen the electoral process and reduce incidents of ballot-snatching and primitive manipulation of the physical copy. There ought not to be a debate on this especially when INEC, the only body mandated by the constitution to organize, undertake and supervise all elections has categorically stated that it can achieve electronic transmission of results.

The joke truly is on NASS and an inconsistent INEC.

Aliyu Momodu, is a public affairs analyst.

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Unusual signs may emerge on Laylatul Qadr – Alakarmawi

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Sheikh Muhammad Nazifi Alkarmawi

Nasiru Yusuf

A renowned Islamic scholar in Kano Sheikh Muhammad Nazifi Alkarmawi said it is sometimes possible to witness unusual signs on Laylatul Qadr.

Kano Focus reports that Sheikh Alkarmawi revealed this while delivering his Friday sermon.

He said Laylatul Qadr is one of the most sacred nights in Islam found in the last ten days of Ramadan.

According to him it is sometimes possible to witness unusual signs on the night.

Some of the signs highlighted by the Imam is the night is serene, quiet and shining where the temperature is neither hot nor cold and the moon shines clearly.

Sheikh Alkarmawi said Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him used to double effort in the last ten days of Ramadan aimed at witnessing the night.

He described as a weak a narration wich declared twenty seventh night of Ramadan as Laylatul Qadr, and urged adherents to seek the night in the last ten days of the holy month.

On the recommended acts in the night, Sheikh Muhammad Nazifi Alkarmawi cited a hadith narrated by Nana Aisha which prophet taught Muslims to recite ‘Allahumma innaka afuwun, tuhibbul afwa, fa’afu anna.

He also admonished faithful on supplication, forgiveness, upholding good deeds and assisting the needy.

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Opinion

Professor Abdalla Uba Adamu at 65

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Professor Abdalla Adamu

By Ibrahim Sheme

On this day, April 25, the immediate past Vice-Chancellor of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), Professor Abdalla Uba Adamu, clocked 65 years.

He was the VC of NOUN from 2016 to February 11, 2021. When his tenure ended, he returned to his former duty post at Bayero University, Kano, but then took sabbatical work as Visitor at Kaduna State University (KASU), Kaduna, on March 1, this year.

Born in Kano City on April 25, 1956, Adamu is unarguably one of the leading academic lights in Nigeria. He obtained a professorship each in Science Education and in Media and Cultural Communication, both from Bayero University, in 1997 and 2012 respectively. Indeed, he is one of very few academics in the country to have attained the feat of a double professorship.

Adamu is an international scholar, having taught media and science education courses in many Nigerian universities and around the world, including serving as a European Union Visiting Professor at University of Warsaw, Poland, in 2012, visiting professor, Rutgers University, New Jersey, and visiting professor, University of Florida in 2010. He was also Fulbright African Senior Research Scholar in 1991.

One other remarkable achievement he recorded was the development of ‘hooked’ Hausa language character font sets (ɓ Ɓ ɗ Ɗ ƙ Ƙ), which were not present at the advent of the Internet. The emergence of these fonts, which he created as part of his various extracurricular activities, has helped many authors, publishers, scholars, students and ordinary users in conveying the Hausa language in a way that it should be written.

Two years ago, on a day like this, I penned a birthday tribute to Professor Adamu to help celebrate his 63rd anniversary. In that write-up I did not dwell on his unfolding accomplishments at NOUN in the area of infrastructural development of the university because others had done so already. Instead, I emphasised on the then VC’s human relation, which I have always found unique. And I wrote: “On that score Prof. Abdalla has remained the same person I have known for about two decades – easy-going, humorous and understanding towards all. I think this essence is a great contributory factor to the achievements he is making as a leader and chief executive.

“His approachability is rare. I know chief executives who are ‘feared’ – and consequently loathed – by those working under them because of their stiffness and unbendability. Some, you strictly need an appointment to see them, and their secretaries become lords because they emulate the ‘man inside’.  Not Baba Prof (as we used to call him). He runs an open door policy, with a  secretary (Esther) just as approachable and nice as he is.

“Once you get into his office, you immediately feel at home. He has a joke for everyone. You will never find him mirthless or sad as if the whole world rests on his shoulders. If it is lunch-time, he offers you his food.

“That sense of humanity, for me, are as important as the infrastructure he is putting on ground at NOUN. That sensibility, plus the infrastructure and the policy transformation, will no doubt count as his best legacies when his tenure ends in February, 2021.”

I daresay many at NOUN would remember him for such virtue. Happily, his successor as VC, Professor Olufemi A. Peters, is another approachable chief executive who doesn’t put on airs. Even though the two men do not necessarily share the same character traits, one can say there are several points of convergence that one can easily point at – but that is a story for another day.

Meanwhile, I’d like to use this opportunity to wish Professor Abdalla Uba Adamu happy birthday and many happy returns.

Sheme is the Director, media and publicity at National Open University of Nigeria, Abuja

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