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FEC okays N8.49bn to procure COVID-19 testing kits

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Approves National Gender Action Plan on Climate Change

As FG plans to deduct money from states guilty of double taxation

FEC okays N8.49bn to procure COVID-19 testing kits
Ehanire

By Johnbosco Agbakwuru – Abuja

The Federal Executive Council, FEC, on Wednesday approved N8.49 billion for the procurement of 12 materials for the testing for coronavirus by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC.

The Minister of Health Dr. Osagie Ehanire, disclosed this while briefing State House correspondents at the end of the virtual Council meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Council Chamber, Presidential Villa Abuja.

The Minister, who presented a memo on behalf of the NCDC, said the procurement of the materials is for the preparation for COVID-19 pandemic which is ravaging all parts of the world including Nigeria

According to him, “This memo is as a result of Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 pandemic and special intervention fund for COVID-19 which is operated by the Presidential Task Force, it allocates these resources for NCDC preparedness.

“So, we are procuring testing materials right from sample materials to other kits diagnostic in our laboratories systems,  to be able to respond properly to the community transmission phase.

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“We have already made plans to have at least one sample collection center in every local government, minimum of 774 and these resources will be necessary to go around the 774 local government areas, to ensure that persons in rural areas and small towns are not excluded and to ensure that not only the big cities are the ones that are being attended to. So that is the basis for the memo.

“The cost is N8.49 billion to procure the items that are involved. There are a total of 12 items, the quantities involved are large numbers which will be sent out later.”

Fielding questions on the disregard for Covid-19 protocols in the ongoing Edo state governorship campaigns, Dr. Ehanire said there is not much that could be done since the law requires that the election must be conducted at a specific time.

He said while it may be possible to comply with the protocols sometimes, at other times, it may not work.

He, however, advised that Nigerians should endeavor to observe the NCDC guidelines.

He said, “There is something the laws says, the law says you must hold an election at a certain time and then watch what the needs of health have brought forward.

“Nobody was anticipating that COVID-19 will pop up and the dilemma, which INEC and the ministry of health face, now is not peculiar to Nigeria alone, there are many other countries that are facing that kind of problem.

“Just a few days ago, Belarus held a presidential election because their constitution gives them a deadline within which it must be held. Other countries have held elections. Some have defied elections depending on how each country assess their own risk.

“And in Nigeria where the case infection rate is relatively low compared to other countries, which is about two percent, globally is nearly four percent and then the weight of distribution the cases is not even.

“There are some states that do not have that heavy infection rate and others have high infection rates. So, you have to weigh the benefits, if you can manage the risk, because it is the risk of about opening the skies, the borders, going to churches, mosques, markets – there is a lot of risk communications we are dealing with.

“But there are things that need not be like for example football matches were people can crowd in the stadium. Uou can say this one can wait, it is not compulsory. In churches where it is more organized, if it cannot be, then you pray at home.

“For the market, we gave advisory, make sure you put on a mask, and ensure it is arranged in a way that you can control the crowd.

“The same advisory is given to politics and in some area, it is difficult like in cases of funerals. We gave the number of people who can attend or even marriage.

“So, the same advisory is given to all political parties,  organisers and we are looking for them for the necessary sense of responsibility to comply.

“But it is also difficult going by the observation that, for people who are under emotions to actually follow the guidelines and scenes like what you described came up. But in places of worship and other kinds of gatherings, they follow the guidelines.

“So, that situation where you are balancing what the constitution says and then start enforcing things that people will read another meaning into.”

Also speaking on the issue, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed said: “As a matter of fact, this matter came up at the last PTF briefing, and the coordinator said that we will continue to advise social distancing in whatever gathering.

“It has been proven that wearing a mask saves many lives and we will continue to harp on it that people should take personal responsibility.

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“We are keeping our conversation with sub-nationals, governors, and local government chairmen because. Everybody must take personal responsibility.

“So our guidelines remain the same – wear a mask, avoid mass gatherings, keep social distancing, maintain very good hygiene, wash your hands, use hand sanitizers because, as at today, there is no known vaccine or medicine to cure COVID-19. If everybody says wearing a mask is an inconvenience, let him try a ventilator, you will know.

“We all are opinion moulders and people take to what we say, it’s not about those that went to campaign in Edo or those who went to bury Kasamu.

“It’s so sad that one of my colleagues said he went home and he was wearing a mask and they felt he was the one with the problem.

“In some parts of the country, they believe anybody wearing a mask has COVID-19, they don’t believe it. So, I think we all should take personal responsibility.”

Also, briefing journalists, the Minister of Environment, Muhammad Mahmood, said that council approved the National Gender Action Plan on Climate Change, which he said is intended to mainstream gender within the climate change action plan.

He said, “Women bearing the main brunts, implies that we will take particular steps to make sure that women are involved in climate action activities right from inception, design, development, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of projects.

“We will also involve women in the process of decision making. Also, we will make sure that women are carried along in climate change issues and also in areas where women are predominantly involved, like in agricultural activities.

“Seventy percent of agricultural activities involve women. Therefore, some of the priority areas in the gender action plan are agriculture, forestry, health, water and sanitation, energy, transportation; and the same particular areas are also the areas that constitute meeting our indices.

“That is the nationally determined contribution to the Paris Agreement. What that means is that through these sectors, we can reduce the emissions in Nigeria, thereby meeting our indices as we committed ourselves during the Paris Agreement.

“Nigeria has committed itself by agreeing to reduce emissions by 20 per cent this year which we have achieved. In the same agreement also, we committed ourselves to achieve 45 per cent reduction of emissions by the Year 2030.

“But this time around, Nigeria will need the assistance of international organisations or the international community in general to be able to achieve this commitment.

“Once more, the priority areas for the mainstream gender action plan are agriculture, forestry, health, water and sanitation, energy, transportation. Civil society organisations, academia, international organisations et cet era will all be part of the gender action plan.”

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who briefed on behalf of the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Adegbite Olamilekan, said that Olamilekan told Council that insecurity has hampered the sector while investors are leaving the country because of double taxation.

Mohammed said FEC resolved to direct the Minister of Finance to deduct money from the source from states that are involved in double taxation.

He said, “The Honorable Minister of Mines and Steel Development presented a memo today which largely was to ask for council’s approval to address the major challenges the mining industry is facing. Among the challenges the industry is facing according to the Minister is that of insecurity in certain parts of the country.

“Notably, in the North-Western part of the country, mining has been suspended because of the activities of bandits and kidnappers. The industry is also faced with the problem of a collision between some stakeholders, sometimes the traditional rulers.

“Also, the minister explained that the issue of double taxation is actually driving a lot of investors out of the country.

“He also reported certain decisions of past government in the area of storage of explosives that are used for mining. Before now, the position is that any miner that wants to use explosives for mining must store them in either the military barracks or police facilities.

“So, he asked for special dispensation to build special facilities at least one in each of the geo-political zones of the country. He also complained about extortion, the position of the community development agreement, and the issue of many illegal miners.

“But at the end of the day, what the council approved for him and which we believe will be far-reaching and really reposition the industry is that: the council noted that insecurity and illegal mining had led to a huge loss of money.

“But the council directed that the National Security Adviser (NSA) should set up a special unit domiciled in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, and coordinated by the Office of National Security Adviser (ONSA) to carry out targeted operations at identified and confirmed illegal mining sites nationwide.

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“The council also directed the Office of National Security Adviser to facilitate the erection of central magazines (special storage facilities) across the geo-political zones of the country for mining purposes like storage of explosives in military barracks in some parts of the country is grossly unsafe and the establishment of Control and Command Centre for remote monitoring of such explosives.

“The council also directed the Minister of Interior and the Nigerian Content Development Board to work closely with the Honoutable Minister of Mines and Steel Development.

“On the issue of double taxation, whereby mining companies are taxed by local and state governments. Two decisions were taken. One is that the council directed the Minister of Finance, Budget, and National Planning to deduct directly from federal accounts allocations of states which have deprived the federal government of Nigeria’s revenue due to it by the position of illegal taxes and levies on mining companies in their States.

“In other words, if a particular state engages in double taxation, you are imposing illegal taxes a duly registered mining company, and it is reported to the government, the Ministry of Finance will deduct that money your allocation.

“The intent is to ensure that we don’t scare away investors, they be local or foreign. This will go a long way to reassure the investors that Nigeria is a safe place to invest now.

“It was also directed that the National Economic Council (NEC) should also dialogue with the Governors and let them understand that States can participate in mining as corporate bodies.

“In other words, States can register companies and participate in mining. But they cannot come there as sub-national authorities because the law is very clear. The federal government has the exclusive right to mine and manage all mineral resources. Those are the major approvals that the Minister of Mines and Steel Development got today on his memo.”

Vanguard

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