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How the Federal Ministry of Environment is responding to Covid-19 pandemic

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CHUKS OYEMA-AZIKEN examines the interaction between Covid-19 and the environment and how relevant stakeholders are responding to the pandemic.

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) in it’s latest update on the status of coronavirus in the country stated that as of Saturday midnight cases recorded stand at 1171 deaths with 110 new cases in the country. The infections brought the total number of cases in the country to 67330.

Many say lockdown due to COVID-19 had both positive and negative effects on the environment.

On the positive side, there was improved Global Air Quality due to reduction in human activities, with less cars, boats in the water, and a reduction in air pollution, urban areas.

According to Khalid El Dokani, Country CEO, Lafarge Africa “The world is suddenly breathing fresh air due to the pandemic-induced decline in economic activities such as transportation and manufacturing.

However, some negative impacts on the environment came to the fore. This include increased plastic demand for use in the production of disposable medical masks, gloves, and other personal protective equipment has surged during the pandemic, with many consumers littering their PPE after use.

With the lockdown lifted in Nigeria, and for fear of contacting Covid-19, we see an increase in single driver vehicles on the road, which is very bad for the environment.

The recent upsurge in traffic on the Keffi-Abuja Expressway and some other roads attest to this.

Nigeria is not an exception in both the positive and negative effects of the Covid-19.

While acknowledging the challenges in battling COVID-19, Minister of Environment, Dr. Mohammad Abubakar said that “human interaction with the ecosystem must remain balanced, otherwise we will risk disrupting nature which have consequences as we are seeing in the COVID-19 pandemic”.

Speaking at a Press briefing in Abuja on 04 June 2020 to commemorate World Environment Day 2020 organized by the Federal Ministry of Environment (FMENV), the minister said “biodiversity is the foundation for life with co-benefits of strengthening global healthcare support systems, hence we must ensure that Post COVID recovery is tied in with our Climate actions and Sustainable Development Goals.

The Federal Ministry of Environment as part of the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19, was quick to acknowledge and immediately moved into action, working with it’s relevant agencies and partners.

According to the Minister “our Ministry has carried out disinfection and decontamination of over 200 public and private premises across the country. I have also directed the Environmental Health Officers in the ministry and those in the states and LGAs to commence an environmental health surveillance of all MDAs, schools and other public places and ensure compliance to COVID-19 guidelines and protocols especially in the areas of provision of hand washing facilities, use of hand sanitizers, face masks etc.”

At another fora, the minister described handwashing as the most effective check against the Coronavirus pandemic.

Abubakar said “Fortunate enough, the most effective protection from this ravaging and devastating pandemic we are confronted with, is washing our hands with soap.

“Appropriate and regular washing of hands keep us healthy and prevent the spread of respiratory and diarrheal infections from person to person. This is because hands serve as a vehicle for transmitting pathogens of respiratory infections, Faeco-oral diseases and Covid-19 virus.

The Ministry through the Environmental Health Officers Registration Council of Nigeria (EHORECON) also donated fumigation machines, face masks and hand sanitisers to Nigeria Correctional Service, Kuje, FCT.

At the venue Dr Baba Yakubu, Registrar, EHORECON, said the council in collaboration with the ministry, will ensure that Nigerians feel the presence of all environmental health officials especially in the Covid-19 era.

Yakubu said that sanitary inspectors, through the directive from the ministry, have been spread across the country to ensure that COVID-19 and other chronic diseases are prevented.

He said that EHORECON has enough manpower for effective service delivery, adding that recently, the environment minister also deployed 60,000 voluntary environmental health workers in 774 LGAs across the country.

As part of the steps towards refocusing on environment issues in the COVID-19 epidemic response in Nigeria, FMENV has set up a National Forestry Trust Fund under the forestry Department of the Ministry in partnership with the Nigerian Conservation Foundation and the World Wildlife Foundation (WFF).

The Federal Ministry of Environment has also received support and commendation from the WHO, who estimates that 29% of the country’s disease burden is linked to risk factors in the environment.

The WHO said that “recent occurrences, like the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic, demonstrate the interrelationship between the environment and human health as well as the need to strengthen eessential environmental health services, knowledge and national capacities fundamental for achieving universal health coverage.”

Commending the Ministry, Dr Fiona Braka, WHO Nigeria Officer In-Charge, noted a strong response, especially for taking charge of disinfection of premises/assets, decontamination of health facilities, safe burial practices and other priority interventions.

WHO has continued to support the FMENV led Training of Trainers (TOT) on Disinfection and Decontamination of Health and non-health settings against the pandemic. WHO also supported the training of 36 states environmental surveillance officers on Infection Prevention and Control (Environmental Cleaning and Disinfection) against COVID-19, and remained committed in strengthen environmental response to Lassa Fever and other emerging diseases as well as addressing other environmental determinants of health.

While the FMEnv, its agencies and other relevant Ministries make efforts to check spread of the pandemic and effects on the economy, El Dokani recommends that the commitment to protect the environment must not be overlooked.

“This commitment must be at the heart of the corporate strategies and economic policies being designed to stimulate economic growth during and beyond the pandemic.

“This is as important for developing countries such as Nigeria that have less resources to grapple with the effects of global warming, such as rising sea levels as it is for richer countries in the West.”

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Nigeria elders call for national dialogue to tackle Insecurity

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By Rapheal Izokpu

Some elders have demanded a national dialogue and genuine reconciliation across the six geopolitical zones of the country, to stem the spare of insecurity in the country.

This is as they called for other urgent and drastic measures to overcome the situation, saying Nigeria was sitting on a time bomb.

The elders operating under the umbrella of Forum of Nigeria Elders, in a statement on Wednesday also warned against non adherence to the country’s federal character principles in appointments into key positions, noting that the drafters of the Constitution did not make mistakes in making such provision.

The statement signed by Dr Balarabe Usman Wudil, for North West, Engr Zana Goni for North East. Prof Ambrose Terngu for North Central, Prof. Finebone Tamuno for South South, Dr Ayo Bankole for South West  and Prof. Chika Madumere for South East, respectively, lamented the exclusion of the South-East Geopolitical Zone in appointments especially in the country’s security sector.
They then tasked President Muhammadu Buhari to review his policy with a view to correcting the anomaly.

They said the national dialogue was needed to discuss the fault lines, leading the country to its present predicaments.

Besides, the group tasked authorities to immediately begin engagement of youths in peace advocacy meetings where issues promoting peaceful and harmonious living devoid of religious, tribal or regional inclinations were made the focal points.

“We are a group of elders from the six geopolitical zones of the country that have worked at different high levels of our chosen careers. We are worried at the current state of security situation in the country. It is regrettable that the development which had come like a child’s play some few years ago has assumed the current dimension. As a country, we are currently sitting on a time bomb and we wish to sound alarm that if nothing urgent is done to arrest this ugly situation,we will be consumed,” the Forum of Nigeria Elders said in the statement.

Going further, the group said, “We are alamed by the dangerous wave of violence blowing round the country, this must not be allowed to fester on given that it does no one any good.”

“We are concerned about blatant disregard to the federal character principles in appointments into key positions in the country. We task President Muhammadu Buhari to reflect over this and put things in their right places as the drafters of our constitution did not make any mistake in making the provision.

“Appointments into key positions should be evenly spread devoid of religious, ethnic and regional considerations. This will help promote national unity which our founding fathers worked tirelessly for.

“Appointments, particularly into key positions in the security sector must be on merit besides regional consideration to give every section of the country a sense of belonging. The insecurity building up as a result of cry for injustice and the quest for self-rule can be greatly tackled through this hence we are  by this calling on Mr President, Muhammadu Buhari to review his governing strategies with a view to getting needed and expected results.

“The federal government under the leadership of our dear president, friend and brother, President Muhammadu Buhari, must address the issues of injustice in appointments into key sectors especially people of the South East of the country and address the issues of security in all part of the country,” it said.

The group explained that “As a group of elders, we  see the urgent need to add  our voice to the already loud voices of Nigerians across all divides on the need for the federal government to take  urgent steps in leading the way for a national dialogue and reconciliation starting with addressing the issues of injustices and neglect in government appointments especially the security sector.”

“This must be followed  up with a national dialogue and genuine reconciliation across the six geopolitical zones of the country, else we will have ourselves to blame,” the statement warned.

The elders, who said, “We have served the country at different times and capacities in our fields”, regretted the security development in the country.

“We make bold to say that there is no time in the history of Nigeria that our country is so divided along religious and ethnic lines like now. This, we must as a country try to arrest now. The onus rests on President Buhari and we advise that he should place his name on the sands of time by bequeathing the legacy of enthroning a good Nigeria suitable for all to live in to us now,” it advised.

The group warned against the repeat of mistakes of the past which it noted, led the country to what it called “avoidable civi war”,
“In the past, we had civil war caused mostly by some avoidable issues. These issues are still thriving in our national life with the government and its handlers giving deaf ears to them. We must do everything to avoid repeat of the past mistakes,” the group reiterated. 

The elders said: “Most of us here worked actively for this administration and are actually still card-carrying members of the ruling party”, adding: “But its time to speak up without sentiments and recourse to party, religious, ethnic and tribal considerations.”

 The group advised that: “The president should delegate his appointees to move to their various zones of the country to work with the elders of the regions  and youths to descalate the looming conflict.”      

“Nigeria is sitting on time  bomb and something needs to be done very fast. 

“We appeal to our dear president, Muhammadu Buhari to begin to ignore rhetorics and empty assurances being given to him by his security chiefs and move to actions that will save our country from the brink of total collapse,” the statement advised.

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Petitioner alleges police collected N203, 000 for bullets used in shooting his brother

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By Ameh Ejekwonyilo

A petitioner before the National Human Rights Commission’s independent investigate on police brutality, Mr. Abraham Nyamkwange, has narrated how the police “told” his family to pay the sum of one hundred thousand naira (N100,000)  for a bullet used in shooting his elder brother, Simon Aondofa  Nyamkwange over an alleged robbery incident in April 2020 at Eterna filling station in Wuse 2, Abuja.

Testifying before the 11-Member panel chaired by Justice Suleiman Galadima (rtd), on Friday, Simon recalled that on the 24th of April, 2020 his brother’s wife Rosemary Nyamkwange, phoned early in the morning to inform him that she had just learnt that my brother had been shot.

The petitioner who said he lives in Lugbe, Abuja, informed the panel that on receiving the bad news, he quickly contacted one of his cousins who lives in Mararaba, Nasarawa state to meet him in Wuse, Abuja so that they could jointly report the matter to the police.

According to him, he and his cousin went to SARS office in Abuja, where they were later referred to Wuse zone 3 police station.

On reaching there, he said that one Mr. Ibrahim who identified himself as the IPO, told them that his brother was shot at Eterna filling station at Wuse Zone 2 and that when he was brought to the police station he bled to death.

He stated that the IPO showed them his late brother’s driver’s license, GSM phone, two ATM cards (Zenith and ECO bank) and one other identity card possible to prove the identity of the deceased.

Abraham informed the panel that the IPO Ibrahim (2nd respondent) said he was instructed not to say anything concerning the matter.

In the process of seeking the release of his late brother’s corpse, the complainant alleged that officer Aunde Peter (3rd respondent), officer (Mrs) Aunde (4th respondent) and one (Vershima Zaki (non-police officer and 5th respondent), extorted two hundred and three thousand naira from his family and never released the corpse till date.

DPO Mr. Mamman Joseph, Commissioner of Police FCT and Inspector General of Police were listed as 1st, 6th and 7th respondents respectively in the matter.

The aforesaid amount, according to the petitioner, was remitted to the police in two instalments of N103,000 and N100,000 naira (for the bullet expended in shooting the victim) respectively.

Thereafter, the family could no longer reach any of the affected police officers on phone, neither did they release the corpse for which they collected the stated amount, the petitioner added.

When the panel asked him the whereabouts of his late brother’s body, the complainant said that he was informed by the police that his body was deposited at Wuse zone 3 General Hospital.

On his prayers before the panel, Abraham pleaded with the panel to order the police to release his brother’s corpse to his family for proper burial.

He also prayed the panel to order the police to pay the family the sum of two hundred million naira (N200 million) as compensation for the alleged extra-judicial killing of his brother by the police.

In addition, he implored the panel to ensure that justice prevails concerning the death of his brother.

The matter was adjourned to 7th of April 2021 for police to open their defense.

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Abia’s Ikpeazu completes construction of Amuzukwu Road projects

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The Governor of Abia State, Okezie Ikpeazu has completed the construction and reconstruction of multiple road projects at Amuzukwu Ibeku community in Umuahia North Local Government Area of the State.

This is also coming barely a week after the governor commissioned the reconstructed Eziukwu road, Milverton Avenue and Ojike Lane in Aba South Local Government Area, LGA.

Governor Ikpeazu reiterated the determination and focus of his government to complete and commission road projects across the seventeen local government areas of the State before bowing out of office.

Meanwhile, a cross-section of journalists on Saturday embarked on an assessment tour on the state of infrastructures in Umuahia North local government area, housing the state capital city.

At the inspection visit to Amuzukwu Umuahia Ibeku, the road projects being constructed by Governor Ikpeazu-led administration and attracted by the Speaker of Abia House of Assembly, and members representing Umuahia central state constituency, Rt. Hon. Chinedum Orji has been completed with some ongoing which is almost at 95 percent completion.

During the tour, residents of Amuzukwu community who spoke with newsmen, on Saturday, lauded the administration for keeping its electoral promises to bring democratic dividends to the doorsteps of the Abia people, adding that the constructed roads were of high quality.

A teacher, resident in Amuzukwu, Mr Kelechi Nduka lamented the difficulties faced by people plying the roads in the past, especially during the rainy season and commended the State Government for the laudable gestures as it has addressed their yearnings.

According to Nduka, “We thank both Governor Ikpeazu and the Speaker, Hon. Chinedum Orji for this rare dividend of democracy we are enjoying today, because we have heard so much about how the two of them, the Executive and the legislative arms of government of the state are working in synergy to better our lives. And these multiple roads being done in our community are evidence of that fact.

Also speaking, Mrs Chinatu Nathan, a resident and petty trader in Umuezearota Amuzukwu, said before now that it was an uphill task to make her desired sales in a day because the road leading to her shop was so bad that even residents close to her would rather go the distance to buy their needs at the other side of the community whose roads were also barely passable but better than the ones leading to her residence where she also runs her provision store.

According to her, such a trend had negative impacts on her business. She also recalled that tricycle operators always stopped passengers residing in their own part of the community some miles away while they trekked from there to their respective abodes because the road was so bad it was simply unpassable.

“But today, the story has changed, and I want to sincerely thank the Abia Speaker whom I learnt attracted the project to us. Since this road was done, businesses in the area have picked up; tricycle operators now happily come into the community to drop off their passengers”.

On his part Chief Charles Nmesirionye Amajor, an Indigene of Umuezearota in Amuzukwu narrated how Keke operators before now had treated them like they “reside in a forbidden area by dropping off their passengers who reside in the area some way off because of the very bad roads forcing them to trek some distance to their respective homes from the point of alighting. But now the story is different.

He thanked the government for ending the hardship being encountered by motorists and pedestrians as a result of the deplorable roads, by reconstructing the bad roads.

Amajor described the government’s gesture to the Amuzukwu community in the state capital city, as symbolic.

Speaking further, the President General of Amuzukwu Autonomous Community, Chief Sir P.I. Nweke said the gesture has addressed the infrastructural needs of the people residing in the area.

He said, “Before now, this Umuokoo Road (one of the dilapidated roads in the community) was impassible and the residents, therefore, had it very tough. But today, the story has changed! One can even drive his car or tricycle into his abode with no stress; my people are very happy and it’s a thing of great joy for us that the Speaker made a promise to construct these roads and in less than 48 hours after, work began in earnest.

While speaking about the project, the Executive Director of Pumeco Construction Company, an indigenous company handling the road projects in Amuzukwu Community, Engr. Emeka Ezeanyagu said the company has concluded the construction of Umuokoo and Umuwaya internal roads in Amuzukwu and was almost done with the reconstruction of Amuzukwu to Umuezeagwu road.

He also disclosed that the company would move its equipment to Umueze and Afaraukwu Umuahia Ibeku communities for more construction of roads as contracted.

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Gov Wike describes Traditional Rulers as partners in state building

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Rivers State Governor, Barr Nyesom Wike;  Chairman of Rivers State Traditional Rulers Council and Amanyanabo of Opobo, King Dandeson Douglas Jaja and other monarchs, at 113th Quarterly General Meeting of the State Traditional Rulers Council in Port Harcourt on Thursday.

From Blessing Ibunge, Port Harcourt

Rivers State Governor,  Nyesom Wike has described the traditional rulers as partners in state development.

Governor Wike said that his led administration has sustained a close working relationship with traditional rulers because they are strategic partners in achieving the development objectives in the state.

The Governor who stated  this while declaring open the 113th Quarterly General Meeting of the Rivers State Traditional Rulers Council in Port Harcourt, explained that the traditional institution is not a colonial relic but one that is bequeathed by the ancestors to offer leadership to the people and advance the development of the communities.

He said his administration will continues to expect the royal fathers to work with the State Government in building a strong State to deliver quality education, affordable healthcare, clean water, sanitation and tarred roads to the various communities.

“Although there is room for improvement, I believe that most of you have done well to promote, project and fulfil the responsibilities of your revered stools and titles.

“For us therefore, traditional rulers are so strategic to our development agenda for the State. It is for this reason that we have endeavoured to respect and relate as closely as possible with each and every one of you to advance our development objectives.”

Speaking further,  Governor Wike stated that having restored the dignity of the traditional institution on assumption of office in 2015,  he upgraded and recognized some  stools,  gave staff of office to 280 traditional rulers and built a state of the art secretariat for the council.

The governor said priority has been placed on extending the on-going development to all parts of the state so that the people can enjoy access to education, healthcare service, clean water, electricity, have landing jetties, land reclamation and  construction of internal roads.

“Your Majesty and your team has led this Council for the last five years and I am sure you may now be willing to yield to a fresh leadership. Thank you for your service to the State, and the good people of your kingdom, under my administration.

“We promise that 2021 is going to be another busy year for Rivers State not only in the execution of people-oriented projects, but also in our resolve to put the State on a new course of progress, unity and enduring peace and security.

“What we ask of you in particular is to take the lead in mobilizing your communities to key into our plans and reap the benefits of development as a shared commitment to service and responsibility to the people.”

Chairman of Rivers State Traditional Rulers Council, King Dandeson Douglas Jaja, said members of the council are aware that the slumping oil price in the international market has affected the revenue from the federation accounts to the states, but  despite this, Governor Wike had used the available resources prudently.

King Jaja who is also the Amanyanabo of Opobo, noted the visible the completion and commissioning of the Rebisi flyover,  other on-going flyovers, world class hospital at Government House,  Emmanuel Aguma Judges Quarters,  and projects under the urban renewal  programme.

He commended Governor Wike for standing up to some criminal elements who exploited the #EndSARS protest in the state to disrupt the peace.

“Rivers State will continue to open up its arm of hospitality to everyone irrespective of ethnicity and religion who wishes to live here to do legitimate businesses.

“It will not be safe haven for criminals and criminal element who constitute great nuisance to peaceful and law-abiding members of society.

“As a council of Traditional Rulers,  we wholesomely,  support your excellency,  in all actions that you have taken in this regard, to protect the sovereignty of our state and lives and property of millions of residents of the state.”

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