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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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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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*#EndSARS: Instigators of violent protests, killing of policemen must appear before ICC, human rights group vow*

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The Global Network for Human Rights (GNHR) has vowed to drag instigators of violence that led to the killing of policemen and destruction of properties during the EndSARS protests to the International Criminal Court.

The group, at a press conference on Friday in Abuja, said these individuals must be brought to justice for their roles in inciting “massive terror on the streets”.

Coordinating chairman,
Adulmalik Alfa Esq, speaking on behalf of the group, said these persons exploited the socio-economic challenges of the country to prime the population for mob action.

The human rights group said Femi Falana, Aisha Yesufu, Nnamdi Kanu, DJ Switch among others were behind this vicious act.

Recall that the Inspector General of Police, Adamu Mohammed, had said 22 of his officers were killed during the violence.

And according to the group, Femi Falana, in particular, should be held responsible as the known face and voice of the violent aspects of the protests.

GNHR said it has evidence to back this claim and would present it to ICC with documentary evidence of Femi Falana’s involvement in inciting those that carried out this pogrom against law enforcement officers and other innocent Nigerians.

The rights group, however, called on the media, all Nigerians and the international community to “help us in bringing about justice for innocent security operatives that were murdered by these violent protesters”.

Read the full statement below:

Gentlemen of the press, we are pleased that you can join us for this press conference despite the massive terror on the streets that has been unleashed on the country by saboteurs.

We will like to start by clearing the air about a misconception that is making the round in terms of situating the cause of the violent protests across the countr .countrye is a tendency to tie the start of the protest to the agitation against police brutality and abuse of human rights, particularly by the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), which has now been christened #EndSARS. The reality, however, is that the singular incidence that provoked the protest could be described as a mere trigger for something that brewed over some time.

Before the protests ever started, there has been a systematic campaign of incitement by a well-heeled circuit, who exploited the socio-economic challenges of the country to prime the population for mob action.  They picked on the day to day challenges that are not peculiar to Nigeria as means of goading the population to rebel against the government.

We will name a few of these people, those that we consider as the arrowheads of the well-oiled propaganda machine that poisoned the minds of Nigerians to attempt destroying their own country. We believe these are the people to be held responsible by their leadership position and the inciteful contents of the messages they have put out on their social media accounts, media interviews, statements and utterances.

On the list are: Chief Femi Falana, Falz (Folarin Falana), Nnamdi Kanu, Obianuju Catherine Udeh (DJ Switch), Aisha Yesufu, Reno Omokri, Deji Adeyanju, Dino Melaye, David Oyedepo, BurnaBoy, Paul Okoye, Ayo Makun amongst others.

It is on record that all the above-named persons contributed in one way or the other is ramping up public anger much before the protests began. They then intensified the incitement of people in multiple folds in the early days of the protests such that their actions can be directly linked to the outbreak of violence. They sustained this incitement until it became clear that the violence, arson and looting of government and private property were getting out of hand.

It was observed that some of these celebrity activists and clout chasers backed down and sort of distanced themselves from the negative stance they had maintained on the protests, apparently to evade responsibility for the killings and destruction of property that they had triggered.

We noted that Chief Femi Falana has been particularly vociferous in inciting people to keep up the protests. This is even though policemen and other law enforcement personnel were being attacked and killed. It is therefore pertinent to hold Femi Falana responsible as the known face and voice of the violent aspects of the protests. We are convinced that he knows more than he is letting on because he continued to support the protests even when the fugitive leader of the terrorist Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu was coordinating the mob and identifying where and who to attack.

Consequently, we are resolute to make Femi Falana answer for his crimes against Nigeria in the course of the protests. These include:

1. Incitement of the population against the government

2. Incitement of the population against public office holders with intent to cause them harm

3. Maliciously spreading information known to be false with intent to incite violence

4. Providing propaganda support for terrorist attacks through the aiding of attacks carried out by members of a proscribed terrorist group

5. Making of utterances that incited people to kill policemen on legitimate duty

6. Making of statement that incited people to kill citizens of Nigeria

7. Making of statement that resulted in mobs destroying government-owned assets and private assets.

Gentlemen of the press, as a result of Falana’s incitement, with specific reference to the Oyingbo incident, where BRT Buses were burnt and several policemen killed, our network has taken the bold decision to drag Falana before the International Criminal Court at the Hague in the course of the next seven days.

We have pulled our facts together as follow:

OYIGBO ATTACK SUMMARY OF INCIDENT REPORT:-

Number of Hoodlums arrested            – 21

Number of Policemen Killed                 — 3

Number of Police Stations burnt           –3

Number of Police Station Vandalised   –1

Number of Hoodlums killed                 — 4

NAMES OF POLICEMEN KILLED ARE AS FOLLOW:-

1. AP/No. 241542 Inspr. Sunday Dubon— APC Driver Attached to Anti-Kidnapping Unit (AKU) killed and burnt to ashes.

2. F/No. 414018 Sgt. Swawale Ornan — Attached to 19 PMF on Special Duty at Oyigbo, killed and burnt to ashes.

3. F/No. 424944 Sgt. Umunna Uchechukwu—- serving in Afam Police Station, his leg and hand were cut off and burnt to ashes.

We shall be tendering these to the ICC with documentary evidence of Femi Falana’s involvement in inciting those that carried out this pogrom against law enforcement officers and other innocent Nigerians. We shall also be drawing the attention of the ICC to the fact that Falana ran this campaign of incitement as a family business in which he was actively supported by his son, Falz (Folarin Falana) in partnership with the wanted IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu.

We hereby use this medium to solicit the support of the media, all Nigerians and the international community to help us in bringing about justice for innocent security operatives that were murdered by these violent protesters.

Thank you all.

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Banning Journalists For Life: Izunwanne Lashes At Gov Umahi

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Asks him to tender unreserved apology –  By Adelola Amihere

A body of veteran and serving journalists of the South-East extraction, Izunwanne, has berated the Ebonyi State Governor, Engr. Dave Umahi, for threatening the life of Chijioke Agwu and Peter Okutu, Ebonyi State correspondents of the Sun and Vanguard newspapers respectively.

The governor had following investigative reports filed by the two reporters on separate issues, arrested them and declared them as persona non grata in the state.

Although the governor has recanted threatening the journalists, Izunwanne described the reversed stated as one made in response to negative public reactions rather than coming out of conviction.

In a statement by Sir Abuchi Anuenyiagu, Convener and Ngwoke Ngwoke, Secretary, the group said they could not “imagine how at this age and time, an elected governor would make a broadcast, threatening journalists, in the course of performing their lawful duties, with life ban and imprisonment”.

They called on Gov. Imagine “to seek the path of civility, honour and rectitude in the conduct of government business”.
Details of the statement reads:
Re: The Travails of two journalists:
IZUNWANNE REJECTS GOVERNOR DAVID UMAHI’S OVER STEPPED BEHAVIOUR.

The attention of IZUNWANNE, a group of progressive- minded journalists of South East origin, has been drawn to the recent outrageous and unwholesome action taken by the governor of Ebonyi State, Engr.(Chief) Dave Umahi, whereby he took very unacceptable extreme actions against two journalists in his state for performing their lawful and legitimate duties which by his action, unbecoming of of a governor, didn’t go down well with him.

He came down from his Olympian heights and descended heavily on the poor and vulnerable journalists, flagrantly and impudently ordering their arrest and prosecution and subsequent bannishment from the state for life, an untoward and unacceptable action. This action has evoked outrage and attracted widespread condemnation because it’s not just a brazen flagrant abuse of power but also an aberration and affront meant to muzzle and suppress free speech and the press in the state.

The governor reportedly ordered the arrest, detention and prosecution of two journalists in his state, one Chijioke Agwu and another, Peter Okutu, Ebonyi State correspondents of the Sun and Vanguard newspapers respectively.

The governor did not stop there. He went ahead to ban them for life from operating in the State.

In a very unprecedented move, the governor, reportedly stated that the people of Ebonyi were aggrieved with the press, adding that he might not be able to restrain the people when they decide to unleash mayhem on journalists who are in the bad books of his administration.

IZUNWANNE is alarmed and scandalized that such crude and inciting actions are coming from am rlected governor who swore to an oath of office to protect the lives and property of the people living in the state, according to provisions of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

As a responsible and independent body committed to the best traditions of the watch dog role of the media, and to the promotion of the common good of the Southeast geo-political zone of Nigeria, as well in exercise of the duty imposed on us by Section 22 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), IZUNWANNE has tried to establish the facts in the issues in contention, and we are convinced that the two journalists in question did not commit any offence in the particular reports as to warrant such reprehensible behaviour of the governor against them.

The reports, which the governor wrongly considered vexatious and unacceptable rather, eloquently speak for themselves as having met the professional standards in news reporting and were not write fiction but reported facts and balanced stories.

We cannot imagine how at this age and time, an elected governor would make a broadcast, threatening journalists, in the course of performing their lawful duties, with life ban and imprisonment.

Without any equivocation it was an unnecessary overreaction, especially by a person holding such responsible and exalted public office of state governor.

Though the governor and his government have in a subsequent action, that was seen as an afterthought and a volte face following the widespread condemnation of his action, tried to launder his image by attempting to deny ordering the arrest, detention, prosecution and banishing of the two journalists, claiming a distortion of his broadcast, IZUNWANNE finds it very difficult to believe the denials, given the obvious clarity of the broadcast.

We consider the denial a laughable weak defence that cannot stand, as we could not find anything in the particular reports that suggest a design to undermine the government and people of Ebonyi State as the governor alleged.

The reports passed the journalistic tests of balance and objectivity in which all sides were reflected or represented.

IZUNWANNE totally rejects as unacceptable the governor’s action and condemns it in very strong terms, as it is considered a despotic, despicable and tyrannical behaviour, typical of an incurable intemperate public office holder.

We urge him to retrace his steps, which are against social justice, democracy and rule of law.

If he had considered the reports in bad taste he should have availed himself of the lawful means or measures of seeking redress through the courts and the Nigerian Press Council, instead of resorting to self help, intimidation, crudity, cruelty, barbarism and wicked tactics that portray him as an imperial lord who is intolerant and not accountable to anybody or authority.

Governor Umahi has no doubt by his irrational action betrayed the oath of office he took. He must therefore be called to order to seek the path of civility, honour and rectitude in the conduct of government business.

And on the other hand, we call on journalists to, at all times in the course of performing their duties, operate within the ambits of the law and abide by the rules and ethics/tenets of their practice and to avoid any act of shame or compromise capable of putting them to public ridicule or odium and bringing down the image of journalism, no matter the lure because maintenance of integrity and honour matter a lot in life.

We condemn journalists that leave the path of honour and integrity and take to the dishonourable and ignoble act of mortgaging their consciences and throwing ethics to the wind thereby making themselves cheap because of pecuniary or unbridled reasons.

We appreciate the Sun and Vanguard correspondents for living up to the billing in their balanced reportage and for standing firm and resisting the attempt by the governor and his agents to intimidate and blackmail them.

Against this background, IZUNWANNE demands an unreserved apology from governor David Umahi for his reprehensible conduct and affront on the media.

*IZUNWANNE, a nonprofit making; nonreligious; nonpartisan and nonpolitical organisation, isade up of journalists of Southeast geo-political zone origin, retired or serving, living in any part of Nigeria or the world, who are desirous of and are working towards a better economic and socio-political development and progress of the Southeast geo-political zone as an entity. We promote the common cause/good of the zone, without fear or favour. We can be found in all legitimate fields of endeavour: journalism, broadcasting, public relations, law, banking, politics, religion, film making, business, etc.*

Signed

Sir Abuchi Anueyiagu,
Convener.
08080242128

Elder Ngwuoke Ngwuoke,
Secretary.
07036621678.

For and on behalf of IZUNWANNE.
April 25, 2020.

 

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Rivers gets Public Health Emergency Operations Centre for control of diseases

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Public Health

From Blessing Ibunge, Port Harcourt.

Rivers State now have Public Health Emergency Operations Centre, EOC, in Port Harcourt, set up by the State Ministry of Health in collaboration with Nigeria Centre or Disease Control.

Speaking at the commissioning in Monday, representatives of World Health Organisation, WHO, NCDC, and Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, pledged to support the Rivers State Ministry of Health to improve its surveillance on disease and epidemics outbreak. In the state

Director General of NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, stated that the parastatasl would support the centre in the state to achieve its mandate optimally.

Ihekweazu stated that NCDC has within one year of its existence established 22 EOCs adding that the essence was to ensure that disease outbreak does not take any state unawares.

He said: “We will do our best to provide you the needed support. Although the state has the capacity to run this place, but we will ensure that we give you the support required of us.

‘Since 2018 we have supported 21 centres in Nigeria in setting up this facility, this is the 22 state EOC across the country. The establishment of EOC is part of measures to strengthening the state for health security, because we cannot manage health from Abuja.

“We are really focused and supporting all the states in Nigeria to strengthening their own capacity. We understand the strategic importance of Rivers State to the nation.

“The EOC will coordinate the outbreak preparedness control, functional public health laboratory that can carry out basic diagnoses for epidemics, digital surveillance system to report incidents and outbreaks and a strong work force for preparedness on outbreak and response. We will continue to support you achieve this function.

”Also, World Health Organisation assured that as a partnership organisation in the state that it would ensure that it gives the required assistance to the centre.

Speaking the representative of the body in the state, Chinenye Okafor said: “We have had our fair share of disease outbreaks like that of Ebola in 2014. We believe that we will work together as a team.

“We are partners we are here to support the state. We also pray that we always have funding to run this EOC. The NCDC has done their part, it is now left for the state to pick up the challenge and ensure that the EOC runs most effectively.”

Also, state Chairperson of NMA, Dr. Ogbelebra Adebiyi promised that doctors in the state would partner the centre in its operations.

Adebiyi said: “I want to thank NCDC for doing this. Having seen what happened during the Ebola outbreak which i was at the treatment centre as a doctor. The Ministry is aware of the partnership of the NMA.

“We are assuring Rivers State that doctors will partner the state to ensure that the EOC functions very well.”

However, the Permanent Secretary, Rivers State Primary Healthcare Management Board, Dr. Agiriye Harry, disclosed that the centre also has the ability to monitor social media platforms.

Harry said: “The centre is public health emergency operation centre, it monitors epidemics and natural disasters, its Hi-tech compliance. The most touching about it is that it also monitors social media real time. It is a complete lab. It is the command centre when there are epidemics and natural disasters.

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