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FG Overrules Governors On Worship Centres Opening

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The Federal Government has accused governors of wilfully breaching the protocols designed to guide the country out of Coronavirus spread.

Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 control Chairman Boss Mustapha warned on Thursday of the danger in allowing large gatherings.

He reiterated that the ban on gatherings of more than 20 people remained banned.

Mustapha, who spoke at the daily briefing by the PTF in Abuja, emphasised the “need for states to diligently implement and enforce compliance. Particularly, I underscore the need for the governors to provide personal and strong leadership, carry the policy of community ownership to the grass-roots and create deeper awareness.

“Governors are also advised on the decision taken by some of their colleagues to permit large gatherings as such decisions could inadvertently endanger the elderly, the sick and those with underlying factors during such gatherings. The strong advisory from the PTF is that large gatherings beyond 20 persons remain prohibited and should be adhered to”.

The SGF also announced that the PTF would work with the National Assembly. The House of Representatives has inaugurated an Ad-Hoc Committee on COVID-19.

“The PTF on COVID-19 is pleased to inform you that in order to underscore the seriousness attached to this COVID-19 pandemic, the House of Representatives has set up an Ad-Hoc COVID-19 Committee.

“In deepening the existing collaborative spirit, we shall work together with the legislature to be more productive and add value to the overall delivery of service to Nigerians on behalf of whom we hold our responsibility in trust”.

Many governors have opened up their states for religious gatherings. These include Cross River, Ebonyi, Kano, Borno, Zamfara and Bauchi, among others.

But, the Sultan of Sokoto and President-General of the Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) has advised Muslims to observe the Edi-el-Fitr prayers at home in accordance with the PTF-issued guidelines.

Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Mohammed Bello has resisted pressure to open worship centres in Abuja.

Apart from Cross River State which has no virus case yet. The active cases in some of the states reopening the worship centres are: Ebonyi (12), Borno (122) and 24 deaths, Zamfara (8), Kano (690) with 36 deaths and Gombe (41) and three deaths.

Defending the governors’ position, Jigawa State Governor Badaru Abubakar, told State House reporters at the end of the National Economic Council meeting at the Presidential Villa that “the issue has been resolved because, at our last meeting with Mr President, the President was clear that the Governors’ Forum and the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 should meet and agree on steps to be taken, and it has been discussed today and commitment has been taken by today’s NEC that the Governors’ Forum, the Presidential Task Force would work hand -in -hand to see to the end of COVID-19.

“A committee was formed today that will look up to the eventual opening up of the economy. Sometimes you will see a different approach by different states, that doesn’t mean that there is loggerhead between the states and the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.

“Some peculiar situations require some peculiar solutions and that is why at times you see such and it will always be discussed with the Presidential Task Force so that we will always be on the same page”.

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EndSARS: Insurers Pay N4bn Claims, To Pay More

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By Sola Alabadan

The dust generated by the EndSARS protest in October 2020 is yet to settle, as insurance companies in the country have already paid N4 billion as claims to over 2000 policyholders that were affected during the protest and more claims will still be paid.

The chairman of Nigerian Insurers Association (NIA),  Mr. Ganiyu Musa, made this known at an interactive session with journalists on Thursday in Lagos.

He also informed that the insurance operators are still collating claims which arose from the incident, assuring that all genuine claims will be paid as promptly as possible.

Musa said: “the number of insured businesses that were affected at the last count was about 2000 insured losses and the industry have settled over N4 billion claims in respect of the EndSARS protest. Once they are documented and completed, we have the commitment of our members that claims will be paid timely.

The association is on top of developments on the aftermath of the protests and will continue to encourage members to pay all genuine claims in line with the extant policies.”

On the Consolidated Insurance Bill 2020, he said: “NIA welcomes the review as it will align the Act with global best practice and promote the business of insurance in the country.”

According to him, the current insurance legislation is outdated and has made it impossible to do things that need to be done.

On the African Insurance Organisation Conference, AIO 2021, Musa said: “Originally planned for year 2020, COVID-19 was a force majeure due to health protocols and travel restrictions. With availability of vaccines, reduction in infection rate, coupled with relaxation of travel restrictions and other protocols around the coronavirus disease, the AIO Executive Committee and the NIA have agreed to hold it from September 4 – 8, 2021. A hybrid conference has been agreed and we solicit your support in hosting the best conference ever.”

Speaking on the Nigerian Insurance Industry Database /Nigerian Insurance Industry Portal (NIID/NIIP), the NIA boss stated that: “The Nigerian Insurance Industry Database was established to reduce soft market practices and eliminate fake insurance policies. The Association has taken a step further by creating the Nigerian Insurance Industry platform to enable vehicle owners purchase their third-party motor vehicle insurance cover from the comfort of their homes and telephones. So far, we are seeing a lot of traction on the platform across the states of the Federation and we are hopeful that other states will key into the project before the end of the year.”

On the Marine Module, he said: “As you are probably aware, the Central Bank of Nigeria has since integrated the NIA Marine Module into the National Trade portal and all insurance certificates required for import and export are generated from the portal.  This, no doubt, signals the end of fake Marine Insurance Certificates at the Ports.”

Musa further disclosed that he became the Chairman of the Council of Bureaux of the Ecowas Brown Card Scheme at its 37th Ordinary Session in January this year. “A major issue for the Bureau is domestication of Compulsory Brown Card in the country. We are hopeful that when all the fine details have been sorted, it will be implemented in Nigeria,” he said.

On the new NIA House Project, he said; “Construction of a befitting Secretariat for the association has reached an advanced stage and we are hopeful that the building will be completed at the end of the second quarter so that we can take full possession of the property and relocate our secretariat staff before the end of the year. Of course, we have had some delay in meeting delivery timelines due mainly to the outbreak of COVID-19 and the regulatory restrictions on number of workers on site at any point in time.”

On the initiatives on compulsory insurance, he said: “We have commenced discussions with Lagos State Building Control Agency, as part of engagements on the implementation of Lagos State Building law. We are also working closely with the state vehicle Inspection service on enforcement of Third Party Motor Insurance in the state. We are also engaging Kaduna, Kogi and Ogun States, and remain hopeful that other states will see value in the platform and embrace it. Out of the estimated 13 million vehicles in Nigeria only about 2,939,767 Third Party Motor policies are in force as at Apr 26, 2021.”

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‘It’s Suicidal ’, Labour Rejects FG’s Plans To Slash Salaries

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Agency Report

The Organised Labour has condemned and rejected the plan by the Federal Government to slash the salaries of workers in the country.

The President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Ayuba Wabba, who said this in a statement on Wednesday in Abuja, noted that the plan was tantamount to a “mass suicide” wish, for Nigerian workers.

Waba said that NLC was shocked at a statement credited to the Minister of Finance, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, on the plan to reduce the high cost of governance by cutting down on the workers’ salaries.

”The minister also allegedly directed the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission (NSIWC), to immediately review the salaries of civil servants as well as the number of federal agencies in the country.

”It is almost unthinkable that the government would be contemplating to unilaterally slash the salaries of Nigerian workers at this time,” he said.

Wabba added that, “the question to ask is which salary is the government planning to slash? It certainly cannot be the meager national minimum wage of N30, 000, which right now cannot even buy a bag of rice”.

He expressed the belief that the proposed slash in salaries was certainly not targeted at the minimum wage and consequential adjustment in salaries that some state governors were still dragging their feet to pay.

According to him, it is in public knowledge that the multiple devaluations of the Naira in a short time, and the prevailing high inflation rate in Nigeria, have knocked out the salaries earned by Nigerian workers across the board.

”Nigerian workers are only surviving by hair’s breadth. Indeed, Nigerian workers are miracles strutting on two legs.

”It is, therefore, extremely horrendous for a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to pronounce salary slash for Nigerian workers currently.

”This call for salary slash by Mrs Zainab Ahmed is tantamount to a “mass suicide” wish, for Nigerian workers,” he said.

While opposing the move, he demanded an immediate retraction and apology by the Minister of  Finance.

The NLC president, however, said that if there was any salary that needed serious slashing, “it is the humongous remuneration and allowances pocketed by political office holders in Nigeria, who do extraordinarily little but collect so much.

”Workers generate surplus value and revenue for the government.

”We do not constitute any unnecessary cost or burden to governance. It is also important to make the point that salaries are products of contracts governed by laws. They cannot be unilaterally adjusted.”

He said that many countries of the world were increasing the salaries of their workforce and extending social security coverage for their citizens.

According to him, many are providing all forms of palliatives to help their people through the terrible socio-economic dislocations occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Waba said that it would be completely strange for the Nigerian government to be thinking of a salary slash.

“This move is not only at great odds with global best responses to the COVID-19 pandemic but also in violation of relevant ILO Conventions and Declarations on Wages and Decent Work.

“We urge the government as a social partner to quickly respond to the demands by Labour for an upward review of salaries of all Nigerian workers.

“Nigerian workers have shown sufficient understanding with the government through the tough patches of the pandemic.

“Now, Nigerian workers demand reciprocity of our understanding. Nigerian workers demand an increase in their remunerations and allowances,” he said.

NAN

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Paying ransomt To Kidnappers Is Foolishness —Obasanjo

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Former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, on Wednesday, has cautioned against the payment of ransom to kidnappers.

He, however, submitted that the government must develop means to deal with kidnappers and bandits heavily in place of ransom payment.

He noted that the governments of both President Goodluck Jonathan and Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) paid ransom to kidnappers but they denied it.

Obasanjo said he does not believe in payment of ransom to kidnappers and bandits, saying it encouraged criminals indulging in the act.

The former president berated any government that pays ransom, describing them as follies.

Obasanjo spoke on Wednesday at his residence in Abeokuta, Ogun State, while playing host to members of Tiv professionals Group led by Prof Zacharys Anger Gundu.

Obasanjo insisted that it requires a “carrot and stick” approach to fight insecurity challenges to a standstill.

He said “Some people are still reaching out, and hoping that lives can still be saved. But a situation whereby anybody thinks paying ransom is the way out, that person is folly. He is a folly. This is because when you pay ransom, you encourage. But if you are not going to pay ransom, you must have the means to deal heavily with it. You must have the stick to deal with it.

“Government has always paid ransom. Not only this government, even during Jonathan (administration). They paid ransom, but they denied it.”

Obasanjo expressed fears that those beating drums of division in Nigeria don’t think about the interest of the minority ethnic groups.

He added, “Where do we want those minor groups to stand? Wherever they stand, now they are by virtue of Nigeria’s present situation a little bit protected. But if Nigeria breaks up and they are in a smaller country, they will be oppressed. They will always be exterminated. Are we thinking of that?

“I believe that if we will get it right in Nigeria, any leader must look at Nigeria with the prism of the diversity of Nigeria. For as long as you look at Nigeria with the prism of your ethnic group, then you aren’t going anywhere, either your ethnic group or religious group.

“But is there hope? There is hope.”

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