The Ooni of Ife, Ooni Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi Ojaja II on Monday revealed that cure to the pandemic Coronavirus lies in the ability to explore the potentials of the alternative/natural medicine.
Ooni Ogunwusi, who doubles as the Co-Chairman of the National Council of Traditional Rulers of Nigeria (NCTRN), made the disclosure while addressing newsmen at his Ile Oodua Palace, Ile Ifè. He emphasised that the Nigeria as a country and the world at large must look inward for alternative solution.
Moses Olafare, Director, Media & Public Affairs, Ooni’s Palace, quoted him as saying: “A divine proclamation came out to the world last year June 6th 2019, during the World Ifa Festival – OTURA MEJI which foretold about the impending rage of this invisible pandemic war, but few heard us.
“Look at Cuba, a country that has a strong traditional ties with Nigeria, the kingdom of Ife in particular, they have not only defeated the Covid-19, but now rendering huge medical assistance to several countries across the world because they value their traditional heritage inherited from us here.
“As the spiritual head of Youruba race, I have a lot gathered for the use of mankind. I am also currently working with Yem Kem International (Alternative Medicine Expert) pharmaceutical company for the packaging and distribution of these alternative medications globally. I also challenge researchers both in Nigeria and abroad to make these natural herbs into clinical medicine and extract the vaccines from it.
“Necessity is the mother of innovation, we must create results from our current ways of life which is strange to us as people. For example, the stay at home policy of the government should be improved upon to enable people work from home irrespective of their geographical locations.” Ooni Ogunwusi added.
While advocating that there are several positive sides to the pandemic, the Ooni noted that leaders especially those in the political class must rework the country’s system with a view to enable Nigerians especially the youths to maximize their potentials.
“This is the first time in Nigeria that we will have so much money and other resources being expended on our health sector either as donations or budgetary. This in itself is a devine lesson that we must revive our health sector to satisfy everyone especially the poor and other vulnerable members of our society.
“Look at us now, nobody can leave his or her country across the world which implies that all parts of the world must be made habitable. We must all come together to make this country work, there is no perfect system anywhere in the world.
“Imagine how the world giant economies like that of the US and UK bowed and still bowing to coronavirus. The disease is not a respecter of anybody or any nation, it is a common enemy of the world that we must collectively combat and defeat.” The Ooni noted.
The African foremost monarch equally thanked stakeholders across the country’s private sector for their kind donations, urging then to do more as it will remain an undisputed legacy that they stood for the country and her people in this moment of global health and economic challenges.
In the same vain, the monarch urged Nigerians to adhere to the strict precautionary measures laid down by the state and Federal governments as well as the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control as the country struggle to end the pandemic.
US Exempts Nigeria From New $15,000 Visa Bond Policy
The United States Embassy in Nigeria said Nigeria is not part of the countries affected by the new $15000 visa Bond policy introduced by the outgoing administration of President Donald Trump.
The US Embassy clarified that Nigeria is not included in this six months pilot programme.
The Embassy said “In response to the April 2019 Presidential Memorandum on Combating High Nonimmigrant Overstay Rates, the Department and our embassies and consulates overseas conducted an in-depth analysis to identify and address root causes of overstays.”
“Among other efforts to address this challenge, the State Department is considering additional steps to address overstays, including piloting a limited visa bonds program to test, in coordination with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the operational feasibility of posting, processing, and discharging visa bonds as means to ensure the timely departure from the United States of certain travelers.”
“Accordingly, the State Department will begin a limited six-month visa bond pilot program beginning on December 24, 2020. We are committed to combating visa overstays and making sure travelers to the United States respect our laws.”
“The implementation of this pilot builds on our engagement with foreign governments in recent years and will ensure continued progress to reduce overstay rates. Nigeria is not included in this six months pilot program.”
The new rule by the outgoing Trump administration will require applicants for tourist and business visas from some countries to pay a bond of up to $15,000 in addition to visa fees which currently range from $160 to $300.
The US Department of State says the requirement will be implemented on a temporary basis for a period of six months between December and June as a pilot scheme to test run the policy. The visa bond will apply to countries whose nationals had overstay rates of 10 per cent or more as of 2019. In total, 23 countries will be affected.
The seeming rationale for the visa bonds, which will range from $5,000 to $15,000, is that they will serve as a deterrent to visitors overstaying visas given the prospective penalty of forfeiting the money. But the US is also wielding the policy as an instrument of diplomacy to force other governments to become more proactive with driving down overstay rates of their nationals.
As a department of state memo says, through the policy, “the US Government sends a message to all countries that high overstay rates may result in measures that negatively affect broad categories of their nationals, thereby encouraging countries to take action to encourage their nationals to comply with US immigration law.”
Quartz reports that the move is also more likely to be seen as yet another anti-immigration policy by the Trump administration which disproportionately affects African countries.
FG Moves To Exempt Minimum Wage Earners From Income Tax
The Federal Government said that with the proposed Finance Bill 2020, minimum wage earners will be exempted from the Personal Income Tax in order to reduce the impact of inflation on Nigerians.
The government also said that the exemption and other items in the proposed Bill, alongside various economic policies and incentives would ensure the resilience of the Nigerian economy to exogenous shocks.
The assurance was given by President Muhammadu Buhari in his speech delivered virtually by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, on Monday at the opening session of the 26th Nigerian Economic Summit Group Conference themed: “Building Partnerships for Resilience”.
President Buhari said, “We are proposing in the new Finance Act that those who earn minimum wage should be exempted from paying income tax.
“These provisions which complement the tax breaks given to small businesses last year will not only further stimulate the economy but are also a fulfillment of promises made to take steps to help reduce the cost of transportation and the impact of inflation on ordinary Nigerians.”
Explaining the role of the private sector in building a resilient economy, President Buhari said “this government has always emphasised that the private sector has a key role to play in our efforts to build a more resilient and competitive economy as expressed in the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan.
“Private companies in design, construction, logistics, and finance are very much engaged in our infrastructural projects in power and rail as well as road and bridges and the installation of broadband infrastructure which is an essential requirement if Nigeria is to participate actively and benefit from the 4th Industrial Revolution.”
Continuing, the President added, “…it is clear that we must diversify the economy away from dependence on crude oil exports, speed up human capital development and improve on infrastructure. Above all, our economy must be made more resilient to exogenous shocks.
“It is important for the private sector to play a key role as we work together to identify national priorities and try to influence our future national trajectory.”
He gave insights into the collaboration between the CBN, the Nigerian Sovereign Wealth Investment Authority (NSIA), and other stakeholders in the creation of an Infrastructure Company (Infraco) Fund to address some of the nation’s critical infrastructure needs.
“It goes without saying that partnerships remain essential to attract the resources for building a solid national infrastructural base. I am pleased to inform you in this regard that we are working actively with the Central Bank, Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority and State Governments under the auspices of the National Economic Council to design and put in place a N15 trillion Infraco Fund which will be independently managed.
“The Infraco Fund will help to close the national infrastructural gap and provide a firm basis for increasing national economic productivity and growth,” the President explained.
Restating the commitment of his administration to sustaining collaborations with the private sector in addressing challenges, President Buhari said “if there is one single lesson to be learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is that partnerships are essential for credible responses with lasting effects.”
According to him, “Our national journey to economic prosperity is a long one, so we must all certainly work together. As we saw, partnerships were essential when we were faced with the serious challenge of combatting COVID-19.
“We saw the key role that partnerships played in our national effort to combat the COVID-19 crisis. While Federal and State Governments worked together to manage the health response and ensure the establishment of isolation centres and availability of test kits, personal protective equipment, and medicines, the private sector also played an active role as individual entities, and also worked together in groups like the Coalition Against COVID-19.”
During the speech presentation, the Vice President responded to the issue of import duties raised by some speakers at the summit. The Vice President noted that “the point of the reduction in levies on motor vehicles, commercial vehicles for transportation is to reduce the cost of transportation by reducing the cost of vehicles.”
He explained that “with subsidy removal and the increase in fuel price and the pass-through to food prices, transportation costs had to be reduced. Now the automotive policy is directed at localising the production of vehicles. So the logic was to increase the duty and levies so that local production becomes more competitive. But the annual demand for vehicles is about 720, 000 vehicles per year. Actual local production is 14,000 vehicles a year.
“So, the problem is that at the current rate of production, we will not meet the serious national needs and this will just mean higher prices of vehicles and greater strain on other sectors of the economy that depend on transportation. But we are not giving up on the local auto industry.
“Two important things to note; the first is that we still have a relatively high duty at 35%, so there is still a disincentive for importation. Second is that we are promoting policy that the government must buy only locally manufactured cars.”
The opening session of the summit featured presentations by speakers including Chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum and Governor of Ekiti State, Mr Kayode Fayemi; Governor Aminu Bello Tambuwal of Sokoto State; Chief Executive Officer of MainOne, Ms Funke Opeke; and the Chief Executive Officer of GIG Group, Mr Chidi Ajaere; among others.
The Federal Government is processing a World Bank loan of $750 million on behalf of state governments, to stimulate the local economy as well as support vulnerable household’s consumption, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, said.
The Minister disclosed this at the inauguration of the Federal Steering and Technical Committees of the Nigeria Covid-19 Action Recovery and Economic Stimulus (N-CARES), in Abuja on Monday.
She said “the loan is part of windows of opportunities to mitigate the effect of Covid-19.”
She maintained that the diverse and severe impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic had continued to be felt across the world with significant consequences on informal businesses, households that survive on daily income and the peasant farmers, who depended on their farm produce to survive.
“This key population make up over 60% of our entire population in Nigeria, hence the need to cushion the effects of the pandemic on the vulnerable sectors through the provision of palliatives and stimulus package,” she added.
She noted that the Federal Government had created several windows of interventions as captured in the Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP) inaugurated by President Muhammadu Buhari on March 30.
Ahmed added that among other things, the ESP was to respond robustly and appropriately to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as to identify fiscal measures to enhance oil and non-oil government revenues and reduce non-essential spending.
According to the minister, the Steering Committee was made up of carefully selected ministers and permanent secretaries, while the Technical Committee, made up of directors of key MDAs, had to be in place to ensure that the implementation of the N-CARES was in line with Federal Government priorities, as outlined in the Economic Sustainability Plan.
“Government has carefully selected you as members of the Federal Steering and Technical Committees because of the important roles your MDAs play in the recovery of the Nigerian economy as well as the fulfillment of lifting 100 million people out of poverty, and I have no doubt you can deliver” she maintained.
The major role of the Federal Steering committee would be to provide an overall policy direction for the implementation of N-CARES programme and advise the President appropriately.
The Federal Technical Committee would be responsible for the programme oversight, overall guidance, support, coordination, strategic direction, review and approval of the annual work programme as well as budget for the Federal CARES Support Unit (FCSU).
For Ahmed, inaugurating the committee was important because of the need for emergency intervention and the fact that Nigeria, as the biggest economy in Africa, could not afford to remain in recession.
“The survival of over 200 million population is germane to all we do, as such, we must address the concerns of the majority of our populace,” she added.
She reminded the committee about the high consequences that could be of the root cause of rising civil unrest in the country was ignored.