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Presidency faults PDP’s claim on Buhari’s Lagos visit

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The presidency on Monday faulted claim by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that President Muhammadu Buhari was insensitive to the plights of Nigeria.

The PDP had accused the President of being insensitive to the plights of Nigeria for attending the public presentation of “My Participation”, an auto-biography written by All Progressives Congress (APC) pioneer National Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, in Lagos.

Specifically, the PDP said the President chose to honour Akande on a day some Nigerians lost their lives to bandit attacks in some communities in the North.

But the President said the opposition party got its facts all wrong.

In a statement issued by Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, the Presidency explained that the primary reason for President Buhari’s visit to Lagos was to inaugurate various categories of military equipment.

It said the occasion coincided with Chief Akande’s book launch in Lagos.

The statement carpeted the PDP for attempting to corrupt facts with the intention of confusing the public on the purpose for the visit.

In the reaction, the Presidency said the purpose was primarily to inaugurate military equipment, aimed at enhancing the nation’s capacity to fight terrorism.

It reads: “On 9th December in Lagos, President Muhammadu Buhari launched a made- in-Nigeria naval defence ship, NNS Oji, and inducted other vital military assets that improve the country’s capabilities to fight increased piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.

“With the waters off the coast of Nigeria seeing increased attacks – with 35 cases in 2020 – these new naval ships enter service at the most opportune time.

“Designed by Nigerians and built by Nigeria’s Naval Dockyard, the ships are the largest military vessels ever produced domestically. Key to President Buhari’s commitment to self-reliance as a nation and determination to build Nigeria into a manufacturing power, the ships pave the way for construction over time of larger more capable warships. In the future, Nigeria will move to become no more an arms importer to a defence exporter.

“In addition, the President surveyed and inaugurated a naval helicopter that will join the new vessels in scouting for and countering piracy that impedes security and trade.

“While in Lagos the President also graced the launch of an autobiography by Bisi Akande – a leader who played a crucial role in keeping democratic opposition to military rule alive, and later a critical place in the development and ultimate unity of that opposition to create today’s APC.

“Without visionaries such as Bisi Akande, the corrupt PDP and its acolytes who have done so much to strip our nation of its wealth, stunt its growth, and subject it to derogation abroad would still be in office.

“But, of course, those in the PDP who have nothing positive or new to add to the debate about the future of the nation seek to trivialise the President’s Lagos visit: they choose to ignore the crucial launch of the naval vessels; they suggest the primary reason for going to Lagos was to attend a book launch.

“They try to make further mileage by claiming the President should not have attended given the attack by bandits elsewhere in the country that same day.

“Should the president not have launched the naval ships the day after that attack? Should he listen to the PDP who feign concern for those affected by banditry when they did nothing to combat it for decades – not on land or at sea?

“Should our famously austere President not attend a book launch of his friend and fellow democratic opposition veteran when it coincided with a visit to Lagos to tend the affairs of state?

“Through their attacks, the PDP reveal their priorities. Of course, for decades, as the PDP enjoyed their decadent parties at others’ expense, the navy and the armed forces rotted through negligence.

“It is noted they have not criticised the President for boosting the country’s seaborne defence capacity. Instead, they only manage to make the attack personal. It reveals the chasm of difference between a president who cares for the country while managing to show courtesy to his comrades – and the opposition who corrupted the country through the sharing out of its wealth while celebrating and splashing about stolen public money.

“Sadly, these opportunistic opposition elements, in a desperate search for political points, have dragged respected religious leaders into the discussion, feeding them misleading information who have in turn used this distorted picture to blackpaint the President in the eyes of gullible and innocent members of the public.”

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New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern cancels her wedding amid new Omicron restrictions

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New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden has cancelled her wedding as the nation imposes new restrictions to slow the community spread of the Covid-19 Omicron variant, she told reporters on Sunday.

New Zealand will impose mask rules and limit gathering from midnight on Sunday after a cluster of nine Covid-19 Omicron cases showed community spread from the North to South islands after a wedding.

A family returned to Nelson in the South Island by plane after attending a wedding and other events in Auckland in the North Island. The family and a flight attendant tested positive.

New Zealand will move to a red setting under its Covid-19 protection framework, with more mask wearing. Indoor hospitality settings such as bars and restaurants and events like weddings will be capped at 100 people. The limit is lowered to 25 people if venues are not using vaccine passes, Arden said.

“My wedding will not be going ahead,” she told reporters, adding she was sorry for anyone caught up in a similar scenario. Ardern had not disclosed her wedding date, but it was rumored to be imminent.

Asked by reporters how she felt about the cancellation of her wedding to longtime partner and fishing-show host Clarke Gayford, Ardern replied: “Such is life.”

She added, “I am no different to, dare I say it, thousands of other New Zealanders who have had much more devastating impacts felt by the pandemic, the most gutting of which is the inability to be with a loved one sometimes when they are gravely ill. That will far, far outstrip any sadness I experience.”

New Zealand’s borders have been shut to foreigners since March 2020. The government pushed back plans for a phased reopening from mid-January to the end of February out of concern about a potential Omicron outbreak as in neighboring Australia.

People able to travel to New Zealand under narrow exceptions must apply to stay at state-managed quarantine facilities. The government last week stopped issuing any new slots amid a surge in the number of people arriving with Omicron.

About 94% of New Zealand’s population over the age of 12 is fully vaccinated and about 56% of those eligible have had booster shots.

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SERAP drags Nigerian government to ECOWAS Court over undisclosed loans spending

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The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project has filed a lawsuit against the government of President Muhammadu Buhari before an ECOWAS Court over “secrecy in the spending of loans so far obtained, the unsustainable level of borrowing by the government and the 36 states, and the crippling debt burden”.

Last week, SERAP lawyers, Kolawole Oluwadare and Opeyemi Owolabi filed a suit before ECOWAS Court of Justice in Abuja, in which the organisation sought, “An order directing and compelling the Federal Government to issue an immediate moratorium on borrowing by itself, and the 36 states, in conformity with the country’s international human rights obligations.”

SERAP is also seeking, “An order directing and compelling the Federal Government to publish details of spending of the loans obtained by governments since 1999 including the list of projects and locations of any such projects on which these loans have been spent.”

The organisation maintained that, “Persistent and unsustainable borrowing by the federal and state governments and the crippling debt burden undermine the rights of Nigerians to economic and social development, and are antithetical to the public interest.

“There is lack of transparency and accountability in the spending of the loans so far obtained, and opacity around the terms and conditions in loan agreements, including repayment details for these loans. The details of the projects on which the loans are spent are shrouded in secrecy.

“Without a moratorium on borrowing, the Federal Government and many of the 36 states may be caught in a process driven mostly by creditors’ needs. 

“This will result in an exorbitant social cost for the marginalised and vulnerable sectors of the population.

“The Federal Government and many of the 36 states would seem to be in debt distress or at high risk of debt distress.

“The Senate and House of Representatives recently approved the loans of $5,803,364,553.50 and a grant component of $10million under the 2018-2020 External Borrowing (Rolling) Plan of the Federal Government.

“This followed previous approvals by the National Assembly of $16.2 (16,230,077,718) billion loan; €1 (1,020,000,000) million and a grant component of $125 million loan; $36.8 billion, €910 million loans, and a grant component of $10 million; $8.3 billion and €490 million loans; $6.1 billion, $1.5 billion and 995 million loans; and $4(4,054,476,863), €710 million and grant component of $125million.

“Several of the 36 states are also facing a debt crisis, and vicious debt cycles. According to the Debt Management Office, the foreign debt stock of the Federal Government, 36 state governments and the Federal Capital Territory presently stands at $37.9billion.

“The loans from China alone amount to $3.59billion. According to the UN Independent Expert on foreign debt and human rights, Nigeria faces debt service relative to tax revenues that exceed 20 per cent, with escalating social tensions linked to poverty and inequality.

“According to the World Bank’s IDA FY21 Report, with debt exposure of $11.7billion US Dollars, Nigeria ranked fifth among the top 10 countries with highest debt risk exposure. The top four countries are India with $22billion, Bangladesh ($18.1billion), Pakistan ($16.4billion), and Vietnam ($14.1billion).”

Meanwhile, no date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.

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COVID-19: Nigeria records 29 fresh infections, lowest in two months

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The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control has said that 29 people tested positive for Coronavirus on Saturday.

The figure is the country’s lowest single-day count since November 19, 2021 when 23 cases were reported.

In its latest update, NCDC said the positive cases of Coronavirus came from three states.

A breakdown of new cases showed that Lagos — Nigeria’s pandemic epicentre — recorded the highest number of new infections with 27 new positive samples, followed by Kano and Rivers with one each.

According to the agency, 40 persons recovered from the infection while 225,946 people have now been discharged.

No death figure was recorded from COVID-19 complications, leaving the death toll at 3,124.

Since the index case in February 2020, a total of 251,959 Coronavirus infections have been confirmed across Nigeria — out of which 22,889 are active cases. 

On Saturday, the Lagos government said the consistent decrease in COVID-19 cases indicates the end of the pandemic’s fourth wave in the state.

Giving a situation update via Twitter, Akin Abayomi, the state’s Commissioner for Health, said there was a reduction in positivity rates — from 29.3 percent recorded on December 21, 2021, to 1.9 percent as of January 20, 2022.

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