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President Buhari greets Senate president at 62

Ahmad Lawan, majority leader of the senate, says the national assembly will not become President Muhammadu Buhari’s “rubber stamp” if he is elected senate president.

President Muhammadu Buhari has felicitated with Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, on his 62nd birthday, cherishing the maturity and purposeful leadership that the lawmaker has brought to the upper chamber.

In a congratulatory message issued by his spokesman, Mr Femi Adesina, in Abuja on Wednesday, Buhari lauded the way and manner Lawan had been handling every issue in the chamber following his years of experience and wisdom.

The president joined members of the All Progressives Congress (APC), National Assembly, staff, family, friends and associates of the Senate President in celebrating another age, heralded by lofty achievements.

He stated that these achievements included years of research and sharing of knowledge as a lecturer, eight years in the House of Representatives, before his election to the Senate in 2007.

According to him, Lawan’s steady progress on the ladder of leadership shows his empathy, tenacity and focus on improving the lives of Nigerians.

He, therefore, affirmed that the cordial relationship between the Executive and Legislature had fostered faster and better results in the development of the country.

On the Senate President’s 62nd birthday, the President prayed that the almighty God would grant him good health, wisdom and longer life to keep serving the country and humanity.

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NYSC raises bar on compliance with coronavirus prevention

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The National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) has directed States and FCT Coordinators to ensure strict compliance with COVID-19 prevention and safety protocols in all camps and other formations nationwide.

Brig-Gen Shuaibu Ibrahim, NYSC Director-General, who gave the directive in a statement on Tuesday in Abuja, said that corps members were critical change agents in national development.

According to him, prospective corps members and camp officials will all be subjected to COVID-19 tests as precondition for entry into the orientation camps.

The statement was signed by Mrs Adenike Adeyemi, NYSC Director, Press and Public Relations.

The NYSC boss while interacting with the scheme’s management and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) officials during a virtual meeting said that corps vanguards and enforcement teams had been constituted for all the camps.

He said that the team would serve as a measure to ensure strict compliance as well as support the national response efforts in stemming the tide of the new wave of the pandemic.

The virtual meeting was held as part of preparations for the conduct of the forthcoming Batch ‘B’ Stream II Orientation Course, scheduled to begin on January 19.

He expressed gratitude to the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and the NCDC for considering re-opening of the orientation camps.

Ibrahim noted that the potential of corps members would continue to be effectively harnessed in the health, education and other vital sectors of the national economy.

He added that necessary facilities that would enhance compliance with COVID-19 prevention and safety protocols were provided in the camps.

Dr Oyeladun Okunromade, NCDC team leader, described the NYSC’s response to COVID-19 pandemic as a functional model currently being considered for replication in other sectors.

Okunromade said that the model would enhance community testing, thus, safeguarding the health of the nation.

He expressed satisfaction with the facilities put in place to enhance compliance with the COVID-19 prevention and safety protocols in the previous orientation programmes.

He called for increased vigilance and cooperation to consolidate the success already recorded for subsequent orientations.

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Indian community donates N100 million health facility – envoy

Mr Abhay Thakur, the High Commissioner of India to Nigeria, has said that Nigeria alone accounted for 20 per cent of India’s trade in Africa for the year 2018.

The Indian Community Organisation has donated a N100 million, fully furnished 50-bed hospital to the Lagos state government, Indian High Commissioner, Abhay Thakur, said on Saturday.

Mr. Thakur said the gesture is in line with the vision of Indian community and companies in Nigeria to consistently contribute to the welfare of Nigeria.

Speaking at the commemoration of the 16 Pravasi Bhartiya Divas (PDB) convention, also known as India Diaspora Day in Abuja, Mr. Thakur said the Indian diaspora in Nigeria had adopted Nigeria as their second country, ”seeing India as the country of their birth, while Nigeria as the country of their work.”

“They have been constantly contributing not only to Indian welfare, but more importantly to Nigeria, which is our message to the Indian community that they must contribute to the country in which they live and perform their duties.

“And I am very happy to say most recently the Indian Community Organisation raised over N100 million and actually earmarked a 50-bed hospital and donated it, with the equipment and facilities there, to the department of health of Lagos, which has been highly appreciated”, the envoy said

Mr. Thakur said that to further strengthen bilateral ties, both countries could work out linkages between the Indian professional, cultural associations and Indian companies, and leading Nigerian businesses, in trade and investments.

In a virtual message, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, head of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) also reiterated the need for stronger collaborations between the diasporas of the two countries.

Ms. Dabiri-Erewa pledged that in fulfillment of its mandate, NIDCOM would ensure a powerful collaboration between the two counties.

“There should be a strong collaboration between the Indian diaspora and the Nigerians diaspora.

“Imagine the India diaspora excelling all over the world, it can’t be enough and you can be a Nigerian diaspora excelling all over the world and it still can’t be enough.

“But imagine both coming together, that will be a powerful collaboration and we can achieve it,” Ms. Dabiri-Erewa said.

Selva Elvis Panner, President, Indian Cultural Association, Abuja, said the association had continued to advocate Indian diaspora to be disciplined, law abiding and imbibe peaceful habits in the country.

Panner said the community would continue to contribute to the Nigerian society economically, socially and culturally, pointing at the PBD celebration as a fine indicator of the strengthening ties of the Indian community with their motherland.

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Grammy awards now set for March 14

Recording Academy, the organiser of the Grammy awards ceremony, has announced March 14 as the rescheduled date for the 63rd Annual Grammy awards, due to concerns over the spread of COVID-19.

Recording Academy, the organiser of the Grammy awards ceremony, has announced March 14 as the rescheduled date for the 63rd Annual Grammy awards, due to concerns over the spread of COVID-19.

The organiser, who made the announcement on its Instagram handle @recordingacademy, stated that postponing the show was the right thing to do.

“After thoughtful conversations with health experts, our host and artists scheduled to appear, we are rescheduling the 63rd Annual GRAMMY Awards to be broadcast Sunday, March 14, 2021.

“The deteriorating COVID situation in Los Angeles, with hospital services being overwhelmed, ICUs having reached capacity, and new guidance from state and local governments have all led us to conclude that postponing our show was the right thing to do.

“Nothing is more important than the health and safety of those in our music community and the hundreds of people who work tirelessly on producing the show.

“We want to thank all of the talented artists, the staff, our vendors and, especially this year’s nominees for their understanding, patience and willingness to work with us as we navigate these unprecedented times #GRAMMYs.

“🎶 Harvey Mason jr., Chair & Interim President/CEO of the Recording Academy

“🎶 Jack Sussman, Executive Vice President, Specials, Music, Live Events and Alternative Programming, CBS

“🎶 Ben Winston, GRAMMY Awards Executive Producer, Fulwell 73 Productions,” Recording academy wrote.

Newsmen report that the 2021 Grammys was initially scheduled for Jan.. 31 before it was postponed due to the spread of Covid-19.

The Recording Academy had earlier planned to hold the Grammys, without an audience or nominated artists, with only presenters and performing artists on-site during the show, before it was postponed.

The 2021 Grammy nominations were led by Beyoncé who picked up nine nominations, while Dua Lipa, Taylor Swift, and Roddy Ricch followed behind with six nods each.

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2021: CLO wants Nigerians to fight coronavirus

The Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) has urged Nigerians to strive towards fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, ravaging all sectors of the country in 2021.

The Chairman of CLO, Anambra, Mr Vincent Ezekwueme, made the call in Enugu on Sunday on areas Nigerians needed to focus on in 2021.

Ezekwueme called on Nigerians to use the New Year to collectively resolve more than ever before to stop the escalation of COVID-19.

“COVID-19 pandemic remains the greatest threat to humanity, our health and socio-economic wellbeing as individuals and a nation.

“However, we can battle it through strict observation of prevention protocols and maintaining optimal hygiene,” he said.

The CLO boss also called on leaders across the country to work towards tackling challenges facing the country in 2021.

“It is an existential reality that with a gun you can kill a terrorist, but with education and skill acquisition you can kill terrorism holistically.

“I wish to reiterate my earlier appeal for government to formulate education policies that will include head, heart and hand in order to eliminate poverty of mind and hand thereby reduce unemployment, restiveness, idleness and crime,’’ he said.

Ezekwueme called on Nigerians to make necessary sacrifices towards getting the country out of recession in 2021.

“We must make necessary sacrifices for the common good and interest through the patriotic desire for the social well-being of others above our selfish interest.

“It is pertinent to note that if we can do things right, be content with the blessings of God upon us, think about the common good and be selfless; 2021 will usher in much-cherished peace, unity, progress and prosperity,” he said.

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Vatican City plans swift coronavirus vaccination drive for residents

FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis wearing a face mask attends an inter-religious prayer service for peace along with other religious representatives in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Aracoeli, a church on top of Rome's Capitoline Hill, in Rome, Italy, Oct. 20, 2020. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane/File Photo

Vatican City, the world’s smallest sovereign state, expects to receive enough COVID-19 vaccine doses in the coming days to inoculate all of its workers and residents, a statement said on Saturday.

The Vatican is home to about 450 people, including Pope Francis, while several hundred of its employees live in Rome, which surrounds the city state.

“It is likely that the vaccines could arrive in the state in the second week of January in sufficient quantity to cover the needs of the Holy See and the Vatican City State,” the statement said. The Holy See is the Roman Catholic Church’s governing body that operates from within Vatican territory.

The Vatican said it had bought an ultra-cold refrigerator to store the doses, suggesting it will use the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, which must be stored at about minus 70 degrees Celsius (minus 94 Fahrenheit).

Vaccinations will start in the second half of January, with priority given to health and public safety personnel, the elderly and staff in frequent contact with the public, the Vatican said.

Shots will be administered on a voluntary basis, it added.

Pope Francis is 84 and had part of one lung removed during an illness when he was a young man in his native Argentina, making him potentially vulnerable to the disease. The Vatican did not say if or when he would be vaccinated.

According to data collated by worldometers.info, 27 cases of coronavirus have been recorded in Vatican City so far, and no deaths. Two Vatican cardinals tested positive last month.

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Kogi Assembly passes 2021 budget estimate of N130.54 billion into law

The Kogi State House of Assembly has passed a bill changing the name of the state owned university to Prince Abubakar Audu University, Ayingba.

The Kogi House of Assembly on Tuesday passed the N130.54 billion Appropriation Bill tagged “Budget of Accelerated Recovery” into law.

Newsmen report that the House considered the bill Clause-by-Clause at the “Committee of the Whole” of the House at plenary in Lokoja.

Aderonke Aro (APC-Yagba West) and Chairman, House Committee on Finance, Budget Monitoring and Economic Planning, presented the committee’s report for consideration.

Aro declared that Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) with genuine reasons for adjustments in their allocations were taken care of during the defence of their respective budgets.

In the budget presented to the House on Dec. 1, Gov. Yahaya Bello of Kogi had said that the budget was indicative of the assessment of the amount the state could generate on its own.

He said that the 2021 budget estimates of N130.54billion was N7.57 billion or 6.16 per cent above the N122.97 amended budget for 2020.

According to the governor, the budget had a recurrent revenue of N82.46 billion representing 63.17 per cent and capital receipts of N48.08billion representing 36.83 per cent.

In the appropriation bill passed on Tuesday by the House, Recurrent Expenditure was allocated N74.04 billion, while Capital Expenditure N56.49 billion.

A further breakdown of the budget revealed that Education sector has N21 billion; Health, N17 billion with Agriculture, N8 billion.

Others are Entrepreneurship and Youth Engagement; N4 billion; Infrastructure, N21 billion; Human Capital Development, N21 billion while Governance and Security were allocated N23 billion and N12 billion respectively.

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Benue governor shakes up cabinet, creates new ministry, appoints adviser

Governor Samuel Ortom has denied reports that he requested a return of confiscated weapons.

Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue state Wednesday effected a minor reshuffle of his cabinet and also created a new Ministry of Industry and Cooperatives.

The Governor who announced the shake-up in Makurdi also assigned portfolios to two newly appointed Commissioners who two days ago took the oath of office and allegiance.

According to Governor Ortom, the two newly appointed Commissioners, Comrade Ojotu Ojema took over from Mrs. Ladi Ajene-Isegbe at the Ministry of Youth and Sports as Commissioner while Dr. Joseph Ngea took charge of the Ministry of Health and Human Services following the demise of his predecessor, Dr. Emmanuel Ikwulono who died in November.

He noted that the former Commissioner for Trade and Investment, Mr. Merga Kachina, had been deployed to the newly created Ministry of Industry and Cooperatives while the former Commissioner for Youths and Sports, Mrs. Ladi Ajene-Isegbe was reassigned to the Ministry of Trade and Investment.

According to the Governor, Cooperatives parastatals was removed from the Ministry of Rural Development to make up the new Ministry of Industry and Cooperatives.

The Governor also swore in Mr. David Orshi as the new Special Adviser in charge of Project Monitoring and Evaluation.

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Airtel begins initiative to feed 5,000 displaced persons

Airtel Nigeria has announced the commencement of the 2020 edition of its annual ‘5 Days of Love’ Yuletide initiative with a focus on providing palliative packs to 5,000 persons across five Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps in the country.

Airtel Nigeria has announced the commencement of the 2020 edition of its annual ‘5 Days of Love’ Yuletide initiative with a focus on providing palliative packs to 5,000 persons across five Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps in the country.

Speaking during a virtual press conference to announce the initiative, the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Airtel Nigeria, Mr. Segun Ogunsanya, said despite the pandemic and a difficult year, Airtel would continue its long standing tradition of celebrating and empowering the vulnerable and underprivileged during Yuletide.

“Our resolve to Nigeria and Nigerians is unshakeable. Despite a difficult year, we are committed to making lives better for many Nigerians and we will not rest on our laurels as we will continue to create opportunities for underprivileged Nigerians.

“We believe little things can make a difference and as we continue to support the vulnerable and the underprivileged in our society, events will take a positive turn. At Airtel, we believe that to be great, we must first be good. It is in this spirit that we have chosen to celebrate this Yuletide with underprivileged and underserved persons across the country,” he said.

Airtel said it would be distributing food palliative packs to 5,000 vulnerable families in IDP camps across the country. 1,000 palliative packs will be distributed to select IDP camps in 5 cities across the country over a period of 5 days.

Currently in its sixth year, the 2020 edition of the ‘5 Days of Love’ initiative kicked off in Benue State on 18th December, 2020 at the Daudu IDP camp and will move to Edo State on Tuesday, 22nd December, at the International Christian Centre Benin City as well as in Borno State at the Teacher’s village same day.

On Wednesday 23rd December, the distribution will be concluded at the Abbari YBC camp in Yobe State, and likewise in Kaduna State at the Sabin Tasha camp, just in time for Christmas.

Ogunsanya also assured that Airtel would continue to collaborate and partner with the government in the ongoing fight against Coronavirus, noting that the fight against the dreaded virus is not over yet.

He also highlighted some definitive steps Airtel had taken to curtail the spread of the virus.

“Although I do not like throwing figures, we expended over N1.97Bn providing relief for Nigerians during the lockdown and at the height of the pandemic. My colleagues, from their pockets, donated N20m to provide relief materials for indigent persons during the lockdown.

“We also donated N50m each to the Lagos State Government and the Ogun State Government in their fight against COVID-19. We are currently renovating an Infectious Disease Centre at the Lagos State University and we have committed N200 million to the project.

“Airtel further committed various sums and support in kind covering donations to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), the Federal Ministry of Health and Port Health Authority, State Governments, the Federal Governments just as we also reached out to our dear customers by offering free Short Message Service (SMS) worth over N1.2 billion,” Ogunsanya said.

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Lagos assembly tasks governor on second wave of coronavirus

Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Obasa on Friday disclosed how the immediate past administration of former Governor Akinwunmi Ambode employed blackmail and harassment to witch-hunt and deprive the House of performing its duties appropriately.

Following the ravaging effect of the second wave of COVID-19 pandemic, the Lagos State House of Assembly, yesterday, called on the state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, to direct the Commissioner for Information, Mr. Gbenga Omotoso, to intensify public enlightenment campaigns to curtail its spread among Lagosians.

Speaker of the House, Mudashiru Obasa, who presented the matter during plenary on Tuesday, also said it was important for the House to invite the Commissioner for Health, Professor Tunji Abayomi, to brief the House on the state government’s efforts to prevent the spread of the disease in the state.

He stressed that there was an urgent need to ensure that all the COVID-19 protocols were strictly observed, even as he the government to ensure that enforcement was total as the most reliable precautions against the scourge for now.

“The Governor is down with mild symptoms of COVID-19 and I want to urge all the lawmakers in the House to observe the protocols of the pandemic.

“The Clerk of the House should also ensure that the staff of the House and visitors observe the protocols.

“We should sustain the campaign against the spread of the disease in the state. We all know that the disease is on the increase in the United States of America and in other countries.

“The Commissioner for Health, Professor Tunji Abayomi, should come and brief the House on the efforts being made to prevent the spread of the disease in the state,” Obasa said.

Commenting on the matter, a member of the House Committee on Health Services, Bisi Yusuff (Alimosho 1), lamented that people no longer take precaution against the disease as many don’t even believe that it exists.

He stressed that the state could not afford another lockdown, warning that the only way out was for people to observe the new normal, which is to observe the protocol.

Also, the Cooperative Societies Bill 2020, which is titled, “A Bill for a law to provide for the registration of Cooperative Societies in Lagos State and for connected matters,” was read for the second time.

Thereafter, it was analysed by the Chairman, House Committee on Commerce and Industry, Ganiu Okanlawon (Kosofe 1) and then debated on by members at the sitting.

Members agreed that the bill seeks to address all the inadequacies bedeviling the existing law on cooperative societies in the state and called for speedy passage of the bill.

After exhaustive deliberations, the Speaker committed the bill to the House Committee on Commerce and Industry, to report back to the House in two weeks.

In a related development, there was also the presentation of a report on Unlawful Societies and Cultism (Prohibition) Bill 2020 by the Chairman, House Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights, Public Petitions and LASIEC, Victor Akande (Ojo1).

After members’ observations and comments on the Bill titled: “A Bill for a law to provide for the prohibition of Unlawful Societies and Cultism in Lagos State and for other connected purposes,” the committee was asked to go and make some amendments before it would be read for the third time.

The Speaker then urged the standing committees of the House to conclude work on the Bills before them, while the joint Committees on Budget and Economic Planning and Finance were equally asked to complete work on the 2021 Budget proposal of the state before the end of the year.

The House later adjourned sitting to Monday, December 28, at 12 noon.

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