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Coronavirus, Lagos Explosion and Buhari’s Silence

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By Eric Elezuo

As calls continue to stream in for President Muhammadu Buhari to give hope to the Nigerian people by giving a presidential broadcast as regards two events that have ravaged the country in the last one week, silence has remained the answer.

On February 27, 2020, the country recorded its first positive case of the dreaded Coronavirus virus which has held the world down in the last 90 days, putting the people under real tension for the first time since the disease broke out on December 31, 2019. The virus was brought into the country by an Italian whose identity has remained shrouded in secrecy until yesterday when he was declared negative and fit to reintegrate into the society. And ever since, 12 more positive cases have been recorded; in Lagos, Ogun, Oyo and Ekiti.

Nigerians have therefore chided the President for failing to address the nation like his counterparts across the globe. Presidents of countries like Ghana, South Africa, Zimbabwe Canada, united Kingdom, United States and others have addressed their nations. But Buhari has kept mum since the outbreak of the pandemic.

As the call continued to reverberate, an incident of great magnitude took place at Soba community, Abule Ado area of Amuwo Odofin, Lagos. A pipeline was supposedly said to have blown up causing great havoc, destroying property and wasting lives. Many described it as as novel as it has never been seen or witnessed before in the history of the nation. One week after, the President has remained silent. Rather, the Lagos State governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu has to take the pictures of the incident to Buhari in Abuja to inform and show him.  He did not visit the scene, bringing to remembrance Lai Mohammed’s statement in 2011 thus:

“A President that is not too busy to receive all manners of people in Aso Rock has not deemed it fit to embark on a quick trip to a state as strategic for all Nigerians and the nation’s economy as Lagos, after such a state was hit hard by a natural disaster. Even if the President and his advisers did not understand the symbolism of such visit, they could have taken a cue from what obtains in other climes.”

Lending their voices to the people’s call, the Senate advised the President to as a matter of urgency address the Nigerian nation on the matters on ground, but instead of heeding, the Presidency lashed out at the lawmakers, berating those who called on Buhari to address Nigerians in a television broadcast.

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, in a statement described such calls as nothing but cheap politics. He saw it as an attack against the ruling All Progressives Congress.

The statement read in part, “We also plead with Nigerians not to see this most peculiar of times as one to be politicised or seen as an opportunity to regurgitate grudges against the government or the ruling All Progressives Congress. North, South, East, and West – all Nigerians must unite to fight this plague, irrespective of religious or ideological affiliation.

“In this regard, populist advocacies such as the one accusing the President of ‘complacency’ simply because he has not made a television address by ranking members of our respected parliament are cheap and sensational. These are not the times for populism and cheap politics.”

Shehu said accolades should rather be given to Buhari for removing N20 from the price of petrol. Imagine the cheek!

President Buhari has had a history of silence in matters of urgent national importance, staying away from the public. It is on record that the only time the president has consistently addressed the nation was during the presidential election campaign. And of course, they were for political gains.

In reality, Buhari’s address will have no effect on the country as not many looked forward to drawled speech full of mispronounced words. But like the Minister of Information will say, he just take a cue from what is obtainable in other climes.

 

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Metro

Soldier Shoots Motorist Dead for Flouting Lockdown Order in Delta

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A motorist, identified as Joseph Pessu, was shot dead in Warri, Delta State, on Thursday, by a soldier for allegedly flouting the state government’s sit-at-home order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Eyewitnesses said the middle-aged motorist, who was cruising in a black Toyota Camry car without number plate, failed to stop at a military checkpoint on the NPA Road when the soldiers ordered him to halt.

Our correspondents gathered that rather than stop, Pessu allegedly accelerated the car in a bid to beat the security personnel.

But a soldier in the security team, who was apparently infuriated by the motorist’s effrontery, fired at the right rear tyre of the car in order to force the driver to a halt.

Pessu was alleged to have continued driving for several metres until he got to a location and abruptly parked the vehicle in the middle of the road.

He was said to have jumped out of the car to escape into the nearby bush, but a bullet from the gun of one of the soldiers pursuing him hit him.

His corpse was taken to the Police Area Command, from where it was transferred to the Warri Central Hospital’s morgue.

Meanwhile, two naval personnel, who were riding on a motorcycle in the area, were attacked by an angry mob few hours after the incident.

The angry mob, who had earlier made bonfires on the road to prevent vehicular movement, poured petrol on the motorcycle and set it ablaze to the astonishment of onlookers.

When contacted, the state Commissioner of Police, Hafiz Inuwa, confirmed the killing.

“Yes, a motorist was killed, but I have not got the details of the incident,” he simply told Punch correspondent on the telephone.

Commenting on the incident, the Warri Area Commander, ACP Mohammed Garba, stated that the soldier, who pulled the trigger and killed Pessu, had been identified, and gave assurance that justice would be served.

Garba also advised residents of the state to strictly obey the government’s stay-at-home directive.

He assured residents of Warri and its environs of adequate protection of their lives and property.

The state Commissioner for Information, Mr Charles Aniagwu, said in a statement that the government was worried by Pessu’s killing.

He stated that the government had sent a delegation to the deceased’s family to condole with them over the loss of their son.

Aniagwu added, “The military authorities have been contacted to carry out an investigation into what led to the killing of Pessu.

“We, however, call on the people to remain calm and not to take the law into their own hands, while the government conducts an investigation into the killing.”

Reacting to the incident, the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo (SAN), condemned Pessu’s killing.

Keyamo described the incident as barbaric in a statement posted on his official Twitter handle.

The minister promised to petition the relevant authorities to investigate the matter.

The statement read, “I condemn the killing of innocent person(s) in Warri by soldiers enforcing the COVID-19 lockdown.

“I have received disturbing reports and images of the high-handedness and shooting of innocent citizens by men of the armed forces deployed to enforce the COVID-19 lockdown in my state, Delta.

“Specifically, I have received reports of the killing of an innocent young man, Mr Joseph Pessu, in Warri. I unreservedly condemn this barbaric act by men of the armed forces, who should exercise restraint when dealing with the civilian populace.

“I am appealing to the youth and Deltans in general to obey the sit-at-home order by the state government in a bid to contain the spread of the pandemic coronavirus.

“I will be forwarding a petition to the relevant authorities to thoroughly investigate this murder and bring the officer(s) to justice. In the interim, let us not take the law into our own hands, please.

“I will also use this medium to sincerely appeal to my brothers and sisters in Delta State to be law-abiding and obey the orders of restriction imposed by both the Delta State Government and the Federal Government. They are lawful orders and they are for our own good.

“Images and reports of attacks on law enforcement agents by the civilian populace do not help our cause. I call on all and sundry in the entire country too to exercise utmost restraint at this point.”

Meanwhile, the Deputy President of the Senate, Ovie Omo-Agege, has condemned Pessu’s killing.

Omo-Agege called for the arrest and prosecution of the trigger-happy soldiers, noting that the authorities must ensure that the law took its course.

A statement on Thursday said Omo-Agege spoke directly with the army and police authorities in the state, while calling on residents of the state not to take the law into their own hands.

He was quoted to have said, “I condemn in strong terms the extrajudicial killing of Joseph Pessu by men of the Nigerian Army. I call on the army authorities to fish out the culprit or culprits and hand them over to the police for prosecution.

“Those who are authorised to bear arms in defence of the nation ought to understand that this comes with responsibility, especially as human life is sacrosanct. The killing in Warri today (Thursday) is one too many as the issue shouldn’t have led to what, in my opinion, amounted to extrajudicial killing of yet another future hope of this country.

“I have heard that the army arrested the soldier that shot the deceased. It is my belief that thorough investigations will be carried out and adequate punishment will be meted out to those involved in the heinous crime.

“Yes, we are in strange times and nerves are high with all the issues surrounding the coronavirus lockdown in the country. Be that as it may, there are better ways of making Nigerians obey the government’s directives without the resort to violence or extrajudicial killings by law enforcement agents.”

The Punch

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Metro

Mother of Three Jumps into Osun River, Blames Hardship

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A mother of three, Kafayat Alake, on Wednesday, attempted suicide by jumping into the Osun River in Osogbo, citing hard times as the reason for her action.

Kafayat, who looked emaciated, told PUNCH Metro that she had three children and her husband was resident in Lagos.

Kafayat, who was breathing with difficulty when she was rescued, said she was tired of life and should be left to die.

“I am Kafayat Alake from Alapaaro’s Compound, Osogbo. I am a mother of three. My husband lives in Lagos. I am fed up with life because things are hard,” she muttered.

Speaking to our correspondent, the man who rescued her, David Johnson, said he saw the woman climbing the Gbodofon Bridge in an attempt to commit suicide around 1pm.

Johnson stated, “I work in a nearby hotel. Some people came for a drink and after they left, I stood in front of the hotel.

“Suddenly,  people started shouting for help and I quickly rushed towards the bridge.

“The woman had already jumped into the river and I had to rush in the direction where the water was flowing to and I jumped into the river too.

“I struggled to reach her, because the water was sweeping her towards the deeper part of the river and I  eventually pulled her out. In the process of trying to save her, I lost my mobile phone.”

Another eyewitness, simply identified as Dayo, said he saw Kafayat climbing the bridge from afar and quickly rushed to the scene.

He said before he could get to the bridge, the woman had already jumped into the river.

Personnel of the Osun State Ambulance Scheme later arrived the scene and conveyed the woman to an undisclosed hospital in Osogbo.

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Truck Fell on Taxi, Crushes Six Occupants in Lagos

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Six persons lost their lives on Tuesday when a truck fell on a taxi along the Epe Expressway in Lagos State.

The taxi with number plate SMK – 312ES was said to be conveying seven persons to a destination in the state when the tragedy struck after the Epe Long Bridge.

The truck fell on the taxi, crushing and reportedly killing six of the commuters.

As of the time of filing this report, footage showed emergency responders rescuing one of the commuters.

Another footage showed the remains of some of the deceased victims trapped in the crushed vehicle.

A picture of the fallen truck was also sighted by PUNCH Metro.

The Director-General, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, Olufemi Oke-Osanyintolu, who confirmed the incident said the corpses would be transferred to the mortuary.

He said, “On arrival at the accident scene, a Cement Silo truck with unknown number plate was discovered to have fallen on a fully-loaded OPEL commercial taxi with number plate SMK-312ES.

“Investigations revealed that a total of seven people were in the crushed car with six of them having lost their lives on or shortly after the impact. Efforts are ongoing by the response team to extricate the single adult man who is alive but remains trapped beneath the Silo truck.

“Recovery operation is ongoing. The deceased will be transported to the mortuary for processing.”

Oke-Osanyintolu, however, appealed to members of the public to comply with the COVID-19 social distancing guidelines laid down by the Governor, Babajide Sanwoolu, to avoid endangering themselves as well as the rescue workers who had been operating under extremely challenging conditions.

The Punch

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