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Infectious Disease Bill Controversy, Consequence of Mistrust

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By Joel Popoola

Nigeria has fallen among the category of nations which find itself with a government unable to pass vital health protection laws during a deadly worldwide health crisis because its people believe that government was too powerful.

And that’s exactly where we find ourselves today with the stalling of the Infectious Disease Act.

This is a bill designed to make it easier for organisations like Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to take rapid action to prevent the spread of infectious diseases across Nigeria, and respond effectively to emerging public health emergencies.

And right now this couldn’t be more important.

The number of people around our world to have lost their lives to the Coronavirus has passed 250,000 while a good number of others who have now caught the deadly disease is enough to fill a city the size of Kano. And that number increases every minute.

Public health officials are our frontline soldiers in this battle, and it should be obvious to every Nigerian how vital it is that they have weapons they need to fight. The only way to stop COVID-19 is by quarantining and effective public hygiene.

And the only way to defeat it will be vaccination. So our health protection agencies need right resources to enforce effective quarantining, effectual hygiene, and to successfully vaccinate our people whenever a vaccine arrives.

It’s not just about the fight against COVID-19, but also the fight against the next outbreak, whether it’s Typhoid, Cholera, Dengue Fever or something as destructive, unknown and terrifying as the current coronavirus.

This should not be controversial. I cannot think of anyone – whatever their political leaning – who would not agree that the primary purpose of any government is to keep the people safe.

And yet the government stands accused by some of intending to use the law to carry out sinister medical experiments on its people or to bring back military rule through the back door.

As the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has said:

“Suffice it to say that none of these allegations are true. Unfortunately, we now live in a time when conspiracy theories have gained such currency that genuine endeavours in the public interest can quickly become mischaracterised and misconstrued to raise the spectre of sinister intent and ominous possibility”.

The fact we have found ourselves in this position tells us a lot about Nigerian politics – and what needs to change.

  • People get their information from social media. And that information cannot always be trusted

More and more Nigerians get most of their news from social media. And as we have seen, if your only source of news is social media, you might end up believing that President Muhammadu Buhari died some time ago, and was replaced with an alien clone.

Fake news of the kind we’ve seen in Nigeria in recent years necessitates the public having reliable sources of information they can go to online – and where better than going direct to their local representatives?

That is the thought behind Rate Your Leader, a free app which connects registered voters to the elected officials who serve them – giving them the power to get credible information from credible sources at the touch of a button.

  • People do not trust the intentions of their leaders

In times like ours, who can blame a government for trying to get public protection bills into law as rapidly as possible?

But the government did itself no favours by trying to force the bill through parliament so quickly.

But with this Bill giving the police the power to detain infectious individuals and officials, the power – with a court order – to destroy buildings, it was bound to be controversial.

If you already think that your government has the worst of intentions, such provisions are bound to alarm.

A politician Nigerians trust is worth more than an oilfield. That’s why Tobias Chukwuemeka Okwuru was recently appointed to the Federal Character Commission despite having passed away.

Nigerian voters need to know what information they can trust, and also that they can trust their representatives. The Rate Your Leader app is designed to battle this democratic deficit by helping politicians engage with voters they serve, helping them understand what matters most to the people who elect them, and build relationships of trust with the electorate. And in return, voters can even rate their responses, convincing their neighbours that this is a politician who listens.

  • The people of Nigeria are desperate to get involved in the political process

Speaker Gbajabiamila has announced that public hearings will address public concerns relating to the Infectious Diseases Act.

People are more likely to accept something if they feel like their fears have been considered and addressed, and even more likely to support something if they are able to help shape it.

But this should not be something which only happens in times of crisis and controversy. This should be built into all our politics.

We designed Rate Your Leader to give the people of Nigeria a direct channel to their leaders. This is something they expect. And it is something our democracy depends on. Everyone should come on board now to have a voice.

Joel Popoola is a digital democracy campaigner, tech entrepreneur and creator of the free Rate Your Leader app.

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NDLEA Merges Tactical Teams, Reshuffles Directors

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The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has carried out a reshuffle of its directors, and renamed its special weapons and tactics team (SWAT).

Buba Marwa, NDLEA chairman, announced the development at a meeting with directors in Abuja.

According to a statement issued on Tuesday by Femi Babafemi, NDLEA spokesperson, all the tactical teams have been merged under one unit — ‘Strike Force’.

“The reshuffling was announced by the Chairman/Chief Executive Officer, Brig. General Mohamed Buba Marwa (Retd), during a meeting with directors at the Agency’s headquarters in Abuja on Monday, 10th May 2021. He said the new movement was to propel the Agency to greater achievements,” the statement read.

“In the new changes which take effect from Tuesday, 11th May, 2021, the former director of administration and establishment, Ezekiel Epeso, becomes the director, technical services; the former head of internal affairs, Sani Ibrahim Sani, becomes the new director of administration and establishment; while Pius Gamde, an assistant director, legal services, is now director, internal affairs/provost marshal of the Agency.

“The former director of technical services, Ahmed Ninigi, has now been moved to a newly created directorate as commander, strike force/director, special duties.

“According to Gen. Marwa, the various tactical and SWAT teams across the commands have been merged and renamed strike force, which will now function under the new directorate headed by Ninigi.”

Speaking on the development, Marwa added that the decision was taken to improve on efforts to address drug trafficking in the country.

“What we are doing now is to reposition the NDLEA to be able to effectively take on the drug cartels and syndicates operating in any part of the country,” he said.

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Delta Police Rescue Kidnap Victim, Recover Vehicles, Weapons, Arrest Suspects

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In its efforts to rid the state of crimes and criminal elements, the Delta State Police Command has recorded massive landmarks to checkmate the activities of criminals.

According to a statement by the Command’s PPRO, DSP Edafe Bright, in a space of one week, a kidnap victim was rescued just as there were interceptions of drug and pipeline related crimes.

Bright reiterated the state’s Commissioner of Police warning to criminals to turn a new leaf or vacate the state as there is no hiding place for crime and criminal elements in the state.

Read the statement in details:

1.On the 8/5/2021 at about 2000hrs, information got to the divisional police officer Sapele Division CSP Harrison Nwabuisi that one Jeffrey Emekume ‘m’ 27yrs was kidnapped along Eku Abraka road Eku with his Lexus Jeep sky blue with Reg. No. RSH 716 AX makes a U-turn head to Sapele road. The DPO Sapele swiftly mobilized and led Crack Teams into the bush, The hoodlum who could not withstand the relentless effort of the police abandon the victim and fled. The kidnapped victim was rescued and the Lexus Jeep was recovered. Effort is ongoing to track and arrest the fleeing suspects.

2.On the 9/5/2021 at about 1820hrs, based on intelligent gathered by the divisional police officer ‘A’ division Warri CSP T.Y. MAHMUD, mobilized Rapid Response Team and raided a black spot at Hausa Quarters where one Aliyu Adamu ‘m’ 20yrs was arrested with two hundred and thirty seven wraps of weed suspected to be Indian hemp. Suspect allegedly confessed to be a major dealer in Indian Hemp. Investigation is ongoing.

3.On the 7/5/2021 at about 2240hrs, ‘B’ division warri Patrol team while on patrol around Okumagba Estate sighted a tricycle of two occupants, immediately they sighted the Police team they put off the headlight of the tricycle. As the Police moved closer to the tricycle it was observed that the occupants had abandon the tricycle and ran away possibly to a nearby bush. When search was conducted on the tricycle a locally made gun and live cartridge was recovered while the tricycle with Reg. No. EHR 247 QF was impounded. The bush was comb with a view to arresting the fleeing hoodlum. Meanwhile continuous manhunt is on to arrest and bring them to book.

4.On the 10/5/2021 at about 1030hrs, information was received that mob were attacking three (3) kidnapping suspects who attempted to kidnap a victim whose identity was disclosed at Oghara Junction.

Consequently, The divisional police officer Oghara division mobilized patrol teams and vigilante teams to the scene. And rescued the Three suspects which includes one Onome Efetobore ‘m’ a notorious criminal that has been in a police wanted list, Collins (surname unknown) also a known notorious kidnapper and armed robber who escaped from Benin correctional facility during EndSARS protest and one Glory Reuben ‘m’ also a notorious criminal. They were seriously beaten, rushed to the hospital by the police where they were later confirmed dead at General Hospital Oghara. Exhibits recovered include a locally made pistol and three (3) live cartridges.

The Commissioner of Police advised members of the public to work with the police, and and stay away from jungle justice.

5.On the 8/5/2021 at about 1745hrs, Anti-Crime Patrol of ‘A’ Division Warri while on routine patrol intercepted lorry with Reg. No. BDG 358 YA with five (5) suspects, on searching, the lorry was loaded with one hundred and seventy (170) pieces of 6inchs already cut to various sizes. The suspects are allegedly experts in the act of vandalizing Federal Government Pipeline at Ogulagha Dried Land.

The five occupants Lukeman Jimoh ‘m’ 40yrs, Shola Bimigo ‘m’, Yahaya Ikane ‘m’ 55yrs, Ebi Yeregha ‘m’ 41yrs and Lawal Aliyu ‘m’ 35yrs were arrested while the lorry with Reg. No. BDG 358 YA was impounded. Investigation is ongoing.

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Ramadan Fast Continues As Moon is Yet to Be Sighted

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The Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) says fasting in the month of Ramadan will continue on Wednesday.

The national moonsighting committee of NSCIA announced this in a tweet on Tuesday.

In a statement, Sambo Walli Junaidu, wazirin Sokoto and chairman of advisory committee on religious affairs for sultanate council of Sokoto, said there was no positive sighting of the crescent moon for the month of Shawwal.

“The Sultanate Council Advisory Committee on Religious Affairs in conjunction with the National Moon Sighting Committee did not receive any report from various Moon Sighting Committees across the Country confirming the sighting of the New Moon of Shawwal 1442AH, on Tuesday, 11th May, 2021 which was the 29th day of Ramadan 1442AH. Therefore, Wednesday, 12, May, 2021 is the 30th day of the month of Ramadan 1442AH,” the statement reads.

“His Eminence, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar CFR, mni, the Sultan of Sokoto and President General, Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) has accepted the report and accordingly declared Thursday, 13th May, 2021 as the first day of Shawwal 1442AH. (Day of Eid-El-Fitr).

“His Eminence, the Sultan felicitates with the Nigerian Muslim Ummah and wishes them Allah’s guidance and blessings. The Sultan while urging the Muslim Ummah to continue to pray for peace, progress and development of the Country, he also wishes all Muslims a happy Eid-El-Fitr. May Allah (SWT) accept our religious deeds, amin.”

This development comes after Haramain Sharifain, an Islamic agency in Saudi Arabia, declared that fasting in the month of Ramadan will last for 30 days.

Since April 13, Muslims across world have abstained from eating, drinking, and any form of sexual relationship from dawn till dusk.

This is as a result of fasting during the holy month of Ramadan — one of the five pillars of Islam.

Ramadan can run for either 29 or 30 days, depending on the sighting of a new crescent moon.

Meanwhile, the federal government had announced Wednesday and Thursday as public holidays.

This implies that Nigerians will have only one day to celebrate eid-al-fitr as againt the traditional two days.

TheCable

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