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Okowa Criticises FG for Allowing Zamfara to Control Gold, Depriving South South Control of Oil

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The governor of Delta State, Ifeanyi Okowa, on Wednesday said criticised Buhari administration’s decision to allow some states like Zamfara mine and manage gold and other solid minerals in their domains, while stopping the Niger Delta states from managing their oil and gas resources.

The governor said the policy was “discriminatory”. He said all states in the South-South region were united in the quest for the restructuring of the country.

Mr Okowa stated this during his quarterly interaction with journalists on Wednesday in Asaba.

He said that there was need to restructure the country to pave the way for the devolution of more powers to states and local governments.

According to Mr Okowa, who is the Chairman, South-South Governors’ Forum, Nigeria is not making progress as it ought to because the issues of restructuring and resource control are yet to be addressed.

He disclosed that restructuring and resource control as well as security would form a major plank of the discussion at a meeting between a presidential delegation and leaders of the South-South billed for Port Harcourt on Friday.

“The South-South Governors have been in the forefront for the devolution of power to states and local governments.

“Restructuring, resource control and security of the country, especially in the Niger Delta will be a major topic of discussion at the Presidential parley coming up in Port Harcourt,” he said.

Responding to a question on the gold deposit in Zamfara State and the decision of the state government to control the resource, the governor said that there were Acts of the National Assembly that dealt with oil production and solid minerals.

“We cannot apply laws in such a manner that it becomes discriminatory because you cannot mine solid minerals somewhere in Zamfara and you can’t allow Niger Delta to manage their oil,’’ he said.

Under the Nigerian constitution, all mineral resources in the country are controlled by the federal government. Many have however argued that doing so opposes the idea of true federalism, in which component states are expected to manage their affairs and only contribute to the federal coffers through tax.

Calls for the implementation of true federalism and for the restructuring of the country have been rebuffed for years.

However, the federal government recently announced its support for artisanal mining of gold in some northern states, including Zamfara. President Muhammadu Buhari launched the Presidential Artisanal Gold Mining Development Initiative, a comprehensive artisanal and small-scale gold mining development programme in 2019.

On complaints from oil-producing communities, Mr Okowa said that there was an ongoing process to ensure that what got to the communities became statutory and enshrined in the Constitution or in the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB).

Mr Okowa said that governors in the South-South were doing well in managing the 13 per cent derivation fund to their states.

“The kind of money we spend, especially on road construction in the Niger Delta is very huge compared to what other states spend and we also spend lots of money securing oil facilities and keeping peace in the region.

“We have our DESOPADEC managing the derivation funds and I am convinced that they are doing their best to make life better for the oil-producing communities.

“We have been short-changed severally because we are not in control of how the funds are distributed. There is a lot of money being owed us on derivation and we are working very hard to get the Federal Government to pay us because it will help us so much in our budget to provide more for the oil producing communities.

“If every community rises up to control their resources then there will be chaos and anarchy,” he said.

The governor hinted that the state government may employ more teachers in the first quarter of 2021 to cater for newly established technical colleges being constructed across the state.

“In 2021 we will employ more teachers basically in Science and Technical Education. We will employ according to needs and not according to pressure.”

He said that his administration had completed many road projects, including the Ovwor-Effurun-Otor Bridge in Ughelli South Council Area, adding that the government had also awarded and mobilised contractors for two major storm drainage projects in Warri, Uvwie and environs.

“We have mobilised them and I hope they work well in this dry season because without tackling the drainage systems in Warri, any road constructed there will not last,’’ he stated.

On tourism, Mr Okowa stated that his administration was constructing Asaba Leisure and Film Village along Illah Road, adding that most movie producers will be headed to Asaba once the project was completed in May, 2021.

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Call for Sack of Service Chiefs is ‘Out of Place’ – Presidency

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Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari says the clamour for the sacking of service chiefs is ‘out of place’.

According to Shehu, the president has the prerogative to appoint or sack any of the country’s service chiefs, adding that the president keeps the service chiefs as long as he is satisfied with their performance.

The horrific killing of at least 43 rice farmers at Zabarmari in the Jere Local Government Area of Borno State last Saturday sparked fresh call for the sacking of the country’s service chiefs.

Reacting to the call by several Nigerians who also want the president to rejig the country’s security architecture, Shehu said the decision to sack or retain any of the service chiefs is entirely the president’s.

He spoke on Monday night in an interview with Arise TV monitored by The PUNCH.

The presidential spokesman said, “I am not aware that the tenure of service chiefs is subjected to any law of regulation that is clearly stated. They serve at the pleasure of the president and (if) the president is satisfied with their performance, he keeps them. The buck stops at his table —with due respect to the feelings of Nigerians.

“The clamour for the sack is out of place considering that the president is not subject to the opinion of opposition political party which has clamoured for this all the time. It is entirely his own determination; he decides who he keeps as his service chiefs and for how long.”

Boko Haram were reported to have first tied up the farmers, who were working in rice fields, before slitting their throats.

Shehu had said the farmers had no military clearance to be on the rice farms when the attack happened.

His reaction was greeted by outrage on social media as many Nigerians lambasted him for blaming the dead.

Explaining further last night, Shehu said, “My suggestion in the earlier news report is that the military had not certified those areas as being free of landmines and terrorists’ intrusions. Whether there are processes for getting licences or commissions, it is not for me, the military is in a better position to describe those processes.”

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F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton Contracts COVID-19

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World champion Lewis Hamilton has tested positive for coronavirus and will miss this weekend’s Sakhir Grand Prix in Bahrain, Formula One’s governing body FIA announced Tuesday.

“In accordance with COVID-19 protocols and public health authority guidelines in Bahrain he (Hamilton) is now isolating,” said an FIA statement.

“The procedures set out by the FIA and Formula 1 will ensure no wider impact on this weekend’s event.”

Hamilton who on Sunday won the Bahrain Grand Prix, the first of back-to-back races in the Gulf state, has already secured a record-equalling seventh world championship this season.

“He woke up on Monday morning with mild symptoms and was informed at the same time that a contact prior to arrival in Bahrain had subsequently tested positive,” a statement from Hamilton’s Mercedes team said.

“Lewis therefore took a further test and returned a positive result. This has since been confirmed by a retest.

“Lewis is now isolating in accordance with COVID-19 protocols and public health authority guidelines in Bahrain.

“Apart from mild symptoms, he is otherwise fit and well, and the entire team sends him its very best wishes for a swift recovery.”

The team added that Hamilton had been tested three times last week and returned a negative result each time as part of the sport’s strict anti-virus protocols, the last of which was on Sunday afternoon at the Bahrain circuit.

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Beware of Festivities, Christmas Carol, FG Warns

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The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 has urged Nigerians to be weary of festivities such as Christmas carols as the year winds down.

It also warned against non-essential travels just as it asked Nigerians abroad to remain wherever they are or stand the risk of being stranded in the country in the event that the government takes a decision on international travels.

The call formed the theme of the speeches of the Chairman of the PTF, Boss Mustapha; the national coordinator, Sani Aliyu; the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire; and the Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Chikwe Ihekweazu, at the weekly briefing of the task force in Abuja on Monday.

Mustapaha, who is also the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, said the PTF was escalating its surveillance and testing drive to ensure that the spread of the virus was effectively contained as the nation approaches the festive season.

“We shall continue to remind Nigerians that all non-essential trips should be put off this December. This is for your safety and good health,” he said.

Speaking on vaccines, the PTF chairman said while it was a significant achievement, it was however, important for the citizens to continue to comply with the non-pharmaceutical interventions before the vaccines would become available.

“The PTF is already working on the strategy for gaining access to the vaccine as soon as they are available,” he added.

The SGF also said over the past weeks, discussions have been held about the safety issues pertaining to the National Sports Festival scheduled to hold in Benin, Edo State.

He said new dates have been agreed upon early in 2021, before which, measures would be put in place to minimize infections.

‘Don’t come home for Christmas’

Aliyu advised Nigerians in the Diaspora not to consider coming home, urging them to celebrate Christmas and New Year wherever they are.

He said, “Nigerians outside the country, hopefully they will stay where they are. And for Nigerians in-country, we will also stay where we are.

The national coordinator disclosed that for every 1,000 passengers coming into the country, the nation records 10 positive cases of COVID-19.

He added, “Please, for this period, if your travel is not essential, stay where you are. We are actively discouraging Nigerians abroad from coming home this Christmas because of COVID-19 and the number of infections we have outside the country.

“So, the message is; if you do not want to get stranded, if you do not want to bring COVID-19 to your elderly relatives in Nigeria, please stay where you are. There will be other holidays.”

Christmas carols, travels ‘supper spreaders’ of virus

At the press briefing, Ihekweazu said Christmas carols, travels and other gatherings during festivities were capable of turning out to be “super spreaders” of the virus, hence the need for Nigerians to avoid them as much as possible.

He said, “This is really to re-emphasise the call by the PTF that many of the traditional meetings that we engage in at this time of the year, whether they are Christmas carols or festivals, trips, family gatherings, each of those could end up being a super spreader event. So, we must take this into consideration as we make our choices.”

Ihekweazu said a travel advisory has been issued detailing why both local and international travels must be avoided unless they are absolutely necessary.

Meanwhile, the SGF said the national response to COVID-19 pandemic and security must be prioritised as security could not be relaxed even while tackling the virus in the country.

Mustapha also noted that the global number of COVID-19 infections crossed 63 million on Sunday, 29th November, 2020.

According to him, in Africa, Nigeria ranked 5th for both the highest cumulative cases and deaths.

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