1. Buhari names railway station after Jonathan
THE railway station in Agbor, Delta State will now be called Goodluck Jonathan Railway Station and Complex in honour of the immediate past President of Nigeria.
This followed the approval for the naming by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Transportation Minister Rotimi Amaechi broke the news in Agbor during a test run ride of the Warri-Itakpe rail track.
The Goodluck Jonathan Railway Station and Complex is the operational hub of the 276km Warri-Itakpe rail line.
Other stations on the route are Eganiy; Adobe; Itogbo; Agenebode; Uromi; Egehen; Igbanke; Agbor; Abraka; Okpara and Ujewu.
Also during the test run, Amaechi told reporters that commuters on the Abuja-Kaduna rail line would have to wait for some time more for the service to resume.
He said the service which was suspended in the wake of the COVID-19 lockdown “cannot resume now because people are not obeying the physical distancing.”
“It is worse when you have to deal with 4,000 passengers a day between Kaduna and Abuja,” he added.
The minister said that when the service eventually resumes, the number of passengers per coach would be reduced from 88 to 40 passengers in compliance with the social distancing protocols.
Continuing, he said: “Imagine when you are dealing with passengers and this test run on Itakpe-Warri track will make us go back to the drawing board.
“The first thing we will put in place, and we are waiting for approval, is that the cost of transportation to Kaduna from Abuja will double, because each coach takes 88 passengers but we will reduce it to 40 and the implication is that the price will increase.
“We need to talk to the President before we move on with that.
“The next thing is everybody must come with his or her hand sanitizer, and it must be a minimum of 90 per cent alcohol.
“The next thing is that you must come with your face mask. No face mask, no entry. If you enter the train and you bring down your face mask, we will stop.
“We will also increase the presence of Police for enforcement of law and order.”
On the likely violation of rules by some VIPs as witnessed in the aviation sector when the service eventually resumed, he said: “There is no big man about death. If you want to die, please don’t kill other people. If you want to die, go home and die peacefully, whether you are a big or a small man.
“Everybody must obey the rules, and that is why I said the presence of the police will be increased in all the coaches. The implication is that when you enter the coach with your mask and you pull it down, we will stop and we will not move.
“So, if the passengers are not satisfied with that, they should go and force you or the police, no matter how big you are.”
On whether the sitting arrangement in the train would be similar to the one in airplanes, he said: “We are going to comply with the COVID Committee and the committee says three metre distance.
“That is why we are reducing the number of passengers from 88 to 40 per coach, because we want to observe the protocol and not spread COVID-19.”
He expressed satisfaction with the job done by the contractors who handled the Warri-Itakpe track project.
He said: “I have just been briefed that Julius Berger has parked out and CCECC is mounting a little pressure for us to take over so that they can also quit.
“NRC and the ministry will take over. I have told Director Rail and the Managing Director of NRC to make arrangements for them to do their final inspection and then take over from CCECC and Julius Berger and then we will move on from there.”
On when the project would be commissioned, he said: “That will be dependent on the ability of the ministry to convince the Presidency that we are ready for commissioning because it is the President that will do that and we are thinking about virtual commissioning.”
He could not say when work would be completed on the Lagos-Ibadan rail line and Ibadan to Kano.
He said: “It is difficult to deal with timelines now. We were determined to complete the Lagos-Ibadan rail by May, but the COVID-19 pandemic interfered.
‘For instance, CCECC said they need 1000 workers at the Ebute Metta Station, but they are using only ten workers per day.
“I don’t know when we will start Ibadan-Kano, but whenever we start, we will be requiring more than 10,000 workers.
“From Kaduna to Kano, 10,000 workers, and from Ilorin to Ibadan 10,000 workers while trying to maintain social distancing. If you get 1,000 workers instead of 10,000, that means the workers are reduced by 90 per cent.
“So, we are all in trouble. But I want to take the position of the President. He said the fact that there is COVID-19 does not mean that we can’t work, and that is one reason why I am here today.
“If there is one man that should be scared of COVID, I am, but I still have to do my job as the Minister of Transportation.”
2. Families of deceased healthcare workers to get financial benefits
Succour may come on the way of families of healthcare workers who die at the frontline of COVID-19 pandemic, as the House of Representative Committee on Health Services has said that plans are on the way for them to receive financial benefits.
This is as the National President of Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria, MHWUN, Comrade Josiah Biobelemoye has told the legislative and executive arms of government to prioritise the needs and demands of healthcare workers, warning that the delayed payment of deferred and adjusted salaries was a ticking time bomb.
Speaking when he paid a courtesy visit to tMHWUN, in Abuja, Chairman of the House Committee on Health Services, Hon. Tanko Sununu said the National Assembly was still reviewing the manner of compensation that should be made available to the affected families.
He said that the House under the leadership of Femi Gbajiabiamila has set up a committee to interface and interfere in all pending issues concerning the payment and welfare of health workers.
The lawmaker urged the aggrieved workers who have been threatening to down tools over the government’s unfair treatment, to consider the millions of lives such an action could put at risk.
He said the committee’s primary responsibility was not only to ensure all demands of health workers in the country were met but to also promote harmony in the sector.
According to him, “We are not unmindful of our health workers in the frontline who paid the ultimate price. This is why we are working out a plan to compensate their families.
“A committee has been set up. We will call for a public hearing where the strategy and method to be used in disbursing the compensations will be agreed on. The families of the deceased will be located and we must ensure the money reaches them.
“Our aim is to ensure there is no disharmony anymore in the health sector. We are reaching out to major stakeholders and negotiating their demands to ensure health workers continue with their work with no hitches or grievances.”
The MHWUN President, Biobelemoye commended the efforts and concern of the National Assembly in the welfare of healthcare workers including the steps being taken to back the consolidated revenue provision of one per cent by law.
He called for increased funding of the health sector and budgetary provision to fund the salary adjustments.
He said, “We are doing so much and our people are showing so much understanding within this period because its COVID time but you can’t expect people to be patient all through forever.
“Government said there is no money but they are planning to pay private school teachers who are not even under the employment of the government. We that are in the forefront contending with the salvage how will you then explain to us government does not have the money to pay our deferred salaries of April and May 2018, and the withheld salaries in FMC Owerri, JUTH, LUTH and others. How will you convince us?
“We are not against the government trying to help out private schools, but if you are helping the private schools why can’t you help us. Is it justifiable to keep the salaries of those who are in the war front?
“We are appealing to the executive; quickly address these matters because they are ticking time bombs and they should not allow them to be detonated before they come to the rescue because any detonated bomb does not have positive results, its always negative.”
3. Arotile: NAF to reveal details of investigation today
The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) will today give details of its preliminary investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Nigeria’s first female combat helicopter pilot, Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile.
Earlier the Nigerian Air Force had in a statement signed by its Director, Public Relations and Information, Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola, linked the pilot’s death to a car accident at the NAF Base in Kaduna.
It was reported that Arotile was knocked down by a reversing vehicle driven by her old schoolmate who was excited to see her.
But in a separate statement, Daramola, stated that “the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) tomorrow, 19 July 2020, hold a Press Conference to give details on the outcome of its preliminary investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile which occurred on 14 July 2020.
“The event will take place at the Air Marshal MD Umar Blue Room at Headquarters NAF Abuja at 2pm. Accordingly, members of the press are please invited to cover the event”.
Meanwhile, the NAF’s spokesperson had earlier in an interview with one of the national newspapers, disclosed that two persons have been arrested for questioning over the pilot’s death.
Earlier, the Nigerian Military had said it is consoled because notwithstanding Arotile’s death, more female pilots are being trained to join the counter terrorism war which the late pilot was committed to.
Eleven female pilots are currently concluding flying trainings both within and outside the country, the Nigerian Air Force has disclosed.
Receiving a delegation from the National Assembly on a condolence visit, the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Saddique Abubakar, assured that the military will work assiduously to hasten the defeat of Boko Haram terrorists and the armed bandits terrorising parts of the country as a honour in memory of late Arotile and all others who had paid the supreme price before her ‘in defence of our beloved nation”.
Abubakar noted that her contributions through combat missions conducted along with her colleagues in the fight against armed banditry and other criminal activities in the country would never be forgotten.
He said that the Service will continue to be consoled by the legacy she left behind, adding that her performance justified NAF’s decision to give equal opportunities to female personnel.
According to him, “the NAF, in honour of her memory, as well as all those who had paid the supreme price before her, would continue to work assiduously to ensure success in the fight against terrorism, banditry and other security threats for the overall peace and prosperity of a united Nigeria”.
He noted further that ‘the NAF would never forget her, “not only because she was the first female combat helicopter pilot in the Service, but because of her legacy as a very intelligent, highly committed and extremely patriotic officer who excelled in virtually every endeavour.
The CAS recalled that during her basic helicopter course in South Africa, she was selected, because of her excellent performance, to undergo a more advanced flying course on the Agusta 109 Power Attack Helicopter in Italy before returning to finish the basic course along with her other colleagues in South Africa, stating that “such was her commitment to excellence on the job”.
“This was what gave us confidence to assign her to introduce the Agusta 109 Power Attack Helicopter to the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, during the induction ceremony at the Eagle Square in Abuja on 6 February 2020; which she did excellently,” he disclosed.
While noting that when it comes to displaying excellence and adding value to the society, age or gender should not be barriers, Air Marshal Abubakar said that Flying Officer Arotile had left her mark in the sands of time.
He assured that the NAF would continue to give equal opportunities to female officers in terms of training and capacity building.
Meanwhile a high-powered delegation, composed of the Chief of Air Staff, Minister of Women Affairs as well as the Chairmen of the Senate and House Committees on Air Force, has been scheduled to visit the Arotile Family in Lokoja to commiserate with them on a yet-to-be announced date before the burial.
Director of Public Relations and Information, Nigerian Air Force, Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola, in a statement said those who paid condolence visit to the service include Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen and her Information and Culture counterpart, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.
4. Sanwo-Olu to empower one million youths with digital skills by 2023
The Lagos State Government led by Governor Babajide SanwoOlu, through the office of the Special Adviser on Education, Mr. Tokunbo Wahab, has kicked off ‘Jobs Initiative Lagos’ – an initiative targeted at young people in eight Lagos-based tertiary institutions.
The initiative aims at providing complementary training of students in their ultimate and penultimate year in entrepreneurship, employability and basic digital skills required for the workplace.
The essence of the programme is to account for the documented gaps in current curriculum that bedevils the employment market and to increase labour employability of graduates in Nigeria’s Centre of Excellence.
Candidates who complete the programme will get an opportunity to be featured on a jobs portal from where partner corporate organisations can select fresh graduates for recruitment.
This initiative will run alongside a more robust digital skills campaign ‘Digital Skills Initiative Lagos’ (www.dsilagos.ng ) aimed at empowering over one million young people in the state by 2023 with digital skills, which will invariably position Lagos as the Tech Hub of Africa.
Students in secondary schools in Lagos would have access to well-trained instructors while those out of school would access digital skills training and various internship opportunities as they complete the programmes.
The projects are being coordinated by LoftyInc Allied Partners Limited – an innovation development company that develops start-up teams, manages innovation programmes, and facilitates impact projects in West Africa.
5. APC campaign council, Obaseki bicker over removal of billboards, posters
The National Campaign Council of the All Progressives Congress, APC for the September 19 Governorship election in Edo State, yesterday alleged that Governor Godwin Obaseki has directed that it’s outdoor billboards and campaign posters of its candidate Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyami and his deputy Mallam Hani Audu in the state be removed.
Addressing a press conference in Benin City, National Vice Chairman of the APC Publicity Committee, Hon Patrick Obahiagbon condemned the alleged director the governor was said to have given to the Managing Director of the Edo state Signage and Advertising Agency, Mr Dave Giwa-Amu.
But the Special Adviser, Media and Communication Strategy to Governor Obaseki, Crusoe Osagie denied the allegation saying Ize-Iyamu was crying wolf when there is none.
Obahiagbon at the press conference said the Council has petitioned the state Commissioner of Police, Mr Johnson Babatunde Kokumo over the allegation which he termed a “criminal act”.
He said, “We are convinced that this act of intolerance, carried out with impunity, foreshadows what the Edo state government has in store for the Edo voters and our supporters in the September 19 Election following the emergence of incontrovertible facts that Mr Godwin Obaseki is on his way to an embarrassing defeat.
“This unfortunate and criminal action took flight on Thursday, the 16th of July, 2020, when the Edo state government allegedly expressly told one Mr Dave Giwa Amu who is parading himself as the Managing director of the Edo state Signage and Advertising Agency, to commence immediate removal and destruction of our billboards.”
He said, “the Edo state Signage and Advertising Agency, purportedly led by the so-called Mr Dave Giwa Amu, an avowed supporter of the incumbent Governor Godwin Obaseki, is an agency that is yet to receive the assent of the Edo state House of Assembly as the bill for its creation and operations is still being considered in the legislative chamber.”
“It is unfortunate that as the chief executive of the state who is expected to commit to peace, rule of and avoidance of rancour, Governor Godwin Obaseki has continued to heat up the polity with reckless and provocative comments, media blackmail and criminal actions of intolerance including the mass destruction of opponent’s campaign materials.”
But a statement by Osagie said no billboard of the APC has been pulled down.
He said the claims are “belated antics of a routinely recycled politician who has nothing to offer to Edo people.”
According to him, “Anyone who knows Ize-Iyamu very well knows that this is his approach to politics. He raises the alarm and cries wolf when no one is chasing him. The state government has not removed any of his billboards. This is cheap blackmail to score lame political points.
“He would go back to his cocoon after he has been defeated at the September 19, 2020 election and would most likely resurface after four years to repeat this cycle. So, we are used to his childish charades.”