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Buhari approves N10bn for fight against coronavirus, asks NCDC retirees to return to work

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President Muhammadu Buhari has approved N10 billion for the fight against coronvirus, directing the Nigeria Center for Disease and Control (NCDC) to draft its recent retirees back into service to assist in containing the outbreak.

The president said this in a statement Garba Shehu, his spokesman, issued on his behalf on Thursday night.

He said protecting Nigerians from coronavirus is a key priority of his administration, highlighting the efforts of health agencies.

“With developing news around the world and in Nigeria on the Coronavirus pandemic, President Buhari issues the following statement: I advise all Nigerians to follow to the letter the health guidelines issued by the Federal Ministry of Health and our State Governments,” Shehu said.

“Wash your hands thoroughly many times throughout the day. Observe ‘social distancing’ of a minimum of two metres. Do not make unnecessary journeys outside of your homes. Do not attend public meetings or public gatherings – including religious events – which is where, through social contact, the virus can easily be transmitted.

“The Federal Ministry of Health will continue to issue daily updates on all developments. Please refer to public announcements by the Ministry on radio, television, web at www.health.gov.ng and Twitter at @Fmohnigeria.

“With regard to the request by the government of Lagos State for financial support to combat and contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus in Lagos and Nigeria, the President has already approved the sum of N10 billion which release was effected within two days of the request.”

Shehu added that the president has also approved and ensured the prompt release of N5 billion special intervention requested by the NCDC to equip and expand their facilities and laboratories.

“In the the same vein, the President has given approval to NCDC’s request for an aircraft from the Presidential Air Fleet for emergency situations. He has furthermore authorized the evacuation of three critical members of the NCDC team who are stuck in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo where they went for a World Health Organisation (WHO) training,” he said.

“These measures are in addition to the ones approved and announced by the Presidential Task Force, PTF including the closure of land borders to human traffic for four weeks; the conversion of all Hajj transit camps to be utilized as COVID-19 isolation centers; the directive that all non-essential government employees to work from home and for a daily briefing of the nation through the PTF.

“Other approved measures already put into place include the ban of flights from and into the country, suspension of the Federal Executive Council and National Council States meetings and a directive for engagements, at the highest levels between the Federal Government and the state governments.

“President Buhari has also directed for the escalation of the nation’s capacity for testing and detection with the acquisition of testing kits and establishment of additional test centers; acquisition of Personnel Protection Equipment and the mobilization of experts and trained staff serving and recall of some of those retired.

“The President is keeping a close eye on international developments on the spread of COVID-19 and will intensify or introduce new measures if they become necessary to protect Nigerians.”

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Obasanjo donates former residence as isolation centre

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Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has offered his former residence at the Presidential Hilltop, Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, to be used as an isolation centre for victims of the ongoing coronavirus disease.

An aide said Mr Obasanjo made the offer on Friday, and has since handed over the 32-room facility to the Ogun government for immediate use. Ogun State has recorded three cases of the coronavirus, according to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). A total of 70 cases have been recorded in Nigeria as at 8:00 p.m. Nigerian times.

Mr Obasanjo’s special assistant media, Kehinde Akinyemi, who confirmed the development said the former president was concerned about the pandemic. “And I think those who can in one way or another assist in this situation should do so,” Mr Obasanjo was quoted as having said.

The facility located off the Presidential Boulevard, Oke Sari, Abeokuta has each of the 32 rooms ensuite, with a standby generator

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Coronavirus: Google commits $800 million to support small businesses, health workers, others

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The CEO of Google and Alphabet, Sundar Pichai, has announced a new $800 million commitment to support small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), health organisations and governments, and health workers “on the frontline of coronavirus”.

Mr Pichai made this known in a statement published on Google’s blog on Friday.

According to him, the commitment is necessitated as the coronavirus outbreak continues to worsen around the world.

He said the pandemic is taking a devastating toll on lives and communities.

The Google boss said the commitment includes, “$250 million in ad grants to help the World Health Organisation (WHO) and more than 100 government agencies globally provide critical information on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other measures to help local communities.

“This is an increase from our initial $25 million announced last month. In addition, we’re providing $20 million in ad grants to community financial institutions and NGOs specifically to run public service announcements on relief funds and other resources for SMBs.

“A $200 million investment fund that will support NGOs and financial institutions around the world to help provide small businesses with access to capital.

“As one example, we’re working with the Opportunity Finance Network in the U.S. to help fill gaps in financing for people and communities underserved by mainstream financial institutions. This is in addition to the $15 million in cash grants Google.org is already providing to nonprofits to help bridge these gaps for SMBs,” he added.

Mr Pichai also said that “$340 million in Google Ads credits available to all SMBs with active accounts over the past year. Credit notifications will appear in their Google Ads accounts and can be used at any point until the end of 2020 across our advertising platforms. We hope it will help to alleviate some of the cost of staying in touch with their customers.

“A pool of $20 million in Google Cloud credits for academic institutions and researchers to leverage our computing capabilities and infrastructure as they study potential therapies and vaccines, track critical data, and identify new ways to combat COVID-19. Learn how to apply for credits on the Google for Education site.

“Direct financial support and expertise to help increase the production capacity for personal protective equipment (PPE) and lifesaving medical devices. We’re working with our longtime supplier and partner Magid Glove & Safety, with the goal of ramping up production of 2-3 million face masks in the coming weeks that will be provided to the CDC Foundation.

“Additionally, employees from across Alphabet, including Google, Verily and X, are bringing engineering, supply chain and healthcare expertise to facilitate increased production of ventilators, working with equipment manufacturers, distributors and the government in this effort.”

In addition to these commitments, the CEO increased the gift match Google offers every employee annually to $10,000 from $7,500

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IG orders investigation into destruction of beer bottles by police officers

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The Inspector General of Police, Muhammad Adamu, has directed the police in Lagos to immediately investigate some police officers captured in a video destroying beer bottles at a drinking spot.

The one-minute video, which has been trending on Twitter since Thursday, showed uniformed police officers kicking and pulling down stacks of crates, and breaking several beer bottles.

The incident reportedly happened in Lagos, and the officers were apparently enforcing the restriction order in the state occasioned by the outbreak of the coronavirus.

Nigerians have been expressing outrage over the action of the officers.

A tweet from the police Twitter handle (@PoliceNG) on Friday said the police chief “condemned the apparent unprofessionalism and highhandedness exhibited by the Police officers”.

Mr Adamu is said to have directed the commissioner of police in Lagos State “to immediately investigate and commence disciplinary actions against the officers involved”.

The police chief said officers involved in enforcement of restriction orders and other law enforcement functions “must exercise discretionary powers with the utmost sense of professionalism, compassion and respect for the citizens.”

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