Dear Premium Times Reader,
I hope this note meets you and yours in good health. We face a myriad of challenges both physical and economic and as we attempt to navigate these together, we at Premium Times are committed to remaining your trusted source of news. We have made immense efforts to bring you journalism that clarifies the truth from misinformation, holds those in power to account, and, at times, provides relief and escape from the grimness of the global realities. I hope we have been able to play an important role in your lives these past weeks and have helped to increase your general knowledge of the pandemic and its impacts on our society. I also hope our reporting has helped in some ways to help you make informed decisions in some aspects of your lives. As we rush through news these days, I thought I should take a moment to highlight some of our stories you may have missed recently.
After over a month of restriction on movement in the Federal Capital Territory, Ogun, and Lagos States, President Muhammadu Buhari announced a gradual relaxation of the lockdown from Monday, May 4 despite a spike in coronavirus cases the preceding week. The lockdown disproportionately affected low-income workers and importantly, the nation’s agriculture value chains. Our investigation illustrated how the poultry value chain, in particular, was affected. We also reported how the pandemic has forced Nigeria’s multi billion naira wedding industry to its knees, shattering the dreams of many would-be couples across the country.
Selected businesses have been allowed to reopen provided they have decontaminated their offices, compulsory use of facial masks, enable social distancing, provision of thermometers to check temperatures, and provision of hand sanitizers. A nationwide curfew from 8 pm to 6 am was also enforced. Federal and state governments have also intensified the building of isolation centres and equipping of existing health facilities. Some hospitals have been given more ventilators after we reported that the country had 350 ICU beds for its about 200 million people.
But Monday saw Nigerian Banks besieged with crowds that could set back four weeks of flattening the curve. Customers rushed to the banks on the first day of the partial lifting of lockdown because of failed transactions, cash deposits and cash withdrawals for those who do not have debit cards. Many banks envisaged that this would happen, as such, they took extra precautions to ensure the banking halls were not packed and this explains why so many people were standing outside the banks. Cases increased 74 percent in the one week of eased lockdowns.
But while Nigeria’s banking sector may still be struggling to effectively digitize, Nigeria’s Nollywood—movie and music industries—continues to innovate and grow. Obi Emelonye, a Nigerian filmmaker, found a way around physical distancing restrictions to shoot his latest movie titled “Heart to Heart” as the coronavirus shuts down film, TV productions, and cinemas around the world. The storyline depicts two young lovers, whose wedding was affected by the coronavirus. The movie was shot on mobile phones and directed remotely with zoom.
Meanwhile, Nigeria’s social media space went agog with suspicions that the legislature intended to pass a bill mandating all Nigerians to take an untested Coronavirus vaccine, stoking fears that Africans will be used as guinea pigs for the vaccine testing. Premium Times breaks down what the bill does include in this story. Hint: it makes vaccination a requirement for travel in and out of Nigeria, just like the Yellow Fever cards popular when travelling around Africa.
In other stories, Boko Haram, the Islamist insurgent group, sustains its operation through international trade in smoked fish and red peppers. The investigation showed how the group charges fishing rights of farmers around Lake Chad. The insurgents continue to make big breaks as often as they overrun towns and military bases to stock their weapons, supplies and, of course, abduct for ransom.
As Nigeria battles coronavirus, the government has been called upon to review its assets recovery programme and make it transparent. Prosecutors in Milan charged Eni, Shell, and other parties three years ago. The trial, from which Nigeria hopes to reap a huge financial reward in damages, has now been slowed down by coronavirus.
Also, in a recent exclusive report, we also told you the Nigerian government has demanded the records of 60 companies and individuals from 10 banks in the United States as part of its efforts to overturn the controversial $9.6 billion P&ID fine awarded against it by an arbitration court in the United Kingdom. Among the individuals whose bank records were sought are a former Nigerian president, Goodluck Jonathan and his wife, Patience. Find full list HERE.
Please continue to stay safe. Wash your hands regularly. Use face masks and observe physical distancing protocols. Like the public health challenges that confronted humanity in the past, this pandemic too shall pass away.