The Lagos State Government has commended religious leaders in the state for their cooperation and active participation in the ongoing fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, saying that the cooperation received from the leaders of the two major religious groups, especially in the area of zero-congregational gathering, assisted in lowering the curve of the pandemic.
The commendation was given on Tuesday, June 2, 2020, by the state’s Commissioner for Home Affairs, Prince Anofiu Elegushi, during a Ministerial Press briefing commemorating the first year in office of Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu at Alausa, Ikeja.
On plans to reopen the economy of the State including worship centres, Elegushi pleaded for continued collaboration with the State government and adherence to the government’s directives that would still be presented to the various churches and mosques when they are eventually allowed to gather for their services.
According to Elegushi, “When we got a hint on the current Coronavirus disease across the globe, we immediately went into action by organising a sensitisation and briefing workshop on Tuesday, March 3rd, 2020 at the Chapel of Christ the Light Hall, Alausa. This was followed by another meeting where a joint decision was reached by all religious bodies to reduce the attendance of worshippers to 50 worshipers at a time”.
“In addition to this, our Religious Leaders came together again on 18th March 2020 after reviewing the situation to agree on a total lockdown of Religious Worship Centres across the State before President Muhammad Buhari came up with an announcement locking down Lagos, Ogun and Abuja“, he said.
Elegushi said that the shutdown of all religious gatherings, activities and programmes by churches and mosques was quite timely and helped in the containment of the virus from escalating beyond control, considering the huge numbers that do gather periodically for religious purposes in the State.
He also acknowledged the discomfort which the pandemic brought on both the Muslims and Christians in Lagos, specifically during the Lenten season and the Ramadan period.
He said: “For a very long time in human history, Christians celebrated the Lenten period and Easter celebrations at home, while our Muslim brothers and sisters were also restricted to observe Sallah at home throughout the Ramadan period, including the Eid-El Fitri celebrations”.
Elegushi attributed the mutual understanding that exists between the State government and the religious groups to a long-term religious harmony and peaceful coexistence, saying that creating rapport is one of the critical functions of the Ministry.
Lagos State Government has commended religious leaders in the State for their cooperation and involvement in the ongoing fight against the COVID-19 pandemic@jidesanwoolu @drobafemihamzat #LASG #ForAGreaterLagos
Read More.. https://t.co/txGKGCZy2H pic.twitter.com/bKHaUG1XTT
— The Lagos State Govt (@followlasg) June 2, 2020
Meanwhile, information from a monitored report suggests that the churches and mosques in the state might not be opening anytime soon for worshippers. This was disclosed by Elegushi on the sideline of the Ministerial briefing commemorating the first year in office of Governor Babjide Sanwo-Olu.
He said that the reopening was not possible as Lagos State is the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic in the country and that after several meetings with religious leaders in the state, the possibility of reopening religious houses was ruled out.
Elegushi said that they claim that they cannot take responsibility for ensuring that only 20 or 50 people are in attendance.
He said that the governor will come out with further directives.
It can be recalled that the Federal Government, on Monday, June 1, 2020, announced the relaxation of the ban on religious gatherings. They, however, said that each state government can devise measures that suit them, thereby looking at the possibility of doing so in their respective states.
AFCFTA is a powerful tool for Africa’s economic integration – ECA
The pandemic has given African an opportunity to review its poor healthcare infrastructure,
The Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Ms Vera Songwe, said the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA) is a powerful tool to accelerate regional and economic integration in Africa.
The statement was made during a virtual panel by the African Union marking the Africa Integration for the Continental Free Trade Agreement.
She urged that Continental Free Trade Agreement would be Africa’s Marshall plan. Adding that nobody could have predicted the deep effects of the economic crisis on the continent.
“We need to talk about Africa and the AfCFTA. Our Marshall Plan is the AfCFTA. The AfCFTA is our plan, so let us take it and run with it.
“The Marshall Plan for Europe was about 160 per cent of their GDP traded to bring back growth after the war,” she said.
She added that implementation of the AFCFTA, would help the continent have control of its economic future. She added that the UN Economic Commission for Africa forecasts African GDP would decline by 3.2% to -2.8% in 2020 due to the effects of the pandemic.
She stressed the need for a continental financial system integration to implement a mutual system of financial stability for sub-Saharan monetary cooperation, while also urging that Africa builds on progress made from implementing The Afreximbank Exchange Facility.
“We need to ensure that as we build the AfCFTA and trade integration, we begin to build stronger, much more robust monetary and fiscal systems that can ensure that as a continent we actually can work with each other in a more effective way,” Songwe said.
She also urged that the pandemic has given Africa an opportunity to review its poor healthcare infrastructure, citing countries like South Africa, Ethiopia and Morocco developing new healthcare systems.
Songwe was joined on the panel by Mr Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary-General of UNCTAD and Mr Benedict Okey Oramah, the President of the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), Mr Wamkele Mene, first Secretary-General of the AfCFTA; Mr Chileshe Mpundu Kapwepwe, Secretary-General COMESA; and Paolo Gomes of AfroChampions.
The panelist jointly agreed that the economic crisis due to COVID-19 was an opportunity for Africa to learn lessons on the needs for Industrial developments by producing its own pharmaceutical industry.
Tax debt payments extended to August 31- FIRS
Tax debtors are to liquidate their outstanding tax liabilities on or before August 31.
The Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) announced it on Wednesday that it has extended the waiver of penalty and interest window on tax debts owned by businesses and individuals from June 30 to August 31, 2020.
In a statement by the Director Communications and Liaison Department, Mr Abdullahi Ahmad. The Executive Chairman of FIRS, Mr Muhammad Nami said the extension is a sequel to palliative measures set up by the FIRS to help businesses and individuals deal with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the economy.
“The latest extension applies to tax audit, tax investigation and desk review assessments, approved installment payment plans under Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme yet to be fully liquidated,” he said.
He added that there would not be any extension after the August 31 due date.
He urged tax debtors to liquidate their outstanding tax liabilities on or before August 31 in order to partake in the waiver of accumulated interests and penalties.
Nami also advised all businesses and individuals who fall under the waivers to contact their nearest FIRS Regional Debt Management Office and tax controllers for further enquiries.
African Union will accelerate industrialization in order to beat COVID-19
AU is planning on improving industrial output through the establishment of the regional value chain.
The African Union says it will accelerate its industrial development drive and improve supply chains needed for Africa’s trade and logistic growth to overcome the pandemic.
In a statement by the chairman of the AU and South Africa’s President, Cyril Ramaphosa, the AU is planning on improving industrial output through the establishment of a regional value chain with the aid of private sector stakeholders. The statement commemorating Africa Integration Day was co-signed by AU Commission Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat and Mahamadou Issoufou, the president of Niger.
President Ramaphosa added that the African free trade area is the best tool that can help the continent speed up its regional economic integration to battle the effects of the pandemic. He added that the creation of a free trade area is “defragmenting Africa to put behind us the history of small uncompetitive markets that have thwarted our efforts to achieve inclusive sustainable development for the benefit of our people.”
The African Continental Free Trade Area agreement was signed last year and was meant to commence this year in July but the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed the negotiations for tariff concessions for trade in goods; a date has not yet been announced to resume negotiations.
When fully ratified and operational by 2030, the ACFTA would be the largest free trade area by land area, servicing a potential of 1.2 billion people and with combined GDP of $2.5 trillion. Of the 54 nations that have signed the agreement, only 28 have ratified it so far. Nigeria is one of the countries yet to ratify over worries of “dumping”. Internal trade in Africa is just 15% compared to Europe’s 70% and Asia’s 58%. The ACFTA when fully ratified will reduce tariffs on goods by 90% and help promote investment and movement of goods, people and capital in the continent.