Our Correspondents

Amid the growing revenue strains, the Executive Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Mr. Muhammad Nami, has appealed to corporate bodies especially, telecommunications, financial services companies, manufacturers, e-commerce and supermarkets, believed to be experiencing increased business activities in spite of the current lockdown to pay their taxes in time.

The total number of Covid-19 confirmed cases rose to 1,182 with 87 new cases recorded as at 11.55pm yesterday while the discharged rose to 222 and 35 deaths. The breakdown of the 87 cases are as folows: 33 in Lagos, 18 in Borno, 12 in Osun, 9 in Katsina, 4 in Kano, 4 in Ekiti, 3 in Edo, 3 in Bauchi while Imo recorded its index case.

This is as Kano has continued to experience increase in the number of unexplained deaths, bringing the total estimated death toll to 640.
Also yesterday, the United States of America, the world’s epicentre of the COVID-19 closed in on 1 million infected cases while the number of death crossed 54,000. With more than 2,920,738 infected cases worldwide and a total of 203,255 deaths reported according to Worldometer.
Back home, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) yesterday refuted reports that a senior member of staff at the agency had been diagnosed with COVID-19. A statement by NPA’s General Manager, Corporate and Strategic Communications, Jatto A Adams, described the report as baseless and unfounded.

In another breath, the Lagos State government has given Lagosians with dead relatives in mortuaries two weeks to bury them else it would give them up for mass burials. This followed alleged congestions in mortuaries in the state in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, worried by the effects of the lockdown on economic activities, the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) has unveiled a Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, a plan that requires the federal government to grant the private sector some 60 per cent salary support till June 2020.

NECA, a platform for over 3,500 private sector employers, warned that failing to consider the scheme could compel private firms nationwide to take hard business decisions, which it said, might lead to the loss of several millions of jobs in the sector.
This notwithstanding, the Enugu State government has begun to pay additional 25 per cent COVID-19 allowance for all health workers in the state as part of its commitment to contain the spread of Coronavirus in the state as well as cushion the effect of the lockdown.
However, speaking on the current economic downturn occasioned by the shutdown in the global economy to address the pandemic, Nami said the development had taken a huge toll on government’s finances, thereby putting additional pressure on revenue generating agencies, including the FIRS to bridge budget funding gaps.

Specifically, he suggested that the identified businesses should commence the payment of their annual returns earlier than the due date, apart from their normal monthly obligations.

In a statement titled: “Update on Palliative Measures to Cushion Effect of COVID-19 on Taxpayers – 22nd April 2020”, which was posted on the agency’s Twitter handle @firsNigeria, Nami, said the move had become necessary to “ease some of the cash flow gaps being experienced by the government at this critical time”.

While further acknowledging the difficulty faced by businesses due to COVID-19, he nevertheless urged them to “go the extra mile at this time to cooperate with us in making special arrangements to pay their taxes”.

The FIRS boss, who had earlier announced some palliatives for taxpayers in the form of regulatory forbearance, noted that his latest appeal was to seek high level cooperation from taxpayers, whose sectors are experiencing a boom and significant increase in income at the present time.

Although he did not mention the names of the individual companies, he said processors of certain products among others were expected to comply.

Telecommunications service providers including voice and data services, financial services providers as well as online sales have witnessed a spike in commercial activities following the restrictions of movement by the government.
Nami had sometime in March, expressed the agency’s commitment to meeting the N8.5trillion revenue target for the year, despite the current economic challenges.

Addressing members of staff, he urged them to take up challenge and justify the confidence the country had reposed in the service particularly at this “critical time, when virtually all the other sources of revenue for government are being challenged especially, by the coronavirus pandemic, the downward slide in the price of oil at the international market for as low as $30 per barrel against $57 benchmark used for the budget.”

Nami therefore said several measures had been taken since assuming office to boost the welfare of staff as well as encourage them to give their best to improving its revenue profile, adding that, “We shall not relent in providing the right environment for you to succeed”.
According to him, “When the federal government set the N8.5 trillion target, it must have realised that we are equal to the task. As hub of the operations of the service, you are therefore expected to deliver the bulk of the target while the other groups support you.”

Kano’s Unexplained Deaths Soar to 640 and Four New Covid-19 Cases

Kano State has witnessed spike in unexplained deaths to 640 within eight days according to estimates, of a lockdown order, and government is yet to come up with modalities to arrest the situation.

This is however coming as the state recorded four new cases of coronavirus according to NCDC figures released as at 11.55pm yesterday.
Also yesterday, over twelve prominent people were confirmed dead and buried at different cemeteries within and outside the metropolis.
The attendants and undertakers at cemeteries in the state said unknown number of people are dying everyday.

Among the prominent people that died in Kano yesterday were Professor Ibrahim Ayagi, Dr. Musa Umar Gwarzo, Alhaji Dahiru Rabiu (former Grand Khadi), Musa Tijjani (Editor of Triumph Newspaper), Adamu Isyaku Dal (former SUBEB Executive secretary), Alhaji Salisu Lado, Haj Shamsiyya Mustapha, Haj Nene Umma, Alhaji Garba Sarki Fagge, Dr. Nasiru Maikano Bichi, Secretary, Student Affairs North West University, Prof. Aliyu Umar Dikko of Physiology department BUK and Ado Gwanja’s mother among others.

The spate of the deaths has caused fear and confusion among the residents, which prompted questions on why government had focused on fighting coronavirus while people were dying in silence.

Some even suspected that the deaths may have been caused by coronavirus without being detected.

Most of the deaths had been attributed to high blood pressure, malaria, ulcer and even hunger, while dearth of medical doctors to attend to the patients in all the hospitals across the state has became a worrisome situation.

Residents of the state have been left wondering why the increase in deaths immediately after the state government imposed a total lockdown on the state as a result of the rising cases of coronavirus.

Deputy Coordinator, Kano State Covid-19 Response, Dr Sabitu Shuaibu had clarified that the 640 deaths were recorded in the last one week and not in two days as insinuated by some persons on the social media.

“Let’s say about an average of 100 deaths daily from Kano metropolis, but don’t forget that around 50% of the Kano population are within the metropolis. We can agree that there are deaths going on, but we also understand that there are deaths going on from other causes. We are saying that we are putting up a system to investigate if there is a link between Covid-19 and the deaths.

But Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, in an interview, said only 13 people had reportedly died as against the rumours of mass death.
Ganduje said, “I would like to assure that it is not true; it is a rumor. We have people at graveside that are giving us information and they recorded dead people and the causes of their deaths.

“There were three deaths from Gwale, seven deaths in Kano Municipal, while three others from Kumbotso. So, this is the actual figure that our staff at graveyards were able to record.”

But with 77 cases of people who tested positive for Covid-19, the Technical Coordinator of the Covid-19 task force committee, Dr. Tijjani Hussaini said, “though Kano has not recorded any case in three days, as at yesterday Friday, 45 people were added and 23 out of the new cases as at yesterday also.”

But Ganduje has agreed that the situation in the state was getting serious and the government was doing everything within its power to contain it.

He added that already, the state government has rented a hotel, where suspected cases whose blood samples were taken were kept, adding that the Isolation Centre at Sani Abacha Stadium could accommodate 210 people at the moment.
According to him, the Isolation Centre at Kurna Dawakin Kudu, where the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) was situated was also active, though there were challenges of ventilators and other major facilities, while the 100 beds Isolation Centre at Muhammadu Buhari Specialist hospital was working.

Ganduje said the government was planning to produce one million facemasks, adding that once this was done, there might be need for making the wearing of facemask compulsory.

Acocording to the governor, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, has promised to donate 5000 Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), ventilators and monitors.

Ganduje, who cried out to the federal government for financial assistance said the state would soon commence the second phase of distribution of palliatives, targeting 50,000 households, estimated to cost over N600 million.

Commissioner for Local Government Affairs, Murtala Sule Garo, who is the chairman of Almajiri Evacuation Committee, also told journalists that the government had so far evacuated 1098 Almajiris to Katsina, Jigawa and Kaduna.

He said the Committee evacuated 419 Almajiri to Katsina, 524 to Jigawa and 155 to Kaduna, adding that arrangements had been concluded to evacuate over 100 Almajiris to Bauchi State by Monday.

He said the Committee collaborated with the Ministry of Health and ensured that all the evacuated Almajiris were not COVID-19 positive.
Chairman of Kano Task Force on COVID-19, Dr. Nasiru Yusuf Gawuna, who is also the Deputy Governor, urged Kano residents to strictly observe the social distancing directive, personal hygiene and the stay-at-home order.

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