•FG cautions churches against reckless confidence over virus
•544 new cases move tally to 28,711 with 11,655 discharged, 645 dead
•Jonathan, Kenyatta rally support against pandemic, terrorism
•Reopening schools unsafe, dangerous, ANAP insists
•Ghanaian president self-quarantines after exposure to patient

By Obinna Chima, Martins Ifijeh in Lagos and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

The value of electronic payment transactions through the point of sale (PoS) terminals, Nigeria Interbank Settlement System Instant Payment (NIP) and Electronic Fund Transfer (NEFT) increased significantly by 82 per cent to N11.676 trillion in May 2020, compared with the N6.421 trillion recorded in April 2020.

The Chief Executive Officer, Financial Derivatives Company Limited, Mr. Bismarck Rewane, attributed this to the impact of COVID-19 in a report he presented at the Lagos Business School’s executive breakfast session for July at the weekend.

He stated that the figures were obtained from Nigeria Interbank Settlement System (NIBSS).

The spike in e-banking activities in the month was necessitated by the lockdown in the country then, as part of efforts by both the federal and some state governments to contain the spread of COVID-19.

According to the report, the value of PoS transactions in May was N358 billion, which was a 31.63 per cent increase from the N245 billion recorded in April; while NIP transactions increased by N10.405 trillion, up by 48.44 per cent when compared with the previous month.

Similarly, NEFT transactions stood at N912.29 billion in May, which was an 11 per cent increase, compared with the N811.76 billion recorded in April.

“Cheque transactions surged post-lockdown. The volume and value of transactions increased in May compared to April, except NEFT volume. The velocity of money in circulation was five times. Online payments and transactions will continue to rise in the near term as more customers and banks acquaint with the new normal for bank operations,” Rewane stated in the report.

Cheque transactions within the period stood at N178.12 billion.

Further analysis of the cheque transactions showed that three out of the five states with the highest transactions were from the South-west region, while five states with the lowest transactions are in the northern region.

“There is an inverse correlation between the velocity of circulation and inflation rate. States with the highest volume of transactions – Lagos and Abuja- have lower inflation rates compared to the bottom five.

“The higher the value of money transactions, the richer the state,” he said, adding: “It is also an indicator of transactions and reflective of high business activities and job creation. The level of unemployment is mixed across states. For example, Rivers has a high unemployment rate despite a high volume of money transactions. Emphasis on unemployment as a function of available job opportunities and the data reflects high rural-urban migration to states like Lagos, Abuja and Rivers.”

Reviewing recent economic activities, he said the petrol price was adjusted upwards by 18 per cent to N140.8 – N143.8 per litre. The average oil price in May was $32 per barrel while in June it was $41 per barrel (up by 28 per cent). Inflation inched up marginally to 12.4 per cent in May, from 12.34 per cent in April, but was expected to spike further in the coming months.
Food inflation is at 15.04 per cent while allocations to the three tiers of government from the Federation Account fell by 9.71 per cent in June to N547.31 billion. Also, the proposed new electricity tariff was postponed to 2021.

According to Rewane, there is “still some ambiguity about subsidy (under-recovery) existence or levels. Determination to move towards market reflective pricing seems entrenched and the economy still wallowing in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) contraction and recession.”

He listed some of the challenges facing the economy to include a looming negative GDP growth due to exogenous variables, pandemic healthcare crisis, falling oil prices and fiscal strokes, security challenges, unemployment, and rising inflation.

“Poverty map reveals income and opportunity inequality now pervasive. Money supply growth shows an underlying threat of high powered money on price inflation. Inflation increases at a much slower pace than anticipated. Naira trading at artificially low levels. External reserves buoyed by IMF loan,” he added.

FG Cautions Churches against Reckless Confidence over Virus

In another development, the federal government has cautioned church leaders to avoid unnecessary show of confidence and reckless statements, which tend to cast doubts on the actual dangers posed by COVID-19 pandemic.

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha, said the actions of some church leaders could put the citizens at serious health risk.

The SGF, at an interdenominational church service organised by the Nigerian Interreligious Council (NIREC) and the Christian Association of Nigeria yesterday in Abuja, said so far non-pharmaceutical interventions remained the most potent measures to protect oneself against the disease.

Incidentally, Nigeria recorded 544 new cases of COVID-19 yesterday, bringing to 28,711 the number of confirmed cases in the country.

Announcing this yesterday, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said Lagos recorded 199 new cases; Ebonyi, 65; Oyo, 47; Ondo, 46; Ogun, 31; Edo, 30; Federal Capital Territory (FCT), 28; Katsina, 25; Plateau, 15; Bayelsa, 11; Kaduna and Adamawa, 10 each; Akwa Ibom, eight; Gombe, seven; Kano, four; Taraba, three; Abia, and Rivers, two each; while Ekiti recorded one case.

It said: “Nigeria has recorded 28,711 cases of COVID-19. 11,655 persons have been discharged, while 645 have died.”

Mustapha warned: “There is no vaccine and there is no cure in sight. COVID-19 has come to stay with us; scientists said that it takes about 18 months to produce any vaccine.“There hasn’t been any established treatment protocol. This virus has confused the entire world and has brought democracies on their knees.

“The church should stop the exhibition of reckless confidence and tell their congregations to stay safe for themselves, their families and for the body of Christ.”

He added that COVID-19 is real and that 80 per cent of the carriers do not exhibit symptoms.

“Stay at home; maintain physical distancing; wear a face mask because the virus is emitted either through sneezing or coughing, ensure personal hygiene,” he said.

In his reflections at the interdenominational prayer session, the Catholic Archbishop of the Abuja Metropolitan See, His Grace Ignatius Kaigama, admonished Nigerians to always offer prayers when there are challenges like COVID-19.

While commending CAN for hosting the prayer event, Kaigama said he was impressed and edified that the leadership of NIREC inspired and encouraged Christians and Muslims in Nigeria, each according to their faith tradition, to fast and pray to seek God’s intervention for the defeat of the COVID-19 disease.

He said the positive intervention was what the adherents of the two major religions needed to do more often, to always seek areas of collaboration to promote social harmony, progress and peaceful co-existence.
Kaigama prayed that God will help researchers to find a cure for COVID-19.

Jonathan, Kenyatta Rally Support against Pandemic, Terrorism

Kenyan President, Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta, and former Nigerian president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, have called for closer collaboration among African leaders to deepen Africa’s post-pandemic recovery efforts and find answers to the continent’s growth and development challenges.

Both leaders recognised the prominent role played by Africa Centre for Disease Control (CDC), the Africa COVID-19 Fund and the joint Africa procurement platform in COVID-19 response as a demonstration of the continent’s potential to overcome its development challenges.

They spoke during a webinar on post-COVID-19 reconstruction organised by the African chapter of the International Summit Council for Peace (ISCP-Africa).
Kenyatta urged African leaders to continue working together in crafting interventions and solutions that would enhance the resilience of the continent’s vulnerable populations.

“We should work in collaboration with our development partners to build capacity for local production of health equipment and to strengthen our local manufacturing capacity more generally,” he said.

He also observed that African leaders had for the first time, extended their cooperation and collaboration by taking joint actions with nations of the Caribbean community.

Earlier, Jonathan as chairman of the forum had said African leaders must come together to collectively confront the challenges facing the continent, especially social, economic and governance issues.

He said: “The COVID-19 pandemic places urgency of actions on African leaders to move from plans to implementations of the different developmental strategies. I am particularly optimistic that conversations such as this will chart a new course towards building a new world; an interdependent peaceful and just nations of Africa.”

Reopening Schools Unsafe, Dangerous, ANAP Tells FG

The ANAP Foundation COVID-19 Think Tank has cautioned the federal government against the reopening of schools amid rising COVID-19 cases, describing the move as unsafe and dangerous to pupils, families and the society.

In a statement made available to THISDAY yesterday, and signed by the Chairman, ANAP Foundation, Mr. Atedo Peterside, the body said most schools, especially the public ones, did not have the resources to moderate the behaviour of children during school hours.

It said: “We view with great concern the proposal to reopen schools for graduating students. Science and data reveal that the pandemic is currently at the community transmission phase and is still approaching its peak.

Having school children from different homes gather in enclosed classrooms and interacting closely for long hours at this stage of our epidemic will, in our opinion, portend great danger for the pupils, their teachers and their immediate families.

“Though the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 (PTF) has specified appropriate protocols as safeguards, we are aware that most schools, especially the public ones, will not have the required resources to put these in place, nor the wherewithal to moderate children’s behaviour.”

It appealed to the government and other stakeholders to exercise caution and follow the science of the disease as established, to avoid exposing the population to large-scale COVID-19 infections.

Ghana President Self-isolate after Exposure to COVID-19 Patient

President of Ghana, Mr. Nana Akufo-Addo, has embarked on a 14-day self-quarantine after exposure to someone within his circle who has tested positive for COVID-19.

According to a statement weekend by the country’s Minister of Information, Mr. Kojo Nkrumah, the president will take two weeks off on the advice of his doctors and as part of COVID-19 protocol.

Nkrumah said: “He has, as at today, tested negative, but has elected to take this measure out of the abundance of caution. He will continue to work during the period in compliance with COVID-19 safety protocols.”

The statement did not say if the close person was a staff or a family member.

Madagascar Re-imposes Lockdown as Cases Surge

Madagascar has placed its capital, Antananarivo, under a fresh lockdown following a new surge in COVID-19 infections, two months after the restrictions were relaxed, the presidency said yesterday.

This is despite the country claiming its COVID herbal mixture treats the virus.

The statement said: “The Analamanga region (under which the capital is situated) is returning to full lockdown. No traffic will be allowed in or out of the region starting Monday (today) until July 20. A strict curfew will be imposed on street movement by people.

“Only one person per household is allowed to go out into the street between 6:00 am and 12:00 pm.”

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