Voting in Sri Lanka’s twice-delayed parliamentary elections was, on Wednesday, moving at a slow pace as many elderly people were kept away due to fears of the coronavirus.
According to Elections Commission spokesman, Channa Peiris, voter turnout was less than 40 per cent, five hours into the polling day.
Normally, the number at that point would have been around 50 per cent.
The elections are expected to expand the power of the ruling party amid a weak and divided opposition.
Voting was slowed down due to strict health guidelines that included sanitisation measures, social distancing and compulsory face masks.
Polling was extended by an hour, to 5.00 p.m. (1130 GMT), to accommodate more voters.
Meanwhile, authorities had so far deployed more than 15,000 health officials as well as public health inspectors to assist in making sure safety measures were followed.
However, some elderly Sri Lankans, who were more at risk for severe illness from COVID-19, were kept away from polling sites as a precautionary measure.
Meanwhile, more than 16.2 million people are registered to vote to elect members to the 225-seat parliament for five-year terms.
According to the Election Chairperson, Mahinda Deshapriya, voters’ have been urged to come to the polls as early as possible, because health precautions mean voting will take time.
The elections were delayed twice due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The cost of holding them shot up to 10 billion Sri Lankan rupees (or $54 million), from the usual cost of around 6 billion rupees, due mainly to additional expenses incurred because of the pandemic.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his brother, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is seeking another term, headed the campaign for the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (Sri Lanka People’s Front).
However, the election was expected to result in the brothers consolidating their power.
President Rajapaksa has urged voters to give his party a two-third majority in parliament, which would allow him greater power to push through an agenda that include amending the constitution.
The president said he could change the constitution to remove certain provisions, for instance regarding the appointment of key officials, which he said were an obstacle to ruling the country.
Rajapaksa has already appointed several former army officers for top civil administration positions.
He was a former military officer, who played a key role as Defence Secretary in defeating the Tamil rebels in 2009, ending a 26-year conflict.
The main opposition, the United National Party led by former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, is badly divided.
Most of its previously popular candidates are running under the banner of a separate party, known as the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (United People’s Front) and led by former presidential candidate, Sajith Premadasa.
The counting of the vote has been postponed until Thursday as an additional health precaution for officials and representatives of political parties taking part in the process.
Results, which usually would have been delivered on the day of the elections, will now be released only from Thursday.
Edited By: Yahaya Isah/Abdulfatah Babatunde (NAN)https://nnn.ng/pandemic-precautions-slow-down-voting-in-sri-lanka-parliamentary-poll/
COVID-19: PTF warns against neglect of protocols
He said that there were increasing disregard for basic non-pharmaceutical measures that have proven to be very successful.
He said face masks have now been turned into chin masks, social distancing and gatherings are returning to the pre-COVID era.
Mustapha, however, called for vigilance in order to forestall any danger of second wave of the pandemic as the countries in Europe were currently facing.
According to him, the call for greater vigilance is underscored by the fact that our economy has been seriously affected by the pandemic and we are pushing through our home-grown economic recovery strategies to cushion the economic impact of the pandemic.
” Also, our health systems, in spite of its fragility, have been able to withstand and contain cases resulting from COVID-19 infection, where those of more advanced countries have been overwhelmed.
“This call is made more pertinent in view of the noticeably increasing disregard for basic non-pharmaceutical measures that have proven very successful.
“Face masks have now been turned into chin masks, social distancing and gatherings are returning to the pre-COVID era,” he said.
Speaking on the second wave of the virus across the world, the PTF chairman said, “Israel has re-introduced a three-week lockdown, the United Kingdom was considering another lockdown phase, Spain was enforcing a partial lockdown in Madrid and France – amidst protests by its citizens.
“They have also introduced stricter measures to contain the virus. Similar stories are coming from South Korea, Iran and the number of fatalities is approaching 200,000 in the USA.
“The World Health Organisation(WHO), has advised that everybody should learn from lessons of the first wave, especially as ‘no one is safe until everyone is safe’.
“Let me share with you a global picture to buttress the foregoing. Over the last three days, the global cases passed the 31 million mark and it took only four days to get there from the 30th million.
“The USA crossed 7 million cases and continues to report a high daily caseload of over 30, 000 daily. We continue to see highest daily numbers from India.
“More specifically, the lesson for us in Nigeria, is that in spite of appreciable progress recorded, we should be vigilant more than ever before, because we have opened our air spaces to international travels, we have relaxed a number of restrictions in opening up more sectors of the economy and schools are beginning to open in varying degrees.”
On the reopening of airports for international travels, Mustapha noted that the PTF would continue to work with partners from the private sector to fine tune the protocols for international travellers, especially those arriving in Nigeria.
He, however, urged all travellers to ensure that they complete all pre-boarding and post-arrival processes, especially on the portal to facilitate seamless arrivals at the airports.
“We cannot afford the importation of the virus.
“We appeal strongly to all Nigerians to persuade their relations arriving Nigeria to self-isolate upon arrival, as required and test on day seven as prescribed,”
Edited By: Felix Ajide
Osinbajo, UNN students discuss technology, innovation
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on Monday had a virtual interaction with students from both the university and the secondary school in the University of Nigeria, Nsukka(UNN) campus.
Osinbajo’s spokesman, Laolu Akande, in a statement in Abuja, said the Vice President featured at the virtual conference of the Centre for Lion Gadgets and Technologies, UNN.
The theme of the conference is “Technological Innovation for Holistic Sustainable Development.”
The Vice President said that deploying technology and innovation to address emerging challenges would be crucial to the country’s recovery from the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We must creatively imagine and pioneer our way out.
“We are in one of the worst health and economic crises in living memory and our recovery must be innovative – we must employ never-before-seen methods to fight the never-before-seen plethora of issues before us.
“Whether we are discussing the delivery of social services to vulnerable communities and promoting financial inclusion or we are talking about boosting agricultural productivity and promoting the security of our communities, how we harness technology is crucial.
“The future will be decided in groups such as yours, where young Nigerians are actively thinking about how to deploy technology in creative ways for problem-solving.”
Osinbajo said that such innovative ideas must be deployed in a manner that was inclusive and accessible to all Nigerians including the poor and vulnerable.
He said that recently, the Nigeria Climate Innovation Center concluded its Climate LaunchPad, and some very innovative ideas were unveiled.
According to him, one of the innovator companies, New Digits, generates power from water.
“The product uses water and conformed solar cells to generate energy for electricity and cooking.
“It actually works by collecting water automatically from any piping channel in the house, breaks down the water into Hydrogen which is used to cook and to power the entire house without the need for batteries of any kind.”
The Vice President also cited PowerStove Energy, founded by three young Nigerians, Okey, Abdulazeez and Glory.
He said that the trio produced a low-cost, clean smokeless cookstove.
“PowerStove Energy is the first clean cookstove to be fitted with self-powered Internet of Things (IoT) cloud system to monitor in real-time, every day that cooking is done, the amount of Co2 that is used and biomass saved, black carbon prevented and total electricity generated.
“All of that is monitored in real-time every day.’’
Osinbajo pledged the support of the Federal Government to universities especially in enhancing their capacity for research and innovation.
He said that the Federal Government was prepared but the university needed to do more by being proactive in the links with industry.
“Industry, as you know, is interested in commerce. If it will make profit and money, industry is interested.
“I think that a lot of the innovations we are seeing are certainly profitable and can be lucrative. But where government can come in is where there are needs for additional support to make the research easier or cheaper for the public to access.
“So, I certainly look forward to the cooperation between the Federal Government and the University of Nigeria.
“In education too, Covid-19 has showed us just how adaptive we can be and there are a number of ed-tech firms such as uLesson, where students can take lessons and tests on an app.
“If scaled, this could revolutionise how we approach challenges with access to education.’’
He said that the Federal Government had started the Students Innovation Challenge for all universities in Nigeria.
“We came as far as the University of Nigeria, Nsukka; there is a hub called the Genesis Hub where the competition took place for the South East.
“Three winners emerged from the University of Nsukka; and each of them got N1 million, and there were 25 of them that emerged winners at the competition.
“The Innovation Challenge is our commitment; we are committed to ensuring that innovation is done on a continuous basis,” he said.
Earlier in his remark, the Vice Chancellor of UNN, Prof. Charles Igwe, said the university had prioritised the deployment of technology in achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Other participants at the conference included former Governor of Anambra State, Mr Peter Obi, Catholic Bishop of Awka Diocese, the Most Rev. Paulinus Eze-Okafor, among others.
Edited By: Ismail Abdulaziz
ECOWAS Court set to resume from extended vacation on Oct. 7
The ECOWAS Court will be resuming its activities on Oct. 7, after its three months vacation.
This is contained in a statement issued in Abuja on Monday by the media office of the justices.
The court will deliver judgment in nine cases filed against eight some member states.
It added that the cases were also filed against Nigeria’s Cross River State and the ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development (EBID) and listed in the latest course list released by the Registry of the Court for the period Sept. 25 to Oct. 28.
According to the court, among those listed for judgment is a case filed by Counsellor Kabineh Muhammad Ja’neh, a former Justice of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Liberia against the government.
“The former Justice is challenging his removal from office on the grounds that it did not follow due process while he was not granted fair hearing.
“In another of the cases scheduled for judgment, a former staff of the ECOWAS Commission, Prof. AbdulSalami Nasidi, sued the Commission alleging the wrongful termination of his appointment,” it said.
It recalled that the Court began sessions and judicial activities to guarantee continuous access to justice and timely delivery of justice in line with its mandate.
It noted that the virtual operations were in a bounnd to adhere to the safety guidelines recommended by the West African Health Organisation (WAHO) and the WHO following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic earlier in the year.
“The Court held its inaugural “virtual” court session on June 22, 2020 after it adopted a new Practice Direction in May 2020 that allowed the use of Electronic Case Management System for electronic filing (e-filing) and Virtual Court Sessions as part of measures to ensure the safety of its members, staff, lawyers and other stakeholders.
“Hon. Justice Edward Amoako Asante, President of the Court had stated in July 2020 that the Court would proceed on annual vacation from July 15 to Sept. 15, 2020 in accordance with Article 24 of its Rules,” the court added.
Edited By: Sadiya Hamza
Rohr calls up 21 old faces, 4 new faces for Super Eagles’ 2 friendlies
Super Eagles’ Technical Adviser, Gernot Rohr, has called up 25 players ahead of October’s friendly matches against the Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire and the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia, scheduled for Austria.
Ademola Olajire, the Director of Communications, Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), disclosed in a statement on Monday in Abuja that five other players have been put on standby.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the friendlies are the three-times African champions’ first games this year, as a result of the prolonged global coronavirus pandemic.
Rohr has listed the team’s top names such as Ahmed Musa, Kenneth Omeruo, William Ekong and Wilfred Ndidi, as well as new brooms Frank Onyeka and Chidera Ejuke.
Former FIFA Under-17 World Cup-winning goalkeeper Dele Alampasu returns to the group, as well as midfielder Mikel Agu.
Captain of the most recent Nigeria under-17 squad, Samson Tijani, will join up with the elite, as well as Portugal-based exciting wing-back Zaidu Sanusi.
Goalkeeper Maduka Okoye, now in The Netherlands, is heading to Austria for the games, just as England-based forward Kelechi Iheanacho also returns.
Victor Osimhen, now in Italy with Napoli, and another former U17 World Cup winner Samuel Chukwueze are also called up.
The Super Eagles, now ranked 29th in the world and third in Africa, will take on the Elephants on Oct. 9.
They will four days later engage the Carthage Eagles, who are second in Africa in the rankings.
Goalkeepers: Dele Alampasu (FK Ventspils, Latvia); Matthew Yakubu (SKF Sered, Slovakia); Maduka Okoye (Sparta Rotterdam, The Netherlands)
Defenders: Kenneth Omeruo (CD Leganes, Spain); Leon Balogun (Glasgow Rangers, Scotland); Chidozie Awaziem (FC Boavista, Portugal); William Ekong (Udinese FC, Italy); Olaoluwa Aina (Fulham FC, England); Jamilu Collins (SC Padeborn 07, Germany); Oluwasemilogo Ajayi (West Bromwich Albion, England); Zaidu Sanusi (FC Porto, Portugal)
Midfielders: Mikel Agu (Vitoria Guimaraes, Portugal); Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City, England); Frank Onyeka (FC Midtjylland, Denmark); Oghenekaro Etebo (Galatasary SK, Turkey); Samson Tijani (TSV Hartberg, Austria)
Forwards: Ahmed Musa (Al Nassr, Saudi Arabia); Alex Iwobi (Everton FC, England); Victor Osimhen (SSC Napoli, Italy); Moses Simon (FC Nantes, France); Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal FC, Spain); Cyril Dessers (KRC Genk, Belgium)
Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City, England); Samuel Kalu (Girondins Bordeaux, France); Chidera Ejuke (CSKA Moscow, Russia)
Standby: Abdullahi Shehu (Bursaspor, Turkey); Ramon Azeez (Granada CF, Spain); Joshua Maja (Girondins Bordeaux, France); Henry Onyekuru (AS Monaco, France); Tyronne Ebuehi (FC Twente, Netherlands)
Edited By: Olawale Alabi)