Royal Health Pilot Breaking Health News Tue, 12 Jan 2021 05:39:12 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Royal Health Pilot 32 32 Days before Trump exit, US rebrands Cuba state sponsor of terror Tue, 12 Jan 2021 05:39:12 +0000 President Donald Trump’s outgoing administration on Monday returned Cuba to the US blacklist of state sponsors of terrorism, the latest in a slew of last-minute…

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President Donald Trump’s outgoing administration on Monday returned Cuba to the US blacklist of state sponsors of terrorism, the latest in a slew of last-minute actions to hinder President-elect Joe Biden’s diplomacy.The terror designation severely hampers foreign investment and can only be removed after a formal review by the Biden administration, meaning it may remain in force for months and slow efforts to ease tensions.

With nine days left in office, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo cited Cuba’s ties with Colombian rebels, alliance with leftist Venezuela and sanctuary to several US fugitives in justifying the blacklisting.

“With this action, we will once again hold Cuba’s government accountable and send a clear message: the Castro regime must end its support for international terrorism and subversion of US justice,” Pompeo said in a statement, referring to former leaders Fidel and Raul Castro.

“The United States will continue to support the Cuban people in their desire for a democratic government and respect for human rights, including freedom of religion, expression and association,” he said.

It is the latest in a blitz of decisions by Pompeo in his final days in office, with most of Washington focused on whether to remove Trump for inciting a deadly riot at the US Capitol by supporters who sought to stop the ceremonial certification of Biden’s victory.

Since Saturday, Pompeo has also designated Yemen’s Huthi rebels as a terrorist group, defying warnings from aid groups, and relaxed rules on US engagement with Taiwan.

Then-president Barack Obama in 2015 delisted Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism as he moved to normalize relations and declared the half-century US effort to isolate the communist island to be a failure.

Trump has reversed many of Obama’s overtures to Cuba and also imposed sanctions on Venezuela, winning him support among immigrant communities in Florida, a crucial state in US elections.

Biden has indicated he wants to return at least to some engagement started under Obama and blocked by Trump, including allowing Cuban-Americans to visit family and send money.

Warnings from Democrats
“The hypocrisy from President Trump and Secretary Pompeo is stunning but not surprising,” said Representative Gregory Meeks, a member of Biden’s Democratic Party who heads the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

“Donald Trump -– who as a businessman registered the Trump Organization’s trademark on the island in 2008 — has always seen Cuba as a political football with zero regard for the long-suffering Cuban people,” Meeks said.

To remove Cuba from the terror list, Antony Blinken — Biden’s nominee for secretary of state — would need to initiate a review that shows that Havana did not engage in terrorism over the previous six months.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez called the designation “cynical and hypocritical.”

“The political opportunism of this action is recognized by everyone honestly concerned about the scourge of terrorism and its victims,” he wrote on Twitter.

Chilling effect on business
John S. Kavulich, president of the US-Cuba Trade and Economic Council that looks at commercial ties between the countries, said the immediate effects of Pompeo’s move would include discouraging financial institutions from dealing with Cuba.

Insurance companies could also suspend coverage or jack up rates for operators of ships and aircrafts to Cuba, he said.

“Transactions with the Republic of Cuba would have an increase in scrutiny, resulting in fewer governments and companies wanting to engage with it,” he said.

But he doubted the move would ultimately change Cuba’s policies, including its staunch support for Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, whom the Trump administration has sought to topple.

Providing a legal justification, Pompeo pointed to Cuba’s refusal to extradite commanders from Colombia’s National Liberation Army (ELN) over a January 2019 car bombing at a Bogota police academy that killed 22 people.

Cuba has said it will not hand them over due to its role mediating between the ELN and government.

Pompeo also pointed to Cuba’s sanctuary of Americans including Assata Shakur, a Black Power militant who fled to the island after escaping prison following a conviction over the killing of a New Jersey state trooper.

Only three other countries are on the blacklist — Iran, North Korea and Syria. Trump last year removed Sudan after its democratic transition, compensation for past attacks and agreement to recognize Israel.

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Gunmen kill six policemen in Delta, Ebonyi, cart away rifles Tue, 12 Jan 2021 05:31:08 +0000 Tragedy struck on Sunday night as unknown gunmen killed three policemen in Ughelli area of Delta State. The police officers were identified as Insp. Simon…

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Tragedy struck on Sunday night as unknown gunmen killed three policemen in Ughelli area of Delta State. The police officers were identified as Insp. Simon Madaki, Insp. Mutari Lawal and Sgt. Adamu Ibraham. They were transferred from Mopol 47, Zaria in Kaduna a year ago.

The cops, according to a source, were taken unawares at a popular fast food joint in Ughelli, known as Wakyz, where they provided security. They were shot at close range.

According to a source, “they were from Kaduna and had been in the hotel on ‘Special Duty’ for nearly a year. “They were four mobile policemen guarding the hotel; while the three deceased were outside, the surviving one was inside.”

The attack came few days after a new Divisional Police Officer (DPO), Mr Benjamin Igometi, took over the reins of affairs of the Ughelli ‘A’ Division, with a charge on him to curb rising spate of insecurity in the area.

A senior police officer confirmed the incident to The Guardian at the venue of the ongoing Judicial Panel of Inquiry on extrajudicial killings in Delta State, holding in Warri.

He said the three police personnel were killed by suspected armed robbers, who carted away their service riffles.

The Delta State police spokesperson, DSP Onome Onovwakpoyeya, said the police had launched investigation into the matter, but provided no further information.

Ughelli town and environs have been under siege in the last three months due to the unending clashes between rival cult groups that have led to the death of nine persons.

GUNMEN have also attacked a police station in Ebonyi State, killing three policemen.

Two others sustained bullet wounds in the attack on Onueke Police Station in Ezza South Local Government Area of the state.

It was gathered that the hoodlums attacked the police station on Friday night. The slain officers comprised two male inspectors and one woman who was killed in her office. Two AK-47 rifles were taken away by the assailants.

Police spokeswoman, Loveth Oda, confirmed the incident, adding that the bodies of the slain officers had been deposited in a mortuary while the two who sustained bullet wounds were receiving treatment.

Odah urged the general public to provide the police with information that could lead to the arrest of the attackers.

The Commissioner of Police, Philip Maku, who visited the attacked station at the weekend to assess the damage, said the perpetrators would be tracked down and brought to book.

MEANWHILE, a director in the Kwara State Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Khalid Ibrahim Ndaman, was found dead in his office in Ilorin yesterday.

Officials of the ministry, who asked not to be named, said the body of Ndaman, who was until his death the Director of Veterinary in the ministry, was found in the office.

It was when one of the staff went to meet him about one hour after his arrival to discuss a pending official matter that he met him dead. It was gathered that Ndaman was resting his head on the table, but was already dead.

One of the staff who pleaded for anonymity said: “A worker knocked his door, but there was no response. So, after sometime, he went inside. There was a pending official matter since Friday that he needed to conclude with him. So, he needed to see him.

“Having waited outside with no response, the worker went inside the office and met him resting his head on the table. He greeted him, still no response until he moved close and touch him to realise that he was already dead. ”

Spokesman of the state police command, Kayode Okasanmi, confirmed the incident. He said: “For now, it is a case of sudden natural death until we complete investigation. We will brief the press depending on the outcome of our findings.”

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Crowds return as striking NIMC workers resume Tue, 12 Jan 2021 05:26:08 +0000 Crowds of applicants for the National Identification Number (NIN), yesterday, returned to offices of National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) as the striking workers of the…

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Crowds of applicants for the National Identification Number (NIN), yesterday, returned to offices of National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) as the striking workers of the commission called off their strike.

NIMC workers, last week, commenced a two-day strike to demand better work condition and welfare package.

The rush by applicants, yesterday, was to beat the February 9 deadline for registration, verification and subsequent linking of NIN to Subscribers Identification Modules (SIM) cards.

In Lagos, applicants complained of slow process, inefficiency, among others.

At the Alausa NIMC office, Ikeja, it was gathered that applicants started trooping to the centre as early as 5 a.m. Those who got to the office by 5 a.m. were shocked to find a list of about 100 people already ahead of them.

An elderly man, who gave his name as Alhaji Babatunde Aderibigbe said he had come for about one week without recording any progress.

Asked why he didn’t explore the booking system, Aderigbe said: “I don’t have faith in that process. This is Nigeria! I think it is better the way I came. But it has become too stressful, especially for adults like me approaching 70. I think the process should be reviewed.”

Another enrollee, Moses Joda, complained of favoritism. “It’s like if you don’t know any person, you cannot be registered. Some people are taking in some people anyhow, even those coming very late. I don’t really understand. I got here today by 5:30 a.m. and five hours after, I have not been able to do anything,” he complained.

On the social media, a Twitter user with the handle @DrOlufunmilayo, wrote: “Yesterday, Lagos government announced closedown of Meiran Primary Health Centre due to health workers getting overwhelmed with COVID-19. Today, Lagosians have been in Alausa NIMC centre since 5 a.m. trying to get NIN. For God’s sake, what kind of madness is this? What is this insanity?”

To Natural Hair Girl @NwaniUju, “Those ones going to NIMC office are mad too. I have used a code to generate NIN for my mum. What are they going to the office for? Whatever they are looking for, they will find it.”

An official of the Alausa NIMC office, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told The Guardian the challenge was that applicants had refused to explore the booking process, “which was created to reduce crowds at the centres, and guard against the spread of COVID-19. As you can see, look at the crowd today, and it may be like that till deadline.”

At Agege Local Government Area (Maternity Centre) officials attended to only persons on appointment. They asked fresh applicants to return at the end of February for their registration.

According to one of the officials, the facility available for them was limited.
One of the officials said he was sure the government would still extend the closing date as few people had been registered while he turned down the request of a desperate man who asked him for his number.

An applicant, who spoke on condition of anonymity, called on government to create more registration points with facilities to make things easy for Nigerians.

IN Port Harcourt, large crowd besieged the Aba road office of the Commission and the COVID-19 protocols were flouted as residents struggled to be attended to.

The crowd numbering thousands overwhelmed the workers who were not more than ten. Some of the machines were not also functioning optimally, thereby making the situation more unbearable under the scorching sun.

Some of the residents, who our reporter met at the NIMC office, close to the Independent National Electoral Commission’s Office along Aba road, said they arrived at the NIMC premises before 8a.m. on Monday but by 5p.m., they were not attended due to large crowd.

Mrs. Edna Wodi, who lives at Ojike Street in Mile One, Diobu, said, “I left my house by 8am today and went to the NIMC but look at me, this is 5pm. It’s so annoying because I locked my shop to be here “

LONG queues resumed at Kano registration centres. A visit to AKTH and Zaria road registration centres showed long queues of persons, waiting patiently to enroll.

Some of the enrollees who volunteered to speak expressed delight over the resumption of the exercise. They however noted that the processes had not improved.

“We are glad the workers have called off their strike and the registration continues but the situation still remains as it was. The number of staff has not increased. The long queue is still there. The work hours still remain. So, I have not seen any thing that change,” an enrollee volunteered.

Mallam Mohammed Al Amin aged 76, taking his biometrics as the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) staff called off strike at the commission’s headquarters in Abuja… yesterday. PHOTO: PHILIP OJISUA

MEANWHILE, the NIMC has warned the public to beware of a fake app that purportedly links NIN to SIM cards.

In a post on its Twitter handle, NIMC dissociated itself from the app saying it belonged to fraudsters who harvest people’s NINs and Bank Verification Numbers.

“The app was not created by NIMC or the Federal Government of Nigeria. It is run by fraudsters who are currently harvesting people’s NINs and BVNs by default,” NIMC said.

The Commission advised people to protect their data and stop disclosing personal information to unauthorised persons or platforms.

NIMC, it had been announced launched a mobile app, that could be used to link seven SIM cards to one NIN.

The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami, who made the disclosure, in a television interview, said: “We developed an app, when you go online, you will see it. That app, as long as you have your NIMC number, you will only download it without visiting any office. You will be able to link up to seven SIM numbers to only one. I have already downloaded the app, launched the app, and already linked some of my numbers immediately. This is part of digitalisation,” he said.

COMMENTING on the development, yesterday, the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 (PTF) warned Nigerians to avoid crowding as being witnessed at NIMC centres.

It, however, said there had been no decision to postpone the NIN enrollment except otherwise decided by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Minister of State for Health, Dr. Olorunimbe Mamora, who gave the warning at the PTF briefing in Abuja, noted that overcrowding at the NIN enrollment centers across the country might be a super spreader event and blamed the development on attitudinal defect of some Nigerians.

Mamora argued that there was absolutely no cause for crowding, if only people would voluntarily comply with guidelines as issued by the Ministry of Communications.

He said, “It’s is an attitudinal issue, as the ministry of Communications and Digital Economy and NIMC never asked people to crowd the centres the way they are doing.

“It might be a super spreader event, there is no reason for what is going on under the guise of trying to get enrolled. The statement credited to me on the social media as to the suspension of the exercise is out of context, hence misleading because it bothers on national security, Boko Haram, kidnapping and other criminalities going on in the country, which are facilitated using mobile phones. What is required is voluntary compliance to the guidelines. For the avoidance of doubt, Mr. President’s order on the matter remains as being carried out by the relevant ministry.”

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Why Nigeria can’t produce COVID-19 vaccines now Tue, 12 Jan 2021 05:19:14 +0000 Many, including the leadership of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), have wished that Nigeria could begin production of vaccines and stop depending wholly on imports.…

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Many, including the leadership of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), have wished that Nigeria could begin production of vaccines and stop depending wholly on imports.

At his last visit to the Presidency, where he pledged that governors would be publicly administered the COVID-19 vaccine whenever it arrived, the Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi, rued the idea of waiting to be served by other countries and wondered why it was taking the country long to perfect processes regarding vaccine production.

Medical experts have, however, explained why the country cannot manufacture vaccines now. In fact, the situation seems to pose more questions than answers even as everyone waits eagerly for arrival of first 100,000 doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccines.

What about the reported partnership Nigeria has with May & Baker, to facilitate local production? How close is the country to achieving this feat?

Chairman, Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Group of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (PMG-MAN), Dr. Fidelis Ayebae, did not mince words when The Guardian engaged him on the matter. He said: “Overall, we are very far from vaccine production because we have not yet made the investment needed as a country. Firstly, the facility is not available. Secondly, the partnerships with those with the technology are yet to be cultivated. Thirdly, our in-licensing/patent laws need to be worked on such that Nigeria, in collaboration with owners of a patent, can roll out products under licence when there are national emergencies. Still a lot to accomplish in this direction but no one is working on it because of inconsistency in our policy implementation. No one will invest in something which gestation will be short-lived because someone in government made tragic pronouncements without consulting with the organised private sector as they often do.”

Managing Director of Biovaccines, a company set up to kick-start local vaccines production, Dr. Everest Okeakpu, admitted that making vaccines requires a lot of effort. He said: “Vaccines, unlike the typical small molecule pharmaceuticals are complex and challenging to manufacture. As such, it is a painstaking effort that requires precision and time. A subtle change in the production process may alter the final product, possibly affecting yield, purity, safety and efficacy.”

He is optimistic that the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, and his team at the Federal Ministry of Health are prioritising issues related to local vaccines manufacturing, to ensure that Nigeria not only succeeds with this venture but do so as fast as possible.

He said: “With regards to the COVID-19 vaccine, BVNL is contemplating importing modular facilities to shorten the time to be ready for locally filling and finishing of the vaccine.

“Yes, we are all excited about the news of Nigeria receiving the first batch of 100,000 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines, AKA BNT162b2 or Tozinameran (International Non-proprietary Name – INN). However, as you’re aware Nigeria will need much more. Apart from the Pfizer-BioNTech, other companies with ready or almost ready COVID-19 vaccine include Moderna-National Institute of Health; University of Oxford-AstraZeneca; Johnson & Johnson (Janssen); Novavax; CanSino Biologics; Institute Gamaleya; SinoPharm and Sinovac Biotech.”

Okeakpu said the Federal Government’s partnership with May & Baker, which gave rise to the Joint Venture (JV) Company, Biovaccines Nigeria Limited (BVNL), was making tremendous progress.

“We are on track for a groundbreaking ceremony to begin the construction of the vaccine manufacturing facility by Q1, having advanced discussions with our technology transfer partners. This has largely been made possible by the support we have been enjoying from the Federal Government,” Okeakpu said.

Chairman of Biovaccines Board, Prof. Oyewale Tomori, however, gave a middle-of the-road explanation of where the country is on local COVID-19 vaccines production. According to him: “Efforts are being fast-tracked with concerted action among the Federal Ministry of Health, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), National Assembly leadership, the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) and office of Vice President (VP) to get Nigeria involved in future production of not only COVID-1919 vaccine but others.

“I cannot give you more as these are preliminary discussions. We know what is needed and until we all agree on the what, the how and the when, I cannot provide more. Very soon we will gave concrete details. I believe by March when the Board meets, we will talk with more confidence and, maybe, hold a joint press conference with all stakeholders.”

A consultant pharmacist and former President, Pharmaceutical Association of Nigeria (PSN), Olumide Akintayo, said the partnership between M & B and the FG had little or no bearing with availability of vaccines from the stables of Pfizer and any other multinational pharmaceutical company.

“Typically, it is the company that owns a patent that manufactures a drug product or vaccine. In pandemics or emergencies, there may be exemptions to allow production of generic equivalent of the patent rights before the expiration of the mandatory and exclusive 10-year window for post marketing surveillance.

“This is usually brokered by global bodies like World Health Organisation (WHO).

Except such procedures are approved, it will be a mirage to expect local production of COVID19 vaccines in Nigeria.”

A virologist, vaccinilogist and lead, African Vaccine Initiative, Dr. Simeon Agwale, told The Guardian: “Our company Innovative Biotech LTD Nigeria is working on our COVID-19 vaccine here in the United States (US) in collaboration with two major partners and we hope to do the clinical trials in Nigeria this year if we secure the funding we’re looking for. We are also bringing international vaccine manufacturing to Nigeria, but first starting with the downstream formulation, fill/finish and we hope to have this process completed sometime next year. It’s been a very long journey for us, but it will be done.”

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COVID-19: FG to review safety protocols, school resumption date Mon, 11 Jan 2021 20:48:17 +0000 As Nigeria’s hospital capacity strained *Warns against overcrowding at NIMC enrollment centres *’Why we can’t produce vaccines in Nigeria’ *Declares, No state is immune, set…

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School Resumption

As Nigeria’s hospital capacity strained

*Warns against overcrowding at NIMC enrollment centres

*’Why we can’t produce vaccines in Nigeria’

*Declares, No state is immune, set to roll out rapid test kits in Abuja

The Federal Government has announced its decision to review the COVID-19 safety protocols as well as the January 18 resumption date for schools in the light of Nigeria’s grim epidemiological situation with regards to the pandemic.

This was as it again lamented that the nation’s health care infrastructure was greatly strained as the country is now at a critical level in its hospital capacity. The government also explained its inability to produce COVID-19 vaccines in the country, attributing it to several years of inadequate investments in the health sector. While it declared that no state is immune to the virus, the government also announced its decision to roll out Rapid Diagnostic Test Kits RDTKs in five tertiary health institutions in Abuja by next Monday.

The Federal Government had last year faulted the Kogi state Government’s insistence on using the test kits rather than deploying the more expensive PCR test.

Schools Resumption

Speaking at Monday’s briefing of the Presidential Taskforce PTF on COVID-19, Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu said the earlier resumption date of January 18 was not cast in stone. “When we decided on that date, it was just a target towards which we were working. And of course, we are giving it a review given what is happening in the country. “Today at the PTF meeting, we looked at the rising figures and decided that probably we should take another look at the date.

“The January 18 resumption date is not sacrosanct as it is subject to constant review in view of prevailing epidemiological circumstances. We are reviewing it. In view of the rising cases, today we have considered it at the meeting of the PTF, and tomorrow, the ministry is going to take it up. So, most likely it is going to be reviewed”, Adamu stated.

Protocol review

National Coordinator of the Taskforce, Dr. Sani Aliyu noted that the PTF would soon review the safety protocols to target nightcrawlers who violate the current safety precautions. “Our beds are fast filling up in our treatment centres and you don’t want to be in a situation where the decision is being taken as to whether you should be put on oxygen or a ventilator. “The PTF is currently in the process of reviewing our protocols.

We have had discussions with state governors including a review of curfew hours particularly to address the issue of nightlife and entertainment which is also driving the current numbers and once this review is completed, an announcement will follow with regards to the curfew”, he stated.

Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Iheakwazu on his part lamented that hospital capacity in several towns has reached a critical level. He said; “We are reaching a critical level with our hospital capacity in many towns in Nigeria and we must begin to protect our most vulnerable as we get deeper into this phase of the outbreak.

Remember this virus is not tired and it is taking advantage of our tiredness and fatigue”. Minister of State, Health, Dr. Olorunnimbe Mamora warned against overcrowding at the enrollment centres of the National Identity Management Commission NIMC, saying the situation could be avoided if prospective enrollees would adhere to the timelines released by the Commission.

He said the result of the test of participants of the National Youth Service Corps NYSC scheme indicates that no part of the country is free of the virus, saying the PTF reached the conclusion knowing that corps members were mobilized from all over the country. “The result from the tests conducted on prospective NYSC members has incontrovertibly confirmed that no part of the country is free of COVID-19 disease.

We safely and comfortably draw this conclusion because corps members are mobilized from all the states of the country for each of the orientation camps. “With the increased number of confirmed cases, the number of active cases has increased. As of today, we have 18,699 active cases on treatment both in the facility and in the community using the treatment protocols.

Many of the active cases may require care in one of the treatment or isolation centres thus imposing enormous burden on our facilities. “Thee report that many of those who died, reported late for treatment at the approved centres because they were referred late from private facilities is alarming.

We therefore once again seize this opportunity to urge health care practitioners to promptly send all suspected cases for testing and when positive, refer them to isolation centres for treatment. Attempting to treat suspected or confirmed cases not only exposes the health workers in such a facility to risk of infection but also denies the patient early access to effective treatment in an approved treatment centre.

“Permit me at this juncture to specifically emphasise on the need to avoid crowding as we see in people under the guise of National Identity Number Enrollment. There is absolutely no cause for this if only people would voluntarily comply with advisories and guidelines as issued by the Ministry of Communications and its relevant Agency.

The statement credited to me on social media as to the suspension of the exercise is out of context, hence misleading. For the avoidance of doubt, Mr. President’s order on the matter remains as being carried out by the relevant Ministry”, he stated. Secretary to the Government of the Federation SGF and Chairman of the PTF, Mr. Boss Mustapha noted that the current wave of infections is swift and virulent “and we do not know how long it will last”.

“Besides, the facilities available for the treatment of critical cases remain very limited and we do not wish to be overwhelmed. Your best bet, therefore, is to avoid infections completely”, he added. Mustapha said to scale up testing, “the pilot exercise on the use of Rapid Diagnostic Test-Kits RDTs will be rolled out in five tertiary health institutions in Abuja from Monday next week.

“Last week, Nigeria recorded over 9,000 cases. Realistically, if we estimate the numbers missed, we would be in a much higher region. There is no state in Nigeria that is immune to this pandemic even if reports are not coming out of such States”.

He said the isolation of different strains of the virus is being vigorously pursued as the PTF is working with the Africa Centre for Disease Control CDC and the NCDC on the sequencing of the COVID strains circulating in Nigeria.

Vaccine production Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency NPHCDA, Dr. Faisal Shuaib explained why Nigeria has not been able to produce its own COVID-19 Vaccines. He said; “There are questions around why we are not producing the COVID-19 vaccines in Nigeria. I want to just put on record that the process of producing a vaccine is very complex and complicated.

You don’t just go to a shelf and pick up a vaccine. So, it requires massive investments that have not been done for many decades. In the past, in the 1960s, we used to make Yellow Fever vaccines in this country. In the ’90s, we took a decision to change our analog ways of making the yellow fever vaccines into more recent technology.

However, that transfer of technology never happened and that is why we did not continue to make Yellow Fever vaccines. Perhaps, if we had continued making yellow fever vaccines in the Yaba Laboratory in Lagos, it may have been easier for us to continue and make other vaccines before now.

So, there are genuine efforts by this administration to restart the process of vaccine production which is why the Federal Government went into a hint venture agreement with Bio-Vaccines through May and Baker. It takes usually 10 to 15 years for you to be able to start producing the vaccines.

It takes a very long and complicated process”. He said Nigeria hopes to cover 70 percent of its population when it gets the vaccines, saying while 20 percent of the vaccines is a donation from the COVAXX facility, Nigeria would have to source for funds to pay for the remaining 50 percent. Shuaib expressed optimism that Nigeria will never get to the point where it has to force people to take the vaccines, saying his agency is working with religious leaders and the media to sensitise the public on the nature of the vaccines.


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COVID-19 stalls Lagos-Ibadan rail inauguration, says Amaechi Mon, 11 Jan 2021 20:37:36 +0000 Minister of Transportation Rotimi Amaechi has said that the inauguration of the Lagos-Ibadan rail line has been put on hold due to the upsurge of…

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Minister of Transportation Rotimi Amaechi has said that the inauguration of the Lagos-Ibadan rail line has been put on hold due to the upsurge of COVID-19 in the country.

Amaechi, who disclosed this in Abuja, said that over 60 staff on the project site have been infected by Covid19 while trying to complete the project.

“First let us admit that over 60 of our staff, not the ministry of transport staff, but the staff working on the rail project have been infected by COVID-19. Luckily nobody has died and I pray nobody will die, but you see the kind of sacrifice everybody is making to get the rail to function.

“They are people sacrificing their lives to get to that point, we are of the view when we made that decision that Nigeria will not say 2020 was a bad year, so remove one year and add another year to Buhari administration.

“As far as we are concern, we need to learn how to leave with COVID-19, I really want to congratulate those that achieve that feat, we were to inaugurate first week in January. We had to stop those doing minor completion because of the rise in COVID-19 transmission.

“The timeline for the inauguration will depend on COVID-19. If COVID-19 stop today or reduces we will commission the project.”

Amaechi further stated that the train services on all route might stop if passengers do not adhere to COVID-19 protocol.

“We will allow the train to run but if we see that we are conveying passengers who have Covid from Lagos to Ibadan, we will stop it. Just like we are threatening to stop Kaduna-Abuja if people don’t comply with the COVID-19 Protocol.”

He said that the Abuja-Kaduna route conveys about 4,000 passengers daily, stating that if anyone transmits COVID-19 onboard it would be a serious challenge.

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China says WHO coronavirus experts to visit from Thursday Mon, 11 Jan 2021 20:33:54 +0000 Ten World Health Organization scientists will visit China from Thursday to probe the origins of Covid-19, authorities said, more than a year after the pandemic…

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Ten World Health Organization scientists will visit China from Thursday to probe the origins of Covid-19, authorities said, more than a year after the pandemic began and amid accusations, Beijing delayed the investigation.

The WHO team “will conduct joint research cooperation on the origins of covid 19 with Chinese scientists,” the National Health Commission said in a statement.

The long-awaited mission — which has been under discussion since last year — is of great political significance at a time when the Covid-19 pandemic has devastated major countries worldwide, caused almost two million deaths and brought the global economy to a standstill.

A last minute delay to the mission earlier this month earned China a rare rebuke from the head of the WHO.

The team of WHO experts will be expected to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival in China, and are expected to visit Wuhan — the city where a deadly virus cluster first emerged late last year — in the course of their trip.

The US and Australia have led international calls for an enquiry into the origins of the pandemic, putting China under significant pressure amid growing calls for accountability.

Beijing has faced international criticism over its lack of transparency during the initial outbreak, while domestically the government has praised its own handling of the outbreak and stifled any criticisms.


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How Ministry of Health mismanaged N4.6bn Ebola fund ― Senate Mon, 11 Jan 2021 20:23:24 +0000 The Senate has uncovered how the Ministry of Health mismanaged a total sum of N4.6 billion fund that was meant to tackle Ebola scourge in…

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The Senate has uncovered how the Ministry of Health mismanaged a total sum of N4.6 billion fund that was meant to tackle Ebola scourge in Nigeria. The Senator Matthew Urhoghide, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Edo South led Senate Committee on Public Accounts is raising the alarm of how the money was spent and sustained the indictment report against the Ministry of Health over the issue due to failure of the officials of the Ministry to explain their own side of the allegation.

The Senate Committee on Public Accounts chaired by Senator Mathew Urhoghide sustained the Auditor General Report against the Ministry of Health after the officials of the Ministry declined the series of invitations of the Committee.

According to the Senate Committee, series of invitations were extended to the Ministry in the matter with no response and the committee, therefore, had no other option than to sustain the query. The Senator Urhoghide led Committee is relying on the query raised by the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation in the 2015 report and brought before it for probe and subsequent presentation to the Senate at Plenary.

Urhoghide said, “we have written letters to them, but till now they have refused to appear before the committee giving credence to the observation of Auditor General of the federation.” The query read, “Following the sudden outbreak of the Ebola scourge/disease in Nigeria and the determination of the Federal Government to contain and control the spread of the disease, a total sum of N4,887,079,750.00 was released to control the Ebola disease.

“The sum of N1,992,548,500.00 was released on 11th August 2014 while the balance of N2,894,531,250.00 was released on 4th November 2014.  The funds were said to be kept in a commercial bank Account Number 0122391169.

“Information extracted from the Cash book and copies of Bank Mandates made available to my officers showed that amounts totaling N954,680,339.86 were spent between 20th August and 21st December 2014, on various activities including contract awards for supplies of assorted items, thereby indicating a balance of N3,605,242,575.70 in the account as at 31st December 2014.

“Regrettably, these figures could not be authenticated/verified owing to the refusal of the Federal Ministry of Health to release the statement of account, the Bank Reconciliation Statements, relevant payment vouchers and other related documents for my examination, despite several written and verbal requests made for them at various times.

“The items purportedly procured could not be verified.  As such, I cannot confirm that the items were actually supplied, that they conformed with the contract quality specifications and that the elements of economy, efficiency and effectiveness were observed in awarding the contracts.

“Aside the contracts, there were other expenditures such as Duty Tour Allowances and Trainings, the details of which were equally not made available. “Consequently, the Permanent Secretary was requested to kindly release all the documents and records relating to the Ebola Virus Disease Fund for my scrutiny, to enable me satisfy myself that the funds were properly spent in accordance with extant regulations and that government actually derived commensurate value for the monies expended.

“Similarly, the preliminary examination of the Cash Book and the Bank Statement relating to a commercial bank Account No. 20238265786 maintained for the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) by the Federal Ministry of Health revealed that amounts totalling N1,193,235,150.77 were paid out to various individuals and corporate entities between January 2014 and June 2015.

However, relevant transaction documents such as payment vouchers relating to these expenditures were not made available to my officers for audit. “The Cashbook produced was not properly maintained as specified in the Financial Regulations. The “Bank Reconciliation Statement” presented for audit was also not prepared in accordance with the format in the Financial Regulations.

“The purported Bank Reconciliation Statement was merely a list of receipts and payments extracted from the Bank Statement. Relevant transaction documents such as payment vouchers, invoices, award letters, Stores Receipt Vouchers, etc. relating to the expenditures were not produced for audit.

Therefore, I am unable to certify that these transactions were properly conducted in the interest of the Federal Government. “The Permanent Secretary has been requested to produce all the Payment Vouchers and other documents relating to this account for the period January 2014 – December 2015 for my examination, in line with Section 85(2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) and Financial Regulation 110.

“All the issues were brought to the attention of the Permanent Secretary through my Audit Inspection Report referenced OAuGF/HAAD/FMOA/16/011 and dated 7th September 2016. His response is still being awaited.”


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Late PIB passage threatens N4tr marginal fields earnings Mon, 11 Jan 2021 04:57:58 +0000 The Federal Government’s capacity to earn at least $10 billion or N4 trillion through the oil and gas industry, especially in the ongoing marginal fields…

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The Federal Government’s capacity to earn at least $10 billion or N4 trillion through the oil and gas industry, especially in the ongoing marginal fields licensing round, is dependent on a fiscal regime that will unlock about $30 billion capital stalled by delay in passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), findings by The Guardian have shown.

Though The Guardian had last year reported that the Federal Government might earn nothing less than $5.7 billion if it succeeds with its ongoing bid rounds for 57 marginal oil fields being offered to investors, further findings showed that untapped reserves of 300 million barrels of oil from about 200 marginal fields could generate $14.1 billion or N4.314 trillion for government.

With a budget deficit of N5.2 trillion for the current fiscal year, such inflow may help reduce exposure to Bretton Woods institutions for additional loans, thereby reducing Nigeria’s debt burden currently at N32.2 trillion.

However, growing uncertainties about crude oil exploration due to concerns over environmental issues of fossil fuels, funding gaps, legal issues, growing insecurity amidst other challenges had capped productions from marginal fields at about 51 million barrels yearly.

Like the downstream sector, the upstream sector equally awaits the outcome of the PIB for clear decisions on investments.

Affirming potential earnings from the fields, energy research and consultancy firm, Wood Mackenzie, noted that the 25 largest oilfields have the potential to unlock $9.4 billion of investment over the first five years and generate over $38billion over the life of the fields.

It however warned that investment levels in the upstream sector would stay flat at about $300 billion this year, as projects will increasingly be judged on their environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) credentials.

Further, oil producers consider the PIB as the one piece of legislation that could overhaul Nigeria’s oil sector and spur much needed investment in Africa’s biggest oil industry. While oil majors are not a part of the marginal field bid round, indigenous participants need collaborations from investors to finance field development and production.

Having set an initial target of 2020, the PIB suffered another setback pushing its potential passage till mid 2021, according to the National Assembly. The earlier Deep Offshore & Inland Basin PSC (Amendment) Act remains a bone of contention among operators, with many stalling their Final Investment Decisions (FIDs) on key projects.NIGERIA’s oil industry regulator, the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), said on October 13 that the country was seeking to increase its oil reserves, including condensates, substantially to 40 billion barrels by 2025.

Nigeria’s crude reserves, which stood at 38 billion barrels in 2015, have steadily declined over the past five years due to a combination of factors, including lack of funds, security challenges in the main oil-producing Niger Delta region and uncertainty over government’s oil sector reform that has stifled investment in new exploration programmes, industry analysts say.

Nigeria’s oil reserves were 36.8 billion barrels in January last year, a drop of 0.2 per cent from 2019, with the country missing a target of growing reserves as investment dries up.

Although Nigeria approved the development of NLNG train 7 last year, the African Energy Chamber (AEC) warned that the upstream gas developments that were planned to supply feed gas to this development might now take a back seat, if reforms were not carried out.

Nigeria had previously set the target of 2020, and later 2023, to raise its oil reserves to 40 billion barrels and crude oil production to three million b/d.

Almost two decades without any bid round, DPR in June last year announced commencement of oil bid round, offering about 57 fields located on land, swamp and shallow offshore terrains in the Niger Delta region up for auction, which it said would bolster its oil reserves and revenues battered by slump in global prices.

The marginal fields are spots discovered and left unattended for no less than 10 years from the date of discovery, or fields that leaseholders may consider for farm-out as part of portfolio rationalisation, according to the DPR.

Indigenous oil companies or independent producers handling the fields only produced 3,988,244 barrels in August 2019, 6,387,716 in September, 2,947,843 in October, 3,851,588 in November and 2,863,809 in December 2019.In 2020, the marginal field operators in January produced 2,693,737. They produced 4,504,573 barrels of oil in February, 4,523,944 in March, 4,780,105 barrels in April, 5,003,806 in April, 4,063,552 in June and 5,576,863 in July. These brought their production to 51,185,780 between August 2019 and July last year.

The Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) alone produced about 62,804,610 barrels of oil in the same period. From December 2018 to November 2019, the companies produced 55,793,614 barrels against the 60,852,643 barrels produced by NPDC.

Last week, DPR disclosed it had shortlisted 161 successful companies to advance to the next and final stage of the bid round process for the marginal oilfields. But stakeholders are worried over the ability of the players to turn around the nation’s stagnating reserves and daily production given the uncertainty in the oil and gas sector.

Exploratory activities are hitting the deadlock. Over $160 billion worth of upstream projects have been in limbo in the country. With the shocks from COVID-19 pandemic, more oil and gas companies are cutting investment as investors look to finance more of energy projects, especially renewable.

Even for companies that would focus on gas development, Wood Mackenzie had insisted that gas demand would come under pressure from breakthrough investment in renewables, energy storage in the power sector, efficiency improvement and adoption of new technologies in non-power sectors.

The think-tank had noted that green hydrogen would become a game changer in the long-term as it would emerge as a key competitor to gas consumption in the next two decades while achieving a 10 per cent share in the total primary energy demand by 2050.In Nigeria, where fiscal and regulatory uncertainties remain a challenge as game-challenging regulations like the Petroleum Industry Bill never made any progress for decades, funding challenge has been projected to compound prevailing problems, thereby limiting the capacity of investors to turn around fields.

A former President of Nigeria Association of Petroleum Explorationists (NAPE), Abiodun Adesanya, had linked challenges faced by marginal fields developers to funding, stressing that government counterpart funding for some of the projects could also be a challenge.

Partner and Head of Odujinrin & Adefulu’s Energy Practice & Real Estate and Mining Teams, Adeoye Adefulu believed that a lot of the people, who were awarded the first set of marginal field licenses lack financial and technical capacity, adding that they saw the licences as an end in itself.

Adefulu said: “The companies did not have the money. They were not prepared. The companies also had board issues. Most people thought the marginal field licence was the end in its self. A lot of people do not have the technical and financial capacity.”

Nigeria’s weak fiscal and regulatory climate were a major concern for the experts, who noted that although the landscape for indigenous participation in the oil and gas sector had changed, global challenges could affect investment in the field.

To him, while investors still go for fossil fuels, there are only interests in clear-cut environment where they can easily get returns for their money.

“Painfully, the investment climate in the country to many stakeholders remains a major challenge that could hamper or deter any investor. Nigeria has not done well in sanitising the investment environment as projects remain only in the pipeline waiting for the sector to be clear,” he added.

To avoid some of the issues faced with the initial licences, Adefulu noted that transparency remained critical, adding that there was need for bidders to have capacity financially and technically.

While there are challenges all over the world, he sees opportunities for Nigeria but noted that investors are concerned about the governance of the sector, stressing the need for bidders to have clear agenda with their partners.

To the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), the PIB should seek to protect existing investments from value erosion, adding that the assets and operations from such investments are the foundation upon which new projects can be built.

The Chamber, through its Director-General, Dr. Muda Yusuf, raised concerns about some sections of the bill that may affect the industry if not addressed, adding that the regulation that will be passed should be one that delivers value to the people.

“The current Bill marks positive steps toward achieving its stated goals. However, some of these improvements appear insufficient to deliver the true value to Nigeria, which the Bill aims to achieve. Some provisions in the bill could adversely affect the growth of the industry and the overall economy.

“With the COVID-19 pandemic potentially putting at risk the viability of ongoing and future projects and driving fierce competition for scarce investments around the world, Nigeria’s petroleum industry faces many country-specific challenges including Joint Venture Funding and Arrears, regulatory overlaps, insecurity and inadequate infrastructure for domestic gas development”, he added.MEANWHILE, some members of Niger Delta communities have insisted on right of first refusal, saying, further neglect of the region would be provocative and unacceptable.

The National Publicity Secretary of the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Ken Robinson, said the region has companies and people with the capability and capacity for marginal field ventures, hence the need for government to give them right of first refusal.

He said: “Earlier when this move started, PANDEF asked that the right of first refusal be given to our people and we are aware that some of our people also indicated interest by filling documents in the first bidding process. We don’t have the list of those that have been shortlisted yet, but if our people are not included measurably, it will be completely unacceptable, it will be highly provocative and we will not be surprised if some reactions followed the outcome if our people are not given special concession because it is our right.”

Similarly, the National Coordinator of South-South Elders Forum, Chief Anabs Sara-Igbe, said, one of the major agitations of the region had been the participation in the oil block.

He said, “Oil block is more than anything anybody can offer to us, so we believe that we should be involved in the participation of the oil activities in our area. The Oil Mineral Act has allowed northerners to be involved in the mining of minerals within their areas, but here we are not allowed, while they jail us for the oil in our areas, those in the north have not been arrested or jailed for mining their minerals.”

Also speaking, a renowned Niger Delta activist, Ms. Ann Kio Briggs, said agitations of the region had been against injustice, which forced armed youths to the creeks.

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Operators cautiously optimistic of real estate recovery in 2021 Mon, 11 Jan 2021 04:43:53 +0000 Notwithstanding the poor performance of the real estate sector last year, occasioned by the negative impact of the corona-virus pandemic, operators are optimistic that there…

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Notwithstanding the poor performance of the real estate sector last year, occasioned by the negative impact of the corona-virus pandemic, operators are optimistic that there could be an early rebound in 2021 if government lives up to its obligations.For a sector hugely dependent on the economic dynamics, experts were cautiously optimistic that real estate will recover in the first quarter.

The optimism stems from better understanding of the covid-19 virus coupled with the positive moves by the Central Bank Nigeria in foreign exchange regulation, the recent World Bank report of possible 1.1per cent growth in the nation’s economy and the slight increase in oil price.

They also want policy makers to move decisively to tame the pandemic and implement investment-enhancing reforms.
According to the Frist Vice President, Nigerian Institute of Architects (NIA), Enyi Ben-Eboh, the construction industry is normally one of the worst hit when there’s a downturn in the economy because priority is often diverted to subsistence sectors such as food, information technology and medicines.

However, with a better understanding of the covid-19 virus and availability various vaccines to tackle its spread,he said, life can begin to gradually return to normal and the economy can also start improving.

Eboh was also optimistic that the prices of basic construction materials like cement and a few others that spiralled out of the reach of most, especially in Q4 of 2020, will return to what they were in Q1 and Q2.

“This may be wishful thinking but all things being equal, 2021 will hopefully herald the gradual return to activities in the construction sector to near pre-pandemic levels. The general outlook is however that of a wait and see position,” he said.

For a past president of Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV), Joe Idudu, the hope of good performance for the sector in 2021 would depend largely on growth in the general economy.

The whole economy, he said, is down, despite what government has said. Idudu explained that as many people find it difficult to feed because the prices of food have skyrocketed, they are debarred from thinking of owning a property or going into property investment.

He urged policy change based on previous advice and ensure a general improvement in the economy pattern to reflect the reality.

According to him, “Government should move away from its control on land, and ensure that land ownership is free so that people can use their lands to borrow money and do businesses. “Government ownership on land won’t help. Where we are on the ease of doing business in the world is a disgrace. We are at the bottom.

“I don’t foresee any good news. The economy is down. The property industry is the one that would only improve when there is a general growth. People will generally not invest in property, which has a long gestation during difficult times,” he said.

Idudu, a former Chief Executive Officer of Knight Frank, an international firm of estate surveyors, valuers and chartered surveyors, observed that the property sector in Nigeria doesn’t follow the internationally established pattern.

He said: “for instance, everywhere in the world you only move into property through mortgage but in Nigeria, people move into properties by stealing from the government and other people’s money.

“Virtually all politicians in Nigeria go into politics because of self interest and when they are in position where the treasury is at their beck and call, they build massive blocks of houses without borrowing a kobo.

“These are not normal things. You go into estates in Nigeria where not a single property is occupied because those who built them have not borrowed to build. If you borrow to build, you cannot hold your property empty and unoccupied, the lender would pursue you but they don’t care because the money are most likely stolen,” he said.

Also, Nigeria’s leading real estate mogul and Managing Director of Delta Mega Trend, promoter of Plantation City, Warri, Mr. Sam Ogrih, said the real estate sector will rebound with the right products in the market.

He stressed that the reality on the ground now is that, people just want to have a sizeable property unlike the days when they want to build mansions.

“People now desire compact but functional houses that is what is going to drive the sector. But these are going to be budget driven and that is what will happen this year”, he said.

Ogrih urged government to focus on creating enabling environment and not to build houses for individuals because the plan to build houses of N3 million is not achievable with the price of cement at N4000 and government’s lack of control over price.

“Government should come out with policy that will allow workers to have access or qualify for mortgages, not just civil servant, a kind of mortgage facility.

The recent government’s policy on data like the compulsory requirement of National Identification Number (NIN) for the registration of phones will be a plus because one of the major challenges is ability to trace or get someone who obtains a loan.

“ So, with NIN, credit defaulters could easily be checked, unlike when there was no data. Now there is Banks Verification Number (BVN) linked to people’s banks and NIN to their phones. Besides, if you acquire a property you are now linked to it,” he added.

The Group Managing Director, Sparklight Group, a Lagos based property development company, Mr. Toyin Adeyinka said government’s policy on affordable and low income housing for Nigerians which it intends to use as a vehicle to address the economic recession would go a long way to create jobs for professionals and improve the sector in 2021.

He cautioned that Covid-19 is still around and might be a drag for the built environment quick recovery.

“Nevertheless, developers should be doing more in terms of affordable housing in 2021 than they did in 2020 because of government’s policy. The Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN) has been more focused on issue of cooperative loans, that should help too,” he stated.

Adeyinka, however, urged government to come up with strong policies on the control of imported building materials and the use of local building materials such as bricks, doors, tiles and windows .

“Whatever we can produce, we shouldn’t import. This should start with government’s projects. In Nigeria we make better rustic bricks, so government should come up with policies to protect institutions that produce such materials. We should also look at other design methods that consume low cement quantity because of the prices, which have gone up,” he added.

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