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We can’t continue to depend on other countries for vaccine — Fashola

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Babatunde Fashola, Minister of Works and Housing, says the country cannot continue to depend on other nations for vaccines during outbreak of pandemic.

Fashola, who is the Chairman of the Nigeria Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) Foundation, made this assertion virtually during a news conference organised by the foundation on Tuesday in Lagos.

He noted that there was need to develop human capacity in medical research to proffer solution to existing diseases of public health concern and other eventual pandemic like COVID-19.

The former governor of Lagos State said the NIMR Foundation, a non-profit organisation, was initiated to raise and mobilise funds to promote medical research work that would be of benefit to Nigerians.

Fashola said: “We cannot continue as a nation to depend on other nations of the world for vaccine during outbreak of pandemic.

“NIMR was founded in 1977 with the vision to lead medical research, while her contemporary in the U.S, Uk, India and other parts of the world are undertaking groundbreaking, farsighted development via research work in biosciences and biotechnology.

“NIMR has been limited due to funds, but it might surprise you that NIMR has demonstrated clearly to come up with research works despite this challenge in the areas of diagnostic kits for COVID-19, sickle cell, therapies and remedies that are life changing.”

According to him, the target of the foundation is to raise N10 billion to kick-start the programme that will be channeled into critical areas of research.

Speaking also, the 14th Emir of Kano, Lamido Sanusi, and also a member of the NIMR Foundation Board of Trustees, said it was time for the country to have that sense of urgency to improve access to education and healthcare.

Sanusi added that the foundation had engaged the service of UTL Trust Management Ltd., a leading asset management company, to handle funds that would be raised for critical areas of research

“For us to appreciate what is going on here, we have to look beyond statistics and look at the number of human behind most of this statistics of people dying or suffering from diseases that are peculiar to people in this part of the world.

“Some of these deaths are avoidable if we have the right mechanism in place to address them, that is why an advisory board is already in place to provide direction on the research work that will be embarked on.

“The foundation will also publish its reports on a yearly basis in line with global best practice,” he said.

Another member of the Board of Trustees, Prof. Oye Gureje, in his speech, noted that there was need for the NIMR and the scientific community in the country to be nimble in its approach to research.

Gureje said that nimbleness would give researchers the ability to refocus attention and deploy previous scientific capacity and capability to proffer solution to new health challenges, such that is visible in the developed countries.

“A feature that every research organisation must have is nimbleness.

” Three years ago, nobody ever imagined that something like COVID-19 will come up, even in the advanced research world, nobody has it on their priority list.

“But nevertheless, we can see what have happen in the last 18months and this is due to the refocusing of major research organisation in the world, an unprecedented development of vaccine was achieved.

“This was made possible because these organisation are nimble and one of the ways to achieve this is to build capacity for health research in the country,” he said.

Gureje, the Nigeria Director of World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre for Research and Training in Mental Health, Neurosciences in the University of Ibadan, said most of the research work by the foundation would focus on diseases that are peculiar to Nigerians.

He said they are non-communicable diseases, sickle cell, neglected tropical diseases among others.

Speaking earlier, Prof. Babatunde Salako, Director-General of NIMR, said the foundation was initiated to address some of the challenges hindering researchers from carrying out ground-breaking research work to tackle some of the health treats to Nigerians.

He said: “Nigeria, although Africa’s largest economy with potentially the highest concentration of medical schools and universities on the continent, faces some of the worst public health challenges including the highest global burden of malaria.

“Others are high burden of HIV, tuberculosis and emerging infections such as Lassa Fever, recurrent outbreaks of cholera, meningitis and yellow fever and increasing levels of non-communicable diseases.

“This disconnect has been attributed largely to the insufficient number of world class researchers and scientists to conduct research that inform policy and development of vaccines, medicines and technologies to address the nation’s healthcare needs.

“Presently in the country, promising junior, mid-level and well-trained senior researchers are often brain drained out of the country because of lack of research funds to enable them conduct high quality research in country.”

Salako noted that there was an urgent need to reverse the challenge through a sustained funding mechanism over the next decade that would systematically train critical mass of researchers to become global leaders.

“Empowering our researchers will help them to come up with also high-quality, cutting-edge research and develop home grown solutions to our health system challenges.

“More importantly, the institute should be driving partnerships with the private sector to translate findings of research into products and evidence for improving and strengthening our health systems,” he said.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that other members of the NIMR Foundation board of trustees include, Prof. Oni Idigbe, former D-G of NIMR, Dr Olajide Sobande and Mrs Moji Makanjuola a veteran broadcaster.

NAN also reports that the foundation was established in February 2020.

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ASUU postpones its decision on strike then hints at being blackmailed by the FG

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The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has announced that its decision on strike has been postponed.

The union made this known in a press statement released after its National Executive Council meeting, which held on Saturday, Dec. 18.

In the press statement titled, ‘Enough of blackmail’, signed by ASUU president, Prof Emmanuel Osodeke, the union members lamented that the Federal Government had turned its back on the plan to set up an inter-ministerial committee to review the draft Renegotiated 2009 FGN-ASUU Agreement.

The statement reads I part: “NEC was worried by the spirited efforts of government agents to reduce the demands of ASUU to a regime of intermittent payment of watered-down revitalisation fund and release of distorted and grossly devalued Earned Academic Allowances.

“ASUU shall not relent in demanding improvement in the welfare and conditions of service of our members. However, we shall resist any attempt to blackmail the union and derail our patriotic struggle for a productive university system by official propaganda founded on tokenism and crumb-sharing.

“NEC concluded that government has failed to satisfactorily address all the issues raised in the 2009 FGN-ASUU Agreement and subsequent MoUs and MoAs.

“However, considering the ongoing intervention and consultation efforts, NEC resolved to review the situation at a later date with a view to deciding on the next line of action.”

Earlier, ASUU had announced plans to embark on a strike over the Federal Government’s failure to meet its demands.

Apart from the Earned Academic Allowances, ASUU said its demands included the review of the NUC Act to curb the proliferation of universities by state governments who are not funding the existing ones; adoption of the University Transparency Accountability Solutions (UTAS) with concurrent discontinuance of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) and distortion in salary payment.

Others are the release of accumulated promotion arrears; and the review and signing of the draft document on the Renegotiation of 2009 ASUU-FGN Agreement.

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Buhari jets out Turkey for summit

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President Muhammadu Buhari will on Thursday leave Abuja for Istanbul, Turkey, to attend the third Turkey-Africa Partnership Summit, hosted by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of the Republic of Turkey.

According to the organisers, the theme of the Summit is ‘‘Enhanced Partnership for Common Development and Prosperity’’ and the agenda includes reviewing the cooperation between African countries and Turkey since the last Summit in 2014.

This was disclosed in a statement by Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media & Publicity, on Thursday morning.

The third Turkey-Africa Partnership Summit is coming on the heels of President Erdogan’s recent State visit to Nigeria during which several agreements in the fields of energy, defence industry, mining and hydrocarbons were signed to expand existing bilateral ties.

The Turkish leader had during the visit to Nigeria, affirmed his commitment to immediately expand the volume of trade between the two countries to 5 billion dollars and the Nigerian delegation will seize the opportunity of the gathering in Istanbul to enhance cooperation with other partners for more trade and investment opportunities in the country.

It is expected that the Summit would provide guidelines and direction for cooperation with African countries for the next five years.

President Buhari will be accompanied on the trip by his wife, Aisha Buhari; the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama; Defence, Maj-Gen. Bashir Magashi (Rtd); FCT, Mohammed Bello; Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire; Agriculture, Mohammed Abubakar; Industry, Trade and Investment, Adeniyi Adebayo; the National Security Adviser, Maj.-Gen. Babagana Monguno (Rtd); and the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency, Ambassador Ahmed Rufai Abubakar.

The President is expected back in Abuja on Sunday, December 19.

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Tackling scourge of banditry, terrorism remains Buhari’s priority Editorial– Presidency

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The Presidency says that tackling the scourge of banditry and terrorism remains Federal Government’s first priority, as President Muhammadu Buhari holds the victims and their families in his thoughts and prayers.

Malam Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, stated this in a statement on Sunday in Abuja while reacting to Sunday’s Daily Trust editorial: “Life has lost its value under Buhari’s Nigeria’’.

The presidential aide described the editorial as unfair comments, saying Daily Trust’s suggestion that the president exchanges violence for the support he got electorally is beneath a publication that claims any kind of political neutrality or integrity.

The statement read in part: “Given the seriousness of the issue raised by the Daily Trust today, the Office of the President would like to issue a response.

“The growing instability and violence in the North of Nigeria and elsewhere is unacceptable. No one, not least the Presidency underestimates the seriousness of the situation.

“Everyday, the President holds the victims and their families in his thoughts and prayers. Above all, he wishes to reassure them – and all Nigerians – that tackling the scourge of banditry and terrorism remains this government’s first priority.

“Sadly, in this respect, Nigeria is not unique. Violence and terror have risen steadily across the entire African continent over the last decade.

“The Economist magazine in a recent publication wrote about “The Next Afghanistan”, warning the global community of the horrifying security in our neighborhood, citing specifically the states of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.

“So we understand the frustrations of the Daily Trust and Nigeria’s northern communities about the ongoing challenges of security and the Buhari administration is no less worried.

“But it is only fair to say that Nigeria’s persistent and continued efforts to suppress that instability have seen results, with the terror group Boko Haram among others reduced to a shell of its former self.

“Yet, now we Nigerians face a new threat: the worst global health crisis in living memory. Even Nigeria that proudly holds the mantle of Africa’s largest economy is not immune from the debilitating economic impact of COVID-19.’’

According to the presidential aide, the economic instability that the pandemic has wreaked has proven an effective recruitment tool for bandits and terrorists across the continent.

Shehu, however, admitted that the Daily Trust had correctly identified the source of the violence as “an amalgam of many complex issues” such as poverty and unemployment.

“It is equally right to note that, in tackling the violence, “force alone will not be enough.” It is quite wrong, however, to suggest the problem of insecurity is intractable, and more wrong still to claim apathy on the part of the government.

“So what is the government doing?

“First, our military efforts have not let up. It is true that in the face of today’s growing number of threats from Boko Haram, kidnappers and IPOB to your run-of-the-mill bandits, our forces are stretched increasingly thin. But our dedicated soldiers are working around the clock to keep Nigerians safe.

“Second, alongside military force, this government is seeking to address the violence at its economic source.

“Massive infrastructure projects like the coastal rail and new train from the southern coast through the north-east to our neighbour Niger, aim to expand employment and opportunity across the country, bringing hope to our more remote and poorer regions where bandits and terrorists thrive.

“Third, even as the West continues to extricate itself from Africa militarily, we are lobbying our Western allies aggressively for partnership, investment and support in other areas,’’ he added.

According to the media aide, such areas include proscribing Boko Haram, bandits and IPOB as terrorist groups, which will severely dent their funding; for investment in trade and infrastructure, and to help lessen economic instability.

He said the western allies needed to help the country with technical assistance, advanced weaponry, intelligence and ordinance.

“This will likely be small comfort to the families and loved ones of those already lost. But make no mistake: this is a battle we are fighting without let up.

“The Daily Trust’s suggestion that the President exchanges violence for the support he got electorally is beneath a publication that claims any kind of political neutrality or integrity.

“Now is not the time for this sort of lurid political journalism.

“Now our focus as Nigerians must be on coming together and ending the violence. As President Buhari wrote recently of the terrorists in the UK paper, The Financial Times: “We will defeat them, one highway, one rail link – and one job – at a time.”

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