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PSC role critical to success of Nigeria’s COVID-19 response– Mamora

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Mamora

The Minister of State for Health, Sen. Olorunnimbe Mamora, says the Presidential Task Force, which later metamorphosed into presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19, contributed to the success of the Nigerian COVID-19 response.

Mamora said this at a two- day  special National Council on Health (NCH) meeting on Thursday, in Abuja with  the theme “The Journey to Attaining Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): Applying Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic Towards Building A Resilient National Health System”.

FELLOW PRESS reports that the 2014 National Health Act recognises the NCH as the highest policy-making body within Nigerian health sector.

The responsibilities of the NCH include the protection, promotion, improvement and maintenance of the health of the citizens of Nigeria and the formulation of policies.

The Council is also tasked with ensuring the delivery of basic health services to the people of Nigeria.

The minister said that the approach also showed the importance of multisectoral involvement in addressing health system and service delivery challenges.

“Therefore, going forward there is a need to build on these learnings and gains to ensure “mainstreaming health in all policies”. This is because several determinants of health are not particularly within the purview and jurisdiction of the ministry of health but other sister ministries.

“We now have new evidence that shows the impact of multisectoral collaboration in moving public health interventions forward.

“Existing and new relevant platforms can be leveraged to bring all stakeholders together to build a resilient and responsive health system that will propel the nation towards achieving SDGs,” he said.

He said that before the pandemic, the use of digital technologies in health was limited.

He, however, said that  based on key learnings, the country had  deployed digital technologies in both clinical and public health settings as part of the response strategy to the pandemic and these had further advanced effectiveness and efficiency.

“Some other measures include the use of telemedicine and guided telephone calls in consultations and service delivery, use of SMS in prescriptions and follow up, use of virtual platforms in training healthcare workers.

“Others include  use of mobile apps in contact tracing and adverse drug reaction reporting and tracking, use of video calls to enable patients have contact with their relatives during quarantine, isolation and treatment.

“The use of social media for health promotion, tracking fake news and addressing myths and fake information constitutes part of our strategy. These innovations have been shown to contribute to making our health systems more responsive.

“On this account, we will evaluate our investments in digital health to identify gaps that must be bridged and built upon through the use and application of digital technologies in healthcare delivery.

“This is because our COVID-19 response experience has shown that digital technology can be leveraged upon to bridge gaps and deficiencies in all facets of our health system and can be further maximized as an efficiency tool and instrument that will aid our national pursuit of the SDGs targets,” he explained.

Mamora reflected on the gains and challenges based on the strategies that were deployed at the early stages of the response to the pandemic; noting that there was the closure of international borders which consequently resulted in the scarcity of medicines and medical consumables.

“This challenge gave the country a push to look inwards with a view to harnessing our in-country capacity for the local production of medical products and consumables.

“For instance, the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) produced COVID -19 PCR and rapid test kits, hand sanitizers, PPEs, and face masks during the closure of international borders.

“The National Institute of Pharmaceutical Research and Development also produced sanitizers and some other medical products. Currently, the Federal Government is working towards advancing local vaccine production strategies.

“This initiative will not only increase the availability of local medicine and vaccines but also contribute to the economic development of the country and human capital development. Furthermore, the pandemic resulted in reprioritized investments in public health preparedness infrastructure,” he explained.

He added that the country moved from three public health labs pre-pandemic to more than 36 molecular public health laboratories around the country.

“We now have five genomic laboratories for genomic sequencing and the availability of clinical oxygen has been boosted with approval for the installation of oxygen plants in all states of the federation.

“Although there is still much to be done in increasing investments in health infrastructure and boosting local production of medicines and vaccines.

“Leveraging on the investments done during the pandemic and effective use of the knowledge garnered will contribute in no small measure towards building a robust health system capable of accelerating the attainment of the SDGs,” he added.

The minister said that a key challenge faced at the peak of COVID-19 pandemic response was mistrust in the scientific measures in mitigating the pandemic.

“This showed up in vaccine hesitancy and poor compliance to physical distancing and the use of face masks. However, we used the strategy of engagement and working alongside community members through religious, traditional, and political leaders to surmount these challenges.

“Furthermore, we also engaged critical stakeholders to inform service delivery, decision-making, governance, and campaigns to meet the needs of our communities.

“These have been shown to be effective in developing trust and enhancing uptake in public health interventions for mitigating health emergencies. Therefore, we must strengthen community engagement as it has enormous potential for contributing towards our journey to achieving the SDGs,” he said.

Mamora noted that the COVID-19 Pandemic had made it clearer the need for  the country to be able to rely on its healthcare system to provide effective, efficient services and very importantly with financial risk protection at all times, at all levels for our people.

“The National Health Act (NHAct), 2014 has provisions that can turn around our healthcare systems, but the challenge is implementation. Therefore, it is our collective responsibility to ensure that we maximize the provisions of this law through the full operationalization.

“I have no doubt that if this is done, we would achieve a resilient and responsive health system that will move us close to our collective dream,” he stressed.

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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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