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Lassa Fever: Senate Summons Minister …As Death Toll Hits 41

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L-R: Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom  Wike, his wife, Justice Suzzette and the Archbishop of Anglican Church, Niger Delta Province,Archbishop Ignatius Kattey, at the Inter-denominational service to mark the 2016 Armed Forces Remembrance Day in Port Harcourt  on Sunday.

L-R: Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, his wife, Justice Suzzette and the Archbishop of Anglican Church, Niger Delta Province,Archbishop Ignatius Kattey, at the Inter-denominational service to mark the 2016 Armed Forces Remembrance Day in Port Harcourt on Sunday.

The Senate yesterday directed that the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, should appear before the members to brief them on the outbreak of Lassa fever in 10 States of the federation.
This followed a motion by Senator Olanrewaju Tejuoso (APC-Ogun Central), which was co-sponsored by five other senators.
Lassa fever is an acute viral hemorrhagic fever caused by Lassa virus.
The Senate, just back from Christmas and New Year holidays, urged the Federal Government, health agencies and non-governmental organisations to carry out aggressive sensitisation in affected states.
It also suggested that the awareness on preventive measures of the scourge should be created at markets, restaurants, schools and other public places.
While condoling with families that had lost persons to the disease, the lawmakers advised Nigerians to adhere to rules of personal hygiene as well as report cases of persistent high fever to the nearest health centre.
Tejuoso, while moving the motion, expressed concern that since a similar outbreak in 2014, which claimed 20 lives, nothing had been done to check further outbreak of the disease.
He claimed that the fever had frequently infected people in Africa and resulted in 300,000 to 500,000 cases annually, and no fewer than 5,000 deaths each year.
He said that in spite of “this awareness, health and corporate agencies in Nigeria, emphasise on awareness creation only after new cases appears.’’
The legislator expressed concern that if nothing urgent was done to curtail further outbreak and spread of the disease, it would reach a magnitude where it could be declared a national emergency.
President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, called on the Federal Ministry of Health to provide adequate fund for the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
He said that it was expedient for the centre to be adequately funded to enable it function effectively in curtailing the spread and further outbreak of the disease.
He also called on the Senate Committee on Health to interface with the ministry in ensuring that the disease was properly managed.
“The most important issue is that the Committee on Health should do its oversight by engaging with the Minister of Health on how far the ministry has gone in tackling the problem,’’ he said.
A minute silence was, thereafter, observed for those who had lost their lives to the disease.
Our correspondent reports that states currently affected by the outbreak of the disease are Taraba, Rivers, Bauchi, Nassarawa, Niger, Kano, Edo, Plateau, Gombe and Oyo.
Meanwhile, The Federal Government says Lassa fever has claimed 41 lives from 93 reported cases in 10 states of the country.
It would be recalled that the Federal Government on Friday put the death toll at 40 out of 86 reported cases of Lassa fever outbreak in same 10 states.
The number of the suspected cases also rose from 86 last week to 93.
The Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole,  confirmed this in Abuja yesterday at a joint ministerial news conference on the update of the outbreak of the disease.
However, Adewole said there were no new confirmed cases or death in the last 48 hours.
He did not disclose the state from which the additional life was lost.
“In the last 48 hours the government raised a four-man expert committee, chaired by Prof. Michael Asuzu, to visit Kano, Niger and Bauchi, the three most endemic states.
“The committee will embark on a fact finding mission, assess the current situation, document response experiences, identify gaps and proffer recommendations on how to prevent future occurrences,’’ he said.
The minister assured the public that the task of the committee was not to apportion blame but rather to document lessons learnt for better planning of an affective responsive.
According to Adewole, part of the long term response is to establish an inter-ministerial committee to deliver a final blow on Lassa fever and other related diseases.
The committee comprised the ministers of Education, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Environment, Information and Culture as well as Health.
Adewole advised communities to improve on their hygiene, including food hygiene and food protection practices.
He also urged the public to avoid contact with rodents and rats as well as food contaminated with rat’s secretions and excretions.
“Avoid drying food in the open and along roadsides, it is also important to cover all foods to prevent rodents contamination,’’ he said.
The minister said affected states have been advised to intensify awareness creation on the signs and symptoms of the disease.
According to him, the affected states are Bauchi, Nasarawa, Niger, Taraba, Kano, Rivers, Edo, Plateau, Gombe and Oyo.
“The public is hereby assured that government and other stakeholders are working tirelessly to address the outbreak and bring it to timely end,’’ said the minister.
He said the ministry had ordered for the immediate release of adequate quantities of “ribavirin’’, the specific antiviral drug for Lassa fever, to the affected states for prompt treatment of cases.
Adewole said Nigeria has the capability to diagnose Lassa fever, adding that “all the cases reported so far were confirmed by our laboratories’’.
The first case of the current outbreak was reported from Bauchi in November 2015.

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North Can Live Without VAT Accruals, NEF Boasts …Backs Wike, Southern Govs On Fiscal Federalism, Restructuring

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The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has boasted that the North was a rich region, and can survive on its resources without the “billions” accruing to Southern states.
The NEF Director of Publicity and Advocacy, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, made this known, yesterday, when he featured on Arise TV’s ‘The Morning Show’ breakfast programme.
He was reacting to the tussle between states and the Federal Government on the collection of Value Added Tax (VAT).
VAT is a consumption tax paid when goods are purchased and services are rendered, and charged at a rate of 7.5 per cent.
Although Rivers and Lagos states have started the process of collecting VAT within their territories, the Court of Appeal, in a ruling on September 10, ordered that status quo be maintained pending the determination of an appeal filed by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) against the judgment of the Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt.
Apart from Lagos and Rivers states, Ogun State has also started the process of passing a bill on VAT in its House of Assembly.
At the Southern Governors’ Forum meeting in Enugu, last Thursday, the 17 governors insisted that they have the constitutional mandate to collect VAT, and vowed to ensure that the rule of law prevails in the matter.
While some northern governors like Aminu Masari (Katsina), Yahaya Bello (Kogi), amongst others, had kicked against the move, the 17 Southern Governors led by Governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) had unanimously supported the position that “the collection of VAT falls within the powers of the states.”
Speaking, yesterday, during the television programme, Baba-Ahmed said, “I will advise that we wait to hear what the court says. However, even the fact that it has become an issue suggests that we really do need to address the fundamentals and the manner in which the federation works.
“We have always supported restructuring. We have always asked that a major and genuine shift initiative either by groups or the National Assembly so that matters like this be addressed properly.
“If we don’t do that now, then, we should get a leader that would do that in 2023. This administration appears not to understand the importance of restructuring; we do in the North, we recognise the fact that we need to change the manner in which we generate wealth and allocate (it).
“The thing is: the North wants restructuring; the North wants fiscal federalism. We are a rich region, and we can live on what we have, even if we don’t have the billions that accrue to others states. Our poverty is not a kind of problem that we would break this country over.”
According to him, the VAT war is a wake-up call to northern governors who need to recognise the fact that VAT or no VAT, they need to develop their resources and develop the human capital of the North.
The NEF spokesman added, “North, you said you have many people but you are under-developing your own people – the biggest liability of the North is that we have a huge population that is under-developed. You need to develop the human capital that you have.
“We need leaders; the current governors don’t recognise this. Otherwise, they won’t be involved in this argument; allow the court to decide.
“But for goodness sake, (they should) begin to think — what else can we do if the court decides now that Rivers State is right, Lagos State is right, and the Southern states are right, and they won’t be getting all these billions coming in from VAT? What happens?”
Baba-Ahmed said the Northern governors at this stage should not be sleeping, noting that the North is “sitting on wealth, we have massive resources in this country, we have to fight insecurity first, and the Federal Government has to help us, we need to clear the bushes, the forests and all the criminals that are there, and we need to go back to farming.
“Agriculture is a major asset; we have land, we have water, we have livestock, we have minerals that are literally begging to be picked from the ground but our governors are too focused on the pittance that they are getting. This is wrong”, he argued.

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Boxing: Joshua Facing Toughest Test In Usyk?

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Boxing champion, Anthony Joshua could face his toughest test yet when he fights Oleksandr Usyk in London on Saturday, says ex-world champion George Groves.
Joshua, 31, puts his WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO world heavyweight titles on the line against Usyk, a former undisputed cruiserweight world champion.
The 34-year-old Ukrainian has won all 18 professional fights, beating Tony Bellew and Derek Chisora on that run.
“Technically, Usyk is brilliant,” said Groves . “He showed that in unifying the cruiserweight division in great fights and I believe he could be Joshua’s toughest test to date. This is the first fight when I wouldn’t be surprised if Joshua got beaten.
“Joshua has fought [Wladimir] Klitschko and been in with Joseph Parker and also been beaten [by Andy Ruiz] and the only question mark for Usyk Is he big enough to compete with AJ?
“If Usyk keeps a high pace and makes Joshua miss with a lot of shots, that will work to Usyk’s advantage as he has probably got a better engine.
“Joshua is a phenomenal athlete with tremendous punching power and strength but has a tendency to tire out if the pace is uncomfortable for him.”
A crowd of more than 60,000 is expected and it will be the largest attendance Joshua has fought in front of since his win over Alexander Povetkin with 80,000 at Wembley Stadium in September, 2018.
Since then, Joshua has lost to Ruiz in New York before winning the rematch in Saudi Arabia and gained a ninth-round victory over Bulgaria’s Kubrat Pulev at Wembley Arena last December, with only 1,000 fans attending because of Coronavirus restrictions.
Both Joshua and Usyk won gold medals at the 2012 London Olympics, at super-heavyweight and heavyweight respectively, with the Briton going on to win 24 of his 25 professional fights, including 22 inside the distance.
Meanwhile, Dillian Whyte, who lost to Joshua in 2015 and is pushing for a rematch with him or a shot at WBC champion, Tyson Fury, believes the key to beating Usyk on Saturday is to adopt an attacking strategy.
“I think it’s a great fight and Joshua will stop him in the first six or seven rounds,” Whyte told Tidesports source.
“Usyk will start fast and Joshua should be cagey as Usyk is a bit lighter. Joshua can sometimes lack confidence but hopefully he goes back to the old him, starts pressing, being the bigger, stronger guy and gets the job done early.
“If Joshua sets the pace, he can get an early knockout and if he is strong, confident and walks him down, then I don’t see Usyk’s punches troubling Joshua.”
Groves, who held the WBA Super-Middleweight belt in 2017 and 2018, added: “If I was Joshua, I would take control of the ring and try to dominate and bully off the front foot.
“Usyk will want to be off the back foot for the first couple of rounds, then try to pepper Joshua.
“If I was in the Joshua camp, I would say: You want to keep this guy in his box. You don’t want Usyk having any confidence, so hit him hard and early.
“In the first three rounds, you want to land something big on him.”
Promoter Eddie Hearn also suggested Joshua could get an early victory.
Hearn said: “I’m always nervous for an Anthony Joshua fight, especially when you’re fighting someone that really believes he is going to win”.

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2022 AFCON: ‘Cameroon On Track’

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The Confederation of African Football (CAF) President, Patrice Motsepe, has said that Cameroon is “on track” to successfully host the Africa Cup of Nations early next year after visiting Olembe Stadium in Yaounde last weekend.
The venue will host the opening match and final of the AFCON in January and February of 2022.
A CAF delegation, including President Motsepe and General Secretary, Veron Mosengo-Omba, were joined by Cameroon’s Sports Minister, Professor Narcisse Mouelle Kombi in inspecting progress made at the Olembe Stadium and various other facilities in the capital city.
“I’m very satisfied with the briefing I got and what I saw. I saw the Olembe Stadium and it is world class; we should all be proud as people of Cameroon and as Africans,” said Motsepe, as quoted by CAF’s website.
“We must applaud Cameroon [for] building such infrastructure. In partnership with the Government, the Minister of Sports, LOC, FECAFOOT President and CAF administration under Veron [Mosengo-Omba], I’m certain that in January next year, the rest of the world will be impressed. I’m very satisfied with what I have seen. We are on track.”
Motsepe continued: “The quality of football that will be played here will once again show the world that Africa has the quality to one day win the FIFA World Cup, that is the ultimate goal. The AFCON is special and I think it is important for us to set the tone in Cameroon.”
Mosengo-Omba also heaped praises on Olembe Stadium: “The infrastructure and architecture of the stadium is world class and can be compared to many other famous stadiums globally. In Cameroon, we have six beautiful match venues. Our job now is to ensure that we are ready with everything else.”

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