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Wike Lauds US, RSG’s Synergy To Fight HIV/AIDS …As Symington Unveils $75m Funding Grant

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The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has commended the United States Government for working with the state government to reduce the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the state.
Also, the United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Ambassador Stuart Symington said that the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) administered by the U.S. Centre for Disease Control (CDC), U.S. Department of Defence, and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) was implementing an Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART) surge programme in Rivers State to identify and provide treatment to approximately 180,000 PLHIV who have not previously received such.
The two leaders spoke at the Government House, Port Harcourt, yesterday, during a high-profile meeting on the promotion of the health of Rivers people.
Wike said: “I want to thank the Government of the United States for working with the Rivers State Government to reduce the prevalence of HIV/AIDS.
“I thank the United States Government for recognising the contributions of the Rivers State Government in the fight against HIV/AIDS “.
Wike assured the United States Government that his administration would continue to fund programmes that would reduce the prevalence of the healthcare challenge.
“We will continue to work for the reduction of HIV/AIDS in the state. We are glad that we are partners with the US Government. For us, health is key. Education is key. With Education, you can talk to people on measures to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS.
“At present, with the support of the United States Government, we are running 115 sites to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS”, he said.
He said that the health programmes of the Rivers State Government is yielding results as the immunisation statistics of the state has moved from 54 per cent to 82 per cent.
Speaking further, Wike thanked the United States Government for insisting that votes count in Rivers State during the last General Election.
He said that the United States Government ensured that democracy survived in the country, despite the fact that it came under threat.
It would recalled that Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike recently announced that the Rivers State Government would pay the user-fees for People Living with HIV in the state to access free treatment.
In his remarks, the United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Ambassador Stuart Symington said the U.S. Government’s $75million budget increase for HIV control activities in Nigeria, with about $25million allocated for the ART surge activities.
Symington thanked Wike for announcing his intent to eliminate user-fees for PLHIV.
The ambassador emphasized that Wike’s pronouncement serves as an example to other states and the Federal Government to eliminate such user-fees.
“The United States remains committed to supporting Nigeria as it works to reduce and ultimately eliminate the scourge of HIV/AIDS among its people,” Symington said.
He noted the increased funding to make anti-retrovirals available would enable more people living with HIV to lead healthy, productive lives until the day a cure for the virus is found.
Symington noted that disbursement of the additional PEPFAR HIV funds are contingent upon Nigerian federal and state governments’ reducing or eliminating financial barriers to PLHIV access to services, in particular fees charged by healthcare facilities for non-essential services or those already provided by PEPFAR.
The U.S. delegation was in Rivers State to advocate for elimination of user-fees for all people living with HIV, antenatal care charges for pregnant women living with the virus, and other barriers hindering PLHIV from accessing health services.
Earlier, on August 19, Symington had paid a similar visit to Akwa Ibom State Governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel in Government House, Uyo, the state capital, with members of the diplomatic corps.
During the meeting, Governor Udom Emmanuel applauded the existing bilateral relationship between Nigeria and the United States of America which has spanned several decades, and particularly thanked the US Ambassador for his contributions to make Akwa Ibom and Nigeria a global family through economic, educational and cultural cooperation.
He expressed appreciation to the diplomatic corps in their observer role during the last elections in the country and the rich counsel to the stakeholders for a hitch-free democratic process.
The state chief executive also expressed appreciation to the United state for the choice of Akwa Ibom in the pilot scheme to reduce the HIV/AIDS pandemic is a coastal state bordering other state and countries who interface daily for commerce and other economic pursuits, adding that Akwa Ibom is richly blessed by human and economic potentials and sued for more bilateral cooperation to create wealth both for the state and country.
He described Symington as a brother with a passion for humanity and expressed regret that his tenure in the country as an ambassador is short-lived and wished him well as he returns to his home country.
In his remark, the outgoing Ambassador of the United States of America, Mr Stuart Symington, had described Governor Udom Gabriel Emmanuel’s vision to industrialize Akwa Ibom State, equipped health care facilities and provide beautiful road network as placing the state on the global map as the state with the treasure.
While expressing appreciation to the people of Akwa Ibom and Nigeria for the hospitality accorded him throughout his stay in the country, the US envoy said that for sustainable development his country has chosen Akwa Ibom for the implementation of the health care support next year to stem the tide of HIV/AIDS pandemic and make the state a place for succour to those affected by the disease.
These, he said, was buoyed by the love for humanity and the future of the younger generations and those unborn.
He said that provision is made for a hundred and thirty patients to benefit from the Health support system.
The highpoint of the event was a toast proposed by former Ambassador to Russia, Chief Assam Assam SAN, for long-lasting relationships and love for humanity in the global family.
Earlier, Akwa Ibom State Government had disclosed that it is set to partner the United States of America in healthcare and other development efforts aimed at making life meaningful to humanity.
Udom said that his administration has invested so much to transform the health care delivery system to save lives.
According to him, you cannot talk about human capital development without a functional health care system.
Udom expressed appreciation to the US and its development agencies in the plan to partner the state in the fight against HIV/AIDS to reduce the scourge in the country and other countries within the Gulf of Guinea.
The state chief executive described as alarming the 130,000 targets set by the agency to address the menace, and called for accuracy and transparency in the records and expenditures of funds allotted for the program.
He, however, said that as a border state in the coastal region, there is an influx of people from other states and countries to transact business in the state it becomes expedient to partner to save humanity in the global family.
Udom said that relevant agencies would have to collaborate with personnel from the state, and expressed the hope that with the health care facilities on ground Akwa Ibom best suits the pilot scheme and thanked the United States for the choice of the state for the programme.
The governor, however, took exception to the fact that over $30 billion had been expended in the fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic without any verifiable records, nor input from the relevant agencies in the state.
He congratulated Governor Emmanuel on his re-election and the investment in the health care delivery system as well the industrialization of the state.
He said the visit which is his last as the Ambassador to Nigeria was to intimate the government and people of the state of the United States contributions to stem the HIV/AIDS pandemic and to provide necessary assistance to those who are infected and to provide drugs, equipment and personnel to help humanity.
Symington applauded Governor Emmanuel for the high premium placed on the healthcare delivery system and his efforts at transforming all the secondary health centres to meet international standards.
He sued for collaboration to stem the tide of HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases.
The ambassador pledged his governments readiness to partner the state in education, healthcare, agriculture and commerce.

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Make Laws To Advance Nigeria, Not Selves, Fubara Tells NASS …Seeks Concerns Of Women, Issues In Difficult Terrains Addressed

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Rivers State Governor, Sir Siminalayi Fubara, has challenged the National Assembly Joint Committee on Electoral Matters to focus on amendments that contribute to improving the electoral process in the country for good of society and not to advance individual gains.
The Governor maintained that any legislation targeting to empower or undo particular individual(s) is misplaced, and urged the lawmakers never to pay attention to identified problems it promoted.
Governor Fubara gave the charge when he hosted a delegation of the National Assembly Joint Committee on Electoral Matters, led by its Chairman, Senator Sharafadeen Abiodun Alli and co-Chair, Hon Adebayo Balogun, on courtesy visit to Government House in Port Harcourt, yesterday.
The Governor said: “You are still working on your electoral amendment. I wouldn’t say much on that until when we see your proposal and conduct public hearing where we will make our inputs.
“But, legislate in such a way and manner, knowing full well that tomorrow, you will also sit here (executive). So, don’t do it because you are on the other side. And you say, maybe, let it be at the disadvantage of the people sitting here.
“Do your legislation in such a way and manner that when you sit here, those laws that are made can also apply to you, and you will sit and say, yes, I did the right thing.”
Governor Fubara noted that Nigeria is in a very trying time, and needed to be careful not to make costly mistakes that would erase any good work that has been done in the minds of the people to necessitate a fresh start.
The Governor explained that the level of political awareness and the drive among the people to be involved in the political process is higher now than it was about 20 years ago, and urged the lawmakers to be more sensitive to the realities of the times.
Governor Fubara said: “Everybody now understands that political involvement is the key to a better and developed state. Everybody wants to be part of the system, from the local government to the state and to the Federal Government.
“So, I am happy that we are doing this at this time; and not just doing this but taking the most critical aspect of the election: women. If we are talking about election, it is not the men, the true votes that are counted in elections are women and youths.
“So, taking up this very delicate and sensitive subject to addressing the situation at this time, I think the National Assembly is trying to understand and to feel the pulse of our people.”
Governor Fubara particularly noted how difficult it is to conduct elections in Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta, and Ondo states because most of the communities are riverine and could take more than two days journey to access them on sea amidst the scare of being kidnapped or suffer boat mishap.
Governor Fubara applauded the committee for the courage to take on such sensitive task of embarking on sensitisation of the people and engaging with them on best way to ensure that they enjoyed greater safety during elections.
He said, “I believe that after this committee’s sensitization programme that you are doing, it is going to help us have a framework that will help us get an amendment that will protect the interest of the women, protect elections in difficult terrains.
“Because most times, when elections are conducted, we will wait two days or more before results from different areas will come in. And when they come, at times, these results decide the total picture of the election.
“Considering this now, I believe that you will come out, work out something that will help us solve this difficult problem.
“But, most importantly, to encourage women, give them opportunity more than the 35 percent Affirmative Action, and something that will give them assurance that they should be part of this process.”
Governor Fubara said his administration understands the importance of opportunities when given and what it means to give people opportunities to actualise their aspirations.
The Governor, therefore, assured that whatever the recommendations they make, if they make it public, the Rivers State will be one of the states that will first implement them.
He added, “But, most importantly, we want you to be our ambassadors. You are a visitor to Rivers State today. You have seen us. When you go back, you should also tell them that it is not really those things that you are hearing. Tell them that Rivers State is organised. Tell them that Rivers State is focused, and the leadership is purposeful for the people.”
In his address, the Chairman, National Assembly Joint Committee on Electoral Matters, Senator Sharafadeen Abiodun Alli, said they are in the State for what he described as the second in the series of zonal engagements of the people on the proposed amendment to the Electoral Act, 2022.
Senator Alli stated that there is no doubting the fact that Nigeria has never had an Electoral Act that is as good as the one of 2022, but noted that as soon as the 2023 elections were over, flaws were noticed that needed to be addressed.
He said, “And, I must say without being inmodest, that this is the first time this is happening in the history of the National Assembly. Because we felt that for us, for our people to have confidence in the electoral process, they should be involved in the lawmaking process, and we have decided to go round.”
Senator Alli further said: “About two months ago, we were at Ibadan to talk to the youths and the traditional institutions. Today, we came in here, and it is continuing tomorrow to talk about the issues of legislation: the women and elections in difficult terrains.
“We put this because, apart from the issues of the women and the youths; the South-South, because of the topography of the place (region), it is one of the most difficult terrains we are having difficulties in conducting elections in Nigeria.
“And we need to let the people tell us how the challenges they are facing during elections could be ameliorated in the lawmaking process, hence our coming here,” he added.
He solicited the support of the Government and people of the State and the zone in efforts to fashion a workable electoral amendment that would address the concerns of majority, if not all Nigerians.

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Spain Puts Forward 11 Stadia To Host World Cup 2030

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The Spanish FA are reportedly set to confirm the 11 venues that will make up their end of the 2030 World Cup.
The game’s global showcase will take place in Spain, Portugal and Morocco in six years’ time with the final set to take place at Santiago Bernabéu.
But 10 more stadia are set to be put forward by RFEF by the deadline set by FIFA, according to our sources.
Games will take place in: Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao, San Sebastian, La Coruña, Zaragoza, Seville, Malaga and Gran Canaria, the Madrid-based sources claimed.
Neither Vigo nor Valencia, as initially planned, will be present amongst the host cities.
Madrid and Barcelona will both have two stadia present with the Santiago Bernabéu and Civitas Metropolitano in the capital and Camp Nou and Stage Front Stadium in Barcelona.
Meanwhile, FIFA has announced their summer update to the men’s world ranking list with some significant movers.
Argentina’s Copa América victory sees them keep hold of top spot, while France’s disappointing European Championship isn’t enough to dislodge them from second.
Spain are the biggest movers near the summit, rising five places to third, while Belgium drop down to sixth and Colombia enter the top 10 as a result of their run to the Copa final.
Elsewhere, Türkiye have shot up 16 places to 26th due to their Euros showing and Venezuela move from 54th to 37th as a result of their recent showings, making them the biggest overall movers.

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Tinubu Tasks Ambassadors On Enhancement Of Economic Value

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President Bola Tinubu received some ambassadors at the Presidential Villa yesterday.
President Tinubu in Abuja called for the enhancement of the economic value of bilateral relations between Nigeria and partner nations.
The president spoke when he received Letters of Credence from the Ambassadors of Portugal, Jorge Adao Martins Dos Santos; the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Biu Quoc Hung; and the State of Kuwait, Salim Khalifa Mohammed Almuzayen, at the Presidential Villa.
Tinubu expressed his appreciation for Nigeria’s long-standing relations with Portugal and the shared interest in the areas of trade and culture, as well as partnership in oil and gas, which had translated into gains for both countries.
“It is good to have you in Nigeria. I am happy you are familiar with Nigeria and the environment.
“I believe that with your presence, our bilateral relations will be further improved. I am happy you are also present in other West African countries.
“I have been informed of your economic interest in Nigeria. We need to work together for more localised productions as regards mineral deposits.
“I have an open-door policy, and you can always reach me through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and my Chief of Staff, Right Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila,” the president said.
To the Ambassador of Vietnam, President Tinubu said the manufacturing sector in Nigeria was ready to benefit from the automating skills and technology of the Asian country.
“Thank you for coming to work in Nigeria. We share a lot with Vietnam in terms of diversity and values.
“We really value our bilateral agreements with your country, Vietnam, especially in the area of technology. We look forward to adding more value to the partnership with you in terms of collaboration for development,” he said.
President Tinubu also thanked the ambassador of Kuwait for his country’s long-standing good relations with Nigeria and extended his appreciation to the Emir and the Crown Prince.
“I am glad we are pulling strings to enhance the value of our relationship. We are both committed to the development of our people and will explore opportunities for economic ties. I have an open-door policy so you can always reach me,” the president said.
In his response, the Ambassador of Portugal said investors from his country had a keen interest in Nigeria, and that the trade with Nigeria on gas predated the war between Russia and Ukraine, and would be sustained.
“I will work on our agreements on improving economic relations. There is no shortage of interest in the areas of development where we can be partners.
“We are one of the highest buyers of gas from Nigeria, and we remain grateful for the supplies.
“Portuguese companies are also handling the rail line construction from Kano to Niger Republic. It will be ready in two years,” the Portuguese Ambassador said.
His Vietnamese counterpart said: “Under your leadership, I see Nigeria overcoming most of her challenges and taking its place among the happiest people in the world.”
Hung added that he was in the country to strengthen relations and improve economic ties.
The Ambassador of Kuwait assured President Tinubu that he would do his best to strengthen bilateral ties for the mutual benefit of both countries.

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