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UK Pledges £105m To Assist Nigeria, Others Tackle Omicron

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The United Kingdom (UK) has pledged the sum of £105million to help tackle Omicron in Nigeria and other African countries.
The British High Commission, Abuja, said in a statement that the £105million of emergency aid will help countries most in need to tackle Omicron and other COVID-19 variants, with a particular focus on Africa.
The British High Commission also said funding will help millions of people by supporting measures to reduce transmission, scale-up testing, and boost oxygen supplies.
It added that the UK has now fulfilled its pledge to donate 30million Coronavirus vaccine doses by the end of 2021, marking the one-year anniversary of the UK becoming the first country to approve the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.
“The UK Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss, has pledged up to £105million of UK emergency aid to help vulnerable countries tackle the Omicron COVID-19 variant, with a particular focus on Africa. The vital aid will be delivered through trusted partners, such as the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), and will:
“Scale-up testing – especially in parts of Africa where testing rates for COVID-19 remain lowest – allowing health systems to track and respond to the spread of the virus more effectively. This is in addition to the UK’s world-leading genomic sequencing support.
“Improve access to oxygen supplies for ventilators – a surge in demand for oxygen is a significant risk for some countries.
“Provide communities with hygiene advice, products and access to handwashing facilities and support deep cleaning in schools, health centres and other public places. This will build on the successful global hygiene campaign between UK aid and Unilever which has reached over 1.2billion people since its launch in 2020.
“Fund the UK’s ground-breaking science and research into the spread of variants like Omicron to enable innovative evidence-based policy responses in low and middle-income countries.
“Ready the UK’s own expert emergency teams for deployment overseas to crisis hotspots, including with new medical equipment,” the British High Commission said.
The British High Commission further said the Government of the United Kingdom has also confirmed that over 30million vaccines have been delivered so far as part of the UK’s pledge to donate 100million doses to the world, benefitting more than 30 countries, including Nigeria.
“Doses donated by the UK have reached four continents and provided vital protection from COVID-19 in countries including Nigeria, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana and Rwanda. Of the more than 30million doses now donated so far, 24.6million have been received by COVAX for delivery to countries and 5.5million have been shared directly with countries in need. The UK has so far donated to Nigeria over 1.2m doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines through COVAX in 2021. Millions more vaccines will be sent to Nigeria and other countries in 2022, including 20million Oxford-AstraZeneca doses and 20million Janssen doses.
“The UK has been at the forefront of the global response to COVID-19. Today’s announcement builds on the £1.3billion in UK aid committed to the international health response early on in the pandemic, supporting vaccines, health systems and economic recovery in developing countries. The UK Government has also invested more than £88million to support the development of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, and the UK became the first country in the world to approve the jab a year ago today.
“In Nigeria, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) supported the improved capability and capacity of the NCDC for COVID genomic sequencing, which has now conducted more than 2000 tests compared to about 400 tests six months ago. The UKHSA is also building the diagnostic capacity in Nigeria for common childhood diseases, such as pertussis (whooping cough) and other diseases of public health significance. The UKHSA is also supporting the development of national and subnational health security plans, including building the technical and leadership capacity within the NCDC. The UKAid funded Lafiya programme has also supported the procurement of £2million worth of PPE kits, protecting more than 5,000 health workers in the five Northern States: Borno, Yobe, Kaduna, Kano and Jigawa.
“Thanks to AstraZeneca’s commitment distribute the vaccine on a non-profit basis, 2.5billion doses have been used in more than 170 countries, two thirds of which are low- and middle-income countries,” the British High Commission added.
Following the pledge, Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss said: “The UK is providing vital assistance to help tackle the spread of new variants around the world. This is key to securing our freedom and ending this pandemic once and for all.
“I am proud that we have also delivered over 30 million vaccines to benefit our friends around the world this year. The UK is helping other countries most in need. No one is safe until everyone is safe.”
Also speaking, Health and Social Care Secretary, Sajid Javid said: “The global pandemic has challenged health systems around the world and the best way to overcome this awful disease is to unite and stand side by side with our international partners.
“By supporting countries with the UK’s ground breaking science and research into the spread of variants, improving access to oxygen and scaling up testing we will help those most in need chart their course out of the pandemic. I am proud that we have already delivered over 30 million vaccines to our friends abroad. The UK, as a global leader, is helping other countries most in need. No one is safe until everyone is safe.”
The Chief Executive Officer of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, Dr Seth Berkley, said: “We welcome the UK’s commitment in new funding to protect the most vulnerable, particularly in Africa; the UK’s continued focus on COVAX and equitable global access to COVID19 vaccines, both through early financing commitments made at UNGA 2020, as well as meeting the Prime Minister’s G7 commitment to dose sharing – the 30million target set by the end of 2021.
“We look forward to operationalising the remainder of the UK’s dose sharing commitment via COVAX in 2022, while we also work with the UK Government on continuing to support Gavi’s ambitious 2021-2025 routine vaccination programmes, of which the United Kingdom is the largest funder through the PM’s commitment made at the UK-hosted Global Vaccine Summit in June 2020.”

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PFAs Invest N155.44bn Pension Funds In Real Estate

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The Pension Funds Administrators (PFAs) have invested N155.44 billion out of the total funds under the Contributory Pension Scheme in real estate properties as of the end of September 2021, data from the National Pension Commission (PenCom) have revealed.
The PenCom data on monthly pension fund portfolio showed that the total funds under management stood at N13tn as of September.
Other investment portfolios where the funds were invested included FGN securities; domestic and foreign ordinary shares; and corporate debt securities, comprising corporate bonds, corporate infrastructure bonds, corprate green bonds and supranational bonds.
The funds were also invested in local money market securities, comprising bank placements, commercial papers and foreign money market securities.
The PFAs invested the rest in mutual funds, comprising open/close-end funds, private equity funds, infrastructure funds, cash and other assets.
Speaking on real estate investment, the Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, CFL Group, Mr Lai Omotola, highlighted the need to invest in real estate.
“Construction remains the fastest way of getting out of recession because of the large value chain to the economy towards creating jobs”, he said.
According to a report by Augusto & Co, a pan-African credit rating agency, the Nigerian pension industry’s net assets are expected to hit the N20tn mark by 2023.
It said in its 2021 insurance industry report that the growth in the pension industry’s managed assets had been largely driven by investment returns and additional contributions, to a lesser extent.
The report said the industry’s annual contributions over the last five years had averaged N699bn while withdrawals had averaged about N341bn, translating to a net annual contribution of N347bn and accounting for 26.6 per cent of the industry’s AuM growth over the period.
It said the remaining 73.4 per cent of average growth was attributable to investment returns earned on the portfolios.

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FG Targets $40bn Investment In Digital Infrastructure By 2025

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The Federal Government says it expects $40bn in private capital investments in digital infrastructure by 2025.
The government disclosed this in its ‘National Development Plan 2021-2025: Volume I.’
It said, “To achieve the goals outlined in the sector, the estimated public investment is N150bn from 2021-2025. Allocations will be made to priority projects in the sector as well as projects essential to the operations of the relevant ministries.
“In addition, the ICT sector is projected to facilitate the formation of up to $1bn in private equity and private capital investments in digital infrastructure of approximately $40bn”.
According to the government, to unleash Nigeria’s potential for industrialisation and sustainable economic growth, it will take measures to digitise the economy and make digitalisation a key driver of national economic development strategies.
It said it would grow the digital economy from 10.68 per cent to 12.54 per cent and improve e-governance by 100 per cent by 2025.
It added that to unleash the nation’s digital economic objective, it would need to improve legal framework of the sector through policy amendment and implementation; drive investment for infrastructural development through public funds and blended financing; prioritise skills development through the promotion of STEM and digital technology education; and drive local and foreign investments.
The government said, “There has been a gradual global transition to a fourth industrial revolution through the diffusion of digital technologies encapsulated in 5G, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, Internet of Things, computer vision, etc.
“These global trends have created an urgency for Nigeria to improve its digital and technological capacity in order to generate innovations that will enable Nigeria to harness the benefits of digitalisation for economic development and competitiveness.
“For economies to build resilience in a fast-paced, and ever-changing global environment, there is a need for a robust digital, ICT, and R&D ecosystem to drive innovation and continuous adaptability for sustainable economic growth.
“With its teeming, young, and tech-savvy population, and increased investor interest, Nigeria holds the potential to become a leading technological powerhouse and boost productivity across its economic sectors”.

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Fuel Price Increase: NLC Threatens To Shut Down Nigeria

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For the umpteenth time, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has warned the Federal Government against further increase in the pump price of fuel in the country and called on the Nigerian workers to prepare for total war against the fuel price hike.
The organised labour insisted that workers and masses would not accept any further increase in the pump price of fuel in the name of subsidy removal.
The NLC President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, gave the warning in a New Year message to workers.
He also named Zamfara, Taraba, Benue, Kogi, Cross River, Abia and Imo states as seven states yet to implement the N30,000 minimum wage that took effect on April 18, 2019.
In the message titled “The Year 2022 Felicitations: Keeping Our Hopes And Aspirations Alive In The New Year”, NLC directed the affected states to commence indefinite strikes to force the respective state governments to implement the new wage.
NLC, in a 9-page statement, said the government was not relenting in its determination to push through further increases in the pump price of petrol in the name of “removal of petrol subsidy”.
It said, “We have told the government in very clear terms that Nigerians have suffered enough and will not endure more punishment by way of further petrol and electricity price increases.
“Our position in this regard is predicated on four major grounds. First is our concern on the deceit and duplicity associated with the politics of ‘petrol price increase’ by successive Nigerian governments. The truth is that the perennial increase by the government in the pump price of petrol is actually a transfer of government failure and inability to effectively govern to the poor masses of our country.
“We are talking of the failure of government to manage Nigeria’s four oil refineries and inability to build new ones more than thirty years after the last petrochemical refinery in Port Harcourt was commissioned; the failure to rein in smuggling; and the failure to determine empirically the quantity of petrol consumed in Nigeria.
“The shame takes a gory dimension with the fact that Nigeria is the only OPEC country that cannot refine her own crude oil.
“During the negotiations that trailed the last increase in petroleum prices, Organized Labour made a cardinal demand on government which is that it must take immediate steps to revamp and rehabilitate Nigeria’s refineries.
“A Technical Committee was set up to monitor progress in this regard. As we all know, the work of the Technical Committee, like our abandoned public refineries, has ground to a halt and further negotiations with the government adjourned sine die for nearly one year now.
“As a responsible social partner, we have at different times called on the government to show us what they are doing in response to our demands but silence is the response we get”.

By: Boye Salau

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