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ASR Africa Partners USAID’s HIV, Tuberculosis Control Efforts In Nigeria …As US CDC Pushes To Achieve, Sustain HIV Epidemic Mitigation

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The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has accepted a contribution from a leading Nigerian philanthropic organisation, Abdul Samad Rabiu Africa Initiative (ASR Africa), to partner on tuberculosis (TB) control and gender-based violence (GBV) prevention efforts in Nigeria.
ASR Africa will provide critical inputs, valued at $500,000, to the national TB and GBV responses.
A statement signed by the US Mission in Nigeria last Thursday, said “These contributions will expand the impact of USAID’s current programs, implemented through local Nigerian organisations.
“Specifically, ASR Africa’s contribution will provide: 11 loop-mediated isothermal amplification diagnostic machines, also known as TB-LAMPs, with laboratory reagents and consumables; renovation of 10 Tuberculosis Directly Observed Therapy or DOT centres; and approximately 1,200 dignity kits for survivors of gender-based violence across selected states in Nigeria.
“The TB-LAMP diagnostic machines will enable 11 facilities to effectively diagnose TB, which continues to be a challenge in under-resourced health facilities.
“All individuals diagnosed with these machines will be placed on treatment for TB at the TB DOT centres that will be renovated by ASR Africa.
“The contribution of dignity kits will also strengthen services for survivors of gender-based violence, including medical and psycho-social services, at Sexual Assault Rescue Centres, also known as SARCs, that are supported through USAID’s President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) programme”, the statement said.
As part of USAID’s efforts to deepen private sector involvement in Nigeria, the agency engages with private sector partners in the country to mobilise resources to reduce disease burden and ensure a better quality of life for those affected.
“The private sector holds immense potential to bring about sustainable development results,” HIV/AIDS and TB Office Director USAID/Nigeria, Rachel Goldstein, said at the gift acceptance meeting in Abuja.
“Each of ASR Africa’s contributions will amplify the impact of USAID’s development programming in Nigeria while demonstrating the opportunity for public-private partnerships to effectively address unmet development needs.”
Presenting the donation letter, Managing Director of ASR Africa, Ubon Udoh, said “ASR Africa is committed to the development of Nigeria’s healthcare sector. The end-to-end diagnosis to treatment partnership with USAID will provide additional capacity and expand ongoing efforts aimed at tackling tuberculosis and HIV across Nigeria.”
USAID has partnered with the government of Nigeria on the tuberculosis response since 2000, and the HIV response since 2003.
Through these efforts, USAID has contributed to a reduction in tuberculosis related deaths, by nearly 50percent.
Through PEPFAR, USAID is now providing comprehensive life–saving HIV treatment services for over 663,000 people and procuring and delivering medicines for over 1.9million Nigerians on antiretroviral treatment.
Similarly, the United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (US CDC) have hosted federal and state ministries of health, Government of Nigeria health agency leadership, and HIV programme implementing partners to review President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) programme accomplishments from the last five years in US CDC-supported states and chart a way forward for the coming five years to help Nigeria reach and sustain epidemic control.
In her welcome remarks, US CDC Country Director, Dr. Mary Boyd, commended states and partners for their collaborative work in attaining quality care for every patient while also accelerating treatment coverage in the country.
The surge in the number of people living with HIV (PLHIV) identified and beginning treatment in recent years has moved Nigeria closer to HIV epidemic control than ever before.
As of June 2022, US CDC supported comprehensive HIV services for about 1.2million PLHIV in Abia, Delta, Enugu, Imo, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Oyo, Osun, Ekiti, Plateau, Benue, Kaduna, Katsina, Kogi, Nasarawa, Rivers, Gombe, and the Federal Capital Territory.
US Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard, also spoke, emphasising the U.S. Government’s commitment to supporting partners, and expressing her belief that epidemic control would be achieved in Nigeria.
Day one of the two-day programme included overview presentations from implementing partners Catholic Caritas Foundation of Nigeria, the Institute of Human Virology, Nigeria, APIN Public Health Initiatives, and the Centre for Integrated Health Programmes.
Day two brought discussion of a roadmap for future activities that will create dynamic, equitable, and resilient treatment programs.
Integration of the National Clinical Mentorship Programme into the health sector for sustainability and state ownership was also highlighted.
Across both days, awards were presented to individuals, states, and partners who excelled in specific areas of programming and leadership.
Throughout the newly launched program cycle, US CDC will continue to host programmatic review meetings with partners to ensure that high-quality HIV programs are sustained and that free, life-saving care is available to every Nigerian who needs it.
US CDC Nigeria is the country office of the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, with a vision of public health excellence for healthy Nigerians.
The office supports the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Health, its department, agencies, state ministries of health, and several key partners in developing, implementing, and evaluating disease response efforts and programs that contribute to strengthened public health infrastructure in Nigeria.

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Tallen Solicits Men’s Support Against GBV, Other Practices Against Women, Girls

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The Minister of Women Affairs, Pauline Tallen, has solicited the support of men in the fight against Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and other atrocities committed against women and girls, stressing they cannot continue to speak alone.
She made the appeal while receiving the delegation of Boys Champion, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), supported by the Nigeria’s Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) officials which came visiting her to present the 1st Place Winner of AFS Award for JNG Global Citizens awarded to the founder of Boys’ Champion, Noel Ifeanyi Alumona, a Diasporean.
According to a statement by Director, Press and Public Relations, Olujimi Oyetomi, the minister, who commended the Director-General and CEO of NIDCOM, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, for her concern on Diaspora matters, pointed out that the country’s gender-based violence rate is worrying and emphasized the need for more males to speak out in support of women in order to reduce or eradicate GBV.
She said: “Women cannot continue speaking alone. With voices like yours (Boys Champion), we need more boys and more men to lend their voices to speak out and to condemn all forms of violence against women and girls.”
Tallen described her ministry, as a “Diaspora-inclined organization”, pledging that the ministry would partner with the Boys Champion to spotlight violence against vulnerable persons in whatever form it may take.
She further pledged collaborations with the organization to ensure a success of its aims and objectives.
The minister also described the Boys Champion’s contributions at home as excellent, noting that their support for women and girls is a way for them to give their fair share to the country’s growth and noting that they will be unhappy if things are not going well in Nigeria.
She applauded the NGO for taking on the challenging task of educating young men about gender equality and rights, as well as for its awareness-raising event in Enugu State, which focused on getting boys and young men to respect women and put an end to gender-based violence.
Tallen pledged to collaborate with the group on their admirable activities and stated that the ministry was prepared to assist the project.
The minister emphasised that while discussing gender equality, it is not about men fighting women but rather about both of gender cooperating to produce better results on gender-related issues.
She described women as “God’s last born,” intended to provide a support system for men.
In his remarks, the Boys Champion Founder, Noel Ifeanyi Alumona, expressed appreciation to the minister for the warm welcome accorded his team, and explained the purpose of their visit, included presenting the “AFS Award for Young Global Citizen” to her which he won as a “1st Place Winner”.
The visitors were led by officials of Nigerians the Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), which include Senior Information Officer, Oloye Olufunke, and Senior Diaspora Officer, Idio Elyon.

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Buhari Approves N80bn For Reconstruction Of Sapele-Benin, Amukpe-Agbor Roads

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President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the release of a sum of N80billion for the reconstruction of the Sapele-Benin road and Amukpe-Agbor-Uromi roads.
The Deputy President of the Senate and APC governorship candidate in Delta, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, made this disclosure during a meeting with members of the Christian Council of Nigeria, held in Sapele.
According to Omo-Agege, he had requested Delta State Governor, Dr.Ifeanyi Okowa, to know the status of the road all the way from Petroleum Training Institute to Agbor, when he became deputy president of the Senate.
He said this was because he knew the contract had been awarded previously and requested a review so he could put it in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) budget.
Omo-Agege, however, explained that “because Okowa felt he would not get the political credit, the issue died.”
He noted that recently, with the reconstitution of the NDDC board, Buhari ordered that N500billion of the commission that was frozen be released for development projects, and the sum of N80billion was approved when he pleaded with the President to consider the Sapele-Benin road and the Amukpe-Agbor road.
Omo-Agege also said it would be insanity to repeat the same thing over again and expect different results adding that Okowa has failed to develop Delta State.
He assured that if elected governor he would create an enabling environment for companies that have left Delta State as a result of insecurity and other factors to return.
He said, “When I become governor on May 29, 2023, I will not wait for the Federal Government before constructing strategic roads in Delta and ensuring the implementation of the local content law so as to provide job opportunities for our youths.”
Omo-Agege used the forum to clarify the issue of the Muslim-Muslim ticket of the APC presidential and vice presidential candidates saying, “we want power for development and progress. That’s what we use power for.”
He spoke further, “Tinubu has a wife who is a Pastor and if he could not Islamise his wife, how would he be able to Islamise other Nigerians?
“I believe that after eight years of Buhari it is only fair and equitable for power to move to the South. I put all my strength into it. Governors of the APC supported it. All governors of Southern Nigeria supported it and met and signed a communique in Asaba. Okowa read the communique.
“But no sooner had that been done, than, during the PDP national congress, Okowa asked delegates of Delta to vote for a northerner. Yet, he is the one crying about a Muslim-Muslim ticket. The same Okowa that said take the presidency back to the North, just give me vice president?
“The focus should be who can bring development to our people. Okowa who is a Christian has he changed anything, are Deltans not crying?”
Omo-Agege also dismissed the views in some quarters that because his father, the late Justice James Omo-Agege was an adherent of African Traditional Religion, specifically the Urhobo “Igbe” movement, he was also one.
He said while the Constitution of Nigeria guarantees freedom of religion and to that extent, he could not dictate the religious choices of his father, so too, his father could not dictate his own personal choice of religion.
“As a result of this, all my siblings and I are devout Christians of the Catholic faith. Christianity is a conscious choice for us,” he explained.
Earlier, the Chairman of the Christian Council of Nigeria, Delta State chapter, Rev Dr. Jonathan Iwhiwhu, highlighted the contribution of the Church to development and called for assistance in terms of the construction of a secretariat and official bus.
He had drawn Omo-Agege’s attention to the deplorable Sapele-Benin road and the Amukpe-Agbor-Uromi road. He pleaded that policies that negatively impact the economic ventures of the church such as schools should be moderated if he becomes governor.
Iwhiwhu also called for the provision of job opportunities for the youths of the church as a reward for the church’s support for his election as governor.

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Allegiance To Nigerians Sacrosanct, Yakubu Warns INEC Staff …Says INEC’ll Reprint Burnt PVCs In Two Days

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has reassured Nigerians that its allegiance and loyalists are to Nigerians.
The Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, gave this assurance at the opening of a two-day Induction Retreat for the commission’s Administrative Secretaries organised by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Lagos.
Yakubu, who was represented by National Commissioner, Election and Party Monitoring Committee (EPMC), Mr. Sam Olumekun, said the retreat was part of preparation of INEC for the 2023 general election.
According to him, over the last 23 years since the return of democratic rule, the commission has recorded a steady progress with the nation’s elections getting better and citizens’ confidence in the process increasing.
“Let me repeat once again that the commission’s allegiance is to Nigeria. Our loyalty is to Nigerians who want free, fair, credible and verifiable elections.It is in this respect that I want to warn all members of staff of the commission to be neutral and professional in their conduct during the forthcoming election.”
He said since 2011 general election, the reliance on new knowledge and experience gathered from the conduct of previous elections, enhancing electoral integrity and improving voter experience through innovations, planning and technology had guided INEC through several elections.
“Consequently, our elections have become better, electoral outcomes less contentious and less stressful.”
He said with the first poll in 2023 general election remaining 88 days, there was the need, more than ever, for the commission to remain focused and deliver a successful election.
“This retreat is, therefore, an opportunity to not only bring our Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) up to date about preparations, procedures and requirements for a successful election but also get the commitment of our Administrative Secretaries towards attaining the highest level of efficiency in implementing the strategies outlined for a successful 2023 general election.
In this regard administrative secretaries are expected to be effective coordinators and provide timely progress reports and highlight challenges to proactively addressed without affecting relevant timelines.”
Yakubu said the administrative secretaries were also expected to fully support their respective RECs to ensure the effective coordination and deployment of men and materials focused mainly on delivering expected outcomes.
He urged state offices of INEC to have regular reassessment of preparedness to identify and address possible bottlenecks and update the relevant authorities of the commission.
“Over the last two years, the commission has increased the deployment of technology in elections in Nigeria.”
Yakubu said INEC had designed systems, portals and developed them to cater for different electoral activities ranging from voter registration and accreditation, result transmission from the polling units.
He said such portal was also to cater for the nomination of candidates by political parties, accreditation of polling agents, observers among other activities for elections.
“Of these innovations, most Nigerians are now familiar with the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) which doubles as a device for accreditation as well as upload of the Polling Unit level result sheets to the INEC Result Viewing (IReV) portal on Election Day.
“The combination of the BVAS and the IReV portal have come to stay as a means of voter accreditation and transmission of election results. I urge you to thoroughly familiarise yourselves with the election technologies of INEC,” he said.
In his address of welcome, Residents Electoral Commissioner, Lagos State, Mr. Olusegun Agbaje, said it was imperative for the electoral umpire to step up its preparation for the conduct of 2023 elections, hence the retreat.
He noted that INEC must not rest on its oars but re-double efforts to achieve a seamless conduct of the polls.
In his goodwill message, Chief Technical Advisor, UNDP, Mr. Deryck Fritz, said the peaceful transfer of power was inextricably linked to processes and outcomes that were accepted by the political actors, civil society and the population at large.
Fritz said the retreat would provide an important opportunity for information-sharing and discussion on the preparations and key aspects of the electoral process, to ensure uniform understanding and consistency of implementation of electoral procedures.
The retreat has in attendance all the INEC Administrative Secretaries nationwide and top management staff of the commission.
Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, has said the 2023 elections will be the best.
Yakubu also said the burnt permanent voter cards in Ogun and four other states would be reprinted in two days, saying efforts were in top gear towards replacing the materials lost to the inferno.
The INEC boss said this, yesterday in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, during the on-the-spot assessment of the burnt office in Abeokuta South by suspected arsonists.
Suspected Arsonists had on November 10 attacked the Abeokuta South Local Government Area and destroyed over 65,000 uncollected PVCs among others.
Yakubu who arrived in Abeokuta around 9am and paid a visit to the Alake of Egbaland, Oba Adedotun Gbadebo, also visited the new Oke-Ilewo office where the staff members were relocated to and later visited the burnt office.
Apart from Ogun State, the hoodlums had recently attacked INEC offices in Osun and Ebonyi states.
The INEC boss while speaking with newsmen after he assessed the extent of damage, described the arsonists as “undemocratic and retrogressive elements.”
Yakubu said the commission would not be cowed from conducting next year’s elections by arsonists attacking the commission’s facilities nationwide.
He vowed that the commission would not be intimidated by an act of arson despite that five facilities were attacked nationwide in the last four months.
He said, “The purpose of our visit to this office is to further access the extent of damage, to meet our staff, particularly in the place where they have relocated to in Oke-Ilewo, to boost their morale and to assure the people of Abeokuta South that despite this unfortunate incident, elections will hold in Abeokuta South in 2023.
“Whatever material we have lost, the commission is making efforts to replace the materials. We lost 65,699 PVCs, we want to assure all those that have not collected their PVCs, who may have been affected, that we are making plans to reprint the PVCs quickly and to bring them back to Abeokuta South for people to collect and vote.
“We want to assure the people of Abeokuta South that this incident, as terrible as it is, will not deter and will not discourage us, will not discourage our staff from conducting the 2023 general election and we want to once again assure the people of Abeokuta South, the people of Ogun State and the people of Nigeria that the commission is determined to make the 2023 elections our best, we will not be deterred nor cowed by an act of arson by undemocratic and retrogressive elements.
“As soon we get the voter identification numbers to be harvested by the state office, we will reprint, it doesn’t take longer than two days to print 65,000 PVCs, but we have to get the VINs for the cards that were lost so that we can quickly reprint. It doesn’t take longer than two days to reprint those numbers of the PVCs.
“It is very disappointing, particularly because in the last four months, five of our offices were attacked nationwide, but this will never deter us. We will make sure we replace burnt and destroyed equipment and also reprint the PVCs and conduct elections.”
Yakubu said INEC “is determined to make 2023 elections the best.”

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