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Emergency Response: FG, WHO Deploy 82 Core Responders

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The Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, has inaugurated the first batch of core responders to respond to emergencies within the first 24 to 48 hours of its occurrence.
Speaking at the graduation ceremony of the 82 core responders in Abuja, last Friday,  Ehanire said at least 100 emergencies occur across Africa per week, causing damage to health and economic systems.
The core responders were trained under the theme “Capacity Building, Learning and Training to On-Board the AVoHC Strengthening and Utilising Response Groups for Emergencies (SURGE) Team”.
According to him, there are public health emergencies that are already running quietly in the country.
“So our responsibility and our mandate goes beyond public health emergencies, which we are fully in support of, but there are others.
“We are losing up to 50,000 women every year in childbirth and that is a huge emergency. We are losing over 900,000 children every year.
“According to reports, we have 6,000 people killed in road traffic accidents every year and 17,000 from accidents who are maimed, permanently disabled every year. All of these are serious emergencies,” he said.
He, however, said that the SURGE initiative promotes availability of equipment, well equipped teams with everything streamlined to respond to emergencies within the specified time frame.
He said they would also fully align with the concept of the resilient and sustainable health system for improved health outcomes and universal health coverage.
He referred to the initiative as a wealth of information that could turn around the detection and response time for emergencies within Nigeria and beyond.
The WHO Country Representative in Nigeria, Walter Molumbo, said the organisation was committed to strengthening regional and sub national capacity to prepare and respond to public health emergencies in an increasingly globalised, unionised and connected world.
Molumbo added that people always being on the move was giving rise to an amplifying threat of multiple infectious hazards, in addition to natural disasters, conflict, climate change and other emergencies.
He said that the programme was aimed at providing national and subnational Rapid Response Teams (RRTs) with key knowledge and tools needed to detect and effectively respond to public health emergencies as they occur.
Molumbo explained that “the SURGE programme identified five countries among which Nigeria is being chosen and in Nigeria, we have six states that have been selected to kick-start this process.
“We will be able to scale up the SURGE in the six pilot states but also go beyond to make sure that the entire country benefits from this initiative.
“It is our hope that the country will truly build on this to make sure that we put in place the capacities that are truly needed to respond to future outbreak”.

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95% Of Small Businesses Should Be Off Tax – Oyedele

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The Federal Government is working on a system that will provide tax relief to 95 per cent of the informal sector of the economy in the country.
Mr Taiwo Oyedele, Chairman of the Presidential Fiscal Policy and Tax Reforms Committee, said this at the closing session of the committee on Sunday in Abuja.
He said this would be achieved through the exemption of businesses earning N25 million a year or less from the various taxes hindering their progress over time.
‘’So, we think that 95 per cent of the informal sector should be legally exempted from all taxes; withholding tax, company income tax, even payee on their staff.
‘’We’re using data to inform our decisions. Currently, if you earn N25 million a year or less, you don’t have to pay company income tax, you don’t have to worry about VAT.
‘’We think that the informal sector are people who are trying to earn legitimate living, we should allow them be and support them to grow to a point where they can then have the ability to pay taxes,” he said.
Oyedele said the new reforms being proposed would focus on the top 5 per cent of that sector, the middle class and the elite for taxes.
He said the committee was drafting the laws to effect the necessary changes in the fiscal policy and tax reform ecosystem of the country.
According to the chairman, the new laws will ensure that reviews become sustained by all governments coming in, adding that: “we don’t want this whole effort to go down the drain, after one or two years.”
On compliance, he urged all stakeholders to fully cooperate with the government in implementing a new fiscal and tax policy that would be used for the general good of the citizens.
‘’We think that the days of being above the law in paying taxes are over. The same thing we’re saying to our leaders, whether they are elected or appointed.
‘’We think they have to lead by example by showing that they have paid the taxes, not only on time, but correctly to the lawful authorities as contained in the various laws,” he said.
He said explained that some of the taxes complained about by Nigerians were those already in the constitution, which the committee had looked at and called for their review.
Oyedele said the committee report would be made to pass through the normal process of legislation in order to give it the full legal backing.
‘’So, our expectation is, as we progress now from ideation, proposal to implementation, you’ll see less and less of those issues and then you’ll see harmony in the direction of the fiscal system.
‘’Not only in the number of taxes we collect, you will also see an improvement in how those monies are being spent.
‘’In terms of priority of spending, in terms of the efficiency of spending and in terms of focusing on what impacts on the lives of majority of our population that live in multi-dimensional poverty,” he said.
Oyedele added that the committee had been working with the sub-nationals and the local government councils in its task of harmonising the taxes into a single digit in the country.
‘’So, we’re convinced, and that’s what the data tells us, that the right path we need to follow, is the path where we repeal many of these taxes, harmonise whatever is left.
‘’We think we can keep that within single digit across local government, state and federal government combined, and then improve the efficiency of collecting those taxes.
‘’We are also very convinced that we need to increase the threshold of exemption for small businesses, for low income earners because if you can’t make ends meet, the last thing you want is someone asking you to pay tax.
‘’We think in fact, when our nation gets to the level we need to be, we should be able to even add money to those who have very little or nothing,” said Oyedele.
At the ceremony, Vice-President Kashim Shettima restated President Bola Tinubu’s commitment to revitalise revenue generation in the country.
“Our aim remains the revitalisation of revenue generation in Nigeria, while sustaining an investment-friendly and globally competitive business environment.
“Contrary to speculations in some quarters, we are not here to frustrate any sector of our economy but to create an administrative system that ensures the benefits of a thriving tax system for all our citizens,” he said.
He said the dynamics of the nation’s fiscal landscape prompted the Tinubu administration to pause and reconsider the direction it was going.
“I am confident that both the Federal and State Governments stand ready to ensure the effective implementation of your reform proposals.
“We shall provide the institutional framework to guarantee the adoption of the consensus of this committee, aligning them with our economic agenda,”said Shettima.

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138.9m Nigerians Need Interventions Against Tropical Diseases -WHO

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Data from the World Health Organisation (WHO) has estimated that 138.9 million Nigerians require interventions against Neglected Tropical Diseases.
This is according to the latest epidemiological and programmatic data for 2022, which were gathered, compiled, and analysed in 2023, and obtained from the WHO on Saturday.
The body also said NTDs are endemic in Nigeria as it ranks first in the African region and second globally after India.
WHO defined NTDs as a diverse group of conditions of parasitic, bacterial, viral, fungal, and non-communicable origin, noting that there are more than 15 NTDs in Nigeria.
The report stated, “They prevent children from going to school and adults from going to work, trapping communities in cycles of poverty and inequity. People affected by disabilities and impairments caused by NTDs often experience stigma within their communities, hindering their access to needed care and leading to social isolation.
“Nigeria is endemic for several NTDs. The only disease eliminated was dracunculiasis (Guinea-worm disease) in 2013. The population requiring interventions against NTDs was approximately 138.9 million in 2022, ranking first in the African region and second globally after India.
“This includes 138.9 million requiring treatment for lymphatic filariasis through mass drug administration; 48.7 million requiring treatment for soil-transmitted helminthiases through mass drug administration; and 43.5 million requiring treatment for onchocerciasis through mass drug administration.”
Meanwhile, the Federal Government had in 2023 said it would eradicate NTDs in the country by 2027.
The Director of the WHO Global Neglected Tropical Diseases Programme, Dr Ibrahima Fall, said, “With a renewed focus on strategic priorities addressing advocacy for action, partnership, costing and accelerated implementation, technical gaps including research and development and leadership.
“We must intensify our collective action to address the deep-rooted inequalities that fuel the transmission of NTDs in the populations where they persist.”

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NDLEA Intercepts Three Trailer Loads Of Opioids, Others, Arrests Suspects

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Operatives of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) have intercepted three trailer loads of opioids, comprising 3,450,000 pills and 344,000 bottles of codeine syrup.
The agency said the illegal drugs at Abule Ado in Amuwo Odofin Local Government Area of Lagos State, last Thursday.
The NDLEA Director, Media and Advocacy, Femi Babafemi, disclosed this in a statement, yesterday, adding that three suspects were also arrested in connection with the seizure.
The statement partly read, “The multi-billion naira consignments were loaded into two 40-ft container trucks and another 20-ft truck at the AML bonded terminal, Abule-Osun, near the International Trade Fair complex before heading to a large warehouse at Abule-Ado, where NDLEA officers eventually arrested the suspects and recovered the opioid consignments on Thursday, May 9, 2024.
“Those arrested include the warehouse agent, Cosmas Obiajulu, 51; Ridwan Balogun, 25, and Banjo Tayo, 30, both drivers of two of the trucks, while the third driver jumped off to escape arrest.”
The statement also revealed that in Ekiti State, a 75-year-old grandpa, Jibril Audu, was arrested on Friday with 7.5 kilogrammes of cannabis at Oke-asa village, Ijero-Ekiti, during a raid operation, while a 70-year-old grandma, Tikwase Nytor, was nabbed with 15.6 kilogrammes of the same substance on Thursday during a raid operation at Achusa and International Market Road, Makurdi, Benue State.
“It also stated that in a separate operation on Tuesday, NDLEA operatives arrested a suspect, Nwankwo Ejike, in the Coker area of Lagos, where 100 litres of codeine syrup were recovered from him, while 60 litres of the same substance were seized from one Clinton Akinye in the same area on the same day.
The statement added, “Not less than 37.5kg of cannabis sativa loaded in a Toyota Camry car was recovered from another suspect, Adegbola Segun, 47, when the car was intercepted at Mile 12 area of Lagos on Monday, May 6th.
“Another consignment of opioids consisting of 59,106 pills of tramadol and different quantities of codeine syrup and Rohypnol being taken across the border to Garua, Cameroon, was intercepted by NDLEA officers on Monday, May 6th, along Mubi-Yola Road, Adamawa State.
“Two suspects linked to the drugs: Abubakar Auwal, 39, and Adamu Abubakar, 25, (a.k.a. Bamanga), a trans-border trafficker who was to take the consignment from Mubi across to Cameroon, were promptly arrested.”
Similarly, NDLEA officers in Edo State were reported to have raided the Iguiye forest in Ovia North East LGA on Saturday, “where a total of 11, 636.185 kg of cannabis was destroyed on three farms measuring 4.654474 hectares, while an additional 188kg of the same psychoactive substance was recovered, and a suspect, Itah Nyong, was arrested during the overnight operation.”
In the statement, the NDLEA Chairman, Brig. Gen. Mohamed Marwa commended the officers for their efforts and pledged continued collaboration with local and international partners to combat drug trade in Nigeria.

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