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NCDC Probes Strange Illness In Sokoto

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The Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC), Dr Jide Idris, yesterday, said the agency has begun investigating and responding to a strange illness identified in six wards in Sokoto State.
Idris said the agency has deployed a National Rapid Response Team to work with the Sokoto State Ministry of Health to respond to the incidents.
Speaking at a press conference in Abuja, yesterday, Idris explained that the agency was notified by the State miniystry of Health on March 21, 2024, of reported cases of children presenting with symptoms which include abdominal distension due to the rapid onset of fluids in the abdomen (ascites), fever, vomiting and weight loss from Isa Local Government Area of the state.
He noted that most of the cases are children aged four to 13 years, including some adults from different wards and settlements across the LGA.
He said, “The NCDC deployed a National Rapid Response Team to work with the State Ministry of Health to further investigate and respond to this incident. So far, a total of 164 suspected cases have been identified in six wards of Isa LGA Bargaja (22), Isa North (17), Isa South (98), Tozai (12), Tsabre (4), and Turba (11). Unfortunately, four deaths have been recorded among the suspected cases.
“A similar incident was previously documented in 2023, also without a definitive diagnosis.
“Currently, two suspected cases are currently receiving care in Uthman Dan Fodio University Teaching Hospital in Sokoto, and one case was discharged on account of improved symptoms. Four other suspected cases are also on admission at the Isa General Hospital, while about 130 cases are also receiving care either within the Primary Healthcare Centres or home care in the affected LGA.”
The NCDC boss stated that the initial clinical assessment and investigations of the cases admitted at the teaching hospital ruled out an infectious origin of the event, necessitating the need to search for other causes, including heavy metal testing.
“Results of the initial test for heavy metals for the index and first few suspected cases revealed different blood levels of lead and Chromium.
“Observed activities in the affected communities include mining, agricultural practices which involve the use of various types of chemicals and pesticides, the health-seeking behaviour, and practices of the communities which may be detrimental to people’s health.
“In this regard, various samples of materials have also been taken and dispatched for analyses, including blood, abdominal fluids, environmental samples like soil and water, locally grown food produce including vegetables and grains, substances and ingredients used for food and drinks, pesticides and chemicals used in local guns,” he said.
He said the agency was working in collaboration with other stakeholders to support the state government in actively searching for cases and unravelling the outbreak, despite the security challenges affecting access to the community.
He also urged the members of the affected and nearby communities to be vigilant and report anyone presenting with symptoms to the nearest health facilities or call the NCDC toll-free line.

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Obaseki Begins Payment Of N70,000 Minimum Wage In Edo

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The Edo State Government has began the payment of the N70,000 new minimum wage to workers in the State in fulfillment of the promise to increase the minimum wage from May, 2024.
It would be recalled that Governor Godwin Obaseki had, during the inauguration of the Labour House in Benin, announced the increment in workers’ minimum wage from N40,000 to N70,000.
Obaseki said the increment was to reflect the current economic realities of the country and cushion the impacts of the harsh economy on the people of the state.
In a statement, the State Commissioner for Communication and Orientation, Chris Nehikhare, said the payment of the N70,000 minimum wage to workers would had demonstrated the commitment of the Obaseki-led administration to the welfare of Edo workers.
“The Edo State government has paid the May salaries of workers in the state, reflecting the implementation of the N70,000 new minimum wage.
“This is in fulfillment of the promise made by Obaseki.
“It is also in furtherance of the commitment of the state government to meet its statutory obligations even before the end of the month,” he said.
The commissioner urged the workers to be committed to their duties to reciprocate the gesture by the state government.

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Projects, Service Delivery Won’t Be Politicised, Fubara Assures

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Rivers State Governor, Sir Siminalayi Fubara, has declared that the delivery of development projects and social services by his administration will not be politicised because they are geared towards solving pertinent needs faced by the people of the State.
The Governor explained that while every human and societal challenges cannot be solved in one swoop, every promise made would be fulfilled within available resources and delivered on schedule.
Governor Fubara gave the assurance at the official inauguration of the dualised Omoku-Egbema Road project, which took place at De Masters Hotel Junction, Obrikom Road, Omoku Town in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area (ONELGA) on Saturday.
Governor Fubara said, “When the project was added to the list of projects to mark our one year in office, there was a challenge, but the contractor assured of delivering it, which is a reality today.
“What are we doing today? We are here to tell our people that they are the most important thing to us. We are here to assure you that every part of this State will have positive impact of our administration.
“We can make bold to say that today, a project that was impossible in the past was made possible by this administration.”
Governor Fubara further said: “If within this short period, we could deliver this to our people who were yearning for this road, crying and complaining, it is a sign that this Government has the interest of the people of Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area at heart.
“So, I want to assure you: don’t let anybody deceive you anywhere. This is the right boat to join. The captain of this boat, his own mantra is ‘The People First’. So, I assure you, with your support, the sky is our beginning.”
Governor Fubara said it would be improper for him not to appreciate the people of ONELGA because the campaigns leading his election kick-started in the area where their support was solicited.
The Governor noted that they lived up to that commitment of giving electoral support, giving the required votes that had enabled his team to be where they are today in Government.
Governor Fubara granted some requests made to him by their spokesperson concerning roads and healthcare facilities in the area.
The Governor said: “Here and now, we are mandating the Ministry of Works to ensure that the remaining part of this road project leading to the boundary with Imo State should be completed (Okwuizi boundary to Abacheke).
“We are also assuring you that the health centre matter, more especially the zonal hospital: we are going to complete it. The contractor will move to site in the next one week.
“So, let me use this opportunity, on behalf of the Government and the good people of our dear State, to say thank you for supporting us before, during and also after the election,” he said.
Governor Fubara emphasised: “Let me assure you that whatever we say, we will leave up to it. We will not make promises that we will not keep.
“We will make promises after checking our resources. We will make promises that are within our capacity to deliver, and delivering it in good time.”
Governor Fubara explained the special reason for inviting former Governor of the State, Dr Peter Odili, to perform the inauguration, saying: “This is not politics. This is giving back to our people. So, I want somebody who understands the need of our people, and what we are doing to come and speak to our people.
“I want somebody who has the direct interest of this LGA at heart to come and speak to his people, so that we will understand that when we are in position, what is important is not self, what is important is the people.”
Performing the project inauguration, former Governor of Rivers State, Dr Peter Odili, noted that Governor Fubara has taken full control of governance in Rivers State, and rightly focusing on the people in line with his chosen mantra: ‘People First’.
Dr Odili while thanking Governor Fubara for the project delivered in the area, urged him to remain focused on the people, giving succour to the less-privileged and hope to those who do not have anyone to help them go through life’s challenges.
“I can tell our people that the next election is very far, but what the Governor has done so far, is enough to secure the support of Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area going forward.
“Thank you, Your Excellency, because the greatest assets of the State remain the people, not oil and gas. The people remain the greatest assets.
“So, once your focus remains with the people, especially the less-privileged, the poor, those who are struggling to feed every day. Once they remain your focus, I want to agree with you that the sky would become the takeoff point of your administration,” the former Governor said.
Dr Odili assured that the entire people of Rivers are behind Governor Fubara, “rallying support for him because they trust him, believing in what he says and convinced that he means whatever he says”.
Providing the description of the road, Permanent Secretary, Rivers State Ministry of Works, Engr Atemea Briggs, said the road project indicated how Governor Fubara has consistently prioritised the needs of the people and solving critical problems.
Engr Briggs said: “The 21.6Km dual carriageway project was awarded to Sectraco Nigeria Limited on April 28, 2023, by the previous administration at the sum of N7.597billion but without funding. It has 7.3meters carriageway on both sides and 8.2Km length of drains.
“Before the award of this contract, this road had been abandoned for many years. The current administration led by our hardworking Governor Siminalayi Fubara approached the project with great determination and passion, and as a result, mobilisation was paid to the contractor and the contractor started work in July, 2023.
“The scope of the project changed and due to the prevailing inflation rate, an additional N5.47billion was added to the contract, bringing the total value of the contract to N13.07billion.
“It is pleasing to announce that the full amount has been paid to the contractor, who has also completed the work within the timeframe,” he added.
In his welcome address, High Chief Shedrack Akalokwu, noted that though Governor Fubara is soft spoken, his leadership is action-packed, with successes that far outweigh public expectations of his administration.
He said, “We are grateful that in the short period of less than one year in office, Your Excellency is here today to superintend over the commissioning of the Omoku-Egbema Dual Carriageway in our local government area.
“The Erema junction-Akabuka- Ogbogu-Obite-Ede-Okposi dual carriageway speedily being executed by the construction giant, Julius Berger, is very refreshing. The news of the award of 33.5Km Elele-Omudioga-Egbeda-Ubimini-Ikiri-Omoku dual carriageway has been received with gladsome mind.
“That project is magic infrastructural access that would gladden the hearts of our people as there would be drastic reduction of time and distance from our local government to the state capital.
“All our people are in one accord in conveying our support, solidarity, gratitude and total loyalty to this Government of which we are an integral part,” he added.
On his part, the Area Manager of Sectraco Nigeria Limited, Engr Michael Issa, explained that the contract was awarded and first payment made to the company in July, 2023, adding that they mobilized to site immediately, delivering the project alongside the additional scope of work, on schedule.
Engr Issa said, like other road projects delivered in good quality and still enduring, this project has been delivered in best quality, stressing that the firm feels delighted to be part of the success story of Governor Fubara, who, according to him, “is establishing a footprint in the development trajectory in the state”.

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Establish AI Commission To Tackle Revenue Leakages, PAAC Advises Tinubu

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The Chairman, Pan African American Chamber of Commerce, Prof. Olatokunbo Onabanjo, has advised President Bola Tinubu to establish Artificial Intelligence Commission(AI) to address revenue leakages in the country.
Onabanjo, in an interview with The Tide’s source, in Lagos, yesterday, said establishing Artificial Intelligence Commission(AI) would turn around Nigeria’s education, health, housing, trade and tourism sectors among others.
“With the establishment of Artificial Intelligence Commission, and by integrating AI algorithms into the government’s financial systems, suspicious transactions and patterns can be automatically flagged for further investigation.
“AI can analyse large volumes of data in real-time, identify anomalies, and detect potential cases of fraud or revenue leakage,” he said.
Onabanjo, who was the Director of Computer Services during Tinubu’s administration as governor of Lagos State, called for enhanced Data Analytics Capabilities through utilisation of Enterprises Resources Planning(Oracle ERP) system to gather data from various government departments and agencies.
“By leveraging on AI-powered analytics tools, the government can gain valuable insights into revenue collection, expenditure patterns, and identify areas where leakages are occurring.
“This data-driven approach will help to identify loopholes and develop strategies to plug them,” he said.
Onabanjo, a seasoned project manager and member of Certified Project Management Professionals, said that the use of AI would also strengthen tax compliance and revenue collection by government.
“AI can be employed to automate the tax collection process, ensuring accurate and efficient assessment, billing, and collection of taxes.
“AI algorithms will analyse tax data, identify potential tax evaders, and facilitate targeted enforcement actions. This can help increase tax compliance and revenue generation.
“ERP systems will also be utilised to streamline and automate procurement processes.
“AI-powered analytics will help identify discrepancies, detect fraud, and ensure transparency in procurement transactions. This can minimise leakage and corruption in procurement activities.
“AI will assist in identifying potential risks and vulnerabilities in revenue collection processes.
“By analysing historical data and patterns, AI algorithms can predict potential areas of revenue leakage and enable proactive measures to mitigate risks,” he said.
Onabanjo said that implementing ERP systems would facilitate data sharing and collaboration among different government agencies involved in revenue collection and management.
According to him, this will enable real-time data exchange, improve coordination, and enhance visibility into revenue-related activities, making it easier to identify and address leakages.
The PAAC chairman called on the government to also invest in capacity building.
“To effectively leverage AI and ERP resources, it is essential to invest in training government personnel to use these technologies.
“Building a skilled workforce that can handle data analysis, AI algorithms, and ERP systems will ensure the successful implementation and utilization of these resources.
“It’s important to note that addressing revenue leakages requires a holistic approach, including policy reforms, enforcement mechanisms, and transparency initiatives.
“AI and ERP resources can complement these efforts by providing advanced tools and insights to identify and tackle revenue leakages effectively,” he stated.
He was of the view that Oracle ERP implementation could streamline government processes, improve data management, and promote transparency in financial transactions.
According to him, this will help the government in making informed decisions, reducing inefficiencies, and minimising corruption.
Onabanjo said: “ERP systems can consolidate and automate various administrative functions, leading to cost savings in areas such as procurement, inventory management, and payroll.
“This can free up resources that can be redirected towards other developmental initiatives.
“With an efficient ERP system in place, government departments can provide better services to citizens.
“Streamlined processes and improved data management can result in faster response times, reduced bureaucracy, and enhanced service quality.”
According to him, ERP systems generate vast amounts of data, which can be analysed to gain insights and support evidence-based decision making.
He said that it could help the government to identify trends, evaluate policy effectiveness, and allocate resources more effectively.
“In addition to ERP implementation, the integration of AI technologies can further benefit the Federal Government of Nigeria.
“AI has the potential to automate repetitive tasks, enhance data analysis capabilities, and improve decision-making processes,” he disclosed.
He listed few the ways AI could help to include Intelligent Automation, Data Analysis and Predictive Modelling, Fraud Detection and Cybersecurity among others.
“AI-powered automation can streamline processes across various government departments, increasing efficiency, and reducing human error. This can lead to improved service delivery and cost savings,” he stated.

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