EU Medicines Agency Starts Review Of Merck Oral COVID-19 Drug

A file photo of a healthcare worker holding a COVID-19 test kit. TARSO SARRAF / AFP

 

 


The EU’s medicines watchdog said Monday it had started a review of an oral Covid medication from the US pharmaceutical firm Merck, raising hopes for an easy-to-administer treatment to reduce serious or deadly cases.

The move, which could eventually lead to authorisation on the European market, comes two weeks after Merck applied for emergency use in the US of the anti-coronavirus drug.

“EMA’s human medicines committee (CHMP) has started a rolling review of the oral antiviral medicine molnupiravir… developed by Merck Sharp & Dohme in collaboration with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics for the treatment of Covid-19 in adults,” the European Medicines Agency said in a statement.

Preliminary results “suggest that the medicine may reduce the ability of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes Covid‑19) to multiply in the body, thereby preventing hospitalisation or death in patients with Covid‑19,” the EMA said.

Antivirals like molnupiravir work by decreasing the ability of a virus to replicate, thereby slowing down the disease. It is taken orally.

Given to patients within days of a positive test, the treatment halves the risk of hospitalisation and death, according to a clinical trial conducted by Merck, also called MSD outside the United States.

If approved, molnupiravir would represent a major breakthrough in reducing severe forms of the disease, which Merck’s FDA application said reduced hospitalisations by 50 per cent.

The EMA will now assess whether molnupiravir complied with European standards of efficacy, safety, and quality.

It can take several months between the start of a rolling review by the EMA and any eventual green light.

AFP

Pfizer Says COVID-19 Booster Shot 95.6% Effective

An illustration picture shows vials with Covid-19 Vaccine stickers attached, with the logo of US pharmaceutical company Pfizer, on November 17, 2020. JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP
An illustration picture shows vials with Covid-19 Vaccine stickers attached, with the logo of US pharmaceutical company Pfizer, on November 17, 2020. JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP

 

 

A booster shot of the anti-COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer/BioNTech is 95.6 per cent effective against symptomatic infection, according to trial data published by the makers on Thursday.

The clinical phase three trial with “10,000 participants 16 years of age and older” showed “a relative vaccine efficacy of 95.6 per cent against disease during a period when Delta was the prevalent strain”, the companies said in a statement.

The study presented the “first results” of a booster trial, with a third shot of the vaccine demonstrating a “favourable safety profile”.

“These results provide further evidence of the benefits of boosters as we aim to keep people well-protected against this disease,” said Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla.

The preliminary results would be shared with regulatory agencies “as soon as possible”, the companies said in the statement.

READ ALSO: Lawmakers In Benin Republic Vote To Legalise Abortion

Several countries have already approved COVID-19 booster shots to increase immunity in people who have already been vaccinated, but whose protection may have dipped after several months, per some studies.

In the United States, the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a third dose in September for everyone aged 65 and up, as well as people at high risk of developing severe COVID.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) approved a booster for over-18s at the beginning of October, allowing national regulators to decide which groups should be eligible first.

In Israel, authorities have gone further, approving booster shots for everyone aged 12 and over.

AFP

Lawmakers In Benin Republic Vote To Legalise Abortion

Lawmakers In Benin Republic Vote To Legalise Abortion

 

 

Parliamentarians in Benin have voted to legalise abortion in the West African country, where it was already authorised under restricted conditions.

Under the new law passed late on Wednesday women can terminate a pregnancy within the first three months if it is likely to “aggravate or cause material, educational, professional or moral distress, incompatible with the woman or the unborn child’s interest”.

Previously, abortion was authorised if pursing the pregnancy “threatened the life of the mother”, was “the result of a rape or incest” or when “the unborn child has a particularly severe affection”.

After a heated debate in parliament, with some lawmakers strongly opposed to legalising abortion further, the amendment finally passed.

READ ALSO: Pfizer Says COVID-19 Booster Shot 95.6% Effective

“In Benin, nearly 200 women die each year as the result of abortion complications,” said the health minister Benjamin Hounkpatin in a statement Thursday.

“This measure will be a relief for many women who face undesired pregnancies, and are forced to put their lives in danger with botched abortions,” he added.

The influential Episcopal Conference of Benin said in a statement that it was “highly preoccupied by the proposed law to legalise abortions”

AFP

‘Big John’, Largest-Ever Triceratops, Up For Auction

'Big John', Largest-Ever Triceratops, Up For Auction
This file photo, taken on August 31, 2021, shows a triceratops exposed ahead of its auction sale at the Drouot auction house in October.  (Photo by Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP)

 

 

“Big John”, 66 million years old and the largest triceratops skeleton ever unearthed at eight metres long, goes up for auction in Paris on Thursday.

He is expected to fetch up to 1.5 million euros ($1.7 million) at the Drouot auction house.

Big John’s skeleton is 60 percent complete, and was unearthed in South Dakota, United States in 2014 and put together by specialists in Italy.

He lived during the Upper Cretaceous period, the final era of dinosaurs, and died in a floodplain, buried in mud that kept him very well preserved.

A horn injury near his cranium suggests he got into at least one nasty fight.

READ ALSO: Lawmakers In Benin Republic Vote To Legalise Abortion

It is the latest dinosaur to be sold by the Drouot auction house which, according to its website, handled an allosaurus and a diplodocus each worth 1.4 million euros in 2018.

The price tag means that museums are largely excluded from the purchase.

“We can’t compete,” said Francis Duranthon, director of the Toulouse Museum of Natural History.

He said 1.5 million euros represented 20 to 25 years of his acquisitions budget.

But auctioneer Alexandre Giquello said there was a good chance it would still be seen by the public.

He told AFP that half of those expressing an interest in Big John had stated their desire to show it in a museum, and it was not clear how the others felt.

Scientists had also been able to analyse the bones before the auction.

The triceratops is among the most distinctive of dinosaurs due to the three horns on its head — one at the nose and two on the forehead — that give the dinosaur its Latin name.

Dinosaur sales can be unpredictable, however: in 2020, several specimens offered in Paris did not find takers after minimum prices were not reached.

AFP

Germany Become First Team To Qualify For 2022 World Cup

Germany players celebrate after winning the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 qualification Group J football match between North Macedonia and Germany at the Toshe Proeski National Arena in Skopje on October 11, 2021. Nikolay DOYCHINOV / AFP

 

 

Germany continued their spotless record under new coach Hansi Flick and secured qualification for the 2022 World Cup as Chelsea striker Timo Werner scored twice in a 4-0 rout of North Macedonia on Monday.

Just months after they slumped to a shock 2-1 defeat to the same opponent on home soil, Germany cruised to a dominant win in Skopje to increase their lead at the top of Group J to eight points and secure their berth at next year’s tournament in Qatar.

Werner’s Chelsea team-mate Kai Havertz also got on the scoresheet and Jamal Musiala scored his first international goal as Germany made it five wins out of five under Flick, who took over from Joachim Loew after Euro 2020.

The 56-year-old coach said 2014 World Cup winners Germany still had “a long way to go”, but insisted his team could compete with the best in the world.

“Our players have the quality to rival France, Italy and Belgium. I am very optimistic,” he said.

Midfielder Leon Goretzka also backed Flick to take Germany back to the top of the world game after failing to make it past the first two rounds at both of their last two major tournament appearances.

“We still need to improve to get back to the top, but there are few people better placed than Hansi to do that,” he told RTL.

READ ALSO: Nigerian Para Powerlifter Banned For 30 Months

Goalscorer Werner added that Flick’s faith in him had helped him to shrug off growing criticism of his form in recent months.

“When a coach likes you and trusts you, then it helps every striker, especially me. I need that trust, and Flick gives that to me 100 percent,” he said.

Germany were wasteful in the first half, with striker Werner squandering several chances and Joshua Kimmich and Serge Gnabry forcing saves from North Macedonian goalkeeper Stole Dimitrievski.

Havertz finally opened the scoring just after the break, slotting into an empty net after a lightning counter-attack.

Werner doubled the lead with a sharp volley on 70 minutes, before curling a third into the bottom corner a few minutes later.

Seven minutes from time and shortly after coming on to replace Werner, Musiala fired a low shot past Dimitrievski.

The goal made him Germany’s youngest scorer since 1910 at just 18 years and 227 days.

“Jamal is very cool in front of goal for a player his age,” said Flick.

AFP

President Buhari’s Full 61st Independence Anniversary Speech

INDEPENDENCE DAY ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, MUHAMMADU BUHARI, PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA ON THE OCCASION OF NIGERIA’S SIXTY-FIRST INDEPENDENCE ANNIVERSARY, FRIDAY 1ST OCTOBER, 2021.

Citizens of Nigeria.

It is with full gratitude to God that today, we celebrate Nigeria’s sixty-first Independence Anniversary.

2. For 1st of October 1960 to happen, all hands were on deck. East, West, North all came together to celebrate freedom. Today should not only serve as a reminder of the day the British handed over the reins of power to Nigerians, but also unified Nigerians from all ethnic groups, religions, and regions.

3. Today, despite the challenges we face, most Nigerians still maintain the spirit of 1st October. That positive outlook and determination to make Nigeria a peaceful and prosperous nation. It is due to this collective attitude that Nigeria doggedly continues to remain a united and indivisible nation.

4. Fellow Nigerians, the past eighteen months have been some of the most difficult periods in the history of Nigeria. Since the civil war, I doubt whether we have seen a period of more heightened challenges than what we have witnessed in this period.

5. Our original priorities for 2020 were to continue stabilising our economy following the deep recession while restoring peace in areas confronted with security challenges. But the COVID-19 pandemic and its devastating impact on all nations meant we needed to shift gears and re-strategise.

6. Nigerians came together as one to fight against COVID-19. It is this attitude and by the special grace of God, we continue to survive the pandemic as a nation and indeed, provide leadership and example at regional and international levels.

7. The doomsday scenario predicted for our country never came. Even as the Delta variant continues to spread, we have built the capacity we need to respond now and into the future.

8. I will therefore appeal to Nigerians not to take COVID lightly, adhere to public health and social measures, put your mask on and get vaccinated. We can control this pandemic, but it requires effort on everybody’s part. The investments we made in response to COVID-19 will also serve our country to tackle any future disease outbreaks or pandemics.

9. Despite the global inequity in access to vaccines, the Government of Nigeria has continued to explore all available options to ensure Nigerians have free access to safe and effective vaccines.

10. Some five million vaccine doses have been administered to Nigerians through efforts led by the National Primary Health Care Development Agency and we will continue to explore options for purchase or acquisition of vaccines such as through COVAX and the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust.

11. I will take this opportunity to remind the global community that the current state of access to COVID-19 vaccines is unacceptable. We cannot afford a situation where a handful of countries keep the global vaccine supply to themselves at the expense of other nations.

12. We must act now to accelerate equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. This is the message I conveyed to the international community in New York last week.

13. As we push to source vaccines for our immediate needs, we shall invest more to support our pharmaceutical and research agencies to come up with ideas for locally developed vaccines. Should another pandemic arise in the future, Our question is simple; will Nigeria be ready?

14. Accordingly, I have directed the Ministries of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Health, Education, and Science and Technology to work with Nigerian and International pharmaceutical companies and research organisations to enhance Nigeria’s domestic pharmaceutical capacity.

15. Already, the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority is raising a $200 million fund for this initiative that will complement the Central Bank of Nigeria’s ongoing N85 billion Healthcare Sector Research and Development Intervention Scheme to support local researchers in the development of vaccines and drugs to combat communicable and non-communicable diseases, including COVID-19.

Fellow Nigerians, this is just the beginning.

16. Similarly, on our approach to food security, I am proud to announce Nigeria has commenced its journey to pharmaceutical independence.

17. This journey, which will take years to achieve but will ultimately result in Nigerian based companies developing the Active Pharmaceutical substances and competence needed for us to make our own drugs and vaccines.

Fellow Nigerians,

18. As our economy continues to open after the COVID-19 related lockdowns, we have also seen the resurgence of insecurity in certain parts of the country.

19. In the last four months, the gallant men and women of the Military and Security Agencies have made tremendous progress in addressing these new security challenges. We are taking the fight to our enemies from all angles and we are winning.

20. Earlier this year, I launched the Integrated National Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure, the Deep Blue Project, which is designed to secure Nigerian waters up to the Gulf of Guinea. I am happy to inform Nigerians that we have taken delivery of key assets for this project and very soon, its impact will be felt.

21. In the North East region alone, over eight thousand Boko Haram terrorists have surrendered.

22. To support our surge approach to fighting banditry, the Nigerian Armed Forces have recruited over 17,000 personnel across all ranks. Furthermore, I have also approved for the Nigerian Police Force to recruit 10,000 police officers annually over the next six years.

23. I am also pleased to note that most of the Air Force platforms we acquired over the past three years have started to arrive in Nigeria. These will positively impact our security operations in all parts of the country.

24. In line with section 14(2)(b) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), the security and welfare of Nigerians continue to be the prime focus on which programmes and projects of our government revolves.

25. Therefore, as a Government, we are ready to arrest and prosecute all persons inciting violence through words or action. Our resolve for a peaceful, united and one Nigeria remains resolute and unwavering.

26. That said, our hope is not to fight for peace. We can always settle our grievances peacefully without spilling any blood.

27. I will therefore take this opportunity, on this special day that symbolises the unity and oneness of our great nation, to ask all Nigerians to embrace peace and dialogue, whatever your grievances.

28. The seeds of violence are planted in people’s heads through words. Reckless utterances of a few have led to losses of many innocent lives and destruction of properties.

29. Such unfiltered and unsubstantiated lies and hate speeches by a few evil persons must be stopped. Our media houses and commentators must move away from just reporting irresponsible remarks to investigating the truth behind all statements and presenting the facts to readers.

30. We must all come out and speak against the lies being peddled. At this point, I would want to sincerely appreciate the large number of our Traditional, Religious and Community leaders as well as other well-meaning Nigerians who, in their various fora are openly spreading the message of peaceful co-existence and conflict settlement through dialogue in their respective communities.

31. Nigeria is for all of us. Its unity is not negotiable. And its ultimate success can only be achieved if we all come together with a common goal of having peace and prosperity for our nation.

32. We shall continue to work on dialogue based solutions to address legitimate grievances. But we remain ready to take decisive actions against secessionist agitators and their sponsors who threaten our national security.

33. The recent arrests of Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Adeyemo, and the ongoing investigations being conducted have revealed certain high-profile financiers behind these individuals. We are vigorously pursuing these financiers including one identified as a serving member of the national assembly.

Fellow Nigerians,

34. This is a clear example of how people abandon their national leadership positions for their selfish gains. Instead of preaching unity, they are funding and misleading our youth to conduct criminal acts that sometimes lead to unfortunate and unnecessary loss of lives and property.

35. As the so-called leaders run abroad to hide, our innocent youths are misled and left in the streets to fight for their senseless and destructive causes.

36. Government will continue, with greater level of peoples’ participation and in collaboration with our international partners, to improve the security architecture, reduce enabling environment for criminality to thrive and eliminate opportunities for terrorism financing.

37. Fellow Nigerians, our unrelenting effort at resolving an almost two-decade stalling on the management of our Petroleum resources and ensuring equitable consideration to our host communities has resulted in the enactment of the Petroleum Industry Act, 2021.

38. This Act not only overhauls the Institutional, regulatory and fiscal framework of the Petroleum Industry but also reduces the previous opacity associated with this sector.

39. This is the first step to the reforms as the process is a continuous one. Already, to further improve the governance framework, I have sought for an amendment of sections 11(2)(b) and 34(2)(b). We will also continue to review and amend as appropriate.

40. At this juncture, it is very appropriate that I salute the leadership and members of the Ninth Assembly for their patriotism, dedication to duty, candour and most importantly the dispatch with which they have enacted legacy legislations for this nation. I do not take such level of cooperation for granted and hope it continues for the overall efficiency of the Federal machinery.

41. Nigeria’s Roadmap on Local Refining is on track with the Commissioning of a Modular refinery in Imo State.

42. A second is scheduled for commissioning by the end of this year in Edo State and the third one in Bayelsa State by 2022.

43. In addition to the modular projects, we also have the two mega refinery projects coming up in Lagos and Akwa Ibom States.

44. As these refineries are commissioned, more employment opportunities are created and there would be increased petroleum products available for local consumption which will significantly reduce our reliance on importation.

45. In further demonstrating our plan to reduce our dependence on oil and tapping from our enormous gas resources, this administration remains committed to the “Decade of Gas” Initiative, which is aimed at bringing to focus the utilization of our huge gas resources.

46. Already, we are supporting and promoting various gas-based projects including NLNG Train 7 and the mega urea and ammonia projects in the South-South region.

47. As we continue to optimise and enhance our oil and gas sector, I am also proud and delighted to state that our economic diversification strategy remains on course with the persistent increase in Non-Oil Sector contribution to GDP.

48. We recovered from economic recession in quarter four of 2020 with a GDP growth rate of 0.11%, and grew by 0.51% and 5.01% in real terms in the first and second quarters of 2021.

49. The Agricultural sector remains key to our economic diversification efforts as the sector has been a consistent driver of the non-oil sector contributing 22.35% and 23.78% to the overall GDP in the first and second quarter of 2021.

50. We have seen significant private sector investments in almost all areas of the agricultural value chain. And these have continued even during the COVID-19 pandemic.

51. Unfortunately, as our food production capacity has increased, food prices have been going up due to artificial shortages created by middlemen who have been buying and hoarding these essential commodities for profiteering.

52. To address this, I am hereby directing the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to rehabilitate the National Food Reserve Agency and also work with security agencies, the Nigerian Commodity Exchange, and the National Assembly to find a lasting solution to these disruptive and unpatriotic hoarding activities.

53. To further enhance food production, we have completed several new dams and are in the process of rehabilitating several River Basin Development Authorities to enhance groundwater supply for rainfed agriculture as well as surface water for irrigation agriculture.

54. The water projects we completed between 2015 to 2020 have improved Nigerian’s access to potable water to 71% between 2015 and 2020. This means 12.5 million additional Nigerians now have direct access to potable water.

Fellow Nigerians,

55. This Government remains concerned by the significant transportation infrastructure deficit we have. Addressing the challenges our commuters and lorry drivers face on the motorways is still a high priority to us.

56. To complement our budgetary allocations, the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund and the Road Infrastructure Development and Refurbishment Investment Tax Credit Scheme, we recently established a N15trillion Infrastructural Corporation of Nigeria Limited (INFRACO), which is expected to begin operation by the fourth quarter of this year.

57. INFRACO will also focus on leveraging resources on a public-private sector basis for infrastructural development in Nigeria.

58. We hope through these innovative programs, the additional cost burden on individuals and businesses because of inefficient logistics operations will be reduced and ultimately, eliminated.

59. We currently have over 13,000 kilometres of roads and bridges under construction all over the country of which a fair percentage have been completed.

60. As we fix our roads, we also continue to extend and upgrade Nigeria’s railway network with the notable opening of the Warri- Itakpe standard gauge rail line.

61. To increase capacity, we have introduced more locomotives, coaches and wagons including the establishment of a Wagon Assembly in Kajola, Ogun State.

62. The sea ports however still remain problematic. The effect of our various interventions to reduce the gridlocks and inefficiencies have been slower than expected.

63. However, the implementation of the Electronic Call-Up System as well as the conversion of the Lillypond Container Terminal to a Vehicle Transit Area will further enhance the ease of cargo evacuation.

64. Our prioritisation of developing Nigeria’s Digital Economy has positively impacted the contribution of the ICT sector to our GDP.

65. We hope our present efforts to ensure all Nigerians use a National Identification Number as well as our planned roll-out of the fifth generation (5G) network technology will ensure we stay in line with the global innovation curve as a Nation.

66. As we embrace the digital economy in Nigeria, we are fully aware of the prospects and the perils. Our policies have been developed to enable Nigerians to take advantage of the prospects and avoid the perils of digital technologies.

67. Social media is a very useful platform that has enabled millions of Nigerians to connect with loved ones, promote their businesses, socialise, and access news and other information.

68. However, recent events have shown that the platform is not just an innocuous platform for information dissemination.

69. Rather some users have misused the platform to organise, coordinate, and execute criminal activities, propagate fake news, and promote ethnic and religious sentiments.

70. To address these negative trends, the Federal Government of Nigeria suspended the operations of Twitter in Nigeria on June 5, 2021 to allow the Government put measures in place to address these challenges.

71. Following the suspension of Twitter operations, Twitter Inc. reached out to the Federal Government of Nigeria to resolve the impasse. Subsequently, I constituted a Presidential Committee to engage Twitter to explore the possibility of resolving the issue.

72. The Committee, along with its Technical Team, has engaged with Twitter and have addressed a number of key issues. These are:

a. National Security and Cohesion;

b. Registration, Physical presence and Representation;

c. Fair Taxation;

d. Dispute Resolution; and

e. Local Content.

73. Following the extensive engagements, the issues are being addressed and I have directed that the suspension be lifted but only if the conditions are met to allow our citizens continue the use of the platform for business and positive engagements.

74. As a country, we are committed to ensuring that digital companies use their platform to enhance the lives of our citizens, respect Nigeria’s sovereignty, cultural values and promote online safety.

75. Nigeria’s progressive diplomacy continues to manifest through growing numbers of highly placed Nigerians in positions of regional and global influences. Very recently, Nigeria won election for the position of Commissioner for the expanded Political, Peace and Security Affairs of the African Union.

76. Our persistent calls for a reorganized and reformed ECOWAS, to make the organization citizens-sensitive, paid off with the acceptance by the Authority of Heads of State and Governments of ECOWAS to commence the agreed reforms in the organization ahead of the next elections of the organization’s principal officers in December this year.

77. At the African Development Bank, World Trade Organization and indeed, the United Nations, footprints of Nigeria’s Diplomacy are clearly evident.

78. We remain confident that our goal of lifting 100million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years is achievable.

79. Considering the positive impact of our Social Investment Programs, I recently approved an increase in the number of N-Power program beneficiaries from 500,000 to 1,000,000.

80. Out of this, 510,000 have started the programme while the competitive selection process for onboarding the outstanding 490,000 beneficiaries is in progress.

81. The National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme is currently being implemented in 35 States of the Federation and the FCT. Over 103,000 women have been engaged and empowered as cooks under the programme, while about 10 million pupils are being fed across public primary schools in the country.

82. To grant increased access to credit to the most poor and vulnerable, I have directed an increase in the disbursement of Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme loans to an additional one million beneficiaries laying more emphasis on the smallholding farmers through the farmers Moni program.

Fellow Nigerians,

83. For far too long we have neglected the centrality of the civil service as the engine of governance and this has manifested in ineffective service delivery.

84. There is widespread discontent and disillusion about the efficiency and probity of our civil service.

85. It is for this reason that we are refocusing the Nigerian Civil Service to provide World class service to run our country.

86. The youths of this great country remain propellants for our today and provide guarantees that we would have a secure tomorrow.

87. It is for this reason that I remain focused on expanding opportunities for their participation in politics and governance.

88. Recent appointments of young people into positions of authority and their track record so far, gives me confidence that we need to bring more of them into governance and this I promise to do.

89. More specifically, to encourage Girl-Child Education, female scholarship schemes, life skills and digital literacy skills to boost girl’s enrolment, retention and completion of schooling, are all initiatives put in place to ensure gender balance in appropriately positioning our youths for positions of leadership.

90. The commitment of this Administration to the well-being of people living with disabilities remains unwavering.

91. Government recognises their contributions to development and I have, in this regard, directed that all relevant Government Agencies pay special attention to the peculiarities of different abilities in the implementation of policies and programmes.

92. Rape and Gender Based Violence remains a sore point in our Nation as in many countries worldwide and this was worsened during and after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

93. We are currently engaging Heads of Courts to establish Specialised Courts for the speedy and seamless trial of Rape/Gender-Based offences especially to ensure that justice is done for child victims of sexual violence.

94. On the other hand, work has advanced in the reformation, reintegration and reunification of minors involved in one crime or the other.

95. The reformation in our Correctional Services has manifested in an increase in modernised custodial centres and a transformation from strictly punitive to attitudinal changes so that criminals do not relapse into their previous lifestyle.

96. As we begin to celebrate our sixty-one years as a Nation, we need to be conscious that Nigeria does not start and end with the Federal Government. This country is a great collective where Government at all arms and levels as well as the private sector, and more importantly individuals, have a role to play.

97. In particular, security is a bottom-to-top undertaking. Joining hands and hearts together would enable us to secure ourselves and our country.

98. I fully understand the anxiety of many Nigerians on the inability of this country to go beyond a never-ending potential for becoming a great nation to an actually great one.

99. A lot has been achieved in the last six years on many fronts: in infrastructure, social care, governance, Nigeria’s image and influence in Africa and the international community.

100. But critics misdiagnose incremental progress as stagnation. Since coming to power, this Administration has tackled our problems head-on in spite of the meagre resources. No government since 1999 has done what we have done in six years to put Nigeria back on track.

101. We shall continue to serve the country: listen to all and protect our democracy and country.

Thank you all and God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Buhari: I Have Directed That The Suspension Of Twitter Be Lifted If Conditions Are Met

President Muhammadu Buhari says the Nigerian Government is committed to ensuring that digital companies use their platform to enhance the lives of citizens, respect the country’s sovereignty, cultural values and promote online safety.

 

 

President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday said he had given his approval for the suspension of microblogging site Twitter to be lifted once the conditions set by the Federal Government are met.

The President spoke about the suspension of Twitter during his Independence Day anniversary broadcast to the nation.

“Following the extensive engagements, the issues are being addressed and I have directed that the suspension be lifted but only if the conditions are met to allow our citizens continue the use of the platform for business and positive engagements,” he said.

Nigeria took action against Twitter in June on the grounds that it was being used for activities capable of undermining the corporate existence of Nigeria, a move that sparked outrage and controversy. Many attributed the action to the decision of Twitter to delete a tweet by the President, but the Federal Government insisted that the move had nothing to do with that and was in the interest of the nation.

In the President’s Independence anniversary speech, he explained the decision, insisting that although social media had many benefits, there were dangers that the government had to address.

“Social media is a very useful platform that has enabled millions of Nigerians to connect with loved ones, promote their businesses, socialise, and access news and other information,” he said.

“However, recent events have shown that the platform is not just an innocuous platform for information dissemination.

“Rather some users have misused the platform to organise, coordinate, and execute criminal activities, propagate fake news, and promote ethnic and religious sentiments.

“To address these negative trends, the Federal Government of Nigeria suspended the operations of Twitter in Nigeria on June 5, 2021, to allow the Government put measures in place to address these challenges.”

READ ALSO: President Buhari’s Full 61st Independence Anniversary Speech

After the suspension, a Technical Team set up by the Nigerian government commenced talks with Twitter and, in August, the Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed said that progress had been made in the talks and the suspension will soon be lifted, but that has yet to happen.

President Buhari explained on Friday that the engagement between Nigeria and Twitter was to address “key issues” related to national security and cohesion, registration, physical presence and representation (of Twitter in the country), fair taxation, dispute resolution, and local content.

“As a country, we are committed to ensuring that digital companies use their platform to enhance the lives of our citizens, respect Nigeria’s sovereignty, cultural values and promote online safety,” he said of his directive that the suspension should be lifted but only if conditions are met.

Watch the President’s full speech below:

Banditry: Kaduna To Shut Down Telecoms Services In Some LGAs For Military Operations

A file photo of Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai.

 

 

The Kaduna State government has informed residents of the state of plans to shut down telecommunication services in some parts of the state due to insecurity. 

The state Governor, Nasir El-Rufai,  who made the announcement during a media chat with some local radio stations in the state, said the planned shutdown of telecommunication services is because of the plan by security agencies to launch a massive attack on bandits taking refuge in some parts of the state.

El-Rufai explained that the shutdown would not cover the entire state. He, however, did not mentions the LGAs that would be affected, saying it would only affect local government areas bordering the troubled Zamfara and Katsina states.

He said, “We have been advised by the military and other security agencies to shut down telecommunication services in certain LGAs but we are waiting for the security agencies to tell us which specific areas and when.

“But I want the people of Kaduna State to know that if they give us the go-ahead tomorrow, we will shut down tomorrow.

“There is no doubt that bandits and other criminals rely on telecommunication to communicate with their informants as well as with relatives of kidnapped victims so as to demand ransom.”

The governor said he had already written to the Federal Government on the shutdown which he said had been approved by President Muhammadu Buhari.

“I will not mention the LGAs to be affected but the local governments that are constantly being tormented by bandits know themselves,” he said.

Kaduna, like most states in the North-West zone, has been affected by banditry and kidnapping, especially in  Birnin Gwari, Giwa, Chikun, Igabi, Kajuru, Kachia, and Zaria local government areas.

According to Governor El-Rufai, due to the shutdown of telecommunication services in Zamfara and Katsina states, some bandits crossed over to neighbouring local government areas in Kaduna to make phone calls and demand ransoms.

He also disclosed that Kaduna State Government has established a task force that will go round the hinterlands to monitor compliance with some of the security measures adopted by the state to tackle banditry and kidnappings. These measures include the closure of some fuel stations and markets to strangulate bandits in the forest.

While advising residents on the need to identify and report informants or accomplices of bandits, El-Rufai urged residents to report anyone who comes to buy between 20 to 100 loaves of bread to security agents.

UPDATED: Medvedev Defeats Djokovic To Win US Open Men’s Final

Medvedev Defeats Djokovic To Win US Open Men’s Final
Daniil Medvedev celebrates with the championship trophy after defeating Novak Djokovic to win the US Open Men’s Singles final match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center In New York on September 12, 2021.  Matthew Stockman/Getty Images/AFP

 


Daniil Medvedev shattered Novak Djokovic’s Grand Slam dream with a straight-sets victory in the US Open final on Sunday, denying the world number one a record-breaking 21st major men’s singles title.

Russia’s second-ranked Medvedev dominated Djokovic 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 to prevent the first calendar-year Grand Slam since 1969 and keep Djokovic level with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal atop the career Slam title list.

“Sorry for you fans and Novak because we all know what he was going for,” Medvedev said.

“What you have accomplished in your career… for me, you are the greatest tennis player in history.”

Medvedev, the 2019 US Open runner-up, captured his first Grand Slam title in his third Slam final, a rematch of February’s Australian Open final, won in straight sets by the 34-year-old Serbian to launch his Slam quest.

“Congratulations to Daniil. Amazing match,” Djokovic said. “If there’s anyone that deserves a Grand Slam title right now, it’s you.”

Djokovic’s bid to sweep the US, French and Australian Opens, and Wimbledon in the same year for the first time since Rod Laver did it 52 years ago collapsed at the last hurdle, with 83-year-old Aussie legend Laver among 23,700 watching at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

READ ALSO: 18-Year-Old Raducanu Wins Women’s US Open Final

Medvedev Defeats Djokovic To Win US Open Men’s Final
Novak Djokovic (L) holds the runner-up trophy alongside Daniil Medvedev who celebrates with the championship trophy after winning the match. Matthew Stockman/Getty Images/AFP

 

 

Djokovic missed out on his fourth US Open title and will enter 2022 tied with “Big Three” rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, both absent with injuries, on an all-time record 20 men’s Slam titles.

A tearful Djokovic paid tribute to the crowd that roared support for him even when all seemed lost down two sets and two breaks.

“Even though I have not won the match, my heart is filled with joy and I’m the happiest man alive because you guys have made me feel special on the court,” Djokovic said.

“You guys touch my soul. I’ve never felt like this in New York.”

Instead of joining immortals Laver and Don Budge, who completed the first men’s Slam in 1938, Djokovic became the third man to fall at the final match attempting to complete the Slam after Australians Jack Crawford in 1933 and Lew Hoad in 1956.

Djokovic saw his 27-match Slam win streak halted three victories shy of the record he set in 2015 and 2016 when he won four consecutive Slams, ending with the 2016 French Open.

Medvedev, 25, became the third Russian man to win a Grand Slam title after Yevgeny Kafelnikov at the 1996 French Open and 1999 Australian Open and Marat Safin at the 2000 US Open and 2005 Australian Open.

Struggle from the start

In the biggest of Djokovic’s 1,176 career matches, he made two unforced forehand errors to surrender a break in the first game to Medvedev, who held through to take the first set in 36 minutes, never facing a break point.

It was the fifth consecutive match in which Djokovic dropped the first set.

Medvedev dropped only three points on his serve in the first set but lost that many to open his first service game in the second.

Djokovic, however, squandered his break chances and Medvedev held to 1-1.

Medvedev hit a backhand wide to give Djokovic a break chance in the fourth game but he netted a forehand volley.

After botching a forehand on the following point, Djokovic shattered his racquet and on the next sent a backhand long as Medvedev held to 2-2.

In the fifth game, Djokovic mis-hit a backhand volley to hand Medvedev a break and a 3-2 lead, and the Russian held three times to claim the set.

Medvedev broke to begin the third set and again in the third game when a botched volley seemed to signal the end of the Slam chase.

Djokovic held at love in the fifth game but Medvedev held again to 5-1 and served for the match in the eighth game.

Medvedev double-faulted on championship point and again, then netted a forehand to surrender a break that kept Djokovic in the match.

“It was not easy,” Medvedev said.

Serving again for the match at 5-4, Medvedev double-faulted on his second match point but finally got over the line on his third chance with a service winner after two hours and 16 minutes.

AFP

Buhari Expected Back In Nigeria Today

FILE: President Muhammadu Buhari disembarks from the presidential jet during a trip to the United Kingdom.

 

President Muhammadu Buhari is expected back in Nigeria today, barring any unforeseen circumstances.

Sources within the presidency say the president is likely to be in the State Capital just before nightfall.

The President departed Nigeria for the United Kingdom on July 26 to participate in the Global Education Summit on Financing Global Partnership for Education (GPE) 2021-2025.

His special media aide, Femi Adesina had issued a statement suggesting that after the event, President Buhari would spend a few days in the United Kingdom for an earlier scheduled medical check-up.

In the weeks he spent in the UK, the president met and played host to various dignitaries including the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson who assured that the UK is available to assist Nigeria in its war against terrorism.

One other very significant meeting was that of Buhari and a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Bola Tinubu in London.

Its import is occasioned by the recent crisis rocking the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), where some aggrieved members are seeking to oust the caretaker national leadership of the APC, led by Mai Mala Buni.

President Buhari had reportedly asked Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to intervene in the matter.

Also prior to their brief get-together, Tinubu had been away from the country for some undisclosed reasons, stirring speculations about his health.

‘Routine Checkup’

President Buhari’s latest trip to the UK did not come without varied debates and criticisms as regards medical tourism and the state of the Nigerian health sector.

With reference to his earlier visit to the UK this year for what is termed a “routine” check-up, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was of the opinion that it is appalling that the president would deploy the nation’s resources to travel for his private medicals while other Nigerians are left to be treated in various dilapidated hospitals across the country.

“It is disheartening that while Mr. President is spending taxpayers’ money relishing the expertise of London doctors and the luxury of medical facilities in that country, millions of Nigerians are dying in decrepit medical facilities at home.” A PDP communique partly reads.

In defense of his principal, Femi Adesina, the special adviser said “President Buhari has been with the same doctors and medical team for upward of 40 years,” adding that “It is advisable that he continues with that who knows his medical history and that is why he comes to London to see them. He has used the same medical team for over 40 years. Once you can afford it, then stay with the team that has your history.”

As regards piloting the nation’s affairs from the United Kingdom, the presidential spokesman said there is no vacuum within the seat of power.

He explained that the Constitution empowers Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to act as President if President Buhari is not back to the country within 21 days.

The President’s latest trip has only lasted for 18 days, and he is expected to continue piloting the country’s affairs when he lands at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja, later today.

One of the first issues the president is likely to tend to will be the strike by the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD).

Boko Haram Surrender: It Should Not Be Blanket Amnesty And Pampering – Ndume

 

Chairman of the Senate Committee on Army, Senator Ali Ndume, has reaffirmed his stand against blanket amnesty for repentant Boko Haram fighters.

A few days ago, the Nigerian Army released a statement, saying the recent offensive operations by troops of Operation Hadin Kai have led Boko Haram and Islamic State of West Africa Province terrorists in the North-East to surrender en masse, a report which stirred various reactions as to what becomes of the ‘repentant’ terrorists.

Speaking on the development as a guest on Channels Television’s Politics Today, Senator Ndume noted that this did not come to him as a surprise. He is, however, of the opinion that more must be done to the insurgents other than the pat on the back which seems to be the norm at the moment.

“It didn’t come to me as a surprise actually, because I’ve been saying for a long time that the armed forces and other security agencies of the country are handicapped, otherwise, they have the capacity and the ability to prosecute this war.

“Now that what they need is given to them, you can see the results within this short time. And I’m expecting more.

“It is only that, as I have said before, there shouldn’t be blanket amnesty and pampering treatment to those who have surrendered,” the lawmaker said.

READ ALSO: More Boko Haram Members Surrender In Borno, Beg For Forgiveness

‘The First Step’

According to him, what needs to be done now is to ensure that the seemingly contrite insurgents are carefully profiled without any rush to have them return to their communities.

The legislator is of the opinion that the army should be more focused on ensuring that the Boko Haram war is brought to an end even faster than it has been predicted in various quarters.

Senator Ndume has consistently opposed amnesty for the terrorists who have murdered thousands of Nigerians and displaced millions in an insurgency that has lasted over a decade.

 

 

Ndume went on to state that as the war draws to a denouement, what the nation must begin to turn its attention to should be the resettlement of those who have been displaced over time.

For him, it is after the citizens who bore the brunt of this conflict have been satisfactorily resettled, that the nation can begin to talk about how to reintegrate those who have wreaked havoc on the nation and are now pleading for mercy.

“The first step after getting them is the resettlement of people, now that the war is getting to an end or is almost ending. Then, we talk about profiling, investigating, and interrogating those that have surrendered.”

The lawmaker expressed confidence in the new leadership of the armed forces, emphasising that the well-coordinated inter-agency cooperation between the country’s security agencies will yield favourable results for all.

“I think it is a welcome development and I have confidence that more is to be seen with the new leadership and the new cooperation,” he said. “Just as we have been criticising the armed forces, that they are not doing enough, now that they are doing enough, and there is hope, and there is light at the end of the tunnel, there is a need for Nigerians to come out to support the military by encouraging them, and commending them for what they have done.”

Al Ahly Punish Kaizer Chiefs To Win CAF Champions League For 10th Time

 

Egyptian club Al Ahly won a record-extending 10th CAF Champions League title on Saturday with a 3-0 final victory over 10-man South African rivals Kaizer Chiefs in Casablanca.

Mohamed Sherif scored his sixth goal of the competition after 53 minutes to put the Cairo Red Devils ahead at an empty Stade Mohammed V because of the coronavirus pandemic.

A brilliant goal from Mohamed ‘Afsha’ Magdy on 64 minutes left little doubt about the outcome in a disappointing finale to the marquee African club competition.

Amr el Sulaya rubbed salt into the wounds of Chiefs with a third goal in the 74th minute, slamming a back-heel past Nigerian goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi.

Chiefs were struggling to contain Ahly late in the first half when they suffered a massive blow with the red-carding of Happy Mashiane.

The forward stamped on the right leg of full-back Ahmed Tawfik and, after initially flashing a yellow card, the Burundi referee checked the foul on a monitor and changed his decision.

It was a historic victory for Ahly, who became the first club to win the title back-to-back three times.

South Africa-born Ahly coach Pitso Mosimane, who supported Chiefs as a child, became the first African coach to win the competition three times.

He succeeded in 2016 with South African club Mamelodi Sundowns, and again with Ahly last season in an all-Egyptian final against fierce rivals Zamalek.

Ahly pocket $2.5 million for winning the Champions League and are guaranteed at least another $3.5 million when they compete in the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan.

Before travelling to the Far East, the Egyptian club that have won 22 African titles will play CAF Confederation Cup winners Raja Casablanca of Morocco in a one-off match for the CAF Super Cup.

It was a bitterly disappointing first appearance in the final by Chiefs, whose lone CAF title came 21 years ago when they won the now-defunct African Cup Winners Cup.

The Soweto outfit matched Ahly early on and had the lone shot on target in the opening half with an effort by Serbian forward Samir Nurkovic that Ahly goalkeeper and captain Mohamed el Shenawy comfortably saved.

Starting the second half with 10 men, Chiefs packed their defence in the hope of snatching victory through a breakaway goal or a penalty shootout.

But the resistance lasted just eight minutes before being undone by a superb pass from Tawfik that Sherif chipped over Akpeyi.

AFP