The US government and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledged Wednesday to jointly invest $200 million over the next four years to achieve affordable gene therapy-based cures for sickle cell disease (SCD) and HIV.
The administration of President Donald Trump announced earlier this year its intention to end the HIV epidemic over the next decade and has also identified SCD, which disproportionately affects people of African descent, as a condition requiring greater attention.
Gene therapy is a relatively new area of medicine designed to replace faulty genes in the body that are responsible for a disorder, and has been responsible for new treatments for blindness and certain types of leukemia.
But the treatments are complex and costly, ruling them out as an option for most of the world.
Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, said the collaboration would focus therefore on “access, scalability and affordability” to make sure the eventual treatments are available globally.
The NIH and Gates Foundation aim to achieve clinical trials in the United States and countries in sub-Saharan Africa within the next seven to 10 years.
Sickle cell disease is a group of inherited red blood cell disorders characterized by the presence of an abnormal protein in the red blood cells, causing the feet and hands to swell, fatigue, jaundice, and episodic or chronic pain.
Over time the disease can harm a patients’ vital organs, bones, joints and skin and it is currently only curable via a blood and bone marrow transplant, available to only a tiny fraction of people who have the disease.
When it comes to HIV, antiretroviral therapy (ART) are now able to reduce patients’ viral load to the point that they are undetectable and cannot be further transmitted.
But “a major goal is to find a cure, whereby lifelong ART would not be required,” said the NIH’s Anthony Fauci.
Though SCD is a genetically inherited disease, and HIV is acquired from infection, gene-based treatments are said to hold promise for both, and “many of the technical challenges for gene-based cures are expected to be common to both diseases.”
The goal for SCD is to achieve a gene-based intervention that either corrects the gene mutation responsible or promotes fetal hemoglobin gene expression to achieve normal hemoglobin function.
For HIV, the proposed cure would involve targeting the reservoir of proviral DNA that lurks inside a small number of cells even after many years of ART.
The NIH said that approximately 95 percent of the 38 million people living with HIV globally are in the developing world, with 67 percent in sub-Saharan Africa, half of whom are living untreated. Around 1.1 million Americans are affected
SCD affects approximately 100,000 Americans, according to official figures. Fifteen million babies will be born with SCD globally over the next 30 years, with about 75 percent of those births occurring in sub-Saharan Africans, said the NIH.
President Muhammadu Buhari has met with Bill Gates and Business mogul, Aliko Dangote in New York.
During the meeting on Wednesday, the President applauded the contributions of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as Aliko Dangote Foundation to humanitarian and developmental activities in Nigeria.
President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday applauded the contributions of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as Aliko Dangote Foundation to humanitarian and developmental activities in Nigeria.
Meeting with the duo at the sidelines of the 74th United Nations General Assembly in New York, the President said they have touched humanity in many positive ways and congratulated them “for achieving what you had set out to do.”
“Thanks for deriving pleasure in helping people. Congratulations to you for returning part of your wealth to the people in diverse ways. Whatever we save in areas in which you have intervened, we can deploy to other areas like the building of infrastructure,” President Buhari said.
On agriculture, in which Alhaji Dangote makes huge investments, the President noted that farmers were very happy in Nigeria now, “as we have made fertilizer available, cut the price by half, and given many other incentives. They have no regret going back to the lands. The more we invest in agriculture, the better for us.”
Mr. Gates congratulated President Buhari “for assembling a cabinet that excites us,” saying he was pleased that one of the priorities of the administration was human capital development, of which health, nutrition, and education are key components.
Noting that Bill and Melinda Gates, as well as Aliko Dangote Foundations, keep track of Nigeria’s attainments on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as enunciated by the United Nations, he submitted that they were encouraged that there was an improvement in reduction of child mortality.
“Every local government area has better health/education situation today than in the year 2000. We are delighted with that. Nigeria is our biggest commitment to Africa. It’s only in India we do more in the world,” Mr. Gates said.
On polio eradication, he said Nigeria reached a zero wild poliovirus free milestone for three years in August, noting that the next six months were critical so that the country could finally be declared polio-free.
Alhaji Dangote appreciated the Nigerian military for helping with vaccination in the theatres of war while fighting insurgency, thus adding to the advances in the country’s polio status.
The highpoints of the week are the return of the abducted Dapchi schoolgirls after 30 days and the allegations of conspiracy and unlawful possession of prohibited firearms against Senator Dino Melaye.
Herdsmen Attacks Terrorist Acts?
The week began on Sunday with a directive from President Muhammadu Buhari to the Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC), ordering the deployment of its personnel to secondary schools in the North East. The directive was part of measures by the Federal Government to strengthen the security for students in the region following the abduction of the Dapchi school girls. The President also cancelled his trip to Rwanda, where he was expected to attend the Extraordinary Summit of the African Union scheduled for March 21, 2018. A statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs revealed that certain key stakeholders in the country were concerned about the provisions of the treaty.
On more reactions to the incessant killings in Nigeria, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) asked the UN Security Council and its members to declare herdsmen attacks as acts of terrorism. SERAP also urged the international body to urgently hold a special session on Nigeria and to visit the country to press the authorities to end the killings and destruction of property of citizens, particularly in the north-central region. In Bauchi states, soldiers attached to Operation Lafiya Dole killed four suspected members of a militia group during a patrol at Burra Junction in Ningi Local Government Area of the state. The armed men were said to have opened fire on the troops who responded immediately, killing four of them in the process. In another development, troops on Exercise Cat Race arrested 12 herdsmen for their alleged involvement in the destruction of farmlands in Benue State.
Police vs Melaye
On Monday, a Federal High Court in Abuja adjourned the trial of Maryam Sanda till April 19, to enable the prosecution to call its first witness. The defence counsel Mr Joseph Daudu had on behalf of Mrs Sanda made an application for the charges to be dismissed on the grounds that it was incompetent, null and void. In the meantime, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) fixed April 3 and 4 for the first Monetary Policy Committee meeting in the year. The apex bank fixed the date following the concession made by the Senate to screen and confirm the nominees appointed by the President to fill the posts of CBN deputy governors and members of the committee.
In Katsina State, Governor, Aminu Masari revealed plans by his administration to facilitate the release of about 116 inmates presently held in the state’s prison. The governor made the disclosure when he received a delegation from the Presidential Committee for Prison Reform and Decongestion. On legal matters, the absence of the prosecuting witness stalled proceedings in the trial of a former governor of Oyo State, Mr Rashidi Ladoja, who is being prosecuted for an alleged fraud of N4.7bn. Counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr Olabisi Oluwafemi, told Justice Mohammed Idris of the Federal High Court in Lagos that he was unable to bring his next witness to court.
Later in the day, the senator representing Kogi West, Dino Melaye, was hit with allegations of sponsoring and arming political thugs in his state. The Police levelled the allegations against Melaye following the arrest of two suspects who confessed to the various criminal roles they played in committing several kidnappings and armed robbery in different towns of the state.
Fresh Attack In Kogi
Residents of Kogi State were thrown into mourning on Tuesday after 10 people, including a traditional ruler, were killed by suspected herdsmen in Omala Local Government Area of the state. The assailants reportedly raided four villages during the attack which spanned two days – Sunday night till Monday afternoon. The villages affected are Agbenema, Aj’Ichekpa, Opada, and Iyad. Elsewhere, human rights group Amnesty International accused the military of failing to prevent the abduction of the Dapchi schoolgirls in Yobe State despite being warned. The group alleged that the security forces failed to act on advance warnings that a convoy of Boko Haram fighters was heading to Dapchi town. In a swift response to the allegation, the Defence Headquarters denied the claims by Amnesty International. The military described the claims as “outright falsehood and a calculated attempt to whip up sentiments and mislead unsuspecting Nigerians”.
In Abuja, former Vice President Namadi Sambo met with President Buhari at the Presidential Villa. Mr Sambo, however, left the State House quietly and refused to brief reporters about what he discussed with the President. In the North East, NSCDC officials recovered food items and books donated to malnourished children but stolen by some persons in Borno State. Borno NSCDC Commandant, Ibrahim Abdullahi, told reporters that the items were retrieved from the unauthorised persons while trying to transport them to the eastern region of the country.
For the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), John Oyegun, President Buhari’s administration has defied its challenges to deliver on its election promises to the people. Oyegun believes the fight against corruption has been won to the extent that it can no longer be a threat to the national economy. Meanwhile, Mr Ladoja’s trial continued in Lagos where the EFCC called a former director in the Oyo State Civil Service, Mr Yinka Fatoki, to testify in a case of alleged fraud to the tune of N4.7bn involving the former governor. Ladoja is being prosecuted alongside a former Commissioner for Finance in the state, Waheed Akanbi.
Dapchi Schoolgirls Return
March 21, 2018, is a day Nigerians and the APC government will not forget so soon; the day the abducted Dapchi schoolgirls regained freedom from the captivity of Boko Haram terrorists. The Federal Government confirmed the release of 104 students abducted by the insurgents on February 19 in Yobe State. Unfortunately, five of the girls lost their lives as a result of the trauma they went through while one of them was not released. Lauding the girls’ release, the APC was optimistic that the Federal Government would also secure the release of the remaining Chibok girls abducted by Boko Haram terrorists in 2014. The party said this in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Bolaji Abdullahi. On its part, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) accused the Federal Government and the ruling party of ‘scripting’ the abduction of the Dapchi schoolgirls, in the bid to seek re-election in 2019. The party further called on the United Nations and the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate the incident.
In Adamawa State, troops arrested a wanted Boko Haram suspect, Bubayi Isa, and three other in Kalaa village in the state. A statement by the Director of Army Public Relations, Brigadier General Texas Chukwu, revealed that the arrest was made following a tip-off. The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) said it was set to arraign a former governor of Kebbi State, Saidu Dakingari, for allegedly misappropriating N664.3 million belonging to the state. ICPC noted that it would arraign the former governor at the High Court of Kebbi State in Birnin Kebbi. Meanwhile, the National Assembly has concluded plans to pass the 2018 budget on Tuesday, April 24. Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, disclosed this during Wednesday’s plenary at the lower chamber in Abuja.
FG’s ERGP Evaluated
President Buhari visited Zamfara State on Thursday where he directed security agencies to stop the killings and criminality in the country, as well as improve their strategies on intelligence gathering, surveillance, and accuracy in deployments. During the visit, the President held an interactive meeting with political leaders, traditional rulers, elders, and victims of criminal attacks in the state. The Federal Government took a swipe at the opposition party over the PDP’s reaction to the release of the Dapchi schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram terrorists. The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, noted that the claims by the PDP have shown that the party has yet to learn from the mistakes of the past. Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State, however, accused the Federal Government of complicity in the abduction of the Dapchi girls. He described the disappearance and reappearance of the girls as “a laughable arrangement” for which some people are already smiling to the banks.
Far from the abduction saga, the Senate on confirmed the nomination of Aisha Ahmad and Edward Adamu for appointment as CBN deputy governors. The lawmakers also confirmed the nomination of Professor Adeola Adenikinju, Dr Aliyu Sanusi, and Dr Robert Asogwa, for appointment as members of the MPC, while they rejected the nomination of one other member of the committee. Also in Abuja, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo addressed a meeting of an expanded National Economic Council on Investment in Human Capital. Professor Osinbajo said that investing in people is a primary aspect of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) of the present administration. Also speaking at the event, philanthropist and Founder of Microsoft Corporation Bill Gates faulted part of the government’s ERGP. Gates, who is also the co-chairman of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said the implementation of the plan was at odds with the needs of Nigerians.
Elsewhere, the PDP accused the APC of interfering with the trial of its former National Publicity Secretary, Mr Olisa Metuh. Mr Metuh is standing trial for alleged money laundering being part of the funds linked with former National Security Adviser, Colonel Sambo Dasuki (rtd). An Abuja High Court also adjourned Dasuki’s trial till May 2 and 3, 2018, in further compliance with the Supreme Court order. A judge of the court, Justice Hussein Yusuf, announced the new trial dates after being presented with the apex court judgment of March 2, 2018, which ordered an accelerated hearing of the case.
Buhari Hosts Dapchi Schoolgirls
President Buhari received 104 Dapchi girls and two other students released by Boko Haram terrorists at the Presidential Villa. Addressing the freed captives on Friday, he asked them to pursue their dreams without fear. The President, however, warned all Nigerians that his administration would not condone any attempt to politicise security issues. He also revealed plans by the Federal Government to offer amnesty to terrorists that are willing to drop their arms. Following the releases of the girls, the Defence spokesperson, Brigadier General John Agim, said the military does not have enough capacity to maintain a huge security presence in all schools to prevent terrorist invasion or abduction of students. Brigadier General Agim noted that it is difficult to deploy troops to schools due to the huge land mass, especially in the North East which is volatile to attacks. He also accused Amnesty International of having the intention to ‘harm’ Nigerians. The Defence spokesperson said although the organisation might have credibility in other countries, he noted that it lacks credibility in Nigeria.
In an exclusive interview with Channels Television, the founder of Complete Care and Aid Foundation, Mrs Aisha Wakil, popularly known as ‘Mama Boko Haram’, revealed her efforts towards securing the release of the Dapchi girls. Meanwhile, the Federal High Court in Abuja acquitted Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, a serving justice of the Supreme Court, of the corruption charges against him. Justice John Tsoho, in his ruling, dismissed all the 13 counts of money laundering and passport fraud instituted by the Federal Government against the judge. Justice Ngwuta was one of the judges whose houses were raided by operatives of the Department of State Services in October 2016.
Another killing was recorded in Plateau state following the death of three persons in Tah community of Dong in Jos North Local Government Area of the state. The attack was said to have occurred on Thursday night while four men were on patrol to secure the community. Ahead of the 2018 Russia FIFA World Cup, the Super Eagles beat Poland in an international friendly played in Wroclaw, Poland. Chelsea winger Victor Moses scored the only goal via penalty in the 62nd minute after he was brought down by a Polish defender.
Buhari’s Administration Evaluated
On Saturday, socio-political organisations and key stakeholders from the northern part of Nigeria scored the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari low and, consequently, rejected him as their candidate for the 2019 general elections. The leaders who met on Saturday in Kaduna insisted that the present leadership representing the region has failed in its mandate and, therefore, must be replaced by competent persons. Elsewhere in the region, the Nigerian Military reopened the Maiduguri-Bama-Banki Road, about four years after it was captured by Boko Haram terrorists. Borno State Deputy Governor, Mr Usman Durkwa, who cut the tape to reopen the road, said the development has proven the success in the collective fight against insurgency in the North East.
Meanwhile, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) announced the resumption of operations in Rann in Borno. The agency announced the decision in a statement on Friday, about four weeks after it withdrew humanitarian operations in the town following the death of three aid workers. In Jalingo, A former Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Theophilus Danjuma (rtd), accused the military of complicity in the killings in Taraba, Benue, and other “riverine states” in the country. General Danjuma also accused the military of covering those behind the attacks which claimed scores of lives in 2018. The Nigerian Army, however, faulted Danjuma’s claims, saying it has been living up to its constitutional responsibility of defending the territorial integrity of the nation.
Following the allegations of criminal offences of conspiracy and unlawful possession of prohibited firearms, the police threatened to declare Senator Melaye wanted, should he fail to appear at the Kogi State Police Command on March 28. The Force Public Relations Officer, Jimoh Moshood, said an invitation and a court summon had been issued to the lawmaker, both of which he had reportedly ignored. Senator Melaye, in his response, stood his ground to appear before the police only in Abuja, saying his safety cannot be guaranteed in Kogi State.
The President this week cancelled his planned visit to Rwanda, received former vice president Nnamdi Sambo, American business magnate, Bill Gates and the freed Dapchi schoolgirls. He also got a blast from the past, with an aide of former President Goodluck Jonathan refuting claims by Vice President Osinbajo that they mismanaged funds.
SUNDAY: ‘Intense’ Security For North East Schools, Rwanda Trip cancelled
Buhari’s decision was spurred by the abduction of over 100 schoolgirls from the Government Girls Science Technical College (GGSTC) in Dapchi, Yobe State, about a month ago. They were however released on Wednesday, March 21.
The Commandant General of the NSCDC, Mohammadu Abdullahi, in compliance with Buhari’s directive commenced the tour to provide adequate security for Northeast schools on Sunday.
In honour of the late Senator representing Bauchi South, Ali Wakili, Nigeria’s first citizen sent a high-level government delegation to Bauchi to commiserate with the people of the state and his family. He described the Senator’s death as ‘shocking.’
The day ended with a retired military officer, Colonel Hassan Stan-Labo taking a swipe at President Buhari. Stan-Labo who spoke as a guest on Channels Television Programme, Sunday Politics said apart from visiting the state troubled by herdsmen attacks, Buhari should assume the role of Commander in Chief of the Federal Republic and sack Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, from office. Idris had previously flouted Buhari’s directive to relocate to Benue State due to incessant killings in Benue State.
MONDAY: Signing the CFTA, Screening CBN MPC Members
Buhari’s administration, however, received a blast from the previous administration on Tuesday. Reno Omokri an aide to former President Goodluck Jonathan spoke out loud on Monday. He countered claims by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, that the former President’s administration had shared about N150 billion before the 2015 elections. Omokri who was a guest on Channels Television’s Politics Today confidently took a swipe at Buhari’s administration. He said the Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo lied!
However, the National Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief John Odigie-Oyegun was quick to silence critics of the Federal Government. He said despite the challenges experienced by the present administration it has still been able to deliver on its election promises, especially its campaign promise to fight corruption.
WEDNESDAY: Dapchi Girls Are Back!
Wednesday, 21st March 2018 went down as an unforgettable date in Nigeria’s history. The Federal Government confirmed the release of 104 schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram terrorists. The girls were released on Wednesday after their abduction on February 19 from their school in Government Girls Science and Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe State.
Mixed reactions trailed the return of schoolgirls with some Nigerians expressing great delight and others demanding more explanation on the ‘sudden return’ with no arrests made, despite the heavy security agents deployed to secure Yobe State after news of the attack. Few others called for the release of the over 200 schoolgirls abducted from the Chibok Secondary School in Chibok, Borno State in April 2014. Nigerians believe these girls deserve not to be forgotten by the Buhari-led administration.
The day ended with Buhari dining and wining with American Business magnate and Co-Founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Bill Gates to a dinner at the State House in Abuja. They were joined by Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, and other top government officials.
THURSDAY: Zamfara Visit, Bill Gate’s Bombshell, Tweets For Leah
The ever-supportive Vice President also seized the day to assure of the Federal Government’s effort to grow Nigeria’s economy. While delivering a speech on at the Expanded National Economic Council on Investment in Human Capital held in Abuja, he revealed that investing in people is primary to the Buhari-led administration.
Bill Gate on Thursday challenged the Nigerian government to invest in human capital development. The founder of Microsoft believes this would lay a good foundation for the nation’s prosperity. Nigerian businessman, Aliko Dangote also joined voices with Gate, he called on the Federal Government to provide solutions to human capital challenges experienced in the country.
Responding to criticism from the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Buhari’s information minister fired back at the party for doubting the release of the Dapchi schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram terrorists. PDP had earlier called on the UN to investigate the Federal Government for ‘scripting’ the abduction of the schoolgirls. Mohammad condemned the claim by the opposition, he said the PDP is “inhuman, insensitive, unpatriotic and unworthy party” for making such allegation against FG.
“It is disheartening that one of the girls, Leah Sharibu, remains in captivity. Let me assure that I am as committed to her freedom as I was to the girls’ freedom when all 110 of them were in captivity. We will do everything in our power to bring Leah back safely,” Buhari tweeted.
The ERGP is a medium-term plan for 2017-2020 launched by President Buhari in 2017, which sets out an ambitious roadmap to achieve a seven per cent growth rate for Nigeria by 2020.
Going by Gates’ evaluation of the ERGP at the expanded National Executive Council (NEC) meeting held on Thursday in Abuja, Professor Oyebode said it was not an overstatement to describe the present government as clueless.
“There was a time we used to call the Jonathan government clueless and today, it’s not a hyperbole to say this is a clueless administration, in many respects,” he said. “And it doesn’t need a Bill Gates to tell us that we are not doing what we need to do.”
Despite the release of the Dapchi schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram terrorists on February 19, the academic believes much is still expected from the government.
He pointed out the gap between the government and its citizens and took a swipe at the National Orientation Agency (NOA) for not being efficient in discharging its duties.
Oyebode added that although the defenders will not agree that “the government is on the ropes”, Nigerians are tired of the routine style of administration.
According to him, there seems to be a “tremendous rapport if not support” for the antics of Boko Haram.
The professor decried that such situation is worrisome because the government has yet to convince and win the hearts and minds of the people.
“We should be able to convince the people to have faith and confidence in their government; but when you see the people celebrating and joyfully hailing those who did them ill, who kidnapped schoolgirls; then something is amiss,” he said.
Professor Oyebode, however, advised the government to put in more effort in sensitising the ordinary people in the troubled North East, saying the amnesty granted repentant Boko Haram members is not enough.
Philanthropist and Founder of Microsoft Corporation Bill Gates on Thursday in Abuja faulted part of the Federal Government’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan.
Gates, the Co-Chairman of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said the implementation of the ERGP is at odds with the needs of Nigerians.
The ERGP, which was launched by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2017, is a medium-term plan for 2017-2020, that sets out an ambitious roadmap to achieve a seven percent growth rate for the country by 2020.
It is aimed at restoring economic growth while leveraging the ingenuity and resilience of Nigerians.
But Gates, while delivering a speech at the special and expanded National Economic Council on Investment in Human Capital in Abuja, suggested the plan got part of its priorities wrong.
“The Nigerian government’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan identifies investing in our people as one of three strategic executives, but the execution priorities don’t fully reflect people’s needs – prioritising physical capital over human capital,” he said.
According to Gates, Nigeria can only maximise its enormous potential when citizens are well equipped. As such, he expects the government to prioritise human capital development.
“Nigeria has unmatched economic potentials but what becomes of that potential depends on the choices you make as Nigeria’s leaders. The most important choice you can make is to maximise your greatest resource – the Nigerian people.
“Nigeria will thrive when every Nigerian is able to thrive, If you invest in their health, education and opportunities, the human capital that we are talking about today, then that will lay the foundation for sustained prosperity,” Gates said.
Without human capital development, the billionaire believes there will be “a sharp limit on how much the country can grow”.
He stressed the need for the country to act fast by analysing the state of country’s health sector.
“Much of Nigeria still looks like a low-income country. Nigeria is one of the most dangerous places in the world to give birth,” he said.
“With the fourth-worst maternal mortality rate in the world, ahead of only Sierra Leone, Central African Republic, and Chad. One in three Nigerian Children is chronically malnourished.”
The Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, has said that investing in people is a primary aspect of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.
He said this at the Expanded National Economic Council on Investment in Human Capital in Abuja on Thursday, in response to calls by other speakers asking the Federal Government to resolve challenges surrounding human capital development.
Speaking further, Osinbajo noted that the government was aware that people are critical to driving the economy which is why the administration is currently doing everything possible to improve the basic infrastructural elements that enhance proper human life.
“Nigeria has strong economic growth and development ambitions encapsulated in our economic Recovery and growth plan which we launched in 2017.
“All of those lofty ambitions can only be achieved through the determined application of human skill and effort and for that effort to be meaningful and productive, it has to come from people who are healthy, educated and who empowered.
“It is this realisation that has helped us to ensure that one of the primary planks of our economic recovery and growth plan is ‘investing in people’; and it is for this reason that we are expanding the reach and quality of our health care through the National Health Insurance Scheme and working to guarantee basic education for all persons whilst also upgrading and modernising the quality of secondary and post-secondary education.”
“We are engaged fully as a government in particular and as governments in the various states to ensure that we are able to address some of these concerns.
“Let me reiterate that not only are we aware of the issues that you’ve outlined and many that have already been spoken of, but we are prepared to take on those challenges head-on and indeed we have no choice because the problem literally grows every day.
“Our population happens to be the largest in Africa and one of the largest in the world and in the next two decades, some say we will be the 3rd or 4th,” he said.
Some of the key speakers at the event included Founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates and Business Mogul, Aliko Dangote.
In his address, Gates highlighted the importance of the human factor in national development and advised the government to take more practical steps in that regard.
“The Nigerian government’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan identifies investing in our people as one of three strategic executives but the execution priorities don’t fully reflect people’s needs – prioritising physical capital over human capital,” Gates stated.
Gates and Dangote are among those scheduled to speak at a special session of the National Economic Council on Thursday.
The session will take place at the old Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, according to Mr Laolu Akande, the Senior Special Assistant to Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo.
“The special session, which comprises the Federal and State governments, will also be attended by Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Chairman of the Dangote Foundation, and Bill Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation,” a statement by Mr Akande read in part.
“The Vice President will preside and speak at the event. Similarly, Dangote and Gates will also deliver opening speeches.”
The national Economic Council is chaired by the Vice-President and has all 36 state governors, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, and ministers as members.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has been playing significant humanitarian and philanthropic roles in Nigeria in the areas of polio eradication, maternal health and other areas.
The Chief Executive Officer of Amazon.com Inc., Jeff Bezos, has unseated fellow tech billionaire Bill Gates as the richest person in the world.
Forbes reported on Thursday that earning from the e-commerce company’s meteoric stock rose to reach a fortune of $90.6 billion.
Amazon shares jumped 1.6 per cent at the start of trading on Thursday, boosting the net worth of Bezos – the company’s founder and largest shareholder – by $1.4 billion, according to Forbes, which tracks the world’s wealthiest.
The stock was up ahead of Amazon’s second-quarter earnings report after Thursday’s market close. Analysts expect that the world’s largest online retailer will report that its sales jumped 22 percent to $37.2 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Bezos, a relative newcomer to the top of Forbes’ list, has benefited from the seemingly boundless expansion of Amazon into new markets.
The once-bookseller plans to acquire Whole Foods Market Inc, at the same time it is making strides in the fashion business, Hollywood, enterprise computing and general retail from India to Mexico.
Reuters could not independently verify the wealth of Bezos or Microsoft Corp’s co-founder Gates.
A philanthropist, Gates has given $31.1 billion to charitable causes through 2016 and has a net worth of $90.1 billion, Forbes said.
Philanthropist and Founder of Microsoft, Mr Bill Gates, says the power of the youths in Africa should be harnessed and their ability to drive innovation must be encouraged and given an opportunity to thrive.
He was the keynote speaker at the 14th Annual Nelson Mandela Foundation Lecture in Pretoria, South Africa, where he acknowledged some young Africans who have created groundbreaking innovations.
Mr Gates identified economic, social and health challenges prevailing in the continent as some of the factors that could hinder their development and that of the future of Africa.
He emphasized the need for African leaders to multiply the talents for innovation by the whole of Africa’s growing population, and that depends on whether all of Africa’s young people are given the opportunity to thrive.
“Nelson Mandela said poverty is not natural, it is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings.
“We are the human beings that must take action and we have to decide now because this unique moment won’t last.
“We must clear away the obstacles that are standing in young people’s way so that they can seize all their potential.
“If young people are sick and malnourished, their bodies and brains will never fully develop. If they are not educated well, their minds will lie dormant. If they do not have access to economic opportunities, they will not be able to achieve their goals,” he said.
Some northern state governments in Nigeria have signed a Memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Bill Gates and Dangote Foundations, to strengthen routine immunisation in the region.
The partnership is aimed at eradicating polio cases and other child killer diseases in Northern Nigeria and other States.
Speaking during the signing of the agreement in Kaduna on Wednesday, Mr Bill Gates said his foundation was determined to eradicate polio and other related diseases in Nigeria, Africa and globally through partnership with various states and countries.
He commended the various state governments for allocating a substantial sum of their annual budget to the health sector.
On his part, President of Dangote Foundation, Mr Aliko Dangote, commended the state governments for their efforts in routine immunisation coverage and assured them of his foundation’s continuous support to the various state governments in Nigeria in the fight against child killer diseases as well as boosting the health sector.
He also announced the extension of additional one year partnership on routine immunisation with Kano State.
The agreement was signed with the governments of Kaduna, Borno, Sokoto and Bauchi States.
Technical And Financial Assistance
State governors, the Minister of Health, traditional rulers, diplomats, representatives of development partners and other relevant stakeholders in the health sector witnessed the signing of the agreement.
Under the agreement, the two foundations will offer both technical and financial assistance in support of the exercise in the respective states.
In his presentation, the Secretary of National Primary Health Care Development Agency, Dr Ado Mohammed, explained to the gathering what the Federal Government was doing to sustain routine immunisation.
He said Nigeria had successfully reduced childhood mortality, as at 2015, a feat he attributed to the use of vaccines.
Some development partners at the ceremony also lauded the agreement.
UNICEF Country Representative, Jean Gough, said the MoU would offer the model platform to capitalise on the prospects of evidence-based approaches towards sustainable routine immunisation.
The Governor of Kano State, Abdullahi Ganduje, Governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima and the Deputy Governor of Kaduna State, Bala Bantex, unanimously agreed that the routine immunisation in their respective states had started yielding results, as the region in the past 13 months recorded no case of polio.
The public/private partnership, also seeks to improve routine immunisation and primary health care in the north with a goal of reaching 80 per cent coverage with basic vaccines by 2020.
For proper sustenance of the MoU, stakeholders expect that the state governments involved in the partnership will meet up with their own responsibilities and ensure transparent implementation of the programme.
Over two million deaths are delayed through immunisation each year globally.
Despite this fact, vaccine-preventable diseases remain the most common cause of child mortality in Nigeria, with an estimated three million deaths each year.
In Nigeria, immunisation against childhood diseases such as diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, polio and measles remains a difficult task in the health sector.