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FG Vaccinates 4.95m Girls against Cervical Cancer in Nine States

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By Laide Akinboade, Abuja

Federal Government on Wednesday said it vaccinated 4.95 million girls aged nine to 14, representing 80 percent of eligible girls in 15 states in four months.

The Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof. Ali Pate stated this at the ministerial press briefing to showcase the strides made by the administration of President Bola Tinubu in the health sector.

Pate revealed that the second phase of the vaccination exercise is scheduled for May covering Anambra, Borno, Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Ekiti, Gombe, Imo, Kwara, Kogi, Ondo, Rivers, Oyo, Sokoto, Kaduna, Katsina, Niger, Yobe, Plateau and Zamfara States.

He added that pre-implementation activities have already commenced.

According to Pate, “Since assuming office, we have prioritized the revitalization of primary healthcare facilities across the nation, ensuring they are adequately equipped and staffed to provide essential services to communities.

“Through sustained investment and strategic partnerships, we have expanded access to vital healthcare services, particularly in rural and underserved areas, improving health outcomes and reducing the burden of preventable diseases.

“As a result of our efforts, we have recorded an increase in the proportion of women who attend ANC.

“Over 550,000 women now attend their first ANC and are armed with the right information and care to improve their pregnancy outcomes and reduce maternal and child mortality.

“The achievements we have recorded signal progress and improvements. To sustain and continue to build on these gains, in the last six months, the Government of Nigeria recruited 2,497 Doctors, Midwives/Nurses, and CHEWs to bridge the gaps due to attrition.

“An additional 1,400 health facilities now have Skilled Birth Attendants to assist in deliveries at the health facilities. This has increased the number of health facility deliveries to as high as 230,000 deliveries per month.

“I am delighted to announce that the Federal Government will be releasing N50 billion as the first tranche of the Basic Healthcare Fund, a significant increase from N25 billion allocated in 2022.

“This infusion of funds will breathe new life into our primary healthcare facilities, ensuring that quality care is accessible to all citizens.

“By supporting enrollment initiatives and streamlining administrative processes, we have extended coverage to millions of Nigerians, safeguarding them against the financial hardships associated with healthcare expenses.

“Since the beginning of this administration, we have enrolled about 750,000 more Nigerians in health insurance.

”We remain committed to providing access to quality health for all Nigerians through the Vulnerable Group Fund and the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF)

“Through robust vaccination campaigns and outreach programs, we have achieved significant strides in sustaining immunization coverage nationwide, safeguarding our communities, particularly our children, from devastating diseases.

“Since the inception of diphtheria response, over 5 million children have been immunized with the Penta vaccine and 10 million children with Td vaccines,” the minister explained.

He said, “To strengthen our response to Lassa fever outbreaks, the Federal Government has embarked on the distribution of essential response commodities to states and treatment centers across the nation especially in affected states.

“These include Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs), Ribavirin (injection and tablets), body bags, thermometers, hypochlorite hand sanitizers, and Information, Education, and Communication (IEC) materials.

“I am delighted to announce the successful coverage of HPV vaccination. Since the launch of the HPV vaccine in October 2023 across 15 states plus the FCT.

“We have successfully vaccinated more than 4,95million eligible girls aged 9-14 years representing 80% of eligible girls.

“The Phase 2 introduction is scheduled for May 2024 in Anambra, Borno, Cross-river, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Ekiti, Gombe, Imo, Kwara, Kogi, Ondo, Rivers, Oyo, Sokoto, Kaduna, Katsina, Niger, Yobe, Plateau and Zamfara.”

He said there has been improvement in patient attendance at federal tertiary hospitals, a testament to the improved quality of care and confidence in our healthcare system.

Pate announced, “Twelve tertiary hospitals/centers have been earmarked for infrastructure development, including the establishment of oncology centers, radiology centers, and diagnostics facilities.”

Earlier the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, during his welcome address said the briefing was initiated to provide a platform for public officials to reel out their achievements and equally apprise Nigerians of the challenges of governance.

He said, under Tinubu, Nigeria has recorded GDP growth of 3.46 percent in the fourth quarter of 2023 as against 2.54 percent recorded in the third quarter of 2022.

“Capital importation rose to 66 percent in the fourth quarter of 2023, reversing a 36 percent decline in the third quarter.

“Petrol importation has been reduced by 50 percent since the withdrawal of the fuel subsidy.

“The Nigerian Stock Exchange All Share Index crossed the 100,000 mark – its highest ever, mainly due to the pragmatic reforms initiated by the president, which inspired investor confidence in the Nigerian economy.

“It is also encouraging to state that oil production has rose from 1.22 million barrels per day in the second quarter of 2023 to 1.55 million barrels per day in the fourth quarter of 2023,” Idris stated. 

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PDP National Chairman Must Go, Angry Lawmakers Insist 

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By Ubong Ukpong, Abuja

Political crisis in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) took a new dimension yesterday after meeting of the party’s caucus in the House of Representatives.

Lawmakers loyal to the party’s Acting National Chairman, Umar Damagun and FCT Minister, Nyesom Wike attempted to pass a vote of confidence on Damagun but were blocked.

The meeting convened by the Leader of the Caucus and House Minority Leader, Hon.

Kingsley Chinda was held for about two hours at the National Assembly, Abuja ahead of Thursday’s National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the party.

Last week, a group of 60 PDP federal lawmakers threatened to quit the party if the doctored list of Caretaker Committees in Rivers and 10 other states which was filled with members and loyalist of the All Progressive Congress (APC) is not nullified.

The group under the aegis of Opposition Lawmakers Coalition also demanded the resignation of the acting chairman of PDP to pave way for a north-central person to emerge as acting chairman of the party pending the conduct of convention as required by the party’s constitution.

Chinda said, “We have just concluded the third meeting of the People’s Democratic Party caucus in the 10th Assembly and have resolved to tell all of us and the world that we are united and we are one and remain united, indivisible, committed and out to perform its duty as the watchdog on behalf of the Nigerian people.

“In the same vein, we x-rayed the security situation in our country and we resolved that we can no longer take this situation where Nigeria is today almost tagged as one life, one minute silence.

“The government is therefore called upon to immediately take steps to ensure that the security situation in the country is normalized and the caucus have also given three-month ultimatum for government to normalize the security situation in our country.

“After three months, the caucus will take further steps to sensitize and mobilize Nigerians to perhaps take their security into their hands.

“The house of representatives caucus also agreed to call on all party caucuses, the board of trustees, national executive committee and the national working committee of the party to embark on reconciliatory measures with the view to resolve all litigations that are pending and that has hindered the party in anyway whatsoever from having a substantive national Chairman.

“We call on our leaders, leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party to continue to demonstrate unconditional loyalty to the party and ensure that the party is moved to abide or place where she enjoyed the position of the largest party in Africa and to take back the Aso Villa which is actually supposed to be our birth right. And so for us, we are going back as we resume the session to commence a strong, virile and purpose driven opposition to give the people a voice in the parliament.

“We call on our leaders in the PDP to continue to demonstrate unconditional loyalty to the party and ensure that the party reclaim her pride of place where she enjoys the position of the largest party in Africa and to take back the Aso Villa which actually supposed to be our birth right.

“For us, we are going back as we resume the session to commence a strong, virile and purpose driven opposition to give the people a voice in the parliament. We also called on the Senate Leadership to please take steps to recall our colleague and senior brother, a veteran politician, a parliamentarian per excellence, Abdul Ningi.”

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FG to Strengthen Agric Dev’t through Land-Based Investment

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By Tony Obiechina, Abuja

The Federal Government has reiterated its commitments to adopting responsible and inclusive land-based investment principles in the agricultural Sector.

To this end, the State Action on Business Enabling Reforms (SABER) Programme, is poised to reward States with over US$4.

5 million each for successfully setting up the requisite Governance Systems, Guidelines and Piloting Investment(s) in line with Established Principles.

The National Programme Coordinator, SABER Programme, Dr. Ali Mohammed noted that “This reform will also strategically position your States for local and Foreign Investment, hence, creating more jobs and eventually, propel the much desired Economic Growth”.

The National Programme Coordinator, SABER Programme disclosed this at the commencement of a workshop on the Framework for Responsible and Inclusive Land-Intensive Agriculture (FRILIA) being jointly organized for Sub-nationals by the Federal Ministry of Finance and the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) in Abuja.

The SABER Programme is a three-year (2023-2025) US$750m program for results that seeks to incentivize States to implement critical reforms aimed at improving (1) efficiency in land administration (2) the regulatory framework for private investment in fiber optic deployment (3) services provided by investment promotion agencies and public private partnership units and (4) the efficiency and transparency of government to business services in participating States.

Disbursements will be on-lent to the States upon annual verification by an Independent Verification Agent (IVA) that a State has successfully implemented the associated reform. FRILIA is one of the many reforms advocated by the program.

Dr. Mohammed lamented that although food production has been increasing steadily, attaining Food Security remains a major challenge noting that while the government has intervened in terms of making financing and inputs available, more systemic issues around land administration and compliance with best practice standards remain an issue.

“As we seek out increased investment in the Sector, we must ensure that impediments to doing business are removed and that investors adhere to principles and guidelines that safeguard the rights of host communities.

“They should also employ operating models that have the least impact on livelihood and the environment. It is our belief that the Framework for Responsible and Inclusive Land-Intensive Agriculture (FRILIA) provides the roadmap for attaining these objectives”.

The National Programme Coordinator further disclosed that in order to provide the right enabling environment, the Federal Ministry of Finance (FMF) through the World Bank-assisted SABER Program, has engaged the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) to assist in providing a suite of technical assistance services including Advisory, Guidelines, Peer Learning Sessions and Technical Workshops.

In his remarks earlier, the Director General of NGF, Mr. Asishana Okauru disclosed that under SABER Programme, NGF is working collaboratively with the Federal Ministry of Finance and the World Bank to deliver advisory and capacity building support to States.

Okauru observed that Land-based investment in Nigeria has been marred by various challenges ranging from lack of clarity on governance mechanisms; weak administrative support systems for stakeholders; poor data; little or no recognition for inclusion, gender equality and cultural values; poor engagement with host community; disproportionate compensation and resettlement for persons displaced.

“These have impacted negatively on the cost of doing business, agriculture value chain, livelihood, environment and ultimately, economic development”.

To address these challenges, the Director General emphasized that State Governments seeking out investment for intensive Land-based agriculture, must think through strengthening their governance and administrative systems by ensuring that issues of inclusion, gender equality, fair compensation, environmental as well as social sustainability are prioritized, and that established guidelines thereof are adhered to by all stakeholders.

He recalled that in 2021, the NGF in collaboration with the World Bank convened the first Sub-national dialogue on the adoption of a Framework for Responsible and Inclusive Land-Intensive Agriculture (FRILIA). This will facilitate experience sharing from front-runners such as Kaduna and Ogun States which have since then set-up governance systems and guidelines for implementation.

Also in 2023, the Forum had similarly supported 7 States (Borno, Edo, Ekiti, Kebbi, Nasarawa, Niger and Zamfara) with the development of an Executive Order mandating the adoption of FRILIA.

According to him, the model Executive Order being advocated by NGF sets out in-part the governance and administrative mechanisms, commitment to international and proven principles that guarantee recognition, respect and protection of land and human rights.

“It also outlines commitment to ensuring inclusion and gender equality, environmental and social sustainability, food security, responsible natural resource management amongst others”.

Okauru also thanked the World Bank and the Federal Ministry of Finance for their continued support and collaboration in advancing reforms for sub-national development.

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Kaduna Assembly Probes Loans Obtained by El-Rufai Administration

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By Lubem Myaornyi

Kaduna State House of Assembly yesterday set up a 13-man committee to probe financial dealings, loans, grants and other project implementations from 2015-2023 under former Governor Nasir El-Rufai administration.

The House also mandated the committee to invite notable personalities that served during the period, including contractors to show how the loans and grants received during the period under review were spent.

The constitution of the adhoc committee followed a motion by member representing Kaura Constituency, Hon.

Yusuf Mugu.

Mugu said it was a matter of public importance that the loans borrowed by former Governor Nasir El-Rufai be investigated arguing that there is a need for the people of the state to know what the loans were used for.

He said, “There have been uncomplimentary comments and assassination of character on the leadership of the state, which the assembly cannot sit and watch.

“That is why I came up with this motion that the Speaker constitute a committee to investigate the allegations and negative comments on them.

“This is the only way the state can rekindle its confidence in its development partners, collaborators, and also those who give us loans and grants. Failure to do this will push the indicators of the state to a situation whereby nobody will want to do business with us.”

Speaking on the matter, former Speaker Yusuf Zailani noted that he denied approval of some of the loans but the governor still found his way.

Zailani who represents Igabi West constituency said, “I suffered a lot in order not to give approval for the loan to be collected.

“Even the then Deputy Speaker, Isaac Auta Zankhai was against me because I disagreed with the loan to be collected. I told the former governor to look at the number of loans we had on hand and he didn’t listen to me.”

Samuel Kambai and Henry Marah representing Zangon Kataf and Jaba constituencies respectively explained that the duty of the legislators is to give approval before the governor goes ahead to collect loans but in Kaduna the case was different.

Speaker Yusuf Dahiru Liman, who presided over the plenary session, urged the ad hoc committee to invite the Speakers of the 8th and 9th assemblies and all other relevant stakeholders and agencies for investigation.

He assured the House that the matter will be properly looked into, saying they will give everyone the liberty to speak the truth.

He said, “We just want to analyze the last administration’s spendings so that we can stand with our shoulders high by the time we finish from the Assembly.

“We do not want anyone to call us rubber stamp legislators. We’re not going to do this investigation to ridicule anybody but we’ll do the right thing.”

The House however unanimously requested to hand over notes given to incumbent Governor Uba Sani by the previous administration so that it would guide the committee.

The 13-man committee includes: Aminu Anti, representing Doka Gabasawa as Chairman; Yusuf Mugu Kaura as Deputy Chairman; Munira Tanimu; Shehu Yunusa as members and nine others.

The panel was mandated to investigate El-Rufai’s top associate and senior counsellor on investment, Jimi Lawal.

The Assembly also mandated the committee to invite notable personalities, including the former speakers of the 8th and 9th Assembly, commissioners of finance, former managing directors of Kaduna markets, and commissioners of budget and planning, among others.

Governor Sani, during a town hall meeting with stakeholders said the huge debts he inherited from El-Rufai were making it difficult for him to pay salaries as well as carry out projects.

Sani said his administration inherited a huge debt burden of $587 million, N85 billion, and 115 contractual liabilities from his predecessor.

This revelation generated cracks in the Kaduna chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

The governor lamented that the state was left with N3 billion, an amount he said was not enough to pay salaries, as the state’s monthly salary bill stood at N5.2 billion.El-Rufai’s son accused the governor of incompetence but the former governor refrained from public comment.

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