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Reps Urge Foreign Affairs Ministry to Provide Ekweremdu with Consular Support

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The House of Representatives has urged the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Nigeria’s High Commission to the UK to ensure embattled Sen. Ike Ekweremadu and his wife, Beatrice are provided with all consular services they require.

The resolution was sequel to a unanimous adoption of a motion by Rep. Abdullahi Abdulkadir (APC-Bauchi) at the plenary on Tuesday.

Moving the motion earlier, Abdulkadir said he is concerned, the arrest of Ekweremadu a Nigerian citizen, a serving senator, a former Deputy President of Senate and former Deputy Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament by the metropolitan police in the United Kingdom.

He said Ekweremadu and his wife Beatrice were arrested at the London Heathrow Airport, on their arrival from Nigeria to the United Kingdom.

According to him, the Metropolitan police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) have since charged the Ekweremadus of offences relating to human traficking and exploitation.

Abdulkadir said that the Nigerian lawmaker and his spouse had been detained pending the determination of the jurisdiction issues by the Attorney-General of England and Whales.

“Concerned that the additional information emerging from the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) and other legitimate sources including the visa issuing protocols at the UK High Commission.

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“Bank verification number (BVN) suggest a different narrative which might not have been available to the metropolitan police at the time of arrest and charge.

“Hopeful that the authority in the United Kingdom will work with their national security and intelligence counterpart in Nigeria to conduct a holistic and thorough investigation to ascertain all the facts relating to the allegation in order to make a fair determination on the issues in the best interest of equity and justice for all concerned

“I am confident that the Federal Government of Nigeria will, through the respective organs of government, use all available tools to ensure that the investigation and outcome of this will be conducted in the highest fidelity to the rule of law and with respect to the dignity of the person as enshrined in the European Convention of human rights which the United Kingdom is a signatory.

“We are aware of Ekweremadu’s unblemished record as a constitutional lawyer, ranking legislator at the highest level in Nigeria, the West Africa subregion and various international parliamentary bodies and foremost advocate of the right and dignity of man.

“Also aware that Mrs Ekweremadu has had a flawless career in the Nigerian federal public service rising to the rank of director,” he said.

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Abdulkadir said that it is important to be mindful of the value of human life as it was imperative that Miss Ekweremadu who has a life threatening ailment is not allowed to come to harms way due to the unavailability of parental care owing to the continuous detention of her parents.   

The lawmakers requested that the agencies of  government and corporate bodies and particularly the National Identity Commission (NIMC), Nigerian Immigration Service and banks, act swiftly to respond to legitimate request for information to facilitate the prompt resolution of the charges against Ekweremadu.

The house resolved to invite the Minister of Foreign Affairs, acting Comptroller of the Nigerian Immigration Service, Director-General of NIMC to brief the house through the relevant committees on all necessary actions taken regarding the matter.

In his ruling, the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila said that a criminal charge does not constitute a conviction or conclusive proof of guilt.

According to him, this is merely the beginning of the judicial process to substantiate the fact of the allegation and gather sufficient evidence to sustain the charges therein.

“Until that process is concluded and even then, let us keep in mind that at the heart of this matter, there are human beings and fellow citizens whose lives have taken a turn none of us would ever wish for ourselves,” he said. (NAN)

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UNICEF Awards $170m Malaria Vaccine Contract to GSK

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United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has awarded a contract for the first ever supply of a malaria vaccine to GSK with a value of up to 170 million dollars.

Newsmen report that GSK plc, formerly GlaxoSmithKline plc, is a British multinational pharmaceutical and biotechnology company with global headquarters in London, England. Established in 2000 by a merger of Glaxo Wellcome and SmithKline Beecham.

UNICEF in a statement issued from New York on Tuesday said the landmark award would lead to 18 million doses of RTS,S/AS01 (RTS,S) being available over the next three years, potentially saving thousands of lives every year.

In 2020, nearly half a million children died from malaria in Africa alone, a rate of one child death per minute.

Etleva Kadilli, Director of UNICEF’s Supply Division said the vaccine rollout would give a clear message to malaria vaccine developers to continue their work because malaria vaccines are needed and wanted.

“We hope this is just the beginning. Continued innovation is needed to develop new and next-generation vaccines to increase available supply, and enable a healthier vaccine market.

“This is a giant step forward in our collective efforts to save children’s lives and reduce the burden of malaria as part of wider malaria prevention and control programmes.”

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According to WHO data, more than 30 countries have areas with moderate to high malaria transmission, where the vaccine could provide added protection against malaria to over 25 million children each year once supply scales up.

The RTS,S malaria vaccine is the result of 35 years of research and development and is the first-ever vaccine against a parasitic disease. The vaccine acts against Plasmodium falciparum, the most deadly malaria parasite globally and the most prevalent in Africa.

In 2019, pilot routine vaccine use was launched in three countries – Ghana, Kenya and Malawi – as part of the Malaria Vaccine Implementation Programme coordinated by WHO.

The experience and evidence generated by the pilots informed WHO’s recommendation in October 2021 for widespread use of the first malaria vaccine in countries with moderate to high P. falciparum malaria transmission.

Soon after, in December 2021, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance’s decision to provide funding for malaria vaccine programmes in eligible countries opened the pathway for broader roll-out of the vaccine.

“We recently opened the first application window for Gavi support in rolling out the malaria vaccine.

“Thanks to UNICEF’s procurement work, we now have more certainty on supply and can move a step further towards getting this life-saving vaccine to the people who need it the most.

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“As manufacturing ramps up over time, we hope that increasing volumes will also lead to more sustainable, lower prices,” Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, said.

Dr Kate O’Brien, WHO Director of the Department of Immunisation, Vaccines and Biologicals said lives are at stake, every day.

“WHO welcomes the progress to secure supply and timely access to vaccine so that more countries can begin to introduce this additional malaria prevention tool as rapidly as possible.

“Given the initial limited supply, it is crucial that children living in areas where the risk of disease and need is highest are prioritised first.”

This award is the culmination of 18 months of intensive preparation and consultation with industry and partners.

As the largest buyer of vaccines in the world, UNICEF accelerated action to conclude procurement negotiations, to ensure there are no delays in securing available supplies of the malaria vaccine to help protect vulnerable children.

Demand for the malaria vaccine is expected to be high among affected countries. As with any new vaccine, supply will be limited at first and will increase over time as manufacturing capacity ramps up to the level required.

As volumes increase, costs per dose should decrease. Plans are already underway to boost production, including through technology transfer, so that every child at risk will one day have the opportunity to be immunized against this killer disease.

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“We must not lose sight of the need to accelerate access to this and future malaria vaccines, and to make the necessary investments in malaria control and immunization services, as well as in research and development.

“Effective malaria and immunization programs are both key to the successful delivery of a malaria vaccine and contribute to stronger health systems overall,” Dr Ashley Birkett, Global Head of Malaria Vaccines and Biologics at PATH, said.

UNICEF supports the regional diversification of vaccine production and encourages GSK and other pipeline manufacturers to consider partnering with companies in Africa as part of this effort. (NAN)

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Senior Kenyan Election Officials Disown Results of Presidential Election

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The planned announcement of the Kenyan presidential election results on Monday descended into chaotic scenes after the deputy chairperson of the election commission and three other commissioners disowned the presidential election results.

“We are not able to take ownership of the results that will be announced,’’ Juliana Cherera, the deputy chairperson of the electoral commission told a media briefing at a different venue from where the announcement was to be made.

Diplomats and international election observers were whisked out of the tallying hall where the chairman of the electoral commission was preparing to announce the presidential results.

Meanwhile, Deputy President, William Ruto, appears to be leading a tight presidential race against opposition leader, Raila Odinga, on Monday as Kenyans awaited final results of the election held nearly a week ago.

However, Kenya has a history of post-poll violence and slow progress by the electoral commission in tallying Tuesday’s vote has fed fears that the election will be disputed, leading to bloody scenes like those that followed presidential polls in 2007 and 2017. (NAN)

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Severe Drought Displaces More Than 1m Somalis – UN

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The number of drought-related displacements has surpassed one million to hit 1,002,796 people in Somalia since January 2021, the United Nations (UN) humanitarian agency said.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said some 83,518 people were displaced in July by drought, a 26 per cent decrease compared to the previous month.

The UN agency on June 24 appealed for 993.

3 million U.S. dollars to provide live-saving and life-sustaining assistance to prevent famine and respond to the drought in Somalia by December.

The OCHA said the impact of the drought and increasing economic pressures are deepening the severity of needs and driving the country to the brink of famine. (Xinhua/NAN)

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