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Thousands Dump APC for PDP in Benue

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Leaders of defectors from various political parties including the All Progressives Congress, APC, who decamped to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, have apologised to Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State for erroneously joining forces with enemies of the state to castigate and mock him.

The leaders included erstwhile Caretaker Chairman of Gwer West Local Government Council, Hon. Hyacinth Kwegi; a House of Assembly Candidate in the 2019 general elections on the platform of the APC, Hon Ukeyima Mkem; former DGSA, Mr Titus Utuur; all tendered apologies Sunday, November 21st, 2021 at the mega decamping rally held at Naka, headquarters of Gwer West local government council.

In separate remarks at the defection of thousands into the PDP, the leaders regretted when they unsuccessfully taunted the Governor on killings in Benue by herdsmen just to support their former political parties.

They stated that despite the propaganda, most of them couldn’t vote in their villages in the 2019 elections due to the invasion by Fulani militia under the watch of the APC-led administration, stressing that some of them benefited much from the Governor but later left him without good reason.

They appreciated Governor Ortom and his wife, Dr Eunice Ortom as well as the entire PDP for accepting them back into the fold, even as they pledged unflinching support to the PDP.

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Governor Samuel Ortom and his wife, Dr Eunice Ortom while receiving the decampees, assured them of equal opportunities, pointing out that in the PDP, members have equal opportunities.

The Governor stated that Nigerians will not continue to tolerate the failed leadership of the APC but takeover to provide direction for the country.

State Chairman of the PDP, Sir John Ngbede said the PDP family owes Governor Ortom prayers and unflinching support, hinting that the party will soon welcome thousands of supporters in Benue South Senatorial District.

Speaker of the Benue State House of Assembly, Rt Hon Titus Uba, House of Representatives Member for Gwer-East and Gwer West, Rt Hon Mark Gbillah and Majority Leader of the Benue State House of Assembly, Hon Damian Cheme also delivered goodwill messages at the event.

Others who also spoke included Special Adviser to the Governor on Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Barr Ken Achabo and Chairman Gwer West Local Government Council, Mrs Grace Igbabon.

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16, 17 Year Old Can Now Take COVID-19 Vaccination – NPHCDA

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By Laide Akinboade, Abuja

 National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, NPHCDA, said it has given a vaccination waiver for individuals aged 16 and 17 to enable them to receive coronavirus jabs.

The agency said this in an advisory made available to newsmen.

According to the agency, “The NPHCDA has given a waiver for persons aged 16 and 17 to receive COVID-19 vaccines if required for educational purposes,” the advisory read.

It would be recalled that the Federal Government, through the NPHCDA, had earlier recommended that only eligible Nigerians from age 18 and above would be allowed to take the vaccine.

It was also reported that countries in Europe and the United States of America, following the rise in the number of child infections, had also begun the administration of vaccines for children, a move which global health bodies and agencies had castigated following the lack of vaccine equity in countries across the world.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation’s regional office for Africa, has declared the Omicron variant of COVID-19 as the dominant strain in two African countries – Nigeria and Cape Verde.

Though the body did not reveal the number of Omicron cases in the two countries, it noted, “While it took around four weeks for the Delta variant to surpass the previously dominant Beta, Omicron outpaced Delta within two weeks in the worst-hit African countries.”

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The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control had on December 1, 2021, announced three new index cases of the Omicron variant, which was dubbed a variant of concern in the country.

As of December 21, 2021, the centre added that the number of Omicron cases in the country had risen to 45.

Speaking during a virtual press briefing, the WHO Director of Emergency Preparedness, Dr. Abdou Laye Gueye, who spoke on behalf of the Regional Director, Dr. Moeti Matshidiso, explained that the low vaccination drive had continued to fuel the variants, adding that the next wave might not be so forgiving as the Omicron variant.

“In countries experiencing a surge in cases, the fast-spreading Omicron variant has become the dominant type. While it took around four weeks for the Delta variant to surpass the previously dominant Beta, Omicron outpaced Delta within two weeks in the worst-hit African countries.

“Early indications suggest that Africa’s fourth wave has been steep and brief, but no less destabilising. The crucial pandemic countermeasure badly needed in Africa still stands, and that is rapidly and significantly increasing COVID-19 vaccination. The next wave might not be so forgiving.

“So far, 30 African countries, and at least 142 globally, have detected the Omicron variant. The Delta variant has been reported in 42 countries in Africa. In West Africa, where COVID-19 cases are on the rise, the number of Omicron sequences undertaken by countries, including Cabo Verde, Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal, is growing.

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“In Cabo Verde and Nigeria, Omicron is currently the dominant variant.

“This year should mark a turning point in Africa’s COVID-19 vaccination drive. With vast swaths of the population still unvaccinated, our chances of limiting the emergence and impact of deadly variants are frighteningly slim.”

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WHO Recommends Two New Drugs for COVID-19 Treatment

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By Laide Akinboade, Abuja

In order to treat those that are sick with coronavirus, COVID-19, the World Health Organisation (WHO), has recommended two new drugs for the treatment of severe and non-severe COVID-19 infections.

The global health body said the recommendation is based on new evidence from seven trials involving over 4,000 patients with non-severe, severe, and critical COVID-19 infection.

According to the WHO, the new drugs are baricitinib and sotrovimab.

The drug baricitinib (a type of drug known as a Janus Kinase (JAK) inhibitor, also used to treat rheumatoid arthritis) is strongly recommended for patients with severe or critical COVID-19 in combination with corticosteroids, a WHO Guideline Development Group of international experts said.

The recommendation is based on moderate certainty evidence that it improves survival and reduces the need for ventilation, with no observed increase in adverse effects.

The WHO experts noted that baricitinib has similar effects to other arthritis drugs called interleukin-6 (IL-6) inhibitors, adding that when both are available, physicians can choose one based on cost, availability, and clinician experience. It is not recommended to use both drugs at the same time, they said.

The experts also advised against the use of two other JAK inhibitors (ruxolitinib and tofacitinib) for patients with severe or critical COVID-19, noting that low certainty evidence from small trials failed to show benefit and suggests a possible increase in serious side effects with tofacitinib.

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In a statement issued by WHO and made available to  journalists in Abuja, WHO also makes a conditional recommendation for the use of the monoclonal antibody sotrovimab in patients with non-severe COVID-19, but only in those at highest risk of hospitalisation, reflecting trivial benefits in those at lower risk.

“A similar recommendation has been made by WHO for another monoclonal antibody drug (casirivimab-imdevimab). The experts also note that there were insufficient data to recommend one monoclonal antibody treatment over another – and they acknowledge that their effectiveness against new variants like omicron is still uncertain.

“As such, they say guidelines for monoclonal antibodies will be updated when additional data become available.

“Today’s recommendations are based on new evidence from seven trials involving over 4,000 patients with non-non-severe, severe, and critical COVID-19 infection.

“They are part of a living guideline, developed by the World Health Organisation with the methodological support of MAGIC Evidence Ecosystem Foundation, to provide trustworthy guidance on the management of COVID-19 and help doctors make better decisions with their patients,” it said.

The global health body noted that living guidelines are useful in fast-moving research areas like COVID-19 because they allow researchers to update previously vetted and peer-reviewed evidence summaries as new information becomes available.

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“To make their recommendations, the panel considered a combination of evidence assessing relative benefits and harms, values and preferences, and feasibility issues.

“Today’s guidance adds to previous recommendations for the use of interleukin-6 receptor blockers and systemic corticosteroids for patients with severe or critical COVID-19; conditional recommendations for the use of casirivimab-imdevimab (another monoclonal antibody treatment) in selected patients; and against the use of convalescent plasma, ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine in patients with COVID-19 regardless of disease severity,” WHO noted.

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Buhari, Benue IDPs Want To Go Back To Farm

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By Benjamin Ngutsav

The President, General Muhammadu Buhari had a few weeks ago, during an exclusive recorded interview with Channels Television, said Nigerians have to go back to the farm.

General Buhari was responding to a question on how the economy nosedived to an alarming level under his watch with the country’s debt profile now at about N32 trillion as against N12 trillion in 2015 when he took over power true deceit and campaign of calumny against those who were then in power.

One of the interviewees, Seun Okinbaloye also mentioned rising inflation, unprecedented level of unemployment and skyrocketing exchange rate as some of the concerns leading to that question.

The President’s response left many wondering if he understood the question or not. But his reply only revealed that the general is unaware of the security status of the country because he simply made a point regarding agriculture even as it appears he does not know the people need to be secured to farm.

His reply: “Well, I am not sure how correct your calculations are, but all I know is that we have to allow people to have access to the farm. We just have to go back to the land.”

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Many, including this writer were quick to fault his reply; but I think General Buhari, even as incoherent as he was, made a point. Nigeria was known for agriculture and we should go back to the farm to produce more and grow the economy.

Sierra Leone, Somalia, Togo, the United States of America, China, India, Brazil and a host of other countries depend on Agriculture to grow their economies. In 2017, Sierra Leone had the Highest Agriculture GDP Percentage of 60.7% in Africa as obtained from whichcountry.co. In China, the land is highly employed for agriculture. Brazil produces one-third of the planet’s oranges. So agriculture is no doubt, the new crude oil.

So, General Buhari was right to say we need to go back to the farm. He is is apparently obsessed with farming. On Friday, December 17, 2021, he said he would return to his farm after the expiration of his tenure. “I look forward to the year 2023 when I finish, to go home to take charge of my farm,” he said.

While General Buhari was right with his ‘go back to farm’ statement, it begs the question of whether he was also speaking to Benue Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, who for five years now cannot access their land for farming.

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Since 2018 till date, the Federal Government under the leadership of General Buhari has seen and heard their plight; but has deliberately refused to come to their aid. These farmers who the General has asked to go to farm have been displaced by armed Fulani herdsmen and their land forcefully captured. They can not return. Any attempt on their own to return is suicidal. How can they return to their farmlands where senseless killers lurk? How can they return to their farmland where security personnel have not been given the matching order to clear the wrong occupants of the land?

At some point of the killings by armed Fulani herdsmen, General Buhari could only tell Benue people to learn to live with their neighbours. How do you live with invaders as neighbours? He had neither empathy nor sympathy for those killed. Even the promise to relocate the IDPs has far been forgotten.

It was Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo who had visited the IDP camps and made the promise that Benue State would benefit from the N10 billion earmarked for the resettlement of IDPs in Nigeria. One can only hear of IDPs resettlement in the North East, but not in the middle belt and Benue state. Oh, Middle Belt! how Buhari has forgotten about you!

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It is the beginning of the year and preparations for another cropping season have already begun. Since the President has charged everyone to go back to the farm, one would expect the President to fix security issues to allow those in different IDP camps across the country to have access to their farmland.

The President, General Muhammadu Buhari should know that Benue IDPs have heard his clarion call to go back to the farm. They are willing as they have always been. But armed Fulani herdsmen would not grant them access to their land. The President must hear the cries of those Benue IDPs and solve their problem before he returns to his farm in 2023.

Benjamin Ngutsav writes from Agbeede, Konshisha LGA, Benue State.

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