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UNGA 78: Nigeria, 192 UN Members Adopt Plan Against  Pandemics

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Nigeria and other UN Member States have pledged to prevent a repeat of the devastating health and socio-economic crises caused by COVID-19 and shore up the world’s ability to head off another pandemic.

All 193 UN Member States adopted a political declaration at a high-level meeting on Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness and Response at the ongoing 78th session.

Adopting a milestone political declaration at the first-ever summit on pandemic prevention and response, nations also committed to get back on track to reach the 2030  Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

“[This] is a historic milestone in the urgent drive to make all people of the world safer, and better protected from the devastating impacts of pandemics,”  Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the UN World Health Organisation (WHO), said.

“I welcome this commitment by world leaders to provide the political support and direction needed so that WHO, governments and all involved can protect people’s health and take concrete steps towards investing in local capacities, ensuring equity and supporting the global emergency health architecture that the world needs.”

The declaration was the result of months of intense negotiations to refine and agree on actions at the national, regional and global levels. It will be submitted to the General Assembly in due course for formal endorsement.

The political declaration asserts the need for Member States to conclude negotiations on a formal agreement on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response, known also as the Pandemic Accord – and make targeted amendments to International Health Regulations – by May next year.

It also calls on States to address the negative, physical and mental health impacts of health-related misinformation, disinformation, hate speech and stigmatization, especially on social media platforms.

Instead, it calls for public information campaigns based on science and the facts.

Member States also committed to strengthening health work forces and rapid response capacities, surveillance, and local manufacturing abilities, so countries can meet their own needs to prevent, prepare for and respond to pandemics.

Speaking at the summit, UN Secretary- General, Antonio Guterres, recalled that the global response to COVID-19 showcased both human ingenuity and exposed society’s shortcomings.

While rapid test and vaccine development were notable achievements, there were also a lack of preparedness, disproportionate impacts on the world’s poorest and vaccine hoarding by wealthy nations.

“We must not repeat the mistakes of the past when the next pandemic strikes – as we know it will – and other health threats emerge,” he said.

Reiterating the importance of the declaration, the UN chief urged countries to support the WHO, including increasing their financial contributions.

Tinubu Attends NASDAQ, Rings Closing Bell

President Bola Tinubu on Thursday, rang the bell at the National Association of Securities Dealers Automatic Quotation System (NASDAQ), becoming the first African Head of Government to do so.

The president rang the bell at the world’s financial capital, New York and became the first African President to perform such task.

NASDAQ is world’s second largest stock exchange.

Tinubu, while performing the task, was in company of  some Nigerian business leaders and officials of the Nigerian Exchange Ltd. (NGX).

The President also used the opportunity, presented by the historic moment, to advance his foreign investment push in front of financial markets at the famous stock exchange.

“It’s a great honour for me to be here. I am happy to bring Nigeria to your doorsteps and I am honoured that we are here, today, with a bubbling Nigerian stock market that will evolve in the West African sub-region.

‘’The greatest economy in Africa is Nigeria. There is an immense opportunity in Nigeria, where you can invest your money without fear,” the President said.

He said that his government would address longstanding problems and impediments, such as the recent economic policies taken since assumption of office in May.

He said these include restoration and unification of the foreign exchange rate market to a stable and trustworthy level.

According to him, this will allow new investors to bring their money and be free of worries about whether they can take it out at any point in time.

“You’re free to take in your money and bring out your money. I count on you to invest in Nigeria,” the President said.

Tinubu Woos Investors at Nigeria-US Business Roundtable

President Bola Tinubu has assured prospective investors of his administration’s determination to adopt necessary fiscal and regulatory measures toward the ease of doing business in Nigeria.

At the Nigeria-U.S. Executive Business Roundtable, the President said he recognised that investment capital is cowardly in nature.

He said that was the reason behind his bringing successful Nigerian industrialists and public officials to share their experiences and operational plans, respectively.

Tinubu said this was in addition to all he had done to boost the confidence of the global investment community in Nigeria, by reforming the fiscal, monetary, regulatory and tax policy environment.

“Nigeria is an opportunity that is impossible to replicate or find elsewhere in any part of the world. We have brilliant young people who both innovate and consume at a large scale.

‘’Our entrepreneurial spirit is a major part of what makes our market totally unique, aside from demography.

‘’Nigerians build businesses and Nigerian businesses partner with other businesses to conduct larger business.

‘’There is enough value to spread around. Be careful of what you hear about Nigeria. You may be dissuaded out of a major opportunity that others will take up.

‘’We are here for you. We will give you all the support you need to succeed and succeed abundantly,” the President said.

On behalf of the U.S. Government, U.S. Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo, told U.S. business leaders he came back from Nigeria on an official visit that later became a fact-finding mission.

“In Lagos, I saw, first-hand, some of the major reforms you implemented as the Governor of Lagos and the transformative effect on Nigeria’s commercial capital.

‘’People have attested to the fact that the reforms you have put in place as President are quickly enhancing confidence.

‘’American business is paying attention to that and from what we have seen for ourselves, Nigeria is proving to be a new frontier for investment.

‘’We will encourage our companies from our end as those reforms continue to deepen,” Adeyemo said.

The American Business Council President, Mr Sops Ideriah, said that the extensive turnouts at the roundtable by American business chief executives was impressive.

According to him, the turnouts served as a testament to the degree to which confidence is rising in response to the actions and words of the President.

He said that this was with respect to ease of doing business, investment promotion, and his willingness to intervene to clear the historical concerns of American business people about doing business in Nigeria.

“Having all the stakeholders in the room, His Excellency, the President of Nigeria being here, from government actors at the federal and state level to ministers and tax authorities present, as well as private sector industrialists in Nigeria.

‘’We are very positive about the potential of Nigeria and we are just reinforcing to our colleagues the message about the economic opportunities that exist there,” Ideriah said.

Acting Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Mr Zacch Adedeji, assured the American captains of industry that the nation’s apex tax authority would not focus on taxing the seed.

He said it would focus only on the proportionate taxation of the fruit of fully formed industry, through efficient policy synergy with Nigeria’s sub-national authorities.

“The President is a business enabler, not a handicapper. Everything we do will be geared toward making your tax assessment and payment processes as digitally efficient and transparent as possible.

‘’We are not after the seed, but the fruit and we will keep to this commitment,” Adedeji said.(NAN)

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BDCs: CBN Decries Distortions at Forex Market

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By Tony Obiechina, Abuja

Following the on-going reforms in the foreign exchange market, with the objective of achieving an appropriate market determined exchange rate for the naira, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has observed the continued distortions in the retail end of the market, which is feeding into the parallel market and further widening the exchange rate premium.

To this end, the bank has approved the sale of FX to eligible Bureau De Change (BDCs) to meet the demand for invisible transactions.

The sum of $20,000 is to be sold to each BDC at the rate of N1,450/$ (representing the lower band of the trading rate at NAFEM in the previous trading day).

This was contained in a circular signed by A. A. Mahdi on behalf of the CBN Acting Director of Trade and Exchange Department and made available in Abuja on Thursday.

The circular reads, “All BDCs are allowed to sell to eligible end-users at a margin not more than one point five percent (1.5%) above the purchase rate from CBN.

“All eligible BDCs are directed to make the naira payment to the listed CBN Naira Deposit Account Numbers and submit confirmation of payment with other necessary documentation for disbursement at the appropriate CBN branches (Abuja, Awka, Kano and Lagos).

“Please be guided accordingly.”

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Amidst High Stake Intrigues, Tinubu Approves N70,000 Minimum Wage

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By Lubem Myaornyi, Abuja

President Bola Tinubu yesterday in Abuja increased the Federal Government’s offer on the national minimum wage from N62,000 to N70,000, with an assurance that it will be reviewed after three years, instead of five years.

In a meeting with the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and that of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) at the Presidential Villa, President Tinubu said he had to intervene in the negotiations, knowing the economic challenges faced by many Nigerians, and the need to provide urgent succour.

“I have heard all your presentations. You came here with the intention to get something on behalf of your members. It has been tough globally.

And if you review my track record, I have never been found wanting in ameliorating the problems of workers. I belong to the people and to all of you in leadership. Without you, this job is not interesting.

“You challenged the thinking faculty of leadership, and we have reviewed the position. I have consulted widely, and when the tripartite committee submitted their reports, I reviewed them again and started to think and rethink.

“Last week, I brought the workload to you because we have a timeline. We have a problem, and we recognize that you have a problem too. We are in the same economy. We are in the same country. We may have different rooms, different addresses, and different houses; we are just members of one family that must care for each other. 

“We must look at the parameters of things. Here, I have a speed limit, and I must pay attention to traffic warnings; slippery when wet, curved roads, and be careful not to have an accident. That is why I went as far as having this meeting today.

“We are driving this economy together. Let us look at the tenure of review. Let us agree on that, and affirm three years. Two years is too short. We affirm three years. We will review.

“I am going to move from the tripartite committee. I am going to edge a little bit forward, looking at the review that we have done. Yes, no one in the federal establishment should earn less than N70,000. So, we are going to benchmark at N70,000,’’ the President said. 

President Tinubu explained that renewing the hope of Nigerians extends to providing infrastructure that will improve their livelihoods and create an inclusive economy that all can participate and benefit.

 The President said the government was committed to reducing the cost of transportation with the introduction of Compressed Natural Gas-powered buses, which will be cheaper and efficient, and also assured the labour unions of providing buses that will be deployed across the country.

President Tinubu also said the entitlements of members of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and the Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities and Allied Institutions (NASU) will be considered, urging the Ministries of Finance, and Budget & Economic Planning to look at the possibilities of clearing the backlog.

At the meeting, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator George Akume, thanked the President for his consideration of issues as the “Father of the Nation’’ and scheduling two meetings to resolve the initial impasse.

“Mr. President, at the tripartite meeting, and the resolutions of the government, Organized Private Sector and labour unions; we were all united as one family to promote and grow our economy, and deepen our democracy, by implication to the benefit of all. Basically, that is what we are saying today. We have a listening President here,’’ the Secretary to the Government of the Federation said.

The President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Joe Ajaero, and that of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Comrade Festus Osifo, thanked the President for creating time to host two meetings on the review of the national minimum wage.

The two labour leaders acknowledged that at the last meeting, the President directed the rescheduling of an official trip in order to attend the second meeting.   The labour leaders also expressed their appreciation to the President, applauding him for his clear show of commitment to the welfare of Nigerian workers.

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Education Minister Bows to Pressure, Pegs ‘Varsity Entry Age at 16

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By David Torough, Abuja.

Education Minister, Professor Tahir Mamman yesterday, bowed to pressure mounted by Vice Chancellors of universities and heads of tertiary institutions in Nigeria to peg the minimum entry age to Nigerian universities and tertiary institutions at 16 years.

This was just as the nation’s universities adopted 140 as the baseline score for admissions as well as 100 for polytechnics and Colleges of Education (CoEs) for the next academic session (2024/25).

The 16-year age approval came moments after the minister had already announced emphatically in his speech at the opening of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) policy meeting for 2024 that the  entry age would be 18 as prescribed by extant laws of the country, particularly the National Policy on Education.

In his initial directive, the minister had explained that the minimum six years of age for primary education automatically implied that any applicant who began primary school at the prescribed age would have attained 18 years  at the time of completion of secondary education and application for university admission.

The minister’s declaration was however, met with shouts of disapproval from most of the over 3,000 top education administrators in the audience.

As the education administrators sustained their opposition, the Vice Chancellor of Elizade University, Professor Kayode Ijadunola moved a motion for reduction of the age limit to 16.

Ijadunola argued that since the applicants had already taken the UMTE, so the entry 18 years entry age be enforced in subsequent years.

After due consultation, the Minister accepted the proposals from the academic institutions but ruled however, that after the 2024/25 academic session, admission age would be pegged at 18.

He directed JAMB to ensure that adequate publicity as given to the new directive to guide future applicants and parents.

The policy meeting, attended by Vice Chancellors, provosts of CoEs, rectors of polytechnics and heads of education agencies is convened annually by JAMB to adopt admission policies and procedures after the annual Universities and Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME).

Mamman warned admission officers and heads of tertiary institutions to adhere strictly to the guidelines as proposed by JAMB and democratically approved by yesterday’s Policy Meeting.

He regretted that improprieties in the admission process had led to the illegal admission of one million students in the universities, polytechnics and COEs since 2017 but warned that such would no longer be condoned.

The minister announced that a new curriculum for secondary schools in the country with emphasis on skills acquisition would be introduced from September and said the new policy would be presented to various stakeholders including the National Council on Education for approval before its eventual launch at the start of the next academic session.

According to the minister, the new policy was the ministry’s response to the problem of unemployment of school leavers and crisis faced by many secondary graduates in the pursuit of admission in the tertiary institutions.

“These young children live with us and we must care about their future,” he stated adding that the graduates with reasonable skills would better fend for themselves if they could not pursue higher education.

The minister warned the recently inaugurated governing councils of Federal Government owned universities and tertiary institutions to ensure they operate according to the laws guiding their respective institutions and to avoid the temptation to usurp the powers of the heads of the institutions on critical issues such as appointment of principal officers and procurement of goods and services.

He also clarified that there was no plan by the Federal Government to privatise any of its tertiary institutions or transfer its management to private hands, contrary to what he described as “propaganda in certain quarters”.

Registrar of JAMB, Prof Is-haq Oloyode, who led participants through adoption of the comprehensive admissions policy for 2024/25 academic session warned that the board will not condone any sharp practices in line with its zero –tolerance on corruption in the admissions process.

He assured that the huge investment in technology by the board had made it impossible for criminally minded applicants to circumvent the rigorous examination and admission processes and vowed that anybody who attempted to manipulate the system would be fished out and punished according to law.

He said some applicants and staff of some institutions were already in police custody over various infractions of the law and assured that the suspects would be taken to court to face the law.

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