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Researchers have eliminated HIV in mice for the first time

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Researchers have eliminated HIV in mice for the first time

Researchers said they have successfully eliminated HIV from the DNA of infected mice for the first time, bringing them one step closer to curing the virus in humans.

Scientists from Temple University and the University of Nebraska Medical Center were able to eliminate the virus using a combination of gene-editing technology and a slow-release antiviral drug, according to a study published Tuesday in Nature Communications.

“The possibility exists that HIV can be cured,” Howard Gendelman, chairman of UNMC’s pharmacology and experimental neuroscience department and study author. “It’s going to take a little bit of time but to have the proof of concept gets us all excited.”

Nearly 37 million people are living with HIV, according to UNAIDS, which if left untreated can develop into AIDS. Current HIV treatment involves daily, lifelong antiretroviral therapy (ART) which suppresses the virus’ ability to replicate, but doesn’t eliminate the virus from the body.

If a patient stops taking the drugs, HIV is able to rebound because the virus is able to “integrate its DNA sequence into the genomes of cells of the immune system, where it lies dormant and beyond the reach of antiretroviral drugs,” according to a press release.

Researchers used a new form of ART called LASER ART on 23 “humanized mice,” animals genetically modified to bear similarities to the human immune response. They were able to control the release and metabolism of the drug which allowed it to suppress virus replication for longer period of time.

The team then excised the remaining integrated HIV genome using a gene-editing tool called CRISPR-Cas9 which allows scientists to operate on DNA to add or disable certain genes.

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Investment funds drying up, Buhari warns African oil producers

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Investment funds drying up, Buhari warns African oil producers

President Muhammadu Buhari has warned African oil producing countries to consider the need to subscribe to the African Energy Investment Corporation (AEICORP) as investment funds for the oil industry were fast drying up.

President Buhari, who spoke at the Extraordinary Session of the Council of Ministers of African Petroleum Producers Organization (APPO) yesterday in Abuja, said given the fact that funds were drying up, there was the need to exploit available avenues to tap and access the growing oil reserves on the continent in order to redeem Africans from energy and economic poverty.

President Buhari, who was represented by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, noted that out of 850 million people without access to modern energy, Africa accounted for over 600 million people.

He said: “The importance of recapitalizing AEICORP cannot be over-emphasized for us in Africa. As you are aware, due to the global paradigm shift away from oil as energy source, investment funds are fast drying up for the oil industry.

“This is happening at a time Africa is finding more and more oil and gas. Without the required funds, these reserves will remain in the ground, untapped and un-accessed, while our people go without energy.

“I need not remind you that Africa has over 600 million out of the 850 million people in the world who do not have access to modern energy. We need to exploit what we have to take our people out of energy poverty, and by extension economic poverty.

“I want to encourage our members Countries to make equity subscription to AEICORP in order to ensure consequential investment by Sovereign Wealth Funds, National Oil Companies or any other designated organizations of Existing Members and Non-members of APPO, African/International Private Banks, Financial Institutions, and African/International Private Investors.”

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FG launches portal showing owners of oil, gas’ assets

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FG launches portal showing owners of oil, gas’ assets

The Federal Government has launched a portal that would show owners and the ownership structure of oil and gas assets in Nigeria at no cost.

Speaking at the unveiling of the Beneficial Ownership Portal, Executive Secretary of the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), Waziri Adio, who stressed that the portal was not designed to witch-hunt anyone, said organisations running legitimate businesses had nothing to fear.

While noting that the free register/portal already had owners of licenses in the mining sector as well as owners of assets and companies in the extractive sector uploaded in it, he maintained that the portal would be updated and upgraded periodically.

Adio said: “Knowing who-owns-what, especially in a sector given to opacity, is a significant development. It is also a win-win. It is good for resource-rich countries like ours. It is good for the citizens of such countries. And it is good for legitimate businesses.

“Ownership transparency advances the frontiers of transparency and accountability in more than symbolic ways. It is a practical and potent tool that countries can use to tackle the potential ills that hidden ownership usually mask, such as tax evasion, corruption, conflict of interests, illicit financial flows, money laundering, and even drug and terrorism financing.

“When these ills are reduced or eliminated, resource-rich countries will have more resources to invest in the welfare of their citizens and in physical infrastructure needed for individuals and businesses to thrive. Legitimate businesses, and most businesses are, also stand to benefit from knowing who they are doing business with, from reduced exposure to reputational risks, from having a level-playing field, and from improved trust in their operating environment.

“This beneficial ownership register is not against businesses. Rather, it is for the good of businesses as it is for the good of countries, and it is for the good of civil groups, the media, and individuals. So there is nothing for anyone, especially anyone engaged in legitimate businesses, to be jittery about.   

“In a short while, the beneficial ownership register for the extractive sector in Nigeria will go live. At the touch of a button, anyone with internet access can find out, for free, the owners and the ownership structure of extractive assets that are in production in Nigeria.

“These are the assets covered within the scope of the NEITI audits. In this free electronic register, you will find the owners of 270 licences in the mining sector, and the owners 61 assets and 56 companies in the oil and gas sector. The register will continuously be updated as more information becomes available and will periodically be upgraded to allow for better user-interface.”

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Road projects: Reps demand monthly report on Abuja-Kano, Lagos-Ibadan from Julius Berger

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Road projects: Reps demand monthly report on Abuja-Kano, Lagos-Ibadan from Julius Berger

The House of Representatives has directed giant construction company, Julius Berger Nigeria Plc., to submit a monthly progress report on the multi-billion Naira Abuja-Kano, Lagos-Ibadan highways.

Chairman, House Committee on works, Hon. Abubakar Kabir Abubakar who disclosed this yesterday in Abuja said this was part of the resolution reached at a meeting with representatives of Ministry of Works and Housing and the management of Julius Berger Nigeria Limited.

He said the Julius Berger confirmed to the committee that it had so far received N50, 856, 044, 301, 27 billion, representing 32 per cent of the total sum, saying the “work progress is at 26.7per cent after 18 months into the 36 month completion period.”

Abubakar said “the committee doubts the strongly the capacity of Julius Berger Plc. to deliver the remaining 73.3 percent in the next 18 months.”

Consequently, the committee directed the Ministry of Works and Housing to consider an option of involving other contractors to handle different sections of the road to ensure the project was completed on time and save lives and property.

The meeting also resolved that Julius Berger should immediately open up the completed but closed portions on the Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano road to minimize and streamline road diversions as advised by the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC).

It equally advised Juluis Berger to immediately attend to potholes on the road and jointly work with the Ministry of Works and Housing and FRSC to ensure sanity and security was restored on the Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano road.

According to the chairman, the committee had resolved to invite the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) to brief it on the certificate of no objection issued on the proposed three lanes on the Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano road as well as the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority to provide it with details of payments made to Julius Berger and the justification for those payments.

Abubakar had while addressing the meeting alleged that Julius Berger had by its actions and inactions created a situation leading to loss of lives and traffic gridlock Abuja-Kano road despite being paid mobilisation of over N50 billion.

He said that, the project is going at a snail speed and expressed fear that, Julius Berger may not meet up and complete the project in 36 months as stated in the contract agreement.

Responding, representative of Julius Berger, Mr. Benjamin Bott, who is the company’s Regional Technical Manager said that the company was doing everything possible to complete the work as scheduled.

He added that, they regretted the loss of lives and inconveniences caused people using the Abuja-Kano as well as the Lagos-Ibadan highways.

Bott informed that palliative measures were being put in place to reduce the hardship being experienced by motorists on the road by patching potholes and collaborating with the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) to control traffic and reduce accidents.

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Electricity workers suspend strike

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Electricity workers suspend strike

The National Electricity System also known as power grid was yesterday restored after the entire nation was plunged into about 25 hours total darkness.

The Nigeria’s electricity workers also announced suspension of a strike which worsened speed of restoring the collapsed grid.

“Dear customer, National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) has suspended its strike. Our offices and payment channels are open for business. Thank you for your patience and understanding,” the Eko Electricity Distribution Company (Eko Disco) shared on its Twitter page on the morning of Thursday, December 12, 2019.

After a 21-day ultimatum, electricity workers in Nigeria finally downed tools on December 11, citing unpaid severance allowances, salaries and pensions owed 50,000 former employees of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) before the country privatized its power sector in 2013.

Comrade Joe Ajaero, General Secretary of the NUEE said: “Following the agreement reached between NUEE and representatives of government this morning, on all the issues in contention, the Union wishes to suspend the industrial action it embarked upon to press home these demands.

“Consequently, members are urged to return to their duty posts while we monitor the implementation of these agreements. We would not hesitate to resume action if the agreements are not implemented.”

Meanwhile, the leadership of the House of Representatives will ensure implementation of an agreement between the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), Bureau of Public Enterprises and the Federal Ministry of Power to address grievances which led to a strike, Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila has said.

Gbajabiamila also said the House would make sure that members of the union were henceforth treated rightly by the government to avoid the strike action they embarked upon on Wednesday, which paralysed economic activities in the country.

In a bid to intervene in the matter and find a lasting solution, the House cut short the day’s plenary session and the leadership of the House immediately went into a meeting with all the concerned parties.

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Insecurity: CSOs write Gbajabiamila, accuse NHRC, AI of meddlesomeness

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Insecurity: CSOs write Gbajabiamila, accuse NHRC, AI of meddlesomeness

coalition of civil society groups for Peace, Security and National Development (PSSND) yesterday submitted a petition to the Speaker of House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, asking the House members to pass a vote of confidence in the current leadership of the nation’s security agencies.

The groups, which met in Abuja, also cautioned the Nigeria Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the Amnesty International against meddling in the country’s national interests.

Walking from the Unity Fountain in Abuja to the main entrance of the National Assembly the coalition in a letter submitted to the Speaker, said that they were worried by the activities of individuals and groups who offered themselves as stooges to the machination of terrorist organisations from within and outside Nigeria in order to cause civil unrest and forceful overthrow of a democratically elected government.

NHRC and the Amnesty International had openly condemned some of the actions of security agencies against the citizens.

But in a letter submitted to House of Representatives Speaker by comrade Adamu Matazu, the group said all over the world, national interest took precedence over individual human rights “and no sovereign nation will sit aloof while its national security is being threatened hiding under the shadow of free speech, human rights and democracy.”

Matazu went on: “Individuals or groups that amplify call for change in government through violence rather than through the ballot which is the only known constitutionally guaranteed means are state enemies and must be treated as such.

“In a landmark judgement of the supreme court in a case of Asari Dokubo (appellant) vs Federal Republic of Nigeria (respondents) S. C. 208/2006, the Supreme Court ruled as follows “…where National Security is threatened or there is the real likelihood of it being threatened human rights or individuals rights of those responsible take second place. Human rights or individual rights must be suspended until the national security can be protected or well taken care of.”

“That where national security is threatened we must join hand with our security agencies in neutralizing imminent threats to our collective wellbeing, safety and security.

“That we are satisfied with the present leadership of the Department of State Service (DSS) led by a seasoned intelligent officer Mr. Yusuf Magaji Bichi under whose leadership has brought the needed reforms in the service.

“That we admonishes the National Human right Commission to as a matter factuality stop meddling into national security issues in the name of protecting huiman rights defenders

“That we salute the DSS and other security organizations in containing all national threats and for safeguarding our democracy and for their tolerance to genuine and objective criticism.

“That we wish to sound a note of warning to Amnesty international Nigeria to stop it needless meddlesomeness in our national security affairs or risk being declare persona non grata by the Nigerian Civil Society Community.

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Ugwuanyi reiterates commitment to scientific innovation

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Ugwuanyi reiterates commitment to scientific innovation

Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State has reiterated his administration’s commitment towards creating a conducive atmosphere for science and technology to thrive in the state through innovation.

Ugwuanyi, who spoke during the World Science Day celebration in Enugu, organized by the State Ministry of Science and Technology, maintained that achieving a scientific global society through sound and qualitative education was the surest way to rapid development. 

Represented by Commissioner for Education, Prof. Uche Eze, the governor added that it was in keeping with this vision that his administration equipped secondary schools across the state with computers, scientific laboratories and other related facilities to make the students ICT-compliant. 

Ugwuanyi disclosed that the state government had paid adequate attention to the school curriculum and how the contents could impact positively on the students academically.

While commending the Ministry of Science and Technology for organizing the event in line with the vision of the state government, the governor enjoined the students to avail themselves of such opportunity to further their careers.

Earlier in his address, Commissioner for Science and Technology, Sir. Carl Obi Kama, applauded Ugwuanyi for his renewed vigor in investing in science and technology.

Kama stressed that the governor’s great interest in innovation in driving science and technology as well as knowledge-based economy for structural and operational transformation of the state was unique and commendable.

He noted that this year’s event, with the theme “Open Science, Leaving No One Behind,” was anchored on invitation of all and sundry to the renewal of commitment in the investment and use of science for the benefit of the society.

Highlights of the event was the presentation of awards to winners of the World Science Day quiz competition held earlier, where Ugwuanyi Jude.C from Umuachi Technical School in Obollo Zone took the first position, Ezea Shedrach  from Special Science School Ukehe in Nsukka Zone, and Precious Iheanacho from Colliery Comprehensive School Ngwo in Enugu Zone went home with 2nd and 3rd position respectively.

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Abia NUP laments 23 months unpaid pension, gratuity at Pensioners’ Day

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Abia NUP laments 23 months unpaid pension, gratuity at Pensioners’ Day

Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP), Abia State Chapter, Comrade Chukwuma Ndubuisi Udensi has said that the story of Abia pensioners especially those who were being paid by the state government had remained tales of woe for the past two years.

In his welcome address during the 2019 Pensioners Day celebration at NUP Secretariat, Umuahia, Udensi listed the years to include 2018 and 2019, saying “it would appear as there are deliberate plans and efforts to expunge pension and gratuity payments from the Abia State Government monthly pay schedule or to exterminate the senior citizens.”

Represented by state Vice-Chairman, Comrade J.O. Ekpendu, Udensi lamented that pensioners’ gratuity was paid in full in the year 2000 even as Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu-led government owed pensioners 23 months’ arrears of the state’s 19-year unpaid pension.

Besides, he said 9 months inherited from the previous administration between August 2014- and April 2015 had made pensioners in the state to groan under 32 months’ unpaid pension arrears even as “there might be other pockets of indebtedness to individual pensioners.”

Udensi said: “As matured union we have dialogued with the government severally including accepting to participate in the last Committee set up by the government to work out the modalities for clearing arrears of pensions, gratuities and salaries in Abia State.

“The Committee was inaugurated on 20th August, 2019. Till date nothing has been heard about their deliberations and recommendations and Abia State pensioners are sorrowfully, sickly and hungrily waiting to receive their pensions.

“The orchestrated verification of pensioners’ exercise to which payment of pensions is tagged is yet to kick-start, a few days to the end of year 2019.

“I urge you not to despair. Do not be embittered with the government or with one another. Let us continuously put our trust on the Lord God Almighty who makes all situations perfect in His own time. It is true that many of our colleague pensioners have passed on due to frustration, hunger, sickness and lack of medicare.”

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Okowa signs N395bn 2020 budget into law

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Okowa signs N395bn 2020 budget into law

Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, yesterday assented to the N395 billion budget appropriated for the fiscal year 2020 with a promise to fast-track infrastructural projects for the benefit of Delta people during the period.

This came after the House Committee on Finance and Appropriation led by Hon. Erhiatake Ibori-Suenu, representing Ethiope West constituency, jerked it up with additional of N6 billion and the Assembly ratified it.

The committee argued that although the governor presented N389 billion with N172 billion for recurrent expenditure and N217 billion for capital expenditure, but a careful evaluation of the submissions of the various sub-committees and the provisions in the various heads and sub-heads, left her committee with no other option than to increase the budget size to N395 billion.

She said with the increment, the recurrent expenditure now stood at N172 billion while N223 billion was for capital expenditure.

Signing the budget before the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Sheriff Oborevwori and other principal officers of the Assembly, the governor said his administration would do its best to work with the budget to achieve its developmental goals.

He said: “It is very instructive for us members of the executive arm of government that we pray that God will provide the resources projected within the budget in terms of internally-generated revenue.

“There is no doubt that despite the fluctuating price of oil, Nigeria still depends a lot on oil for the purpose of funding its budget both in the oil-producing and non-oil producing states and the Federal Government.

“As a state, we have tried to be very reasonable with our budget size and I believe that it is the right thing for us to do because the budget itself is supposed to be a document in which we have a pact with the people of Delta, so if we have projections, we must put down those projections that we think are achievable.

“In the budget, we have ensured that some key projects have been provided for, which includes the construction of new technical colleges in all 25 local government areas in the state, because as a government, we believe that acquisition of technical skills will go a long way in equipping our youths to face the challenges ahead.”

“The completion of all drainage projects as well as road projects will be seen too; our health sector will also receive more attention as well as other sectors.”

The governor commended the lawmakers for a thorough job done, the speedy passage of the budget and the lawmakers diligence, maintaining that; “I truly thank Mr. Speaker and the House of Assembly for being very diligent in the course of their duties in handling the appropriation bill.”

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Navy seeks support of locals to curb maritime crimes

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Navy seeks support of locals to curb maritime crimes

The Nigerian Navy yesterday called for continuous support and collaboration from local folks to help eradicate maritime crimes in Niger Delta waterways.

The Flag Officer Commanding (FOC), Central Naval Command, Rear-Admiral Saidu Garba, made this call in Koluama 2, Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, where the Nigerian Navy offered free medical services to residents and indigenes of the communities.

Represented by the Chief Staff Officer, Central Naval Command, Rear-Admiral Solomon Agada, the FOC said a crime-free waterway would help foster socio-economic development in the communities.

He said the medical rhapsody, which was part of its end of year activities, was a strategic directive from the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice-Admiral Ibok Ete Ibas, to give back to the host communities.

Garba said the exercise would further help cement the cordial relationship existing between their personnel and host communities.

He said: “The Central Naval Command chose to bring the exercise this time to Koluama communities, which host our Naval Outpost due to Koluama’s strategic importance to the command’s operations for the security of waterways, to further demonstrate the commitment of the Chief of the Naval Staff and Nigerian Navy’s efforts at sustaining harmonious relationship with our peace loving host communities of Koluama.

“The exercise would provide an avenue to sensitise members of the communities on topical health issues as well as provide free medical consultation, treatment and other medical activities that would have positive impact on their health and wellbeing.”

Speaking earlier, the traditional ruler of the community, His Royal Highness Amakoeo Osaisai, while lauding the navy for the kind gesture, said the community had no functional healthcare centre or hospital.

He said they have to travel to Yenagoa, the state capital, which was a distance of about three hours on flying boats to access medical services.”

Osaisia called on other agencies, state and federal governments to come to their aid by providing functional hospital and deploying doctors and nurses to the community.

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Mohammed: FG to establish community museums to boost tourism

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Mohammed: FG to establish community museums to boost tourism

The Federal Government yesterday announced plans to establish community museums as part of efforts to ensure that local communities benefit from the tourism sector.

This move was revealed by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, at the on-going fourth World UNWTO/UNESCO World Conference on Tourism and Culture in Kyoto, Japan.

He said: “In Nigeria, we observed that tourists stay in the big cities when they visit. They visit the museums in the cities where objects gotten from different parts, including rural areas, are displayed but they hardly go to the rural areas.

“To encourage tourists to visit the rural areas where money spent is quickly reflected in the local economy, we are trying to establish community museums,” said the minister, who served as one of the panellists at the ministerial segment of the conference, dedicated to discussing and exchanging policies and government models impacting the future of cultural tourism.

Mohammed said the government would, in particular, encourage the establishment of palace museums. “Parts of ancient residencies of traditional rulers and important chiefs are being turned to museums. Thus, we are not limiting museums to the big cities. Money spent by tourists while visiting these rustic places stay longer in these areas. Lamido Adamawa now has the Fombina Palace Museum, just like the Emir of Potiskum has a museum,” he said.

He further said that the government through high-level representation, training of festival managers and the provision of enabling environment, was supporting and promoting festivals and cultural tourism all over the country, with the ultimate goal of ensuring that local communities benefit from such events.

According to him, a national calendar of festivals would soon be unveiled to assist tourists who coming to Nigeria in planning their visits. The minister said Nigeria had continued to leverage on the areas in which it enjoyed comparative advantage, citing music, movies and fashion as some of such areas.

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