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USSD: Telcos insist on new charges

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USSD: Telcos insist on new charges

…say fees sanctioned by regulator

 

Despite the outrage from Nigerians and the opposition from the Ministry of Communications and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), telecommunications operators in the country said they would go ahead with the new charges for Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD).

USSD is a Global System for Mobile (GSM) communication technology that is used to send text between a mobile phone and an application programme in the network.

USSD is used by customers for financial transactions.

Speaking through their umbrella body, the Association of Licensed Telecom Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), the telcos said the new charges were determined by the telecoms regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).

New Telegraph’s checks showed that the telecoms regulator indeed issued a new regulation titled ‘Determination of USSD Pricing’ in August this year.

However, according to the regulatory document, the mobile network operators (MNOs) are to charge not more than N4.89k for a session of USSD service.

The document states that a predefined session is started once a user dials in to facilitate the transfer of information between the application and the user. This was different from the operators’ announcement of N4.00 per 20 seconds.

Although the notification to affect the new charges was received mainly by MTN subscribers, ALTON’s position suggests that all the operators were to implement the new charges as sanctioned by the regulator.

According to ALTON’s Administrative Secretary, Mr. Gbolahan Awonuga, the determination of the USSD charges started via a study conducted by the regulator in 2017 and by May 2019, the determination was issued.

The study on USSD, he disclosed, was conducted by the NCC and industry working group (IWG), after the CBN set a committee that was made up of members from the Bankers’ Committee.

ALTON also questioned the statement credited to the Minister of Communications, Dr. Isa Pantami, directing the telecom operators to discontinue the charges until he is fully and properly briefed.

ALTON stated that the issue being discussed is not policy, but regulation. “We are confusing regulation with policy. There was a determination on this USSD, even before the appointment of the minister,” Awonuga said.

He argued that the CBN is protective of the banks, but wondered why the telecom operators cannot be protected. “It is not about the good boy, but this is commercial and the normal things have been done. Operators did not come up overnight to charge N4. It was deliberated upon and a decision taken,” he explained.

The Minister of Communications, Pantami had, on Sunday, ordered the telcos to maintain status quo, even as the Governor of CBN, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, said the move was against the bank’s policy.

MTN had, at the weekend, notified its subscribers through different text messages of its plan to start charging them for using the service effective from October 21, 2019.

One of the messages read: “Please note that from Oct 21, we will charge N4 per 20 seconds for USSD access to banking services. Thank you.”

Another version of the message from the telco read: “Yello, as requested by your bank, from Oct. 21, we will start charging you directly for USSD access to banking services. Please contact your bank for more information.”

Financial transactions via USSD was introduced to ensure easier access to banking services and to help drive the country’s financial inclusion target.

Hitherto, telcos charge customers per USSD session, but at varying rates with the highest being N20 per session. The charges would mean that customers will be charged N12 for every minute spent on the USSD channel.

The development had elicited reactions from customers, who took to social media to express their displeasure with the move. Some also tagged the Communications Minister, querying why the charges should be allowed.

However, reacting to the issue via a statement, Dr. Pantami said that his office was unaware of the development as his office was not officially briefed. The minister has, therefore, “directed the sector regulator, the NCC, to ensure that the operator suspends such plans until the honourable minister is fully and properly briefed,” the statement, signed by the minister’s spokesperson, Uwa Suleiman, read.

Giving the bank’s position on the matter at a news briefing by the Nigerian delegation to the just-concluded World Bank/IMF Annual Meetings, in Washington on Sunday, CBN’s Governor, Emefiele, said: “About five, four months ago, I held a meeting with some telecom companies as well as the leading banks in Nigeria at Central Bank, Lagos. At that time, we came to a conclusion that the use of USSD is a sunk cost. What we mean by a sunk cost is that it is not an additional cost on the infrastructure of the telecom company.

“But the telecom companies disagreed with us, they said it is an additional investment on infrastructure and for that reason they needed to impose it.

“I have told the banks that we will not allow this to happen. The banks are the people who give this business to the telecom companies and I leave the banks and the telecom companies to engage. I have told the banks that they have to move their business, move their traffic to a telecom company that is ready to provide it at the lowest possible, if not zero cost. And that is where we stand, and we must achieve it,” he said.

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At Enugu Sports Club too

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At Enugu Sports Club too

Enugu Literary Society in collaboration with the Center for Memories and Enugu Sports Club also commemorated 70 years of Iva Valley coal mine massacre by British colonialists.

In a message to the event, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State noted that the massacre memorial coincided with the birthday of Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, First President and Commander-in-Chief of Nigeria.

Ugwuanyi, who was represented by the Commissioner for Environment, Mr Chijioke Edeoga, said that the massacre must have informed the drive of Azikiwe to start his struggle for independence of the country.

“The event that led to the massacre clearly shows the white colonialists that Nigerians can pull up strong and bloody resistance and the colonialists started taking Nigerians serious,’’ he said.

The governor urged youths to stand out against perceived social injustice ongoing in most places even in their schools in form of sex and money for marks, undue security agencies harassment and outrageous electricity bills.

He said: “The event is symbolic as it shows man’s resistance to injustice as well as man’s courage, boldness and self-sacrifice.

“Even today, we still have circumstances that look like the one the coal miners agitated for but our youths must rise up to challenge these societal ills and evolve a better society for themselves and next generation’’.

Speaking, Mr Ike Okere, Zonal Director of Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria and founder, Enugu Literary Society, said that the event was significant to showcase the history of the people and also ensured that young people know about it.

“The massacre must have triggered the independence struggle and also shows the level of love the British colonialists have for Nigerians then.

“This history should make the young strong and struggle out of all shackles of bondage holding them today. They should replicate and tell same story to the children and children’s children,’’ Okere said.

The Chairman of Enugu Sports Club, Mr Onyeka Onwe, said that the club would continue to be in the fore-front of education and enlightenment of Nigerians on present and historical developments.

Onwe noted that the Iva Valley Massacre Memorial would remind the present day people not to do same mistake of old or become complacency to issues affecting them.

Mrs Rina Okonkwo, a Historian at Centre for Memories, noted that it was unfortunate that Nigerians easily forget while most of the historical events were fading away from memories and sight.

“As teaching of history is restored back to schools; the Iva Valley Massacre should be part of the new history curriculum,’’ Okonkwo said.

Miss Onyeka Iwuoba, one of the participants, said that she had learnt a lot about the massacre and other history surrounding the coal mines and Enugu city as of old.

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A day to remember slain Enugu Coal Miners

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A day to remember slain Enugu Coal Miners

It is 70 years that about 21 coal miners were murdered in Enugu over agitations for an increase in their daily wage. Since then, the memories of the slain workers have been kept on by both the government and the people of the state.  KENNETH OFOMA reports from Enugu that a protest rally this year, demanded a compensation from the British Government

 

It was a recreation of sad memories as workers gathered in Enugu on Monday to commemorate the killing of coal miners. It was a depressing reminder of the event of November 18, 1949.

And so exactly 70 years after the massacre of 21 coal miners and with scores injured in Enugu, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) staged a rally to remember the fallen heroes.

Located in the South-East geopolitical zone of Nigeria, Enugu is an inland state with its capital in Enugu city. Enugu, translated in Igbo means “City on hill top”. The state, nicknamed ‘Coal City state’, derives its name from the capital city which was established in 1912 as a small coal mining town, but later grew to become the capital of the former Eastern Region of Nigeria. Historically, the present Enugu State was created on August 27, 1991 with the city of Enugu as its capital.

In 1967, when the Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon(rtd) and his military administration created 12 states in Nigeria, Enugu remained the capital of the East Central State of Nigeria, one of the three states carved out of the former Eastern Region.

Enugu has from inception remained the political capital of Ndigbo.

But what gave Enugu its character, as well as political and economic status is coal. Enugu is synonymous with Coal. It was the discovery of coal in the city that aided her early development into a commercial town that attracted settlement of other Igbo speaking people, who can be found in seven states of Enugu, Anambra, Rivers, Imo, Delta, Ebonyi, and Abia.

But the old Eastern Region comprises much more than that to include present day Cross River, Akwa Ibom, and Bayelsa states.

Enugu, the capital city is regarded as the oldest urban area in the Igbo speaking area of Southeast Nigeria. The city owes its geopolitical significance to the discovery of coal in 1909 by a team of British geologists. The discovery of the solid mineral in the area brought about the emergence of a permanent cosmopolitan settlement which influenced the construction of a railway line to link the Enugu coal fields with the sea port in Port Harcourt for the export of the mineral.

A visitor coming into Enugu on land from Western or Northern part of the country will likely access Enugu city through 9th Mile – New Market axis along Enugu-Onitsha expressway. The visitor will see at the New Market round-about, a cenotaph, a sculpture of the coal miners’ massacre of November 18, 1949.

That was the day 21 coal miners at the Iva Valley coalmine in Enugu were gruesomely gunned down by the British colonial police, and forty-seven others seriously wounded, for daring to ask for a marginal increase in their salaries.

Thus, the history of Enugu cannot be written without coal occupying a large space in the write up. And the coal mine massacre of 1949 marked a watershed in the labour government struggle in Nigeria. It was that protest by miners and the subsequent dehumanizing and callous treatment by colonial masters that drew national and international condemnation and marked the crystallization of organized labour struggle in Nigeria. Before then, no worker talked of strike.

Thus, the commemoration of the killing of coal miners in Enugu has become an annual ritual. That of last Monday was not different.

The memorial movement started from the ‘Labour House’, the state secretariat of NLC along New Market Road, where the labour leaders got charged with ‘solidarity forever’ and ‘Aluta continua’ songs, before filing out into the street to New Market Round About, the location of the Cenotaph depicting the coal miners massacre. The labour leaders and some civil society groups marched round the cenotaph seven times before they observed one minute silence and prayed for the repose of the souls of the fallen heroes.

Then speeches were made and more solidarity songs rendered.

In his remarks, the Chairman of NLC in the state, Virginus Nwobodo, called on the British government to pay compensation to the families of the victims. The labour leader also called on the government of the five South East states of Nigeria to declare November 18

every year a public holiday in commemoration of the slain coal miners who were mowed down by British colonial police for demanding improved welfare and a raise in their allowance.

Comrade Nwobodo appealed to the Federal Government to revive the coal industry in Enugu and other parts of the country, noting that other parts of the world still use coal for power generation. Coal mining had since been abandoned with all the coal mines overgrown with weeds.

The labour leader, who said that the rally was in commemoration of the sad incident of the coal miners’ massacre, explained that the workers were killed by colonial police who thought they were being used by independence agitators, as the British colonial masters never believed that workers can agitate for their rights as at that time.

“It was high level of injustice meted on Nigerian workers. British government must pay compensation for killing our people like animals; its high level unfair labour treatment.

“We have the names of the coal miners killed or wounded. We know their families…The Federal Government has a role to play in this. It  should initiate the process of compensation by the British government,” he said.

Also two relations of the murdered coal miners, Pa Joseph Ndubuisi, 87, and Pa Matthew Dike, 77, narrated how as kids they saw the bodies of the slain miners and those wounded and taken to the hospital.

Pa Ndubuisi, who said he was in Standard 2 when the incident took place, noted that his senior brother, Ibeabuchi Ndubuisi, was among the coal miners shot but he sustained bullet wounds.

It would be recalled that the coal miners prior to the massacre of 1949 had earlier declared a trade dispute with the Colliery management for non-upgrading of hewer’s pay. Specifically, the miners had demanded a basic wage increase of five shillings and ten pence a day for the hewers, from the previous wages of between three shillings to four shillings and six pence, a day.

But the Colliery management had turned down their demand, insisting that they were “… quite unable to meet the men’s demands for either increase of salary or in respect of certain sums of money allegedly due to them”. The miners, on their part, had equally refused to back down. There was a stalemate.

In the morning of November 18, 1949, about 1,500 miners at the Obwetti (Ogbete) Mine in Iva Valley, who were on sit-down strike had come to work and were milling around the premises. Fearing that the workers might enter the magazine “to use the explosives in a manner dangerous to the public”, the heavily armed white policemen opened fire on them and gunned down 21 of them, with 47 others seriously wounded.

Two European police officers, Senior Superintendent of Police, R. S. Phillips, with 75 heavily armed policemen under his command, and Senior Superintendent of Police E.J.R. Orminston, with another batch of 50 policemen, did the havoc.

According to Dr. Dons Ude, an Enugu based journalist cum historian: “The gory incident reverberated all over Nigeria and almost shook the foundation of the country. Violent reactions came from Port Harcourt, Lagos, Aba, Onitsha and Calabar, and the police used teargas to disperse them.

“A National Emergency Committee was formed to coordinate the activities of these protesters. Branches of the organization were formed in Ibadan, Lagos, Kano, Kaduna, Jos, Enugu, Onitsha, Aba, Port Harcourt, Benin and other major cities in the country.

“Across the globe, negative reactions also poured in, condemning the Iva Valley massacre. As a mark of solidarity, the Scottish Miners sent in a donation of five hundred pounds. The American Negroes also came in to support, while the youths of former German Democratic Republic (GDR) offered 25 scholarships in German universities to the children of the coal miners.

“The colonial government hurriedly set up a commission of inquiry to investigate the incident. Known as Fitzgerald Commission of Inquiry, the commission which sat in Enugu between December 17, 1949, and January 5, 1950, took both written and oral evidences. In its report published in June 1950, it blamed the Iva Valley shooting on ‘error of judgement’ on the part of police officers, who ordered the shooting as well as “on the pawn of local politics”.

The sculptural monument (Cenotaph) at New Market junction, which is near Iva-Valley, represents the coal miners’ shooting, otherwise known as “Iva Valley Massacre”. It’s a sad reminder of that event for posterity.

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Adequate immunisation could reduce 25% of children’s death –Anyene

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Adequate immunisation could reduce 25% of children’s death –Anyene

Dr. Benjamin Anyene is a medical doctor and microbiologist with over 30 years of experience.  He is also the Chairman,  Health Sector Reform Coalition (HSRC) and the Legislative Network for Universal Health Coverage (UHC). He speaks on the implication of untimely budget release, prioritising the health of children, increasing investment on health, among other issues. REGINA OTOKPA reports

 

What is the implication of untimely release of budget on health?

It is a shame that both people in government and parliament do not understand that budgets are not just rituals; budgets are to deliver on targeted interventions that will solve problems. A budget that was supposed to be passed in December the year before this year was signed in June, rather than to be operational since January 1st, first of all it is already truncated and secondly when the budget is finally signed into law, the bureaucracy from the time it is signed to the time it is released to the institutions to use them is a huge black hole which is difficult to navigate because of what I must call bureaucratic madness.

We know how much is budgeted; we know how much we need to spend. Even if it is quarterly, you release it at the beginning and not at the end of the quarter so everybody should work in tandem to ensure that they are released as at when due not when an Individual thinks he has to release it.

It has been a perennial issue at levels of government and so the issue of transparency and accountability at that level is very critical. It is even worst at the state government level because it is the governor that decides who gets and who doesn’t get.

We cannot be hoping that Nigeria will be a first world nation without ensuring that we strengthen these institutions to be accountable, transparent and do what others do.

Tuberculosis, malaria, HIV/ AIDS, Immunisation funding in this country are paid for by partners so what do we pay for in this country because these are critical things.

In 2001 African heads of states met in Abuja under the chairmanship of President Olusegun Obasanjo and they all agreed that 15 per cent of the national budget should be committed to health.But that  was not done we are not committed to it.

What could be responsible for the consistent decline in the 15 per cent commitment to health budget?

It is lack of seriousness, commitment and understanding of what government is all about. To be a government of healthy people you have to invest to make sure they are healthy. 70 per cent of our health problems are in the primary healthcare sector; it presupposes that 70 per cent of our investment should be there but 70 per cent of the federal is at the tertiary level, there is a mismatch.

How can 95 per cent immunisation be achieved in Nigeria?

We already know that we have this number of children, why is it difficult for Nigeria to make money available to make sure their vaccines are provided? We don’t have to beg government to do that.Why doesn’t government donate five days of oil production to that and that money will be enough to pay for all these, why can’t they make such investments.

Another aspect is Nigeria celebrates childbirth so much yet nobody takes responsibility for that. In the immunisation data you see ‘missed children’ how can they be missed, why can’t someone take responsibility to immunise those children. But again, even if someone takes the responsibility, the vaccines may not be there. Governmental, parental and community responsibility are all part of the problems associated with immunisation.

Private sectors may have the vaccines whereas government does not have it is sold then for as high as N10, 000 yet they are supposed to be free. Did the private sector import it themselves or is it the government that is importing. People have to take responsibility. If there is nothing government can do at least from birth lets protect this children and if we protect them we can reduce at least 25 per cent of deaths of children because things like tuberculosis, diarrhoea will not be there.

It costs N14,000  to immunise a child, do you think Nigeria can take up full responsibility of immunising 7.4 million children by 2021?

Why shouldn’t we. Are other countries not doing it?  We can even do it next year if the vaccines are there and the equipment, storage spaces, people who vaccinate, the preservation facilities are functioning.

The vaccines we need next year have already been paid for and booked this June. It takes at least six months lead to get vaccines and nobody will manufacture vaccines for you except you pay down for it. We ought to be able to know how much we need, time the money, pay for it so that manufacturers can manufacture for you so that by December you are taking delivery and by January the vaccines are available.

Do you see the government taking up this responsibility?

It is what I call administrative laziness; somebody is not doing his work. It baffles and embarrasses people like me that these things that we should take as given are not given.  Out of N144 billion if states are to pay 100 per cent each state will pay about N3 billion. How much are they spending in frivolities, security votes, trips governors make to Abuja every time with huge convoys and all. I have seen these things for the past 30 years and it is not changing but it should change because people out there are laughing at us because they know you have it.

European Union (EU) said it will stop giving money to Nigeria because they have money and we do have money. The thing is how do you manage that money to be able to pay for the needs of your people.

There is need to have the right people at the right time and at the right place; so that we can do the right things like eliminating corruption.

How has out-of-pocket-spending affected Nigerians?

More people are dying now from nutritional and health issues because prices of drugs have tripled yet our income has not tripled.

Where the system is properly organised, everybody will be on health insurance but here everybody is on his own. The insurance that is more than ten years old is just covering about 2.8 per cent of Nigerians. We invest in health we will contribute but we need to have a system where if I contribute that system should be able to use it efficiently to my health and that system is  the social insurance scheme where everybody will be catered for. It is done in all Europe, Ghana has started it, Rwanda and other countries are doing it. So, why can’t we do it.

Nigeria is about the only country where you can buy any drugs at the counter, even in the Republic of Benin you cannot if it is not prescribed but here you can buy anything off the counter. It shouldn’t be that way. It is a systematic collapse and nobody is doing anything about it. Nobody wants the system to work because somehow some people are benefitting from it. There are vested interests everywhere in this country that things should not work and until we break ourselves from these vested interests, things will not work.

This omission and commission we make in the health sector kills people. If we go in terms of health statistics Nigeria seems to be worst. Even small countries are all better than us because we are not making the appropriate investments. If we aggregate the amount we spend on health in the public sector they may be huge but through which holes do they go and why should people be paying out-of-pocket to pay for their health.

Nigeria expends $1bn dollar on health tourism annually. How do we put an end to this?

It is true and I think that is an understatement of how much, I think it is about five times more. Nigeria flies all over the world and it is fixed to the quality of health care delivery and Ghana doesn’t have that. In fact they are setting up health tourism now where they expect Nigerians to come to. At the end of the day you want to live and if you can’t get what you want you go for alternatives in the private sector including herbalists, churches.

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Why Nigeria’s high population must be curbed

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Why Nigeria’s high population must be curbed

The increasing Nigeria’s population, estimated at 200 million, is eating up its environment and everything that provides citizens food, energy, medicines and genetic resources.  Given the threats these pose to the country, experts believe that scaling up contraceptive use could help to curb population growth. APPOLONIA ADEYEMI reports

 

At 11am, Elizabeth takes a cutlass from the store and heads out into the hills where she meets her friends from the neighbourhood. They descend onto the forest in their village of Burak in Shongom, Gombe State of Nigeria to cut down trees and collect firewood for preparing meals for their families. Here they meet tens of other women and children collecting firewood.

When Elizabeth’s mother was her age 20 years ago, the forest was sprouting down the hills and neighbouring their farm. They didn’t have to move long distances to collect firewood. Today, Elizabeth has to walk at least four kilometres to collect the firewood because the forest has been destroyed so much and the bare land turned into agricultural and settlement zones.

The demand for fuel wood in Shongom has grown because according to the state’s website, the population in Gombe State increased from 158,339 in 1990 to 2.8 million people by 2015, increasing demand for cooking energy.

Secondly, businessmen cut down trees and transport them to the cities where it is used as fuel wood, timber for making furniture and building houses for the ever increasing population that requires housing.

“In this area, the demand for fuel wood outstrips supply and hence, the risk of deforestation in this part of the country expands at the rate of one kilometre per year, which has brought about irreversible damage to the environment,” states Ibrahim Yahaya, a researcher at Gombe State University.

The increasing population of  Nigeria, which stands at 200 million people today, is eating up its environment and biodiversity – everything that provides food, energy, medicines, genetic resources and a variety of materials fundamental for people’s physical well-being and for maintaining culture. While the Nigerian government continues to bank its hopes on oil revenues for supporting human and economic development, a large unchecked population will be detrimental to these hopes.

To stop this man-made environmental destruction and loss of resources, much depends on scaling up the use of contraceptives to meet the targeted contraceptive prevalence rate of 36 per cent and reduce the population growth. If not, it will be difficult, even with higher oil prices, to make major gains in living standards for the poorest of the poor, if other natural resources, which people depend on are depleted.

“There is a false belief that economic development is the panacea for sustaining an ever increasing population,” said Professor Dolapo Lufadeju, coordinator of Rotarian Action Group for Population and Development. “Persistently high fertility in developing countries like Nigeria, if not checked, will outpace available renewable and non-renewable resources, leaving people at risk of hunger and water scarcity.”

Dolapo is convinced that “Nigeria must invest in a robust family planning campaign and make contraceptives available to women who want to limit or stop having children in order to reverse this pressure on the environment.”

Robert Walker, the president of Population Institute said promotion of voluntary family planning services represents a valuable and cost-efficient opportunity for Nigeria. With a population of 200 million, which is projected to reach 411 million by 2050, if all family planning needs were met, population growth could be expected to decline considerably.

The extent of the problem

The geographical area of Nigeria is by nature limited to 923,768 sq.km, which represents a fixed factor. Yet the population is increasing to occupy and exploit this fixed factor.  The growing population and its activities are slowly destroying the very environment that supports human life. A rapidly growing population not only increases pressure on marginal lands, over-exploitation of soils, overgrazing, over cutting of woods, soil erosion, silting, flooding; but also increases excessive use of pesticide fertilisers causing land degradation and water pollution. The resulting effects include deforestation, desertification, wild land fires, and loss of biodiversity, land and air pollution, climate change, sea level rise and ozone depletion.

According to Okafor Samuel Okechi, a researcher with the University of Nigeria, the country’s temperature mean increase from 1901-2005 was 1.1°C while the global temperature in the same time rose “only” 0.74°C. This was accounted for by the level of deforestation in the country, which had been attributed with the 87 per cent of the total carbon emission, of the country.

Compare this loss to the 550 million hectare Amazon Rain Forest. Also referred to as the ‘Lungs of the Earth’, it sucks up about 90 billion tons of carbon dioxide while releasing oxygen needed by humans. The current wild fires, which are set by humans either intentionally or accidentally, are just part of the deforestation eating up the Amazon. Farmers and cattle grazers are encroaching on it too. In just six months this year, the Amazon has lost 344,468 hectares of its forest cover to human activity according to ‘Washington Post’.

In 1990, Nigeria had a population of 95 million people. By 2000, the population had increased to 122 million people and today its stands at 200 million. Presently, Nigeria accounts for 2.35 per cent of the world population with every 43rd  person calling himself a Nigerian anywhere in the world.

So in the last 28 years, the population of  Nigeria has more than doubled, creating a huge demand for land for agriculture, fuel wood, water and housing – all of which are harnessed from the environment. This threatens the country’s rich diversity of forests and wildlife, including at least 899 species of birds, 274 mammals, 154 reptiles, 53 amphibians, and 4,715 species of higher plants.

The predominantly rural population in Nigeria depends mainly on fuel wood to meet basic energy needs for cooking and heating. According to statistics from Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), Nigeria produces about one million tons of charcoal annually of which 80 per cent is consumed in the cities. Fuel wood and charcoal account for about 50 per cent of the national primary energy consumption.

In Africa, fuel wood accounts for over 80 per cent of primary energy needs. FAO further reveals that over 50 per cent of all wood produced in the world is used for energy. Importantly, 85 per cent of all wood fuel is collected by women and girls.

Nigeria also faces a multitude of climate-related threats. Drought in the north and flooding in the south could severely affect food production, while rising seas could displace millions of people living along the coast or in the Niger Delta. Climate change could also increase the number of refugees fleeing to Nigeria from the Sahel.

Family planning as a cost effective solution

Conservationists consider renewable energy, public transport and lower consumption as the environmental solution. Reforestation can help to curtail soil erosion, revitalise regional watersheds, restore critical bio-habitats for endangered species and help to alleviate water scarcity.

Yet, there is no doubt that better access to a wider availability of modern contraception provides an important part to a long time sustainable solution.

Over 150 reproductive health and environment organisations from 170 countries, including Nigeria, have come together to support a global campaign ‘Thriving Together’ that aims at increasing awareness of the link between environmental conservation and family planning. Organisation in Nigeria supporting this campaign include Rotarian Action Group for Population and Development (RFPD), Health Reform Foundation Nigeria and Society for the Improvement of Rural People (SIRP) Nigeria. Through engagement in maternal and child health and family planning, RFPD aims to foster improvements in human well-being and dignity, women’s empowerment and a sustainable balance between population and environment.

“Having been engaged in maternal and child health and family planning for a quarter century, RFPD is looking to now increase collaboration with agencies and organisations in environmental protection and climate activism. The potential synergies between these two fields are clearer than ever. We are delighted to see the amount of progress made in recent years regarding awareness about the relation between population and the environment,” said Professor Robert Zinser, RFPD Co-Founder.

In order to help improvee the situation, RFPD is supporting the government by training doctors, nurses, community health extension workers (CHEWS) in the provisions of professional family planning services. Rotarians will train staff in stock management and ensure that contraceptives are transported and stocked in 4,000 health care centres in all 36 states and the Federal Capital, Abuja.

“By easing access to contraceptives at the nearest health centre and staffing them with competent, well-trained personnel responsive to clients’ needs, we are not only helping women make choice of their family size, this is also a sustainable conservation practice,” RFPD-coordinator Dolapo added.

Robert Walker, the president of Population Institute said that even if population growth had no impact on the level of greenhouse gas emissions, the case for incorporating family planning into climate change discussions is still compelling. Preventing unintended pregnancies help women and families adapt to climate change. When families are struggling to survive in the face of drought, flooding or rising seas, smaller families are more likely to survive and, hopefully, thrive.

Population Scholars John Bongaarts and Brian C. O’Neill argued that helping women avoid unintended pregnancies will slow population growth, which in turn could reduce global carbon emissions by 40 per cent or more in the long term.

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Experts advocate diagnosing malaria before treatment

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Experts advocate diagnosing malaria before treatment

The Provost of the College of Medicine University of Lagos, Prof. Afolabi Lesi  has called for appropriate diagnosis of malaria before treatment in other to reduce prevalence of the disease in the country.

Lesi who made the call while declaring open the1st international

Malaria Miscroscopy Course in Lagos, said proper diagnosis of malaria would lead to effective treatment.

The event held recently at the Dr. D.K. Olukoya Central Research Laboratories at the University of Lagos (UNILAG).

The 12-day course, which brought together participants from Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), was organised by the ANDI Centre of Excellence For Malaria Diagnosis domiciled at the College of Medicine University of Lagos (CMUL) in Idiaraba, Lagos.

He said, “Malaria diagnosis is one of the key pillars of malaria prevention and control.

“Without accurate diagnosis, we cannot make proper treatment because not every fever is malaria. We need to make right diagnosis to be able to treat malaria appropriately.”

While lamenting the high prevalence of malaria in the country, Lesi said,  “Malaria is quite common. So, it is easy to think that once you have fever it is either malaria or typhoid. That has to change,” Lesi stressed.

According to him, going by the recommendation of the World Health Organisation (WHO), the standard now is to diagnose malaria before treatment, adding that is why the global community was recording reduced incidence of malaria.

Coordinator of the ANDI Centre of Excellence For Malaria Diagnosis, Wellington Oyibo, a professor of parasitology, said one of the problems of tackling malaria was that there were other causes of fever and “many times people take malaria to be the cause of fever.

Hence, he urged people that present with fever to demand malaria test at facilities before treatment, adding that malaria was always over diagnosed.

According to him, “If we have capacity built people will know how to properly do the laboratory investigation of malaria.

“We can quickly detect other fevers that are not malaria and manage them as such and once we confirm the ones that are malaria, we can apply the appropriate therapy to deal with it.”

Oyibo said the expectation of the workshop is that the participants should go back to their different centers and Improve malaria diagnosis within and outside Nigeria.

The director of UNILAG Consult, Dr. Ademola Oremosu said the training was focusing on the laboratory aspect of fighting malaria. “Hopefully with that we are able to help the teaming population of people right across Africa,” Dr. Ademola stated.

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Psychiatrists advocate research in mental health therapy

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Psychiatrists advocate research in mental health therapy

Psychiatrists have highlighted the importance of  the embracing research for the management of mental health disorder in Nigeria, while assuring that this modern approach would pave the way for better treatment outcome.

The Medical Director of the Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Yaba (FNPHY), Lagos, Dr. Oluwayemisi Ogun disclosed this during the Hospital’s research conference titled, “Emerging Trends and Innovations In The Management of Psychiatric Disorders: Challenges and Prospects In a Developing Country.”

Durint the conference which held in Lagos recently at the FNPHY facility, Ogun said the combination of clinical services, training and research was essential in the management of mental disorders.

She said it was through research they were able to discover the alarming rate of Nigerians with drug abuse-related mental disorders.

Noting that Nigerians were yet to recognise the hospital for these three responsibilities, he said there was a need to begin to prevent these problems through quality research so as to curtail the alarming rate of drug abuse.

She said it was through research they were able to discover the alarming rate of Nigerians with drug abuse-related mental disorders.

Noting that Nigerians are yet to recognise the hospital for these three responsibilities, she said there is a need to begin to prevent these problems through quality research.

On his part, the keynote speaker, Dr. Gbenga Okulate lamented the shortage of psychiatrists and mental health workers in Nigeria and said the doctor to patient ratio was too low.

Nigeria remains under-researched and a lot of mental health conditions were not recognised, inadequately researched or  regarded as a priority, hence they were poorly funded.

“A lot of people are suffering from mental health issues.  We have challenges of poor identification, late recognition and therefore, limited funding. The result of this is that a lot of people who have mental issues suffer on their own, people don’t understand they are not feeling well,” the expert said.

Okulate explained that the aim of the conference was to train people on conducting basic research and reporting products of their research so that the results can influence clinical practices and policies at all levels.

“We can train people to do research. The psychiatrist nurses, social workers could be trained as long as they can work in teams and it will be easier to do more with limited resources.”

He said, despite the recognition of mental disorders the hospital has recorded an increase in the presentation of mental health cases.

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The healing properties of pawpaw

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The healing properties of pawpaw

The pawpaw plant is a native of South America, where it was cultivated since pre-Columbian times. There are 22 plants and trees in the pawpaw genus; the most famous of which is Carica papaya. Pawpaw (Carica Papaya) reached Europe in 1690 and Asia in the 18th Century. Pawpaw is now grown all over tropical Africa. It is a very beautiful plant; hence it is used ornamentally in some parts of the world.

Pawpaw is one of God’s wonderful gifts to humanity. When one looks at the beauty and richness of nature, one cannot but burst into songs of praise to God. Pawpaw is a pharmacy in its own right. We all eat pawpaw and enjoy its sweet and pleasant taste. But how many of us know the medicinal values of this wonderful plant?

My interest in the medicinal uses of pawpaw has increased because of its effectiveness in managing diabetes and hypertension, two of the commonest diseases in our Nigeria society. The number of people suffering from diabetes and hypertension is increasing every day. As a result, cases of kidney disease are also increasing. Hypertension and diabetes can eventually lead to kidney damage. I suggest that we encourage farmers to cultivate as much pawpaw as possible, because of its wonderful healing properties.

I say this because pawpaw is becoming scarce in the Nigerian Markey, yet it is one of the easiest plants to cultivate. As it is often said, pay the farmer now or pay big Pharma later on. In other words, if you don’t spend your hard-earned money on eating good and natural food now, you will spend it on expensive pharmaceutical drugs later. Pawpaw has a calming and healing effect on the body system. In this age when dehydration is a common problem, eating pawpaw will help to re-hydrate. Dehydration is the foundation of most other illnesses in the body. In fact, inflammation arises when the body becomes dehydrated.

It is sad to see people dying of common illnesses that can easily be cured. Go to our hospitals and you will see what I mean. The drugs are so expensive. Worse still, seventy per cent of the drugs in the Nigerian market are fake. What other hope do we have then, but to turn to nature?

Pawpaw improves the digestion of protein and expels worms. The ripe fruits are rich in vitamins A, B and C. Vitamin A is good for eyesight. Vitamin B for the nerves and muscles, while vitamin C strengthens the immune system and helps to fight against illnesses. For worms, chew two tablespoons of the seeds of ripe pawpaw fruit first thing on rising and last thing at night. Do this for three days. Take only fruits for breakfast and supper for those three days.

  The following are some of the other uses of pawpaw:

1.     Malaria:  Squeeze some yellow pawpaw leaves in water. Take a glassful three times daily for seven days. The preparation is also good for jaundice. The dosage is the same.

2.     Diabetes: The green leaves of pawpaw are good for diabetes and for diabetes-induced hypertension. Squeeze the green leaves in water and take a glass three times daily. This preparation is also good for constipation.

3.       Stomach Ulcer:   Cut a big unripe pawpaw fruit into pieces. Do not remove the peel or seeds. Simply cut the whole fruit into cubes. Then soak in five bottles of water for four days. Sieve and take half a glass three times daily for two weeks. This is a very good remedy for any type of intestinal ulcer.

4.    External Ulcer: The white milky sap of the unripe pawpaw contains a high percentage of papain, which is used for chronic wounds or ulcers. This can be obtained by making a slight cut on the unripe pawpaw fruit to allow the juice to drop. Papain is also present in the ripe pawpaw fruit.

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A thought for the girl-child

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Nigerian governments at all levels, Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and spirited individuals have been called upon to devote more attention to the living conditions and survival of the girl child in Nigeria in relation to the preferential treatment of the boy child.

Making this appeal in Enugu on Monday, Mr. Felix Chukwuemeka Anikpo, the Director of Operations, Anikpo Foundation, a non-governmental organization (NGO) noted that the girl child was often discriminated against in Nigeria particularly in access to educational opportunities, food and nutrition as well as economic empowerment opportunities.

He stressed that the girl child carries a heavy burden of farm work and house work, and therefore “needs to be supported”.

According to him:“Globally, the girl child is seriously disadvantaged. Government has merely paid lip service to the plight of the girl child. These girls are married off at early ages, which interfere with their education or acquisition of skills needed for survival. We must change our beliefs about the value of the girl child in order to reverse this ugly narrative.”

According to him, the plight of the girl child in Nigeria, especially in local communities has made it imperative for governments at all levels in Nigeria, private individuals and organizations to come together to address this gap.

“This is why our Foundation is focusing on the girl child especially in our localities. We have chosen Mmaku in Awgu LGA of Enugu State as our pilot community. We are persuaded that if individuals and other private organizations can be motivated in this direction, very soon, we would be able to reverse the fate of the girl child in our society”.

The Anikpo Foundation, he explained, has three thematic areas of focus, which include medical outreaches, girl child empowerment and increasing educational opportunities for the girl child.

Explaining further, he stated, “Our vision and mission is to give back to society and improve the lot of the girl child. Presently, we have gone into partnership with the Mmaku Catholic Centre located in Awgu LGA of Enugu State upon which we have reactivated the skills acquisition component of the Centre now rebranded and known as “Mmaku Centre for Skills Acquisition for Girls”.   

“Presently, we have 26 girls at the Centre learning how to become professional seamstresses capable of, at the end of their training in the next six months, sewing for both sexes.”

He also noted that the Foundation has finalized plans to establish an ICT Centre, where the girls can learn computer appreciation and deploy their ICT knowledge in designs etc.

“The Foundation intends to help set them up with the provision of sewing machines and computers”.

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Hate Speech Bill designed to protect looters – CAN

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Chairman of the Abia State chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Apostle Emmanuel Agomoh, has condemned the Hate Speech Bill before the Senate, saying it was against the tenets of democracy and freedom of speech. Agomoh said yesterday that the bill targeted ordinary Nigerians and the right of free speech guaranteed by the Constitution, adding that rather than make law against hate speech, the senate should legislate against corruption.

This is even as a sociopolitical group, Coalition of South East Youth Leaders (COSEYL) called on the Senate to throw away the proposed hate speech bill, saying its passage at a time when other nations were marching forward, would set Nigeria backward. In a statement issued by its president general, Chief Goodluck Ibem and the deputy publicity secretary, Ernest Nmong, COSEYL kicked against the bill by Senator Sabi Abdullahi, which proposed “death penalty, life jail, and a five years imprisonment depending on the degree of the hate speech and an option of a N10 million fine for offenders,” saying “such an outrageous fine can only be paid by corrupt political office holders or corrupt government contractors who have deterred the country from making progress.” The group, however, admitted that “hate speech has done a lot of damage to our country,” but “to propose such a draconian bill in this 21st century when other nations of the world are making vital laws that will promote wealth and industrialization of their countries is disconcerting.”

“It is evidently clear that the promoters of the proposed Hate Speech Bill, packaged it to protect themselves from being challenged or questioned by Nigerians for corruption and looting of our collective wealth. Anyone that dares to speakout against their corrupt practices will be arrested for hate speech. He or she will be jailed for life or killed as the case maybe. “Vibrant media houses, the opposition members, dissenting voices, and civil society organizations will be targeted for saying the truth about matters concerning the country. Abdullahi proposed bill is to maintain the status quo.

“This is the first bill our senators are so interested in and in a hurry to pass because it will protect them from critics and probe because anything you say against them is judge as “Hate Speech”. “The Senators should stop wasting its time and Nigerian resources by deliberating on this antipeople bill that is dead-onarrival. We already have adequate laws that will take care of hate speech.”

The group further noted, “The major problem and cankerworm that has kept this country from progress and development is corruption. If our senators are sincere about serving the people, the should pass a law that stipulates Capital punishment– death by hanging — for public office holders found guilty of corruption.

This law if passed will bring about rapid development, progress and economic advancement in the country. “This Hate Speech Bill is designed to serve the interest of the ruling class and institutions which by their sharp practices and disdainful policies have watered the ground for hate speech. “Corruption is the crime after killing, armed robbery and terrorism that offenders deserve death by hanging. Corruption is a crime committed by one man that affects the entire citizens in the country. Corruption begat other crimes. It is the foundation through which other crimes and social vices are committed.”

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Sagay to Buhari: Re-submit Magu’s name to Senate

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Sagay to Buhari: Re-submit Magu’s name to Senate

* Magu: ‘We’ll kill, not maim corruption’

The Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), Prof. Itse Sagay, has commended the loot-recovery efforts of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), in the last four years, saying it was now difficult to steal public funds and get away with same.
Accordingly, the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) has charged President Muhammadu Buhari on the compelling need to re-submit the Acring chairman of the EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu’s name to the Senate, for comfirmation as substantive head of the anti-graft agency.
New Telegraph recalls that efforts to get the 8th Senate to confirm Magu’s appointment were not successful, as the lawmakers had rejected the Presidency’s request in that regard.
However, Sagay, who led other members of PACAC on a “solidarity visit” to the EFCC’s headquarters in Abuja on Wednesday, said since assuming office in late 2015, Magu had continued to demonstrate firmness and courage in the fight against corruption.
He claimed that prior to the coming on board of the current leadership, the anti-graft agency “was like every other parastatal” of government.
“The EFCC (under Magu) is a body that has surpassed every other organisation, past and present, in the fight against corruption,” Sagay said.
While accusing critics of the commission of acting in “bad faith”, the professor of law maintained that the agency’s performance had been “outstanding”.
Asked to make a categorical statement on when Magu’s name will be re-forwardec to the Green Chamber for legislative action, Sagay explained that it was the prerogative of the President to decide on that.

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