My Blog My WordPress Blog Tue, 19 Jan 2021 11:31:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Buhari Meets Beninese President in Abuja, Urges Good Neighbourliness Tue, 19 Jan 2021 11:31:00 +0000 By Deji Elumoye

President Muhammadu Buhari has stressed the need for Benin Republic to be a good neighbour to Nigeria.

The President who spoke on Tuesday while playing host to his Beninese counterpart, Patrice Talon, stressed the importance of good neighbourliness, saying “the survival of your neighbour is also your own, and vice-versa”.

According to Buhari ,“Good neighbourliness is very important in our lives. The survival of your neighbour is also your own, and we will continue to work with our neighbours in the light of this understanding”.

He recalled that on assumption of office in 2015, one of the very first steps he took was to visit neighbouring countries – Chad, Niger, Cameroon and Benin – all towards forging a common understanding on crucial issues, including security, trade and development. “And those are issues we must continue to engage on, for the good of our countries and the people. Whatever irritations that come up must be removed,” the President stressed.

Speaking earlier, President Talon said he was in Nigeria to show gratitude to President Buhari for the robust leadership he displays in Nigeria and Africa.

Noting that the challenges of 2020 were huge, the Beninese President emphasised that the same challenges may remain in 2021, “and our relationship as neighbours must, therefore, remain cordial.”

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PAMO Takes Medical Education to New Heights Mon, 18 Jan 2021 15:32:47 +0000 With the full accreditation of courses and programmes in PAMO University of Medical Sciences by the National Universities Commission and other professional bodies recently, and the ongoing upgrade of its teaching hospital, all within three years of its establishment, the management of the institution is determined to take medical education in the country to the peak, Ugo Aliogo writes

With the directive by the National Universities Commission (NUC) to universities in the country to resume on January 18, 2021, one university where students are anxiously looking forward to resume the 2020-2021 academic session is PAMO University of Medical Sciences (PUMS). For them and their parents, the good news is that the institution is resuming few months after the NUC fully accredited their courses and programmes to their delight and that of the management of the institution.

By law, the NUC is empowered to lay down Minimum Academic Standards (MAS) for universities in the country and to accredit their degree programmes. This leads to the preparation, with the use of experts, of the MAS for the 13 disciplines taught in Nigerian universities in 1989. The disciplines are; Administration, Agriculture, Arts, Basic Medical Sciences, Education, Engineering and Technology, Environmental Sciences, Law, Medicine and Dentistry, Pharmaceutical Sciences, Sciences, Social Sciences and Veterinary Medicine.

Accreditation of degree programmes by the NUC is a system of evaluating academic programmes in Nigerian universities to ensure that they meet the provisions of the MAS documents. The objectives of the exercise are to: ensure that the provisions of the MAS are attained, maintained and enhanced.

For PAMO University of Medical Sciences, Nigeria’s first private institution devoted wholly to the medical sciences, NUC accrediting its courses and progammes within three years is remarkable. The good news to the students, management and stakeholders of the institution is that with the full accreditation of courses and programmes, the students can be assured that they are running genuine programmes. So it is with their parents who are responsible for their welfare.

The cheering news is that the accreditation would make the young university a destination for admission seekers, as parents and guardians would want their children and wards to attend PAMO.
After the NUC accreditation, the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria also accredited the university’s Department of Nursing Science, while the accreditation by the Medical Laboratory Council came before the NUC’s. Meaning that the university now has all its courses and programmes fully accredicted.

Currently, the institution has courses such as Anatomy, Biochemistry, Human Nutrition and Dietetics, Pharmacology and Physiology in the Faculty of Basic Medical Sciences, as well as Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery (MBBS) and Nursing in the Faculty of Clinical Sciences.

PUMS is Nigeria’s first private medical university solely committed to pursing courses and programmes in the medical and allied field. It is well-equipped to world standards and situated in a serene environment in Port Harcourt, Rivers State. The university management said its objective is to take medical education to the peak in the country.

The Special Adviser to the Pro-Chancellor of the university, Dr. Abdulrahman Sambo, who broke the news of the series of accreditations to THISDAY, said the institution which is the first to be granted licence within one year of planning, is also the first to obtain full accreditation of all its courses and programmes at the first visit, and first to have its admission quota for medicine increased or doubled even before graduating the first set of medical students.

“NUC has granted full accreditation status to six of the seven programmes, the seventh programme, MBBS, has not been visited because it’s not due yet, since it’s a six-year programme, so the visit will be towards the end of next year.

“Nursing and Midwifery Council has also granted full accreditation to the programme and increased admission quota of students, same with Medical Laboratory Science, which has been granted full accreditation also.

“The one granted by the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) is for pre-clinical because their accreditation takes three stages: first is pre-clinical, second is basic clinical sciences and the third and final is for the clinical sciences. A university has to scale one before it gets to the next stage.

“We have scaled the first and ordinarily, this takes a number of years. For us, it’s a monumental achievement because some universities spend between five to six years to get it. PAMO University was able to get it at the very first visit and then the increase in the admission quota,” Sambo said.

He noted that apart from the MBBS, Bachelor of Nursing Science, Bachelor of Medical Laboratory Science, Bachelor in Physiology, Anatomy, Biochemistry and Pharmacology, the university is planning to add more courses during the next academic session.

THISDAY also gathered that with the accreditation, which would also lead to admission of more students, the university has begun massive expansion of its structures, including classrooms, halls, hostels, laboratories and library facilities.

“We have got a large chunk of land behind the university which we have acquired and more hostels are being built, academic blocks are being added and then library auditorium,” Sambo said.

One of the greatest strengths of the university is that it already has an existing teaching hospital established by its founder who is a renowned medical doctor established in the 1980s, called PAMO Clinics and Hospitals Group.

The hospital has been at the forefront of the provision of high-class medical care and services to residents and visitors to Port Harcourt and Rivers State for nearly 40 years. It also has over the years, provided high-quality medical treatment and health promotion services spanning Internal Medicine, Family Medicine, Surgery, Obstetrics, Gynaecology and Paediatrics to individuals, families and corporate organisations across sectors such as energy, oil and gas, power, agriculture and construction.

This means that from takeoff, the hospital will aid students right from early stages in order to have a full medical knowledge and experience. This is unlike other universities where students are not exposed to hospital experience until they are in 400 level.

Sambo furthered revealed that the management of PAMO is currently expanding the hospital in order to upgrade it to the teaching hospital arm of the university.

“We are also about expanding the teaching hospital. We are expanding to upgrade it to the teaching hospital arm of the university. A memorandum of understanding has been signed between the Rivers State governent and State University Teaching Hospital and PUMS, where students of PUMS will be visiting the State University Teaching Hospital for clinical training before the completion of the building of the PAMO Teaching Hospital.

“We are the first university to be granted licence within one year of planning, first university to obtain full accreditation of all its programmes at the first visit and first to have its admission quota for medicine increased or doubled even before graduating the first set of medical students.

“This was a record, getting a licence under a year. Others spend five to 15 years planning for this and PAMO is the first and only private university in Nigeria that was able to get the licence within a year of commencement of planning and first to start academic activities a few months after.”

The special adviser explained that part of the idea behind the establishment of the university is to inculcate the culture of teamwork in all the students who will graduate from the institution, stating that the seeming discordance among medical professionals in the country today is not good for the system.

He reiterated that aside tackling the obvious manpower problems in the health sector, the idea behind the establishment of the university is also to reform the mindset of students towards healthcare delivery in the country.

According to him, the institution was set up to correct the attitude of medical practitioners towards their patients and foster inter-professional relations, which have tended to go sour among the different professionals within the health system.

“We want our graduates to see themselves as members of a team ab-initio, right from training to the point of graduation and subsequent professional practice. Then looking at the south-south in general and Rivers State in particular, there isn’t any private university in Rivers per say.

“So, it’s not just the first private medical university in the country, but also the first private university in Rivers State. The concept of the university started in December 2016 and the first meeting of the committee was in February 2017 and by December 19 of the same 2017, the university had got its operational licence from the NUC.

“It’s also the first to have a former head of state as its chancellor and chairman, board of trustees,” he said.

Sambo added that since its establishment, PUMS has become a choice of study for many Nigerians filling their Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) forms. He noted that the level of discipline and quality of learning in the institution has become unrivaled, as its projection remains to become one of the best universities in the country.

“Those who are filling PAMO University in their JAMB forms have surpassed the space we have for students. This shows that many students want to come to the school for their academic pursuit. Our plan is to ensure that graduates from this institution are exceptional in the course of offering healthcare services to Nigerians. And for that to happen, they must be certified worthy in character and learning, which is what we are pursuing,” he said.

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COVID-19: KanInvest Secures N10bn CBN Fund to Revive Industries in Kano Mon, 18 Jan 2021 14:41:05 +0000 By Ibrahim Shuaibu

The KanInvest and Diaspora, in partnership with the Links, a UK-based company and the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), has secured N10 billion intervention fund from Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in its bid to revive industries affected by the COVID-19 pandemic disease in Kano State.

The intervention fund targets at least 50 companies that had been affected by the pandemic under the state’s Turnaround Project.

The Director General of the KanInvest and Diaspora, Ms. Hama Ali Ware, said yesterday during a sensitisation meeting on the Kano State Turnaround Project at Government House that the aim of the programme is to facilitate the revival of the affected companies in order to sustain the prosperity of the state.

Ware also added that the CBN has agreed to support the project with additional funds if the need arises in the future, adding that the agency would interface with the affected companies on one-by-one basis to get information about the problem they are facing and how to support them.

Ware said: “We will sit down and discuss with the companies, one by one, not crowd. Through that way, we will gather information about the problem of a company and see the way to support it.

“The KanInvest and Diaspora, in collaboration with the MAN and the Links decided to come up with this initiative in order to support our affected industries because it is a worrisome situation that industries affected by COVID-19 and other problems are not functioning in Kano, which is known as the commercial nerve centre of northern Nigeria.”

The director general also explained that the agency had produced an expression of interest form for interested companies, announcing that the deadline for the submission of the application is February 25, 2021.

She further explained that the door would be open until at least 50 applications are received and “from then, we will see if they could exhaust the N10 billion or not.”

In his remarks, the President of MAN, Mr. Ahmed Mansur, enjoined the state government and other stakeholders not to relent in their efforts to bring back the lost glory of Kano in terms of industrialisation.

A study, according to Mansur, showed that about 50 percent of industries in Kano are either experiencing declining capacity utilisation or have closed down completely due to COVID-19 and other issues.

He, therefore, called for collaborative efforts that would revive the industries in Kano, noting that it would be an effective way to provide job opportunities for the teeming youths in the state and bring peace and harmony.

On his part, the Governor of Kano State, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, expressed delight about the project and stated that his administration had come up with various programmes aimed at boosting small scale industries in the state.

Ganduje pointed out that activities of smugglers and low technological advancement have crippled industries in Kano.

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Suspected Kidnappers’ Houses, Brothel Demolished in Calabar Mon, 18 Jan 2021 14:33:00 +0000 Four houses owned by suspected kidnappers have been demolished in Calabar by the Cross River State security outfit ‘Operation Akpakwu’.

The houses were demolished yesterday at 8 Miles in the outskirts of Calabar following the arrest of the suspected kidnappers.

The security team also demolished a brothel close to Flour Mill junction in Calabar for allegedly harbouring criminals and illicit drug consumers.

The State Security Adviser, Southern Senatorial District to Governor Ben Ayade, Mr. Henry Okokon, who spoke after the demolition, told journalists that the exercise was aimed at flushing criminals out of the state.

Okokon stated that the state government places a premium on the security of lives and properties in the state.

“This is part of the activities of Operation Akpakwu, a special force set up by Governor Ayade to fight crime in the state, especially kidnapping.

“This demolition exercise is ongoing. The governor has warned that anyone who is involved in any form of criminality, or any landlord who is found harbouring any criminal should desist from it.

“These houses belong to individuals who have been caught in the act of kidnapping in the state. The brothel was also brought down because the management of the facility was also harbouring criminals and drug addicts.

“This is a warning signal to everybody. Whosoever is involved in a crime of any form should desist from it,” he said.

Okokon advised business owners in the state to go about their normal businesses as the state government was doing its best to protect them from criminals.

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Philosophy and an Unending Quest for Reform Mon, 18 Jan 2021 14:32:00 +0000 By Tunji Olaopa

As blows of increasing fatalities from Covid-19 and untimely death of many close friends, especially intellectual colleagues, weigh in lately, I have found myself retreating into my study to engage in largely philosophical reflections, simply as a form of escape. I had asked myself that if revered colleagues continue to be ravaged at this rate, how many eulogies and tributes could one possibly write with a troubled mind that wonder more about meaninglessness and one’s mortality. In this philosophical state, I found that, even in the midst of the woes, there are people to celebrate. Indeed, at the very depth of my heart, I am a philosopher. This is an admission that is so easy for me to make. It comes from the realization that my failed attempt, when preparing to enter the university, to professionally become a philosopher does not stop me from being one in practice. In other words, philosophy is not only a scholarly pursuit but also a way of life. I of course took my lifelong vocation from the motivation invoked in a philosophical statement. According to Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” It is that fascination with the relationship between thought and reality that has kept me in a love relationship since I read Plato’s Republic many years as a secondary school lad.

Why have I returned to my persistent pursuit of the philosophical? Just last week, the University of Ibadan announced the promotion of some of her scholars and academics to the professorial cadre. One of them is Adeshina Afolayan, the brilliant scholar and philosopher whom I have known since 2006. This piece is meant as a celebration of an enduring intellectual romance between the reformer in me and philosophy, between intellectual vision and administrative renewal. I am very pleased to be associated with the newly minted Professor Adeshina Afolayan of the UI department of philosophy as a friend, a brother and a philosophical sparring partner with whom I have been in continuing conversation over the years, and who had, in the process, bore my philosophical tantrums.

The journey that led to my providential meeting with Prof. Afolayan commenced in 2006. I had just completed my doctoral programme, and I was involved in the herculean task of purging the dissertation of excessive jargons and theories to make it a readable and functional public service reform text that will eventually become a valuable addition to Nigeria’s public administration scholarship and literature. While I was refining my manuscript, I approached my teacher at the Department of Political Science, Prof. Bayo Okunade, to suggest a critical reviewer for the proposed volume. I was extremely gratified when he recommended the late Professor Olusegun Oladipo of the Department of Philosophy. This turned out to be a most fundamental suggestion that would embolden my numerous embryonic thoughts about launching my institutional reform efforts on a sound philosophical basis, and with an even more significant African continental contextual foundation.

Professor Oladipo turned out in the long run to be an insightful technical adviser and intellectual partner. There are two distinct issues in my manuscript that sparked prolonged debates and discursive iterations between us. The first concerns my initial attempt to outline the value foundation of Nigeria’s inherited colonial institutions and structures. I had found Jacques Derrida’s notion of deconstruction a useful methodological instrument for determining, exhuming and reevaluating the western value assumptions about Nigeria’s administrative realities. These assumptions have led to vast institutional contradictions and structural dysfunctions that ought to ignite the culture change essential for governance and institutional reforms that public administration and the public service in Nigeria urgently demand.

The second issue revolved around my deployment of the critical insights in Max Weber’s definitive work, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, towards the theoretical understanding of how institutional values—founded on religious dynamics—could be squared within what Ali Mazrui rendered famously as Africa’s triple heritage of the Islamic, the Christian and the traditional African. The proper iteration of these ideas in administrative and philosophical terms brought me and Professor Oladipo together many times in deep intellectual exploration of the nuances embedded in worldviews and argumentations. How, for instance, do we begin to reckon with the supposedly Protestant values of hard work and frugality within the context of traditional African ethical worldview about a good society? Or: how does the “spirit of capitalism” function within a continent subjugated by capitalist exploitation? How does this “protestant ethic” actuate the reform of the public service in a postcolonial context?

On one of these occasions, Prof. Oladipo made the perceptive decision to bring in and introduce Adeshina Afolayan, who was then a freshly minted doctor of philosophy, to the regular discursive meetings. In retrospect, it was as if Oladipo had an intimation of his demise, and did not want to leave me philosophically forlorn and desolate. By 2009, I had made up my mind to concretize my reform mission and thoughts about establishing the Centre for Public Service Innovation—which later metamorphosed into the Ibadan School of Government and Public Policy (ISGPP)—as the structural arrowhead for my governance and institutional reform research. The Center was supposed to be in partnership with Prof. Oladipo’s publication outfit, Hope Publication. The whole structural set up was modeled after my mentor, Professor Ojetunji Aboyade’s Development Policy Centre (DPC). And as all these institutional dynamics were taking shape, Dr Afolayan was also increasingly being thrust by Oladipo to the forefront of this whole conversation. However, 2009 was a very sad year because the excitement of the institutional and intellectual rapport between the three of us was suddenly interjected by the demise of Prof. Olusegun Oladipo.

Prof. Oladipo’s death played a key role in my decision to postpone the establishment of a think tank inspired by my then growing attachment to Nigeria’s National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) and Harvard Kennedy School of Government. But Afolayan was already around to step into the intellectual gap left by the brilliant and formidable Oladipo. At this point, my pursuit of sound philosophical basis around which to situate my administrative, governance and institutional reform dynamics was already manifesting most definitively. When I finally arrived at the moment in time to establish the ISGPP, it was only natural that Prof. Afolayan would be invited to come on board. And the opportunity presented itself in 2016 when he took out a one-year sabbatical to bring his philosophical and academic expertise on board the ISGPP management team.

Let me confess that I have been immensely influenced by Prof. Afolayan’s strategic blend of African philosophy, philosophy of politics and the philosophy of culture, with an especial emphasis on Yoruba philosophy. He drew me into the nuanced and significantly ideological debate into whether Africans possess the humanity, and indeed the rational capacity to propose a unique “African philosophy.” Afolayan’s attempt at deploying postmodern insights into the understanding of Africa’s struggle with the colonial and the postcolonial also inspired my political theory- rekindled interest and excavation of the reconstructionist intent in the critical works of scholars like Claude Ake and Peter Ekeh, and especially the yeoman anticolonial and historiographical efforts of the Ibadan School of History. Ake’s Social Science as Imperialism and Ekeh’s Colonialism and Social Structure became critical theoretical launchpad from which to continue distilling the dynamics of Africa’s and Nigeria’s institutional and governance revival and rehabilitation for the wellbeing of Nigerians.

Prof. Afolayan’s abiding interest in the interplay of cultural and philosophical elements between Africa and the West also played a role in my continuing attempt at understanding and conceptualizing the interesting theological and historical relationship between Christianity and African spirituality and cultural practices. I have often found my Christian affiliation in conflict with my cultural affirmation as an African and a Yoruba person with a full understanding and appreciation of my cultural beingness. I have therefore been involved in finding a common point of intersections for my being Christian and being Yoruba. Prof. Afolayan has refused to be a mere sounding board for my biases. On the contrary, he would interject critical questions and queries that I would sometimes find irritating but cogent to my need for self-reflexivity.

Most refreshing, however, is the fact that my growing fascination with Christianity and African traditional spirituality led not only to my increasing understanding of public service as a calling in the Levitical order of priesthood, but also my interest in outlining spirituality as a fundamental reform element in the institutional reform of the public service. Prof. Afolayan facilitates my critical engagement with the significance of Nigeria’s plurality, and how the iteration of a spiritual dimension to the reform of the public service could de-emphasize the ethnicization of such a critical institution and its governance value in transforming policies into an implemented tool for making the lives of Nigerians qualitatively better. The spirituality of service therefore complements the professional imperatives required of anyone who truly wants to be called a public servant. And such a concern plays out within a larger intellectual interest in national values reorientation and cultural adjustment programme as critical component of governance reform to change the mind of the nation, to birth a new generation of leaders, especially a new crop of public officials and managers who will be able to manage the emergence of a new public service democratically recalibrated to achieve an efficient democratic governance and service delivery.

It is a fundamental understatement to say that Professor Adeshina Afolayan has been a critical partner in my enduring pursuit of philosophical understanding. I salute his philosophical depth and intellectual foresight. And I toast many more years of productive collaboration.

  • Prof. Tunji Olaopa is a retired Federal Permanent Secretary & Directing Staff, National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru, Jos (
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Kano Bans Operation of Viewing, Event Centres Mon, 18 Jan 2021 14:29:00 +0000 By Ibrahim Shuaibu

The Kano State Government has announced the imposition of a fresh ban on the activities of viewing and event centres across the state following increasing COVID-19 cases.

The Commissioner for Information, Malam Muhammad Garba, who made the revelation in a statement made available to THISDAY in Kano Tuesday, said the measure was part of the decision at a stakeholders’ meeting held at the Africa House, Kano on Monday.

He said that all civil servants in the state have also been directed to stay at home pending further instruction.

Garba, however, explained that workers on essential services such as healthcare service providers, fire service, water board, teaching staff, security guards and the media are exempted from the ban.

The commissioner reaffirmed government’s commitment to working with relevant stakeholders which included the Ulama to ensuring compliance with the COVID-19 protocols.

He also warned that security agents who were part of the stakeholders’ meeting would not hesitate to take stern measures to ensure compliance with the directive.

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Bayero University Trains 120 Youths on Leadership Skills Mon, 18 Jan 2021 14:29:00 +0000 By Ibrahim Shuaibu

The Department of Gender Studies (DGS), of the Bayero University Kano, has trained 120 youths in Kano State on qualitative leadership among the younger generations.

The Director of the DGS, Professor Hassana Sani Darma, disclosed yesterday that the objective of the programme is to bring together youths from diverse backgrounds, especially from universities and other tertiary institutions to discuss issues affecting them.

Darma said that the programmes of the DGS are supported by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation (RLF).

She said the DGS is focused on youth’s enlightenment and mobilisation of the youths for active participation in leadership, adding that the centre has trained youth on de-radicalisation and introduced series of roundtable programs that would enhance the creation of a better society.

A Lecturer in the Department of Sociology, Dr. Maikano Madaki, said that the essence of the training was to see how the leadership skills of the youths could be developed by identifying and addressing the areas where they have problems and challenges in terms of developing leadership potentials and skills.

Madaki said that the programme is also planned to look at the effect of drug and substance abuse on the socio-economic development of any country where large numbers of its youths are engaged in drug abuse.

He said: “The essence generally is to create awareness among the target groups who are basically the youths, so that they can go back to their respective locations and NGOs and send the same information to fight the problem of drug abuse among the youths in the country.’’

He added that the political system could not provide appropriate atmosphere for the leaders who have the potentials, the capacity, the knowledge and experience to serve the nation because the political environment, which has been dominated by those who are wealthy, is no longer favorable for the youths.

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African Environment Ministers Commit to Support Green COVID-19 Recovery Plan Mon, 18 Jan 2021 14:28:13 +0000 By Bennett Oghifo

Ministers of Environment across the continent of Africa have agreed to support a comprehensive green recovery plan to boost economies and social systems aimed at building back better from the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a ministerial statement issued at the closing of the eighth special session of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN), representatives of the 54 African governments reaffirmed their commitment to enhance environmental resilience as well as to protect and sustainably use natural resources for the region’s development.

In a high-level Ministerial regional conference that was held virtually under the theme “Enhancing environmental action for effective post-COVID recovery in Africa”, participants further called to accelerate the protection and restoration of biodiversity and ecosystems as part of an effort to sustainably build back African economies from the impacts of COVID-19 pandemic.

Barbara Creecy, Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries of South Africa and President of AMCEN said: “whilst this pandemic is having a profound negative impact on sustainable development and our efforts to combat environmental degradation and eradicate poverty, it also presents opportunities to set our recovery on a path of transformative sustainable development.”

“The African Green Stimulus Programme seeks to address, in a sustainable manner, the devastating socio-economic and environmental impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and to, more importantly, harness the opportunities which this approach brings for the Continent,” she added.

Ministers noted the importance of policies and programmes linking public health, pollution abatement, climate action, biodiversity conservation, ecosystems integrity, socio-economic equity, and prosperity for an effective recovery from COVID-19 pandemic in Africa.

While noting the impact COVID-19 pandemic has had on Africa’s socio-economic development, the ministers acknowledged it has particularly undermined efforts to achieve sustainable development and eradicate poverty.

Ministers recommended that an effective recovery strategy from COVID-19 pandemic is essential, and it can present opportunities to further mainstream environmental considerations across all facets of African economies, striving towards a more environmentally friendly, resilient, low-emissions and inclusive sustainable development.

“In overcoming the pandemic, we can also avert climate catastrophe and restore our planet. I congratulate Ministers on their deliberations this week on a green recovery programme for the continent. I call for international solidarity and for the domestic realignment of resources to fund the green recovery,” said Inger Andersen, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme.

Also, in the conference, environment ministers committed to working with the global community to secure a robust, ambitious and transformative post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework that aims at reversing biodiversity loss by 2030.

While noting that Africa’s rich biodiversity is a valuable asset in mitigating climate change, ministers emphasised the need for further elaboration of adaptation planning and implementation under the Paris Agreement to address extreme weather and slow-onset events.

Ministers reiterated their continued support for multilateral cooperation at regional, continental and global levels, as well as their support to the United Nations Environment Assembly of the United Nations Environment Programme to be held from 22 to 26 February 2021.

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To Trust or Not to Trust: Vaccine Hesitancy and the Need for Different Strategy Mon, 18 Jan 2021 14:28:00 +0000 Currently, there is a wide gap between science and the public who are required to translate these newly developed vaccines into sufficient global protection from COVID-19. Until that gap is closed with a robust public communications strategy, safe and effective though the vaccine may be, it will remain unacceptable to a significant proportion of the world’s population.


Bill Gates believes that 2021 will be better than 2020 for two major reasons. The first reason why he is so hopeful is that many of the preventive measures against COVID-19 – such as the wearing of masks, regular handwashing, and social distancing – will curb the rampant spread of the virus, while vaccines against the pandemic are being manufactured and distributed globally. His second reason is that towards the end of the first quarter of 2021, the release of recently approved vaccines and other treatments for the Sars-Cov-2 virus infection would have been distributed in sufficient numbers enough to create a ‘global impact’.To Tru

With over 80 million confirmed cases across the world and over 1.7 million deaths, it is little wonder that the news of approved vaccines from several pharmaceutical companies have generated significant interest and not a little controversy.


Barely two weeks ago, a U.K. grand mother became the first person in the world to receive the vaccine, which was the first of nearly one million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to become available worldwide. The 91-year-old Margaret Keenan even termed the vaccine “the best early birthday present”. Nigeria’s Health minister recently revealed the government’s plans to vaccinate up to 20 million Nigerians. Unfortunately, this excitement is not universal, and the world over, there is public hesitancy and mistrust surrounding the COVID-19 vaccines, especially amongst Black, Asian and other minority ethnicities. Ironically, it is these same groups that have been hit the hardest by the pandemic, with higher case ratios and numbers of people dead from infection with the virus.

In fact, the sheer speed with which the vaccines have been rolled out, while deemed one of the most significant scientific feats of the year, has been the cause of concern for some. In less than a year, vaccines to a relatively new viral organism have been created, when typically the process could take well over a decade. Effective vaccines against HIV and malaria are yet to be produced, even after these diseases have been on the rampage for decades, and decimated millions globally – especially in sub-Saharan Africa. In addition, reports of severe allergic reactions in a handful of recipients have fed into the narrative of those who fear the vaccine and these sentiments have therefore raised concerns more over the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine than its efficacy.

To better understand some of the hesitancy and lack of trust surrounding the vaccines against COVID-19, one must return to distant and not-so-distant history.

The safety and efficacy of the vaccines followed rigorous protocols involving tens of thousands of informed participants, data verification by external committees of scientists, followed by independent recommendations that the vaccines be authorised for public use. In a nutshell, there was zero political interference…

Clinical Trials

In the Tuskegee clinical trials that began in 1932, 600 black men were supposedly being treated by researchers for syphilis. However, they were given insufficient information about the study, and received inadequate treatment, even when penicillin became known as an effective treatment for syphilis. In exchange for participating in the study, these men received inducements such as free meals, and burial insurance. This went on for 40 years, despite being projected to last no more than six months; and many of the study participants were simply observed for the effects of the disease on their bodies until they eventually died. The public outrage following this led to stringent recommendations regarding future ethical conduct pertaining to clinical trials.

In Northern Nigeria, cerebrospinal meningitis outbreaks are a common occurrence, and in 1996 an outbreak occurred in Kano State, affecting mainly children. Pharmaceutical company, Pfizer, began a trial of its drug, Trovan, on about 200 children without securing the required authorisation, and was accused by a government-constituted investigative panel to have led “…an illegal trial of an unregistered drug” by exploiting the poor, uneducated and desperate. The company later paid out about $175,000 in an out-of-court settlement to each of the four families whose children died from the experimental drug. The total settlement paid by Pfizer then would have been the equivalent of approximately N315 million today.

Misinformation around infectious disease outbreaks is not new, as was seen during the Ebola incidence and now during COVID-19. Therefore, providing verifiable information about the pandemic and the COVID-19 vaccine is therefore vital, and needs a carefully considered and multi-sectoral approach.

Given a history of several clinical trials that have been unethical and resulted in severe harm to vulnerable members of society – children from poor, uneducated families in Kano, and African American men in Tuskegee as few examples, it is not implausible that a significant number of members of the public are wary of receiving the COVID-19 vaccines that have been developed following a programme termed ‘Operation Warp Speed’, not to mention those who are avidly against vaccines in general.

The safety and efficacy of the vaccines followed rigorous protocols involving tens of thousands of informed participants, data verification by external committees of scientists, followed by independent recommendations that the vaccines be authorised for public use. In a nutshell, there was zero political interference, and no shortcuts were taken during the vaccine development process.

Vaccine communication cannot rest within the domain of the health sector alone. Other sectors must be involved – information, communications, labour, women, and youth, to mention some critical stakeholders for an effective communication strategy.

Unfortunately, there is no way for the public to know this if a deliberate strategy is not implemented to communicate such details. The remarkable progress achieved with the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine globally will however need to overcome the enormous challenge of public mistrust to secure people’s commitment to receiving it.

Generally, vaccinations have endured a tenuous relationship with the public, and unless there is widespread belief in the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine, this scientific feat of a landmark vaccine developed in record time to quash an incessantly ravaging pandemic will fail to confer the anticipated herd immunity. The reason being that its protection of populations relies on a significant number of people to be vaccinated.


Vaccine communication cannot rest within the domain of the health sector alone. Other sectors must be involved – information, communications, labour, women, and youth, to mention some critical stakeholders for an effective communication strategy. While health ministries and agencies can develop the core messages, they need to work with non-health actors, communications specialists, and community structures to prune and disseminate these messages to the public in ways that are scientifically sound and yet culturally and societally acceptable. This would ensure clarity, understanding, and reach, therefore avoiding widespread misinformation and panic.

This strategy proved eminently useful during the polio eradication campaigns that successfully led to Nigeria being declared free of the wild polio virus several months ago, despite accounting for over half of polio cases worldwide as at 2012.

Currently, there is a wide gap between science and the public who are required to translate these newly developed vaccines into sufficient global protection from COVID-19. Until that gap is closed with a robust public communications strategy, safe and effective though the vaccine may be, it will remain unacceptable to a significant proportion of the world’s population. Only when the vaccine is accepted and received will it be able to confer any protection whatsoever and halt the steady stream of deaths from COVID-19 across the world.

… Oreh is a Consultant Family Physician in Abuja and Head of Planning, Research and Statistics for Nigeria’s National Blood Transfusion Service. She is also a Senior Fellow for Global Health with the Aspen Institute in Washington D.C.

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Fish and Soyabean: A Great Combination for Improved Human Health Mon, 18 Jan 2021 14:27:00 +0000 By Adewolu Morenike A.


One of the serious problems facing developing countries today is how to match food production levels, particularly proteinous foods, with increasing demand by a growing population. The magnitude of this problem is shown in the prevalence of kwashiorkor and other diseases associated with protein deficiencies. In Nigeria, the average protein intake is low; it is estimated as 45.4g per day. This is below the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)\World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendation of 70g per day with half coming from plant sources and the remaining half from animal protein sources. This article highlights the importance of fish and soybean protein as crucial diets for Nigerians.

Fish as the Healthiest Animal Protein Source

Fish, when compared to beef, chicken, and milk protein has a higher tendency to support health in terms of digestibility, biological value, protein efficiency ratio and amino acid profile. Fish is the most easily digestible of all the dietary animal proteins because of the presence of lower connective tissue. Human beings can utilize up to 85% (WHO). In addition, the cost of fish production when compared to other livestock is cheaper. Fish is more available and readily affordable than other animal protein sources.

Nutritional Benefits of Eating Fish

Nutritionally, fish can be classified into three major categories:

Oily Fish – These fish contain significant amount of oil (about 30%) in their body tissues, belly cavities and guts. Examples are mackerel, salmon, sardines and catfish

Lean Fish – These are the white fish with lower amount of fat content. Examples are soles, cod fish (panla) and tilapias

Shell Fish – These are fish that are covered with shell. Examples are crabs, oysters, lobsters and prawns\shrimps

Fish is an important source of high-quality and digestible protein that contains all the essential amino acids.

It contains water soluble vitamins like vitamin B complex, vitamin B12, B6, B2, folic acid, biotin and very little quantity of vitamin C. It is also rich in fat soluble vitamins, A, D, E and K. Fish also contains important micronutrients (minerals) such as calcium, iron, selenium, zinc, lead and copper. These minerals may be beneficial or toxic to man, depending on the level of exposure. Fish, especially marine fish, are a dietary source of iodine. It is an important source of polyunsaturated fatty acids. Basically, the most important nutrients needed for human body are found in fish. Several factors may affect the nutrient composition of fish, these include the age or size, sex, environment, season of the year, amount of food available and physical activities.

Some fish species stop feeding before spawning and draw on their protein and fats reserves, thus affecting their nutrient content. Also, fish, when overcrowded, may not have enough food intake thereby affecting the nutrient composition. It is important to mention that nutrient content varies within an individual fish. For example, fat may not always be distributed uniformly throughout the flesh of a particular fish. In Pacific salmon, there may be twice as much fat in the muscle around the head as in the muscles of the tail.

In the lean fish of cod family, the fat content of the muscle is generally low, below 1%. Majority of the fat content is in the liver, which is not normally eaten, and may contain greater quantities of oil soluble vitamins A and D. In contrast, these two vitamins may be present in the flesh of other fish, eg eels. The nutrient content of fish, if carefully processed, are not affected by preservation, provided storage is not very prolonged.

Eating fish may lower the risk of heart attacks and strokes because of the presence of omega-3 fatty acids. The high amount of polyunsaturated fatty acids in oily fish is valuable in decreasing the serum cholesterol. Fish, as a good source of vitamin D and calcium, can improve bone health and growth. Omega-3 fatty acids in fish are beneficial to improving visions and eyes health.

Eating of oily fish may improve quality of sleep due to the high concentration of vitamin D. Fish as a high packed nutrient, when eaten, may boost our immune system, especially during this period of COVID-19 pandemic. Fish oil is supportive in lowering blood pressure due to its high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids help in the breakdown of triglycerides and fatty acids in the liver, thereby lowering the risk of fatty liver disease. It helps blood flow to the brain and improves its performance during mental tasks.

The fat and the pituitary gland in the fish head are rich in Vitamin A, which can fight free radicals and reduce oxidative stress. Higher consumption of fish can reduce the inflammation of joint in rheumatoid arthritis, prevent depression and may reduce the risks of autoimmune diseases. Research has shown that children who consume fish regularly have lower risk of asthma, improved memory and reduced risks of contracting diseases. It is recommended to eat two to three servings of fish per week to enjoy all the benefits.

Soyabean as the Healthiest Plant Protein Source

In line with the FAO/WHO recommendations that half of the estimated protein needed by man may come from plant sources, the plant protein source may come from soybean, which is affordable and contains essential nutrients. Soyabeans are unique from other legumes because they have a concentrated source of isoflavones and have weak estrogenic. They have higher amount of protein and fats than other legumes. They are relatively low in carbohydrate. Nutritionally, soyabean is one of the best sources of high-quality plant protein, containing about 40-56 per cent of the dry weight.

The fat content is approximately 18 per cent of the dry weight, mainly polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids and zero cholesterol.

The predominant type of fat in soybeans is linoleic acid, which accounts for about 50 per cent of the total fat. Soyabeans are low in carbohydrates, hence very low on the glycemic index (GI), which is a measure of how foods affect the rise in blood sugar after a meal.

Soyabeans contain a moderate amount of soluble and insoluble fiber. It is a good source of several vitamins and minerals, including vitamin K1, the B-vitamins, folate, copper, manganese, potassium, phosphorus, and thiamine. They are a rich source of various bioactive plant compounds, including isoflavones, saponins, and phytic acid. Generally, composition, protein quality and nutritive value of soyabeans depend on numerous factors, including seed variety, environmental conditions during growing, harvesting and storage of the beans.

Health Benefits of Soyabeans

Soyabeans have a number of health benefits. It may reduce the risk of cancer. The isoflavones and lunasin in soyabean may be responsible for the potential prevention of cancer. Exposure to isoflavones early in life may be protective against breast cancer later in life.

The high levels of antioxidants in soyabean may prevent the onset of several cancers; it may help to kill several cancer cells and remove free radicals from the body. Research studies indicate that isoflavones, found in soyabeans, may alleviate menopausal symptoms. A number of studies suggest that consumption of soybeans can help lower the cholesterol in the body by 4-6 per cent.

The high amount of fiber in soyabean may help to lower the cholesterol from other foods. It plays a vital role in the digestive system. People suffering from constipation are advised to consume fiber-rich foods to help them excrete regularly. Soybean also contains oligosaccharides, a carbohydrate that is known to stimulate the growth of healthy gut bacteria, acting as a prebiotic.

Soyabeans help in healthy weight management. Its high protein content allows for the development of leaner muscle it helps in regulating insulin levels thereby curbing obesity. Soyabeans may lower high blood pressure because of its high protein, high potassium and low carbohydrate content, a mixture that helps to bring down blood pressure.

Fish and Soyabeans Combination

The combination of fish and soyabeans makes it a complete protein, containing all the essential amino acids and other important nutrients needed in the human body. Dietary habits of consuming soybeans and fish have a lot of health benefits, as this combo can lower the risk of diabetes, heart diseases, stroke, cancer and other diseases affecting millions of Nigerians. This combo is cheap and readily available. Nigerians, especially the pregnant women, children and the elderly, can survive and live healthily on it. This superfood is recommended to all.

… Morenike is a professor at the Lagos State University and specialises in Fish Nutrition.

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