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Government, Health, Manufacturing

The National Economic Council (NEC), under the chairmanship of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, has endorsed efforts being made to produce COVID-19 vaccines locally, according to Gov. Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State.

Briefing State House correspondents, on Thursday, after the first virtual meeting of the council for 2021, anchored from the Presidential Villa, Abuja, Okowa said the country was also open to partnership and outsourcing arrangements with foreign producers of the vaccines.

“Nigeria and May and Baker are already in partnership for quite some time now, in trying to ensure that we are able to produce vaccines locally.

“And they are already looking very closely at that; and how to partner with either the approved vaccine producers, or to relate with those vaccines that are still in the process to see what we can do to start to produce vaccines.

“A lot of work is also being done locally; the details of which is not yet available, but we do know that Prof. Oyewale Tomori is working very closely with some of  the institutions we have in the country to see at the possibility of us beginning to produce vaccines at the moment.’’

He said production of vaccines required a lot of process and funding , but expressed optimism that the partnership between May and Baker and the Nigerian government, as led by Tomori would be fruitful.

According to him, the Tomori-led partnership was working on being involved in the production of vaccines; either locally or in partnership with those that have been approved globally, like the Oxford Astrazeneca vaccine whose bulk would be produced in India.

“So, there could be outsourcing of the production of some of these vaccines. And we hope that we can become part of those that will have the outsourcing to produce some of these vaccines, because there are so many of them that are still in the process of seeking approval,’’ he said.

The governor said that the country would soon receive 100, 000 doses of vaccine from Pfizer Pharmaceutical, adding that the first doses would be administered on health workers and the elderly.

He said 40 million more doses of the vaccines were being expected at the end of March, or early of April, to cover 20 per cent of the population.

Okowa said that the Minister of Finance had reported to NEC that N555 million had been disbursed to five tertiary hospitals, while N6.5billion was disbursed to Ministry of Health to develop oxygen in 38 institutions.

The governor said that the council was not contemplating another lockdown, but urged Nigerians to strictly comply with the extant COVID-19 protocols.

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Energy

President Muhammadu Buhari is set to virtually inaugurate the National Oil and Gas Excellence Centre (NOGEC), Lagos, January 2021. This is to boost the operations of the nation’s petroleum sector, the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), has said.

Mr Paul Osu, Head, Public Affairs,  in a statement issued on Monday, in Lagos, quoted the Director  of DPR, Mr Sarki Auwalu, the chief host of the event, as saying that the centre would afford the oil and gas industry the critical elements for competitive advantage, in a changing global energy landscape.

“The integrated centre will also entrench Nigeria’s status as a regional leader and position the nation for significant global impact in the provision of value-added services and breakthrough solutions for the industry in years and decades to come,” he said.

According to him, the centre was structured to drive the three-pronged objectives of safety, value and cost efficiency which are critical for oil and gas industry stability, growth and sustainability .

Auwalu said  the NOGEC complex was structured to house various flagship centres, including Search, Rescue and Surveillance (SeRAS) Command and Control Centre and National improved Oil Recovery Centre (NIORC), in  order to comprehensively cover all the key areas of the industry.

Other centres are the Oil and Gas Dispute Resolution Centre (DRC) , Oil and Gas Competence Development Centre (CDC) and Integrated Data Mining and Analytics Centre (IDMAC).

The DPR boss said: “SeRAS is an industry-wide programme established to enhance safety management, emergency preparedness and response, as well as bed space management and logistics services across the industry .

“The SeRAS Command and Control Centre (CCC), established at the NOGEC Centre, Lagos, will entrench safe practices, drive cost reduction and improve operational efficiency across the industry.

”Two  other Rescue Coordination Centres (RCC) will be set up at Osubi and Brass, in the first instance, for effective coverage of all areas of operations, ” he said.

The director said that the NIORC was established to formulate and implement strategies for improved and enhanced oil recovery methods in the industry for the purpose of achieving maximum production at the lowest possible cost.

“The centre will partner with operators and technology innovators, in their research and development efforts, for achieving its objectives.

“It will also collaborate with similar international oil and gas regulators in sharing lesson learnt and operational best practices.

“NIORC will focus on the implementation of a robust national IOR framework to enable the country optimise its resources, as well as create greater opportunities for operators,” he said.

Similarly, he noted that the Oil and Gas DRC would offer arbitration, mediation and conciliation services for the Industry.

“The DRC is structured to adequately resolve disputes  in a manner consistent with regulatory and commercial interests of the Industry.

“This will address sub-optimal development of oil and gas assets associated with lingering disputes and the attendant consequences of value erosion in terms of national resource growth. It will also improve global competitiveness, investment attractiveness, government take and investor’s profitability,” he added.

Auwalu  said the centre would leverage industry technical experts, Alternative Dispute Resolution Practitioners and resources of the National Data Repository (NDR) to provide fair and balanced resolutions of industry-related disputes from an informed position.

On the Oil and Gas CDC, he said, it was set up to be a regional hub to deliver trainings for oil and gas industry practitioners, as well as a world class centre of excellence that would serve as the innovation hub for the oil and gas Industry in Nigeria, and beyond.

“The centre will feature state-of the-art training facilities, meeting rooms, conferencing, electronic library, digital visualisation centre, and co-working spaces.

”It is designed to stimulate creative thinking to proffer solutions for the technical and business challenges facing energy sector practitioners.

“The centre wil significantly reduce the cost of training and capacity building, which is often associated with international travels by utilising both local and international subject matter experts (SME), to deliver world-class training in-country.

“The centre shall leverage the National Data Repository (NDR) and its robust suite of digital solutions as well as other existing real-time electronic services to deliver hands-on, practical solutions to industry challenges,” Auwalu explained.

As for the IDMAC, the director said it would provide a platform for appropriate analysis of industry data, to provide meaningful insights, that would enable effective decision making for investment, asset development, portfolio management and operational excellence.

”Technical, operational and economic decisions, across the value chain, are underpinned by credible, reliable datasets both from corporate and national planning perspectives.

“IDMAC will take advantage of DPR’s resources and tools- Big Data, Internet of things (loT) and Artificial intelligence (Al), for evaluation, analytics and data synthesis by interested parties.

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ICT, LIFE STYLE

The Director General, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, has announced plans to use traceability with GS1 Technology to monitor COVID-19 vaccine distribution, using Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) in the country.

The Director General told newsmen at a virtual media briefing on Friday that the goal of using GS1 Technology was to prevent fake vaccines from infiltrating the supply chain and to ensure there was no diversion.

According to her,  “This effort will create a reliable and predictable supply chain.

“A multi-stakeholder technical working group has been meeting to address different issues, from access to distribution to traceability (track and trace) of the vaccines, to monitoring of adverse events following immunisation.”

She explained that, NAFDAC is working with other organisations at continental level to enhance surveillance on vaccines and drugs on the continent.

Adeyeye added that the agency was also on the Regulators Steering Committee of African Union -3S (Smart, Safety Surveillance) with Ghana, South Africa and Ethiopia.

“The Steering Committee is collaborating with UK Medicines Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) through funding from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

“The composition of the Nigeria’s working group (a regulatory officer from NAFDAC and an officer from NPHCDA) was used as a template for the  AU-3S  which the three other African regulators have adopted.

“The active pharmacovigilance that will be carried out will be used to harness data in MHRA database for detection of signals, understanding of demographic differences and others.”

In addition, she said the purpose of forming the committee was to use  COVID-19 vaccines distribution and immunisation as pilot to actively monitor the distribution (with track and trace) delivery .

“Also, monitoring of Adverse Events Following Immunisation (AEFIs) of the vaccines at the continental level with the ultimate goal to create an African-based vigilance System for safety of medicines.

“As an outcome of the Regulators Steering Committee of African Union-3S, a National training of trainers has been scheduled by MHRA to improve capacity of key staff of NAFDAC and NPHCDA on the data collection overview and information,’’ she said.

According to her, 120 slots for the participants are allocated to each of the four countries.

“NPHCDA provided 80 names to ensure that a wide number of their Agency staff and partners understand the data collection overview and information required for the COVID-19 safety surveillance while NAFDAC provided 40 names”

“ NAFDAC is collaborating  with sister agencies and partners; NAFDAC initiated multi-stakeholder collaboration with National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC), UNICEF, WHO and Ministry of Health.

“The focus is to use a holistic approach for the effective immunisation or delivery of the vaccines and monitor any AEFI.

“The agency will also use its recently launched Med Safety App for Active Pharmacovigilance of the vaccines in collaboration with the sister agencies. .

“The App is free, and millions of healthcare workers can download it free for ADR reporting. In-country training on the use of the App has begun for the healthcare givers,’’ the NAFDAC D-G disclosed.

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Economy, Finance

The Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), Apapa Area Command on Tuesday announced that it generated the sum of N518, 046, 832, 016. 84 in the year 2020 and remmitted same to the federation and non-federation accounts of the Federal Government respectively.

The Comptroller, Mohammed Abba-Kura at a media briefing held in Lagos said the revenue profile of the command significantly increased by N94,379,835,352.53 from the N423.6 billion generated in the year 2019, indicating a 22.3 per cent rise.

“As regards anti-smuggling and in line with the provision of extant circulars, trade guidelines and enforcement of government fiscal policy measures, the Command was able to further strengthen its anti-smuggling operations against economic saboteurs.

“This was done through credible intelligence-driven operations and continuous partnership with other relevant agencies for effective port management to stem their illegitimate activities.

“Accordingly, the command made a total of 318 seizures with Duty Paid Value (DPV) of N21,196,806,637.00, and these figures almost tripled the total seizures for the year 2019 which stood at 112 with total Duty Paid value of N12.5 billion,” he said.

Abba-Kura listed some of the seized items to include: 133 containers of unregistered pharmaceuticals, including tramadol, 58 containers of parboiled rice, 30 of vegetable oil, 31 of used clothes and shoes, 13 of used tyres, and other sundry items.

He said that for export, the unit also witnessed a boost in its activities, from 262,095 metric tons in 2019 to 1,311,365 metric tons in 2020.

Abba-Kura pointed out that the Free on Board (FOB) value for the exported items equally moved up from $132,760,512.94 million to $340,884,102.99 million within the period under review.

He said that the naira equivalent of the exported items was estimated at N104,310,535,514.00, at N306 per US Dollar.

The comptroller said the items exported include steel bars as well as agricultural and mineral products.

“It is instructive to note that these unprecedented achievements were made possible as a result of our officers’ doggedness and tireless commitment to their duties, despite the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging economies all over the world.

“Nonetheless, as we look forward to a prosperous and glorious year ahead, the command has taken bold initiatives to ensure the collection of appropriate revenue by creating an enabling environment for legitimate businesses to thrive,” he said.

Abba-Kura said that as regards the Nigerian Export Proceeds (NEP) number, the challenge had to do with automation and sensitising stakeholders in using the number.

He said  that the Central Bank of Nigeria was working in that direction.

The comptroller extended his appreciation to the Comptroller-General of Customs, retired Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali and his management team, and stakeholders in the clearance value chain, for their continuous support and encouragement.

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Economy, Government

The Federal Government of Nigeria and the Mota- Engil Group have signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the construction of 1.959 billion dollars Kano-Maradi Standard Gauge Railway lines.

According to the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, in a statement by Eric Ojiekwe, Director Press and Public Relations of the Ministry, the project was aimed at linking the whole country by rail.

The Minister explained that the new railway corridor which is to be located in northern Nigeria will run through Kano, Jigawa and Katsina and through Niger Republic territory as far as Maradi.

He said other cities such as Danbatta, Kazaure, Daura, Mashi, Katsina and Jibiya would also be affected by the rail line in Nigeria.

The minister said the 283.750 kilometre rail line would help develope freight and passenger transport as it would be integrated with road transport.

He added that it would contribute greatly to the local economy as well as the nation’s social sector.

According to Amaechi, the duration for the project is 36 months and the contract type is Engineering, Procurement and Construction.

The signing ceremony was witnessed by the Ministry’s Permanent, Dr Magdalene Ajani, the Director, Legal Services, Pius Oteh, the Managing Director, Mota-Engil Group, Antonio Gvoea and Head of Legal, Mota- Engil Group, Cameron Beverley.

It was also witnessed by Magajin Garin Kano, Muhammad Wada, Director, Mota-Engil Group, Kola Abdulkarim, Vice President, Mota-Engil Group, Mohammed Abdul-Razaq, among others.

He added that the Nigerian Ambassador to Germany, Yusuf Tuggar and the Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority, Hadiza Bala-Usman among other diginitaries also witnessed the signing.

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