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No UK COVID-19 variant in Nigeria yet – NCDC

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The mutant strain of COVID-19 in the United Kingdom has not been found in the country, Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, has said.

He said after some sequencing by the NCDC, it did not find the variant was said to be deadlier than the original strain of the virus.

Ihekweazu, who spoke at the media briefing by the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 in Abuja on Thursday, said viruses by their nature would mutate, noting that the important thing was for people to stay calm and safe.

He said, “Over the last few days, we have monitored reports of the virus mutating in the UK, South Africa and some other countries but it is important to establish some facts about what we know; what we do not know and what we are willing to learn over the next few years.

“The most important fact to put out there to calm everybody’s nerves is that viruses mutate all the time.

“We haven’t found that UK strain but also, it is not something we have been looking for on the go; to find that, you have to do sequencing. And our focus has not been on sequencing. We did some sequencing in the past but we haven’t found that.”

“We only found two were similar but not the same. However, we are doing more sequencing. Is it possible that they are circulating? Yes. This is because there are a lot of travels between the UK and Nigeria.” Iheakwazu said the NCDC would collaborate with stakeholders to collect new samples for sequencing in order to determine their variant.

He noted, “This is ongoing work. It cannot happen in a hurry. It is very complex. Sequencing is not a straight-forward business which is why we have only a few centres that are able to do it.”

He also urged states to reopen their test centres, saying the NCDC alone could not conduct all COVID-19 tests sent in from the states.

He said the centre was working on adopting the use of Rapid Diagnostic Test Kits from next year in order to scale up testing in the country.

He said, “On testing, there is light at the end of the tunnel. By next year, we will be introducing the use of rapid test kits. We have made a significant procurement that is coming in January and through that, we are taking testing closer to the people away from the laboratories.”

 

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Igboho: Yoruba monarchs, others in Benin Republic court

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Many supporters of embattled Yoruba Nation agitator, Sunday Adeyemo aka Sunday Igboho, have stormed the Cour De’appal De Cotononu for his trial.
Some traditional rulers of Yoruba-speaking areas in Benin Republic are leading Igboho’s supporters to the court ahead of the arrival of Igboho, who was arrested in the country last week.
A group, Isokan Omo Odua, had mobilised supporters for the embattled supporter as a sign of solidarity.
BBC Yoruba reported that anxious supporters were seen outside the court premises waiting for the arrival of Igboho.

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Nigerian-American financial analyst Adenle wins award

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An international non-profit based in Seattle, United States of America, Women in Voice (WiV), has awarded its DEI In Voice award to Dr Omolabake Adenle.

 

Adenle, a Nigerian- American quantitative financial analyst, who won the award – which recognises outstanding contributions to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in voice – “for making African languages accessible to voice solutions” had three other finalists in this category of the WiV awards.

 

Holder of a PhD in Bayesian Signal Processing from Cambridge University, the founder/chief executive officer of Aja.La Studios, which builds natural language and speech processing applications for under-resourced languagesm had in 2017 been a finalist in the 2017 Innovation Prize for Africa organised by the African Innovation Foundation.

 

Grateful for the WiV Award, she said it would help “contribute to the momentum needed to work towards making voice technologies accessible to all Africans” noting that “building a speech technology company that provides broad support of African languages is extremely challenging, (but) voice technologies will play a pivotal role in shaping the future of information and service access in Africa.”

 

It is her belief that ““digitising African languages will help make information more accessible to Africans.”

 

Formerly a vice president for quantitative and derivative strategies at Morgan Stanley in the United Kingdom, she started building African language-learning apps such as SpeakYorubaApp in her free time.

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Onochie to know fate on INEC job Tuesday

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The public is expected to know on Tuesday (tomorrow) the outcome of the screening of a Senate panel of the Special Assistant to the President on Social Media, Lauretta Onochie, and five others nominated for appointment as national commissioner of Independent National Electoral Commission.

The panel, it was learnt, would submit its report to the plenary on Tuesday.

Onochie, Prof. Muhammad Sani Kallah, Prof. Kunle Cornelius Ajayi, Saidu Babura Ahmad, Prof. Sani Muhammad Adam and Dr. Baba Bila were screened last Thursday by the Senate Committee on INEC nine months after President Muhammadu Buhari forwarded a request to the Red Chamber to confirm them.

Onochie’s nomination had sparked outrage from the opposition lawmakers and some from the All Progressives Congress and civil society groups, who argued that she was “too partisan” to be a commissioner in an important institution like INEC.

Others accused her of being a card-carrying member of ruling APC.

But the presidential aide said she had stopped being a member of any political party since 2019.

The screening session became rowdy when a member of the panel, Senator Michael Opeyemi Bamidele (APC, Ekiti) suggested that Onochie be placed on oath to swear that she did not belong to any political party.

But the suggestion was opposed by other committee members, who noted that putting Onochie on oath was against the Senate rule.

The Senate Committee Chairman, Senator Kabiru Gaya (APC, Kano), said his committee would look at all the documents before the panel, decide the nominees and forward its recommendations to the Senate.

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