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COVID-19: Omicron Is Not Mild, Kills People Like Other Variants, WHO Warns

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The World Health Organisation has issued a stern warning to countries to stop dismissing the Omicron variant of COVID-19 as mild, stating that it was just as powerful as the other variants.

According to WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Omicron kills people across the globe.

He said the record numbers of people contracting the new variant — which is rapid out-competing the previously-dominant Delta variant in many countries — meant hospitals were being overwhelmed.

“While Omicron does appear to be less severe compared to Delta, especially in those vaccinated, it does not mean it should be categorised as mild,” Tedros told a press conference, according to the AFP.

“Just like previous variants, Omicron is hospitalising people and it is killing people,” he explained.

“In fact, the tsunami of cases is so huge and quick, that it is overwhelming health systems around the world.”

Just under 9.5 million new COVID-19 cases were reported to the WHO last week — a record, up 71 per cent on the week before.

But even this was an underestimate, Tedros said, as it did not reflect the backlog of testing around the Christmas/New Year holidays, positive self-tests not registered and overburdened surveillance systems missing cases.

Tedros used his first speech of 2022 to slam the way rich nations horded available vaccine doses last year, saying it had created the perfect breeding ground for the emergence of virus variants.

He, therefore, urged the world to share vaccine doses more fairly in 2022 to end the “death and destruction” of COVID-19.

Tedros said the WHO wanted every country to have 10 per cent of their population vaccinated by the end of September 2021 and 40 per cent by the end of December.

Ninety-two of the WHO’s 194 member states missed the target set for the end of 2021 — indeed 36 of them had not even jabbed the first 10 per cent, largely due to being unable to access doses.

Setting a new target, he said at least 70 per cent of citizens in member states should be jabbed by mid 2022.

On the current pace of vaccine roll-out, 109 countries will miss that target.

“Vaccine inequity is a killer of people and jobs and it undermines a global economic recovery.

“Booster after booster in a small number of countries will not end a pandemic while billions remain completely unprotected,” said Tedros.

The WHO’s COVID-19 technical lead Maria Van Kerkhove said it was “very unlikely” that Omicron would be the last variant of concern before the pandemic is over.

In facing the more transmissible Omicron variant, Van Kerkhove urged people to step up the measures they were already taking to protect themselves against the virus.

“Do everything that we have been advising better, more comprehensively, more purposefully,” she said.

“We need people to hang in there and really fight.”

Van Kerkhove added that she was stunned by how sloppily some people were wearing facemasks.

“It needs to cover your nose and mouth… wearing a mask below your chin is useless,” she said.

Looking ahead to this year, Bruce Aylward, the WHO’s frontman on accessing Coronavirus tools, added that there was “no need to finish 2022 in a pandemic”.

But WHO Emergencies Director, Michael Ryan, said that without vaccine equity, “we will be sitting here at the end of 2022 having somewhat the same conversation, which, in itself, would be a great tragedy”.

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Lagos Transporters To Pay ₦800 Daily Levy, Excluding RTEAN, NURTW Dues

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…Effective From February 1

Lagos State government, on Tuesday, introduced a daily ₦800 consolidated informal transport levy for transporters in the state.

The levy is outside the union dues collected by the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) and the Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria (RTEAN).

Lagos State finance commissioner, Dr Rabiu Olowo, who revealed this at the agreement-signing ceremony by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), local councils and transport unions, said that the consolidated levy collection will start February 1.

He stated that the harmonized levy became expedient to ensure that the transport sector in the state is organised and fits into a 21st-century economy.

Olowo added that the consolidated levy takes into consideration all the elements in a sane society.

According to him, the levy takes care of dues previously accrued to local councils across the state, as well as revenue for Lagos Waste Management Authority (LASWA) and Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA), Lagos State Inland Revenue Service (LIRS) among other MDAs.

He said that the state government expects that once a transporter pays the ₦800 at a point, he or she is expected not to pay at any other park or bus stop throughout the day.

He also said that the government expects that union members will not collect levies from transporters as they are not expected to pay at every bus stop or park.

Olowo said the consolidated levy would reduce the multiplicity of levies collection as many residents and transporters have complained about the huge levies unions often collected.

The commissioner also made an allusion to a report about the ₦150bn that transport unions collect in Lagos under the disguise of collecting dues, saying the new development will eliminate multiple taxes.

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People Using Zamfara As Killing Field To Prove Nigeria Ungovernable, Fani-Kayode Speaks

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Femi Fani-Kayode, a former Minister of Aviation, has called on Nigerians to unite and stand against the foreign elements that are bent on destabilising the country and killing innocent citizens, especially in Zamfara State.


The Director of Press to Zamfara Governor, Jamilu Illiyasu, made this known in a statement he issued to newsmen in Gusau on Monday.

Fani-Kayode expressed the belief that some people were using the state and the entire North-West zone as a killing field to prove to the world that Nigeria was ungovernable, divided and that things were not right in the country.

He also commiserated with the Zamfara State Government over the killing of 58 citizens in Anka and Bukkuyum local government areas of the state.

Fani-Kayode described the killing as a tragedy of monumental proportion and commended the efforts of Gov. Bello Matawalle in the ongoing fight against banditry and other crimes in the state.

He, therefore, called on all Nigerians to unite to fight foreigners who claimed to be Nigerians but could only speak Arabic and French.

He also urged the Federal Government to fish out sponsors of banditry and other individuals inflating casualty figures.

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Buhari Unveils Abuja’s Rice Pyramids, Says Nigeria Becoming Self-Sufficient In Food Production

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…As CBN Gov, Fayemi Laud President’s Initiative

 President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday said that the commissioning of rice pyramids in Abuja was an indication that Nigeria is making steady and assured progress towards self-sufficiency in food production.

The President expressed expectation that other agricultural commodity associations that were yet to participate under the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)-funded Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP) will emulate the rice farmers association of Nigeria in supporting his administration’s drive for food self-sufficiency.


The President made the remarks at the unveiling of the FCT Mega Rice Pyramids in Abuja on Tuesday morning.

He unveiled 13 rice pyramids (one million bags of rice) at the event that was attended by some state governors and business operators.

“As a critical policy of the government, the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme is expected to catalyse the agricultural productive base of the nation, which is a major part of our economic plan to uplift the economy, create jobs, reduce reliance on imported food and industrial raw materials, and conserve foreign exchange”, Buhari said.

Speaking at the event, CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, said beyond increasing the national output from about 5.4 million metric tonnes in 2015 to over 9 million metric tonnes in 2021, the CBN in collaboration with the rice farmers have also significantly improved the productivity per hectare of the smallholder farmer from about 2.4 metric tonnes per hectares in 2015 to between about 5 metric tonnes per hectares in 2021.

Emefiele said the unveiling of the rice pyramids was one of the many achievements of the CBN funded Anchored Borrowers’ Programme, saying the feat was achieved due to the vision and determination of the Buhari-led administration to deliver on food security.

“I salute your vision of making agriculture a cornerstone”, Emefiele said to the President, even as he appreciated the resilience of the smallholder farmers and the stakeholders in the rice production line.

He reminded the President that the farmers have battled lots of insurgency, banditry and kidnapping to which some of them have lost their lives while others could not access their farms.

Emefiele said the bank has financed about 5 million small holder framers on rice farming, saying that is still a far cry from the desired goals. He said Covid-19 has shown that Nigeria cannot rely on import.

Ekiti State governor, Kayode Fayemi, said it was clear from the beginning in 2015, when Buhari was seeking the position of the President of the country, that agriculture was going to be the major thrust if the Buhari administration, a reason he said it wasn’t surprising to see the president live up to that promise.

Fayemi said the doubt about food insecurity must now be removed with the rice revolution in Nigeria. “This is about food security. National security now means food security and food security means national security.

“The job is not done. We shall not relent until the availability of rice as a stable food is achieved”, he said.

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