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News Roundup: New Variants could be vaccine-resistant, Two Nigerian Ministers sacked, return of Gulder Ultimate Search, telecom growth Slows….

Nigerian President Sacks Two Ministers in Rare Reshuffle
For the first time in the over six years old administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, a minor cabinet reshuffle was effected, with two ministers losing their jobs and two others redeployed. Those affected are the minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Mohammed Sabo Nanono and his counterpart from the Ministry of Power, Sale Mamman. The president cited the need to improve economic management and the delivery of public services. Saleh Mamman was replaced as power minister by Abubakar Aliyu, the minister of state for works and housing, while Mohammed Sabo Nanono was replaced as agriculture minister by Mohammad Abubakar, his counterpart at the environment ministry. The president said the changes were part of his administration’s strategy of independent self-review. But the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party described the president’s sack of the two ministers as an attempt to mask his failure in office.

WHO says the new Mu Variant from Colombia could be vaccine resistant
The World Health Organization has said that it is closely monitoring a new coronavirus “variant of interest” named Mu, warning that the new variant shows signs of possible resistance to vaccines. The new variant was added to the WHO’s watchlist on August 30 after it was detected in 39 countries and found to possess a constellation of mutations that indicate potential properties of immune escape. Mu was first identified in Colombia in January 2021, and since then, there have been “sporadic reports” of cases and outbreaks in South America and Europe. Mu is the fifth variant of interest to be monitored by the WHO since March. It has a number of mutations that suggest it could be more resistant to vaccines, the health agency warned, but stressed that further research would be needed to confirm this.

Read also: COVID-19: WHO identifies new variant of concern

Lagos resumes rollout of Astrezeneca Covid vaccine
Lagos State on Monday resumed the administration of second doses of the AstraZeneca COVID vaccine to persons who have received the first dose of the vaccine during the first phase of the vaccination exercise in the State. The administration of the second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine will hold across 88 vaccination sites used during the first phase of the vaccination exercise for 20 days; between Monday 30 August and Friday, 24 September 24, 2021. Only persons who have taken the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine and are due for the second dose are eligible for this exercise. Those who have received the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine and due for a second dose are encouraged to report to the vaccination sites where they received the first to get their second jab. To get the second dose, eligible persons are only required to go to the vaccination sites with their vaccination cards as scheduled between the hours of 9.00am and 3.00pm, week days only. There is no need for E-registration for this category of people.

Nigerian Breweries announces return of Gulder Ultimate Search
Nigerian Breweries (NB) Plc, organizer of the Gulder Ultimate Search (GUS) has announced the return of the reality TV show.The show returns after seven years off the air with its comeback 2021 edition titled “The Age of Craftsmanship.” Sade Morgan, the Corporate Affairs Director, Nigerian Breweries Plc, who made the announcement on Wednesday said, “We are really excited to be bringing back the Gulder Ultimate Search for the viewing pleasure of Nigerians who have over the years continued to call for the return of the show. The planning team have put in place everything necessary to give the fans exactly what they enjoy about the show, and I am confident that everyone will be pleasantly surprised and delighted with what we have in store.” Morgan said registration for participants would kick off on September 1 and close on September 8, 2021. Screening session for the show starts September 13 in Abuja and Enugu, while the second screening session kicks off on September 16 in Lagos. The show will begin October 16, 2021, and will run till December 19, when the grand finale will hold.

Nigerians fleeing country as refugees hit five-year high in 2020
Despite the pandemic, more Nigerians are fleeing the country as the number of refugees hit the highest in five years in 2020. According to data from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), about 352,000 Nigerians migrated to other countries as refugees in 2020, this is 19 percent higher than 296,000 refugees recorded in 2019. Violent attacks perpetuated by Boko Haram and other armed groups in Nigeria, hunger and poverty are forcing many to flee to neighbouring countries for safety. Fearing and fleeing the insecurity, an estimated 2 million people have fled their homes, according to the UNHCR. Many of them are internally displaced while others have sought refugees in neighbouring countries. The conflict-induced food insecurity and severe malnutrition have risen to critical levels in certain parts of Nigeria and are affecting the lives and livelihoods of millions of people.According to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), 3.4 million people are facing acute hunger and 300,000 children are suffering from acute malnutrition in some North-eastern states.

Nigeria’s telecom Growth Slows for Sixth Quarter over NIN
Nigeria’s telecommunications sector has recorded a streak of slowed growth for eighteen months in a row up till June 2021, as the NIN saga is still pricking businesses. The sector, which has the largest customer base compared to other industries in Nigeria, reported a growth of 5.90 percent in the second quarter (Q2) of 2021, 12.2 percentage points lower than the 18.10 percent reported in the corresponding quarter of 2020, and lower than the 7.69 percent growth in Q1’ 2021 by 1.79 percentage points, according to the second-quarter GDP report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). Before the second quarter of 2021, Nigeria’s mobile service industry was posting double-digit growth every quarter. The sector grew by 18.1 percent, 17.36 percent and 17.64 in the second, third and fourth quarter of 2020, helping to lift the economy out of the pandemic-induced recession as other sectors contracted. However, after the Federal Government imposed a policy to not only suspend SIM registration, but also push telecom users to link their National Identity Number (NIN) to their SIMs in order to retain their mobile numbers, the sector’s growth has been impeded. The second-quarter growth of 5.90 percent is the lowest the sector has recorded in three years, an indication that the economy may have grown better if it had continued on its double-digit growth trajectory.

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