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News Roundup: COVID-19: WHO expresses hope worst of Omicron wave is over, Reps move to address 20m mental health cases in Nigeria…

News Roundup: Court sets aside EFCC chairman’s conviction, Eight Nigerians elected to top political positions in US……..

COVID-19: WHO expresses hope worst of Omicron wave is over
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has expressed optimism that the worst of the latest wave of COVID-19 is over, in spite of the spread of the Omicron variant across the world. Omicron continues to sweep the world, but cases seem to have peaked in some countries, which gives the UN health agency hope that the worst of this latest wave of COVID-19 is over. Briefing journalists in Geneva, WHO Director-General, Tedros Ghebreyesus said that more than 18 million cases were reported last week, and the pandemic itself is far from over, so no country is out of the woods yet. The number of deaths remains stable, but the agency is concerned about the impact the variant is having on already exhausted health workers and overburdened health systems. “I remain particularly concerned about many countries that have low vaccination rates, as people are many times more at risk of severe illness and death if they’re unvaccinated,” he said. Omicron may be less severe, but for the WHO chief “the narrative that it is a mild disease is misleading, hurts the overall response and costs more lives”. Ghebreyesus noted that the virus was circulating “far too intensely with many still vulnerable” and argued that, for many countries, the next few weeks remain critical. According to him, the UN-backed COVAX facility delivered its one-billionth dose of vaccine over the weekend. For him, immunisation continues to be “key to protecting hospitals from becoming overwhelmed”. Ghebreyesus believes that the pandemic is “nowhere near over” and, with the incredible growth of Omicron, new variants are likely to emerge.

Nigeria to struggle despite $90 oil price
As global oil prices edged-up to the highest mark since 2014 when Goodluck Jonathan was President, Nigeria is struggling to swing the rally in its favour due to the inability to attract investments for active exploration and perennial operational issues that have curbed production. Typically, Nigeria, a country of about 210 million people, facing both a revenue crunch and a debilitating foreign exchange shortage would be celebrating with Brent crude trading above $88.69 on Wednesday. This is after the disruption to the Iraqi oil movement took out crucial supplies from an already tight market. This development is expected to help the three levels of government earn more money, shore up the nation’s foreign debt position and inadvertently strengthen the stability of the exchange rate. But the dynamics of oil are much deeper. “Current oil rally means nothing because Nigeria’s oil production is bleeding over 1 million barrels per day,” Joe Nwakwue, former chairman of, Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE), told BusinessDay. Although data from the central bank reveal Nigeria earned about $11.3 billion from crude oil and gas exports in the third quarter of 2021 when oil prices averaged $75 per barrel, the country’s crude oil production has been languishing at only two-thirds of its full capacity, especially many of its large oil fields in the Niger Delta. The country told OPEC that its oil output lost about 78,000bpd, leading to 1.19 million bpd in December, according to the cartel’s latest report released on January 18, 2022. Dolapo Oni, an international oil and gas expert familiar with Nigeria’s petroleum industry, says Nigeria’s top 10 oil fields over the last decade have shed over 25 percent of output. “These top oil fields were mostly replaced with many smaller oilfields, which were not fully optimised, therefore not sustainable,” Oni states in a tweet.

Read also: How Nigeria can play in league of 20 biggest economies – Don

Reps move to address 20m mental health cases in Nigeria
The House of Representatives on Thursday took steps to address the rising cases of mental health in Nigeria, which according to the World Health Organization (WHO) affect over 20 million Nigerians. This is as the House mandated the Committees on Health Institutions and Healthcare Services to liaise with the Federal Ministry of Health towards improving mental health facilities around the country and further carry
out serious sensitization of Nigerians on this issue. It also mandated the Committee on Health Institutions to explore the modalities of liaising with stakeholders in the health sector to promote, educate and sensitise Nigerians on mental health and report back within six weeks for further legislative action. The decisions of the House followed the unanimous adoption of a motion moved by Uchechuku Nnam-Obi from Rivers State at plenary. Presenting the motion, Nnam-Obi said WHO considers mental health as a state of wellbeing in which the individual can cope with the stress of life, work productively and contribute to the community. He explained that mental illness manifests in mood disorder, anxiety disorder, trauma-related disorder, personality disorder, old age-related disorder, substance abuse disorder or mental pattern that causes significant distress or impairment of personal functioning. The lawmaker observed that 3 out of 10 Nigerians have one form of mental illness or the other but presently there is no mental health legislation in Nigeria. “However, the Nigerian mental health policy is the only framework that has access to mental healthcare, dealing with mental and neurological disorders in Nigeria, discouraging stigmatization against persons with mental disorders and has institutionalized standards for Psychiatric practice.

Trading, eating of donkey is illegal – FG
The Federal Government has warned Nigerians to desist from slaughtering, sales and consumption of donkeys, describing it as an act of illegality. This was disclosed by Vincent Isegbe, controller general of Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Services (NAQS) in Abuja. Isegbe, who explained that the country was running out of donkeys, wondered why people would slaughter donkeys amidst chicken, goat and cow meat. “Donkey slaughter, donkey trade, donkey meat, donkey hide are illegal businesses. And that is why when we see, we confiscate or we destroy. Do not involve in anything that has to do with donkeys. “The genetic improvement of donkey breeders has a programme we just did for donkey improvement. The project is a tripartite project between the Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service, the National Agricultural Production Research Institute in Zaria and those involved in donkey trading. Now, we need to have an understanding of where the answers are coming from. Hitherto, they were doing an illegal business.” According to him, engagements with some traditional leaders have necessitated the need to reiterate that the trade of donkeys is illegal, adding that the government is strongly out against perpetrators. He also disclosed that some traders, as well as Chinese customers, have been arrested and investigations are ongoing. “Yes, some Chinese were arrested and investigations are going on but I do not want to go into the details so that I do not impede the investigations with the police. For now, let us be content that an arrest has been made and an investigation is going on.”

Warner Music Group buys African music company Africori
Warner Music Group (WMG) has purchased a major stake in Africori, an African digital music distribution, music rights management, and artist development company, in a move that could position Warner as Africa’s top music distributor, allowing African musicians to tap into the global music market and success. WMG invested in Africori for the first time in early 2020. WMG had access to Africa’s largest catalog and A&R network as part of the original arrangement, which also allowed WMG to establish a presence in numerous African markets for the first time. Africori is currently servicing 7,000 artists and 850 clients including Nigerian artists like Shola Allyson, Harrysong, and South Africa’s Sho Madjozi and Master KG of the 2020 global sensation ‘Jerusalema.’ last year its artists generated hundreds of millions of audio streams, billions of YouTube views, and the company recorded strong revenue growth across all major Digital Signal Processors (DSPs). “Since partnering with Africori, we have built a collaborative and strategic partnership that has resulted in some outstanding outcomes on a global level,” Alfonso Perez-Soto, President, Warner Recorded Music, said. Yoel Kenan and his team have done an incredible job building a company that is a real force in Africa, and we believe that by bringing them into the Warner Music ecosystem, by bringing them into Warner Music ecosystem, we believe we can give them deeper support as we aim to take African music even more global.”

Why tech, not branches, is king for Nigerian banks
The need to reduce operational costs, become more efficient, reach the unbanked and remove long queues are some of the reasons why digital financial technology will be king in Nigeria’s financial services industry, according to BusinessDay findings. From 1892, when the first commercial bank was established in Lagos, the banking business in Africa’s largest economy has evolved to a point where customers can now complete transactions at the comfort of their homes. Accenture reports that financial institutions (FIs), which are truly “all in” on technology or “digitally active,” boost financial returns with those banks pulling ahead of those struggling with digital transformation. From a few years ago when ‘banking’ in Nigeria only conjured images of long queues, tally numbers, paperwork, pressure to process transactions within working hours, awaiting physical approvals on transactions, Lamin Manjang, CEO of Standard Chartered Bank Nigeria, says through the recent impact of technology and financial literacy, the word ‘Bank’ now connotes different reactions to different people. “Personalised financial growth, opportunities for business collaborations, access to foreign investment opportunities, transferable generational wealth, and financial security all on one’s terms are some of the prevailing thoughts for customers,” he states. Nigerian banks have continued to introduce digital products into the financial sector and their operations, driven by the need to eradicate long queues in banking halls, make cash transactions easier and faster and resolve other issues associated with payments and financial transactions. This is believed to have contributed to the growth reported in banks’ revenue from e-transactions.