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Access Bank, Barclays, Others Launch Global Principles For Responsible Banking

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Nigeria’s sustainability champion, Access Bank Plc., today launched the Global Principles for Responsible Banking as one of the Founding Signatories alongside other global banks. This is a further commitment to strategically align its business with the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

By signing the Principles, Access Bank is demonstrating its commitment towards using its products and services to support and accelerate positive changes in both local and international economies as well as promote lifestyles necessary to achieve shared prosperity for both current and future generations.

Herbert Wigwe, the Group Managing Director of Access Bank Plc., stressed the need for continued collaboration and long-term approach to sustainability, recognizing the benefits of sustainable banking and the positive effect it has on the Bank and society.

“There is a greater need now, more than ever, to promote sustainability in the global financial sector. This is, therefore, the right time to launch the Global Principles for Responsible Banking. At Access Bank, we are committed to setting standards and engendering innovative solutions that address social, economic and environmental challenges. We believe that the Sustainable Development Goals will be better achieved if we can work together, using these Principles as a guide,” he said.

As expressed in the Global Principles for Responsible Banking, Access Bank is convinced that humans and businesses can only thrive in an inclusive society founded on human dignity, equality and the sustainable use of natural resources.

The official launch of the principles which marked the beginning of the most significant partnership to date between the global banking industry and the UN held at the start of the United Nations General Assembly.

“The UN Principles for Responsible Banking are a guide for the global banking industry to respond to, drive and benefit from a sustainable development economy. The Principles create accountability that can realize the responsibility, and the ambition that can drive action,” said UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres.

With increasing concerns about climate change leading to a shift in the perception of climate risk among financial institutions and investors, Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) urged financial institutions to adopt adequate risk management planning, saying:

“A banking industry that plans for the risks associated with climate change and other environmental challenges can not only drive the transition to low-carbon and climate-resilient economies, but it can also benefit from it. When the financial system shifts its capital away from resource-hungry, brown investments to those that back nature as a solution, everybody wins in the long-term.”

The Principles for Responsible Banking will provide Access Bank with an effective framework to systematically identify and seize new business opportunities created by the emerging sustainable development economy, while at the same time enabling the Bank to effectively identify and address related risks.

BIG STORY

INEC Plans To Start Electronic Voting In 2021

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Monday said it would engage with the National Assembly and other stakeholders to explore ways of responding to the rising cost of conducting frequent bye-elections in Nigeria.

The commission premised its decision on the Supreme Court judgment which states that votes belong primarily to political parties, as well as its records, which show that only in 10 percent of all bye-elections since 2015 did the party that won originally lose the election.

INEC also said it would “pilot the use of Electronic Voting Machines at the earliest possible time (not Edo and Ondo), but work towards the full introduction of electronic voting in major elections starting from 2021.”

The commission gave these details in its 17-paged policy document on conducting elections in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, signed by its chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, made available to journalists in Abuja.

According to the document, the commission would ensure the use of electronic and non-contact means to recruit ad hoc staff beginning with the governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states scheduled for September 19 and October 10, 2020 respectively.

The commission also said it would reduce to a minimum interstate movement of staff, including ad hoc staff, for off-season and bye-elections to reduce the risk of transmission of coronavirus.

The document reads, “The commission will engage with the legislature and other stakeholders to explore ways of responding to the rising cost of conducting frequent bye-elections, especially in consideration of the Supreme Court position that votes belong primarily to political parties, as well as the Commission’s records, which show that only in 10 percent of all bye-elections since 2015 did the party that won originally lose the election.

“The commission will engage relevant authorities, including the legislature, to designate election as an essential service to enable the commission function effectively in times of national emergency.

“The commission shall revamp its election planning and implementation-monitoring processes in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Consequently, the commission in planning elections shall respond to the growing demand for deepening the use of technology in the electoral processes, including the introduction of electronic voting.”

Apart from developing a new election budget template to reflect the likely impact of the COVID –19 pandemic on the funding profile of electoral activities, INEC said it would constantly re-evaluate planned electoral activities in the light of COVID – 19 and the health risks it poses for voters, stakeholders and staff during elections.

For pre-election activities, the commission said it would “develop a Voter Code of Conduct document detailing how voters are expected to act and conduct themselves at the polling units in the light of the COVID – 19 pandemic.”

The document reads further, “The commission will ensure the use of electronic and non-contact means to recruit ad hoc staff by deploying its INECPres portal, as well as in notifying ad hoc staff of invitations and postings (for example, use of SMS) to prevent large gatherings at INEC offices during staff deployment.

“The Electoral Operations and Logistics Department will harvest all past ad hoc staff from its databases and send to each State preparing for elections.

“All ad hoc staff databases in the commission will be harmonized for better management. To reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19, the commission shall reduce, to a minimum interstate movement of staff, including ad hoc staff, for off-season and by-elections.

“The rule shall be that only shortfalls requested by the States are filled from outside the state. As much as possible, all election staff will be sourced in-state.

“In view of the COVID-19 pandemic, the commission shall encourage political parties to develop appropriate guidelines and regulations for the conduct of party primaries that take into account the COVID-19 prevention protocols.”

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Nigerian Government Screening 19 Local Firms For COVID-19 Drugs Production, Ask Companies To Submit Samples To NAFDAC

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The Federal Ministry of Health is screening 19 local firms for the production of herbal drugs that can possibly treat or cure COVID-19.

The firms, it was learnt, made many claims ranging from the outright cure for COVID-19 to the treatment of the symptoms.

It was learnt that the 19 firms had met with the leadership of the ministry and the Department of Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

The firms have, however, been asked to submit their samples to the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control out of which three would be picked and recommended for funding.

The Minister of State for Health, Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora, confirmed this during a chat with The PUNCH on Monday.

He said a meeting was held with the leadership of NAFDAC, the National Institute for Medical Research, the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, and other relevant stakeholders.

Mamora said the ministry asked interested herbal manufacturers to tell the government what their challenges were.

The minister said some of them complained about funding as well as possible theft of their patent. Mamora said concerns over how to identify patients for the trial were also discussed.

He said, “We met with about 19 of them to know what remedies they have in place and to know how we can put them through the processes from listing the medicine to clinical trial and then we wanted to know the challenges they were having.

“They said those challenges essentially were funding and they needed assurances that their intellectual property would be protected and their product or remedy would not be stolen or repackaged by someone else.

“The other challenge is how to go about the clinical trial. Part of that is how they source for patients because they will need patients who are volunteers. These patients have to be volunteers since it is a new product that will be put out there.

“So, we are now in the process of screening the 19 of them and we will shortlist some of them. About three will be shortlisted for further assessment and we will recommend support for them in order to fast track the process of determining their efficacy.”

When asked if the drugs were for the outright cure of COVID-19 or just for the treatment, Mamora said it was too soon to say as discussions were still on.

He said NAFDAC would test the herbal solutions to see if they are safe for human consumption.

WHO suspends chloroquine trial, says Africa’s cases, deaths appear unreal

The World Health Organisation on Monday announced the suspension of clinical trials of hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment for COVID-19.

The organization’s Director-General, Tedros Ghebreyesus, disclosed this in his opening remarks at a virtual press conference.

Ghebreyesus attributed the suspension to a recent report on the effect of the drug on patients.

He said, “As part of our continued response to the pandemic globally, WHO continues to work aggressively on research and development.

“As you know, more than two months ago, we initiated the solidarity trial to evaluate the safety and efficacy of four drugs and drug combinations against COVID-19.

“Over 400 hospitals in 35 countries are actively recruiting patients and nearly 3,500 patients have been enrolled from 17 countries.

“On Friday, the Lancet published an observational study on hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine and its effects on COVID-19 patients that have been hospitalized.

“The authors reported that among patients receiving the drug, when used alone or with a macrolide, they estimated a higher mortality rate.

“The Executive Group of the Solidarity Trial, representing 10 of the participating countries, met on Saturday and has agreed to review a comprehensive analysis and critical appraisal of all evidence available globally.

“The review will consider data collected so far in the solidarity trial and in particular robust randomized available data, to adequately evaluate the potential benefits and harms from this drug.

“The Executive Group has implemented a temporary pause of the hydroxychloroquine arm within the solidarity trial, while the safety data is reviewed by the Data Safety Monitoring Board. The other arms of the trial are continuing.”

The WHO chief stated the concern relating to the use of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine in COVID-19, reiterating that the drugs were accepted as generally safe for use in patients with autoimmune diseases or malaria.

He promised that the organization would provide further updates when there were more developments.

Ghebreyesus noted that the figures of confirmed cases and deaths as a result of the pandemic in Africa did not appear real.

He said, “So far, although around half of the countries in the region have community transmission, concentrated mainly in major cities, Africa is the least affected region globally in terms of the number of cases and deaths reported to WHO.

“Africa has just 1.5 percent of the world’s reported cases of COVID-19, and less than 0.1 percent of the world’s deaths. Of course, these numbers don’t paint the full picture.

“Testing capacity in Africa is still being ramped up and there is a likelihood that some cases may be missed.

“But even so, Africa appears to have so far been spared the scale of outbreaks we have seen in other regions.”

The WHO chief said the early set-up of a leaders coalition led by the African Union, under the chairmanship of President Ramaphosa of South Africa, was key to rapidly accelerate preparedness efforts and issuing comprehensive control measures.

He noted that countries across Africa had garnered a great deal of experience from tackling infectious diseases such as polio, measles, Ebola, yellow fever, influenza, and many more.

He added, “Africa’s knowledge and experience of suppressing infectious diseases have been critical to rapidly scale up an agile response to COVID-19.

“There have been solidarity across the continent. Labs in Senegal and South Africa were some of the first in the world to implement COVID-19 diagnostic testing.

“And beyond that, they worked together with Africa CDC and WHO to extend training for laboratory technicians for detection of COVID-19 and to build up the national capacity across the region.

“Furthermore, health clinicians, scientists, researchers, and academics from across Africa are collectively contributing to the worldwide understanding of COVID-19 disease.

“For many years and from the outset of this pandemic, WHO has been working through our country offices to support nations in health emergency preparedness and developing comprehensive national action plans to prevent, detect and respond to the virus.”

Meanwhile, the Ogun State Government on Monday, said COVID-19 had spread to 16 out of 20 local government areas of the state.

The Commissioner for Health in the state, Dr Tomi Coker, who disclosed in an interview with one of our correspondents, said only four local governments were free of COVID-19 in the state as of Monday afternoon.

The Commissioner, who mentioned three out of four councils that were free of the virus, said she did not remember the fourth one. She said she could not access her diary where the detailed report of the geography was recorded.

The commissioner said, “There are four local government areas that are free of these cases. Both Egbado North and South, Ijebu-Ode, there is one more that I cannot remember now, but, they are four.”

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BIG STORY

Lagos To Close Marine Beach Bridge For Five Months

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The Lagos State Government on Sunday announced a plan to effect partial closure of the Marine Beach Bridge, Apapa, to vehicular movement, from May 27 to Oct. 21.

The state Commissioner for Transportation, Dr Frederic Oladeinde, made the disclosure in a statement in Lagos.

He said that the closure would be to enable repair of the bridge which, he said, was long overdue.

“The repair by the Federal Ministry of Works is long overdue and is vital for the safety of the people of Lagos State, especially motorists that ply the bridge to access different parts of the state.

“Necessary palliative works have been carried out on all alternative routes around the construction site to make them to be in good condition to ease movement during the construction period.

“The repair work, which comprise bearing and expansion joint replacement, is planned to be executed in two phases, with each phase focusing on one lane of the bridge at a time.

” The first phase will be handling the lane inbound Apapa while the second phase will be designated to work on the lane that conveys vehicles outside the axis,” he said.

Oladeinde said that the partial closure of the bridge by Total Gas, inward Apapa, would last for five months.

The commissioner said that the repair was in line with the vision of providing a seamless transportation system in the metropolis.

According to him, motorists inward Wharf Road would be diverted to the other section of the bridge outward Apapa.

Oladeinde said that a contraflow of 200 metres had been designed for vehicles to realign with a proper direction inward Ajegunle or Wharf Road, Apapa.

He said that motorists descending to Total Gas would drive without any hindrance.

The commissioner said that operatives of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority would be stationed at the construction locations to ease traffic.

Oladeinde appealed to motorists and residents of the area to cooperate with traffic management agencies deployed to the areas.

“The state government expresses its commitment to providing a transportation system that will meet the needs of a larger population in an emerging smart city,” he said.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Public Affairs Unit of the State Ministry of Transportation (MOT) had on March 27 announced the closure of the Marine Bridge, partially from March 28 to Aug. 15 for repair.

However, on March 28, the ministry suspended the plan due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

(NAN)

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