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COVID-19: Nigeria Will Be Conducting 1,000 Tests Daily Soon, Says DG

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Director-general of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Chikwe Ihekweazu, says by the end of the week, the agency would have capacity to carry out 1, 000 COVID-19 tests on a daily basis.

Ihekweazu, who was responding to questions at a press briefing on Tuesday, said laboratories were like power plants and could not be built overnight but the agency is putting in efforts to improve and increase capacity.

“As at last week we are testing about 500 per day, or we had the capacity to test 500 per day. By the end of this week, we will be at a thousand per day, and next week we plan to take it to a 1, 500 per day, just by increasing the number of labs,” he said.

“We are managing and improving the supply sides, but at the same time, we need to reduce the demand side to those that really need it. So, in Lagos there is a big problem of a lot of anxiety and everybody wants to get tested. We need you to help us give this message to people. We have a case definition for COVID-19; either you have respiratory symptoms plus travel plus contact with a confirmed case or respiratory symptoms of unknown explanation. If you have cancer or something like that, we rule that out.

“These are the three groups, you must have symptoms and this is an important message because the more people force themselves into being tested the less we have the capacity to test those that really need it. These people that really need it will be transmitting it into the community and more people will get infected.

“So, there is a consequence, not just for you as an individual but for the rest of society. So, we need to get to those we need to get to. And by testing those that don’t need it, the worried well, we block the system from those that need it, and the outbreak continues. So, there is a price to pay for testing all these asymptomatic individuals.

“The quickest set of laboratories to convert for COVID-19 testing have been the laboratories we’ve been establishing over the last few years for lassa. That is where our molecular diagnostic capacity lies. Yes, we haven’t done enough over the last few years and now there is a need to do a lot more very quickly. Collectively, this is not just a federal government responsibility, this is a responsibility of all the states governments, and unfortunately just like power plants, we cannot build molecular labs overnight, so we are going to work extra hard.”

He said the private sector is coming in and the state governments are injecting funds in the health sector in order to increase the number of laboratories that would be up in the next few months.

He added, however, that the quick solution is not a new laboratory but increased capacity in existing labs.

According to the ministry of health, there are currently six functional laboratories with the capacity to test for COVID-19.

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NERC: Over 1m Electricity Consumers Have Received Prepaid Meters

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Reps Ask FG To Implement Pay-per-view Model For Satellite TV

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The house of representatives has asked the federal government to implement the pay-per-view model for satellite TV subscribers, to encourage “healthy competition” in the broadcast industry.

The lower legislative chamber passed the resolution on Wednesday, following the adoption of a report on the increment of tariffs by broadcast digital satellite service providers.

This was after Unyime Idem, chairman of the ad hoc committee, moved a motion that the report be considered.

“That the house do consider the report of the ad hoc committee on non-implementation of pay–as–you–go and sudden increment of tariffs plan by broadcast digital satellite service providers,” he said.

In March 2020, the house set up the ad hoc committee to probe complaints about high tariffs by broadcast digital satellite service providers.

At the investigative hearing in June 2020, the panel specifically tackled the Digital Satellite Television (DSTV), a South Africa-based company owned by MultiChoice, for high tariffs and restricting Nigerian customers to prepaid plans.

But during plenary session on Wednesday, the lower legislative chamber said the “visible absence of competitors in the industry was tacit approval of monopoly of the industry by the present operators”.

In their resolution, the lawmakers called for “expedited action on implementing the content of the National Broadcasting Code and the Nigeria information Policy of 2014 that would trigger healthy competition in the industry”.

“The entertainment industry has a wider spectrum with limitless opportunities for the teeming youths. The visible absence of competitors in the industry was tacit approval of monopoly of the industry by the present operators,” the house said.

“Timely application of these government regulatory intervention measures already articulated will revolutionise the
industry and meet the people’s yearnings on pay-as-you-go, pay-per-view and price reduction.

“Our extant laws that moderate operations in the industry is to be fine-tuned to meet the 21st century regulatory laws of the industry that is dynamic as the entertainment industry.

“The commission that has the power to license and regulate the activities of service providers must, as well, have the power to moderate in the protection of consumers. There is little or nothing a regulator can do if he is handicapped by laws that are not properly tailored to the needs of the society.”

The lawmakers added that “uncontrollable” market forces are responsible for the hike in the tariff.

“The recent increment of VAT by 2.5% by the Financial Amendment Act of 13th January, 2020, the fluctuating
foreign exchange rate in the country that affects the cost of content, broadcast equipment, experienced hire and technical infrastructure increase, increase in bouquets for a wider choice,
inflation on the cost of production and need to maintain workforce not throwing many young men and women who are gainfully employed by pay-tv into the labour market were some
necessary indices for price hike,” they added.

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FG To Regulate, Monetise Posting Of Police Officers As Escorts, Guards

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The federal executive council (FEC) on Wednesday approved the formation of the Special Police Services to regulate and monetise posting of officers as escorts and guards.

Garba Shehu, senior special assistant to the president on media and publicity, said the new unit will formalise the deployment of police officers as escorts to VIPs and as guards to big corporations.

Speaking after the FEC meeting in Abuja, he said the approval was in the interest of transparency and accountability.

He said: “The minister of police affairs also had an important scheme which was approved at federal executive council meeting.

“It is the deployment of what they call Special Police Services. And this is about a new system that will formalise what has existed with us all the time.

“You know police provide escort and guard for big corporations, banks, and so on. Now, in the interest of transparency and accountability, the government is formalising this relationship. And there will be an introduction of tariffs and billing schemes. This will be using PPP (public private partnership) arrangement.

“The police projected the use of consultant that will help them to manage this. Part of the revenue will go to federal government. Part of it will go to the police. Part of it will go into police allowances. And part will go to consultants as their own fees.

“This is something that has been going on for many years. And it has happened virtually in all countries of the world. In our own case, it has remained largely, people will say, undocumented or non-formalised. Government is concerned about leakages in revenue and incomes which should be blocked.”

Shehu also said contracts worth N754,048,161 were approved for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for capital projects.

He said: “These are mainly for the supply of communications at the command and control centre. This is to enable EFCC comply with modern day investigative techniques, improve its operational efficiency, and support the administration of criminal justice system in the country.

“So, these are basically defensive and offensive cyber-security systems.”

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