Wednesday, August 24, 2016

95% Of Medical Laboratories In Nigeria Manned By Quacks

VANGUARD, AUG. 25, 2016

—The Medical Laboratory Science Council of Nigeria, MLSCN, has said that about 95 per cent of the medical laboratories in some hospitals in Nigeria, as well as private medical laboratories that are scattered throughout Nigeria are manned by quacks and unqualified medical laboratory scientists.

This was disclosed by the Acting Registrar and Chief Executive Officer, CEO, of Medical Laboratory Science Council of Nigeria, Mr. Tosan Erhabor at the 18th Annual Conference and Annual General Meeting, AGM, of the Guild of Medical Laboratory Directors of Nigeria, GMLDN, held at Emmaus House, Awka, Anambra State ,yesterday. 

He said: “MLSCN was determined to engender confidence in laboratory results, and is therefore, seeking the co-operation of GMLDN in its efforts to rid the medical laboratory science profession of quackery and illegal practice. Advocacy meetings had been mounted across the country.

 “The Council EQA programme first set of samples from participatory laboratories has been received and analyzed, medical laboratories that were yet to key into the scheme to do so. The management and stakeholders have completed the protocol for assessment of laboratories as a way of objective assessment geared towards global best practices”.

 He described the theme of the conference “Medical Laboratory Automation in a Challenging Economy”, as apt given the “technical recession” the nation’s economy is experiencing presently, adding that medical laboratory automation is the use of clinical laboratory instruments to assay large numbers of samples with minimal human intervention”. 

He said that the major obstacle to the implementation of automation in medical laboratories had been its high cost which has prevented laboratory scientists in a challenged economy like ours to adopt, but nevertheless, advocated the use of simple and low cost automated devices like robotic arms or 3D printers which he said can also perform tasks done by large automations, adding that “in a challenging economy like ours, bench top automation is recommended”. 

“It consists of machines of reduced size compared to large automation units found in resource –rich laboratories. Bench top automation is often flexible and can deal with many different tasks. It is an attractive solution for many laboratories bearing in mind that majority of laboratories in a challenging economy do not need employment of full scale automation”, he said. 

National President of GMLDN Dr Fabian Chukwuezi in his speech said “GMLDN was faced by many challenges that were borne by principal officers with their own personal resources leading to some leaving the stage, but the present National Executive Committee has been consistent and have continued to contribute to series of achievements, especially to the call by the National assembly for public opinion on various challenging health issues”. 

Chairman Anambra State, branch of GMLDN, Dr. Uche Ngenegbo said the state government has now moved to ensure that all the laboratories in the states hospitals are certified.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Anger In The Delta Keeps Oil Majors Quiet -- And Nigeria's Crude Offline


* Splinter militant groups a hurdle to ceasefire talks

* Non-violent local protests have also exacted a toll

* 'People giving up in short term' - oil industry source (Adds Niger Delta Avengers says ready for dialogue)

LONDON/LAGOS, AUG 21 (REUTERS) - Oil companies and even Nigerian officials are losing faith in a deal anytime soon with militants who have slashed the nation's oil output, casting doubt on a production recovery in what is typically Africa's largest oil exporter.

In the six months since the first major attack on Nigeria's oil - a sophisticated bombing of the subsea Forcados pipeline - dozens of attacks have pushed outages to more than 700,000 barrels per day (bpd), the highest in seven years.

Talk in the country has shifted from ceasefire optimism, and oil companies' assurances that repairs were underway, to hedged comments from the government and radio silence from oil majors.

On Sunday, the Niger Delta Avengers militants, which have claimed several major pipeline attacks, said in a statement they were ready to give dialogue a chance.

But highlighting the fracturing of militants into small groups, the previous day a group called Niger Delta Green Justice Mandate claimed an attack on a gas pipeline in the southern swamps lands.

Without a unified command and groups dominated by "generals" unable to fully control their own fighters, it is difficult for the government to identify the right people to talk to or enforce any ceasefire.

"People are giving up in the short term," one oil industry source told Reuters of a resumption in exports of key Nigerian grades such as Forcados or Qua Iboe, adding you "can't get anything" out of the majors, including Shell, Chevron , ExxonMobil or ENI, about when the oil might come back.

Shell declined to comment, while the other companies did not immediately responded to a request for comment.

In June, Nigerian government officials said privately it had a ceasefire with militants. But pessimism crept in, with even Oil Minister Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu telling journalists this week "we are talking but (it) is not an easy thing," and "we need a ceasefire" - a contrast to the belief that a ceasefire was underway.

He has also said another challenge to brokering a ceasefire is that there were several militant groups to talk to.


The problems reflect deep-seated issues in the Niger Delta, which produces the bulk of oil but whose local communities complain of pollution, a lack of opportunities and what they say is an insufficient share of petro dollars. These problems are compounded by an economic crisis and a government battle with Boko Haram militants in the north.

"This is likely the beginning," Elizabeth Donnelly, deputy head and research fellow of London think-tank Chatham House's Africa Programme said of the unrest, adding that "the resolution that will come will not come quickly."

The government this month resumed cash payments to militant groups that it stopped in February, just before the launch of the worst violence since the payments began under a 2009 amnesty. But attacks continued anyway.

The Delta Avengers claimed the bulk of them, announcing strikes on Twitter even before oil majors themselves knew their remote pipelines had been hit. Twitter shut the group's account, but sources said the Avengers have extensive knowledge of oil sites, and follow the media closely to track companies' actions.

"With the Avengers, you don't want to say 'we'll be back up next Wednesday', because then you'll get a bomb next Tuesday," one oil executive said. "They have to be careful."

But new groups, such as the self-styled Revolution Alliance, which claimed an attack on a Shell-owned oil line, loom, while non-violent local protests have also exacted a toll.

Collings Edema, a local youth leader of the Itsekiri group that has blocked access to Chevron's Escravos tank farm for almost two weeks, said "the oil companies have not shown any sign that they are ready to improve our lives".

Experts warned that as long as people are unhappy, militants and their targets could evolve in unpredictable ways.

"This is also about frustrations of younger people coming up in the Niger Delta and needs not having been addressed," Donnelly said. "This isn't just about militancy, though the political and economic context feeds it."

Adding to the division of the militant scene, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), another group which agreed to a ceasefire in 2009, denounced the Avengers due to its "criminal and treasonable activities".

"MEND reiterates its full support for the ongoing military presence in the Niger Delta," it said in a statement, referring to a recent military campaign to hunt down the Avengers. (Additional reporting by Anamesere Igboeroteonwu in Onitsha, editing by David Evans)

Saturday, August 20, 2016

AFRICA: Seeds Of Democratic Revolution In Ethiopia


Ethiopian migrants of the Oromo Community in Malta protest against the Ethiopian regime (Image: Reuters)

After being frightened into silence for over two decades, the people of Ethiopia are finding their voice and calling for fundamental political change.

Thousands have been taking to the streets in recent weeks and months to peacefully protest against the ruling party, expressing their collective anger at the injustices and widespread human rights violations taking place throughout the country and calling for democratic elections.

The People are Rising Up

The people have awakened, and overcoming fear and historic differences are beginning to unite. The two main ethnic groups are rallying under a common cause: freedom, justice, and the observation of their constitutionally acknowledged human rights. And the two major opposition parties, the Oromo Democratic Front (ODF) and Patriotic Ginbot 7 for Unity and Democracy (PG7) have formed an alliance in the fight to overthrow the incumbent regime, and are seeking to bring other opposition groups together.

The protests are dominated by people under 25 – 30 years of age; young people, connected to the world via social media who are no longer prepared to live in fear, as Seyoum Teshome, a university lecturer in central Ethiopia told the New York Times, “The whole youth is protesting. A generation is protesting.”

At the moment demonstrations are largely confined to Oromia and Ahmara, but as confidence grows there is every possibility that other regions could become involved, swelling numbers of protestors, overwhelming security forces.

When there is unity, and consistent, peaceful collective action, governments are eventually forced to listen (as has been demonstrated elsewhere in the world), and the attention of the international community is garnered. Ethiopia receives between a third and half of its federal budget in various aid packages from international donors; irresponsible donor countries which see Ethiopia as an ally in the so-called ‘war on terror’, a stable country in a region of instability – the illusion of stability maintained by keeping the populace suppressed.

To their utter shame the countries primary donors – America, Britain and the European Union – have repeatedly ignored the cries of the people, and turned a blind eye to human rights abuses perpetrated by the ruling party, which in many cases constitute state terrorism. It is neglect bordering on complicity.

Remain peaceful

This is a historic moment that could result in the overthrow of the government – a day longed for by the majority of Ethiopians – and usher in what activists and opposition groups have been campaigning for; democratic fair elections, and open political debate. None of which, despite the false pronouncements of Barack Obama and the like, have taken place under the EPRDF. Indeed Ethiopia has never known democracy.

It is essential that protestors remain largely peaceful, in spite of the government’s brutal response – and it has been brutal – and this does not turn into an ethnic conflict, with Tigrayan military forces loyal to the government pitched against groups from Oromo, Amhara, Ogaden and elsewhere. To take up arms on any significant scale would not only risk large numbers of casualties and national chaos, but would also allow the regime to propagate false claims of terrorism, attribute the uprising to destabilising influences and ignore the demands of protestors and opposition parties.

The government owns the sole telecommunications company as well as virtually all media outlets in the country, and seeks in every way possible to condition reporting by international media. They regularly close down the Internet in an attempt to make it difficult for protestors to communicate, and will no doubt attempt to manipulate the narrative surrounding the protests. But given the coverage flooding social media – much of which shows so-called ‘security personnel’ indiscriminately beating protestors – as well as first hand accounts, they will not be able to suppress or contaminate the truth.

Government’s Brutal Reaction

Ethiopia is made up of dozens of tribes and a variety of ethnic groups. The people of Oromo and Amhara (at 35% and 27% respectively of the population) make up the majority, and rightly feel they have been ignored and marginalised by the Tigray (6% of the population) TPLF dominated government – who also run the military. And it is in Oromia and the city of Gondar in Amhara that the protests have concentrated in recent weeks and months. Protests that the government has responded to with predictable violence.

It is impossible to state the exact numbers of protestors killed by government forces over the last week or two; Al Jazeera reports that “between 48 to 50 protesters were killed in Oromia,” but the satellite broadcaster, ESAT News, says that “several sources revealed that in the last few days alone [up to August 10th] at least 130 people have been murdered in the Oromo region…while 70 others have been massacred in Amhara.” No doubt the actual figure is a great deal higher than either of these.

Residents of the city of Bahir-Dar told The Guardian that, “soldiers fired live rounds at protesters. Hospitals have been filled by dead and wounded victims.” Thousands have been arrested, and ESAT reports, security forces have been demanding ransom payments from the families of young people who were detained after protesting in the capital Addis Ababa.

Despite the fact that freedom of assembly is clearly spelt out in the Ethiopian constitution (Article 30), the Prime Minister, Haile Mariam Dessalegn, announced a blanket ban on demonstrations, which, he said, “threaten national unity”. He called on the police – who need no encouragement to behave like thugs – to use all means at their disposal to stop protests occurring. The Communications Minister Getachew Reda chipped in, and called the protests illegal. All of which is irrelevant and, of course, misses the point completely.

Shocked and appalled at the ruling regime’s violent reaction to the protests, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights urged “the government to allow access for international observers into the affected regions to be able to establish what exactly transpired.” The spokesperson described information coming out of Amhara and Ormoia as “extremely alarming”, saying there had been “no genuine attempt at ensuring accountability” since reports of abuses by security forces began emerging back in December. The government’s arrogant — not to say cowardly — reply was to reject the request; Getachew Reda, without a whiff of irony, told Al Jazeera that “the UN was entitled to its opinion but the government of Ethiopia was responsible for the safety of its own people.” Perhaps if Ethiopia’s main benefactors began to do their donor duty and apply pressure to the regime, they would be more conciliatory.

Refusing to engage with opposition groups and believing totally in the power of force and fear to control populations, dictatorships like the EPRDF instinctively respond to calls for freedom and justice by intensifying the very suppressive measures that are driving the popular uprising: The days of such totalitarian regimes are fast coming to an end, it is a disintegrating body moving towards certain extinction.

Unstoppable Momentum for Change

For years the Ethiopian government and the country’s major donors have been propagating the lie that democracy and social development were flowering inside the country. As the people march that myth is now beginning to totally unravel.

The plain truth is that the EPRDF government, in power since 1991, is a vicious, undemocratic regime that has systematically suppressed the population for the last twenty-five years. There is no freedom of expression, the judiciary is a puppet of the state, political opposition leaders as well as journalists and anyone who openly expresses dissent are imprisoned (often tortured), their families persecuted. Humanitarian aid, employment and higher education opportunities are distributed on a partisan basis; and what economic growth there has been (dramatically downgraded by the IMF recently) has largely flowed into the coffers of government officials and supporters.

A social protest movement has been building with growing intensity since the 2010 general election (which like the ones before it, and since, was stolen by the EPRDF), and now the momentum appears to be unstoppable.

No matter how many courageous protesters the police and military shoot – and they will no doubt continue killing – arrest and intimidate, this time there is a real chance that the people will not be put down; they will no longer be denied their rights. They sense, as large numbers of people do everywhere, that an energy of change is sweeping through the world, that they are in tune with the times, and that this is the moment to unite and act.

Beginning in Oromia in March 2014 and intensified last November, large demonstrations were staged in opposition to government plans to expand the capital Addis Ababa onto agricultural land in Oromia. They began in Ginchi, a small town southwest of the capital, and spread to over 400 locations throughout the 17 zones of Oromia. At the same time demonstrators were marching in Gondar demanding, amongst other things, academic rights.

The ERDF reacted by deploying armed police and military that used “excessive and lethal force against largely peaceful protests.” Human Rights Watch (HRW) states that over 400 innocent people were killed; ESAT, however, puts the number even higher, saying that “at least 600 protesters were killed in the last nine months” in the Oromia region.

The protests in Oromia and Amhara have been ignited by specific issues – territory, land use, the stolen 2015 elections and the EPRD’s paranoid undemocratic hold on power – however, these are not the underlying causes, but triggers, a series of final straws laid on top of two decades of violent suppression and injustice. Such violations are not just confined to these major regions, but are experienced more or less throughout the country; in Gambella, and the Ogaden region, for example, where all manner of State-sponsored atrocities have been taking place.

The EPRDF government has attempted to rule Ethiopia through intimidation and fear. Such violent, crude methods will only succeed for so long: eventually the people will unite and revolt, as they are now doing, and all strength to their cause, which is wholly just.

Graham Peebles is Director of The Create Trust, a UK registered charity supporting fundamental social change and the human rights of individuals in acute need. He can be reached at:

Repeal Or Retain? Election Opens Final Act For 'Obamacare'


Deborah Paddison stands in her home office in Phoenix on Friday, July 15, 2016, while she recovers from her latest orthopedic surgery. She fears she would become uninsurable if the Affordable Care Act was repealed. For most her life she has battled rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease that attacks the joints and tissues. Paddison works as a freelance editor and writer and says her independence is due in part to subsidized coverage under the health care law.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Election Day 2016 will raise the curtain on the final act in the nation's long-running political drama over President Barack Obama's health care overhaul. If Republican Donald Trump wins, the unraveling begins.

"We have an obligation to the people who voted for us to proceed with 'repeal and replace,'" said Sen. John Barrasso, a Wyoming Republican. If Democrat Hillary Clinton goes to the White House, it gets very difficult for Republicans to keep a straight face about repealing "Obamacare."

"There just won't be any credible way to keep talking about repealing the Affordable Care Act," said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA and a supporter of the law. After years of debating health care politics and policies, Americans remain divided over the 2010 law, which was passed without a single Republican vote when Democrats still controlled both houses of Congress. What happens next could affect health insurance for nearly everyone.

It's not just the millions who have gained coverage through expanded Medicaid in a majority of states and subsidized private health insurance in every part of the country. It's also anyone with an existing medical condition who now can apply for health insurance without fear of being turned away. It's millennials weighing paying monthly premiums against paying a fine for remaining uninsured. It's women whose birth control is covered free by their employer, and parents who can keep late-blooming kids on their workplace plans until age 26.

Brian Greenberg, of Stamford, Connecticut, is in his early 30s, and his insurer has already spent more than $845,000 on medical care for the Crohn's disease patient. A financial services professional, Greenberg worries about a return to lifetime dollar limits on coverage, a type of cutoff that was previously allowed.

Deborah Paddison, of Phoenix, fears she would become uninsurable. For most her life she has battled rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease that attacks the joints and tissues. Paddison works as a freelance editor and writer and says her independence is due in part to subsidized coverage under the health care law.

The law's tangible benefits for Greenberg, Paddison and millions of other Americans present a major challenge for Republicans. They've honed their legislative strategy for repealing most, if not all, of Obama's law, but they still have to work out key parts of their plan for replacing it.

The framework that GOP congressional leaders have released isn't detailed enough to allow a full comparison with current law. The Center for American Progress, a think tank aligned with the Clinton campaign, estimates 24 million people will lose coverage by 2021 if the law is repealed and says the Republican replacement will not fill that hole.

But Barrasso, one of his party's leaders on health policy, said Republicans will provide a path to more affordable coverage with less government regulation. "I have no desire to protect 'Obamacare,' but I want to protect the American people," he said.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

California Wildfire Brings Destruction And Uncertainty

Firefighters battle a wildfire as it crosses Cajon Boulevard in Keenbrook, Calif., on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2016. Firefighters had at least established a foothold of control of the blaze the day after it broke out for unknown reasons in the Cajon Pass near Interstate 15, the vital artery between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Five years of drought have turned the state's wildlands into a tinder box, with eight fires currently burning from Shasta County in the far north to Camp Pendleton just north of San Diego.

SAN BERNARDINO, CALIFORNIA (ASSOCIATED PRESS) — A ferocious wildfire had swallowed up many homes as it spread across 40 square miles of mountain and desert east of Los Angeles. Exactly how many, however, and to whom they belonged, remained uncertain.

Firefighters were faced with the difficult task of tallying that damage while still battling the huge, unruly blaze. That left evacuees in a cruel limbo, forced to spend another night wondering whether anything they owned was still intact.

They included Shawn Brady, who had been told by a neighbor that flames had raged down their street. But he was waiting for official word. "What I've been told is that flames are currently ripping through my house," said Brady, a dockworker who lives on the outskirts of the evacuated town of Wrightwood with his mother, sister and a dog.

"I'm trying to remain optimistic," Brady said as he sat outside a shelter for evacuees in Fontana. "It's the not knowing that's the worst." San Bernardino County fire officials could only confirm that dozens of structures had burned, and that big numbers are likely.

"There will be a lot of families that come home to nothing," county Fire Chief Mark Hartwig said Wednesday after flying over a fire scene he described as "devastating." "It hit hard. It hit fast. It hit with an intensity that we hadn't seen before," he said.

Firefighters had at least established a foothold of control of the blaze the day after it broke out for unknown reasons in the Cajon Pass near Interstate 15, the vital artery between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. The fire was 4 percent contained on Wednesday.

The California Highway Patrol reopened I-15 late Wednesday night, while the southbound side remained closed. Those assessing damage were also looking for dead and injured, but none had been reported yet. Cadaver dogs were searching the ruins for anyone who was overrun by the flames.

Five years of drought have turned the state's wildlands into a tinder box, with eight fires currently burning from Shasta County in the far north to Camp Pendleton just north of San Diego. Residents like Vi Delgado and her daughter April Christy were also among those wondering whether their home was intact, though they had found out that their pets and the shelter animals they take care of had been saved. They had been through earlier wildfires, but nothing like this one.

"No joke, we were literally being chased by the fire," Christy said in a voice choked with emotion in a minivan outside the Fontana evacuation center. "You've got flames on the side of you. You've got flames behind you."

More than 34,000 homes and about 82,000 people were under evacuation warnings as firefighters concentrated their efforts on saving homes in the mountain communities of Lytle Creek, Wrightwood and Phelan. They implored residents not to think twice if told to leave, but it appears many were staying.

"From reports that we were hearing, possibly up to half didn't leave," said Lyn Sieliet, a U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman. "It does change the way that we can fight fire," she added, "Now we have to worry about the people in there as well as trying to protect the structures and trying to build a line of defense as the fire comes toward that area."

A fleet of 10 air tankers and 15 helicopters and an army of 1,500 firefighters took on the blaze, many of them coming fresh from other wildfires around the state. Another large fire, north of San Francisco, was fading. The 6-square-mile blaze was 50 percent contained after destroying 268 structures, including 175 homes and eight businesses, in the working-class community of Lower Lake over the weekend.

Damin Pashilk, 40, is charged with starting the blaze along with more than a dozen other counts of arson and one of attempted arson in connection with fires dating back to July 2015. He appeared in court on Wednesday, but he did not enter a plea.

Associated Press writer Robert Jablon in Los Angeles and Olga Rodriguez in San Francisco contributed to this report.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

ISRAEL: Deputy Defense Minister: African Migrants Don’t Need Helping Hand


African migrants gather during a protest in Levinsky Park in Tel Aviv on January 07, 2014. (Gideon Markowicz)

Eli Ben Dahan hails decision barring soldiers from aiding refugees in Tel Aviv, says IDF should focus on programs ‘that benefit Israelis’

Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben Dahan on Sunday praised a controversial decision to cancel a program for IDF soldiers to volunteer with the children of migrants and asylum seekers in Israel, saying the predominately African community in south Tel Aviv does not need to be helped.

In an interview with Army Radio, Ben Dahan claimed that “none of the 150,000 illegal infiltrators have been categorized as refugees, they don’t need to be extended a helping hand or be pulled out of the sea and saved from drowning.”

Official figures show nearly 47,000 illegal immigrants are currently residing in Israel, almost all from Eritrea and Sudan. Most live in the poorer neighborhoods of southern Tel Aviv, with some blaming them for rising crime rates in the city.

“There people have infiltrated into Israel, taken Israelis’ jobs and made south Tel Aviv an impossible place to live,” Ben Dahan charged.

Ben Dahan, who has previously made racially disparaging remarks about Palestinians, went on to question whether if the ban would earn the same backlash from left-wing Israelis if the program were based in the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar.

“Israeli soldiers should volunteer for programs that benefit Israeli citizens,” the deputy minister said.

Pressed by the interviewer about the Jewish commandment to “love theger [stranger] in your midst,” Ben Dahan said the edict only applied to gentiles who embraced Jewish sovereignty in Israel.

Earlier on Sunday, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman ordered an ene to IDF soldiers working with Elifelet, an organization dedicated to help migrant children in south Tel Aviv, following complaints by local residents and right-wing activists.

“If soldiers have free time, they should help Holocaust survivors or the needy,” Liberman told IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot according to Yedioth Ahronoth. “Charity should begin at home.”

A report by Channel 10 last week showing a number of Military Intelligence soldiers volunteering with the NGO Elifelet sparked complaints by some Jewish residents of south Tel Aviv neighborhoods — who have long complained of the influx of poverty-stricken, mainly African foreigners in their neighborhoods — who voiced anger at the soldiers’ actions, accusing them of effectively working for a “radical left-wing” group and backing illegal immigration.

Elifelet is a nonprofit organization that says it helps hundreds of children from migrant families who are suffering from “different levels of hunger and physical distress due to poverty.” It aims to provide food and care for such children. It also claims to protect migrant kids from “racial persecution.”

After Channel 10’s report aired, President Reuven Rivlin expressed support for Elifelet's volunteer program, saying: “It is not a sin… for Israeli soldiers to lend a hand to the helpless, such as the children of refugees whose parents may well have broken Israeli law by entering illegally, for various reasons.” But, he said, “the children are not to blame.”

Israel has in recent years sought to limit the migrants’ numbers. It has built a fence along the border with Egypt, a once-common migration route, and sent many migrants to a desert detention facility — and in some cases back to third-party countries in Africa.

Many say they are fleeing conflict and persecution and are seeking refugee status. Israeli officials contend they are economic migrants, and have resisted calls to recognize them as refugees.

Between 2009 and 2015, 2,408 Eritreans requested refugee status in Israel. The state has responded to 1.42% of these requests, or 45 people, rejecting 40 outright and granting temporary protection to five, while the Interior Ministry granted refugee status to four people.

Israel’s approval ratings for refugee status are drastically lower than international levels. According to the United Nation’s High Commissioner for Refugees, internationally, 84 percent of Eritreans and 56 percent of Sudanese asylum seekers received either refugee status or extended protection in 2014.

Under Jonathan, Nigeria Earned N51 Trillion From Crude oil



The Nigerian state, during the five-year Presidency of Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, earned a total of N51 trillion from petroleum resources. The money is part of the N96.212trillion the country earned in 58years of crude oil sales.

Of this princely sum, which accounts for about 80 per cent of the country’s revenue, only N12.258 trillion (just about 14% of total) has been paid to the oil producing areas as derivation. The figure is N35.848 trillion less than the N48.106 trillion the oil-bearing regions should have received as derivation if 50 per cent derivation had not been jettisoned few years after crude oil became the chief revenue earner for Nigeria. The figures are the outcome of research by Sunday Vanguard, relying on documents from the Petroleum Inspectorate, NNPC, CBN Annual Report and Statement of Account, Nigeria Bureau of Statistics and the Nigeria Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative, NEITI. In the face of biting contemporary economic realities Nigerians are contending with, there is a consensus that the different tiers of government – federal, state and local government councils – have indeed squandered the nation’s earnings. Even the modest attempts at saving for the rainy day with the creation of, first, the Excess Crude Account, ECA -which suffered mismanagement occasioned by under-hand spending by the Federal Government that was supposed to hold the funds in trust – and, thereafter, the controversial and ineffectual Sovereign Wealth Fund, SWF – which became a subject of litigation and high-wire politicking between the Federal Government and the leadership of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, NGF – suffered from the typically Nigerian insincere approach to economic management. A breakdown of the earnings shows that between 1958 and 2007 (CBN Annual Report and Statement of Account, 2008), Nigeria earned N29.8 trillion from petroleum resources. And between 2008 and June 2016, the country generated N66.412 trillion.

Between 1958 and 1966, Nigeria earned N140 million from crude oil; 1967 to 1975, the General Yakubu Gowon got about N11.03 billion; while the late General Murtala Mohammed/ Olusegun Obasanjo military regime scooped about N25 billion from 1975-1979. In like manner, the civilian administration of President Shehu Shagari earned N36 billion oil money; Buhari, in his first coming as military head of state (1984-85), earned about N25 billion; General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, 1985 to 1993, N420 billion; the Ernest Shonekan/Abacha regime (1993-1998), N1.6 trillion; and General Abdulsalami Abubakar regime (1998-1999), N350 billion. With the return to civil rule, Nigeria, under President Obasanjo realised about N27 trillion from crude oil between May 1999 and May 2007. His successor, Umaru Yar’ Adua, reaped about N9 trillion in his almost three-year rule before he passed on. The luckiest of the leaders is former President Goodluck Jonathan, whose administration in five years, between 2010 and 2015, earned about N51 trillion from petroleum resources. Since he came to power on May 29, 2015, the President Buhari administration has been able to earn just about N6 trillion from crude. However, the huge earnings, since 1958, arguably, have translated to little or no improvement on the welfare of the citizenry, especially the people of the oil-producing areas, whose environment – land, water and air, has been adversely contaminated and, in many cases, devastated and polluted.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Why Snails Are One Of The World's Deadliest Creatures

As far as the world’s deadliest creatures go, large predators like sharks and lions tend to get all the credit. But in fact, if we were to point to the animal kingdom’s most frequent killer, it’d actually be the mosquito.

Another creature belonging to the “small but deadly” category is the freshwater snail, which is responsible for more than 200,000 deaths a year — more deaths than sharks, lions and wolves combined.

Freshwater snails carry a parasitic disease called schistosomiasis, which infects nearly 250 million people, mostly in Asia, Africa and South America.

“It's one of the world's most deadly parasites,” says Susanne Sokolow, a disease ecologist at Stanford University's Hopkins Marine Station.

“You do contract it from just wading, swimming, entering the water in any way, and the parasites basically exit the snails into the water and seek you. And they penetrate right through your skin, migrate through your body, end up in your blood vessels where they can live for many years even decades. It's not the worms that actually cause disease to people, it's the eggs. And those eggs have sharp barbs because they eventually need to make it back out of the human body and back into the water and find that there are snails that they need to complete their reproduction cycle. And so those eggs can lodge in different tissues and cause severe symptoms ranging from anemia and fatigue, all the way to various severe symptoms, even death in about 10 percent of chronic cases.”

In the 1970s, the drug praziquantel became an affordable option for combating schistosomiasis around the world, and countries abandoned alternative methods of “snail control” in favor of modern medical treatments.

But today, researchers are starting to rethink a drug-only approach to combating schistosomiasis. In a new study, researchers at Stanford University discovered that countries that used a creative ecological approach to snail control — such as introducing a predator to the environment—greatly reduced infection rates in those communities.

“One sort of creative avenue we're looking at now is reintroduction of snail predators,” Sokolow says. “It hasn't been used much in the past but in particular in an area in Senegal in West Africa we're working with a local nonprofit ... trying to investigate how the environment has changed by human activities and has driven away a predator — these native prawns — that you know are real voracious predators of the snails, and how we might bring them back through creative engineering — building ladders over dams so that prawns can access these sites that they're now eradicated from or even using aquaculture.”

Sokolow says other countries have also had success in reducing snail population using an integrated approach.

“Japan eliminated the disease in the late 1970s pretty much exclusively focusing on creative engineering solutions to reduce snail habitat,” Sokolow says. “The snails have not disappeared from Japan even today, but the parasite did because we addressed medical care for the people in combination with creative strategies to reduce the snails. It's that integrated strategy ... that has really worked.”

Some people worry about the environmental impact of reducing a snail population, but Sokolow says an integrated approach to the problem should lead to beneficial results.

“As a team of ecologists and epidemiologist and medical doctors, you know, we're looking at every angle,” Sokolow says.

“But we're talking about real human lives here. We're talking about a lot of suffering. In fact, the vast majority of people suffering from schistosomiasis is children — young children and young adults, and, you know, we have to balance all of those risks with the benefits. And here we're really talking about restoring a system, studying that system, finding those ecological levers, we like to call them, that have been pushed by human activity and pushing them back so that they're back in balance. And really, you know, all human activity has some risk, but I think if we do things well and do things smartly we can reap the benefits.”

This article is based on an interview that aired on PRI's Science Friday

Inaugural Cannabis Fair Being Set Up In Oregon



James Knox, owner of Savant Plant Technologies, discusses his products while setting up for the Oregon Cannabis Growers' Fair in Salem, Ore., on Friday, Aug. 12, 2016. In a sign of how mainstream the once-illicit marijuana industry is becoming in Oregon, one of four states to have legalized it, exhibitors are heading to the state capital to set up for the inaugural Oregon Cannabis Grower's Fair.

SALEM, OREGON. (ASSOCIATED PRESS) — From seed providers to a company offering mechanized bud trimmers, those involved in the once-illicit marijuana industry in the Pacific Northwest got ready on Friday for the first-ever Oregon Cannabis Growers' Fair.

Reggae music thumped from Savant Plant Technologies' display as owner James Knox, 38, of Corvallis, set up his do-it-yourself grow package, including peat and microorganisms to stimulate plant growth, among more than 80 exhibitors registered for the two-day fair that starts Saturday.

Oregon is one of four states to have legalized marijuana, along with Washington, D.C. "It's nice for us to be stepping across the line and say, 'Here we are, and we're ready to do business,'" he said. "For those of us who have been doing this a long time, this is a breath of fresh air because we're able to work openly and in the light."

Winning entries of a pot-plant competition at the fair will be displayed in two weeks at the Oregon State Fair, the first time cannabis will be exhibited at a state fair anywhere in the United States, organizers said.

"It is an historic event. It's a great opportunity to meet these growers that typically were underground," said fair organizer Mary Lou Burton. "We're trying to get people connected up and networking."

Nine winners of the pot-plant competition will showcase their plants at the Oregon State Fair, along more traditional items like tomatoes, hogs and horses, in two weeks. They will be under display in a small greenhouse amid tight security, she said.

Oregon voters legalized recreational marijuana in a November 2014 ballot initiative, Measure 91. Medical marijuana was legalized years earlier. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission is in the process of issuing licenses for recreational marijuana production.

The business is booming. Oregon's Legislative Revenue Office in May quadrupled its estimate of net state tax revenues, from $8.4 million to $35 million, expected from recreational marijuana through June 30, 2017.

But with marijuana still illegal under federal law, the industry can't use banks to do their business. Jerry Fee, owner of NorthWest Safe Sales of Oregon City, uses the banking impediment as a business opportunity and was setting up a display at the growers' fair including four formidable-looking safes. His prices range from $800 to $15,000.

"People like to lock up what's important to them, whether its money or product," he said. Business names at other booths being set up included Pruf Cultivar, My Urban Greenhouse, Half Baked and Greener Futures.

Donald Morse, executive director of the Oregon Cannabis Business Council and the person who thought up the fair, said it aims to "demystify" marijuana. "It's not to tempt people to use marijuana," Morse said. "It is to educate. Cannabis is Oregon's newest farm crop."

 Follow Andrew Selsky on Twitter @andrewselsky

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Born In The U.S., Raised In Nigeria, Ufomba Kamalu Finds Way To NFL


Houston Texans defensive end Ufomba Kamalu (94) hits a blocking dummy while running a drill during Texans training camp at Houston Methodist Training Center on Sunday, July 31, 2016, in Houston. ( Brett Coomer / Houston Chronicle )

Ufomba Kamalu was big and confused.

Early in his freshman year at Starr's Mill High School in Fayetteville, Georgia, he showed up for a football practice in shorts and soccer cleats. No shoulder pads.

Kamalu, now an undrafted rookie defensive end for the Texans, had size then that made him an intriguing football prospect to Starr's Mill football coach Chad Phillips, who encouraged the boy to join his team. He stood about 6-foot-5 and weighed around 215 pounds. He just didn't realize the football Phillips was talking about wasn't the same one people play in Africa.

Kamalu thought Phillips wanted him to play soccer.

"Because I'm from Nigeria," Kamalu said as an explanation to the confusion.

Kamalu was born in San Luis Obispo, California, where his father was a mechanical engineering professor. But he spent most of his first 14 years living with his grandmother in Umuocham, a village in Aba, Nigeria.

He and his two siblings mostly lived apart from his parents during that time. He learned Igbo, a language of southern Nigeria. He learned the culture of his parents' home country. He draws on the experience today as a NFL rookie.

He calls the move "the best decision my parents made raising us."

Stella and her husband, Ngozi Kamalu, debated over how soon to send Ufomba and his sister, who is a year older than him. Stella wanted to wait a few years. Ngozi pushed for them to do it a year after Ufomba was born. The younger his son was, the father knew, the easier it'd be for him to learn the language.

Later, Ufomba's younger brother joined his other two siblings. The parents visited their children at first for a month out of each year, then for a few months at a time. Ufomba said he'd come back to America occasionally when he wasn't in school.

The children all lived with Ngozi's mother. But the number of people who raised the Kamalu children, Stella said, is too large to count. Relatives live close together in Nigerian villages, she said, and they all work in harmony.

"I think that it takes a whole village to raise a child," Stella said, taking a common saying a bit more literally. "My husband and I here, I don't think we would've been able to … teach them and incorporate all that we wanted them to be by ourselves."

Ngozi said he wanted his children to understand simple tenets of the Nigerian culture: respect for parents, one's place among ancestors and the importance of accomplishing what an elder asks.

Ufomba would fetch water from a nearby river. He learned not to complain about cold showers or a lack of electricity when generators failed to work - which happened about four times each month.

The parents believe overall their children's quality of life was comparable to the United States. But there were less distractions, Ngozi said, and that helps Ufomba today.

"If he is focused on what he's doing, he will accomplish a lot of things," the father said. "This is probably the key in (a) child's development, where if he focuses himself, he can really accomplish anything."

The parents brought their children back to America for high school so they could still assimilate to the United States as children. They wanted them to feel comfortable in both worlds. Football helped Ufomba settle into America.

He struggled at first. When he knocked a teammate down in practice, he'd pick him up before the play was over. He didn't know what "y'all," a word he kept hearing in Georgia, meant.

Though Ufomba seemed lost on the field, Phillips said "he immediately had 75 friends." He learned English, slang included. He learned how to play defensive line, which fit his size - 6-6, 297 pounds today - and required less processing of English than a potentially audible-filled position on offense.

He said it took "a good two, three years to really start understanding and be part of the States."

And though colleges began recruiting him his junior year on size, it wasn't until Ufomba's senior year that he blossomed as a football player.

During his senior year, Starr's Mill played a game on television against its rival. Ufomba sacked the quarterback and came up dancing. It was the first time Phillips saw Ufomba excited. The coach said the moment "kicked the first domino." Ufomba began showing more emotion after that.

When Starr's Mill lost the state championship game at the Georgia Dome later that season, Phillips found Ufomba with tears rolling down his face.

"At some point during the season, he completely understood," Phillips said. "He completely bought in."

Ufomba struggled to qualify academically for an NCAA school out of high school. He played at Butler Community College before transferring to Miami.

In three seasons with the Hurricanes, he recorded 11.5 tackles for a loss, including 8.5 sacks. Against Georgia Tech this past season, he forced a fumble and returned an interception for a touchdown.

He stands an outside chance of making the Texans roster, but his parents believe because of a decision they made more than two decades ago, Ufomba will capitalize on his time in Houston.

"Having grown up there, having been there that many years and being here, he will seize opportunities," Stella said. "That also teaches him that he needs to work hard in life, and that when he achieves, it is not just him, it is not just Ufomba.

"Ufomba has his family, his village looking after him in America. And when he succeeds, it is not just for him, it's for his village."