The Food and Drug Administration on Friday approved the world’s first medicine based on CRISPR gene-editing technology, a groundbreaking treatment for sickle cell disease that delivers a potential cure for people born with the chronic and life-shortening blood disorder.
The new medicine, called Casgevy, is made by Vertex Pharmaceuticals and CRISPR Therapeutics. Its authorization is a scientific triumph for the technology that can efficiently and precisely repair DNA mutations — ushering in a new era of genetic medicines for inherited diseases.
In a clinical trial, Casgevy was shown to eliminate recurrent episodes of debilitating pain caused by sickle cell, which afflicts approximately 100,000 people in the U.S., a vast majority of whom are Black. The therapy, whose scientific name is exa-cel, is described as a potential cure because the genetic fix enabled by CRISPR is designed to last a lifetime, although confirmation will require years of follow-up.
The FDA decision comes three weeks after regulators in the U.K. were the first to clear the drug. Approval in the European Union is expected next year. The FDA is also expected to rule on exa-cel as a
“I’m skeptical that this will open the floodgates, as some people are predicting,” said Akshay Sharma, a physician who treats children with sickle cell at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Casgevy has the potential to be a “transformative therapy,” Sharma added, but “I would expect physicians and patients to be nervous and hesitant” until its long-term efficacy and safety are better defined.
Sickle cell disease is caused by a mutation in the gene responsible for the production of oxygen-carrying hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells. The mutation causes red blood cells to become misshapen. Under a microscope, they look like crescents or sickles, which gives the disease its name. When sickled red cells clump together, they clog blood vessels, robbing tissues of oxygen and causing bouts, or “crises,” of extreme pain, hospitalizations, organ damage, stroke, and early death.
Physicians who treat people with sickle cell today prescribe a number of medicines that can reduce the frequency of pain crises, increase hemoglobin levels, or ameliorate symptoms, but none targets the underlying genetic cause of the disease. Stem cell transplants can be curative, but the procedure requires patients to have a donor with matched immune cells, which occurs infrequently.
This is what makes Casgevy different. It edits a patient’s own blood stem cells to produce high levels of fetal hemoglobin — the healthy, oxygen-carrying form of the protein that is produced during fetal development but normally shuts down soon after birth. Researchers had previously identified a certain genetic mutation that causes fetal hemoglobin to persist into adulthood. When this happens to people with sickle cell, their disease is mild and outcomes are greatly improved.
Casgevy uses the CRISPR-Cas9 enzyme to mimic this protective genetic mutation. It makes a cut at a specific spot in a gene called BCL11A. The edit, in turn, disables a DNA brake on the production of fetal hemoglobin.
Bluebird’s gene therapy works through another route, delivering, with the help of a virus, a copy of a gene into patients’ cells that enables them to produce healthy hemoglobin. In a clinical trial, 28 out of 32 patients lived free of pain crises during the study period after receiving Lyfgenia.
The clinical trial conducted by Vertex and CRISPR Therapeutics that supported Casgevy’s approval enrolled 30 people with sickle cell, aged 12 to 35, who were, on average, experiencing four severe pain episodes per year and just under three hospitalizations per year.
Within three months of receiving a single Casgevy infusion, all of the study participants began producing protective levels of fetal hemoglobin. All but one of the participants achieved the main goal of the study — freedom from severe pain episodes for at least one year following treatment. Twenty-eight participants remained free of pain episodes for an average of 22 months. The first person treated with Casgevy in the clinical trial, a woman named Victoria Gray, has now gone more than four years without a severe pain episode.
The FDA recently held a meeting with outside experts about Casgevy, which focused on “off-target” editing — that is, any potential inadvertent changes the medicine may make in patients’ cells — underscoring how scientists and regulators are adapting to this new class of genetic medicines. On Friday, the FDA said the treatment’s label will include a caution about the “potential” risk of off-target edits.
“Genome editing is something special and it may redefine the paradigm of medicine over the next 30-40 years,” said CRISPR Therapeutics CEO Samarth Kulkarni. “Exa-cel’s approval represents the start of it. “We can fundamentally alter the genes that cause disease to create a functional, lifelong solution with a single administration. That’s a new paradigm, and it’s only powered by genome editing.”
CRISPR Therapeutics was founded in 2013 soon after Charpentier and Doudna published their seminal CRISPR paper. Work on what is now Casgevy started in earnest two years later, with Vertex on board as a partner and investor. The first clinical trial involving patients with sickle cell began in 2019.
Casgevy is often described as a one-time treatment, but that convenience underrepresents the arduous and lengthy steps required before it’s administered. Patients first have their blood stem cells removed through a process called apheresis; the cells are then shipped off to a company-run manufacturing lab where they are edited. While cells are prepared, patients must undergo a preparatory treatment with a chemotherapy drug to remove any native stem cells that might remain in their bone marrow.
This “conditioning” step is crucial because it provides space in the bone marrow for the functional, CRISPR-edited cells to engraft and grow. But the chemotherapy drug used, called busulfan, wipes out germ-fighting immune cells and can cause serious side effects, including infertility — a particularly troublesome risk factor for people who wish to have children.
The actual injection of Casgevy is quick, but patients must remain in the hospital for weeks until their immune system recovers and the risk of serious infection abates.
Vertex estimates about 25,000 people in the U.S. and Europe might be good candidates for Casgevy — consisting mostly of people with more severe disease who are willing to undergo the arduous procedure and accept the risks.
“The initial patients will be motivated because they’ve been following, they’re interested, and they believe the benefits outweigh the risks and the current challenges,” said David Altshuler, Vertex’s chief scientific officer. “But I think the other thing that will happen is a sort of community aspect, where patients will be watching other patients in their care centers and in their community. Over time, that will build confidence and trust.”
Both regulators in the U.K. and the FDA approved Casgevy for people as young as 12.
“We’ve heard consistently from physicians that they are interested in treating patients who are younger,” said Stuart Arbuckle, Vertex’s chief operating officer. “The disease has taken hold less, and so these patients have fewer complications and more of a lifetime of benefit to gain. And they tend to be able to schedule this procedure into their life a bit easier than a working adult. They also tend to do really well versus older people.”
Sharma, the sickle cell expert at St. Jude’s, intends to take a more cautious approach.
“As long as we don’t have evidence of long-term safety, I would be hesitant to expose young children to this therapy, which is still so novel,” he said. “I think the ideal patient is an adult who has severe disease not controlled by currently available treatments.”
Hsu, the University of Illinois physician, has already started speaking to his patients about undergoing treatment with Casgevy. Patients with more severe sickle cell disease “who have seen how bad it can be, especially as they grow older” are likely to be the first to seek out treatment, he said.
He’s also counseled some adolescent patients who expressed initial interest in Casgevy but have since decided to wait because the medicines they take today to control their disease are working. “These are younger people whose organs are in good enough shape that they could go through this, and their disease severity is high enough that they would be eligible.”
Vertex, which is running point on Casgevy’s commercial launch, has said previously that it expects a slow uptake, given the complexity of treatment and the need to sort out reimbursement and access.
Lyfgenia’s approval came with a black box warning about the possibility that patients who receive the therapy might later develop blood cancer and should be monitored for that risk. Two patients in trials of the drug died of blood cancers, and studies concluded that the cancers were caused by the chemotherapy conditioning regimen for the treatment, not Lyfgenia itself.
Forty eight hours after being summoned by the Senate, the Group Chief Executive Officer (GCEO) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited, Mele Kyari, has now appeared before the joint committee on appropriations.
The Senate had issued a 24-hour ultimatum on Wednesday to the NNPCL boss after an observations that he had in previous occasions, shunned summons by the Senate to appear before its ad-committee probing over 11 trillion naira expenditure on turn around maintenance of refineries in the country between 2010 and 2023.
Responding to questions by the senate committee on appropriations on the potential drop in pump price of petroleum owing to the expected functionality of refineries, Kyari clarified his comment after he was interrogated again. He explained that it might be possible to have a reduction, but it is not the main objective of the refineries.
He buttressed that maintaining the energy security target has fostered the confidence that in 2024, Nigeria will become a net exporter of petroleum products.
The NNPCL boss affirmed that no subsidy is charged to the federation, adding that the NNPC has contributed 4.45 trillion naira as direct revenue into the federation in a combination of taxes, royalties and dividends and paid 406 billion naira as dividend to Federal Government’s account from July 2023.
According to him, Nigeria does not have credible data for PMS consumption in the country because of the absence of the instrument to measure.
The Chairman of the Senate Appropriation Committee, Senator Adeola Olamilekan, had on Wednesday, directed Kyari to appear before the committee in 24 hours.
Olamilekan, who asked Kyari to appear in company of the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC), warned that failure to appear undermines the legislature and sabotages the process.
They are required to present the list of all individual companies operating with OML licenses in Nigeria as well as total production output approved on a daily basis.
The lawmaker expressed concerns that some of the revenues required to drive the 2024 budget was attributed to the NNPCL, which according to him, was owned by the Federal Government and responsible to it, and by extension the three arms of government.
The Nigerian Navy has arrested 17 people said to be engaged in the illegal siphoning of crude oil in Ondo State.
Navy spokesperson, Commodore Adedotun Olukayode Ayo-Vaughan, disclosed this in a statement, saying the suspects were nabbed at the Forward Operating Base (FOB) Igbokoda in the early hours of Thursday.
Also intercepted by the naval authorities was a 77-meter-long Motor Tanker (MT) VINNALARIS 1 Lagos.
“The vessel had 17 crew members onboard at the time of arrest and was caught engaging in illegal siphoning of crude oil from one of the well heads at EBESAN oil field about 7 nautical miles off the coast of Awoye riverine community in Ilaje Local Government Area of Ondo State,” he stated.
“The apprehension of the vessel was based on credible intelligence received by the Base on the illegal activities of crude oil thieves at the location which informed the swift deployment of FOB IGBOKODA personnel to enforce the arrest of the vessel and her crew.
“Notably, as the anti-Crude Oil Theft Patrol Team of FOB IGBOKODA approached MT VINNALARIS 1 LAGOS, the 2 x boats attached to the vessel fled on sighting the naval personnel which confirmed the engagement of the vessel in illegality.”
The naval spokesman stated that on arrival at the scene, it was discovered that the vessel was actively involved in siphoning crude oil from both sides of the wellhead.
Consequently, upon further search and interrogation, Ayo-Vaughan said it was further discovered that the vessel had onboard 17 crew members of Nigerian nationality.
Noting that the vessel’s storage capacity is about 15,000 metric tonnes and as at the time of arrest, the naval spokesman said it had loaded about 500 Metric tonnes of crude oil.
He noted that the arrest of MT VINNALARIS 1 LAGOS shows the Nigerian Navy’s determination to curb crude oil theft and all manners of illegalities in Nigeria’s maritime domain.
“All criminals and their cohorts are hereby warned that the Nigerian Navy will use all legitimate means at its disposal to track and arrest perpetrators of illegalities in Nigeria’s maritime environment.
“While individuals carrying out legitimate business are advised to go about their legitimate activities, the Nigerian Navy solicits the cooperation of patriotic and well-meaning members of the public to promptly report any form of criminalities, especially in the coastal communities for necessary action,” Ayo-Vaughan said.
See the full statement below:
CRUDE OIL THEFT: NIGERIAN NAVY ARRESTS MOTOR TANKER VINNALARIS 1 LAGOS FOR CRUDE OIL THEFT
- The Nigerian Navy Forward Operating Base, (FOB) IGBOKODA in Ondo on Wednesday 6 December 2023 at about 10:00pm detected and arrested in the early hours of Thursday 7 December 2023 at about 3.00am, a 77-meter-long Motor Tanker (MT) VINNALARIS 1 LAGOS. The vessel had 17 crew members onboard at the time of arrest was caught engaging in illegal siphoning of crude oil from one of the well heads at EBESAN oil field about 7 nautical miles off the coast of Awoye riverine community in Ilaje Local Government Area of Ondo State. The apprehension of the vessel was based on credible intelligence received by the Base on the illegal activities of crude oil thieves at the location which informed the swift deployment of FOB IGBOKODA personnel to enforce the arrest of the vessel and her crew.
- Notably, as the anti-Crude Oil Theft Patrol Team of FOB IGBOKODA approached MT VINNALARIS 1 LAGOS, the 2 x boats attached to the vessel fled on sighting the naval personnel which confirmed the engagement of the vessel in illegality. Accordingly, on arrival at the scene, it was discovered that the vessel was actively involved in siphoning crude oil from both sides of the well head. Consequently, upon further search and interrogation, it was further discovered that the vessel had onboard 17 crew members of Nigerian nationality. The vessel’s storage capacity is about 15,000 metric tonnes and as at the time of arrest she had loaded about 500 Metric tonnes of crude oil.
- The arrest of MT VINNALARIS 1 LAGOS attests to the Nigerian Navy’s determination to curb crude oil theft and all manners of illegalities in Nigeria’s maritime domain. All criminals and their cohorts are hereby warned that the Nigerian Navy will use all legitimate means at its disposal to track and arrest perpetrators of illegalities in Nigeria’s maritime environment. While individuals carrying out legitimate business are advised to go about their legitimate activities, the Navy solicits the cooperation of patriotic and well – meaning members of the public to promptly report any form of criminalities especially in the coastal communities to the Nigerian Navy for necessary action.
- Furthermore, it is believed that Tantita Security Service (TSS) is involved in these illegalities because Awoye riverine area which is close to the place of arrest is covered by TSS. Again, it was upon the arrest of the vessel by the Nigerian Navy that TSS began to raise false alarm, totally unfounded and indeed mischievous. Nonetheless, the Nigerian Navy remains resolute in the pursuit of her constitutional mandate for the protection of Nigeria’s Maritime Environment for national economic development and prosperity.
- You are please kindly requested to disseminate this information.
AO AYO-VAUGHAN Commodore
Director of Information
The Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation Betta Edu says her nomination as a minister was an answer to her late last year prayer at Shiloh 2022.
Shiloh, a yearly event by the Living Faith Church better known as Winners’ Chapel, attracts millions of Christian faithful in and around the country and is held in the first week of December.
While recounting her experience in the 2022 edition of the six-day programme, Edu said the Presiding Bishop of the Living Faith Church David Oyedepo had prayed about her desire to become a minister in the country.
“Church praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!! My name is Dr. Betta Edu and I came to thank God,” she said on Friday’s Hour of Visitation at the Canaanland premises of the Winners’ Chapel in the Ota area of Ogun State.
“Last year at Shiloh 2022, I prayed and told God that by the next time I come for the next year’s Shiloh, I want to be a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“On the last day of Shiloh, just as I was walking out, I saw Papa, Bishop David Oyedepo, and I went to greet him and meet him as usual and I whispered to him, ‘Papa, I need you to pray for me. I have just one prayer request now’. And he said, ‘What is it?’ I said, ‘I want to come back to Shiloh 2023 as a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria’. He put his hand on my head and he said, ‘It is done’. I stood up and I left.
“I came today to return all glory to God that in spite of all odds, today I’m a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. One of the youngest in the Fourth Republic.
“People my age, are not at the Federal Executive Council of Nigeria in this Fourth Republic. But today, I can boldly stand here to say, ‘God did it’. I came to return all glory to God.”
Edu was among the ministers screened and confirmed by the Senate in early August. At 37, she is one of the youngest ministers in President Bola Tinubu’s cabinet and was until her appointment the National Women Leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has alerted Nigerians to be cautious of counterfeit naira notes in circulation.
The apex bank issued this warning in a statement it released on Friday, advising Deposit Money Banks, Financial Houses, Bureau de Change, and the public to be vigilant and implement necessary precautions.
The CBN, however, assured the public that it is working with law enforcement operatives to apprehend those responsible for circulating counterfeit currency.
It also encouraged the public to embrace alternative modes of payment for day-to-day transactions to mitigate the risk of spreading counterfeit banknotes.
The statement read in part, “The attention of the Central Bank of Nigeria has been drawn to the circulation of counterfeit banknotes, significantly higher denominations, by some individuals for transactions in food markets and other commercial centers across major cities in the country.
“For the avoidance of doubt, Section 20(4) of the CBN Act (2007) as amended, states that: “It shall be an offence punishable by a term of imprisonment of not less than five years for any person to falsify, make or counterfeit any bank note or coin issued by the Bank which is legal tender in Nigeria.”
“The CBN is constantly collaborating with relevant security and financial agencies to confiscate fake Naira banknotes and arrest and prosecute counterfeiters.
“Members of the public are also encouraged to report anyone suspected of having counterfeit naira notes to the nearest police station or branch of the Central Bank of Nigeria.
“Meanwhile, all Deposit Money Banks, Financial Houses and Bureau de Change and the general public are enjoined to be more vigilant and take all necessary precautionary measures to curtail the acceptance and distribution of counterfeit notes.
“Furthermore, the general public is encouraged to embrace alternative modes of payment, echannels, for day-to-day transactions to mitigate the risk of spreading counterfeit banknotes.”
1. We are gathered here today, to celebrate vision and a passion for professionalism and effective service delivery.
2. It was a little over four years ago, that we had gathered at this same location, to witness the commencement of commercial operations for Ibom Air.
3. At that time, the airline, had two CRJ 900 Bombardier aircrafts in its fleet. Less than a year after it started operations, three additional CRJ 900 Bombardier aircrafts were added to its fleet, bringing it to five.
4. A year later, the airline further expanded its fleet with the addition of two brand new A220-300 Airbus series, the first of its kind in Nigerian aviation industry, bringing the total fleet to seven.
5. In the course of this period, Ibom Air became the toast of air travelers across Nigeria and a most preferred airline in the country, illuminating and defining the Nigerian airspace with the bright colors of our dear State.
6. At the Dubai Airshow in November 2021, the State Government, led by the visioner of this project and my worthy predecessor, the immediate past Governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, CON, signed a contract for the purchase of ten brand new Airbus - A200-300 series. Today, ladies and gentlemen, we are gathered here to welcome to the fleet of Ibom Air, the first of those ten Airbuses we had ordered.
7. Let me use this opportunity to thank our past leaders for the various works they did, to move our dear state from its humble beginnings 36 years ago, at its creation to today, where we are easily ranked as a subnational with easily the best road network and other infrastructural amenities in the nation.
8. Let me particularly celebrate and thank my worthy predecessor for his vision in conceptualizing and breathing life into this pride of Akwa Ibom and pride of Nigeria in the aviation industry, Ibom Air. When this idea was first announced, the usual naysayers had dismissed it as a flash of wishful thinking. But as he always would say: The answer to doubters is success that shocks and confounds. Today, Ibom Air is the leading brand in the Nigerian aviation industry, a mere four years plus after it started commercial operations.
9. Let me at this time, salute the management and staff of this airline for the professionalism and great service delivery it has brought to bear in its operations.
10. Even though this airline is owned 100 percent by the State Government, we have allowed the management to run its operations as a purely private concern and the result, has been the spectacular and phenomenal growth it has recorded so far.
11. In under five years, Ibom Air has expanded its routes to major cities in Nigeria and recently started its commercial operations to Accra, Ghana. Plans are afoot to expand the routes into the East, Central and South African regions.
12. My administration is dedicated to supporting the giant strides the airline has made. We have kept faith with all previous financial obligations entered into, with Airbus, by the immediate past administration and the result of that, is the event we are witnessing today. Government is a continuum. 1st Corinthians chapter 3: 6, captures this critical element of continuity succinctly and I quote from King James Version “ I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase”. We, will in our way, provide the increase. Since we came on board, we have provided the funds for the training of pilots and the deepening of the already first- class Cabin services of the airline.
13. We have done extensive work on the Airside perimeter fencing of the airport, and the continuous funding of the 8.5 km Airside patrol road, which is now ready for commissioning. We have equally continued the funding of the parallel Taxiway Rapid Exit, the Apron Construction, International Terminal Building, the Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul ( MRO) facility, the VIP Car Park, Access Road into the Terminal Building and the underground drain alongside the CCTV Control and Command Center.
14. Ibom Air was one of the first places I visited shortly after I was sworn in, and I had assured the management of the commitment of my administration to see to the expansion and growth of the airline. I have also, flown Ibom Air, as its Chief Marketing Officer, and what an exciting and pleasurable moment it was! To the Chief Executive Officer, our dear Captain Mfon Udom, please be kind enough to extend me an invitation to be a part of the inaugural flight on this beautiful aircraft. I will pay for myself and those to accompany me.
16. I want to commend and salute the Honorable Minister of Aviation, Mr. Festus Keyamo, SAN, who had assured me, during my recent courtesy call on him, of his willingness to partner with us. I thank you, Sir for your kind assurances .
17. Let me again thank President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, GCFR, for being a great father of the nation, and for engendering a spirit of bipartisan in our political engagements.
18. Let me also thank the Senate President, Distinguished Senator Godswill Akpabio , CON, for his support in moving our State forward. Let me also commend and salute the father of modern Akwa Ibom State, Arc (Obong)Victor Attah, whom this airport is appropriately named after, for being the one who started the construction of this airport and mooted the idea for the construction of the MRO. We certainly have been very blessed with great and visionary leaders! I am dedicated to expanding and enlarging, the great works these leaders had started, by the grace of God.
19. To the management and staff of Ibom Air, a great job done, means more work to be done. We have no doubt you will keep rising to the occasion and exceed expectations. Congratulations Ibom Air, congratulations Akwa Ibom State and congratulations Nigeria!
God bless us all
See Pictures Below:
Nigerians from across the country and foreign dignitaries would squeeze into the 30,000-capacity stadium in Uyo on Saturday, December 9, to celebrate the 61st birthday of the Senate President, Senator Godswill Obot Akpabio. They will sing, dance, and give thanks to the Almighty for the life and strides of one of the nation’s most charismatic political leaders. Five days later in Abuja, they’d congregate in the Congress Hall of the Hilton Hotel for a national colloquium on Legislative Agenda for National Development to continue festivity. President Bola Tinubu will be there with Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, former Senate President, who will chair the occasion; while Olisa Agbakoba, eminent lawyer, will give the lecture. Two law teachers, Prof. Abiola Sanni, a University of Lagos professor of commercial lawyer with specialty in tax law and Prof. Joash Amupitan, DVC of UniJos, together with Mr. Tunder Fowler, former FIRS Chairman, will discuss the theme and add their own perspectives. With the country facing serious fiscal crisis, it is not surprising that the discussions would be tilting towards taxation, government’s revenue and how to grow the economy.
In between these two events, many other festivities in Akwa Ibom and across the country are being organized by Akpabio’s friends, political allies and colleagues. In a way, it feels like a big national event. The news is trending in the social media and in Abuja, radio talk shows are playing it up, with some repeating the fake information that the celebrations are being funded from the treasury. Akpabio’s media adviser, Mr. Eseme Eyibo, had earlier debunked the story, originated by Jackson Ude, a Nigerian in Diaspora notorious for spawning untruths about politicians. I have had cause in the past, while serving as media consultant to the Office of the Vice President when Prof. Yemi Osinbajo was in the office, to rebut Ude’s fabrications. There’s no prominent family Ude has not assailed. Living abroad gives him some kind of immunity to denigrate others.
Raised by a single mother (his father died even before he was born), Akpabio is from a very modest beginning. He loves to tell his story, lacing it with his civil war childhood, when Nigerian soldiers ransacked his community, killing and maiming, and how difficult it was for him to go to school. Biafra’s second-in-command, Gen. Phillip Efiong, grew up in that community, and so the rebel forces had quickly taken control of the area. In his memoire, Efiong recalls how he had asked Ojukwu for enhanced protection for his community because of the intelligence he had received of the impending counteroffensive by the federal side. The request, Efiong writes, was not granted. As the war progressed and Biafra continued to lose control, Nigerian forces came into Ikot Ekpene and the environs around late 1968 or early 1969 to liberate the area. They spared no person or animal. Women and children poured into the main road leading to Uyo, running and walking the 30-kilometer distance, to escape the fight. As governor, Senator Akpabio was fond of reminiscing on this story and the abject poverty of his early days. A toddler about the same time, I have also had cause to reminisce on my own war experience.
Akpabio, his family and many who know him closely tend to believe that he is a man after God’s heart for beating all odds and growing up to occupy very important leadership positions at every phase of his life. From secondary school (Federal Government College, Port Harcourt), where he was the Social Prefect to University of Calabar where he was Speaker of the Students’ Union Parliament, down to his recent election into the Executive Committee of Inter-Parliamentary Union, his path seems to be well laid out. ‘’Well, he has his foibles and weaknesses like the rest of us, but clearly, if you look at his background and humble beginnings and see where he is today, you can say that he is a man whom God has a special interest in’’, says Pastor David Usenobong, a church leader.
Senator Akpabio’s election into the Executive Committee of IPU at the 147th General Assembly of the global parliamentary body in Luanda, Angola, comes 59 years after Nigeria last occupied the seat. IPU is the global organization of national parliaments founded in 1889 and dedicated to promoting peace through parliamentary diplomacy and dialogue. It has grown into a truly global body with 179-member countries out of 193 countries in the world. You can then see why many are celebrating with Senator Akpabio, with the 17 senators from his own geopolitical zone cheerleading. In a goodwill message to be published in newspapers, they write: ’we salute your accomplished service to the 10th National Assembly and Nigeria at large’. Friends, family and associates are equally effusive with their compliments. Dr. Efiong Akwa, former chief executive of NDDC notes, ‘’when the hand of God is upon a man, what follows naturally is grace. The same man becomes unstoppable, moving from glory to glory…’’. Akpabio’s four children have also composed a special message to daddy: ‘’Today is a celebration, not just of the passing years, but of the incredible life you’ve lived. Six decades of your wisdom, love and laughter have shaped not only your own journey, but have left an incredible mark on ours as well’’.
Gov. Umo Eno has asked the people to toss aside political differences and celebrate with Senator Akpabio. ‘’I will be there at the stadium on Saturday to celebrate with the Senate President, and I invite you to attend in your numbers. I thank God that it is in my time that an Akwa Ibom son has been elected to occupy such an important position in the country’’, he announced at an official event Wednesday. The state has always been politically divided along party lines, but since Eno assumed office six months ago, he’s worked hard to close ranks and bring the people together. This is the first time that a governor of the state has ever had anything to do with opposition politicians or invite them to state functions. It is a refreshing departure from the past.
As I end, let me recall a small incident. In February 2008, Akpabio asked me to see him at the Governor’s Lodge, along Bishop Abayode Cole Street, Victoria Island, Lagos. He was then just eight months into his first term as governor and I was managing a branch of a bank not far from there. His personal physician, Dr. Iniobong Essien, had arranged the appointment. I arrived in the afternoon just as his motorcade swept into the compound, and I was soon ushered in. It was a brief visit. The governor thanked me for teaming up with other friends in Lagos to support his campaign and spoke of his plans to develop the state. I said a few words and soon, I got up to go. He stood up and walked me to the door, and just as I was about to exit, I said, quite impromptu, ‘’Your Excellency, please serve our people well. There is a bigger room for you at the top’’. He smiled, without saying a word. Well, 15 years after, see what we’ve got.
Congratulations, Senator Akpabio!
Katsina State governor, Mallam Dikko Umaru Radda, has called on the federal government to probe the death of over 100 people in last weekend‘s misjudged bombings in Kaduna State.
He described the situation as a „tragic and devastating incident“ that left many in sorrow and anguish.
The governor made the plea in a statement signed by his chief press secretary, Ibrahim Mohammed Kaula, condoling the people and the government of Kaduna State as well as families of the affected victims.
He expressed sadness over the gruesome event which could have been avoided if the military troops had carefully analyzed the credible intelligence they had received of terrorists‘ movement, before launching their brutal aerial onslaught.
“The fact that this ugly incident is not just occurring for the first time calls for serious concern. But moving forward, lessons should be learnt, to avoid a recurrence.
„The government and people of Katsina State share in the sorrow of this unfortunate mishap. We stand in solidarity with the victims and their dejected families.
„More importantly, we urge the federal government and the military hierarchy to thoroughly probe this latest miscalculated airstrike, which has left sorrow and agony in its wake.
„Let its immediate and remote causes be investigated diligently, and necessary preventive measures taken.
„Also, the need for gathering credible and actionable intelligence before military operations are launched by troops cannot be overemphasized,“ the statement reads.
Arewa Youth Federation has disassociated itself from the demands for the sacking of the minister of defence, Badaru Abubakar, over the recent Kaduna bombing.
In a statement signed by its spokesperson, Comrade Adamu Adamu, the group said it does not know the individuals who held a rally calling for Badaru‘s dismissal.
While expressing regret over the unfortunate incident, Adamu lamented the political exploitation of security issues by certain politicians, particularly the use of fifth columnists who see the minister as the stumbling block to their selfish interests.
The group, however, reiterated its support for this minister‘s efforts to eradicate insecurity and usher the nation onto a trajectory of enduring peace, stability, and economic prosperity.
The statement said, „As representatives of the Arewa Youth Federation (AYF), we gathered here today to emphatically disassociate ourselves and the entire Northern Nigerian youth from the recent demands presented by a group during a rally held in Abuja, demanding the resignation of the Hon. Minister of Defence or his sack by the President.
„It‘s imperative to acknowledge the commendable efforts of the Minister of Defence in addressing the security challenges in the nation inherited by the current administration, particularly in stabilizing the Northern region which was severely ravaged by banditry activities. Notably, there has been a noticeable decrease in daily kidnappings along the Abuja-Kaduna Highway which testifies to the progress made so far in addressing insecurity challenges across the country.
“These proactive measures taken so far, have curbed the menace of bandits and crippled their capacity to carry out audacious attacks on villages as seen in the past thus providing a sense of security to the affected communities and the citizens at large. Regrettably, we recognize the unfortunate incident in Tudun Biri village in Kaduna State where civilians attending a Maulud gathering were mistakenly affected by an operation of the Nigerian Army that was originally meant to target bandits.”
Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has called on the country’s budgeting agencies to separate the budget of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) from Nigeria’s annual budget to enable effective implementation of the Fund’s mandate.
ASUU president, Prof Emmanuel Osodoke, made the appeal, yesterday, during TETFund Alliance for Innovative Research (TETFAIR) showcase held at Innov8 Technology Hub, Airport Road, Abuja.
Osodeke, who was speaking against the backdrop of suspicion that the national budget may not enjoy 100 per cent implementation, observed that strangely, for the first time, the government decided to add TETFund’s budget to the national budget.
The ASUU president added that once TETTund’s budget is included in the national budget, „it is finished.”
He also called on Nigerians to deal with the inferiority complex, which allows them to depend on services abroad, stating that every country in the world that wants to develop must use its ideas and use its people and those ideas are in the universities.
Osodeke decried continuous patronage of foreign goods and services by Nigerians even when they can be sourced locally.
“In 2020 we were challenged to produce something better than IPPIS, it took us two months to produce it, UTA, which we have presented to the National Assembly, to the House; then we said let’s test the twin and IPPIS came last; but Nigeria insisted on using IPPIS.
“Every year, the Nigerian government pays $40 to a company in the UK to pay my salary and you reject the one in your university. You want to do anything you run abroad,” he said.
While commending TETFund for the TETFAIR project, he assured that the men engaged in the scheme can solve Nigeria‘s problems, stating that “we must come back home and use our ideas.”
Osodeke also warned against political interference in TETFund from authorities overseeing the ministry.
“Nigeria is in a deep crisis. Our best brains whether in the academic or medical field are leaving the country. Thousands of our colleagues, the good ones, are leaving the country. Some are leaving to go and farm. We must rescue our country. Allow the money for universities go into universities,” he said.
Also, the minister of labour and employment, Simon Lalong, who described the occasion as a celebration of the remarkable innovative achievements over the year, said the scheme serves as a platform for researchers and innovators to showcase their groundbreaking ideas to transform them into tangible solutions.
Lalong expressed confidence that the valuable experiences gained through the TETFAIR will empower Nigerian scholars to contribute significantly to their fields at home and internationally.
Earlier, the executive secretary of TETFund, Arc Sonny Echono, said the fair was organised to support researchers in universities to bring their innovative ideas to fruition.
While reiterating the importance of Nigeria transiting to a knowledge-based economy, Echono stated that the world has moved from a resource rich economy to a knowledge-based one and Nigeria cannot afford to lag behind.
“TETFund, as the foremost interventionist agency in Nigeria‘s Tertiary Education Sector has deepened its intervention in content- based programmes. The Fund is making conscious investments in support of research, innovation and development as it remains the most compelling strategy for accelerating sustainable growth.
“In our bid to promote the institutionalisation of R&D, we have sought effective support for impactful research and innovation through partnership between tertiary institutions/research institutes, industry and government as a national response towards technology,” he said.
On his part, the minister of state for education, Hon Yusuf Sununu, said the TETFAIR was not the only research effort being made towards national development, stating that Nigerian researchers were also engaged in multi prong efforts, including the development of vaccines for preventable diseases in Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto.
Sununu called on TETFund to scale up copyright ownership protection so that the innovators will not lose copyright ownership of their products and services.
In her remarks, the chairman House Committee on Tertiary Education, Princess Miriam Onouha, expressed satisfaction with the level of research efforts put together by Nigerian academics through TETFund‘s partnership with Innov8 Hub under the TETFAIR scheme.
Onouha expressed hope that gains made in the project will eventually help to address unemployment in the country, while assuring that the legislature will provide the needed support to ensure success of the TETFAIR.