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FG to issue executive order to slash medicine costs – Minister

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The federal government will soon issue an executive order to regulate pharmaceutical prices and make essential medicines more affordable for citizens.

Coordinating Minister of Health, Ali Pate, disclosed this to State House correspondents on Wednesday after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by President Bola Tinubu at the Presidential Villa.

He stated that rising drug costs have put life saving commodities out of reach for many Nigerians.

According to him, the executive order aims to enable local drug manufacturers to thrive, while ensuring fair pricing of essential medicines.

He said this follows the exit of major multinational pharmaceutical companies from Nigeria, reducing competition.

According to Pate, the order reflects President Tinubu’s commitment under the Renewed Hope Agenda to prioritise healthcare access.

He said: “Consistent with the President’s Renewed Hope Agenda, which puts the human capital, health and social welfare of Nigerians at the centre, today at the Federal Executive Council, Mr. President took three far-reaching decisions relating to the health sector.

“The first is on the rising cost of pharmaceuticals, the hike in prices that we have in the pharmaceutical, which is going beyond the reach of many Nigerians, life-saving commodities, devices like syringes and needles and the exit of major companies from our market.

“Those decisions also include the regulation of the sector to protect the health and well-being of humans and the third decision is regarding how we deal with the crisis of human resources in the health sector.

“The first on the syringes, drugs, pharmaceuticals and other devices, as you’ll recall, Mr President, in his wisdom, at the end of last year, in October, approved an initiative to unlock the healthcare value-chain and appointed a coordinator for that. But we know that the price of pharmaceuticals have escalated and many entities have decided to withdraw and some of the local manufacturers in Nigeria are struggling.

“The President’s intent is that we begin to take steps to enable the local manufacturers to survive, to thrive and to deliver the basic commodities that are key to saving their lives.

“And he directed that the Attorney General of the Federation work with us to come up with an executive order, which is the mechanism through which he will act, given the concern that he has that many Nigerians are suffering from the costs of pharmaceuticals, as well as other devices. That is the first important step and that should be coming very soon.”

The minister also said to strengthen healthcare regulation and protect citizens, key regulatory bodies, including the Medical and Dental Council will continue to receive funding, exception from cuts impacting other professional associations.

Also to address the shortage of healthcare workers, Pate said the council has delegated approval of recruitment waivers to the Health Ministry directly.

According to him, this will accelerate hiring and reduce delays.

“The third is regarding the acute human resource shortage that we have. We know and having gone around many of our hospitals, particularly federal tertiary hospitals, the replacement of health workers that leave oftentimes takes a very long time because waiver process takes several stages.

“Mr President directed in council that the approvals of those waivers be delegated to the Federal Ministry of Health and Social Welfare so that it doesn’t have to go through the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation.

“That will hasten the recruitment of health workers in terms of those who are out there unemployed, within limits of their fiscal resources.

“All in all, to say that the President is very keen that we drive forward to safeguard the health of Nigerians, to earn the confidence, the trust of Nigerians and to deliver for Nigerians in this new year that we have started and the marching orders are very clear,” he added.

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A cardiologist’s view on the freezing oil challenge

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As a journalist always on the lookout for intriguing stories, the buzz surrounding the “Freezing Oil Challenge” piqued my curiosity. What exactly does this challenge entail, and what deeper insights lie beneath its surface? Armed with questions and a thirst for knowledge, I embarked on a journey to uncover the truth behind this viral sensation.

During investigation, I came across Aproko Doctor’s video content on social media where he explained why certain cooking oils freeze.

According to him, some oils have high levels of saturated fats, while others have high levels of unsaturated fats. Oils with high levels of saturated fats tend to freeze when kept in the fridge. He further clarified that oils with high-unsaturated fats like Soya oil & Olive oil do not freeze in the fridge. He advised consumers to read product labels and check the nutritional information to make the right choice when selecting cooking oils.

This information led me to more unanswered questions about Saturated fat, polyunsaturated fat, and trans fats. To paint a comprehensive picture, I knew I needed more expert insights. I reached out to Dr. Monisola Adanijo, a respected cardiologist whose expertise in cardiovascular health could offer invaluable perspectives.

Dr. Adanijo, like Aproko Doctor,  highlighted the importance of being cautious about trans fat. However, she also explained the harmful effects of oils rich in saturated fats, as these fats increase cholesterol levels in your body, leading to health issues like heart disease, stroke, etc. Whereas, unsaturated fatty acids reduce cholesterol levels in your body hence they are good for your health.

She pointed out that many unhealthy cooking oils are rich in saturated fats available in the Nigerian market. How can a consumer understand that your cooking oil contains a high level of unhealthy saturated fats?

She suggested a simple test: if an oil turns solid when in the fridge, it most likely contains high levels of saturated fat. Whereas, oils rich in healthy unsaturated fat will not freeze.

She urged consumers to be mindful while selecting their vegetable oil. Dr. Adanijo advised to check the product level very well, in order to choose the right healthy oil. The oil with high polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and low saturated fats is the best choice.

This is because polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) is good for heart health and lowers cholesterol, while ones with high saturated fats are bad for health.

Oils such as Olive oil and Soya Oil are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) which are good for your heart health and low in saturated fat. A good example is Golden Terra Soya Oil, which is available in our market.

As I wrap up my investigation, I reflected on how the oil freezing challenge may have captured our attention momentarily, but its implications resonate far beyond the confines of social media, reminding us of the profound interplay between health, and our everyday choices of the right cooking oil brands when preparing our family meals

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NERC transfers regulatory oversight of Enugu Electricity Market to EERC

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Following the Enugu State Electricity Law signed by Governor Peter Mbah and the recent constitution of the Enugu State Electricity Regulatory Commission, ESERC, by the Mbah administration, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) has formerly transferred the regulatory oversight of the Enugu State electricity market to the state agency effective May 1, 2024.

This is the first time NERC would be ceding such regulatory authority to any state electricity regulatory agency.

The transfer was made known by NERC on Monday in an April 22, 2024 Order No. NERC/2024/039 signed by the Commission’s Chairman, Sanusi Garba, and the Commissioner for Legal, Licensing, and Compliance, Dafe Akpeneye.

The transfer is sequel to the amendments of the Paragraph 14 (b) of the Second Schedule to the 1999 Constitution by the 9th National Assembly in 2023 as well as the Electricity Electricity Act 2023, both of which effectively devolved power generation, transmission, and distribution from the Exclusive List to the Concurrent List and also empowered the states to manage and regulate their electricity markets within their jurisdictions.

It is recalled that the Mbah administration initiated the Enugu State Electricity Bill 2023, which the governor signed into Law in September the same year and also set the pace in March 2024 constituted the Enugu State Electricity Regulatory Commission (ESERC) led by Chijioke Okonkwo as the Chairman/CEO.

The Electricity Act 2023 provides that within 45 days of receiving formal notification of the enactment of the law under subsection (1), the Commission (NERC) shall draw and deliver to the State Regulator a draft order setting out a plan and timeline for the transition of regulatory responsibilities from the Commission to the State Regulator, which transition shall be completed not later than 6 months from the date on which the formal notification in subsection (1) was delivered to the Commission.

Explaining further, NERC said the ESERC now holds the exclusive power to set and adopt end-user electricity tariffs within Enugu State, tailoring these charges to local conditions and requirements.

Also, while ESERC manages local tariff methodologies, any electricity sourced from grid-connected plants and the related tariffs for generation and transmission services must still receive approval from the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), ensuring alignment with national energy policies.

Furthermore, the final tariffs approved by ESERC for consumers in Enugu State will be definitive for the state, with the Enugu State Government responsible for supporting and implementing tariff-related policies, ensuring that electricity pricing is both fair and attuned to the specific needs of the state’s residents.

Consequently, NERC ordered that: “Enugu Electricity Distribution Company PLC, EEDC, is hereby directed to incorporate a subsidiary EEDC SubCo under the Companies and Allied Matters Act for the assumption of responsibilities for intrastate supply and distribution of electricity in Enugu State from EEDC.

“EEDC shall complete the incorporation of EEDC SubCo within 60 days from the effective date of this Order and, EEDC SubCo shall apply for and obtain a licence for the intrastate supply and distribution of electricity from EERC.

“EEDC shall identify the actual geographic boundaries of Enugu State and carve out its network in Enugu State as a standalone network with the installation of boundary meters at all border points where the network crosses from Enugu State into another state.

“EEDC shall create an Asset Register of all its power infrastructure located within Enugu State.

“Evaluate and apportion contractual obligations and liabilities attributable to EEDC’s operations of its subsidiary in Enugu State.

“Identify all the applicable trading points for energy o take for the operations of EEDC SubCo in Enugu State

“Confirm the number of employees that are required to provide service to Enugu State as a standalone public utility; and transfer the identified assets for operations in Enugu State, contractual obligations, liabilities and employees to EEDC Subco.”

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Eko Disco: WPG sacks Tinuade Sanda

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West Power & Gas Limited, WPG, the majority shareholder of Eko Electricity Distribution Company, EKEDC, has terminated the appointment of the former managing director of the Disco, Tinuade Sanda.

WPG disclosed this in a recent letter signed by the chairman of WPG, Charles Momoh.

The letter noted that Sanda was no longer an employee of the company on April 17, 2024.

“We refer to your contract of employment dated April 1, 2022, signed between you and WPG Limited. At this moment, we advise you that your service is no longer required, and accordingly, your employment with WPG Ltd is hereby terminated effective April 17, 2021, by clause 10.2 of the Contract. “WPG is obligated to pay you three months’ salary instead of notice and advises that the due amounts have been credited to your account. You are requested to kindly return all the Company’s properties (whether WPG or EKEDP ) in your possession, including but not limited to laptops, identity cards, and status cars upon receipt of this letter.”

The Development comes amid controversy surrounding Sanda’s removal by EKEDC.

Sanda was earlier seconded to the Disco and had returned to WPG when she was removed as EKEDC MD. Mrs. Rekhiat Momoh was appointed as Sanda’s replacement.

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