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Hardship: Nationwide Protest Must Hold, DSS Can Keep Its Unsolicited Advice – NLC President, Ajaero

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The President of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Joe Ajaero, has explained why the labour union is determined to embark on the planned nationwide hunger protest across the country on February 27 and 28.

Ajaero, who gave the explanation on Friday evening while speaking on X space hosted by SaharaReporters, also clarified that the Trade Union Congress (TUC) had never been part of the planned protest from the beginning.

Asked of the specific challenges facing Nigerians that necessitated the declaration of the two-day nationwide protest and the position of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Ajaero listed the high cost of food items, cement, transport, amongst others, which according to him were orchestrated by removal of fuel subsidy.

He said, “Clearly speaking, TUC has never been part of the action from conception. The only warning signal was the TUC coming out to say they are not part of it, even when we didn’t say they are part of it.

“For them to have gone further to deduce some letters disassociating themselves and leaking it to the media. Such statements were unprovoked. Their letter coming the same day the DSS sent a letter to us, warning us to shelve the protest, gives course to odd.

“The NLC at its National Executive Council last Friday, resolved to have a two-day protest on the cost of living on the high sea faced by Nigerians, and by implication, workers, to make their (NLC) position known, not just to the government but to every Nigerian.”

Ajaero said that the NLC in its response told the DSS “To keep their unsolicited advice; because history will not forgive NLC if we should keep quiet at this moment in Nigeria’s political history.”

On mobilisation for the planned protest, the NLC President said that all industrial unions in the country and 36 state councils and Abuja had resolved to organise the protest, adding that the union had started forwarding all the mobilisation materials to all the states, and had held several meetings with the union’s civil society allies.

Ajaero said that “The whole crisis of this hardship and hunger started with the removal of fuel subsidy,” stressing that “The moment that was touched, transportation and everything associated with it went up, that even if a wanted to go to a bush market to buy plantain, before she would transport it to the town, a lot of money has gone into it, and it will go out of the reach of an ordinary man.”

He said that this was further aggravated by the free float of the Naira “Where Naira today is getting to almost N2,000 per Dollar.”

According to him, “The implication of that is that every other neighbouring country’s currencies are higher than Nigeria in value and that has led to a very large extent, the issue of smuggling.

“For a businesswoman, no matter how primitive and local, who knows that if she sells a paint of garri for N3,000, if she takes it through the border between Nigeria and Cotonou or Nigeria and Niger Republic, she will sell it maybe for N7,000, she would find her way to that area. To that extent, food will no longer be cheap and available to the common man.”

The NLC President further noted that those who have their children abroad, some of the children are really suffering at the moment.

He said that this is “Because, assuming there is any worker that is earning N1 million in Nigeria, but I doubt, if you convert it, you will hardly get maybe $500. Now, you can’t even take care of your kids.”

He added that “In that circumstances, school fees seem to have jumped up. Cost of cement has jumped up. We may say that it is someone who has money that is building a house, the people who manage to build can’t rent it because of the costs of cement and other building materials.

“There is nothing that the Nigerian government has a competitive advantage that will make people import such products from Nigeria. The only one which is crude oil, the government has equally not been refining it here. A bag of rice now is about N70,000 and above.

“An average worker who holds a wage economy, some of them earn N30,000, and that N30,000 most states are not paying it. And that N30,000 is not enough for you to transport yourself to office to and fro for about 20 days. Those are the challenges we have.”

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NIMC Speaks On New National ID Card

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Following the announcement of the planned release of a new National Identification Number in the country by the Federal Government last week, the National Identity Management Çommission, NIMC has provided further clarifications on the proposed ID.

In a statement released and signed by Head of Corporate Communications, Kayode Adegoke on Friday, the Commission said the new National ID Card is coming as a single, convenient, and General multipurpose card (GMPC), eliminating the need for multiple cards.

The single card with GMPC is said to have multiple use cases. as: Payments/Financial, Government intervention/services, travel, etc.

The card, according to the National Identity Management Commission is working with the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Nigerian Interbank Settlement System to deliver the payment and financial use cases.

“The card will be powered by the AFRIGO card scheme, an indigenous scheme powered by NIBSS.

Applicants for the card will have to request with their NIN through the self-service online portal, NIMC offices, or their respective banks.

“The card will be issued through the applicants’ respective banks in line with existing protocols with the issuance of the Debit/Credit cards.

“The card can be picked up by holders at the designated centre or delivered to the applicants at the requested location at an extra cost to be borne by the applicants’” the statement said.

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Nigerian Breweries shuts down two of its 9 plants due to ‘persistently challenging business environment’

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Nigerian Breweries Plc (NB plc) has indicated plans for company-wide reorganisation as part of strategic recovery plan which entails the temporary shutting down of two out of its nine breweries in Nigeria.

Following the recent announcement of its business recovery plan, the conglomerate which is a member of the HEINEKEN Group and Nigeria’s pioneer and largest brewing company indicated plans for a company-wide reorganisation aimed at securing a resilient and sustainable future for its stakeholders.

The company said the move is essential to improve its operational efficiency, financial stability and enable a return of the business to profitability, in the face of the persistently challenging business environment.

In letters signed by the company’s Human Resource Director, Grace Omo-Lamai, and addressed to the leadership of the National Union of Food, Beverage & Tobacco Employees (NUFBTE) and the Food Beverage and Tobacco Senior Staff Association (FOBTOB), the company informed both unions that its proposed plan would include operational efficiency measures and a company-wide reorganisation that includes the temporary suspension of operations in two of its nine breweries.

As a result, and in accordance with labour requirements, the Company invited the Unions to discussions on the implications of the proposed measures.

It would be recalled that the company recently notified the Nigerian Exchange Group (NGX) of its plan to raise capital of up to ₦600 billion (Six Hundred billion naira) by way of a Rights Issue, as a means of restoring the company’s balance sheet to a healthy position following the net finance expenses of N189 billion recorded in 2023 driven mainly by a foreign exchange loss of N153 billion resulting from the devaluation of the naira.

Speaking on these developments, Managing Director/CEO Nigerian Breweries Plc, Hans Essaadi described the business recovery plan as strategic and vital for business continuity:

“The tough business landscape characterised by double-digit inflation rates, naira devaluation, FX challenges and diminished consumer spend has taken its toll on many businesses, including ours. This is why we have taken the decision to further consolidate our business operations for efficient cost management and optimal use of our resources for future sustainable growth”.

“We recognise and regret the impact that the suspension of brewery operations in the two affected locations may have on our employees. We are committed to limiting the impact on our people as much as possible by exhausting all options available including the relocation and redistribution of employees to our other seven breweries; and providing strong support and severance packages to all those that become unavoidably affected. We are also committed to supporting our host communities in ways that ensure they continue to feel our presence.”

“We remain wholly committed to having a positive impact on our host communities and our consumers; leveraging our strong supply chain footprint; excellent execution of our route to market strategy; and our rich portfolio of brands across the Lager, Stout, Malt, Soft drinks, and Energy drinks categories; and more recently, Wines and Spirits with the acquisition of Distell”, he added.

The Nigerian Breweries’ business recovery plan includes a Rights Issue and a company-wide reorganisation exercise which includes temporary suspension of two out of its nine breweries in the country and an optimisation of production capacity in the other seven breweries, some of which have received significant capital investment in recent years.

The company reaffirmed its commitment to the long-term future of Nigeria and “stands as a cornerstone of Nigeria’s beverage industry.”With over 77 years of operations, the company said it would continue to demonstrate its enduring commitment to the Nigerian market and its people.

Incorporated in 1946 as “Nigerian Brewery Limited,” NB Plc made history in June 1949 when the first bottle of STAR lager beer rolled out of its Lagos brewery bottling line.

Today, it has a rich portfolio of 21 high-quality brands, including iconic brands like Heineken, Desperados, Maltina, Life, Amstel Malta, Gulder, Fayrouz, and Legend produced from nine breweries and distributed nationwide.

NN Plc recently added to its portfolio with the acquisition of an 80% business stake in Distell Wines and Spirits Limited, a local business in the wines and spirits category, as a demonstration of its resilient and forward-thinking strategy to deliver long-term value creation for its shareholders and other stakeholders.

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Nigeria becomes first country to introduce new 5-in-1 vaccine against meningitis – WHO

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By Francesca Hangeior

Nigeria has become the first country in the world to roll out a new vaccine – Men5CV – recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), to protect people against meningitis.

The World Health body, in a statement on Friday, said that the vaccine would protect people against five strains of Meningococcus bacteria and described Nigeria’s feat as historic.

It said that health workers would begin an immunisation campaign aimed at reaching one million people.

The statement said that the vaccine and emergency vaccination activities are funded by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which funds the global meningitis vaccine stockpile and supports lower-income countries with routine vaccination against meningitis.

According to the WHO, Nigeria is one of the 26 meningitis hyper-endemic countries in Africa, situated in the area known as the African Meningitis Belt.

It noted that in 2023, there was a 50 per cent jump in annual meningitis cases reported across Africa.

“In Nigeria, an outbreak of Neisseria meningitidis (meningococcus) serogroup C outbreak, led to 1,742 suspected meningitis cases, including 101 confirmed cases and 153 deaths in seven of the 36 Nigerian states between October 2023 and March 2024.
The states are Adamawa, Bauchi, Gombe, Jigawa, Katsina, Yobe, and Zamfara.

“To quell the deadly outbreak, a vaccination campaign was undertaken on March 25–28, 2024, to initially reach more than one million people aged 1-29 years,” it said.

The statement noted that meningitis is a serious infection that leads to the inflammation of the membranes (meninges) that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord.

“There are multiple causes of meningitis, including viral, bacterial, fungal, and parasitic pathogens.

“Symptoms often include headache, fever, and stiff neck. Bacterial meningitis is the most serious and can also result in septicaemia (blood poisoning). It can seriously disable or kill within 24 hours,” the statement added.

It quoted Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, as saying that meningitis was an old and deadly foe, adding that the new vaccine holds the potential to change the trajectory of the disease, preventing future outbreaks and saving many lives.

“Nigeria’s rollout brings us one step closer to our goal of eliminating meningitis by 2030,” Ghebreyesus said.

He said that the revolutionary new vaccine offers a powerful shield against the five major strains of the meningococcal bacteria – A, C, W, Y, and X – in a single shot.

All five strains cause meningitis and blood poisoning.

According to him, this provides broader protection than the current vaccine used in much of Africa, which is only effective against the A strain.

He said that the new vaccine has the potential to significantly reduce meningitis cases and advance progress in defeating meningitis.

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