Nigeria to continue with clinical trials of malaria drug for Covid-19

A medical health worker marks a sample testing kit in Abuja
The WHO had suspended trials citing safety concerns

Nigeria will continue with the planned clinical trials on malaria drug hydroxychloroquine on Covid-19 patients even after the World Health Organization (WHO) halted a similar effort because of safety fears.

The director of Nigeria's National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (Nafdac), Mojisola Adeyeye, told a local broadcaster that she does not dispute WHO's conclusions but they want to generate their own data.

I do not know the data that they’re looking at, whether it’s from the Caucasian population or from the African population. If the data they’re looking at and the reason for suspending the trials is from Caucasian population, then it may be justified. But I don’t think we have data from the African population yet, because our genetic make up is different."

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Prof Adeyeye said the clinical trials will be concluded in three to four months.

A recent medical study in medical journal The Lancet suggested the drug could increase the risk of patients dying from Covid-19.

Hydroxychloroquine is safe for malaria, and conditions like lupus or arthritis, but no clinical trials have recommended its use for treating Covid-19.


Fifty trafficked Nigerian women rescued from Lebanon

BBC World Service

Victims of human trafficking
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Fifty trafficked Nigerian women have been rescued from Lebanon and returned to their home country.

They have been placed in quarantine as a precaution against coronavirus and will be interviewed about their experiences.

The Nigerian Foreign Ministry said the Lebanese authorities had assisted in securing the women's release.

Last year, a Nigerian woman was freed from forced labour in Lebanon.

Another 15 Nigerians, stranded in Lebanon due to lockdowns, have also been repatriated.

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Nigeria has 'no money' to import food

Celestina Olulode

BBC News

A man carries bags of rice on his head
Nigeria has been trying to boost domestic rice production

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has said that Nigerian farmers must produce enough for the country to eat, saying that the country has "no money to import" food.

The comments follow concerns around food insecurity during the coronavirus pandemic and rising food prices in Africa’s most populous nation.

According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Programme, even before the Covid-19 crisis, farmers had not been able to satisfy demand for Nigeria’s population of some 200 million.

Although the agricultural sector remains a major employer, it has suffered years of neglect as the country’s economy focused heavily on oil revenue.

Nigeria has been trying to boost domestic rice production for some time, cracking down on smuggled imports from Thailand by closing the country’s land borders last year.

Prior to the ban, Nigeria used to import over a million tonnes of rice from Thailand annually.

Now it only allows foreign rice through its ports - and imposes high import taxes.

Food prices have risen in Nigeria since the onset of coronavirus and government revenues have been hit badly by the fall in global oil prices.

The International Monetary Fund predicts that Africa's biggest economy will contract by 1.5% points in 2020.

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Nigeria fines British company for flouting flight ban

Nigeria's Aviation Minister Hadi Sirika
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Nigeria has fined British aviation company Flairjet after its plane contravened a ban on commercial flights imposed to prevent the spread of coronavirus, the aviation minister has said.

The FlairJet plane was impounded on 17 May for carrying passengers despite only having approval for humanitarian operations.

The west African country has banned passenger flights into the country, except those repatriating Nigerian citizens or evacuating foreign nationals.

Minister Hadi Sirika said on Twitter the company was fined for violating civil aviation regulations and had been reported to the UK Civil Aviation Authority.

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Buhari laments Covid-19 impact on Africa's biggest economy

A woman walks on a median as she carries a reusable bag with an inscription "Time is Money" along a street in Lagos, Nigeria
Nigeria halted the second phase of easing of restrictions

Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari has lamented the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on Africa's biggest economy following stringent measures imposed to contain coronavirus outbreak.

In the capital Abuja, and the commercial hub Lagos, businesses were closed for more than four weeks before restrictions were eased from 4 May. Inter-state passenger travel is still banned across the country, while school and restaurants are closed.

President Buhari has said the country has no money to import food and urged farmers to get back to work to produce enough food for the country.

Mr Buhari said the increase in the number of coronavirus cases in the country was frightening.

The International Monetary Fund predicts that Africa's economy will contract by 1.5% points in 2020.

Nigeria was to proceed to a second phase of easing restrictions last week, but the task force in charge of fighting the pandemic said the country was not yet ready for full reopening of the economy.

Mr Buhari opted for private Eid prayers in State House as opposed to the usual large celebrations he holds every year.

He urged Nigerians to follow the ministry of health's guidelines to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Nigeria's Channel TV shared a video of the president speaking after Eid prayers at State House:

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Nigeria has so far confirmed 7,839 cases of coronavirus including 226 deaths.


Nigerians rush to stock up on hydroxychloroquine

A man stacking up drugs in a pharmacy
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Chloroquine, like most other drugs, can be bought over the counter without a doctor's prescription in Nigeria

The authorities in Nigeria say they are concerned that people are buying large quantities of hydroxychloroquine - a drug touted, but not yet proven, to help cure Covid-19.

Head of the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19, Boss Mustapha, said the government had through its surveillance system, received reports of abuse of the anti-malaria drug.

“We wish to reiterate that this drug has not been certified for use in treating Covid-19 in Nigeria by the relevant health and pharmaceutical authorities.

"Self-medication of any kind is fraught with the danger of increasing risks of avoidable casualties," he said.

Chloroquine has been phased out as a front-line anti-malaria drug in Nigeria, where malaria is endemic, following widespread resistance to it.

However, the drug has been approved for clinical trials in the treatment of coronavirus in Lagos state, Nigeria's epicentre for the virus which has so far recorded more than 3,000 cases.

Chloroquine has not yet been shown to be safe and effective in the prevention or treatment of coronavirus and the World Health Organization has warned that individuals who self-medicate risk causing themselves serious harm.

In late March, there were reports of people in Nigeria overdosing on the drug with some ending up in hospital, after US President Donald Trump touted hydroxychloroquine as a possible treatment for Covid-19.

This week, Mr Trump said he was taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventative measure against Covid-19, although scientists have warned about side effects.

Nigeria has reported 4,898 active cases of Covid-19 with 211 deaths and 1,907 recoveries.

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Covid-19: Lagos to begin anti-malarial drug trials

Celestina Olulode

BBC News

A health worker takes a swab from a man during a community Covid-19 coronavirus testing campaign in Lagos
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Lagos has been the epicentre of coronavirus infections in Nigeria

The Nigerian authorities say trials are due to begin to see whether an anti-malarial drug is effective against coronavirus.

The commissioner for health in Lagos state said healthcare workers as well as people in close contact with someone with the virus would be either given chloroquine or a placebo.

A second trial is to be launched in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO).

Officials say results should be known within two months.

US President Donald Trump caused controversy earlier this week when he told reporters he had been taking another anti-malarial drug - hydroxychloroquine - despite warnings it might be unsafe.

While the trials are taking place in a controlled clinical environment, the WHO has warned that some individuals are self-medicating and risk causing themselves serious harm.

Chloroquine has not yet been shown to be safe and effective in the prevention or treatment of coronavirus and can cause dangerous heart arrhythmias.

Lagos Health Commissioner Prof Akin Abayomi also said the government was trying to transition to home-based isolation, admitting that some patients who tested positive for the virus were absconding and reluctant to be admitted to isolation units.

Nigeria pastor: 'They gave me 50 lashes'

Okochi Chukwu Obeni on a drip
Okochi Chukwu Obeni
The pastor is still in hospital

A Nigeria pastor has told the BBC about how he was tortured and flogged for two hours because of Facebook posts in which he criticised a local official for failing in his duty to build roads.

Okochi Chukwu Obeni said a local traditional council in the Afikpo North area of the south-eastern state of Ebonyi called him to a meeting.

"They made me lie on my back and face the sun. After that gave me 50 lashes, tied my hand to the back and made me lie in filthy water for over two hours," he told the BBC's Igbo service.

"The people that filmed the whole incident… they forced me to recant the posts I made," the pastor said.

A clip from the film in which Okochi Chukwu Obeni was flogged
Okochi Chukwu Obeni
The video caused outrage on social media

"Right now, I am in the hospital, and I am yet to regain full use of my hands.

"A human rights group helped me with the initial hospital expenses but every other expense has come from my pocket."

The video of his flogging caused outrage on social media and 10 people were arrested on Wednesday for their involvement in the incident.

Angry Nigerian soldiers to undergo counselling

Ishaq Khalid

BBC News, Abuja

Burning army vehicle in the video
Screen grab from video
A burning vehicle is seen in the video filmed after an ambush

Two Nigerian soldiers are to undergo counselling for mental stress after they were seen in a viral video complaining about being ill-equipped to deal with Boko Haram militants.

The army says the video, in which a military vehicle is also seen on fire, was recorded after troops were ambushed by suspected Islamist insurgents while on patrol in the north-eastern state of Yobe.

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In the past public such outbursts from soldiers have led to summons to a court-martial, so it is unusual for the military to respond saying the "uncomplimentary" remarks were due to "distress in the fog of war".

While the military have not commented on allegations made by the soldiers, such concerns are not new.

For years troops fighting to end the decade-long Boko Haram insurgency in the north-east have been complaining of being ill-equipped despite huge sums of money being budgeted for weapons and training.

Some accuse the authorities of massive corruption and neglect.

The authorities often deny the allegations, usually accusing complainants of sabotage and cowardice.