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Omicron Accounts For 73% Of US Infections As WHO Wants New Year Events Cancelled

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This has since prompted the World Health Organisation to call for greater efforts to ensure the pandemic ends in 2022.

The director-general of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, urged nations to redouble efforts to help end the pandemic, calling for New Year events to be cancelled because it was better to “celebrate later than to celebrate now and grieve later. We have to focus now on ending this pandemic,” he said.

The Omicron variant has fuelled record case surges, forcing a return to harsh restrictions in some countries. However, according to the Press Secretary, Jen Psaki, in the United States, President Joe Biden does not plan on “locking the country down.”

In some regions of the country — the Pacific Northwest, South and parts of the Midwest — it already comprises more than 90 percent of new infections.

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Biden is set to deliver an address on Covid-19 later today, however, the White House reported that a mid-level, fully vaccinated and boosted staff member had tested positive for Covid-19 after spending 30 minutes in proximity to the president three days prior. Biden has so far tested negative.

Early data suggests Omicron could be more infectious and possibly have higher resistance to vaccines, despite indications that it is not more severe than the Delta variant.

Since it was first reported in South Africa in November, Omicron has been identified in dozens of countries, dashing hopes that the worst of the pandemic is over.

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The European Union approved its fifth Covid-19 jab Monday — from US firm Novavax — with Europe already far ahead of other parts of the world with its rollout of vaccines and booster shots.

Authorisation of the jab, which uses a more conventional technology than other Covid vaccines, has raised hopes that people worried about getting vaccinated might now come forward.

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The other vaccines approved in the bloc are from Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, and the EU has already signed a deal to buy up to 200 million doses of the two-shot Novavax vaccine.

“At a time where the Omicron variant is rapidly spreading… I am particularly pleased with today’s authorisation of the Novavax vaccine,” EU chief Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement.

London on Monday announced it had cancelled a New Year’s Eve event in the central Trafalgar Square for 6,500 people.

Paris has already cancelled its new year celebrations, and Germany is expected to roll out tight restrictions on private parties and close nightclubs, according to a proposal seen by AFP.

“New Year’s Eve celebrations with a large number of people are unjustifiable in the current situation,” reads the draft document.

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Real estate firm approves N14.50 dividend

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SFS Real Estate Investment Trust says it will pay N14.50 per share as dividends to its shareholders for 2023.

The Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of SFS Capital Nigeria Limited, Patrick Ilodianya, disclosed this during the company’s general meeting held on Tuesday in Lagos.

According to Ilodianya, the SFS Real Estate Investment Trust, formerly known as Skye Shelter Fund, a subsidiary of SFS Capital Nigeria, witnessed a 70 per cent growth in net income to N317.5m in 2023 from N186.6m in the prior year.

“Concurrently, we observed a growth in dividend payouts of 71.60 per cent, nearly doubling,” he stated.

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The managing director explained that despite encountering challenging market conditions, SFS REIT consistently delivered dividends every year since its inception.

“In 2023, SFS REIT is proposing a dividend of N14.50 per share, marking this the highest dividend ever distributed in the Fund’s 17-year history.

“To contextualise these achievements, consider an investor who acquired SFS REIT shares on January 1, 2023, at a share price of N77.00. This investor would witness a capital appreciation of N24.35 per share (31.62 per cent), with the current share price standing at N101.35 per share.

“The overwhelming demand for shares has rendered them currently unavailable for purchase, as demand far exceeds supply. A dividend payout of N14.50 per share translates to an 18.83 per cent return compared to the share price on January 1, 2023, resulting in an estimated total return of over 50 per cent annually,” Ilodianya enunciated.

He spoke further that SFS REIT had invested in multiple units within organised and efficiently managed residential estates along the expanding Lekki corridor.

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He listed some notable investments, including Milverton Court Estate, Victoria Crest V Estate, Sapphire Gardens Estate, Maben Phase 2 Estate, Bourdillon Court Estate, Victory Park Estate, and Cromwell Court Estate.

He added that real estate returns remain stable while adjusting to inflation and consistently appreciating under skilled fund managers.

“Within SFS REIT, our Average Occupancy rate exceeds 98 per cent, while the average rental default rate remains below 1.5 per cent. Over the years, we have implemented various Proptech initiatives aimed at optimising rent collection, increasing occupancy rates, and reducing default occurrences.

“Leveraging technology, we have streamlined our property acquisition and disposal processes, enhanced tenant sourcing and appraisal procedures, automated entry/access control, and facilitated electricity vending.

“With 17 years of experience under our belt, SFS Capital Nigeria Limited remains exceedingly optimistic about the future. Positioned strategically, we are poised to implement innovative strategies to expand the fund and enhance its yield. While our current dividend payout of N14.50 per share represents the pinnacle in the history of REITs, we anticipate no decline. Instead, we envision SFS REIT continuing to deliver higher dividends in the foreseeable future,” he concluded.

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Cement price 69% higher in Nigeria than India – Reps C’ttee

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The House of Representatives Joint Committee investigating the arbitrary increase in the price of cement in Nigeria has lamented the cost of the commodity, compared to what obtains in other African countries.

Recall that on March 13, 2024, the House resolved to investigate the incessant increase in the price of cement following the adoption of the motion co-sponsored by Gaza Gbefwi (SDP, Nasarawa) and Ademorin Kuye (APC, Lagos).

On February 13, the Federal Government and cement manufacturers agreed to peg the price of a 50kg bag of cement between N7,000 and N8,000.

At the public hearing on the subject matter on Tuesday organized by the House Joint Committee in Abuja, the Chairman, House Committee on Solid Minerals, Gaza Gbefwi said there’s a need to address the situation, noting that in most African countries, the price of cement is lower compared to what obtains in Nigeria.

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He said, “Our findings showed that the price of cement is 69 per cent higher in Nigeria than in India, 39 per cent higher in Nigeria than in Zambia and 29 per cent higher than in Kenya given the official exchange rate.”

Speaking at the event, the Speaker, Abbas Tajudeen represented by the Deputy Speaker, Benjamin Kalu, assured the manufacturers that the public hearing was not intended to witch-hunt them but an avenue to prefer solutions to the challenges affecting the housing sector, particularly the high cost of cement across the country.

…Details later

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MediaFuse-Dentsu Nigeria boosts reading culture, sponsors Uyo book club reading session

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A leading integrated marketing communications network, MediaFuse-Dentsu Nigeria, has announced its sponsorship of the Uyo Book Club, a vibrant community of book lovers based in Akwa State, Nigeria.

The event, aligned with MediaFuse-Dentsu Nigeria’s commitment to fostering creativity and knowledge, will be held on Saturday,25th May from 4pm at Shakespeare’sn Hall, Watbridge Hotel and Suites, Opposite Ibom Hall, IBB Way, Uyo.

The Group Chief Executive Officer of MediaFuse-Dentsu Nigeria, Emeka Chris Okeke, described the sponsorship as another way of supporting initiatives that foster reading culture and promote literacy.

This is coming a few months after the company donated computers to Army Children Senior High School in Ikeja, Nigeria to empower students with the necessary tools for the digital age and improve their chances of success.

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He said, “MediaFuse-Dentsu Nigeria is excited to partner with the Uyo Book Club and help them continue to provide a platform for people to connect and explore the literary.

“At MediaFuse-Dentsu Nigeria, we believe in the power of stories to inspire and educate. We are committed to supporting initiatives that foster creativity, education, and community engagement.”

Responding to the sponsorship, the Founder and Father of the Book Club Initiative in Akwa Ibom State, Dr Udeme Nana, commended MediaFuse-Dentsu for sponsoring the book reading session.

He said, “Uyo Book Club, a community service initiative based in Akwa Ibom State, South-South Nigeria, seeks to bridge the yawning gap observed in the reading habit of Nigerians. We are delighted to have MediaFuse-Dentsu Nigeria on board in the mission to re-awaken the culture of reading and also promote it among Nigerians.”

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MediaFuse-Dentsu Nigeria is a leading integrated marketing communications agency, offering a comprehensive range of services including media planning and buying, creative and content development, digital performance, location services, and public relations. The agency is a member of the Dentsu International network, one of the world’s largest marketing communications groups with a presence in over 65 countries around the world.

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The Uyo Book Club is a platform for passionate readers to connect, discuss literature, and share their love of books. The club hosts regular meetings, author events, and other literary activities.

 

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