A plant grown in Nigeria shows potential for epilepsy treatment

Epilepsy is a brain disorder that arises from imbalances of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. This disorder manifests as recurring seizure, unconsciousness and momentary loss of memory. These events are frequent and unpredictable. This is because the brain cells called neurons either overwork or are unable to balance the release of two chemicals that are vital for normal brain function: gamma aminobutyric acid and glutamate.

The burden of epilepsy in Nigeria is high, with estimated prevalence of eight per 1,000 people.

Adults over 55 years of age have a higher risk factor of developing epilepsy because they are more likely to have head injury, stroke or develop brain tumours or Alzheimer’s disease, which can all cause epilepsy. But epilepsy does occur in childhood too.

Epilepsy is a serious condition and it can be difficult to find the right drug to treat it. Some commonly used antiepileptic drugs may show adverse effects . Most are expensive, and some may be ineffective. There’s therefore a need to explore new alternatives.

A plant that grows in Nigeria shows promise as the source of a new drug.

Tetrapleura tetraptera also known as aidan and uyayak, is a tree found in the West African rainforest belt. It is single-stemmed and about 30 m in height. Its fruit, the most utilised part, is green when unripe, dark red-brown when fully ripe, and 22-27 cm in length. This fruit gives a characteristic aromatic odour, making it a sought-after spice in some Nigerian dishes.

Some traditional medical practices, as well as research reports , piqued our interest in its potential in epilepsy management.

Our research into the plant found that an extract of its fruit could protect against seizure and prevent brain degeneration. It could therefore be studied further for the development of a new antiepileptic drug.

What we did

To test the plant’s properties, we induced sustained seizure in laboratory animals and gave the fruit extract to some of the animals. We gave a standard antiepileptic drug, sodium valproate, to another group of animals.

Approval for the study was granted by the Faculty of Basic Medical Sciences Ethical Committee, University of Uyo, Nigeria. All recommendations and protocols involving handling and care of the animals by the National Research Council of the United States of America were strictly adhered to in our research.

The aidan extract prevented the manifestation of seizure just like the sodium valproate.

Epilepsy causes brain cell degeneration . But we found that aidan protected the animals’ brains against degeneration better than the sodium valproate.

Neurodegenerative diseases cause the brain and nerves to deteriorate over time. They can change personality and cause confusion. They can also destroy brain tissue and nerves.

We found useful properties in the plant’s phytochemicals – the compounds it produces. Phytochemicals, also called secondary metabolites , are the active constituents of such plants. These include tannins, phenolics, saponins, alkaloids, steroids, flavonoids and terpenoids. Metabolites help the body to withstand stress, overcome cell injury and fight against germs, among other functions.

The ratios of these phytochemicals to one another determine the unique properties of plants. Aidan is rich in phenols, alkaloids and flavonoids; these phytochemicals are responsible for the antioxidant properties of plants known to protect against metabolic stress . Metabolic stress often leads to a spectrum of disease conditions.

Aidan is also a source of calcium, phosphorous, potassium, zinc and vitamins. This makes the plant very useful nutritionally and medicinally .

What next?

Our findings are important as the potentials of this plant can be explored for antiepileptic drug development. As a natural product, it does not only possess antiepileptic activity, it has numerous constituents that may also serve as alternative medication or an addition to medications in other related disease conditions.

Clinical trials of either crude or pure samples can be undertaken for anti-epileptic drug development as a first phase of clinical utilisation of the plant.

 

Source: Modern Ghana

Challenging the internet’s colonial structure starts with looking to media history

Historically , many media institutions were at the service of “the colonising empire”, both in how they were modelled and used. They were meant to advance the ideology of colonisers in colonies.

Today some print and electronic media remain at the service of coloniality and imperialism . They play out colonialism’s legacy, coloniality – the patterns of power that persist long after the end of formal colonialism. This process has a regressive effect. It betrays the progressive role that is generally associated with media institutions as spaces of sharing ideas and knowledge about modern societies.

This leads me to ask: is it possible to decolonise today’s largest global communication platform, the internet? There is no linear approach to the process. But any attempt must start with looking at how the internet spreads knowledge and ideas about Africa and Africans.

Decolonisation, to me, is moving away from seeing the world today as a universe and instead viewing it as a “ pluriverse ”: multiple worlds existing side by side, occupied by people actively working to emancipate themselves from the colonial power imbalances that have characterised the modern world. That is what the internet should be: a communication tool that fairly represents these “pluriverses”.

Media ancestors

It is also important to contextualise the decolonisation debate in reference to the internet by looking at its ancestors – other institutions of communication. As a researcher in media studies, I have a special interest in the history of the media and how media institutions are in conversation with the concept of colonialism or coloniality. I also examine how decolonisation might occur.

In thinking about anything to do with decolonisation, it’s important to understand the history of colonisation. How does it manifest itself in the present moment? How does its afterlife take shape or form in the aftermath of settler or direct extraction by the colonial society?

Next, the internet must be understood as a space that represents the continuities and discontinuities of the colonial legacy. It has the potential to reproduce as well as to change people’s understanding of the world.

Power structures

The philosopher Frantz Fanon was among those who reflected on the colonial nature of an internet ancestor, radio. He spoke about the role radio played in the bigger colonial project in Algeria, and the space that Radio Algiers occupied. Radio Algiers, a then French broadcasting station which functioned in Algeria for decades, was a re-edition of the Paris-based French National Broadcasting System. In 1959, Fanon wrote :

This history teaches societies that platforms of communication are not free from ideological influence. It is on those basis that we need to be vigilant about the contemporary role that is played by communication platforms.

Today the internet is, for many societies, the default distributor of ideas, “facts”, opinions and various knowledge systems. It is also the default gatekeeper of knowledge in modern society.

The internet literally spreads ideas about oneself or one another – particularly about one another, in keeping with the power structures of the global order: global South vs global North, the colonial subject vs the colonising subject.

The ideas spread by the internet could mean that one is seen to be, for instance, lacking in morals, evil, a savage and uncivilised. This is the real power of the internet as a communication medium: it buttresses or disrupts knowledge about the world.

Knowledge systems

The internet is also a knowledge carrying platform. It produces and spreads ideas that carefully work their way into one’s mind, thereby wittingly or unwittingly shaping one’s view of the world. The global South and particularly the African continent has not, by and large, technologically leapfrogged. Internet access within the continent is uneven , with the continent’s eastern and central regions lagging most.

Africa, then, has played a limited role on the internet as a carrier of knowledge. So it is reasonable to argue that the knowledge carried by the internet on Africa and Africans needs to be continuously interrogated. What needs to be further probed is whether or not the internet disrupts the narrative on Africa as explained by the West and colonial societies. Or does it entrench those narratives and understandings?

The “ coloniality of knowledge ” within the context of the internet means that the African subject – with limited representation on the internet – continues to be explained through imperialistic knowledge outlook. As a result of its limited online representation, the continent and its people largely remain unseen and unheard. They are talked and written about. Their forms of knowledge are packaged by others on the internet. All this, by subjects who largely reside in neo-colonial and imperialistic geographies.

This all entrenches the narratives as described by theorist Edward Said when he noted :

A greater understanding

To begin to decolonise the internet, to me, means to recognise the history of colonialism and its omnipresence even within systems and platforms that are meant to be most progressive.

It is to understand “coloniality of knowledge” and come to terms with aspects of the “hidden” or invisible power matrix in the world today. It means recognising the uneven distribution of access to the internet, and what this means for who contributes most to the internet as a source of knowledge. It is to understand how this undermines those whom the world has traditionally designated as the unseen and the unheard.

 

Source: Modern Ghana

Postponing South Africa’s local elections: what the Constitutional Court must decide

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the way elections are conducted across the world. South Africa, too, is faced with an unprecedented situation of having to decide whether to postpone its municipal elections, scheduled for 27 October .

President Cyril Ramaphosa gave almost six months’ notice by announcing 27 October 2021 as the date for the elections on 21 April 2021. The constitution requires that an election be held within 90 days of the end of the term of office for local government. Since the last local government elections were held on 3 August 2016, an election must be held by 1 November 2021 to comply. No provision is made for discretion to postpone the elections in the constitution or in legislation.

But, as the Electoral Commission of South Africa started preparing for elections, some political parties flagged the challenges of holding elections during the COVID-19 pandemic. The commission then constituted an inquiry , headed by former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke , to ascertain if the elections would be free and fair if held in October.

The inquiry found that there was a possibility that elections in October might not be free and fair. It suggested they be postponed to February 2022. Based on this report, the electoral commission applied to the Constitutional Court to have the elections postponed . The judgement is expected soon.

The challenges facing the electoral commission were highlighted in a submission we made to the inquiry . The task facing the court is to first determine if the elections will be free and fair if held in October. If it finds not, then it must decide whether it has the authority to postpone the elections.

The right to vote

The right to vote is a right that underpins South Africa’s democracy. It is also a founding provision of the constitution. The Constitutional Court has reiterated on many occasions the importance of this right . It has indicated that the right to vote is linked to the realisation and protection of other rights, including the right to dignity . Therefore, the right itself protects more than just the act of voting.

It is linked to the general right to free and fair elections. The state is obliged to fulfil the right. In terms of sections 181 and 190 of the constitution, read with the Electoral Commission Act , the electoral commission must ensure this.

The principles of freeness and fairness do not only pertain to the workings of the commission. The right to free and fair elections may, for instance, also be undermined where political parties are being treated unfairly or if they cannot campaign due to restrictions by the state.

So, what is at stake is the individual’s right to vote, and the right to free and fair elections. In this context, the electoral commission, and now the Constitutional Court, must look at the risks the COVID-19 pandemic poses, and consider if elections can be free and fair.

Voting day

We made a submission to the inquiry in June 2021 on the various measures that can be taken to lessen the spread of COVID-19 during the election.

In our report, we allude to the measures other countries took to lessen the spread of COVID-19 during elections. Firstly, there were various special voting arrangements, such as early voting, postal voting, proxy voting, and home and institution-based voting.

Countries like Lithuania and the Czech Republic even had “drive-by” voting stations for people in quarantine. Israel established dedicated polling stations for quarantined voters.

While not all of these suggestions can be transplanted to South Africa, it does indicate that “out of the box” solutions are possible.

Secondly, the World Health Organisation provides guidance on how to conduct elections during the pandemic, such as physical distancing, mask-wearing and hand sanitising.

Campaign

The right to free and fair elections includes enabling parties to campaign to inform the electorate of their candidates, and to do general voter education. The Constitutional Court has drawn the link between the right to vote and the right of access to information.

Campaigning is, therefore, an integral part of the right to vote, and to free and fair elections. Campaigning activities can be challenging during COVID-19. Restrictions promulgated to deal with the pandemic might unduly limit the right to free and fair elections.

While it is imperative that political parties adapt the way they campaign, limiting campaigning to digital or telephonic options may disadvantage people who do not have easy access to these options.

Methods of campaigning in a COVID-19 compliant way include:

  • only permitting outdoor campaign events,
  • requiring screening,
  • ensuring that there is enough space to implement social distancing,
  • ensuring enforcement of non-pharmaceutical interventions (mask, sanitiser), and
  • recommending that vulnerable people don’t attend these events.

Most of these measures are already contained in the Disaster Management Act , but enforcement may be problematic. A solution may be for the electoral commission to oversee the process, with sanctions for non-compliance.

Under COVID-19 conditions

Sixty percent of adults support the postponement of this year’s local government elections, according to a January 2021 survey by the University of Johannesburg and the Human Science Research Council. This correlates with international research .

It indicates that the fear of infection at the polling station is a significant concern, seemingly depending on whether the country is experiencing a surge or decline in cases.

Most countries have chosen to proceed with elections in a COVID-19 compliant way. The question is what the criteria are for free and fair elections during COVID-19, and if based on these criteria, elections would be more free and fair in February 2022.

Having higher rates of vaccinations might be a reason for postponement, but might not be realised by February 2022. Experts have suggested that in order to have herd immunity, 67% of the population needs to be vaccinated. But experts have already warned that herd immunity is unlikely to happen . Does that then mean no election will be considered free and fair?

In our report , we benchmarked the electoral commission’s proposed interventions against the World Health Organisation’s recommendations. In general, the commission seems to have complied with those recommendations. For instance, it has considered increasing the number of polling stations, queuing outside, regulating the flow of people and the number of people in the venue as well as sanitising and social distancing. Extended hours and physical barriers could be extra measures to implemented.

Free and fair is final question

The electoral commission did not have its usual voter registration weekends because the level of lockdown regulations in place from 28 June to 25 July and still in place since 26 July did not permit it. While registration weekends are not required by law, it can be argued that their absence prevented more people from registering, affecting whether the elections could be free and fair.

In the end, the question that must be asked is if elections can be free and fair if held in October. If the answer is yes, then that is the end of the question. If the answer is no, then the question is whether the elections should take place despite the COVID-19 risk, or should be postponed. This is the difficult question that the Constitutional Court is being asked to rule on.

 

Source: Modern Ghana

Court cages suspect in Awutu Bereku Festival shooting incident

The suspect in the killing of a 9-year-old boy at Awutu Bereku during a festival ritual performace at Awutu Bereku in the Central Region, Henry Opoku, has been remanded into police custody.

A charge of murder has been brought against the suspect at the Ofaakor Magistrate Court, presided over by His Worship, Eric Oheneba Antwi Boasiako.

He is to reappear in court on September 29, 2021.

The suspect was reported to be wielding a gun while following the fetish priest who was performing rituals as part of the annual Awubia festival.

The gun however went of mistakenly and killed the 9-year-old , with two others sustaining injuries.

The deceased was celebrating his 9th birthday when he was killed.

The police have since the incident arrested the suspect and restored calm in the community.

The mother of the deceased, Hannah Aidoo, in a Citi News interview said authorities must enforce the laws on the use of guns.

According to her, the use of guns in the community is becoming rampant.

 

Source: Modern Ghana

This is why six former Lighthouse pastors say they won’t appeal SSNIT decision

The lawyer for the six former pastors of Lighthouse Chapel International has said his clients won’t appeal the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) decision that they are not entitled to any outstanding social security contributions.

Kofi Bentil said his clients would focus on the legal action they had already taken at the Labour Division of the Accra High Court, which decision could override SSNIT’s position.

In a nine-page response to SSNIT, Mr. Bentil described the decision as “grotesque” and questioned the pensions collector’s interest in enforcing its own rules and laws.

The six former pastors and bishops had petitioned SSNIT, reporting the church’s failure to pay a cumulative 42 years and five months of outstanding social security contributions.

The church had insisted that it operates a lay system and describes three former full-time pastors as “volunteers” for all the 11, 10, and seven years they worked. For some, parts of their service were described as voluntary.

SSNIT had, in a preliminary statement, said it had found the petitioners were workers. SSNIT gave at least three reasons:

“The central church decided when and where a pastor should be moved at any point and took all decisions as an employer in the regulations of the activities of the pastors.”

“It was also the case that the affected pastors worked and reported at all material times to the headquarters of the church in Accra. The various branches of LCI were not independent of the mother church in Accra and that regular policy directive were issued to these pastors on the running of their branches”

“The leave days of the pastors were also scheduled by the Human Resource office of the LCI.”

SSNIT said that in the light of the above, “an employer and employee relationship had been established between the pastors and LCI, taking into consideration all the factors and circumstances relating to their engagement and the conduct of that relationship.”

But after three months of “independent investigations” SSNIT finally concluded that; “According to the records currently available to us, we could not establish an employer/employee relationship between LCI Ghana and your good self for the period…. claimed in your petition,” a letter dated August 20, 2021, and signed by its Compliance Manager, Felix Cudjoe Ahiable, said.

SSNIT said it could therefore not compel Lighthouse Chapel International to pay these outstanding contributions.

SSNIT made the ruling despite the availability of evidence that implicates Lighthouse Chapel International, especially in respect of Rev. Edward Laryea.

The lawyer for the petitioners, Kofi Bentil, had earlier indicated that he had “lost confidence” in SSNIT along the way” when it noticed SSNIT’s “strange” posture during meetings with his clients.

In a formal response to SSNIT following its decision, Mr. Bentil said the stance taken by the pensions collector is “indeed inconsistent with applicable law and settled judicial precedent. We disagree entirely with it.”

“We had occasion during the process to express our dissatisfaction with the conduct of this investigation and the posture of SSNIT, but the outcome still is shocking because it flies in the face of what the laws establishing SSNIT dictate, and indeed undermines SSNIT’s purpose.

“We have therefore decided that unless SSNIT itself is minded to amend its position, we have elected not to engage with SSNIT further, or appeal the decision under the dispute Sections of Act 766. We will let the Labour court, which is already seized with this matter, rule on it and make consequential orders which will be binding on SSNIT,” portions of the letter reads

Kofi Bentil explained the law on who is an employee is and the established legal principles in determining employer/employee relationship.

The Fourth Estate reproduces the full letter to SSNIT, in which the lawyer for the pastors argued the “basic” and “established” legal principles defining employment relationships.

 

Source: Modern Ghana

Six suspects grabbed for murder and robbery

The Ghana Police Service has arrested six suspects in connection to murder and robbery.

Three of the six suspects allegedly stabbed and snatched the handbag of one Sheriff Yakubu, a 22-year-old apprentice hairdresser at the Kumasi Academy SHS junction, while on her way to Asokore Mampong.

She was rushed to the Manhyia Government Hospital, but died shortly on arrival.

Two other suspects, Duada Appiah and Yusif Abdallah, allegedly robbed their victim of his gold-detecting machine at gunpoint at Telekura.

The suspects were arrested through intelligence-led operations and are currently in police custody pending trial.

There have been reports of violent crime in parts of the country in recent times.

306 cases of murder recorded in 2021

Data from the Statistics Research and Monitoring Unit (SRMU) of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the Ghana Police Service indicates that 306 murder cases have been reported to the police from January 1 to June 30 this year.

The recent killing of a journalist with London-based MTA International on the Tamale-Buipe highway last week by robbers has triggered calls for the government to address the rising incidents of highway robberies in the country. ‘We’ll prevail over crime’

The Acting Director-General of the Public Affairs Department of the Ghana Police Service, ACP Kwesi Ofori, has already assured that the Ghana Police Service is working to ensure peace and security in areas receiving attention because of violent crime.

“I can tell you that the Police Service is determined that whatever we will do to allow police primacy and authority to prevail on the ground, we are going to do in all those areas,” ACP Ofori said.

 

Source: Modern Ghana

13 containers of impounded Rosewood given to National Intelligence Bureau

Government has handed over 13 impounded Rosewood containers to the National Intelligence Bureau (NIB) for a comprehensive investigation.

The investigation will seek to unravel the persons behind the importation of the commodity into the country.

The Lands and Natural Resources Minister, Samuel Jinapor, said this when he inspected the confiscated containers in Tema on Monday, August 31, 2021.

“Investigations have commenced already, and it is important to make a point that this is a clear testimony that the measures we are putting in place seem to be working because if the measures were not working this wood will not be confiscated. I want to use this opportunity to commend the Tema Port leadership for the work they have done. We have asked the National Security Ministry to constitute a detailed investigation into the importation of Rosewood into the country”.

Mr. Jinapor said the government is also considering reviewing the laws on the ban of rosewood to make it punitive.

For instance, the yet-to-be accepted law will not only impound rosewood but also confiscate trucks that carry the rosewood.

Rosewood remains a restricted wood species under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

The ban on rosewood harvesting in Ghana first came into force in 2014.

The ban was lifted in 2017, with the Minister in charge at that time, John Peter Amewu, giving over 20 companies permission to fell the trees.

But in March 2019, the trade was banned again, following alleged corruption and illegal trade of the resource.

 

Source: Modern Ghana

I carried him for 10 months, his pregnancy was troubling — Mother of Volta tallest man recounts

Mrs Comfort Agbafufu, the Mother of Charles Sogli, the tallest man in the Volta Region of Ghana, looks well but walks with some difficulties.

She said her intermittent waist pain started after she gave birth to the giant.

The mother of five, told the Ghana News Agency (GNA) that, that pregnancy was the most challenging for her, having to endure pregnancy discomforts for 10 months.

“…His pregnancy was troubling. I suffered a lot until the time was due. I birthed him at ten months.

“During his birth, it was difficult. In those days hospitals were not common in our area so he was born at home. His head was forced out with hands and i see it as a miracle. ”

The middle-aged woman and a vegetable farmer said she was bedridden for three months and nearly got paralysed after the delivery.

Mrs. Agbafufu said baby Charles’ weight and distinct limps drew the awe of the townsfolk.

“He was huge, very huge. He was long. His fingers were thick and so when people came to see him, they expressed amazement at my ability to deliver him at home. People were scared.

“It was not easy carrying him as a baby. We had to use two cloths to strap him at the back,” she narrated.

Mrs Agbafufu said though Charles was born with no disability and with no medical condition, he took his first steps when he was about a year and a half old.

She said, he was physically strong and ” eats alot.”

Mr Francis Agbafufu, Charles’ father, described him as a “miracle child,” with positive attitude to work and life.

He said Charles started sprouting at age three and the only one in the family of seven with the special features.

Charles is generally seen in his hometown, Ziope, a farming community in the Agotime-Ziope District, as a ‘special’ child.

At 7 feet 10 inches tall, and with a foot size of about 16 inches, Charles dropped out of school early for lack of shoes of his size, and had taken up an apprenticeship in Ho, Volta Regional capital, as a metal fabricator.

A recent spotlight thrown on his plight by the Ghana News Agency attracted TheBridgeZone, whose executives together with some people from the US, sought him out and offered some support.

Charlesoo, as he is affectionately called by his father, the young man, tries to live a normal life despite his ‘abnormal’ height and size, and move about his home in Ziope with ease.

So, his parents made no effort to alter the building design and furniture aside his bedding.

With the regular height of building ceilings at eight feet, Charles who stands at seven feet, ten inches, is barely inches away from the ceiling.

Toilet and the bathhouse have not been altered and he looks comfortable at home, as he shows no sign of weariness having to bend slightly to go through doors.

During a visit by the GNA, Charles did not permit his height to get in the way of house duties as he dashes about serving his father.

He will periodically retreat into the living room to watch television striding from the kitchen.

The GNA was told a room of normal size and dimensions had been found for him in close proximity to his place of apprenticeship in Ho.

An indication that there was not serious consideration for building dimensions based on his height and size.

The real challenge, for him, is the difficulty in boarding vehicles due to his height.

He could, therefore, be seen striding along the streets of Ho to and from his place of apprenticeship.

He will complete his apprenticeship next year and hopeful of establishing a modern metal fabrication shop.

Charles has, however, become a major attraction of the Volta Region with proposals of engagement from advertising companies and basketball teams.

 

Source: Modern Ghana