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Herbal medicine may cause kidney failure

Herbal medicines containing toxic aristolochic acids and widely used in India and China, are leaving millions of people exposed to the risk of developing kidney failure and bladder cancer, a new study has warned. “We have found evidence that many millions of people continue to be exposed to significant health risk due to these herbal medicines, widely used in China and India,” said lead author Professor Graham Lord, from King’s College London.The medicines, used for a wide range of conditions including slimming, asthma and arthritis, are derived from a botanical compound containing aristolochic acids. These products are now banned in the US and many European countries but the herbs containing this toxic acid can still be bought in China and other countries in Asia and are also available worldwide over the internet. The scientists reviewed worldwide cases of aristolochic acid nephropathy (AAN) - a type of kidney failure caused by the intake of these acids. They explained the clinical basis for the disease and proposed strategies to help doctors identify it and treat patients more effectively. They suggested that there may be many thousands of cases across Asia that are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.

“There is also a striking lack of good quality evidence that might help guide the diagnosis and management of AAN,” said Lord, who is also Director of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust. The study, published in Annals of Internal Medicine, indicates that regulatory measures that have so far been adopted by national and international agencies may be inadequate in preventing harmful exposure to aristolochic acid. The compound is linked to many cases of kidney diseases and urothelial cancer, a form of cancer of which bladder cancer is the most known variant. The authors reviewed the latest data on the epidemiology of AAN. They used several search engines to include all publications that are about or refer to aristolochic acid and Chinese herbal nephropathy and identified 42 different case studies and one trial relating to the management of the disease. The research team consisted of an international collaboration of scientists from Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany and the UK.


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Divorce: My wife starves me of sex – Pastor

A 70-year-old pastor, Mr Caleb Oluwafisibe, on Tuesday pleaded with an Ojo Customary Court in Lagos to dissolve his 41-year -old marriage to his wife, Titilayo, because he was sex starved. The pastor, who ironically appeared in court wearing a polo T-shirt which had the inscription ‘peace’ at the back, told the court that he was already practicing a celibate life, even as a married man.

“Since I married my wife in June 1975, it’s been marriage and separation in two phases because any situation was determined by what I could offer.

“We were living well until 1998 when things became tough with me. We separated from 1998 to 2006, when my church transferred me out to the East,’’ he said. According to him, my wife had a negative influence on my children as we had divergent views on their welfare and training. We always clashed because of them. He said that his wife refused him sex from 2006 till date and that forced him to practice a life of celibacy, in order to keep his vows as a man of God. “I even had a special prayer for my wife for three years to see if God would intervene in the difficult situation and change her personality,’’ he said. Oluwafisibe, therefore, pleaded with the court to separate their union, so he could move on with his life. The wife, Titilayo, however, debunked the husband’s allegation, saying he was treating her without any tender consideration as a wife. “He calls himself a pastor yet he does not have regard for his family. He has really caused so much division among our children,’’ she said. The Court president, Mrs Veronica Willoughby, in her remark urged the pastor to reconsider his prayer of dissolution, as a man of God. “As a pastor, you should seek peace and not separation. I will give you a second chance to go back and reconsider your intention.

“You have both failed in the training of your children by using them as a point of disagreement. Your children are your collective responsibilities,’’ she said. Willoughby then adjourned the case till Feb. 16, to give the couple some time to reconsider their intentions.


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A case for punishing corruption as armed robbery

AS the world moves away from capital punishment, Nigeria, always to be found in the rear-guard of progress, has embraced it with renewed vigour.

Recently, the House of Representatives, that august gaggle of expensive and visionary lawmakers, woke up from its legislative coma to propose a bill to eradicate through the death penalty the crime of kidnapping that currently plagues the country.

As far back as 2009, Imo State had made kidnapping a capital offence. If the reports are true, several other states have since enacted a similar law; among them Abia, Bayelsa, Delta, Edo and Enugu. Rivers State, commendably, was not seduced by the siren call of capital punishment, opting instead for life imprisonment.

Under our penal codes, the crimes of murder and armed robbery are punished by death. In the latter case, the law is very specific regarding the manner of carrying out the sentence: “by hanging the offender by the neck till he be dead or by causing such offender to suffer death by firing squad.”

The justification for such state-sanctioned savagery is that it deters crime. Simply put, the evil means of capital punishment is more than compensated for by the glorious end of societal peace and harmony.

This was taken to its extreme in the seventies when the Federal Military Government, still steeped in the depredations of the Civil War, valorised firing squads and subjected the nation to the televised bloody rituals infamously dubbed “the Bar Beach Show.” The current state of armed robbery in the country presents a perfect measure of the amount of deterrence achieved.

I am against the death penalty for all the good reasons that prove it to be unjustifiable, chief of which is that it fails to acknowledge human error.

As the use of DNA evidence has shown, many wrongly convicted persons have been killed by the state, but who will go to hell or heaven to bring them back to life and restore them to their former lives and status?

What possible humane goal can the death penalty achieve that life imprisonment cannot? Yet, in spite of this I am willing to suspend, temporarily, my opposition to the death penalty and argue for its application to all cases of corruption involving amounts up to and above one billion naira. Conviction for any amount above N100 million but under one billion would be punished by life imprisonment; one million to under N100 million by a jail term of 5-25 years; and any sum under a million naira would be treated as a misdemeanour.

Corruption is eating Nigeria alive. If we must have capital punishment, then it shouldn’t apply only to the poor and weak who must die irrespective of the amount stolen, insofar as armed with a gun, a knife or even a wooden club in the act of robbery but as well to those armed with a pen and who steal astronomical sums in one heist.

The rich and powerful cannot be immune to the great good of deterrence that the death sentence purportedly serves. This discrepant morality of crime and punishment was shown once again by the scandalous sentence of two years imprisonment or a fine of N750,000 given to John Yakubu Yusuf, an assistant director in the federal service, accused together with six others of stealing N32.8 billion from the Police Pension Fund.

It wasn’t the first time such a travesty of justice would issue from our courts, aided or condoned by the Minister of Justice. We are all reminded of the many high profile felons who, having been convicted of stealing staggering amounts, were literally told to reach in their back pockets or purses, put whatever they found there on the table and go home.

By contrast, barely a day after Yusuf dropped his back-pocket change and became a free man (until he was re-arrested for supposedly different crimes), a Magistrate’s Court sitting in Ikare, Ondo State, sentenced one Adepoju Jamiu to three years imprisonment without the option of a fine for stealing a mobile phone worth N17, 000. As Premium Times which reported this case pointed out, had Yusuf and Jamiu been judged under the same law and “ratio of years of sentence … relative to the amount stolen,” then Yusuf would have bagged at least 110,000 years in jail.

Under the Robbery and Firearms (Special Provisions) Act, any person who commits the offence of stealing with the aid of a firearm “or any offensive weapon” or is merely “in company with any person so armed” is liable upon conviction to death.

While an ordinary pen or any virtual signature or authorisation tool cannot be defined as a “firearm”, it seems to me that given its lethal role in inflicting grievous harm to our body-politic, in the massive dispossession and “wounding” of the nation, and so the consequential death of countless citizens denied life-saving provisions or support, it can and should be included in the definition of “offensive weapon.”

The phrase, “adapted for use for causing injury to the person” in the interpretation section of the Act renders it amenable to this redefinition.

Perhaps then, the moral warriors of the national and state assemblies may speak convincingly of the death penalty for deterrence. And I would reconsider my “strategic” pro- death penalty stance after the first execution of a billion-naira thief!


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