There is anxiety as the community transmission of Covid-19 stares Nigeria in the face. How can the government stem the tide?
President Muhammadu Buhari has been applauded for the way he has transparently conducted the anti-Covid war by foreign bodies and other stakeholders. But, he will receive more praises only when the curve begins to flatten.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, observed that measures so far taken by Nigerians were in the right direction and result-oriented.
Ghebreyesus noted that Nigeria was swift and transparent in information dissemination, thanking the Nigeria Centre For Disease Control (NCDC) for its efforts since the index case of the virus was reported in February.
He sdaid: “This a true act of solidarity and an important step in stopping the coronavirus from spreading further.”
Also , the United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, showered encomiums on the Nigerian government for its commitment to the global war.
Guterres, who spoke in New York, said Nigeria, a ‘developing country’, has “shown a remarkable capacity to respond to the coronavirus.”
He added: “I have to say that some of these developing countries have shown a remarkable capacity to respond. I was quite impressed to see, for instance, Nigeria putting in place immediately in a stadium and a hospital. And I saw difficulties in countries that are much more developed to do quickly the same”.
With 2,388 confirmed cases, 385 discharged and 85 deaths as at May 2, many believed that the Nigerian government has performed creditably in its fight against the pandemic. They are also of the opinion that the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, a 12-member task force established by President Buhari, chaired by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, has marshaled out the agenda of the government in tackling the pandemic.
Announcing the composition of the Task Force, Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the President on Media and Publicity, said: “Given the current global outbreak of the novel Coronavirus and its potential of causing significant disruption to health services in the country as well as impacting negatively on the economy, President Buhari has established a Presidential Task Force for the Control of the Coronavirus-19 Disease (COVID-19).”
Dr Sani Aliyu was named national coordinator of the committee. Other members are the Minister of Health, Prof Osagie Ehanire; Minister of Interior, Chief Rauf Aregbesola; Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika; Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Services, Sadiya Umar-Farouk; Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu; Minister of Environment, Mohammed Mahmoud; Director-general, Department of State Services (DSS), Yusuf Bichi; Director-General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC); Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu; and World Health Organisation Country Representative.
Explaining the objective of the committee, Shehu said: “This action is in preparation for the unlikely but probable major outbreak of the disease in the country which will require a multi-sectoral inter-governmental approach as advised by the World Health Organisation similar to that adopted for the HIV epidemic in the last two decades.”
The committee was given a mandate of six months to deliver on the assignment. It has left no stone unturned to achieve the goal through advocacy, education and enlightment programmes across the 774-local governments, the restriction of entry into the country for travellers from China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Japan, France, Germany, United States, Norway, United Kingdom, Netherlands and Switzerland, which had are over 1,000 cases domestically at that time, and restrictions on the issuance of visas from the countries and suspension on issuance of visa on arrival.
With donations from the public and private sectors towards the fight against the pandemic, Mustapha said the Task Force, in the spirit of accountability, will publish full details of funds remitted and disbursed from the relief account.
Mustapha said that an agreed arrangement with the Accountant -General of the Federation has been reached on the subject matter, adding that to ensure transparency, the task force will not be directly involved in the collection and disbursement of the cash donations.
He said: “The Accountant General of the Federation has already published the account details for collection through some commercial banks and also provided the modalities for its utilisation. All the main COVID-19 accounts shall be domiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria”.
“However, all non-cash donations shall be duly received by the PTF, acknowledged, documented and appropriately deployed,” he said.
On the role of the National Assembly, Mustapha said there is a need for the lawmakers to “develop a legislative framework to prepare Nigeria for any future pandemic, develop a legislative framework for reforming and transforming Nigeria’s healthcare systems, strengthen the legislative framework for economic growth through domestic manufacturing, deepen the legislative oversight during this pandemic and beyond, pass legislations that will further ease the ability of the executive to cushion the impact of the economic decline and be part of community mobilization and enlightenment efforts.”
On the non-compliance by private medical facilities with the directive to seek accreditation before treating COVID-19 related cases, he said the highly infectious nature of COVID-19, if not well managed by specialists, pose danger to the medical staff in such hospitals, patients and their loved ones.
He urged the operators of private medical facilities wishing to treat COVID-19 cases to apply to the Federal Ministry of Health urgently, for accreditation.
While re-emphasising the import of social distancing, the SGF said private hospitals are to be cleared by the relevant authorities before they can carry out treatment.
The Boss Mustapha-led task force won public admiration, owing to its sincerity when it apologised over the violation of guidelines during the burial of the late Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari. Many people who were uninvited turned out for the burial, thus violating social distancing.
Her said: “The PTF recognises, regrettably, the unintentional violation of the principles and protocols that form the core of our message to Nigerians at the funeral of the late chief of staff. These principles, for emphasis, include the guidance provided on mass gatherings, social distancing, personal hygiene, and restriction of movement. Lessons have been learnt and appropriate measures have been taken to close all gaps” a remorseful Mustapha said during one of the briefings of the Task Force.
Senate President Ahmad Lawan, has also applauded members of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) for their efforts in the management of the outbreak of Coronavirus.
He said: “Iwant to commend you for the work you have been doing. I want to also take this opportunity to commend the Nigerian medical personnel” Lawan said.
Foremost legal scholar Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), said the committee has done a great job , given the enormous challenges Nigeria is facing.
He said: “I must confess that I am very impressed with the performance of all our officials, especially the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 during this pandemic. They have really done a great job in view of the challenges that we have”.
“One, we have scarce resources, not only in materials and equipment but even in trained manpower. They have established a disciplined and organised manner for dealing with the problem”.
” They have also made a lot of sacrifice in daily planning and working to help us determine what the next step should be and also advising the President on what steps he should take in fighting the virus. I think they’ve done very well so far. I’m really impressed” .esting kits, treatment centres, and reduction in community transmission.
If the Federal Government had closed the borders earlier, the work of the committee would have been easier.
Also, it was evident that the Federal Government did not make preparation like the Lagos State government.
The lesson is that government should always anticipate emergencies and learnt to act with speed.
The committee will attract more commendation if the fatalities do not increase in geometrical proportion.
Many believe that attention should not shift to Kano State where the cases are frightening.
The committee, as coordinator of the battle, should encourage inter-state collaboration, peer review and exchange of information and ideas as the battle progresses.
The task force should consistently welcome more expert ideas and contributions from all the segments of the society to form an informal opinion on strategies for racing the temple of the battle against pestilence.