COVID 19: Why govt, individuals must work in synergy, by Lukman, PGF DG

Director General of the Progressive Governors Forum (PGF) Salihu Mohammad Lukman has emphasised that all Nigerians and corporate bodies must work in synergy with the government to ensure that the country survives the menace of the COVID 19 pandemic.

The APC Governors Forum DG warned that providing facilities for isolation alone as well as money for equipments cannot riding the country of the dreaded pandemic,, insisting that every body in the country must work in harmony with the authorities to ensure it’s eradication

Citing the situation in Italy and United States of America, he said, “Maurizio Cecconi, head of department of anesthesia at Humanitas Research Hospital, Milan, Italy advised the United States government not to think that they can win the battle against Covid-19 by “increasing capacity” as according to him “it’ll take government and citizens helping out as well. That includes taking drastic steps like canceling major events, having employees work from home, and other moves to limit the spread of the virus.’

“Underlying this advice from someone experienced and knowledgeable enough to authoritatively counselled the US government, which has now become the world epicenter of Covid-19 with over 85,000 confirmed citizens infected by the virus cannot be underestimated. Just few days ago, China with estimated 81,292 was the epicenter followed by Italy with slightly above 80,000 were ranked more than the US. Although the US is now the epicenter with the highest number of Covid-19 cases, its record of death of 1,308 is far below that of Italy that has so far recorded 8,215 death.

“If death is the yardstick for determining the epicenter, certainly Italy will be the epicenter. But given that death is a function of number of cases, the US is today the epicenter with higher risks of more death than Italy. This highlight the weight of Dr. Cecconi’s cautious advice, which although to the US government but it applies to all nations, including Nigeria.”

He emphasised that tackling the challenges of Covid-19 in Nigeria would require very good synergy of initiatives between government and citizens, stressing, “If advanced countries like US, Italy, France, Spain, UK, etc. are battling the virus with devasting consequences, it should be clear to us that the challenge is beyond infrastructural capacities such as hospitals, doctors, medical personnel, drugs, equipment, etc. Yes, capacity is very much required but given the speed with which Covid-19 spread across the population, ability of governments to develop the needed capacity will be overwhelming.

“Therefore, the current attitude of many Nigerians focusing on lamenting the state of health sector and what could appear to be the inhuman disposition that celebrate the unfortunate high-profile cases of Covid-19 positive cases in the country is misplaced and dangerous.

“By all means, we can criticise our governments and our leaders, but we need to do that by demonstrating our commitment to contribute to the fight against Covid-19 through clear actions, recommendations and initiatives to mobilise citizens to also play their roles. Noting for instance that the US government at the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis was reported to have mobilised $1 trillion, and yet this did not arrest the spread of Covid-19 in the US such that today it is the epicenter with 85,498 infected Americans and death of 1,308, the dangers facing us should be clear to all of us. Similarly, the UK government mobilised more than £300 billion. Yet, number of infected persons in UK is now 11,658, which include Prince Charles and the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, with 578 deaths and still counting.

“As Nigerians, we need to appreciate the enormity of the Covid-19 challenge. NCDC, team of medical personnel, Federal and State governments are doing excellently well to have so far kept death arising from Covid-19 in Nigeria to 1 out of 65. This is quite commendable. The fact that reported cases is 65 should not be the basis for celebration. This is because since the discovery of the index case in Lagos about two weeks ago, less than 300 people have been tested. This is largely the case due to issues that may not be unconnected to availability of testing equipment, which the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire pointed out that it has to conform with the standards provided by World Health Organisation (WHO).

Problem of availability of testing equipment is not just a Nigerian issue. It is a problem all over the world, which has necessitated that even patients with advanced symptoms in US and Europe have to go through some cuing to get tested. As a result, there are reported cases of deaths of infected persons waiting to be tested. It is possible that Alh. Aliko Dangote had this in mind when recently he appealed to Nigerian government to allow hospitals to conduct the tests.

“Beyond procuring the right equipment, there are conditions, which the hospitals should meet to be able to carryout the test. This will include having all the spaces and facilities required to treat positive cases. How do we ensure all these are mobilised within a very short time, in fact in matters of hours given the urgency Covid-19 challenges require? This will be a function of how citizens and government are able to work together.

“So far, the corporate community and wealthy Nigerians are impressively rising to this challenge. We hear of UBA contributing N5 billion, NNPC $30 million (more than N11 billion), Alh. Abdulsamad Rabiu, Chairman of BUA Group N1 billion, Alh. Aliko Dangote N200 million, Alh. Atiku Abubakar N50 million, to mention just few. In addition, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has just set up a Covid-19 Committee to mobilise funds and members of the Committee are asked to contribute N1 billion each. How all these donations are directed and coordinated to tackle Covid-19 in the country is not that of government and our political leaders alone.

“Maybe it needs to be stated unambiguously, the fight against Covid-19, from all the evidences will only be won by combinations governments’ and citizens’ initiatives. Where are our civil society leaders with all the claimed selfless services and international networks around issues of health and welfare services? This is the time to showcase those competencies and networks by joining all the taskforces setup by the federal and state governments to mobilise complimentary initiatives.

“Those complimentary initiatives are needed to strengthen capacity of governments to regulate provisions in our hospitals to meet WHO standards starting with procuring the right equipment to the provision of spaces for treating patients who have tested positive. Take the case of contact tracing, which the Minister of Health announced that efforts are still being made to trace more than 4,000 contacts. Imagine our leaders of non-governmetal organisations supporting government in the effort for contact tracing. Certainly, there could more success and speed in tracing the contacts and therefore minimising the spread of the virus in the country. This is what will be required to strengthen national capacity to control spread of the virus and cure positive cases.”

The Director-General, who regretted that some striking sections of the country’s Labour Union have not deemed it necessary to call off their strikes in the midst of the rampaging pandemic, LLukman called on both the Academic Staff Union of University (ASUU) and the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) to return to their duty posts and join hand’s with government at this trial time

‘With a very active labour movement that is very good and efficient in organising strikes, most times against very hostile security operatives, one would have thought this is one area that our NLC, TUC and all union and civil society leaders could volunteer their support. This is hardly the case. Our union leaders should join government to work out strategies to enforce social distancing and lockdowns. This should be even in the strategic interest of workers because during and after the Covid-19 battle, there will be the issue of how employers including governments are able to mobilise financial resources to pay salaries. Workers and their union leadership need to make some strategic social and moral investments ahead of the post Covid-19 labour relations challenges already brewing.

“Covid-19 require that we all come back to our senses by coming up with voluntary initiatives. We don’t have the luxury we think we have to just sit down and condemn our governments. The earlier we appreciate that it is either we support government to win the Covid-19 battle now or we simply just create a situation where government initiative remain weak and to the extent of such weakness, we all become endangered indiscriminately. Governments, civil society and union leaders and members will be as vulnerable as any ordinary citizen. The time to act is now. We don’t have the luxury of imagining that this is a problem for government. It is a problem for everyone!

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