Members of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 at a briefing in Abuja
*Why govts, PTF, NGOs, others must provide more palliatives — Kpajie
By Clifford Ndujihe & Omeiza Ajayi
Established on March 10, the 12-member Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, headed by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Mr Boss Mustapha, was saddled with the responsibility of developing and coordinating “a multi-sectoral inter-governmental approach as advised by the World Health Organisation, WHO, similar to that adopted for the HIV epidemic in the last two decades.”
The committee, which was given six months to deliver on its mandate, has Dr. Sani Aliyu as its National Coordinator.
Other members are Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire; Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola; Minister of Aviation, Mr Hadi Sirika; Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Services, Sadiya Umar-Farouk; Minister of Education, Mr Adamu Adamu; Minister of Environment, Mr Mohammed Mahmoud; Director-General, Department of State Services, Mr Yusuf Bichi; Director-General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control; Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu; and World Health Organisation Country representative.
The Presidential Task Force, PTF, has been able to galvanize local and international support to the effect that the Federal Government has received billions of Naira in cash and materials.
According to the SGF, there is a high level coordination of the United Nations agencies and other bilateral and multilateral partners, foundations and international bodies involved in the response resulting in a common United Nations Basket Fund.
To achieve the mandate of making Nigeria COVID-19 pandemic free, the PTF embarked on sensitisation campaigns in all the 774-local councils in the country. The committee also recommended 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 were countries with over 1,000 cases domestically at that time as well restricting the issuance of visas from the countries and suspension of issuance of visa on arrival to travellers from the named countries.
Issues with states
The PTF’s engagement with states has been less than satisfactory on account of the conduct of some states. For instance, when President Muhammadu Buhari on March 30 declared an initial 14-day lock-down in the Federal Capital Territory FCT, Lagos and Ogun states, the Ogun state government went on to request for an extra week before the presidential imposition would become effective.
Also, following the presidential declaration easing the lock-down as from May 4, the Ogun state government has postponed its implementation by a week. Granted that Nigeria is a federal structure and the sub-national entities are at liberty to tinker with some of the lock-down guidelines according to their peculiarities, adequate consultations would have avoided this type of situation.
The implication of the Ogun decision especially with the first declaration was that the presidential proclamation took the state by surprise and so was not a product of wide consultations with the states.
Then, there was a back and forth between the PTF and states regarding the issue of tests.
The current ban on interstate movement should have taken effect when the initial lock-down was declared.
The PTF had issues with the Akwa Ibom state Government which faulted the results of tests conducted by the NCDC and asked for a retest. In Cross River, which has not recorded any case, the state government was angered by the utterances of the NCDC to the extent that the governor gave an order that NCDC officials coming into the state to take samples must be quarantined for 14 days.
In Kogi, Governor Yahaya Bello told the NCDC point-blank that he would not manufacture COVID-19 figures to make up the numbers for the NCDC when the state has no case. This verbal altercation between states and the NCDC which is part of the Presidential Task Force, PTF, is unnecessary.
Although, the committee has faced a number of challenges such as controversies trailing the distribution of palliatives with some states complaining, and its violation of its guidelines on social distancing during the burial of Malam Abba Kyari, Chief of Staff to President Buhari, for which it later apologised, its work has received commendation in some quarters.
Senate President Ahmad Lawan, few days ago applauded members of the committee for their efforts. Lawan commended the Task Force for standing so firm to execute the assignment given to it, saying “I want to commend you for the work you have been doing. I want to also take this opportunity to commend the Nigerian medical personnel.”
The Director-General of the United Nations health agency, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, in a tweet recognised the government’s efforts and measures taken to contain the spread of the virus. Ghebreyesus said that Nigeria was swift and transparent in the manner it shared the sequence of coronavirus from the country’s first case, and thanked the Nigeria Centre For Disease Control, NCDC for its efforts since the index case was reported late February.
To ensure robust engagement with the public, the PTF has opened a WhatsApp chatroom to allow it take questions from the public. It is hoped that the PTF would attend to issues real time via the chatroom.
Kpajie tasks govts, PTF, NGOs, wealthy individuals for more palliatives
Meanwhile, to mitigate the effects of the lock-down occasioned by the raging COVID-19 pandemic, the committee, governments at all levels, non governmental organisations and wealthy individuals have been urged to give the citizenry more palliatives.
Since the plague hit Nigeria a host of corporate organisations, NGOs, churches, politicians and philanthropists and governments at many levels have given palliatives in the form of cash, nose masks and foot items to the citizenry.
However, the palliatives were grossly inadequate. To make the palliatives count, a community leader, Chief Tochukwu Kpajie, has urged more affluent citizens to chip in their bit.
The Uke, Anambra state-born business executive and Chief Executive of STK Industries Ltd, made the appeal while distributing palliative items to citizens at Uke, Idemili North Local Government Area of Anambra State. Each of the 54 administrative Wards in the six villages that make up Uke was represented by their local chairman who collected and distributed the items that included 2,000 cartons of noodles, 1,200 bags of rice, and 1,100 bags of Semolina among others.
Chief Kpajie said he was moved to procure and present the items as his own little way of assisting the citizens to cushion the biting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic lock-down in Anambra State, especially Uke.
He urged Uke youths, men and women to see the palliative interventions as mere assistance, praying that more sons and daughters of the community and others would extend more of such items to them.
Some of the beneficiaries who spoke to journalists prayed for and commended Kpajie’s kind gesture. They said it was worthy of emulation by others, pointing out that such acts of kindness give citizens some sense of belonging and shows that they have not been forgotten.
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