Burundi’s President, Pierre Nkurunziza was reported recently to have died from the novel coronavirus. His sudden death created a power vacuum that led Burundi’s top Constitutional Court to rule that President-elect, Evariste Ndayishimiye should be sworn in immediately about two months before he was due to take office. This explains the great importance of securing the seat of power, where the leaders of the country reside, as sudden loss of the lives of the Country’s leadership can create a leadership vacuum that can have negative consequences on the administration of the country especially in our country that is bedevilled by mutual ethnic and religious suspicions.
FCT is home to the three arms of government. It is instructive to note that before the advent of the coronavirus, the health delivery system in the capital was comatose. Even the Aso Villa clinic is reputed to be poorly equipped or not equipped at all. It seems that the elites never anticipated that there could come a time when the world transport system will be disorganised and halted in a manner that would not enable them travel abroad for medical treatment. This situation resulted in a lot of our bigmen dropping like grasses and succumbing to the destructive jaws of death from covid-19 related complications. Aso rock was not spared the covid-19 incursion when it arrived Nigeria and it took away one of the most powerful citizens from there.
The first coronavirus case in Nigeria arrived Lagos on the 27th February, 2020 and branched to the FCT in March. Although Lagos recorded the first case, the first death in Nigeria from covid-19 complications was reported in the FCT on 22nd of March, 2020. Former Chief of Staff to the President who contracted the virus had to voluntarily go to Lagos for medical treatment because he couldn’t trust the available medical resources in the FCT. Even the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, alluded to the dire medical situation in the country, particularly in the FCT.
The Federal Capital Territory Administration led by the Minister of the FCT, Malam Muhammad Musa Bello, seeing the enormity of the medical emergency that covid 19 has imposed on the FCT did not pretend that they can solve the problem alone, especially in relation to the falling revenue from the Federal Government owing to the price of oil. He said, “it is very important that for us to jointly fight the covid 19 pandemic, we all have to work together, we have to be self-disciplined and enforce social distancing and restrict movement outside our residences, except under very essential circumstances”. He immediately embarked on consultation and partnership with all stakeholders in the battle against the merciless virus. He established the Ministerial Expert Advisory Committee which coordinated the partnership of the FCT with the organized private sector and saw the FCT wage a largely successful campaign against covid-19 with the provision and deployment of adequate bed spaces, palliatives, medical supplies, equipment and personnel.
In collaboration with the FCTA, the Ministerial Expert Advisory Committee, under the leadership of Dr Aliyu Modibbo Umar and in partnership with the organized private sector, provided a five storey building located at the Idu area of the FCT, which was a new training facility, but was modified to suit the purposes of an isolation and treatment facility for possible 500 covid-19 patients. University Teaching Hospital, Gwagwalada isolation centre was expanded, while Zuba General Hospital was converted into an isolation and treatment centre. The FCTA, by March, received a N500m donation from the UBA. African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) commenced the establishment of 500 bed world class medical centre in Abuja, situated on a 5.1 hectre plot of land, within the proposed Abuja Medical City Development Project in the Lokogoma District of Abuja. Asokoro Hospital was fully converted into an isolation and treatment centre which can accommodate up to 100 patients. NNPC supported with 70-bed hospital at Utako. Polaris Bank provided 100 beds for Idu isolation centre and FATA Foundation provided 50 beds and other items such as monitors and PPEs. CCECC provided the furniture, air conditioners, power and water to the facility. General Hospital, Karu is being retrofitted and upgraded into a standard isolation and treatment centre. Other Corporate Organisations which donated include MTN Nig PLC, Mikano Generators, Julius Berger Nig PLC which supplied 350 hospital beds. GE Health, GT Bank and Zenith Bank, Bank of Industry etc. Even the Army donated Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) to the FCT Administration. Binani Group of Companies donated 100 beds and mattresses to Idu isolation and treatment centre. Indeed, Idu isolation centre and treatment facility is an example of a functional partnership between the public and private sector working for the benefit of the people. The FCTA also recently partnered with the Federal Ministry of Health to ensure that no patient is turned away from any public hospital in the FCT for fear of the covid-19 pandemic and partnered with the National Orientation Agency under the Director General of the Agency, Dr Garba Abari, to ensure effective enlightenment of the populace on the guidelines of the FCTA to combat covid 19. Owing to the importance of testing to the successful tackling of the covid 19 pandemic, the FCTA established seven sample collection sites across the territory. These are in the National Reference Laboratory in Gaduwa, the Federal Ministry of Health premises, Federal Medical Centre, Jabi, National Hospital, University of Abuja Teaching Hospital in Gwagwalada and the General Hospitals in Garki and Nyanya. Efforts are on top gear to operationalize all general hospitals in the FCT to be sample collection sites.
The Minister constituted 5 enforcement teams to ensure compliance of already laid down covid-19 containment strategies. A team will monitor event centres, night clubs, restaurants and markets. Another team will monitor compliance in motor parks, bus terminals and taxis. The third team will monitor places of worship. The fourth, educational institutions while the fifth will ensure compliance at the Area Councils. He established a task force to apprehend the offenders of the guidelines established by FCTA and mobile courts to try the offenders to ensure fair hearing. The FCT covid-19 Situation Room was established to ensure effective coordination of all activities of the containment of the covid-19 in the FCT. To cushion the effects of the pandemic on the welfare of the citizens of the territory, 600,000 households of 100,000 each from each Area Council initially benefited from the palliatives from the FCTA. A monitoring team made up of civil society organisations, religious and traditional rulers, youth and women groups was established to ensure an equitable distribution of the palliatives and the distribution was carried out through a door to door mechanism to prevent overcrowding.
This is nothing short of a medical miracle within about 3 months by the Administration of the FCT led by the Minister, Malam Muhammad Musa Bello, the Honourable Minister of State, Dr Ramatu Tijani Aliyu and the Permanent Secretary of the FCT, Sir Chinyeaka Ohaa. It is not surprising that despite its population density and the fact that the first death from covid 19 occurred in the FCT, the territory has recorded 35 deaths from covid 19 related complications since then. This is about 1.5% of the total positive cases in the FCT. This shows that with effective management and mobilisation of our scarce resources in Nigeria and with expert coordination and cooperation among all persons and institutions involved in any venture, we can overcome all our challenges. In his submission, the DG, Nigerian Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu commended the FCT Minister and his team for the long strides taken to curb the spread of the pandemic in the FCT. According to the NCDC Boss “The FCT has been an absolute leader in the work we have done. We have close to 20,000 tests in the FCT and about 2,000 positives. This is the highest number of tests per population in any state in Nigeria. This shows the excellent work that has happened in FCT”.