Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Presidential Task Force on Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has explained the collaboration between the Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) and the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) to share palliatives to vulnerable households during the lockdown.
According to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and chairman of PTF, Boss Mustapha, at Monday’s media briefing by the Task Force, apart from the fact it was meant to ease the economic hardship imposed on the poor masses by the pandemic lockdown, the collaboration was to determine the quantum of the intervention.
Mustapha said: ‘Of particular concern to the PTF is the issue of palliatives found and looted from various warehouses around the country. It is important to make the following clarifications.
‘The Federal Government Palliatives consisted largely of the 70MT (Metric Tonnes) of grains released from the Strategic Grain Reserves as well as rice secured from the Nigerian Customs Service. The share for each State was handed over to the State Governments for onward distribution to the citizens.
‘The private sector coalition (CACOVID) that has been quite supportive of the Federal Government, worked with the States through the Nigerian Governors’ Forum to determine the quantum of their intervention, which was intended to be effective and equitable. A number of indices were worked out for this purpose.’
The PTF Chairman appealed to Nigerians to remain law-abiding and collaborate with law enforcement agencies to restore normalcy to our dear country. Humanity has been traumatized by COVID-19. Our nation is not experiencing a second wave but has been impacted negatively by the looting and arson. Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, also appealed to the youths to stop crashing into Medical Stores.
Represented by the Minister of State Health, Dr Olorunnimbe Mamora, he said: ‘Most of the medicines and medical consumables in these stores are stored under controlled environmental conditions such as temperatures and humidity. Disruption of these conditions would render them ineffective and in some cases poisonous. The NCDC warehouse in Idu is used for the storage of medical and laboratory consumables and equipment. Destruction of these items will impact negatively on our response to this pandemic.
‘I also call on all who are in possession of vaccines, medicine and other equipment and consumables to please return them. Those that can still be salvaged will be used and those that cannot will be disposed of properly.’
The National Coordinator of the PTF, Dr Sani Aliyu, on his part, said some of the warehouses for COVID-19 items do not contain food items.
‘Some of our warehouses do not contain food items, they contain medical equipment, test kits and valuable items that are extremely important when it comes to the COVID response. Therefore, we are pleading with all those that are currently in the process of planning etc to desist from doing so. It is important that our assets are protected, it is important that what the country has bought for the purpose of the COVID pandemic and what our donors have provided are used for the purpose that there are meant to do. And this purpose does not include looting of the items.’
The Coordinator also clarified the difference between the task force mandate and that of CACOVID.
‘CACOVID is a private sector initiative which was set up in the early part of the response as a contribution to the government’s effort. The PTF has worked very closely with CACOVID to deliver some of our key mandates.
‘It is important to remember that as we go into the issue of palliatives, supplies, storage and distribution that this process is integrated and also very complex. But we also understand that palliatives also need to be distributed with the greatest number of urgency, so that millions of struggling Nigerians can receive economic support.
‘CACOVID has been a critical partner in our response to COVID-19. They have supported the country in the supplies of PPEs (personal protective equipment). They also provided technical support in the development and launch of the Nigerian International Travel Portal, which has made it possible for passengers to come into the country and depart on international flights.
‘CACOVID has also been working with state governments and the FCT and the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, to procure, deliver and distribute palliatives to 1.7 million Nigerians, to the most vulnerable households across Nigeria.
‘What I am going to read out are the facts. Food items were meant to deliver to 1.7 million families across all 774 local government areas in the 36 states and the FCT. It is an unprecedented relief effort, which actually started out in April. The sheer scale of the food programme by CACOVID meant that the programme had to be delivered in a staggered and controlled manner.
‘CACOVID worked with the states through the Nigeria Governors’ Forum to determine the number of households that will have these reliefs, to enable states and the FCT provide clean and secure warehousing for the food items. Only the Lagos warehouse is private property, the rest of the warehouses have been state warehouses.
‘It also included the adoption of CACOVID guidelines how the food will be delivered, which involved states and local government committee comprising chairpersons, religious organizations etc, to ensure equitable distribution of the food among the needy.
‘Out of the 11 million supplies ordered, 11 million were confirmed to be delivered. And in items of the schedule, 17 states had 100 per cent deliveries and a kickoff exercise was conducted. Twelve states had over 85 per cent deliveries reached, only [few] states did not have a flag off or a formal handover of these commodities. Of the eight states, two had 100 per cent deliveries and a process of kickoff exercise currently in place, while the remaining six states had over 68 per cent deliveries reached.
‘Since the deliveries began with CACOVID and state governments, official flagging and handover have taken place in 28 states and the FCT. And these states have been distributing items in various places based on need.
‘It is also important to clarify that some of these states government have bought their own palliatives that they are distributing. Some states have received complete or near-complete deliveries of the food items allotted to them. As of today, several states have confirmed the completion of their distribution.
‘It is, therefore, quite concerning that we continue to see images of looting on the social media given all the work that has been going on and the goodwill of the private sector towards supporting the COVID response. We do understand the underlying issues, but we continue to plead with the general public to exercise restraint and allow this process to conclude.
‘At the PTF, we will remain focused in dealing with the pandemic, this is our mandate and we will not be distracted and we plead with the public to continue to work with us as well as our private sector partners and state governments so that we can get on top of what is clearly a major issue not only nationally but globally that continues to challenges governments across the world.’
Curfews have restricted testings – NCDC
The Director-General of Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr Chike Ihekweazu, has said that the curfew imposed by state governments to halt the continuous looting of warehouses and destruction of properties have slowed down testing for COVID-19.
He said posting of the result of the centre’s social media handles was halted in respect for those who have lost their lives as a result of the unfortunate incidents of the past couple of days.
According to him, ‘we must not allow our anger to trick into a situation where we head to double jeopardy. The outbreak is escalating around the world literally. We have held it down because of our proactive measures, the very effective airport screening we have put in place to limit the reintroduction of cases from countries where the outbreak is escalating. But this virus does not know whether the reasons why people are congregating. Whether you are congregating for religious purposes, protests, partying whatever it is, this virus takes the opportunity of people coming to together.
‘So, over the last few days, you would have seen very low numbers depicts the fact that IB many states we have not been able to test as much as we would like to because they have been curfews. Forty to 60 per cent of our testing cases are reported from Lagos. Our labs in Lagos have not been able to perform as they would normally would for the past two to three weeks.
‘So, we must keep at it, we cannot afford to let our guards down irrespective of what our anger is at the moment.
‘As we move into the next two weeks, it will not take a rocket scientist to know that we have to watch the numbers very carefully. The reasons are obvious, we have gathered in our masses for whatever reason and for now we have to keep our eyes open for the potential consequences. Those consequences are not inevitable, we can still do our part to prevent them. Over a thousand known deaths would not have happened in Nigeria this year if this virus had not happened. There could have been a lot more if not the proactive work we have done as a country. We cannot let down our guards, we cannot afford to add this to the many challenges that we have.
‘Many states have done well be raising their testing capacity, so we must stay on the ball. We know there is a lot of despondency across the country and you can feel the mood wherever you go but knowing the opponent that we face, we have to get up the next morning and find the energy to keep working hard and ensure that we do not lose the very fragile peace that we have worked so hard to achieve for the last eight months.’
We may face serious environmental hazards – Minister
Minister of Environment Muhammad Mahmood, on his part, said due to some of the items that have been looted, it can constitute environmental hazards in the country.
He said: ‘Breaking into warehouses can constitute serious environmental hazards. Some of the items looted, they think they can use it without knowing they cannot use it. It may constitute serious hazards, so please desist from this wanton destruction and looting, it’s not going to help.’