PTF: Need for Transparency  on Covid-19

PTF: Need for Transparency  on Covid-19


Chinazor Megbolu

Many Nigerians especially the poor and downtrodden have been groaning since the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic ever since it was first detected and recorded in the country from a foreigner. The cases have been almost on a daily basis though with few deaths compared to the over 8,000 cases so far recorded.

The hardship on the masses became worse when total lockdown was declared by President Muhammadu Buhari as many who depend on daily income could not feed themselves and their wards. Many went begging and soliciting for alms as government at all levels looked the other way. Governments in the wake of the lockdown declaration had promised palliatives for the citizenry but that never came as almost a huge percentage never received anything till this moment.

All what many saw on the news medium was huge amount running into billions of Naira expended on feeding or taking care of the citizens that never was. Those who did receive something did so with heavy heart filled with complaints for they had said they received food stuff so difficult to share. They claimed government agencies in charge of palliatives  sent a package for a whole street that when collated, wasn’t up to a bag of rice. How can a street of over 200-500 people including women and children share a bag of rice? It’s a shame! The story was the same nationwide. Some didn’t even get anything.

All these didn’t stop there. During the lockdown period, some group of notorious boys known as ‘one million boys’ began to give the masses sleepless nights across the country especially Lagos and Ogun States as they unleashed mayhem on the people by stealing from them money, foodstuffs and other valuables leaving behind sorrow, tears and blood. They have claimed they had no choice than to do what they were doing out of frustration.

This bad behavioural attitude from ‘one million boys’ had forced many men and youths and in some cases, women to become community vigilantes policing their domains and ready to counter the bad boys should they appear in their respective territories since the governments couldn’t come to their aid economically and security wise.

The maritime industry is not left out in this whole thing. The regulators like the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), freight forwarders and customs brokers associations, terminal operators and other government agencies and stakeholders have one way or the other lived up to there billing by making the ports viable for operations except for few cases of Covid-19 witnessed in the sector. They have in some cases churned out guidelines towards containing the spread and even setting up compliance team to help implement it.

This medium is calling on the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 headed by the Secretary to the Federal Government (SGF), Mallam Boss Mustapha to be transparent in its dealing as regards containing the pandemic and affecting lives of individuals in the society.

The PTF on Covid-19 during lockdown period, received volunteer personnel, ambulance, buses, and medical equipment, in form of ventilators donated by the NIMASA for the fight against the pandemic.

Mustapha, while receiving the donations  said the Federal Government of Nigeria needs the cooperation of all and sundry, corporate bodies and individuals, in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic ravaging the world.

The other materials donated were; ventilators, oxygen concentrators, personal protective equipment, rapid test kits, and hand sanitizers, as well as  cash donations. The question remains, have all these donations been properly utilised, on what and by who?

The NSC, which this medium has given kudos to its Executive Secretary, Barrister Hassan Bello for his up and doing attitude especially during this period did not rest on its oars to make the ports operational. He had said the seaports must continue working despite the Covid-19 challenges.

The seaport economic regulator headed by Bello during a press conference with port stakeholders and representatives of relevant maritime agencies, noted the Council has taken steps to ensure that cargo flow continues, despite the challenges the port system is currently facing due to the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to him; “in an interdependent world, goods continue to move around and the manufacturing of goods cannot be halted otherwise economies would be in bigger trouble than they are set to be as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Many essential commodities, particularly drugs, medical equipment and consumables need to be imported by many countries including Nigeria.

It is against this background that the Nigerian Shippers’ Council stepped up its engagement with port operators by providing transportation to and from the ports daily for freight forwarders during the period if the lockdown. I must remark that response to this service has been encouraging.

“Considering the impact of port activities on the economy, it is important that the correct state of affairs be communicated to all stakeholders in order not to exacerbate a situation which has the potential to affect the lives and livelihoods of Nigerians, the council noted”.

The United Nations in Nigeria, in partnership with the federal government, has launched the Covid-19 Basket Fund to complement ongoing efforts to mobilise resources in support of the National COVID-19 Multi-Sectorial Pandemic Response Plan, developed by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.

They had announced the Basket Fund will serve as the One Covid-19 Financing and Investment Platform for diverse stakeholders (UN and other multilateral, bilateral, private sector, foundations, philanthropists, among others) to channel their financial support to ensure an efficient, effective and impactful response to the coronavirus pandemic.

They also added that Covid-19 Basket Fund will be facilitated and implemented by the UN in Nigeria, through a Project Management Board that would have representatives of the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 Response, relevant Government agencies, contributing donors and the UN.

According to the United Nations Resident Coordinator and Representative of the UN Secretary-General in Nigeria, Mr. Edward Kallon, “we applaud the Nigerian government at all levels for its efforts and measures to urgently mobilise resources to address the impact of COVID-19. But the Government cannot do it alone. For the country to succeed in fighting back the threat of the coronavirus pandemic, we must all come together across all sectors to support the government at this time of great need”.

They had maintained that the National COVID-19 Response Plan is developed around 10 pillars, comprising scaling up surveillance, testing, isolation, contact tracing, infection prevention and control (including protection of medical staff), case management of critically ill Covid-19 patients, risk communication and community engagement, research and emergency preparedness, security and logistics for mass care, and coordination and resource mobilisation.

The UN system further called on the Government and donors, that the Basket Fund will also fund socio-economic measures, such as cash transfers or food distribution to vulnerable groups adversely affected by measures instituted to control further spread of the pandemic.

Many especially the downtrodden and the electorates never received anything from Governments despite billions donated in form of cash or materials.

Under the impact of the UN in Nigeria, through the  mobilised and deployed over USD $2 million of Basket Fund from the UN system for the procurement of essential medical supplies that will boost the efforts of the Nigerian Government in containing Covid-19 and caring for those confirmed cases in need of serious medical attention are yet to be felt.

This is the real reason we’re calling for transparency in the distribution of palliatives to the citizenry. There is need for monitoring and compliance team filled with men and women of integrity to help implement it otherwise, it will remain a mirage. The outcome or result of not doing the needful could be detrimental to the well-being and growth of this entity called Nigeria.

It is very painful that with staggering records of Covid-19 cases, many people both the educated and uneducated are not fully convinced of the pandemic. Their argument being that they are yet to “see” any victim. Those who are daily discharged are believed to be victims of fever, flu and cold common sickness in the country.

Some have even gone to the extent of saying the pandemic has been turned into a money making venture.

Perhaps with the pandemic situation, the government should declare a state of emergency in the health sector. As it is, the notion of privacy in the sector should be handled with care. More people have argued that with our culture of closeness, covid-19 victims should be made known so,everyone who has made contact with them will quickly go for test and make contact tracing an easy task and in the end, the ravaging  pandemic will not be seen as a fluke and all hands will be on deck to assist the government in curtailing the spread by totalling complying with the advisories.

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