By Anayo Ezugwu
DESPITE the impact Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on public gathering in Nigeria, the atmosphere at the Sheraton Hotel, Lagos, was electrified on Thursday, November 19, when Nigerians from all walks of life assembled for the Realnews eighth anniversary lecture and investiture into the Realnews Hall of Fame. It was indeed a gathering of technocrats, academics, captains of industry, medical experts, bankers, politicians, civil society groups and media practitioners, who converged to exchange ideas on how to protect Nigeria and Africa from COVID-19.
With Boss Mustapha, secretary to the government of the federation and chairman, Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, as the guest speaker and other renowned experts as discussants, the hall was filled with guests, who anxiously came to hear how the federal government managed the pandemic that plagued the world.
Maureen Chigbo, publisher and editor of Realnews, set the pace for the day when she said that the lecture was one of the ways the magazine is contributing to the development of the nation by providing a forum for frank discussions by experts and influential personalities on how to manage the pandemics. She said the topic of the lecture, “Managing COVID-19 Global Pandemic: the Nigeria Experience,” was informed by the need to escalate and broaden the conversation on how best to manage natural disasters like COVID-19. She applauded the federal government and Africa indeed for surviving the predictions of the Western world over the continent.
In his opening remarks, Prof. Chris Bode, Chief Medical Director, Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, urged the federal government and indeed African leaders to adopt the resilience approach in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and other challenges facing the region. He says that Africa has turned the grim outlook of the virus into one of unbelievable optimism.
According to him, Africa rose up as one in the fight against COVID-19. “A year ago, the COVID-19 pandemic started in China and soon spread to Europe and America. Predictions were dire for the developed world as we watched the wildfire spread of this disease and its unmitigated, rising morbidity and mortality figures.
“Even before it was declared a pandemic, the most optimistic outlook for Africa was apocalyptic. Our people rose as one and, in a concerted effort, the like of which we have not witnessed in 60 years, we turned the grim outlook into one of unbelievable optimism, now the object of several studies from other climes. We must harness this resilience and adapt it in confronting other challenges facing the region,” he said.
Delivering the lecture, Mustapha noted that the pandemic has helped in the development of critical infrastructure in the country. He said that the infrastructures was critical to an improved health system in Nigeria. He noted that so far Nigeria has activated 69 molecular laboratories for COVID-19 testing across the country and that 37 new treatment centres and ICUs are being built across the country.
According to the SGF, who was represented by Sani Aliyu, national coordinator, PTF, through CACOVID, there has been an unprecedented commitment of resources to public health by the organized private sector. “It is hoped that the linkages created with the private sector through COVID-19 will continue and help to strengthen other parts of the health system. COVID-19 has stimulated local production of face masks and shields, other PPEs, sanitizers, etc. This has helped many SMEs, and if scaled, will contribute to the recovery of the overall national economy,” he said.
Irrespective of the successes recorded in the fight against COVID-19, Mustapha said the country also faced challenges at the peak of the pandemic. He said inadequately equipped treatment centres, inadequate critical care equipment, and supplies like beds, oxygen and ventilators, etc affected the nation at the beginning of the pandemic.
“Despite great efforts towards optimizing laboratory capacity, the sample collection/testing rate remains low in many states. Increase in financial hardships, crime, and domestic violence during the lockdown, thus prolonged enforcement was unsustainable. Poor response from some State Governments, failure to provide adequate and complementary funds, and the required leadership. Some denied/downplayed the existence of the disease in their states at the beginning. Large populations do not believe that COVID-19 is real. Some, who believe that it is real, have low-risk perception resulting in poor adherence to interventions such as use of face masks and physical distancing.”
Mele Kyari, group managing director, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, and Alero Roberts, department of community health and primary care, College of Medicine, University of Lagos, took turns to make their contributions as discussants.
Kyari, who was represented by Usman Baba, managing director, National Engineering and Technical Company, NETCO, a subsidiary of the NNPC, said as a responsible corporate citizen, the corporation recognized the fact that it needed to answer the PTF on COVID-19’s call for support to control the pandemic. “As NNPC, our Medical team conducted a needs assessment of the health sector and mapped out interventions to close identified gaps.
“The medical team came up with a list of critical medical equipment and consumables needed urgently to beef-up the nation’s response to the pandemic. We galvanized companies operating in Nigerian Oil and Gas industry to set up an industry-wide initiative to provide support in kind to the government for this purpose. This was hinged on three thematic support initiatives with donations coming from across the oil and gas value chain, amounting to $30 million (N11 billion) to strengthen the country’s collective resolve to contain the spread of the virus. The three thematic areas included the provision of medical consumables, deployment of medical logistics and in-patient support system and delivery of medical infrastructure,” he said.
On her part, Alero Roberts, praised the resilient spirit of Nigerians in the face of any crisis. She attributed the successes recorded so far in the fight against COVID-19 to the Nigerian spirit.
“Indeed the collective Nigerian spirit is what is responsible for both Ebola and COVID-19 being defeated in the country. It is a spirit that is not going to go away anytime soon as we have seen in recent events. And sometimes when you try to squash it quite a bit too much, it rocks in areas we have not yet seen. But I’m grateful for the Nigerian spirit because it is that spirit that brought us here and given us the Realnews platform to speak to each other. I do still work for the government and they will not sack me, they will not keep me quiet, they will address these concerns,” she said.
The event also featured the investiture of new members into the Realnews Hall of Fame. The new inductees were Mustapha, Bode, Kyari, Roberts and Michael, Ihemaguba, Obgyn/Family Practice, Statcare Urgent Care, New York, USA.
– Nov. 20, 2020 @ 18:12 GMT |