By ‘Emeka Ugbogu
BOSS Mustapha, chairman of the Presidential Task Force, PTF, on COVID-19, has said that Nigeria is now facing a rise in confirmed COVID-19 daily cases nationwide – similar to the second wave of infections occurring in other countries across the world.
Mustapha noted that various countries of the world including Nigeria, have been experiencing a second wave of infections which has proven to be more virulent. He said the new epicentres of COVID-19 are Lagos, Kaduna and the FCT, accounting for over 70% of all confirmed cases, adding: “This is major challenge that must be addressed.”
He made the statements at the submission of end-of-year (2020) report of the PTF on COVID-19, to President Muhammadu Buhari at the presidential villa on Tuesday, December 22.
Presenting the report, the PTF chairman thanked the President for giving him the opportunity to lead ministers, the national coordinator, members of the PTF on COVID 19, other officials of government and representatives of the network of partners developed in the process of the national response to present the end of year report on COVID-19 pandemic.
He noted that in compliance with the COVID-19 protocols, “the number of those present here are a fraction of the massive human resources mobilized for the National Response. Majority of these role players are however, following this ceremony, virtually.”
He said: “the year 2020 has been very significant to humanity. As we approach 2021, therefore, the PTF is recalibrating to enable it respond in a more effective manner to the new dynamics thrown up by the pandemic as a result of the new wave of infections and the arrival of vaccines.”
“In 2021, major decisions will be taken on the issue of vaccines. The PTF, as part of its mandate, is working in a coordinated manner to ensure that Nigeria is able to access and deploy vaccines in a safe, effective, timely and economically prudent manner.”
“The global community needs to take urgent, critical steps to overcome the pandemic fatigue which has not abated and still raging across the world.” These he said would be to “intensify risk communication, expand surveillance, testing and infection prevention and control.”
Mustapha said the report of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, “represents the state of the National Response as at the end of nine months of hard work (15th December, 2020).”
The PTF Chairman described the report as “work in progress because COVID-19 has not abated.”
Mustapha remarked; your Excellency, the Report being presented today has captured for posterity the strategy adopted, the resources mobilized & committed, achievements recorded, lessons learnt and it represents a useful roadmap for a national response, should emergencies occur in future.”
Stating the objectives for the setting up of the PTF on COVID-19 since March 2020, Mustapha said: “your Excellency, the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 has led the execution of interventions geared towards achieving epidemic control of COVID-19 in Nigeria. Nigeria’s COVID-19 response, which has been driven by science and data, was designed to achieve three primary aims of epidemic control by interrupting viral transmission, reducing the risk of the health system being overwhelmed due to increased demand and minimizing mortality among the most vulnerable parts of the population.
He said: “the other objectives include the reinvigoration of our nation’s health system, infrastructure and manpower to enable Nigeria conveniently confront any future outbreak and also build her potentials for medical tourism which has been a source of foreign exchange and brain drain over the years.
“With your Excellency’s active support, collaboration of National Assembly, the Nigeria Governors Forum, the National Economic Council, the Security Agencies, the private sector coalition, the international community, all frontline workers and indeed all Nigerians, the PTF recorded the achievements just viewed in the short Video clip, in major areas”.
The include funding, health care, infrastructure development, human capacity building, communication and social welfare
The PTF chairman said: “the operations of the PTF have been driven throughout the initial six months and the extended three months mandate, by a multi-sectoral process which facilitated expansive and indepth consideration of issues as well as speedy decision making. The process enjoyed the overwhelming support of the partners from the private sector and the international community.”
“Through these partners, Nigeria was able to put in place critical infrastructure nationwide, procure scarce medical equipment, test kits, and personal protective materials, etc.”
On delivery, monitoring and tracking of palliatives to Nigerians in the various States, Mustapha said; “for transparency, two web portals sponsored by the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) and the UNDP were opened for the tracking of resources mobilized from all sources. Similarly, a national register of resources mobilized has been created and remains under constant updating.”
The report also highlighted the challenges encountered by the PTF on COVID-19 in Nigeria and listed the lessons learnt, which include: the immense benefits derivable from multi-sectoral collaboration to address issues and effective communication with Nigerians.
Some of the lessons are that under emergency conditions, well rounded consideration should be given to all sectors; our health sector would require major reforms and must be pro-active; economic sustainability, recovery and preservation of lives and livelihood remain critical at all times.
It recommended that structured data collection, analysis and retrieval remain critical for effective governance; the phenomenon of evacuation of citizens from all over the world should become a significant policy issue for government
Also, it recommended that across board several public sector rules, practices, systems and some statutes require review/revision to effectively respond to extreme emergency situations;
It stated need to urgently establish a dedicated fund to address all pandemics and outbreaks; and stressed the significance of building on the synergy established with the private sector, the National Assembly and the sub-national entities, adding that the lessons are by no means exhaustive.