A chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Director General of the Progressives Governors Forum (PGF) Salihu Lukman, has asked Nigerians at all levels to support some of the initiatives put in place by the federal and the State governments, warning that ignoring such support could endanger lives indiscriminately.
A statement Lukman signed Friday in Abuja, said the earlier Nigerians appreciate that it is either they support government to win the Covid-19 battle now or they simply just create a situation where government initiative remain weak and to the extent of such weakness, “we all become endangered indiscriminately.”
According to the PGF boss, Covid-19 require that all Nigerians come back to their senses by coming up with voluntary initiatives.
“We don’t have the luxury we think we have to just sit down and condemn our governments.
“Governments, civil society and union leaders and members will be as vulnerable as any ordinary citizen. The time to act is now. We don’t have the luxury of imagining that this is a problem for government. It is a problem for everyone!
“So far, the corporate community and wealthy Nigerians are impressively rising to this challenge. We hear of UBA contributing N5 billion, NNPC $30 million (more than N11 billion), Alh. Abdulsamad Rabiu, Chairman of BUA Group N1 billion, Alh. Aliko Dangote N200 million, Alh. Atiku Abubakar N50 million, to mention just few. In addition, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has just set up a Covid-19 Committee to mobilise funds and members of the Committee are asked to contribute N1 billion each. How all these donations are directed and coordinated to tackle Covid-19 in the country is not that of government and our political leaders alone.”
Lukman said for Covid-19 to be won, it will require combinations governments’ and citizens’ initiatives where civil society leaders with all the claimed selfless services and international networks around issues of health and welfare services.
“This is the time to showcase those competencies and networks by joining all the taskforces setup by the federal and state governments to mobilise complimentary initiatives.
“Those complimentary initiatives are needed to strengthen capacity of governments to regulate provisions in our hospitals to meet WHO standards starting with procuring the right equipment to the provision of spaces for treating patients who have tested positive. Take the case of contact tracing, which the Minister of Health announced that efforts are still being made to trace more than 4,000 contacts. Imagine our leaders of non-governmetal organisations supporting government in the effort for contact tracing. Certainly, there could more success and speed in tracing the contacts and therefore minimising the spread of the virus in the country. This is what will be required to strengthen national capacity to control spread of the virus and cure positive cases.
“Perhaps, this is already taking place, but in the same spirit of accountability during elections when we have civil society organisations setting up situation rooms and issuing out daily or periodic reports around initiatives to guarantee free and fair elections, is it not possible to also have civil society Covid-19 situation rooms located across the country and releasing reports about initiatives and progress towards supporting our governments in this direction? This way, it will not just be the voices of government officials on what is being done to combat Covid-19 in Nigeria but also that of citizens. This is one area where the leadership of National Orientation Agency (NOA) should demonstrate some competence and capabilities to mobilise Nigeria’s non-state actors to commit themselves to the national effort to combat Covid-19.
“The other issue is the question of enforcing social distancing and lockdown. With a very active labour movement that is very good and efficient in organising strikes, most times against very hostile security operatives, one would have thought this is one area that our NLC, TUC and all union and civil society leaders could volunteer their support. This is hardly the case. Our union leaders should join government to work out strategies to enforce social distancing and lockdowns. This should be even in the strategic interest of workers because during and after the Covid-19 battle, there will be the issue of how employers including governments are able to mobilise financial resources to pay salaries. Workers and their union leadership need to make some strategic social and moral investments ahead of the post Covid-19 labour relations challenges already brewing.
“It is quite disturbing that our public conversation around Covid-19 tend to miss out on a number of these issues. Otherwise, why should our university lecturers be on strike at this critical moment. Even some sections of medical doctors were on strike in parts of the country until Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) directed them to call off the strike some few days ago. If university lecturers are on strike at this time, including lecturers in faculties of medicine and possibly university teaching hospitals, it simply means our universities and teaching hospitals are not part of efforts by governments’ initiatives to fight Covid-19. This is quite scandalous and to say the least disturbing.
“We may also decide to ignore the fact that ASUU is an affiliate of NLC and at least two other affiliates of NLC operate in the health sector. These are Medical and Health Workers and Nurses and Midwives. In fact, the President of NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba is a Medical worker. How is NLC and its leadership, given their vantage influences in the nation’s health sector applying themselves to engage Nigerian government to ensure strong capacity to win the Covid-19 battle? It may be too early to say whether it is a question of volunteering initiatives or that of evaluating government’s initiative.” The PGF boss suggested that allowing hospitals to conduct Coronavirus tests could be helpful to the extent that they are able to procure the right equipment.
“Beyond procuring the right equipment, there are conditions, which the hospitals should meet to be able to carryout the test. This will include having all the spaces and facilities required to treat positive cases. How do we ensure all these are mobilised within a very short time, in fact in matters of hours given the urgency Covid-19 challenges require? This will be a function of how citizens and government are able to work together.”