COVID-19 AND PRIVATE SECTOR PARTICIPATION

The war against coronavirus (COVID-19), in Nigeria is being fought on all fronts. With over 1.2 million people infected, and more than 66,000 souls already despatched to their untimely graves worldwide, all hands must have to be on deck, not only to ameliorate the effects of the pandemic, but also to root COVID-19 out of the surface of the earth.

While the government is at the front leading the battle, the private sector, including religious and philanthropic organizations, is firing from behind, and together, if there is sincerity of purpose, coronavirus will be defeated. This would be examined at three levels.

*GLOBAL

From the global level, both the World Health Organization (WHO), and the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), have not lacked in showing effective leaderships and providing necessary guidance on how to prevent contracting and spreading coronavirus.

The Jack Ma Foundation and the Alibaba Foundation have also donated medical equipments like test kits, face masks, as well as ventilators for use in fighting the spread of the pandemic.

However, majority of Nigerians are yet to access any of these equipments, thereby creating doubts in their minds about the sincerity of those at the helm of affairs in their fight against the scourge.

*FEDERAL

Some individuals and corporate organizations under the aegis of Nigeria Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) have been falling on top of themselves, donating money to the federal government to enable them fight coronavirus and assist its victims.

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), as made the custodian of the relief fund, had, through its director of communication, Isaac Okarafor, revealed that so far a total of N19.4 billion was donated by these “philanthropic” Nigerians and organizations for use in fighting COVID-19.

But the question on the lips of many people is how will the government utilize the money? Already, many people are dying of hunger, occasioned by the present lockdown, and no assistance is on sight for majority of them.

Going by past experiences, like in the case of Grasscutter former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), James Lawal, who had helped himself with resources provided for those in IDPs camps, how are we sure that the present relief fund will not find its way into some private pockets?

Perhaps, that was why the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Ignatius Kaigama, had decided to use the Church’s established channels to distribute his own relief fund to people infected and affected by coronavirus, rather than turning in his donations to the federal government.

Speaking during a church service held in Abuja on Sunday, which was telecast live, the Archbishop said he was turning in all the monies and materials given to him by members of the Archdiocese during this year’s Cathdriaticum, for distribution to those affected by coronavirus, through members of St. Vincent de Paul and the Justice and Peace Commission of the Catholic Church.

Be that as it may, we want the federal government to be more visible in its fight against coronavirus. Mere mouthing that they had given out billions of naira to some invincible Nigerians as palliative, under their Conditional Cash Transfer Scheme, will not remove the fact that millions of other Nigerians, who are not beneficiaries of the programme, are indeed suffering, due to the current lockdown across the country, and therefore need to be urgently reached.

The government should therefore hasten up and roll out effective programme that would meet the practical needs of these millions of Nigerians who are in dire need of assistance, by delivering to them relief materials, like is done in other climes, before everything gets out of hand.

* STATE

Rather than identify with their state governments in their fights against coronavirus, some big shots in the country, perhaps, with some ulterior motives, decided to rush to Abuja, where they believed they would be better seen or heard, to make their own donations.

That, notwithstanding, some other groups and individuals still had identified with their state governments in the fight against COVID-19. They want to reach the people at the grassroot.

In Enugu State, for instance, a group known as African Development Institute for Research Methodology (ADIRM), is currently partnering with the state government by recruiting and training over 150 volunteers who have been mobilized to the streets, and are creating awareness and sensitizing the public against the dangers of COVID-19.

Apart from procuring and reproducing PPE materials for use in the campaign against coronavirus, the group had also turned in to the state government, a 600-bed capacity facility donated to it by an Enugu based company, Golden Royale Ltd., for use as isolation centre, in case there is an escalation of coronavirus in the state.

In the same vein, the Catholic Bishops of Enugu, Awgu and Nsukka Dioceses, had reportedly made a joint donation to Enugu State government for the prosecution of war against the pandemic.

Coronavirus is a global emergency. It is a dangerous disease. It has killed thousands of people in many countries of the world, even with the best of facilities at their disposal.

With almost zero facilities available here in Nigeria, our wish is that Nigerians should not give it any chance. We should fight it with all the might and power at our disposal, or we can muster. This is a wake up call for us all.

Dr. Dons Eze.

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