COVID-19: Makinde Is Making Progress, I need His Approval To Launch Testing Centre In Ibadan–Akin Alabi
TRANSCRIPTS: HONOURABLE AKIN ALABI’S INTERVIEW WITH MAYOR ISAAC BROWN ON FRESH 105.9 FM COVID SITUATION ROOM TUESDAY 5TH OF MAY, 2020
MAYOR: Good morning and welcome to yet another exciting moment where we keep you up-to-date as regards where things stand in our state, nationally and globally when it comes to COVID-19 issue. As we speak this morning we have no vaccine to fight this pandemic. Even Remsdivir, the drug that was approved by the MDA in US has only one critical attribute which is to reduce the number of days COVID-19 patient spend in the clinic from 15 days to 11 days. So, we don’t have a cure yet, the only way to combat this virus is follow restriction regulations from the government. It is on that note, we introduce federal legislator of Ona-Ara/Egbeda constituency chief Akin Alabi, good morning to you.
ALABI: Good morning to the good people of Oyo state, thanks for having me.
MAYOR: Let me quickly inform you our listeners where things stand. As at this morning when it comes to COVID-19 situation in our country, we have 93 deaths and we have passed over 2000 as we speak. Let’s come back to Oyo state, a little bit significant numbers we had yesterday five new cases in Oyo state but those five news cases are quite interesting. I must give kudos to Governor Seyi Makinde for being very proactive, few days ago, there was this vehicle that came in form Sokoto headed to Ondo state that was intercepted at Oyo-Osun border, the vehicle was detained by security operatives, the eleven passengers there were quarantined and subjected to COVID-19 test, out of those eleven passengers, four of them were confirmed as having COVID-19. Also, the first big news from Oyo state when it comes to COVID-19 has be the American visitor that was sighted at your local government, Ona-Ara. That was the first major news that we had in Oyo state on Covid1. So, Honourable, how will you assess the effort of the Oyo state government from the point of that major news to the story coming from the border?
ALABI: I think the Oyo state government was very slow in responding. They should have dealt with it faster and more efficiently than they did. We all saw the lackadaisical attitude of the government at the beginning until things really got worst and they began to get their house together. We all remember that at the beginning when there was a lot of news coming into the country about coronavirus, the first few cases in the country, that was the time they held their rally. Now, this is not say the rally contributed to the spread because a lot people that went to that rally have actually tested negative, I don’t know, we don’t know because we don’t know everybody, but, we know that the rally was a very wrong move and even though the governor has apologised but that doesn’t mean it has corrected the wrong.
Mayor cuts in, If you are going to refer to the rally, there has been a lot of push backs about the fact that your colleague, Honourable Akinremi also had a big party beside UCH, hundreds of friends and party faithfuls were at that burial ceremony, that also came at that period, so what do you make of that push back?
ALABI: What I make of it is you asked a question about government’s response and I am telling you how, so, I think the government that is supposed to be responding to something shouldn’t hold a rally at that time, that is not to say that the situation of where we are is coming from the rally. I am just trying to emphasize the lackadaisical attitude of the government of at the time. Overtime, when everyone saw the seriousness of the virus, obviously, they were forced to rise to the occasion and they have been doing their best and they need our support because it is not what one person can do, we all have to come together, join hands together, so that we can fight this enemy.
MAYOR: The area of disagreement between your (APC) and the government has always been the partial or the full lockdown approach, Honourable Akin where do you stand?
ALABI: It is a tough decision, this kind of situation where we cannot be too sure of what the right thing is and after, you look back at the decision and you examine it. It is like you wake up in the middle of the night and there is a fire in your house, nobody can tell you the right decision at that moment, maybe to get water or go in and rescue your child. At the beginning, we talked about total lockdown and the government did that which helped in stopping the spread of the virus. Now, because of economic hardship faced by the people, so there was a lot of debate as to whether the lockdown should be eased or not. Then the government succumbed to the pressure and there was a relief of the lockdown yesterday (Monday). If you look at images coming from Lagos state, you would just shake your head, now, we are praying that we wouldn’t get to the situation where we would beg the government to lock us in by force when the people start dropping dead like pigs. What I am saying is that, it is a tough decision, if you say lockdown, people would say they are hungry, if you say we should go out, are we not risking the lives of the citizenry? So, we got to find a balance, I was totally in support of the lockdown, I think the lockdown shouldn’t have been eased now, yet, the same time like I said you can’t make a perfect decision because of what people would eat.
Mayor cuts in, As it applies to Oyo state, where do you stand?
ALABI: it is the same thing, it applies all over, this disease is ravaging the whole country and we are talking about closing border when it is not possible, so anything that affect another state is going to affect another state at the end the day, so, it is a thing that, we should look at it holistically, I think a total lockdown is the right way to go, but like I said earlier you understand the frustration of the people why they want to go out but with the pictures that are coming out, we are all scared and people who said we should ease the lockdown are saying I think we made a wrong move by easing the lockdown. So, nobody knows the perfect thing to do, we just need to keep trying, put hands and head together to come in with the best decision day by day
MAYOR: still on the measures, I am sure even though you are in Abuja, you are getting report of how things are playing out in your constituency, are you satisfy with the level of compliance when it comes to some of the measures that have been put in place in the state, in terms of the curfew, social distancing and closure of non-essential businesses?
ALABI: I am not satisfied because all these things you mentioned, no one is adhering to it, let’s be honest with ourselves, we can show pictures to the press for the PR, but go into street, markets and the like, who is maintaining social distance? Is there anybody doing that? If you go to Oje or Beere or Mapo market, are they doing social distancing?
Mayor cuts in, Are you impressed with the night curfew?
ALABI: Night curfew that I get calls about that people are moving around after 8pm and 9pm, these things are hard to enforce, not solely because it is the problem of the governor, no, it is in the hands of the security agencies because the governor will not get on the road himself to start stopping people and how many policemen are there to enforce the measures? So, it is not effective really because people are still moving around after 8pm.
MAYOR: let’s flip back to interventions by the federal government and the state government, especially, you are fully aware that Lagos and some couple of states believed to be hard hit by COVID19 got some good money by the federal government, will you say that the federal government need to do something about Oyo state financially?
ALABI: A few things have been done by the federal government when it comes to palliatives, for example, with the conditional cash transfer, I personally know hundreds of people that have benefitted from this.
Mayor cuts in, Are you saying you know hundreds of people in Ona-Ara and Egbeda that have collected this cash transfer from the federal government and they’ve been calling you that they’ve received the money?
ALABI: 100 per cent, yeah, I was even following up to make sure that these people get their money. But, one thing I have said on social media on the issue of palliative is, it is a thing that is supposed to be done across all levels of government, for example, look at the state government, not just Oyo state, all the states of the federation, personal income tax is paid to the state government, so, this is the time for the state government to show Nigerians the benefit of paying your personal income tax.
Mayor cuts in, Are you advocating for tax holiday?
ALABI: Not tax holiday, actually it is tax credit sort of for those that regularly pay as you earn from their monthly salary.
MAYOR: The much expected palliatives by Oyo state government, hopefully, will be rolled out coming weekend. I am sure you are aware of the back and forth between the state government and the federal government over the rice sent to the poorest of the poor. What is your assessment of the palliative issue as we speak this morning in Oyo state?
ALABI: This is the time for everybody to rally round each other and support each other because nobody can do it alone, just as the federal government is doing out, state government should be doing, office holders should be doing it and even individuals who are blessed or the guy next door should be doing it. Like you said, now, I don’t have any information about the state government rolling out palliative, but it is fantastic, they should roll it out. The people will be waiting to receive it, it is long overdue. For me I have done my bit in many ways. I have sent out foodstuff a lot, I have done cash transfer, I have done it on the street and on social media. I did it on radio and your station is one of the medium I used.
Mayor cuts in, I can attest to the fact that you are actively involve in our poorest of the poor assistance drive here, thank you very much.
ALABI: Talking about bad rice or no bad rice, I think it is an unfortunate situation, because this is not the time to play politics with what we should be doing for the people. Rice was sent by the federal government, this was rice that we heard was seized from people trying to smuggle rice into the country. In the store here, probably a few of them may be bad, that happens, rice will spoil, you sent it to Oyo state and the proper thing is the one that are bad, you take it out, and the one that good you share it to the people, you don’t just make a lot of noise about it trying to create controversies and winning people to your side. The highest you can do is to inform Customs who sent the rice or whoever sent the rice, and return the bad ones and replace it with new ones, if they don’t give you, fine, what is the noise about. In the face of a pandemic, you are talking about rice that is spoilt, going back and forth, that is nonsense! I think it is very unfortunate and we shouldn’t be talking about that at this stage.
MAYOR: Can you clear the air on the areas in Ona-Ara/Egbeda where people have actually received the money. You said you got report that people attested to it that they collected the money from your local government?
ALABI: How many households and how many people do we have in Egbeda/Ona-Ara constituency, hundreds of thousands, so, that little hundred people government has touched and about a few I have touched as well, of course we are going to have many messages saying that it has not reached anywhere because truly it has not reached anywhere. Even the ones I have done, everyone saw it some are still saying it is audio. Egbeda/Ona-Ara is so vast that a lot of people will not get these things and that why I am saying things like, it is combination of everybody. People will be saying they have not seen anything because it is a drop in the ocean.
MAYOR: In the fight against coronavirus, globally and in our nation, there are two critical factors that need to be considered especially the government, one, your ability to increase your testing capabilities and two, the need to quickly get your results out, let me inform you that while speaking with the Oyo state COVID-19 Task Force this morning, I was told about a particular lady whose samples was taken around 48 hours ago and she was asked to self-isolate. Yesterday, her result came out, she is positive, now the fact is if she adheres to the guidelines given, she will begin her treatment in Olodo soon. Governor Seyi Makinde has increase testing capabilities and a diagnostics centre is now in Ibadan where we can test, pick samples and get results fast. What is your own assessment, would you commend him for this effort? Also remember that he has asked the senior cadre of workers in Oyo to resume this Monday. As we speak this morning we have only tested a little above 900, are you comfortable with resumption base on where we are?
ALABI: The governor is making progress, making people to resume is negative because if you are doing well by trying to increase testing but still pushing people out which is going to increase the risk. I have plans actually to launch a testing centre in Ibadan, still waiting for Oyo state ministry of Health for approval.
MAYOR : Under your own foundation? Just like what Dangote is doing in Kano, Akin Alabi, you want to launch your own testing centre?
ALABI: Yes, we are ready, but, we have been on the approval for weeks, we have not gotten it yet, that is why I said we can’t afford to play politics with this thing
MAYOR: Do you think such approval would come from Oyo state ministry of Health or NCDC?
ALABI: To domicile it in Oyo state, the state must give us approval. We have been assured that it would be approved. I am tired of sharing rice, there is more to this disease. I know it is probably not the governor himself that is saying they shouldn’t approve but you know people can be overzealous sometimes. So, now that it is out, I believe that will speed up things and give us approval so that we can start running our own testing.
MAYOR: There is this bill on vaccination that has been sent to the national assembly especially the House of Reps. there is also this bill on swapping of external loan by the federal government, what is your take on the two bills?
ALABI: the NCDC bill on vaccination, I think it is a very decent bill, but it is unfortunate that there has a lot of negative news about it and it is more unfortunate that a lot of people complaining about this bill have actually not downloaded and read the bill. The only way we can have decent conversation is to read the bill. A bill is a proposal, a few things will still be changed during the committee stage. About the second bill, the Ministry of Finance has explained over and over that it is not a loan. The budget has got to be funded so, it is looking for different ways to fund the budget.
MAYOR: Finally before I let you go, you gave us a breaking news about your intent to facilitate and initiate testing centre in Ibadan from your own purse, would you still donate to the state government?
ALABI: I will need more money, while some people are putting money in the government coffers, I am using this same to build this test centre that is even going to cost more money than what a lot of people are putting the government coffers. So, I think I should just concentrate on building this test centers, let’s fight this disease together.
MAYOR: Thank you very much Honourable Akin Alabi.