STATEMENT OF THE SECRETARY TO THE GOVERNMENT OF THE FEDERATION/CHAIRMAN COVID-19 PTF AT THE MEETING WITH THE PRINCIPAL OFFICERS OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA ON THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC, HELD ON THURSDAY 9TH APRIL, 2020 AT THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY
I am pleased to lead members of the Presidential Task Force on the control of the COVID -19 pandemic to brief the leadership of this distinguished Senate on the efforts being made to fight the Coronavirus in Nigeria and to mollify its impact.
2. Distinguished Senators, and Honuorable Members, the world is in the midst of an unprecedented catastrophic crisis because the Coronavirus (COVID-19) is most significant public health emergency of international concern, of our generation. It has spread across 209 Countries and Territories around the world, with a reported 1,500,000+ confirmed cases world-wide, 87,998 deaths with about 236,270 people who have recovered from the disease as at 8th April. The Disease has placed considerable and significant strain on the global health care system and the economy of the world
3.Although the disease started in China and spread rapidly across Europe and the Americas; today, many African countries are beginning to see a rapid rise in the number of cases. Currently 52 African countries are now affected with the disease reporting 10,659 cases, 533 deaths, Given the relentless exponential growth rate witnessed in other countries, the spread of the virus in the continent and in particular in Nigeria should be expected.
4.As of 9.00pm on Wednesday, 8th April 2020, there were 276 recorded cases with six deaths in Nigeria, with the spread reaching nearly half of the States of the Federation. Lagos, our economic heartbeat, is the epicenter with 145 cases – more than half of the total. Globally, countries with more advanced and sophisticated health systems than ours are struggling to deal with the cases in their own lands. We can be under no illusion that this case affects all of us, and it is on all of us to play our part in solving this.
5.Since the inauguration of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, and with the full support of His Excellency, Muhammadu Buhari, the Task Force has recorded a number of achievements:
• High level political and multi-sectoral coordination mechanisms for preparedness and response to the COVID-19 pandemic with consequent improvement in:
o inter-ministerial and inter-agency coordination and collaboration across all areas of the pandemic response
o Development of a National Multi-Sectorial Pandemic Response Plan.
o Engagement of all MDAs and extra-ministerial departments in the response
• High level coordination of the United Nations Agencies and other bilateral and multilateral partners, foundations and international bodies involved in the response resulting in :
o One UN Basket Fund
o Accelerated procurement systems for good and services
o Attraction of donations from the global philanthropists including Jack Ma, corporate bodies operating in Nigeria, etc
• High level engagement with the organized private sector with better coordination of their core competencies and expertise.
o CACOVID/ CBN COVID19 Response Fund
o Engagement with Nigerian Economic Summit Group
• Mobilization of the States and Local Government areas resources in preparation for the possible spread of the disease into communities.
o State Needs Assessment and state of preparedness
• Stimulating economic national interests to mitigate the negative effects of the pandemic i.e.
o engagement of local manufacturers across the board for the stimulation of local production of essential commodities to reduce dependence of imported commodities.
o Local production of face masks, hand sanitizers, protective gear etc.
• Critical Review of state of health systems in focal States and the FCT.
o Identification of available capacities for isolation and treatment of COVID-19 patients which has yielded over 1000 beds across facilities.
o Improved surveillance systems
• Acquisition of intelligence data to guide strategic policy formulation and implementation of control measures such as may emanate from restrictions and or lockdowns of parts or all of the states.
6.The strategy adopted by the PTF working in conjunction with the states, include testing, detection, isolation, contact tracing and
management. This strategy has resulted in the following measures which you are already aware of. There are:
i. Restriction of travel to and from 15 high burden countries worldwide;
ii. Closure of the land, sea and air points of entry;
iii. Restriction of movements in Lagos, Ogun and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja;
iv. The introduction of Social Distancing and personal hygiene policies;
v. Increased the number of molecular laboratories from five to nine and this would rise to eleven by Friday 10th April, 2020;
vi. Expansion of the national capacity for testing from 500/pd to 1500/pd;
vii. Trained medical and health care personnel in the management of infectious diseases across the states and the services.
7.With particular reference to the restrictions, number of cases recorded showed that Lagos and Abuja have become the high burden areas in Nigeria and that drastic measures were required as part of the containment strategy to prevent community transmission. The reason for the prevalence was attributable to the fact that both cities are major points of entry. Also, records showed that a higher percentage of the cases, including the index case were imported.
8.The creation of awareness using all mediums, continues to be accorded top priority under the non-pharmaceutical approach for combating the pandemic because the development of a vaccine for its treatment is still a long lay ahead.
9.The pandemic has provided the unique opportunity to x-ray the state of the national health care systems which is in dire need of
reforms and funding. The weaknesses in our health systems became more glaring given the way more established health systems in Europe and America collapsed under pressure. The plan therefore is to lay a legacy foundation for the immediate, medium- and long-term development of the health system. To this end, the PTF, has proposed to utilise the resources being mobilised in the following strategic manner:
✓ Direct development and delivery of critical infrastructure to states by donors;
✓ Direct procurement and delivery of PPEs and other critical equipment by donors;
✓ Deployment of Rapid Response Teams to states for capacity building and support;
✓ Expansion of the testing capacity in the country.
10.For transparency and accountability, therefore, the PTF will not be directly involved in the collection and disbursement of the cash donations for COVID-19. The Accountant General of the Federation has already published the account details for collection through some commercial banks and also provided the modalities for its utilisation. All the mainCOVID-19 accounts shall be domiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria. However, all non-cash donations shall be duly received by the PTF, acknowledged, documented and appropriately deployed.
11.Distinguished Senators, and Honourable Members, I mentioned earlier that the COVID-19 pandemic has stolen both our health and our wealth. The impact of this is not only on the national economy but on the poor, the aged, the sick and the vulnerable. Out of concern for these categories of persons, His Excellency, Muhammadu Buhari set the following actions in motion:
✓ Set up a team Headed by the Minister of Finance to examine the impact on the economy;
✓ Set up an Economic Sustainability Committee headed by His Excellency the Vice President;
✓ Approved a stimulus package of over NGN500billion;
✓ Authorised the employment of 774,000 Nigerians;
✓ Authorised the payment of Conditional Cash Transfer under the Social Safety Net Programmes;
✓ Authorised that the School feeding Programme should continue notwithstanding the closure of schools so as not to lose the nutritional essence of the programme;
✓ Authorised the release of 70MT of grains from the national Strategic Reserve for distribution in the Lagos, and Ogun States, the FCT as well as the thirteen frontline states;
✓ Authorised the Nigerian Customs Service to release over 150 trucks of siezed rice and other commodities for distribution to the poor;
✓ Authorised other palliatives for the states
12. Our nation is at war against a very dangerous, unseen and ubiquitous enemy and all hands must be on deck to successfully prosecute the war. In addition to providing the kind of leadership already demonstrated, the National Assembly finds itself in the unique position to do the following, though not exhaustive:
• Develop a legislative framework to prepare Nigeria for any future pandemic;
• Develop a legislative framework for reforming and transforming our healthcare systems;
• Strengthen the legislative framework for economic growth through domestic manufacturing;
• Deepen the legislative oversight during this pandemic and beyond;
• Pass legislations that will further ease the ability of the executive to cushion the impact of the economic decline;
• Be part of community mobilization and enlightenment efforts.
13.Distinguished Senators and Honourable Members, I shall now invite the Hon. Minister of Health, the Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and the National Coordinator to provide you with technical details of our national response.
14.I thank you.