There are as usual, countless complaints among stakeholders of poor service delivery by local government councils in Nigeria. The same is true in Rivers State but even more so because, after Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi took over payment of primary school teachers, amounting to over N1.2 billion monthly, many believed that the councils would be better equipped to the delivery of quality services to their people.
What went wrong? What role had the supervising ministry in charge of local governments, chieftaincy and community matters played to check the trend? Infact, is there hope for the rural people, considering the winner-takes-all-approach to local government administration?
Who else to proffer answers to these and many more questions than Dr. Tammy Danagogo, the man who heads one of the most sensitive ministries that touch the lives of the rural people most, Local Government, Chieftaincy and Community Matters.
To do just to all these, Danagogo was guest of The Tide Round Table last week Thursday, and after two hours or so confessed that the experience was worth the while.
Following are first part of excerpts of the epoch encounter which we believe you’ll find most refreshing, cause we did.
Just before any question, I think we ought to have the first thing first. For us, here, we known you. For the public, who will you say you are?
Well, I am Dr. Tammy Danagogo, that is my name. I’m a lawyer by profession, graduated in 1990, I was called to Bar in 1991 and briefly, I did my youth service with National Concorde. I was like a press man.
I was a judicial correspondent for National Concorde in Lagos. I came back after my National Service. I was in legal practice between 1992 and 2003, 2004. I was elected local Government Chairman.
I finished my service there in 2007 and later 2007, I was appointed a Commissioner for Local Government, Chieftaincy and Community Affairs. So that is me, basically. coincidentally, I had my first degree, masters degree and Ph.D all in law and I had my Ph.D in human rights and dispute settlement – an aspect in public law. That is why I was saying that in totality as a former chairman I know what it means to be a chairman; I know the tricks some Chairmen can easily do. But for Chieftaincy and Community Affairs, a good knowledge of Law and dispute settlement or dispute resolutions is key. What we do there, Chieftaincy and community Affairs, almost, say 50 per cent of it have to do with dispute resolution.
Chieftaincy disputes, disputes between community and oil company and so on and so forth. Basically, that is Dr. Tammy Danagogo.
We can actually describe you as a two time Commissioner for Local Government/Chieftaincy Affairs how has it been?
Well, let me start by thanking you for this opportunity at least to rob minds with you, to brief you as it were what our ministry is doing. It’s been challenging. The Ministry of local Government, Chieftaincy and community Affairs is a very big and challenging ministry.
But by the grace of God, we are up to the task. I have very experienced workers, Directors and other technocrats who have always been of assistance to me whenever I need it. By the grace of God, I also happened to fit into what is required there, as a former Chairman, as a lawyer I think by the grace of God, we are doing well.
Let me quickly take you up on what you said last about the tricks of local Governments, with that kind of tricks, you said you have, one would have expected that local government chairmen, would just keep quiet and do their work the way it should be, but if what the governor said at the last stakeholders meeting is anything to go by no local Government is performing, how did they outsmart you?
From the point you are looking at it, well that is a very good way to look at it. Every person sees every issue from the point he is looking at. Just like the story of the elephant, and the seven blind people. Everybody will tell you based on where he is touching I want to say, I want to be challenged on that, it is not true that all the local Governments in Rivers State are not performing. Even the Governor did not say that. The Governor is challenging Local Government Chairmen to work and to work very hard.
And as a Ministry supervising them, we have always been telling the Governor that it is necessary for the Governor to challenge them.. It is necessary for the governor to admonish them so that they would work harder.
But that doesn’t mean that all the chairmen are not working. I can tell you that there are some chairmen who are doing very well. There are also Chairmen who are not doing well. So I can say that you are correct, infact that some are not doing very well but some are doing well. So they have not out-smarted anybody. We are making sure that those that are not doing well; we will catch up with them. They say that, there are many days for the thief.
You don’t just stand up and begin to just say a Chairman is not performing. You take into consideration all the indices and when you finished and when you make sure every other information you need added to it then you tell the Governor, this is this and you can come out boldly and say this Chairman is a failure. This Chairman is a success. That is why you have not seen me may be come out to tell you that local Government ‘A’ is a thief, B is not doing anything, local Government C is doing that.
I tell you that from our observations and the monitoring, we’ve been doing, some local Governments are doing well.
I can tell you that before I start , let me tell a kind of may be lodge a caveat why you’ve not seen us come out with an official result of this Chairmen is the best, this chairman is the worst, before you come out with that kind of result, first and foremost you will have briefed His Excellency. It is only after you have brief His Excellency that you can now come out and announce to the world.
That is why we hardly do, as a commissioner because the moment I make that statement it is supposed to take a stamp of finality, because the only person who can talk after that is the Governor, if I am talking, it means I have the approval of the Governor.
We don’t announce it because we are still in the process of getting the final approval of his Excellency. On what we have observed, we have been briefing His Excellency. Infact at the last count, even your paper published it.
His Excellency said O.k. Commissioner and Officers of the ministry, you have been assessing them this way. That is your assessment. I also want another team to join you.
He appointed the team he said that, I should appoint the Secretary, which I did. Let them also reconfirm some of these in this kind of thing, before you go out to say, the public officer is bad that is good, it is in law, we say it needs corroboration.
Other persons need to say that, yes, the commissioner said, I also confirm. Infact when we are setting up our own team, usually we make sure, we invite some external bodies so that when I said this Chairman is the worst, naturally, I expected that, he would go round shouting, he would cry wolves. He would say that, oh; the commissioner does not like me; the commissioner did it for one political reason or the other.
Politicians have a way of painting everything, making everything look light. So he would say. But when, he would say that, my only resort would be the fact that, these other people were also part of this exercise and they also said this. That is just trying to lodge small caveat before we begin to address the question of who are the Chairmen performing.
The society expects so much particularly in Rivers State where you have a Governor that is doing so well. He has raised the standard so people expect the kind of corresponding performance from Local Government Chairmen.
But where, I sit, I see how much they get , I see how much they spent on their staff. I see what is left, so, I tailor my expectation to meet what we know they have.
A follow up to this, now there was this Excellence in Local Government Initiative (ELGI) Award and there was an award ceremony where, local Government Chairmen were rated as first, second and third that report was turned to your Ministry and having selected the first, second and third, you must have also selected the worst three. Is it possible for us to have an idea of who they are?
This is one issue that becomes very topical at this point in our stewardship in this Ministry. The Excellence in Local Government Initiative is a sort of a joint exercise between the Ministry, Rivers State Sustainable Development Agency (RSSDA) and corporate organizations.
You know, when I started I told you that, certain local Government, I always as a policy, having been a Chairman I know that once Ministry comes out with a score so many of the Chairmen will challenge it. I started out looking for external collaborators, external Audits, those that will support me, that will support us, so that when I tell you this is the result, I will be telling you that is not some thing that was done by the Ministry alone.
Shell was part of it First Bank was part of it, Rivers State Sustainable Development Agency was part of it, Sosoliso was part of it, so if, I am politically biased against you what about First bank, what about others that is the idea behind excellence in local Government Initiative.
And the idea, very wonderful idea. When the idea came up, after my assessment of the Caretaker Chairmen. Because I did an assessment of the Caretaker Chairmen and I submitted to His Excellency. In submitting my assessment, I told His Excellency what we want to do and we are already talking with Sustainable Development Agency.
We are talking with these organs. Shell, First Bank and so on and the idea, is that when we come out with the result, we will look for a way of giving incentives to those who are doing very well.
And also punishing the worst three. Is a carrot and stick way and His Excellency approved it, to do it that way, because, he also saw that there is a big sense in that way of doing it. But a few things went wrong which we are trying to get right now.
The thing was supposed to be comprised of some of our own people who have been doing the assessment from the Ministry. Five from the Rivers State House of Assembly, and three from all the various collaborating Agencies and corporate bodies that is what we agreed, at the beginning. At the end we couldn’t come out with what we agreed.
The Agencies and corporate bodies just went ahead on their own and started assessing and came out with that result. The Ministry was not part.
You see, a few things are wrong with that result and that is why we could not wholly and even His Excellency cannot wholly rely on it, as a standard basis of this is the best Chairman and this is the worst Chairman. Why you, see when the Ministry’s Assessors are not part of what they did, I can tell you that no Professor any where in the world can come to Rivers state and assess local Government and do it better than us.
I started by saying that I know all the tricks the Chairman can pull. If you just wake up here now, you are an experienced man you have all the knowledge, but it is very easy to just trick you and make you score a chairman very high and how will he do it. All he needs to do is, projects that was executed by his predecessor he will just repaint them and show you that this is my project, Professor for God sake from the U.S. you don’t know what is happening in Abual/Odual, you don’t know what is happening in Akuku-Toru, you just be taken in by it. What a lot of Chairmen do repaint and repackage projects executed by others and present them and you score them based on that.
But if it is the Ministry Officials, who have been assessing we assessed the last Caretaker Chairmen appointed by His Excellency, so the moment you show me a project that was not executed by you, I will say no, we have assessed this project for so so. So that is what I tell people, I’m just the ceremonial head. I just want to make sure I see things for myself, but the technical assessment of the value of projects and everything is done by the technical group.
So that was done without this data. It is the officials in the Ministry who will give you the data of what level of development was there before this Chairmen came in. How much money has this Chairman received? How much of this money is he using to service his staff? We have a nominal roll of all local governments. We have their allocation figures. So nobody can deceive me. Our assessment is usually based on your staff strength and your allocation strength.
Nobody can come here now and tell me that a Local Government like Port Harcourt and Ogu/Bolo we should use the same yardstick to assess them, no. Because virtually, what Port Harcourt gets is almost about double what Ogu/Bolo gets. So can you say, if I am earning N20 million per annum and he is earning N10 million per annum, you expect two of us to do the same thing. It is not possible.
The bigger they earn the bigger the headache.
Yes, but there are parameters. But if PHALGA gets N20 million, what they spent on their staff is, say N5 million, meaning that they are supposed to be left with N15 million. And Ogu/Bolo gets N10 million and what they spent on the staff is N2 million, so meaning that what will be left for him is N8 million. So while assessing what I will be looking at what PHALGA has done with its N15 million and what Ogu/Bolo has done with N8 million.
If Ogu/Bolo man has executed projects worth, say N8 million, I will assess him hundred percent. If PHALGA man with his N15 million left executed projects worth N10 million, I will score him 67 percent or there about. So PHALGA would have executed projects worth N10 million, Ogu/Bolo N8 million. But I’m saying that Ogu/Bolo is a better chairman than PHALGA. One thing is that, we also as a Ministry expect that there is a given percentage of your allocation that you are supposed to give to each sector.
A chairman cannot tell me that he has spent all his money on security. If he is fighting a war, I will know. If there is a war situation I will know. If there is a situation of emergency that requires that high level of expenditure, almost always since I become Commissioner I know that His Excellency will intervene.
So it will not be for him alone. These are some of the things, they used to deceive outsiders. If you come for instance and you don’t know, they can tell you oh; security problem, I did this JTF this, JTF that, but he cannot tell me because, I know what aspect the Governor does and what he does. So these are all the problems we had with that assessment.
These areas were not there. The other part of it was that because this fact that our involvement which is very crucial was not there, although we jointly conceived and worked on the idea.
You find that the issue of punishing those who are not good, was not addressed, because we were not there.
Also the issue of incentive was done wrongly. Because when we conceived the idea, the incentive is not for the chairman, as I am today, if I do very well, and you are giving me a prize, you give to my Ministry, you can say, a dedicated project, then you give us hundred million, we can use it for a dedicated project. You don’t give me money, because all of us were sworn to different forms of oath, code of conduct, this or that code of allegiance and that. And code of conduct is clear, you don’t give incentives to public officers, personally, you can give, for instance, the way we conceived it, there will be some money for dedicated projects handed over to the Chairman, quite well. Go and built or do so or so projects in your LGA and we will come and commission it and announce that this was given to you and your local Government because you are the best Chairman. The mistake was also done there because I didn’t attend, because we wrote to them that we didn’t know when they went round. We didn’t know. We were not part of that. So we said look we have not gone round. You don’t know how much each of these local governments have, some chairmen show them projects that were done by their predecessors and you are giving personal gift to them and these are not in consonant with the idea of this Excellence in Local Government Initiative.
So we did not attend, His Excellency also did not attend. But right now we are back to the drawing board. They came, they saw reason with what we said and they expressed sorry. We all agreed that is a very good idea, and we need to work together, so we are working together.
Sorry, talking about failure to punish poor performing local Government Area, only recently House of Assembly suspended two local Government Chairmen you have not punished; you have not warned did it embarrass you?
Well it did not embarrass me. You see, we are different organs of government. Every organ of government has its statutory or rather constitutional responsibility. Actually, if you look at the Rivers State, Local Government Law, it is the responsibility of the House of Assembly upon proper cause, may be petitions written to them to investigate any local government and recommend appropriate punishment; petitions were written to them, they investigated their petitions and they came out with their result. It is their statutory responsibility so I cannot be embarrassed because, they have the right to do it.
My own responsibility, like I said, after assessing, I will submit to His Excellency: His Excellency can punish them. In most cases through the House of Assembly. Either on grounds of misconduct, which can include fraud and all that or security ground. And then request the House of Assembly to ratify his decisions.
I will not directly punish them. That is why I told you that when we conceived the Excellence in local Government Initiative, the idea was that, the Ministry would bring five, the Assembly Committee on local Government would bring five persons. The idea is that it is a one in all kinds of exercise. Both the Assembly, the Ministry, external people everybody is now aware, this is the best Chairman, this is the worst chairman.
While the Governor, the corporate bodies are given incentives, Governor and the Assembly will be working towards punishing those who are not performing well. The Assembly don’t need to go back to reconfirm our recommendations of who to be punished, because they were also part of the process.
So are we to say that the ministry has no power to punish any erring local Government Chairman?
The Ministry has powers that are exercised through the Governor. We recommend to the Governor I cannot as a commissioner suspend the chairman. They are only two ways you can punish a Chairman. If not anything you do to him, is like water on duck fowl, The only two ways are; suspend or remove him, that is one.
The second is to detain his money. That is the only way. None of this, I can do without the Governor’s approval. Their allocations as they come from Federation account, the highest it can stay with me are three days. The Governor has given the right. I don’t even need to tell the Governor before releasing it to them. Because, he has delegated me as the Chairman of Joint Allocation Committee. So as soon as the money comes, three days is the highest, then if we are calculating and distributing, highest is three days, we release their money to them.
On no account do you delay it. So if you can’t delay the money you cannot deduct from it, you can’t punish them except you have approval and that must be on a very strong ground. So far we came, we have not delayed any local government Allocation.
Rivers SEEFOR: The Journey So Far
The need for youth employment and access to socio-economic services formed the bases for the formation of the State Employment and Expenditure for Results (SEEFOR) Project, to consolidate the gains from the amnesty programme of the Federal Government and ensure that youths do not fall back to social vices.
The Project which is financed with credit from the World Bank, grant from European Union and counterpart fund from the State Government, commenced implementation on July 31, 2013. The objective is to enhance opportunities for employment and access to socio-economic services whilst improving the Public Financial Management Systems in the four Niger Delta participating States of Bayelsa, Delta, Edo and Rivers.
SEEFOR has two main components: Component A: Youth employment and access to socio-economic services and Component B: Public Financial Management (PFM) Reforms.
Since implementation commenced in Rivers State, the project has traversed the nooks and crannies of the state and transformed lives of several youths, women and communities at large.
Reviewing the activities of the multifaceted project across its sub-components: Public Works, Technical, Vocational and Agricultural Training (TVAT), Community Driven Development-Economic and Community Driven Development-Social as well as its Public Financial Management Component, beneficiaries bared their minds on the activities of the Project.
Under the Public Works Sub-Component, which entails executing small road maintenance and waste management projects, the State Project Coordinator, Mr Kelcious Amos said it has surpassed its target of executing 224 projects and engaging 10,845 beneficiaries to executing 497 projects and engaging 21,770 beneficiaries.
Some beneficiaries and resident of communities visited expressed their gratitude: At Okwutake Community in Degema LGA where Utie-Iwula Road was maintained; a resident, Mrs Elizabeth Brown said “the road was very bad that people could not even use it during rainy season, people could not go through the road to the Waterside, but after SEEFOR’s intervention, the road is now very assessable.”
At Apostolic Church Road, in Eleme one of the beneficiaries, Miss Christy Ogbaji said the project has given her engineering knowledge that she can apply anywhere.
At Lawson’s Compound/Health Centre Road where a mini bridge was constructed to replace a worn-out wooden bridge that was there, the community members thanked the project for the bridge that has eased transportation of sick people and pregnant women in and out of the Health Centre. They also said the bridge is connecting them to nearby communities and called for more projects in the community.
Speaking on the TVAT sub-component, the State Project Coordinator said the project had a target of training 5,436 youths but 6,134 youths have benefited from this sub-component and some have received starter packs. He explained further that SEEFOR has intervened in four technical schools that include Government Technical College (GTC) Ahoada, Ele-Ogu, Port Harcourt and Tombia. Others are Government Craft Development Centre, Port Harcourt, School-to Land Authority, Rumudomaya, Women Development Centre Taabaa, Ken Saro-Wiwa Polytechnic, Bori and Capt. Elechi Amadi Polytechnics, Rumuola.
He explained further that under Ken Saro-Wiwa and Elechi Amadi Polytechnics youths were trained in the following short-term skills; air-conditioning and refrigeration maintenance, carpentry/wood work, computer and phone repair/maintenance, electrical installation, block laying, concreting and iron mongery, automobile technology, electronics installation/maintenance, plumbing/tiling, and welding and fabrication.
SEEFOR in collaborated with some non-state actors also trained youths in Fashion Designing, welding and fabrication, Carpentry/wood work, livestock farming, catering and hotel management.
In addition to the above, the project engaged volunteer teachers to augment the effort of the State government in technical schools.
The Community Driven Development (CDD) sub-component has provided both economic and social succour to rural dwellers. A review of the Community Driven Development-Social (CDD-S) that was designed to provide access to social infrastructure in rural communities based on needs assessment and project selection, reveal that the project has intervened in 448 communities and implemented 94 micro projects across 17 LGAs
Assessing the impact of the project in communities showed a visibly elated people who applauded SEEFOR for infrastructural development through micro project provided for them.
At Ewika in Eleme where a Civic Centre and Borehole was constructed, the traditional ruler, Chief Jacob Mpka said the project was the first of its kind in the history of the Community. He explained that since the inception of the community they have being without potable water, that the construction of borehole by SEEFOR Project was a big relief to the entire Egbere Ewika Community and its environs. The Chief further said the Civic Centre is now a source of social gathering for the people.
Similarly, in Igwuruta where 240 km walk way was constructed; Hon Ken Amaewhule who spoke on behalf of the community thanked SEEFOR for the road, that has boosted both their individual and commercial activities.
At Kalaibiama Community in Bonny LGA, members of the community thanked the project for the electrification of the community which had hitherto being in darkness.
The CDD-E sub-component is created to provide grant for the implementation of agricultural micro project in rural communities thereby increasing their income base. SEEFOR Project is collaborating with FADAMA III to implement this sub-component. So far, 712 cooperatives have benefitted from this sub-component across 49 communities.
Members of some communities who spoke on behalf of their communities were unanimous in their accolade for the project.
At Somiari-Ama, Tere-Ama Community in Port Harcourt LGA where a poultry and lives stock cluster farm was implemented as well as public convenience;
Mrs Dorathy Somiari thanked the project for given the community opportunity to raise their income base as some youths in the community where employed to work on the farm in addition to the proceeds from the farm which is sold periodically. A representative of the community Mr Emmanuel Somiari said by siting the public convenience there, several causalities have been averted, noting that before SEEFOR’s intervention, aged people usually fall down while trying to climb the wooden bridge to toilet.
At Umuagwu in Omuma LGA where market stalls, public convenience and water micro projects were sited, members of the community thanked SEEFOR/FADAMA, adding that it has improved their businesses, social and individual lives as people now have markets stalls to sell their goods without fear of rain and sun, while the search for portable water has been eliminated.
Speaking on behalf of Ido SEEFOR/FADAMA Community Association in Asari-Toru, Mr Sagbe Endure thanked the project for the Cluster farm sited in the community and the borehole water project that has replaced the well water that was the only source of drinking water in the community.
The State Project Coordinator, speaking on Component B of the project said; the Public Financial Management Component is designed to deepen the on-going financial management reform effort of the State Government to ensure judicious utilization of public fund. It is also to improve and modernise the PFM systems, practices, processes and institutions with the aim of improving efficiency and effectiveness in managing public resources to achieve value for money.
Enumerating on the achievements of the component, Mr Amos listed the following:
• Draft Bills for the PFM Legislation and Audit has been passed by the RSHoA and await executive assent.
• Fiscal strategy paper and budget manual developed
• Socio-Economic survey of the State completed
• 10 year State Development Plan (2017 – 2027) completed
• Procured ICT Equipment to the Min. of Budget & Economic Planning
• IPSAS based Chart of Account developed
• Production of IPSAS based Annual budget since 2015
• Procedure Manual for financial reporting developed
• IPSAS cash based financial Report produced since 2017
• Capacity building within and outside the country across all sub-component of the PFM Reform
• SIFMIS infrastructure all in place
• Training of 300 SIFMIS End-Users in basic ICT skills completed
• Standard bidding document developed for BoPP
• Public Asset register developed for BoPP
• Development of document management system completed
• Establishment of procurement Data Base for BoPP completed
• Rivers State BoPP website upgrade completed
Giving an over view of the assessment of the performance of SEEFOR Project in the State, the National Project Coordinator, Dr Greg Onu said “Rivers SEEFOR has surpassed its targets in most indicators, some by 200%, some by 250%”. He applauded Rivers Project Team for the success recorded and ensuring that the project objective is achieved.
The National Project Coordination Team was in the State on a Media Tour of some project sites to access the success of the project in preparation for the project closure in September 2020.
Coronavirus: FG’s Deadly Double Standard In Rivers
The politicisation of the fight against the spread of Coronavirus has brought to the fore the deadly application of exclusive list by officials of the Federal Government when it comes to issues that relate to Rivers State and the safety of its people.
This morning (April 12, 2020) as I perused through the newspapers, one report published by Punch Newspaper caught my attention. This report exposed the deadly double standards against Rivers State and her people. It also exposes the underlying deliberate plot to undermine the health security system of the state.
The report: “Chinese doctors’ flight: How three airline crew members ‘disappeared’ from Lagos quarantine centre” highlighted how the Federal Government is collaborating with the Lagos State Government to quarantine pilots and crew members of Air Peace who flew in Chinese doctors into the country. These pilots and crew members will be isolated from the rest of the Lagos community for 14 days to ascertain their Coronavirus status.
Please click this link to read the full report: https://punchng.com/chinese-doctors-flight-how-three-airline-crew-members-disappeared-from-lagos-quarantine-centre/
From the report, the Lagos State Government has quarantined 17 personnel of Air Peace who went on that national assignment on behalf of the Federal Government, operators of the ALMIGHTY EXCLUSIVE LIST. Amongst these 17 personnel are pilots and flight attendants.
Reading through the report, it is clear that the quarantine procedure is mandatory, especially when such crew members have entered a Coronavirus impacted territory. In the case of Nigeria, Lagos State is a Coronavirus-impacted territory.
The Commissioner for Health, Lagos State, declared that community transmission of Coronavirus is in full swing in the state. With this public declaration, it is necessary that precautionary measures be taken as long as the persons are coming from that location.
Please read this report for the confirmation of community transmission of Coronavirus in Lagos: https://businessday.ng/exclusives/article/rising-community-transmission-of-covid-19-strengthens-case-for-social-distancing/
Recall that the Federal Government has quarantined the Chinese doctors that are in the country to carry out medical outreach on behalf of the Federal Government.
This brings me to the main point that I have set out to make. The Federal Government that has emphasised EXCLUSIVE LIST every step of the way in relation to interactions with pilots and AVIATION, has willingly allowed the LAGOS STATE GOVERNMENT to quarantine 17 Air Peace pilots and crew to stem the spread of Coronavirus.
In fact, three crew members that escaped from quarantine were located by the joint team of the Federal and Lagos State Governments to apprehend them for the overall safety of Lagos State.
Air Peace did not raise alarm. The Federal Government did not raise alarm to warn the Lagos State Government that it has touched the ALMIGHTY EXCLUSIVE LIST.
The quarantine of the 17 Air Peace personnel who were on National Service was never programmed to be an issue during the daily press conferences at Abuja. Therefore, the Minister of Aviation, Alhaji Hadi Sirika, the chief advocate of EXCLUSIVE LIST had no reason to insult the Lagos State Governor the way he insulted Governor Wike for defending the people of Rivers State and the health security system of the state.
If you read through the report of Punch on the issue, it was programmed to present Lagos State Government as caring for her people. Several Pro-APC Media will replicate this report. Pro-Lagos Editorials will be written about the proactive isolation of these Air Peace personnel on National Service.
I will also throw up another point highlighted in the Pro-APC Report on the quarantine of the Air Peace personnel by the Lagos State Government. There is a standing order of the Federal Ministry of Health that persons flying from Coronavirus-impacted territories be quarantined to check the virus.
Let me quote a paragraph from the said Sunday Punch report of April 12, 2020 that underlines the preferential treatment accorded Lagos State and the unfortunate politicisation of the fight against Coronavirus by the agencies of the Federal Government, operators of the EXCLUSIVE LIST.
“The 17 pilots and flight attendants later on Wednesday proceeded to Lagos to be quarantined by the Lagos State Government in line with an agreement the Ministry of Health reached with the carrier’s management. The Chinese medical personnel were quarantined in Abuja,” Sunday Punch wrote.
The above paragraph indicates that each time a flight leaves and returns, necessary precautionary measures must be taken to check the spread of Coronavirus and the general transmission of the virus. In Lagos State and Abuja, the Federal Government is ever ready to observe the established health protocols to check the spread of Coronavirus.
But when it comes to Rivers State, the operators of EXCLUSIVE LIST are willing to risk the lives of over six million Rivers people and Nigerians just to drill barrels of oil. They are willing to insult the Rivers State Governor everyday on National Television and Mainstream Media for insisting on the implementation of an agreement for the observation of basic health protocols to protect the lives of Nigerians, wherever they may be.
This is what the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, said about the observation of the health protocols on flights.
He said, “They knew that before they came and have undergone tests before they left their country. Nevertheless, they will be in quarantine for 14 days. The Nigerian Centre for Disease Control has gone to see where they will be quarantined.”
To think that two leading national newspapers allowed themselves to be used to lampoon the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, for insisting on the operation of the health protocols underscores the rot in the country. The hatred for the truth is nauseating, embarrassing and unfortunate.
If 17 personnel of a leading airline who flew 14 hours nonstop to China to ferry essential health equipment to tackle Coronavirus for the overall safety of Nigeria could be quarantined for 14 days in line with established health protocols, why would anyone justify the reckless flights into Port Harcourt by Caverton Helicopters, who consistently refused to observe health protocols?
If the Federal authorities allowed the Lagos State Health Authorities to freely operate at the Murtala Mohammed Airport, where they apprehend pilots on essential services and quarantine them for the safety of Lagos people, why embolden CAVERTON HELICOPTERS to disregard health protocols when they fly into Rivers State?
The entire world is singing from one hymn page to ensure the safety of everyone. But in Nigeria, the situation is different. The Federal Government has instituted measures that frustrate the fight against Coronavirus in major opposition states. Aside encouraging private businesses to compromise the health security system of Rivers State at this critical time, there is no federal support for Governor Wike to carry out this herculean task.
With the 17 Air Peace personnel on compulsory quarantine, nobody has heard of threats from the Airline Operators of Nigeria threatening fire and brimstone. But they issued deadlines on Rivers State Government because they were primed to do so, even though they know of the health protocols operational at this time.
It is sad that the Federal Government will engage in this needless game of double standards. Introducing politics into the fight against the spread of Coronavirus is counterproductive. It makes the entire country vulnerable and weakens the health defence mechanism of all the 36 states.
The objective of the fight against Coronavirus is to stop the virus from decimating the Nigerian population. In this fight, all established health protocols must be respected whether in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt or Enugu. Undermining health protocols in Port Harcourt because Rivers State is on another political path, is dangerous and would undermine the national struggle.
This double standard is deadly. It is unnecessary and it is unfortunate. Nobody should fuel the spread of the virus in one part of the country because of the irregular application of EXCLUSIVE LIST. God has exposed this aspect with the quarantine of Air Peace personnel by the Lagos State Government. All Nigerians should begin to reason along the safety of the population and not the falsehood of operators of EXCLUSIVE LIST.
It is in our national interest for the Federal Government to discard the politicisation of the fight against Coronavirus and enthrone national respect for the operation of the established health protocols agreed by all tiers of government. What is EXCLUSIVE LIST in the face of national ill-health?
I conclude with Governor Wike’s advice to the Federal Government on the dangers of politicising the fight against Coronavirus.
He said: “It is quite unfortunate that the containment of Coronavirus has been politicized by the Federal Government. Every state is important in the fight against the spread of Coronavirus. Therefore, no state should be singled out for special treatment. The Federal Government should prevail or its agencies that connive with Aero Contractors and Caverton Helicopters to fly in workers on essential services to the state to ensure that the health status of these individuals as it relates to COVID-19 is ascertained.”
Nwakaudu is Special Assistant to Rivers State Governor on Electronic Media
COVID-19 Is Not A Joke -Buhari
Fellow Nigerians In my address on Sunday, 29th March, 2020, I asked the
residents of Lagos and Ogun States as well as the Federal Capital Territory to stay at home for an initial period of fourteen days starting from Monday, 30th March 2020.
Many State Governments also introduced similar restrictions.
As your democratically elected leaders, we made this very difficult decision knowing fully well it will severely disrupt your livelihoods and bring undue hardship to you, your loved ones and your communities.
However, such sacrifices are needed to limit the spread of COVID-19 in our country. They were necessary to save lives.
Our objective was, and still remains, to contain the spread of the Coronavirus and to provide space, time and resources for an aggressive and collective action.
The level of compliance to the COVID-19 guidelines issued has been generally good across the country. I wish to thank you all most sincerely for the great sacrifice you are making for each other at this critical time.
I will take this opportunity to recognise the massive support from our traditional rulers, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) during this pandemic.
I also acknowledge the support and contributions received from public spirited individuals, the business community and our international partners and friends.
I must also thank the media houses, celebrities and other public figures for the great work they are doing in sensitizing our citizens on hygienic practices, social distancing and issues associated with social gatherings.
As a result of the overwhelming support and cooperation received, we were able to achieve a lot during these 14 days of initial lockdown.
We implemented comprehensive public health measures that intensified our case identification, testing, isolation and contact tracing capabilities.
To date, we have identified 92% of all identified contacts while doubling the number of
testing laboratories in the country and raising our testing capacity to 1,500 tests per day.
We also trained over 7,000 Healthcare workers on infection prevention and control while deploying NCDC teams to 19 states of the federation.
Lagos and Abuja today have the capacity to admit some 1,000 patients each across several treatment centres.
Many State Governments have also made provisions for isolation wards and treatment centres. We will also build similar centers near our airports and land borders.
Using our resources and those provided through donations, we will adequately equip and man these centres in the coming weeks. Already, health care workers across all the treatment centers have been provided with the personal protective equipment that they need to safely carry out the care they provide.
Our hope and prayers are that we do not have to use all these centres. But we will be ready for all eventualities.
At this point, I must recognise the incredible work being done by our healthcare workers and volunteers across the country especially in frontline areas of Lagos and Ogun States as well as the Federal Capital Territory.
You are our heroes and as a nation, we will forever remain grateful for your sacrifice during this very difficult time. More measures to motivate our health care workers are being introduced which we will announce in the coming weeks.
As a nation, we are on the right track to win the fight against COVID-19.
However, I remain concerned about the increase in number of confirmed cases and deaths being reported across the world and in Nigeria specifically.
On 30th March 2020, when we started our lockdown in conforming with medical and scientific advice, the total number of confirmed cases across the world was over 780,000.
Yesterday, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases globally was over one million, eight hundred and fifty thousand. This figure is more than double in two weeks!
In the last fourteen days alone, over 70,000 people have died due to this disease.
In the same period, we have seen the health system of even the most developed nations being overwhelmed by this virus.
Here in Nigeria, we had 131 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in 12 States on 30th March 2020. We had two fatalities then.
This morning, Nigeria had 323 confirmed cases in twenty States. Unfortunately we now have ten fatalities. Lagos State remains the center and accounts for 54% of the confirmed cases in Nigeria. When combined with the FCT, the two locations represent over 71% of the confirmed cases in Nigeria.
Most of our efforts will continue to focus in these two locations.
Majority of the confirmed cases in Lagos and the FCT are individuals with recent international travel history or those that came into contact with returnees from international trips.
By closing our airports and land borders and putting strict conditions for seaport activities, we have reduced the impact of external factors on our country. However, the increase in the number of States with positive cases is alarming.
The National Centre for Disease Control has informed me that, a large proportion of new infections are now occurring in our communities, through person-to-person contacts. So we must pay attention to the danger of close contact between person to person.
At this point, I will remind all Nigerians to continue to take responsibility for the recommended measures to prevent transmission, including maintaining physical distancing, good personal hygiene and staying at home.
In addition, I have signed the Quarantine Order in this regard and additional regulations to provide clarity in respect of the control measures for the COVID-19 pandemic which will be released soon.
The public health response to COVID-19 is built on our ability to detect, test and admit cases as well as trace all their contacts. While I note some appreciable progress, we can achieve a lot more.
Today, the cessation of movement, physical distancing measures and the prohibition of mass gatherings remain the most efficient and effective way of reducing the transmission of the virus. By sustaining these measures, combined with extensive testing and contact tracing, we can take control and limit the spread of the disease.
Our approach to the virus remains in 2 steps – First, to protect the lives of our fellow Nigerians and residents living here and second, to preserve the livelihoods of workers and business owners.
With this in mind and having carefully considered the briefings and Report from the Presidential Task Force and the various options offered, it has become necessary to extend the current restriction of movement in Lagos and Ogun States as well as the FCT for another 14 days effective from 11:59 pm on Monday, 13th of April, 2020. I am therefore once again asking you all to work with Government in this fight.
This is not a joke. It is a matter of life and death. Mosques in Makkah and Madina have been closed. The Pope celebrated Mass on an empty St. Peter’s Square. The famous Notre Dame cathedral in Paris held Easter Mass with less than 10 people. India, Italy and France are in complete lockdown. Other countries are in the process of following suit. We cannot be lax.
The previously issued guidelines on exempted services shall remain.
This is a difficult decision to take, but I am convinced that this is the right decision. The evidence is clear.
The repercussions of any premature end to the lockdown action are unimaginable. 43. We must not lose the gains achieved thus far. We must not allow a rapid increase in community transmission. We must endure a little longer.
I will therefore take this opportunity to urge you all to notify the relevant authorities if you or your loved ones develop any symptoms. I will also ask our health care professionals to redouble their efforts to identify all suspected cases, bring them into care and prevent transmission to others.
No country can afford the full impact of a sustained restriction of movement on its economy. I am fully aware of the great difficulties experienced especially by those who earn a daily wage such as traders, day-workers, artisans and manual workers.
For this group, their sustenance depends on their ability to go out. Their livelihoods depend on them mingling with others and about seeking work. But despite these realities we must not change the restrictions.
In the past two weeks, we announced palliative measures such as food distribution, cash transfers and loans repayment waivers to ease the pains of our restrictive policies during this difficult time. These palliatives will be sustained.
I have also directed that the current social register be expanded from 2.6 million households to 3.6 million households in the next two weeks. This means we will support an additional one million homes with our social investment programs. A technical committee is working on this and will submit a report to me by the end of this week.
The Security Agencies have risen to the challenges posed by this unprecedented situation with gallantry and I commend them. I urge them to continue to maintain utmost vigilance, firmness as well as restraint in enforcing the restriction orders while not neglecting statutory security responsibilities.
Fellow Nigerians, follow the instructions on social distancing. The irresponsibility of the few can lead to the death of the many. Your freedom ends where other people’s rights begin.
The response of our State Governors has been particularly impressive, especially in aligning their policies and actions to those of the Federal Government.
In the coming weeks, I want to assure you that the Federal Government, through the Presidential Task Force, will do whatever it takes to support you in this very difficult period. I have no doubt that, by working together and carefully following the rules, we shall get over this pandemic.
I must also thank the Legislative arm of Government for all its support and donations in this very difficult period. This collaboration is critical to the short and long-term success of all the measures that we have instituted in response to the pandemic.
As a result of this pandemic, the world as we know it has changed. The way we interact with each other, conduct our businesses and trade, travel, educate our children and earn our livelihoods will be different.
To ensure our economy adapts to this new reality, I am directing the Ministers of Industry, Trade and Investment, Communication and Digital Economy, Science and Technology, Transportation, Aviation, Interior, Health, Works and Housing, Labour and Employment and Education to jointly develop a comprehensive policy for a “Nigerian economy functioning with COVID-19”.
The Ministers will be supported by the Presidential Economic Advisory Council and Economic Sustainability Committee in executing this mandate.
I am also directing the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, the National Security Adviser, the Vice Chairman, National Food Security Council and the Chairman, Presidential Fertiliser Initiative to work with the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 to ensure the impact of this pandemic on our 2020 farming season is minimized.
Finally, I want to thank the members of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 for all their hard work so far. Indeed, the patriotism shown in your work is exemplary and highly commendable.
Fellow Nigerians, I have no doubt that by working together and carefully following the rules, we shall get over this pandemic and emerge stronger in the end.
I thank you all for listening and may God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
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