Yesterday, Governor Nyesom Ezebunwo Wike’s landmark achievements got an international recognition in far away New York, United States of America.”The Best Governor, Grassroots Development In Nigeria Award’ conferred on the Rivers State Governor by the United Kingdom based Africa Leadership International Magazine bears eloquent testimony to Wike’s uncommon development strides in Rivers State in the last 16 months of his administration.
Like a proverbial gold fish that has no hiding place, Wike’s stewardship in the last few months has caught the fancy and admiration of many Nigerians including members of the opposition parties.
Yesterday’s international recognition was therefore the icing on the cake of a man who has been variously described as an actualiser, ‘talk-and-do governor’ and a grassroot politician.
In the last 16 months of his stewardship as the Rivers State governor, Wike has left no one in doubt that he is a good testament to good governance especially the judicious application of lean resources. Besides his direct connection and interface with the ordinary people on the streets which makes him a man of the people, the Rumuepirikom-born politician has positively touched the lives of Rivers people through his uncommon transformation of the State.
What perhaps made Wike’s achievements more noticeable and outstanding was the state of hopelessness Rivers State had become before the present administration came on board. Besides the State’s economy that was in shambles, and a comatose social infrastructure, poverty was also pervasive. No thanks to a litany of abandoned and unexecuted projects, backlog of workers’ salary arrears, the captive state of the State’s legislature and judiciary for an unprecedented period of over one and half years and a huge debt left by the immediate past administration in the State.
In spite of the parlous state of affairs he inherited and the paucity of funds occasioned by the dwindling federal allocations to the State, Governor Wike has continued to keep his promises to the electorate. Today, Rivers State has regained its status and commanding heights among other States in the country. Hope, the common elixir, is also gradually returning to Rivers people.
One area that obviously keeps Wike ahead of other governors is ROAD INFRASTRUCTURE.
In spite of the near empty treasury and a huge debt inherited from his predecessor, the governor has turned Rivers State into a huge construction site. Besides the Operation Zero Pothole progamme which has seen to the delivery of more than 130 roads in Obio/Akpor, Eleme, Port Harcourt and Oyigbo, the Works Ministry under the Wike administration has delivered 150 kilomeres of roads in the last 15 months. The more than 100 roads are spread across six local government areas, while many more will soon follow. Most of these were strategic roads and bridges that were abandoned by the previous administration but which are of huge benefit to Rivers people.
Within the first seven months in office, Wike’s administration completed two federal roads that are critical to economic development of the State, namely: the NPA Industry Road and the Eleme-Onne junction section of the East-West Road.
The Igwuruta-Chokocho-Okehi highway which is another federal road is near completion and expected to be commissioned before the end of this month. The 6.6 kilometre highway serves as a link to two local government areas of Ikwerre and Etche, but had been abandoned for decades.
The State roads are not left out. The Iloabuchi-Eagle Island Link road that was abandoned by the last administration was completed and commissioned in January, this year. The road serves as a major link between Mile One in Diobu area of Port Harcourt and Eagle-Island, and also connects other parts of the State such as Agip, Ada George and Rumueme. It has since decongested traffic on Ikwerre Road.
Same goes for Abuloma-Woji Link road. The road which is worth N13 billion was also completed and commissioned by Governor Wike in January, this year.
Other abandoned road projects completed and commissioned by Wike’s administration include Oyigbo Market Road, Abonnema-Obonoma Link Road with a new bridge, first phase of the NLNG-Nkpogu Road and the first phase of Odili Woji-Akpajo Link road. The second phase of both the NLNG – Nkpogu Road and Odili-Woji-Akpajo Link road is currently undergoing construction and expected to be completed soon.
Meanwhile, the dualisation of 16 km Sakpenwa-Bori-Kono Road which straddles three local government areas of the State is on-going. Ditto for the East/West-Airport (Prof Tam David West) Boulevard; the Igwuruta-Etche Road, the Trans-Amadi Industrial Layout Road, Elelenwo-Akpajo Road, Rukpokwu-Eneka Road, Rumualogu-Alakahia Road, Rumuolumeni-Iwofe Road, Elioparanwo Road, Elimgbu Road, Nkpolu-Rumuigbo Road, Rumuagholu-Oroigwe Road, Ozuoba-Rumuosi Road, Ozuoba-Rumuokparali-Choba Road, Igbogo-Choba Road, Ogoni/Andoni/Opobo Unity Road, the Kalabari Link road and Nkpogu-Trans Amadi Link Bridge, Woji-Elelenwo bridges, among others.
Contrary to allegation by a frontline member of the opposition party in the State, Senator Magnus Abe that the Sakpenwa-Bori Road does not meet international standard, the road, according to Governor Wike is being constructed by the CCECC, an internationally recognised company that executed the Abuja-Kaduna Light Rail Project. The road which traverses three local government areas in Ogoniland and also leads to Opobo-Nkoro and Andoni Local Government Areas, when completed, would boost economic activities in the State as well as assuage the sufferings of users.
Meanwhile, work has commenced on the completion of the Kpopie-Bodo City Road which was allegedly abandoned by Senator Magnus Abe after allegedly collecting over N4 billion from the immediate past administration in the State .Other strategic areas that have received attention of the State government in the last 16 months are the Kalabari Land Reclamation that is meant to rejig rural development, the Marine Jetty at Okrika that facilitates marine transportation and economic activities in the area and the Port Harcourt Pleasure Park.
The construction of the on going multi-million naira Pleasure Park in Rumuola by a construction giant, Julius Berger Plc, was initiated by Wike to provide Nigerians, especially citizens and residents of Rivers State with a world class recreation facility. It is scheduled to be completed in December, this year.
Education is another sector that has received a boost under Wike’s administration. The governor’s passion for quality education has led to the completion of the Model Primary School at Rumuodomaya, the Law Faculty Complex of the State-owned University of Science and Technology (RSUST); the establishment of College of Medical Science at RSUST, procurement of science equipment and examination materials for senior secondary students in 247 schools in the State, and the payment of outstanding debt owed Ambassador Nne Kurubo Model School, Eleme by the last administration, among others.
Meanwhile, the Wike-led government, in a bid to develop a world class educational system in the State, is currently undertaking an upgrade of 11 old secondary schools in three senatorial districts in the State. The upgrading is meant to restore full boarding system that ceased in the 1980s. Work has since commenced at Government Girls Secondary School, Rumuokwuta and Birabi Memorial Grammar School, Bori which are among the pilot schools selected for the re-introduction of boarding school system in the State.
Governor Wike hinted of the vision behind the remodeling of the 11 schools and the re-introduction of boarding system in the State.
“Our people deserve the best. Therefore, we’ll give them the best education. We are developing a boarding school system that will produce students who can compete globally,” the governor said.
At the same time, the Wike-led administration is about to commence the rehabilitation of technical schools in the State.
According to the Special Adviser to the Governor on Technical Education Matters, Prof. Israel Owate, the rehabilitation of technical schools such as the Government Technical School in Trans-Amadi, Government Craft Centre on Aba Road and the newly established School for Craft and Vocational Training at Port Harcourt Primary School in Old GRA would soon take off.
The decision of the State government to revive these schools is in fulfillment of Governor Wike’s promise to rejig technical education in the State, as well as arrest the dwindling level of technical manpower in the State and Nigeria in general.
Governor Wike also facilitated the upgrading of the Rivers State College of Arts and Science to a polytechnic via the executive bill he sent to the State House of Assembly. The bill has since been passed and the college is now a full-fledged polytechnic.
Water Supply. This is another sector that has received a revival pill under Wike’s administration which inherited only two percent functional water supply facilities in the State. To change this trend, this government set a target to increase functional water supply in the State by 80 percent, and has massively invested in it.
The State government started with the construction of five water schemes in five local government areas of the State, while also upgraded some of the existing ones.
Also recently, the Wike administration commissioned a 50 km network reticulation water project located at Alasa and Agbonicha booster stations to boost-water supply in the areas. In the same vein, the rehabilitation of water scheme in Okrika Aleto is on top gear.
The State government has also entered into partnership with the European Union, UNICEF and other agencies for the provision of potable water in Opobo town, Kalaibiama and Nkoro in Opobo/Nkoro Local Government Area, and in Abonnema, Kula and Abissa in Akuku-Toru Local Government Area.
Health. In the area of health, Wike has left no one in doubt that health is wealth. He has established a framework for equipping major General Hospitals in the State. His government has awarded contracts for the rehabilitation of General Hospitals in Abonnema, Ahoada, Ikwerre and Isiokpo, while the health centres across the State are also receiving government attention.
Under Wike, the new phase of the Integrated Medical Industries (IMI) is near completion with all the necessary facilities and equipment fabricated by manufacturers in Europe.
According to the governor, the IMI project when completed, would create 3,000 direct and indirect jobs in the State, as well as conserve foreign exchange and stop the importation of some key medical consumables.
The new phase of the medical company is expected to be the biggest in the country with the capacity to produce one billion syringes and other vital medical equipment that will stem the tide of importation and give Nigerians access to high quality medical services.
As part of efforts to boost health service delivery in the State, Governor Wike recently inaugurated the Rivers State Private Hospitals Intervention Scheme. The scheme is to assist private hospitals to provide, quality healthcare for the people of the State. The first phase has 25 private hospitals owned by non-indigenes as beneficiaries.
Security: Being his primary responsibility to the people of Rivers State, Governor Wike does not take the issue of security lightly. Although there was heightened sense of fear and anxiety in the State, occasioned by high wave of kidnapping, cultism, armed robbery and assassination prior to the present administration, the trend has considerably changed since Wike took over the affairs of the State, last year.
Besides assisting the security agencies in tackling crimes and other related activities, through provision of operational vehicles fitted with modern communication equipment for the police, the State government has also taken the war against crimes to the criminals’ den
Recently, the State government took the war against kidnapping, cultism and other crimes to a new level by demolishing property allegedly owned by some kidnappers. Governor Wike also offered amnesty to kidnappers and cultists who would submit their arms to security agencies and commit themselves to honest living.
To give legal backing to the fight against cultism in the State, the governor sent an executive bill to the House of Assembly. The bill which sought an amendment of the Rivers State Secret Cult and Similar Activities (Prohibition) Law of 2004, has since been passed into law, and will serve as a legal instrument to ensure that culprits, apart from being subjected to the prescribed penalty of jail terms, will also forfeit to government, all their properties acquired through acts of kidnapping.
Today, Rivers State is safe both for social and economic activities. Night life is booming in Port Harcourt and its environs, while economic activities have been at a peak, resulting in the rise of internally generated revenue of N5 million under the immediate past administration to the present N10 billion per month.
Several events that took place in Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital in the last few weeks, such as the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) Conference, Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) National Conference and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) National Convention, under peaceful atmosphere and without a record of kidnapping, murder or assassination have confirmed Governor Wike’s remarks that the tagging of Rivers State as insecure and unsafe for economic and political activities by the opposition is a farcical political contraption.
Workers’ Welfare: At the time Governor Wike assumed office, the State civil servants were being owed three months salary arrears. Within the first one month of his administration, Governor Wike cleared the backlog of the arrears. His government is also up-to-date in payment of salary.
It was in appreciation of the governor’s love for the State civil service that thousands of civil servants in the State staged a rally on Thursday, January 28, 2016 in Port Harcourt, to celebrate Wike’s electoral victory at the Supreme Court.
Governor Wike has also succeeded in other sectors, such as housing where his government has completed over 50 units of two and three bedroom flats at the Iriebe Housing Estate; Judiciary where he initiated the construction of the on-going new ultra modern Law Centre for the NBA at the cost N498 million, as well as the re-construction of the Federal High Court.
Wike’s achievements in the last 16 months have attracted wide applause from many prominent Nigerians, including some key opposition members in the country who visited the State to witness, first-hand, the definition of good governance.
The Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, while giving testimony after inspecting some projects embarked upon by Wike’s administration, recently said, “Any person from any part of Nigeria can come here and reside with access to the good things of life. I have seen street lights, good roads and vibrant economic activities everywhere with new houses springing up. Government is working here.”
The Deputy Senate President was not done yet. He added that “Governor Wike has restored faith in government as far as Rivers State is concerned. In other places, people are losing faith in government. Here in Rivers State, you can see the dividends for the votes cast for the PDP.
“I believe that once other States emulate what is happening in Rivers State, Nigeria will be better.”
Hundreds of lawyers, who were in Port Harcourt towards the end of last month for their national convention also testified to good governance in Rivers State. The lawyers under the auspices of NBA, took the time off to inspect some of the projects executed by the Wike government, such as the NBA Law Centre, Federal High Court, Dr.Nebo Gram-Douglas Faculty of Law at the Rivers State University of Science and Technology, Port Harcourt, Pleasure Park, second Nkpogu Bridge, Elelenwo Akpajo Road and the second Woji-Akpajo Bridge. They commended Governor Wike for the pro-people projects and particularly for executing projects that promote legal practice in the country.
Key members of the opposition party are not left out in the commendation of Governor Wike’s stewardship. A frontline leader of the All Progressive Congress (APC) and Governor of Sokoto State, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal could not hide his feelings after commissioning some of the projects completed by Wike’s administration. While unveiling the refurbished and expanded Okrika (ATC) Land Jetty in Okrika town, Tambuwal who was the immediate past Speaker of the House of Representatives, described Governor Wike as a man of the people.
“I see that Governor Wike is a man of the people who is committed to the development of the State,” Tambuwal said.
The Best Governor Award conferred on Wike in far away New York, yesterday, is a confirmation that the vote of confidence recently passed on the Rivers State governor by over 300 frontline editors from all mainstream and online media organisations across Nigeria was not in error.
The editors who were obviously held spell bound by the level of unprecedented infrastructural development they saw in the State, and the level of security measures put in place, came to the conclusion that Rivers State is a safe haven, contrary to the salad of lies and half-truth being dished out by members of the opposition party in the State.
“Based on careful observation of the state of affairs in Rivers State, the Guild commended the government and people of the State for the level of security and infrastructural development, as well as for the step being taken to promote agriculture in the State,” the NGE stated in a communiqué.
Given several commendations the governor has received in a couple of months from various stakeholders including a vote of confidence recently passed on him by 29 political parties in the State, there is no doubt that Wike is not just a leader of the opposition party in the country, he is a testament to good governance and of course, a shinning advertisement for his Peoples Democratic Party.
The “Best Governor, Grassroots Development in Nigeria Award conferred on him, yesterday in New York, United States is, therefore, a well deserved honour that should be celebrated by all Rivers people.
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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