The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, has been described as a visionary leader for looking inward in appointing a professional, versatile and experienced journalist, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim, as the Commissioner for Information and Communications in the state. Nsirim, who is a former chairman, Rivers State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), and current Chairman, Rivers State Chapter of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR), was a two-time Chief Press Secretary to Rivers State Governors, Captain Sam Ewang and Sir Celestine Omehia, respectively; and rose from the ranks in the profession and the state civil service: He began as a Reporter in The Tide, then joined defunct SUNRAY Newspapers, before returning to the Ministry of Information and Communications where he rose from the position of UNICEF Desk Officer to become Director, and later, Permanent Secretary.
As one who has carved a niche for himself in the journalism profession and exceptionally managed information at different levels, Nsirim’s appointment did not come as a surprise because he had been prepared to hit the ground running on day one. Thus, immediately after his swearing-in by Governor Nyesom Wike on Monday, December 30, 2019, the commissioner swiftly approved a work plan aimed at repositioning the state’s information and communications management apparatus for greater efficiency, productivity and profitability.
To kick-start the onerous journey, he swung into action by visiting the state NUJ Press Centre to enlist the leadership of journalism community’s holistic support to enable him succeed. And in appreciating the appointment by the governor and the commissioner’s visit to show solidarity, Chairman of the state Council of NUJ, Stanley Job Stanley, assured Nsirim of members’ total cooperation.
He returned to the ministry where he held a closed door meeting with all directors on January 2, 2020, to chart the way forward. He also met with all information officers, during which he challenged them to be creative in the performance of their duties, cautioning against indiscipline and laxity. In fact, Nsirim particularly charged the information officers to regularly analyse government policies and programmes as there affect their ministries, departments and agencies as well as local government areas with a view to sensitizing, enlightening, informing, and educating the populace to enable them key in and partner with government to achieve set goals of guaranteeing peace, facilitating governance and sustaining development at all levels.
Having began by consolidating on the foundational basis for success, Nsirim also decided that the journey won’t be easy without carrying the state government-owned media houses along. Consequently, he embarked on the media tour with a visit to Rivers State Television (RSTV) January 7, 2020; Rivers State Newspaper Corporation (RSNC) and Government Printing Press (GPP) on January 9, 2020; and Rivers State Radio Broadcasting Corporation (RSRBC) and Garden City FM Radio on January 10, 2020.
At the RSTV in Elelenwo, Nsirim read the riot act to both management and staff, noting that discipline and creativity must be entrenched to give the station edge in the ever-competitive media space, boost productivity and profitability. While commending the General Manager of RSTV, Dafini Gogo-Abbey, management and staff for their efforts in publicizing government policies and programmes, he reminded them that more still needs to be done, especially in galvanising efforts to rewrite the negative narrative promoted by detractors to demarket the state, scare away investors and tourists and slow down the pace of development in the state.
Nsirim said, “I am convinced as commissioner for information, that we have the right professionals in the various departments of this organization who have the requisite training and experience to deliver on assignments. My job is to make you re-orientate yourselves, wake up every one that is sleeping, and to say to us that we need to roll up our sleeves for more work. We are privileged at this time in the history of Rivers State that we have a governor who is passionate to make Rivers State the destination of choice by rebuilding infrastructure, paying attention to education, healthcare delivery, agriculture, and manpower development, among others.
“And he is putting everything into ensuring that the NEW Rivers Vision Blueprint he enunciated when he took the oath of office in 2015 is implemented to the letter. We have a governor who does not speak from both sides of the mouth. What he says he will do, he has done and will continue to do.
“He has shown Rivers people that his second tenure will be like a first tenure. His Excellency wants Rivers State to be a pride of all of us, and he has demonstrated that with his style of governance. Your role is to use Rivers State Television to key into that development agenda.
“To key into that development agenda, you must be professional, you must be dedicated, you need to do a lot of re-orientation and personal development. If we do that collectively, we will be making a mark. And I am proud to say that when we celebrated 100 days in office of the governor’s second tenure, we were one state in the federation that had projects to be commissioned, and we did that for three weeks. His Excellency was on the road commissioning people-oriented projects. With a man that has that kind of vision, those of us in the media parastatals have a critical role to play. Now that the 2020 Budget has been announced, what are you going to do as a media house to ensure that the people for whom the budget is meant for get what they are supposed to get?”, he asked.
The commissioner said he expects that workers in the state television outfit begin to do sectoral analysis of the budget to help sell the programmes and policies of the administration to the larger population, and tasked them too be proactive.
“We are in a new dawn that calls for creativity and innovation”, he stated, assuring that workers’ welfare will be given priority but urged them to show their professionalism by making RSTV the viewers’ preferred choice. “We will not tolerate indiscipline. I had to hold a meeting with the management team before this general meeting, and I have empowered them to act decisively.
“I have empowered the management to utilize disciplinary measures to ensure that those who think that this is a place where you can come and do anything you like; earn salary and go, stops. If you are a member of staff here and you are part of those who are not dedicated to their duties, then you are going to be in trouble because I have told the management to draw up an appraisal system for this organization.
“Because it a public communication outfit does not mean that we won’t make profit. It doesn’t mean that we can’t shine like other television houses. The television house is a platform for creativity. If any staff here is creative, you will be sought after. The media house is a place where you can stir up your potential and distinguish yourself, if you are creative. The times now call for personal development”, he said, adding, “I would like to see more creativity and healthy competition. Television is glamour right from the dressing of news casters to diction. You need to understand that this promotion that His Excellency gave to me is our collective promotion, so we must reciprocate through improved performance. We can’t thank him enough.
“If you understand that this is the first time in our ministry where somebody will rise from the ranks, get to be permanent secretary and now commissioner, then you will realise that there is reason for this appointment: confidence and trust in our ability to excel. And because it is so, we can’t afford to let His Excellency down. We all need to redouble our efforts. So, I am going to demand from RSTV better programming and content. I am going to demand from the news casters to dress with class. I am demanding professional competence from RSTV”.
Noting that he expects to see changes immediately, Nsirim urged them to show commitment and dedication with the little resources that are available to them. “I have found out in my working career that what makes people stand out is when they are able to manage the little they have and show that they have potentials, and then, people will recognize them. We must be proactive as media houses, the platform you have accommodates lots of creativity and hard work. I want to see competition among those in programmes and other core areas, and we will be ready to partner the management of the station to honour those that are creative,” he added.
Earlier, General Manager of RSTV, Defini Gogo-Abbey, welcomed Nsirim to the organization, saying that many in the state-owned media have been asking for a commissioner that they can call their own.
“Most of us have been asking God to give us a commissioner, and that Lord, when you are giving us a commissioner, let him or her be a commissioner that will understand us. Let him be a commissioner that you will send to us. We thank God today that He has sent us a commissioner. He is not just a commissioner; he is a son of God, who, I guess is a commissioner for this time to work with Governor Nyesom Wike, Mr. Project”.
She described Nsirim as a thorough professional and somebody that knows the state-owned media and the peculiar circumstances facing them, just as he she pledged the commitment of the management and staff to continue to promote the activities of the state government with professionalism.
At the RSNC and GPP, Nsirim said that his familiarisation visit to government-owned media houses should not be seen as a ritual but designed to challenge the media houses on the urgent need to reposition themselves for greater productivity and profitability. He charged both management and staff on innovative, creative and productive ideas and strategies to move the organisations to the next level, and particularly noted that with innovative ideas, everyone has the potential to recreate The Tide Newspaper to achieve enviable heights never before imagined.
He reminded the workers that ideas rule the world and not money, and further charged the workers to think out-of-the-box, saying that he does not see any reason why the newspaper should not be on the newsstand on a daily basis, given the quality of manpower available.
“Let me challenge the men and women here that we have the potential to turn things around in The Tide Newspaper as part of ways to let government know that we are keying into the NEW Rivers Vision’s development agenda”, Nsirim emphasised, adding that the Editorial staff, as the rallying point of the flagship newspaper in the Niger Delta region, should lead the way in creating solid editorial content to drive the positive pro-development and investment message of the government and people of the state to the outside world. “I am expecting deeper editorial content on the policies and programmes of the state government,” he stressed.
“At RSTV the other day, somebody asked me when are we going to celebrate improvement of the state media houses? Let me tell us one thing: I am a family person and there are so many state newspapers that have closed down. I hope we are aware? They are no longer operating. If government has kept this place open, and the governor is still paying salaries, we shouldn’t wish it away. That is a major contribution. I know so many of us here don’t have less than five dependants, and this job you have here is helping you to maintain your dependants.
“The issue usually is: we need equipment. I have challenged even the RSTV because I am a family person. I have asked them: what you have now, what are you doing with the little that you have? We shouldn’t be like that man in the Bible that was given one talent. We know the story. That parable teaches a lot of lessons, all of us here can use what we have to make this newspaper the pride of Rivers people.
“I was here when we were printing 12,000 to 16,000 copies daily. In fact, we were running two editions, and circulating all over the country. We had Weekend Tide and Sunday Tide. I worked here to the point I was producing three pages every day. I produce my ‘Political’ page; I produce ‘Weekend Personality’ and also produce ‘Faces and Ideas’ on Sunday in this organization. We can go back to those olden days. It’s possible!” he stated.
Admonishing those in Advert Department to work hard to generate more revenue in 2020 than in 2019, as the viability of the corporation depends greatly on their ability to perform, Nsirim said, “I need to see a radical difference on how it was last year, and now. We can’t afford not to make progress this year in this corporation. We demand from you, beginning from tomorrow, greater productivity and efficiency. We are also going to be demanding profitability from you. If you generated N10.00 last year, I expect that this year, you generate N20.00. There is no excuse for failure. I won’t tell the governor now that because he has not given me money, then I will not work as commissioner. So it is for all of you.
“Those in Advert or you call it Business Development; you must generate money this year. The first assessment for all the media houses is happening this first quarter, between now and March. I must see a radical difference between how it was last year and now.
“We must demonstrate to the present administration that we are keying into its development agenda. What is happening here in Rivers State within the past four and half years is like a revolution. You will recall that in early 2015, he was told ‘we will see where he will get money to pay salaries. We all were owed salaries for three months then. When he came in as governor, he cleared those arrears, has been consistently paying our salaries, and has turned Rivers State to a construction site”, Nsirim noted.
The commissioner urged all management and staff of both RSNC and GPP to reciprocate government’s kind gesture in ensuring regular payment of salaries so as to make him leave shining legacies at the end of his tenure. Towards achieving the NEW Vision of the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, Nsirim also charged the workers to justify the governor’s confidence in them by redoubling their efforts for improved productivity. The commissioner noted that the governor’s decision to appoint a professional journalist that has grown through the ranks in the ministry as commissioner amounts to a vote of confidence in journalists in the state, which needs to be justified.
“The governor has made a strong statement by looking within our rank and file, and deciding that we have the potential to produce a commissioner (for information). What that means is that we must justify that confidence. In justifying that confidence, we have to change our mind-set towards our work in order to be more productive”, he stressed.
While noting that this is the first time such appointment has been made in the history of the ministry, Nsirim harped on the hackneyed common mind-set of staff who feel that working for a government-owned media means doing anything they like, saying that he believes that The Tide has the quality of men and women needed to recreate the newspaper and make it the envy of the world. “Everyone has the potential to recreate this organisation. The idea that this is a government parastatal, so, people can come to work any time they like has to stop. It is time for productivity. It’s only someone that doesn’t want to make progress that will keep doing something the same way repeatedly, and expect better result”, he said.
Nsirim, therefore, directed heads of all departments to draw up a template for appraisal of staff’s performance, saying that such templates should take cognisance of each department’s peculiar circumstances and functions. “If you are in Advert, your template will be different from those in Administration and Editorial”, he said, and tasked the various departments to complement each other while exhibiting the highest competitive character.
Noting some key challenges experienced by staff, such as obsolete equipment and depleting manpower, the commissioner charged staff to do their best with what is available to justify being given attention. “We are going to work collectively to show the world that this is a government-owned newspaper house where we can excel, be productive, and make profit. His Excellency is desirous to make Rivers State the destination of choice in this country, and he is not paying lip service to it. He is rather building the right environment, providing the appropriate infrastructure to promote health care, education, agriculture, and improving human capital development. I’m challenging both management and staff to think outside the box, be creative and innovative. Let’s demonstrate to the world that we have men and women in these organisations that have the potentials to turn things around. We are demanding from you greater productivity and efficiency”, the commissioner added.
“My tenure must make a difference. That is why I have come to challenge everybody now that we need to roll up our sleeves to work. It is when you work well that you become my friends. The general manager is my personal friend and my boss, and I am demanding a lot from him. So, he is going to push the heat to you. When he pushes the heat to you, don’t think that he hates you, we want results. The truth of the matter is: if we throw away the cap and that mentality that ‘this is a public corporation’, and make up our minds to work, we will succeed, because there is a spiritual import about synergy.
“There are so many people, let me say 20% of the population of this place just come to earn salary. There is nothing that is happening here that I don’t know. Of course, you know I should know. I can even call names department-by-department because here is my family. So, my appeal to everyone is that it is not going to be as it used to be. The Tide newspaper must be repositioned. We won’t stop at three editions per week anymore because we shouldn’t be publishing stale news. So, whatever it will take you to reorganize and bring everybody on the same page to make sure that we have more editions of The Tide, do it. The work is starting tomorrow, not next week, not next month.
“I don’t want to hear anything about challenges. I don’t want to lose the fire power to succeed. We are in a hurry to develop the state. The governor is in a hurry to develop the state. So, let’s keep aside the challenges confronting the corporation. I have talked with management heart-to-heart, and you will see things happening here from tomorrow because it is possible”, Nsirim said.
In his remarks on behalf of staff of Editorial Department, Chairman, Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), The Tide Chapel, Comrade Amadi Akujobi, thanked the commissioner for the visit, describing it as home-coming to celebrate his appointment with his colleagues and family members, as according to him, the commissioner began his journalism career from The Tide.
Akujobi harped on the need for more training and retraining of journalists to sharpen their skills and competences on emerging trends in the profession, saying that as a dynamic profession, it was vital for Reporters and Editors to undertake regular retraining to enable them compete favourably in the technology-driven media industry.
Also speaking on behalf of the RSNC Chapter of National Union of Printing, Publishing and Paper Products Workers (NUPPPPROW), the National Vice President of the union, Comrade Godwin Williamson, noted the various welfare initiatives of the new management designed to motivate workers for improved productivity, but solicited for more government attention to address the poor conditions of working tools in both organisations.
Williamson, who is also the state chairman of NUPPPPROW, explained that although both media outfits have quality and competent staff to take the agenda of government to the next level, but regretted that the lack of modern equipment and technology has undermined their productivity and obliterated profitability in a highly competitive media space.
Also speaking, the General Manager of RSNC, Mr. Vincent Ake, re-echoed the charge given by the commissioner, and called on staff to be ready for more work. “The commissioner has come, and he has charged us to worker harder. He has said we should roll up our sleeves, and do the much we can to ensure that the newspaper is sustained. And everybody should be ready to work because there is no food for a lazy man.
“Everybody should be innovative in whichever area you are. I am open to innovation. All we need is let the ideas come in, and we will implement them,” Ake stated, and assured staff that the management would organise training and retraining programmes to sharpen their skills and competences for greater productivity.
He explained that the welfare initiatives of the present dispensation were part of a deliberate policy to motivate staff to put in their best to fast-track the capacity and ability of the corporation to break even and step into an era of profitability. Ake, therefore, thanked the commissioner for coming, just as he reminded him that The Tide was his home, and he should be free to visit anytime.
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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