The Rivers State Government says there is no plan to ban international flights into Port Harcourt as a result of the Coronavirus infections; adding that it has no intention to close any Chinese restaurant in the state.
The Acting Permanent Secretary of the state Ministry of Health, Dr. Chinwe Tonye-Atata, who disclosed this when she appeared as guest on a live radio programme in Port Harcourt monitored by The Tide, yesterday, said the state was collaborating with the Federal Government and relevant agencies to check the spread of the virus.
Atata, who doubles as the director, Planning, Research and Statistics in the ministry said, “The Rivers State Ministry of Health and the Rivers State Government were also following what was being done at the federal level.
“So, it also depends on what is ongoing at the federal level,” she stated, noting that the state government through the Ministry of Health is collaborating with multi-sectoral stakeholders to observe international protocol with respect to control and treatment of Coronavirus also known as COVID-19.
She also said that the state government was closely monitoring the outbreak of the disease in Lagos, and assured people of the state of their public health safety.
“So far and for the avoidance of doubt, there is no case of COVID-19 in Rivers State. However, we have raised our preparedness level for COVID-19. In Rivers State, we are on alert mood. We are not scared because we know that a lot has been put on the ground.
“It is not true that the state government plans to ban international flights or close down Chinese restaurants in the state. If we start from the ports, you find out that the Rivers State Ministry of Health in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Health and also the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) are working together to ensure that the entry points are safe.
“There is now maximum surveillance ongoing at the airports and the seaports. At the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa, we have different levels of surveillance.
“We have first, the in-flight assessment in which forms are given to all travellers coming into the state. After that, there is also the aspect where if there is anybody that has cough or any respiratory infection or is severely ill that is noticed, he or she is immediately brought to the attention of the authorities.
“Then, you have a second level of checks in which as they come out, you have the terminal cameras. They are high level cameras and they are very specific for temperature checks.
“Apart from that, for those that are A-symptomatic, those that do not show symptoms but come from some of these areas (countries) that COVID-19 has been confirmed, they are kept in isolation areas after which we are informed. That is what is ongoing at the airport as of now,” Atata explained.
She further said that a technical working group has been reviewing the risks for importation of COVID-19 into the state, saying, “there is also an ad-hoc holding centre in place in case of any incident of Coronavirus in addition to a rapid response team that is also on red alert. They are doing simulations in case of any reported case.
“The state government is on track and ready to provide anything we need or require. His Excellency, the Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike is on alert and is doing all that is necessary to keep the state safe,” Atata stated, noting that the ministry would take the awareness campaign to churches, faith-based organizations and schools.
She further revealed that public health protocols at the state borders have also been strengthened, adding that, “check on contact tracing is on the standby”.
Similarly, the Rivers State Ministry of Health has assured that there was no case of Coronavirus in the state following a case of the virus which was confirmed in Lagos State, last Friday.
The Director, Planning, Research and Statistics in the ministry, Dr Chinwe Atata, who made this known at a press briefing at the Public Health Emergency Operational Centre of the ministry in Port Harcourt, said the ministry has strengthened surveillance at the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa, and will place all asymptomatic travellers coming from countries that have already been impacted by the virus on self-isolation, and closely monitor them.
Atata said a treatment centre has also been mapped out for the Coronavirus.
She called on Rivers residents to always maintain five meters distance from people who are sneezing and coughing, calling on health facilities to maintain a very strict infection control system.
Atata also dismissed insinuations that the state Ministry of Health cannot contain infectious disease spread because the ministry was yet to get a commissioner and a permanent secretary.
The full text of her statement, titled “Press Release On Preparedness For Disease Control, Rivers State: COVID – 19”, reads, “Following the confirmation of the first case of COVID – 19 in Lagos, Nigeria, it has become imperative to brief you on the state of preparedness and necessary preventive behaviour we should adopt in the interest of public health safety.
“COVID – 19 was first discovered in the Wuhan Province in China on December 31, 2019. Since then, there have been over 80,000 cases globally, mainly in China, with about 55 countries affected as at yesterday (Thursday).
“The risk of importation into the country was considered high, especially as a result of trade and travel traffic. The Rivers State Ministry of Health is working in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Health (especially the Ports Health Services), the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and other relevant stakeholders to ensure maximum surveillance at all international entry points in the state. Surveillance at the International Airport, Omagwa, has been strengthened with multiple layers of screening from in-flight assessment to the use of thermal cameras for early detection of suspected cases as well as secondary screening for selected passengers.
“In line with our protocol, all asymptomatic travellers from impacted areas coming into the state are placed on self-isolation for the maximum incubation period of the disease, and monitored through the period at their destination within the state by assigned surveillance health officers without stigma.
“So far and for the avoidance of doubt, there is no case of COVID-19 in Rivers State.
“However, we have further raised our preparedness level for COVID-19 to ALERT mode with the establishment of multi-sectoral emergency preparedness Technical Working Group specifically dedicated to reviewing the risk for COVID importation and evaluating the response pattern as events unfold in the state.
“In addition, we have marked out an ad-hoc treatment centre for COVID-19 in case of any eventuality. Presently, the state rapid response team is reinforcing preparedness with simulations for evacuations and triage at this centre. We have in stock, sufficient quantities of commodities, especially Protective Personal Equipment (PPE) and supportive drugs for therapeutic interventions in case of further challenges.
“We still believe in the opportunities and the gains of prevention and early detection. To this end, we join the rest of the global community to advise as follows: Regular and thorough hand washing with soap and water (especially when soiled); the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizer is also recommended.
“Maintain at least 1 and half meters (five feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing. Persons with persistent cough or sneezing should keep a social distance and not mix in crowd. Endeavour to practice good respiratory hygiene: when sneezing or coughing, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve at the flexed elbow. Then dispose-off the used tissue safely, immediately.
“Exposed persons should stay home if you feel unwell with symptoms like fever, cough and difficulty in breathing and notify relevant authorities immediately. All health facilities should ensure strict and appropriate IPC at all triage points. Citizens are further advised not to abuse social media and indulge in spreading misinformation that can cause panic and lead to danger.
“The Rivers PHEOC will continue to provide updates and pursue all necessary measures to ensure public health safety. There is therefore, no cause for alarm as the state government is taking care of the situation. For further information or enquiry, please call: 08056109538, 08031888093 and 08033124314”, the statement added.
Reacting, a medical expert and Founder of Mother Baby Care Global Foundation, Dr. Eli Sokarime lauded health authorities in Rivers State for the modalities put in place against the breakout of Coronavirus disease.
He said the spirited fight that Lagos State has demonstrated since last week’s report of the first incident in Nigeria from an Italian shows that the disease can be tackled.
He, however, lamented that the challenge remains that the country has only three test centres, hence the need to set up more facilities.
Sokarime warned that “though Ebola is more lethal than Coronavirus, nonetheless, the incubation period of Coronavirus is 20 days and has high index of suspicion”.
The medical doctor said for now, the virus does not have any cure as against claims in the media, and therefore, urged members of the public to report any symptoms that go with coughing, sneezing, diarrhea, high fever and difficulty in breathing to nearby health centres.
So far, the disease which started in China since December has claimed 3,000 lives with 80,000 infections in 55 countries.
Already, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared it a public health emergency, calling on all countries to evolve measures to tackle the malaise.
But despite the reported case of the virus in Lagos, some hospitals in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, have yet to start using hand sanitisers and other protective equipment like face masks.
Our correspondents, who were at different health facilities in the state capital, last Saturday, observed as patients walked into the various health facilities without being asked to wash their hands or use sanitisers.
At New Mile One General Hospital, a staff member said, “Currently, we have not brought out hand sanitisers at our lobby for patients, only our doctors and nurses inside use it.”
At Mgbundukwu Model Primary Health Care Centre, there was also no sanitiser available for patients and other visitors to the hospital.
A staff member, who did not disclose his name, said, “We used to have sanitisers in this health centre, but they were always stolen by patients.”
Also, at the Fortison Hospital along Iwofe Road, only one health worker was seen wearing a face mask, while others were working without protecting themselves.
At the laboratory section of the hospital, the laboratory scientist was seen working without hand gloves while taking the blood sample of a patient.
Similarly, Plateau State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Lar Ndam Nimkong said 43 persons including Chinese national have been isolated in mining sites in Wase Local Government Area of Plateau State.
He said among those isolated, were four Chinese National and 39 Nigerians who are working with the Chinese in the two mining sites.
Dr. Nimkong disclosed this yesterday during a press briefing with the Commissioner for Information and Communication, Hon. Dan Manjang in Jos and said the Chinese who came from China through Adis-Ababa to Abuja were examined and have no symptoms of Coronavirus.
He said: “The Governor of Plateau State, Rt. Hon. Simon Bako Lalong received a communication on Friday, 28 February 2020 from Nigeria Immigration Service that three Chinese National were in Plateau. We set up a committee urgently made up of our staff, WHO, Nigeria Immigration Service, the Police and DSS and went to Wase LGA immediately.
“On Saturday, 29 February, the team discovered that there were four Chinese and not three. They interviewed the leader who came on 25 February and three others came on the 26 February, 2020.
“They admitted that they came from China and flew to Adis-Ababa through Abuja to Wase Local Government Area in Plateau State. They showed their screening forms in Adis-Ababa and in Abuja and we told them that anybody who is coming from a country that has Coronavirus problem is a suspect until he proves otherwise.
“In Wase, the Leader was leaving in a compound with 24 other Nigerians who were working with him. They have a water source that the villagers come to fetch for drinking, both of them were isolated in the compound for 14 days, nobody is expected to go out and nobody goes in.
“The same thing in Baki-Kaya where there are three Chinese National and 15 Nigerians who are working with them, both of them showed their screening forms before coming into Nigeria, and we have asked that they should be isolated for 14 days also; with this, we have no case of Coronavirus in Plateau for now.”
He said the Military and other security personnel in the area have been directed to ensure that the people comply with the directive.
Commissioner for Information and Communication, Hon. Dan Manjang, who was with Ndam during the briefing, said that there is no known case of Coronavirus in the State.
According to him, “There is no known case of Coronavirus in Plateau State. You know, we have a mining site in Wase. There are Chinese nationals that are mining that site. Three of them came in from China via Ethiopia Airways via Abuja.
“Commissioner for Health in a swift reaction, sent a health team to go and isolate and investigate them. The investigation is supposed to take 14 days. We will now know after 14 days whether they did contact the virus or not.”
Minister Blames Judiciary For Prisons’ Congestion
The Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, has blamed the congestion in Nigeria’s correctional facilities on the country’s Judiciary, explaining that the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCOS) was not allowed by law to reject inmates sentenced to correctional centres or to release them.
Aregbesola, represented by Special Adviser on Nigerian Correctional Service, Suleiman Tala, stated this while delivering a paper at a policy advocacy conference entitled, “Decongestion of Correctional Centres: Status Quo”, organised as part of the 60th-anniversary celebration of the Order of The Knights of St Mulumba, Nigeria, Lagos Metropolitan Council, which was held in Lagos, adding that the primary responsibility of NCOS is to hold offenders pending the adjudication of their cases before a law court.
“It is important for the public to be aware that the NCOS and the Ministry of Interior are trying their best to tackle the issue from different angles as the length of time the inmates stay at the custodian centre is not determined by NCOS but by the justice system. I may not be able to reiterate exactly what the challenges are with the judiciary, however, as it affects the NCOS we are doing all we can not to compromise the traditional responsibility of the NCOS,” he stated.
Representing the Inspector General of Police, Baba Usman, Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu, accepted that the police contribute to the congestion but gave his reasons.
“Inconsistence of the appearance of police officers to give evidence at trials has been identified as one of the alleged causes of prolonging trial but the IGP has mandated officers must attend court cases as at when due. The police are being hampered by a high level of distrust between the citizens and their police institution,” he stated.
Also at the conference, Lagos State Catholic Archbishop, Alfred Adewale Martins, who was represented by Rev. Paschal Uwaezeapu, stated that decongestion of the prisons would continue to be a matter as long as the government has refused to fix the country.
“The prison would continue to be congested if we don’t fix the society. As long as our society is a place where everybody takes for himself without considering the neighbour then our prison would continue to be congested. If we need to fix the prison we need to fix the family. These prisoners come from a family. We need to fix the education system also. We need to promote justice, without all these, the prison will soon overflow,” he stated.
Meanwhile, the Lagos Metropolitan Grand Knight, KSM William Adebisi, urged the government to declare a state of emergency on the congestion of prisons.
“The government needs to take the matter seriously as it affects the health of the inmates, economy of the company and behavioural change of the inmates,” he stated.
FG Seeks $3bn With Eurobond Offer
The Federal Government has announced plans for a Eurobond issuance in the International Capital Market (ICM) to raise $3billion.
The Debt Management Office (DMO) said, yesterday, that Virtual meetings with investors have been scheduled for today, and September 20, 2021.
It said, “In order to avail local investors the opportunity to invest in the Eurobonds, meetings will also be held with local investors.
“This is the first time local investors will be included in the Roadshows, and this is one of the reasons why a Nigerian Bookrunner (Chapel Hill Denham Advisory Services Ltd) was appointed as one of the Transaction Advisers.
“Through the Eurobond issuance, Nigeria is expected to raise up to $3billion but no more than $6.2billion.”
According to the DMO, the issuance for which all statutory approvals have been received, would be to implement the New External Borrowing in the 2021 Appropriation Act and that “Proceeds are for the financing of various projects in the Act.”
The agency gave further insight, saying, “In addition to providing funding to part-finance the deficit in the 2021 Appropriation Act, the issuance of Eurobonds by Nigeria benefits the country in many other strategic ways; amongst which are: 1. It is an inflow of foreign exchange, leading to an increase in External Reserves.
“External Reserves help support the Naira Exchange Rate, and Nigeria’s sovereign rating.
“When Nigeria raises funds externally, through Eurobonds, it frees up space in the domestic market for private sector and sub-national borrowers. In effect, it helps the sovereign not to crowd out other borrowers in the domestic market.
“The issuance of Eurobonds by Nigeria has opened up opportunities for Nigeria’s corporate sector notably banks, to issue Eurobonds to raise capital in the ICM.
“By so doing, their capital base has been strengthened to provide banking services whilst also meeting regulatory requirements. Nigeria has a sovereign yield curve in the ICM, extending up to 30 years.
“The local listing of Nigeria’s Eurobonds on the Nigerian Exchange Ltd. and the FMDQ Securities Exchange Ltd., have increased the range of products on these two (2) exchanges and their respective market capitalization.
“Overall, Eurobond issuances by Nigeria and the investor meetings that precede the pricing have provided a strong global platform for Nigeria to tell its own story and opportunities available in Nigeria for investors.”
The Transaction Advisers appointed by Nigeria for the issuance were: International Bookrunners – JP Morgan, Citigroup Global Markets Limited; Joint Lead Managers -Standard Chartered Bank and Goldman Sachs; Nigerian Bookrunner – Chapel Hill Denham Advisory Services Ltd; Financial Adviser – FSDH Merchant Bank Ltd; while White & Case LLP, was appointed International Legal Adviser; and Banwo&Ighodalo would serve as Nigerian Legal Adviser.
The last time Nigeria accessed the ICM was November 2018.
Insecurity: Put Nigeria First, FG Tells Media
The Federal Government has tasked the media to put Nigeria first in the reportage of the country’s activities, particularly the fight against insecurity.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, made the call in Abuja during the ceremony of the renaming of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) Headquarters Building after the former Managing Director and Board Chairman of NAN, late Wada Maida.
Mohammed said it may seem obvious and trite, but for any professional, including a journalist in Nigeria to be able to carry out his or her responsibility at all, the nation must first exist, in peace.
“In other words, if the country goes down, all professionals and everybody go down. It is that stark, and this is why I want to use this platform to appeal to our media to put Nigeria first”, Mohammed said.
Speaking further, the minister said if one picked up most newspapers, watched most television stations or listened to most radio stations in the country, one will be right to think Nigeria is a country at war.
While acknowledging that there were challenges in the country, especially in the area of security, Mohammed, however, said the Buhari administration had not only acknowledged the challenges, it is earnestly tackling the challenges.
“A good example is the decisive manner in which our gallant troops are tackling the banditry in the North-West or the way they are combating the terrorists in the North-East. Our security agencies have also successfully tackled the separatists in the South-East and South-West and the militants in the South-South. Unfortunately, these efforts have only been perfunctorily reflected in the reportage of the security challenges that we face. This is not only unfair, especially to those who are sacrificing their lives to keep us safe, it is unpatriotic.
“To illustrate the damage this non-acknowledgement of the efforts of the security agencies pose to the country, let me tell you what transpired when I recently hosted some members of the Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO) UK Chapter, who visited me in my office here in Abuja. They said some of their colleagues who would have come to Nigeria for their programme tagged,‘A Week in and For Nigeria’ during the month of July, did not come out of fear of the security situation in Nigeria. However, those who made the trip said they travelled to their hometowns across the country and returned to Abuja safely. If Nigerians in the diaspora can be afraid to come to their country, imagine how foreigners, including investors and tourists, will feel about coming to the country.
“Whatever image problem Nigeria is suffering from today is mostly due to the unflattering portrayal of the country by the country’s media.
“Even when some media organisations report fake news, they never have the decency to retract such stories and apologise. They simply move on as if nothing has happened.
“We are not saying the media should not report on the security challenges we face. All we are saying is: Be fair and report accurately the efforts being made by the state and federal governments to tackle the challenges. Even if you don’t want to encourage the men and women in uniform fighting to keep us safe, please don’t discourage them with negative reporting. The security challenges we face today will be successfully tackled and Nigeria will not cease to exist, despite the antics of naysayers”, Mohammed added.
Mohammed congratulated the family, friends and associates of the late Maida for the great and much-deserved honour done to him.
He commended the management and staff of the NAN for coming up with the idea to immortalise the late Maida.
“The Federal Government’s decision to approve the proposal was not difficult, upon realising the role played by Alhaji Wada in making NAN the respectable agency that it is today. A man who was everything from Zonal Editor to Foreign Correspondent to Editor-in-Chief to Managing Director to Board Chairman, a man who built this glistening NAN headquarters edifice deserves to be immortalised by the organisation he served so well in his lifetime”, Mohammed stated.
Mohammed prayed that God will continue to comfort and strengthen the family of Maida, even as he prayed that the soul of the departed continues to rest in peace.
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