The Rivers State Government has insisted that there is no case of Coronavirus in any part of the state, describing claims of the disease in the state as the handiwork of mischief makers.
The state Commissioner for Information and Communications, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim stated this at a special live radio programme in Port Harcourt, monitored by The Tide, yesterday.
This is as the Rivers State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Princewill Chike, who was also at the live programme, said it is embarrassing when people carry information and twist it the way it suits them, noting that those behind the false report neither mean well for Rivers State, nor Rivers people or Nigeria.
Both Nsirim and Chike were reacting to report in the social media which went viral recently alluding to the fact that Coronavirus is now in Rivers State, specifically claiming that a patient referred from a private facility called ‘Prime Medical Centre’ to the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH) is a confirmed case.
The Tide confirmed, yesterday, that the management of Prime Medical Centre in Eliada Estate, Rumuogba, had dismissed the claim as false, describing the rumuor as the handiwork of mischief makers, and fake news purveyors.
In a statement, yesterday, titled, “Public Information on COVID-19 Rumuors”, signed by the Clinical Director, Dr Gabriel Ominyi, Prime Medical Consultants, said that the rumour was “a gross mis-representation” of the fact, adding that “The said patient presented to us requested to be tested for COVID-19. Since we do not have the required equipment for conducting the test, we referred him to the Public Health Department of UPTH where the test could be arranged for him. It is, therefore, not a case of us making a diagnosis of COVID-19, and sending him to the teaching hospital as purported in that post.
“We have a protocol in place for identifying suspected cases, and what to do if we suspect a case”, the clinical director added.
Further clarifying the issue, Chike said, “That information is wrong and it is not correct. In every profession, there is what we call protocol and ways issues are done. Wherever such information came from, whoever posted it does not mean well for Rivers people, Rivers State and does not mean well for Nigeria.
“If you recall the issue of Coronavirus disease was first reported in January, 2020. But the World Health Organization (WHO) did not declare it a pandemic until yesterday (Wednesday), March 11, 2020. There was a time lag. Certain protocols are followed, certain protocols are observed, certain protocols are put in place before you take certain decisions in every profession. The medical profession is not an exception.
“The medical profession is a very discipline profession. If I hear information, I must confirm before I make the diagnosis. Let us come to think of it, the protocols which we have advised all medical facilities in the state is if you notice and you suspect, the normal teaching is you send to any teaching hospital in the state. Maybe, the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital or Rivers State University Teaching Hospital.
“From that spot, the Rapid Response Team of Rivers State Ministry of Health, the Emergency Operation Centre is on alert 24hours, and they will come and take off from there. There are certain things we look at before we make such diagnosis, there are certain things we look at before we say ‘yes’ this is this.
“Let us take the index case that came to Nigeria in Lagos. Up till now, have you seen Lagos State Government going from bed to bed and showing the face of the man? There are certain discipline, until you prove that it is positive, you cannot say it is positive because the communication Rivers State Ministry of Health has with emergency operation and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, we have information 24hours and our personnel are 24hours receiving and sending information because it is key to what we are doing.
“So, when a patient is suspected in any private or public sector hospital, that protocol must be followed, and then, from there, you take over. From that time the Ministry of Health was informed, we went in and everything has been done. This patient they are making noise and saying stories about may even be healthier than some of us here.
“But we did not keep our oars down because the state we are in Rivers State we are at alert phase. In alert phase, it is like you suspect armed robbers are coming into your territory. The people at the checkpoint are at more alert to check through everything, to search through before they say anything.
“So, the Ministry of Health has done what it is supposed to do. This so-called star case, we have collected samples, and now, kept them on hold. When the result comes, if it is positive, we will tell the public.
“But for now, I don’t think there is any cause for alarm. We still insist that the preventive measures be put in place. Every school, for example, should have enough water and soap or sanitisers for the children and teachers to wash their hands,” Chike advised.
Similarly, Paulinus Nsirim said, “You cannot talk about COVIC-19 as a medical practitioner without evidence, and like the health commissioner explained, the protocol to establish that is known by every medical practitioner.
“So, if a medical practitioner worth his salt will go and make that categorical statement about such a matter, then, we begin to question where the person got his certificate. What has happened now is that some people who want to cause mischief, and then, throw panic into the state are trying to make this case look as if there is a virus that is circulating in Rivers State.
“We want to make it clear to everybody living and doing business in Rivers State that yes, somebody was sent to teaching hospital, but that does not mean that the person has a virus. And until the protocol, like the health commissioner has explained, has been thoroughly established and examined, then, Rivers State Government will not make a categorical statement.
“What has happened in Lagos State is an index case, and we have all been following the trend of what happened there. Lagos did not just come and announced that somebody has contracted the virus until this protocol was followed before even the Federal Government had to also intervene.
“So, the Rivers State Government is in contact with the Federal Ministry of Health and the National Centre for Disease Control, and the Health Ministry here (Rivers State) is prepared to do what it takes to ensure that if something like that happens, Rivers people will know.
“But for now, that information circulating in the social media is not correct. Those living and doing business in Rivers State should discountenance the information from the social media. Somebody who goes to the social media to begin to talk about COVID-19, first does not even understand the protocol.
“He does not also understand the gravity of what he is doing to create panic in the system. Just to let you know, the Rivers State Government is desirous in ensuring preventive measures are kept to the required level,” the state government spokesman said.
Meanwhile, the Rivers State Government said it has increased surveillance at all land borders and entry points into the state as part of measures to prevent the dreaded Coronavirus.
The state Commissioner for Health, Prof. Princewill Chike stated this during a live radio programme in Port Harcourt monitored by The Tide.
Chike said though no case of the COVID-19 has been recorded in the state, the Ministry of Health has alerted its rapid response team and its emergency response centre as part of proactive measures since the first case of the disease was recorded in China.
He also disclosed that the Rivers State Government has already mapped out an ad-hoc treatment centre for any case of COVID-19, noting that the pandemic was not something you fold your hands and watch, saying, “Rivers State has been proactive since the index case in China. We have tried to beef up our activities in corroboration with the Federal Ministry of Health and the Ports Health.”
Chike added, “You know we have the international airport and the sea ports. So, what we have done is try to work hand-in-hand with them. But as par arrangements and preparations for the state, these are what we are doing. Already, you know we have had cases of Ebola, Lassa fever, monkey pox previously, and with that experience, we have already put in place the necessary precautionary measures in case of any incident. First, there are areas of entry point into Rivers State.
“We have the land routes, the sea routes and the airport areas. The land routes: we have through the Bayelsa axis, we have the Imo axis; we have the Abia axis; and the Akwa Ibom axis as well. So, in these areas, what the ministry has done is to arrange and set up our contact men so that we will be able to identify, at least, any case that comes from these directions.
“Then, from the airport area together with the Federal Ministry of Health and the Port Health have been arranged and working together. As the flights come in, we know the high density areas where the pandemic has already come on and the areas where it has not come on.
“So, depending on where the flights are coming from, what we now do is we arrange ourselves and make sure our men are there to ensure that they identify and handle any case that comes up,” he stated.
Chike also said surveillance at the Port Harcourt International Airport was at high alert together with the multiple screening, the in-flight assessment and tarmac cameras aimed at detecting any suspected case early enough.
“There is also secondary screening of selected passengers in line with international protocol. Any symptomatic travellers from impacted areas coming into the country through our international airport, we do first of all place on self-isolation for maximum incubation period in case there is anything we suspect.
“We make contact with the Ports Health Services team in case of anything they suspect and also make contact with the Navy too in case of ships (vessels coming from impacted areas) so that they can intercept them from the sea and prevent them from coming close to the state.
“Together with the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), our surveillance team is at high alert in all entry points because of this COVID-19. We have already made contacts with the teaching hospitals in the state. I can tell you authoritatively that the Rivers State Government has already mapped out an ad-hoc treatment centre for COVID-19 and the State Response Mechanism.
“We are working with the NCDC, and the State Response Team has already prepared. The Rivers State Government has provided sufficient amount of commodities, especially Protective Personal Equipment (PPE) and supportive drugs for therapeutic intervention in case of any challenge, and making same available to areas at risk and needs,” he stated.
In related development, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has declares Coronavirus a pandemic, the Rivers State Government has set up a five-man Executive Council Committee to carry out aggressive public enlightenment and awareness measures to prevent the dreaded virus from infecting anybody in the state.
The state Commissioner for Information and Communications, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim, disclosed this while briefing newsmen after the State Executive Council meeting, in Government House, Port Harcourt, yesterday.
Nsirim said: “As a responsive government, the Rivers State Executive Council, chaired by the Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, today (yesterday), in a meeting, reviewed this global problem and set up a five-man Executive Committee to carry out an aggressive public enlightenment and awareness on preventive measures”.
“Members of the committee include, Commissioner for Information and Communications, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim, who is the chairman; Commissioner for Health, Prof Chike Princewill; Commississioner for Environment, Dr Igbiks Tamuno; Commissioner for Chieftaincy Affairs, Barrister Eloka Tasie-Amadi; and Commissioner for Youth Development, Mr Ohia Prince.
“This committee is to ensure that citizens of the state in the 23 local government areas get adequate information that will stop them from contracting the virus.”
The commissioner added: “We also use this opportunity to inform members of the public that they need to practice elementary hygiene. They should use hand sanitizers to prevent contracting the virus.”
Nsirim, therefore, used the opportunity to call on members of the public, especially those living and doing businesses in Rivers State to begin to practice elementary hygiene.
He urged them to use hand sanitizers that are very good to prevent people from contacting the virus.
Trans-Kalabari Road: Banigo, Stakeholders Condemn Abduction Of Expatriate
Kalabari traditional rulers and stakeholders have condemned the recent abduction of an expatriate staff of Lubric Construction Company working on the Trans-Kalabari Road.
Speaking at a meeting at the Government House in Port Harcourt, last Friday, Rivers State Deputy Governor, Dr. Ipalibo Harry Banigo said she was deeply pained by the unfortunate incident carried out by unknown miscreants.
According to the deputy governor, who said that the State Chief Executive Officer, Nyesom Wike, was desirous to bring more development projects to Kalabari Kingdom, regretted that this act was capable of discouraging him.
“I want to reiterate that our governor is very desirous to do more developmental projects in our communities, there are many more things he has in the card to do for us, and if we allow this ugly thing to surface, that attitude will discourage him”, the deputy governor noted.
Banigo, who said that perpetrators of the heinous crime did not drop from the sky, insisted that they were community people, and must be fished out and dealt with decisively, while calling for the immediate and unconditional release of the abductee.
Also speaking, the Chairman of the Greater Port Harcourt City Development Authority, Chief Ferdinand Alabraba, expressed regrets that a project as important as the Trans-Kalabari Road would be tampered with by persons who do not mean well for the Kalabari people.
“If their intention is to run down the good works of our dear governor, over a project which the Kalabari people have been yearning for over the years, then, I am sure God Almighty will not allow them to get away with this dastardly act of kidnapping one expatriate”, Alabraba stressed.
Alabraba further said, “It is important that we talk to ourselves and ensure that everything possible is done to ensure immediate release of the victim, and ensure that measures are put in place to forestall this type of thing in the future”.
Presenting a seven-point communique, Amanyanabo of Minama, King Iboroma Talbot Pokubo, who represented the Amanyanabo of Abonnema, King Disreal Gbobo Bobmanuel, demanded for the immediate and unconditional release of the expatriate, and reassured Governor Wike of their unwavering support for the governor.
Buhari Approves Incorporation Of NNPC, Appoints Board Members
President Muhammadu Buhari, has directed that the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited be incorporated.
He also approved the appointment of the Board and Management of the NNPC Limited with Senator Ifeanyi Ararume as chairman.
The Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mr Mele Kyari, was appointed chief executive officer.
This was contained in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, saying that the president acted in accordance with the Petroleum Industry Act 2021.
The statement read, “President Muhammadu Buhari, in his capacity as Minister of Petroleum Resources, has directed the incorporation of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited.
“This is in consonance with Section 53(1) of the Petroleum Industry Act 2021, which requires the Minister of Petroleum Resources to cause for the incorporation of the NNPC Limited within six months of commencement of the Act in consultation with the Minister of Finance on the nominal shares of the company.
“The Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Mr Mele Kolo Kyari, has, therefore, been directed to take necessary steps to ensure that the incorporation of the NNPC Limited is consistent with the provisions of the PIA 2021.
“Also, by the power vested in him under Section 59(2) of the PIA 2021, President Buhari has approved the appointment of the Board and Management of the NNPC Limited, with effect from the date of incorporation of the company.
“Chairman of the board is Senator Ifeanyi Ararume, while Mele Kolo Kyari and Umar I. Ajiya are chief executive officer, and chief financial officer, respectively.
“Other board members are; Dr Tajudeen Umar (North-East); Mrs Lami O. Ahmed (North-Central); Mallam Mohammed Lawal (North-West); Senator Margaret Chuba Okadigbo (South-East), Barrister Constance Harry Marshal (South-South); and Chief Pius Akinyelure (South-West).”
Reject Buhari’s Fresh Loan Request, SERAP Tells NASS
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged the Senate President, Dr Ahmad Lawan; and Speaker of House of Representatives, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila; to reject the fresh request by President Muhammadu Buhari, to borrow $4billion and €710million.
SERAP said if such request must be granted, the Federal Government should publish details of spending of all loans obtained since May 29, 2015.
The group also expressed fear that if the fresh request is granted, it may take Nigeria’s to over N35trillion.
Buhari recently sought the approval of the National Assembly to borrow $4,054,476,863 and €710million, on the grounds of “emerging needs.”
The request was contained in a letter dated August 24, 2021.
In an open letter dated September 18, 2021, and signed by SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation expressed “concerns about the growing debt crisis, the lack of transparency and accountability in the spending of loans that have been obtained, and the perceived unwillingness or inability of the National Assembly to vigorously exercise its constitutional duties to check the apparently indiscriminate borrowing by the government.”
SERAP said, “The National Assembly should not allow the government to accumulate unsustainable levels of debt, and use the country’s scarce resources for staggering and crippling debt service payments rather than for improved access of poor and vulnerable Nigerians to basic public services and human rights.
“The country’s public debt has mushroomed with no end in sight. The growing national debt is clearly not sustainable. There has been no serious attempt by the government to cut the cost of governance. The leadership of the National Assembly ought to stand up for Nigerians by asserting the body’s constitutional powers to ensure limits on national debt and deficits.
“Should the National Assembly and its leadership fail to rein in government borrowing, and to ensure transparency and accountability in the spending of public loans, SERAP would consider appropriate legal action to compel the National Assembly to discharge its constitutional duties.
“SERAP notes that if approved, the country’s debts will exceed N35trillion. The government is also reportedly pushing the maturity of currently-secured loans to between 10 and 30 years. N11.679trillion is reportedly committed into debt servicing, while only N8.31trillion was expended on capital/development expenditure between 2015 and 2020.
“Ensuring transparency and accountability in the spending of loans by the government and cutting the cost of governance would address the onerous debt servicing, and improve the ability of the government to meet the country’s international obligations to use maximum available resources to ensure the enjoyment of basic economic and social rights, such as quality healthcare and education”, SERAP added.
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