COVID 19: A President’s Worries

By Suleiman Umaru

President Muhammadu Buhari is not a happy man. This is because of the rising cases of  the Wuhan Town in the Hebei Province of the Asian country of China  emerged coronavirus, popular COVID 19 in Nigeria.

 Until April 8, 2020, when the Chinese  medical  experts arrived  the country to support the government efforts to stop the spread of the disease,  the country had  fewer cases  compared to the North African countries of Algeria and  Morocco,  which had had a good number of confirmed  patients.

There are fears in both official and unofficial quarters that at the rate the number of infected patients are daily  increasing , the country may soon  hit the records of South Africa and Egypt, which top the table in the African Continent. At present, the big four have the highest number of infected patients  in  the Continent.  Cyril Ramaphosa’s home  country, South Africa, has  34,357 confirmed COVID 19, cases, ,Egypt,  26,384 ,  Nigeria 10,587  and Algeria,9513.  

Boss Mustapha, the  Presidential Task Force Chairman  may have  spoken  the mind of the Katsina state born Nigerian President when he said that ‘’ despite the  partnership with the organized  private sector , injection of Resources,  Collaboration  with the International Community and the World Health Organisation. WHO, a health agency of the United Nations, the diseases has continued to spread in the country in different ways and the world  in general. The situation, according to Presidential sources is giving  him  a cause  for concern.    

 Aware of the Financial problem of the country,   kristaliana Georgieva led International Monetary Fund, IMF, a Multi-lateral Financial Institution, last April had approved a $3.4 billion loan for the country at the instance of the government to help  finance the  2020 budget  because of the drop in oil prices in the International market and the adverse effects of the COVID 19 on the economy.

Mustapha: Chairman, Presidential Task Force On COVID 19 And Secretary To Government Of The Fedration

The president  may  have seen that the IMF loan  would not  be enough  to finance the 2020 revised  Fiscal budget  and address the rising Coronavirus pandemic that he was said to requested the approval of the Lawan Ahmed led Senate and Femi Gbajabiamila led House of Representatives   for an additional sourcing of $5.5billion  loan.

 He was said to have made the request to the National Assembly, acting on the advice of  the  country’s economic Management Team.  The good news  was that the  All Progressive Congress,  APC, controlled  National Assembly leadership are ever  ready to support the him  to raise  Funds from any source to finance the  execution of projects in this trying and difficult times of the downturn of the economy  as a result  of the COVID 19.

 This is evident going by the recent approval of the President’s request to borrow  Foreign  loans to the sum of #22. 79  The loan , according to a ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning sources was part of the government 2016 and 2018,external borrowing rolling plan laid before the House on March 5,2020 before the President’s fresh loan of $5.5 billion on May 28, 2020.

Recall that the APC controlled National Assembly had previously given the government the nod to borrow N800 billion  from  local sources.This  may have given the Opposition People’s Democratic  Party, PDP, the impression that the Buhari Administration is running the government on  borrowed Foreign loans, in the guise of  financing the revised  2020 budget and addressing the COVID 19  pandemic. The party noted that the loans are  increasing  the country’s debt burden, described  by Financial  experts as another form of slavery to multi-lateral Financial institutions.

 The government appears to have  made a bold Statement n addressing  the pandemic . Mustapha,  Chairman of the PTF, on COVID 19,  had said that  they  took the  initiative  to solve the problems ‘’mitigating against  the country’s health system that it is always  being overwhelmed  by a series of outbreaks by maximizing the non- Pharmaceutical Interventions, minimizing the negative and social effects of the non-pharmaceutical Interventions  on  the pandemic control and untilisation of data systems to assess risk, measure response performance and evaluate progress’’.

This is in addition  to the ’’ application  of non pharmaceutical Interventions in a measured  and step-wise manner, using at least  two weeks interval to identify adverse effects, narrowing the focus of non pharmaceutical Interventions  with significant side effects’’

. He had cited business closures, stay at home orders to targeted states like Lagos, the nation’’s  Commercial  hub, Kano,  Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory and Ogun, because of its proximity to Lagos state.

The President was said to have approved development of systems based on the recommendations of the PTF, for the protection of the poor and the vulnerable groups in the country. Mustapha, the PTF boss, disclosed that they had  devised the measures ’’ to  ensure a cohesive , exhaustive and data-driven policy to guide the opening  up of the economy’’.

While Buhari, is worried about the effects of the COVID 19 on the country and modernization of the nation’s health system and provision of Isolation centers for patients,, his counterparts,  presidents  Patrick Talon, Muhammadou Issoufou and Paul Biya of the Nigerianneighbouring countries of  Benin Republic, Niger and the Central African country of Cameroon, respective appear  to  have less worry.

Take for instance, in Cameroon, Biya’s  home country,  which has only 6,397  confirmed cases of COVID  19 patients, Niger 958 cases or Benin, which  the WHO said had only 243 infected patients as at June 2, 2020.

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