By Elizabeth Chukwuma
For the past two weeks, Boss Mustapha, Chairman, Presidential Task Force, PTF, on COVID 19, and Secretary to government of the Federation, had not been a happy person.
This is because of the problem of bed spaces at the Isolation and treatment facilities across the country. The situation appear to have been in worse in Lagos, Abuja, the Feral Capital Territory, FCT and the ancient city of Kano because of the rising cases of new COVID 19 patients on a daily basis.
The number of infected COVID 19 patients , according to an official of the Lagos state government, may have been on the increase in Lagos, particular, because of the relaxation of the one month lock down in the city, FCT and Ogun, at the instance of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Many believe that the rising cases of the COVID 19 patients may have worsened because Nigerians also failed to observe the Nigerian Center For Disease Control, NCDC, under the close watch of the Chikwe Ihekweazu and the World Health Organisation, WHO, a United Nations,UN, health agency Social Distancing rules.
In supporting the government to cope in taking care of the infected patients, corporate Organistaions and agencies had stepped in to support the government by providibg Isolation and Treatment centers.
One of such agencies was the Nigerian Ports Authority,NPA, where Hajia Hadiza Bala Usman, the Managing Director, and other stakeholders agreed to let go a 130 bed space Agura hotel facility at the FCT, to the PTF, on COVID 19, to be used as an Isolation center.
The donation of the Agura Hotel facility to the government by the agency and its partners may have opened the flood gate for other Corporate Organisations including Gurantee Trust Bank, popular, GTB, Zenith and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, to follow suit.
In spite of the provision of these isolation centers across the country, the government through its administering agency the PTF, on COVID 19, were still not finding it funny in coping with the number of patients. Indeed, the government may have known that it could no longer handle the crisis alone especially with the evacuation of over 600 stranded Nigerians from Dubai, United Arab Emirate, UAE, United Kingdom, UK, and the North American country of the United states, US that Presideent Muhammadu Buhari called on public spirited Nigerians and other Corporate organizations to assist.
Geofrey Onyeama, minister of Foreign Afairs, may have spoken the mind of the Katsina state born Nigerian President when he said Nigeria is reaching a saturation point with regards to the process of evacuating the stranded Nigerians from across the world because of lack of Isolation and Treatment centers to keep them for the mandatory two weeks.
A source at the NCDC confirmed to The Value News that most of the foreign based returnees flown to Lagos and the FCT, are yet to be fully sorted out because of inadequate Isolation and Treatment facilities in these two major cities.
The Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, CBCN, may have heeded to the President’s call as it offered 400 of their health facilities across the country to the government to be used as COVID 19 Isolation centers. It was a big relief to Mustapha, the PTF COVID 19 boss who was said to have heaved a sigh of relief.
An elated Mustapha, who could not hide his feelings on the CBCN, gesture said ” the facilities would be used by the government to tackle the issue of bed spaces currently been experienced in various Isolation centers across the country”, particular, Lagos , FCT and Kano.
Prior to the CBCN, donation of theír health facilities across the country to support the government, the PTF COVID 19 boss had told those that cares to listen that they were sitting idle or watching the drama at the existing Isolation and treatment centers across the country. According to him the task Force personnel with the support of the President had intensified efforts ‘’to increase the number of the Isolation and treatment centers in the country’’.
The PTF, COVID 19 chairman blamed the running out of bed spaces, in the states Isolation and treatment centers to the relaxation of the ongoing lock down across the states as the nation had experienced a spike in the number of newly discovered coronavirus pandemic cases due to inadequate testing equipment. Recall that the Taraba state government had cried out that there are no COVID 19 testing Van in the state, which had made it difficult for patients who had presented themselves to go through the process to be tested of the disease in order to know their status.
The governors may have pushed Mustapha , the Chairman of the PTF on COVID 19, who has the President’s ear to the Wall that he had sought his approval to involve them in stting up Isolation centers ”to accommodate level one and two of Isolation and treatment centers”. He got it.
There are indications that the COVID 19, Task Force will introduce the policy in the next coming weeks that would force the states in funding the project instead of leaving out everything entirely to the Federal government to handle.
While the World Health Organisation, WHO, are currently supporting Scientists, researchers and Pharmaceutical Companies to produce the vaccines and drugs for the cure of the disease with the $50 billion financial support from China , following the withdrawal of US, from funding it, Madagascar claimed that, a Central African country, it had found the herbal drugs for the cure of the deadly disease.
Mustapha, the PTF COVID 19, helmsman, who is working closely with the Presidency to eradicate the pandemic in country may have gladdened the heart of Nigerians when he said that the President has given him the nod to import some of the Madagascar herbal drugs from Guinea Bissau for use on the Coronavirus patients in the country.
He disclosed that the herbal drugs will be subjected to the validation analysis before it could be administered on the Nigerian patients as directed by the President.
He disclosed that Madagascar herbal drugs, which may have been produced in Commercial quantity in Guinea Bissau, is on its way to Nigeria for clinical analysis to ascertain its efficacy by the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development, NIPRD, and the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration, NAFDAC. If it is found to be a cure for the dreaded disease the government may flood the Nigeria market with it at affordable price to curb the spread of the disease .
Meanwhile the number of those who were said to have contacted the disease in the country as at Wednesday, May 113, 2020, were said to have hit 4,787, according to the NCDC, with the discovery of 146 confirmed new cases in Lagos, Kano and sixteen other states of the Federation including the FCT, which had only one patient the figure had continued to surge on a daily basis.
Lagos, alone was said to have produced 57 patients, who are competing with other patients for the limited bed spaces at the Isolation and treatment centers, while Kano, maintain its second position as one of the highest COVID 19 states as it produced 27 NCDC confirmed new patients .
Medical experts believe that the Coronavirus is gaining a foothold in the north western states of Kano, Katsina, Jigawa, Kaduna, Sokoto, Zamfara and Kebbi because of the common borders with Niger which have over 800 patients.
They noted that Nigeriens whose health status could not be ascertained had taken advantage of the closeness to the border Communities to cross over with ease to these north western states to mix up with the people.
The free movement between the people of the north western region of Nigeria and Niger is evident going by the recent revelation by the United Nations, High Commissioner For Refuges,UN HCR, that more than 23,000 persons in the region have been forced to seek safety and security in Niger in the last one month due to the violence in the region. ”This brings the total number of Nigerian Refuges in the neighbouring Niger between last year April and April , 2020, to 60,000”, the agency said.
The UN agency, in a Statement , had said that the latest influx of the Refuges from the north western part of the country who are mostly women and Children, follows the military attacks and air raids in Katsina, the President home state, and Zamfara during the month of April to clear the bandits operating in the two states.
The agency disclosed that it was working closely with the Niger Government to relocate 7,000 of the Refuges to Safety, in villages 20 Km away from the order Communities where water, food, shelter, access to health facilities and other essential assistance can be provided.
Some of these Refuges may ave taken advantage of being in Niger to mix up h with the Coronavirus Patients and then sneaked out out from the their Camp at the village close to the border Communities into the north western states major Towns, particular, Kano, Katsina, to mix up with the people.
Those who may have contacted the disease, without knowing it may have reached to other people, thus providing a veritable source for the disease to spread like wild fire in the region.
Recall that Bello Masari, a former Speaker of House of Representatives and now governor of Katsina state had declared a total lock down at Dusi-ma local government Area because of the discovery of a Coronavirus patient in the the local government Area.
It is not surprising why critics are insisting that the UN HCR, should be blamed for the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic in the north for relocating the Refuges in Niger close to the border Communities that may have given them the opportunity to escape to mix up with the people and thus, spread the disease in the north.