By Stephen Ubanna
It is no longer news that President Muhammadu Buhari has extended by additional two weeks the restrictions of movement in Lagos Ogun and Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, to curb the spread of the Wuhan Town in Hebei Province of the Asian country of China emerged Coronavirus which had spread to over 210 countries in the world including Nigeria.
Note that acting on the reports of the Presidential Task Force on COVID 19, under the Chairmanship of Boss Mustapha, Secretary to the government of the Federation, the Kastina born Nigerian President, had rubber stamped the recommendations of the Task Force that the country’s five International Airports located at the FCT, Lagos, PortHarcourt, Kano, Enugu and the land border areas across the country with the neighboring countries of Benin Republic, Niger and the Central African country of Cameroon, should remain closed.
In justifying the reason for the extension of the lockdown in the two south west states and the FCT, the President had said in his COVID 19 nation-wide broadcast on Monday, April 13, 2020 , had that it was basically to’’ to save more lives and bring the spread of the disease to a halt’’.
Given that the disease has no respect for both the low and the mighty , Civilian or uniform personnel, there is need for the President to approve special financial package for the Customs and other security agencies personnel to boost their morale in enforcing government laws to curb the spread of the pandemic
The President had alluded in his last Sunday broadcast that the country security operatives had performed very well in enforcing the law during the two weeks lock down of Lagos, Ogun and the FCT, urging them to do so with the extension of the lock down which would take another two weeks..
Political watchers believe that it is not enough to praise the security agencies personnel for supporting the government by ensuring that people stay at home by to reward accordingly as a way of encouraging them to do more. This is because of their regular contacts with people whose status are not known leaving or coming into the country on a daily basis at the airports or land border areas which exposes them to the disease .
Take for instance, Hameed, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, in his recent directive had made it clear that all Customs personnel must report on duty at their various duty posts across the country to ensure that nothing leaves or enters the country. The directive had come at a time a time when the Chikwe Ihekweazu, led Ngerian Center for Disease Control, NCDC, has asked Nigerians to ensure to keep to the World Health Organiation, WHO, recommended social distancing and keeping away from crowd to avoid contacting the deadly disease
. From the seaports, airports to the Land borders Command, Customs and other security agencies personnel stay in group to be able to discharge their duties. At the seaports, which is one of the critical areas of the economy not shut down, where the ocean going vessels are still sailing to the ports to discharge cargoes lifted from the major trading routes in the world: Europe/Middle East, North and South America, Far East/China, Far East/India and AAustralia, The Value cited at Apapa port how the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, pilots and port medical personnel, find their way to the vessel which had anchored to discharge their carges, exposing them the Crew members whose health status remain unknown as Customs and other security agencies personnel follow suit to do their job .
The situation is the same in other ports in the West and Central African Sub-regions as the Federal Operations Unit, FOU, FOU, personnel, across the country including the adhoc Teams: Comptroller General of Customs , CGC, Strike Force and the Border Drill sectors personnel battle to contain the activities of smugglers of Contraband into the country.
Indeed, the situation in Niger, one of the neighbouring countries in the northern part of the country appear worrisome as over 500 people were said to have been confirmed by the country’s health Authorities as having contacted the disease. Note that that Niger share common boundaries with virtually all the states in the north west including Yobe in the north east.
This should increase the concern of the President because of the difficulty in controlling the movement of people in the border Communities. The Magazine findings show that there are so many illegal entry routes from the West African country to Sokoto and other states in the north west geo-political region.
The Demographic Map of Nigeria, indicates that seven local Areas in the state share border with Niger Republic. There are indications that the COVID19 cases that had been recorded in Kano and Katsina states may have been contacted by the victims from Niger. This is coming at a time Customs and other security agencies personnel are all over the place to protect the country territorial waters and national security.
Note that with the Coronavirus explosion in the neighbouring West African country of Niger, Aminu Tambuwal, a former Speaker of House of Representatives and now governor of Sokoto state may have known that there is danger ahead in that he had set up a Special Task Force against the spread of the disease in the state.
A source told The Magazine that the Special Task Force personnel are working closely with the Customs and other security agencies personnel including the Department of Security, DSS, to beef up security at the border posts to guide against the spread of the deadly disease, described as’’ very dangerous’’ by the President, in the state .
Going by the NCDC, report, sokoto state is yet to record any COVID 19 case because of the restrictions of movement within the state as obtained in Lagos, Ogun and Abuja, the FCT. But Tambuwal, the Sokoto state governor has to watch it. There had been a total lockdown of Lagos, Ogun and the FCT, but Lagos , remain the epicenter of the disease which had infected 343 persons in the country , confirming what Ihekweazu, the Director General, NCDC, had said that the ’’ disease will be on the rise in the country’’. He had made the bold statement without taking into consideration the spread of the disease to Niger which many believe do not have the resource to contain it.
In a related development The African Union, AU, has taken advantage of Ngozi Okonjonjo –Iweala, a former minister of Finance and Coordinator of the economy under former Presidents Olusegun Obaanjo and Goodluck Jonathan appointment as a member of the International Monetary Fund, IMF, External Advisory group on COVID 19, to give her a Special Envoy for the Union appointment.
She was appointed alongside three other notable Africans by Cyril Ramaphosa, the President of South Africa and Chairman, AU. The AU, special Envoys were said to have been a mandate to mobilize international support for the African countries effort to address the economic challenges that will be faced as a result of the COVID 19 pandemic.
The Special envoy were said to have also been mandated to follow up the pledge that had been made by the G20, European Union, EU and other International Financial Organisations, particular, the IMF, in order to defer their debt and Interests rate payment.
There are fears that the G20 and the EU, may find it difficult to come out fully to support the African continent with funds this time around in tackling the health crisis as many members of the G20 and the EU, are worse hit by the pandemic. Take for instance, the North American country of the United States, Italy, Spain, United Kingdom, UK,France, Germany, South Korea and China, which are still battling to contain the spread of the disease in their respective countries.
Aware of the difficulty by the G20 and the EU in ,providing adequate financial support to the African countries to fight the pandemic, because the situation in the developed economies, may have informed why Kristiana Georgieva, Managing Director, IMF, had called for a global unity against the virus to defeat it.
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