Although there has been no confirmed case of coronavirus in Kwara State, Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrasaq has shown astute leadership by taking specific, proactive steps to forestall recording cases of the pandemic in Kwara, writes Hammed Shittu

Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrasaq of Kwara State has demonstrated exemplary leadership since the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. This is perhaps not surprising. By rolling out proactive containment and suppression strategies ensure that the viral pandemic disease does not endanger the state.

Although the state is bordering communities like Baruten Local Government Area and other neighbouring states of Oyo, Osun, Ekiti, Kogi and Niger, the governor is leaving nothing to chance to safeguard and boost the health and socio-economic wellbeing of the rural communities.

Abdulrasaq has commenced enlightenment programmes in the state’s public and private radio and television stations properly orient Kwara residents to be more conscious of the pandemic disease and imbibe new, safer health habits.

This footing has also assisted the government to reach the people of the rural communities in the state by enlightening them on the imperative of washing their hands, keeping social distancing, halting unnecessary travelling, stoping handshaking, and more importantly reporting to the nearest hospital if the people feel feverish, experience harsh coughs, among others.

The governor further convened a meeting with religious leaders, transport unions and royal fathers, among others, on the need to support the government on this unfolding virulent health threat – the COVID-19 pandemic. Following the stakeholders’ parley, the governor further moved to curb the spread of the pandemic disease in the state with the closure of both public and private schools.

The governor, in a statement issued in Ilorin, signed by the Commissioner of Education and Human Capital Development, Alhaja Bisola Fatimah Ahmed, directed all the schools to be under lock and key in the state.

The statement said, “This is to, once again, inform Kwarans that public and private schools (primary and secondary) will be closed down as part of the efforts of the state government to contain the spread of Corona Virus pandemic (COVID-19) ravaging the world.

“The closure order may be reviewed to include higher institutions later if the situation calls for it and the school authorities across the state are to comply with this directive. The government is aware of the fact that most schools ought to begin their second term examination next week.

“However, the government is compelled to prioritize public safety at this time of the global pandemic. For this reason, all schools (primary and secondary, private or public) should be shut by and children should be encouraged to stay at home.

“The government calls on the people to maintain the highest standards of personal hygiene and practice social distancing within the limits necessary for safety. Members of the public may contact these telephone numbers to report anything related to the pandemic: 08064369063, 090293978826.”

As this was going on in the state, the governor ordered churches, mosques to be closed down while the civil servants have been directed to work from home so as to curtail any spread of the disease into the state.
The governor said civil servants’ salaries would be paid on time so as to enable them to meet their financial commitments to their families.

The governor also took another giant stride at ensuring that the coronavirus pandemic does not spread to the state by approving the funding for the construction of an isolation centre located at Sobi Specialist Hospital, Ilorin and also setting up a technical committee on the Covid-19, headed by the state deputy governor, Mr. Kayide Alabi, as a bold decisive decision that will save lives.

Speaking with journalists on the new development, Governor Abdulrasaq said the development was based on the commitment of the government to ensure good welfare, security, and well-being of all Kwarans.

“We have embarked on a robust healthcare transformation agenda, to give every Kwaran access to better quality and affordable healthcare. Currently, we have no confirmed case of COVID-19 in Kwara State and this decisive decision is meant to upgrade healthcare infrastructure in Kwara state.

“Even so, basic preventive measures by individuals and communities remain the most powerful tool to prevent the spread of COVID-19. As individuals, we are all responsible for the general well-being of fellow Kwarans and should work together to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by washing our hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds as much as possible daily.

“Avoiding touching our eyes, mouths, and noses, covering our mouths and noses with our bent elbow or tissue when we cough or sneeze, staying more than 1 meter (3 feet) away from a person who is sick and coughing and wearing a mask if you are ill (especially if coughing) or looking after someone who is ill and coughing, abstaining from handshaking until the threat of this COVID-19 is zero, avoiding crowded areas and minimizing any gathering to a maximum of 25,” the Kwara governor explained.

He added, “As a community, we must do everything possible to prevent any transmission of COVID-19 by embracing the concept of social distancing and self-isolation. These measures are to prevent anyone that may be infected with COVID-19 from spreading the disease to others. An exponential spread of COVID-19 in our community might be catastrophic because we could have thousands of our citizens sick at the same time.”

Governor Abdulrasaq further stressed further, “We need to encourage all Kwarans to get involved in this fight against COVID-19. We believe we will achieve desired results only if and when our people are properly sensitized on how to protect our communities from the virus.

“We are determined to continue to make the necessary investments in healthcare to safeguard the lives of our people. A 20-bed high-quality isolation centre has been completed and equipped at Sobi Specialist Hospital and plans are underway to build additional and well-equipped 12-bed intensive care units at the General Hospital, Ilorin.
“We have put in place a “COVID-19 Technical Committee” comprising healthcare professionals and officials whose primary responsibility is to assist our administration in combating COVID-19 in Kwara State. This committee is headed by the Deputy Governor.

“In addition to the above measures, including the emergency telephone lines already given by the Ministry of Health, you will be receiving regular briefings and bulletins from us on the development. Finally, l wish to reassure all Kwarans of the determination of our administration to prevent, contain, and limit the impact of the pandemic on our people.”

Meanwhile, the technical committee on the pandemic has quickly swung into action towards ensuring that the Covid-19 viral scourge does not get to the state. Series of enlightenment programmes and radio jingles have been deployed to educate the people of the state, especially the rural communities in the state, on the need to remain safe.

The chairman of the committee, who is also the deputy governor of the state, Mr. Alabi with the committee’s secretary, Prof. Wale Sulaiman, have been working round the clock to ensure that the preventive mechanisms put forward are adequately implemented by the residents of the state so as to curb the spreading of the pandemic disease to the state.
The committee ensured the newly built isolation center is well equipped to accommodate around 100 patients at a go while Kwara works with Abuja, on the ongoing efforts to establish zonal test centres with the capacity to screen blood samples for COVID-19.

The state has also strengthened the capacity of its personnel to deal with the emergency. One of the members of the committee (the Commissioner for Health) Dr. Raji Rasaq said, “Work is going on to extend this (isolation) centre. We are looking at extending it to accommodate about 100 patients and that should be ready in the next couple of weeks.”
He added, “The ministry of health has built the capacity of some officials to handle any case of coronavirus while simulation/drilling exercise would begin immediately for the health officials to be on high alert.”

Also, another member of the committee who is also the State Comptroller, Nigeria Immigration Service, Mrs. Edith Onyemakan, said that men of the Immigration Service have been deployed to all irregular routes in the border communities of the state prevent illegal immigrants into the state.

She said, “The deployment of men of the Immigration Service became imperative so as to curb any invasion of immigrants that may be wanted to escape through illegal routes into the state after the closure of land borders by the federal government.

“The men of the Immigration Service are also at alert at the Ilorin International Airport, where they monitor any incoming of expatriates that may be sneaking to Ilorin through the airport and take their documentation.”
But, on Wednesday, the chairman of the committee, Mr. Alabi spoke with journalists on the journey so far and declared the total lock-down of the state social and economic activities with the immediate effect.

In view of this, the government said that all motor parks, markets, taxi and okada operators, mosques and churches, social functions and engagements activities have been closed down.

The development, according to THISDAY checks, might not be unconnected with the recorded cases of COVID-19 in Osun, Oyo, Kogi, Ekiti and Niger states.

According to him, the development became imperative so as to protect the lives of the residents of the state. Alabi said that the government would put security arrangements on the ground so as to ensure the compliance of the order in the state.

“The locking down of the state would curb any invasion of unsuspected members of the public that may likely invade the state through commercial operators from the neighbouring states of the federation. The fast-food operators in the state should do take-away of their foods and avoid any customers to sit down to eat in their business premises henceforth.”
While assuring the members of the public of prompt preventive measures to curb the spread of Covid-19 in the state, Alabi said that the government would not rest on its laurels.

He, therefore, called on the people of the state to cooperate with the government in the task of curtailing the invasion of the pandemic disease in the state.

On the insinuation that Governor Abdulrasaq has been on isolation for allegedly shaking hands with some top federal officials, Alabi said, “I want to say emphatically that our governor is not in isolation and he is hale and hearty.”
By and large, strict compliance by citizens, with the new policy moves taken by the Kwara State government to curb the spread of the coronavirus, will certainly keep Kwarans safe.