Lockdown: Govs Want Beverage, Healthcare Companies Exempted

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Chuks Okocha in Abuja

In an attempt to ease the flow of essential commodities during the lockdown, state governors in the country have thrown their weight behind food, beverage, pharmaceutical and healthcare companies towards ensuring their continuous operations and making essential goods and services available to Nigerians throughout the period of the lockdown.

This was a fallout of the concerted efforts by governors to bring succour to the Nigerian people during the lockdown as well as ensure that the remedy does not ultimately turn out to be counter-productive.

According to the Head of Media and Public Affairs of Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), Abdulrazaque Bello-Barkindo, quoting a letter to the manufacturers, which was signed by the Chairman of the NGF and Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, the governors noted that “considering the crucial role you play in ensuring the production of essential items such as nutritious food, beverages, medical and pharmaceutical products critical for the sustenance and the well-being of individuals and families especially in these times, and following careful and deliberate considerations we are pleased to convey to you our full support to ensure that your operations continue unhindered.”

To guarantee the continued effective movement of essential foods, beverages and medical supplies as well as attendant essential services, the governors further stated: “We note that the whole value chain from farmers to suppliers of raw materials, from manufacturers to suppliers of packaging materials, transporters, distributors, sales teams and retailers should continue with their lawful operations within the confines of the law and to the extent that the current realities permit.”

The governors reasoned in the letter that lending their support to these key players in the industry whose products are critical to the daily existence of the Nigerian people, they would need some waiver to continue to move their products around the country without let or hindrance.

The letter reads: “In view of the essential nature of food, beverage and pharmaceuticals, all parastatals and agencies of state governments have been advised as follows:

‘To guarantee the continued effective movement of essential foods, beverages and medical supplies as well as attendant essential services, the whole value chain from farmers to suppliers of raw materials, from manufacturers to suppliers of packaging materials, transporters, distributors, sales teams and retailers should continue with their lawful operations within the confines of the law and to the extent that the current realities permit.

‘The operations and activities of food, beverages, medical and pharmaceutical product companies and their suppliers of raw and packaging materials, transporters, distributors, sales team and retailers should not be hindered by officials or agents of the state governments.

‘To ensure the safety of food, beverages, medical and pharmaceutical products and also that of the suppliers of raw and packaging materials, transporters, distributors, sales teams, retailers and other employees who will be on the road during this time.

‘To guarantee that the distribution and movement of raw and packaging materials and finished products of food, beverages, medical and pharmaceutical products from various points within and across states are seamless.

‘That in the event of closure of open markets or shops, clear alternatives are defined on how to get finished food, beverage and pharmaceutical products to consumers in their neighbourhood.

‘The responsiveness of relevant agencies of the state governments in playing their part fully in ensuring that what they need to do as prescribed by the law and extant regulations are carried out with dispatch’.”

However, the governors also included a caveat in order to regulate the operations and forestall abuse, saying similarly, all food, beverage, pharmaceutical and medical companies are required to adhere to the following: ‘Issue all suppliers and transporters a letter of authority confirming that they are authorised by you.

‘All your staff need to ensure identity cards are carried at all time for all movements with a copy of this letter of authority

‘All organisations should ensure compliance to all COVID-19 guidelines on social distancing, personal and respiratory hygiene for the safety of individuals and the community at large’.

These suppliers and their operators are to be provided with Toll free numbers they can call, just in case they have any problems or bottlenecks during the course of performing their duties, stressing that governors are working assiduously to ensure unhindered flow of essential goods and services.