COVID-19: Private Sector Relief Fund Nets N15.325bn as Cases Hit 174

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•FG issues guidelines, protocols on lockdown
•Lists measures taken to combat pandemic
•Moves to accredit more treatment centres
•Osinbajo wants more public enlightenment
•Presidency knocks Soyinka for faulting restrictions
•American evacuated after testing positive in Lagos

Our Correspondents

The total contribution to the Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) set up by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to raise funds to combat the pandemic stood at N15.325 billion as at yesterday, a statement by the apex bank has said.

This is just as data released yesterday by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) showed an upswing in the number of confirmed cases, which rose to 174 as 35 more people tested positive to the pandemic, the highest so far since the disease broke in Nigeria on February 27.

Meanwhile, the federal government has also rolled out more measures to deal with COVID-19 and cushion the effects of the pandemic on the populace even as it issued the implementation guidelines for the lockdown of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) as well as Lagos and Ogun States.

Following President Muhammadu Buhari’s approval, the federal government will also release 70,000 metric tonnes of grains from the national reserves for distribution to the poor and the vulnerable to cushion the effect of the lockdown on the people.

The list of contributors to the COVID-19 fund, according to a statement issued on behalf of the coalition by the Director, Corporate Communications, CBN, Mr. Isaac Okorafor, showed that CACOVID, which was inaugurated last Thursday, has so far attracted contributions into the relief fund from 37 individuals and private organisations.

The objective of CACOVID is to mobilise private sector thought leadership and private sector resources; increase general public awareness, education, and buy-in; and provide direct support to private and public healthcare ability to respond to the crisis as well as support the federal government’s efforts.

A breakdown of the contributions showed that the CBN and President, Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote donated N2 billion each into the fund while Alhaji Abdul Samad Rabiu (Bua Sugar Refinery); Mr. Segun Agbaje (GTBank); Mr. Tony Elumelu (United Bank for Africa); Chief Oba Otudeko (First Bank); Chief Jim Ovia (Zenith Bank); Mr. Herbert Wigwe (Access Bank); and Mr. Femi Otedola of Amperion Power Distribution, donated N1 billion each.

Other donors included Pacific Holding Ltd, Union Bank Plc, Sterling Bank Plc, Standard Chartered Bank, Stanbic IBTC, Citi Bank Nigeria Ltd, FCMB, Fidelity Bank, Ecobank Nigeria, African Steel Mills and Multichoice Nigeria Limited.

The statement listed other contributors to include FSDH Merchant Bank, FBN Merchant Bank, Rand Merchant Bank, Coronation Merchant Bank, Sun Trust Bank, Providus Bank, Wema Bank, Unity Bank, Heritage Bank, Nova Merchant Bank, Polaris Bank, and Keystone Bank.
Also, Globus Bank, Titan Trust Bank, Takagro Chemicals Ltd, Ahmadu Mahmoud, and Handy Capital Ltd made up the list of those that have so far made contributions into the CACOVID relief fund domiciled at the CBN.

Okorafor noted that the coalition thanked the donors for hearkening to the clarion call championed by the CBN and the private sector.
He, however, urged more Nigerians and corporate bodies to key into the coalition with a view to supporting the fight against the pandemic, stressing that Nigeria could overcome the scourge with support from all.

FG Issues Guidelines, Protocols on Lockdown

The guidance for the lockdown, which was presented by the National Coordinator on COVID-19 Control, Mr. Sani Aliyu, at the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 press briefing yesterday in Abuja, was broken into two sections.
It contains measures on how COVID-19 can be controlled in the FCT and two other states where the federal government has imposed restrictions on movement for 14- days.

It stated that for the period of the lockdown, all borders linking Lagos and Ogun and FCT to the rest of the country must be shut, except for the transportation of persons on essential duties, food, fuel, manufactured goods or donated relief items.
It prohibited the mass gathering of people, except for funeral services as guided by infection prevention and control regulations, for which social distancing rules apply and crowds are limited to not more than 20 persons.

It also listed the essential services and businesses that are exempted from the lockdown.
They include medical, retail, food and drink, logistics and transportation, hotel accommodation, financial institutions, places of worship, agriculture, aviation, manufacturing and communication.
Others are legal and security services and diplomatic mission, international development partners and honorary consulates.
The guidance stipulates that the staff members of supermarkets and food stores are to be screened for high temperature.
Those found to have a body temperature above 38oC should be denied entry and advised to immediately seek medical attention.
According to the protocols, the opening hours for stores in Lagos, Ogun, and FCT is now between 10 am and 4 pm daily for customers while for markets only, shops and stalls selling food and groceries shall be allowed to open to customers between 10 am to 2 pm every 48 hours or less frequently.

Some of the government agencies exempted from the lockdown include the Presidency, Department of State Services, CBN, Ministry of Agriculture, National Grain Reserves, Ministry of Aviation, Nigeria Customs Service, Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, among others.

FG Approves Release of 70,000mt of Grains

The federal government is soon to start the distribution of grains from the national reserves to the needy following Buhari’s approval for the release of 70,000 metric tonnes of grains from the reserves.

Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha, said the first tranche of 6,000 metric tonnes would go to Lagos, Ogun, and FCT while the remaining will go the other frontline states in the fight against the contagion.

“Mr. President has graciously approved the release of 70,000 metric tonnes of grains from the National Reserves for distribution to the poor, the vulnerable and those whose livelihood could be affected by this lock-up. The first tranche of about 6,000 MT will go to Lagos, Ogun, and FCT. The remaining will go to the other frontline states in the fight against COVID-19,” Mustapha, who is also the Chairman of PTF on COVID-19, said.

He added that in the continuing effort to ensure that very minimal destruction is inflicted on upstream oil and gas production, the president has also approved limited operations for operating companies, services, and logistics firms in the upstream services to ensure a regular supply of gas and export for domestic need.

The SGF explained that the president has approved exemption of essential staff of the seaport and other activities in the seaports of Port Harcourt.

FG Lists Measures to Combat Pandemic

Nigeria yesterday recorded 35 new cases of the pandemic, bringing the total number of its confirmed cases to 174.
The NCDC, in a breakdown of the new cases said Lagos and Osun states recorded nine incidences each; FCT, seven; Akwa Ibom, five; Edo, two; while Ekiti, Kaduna, and Bauchi recorded one case each.

Of the 174 cases, 163 are currently being managed; nine have been discharged while two have died.
A state-by-state analysis of the figure showed Lagos currently has 91 cases; FCT, 35; Osun, 14; Oyo, eight; Akwa Ibom, five; Ogun, Edo and Kaduna four each; Bauchi, three; Enugu and Ekiti have two each, while Rivers and Benue have one each.

However, the presidency has listed about 50 measures taken by the Buhari administration to combat the pandemic.
Presidential spokesman, Mr. Femi Adesina, said the precautionary measures were carried out by federal government agencies and experts “under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari.”

Among the measures, which Adesina listed in a statement yesterday, was the setting up of the presidential task force and the lockdown of Lagos, Ogun, and Abuja.

He also highlighted the release of funds to Lagos State, the epicentre of COVID-19 in Nigeria, and the support provided to the NCDC to boost its operations.

Adesina restated the president’s earlier message that in combating COVID-19, “there is no such thing as an overreaction or under-reaction, (rather) it is all about the right reaction by the right agencies and trained experts.”
Among the measures, which Adesina also attributed to Buhari, is the decision of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to suspend its activities and that of the Chief Justice Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Muhammad, to shut down courts in order to curb the spread of the virus.

FG Moves to Accredit More Treatment Centres

Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, also spoke on efforts by the federal government to test more people suspected of contracting the virus.

According to him, a special committee is to undertake the inspection and accreditation of more isolation and treatment centres across the states to take care of infected patients.

He said a team comprising experts from NCDC, and the Federal Teaching Hospital, Irrua, headed by the Commissioner for Health of Lagos State, Prof. Akin Abayomi, will be visiting all the prepared isolation facilities in the states to accredit them after ensuring that they meet required hospital standards.

He also said the Office of the National Security Adviser will be joining the accreditation team since the pandemic is now being treated as a national security issue.

“All facilities, including private facilities where isolation and treatment of coronavirus infected persons are to be conducted, will be visited for accreditation by a team, comprising experts from NCDC, Federal Teaching Hospital Irrua and headed by the Hon. Commissioner for Health of Lagos State.”
Ehanire added that a team from Federal Specialist Hospital Irrua has arrived in Abuja to inspect facilities at the Gwagwalada Teaching Hospital.

As part of preparedness in the Abuja metropolis, the minister said the federal government had secured facilities that could contain 1,000-bed spaces for isolation and treatment of mild to moderate cases, with capacity for further expansion, if necessary.
Speaking on the allegation that the NCDC was concealing the identities of those that tested positive for the virus, especially the VIPs among them, Ehanire said it was part of the ethics of the medical practice to respect the patient’s privacy and seek consent before divulging anything about his health status.

Ehanire said 12 of the new cases came from the results of the tests conducted on passengers of a bus that brought some Nigerian travelers from Ivory Coast and Togo en route to Osun State.

He said a breakdown of the cases showed that 70 per cent are male and 30 per cent female.
“The age range is mostly between 30 and 60 years. I must stress that both men and women of all ages can be infected,” he added.

American Evacuated after Testing Positive in Lagos

Meanwhile, the Lagos State Commissioner for Health has said an American who tested positive for COVID-19 had been evacuated to the United States.
He made this known while giving an update on his Twitter handle yesterday.

Osinbajo Wants More Public Enlightenment

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has called for more public enlightenment and sensitisation on the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The vice president urged governments at all levels to intensify efforts so that more Nigerians would become aware of the compelling and critical dimensions of the situation.

Osinbajo’s spokesman, Mr. Laolu Akande, in a statement issued yesterday, said the vice president presided over the meeting of the National Economic Council (NEC)’s Special Committee on COVID-19 anchored from the Presidential Villa, Abuja via video-conferencing.
The meeting was the second for the committee tasked with coordinating the federal and state governments’ responses to the impact of the pandemic.
Osinbajo harped on the importance of the assignment and the urgency required.
“The federal government is already packaging further resources for a comprehensive economic response to alleviate the challenges of the pandemic, support the states and provide succour to Nigerians in a timely and effective manner.
“The newly created Economic Sustainability Committee constituted by the president will also be meeting this week to start its work and respond to the situation appropriately.

“The Special Committee of the National Economic Council on COVID-19 is working hard to develop additional measures to alleviate the challenges being faced by Nigerians because of the implications of the global pandemic in the country,’’ he said.

Peterside Faults Intervention Policies, Seeks More Proactive Measures

Meanwhile, the Founder of Stanbic IBTC Bank, Chief Atedo Peterside, has faulted the government’s intervention policy and called for more proactive measures to fight the spread of COVID-19.

Peterside who spoke yesterday as a guest speaker on the Arise TV Morning Show, the broadcast arm of THISDAY, faulted the intervention policies of the federal government to combat the spread of the virus.

He said the country had no proper mechanism to track those flying in and out of Lagos and Abuja, and that the federal government had made the current threat of the virus to appear as if it was a challenge to only the people residing in Lagos and Abuja.

“In the first place, the sum total of our preparation is like a bucket waiting for a tidal wave. Those who understand Coronavirus know that the ability to curtail the virus in terms of spread is likely determined by the testing capacity. Another mistake from the federal government is that up till now, I have not heard of the strategy to bring back those that bolted away for fear of being confined in a place,” Peterside stated.

He applauded Buhari’s nationwide broadcast on Sunday, saying: “Because in reality when you have a strategy to confine those with the virus in a place, you should also have to be phenomenally clever and intelligent to know how to arrest those that will bolt for fear of being confined in a place.

“Buhari’s plan for those affected in Abuja, Lagos, Ogun states could be acceptable, but in his speech, I noticed there were no proper safety nets for those not affected in these states and for people in other states.

“You are talking about a lockdown and I considered the 200 million Nigerians and discovered that Buhari’s plan could only be perfect for about 160 million, without considering the other 40 million people that are unemployed. Again, with the intervention policy of the federal government, it is not certain if the planned distribution of relief materials will actually get to those it was intended to reach.”