By Emmanuel Addeh
The oil and gas industry in Nigeria weekend embarked on the third phase of its intervention in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, with the takeoff of an infectious diseases centre in Bayelsa to serve the entire Niger Delta region.
The three phases in the industry’s N21 billion support to curb the impact of the virus included medical consumables and Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs), patient support and logistics, including provision of ambulances, ventilators, oxygen as well as generators, while the third phase is the provision of permanent infrastructure.
When completed, the centre sited on 1,586 square metres, which is to be fully funded by the Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC), is expected to have a diagnostic laboratory and 200-capacity bed spaces.
Speaking during the ground-breaking ceremony, which was jointly done by the Minister of State, Education, Mr Emeka Nwajiuba, who represented the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha; Group Managing Director, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mele Kyari; and Bayelsa Governor Douye Diri; the Minister of State, Petroleum, Mr Timipre Sylva, described the hospital as first of its kind in the whole of the South-south.
Sylva said the industry-wide collaborative intervention to combat the pandemic and its attendant impact was in recognition of the rampaging effect of the disease on the critical sector of the national economy.
He added that the initiative was in alignment with the ongoing federal government’s efforts to curb the pandemic through the Presidential Taskforce on Covid-19 in three key areas.
“The total commitment to this initiative amounts to $58 million which is about N21 billion in the first instance. In order to ensure transparency and accountability, participating companies will execute the project and items procurement using their internal companies established processes.
“All commitments under the initiative are collected in kind and a clear and transparent governance framework has been established for collecting and distributing the commitments across the country in alignment with the processes and procedures of the presidential task force on covid-19,” Sylva said.
He emphasised that the choice of Bayelsa was of strategic importance to the nation, since it was the state where the first commercial discovery of crude oil was made, thereby launching the country into the limelight of the petrol-state nations.
Sylva stressed that Bayelsa also accounts for almost 40 per cent of the nation’s total offshore oil production, noting that nowhere deserves to be selected as the first state to kick-start the most important category of the intervention.
The Managing Director of the Petroleum Products Marketing Company (PPMC), Mr. Bala Wunti, who spoke for Kyari, said since the country is very dependant on oil and gas, no better institution was more poised for the initiative than the operators in the industry.
“In total, we expect about 14 hospitals across the nation. Some of them, very permanent some of them not hospitals, but diagnostic centres. The aim is to aid an emergency and infectious centre where if need be, they will come handy and they will help us improve the health management of our ecosystem,” he noted
The Managing Director, NAOC, Mr Lorenzo Fiorillo, in his comments, noted that the outbreak of the coronavirus had put a lot of strain globally on healthcare systems and personnel.
Speaking through Mr Macwon Jitubo, Head of Community Relations, NAOC, Fiorillo stressed that though the times are difficult, NAOC considers people to be at the core of its culture and fundamental to its business.
“Globally, Covid-19 has put the strain on healthcare facilities and personnel. Eni considers people to be at the core of its culture and fundamental to its business, aware that the creation of reciprocal values is possible through the sharing of objectives.
“This will ultimately engender a valuable medical asset to the South-south with women, children, the elderly, men and the vulnerable groups directly benefiting from the medical services that will be provided by the facility when completed in due course.
“No doubt, defeating this scourge at this critical moment calls for the sort of concerted, committed and sustainable effort through collaboration between the government and the private sector as we are witnessing here today,” he said.
Fiorillo promised that the project will be executed in line with the highest standard obtainable within the health sector anywhere in the world.