Concerns over Perceived Poor Coordination of COVID-19 Fight

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•Secondus laments impact on economy

Chuks Okocha in Abuja

Some governors have expressed concerns over what they perceived as the absence of a coordinated management of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially given the spike in the number of confirmed cases as a result of an expansion of the nation’s testing capacity, THISDAY gathered yesterday.

They believed this had led to a lack of an effective policy framework to guide states to streamline their action plans in combating the virus and avoiding conflicts such as the repatriation of Almajiris by Northern governors.
The National Chairman of the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Prince Uche Secondus, has also expressed concern about the impact of the pandemic on the nation’s fragile economy.

One of the governors, who spoke to THISDAY on the condition of anonymity, blamed the indiscriminate lockdown orders issued by various governors on the absence of a central coordination of the management of the pandemic.
Though the governor acknowledged the works of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, headed by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha, he said this was not enough to provide the leadership and coordination needed to combat the pandemic.
“This is still a third-party control in the management of the pandemic. There is no direct access to the president on this issue,” he added.

Another governor, who also spoke anonymously, said he also considered the presidential task force, set up by President Muhammadu Buhari to manage the COVID-19 pandemic as a third party.
He explained: “Before the commencement of the various orders to contain this disease, there ought to have been a National Council of State meeting with the president, the vice president and the governors where there would have been central guidelines that everybody would adhere to.

“Now, look at what is happening, all the governors are issuing orders and counter-orders; lockdown here and there and no lockdown over there. It is like a confused country. There is no central order from the president.”

According to the governor, “If there was a National Council of State meeting before this crisis, and not the Boss Mustapha-led group that may not report the situation of things accurately to the president, I don’t think that we would be in this situation of order and counter-order with the type of crisis in Port Harcourt.

“For instance, there is no coordination in the handling of this Almajiri crisis – deportation here and there. Some people travelling are arrested and sent back to their states. This could affect the unity of this country. All these are due to the lack of harmonised guidelines.

“There are no harmonised guidelines on the lockdown and restriction of movements across states. The governors are implementing various orders that run counter to the directives of the presidential task force. There is confusion everywhere that could lead to a breakdown of law and order. Every state governor is behaving as if he is law himself.”

He said because of the absence of coordinated management of the pandemic by the president, the governors were panicking because the rising wave of confirmed cases would overwhelm the nation’s weak healthcare system.
“The governors are on edge because the pandemic is nearly overwhelming the healthcare system. The governors are on edge because the COVID-19 is almost overwhelming the economy and affecting the allocations to states from the Federal Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC).

“I’m afraid that if something serious is not done in the next months, the healthcare system and the economy would be in a serious problem. The infrastructure is gradually collapsing,” the governor stated.

Secondus Laments Impact of Pandemic on Economy

Secondus said already the pandemic had affected the economy badly and exposed the frailty of the healthcare sector.
“What is happening is not political and no one should play politics with it. What Nigeria needs now is leadership. This is the time for President Muhammadu Buhari to show leadership. If the United States of America is panicking, then, you know what should be happening to Nigeria and its economy and the health sector,” he said.
Secondus added that the pandemic had exposed the fact that the health sector in Nigeria was weak.
He called for an integrated approach to the management of the pandemic, warning that care should be taken to avoid the collapse of the economy.