The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic took the world by surprise, thereby dislocating communities, disrupting social cohesion among peoples and tasking governments at all levels to innovate various measures aimed at curtailing the spread. Nigeria’s federal capital Abuja was also not spared from the ravaging effects of the pandemic.
In the midst of fear, tension and anxiety among residents about the negative effects of the novel coronavirus, the Federal Capital Territory administration under the minister, Mallam Muhammad Musa Bello, took up the gauntlet and was able to manage the spread of the virus in the territory.
The administration immediately put proactive measures in place such as closure of mass-gathering places like cinemas, churches, mosques, hotels, events centres, night clubs, conference centres and strict regulation of markets in the territory. The strategy of staggering the markets days also helped in reducing unnecessary cluster of people in the markets and with these containment measures, the minister also found it necessary to constitute a task force which was mandated with the enforcement of the protective measures.
In addition to this, the minister embarked on a weekly appraisal of the workability of existing measures and protocols as rolled out by the World Health Organisation and Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). Where any gaps existed the minister ensured that they were closed and rendered needed support to all the institutions involved in reducing the spread of the coronavirus, including frontline health workers and security personnel, all in a bid to keep the FCT residents safe.
As the nation’s capital and with the presence of numerous international organisations, federal ministries, departments and agencies, containing the spread of the deadly virus was particularly challenging, but the managerial acumen of the FCT minister played a prominent role as he rose to the occasion, rallied all stakeholders to brace the challenge and provided the needed logistics support towards the realisation of President Muhammadu Buhari’s vision of seeing Nigeria flatten the curve in the spread of the deadly pandemic.
As the pandemic continued to increase across the globe, the leadership of the federal capital exhibited an unmatched willingness and desire to tackle the challenge frontally. The results are visible and this has imbued the FCT residents with confidence that they are in safe hands and that the leadership of the territory cared for their wellbeing and welfare.
Today the citizens are full of encomiums for the minister and his team having been working behind the scenes to secure their lives. Definitely such altruistic leadership as exemplified by the minister has not only set him apart from others but should be emulated by contemporary and future leaders in the country.
Going forward and with the benefit of hindsight and experience, governments at all levels must endeavour to budget more funds for the health sector and knowing that it is cheaper to maintain a functional health system than running helter- skelter to contain an unforeseen and unpredictable enemy. Even on this score kudos must be given to the minister for ensuring that since his assumption of office the health sector always received adequate attention, hence they were able to reduce the spread of the coronavirus to a manageable level.
Worthy of mention also is the symbiotic relationship between the FCT administration, NCDC and the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 led by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustafa. Throughout the period of the lockdown, the proactive efforts of the FCT administration to lend a helping hand wherever and whenever it is needed was manifest and unsurpassed.
Similarly the FCT administration had a hectic time controlling the interstate movement of people yet the minister’s avowed commitment to save the lives of residents remained the driving force for the task force to endure sleepless nights on the FCT major highways to check the influx of people into the territory during the lockdown.
The cooperation of religious bodies in the FCT with the administration can also be attributed to the leadership style of the minister as he applies consultation, dialogue and persuasion in dealing with such sensitive issues, hence their total compliance with the periodic protocols being rolled out by the FCT administration.
Though Nigeria and the entire world have not left the danger zone of the pandemic completely, yet it is consoling that other states can benefit from the exemplary leadership of Mallam Bello, who with a single-minded determination continues to provide a selfless leadership to the residents of the federal capital Abuja.
Beyond visible achievements of the minister in the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, there is room for improvement in the health sector, especially in the area of data collection, management and storage. This will help patients immensely to access the needed health personnel, drugs and attention in times of emergency.
Chukwudi Enekwechi, Abuja