Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the transition of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 to Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on COVID-19 effective from April 1, 2021 with a modified mandate to reflect the non-emergent status of COVID-19 as a potentially long-term pandemic.
The Chairman PTF, Mr. Boss Mustapha, announced the restructuring in Abuja yesterday at the PTF press briefing.
This transformation also came at a time a consignment of 100,000 doses of Covishield vaccines was donated by the government of India to Nigeria.
The new mandate to the PTF followed the submission of the report to the President after the expiration of the three months’ mandate extension granted to it.
It would be recalled that the President had on December 22, 2020 received the end of the year report of the PTF and authorised the extension of the mandate of the body by three months.
The tenure of the PSC shall end on December 31, 2021.
Mustapha, who is the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, said the structure of the PSC would reflect the new focus of the response with a targeted approach on vaccine oversight, risk communication, international travel quarantine processes and sub-national engagement.
He added that the PSC would maintain the present constitution, functions and strategies of the PTF and is to be supported by a slim technical and administrative structure.
One of the sweeping changes, however, is that the current National Incident Manager, Dr. Mukhtar Mohammed, will replace Dr. Sani Aliyu, who was the National Coordinator and Head of Technical Secretariat as the member of the PSC.
The PSC will coordinate the vaccine rollout, deployment and administration, while a private sector supported Transition Consultant will sustain the multi-sectoral relations and policy guidance.
Mustapha disclosed that the PSC would meet less frequently while maintaining effective communication with Nigerians and also monitor and audit ongoing systems, reforms and infrastructure development in the health sector.
“As we close this phase of the National Response, the PTF wishes to express its profound gratitude to every individual and organisations that played a part in the National Response. It has not been an easy journey, but your companionship and support helped us forge ahead and accomplish these modest successes. Given the developments around the world, we must recognise the fact that the next phase will be challenging, critical and would require extreme vigilance/collaboration,” Mustapha said.
While thanking all the partners that assisted in the National Response, he urged the public against vaccine hesitancy, fake news, vaccine nationalism and all such challenges blocking the achievement of overcoming the pandemic.
The SGF also reiterated that Nigeria received about 3.92 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccines on March 2, 2021, which represented the first tranche of about 16 million doses allocated to the country thorough COVAX facility aimed at vaccinating an initial 20 per cent of the population.
He also noted that as at April 5, 2021, 963, 802 persons have received first dose of the COVID-19 vaccines.
The Acting Indian High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr. Velagalerti Surendra presented the 100,000 doses of the vaccines manufactured at the Serum Institute of India, Pune, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturing facility to the federal government. The consignment arrived at the Abuja airport from Mumbai via Addis Ababa on 26 March, 2021.
Surendra said that the bilateral donation of 100,000 doses of Covishield vaccines was in keeping with India’s longstanding, age-old and time-tested ties with Nigeria, based on close friendship and deep mutual trust.
He said that nearly 36.5 per cent of all vaccines supplied to the world, as of mid-March, including AstraZeneca, were made in India. He added that India would produce other vaccines such as Novavax and Sputnik, but has also developed its own indigenous vaccine, Covaxin, by Bharat Biotech, which too is highly effective and has been supplied to many countries.