*Gears up for post Covid-19 food shortages
*To set up mobile sample collection centres
The Federal Government has sought greater cooperation of Nigerians in its bid to contain the Novel Coronavirus, alleging that many countries of the world are actually expecting the worst from Nigeria, hence the need to join hands to avoid such expectations.
This was as the government announced its readiness to deal with food shortages that may arise after routing out the Novel Coronavirus, saying it has already taken steps in that direction.
Chairman of the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation SGF, Mr Boss Mustapha disclosed this Friday in Abuja during the daily briefing of the Taskforce.
He said; “Some of the measures you had me announce before today had to do with fertiliser companies been allowed to move fertilisers all across the country. I spoke specifically that we were exempting the movement of farm produce and other related products that will enhance our agricultural activities.
“We have recorded a level of success in our agricultural production in the last couple of years. The first thing the president will tell you is that God was faithful in providing very good raining seasons and also farm implements and products like fertilisers were made available to our farmers.
“With the closure of our borders, we came to the conscious realisation that we had attained some level of food sufficiency particularly with the support of the Central Bank in the area of growing rice dither components in our agricultural system.
“I think we are prepared, but you will never get over-prepared when it comes to the issue of foodstuff. I am glad to also inform you that after Mr President approved that we take out 70, 000 Metric Tonnes of grains for distribution as part of the palliative for this particular lockdown,
“I can reliably inform you that o was with the Minister of Agriculture and he said he has in the same vein approved that we restock with a hundred thousand tonnes. So, as we are depleting our stock, we are also restocking to make sure that we prepare adequately in case there are going to be challenges”, he stated.
“We have to be very careful here so that we do not tie the hands of our law enforcement agents and incapacitate them from being efficient and effective in the implementation of this lockdown. Yesterday I was watching CNN, a woman in Chile ran out of the isolation centre.
“The police ran after her and grabbed her and pulled her back to the isolation centre. In a lot of countries, of course, when you talk about the punitive processes that have been put in place in Russia and many others when you disregard the processes that have been put in place, they have prepared a quiet place in jail for a certain number of years.
“COVID-19 is not an ordinary virus. It has overtaken the world with a storm. It has overrun even the best of medical facilities. You know as well as I do that our medical infrastructures are nowhere compared to the nations that are driven aground as a result of this pandemic and we are still casual about this? So, it is your responsibility as media people to drive a narrative that will make Nigerians own this process.
“Let us prove the world wrong on this because the expectation is that we will crush under this. Major networks of the world are carrying such news items that Nigeria is definitely going to crush under this. But I know the Nigerian resilience and the Nigerian spirit, that we can overcome this as we overcame the other epidemics in the past”, the SGF said.
Warns security agencies
Also, apparently displeased with the reported killing of a 28-year-old in Warri, Delta State by men of the Nigerian Army enforcing the lockdown declared as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal Government has asked security and defence agencies to apply tact and caution in discharging their mandate.
“The PTF finds it very necessary to appeal to our Law Enforcement Agencies to deploy tact and caution in the course of enforcing the rules, even, in the face of provocation. We similarly appeal to all Nigerians to be law-abiding, exercise patience and self-restraint. The message from Mr. President is that no Nigerian should on account of these rules suffer any harm or pains during this period or at any time in our national life”, he stated.
Mustapha also appealed to traders to refrain from hiking the prices of goods and commodities so as not to make life more difficult for Nigerians.
He said; “To the Nigerian traders and businessmen and women, we appeal for resistance to the urge to hike prices of goods and commodities, during this period as our compassionate nature must prevail. This is the best time to be considerate and to show empathy for our fellow Nigerians”.
The federal government also hailed health workers who are in the front line of containing the disease, saying it is already working out a comprehensive insurance cover for them.
“In recognition of the danger to which our frontline health workers are exposed to, Government is working with other stakeholders to structure medical and life insurance cover for their protection. I, therefore, wish to assure them of our commitment and urge them to put in their utmost best as they battle to save us from this ravaging disease”, he stated.
Bogus Claims on Cure
On his part, Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed said the National Broadcasting Corporation NBC has given a directive to all broadcast stations to not entertain claims by some people who have been going about saying they have a cure for the Novel Coronavirus.
“The National Broadcasting Commission has rolled out a directive to all radio and television stations that they should not entertain any unverified claim as to vaccines or drugs or treatment for COVID-19 and anyone that does so would be fined because right now, we hear on some radio and TV stations, some people who come out to confuse others and give them all kinds of solutions to COVID-19 and we have been told that some people have been rushed to hospital as a result of an overdose of drugs”, he said.
On mass testing, Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire said it is not advisable to test all manner of people except those who show symptoms. He, however, conceded that the pattern is changing.
“We have a policy of targeted testing, in that we believe if you are hunting, you look for what you want, target it and you get it. You don’t go into the bush and start shooting at random except if you have enough ammunition for that and you enjoy shooting.
“The targeted testing we do means that we identify those who are most likely to be infected. Those who just came from abroad and those who have had contacts but as the picture changes, we are worrying more about community transmission.
“The pattern has been extended to include those who have symptoms and probably connected to areas where the prevalence of the illness is high or a criterium that indicates that this person might be positive so that you are able to utilise your resources more effectively”.
Answering questions on the establishment of mobile testing centres, Director General of the National Centre for Disease Control NCDC, Dr Chikwe Iheakwazu announced that mobile centres would soon be established to collect samples from people for onward transfer to the testing centres.
He said, “the testing centres you have in South Africa are actually collection centres and we are about to do the same in Lagos and Abuja over the next week. We will launch one centre in Abuja and try it out as a model and then potentially scale-up.
“So, those centres are where you bring people together and collect their samples. The actual testing is not happening in those sites. They are drive-through sites to collect the samples, then those samples are batched and taken to the laboratories for testing. That is a strategy we are looking at its feasibility of implementation in certain places in Nigeria to increase the number of tests that are being done”.