By Emmanuel Elebeke
As the controversy continue to trail the offer of support from China, in the current fight against the rampaging COVID-19, a member of National Institute Kuru Jos Comrade, Issa Aremu has called for caution and unity of purpose in order to win the war.
Aremu said the nation needs a unity of purpose against the pandemic and not what he called “unhelpful controversy” at this critical time of the need for global solidarity against the disease.
Aremu, who made this observation in a statement in Kaduna on Thursday, expressed worry over the reaction of Nigerian Medical Association and the Trade Union Congress insisted that the pandemic can only be confronted with “global solidarity”, China-phobia even as he agreed that each country bears the “singular responsibility.
The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) had reportedly kicked against the coming of Chinese doctors and experts to Nigeria, stressing that bringing Chinese doctors into the country at this time of the global pandemic would dampen the morale of the frontline health workforce.
Comrade Aremu who is also the Vice President industrial Global Union hailed the decision of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 and NCDC to subject the Chinese medical experts to national control measures such as 14 days isolation period.
The former Vice President of the NLC said while the concern of the NMA was “legitimate”, questioning the support of China was at this time “unhelpful” to deal with the COVID-19 challenge which he described as a matter of “life and death” for all countries.
According to him, as the Coronavirus curve climbs in Nigeria, the Chinese support with 256 equipment and items in different quantities among which are 1.3 million medical masks, over 150,000 pieces of personal protective equipment as well as 50 medical ventilators was “timely and commendable.”
Comrade Aremu backed the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and the Chairman of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, adding that the support from the Chinese firms in Nigeria within the framework of their respective Corporate Social Responsibilities would further compliment ongoing massive national responses.
He said there is a huge deficit on the supply-side of the necessary Health protection and economic materials such that additional support from the private sector, NNPC, multilateral institutions and China are “timely and necessary”.
“The point cannot be overstated that China has successful contained the Virus which first broke out in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China in December last year, Nigeria would benefit from the their effective methods and advice on the use of relevant medical equipment” he pointed out.
Comrade Aremu who was also the Labour Party (LP) Governorship candidate in Kwara State said the controversy about China called for “an inclusive and consultative” Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 such that the concerns of critical Stakeholders like NMA and organized labour can be proactively addressed through collective engagement.
He said apart from their commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), all multinational and national companies as well employers with billion dollar investment in Nigeria have the responsibility to protect their workers and their families from the health risks of COVID-19.
“Protective measures at the workplace and across communities should be introduced and strengthened, requiring large-scale public support and investment.” he added.
Comrade Aremu commended NMA for mobilizing Nigerian doctors to support the national responses against COVID 19 urging the Federal and states governments to adequately protect and compensate frontline health workers and deliberately include them in decision making process.
He called on the PTF to honour Dr Amarachukwu Allison, whose vigilance and commitment “led to the early diagnosis and rapid containment of the Italian first Covid-19 infection in Ogun state”. He said Allison’s vigilance timely slowed down the pandemics which had since risen, due to subsequent complacency.
However, Comrade Aremu said sustainable fight against the pandemic lies in domestic production of necessary medical materials such as face masks and sanitizers adding that many states should follow the example of Cross Rivers state that has set up state led garment factories to produce critical health materials.
He said it was time for economic diversification, self reliance and import substitution as well as “large-scale and coordinated policy efforts to provide employment and income support and to stimulate the economy” after the pandemic.