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COVID-19: Encouraging show from our men of means

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CHINESE billionaire, Jack Ma, leads the battalion of the world’s moneybags who have risen with their resources to help defeat the raging Coronavirus pandemic.

He is pushing millions of units of test kits, face masks, protective clothing and medical equipment to countries in Africa, Asia and hard-hit USA, the pandemic’s new epicentre. Also, America’s billionaires: Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg and others are funding efforts to find a cure.

In other words, these wealthy people have not left the war against COVID-19 to politicians alone. Nothing important should ever be left to politicians alone.

Here in Nigeria, the situation is the same. We are delighted at the way our own wealthy class has responded. While we begged and waited for President Muhammadu Buhari to address and mobilise the nation for the fight against this invisible enemy, the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Governor, Godwin Emefiele, once again took the initiative to rally the private sector through the Nigerian Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19.

The Coalition is a Bankers’ Committee body which is partnering the Dangote Foundation and Access Bank in an effort to raise at least N120 billion to fight Nigeria’s “most lethal adversary”, as Emefiele put it.

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The fundraising attracted at least one billion naira from Aliko Dangote, Innocent Chukwuma (Innoson), Femi Otedola, Herbert Wigwe, Folorunso Alakija, Ifeanyi Uba, Abdul Samad Rabiu, Jim Ovia, Tony Elumelu, Mike Adenuga and many more, including former VP Atiku Abubakar who gave N50million. Some have offered to build or assist in equipping treatment centres.

We commend the brains behind this patriotic coalition for taking up the gauntlet to help the government in responding to this pandemic.

We will not join sceptics in questioning the purity of intentions behind these humongous donations, the highest ever in our history. Human lives are at stake. The well-being of Nigerians is all that matters. The important thing is for these pledges to be faithfully redeemed by all pledgers with zero tolerance for defaults. Those who fail to pay up must pay a telling price for taking Nigerians for a ride.

We note that some Nigerians are worried about putting this huge fund in the hands of government officials. The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, is the Chairman of the Steering Committee to execute the project. Mustapha is also the Head of the Federal Government’s COVID-19 task force.

We are, however, optimistic that the three other committees handling the fundraising (Bankers’ Committee members), operations (including some of the big donors) and technical matters (which includes reputed local and international professional stakeholders) will exert adequate checks to minimise corruption.

We hope the fund will remember the poor and struggling Nigerians and put something aside for their welfare during and after self-isolation.


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