By Chioma Onuegbu & Harris Emmanuel,
Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom state yesterday said his administration has decided to set up a Polymerase Chain Reaction, PCR, Laboratory in the state as the federal government has not responded to calls to set up one for the state.
Emmanuel who spoke on Saturday evening during a live interactive session with the residents on some select Radio stations in Uyo, lamented lack of federal government assistance to the state in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic.
His words, “We’ve been waiting on the Federal government to set up this for us as they are doing in other places, but we have not got any responses. So we have decided as a state government to set up our own PCR Lab. We rightly deserve it because we are part and parcel of this country.
“But with all the support we are hearing they are also getting, they have not given us one testing center. We were hoping that by today a state that sits at least on 25percent of the gas reserves of this country deserve at least one testing center. And we have been shouting that we have not received one naira assistance from them.
So we cannot continually wait on the federal government; we only hope that they will come in other ways to assist us. Our Isolation Centre at Ituk Mbang is ready for commissioning this week. I’m sure we will do that on or before Friday. Unfortunately, it will not be commissioned with the usual fanfare because of social distancing”
The governor reiterated his appreciation to individuals, groups, corporate bodies that have so far supported the state in one way or another, adding that at a critical time like now no donation or support whether material or cash inspired by love and concern could be seen to be too small.
He, however, explained that why the state government rejected ten vehicles donated to it by ExxonMobil was because they were old and could cost more to maintain especially as the parts were no longer available in the market.
“Giving me those vehicles will increase my maintenance costs so also reliability. If people use the vehicle for contact tracing, for instance, and it stops them in a remote village how can you cope with that? ExxonMobil donated other things. They gave us two Ambulances, we accepted those ones.
“They also gave us hospital beds. Though the beds didn’t match our General Hospital standard of 2019/2020 beds, we still accepted that. At least we can use them in our Primary Healthcare centres So let people not talk as if we rejected everything they gave to us.
“Please don’t misunderstand us. I love corporate entities. I work very well with them. We didn’t accept those vehicles so that we don’t increase our maintenance cost.
Responding to a question on if salaries of civil servants would also be affected given that salaries of his political appointees were slashed recently by 20 per cent, Emmanuel said, “You cannot just cut the pay of Civil servants if you don’t negotiate with them. We are not running that kind of tyrannical rule. This is democracy.
“I also believe the civil servants are indigenes of Akwa Ibom state and the state is not meant only for the civil servants. There is no place in the whole world that the Government is run only for civil servants. Civil servants must also understand that we cannot take the whole meagre resources we now get and put everything into the civil service. If we do that we’ll be cheating the larger population.
“And mind you, what we earn as a state is for everybody, so there must be efficient, and meaningful allocation of scarce resources at this time so that it is not skewed. So I want to use this platform to appeal to our Civil servants, to Labour leaders that we cannot give everything only to the civil service, it is not done anywhere”
The governor who stressed that unlike in the developed nations Nigerians look unto government to survive added that workers must understand that apart from paying salaries, the government must also fix the roads, electricity, among other many responsibilities it must take care of.
” Civil servants and labour must also know that it is time for us to live and let live. We cannot earn ten naira and use the whole ten naira to pay salaries. I am sure that they will not want us to that. We have labour, and civil servants who are very, very understanding, reasonable, who also share in the vision of the state government”
Governor Emmanuel disclosed that he was going to meet with the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in the state on Sunday, May 24, 2020, to deliberate on issues regarding the reopening of churches, noting that there are conditions and guidelines that churches must meet for them to be reopened.
“Tomorrow, that is Sunday by 4 pm we are meeting to deliberate on the report the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) will be presented officially to me. So after that, we will come up with when and how we will reopen churches”, he stressed
The governor also said it has been observed that a lot of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) in the state failed to observe the guideline not to allow more 30percent of workers return, and warned that the heads of the erring MDAs must be held responsible and punished should anything go wrong.
“Government can only advise, bring out the guidelines, monitor compliances. You have the primary responsibility to keep yourself safe. We need you to be safe, and alive. And anywhere you go to and you see that they are not observing social distancing just excuse yourself from there immediately” he advised
He also warned COVID-19 positives sneaking into the state from other states in order to receive treatment including the indigenes not resident in the state to henceforth try and make use of testing centers where they are residing so as to save the state the stress especially carrying contact tracing and the cost of ost of running the services.
Emmanuel pointed out that the recent report of the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) shows that the state may still have about 19 active cases which according to him was due to aggressive testings done last week including some those cases that sneaked into the state.
He lamented that the state government has spent so much resources towards contact tracing “in order to actually get things done and done well with all amount of responsibility to ensure that our citizens are safe.
“I personally want to appreciate all of you from the situation room, the case management team to those who are doing contact tracing. They have done a fantastic job. Honestly, I’m impressed with the outcome am seeing. Let me also gentlemen of the press. I think there is a whole lot of balance reporting now all over the country”
While also appreciating citizens and residents who have been adhering to the safety guidelines, and the 8 pm to 6 am curfew, the governor expressed worries that a good number still don’t keep the guidelines while some even share face masks.
He even said his administration would be glad to support tertiary institutions in the state to go into research to develop COVID-19 vaccine
“We are still relying on researches done outside Africa. We also need an African solution to some of these problems. We’ve grown up to this level, so we must also try to see how we can survive on our own. We will continue to build on our success story”, Emmanuel assured.