By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
CHAIRMAN, Presidential Task Force, PTF on COVID-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Boss Mustapha yesterday said that the evacuation of Nigerian citizens all over the world should become a significant policy issue of government.
The SGF stated this in his End of Year COVID-19 Report submitted to President Muhammadu Buhari at the Council Chamber, Presidential Villa, Abuja.
While reeling out the challenges encountered by the PTF and the lessons learnt, he said there were immense benefits derivable from multi-sectoral collaboration to address issues.
He said, “Your Excellency, the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 has led the execution of interventions geared towards achieving epidemic control of COVID-19 in Nigeria since March 2020, when it was inaugurated.
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“Nigeria’s COVID-19 response, which has been driven by science and data, was designed to achieve three primary aims of epidemic control by interrupting viral transmission, reducing the risk of the health system being overwhelmed due to increased demand; and minimizing mortality among the most vulnerable parts of the population.
“The other objectives include the reinvigoration of our nation’s health system, infrastructure, and manpower to enable Nigeria conveniently confront any future outbreak and also build her potentials for medical tourism which has been a source of foreign exchange and brain drain over the years.
“The operations of the PTF have been driven throughout the initial six months and the extended three months mandate, by a multi-sectoral process which facilitated expansive and in-depth consideration of issues as well as speedy decision making.
” The process enjoyed the overwhelming support of the partners from the private sector and the international community. Through these partners, Nigeria was able to put in place critical infrastructure nationwide, procure scarce medical equipment, test kits, and personal protective materials, etc.
“The PTF was also able to deliver palliatives to Nigerians in the various States. For transparency, two web portals sponsored by the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) and the UNDP were opened for the tracking of resources mobilized from all sources. Similarly, a national register of resources mobilized has been created and remains under constant updating.
“Mr. President, this End of the Year Report represents the state of the National Response as at the end of nine months of hard work (15th December 2020). It remains a work in progress because COVID-19 has not abated. Countries of the world including Nigeria, have been experiencing a second wave of infections which has proven to be more virulent.
“Your Excellency, the Report being presented today has captured for posterity the strategy adopted, the resources mobilized & committed, achievements recorded, lessons learnt and it represents a useful roadmap for a national response, should emergencies occur in future.
“With your Excellency’s active support, the collaboration of National Assembly, the Nigeria Governors Forum, the National Economic Council, the Security Agencies, the private sector coalition, the international community, all frontline workers and indeed all Nigerians, the PTF recorded achievements.
“The report also highlights the challenges encountered and the lessons learnt. These lessons include: the immense benefits derivable from multi-sectoral collaboration to address issues;
effective communication with Nigerians; Under emergency conditions, well-rounded consideration should be given to all sectors.
“Our health sector would require major reforms and must be pro-active; economic sustainability, recovery, and preservation of lives and livelihood remain critical at all times; structured data collection, analysis, and retrieval remain critical for effective governance.
“The phenomenon of the evacuation of citizens from all over the world should become a significant policy issue for government; across board, several public sector rules, practices, systems, and some statutes require review/revision to effectively respond to extreme emergency situations.
“There is a need to urgently establish a dedicated fund to address all pandemics and outbreaks; and the significance of building on the synergy established with the private sector, the National Assembly, and the sub-national entities. These lessons are by no means exhaustive.”
He said that 2020 has been very significant to humanity and “As we approach 2021, therefore, the PTF is recalibrating to enable it to respond in a more effective manner to the new dynamics thrown up by the pandemic as a result of the new wave of infections and the arrival of vaccines.
” Nigeria is now facing a rise in confirmed COVID-19 daily cases nationwide – similar to the second wave of infections occurring in other countries across the world.”