By Babajide Komolafe
IT was a response, an alliance that was as unprecedented as the challenge it was established to tackle. The challenge was COVID-19 pandemic.
By the beginning of March, the coronavirus was spreading at an alarming rate, with overwhelming pressure on health infrastructures, devastating impact on government finances and massive disruption to business activities.
In addition were jobs and income losses, which reduced the financial ability of many individuals and families to provide for their basic needs.
In response to threats of the pandemic, Nigeria’s private sector came up with an innovative and unprecedented alliance, Coalition Alliance Against COVID-19, or CACOVID. Among other things, the coalition represents the first cross sectoral effort among private sector leadership to tackle a national crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic.
Inspired by the Bankers Committee led by the Central Bank of Nigeria, Aliko Dangote Foundation and Access Bank, the coalition set out to raise N120 billion with the aim of supporting government efforts to combat the impact of the pandemic.
CACOVID objectives and leadership
Objectives of the coalition included to mobilise private sector thought leadership, mobilise private sector resources classified as confidential; increase general public awareness, education and buy-in; provide direct support to private and public healthcare’s ability to respond to the crisis; and to support government’s effort.
To achieve this, the coalition created four committees. These were the steering committee, chaired by by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha.
Equipment and materials
Funding committee responsible for the initial funding of the effort. Membership included the CBN Governor, Aliko Dangote, Herbert Wigwe, Jim Ovia, Tony Elumelu, Segun Agbaje, Abdulsamad Rabiu and Femi Otedola. Each member of the committee was to ensure that their institution contributed at least N1 billion to this effort. More members were allowed as long as they were willing to contribute at least N1 billion.
Operational committee was responsible for project management, logistics, communication and advocacy. This comprised CBN Governor, Aliko Dangote Foundation, Access Bank, Zenith Bank, GT Bank, Stanbic IBTC, Ecobank, Fidelity Bank, Unity Bank, Nigerian Breweries Plc.
Technical committee was responsible for gathering data about the equipment and materials needed nationwide. They were also responsible for intellectual leadership around testing issues, treatment protocols, isolation centres, etc. Membership included NCDC, WHO, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Federal Ministry of Health and select members of the operational and funding committee.
Between March and November, CACOVID received support from over 200 Nigerians and corporate organisations, who provided in kind, as well as funds to the tune of N39.65 billion in support of the fight against COVID-19.
The coalition, however, spent N43.27 billion on the acquisition of medical equipment and supplies, as well as food palliatives for the vulnerable members of the society. The funds, according to CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, were utilised to provide support in three key priorities namely medical facilities and equipment, food relief programme, and communication program.
N13bn support in medical facilities and equipment
Working with other stakeholders, CACOVID developed 39 fully equipped isolation centres across the 36 States of the country including the Federal Capital Territory, FCT. The sum of N4.19 billion was spent in building of Isolation Centres. In addition, medical equipment such as PCR test kits for suspected cases of COVID-19 were procured along with other required medical items at a cost of N9.01 billion. This support by CACOVID enabled many states to deal with an unexpected surge in cases of COVID-19.
N28bn support through food relief programme
CACOVID provided palliatives in the form of essential food items to 1.7m households, which is equivalent to supporting eight million Nigerians. A total of N28.77 billion was spent procuring the food supplies. On how the palliatives were distributed, Emefiele said: “These palliatives were acknowledged and disbursed by various state governments; and a schedule showing the various quantities and dates of delivery will also be posted on our website for public scrutiny.
Our intention for distributing these items through the State Governments, just like in the case of the isolation centres was based on the thinking that the state governments have the closest contacts with the most vulnerable in our society for whom these support were meant.”
CACOVID also worked to improve awareness in rural communities on the COVID-19 virus, and the measures community health workers and other members of society should take when someone in the community is suspected of having symptoms similar to that of COVID-19. Print, TV, radio and social media were leveraged as part of CACOVID communication plans.
N275bn support to tackle endsars challenge
Amidst the challenge of the pandemic, the nation was jolted with EndSars protest that turned violent, resulting in widespread destruction of lives and property. To ensure that the nation is saved from future occurrence of such devastating events, CACOVID recently unveiled a N275 billion programme including N100 billion equipment acquisition support for the Nigeria Police, and N175 to provide technical and vocational education to over four million Nigerian youths over the next five year. Explaining, Emefiele said: “The ultimate objective is to provide young Nigerians with employable skills sets that will enable them to live a gainful life.”