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Nigerian Billionaires Team Up Against Coronavirus

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Nigerian Billionaires Team Up Against Coronavirus

Nigerian Billionaires Team Up Against Coronavirus

As the battle against Coronavirus in the country rages on, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and private sector operators have formed a coalition that will see to the funding and procurement of the needed equipment and materials to support the fight against the global pandemic.

Members of the coalition known as the Nigerian Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19 have agreed to donate N1billion each alongside the CBN to fund the fight against the deadly virus.

They include Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote; chairman of BUA Group, Abdulsamad Rabiu; managing directors of Access Bank and Guaranty Trust Bank, Herbert Wigwe and Segun Agbaje; chairman of Zenith Bank, Jim Ovia and chairman of United Bank for Africa, Tony Elumelu.

Speaking at a briefing in Lagos yesterday, CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele noted that Nigeria needs more than N120 billion to procure equipment and materials needed in the fight against the pandemic, adding that the fight should not be left to government alone.

He said the funding committee which will be responsible for the initial funding of the effort will have as members, the CBN Governor, Aliko Dangote, Herbert Wigwe, Jim Ovia, Tony Elumelu, Segun Agbaje, Abdulsamad Rabiu and Femi Otedola.

“Each member of the committee is to ensure that their institution contribute at least N1 billion to this effort. More members are allowed as long as they are willing to contribute at least N1 billion”, he stated.

Emefiele called on individuals and organisations in the country and abroad to help in the fight, saying everybody that can should join  the funding committee of the coalition with a donation of at least N1 billion.

He continued: “Information gathered so far has revealed that to procure all needed equipment, material, and all infrastructure needed to fight this pandemic, over N120b need to be raised.

“The Bankers Committee and these important Stakeholders will be required to step up to support this endeavor. We are already engaging other important stakeholders in Nigeria and abroad, such as the NNPC and players in Oil industry.

“An account will be set up at the Central Bank of Nigeria to receive both Naira and foreign currency from our donors. At the end of the process, we shall have a reputable form of Accountants to render full account of how the funds were utilized as well as account for the materials donated.

“The coalition for the sake of accounting and transparency will open its books to all Nigerians to see any amount contributed by any individual or organisation or the number of material contributed. Proper audit will be conducted to ensure that everybody is happy with the way funds are received and expended. I assure everyone that we are determined to ensure that Nigerians survive this battle ahead and we will need the support of everybody to ensure that this is done”.

Emefiele further noted that the coalition will also have a steering committee to provide leadership and steer the coalition and committees in procuring all needed funding, equipment and materials for the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic.

The steering committee, he said, will be chaired by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, who currently chairs the federal government committee on Covid-19, adding that other members of the committee will be announced later.

Members of the operational committee which will be responsible for project management, logistics, communication and advocacy comprise the CBN governor, Aliko Dangote Foundation, Access Bank, Zenith Bank, GT Bank, Stanbic IBTC, Ecobank, Fidelity Bank, Unity Bank, Nigerian Breweries Plc.

The technical committee will be responsible for gathering data about the equipment and materials needed nationwide as well as intellectual leadership around testing issues, treatment protocols, isolation centers, etc.

Membership of the technical committee comprises NCDC, WHO, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Federal Ministry of Health and selects members of the operational and funding committee.

The CBN governor said the coalition will be working with reputable institutions and consultants, including the Lagos State commissioner for Health, Dr. Akin Abayomi, Dr Christian Happi, and Dr Phillip Onyebujo.

Emefiele noted that the objectives of the coalition are to mobilize private sector thought leadership, private sector resources, increase general public awareness, education and buy-in, provide direct support to private and public healthcare’s ability to respond to the crisis as well as support Government effort in the fight against the virus.

UBA Doles Out 5bn, G20 Offers $1trn To Combat Scourge

Also, the United Bank for Africa Plc (UBA) yesterday announced a donation of over N5 billion ($14 million) through the UBA Foundation to catalyse a comprehensive pan-African response to the fight against the coronavirus global pandemic.

The donation is designed to provide significant and much needed support to Nigeria and 19 other African countries.

By supplying the much needed relief materials, critical care facilities, and financial support to Governments, the bank’s intervention is expected to make big impact in the treatment of carriers of the disease.

The UBA said its support programme will be allocated as follows: N1 billion ($2.8 million) to Lagos State Government in Nigeria, housing the Bank’s headquarters; N500 million ($1.4 million) to Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory, Abuja and other N1 billion ($2.8 million) to the remaining 35 states of the federation.

According to a statement by the bank yesterday, N1.5 billion ($4.2 million) is allocated to UBA host countries in Africa. A breakdown of the total figure also showed that N1billion ($2.8 million) is for Medical Centres with equipment and supplies and Free Telemedicine call centre facility.

“The pan-African bank will fund a medical centre immediately in Lagos, Nigeria, with beds for isolation and ICU facilities, managed and operated in partnership with Heirs Holdings’ healthcare subsidiary, Avon Medical Hospital,” its head, external and media relations, Ramon Nasir said in the statement issued yesterday.

In addition, Nasir said UBA was providing a free telemedicine platform that is physician-led to provide direct access to medical advice to citizens in compliance with social distancing requirements.

Corroborating the bank’s position, UBA Group Chairman, Mr Tony O. Elumelu, said, “This is a time when we must all play our part.  This global epidemic must bring citizens, governments and business leaders together – and quickly. As we see a rapidly increasing number of cases of the coronavirus in Nigeria and Africa, the private sector has to work hand in hand with various Governments, in stemming the spread of the global pandemic.

“We commend the efforts of governments and we are keen to partner and contribute our resources to the collective effort that will ensure the response to the pandemic is swift and effective.”

Operating in 20 African countries and globally in the United Kingdom, the United States and France, the United Bank for Africa has a strong record of supporting its communities, through challenging times.

In the same vein, leaders of the world’s 20 largest economies (G20) disclosed yesterday that they will inject more than $5 trillion into the global economy as part of their coordinated response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are injecting more than 5 trillion dollars into the global economy, as part of targeted fiscal policy, economic measures, and guarantee schemes to counteract the social. Others are economic and financial impacts of the pandemic,” a statement released after the conclusion of the virtual meeting led by Saudi Arabia noted.

Finance ministers and central bank governors of the G20 countries will coordinate and work closely with international organisations to develop and deliver “appropriate international financial assistance.”

The leaders also plan to expand manufacturing capacity to meet the increasing needs for medical supplies amid the novel coronavirus outbreak.

COVID-19 Cases Now 65 As 14 New Cases Are Confirmed

Meanwhile, Nigeria has confirmed 14 new cases of COVID19, bringing the total confirmed cases to 65.

Two of the new cases were recorded in the FCT, while 12 were recorded in Lagos State.

According to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), six out of the 14 new cases were detected on a vessel, with three returning travellers into Nigeria and one close contact of a confirmed case.

“As at 7:35 pm 26th March, there are 65 confirmed cases, three discharged, one death. For a breakdown of cases by states in real time: Lagos- 44, FCT- 12, Ogun- 3, Ekiti- 1, Oyo- 1, Edo- 1, Bauchi-1, Osun and Rivers. Total: 65 confirmed cases”, CDC stated.

Also, the federal government has confirmed 51cases of Coronavirus across eight states and the FCT.

Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, stated this at press conference on on COVID-19 update, yesterday in Abuja.

LEADERSHIP Friday also learnt that six of the 30 persons receiving COVID-19 treatment in Lagos may be discharged tomorrow if their next results come out negative.

The six patients are said to have tested negative to the virus after receiving treatment for some days.

Speaking on procedures involved in discharging COVID-19 patients, the Lagos state commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi explained that when a COVID-19 patient test negative, he/she will not be immediately released to the society.

According to him, “a covid-19 patient, after tested negative, the test would need to be run for two consecutive times, and if the test result comes out negative, then that person will be certified to be virus free and subsequently discharged”.

Continuing, the minister of Health said that Nigeria has learnt a lesson from the pandemic and have a framework to build more intensive care clinics and centres.

On face mask, Ehanire said it was not for everyone. “If you don’t have a problem, you don’t need.

He stated: As of today, 26th of March 2020, we have recorded 51 confirmed cases of coronavirus disease COVID-19 in Nigeria, of which 32 are in Lagos, 10 in FCT, 3 in Ogun and 1 each in Ekiti, Oyo, Edo, Bauchi, Osun and Rivers States.

“Of the 51 cases, 37 had immediate travel history to one or more of the coronavirus affected countries in the last 2 weeks, 8 are confirmed close contacts of confirmed cases and 6 have neither a recent travel history nor a known contact.

“While two persons have been cured and discharged from treatment, we have recorded just one fatality. All 48 presently active cases are clinically stable with only mild or moderate symptoms.

“The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has deployed Rapid Response Teams to affected states to support response activities.”

The minister urged all health facilities at all levels, both public and private, to be on high alert for healthcare workers of all cadres to maintain a high index of suspicion and to give full cooperation to contact tracers everywhere.

He reiterated the need for citizens to maintain personal hygiene which include frequent handwashing with soap under running water or using an alcohol-based sanitiser among others.

FG To Ban Interstate, Inter-town Movement Ahead Lockdown

Meanwhile, as part of measures to curtail the spread of Covid-19 in the country, the federal government has announced plans to stop inter-state and inter-town travels, except for essential services.

Addressing a press conference in Abuja yesterday, the minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said the government is also considering closing all motor parks and inter-state rail stations.

Other measures to curb the spread, according to the minister, include using firefighting and other adaptable vehicles and personnel to fumigate cities and towns to curtail the spread of the virus.

Mohammed, however, stressed that the federal government was determined to be more aggressive in enforcing the measures aimed at containing the spread of the virus including “social distancing, contact tracing, testing, isolation of suspected cases and ensuring that” government’s messaging gets down to the grassroots.

He also decried that the federal government ‘’is not getting the kind of cooperation that this moment deserves from Nigerians.’’

The minister also stressed that contact tracing was very critical to stopping the spread of the virus.

He said, “We have 4,370 people of interest whom we are tracing. We urge those who have had contact with suspected cases to immediately report to the authorities.

“We urge Nigerians to support the authorities in this regard. We are on the verge of reaching the level of community spread. We must stop this immediately or we will record exponential cases in the days ahead. There is no better way to say this.

“Let me say, without mincing words, that we are not getting the kind of cooperation that this moment deserves from Nigerians. Many are busy engaging in meaningless criticisms instead of complying with the stipulated directives to keep people safe.”

Mohammed regretted that some Nigerians who flew into the country from overseas filled wrong addresses and phone numbers in their forms, making it difficult to trace them when the need arises.

He said some Nigerians defied orders to stay away from large gatherings while some religious leaders willfully flouted the directives to ensure social distancing.

“The government is doing its best but we need the citizens to do their best too. We have now gone past the stage of persuasion. It’s time for strong enforcement. Today, we have 51 cases covering 8 states: Lagos – 32, FCT – 10, Ogun – 3, Ekiti – 1, Edo – 1, Bauchi – 1, Osun – 1, Oyo – 1 and Rivers – 1,” the minister said.

Mohammed also confirmed that the federal government has received donated safety and test kits from the Jack Ma Foundation in China.

“The supplies are: 100,000 Face Masks, 1,000 Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), 20,000 test kits. The face masks and the PPE will be distributed to the front-line health workers while the test kits will be shared among the five test laboratories,” he said.

On measures to increase bed spaces in isolation centres, he said the government was taking measures to increase the number of bed spaces for isolation of suspects.

“The facilities we have now include the 40-bed DSS Hotel, the 60-bed Medical Centre in Zuba and the 160-bed, Women Development Centre in Abuja, We are still looking at other facilities within the Federal Capital Territory,’’ he said.

PMB Hale And Hearty, Not On Ventilator – Lai Mohammed

On the rising instances of fake news associated with coronavirus, the Information said the epidemic of fake news is now competing with the pandemic of coronavirus, adding that it is not helping the fight against the disease.

Mohammed said, “Instances of such fake news include: That there are only two ventilators in Abuja, out of which one has been commandeered for a top government official, that a British Airways Flight was due to land in Nigeria on Wednesday despite the closure of all international airports.

“That President Muhammadu Buhari has been coughing and is now on a ventilator. Fake! Fake!! Fake!!! It’s all fake news. A section of the traditional media has also been engaging in scaremongering and irresponsible reporting on the disease.

“It is wrong to speculate on those who are positive or negative for coronavirus without any empirical information. In any case, being positive to coronavirus is not a death sentence, as we can see around the world”.

He noted that there is no need for the kind of scaremongering the nation is seeing in a section of the media.

The danger, according to him, is that this scaremongering can even discourage some who may want to come forward for testing.

Mohammed added: “We, therefore, wish to appeal to the media to be more circumspect in their reporting. Gentlemen, we have noted the decision of at least five domestic airlines – Air Peace, Aero and Azman, Dana and Arik – to suspend their flight operations. The suspension is a boost for the efforts of the government to check the spread of the pandemic.

“Some of the airlines have also announced one form of support or another for the government’s efforts to tackle the pandemic. This is very commendable. We are aware of more private sector support to the federal government and will be announcing this after full compilation.

“We seek the support and cooperation of more capable individuals and organizations in order to defeat this pandemic.”

The minister also appealed to Nigerians not to panic.

‘’It is said that panic is our greatest enemy. The federal government is determined to work with the good people of Nigeria to defeat Covid-19. And defeat the disease we will,” he added.

Lai Mohammed, Boss Mustapha, FCT Minister, Others Test Negative

Meanwhile, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire and the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Mashi Abdulaziz Mashi, have tested negative to Coronavirus.

Ehanire who disclosed this while addressing a news conference in Abuja said that the result of the tests conducted on him, the SGF and Mashi “came out negative”.

FCT Minister of State, Ramatu Aliyu, who had earlier gone on self-isolation in line with the protocols of National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), also tested negative to covid-19.

Aliyu made this known on her verified personal Twitter handle, on Thursday in Abuja.

“Dear compatriots, I am glad to inform you that my results came out this afternoon. I tested negative to #COVID-19. Please stay safe and take every precautionary measures as outlined by Together, we are stronger”, she tweeted.

She implored FCT residents to take all possible precautions not just for themselves, but also for their loved ones. “Please don’t panic. As a nation, we shall come out of this stronger and better,” she said.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, also announced yesterday in Abuja that he tested negative for coronavirus.

The minister disclosed this at a media briefing to give update on what the government, through the Presidential Task Force for the Control of COVID–19 was doing to end the spread of the epidemic.

Reacting to a question on whether he and some of his colleagues had gone for test after the reports that they got close to one or two index cases, Mohammed responded in the affirmative.

“I did my test and the report came out this morning that I am negative and that is why I am here to address you. Every member of the presidential task force went for test. However, I am not at liberty to tell you their status. My own result was given to me personally just like every other person,” he said.

Responding to another question on why he has not gone into isolation after testing negative, the minister explained that he, like his other colleagues in the task force, are taking precautionary measures.

He said they were abiding by the rules of social distancing and personal hygiene and the task force meets by teleconferencing when the need arises.

Mohammed said giving the importance and volume of the assignment of the task force, which is responsible for the policy directive on COVID-19, the members could not go into isolation after testing negative.

Also, Bayelsa State governor, Senator Douye Diri yesterday did a test to determine his status following the controversy triggered by his possible contacts with the governor of Bauchi State, Bala Mohammed and the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari.

The test, which was conducted in an undisclosed location, came out negative, putting to rest concerns and insinuations from residents.

Lawan Urges FG To Assist Poor Nigerians

The president of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan, has called on the federal government to devise ways of providing relief for poor Nigerians whose daily livelihood will be affected as a result of the restriction on movement due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lawan made the appeal against the backdrop of a meeting between the leadership of the National Assembly and some ministers and heads of government agencies on Wednesday in Abuja.

According to the Senate president, besides mulling a total lockdown of business activities in the country, a plan must be devised by the federal government through the release of funds specifically for the purpose of purchasing food and pharmaceutical supplies for ordinary Nigerians.

A statement issued by his special assistant, press, Ezrel Tabiowo, Lawan warned that not making provisions ahead of time to address the basic needs of poor Nigerians may likely lead to more problems for the government, and less result in controlling the spread of the disease.

He said, “Our prayer is that we are able to overcome this menace of COVID-19 in good time, because it is really taking a toll on our lives. If we have to eventually shut down our country, then as a government we must be prepared to have some relief for the most ordinary people.

“As a government, we must find our own money to fund something for our people, because the United States of America that is talked about or the British Parliament is because this involves public funds.

“I’m not seeing anything at the moment targeted at providing some relief. If we lock up Nigeria today, then we will wake-up trouble, because majority of our citizens go to market every day before they can get something to eat.

“So, you lock them up in their houses with a threat of disease and without food. We need to have something, a plan of some sorts, in addition to making sure we don’t lock up the farmers market for example, where people can easily go and buy something and, of course, pharmacies.”

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