Worried by the lethargy in states in spite of the resurgence of Coronavirus pandemic, the Federal Government is mounting pressure on state governments to take concrete steps to curtail its spread.
It is bothered about the poor approach of the states and inconsistency in reaction to the National Response Plan on COVID -19 as enumerated by the Presidential Task Force (PTF).
Apart from partially closing down their isolation centres, some states have not reported any infections in many weeks, an indication of low or no testing at all.
It was gathered that most of the nation’s 90 laboratories in the states are not working optimally.
But, there is a ray of hope for the residents of the Federal Capital Territory, following the donation of 100 cylinders of medical oxygen daily by Abuja Steel Mills. It plans to do so for the next three months.. The action is a response to the cry of lack of oxygen to treat critically ill patients
According to investigation by our correspondent, the National Response to COVID has suffered setback in many states due to poor attitude and collapse of facilities.
Although the Federal Government gave about N1billion to each state, some states have not been forthcoming in the campaign against COVID -19
A member of the PTF said on Wednesday: “We have all the policies in place, we have assisted the states, but the situation report has shown that many states are paying lip service to this National Response.
“We discovered that in some states, the governors are leading those defying COVID-19 protocols, either for political gains or for personal ego.
“PTF chairman, Boss Mustapha, has opened up communication with the governors, including virtual meetings, on how to improve the National Response to COVID-19. Even at that, we have a governor who does not believe that COVID-19 pandemic is real.
“Our dilemma is that at the federal level, we can draft policies, issue guidelines and protocols, but the bulk of the job is at the state level. We are mounting pressure on governors to save lives and take the national response against this pandemic more serious.
“For instance, most of the 90 laboratories are in the states, but the way we are now, not up to 40 laboratories are working optimally.”
Another PTF member said: “Some governors do not appreciate that health is on the Concurrent List. They think the battle against COVID-19 is that of the Federal Government alone.
“We are being drawn back in some states while a few ones had been consistent in the battle against COVID-19. We are crying out because of the second wave, which might surge in January.
“Whatever is being done at the state level has international implications. Don’t forget that the World Bank’s Board of Directors gave $114.28 financing to help Nigeria to prevent, detect and respond to the threat posed by COVID-19, with a specific focus on state level responses. We got $100 million credit from the International Development Association (IDA) and $14.28 million grant from the Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility.
“It won’t help our image to get this cash without commensurate action by benefitting states. Above all, the health of the citizenry is more important.”
The SGF on Tuesday alluded to the challenges being faced with states by the PTF.
He also spoke on the expectations of the PTF from the states.
Mustapha said: “Data shows that despite the resources already made available to sub-national entities, testing is very low across States in varying degrees. This is not helping our National Response.
“Indeed, some states have not reported any infections in several weeks. Reports received also point to the fact that laboratories recently established in the States are not working optimally. You will recall that we moved from two laboratories to about 90 (Public & Private) located in all states of the Federation. “Their inability to function optimally has resulted in unacceptable level of delay in receiving results and pressure on the National Reference Labs.
”For the next three months, the FCT will have enough oxygen for treatment. This is why we are also strict in enforcing protocols so that patients will not grow beyond the facilities. We have set up mobile courts to try those violating guidelines. The penalty can be as much as N20,000 fines,” an official said.
Also on Wednesday, President of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Prof. Innocent Ujah, asked the Federal Government not to open schools now because of the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ujah gave the warning at a webinar by the Alliance on Surviving COVID-19 and Beyond.
He said: “When the government wanted to reopen the schools, I cautioned that if the schools must be reopened, there must be necessary preparation to prevent the children from contracting the virus. One parent wrote the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 that I don’t want people to go to school and that I was being wicked.
“Now, we all know better; a lot of children who sat for the last WASSCE were infected. Today, some corps members have also been infected. These are some of the things that could have been prevented if sufficient precautions were taken before reopening the schools.”
He added: “Social distancing, in my opinion, has failed. Recall that during the campaign for the governorship elections in Edo and Ondo States, everyone was falling over each other.
“If you go to the marketplaces, social distancing protocol is not being observed. In that case, are we prepared? I think we need to do a lot of sensitization.