This is definitely not the time to apportion blames. Rather, it is the time for solidarity and collaboration to fight the current world’s most disturbing crises making the World Health Organisation calling on humanity to ‘’FIGHT, UNITE & IGNITE’’ to combat the dreaded plague that appears to be turning the wisdom of medical experts into foolishness. With 787,010 confirmed cases all over the world, and 37, 829 deaths already recorded, out of 166,214 recoveries, the situation is worrisome. Italy, one of the countries at the top of casualties has 101, 859 recorded cases and 11,519 deaths. Spain has recorded 94,417 positive incidents with 8,189 deaths; while the United States with about 165,000 occurrences confirmed 3,172 deaths, and there is certainty that many more incidents are waiting to ravage different parts of the world. President Trump’s disclosure that America might lose 200,000 of its citizens to Coronavirus is distressing.
NO VACCINE: There’s currently no vaccine to prevent Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the World Health Organisation coming out to say one is away 12-18 months from now, anxieties cannot be misplaced. Until COVID-19 surfaced, Ischaemic heart disease and stroke are the world’s biggest killers, accounting for a combined 15.2 million deaths in 2016. These diseases have remained the leading causes of death globally in the last 15 years. WHO records the most common causes of deaths globally as Ischaemic heart disease,stroke, chronic obstructive lung disease and lower respiratory infections have remained the top killers during the past decade. The impact of the outbreak of CORONAVIRUS is to say the least devastating, even in developed economies. COVID-19 has continued to threaten human existence, ravaging all parts of the world severely since the first incident was reported in Wuhan, Hubei Province of the Peoples Republic of Nigeria. From available indications, the whole world, not only Nigeria is on lockdown, and this calls for concern. COVID -19 is described by Mckinsey as ‘’a human tragedy, affecting hundreds of thousands of people. It is also having a growing impact on the global economy. ‘’The outbreak is moving quickly’’ such that financial experts believe that long-term viewpoints may be rubbished by fast changing negative situations being recorded all over the world.
HEADING TOWARDS DISTRESS: A lot of panic buying has been witnessed in the last few days. Even the World Health Organisation is very perturbed, stating at a media briefing yesterday that: ‘’”In the eye of a storm like COVID, scientific and public health tools are essential, but so are humility and kindness” The foregoing translates into the need to evolve far-sighted policies to exert political and economic measures to cushion the impact of the plague. It also considers it very important the need for ‘’governments keep their people informed about the intended duration of measures, and to provide support for older people, refugees, and other vulnerable groups. Governments need to ensure the welfare of people who have lost their income and are in desperate need of food, sanitation and other essential services. Countries should work hand-in-hand with communities to build trust and support resilience and mental health.’’ Twenty new cases of COVID19 have been reported in Nigeria; 13 in Lagos, 4 in FCT, 2 in Kaduna and 1 in Oyo State. As at 09:00 pm 30th March there are 131 confirmed cases of COVID19 reported in Nigeria with 2 deaths. As at last night, Covid–19 infections hit 131 in Nigeria. All over the world, there are tales of horrible developments including health personnel being overwhelmed in even First World nations.
PALLIATIVES: To contain COVID-19 and the associated sharp decline in oil prices, the authorities have pushed on several fronts to both combat the plague. Measures have been implemented to contain the spread of the virus, including closure of international airports, public and private schools, universities, stores and markets, and suspension of public gatherings. Work at home is also encouraged in several states and government institutions. President Muhammadu Buhari has signed the ‘Covid-19 Regulations, 2020’ that declares Covid-19 a dangerous infectious disease. This is ”In exercise of the powers conferred on him by Sections 2, 3 and 4 of the Quarantine Act (CAP Q2 LFN 2004), and all other powers enabling him in that behalf. “The Regulations, effective March 30, 2020, also gave legal backing to the various measures outlined in the President’s National Broadcast on March 29, 2020, such as Restriction/Cessation of Movement in Lagos, FCT and Ogun State and others toward containing the spread of the pandemic in the country. In addition, exemption is granted the financial system and money markets to operate and carry out very skeletal operations in order to keep the system in light operations during the pendency of these regulations.”
ECONOMIC STABILIZATION COMMITTEE: Yesterday, President Muhammadu Buhari appointed his deputy, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo to head the Economic Stabilization Committee to develop a sustainability plan on repositioning the economy, In a collective effort to contain the spread of COVID-19 in Nigeria, state governors under the auspices of the National Economic Council (NEC) have set up a Special Committee to coordinate federal and state governments’ responses to the coronavirus pandemic. The committee, which started deliberations immediately after the NEC meeting March 21, is chaired by Yemi Osinbajo, with the Governors of Jigawa, Edo, Ebonyi, Nasarawa, Kaduna, Kebbi and Ogun States as members. Another Special Committee mandated to coordinate the responses of the Federal Government and states especially as it relates to the socio-economic implications of the pandemic on Nigerians, was the major outcome of the council meeting.
OTHER RESPONSES: It does appear that it is still very necessary for governments at the three tiers to intensify public enlightenment campaign to get people particularly the vulnerable population to come out for tests and treatment given the fact that positive diagnosis for Coronavirus is not a death verdict. But let us also not run away from the reality that many in the vulnerable class might be feeling the pangs of hunger as a result of economic hardships. Encouraging news has for the past few days been filtering out. Conditional cash transfer to poor households was announced in the media last night in addition to some palliatives being worked out by the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs. Medical personnel who have worked in the country’s health sector are being recalled, while more hands are being recruited. Food relief intervention through foodstuffs is being considered. Conditional cash transfer to poor households was announced in the media last night in addition to some palliatives being worked out by the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs.
CHASING POSSIBLE VACCINES: The Director-General of National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) NAFDAC, Prof. Moji Adeyeye has announced that her agency has ordered the manufacturing of Chloroquine for an emergency stock for clinical treatment of Coronavirus. Adeyeye said that the decision was made to toe the path of other countries that had adopted the drug for treating Covid-19. Speaking on Channels Television, Adeyeye explained that the clinical trials of the old anti-malaria drugs would start in Lagos where the highest figures have been recorded so far. Lagos State will be starting a clinical trial on chloroquine to evaluate the effectiveness. “Other researchers in France, the United States have used the drug for the clinical trial treatment of COVID-19 and they reported the effectiveness of the drug’’ Medical personnel who have worked in the country’s health sector are being recalled, while more hands are being recruited. Food relief intervention through foodstuffs is being worked out. The following are the key policy responses as of March 24, 2020.
FISCAL POLICIES: CBN Reports indicate that contingency funds of N984 million ($2.7 million) have been released to Nigeria’s Center for Disease Control, and an additional N6.5 billion ($18 million) is planned. The government is reviewing its 2020 budget and, given the expected large fall in oil revenues, announced plans to cut/delay non-essential capital spending by N1.5 trillion (close to 1 percent of GDP). A fiscal stimulus package to provide relief for taxpayers and incentivize employers to retain and recruit staff during the downturn is being designed. Import duty waivers for pharmaceutical firms will be introduced. Regulated fuel prices have been reduced, and an automatic fuel price formula introduced to ensure fuel subsidies are eliminated. The official exchange rate has been adjusted by 15 percent, with an ongoing unification of the various exchange rates under the investors and exporters (I&E) window, Bureau de Change, and retail and wholesale windows. The authorities committed to let the Investors and exporters’ rate move in line with market forces. A few pharmaceutical companies have been identified to ensure they can receive Forex and naira funding.
EFFECTS ON FAMILIES: LOW & MIDDLE INCOME WORKERS: Already there are threats of job cuts and losses abroad in several sectors except the health industry that is booming. One of the worst hit sub-sectors is travel and tourism. A BBC Report says ”The International Air Transport Association warned that global airline revenue losses would be “probably above” the estimated figure of $113bn (£90bn) and British Airways only last week told BBC News that it planned to ground flights ‘like never before’ and lay off staff in response to the coronavirus. In a memo to staff titled “The Survival of British Airways”, boss Alex Cruz warned that job cuts could be “short term, perhaps long term”. The airline industry was facing a “crisis of global proportions” that was worse than that caused by the SARS virus or 9/11. BA boss Mr Cruz said: “We can no longer sustain our current level of employment and jobs would be lost – perhaps for a short term, perhaps longer term.” Although Mr Cruz said the British flag carrier airline had a strong balance sheet and was financially resilient, he told staff “not to underestimate the seriousness of this for our company”. BA and other carriers’ revenues have been hit by the coronavirus response as governments close borders, companies ban lucrative business travel, conferences and events are cancelled and demand for leisure travel slumps
A Report by the Centre for Centre for Global Development, an independent, nonpartisan research institution indicates that: ‘’More than 4,000 people are reported dead worldwide and more than 113,000 cases have been confirmed in over 110 But unfortunately, the economic impacts also have dramatic effects on the wellbeing of families and communities. For vulnerable families, lost income due to an outbreak can translate to spikes in poverty, missed meals for children, and reduced access to healthcare far beyond COVID-19. While the spread in the United States and Europe absorbs much of the media coverage, confirmed cases from Bangladesh to Brazil, from Cameroon to Costa Rica, and in many other low- and middle-income countries mean that many of the economic impacts may affect the world’s most vulnerable populations.
PREPARING FOR THE WORST – HANDLING THE SITUATION: POLICY RESPONSE: The worst scenario is the shrinking of the economy. If that happens, there would have to be another campaign for debt cancellation and rescheduling of debts. The International Monetary Fund recommends addressing the liquidity bottlenecks of companies and individuals. Government has announced that it is preparing a fiscal stimulus. A publication: ‘WorldMoneyWatch’ reports that economists believe that the best way of handling this issue is to measure its impact, contain the pandemic and assist the low income class that are most vulnerable to economic shocks. The most vulnerable households are those most likely to be affected economically. Low-wage workers are often those most likely to lose their jobs if they miss work due to an extended illness. They are often the least able to work remotely to avoid contracting the virus. And they are the least likely to have savings to survive an economic downturn. Making sure there is an economic safety net—cash transfers, sick leave, subsidized health coverage—in place helps the most vulnerable survive and provides support to enterprises that serve those populations. (Kimberly Amadeo)
COOPERATION WITH AUTHORITIES, STIMULUS PACKAGE & BUDGET CUTS: The collapse of crude prices that account for about 90% of foreign exchange earnings and more than half of revenues is a huge headache. The Central Bank of Nigeria and the Bankers’ Committee has agreed to back a N3.5 trillion stimulus package for the Nigerian economy. The CBN approved a one-year moratorium on all principal debt repayments from March 1, and reduced to 5% from 9% the interest rate on central bank intervention loans that are given directly to agriculture and commerce. Even with the stimulus package, some economists have predicted recession and depression. Nigeria is already working on Year 2020 Budget to cut the 10.6 trillion naira ($28b) by at least 1.5 trillion naira following the coronavirus pandemic and a plunge in the price of oil. Finance Minister Zainab Ahmed has revealed that Nigeria will now peg the price of crude oil at “a worst-case scenario of” of $30 a barrel, down from $57 a barrel signed into law earlier this year, and targets output of 2.1 million barrels a day. Government, she says, has to cut further and prioritize more. All non-essential expenses are expected to be cut and ‘’virement warrants’’ issued to transfer funds to support the necessary sectors
DANGERS AHEAD – GLOBAL WARMING & THE NEED FOR POLICIES OF LONG RANGE VISIONING & PLANNING: Ignorance is one of the factors that are militating against the least developed and developing world. The United Nations has warned about the dangers of climate change that could be catastrophic and come at enormous costs. A World Bank sponsored Report warns that dreadful situations might arise that humans may not survive. According to a 2013 World Bank report, “there is also no certainty that adaption to a 4 degrees C” Warming at that level would displace huge numbers of people as sea levels rise and coastal areas become submerged. Agriculture would take a giant hit’’. But there is no indication that Nigerians know much about what is called GLOBAL WARMING and measures adopted by the United Nations and other fora to contain this situation. Perhaps, the citizenry would adopt experts’ recommendations if the proper awareness is created.
EFFECTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE: The BBC, for instance reports that: ‘’Climate change harms mental wellbeing in a number of ways. ‘’From trauma and stress following disasters, to relationship damage caused by separation and displacement, the psychological effects of climate change can be enduring. ‘’Of course, these effects are heightened for certain vulnerable populations, such as elderly and low-income people, as well as those on the frontline of climate change …“the ability to process information and make decisions without being disabled by extreme emotional responses is threatened by climate change”. But how many people are aware in situations that people don’t read and are not interested in reading? The Good Lord must help us. The world is also confronted with the possibility of recording nuclear wars that leveled Japanese cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima in such ways that they could wipe humanity off the surface of the earth. Pandemics like the 1918 Spanish flu have ended the lives of millions of people, and such developments as we have on hand all over the world that makes worldwide transmissionacross the oceans possible within a few hours. There are horrible ecological disasters that pose global problems. The one that appears most important for now is the need to increase sensitization of the citizenry on the need to avoid senseless conflicts, improve the economy and boost food security.
CONSEQUENCES OF FAILURE TO PLAN FOR ECONOMIC GROWTH & PEACE: It is often said, and wisely too, that, “no one plans to fail, but many fail to plan.” This is exactly what is happening in most countries in Africa today. Let me use Nigeria as a veritable example. When the British Empire was in control of the politics and the economy of Nigeria, it encouraged and instituted “Development Plans” for the economy. The first was the Ten-Year Development and Welfare Plan, 1946-55; followed by 1955-60-62. When Nigeria became independent in 1960, it still continued with the 1962-68, 1970-75, 1975-80, and 1980-85 Development Plans, but with diminishing commitments to planning. The Colonial Plans were mainly designed to ensure a more coordinated harnessing of the vast Nigerian natural resources for British interests, manufactures, and commerce. Marketing Boards were established for cocoa, rubber, palm produce, cotton, and groundnuts, among others, and Government Corporations were established for the vast mineral resources of Nigeria, for energy, and, later for petroleum oil. (Prof. Sam Aluko; 2001)
HERBAL MEDICINE –OONI ADEYEYE OGUNWUSI MAKES A PASSIONATE APPEAL: Some traditional and alternative medicine practitioners have reportedly written to the Federal Ministry of Health stating their ability to treat patients of CORONAVIRUS. But such claims, in line with regulations have to be subjected to strict proofs.The Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi has thrown his weight behind traditional medicine and urged government at federal and state levels to collaborate with herbal medicine practitioners on curative measures to combat the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic. He contended that instances have proven the efficacy of herbal medicine in tackling chronic and terminal diseases, saying the government should explore potentials of alternative medicine to cure COVID-19. He also challenged researchers — locally and international to turn natural herbs into clinical medicine and extract the vaccines. He said he was ready to work with them and provide huge access to the herbs. It is real and it works. I have a lot gathered together for the use of mankind. Oba Ogunwusi said he is currently working with an Alternative Medicine Expert to establish a pharmaceutical company for the packaging of local herbs and drugs. Ooni Ogunwusi’s call is supported by World Health Organisation’s recognition of the potency of herbs and alternative/complementary medicine.
TRADITIONAL MEDICINE TO THE RESCUE: Medicinal plants are important sources for pharmaceutical manufacturing. Medicinal plants and herbal medicines account for a significant percentage of the pharmaceutical market in some countries including nearby Ghana. The Federal Ministry of Health is on record as taking some vital steps by creating a Department of Traditional, Complementary & Alternative Medicine but poor funding and weak regulations continue to cripple efforts to develop traditional medicine. Although governments have committed to encouraging traditional medicine, products safety regulations across Africa is still a challenge as many countries as they lack adequate regulatory framework to ensure the safety and quality of herbal medicine. Traditional medicine practitioners are said to have written to the Federal Ministry of Health that Nigeria has potential herbal medicine products for the treatment of Coronavirus, cancers, Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), management of stroke, hypertension, diabetes, malaria, anti-rabies and anti -snake vaccines, among others. But these have to be subjected to proofs over a period of time by the WHO. With the active involvement of the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi who himself has the financial muscle to establish a herbal manufacturing venture, possibly leading the team, a ray of hope might emerge, especially with the donations already received by the federal government.
GOING FORWARD & LEADERSHIP DEFICIENCY – THE BANE OF NIGERIA: In a year 2001 Report, renowned professor of Economics, Sam Aluko accused the West of contributing to the economic adversities of the developing world. He stated that people invested in the economies of the West, with the active encouragement or connivance of the West. Nigeria is now being propelled to democratize as a way to economic recovery. But with every passing day since the military was replaced with a “democratic” regime in May 1999, the life and living conditions of the average Nigerian continue to deteriorate, with the hope of an economic recovery becoming more and more distant. But our government continues to follow the dictates of the West, with privatization, deregulation, liberalization, minimization of government involvement in the economy; retrenchment in public-sector employment; belief in a private-sector-led economy, even though the production sector itself is depressed, functioning at about 30% of its executive capacity, today, compared with 75-80% in 1985. (Aluko, S.A)
ACTIVE CITIZENS SUPPORT & CONTROL GOVERNMENTS: One looks at those people chosen to lead locally and abroad with pity. There is no magic wand, otherwise they would have applied this. But they will have to do more on the strength of burden of leadership. They asked to lead and will have to look for solutions. Babajide Sanwo-Olu and his aides at the epicentre of this malaise deserve some commendation. Lagos State has always been proactive and this issue will keep them on their toes for an appreciable period of time.
Henry Clay, an American statesman is reported as stating that: ‘’Governments alone cannot be left alone to do all these but provide enabling environments. “Government is a trust and the officers of the government are trustees, and both the trust and the trustees are created for the benefit of the people.” Everyone, all of us in our society have basic functions to perform as influencing development is a joint task of the government and the governed. The roles of citizens are so important that in situations where they are not able to perform efficiently and effectively, the society suffers tremendously.
Now, some words of encouragement. In his inaugural address, President George W. Bush, asserted that: “We are bound by ideals that teach us what it means to be citizens. ”Every child must be taught these ideals. Every citizen must uphold them. … ‘’I ask you to be citizens. Citizens; not spectators; citizens, not subjects; responsible citizens, building communities of service and a nation of character.” In the words of Prof. Akin Mabogunje: ‘’If we prefer to be “good subjects rather than active citizens, we will continue to suffer deprivations and development-deficit”
Let us all, therefore, join hands with the authorities to drive away this pandemic. One of the requirements is for us to obey regulations in our common interest.
May the Good Lord bless Nigeria.