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Doctors flay FG, states for poor handling of COVID-19

By Igho Akeregha, Azimazi Momoh Jimoh, Adamu Abuh, Terhemba Daka, Collins Olayinka, Segun Olaniyi (Abuja), Wole Oyebade, Adaku Onyenucheya (Lagos), Collins Osuji (Owerri), Saxone Akhaine (Kaduna), Charles Akpeji (Jalingo), Njadvara Musa (Maiduguri), Charles Coffie Gyamfi, Bukky Olajide (Abeokuta) and Rotimi Agboluaje (Ibadan)
08 April 2020   |   4:30 am
Resident doctors in the South South geopolitical zone yesterday criticised the federal and state governments over the poor handling of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

A general view of an empty isolation room in a 300-bed space isolation centre being set up for COVID-19 coronavirus patients in Abuja on April 7, 2020. The Nigerian government are expanding isolation centres in Nigeria as the number of COVID-19 coronavirus cases increase. Kola Sulaimon / AFP

• CNPP cautions against extension of lockdown
• Chinese medical team, medical supplies arrive today
• Ogun, Oyo record new cases of coronavirus

Resident doctors in the South South geopolitical zone yesterday criticised the federal and state governments over the poor handling of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The medical practitioners, under the aegis of the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), disclosed this in a communiqué signed by the leader of the zone, Dr Selekeowei Kpuduwei, and the deputy, Dr. Echeng Imoke.

“It is a well known fact that many frontline workers especially doctors have been infected and died in other countries while providing care to COVID-19 patients, with Nigeria recording her first blow last week in Edo State,” the statement said.

Dozens of doctors at the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH) in Edo State had gone into self-isolation, following their contact with persons exposed to the virus.

According to the statement, “Before now, Nigerian doctors have always decried the rot in the health sector and in some occasions even gone on strike especially on the dilapidated nature of our teaching hospitals, federal medical centres and general hospitals; the lack of basic infrastructure; poor working environment; poor remuneration; inadequate manpower etc.

“It is worthy to note that the hazard allowance given to doctors and other health workers in Nigeria is a paltry sum of N5,000 only and there is no form of insurance for the Nigerian health workers for occupational injury or death.”

The group of doctors further faulted the shoddy composition of government bodies set up to contain the pandemic. It noted: “Members in the different state technical committees or task forces are being set up with politicians who have no medical background. These make vague statements that are not reassuring and decisions that do not follow the principles or guidelines of disaster/ risk management in global health.”

It said: “Most state governors are rather working with and relying on political appointees instead of working with experts. Hence the formation of technical committees without input from professional bodies like the Nigerian Medical Association and the different Associations of Resident Doctors (ARD) in the states who are mostly the frontline care givers. We believe this anomaly will give room for diversion of funds donated or set aside for COVID-19.”

The doctors called on the Federal Government and state governors of Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo and Rivers States to review the 2020 health budget as a matter of emergency to reflect the needed funding and remuneration in the sector and disburse money optimally.

They also demanded the equipping of isolation centres to make them habitable and accelerated plan to build dedicated infectious disease hospitals in the states. They called for appropriate training and practical drills on how to handle COVID-19 cases for all frontline health workers.

“We condemn the use of N95 masks by politicians, which are in shortage abinitio for frontline workers. In the same vein, we demand the adequate supply of working materials such as personal protective equipment, facemasks (N95 and surgical), hand sanitisers, gloves etc., for all hospitals in the zone,” the group added.

Similarly, a United States-based medical practitioner and consultant, Livinus Obilo, berated Nigerian leaders for the rising cases of the pandemic in the country.

Speaking via telephone with The Guardian yesterday, Obilo accused them of playing politics and lip service in the fight against COVID-19 instead of implementing proactive measures to curtail the spread of the virus.

He noted: “For many years, the leaders of Nigeria have depended on imported resources and outside pleasures rather than focusing on creating and sustaining our own capabilities. Our politicians and their families have neglected our country’s foundational infrastructure and instead enriched other countries who have taken time to develop their own hospitals, universities, and manufacturing capacities.

“Today our hospitals are like butcher houses, our universities are woefully equipped, and students are not getting the type of education needed to compete with emerging talents from other parts of the globe.

“I am worried about what is ahead of us, especially if we do not act with urgency. This is not the time for gamesmanship and shifting blame. Our leaders must lead and we must all hold them to task.”

This came as the umbrella body of opposition political parties, Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP), warned the federal and states government on the consequences of extending the current lockdown put in place to contain the spread of the pandemic.

The conference, in a statement signed by Secretary General Chief Willy Ezugwu, said: “Having closely monitored the distribution of palliative packages, including the Federal Government’s conditional cash transfer, we are totally disappointed that the citizens have continued to endure pains and hardships, including severe hunger.

Lagos State Task Force officials towing commercial buses which defied the COVID-19 stay-at-home order in Lagos…yesterday. PHOTO: FEMI ADEBESIN-KUTI

“We are shocked by insinuations from federal and state governments of possible extension of the lockdown and we warn that any extension might meet a brick wall if the pains of citizens occasioned by hunger is not addressed.”

“A hungry man is an angry man,” CUPP said, noting that it had intelligence suggesting that “the masses may resort to civil disobedience.”

It added: “More and more Nigerians have exhausted their little provisions and foodstuffs, and keeping them at home longer than 14 days will be extremely difficult, especially with most members of the population depending on daily incomes to survive.”

As at yesterday, the lockdown had already collapsed in satellite towns and villages in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) on account of the hardship faced by many residents. Beginning Friday last week, commercial vehicles at the six Area Councils had begun freely plying the roads, as people trooped out to eke a living.

This compelled FCT Minister Mohammed Bello to review the level of compliance and relax the lockdown, allowing markets to open from 7:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. thrice a week: the days being Monday, Wednesday and Saturday.

One Monica, a seller of alcoholic beverages, said she could not afford to stay indoors on an empty stomach.“If I stay for house, I go die of hunger. Wetin go give me food? Abidem want make I die before my time? I hear say demdey give poor people money. I never see am yet. Na God go help us. Make dem leave us I beg,” she said.

Some security agents, however, seized the opportunity to make quick money. At about 8:00 a.m. yesterday, some police officers and traffic wardens stormed the NNPC Bus Stop in the Kubwa area and blocked the road with sticks and metal drums. They impounded about 14 motorbikes for allegedly violating the stay-at-home order. Each bike was eventually released after its owner ‘settled’ the officers with N500.

Meanwhile, a team of Chinese doctors and medical supplies from China will arrive in the country later today as part of a joint effort between the governments of both nations to contain the spread of coronavirus in Nigeria.

The Guardian learnt that the operating aircraft, Air Peace 777-200ER, with registration number 5N-BVE, landed in Beijing at 2:18 p.m. yesterday after 14 hours direct flight from Lagos.

For the airline, it was historic, being the first time a Nigerian airline would be operating a direct non-stop flight to China.

Officials of Air Peace confirmed the arrival, though added that the departure time for another 14 hours return trip would be determined by how fast the cargo loading processes were completed.

“The aircraft is expected to depart as soon as the consignments are transferred. It is most like it will depart in the next few hours and will arrive in Nigeria on Wednesday. There is the likelihood that the doctors will come with the supplies,” an official said.

The main contractor handling the rail modernisation programme of the Federal Government, CCECC, offered reasons why it sponsored a Chinese medical team and medical supply to Nigeria.

In a statement on Tuesday in Abuja, CCECC said it had the backing of the Federal Government, its home government and its mother company, the China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC), through its subsidiary China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) after exhaustive deliberation on how to help the country check the outbreak.

It noted that its goal was “supporting Nigeria in its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic that is adversely affecting livelihoods and economies across the world by making available necessary medical equipment and health consumables.”

Assisted by the Nigerian government, CCECC is delivering among others around 16-tons of test kits, ventilators, disinfection machine, disposable medical masks, N95 masks, medicines, rubber gloves, protective gowns, goggles, face shields, infra-red thermometers and other critical care items, through a chartered flight operated by Air Peace.

The statement noted that the chartered flight is due to arrive at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport by (today) April 8, 2020.

This was as Ogun State yesterday confirmed two new cases of coronavirus, bringing the state’s total to six. Governor Dapo Abiodun, however, said three of the patients had been discharged while one was responding to treatment.

Oyo State also confirmed two new cases. “The COVID-19 confirmation test for two suspected cases came back positive today. One of the new cases is a 28-year-old woman who returned to the country from the United Arab Emirates on March 22, 2020. The second case is a 42-year-old man who is a contact of an earlier confirmed COVID-19 case,” said a statement by the state’s task force.

Also, the president, Association of Psychiatrists in Nigeria, Dr. Taiwo Lateef Sheikh, urged people to reduce the panic associated with the pandemic by stressing the high chances of making a full recovery.

According to him, “Causing panic among the people will make them take self-precautionary measures that are harmful to their bodies and then die from it. We should raise people’s hope and let them know that 98 percent of people recover from the virus when infected.”