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PANDEF, Ijaw youths, others seek COVID-19 test centres in Niger Delta

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CSOs unveil platform to monitor, report responses

The Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) and Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) have deplored the existence of only one coronavirus test centre in the entire South South geopolitical zone that had no fewer than 50 confirmed cases of the dreaded disease.

PÀNDEF, which had raised a Coronavirus Sensitisation Committee, implored the governors of Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa-Ibom, Cross River, Edo and Delta States, making up the BRACED Commission, to collaborate and establish the virus test centres in the region to mitigate its spread.

The forum’s national publicity secretary, Kenneth Robinson, regretted that the “South-South region, which is the hub of oil and gas activities in the country, could still be neglected at a critical time as this.”

He observed that a situation where an economically strategic region with over 30 million Nigerians would still have only one coronavirus test centre located in Edo State months after the first index case in Lagos, was unacceptable.

“It is sad that the Federal Government has not thought it wise to establish more test centres in the South South. We call on the government and the NCDC to quickly ensure that the centres are a bit closer to the states. The distance from Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Cross River to Edo State for testing is too far for only one centre to serve these states,” the spokesman stated.

In his remarks, the chairman of IYC’s transition implement committee, Kennedy Olorogun, said it was “disheartening that the Federal Government has not deemed it necessary to convert the various university teaching hospitals in the Niger Delta to test centres.He feared that the samples taken all the way to Edo from the other five states could be contaminated on account of distance.

In a related development, civil society organisations and other critical stakeholders have deplored the absence of a coronavirus test centre in Delta State amid the pervasiveness of the deadly disease nationwide.

In a statement yesterday after the launch of their situation room to monitor and report responses of the pandemic, the groups stated that the state should ordinary own a facility while awaiting the promise of the Federal Government to set up a centre in ever state of the federation.

Signed by the Situation Room’s co-chairman, Bonny Akaeze and Joint Secretary, Joshua Ghereja, the CSOs regretted that avoidable deaths had been recorded in the state, adding that “harsh government policies are inflicting more pains on the citizens, as there are no adequate measures in place to cushion the effects on the populace.”

They said: “ As we commend the state government for the Isolation centres put in place in Asaba, it is our considered opinion that those centres are inadequate. This is because the state ought to prepare for the worst so as not be overwhelmed should there be an upsurge in the spread of the virus.

“The state food bank is a welcome development and should be maintained. While we commend the palliative measures put in place by the government, we wish to recommend that efforts should be made towards effective and efficient distribution of these food items to the vulnerable in our society.”

The organisations lamented that most residents seemed not to understand the effects of the COVID-19 scourge yet, noting that social distancing was yet to be practised in markets and public gatherings in the state.

They further observed: “It has also become evident that some of the measures adopted by the government to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic are inflicting survival challenges on the citizens with the potentials of engendering criminality and associated vices. We therefore recommend a review of those measures with a view to dealing with the noticed latent consequences of the measures.”

The groups, however, stressed the need to step up sensitisation on government responses, personal hygiene, sanitation tips as well as roles of citizens in the fight against the virus, especially in the rural areas.

They equally called on government to monitor closely the activities of security agents assigned to enforce the lockdown order to check their excesses.

The CSOs went on: “All public places like motor parks, markets, shopping malls, super markets as well worship centres, night clubs, hotels, bars, restaurants, event centres, schools and factories that are currently on shutdown should be fumigated to ensure that they are microbe-free before their reopening.”


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