The COVID-19 challenge in Nigeria

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By Chinedu Jideofor- Ogbuagu
The Coronavirus, though a foreign disease, has found its way into Nigeria through persons and things entering the country from Coronavirus-endemic countries.
We have noted that those who have tested positive for Coronavirus are either foreign visitors to Nigeria or indigenous Nigerian returnees or high-profile Nigerian public figures.
What bothers us greatly is that the general Nigerian public have no access to test facilities and have not been tested. So, many ordinary Nigerians who in one way or another came into contact with Coronavirus carriers, do not know whether or not they have been infected. Not only would their condition get worse without treatment, they are infecting uncountable numbers of persons without knowing it.
The Federal Government has reportedly released *N10 billion* to Lagos State Government and another *N5 billion* to National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). In the current economic meltdown, *N15 billion* is a lot of money, and we commend the President Buhari administration for making it available for the Coronavirus challenge.
However, we think that the immediate, urgent and crucial thing to do is provision of testing and treatment centres in at least every local government area of Nigeria (not just in one or few states), so that every Nigerian can be tested and those found positive for the Coronavirus, treated immediately.
We think that *N15 billion* reportedly released would go a long way in procuring and equipping testing and treatment centres in 774 local government areas. Focusing attention on Lagos and a few other states cannot be right, in view of the fact that people still move about from state to state.
It is absolutely necessary for most Nigerians to be tested now. Otherwise, before we know it, those unaware of their Coronavirus infection would reach that acute stage where they will be dropping dead across the country. By then, the situation would be out of control and unmanageable.
Meanwhile, the lockdowns across the country are posing another security danger. If Nigerians are required to stay at home even for a month, hunger and depression may kill more Nigerians than Coronavirus. We, therefore, appeal to the Federal Government to find another money to pay into every Nigerian bank account with BVN. This is in the absence of any other reliable database for such disbursements.
And we think that other tiers of government – State and Local – should contribute to providing palliatives to Nigerians who are now suffering for what we don’t know, with the hardship likely to become worse if lockdowns continue beyond this moment.
*Dr Jideofo-Ogbuagu is
President, Marine Club of Nigeria and,
Convener, South-East APC Integrity Group

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