CA-COVID and the fight against COVID-19 in Nigeria, By Isaac N. Obasi




Whatsapp News

Nigeria on Saturday, 6 June 2020 marked the 100 days since the index case of coronavirus (COVID-19) was recorded in Lagos on 27 February 2020. And at the national briefing on Monday, 8 June 2020, Mr. Boss Mustapha, the chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 (PTF on COVID-19), rightly said in his remarks that, “there are several on-going infrastructure interventions being made by government, development partners and the private sector nationwide”. The last hundred days, he equally noted, have “brought out the best in the spirit of Nigerians. There has been tremendous private sector and corporate mobilisation“. 

This very apropos recognition by the PTF chairman, of the contributions made by the private sector on the war against COVID-19 in Nigeria deserves further attention and elaboration. This column therefore today presents an advocacy piece to give credit to the private sector Coalition Against COVID-19 (CA-COVID), which in our humble opinion, is a brilliant and innovative initiative formed to support the Federal Government of Nigeria in the fight against coronavirus (COVID-19).  

With the establishment of the PTF on COVID-19 by President Mohammad Buhari on 9 March 2020, the private sector in its wisdom shortly afterwards, formed CA-COVID on 26 March 2020 as its own task force to partner “with the Federal Government, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), with the sole aim of combating Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Nigeria”. In order to achieve this, CA-COVID tasked itself with “pulling resources across industries to provide technical and operational support while providing funding and building advocacy through aggressive awareness drives”. This innovative and commendable initiative was “spearheaded by Aliko Dangote, Herbert Wigwe, and other private sector leaders” (See https://www.cacovid.org/#aboutUs). The announcement of the formation of this task force was, however, made by Mr. Godwin Emefiele, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). 

As a task force, CA-COVID swiftly commenced operations in an emergency responsive manner. For example, in line with its motto of ‘Staying Alive Together’, it wasted no time embarking on massive distribution of palliatives to mitigate the hardship caused by the lockdown restrictions imposed to stop the spread of COVID-19. 

Primarily inspired by its motto of ‘Staying Alive Together’, the goal of CA-COVID is “to have as many organisations (companies, philanthropists, donors) join this effort to effectively complement Government’s efforts to combat Covid-19”. And its objectives are to: (a) support the Nigerian Government in its efforts to combat Coronavirus in Nigeria; (b) mobilise private sector thought leadership; © utilise the resources of the private sector; (d) provide direct support to private and public healthcare’s ability to respond to this crisis; and (e) increase general public awareness of the existence of Coronavirus (COVID-19) (See also https://www.cacovid.org/#aboutUs

With respect to management of CA-COVID’s activities, there are three committees with each responsible for funding, intellectual leadership and operations. The Funding Committee is responsible for funding and raising funds for all activities. This committee is made up of the following people: Godwin Emefiele, Aliko Dangote, Herbert Wigwe, Abdulsamad Rabiu, Femi Otedola, Folorunso Alakija, Jim Ovia, John Coumantaros, Raj Gupta, Segun Agbaje, Tony Elumelu and Modupe Alakija.

The Technical Committee is responsible for intellectual leadership around testing issues, treatment protocols, isolation centres, amongst others. Members of this committee are: Prof. Akin Abayomi (Lagos State Commissioner for health), Dhamari Naidoo (WHO), Dr. Christian Happy, Dr. Phillip Onyebujo, Chikwe Ihekweazu (NCDC), Paulin Basing (Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation), Zouera Youssoufou (Aliko Dangote Foundation), Omobolanle Victor-Laniyan (Access Bank). 

Lastly, the Operational Committee is responsible for project management, logistics and communication. The members of this committee are: Amaechi Okobi (Access Bank), Tony Chiejina (Dangote Group), Osayi Alile (ACT Foundation), representatives of Zenith Bank, GT Bank, First Bank, Stanbic IBTC, Ecobank, Fidelity Bank, Unity Bank, Nigerian Breweries Plc (See https://www.cacovid.org/#aboutUs). 

The issue before us now is to examine the extent to which CA-COVID has achieved its lofty goal and objectives since its existence so far. First, with respect to its goal of mobilising many organisations (companies, philanthropists and donors), CA-COVID has been able to mobilise many private sector organisations within and outside the country as members. As its website shows, there are 109 members as at the time we counted all the partners on Saturday, 13 June 2020, while preparing this article. It is impressive to note that membership cuts across all industry trade groups in the private sector. 

There are also individual donors whose names are listed as contributors to CA-COVID relief funds. It is even more impressive that CA-COVID has mobilised some notable organisations outside the country such as CNN and other multinational companies. This goes to show the extent of its reach, and success of CA-COVID aggressive public awareness and mobilisation campaigns.

Looking at the records of CA-COVID, one would find that part of its impressive achievement is the provision and equipping of medical facilities in the six geopolitical zones in Nigeria. This involves the creation of testing, isolation and treatment centres, as well as the provision of Intensive Care Units (ICUs) and molecular testing laboratories across the country. And it has actually and impressively provided medical supplies and equipment, test, isolation and treatment centres for individuals with COVID-19. 

In line with the swift manner of carrying out its operations, CA-COVID started work immediately with the provision of facilities in Lagos (1,000 beds), Kano (500 beds), Rivers (210 beds), Abuja (200 beds), Enugu (200 beds) and Borno (200 beds). It is also working on setting up facilities in Katsina, Ogun, Bayelsa, Anambra, Bauchi and Plateau states. Bayelsa’s project was just delivered few days ago.

For those following the establishment of Molecular Testing Laboratories by the NCDC across the states, everyone will agree that the progress recorded so far (from just two laboratories at the commencement of this war against COVID-19, to 33), is very impressive within a limited period of time. It is unimaginable to think that this would have been possible without the active support of CA-COVID. This is a major and commendable achievement.

Furthermore, a look at the CA-COVID’s Fundraising Thermometer shows that its target is to raise N120 billion in support of the fight against COVID-19 in Nigeria. So far, it has raised N27 billion representing 22.5% of its target. Again, for those following the devastating impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the economic health of the private sector (with many of them on lockdown for example), all would agree that CA-COVID has done very well in its fund raising efforts. 

Generally therefore, we can itemise CA-COVID’s major areas of achievements to include (a) food relief palliatives targeting 1.67 million households (with 10 million vulnerable Nigerians in all the 774 LGAs); (b) purchase and distribution of ventilators, PPEs, and testing kits. For example, it ordered 400,000 test kits for distribution; (c) funding part of the Surveillance Outbreak Response Management and Analysis System (SORMAS); (d) providing for logistics cost of ambulances and movement of patients in the enormous contact tracing exercises across the states; and (e) carrying out aggressive advocacy and public enlightenment campaigns (See https://nairametrics.com/2020/05/12/with-over-n27-billion-received-what-has-cacovid-been-up-to/). It is on this note that we commend CA-COVID in its excellent service to humanity and urge it never to relent in its fight against COVID-19 pandemic. 

Giving Recognition To 2 Deserving Gentlemen 

•Hon. Justice Matthew Njoku: Acting President, Customary Court of Appeal, Imo State

The appointment and swearing-in of Hon. Justice Matthew Njoku as the Acting President of the Customary Court of Appeal of Imo State is as remarkable as it is heartwarming against the background of the humble beginning of both of us at the Emekuku Comprehensive School, Owerri in the 1970s. As classmates living in the same house as off-campus students, none of us could say what each would become. But one thing was clear: the young Matthew was focused, hardworking, and committed to serving God at a very young age. Our membership of the Scripture Union (SU) together then, was for the spiritually courageous as other students laughed at us as very unfashionable in lifestyle. I am happy to say that hard work and steadfastness ultimately confer enviable rewards no matter how long it may take. This column extends its hearty congratulations to Hon. Justice Matthew Njoku and wishes him well in dispensing justice in the faithful service to God and humanity.

•Prof. Eric C. Eboh: Delta State Chief Job and Wealth Creation Officer 

In an economy devastated by coronavirus (COVID-19), the intensification of the diversification drive away from oil, is as urgent as it is the right path to go particularly towards an export-oriented economy. We are proud to say that the Delta State Foods Export Initiative of the Job Creation Office is taking Nigeria towards this desirable direction. The Chief Job and Wealth Creation Officer, Prof. Eric Eboh deserves all the commendations for this accomplishment of launching a high quality Yellow Garri into the international market. It is very gratifying to note that the ‘export quality yellow garri meets all the required international standards of food quality, particularly, the limits to moisture content, hydrogen cyanide and crude fibre as well as being free from microbial contaminants’. It is even more heartwarming to note also, that the Delta Foods Export Initiative ‘has secured product trademark registration of the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investments and quality certification by the National Food and Drugs Administration Council (NAFDAC)’. This column extends hearty congratulations to Prof. Eboh, his professional colleagues and staff.

Prof. Obasi, a public policy expert (& former columnist in the Daily Trust, Abuja, March 2003 to October 2006, & Daily Champion, Lagos, April 2005 to December 2008), is of the Department of Public Administration, University of Abuja. Email: [email protected]