Tuesday, 21 April 2020

#COVID19: Efik Leadership Foundation posts 12 posers to Governor Ben Ayade

21 April 2020 

Efik Leadership Foundation, ELF, a Non-Governmental and social enterprise group concerned about facilitating capacity development of leadership talent and leadership impact within the Efik community has raised twelve issues with the Cross River State Government, CRSG, in respect of local efforts in combating the effects of the dreaded ravaging pandemic, COVID-19 in the state NEGROIDHAVEN can say. 

In a recent letter addressed to His Excellency the Executive Governor of the state, made available to our news outfit, and titled: 'Where is Cross River State ON the COVID19 War?', the group sought clarifications on issues bordering on professional leadership coordinating the fight against the pandemic in the state; public relations by the state government Taskforce on the pandemic; the availability of a comprehensive COVID-19 response plan?; border control and collaboration between Ebonyi, Akwa Ibom, Abia and Benue; dedicated isolation and treatment centres; financial prudence in expending the N500m COVID-19 special fund; accountability /transparency in donations; state of CRSWBL and RUWATSA; state Governor's controversial Covid-19 Precautionary Measures; disclosure of the science to support the Governor's claim; socio-economic policy to combat the ravaging pandemic; safety measures of health workers; and educational policy in the fight against the pandemic. 

In the said letter which was signed by Richard Duke and Timothy Archibong Esu for and on behalf of the Efik Leadership Foundation, in which it made bold and categorical assertions on the absence of a Covid-19 masterplan unique to the State and the failure of the state government to harness all the human and material resources available for combating against what they described as 'this very invidious, cunning and mutable disease called COVID-19', ELF offered to work with the state government in the fight against the Coronavirus: 'We most sincerely regret to say that we have not seen such a plan presented to the State. We further regret to say that we have not seen that the full extent of the rich human and material resources of this State have been gathered and deployed in this war...' ELF while affirming that 'COVID-19 does not find hosts in our State. If it does enter our State, it must be contained and its infection rate and incidence kept to the barest minimum', she asked that the State Governor to allay her concerns, which she believe are shared by an vast majority of people within and outside the State. 

The twelve posers are expressed thus:
'1. Who is really calling the shots as coordinator of our State's response? Given the presence of a significant number of epidemiologists and public health specialists who have acquired very useful experience working on previous infectious disease outbreaks in the State, is the State Government
working with such a cadre of acknowledged, experienced public health experts? Who are the subject-matter experts in the State's COVID-19 response team and what are their assigned responsibilities?

2. Is there a specified spokesperson for the COVID-19 Team in CRS, rather than different officials making statements or being quoted on policy issues? We are worried that in many instances, public
statements have been released that are shortly thereafter contradicted or clarified by another statement. Recent examples include the conflicting statements from the Ministries of Health and Education, issue of lockdown or no lockdown; restriction on religious and other gatherings; commencement date for the 'no mask, no movement' order and even the specific terms of the order itself.

3. Do we have a comprehensive COVID-19 response plan in place? Does this plan incorporate active collaboration with Federal, private and NGO healthcare MDAs and practitioners? If so, what are the objectives and specific programmes /actions to be implemented? Who is driving the plan? What actions have so far been taken by CRSG, what is outstanding to be done and over what time frame will these things be done? Finally, what are the outcomes expected from the execution of this plan? Could citizens of the State also be given regular, transparent and comprehensive briefings in a way that ensures that
communities and key stakeholders such as community and traditional leaders, religious organisations, trade groups, regular citizens, etc are all fully on board the COVID-19 prevention and control train?

4. Very importantly, considering our very long riverine and land borders (one of the longest in Nigeria) with the four States of Abia, Akwa-Ibom, Benue and Ebonyi States, the follow-up to paragraph 4 above is to inquire whether the State Government has established protocols for collaboration between CRSG and these other States. For example, there is a lot of essential, life-saving and life-enhancing traffic between us and
our neighbours. Have exceptions been made for these and how will these exceptions be policed?

5. The Presidential Task Force (PTF) has asked each State to undertake certain preparatory steps, including
acquisition of a minimum 300-bed isolation and treatment facility. What is the CRSG doing in this regard? How many dedicated isolation and treatment centres are proposed for the State and where? We believe that given the size of our State, we require at least three large isolation and treatment centres across the State. The State Government should not presume that the first case, if it happens, will necessarily be found in Calabar. What if it happens in any of the far-flung local government areas from Calabar? Would the infected person
be driven all the way from there to Calabar?

6. We have seen scores of cars released to fight COVID-19. What are they equipped with? How are they to be
used? How many properly-equipped ambulances do we have for the work? We are aware that before the N500m COVID-19 special fund was recently announced by the Governor, the State Government had acquired a large number of saloon cars and pick-up trucks that had been parked across the State for months. We therefore presume that the recently-displayed saloon cars were not paid for out of this N500m fund. It is imperative that the State Government discloses what will be done with the N500m special fund and how it
will be transparently accounted for to the people of the State.

6. What items in the State's 2020 budget have been, are being or will be vired and re-purposed to preparing for and fighting the war against COVID-19? What support has the State requested for and what has it received from the Federal Government? What is the accountability framework for donations to and
spending by the State on the fight? For instance, could we know the items and quantum of the materials donated by Jack Ma to Nigeria that have come, are coming or will come to our State?

7. Water and sanitation/hygiene are vital to this fight. What is the state of CRSWBL and RUWATSA or its
successor agencies and how ready are these agencies for this fight? Can they guarantee adequate, expanded and regular water supply across this State while this pandemic lasts and into the future?

8. We recently saw a video in which Your Excellency openly spoke against any need for a lockdown of the State. You also explicitly spoke against such containment measures as physical distancing, referring to your training as a scientist and alluding to scientific findings of unknown provenance. Your
Excellency further advocated the use of face masks made by the Calabar Garment Factory as the sole
response to contain the infection and spread of the pandemic.

9. We note with great concern that this is a direct challenge to established Covid-19 containment protocols and practices being strongly advocated by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Federal Government. We are even more worried that the State Commissioner for Health was present at the occasion
and among those who cheered the Governor on. She has since done nothing to correct Your Excellency's assertions, which directly contradict what she herself has previously stated officially. We therefore strongly urge Your Excellency to kindly and most urgently disclose the science behind these assertions and forwarded the relevant research findings for peer review to the relevant public health, scientific and academic authorities?

10. What measures/programmes are being put in place to deal with the socio-economic consequences of any public health or COVID-19 containment and prevention measures instituted by the State Government? We believe that our most vital demographic component is the significant number of persons
working in the commercial and subsistence agriculture sector. As the planting season commences, every
effort must be made to protect them from infection by Covid -19. Similarly, our young children and the elderly across the State who are already pre-disposed to serious medical conditions urgently need action taken to cover them. Specifically, what are the plans in place for testing and the provision of food, drugs and
other relief items by the CRSG to these at-risk residents in the State?

11. What measures is the State taking to protect all health workers like doctors, nurses, pharmacists as well as allied essential workers such as cleaners and refuse disposal workers?

12. While this shutdown across the world seems indefinite, is the CRSG thinking towards remote learning via radio, television or radio or online for students at home?'

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