RIGHT OF REPLY
By Edwin Uhara
I READ the article written by Mr. Charles Onunaiju where he maliciously faulted the decision of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 to publish the passport numbers of 100 passengers who flouted the mandatory seven-day post arrival COVID-19 Polymerase Chain Reaction test.
If the article was written to rebuke foreign returnees who refused to obey Federal Government order, it would have been more welcoming, but the writer attacked the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, its operational modules, its finances and suitability of its membership composition as well as calling for the head of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha.
Onunaiju never condemned the action of those persons he is defending for allegedly contributing to the rising cases of COVID-19 pandemic in the country. However, let me quickly correct some of the wrong assertions made against the PTF by him.
Contrary to his uninformed commentary, the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 was established to coordinate and oversee Nigeria’s muti-sectoral inter-governmental efforts to contain the spread and mitigate the impact of COVID-19 pandemic in the country.
In other words, the PTF provides overall policy direction, guidance and continuous support to the National Emergency Operations Centre at the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and other ministries and agencies of government involved in direct response to COVID-19.
Parts of the PTF mandate also include: sensitisation and awareness campaigns for the general public on prevention measures; response commodities for case management; infection prevention and control, diagnostic laboratories and deployment strategies, providing recommendations for the provision of direct funding and technical support to states and local governments to strengthen their preparedness capacity and mobilise human, material and financial resources from within and outside the country for effective national and state level preparedness, keeping the public abreast of strategic progress with Nigeria’s response and emerging developments regarding preparedness and response among others.
Before the establishment of the PTF on March 9, 2020, the nation only had two Molecular Laboratories with just 500 daily testing capacity. But today, because of the prudential and pragmatic leadership at the PTF, the nation can now boast of more than 100 Molecular Laboratories with over 20, 000 daily testing capacity.
The nation now has COVID-19 treatment centres in all the 36 states of the federation plus the Federal Capital Territory. The PTF has also received approval from President Muhammadu Buhari to build Oxygen Plants in all the 36 states and the FCT.
Similarly, the writer also advertised crass ignorance when he claimed that the PTF is projecting the apocalypse. It is unfortunate that Onanuiju belongs to the category of Nigerians rendering disservices to the nation by denying and under-estimating the virulent nature of the pandemic. Succinctly, what he meant by projecting the apocalypse is the use of science and data by the PTF for its risk communication and community engagement with Nigerians.
Concerning the financial activities of the Task Force as well as its donors and expenses, Onunaiju doesn’t have to wait for full audit report of the PTF account but can go to a designated website to get all information he needs to know about the PTF. The website is: https://statehouse.gov.ng/covid19/
On the claim by the writer that the Nigerian Immigration Service was not notified before advertisements were placed in some dailies, this is what the NIS said concerning the ban. “In line with the Federal Government’s directives on temporary travel restrictions on 100 passengers due to non-compliance with the mandatory seven-day post-arrival COVID-19 PCR test by all in-bound travellers, the Comptroller-General of Nigeria Immigration Service, Muhammad Babandede, has directed the relevant formations to ensure immediate compliance with the travel restriction order.
“The 100 defaulting passengers have been restricted for a period of six months, from January 1, 2021 to June 30, 2021. All the affected passengers have been notified and will be prevented from passport re-issuance and travelling outside the country during this period.” Let me also inform Onunaiju that the central idea behind the publication is to serve as deterrent to others whose action might increase “health terrorism” in the country. I will also want to correct the false narrative by the writer where he claimed that the PFT is not issuing new guidelines about the virus.
This is best done using an excerpt of the new provisional quarantine protocol for passengers arriving Nigeria introduced by the PTF and came into effect from Monday, January 11, 2021. The protocol states: “One of the requirements is that a traveller is required to perform a COVID-19 PCR test not more than four days (96 hours) before boarding.
“PCR tests done more than 96 hours before departure are not valid and persons will not be allowed to board. All intending passengers, including diplomats and children less than 10 years old, are to register via an online national travel portal (Nigeria International Travel Portal) and proceed to fill in the online Health Declaration/Self-Reporting form located on the portal. They should ensure that the information/contact details provided on the form are correct and verifiable.
“Passengers must also inform port health officials on their arrival of any change in their health circumstances since completion of the Health Declaration/Self-Reporting Form. Passengers who falsify their status as diplomats will face prosecution.”
All I have said in this article can be verified in the public domain for all Nigerians to read and download. Therefore, Mr. Onunaiju and the group he is allegedly fronting for, should be told that no amount of mudslinging or distortion of facts can discourage the PTF and its eminently qualified members from flattening the COVID-19 curve in the Nigeria.
- Comrade Uhara, a UN-trained Negotiator and Member, APC Presidential Campaign Council in the last election, wrote from Abuja