Abuja not ready to fight coronavirus, isolation centre in a bad state – Lawan

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Senate President Ahmad Lawan says the federal capital territory (FCT) is not prepared to fight coronavirus, the disease which has killed close to 4,000 people across the world.

Nigeria recorded its index case last week. An Italian, who flew into Lagos from Milan, and proceeded to Ogun where he fell ill and was brought back to Lagos, tested positive for the disease.

He is currently being treated at the Infectious Disease Hospital in Yaba, Lagos.

Speaking when he led his colleagues on a tour of the isolation centres at the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, Gwagwalada, on Wednesday, Lawan asked Zainab Ahmed, minister of finance, to immediately release N620 million to the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

The amount was budgeted for emergency response to the coronavirus (COVID – 19) outbreak.

“First of all, let me say that the representatives of the federal ministry of health, the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the management of the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital are in high spirits, looking determined to discharge their mandates and obligation,” he said.

“But from our inspection here, the temporary isolation centre is really not in good shape, it doesn’t look ready to receive any patient, and I believe that this is something that we need to fix between now and tomorrow.

“We are in an emergency, even if we don’t have people who are affected, we shouldn’t just rest on our oars. We have to do everything and anything possible to fix that temporary isolation centre to be prepared to receive anyone who falls sick in this respect.

“I am sad, we are indeed actually sad, that of the N620 million that was supposed to be released to this place for fixing of everything here to NCDC, not a kobo has been released.

“We are going to get across to the minister of finance and all the other authorities that have anything to do with this to release this money latest between today and tomorrow.”

The senate president lamented that Nigeria, despite being a country with the largest economy in Africa, is yet to have a completed isolation centre in any of the geo-political zones.

He charged those saddled with leadership responsibilities in the country to live up to expectations through timely discharge of their mandates and duties.

“There’s no way that Nigeria, the largest economy in Africa, with a population of 200 million, and yet the federal capital and six surrounding states of the north-central, you don’t have one room that you can call an isolation centre, where anyone who unfortunately falls into this crisis will be taken to. This is not acceptable.

“So, we are going to ensure that the money is released, we are not going to put pressure. This is what they are supposed to do, and they must do it. I also believe that we should have a replication of the permanent site, we should be able to complete this and then have five others across the remaining geo-political zones of the country.

“Let’s spend money for our people, we waste money for some things that are less important. This is about the health and lives of the people of this country, and therefore, no investment is too much.

“So, we should be prepared at all times. We had Ebola, SARS, now we have coronavirus, we do not know what else will come, but we should be prepared and ready for any eventuality, and no investment is too much.

“The contractor said by the end of this month this should be ready, we pray it should be faster, but by the end of tomorrow, that temporary site must be ready.

“There’s no generator, no electricity, nothing. There were two or three air conditioners brought this morning, maybe because yesterday we said we were coming here. This is not acceptable.

“As leaders given responsibilities, we have to do what is right. This is unfortunate. So, the ministry of finance should release the N620 million between today and tomorrow.”

The senate president assured Nigerians that the relevant committees of the Senate will carry out a follow-up on Thursday to ensure that work on the isolation centres begins and is completed.

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