The Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Mr Boss Mustapha, on Thursday, ripped into the attitude of Nigerians, placing the blame for the country’s failure to have halted the spread of the pandemic on them.
In an impassioned speech during the briefing of the PTF, Mustapha who is also the Secretary to the Government of the Federation said everything was put in place to stop the pandemic from spreading as much as it has in the country. The only thing missing was the right attitude.
“Our biggest challenge has been the attitude of Nigeria; that is our biggest challenge,” he said, reflecting on the fact that confirmed cases in the country have exceeded 50,000 with the death toll just 15 cases shy of 1,000.
A visibly upset Mustapha suggested that rather than follow guidelines, Nigerians thought only about their rights, failing to realise that the rights came with “correspondent responsibilities”.
“We would have flattened the curve. We would have dampened this ravaging virus by now if we had just complied with the simple instructions,” he lamented.
Another area Mustapha took up issues with Nigerians is in testing.
Since the first case of the pandemic was confirmed in Nigeria on February 27 and as Nigeria struggled to contain the spread, there have been concerns about the country’s testing capacity.
Although the country has ramped up its testing capacity, the PTF Chairman is unsatisfied with the attitude of Nigerians towards getting tested.
He said, “In terms of even testing, we have ramped up our testing capacity from two to 64 (testing centres) within a period of three to four months. As a matter of fact, right now, the testing capacity in terms of volume is that we can test up to 15,000 samples in a day. But how many are we testing on a daily basis? So our major challenge as a Presidential Task Force has been the attitude.”
Nigeria with a population estimated at over 200 million has not tested up to 500,000 samples while South Africa with a population of 57 million has tested more than three million people.
Apart from the attitude, Mustapha doesn’t see any major problem with Nigeria’s response.
For him, money wasn’t really the problem. Neither was it the absence of a plan.
“Everything to fight COVID-19 has been placed at our disposal. We arrested the 2020 Budget and got it revised – all in an attempt to deal with the financial needs of fighting COVID-19,” he said.
Although COVID-19 disrupted life, shut down economies, and forced billions across the world to stay indoors as part of the scramble to halt the pandemic, the PTF Chairman said Nigeria received a lot of financial support.
“We received a great deal of support from the UN (COVID-19) Basket Fund, from the European Union, from West African Health Organisation, from the World Health Organisation, from friendly countries like China,” he said.
“I just reported to you that even the Federal Republic of Germany gave their modest support to ensure that our industries begin to prepare and even manufacture PPEs locally.”
Apart from the support received externally and the revision of the 2020 Budget, Mustapha explained that Nigeria had a strong plan and backing from the private sector and prominent Nigerians.
“We are not short of any resources to fight COVID-19,” he declared. “We’ve coordinated a response, nationally, that pulled in everybody that mattered in this country: the corporate world through the CACOVID has assembled a huge war chest of resources – they are all over the place; private individuals giving up their resources to ensure that we reengineer and equip our health care infrastructure.”