By Ismaila Chafe
Abuja, Aug. 12, 2020 The Federal Executive Council (FEC) presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday approved N8.49billion for the procurement of 12 items in various quantities for the testing of coronavirus pandemic by Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, disclosed this when he briefed State House correspondents on the outcome of the 11th virtual meeting of the Council, held at the Council Chambers of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
According to him, the approval will enable the NCDC to procure COVID-19 testing and diagnostic kits for all the 774 Local Government Areas of the federation.
He said: “The Minister of Health presented a memo on behalf of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to procure materials for preparation for COVID-19 pandemic which is ravaging all parts of the world including our country.
“This is part of the preparedness for community transmission which is going on now and has affected 586 Local Government Areas and we need materials to expand our testing and diagnostic capabilities.
“This memo is the result of the Presidential Task Force COVID-19 and special intervention for COVID-19 which is operated by the Presidential Task Force which allocated these resources for NCDC preparedness.
“So, we are procuring testing materials right from sample materials to other kits for diagnostics in our laboratory system to be able to respond properly to the community transmission phase.
“We have already made plans to have at least one sample collection site in every local government, minimum of 774 and these resources would be necessary to go round the 774 local government areas to ensure that persons in the rural areas or small towns are not excluded and to ensure that not only the big cities are the ones being attended to.
“So, that is the basis for the entire memo.’’
The minister also dismissed the assertion that the PTF had deliberately ignored the use Rapid Diagnostic Test in its fight against COVID-19 pandemic, saying the test is being used across the country.
He, however, stated that the test was not very reliable as reported by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other experts.
He said: “It is not that nobody is thinking of rapid diagnostic test, it is being used all over the world even in Nigeria today but the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other experts, have said that this test is not very reliable and that it also delivered a significant number of false positive or false negative result.
“So, if you go to a place where a percentage of test result can give you a wrong result, then you have to be careful. Whereas the PRC test, that is the polymerise chain reaction test is accurate and reliable.
“So, if you want to know how accurate a person is positive, that is the test you ought to do, that is the recommendation of World Health Organization.
“There is also the anti-body rapid test and the anti-gem rapid test. So, I believe that within a matter of weeks and months, there will be one that will be accurate enough for us to reliable on.
“So, those who do the rapid test now, if it is positive you have to go and confirm with the PRC because the accuracy is questionable. Some of them their accuracy is 60 per cent, which means that 40 per cent will be wrong, others are 20 per cent wrong which is why Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT), is not yet officially used in Nigeria.
“But I personally believe that as they continue to improve on it within some months we shall be able to use it. Meanwhile, we use only the most reliable one, which is PCR.”
Ehanire also frowned at the reported disregard for COVID-19 protocols at the ongoing political campaigns in Edo and the funeral rites of Sen. Buruji Kashamu, in Ogun.
Also speaking on the issue, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said: “As a matter fact this matter came up at the last PTF briefing, and the coordinator said that we will continue to advise social distancing in whatever gathering.
“It has been proven that wearing mask saves many lives and we will continue to harp on it that people should take personal responsibility.
“We are escalating our conversation with sub-nationals, governors and local government chairmen because, everybody must take personal responsibility.
“So, our guidelines remain the same – wear a mask, avoid mass gatherings, keep social distancing, maintain very good hygiene, wash your hands, use hand sanitizers.
“Because, as at today, there is no known vaccine or medicine to cure COVID-19. If anybody says wearing a mask is inconvenience let him try a ventilator, you will know.
“We all are opinion moulders and people take to what we say, it’s not about those that went to campaign in Edo or those who went to the funeral rites of Kashamu.
“It’s so sad that one of my colleagues said he went home and he was wearing a mask and they felt he was the one with the problem.
“In some parts of the country, they believe anybody wearing a mask has COVID-19, they don’t believe it. So I think we all should take personal responsibility.”
The Minister of Environment, Alhaji Muhammed Mahmoud, also told the correspondents that the Council approved National Gender Action Plan on Planet Change policy.
According to him, the priority areas for mainstream gender action plan are: agriculture, forestry, health, water and sanitation, energy, transportation.
He stated that the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), academia, international organisations and other relevant stakeholders would all be part of the gender action plan.
“We presented a memo today on National Gender Action Plan on Planet Change. Planet change is affecting everybody across the world just as here in Nigeria.
“It affects men, women and children but we have found out that women bear most of the brunt of planet change and the purpose of this policy is to mainstream gender within the planet change action plan.
“What does it mean to mainstream gender? Women bearing the main brunts imply that we will take particular steps to make sure that women are involved in planet action activities right from inception, design, development, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of projects.
“We will also involve women in the process of decision making. Also, we will make sure that women are carried along in planet change issues and also in areas where women are predominantly involved, like in agricultural activities.
“Seventy per cent of agricultural activities involve women. Therefore, some of the priority areas in the gender action plan are agriculture, forestry, health, water and sanitation, energy, transportation; and the same particular areas are also the areas that constitute meeting our indices.
“That is the nationally determined contribution to the Paris Agreement. What that means is that through these sectors, we can reduce the emissions in Nigeria, thereby meeting our indices as we committed ourselves during the Paris Agreement.’’
Mahmoud maintained that Nigeria had already committed itself by agreeing to reduce emissions by 20 per cent by 2020, and 45 per cent reduction of emissions by the Year 2030.
The minister, however, stated that Nigeria would need the assistance of international organisations to be able to achieve this commitment.